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A Caution to the Presumptuous
Delivered on Sabbath Morning, May 13, 1855, by the
REV. C. H. Spurgeon
At Exeter Hall, Strand.
"Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall." 1 Corinthians 10:12
T is a singular fact, but nevertheless most certain, that the vices are the counterfeits of virtues. Whenever God sends from the mint of heaven a precious coin of genuine metal, Satan will imitate the impress, and utter a vile production of no value. God gives love; it is his nature and his essence. Satan also fashioneth a thing which he calls love, but it is lust. God bestows courage; and it is a good thing to be able to look one's fellow in the face, fearless of all men in doing our duty. Satan inspires fool-hardiness, styles it courage, and bids the man rush to the cannon's mouth for "bubble reputation." God creates in man holy fear. Satan gives him unbelief, and we often mistake the one for the other. So with the best of virtues, the saving grace of faith, when it comes to its perfection it ripens into confidence, and there is nothing so comfortable and so desirable to the Christian, as the full assurance of faith. Hence, we find Satan, when he sees this good coin, at once takes the metal of the bottomless pit, imitates the heavenly image and superscription of assurance, and palms upon us the vice of presumption.
We are astonished, perhaps, as Calvinistic Christians, to find Paul saying, "Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall;" but we need not be astonished, for though we have a great right to believe that we stand, if we think we stand through the power of God though we cannot be too confident of the might of the Most High, there is a thing so near akin to true confidence, that unless you use the greatest discernment you cannot tell the difference. Unholy presumption it is against that which I am to speak this morning. Let me not be misunderstood. I shall not utter one word against the strongest faith. I wish all Little-Faiths were Strong-Faiths, that all Fearings were made Valiants-for-Truth, and the Ready-to-Halts Asahel's Nimble-of-Foot, that they might all run in their Master's work. I speak not against strong faith or full assurance; God giveth it to us; it is the holiest, happiest thing that a Christian can have, and there is no state so desirable as that of being able to say, "I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him." It is not against that I speak, but I warn you against that evil thing, a false confidence and presumption which creepeth over a Christian, like the cold death-sleep on the mountain-top, from which, if he is not awakened, as God will see that he shall be, death will be the inevitable consequence. "Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall."
I shall this morning attempt first, to find out the character; secondly, to show the danger; and thirdly, to give the counsel. The character is, the man who thinks he stands; the danger is, that he may fall; and the counsel is, "let him take heed.
1. My first business shall be to FIND OUT THE CHARACTER intended by the presumptuous man, the man who thinks he stands. I could find a multitude of such if I might search the wide world o'er. I could find men in business filled with an arrogant hardihood, who, because they have in one speculation been successful will wade far out into the stormy sea of this contending life, risk their all and lose it too. I might mention others who, presuming upon their health, are spending their years in sin and their lives in iniquity, because they think their bones iron and their nerves steel, and "all men mortal but themselves." I might speak of men who will venture into the midst of temptation, confident in their boasted power, exclaiming with self-complacency, "Do you think I am so weak as to sin? Oh! no; I shall stand. Give me the glass; I shall never be a drunkard. Give me the song; you will not find me a midnight reveller. I can drink a little and then I can stop." Such are presumptuous men. But I am not about to find them there; my business this morning is with God's church. The fanning must begin with the floor; the winnowing must try the wheat. So we are to winnow the church this morning to discover the presumptuous. We need not go far to find them. There are in every Christian church men who think they stand, men who vaunt themselves in fancied might and power, children of nature finely dressed, but not the living children of the living God; they have not been humbled or broken in spirit, or if they have, they have fostered carnal security until it has grown to a giant and trampled the sweet flower of humility under its foot. They think they stand. I speak now of real Christians, who, notwithstanding, have grown presumptuous, and indulge in a fleshly security. May my Master arouse such, while in preaching I endeavour to go to the core and root of the matter. For a little while I will expatiate upon the frequent causes of presumption in a Christian.
1. And first, a very common cause, is continued worldly prosperity. Moab is settled on his lees, he hath not been emptied from vessel to vessel. Give a man wealth; let his ships bring home continually rich freights; let the winds and waves appear to be his servants to bear his vessels across the bosom of the mighty deep; let his lands yield abundantly; let the weather be propitious to his crops, and the skies smile pleasantly upon his enterprise; let the bands of Orion be loosed for him; let the sweet influence of the Pleiades descend upon him; let uninterrupted success attend him; let him stand among men as a successful merchant, as a princely Dives, as a man who is heaping up riches to a large extent, who is always prospering: or, if not wealth, let him enjoy continued health; let him know no sickness; allow him with braced nerve and brilliant eye, to march through the world, and live happily; give him the buoyant spirit; let him have the song perpetually on his lips, and his eye be ever sparkling with joy: the happy, happy man who laughs at care, and cries, "Begone, dull care, I prithee begone from me." I say the consequence of such a state to a man, let him be the best Christian who ever breathed, will be presumption; and he will say, "I stand." "In my prosperity," says David, "I said, I shall never be moved." And we are not much better than David, nor half as good. If God should always rock us in the cradle of prosperity if we were always dandled on the knees of fortune if we had not some stain on the alabaster pillar, if there were not a few clouds in the sky, some specks in our sunshine if we had not some bitter drops in the wine of this life, we should become intoxicated with pleasure, we should dream "we stand;" and stand we should, but it would be upon a pinnacle; stand we might, but hike the man asleep upon the mast, each moment we should be in jeopardy. We bless God, then, for our afflictions; we thank him for our depressions of spirit; we extol his name for the losses of our property; for we feel that had it not so happened to us, had he not chastened us every morning, and vexed us every evening, we might have become too secure. Continued worldly prosperity is a fiery trial. If it be so with any of you, apply this proverb to your own state, "As the fining pot for silver, and the furnace for gold: so is a man to his praise."
2. Again, light thoughts of sin will engender presumption. When we are first converted, our conscience is so very tender, that we are afraid of the slightest sin. I have known young converts almost afraid to proceed a step, lest they should put their feet in the wrong direction. They will ask advice of their minister, and difficult cases of moral casuistry will they bring before us, such as we hardly know how to answer. They have a holy timidity, a godly fear, lest they should offend against God. But alas! very soon the fine bloom upon these first ripe fruits is removed by the rough handling of the surrounding world. The sensitive plant of young piety turns into a willow in after life, too pliant, too easily yielding. It is sadly true, that even a Christian will grow by degrees so callous, that the sin which once startled him and made his blood run cold, does not alarm him in the least. I can speak from my own experience. When first I heard an oath, I stood aghast, and knew not where to hide myself; yet now I can hear an imprecation or blasphemy against God, and though a shudder still runs through my veins, there is not that solemn feeling, that intense anguish, which I felt when first I heard such evil utterances. By degrees we get familiar with sin. The ear in which the cannon has been booming will not notice slight sounds. The men who work in those huge vessels, the hammering of which causes immense noise, cannot at first sleep, for the continual din in their ears; but by-and-by, they, when they are used to it, think nothing of it. So with sin. First, a little sin doth startle us. Soon we say, "Is it not a little one?" like Lot did of Zoar. Then there comes another, larger, and then another, until by degrees we begin to regard it as but a little ill; and then you know, there comes an unholy presumption, and we think we stand. "We have not fallen," say we, "we only did such a little thing; we have not gone astray. True, we tripped a little, but we stood upright in the main. We might have uttered one unholy word, but as for the most of our conversation, it was consistent." So we palliate sin; we throw a gloss over it, we try to hide it. Christian, beware! when thou thinkest lightly of sin, then thou hast become presumptuous. Take heed, lest thou shouldst fall. Sin a little thing! Is it not a poison! Who knows its deadliness? Sin a little thing! Do not the little foxes spoil the vines? Sin a little thing! Doth not the tiny coral insect build a rock that wrecks a navy? Do not little strokes fell lofty oaks? Will not continual droppings wear away stones? Sin a little thing! It girded his head with thorns that now is crowned with glory. Sin a little thing! It made him suffer anguish, bitterness, and woe, till he endured
"All that incarnate God could bear, with strength enough, and none to spare."
It is not a little thing, sirs. Could you weigh it in the scales of eternity, you would fly from it as from a serpent, and abhor the least appearance of evil. But alas! loose thoughts of sin often beget a presumptuous spirit, and we think we stand.
3. A third reason often is, low thoughts of the value of religion. We none of us value religion enough. Religious furor, as it is called, is laughed at everywhere; but I do not believe there is such a thing as religious furor at all. If a man could be so enthusiastic as to give his body to be burned at the stake, could he pour out his drops of blood and turn each drop into a life, and then let that life be slaughtered in perpetual martyrdom, he would not love his God too much. Oh, no! when we think that this world is but a narrow space; that time will soon be gone, and we shall be in the for-ever of eternity; when we consider we must be either in hell or in heaven throughout a never- ending state of immortality, how sirs, can we love too much? how can we set too high a value on the immortal soul? Can we ask too great a price for heaven? Can we think we do too much to serve that God who gave himself for our sins? Ah! no; and yet my friends, most of us do not sufficiently regard the value of religion. We cannot any of us estimate the soul rightly; we have nothing with which to compare it. Gold is sordid dust; diamonds are but small lumps of congealed air that can be made to melt away. We have nought with which to compare the soul; therefore we cannot tell its value. It is because we do not know this, that we presume. Doth the miser who loves his gold let it be scattered on the floor that his servant may steal it? Doth he not hide it in some secret place where no eye shall behold it? Day after day, night after night, he counteth out his treasure because he loves it. Doth the mother trust her babe by the river-side? Doth she not in her sleep think of it? and when it is sick, will she leave it to the care of some poor nurse, who may suffer it to die? Oh! no; what we love, we will not wantonly throw away; what we esteem most precious, we will guard with the most anxious care. So, if Christians knew the value of their souls, if they estimated religion at its proper rate, they never would presume; but low thoughts of Christ, low thoughts of God, mean thoughts of our souls' eternal state these things tend to make us carelessly secure. Take heed, therefore, of low ideas of the gospel, lest ye be overtaken by the evil one.
