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Bible Commentaries

Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible

Genesis 49

Verse 4

Instability

October 11, 1857 by C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892)

"Unstable as water, thou shalt not excel." Genesis 49:4 .

Perfect Stability has ceased from the world since the day when Adam fell. He was stable enough when in the garden he was obedient to his Master's will, but when he ate of the forbidden fruit he did not only slide himself, but he shook the standing places of all his posterity. Perfect stability belongs alone to God he alone, of all beings, is without variableness or shadow of a turning. He is immutable, he will not change. He is all-wise, he need not change. He is perfect; he cannot change. But men, the best of them are mutable, and therefore to a degree, they are unstable, and do not excel. Yet it is remarkable that, although man has lost perfect stability, he has not lost the admiration of it. Perhaps there is no virtue, or, rather, no compound of virtues, which the world more esteems than stability of mind. You will find that, although men have often misplaced their praise, and have called those great who were not great, morally, but were far below the level of morality, yet they have scarcely ever called a man great who has not been consistent, who has not had strength of mind enough to be stable in his principles. I know not how it is, but so it is, whenever a man is firm and consistent, we always admire him for it. Though we feel certain that he is wrong, yet his consistency in his wrong still excites our admiration. We have known men whom we have thought to be insane, they have conceived a design so ridiculous that we could only laugh at them, and despise their idea; but they have stuck to it, and we have said, "Well, there is nothing like a man standing to a thing," and we have admired even the senseless, brainless idiot, as we have thought him, when we have seen him pertinaciously insisting that his idea would at last triumph, and persevering in futile endeavors to realize his wish. The weathercock man is never admired, as a politician or as anything else he will never succeed; he must be one thing or another, or the world will never respect him. Now, my brethren, if it be so in earthly things, it is so also in spiritual. Instability in religion is a thing which every man despises, although every man has, to a degree, the evil in himself, but stability in the firm profession and practice of godliness, will always win respect, even from the worldly, and certainly will not be forgotten by him whose smile is honor and whose praise is glory, even the great Lord and Master, before whom we stand or fall. I have many characters here to-day whom I desire to address in the words of my text. "Unstable as water, thou shalt not excel." I propose, first, briefly to notice, the common and unavoidable instabilities which necessarily attach themselves to the best of Christians. I shall then note the character of a Christian who is noted for glaring instability, but who, notwithstanding, has sufficient of godliness to bid us hope that he is a child of God, I shall then have to do with the mere professor, who is "unstable as water," and cannot excel in any way whatever; and then I must deal with the unstable sinner who, in any pretensions he may ever make to better feelings, is always like the early cloud and the morning dew. I. First, then, to ALL Christians, permit me to address myself. Our father Adam, spoilt us all; and, although the second Adam has renewed us, he has not yet removed from us the infirmities, which the first Adam left us as a mournful legacy. We are none of us stable as we should be. We had a notion when we were first converted, that we should never know a change; our soul was so full of love that we could not imagine it possible we should ever flag in our devotion; our faith was so strong in our Incarnate Master, that we smiled at older Christians who talked of doubts and fears; our faces were so stedfastly set Zionward that we never imagined Bye-path Meadow would ever be trodden by our feet. We felt sure that our course would certainly be "like the shining light, which shineth more and more unto the perfect day." But, my brethren, have we found it so? Have we not this day to lament that we have been very changeable and inconstant, even unstable as water? How unstable have we been in our frames? To-day we have climbed the top of Pisgah, and have viewed the heavenly landscape over by the eye of faith; to-morrow we have been plunged in the dungeon of despair, and could not call a grain of hope our own; to-day we have feasted at the banquetting table of communion; to-morrow we have been exclaiming, "Oh! that I knew where I might find him, that I might come even unto his feet." At night I have said, "I will not let thee go except thou bless me," to-morrow has beheld my grasp loosened, and prayer neglected until God has said "I will return unto my rest, until thou hast acknowledged thy transgressions, which thou hast committed against me." High frames one day, low frames the next We have had more changes than even this variable climate of ours. It is a great mercy for us that frames and slings are not always the index of our security, for we are as safe when we are mourning as we are when we are singing; but verily, if our true state before God had changed as often as our experience of his presence, we must have been cast into the bottomless pit years ago. And how variable have we been in our faith! In the midst of one trouble we have declared, "though he slay me, yet will I trust in him." We have courted the jeer, we have laughed at the scorn of the world, and have stood like rocks in the midst of foaming billows, when all men were against us; another week has seen us flying away, after denying our Master, because, like Peter, we were afraid of some little maid, or of our own shadow. After coming out of a great trouble, we have resolutely declared "I can never doubt God again," but the next cloud that has swept the sky, has darkened all our faith. We have been variable in our faith. And have you not also, at times, my friends, felt variable in your love? Sweet Master, King of heaven, fairest of a thousand fairs! my heart is knit to thee my soul melteth at the mention of thy name; my heart bubbleth up with a good matter, when I speak of the things which I have made touching the King.

The strings that bind around my heart, Tortures and racks may tear them off; But they can never, never part, The hold I have of Christ, my love."

Sure, I could die for thee, and think it better than to live, if so I might honor thee. This is the sweet manner of our spirit when our love is burning and fervent: but anon we neglect the fire, it becomes dim, and we have to rake among the ashes even for a spark, crying,

"'Tis a point I long to know, Oft it causes anxious thought, Do I love the Lord or no? Am I his, or am I not?"

How unstable we are! At one time we are quite certain we are the Lord's. though an angel from heaven should deny our election, or our adoption, we would reply that we have the witness of the Spirit that we are born of God, but perhaps within two minutes we shall not be able to say that we ever had one spiritual feeling. We shall perhaps think that we never repented aright, never fled to Christ aright, and did never believe to the saving of the soul. Oh! it is no wonder that we do not excel, when we are such unstable creatures. Alas! my brethren I might enlarge on the inconsistencies of the mass of Christians. How unfaithful we have been to our dedication vows! how negligent of close communion! How unlike we have been to holy Enoch! how much more like Peter, when he followed afar off! I might tell how one day, like the mariner, we mounted up to heaven, and how the next moment we have gone to the lowest depths when the waves of God's grace have ceased to lift us up. I wonder at David, at Jacob, and at every instance we have in Scripture of excellent men. Marvel! O ye angels, that God should ever make such bright stars out of such black blots as we are. How can it ever be that man, so fickle, so inconstant, should nevertheless be a pillar in the house of his God, and should be made to stand "steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord!" How is it, O our God, that thou couldst have steered a vessel so safely to its port which was so easily driven by every wind and carried away by every wave! He is a good marksman who an shoot so crooked an arrow straight to its target. Marvel not that we do not excel marvel that we do excel in anything unstable as we are. II. And now leaving these general remarks I have to single out a certain class of persons. I believe them to be TRUE CHRISTIANS but they are Christians of a singular sort. I would not be so harsh as to condemn them, though I must certainly condemn the error with which I am about to find fault. I doubt not that they have been converted in a genuine manner, but still they are often a mystery to me, and I should think they are a mystery to themselves. How many Christians have we in our churches that are unstable as water! I suppose they were born so. They are just as unstable in business as they are in religion; they open a grocer's shop, and shut it in three months, and turn drapers, and when they have been drapers long enough to become almost bankrupts, they leave that and try something else. When they were boys they could never play a game through, they must always be having something fresh, and now they are just as childish as when they were children. Look at them in doctrine: you never know where to find them. You meet them one day, and they are very full of some super-lapsarian doctrine, they have been to some strong Calvinist place, and nothing will suit them except the very highest doctrine and that must be spiced with a little of the gall of bitterness, or they cannot think it is the genuine thing. Very likely next week they will be Arminians; they will give up all idea of a fixed fate, and talk of free-will, and man's responsibility like the most earnest Primitive Methodist. Then they steer another way. "Nothing is right but the Church of England. Is it not established by law? Ought not every Christian to go to his parish church?" Ah! ah, Let them alone, they will be at the most gross schismatical shop in the metropolis before long. Or if they do not change their denomination they are always changing their minister. A new minister starts up; there is no one, since the apostles, like him; they take a seat and join the church; he is everything to them. In three months they have done with him, another minister rises up some distance off, and these people are not particular how far they walk; so they go to hear him. He is the great man of the age; he will see every man's candle out, and his will burn on. But a little trouble comes on the church, and they leave him. They have no attachment to anything; they are merely feathers in the wind or corks on the wave. They hear a sermon preached, and they say, "I think it did me good" but they do not venture to be sure till they speak to some great man who is a member of the church, and he says "Oh! there was nothing in it." "Ah! just so," they say, and cannot make up their minds whether it was a good sermon or not. They are unstable; they could easily be talked into anything or out of anything, they never had any brains in their head, I suppose, or if they ever had any they gave them to somebody else to muddle as he liked. They believe the last man they hear, and are easily guided and led by him. Now, if the matter ended there it would not be so bad; but these poor people are just the same with regard to any religious enterprise they take in hand. There is a Sunday-school, they are enchanted with the thought. What a lovely thing it must be to sit on a form and try to teach half-a-dozen boys the way to heaven. They go to the Sunday-school and are alarmed the very first day, when they hear all the boys talking louder than the teachers. After about ten minutes they think it is not quite so nice as they thought. Perhaps they think it is that particular school they do not like, and they try another, and at last they give up all Sunday-school teaching, and make up their minds that it is not a good thing, at least not for them. Then there is a Ragged-school. What a divine enterprise! They will be Ragged-school teachers, and off they go with their hearts full of fire, and their eyes full of tears over these poor ragged-school children they are going to teach. Ah! how soon is their zeal withered and all their glory departed! Hear them talk about Ragged-schools a month afterwards: they shake their heads and say it is a very arduous enterprise. They do not think they had a call to it, they will try something else, and so they keep on to the end of the chapter, they are "everything by turns, and nothing long." There are some brethren in the ministry very much of the same sort. They never preach in one pulpit long, (though some say they preach there too long, for they ought never to have preached there at all) but I sometimes think that if they had had a little more courage, and bore a little more of the brunt of the battle, they might have done good to some of the villages where they were placed. But they are unstable as water, and everybody sees that they cannot excel. The same instability men will carry out in their friendships; they meet a person one day, and are as friendly as possible with him; they meet him the next day, he does not know what he has done to offend them, but they turn their head another way. And some carry their instability a little farther, they carry it into their moral character. I shall not deny their Christianity, but they are a queer sort of Christians. For these people will sometimes, at least, stretch the cords of godliness a little too far, and though they certainly do act in the main conscientiously, yet their conscience is a large one, and it admits a great many things which tender-hearted people would think were wrong. We cannot find out any crime for which we could excommunicate them, yet in our hearts we often say, "Dear me! what a sad disgrace so-and-so is to the cause; we could do far better without him than with him, for he casts such a slur on the name of Christ." Now, do not think I am drawing a fancy picture. I beg to inform you I am not; there are persons here who are furnishing me with the model; and if they choose to think me personal I shall be obliged to them, for I intend to be. These persons are to be found in all churches and among all denominations. You have met them everywhere. They are as unstable as water; they do not excel. Now, let me address these persons very earnestly. My brother, I would be far from dealing in a censorious manner with thee, for I am inclined to think that thine instability is a little owing to some latent insanity. We are no doubt all of us insane to a degree; there is some little thing in us, which if we saw in another we should regard as being a little madness. I would therefore, my brother, deal very leniently with you, but at the same time let me very solemnly address you as a Christian minister speaking to a professedly Christian man. My brother, how much moral weight you lose in the church, and in the world by your perpetual instability. No one ever attaches any importance to your opinion, because your opinion has no importance in it, seeing that you yourself will contradict it in a very short time. You see many persons growing up in the church who have an influence over their neighbor for good; you sometimes wish that you too could strengthen the young convert, or reclaim and guide the wanderer. My brother you cannot do it, because of your inconsistency. Now is it not a fearful thing that you should be throwing away the whole force and weight of your character, simply because of this insane habit of yours of being always unstable? I beseech thee, my brother, recollect that thou art responsible to God for thine influence; and if thou canst have influence and dost not get it thou art as sinful as if, having influence, thou hadst misused it. Do not, I beseech thee, suffer this instability to continue, lest thou shouldst become like the chaff which the wind driveth away of no account to the world at all. Remember, my brother, how your instability ruins your usefulness. You never continue long enough in an enterprise to do good. What would you think of the farmer who should farm just long enough to plough his ground and sow his wheat, but not long enough to get a harvest? You would think him foolish; but just so foolish are you. You begin