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A Vexed Soul Comforted
January 21 st 1883 by
C. H. SPURGEON
“The Almighty hath vexed my soul.” Job 27:2 .
The word “who” was put into this verse by the translators, but it is not wanted; it is better as I have read it to you, “The Almighty hath vexed my soul.” The marginal reading is perhaps a more exact translation of the original: “The Almighty hath embittered my soul.” From this we learn that a good man may have his soul vexed; he may not be able to preserve the serenity of his mind. We think, and think rightly, that a Christian man should “glory in tribulations also,” and rise superior to all outward afflictions; but it is not always so with us. There is a needs-be, sometimes, that we should be “in heaviness through manifold temptations.” Not only are the temptations needed for the trial of our faith, but it is even necessary that we should be in heaviness through them. I hardly imagine that the most quiet and restful believers have always been Unruffled; I can scarcely’ think that even those whose peace is like a river have always been made to flow on with calm and equable current. Even to rivers there are rapids and cataracts, and so, methinks, in the most smoothly-flowing life, there surely must be breaks of distraction and of distress. At any rate, it was so with Job. His afflictions, aggravated by the accusations of his so-called friends, at last made the iron enter into his very soul, and his spirit was so troubled that he cried, “The Almighty hath embittered my soul.”
It is also clear, from our text, that a good man may trace the vexation of his soul distinctly to God. It was not merely that Job’s former troubles had come from God, for he had borne up under them; when all he had was gone, he had still blessed the name of the Lord with holy serenity. But God had permitted these three eminent and distinguished men, mighty in speech, to come about him, to rub salt into his wounds, and so to increase his agony. At first, too, Sod did not seem to help him in the debate, although afterwards he answered all the accusations of Job’s friends, and put them to the rout; yet, for a time, Job had to stand like a solitary champion against all three of them, and against young Elihu, too; so he looked up to heaven, and he said, “’The Almighty hath embittered my soul.’ There is an end of the controversy; I can see whence all my trouble comes.”
Advancing a step further, we notice that, in all this, Job did not rebel against God, or speak a word against him. He swore by that very God who had vexed his soul. See how it stands here: “As God liveth, who hath taken away my judgment, and the Almighty, who hath vexed my soul.” He stood fast to it that this God was the true God, he called him good, he believed him to be almighty; it never occurred, to Job to bring a railing accusation against God, or to start aside from his allegiance to him. He is a truly brave man who can say with Job, “’Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him.’ Let God deal with me as he will, yet he is good, and I will praise his name. What if he has vexed my soul? He hath a right to vex me, so I will not kick against the pricks. Let him grieve me, let him put gall and wormwood into my cup if so it shall please him; but still will I magnify his name, for he is good, and only good.” Here is the strength of the saints, here is the glory which God getteth out of true believers, that they cannot and will not be soured against their God.
Now go another step, and notice that this embittering of Job’s soul was intended for his good. The patriarch was to have his wealth doubled, and he therefore needed double grace that he might be able to bear the burden. He was also to be a far holier man than he had been at the first; perfect and upright as he seemed to be, he was to rise a stage higher. If his character had been deficient in anything, perhaps it was deficient in humility. Truly, Job was no proud man, he was generous, and kind, and meek; but, possibly, he had a little too high a notion of his own character, so even that must be taken away from him. Other graces must be added to those he already possessed; he must have a tenderness of spirit which appears to have been lacking; he must become as gentle as a maid. As he had been firm as a man of war; and, consequently, this bitterness of soul was meant to help him towards perfection of character. When that end was accomplished, all the bitterness was turned into sweetness. God- made the travail of his soul to be forgotten by reason of the joy that came of it. Job no longer thought of the dunghill, and the potsherd, and the lost sheep, and the consumed camels; he only thought of the goodness of God who had restored everything to him again, and given him back the dew of his youth, and the freshness of his spirit.
Child of God, are you vexed and embittered in soul? Then, bravely accept the trial as coming from your Father, and say, “The cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?” “Shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?” Press on through the cloud which now lowers directly in your pathway; it may be with you as it was with the disciples on the Mount of Transfiguration, “they feared as they entered the cloud,” yet in theft cloud they saw their Master’s glory, and they found it good to be there. Fear not, have confidence in God; all your sorrows shall yet end in joy, and the thing which you deplore today shall be the subject of to-morrow’s sweetest songs. The Egyptians whom ye have seen today ye shall see no more for ever. Wherefore, be of good courage, and let your hearts be strengthened.
I am going to take the text right away from its connection; having explained it as it relates to Job, and those like to Job, I want to use it for the benefit of anyone else who can fitly use the expression, “The Almighty hath vexed my soul.” My sermon will be like an archer’s arrow; God knows where the heart is at which I am aiming. I draw the bow at a venture, the Lord will direct the bolt between the joints of the harness of the one it is intended to strike.
I. First, I shall speak upon A Personal Fact. Many a person has to say, “The Almighty hath embittered my soul.”
This happened to you, dear friend, perhaps, through a series of very remarkable troubles. Few persons were happier than Job, and few have found misfortunes tread so fast upon one another’s heels. What were the troubles in your case? It may be that one child was taken away, and then another, and yet a third; or, perhaps, your infant was carried to the grave, to be soon followed by its dear mother, and you are left to mourn alone. Bereavement has followed bereavement with you until your very soul is embittered. Or it may be that there is one ill at home, and you fear that precious life cannot be preserved; your cup seems full of trembling. Or, possibly, you have had a series of disasters in business such as you could not have foreseen or prevented. It seems, indeed, to you as if no man ever was so unsuccessful, you have not prospered in anything; wherever you have put your hand, it has been like the hoof of the Tartar’s horse which turns the meadow into a desert; nothing goes well with you. Perhaps you have desired to be a man of learning; you have worked very hard. and now your health is failing you, so that you cannot go through the examination for which you have been preparing. You ’would willingly die at your post if you had a hope of gaining the honor to which you aspire, but this is denied you; on the very doorstep of success, you are stopped; God seems to have embittered your life. Or you, of the tender heart, have been disappointed and rejected, and your love has been thrown away. Or you, of the energetic spirit, have been foiled and driven back a score of times, till you perceive that your attempts are fruitless. Or you, a man of true integrity, have been cruelly slandered, and you feel as if you could not bear up under the false charge that is in the air all around you. Ah, I know what that means! There are many like you, with whom the Almighty is dealing in all wisdom and goodness, as I shall have to show you.
It may be, however, that you have not had a succession of troubles, but you have had one trial constanty gnawing at your heart. It is only one, and that one you are half-ashamed to mention, for it seems so trifling when you try to tell it to another; but to you it is as when a wasp stings, and continues to sting, it irritates and worries you. You try patience, but you have not much of that virtue. You seek to escape from the trouble, but it is always boring into your very heart; it is only some one little thing, not the devil, only a messenger of Satan, one of his errand boys, one of the small fry of trouble. You cannot make out how you can be so foolish as to let it worry you, but it does. If you rise up early, or if you sit up late, it is still there tormenting you; you cannot get rid of it, and you cry, “The Almighty hath embittered my soul.” Time was when you would have laughed at such things, and put them aside with a wave of your hand; but now they follow you into business, they are with you at the desk, they come home with you, they go to bed with you, and they worry you even in your dreams.
Perhaps I have not yet hit the mark with you, my friend. It is neither a succession of troubles nor yet any one trouble; in fact, you haw) no trouble at all in the sense of which I have been speaking. Your business prospers, you are in fine health, your children are about you, everyone holds you in good esteem; yet your very soul is embittered. I hope that it has become saddened through a sense of sin. At one time you did not think that there was any fault to be found with you; but you have had a peep in the looking-glass of the Word, the Spirit of God holding the candle; you have had a glimpse of yourself, and your inner life, and your condition before God, and therefore your soul is vexed. Ah, many of us have gone through that experience; and, wretched as it is, we congratulate you upon it, we are glad that it is so with you!
Is it more than a sense of sin? Is it a sense of wrath as well? Does it strike you that God is angry with you, and has turned his hand against you, and does this seem to loosen the very joints of your bones? Ah, this is a dreadful state of heart indeed, to feel God’s hand day and night upon you, till your moisture is turned into the drought of summer! Yet again I congratulate you on it; for the pilgrim path to Heaven is by Weeping Cross, the road to joy and peace is by the way of a sense of sin and a sense of the Lord’s anger.
It may be that this is not exactly your case, but you are restless and weary. Somehow, you cannot be easy, you cannot be at peace. Someone recommended you to go to the play; but it seemed such a dull piece of stupidity, you came away worse than you went. Your doctor says that you must have a change of air. “Oh!” you cry, “I have had fifty changes of air, and I do not improve a bit.” You are weary even of that in which you once delighted. Your ordinary pursuits, which once satisfied you, now seem to be altogether stale, fiat, and unprofitable. The books that charmed your leisure have grown wearisome; the friends whose conversation once entranced you now seem to talk but idle chit-chat and frivolity.
Beside all that, there is an undefined dread upon you. You cannot tell exactly what it is like, but you almost fear to fall asleep, lest you should dream, and dreaming should begin to feel the wrath to come. When you wake in the morning, you are sorry to find that you are where you are, and you address yourself sadly to the day’s business, saying, “Well, I will go on with it, but I have no joy in it all. ’The Almighty hath embittered my soul.’“ This happens to hundreds, and they do not know what it means, they cannot understand it; but I hope that I may be privileged so to explain it that some may have to say that never did a better thing happen to them than when they fell into this state, that never in all their lives did they take so blessed a turning as when they came down this darksome lane, and began to murmur, “The Almighty hath embittered my soul.”
II. From this personal fact of which I have spoken, I want to Draw An Instructive, Argument, which has two edges.
The first is this. If the Almighty note that word, “Almighty” has vexed your soul as much as he has, how much more is he able to vex it! If he has embittered your life up to the present point, and he is indeed almighty, what more of bitterness may he not yet give you! You may go from being very low in spirit to being yet more heavy even unto despair. You may even come to be like Bunyan’s man in the iron cage, or like the demoniac wandering among the tombs. Remember what God has done in the case of some men, and if he can do that on earth, what can he not do in hell! If this world, which is the place of mercy, yet contains in it men so wretched that they would rather die than live, what must be the misery of those who linger in a state of eternal death, and yet from whom death for ever flies? O my God, when my soul was broken as between the two great millstones of thy justice and thy wrath, how my spirit was alarmed! But if thou couldst do this to me here, what couldst thou not have done to me hereafter if I had passed out of this world into the next with sin unforgiven? I want everyone who is in sore soul-trouble to think over this solemn truth, and consider what God can yet do with him.
Now turn the argument the other way. If it be the Almighty who has troubled us, surely he can also comfort us. He that is strong to sink is also strong to save. If he be almighty to embitter, he must also be almighty to sweeten. Draw, then, this comfortable conclusion, “I am not in such a state of misery that God cannot lift me right out of it into supreme joy.” It is congenial to God’s nature to make his creatures happy. He delights not in their sorrow; but if, when he does make them sorrowful, he can make life unendurable, if his anger can fill a man with terror so that he fears his own footfall, and starts at his own shadow, if God can do that on the one hand, what can he not do on the other? He can turn our mourning into music; he can take off from us the ashes and the sackcloth, and clothe us in beauty and delight. God can lift up thy head, poor mourner, sorrowing under sin and a fear of wrath. I tell thee, God can at once forgive thy sin, and turn away all his wrath, and give thee a sense of perfect pardon, and with it a sense of his undying love. Oh, yes, that word “Almighty” cuts both ways! It makes us tremble, and so it kills our pride; but it also makes us hope, and so it slays our despair. I put in that little piece of argument just by the way.
III. Now I come to my third point, which is more directly in my road; and that is this. Here is A Healthful Enquiry for everyone whose soul has been vexed by God.
The enquiry is, first, is not God just in vexing my soul? Listen. Some of you have long vexed him; you have grieved his Holy Spirit for years. Why, my dear man, God called you when you were but a boy! Or very gently he drew you while you were yet a young man; you almost yielded to the importunity of a dying friend who is now in heaven. Those were all gentle strokes, but you heeded them not, you would not return unto the Lord; and now, if he should see fit to lay his hand very heavily upon you, and vex you in his hot displeasure, have you not first vexed him, have you not ill-used him? If you would not come to him in the light, it is very gracious of him if he permits you to come in the dark. I do not wonder if he whips you to himself, seeing that you would not come when, like a father beckoning a little child, he smiled at you, and wooed you to him.
I might say to others, if God brings you to himself by a rough road, you must not wonder, for have not you many a time vexed your godly wife? When seeing friends who come to join the church, I am often struck with the way in which converts have to confess that, in former days, they made it very hard for their families. There are some men who cannot speak without an oath, and at the very name of Christ they begin to curse and to swear. They seem as if they hated their children for being good, and could not be too hard upon their wives because they try to be righteous in the sight of God. Well, if you vex God’s people, you must not be surprised if he vexes you. He will give you a hard time of it, it may be; and if it ends in your salvation, I shall not need to pity you however hard it may be for you. There is one thing more you may say to yourself, and that is, “It is much better to get to heaven by a rough road than to go singing down to hell.. O my God, tear me in pieces, but do save me! Let my conscience drive me to the very borders of despair, if thou wilt but give me the blood of Christ to quiet it. Only make sure work of my eternal salvation, and I will not mind what I have to suffer.” I shall bless God for you, dear friend, and you will bless God for yourself, too, if you be but brought to him, even though you have to say, “The Almighty hath vexed my soul.”
