Archive for the ‘Reforming Reflections’ 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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‘Lovest Thou Me?’ by Alexander MacLaren

‘Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou Me more than these? He saith unto Him, Yea, Lord; Thou knowest that I love Thee. He saith unto him. Feed My lambs.’ — John 21:15

Peter had already seen the risen Lord.  There had been that interview on Easter morning on which the seal of sacred secrecy was impressed; when, alone, the denier poured out his heart to his Lord and was taken to the heart that he had wounded.  Then there had been two interviews on the two successive Sundays in which the Apostle, in common with his brethren, had received, as one of the group, the Lord’s benediction, the Lord’s gift of the Spirit, and the Lord’s commission.

But something more was needed.  There had been public denial; there must be public confession.  If he had slipped again into the circle of the disciples with no special treatment or reference to his fall, it might have seemed a trivial fault to others, and even to himself.  And so, after that strange meal on the beach, we have this exquisitely beautiful and deeply instructive incident of the special treatment needed by the denier before he could be publicly reinstated in his office.

The meal seems to have passed in silence.  That awe which hung over the disciples in all their intercourse with Jesus during the forty days lay heavy on them, and they sat there, huddled round the fire, eating silently the meal which Christ had provided, no doubt gazing silently at the silent Lord.  What a tension of expectation there must have been as to how the oppressive silence was to be broken!  And how Peter’s heart must have throbbed and the others’ ears been pricked up, when it was broken by ‘Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou Me?’  We may listen with pricked-up ears too.  For we have here, in Christ’s treatment of the Apostle, a revelation of how He behaves to a soul conscious of its fault; and, in Peter’s demeanor, an illustration of how a soul, conscious of its fault, should behave to Him.

There are three stages here: the threefold question, the threefold answer and the threefold charge.  Let us look at these.

I. The threefold question. The reiteration in the interrogation did not express doubt as to the veracity of the answer nor dissatisfaction with its terms; but it did express, and was meant, I suppose, to suggest to Peter and to the others that the threefold denial needed to be obliterated by the threefold confession; and that every black mark that had been scored deep on the page by that denial needed to be covered over with the gilding or bright coloring of the triple acknowledgment.  And so Peter thrice having said, ‘I know Him not;’ Jesus with a gracious violence forced him to say thrice, ‘Thou knowest that I love Thee.’  The same intention to compel Peter to go back upon his past comes out in two things besides the triple form of the question.

The one is the designation by which he is addressed, ‘Simon, son of Jonas,’ which travels back, as it were, to the time before he was a disciple, and points a finger to his weak humanity before it had come under the influence of Jesus Christ.  ‘Simon, son of Jonas,’ was the name that he bore in the days before his discipleship. It was the name by which Jesus had addressed him, therefore, on that never-to-be-forgotten turning-point of his life when he was first brought to Him by his brother Andrew.  It was the name by which Jesus had addressed him at the very climax of his past life when, high up, he had been able to see far, and in answer to the Lord’s question, had rung out the confession: ‘Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God!’  So the name by which Jesus addresses him now says to him in effect: ‘Remember thy human weakness; remember how you were drawn to Me; remember the high-water mark of thy discipleship, when I was plain before thee as the Son of God, and remembering all these, answer Me — lovest thou Me?’

The same intention to drive Peter back to the wholesome remembrance of a stained past is obvious in the first form of the question. Our Lord mercifully does not persist in giving to it that form in the second and third instances: ‘Lovest thou Me more than these?’  More than these, what?  I cannot for a moment believe that that question means something so trivial and irrelevant as ‘Lovest thou Me more than these nets and boats and the fishing?’  No; in accordance with the purpose that runs through the whole, of compelling Peter to retrospect, it says to him, ‘Do you remember what you said a dozen hours before you denied Me, “Though all should forsake Thee, yet will not I”?  Are you going to take that stand again?  Lovest thou Me more than these, that never discredited their boasting so shamefully?’