4. But again, this presumption often springs from ignorance of what we are, and where we stand. Many Christians have not yet learned what they are. It is true, the first teaching of God is to shew us our own state, but we do not know that thoroughly till many year s after we have known Jesus Christ. The fountains of the great deep within our hearts are not broken up all at once; the corruption of our soul is not developed in an hour. "Son of man," said the angel of Ezekiel, "I will show thee the abominations of Israel." He then took him in at one door, where he saw abominable things, and stood aghast. "Son of man, I will show thee greater abominations than these;" then he takes him into another chamber, and Ezekiel says, "Surely I have now seen the worst." "No," says the angel, "I will show thee greater things than these." So, all our life long the Holy Spirit reveals to us the horrid abomination of our hearts. I know there are some here who do not think anything about it; they think they are good-hearted creatures. Good hearts, have you? Good hearts! Jeremiah had a better heart than you, yet he said, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?" No; the black lesson cannot be learned in a night. God alone knows the evil of the heart; and Young says, "God spares all eyes but his own that awful sight the vision of a human heart." If we could but see it, we should stand aghast. Well, it is ignorance of this that makes us presume. We say, "I have a good nature, I have a noble disposition; I have none of those hot and angry passions that some have; I can stand secure; I have not that dry, tindery heart that is on fire in a moment; my passions are weakened; my powers for evil are somewhat taken down, and I may stand safely." Ah! ye little know that it is when ye talk like this, that ye presume. O worm of the dust, thou art not yet free from an evil nature, for sin and corruption remain in the heart even of the regenerate; and it is strangely true, though it appears a paradox, as Ralph Erskine said, that a Christian sometimes thinks himself
"To good and evil equal bent
And both a devil and a saint."
There is such corruption in a Christian, that while he is a saint in his life, and justified through Christ, he seems a devil sometimes in imagination, and a demon in the wishes and corruptions of his soul. Take heed, Christian, thou hast need to be upon the watch tower; thou hast a heart of unbelief; therefore watch thou both night and day.
5. But to finish this delineation of a presumptuous man Pride is the most pregnant cause of presumption. In all its various shapes it is the fountain of carnal security. Sometimes it is pride of talent. God has endowed a man with gifts; he is able to stand before the multitude, or to write for the many; he has a discerning mind, he has a judgment, and such like things. Then says he, " As for the ignorant, those who have no talent, they may fall; my brother ought to take care: but look at me. How am I wrapped in grandeur!" And thus in his self-complacency he thinks he stands. Ah! those are the men that fall. How many that flamed like comets in the sky of the religious world have rushed into space and been quenched in darkness! How many a man who has stood like a prophet before his fellows, and who would exclaim as he wrapped himself in his conceit, "I, only I am alive, I am the only prophet of God;" and yet that only prophet fell; his lamp was quenched, and his light put out in darkness. How many have boasted of their might and dignity, and have said, "I have built this mighty Babylon," but then they thought they stood, and they fell at once. "Let him that thinketh he standeth," with the proudest talents, "take heed lest he fall."
Others have the pride of grace. That is a curious fact; but there is such a thing as being proud of grace. A man says, "I have great faith, I shall not fall; poor little faith may, but I never shall." " I have fervent love," says another man, "I can stand, there is no danger of my going astray; as for my brother over there, he is so cold and slow, he will fall, I dare say." Says another, "I have a most burning hope of heaven, and that hope will triumph; it will purge my soul from sense and sin, as Christ the Lord is pure. I am safe." He who boasts of grace, has little grace to boast of. But there are some who do that, who think their graces can keep them, knowing not that the stream must flow constantly from the fountain head, else the bed of the brook shall soon be dry, and ye shall see the pebbles at the bottom. If a continuous stream of oil come not to the lamp, though it burn brightly to-day, it shall smoke to-morrow, and noxous will be the scent thereof. Take heed that thou neither gloriest in thy talents nor in thy graces.
Many are worse still; they think they shall not fall because of their privileges. "I take the sacrament, I have been baptized in an orthodox manner, as written in God's word; I attend such and such a ministry; I am well fed; I am fat and flourishing in the courts of my God. If I were one of those starved creatures who hear a false gospel, possibly I might sin; but oh! our minister is the model of perfection; we are constantly fed and made fat; surely we shall stand." Thus in the complacency of their priviledges they run down others, exclaiming, "My mountain standeth firm, I shall never be moved." Take heed, presumption, take heed. Pride cometh before a fall; and a haughty spirit is the usher of destruction. Take heed; watch thy footsteps; for where pride creepeth in, it is the worm at the root of the gourd, causing it to wither and die. "Let him that thinketh he standeth," because of pride of talent, or grace, or privilege, "take heed lest he fall."
I hope I have touched some here; I trust the lancet has been sharp; I have taken the scalpel, and I hope I have discovered something. O ye presumptuous ones, I speak to you; and I shall do so while next I warn you of your danger.
II. I shall be more brief on the second point THE DANGER. He who thinks he stands is in danger of a fall. The true Christian cannot possibly suffer a final fall, but he is very much disposed to a foul fall. Though the Christian shall not stumble so as to destroy his life, he may break his limb. Though God has given his angels charge over him, to keep him in all his ways, yet there is no commission to keep him when he goes astray; and when he is astray he may thrust himself through with many sorrows.
1. I must now try and give you the reason why a man who thinks he stands is more exposed to the danger of falling than any other. First, because such a man in the midst of temptation will be sure to be more or less careless. Make a man believe he is very strong, and what will he do? The fight is thickening around him; yet he has his sword in his scabbard. "Oh," saith he, " my arm is nimble and strong; I can draw it out and strike home." So perhaps he lies down in the field, or sloth-fully sleeps in his tent; "for," saith he, "when I hear enemies approaching, such is my prowess and such my might, that I can mow them down by thousands. Ye sentinels watch the weak; go to the Ready-to-halts and the Fearings, and arouse them. But I am a giant; and let me once get this old Toledo blade in my hand, it will cut through body and soul. Whenever I meet my enemies I shall be more than conqueror." The man is careless in battle. He lifteth up his helmet, as it is said Goliath did, and then a stone pierceth his forehead; he throws away his shield, and then an arrow penetrateth his flesh; he will put his sword into his scabbard, then the enemy smiteth him, and he is ill prepared to resist. The man who thinks he is strong, is off his guard; he is not ready to parry the stroke of the evil one, and then the poignard entereth his soul.
2. Again, the man who thinks he stands will not be careful to keep out of the way of temptation, but rather will run into it. I remember seeing a man who was going to a place of worldly amusement he was a professor of religion and I called to him, "What doest thou there, Elijah?" "Why do you ask me such a question as that?" said he. I said, "What doest thou here, Elijah? Thou art going there." "Yes," he replied, with some sort of blush, "but I can do that with impunity." "I could not," said I; "if I were there I know I should commit sin. I should not care what people said about it; I always do as I like, so far as I believe it to be right; I leave the saying to anybody who likes to talk about me. But it is a place of danger, and I could not go there with impunity." "Ah!" said he, "I could; I have been before, and I have had some sweet thoughts there. I find it enlarges the intellect. You are narrow-minded; you do not get these good things. It is a rich treat I assure you. I would go if I were you." "No," I said, "it would be dangerous for me: from what I hear, the name of Jesus is profaned there; and there is much said that is altogether contrary to the religion we believe. The persons who attend there are none of the best, and it will surely be said that birds of a feather flock together." "Ah, well," he replied, "perhaps you young men had better keep away; I am a strong man, I can go;" and off he went to the place of amusement. That man, sirs, was an apple of Sodom. He was a professor of religion. I guessed there was something rotten at the core from that very fact; and I found it so by experience, for the man was a downright sensualist even then. He wore a mask, he was a hypocrite, and had none of the grace of God in his heart. Presumptuous men will say they can go into sin, they are so full of moral strength; but when a man tells you he is so good, always read his words backwards, and understand him to mean that he is as bad as he can be. The self- confident man is in danger of falling because he will even run into temptation in the confidence that he is strong, and able to make his escape.
3. Another reason is, that these strong men sometimes will not use the means of grace, and therefore they fall. There are some persons here, who never attend a place of worship very likely; they do not profess to be religious; but I am sure they would be astonished if I were to tell them, that I know some professedly religious people who are accepted in some churches as being true children of God, who yet make it a habit of stopping away from the house of God, because they conceive they are so advanced that they do not want it. You smile at such a thing as that. They boast such deep experience within; they have a volume of sweet sermons at home, and they will stop and read them; they need not go to the house of God, for they are fat and flourishing. They conceit themselves that they have received food enough seven years ago to last them the next ten years. They imagine that old food will feed their souls now. These are your presumptuous men. They are not to be found at the Lord's table, eating the body and drinking the blood of Christ, in the holy emblems of bread and wine. You do not see them in their closets; you do not find them searching the Scriptures with holy curiosity. They think they stand they shall never be moved; they fancy that means are intended for weaker Christians; and leaving those means, they fall. They will not have the shoe to put upon the foot, and therefore the flint cutteth them; they will not put on the armour, and therefore the enemy wounds them sometimes well- nigh unto death. In this deep quagmire of neglect of the means, many a haughty professor has been smothered.
4. Once more, the man who is self- confident runs a fearful hazard, because God's Spirit always leaves the proud. The gracious Spirit delights to dwell in the low places. The holy dove came to Jordan; we read not that it ever rested on Bashan. The man upon the white horse rode among the myrtle trees, not among the cedars. The myrtle trees grew at the foot of the mountains; the cedars on the summit thereof. God loves humility. He who walks with fear and trembling, fearing lest he should go astray, that man the Spirit loves; but when once pride creeps in, and the man declares, "Now I am in no danger," away goes the dove; it flies to heaven and will have nought to do with him. Proud souls, ye quench the Spirit. Ye arrogant men, ye grieve the Holy Ghost. He leaves every heart where pride dwelleth; that evil spirit of Lucifer he abhors; he will not rest with it; he will not tarry in its company. Here is your greatest danger, ye proud ones that the Spirit leaves those who deny their entire dependence on him.
III. The third point is THE COUNSEL. I have been expounding the text; now I want to enforce it. I would, if my Lord would allow me, speak home to your souls, and so picture the danger of a presumptuous man, that I would make you all cry out to heaven that sooner might you die than presume; that sooner might you be found amongst those who lie prostrate at the foot of Christ, trembling all their lives, than amongst those who think they stand, and therefore fall. Christian men, the counsel of Scripture is " Take heed."
1. First, take heed, because so many have fallen. My brother, could I take thee into the wards of that hospital where lie sick and wounded Christians, I could make you tremble. I would show you one, who, by a sin that occupied him not a single moment, is so sore broken, that his life is one continued scene of misery. I could show you another one, a brilliant genius, who served his God with energy, who is now not a priest of the devil it is true, but almost that sitting down in despair, because of his sin. I could point you to another person, who once stood in the church, pious and consistent, but who now comes up to the same house of prayer as if he were ashamed of himself, sits in some remote corner, and is no longer treated with the kindness he formerly received, the brethren themselves being suspicious, because he so greatly deceived them, and brought such dishonor upon the cause of Christ. Oh! did ye know the sad pain which those endure who fall. Could ye tell how many have fallen, (and have not perished, it is true,) but still have dragged themselves along, in misery, throughout their entire existence, I am sure ye would take heed. Come with me to the foot of the mountain of presumption. See there the maimed and writhing forms of many who once soared with Icarian wings in the airy regions of self-confidence; yet there they lie with their bones broken, and their peace destroyed. There lies one who had immortal life within him; see how full of pain he appears, and he looks a mass of helpless matter. He is alive, it is true, but just alive. Ye know not how some of those enter heaven who are saved, "so as by fire." One man walks to heaven; he keeps consistent; God is with him, and he is happy all his journey through. Another says, "I am strong, I shall not fall." He runs aside to pluck a flower; he sees something which the devil has laid in his way; he is caught first in this gin, and then in that trap; and when he comes near the river, instead of finding before him that stream of nectar of which the dying Christian drinks, he sees fire through which he has to pass, blazing upon the surface of the water. The river is on fire, and as he enters it he is scorched and burned. The hand of God is lifted up saying, "Come on, come on;" but as he dips his foot in the stream, he finds the fire kindling around him, and though the hand clutches him by the hair of the head, and drags him through, he stands upon the shore of heaven, and cries, " I am a monument of divine mercy, for I have been saved so as by fire." Oh ! do you want to be saved by fire, Christians? Would ye no rather enter heaven, singing songs of praises? Would ye not glorify him on earth, and then give your last testimony with, "Victory, victory, victory, unto him that loved us;" then shut your eyes on earth, and open them in heaven? If you would do so, presume not. "Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall."
2. Once more, my brother, take heed, because a fall will so much damage the cause of Christ. Nothing has hurt religion one-half, or one thousandth part, so much as the fall of God's people. Ah ! when a true believer sins, how will the world point at him. "That man was a deacon, but he knows how to charge exorbitantly. That man was a professor, but he can cheat as well as his neighbours. That man is a minister, and he lives in sin." Oh ! when the mighty fall it is rejoice fir tree, for the cedar has fallen how does the world exult ! They chuckle over our sin; they rejoice over our faults; they fly around us, and if they can see one point where we are vulnerable, how will they say, "See these holy people are no better than they should be." Because there is one hypocrite, men set down all the rest the same. I heard one man say, a little while ago, that he did not believe there was a true Christian living, because he had found out so many hypocrites. I reminded him that there could be no hypocrites if there were no genuine ones. No one would try to forge bank notes if there were no genuine ones. No one would think of passing a bad sovereign if there were no sterling coin. So the fact of their being some hypocrites proves that there are some genuine characters. But let those who are so, take heed; let them always, in their conduct, have the ring of true gold. Let your conversation be such as to become the gospel of Christ, lest by any means the enemy get the advantage over us, and slander the name of Jesus.
And especially is this incumbent upon the members of our own denomination, for it is often said that the doctrines we believe have a tendency to lead us to sin. I have heard it asserted most positively, that those high doctrines which we love and which we find in the Scriptures, are licentious ones. I do not know who has the hardihood to make that assertion, when they consider that the holiest of men have been believers in them. I ask the man who dares to say that Calvinism is a licentious religion, what he thinks of the character of Augustine, or Calvin, or Whitfield, who in successive ages were the great exponents of the system of grace; or what will he say of those Puritans, whose works are full of them? Had a man been an Arminian in those days, he would have been accounted the vilest heretic breathing; but now we are looked upon as the heretics, and they the orthodox. We have gone back to the old school; we can trace our descent from the Apostles. It is that vein of free grace running through the sermonising of Baptists, which has saved us as a denomination. Were it not for that, we should not stand where we are. We can run a golden link from hence up to Jesus Christ himself, through a holy succession of mighty fathers, who all held these glorious truths; and we can say of them, where will you find holier and better men in the world? We are not ashamed to say of ourselves, that however much we may be maligned and slandered, ye will not find a people who will live closer to God than those who believe that they are saved not by their works, but by free grace alone. But, oh ! ye believers in free grace, be careful. Our enemies hate the doctrine; and if one falls, "Ah there," say they, "see the tendency of your principles." Nay, we might reply, see what is the tendency of your doctrine. The exception in our case proves the rule is true, that after all, our gospel does lead us to holiness. Of all men, those have the most disinterested piety, the sublimest reverence, the most ardent devotion, who believe that they are saved by grace, without works, through faith, and that not of themselves, it is the gift of God. Christian take heed, lest by any means Christ should be crucified afresh, and should be put unto an open shame.
And now what more can I say? Oh ye, my beloved, ye my brethren, think not that ye stand, lest ye should fall. Oh ye fellow heirs of everlasting life and glory, we are marching along through this weary pilgrimage; and I, whom God hath called to preach to you, would turn affectionately to you little ones, and say, take heed lest ye fall. My brother, stumble not. There lieth the gin, there the snare. I am come to gather the stones out of the road, and take away the stumbling blocks. But what can I do unless, with due care and caution, ye yourselves walk guardedly. Oh, my brethren; be much more in prayer than ever. Spend more time in pious adoration. Read the Scriptures more earnestly and constantly. Watch your lives more carefully. Live nearer to God. Take the best examples for your pattern. Let your conversation be redolent of heaven. Let your hearts be perfumed with affection for men's souls. So live that men may take knowledge of you that you have been with Jesus, and have learned of him; and when that happy day shall come when he whom you love shall say, "Come up higher," let it be your happiness to hear him say, "Come my beloved, thou hast fought a good fight, thou hast finished thy course, and henceforth there is laid up for thee a crown of righteousness that fadeth not away". On, Christian, with care and caution ! On, with holy fear and trembling ! On yet, with faith and confidence, for thou shalt not fall. Read the next verse of this very chapter: "He will not suffer you to be tempted above that which ye are able to bear, but will, with the temptation, also make a way to escape."
But I have some here, perhaps, who may never hear my voice again; and I will not let my congregation go, God helping me, without telling them the way of salvation. Sirs, there are some of you who know ye have not believed in Christ. If ye were to die where ye now sit ye have no hope that ye would rise amongst the glorified in bliss. How many are there here who if their hearts could speak, must testify that they are without God, without Christ, and strangers from the common-wealth of Israel. Oh, let me tell you then, what ye must do to be saved. Does your heart beat high? Do ye grieve over your sins? Do ye repent of your iniquities? Will ye turn unto the living God? If so, this is the way of salvation; "Whosoever believeth and is baptised shall be saved." I cannot reverse my Master's order he says, "believeth," and then "baptised;" and he tells me that "he that believeth not shall be damned." Oh, my hearers, your works cannot save you. Though I have spoken to Christians, and exhorted them to live in good works, I talk not so to you. I ask ye not to get the flower before ye have the seed. I will not bid you get the roof of your house before ye lay the foundation. Believe on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and ye shall be saved. Whosoever here will now cast himself as a guilty worm flat on Jesus whoever will throw himself into the arms of everlasting love, that man shall be accepted; he shall go from that door justified and forgiven, with his soul as safe as if he were in heaven, without the danger of its ever being lost. All this is through belief in Christ.
Surely ye need no argument. If I thought ye did I would use it. I would stand and weep till ye came to Christ. If I thought I was strong enough to fetch a soul to Jesus, if I thought that moral suasion could win you, I would go round to each of your seats and beg of you in God's name to repent. But since I cannot do that, I have done my duty when I have prophesied to the dry bones. Remember we shall meet again. I boast of neither eloquence nor talent, and I cannot understand why ye come here; I only speak right on, and tell you what I feel; but mark me, when we meet before God's bar, however ill I may have spoken, I shall be able to say, that I said to you, "Believe on the name of Jesus, and ye shall be saved." Why will ye die, O house of Israel? Is hell so sweet, is everlasting torment so much to be desired, that therefore ye can let go the glories of heaven, the bliss of eternity? Men, are ye to live for ever? or, are ye to die like brutes? "Live !" say you, Well, then, are you not desirous to live in a state of bliss? Oh, may God grant you grace to turn to him with full purpose of heart! Come, guilty sinner, come! God help you to come, and I shall be well repaid, if but one soul be added to the visible fold of Jesus, through aught I may have said.
'Comfort for the Tempted' and 'Comfort for Tried Believers'
Comfort for the Tempted
Intended for Reading on Lord's-day, January 1st, 1899,
C. H. SPURGEON,
At the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington.
On Thursday Evening, September 27th, 1883.
"There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it." 1 Corinthians 10:13 .
THE CHILDREN OF GOD are all subject to temptation; some of them are tempted more than others, but I am persuaded that there is not one, except those who are too young to be conscious of evil, who will enter heaven without having endured some temptation. If any one could have escaped, surely it would have been "the firstborn among many brethren;" but you will remember how he was led of the Spirit, straight from the waters of his baptism, into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil; and the apostle Paul informs us that he "was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin." Truly, the Lord Jesus might say to us who are his followers, "If I, your Master and Lord, have been tempted, you must not expect to escape temptation; for the disciple is not above his Master, nor the servant above his Lord."
The fact that we are tempted ought to humble us, for it is sad evidence that there is sin still remaining in us. I am old enough to remember the times when we used to strike with a flint upon the steel in order to get a light in the morning, and I recollect that I always left off trying to produce a spark when I found that there was no tinder in the box. I believe that the devil is no fool, and that, it there be a man who has no tinder in the box, that is, no corruption in his nature, depend upon it, Satan will not long continue to tempt him. He does not waste his time in such a useless exercise. The man who believes that he is perfect can never pray the Lord's prayer; he must offer one of his own making, for he will never be willing to say, "Lead us not into temptation;" but, beloved, because the devil thinks it worth his while to tempt us, we may conclude that there is something in us that is temptable, that sin still dwells there, notwithstanding that the grace of God has renewed our hearts.
The fact that we are tempted ought also to remind us of our weakness. I referred just now to the model prayer of our Lord Jesus Christ, which contains the sentence, "Lead us not into temptation," The reason for presenting that petition must be, because we are so weak and frail. We ask that we may not be burdened, for our back is not strong; and we plead that we may not have sin put before us in any of its enticing forms, for, oftentimes, the flesh borrows strength from the world, and even from the devil, and these allied powers will be too much for us unless the omnipotentence of God shall be exerted on our behalf to hold us up lest we fall.
Some children of God, whom I know of, are very greatly troubled, because they are tempted. They think they could bear trial if it were trial dissociated from sin, though I do not see how we can, as a general rule, separate trial from temptation, for every trial that comes to us has in it some kind of temptation or other, either to unbelief, or to murmuring, or to the use of wrong means to escape from the trial. We are tempted by our mercies, and we are tempted by our miseries; that is, tempted in the sense of being tried by them; but, to the child of God, the most grievous thing is that, sometimes, he is tempted to do or say things which he utterly hates. He has set before him, in a pleasant aspect, sins which are perfectly abhorrent to him; he cannot bear the very name of them. Yet Satan comes, and holds before the child of God the unclean meats which he will never touch; and I have known the devil to tempt the people of God by injecting into their mind blasphemous thoughts, hurling them into their ear as with a hurricane. Ay, even when you are in prayer, it may happen to you that thoughts the very opposite of devotional will come flocking into your brain. A little noise in the street will draw you off from communion with God; and, almost before you are aware of it, your thoughts, like wild horses, will have gone galloping over hill and dale, and you hardly know how you shall ever catch them again. Now, such temptations as these are dreadfully painful to a child of God. He cannot bear the poisoned breath of sin; and when he finds that sin stands knocking at his door, shouting under his window, pestering him day and night, as it has occurred with some, I hope not with many, then he is sorely beset, and he is grievously troubled.
It may help such a person if I remind him that there is no sin in being tempted. The sin is that of the tempter, not of the tempted. If you resist the temptation, there is something praiseworthy about your action. There is nothing praiseworthy about the temptation; that is evil, and only evil; but you did not tempt yourself, and he that tempted yon must bear the blame of the temptation. You are evidently not blameworthy for thoughts that grieve you; they may prove that there is sin still remanining in you, but there is no sin in your being tempted. The sin is in your yielding to the temptation, and blessed shall you be if you can stand out against it. If you can overcome it, if your spirit does not yield to it, you shall even be blessed through it. "Blessed is the man that endureth temptation." There is a blessedness even in the temptation, and though for the present it seemeth not to be joyous, but grievous, nevertheless, afterward, it yieldeth blessed fruit to those who are exercised thereby.
Moreover, there are worse things in this world than being tempted with painful temptations. It is much worse to be tempted with a pleasant temptation, to be gently sucked down into the destroyer's mouth, to be carried along the smooth current, afterwards to be hurled over the cataract. This is dreadful; but to fight against temptation, this is good. I say again that there are many worse things than to be tried with a temptation that arouses all the indignation of your spirit. An old divine used to say that he was more afraid of a sleeping devil than he was of a roaring one, and there is much truth in that observation; for, when you are left quite alone, and no temptation assails you, you are apt to get carnally secure, and boastfully to say, "I shall never be moved." I think no man is in such imminent danger as the man who thinks that there is no danger likely to befall him, so that anything that keeps us on the watch-tower, even though it be in itself evil, is, so far, overruled for good. The most dangerous part of the road to heaven is not the Valley of the Shadow of Death; we do not find that Christian went to sleep there when the hobgoblins were all about him, and when he found it hard to feel the path, and keep to it; but when he and Hopeful came to the Enchanted Ground, "whose air naturally tended to make one drowsy," then were the pilgrims in great peril until Christian reminded his fellow-traveler that they were warned by the shepherds not to sleep when they came to that treacherous part of the way. I think, then, that to be tempted with painful temptations, those that goad the spirit almost to madness, bad as that trial is, grievous as it is to be borne, may be, spiritually, not the worst thing that can possibly happen to us. Of all evils that beset you, always choose that which is less than another; and as this is less than something else might be, do not be utterly driven to despair if it falls to your lot to be tempted as many before you have been.
This will suffice by way of preface to a little talk about temptation, with a view of comforting any who are sorely tempted of Satan. I know that I am speaking to many such, and I would repeat to them the words of my text: "There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also made a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it." Remember, dear tried friend, that you must not sit down in despair, and say, "I am greatly tempted now, and I am afraid that I shall be tempted worse and worse, until my feet shall slide, and I shall fall and utterly perish." Do not say as David did when he had been hunted like a partridge upon the mountains, "I shall now perish one day by the hand of Saul;" but believe that the Lord, who permits you to be tempted, will deliver you in his own good time.
I. Here is your first comfort. THERE HAS BEEN A LIMIT IN ALL YOUR FORMER TRIALS: "There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man."
Temptation has sometimes laid hold of you, like a garroter takes a man by the throat, on a sudden. It has seized you, perhaps that is as correct a word as I can use, temptation has seized you, unawares, pinioned you, and seemed to grip you fast; and yet, up till now, the temptations you have had to endure, have only been such as are common to man.
First, they are such as have been endured by your fellow-Christians. I know that you are tempted to think that you are a lone traveler on a road that nobody has ever traversed before you; but if you carefully examine the track, you can discover the footprints of some of the best of God's servants who have passed along that wearisome way. It is a very dark lane, you say, one that might truly be called, "Cut-throat Lane." Ah! but you will find that apostles have been along that way, confessors have been that way, martyrs have been that way, and the best of God's saints have been tempted just as you now are. "Oh, but!" says one, "I am tempted, as you said a little while ago, with blasphemous and horrible thoughts." So was Master John Bunyan; read his Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners, and see what he had to pass through. Many others have had a similar experience, and among them are some of us who are alive to tell you that we know all about this special form of temptation, yet the Lord delivered us out of it. "Oh, but!" says another tried soul, "I have been even tempted to self-destruction." That also has not been an unusual temptation even to God's dearest saints; and, though he has preserved them, and kept them alive, yet they have often felt like Job when he said, "My soul chooseth strangling, and death rather than my life." "Ah!" cries another, "I am tempted to the very worst sins, the foulest sins, I should not dare even to mention to you the abominations Satan tempts me to commit." You need not tell me; and I trust that you will be kept from them by the almighty power of God's Holy Spirit; but I can assure you that even the saints in heaven, if they could speak to you at this moment, would tell you that some of them were hard beset even some of the bravest of them who walked nearest to God were hard beset by temptations which they would not have told to their fellow-men, so troubled were they by them. Perhaps yet another friend says, "I have been actually tempted to self-righteousness, which is as great a temptation as can befall a man whose whole confidence is in Christ." Well, so was Master John Knox, that grand preacher of justification by faith. When he lay dying, he was tempted to glory in his own bravery for Christ, but he fought against that evil thought, and overcame it, and so may you.
You think that, when a man is very patient, he is not tempted to impatience. Brother, the Spirit of God says, by the pen of the apostle James, "Ye have heard of the patience of Job." I suggest to you this question, Have you not heard of the impatience of Job? You have heard, no doubt, of the strong faith of Peter; have you never heard of Peter's unbelief? God's people usually fail in the very point for which they are most famous; and the man who has the greatest renown for any workof the Spirit of God in him, so far as the Bible biographies are concerned, has usually been the man who has made a failure just at the place where he thought he was strongest. "I have been reading the life of a good man," say you, "and I am not like him." Shall I tell you why? Because the whole of his life was not written; but when the Holy Ghost writes a man's life, he gives it all. When biographers write the lives of good men, of course they do not put down their inward struggles and fears, unless the subject happens to be a man like Martin Luther, whose life seemed to be all an inward struggle, and who, while he was brave without, was often a trembler within. When they write my life, they will tell you that I had strong faith; but they will not tell you all about the other side of it. And then you will, perhaps, get thinking, "Oh, I cannot reach even to such a height as Mr. Spurgeon attained!" That all comes of your not knowing the inside of us, for if you knew the inside and the outside of the man who walks nearest to God, if he is a sincere, truehearted man, he will tell you that the temptations you have to endure are just such temptations as he has had, and as he expects to have again and again, and that, as the apostle says, "there hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man."
Then, again, no temptation has assailed you but such as fit for men to be tried with while they are in this state of trial. This is not the time for the final victory, brother; this is the hour of battle, and the weapons that are used against us are only such as have been employed against the armies of the faithful in all ages. You and I never were tempted as were the angels who kept their first estate and overcame the temptation. I cannot tell you how the prince of darkness was tempted, or how he went about tempting his fellow-servants from their loyalty to the great King; but of this I am sure, you were never tried with a temptation suitable to an angel. Your temptation has only been such as is suitable to a man, and such as other men like yourself have overcome. Others have fought valiantly against similar temptations to yours, and you must do the same, yea, and you shall do the same by the power of God's Spirit resting upon you. It is said, in the affairs of common life, that what man has done man can do, and that is true with regard to the spiritual life. Temptations that have been grappled with by other men, can be grappled with by you if you seek the same source of strength, and seek it in the same name as they did. The strength to overcome temptation comes from God alone, and the conquering name is the name of Jesus Christ; therefore, go forward in that strength and in that name against all your temptations. Up and at them, for they have been routed long before, and you shall rout them again. Tremble not to go from fight to fight and from victory to victory, even as did the others who have gone before you, and who have now entered into their rest.
Once they were mourning here below,
And wet their couch with tears;
They wrestled hard, as we do now,
With sins, and doubts, and fears.
If you ask them whence their victory came, they ascribe it to the resources which are as open to you as they were to them, even to the mighty working of God the Holy Spirit and the blood and righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ. There has no temptation happened to you but such as human beings can grapple with and overcome by the help of God.
Again, there has no temptation hitherto happened to you but such as is common to man in this sense, that Christ has endured it. That great Head of manhood, that representative Man, has suffered from the very temptation which is now pestering you. "In all their affliction" that is, the affliction of his people in the wilderness, which is just the same as yours if you are in the wilderness, "in all their affliction he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them." He was compassed with infirmity, "a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief." To repeat the text I have already quoted, and which is so suitable here, he "was in all points tempted like as we are." "In all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succor them that are tempted." He knows all about the case of each one of us, and he knows how to deal with it, and how to bear us up and bear us through.