Another point of enquiry is this: What can be God’s design in vexing your soul? Surely he has a kind design in it all. God is never anything but good. Rest assured that he takes no delight in your miseries; it is no pleasure to him that you should sit, and sigh, and groan, and cry. I mean that such an experience in itself affords him no pleasure, but he has a design in it; what can that design be? May it not be, first, to make you think of him? You forgot him when the bread was plentiful upon the table, so he is going to try what a hungry belly will do for you when you would fain fill it with the husks that the swine do eat. You forgot him when everything went merry as a marriage peal; it may be that you will recollect him now that your children are dying, or your father is taken away; these trials are sent to remind you that there is a God. There are some men who go on, by the space of forty years together, and whether there be a God or not, is a question which they do not care to answer; at least, they live as if there were no God, they are practically atheists. This stroke has come that you may say, “Yes, there is a God, for I feel the rod that he holds in his hand. He is crushing me, he is grinding me to powder; I must think of him.”
It may be, too, that he is sending this trial to let you know that he thinks of you. “Ah!” you say, “I did not suppose that he thought of me; thought that surely he had forgotten such an one as I am.” But he does think of you, he has been thinking of you for many a day, and calling and inviting you to him, but you would neither listen nor obey; and now that he has come, he means to make you see that he loves you too well to let you be lost. You are having his blows right and left, to let you know that he thinks of you, and will not let you perish. When God does not care for a man, he flings the reins on to his neck, and says, “There! Let him go.” Now see how the horses tear away; you need not lash them, they will go as though they had wings, and could fly. Leave a man to himself, and his lusts drag him post haste to hell, he pants to destroy himself; but when God loves a man, he pulls him up, as you might pull your horse on to his haunches. He shall not do as he wills, the eternal God will not let him; in infinite mercy, he tugs at the rein, and makes the man feel that there is a mightier than he who will not let him ruin himself, But who will restrain him from rushing to his destruction. Am I speaking to any who are in this plight? Let them not kick against God, but rather be grateful that he condescends thus to meddle with their sinful souls, and check them in their mad career. I have spoken lately with some who were about to join this church, who, if friends had said, five or six months ago, that they would have been sitting on that chair talking to me about their souls, would have cursed them to their faces; yet they were obliged to come. The Lord had hold of them; they tried to break away, but he had them too firmly. They were served by my Lord and I, raster as a good fisherman will serve a salmon, if once it takes his bait; he lets it run for a while, and then pulls it up a bit, and then lets it go again; but he brings it to land at last; and I have had the pleasure of seeing many sinners thus safely caught by Christ. It may be, dear friend, that the Almighty is vexing you to let you see that he loves you.
May it not be also for another reason, that he may wean you entirely from the world? He is making you loathe it. “Oh!” you used to say, “I am a young man, and I must see life.” Well, you have seen it, have you not? And do you not think that it is wonderfully like death and corruption? That which is called “London life” is a foul, loathsome, crawling thing, fit only for the dunghill. Well, you have seen it, and you have had enough of it, have you not? Perhaps your very bones can tell what you gained by that kind of life. “Oh!” you said, “but I must try the intoxicating cup.” Well, what did you think of it the morning after you tried it? “Who hath woe? Who hath sorrow? Who hath contention? Who hath babbling? Who hath wounds without cause? Who hath redness of eyes? They that tarry long at the wine; they that go to seek mixed wine.” I saw a man of that kind in the street, the other day. Once, he was a most respectable man, who could consort with others, and be esteemed by them. Now he is dreadfully down at the heel. I think I saw a too through each of his shoes, and he looked like the wretched being that he is. He shuffled from place to place as if he did not wish to be seen, and he did not lift himself up until he got into the gin palace to take another draught of hell-water; and then he seemed for a minute to be drawn straight again by that which made him crooked. You know the man; is he here to-night? Dear sir, have you not had sufficient strong drink? God has let you have enough of it that you may hate it from this hour, and flee away from it, never to desire to go back to it again.
I heard, at Boulogne, the story of a Frenchman who had been drinking heavily, and who threw himself into the harbor. Some sailors plunged in, and rescued him. The man was on the deck of a ship, and in a minute he broke away from his keepers, and jumped in again. It was not pleasant to be trying to save a madman again and again, yet they did get him out, and took him down below; but he rushed on deck, and jumped in a third time. A man there said,” You leave him to me.” So he jumped overboard, and seized hold of him, put his head under the water, and held him there; when he managed to get his head up again, his rescuer gave him another ducking, and then another, till he just about filled him up with water. He said to himself, “I will sicken him of it, so that he will never jump in here again.” He just diluted the eau-de-vie the man had taken, and then he dragged him on board ship, and there was no fear of his jumping overboard any more. And I believe that, sometimes, the Lord acts like that with men. He did so with me; he made sin to be exceedingly bitter to my soul, till I loathed it; and it has often given me a trembling even to think of those sins that then were pleasurable to me. It is a blessed thing to be plucked out of the water, and saved once for all, but a little of that sailor’s style of sousing the drunkard, a little of those terrors and alarms that some of us felt, is not lost; and when the Lord thus deals with sinners, it is with the design that they may never want to go back to those sins any more. They have had their full of them, and henceforth they will keep clear of them. It may be that the Almighty vexed some of you for this cause, that you might thenceforth hate sin with a perfect hatred.
Do you say, my friend, that I have not been describing you? You are still a gentleman, an excellent well-to-do man; you have done nothing wrong in the way of vice, but still you cannot rest. No; and God grant that you never may rest till you crone humbly to the Savior’s feet, confess your sin, and look to him alone for salvation! Then you shall rest with that deep “peace which passeth all understanding,” which shall “keep your heart and mind by Christ Jesus” forever and ever.
I think I hear someone say (and with that I will finish), “As the Almighty hath vexed my soul; what had I better do? I thought, sir, when I came in here that I was a castaway; but I see that I am the man you are looking after. I thought that I was too wretched to be saved, but now I perceive that it is to the wretched that you are preaching. It is for the mourning, the melancholy, and the desponding; what had I better do?” Do? Go home, and shut to your door, and have an hour alone with yourself and God. You can afford that; time; it is Sunday night, and you do not want the time for anything else. That hour alone with God may be the crisis of your whole life; do try it!