So, dear brethren! here we have Jesus Christ, in His treatment of this penitent and half-restored soul, forcing a man, with merciful compulsion, to look steadfastly and long at his past sin and to retrace step by step, shameful stage by shameful stage, the road by which he had departed so far.  Every foul place he is to stop and look at and think about.  Each detail he has to bring up before his mind.  Was it not cruel of Jesus thus to take Peter by the neck, as it were, and hold him right down, close to the foul things that he had done, and say to him, ‘Look! look! look ever! And answer, Lovest thou Me?’  No; it was not cruel; it was true kindness. Peter was never so abundantly and permanently penetrated by the sense of the sinfulness of his sin, as after he was sure, as he had been made sure in that great interview, that it was all forgiven.  So long as a man is disturbed by the dread of consequences, so long as he is doubtful as to his relation to the forgiving Love, he is not in a position beneficially and sanely to consider his evil in its moral quality only.  But when the conviction comes to a man, ‘God is pacified towards thee for all that thou hast done;’ and when he can look at his own evil without the smallest disturbance rising from slavish fear of issues, then he is in a position rightly to estimate its darkness and its depth.  And there can be no better discipline for us all than to remember our faults and penitently to travel back over the road of our sins, just because we are sure that God in Christ has forgotten them.  The beginning of Christ’s merciful treatment of the forgiven man is to compel him to remember, that he may learn and be ashamed.

And then there is another point here in this triple question.  How significant and beautiful it is that the only thing that Jesus Christ cares to ask about is the sinner’s love! We might have expected: ‘Simon, son of Jonas, are you sorry for what you did?  Simon, son of Jonas, will you promise never to do the like any more?’  No!  These things will come if the other thing is there.  ‘Lovest thou Me?’  Jesus Christ sues each of us, not for obedience primarily, not for repentance, not for vows, not for conduct, but for a heart; and that being given, all the rest will follow.  That is the distinguishing characteristic of Christian morality: that Jesus seeks first for the surrender of the affections, and believes, and is warranted in the belief, that if these are surrendered, all else will follow.  And love being given, loyalty and service and repentance and hatred of self-will and of self-seeking will follow in her train.  All the graces of human character which Christ seeks and is ready to impart, are, as it were, but the pages and ministers of the regal Love, who follow behind and swell the cortege of her servants.

Christ asks for love.  Surely that indicates the depth of His own!  In this commerce, He is satisfied with nothing less and can ask for nothing more; and He seeks for love because He is love and has given love.  Oh! to all hearts burdened, as all our hearts ought to be — unless the burden has been cast off in one way — by the consciousness of our own weakness and imperfection, surely, surely, it is a gospel that is contained in that one question addressed to a man who had gone far astray, ‘Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me?’

Here, again, we have Jesus Christ, in His dealing with the penitent, willing to trust discredited professions. We think that one of the signs of our being wise people is that experience shall have taught us ‘once’ being ‘bit, twice’ to be ‘shy,’ and if a man has once deceived us by flaming professions and ice-cold acts, never to trust him any more.  We think that is ‘worldly wisdom’ and ‘the bitter fruit of earthly experience’ and ‘sharpness’ and ‘shrewdness’ and so forth.  Jesus Christ, even whilst reminding Peter by that ‘more than these,’ of his utterly hollow and unreliable boasting, shows Himself ready to accept once again the words of one whose inveracity He had proved.  ‘Charity hopeth all things, believeth all things,’ and Jesus Christ is ready to trust us when we say, ‘I love Thee,’ even though often in the past our professed love has been all disproved.

We have here, in this question, our Lord revealing Himself as willing to accept the imperfect love which a disciple can offer Him. Of course, many of you well know that there is a very remarkable play of expression here.  In the two first questions, the word which our Lord employs for ‘love’ is not the same as that which appears in Peter’s two first answers.  Christ asks for one kind of love; Peter proffers another.  I do not enter upon discussion as to the distinction between these two apparent synonyms.  The kind of love which Christ asks for is higher, nobler, less emotional and more associated with the whole mind and will.  It is the inferior kind, the more warm, more sensuous, more passionate and emotional, which Peter brings.  And then, in the third question, our Lord, as it were, surrenders and takes Peter’s own word, as if He had said, ‘Be it so!  You shrink from professing the higher kind; I will take the lower and I will educate and bring that up to the height that I desire you to stand at.’  Ah, brother! however stained and imperfect, however disproved by denials, however tainted by earthly associations, Jesus Christ will accept the poor stream of love – though it be but a trickle when it ought to be a torrent – which we can bring Him.