time enough to be overworked before you have well commenced. My brother, review your history, what have you done? You have made hundreds of futile attempts to do something, but a list of failures must be the only record of your labors. What do you think will be your distress of mind when you come to die, when you look back upon your life, and see it all the way through, a host of blunders? Do you not think it will stuff the pillow of your dying bed with thorns, to think that you were so wayward in disposition, so unstable in heart, that you were unable to accomplish anything for your Master, so that when you lay your crown at his feet you will have to say, "There is my crown, my Master but it has not a solitary star in it for I never worked long enough for thee in any enterprise to win a soul; I only did enough to fail and to be laughed at by all." And I would have thee think also, my brother, how canst thou be a growing Christian, and yet be so changeable as thou art? If a gardener should plant a tree to day, and take it up in the course of a month, and transfer it to another place, what crop would he have when autumn came? He would not have much to repay his toil. The continual changing of the tree would put it into such a weakly condition, that if it did not actually die, it would certainly produce nothing. And how can you expect to grow in knowledge when you have no steadfast principle? The man who espouses one form of doctrine, and does it honestly, will, though it be a mistaken form, at least understand it, but you do not know enough of Calvinism to defend it from its opponents, or enough of Arminianism to defend it from the Calvinists. You are not wise in anything, you are a rolling stone, you gather no moss. You stay in one school only long enough to read through the curriculum, but you learn nothing. You are smiling I see. And yet some of those who smiled are just the men we smile at. They are here. But alas! I have noticed one sad thing respecting these people, they are generally the most conceited in all the world; they are excellent men they think; they are at home everywhere. If they are in error they know they can get right to-morrow, and then if some one else will again convince them they are in error, they know no difference between error and truth, except the difference which other people like to point out to them. O ye unstable Christians, hear ye the word of the Lord! "Unstable as water thou shalt not excel." Your life shall have little of the cream of happiness upon it: you shall not walk in the midst of the king's highway, in which no lion shall be found, but you shall walk on the edge of the way, where you shall encounter every danger, feel every hardship and endure every ill. You shall have enough of God's comfort to keep you alive, but not enough to give you joy in your spirit and consolation in your heart. Oh, I beseech you ponder a little. Study the Word more, know what is right, and defend what is right. Study the Law more, know what is right, and do what is right. Study God's will more, know what be would have you do, and then do it. For an unstable Christian never can excel. III. But now there is another class of persons whom we dare not, in the spirit of the widest charity admit to be true Christians. They are PROFESSORS they have been baptized, they receive the Lord's Supper, they attend prayer meetings church meetings, and everything else that belongs to the order of Christians with which they are connected. They are never behindhand in religious performances; they are the most devout hypocrites, they are the most pious formalists that could be discovered, range the wide world o'er. Their religion on the Sabbath day is of the most superfine order; their godliness when they are in their pews cannot be exceeded. They sing with the most eloquent praise, they pray the longest and most hypocritical prayer that man could utter; they are just up to the mark in every religious point of view, except on the point which looks to the heart As far as the externals of godliness go there is nothing to be desired. They tithe the anise, the mint, and the cummin; they fast twice in the week; or if they do not fast, they are quite as religious in not fasting, and are just as godly in not doing it, as if they did it. But these people are unstable as water, in the worst sense; for whilst they sing Watts's hymns on Sunday, they sing other songs on Monday, and whilst they drink sacramental cups on Sabbath evenings, there are other cups of which they drink too deep on other nights; and though they pray most marvellously, there is a pun on that word pray, and they know how to exercise it upon their customers in business. They have a great affection for everything that is pious and devout; but alas! like Balaam, they take the reward of wickedness, and they perish in the gainsaying of Core. "These are spots in your feasts of charity, when they feast with you, feeding themselves without fear: clouds they are without water, carried about of winds; trees whose fruit withereth, without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots. Raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame; wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever." They bring a disgrace upon the cause which they profess: not the vilest profane swearer brings more dishonor on God's holy name than they do. They can find fault with everything in the church, whilst they commit all manner of wickedness, and are, as the apostle said, even weeping "enemies of the cross of Christ, for their God is their belly, and they glory in their shame." O hypocrite, thou thinkest that thou shalt excel, because the minister has been duped, and gives thee credit for a deep experience, because the deacons have been entrapped and think thee to be eminently godly, because the church members receive thee to their houses, and think thee a dear child of God too! Poor soul! mayhap thou mayest go to thy grave with the delusion in thy brain that all is right with thee; but remember, though like a sheep thou art laid in thy grave, Death will find thee out. He will say to thee, Off with thy mask, man! away with all thy robes! Up with that whitewashed sepulcher! Take off that green turf; let the worms be seen. Out with the body; let us see the reeking corruption! and what wilt thou say when thine abominably corrupt and filthy heart shall be opened before the sun, and men and angels hear thy lies and hypocrisies laid bare before them? Wilt thou play the hypocrite then? Soul, come and sing God's praises in the day of judgment with false lip! Tell him now, while a widow's house is in your throat, tell him that you love him! Come, now, thou that devourest the fatherless, thou that robbest, thou that dost uncleanness! tell him now that thou didst make thy boast in the Lord! tell him that thou didst preach his word, tell him that thou didst walk in his streets! tell him thou didst make it known that thou wert one of the excellent of the earth! What! man, is thy babbling tongue silent for once? What is the matter with thee? Thou wast never slow to talk of thy godliness. Speak out, and say "I took the sacramental cup; I was a professor." Oh how changed! The whitewashed sepulcher has become white in another sense, he is white with horror. See now; the talkative has become dumb; the boaster is silent; the formalist's garb is rent to rags, the moth has devoured their beauty; their gold has become tarnished, and their silver cankered. Ah! it must be so with every man who has thus belied God and his own conscience. The stripping day of judgment will reveal him to God and to himself. And how awful shall be the damnation of the hypocrite! If I knew that I must be damned, one of my prayers should be, "Lord, let me not be damned with hypocrites," for surely to be damned with them is to be damned twice over. Conceive of a hypocrite going into hell. You know how one of the prophets depicted the advent of a great monarch into hell, when all the kings that had been his slaves rose up and said, "Art thou become like one of us?" Do you not think you see the godly Christian deacon, so godly that he was a liar all his life? Do you not think you see the eminent Christian member that kept a bank, took the chair at public meetings, swindled all he could, and died in despair? Do you not think you see him coming into the pit? There is one man there that was a drunkard all his life. Hear his speech, "Ah! you were a sober man! you used to talk to me, and tell me that drunkards could not inherit the kingdom of heaven. Aha! and art thou become like one of us?" Says another, "About a month ago, when we were on earth, you met me and rebuked me for profane swearing, and told me that all swearers should have their portion in the lake. Ah! there is not much to choose between thee and me now, is there?" And the profane man laughs as well as he can laugh in misery at his desperately religious adviser. "Oh!" says another and they look round at one another with demoniac mirth; as much mockery of joy as hell can afford "The parson here? Now preach us a sermon; now pray us a long prayer! Plenty of time to do it in!" "No!" says another, "there is no widow's house to eat, here, and he only prayed on the strength of the widow's house." This is a hard scene for me to describe; but I doubt not of its truthfulness. It may be given to you in rough language, but it needs far rougher to make you know the dread reality. And what a solemn thought it is! there is not one man nor one woman in this place who has not need to ask, "Is it so with me?" Many have been deceived I may be you may be, my hearer. "I am not deceived," says one, "I am a minister." My brethren, there are many of us who are preachers who are like Noah's carpenters; we may help to build an ark, and never get in it ourselves. Says another, "I shall not endure such language as that; I am a deacon." You may be all that, and yet, after having ministered, instead of earning to yourself a good degree, you may be cast from the presence of God. "No," says another, "but I have been a Christian professor these last forty years, and nobody has found fault with me." Ah! I have known many A rotten bough to have stopped on a tree forty years, and you may be rotten and yet stand all that time; but the winds of judgment will crack you at last, and down you will fall. "Nay," says another. "I know I am not insincere I am sure I am right." I am glad that you think so, but I would not like you to say it. "Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall." There have been many great bubbles that have burst ere this, and your piety may be one of them. "Let not him that putteth on the harness boast as though he put it off." It will be time enough for you to be quite sure when you are quite safe. Yet blessed be God, we hope we can say, "O Lord, if not awfully deceived we have given our hearts to thee! Lord thou knowest all things; thou knowest that we love thee, and if we do not, Lord thou knowest we pray this prayer from our hearts: 'Search me, O God, and try my ways, prove me and know my heart, and see if there be any evil way in me and lead me in the way everlasting.'" May God the Holy Spirit strengthen and settle each of us. IV. And now I have the last word to address to those who MAKE NO PRETENSION TO RELIGION whatever. I have heard hundreds of persons in my short life excuse their sin by saying, "Well, I make no profession," and I have always thought it one of the strangest excuses, one of the most wild vagaries of apology to which the human mind could ever make resort. Take an illustration, which I have used before. To-morrow morning, when the Lord Mayor is sitting, there are two men brought up before him for robbery. One of them says he is not guilty, he declares that he is a good character, and he is an honest man in general though he was guilty in this case. He is punished. The other one says, "Well, your worship, I make no profession; I'm a down right thorough thief, and I don't make any profession of being honest at all." Why you can suppose how much more severe the sentence would be upon such a man. Now, when you say I do not make any profession of being religious, what does that mean? It means that you are a despiser of God and of God's law; it means that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity. You that boast of making no profession of religion, you are boasting you know not what of. You would think it a strange thing for a man to boast that he made no profession of being a gentleman, or no profession of being honest, or no profession of being sober, or no profession of being chaste. You would shun a man who did this, at once. And you who make no pretensions to religion, just make your trial the more easy for there will be no need for any dispute concerning you. When the scales of justice are lifted up at last you will be found to be light weight, and that upon your own confession. I cannot imagine you urging such a plea as that when God shall judge you. "My Lord, I made no profession." "What" saith the King, "did my subject make no profession of obedience?" "O Lord, I made no profession." "What!" saith the Creator, "make no profession of acknowledging my rights?" "I made no profession of religion." "What!" saith the Judge, "did I send my Son into the world to die, and did this man make no profession of casting his soul upon him? What! did he make no profession of his need of mercy? Then he shall have none. Does he dare tell me to my face that he never made any profession of faith in Christ, and never had anything to do with the Savior? Then insomuch as he despised my Son, and despised his cross, and rejected his salvation, let him die the death;" and what that death is with its everlasting wailings and gnashing of teeth, eternity alone can tell. O sinner! thou hast some part and lot in my text Thou art "unstable as water." Let me remind thee that though thou makest no profession of religion now, there was a time when thou didst. Strong man! you are laughing now: I repeat it, there was a time when you did talk about religion; it is not quite gone from your memory yet. You lay sick with fever for six weeks: do you recollect when the delirium came on, and they all thought that you must die? Do you recollect when your poor brain was right for a moment how you asked the physician whether there was any hope for you, and he would not exactly say "NO," but he looked so blank at you, that you understood what it meant? Do you recollect the agony with which you looked forward to death? Do you recollect how you groaned in your spirit, and said, "O God, have mercy upon me?" Do you recollect that you got a little better, and you told your friends that if you lived you would serve God? "Oh! it is all over now," you say, you were a fool! Yes, you were a fool, that is true, you were a fool, to have said what you did not mean and to have lied before God. You do not profess religion! But you remember the last time the terrific thunder and lightning came. You were out in the storm. A flash came very near you. You are a bold man, but not so bold as you pretend to be. You shook from head to foot, and when the thunder clap succeeded, you were almost down on your knees, and before you knew it you were in prayer. "Please God I get home to-night," you said, "I shall not take his name in vain again!" But you have done it. You are unstable as water. You went sometime ago to a church or a chapel I mind not which: the minister told you plainly where you were going. You stood there and trembled; tears ran down your cheeks, you did not knock your wife about that Sunday, you were a greet deal more sober that week, and when your companion said you looked squeamish, you denied it, and said you had no such thoughts as he imagined. "Unstable as water." Oh! and there are some of you worse than that still: for not once, nor twice, but scores of times you have been driven under a faithful minister, to the very verge of what you thought repentance, and then, just when something said in your heart, "This is a turning point," you have started back, you have chosen the wages of unrighteousness, and have again wandered into the world. Soul! my heart yearns for thee! "Unstable as water thou shalt not excel." No, but I pray the Lord to work in thee something that will be stable; for we all believe and what I say is not a matter of fiction, but a thing that you believe in your own hearts to be true we all believe that we must stand before the judgment bar of God, and ere long give account of the things done in the body, whether they be good or whether they be evil. Friend, what account wilt thou give of thy broken vows, of thy perjured soul? What wilt thou have to say why judgment should not be pronounced against thee? Ah! sinner, you will want Christ then! What would you give then for one drop of his blood? "Oh! for the hem of his garment! Oh, that I might but look to him and be lightened. Oh, would to God that I might hear the gospel once again!" I hear you wailing, when God has said, "Depart ye cursed!" And this is the burden of your song "Fool that I was, to have despised Jesus, who was my only hope, to have broken my promise, and gone back to the poor vain world that deluded me, after all!" And now I hear him say "I called, but ye refused, I stretched out my hand, but no man regarded; now I will laugh at your calamity, and mock when your fear cometh." I always think those two last sentences the most awful in the Bible. "I will laugh at your calamity." The laugh of the Almighty over men that have rebelled against him, that have despised him, and trodden his gospel underfoot! "I also will laugh at your calamity I will mock when your fear cometh." Rail at that if you like, it is sure, sirs. Remember that all your kicking at God's laughter will not make him leave it off; remember that all your rebellious speeches against him shall be avenged in that day, unless ye repent, and that speak as ye will against him your blasphemy cannot quench the flames of hell, nor will your jeers slay the sword of vengeance: fall it must, and it will fall on you all the more heavily because you did despise it. Hear the gospel, and then farewell. Jesus Christ the eternal Son of God was born of the Virgin Mary and became a man, he lived on earth a life of holiness and suffering; at last he was nailed to the cross, and in deep woe he died. He was buried; he rose again from the deed, he ascended into heaven. And now God "commandeth all men everywhere to repent;" and he telleth them this "Whosoever believeth on the Son of God shall not perish, but have eternal life." And this is his gospel. If you this day feel yourself to be a sinner, if that be a feeling wrought in you by the Holy Spirit and not a casual thought flashing across the soul, then Christ was punished for your sins; and you cannot be punished; for God will not punish twice for one offense. Believe in Christ; cast your soul on the atonement that he made; and although black as hell in sin, you may this day find yourself, through the efficacious blood of Christ, whiter than the snow. The Lord help thee, poor soul, to believe that the Man who died on Calvary was God, and that he took the sin of all believers upon himself that thou, being a sinner and a believer, he has taken thy sins, and that therefore thou art free. Thus believe, and by faith thou wilt have peace with God through Jesus Christ our Lord, by whom also we have received the atonement.

Verses 23-24

Joseph Attacked by the Archers

A Sermon

(No. 17)

Delivered on Sunday Morning, April 1, 1855, by the

REV. C. H. Spurgeon

At Exeter Hall, Strand

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"The archers have sorely grieved him, and shot at him, and hated him; but his bow abode in strength; and the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob; from thence is the shepherd, the stone of Israel." Genesis 49:23 ,Genesis 49:24 .

It must have been a fine sight to see the hoary-headed Jacob sitting up in his bed whilst he bestowed his parting benediction upon his twelve sons. He had been noble in many instances during his life at the sleeping place of Bethel, the brook of Jabbok, and the halting of Peniel. He had been a glorious old man; one before whom we might bow down with reverence, and truly say, "There were giants in those days." But his closing scene was the best. I think if ever he stood out more illustrious than at any other time, if his head was at any one season more than another, encircled with a halo of glory, it was when he came to die. Like the sun at setting, he seemed then to be the greater in brilliance, tinging the clouds of his weakness with the glory of grace within. Like good wine, which runs clear to the very bottom, unalloyed by dregs, so did Jacob till his dying hour continue to sing of love, of mercy, and of goodness, past and future. Like the swan, which (as old writers say) singeth not all its life until it comes to die, so the old patriarch remained silent as a songster for many years; but when he stretched himself on his last couch of rest, he stayed himself up in his bed, turned his burning eye from one to another, and although with a hoarse and faltering voice, he sang a sonnet upon each of his offspring, such as earthly poets, uninspired, cannot attempt to imitate. Looking upon his son Reuben, a tear was in his eye, for he recollected Reuben's sin; he passed over Simeon and Levi, giving some slight rebuke; upon the others he sung a verse of praise, as his eyes saw into the future history of the tribes. By-and-by his voice failed him, and the good old man, with long-drawn breath, with eyes pregnant with celestial fire, and heart big with heaven, lifted his voice to God, and said, "I have waited for thy salvation, O God," rested a moment on his pillow, and then again sitting up, recommenced the strain, passing briefly by the names of each. But oh! when he came to Joseph, his youngest son but one when he looked on him, I picture that old man as the tears ran down his cheeks. There stood Joseph, with all his mother Rachel in his eyes that dear loved wife of his there he stood, the boy for whom that mother had prayed with all the eagerness of an Eastern wife. For a long twenty years she had tarried a barren woman and kept no house, but then she was a joyful mother, and she called her son "Increase." Oh! how she loved the boy; and for that mother's sake, though she had been buried for some years, and hidden under the cold sod, old Jacob loved him too. But more than that, he loved him for his troubles. He was parted from him to be sold into Egypt. His father recollected Joseph's trials in the round-house and the dungeon, and remembered his royal dignity as prince of Egypt; and now, with a full burst of harmony, as if the music of heaven had united with his own, as when the widened river meets the sea, and the tide coming up doth amalgamate with the stream that cometh down, and swelleth into a broad expanse, so did the glory of heaven meet the rapture of his earthly feelings, and giving vent to his soul, he sung, "Joseph is a fruitful bough, even a fruitful bough by a well; whose branches run over the wall; the archers have sorely grieved him, and shot at him, and hated him; but his bow abode in strength, and the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob; (from thence is the shepherd, the stone of Israel); even by the God of thy father, who shall help thee; and by the Almighty, who shall bless thee with blessings of heaven above, blessings of the deep that lieth under, blessings of the breasts, and of the womb; the blessings of thy father have prevailed above the blessings of my progenitors, unto the utmost bound of the everlasting hills; they shall be on the head of Joseph, and on the crown of the head of him that was separate from his brethren." What a splendid stanza with which to close! He has only one more blessing to give; but surely this was the richest which he conferred on Joseph.

Joseph is dead, but the Lord has his Josephs now. There are some still who understand by experience and that is the best kind of understanding the meaning of this passage, "The archers have sorely grieved him, and shot at him, and hated him; but his bow abode in strength, and the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob."

There are four things for us to consider this morning. First of all, the cruel attack "the archers have sorely grieved him, and shot at him, and hated him;" secondly, the shielded warrior "but his bow abode in strength;" thirdly, his secret strength "the arms of his hands were made strong by the mighty power of the God of Jacob;" and fourthly, the glorious parallel drawn between Joseph and Christ "from thence is the shepherd, the stone of Israel."

I. First, then, we commence with THE CRUEL ATTACK. "The archers have sorely grieved him." Joseph's enemies were archers. The original has it, "masters of the arrows;" that is, men who were well skilled in the use of the arrows. Though all weapons are alike approved by the warrior in his thirst for blood, there seems something more cowardly in the attack of the archer than in that of the swordsman. The swordsman plants himself near you, foot to foot, and lets you defend yourself, and deal your blows against him; but the archer stands at a distance, hides himself in ambuscade, and, without you knowing it, the arrow comes whizzing through the air, and perhaps penetrates your heart. Just so are the enemies of God's people. They very seldom come foot to foot with us; they will not show their faces before us; they hate the light, they love darkness; they dare not come and openly accuse us to our face, for then we could reply; but they shoot the bow from a distance, so that we cannot answer them; cowardly and dastardly as they are, they forge their arrow-heads, and aim them, winged with hell-birds feathers, at the hearts of God's people. The archers sorely grieved poor Joseph. Let us consider who are the archers who so cruelly shot at him. First, there were the archers of envy; secondly, the archers of temptation; and thirdly, the archers of slander and calumny.

1. First, Joseph had to endure the archers of ENVY. When he was a boy, his father loved him. The youth was fair and beautiful; in person he was to be admired; moreover, he had a mind that was gigantic, and an intellect that was lofty; but, best of all, in him dwelt the Spirit of the living God. He was one who talked with God; a youth of piety and prayerfulness; beloved of God, even more than he was by his earthly father. O! how his father loved him! for in his fond affection, he made him a princely coat of many colors, and treated him better than the others a natural but foolish way of showing his fondness. Therefore his brethren hated him. Full often did they jeer at the youthful Joseph, when he retired to his prayers; when he was with them at a distance from his father's house, he was their drudge, their slave; the taunt, the jeer, did often wound his heart, and the young child endured much secret sorrow. On an ill day, as it happened, he was with them at a distance from home, and they thought to slay him; but upon the entreaty of Reuben, they put him into a pit, until, as Providence would have it, the Ishmaelites did pass that way. They then sold him for the price of a slave, stripped him of his coat, and sent him naked, they knew not, and they cared not, whither, so long as he might be out of their way, and no longer provoke their envy and their anger. Oh! the agonies he felt parted from his father, losing his brethren, without a friend, dragged away by cruel man-sellers, chained upon a camel it may be, with fetters on his hands. Those who have borne the gyves and fetters, those who have felt that they were not free men, that they had not liberty, might tell how sorely the archers grieved him when they shot at him the arrows of their envy. He became a slave, sold from his country, dragged from all he loved. Farewell to home and all its pleasures farewell to a father's smiles and tender cares. He must be a slave, and toil where the slave's task-master makes him; he must be stripped in the streets, he must be beaten, he must be scourged, he must be reduced from the man to the animal, from the free man to the slave. Truly the archers sorely shot at him. And, my brethren, do you hope, if you are the Lord's Josephs, that you shall escape envy? I tell you, nay; that green-eyed monster, envy, lives in London as well as elsewhere, and he creeps into God's church, moreover. Oh! it is hardest of all, to be envied by one's brethren. If the devil hates us, we can bear it; if the foes of God's truth speak ill of us, we buckle up our harness, and say, "Away, away, to the conflict." But when the friends within the house slander us; when brethren who should uphold us, turn our foes; and when they try to tread down their younger brethren; then, sirs, there is some meaning in the passage, "The archers have sorely grieved him, and shot at him, and hated him." But, blessed be God's name, it is sweet to be informed that "his bow abode in strength." None of you can be the people of God without provoking envy; and the better you are, the more you will be hated. The ripest fruit is most pecked by the birds, and the blossoms that have been longest on the tree, are the most easily blown down by the wind. But fear not; you have naught to do with what man shall say of you. If God loves you, man will hate you; if God honors you, man will dishonor you. But recollect, could ye wear chains of iron for Christ's sake, ye should wear chains of gold in heaven; could ye have rings of burning iron round your waists, ye should have your brow rimmed with gold in glory; for blessed are ye when men shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for Christ's name's sake; for so persecuted they the prophets that were before you. The first archers were the archers of envy.

2. But a worse trial than this was to overtake him. The archers of TEMPTATION shot at him. Here I know not how to express myself. I would that some one more qualified to speak were here, that he might tell you the tale of Joseph's trial, and Joseph's triumph. Sold to a master who soon discovered his value, Joseph was made the bailiff of the house, and the manager of the household. His wanton mistress fixed her adulterous love on him; and he, being continually in her presence, was perpetually, day by day, solicited by her to evil deeds. Constantly did he refuse; still enduring a martyrdom at the slow fire of her enticements. On one eventful day she grasped him, seeking to compel him to crime; but he, like a true hero as he was, said to her, "How can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?" Like a wise warrior, he knew that in such a case fleeing was the better part of valor. He heard a voice in his ears: "Fly, Joseph, fly; there remains no way of victory but flight;" and out he fled, leaving his garment with his adulterous mistress. Oh, I say in all the annals of heroism there is not one that shall surpass this. You know it is opportunity that makes a man criminal; and he had abundant opportunity; but importunity will drive most men astray. To be haunted day by day by solicitations of the softest kind to be tempted hour by hour oh! it needs a strength super-angelic, a might more that human, a strength which only God can grant, for a young man thus to cleanse his way, and take heed thereto according to God's word. He might have reasoned within himself, "Should I submit and yield, there lies before me a life of ease and pleasure; I shall be exalted, I shall be rich. She shall prevail over her husband, to cover me with honors; but should I still adhere to my integrity, I shall be cast into prison, I shall be thrown into the dungeon; there awaits me nothing but shame and disgrace." Oh! there was a power indeed within that heart of his; there was an inconceivable might, which made him turn away with unutterable disgust, with fear and trembling, while he said, "How can I? how can I God's Joseph how can I other men might, but how can I do this great wickedness and sin against God." Truly the archers sorely grieved him and shot at him; but his bow abode in strength.

3. Then another host of archers assailed him; these were the archers of MALICIOUS CALUMNY. Seeing that he would not yield to temptation, his mistress falsely accused him to her husband, and his lord, believing the voice of his wife, cast him into prison. It was a marvelous providence that he did not put him to death; for Potiphar, his master, was the chief of the slaughtermen; he had only to call in a soldier, who would have cut him in pieces on the spot. But he cast him into prison. There was poor Joseph. His character ruined in the eyes of man, and very likely looked upon with scorn even in the prison-house; base criminals went away from him as if they thought him viler than themselves, as if they were angels in comparison with him. Oh! it is no easy thing to feel your character gone, to think that you are slandered, that things are said of you that are untrue. Many a man's heart has been broken by this, when nothing else could make him yield. The archers sorely grieved him when he was so maligned so slandered. O child of God, dost thou expect to escape these archers? Wilt thou never be slandered? Shalt thou never be calumniated? It is the lot of God's servants, in proportion to their zeal, to be evil spoken of. Remember the noble Whitefield, how he stood and was the butt of all the jeers and scoffs of half an age; while his only answer was a blameless life.

"And he who forged, and he who threw the dart,

Had each a brother's interest in his heart."

They reviled him and imputed to him crimes that Sodom never knew. So shall it be always with those who preach God's truth, and all the followers of Christ they must all expect it; but, blessed be God, they have not said worse things of us than they said of our Master. What have they laid to our charge? They may have said, "he is drunken and a wine-bibber;" but they have not said, "he hath a devil." They have accused us of being mad, so was it said of Paul. Oh, holy infatuation, heavenly furor, would that we could bite others until they had the same madness. We think, if to go to heaven be mad, we will not choose to be wise; we see no wisdom in preferring hell; we can see no great prudence in despising and hating God's truth. If to serve God be vile, we purpose to be viler still. Ah! friends, some now present know this verse by heart, "The archers have sorely grieved him, and shot at him, and hated him." Expect it; do not think it a strange thing; all God's people must have it. There are no royal roads to heaven they are paths of trial and trouble; the archers will shoot at you as long as you are on this side the flood.