“And when I am alone with God, what had I better do?” Well, first, tell him all your grief. Then tell him all your sin, all you can remember. Hide nothing from him; lay it all, naked and bare, before him. Then ask him to blot it all out, once for all, for Jesus Christ’s sake. Tell him that you can never rest till you are at peace with him. Tell him that you accept his way of making peace, namely, by the blood of the cross. Tell him that you are willing to trust his dear Son for everything now, and to accept salvation freely as the gift of sovereign grace. If you do so, you will rise from your knees a happy man, and, what is more, a renewed man; I will stand bondsman for God about this matter. It there be this honest confession, this hearty. Prayer, and this simple acceptance of Christ as your Savior, the days of your mourning are ended, the daylight of your spirit shall be beginning, and I should not wonder if many of your present troubles come to an end; certainly, your heart-ache shall be ended, and ended at once. Oh, that you would accept my Savior! Sometimes, when I am thinking about my hearers and my work, I seem to take God’s part instead of yours, and to say, “O God, I have preached Christ to them; I have told them about thy dear Son, and how thy fatherly heart parted with him that he might die that men might live yet they do not care for him. They will not have thy Son: they will not accept the pardon that Jesus bought.” If the Lord were to say to me, “Then never go and say another word to them, they have so insulted me in refusing such a gift,” I have at times felt as if I would say, “Lord, that is quite right; I do not want to have anything more to do with them as they treat thee so shamefully.” But we have not reached that point yet, so once more I put it to you, have you not long enough delayed? Have you not long enough questioned? Have you not long enough turned away from the Savior? And now that the arrows of God are sticking in you, will you not ask him to draw them out? Will you not plead that the precious blood of Christ may be balm to heal your wounds? Oh, come to him! In the name of Jesus of Nazareth, I beseech you, come! By amazing love and amazing pity, by wondrous grace that abounds over sin, come and Welcome! Jesus said, “Him that cometh to me, I will in no wise cast out.” Then, come unto him, and come now. Blessed Spirit, draw them; draw them now, for Jesus Christ’s sake! Amen.
The Touchstone of Godly Sincerity by C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892)
"Will he always call upon God?" Job 27:10 .
When Job resumes his address in this chapter, he appeals to God in a very solemn matter as to the truth of all that he had spoken. No less vehemently does he assert his innocence of any signal crime, or his consciousness of any secret guile, which could account for his being visited with extraordinary suffering. I do not know that his language necessarily implies any culpable self-righteousness; it appears to me rather that he had good cause to defend himself against the bitter insinuations of his unfriendly friends. Possibly his tone was rash, but his meaning was right. He might well feel the justice of vindicating his character before men: but it was a pity if in so doing he seemed to utter a protest of complete purity in the sight of God. You may remember how Paul under equal, if not exactly similar, provocation, tempered his speech and guarded against the danger of misconstruction. Thus he wrote to the Corinthians: "With me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man's judgment: yea, I judge not mine own self. For I know nothing by myself [or myself, as though he should say, 'My conscience does not accuse me of wrong']; yet am I not hereby justified." But the two holy men are very like in one respect, for just as Paul, in the struggles of the spirit against the flesh, faced the peril and mounted guard against it, "lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself shall be a castaway;" so Job lays bare before his own eyes, and points to the view of those who heard him, the features of a hypocrite, lest by any means he should turn out to be such. In terrible language he describes and denounces the hypocrite's flattering hope and withering doom. The suspicion that he himself could harbour a vain presence in his own breast, or would pretend to be what he was not, was utterly abhorrent to Job's honest heart. He placed himself at the bar, he laid down the law with rigour, he weighed his case with exactness; and so forestalled his adversaries' verdict, by judging himself that he might not be judged. Who, then, is this "wicked man," thus portrayed before us? And what are the first symptoms of his depravity? We ask not the question idly, but in order that we take heed against the uprise of such an evil in ourselves.
"Beneath the saintly veil the votary of sin May lurk unseen; and to that eye alone Which penetrates the heart, may stand revealed."
The hypocrite is very often an exceedingly neat imitation of the Christian. To the common observer he is so good a counterfeit that he entirely escapes suspicion. Like base coins which are cunningly made, you can scarcely detect them by their ring; it is only by more searching tests that you are able to discover that they are not pure gold, the current coin of the realm. It would be difficult to say how nearly any man might resemble a Christian, and yet not be "in Christ a new creature;" or how closely he might imitate all the virtues, and yet at the same time possess none of the fruits of the Spirit as before the judgment of a heart-searching God. In almost all deceptions there is a weak point somewhere. Never is a lying story told but, if you be keen enough, you may from internal evidence somewhere or other detect the flaw. Though Satan himself has been engaged in the manufacture of impostures for thousands of years, yet whether through the lack of skill on his part, or through the folly of his agents, he always leaves a weak point; his clattering statements are a little too strongly scented and smell of a lie; and his mimic Christians are so overdone in one place, and slovenly in another, that their falsehood betrays itself. Now, in discriminating between saints and hypocrites, one great test-point is prayer. "Behold, he prayeth," was to the somewhat sceptical mind of Ananias demonstration enough that Paul was really converted. If he prays, it may be safely inferred that the breath of prayer arises from the life of faith. The process of spiritual quickening has at least begun. Hence the hypocrite feigns to possess that vital action. If the Christian prays, he will betake himself to the like exercise: if the Christian calls upon God the deceiver takes care that he will likewise make mention of the name of the Lord. And yet, between the prayer of the truly converted man and the prayer of the hypocrite there is a difference as radical as between life and death, although it is not apparent to everybody. No one, it may be, at first can be aware of it except the man himself, and sometimes even he scarcely perceives it. Many are deceived by the fine expressions, by the apparent warmth, and by the excellent natural disposition of the hypocrite, and they think when they hear him call upon God that his supplications are sufficient evidence that he is truly a quickened child of God. Prayer is always the tell-tale of spiritual life. No right prayer, then is there no grace within. Slackened prayer, then is there a decrease of grace. Prayer stronger, thee the whole man also is stronger. Prayer is as good a test of spiritual life and health as the pulse is of the condition of the human frame. Hence I say the hypocrite imitates the action of prayer while he does not really possess the spirit of prayer. Our text goes deeper than the surface, and enquires into vital matters. Prayer is a test, but here is a test for the test a trial even for prayer itself. "Will he always call upon God?" There is the point. He does call upon God now, and he appears to be intensely devout; he says he was converted in the late revival; he is very fervid in expression, and very forward in manner at present. But will it wear? Will it wear? Will it last? His prayerfulness has sprung up like Jonah's gourd in a night. Will it perish in a night? It is beautiful to look upon, like the early dew that glistens in the sunlight as though the morning had sown the earth with orient pearl; will it pass away like that dew? or will it always