These are the lessons which it seems to me lie in this triple question.  I have dealt with them at the greater length because those which follow are largely dependent upon them.  But let me turn now briefly, in the second place, to —

II. The triple answer. ‘Yea, Lord! Thou knowest that I love Thee.’  Is not that beautiful, that the man who by Christ’s Resurrection (as the last of the answers shows) had been led to the loftiest conception of Christ’s omniscience and regarded Him as knowing the hearts of all men should, in the face of all that Jesus Christ knew about his denial and his sin, have dared to appeal to Christ’s own knowledge?  What a superb and all-conquering confidence in Christ’s depth of knowledge and forgivingness of knowledge that answer showed!  He felt that Jesus could look beneath the surface of his sin and see that below it there was, even in the midst of the denial, a heart that in its depths was true.  It is a tremendous piece of confident appeal to the deeper knowledge and therefore the larger love and more abundant forgiveness of the righteous Lord — ‘Thou knowest that I love Thee.’

Brethren! a Christian man ought to be sure of his love to Jesus Christ.  You do not study your conduct in order to infer from it your love to others.  You do not study your conduct in order to infer from it your love to your wife or your husband or your parents or your children or your friend.  Love is not a matter of inference; it is a matter of consciousness and intuition.  Whilst self-examination is needful for us all for many reasons, a Christian man ought to be as sure that he loves Jesus Christ as he is sure that he loves his dearest upon earth.

It used to be the fashion long ago — this generation has not depth enough to keep up the fashion — for Christian people to talk as if it were a point they longed to know, whether they loved Jesus Christ or not.  There is no reason why it should be a point we long to know.  You know all about your love to one another and you are sure about that.  Why are you not sure about your love to Jesus Christ?  ‘Oh! but,’ you say, ‘look at my sins and failures;’ and if Peter had looked only at his sins, do you not think that his words would have stuck in his throat?  He did look, but he looked in a very different way from that of trying to ascertain from his conduct whether he loved Jesus Christ or not.  Brethren, any sin is inconsistent with Christian love to Christ.  Thank God, we have no right to say of any sin that it is incompatible with that love!  More than that; a great, gross, flagrant, sudden fall like Peter’s is a great deal less inconsistent with love to Christ than are the continuously unworthy, worldly, selfish, Christ-forgetting lives of hosts of complacent professing Christians today.  White ants will eat up the carcass of a dead buffalo more quickly than a lion will.  To have denied Christ once, twice, thrice, in the space of an hour, and under strong temptation, is not half so bad as to call Him ‘Master’ and ‘Lord,’ and day by day, week in, week out, in works to deny Him.  The triple answer declares to us that in spite of a man’s sins, he ought to be conscious of his love and be ready to profess it when need is.

III. Lastly, we have here the triple commission. I do not dwell upon it at any length because in its original form it applies especially to the apostolic office.  But the general principles which underlie this threefold charge, to feed and to tend both ‘the sheep’ and ‘the lambs,’ may be put in a form that applies to each of us, and it is this — the best token of a Christian’s love to Jesus Christ is his service of man for Christ’s sake.  ‘Lovest thou Me?’  ‘Yea! Lord.’  Thou hast said: go and do, ‘Feed My lambs; feed My sheep.’  We need the profession of words; we need, as Peter himself enjoined at a subsequent time, to be ready to ‘give to every man that asketh us a reason of the hope’ and an acknowledgment of the love that is in us.  But if you want men to believe in your love, however Jesus Christ may know it, go and work in the Master’s vineyard.  The service of man is the garb of the love of God.  ‘He that loveth God will love his brother also.’  Do not confine that thought of service and feeding and tending to what we call evangelistic and religious work.  That is one of its forms, but it is only one of them.  Everything in which Christian men can serve their fellows is to be taken by them as their worship of their Lord and is taken by the world as the convincing proof of the reality of their love.

Love to Jesus Christ is the qualification for all such service.  If we are knit to Him by true affection, which is based upon our consciousness of our own falls and evils and our reception of His forgiving mercy, then we shall have the qualities that fit us and the impulse that drives us to serve and help our fellows.  I do not say — God forbid! — that there is no philanthropy apart from Christian faith, but I do say that, on the wide scale, and in the long run, they who are knit to Jesus Christ by love will be those who render the greatest help to all that are ‘afflicted in mind, body, or estate.’  The true basis and qualification for efficient service of our fellows is the utter surrender of our hearts to Him who is the Fountain of love and from whom comes all our power to live in the world, as the images and embodiments of the love which has saved us that we might help to save others.

