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Foretastes of the Heavenly Life
Early 1857 by C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892)
"And they took of the fruit of the land in their hands, and brought it down unto us, and brought us word again and said, It is a good land which the Lord our God doth give us." Deuteronomy 1:25 .
You remember the occasion concerning which these words were written. The children of Israel sent twelve men as spies into the land of Canaan, who brought back with them the fruit of the land, amongst the rest a bunch of grapes from Eshcol too heavy to be borne by one man, and which, therefore, two of them carried on a staff between them. But I shall not remark upon the figure, but only say that as they learned of Canaan by the fruit of the land brought to them by the spies, so you and I, even while we are on earth, if we be the Lord's beloved, may learn something of what heaven is a state to which we are to attain hereafter by certain blessings which are brought to us even while we are here on earth. The Israelites were sure that Canaan was a fertile land when they saw the fruits which it produced, brought by their brethren, and when they ate thereof. Perhaps there was but little for so many, and yet those who did eat were made at once to, understand that it must have been a goodly soil that produced such fruit. Now, then, beloved, we who love the Lord Jesus Christ have had clusters of the grapes of Eshcol. We have bad some fruits of heaven even since we have been on earth, and by them we are able to judge of the richness of the soil of Paradise which bringeth forth such rare and choice delights. I shall, therefore, present to you some views of heaven in order to give you some idea how it is that the Christian on earth enjoys a foretaste of the blessings that are yet to be revealed. Possibly, there are scarce two Christians who have the same news of heaven; though they all expect the same heaven, yet the most prominent feature in it is different to each different mind according to its constitution. I. Now, I will confess what is to me the most prominent feature of heaven, judging at the present moment. At another time I may love heaven better for another thing: but lately I have learned to love heaven as A PLACE OF SECURITY. We have been greatly saddened as we have seen some high professors turning from their profession ay, and worse still, some of the Lord's own beloved committing grievous faults and slips, which have brought disgrace upon their character, and injury to their souls. Now I have learned to look to heaven lately as a place where we shall never, never sin where our feet shall be fixed firmly upon a rock where there is neither tripping nor sliding where faults shall be unknown where we shall have no need to keep watch against an indefatigable enemy, because there is no foe that shall annoy us where we shall not be on our guard day and night watching against the incursion of foes, for there "the wicked cease from troubling and the weary are at rest." I have looked upon it as the land of complete security, where the garment shall be always white, where the face shall be always anointed with fresh oil, where there is no fear of slipping or turning away, but where we shall stand fast for ever. And I ask you, if that be a true view of heaven and I am sure it is one feature of it do not the saints even on earth enjoy some fruits of Paradise, even in this sense? Do we not even in these huts and villages below sometimes taste the joys of blissful security? The doctrine of God's word is, that all who are in union with the Lamb are safe, that all believers must hold on their way, that those who have committed their souls to the keeping of Christ shall find him a faithful and immutable keeper. On such a doctrine we can enjoy security even on earth; not that high and glorious security which renders us free from every slip and trip, but nevertheless a security well nigh as great, because it secures us against ultimate ruin, and renders us certain that we shall attain to eternal felicity. And, beloved, have you never sat down and reflected on the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints? I am sure you have, and God has brought home to you a sense of your security in the person of Christ. He has told you that your name is graven on his hand; he has whispered in your ear the promise, "Fear thou not, I am with thee." You have been led to look upon him, the great Surety of the covenant, as faithful and true, and, therefore, bound and engaged to present you, the weakest of the family, with all the chosen race, before the throne of God; and in such sweet contemplation I am sure you have been drinking some of the juice of his spiced pomegranates; you have had some of the choice fruits of Paradise; you have had some of the enjoyments which the perfect saints have above in a sense of your complete and eternal security in Christ Jesus. Oh, how I love that doctrine of the perseverance of the saints! I shall at once renounce the pulpit when I cannot preach it, for any other form of teaching seems to me to be a blank desert and a howling wilderness as unworthy of God as it would be beneath even my acceptance, frail worm as I am. I could never either believe or preach a gospel which saves me to-day and rejects me tomorrow a gospel which puts me in Christ's family one hour, and makes me a child of the devil the next, a gospel which justifies and then condemns me a gospel which pardons me, and afterward casts me down to hell. Such a gospel is abhorrent to reason itself, much more it is contrary to the mind of God whom we delight to serve. Every true believer in Jesus can sing, with Toplady,
"My name from the palms of his hands Eternity will not erase; Impressed on his heart it remains In marks of indelible grace: Yes, I to the end shall endure. As sure as the earnest is given; More happy, but not more secure, The glorified spirits in heaven."
Yes, beloved, we do enjoy a sense of perfect security even as we dwell in this land of wars and fightings. As the spies brought their brethren bunches of the grapes, so in the security we enjoy, we have a foretaste and earnest of the bliss of Paradise. II. In the next place, most probably the greater part of you love to think of heaven under another aspect: as A PLACE OF PERFECT REST. Son of toil, you love the sanctuary because it is there you sit to hear God's word, and rest your wearied limbs. When you have wiped the hot sweat from your burning brow, you have often thought of heaven where your labors shall be over; you have sung with sweet emphasis,
"There shall I bathe my weary soul In seas of heavenly rest, And not a wave of trouble roll Across my peaceful breast."
Rest, rest, rest, this is what you want. And to me this idea of heaven is exceedingly beautiful. Rest I know I never shall have beneath this sky, while Christ's church is as barbarous as it is; for the most barbarous of masters is the church of Christ. I have served it, and am well-nigh hounded to my grave by Christian ministers perpetually requiring me to do impossibilities that they know no mortal strength can accomplish. Willing I am to labor till I drop, but more I cannot do; yet I am perpetually assailed on this side and the other, till, go where I may, there seems no rest for me till I slumber in my grave; and I do look forward to heaven with some degree of happiness. There I shall rest from labors constant and perpetual, though much loved. And you, too, who have been toiling long to gain an object you have sought after; you will be glad when you get to heaven. You have said if you could get it you would lie down and rest; you have toiled after a certain amount of riches, you have said if you could once gain a competence you would then make yourself at ease. Or, you have been laboring long to gain a certain point of character, and then you have said you would lay down your arms and rest. Ay, but you have not reached it yet; and you love heaven because heaven is the goal to the racer, the target of the arrow of existence; you love heaven because it will be the couch of time, ay, an eternal rest for the poor weary struggler upon earth. You love it as a place of rest; and do we never enjoy a foretaste of heaven upon earth in that sense? O, yes, beloved! blessed be God, "we who have believed do enter into rest." Our peace is like a river, and our righteousness like the waves of the sea. God may give to his people rest: even the rest that remaineth for the people of God. We have stormy trials and bitter troubles in the world; but we have learned to say, "Return unto thy rest, 0 my soul! for the Lord hath dealt bountifully with thee." Did you never, in times of great distress, climb up to your closet, and there on your knees pour out your heart before God ? Did you never feel after you had so done that you had bathed yourself in rest, so that
"Let cares like a wild deluge come, And storms of sorrow fall,"
you cared not one whit for them? Though wars and tumults were raging around you, you were kept in perfect peace, for you had found a great protecting shield in Christ; you had looked upon the face of God's Anointed. Ah, Christian, that rest without a billow of disturbance, that rest so placid and serene, which in your deepest troubles you have been enabled to enjoy in the bosom of Christ, is to you a bunch of the mighty vintage of heaven, one grape of the heavenly cluster which you shall soon partake of in the land of the hereafter. Here, again, you see we can have a foretaste of heaven, and realize what it is even while here upon earth. III. That idea of heaven as a place of rest will suit some indolent professors, and, therefore, let me just give the very opposite of it. I do think that one of the worst sins a man can be guilty of in this world is to be idle. I can almost forgive a drunkard, but a lazy man I do think there is very little pardon for. I think a man who is idle has as good a reason to be a penitent before God as David bad when be was an adulterer, for the most abominable thing in the world is for a man to let the grass grow up to his ankles and do nothing. God never sent a man into the world to be idle. And there are some who make a tolerably fair profession, but who do nothing from one year's end to the other. The next idea of heaven is, that it is A PLACE OF UNINTERRUPTED SERVICE. It is a place where they serve God day and night in his temple, and never know weariness, and never require to slumber. Do you know what is the deliciousness of work? For although we must complain when people expect impossibilities of us, it is the highest enjoyment of life to be busily engaged for Christ. Tell me the day I do not preach, I will tell you the day in which I am not happy; but the day in which it is my privilege to preach the gospel, and labor for God, is generally the day of my peaceful and quiet enjoyment after all. Service is delight. Praising God is pleasure. Laboring for him is the highest delight a mortal can know, O, how sweet it must be to sing his praises, and never feel that the throat is dry! O, how blessed to flap the wing for ever and never feel it flag! O, what sweet enjoyment to run upon his errands, evermore to circle round the throne of God in heaven while eternity shall last, and never once lay the head on the pillow, never once feel the throbbings of fatigue, never once the pangs that admonish us that we need to cease, but to keep on for ever like eternity's own self a broad river rolling on with perpetual floods of labor! O, that must be enjoyment! That must be, indeed, a heaven, to serve God day and night in his temple! But you have served God on earth, and have had foretastes of that. I wish some of you knew the sweets of labor a little more, for although labor breedeth sweat, it breedeth sweets too more especially labor for Christ. There is a satisfaction before the work; there is a satisfaction in the work; there is a satisfaction after the work, and there is a satisfaction in looking for the fruits of the work; and a great satisfaction when we get the fruits. Labor for Christ is, indeed, the robing-room of heaven; if it be not heaven itself, it is one of the most blissful foretastes of it. Thank God, Christian, if you can do any thing for your Master. Thank him if it is your privilege to do the least thing for him, for remember in so doing he is giving you a taste of the grapes of Eshcol. But you indolent people, you do not get the grapes of Eshcol, because you are too lazy to carry that big bunch. You would like it to come into your mouths without the trouble of gathering it; but you do not care to go forth and serve God. You sit still and look after yourselves, but what do you do for other people? You go to your place of worship; you talk about your Sunday-school and Sick Visitation Society, and so on. You never teach in the Sunday-school, and you never visit a sick person, and yet you take a great deal of credit to yourself while you do nothing at all. You will never know much of the enjoyments of heavenly glory until you know a little of the work of the kingdom of heaven on earth. IV. Another view of heaven is, that it is A PLACE OF COMPLETE VICTORY AND GLORIOUS TRIUMPH. This is the battlefield; there is the triumphal procession. This is the land of the sword and the spear; that in the land of the wreath and the crown. This is the land of the garment rolled in blood and of the dust of the fight; that is the land of the trumpet's joyful sound that is the place of the white robe and of the shout of conquest. O, what a thrill of joy shall shoot through the hearts of all the blessed when their conquests shall be complete in heaven, when death itself, the last of foes, shall be slain when Satan shall be dragged captive at the chariot wheels of Christ when he shall have overthrown sin and trampled corruption as the mire of the streets when the great shout of universal victory shall rise from the hearts of all the redeemed! What a moment of pleasure shall that be! O, dear brethren, you and I have foretastes of even that. We know what conquests, what souls' battles we have even here. Did you never struggle against an evil heart, and at last overcome it? O, with what joy did you lift your eyes to heaven, the tears flowing down your cheeks, and say, "Lord, I bless thee that I have been able to overcome that sin." Did you ever have a strong temptation, and did you wrestle hard with it, and know what it was to sing with great joy, "My feet slipped; but thy mercy held me up?" Have you, like Bunyan's Christian', fought with old Apollyon, and have you seen him flap his dragon-wings and fly away? There you had a foretaste of heaven; you had just a guess of what the ultimate victory will be. In the death of that one Philistine you had the destruction of the whole army. That Goliath who fell beneath your sling and stone was but one out of the multitude who must yield their bodies to the fowls of heaven. God gives you partial triumphs that they may be the earnest of ultimate and complete victory. Go on and conquer, and let each conquest, though a harder one and more strenuously contested, be to you as a grape of Eshcol, a foretaste of the joys of heaven! V. Furthermore, without doubt one of the best views we can ever give of heaven is, that it is A STATE OF COMPLETE ACCEPTANCE WITH GOD, recognized and felt in the conscience. I suppose that a great part of the joy of the blessed saints consists in a knowledge that there is nothing in them to which God is hostile; that their peace with God has not any thing to mar it; that they are so completely in union with the principles and thoughts of the Most High; that his love is set on them; that their love is set on him; that they are one with God in every respect. Well, beloved, and have we not enjoyed a sense of acceptance here below? Blotted and blurred by many doubts and fears, yet there have been moments when we have known ourselves as well accepted as we shall know ourselves to be even when we stand before the throne. There have been bright days with some of us, when we could "set to our seal" that God was true; and, when afterward, feeling that the Lord knoweth them that are his, we could say, "And I know that I am his too." Then have we known the meaning of Dr. Watts when he sang,
"When I can say, 'My God is mine;' When I can feel thy glories shine; I tread the world beneath my feet, And all that earth calls good or great.
While such a scene of sacred joys Our raptured eyes and souls employs, Here we could sit, and gaze away A long, an everlasting day."
We had such a clear view of the perfection of Christ's righteousness that we felt that God had accepted us, and we could not be otherwise than happy; we had such a sense of the efficacy of the blood of Christ, we felt sure that our sins were all pardoned, and that they never could be mentioned unto us in mercy for ever. And, beloved, though I have spoken of other joys, let me say, this is the cream of all of them, to know ourselves accepted in God's sight. O! to feel that I, a guilty worm, am now received in my Father's bosom; that I, a lost prodigal, am now feasting at his table with delight; that I, who once heard the voice of his anger, now listen to the notes of his love. This is joy this is joy worth worlds. What more can they know up there than that? And were it not that our sense of it were so imperfect, we might bring heaven down to earth, and might at least dwell in the suburbs of the celestial city, if we could not be privileged to go within the gates. So you see, again, we can have bunches of the grapes of Eshcol in that sense. Seeing that heaven is a state of acceptance, we, too, can know and feel that acceptance, and rejoice in it. VI. And, again, heaven is A STATE OF GREAT AND GLORIOUS MANIFESTATIONS. You look forward to your experience in heaven, you sing,
"Then shall I see, and hear, and know All I desired or wished below; and every power find a sweet employ In that eternal world of joy."
You are now looking at it darkly through a glass: there you shall see face to face Christ looks down on the Bible, and the Bible is his looking-glass. You look into it, and see the face of Christ as in a mirror darkly; but soon you shall look upon himself and see him face to face. You expect heaven as a place of peculiar manifestations. You believe that there he will unvail his face to you; that
"Millions of years your wondering eyes Shall o'er your Saviour's beauties rove."
You are expecting to see his face, and never, never sin. You are longing to know the secrets of his heart. You believe that. in that day you shall see him as he is, and shall be like him in the world of spirits. Well, beloved, though Christ does not manifest himself to us as he does to the bright ones there, have not you and I had manifestations even while we have been in this vale of tears? Speak, beloved; let your heart speak; hast thou not had visions of Calvary; has not thy Master sometimes touched thy eyes with eye-salve, and let thee see him on his cross? Hast thou not said
"Sweet the moments, rich in blessing, Which before the cross I spend, Life, and health, and peace possessing, From the sinner's dying Friend.
Here I'd sit for ever viewing Mercy stream in streams of blood! Precious drops my soul bedewing, Plead and claim my peace with God"?
Have you not wept for joy and grief when you saw him bleeding out his life from his heart for you, and beheld him nailed to the tree for your sakes! O yes! I know you have had such manifestations of him. And have you not seen him in his risen glories ? Have you not beheld him there exalted on his throne? Have you not by faith beheld him as the Judge of the quick and the dead, and as the Prince of the kings of the earth? Have you not looked through the dim future, and seen him with the crown of all the kingdoms on his head, with the diadems of all monarchies beneath his feet, and the scepters of all thrones in his hand? Have you not anticipated the moment of his most glorious triumphs, when
"He shall reign from pole to pole, with illimitable sway"?
Yes, you have, and therein you have had foretastes of heaven. When Christ has thus revealed himself to you, you have looked within the vail, and, therefore, you have seen what is there, you have had some glimpses of Jesus while here; those glimpses of Jesus are but the beginning of what shall never end. Those joyous melodies of praise and thanksgiving are but the preludes of the notes of Paradise. VII. And now, lastly, the highest idea of heaven, perhaps, is that it is A PLACE OF MOST HALLOWED AND BLISSFUL COMMUNION. I have not given you near half that I might have given you of the various characteristics of heaven, as described in God's word, but communion is the best. Communion! that word so little spoken of, so seldom understood. That word, communion! Dearly, beloved, you hear us say, "And the communion of the Holy Ghost be with you all;" but there are many of you that do not know the meaning of that sweet heaven in a word. Communion! It is the flower of language; it is the honeycomb of words. Communion! You like to talk of corruption best, do you not? Well, if you like that filthy word, you are very willing to meditate upon it. I do so when I am forced to do it; but communion seems to me to be a sweeter word than that. You like to talk a great deal about affliction, don't you ? Well, if you love the black word ah! you have reason to love it; but if you love to be happy upon it, you may do so; but give me for my constant text and for my constant joy, communion. And I will not choose which kind of communion it shall be. Sweet Master, if thou givest me communion with thee in thy sufferings, if I have to bear reproach and shame for thy name's sake, I will thank thee; if I may have fellowship with thee in it, and if thou wilt give me to suffer for thy sake, I will call it honor, that so I can be a partaker of thy sufferings, and if thou givest me sweet enjoyments, if thou dost raise me up and make me to sit in heavenly places in Christ, I will bless thee. I will bless thee for ascension communion communion with Christ in his glories. Do you not say the same? And for communion with Christ in death. Have you died unto the world, as Christ did die unto himself? And then have you had communion with him in resurrection Have you felt that you are raised to newness of life, even as was he? And have you had communion with him in ascension, so that you could know yourself to be an heir to a throne in Paradise? If so, you have had the best earnest you can receive of the joys of Paradise. To be in heaven is to lean one's head upon the breast of Jesus. You have done it on earth? Then you know what heaven is. To be in heaven is to talk with Jesus, to sit at his feet, to let our heart beat against his heart. If you have bad that on earth, you have had some of the grapes of heaven. Cherish, then, these foretastes, of whatever kind they may have been in your individual case. Differently constituted, you will all look at heaven in a different light. Keep your foretaste just as God has given it to you. He has given each of you some one; if you love it, it is most suitable to your own condition. Treasure it up; think much of it. Think more of your Master. For, remember, it is "Christ in you the hope of glory," after all, that is your only foretaste of heaven; and the more fully prepared shall you be for the bliss of the joyous ones in the land of the happy.
Encourage Your Minister
Delivered on Sunday Morning, October 18th, 1863, by the
Rev. C. H. SPURGEON,
At Cornwall Road Chapel, Bayswater
"Encourage him." Deuteronomy 1:38 .
MOSES COULD NOT CONDUCT the people into the promised land. Nor can the law bring any man to heaven. The law may lead a man out of the Egypt of his sin, and it may bring him into the wilderness of conviction; there it may provide him with food, and nourish him with some little comfort, but the law can never give rest to the spirit. Into Canaan Moses can never conduct the Israel of God. This was left for Joshua, whose name, you know, is but another form of the name Jesus. As Joshua alone could drive the Canaanites out of the land, and give a portion to all the seed of Israel, so Jesus alone can give rest unto the heirs of heaven. Moses cannot do it. He may see the promised land, but he can never enter it. Legal convictions may be accompanied with some desires towards divine things, ay, and some apprehensions of their sweetness too; but the ultimate enjoyment, the rest which remaineth for the people of God, can only come to the believer through Jesus Christ. See here the weakness of the law. It is not able to bring us to our rest. "By the works of the law shall no flesh living be justified." Fly then, to Jesus; for he is the Captain of our salvation, by whom our foes shall be subdued, and our everlasting inheritance secured.
It is not, however, my purpose to explore the mystic truth which is couched beneath; I confine myself this morning to the moral on the surface. Joshua was a young man in comparison with Moses. He was about to undertake the onerous task of commanding a great people. He had moreover the difficult enterprise of leading them into the promised land, and chasing out the nations which possessed it. The Lord commanded Moses, therefore to encourage him, that in the prospect of great labor he might not be dismayed. This teaches us, I think, that GOD, EVEN OUR GOD, IS GRACIOUSLY CONSIDERATE OF HIS SERVANTS, and would have them well fitted for high enterprise with good courage. He doth not send them as a tyrant would send a soldier upon an errand for which he is not capable; nor does he afterwards withhold his succor, forgetful of the straits to which they may be reduced; but he is very careful of his servants, and will not let one of them perish. He counts them as the apple of his eye, keeps them at all hours, and defends them from all dangers. Why is this? The Lord our God hath strong reasons for being thus considerate of his servants. Are they not his children? Is he not their Father? Doth he not love them? If all human loves could be put together, they would scarce make a drop in a bucket, compared with the ocean of love which God the Father hath towards his children. All mothers' loves, all the loves of friends, of brothers and of sisters, of husbands and of wives, if all piled together, would be a molehill, compared with the towering mountain of the divine love which God the Father hath towards his chosen. We are and there is no other figure which sets forth the whole length and breadth of that love we are as dear to God as his only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ is
"So dear, so very dear, to God I cannot dearer be;
The love wherewith he loves his Son, such is his love for me."
"As the Father hath loved me, even so have I loved you," said Christ. Now, none of us would send a child of ours upon a difficult enterprise, without being anxious for his welfare. We would not put him upon a trial beyond his strength, without at the same time guaranteeing to stand at his side, and make his strength equal to his day. Moreover, the Father himself is concerned as to his honor in all that they do. If any servant of God shall fall, then God's name is despised. The daughters of Philistia rejoice, and the inhabitants of Ekron triumph. "Aha! aha!" they say, "so we would have it! God's servants are put to the rout; Jehovah was not able to give them victory. They trusted in him, and they were confounded. They rested upon him, and they fell to the ground." Think not that the heavenly Father will ever permit this to be said. Will he ever send forth his servants to let them fall by the hand of the adversary? He is too jealous of his great name. His honor is too much concerned ever to permit this. Ye feeble ones, to whom God hath given to do or to suffer for his name's sake, rest assured that he hath his eye upon you now. He cannot leave you, unless he can cease to be "God over all, blessed for ever." He cannot forget you, for his heart of love can never change, and the relationship which he has towards you can never be dissolved. Beloved, God the Father careth for his children, because they are his children, and because his honor is concerned in them. How sweet the thought, if I fail, God fails; if I succeed, being God's sent servant, God hath all the honor. Could I lean on him and fail, then to that degree God's purpose is not fulfilled, God's promise is not kept, God's nature is not glorified. Oh, when ye can fall back on the name, the renown, the very character of God; when ye can say, as Moses said upon the Mount, "What wilt thou do for thy great name?" When ye can plead as Luther did, "Lord, this is no quarrel of mine, it is thine. Thou knowest thou didst put me to speak against thy foes, and now if thou leave me, where is thy truth? "When ye can plead with God in this way, surely he will give you a rescue. Ye cannot fail when your cause is God's cause.
Nor is the Divine Father alone concerned. Is not the Son of God concerned in the welfare of his brethren? He hath bought them with his blood. That which a man dearly purchases he will highly prize. If he did not, it would be as much as to confess that he had paid too costly a sum for what he bought. Ye are bought with a price. A price it was tremendous enough; the King of Glory gave his heart's blood to redeem poor worms like ourselves, but he will never confess that he gave too much for us. In love he will esteem the purchase equal to the price he paid. The love and the price are both infinite. As he looks upon any one of his people, he says, "There is my purchase," and he values you not so much for what you are intrinsically worth, as because he sees the drops of his own blood upon you. "There," says he is the travail of my soul; there is the divine satisfaction my Father gives me for the sufferings I endured." Think you that when he thus values his servants he will leave them without his help? It cannot be. Moreover our blessed Lord has passed through precisely those very troubles to which he calls his people. "We have not a high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities." "He was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin." The thorn in your foot pierced his heel before it touched you. The sorrow which sends the tears gushing from your eye has first of all swollen his heart.
"In every pang that rends the heart,
The Man of Sorrows had a part."
"In all their affliction he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them." If you have been widowed yourself you feel a compassion for those who are brought into the like state, to which others who have never passed through it are strangers. Were you ever a fatherless child, I know you will love orphans. Now our Lord and Master was forsaken of his Father. "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" saith he. He hath gone all the length of human grief, and therefore it is not possible that he should be inconsiderate concerning any one of his beloved.
Do you not know, to crown this point, that every believer is actually a part of Christ? We are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. Were the poor servants of God at Damascus persecuted? Christ suffered. "Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?" To this very day our Head is in sympathy with us.
"He feels at his heart all our sighs and our groans,
For we are most near him his flesh and his bones."
Do you think the Head will not care for the members? Shall I let my finger fester uncared for, until it needs to be cut away from mortification? Not while my brain can think, or my tongue can speak. And Jesus, so long as he can see his people, and his tongue can make any intercession, will not let even the meanest member of his mystical body suffer for lack of supplies. Even as God cared for Joshua, so doth Christ care for you this morning, beloved member of the body of Christ.
Is not this sufficient argument the Father's interest and the Son's? If not, remember the most blessed Spirit. He dwells in all the people of God. How can he dwell in them and not be mindful of them? We forget the sick and the poor because, they live in a back street, and we do not pass thereby; but you could not have poverty pining in your own house, methinks, without readiness to relieve it. You would not have sickness lying in your own chamber without showing sympathy. Now our body is the house of the Holy Ghost. He dwells in the body as in a temple, and do you think that he will see his people languish for lack of grace while he is present with them. Can it be that he will walk in them and see them famish, perceive their lacks and destitution, and not supply their wants? Dream not so hardly of the tender and blessed Spirit, whose name is "the Comforter." Be it never forgotten that it is his office to supply the wants of God's people. It is the Holy Spirit's business to see after the saints. "If I go away," said Jesus, "I will send the Comforter unto you." So long as they had the personal presence of the Lord Jesus Christ, the disciples could want for nothing. As long as he had a crust of bread, they had half. If he had a place where to lay his head at any time given him by charity, they should rest with him. "Where I am there shall also my servant be," was Christ's loving rule. When he went away, then they were left like orphans until the Spirit of God came as another Comforter, "who should abide with them for ever." Dost thou think that the Holy Spirit will neglect his office? O thou weak and trembling believer, dost thou imagine that God the Holy Ghost will be negligent of his sacred trust? Canst thou suppose that he has undertaken what he cannot or will not perform? Now if it be his business to work in thee, to strengthen thee, to illuminate thee, to comfort thee, dost thou suppose he has forgotten thee? Why sayest thou, O Jacob, and speakest, O Israel, "My way is hid from the Lord, and my judgment is passed over by my God? Hast thou not known, hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary." Thou art near to him; now his eyes are upon thee. Like as a father pitieth his children, even so the Lord pitieth thee; and like as a mother tenderly fondleth her suckling, even so the Lord loveth thee; the bowels of his love are yearning over thee, pitying thy sufferings, ready to help thee in thy distresses. Trust thou in him, and he will surely encourage thee, and thy fears exchanged for faith, thou shalt triumph over every foe, and realize every promise.
Observe well how far the tender consideration of God for his servants extends! He not only considers their outward state, and the absolute interests of their condition, but he remembers their spirits, and loves to see them of good courage. Some people think it a small thing for a believer to be full of doubts and fears, but I do not think so. I perceive from this text that my Master would not have you entangled with fears. He would have you without carefulness, without doubt, without sorrow; he says, "Encourage him" as much as if he had told Moses that it was an important thing for his servant Joshua to have his courage duly sustained. My Master does not think so lightly of your unbelief as you do. You are desponding this morning; well, this is a grievous matter. My Lord loveth not to see your countenance sad. It was a law, you remember, of Ahasuerus, that no one should come into the king's court dressed in mourning; but it is not the law of my Master, for you may come mourning as you are; but still he would have you put off those rags and that sackcloth, for surely there is much reason to rejoice. Rejoice in the Lord always. Be of good courage; wait on the Lord, for he will renew your strength.
The Christian man must have his spirits sustained, in order that he may glorify the Lord. If his spirits are kept up, he will be able to endure trial upon trial. He comes to the fire, but it will never kindle upon him when his faith is firm. He walks through the rivers, but the floods never overflow him while he can look to his God. The sweetest songs believers ever have are those they sing at night. God's people are like the nightingale their music is best heard when the sun is gone down. Oh, how much depends on your spirits being supported! Let the spirits sink, and a little trouble lays like a dead weight upon the soul. On the other hand, if faith be firm, tons of trouble become light as a feather. Unless the spirits of God's people be sustained, they will dishonor their God; they will think hard things of him, and perhaps they will speak hard things against him, and so the holy name of God will not be had in repute. What a bad example it is! This disease of doubtfulness and discouragement is an epidemic that soon spreads amongst the Lord's flock. One downcast believer makes twenty sad. This phobia is a contagious species of madness; soon are men bitten with it; if one doubt of the promise of God, straightway a whole congregation will begin to foam with like doubts. When Paul was in the ship and took bread and ate it in the midst of the storm, then all the crew were encouraged; but if Paul had been downcast, then, from the captain to the smallest cabin-boy, there would have been great distress. Oh, be of good courage! for the sake of your brothers and sisters in Christ; when you would say a hard or bitter thing, keep it back as David did, lest he should offend against the generation of God's people. "When I thought to know this, it was too painful for me." Unless your courage is kept up, Satan will be too much for you? My experience teaches me that the cowardly old tempter always comes upon us when we are in our worst state. If he would but meet me sometimes, I could drive him as chaff before the wind; but he will always meet me when an attack of bile, or some domestic trouble, or ill tidings in the camp, hinder my cheerfulness. Then, sure enough, in some dark, narrow lane, stands the arch-enemy, with his sword drawn, and he swears he will spill the blood of my soul. But just let the heart be right, let the spirit be joyful in God my Savior, the joy of the Lord shall be your strength, and no fiend of hell shall make headway against you.
Besides, labor is light to a man of cheerful spirit! You can work all day and almost all night, when the spirits are right, but once let the heart sink and your soul lack encouragement, and then you grow weary, and cry, "Would God it were evening, and the shadows were drawn out, that we might rest from our toil." Success waits upon cheerfulness. The man who toils, rejoicing in his God, believing with all his heart, has success guaranteed. He who sows in hope shall reap in joy. He who trusts in the Lord and laughs at impossibilities, shall soon find that there are no impossibilities to laugh at, for to the man who is confident in Jehovah, all things are possible. It is thus of paramount importance that the spirits of the Christian should be constantly kept up. God so considers it. Thus saith the Lord, "Encourage him" "Make the good man's heart glad; make the believer sing with joy; encourage him."
II. Secondly, we remark that GOD USES HIS OWN PEOPLE TO ENCOURAGE ONE ANOTHER. He did not say to the angel, "Gabriel, there is my servant Joshua, about to take the people into Canaan fly down and encourage him." God never works needless miracles; if his purposes can be accomplished by ordinary means, he will certainly accomplish them without using miraculous energy. Gabriel would have not been half so well fitted for the work as Moses. A brother's sympathy is more precious than an angel's embassy. The angel, swift of wing, had better known the Master's bidding than the people's temper. An angel had never experienced the hardness of the road, nor seen the fiery serpents, nor had he led the stiff-necked multitude in the wilderness. Moses felt it all. For my part, I am glad to think that God does his work by man. It gives us such a bond of brotherhood. We must be dependent on one another. We need condolence in our grief; and we invite companionship in our joys. So, being mutually dependent on one another's countenance and counsel, we are fused more completely into one mass, and made more thoroughly one family.
To whom, then, should this work of encouraging the people be committed? Surely the elders should do it; those of riper years than their fellows. I know some aged persons, who whenever they see a young Christian, make it a point to inform him of all the difficulties and perils of the road. Like Mistrust and Timorous, they have always a doleful story to tell about the way to heaven. This was the old style of Christian in many of our Churches. For my part, I think that the aged Christian is better employed in looking after the lambs of the flock and trying to carry them in his bosom. Talk cheerily to the young and anxious enquirer, lovingly try to remove stumbling-blocks out of his way. When you find a spark of grace in the heart, kneel down and blow it into a flame. Leave the young believer to discover the roughness of the road by degrees. Tell him of the strength which dwells in God, of the sureness of the promise, of the delightfulness of fellowship with Jesus, of the charms of communion with Christ. Entice the young Christian on, as good mothers teach their children to walk by holding out here a sweetmeat and there some tempting thing that they may put their trembling feet one before the other, and at last know how to walk. I would that every Church had many of these aged brothers and sisters, fathers and mothers in Israel, who take this for their motto whenever they see a young Christian, "Encourage him." I know of nothing more inspiriting than to hear the experience of a gray-headed saint. I have found much spiritual comfort in sitting at the feet of my venerable grandfather, more than eighty years of age. The last time I saw him I said to him, "I suppose you have had many trials, grandfather?" He said, "I have not had too many, and the most of what I have had, I have made myself." "And do you think that God will ever leave his people?" "No," said he, "for if he would leave one of them he would have left me, but he is a faithful God, and I have proved him, for I have known his love more than seventy years, and yet he has been faithful to me. Not one good thing hath failed of all that the Lord God hath promised." Why, it comes home to the hearts of us young people and makes us feel that we have found something which it is safe to depend upon when those who have gone through the valley can bear such a word of testimony as this. Do not let a word of peevishness come out of thy mouth, my aged brother; let no syllable of complaining escape thee, my sister. Let thy mouth be filled with thy Lord's praise, and with his honor all the day, and so thou wilt encourage others.
Not the aged only, but the wise in the family should be comforters. All believers are not equal in knowledge. Some are quick of apprehension in the ways of the Lord; they rapidly acquire doctrinal knowledge; and experimental knowledge comes to them with a brighter light than it does to duller intellects. There are in all our Churches those who never will be doctors of divinity. Though they know right well that they are sinners, and that Christ saves them, and so their acceptance is secured, if you talk to them about the mysteries of the gospel they will soon get into depths where they lose their footing, for they have not learned to swim. Perhaps they will never be able to understand, or at least to appreciate the doctrine of election. Now, wiser men should not keep their knowledge to themselves; above all they should not use it to criticise. I could tell of men who carry knowledge like a sword. They listen to the sermon, and when they meet some friend who gained a little good from it, they will cavil. They say, "Oh, the first or the third point I did not think quite sound." They will be sure to have something to say that will knock the bread from the mouths of those who are willing to feed. They are more knowing than wise. Moses was wise in doctrinal knowledge. With what consummate wisdom he addressed Joshua. "Be strong and of a good courage: for thou must go with this people unto the land which the Lord hath sworn unto their fathers to give them; and thou shalt cause them to inherit it. And the Lord, he it is that doth go before thee; he will be with thee, he will not fail thee, neither forsake thee: fear not, neither be dismayed." Oh ye that have searched the scriptures through and know its promises ye that have been among these beds of spices, and whose garments smell of frankincense, be sure to quote the promises of God to trembling hearts, and especially to those engaged in arduous labor for the Master. Comfort them. Repeat the doctrine of God's faithfulness; say to them, "He will be with thee, he will not fail thee, neither forsake thee: fear not, neither be dismayed." Oh that the wise-hearted in the Lord's family would be thus employed at all times.
Nor can I doubt that the happier sort of Christians ought always to be engaged in comforting the mournful and sorrowing. You know whom I mean; their eyes always sparkle; wherever they go they carry lamps bright with animation, sunshine gleams in their faces, they live in the light of God's countenance. We have some of a more sombre countenance, good people too; they always see the black side of affairs. Now, you who are happy, try to encourage those that are downcast. Oh, dear friends, I am afraid we neglect this duty, many of us. You will say, "How can I perform it?" Speak a kind word always; find out those who are weary and give them a word of consolation. Even a smile from your face may do them good. Do not avoid them because they are melancholy, but rather pursue them. Hunt them out, do not let them be quiet in their nest of thorns, but if the Lord has given it to you to soar aloft into the clear blue ether, try to carry your friend with you, and lift him above the clouds. Suppose your house is on a hill, and he lives down in the marsh, ask him to climb the hill and stay with you. Perhaps you have the keys of the promise, use the key and open the door for him. It is just possible that you may live in the upper storeys where you can see further and behold more of the blessed land. Ask him to come up from his cellar and walk on the roof of your palace, and scan the prospect through your telescope, "Encourage him."
Let the brother of low degree be likewise encouraged by these who are rich among you. You may frequently breathe comfort into a desponding spirit by seasonable help. The destitute will think himself rich upon your leavings. Peradventure your poor brother thinks you look down upon him because you are better off than he is; try to prevent his thinking so. If God has blessed you with a good position in providence, be ready to encourage those that are poor and needy. Oh, if all those things I have been counselling should be put in practice, what a vast amount of happiness would be created! Our Churches would be more like families. I do not like people to come into a place of worship like so many icebergs floating out to sea and wishing to avoid each other, but I do like to see all distinctions broken down, except the distinctions of superior grace, and those only observed because one brother has cast in more to the common treasury of the Church of spiritual riches than another can do. I like those who fear the Lord to speak often to one another. We are getting into a bad state when they who fear the Lord speak often against one another. I believe that this one practice of encouraging each other might restore to the Churches that holy fraternity and blessed love which once distinguished them. I am sure this would enrich you all. It is by commerce that countries grow rich. France sends her exports to England, and England repays her with abundance, The labor of the humble, and the skill and enterprise of the lofty, contribute to the great commonwealth. An exchange of thought tends to help. A stream of holy wealth would flow through our Churches if each one would seek the other out with this aim of holy encouragement. How many a good thing is strangled in the birth! How many a good enterprise is dashed to pieces on the shoals before it gets out to sea. Encourage that loving-hearted sister who thinks that she might at least take an infant-class in the Sunday-school. Encourage that aged woman who has but little talent, but who yet might go from house to house to attend the sick. Encourage that poor struggling tradesman who would do something for the Master if he could by any means be delivered from the constant cares which harass him. Encourage every soul that has a spark of grace in it. Labour to help others, and you shall find a most gracious return in your own soul. God encourages you, Christ encourages you as he points to the heaven he has won for you. The Spirit encourages you as he works in you to will and to do of his own will and pleasure. Do you then act the divine part, and go forth to encourage others, according to the motto, "Encourage him."
III. I advance to THE OBJECT that is uppermost in my mind. It struck me some six weeks ago that I might say a few things to my brother's congregation which he might not like to say himself, and that as this was a new enterprise and I am sure all our hearts anxiously desire it the very richest success I might possibly take the liberty of saying a few things to you, the congregation clustering around this pulpit, which may be useful in the future of the Church. I shall speak of him as a stranger, as I should speak of any other young man anxious to build up a Church and glorify his Master. I believe there is a special occasion for the exercise of this duty of encouraging one another in the case of the minister and Church in this place. It is a fresh enterprise surrounded with peculiar difficulties, and demanding special labor. "Why," say you, "should a minister need encouraging? We have plenty of troubles all the week long, with our losses here, and crosses there, we want encouragements, but surely ministers do not." Ah! if you want to have a refutation of that idea you had better come into this pulpit, and occupy it a little time. If you would like to exchange, I would truly say that so far as the pleasure of my voice is concerned, apart from the spiritual joy my Lord gives me, I would change places with a crossing-sweeper, or a man who breaks stones on the road. Let a man carry out the office of a Christian minister aright, and he will never have any rest. "God help," says Richard Baxter, "the man who thinks the minister's an easy life." Why, he works not only all day, but in his sleep you will find him weeping for his congregation, starting in his sleep with his eyes filled with tears, as if he had the weight of his congregation's sins resting on his heart, and could not bear the load. I would not be that man in the ministry who does not feel himself so fearfully responsible, that if he could escape from the ministry by going with Jonah into the depths of the sea, he would cheerfully do it; for if a minister is what he should be, there is such a weight of solemn concern, such a sound of trembling in his ears, that he would choose any profession or any work, however arduous, sooner than the preacher's post. "If the watchman warn them not they shall perish, but their blood will I require at the watchman's hands." To sit down and spell over the question "Am I free of his blood?" is terrible. I have sometimes thought I must have a day or two of rest, but I frankly confess that rest is very little rest to me, for I think I hear the cries of perishing souls, the wailings of spirits going down to hell, who chide me thus: "Preacher, can you rest? Minister, can you be silent? Ambassador of Jesus can you cast aside the robes of your office? Up! and to your work again." As Mr. Whitfield said, when he thought of the ministry, and what was concerned in it, he wanted to stand on the top of every hackney coach in London and preach the gospel as he rode along. It is a work so solemn that if you do not encourage your minister, your minister will probably sink down in despair. Remember that the man himself needs encouragement, because he is weak. Who is sufficient for these things? To serve in any part of the spiritual army is dangerous, but to be a captain is to be doubly exposed. The most of the shots are aimed at the officers. If Satan can find a flaw in our character, then it will be, "Publish it, publish it, publish it!" If he can lead us to keep back a doctrine or go amiss in practice, or wander in experience, he is glad enough. How delighted is the devil to break the vessels of mercy. Pray for the poor man, whom you expose to perish, if you do not preserve him by supplication. If there were a ship at sea stranded and broken on the rocks, and some one volunteered to carry a rope to the sinking crew, you, standing on the shore, could do no more, methinks you could not do less, than cry, "O God! help him to bear the rope to that wrecked ship." Pray for the minister and encourage him, for there are plenty to discourage him. There are always carping spirits abroad who will remind him of any fault; he will be afflicted by those dastards who will not dare to sign their names to a letter, but send it to him anonymously; and then there is the devil, who, the moment the man has got out of the pulpit, will say, "There is a poor sermon! You will never dare to preach again." After he has been preaching for weeks there will come a suggestion, "You are not in your proper sphere of labor." There are all sorts of discouragements to be met with. Professing Christians will backslide. Those who do remain will often be inconsistent, and he will be sighing and crying in his closet, while you, perhaps, are thanking God that your souls have been fed under him. Encourage your minister, I pray you, wherever you attend encourage him for your own sake. A discouraged minister is a serious burden upon the congregation. When the fountain gets out of order, you cannot expect to find water at any of the taps; and if the minister be not right, it is something like a steam engine in a great manufactory everybody's loom is idle when the motive-power is out of order. See that he is resting upon God and receiving his divine power, and you will all know, each Sabbath day, the benefit of it. This is the least thing you can do. There are many other things which may cause you expense, effort, time, but to encourage the minister is so easy, so simple a matter, that I may well press upon you to do it.
Perhaps you will say, "Well, if it be so simple and easy, tell us, who are expecting to settle down in this place, how we can encourage the minister here." Well, you can do it in several ways. You can encourage him by very constant attendance. By the way, looking round here, I think I know some of the persons present who belong to neighboring chapels. What business have you here? Why did you leave your own minister? If I see one come into my place from the congregation of another brother in the ministry, I would like just to give him a flea in his ear such as he may never forget. What business have you to leave your minister? If everyone were to do so, how discouraged the poor man would be. Just because somebody happens to come into this neighborhood, you will be leaving your seats. A compliment to me, you say. I thank you for it; but now, in return, let me give you this advice: these who are going from place to place are of no use to anybody; but those are the truly useful men who, when the servants of God are in their places, keep to theirs, and let everybody see that whoever discourages the minister they will not, for they appreciate his ministry.
Again, let me say by often being present at the prayer-meeting you can encourage the minister. You can always tell how a Church is getting on by the prayer-meetings. I will almost prophecy the kind of sermon on the Sabbath, from the sort of prayer-meeting on the Monday. If many come up to the house of God, and they are earnest, the pastor will get a blessing from on high; it cannot but be, for God opens the windows of heaven to believing prayer. Never fail to plead for your pastor in your closet. Oh, dear friends, when you mention a father's name, and a child's name, let the minister's name come forth too. Give him a large share in your heart, and both in private and public prayer, encourage him. Encourage him, again, by letting him know if you have received any good. Oh, if there should come into this house of prayer a sinner needing a Savior, and not knowing the way, and my brother's words shall point him to the Savior's cross; if he should be the means of showing you what faith means, and of leading you to believe in him who hath reconciled us unto God by his death, do not conceal the good news come and tell it. The best way to do it will be by proposing to be united with the Church in fellowship. Our Church meeting-nights, when we receive fresh candidates into fellowship, are the harvest nights in the Christian ministry. Then we see how God's cause prospers in our hand. But if many in the Church who have been converted fail to let the minister know it, and hold back, how is the poor man to be comforted? I know I address some here God's people who have never made a profession. Suppose all God's people did as you do and they have as much right to do it as you have how, I ask you, would the ministry itself be maintained? How could ministers' hearts be kept from breaking, if they never knew of any conversion? Make haste. Do not put it off. Delay not to keep God's commandments, but come forward at once, and acknowledge what God has done for your soul.
Again, you can all encourage the minister by the consistency of your lives. I do not know when I ever felt more gratified than on one occasion, when sitting at a Church meeting, having to report the death of a young brother who was in the service of an eminent employer, a little note came from him to say, "My servant, Edward is dead. I send you word at once, that you may send me another young man; for if your members are such as he was, I never wish to have better servants around me." I read the letter at the Church meeting, and another was soon found. It is a cheering thing for the Christian minister to know that his converts are held in repute. Of another member of my Church an ungodly employer said, "I do not think anything of him; he is of no use to anybody; he cannot tell a lie!" Oh, that is the honor which a Christian minister longs and pants after, to have consistent followers, to have those listening to him who will adorn the doctrine of God our Savior.
Gather round my brother, all of you, and encourage him, by earnestly aiding and abetting him in every good word and work. There is a neighbourbood here, I am told, requiring evangelization. Here we have, side-by-side, poverty and riches. Shall not yonder wretched potteries be the better for the building of this house of prayer. I am sure my friend Sir Morton Peto would think he had wasted his money, if it were merely for the gathering of a congregation, and not for improving the neighborhood. We build our houses of prayer always with a view to the people round about. We believe it is like opening a well in the wilderness, or a caravansary or oasis in the desert, or placing a drinking-fountain where thirsty souls may drink. It is introducing a new physician into the neighborhood to attend to the diseases and sickness of souls. Oh, how my heart yearns after the success of this house not only because the minister is my brother, but because he is a valiant soldier of Christ. To preach the truth he has not hesitated to make himself a multitude of enemies elsewhere, and will not be ashamed to do the same here, if the same case should occur. I honor him, because he has honored my Master; and I expect that you will get from him the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth so far as God has taught it to him. I know he is ready to lay down his own neck for the conversion of souls. I know his earnestness to do anything for the conversion of sinners. And if you do not encourage him, you will bring down upon your head every curse of those who reject the prophet of God, but encouraging him, you will see a Church flocking around him which shall last long after our time, which shall be a perennial stream of benediction to ages yet unborn, until Christ himself shall come and consummate the kingdom, by reigning himself in person among the sons of men. May the Lord grant his blessing!
Some of you cannot encourage the minister. You can encourage no one, for you are not born again yourselves. Oh, if you have not passed from death unto life, the first thing that can encourage him is to begin to think about your own state. Where are you? What are you? Out of God, out of Christ, out of safety? You will be out of life and out of heaven shut in the pit for ever, except you repent. Oh, you will encourage the preacher, if the Lord lead you to consider your ways and turn from sin and from self-righteousness too, and look to the Almighty Savior, able to save unto the uttermost all among you who shall trust him. May the Lord add a blessing, for Christ's sake. Amen.
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Spurgeon, Charle Haddon. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 1". "Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 15 / Ordinary 20