So you see, dear friends, there hath no temptation happened to you but such as is common to man in the sense of having been endured by men like yourselves, having been overcome by men such as you are, and having been endured and vanquished by your blessed Representative, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Come, then, beloved, let all mystery with regard to your temptations be banished. Mystery puts an edge upon the sword of trial; perhaps the hand that wrote upon the wall would not have frightened Belshazzar if he could have seen the body to which that hand belonged. There is no mystery about your trouble, after all. Though you did write it down as being bigger than any that ever happened to a human being before, that is not the truth; you are not an emperor in the realm of misery. You cannot truly say, "I am the man that hath seen affliction above all others," for your Lord endured far more than you have ever done, and many of his saints, who passed from the stake to the crown, must have suffered much more than you have been called to undergo thus far.
II. Now let us turn to the second comfort revealed in our text; that is, THE FAITHFULNESS OF GOD: "There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful."
Oh, what a blessed word is this, "God is faithful"! Therefore, He is true to his promise. Even Balaam said, "God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?" One of God's promises is, "I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee;" "God is faithful," so he will fulfill that promise. Here is one of the promises of Christ, and Christ is God: "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: and I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand." "God is faithful," so that promise shall be fulfilled. You have often heard this promise, "As thy days, so shall thy strength be." Do you believe it, or will you make God a liar? If you do believe it, then banish from your mind all dark forebodings with this blessed little sentence, "God is faithful."
Notice, next, that not only is God faithful, but He is master of the situation, so that he can keep his promise. Note what the text says: "Who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able to bear." Then you could not have been tempted if God had not suffered it to happen to you. God is far mightier than Satan. The devil could not touch Job except by divine permission, neither can he try and tempt you except as God allows him; he must have a permit from the King of kings before he can tempt a single saint. Why, Satan is not allowed to keep the key of his own house, for the keys of death and of hell hang at the girdle of Christ; and without God's permission, the dog of hell cannot even open his mouth to bark at a child of God, much less can he come and worry any of the sheep whom the Lord has called by his grace into his fold. So, then, beloved, you have great cause for comfort from the fact that the temptation that tries you is still under the control of the faithful Creator, "who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able."
That is a second reason for comfort; roll it under your tongue as a sweet morsel.
III. The third comfort lies in THE RESTRAINT WHICH GOD PUTS UPON TEMPTATION. He "will not suffer you to he tempted above that ye are able." The tide of trial shall rise to high-water mark, and then God shall say, "Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further: and here shall thy proud waves be stayed."
He "will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able." That may apply, sometimes, to the period when the temptation comes. I have carefully watched how God times the trials of his people. If such-and-such a trial had come to one of his children when he was young, I believe he could not have borne it; or if he had lost some dear friend while he was himself sick, the double trouble would have crushed him. But God sends our trials at the right time; and if he puts an extra burden on in one way, he takes something off in another. "He stayeth his rough wind in the day of the East wind." It is a very simple thing to say, but it is true; if the wind blows from the North, it does not at the same time blow from the South; and if one set of troubles comes to a Christian man, another set of troubles generally departs from him. John Bradford, the famous martyr, was often subject to rheumatism and depression of spirit, in which I can greatly sympathize with him; but when he was laid by the heels in a foul damp dungeon, and knew that he would never come out except to die, he wrote, "It is a singular thing that, ever since I have been in this prison, and have had other trials to bear, I have had no touch of my rheumatism or my depression of spirit." Was not that a very blessed thing? And you will usually find that it is so; you shall not be tempted above what you are able to bear, because God will permit the trial to come at a time when you are best able to stand up under it.
There is also great kindness on God's part in the continuance of a trial. If some of our trials lasted much longer, they would be too heavy for us to bear. Concerning the destruction of Jerusalem, our Lord said, "Except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened." And I have no doubt that, oftentimes, God makes quick work of his children's trials because, if they were continued longer, they would have not a good but an evil effect upon us. If a child must be whipped, let not the punishment last as if he were a criminal who must be sentenced for a long period; let him have his chastisement, and have done with it. So is it often in the discipline of God's house; yet there are other trials which are protracted year after year because trial is an ingredient in their efficacy, and they might not be blessed to us if they were shortened. In every case, there is an infinite wisdom which makes our troubles to be just as long as they are, and no longer.
So there is in the number of the trials. Blessed be God,
If he ordains the number ten,
They ne'er can be eleven.
If he intends his servants to pass through the fire, and not through the water, Satan himself cannot make them go through the water. God counts the drops of bitter tonic that he administers to his ailing saints, and not a drop more shall they possibly have than he measures out to them. So, dear tried children of God, you shall not be tempted above what ye are able so far as the number of your temptations and trials is concerned.
It is the same, also, in the stress with which the temptation comes. Have you never seem a great tree in the full blast of a tremendous tempest? It sways to and fro, and seems scarcely able to recover itself from the powerful blows of the storm; yet the roots hold it. But now comes another tornado; and it seems as if the tree must be torn up out of the earth; but the strain ceases just in time for the old oak to rock back into its place again; yet, if there were a pound or two more force in that tremendous blast, the tree would be laid prone upon the grass; but God, in his people's case at any rate, just stops at the right point. You may be tried till you have not an ounce of strength left. Sometimes, the Lord tests his people till it seams as if one more breath from him would assuredly cause them to sink. Then it is that he puts under them the everlasting arms, and no further trial is laid upon them. This is a blessed thing, for all of you have troubles of one sort or another, and you who are the people of God may take this text, and, rely implicitly upon it: "God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able." As for you who are not his people, I am very sorry for you. I am holding up these precious things, but they are not for you. God's Word declares, "Many sorrows shall be to the wicked." If you have no God to flee to, what will you do when the storms beat upon your barque? To whom or whither can you flee? As for the Christian, he can sing,
Jesu, lover of my soul,
Let me to thy bosom fly,
While the nearer waters roll,
While the tempest still is high!
Hide me, O my Savior, hide,
Till the storm of life be past
Safe into the haven guide;
Oh receive my soul at last!
But, poor dear souls who love not Christ, where can you find comfort in your seasons of sorrow and trial? You who have lost wife and children, you who are pinched with poverty, you who are racked with sickness, and yet have no Savior, what can you do? Poor houseless people in a snow-storm, what can they do without even a bush to shelter them? That is just your state, and I grieve for you, and plead with you not to remain in such a pitiful condition even a moment longer.
Come, guilty souls, and flee away
Like doves to Jesu's wounds;
This is the welcome gospel-day,
Wherein free grace abounds.
Oh, that your sense of need might drive you to accept Christ as your Savior this very hour! As for his believing people, there is this solid comfort for them, they shall never be tempted above what they are able.
IV. The next comfort we gather from our text relates to THE PROVISION WHICH THE LORD MAKES FOR THE TEMPTED: "God is faithful, who . . . will with the temptation also make a way to escape."
The Greek has it, "who will with the temptation also make the way to escape;" for there is a proper way to escape from a temptation. There are twenty improper ways; and woe to the man who makes use of any one of them; but there is only one proper way out of a trial, and that is the straight way, the way that God has made for his people to travel. God has made through all trials the way by which his servants may rightly come out of them. When the brave young Jews were tried by Nebuehadnezzar, there was one way by which they might have kept out of the burning fiery furnace. They had only to bow their knees before the great image when the flute, harp, sackbut, and psaltery sounded; that way of escape would never have answered, for it was not the right one. The way for them was to be thrown down into the furnace, and there to have the Son of God walking with them in the midst of the fire that could not hurt them. In like manner, whenever you are exposed to any trial, mind that you do not try to escape from it in any wrong way.
Notice specially that the right way is always of God's making; therefore, any of you who are now exposed to temptation or trial have not to make your own way of escape out of it. God, and God alone, has to make it for you, so do not attempt to make it for yourselves. I knew a man who was in trouble because he was short of money; and the way he made for himself was to use somebody else's money, with which he had been entrusted. That was not God's way of escape for him, so he only plunged himself into a worse trial than he was in before. I have known a man of business in great trouble, and things were going wrong with him, so he speculated, and gambled, and ruined, both his business and his personal character. That was not God's way for him to escape from his troubles. Sometimes, the best thing a man in trouble can do, is to do nothing at all, but to leave all in the hands of God. "Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord." When the Israelites came out of Egypt, God led them in a way at which men might well have cavilled; there was nothing before them but the sea, and behind them came Pharaoh in all his rage, crying, "I will pursue, I will overtake, I will divide the spoil; my lust shall be satisfied upon them; I will draw my sword, my hand shall destroy them." Now, then, what was God's way of escape for them? Right through the Red Sea, and on the other side they sang, when the Egyptians were drowned, "Sing ye to the Lord, for he hath triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea." It would have been a great pity if they had tried to escape by any way of their own, or had attempted to turn round, and fight Pharaoh; that would not have done at all, but the Lord made for his people the very best way of escape that could possibly have been devised.
Notice, also, that the Lord makes the way of escape "with the temptation." He suffered the trial to come, and at the same time he made the way of escape from it. God has planned it all, my brother, how you, his champion, shall go forth, and fight valiantly in his strength; and how he will be your shield and your exceeding great reward. He will lead you into the dangerous fire; but then he can see the way out of it as well as the way into it, and he will take you safely through. Did not the psalmist sing, "To him which led his people through the wilderness: for his mercy endureth for ever"? He not only led them into the wilderness, but he led them through it, blessed be his holy name! And if he has brought you into the wilderness of trouble and affliction, he made the way out of it at the same time that he made the trouble. "Trust in the Lord, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed. Delight thyself also in the Lord; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass. And he shall bring forth thy righteousness as the light, and thy judgment as the noonday. Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him: fret not thyself because of him who prospereth in his way, because of the man who bringeth wicked devices to pass." "Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness," and all else that you need shall be added unto you. Keep clear of the sin of the temptation, and you need not fear the sorrow of the temptation. If the trials do not drive you to your own devices, but drive you to your knees, they will, after all, be blessings to you.
That is the fourth comfort, that God has made the way of escape for his people out of their trials. "Well, then," says someone, "I shall escape from this trial." Wait a moment, my friend, and listen to the closing words of the text, with which I will conclude my discourse.
V. This is the last point of comfort, THE SUPPORT WHICH GOD SUPPLIES IN THE TRIAL: "that ye may be able to bear it."
God's way of escape from trial is not for his people to avoid it, so as not to pass through it, but such an escape as leads them through the trouble, and out at the other end; not an escape from the Red Sea, but an escape through the Red Sea frown a still greater trial. If you, beloved, are exposed to trial or temptation, you are to be made able to bear it. Now, pray, before you leave this building, that this last word, upon which I have not time to enlarge, may be fulfilled in your experience: "that ye may be able to bear it."
Suppose you are to be poor. Well, if God has so appointed it, you will be poor; therefore, pray that you may be able to bear it. With honest industry and stern integrity struggle to attain to a better position; but, if all your efforts fail, then say to the Lord, "Nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt." Perhaps your dear child is dying, or your wife is sickening; you dread the thought of losing them, and you would willingly give your life, if you could, for them. Well, do all you can for their recovery, for life is precious, and any money spent to save it will be well spent; but, if health is not to be granted to them, pray that you may be able to bear even that heavy trial. It is wonderful how God does help his people to bear troubles which they thought would crush them. I have seen poor feeble women, that I thought would die under their bereavement, become brave and strong; and men, who were faint-hearted in the prospect of trouble, have nevertheless blessed the Lord for it when the blow has actually fallen; and you may do the same.
Suppose you are to be sick. Well, that is a sore trial, and I know that, personally, I would do anything I could to escape from the affliction that often besets me; but if it must not be, then I must change my note, and pray that I may be able to bear it. I had a letter from a man of God, this morning, which sustained me very much. He says, "My dear brother, I was sorry to hear that you were again in pain, and depressed in spirit, and so forth; but, as I remembered how God had blessed you in so many ways, I thought to myself, 'Perhaps Mr. Spurgeon would not have kept to preaching the doctrines of grace, and would not have been so able to comfort God's poor people, if he did not get these smart touches sometimes.' So," he said, "I congratulate you upon these trials;" and I accepted the congratulation. Will not you do the same, my afflicted brother or sister? Pray, "Lord, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me;" but, if it must not, then here comes that other form of comfort, "that ye may be able to bear it."
And remember, dear friends, while I tell you to make this passage into a prayer, it is really a promise; and there is no prayer like a promise that is turned, as it were, roundabout, and cut prayerwise. God himself has said, by his inspired apostle, that he "will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it." Up with the banners, then! Forward, whatever obstructs the way! Let us sing, with good old John Ryland,
Through floods and flames, if Jesus lead,
I'll follow where he goes;
'Hinder me not,' shall be my cry,
Though earth and hell oppose.
The immortal life within us can never be destroyed; the divine nature, which God the Holy Ghost has implanted, shall never be trodden under foot. "Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy; when I fall, I shall arise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord shall be a light unto me."
But, oh, sorry, sorry, sorry, sorry am I, from the bottom of my soul, for you who know not the Lord, for this comfort is not for you! Seek him, I pray you; seek him as your Savior. Look to him, and trust in him; and then all the blessings of the everlasting covenant shall be yours, for the Father has given him to be a Leader and Commander unto the people, and they that look to him, and follow him, shall live for ever and ever. God bless you, for Christ's sake! Amen.
HYMNS FROM "OUR OWN HYMN BOOK" 675, 750, 745.
Comfort for Tried Believers
Published on Thursday, December 1st, 1904,
C. H. SPURGEON,
At the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington.
On Thursday Evening, September 21st, 1876.
"There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it." 1 Corinthians 10:13 .
THIS VERSE IMMEDIATELY follows the warning to "him that thinketh he standeth to "take heed lest he fall." We none of us know what stuff we are really made of until we are tried and tested. It is a very easy thing to imagine yourself to be strong, but it is a very different matter to find that you have sufficient strength when you actually need it. It has even been found possible, in these modern days, for some brethren and sisters to believe themselves to be perfect, to believe that sin is entirely conquered within them; but I will warrant you that you will find that the practice of perfection is not nearly so common as the profession of it, and nothing like so easy. And I will venture to go even further, and to say that, if you watch those in whom sin is said to be dead, you will find that, if it is dead, it is not buried, and that it smells remarkably like other dead things, which ought to be buried. It is, possibly, worse than when it was alive, for it has become alive again, in an even worse sense, with a double putridity. Let no one of us imagine himself to be perfect, or to be proof against the temptations of Satan, or even the grosser vices to which the flesh is prone. It may only need for you to be attacked at a certain point, and in a certain way, and you will be overcome even as others have been. Thy wisest way is to believe thyself neither to be wise nor strong, and therefore to lie humbly at his feet who can make thee both wise and strong, and to look away from thyself, up to him who will keep the feet of his saints. It ought to cool the hot blood of self-conceit in any man, to remind him that, although he thinketh that he standeth, it is simply because he has not been tempted as others have been, who have fallen; or, if he has been tempted in a way which overthrew them, while he has stood fast, yet, if the temptations were still further increased, and he were left to himself, he would find that, at the last, the fierce wind from the pit would sweep him off his feet even as it has swept off other men, who thought that they could never be moved.
After the apostle Paul had, by this warning, rebuked the boastings of these who thought they were standing securely, he thought of the far larger number of persons who never think that they can stand, but who are in constant terror lest they should fall. They say they are not the people of God; yet, in almost the next breath, they say they are afraid that they will lose what they just said they had not got! They sometimes hope that they are saved, yet they quickly doubt if it is so with them; and they are troubled with the fear that, even though they are saved, they may yet fall and perish. Their feelings are a strange mingle-mangle of incorrect caution and incorrect doubt; and Paul seems to me, in this verse, to give them a cordial by which their fainting spirits may be revived, and I would like to pass it on to any of you who also need it. You may be tried in two senses, trial will come, and the trial will often be a temptation, while the temptation will always be a trial.
I. Now comes in the comfort, and the first comfort, even in great trouble, is, that WE HAVE NOT, AFTER ALL, BEEN TRIED IN ANY VERY UNUSUAL WAY: "There hath no temptation (or trial) taken you but such as is common to man."
YOU may think, my dear brethren and sisters, that you have been tried more than others; but it is only your want of knowledge of the trials of others which leads you to imagine that your own are unique. There are many others, besides yourself, in the furnace, and in quite as hot a part of it as that in which you are now placed. Note what Paul says: "There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man." It is a human temptation, not a superhuman one, which has assailed you; that is to say, one which can be withstood by men, not one that must inevitably sweep them away. You have never been tempted with an angelic temptation. Satan has tempted you, young man, but not with the same temptation with which he allured the angels who kept not their first estate. There may be other orders of intelligence, for whom there are other forms of temptation, because their intellects are superior to yours; but God has allowed you to be assailed in a way which is suitable as a best to you as a man. The trials that have come upon you have been moderated to your capacity as a man. The Lord knows that you are but animated dust, so he has not permitted you to be treated as if you were made of steel or iron. He has himself dealt with you as an earthen vessel, a thing of clay in which he has caused life to dwell. He has not broken you with his rod of iron, as he would have done if he had smitten you with it.
"But I am very sorely tempted," saith one. Yes, perhaps you are; but the Lord has given you the history of the children of Israel in the wilderness, to let you see that you have not been tempted more than they were. "Ah!" says another, "but I find myself placed in a very peculiar position, where I am greatly tried. I have to labor hard, and I have much difficulty in earning my daily bread, and I am beset with trials of many kinds." Well, dear friend, even though what you say is perfectly true, I am not certain that your position is any more likely to bring temptation than was that of the children of Israel in the wilderness. "Ah!" you say, "but they had not to work to earn their bread. The manna came to them every morning, and they had only to gather it, and to eat it. They were not engaged in commercial transactions, there were no markets in the desert, no Corn Exchange, no Stock Exchange, no Smithfield, no Billingsgate, no taking down the shutters in the morning, and putting them up again at night, and going a great part of the day without any customers. They were separated from all other nations, and were in a peculiarly advantageous position. Yet, dear friends, you need not wish to be placed in such a position, because, advantageous as it was, in some respects, the Israelites there were evidently tempted to all sorts of sins, and fell into them very grievously. Having often read the story of their forty years' sojourn in the wilderness, you know their sad history. With so favorable a position granted to them, under the Lord's own special guardianship, and enriched with many choice mercies, we might have expected that they would have been free from temptation; or, at any rate, that they would not have fallen into its snare; yet it was not so, for the devil can tempt in the wilderness quite as well as in the city, as we know from the experience of Christ himself. The devil would tempt you even if your bread was given to you every morning, instead of your having to earn it; he would tempt you if you had no business to attend to, and never had to go into the world to meet with your fellow-men. In fact, the story of the Israelites teaches me that it is best for you to work, and best for you to be poor, and best for you not to make money as fast as you would like, and best for you to be surrounded by cares of various kinds. I think I judge rightly that the people of God, the saved ones, do not fall into such gross sins as the Israelites did in the wilderness; so that the saints' position, though it may appear worse than that of Israel, is really better.
To what, my dear brethren and sisters, are you tempted? Are you tempted to lust after evil things? They lusted after the meat that was not suitable to the climate, nor good for their health; and they despised the manna, which was the very best food they could have. Do you ever get a craving for what you ought not to desire? Are you growing covetous? Do you long for ease? Do you wish for wealth? Do you love pleasure? Well, dear friends, this temptation has happened to others before; it happened to those people in the wilderness. You are not the first to be tempted in that fashion; and if divine grace has helped others to overcome the covetous desire, and the lusting of the spirit, it can help you to do the same; but, mark also that, if others have fallen through such temptations, and perished in the wilderness, you, too, apart from divine grace, will do the same. Therefore have you urgent need to cry to the Strong for strength, lest you also should fall even as they did.
Are you tempted to idolatry? It is a very common temptation to make an idol of a child, or of same particular pursuit in which you are engaged; is there anything in the world that is so dear to you that the very thought of losing it makes you feel that you would rebel against God if he took it away from you? Remember what John was inspired to write: "Little children, keep yourselves from idols." But if you are tempted to idolatry, do not forget that this is a thing that is common to men. In the wilderness, the Israelites were tempted to set up a golden calf, and to worship it, and even to practice other idolatrous rites which were too foul for me to describe. They were tempted to idolatry, so it is not an uncommon temptation; and if you also are tempted in a similar fashion, you must cry to God for grace to resist and to overcome the temptation.
Are you tried, sometimes, even with that terrible temptation which is mentioned in the verse where Paul says, "Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed"? Has strong passion sometimes suggested to you that which your soul abhors? Have you been, at times, forced to the very brink of that, dread abyss of uncleanness, till you have had to cry, with the psalmist, "My feet were almost gone; my steps had well-nigh slipped"? Ah! this temptation also is not uncommon to men and even those who live nearest to God, and are the most pure in heart, sometimes have to blush before the Lord that such evil suggestions should ever come into their minds.
And have you, too, been tempted "to tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents"? They wanted God to change his plans and purposes concerning them; and they found fault with him, and said that he had brought them into the wilderness to destroy them. Do you feel that your present troubles are too severe, that they should not have been sent to you, at least, not so many and so heavy as they are? If so, and if you feel that you have a cause for complaint against the Most High, and that you want him to change his methods of dealing with you so as to suit your whims and fancies, alas! sad as such a state of mind is, it is only too "common to man."
And, possibly, you may also have been tempted to murmur, "as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer." I must withdraw that word "possibly," for I am greatly afraid that many professing Christians do murmur, and that they do not always realize what a gross sin it is to murmur, seeing that it is an act of distinct rebellion against God. But, should you, at any time, feel a murmuring spirit rising up within your heart, you must not say, "This is a trial which nobody else has ever experienced." Alas! it is a very human temptation, which is exceedingly "common to man."
So, summing up all that I have been saying, and looking round upon this congregation, and upon all of you who know the Lord, although it would be impossible for me to recount all the different forms of temptation and trial through which you have gone, yet this is a matter of fact, "there hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man." We are all in the same boat, brothers and sisters, so far as temptation and trial are concerned. We are all warring the same warfare; your duty may call you to one part of the field, and mine may call me to another part, but the bullets whiz by me as well as by you. There is no nook so quiet but it hath its own special dangers, and there is no Valley of Humiliation so lowly but, is hath its peculiar temptations. Sins are everywhere; they sit down with you at your board, and they go with you to your bed. Snares are set for you in your home and in the street, in your business and in your recreations. Snares are not absent from your pains, and they are abundant in your pleasures. Everywhere, and under all circumstances, must we expect to be tried; this experience is common to men. The remembrance that it is so ought to be somewhat of a comfort to us in every time of trial and temptation.
II. But, secondly, in our text we have a far better source of comfort than that; it is this: but GOD IS FAITHFUL. "There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able."
"God is faithful." Oh, how I love those words! They sound in my heart like heavenly music. "GOD is faithful." You are not faithful, my brother or sister; at least, I know I am not, in the full sense of the term, faithful, full of faith, and faithful. "But" oh, that blessed "but," "but GOD is faithful"! "If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful," always true to every promise he has made, always gracious to every child whom he has adopted into his family, "a very present help in trouble," preserving us from sinking in our seas of trouble, and delivering us from the trouble when it has accomplished the purpose for which it was sent.
"God is faithful," faithful to that first promise of his which came into thy soul when thou didst yield thyself to Jesus, and he whispered to thine heart, "I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee." Dost thou remember that promise, and has not the Lord been faithful to it? "God is faithful" also to that promise which he made of old concerning his Son, Jesus Christ: "He shall see his seed." He has seen his seed in thee, and he will see thee to be his seed for evermore.
"God is faithful" to all his promises; and in thy experience, my brother or sister, he has been faithful to the promises which met thy case in all thy changing circumstances. Has he not been faithful? Canst thou put thy finger upon a single page of thy diary, and say, "God was unfaithful then"? Thy friend, who ate bread with thee, has lifted up his heel against thee; but has thy God forsaken thee? Even thine own children have been unkind and ungrateful to thee; but has the Lord ever treated thee ill? Where thou hadst the most hope, among thine earthly friends and acquaintances, thou hast had the most disappointments; but has Jesus ever been a wilderness unto thee? "All men are liars," thou hast said, in the bitterness of thy spirit, when thou hast trusted in them, and they have failed thee in the time of trial; but hast thou ever found Christ false to his Word? Canst thou not join thy testimony with that of all the saints above, and the saints below, and say with Paul, "God is faithful"?
Even if any of you are looking forward to a dreaded sickness, or to a painful operation, or to business losses which may sink you from your present comfortable position to one of great trial and poverty, think of this blessed truth, "God is faithful." The whole world may reel to and fro, like a drunken man; but the Rock of ages stands secure. The shooting stars of temporary prosperity may die out in everlasting night, but God is "the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning." "God is faithful." Whatever thy future briars are to be, put thou this short sweet sentence into thy mouth, and keep it there, as a heavenly lozenge which shall sustain thee at all times. Make it also into a jubilant refrain; and, as thou goest on thy way, sing, again and again, "God is faithful." Trials and temptations will assail you; "but God is faithful." Friends will fail and forsake you; "but God is faithful." Wealth may be lost, and property may vanish; "but God is faithful." What dost thou want more than this, soldiers of Christ? Here you have breastplate, helmet, sword, shield, spear, yea, the whole panoply of God.
III. The third comfort for a tried and tempted believer arises from GOD'S POWER, for Paul says, "God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able."
God, then, has power to limit temptation; it is clear, from the Book of Job, that Satan could not tempt or try the patriarch except by divine permission; and, even then, his power was limited; nor can he tempt us unless God allows him to do so. Although the devil had great power over the elements, so that he brought disaster upon poor Job, yet there was a very definite limit to his chain, even when the Lord let him loose to a certain extent; and when God set up his barriers, Satan could not go beyond them. You remember that the Lord first said to Satan, concerning his servant Job, "Behold, all that he hath is in thy power; only upon himself put not forth thine hand." When the devil again in intruded himself among the sons of God, the Lord let out more links of his chain, but there was still a most emphatic limit to his power over the patriarch, "Behold, he is in thine hand; but save his life." The devil would have liked to kill Job outright, but he could go no further than the Lord allowed him to go; and God still has unlimited power over the devil and over every form of temptation or trial that can ever come upon you. If the Lord appoints for you ten troubles, he will not suffer them to be increased to eleven. If he ordains that you shall be in trouble for six years, you will not be in it for six years and a day; but, when the allotted time has expired, you shall come out of it. Nothing can resist, the might of the omnipotent Jehovah, "who makest the clouds his chariot: who walketh upon the wings of the wind." He can put a bit in the mouth of the tempest, and rein in the rushing steeds of the storm; and the fiercest of thy trials and temptations must feel the force of his overruling and restraining hand. When thou art on the dunghill, recollect that God is on his throne. Well did the psalmist sing, "The Lord reigneth; let the earth rejoice;" but much more may his own people rejoice because his sovereignty is pledged to defend them. Why, if all the armies of the devil were let loose upon a single saint, who felt himself to be weak as a worm, and the Lord said to them, "I am his defense, and ye shall not touch him;" they could not touch him, and he would be able to say, with the utmost confidence, "Greater is he that is for me than all that can be against me." The adversaries of the righteous may rage as much as they will; but they will have to spend their strength in raging, for that is all they can do against God's people without his express permission. Not a hair of their head can be scorched by the fires of persecution unless the Lord allows it. The waters of the Red Sea cannot drown them: they march between the watery walls dryshod. The lions cannot devour them: Daniel enjoyed a good night's rest even in the lions' den. Even the waves of the sea become the servitors of the saints, for "Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights," in preparation for future service for God. All his people are kept by his almighty power. How greatly this ought to comfort you who are sorely tried! Every twig of the rod of correction has been made by God, and every stroke of it is counted by him. There is not a drop more gall in your cup than the Lord has ordained. He has weighed, in the scales of the sanctuary, every ingredient of your medicine, and mixed it with all his infallible skill so that it may produce the cure of all your ills; should not this make you rejoice in the Lord all the day long, and in the night seasons as well?
IV. Fourthly, not only should tried believers rejoice in God's power, but they should also rejoice in GOD'S JUDGMENT, for Paul says, "God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able."
Who beside God knows how much we are able to be? Our consolation arises from the fact that God knows exactly how much we can bear. We have no idea, ourselves, what we can bear. I have, many a time, heard a person say, "If such-and-such a thing were to happen, I should break my heart, and die." Well, that very thing has happened, but the person concerned did not break his heart, and he did not die. On the contrary, he behaved himself as a Christian in trial should; God helped him wondrously, and he played the man, and became more than conqueror, and was the brighter and the braver, ever afterwards, for all the affliction through which he had passed. Brother, your own strength, in same respects, is greater than you think, and, in other respects, it is less than you think; but God knows just how much you can bear, so leave yourself in his hands.
I have known some people who have wished for trouble; it is a great pity that anybody should be so foolish as that. I remember one, who used to think that he was not a child of God because, he had not had much trouble. He used to be fretting all the day long because he had nothing really to make him fret. I once heard a woman, in the street, say to her child, who was screaming lustily, "If you cry for nothing, I'll give you something to cry for." So, when a man wants trouble, he will probably get it; but it is a very silly child or man who asks for the rod. Be content to have as little of it as you really must; you will have quite enough of it before you get to heaven. Do not ask for it; you will have it in due time. God knows, to an ounce, just what his children and his servants can carry, and he never overloads them. It is true that he sometimes sends them more trouble than they could have carried by themselves; but, then, as he increases the weight of their burden, he also increases the strength of the back upon which he places it.
I have often admired the lovingkindness of the Lord to many of my own flock here, and have noted the great joy that our young Christians have had for a number of years, and observed how remarkably God has preserved them from temptation without and from trials within. The Lord does not send his young children out to battle. He does not intend such little boats as these to go far out to sea. He will not overdrive these lambs. Yet the advanced Christians are just as happy as the young people are, and they are stronger and more fit for stern service and more able to sympathize with others, who are in trouble, because of what they have themselves passed through. As they have grown stronger, God has given them more fighting to do for him, while the raw recruits have been kept at home to be drilled and disciplined. You know that, when there is a desperate fight being waged, and the issue of the battle seems in doubt, the commander orders "the old guard" to the front. That is part of the privilege of being an old guardsman, to go into the hottest place on the field of battle; and it is one of the privileges of the advanced children of God to be tempted more than others, and to suffer more than others. If I could have any trial or temptation, which, otherwise, would fall upon a young brother who has only known the Lord a week or two, I would gladly say, "Let me have it." It might stagger him, and I should be sorry for him to be staggered by it, so I will willingly endure it. You tried believers must not imagine that God does not love you as much as he did in the days of your spiritual youth, when he did not test you as he does now. He loves you quite as much as he did then, and he trusts you even more than he did then; because he has made you stronger than you used to be, he gives you the honor and privilege of marching with the vanguard of his army, or leading the forlorn hope, or standing foot to foot with old Apollyon.