abide? "Will he always call upon God?" There is the point. O that each one of us now may search ourselves, and see whether we have those attributes connected with our prayer which will prove us not to be hypocrites, or whether, on the contrary, we have those sad signs of base dissembling and reckless falsehood which will before long discover us to be dupes of Satan, impostors before heaven. "Will he always call upon God?" This question, simple as it is, I think involves several pertinent enquiries. The first point which it raises is that of CONSISTENCY. Is the prayer occasional, or is it constant? Is the exercise of devotion permanent and regular, or is it spasmodic and inconstant? Will this man call upon God in all seasons of prayer? There are certain times when it is most fit to pray, and a genuine Christian will and must pray at such periods. Will this hypocrite pray at all such times, or will he only select some of the seasons for prayer? Will he only be found praying at certain times and in selected places? Will he always, in all fit times, be found drawing near to God? For instance, he prayed standing at the corners of the streets where he was seen of men: he prayed in the synagogue, where everybody could mark his fluency and his fervor, but will he pray at home? Will he enter into his closet and shut to the door? Will he there speak unto the Father who heareth in secret? Will he there pour forth petitions as the natural outflow of his soul? Will he walk the field at eventide, in lonely meditation, like Isaac, and pray there? Will he go to the housetop with Peter, and pray there? Will he seek his chamber as Daniel did, or the solitude of the garden as did our Lord? Or is he one who only prays in public, who has the gift of prayer rather than the spirit of prayer, who is fluent in utterance rather than fervent in feeling? Oh, but this, this is one of the surest of tests, by which we may discern between the precious and the vile. Public prayer is no evidence of piety: it is practiced by an abundance of hypocrites; but private prayer is a thing for which the hypocrite has no heart and if he gives himself to it for a little time he soon finds it too hot and heavy a business for his soulless soul to persevere in, and he lets it drop. He will sooner perish than continue in private prayer. O for heart searchings about this! Do I draw near to God alone? Do I pray when no eye sees, when no ear hears? Do I make a conscience of private prayer? Is it a delight to pray? For I may gather that if I never enjoy private prayer I am one of those hypocrites who will not always call upon God. The true Christian will pray in business; he will pray in labor; he will pray in his ordinary calling: like sparks out of the smithy chimney short prayers fly up all day long from truly devout souls. Not thus is it with the mere pretender. The hypocrite prays at prayer-meetings, and his voice is heard in the assembly, sometimes at tedious length; but will he pray with ejaculatory prayer? Will he speak with God at the counter? Will he draw near to God in the field? Will he plead with his Lord in the busy street with noiseless pleadings? When he finds that a difficultly has occurred in his daily life, will he without saving a word breathe his heart into the ear of God? Ah, no! hypocrites know nothing of what it is to be always praying, to abide in the spirit of prayer. This is a choice part of Christian experience with which they do not meddle. But be sure of this where there is genuine religion within, it will be more or less habitual to the soul to pray. Some of us can say that to be asking blessings from God in brief, wordless prayers, comes as natural to us as to eat and drink, and breathe. We never encounter a difficulty now but we resolve it by appealing to the wisdom of God never meet with any opposition but what we overcome it by leaning upon the power of God. To wait upon the Lord and speak with him has become a habit with us not because it is a duty we have left legal bondage far behind but because we cannot help it, our soul is inwardly constrained thereto. The nature within as naturally cries to God as a child cries after its mother. The hypocrite prays in his fashion because it is a task allotted to him: the Christian because it is a part of his very life. Herein is an everstanding mark of distinction by which a man may discern himself. If your prayer is only for certain hours, and certain places, and certain times, beware lest it turn out to be an abomination before the Lord. The fungus forced by artificial heat is a far different thing from the rosy fruit of a healthy tree, and the unreal devotions of the unspiritual differ widely from the deep inward groanings of renewed hearts. If you pray by the almanac, observing days and weeks, you may well fear that your religion never came from the great Father of Lights, with whom are no changing moons. If you can pray by the clock, your religion is more mechanical than vital. The Christian does not fast because it is Lent; if his Lord reveals his face he cannot fast merely because a church commands him. Neither can he therefore feast because it happens to be a festival in the calendar. The Spirit of God might make his soul to be feasting on Ash-Wednesday, or his soul might be humbled within him at Easter; he cannot be regulated by the dominical letter, and the new moons and days of the month. He is a spiritual character, and he leaves those who have no spiritual life to yield a specious conformity to such ecclesiastical regulations, his new-born nature spurns such childish bonds. The living soul prays evermore with groanings that cannot be uttered, and believingly rejoices evermore with joy unspeakable and full of glory. A second point in debate is that of CONTINUANCE. "Will he always call upon God?" There are trying periods and sifting seasons; those who hold on through these are the true, but those who suspend prayer at these test intervals are the false. Now times of joy and sorrow are equally critical seasons. Let us look at them in turn. Will the hypocrite call upon God in times of pleasure? No; if he indulges himself in what he calls pleasure, he dares not pray at night when he comes home. He goes to places where he would think it a degradation of prayer to think of praying. The genuine Christian prays always, because if there be any spot where he dares not pray, just there he dares not be found; or if there be any engagement about which he could not pray, it is an engagement that shall never ensnare him. Some one once proposed to write a collect to be said by a pious young lady when attending a theater, and another to be repeated by a Christian gentleman when shuffling a pack of cards. There might he another form of prayer to be offered by a pious burglar when he is breaking open a door, or by a religious assassin when he is about to commit murder. There are things about which you cannot pray: they have nothing to do with prayer. Many tolerated amusements lead to outrages upon the morals of earth, and are an insult to the holiness of heaven. Who could think of praying about them? Herein is the hypocrite discerned; he does that which he could not ask a blessing upon. Poor as is the conscience he owns, he knows it is ridiculous to offer prayer concerning certain actions which, notwithstanding, he has the hardihood to perform. The Christian avoids things which he could not pray about; and so he feels it a pleasure to pray always. Equally trying is the opposite condition of depression and sorrow. There, too, we try the question, "Will he always call upon God?" No; the hypocrite will not pray when in a desponding state. He breathed awhile the atmosphere of enthusiasm. His passions were stirred by the preacher, and fermented by the contagious zeal of the solemn assembly. But now a damp cold mist obscures his view chills his feelings, settles in his heart. Others are growing cold, and he is among the first to freeze. He is down-hearted and discouraged. Forthwith, like King Saul, he succumbs to the evil spirit. Were he a Christian indeed, he would follow in the wake of David, and say: "Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? hope in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God;" but he has no heart to hope on in ill weather. He built up his hopes tastefully, and he admired the structure which was of his own piling, but the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew, and down it all went; and therefore, being a hypocrite, he said within himself: "Now I have no enjoyment of religion: it has lost its novelty; I have worn out its delights; I have now no comfort from it; I will give it up." Thus in the trying hour the deceiver is laid bare. Look at the real Christian when a storm bursts over him which shakes his confidence and spoils his joy: what does he do? He prays more than ever he did. When his mountain stood firm, and he said, "I shall not be moved," he perhaps grew too slack in prayer; but now, when all God's waves and billows are going over him, and he hardly knows whether he is a child of God or not, and questions whether he has any part or lot in the matter, he proves that all is right within, by crying unto God in the bitterness of his soul, "O God, have mercy upon me, and deliver me from going down into the pit." A Christian's despair makes him pray; it is a despair of self. A worldling's despair makes him rave against God, and give up prayer. Mark then, how in the opposite seasons of joy and sorrow prayer is put into the crucible and tested. All our times of pleasure ought to be times of prayer; Job accounted his family festivities opportune for calling his children together for special devotion. No less should our periods of despondency become incentives to prayer; every funeral knell should ring us to our knees. The hypocrite cannot keep the statutes and ordinances, but the true Christian follows them out; for he is alike at home in seeking the Lord, calling upon his name, and asking counsel and guidance at his mercy-seat, in any variety of experience, and every diversity of circumstance. "Will he always call upon God?" Here is the question of CONSTANCY. Will he pray constantly? It seems to most men a very difficult thing to be praying always, to continue in prayer, to pray without ceasing. Yes; and herein again is there a great distinction between the living child of God and the mere pretender. The living child of God soon finds that it is not so much his duty to pray, as his privilege, his joy, a necessity of his being. What moment is there when a Christian is safe without prayer? Where is there a place wherein he would find himself secure if he ceased to pray? Just think of it. Every moment of my life I am dependent upon the will of God as to whether I shall draw another breath or not. Nothing stands between me and death but the will of God. An angel's arm could not save me from the grave, if now the Lord willed me to depart. Solemn, then, is the Christian's position: ever standing by an open tomb. Should not dying men pray? We are always dying. As life is but a long dying, should it not be also a long praying? Should we not be incessantly acknowledging to God in prayer and praise the continuance of our being, which is due to his grace? Brethren, every moment that we live we are receiving favors and benefits from God. There is never a minute in which we are not recipients of his bounty. We are wont to thank God for his mercies as if we thought they came at certain set times; so in truth they do: they are new every morning; great is his faithfulness; and they soothe us night by night, for his compassion faileth not, but there are mercies streaming on in one incessant flow. We never cease to need; he never ceases to supply. We want constant protection, and he that keepeth Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps. Lest any hurt us, he keeps us night and day. The river of God rolls on with undiminished volume and unimpeded velocity. How greatly doth he enrich us thereby! Should we not be ever careful to secure his gifts, to reap the harvest be provides, and as his people to take these good things from his gracious hands? But, oh! let us take heed to mingle prayer with all our thanksgiving, lest he should curse the boon over which we have asked no blessing; blight the crops, of which we have dedicated to him no firstfruits; or smite us with the rod of his anger, while the food is yet in our mouth. Our cravings know no abatement, our dependence on God knows no limit; therefore our prayers should know no intermission. Speak of beggars, we are always beggars. Is it not better for us, then, to be regular pensioners than mere casuals? Whatever God has given us we are as needy still; we are always, if taken apart from him, naked, and poor, and miserable, altogether dependent upon him, as well for the soul as for the body; for good thoughts, for spiritual aspirations, for holy graces, ay, and for the breath of our nostrils and the bread of our mouths; always needing temporals, always needing spirituals. If we are always needing, we should be always pleading. Besides that, dear friends, we are always in danger; we are in an enemy's country, behind every bush there is a foe; we cannot reckon ourselves to be secure in any place. The world, the flesh, and the devil constantly assail us. Arrows are shot from beneath us, and from around us, while the poison of our own corruption rankles within us. At any moment temptation may get the mastery over us, or we ourselves may go astray and be our own tempters. Storms may drive us, whirlpools suck us down, quicksands engulf us, and if none of these accomplish our shipwreck we may founder of ourselves, or perish of spiritual dry-rot. We need, then, each hour to watch, and each separate moment to pray, "Hold thou me up, and I shall be safe." Are ye wealthy? Pray God that your silver and your gold bring no spiritual plague with them! Do not let your money stick to your hand or your heart, for in proportion as it glues itself to you it poisons you. Pray God to sanctify your abundance, so that you may know how to abound; a difficult piece of knowledge to attain. Are ye poor? Then ask to be kept from envy, from discontent, and all the evils that haunt the narrow lanes of poverty. Pray that as you are each in danger one way or another, you may all be kept hour by hour by the constant grace of God. If we knew what poor, weak, helpless creatures we are, we should not want to be told always to pray; we should wonder how we could think of living without prayer. How can I, whose legs are so feeble, try to wall: without leaning on my Father's hand? How can I, who am so sickly, wish to be a day without the Good Physician's care? The hypocrite does not see this; he does not discern these perpetual needs and perpetual gifts, these perpetual dangers and perpetual preservations not be. He thinks he has prayed enough when he has had his few minutes in the morning and his few minutes at night. He trots through his form of morning devotion just as he takes his morning wash, and has he not settled the business for the day? If at evening he says his prayers with the same regularity with which he puts on his slippers, is it not all he needs? He almost thinks that little turn at his devotions to be a weariness. As to his heart going up in prayer to God, he does not understand it; if he be spoken to concerning it, it sounds like an idle tale, or mere cant. Dear brethren, "we ought always to pray, and not to faint," because we are always sinning. If I were not evermore sinning, if I could pause in that constant aberration of mind from the pure, the unselfish, the holy, perhaps I might suspend confession, and relax supplication awhile; but if unholiness stains even my holy things if in my best endeavors there is something of error, something of sin ought I not to be continually crying to God for pardon, and involving his grace? And are we not constantly liable to new temptations? May we not fall into grosser sins than we have hitherto committed, unless we are preserved by a power beyond our own? O pray perpetually, for you know not what temptations may assail you. Pray that ye enter not into temptation. If perchance in some favored moment we could imagine ourselves to have exhausted all the list of our needs, were we enjoying complete pardon and full assurance, did we stand upon the mountain's brow, bathing our foreheads in the sunlight of God's favor, if we had no fear, no care, no trouble of our own to harass us, yet we might not therefore cease to pray. The interests of others, our kindred, our neighbors, our fellow creatures might ah! must then start up before us, and claim that we should bear upon our breasts their memorial. Think of the sinners around you hardening in transgression, some of them dying, seared with guilt or frenzied with despair. O brethren, how could you cease to intercede for others, were it possible, which it is not, that you should have no further need to supplicate for yourselves? The grand old cause which we have espoused, and the Christ who hath espoused our cause both these demand our prayers. By the truth whose banner waves above us, by the king who has ennobled us, love to whose person fires us this day with ardor for his cross, and zeal for his gospel, we are constrained to unwavering devotion. So spake the gospel of old, and so doth the Spirit of God prompt us now. "Prayer also shall be made for him continually; and daily shall he be praised." O that in our case the prediction might be verified, the promise fulfilled! Not so the hypocrite: he will not have it on this fashion. Enough for him to have prayers on the Sunday; enough to get through family prayers at any rate, and if that does not please you, the morning prayer and the evening prayer shall be said by rote at the bedside; will not these suffice? Praying all day long, why he considers that it would be almost as bad as heaven, where they are singing without ceasing. So he turns on his heel, and saith he will have none of it. Nor shall he; for where God is he shall not come, but the Lord will tell him, "I never knew you: depart from me, thou worker of iniquity." "Will he always call upon God?" The question may be an enquiry as to IMPORTUNITY. Will the hypocrite pray importunately? He will do no such thing. I have heard farmers talk about the why to know a good horse. It will serve me to illustrate the way to tell a good Christian. Some horses when they get into the traces pull, and when they feel the load move they work with all their might, but it they tug and the load does not stir, they are not for drawing any longer. There is a breed of really good horses in Suffolk which will tug at a dead weight, and if they were harnessed to a post, they would pull till they dropped though nothing stirred. It is so with a lively Christian. If he is seeking a great favor from God, he prays, whether he gets it or not, right on: he cannot take a denial; if he knows his petition to be according to God's will and promise, he pleads the blood of Jesus about it; and if he does not get an answer at once, he says, "My soul, wait" wait! a grand word "wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from him." As for the hypocrite, if he gets into a church and there is a prayer-meeting and he feels, "Well, there is a fire kindling and an excitement getting up" ah! how that man can pray, the waggon is moving behind him, and he is very willing to pull. But the sincere believer says, "I do not perceive any revival yet. I do not hear of many conversions. Never mind, we have prayed that, God will glorify his dear Son: we will keep on praying. If the blessing does not come in one week, we will try three; if it does not come in three weeks, we will try three months; if it does not come in three months, we shall still keep on for three years; and if it does not come in three years, we will plead on for thirty years: and if it does not; come then, we will say, 'Let thy work appear unto thy servants, and thy glory unto their children.' We will plead on until we die, and mingle with those who beheld the promise afar off, were persuaded of it, prayed for it, and died believing it would be fulfilled." Such prayer would not be wasted breath. It is treasure put out to interest; seed sown for a future harvest; rather it is the aspiration of saints kindled by the inspiration of God. The genuine believer knows how to tug. Jacob, when he came to Jabbok, found that the angel was not easily to be conquered. He laid hold of him, but the angel did not yield the blessing; something more must be done. Had Jacob been a hypocrite he would have let the angel loose at once, but being one of the Lord's own, he said, "I will not let thee go, except thou bless me." When the angel touched him in the hollow of his thigh and made the sinew shrink, had he been a hypocrite he would have thought, "I have had enough of this already; I may be made to shrink all over; I cannot tell what may happen next. I will have no more of this midnight encounter with an unknown visitor. I will get me back to my tent." But no; he meant to prevail, and though he felt the pain, Yet he said
"With thee all night I mean to stay, And wrestle till the break of day."
He did so, and became a prince from that night. Will you take a denial from God, you shall have it; but if you will not be denied, neither shall you. O importunate Christian, you are he whom God loves! Alas for those who only give, as it were, runaway knocks at the door of heaven, like boys in the street that knock and run away they shall never find the blessing. Oh, to continue in prayer! it is the very test of sincerity. Hence of the hypocrite it is said, "Will be always call upon God?" A hypocrite leaves off praying in either case; he leaves off if he does not get what he asks for, as I have shown you; and he leaves off if he does get what he asks for. Has he asked to be recovered from sickness when ill? If he gets well, what cares he for praying again? Did he pray that he might not die? Oh, what a long face he drew, and what drawling professions of repentance he groaned out! But when his health is regained, and his nerves braced, his spirits are cheered, and his manly vigor has come back to him; where are his prayers? where are the vows his soul in anguish made? He has forgotten them all. That he is a hypocrite is palpable, for he leaves oft praying if he does not get heard, and if he does. There is no keeping this man up to God's statute or his own promise; he has not the heart for true devotion, and soon fails in the attempt to exercise it. "Will He always call upon God?" Here is the trial of PERSEVERANCE. Will he always continue to pray in the future? Will he pray, in years to come, as he now professes to do? I call to see him, and he is very sick; the doctor gives a very poor account of him; his wife is weeping; all over the house there is great anxiety. I sit down by his bedside; I talk to him, and he says, "Oh, yes, yes, yes;" he agrees with all I say, and he tells me he believes in Jesus. And when he can sit up, he cries, "God be merciful to me." His dear friends are godly people; they feel so pleased; they look torward to his recovery, and reckon upon seeing him a new creature, a disciple of Christ. Besides, he has told them, when he gets up, how earnest he will be in a life of faith and obedience to the Lord. He will not be a mere professor, he means to throw his whole soul into the Master's service. Now mark him. He recovers; and when he breaks forth from that sick chamber, and can dispense with the ministry of those gentle patient women who nursed him and prayed for him, what does the hypocrite do? Oh, he says he was a fool to think and speak as he did. He admits he was frightened, but he disclaims every pious expression as an infirmity of his distracted brain, the delirium of his malady, not the utterance of his reason; and he recants all his confessions like the atheist in Addison's "Spectator." Addison tells us that certain sailors heard that an atheist was on board their vessel: they did not know what an atheist was, but they thought it must be some odd fish; and when told it was a man who did not believe in God, they said, "Captain, it would be an uncommonly good thing to pitch him overboard." Presently a storm comes on, and the atheist is dreadfully sick and very fearful; there, on the deck, he is seen crying to God for mercy, and whining like a child that he is afraid he will be lost and sink to hell. This is the usual courage of atheism! But when the coward reached the shore, he begged the gentlemen who heard him pray to think nothing of it, for indeed he did not know what he was saying, he had no doubt uttered a great deal of nonsense. There are plenty of that sort who pray in danger, but brag when they get clear of the tempest. Hereby the hypocrite is discovered. Once take away from him the trouble and you do away with the motive for which he put on the cloak of religion. He is like a boy's top, which will spin as long as you whip it. The man will pray while he smarts, but not one whit longer. The hypocrite will pray to-day in society congenial for prayer, but he will discard prayer to-morrow when he gets laughed at for it in his business. Some old friend of his drops in, who has heard that he has been converted, and he begins to ridicule him. He asks him whether he has really turned a Methodist? The next thing he expects to hear is, that he is dipped. He makes some coarse remarks rather to the chagrin of our courageous friend, till he, who set out so boldly to heaven with his prayers, feels quite small in the presence of the sceptic. It he were right in heart, he would not only have a proper answer to give to the mocker, but in all probability he would carry the war into the enemy's country, and make his antagonist feel the folly of his sins and the insanity of his conduct in living without a God and without a Savior. The meet object of ridicule and contempt is the godless, the Christless man. The Christian need never be ashamed or lower his colors. The hypocrite may well blush and hide his head, for if there is any creature that is contemptible, it is a man who has not his heart where he professes it to be. Neither will such a one always call upon God if he gets into company where he is much flattered; he feels then that he has degraded himself somewhat by associating with such low, mean people as those who make up the church of God. And if he prospers in business, then he considers that the people he once worshipped with are rather inferior to himself: he must go to the world's church: he must find a fashionable place where he can hear a gospel that is not for the poor and needy, but for those who have the key of aristocratic drawing-rooms and the select assemblies. His principles well, he is not very particular he swallows them; probably his nonconformity was a mistake. The verities which his fathers suffered martyrdom to defend, for which they were mulcted of their possessions, driven as exiles from their country, or cast into prison, he flings away as though they were of no value whatever. Many have fallen from us through the temptations of prosperity who stood firmly enough under persecution and adversity. It is another form of the same test, "Will he always call upon God?" Besides, if none of these things should occur the man who is not savingly converted and a genuine Christian, generally gives up his religion after a time because the novelty of it dies off. He is like the stony ground that received the seed, and because there was no depth of earth the sun could play upon it with great force, and up it sprang in great haste, but because there was no depth of earth, therefore it soon was scorched. So this man is easily impressible, feels quickly, and acts promptly under the influence of a highly emotional nature. Says he, "Yes, I will go to heaven," as he inwardly responds to the appeal of some earnest minister. He thinks he is converted, but we had better not be quite so sure as he is. "Wait a bit, wait a bit." He cools as fast as he was heated. Like thorns under a pot that crackle and blaze and die out, leaving but a handful of ashes, so is it with all his godliness. Ere long he gets tired of religion, he cannot away with it what a weariness it is. If he perseveres awhile, it is no more pleasure to him than a pack is to a pack horse. He keeps on as a matter of formality: he has got into it and he does not see how to break away, but he likes it no better than an owl loves daylight. He holds on to his forms of prayer with no heart for prayer and what a wretched thing that is! I have known people who felt bound to keep up their respectability when they had little or no income. Their debts were always increasing, their respectability was always tottering, and the strain upon their dignity was exhausting their utmost resources. Such persons I have considered to be the poorest of the poor. An unhappy life they lead, they never feel at ease. But what an awful thing it is to have to keep up a spiritual respectability with no spiritual income; to overflow with gracious talk when there is no well of living water springing up within the soul; to be under the obligation to pay court to the sanctuary while the heart is wandering on the mountain; to be bound to speak gracious words and yet possess no gracious thoughts to prompt their utterance. O man, thou art one of the devil's double martyrs, because thou hast to suffer for him here in the distaste and nausea of thy hypocritical profession, and then thou will be made to suffer hereafter also for having dared to insult God, and ruin thy soul by being insincere in thy profession of faith in Jesus Christ! I may be coming very close home to some persons before me: I am certainly pressing my own conscience very severely. I suppose there is no one amongst us who does not feel that this is a very searching matter. Well, dear friends, if our hearts condemn us not, then have we peace towards God; but if our hearts condemn us, God is greater than our hearts and knoweth all things. Let us confess to him all past failures, and though we may not be conscious of hypocrisy (and I trust we are not so), yet, let us say, "Lord, search and try me, and know my ways; see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." I was speaking with a gentleman last night, and I said to him, "You are a director of such a Life Assurance Company, are you not?" "Yes," he said. "Well," I said, "yours is a poor society, is it not?" "It is a very good one," he replied; "a very good one." "But it is very low down in the list." "What list is that?" "Why, the list that has been sent round by certain persons to let the public see the condition of the life assurance companies." "Well," said he, "where is it to be seen?" "Oh, never mind where it is to be seen: is it true?" "No, it is not true; our society stands well admirably well." "How so?" "Well, you know such a man, he is an excellent actuary and a man of honor." "Yes." "Well, when we employed him to go over our accounts, we said just this to him: 'Take the figures, examine them thoroughly, sift our accounts, and tell us where the figures land you; tell us just that, neither less nor more, do not shirk the truth in the slightest degree. If we are in a bankrupt state, tell us; if we are flourishing, tell us so.'" My friend has convinced me that his office is not what I feared it was. I have much confidence in any man's business when he wishes to know and to publish the unvarnished truth. I have great confidence in the sincerity of any Christian man who says habitually and truthfully, "Lord, let me know the very worst of my case, whatever it is. Even if all my fair prospects and bright ideals should be but dreams the fabric of a vision; if yonder prospect before me of green fields and flowing hills should be but an awful mirage, and on the morrow should change into the hot burning desert of an awful reality; so be it, only let me know the truth; lead me in a plain path; let me be sincere before thee, O thou heart-searching, rein-trying God!" Let us, with such frank candour, such ingenuous simplicity, come before the Lord. Let as many of us as fear the Lord and distrust ourselves, take refuge in his omniscience against the jealousies and suspicions which haunt our own breasts. And let us do better still, let us hasten anew to the cross of Jesus, and thus end our difficulties by accepting afresh the sinners' Savior. When I have a knot to untie as to my evidence of being a child of God, and I cannot untie it, I usually follow Alexander's example with the Gordian knot, and cut it. How cut it? Why, in this way. Thou sayest, O conscience, this is wrong, and thus is wrong. Thou sayest, O Satan, thy faith is a delusion, thy experience a fiction, thy profession a lie. Be it so then, I will not dispute it, I end that matter; if I am no saint, I am a sinner; there can be no doubt about that! The devil himself is defied to question that. Then it is written that "Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners," and to sinners is the gospel preached, "He that believeth on him is not condemned." I do believe on him; if I never did before I will now, and all my transgressions are therefore blotted out. And now, Lord, grant me grace to begin again, and from this time forth let me live the life of faith, the life of prayer; let me be one of those who will pray always, let me be one of those who will pray when they are dying, having prayed all their lives. Prayer is our very life: ceasing prayer we cease to live. As long as we are here preserved in spiritual life we must pray. Lord, grant it may be so with each one here present, through the power of thy Spirit, and the merit of Jesus' blood. Amen, and Amen.
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Spurgeon, Charle Haddon. "Commentary on Job 27". "Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent