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The Hand of God in the History of a Man
OCTOBER 10 th 1875
by C. H. SPURGEON
“Is there not an appointed time to man upon earth? Are not his days also like the days of an hirelings” Job 7:1
I was settling myself down yesterday to meditate upon the Word of God, and to prepare my mind to preach the gospel to you to-day, when, on a sudden, I had my subject marked out for me by a mournful messenger, for the angel of death pointed to it with his finger. There came into my chamber an honored elder of this church, who in broken accents told me “our beloved brother, Henry Olney, is dead.” He is my near neighbor, and I was in his house so lately that I could not realize the news. It seems that when he left the City at noon he felt a severe rheumatic pain in his shoulder, and on reaching home he sent for a doctor, who prescribed a slight remedy and advised him to lie down. He did so, and with a gasp or two he expired. A man in the prime of life, and apparently in full vigor of health, he went to his business for the last time that morning, and returned to die. The blow has fallen so suddenly that I am stunned and staggered by it, nor do I think that either of his three brothers, whose familiar faces we miss this morning, have yet recovered from the amazement caused by the stroke. Many around me were with him so short a time since that it is hard to believe one’s own eyes and feel sure that there he lies a cold corpse, motionless upon the bed. But, oh, my brethren, how true it is that in the midst of life we are in death; and those often die first who least expected to go. If I had said to you this morning that our brother William Olney was gone? you would have said, “We are grieved at our loss, but we do not wonder, for he has been long sick;” but here the strong and stalwart brother, who ailed nothing has been taken away, while, thank God, the languishing invalid is still spared to us. Thus do they remain who expected to depart, and they depart who expected to remain. Who among us can reckon upon a single hour? We talk of being living men: let us correct ourselves, and feel from this moment that we are dying men, whose every breath bring, them nearer to the grave. We are and are not; we walk in a vain shove, and are disquieted in vain. We are unsubstantial as the shadowers of the flying clouds which on a summer’s day flit over the face of the field and are gone.
When I look at that seat where our departed friend sat for years, the Lord seems to have come very near to us. I could almost put off my shoes from my feet in awful consciousness of his terrible presence. We can no longer think of the Lord as far away in heaven, he has been among us, he who toucheth the hills and they smoke has set his eyes upon our brother, and lo! he is not. Let me put it in a gentler manner: our Lord came into his garden to gather lilies, and his hand has been filled to our sorrow. When our heavenly Father comes so near to us, and in so solemn a manner, let us ask him wherefore he contendeth with us. Let us in solemn reverence approach him that we may hear his answer, and may be obedient to his word. The flower of the field stands amid the grass unconscious that the mower’s scythe is busy, and though swath after swath has fallen beneath the pitiless stroke, the floweret smiles gaily, it cares not for its associate in the same field, and recks not of its own speedy fall. Its leaves are wet with dew, and its colors are bright in the sun, it mourns not for its fellows, but rejoices in unconsciousness of all that happens around it. In this respect ye are not as the grass of the field, but are endowed with understanding, so that ye are able to be instructed, or at least warned, by the fall of those around you. The sheep in their folds remark not that their fellows are taken away to the slaughter. The cattle graze in the meadows in happy ignorance that death is abroad. Ye, however, are not “dumb, driven cattle.” To you it is given to know your own mortality, and you cannot suffer your comrades to be taken away one after another so rapidly, without feeling emotion, and gathering wisdom. Ye will hear the rod, and him that hath appointed it, and this morning ye will ask grace that the dead may be your schoolmasters and yourselves the scholars who cry “So teach us to number our days that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.”
As best I shall be able this morning, I shall try and teach you, by the help of God’s Spirit, one lesson. It is this divine appointment rules human life; and when we have learned that lesson, we shall, in the second place, draw inferences from this truth.
I. First, then, let us consider a truth which, I trust, none of us have ever denied, but have heartily accepted ever since we have been believers . There Is A Divine Appointment Ruling All Human Life. Not that I single out man’s existence as the sole object of divine forethought, far rather do I believe it to be but one little corner of illimitable providence. A divine appointment arranges every event, minute or magnificent. As we look out on the world from our quiet room it appears to be a mass of confusion. He who studies history and forgets God might think that he was looking out on chaos and aid night, for events seem flung together in terrible disarray, and the whole scene is as darkness itself, without any order. Events happen which we deeply deplore incidents which appear to bring evil, and only evil, and we wonder why they are permitted. The picture before us, to the glance of reason, looks like a medley of color, with dark shades where lights seemed needful, and glowing color where we might have looked for masses of black. Human affairs are a maze of which we cannot discover the clue. The world appears to be a tangled skein, and we weary ourselves with vain endeavors to disentangle it.
But, brethren, the affairs of this world are neither tangled, nor confused, nor perplexing to Him who seeth the end from the beginning. To him all things are in due course and order, and before him all forces keep rank and file. God is in all, and rules all. In the least as well as in the greatest, Jehovah’s power is manifested. He guides the grain of dust in the March wind, and the comet in its immeasurable pathway; he steers each drop of spray which is beaten back from the face of the rock, and he leads forth Arcturus with his sons. God is the dictator of destinies and appoints both means and ends. He is the King of kings, ruling rulers and guiding counselors. Alike in the crash of battle and in the hush of peace, in the desolation of pestilence and famine, and in the joy of abounding harvests he is Lord. He doeth according to his will, not only in the army of heaven, but amongst the inhabitants of this loner world. Yon fiery steeds, which dash so terribly along the highway of time, are not careering madly: there is a charioteer whose almighty hands have held the reins for ages, and will never let them go. Things are not in the hurry-burly which we imagine, but driven onward by a power which is irresistible, they are under law to God, and speed onward without deviation towards the goal which he designs. All is well, brethren! It is night, but the watchman never sleepeth, and Israel may rest in peace. The tempest rages, but it is well, for our Captain is governor of storms. He who trod the waves of the Galilean lake is at the helm, and at his bidding winds and waves are quiet.
Our main point is that God rules mortal life; and he does so, first, as to its term “Is there not an appointed time to man upon earth?” He rules it, secondly, as to its warfare, for so the text might most properly be read “Is there not an appointed warfare for man upon earth?” And, thirdly, he rules it as to its service, for the second clause of the text is, “Are not his days as the days of an hireling?”
