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Christ’s Work No Failure
January 30, 1887
by C. H. Spurgeon (1834-1892)
He shall not fail nor be discouraged, till he have set judgment in the earth: and the isles shall wait for his law---Isaiah 42:4 .
Previous verses at the close of the forty-first chapter indicate the utter failure of the hope of man from man. God Himself looked, and behold “there was no man; even among them, and there was no counselor, that, when I asked of them, could answer a word.” How often it is so in human history: man fails to find leadership and help in man! Great men are raised up now and then, and the tendency is to make idols of them, and so to trust in an arm of flesh. These die, and then their fellows look out in the church, and in the world, for other men upon whom they may dote after the same manner; but it sometimes happens that they look in vain; none arise whom they can elect for leaders. Just now I think it is so in more departments than one. Look where you may, where will you see the man who is equal to the crisis? Somehow or other, in the providence of God, every hour has, in due time, had its man; but if our hopes are fixed in men, we must feel at this time sorely pressed.
In expounding the one verse which I have selected for a text, I shall need to open up the whole passage. Follow me, therefore, with opened Bibles, and obey the first word of the chapter, which is, Behold.
We are commanded at all times to behold the Son of God . There is never a season in which He is not a fit subject for contemplation and expectation. “Behold the Lamb of God" is the standing rule from generation to generation, from the first of January to the last of December. But especially in cloudy and dark days ought we to behold Him. When after having looked, and looked long, you see no man and no counselor, then this precept has an emphatic force about it, "Behold my servant, whom I uphold; mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth." When all other saviors fail, look to the Savior whom God has set up. The darker all things else become, the more eagerly look for His appearing, whose coming is as a morning without clouds. When the lower lights are burning dim, behold the lamp above.
Our great comfort is that the Lord Jesus Christ is always to be beheld . He lives ever and ever works for His people. We must view Him not merely as one who appeared upon the scene years ago, but as still living. He died in the heat of the battle, but He rose again to secure the victory. We do not found our hopes of a brighter future upon a dead Savior; our hopes for the future of the world, and for the accomplishment of God's gracious purposes hang upon One who ever liveth, and is at this time in the place of vantage, carrying on His great work and warfare at the right hand of God. My text saith, "Behold my servant"; and that matchless Servant of God is to be beheld--not with the eye of sense, that were little worth, for men saw Him in that way, and crucified Him; but He is to be beheld with the eye of faith, and this is a noble sight; for those who look to Him in that manner are lightened, and their faces are not ashamed. At the commencement of my discourse, I beseech you, dear brethren, to look to Jesus Christ the ever-living Worker. If you have been troubled and fretted by peering into these gloomy times and perceiving nothing that can raise your spirits, I pray you took about you no longer, but look up! There He sits at the right hand of God, even the Father, the appointed man, the glorious, chosen Deliverer. Behold Him, and your fears and sorrows will fly away.
The text declares concerning our Lord that "He shall not fail nor be discouraged." This leads us to consider what is the work which Jesus Christ has undertaken, in which He will not fail nor be discouraged. Our text directs us in this matter, for it tells us that He has come to "set judgments in the earth," and that "the isles shall wait for his law." The earth is to be delivered from misrule and sin, and men are to be submissive to His instruction and direction. There are some who doubt it, but I still believe in that verse which we sang just now--
Jesus shall reign where'er the sun
Does his successive journeys run;
His kingdom stretch from shore to shore,
Till moons shall wax and wane no more.
Our Lord has come to save His own elect, and He will save every one of them. No soul for whom He stood as Surety and Substitute shall ever be cast away. The sheep shall pass again under the hand of Him that telleth them, and they shall all be there. "He shall not fail nor be discouraged"; but He shall see of the travail of His soul, and shall be satisfied.
As for the Lord's second coming, we know not when it shall be. Shall the world grow darker and darker till He comes? It may be so. There are passages of Scripture and signs of the times which may be taken to indicate it. On the other hand, shall the age grow brighter and brighter till He appears to bring the perfect day? Through the preaching of the gospel shall there yet be periods in which multitudes shall be converted, and whole nations shall be saved? I do not know: there are texts that seem to look that way, and many a brave worker hopes as much. There are brethren who can map out unfulfilled prophecy with great distinctness; but I confess my inability to do so. They get a shilling box of mathematical instruments. They stick down one leg were hope blotted out of the language of men. But while this text stands true the door of hope is open. We need not fail or be discouraged, since He will not.
This morning I shall speak to you in the hope that the Spirit of God may fire you with new courage for the holy war. First, let this truth be considered and believed, and then, secondly, let this truth be believed and enjoyed .
I. First, then LET THIS TRUTH BE CONSIDERED AND BELIEVED.
Will you now thoughtfully turn it over in your minds? It is certainly a very marvelous enterprise which our Lord Jesus Christ has undertaken. The salvation of a single soul involves a miracle. The salvation of myriads upon myriads of the human race: what shall I call it but a mountain of marvels? The removal of the darkness which has settled over mankind in tenfold night--what a divine labor! The ending of the enmity which exists between man and God, the reconciling of man unto his Maker--what a design! The redeeming of this world from the bondage of corruption, the setting up of a kingdom of truth and holiness--what an enterprise! Such wonders has Jesus undertaken, and such wonders He will achieve. He died to lay the foundation of His all-conquering kingdom, and He still lives that this kingdom may be established in its supremacy, and all nations may flow to it.
Beloved, I fail to conceive, much more to express, the vastness of the task which He has undertaken. Those of you who love your fellowman often mourn your powerlessness with a single individual. What hard work it is to deal with our own countrymen! How are we baffled by their poverty, their ignorance, their misery, their sin! You have only to battle with a single vice, drunkenness, to wit, to feel what a monster is to be overcome. Only think for a moment of the social impurity of this city, and you are sick at heart as you remember it. Now, the Lord Jesus Christ has come to cleanse this Augean stable; and He will cleanse it. The stream of the river of life shall run through the foulest parts of the earth till even those horrible regions which are comparable to the Dead Sea shall be reclaimed.
The problem staggers us. The systems of evil are colossal. The hold of evil on the race is terrible. Man is inveterately a sinner. You cannot cure him of rebellion: he is desperately set on mischief. Even when the consequences of his sin wound and afflict him he still returns to it. If you prove to him to a demonstration that a thing is right and profitable, he does not therefore love it; if you prove it to be injurious, he therefore chooses it. By the use of an accursed logic he puts darkness for light and light for darkness, and thus stultifies his conscience, and hardens his heart. If, perchance, you convince his judgment, you have not won his affection, you have not carried his will, you have not subdued his mind. Nothing but Omnipotence itself can save a single soul. What must be that mighty power which shall cause nations to run unto the Lord? They that dwell in the wilderness are to bow before Him, and His enemies are to lick the dust. What a conquest this! How shall Ethiopia be made to stretch our her hands to Him? Look how black are the hearts of her inhabitants, as well as their faces! How shall China and Hindustan, beclouded by their false philosophies, be led to own the truth? Look you, sirs, look at this great mountain, and do not underestimate its mass; and then remember that before our Zerubbabel it must and shall become a plain. The stone mentioned by Daniel, cut out of the mountain without hands, smote the monstrous image and broke it, and in due time filled the whole earth. In the night visions the same prophet saw the Son of Man having dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people should serve Him. So must it be. But how great a thing it is!
The task is rendered the more severe because our Lord Jesus at this present works largely by a church, which is a poor and faulty instrument for the accomplishment of His purpose. I sometimes think there are more difficulties connected with the church than with the world; for the church is often worldly, faithless, lethargic, and I was about to add, inhuman. Might I not almost say as much, for she seems at times well nigh destitute of tender sympathy for the lost and perishing? The church at one hour receives the light and reflects it like a full moon, so that you have hope of her enlightening men; but soon she wanes into a mere ring of light, and becomes obscured. She declines from the truth, she forgets the glorious gospel entrusted to her, and she seeks after the rotten philosophies of men. How many times since Pentecost has the church started aside after the wisdom of men, and after a while has painfully returned to her first faith? At the present moment there is just that kind of wandering going on; and this hinders the work of the Lord. If a man has to do a work, he says to himself, "Give me good tools, at any rate. If I have to strike a heavy blow, do not trouble me with a broken hammer. If I have to write, give me a pen that will not hinder my hand." But alas! the church is too often false to her Master's purpose, and traitorous to His truth. Yet, brethren, the Lord will largely do His work and accomplish His good pleasure by such means as these. He will not fail nor be discouraged. If all Christians should become lukewarm, till the whole church became nauseous, as the church of Laodicea, yet still the Lord Jesus will not fail nor be discouraged. The disciple may sleep, but the great Savior agonizes over men. Let this battalion and the other waver as it may, He who holds the banner in the very center of the fight will never be moved: He will hold the field against all comers; for the Altogether Lovely One is the Standard-bearer among ten thousand. Though you mourn over the disciples, rejoice over their Master. They faint or fly, but "he shall not fail nor be discouraged."
To help you to believe this great truth, I beg you to notice who He is that hath undertaken all this: kindly read at the commencement of the chapter: "Behold my servant, whom I uphold, mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth." I am sure that He who is thus spoken of will not fail nor be discouraged; for, first, He is God's own special Servant . God has many servants, but the Christ is above all others called of God “my servant." He is a Son far excelling all other sons, and in the same sense He is a Servant far exceeding all other servants. He took upon Himself the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of sinful flesh. He is a servant as none of us can ever hope to be in so high and wonderful a sense: He performs all the will of the Father. If He that was Lord of all became a servant, do you think He will not accomplish His service? If He that made the heavens and the earth laid aside His splendor and veiled Himself in our inferior clay, do You think He will fall in the purpose for which He did this? Can the incarnation of God be a failure? Can the life of the Son of God among men end in defeat? Your heart gives immediate answer--God's own servant will fulfill His service.
Then the great God says of Him, “My servant whom I uphold.” If God upholds Him, how can He fail? Though God upholds all His people, yet beyond all others He is upholding His own chosen Son and Servant: how, then, can He fail? Is it possible with the divine power perpetually streaming into Him and abiding in Him, that he should fail, or be discouraged? The text may be read, "Behold my servant upon whom I lean," and the picture of a great Oriental monarch who comes forth leaning upon a favorite lord, whom he honors by placing him that position, indicating thereby that he trusts his affairs with him, and regards him as his right hand man, a very pillar of the State. Yes, we say it with reverence, God the Father leans on Jesus the Christ. He rests His honor and glory with the Person of the incarnate God: and now He comes before us as God in Christ Jesus, revealing His glory through the Mediator, putting His own sovereign power into the keeping of His Son, whom He hath appointed heir of all things. Can that Glorified One fail? Has the Father trusted His kingdom of grace with One who will be overcome? How can He fail whom the Father upholds, and upon whom the Father leans all the dignity and glory of His moral government? "He shall not fail nor be discouraged."