II. We have seen these archers shoot their flights of arrows; we will now go up the hill a little, behind a rock, to look at the SHIELDED WARRIOR and see how his courage is while the archers have sorely grieved him. What is he doing? "His bow abideth in strength." Let us picture God's favorite. The archers are down below. There is a parapet of rock before him; now and then he looks over it to see what the archers are about, but generally he keeps behind. In heavenly security he is set upon a rock, careless of all below. Let us follow the track of the wild goat and behold the warrior in his fastness.

First, we notice that he has a bow himself, for we read that "his bow abode in strength." He could have retaliated if he pleased, but he was very quiet and would not combat with them. Had he pleased, he might have drawn his bow with all his strength, and sent his weapon to their hearts with far greater precision that they had ever done to him. But mark the warrior's quietness. There he rests, stretching his mighty limbs; his bow abode in strength; he seemed to say, "Rage on, aye, let you arrows spend themselves, empty your quivers on me, let your bow-strings be worn out, and let the wood be broken with its constant bending; here am I, stretching myself in safe repose; my bow abides in strength; I have other work to do besides shooting at you; my arrows are against yon foes of God, the enemies of the Most High; I cannot waste an arrow on such pitiful sparrows as you are; ye are birds beneath my noble shot; I would not waste an arrow on you." Thus he remains behind the rock and despises them all. "His bow abideth in strength."

Mark well his quietness. His bow "abideth." It is not rattling, it is not always moving, but it abides, it is quite still; he takes no notice of the attack. The archers sorely grieved Joseph, but his bow was not turned against them, it abode in strength. He turned not his bow on them. He rested while they raged. Doth the moon stay herself to lecture every dog that bayeth at her? Doth the lion turn aside to rend each cur that barketh at him? Do the stars cease to shine because the nightingales reprove them for their dimness? Doth the sun stop in its course because of the officious cloud which veils it: Or doth the river stay because the willow dippeth its leaves into its waters? Ah! no; God's universe moves on, and if men will oppose it, it heeds them not. It is as God hath made it; it is working together for good, and it shall not be stayed by the censure nor moved on by the praise of man. Let your bows, my brethren, abide. Do not be in a hurry to set yourselves right. God will take care of you. Leave yourselves alone; only be very valiant for the Lord God of Israel; be steadfast in the truth of Jesus and your bow shall abide.

But we must not forget the next word. "His bow abode IN STRENGTH." Though his bow was quiet it was not because it was broken. Joseph's bow was like that of William the Conqueror; no man could bend it but Joseph himself; it abode in "strength." I see the warrior bending his bow how with his mighty arms he pulls it down and draws the string to make it ready. His bow abode in strength; it did not snap, it did not start aside. His chastity was his bow, and he did not lose that; his faith was his bow, and that did not yield, it did not break; his courage was his bow, and that did not fail him; his character, his honesty was his bow, nor did he cast it away. Some men are so very particular about reputation. They think, "surely, surely, surely they shall lose their character." Well, well, if we do not lose them through our own fault, we never need care about anybody else. You know there is not a man that stands at all prominent, but what any fool in the world can set afloat some bad tale against him. It is a great deal easier to set a story afloat than to stop it. If you want truth to go round the world you must hire an express train to pull it; but if you want a lie to go round the world, it will fly: it is as light as a feather, and a breath will carry it. It is well said in the old proverb, "A lie will go round the world while truth is pulling its boots on." Nevertheless, it does not injure us; for if light as feather it travels as fast, its effect is just about as tremendous as the effect of down, when it is blown against the walls of a castle; it produces no damage whatever, on account of its lightness and littleness. Fear not, Christian. Let slander fly, let envy send forth its forked tongue, let it hiss at you, your bow shall abide in strength. Oh! shielded warrior, remain quiet, fear no ill; but, like the eagle in its lofty eyrie, look thou down upon the fowlers in the plain, turn thy bold eye upon them and say, "Shoot ye may, but your shots will not reach half-way to the pinnacle where I stand. Waste your powder upon me if ye will; I am beyond your reach." Then clap your wings, mount to heaven, and there laugh them to scorn, for ye have made your refuge God, and shall find a most secure abode.

III. The third thing in our text is THE SECRET STRENGTH. "The arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob." First, notice, concerning his strength, that it was real strength. It says, "the arms of his hands," not his hands only. You know some people can do a great deal with their hands, but then it is often fictitious power; there is no might in the arm there is no muscle; but of Joseph it is said; "the arms of his hands were made strong. It was real potency, true muscle, real sinew, real nerve. It was not simply sleight of hand the power of moving his finger very swiftly but the arms of his hands were made strong. Now that strength which God gives to his Josephs is real strength; it is not a boasted valor, a fiction, a thing of which men talk, an airy dream, an unsubstantial unreality, but it is real strength. I should not like to have a combat with one of God's Josephs. I should find their blows very heavy. I fear a Christian's strokes more than any other man's for he has bone and sinew, and smites hard. Let the foes of the church expect a hard struggle if they attack an heir of life. Mightier than giants are men of the race of heaven; should they once arouse themselves to battle they could laugh at the spear and the habergeon. But they are a patient generation, enduring ills without resenting them suffering scorn without reviling the scoffer. Their triumph is to come when their enemies shall receive the vengeance due; then shall it be seen by an assembled world that the "little flock" were men of high estate, and the "offscouring of all things" were verily men of real strength and dignity.

Even though the world perceive it not, the favored Joseph has real strength, not in his hands only, but in his arms real might, real power. O ye foes of God, ye think God's people are despicable and powerless; but know that they have true strength from the omnipotence of their Father, a might substantial and divine. Your own shall melt away, and droop and die, like the snow upon the low mountain top, when the sun shines upon it, it melteth into water; but our vigor shall abide like the snow on the summit of the Alps, undiminished for ages. It is real strength.

Then observe that the strength of God's Joseph is divine strength. His arms were made strong by God. Why does one of God's ministers preach the gospel powerfully? Because God gives him assistance. Why does Joseph stand against temptation? Because God gives him aid. The strength of a Christian is divine strength. My brethren, I am more and more persuaded every day that the sinner has no power of himself, except that which is given him from above. I know that if I were to stand with my foot upon the golden threshold of heaven's portal, if I could put this thumb upon the latch, I could not open that door, after having gone so far towards heaven, unless I had still supernatural power communicated to me in that moment. If I had a stone to lift, to work my own salvation, without God's help to do that, I must be lost, even though it were so little. There is naught that we can do without the power of God. All true strength is divine. As the light cometh from the sun, as the shower from heaven; so doth spiritual strength come from the Father lights, with whom there is neither variableness nor shadow of a turning.

Again: I would have you notice in the text in what a blessedly familiar way God gives this strength to Joseph. It say, "the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob." Thus it represents God as putting his hands on Joseph's hands, placing his arms on Joseph's arms. In old times, when every boy had to be trained up to archery, if his father were worth so many pounds a year, you might see the father putting his hands on his boy's hands and pulling the bow for him, saying, "there, my son, in this manner draw the bow." So the text represents God as putting his hand on the hand of Joseph, and laying his broad arm along the arm of his chosen child, that he might be made strong. Like as a father teacheth his children; so the Lord teaches them that fear him. He puts his arms upon them. As Elijah laid with his mouth upon the child's mouth, with his hand upon the child's hand, with his foot upon the child's foot, so does "God put his mouth to his children's mouth, his hand to his ministers' hand, his foot to his people's foot; and so he makes us strong. Marvelous condescension! Ye stars of glory, have ye ever witnessed such stoops of love? God Almighty, Eternal, Omnipotent, stoops from his throne and lays his hand upon the child's hand, stretching his arm upon the arm of Joseph, that he may be made strong.

One more thought, and I have done. The strength was covenant strength, for it is said, "The arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob." Now, wherever you read of the God of Jacob in the Bible, you may know that that respects God's covenant with Jacob. Ah! I love to talk about God's everlasting covenant. Some of the Arminians cannot bear it, but I love a covenant salvation a covenant not made with my father, not between me and God, but between Christ and God. Christ made the covenant to pay a price, and God made the covenant that he should have the people. Christ has paid the price and ratified the covenant; and I am quite sure that God will fulfil his part of it, by giving every elect vessel of mercy into the hands of Jesus. But, beloved, all the power, all the grace, all the blessings, all the mercies, all the comforts, all the things we have, we have through the covenant. If there were no covenant; if we could rend the everlasting charter up; if the king of hell could cut it with his knife, as the king of Israel did the roll of Baruck, then we should fail indeed; for we have no strength, except that which is promised in the covenant. Covenant mercies, covenant grace, covenant promises, covenant blessings, covenant help, covenant everything the Christian must receive, if he would enter into heaven.

Now, Christian, the archers have sorely grieved you, and shot at you, and wounded you; but your bow abides in strength, and the arms of your hands are made strong. But do you know, O believer, that you are like your Master in this?

IV. That is our fourth point A GLORIOUS PARALLEL. "From thence is the shepherd, the stone of Israel." Jesus Christ was served just the same; the shepherd, the stone of Israel, passed through similar trials; he was shot at by the archers, he was grieved and wounded, but his bow abode in strength; his arms were made strong by the God of Jacob, and now every blessing rests "upon the crown of the head of him who was separated from his brethren." I shall not detain you long, but I have a few things to tell you; first about Christ as the shepherd, and then about Christ the stone.

Christ came into the world as a shepherd. As soon as he made his appearance, the Scribes and Pharisees said, "Ah! we have been the shepherds until this hour; now we shall be driven from our honors, we shall lose all our dignity, and our authority." Consequently, they always shot at him. As for the people, they were a fickle herd; I believe that many of them respected and admired Christ, though, doubtless, the vast majority hated him, for wherever he went he was a popular preacher; the multitude always thronged him and crowded round him, crying, "Hosanna." I think, if you had walked up to the top of that hill of Calvary, and asked one of those men who cried out, "Crucify him, crucify him," "What do you say that for? Is he a bad man?" "No," he would have said, "he went about doing good." "Then why do you say 'crucify him?'" "Because Rabbi Simeon gave me a shekel to help the clamor." So the multitude were much won by the money and influence of the priests. But they were glad to hear Christ after all. It was the shepherds that hated him, because he took away their traffic, because he turned the buyers and sellers out of the temple, diminished their dignity and ignored their pretensions; therefore, they could not endure him. But the Shepherd of Israel mounted higher and higher; he gathered his sheep, carried the lambs in his bosom; and he now stands acknowledged as the great shepherd of the sheep, who shall gather them into one flock and lead them to heaven. Rowland Hill tells a curious tale, in his "Village Dialogues," about a certain Mr. Tiplash, a very fine intellectual preacher, who, in one of his flights of oratory, said, "O Virtue, thou art so fair and lovely, if thou wert to come down upon earth, all men would love thee," with a few more pretty, beautiful things. Mr. Blunt, and honest preacher, who was in the neighborhood, was asked to preach in the afternoon, and he supplemented the worthy gentleman's remarks, by saying, "O Virtue, thou didst come on earth, in all thy purity and loveliness; but instead of being beloved and admired, the archers sorely shot at thee and grieved thee; they took thee, Virtue, and hung thy quivering limbs upon a cross; when thou didst hang there dying they hissed at thee, they mocked thee, they scorned thee; when thou didst ask for water they gave thee vinegar to drink, mingled with gall; yea, when thou diedst thou hadst a tomb from charity, and that tomb, sealed by enmity and hatred." The Shepherd of Israel was despised, incarnate virtue was hated and abhorred; therefore fear not, Christians, take courage; for if your Master passed through it, surely you must.

To conclude: the text calls Christ the stone of Israel. I have heard a story I cannot tell whether it is true or not out of some of the Jewish rabbis; it is a tale, concerning the text, "The stone which the builders refused, the same is become the headstone of the corner." It is said that when Solomon's temple was building, all the stones were brought from the quarry ready cut and fashioned, and there were to be put. Amongst the stones was a very curious one; it seemed of no describable shape, it appeared unfit for any portion of the building. They tried it at this wall, but it would not fit; they tried it in another, but it could not be accommodated; so, vexed and angry, they threw it away. The temple was so many years building, that this stone became covered with moss, and grass grew around it. Everybody passing by laughed at the stone; they said Solomon was wise, and doubtless all the other stones were right; but as for that block, they might as well send it back to the quarry, for they were quite sure it was meant for nothing. Year after year rolled on, and the poor stone was still despised, the builders constantly refused it. The eventful day came when the temple was to be finished and opened, and the multitude was assembled to see the grand sight. The builders said, "Where is the top-stone? Where is the pinnacle?" They little thought where the crowning marble was, until some one said, "Perhaps that stone which the builders refused is meant to be the top-stone." They then took it, and hoisted it to the top of the house; and as it reached the summit they found it well adapted to the place. Loud hosannas made the welkin ring, as the stone which the builders refused, thus became the headstone of the corner. So is it with Christ Jesus. The builders cast him away. He was a plebeian; he was of poor extraction; he was a man acquainted with sinners, who walked in poverty and meanness; hence the worldly-wise despised him. But when God shall gather together, in one, all things that are in heaven and that are in earth, then Christ shall be the glorious consummation of all things.

"Christ reigns in heaven the topmost stone,

And well deserves the praise."

He shall be exalted; he shall be honored; his name shall endure as long as the sun, and all nations shall be blessed in him, yea, all generations shall call him blessed.

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Bibliographical Information
Spurgeon, Charle Haddon. "Commentary on Genesis 49". "Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/spe/genesis-49.html. 2011.