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A Mighty Saviour
January 4, 1857 by C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892)
"Mighty to save." Isaiah 63:1 .
This, of course, refers to our blessed Lord Jesus Christ, who is described as "coming from Edom with dyed garments from Bozrah," and who, when it is questioned who he is, replies, "I that speak in righteousness, mighty to save." It will be well, then, at the commencement of our discourse to make one or two remarks concerning the mysteriously complex person of the man and God whom we call our Redeemer, Jesus Christ our Saviour. It is one of the mysteries of the Christian religion, that we are taught to believe that Christ is God, and yet a man. According to Scripture, we hold that he is "very God ," equal and co-eternal with the Father, possessing, as his Father doth, all divine attributes in an infinite degree. He participated with his Father in all the acts of his divine might; he was concerned in the decree of election, in the fashioning of the covenant; in the creation of the angels, in the making of the world, when it was wheeled from nothing into space, and in the ordering of this fair frame of nature. Before any of these acts the divine Redeemer was the eternal Son of God. "From everlasting to everlasting he is God." Nor did he cease to be God when he became man. He was equally "God over all, blessed for evermore," when he was "the man of sorrows, acquainted with grief," as before his incarnation. We have abundant proof of that in the constant affirmations of Scripture, and, indeed, also in the miracles which he wrought. The raising of the dead, the treading of the billows of the ocean, the hushing of the winds and the rending of the rocks, with all those marvellous acts of his, which we have not time here to mention, were strong and potent proofs that he was God, most truly God, even when he condescended to be man. And Scripture, most certainly teaches us, that he is God now, that he shares the throne of his Father that he sits "high above all principalities and powers, and every name that is named," and is the true and proper object of the veneration, the worship, and the homage of all worlds. We are equally taught to believe that he is man . Scripture informs us that, on a day appointed, he came from heaven and did become man as well as God, taking upon himself the nature of a babe in the manager in Bethlehem. From that babe, we are told, he did grow to the stature of manhood, and became "bone of our bone, and flesh of our flesh," in everything except our sin. His sufferings, his hunger, above all, his death and burial, are strong proofs that he was man, most truly man; and yet it is demanded of us by the Christians religion, to believe, that while he was man he was most truly God. We are taught that he was a "child born, a son given," and yet, at the same time, the "Wonderful, the Counsellor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father." Whosoever would have clear and right view of Jesus, must not mingle his natures. We must not consider him as a God diluted into deified manhood, or as a mere man officially exalted to the Godhead, but as being two distinct natures in one person; not God melted into man, nor man made into God, but man and God taken into union together. Therefore, do we trust in him, as the Daysman, the Mediator, Son of God, and Son of Man. This is the person who is our Saviour. It is this glorious, yet mysterious being, of whom the text speaks, when it says, he is mighty "mighty to save."
That he is mighty we need not inform you; for as readers of the Scriptures you all believe in the might and majesty of the Incarnate Son of God. You believe him to be the Regent of providence, the King of death, the Conqueror of hell, the Lord of angels, the Master of storms, and the God of battles, and, therefore, you can need no proof that he is mighty. The subject of this morning is one part of his mightiness. He is "mighty to save." May God the Holy Spirit help us in briefly entering upon this subject, and make use of it to the salvation of our souls!
First, we shall consider what is meant by the words "to save;" secondly, how we prove the fact that he is "mighty to save;", thirdly, the reason why he is "mighty to save;" and then, fourthly, the inferences which are to be deduced from the doctrine that Jesus Christ is "mighty to save."
I. First, then, WHAT ARE WE TO UNDERSTAND BY THE WORDS "TO SAVE?"
Commonly, most men, when they read these words, consider them to mean salvation from hell. They are partially correct, but the notion is highly defective. It is true Christ does save men from the penalty of their guilt; he does take those to heaven who deserve the eternal wrath and displeasure of the Most High; it is true that he does blot out "iniquity, transgression, and sin," and that the iniquities of the remnant of his people are passed over for the sake of his blood and atonement. But that is not the whole meaning of the words "to save." This deficient explanation lies at the root of mistakes which many theologians have made, and by which they have surrounded their system of divinity with mist. They have said that to save is to pluck men as brands from the burning to save them from destruction if they repent. Now, it means vastly, I had almost said, infinitely more than this. "To save" means something more than just delivering penitents from going down to hell. By the words "to save," I understand the whole of the great work of salvation, from the first holy desire, the first spiritual conviction, onward to complete sanctification. All this done of God through Jesus Christ. Christ is not only mighty to save those who do repent, but he is able to make men repent; he is engaged not merely to carry those to heaven who believe, but he is mighty to give men new hearts and to work faith in them; he is mighty not merely to give heaven to one who wishes for it, but he is mighty to make the man who hates holiness love it, to constrain the despiser of his name to bend his knee before him, and to make the most abandoned reprobate turn from the error of his ways.