Brethren! let us all ask ourselves Christ’s question to the denier.  Let us look our past evils full in the face, that we may learn to hate them and that we may learn more the width and the sweep of the power of His pardoning mercy.  God grant that we may all be able to say, ‘Thou knowest all things; Thou knowest that I love Thee!’


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“A Godly Man Is a Thankful Man” PDF

Thomas Watson

Praise and thanksgiving is the work of heaven and he begins that work here which he will always be doing in heaven.  The Jews have a saying — the world subsists by three things: the law, the worship of God and thankfulness.  As if where thankfulness was missing, one of the pillars of the world had been taken away and it was ready to fall.  The Hebrew word for ‘praise’ comes from a root that signifies ‘to shoot up.’  The godly man sends up his praises like a volley of shots towards heaven.  David was modeled after God’s heart and how melodiously he warbled out God’s praises!  Therefore he was called ‘the sweet psalmist of Israel’ (2 Sam. 23:1). Take a Christian at his worst, yet he is thankful.  To illustrate this more clearly, I shall lay down these four particulars:

1. Praise and thanksgiving is a saint-like work.

We find in Scripture that the godly are still called upon to praise God: ‘ye that fear the Lord, bless the Lord’ (Psalm 135:20). ‘Let the saints be joyful in glory: let the high praises of God be in their mouth’ (Psalm 149:5, 6). Praise is a work proper to a saint:

(i) None but the godly can praise God aright. As all do not have the skill to play the lute, so not everyone can sound forth the harmonious praises of God.  Wicked men are required to praise God, but they are not fit to praise him.  None but a living Christian can tune God’s praise.  Wicked men are dead in sin; how can they who are dead lift up God’s praises?  ‘The grave cannot praise thee’ (Isa. 38:18). A wicked man stains and eclipses God’s praise.  If an unclean hand works in damask or flowered satin, it will slur its beauty.  God will say to the sinner, ‘What hast thou to do, to take my covenant in thy mouth?’ (Psalm 50:16).

(ii)Praise is not comely for any but the godly: ‘praise is comely for the upright’ (Psalm 33:1). A profane man stuck with God’s praises is like a dunghill stuck with flowers.  Praise in the mouth of a sinner is like an oracle in the mouth of a fool.  How uncomely it is for anyone to praise God if his whole life dishonors God!  It is as indecent for a wicked man to praise God as it is for a usurer to talk of living by faith, or for the devil to quote Scripture.  The godly alone are fit to be choristers in God’s praises.  It is called ‘the garment of praise’ (Isa. 61:3). This garment fits hand­somely only on a saint’s back.

2. Thanksgiving is a more noble part of God’s worship.

Our wants may send us to prayer but it takes a truly honest heart to bless God. The raven cries; the lark sings. In petition we act like men; in thanksgiving we act like angels.

3. Thanksgiving is a God-exalting work.

‘Whoso offereth praise glorifieth me’ (Psalm 50:23). Though nothing can add the least mite to God’s essential glory, yet praise exalts him in the eyes of others.  Praise is a setting forth of God’s honor, a lifting up of his name, a displaying of the trophy of his goodness, a proclaiming of his excellence, a spreading of his renown, a breaking open of the box of ointment, whereby the sweet savor and perfume of God’s name is sent abroad into the world.

4. Praise is a more distinguishing work.

By this a Christian excels all the infernal spirits.  Do you talk of God?  So can the devil; he brought Scripture to Christ.  Do you profess religion?  So can the devil; he transforms himself into an angel of light.  Do you fast?  He never eats.  Do you believe?  The devils have a faith of assent; they believe, and tremble (Jas. 2:19). But as Moses worked such a miracle as none of the magicians could reproduce, so here is a work Christians may be doing, which none of the devils can do, and that is the work of thanksgiving.  The devils blaspheme, but do not bless.  Satan has his fiery darts but not his harp and viol.

Use 1: See here the true genius and complexion of a godly man.  He is much in doxologies and praises. It is a saying of Lactantius that he who is unthankful to his God cannot be a good man.  A godly man is a God-exalter.  The saints are temples of the Holy Ghost (1 Cor. 3:16). Where should God’s praises be sounded, but in his temples?  A good heart is never weary of praising God: ‘his praise shall continually be in my mouth’ (Psalm 34:1). Some will be thankful while the memory of the mercy is fresh, but afterwards leave off. The Carth­aginians used at first to send the tenth of their yearly revenue to Hercules, but by degrees they grew weary and left off sending.  David, as long as he drew his breath, would chirp forth God’s praise: ‘I will sing praises unto my God while I have any being’ (Psalm 146:2). David would not now and then give God a snatch of music, and then hang up the instrument, but he would continually be celebrating God’s praise.  A godly man will express his thankfulness in every duty.  He mingles thanksgiving with prayer: ‘in every thing by prayer with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God’ (Phil. 4:6). Thanksgiving is the more divine part of prayer.  In our petitions we express our own necessities; in our thanksgivings we declare God’s excellences.  Prayer goes up as incense, when it is perfumed with thanksgiving.

And as a godly man expresses thankfulness in every duty, he does so in every condition.  He will be thankful in adversity as well as prosperity: ‘In every thing give thanks’ (1 Thess. 5:18). A gracious soul is thankful and rejoices that he is drawn nearer to God, though it be by the cords of affliction.  When it goes well with him, he praises God’s mercy; when it goes badly with him, he magnifies God’s justice.  When God has a rod in his hand, a godly man will have a psalm in his mouth.  The devil’s smiting of Job was like striking a musical instrument; he sounded forth praise: ‘The Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord’ (Job. 1:21). When God’s spiritual plants are cut and bleed, they drop thankfulness; the saints’ tears cannot drown their praises.

If this is the sign of a godly man, then the number of the godly appears to be very small. Few are in the work of praise.  Sinners cut God short of his thank offering: ‘Where are the nine?’ (Luke 17:17). Of ten lepers healed, there was but one who returned to give praise.  Most of the world are sepulchers to bury God’s praise.  You will hear some swearing and cursing but few who bless God.  Praise is the yearly rent that men owe, but most are behind with their rent.  God gave King Hezekiah a marvelous deliver­ance, ‘but Hezekiah rendered not again according to the benefit done unto him’ (2 Chron. 32:25). That ‘but’ was a blot on his escutcheon.  Some, instead of being thankful to God, ‘render evil for good.’  They are the worse for mercy: ‘Do ye thus requite the Lord, O foolish people and unwise?’ (Deut. 32:6). This is like the toad that turns the most wholesome herb to poison.  Where shall we find a grateful Christian?  We read of the saints ‘having harps in their hands’ (Rev 5:8) — the emblem of praise.  Many have tears in their eyes and complaints in their mouths, but few have harps in their hand and are blessing and praising the name of God.

Use 2: Let us scrutinize ourselves and examine by this characteristic whether we are godly: Are we thankful for mercy?  It is a hard thing to be thankful.

Question: How may we know whether we are rightly thankful?

Answer 1: When we are careful to register God’s mercy: ‘David appointed certain of the Levites to record, and to thank and praise the Lord God of Israel’ (1 Chron. 16:4). Physicians say that the memory is the first thing that decays.  It is true in spiritual matters: ‘They soon forgot his works’ (Psalm 106:13). A godly man enters his mercies, as a physician does his remedies, in a book, so that they may not be lost.  Mercies are jewels that should be locked up.  A child of God keeps two books always by him: one to write his sins in, so that he may be humble; the other to write his mercies in, so that he may be thankful.

Answer 2: We are rightly thankful when our hearts are the chief instrument in the music of praise: ‘I will praise the Lord with my whole heart’ (Psalm 111:1). David would tune not only his viol, but also his heart.  If the heart does not join with the tongue, there can be no comfort.  Where the heart is not engaged, the parrot is as good a chorister as the Christian.

Answer 3: We are rightly thankful when the favors which we receive endear our love to God the more.  David’s miraculous preservation from death drew forth his love to God: ‘I love the Lord’ (Psalm 116:1). It is one thing to love our mercies; it is another thing to love the Lord.  Many love their deliverance but not their deliverer.  God is to be loved more than his mercies.

Answer 4: We are rightly thankful when, in giving our praise to God, we take all worthiness from ourselves: ‘I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies thou hast showed unto thy servant’ (Gen. 32:10). As if Jacob had said, ‘Lord, the worst bit thou carvest me is better than I deserve.’  Mephibosheth bowed himself and said, ‘What is thy servant, that thou should look upon such a dead dog as I am?’ (2 Sam. 9:8). So when a thankful Christian makes a survey of his blessings and sees how much he enjoys that others better than he lack, he says, ‘Lord, what am I, a dead dog, that free grace should look upon me, and that thou shouldest crown me with such loving kindness?’

Answer 5: We are rightly thankful when we put God’s mercy to good use.  We repay God’s blessings with service.  The Lord gives us health, and we spend and are spent for Christ (2 Cor. 12:15). He gives us an estate, and we honor the Lord with our substance (Proverbs 3:9). He gives us children, and we dedicate them to God and educate them for God.  We do not bury our talents but trade them.  This is to put our mercies to good use.  A gracious heart is like a piece of good ground that, having received the seed of mercy, produces a crop of obedience.

Answer 6: We are rightly thankful when we can have our hearts more enlarged for spiritual than for temporal mercies: ‘Blessed be God, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings’ (Eph. 1:3). A godly man blesses God more for a fruitful heart than a full crop.  He is more thankful for Christ than for a kingdom.  Socrates was wont to say that he loved the king’s smile more than his gold.  A pious heart is more thankful for a smile of God’s face than he would be for the gold of the Indies.

Answer 7: We are rightly thankful when mercy is a spur to duty.  It causes a spirit of activity for God.  Mercy is not like the sun to the fire, to dull it, but like oil to the wheel, to make it run faster.  David wisely argues from mercy to duty: ‘Thou hast delivered my soul from death.  I will walk before the Lord in the land of the living’ (Psalm. 116:8, 9). It was a saying of Bernard, ‘Lord, I have two mites, a soul and a body, and I give them both to thee.’

Answer 8: We are rightly thankful when we motivate others to this angelic work of praise.  David does not only wish to bless God himself, but calls upon others to do so: ‘Praise ye the Lord’ (Psalm 111:1).  The sweetest music is that which is in unison.  When many saints join together in unison, then they make heaven ring with their praises.  As one drunkard will be calling upon another, so in a holy sense, one Christian must be stirring up another to the work of thankfulness.

Answer 9: We are rightly thankful when we not only speak God’s praise but live his praise. It is called an expression of gratitude.  We give thanks when we live thanks.  Such as are mirrors of mercy should be patterns of piety.  ‘Upon Mount Zion shall be deliverance, and there shall be holiness’ (Obad. 17). To give God oral praise and dishonor him in our lives is to commit a barbarism in religion, and is to be like those Jews who bowed the knee to Christ and then spat on him (Mark 15:19).

Answer 10: We are rightly thankful when we propagate God’s praises to posterity.  We tell our children what God has done for us: in such a want he supplied us; from such a sickness he raised us up; in such a temptation he helped us.  ‘O God, our fathers have told us, what work thou didst in their days, in the times of old’ (Psalm 44:1).  By transmitting our experiences to our children, God’s name is eternalized, and his mercies will bring forth a plentiful crop of praise when we have gone.  Heman puts the question, ‘Shall the dead praise thee?’ (Psalm 88:10). Yes, in the sense that when we are dead, we praise God because, having left the chronicle of God’s mercies with our children, we start them on thankfulness and so make God’s praises live when we are dead.

Use 3: Let us prove our godliness by gratefulness: ‘Give unto the Lord the glory due unto his name’ (Psalm 29:2).

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.

2. Thankfulness is the rent we owe to God. ‘Kings of the earth and all people; let them praise the name of the Lord’ (Psalm 148:11, 13). Praise is the tribute or custom to be paid into the King of heaven’s exchequer.  Surely while God renews our lease, we must renew our rent.

3. The great cause we have to be thankful. It is a principle grafted in nature, to be thankful for benefits.  The heathen praised Jupiter for their victories.

What full clusters of mercies hang on us when we go to enumerate God’s mercies!  We must, with David, confess ourselves to be nonplussed: ‘Many, O Lord my God, are thy wonderful works which thou hast done, they cannot be reckoned up in order’ (Psalm. 40:5). And as God’s mercies are past numbering, so they are past measuring.  David takes the longest measuring line he could get.  He measures from earth to the clouds, no, above the clouds, yet this measure would not reach the heights of God’s mercies: ‘Thy mercy is great above the heavens’ (Psalm 108:4). Oh, how God has enriched us with his silver showers!  A whole constellation of mercies has shone in our hemisphere.

(i) What temporal favors we have received!  Every day we see a new tide of mercy coming in.  The wings of mercy have covered us, the breast of mercy has fed us: ‘the God which fed me all my life long unto this day’ (Gen. 48:15). What snares laid for us have been broken!  What fears have blown over!  The Lord has made our bed, while he has made others’ graves.  He has taken such care of us, as if he had no-one else to take care of.  Never was the cloud of providence so black, but we might see a rainbow of love in the cloud.  We have been made to swim in a sea of mercy, and does not all this call for thankfulness?

(ii) That which may put another string into the instru­ment of our praise and make it sound louder is to consider what spiritual blessings God has conferred on us.  He has given us water from the upper springs; he has opened the wardrobe of heaven and fetched us out a better garment than any of the angels wear.  He has given us the best robe and put on us the ring of faith, by which we are married to him.  These are mercies of the first magnitude, which deserve to have an asterisk put on them.  And God keeps the best wine till last.  Here he gives us mercies only in small quantities; the greatest things are laid up.  Here there are some honey drops and foretastes of God’s love; the rivers of pleasure are reserved for paradise.  Well may we take the harp and viol and triumph in God’s praise!  Who can tread on these hot coals of God’s love and his heart not burn in thankfulness?

4. Thankfulness is the best policy. There is nothing lost by it.  To be thankful for one mercy is the way to have more.  It is like pouring water into a pump which fetches out more.  Musicians love to sound their trumpets where there is the best echo, and God loves to bestow his mercies where there is the best echo of thankfulness.

5. Thankfulness is a frame of heart that God delights in. If repentance is the joy of heaven, praise is the music.  Bernard calls thankfulness the sweet balm that drops from a Christian.  Four sacrifices God is very pleased with: the sacrifice of Christ’s blood; the sacrifice of a broken heart; the sacrifice of alms; and the sacrifice of thanksgiving.  Praise and thanksgiving (says Mr. Greenham) is the most excel­lent part of God’s worship, for this shall continue in the heavenly choir when all other exercises of religion have ceased.

6. What a horrid thing ingratitude is! It gives a dye and tincture to every other sin and makes it crimson.  In­gratitude is the spirit of baseness: ‘They that eat thy bread have laid a wound under thee’ (Obad. 7). Ingratitude is worse than brutish (Isa. 1:3). It is reported of Julius Caesar that he would never forgive an ungrateful person.  Though God is a sin-pardoning God, he scarcely knows how to pardon for this. ‘How shall I pardon thee for this?  Thy children have forsaken me, when I had fed them to the full, they then committed adultery’ (Jer. 5:7). Draco (whose laws were written in blood) published an edict that if any man had received a benefit from another, and it could be proved against him that he had not been grateful for it, he should be put to death.  An unthankful person is a monster in nature, a paradox in Christianity.  He is the scorn of heaven and the plague of earth.  An ungrateful man never does well except in one thing — that is, when he dies.

7. Not being thankful is the cause of all the judgments which have lain on us. Our unthankfulness for health has been the cause of so much mortality.  Our gospel unthankfulness and sermon-surfeiting has been the reason why God has put so many lights under a bushel.  As Bradford said, ‘My unthankfulness was the death of King Edward VI.’  Who will spend money on a piece of ground that produces nothing but briars?  Unthankfulness stops the golden phial of God’s bounty, so that it will not drop.

Question: What shall we do to be thankful?

Answer 1: If you wish to be thankful, get a heart deeply humbled with the sense of your own vileness.  A broken heart is the best pipe to sound forth God’s praise.  He who studies his sins wonders that he has anything and that God should shine on such a dunghill: ‘Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, but I obtained mercy’ (1 Tim. 1:13). How thankful Paul was!  How he trumpeted forth free grace!  A proud man will never be thankful.  He looks on all his mercies as either of his own procuring or deserving.  If he has an estate, this he has got by his wits and industry, not considering that scripture, ‘Thou shalt remember the Lord thy God: for it is he that gives thee power to get wealth’ (Deut. 8:18). Pride stops the current of gratitude.  O Christian, think of your unworthiness; see yourself the least of saints and the chief of sinners, and then you will be thankful.

Answer 2: Strive for sound evidences of God’s love to you.  Read God’s love in the impress of holiness upon your hearts.  God’s love poured in will make the vessels of mercy run over with thankfulness: ‘Unto him that loved us, be glory and dominion forever’ (Rev. 1:5, 6). The deepest springs yield the sweetest water.  Hearts deeply aware of God’s love yield the sweetest praises.


Edited by Teaching Resources International. http://www.teachingresources.org

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