God knows exactly how much temptation or trial you can bear, and he will not suffer the trial to go beyond that point. But, mark you, it will go right up to that point, for there is no such thing in the world as faith that runs to waste. For every grain of faith that God gives, he usually gives the equivalent trial of some sort or other; for, if faith could ever be in excess, it would degenerate into fanaticism, or some other unholy thing. If the Lord supplies us, at our back door as it were, with his good treasure, we are to dispose of it in our front shop in our holy trading for him.
V. Fifthly, our text seems to intimate that GOD HATH IN STORE SOMETHING TO GO WITH OUR TEMPTATIONS: "He will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that, ye may be able to bear it."
You know how you treat your own child. There is a dose of nasty physic to be taken, and the little one does not like it. The very sight of the spoon and cup makes it feel queer. But mother says, "Now, Johnny, take this medicine, and then you shall have this lump of sugar, or this fruit, to take away the taste of it." And when God sends a trial or trouble to one of his children, he is sure to have a choice sweetmeat to go with it. I have heard a child say, "I do not mind taking the physic so long as I get the sugar;" and I have known some of the Lord's people say, "We will willingly bear sickness, pain, bereavement, temptation, persecution, if we may but have our Savior's presence in it all." Some of us will never forget our experiences in sickness; when our pain has been sharpest; and worst, it has also been sweetest and best, at the same time. What do I not personally owe to the file, and the anvil, and the hammer in my Master's workshop? I have often said, and I say again, that the best piece of furniture in my house is the cross of affliction. I have, long ago, learned to prize it, and to praise God for it, and for that which has come to me with it, for I have often found that, with the trial, the Lord has made a way of escape, that I have been able to bear it.
Even with the temptation to sin, the Lord often sends, to the tempted soul, such a revelation of the sinfulness of sin, and of the beauty of holiness, that the poison of the temptation is quite neutralized. Even with temporal trials, the Lord often gives temporal mercies; sometimes, when he has been pleased to take away a man's wealth, he has restored to him his health, and so the man has been a distinct gainer. I have known several instances in which that has occurred. And when one dear child has been taken away out of a family, there has, perhaps, been the conversion of another of the children, which has been a wonderful compensation for the trial. And, oftentimes, trouble has been attended with an unusual delight in the Lord. The Word of God has been peculiarly sweet at such a time, and the minister has seemed to preach better than ever he did before, his message exactly fitting your condition just then. You have been surprised to find that the bitterness, which came with the trouble, has passed away almost before you were aware of it; and, as death is swallowed up in victory, like one bitter drop in a glass of water, so your trouble has been diluted with sweet wine, and you have swallowed it, and have scarcely tasted its bitterness. Thus the Lord, by his grace, and presence, and comfort, has made you so glad that you have hardly known that you have been in such trouble, because of the superabounding mercy which came with it. Ought not that to comfort us, and to make us ready for whatever the Lord pleases to send to us, or to permit to come upon us?
VI. Now, notice, in the last place, that GOD MAKES A WAY OF ESCAPE FOR HIS PEOPLE: "He will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it."
I will read that over again: "He will with the temptation also make a way to escape" "that you may get out of it?" Oh, no! "that you may not have to endure it"? Oh, no! "that ye may be able to bear it." That is a curious way to escape, is it not? Here is your way of retreat blocked up, and the opposing army is in front of you, yet you are to escape. You say to the Lord, "Which way am I to run?" But the Lord replies, "You must not run away; your way to escape is to cut a road right through your adversaries." That is a singular way to escape, but it is the most glorious way in the whole world. The best way for an army to escape is by conquering its foe. It is not the best way for the pilgrim to go, to the right, into the dark mountains, or to the left, into the thick forest, to escape from his enemies; the best way for him to escape is to go straight forward, despite all his adversaries; and that is the only right way for you to escape.
Now, beloved brother or sister, you may, at this moment, be expecting some very heavy affliction; and you have been asking the Lord to make a way of escape for you. You have said, "Oh, that I might not have to come to that hour of trial!" But you will have to come to it. But cannot that dear one's life be spared? "I hope it may; but it is possible that it may not." Then, how am I to have a way of escape? Your way of escape is not to avoid the trial, but to be able to bear it. What a mercy it is that God, though he will not let his people escape trial, will really let them escape, for this is a way of escape for them, and the best way of escape, too. It is a way of escape from all the sin of the temptation, and from all the evil of the trial; you must have the trial, but you will only have the beneficial part of it. Brother, you must be plunged into that sea of sorrow; but it will not drown you, it will only wash and cleanse you. Sir, you must go into that fire, your Lord has so ordained it; yet you are going to escape the fire. Do you ask, "How can that be? Why, thus, none of your gold shall be destroyed, only the dross shall be consumed, and you shall be all the purer for passing through the fire; so again I say that this is the very best way to escape; for if we could escape in any other way, we should lose all the benefit of the trial.
What shall I say, then, in closing, but this, brethren and sisters? Are you troubled just now, and are you inclined to despair? Take wiser counsel; the storms that are beating about your barque are only such as beat about your Master's vessel, and the ships and boats in which his apostles sailed across the sea of old. The storms are not supernatural; they are not beyond what believers in Jesus are able to bear. Put your vessel's head to the wind, like a brave sailor; do not try to avoid that fierce blast. Sail in its very teeth, for there is a power within you which can overcome all the winds and the waves, for is not the Lord himself with you as your Captain, and is not the Holy Ghost with you as your Pilot, and have you not a faithful God to trust to in the stormiest night you will ever know? True, your foes are many and mighty; but face them like a man. Have no thought of turning back, and flinging away your shield; but resolve, in the mighty power of faith, that, since, the Lord has said that, "as thy days, so shall thy strength be," to the end thou shalt endure; and that, with Job, thou wilt say, "Though he slay me, yet, will I trust, in him." It will not be easy to keep that resolve, yet the Lord deserves that we should keep it. Think of yourself, beloved brother, in the worst conceivable condition; and then know that there is no sufficient reason, even in such a condition as that, for you to doubt your God. Suppose yourself brought to your last penny; yet remember that there was a time when you were not worth a penny, a time when you could not put food into your own mouth, and could not put on your own garments. You were cast upon God in your first childhood, and he took care of you then; and if you grow to be a child again, and the infirmities of age increase and multiply, he who was so good at the beginning, will be quite as good at the end. Remember his ancient promise: "Even to your old age I am he; and even to hoar hairs will I carry you: I have made, and I will bear; even I will carry, and will deliver you." Such a promise as this, if God the Holy Spirit will bless it, will make the most tried believer rejoice in the Lord, and go on his way defying every foe who may be in his path.
What I cannot understand is, what people do who have not a God to trust to. I often go to see poor sick people, full of aches and pains, and it charms me to hear them talk of the goodness of the Lord to them. In talking, this week, with one of our brethren, who is very sick and ill, he spoke with such holy joy and boasting of the Lord's goodness to him, that I could not help saying that it would take a great many infidel arguments to make me doubt the power of true religion after I had listened to him. I like to see God's tried people dying full of joy, praising and blessing the name of the Lord who is their All-in-all in their most trying hour. It is not so with all of you; then what do you do, when trial comes, without a God to help you? You have not much of this world's goods, and you have to work hard; yet when you die, you have no home to go to, you have no hope of going to heaven. Oh, you poor No-hopes! "Oh!" says one, "we are not all poor; some of us are quite well-to-do." But you are poor, for all that, even if you have all your heart can wish for here. If you have not a God, where do you carry your troubles and your griefs, for I am sure that you have some! O my dear friend, may the Lord make you feel that you cannot do without him! And when your heart has come to this resolve, "I cannot do without my God, I will not try to do without him; I feel that I must have him, "then you shall have him. He waiteth to be gracious, and he hath said, "They that seek me early shall find me." May you seek him now, and find him, and to him shall be the praise for ever and ever! Amen.
1 Corinthians 10:1-13 .
Verses 1-4. Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; and were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; and did all eat the same spiritual meat, and did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of the spiritual Rock that followed them; and that Rock was Christ.
You see, then, dear brethren, that the possession of privileges is not everything. Paul would not have us to be ignorant that all those who were with Moses in the wilderness had privileges of a very high order. Did they not all pass through the Red Sea, and so escape from their powerful and cruel foes? Did they not all drink of water which gushed forth from the flinty rock? Were they not all fed with manna from heaven? Yet their privileges did not save them, for while they had the five privileges mentioned in these four verses, they fell into the five great sins of which we are about to read; and so, their privileges, instead of being a blessing to them, only increased their condemnation.
5, 6. But with many of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness. Now these things were our examples,
Or, warnings, for just as they were overthrown in the wilderness, so may we be, notwithstanding all the gospel privileges which we enjoy, if we are not true believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. If the life of Christ is not in our souls, all the privileges of the Church of God cannot save us. "These things were our examples,"
6-11. To the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted. Neither be ye idolaters, as were some of them; as it is written, The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play. Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed, and fell in one day three and twenty thousand. Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents. Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer. Now all these things happened unto them for example;
The apostle has told us that before, but he tells it to us again, to warn us, by these beacons, lest we come to a similar destruction to that which befel those ancient unbelievers.
11, 12. And they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come. Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.
We also are to take heed lest we fall, especially those of us who think we are standing securely. You have seen how terrible was the fate of those unbelievers in the wilderness, who never entered into Canaan, but left their carcases in the desert; now Paul urges us, with such beacons to warn us, to take heed lest we also fall as they did.
13. There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.
O Lord, fulfill thy gracious purpose unto thy servants! Hold thou us up, lest we fall. We are very weak; keep us, for thy dear Son's sake! Amen.
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Spurgeon, Charle Haddon. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 10". "Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29