By the words "to save," I do not understand what some men say they mean. They tell us in their divinity that Christ came into the world to put all men into a salvable state to make the salvation of all men possible by their own exertions. I believe that Christ came for no such thing that he came into the world not to put men into a salvable state, but into a saved state; not to put them where they could save themselves, but to do the work in them and for them, from the first even to the last. If I believe that Christ came only to put you, my hearers, and myself into a state where we might save ourselves, I should give up preaching henceforth and for ever; for knowing a little of the wickedness of men's hearts, because I know something of my own knowing how much men naturally hate the religion of Christ I should despair of any success in preaching a gospel which I had only to offer, its effects depending upon the voluntary acceptance of it by unrenewed and unregenerate men. If I did not believe that there was a might power, and which turns them from the error of their ways by the mighty, overwhelming, constraining force of a divine and mysterious influence, I should cease to glory in the cross of Christ. Christ, we repeat, is mighty, not merely to put men into a salvable condition, but mighty absolutely and entirely to save them. This fact I regard as one of the grandest proofs of the divine character of the Bible revelation. I have many a time had doubts and fears, as most of you have had; and where is the strong believer that he not sometimes wavered? I have said, within myself, "Is this religion true, which, day after day, I incessantly preach to the people? Is it the correct one? Is it true that this religion has an influence upon mankind?" And I will tell you how I have reassured myself. I have looked upon the hundreds, nay, upon the thousands whom I have around me, who were once the vilest of the vile drunkards, swearers, and such like and I now see then "clothed and in their right mind, "This must be the truth, then, because I see its marvellous effects. It is true, because it is efficient for purposes which error never could accomplish. It exerts an influence among the lowest order of mortals, and over the most abominable of our race. It is a power, an irresistible agent of good; who then shall deny its truth. I take it that the highest proof of Christ's power is not that he offers salvation, not that he bids you take it if you will, but that when you reject it, when you hate it, when you despise it, he has a power whereby he can change your mind, make you think differently from your former thoughts, and turn you from the error of your ways. This I conceive to be the meaning of the text: "mighty to save."
But it is not all the meaning. Our Lord is not only mighty to make men repent, to quicken the dead in sin, to turn them from their follies and their iniquities. But he is exalted to do more than that: he is mighty to keep them Christians after he has made them so, and mighty to preserve them in his fear and love, until he consummates their spiritual existence in heaven. Christ's might doth not lie in making a believer, and then leaving him to shift for himself afterwards; but he who begins the good work carries it on; he who imparts the first germ of life which quickens the dead soul, gives afterwards the life which prolongs the divine existence, and bestows that mighty power which at last bursts asunder every bond of sin, and lands the soul perfected in glory. We hold and teach, and we believe upon Scriptural authority, that all men unto whom Christ has given repentance must infallibly hold on their way. We do believe that God never begins a good work in a man without finishing it; that he never makes a man truly alive to spiritual things without carrying on that work in his soul even to the end, by giving him a place amongst the choirs of the sanctified. We do not think that Christ's power dwells in merely bringing me one day into grace, and then telling me to keep myself there, but in so putting me into a gracious state, and giving me such an inward life and such a power within myself that I can no more turn back than the very sun in the heavens can stay itself in its course, or cease to shine. Beloved, we regard this as signified by the terms "mighty to save." This is commonly called Calvinistic doctrine; it is none other than Christian doctrine, the doctrine of the holy Bible; for despite that it is now called Calvinism, it could not be so called in Augustine's days; and yet in Augustine's works you find the very same things. And it is not to be called Augustinism; it is to be found in the writings of the apostle Paul. And yet it was not called Paulism, simple for this reason, that it is the expansion, the fulness of the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. To repeat what we have before said, we hold and boldly teach that Jesus Christ is not merely able to save men who put themselves in his way and who are willing to be saved, but that he is able to make men willing that he is able to make the drunkard renounce his drunkenness and come to him that he is able to make the despiser bend his knee, and make hard hearts melt before his love. Now, it is ours to show that he is able to do so.
II. HOW CAN WE PROVE THAT CHRIST IS "MIGHTY TO SAVE?"
We will give you the strongest argument first; and we shall need but one. The argument is, that he has done it. We need no other; it were superfluous to add another. He has saved them, in the full extent and meaning of the word which we have endeavoured to explain. But in order to set this truth in a clear light, we will suppose the worst of cases. It is very easy to imagine, say some, that when Christ's gospel is preached to some here who are amiable and lovely, and have always been trained up in the fear of God, they will receive the gospel in the love of it. Very well, we will not take such a case. You see this South Sea Islander. He has just been eating a diabolical meal of human flesh; he is a cannibal; at his belt are slung the scalps of men whom he has murdered, and in whose blood he glories. If you land on the coast he will eat you, too, unless you mind what you are after. That man bows himself before a block of wood. He is a poor ignorant debased creature, but very little removed from the brute. Now, has Christ's gospel power to tame that man, to take the scalps from his girdle, to make him give up his bloody practices, renounce his gods, and become a civilised and Christian man? You know, my dear friends, you talk about the power of education in England; there may be a great deal in it; education may do very much for some who are here, not in a spiritual, but in a natural way; but what would education do with this savage: go and try. Send the best schoolmaster in England over to him: he will eat him before the day is up. That will be all the good of it. But if the missionary goes with Christ's gospel, what will become of him? Why, in multitudes of cases, he has been the pioneer of civilisation, and under the providence of God has escaped a cruel death. He goes with love in his hands and in his eyes; he speaks to the savage. And mark ye, we are telling facts now, not dreams. The savage drops his tomahawk. Says he, "It is marvellous; the things that this man tells me are wonderful, I will sit down and listen." He listens, and the tears roll down his cheeks; a feeling of humanity which never burned within his soul before is kindled in him. He says, "I believe in the Lord Jesus Christ;" and soon he is clothed and in his right mind, and becomes in every respect a man such a man as we could desire all men to be. Now, we say, that this is proof that Christ's gospel does not come to the mind that is prepared for it, but prepares the mind for itself; that Christ does not merely put the seed into the ground that has been prepared beforehand, but ploughs the ground too ay, and harrows it, and does the whole of the work. He is so able to do all this. Ask our missionaries who are in Africa, in the midst of the greatest barbarians in the world ask them whether Christ's gospel is able to save, and they will point to the kraal of the Hottentot, and then they will point to the houses of the Kuraman, and they will say, "What has made this difference, but the word of the gospel of Christ Jesus?" Yes, dear brethren, we have had proofs enough in heathen countries; and why need we say more, but merely to add this we have had proofs enough at home. There are some who preach a gospel which is very well fitted to train man in morals, but utterly unfitted to save him, a gospel which does well enough to keep men sober when they have become drunkards. It is a good thing enough to supply them with a kind of life, when they have it already, but not to quicken the dead and save the soul, and it can give up to despair the very characters whom Christ's gospel was most of all intended to affect. I could a tale unfold, of some who have plunged head-first into the blackest gulfs of sin, which would horrify you and me, if we could allow them to recount their guilt. I could tell you how they have come into God's house with their teeth set against the minister, determined that say what he would they might listen, but it would be to scoff. They stayed a moment; some word arrested their attention; they thought within themselves, "I will hear that sentence." It was some pointed, terse saying, that entered into their souls. The knew not how it was, but they were spell-bound, and stood to listen a little longer; and by-and-bye, unconsciously to themselves, the tears began to fall, and when they went away, they had a strange, mysterious feeling about them that led them to their chambers. Down they fell on their knees; the story of their life was all told before God; he gave them peace through the blood of the Lamb, and they went to God's house, many of them to say, "Come and hear what God hath done for my soul," and to
"Tell to sinners round What a dear Saviour they had found."
Remember the case of John Newton, the great and mighty preacher of St. Mary, Woolnoth, an instance of the power of God to change the heart, as well as to give peace when the heart is changed. Ah! dear hearers, I often think within myself, "This is the greatest proof of the Saviour's power." Let another doctrine be preached: will it do the same? If it will, why not let every man gather a crowd round him and preach it. Will it really do it? If it will, then the blood of men's souls must rest upon the man who does not boldly proclaim it. If he believes his gospel does save souls, how does the account for it that he stands in his pulpit from the first of January till the last of December, and never hears of a harlot made honest, nor of a drunkard reclaimed? Why? For this reason, that it is a poor dilution of Christianity. It is something like it, but it is not the bold, broad Christianity of the Bible; it is not the full gospel of the blessed God, for that has power to save. But if they do believe that theirs is the gospel, let them come out to preach it, and let them strive with all their might to win souls from sin, which is rife enough, God knows. We say again, that we have proof positive in cases even here before us, that Christ is mighty to save even the worst of men to turn them from follies in which they have too long indulged, and we believe that the same gospel preached elsewhere would produce the same results.
The best proof you can ever have of God's being mighty to save, dear hearers, is that he saved you . Ah! my dear hearer, it were a miracle if he should save thy fellow that stands by thy side; but it were more a miracle if he should save thee. What art thou this morning? Answer! "I am an infidel," says one; "I hate and despise Christ's religion." But suppose, sir, there should be such a power in that religion that one day thou shouldst be brought to believe it! What wouldst thou say then? Ah! I know thou wouldst be in love with that gospel for ever; for thou wouldst say, "I above al men was the last to receive it; and yet here am I, I know now how, brought to love it." Oh! such a man when constrained to believe makes the most eloquent preacher in the world. "Ah! but," says another, "I have been a Sabbath-breaker upon principle, I despise the Sabbath, I hate utterly and entirely everything religious." Well, I can never prove religion to you to be true, unless it should ever lay h old of you, and make you a new man. Then you will say there is something in it. "We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen." When we have felt the change it works in ourselves, then we speak of facts, and not of fancies, and we speak very boldly too. We say again, then, he is "mighty to save."
III. But now it is asked, WHY IS CHRIST "MIGHTY TO SAVE?" To this there are sundry answers.
First, if we understand the word "save," in the popular acceptation of the word, which is not, after all, the full one, though a true one if we understand salvation to mean the pardon of sin and salvation from hell, Christ is mighty to save, because of the infinite efficacy of his atoning blood . Sinner! black as thou art with sin, Christ this morning is able to make thee whiter than the driven snow. Thou askest why. I will tell thee. He is able to forgive, because he has been punished for thy sin. If thou dost know and feel thyself to be a sinner, if thou hast no hope or refuge before God but in Christ, then be it known that Christ is able to forgive, because he was once punished for the very sin which thou hast committed, and therefore he can freely remit, because the punishment has been entirely paid by himself. Whenever I get on this subject I am tempted to tell a story; and though I have told it times enough in the hearing of many of you, others of you have never heard it, and it is the simplest way I know of setting out the belief I have in the atonement of Christ. Once a poor Irishman came to me in my vestry. He announced himself something in this way: "Your reverence, I'm come to ax you a question." "In the first place," said I, "I am not a reverend, nor do I claim the title; and in the next place, why don't you go and ask your priest that question?" Said he "Well, your riv sir, I meant I did go to him but he did not answer me to my satisfaction, exactly; so I have come to ask you, and if you will answer this you will set my mind at peace, for I am much disturbed about it." "What is the question?" said I. "Why this. You say, and others say too, that God is able to forgive sin. Now, I can't see how he can be just, and yet forgive sin: for," said this poor man, "I have been so greatly guilty that if God Almighty does not punish me he ought ; I feel that he would not be just if he were to suffer me to go without punishment. How, then, sir, can it be true that he can forgive, and still retain the title of just?" "Well," said I, "it is through the blood and merits of Jesus Christ." "Ah!" said he, "but then I do not understand what you mean by that. It is the kind of answer I got from the priest, but I wanted him to explain it to me more fully, how it was that the blood of Christ could make God just. You say it does, but I want to know how." "Well, then," said I, "I will tell you what I think to be the whole system of atonement, which I think is the sum and substance, the root, the marrow, and the essence of the gospel. This is the way Christ is able to forgive. Suppose," said I, "you had killed some one. You were a murderer; you were condemned to die, and you deserved it." "Faith," said he, "Yes I should deserve it." "Well, her Majesty is very desirous of saving your life, and yet at the same time universal justice demands that some one should die on account of the deed that is done. Now, how is she to manage?" Said he, "That is the question. I cannot see how she can be inflexibly just, and yet suffer me to escape." "Well," said I, "suppose, Pat, I should go to her and say, 'Here is this poor Irishman, he deserved to be hanged, your Majesty; I don't want to quarrel with the sentence, because I think it just; but, if you please, I so love him that if you were to hang me instead of him I should be very willing.' Pat, suppose she should agree to it, and hang me instead of you; what then? would she be just in letting you go?" "Ay," said he, "I should think she would. Would she hang two for one thing? I should say not. I'd walk way, and there isn't a policeman that would touch me for it." "Ah!" said I, "that is how Jesus saves. 'Father,' he said, 'I love these poor sinners; let me suffer instead of them!' 'Yes,' said God, 'thou shalt;' and on the tree he died, and suffered the punishment which all his elect people ought to have suffered; so that now all who believe on him, thus proving themselves to be his chosen, may conclude that he was punished for them, and that therefore they never can be punished." "Well," said he, looking me in the face once more, "I understand what you mean; but how is it, if Christ died for all men, that notwithstanding, some men are punished again? For that is unjust." "Ah!" said I, "I never told you that. I say to you that he has died for all that believe on him, and all who repent, and that was punished for their sins so absolutely and so really, that none of them shall ever be punished again." "Faith," said the man, clapping his hands, "that's the gospel; if it isn't, then I don't know anything, for no man could have made that up; it is so wonderful. Ah!" he said, as he went down the stairs, "Pat's safe now; with all his sins about him he'll trust in the man that died for him, and so he shall be saved." Dear hearer, Christ is mighty to save, because God did not turn away the sword, but he sheathed it in his own Son's heart; he did not remit the debt, for it was paid in drops of precious blood; and now the great receipt is nailed to the cross, and our sins with it, so that we may go free if we are believers in him. For this reason he is "mighty to save," in the true sense of the word.
But in the large sense of the word, understanding it to mean all that I have said it does mean, He is "mighty to save." How is it that Christ is able to make men repent, to make men believe, and to make them turn to God? One answers, "Why by the eloquence of preachers." God forbid we should ever say that! It is "not by might nor by power." Other replying, "It is by the force of moral suasion." God forbid we should say "ay" to that; for moral suasion has been tried long enough on man, and yet it has failed of success. How does he do it? We answer, by something which some of you despise, but which, nevertheless, is a fact. he does it by the Omnipotent influence of his Divine Spirit. Whilst men are hearing the word (in those whom God will save) the Holy Spirit works repentance; he changes the heart and renews the soul. True, the preaching is the instrument, but the Holy Spirit is the great agent. It is certain that the truth is the means of saving, but it is the Holy Ghost applying the truth which saves souls. Ah! and with this power of the Holy Ghost e may go to the most debased and degraded of men, and we need not be afraid but that God can save them. If God should be please, the Holy Spirit could at this moment make every one of you fall on your knees, confess your sins, and turn to God. He is an Almighty Spirit, able to do wonders. In the life of Whitfield, we read that sometimes under one of his sermons two thousand persons would at once profess to be saved, and were really so, many of them. We ask why it was. At other times he preached just as powerfully, and not one soul was saved. Why? Because in the one case the Holy Spirit went with the Word, and in the other case it did not. All the heavenly result of preaching is owing to the Divine Spirit sent from above. I am nothing; my brethren in the ministry around are all nothing; it is God that doeth everything. "Who is Paul, who is Apollos, and who is Cephas, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as God gave to every man." It must be "not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord." Go forth, poor minister! Thou has no power to preach with polished diction and elegant refinement; go and preach as thou canst. The Spirit can make thy feeble words more mighty than the most ravishing eloquence. Alas! alas! for oratory! Alas! for eloquence! It hath long enough been tried. We have had polished periods, and finely turned sentences; but in what place have the people been saved by them? We have had grand and gaudy language; but where have hearts been renewed! But now, "by the foolishness of preaching," by the simple utterance by a child of God's Word, he is pleased to save them that believe and to save sinners from the error of their ways. May God prove his Word again this morning!
IV. The fourth point was, WHAT ARE THE INFERENCES TO BE DERIVED FROM THE FACT THAT JESUS CHRIST IS MIGHTY TO SAVE?
Why, first, there is a fact for ministers to learn that they should endeavour to preach in faith, nothing wavering. "O God," cries the minister at times, when he is on his knees, "I am weak; I have preached to my hearers, and have wept over them; I have groaned for them; but they will not turn to thee. Their hearts are like the nether mill-stone; they will not weep for sin, nor will they love the Saviour." Then I think I see the angel standing at his elbow, and whispering in his ear, "Thou art weak, but he is strong; thou canst do nothing, but he is 'mighty to save.'" Bethink thyself of this. It is not the instrument, but the God. It is not the pen wherewith the author writes which is to have the praise of his wisdom or the making of the volume, but it is the brain that thinks it, and the hand that moves the pen. So in salvation. It is not the minister, it is not the preacher, but the God who first designs the salvation, and afterwards uses the preacher to work it out. Ah! poor disconsolate preacher, if thou hast had but little fruit of thy ministry, go on still in faith, remembering it is written, "My word shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and prosper in the thing whereto I sent it." Go on; be of good courage; God shall help thee; he shall help thee, and that right early.
Again, here is another encouragement for praying men and women, who are praying to God for their friends. Mother, you have been groaning for your son for many a year; he is now grown up and has left your roof, but your prayers have not been heard. So you think. He is as gay as ever; not yet has he made your breast rejoice. Sometimes you think he will bring your grey hairs with sorrow to the grave. It was but yesterday you said, "I will give him up, I will never pray for him again." Stop, mother, stop! By all that is holy and that is heavenly, stop! Utter not that resolution again; begin once more! Thou hast prayed over him; thou didst weep over his infant forehead, when he lay in his cradle; thou didst teach him when he came to years of understanding and thou hast often warned him since; but all of no avail. Oh! give not up thy prayers; for remember, Christ is "mighty to save." It may be that he waits to be gracious, and he keeps thee waiting, that thou mayest know more of his graciousness when the mercy comes. But pray on. I have heard of mothers who have prayed for their children twenty years; ay, and some who have died without seeing them converted, and then their very death has been the means of saving their children, by leading them to think. A father once had been a pious man for many years, yet never had he the happiness of seeing one of his sons converted. He had his children round his bed, and he said to them when dying, "My sons, I could die in peace, if I could but believe you would follow me to heaven; but this is the most sorrowful thing of all not that I am dying, but that I am leaving you to meet you no more." They looked at him, but they would not think on their ways. They went away. Their father was suddenly overtaken with great clouds and darkness of mind; instead of dying peacefully and happily, he died in great misery of soul, but still trusting in Christ. He said, when he died, "Oh! that I had died a happy death, for that would have been a testimony to my sons; but now, O God, this darkness and these clouds have in some degree taken away my power to witness to the truth of thy religion." Well, he died, and was buried. The sons cam to the funeral. The day after, one of them said to his brother, "Brother, I have been thinking, father was always a pious man, and if his death was yet such a gloomy one, how gloomy must ours be, without God and without Christ!" "Ah!" said the other, "that thought struck me too." They went up to God's house, heard God's Word, they came home and bent their knee in prayer, and to their surprise they found that the rest of the family had done the same, and that the God who had never answered their father's prayer in his life had answered it after his death, and by his death too, and by such a death as would appear to be most unlikely to have wrought the conversion of any. Pray on, then, my sister; pray on, my brother! God shall yet bring thy sons and daughters to his love and fear, and thou shalt rejoice over them in heaven, if thou never dost on earth.
And finally, my dear hearers, there are many of you here this morning who have no love to God, no love to Christ; but you have a desire in your hearts to love him. You are saying, "Oh! can he save me? Can such a wretch as I be saved?" In the thick of the crowd there you are standing, and you are now saying within yourself, "May I one day sing among the saints above? May I have all my sins blotted out by blood divine?" "Yes, sinner, he is 'mighty to save;' and this is comfort for thee." Dost thou think thyself the worst of men? Does conscience smite thee as with a mailed fist, and does he say it is all over with thee; thou wilt be lost; thy repentance will be of no avail; thy prayers never will be heard; thou art lost to all intents and purposes? My hearer, think not so. He is "mighty to save." If thou canst not pray, he can help thee to do it; if thou canst not repent, he can give thee repentance; if thou feelest it hard to believe, he can help thee to believe, for he is exalted on high to give repentance, as well as to give remission of sins. O poor sinner, trust in Jesus; cast thyself on him. Cry, and may God help thee to do it now, the first Sabbath of the year; may he help thee this very day to cast thy soul on Jesus; and this will be one of the best years of all thy life. "Turn ye, turn ye; why will ye die, O house of Israel?" Turn unto Jesus, ye wearied souls; come unto him, for lo, he bids you come. "The Spirit and the bride say come; and let him that heareth say come; and whosoever will let him come and take of the water of life," and have Christ's grace freely. It is preached to you, and to all of you who are willing to receive it, it has been already given.
May God of his grace make you willing, and so save your souls, through Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour. Amen.
Where Is the Lord?
September 4th, 1890 by C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892)
"Then he remembered the days of old Moses, and his people, saying, Where is he that brought them up out of the sea with the shepherd of his flock? Where is he that put his holy Spirit within him? That led them by the right hand of Moses with his glorious arm, dividing the water before them, to make himself an everlasting name? That led them through the deep, as an horse in the wilderness, that they should not stumble? As a beast goeth down into the valley, the Spirit of the Lord caused him to rest: so didst thou lead thy people, to make thyself a glorious name." Isaiah 63:11-23.63.14 .
I told you, in the reading, that Israel had a golden age, a time of great familiarity with God, when Jehovah was very near to his people in their sufferings, and was afflicted in their affliction, when he helped them in everything they did, and the angel of his presence saved them. But after all that the Lord had done for them, there came a cold periods. The people went astray from the one living and true God. They fell into the ritualism of the golden calf. They must have something visible, something that they could see and worship. Even after they were brought into the promised land, and the Lord had wrought great wonders for them, they turned aside to false gods, till they worshipped strange deities, that were no gods; and provoked Jehovah to jealousy. "They rebelled, and vexed his holy Spirit: therefore he was turned to be their enemy, and he fought against them." Not that he ceased to love his chosen, but he must be just, and he could not patronize sin, so he sent their enemies against them, and they were sorely smitten, and brought very low. Then it was that they began to remember the days of old, and to sigh for him whom they had treated so ill, and they said one to another, "Where is he that brought them up out of the sea with the shepherd of his flock? Where is he that put his holy Spirit within him? That led them by the right hand of Moses with his glorious arm, dividing the water before them, to make himself an everlasting name? That led them through the deep, as an horse in the wilderness, that they should not stumble? As a beast goeth down into the valley, the Spirit of the Lord cause him to rest: so didst thou lead thy people to make thyself a glorious name." I have but a short time, as the communion service is to follow, and therefore I must leave much unsaid that I think your own imaginations will make up to you at home. But I shall ask you to notice, first, that the text contains a sacred, loving remembrance. It dwells very much upon what God did in the old times, when he was familiar with his people, and they walked in the light of his countenance. After that, I shall call your attention to an object clearly shining in the text. We get it twice over. In the twelfth verse, we read, "To make himself an everlasting name." In the fourteenth verse, "To make thyself a glorious name." When I have spoken of those two things, I shall dwell more at length upon an anxious enquiry, which is put here twice: "Where is he?" In the eleventh verse you get this repeated question, "Where is he? Where is he?" I. So then, to begin with, we go back to God's dealings with his people, and with us, and we have A SACRED, LOVING REMEMBRANCE. The people remembered what God did to them. What was it? As it is here described, he first of all gave them leaders. "Where is he that brought them up out of the sea with the shepherd of his flock?" Moses and Aaron, and a band of godly men who were with them, were the leaders of the people, through the sea and through the wilderness. Brethren, we are apt to think too little of our leaders. First of all we think too much of them, and afterwards we think too little of them. We seem to swing like a pendulum between these two extremes. Man is reckoned as if he were everything to some, and God becomes nothing to such; but, without unduly exalting man, we can truly say that it really is a great blessing to the church when God raises up men who are qualified to lead his people. Israel did not go out of Egypt as a mob; they were led out by their armies. They did not plunge into the Red Sea as an undisciplined crowd; but Moses stood up there with his uplifted rod, and led them on that memorable day. We may as well sigh for the glorious days of old, when God gave his people mighty preachers of his Word. There have been epochs in history that were prolific of great leaders of the Christian church. No sooner did Luther give his clarion call, than God seemed to have a bird in every bush; and Calvin, and Farel, and Melancthon, and Zwingle, and so many besides that I will not attempt to make out the list, joined with him in his brave protest against the harlot-church of Rome. "The Lord gave the Word: and great was the company of those that published it." The church remembers those happy days, with earnest longing for their return. They were giants in those days; mighty men of renown, well fitted by the Lord to lead his people. We are next told that God put his spirit within these shepherds. They would have been nothing without it. Where is he that put his Holy Spirit within them? A man with God's Holy Spirit within him, can anybody estimate his worth? God says that he will make a man more precious that the gold of Ophir; but, to a man filled with his Spirit, mines of rubies or of diamonds cannot be set in comparison. When the eleven apostles went forth, on the day of Pentecost, endowed by the Spirit of God, there were forces in the world whose very tramp might make it quiver beneath their feet. God send us once more many of his servants, within whom he has put his Spirit in an eminent and conspicuous manner, and then we shall see bright days indeed! The command to such still is, "Tarry until ye be endued with power from on high." Then there was, in the next place, as a happy memory for the church, a great manifestation of the divine power. "That led them by the right hand of Moses with his glorious arm, dividing the water before them, to make himself an everlasting name." "The right hand of Moses," by itself, was no more than your right hand or mine; but when God's glorious arm worked by the right hand of Moses, the sea divided, and made a way for the hosts of Israel to pass over. As the Psalmist sings, "He divided the sea, and caused them to pass through; and he made the waters to stand as a heap." The right hand of Moses could not have wrought that miracle; but the glorious arm of the Lord did. What we want to-day, brethren, is a manifestation of divine power. Some of us are praying for it day and night. We have expected it. We do expect it. We are longing for it with a hunger and a thirst insatiable. Oh, when will Jehovah pluck his right hand out of his bosom? When will he make bare his arm, as one that goeth to his work with might and main? Pray, O ye servants of God, for leaders filled with the Spirit, and with the power of God working with them, that multitudes may be converted unto Christ, and the sea of sin be dried up in the advance of his kingdom! Then, there came to God's people a very marvellous deliverance: "That led them through the deep, as a horse in the wilderness, that they should not stumble." Understand by the word "wilderness" here, an expansive grassy plain; a place of wild grass and herbs, for so it means. And as a horse is led where it is that and level, and he does not stumble, so were the hosts of Israel led through the Red Sea. The bottom of the sea may be stony or gravelly, or it may be full of mire and mud. Probably, there will be huge rocks standing up in the middle of the stream. There may be a sudden fall from one stratum of rock to the other; and to come up from the sea on the further bank would be hard work for struggling people carrying burdens, as these Israelites did; for they went out of Egypt harnessed and laden, bearing their kneading-troughs in their clothes upon their shoulders. But God made that rough sea bottom to be as easy travelling for them as when a horse is led across a flowery meadow. Beloved, God has done so with his church in all time. Her seas of difficulty have had no difficulty about them. He has come in all the glory of his power, and smoothed the way for the ransomed to pass over. Has it not been so with you, my brethren? And, as a blessed ending to their trials, God brought them into a place of rest: "As a beast goeth down into the valley, the Spirit of the Lord causeth him to rest: so didst thou lead thy people." In the desert they rested a good deal; but in Canaan they rested altogether. As the cattle come down from the mountains, where they have been picking up their food, when the plains are fat with grass, and they feed to their full, and lie down and rest, so did God deal with his people, bringing them from all the mountains of their trouble into a sweet valley, a land that flowed with milk and honey, where they might rest. This is a memorial, a sketch of the past. I read it, first, literally as a sketch of Israel's history. I read it, next, as a sketch of the church's history. There have been times with the church as at Pentecost, and the Reformation, when, though she had wandered, God returned to her, and made bare his arm, and raised up shepherds, and put his Spirit upon them, and then led his people straight ahead through every difficulty, and gave them rest. You are most of you acquainted with the history of the period before Luther's day. It did not seem likely then that the gospel would be preached everywhere throughout Northern Europe; but it was so, and God singularly preserved the first Reformers' lives when they were very precious. Zwingle died in battle; but he should not have been fighting, and he might have died a natural death. But Calvin, and Luther, and the rest of them, for the most part, remained until their work was done, and they quietly passed away; and the churches, despite long persecution, had comparative rest. It was so here, and it was so across the border in our sister church of Scotland. She cannot forget the covenanting blood, and the putting to death of those who were for the Crown Rights of King Jesus; but, at last, she had her time of rest. Time would not fail me to tell you the long list of shepherds that God gave to his covenanting church, the mighty men who, being dead, yet speak to us by their works, and who, while they lived, made the church of God in Scotland to be glorious with the presence of her Lord. Well now, the same thing has happened also to us as individuals. We have had our cloudy and dark day, but God has appeared for our help. Some of you could tell how God led you through the deep as through a prairie. You went a way that you never knew, a new way, an untrodden path, as though it were the bottom of a sea but newly dry; but the Lord led you as a groom leads a horse, so that you did not stumble, and before long you came up out of the depths unharmed. With Moses and the children of Israel, you sang the praises of him who had triumphed gloriously; and then you began to learn another song, not so martial, but very sweet: "The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters." In conflicts for the God of Israel, and his everlasting truth, some of us have been counted as the mire of the streets; but therein we do rejoice, and will rejoice; for Jehovah liveth, and he will bring up his people again from Bashan. He will bring them up from the depths of the sea, and there shall be rest again in the midst of Israel, if men are but faithful to God, and faithful to his truth. Thus much upon the sacred memory of the past. II. But now, in the second place, I want you to notice, AN OBJECT CLEARLY SHINING, like the morning star. I see, through the text, God's great motive in working these wonders for his people. It was God who did it all; my text is full of God. He brought them up out of the sea. He put his Holy Spirit within them. He led them with his glorious arm. He led them through the deep. He caused them to rest. He did it all. When the history of the church is written, there will be nothing on the page but God. I know that her sin is recorded; but he hath blotted that out; and at the end, there will remain nothing but what God has done. When your life and mine shall ring out as a psalm amid the harps of glory, it will be only, "Unto him that loved us and laved us, be glory and dominion for ever and ever." " Non nobis, Donine. " "Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto thy name give glory." So will sing all of us who are the Lord's redeemed, when we have come up out of the great tribulation, and have washed our robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. But then, why had God done all this? Did he do it because of his people's merits, or numbers, or capacities? He tells them, many a time, "Not for your sakes do I this, saith the Lord God, be it known unto you: be ashamed and confounded for your own ways, O house of Israel." God finds in himself the motive for blessing men who have no merits. If God looked for any motive in us, he would find none. He would see in us many reasons why he should condemn us; but only in himself could he discover the motive for his matchless mercy. God works his great wonders of grace with the high motive of making known to his creatures his own glory, manifesting what he is and who he is, that they may worship him. He tells us in the text that he "led them by the right hand of Moses with his glorious arm, dividing the water before them, to make himself an everlasting name." So he has done, for to this day the highest note of praise to God that we know of, is the one that tells of the deliverance of Israel out of Egypt, and when this world is burnt up, the song will go up to God in heaven will be the song of Moses, the servant of God, and of the Lamb. Still, if we want a figure and a foretaste of the ultimate victories of God over all his people's enemies, we have to go back to the Red Sea, and look at Miriam's twinkling feet, and hear her fingers making the timbrel sound as she cries, "Sing ye to the Lord, for he hath triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea." He did it to make himself an ever-enduring name, and he has succeeded in that object. Isaiah adds that the Lord led his people, and brought them into their rest, to make himself "a glorious name." God is glorious in the history of Israel. God is glorious in the history of his church. God is glorious in the history of every believer. The life of a true believer is a glorious life. For himself he claims no honour, but by his holy life he brings great glory to God. There is more glory to God in every poor man and woman saved by grace, and in the one unknown obscure person, washed in the Redeemer's blood, than in all the songs of cherubim and seraphim, who know nothing of free grace and dying love. So you see, beloved, the motive of God in all that he did; and I dwell upon it, though briefly, yet with much emphasis, because this is a motive that can never alter. What if the church of to-day be reduced to a very low condition, and the truth seems to be ebbing out from her shores, while a long stretch of the dreary mud of modern invention lies reeking in the nostrils of God; yet he that wrought such wonders, to make himself a name, still has the same object in view. He will be glorious. He will have men know that he is God, and beside him there is none else. Thus saith the Lord God, "All flesh shall know that I the Lord am thy Saviour, and thy Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob." "The earth shall be full of knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea." O brethren, he is a jealous God still; and when the precious blood of Christ is insulted, God hears it, and forgets it not. When the inspiration of the blessed Book is denied, the Holy Ghost hears it and is grieved, and he will yet bestir himself to defend his truth. When we hear the truth that we love, the dearest and most sacred revelations from our God, treated with a triviality that is nothing less than profane, if we are indignant, so is he, and shall not God avenge his own elect. Which cry day and night unto him? I tell you that he will avenge them speedily, though he bear long with his adversaries. God's motive is his own glory. He will stand to that, and he will vindicate it yet; and we need to have no doubt, nor even the shadow of a fear, about the ultimate result of a collision between God and the adversaries of his truth. Shall not the moth, that dashes at the candle, die in that flame? How shall the creatures of a day stand out against our God, who is a consuming fire? Here, then, is the hope of the people of God, the constant persistent, invariable motive of God to make himself glorious in the eyes of men. III. My third point is, AN ANXIOUS ENQUIRY, which I find twice over in my text. Believing in what God has done, and believing that his motive still remains the same, we begin to cry, "Where is he that brought them up out of the sea with the shepherd of his flock? Where is he that put his holy Spirit within him?" This question suggests that there is some faith left. "Where is he?" He is somewhere. Then, he lives. Beloved, the Lord God omnipotent still liveth and reigneth. Many usurpers have tried to turn him from his throne; but he still sits upon it, and reigns amongst his ancients gloriously. He was, and is, and is to come, the Almighty; "Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever." He is; but where is he? The question implies that some were beginning to seek him. Where is he? Those were brave days when he was here on the moors, or on the hills of Scotland, or at the stakes of Smithfield, or the prisons of Lambeth Palace. Those were glorious days when Christ was here, and his people knew it, and rejoiced in him. Then the virgin daughter of Zion shook her head at the harlot of Rome, and laughed her to scorn; for she lay in the bosom of her King, and rejoiced in his love. O beloved, do we begin to long after him again? I hope that we do. I trust the cry of many loyal hearts is, "Come back, king Jesus! When thou art away, all things languish. Adown the streets of Mansoul ride again, O Prince Emmanuel! Then shall the city ring with holy song, and every house shall be bedecked with everything that is beautiful and fair. Only come back!" If the King may but have his own again, I shall be content to sing old Simeon's song, "Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word!" The church longs for the King's coming. Where is he? Where is he? It shows now, dear friends, that she has begun to mourn over his absence. I like the reduplicated word. "Where is he? Where is he?" Not, "Where is Moses? Where are the leaders? The fathers, where are they?" Let them keep where they are. But where is he that made the fathers? Where is he that sent us Moses and Aaron? Where is he that divided the waters, and led his people safely? Where is he? Oh, it is a question that I put to all your hearts! Oh, if he were here! One hour of his glorious arm; just a day of his almighty working; and what should we not see? We will not ask for tongues of fire, or mighty rushing winds. Let him be here as he may; but if he only be here, the battle is turned at the gate, and the day of his redeemed is come. We sigh for his appearing. Where is he, then? As the text asks. Well, he is hidden because of our sins. The church has been tampering with his truth. She has given into the hands of critics the Word of God, to cut it with a penknife, to rend away this and tear out that. She has been dallying with the world. She has tried to gain money for her objects by the basest of means. She has played the harlot in what she has done; for there are no amusements too vile or too silly for her. Even her pastors have filled a theatre of late, to sit there and mark with their applause the labours of the play-actors! To this pass have we come at last, to which we never came before no, not in Rome's darkest hour; and if you, who profess to be God's servants, do not love Christ enough to be indignant about it, the Lord have mercy upon you! The time has surely come when there should go up one great cry unto the Lord Jehovah that he would make bare his arm again; for well may we say, "Where is he? Where is he?" For your comfort, the next verse to my text tells you where he is. He is in heaven. They cannot expel him from his throne. "Yet have I set my King upon my holy hill of Zion." By every possible contrivance, in these modern days, they have tried to drive Christ out of his own church. A Christless, bloodless gospel defiles many a pulpit, and Christ is thus angered; but he is in heaven still. At the right hand of God he sits; and let this be our continual prayer to him, "Look down from heaven, O Lord! Cast an eye upon thy failing, faltering, fickle church. Look down from heaven." "Where is he?" Well, he is himself making an enquiry; for, as some read the whole passage, it is God himself speaking. He remembered the days of old, Moses and his people; and when he his himself, and would not work in wrath, yet he said to himself, "Where is he that brought them up out of the sea with the shepherd of his flock?" When God himself, who is always a stranger here, for are we not strangers with him and sojourners, as all our fathers were? When God himself begins to ask where he is, and to regret those happier days, something will come of it. "Ye that make mention of the Lord ye that are the Lord's remembrances keep not silence, and give him no rest, take no rest, and give him no rest, till he establish, and till he make Jerusalem a praise in the earth." "That little cloud", said one of old, when Julian the apostate threatened to extirpate Christianity, "That little church will soon be gone." All that I see to-day of darkness, is but a wave of smoke. Behold, the Lord God himself shall chase it away with a strong west wind. He doth but blow with his wind, and the clouds disappear; and what stands before us to-day shall be as nothing. I thought, as I came here to-night, that the man who drives the tram car gave me a lesson on how I should look upon all future time. He starts, say at Clapham, with his car. If he could have a view of all that was on the road between Clapham and the Elephant and Castle, the carts, the wagons, and other traffic that are exactly where he wants to go, and he were to add all those obstacles together, he might be foolish enough to say, "I shall not complete my course to-night;" but, you see, he starts, and if anything is on the rails, it moves off; and if, perhaps, some sluggish, heavily-laden coal wagon is slow to move, he puts his whistle to his mouth, and gives a shrill blast or two, and lo, it is gone! So when the church, serving her God, begins to look far ahead through prophecy, which she never did understand, and never will, she will think she will never reach her journey's end. But she will; for God has laid the line. We are on the rails, and the rails do not come to an end till the journey's end is reached; and as we go along, we shall find that everything in our way will move before us; and if it does not, we will pray a bit. We will blow our whistles, and the devil himself will have to move, though all his black horses shall be dragging along the brewer's dray, or what else belongs to him. He will have to get off our track, assuredly as God lives; for if Jehovah sends us on his errands, we cannot fail. The old Romans picture Jove as hurling thunderbolts. Sometimes God makes his servants thunderbolts, and when he hurls them, they will go crashing through everything until they reach their mark. Wherefore; be not for a moment discouraged; but trust you in God, and be glad without a shadow of fear. If any here have never trusted in God, never made him their Friend, or been reconciled to him by the death of his Son, I pray them to think of their present condition. Opposed to God! You are standing in the way of an express train. You are urged to get out of the way. You will not! You are going to throw that train off the rails, you say. Poor fool, I could put mine arms about your neck, and forcibly drag you from the iron way; for assuredly, if you remain there, nothing can come of it but your everlasting destruction. Wherefore, flee, flee, I pray you, from the wrath to come. The train of divine judgment comes thundering along the iron road even now. It shakes the earth. Awake! Rise! Flee! God help you to do so! Behold, the Saviour stands with open arms to be your shelter. Fly to him, and trust in him, and live for ever! Amen.
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Spurgeon, Charle Haddon. "Commentary on Isaiah 63". "Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent