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The Joyous Return
March 1st, 1891 by C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892)
"O Israel, return unto the Lord thy God; for thou hast fallen by thing iniquity. Take with you words, and turn to the Lord: say unto him, Take away all iniquity, and receive us graciously: so will we render the calves of our lips. Asshur shall not save us, we will not ride upon horses: neither will we say any more to the work of our hands, Ye are our gods: for in thee the fatherless findeth mercy." Hosea 14:1-3 .
We are in the last chapter of the book of the prophet Hosea. Throughout the book there has been thunder: sometimes a low rumbling, as of a distant tempest, sometimes peal on peal, as of a storm immediately overhead. And now the tempest has gathered all its force. Here it culminates. You expect the bolt of heaven to destroy. Lo, instead thereof a silver shower of mercy! The gentle drops come down plenteously, and you hear their fall upon the tender herb like music soft and low. God does not say, "O Israel, depart accursed!" But instead thereof, in dulcet tones he cries, "O Israel, return unto the Lord thy God." In the midst of wrath he remembers mercy.
"When God's right arm is bared for war, And thunders clothe his cloudy car."
e'en then he stays his uplifted hand, reins in the steeds of vengeance, and holds communion with grace; "for his mercy endureth for ever," and "judgment is his strange work." To use another figure: the whole book of Hosea is like a great trial wherein witnesses have appeared against the accused, and the arguments and excuses of the guilty have been answered and baffled. All has been heard for them, and much, very much against them, and the convicted stand at the bar to hear their sentence. Behold the Judge, instead of putting on the black cap to pronounce doom of death, stretches out his hands to the condemned, and in tones of pity cries, "O Israel, return"! This is a wonderful chapter to be at the end of such a book. I had never expected from such a prickly shrub to gather so fair a flower, so sweet a fruit; but so it is: where sin abounded, grace doth much more abound. No chapter in the Bible can be more rich in mercy than this last of Hosea; and yet no chapter in the Bible might, in the natural order of things, have been more terrible in judgment. Where we looked for the blackness of darkness, behold a noontide of light! While I am preaching from such a text, I feel the need of special help from the Holy Spirit. I lift up my heart for it. Will you not, my brethren, pray for me, that my hearers may not only hear my voice, but may perceive the inward voice of God speaking to their hearts! The Lord himself is the speaker of the text: it is Jehovah who says, "O Israel, return." May many of you hear the voice of God, and in that voice perceive an over-powering omnipotence which shall turn your thoughts and souls into the right way, making you willing in the day of his power! I ask you to consider, first, the call to call to God: "O Israel, return unto the Lord thy God"; and, secondly, the argument for coming: "For thou hast fallen by thine iniquity." Thirdly, we shall dwell upon the help in coming which the Lord gives to those who are willing to obey. He says, "Take with you words, and turn to the Lord: say unto him, Take away all iniquity, and receive us graciously." In conclusion, we shall pray to see in many the coming by this help. May my unconverted hearers return unto the Lord, and know the power of his restoring grace! I. First, notice THE CALL TO COME: "O Israel, return unto the Lord thy God." Oh, that the call may be made effectual this day! It is a very instructive call; for it tells the sinner exactly what he has to do. Return: that is, reverse your course. The course you have taken is the opposite of that which you ought to have taken; therefore, come back. You have gone from God; come back to God. You have been prayerless; begin to pray! You have been hardened; yield to the Word. You have been full of cavils; believe even as a little child. Bring forth fruits meet for repentance, and not the fruits of obstinate persistence in evil. To many there could be no better direction in spiritual morals than this word, "Return." Do what you have not done: leave undone what you have been doing. Reverse the original. Take the other track! "Return!" is but a single word, but that word is full of moaning. There is to be a change, a total change, a coming back to God. The word is also instructive, because it says, Return unto the Lord." Do not only look to God, but return to him. Arise, and go unto your Father. Do not barely think about it, but do it. Do not return part of the way to this and to that good custom and salutary habit; but come right back to the Lord, and rest not till you feel that you are in his arms. It is of no use for the prodigal to say, "I will arise," unless he adds, "and go to my father." It is of no use his quitting one far-off country for another; but it must be said of him, And he arose and came to his father." The best direction we can give to many a sinner is Reverse your course of life, and let your reversed course of life lead you to God himself. How surely will he need the abounding grace of God for such a work as this! for Virgil's lines are true
"The gates of hell are open night and day; Smooth the descent, and easy is the way. But to return, and seek the upper skies, In this the task and mighty labor lies.
The call is very practical. It does not ask for sentiment, but for action: "O Israel, return unto the Lord thy God." Do not, as I have said before, think of it merely, but resolutely and thoughtfully return. Do not speculate about when you will do it: let it be done now. Procrastinate no longer: quit halting and hesitating once for all. Cease to count the loss or the gain of it, and take the decisive stop: "O Israel, return." I cannot help reminding you that this instructive and practical exhortation is also a very pathetic call. The "O" with which it commences is not used as an oratorical embellishment. Loving entreaty breathes in it. He who speaks is in earnest, and pleads with all his heart. It is God himself who says, "O Israel, return unto the Lord thy God." It is not a chill command cold and sharp, like the sword of the Lord in the day of doom; but albeit it has all the force of a command, it is a warm and tender entreaty from the lips of love: "O Israel, return." In that "O" I seem to hear at once the weeping of the Lord Jesus, the sounding of the bowels of the great Father, and the grieving of the Holy Spirit, "O Israel, return"! is a sorrowful, tender, gentle, wooing voice, which I beseech you to regard. Possibly some of you may have had to plead with one of your own children, who has been very wilful, and has threatened to do that which would have been exceedingly injurious to him. You have said, "Oh, do not so, my soul! Oh, do not so, my daughter!" and you have thrown your soul into your pleading. Even thus doth God, with sacred pathos, with love welling up from the depth of his heart, plead with every sinner before me, and he words the pleading thus "O Israel, return unto the Lord thy God." I would remind you, also, that, pathetic as it is, it is a divine call. "O Israel, return!" Who saith it? The prophet? Yea, and more than the prophet: he who pleads is the prophet's God. The first motion towards reconciliation is never from the sinner, but always from God. The sinner does not cry, "O Lord, my God, permit me to return"; but the Lord himself, who watches the wandering one, and sees him falling to his ruin, cries out, in the freeness of his grace, "O Israel, return!" What matters it to the Lord, though a man should even plunge down to hell? The Lord will be glorious, though the rebel perish. The Lord hath no need of men. Yet the Lord thinks much of wandering men, and longs for their return. Out of the freeness and riches of his love he calls them to himself. He swears by his own life that he willeth not the death of the sinner, but that he turn unto him, and live. Because of his spontaneous love and pity, he crieth, plaintively, "O Israel, return unto the Lord thy God." Hearken, then, my hearers. If it were my call, you might refuse it with small blame: but it is God's call: shall your Maker call in vain? Will you add to all your sin the turning of your back upon the God of love. Shall Jehovah cry in pity to your souls, and cry in vain? God grant it be not so! Here from this text, which, once written, remaineth, there soundeth out of the eternal deep of boundless mercy this cry of grace: "O Israel, return unto the Lord thy God"! And so I will say no more about this call except that it is evidently a very gracious one. He puts it so, "Return unto the Lord thy God." If thou, O sinner, wilt return to the Lord, he will be thy God; he will enter into covenant with thee, he will give himself over to thee to be thine. Henceforth thou shalt have a property in Jehovah, and all the wealth of his infinite nature shall be thine. Thou shalt be able to say, "This God is our God for ever and ever: he will be our guide even unto death." That man hath made a great speech who hath truly said, "God is mine." There is more in calling God our God than if we could hold the title-deeds of both the Indies, or claim possession of the stars. God, in the infinity of his grace, declares, "I will be their God." I cannot preach as I would. Who can compass such a theme as this? Oh, that you were wise, that you knew what was good for you! Then would you answer to this call. O sinner, how I wish that thou wert delivered from thy madness! for then thou wouldest no longer turn thy back upon thine own blessedness, nor wouldest thou longer reject the Lord thy God to thine own confusion. Thy present course will lead thee down to destruction utter and entire; wherefore, pause, I pray thee! Nay, I say more; do not stay where thou art, but return, return at once! Seest thou not what a welcome God will give thee? for he says not, "Return unto thy Judge," but "Return unto thy God." It is not written, "Return like an escaped prisoner to thy jailer, return to the whip and to the stocks"; but, "Return unto the Lord thy God." This God shall be thine exceeding joy. Albeit I cannot put my soul into such words as I could wish, I am sure that men who are wise and prudent will think upon these things, and will be led to seek after the Lord, from whom all blessings flow. I remember how, when I perceived the freeness and preciousness of the gospel, I ran towards it, being drawn that way by a strong desire for that which promised such great things to me. May many a man and woman out of the present company say, "I will answer to the divine entreaty. Jehovah bids me return, and return I will"! II. Secondly, I beg you to notice THE ARGUMENT FOR COMING. "Return unto the Lord thy God; for thou hast fallen by thine iniquity." What a wonderful argument is this! You are in an evil plight through sin; therefore return to the Lord your God. But, saith one, I was afraid I might not come because I had fallen." See how your fear is anticipated. The case is reversed, and your having fallen is made by the Lord into an argument why you should return to him. "I am broken-kneed," saith one; "I have fallen so badly that I shall never be worth a penny for any good work." Yet the Lord cries, "Return, for thou hast fallen." I hear one moaning, "I am broken to pieces by sin: I am like an old pot that has fallen on the stones. I am useless henceforth. "For that very reason the Lord of mercy bids you return. "Return unto the Lord thy God; for thou hast fallen." What ingenuity of mercy there is in the heart of God! See, he takes away the reason for despair, and makes out of it an argument for hope. Because you are thus fallen, you have need to return; and God considers your need, not your merit. Because you are fallen, God's pity invites you to return. Use the word "fallen" literally. If you are a fallen man, return; if you are a fallen woman, return. Why is it that the word fallen" has a force in reference to woman which it has not in regard to man: surely a fallen man is as sad a sight as a fallen woman. But whether male or female, here is the argument for your returning to God: "Thou hast fallen; therefore return." I pray you, yield to so gracious a plea. Dear friends, the argument is also this: the cause of your evil plight is sin. "Thou hast fallen by thine iniquity." Sin is the root of the mischief. Do not say, "I was fated to be so." "Thou hast fallen by thine iniquity." It is true that thou hast fallen in Adam; but thou hast also fallen by thine own actual sin, and thou hast enough to do to confess thine own act and deed. Thine own wilful omissions and commissions have ruined thee. Thou art wounded, but thine own hand has given the injurious stab. "Thou hast fallen by thine iniquity"; blame no one else. That you are an unbeliever is your own fault; you will not come to Christ that you might have life. The way you follow is the way of your own choice, in which you follow the imaginations and devices of your own heart. All the misery of your present estate is due to yourself alone. "O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself"! Feel that it is so, and confess it before God, taking to yourself shame and confusion of face. The only remedy for your evil case is to come back to God. If you have fallen by your iniquity, you must be set free from this iniquity; but you cannot free yourself. "Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots?" You have lain in the lye of evil till you are dyed ingrain with the scarlet of iniquity, and the color cannot be taken out except by a miracle of grace. God alone can take away the spots from the leopard, and the blackness from the Ethiopian, and the crimson from the deep-dyed wool. The Lord and the Lord only can work these marvels. Hence you are called upon to "return unto the Lord your God," for your only hope of restoration lies in God himself. Your guilt should not make you hesitate; for the Lord knows all about it, and his invitation shows that he does so. He says, "Return; for thou hast fallen." O my hearer, hast thou tried to hide that fall? Art thou sitting here and trying to forget thy ruin? The Lord does not forget it, and does not wish you to forget it. He sets it before your mind, and bids you come to him as a fallen person. The Lord Jesus Christ receives sinners as sinners. He does not want them to change their character and then come, but they are to come to him for a change. Come simply as sinners; not as awakened sinners, or sensible sinners, or sinners with some other good qualification. As sinners, come to him who has come to save sinners. The Lord Jesus gave himself for our sins; he never gave himself for our righteousness, and therefore he would have us come to him in all our defilement. Come in your evil habits, your guilt, your condemnation, your spiritual death, and your corruption. Come just as you are. He delighteth in mercy: leave space for mercy to work in. "Return," saith he; "for thou hast fallen by thine iniquity." If you are in the worst case that ever mortal was in, you have the best possible helper to whom you are to return. If you go to Gilead for balm for your wound, you would turn that way in vain; for to the question, "Is there no balm in Gilead; is there no physician there?" the answer is, of course, there is neither balm nor physician there; or else the hurt of the daughter of my people would long ago have been healed. You have long enough gone to Gilead, now go to God. Human sources of help must fail you; and for that very reason we would persuade you to turn to God. There is no physician in Gilead, therefore, come along with you to him whose touch is better than balm, who is himself himself the health of souls. The very hem of his garment overflows with power, so that a touch is effectual. Jesus has but to cast an eye on the most guilty and forlorn, and they live. Yea, if they do but cast an eye on him, they receive eternal life. A legion of devils will flee at his word. Oh, what a blessing it is that there is such a mighty Savior! If anybody here perishes it is not because the Savior is not able to save him. If any man here shall die in his sin, it can only be accounted for by the Savior's declaration, "If ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins." "He is able to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him." "The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin." How intensely do I pray that you may return to God, urged by these reasons; namely, that you are helplessly, hopelessly lost, and Christ is a mighty Savior, on whom your help is laid! I would that for this reason you would come to him, even this very day! He will receive you even now; for he hath said it: "Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out." III. Now let us see how our gracious God meets us, and provides for us THE HELP IN COMING. The Lord helps our ignorance and our fear. He gives us direction as to what to bring. Read the second verse. "Ah!" saith the sinner, "I do not know what to take with me in approaching the Most High. I have no bullocks, no lambs, no incense. In my hand there is no price of money or merit." The answer is, "Take with you words." Your heart is right; you are longing for salvation; you need not say, "Wherewith shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before the high God?" "Take with you words"; you have plenty of them. The heart must be there first, and then nothing more is asked than "words." Cheap enough is this offering. Leaves of the wood are not so easy to come at. This is simple enough; he that hath a tongue can bring words. O man and woman, whatever else you cannot bring, you can bring words; for indeed you have multiplied words to sin. The Lord helping you to return, you need not hesitate for want of an offering, since he saith, "Take with you words." This is but another version of our grand hymn
"Nothing in my hand I bring: Simply to thy cross I cling; Naked, come to thee for dress; Helpless, look to thee for grace; Foul, I to the fountain fly; Wash me Savior, or I die."
And then, the Lord helps the coming sinner by a direction as to where to turn. "Take with you words, and turn to the Lord." "I was wanting to see the minister," saith one. Turn to the Lord! "I desire to converse with a man of God." Turn to the Lord! We read in the book of Job, "To which of the saints wilt thou turn?" My answer would be Sinner, turn thou to the sinner's friend, and leave the saints along. If thou wouldest be saved turn not to Peter, nor James, nor John; but turn to him whom all these call "Master and Lord." "Take with you words, and turn to the Lord." Have you been in the habit of turning to a man who is called a priest? I pray you, do so no longer; for there is now but one sin-atoning priest, and he is the Lord Jesus. Have you turned to ceremonies? Do you look for rest in sacraments? You look that way in vain; for they are not the way of salvation. Turn rather to the Lord as he is revealed in the Lord Jesus. Take with you words, and turn to the Lord himself. Against him you have sinned: to him make confession. You need that his anger should be turned away; seek, then, a free forgiveness from himself. It is his love that you want: go to him for it, and he will receive you graciously, and love you freely. A further help is this. The Lord helps us to return to him by giving a direction how to pray. A minister said to me last Thursday evening what I have often felt to be true: "We had need make coming to Christ very plain, for many people are so ignorant that they almost need to have the words of confession and faith put into their mouths. They need somebody to kneel down side by side with them, and utter the very words that they should speak unto the Lord." There is much more truth in this statement than inexperienced persons may think. So here the Lord does, as it were, put the words into the sinner's mouth. "Take with you words, and say unto him." He says the words, that the sinner may make them his own, and say them after him. In this condescending style he teaches the returning sinner how to pray. What a gracious God he is! Suppose a case. A great king has been grievously offended by a rebellious subject, but in kindness of heart he wills to be reconciled. He invites the rebel to sue for pardon. He replies, "O King, I would fain be forgiven, but how can I properly approach your offended majesty? I am anxious to present such a petition as you can accept, but I know not how to draw it up." Suppose this great king were to say, "I will draw up the petition for you," what confidence the supplicant would feel in presenting the petition! He brings to the king his own words. He prays the prayer he is bidden to pray. By the very fact of drawing up the petition, the monarch pledged himself to grant it. O my hearer, the Lord puts it into your mouth to say this morning, "Take away all iniquity." May you find it in your heart to pray in that fashion! That prayer is best which is offered in God's own way, and is of God's own prompting. May you present such a prayer at once! Here I find two sentences of petition. The first is "Take away all iniquity." Follow me, and try to pray this prayer, "O Thou that takest away the sin of the world, take away all my iniquity. It is great, but pardon it, I pray thee; for thou didst bear our sins in thine own body on the tree. By thy precious blood, wash away all my iniquity! Let me know that thou hast carried my transgression away, even as the scapegoat carried the sins of Israel into the wilderness of forgetfulness. Take away all iniquity by an act of pardon, I beseech thee. Take it away, also, in another sense Lord, take it out of my heart; take it out of my life." Dear seekers, I pray you, do not look on one sin and say, Lord, spare it!" Do not wish to have one sin left; but cry "Take it away! Take it away! Take away all iniquity. However sweet, or fascinating, or deeply seated, Lord, take away all iniquity. If I have been given to the intoxicating cup, take it away! If I have been the slave of greed, take it away! If I have been subject to passion, or pride, or lustfulness, take it away! Whatever is my besetting sin, 'take away all iniquity'!" Dost thou wish to have one fair sin spared to thee? It will be thy ruin. Hew in pieces that Agag sin that cometh so delicately. Let your cry be, "Take it away!" The taking of it away may cost you a right hand or a right eye; still, shrink; not, but cry, "Take away all iniquity." Have done with it all. It will be of no use to give up one poison; if you take another poison, it will kill you. All sin must go, or else all hope is gone! Return to God; but it must be with a prayer which shows that you and your sins have fallen out, never to be reconciled. The next petition is, "Receive us graciously." Confess that a kind reception of you by God must be of grace alone. Nothing but grace can open a door for our returning. Sinners cannot be received of the Lord on any other terms but those of mercy. We would not ask to be dealt with according to our merits; but we thank the Lord that he hath not dealt with us after our sins, nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. As to our sins, we cannot answer him one of a thousand. The Lord must receive us graciously or reject us righteously. Are we not glad that sinners can be received in the name of grace, and find a welcome in the tender mercy of our God? Offer, then, this petition, "Receive us graciously." I am not content merely to talk to you about these gracious words; I want every soul here to use them in personal prayer. Oh, that the Lord would touch all lips by his grace, and lead them to say from the heart "Lord, receive me, I return to thee. Take away all iniquity, and take me to thyself! Receive me as a subject of thy kingdom. Receive me of thy grace into thy home of love. Receive me into the family of thy redeemed on earth, and then receive me into thy mansion in heaven. 'Receive us graciously. These are two sweet petitions, and they are fitly framed together. May the Holy Spirit constrain every heart to present them! May these be the words which every one of you shall take with him in returning to the Lord! One sentence of promise follows these two of petition: "So will we render the calves of our lips." What are the "calves of our lips"? They are sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving. Yonder are the calves of the stall which men bring in sacrifice: they are struck down, and they die at the altar. God does not ask us for bullocks which have horns and hoofs. He takes no pleasure in the blood of calves, or of goats. He desires a broken heart, two faith, and humble love: these live at the altar. "Whoso offereth praise glorifieth God." Let us bring him our best thoughts, our best expressions, our best testimonies, our heartiest praises: these are not calves of our stalls, but "calves of our lips." Let our gratitude be a living sacrifice, and our conduct a constant testimony to the goodness of God. I think we can say this morning at least, I can "Lord, if thou wilt spare me, I will speak for thee." I must do so during the rest of my life, or else I shall have to change my ways and habits. I was thinking, as I came along this morning, that it is somewhere about forty years since I first opened my mouth to preach for Christ, and I can still say what I have of often said
"E'er since by faith I saw the stream His flowing wounds supply, Redeeming love has been thy theme, And shall be till I die."
Is there not some young man here who will begin at once to take up this service for the next forty years? I wonder what young man it is that I may lay hands upon for Jesus? And some Christian woman no, she is not a Christian yet; but I call her such, for she is going to be, I am only anticipating a little will she not now become a Christian, and straightaway render unto the Lord Jesus the calves of her lips, by bearing her testimony in her family and among her acquaintances? Who will consecrate himself this day unto the Lord. While you cry to God for mercy as to the past, resolve that if you are saved you will confess his name, and so offer him the calves of your lips. The Lord claims your hearts first, and your lips next. You must confess Christ before men. Salvation is promised to a confessed faith; always remember that, "He that with his heart believeth, and with his mouth maketh confession of him shall be saved." "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved." Faith should be confessed in God's own way, by baptism, and to that faith the promise is specially given. Though I doubt not that some may be saved who is himself do not make an open avowal of their faith, yet the promise runs as I have quoted it, and I would not have you wilfully forget the command implied in it. "He that confesseth me before men, him will I confess before my Father which is in heaven"; so saith the Lord Jesus. It is no more than his due, that we should take up our cross and follow him. It is but a small thing, that if we trust in his name, we should bear his name. So you see the Lord puts into our mouths this morning this resolve, that we will praise him. "So will we render the calves of our lips." Now come three sentences of renunciation: Asshur shall not save us; we will not ride upon horses: neither will we say any more to the work of our hands, Ye are our gods." First, the natural, legal trust, so much esteemed among men, must go. Israel used always to fall back upon Assyria. If Egypt threatened the people, or if any other nation oppressed them, they sent a present to the King of Assyria to come and deliver them. But now they cry, "Asshur shall not save us." The popular trust of the world is in self-righteousness in its various forms. You were going to be saved by your own repentance, reformation, and future well-doing; but of this you must say, "Asshur shall not save us." Are you trusting in sacraments? Give up so vain a confidence. They are not meant to save, but to instruct those who are saved already. Are you trusting in your hereditary godliness, your birthright religion? Away with so poor a foundation! Are you trusting in your prayers, your givings to the poor, your attendance on sermons, your honesty, your good nature? Set these on one side, and cry, "Asshur shall not save us." All confidences must go save Jesus Christ, whom God has laid in Zion for a foundation stone. On him must we build, and on none other; for "Asshur shall not save us." But, next, they gave up all carnal confidence of their own: "neither will we ride upon horses." The kings of Israel were forbidden to multiply horses, because they were not used in commerce, but only for military purposes, and Jehovah would not have his people rely upon these creatures. Egypt might glory in horse and chariot, but Israel must not do so. Hence we find pious Hezekiah keeping this law so strictly that Rabshakeh reviled him by offering to send two thousand horses if he could set riders upon them. When we come to God we must quit all trust in ourselves of every sort: in our tears, our prayers, our moral life, our excellent instincts, or anything else we must place no trust. "Some trust in horses, and some in chariots, but we will remember the name of the Lord our God." It may be, you have fine horses of morality and religiousness, you have many virtues upon which you think you might fairly depend: give up these trusts. Have you been lately trotting out your horses before your own family, and saying to your wife, "I am not like many men. I never drink too much, neither do I treat my household unkindly"? Put away these horses. You cannot come to God riding in pride. Say, "We will not ride upon horses." Put away every confidence in yourself, in whatever fashion it appears. One more stroke of renunciation remains. Down must go the gods of our former estate. He that would come to the true God must have done with the false gods. If we have been living for any objects save the glory of God, we must away with those objects. If we have been paying religious reverence to anything save God himself, we must away with it. "Neither will we say any more to the work of our hands, Ye are our gods." It seems strange that men should ever have said such a thing; but since they have said it, they must say it no more. God help every one here now to make a complete renunciation of everything which usurps the place of God! Whether it be an object of trust, reverence, desire, fear, or love, we must cast it down, and worship God alone. He saith to us, "Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else." In the work of salvation the work of our hands is out of court, and God alone must be glorified. The words close with one sentence of faith. My time fails me, and I cannot dwell upon it at length. "In thee the fatherless findeth mercy." Dear orphan boys below me, here is a word for you. Remember it, and love God because it is true: "In thee the fatherless findeth mercy." God is the Father of the fatherless. Now, if God receives the fatherless, who have none to take care of them, and he becomes their God, we may be encouraged to come to him, even in the most forlorn condition. Does God keep open house for those who have no home? Then I will go to him. Does God take up those whom father and mother have forsaken? Then will I put my trust in him. I saw on a board this morning words announcing that an asylum was to be built on a plot of ground, for a class of persons who are described in three terrible words HELPLESS, HOMELESS, HOPELESS. These are the kind of people that God receives: to them he gives his mercy. Are you helpless? He will help you. Are you homeless? He will house you. Are you hopeless? He is the hope of those who have no other confidence. Come, then, to him at once! IV. This last word should induce sinners to return to God, and then we shall see before our eyes THE COMING BY THIS HELP. You that are great, and good, and full, and inwardly strong, you will not return to God. You that are nothing, and less than nothing, you that are fallen in your own sight, you that cannot help yourselves, you are likely to come: I pray that you may come at once. I have set before you an open door that no man can shut: will you not enter? Come to my Lord this day. Come now and say, "Take away all iniquity, and receive us graciously." May God help us to be doing this, rather than talking and hearing about it! Let us come to God, for he will help us to come. You see he helps us by giving us words; but as he never helps men to be hypocrites, he will also help us to feel the words. He who gives us words to speak, will give us grace to speak them sincerely. Are not these words the true desires of your hearts? On your knees, when you get home, pour them out before God. In your pews while you are here, present these petitions in silence. Say, "Take away all iniquity, receive me graciously: so will I render the calves of my lips." The Lord's help will suffice, not only to teach us the manner of praying, but to give us the desire, the faith, the love, the resolve which make up this prayer. Let your coming to the Lord now be decisive and actual. You have meant it for years, and yet nothing has been done. Some of you have been hearing me preach now for a quarter of a century. Think of that! I met, the other day, with one who heard me at New Park Street, and at last he has come out to confess his Lord after more than thirty years. Slow work this! Better late than never. Come, my friends, are you going to stick in the mud for ever? Will you lie outside the wickot-gate throughout another year? God grant you may cry now, "Take away all iniquity: receive us graciously"! Oh, that this might be the universal Cry of all my audience at this hour! The text is not written as for one, but for many. "Take with you words." The first verse is in the singular, and speaks of "thou"; but the second is in the plural, and speaks of "us." It is not, "Take away all iniquity; receive me graciously"; but, "receive us graciously: so will we render the calves of our lips. Asshur shall not save us." Come along with you, then, the whole company of you who desire salvation. I call upon you who are sitting in this first gallery all around me! I call upon the dense mass in the area below! I call upon you who sit in the upper gallery! Oh, that we might all join in one common return unto the Lord! Let us call this day "The day of the joyous return." "Come, and let us return unto the Lord: for he hath torn, and he will heal us; he hath smitten, and he will bind us up." Who says "No"? What? Will you choose your own destruction, and persevere in the way of sin? I hope you will all say, "Ay," and that the Holy Spirit will lead you to carry out the resolve. The special call is to the fallen: "Return; for thou hast fallen." Come, ye fallen ones, come and welcome. It is to the wandering for to such is the command appropriate which saith, "Return."
"Return, O wanderer, to thy home Thy Father calls for thee; No longer now an exile roam In guilt and misery; Return! Return.
The call is to the forlorn and destitute: "In thee the fatherless findeth mercy." You that are fallen, far off, fatherless, and forlorn, come at once to God in Jesus Christ. Come now! Come! Come! Come! See how the Lord meets you! Read the fourth verse; I could almost kiss the lines as I gaze on them: "I will heal their backsliding": come, sick one, here is healing for you. "I will love them freely": come, unlovely one, here is love for you. "Mine anger is turned away from him": though you have felt his wrath burning in your souls, it is gone for ever. "I will be as the dew unto Israel": before this service is quite over, some drops of dew shall have fallen upon your parched spirits, and shall sparkle in your bosonis like diamonds glittering in the sun. These later verses speak as if the gracious work were done: they describe a scene most bright, full of color, and rich with perfume, as a fact accomplished. The chapter begins with an exhortation, but it runs into description, as if the people really had come, and God had met them, and had blessed them exceedingly. Lord, make it so at this very moment! May it not be merely that I have preached, and that these people have listened most encouragingly, but may men be really saved through grace! The Lord's people have been praying all the while, "God bless thy servant"; and now I shall look for fruit from this first of March. The Lord grant that this March may come in like a lamb to many of you! May the lion go out of you! May a heavenly wind spring up and blow across this city, and bring soulhealing with it! In this hope, I bid you again "Come to Jesus." Jesus says, "If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink." "The Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take of the water of life freely." The Lord gather you all into the arms of his grace, for his Son's sake! Amen.
March 22nd, 1863 by C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892)
"I will love them freely." Hosea 14:4 .
This sentence is a body of divinity in miniature. He who understands its meaning is a theologian, and he who can dive into its fullness is a true Master in divinity. "I will love them freely," is a condensation of the glorious message of salvation which was delivered to us in Christ Jesus our Redeemer. The sense hinges upon the word "freely." "I will love them freely." Here is the glorious, the suitable, the divine way by which love streams from heaven to earth. It is, indeed, the only way in which God can love such as we are. It may be that he can love angels because of their goodness; but he could not love us for that reason; the only manner in which love can come from God to fallen creatures is expressed in the word "freely." Here we have spontaneous love flowing forth to those who neither deserved it, purchased it, nor sought after it. Since the word "freely" is the very key-note of the text, we must observe its common meaning among men. We use the word "freely" for that which is given without money and without price. It is opposed to all idea of bargaining, to all acceptance of an equivalent, or that which might be construed into an equivalent. A man is said to give freely when he bestows his charity on applicants simply on the ground of their poverty, hoping for nothing again. A man distributes freely when, without asking any compensation, he finds it more blessed to give than to receive. Now God's love comes to men all free and unbought; without our having merit to deserve, or money to procure it. I know it is written, "Come, buy wine and milk," but is it not added "Without money and without price?" "I will love them freely;" that is "I will not accept their works in barter for my love; I will not receive their love as a recompense for mine; I will love them, all unworthy and sinful though they be." Men give "freely" when there is no inducement. A great many presents of late have been given to the Princess of Wales, and 'tis well and good; but the position of the Princess is such that we do not view it as any great liberality to subscribe to a diamond necklace, since those who give are honored by her acceptance. Now the freeness of God's love is shown in this, that the objects of it are utterly unworthy, can confer no honor, and have no position to be an inducement to bless them. The Lord loves them freely. Some persons are very generous to their own relations, but here, again, they can hardly be said to be free, because the tie of blood constrains them. Their own children, their own brother, their own sister if men will not be generous here, they must be mean through and through. But the generosity of our God is commended to us in that he loved his enemies, and while we were yet sinners in due time Christ died for us. The word "freely" is "exceeding broad" when used in reference to God's love to men. He selects those who have not the shadow of a claim upon him, and sets them among the children of his heart. We use the word "freely," when a favor is conferred without its being sought. It can hardly be said that our King in the old histories pardoned the citizens of Calais freely when his Queen had first to prostrate herself before him, and with many tears to induce him to be merciful. He was gracious, but he was not free in his grace. When a person has been long dogged by a beggar in the streets, though he may turn round and give liberally to be rid of the clamorous applicant, he does not give "freely." Remember, with regard to God, that his grace to man was utterly unsought. He does give grace to those who seek it, but none would ever seek that grace unless unsought grace had first been bestowed. Sovereign grace waiteth not for man, neither tarrieth for the sons of men. The love of God goes forth to men when they have no thought after him; when they are hastening after all manner of sin and wantonness. He loves them freely, and as the effect of that love, they then begin to seek his face. But it is not our seeking, our prayers, our tears, which incline the Lord to love us. God loves us at first most freely, without any entreaties or beseechings, and then we come both to entreat and to beseech his favor. That which comes without any exertion on our part comes to us "freely." The rulers digged the well, and as they digged it they sang "Spring up, O well!" In such a case, where a well must be digged with much labor, the water can hardly be described as rising freely. But yonder, in the laughing valley, the spring gushes from the hill-side, and lavishes its crystal torrent among the shining pebbles. Man pierced not the fountain, he bored not the channel, for, long ere he was born, or ever the weary pilgrim bowed himself to its cooling stream, it had leaped on its joyous way right freely, and it will do so, as long as the moon endureth, freely, freely, freely. Such is the grace of God. No labor of man procures it; no effort of man can add to it. God is good from the simple necessity of his nature; God is love, simply because it is his essence to be so, and he pours forth his love in plenteous streams to undeserving, ill-deserving, hell-deserving objects, simply because he "will have mercy on whom he will have mercy, and he will have compassion on whom will have compassion," for it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy. If you ask an illustration of the word "freely," I point to yonder sun. How freely he scattereth his life-giving beams. Precious as gold are his rays, but he scattereth them like the dust; he sows the earth with orient pearl, and bejewels it with emerald and ruby and sapphire, and all most freely. You and I forget to pray for the sun's light, but it comes at its appointed season; yea, on that blasphemer who curses God, the day ariseth, and the sunlight warms him as much as the most obedient child of the heavenly Father. That sunbeam falls upon the farm of the miser, and upon the field of the churl, and bids the grain of the wicked expand in its genial warmth and produce its harvest. That sun shines into the house of the adulterer, into the face of the murderer, and the cell of the thief. No matter how sinful man may be, yet the light of day descends upon him unasked for and unsought. Such is the grace of God; where it comes it comes not because sought, or deserved, but simply from the goodness of the heart of God, which, like the sun, blesseth as it wills. Mark you the gentle winds of heaven, the breath of God to revive the languishing, the soft breezes. See the sick man at the sea-side, drinking in health from the breezes of the salt sea. Those lungs may heave to utter the lascivious song, but the healing wind is not restrained, and whether it be breast of saint or sinner, yet that wind ceaseth not from any. So in gracious visitations, God waiteth not till man is good before he sends the heavenly wind, with healing beneath its wings; even as he pleaseth so it bloweth, and to the most undeserving it cometh. Observe the rain which drops from heaven. It falls upon the desert as well as upon the fertile field; it drops upon the rock that will refuse its fertilizing moisture as well as upon the soil that opens its gaping mouth to drink it in with gratitude. See, it falls upon the hard-trodden streets of the populous city, where it is not required, and where men will even curse it for coming, and it falls not more freely where the sweet flowers have been panting for it, and the withering leaves have been rustling forth their prayers. Such is the grace of God. It does not visit us because we ask it, much less, because we deserve it; but as God wills it, and the bottles of heaven are unstopped, so God wills it, and grace descends. No matter how vile, and black, and foul, and godless, men may be, he will have mercy on whom he will have mercy, and that free, rich, overflowing goodness of his can make the very worst and least deserving the objects of his best and choicest love. Do understand me. Let me not leave this point till I have well defined its meaning. I mean this, dear friends: when God says, "I will love them freely," he means that no prayers, no tears, no good works, no almsgivings are an inducement to him to love men, nay, that not only nothing, in themselves, but nothing anywhere else was the cause of his love to them; not even the blood of Christ; not even the groans and tears of his beloved Son. These are the fruits of his love, not the cause of it. He does not love because Christ died, but Christ died because the Father loved. Do remember that this fountain of love has its spring in itself, not in you, nor in me, but only in the Father's own gracious, infinite heart of goodness. "I will love them freely," spontaneously, without any motive ab extra, but entirely because I choose to do it. In the text we have two great doctrines. I will announce the first one; establish it; and then endeavor to apply it. I. The first great doctrine is this, that THERE IS NOTHING IN MAN TO ATTRACT THE LOVE OF GOD TO HIM. We have to establish this doctrine, and our first argument is found in the origin of that love. The love of God to man existed before there was any man. He loved his chosen people before any one of them had been created; nay, before the world had been made upon which man dwells he had set his heart upon his beloved and ordained them unto eternal life. The love of God therefore existed before there was any good thing in man, and if you tell me that God loved men because of the foresight of some good thing in them, I again reply to that, that the same thing cannot be both cause and effect. Now it is quite certain that any virtue which there may be in any man is the result of God's grace. Now if it be the result of grace it cannot be the cause of grace. It is utterly impossible that an effect should have existed before a cause; but God's love existed before man's goodness, therefore that goodness cannot be a cause. Brethren, the doctrine of the antiquity of divine love is graven as with the point of a diamond upon the very forehead of revelation; when the children were not yet born, neither having done good nor evil, the purpose of election still stood; while we were yet like clay in the mass of creatureship, and God had power to make of the same dump a vessel to honor or a vessel to dishonor, he chose to make his people vessels unto honor; this could not possibly have been because of any good thing in them, for they themselves were not, much less their goodness. Our Savior's words "Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in thy sight," reveal not only the sovereignty but the freeness of divine affection. Do you not know, dear friends, in the second place, that the whole plan of divine goodness is entirely opposed to the old covenant of works. Paul is very strong on this point, where he expressly tells us that if it be of grace it cannot be of works, and if it be of works it cannot be of grace, the two having no possibility of commingling. Our God, speaking by the prophet, says, "Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them." The covenant of grace is as wide as the poles asunder from the covenant of works. Now the tenour of the covenant of works is this "This do and thou shalt live;" if, then, we do the thing which the covenant of works requires of us we live, and we live as the result of our own doing. But the very opposite must be the case in the covenant of grace. It can never be as the result of anything we do that we are saved under that covenant, or else the two are the same, or at least similar, whereas, the whole Bible through they are set in contradistinction the one against the other, as arranged upon opposite principles, and acting from different springs. Oh! you who think that anything in you can make God love you, stand at the foot of Sinai and learn the only thing that can lead God to accept man on the ground of law, and that is perfect obedience. Read the ten commandments through and see if you can keep one of them in the fullness of its spirit; and I am sure you will be compelled to cry out "Thy commandment is exceeding broad. Great God, I have sinned." And yet if you would stand on the footing of what you are, you must take the whole ten, and you must keep them throughout an entire life, and never fail in the slightest point, or else abhorred of God you must certainly be. The covenant of grace does not speak on that wise at all. It views man as guilty, and having nothing to merit; and it says, "I will, I will, I will;" it says not "If they will," but "I will and they shall. I will sprinkle pure water upon them and they shall be clean, and from all their iniquities I will cleanse them." That covenant does not look upon man as innocent, but as guilty. "When I passed by I saw them in their blood, and I said live; yea, when I saw them in their blood I said, live." The first covenant was a contract: "Do this and I will do that;" but the next has not the shadow of a bargain in it; it is "I will bless you, and I will continue to bless you; though you abound in transgressions, yet I will continue to bless till I make you perfect and bring you to my glory at the last." It cannot be, then, that there is anything in man that makes God love him, because the whole plan of the covenant is opposed to that of works. Thirdly, the substance of Gods love the substance of the covenant which springs from God's love clearly proves that it cannot be man's goodness which makes God love him. If you should tell me that there was something so good in man that therefore God gave him bread to eat and raiment to put on, I might believe you. If you tell me that man's excellence constrained the Lord to put the breath into his nostrils, and to give him the comforts of this life, I might yield to you. But I see yonder, God himself made man; I see that God, that man, at last fastened to the tree; I see him on the tree expiring in agonies unknown, I hear his awful sliviek, "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani; "I see the dreadful sacrifice of God's only-begotten Son, who was not spared but freely delivered up for us all, and I feel certain that it would be nothing short of blasphemy if I should admit that man could ever deserve such a gift as the death of Christ. The very angels in heaven with an eternity of obedience, could never have deserved so great a gift as Christ in the flesh dying for them; and oh! shall we who are all over foul and defiled, shall we look to that dear cross, and say, "I deserved that Savior?" Brethren, this were the height of infernal arrogance; let it be far from us; let us rather feel that we could not deserve such love as this, and that if God loves us so as to give his Son for us, it must be from some hidden motive in his own will, it cannot be because of any good thing in us. Further, if you will remember the objects of God's love as well as the substance of it, you will soon see that it could not be anything in them which constrains God to love them. Who are the objects of God's love? Are they Pharisees, the men who fast twice in the week and pay tithes of all they possess? No, no, no. Are they the moralists who touching the law are blameless, and who walk in all the observances of their religion without a slip? No; the publicans and harlots enter the kingdom of heaven before them. Who are they who are the chosen of God? Let the whole tribe now in heaven speak for themselves, and they will say, "We have washed our roses; (they needed it; they were black,) and we have made them white in the blood of the Lamb." Appeal to any of the saints on earth, and they will tell you that they never could perceive any good thing in themselves. I have searched my own heart I hope with some degree of earnestness, and so far from finding any reason in myself why God should love me, I can find a thousand reasons why he should destroy me, and drive me for ever from his presence. The best thoughts we have are defiled with sin, our very faith is mixed with unbelief; the noblest devotion which we ever paid to God is far inferior to his deserts, and is marred with infirmity and fault. Remember that many of those who are the true servants of God were once the very worst servants of Satan. Does it not surprise you that men who were the companions of the harlot are now saints of the Most high? The drunkard, the blasphemer, the man who defied man's laws as well as God's such were some of us, but we are washed, but we are cleansed, but we are sanctified. I never did meet, and I never expect to meet with any saved soul that would ever for a moment tolerate the thought of there being any goodness in itself to merit God's esteem. No; vile and full of sin I am, and if thou hast mercy on me, O God, it is because thou wilt, for I merit none. Further, constantly are we informed in Scripture that the love of God and the fruit of the love of God are a gift. "The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life." Now, if the Lord stands bargaining with you and with me, and says, "I will give you this if if if " then he does not love freely; but if, on the other hand, it is simply, and purely, and only a gift bestowed as such, not for any recompence afterwards to be given, then the gift is a pure and true gift, and so the text is warranted in saying, "I will love them freely." Now, the gift of God is eternal life, and dear friends, if you and I ever get it, we must obtain it as a free gift from God, but by no means as wages which we have earned, for our poor earnings will bring us death; only God's gift can yield us life. Everywhere throughout the Word the Lord's love is greatly and wonderfully commended. We are told that as high as the heavens are above the earth so high are his ways above our ways. Now, if the Lord loved men for some loveliness in them, there would be nothing wonderful in it; you and I can do the same. I hope I can love a man who possesses moral excellence. You feel, each of you, that if a man's conduct towards you is grateful and good, you cannot but love him, or if you do not, it becomes a fault on your part. With reverence let me say it, if there be something good in man it is no wonder that God should love him; it would be unjust if he did not. If naturally in man there be any virtue, if there be any praise, if there be any commendable repentance, or any acceptable faith, man ought to be loved; this is not a thing to amaze the ages, nor to set the angels singing, nor to move the mountains and hills in astonisliment; but for God to love a man who is bad all over; to love him when there is every reason for hating him, when there is not a trace of goodness in him, oh! this is enough to make the rocks break their silence and the hills burst forth into music. This is the first doctrine. I cannot preach upon it as I would this morning, for my voice is very weak, and the pain of speaking distracts my mind; but it matters not how I preach upon it, for the subject itself is so exceedingly full of comfort to a really awakened soul, that it needs no garnishing of mine: choice dainties need no skill in the carver their own lusciousness secures them rich acceptance. But what is the practical use of it? To you who are going about to establish your own righteousness, here is a death-blow to your works, and carnal trustings. God will not love you meritoriously. God will love you freely. Wherefore go ye about, then, spending your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which satisfieth not. You may boast as you will, but you will have to come to God on a par with the worst of the worst; when you do come you will have to be accepted, you that are the best of men, just on the same terms as if you had been the foulest of the foul. Therefore go not about, busy not yourselves with all this fancied righteousness, but come to Jesus as you are, come now, without any works of yours, for you must so come or not at all. God has said, "I will love them freely," and depend upon it he will never love you in any other way. You may think you are toiling to heaven, when you shall be only tunnelling your way through mountains of self-righteousness down to the depths of hell. This doctrine offers comfort to those who do not feel fit to come to Christ. Do you not perceive that the text is a death-blow to all sorts of fitness? "I will love them freely." Now if there be any fitness necessary in you before God will love you then he does not love you freely, at least this would be a mitigation and a drawback to the freeness of it. But it is "I will love you freely." You say "Lord, but my heart is so hard." "I will love you freely." "But I do not feel my need of Christ as I could wish." "I will not love you because you feel your need; I will love you freely." "But I do not feel that softening of spirit that I could desire." Remember, the softening of spirit is not a condition, for there are no conditions; the covenant of grace has no conditionality whatever. These are the unconditional, sure mercies of David; so that you without any fitness may come and venture upon the promise of God which was made to you in Christ Jesus, when he said, "He that beheyeth on him is not condemned." No fitness is wanted; "I will love them freely." Sweep all that lumber and rubbish out of the way! Oh! for grace in your hearts to know that the grace of God is free, is free to you, without preparation, without fitness, without money, and without price! Nor does the practical use of our doctrine end here. There are some of you who say, "I feel this morning that I am so unworthy; I can well believe that God will bless my mother; that Christ will pity my sister; I can understand how yonder souls can be saved, but I cannot understand how I can be; I am so unworthy." "I will love them freely." Oh! does not that meet your case? If you were the most unworthy of all created beings, if you had aggravated your sin till you had become the foulest and most vile of all sinners, yet "I will love them freely," puts the worst on an equality with the best, sets you that are the devil's cast-aways, on a par with the most hopeful. There is no reason for God's love in any man, if there is none in you, you are not worse off than the best of men, for there is none in them; the grace and love of God can come as freely to you as they can to those that have long been seeking them, for "I am found of them that sought me not." Yet once more here. I think this subject invites backsliders to return; indeed, the text was specially written for such "I will heal their backsliding; I will love them freely." Here is a son who ran away from home. He enlisted for a soldier. He behaved so badly in his regiment that he had to be drummed out of it. He has been living in a foreign country in so vicious a way that he has reduced his body by disease. His back is covered with rags; his character is that of the vagrant and felon. When he went away he did it on purpose to vex his father's heart, and he has brought his mother's grey hairs with sorrow to the grave. One day the young lad receives a letter full of love. His father writes "Return to me, my child; I will forgive you all; I will love you freely." Now if this letter had said "If you will humble yourself so much, I will love you; if you will come back and make me such-and-such promises, I will love you;" if it had said, "If you will behave yourself for the future, I will love you," I can suppose the young man's proud nature rising; but surely this kindness will melt him. Methinks the generosity of the invitation will at once break his heart, and he will say, "I will offend no longer, I will return at once." Backslider! without any condition you are invited to return. "I am married unto you," saith the Lord. If Jesus ever did love you he has never left off loving you. You may have left off attending to the means of grace; you may have been very slack at private prayer, but if you ever were a child of God you are a child of God still, and he cries "How can I give thee up? How can I set thee as Admah? How can I make thee as Zeboim? My repentings are kindled together; I am God, and not man; I will return unto him in mercy. Return, backslider, and seek thine injured Father's face. I think I hear a murmur somewhere "Well, this is very, very, very Antinomian doctrine." Ay, objector, it is such doctrine as you will want one day; it is the only doctrine which can meet the case of really awakened sinners. "God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, in due time, Christ died for the ungodly." II. Since it is written. "I will love them freely," we believe that NOTHING IN MAN CAN BE AN EFFECTUAL BAR TO GOD'S LOVE. This is the same doctrine put in another shape. Nothing in man can be the cause of God's love, so nothing in man can be an effectual hindrance to God's love I mean such an effectual hindrance as to prevent God from loving man. How shall I prove it? If there be anything in any man which can be a bar to God's grace, then this would have been an effectual hindrance to its coming to any of the human race. All men were in the loins of Adam, and if there were a bar in you to God's love, that would have been in Adam; consequently, being in Adam, it would have been a block to God's love to the race altogether. If there be some sin in you, I say, which can effectually prevent God from showing grace to you, then that was in Adam, seeing you were in the loins of Adam, and it would therefore have been an effectual hindrance to God's grace from the race in any one of its members. Seeing God's grace found no barriers over which it could not leap, no floodgates which it could not burst, no mountains it could not overtop, I am persuaded there is nothing in you why God should not show his grace to you. Besides, one would think that if there be a bar in any it would have prevented the salvation of those who are undoubtedly saved. Mention any sin you like, and I will assure you upon divine authority that men have committed such sins and have yet been saved. Talk of a deed that has blackened the man's character for ever, that deed of foul adultery and murder; yet that did not stop God's love from flowing to David; and even if you have gone that length, and I suppose there is no person here who has gone farther, even that cannot prevent divine love from lighting upon you. As God does not love because there is excellence, so he does not refuse to love because there is sin. Let me select the case of Manasseh; he shed innocent blood very much; he bowed before idols; what was worse, he made his children to pass through the fire to the son of Hinnom, put his own child to death as a sacrifice to the false god, and yet for all that God's love laid hold upon him, and Manasseh became a bright star in heaven, though once as vile as the lost in hell. If there be anything in you, then, that makes you think God cannot love you, I reply, Impossible, for surely your sins do not exceed those of the chief of sinners. Paul says he was the chief of sinners, and he meant it; he spoke by inspiration, and there is no doubt he was. Now if the biggest of sinners has passed through the strait gate, there must be room for the next biggest; if the greatest sinner in the world has been saved, then there is a possibility for you and for me, for we cannot be such great sinners as the very chief of sinners. But I will dare to say that even if we were, even if we could exceed Paul, yet even that could be no barrier; for man's sin, to say the most of it, is but the act of a finite creature, but God's grace is the act of infinite goodness. God forbid that I should depreciate your offenses, they are loathsome, they are hellish in themselves; still they are only a creature's deeds, the deeds of a worm that to-day is and to-morrow is crushed; but the grace, the love, and the pity of God, oh! these are infinite, eternal, everlasting, boundless, matchless, quenchless, unconquerable, and therefore the grace of God can overcome and prove itself mightier than your guilt and sin. There is no bar, then, or else there would have been a bar in the case of others. Would it not mar the sovereignty of God if there should be a man in whom there was something that would effectually prevent God's love from flowing to him? Then it would not be, "I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy;" no, it would be "I will have mercy on those I can have mercy on; but there is such-and-such a man, I cannot have mercy on him, for he is gone too far." No, glory be to God for that sentence "I will have mercy upon whom I will have mercy." The devil may say, "What, on that man, on that man! He has gone too far." "Ah!" but says God, "if I will it, he has not gone too far; I will have mercy on him." I do not know that I ever felt more the boundless sovereignty of the grace of God than when I looked that text in the face and saw it not "I will have mercy on those that are vialing to have it;" or, "I will have mercy on penitents," no "I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy." And so, if God wills to save you, there can be no bar to it, or else that would be a marring and a limiting of the sovereignty of God. Would not this be a great slur cast upon the grace of God? Suppose I could find out a sinner so vile that Jesus Christ could not reach him; why then the devils in hell would take him through their streets as a trophy; they would say, "This man was more than a match for God; his sin was too great for God's grace." What says the Apostle? "Where sin abounded" that is you, poor sinner; "where sin abounded" what sins you plunged into last night, and on other black occasions, "where sin abounded" what? Condemnation? Hopeless despair? No, "Where sin abounded grace did much more abound." I think I see the conflict in the great arena of the universe. Man piles a mountain of sin, but God will match it, and he upheaves a loftier mountain of grace; man heaps up a still huger hill of sin, but the Lord overtops it with ten times more grace; and so the contest continues till at last the mighty God plucks up the mountains by the roots and buries man's sin beneath them as a fly might be buried beneath an Alp. Abundant sin is no barrier to the superabundant grace of God. And then, dear friends, would it not detract glory from the gospel, if it could be proved that there was some man in whom the gospel could not work its way? Suppose that the gospel which is "worthy of all acceptation" could not meet certain cases. Suppose I picked out twelve men who were so diseased that the gospel remedy could not meet their case; oh! then I think I should stop my mouth from all glorying in the cross. I could no more say with the apostle, "God forbid that I should glory save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ," for then it would not be the power of God unto salvation to every one that beheyeth. No, it would be the power of God to all except that dozen. But oh! as often as I come into this pulpit, it gives me joy to know that I have a gospel to preach which is suitable to every case. A friend told me the other day that many notorious characters stole in at times. Thank God for that. "Ah!" said some, "but they come only to laugh." Never mind; thank God if they come. "Oh! but they will make mockery of it." Nay, the Lord knows how to turn mockers into weepers. Let us hope for the worst, and labor for the most hopeless. The love of God has provided means to meet the extremest case. They are twofold; the power of Christ, and the power of the Spirit. Do you tell me that sin is a barrier? I answer, "All manner of sin and of blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men." "The blood of Jesus Christ, his Son, cleanseth from all sin." The atonement of Christ is capable of removing from men, all sorts, sizes, and dyes of iniquity. "Though your sins be as scarlet they shall be as wool; though they be red like crimson they shall be whiter than snow." "Ah," cries one, "man's hard-heartedness stands in the way of God's love." Beloved, the Holy Spirit is ready to meet the case of the hard heart. "Limit not the Holy One of Israel." Is anything too hard for the Lord? You tell me that unbelief is a bar. I answer "No," for cannot the Holy Spirit make the unbelieving believe, yea, if the Holy Spirit once comes into effectual contact with the most unbelieving and obstinate spirit it must believe at once. Look at the jailer, a few minutes ago he had been putting Paul in the stocks. What, what, what, what is this that comes over him? "What must I do to be saved?" "Believe," says the Apostle, and he does believe, and becomes as phant as a child. Out on the men who think that man is master over God! If he willed to stop at this moment the most bloody persecutor, the most filthy and licentious man, if he willed to turn the blackest-hearted atheist into one of the most brilhant of saints, there is nothing in his way to stop him; in a moment omnipotent love can do it; the means are provided, both in the blood of Christ for cleansing, and in the power of the Spirit for renewing the inner man. Therefore, I say it is established beyond doubt, that there is nothing in man which can conquer divine love. "What is the practical use of this," says one. The practical use of this is to set the gate of mercy wide open. I like always to preach sermons which leave the door of mercy on the jar for the worst of sinners, but this morning I set it wide open. A man has dropped in here who has been thinking for years, "I gave myself up to sin in my youth, and I have gone astray ever since there is no hope for me." I tell you, soul, all that you have ever done is no bar to God's love to you, for he does not love you because of anything good in you, and that which is black in you cannot prevent his loving you if he so wills it. I tell thee what I would have thee do. I have seen those like unto thee come to the foot of the cross, and they have said
"Just as I am, and waiting not To rid my soul of one dark blot, To thee whose blood can cleanse each spot, O Lamb of God, I come."
If thou in thy soul canst now trust the love of God in Christ, thou art saved; no matter whosoever thou mayest be, thou art saved this morning, and thou shalt go out of this house a regenerate soul, for thou hast believed in Jesus, therefore the love of God is come to thee, all thy past life is forgotten and forgiven; all thy past ingratitude, and blasphemy, and sin are cast into the depths of the sea; and, as far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed thy transgressions from thee. I have known the time when, if I had heard the sermon of this morning, faint and feeble though it be, I should have danced for joy. I feel an intense inward satisfaction and delight while preaching it, for I believe it is the opening of the prison to them that are bound. Christ died not for the righteous but for sinners. He gave himself for our sins and not for our righteousness; this old Lutheran doctrine this grand doctrine which shook old Rome to her very foundations, methinks must give poor sinners comfort and peace. I know that many will see nothing in it. Of course, none but the sick see any value in the healing medicine. I know there are some here who will think the sermon is not for them. Oh! may the Spirit of God make some accept of this comfort; but they will not unless the Spirit of God makes them. Too many of us are like foolish patients, who will not take the physician's medicine, and he has need to hold us, and thrust it down before we will take it. This is how the Lord dealeth with many, not against their will, but yet against their will as it used to be, he giveth them the medicine of his grace, and maketh them whole. To sum up all in one, what I mean is this: there have straggled in here this morning the poor working man, the struggling mechanic, the gay young fop, the man who leads a fast life, the wretch who leads a coarse life, the woman, perhaps, who has gone far astray; I mean to say to such, you are lost, but the Son of man is come to seek and to save you. I mean to say to you, sons and daughters of moral parents, who are not converted, but perhaps feel yourselves even worse than the immoral, I mean to say to you that you are not past hope yet. God will love you freely, and this is how his love is preached to you "Whosoever beheyeth on the Lord Jesus Christ shall be saved." Come as you are; God will accept you as you are. Come as you are, without any preparation or fitness; come as you are, and where the cross is lifted high with the bleeding Son of God upon it, fall flat on your face, accepting the love manifested there, willingly receiving this day the grace which God willingly and freely gives. As sinners, without any qualification, as sinners, as undeserving sinners, my Lord will receive you graciously and love you freely.
Grace Reviving Israel
by C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892)
"I will be as the dew unto Israel: he shall grow as the lily, and cast forth his roots as Lebanon. His branches shall spread, and his beauty shall be as the olive tree, and his smell as Lebanon. They that dwell under his shadow shall return; they shall revive as the corn, and grow as the vine: the scent thereof shall be as the wine of Lebanon." Hosea 14:5-7 .
In reading this passage, does it ever fail to charm you? How full of beauty, and how full of poetry it is! Every word is a figure. Fair flowers that adorn, and corn that enricheth the fields; the olive tree, and the vine; the scent of the wine of Lebanon, and all rich things are here gathered and clustered together, to set forth the beauty of Israel under the reviving influences of God's favor. And as this one portion of Sacred Writ is full of poetry, the like holds good of all the Word Of God. There is no book so poetic in its character as the Book of Inspiration. We had rather for poetry's sake, lose all the books that have ever been written by all the poets that ever lived, than lose the sacred Scriptures; yea, if a collection could be made of all the gems of all the noted books; could they all be bound into one volume, there could not be found so many beauties as lie here, some of them hidden, and others of them manifest, in this most blessed volume of Revelation. Altogether apart from the sublimity of the matters treated, and the glory of the doctrines, the style itself is enough to make the book precious to every reader. It is a wondrous book; it is the book of God: yea, as Herbert says, "The god of books." It is a book full of stars; every page blazes with light, from almost every sentence there beams forth some beautiful metaphor, some glorious figure. In expounding the words of the text, we shall observe, first, the promise of grace made to Israel, notwithstanding, Israel's sin: "I will be as the dew unto Israel." Secondly, the influences of divine grace sweetly set forth in divers metaphors; and thirdly, the effect of divine grace upon those around: "they that dwell under his shadow shall return; they shall revive as the corn, and grow as the vine: the scent thereof shall be as the wine of Lebanon." I. Here is A PROMISE OF GRACE MADE TO THE CHRISTIAN: "I will be as the dew unto Israel." I need not remind you that the Christian, (under the similitude of Israel, as I shall presently show you,) is here compared to a plant, a plant which cannot be watered by any water that is to be found on earth, a plant which needs heavenly watering, even the dew from above. Hypocrites may be watered by natural religion. Formalists may get their supply from the wells and springs of earth; but the Christian is a plant which can only be supported by dew from heaven. He feels that though the river of Egypt might be turned to his roots, he could not grow; though all the water in its floods, and though the ocean itself might be brought to irrigate him, yet he could get no genial moisture, no true growing power, from all that could be had on earth. He needs to have his dew from heaven. "Well," says God to Israel, "thou art of thyself dewless, and sapless, and motionless, and thou hast no moisture. Thou canst not obtain any of thine own, nor can mortals give it thee; but do thou stand still where I have planted thee, and I will water thee every moment. I, the Lord will keep thee, I will be as the dew unto thee." That Eastern figure, dew for it is essentially Eastern, and not so well to be understood in this country has in it several beauties. You will notice, first of all, that grace, like the dew, often comes down imperceptibly into man's heart. When did the dew tell us that it was about to fall? Who ever heard the footsteps of the dew coming down upon the meadow grass? Who ever knew when it was descending? We see it when it has fallen; but who saw it come? And so with Christianity: it is very often imperceptible in its operations. True it is sometimes like the rattling hail, pelting on the windows: the sinner knows when it comes by stormy convictions, and by troubled feelings within, but quite as often the work of grace in man's heart is like the "still small voice," which few hear, and of which even the man himself is partially unconscious, not as to its operation perhaps, but as to its nature, feeling that there is a something in his heart, though not positively sure that it really comes from God. Christian! despise not spiritual things, because thou hearest not a sound therewith. Much that God doeth, he doeth in silence. There is a plant which bursts with the sound of a trumpet; but full many a flower called beautiful, openeth in silence, and no man heareth the sound thereof. There be some Christians who seem bound to make a noise in the world, they were made for that purpose; but there be far more who have to blush unseen whose glory it is not to "waste their sweetness," though to perfume "the desert air," and to make it sing and blossom like the garden of the Lord. Beloved, you may perhaps fancy that you have not grace, because it has not come upon you in terrible excitements and in awful convictions. I beseech you, do not distrust the power of grace, because it has stolen imperceptibly into your hearts. Mark the promise: "I will be as the dew unto Israel," Again, if the dew is sometimes imperceptible, it is always sufficient. If God waters the earth with dew, foolish would be the man who should go afterwards, to water after his Maker. And God's grace, when it comes upon man's heart, is all-sufficient. What he giveth unto Israel, his own chosen people, is always enough for them. They sometimes think they want something more; they never really do, and what else they want, or think they want, it is better for them still to want. God is sufficient. And the dew, too, when it is required, is constant. God may, if he pleases, withhold the dew, that he may make a nation fear before him, but he usually sendeth the dew in its appointed time, and each morning beholdeth the pearly drops shed forth from the hand of God; and do, Christian, God will be thy dew. As thou wantest grace; so shalt thou find it.
"All needful grace will God bestow, And crown that grace with glory too; He gives us all things. and withholds No real good from upright souls."
But it is superfluous for me to tell you what is the meaning of this figure. You all know it ten times better than I do, or at least you ought, for I am sure this text has been preached from times enough, and you are always hearing the metaphor used. Like many of God's metaphors it is so simple, so glorious, it arrests our attention at first sight "I will be as the dew unto Israel." Instead of explaining, therefore, allow me to question you concerning it. Are you, my dear friends, of the number here mentioned who belong to Israel? You ask me what is meant by Israel. I reply, that historically Israel means God's elect, his chosen ones: "Israel have I loved, but Esau have I hated." But as you cannot tell that you are God's elect, except by signs and marks, I must tell you another meaning of Israel. Israel means a man of prayer. The name of "Israel" was given to Jacob, because he "wrestled with the angel, and prevailed." Are you a man of prayer? Come now, answer the question, each one of you for yourselves. Are you men of prayer, and women of prayer? Alas! some of you may use a form of prayer, but it hath no life in it. You ask, do I object to forms of prayer? I answer, no. I believe that sometimes forms of prayer, moulded according to the mind of the Spirit, are offered up with the vital breath of the same Spirit of God. Far be it from me to say, that because you use a form of prayer, therefore you do not pray at all; this however I remind you, your form of prayer is merely a vehicle, that moveth not except as it is drawn. Of itself it is like a steam engine, motionless till the furnace is heated; or rather, it is like the carriage which is drawn by the steam engine, being linked thereto with chains. A form of prayer is a heavy material thing, which prayer has to drag after it. It is no help to prayer, but rather a burden to it. There may be prayer with the huge cumbrous thing called the form attached but the form is distinct in every sense from the power. The prayer is the spirit, the life, the desire, the wish, the agonizing panting with God to obtain the blessing I ask you not whether you use a form of prayer, or whether you utter extempore prayers; for you may speak extemporaneously in prayer, and talk as much nonsense, ay, and a great deal more than you would if you used a prescribed form; you may avoid formality, and become frivolous. It is not uttering spontaneous words that is prayer any more than repeating a litany. But I ask you, do you pray? If you are prayerless, then you have no right to call yourselves God's elect. God's people are a praying people. They are an Israel, a wrestling race; and unto them the promise is made "I will be unto them as the dew unto Israel." Yet one more hint: Israel may represent those who have chosen a better portion, who have given up the mess of pottage, who have sold that to "the men whose portion is in this life," and are looking to the recompense in another world. Art thou, my hearer, one of those who are content with a mess of pottage? Is it enough for thee if thy dish be filled with dainty meat, thy wine-cup full, thine income steady, and thy back clothed with goodly raiment; and dost thou then care nothing for the things to come? Is thy whole soul set on the things of earth? Then I warn thee. Though thou mayest talk about being elect, thou art none of God's elect unless thou hast set thine affections on things above and not on things on the earth. If thou art trying to make the best of things in this world, rejecting or even slighting that one object which ought to be three only one, to make the best of the next world, and dost not leave this in God's hand for him to take care of, thou art none of his. Unless thou hast renounced the pottage, and taken Christ to be thine all and heaven thy portion, thou hast no well-founded hope, and thou hast no right to take this promise to thyself "I will be as the dew unto Israel." But thou who abhorrest the world, thou who spendest thy time in prayer, thou mayest take this to thyself; and in thy most barren and dry moments, thou mayest urge this at the mercy-throne "I will be as the dew unto Israel." II. THE INFLUENCE OF DIVINE GRACE IN THE SOUL ARE HERE SET FORTH IN METAPHOR "I will be as the dew unto Israel." What is the effect? Although grace is imperceptible in its coming, it is discernible enough in its fruits. The very first effect of grace in the heart is, that it makes us grow upward. We shall "grow as the lily." This refers to the daffodil lily, which on a sudden, in a night, will spring up. There may have been no lilies at all in a field, but after a shower of rain the lilies may be seen springing up everywhere and the ground will appear perfectly covered with their yellow hue. Mark, that is what grace does in a man's soul. Wherever grace comes, its first operation is to make us grow up. It is a remarkable fact, that young Christians grow upward faster than any other Christians. They grow upward in their flaming love, mighty zeal, ardent hopes and longing expectations. Sometimes indeed our old friends step in and say, "Ah! young man, you are growing a great deal too fast; you are springing too rapidly upward; you will have a bitter frost to nip you a little presently." Very well, that is true enough; but that frost will come quite soon enough, without any of your frosty breath going before it. Let the young grow when they can do not give them a piercing nip with your freezy fingers. Let them thrive while they can. You may tell us we shall hurt our constitutions, and by-and-bye we shall not be so zealous; nevertheless, let us alone till our constitutions are hurt, suffer us to be zealous while we can. You know very well, with all your prudence, you would give a king's ransom if you could to-morrow have your juvenile ardor over again; and yet you quarrel with us because we grow upward. Why it is the effect of grace to grow upwards. The very first thing that grace does for us is to make us grow upward in love. Oh! what sweet love that is that we have in the early morning of life! There is not a prayer-meeting, but we are there; there is not a lecture, but oh how sweet it is to us; there is scarce a good deed to be done, but we must be engaged in it; we are so earnest, we are growing so fast. "They shall grow as the lily;" that is the promise. So when you see the promise fulfilled, my dear aged friends, do not be peevish or rebuke the young people, because they grow up and flourish in the courts of the Lord's house. There is a second effect. After they have been growing upward, they have to grow downward. While "he shall grow as the lily," he shall "cast forth his roots as Lebanon" likewise. God will not have his people all flower and foliage, he wants them also to take deep root and throw out strong fibres. After a few years, when we have been growing up in ardent piety, it usually happens that some doubt crosses the mind, or some affliction comes, which, if it does not chill our ardor, yet sometimes checks our energy, and we do not grow so fast as we should. Well, what is the effect? Are we really hurt or injured thereby? I trow not. Growing down is quite as good as growing up. I will not say it is better. The most blessed growth in grace is to be growing up and growing down to be rooted in humility, And yet growing up in zeal; but usually the two do not come together. Sometimes we grow up, and at other times we grow down. We are such poor mortals, we cannot attend to two things at once. So sure as ever we take to shooting up, the devil comes and tries to prevent us growing down; and if we are growing down, he generally keeps us from growing up. Well, if we cannot do two things at once, what a mercy it is that we can do one at a time, by God's grace! After having grown up. the Christian grows down; "he casts forth his roots as Lebanon;" that is, he gets less in his own esteem. He was nothing once, but he now begins to be less than nothing. He thought humbly of himself before; but now he thinks worse of himself than ever he did. If you ask him now what is his character, although he said he was "a poor sinner and nothing at all" before; now he will tell you, that he thinks he is the poorest of sinners, for he has not grown one atom the richer all the time he has served his Lord. He is still poor in spirit, and perhaps poorer than ever he was. Blessed is it to grow downward! And let me remind you, my dear friends, that growing downward is a very excellent thing to promote stability. Perhaps that is the exact meaning of the passage. When we are first brought to God, we are like the lily, wafted about by the wind, afterwards we grow downwards, and become firm. I am fully convinced that the prevailing lack of this age is not so much in respect to growing upwards as growing downwards. Whenever I look abroad on the aggregate assemblies of religious people, I am obliged to hold a large number of my hearers in supreme contempt. Are you not one day crowding to hear me preach what I think the truth, and another day cramming a place where a man is preaching the very opposite to what I hold to be true? The fact is, some of you have no idea of what fundamental truth in theology is. The popular cry is for liberality of sentiment, and if a man happens to say a hard word against anything he thinks essentially wrong, he is accounted a bigot directly. Many of you shrink from the imputation of bigotry, as if it were more awful than heresy in regard to the faith. You would as soon be called a common informer as be called a bigot. I beseech you, do not be appalled at a taunt. Do not be a bigot, but do not be ashamed of being called one. A man ought to have stable principles, and not be ever shifting about from one set of opinions to another. He ought not to be hearing a Calvinistic minister in the Morning, and saying, that is good, and then going in the evening to hear an Arminian minister, and saying, that is good. We are often told by some ministers in their drawing rooms, that God will not ask in the day of judgment what a man believed, for if his life has been correct, it will not much matter what doctrines he held. I am at a loss for the authority on which they base such laxness. I wonder who told them that was the truth. I have read my Bible through, and I have never found a text that could absolve my judgment from its allegiance to my Maker. I hold, that to believe wrongly is equally as great a sin in the sight of heaven as to act wrongly. Error is a crime before God, and though there is liberty of conscience, so far as man and man are concerned, there is no liberty of conscience with God. You are not free to believe truth, or to believe error just as you like. You are bound to believe what God says is truth, and on your soul's peril be it, that you believe two things that are contrary, or confound the positive and the negative, where faith is the evidence of justification, and unbelief the seal of a sinner's doom. Methinks God will say to you at last, "Man, I gave thee brains; I endowed thee with reason; how couldst thou suppose thyself less responsible for the use of thy brains than for the use of thy tongue?" One man says, "Yes;" another says "No," and because it is the fashion to call out "Liberality, liberality, liberality," thou dost assent to both, and joining the crowd thou art sincere in neither. Thou oughtest rather to say, "I believe that what I hold is true, and if I did not, I should not avow it, and believing it to be true, I cannot hold that the opposite is true, nor can I be continually going to hear one doctrine at one time and another at another; my conscience demands that I distinguish between things that differ." My dear friends, do try to grow down; strive to get a good hold of the rocky doctrines of free grace; do not give them up; keep fast hold of them. When you believe a thing upon genuine conviction, do not shrink from the avowal, because an ill name is applied to it; say rather,
"Should all the forms that men devise Assault my faith with treacherous art, I'd call them vanity and lies, And bind the gospel to my heart."
Well, what next? After Christian has become confirmed in his doctrine, and has received the truth in the love of it, what next? Why the next thing is, he makes a profession. "His branches shall spread." He has been a lily straight up, with no branches at all; but now his roots have struck deep into the ground, like the cedars of Lebanon; and the next thing he does is to send forth branches. He says, "I am a Christian; I cannot keep it a secret, I must let somebody know I am a child of God." He goes to a prayer-meeting, and he is asked to pray. There is one branch spread. He goes to join a church; there is another branch. He sits down to the Lord's supper: there is another branch. And so the little lily, which was at first but a tiny plant, now grows into a tree, and his branches spread. That is a blessed effect of grace, believe me, when it leads you to come forth from your obscurity, and let the world know what you are. I have no patience with some of you who talk about being secret Christians. I should think a man a deserter if he were to say, "Well, I am a soldier, but I do not like anybody to know it." I should think that he did not belong to one of our good regiments surely, or he would not be ashamed of his colors. But there are many now-a-days that you scarce know whether they are Christians. Shall I tell you why? The awful fact is, that they are not Christians. "No man lighteth a candle and putteth it under a bushel." You know what the consequence would be if he did, it would burn a hole through so sure as it was a candle; and no man can have grace in his heart, and keep it a secret. I am sure it must come out; it is one of the things that cannot be concealed. You shall not tell me you can walk into worldly company, and never let it be known that you are a Christian; that you can live for months in a house, and keep it dark that a Christian is living there. If that is the case, I tell you the angels do not know it; for it is not a fact. He that is a child of God will be discovered; his conduct will be different from the rest of men. "Thy speech betrayeth thee," said the maid to Peter. And our speech will betray us, if we are disciples. I beseech you, let me stir you up, my young friends, to make a more open profession of your faith. The Savior has done much for you; do not be ashamed of him, I implore you, but begin to make a profession of Christ Jesus, your Lord. Having joined the church and made a profession, what is the next effect of grace for the believer then? Why it is to make him beautiful as "the olive-tree." The most beautiful thing in the world is a Christian. Shall I tell you what kind of beauty he has? His beauty is the beauty of an olive tree; and that consists, first, in its fruitfulness. The most beautiful olive tree a man can grow is the one that bears the most; and the most beautiful Christian in the Church is the one that abounds most in good works. Besides, the olive is an evergreen, and so is the Christian. He has an olive-green beauty. 'He has a beauty which does not fade away, as it does from other trees, but lives for ever. Ah! my friends, we sometimes put one of our members before others because of his wealth, and at times we show a little partiality to another because of his eloquence, and to another because of his talents, but I take it that God ranks us all according to our fruitfulness. The most beautiful tree in a garden is the one that bears the most fruit: and there is a promise given to a Christian that after his branches have spread, his beauty shall be as the olive tree; that is, he shall grow and be laden with fruit. The olive tree, I have told you before, is evergreen; and so is the beauty of the Christian. Alas for the beautiful Christians we have in some of our places of worship on Sunday! Glorious Christians! Oh! if they could be packed up and sent to heaven just as they are, or provided their appearances were true indications of their state, what a blessed thing it would be! But alas, alas! on the Monday they have not the same sort of dress they had on Sunday, and therefore they have not the same kind of actions. Oh! dear friends, there is so much more Sunday religion in these days! Now, I like a Monday religion, and a Tuesday religion, and a Wednesday religion, and a Thursday religion, and a Friday religion, and a Saturday religion. I do not think the religion of the pulpit, or the religion of the pen, is to be relied upon. I think it is the religion of a draper's shop, the religion of a corn exchange, religion in a house, religion in the street, and the religion of a fireside, that proves us to be God's children. But how would some of you come off if you were weighed in these balances? Fine fellows, with your feathers on, on Sunday; but poor creatures when you are in your undress, in your religious dishabille on Monday! Ye are not well arrayed then; but ah! if ye were Christians, ye would be always well arrayed: yea, you would be always beautiful as the olive tree. Again, "His smell shall be as Lebanon." Now, I take it, the smell means the report which will go out concerning a man. As you walk up Lebanon, it is said that the flowers of the aromatic herbs there cast up a most delicious perfume. You need not touch a flower you can smell it at a distance. And so with the true Christian. Without seeking for it, he will obtain a blessed name among his brethren, and some name also amongst the world. "His beauty shall be as the olive tree." Once more, "His smell shall be as Lebanon." Did you ever know a flower at all concerned about its odour, or about what people would think of it? Did you ever hear a rose have a law-suit with a thorn, because the thorn said the rose did not smell sweetly? No certainly not. The rose went silently on, casting up its perfume, and left Mr. Thorn alone. Now, at times, with all ministers and with all Christians, there will be all manner of reports and hard sayings; but I have found a great gain by letting the fellows alone. When they are tired, they will have done, I dare say; and I am sure they will not much hurt us. If there be anything amiss in us, we are much obliged to them, and we will try and mend it; but if they have lied about us it is a satisfaction to us, as far as we are concerned, to know that they are liars, and we pray God that they may not have a portion in "the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone." Beloved, you never need be very much concerned what men shall say of your character; only take care that in the midst of reproach you are without guile or guilt. Live, live, live, that is the way to beat all slanderers and all calumniators. Keep straight on with what you think is right, and in due time your light shall burst forth as the morning, and your brightness as the sun in his strength. "His beauty shall be as the olive tree, and his smell as Lebanon." Wherever the Christian goes he will cast a perfume about him; and when he is gone he will leave some savor behind which will be remembered. III. Thus far we have spoken concerning the benefits of grace to the Christian himself: more briefly I will now address you CONCERNING THE BENEFITS OF GRACE TO OTHERS. The text says, "they that dwell under his shadow shall return." I am sure, my dear friends, if you have Christian principle in your heart, you will not like a selfish religion. Though you will hold it to be a duty continually to examine yourself; and to see that you also are sound in the faith, you will not confine your religion to yourself. You may perhaps take the maxim that Christianity should begin at home, but you will never think of improving on it by thinking that it ought to end there. I like an expansive religion. I should not like to attend a chapel where all the preaching was meant for me where all I heard comforted me. I should not like to go where there was not a scrap for me, but all for my brethren; nor where there was not something for the poor sinner. I could not afford to attend a place where I should always hear that which was exclusively for the saint, or exclusively for the sinner. If a man left half his congregation without a word, I should doubt whether he would give me the right one. But there are some people so selfish that, provided they go to heaven, it is enough they are in the covenant. They are the dear people of God generally dear at any price; a peculiar people awfully peculiar they are, certainly: they are so different from other people, there is no doubt about that. They say it is equal whether God ordains man's life or man's death. They would sit still to hear men damned, and I do believe they would sing a song over hell itself and hail its jubilee. They seem to have no feeling for anyone but themselves. They have dried the heart out of them by some cunning sleight of hand, they have taken away the marrow from the bones of godliness, and wrapped themselves entirely up in self. But true Christianity will be expansive and care for others. Come, then, ye men of generous hearts, ye of glowing charity, here is a promise for you you have some who dwell under your shadow. Are you a ministers your people sit under your shadow on the Sabbath. Are you a father? your children come and dwell under your shadow. Are you a master? your workmen dwell under your shadow; you have often prayed for their salvation; you have often yearned for the conversion of their souls. Mother! you have often pleaded for the deliverance of a daughter from her sin. "They that dwell under his shadow shall return." If you want to do good to your neighbors, and to bring them to Christ, put your own heart much upon the Savior. The more of Christ a man has, the more useful will he be in his day. If you were to look at all the ministers that have been useful, you will not find they were distinguished by great talent so much as by great grace. God can bless a poor unsophisticated countryman to the salvation of hundreds if he has grace; and a man ever so learned may preach in vain, with great periods and stupendous sentences, if he has none. Do you, then, seek to prove that promise "I will be as the dew unto Israel," and so doing, you will get this other promise fulfilled "They that dwell under your shadow shall return, shall revive as the corn, and grow as the vine: the scent thereof shall be as the wine of Lebanon." I have no time to dwell upon these points "they shall revive as the corn," or "they shall return;" but I must just make a remark upon that sweet thought "they shall grow as the vine." We will transplant the Eastern metaphor into Western soil. Vines, with us, grow up by the side of walls, they could not grow up themselves if there were not some prop against which they could lean for support. Now, I have often thought this is an explanation of that text "Train up a child in the way he should go." Do you try all you can by God's grace to train up your child like you would a vine; and here is the promise. "It shall grow as the vine." Oh! I have thought, what a pretty sight it is to see an aged Christian, who, in his youth, was a Sabbath-school teacher, still a member of the Church; and there are nine or ten young men in the Church, perhaps, and they walk up and down the chapel, and go and talk to him, and comfort him. Do you not see how that is? Why, when the young man was a strong oak, he let those pieces of ivy grow around him; and those young Christians entwined and grew around him like the vine, and now he has become an old man the wind would come and blow the oak down, but the ivy that is twisted around it shields him from the blast and keeps him upright. So with aged Christians, when they have served their God well in their day and generation they shall have comforts from others who have grown around them like the vine, and shall be sheltered by them in their old age. May those of us who are young always seek to cheer the aged! Let us never despise them; let us try as much as we can to grow around them, that we may tower upwards by their means and that they may be comforted by our adherence. "They shall revive as the corn, and grow as the vine." Lastly, "The scent thereof shall be as Lebanon." The Christian man shall not allow others to grow up by him, but by a godly conversation, he shall spread the sweetness of perfume wherever he goes. I know some dear saints of the Lord who, if they come to my house for five minutes, leave a refreshing savor behind them for five weeks. They come and talk to me of the things of the kingdom, and I have not forgotten their sweet influence on my spirit for a long time after they have gone. It is said of the wine of Lebanon, that if you pour some into a glass the flavour of it will remain for a long time after the wine is gone. And you know of old wine casks, that it is long before the taste of the wine departs out of them. So with the old Christian; he has got a savoury conversation, he talks of the things of the kingdom, and leaves a perfume behind him which lasts for weeks afterwards and you say, "Oh how I wish that man of God would come to my house again; what a sweet savor there was about him!" This is not the case with every one. Many of you, when you go and see your friends, sit and tittle tattle all the afternoon, and on the Lord's day you break the Sabbath as much as if you had sought diversion in the park, although you cry out so much against those who go there. How many there are who utterly waste their time by unprofitable chat in their own houses! Let me solemnly warn you concerning this "They that feared the Lord spake often one to another" not about one another. When you meet together, there is too little talk about Christ Jesus, the glory of his kingdom, and the greatness of his power. Ministers come in for their share of fulsome praise or offensive scandal, but brethren, these things ought not to be so. Beloved, if you are true Christians that is the point you will leave a scent behind you in your conversation; and when you are dead, there will still be a sweet savor left. Ah! there was good old wine in this pulpit once; there was good old wine in this house of God once, and I can see the stains of it here now. Yea, there is the perfume of holy Whitfield in this place to-night; I am sure there is. I can fancy his shade looking down this evening upon this hallowed spot. I am sure he rejoices to see the multitude keeping holyday here; and there is to me, somehow, a kind of solemn awe throughout this place. I wonder how I dared to come here, to stand where he once stood, "whose shoes latchet I am unworthy to unloose." Oh! dear friends, it is something to leave a scent behind you as long as he has done. You may all do it in a measure. In one of Whitfield's sermons, (I like to read them continually, for I can find none like them), he speaks of some young man who said, "I will not live in my old father's house, for there is not a chair or a table there but smells of his piety." That is what you should endeavor to do, to make your house so smell of piety, that a wicked man cannot stop in it; to make it so holy, that without obtrusively telling your sentiments, it should make ungodly men uncomfortable in it; you should so live, that your name in your private circles, if not elsewhere, may be mentioned with honor, and it may be said of you, "Ah! he was one who reflected his Master's image, and who sought to adorn the doctrine of God his Savior in all things." I may have spoken to you in what you may think an odd style to-night, but I have spoken earnestly, right on I never pretend to preach to you eloquently, but I have only thrown out thought; I wish you to remember, and God grant that you may find them to your profit. But I am well aware that I am preaching to a great many who know nothing about the things of which I have been speaking. What shall I say to them? Oh! my dear hearers, I should like to strike beneath the floor of this pulpit, and get Whitfield to rise up and preach to you for five minutes. How he would plead with you! how he would stretch forth his hands, the tears rolling down his cheeks, and how he would cry out in his usual impassioned manner "Come, sinners, come; God help you to come to Jesus Christ!" and then he would go on to tell you how the heart of Christ is big enough to take big sinners in, and how the blackest and the filthiest the devil's castaways even, are welcome to Christ. And I think I see him pressing the poor convinced sinners into the fold. I think I see him doing as the angels did with Lot, taking them by the shoulders, and saying, "Run, run, for your life; look not behind you, stay not in all the plain!" I cannot do it as he could; but, nevertheless, if these lips had the language which the heart would speak, I would plead with you for Jesus' sake, that you would be reconciled to God. I have, I trust, some here who are crying for a Savior; they feel they want him; God has brought them to this states they feel their need of him. Sinner! if thou wantest Christ, Christ wants thee; if thou hast a desire after Christ, Christ has a desire after thee. What sayest thou, poor soul, wilt thou take Christ just as he is? Come! bundle out all thy righteousness. come! pack up all thy goodness and cast it out of doors. Take Jesus, Jesus only, to be thy salvation; and I tell thee, though thou wert black as night, and filthy as a demon, while thou art yet in the land of the living, if thou dost now take Christ as thy Savior, that Christ will be enough for thee, enough to clothe thee, enough to purge thee, enough to perfect thee, and enough to land thee safe in heaven. But if you are self-righteous, I have no gospel for you except this,
"Not the righteous, not the righteous, Sinners, Jesus, came to save."
Sinners, of all sorts and sizes! sinners black, sinners blacker, sinners blackest! sinners filthy, sinners filthier, sinners filthiest! sinners bad, sinners worse, sinners worst! all ye who can take to yourselves the name of sinners! all of you who can subscribe to that title! I, in God's name, preach to you that "he is able to save to the uttermost them that come unto God by him;" and if by faith and prayer you are enabled to come to him this night, there is not a sinner who feels his need of a Savior who may not this night have that Savior. God has given him first, and he will not deny him second. He who is freely proclaimed in revelation, is freely commended to you in ministration.
"True relief and true repentance, Every grace that brings you nigh; Without money, Come to Jesus Christ, and buy."
Oh! save souls! O God! save souls! Amen! Amen!
Two Sermons: The Great Change and Where to Find Fruit
The Great Change
July 18th, 1886 by C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892)
"Ephraim shall say, What have I to do any more with idols? I have heard him, and observed him: I am like a green fir tree. From me is thy fruit found." Hosea 14:8 .
This passage is in very vivid contrast to what Ephraim had previously said, as it is recorded in the early part of Hosea's prophecy. If you turn to the second chapter, and the fifth verse, you will find this same Ephraim saying, "I will go after my lovers, that give me my bread and my water, my wool and my flax, mine oil and my drink." These lovers were the idol gods, and Ephraim was determined to go after them, for she ascribed to them her various comforts, her bread and her water, her wool and her flax, her oil and her drink. So desperately set was this Ephraim upon going after her idols that God had much ado to drag her away from them, for that second chapter continues, "Therefore, behold, I will hedge up thy way with thorns, and make a wall, that she shall not find her paths. And she shall follow after her lovers, but she shall not overtake them; and she shall seek them, but shall not find them." So, you see, this people had been desperately set upon following after idols; yet, before the prophecy is ended, we find this same Ephraim saying, "What have I to do any more with idols?" What a change the grace of God works in the heart! It reverses the action of the entire machinery of our being. It puts, "No," for "Yes," and "Yes," for "No." It is a radical change; that which we hated, we come to love; and that which we loved, we come to hate. Whereas we said, concerning this and that, "I will," and "I shall," the grace of God makes us change our note and we say "I will not; by God's grace, I will not act as I said I would, for what have I to do any more with idols?" At the beginning of this discourse, I would like to put to each one whom I am addressing this question, "Have you, my friend, ever experienced this great and total change?" Remember, if you have not, it is imperatively necessary that you should if you desire to be numbered among the Lord's people. "Ye must be born again," and this being born again is not the evolving of some good thing out of you that is already there hidden away, but the putting into you of something which is not there. It is the quickening of you from your death in sin. It is a change in you as great as was wrought upon the person of our Lord Jesus when, after lying in the grave dead, he was brought to life. Nothing short of this new birth, this resurrection, this thorough, total, radical change will make you meet to enter heaven. You have no right to expect that you will ever stand within yon gates of pearl unless you have been created anew in Christ Jesus. He that sitteth on the throne saith, "Behold, I make all things new;" and he must make you new, or else, into the new kingdom where there is a new heaven and a new earth, you can never come; nay, you cannot even see that kingdom, for our Lord's words are as true to-day as when he said to Nicodemus, "Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." Let that searching thought remain with you, and try yourselves by it. But now I shall take you at once to the words of the text, that we may think of the change which was wrought upon Israel, or Ephraim. We will consider, first, the character of this change: "Ephraim shall say, What have I any more to do with idols?" Then, secondly, let us note the cause of this change; and, thirdly, the effect of this change. I. First, then, we are to consider THE CHARACTER OF THIS CHANGE. Ephraim had been besotted with her idolatry. The Israelites were never contented with idols of one sort; they went to Moab, to Egypt, to Philistia, to Assyria, to the Hittites, and to any other ites, to borrow idols. They introduced fresh idols from distant countries, they were never satisfied with the number of their images; yet now, when God has effectually wrought upon their hearts, they say, one voice speaking for all, "What have I to do any more with idols?" Notice, that this change was a very hearty and spontaneous one. Ephraim did not say, "I should like to worship idols, yet I dare not." She did not say, "I should like to set up graven images, but I must not." On the contrary, she herself said, "What have I to do any more with idols?" I wish that some people whom I might mention understood what conversion means. They say to us, "So you do not attend the theatre; what a denial it must be to you!" It is nothing of the kind, for we never have a wish or desire to go there. What have we, the twice-born, to do with these vain things of the world? "Oh, but the drunkard's cup it must be a very great piece of self-denial to you to abjure it!" On the contrary, it is loathsome to us; we have come to feel as if the most nauseous medicine that could be mixed would be sweeter to us than that cup. What have we to do any more with idols? So, each thing that is evil becomes to the real convert a disgusting and distasteful thing. He does not say, "Oh, how I should like it! How I long for it! What a hungering I have after it!" If he detects in himself the least hankering after evil of any kind, he cries out, "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" But as far as the work of God's Spirit has been wrought upon him, he has a thorough hearty severance and divorce from those things which he once loved, and he has as great a horror of them as once he had a desire for them. Now he sings,
"Let worldly minds the world pursue, It has no charms for me; Once I admired its trifles too, But grace has set me free.
"Its pleasures now no longer please, No more content afford; Far from my heart be joys like these, Now I have seen the Lord.
"As by the light of opening day The stars are all conceal'd; So earthly pleasures fade away, When Jesus is reveal'd."
I say again, the change is a very spontaneous and hearty one. Ephraim shall herself freely say, "What have I to do any more with idols? I have done with those things, and I am glad to have done with them. Oh, that I had done with them once for all!" I asked a convert, this last week, perhaps to a dozen I have put the same question, "My dear brother, are you perfect?" "No, sir," each one has said, "I am not." Then when I have enquired, "Would you not like to be perfect?" the answer in every case has been, "Yes, indeed I would; it would be heaven on earth if I could but be perfectly holy. Oh, that I were clean rid of sin!" So we sing, with Cowper
"The dearest idol I have known, Whate'er that idol be, Help me to tear it from thy throne, And worship only thee."
Let the idols go; smash them all up, break them in pieces like potter's vessels. If there be a lust, if there be a passion, if there be a joy, if there be a desire, that is not according to the mind of God, away with it. We cannot endure the evil thing, and want to get rid of it. Ephraim shall say, and shall say it cheerfully, spontaneously, heartily, "What have I to do any more with idols?" Observe also, that this change is the work of God's effectual grace. Notice the wording of the text: "Ephraim shall say." It is God who says, Ephraim shall say." Perhaps you ask me, "Did you not say that Ephraim said this voluntarily, spontaneously, with all her heart, and of her own free will?" Yes, that is so; but the Holy Spirit, without violating the freedom of man's will, is the Master of that will. There used to be great wars and fightings among Christian people about free will and free grace; and when I read the reports of those controversies, I am struck with the great amount of truth that was spoken on both sides. When I hear a man stoutly affirm that, if there be any good thing, it is all of the grace of God, I know that it is so; but when another declares that man is a free agent, and that, if he acts virtuously at all, his free will must consent to it, and that this condition is essential to the very making of virtue, is not that also true? Certainly it is, and why should we not believe both? Ephraim cheerfully says, "What have I to do any more with idols?" and yet at the back of that, is the great mysterious energy and work of the Holy Ghost bringing to pass the eternal purpose and decree of God, so that they are fulfilled. For God to work his will with mere materialism, with dead blocks of wood or stone, with rivers or with tempests, is but ordinary omnipotence; but for God to leave men absolutely and responsible agents, and never to interfere with the freedom of their agency, and yet for him to accomplish his eternal purposes concerning them to every jot and tittle, this is, if I may so say, omnipotent omnipotence, this is almighty power carried to a climax. It is just so with the grace of God; we spontaneously quit our sin, but it is because almighty grace is working within us to will and to do of God's own good pleasure. "Ephraim shall say, What have I to do any more with idols?" because God in his effectual grace has weaned her from her idols. Notice next, dear friends, that this change is always a very personal one. Ephraim says, "What have I to do any more with idols?" She does not say, "What have the nations to do with idols?" That would be a wise question; but, as a rule, national or general religion does not amount to much; we say, with Mr. Bunyan, "Those are generals, man, come to particulars." Believe all truth with the general company of those who hold it; but mind that you come to particulars, and say, "What have I to do any more with idols?" Do not ask, "What has my mother to do with idols? What has my brother to do with idols? What has my neighbour to do with idols?" but, "What have I to do with idols?" If all other men go into sin, I must not. I ask each believing one to who I am speaking to feel, "God has done so much for me that I must turn away from sin. To me, wilful wickedness would be a horrible thing. I must quit all iniquity. Whatever all the rest of the world may do, I must not go with the multitude to do evil; I must loathe it and leave it. 'As for me, and my house, we will serve the Lord.' 'Ephraim shall say, What have I to do any more with idols?'" Abhor selfishness and egotism; but, at the same time, be very personal and individual about your own religion. You were born alone, and you will die alone, and you have need to be born again individually and personally; and it must come to a personal transaction between yourself and God, so that you can for yourself say, as we did in our singing,
"'Tis done! the great transaction's done; I am my Lord's, and he is mine: He drew me, and I follow'd on, Charm'd to confess the voice divine.
"High heaven that heard the solemn vow, That vow renewed shall daily hear; Till in life's latest hour I bow, And bless in death a bond so dear."
"What have I to do any more with idols?" The change here implied must be spontaneous and hearty; it must be the result of divine grace; and it must be personal. And then, dear friends, it must also be a truly repentant change: "What have I to do any more with idols?" There is in that question a confession that the speaker has had to do with idols already. Let the time past suffice us to have wrought the will of the flesh. Brother, if thou art resolved to serve God, through his grace, yet ere thou beginnest that service, remember how thou hast in the past served the devil. Quit not thy old way without many a tear of regret, and many a blush of deep humiliation, for whatever thou mayest do in the future, thou canst not undo the past. Thy wasted time, thy injured faculties, thy angered God, thy friends about thee influenced for evil by thy example, thou canst not blot out all these; therefore, at least stay thou a while, and shed penitent tears over the graves of thy dead sins, and ask thy God to help thee to feel that thou hast had enough of thy evil ways, and sin, and neglect. Say, "What have I to do any more with idols? I have had far too much to do with them already. O Satan, O self, O world, I have served you all too long; and now, my God, with deep regret for all the past, I turn my face to thee!" This change must also be, dear friends, life-long. Notice two words in our text, "What have I to do any more with idols?" Where the grace of God really converts a man, he is not converted merely for the next quarter of a year, with the possibility of falling from grace afterwards. That is a human conversion which can ever come to an end; but if God converts you, you can never be unconverted. As conversion is the work of the Spirit of God, it is clear that it must need the same power to undo it as first did it. He who has made you a Christian will keep you a Christian; and unless a stronger than he shall come in, and undo his work, you shall never go back to your old idols again.
"Where God begins his gracious work, That work he will complete, For round the objects of his love, All power and mercy meet.
"Man may repent him of his work, And fail in his intent; God is above the power of change, He never can repent.
"Each object of his love is sure To reach the heavenly goal: For neither sin nor Satan can Destroy the blood-wash'd soul."
Oh, how I love to preach this glorious doctrine of everlasting salvation! The salvation that only carries you a little bit of the way to heaven, I never thought worthy of my acceptance, I would not have it as a gift, and I never thought it worth preaching to you. I remember hearing one of the revival preachers say that there are some who go on the road to heaven, and just take a ticket to the next station; then they get out and take a new ticket, and rush back to the train; and so they keep on. "But," said the man, "when I started I took a ticket all the way through." That is the way to travel to heaven; when you start, get a ticket all the way through. Listen to these words of Christ: "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: and I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them to me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand." Listen also to the words of our Lord to the woman of Samaria: "Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: but whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life." O my brothers, God does not play at saving men; first doing the work, and then undoing it. If he saves you, you are saved. "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved." There is the gospel which we are sent to preach to you; so that, when once converted, truly converted, you will say, "What have I any more to do with idols?" Perhaps someone asks, "Ay, but do not some professors go back, and do you say that, if men, after making a profession of religion, live in sin, they shall be saved?" Certainly we say nothing of the kind; we say, on the contrary, that if truly converted they will not live in sin, but if the work of grace be wrought in them, they will be kept from sin; or if they shall, through sudden temptation, fall, they shall be speedily restored; weeping and sighing, they shall be brought back again to the good way. We never said that men could live in sin, and yet go to heaven. That were damnable talk, not fit for a Christian to utter; but he who is truly saved is saved once for all, and he can say, "What have I any more to do with idols?" Throughout the rest of his life he will have done with them, he will have quitted them. He will burn his boats behind him, never to go back to the country which he has quitted once for all. This is a salvation worth having; wherefore, I pray you, believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and be a partaker of it. Yet once more, notice that this is a very thorough change: "What have I to do any more with idols?" O you who have done with idols, remember that you have also done with the idol temples, you have done with the false priests, you have done with the so-called "sacred thread" and other idolatrous tokens; you have done with everything appertaining to idolatry! You who once were drunkards have done for ever with the public-house and the drunkard's cup. You who once were lascivious, if the grace of God has changed you, what have you to do with fornication, what have you to do with any kind of uncleanness? You who were aforetime dishonest, if the grace of God has changed you, what have you to do with the tricks of the trade? What have you to do with fraudulent bankruptcies? What have you to do with cheating and lying? Let each true believer cry, "What have I to do any more with idols?" Begone, sin and Satan, bag and baggage! What has a man, who is bought with the blood of Christ, to do any more with idols? He quits them once for all, by God's good grace. I find that the rest of my text would take up far too much time for me to expound it fully, so that I shall have to content myself with the second division of the subject. II. This was to be, you will remember, THE CAUSE OF THE GREAT CHANGE. The first cause of this change is the grace received. In the previous part of the chapter, we find the Lord saying, "I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely: for mine anger is turned away from him." Then our text naturally follows, "Ephraim shall say, What have I to do any more with idols?" We cannot get you to give up sin, however earnestly we may exhort you to forsake it; but if, by God's grace, you receive Christ as your Saviour, then you will abandon sin as a natural consequence. What is the best way to keep chaff out of a bushel measure? Fill it full of wheat; and when the heart of a man is full of Christ, there will be no room for the world, the flesh, and the devil. These things cannot find an entrance where Christ has full possession. When God is as the dew of our soul, and we receive freely of his grace, then we do not need telling, and urging, and driving but we at once say, "What have I to do any more with idols?" Another cause of this great change lies in our perception of the beauties of the Lord. I do not quite know whether what I am going to say is the exact teaching of the text, but I think it is. It is very difficult, sometimes, in these prophecies to know who is speaking. There are often dialogues, and the dialogues are not always so clearly marked that we can tell who is the speaker. I have always thought, when I have read this chapter that it was the Lord who said, "I have heard him, and observed him;" but on thinking the passage over very carefully, I am not quite sure that it is so. Let me give you another version, which I met with in two verses by an unknown poet; and then see whether this is not the, meaning of the passage:
"I have heard him, and observed him, Seen his beauty rich and rare, Seen his majesty and glory, And his grace beyond compare.
"What have I to do with idols, When such visions fill my eye? How be occupied with shadows When the substance passes by?"
Does the text mean, then, "I will have nothing more to do with idols, for I have heard my God, and I have observed him; I have heard Christ speak, and I have observed the excellence of his character"? This much I know, whether that be the teaching of this passage, or not, nothing weans the heart from idols like a sight of Christ. O you worldly Christians, who are getting to be so fond of this world, I am sure that you have not seen your Master lately! If you had, the world would sink in your esteem. O you who are beginning to be fond of human wisdom, you cannot have heard him speak of late, or else he would be made of God unto you wisdom, and everything else would be folly! O you who are seeking to live for self and for earthly gain, your heads have not been lately pillowed on the Saviour's bosom, you have not recently looked into those dear eyes which are more radiant than the glories of the morning! You cannot have known the fragrance of those garments which smell of myrrh, and aloes, and cassia, or you would never be enamoured of this poor, foul, unsavoury world. "I have heard him, and observed him: what have I to do any more with idols?" "I have heard him say, 'I have loved thee with an everlasting love.' I have observed him go up to the cross, and lay down his life for me; 'what have I to do any more with idols?'" When thou, as the bride of Christ, lovest thy first Husband as thou shouldst love him, then thy wanderings will be at an end. When all thy heart goes after the Well-beloved, and he enraptures thee with manifestations of his love and of his grace, then wilt thou say, "What have I to do with idols, I so favoured, I so enriched with divine blessings, I who am on the road to heaven, I who am so soon to see the face of him I love, what have I to do with idols?" That seems to me to be a grand meaning perfectly consistent with earnest Christian experience, so I leave it with you. This great change, then, is wrought in us by the grace of God, and by a sight of the true beauties of our Lord. But now, taking the text as it is generally understood, you will get another meaning. One cause for this great change is the sense of answered prayer: Ephraim shall say, "What have I to do any more with idols?" And God says of Ephraim, "I have heard him." I recollect, even as a child, God hearing my prayer; I cannot tell you what it was about, it may have been concerning a mere trifle, but to me as a child it was as important as the greatest prayer that Solomon ever offered for himself, and God heard that prayer, and it was thus early established in my mind that the Lord was God. And afterwards, when I came really to know him, afterwards, when I came to cry to him intelligently, I had this prayer answered, and that petition granted, and many a time since then, I am only speaking what any of you who know the Lord could also say, many a time since then he has answered my requests. I cannot tell you all about this matter; there is many a secret between me and my dear Lord. This very week, I have had a love-token from him which, if I could tell you about it, would make your eyes wonder and fill with tears. I asked, and I received, as manifestly as if I had spoken to my brother in the flesh, and he had said, "Yes, there, take all you need." Well now, I always find that, in proportion as I am conscious that God is answering my prayers, my heart says, "What have I to do any more with idols?" If I can have from my God whatever I ask for, why need I cringe and bow my knees to men? If I have but to go to God, and wait upon him, and he will give me the desires of my heart, what have I to do with the fretting, and fuming, and being anxious? What have I to do with idols? If there is everything in Christ, and that everything is to be had for the asking, what have I to do with idols? It is wonderful how you are weaned from the dry breasts of the world when you can drink in all that your soul desires from the living God. If God, the Jehovah of hosts, be no more to you than the gods of the heathen, or the gods of the men of the world, why then you will have to do with idols; but if your God is the God that heareth prayer, and if you live in his presence, and you speak to him, and he speaks to you, if you keep up perpetual intercourse with him, so that God can say to you, "I have heard him, and observed him," then I am sure that you will also say, "What have I to do any more with idols?" If I am addressing any poor soul that has been craving mercy from God, one who has been crying for months to God to give him forgiveness through Jesus Christ, why, dear heart, if you will only believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, you shall get all that you are asking, you shall receive peace, and pardon, and joy, and rest; and then you will say, "What have I to do any more with idols?" "Oh!" says one, "my dear sir, I have been trying to overcome sin, and I cannot." I know you cannot; but if you begin by receiving Christ, by praying to God, and getting the answer, then you will be able to say, "What have I to do any more with idols?" You want to wash yourself first, and then to come to the fountain. That will not do; you must come, black as you are, and wash, and be cleansed. You want to get rich spiritually, and then to come to God to enrich you. No; you must come to him poor, come without anything of your own, just as you are, and trust the boundless mercy of God in Christ Jesus, he will give you all you need, and then you will say, "What have I to do any more with idols, for God has heard me, and he doth observe my soul?" You see, then, some of the ways in which this very great and wonderful change is wrought. I had to omit many other points on which I meant to speak, but I do pray that this change may be wrought in every one of you. Do not wait to have the change wrought, and then come to God, but come to God for it. If you have a broken heart, come to Christ with it; but if you do not feel your sin, come to Christ that you may be made to feel it. If there is any good thing in you, thank God for it, and come to him for more; but if there is no good thing whatever in you, come without any good thing, and let Christ begin at the very beginning with you, in all your emptiness, and need, and spiritual beggary and loathsomeness. Come to him just as you are, for he still says, "Him that cometh to me, I will in no wise cast out." May his sweet Spirit graciously attract every one of you till you shall be drawn to him, and so drawn from your idols, and to him shall be glory, for ever and ever! Amen.
Where to Find Fruit
February 28 th , 1864 by
C. H. SPURGEON
“From me is thy fruit found.” -Hosea 14:8 .
The text has a double significance. It may indicate the fruit upon which we feed, or the fruit which we are enabled to produce. If it shall mean the first, there is mach of comfort in it. The Lord has compared himself, in his condescending mercy, to a green fir tree in the sentence which precedes the text. The fir tree in the East yields a most goodly shade. Neither the burning heat of the sun, nor the drops of pouring rain can pass through the dense foliage, and therefore it affords a welcome shelter to the traveler. But shade is not enough for a man; he requires food, and the fir tree fails in that respect, for it yields no repast for the hungry. To complete the picture, therefore, when the Lord deigns to compare himself to a green fir tree, he adds, “From me is thy fruit found.” Our gracious God is like a fir tree for shade, but like the apple tree among the trees of the wood for fruit. We sit under his shadow with great delight, and his fruit is sweet unto our taste. Living souls must have food to feed upon, or however well housed, they would be comparable to the king of Israel in the besieged city of Samaria. He sat in his palace of ivory, he wore his mantle of purple, and placed the crown of gold upon his head; but what availed his splendor, when neither barn-floor nor winepress could relieve his hunger? In vain all other blessings if the soul received no nourishment from on high; Jesus must not only be our life, but the bread of heaven by which that life is sustained. Glory be to his name! he is all in all to his people: we may gather fruit from him which shall satisfy the cravings of the soul.
According to Master Trapp, some read this passage, “In me is thy fruit ready.” Certain it is that at all times, whenever we approach to God, we shall find in him a ready supply for every lack. The best of trees have fruit on them only at appointed seasons. Who is so unreasonable as to look for fruit upon the peach or the plum at this season of the year? No drooping boughs beckon us to partake of their ripening crops, for Winter’s cold still nips the buds. But our God hath fruit at all times: the tree of life yields its fruit every month; nay, every day and every hour, for he is “a very present help in time of trouble.”
Another translator reads the passage, “In me thy fruit is enough.” Whatever may be the accuracy of the translation, the sentiment itself is most correct. In God there is enough for all his people; and well there may be, since in him there is infinity. “I have enough, my brother,” said Esau when he met Jacob: “I have all things,” said Jacob in reply. None but the believer can say, “I have all things;” and therefore only he can be sure of having enough. Ishmael had his bottle of water, and went away into the wilderness; but it is written, that Isaac abode by the well: how happy is the soul which bath learned how to live by the well of his faithful God! for the water will be spent in the bottle, but the water will never be spent in the well. Christian, remember the all sufficiency of thy God! Let that ancient name, “El Shaddai”-God all-sufficient, sound like music in thine ear--as some translate it, “The many-breasted God,” yielding from himself the sustenance of all his creatures.
As we find the text translated, we have it, “From me is thy fruit found;” but the particle from does not mean apart from, but out of me; and to prevent misunderstanding, I shall not err if I read it in, for this is the force of the word in this place. The text speaks of fruit being found, implying perhaps, that we must look for it-not because there is little, or here and there a cluster, like the grape-gleanings of Abi-ezer; but because the Lord will be enquired of by the house of Israel, and would exercise our faith by making us search for the needed benefit. It is of essential service to us to make us seek, and hence we have the promise of finding to excite our diligence. Christian, look up longingly! Is thy spirit hungering? Look up to thy God now with intense desire; come before him with earnest, vehement pleadings, and thou shalt find in thy God whatsoever thy heart desireth.
Mark that little word “thy.” As if the Lord had said, “It is thine already; I have freely given it; it is thy fruit. I bear it, but I bear it for thee; every golden apple, every luscious cluster, I will bestow on thee. Thou canst not ask me for anything which I have not given thee. For behold, I have given thee my Son, and “in him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.” Believer, hast thou not learned the sweet logic of the beloved disciple, “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?” In the eternal covenant, God has made over-not only all created things-but himself unto his people. “I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” “God, even our God,” saith the Psalmist. Is not that a delightful expression, “Even our own God?” And so, as God is your own, his fruit is your own. Every outgoing of power, every outflow of love is yours already. “In him is thy fruit found.” Surely this word “thy” is as a little golden cup filled with a rare cordial; he who drinketh of it shall forget his misery, and remember his poverty no more. Let us not fail then, dearly beloved, to receive boldly that which is our own by covenant engagement and faithful promise. What dost thou want this morning? Surely out of the “twelve manner of fruits,” there shall be something which will suit thy necessities; stand not back through shame or fear, but come boldly to the throne of the heavenly grace.
Thus much for the first sense of the text; but we do not intend to use the words in that signification this morning. We think that, understanding the text the other way- “ From me is that fruit found which grace produces in thee,” it will be a very fitting sequel to the sermon of last Sunday morning. You will recollect we spoke upon the withering of the fig tree which mocked the Savior with its leaves, but yielded him no fruit. There may be some who were alarmed under that sermon, and even believers who were shaken by it; such anxieties will do none of us any hurt, especially if they lead us to pant after fruitfulness. Our text, following upon the other, will direct earnest seekers where to find fruit. There are three sorts of preachers, all useful in their way, the doctrinal, the experimental, and the practical; we will try to blend the three this morning, and so handle the words doctrinally, experimentally, and practically.
I. First. The Doctrine Of The Text.
The doctrine of the text is twofold. First, that the believer’s fruit is his own-it is called “thy fruit;” secondly, that though it is the believer’s own, yet it proceeds entirely from his God.
1. The first doctrine is that true fruit is a believer’s own. You will think this a very trite remark, but it is one which needs to be made in these days, for there are certain persons who talk of man as if he were not a thinking, intelligent, free agent. They forget his will, judgment, reason, and affections: they leave out of their consideration everything in fact which constitutes the man, and then speak of the operations of grace as though they were manual works upon wood or stone. For aught I can see, according to their way of talking, the grace of God might just as well have produced holiness in monkeys as in men, for men are generally represented as merely passive existences to be moved by them to gratitude, or repentance, or faith, as horses are groomed in a stable or led out to be exercised. Be it never forgotten that our God deals with men as intelligent beings, having will and reason and all the other powers which make man a responsible creature; he does not ignore our manhood when he converts us by his grace. He uses means fitted for our constitution as men, “I drew them with the cords of love, with the bands of a man.”
Good works are a believer’s own. It were an ill thing for him if they were not; to what could we compare him but to those dead sticks with fruits tied on them, which women sell to little children? a sorry picture for a branch of Christ’s vine. The believer produces fruit from his own inner self when grace has renewed him; and if his holiness were not really the outgrowth of his new heart and his renewed nature, it would be no sign of spiritual life. It is not fruit tied on us, but fruit growing out of us which proveth us to be engrafted into Christ.
True fruit is the believer’s own because he wills through divine grace to do good works. If I performed what looked like a good work against my will, I do not see how it could be truly a good work as far as the doer is concerned. If a man could be compelled to virtue while his heart staggered away to sin, would he not be really transgressing? There is a gracious willingness towards the right thing bestowed upon us by the Holy Spirit. Nay, there is not only a will to holiness, but a desire after it. The true Christian longs after holiness and usefulness; he hungers and thirsts to do the will of his Father who is in heaven. Like his Lord in some measure, it is to him his meat and his drink to do the will of him who sent him. He can say, “The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up.” He is constrained, but mark, it is not a physical constraint, for “the love of Christ constraineth us.” So you see, beloved, good works are a believer’s own because he is willing to do them and desires to perform them.
They are his own, again, because he actually does them. The Holy Ghost does not repent, nor feed the hungry, nor clothe the naked, nor preach the gospel. He gives us grace to do all these, but we ourselves do them. If the poor be fed, it must be by these hands; if souls are edified, it must be by these lips; we do not fold our arms, and shut our mouths, and then bring forth fruit unto God. We do not find ourselves taken up by the hair of our head as the prophet Habakkuk was said to have been, according to the Apocrypha, and so carried away whether we will or no, to perform a deed of charity. All glory be to the Holy Spirit, but he is not glorified by making him appear to be a physical force instead of the great spiritual Worker. We do, my brethren, bring forth fruit which is properly our own when we consider ways of usefulness, meditate methods of working, plan designs of good, act out deeds of mercy, persevere in labor, and continue in service before God.
I will tell you why I am absolutely sure a believer’s works are his own, namely, because he grieves over them. The best works he ever performs he feels are his own, because they are imperfect. If there is anything good in them, he ascribes it wholly to the fact that they proceeded from God; but, inasmuch as there is something imperfect in them, he is obliged to say, “Ah! yes, this is my fruit. If it had been God’s fruit independent of me, it would have been perfect, but inasmuch as it is imperfect, I am compelled to see that I had a hand in it. The stream was clear enough as it came from the fountain, but flowing through the wooden spout of my nature, it is become in some measure defiled, and so far at least is mine.”
Dear friends, the whole analogy of fruitbearing must show to you that the Christian does bring forth fruit unto God, real fruit from his inner self; and if any of you think that you are going to attain to holiness by simply being passive, you are wonderfully mistaken. If you imagine you will be a pilgrim by sitting down at the wicket-gate, or be carried in a sedan-chair to glory, you will find yourselves left behind. No, we must fight if we would win; we must travel if we would reach the Celestial City; we must wrestle, and fight, and pray. The Word of God does say “It is God that worketh in us to will and to do of his own good pleasure,” but it does not stop there, it bids us for this very reason “Work out our own salvation with fear and trembling.” The passive first, but then the active. We must lie as dead at Jehovah’s feet to be quickened, but being quickened, what then? Why then we walk in holiness and in the fear of God. We are first of all made trees of the Lord’s right-hand planting, and we receive grace from him, and then through his grace, we ourselves do really bring forth fruit. The truth is clear enough, prove by your energetic strivings that you under stand it.
2. The pith of the doctrine lieth here, that all a believer’s fruit proceeds from his God, and that in several senses from the divine purpose. If you are holy, it is because he has called you to holiness. If you have good works they come to you, according to the word of the apostle concerning good works, “which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” When you see a costly vase which is the admiration of all eyes, you know that whatever of beauty there is in that vessel was originally in the artist’s plan. If you have examined his sketches, you have seen every elegant line, and every graceful figure. Even so, beloved, if you have been sanctified it is according to the eternal design, which was settled in grace and wisdom, before the skies were formed.
All our fruit springs from our God as to calling. You were dead in trespasses and sins. There were no good works in you by nature, and there never would have been, but he who commanded the light to shine out of darkness hath shined in your heart, to give you the knowledge of God, and then to turn you from dead works to serve the living and true God. You owe everything to your calling. The tree which is loaded with fruit, owes its fruit first of all, to its having been chosen to be in the garden, and next to its having been really planted there; for in our case, had we been left to grow in the wide wilderness, we should have brought forth no fruit unto God; but he took us up out of the place of barrenness, and put us in the rich soil which Jesus had watered with his own bloody sweat, and therefore we bring forth fruit.
Our fruit is found from God as to union. The fruit of the branch is really traceable to the root. Cut the connection and the branch dies, and no fruit is hereafter produced. By virtue of our union with Christ we bring forth fruit. Every branch of grapes has been first in the root, it has passed through the stem, and flowed through the sap vessels, and fashioned itself externally into fruit, but it was first internal in the stem; so also every good work was first in Christ, and then was brought forth in us. O Christian, prize this precious doctrine of union to Christ; hold it firmly, because it is the source of every atom of fruitfulness which thou canst ever hope to know. If you were not joined to Jesus Christ, no fruit could ever be in thee.
Our fruit comes from God, and from God alone, as to providence. When the dewdrops fall from heaven, each one may whisper to the tree and say, “From me is thy fruit found.” When the cloud looks down from on high, and is about to distil its liquid treasure, it may thunder to the earth beneath, “From me is thy fruit found.” And the bright sun above all others, as he paints the cheek of the apple, or swells the berries of the cluster, may well say to all the trees of the garden, “From me is your fruit found.” The fruit owes much to the root-that is essential to fruitfulness-but it owes very much also to external care. Beloved, how much we owe to God’s grace-providence! We are greatly debtors to his common providences, in that he maketh all things work together for good. But his grace-providence, in which he provides us constantly with quickening, teaching, correction, consolation, strength, or whatever else we want-to this we owe our all of usefulness or virtue.
Our fruit is found in God as to the matter of husbandry. The knife which the gardener taketh from his pocket, might talk to the tree and say, “Much of thy fruit is found in me. Thou wouldst not yield such an abundance if it were not for my sharp edge. I make thee bleed a little, as I take away thy superfluous shoots, but thou hadst not such goodly clusters if it were not of me.” So is it, Christian, with that pruning which the Lord gives to thee. “My Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.”
Thus the text may be read in very many ways. They will all come to one-that we have nothing, except as we receive it from above. “What hast thou which thou hast not received?” I may say, to conclude this head, that all our fruit is found in God, because he will, having been the author of it, get all the glory of it. Of all our spiritual life he shall have the praise, for it is all due to him, and if he giveth us a crown at the last, we will cast it at his feet.
Brethren, you know this doctrine well enough without my enlarging upon it; you know how constantly Scripture teacheth us that we can do nothing without Christ. We can sin; we can ruin our own souls; we can bring forth the apples of Sodom and the grapes of Gomorrah, but anything which is lovely, and honest, and of good repute, must come from him who is glorious in working. You have no question or quibble about this. “You hath he quickened;” you trace your life to him, you doth he quicken day by day; you owe the continuance of your life to him. You know as a matter of doctrine that “in him we live and move and have our being,” and that “every good gift and every perfect gift is from above.” I need not confirm this doctrine: no argument is required. You have never erred from the truth in this respect; you could not be Christians if you did, for I hold this to be fundamental truth, in all godliness, that salvation from first to last is of the Lord. Salvation is not of yourselves, it is the gift of God. Let us heartily praise him whose workmanship we are.
II. We come now to The Experience.
Experimentally we have proof that all our fruit is in God. Let me remind you of your experience when you were the servants of the flesh. What fruit had ye then in those days? What repentance did your natural mind bring forth? What faith in Christ did your unrenewed soul ever beget or foster? What love to God ever stirred your carnal heart? What affection for the brotherhood possessed your alienated spirit? You must say that at that time you were without God and without hope, and certainly without fruit. “What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed?” A painful remembrance of your former estate compels you to feel the truth of the Lord’s Word, “In me is thy fruit found.”
Again, when the law began to work in your heart, and you were in a state of bondage, having enough of light to see your darkness, and enough of life to mourn your death-what fruit had ye then when ye were under the law? The law told you what you should do; did it enable you to do anything? The Ten Commandments set before you a perfect rule: but was it not “weak through the flesh?” You had a very clear perception of the justice and righteousness of God: did the perception reconcile you to justice or to holiness? Let me ask you, did the law of God ever make you love him? Did the awakenings of your conscience, which proceeded from it ever lead you to trust in Jesus Christ? They may have been overruled to this purpose, but the law worketh wrath, and as long as you were under it, it rather produced sin in you than righteousness. Such was Paul’s experience, “When the commandment came, sin revived, and I died,” “for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.” As a child might never care to run into the street, but being told not to do it, he straightway doth it by reason of the perversity of his nature, just so it is with us by nature; the forbidden thing our flesh lusteth after. All the enmity of carnal nature is provoked to yet greater sin by the law. That which should have been a bit, becomes a spur. Cold water quencheth fire, and yet when poured on lime, produceth a vehement heat. So the law acts contrary to its own nature, by reason of the depravity of the human heart. Thus were you, my brethren, led by a very sorrowful experience, to feel that from Christ must come your fruit; for none could be produced by the efforts of the flesh, backed up by the most earnest resolution and most devout prayer, and driven onward by the whip of the law.
A sweeter experience has proved this to you. When did you begin to bear fruit? It was when you came to Christ and cast yourselves on the great atonement, and rested on the finished righteousness. Ah! what fruit you had then! Do you remember those early days? Did not your faith, and love, and zeal, form a garden of nuts, an orchard of pomegranates, with pleasant fruits? Then indeed the vine flourished, the tender grape appeared, the pomegranates budded forth, and the beds of spices gave forth their smell. Have you declined since then? Even if you have, I charge you to remember that time of love. Jesus remembers it, for he says, “I remember thee, the kindness of thy youth, the love of thine espousals, when thou went after me into the wilderness.” He recollects that time of the singing of birds, when the voice of the turtle was heard in your land. Would God this were with you ever! He has not forgotten it, do you not forget it, but seek to enjoy it still. Your fruit began, you know it did, when you came to Jesus Christ.
My brethren, when have you been the most fruitless? This is another part of experience. Has not it been when you have lived farthest from the Lord Jesus Christ, when you have slackened in prayer, when you have departed somewhat from the simplicity of your faith, when your graces engrossed your attention instead of your Lord, when you said, “My mountain standeth firm, I shall never be moved ;” and forgot where your strength lieth-has not it been then that your fruit has ceased? Some of us know that we have nothing out of Christ by terrible soul-emptyings and humblings of heart before the Lord. Brethren, it is no pleasant thing to be clean emptied out; but such times have happened to some of us, when we have felt that if one prayer would save us, if the Holy Spirit did not aid us, we were damned; if one good thought would take us to heaven, we could not reach it; the vileness of our heart has been so clear before our eyes, that had not it been that there was a mighty God to trust to we should have given up in despair.
“How seldom do I rise to God,
Or taste the joys above!
Corruption presses down my faith,
And chills my flaming love.
When smiling mercy courts my soul
With all its heavenly charms,
This stubborn, this relentless thing,
Would thrust it from my arms.”
In such seasons we do well to cry, “Quicken thou me, O Lord, according to thy word.” Then you feel that to will is present with you, but how to perform that which is good, you find not. It is a very easy thing for me to exhort you, but sometimes I do not find it very easy to do myself what I exhort you to do. And there are times with us, dear friends, when, though we know our interest in Christ, we are wretched under a deep sense of the creature’s fickleness, sinfulness, and death. Our moan is, “0 wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” When you have seen the utter emptiness of all creature confidence, then you have been able to say, “From him all my fruit must be found, for no fruit can ever come from me.” We shall find from Scripture, I am sure-let our past experience confirm it-that the more we depend upon the grace of God in Christ Jesus, and wait upon the Holy Spirit, pleading that his influences may operate in our hearts, the more we shall bring forth fruit unto God. If I could bear fruit without my God, I would loathe the accursed thing, for it would be the fruit of pride-the fruit of an arrogant setting up of one’s self in independence of the Creator No; the Lord deliver us from all faith, all hope, all love which do not spring from himself! May we have none of our own-manufactured graces about us. May we have nothing but that which is minted in heaven, and is therefore made of the pure metal. May we have no grace, pray no prayer, do no works, serve God in nothing except as we depend upon his strength and receive his Spirit. Any experience which comes short of a knowledge that we must get all from God, is a deceiving experience. But if you have been brought to find everything in him, beloved, this is a mark of a child of God. Cultivate a spirit of deep humiliation before the Most High; seek to know more your nothingness, and to prove more the omnipotence of the eternal God. There are two books I have tried to read, but I have not got through the first page yet. The first is the book of my own ignorance, and emptiness, and nothingness-what a great book is that! It will take us all our lives to read it, and I question whether Methuselah ever got to the last page. There is another book I must read, or else the first volume will drive me mad-it is the book of God’s all-sufficiency. I have not got through the first word of that, much less the first page, but reading the two together, I would spend all my days. This is heaven’s own literature, the wisdom which cometh from above. Less than nothing I can boast, and yet “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” Having nothing yet possessing all things.” Black as the tents of Kedar, yet fair as the curtains of Solomon: dark as hell’s profoundest night, and yet “Fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners.”
III. We now arrive at the Practical Point.
1. First then, dear friends, let us look to Jesus Christ for fruit in the same way in which we first looked to him for shade. That sounds like something you have heard a great many times before. Very well, but have you really understood it? To give an illustration-you want to overcome an angry temper! You are given to ebullitions of passion- you try to overcome that. How do you go to work? It is very possible there are even believers here who have never tried the right way. How did I get salvation? I came to Jesus just as I was, and I trusted him to save me. Can I kill my angry temper in the same way? It is the only way in which I can ever kill it. I must go to Christ with it, and say to him, “Lord, I trust thee to deliver me from it.” This is the only deathblow it will ever receive. Are you covetous? Do you feel the world entangle you? You may struggle against this evil as long as you like, but if it be your besetting sin, you will never be delivered from it in any way but the cross. Take it to Christ. Tell him, “Lord, I have trusted thee, and thy name is Jesus-’ Thou shalt call his name Jesus, for he shall save his people from their sins ’-Lord, this is one of my sins; save me from it!” Do not take Jesus Christ with the blood only, and without the water-that is to have only half-a-Christ. Pray to be forgiven, but ask also to be sanctified. Sing with Toplady- “Let the water and the blood,
From thy river side which flowed, Be of sin the double cure, Cleanse me from its guilt and power.”
I know what some of you do. You go to Christ for forgiveness, and then you go to the law for power to fight your sins. “0 foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth?” Tell me, did ye receive faith by the law, or by the operation of grace? “Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?” The only weapon to fight sin with is the spear which pierced Christ’s side. Nothing can kill the viperous brood of hell but drops of Jesus’ precious blood. Take your sins to Christ’s cross, sir, for the old man can only be crucified there: we are crucified with him; we are buried with him. If I be dead to the world, I must be dead with him, and if I rise again to newness of life, I must rise in him. Ordinances are nothing without Christ as means of mortification. Baptism is nothing, except as we are buried with him in baptism unto death. The Lord’s Supper is nothing, except as we eat his flesh and drink his blood, and have communion with him. And your prayers and your repentances, and your tears-the whole of them put together- are not worth a farthing apart from him. Every flower which grows in your garden will wither, and the sooner it is blasted and withered the better for you; only the rose of Sharon will bloom in heaven. “None but Jesus can do helpless sinners good;” or helpless saints either. You must overcome by the blood of the Lamb.
2. Another practical observation is this-let us cultivate those graces most which bring us most to Christ, for these will be the most fruitful. Let me look well to my faith; let me see that I keep it purely stayed on him, having no supplementary confidence, but resting wholly and absolutely upon the finished work of my Lord. Let me see to my love. Let my Lord be to me altogether lovely. Lord, help me to sing, “My beloved is mine, and I am his.” Sometimes graciously enable me to sing, “He brought me to the banqueting-house, and his banner over me was love. His left hand is under my head, and his right hand doth embrace me.” Faith and love are the great fruitbearers. A gardener says, “There is such and such a twig, I must not cut that off, because it is to the young wood that I am looking for my summer fruits.” So he taketh care of it. There is that, believer, a growing faith and growing love to which you must look as the fruitbearing shoots, because they pre-eminently link your soul to Christ, and most evidently have intercourse with him. Cultivate those things which lead you most to him.
3. A third practical piece of advice. Be most in those engagements which you have experimentally proved to draw you nearest to Christ, because it is from him that all your fruits proceed. Any holy exercise which will bring you to him will help you to bear fruit Do you find prayer the channel of Jesus’ manifestations? Do you find yourself profited in the public means of grace? Is it the breaking of bread which we love to celebrate every Sabbath day, which is most precious to you? If so, wherever Jesus Christ layeth bare his heart to you, there be you found; and if there be any one means of grace which has been more rich to you than another, use it with the greatest perseverance. Use them all, dear friends, do not neglect any, hut especially use those most which bring you nearest to your Lord.
4. Lastly, let none of us-whether we be the Lord’s people or not- let none of us ever insult Christ by thinking that we are to bring fruit to him as a recommendation to his love. “From me is thy fruit found.” Now there may be some saint here who has lost his evidences, and he dare not approach the throne of grace as he used to do, because he says “I have sinned-I must produce fresh fruit before I dare come.” My dear friend! My dear friend! Bring fruit to Christ! How can you talk in so legal a fashion? All the fruit you ever will have you must first get from him! Come to him as you are and get your fruit out of him. Never suppose that you must bring Christ a present or else you must not come to him. He does not want your money. If he takes it he will give it back to you in your sack’s mouth. He will receive your fruit as an offering, but never as a reconciliation. There are those here this morning who are not converted as yet. They are saying, “I dare not seek the Lord, I dare not trust Christ. I know the gospel is, trust Christ and you are saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned; but I must not trust him, I am a drunkard, I have been a swearer, I am a Sabbath-breaker, I will wait until I am better and then I will come to Christ.” Why how can you talk thus? “From him is thy fruit found.” If there be any fruit you must come to Jesus Christ for it. Am I, if I am poor and ragged, am I to buy a new coat before I may beg a garment? What a strange proposal that I should do for myself what Christ came to do. How can that be reasonable? If I saw a man standing outside the baths and wash-houses, and he should say, “Well really, I’ve just come home from my work and am as black as a sweep, but I dare not go into those baths until I have washed my face first.” I should say, “How foolish! it is in the bath that your washing is to be found.” There is no fitness wanted for Christ but that which is in Christ: nothing wanted in you, everything is in him. To use the old proverb,” Why carry coals to Newcastle?” Who would think it a profitable business for our London merchants, in the cold winter time, when the price of coals is very high, to charter all the ships they can, and send them laden with coals to Newcastle? If they did so, you would think them mad. And yet there are many sinners penniless, comfortless, with no good thing of their own, who want to bring good works to Jesus! This is carrying coals to Newcastle with a vengeance. Oh! folly! folly! folly! Go with your ship all black and empty, sail up the harbour, and the pit’s mouth will soon yield to you an abundance of precious store. Go to Jesus as you are. Do you want faith to-day-repentance-grace? Go to Christ for it. Go to him, resting on him, dependent on him, believing that he is ready to save you, to begin, to carry on, and finish your salvation. He will be as good as you ever believe him to be, and infinitely better. If thou canst believe him princely enough to put all thy sins away, and to cover thee with his righteousness, he will do it, for never man thought too well of Christ. If thou canst get a big thought of Christ, thou big sinner if thou canst believe on the eternal Son of the eternal Father, who once poured out his blood in streams on Calvary thou art secure. God help thee. Amen.
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Spurgeon, Charle Haddon. "Commentary on Hosea 14". "Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 15 / Ordinary 20