Then the Scripture adds this very significant word, “Mine elect in whom my soul delighteth.” The chosen of God, the most choice One that God knows, shall He prove a failure? Not only does God delight in Him, but it is put more strongly still: “In whom my soul delighteth.” Do you taste the marrow of the expression? It seems to me to be exceeding full. The chief delight of God is in His Son, as Mediator. God said of the world, that it was very good; but we read not that His soul delighted in it: but, see, the very soul of the Godhead is moved and filled with delight because of the Savior, commissioned to redeem. Blessed Father, we do not wonder that Thou art taken up with delight in Jesus; for even we ourselves, when we get a sight of Him, are ravished with His charms. There is none like Him. He is thine Only Begotten, the Son of thy heart; well mayest Thou be well pleased with Him. How, then, is it possible that One whom the Lord loves so well, in whom His soul delighteth, should be put upon a work in which He can fail, or should be left in that work to be discouraged? It is impossible. The connection of Jesus of Nazareth with Jehovah, God of all, makes it absolutely certain that the divine enterprise to which He has pledged Himself shall assuredly succeed. “He shall not fail nor be discouraged.”
Furthermore, our Lord is in the abiding place of the Holy Spirit . The text says, "I have put my spirit upon him"--the Holy Ghost, to whom be glory and honor forever, the Holy Spirit, very God of very God, dwells in Christ. Upon us He comes in measure. We sometimes receive a large portion of His power, but still we are not capable of receiving all the fullness of the Holy Ghost. But Christ has the residue of the Spirit abiding in Him. The Holy Spirit descended like a dove, and rested upon Him, and it does rest upon Him still. My brethren, do you dream that He on whom the Holy Ghost always rests can fail or be discouraged? Do you believe that the Gospel system is to die out? Is it going to be throttled by philosophy? Strangled by modern thought? Trampled down beneath the hoof of anarchy? Nay, while the Holy Ghost abideth upon the great Servant of Jehovah we cannot know a fear. The anointing on the head will descend to the skirts of the garments; and as He cannot fail nor be discouraged, neither shall we be dismayed. He who is owned, honored, trusted, sustained, loved, and anointed of God cannot but be successful. Jesus must persevere successfully to the end.
Notice yet further, that the success of Jesus is guaranteed by the decree of God. It is written, "He shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles." Oh, those blessed "shalls" and "wills!" Some people make little of them, but I make everything of them. Here my heart rests; if God says "shall," then it certainly shall be. "The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool." Think you He spoke in vain? Turn to the second Psalm, and read: "I will declare the decree: the Lord hath said unto me, thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee. Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession. Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron, thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel." Shall this solemn proclamation of Jehovah be mere waste paper? My brethren, the sun may forget to shine, the eye of the world may darkened; you mighty ocean may cease to ebb and flow, and the heart of the earth may die; all nature may be driven on the rock of fate in general wreckage and confusion; but no Word of God shall fall to the ground; for that Word is essential life and power. If Jehovah hath spoken, it is done. If He declares it, it shall be. Therefore the Christ must and shall succeed, for His work is the subject of a divine decree.
Yet, brethren, it may be that at times we fear that the gospel is not prospering nor fulfilling the purpose for which God hath sent it. Looking back on past history, and looking out upon the present state of affairs, we are afraid that things are not going well. Possibly this may arise out of our Lord's way of working, which is so different from what our minds would choose. It is written in the second verse, "He shalt not cry, nor lift up, nor cause his voice to be heard in the street." You are in an awful hurry, are you not? But He is never in haste. You would make a great stir and noise, I know, but Jesus will not thus spread the gospel. You would go out and fight all the enemies of truth, and set clamor against clamor, cry against cry, but "He shall not strive." You would shout, and rage, and rave; but He shall not cause His voice to be heard in the street. When Mohammed commenced his enterprise he announced that Paradise was to be found beneath the shadow of words, and numbers of brave men rushed to the battle; they swept everything before them, and stained continents with blood: they carried the name of Allah and Mohammed over Asia and Northern Africa, and seemed intent on conquering Europe: and yet the work done will not endure. The prophet and his caliphs did indeed strive, and cry, and cause their voices to be heard in the street: but Christ's system is the very reverse of that: His weapons are not carnal. Behold His battle-axe and weapons of war! Truth divinely strong, with no human force at the back of it but that of holiness and love; a gospel full of gentleness and mercy to men, proclaimed not by the silver trumpets of kings, but by the plain voices of lowly men. The gospel seeks neither prestige nor patronage from the State; nor does it ask to be advocated by scholastic sophistry, or human eloquence. It does not even aim at becoming predominant by force of the learning or talent of its teachers. It has neither pomp to commend it, nor arms to enforce it. It finds its strength rather in feebleness than in power. The kingdom comes by the Holy Spirit dropping like dew on human hearts, and fertilizing them with a divine life. Christ's kingdom comes not with observation, but in the stillness of the soul. All that is really the work of God is wrought in the silence of the heart by that wind which bloweth where it listeth. Sweetly the Holy Spirit constraineth all things by His own power; but the day of His power is not with roar of tempest, but with the noiseless fall of the dew. You ardent spirit that you are, are all in a hurry; you are going to push the church before you, and drag the world after you. Go and do it! But if the Lord works not after your fashion, be not greatly surprised; for it is written, "He shall not cry, nor lift up, nor cause his voice to be heard in the street."
His purpose shall stand, and He will do all His pleasure. He will do His work all the more surely because He sets about it quietly. I always delight in a man who can afford to go about his life-work without fuss, bluster, or loud announcement. See how a master-workman lays down his tools! He arranges his plan, sketches his ideal, and then begins as he means to go on. He will do the thing in that way, depend upon it. Another fellow flings his tools about, rushes at the work without system, makes the dust fly, litters the place with chips, spoils the work and leaves it in disgust. Our Savior works not so: He calmly, deliberately, resolutely pursues His mighty plan; and He will perform it. "He shall not fall nor be discouraged."
Note well the spirit in which He works. He is gentleness itself, and that always: “A bruised reed shall he not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench." You cannot work in hot haste in this spirit. Gentleness makes good and sure speed, but it cannot endure rashness and heat. We know reformers who, if they had the power, would be like bulls in a china-shop; they would do a great deal in a very short time. But the world's best Friend is not given to quench and bruise. Here is a bruised reed, and it is of no use to anybody: you cannot even get music out of it, much less lean upon it; yet He does not break it. Here is a smoking flax, a wick with an offensive smell, containing very little heat, and no light; yet He does not put it out. This oft quoted text is used, as you know, in the New Testament, in reference to the Pharisees: they thought themselves strong pillars, but the Lord knew that they were only bruised reeds; they thought themselves great lights, but he knew that they were only as smoking flax; and yet He did not go out of His way to snuff them out. Even to them, though often righteously indignant, He was yet gentle, and only assailed them when they put themselves in His way, and forced a verdict from Him. The Lord Jesus was too good and great to be irritated by Pharisees. Lions do not hunt for "rats and mice, and such small deer." Great principles are laid down, which in due time destroy the meannesses which it is not worthwhile to attack in detail. The smoking flaxes of error, and the bruised reeds of pretense go in due season, but the gentle Lord is not in hot haste to put them out of the way. Hence we grow discouraged. But He will not fail nor be discouraged. any the more because of His gentleness. Nay, let me tell you, brethren, it is the quiet man, the meek man, who is always hard to be turned aside from his purpose. When a man is passionate, and easily excited, you have only to wait a while, and he will cool down; perhaps chill down below zero. These fiery fellows will be easily managed by the devil, or somebody else, after the flame is over. Give me a man who deliberately makes up his mind, calmly sets to work, and patiently bears all rebuffs, and I know that what he sets himself to do will be done. He will work in God's way, and will not put forth his hand to snatch a premature success at the expense of principle. He is quiet because he is sure, patient because he is strong, gentle because he is firm. The man who cannot be provoked is the man who cannot be turned aside. You cannot discourage him: he will go through with his work, even to the end; be you sure of that. As you look at our blessed Master, patient and immovable amidst all the battle and the strife, you may assure yourself that He will not fail nor be discouraged. I do not admire Napoleon, except in the matter of his cool courage, but for that he was noteworthy. They always represent him in the midst of the battle with folded arms. His eagle eye is on the conflict, but he is motionless as a statue. Every soldier in the imperial army felt that victory was sure, for the captain was so self-possessed. If he had been hurrying to and fro, rushing here, there, and everywhere, and making a great fuss about everything, they would have inferred that defeat was impending. But see him yonder! All is well. He knows what he is at. It is all right, for he dost not strive, nor cry, nor cause his voice to be heard; he is calm, for he can see that all is well. There stands the Crucified this day, upon the vantage ground, at the right hand of God, and He surveys the battlefield in calm expectancy until His enemies are made His footstool. Tender towards the weakest of the weak, and kind even to the unthankful and the evil, we may see in all this mercifulness the pledge of His success. "He shall not fail nor be discouraged, till he has set judgment in the earth: and the isles shall wait for his law."
Consideration of the statement leads us to believe it firmly.
II. I want you to give me a few minutes while I say, LET THIS TRUTH BE BELIEVED AND ENJOYED. I want you to enjoy the fruit of this truth, and to be made glad by it.
First, enjoy it by recollecting that Jesus has finished the work for His people, that first work wherein He brought in everlasting righteousness, and bore the penalty of human guilt, and laid the foundation whereupon should be built the temple of God. Jesus has done all things well. He persevered in His life labor till He could say, "It is finished." From the hour when as a child He said, "Wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business?" all through the contradiction of sinners, and the weakness, and the poverty, and the shame in which His life was spent, you never see about our Divine Master any indication of failing or of being discouraged. We sorrowfully cry, "I am almost ready to give up"; but He never spoke in that fashion, or even thought it. He had reckoned upon all the toll and the grief. He had foreseen it all: He had taken it into His calculations, and therefore He was not surprised and downcast. He determined to go, for our sakes, to death and the grave, and to bear the shame of our sin and the curse of our guilt, and even to be put by the Father into darkness on our account. He set His face like a flint; and like a flint His face remained to the bitter end. He never turned aside. Let us bless Him this day for His persevering love. It is not a half-finished salvation that we behold on yonder bloody tree: it is not an incomplete redemption that we see in that rising again of Jesus from the dead. When we look up to Him in His glory we know and feel that through all the agony and death He did not fail, and was not discouraged, and that He has set up a kingdom which cannot be removed forever. There let us rest with peaceful confidence.
The next reflection I want you to enjoy is this- -He will finish the work in His believing people . He will not fail nor be discouraged until He has completely saved you and me. If I had been my own savior I should have given up the work long ago. We meet now and then with supposed perfect people, but the most of us dare not whisper the word perfection. When I have overcome a whole body of sin, and have risen to be somewhat like my Lord, it seems to me as if a new body of death were formed about me. I kill one dragon, and lo, his boy yields a crop of monsters. My evil nature seems to have coats like an onion, and when I have taken off one of them, it only lays bare another quite as offensive. Will it not be so to the end of the chapter? You may be growing better; I hope you are, but I shall be all the more hopeful that you are so if you fear that you are growing worse. If you think less and less of yourselves, it is probably true that you are growing in grace; but if you think more and more of yourselves, it is highly probable that you are growing in pride. There is a great difference between being puffed up and being built up. I can clearly see that I shall fail and be discouraged if salvation rests with me; but here is my comfort-- He will not fail nor be discouraged. If my Lord begins with me, He will never be beaten off from His purpose. What bad stuff is our humanity! What wretched raw material for sainthood! It must be hard, treading and pounding such gritty clay; and I wonder not that both the hands and the feet of the great Worker were sorely wounded, since He had such clay to deal with. When He fashions us on the wheel, and we begin to assume somewhat of the form which He intends for us, yet we crack and spoil when we come to the oven, and all His work upon us seems lost. He has to grind us down again, to a powder, and begin with us again de novo , and fashion us once more. It would have been an easier work to have created new beings altogether than to take us poor fallen ones and lift us up to become sons of God. The Almighty Lord had only to have said, "Let a church be!" and a church most fair and spotless would have leaped into being; but instead thereof, He works upon us sinful ones, and undertakes to make us perfectly pure, and present us to Himself without spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing. What a marvel of grace! He will do it, brother. He will do it, sister. He has not grown weary of the work, neither is He discouraged by all our ill behavior. Before He began He knew all about it. Had He not been a far-seeing Christ, able to foresee all our shortcomings and backslidings, He might have been surprised into weariness; but He says, "I knew that thou art obstinate"; and again, "I knew that thou wouldest deal very treacherously." He foreknew all our ingratitude, backsliding, unbelief, and unworthiness, and therefore He will not fail nor be discouraged till His work in us is done, and we are fit for heaven.
Again, dear friends, He will finish His work by His people . Whatever the work is that is to be done by the church, He will not fail nor be discouraged until it is performed. I do not know whether any of you have noticed in my text a very singular thing. If you have the Revised Version, the margin will give you some rather singular information. The text might be read thus: "A bruised reed shall he not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench: yet he shall not burn dimly nor be bruised." Though He deals with bruised reeds and smoking flaxes, yet He Himself is not crushed, nor does His light become a mere glimmer. To my mind, this is a deeply interesting use of words, and should not be allowed to slip. Christianity just now, they say, is a mere smoke, the old-fashioned doctrine especially burns very dim. Do not you believe it: the light of Jesus shall not darken or grow less. Those souls that can see His light will tell you that His face shines still like the sun. There is a glory about Him that is undiminished and undiminishable. He does not glimmer, and He is not crushed. He is no reed; His enemies will one day find that he carrieth a rod of iron. He is a pillar of the house of our God: He beareth up all things, for He is strong and mighty, and He cannot fail. I want you to eject at the back door every suggestion that enters your house as to the defeat of the Christ and the failure of the gospel; it is not possible, it cannot be. You may smoke like the flax, you may be broken like the reed; but He will never glimmer nor be a crushed reed, even to the end: wherefore comfort one another with these words.
And to conclude, I should not have treated the text properly if I did not say that it has in it great comfort to those of you who are as yet outside of the church of God, and are not numbered with His people. Will you kindly read the sixth and seventh verses?--" He shall not fail nor be discouraged," till He has done, what?--the Divine will, and this is a part of it: “To open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house." Oh, say you, I cannot see Christ! He has come on purpose to make you see. Turn your sightless eyeballs this way. Breathe this prayer, "Thou Son of David, have mercy on me." And if he saith: "What wilt thou that I should do unto thee?" answer, "Lord, that I might receive my sight." In one single moment, ay, while the clock is ticking, Jesus Christ can take the scales from a blind man's eyes and let in such a flood of daylight that he shall see heaven itself. Lord, do it this morning. O dear hearts, will you not each one cry, Lord, do it to me? Are you saying that, my friend? He will do it. He loves to hear a blind man's cry. Do you not remember in the New Testament how often He stood still when He heard a blind man's cry. Poor blind soul! Cry to Him now. He shall not fail nor be discouraged, He will come to you and save you.
"Ah!" saith one, "but I am worse than that, I am shut up in prison." Kindly read the seventh verse again-- “To bring out the prisoners from the prison." You are miserable, without hope, shut up in an iron cage. He has come who will not fail nor be discouraged; He has come on purpose to fetch you out of the cage. Ask Him to break the bars in sunder. I see Him lay His pierced hand to that iron bar. You have filed it a long while, and it has broken the teeth of your file; you have tried to shake it in its place, but you could not stir it in the least. See what He does! He plucks bar after bar out of its place, as if they had been so many reeds, and you are free. Arise and take your liberty! The Son of God has made you free. If thou hast trusted Him, He has broken the gates of brass, and cut the bars of iron in sunder; thou art free, enjoy thy liberty.
"Oh, but," saith one, "in my case it is blindness and slavery united." Listen, then. He has come to "bring them that sit in darkness out of the prison-house." You cannot see the bars that shut you in, nor even mark the limits of your narrow cell; but He has come who will give yes to you, and light to those eyes, and liberty to your enlightened sight. Only trust Him. All things are possible to Him that believeth when Christ is near. Thou knowest now, thou who are now at the bottom of the sea, how high He can lift thee in an instant? Out of the belly of hell, if thou wilt cry, He can lift thee in a moment, to the very heights of heaven. I say no more of my Lord than He deserves to have said of Him; nay, nor yet half as much. Try Him, and see if He will fail. Try Him now, thou in the worst and lowest of circumstances, thou devil-bound and devil-tortured spirit. Dare to believe that Jesus can do all things for thee. Leave thyself with Him. Go thy way, for as thou hast believed so shall it be unto thee. To the name of Him that will not fail nor be discouraged be glory forever and ever! Amen.
Victor Emmanuel, Emancipator
by C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892)
"To open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house."-Isaiah 42:7 .
On a former occasion ("Sinners Bound with the Cords of Sin" ) we contemplated the unconverted man as being bound by the cords of his sins. It was a very solemn and sorrowful topic. I trust it humbled us all, and made those of us whom the Son has made free, feel renewed gratitude for the glorious liberty of the children of God. Sad was the spectacle of the dungeon and the fetters, and the felon bound therewith, a man, a brother, the image of ourselves. It is a great relief to turn to another subject akin to that, but full of cheerfulness and joy. We showed you the prisoner: we have now to speak of him who came to set the prisoners free. We decribed the captive's cords and bonds; we have now to tell you of him whose mighty touch liberates the bond-slaves, and signs the Magna Carta of eternal emancipation. The case of manhood bound like Prometheus to the rock, and preyed upon by the vulture of hell, appeared utterly hopeless, and the more so because the prisoner was his own fetter, and disdained to be free. After all that has been done for man, by the tenderness of God, the simplicity of the gospel, and the clear and plain command; yes, and after all the thunders of threatening, followed by the wooing notes of mercy, the captive continues still the willing slave of sin, and his liberation appears utterly hopeless. But things impossible with men are possible with God, and where human agency fails, divine agency delights to illustrate its own extraordinary energy. We gladly survey at this time the effectual operations of Jesus the Savior, the true Victor Emmanuel, who comes to set men free from the bondage of their sins, to whose name be honor and glory world without end. I. Looking at the first verses of this chapter, we shall consider WHO IT IS THAT SENDS JESUS CHRIST TO ACCOMPLISH THE LIBERATION OF THE SONS OF MEN, because much will depend upon the liberator's credentials, the authority by which he is warranted, and the power by which he is backed. We sing for joy of heart as we see that the Infinite God himself commissioned the Lord Jesus to be the deliverer of men; and he did this, first, in his capacity as Creator. Read the fifth verse, and behold the great author of the Redeemer's commission: "Thus saith Jehovah, he that created the heavens, and stretched them out; he that spread forth the earth, and that which cometh out of it." He, then, who spared not his own Son, but sent him forth on the embassage of love, is Jehovah, who has made the heavens a pavilion of azure, gilded with the sun, and bedecked with stars; the self-same all-sustaining One who bears up the pillars of the universe, and impels the earth in its majestic circuit. He who gave its lustre to every precious stone from the mine, its life to every blade of grass, its fruit to every tree, its motion to every beast and winged fowl for all these may be said to come out of the earth; he it is who sent the Incarnate God to open the two-leaved gates, and cut the bars of iron asunder, that the slaves of Satan might escape from the thraldom of their sins. Jesus, the Son of God, comes armed with the power of the Creator himself. Rejoice, then, ye that are lost, for surely the power which spake all things out of nothing, can new create you, though there be nought of good within you to aid the godlike work. Rejoice, ye that are marred and broken, like vessels spoiled upon the potter's wheel, your great Creator puts his hand a second time to the work, and resolves to form you for himself that you may show forth his praise. He by whom you were made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth, is able by his mysterious working to create in you a new heart, and infuse into you a right spirit. Is there not hope for the dark chaos of your fallen nature, and that heart of yours which is now without form and void? Is anything too hard for the Lord? Is there any restraint of his power? It is true your fellow-creatures, be they exalted never so highly by office or character, cannot regenerate you, the very idea is blasphemy against the prerogative of him who alone can create or destroy; but where the will of man, and blood, and birth all fail, the Spirit of the Lord achieves the victory. Thus saith the Lord, "Behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind. But be ye glad and rejoice for ever in that which I create: for, behold, I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy." What has John written in the book of his vision? Is it not to the same purpose? He that sat upon the throne saith, "Behold, I make all things new." He who made the light can open your eyes. He who bade the rivers flow, can open springs of penitence within your souls. He who clothed the earth with verdure, can make your barren minds fruitful to his praise. If he piled yon Alpine summits, balanced the clouds which float about them, and formed the valleys which laugh at their feet, he can yet create within the little world of man thoughts that aspire to heaven, desires that ascend to the realms of purity, and good works which are the fair products of his Spirit. Has the Creator sent forth a liberator to captive men? Then is there hope indeed! He who sent forth the Lord Jesus as his Elect One to restore our fallen race, also describes himself as the life giver; for returning to the fifth verse of the chapter before us, we read, "He that giveth breath unto the people upon it, and spirit to them that walk therein!" The Lord creates animal life: he puts breath into the nostrils of men and beasts; he gives also mental life the life which thinks, imagines, doubts, fears, understands, desires. All life comes from the central fountain of self-existence in the great I Am, in whom we live, and move, and have our being. This Eternal One, who has life in himself, has sent forth his Son to give life to those who are dead in trespasses and sins, and he has girded him with his own power, "For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself." It is by the word of Jesus that the dead shall rise, "for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth." Arrayed in such life-giving power no case of human corruption can be beyond the Redeemer's skill even those who rot, like Lazarus, shall come forth when he calls them, and the bonds of death and hell shall be loosed. Thus saith the Lord of life: "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life." The vision of Ezekiel's valley has become a fact since Jesus has appeared; and it is no marvel that it should be so, since the Eternal and Ever-living God has sent him. He can breathe the Holy Spirit into the dead soul, and give the heart that palpitates with penitence, and leaps with desires after God. He can give eyes to the blind and feet to the lame. All that belongs to life he can bestow the hearing ear, the speaking tongue, the grasping hand. The great obstacle in his way is spiritual death, and as with a word he can remove it, the salvation of man is no longer a difficulty. Rejoice, ye heavens; and be glad, O earth; for among the graves of our sins, and into the very charnel-house of our corruption, the Quickener has descended, and is quickening whomsoever he will. Nor is this all for he who sent the Redeemer is represented in the sixth verse as the faithful God. "I the Lord have called thee in righteousness;" that is to say, the God who sends Christ the Savior is not one who plays with words, and having given a promise to-day, retracts it to-morrow. "He is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent." Immutable are his promises and purposes, for they are founded in righteousness. He who has commissioned his chosen messenger is not unrighteous to forget his word. Hath he said, and shall he not do it? Hath he spoken, and shall it not come to pass? Hence, thy dear brethren, every gospel promise has the stamp of the divine righteousness upon it, that you may know it to be true. Jesus assures us that, if we believe in him, we shall be delivered. God, who cannot lie, sets his seal to the promise. "He that believeth and is baptised shall be saved," is not only the declaration of Christ, but God himself confirms it. Then, "Amen, so let it be!" The vilest sinner that believeth shall find life and pardon, acceptance and blessedness in Christ Jesus. Thou hast not to deal, O trembler, with one who will interpret his promise at a lower point than thou dost understand it at; but thou hast to deal with One who means more than words can express, whose thoughts are as high above your thoughts, even when enlightened by his Word, as the heavens are above the earth. "Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool." He who utters these words is the Lord, the faithful Promiser, who has sent forth Christ, not to deceive you with specious presences, but in very deed and truth to bring abundance of grace to those who trust him. Reading further in the same verse, you will perceive that the everblessed sender of the Lord Jesus is omnipotent, for is it not added, "And will hold thine hand, and will keep thee"? By which is meant that God will give to the Mediator all his power. Christ is the power of God. Omnipotence dwells in him who once was slain, but now ever liveth, and he is able to save unto the uttermost them that come unto God by him. In the gospel of Christ there is a putting forth of divine power as manifest as in the creation and in the upholding of the world. Here is our comfort under all the assaults with which the Christian faith is threatened, and under all the disappointments which the Christian church has hitherto undergone; Emmanuel, God with us, is still our strength. We are persuaded that the ultimate victory of the cross is absolutely certain, for "the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it." The creation was a work of omnipotence, and yet it was not accomplished all at once. The Lord could, if he had so willed it, have fashioned this habitable globe in one second of time, and have furnished all its chambers by a single word of his mouth. Instead of this, we have reason to believe that he lingered in the first formation of it, in the beginning, when he created the heavens and the earth; and arranged and disarranged it many times before he came to the final constitution of it in the first six days of time, wherein he modeled it to be a fit abode for man. Even then when he came to the final work, not in one day did he build up chaos into the beautiful house of humanity. Not at first did the firmament divide the waters, or the dry land appear above the seas. Not till the third day did the earth bring forth grass and the herb yielding seed, nor did sun and moon divide the empire of day and night till the fourth day had dawned; while the fowl that fly in the open firmament of heaven, and the living creatures that move in the waters, owned a yet later birth. Everything was gradual. Step by step the Maker advanced, get was there never anything less than omnipotence in every step of his progress. So, my brethren, the Lord might as easily have converted the whole world to Christ on the day of Pentecost as not, but not so had his decrees appointed. A step was taken in apostolic times, and the light shone forth in darkness; further on, the great division between the heavenly and the earthly became marked and clear, and the church rose like the dry land above the seas of sin, while the plants of the Lord's right-hand planting brought forth their seed and their fruit. Even now the appointed lights make glad the sky, and the time hastens on when the Lord shall more evidently bless his living ones, and say, "Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the earth;" but all is done by degrees as he appoints. Our impatience would fain stand at the Eternal elbow, and say, "Master, complete thy work, and let our eyes behold the Second Adam in a world restored into a second Eden." But he tarries for awhile, and waits while his great appointed evenings and mornings fill up his week of glorious work. He delights in this noblest labor of his hands, and is not as the hireling who earnestly desireth the shadow that his toilsome task may be ended. He lingers lovingly, and his long suffering is salvation. The Lord's decrees tarry not so long but what in the divine reckoning, and according to the Lord's own estimate, the end will come quickly, but to the presumptuous who dare to say, "where is the promise of his coming?" he seems to linger long. How blessed will be the grand finale of redemption work; then shall the morning stars sing together, and all the sons of God shout for joy. The seventh day of redemption shall eclipse the Sabbath of nature, even as the new heavens and the new earth shall outshine the former: a river purer than Hiddekel shall water the new Eden, the tree of life of richer fruit shall grow in the midst of the garden, and then shall be fulfilled the saying which is written, "Sing, O ye heavens; for the Lord hath done it: shout, ye lower parts of the earth: break forth into singing, ye mountains, O forest, and every tree therein: for the Lord hath redeemed Jacob, and glorified himself in Israel." As we read the promise, "I will hold thine hand, and will keep thee," we see the certainty that the Savior girt with the allsufficiency of divine strength, will accomplish the work of human salvation. Be of good cheer, O children of God, and comfort yourselves with the belief, "that he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand." His church has no reason for fear, but every ground of confidence as to her future. Rejoice, O daughter of Zion; for great is the Holy One of Israel in the midst of thee.
"Fear not, though many a mighty foe Against thy walls advance; Jehovah's arm will lay them low For thy deliverance.
Oh, take him at his royal word That word which cannot lie Thy shield and sword is Israel's Lord, Almighty sovereignty."
I know you will tell me, "most men say that the world will end in a few years; is it not written that the Bridegroom cometh quickly?" Yes, but remember that eighteen hundred years ago it was written that he would come quickly, and there have been prophets in all ages who have concluded from this that the end was near, while many believers have been like the Thessalonians, to whom Paul wrote: "Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, that ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand." We have been instructed by certain pretended expositors to expect the time of the end for the last seven years, and yet it is possible that it may not arrive for the next seventy thousand years. Perhaps human history, as yet written, is but the first stanza of a wondrous poem, which shall be unfolded page by page for many an age to come, and it may be possible far more rapturous strains of divine mercy and grace in the conversion of men are yet to be read by angels and glorified spirits. If it be so it will still be true that he comes quickly, for what will time be compared with eternity? Even if the space taken up by the world's history be not a brief six thousand years, but sixty thousand times six thousand years, yet will it be but as a drop of a bucket compared with the years of the right hand of the Most High, the lifetime of the Ancient of Days. Fight on hopefully, my brethren, and be not distressed with rumors of times and seasons, but believe ye this, that God is, in Christ Jesus, reconciling the world unto himself, and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God. Watch daily for the Lord's coming, but yet struggle to advance his empire, for "he shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth." The Lord has not withdrawn his hand from his "elect, in whom his soul delighteth." He will subdue nations before him, he will loose the loins of kings, to open before him the two-leaved gates. With such a deliverer so gloriously upheld, there is no room for fear of failure. Our hope and faith joyfully rest in him to whom the Eternal gives his almightiness wherewith to subdue all things unto himself. II. We will now advance a little further, the Lord helping us. Having contemplated the glorious One who sent Jesus to the work of man's emancipation, let us, in the second place, consider the SENT ONE HIMSELF. We have him described in the first verse of this chapter, and the first words which we will select from the description inform us that Jesus is a chosen one. "Mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth." God has been pleased to set apart his well-beloved Son to be the Savior of sinners, and in every way he is most suitable. As man he is supremely adapted for the work; no other of woman born was fitted for the enterprise. Born in a peculiar manner, without taint or blemish, he alone of human kind possessed the holy nature needful to make him God's messenger of love. I tried to show just now that God has girded our Lord with his omnipotence, and this ought to lead every sinner to feel that Christ can save him, for what cannot Omnipotence do? We may not talk of impossibilities or even difficulties when we have almightiness before us. No sinner can be difficult to save, no bonds hard to remove, when God, the Almighty One, comes forth to save. Now look at the other side of the picture, and remember that Christ Jesus was the most suitable person in whom the Father could place the fullness of his saving power. In his complex person he is every way adapted to stand as mediator between God and man. He who laid help upon one that is mighty, and exalted one chosen out of the people, was guided by infallible wisdom in his choice. None other was so fit as he; in fact there was no other. "Other foundation can no man lay than that is laid." Other door of hope can no man open than that which God has opened in the person of Christ. O sinner, I beseech thee accept what God has wisely chosen. Let God's choice be thy willing choice. At this hour, constrained by the grace of God, say, "If God has chosen the Lord Jesus to be a propitiation for sin, my heart accepts him as the atonement for my sin, feeling that he alone can save me." If thus thou dost elect the Lord's elect One, thou shalt find him precious. But we are also told in the first verse that the Lord Jesus is anointed to this work, as well as a choice one for it. "I have put my Spirit upon him." Now, the Holy Spirit is the greatest of all actors in the world of mind. He it is who can illuminate, persuade, and control the spirits of men. He doeth as he wills with mind, even as in the first creation the Lord wrought as he willed with matter. Now, if Jesus Christ has the fullness of the Holy Spirit resting upon him, it is not supposable that any sinner shall be so desperately enslaved that he cannot set him free. We are about to speak of blind eyes to be opened, but in the light of the Holy Spirit what eye need remain blind? We shall speak of captives to be liberated, but with God's free Spirit to loose him what soul need be bound? Bold men have taught doctrines which have emancipated the minds of their fellows from the slavery of superstition, but the Holy Ghost's teachings deliver minds from bondage of every kind, and make men free before the living God. Trembling sinner, accept Christ as your Savior; God appoints him; God anoints him. Are not these two reasons sufficient to make him acceptable to your soul? Furthermore, the Redeemer is spoken of as being gentle and lowly of heart, which should commend him much to every lowly and contrite spirit. "A bruised reed shall he not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench." We need a Savior who can be touched with the feeling of our infirmities, and Jesus is such. Souls conscious of sin are very tender, and agitated with many fears; to cure a wounded conscience is no fool's work, but fit labor for the most experienced physician. See you, then, how fitted Christ is. He never yet said an unkind word to a soul that desired to find mercy at his hands. In the records of his life you may find him try, but you shall never see him repel, an anxious spirit. When feeble faith could only touch the hem of his garment, yet virtue flowed from him. When the leper said, "Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean," it was but poor faith, but that faith saved him. Though you cannot yet believe as you would, yet say, "Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief," and he will not reject you. Look at the smoking candle-wick which yields no light, but makes much offensive smoke; yet, perchance, a living fire lingers in it, and therefore the tender Savior will not quench it, but will even fan it to a flame. And that bruised reed, how it mars the music of the pipes; draw it out and break it. So would men do, but not so the sinner's Friend. He makes it perfect yet again, and pours the music of his love through it. O thou who art in thine own esteem utterly worthless, only fit to be thrown away, unfit to live and unfit to die; Jesus Christ, the gentle One, will give thee mercy, if thou seek him, and in giving he will not upbraid thee. O wandering child, Jesus will introduce thee to his Father, who will kiss thee with the kisses of his love, and take off thy rags of sin, and clothe thee with glorious robes of righteousness. Only come thou to him, for he is such an one that he cannot reject thee. "How can I come?" saith one. A prayer will bring thee; an anxious desire will be as a chariot to thee. A trust in him hath brought thee, and Christ is thine, if thou dost now accept him. If thy soul is truly willing to have Christ, Christ hath made thee willing, and has already begun to set thee free. May these thoughts concerning the great Emancipator cheer thee on to confidence in him. One point more in this direction. The Christ who has come to save the sons of men is persevering to the last degree. "He shall not fail, nor be discouraged, till he have set judgment in the earth: and the isles shall wait for his law." Men are unwilling to be saved; they do not desire to be brought out of their prison-houses; but Jesus Christ will not cease to teach, nor cease to seek, nor cease to save, till every one of his elect is redeemed from the ruin of the fall, and until a multitude beyond all count shall surround the Father's throne. I tell thee, soul, if Christ wills to save thee, he will save thee. He will track thy footsteps, wander where thou mayst. If thou shouldest escape time after time, from the arrows of conviction, and plunge again and again into sin, yet will he seek thee out and find thee yet. O delay not, but yield to his power! I pray that he may stretch out his sovereign arm at this moment, and rescue thee from thyself. If thy heart were as adamant, or as the nether millstone, he can dissolve it with a touch. O that the rock-breaking hammer would come down upon thee now! He is mighty to save; may he prove his mightiness in thee! III. It is time that we expound the text itself, and review THE WORK ITSELF. According to the text, the Messiah's work of grace is divided into three parts, of which the first is, to open the blind eyes. Here is a notable work which brings much glory to our Lord. Man's understanding is perverted from the knowledge of God, from a true sense of sin, from a realisation of divine justice, from a right estimate of salvation. The understanding, which is the eye of the soul, is darkened. But when the anointed Savior comes, he removes the scales of our mental ophthalmia, and in the light of God we see light, and then the sinner is humbled and bowed down, for he perceives his guilt and the justice of God. Moreover, he is filled with alarm, for he sees the bleeding Savior bearing Jehovah's wrath, and rightly judges that in every case sin must receive a recompense of wrath; for if sin laid on Christ was punished, how much more must personal sin involve banishment from the presence of the Most High? The sinner is then made to see that the only way in which sin can be removed is through the expiatory sufferings of a substitute. He is led to see that the atonement avails for him upon his believing. He is led to understand what believing is. He does believe; he trusts, and then in trusting he is made to see the completeness of pardon, and the glory of the justification which comes to us by faith in Jesus Christ. You may think that this is an easy thing for men to see, trained in the doctrine of it from their childhood, and hearing it incessantly from the pulpit; but, believe me, simple as it seems to he, no man receives it unless it has been given him from heaven. We may say to each one who has seen all this, "Blessed art thou, for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee." Many of us heard the gospel from our childhood, but until the Holy Spirit explained to us what it was to be a sinner, and what it was to believe in Jesus, we did not know even the rudiments of the gospel. We were in darkness ourselves, though the light shone round about us; and well might we be, for our eyes were not opened. When Jesus came we saw it all, and we understood the mystery. Our once blind eyes clearly saw ourselves lost, and Christ suffering instead of us; we believed in him, our sins disappeared, and we were accepted in the Beloved. My dear friend, if thou art seeking rest, I pray the Lord to open thine eyes to see the simplicities of the gospel. One touch of his finger will make thee wise unto salvation. There is no need for thee to study the twenty-one folio volumes of Albertus Magnus, or even the fifty-two volumes of John Calvin, for the whole secret of the gospel lies in these few words, "Believe and live;" yet thou canst not open the casket unless the Lord give thee the secret key. It needs an opened eye to see even through a glass window; the clear witness of the gospel is dark to blind eyes. The next work of the Messiah, according to the text, is to bring out the prisoners front the prison. This, I think, relates to the bondage under which a man lies to his sins. Habits of sin, like iron nets, surround the sinner, and he cannot escape their meshes. The man sins, and imagines that he cannot help sinning. How often do the ungodly tell us that they cannot renounce the world, cannot break off their sins by righteousness, and cannot believe in Jesus? Let all men know that the Savior has come on purpose to remove every bond of sin from the captive, and to set him free from every, chain of evil. I have known men strive against the habit of blasphemy, others against unchaste passions, and many more against a haughty spirit, or an angry temper; and when they have strived manfully but unsuccessfully in their own strength, they have been filled with bitter chagrin that they should have been so betrayed by themselves. When a man believes in Jesus his resolve to become a freeman is to a great extent accomplished at once. Some sins die the moment we believe in Jesus, and trouble us no more; others hang on to us, and die by slow degrees, but they are overcome so as never again to get the mastery over us. O struggler after mental, moral, spiritual liberty, if thou wouldst be free, thine only possible freedom is in Christ. If thou wouldst shake off evil habits or any other mental bondage, I shall prescribe no remedy to thee but this, to commit thyself to Christ the Liberator.
"The gates of brass before him burst, The iron fetters yield."
Love him, and thou shalt hate sin. Trust him, and thou shalt no more trust thyself. Submit thyself to the sway of the incarnate God, and he will break the dragon's head within thee, and hurl Satan beneath thy feet. Nothing else can do it. Christ must have the glory of thy conquest of self. He can set thee free from sin's iron yoke. He never failed yet, and he never shall. I earnestly entreat any man who desires to break off his sins (and we must break them off or perish by them), to try this divine remedy, and see if it does not give him holy liberty. Ask the thousands who have already believed in Jesus, and their testimony will confirm my doctrine. Faith in the Lord Jesus is the end of bondage and the dawn of freedom. The last part of this divine work is, bringing them that sit in darkness out of the prison-house. This we will refer to those who are truly emancipated, and yet by reason of despondency sit down in the dark dungeon. We have in our pastoral duties constantly to console persons who are free from their sins, having by divine grace got the mastery over them, but yet they are in sadness. The door is open, the bars are broken, but with strange obstinacy of despondency they remain in the cell of fear, in which there is no necessity for them to continue for a moment. They cannot believe that these good things are true to them. They forgiven? They could believe everybody else to be pardoned but themselves. They made the children of God? Nay, they could hope for their sisters; they have joy in knowing that their father is a child of God, but as to themselves can such blessings really fall to the lot of such unworthy ones? We have talked with hundreds of such and tried to console them, but we have only learned our own unskilfulness in the art of consolation. They are rich in inventions for self-torture, ingenious in escaping comfort. But, ah! the blessed Master of our souls, whose business it has been since Adam fell to bind up broken hearts, is never foiled. When his eternal Spirit comes to anoint with the oil of joy, he soon gives beauty for ashes. The mournful sentinel of the night-watches must rejoice when the day breaketh and the Sun of righteousness shines forth. Although I speak to you in very common-place language, yet the theme is rich. This one thought alone ought to make our hearts dance for joy, to think that the Christ of God undertakes to lift up desponding and despairing spirits into hope and joy once more. I know who will rejoice to hear this. It is yonder good woman, who these many years has been in spiritual bondage. It is yonder young man, who has carried a secret burden month after month. It is yonder aged man, who longs to find Christ ere he gathers up his feet in his dying bed, and who thinks that his hour of grace has passed. Man, it is not so. Christ is still mighty to save. Still doth the message run: "He that believeth on him is not condemned." "Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely." "Go, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price." Prisoners of hope, your liberator is near at hand. Trust him and be free. Though it seem a venturesome believing, yet venture on him. He cannot, will not reject you; he will proclaim a jubilee, and set each bondslave free. See, then, how the great Redeemer blessed us: Jesus the Christ does all things well; he clears the understanding; he breaks the power of sinful habits; he removes the load of despondency; he doth it all. Christ Jesus, Mary's son and Jehovah's son man, bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh, yet God over all, blessed for ever; he who died on Calvary, whose precious blood is the panacea for all human ills, he it is, and he only, who is the Liberator of our fallen race. IV. WHAT IS THE DESIGN OF GOD IN ALL THIS? This question is answered in the next verse to the text: "I am the Lord: that is my name: and my glory will I not give to another." The great end of God in Christ was the manifestation of his own glorious attributes a simple truth, but big with comfort, for should the sinner who has been an atrocious offender against laws human and divine conceive himself to be an improper subject for the grace of God, I would take him by the hand, and lest despair drive him to further sin, I would put this truth clearly before him. Where is mercy most glorified? Is it not in passing by the greatest offenses? Thou hast great offenses; there is room in thee for mercy to be greatly displaced. Where is grace glorified? Is it not in conquering the most violent passions? Thou hast such; grace may therefore be glorified in thee. Why, great sinner, instead of not being a fit subject for grace, I will venture to say that thou art in all respects one of the most suitable. There is elbow-room in thee for grace to work. There is room in thine emptiness for God's fullness. There is a clear stage in thy sinfulness for God's superabounding grace. But you have been a ringleader in the devil's army. Yes, and how can God strike a more telling blow against the hosts of darkness than by capturing you? But you tell me that you are an enormous sinner. How will the Lord of love encourage other sinners to come better than by calling you? For it will be rumoured about among your fellow-sinners:-"Have you heard that such an one is saved?" I know they will jeer, but still, in their secret hearts, they will think it over, and they will say, "How is this?" and they will be led to enquire into the ways of God's grace. A brother told the church, a short time since, a little of his history, and it caused us all to rejoice in sovereign grace. He had lived in all manner of sin and iniquity; his profession had been for some years that of a public runner, and in that course of life he was brought into collision with the scum of society. He was practiced, also, in the pugilistic art, and that, we all know, is the very reverse of having an elevating tendency. But he came to the Tabernacle, and here Jesus met with him, and he rejoices now to teach to others the gospel which he once rejected. But what, think you has he been accustomed to do these three years? Some of our brethren preach in the streets, and he goes with them, and after they have told of what the grace of God can do, he humbly and yet boldly rises and says, "I am a living witness to what grace can do; I can declare to you what God's love has done for me." If the sermon which precedes his little speech has not interested the people, they are quite certain to be struck with his personal testimony, for in some localities many of the street folk know him, and as they look at him they say, "Why, that is old so-and-so. I knew him when he was this and that, and here he is converted;" and his witness-bearing works mightily among his old friends and acquaintances. I say, then, if now I speak to any other who has been a great offender, a drunkard, or what not, if my Master does but set you free and enlist you in his army, there will be such a shout go up in the hosts of Israel as shall make heaven ring, while the Philistines shall tremble, for their Goliath shall be slain, and a new champion raised up from his dead body to fight for the Lord of hosts. If the Lord saved men because of their merits, there would be no hope for great sinners, nor indeed for any one; but if he saves us for his own glory, that he may magnify his grace and his mercy among the sons of men, then none need despair. Up to the very gates of hell would I preach the gospel, and between the jaws of death would I proclaim it. God to glorify his grace sets free the captives, then why should not the most hell-deserving sinner, whose heart is like hardened steel, yet become a monument of Christ's power to save? I remember one who used to say that if God would but have mercy on him he should never hear the last of it, and it may well be the resolve of all of us, that earth and heaven shall never hear the last of our praises if grace shall but save us. As one of our hymns puts it
"Then loudest of the crowd I'll sing, While heaven's resounding mansions ring With shouts of sovereign grace."
Yes, we will each sing loudest, each owing most, each desiring, therefore, to bend the lowest and to praise the most heartily, the grace which has set us free. Time flies with us; days are rushing past; years are hastening away. How long shall it be ere Christ shall gain your hearts? How long shall ye hear of him, and continue to refuse his grace? How long, ye unconverted ones, will ye hug your chains and kiss your fetters? "Turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?" "Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon."
December 27th, 1868
C. H. SPURGEON
"I will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight."--Isaiah 42:16 .
In the pursuit of holiness the pilgrim is often surrounded with darkness: while in the pathway of evil the traveller is dazzled with a glare of light. It is the way of the tempter to make the downward path as attractive as possible with the flaring splendour of carnal pleasure. Sin is surrounded with a fascinating lustre which enchants the unwary seeker of pleasure, and leads him to his own destruction. Look at the palace of firewater, dedicated to the demon of drunkenness; it is brighter than any other house in the street! see how it glitters with abundant lamps, and mirrors, and burnished brass! Rich with colour are the flowers which bloom at
the mouth of the old serpent's den. As the sirens in the old classic fable enchanted mariners with their songs, so that, beneath the spell of their music, they turned the prows of their vessels towards the rocks of sure destruction, even so sin constrains the sons of men to make shipwreck of their souls. Evil seemeth to be surrounded evermore with a light that dazzles and fascinates, even as the brightness of the candle attracts the fly to its destruction. As for the way of righteousness and truth, it appears from the text that murky clouds frequently rest upon it, and the way appears rough and crooked, otherwise it were not necessary to say, "I will make darkness light before them;" neither were it needful that a divine hand should interfere to make the crooked straight. Brethren, the
day of evil commences with a flattering morning and changes into tenfold night, but God's day, the day of good, begins at eventide, like the primeval days of the creation, the evening and the morning were the first day. We who follow the Lord Jesus have our night first, and our day has yet to dawn, the sun of which shall no more go down. God for us keepeth the best wine until the last, while at the banquet of Satan they set forth the best wine, and afterwards that which is worse; yea, the dregs are wrung out in the end for the wicked of the earth to drink. As for the righteous, they have their draughts of wormwood here, before their high festival begins, to give them appetite and zest for the banquets where wines on the lees well refined shall satiate their souls.
The subject of this morning is the great promise of God that, although his people shall sometimes be enveloped in gloom, their darkness shall be turned to light. Before the advance of faith the most terrible things lose their terror. We shall use this one truth in reference to believers first, and then briefly turn it to the encouragement of earnest seekers.
I. First, in addressing The Believer, let us ring the bell of the text again, it has a sweet silver voice: "I will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight."
Believer, observe that before you often lies a grim darkness. Upon that darkness let us make these comforting observations--first, that much of the darkness is of your own imagining. As we feel a thousand deaths in fearing one, so do we feel a thousand afflictions in the fear of sorrows which will never come. Probably the major part of our griefs are born, nourished, and perfected, entirely in an anxious, imaginative brain. Many of our sorrows are not woven in the loom of providence, but are purely homespun, and the pattern of our own invention. Some minds are specially fertile in self-torture; they have the creative faculty for all that is melancholy, desponding, and wretched. If they were placed in the brightest isles of the blessed beneath unclouded skies, where birds of fairest wing poured out perpetual melody, and earth was rich with colour and perfume, they would not be content til they had imagined for
themselves a sevenfold Styx, an infernal Tartarus, a valley of deathshade. Their ingenuity is stimulated even by the mercies of God; and that which would make others rejoice causes them to tremble lest the enjoyment should prove shortlived. Like certain painters, they delight in heavy masses of shade. My brother, you may, perhaps have before your mind this very morning what seems a thick wall of horror, and yet it is nothing but a cloud. Waiting, you imagine the obstruction to increase, but plucking up courage and advancing to meet the imaginary horror, you will yet laugh at yourself, and at your foolish fears, and wonder how it was that you ever could have been cast down at nothing at all, and distressed by that which had no existence except in your dreams. I remember well, one night, having been preaching the word in a country village, I was walking home alone along a lonely footpath. I do not know what it was that ailed me, but I was prepared to be alarmed, when of a surety I saw something standing in the hedge, ghastly, giantlike, and with outstretched arms. Surely, I thought, for once I have come across the supernatural; here is some restless spirit performing its midnight march beneath the moon, or some demon of the pit. I deliberated with myself a moment, and having no faith in ghosts, I plucked up courage, and resolved to solve the mystery. The monster stood on the other side of a ditch, right in the hedge. I jumped the ditch, and found myself grasping an old tree, which some waggish body had taken pains to colour with a little whitewash, with a view to frighten simpletons. That old tree has served me a good turn full often, for I have learned to keep at difficulties, and find them vanish or turn to triumphs. Half our afflictions are only appalling in prospect because we do not know what they are; and if we will but in faith patiently await them, they will be but light and transient. Thus, by chasing away the gloom of our dark imagination, God often makes darkness light before us.
Much, again, of the darkness which does really exist is exaggerated. There is some cause for alarm, but not one half the cause which your fancy pictures. "All these things are against me," says Jacob: "Joseph is not, Simeon is not; and now ye will take Benjamin away." There was something in this complaint. Joseph was not with his father, Simeon was kept in ward; but the old man had pictured Joseph devoured of an evil beast, and Simeon given up to be a perpetual slave in a foreign land. His fears had magnified the trouble which existed. And, believer, so probably it is with you. You shall find that the load which seems now to be far too ponderous for you to lift, shall be easily carried on the shoulders which divine grace shall strengthen if you have but confidence enough to venture upon the task. That cross is not made of iron, it is only a wooden one; it may be painted with iron colours, but iron it is not; it has been carried, ay, and a weightier one by far, has been carried by other men aforetime--shoulder it like a man, shoulder it like a man of God. Take up your cross daily, and go forward with your Master, and you shall find that mountains shrink to molehills, giants are seen to be but dwarfs, dragons and griffins are but bats and owls, and the leviathan himself a defeated foe.
Remember, too, that in many cases, troubles disappear at the very moment when we expect them to be overwhelming. While we are anticipating them, they seem to block up the pathway completely, and leave no door of escape, but on our venturesome advance to them, they are not there at all, they have fled before us. See the host of Israel--they have escaped out of Egypt, but they are pursued by their taskmasters. They come to a spot where they are enclosed on either hand by mountains, while the chariots of Egypt are in the rear. How is it possible for them to escape? They are entangled in the land, the wilderness hath shut them in. "Forward," cries the prophet, "forward, hosts of God!" But how can they advance? The Red Sea rolls right in their path; but no sooner do the feet of the priests touch the waters of the sea than the depths are divided, the waters stand upright as a heap, for God has made a pathway for his people through the heart of the sea. No better road could be desired than that which they found in the sandy bed of the sea. The trouble, which certainly did appear insurmountable, became the subject of unwonted triumph; Miriam's song and the voices of the daughters of Israel had in them a higher exultation than they could ever have known if they had not been able to cry aloud, "Sing unto the Lord, for he hath triumphed gloriously: the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea." Brethren, your trials may, in a like case, vanish so soon as you arrive at them; you do not know what plan God has in store. He has an unused shaft which shall be the arrow of the Lord's deliverance for you. The Lord has a counterplot for the plots of your enemies. You see but a part of his scheme, you have not as yet discovered the whole of his resources; and when he brings out his wonderful plan more fully, you will stand in amazement and even bless his name for the trial, because it furnished so noble an opportunity for revealing to you the faithfulness and the power of your God. The same thing which occurred at the Red Sea happened also to the hosts of God when they came to the Jordan, for Jordan was driven back, and fled at the presence of the God of Israel. If you should suffer trouble upon trouble, you too, shall experience deliverance upon deliverance. Think of that mighty instance in which it was proved that God can clear the darkest skies, and give us day for night! I refer to the case of Hezekiah. What a blasphemous and insulting letter was that which came from Rabshakeh! what reviling language was that which the foul-mouthed lieutenant of Sennacherib hurled at Judah's king! Poor Hezekiah was a man of a holy and tender spirit, and was sore dismayed; but when he spread that wretched letter before the Lord, and bowed himself in sackcloth, little did he know how graciously God would prevent the sorrow from ever coming to him in any other shape but in that of talk and boasting. "Thus saith the Lord concerning the king of Assyria, he shall not come into their city, nor shoot an arrow there, nor come before it with shields, nor cast a bank against it. By the way that he came, by the same shall he return, and shall not come into this city, saith the Lord." And so it was; and so, O child of God, may it be with the troubles which now block up your pathway--they shall vanish as you advance.
Reflect, again, that where this does not exactly occur, and the trial does really come, yet the Lord has a way of making the trials of his people to cease when they reach their culminating point. As the sea, when it reaches the highest mark of flood, can advance no further, but after pausing for awhile to enjoy the fulness of its strength, must then return to its ebb, so with our most desperate sorrows, they reach the point designed, and then they recede. See Abraham, God had bade him sacrifice his son. Abraham probably mistaking the Lord's meaning, thought that he was to slay the child of promise. He proceeds to Mount Moriah, piles the altar, takes with him the wood, binds his son, and places him upon the altar; but just as he has unsheathed the knife, and is about to perform the act of solemn obedience by sacrificing that which he held most dear, a voice is heard, "Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou anything unto him; for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me." At the nick of time God intervenes; but mark when that is--namely, when the patriarch has proved the complete renunciation of his own will, and given up everything to the will of God, then deliverance comes. So shall it be with you, O tried believer! When the trial has been submitted to in your own heart, and you have laid aside your self-will and obstinacy, and are no longer murmuring and repining and rebelling, then shall God take away the coals of the furnace, because the gold is purified. That is a grand story of Alexander's confidence in his friend and physician. When the physician had mixed him a potion for his sickness, a letter was put into Alexander's hand, warning him not to drink the medicine, for it was poisoned. He held the letter in one hand and the cup in the other, and in the presence of his friend and physician, he drank up the draught, and after he had drained the cup, he bade his friend look at that letter, and judge of his confidence in him. Alexander had unstaggering faith in his friend, which did not admit of doubt. "See now," said he, "how I have trusted you." This is the assurance which the believer should exercise towards his God. The cup is very bitter, and some tell us it will prove to be deadly; that it is so nauseous that we shall never survive the draught. Unbelief whispers in our ear, "Your coming tribulation will utterly crush you." Drink it, my brother, and say, "If he slay me, yet will I trust in him." It cannot be that God should be unfaithful to his promise, or unmindful of his covenant. Your trial, then, will cease when it culminates: he will make darkness light before you when the darkest hour of the night has struck.
Brethren, there is one most encouraging reflection concerning the adversity which lies before us, namely, that every trial of our pilgrimage life was foreseen of God, and we may depend upon it that it has been forestalled. Many a besieged city has been captured because the siege was not expected, and therefore stores of provision and ammunition were not laid up for the evil day. But God who laid up seven years of food in Egypt against the seven years of famine which he foresaw, takes care to lay by in store for his saints against coming emergencies. How readily might Moses have been anxious about the commissariat of the tribes in the desert! "How shall such a host be fed? Where shall we find water? Can God furnish a table in the wilderness?" But in simple faith Moses led the chosen people into the wilderness, and lo, the heavens dropped with a rain of plenty, and the flinty rock gave forth its cooling streams, so that the host knew no lack for forty years, though they had neither gathered harvests nor vintage in all that space of time.
Once more be it remembered, that if trial should come upon any one of us in its fullest force, and in no way should God mitigate the fury of the storm, yet we have his promise for it, and may rest confidently therefore therein, that as our days our strength shall be. I think I have aforetime remarked to you, that to be exempt from trouble would not be a desirable thing, for the life of a man who has no trial is uneventful, poor of incident, uninteresting, ignoble, barren; but the life of a man who has done business in great waters, hath something noble and manly in it; and considering that the grace is always proportioned to the trial, I think it were wise to choose the trial, for the sake of obtaining the grace which is promised with it. I noticed in a shop window last week, a little invention of singular interest. A small metal wire, with a circular disk at each end, was suspended by a thread, and continued without ceasing to oscillate between two small galvanic batteries, first touching one and then the other. A little card informed me that this piece of metal had continued to move to and fro between those two batteries for more than thirty years, and had during that time passed over six thousand miles. The whole affair was so inclosed with a glass case that nothing was likely to disturb it, and so it kept the even tenor of its way with a history which could be summoned up in two lines of plainest prose. To and fro, to and fro, for thirty years, and that was its whole monotonous history. Men's quiet lives are much after the same order, they have gone to business on Monday morning and home at night, the same on Tuesday and all the days of the year; no dire struggles, no fierce temptations, no gracious victories, no divine experiences of heavenly love; their whole inner life meagre of interest, because so free from every trial. But look at the man who is subject to trials, temporal and spiritual, and acquainted with difficulties of every sort! he is like yon mass of iron on the prow of a gallant bark, which has crossed the Pacific, and bathed itself in the Atlantic; storms have dashed upon it, a myriad waves have broken over it; it has seen the terrors of all the seas, and gleamed in the sunlight of both hemispheres. It has served its age most gloriously, and when old and worn with rust, a world of interest surrounds it.
Let us, if our trials multiply, recollect that grace abounding will be given with them, and the mingled trial and the grace will make our lives sublime, prevent our being mere dumb driven cattle, and give us kinship with those who through much tribulation have ascended to their thrones. The battle and the storm, the strife and the victory, the depression and the uplifting, and all else that betides us in a varied and eventful life, shall help to make our eternal rest and glory the more sweet to us. Let us leave these musings upon expected glooms, relying undoubtingly upon the promise that the Lord will make darkness light before us, by some means or other, and will in no wise fail us in the hour of need.
For a minute or two, let me more especially invite you again, children of God, to dwell upon the promise, that the Lord will make your darkness light. How soon can Omnipotence accomplish this! It takes us much time to create light; we must form companies and erect machineries before we can turn the night of our great cities into a partial day; but to-morrow morning, however black the previous night may have been, the great Father of Lights will illuminate our whole nation in a few minutes, and make each wave of the sea, and each dewdrop of the lawn to gleam with silvery sheen. God has but to bid the sun accomplish his course, and the world is lit up and the shadows flee away. How perfectly the work is done! The illumination is unrivalled in lavish glory. All our means of enlightenment are poor when compared with the sunlight; and so scant that we must needs measure its cubic feet, and dole it out for gold, while the Lord pours his infinitely superior illumination in measureless oceans over hill and dale, field and city, gladdening the cottage as well as the palace, and burnishing the beetle's wing as well as the eagle's pinion. Even thus our heavenly Father can readily enough turn the deepest sorrows of his people into the sublimest joys, and he needs not to vex the sons of men with labour in order to achieve his purpose of pity; his own right hand, his own gracious Spirit, can pour forth a fulness of consolation in a moment.
Notice for your comfort some of the ways in which the Lord of Love banishes the midnight of the soul. Sometimes he removes all gloom by the sun of his providence. He bids prosperity shine into the window of the hovel, and the poor grow rich; he lifts the beggar from the dunghill, and sitteth him among princes. The wings of angels bear healing to the sick, and the man long tossing on his bed walks forth to breathe the pure sweet air so long denied him. The great Arbiter of all events doth but turn the wheel of fortune, and those who were lowest are highest--the last are first and the first last. He can do the same for any of us, both in temporals and in spirituals, if so it seemeth him good. He hath but to ordain it so, and our poverty will be exchanged for plenty. Our Lord often cheers his people with the moon of their experience, which shines with borrowed light, but yet with a brightness calm and tranquil, well-beloved of the sons of sorrow. He bids us recollect the days of old, and our spirit maketh diligent search; we find that he has never left his people, neither to ourselves hath he been treacherous. We remember when we were in a like case to the present, we note that we were well sustained, and ultimately delivered, and so we are encouraged to believe that to-day shall be as the past, and yet more abundantly. Frequently our heavenly Father cheers his children by a sight of Jesus going before. That defile between overhanging rocks is so dark. I, a poor timid child, shrink back from it; but how is my courage restored as I see Jesus bearing the lantern of his love and going before me into the thick darkness! Hark! I hear him say, "Follow me;" and while he speaks I perceive a light streaming from his sacred person; every thorn of his crown gleams like a star; the jewels of his breast-plate flash like lamps, and his wounds gleam with celestial splendour. "Fear not," saith he, "for in all your afflictions I have been afflicted. I was tempted in all points like as you are, though without sin." Who can tell the encouragement given to the heir of heaven by the fact that the elder Brother has passed through all the dark passage which leads to the promised rest! God had one Son without sin, but he never had a son without chastisement. He who always did his Father's will, yet had to suffer. Courage, my heart, courage; for if Jesus suffered--if that pang which tears thy heart, first was felt by him, thou mayst be of good cheer indeed.
Better still is the comfort derived from the grand truth that Jesus is actually present in the daily afflictions of believers. Jesus knocks at my door, and says, "Come with me from Lebanon, my spouse, with me from Lebanon: look from the top of Amana, from the top of Shenir and Hermon, from the lions' dens, from the mountains of the leopards!" I look forth from the window into the cold and dreary night, and I answer him, "The night is black and cheerless. I have put off my coat, how shall I put it on? I have washed my feet, how shall I defile them? I cannot arise and follow thee." But the Beloved is not thus to be refused; he knocks again, and he saith, "Come forth with me into the fields, let us lodge in the villages; there will I give thee my loves." Overcome by his love, I arise, and go with my heavenly Bridegroom. If the raindrops fall pitilessly upon me, yet it is most sweet to see that his head also is filled with dew, and his locks with the drops of the night. The howling wind tosses his garments as well as mine; his feet tread the same miry places as my own; and all the while he calls me his beloved, his love, his dove, his undefiled, and tells me of the land which lies beyond the darkness, and speaks of the mountains of myrrh and of the beds of spices, the top of Amana, Shenir, and Hermon. My soul is melted while my Beloved speaks, and my heart feels it sweet beyond expression to walk with him; for lo, while he is near me, the night is lit up with innumerable stars, the sky is aglow with glory, every cloud flames like a seraph's wing, while the pitiless blast is all unable to chill the heart which burns within while he talketh with me by the way. In after years we are wont to speak to one another of that dark night and its marvellous brightness; of that cold wind that was so strangely tempered, and we even say to one another, "I would fain pass through a thousand nights in such company; I would be willing to go on a midnight journey evermore with that dearest of friends, for oh! where he is night is day; in his presence suffering is joy; when he reveals himself pains are pleasures, and earth blossoms with flowers of Eden." Thus doth the Wellbeloved by his presence make our darkness light.
Oftentimes you and I have known by experience how the Lord has made our darkness light, when in a moment a text of Scripture has flashed up before our eyes like a beacon fire. I bless God there are parts of this precious book which I do not only retain in my memory, but in my heart.
They have been so applied to my soul in times of need, that to forget them would be utterly impossible; they have burned their way into my
inner nature, and have become part and parcel of my consciousness. You cannot, of yourself, make a text so full of life and power by merely
thinking of it, nor by praying over it, nor by studying the original, but the Holy Ghost quickens the word even as he quickens us. A word from
the Lord will at times rise up from the page, as though it had lain there like a sleeping angel; it will grasp us by the hand, embrace us and revive
us, till in wonder we cry out, "Oh, precious and inexhaustible word of God! Oh, sweet word fresh from the lip of Jesus, how is it I could have
read thee so often, but never understood thy fulness and preciousness till now?" This is one of the ways of the Lord by which he maketh darkness
light, by snatching a firebrand from the altar of his word and waving it as a torch before us, that we may advance in its light.
Thus you see, beloved, God can readily turn our darkness into light. Now the text leads us a little further, and speaks of "crooked things." So,
Christian, for a moment think of the crooks of your lot. Like the pathway of the children of Israel through the wilderness, your course appears to
be backward and forward, like the path which winds deviously through the wood among briers and thorns. The faithful Friend of pilgrims knows
the way that you take--all your steps are ordered of the Lord, and in due time according to his word he will make them all straight for you.
Perhaps the crookedness of your lot lies in your poverty. You never have more than barely enough. Food and raiment you have had, but still it has
been dry bread, and scant raiment. So far from faring sumptuously, you have almost known the want of Lazarus at the rich man's gate. You have
reached thus far on your journey, but still yours has been a life of want and great distress. You thank God, you do not repine, still you know well
that want is a crooked thing.
Or, perhaps you have suffered some very crooked calamity. Your dear husband was taken away when the children needed most his training
care, and when the labour of those strong arms was wanted to find sustenance for the little ones. Alas! poor widow, that was a very crooked
loss for you. Or, perhaps yonder husband has buried his beloved wife, and feels that his loss is irreparable--a crooked thing which he cannot
understand. He cannot guess why the all-wise God has permitted such a mother to be taken from children who needed her moulding hand. If
some other people had died you could have comprehended the reason--they were ripe and ready; but here were the young and active, whose life
appeared so necessary, and these have been taken away from you, leaving behind a fountain of perennial tears. This is the crooked thing in
your lot. Perhaps during the late panic you suffered very severely; you had not been one of the speculators, and had not ventured beyond your
depth, but still, incidentally, the fall of others dragged you down. You do not quite understand the reason for that heavy blow, it is a crooked thing
altogether; you have looked at it this way and that way, but you cannot see the why and the wherefore; you believe that God is wise, but it
remains a matter of belief in this case; you cannot as yet see it to be a wise thing. Possibly your crook lies in a trying family at home. Woe to
those who have crooked sons; for sharper than an adder's tooth is an unthankful child. Have you a graceless daughter? Alas, what a trial is
yours! Have you an ill-tempered, vixenish wife, or a harsh, unchristian husband? Do you yourself love the truth of God, and have you a partner
who hates good things? Will you go home to-day to hear the voice of blasphemy from your next of kin? Yours is a crook indeed.
Worse than all, if you have no other crook, I am sure you will confess to a crooked self. If your own heart were not your plague, all the rest would
matter little; but oh! what with our pride, our sloth, our evil desires, our angry temper, our doubts, and fears, and despondencies, self is the worst
crook a man hath to carry. Then it may be you have crooked temptations, too. You are tempted to profanity; you hate the very thought of it, yet
will the horrible suggestion haunt you; you are tempted to vices from which by grace you have been preserved, but towards which, as with a
hurricane, Satan would whirl you. Your temptations abound day by day, you appear to yourself to be like a man beset with ten thousand bees; they
compass you about, yea, they compass you about, and you know not how to destroy them. As many as your thoughts, so many your temptations
seem to be. Well, these are all crooked things, and in such a fallen world as this, crooked things will always be very common.
Now comes the promise, "God will make all the crooked things in the way of his people straight." It may be that they are straight now, and that
the making straight is only to make them seem so to us; for oftentimes that which we thought to be a misfortune was the best thing that could
ever occur to us. We complain of our crosses, yet are not our crosses our best estates? How often we kick against our highest good! we tear up that
herb in the garden which hath the noblest medicine in every leaf. O for grace to know that there is much real good in sorrow, and that our trials
are only crooked because our eyes are asquint.
The Lord also can bend the crooked straight, and what will not bend he can break. How often in a family the ungodly Saul has been made into a
holy Paul! the crooked character has been bent straight; and where the man would not bend straight, the terrible judgment of God has taken
away the crook out of the household, so that the righteous might have peace and comfort! Do not be afraid, believer, the Lord's great axe can
clear a way through the thick forests of your greatest trials. Do you not see the great Pioneer going before you; his goings forth were of old, and
by the name of "The Breaker" is he known, since he breaks down all that can hinder the march of his people. Like the engineers in the advance of
an army, those grand old sappers and miners who clear the way for the host, even so will the Lord cast up a highway for all his saints, until he
shall bring them to the city that hath foundations whose builder and maker he is.
If he do not this, he will give you power to overleap the difficulty, he will bid you, his servant, go straight on in the path of duty, and strength not your own shall be given you: so that you shall say with one of old, "By my God have I gone through a troop; by my God have I leaped over a wall." You shall cry like Deborah, "O my soul, thou hast trodden down strength." If our pathway were always clear in the way of duty, where were our faith? but when we force our way to heaven through crowds of enemies, hewing a lane by main force through the squadrons of hell, then is our great Captain glorified, and his grace made resplendent. Let us be of good courage, then, for the Lord will make the crooked straight at the end.
Two lessons, and then I shall turn to address a few words to the seeker. One is to the child of God. If God will thus make all your darkness light,
and all your crooked things straight, do not forestall your troubles. They are darkness now; leave them alone man, they will turn to light. They
are crooked now; well, leave them to ripen, and God will make them straight. Some fruit which you gather from your trees is of such a nature
that if you were to try and eat it in the autumn, it would be very sour, and would make you very unwell; but just store it up a little, and see how
luscious and juicy it becomes! It is a pity to destroy the fruit and pain yourself by premature use! It is just so with your troubles, they are all
darkness now, do not meddle with them, leave them till God has ripened them and turned them into light. Yonder man is employed in carrying
sacks of flour every day. He carries so many hundredweight each time, and in the day it comes to tons; and so many tons a day will come to an
enormous mass in a year. Now, suppose, on the first of January, this man were to calculate the year's load, and say, "I have all that immense mass
to carry; I cannot do it:" you would remind him that he has not to carry it all at once; he has all the workdays of the year to carry it in. So we put
all our troubles together, and we cry, "However shall I get over them?" Well, they will only come one at a time, and as they come, the strength
will come with them. A man who has walked a thousand miles did not traverse the thousand miles at a step, nor in a day, but he took his time
and did it; and we also must take our time, and with patience we shall accomplish our work. A fine lesson for us all is that word wait, WAIT, WAIT.
Our second remark is this, always believe in the power of prayer, for if God promises to make your darkness light, he will be enquired of to do it for you; and when you enquire of him to do it he will do it because he has so promised. I wish we did believe in prayer, I am afraid most of us do not. People will say "What a wonderful thing it is that God hears George Muller's prayers!" But is it not a sad thing that we should think it wonderful for God to hear prayer? We are come to a pretty pass certainly when we think it wonderful that God is true! Much better faith was that of a little boy in one of the schools at Edinburgh, who had attended the prayer meetings, and at last said to his teacher who conducted the prayer meeting, "Teacher, I wish my sister could be got to read the Bible; she never reads it." Why, Johnny, should your sister read the Bible?"
"Because if she should once read it, I am sure it would do her good, and she would be converted and be saved." "Do you think so, Johnny?" "Yes,
I do, sir, and I wish the next time there's a prayer meeting you would ask the people to pray for my sister, that she may begin to read the Bible."
"Well, well, it shall be done, John." So the teacher gave out that a little boy was very anxious that prayers should be offered that his sister might
begin to read the Bible. John was observed to get up and go out. The teacher thought it very unkind of the boy to disturb the people in a
crowded room and go out like that, and so the next day when the lad came, he said, "John, I thought that was very rude of you to get up in the
prayer meeting and go out. You ought not to have done it." "Oh! sir," said the boy, I did not mean to be rude, but I thought I should just like to
go home and see my sister reading her Bible for the first time." That is how we ought to believe, and wait with expectation to see the answer to
prayer. The girl was reading the Bible when the boy went home. God had been pleased to hear the prayer; and if we could but trust God after
that fashion we should often see similar things accomplished. Do not say, "Lord, turn my darkness into light," and then go out with your
candle as though you expected to find it dark, but after asking the Lord to appear for you, expect him to do so, for according to thy faith so be it
II. And now, just a few words, before we depart, To the Seeker.
Some here, have long been desirous of finding peace with God, but dear friend, we have felt great joy in seeing your anxiety, but we are
beginning to feel great sorrow to think that that anxiety should last so long, and that you should be so unbelieving as not at once to put your
trust in the blessed Lord Jesus. He is able to save you, and he will save you now, if you trust him. It seems a very simple thing to rest alone on
him: simple as it is, it is most effectual for the soul's peace and joy. We are grieved to think that you have been so long refusing to give Christ
the credit which he so richly deserves. Now, perhaps, it may be you are puzzled about some doctrinal question. You have been asking your
friends to explain this and that to you, and you have not yet had all cleared up. Let me say, I am afraid you never will, for there are
difficulties about our holy religion which will never be explained on this side the grave, and, perhaps, not on the other; for if our religion were
within our comprehension, we should feel it did not come from God, but being greater than our brain can grasp, we see in this some traces of the
infinite God, who in revealing himself, does not display all his glory, but only a part of it, to the sons of men. Dear friend, believe that God's dear
Son is able to save you, and trust in him, and when you have done that, all these doctrinal difficulties, so far as they are at all important, will
vanish. He has said it, and you shall prove it true, "I will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight." You shall say to
yourself, "How could I have raised so many quibbles? How foolish it was of me to be always debating and questioning, when eternal mercy was
freely presented to me!"
Perhaps your darkness today arises from a very deep depression of mind. Your notion is that you can never believe in Jesus Christ till this depression is removed; but let me tell you your notion is wide of the truth, for the fact is, you are not at all likely to rise out of your depression until you first believe in Jesus. Sad and sorrowful as you are, what doth hinder you to believe in the infinite Son of God as able to put away your sin? He must be able. The death of such a one must have an amount of merit in it not to be limited. Oh! if thou canst do him the honour to trust him, though thou be like a poor smoking flax, he will not quench thee, though thou be worthless and weak as a bruised reed, yet if thou canst trust him thou art saved. O rely on him, I pray thee, for thy soul's sake rest in the precious blood, and thou shalt find thy depression vanish, thy darkness shall be light, thy crooked things shall be made straight. "Ah," sayest thou, "but I labour under a load of sin!" Truly there is enough in thy sin to make thee troubled were it not that for this purpose was Christ born and came into the world, that he might take away sin. Wherefore that great sacrifice on Calvary's tree if not for great offences? Seest thou not that it is the very blackness of thy sin that makes thee need a Saviour; knowest thou not that Christ came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance? In due time he died for the ungodly, such as thou art. O throw thy weary soul into his arms. Why dost thou look about after this and that? Why art thou deceived with "Lo here, and lo there!" looking to this and that for comfort? Come thou to him, empty, naked, filthy, come to be made everything that is good through him. "Ay, but," you say, "my nature is so evil," well, but your depravity is known, and provided for in the text. Your sinfulness, like the crookedness mentioned in the text, shall be made straight. The Lord can overcome your natural disposition. Whatever the peculiar form of your besetting sin, the Holy Ghost is more than a match for it. Though you have sinned very foully, he can forgive; and though you feel a strong temptation to sin in the same way again, he can correct the tendency in your nature, and give you new longings which shall overcome the old. O that my Lord had his due of you, then would you not doubt him! Blessed Saviour, King of kings, and Lord of lords, deigning to stoop to suffer and to die, how can men doubt thee? How can they look into thy dear face, and yet distrust thee? See thy blessed hands and feet and riven side, and yet suspect thee? O sinner, cast thyself on Jesus, and thou shalt have joy and peace given thee today.
Three things I want you to notice in the text, and I have done. That which saves us is not what is, but what will be. "I will make darkness light." "I will make crooked things straight." The crooked thing is really crooked now, but there is a transformation in store. Sinner, it is not what you are now that is to be your salvation; you are dark and crooked, but your salvation shall yet be given you. You shall be light in the Lord, and upright through his grace.
Note, secondly, it is not what you can do, but what God can do. "I will make darkness light;" not the sinner shall turn his darkness into light, but "I", Jehovah; I who can do all things. I, who can create and can destroy, "I will make darkness light before thee, and crooked things straight."
Notice again, that this work may not be yours at once, but it shall be soon. It does not say "I will make darkness light today," still it does say "I will." Ah! then, let us look forward to the brightness which we cannot yet see, and rejoice in the straightness which as yet we do not discern; for God will keep his word to the minute, and his eternal "shalls" and "wills" shall never fall to the ground.
I pray God bless the word to you who are tried believers, to give you peace and confidence; and to you who are seeking sinners, that you may trust in Christ and find salvation. The Lord bless you richly, for his name's sake. Amen.
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Spurgeon, Charle Haddon. "Commentary on Isaiah 42". "Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 25 / Ordinary 30