First, then, God’s determination governs the time of human life. We shall all acknowledge this as to its commencement. Not without infinite wisdom did any infant’s life commence there and then, for no man is the offspring of chance. Not without a world of kindness did your life commence, dear friend, just where and when it did. Our child’s little hymn, in which he thanks God that he was not “born a little slave to labor in the sun,” contains a good deal of truth in it. A man’s whole life is mainly guided by its commencement; had we been born as thousands are where God was never known we might have been idolaters at this hour. Who would wish to have first seen the light at the era when our naked forefathers sacrificed to idols? Who would wish to have stepped upon the stage of life amid the dense darkness of popery, when our childish hands would have been lifted up by superstitious parents in adoration of the Virgin Mary, and we should have been taught to worship some cast clout or rotten rug, superstitiously believed to be a relic of a saint? ’Tis no small thing to have been born in the nineteenth century, when works of grace are to be seen on every side. Many of us should bless the Lord every day because in infancy we lay upon a Christian woman’s bosom, and were lulled to sleep with the sound of holy hymns, of which the name of Jesus was the theme. Our tiny feet were taught to run in the ways of righteousness, as far as parental instruction could effect the same, and this was no insignificant advantage. Blessed are the eyes which see the things which we see, and hear the things which we hear! All this is by the appointment of the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Our presence on earth in this day of grace was a matter altogether beyond our control, and yet it involves infinite issues; therefore let us with deepest gratitude bless the Lord, who has cast our lot in such an auspicious season.
The continuance of life is equally determined of God. He who fixed our birth has measured the interval between the cradle and the grave, and it shall not be a day longer or a day shorter than the divine decree. How many times your lungs shall heave and your pulses beat have been fixed by the eternal calculator from of old. What reflections ought to arise out of this! How willing we should be to labor on, even if we be weary, since God appoints our day and will not over-weary us, for he is no hard taskmaster. How glad we ought to be even to suffer if the Lord so ordains. It is sweet music that God draws forth from patient sufferers, and though the strings have to be painfully tightened ever and anon with many a grief and pang to us, yet if those dear hands of the chief musician can fetch out richer melody from those tightened strings, who among us would wish to have it otherwise, or ask to have the harp withdrawn from that beloved harper’s hand before the wondrous strain is o’er? No, let us wait, for he appoints. If our griefs were the offspring of chance, we might pine to have them ended, but if the loving Lord appoints, we would not hurry him in his processes of love. Let the Lord do what seemeth him good. Here is good cheer for those who have lain so long upon the bed of pain, and who are apt to ask “Will it never end? O Lord, will the chariots of salvation never come? Have the angels quite forgotten thy servant in his sickness? Must he for ever remain a prisoner under his infirmity, loneliness, and decay? Hast thou placed me as a sentinel to stand upon my watchtower through a night which will never end, and shall I never be relieved from my weary guard? Shall I never know rest? Must I for ever peer into the dark with these eyes so red with weeping? “Courage, brother! Courage, sister, the Lord, the ever merciful, has appointed every moment of thy sorrow and every pang of thy suffering. If he ordains the number ten, it can never rise to eleven, neither shouldst thou desire it to shrink to nine. The Lord’s time is best: to a hair’s breadth thy span of life is rightly measured; God ordains all: therefore peace, restless spirit, and let the Lord have his way.
So, too, has he fixed life’s termination. “Is there not an appointed time for man upon earth?” a time in which the pulse must cease, the blood stagnate, and the eye be closed. Yes, my brethren, it is of no use for us to indulge any idle dream of living forever here; a time of departure must come to every one of us, unless the Lord himself should appear on a sudden, and then we shall not die, but be changed. There is no man among us that liveth and shall not see death. In this war there is no discharge. Not only do the Scriptures teach us so, but our common sense and reason put the matter beyond all question.
What mean the grey hairs which fall like snow flakes upon our heads? What mean that stooping gait and failing strength? What mean the dimness of the eye and the tottering of the limbs? Do they not all show that the house is about to come down, for the lath and plaster of it are beginning to give way? Yet our earthly house will not fail us till the time ordained of heaven. There is an appointed time for deaths and God has fixed how we shall die, when we shall die, and where we shall die.
“Plagues and deaths around me fly,
Till he please I cannot die
Not a single shaft can hit
Till the God of love sees fit.”
Diseases eager to slay are in ambush all around us, but none of their swords can come at us till Jehovah gives them leave. Behold the Lord shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust, nor shall nightly pestilence nor midday destruction make thee afraid.
“What though a thousand at thy side
At thy right hand ten thousand died,
Our God his chosen people saves
Amongst the dead, amidst the graves.”
We are immortal till our work is done, but that work will not last for ever, and when it is concluded we shall have fulfilled our day, and shall receive our summons home.
All this is true; none will venture to dispute it, but let us remember that it is true for ourselves at this moment; for you, my brethren and sisters, it is true while here you sit. Realize it, and do not look on others as dying men while you yourselves are secure of long life. Be you also prepared to meet your God suddenly, for so you may be called to do. This fact is most solemn. We shall not live, but die, and that death may come in an instant. As I saluted my brethren this morning in the vestry I could not help expressing my pleasure and surprise that any of us were alive, for certainly it was quite as much a wonder that certain of us were alive, as that our friend should be dead. We might as readily have been taken away as he, and even more readily. God had ordained his death, he might have ordained ours. “Be ye also ready; for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh.”
Yet this fact, to my mind, is most strengthening. The doctrine of predestination, when really believed, is like steel medicine, infuses a deal of iron into the mental system and builds up strong men. I am not such a predestinarian as Mahomet, who bade his soldiers rush to the fight, “for,” said he, “when your time comes to die you will die at home as well as in the battle, and Paradise is to be found beneath the shadow of swords.” But still I see that while the doctrine makes some men slumber, it is to nobler souls a mighty source of energy, and a fountain of courage. If duty calls you into danger if you have to nurse the sick who are laid low with foul disease never shrink, but run all risks if love to God or man demand them of you. You will not die by a stray arrow from death’s quiver; the Lord alone can recall your breath. Your death is not left to chance; it is determined by a heavenly Father’s gracious will; therefore be not afraid. Be not so fearful of pain, or so anxious to preserve life, as to be held back where Jesus calls you on, for in such a case he that saveth his life shall lose it. You may not be reckless, and rush on danger without reason, that were madness; but you will, I trust, be brave and never fear to face death when the voice of God calls you into peril.
Moreover, how consoling is this truth; for, if the Father of our Lord Jesus arranges all, then our friends do not die untimely deaths. The beloved of the Lord are not cut off before their time; they go into Jesus’ bosom when they are ready to be received there. God has appointed the times for the ingathering of his fruits; some of them are sweet even in early spring, and he gathers them; others are as a basket of summer fruit, and he takes these also while the year is young, while yet another company need to remain among us till autumn mellows them: each class shall be gathered in its season. Now of all this we are by no means competent judges. We know nothing, for we are infants of a day; God knoweth best. It were better that our friend should die, as die he did, than that he should live, else had he lived. Be sure of that. Yes, God has appointed the commencement, the continuance, and the conclusion of this mortal life.
But we must now consider the other translation of our text. It is generally given in the margin of the Bibles. “Is there not an appointed warfare to man upon earth?” which teaches us that God has appointed life to be a warfare. To all men it will be so, whether bad or good. Every man will find himself a soldier under some captain or another. Alas for those men who are battling against God and his truth, they will in the end be clothed with dishonor and defeat. I shall, however, speak mainly of the righteous, and truly their experience shows that life is one long struggle, from which we never cease till we hear the word, “Thy warfare is accomplished.” Brethren, life is a warfare, and therefore we are all men under authority. No Christian is free to follow his own devices; we are all under law to Christ. A soldier surrenders his own will to that of his commander: his captain saith to him, “Go,” and he goeth, or “Do this,” and he doeth it. Such is the Christian’s life a life of willing subjection to the will of the Lord Jesus Christ. In consequence of this we have our place fixed and our order arranged for us, and our life’s relative positions are all prescribed. A soldier has to keep rank and step with the rest of the line. He has a relation to the man on his right, and to his comrade on his left, and he bears a relation which he must not violate to each officer, and especially to his commander-in-chief. God has appointed to you, then, dear brother, to be a father or to be a son, to be a master or to be a servant, to be a teacher or to be taught; see that you keep your place. As a bird that wandereth from her nest, so is a man that wandereth from his place. In our appointed warfare happy is the man who from first to last keeps in order with the forces of the Lord of hosts, and cheerfully fulfils the divine purposes.
As we have a warfare to accomplish, we must expect hardships. A soldier must not reckon upon ease. During a campaign he has neither house nor home. Perhaps last night he pitched his tent in a happy valley? but he must up and away, and his tent must to-morrow be exposed on the bleak mountain side. He has renounced the luxuries of life and the joys of repose. Forced marches, light slumbers, scant fare, and hard blows are his portion he would be foolish to look for ease and enjoyment during a campaign. O ye sons of men, the Lord has appointed life to be a warfare; wherefore, then, do you wrap yourselves about with silken garments, and sew pillows for all arm-holes, and say to yourselves, “Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; eat, drink, and be merry”? Ye must not do so, and if the Lord by trial prevents your doing so ye must not quarrel with him, but must feel that such treatment must be expected in this war.
If life be a warfare, we must look for contests and struggles. The Christian man must not expect to go to heaven without opposition. A soldier who never meets an enemy at all is not renowned. We count his velour light, and reckon him to be as some vain carpet knight “whose best delight is but to wear a braid of his fair lady’s hair.” The man who is scarred and gashed, maimed and wounded, he is the hero to whom men pay homage. You must fight if you would reign. Your predecessors swam through seas of blood to win the crown; and, though the form of battle may be changed, yet the spirit of the enemy is unaltered; you must still contend against sin and bear up under trouble, for only through much tribulation will you inherit the kingdom of God.
It is a warfare, brethren, for all these reasons, and yet more so because we must always be upon the watch against danger. In a battle no man is safe. Where bullets fly, who can reckon upon life a moment? Brethren, the age is peculiarly dangerous. Perhaps every preacher before me has said as much, and every preacher after me will say the same for his times yet still, I say, in this peculiar age there are a thousand perils for the soul, from superstition on the one hand and skepticism on the other; from rude self-reliance and indolent trust in others, from a wicked world and an apostate church. You must not wonder that it is so, for war is raging. The enemy has not laid down his weapons, the war drum is still beaten; therefore do not laydown your arms, but fight manfully for your King and country for Christ and for his church.
Blessed be God that the text says “Is there not an appointed warfare?” Then, brethren, it is not our warfare, but one that God has appointed for us, in which he does not expect us to wear out our armor, or bear our own charges, or find our own rations, or supply our own ammunition. The armor that we wear we have not to construct, and the sword we wield we have not to fabricate. All things are ready for us. Our great Captain manages the commissariat with unquestioned skill and unbounded liberality. Yea, the warfare is so much his warfare that he is with us in it. The Greek soldiers, when they marched against the Persians, traversed many a weary league, but that which comforted them and made every man a hero was that Alexander marched when they marched. If he had been carried luxuriously, like the Persian monarch, while they were toiling over the hills and dales, they might have murmured, if he had been seen to drink of costly wines while they were parched with thirst, they might have complained. But Alexander, like a great commander as he was, marched in the ranks with his soldiers, so that they saw him faint and weary as they were, and wiping the sweat from his brow when they did the same; and when, as was his due, they brought him the first crystal draught they could obtain he put it on one side and said, “Give it to the sick soldiers, I will not drink till every man can take a draught.” O glorious Jesus, surely thou hast done the same and more. Resistance thou hast borne even unto blood, thou hast known toil and agony, even to a sweat of gore, and suffering, and weakness, and self-denial thou too hast drank of; for thou sanest others, thyself thou couldst not save. Courage, brother, then. Our warfare is of the Lord. Let us go forth to it, conquering and to conquer.
Thirdly. The Lord has also determined the service of our life. All men are servants to some master or another, neither can any of us avoid the servitude. The greatest men are only so-much the more the servants of others. The prime minister is only the first and most laborious of servants. The yoke upon the neck of the emperor is heavier than that which galls the shoulders of the serf. Despots are the most in bondage of all men. Happy will it be for us if through divine grace we have chosen Jesus for our Master and have become his servants for life: then indeed we are free, for his yoke is easy and his burden is light, and in learning of him we shall find rest unto our souls. If we are now the servants of the Lord Jesus, this life is a set time of a labor and apprenticeship to be worked out. I am bound by solemn indentures to my Lord and Master till my term of life shall run out, and I am right glad to have it so. Jacob, when he had served seven years was glad to serve seven more for the love of Rachel, and we for love of Jesus would serve seventy times seven if he desired it, but even then the longest term of life would have an end, even as ours also will. Here below our term is fixed, even as the days of an hireling.
Now, a servant who has let himself out for a term of years has not a moment that he can call his own, nor have any of us, if we are God’s people. We have not a moment, no, not a breath, nor a faculty, nor a farthing that we may honestly reserve. We have transferred ourselves to Jesus Christ forever, and we belong wholly to him. A servant does nothing of his own head, he does what his master tells him: this also is our condition. We have an appointed service, and we receive orders from our Lord, which orders are our law. A servant has his occupations prescribed; he may have to work indoors or outdoors, he may have to be near the house or far off in the field. He may be sent on errands, or bidden to stay at home but he does not choose his labor or the place of it, he accepts what is chosen for him by his superior. Are we not glad to have it so? Does not our heart say, “anything, everything for Jesus?” That should be our spirit. The servant, moreover, expects to be sometimes weary and spent, is it not natural? To a servant who applies for your situation, and says, “I do not expect to work hard; I want large ravages and little work,” you would say, “Yes, there are many of your mind, but I shall not employ one of the sort if I know it.” Your Lord and Master thinks the same. You must expect to toil in his service till you are ready to faint, and then his grace will renew your strength.
A servant knows that his time is limited. If it is weekly service, he knows that his engagement may be closed on Saturday; if he is hired by the month, he knows how many days there are in a month, and he expects it to end; if he is engaged the year, he knows the day of the year when his service shall be run out. As for us, we do not know when our term will be complete; but we do know that conclude it will, therefore we would live in view of that conclusion. It is as well that the Lord has not told us when the appointed end will be, or we might have loitered till near the close; but he has left that period unrevealed that we may be always laboring, and waiting for his coining. None the less is it sure that there is an appointed time, and our work will come to an end.
The hireling expects his wages; that is one reason for his industry. We, too, expect ours not of debt truly, but of grace, yet still a gracious reward. God does not employ servants without paying them wages, as many of our merchants now do. His own children they are, and therefore they would be glad enough to serve without a hope of wage; but that is not God’s way; he prefers that they also should have “respect unto the recompense of reward.” While the child’s relationship shall be carried out with blessed liberality, so shall the servant’s relation too, and wages shall be liberally given. Let us look forward, brethren and sisters; let us look forward to the great day when the Master shall call his servants together and give them their wages. The reward, if it were of debt, would be a very scanty one, and, in fact, it would be none at all, for we are unprofitable servants; but, the wages being of grace, there is room for giving every man his penny, room for giving to us exceeding abundantly above what we ask or even think. There I leave the subject of service: it is all appointed for us, let us fulfill it.
II. Secondly, and briefly, The Inferences To Be Drawn From This Fact. First, there is Job’s inference. Job’s inference was that as there was only an appointed time, and he was like a servant employed by the year, he might be allowed to wish for life’s speedy close, and therefore he says “As a servant earnestly desireth the shadow, and as an hireling looketh for the reward of his work.” Job was right in a measure but not altogether so. There is a sense in which every Christian may look forward to the end of life with joy and expectancy, and may pray for it. I wish that some believers were in a state of mind which would fairly admit of their doing so. Many of us can heartily sympathise with the songster who penned the verses beginning
“I would not live always, I ask not to stay
Where storm alter storm rises dark o’er the way;
The few fleeting mornings that dawn on us here
Are enough for life’s sorrows, enough for its cheer.
“Who, who would live always away from his God
Away from yon heaven, that blissful abode,
Where rivers of pleasure flow o’er the bright plains,
And the noontide of glory eternally reigns?”
At the same time, there are needful modifications to this desire to depart, and a great many of them; for, first, it would be a very lazy thing for a servant to be always looking for Saturday night, and to be always sighing and groaning because the days are so long. The man who wants to be off to heaven before his life’s work is done does not seem to me to be quite the man that is likely to go there at all; for he that is fit to go there and serve God, is one who is willing to stop here and do the same. Besides, while our days are like those of a hireling, we serve a better master than other servants do. There are employers of such a kind that servants might be very glad never to see their faces any more, they are so sharp, so acid, so domineering, but our Master is love itself. Blessed be his name, his service is perfect freedom. We are never so happy and never so truly helping ourselves as when we are altogether serving him. For my part, I can say of him that I love my Master, I love his service, I love his house, I love his children, and I love everything about him; and if he were going to discharge me at the end of this life, I would beg him to let me live here for ever, for I could not bear to be dismissed. It is one of my dearest hopes in going to heaven that he will employ me still. Moreover, we are not like other servants, for this reason that we are one with our Master, his brethren, his spouse, his body; and we are under such deep obligation to him that it is unspeakable joy to work for him. If he gave us no wages it would be wage enough to be allowed to wait upon him.
“For why, O blessed Jesu Christ,
Should I not love thee well?
Not for the sake of winning heaven,
Or of escaping hell.”
But because of thy own sweetness, goodness, and dear love to me, ought I not to be thine for ever? Yes, yes; under some aspects you might feel that it was better to depart and be with Christ, but from other points of view you see differently, and check the wish, so that, like Paul, you are in a strait betwixt two, and which to choose you know not. It is a great mercy that the choice does not lie with you, all things are settled for you. Thus you see there are facts which modify Job’s inference, and forbid our excessive longing to close life’s weary day.
I will tell you the devil’s inference. The devil’s inference is that if our time, warfare, and service are appointed, there is no need of care, and we may cast ourselves down from the pinnacle of the temple, or do any other rash thing, for we shall only work out our destiny. So argues the archenemy, though he knows better. How many men have drawn most damnable conclusions from most blessed truths; and these men know, when they are doing it, that their conclusions are absurd. “Oh,” say they, “we need not turn to Christ, for if we are ordained to eternal life we shall be saved.” Yes, sirs, but why will you eat at mealtime today? Why do you eat at all? for if you are to live you will live. Why go to bed tonight? If you are ordained to sleep you will sleep. Why will you take down your shop shutters tomorrow and exhibit your goods, and try to sell them? If you are predestinated to be rich you will be rich. Ah, I see, you will not act the thing out. You are not such fools as you look; you are more knaves than fools, and your excuse is a piece of deceit. If it be not so, why not act upon it in daily life? He has a false heart who dares to suck out of the blessed truth of predestination the detestable inference that he may sit still and do nothing. Why, sirs, nothing in the world more nerves me for work than the belief that God’s purposes have appointed me to this service. Being convinced that the eternal forces of immutable wisdom and unfailing power are at my back, I put forth all my strength as becometh a “worker together with God.” The bravest men that ever lived, like Cromwell and his Ironsides, believed in God’s decrees, but they also kept their powder dry. They relied upon everlasting purposes, but also believed in human responsibility, and so must you and I. Your years are appointed, but do not commit lewdness or drink with the drunken or you will shorten your days. Your warfare is appointed, O man, but do not go and play the fool, or your troubles will be multiplied. Your service is allotted you, O believer, but do not loiter, or you will grieve the Spirit of God and mar your work.
I will now give you the sick man’s inference “Is there not an appointed time to men upon earth? Are not his days also like the days of an hireling?” The sick man, therefore, concludes that his pains will not last forever, and that every suffering is measured out by love divine. Truly disease is a bitter draught, but Jehovah Rophi often prescribes it as a medicine for spiritual disease. When the Lord knows that the appointed affliction has wrought out all his purpose he will either raise up the patient to walk among the sons of men again or else he will take him to his bosom in glory. Wherefore, let him be patient, and in confidence and quietness shall be his strength.
Next comes the mourner’s inference one which we do not always draw quite so readily as we should. It is this: “My child has died, but not too soon. My husband is gone; ah, God, what shall I do? Where shall my widowed heart find sympathy? Still he has been taken away at the right time. The Lord has done as it pleased him, and he has done wisely.” If you have not yet come to mourning over the dead, but have every day to sympathize with a living sufferer who is gradually melting away amidst wearisome pain and constant anguish, ask grace to enable you to feel “It is well.” It is a grand triumph of grace when the heart is neither stoical, unsympathetic, nor rebellious; when you can grieve but not rebel in the grieving, mourn without murmuring, and sorrow without sinning. Pray for some who have this trial. Pray for them that grace may be perfect in their weakness.
Furthermore, let us draw the healthy man’s inference. Do you know what inference I have drawn from the sudden death of my friend? I thought in a moment it struck me “Ah, if I had died last Saturday afternoon instead of Mr. Henry Olney, should I have left all the concerns that I have in hand quite in order?” I have no end of business too much a great deal; and I resolved “I will get all square and trills as if I were going off, for perhaps I am.” Dear brother, I want you to feel the same. You are a healthy man, but be prepared to die. Have your will made and your accounts squared, and fit for your successor to take up. What thou doest do quickly! Have your will made, and it you are wealthy do not forget the Lord’s work. Mr. Whitfield used to say, “I could not sleep at night if I had left my gloves out of their place, for,” said he, “I would leave everything in order.” Trim the ship, brother, for you know not what weather is coming. Clear the decks for action, for no one knows when the last enemy will be in sight. Your best friend is coming, make ready for his entertainment. Be as a bride adorned for her husband, and not as a slattern who would be ashamed to be seen.
Lastly, there is the sinner’s inference. “My time, my warfare, and my service are appointed, but what have I done in them. I have waged a warfare against God, and have served in the pay of the devil, what will the end be?” Sinner, you will run your length, you will fulfill your day to your black master; you will fight his battle and earn your pay, but what will the wages be? The end cometh, and the wage-paying, are you ready to reap what you have sowed? Having taken sides with the devil against yourself and against your God, are you prepared for the result? Look to it, I pray you, and beseech the Lord, through Jesus Christ, to give you grace to escape from your present position and enlist on the side of Christ.
I ask you, sirs, who are sitting in this gallery here, and who have not believed in Jesus, and ye men and women all over this building who are unregenerate, if instead of the decease of the brother who has fallen I had to speak of your death, where must you have been? We are not among those who would have read a hypocritical service over you and thanked God that you were taken if you died in sin. We would not have insulted the Most High by saying that we ourselves hoped to die in that fashion. We dare not so have blasphemed the majesty of heaven. You know we should have laid you into the grave very silently with many a tear more salt than usual, because deep down in our spirit there would have been that dreary thought, “He died impenitent. He died unregenerate. He is lost! he is lost!” Weep not for our brother, smitten in his prime, whose children mourn him! Weep not for him, though his sorrowing wife bends o’er his corpse, and cannot persuade herself that his spirit is gone! Weep not for him, but weep for those who have died and are lost forever, driven from the presence of God! In their eternal warfare there will be no discharge, and in their dreadful slavery there will be no end, for there is no appointed time for man when once he leaves this earth. Time is over, and the angel who puts one foot upon the sea, and another upon the land, swears by the Eternal that time shall be no more, and so the condition of the lost spirit is finally settled, settled for ever. Beware, therefore, and be wise, for Christ’s sake and your own. Amen.
"Am I a Sea, or a Whale?"
May 7th, 1891 by C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892)
"Am I a sea, or a whale, that thou settest a watch over me?" Job 7:12 .
Job was in great pain when he thus bitterly complained. These moans came from him when his skin was broken and had become loathsome and he sat upon a dunghill and scraped himself with a potsherd. We wonder at his patience, but we do not wonder at his impatience. He had fits of complaining, and failed in that very patience for which he was noted. Where God's saints are most glorious, there you will find their spots. The weaknesses of the saints lie near their strength. Elijah is the bravest of the brave, and flees from Jezebel; Moses is the meekest of the meek, and speaks in passion; Job is the most patient of men, and cries, "I will not refrain my mouth; I will speak in the anguish of my spirit; I will complain in the bitterness of my soul." As part of his bitter complaint, he said, "Am I a sea, or a whale, that thou settest a watch over me?" He seemed to be watched and whipped, and then watched again. It seemed to him that God concentrated all his strength upon him in afflicting him. He was beaten black and blue; and whereas other culprits had forty stripes save one, he had fifty stripes save none. He was spared no suffering, and he cries at last, "I am watched, and checked, as if I were a great sea needing always to be held in bounds or a terrible sea-monster wanting always a hook in its jaws. Lord, why dost thou harass me thus? I am such a poor, insignificant thing, that it seems out of thy usual way to be so rough upon one so feeble. The raging ocean, or the mighty leviathan, may need such watching, but why dost thou spend it on me? Am I a sea, or a whale, that thou settest a watch over me?" I shall not moor myself to Job's sense of the words; but I shall spread my sail for a voyage further out to sea. This sort of talk may have been used by many a man who is now within hail of my voice may have been used by sailors now before me. Let me point out the channel along which I shall steer in my discourse. We shall begin by saying that some men seem to be narrowly watched by God. They think that the Lord's eye is as much fixed on them as though they were great as a sea, or huge as a whale. My second point will be, that they do not like this watching. They complain about it, and wish they could get rid of it. Therefore they argue against it with God. Our third head is, that their argument is a bad one. They think they are very hardly done by; but the fact is, that all they complain of is in love. See, my mess-mates, the way I shall try to steer; but if the heavenly wind blows me out of my course, don't be surprised if I tack about, and go nobody knows where. I. I have, first, to say that SOME MEN SEEM TO BE SPECIALLY TRACKED AND WATCHED BY GOD. We hear of persons being "shadowed" by the police, and certain people feel as if they were shadowed by God; they are mysteriously tracked by the great Spirit, and they know and feel it. Wherever they go, an eye is upon them, and they cannot hide from it. They are like prisoners under arrest they can never go out of reach of the law. They cannot get away from God, do what they may. There are men who have been in this condition for years; and they know what I mean. All men are really surrounded by God. He is not far from every one of us. "In him we live, and move, and have our being." "Whither shall we flee from thy presence?" to the heights above, or to the depths beneath? to oceans frozen into ice, or seas whereon the sun shines with burning heat? In vain we rise or dive to escape from God. "Thou God seest me", is as true in the watches of the night as in the blaze of day. God is with us, and we are always beneath his eye. Yet there are certain people to whom this is more clear than it is to others. Some are singularly aware of the presence of God. Certain of us never were without a sense of God. As children, we could not go to sleep till we said, "Our Father which art in heaven." As youths, we trembled if we heard God's holy name blasphemed. As men, engaged in the cares of life, we have seen the Lord's goodness, all along. We delight to see him in every flower that blooms, and to hear his voice in every wind that blows. It has made us happy to see God in his works. "The fool hath said in his heart, No God"; but this folly we never cared for. We knew that God was good, even when we felt we had offended him. He has taught us from our youth, and manifested himself to us. Softly has the whisper fallen on our ear, "God is near thee: God is with thee: God hath an ear to hear thee: God hath a heart to love thee: God hath a hand to help thee." I have known those who, even when they have sinned and gone against their consciences, have never at any time quite lost a sense of the nearness of God, even though its only fruit was fear a fear which hath torment. With others God's watch is seen in a different way. They feel that they are watched by God, because their conscience never ceases to rebuke them. The voice of conscience is not pitched to the same key in all men; neither is it equally loud in all people. Conscience can be made like a muzzled dog, and then it cannot bite the thief of sin. Conscience can grow like a man with a cold, who has lost his voice. But it is not so with all men, even after years of sin. Some have a naturally tender conscience, and while living in sin they are never easy. They make merry all the day, for "they count it one of the wisest things to drive dull care away"; but dull care, like the chickens, comes home to roost at night. The sailor in company is jolly; but if he has to keep a lone watch beneath the silent stars his heart begins to beat, and his conscience begins to call him to account for the follies of the day. He starts in his sleep; he dreams over his past sin and the judgment to come; for conscience will wake even when the rest of the man sleeps. "You were wrong", says conscience; and his voice is very solemn. Even great sin in certain men has not prevented conscience speaking out honestly to them. Again and again the inward monitor cries, "You were wrong, and you will suffer for it." We read that "David's heart smote him": the heart deals us an ugly knock. When the blow is within us it tells. I am addressing some who, though they do not feel pleased about it, yet must know that there is a something within that will not let them sin cheaply. God has a bit in their mouths, and a bridle upon their jaws; and every now and then he gives a tug at it, and pulls them right up. They are not at home in sin. They have not yet got their sea-legs upon the ocean of vice. They sing the songs of the devil with a quake and a shake, which shows that the music does not suit them. Thus God has set a watch upon them: they carry a detective in their bosoms. In some this watching has gone farther, for they are under solemn conviction of sin. They are convinced of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment to come. God's custom-house officer has boarded them, and their smuggling is found out. I remember when I was in that state myself a criminal who dared not deny his guilt, but dreaded punishment. I would not go back to that condition for a hundred worlds. Then there was no rest for me. I was only a youth; but boyish sports lost their relish for me, because I knew that I was a sinner, and that God must punish sin. I awoke in the morning, and my first act for many a day was to read a chapter of the Bible, or a page of some arousing book, which kept my conscience still awake. The Holy Spirit put me in irons, and there I lay both day and night. My bed was at times a very weary place to me, because the eyes of God's anger seemed to be ever watching me. I knew I had offended God, and I had not yet found out the way of reconciliation by the blood of Jesus Christ. Now, it may be that I speak to some here, who have been to the ends of the earth, and they have said, "Well, when we get away where the Sabbath bell is never heard, we shall get rid of these fears, and take our swing in sin." They sailed off, and as soon as they reached port, they hurried to a place of vicious amusement, where no one knew them. But the dog of fear howled at their heels, and merriment seemed mockery to them. On the lone ocean the very stars pierced their hearts with their rays. At length their mess-mates began to notice it and call them Old Sobersides. "Jack, what ails you?" was the frequent question; and well it might be, for Jack was very heavy, and it is hard to be merry with a broken heart. In some such fashion as this the man feels that God has set a watch upon him, and that he has become like a sea which never rests, or a whale which roams the waste of water, and knows no home. God watched him; and though he would gladly have run the blockade, he could not find an hour in which his vessel was left alone. Certain men are not only plagued by conscience and dogged by fear, but the providence of God seems to have gone out against them. Just when the man had resolved to have a bout of drinking, he fell sick of a fever, and had to go to the hospital. He was going to a dance; but he became so weak that he had not a leg to stand upon. He was forced to toss to and fro on the bed, to quite another tune from that which pleases the ball-room. He had yellow fever, and was long in pulling round. God watched him, and put the skid on him just as he meant to have a break-neck run downhill. The man gets better, and he says to himself, "I will have a good time now." But then he is out of berth, and perhaps he cannot get a ship for months, and he is brought down to poverty. "Dear me!" he says, "everything goes against me. I am a marked man"; and so he is. Just when he thinks that he is going to have a fair wind, a tempest comes on and drives him out of his course, and he sees rocks ahead. After a while he thinks, "Now I am all right. Jack is himself again, and piping times have come." A storm hurries up; the ship goes down, and he loses all but the clothes he has on his back. He is in a wretched plight: a shipwrecked mariner, far from home. God seems to pursue him even as he did Jonah. He carries with him misfortune for others, and he might well cry, "Am I a sea, or a whale, that thou settest a watch over me?" Nothing prospers. His tacklings are loosed; he cannot well strengthen his mast; his ship leaks; his sails are rent; his yards are snapped; and he cannot make it out. Other people seem to get on, though they are worse than he is. Time was when he used to be lucky too; but now he has parted company with success, and carries the black flag of distress. He is driven to and fro by contrary winds; he makes no headway; he is a miserable man, and would wish that the whole thing would go to the bottom, only he dreads a place which has no bottom, from which there is no escape, if once you sink into it. The providence of God runs hard against him, and thus he sees himself to be a watched man. Yes, and God also watches over many in the way of admonition. Wherever they go, holy warnings follow them. They cannot escape from those who would be friends to their souls. They seem to be surrounded with a ring of prayers and sermons and holy talks. The boy said, "If I could get away from my mother I should be free! I have been tied long enough to her apron strings. I am old enough to do as I like. If I can get away from my father's chidings and prayings, I shall have a fine time of it." So the boy ran away and went to sea; and when he got on board, a good old sailor tackled him, and talked to him about his soul; and then another pleaded with him. The boy said to himself, "Why, I have got out of the frying-pan into the fire. I came here to be out of the way of religion and here it is!" I have known a sailor to go from port to port, and wherever he has landed there has been some gracious man or woman waiting to lead him to Christ. May it be often so! May the Bethel flag be found flying in all waters, till every runaway says, "Why, I am watched wherever I go!" May it be as it was with our dear friends Fullerton and Smith on board the steamboat! Mr. Fullerton spoke to a rough man, and asked him if he was saved; and the man was angry, cross, vexed, and went to the other side of the vessel. There he complained to Mr. Smith, "That man over there asked me if I was saved; he is a fool!" "Very likely", said Smith; "but then, you see, he is a fool for Christ. I think it is better to be a fool for Jesus than to be wise for the devil." He began to plead with him, when the man cried out, "There is a regular gang of them; I cannot go anywhere but they are on to me." It has been made hot for some of you by the British and Foreign Sailors' Society, which has placed missionaries in so many ports. "There's a gang of them", and wherever you go you stumble on an earnest Christian man, who will not let you alone. If I could stir up Christian people here, I would make it hard for sinners, so that wherever they went they would find a hand outstretched to stop them from going to destruction. Oh, that each one might be met with tears and entreaties; that thus each one might be snatched from the waves of fire and landed on the rock of salvation! Some here present have had to dodge a great deal to keep out of the way of gospel shots. Their track has been followed by mercy, and they have been pursued by swift cruisers of grace. They have been like fish taken in a net surrounded on all sides, and neither able to pass through the meshes, nor to break the net, nor to leap out of it. Oh, that the net of Christ's love may so entangle; you all, that you may be his for ever! That is our first point: there are some men who seem specially watched of God. II. Secondly, we notice that THEY ARE VERY APT TO DISLIKE THIS WATCHING. Job is not pleased with it. He asks, "Am I a sea, or a whale, that thou settest a watch over me?" These people, to whom God pays such attention, are foolish enough to murmur that they are so hedged in, and they are vexed to be made to feel that God has his eye upon them. Do you know what they would like? They want liberty to sin. They would like to be let loose, and to be allowed to do just as their wild wills would suggest to them. They would cast off every restraint and have their fling of what the world calls "pleasure." They would climb from sin to sin, hand over hand. They would like to empty all the cups on the devil's sideboard, and be as merry as the worst of men when they are taking it free and easy. That is why they would send their consciences to sleep, drown their fears, and escape from chastening providences and warning admonitions. They would like to live where no Christian person would ever worry them again with wearisome exhortation. They demand liberty: liberty to put their hand into the fire! liberty to ruin themselves! liberty to leap into hell before their time! Liberty! what destruction has been wrought in thy name! Free thinking! Free living! Free loving and all that! What misuse of terms! What a libel upon the name of freedom, to use the word "free" in connection with the slavery of sin! Yet, I am speaking to some who say, "That is just what I want. I want to cut myself clear of all this hamper which blocks me up from having my own way." Ah me! this is the cry of a man who is bent on soul-suicide! They wish also that they could be as hard of heart as many others are. Some men can drink any quantity, and yet do not seem as if they were greatly affected by it; and many a young sailor has wished that he could pour down his grog without a wink, after the style of the old toper. He meets with a foul-mouthed being who can swear till all is blue, while he himself has only dropped an oath or two, and then felt wretched. The young man begins to wish that he was as tough as old Jack, and as much a dare-devil as he. The hardened profligate is foolishly envied, and looked upon as a man of "pluck." But is it true bravery to ruin one's soul? Is it manly to be wicked? Is it a great gain to have a seared conscience We don't envy the blind because they cannot see danger, nor the deaf because they cannot hear an alarm; and why envy the hardened old sinner because he has become spiritually blind and deaf? There are monsters, both on land and on sea, whose very breath is pestilent, and whose talk is enough to choke up a town with vice; and yet certain young men, whom God will not allow to descend into such rottenness, are almost angry that they are restrained. A tender conscience is a great possession, but these simple ones know not its value. They wish that they could have a heart as hard as the nether millstone. Ah, poor souls! you know not what you wish; for you have no idea how deep is the curse that lies in a callous conscience. When God gave Pharaoh up to hardness of heart, it was a tremendous punishment for his pride and cruelty; and, short of hell, there is no judgment that God can inflict like letting a man have his own way. "Let him alone", says God, "he is joined to idols"; and if the Lord says that, there is only one other word more dreadful, and that is the final sentence, "Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels." O you beginners in vice who cannot yet stifle the cries of your suffering consciences, I pray that you may see your folly, and no longer do violence to your own mercy. Men do not like this being surrounded by God this wearing the bit and kicking strap because they would drop God from their thoughts. If to-morrow we could hear, by telegram from heaven, that God was dead, what crowds would buy the newspaper! It would be the greatest relief in the world to many a godless wretch if he could feel sure that there was no God. To some of us this news would be death: we should have lost our Father, our Comforter, our Savior, our all. Alas! many wish that there were no God; and if they cannot persuade themselves that there is none and it is very hard for a sailor to do that yet they try to forget him. If God is out of mind, he is as good as out of the world to the careless sinner. When God comes with inward fears, and awakens conscience, and sends cross providences, so that the man feels pulled up and made to pause; then he knows that there is a God, for he feels a power which works against his sin, from which he cannot get away. He longs to be clear of this secret force; but it wraps him about on every side. He does not read his Bible, and yet Scripture rises in his memory. It is long since he bent his knee in prayer; he has almost forgotten what his mother said to him when she lay a-dying; but still he feels that there is a God, and, somehow, that belief sounds a trumpet blast through his soul, summoning him to his last account. Come to judgment! Come to judgment! Come to judgment! The call rings in his ears, and he cannot get away from the terrible sound. Then it is that he cries "Why am I thus? Am I a sea, or a whale, that thou settest a watch over me?" Once more, there are some who do not like to be shadowed in this way, because they want to have their will with others. Shall I speak a sharp word, like a two-edged sword? There are men and seamen to be found among them who are not satisfied with being ruined themselves, but they thirst to ruin others. They lay traps for precious souls, and they are vexed that their victims should escape them. They are angry because certain poor women are not altogether in their power. Woe unto the men who lead women astray! I have heard of sailors who, in every port they enter, try to ruin others. I charge you to remember that you will have to face these ruined ones at the day of judgment. You sailed away, and they never knew where you went; but the Lord knew. It may be, when you lie in hell, eyes will find you out, and a voice will cry aloud, "Are you here? You are the man that led me to perdition!" You will have to keep everlasting company with those whom you dragged down to hell; and these will for ever curse you to your face. I say there are men who would like to have full license to commit wantonness, and they are grieved that they are hindered in their carnival of sin. May God grant that you may be stopped altogether; and instead of lusting to pollute others, may you have a desire to save them! May God grant that the channel of evil may be blocked for you, and may you be piloted into the waters of repentance and faith! This is why some kick against God. I fear these people will be much vexed with me for speaking so plainly; but you must not think that it will alarm me should you be angry. I am rather glad when fellows get angry with my preaching. "Oh", I say to myself, "those fish feel the hook in their jaws, and so they struggle to escape." Of course a fish does not like the hook which lays hold of him. These angry hearers will come again. You people with whom the sermon goes in at one ear and out at the other, you get no good whatever; but a man who fires up with wrath, and says, "How dare that fellow speak thus to me?" is sure to listen again; and it is very likely that God will bless him. But whether it offends you or pleases you I repeat my warning I charge you, do not drag others down to hell with you. If you must go there yourselves, seek not to destroy those around you. Do not teach boys to drink, and to swear; neither tempt frail women to commit uncleanness with you. God help you to shake off all vice; for I know that vile habits are often the reason why men kick against the restraint of God's loving hand. III. And now I have got to the very heart of my text. The third part is this that THIS ARGUMENT AGAINST THE LORD'S DEALINGS IS A VERY BAD ONE. Job says, "Am I a sea, or whale, that thou settest a watch over me?" Listen. To argue from our insignificance is poor pleading; for the little things are just those against which there is most need to watch. If you were a sea, or a whale, God might leave you alone; but as you are a feeble and sinful creature, which can do more hurt than a sea, or a whale, you need constant watching. In life, men fall by very little things. One does not need to watch against his dog one half so much as against a horse-fly, or a mosquito, for these will sting you when you least expect it. The little things want most watching, therefore it is poor reasoning when we complain that God watches us as if we were a sea, or a whale. After all, there is not a man here who is not very like a sea, or a sea-monster in this respect, that he needs a watch to be set over him. A man's heart is as changeable and as deceitful as the sea. To-day it is calm as a sea of glass, unruffled by a breath of air. Oh, trust not yourself upon it, for before to-morrow's sun is up, your nature may be rolling in tremendous billows of passion. You cannot trust the sea, but it is more worthy of confidence than your heart. Here you are to-night, and oh, how good you look as you sit and listen, and then stand up and sing! Ah, my men! I should not like to hear you if you take to blaspheming your Maker, as many do. When you are down in the forecastle with a little band of praying men, how very good you feel! Let us see you when you are on shore, and there is plenty of grog about. It is easy to have a calm sea when there is no wind, but how different is the ocean when a gale is blowing! We are all very well when far away from temptation, but how are we when the devil's servants are around us? Then, I fear, that too often good resolutions prove to be
"False as the smooth, deceitful sea, And empty as the whistling wind."
It may be that I speak to one who has undergone a dreadful change. Once you led others in the way of righteousness, but now you draw them into evil. Once you sailed under the Bethel flag, but now the old Pirate of the infernal lake is your captain. You have gone back to your old ways, and have again become the slave of the world, the flesh, and the devil. Your religious profession had no foundation. Ah me! you need not say, "Am I a sea, or a whale?" for seas and sea-monsters are more to be trusted than you are. The sea is immeasurable; and, as for you, your sinfulness is unsearchable. Your capacity is almost without measure: your mind reaches far, and touches all things. Man's mind can rise in rebellion against the God of the whole earth, till, like the raging waves of the sea, it threatens to put out the lights of heaven. When man is in a rebellious state he will rage in his thoughts as though he would wash away the shores of heaven, and beat like the surf upon the iron rocks of hell. A man is an awful mystery of iniquity when left to himself. You cannot fathom his pride, nor measure his daring. Deep down in his mind there are creeping things innumerable, both small and great beasts; for all manner of evils and sins multiply in the heart like fishes in the sea. Do not say, "Am I a sea, or a sea-monster, that thou settest a watch over me?" for the Lord may answer, "You are more capacious for evil than a sea, and more wild than a sea-monster." I shall now go further, and show that, by reason of our evil nature, we have become like the sea. This is true in several ways; for, first, the sea is restless, and so is our nature. "The wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt." You need not go far to find hearts always agitated; always seeking rest, and finding none. They know not Christ; and until they do know him, they cannot rest. They are always seeking a something; they know not what. They run first in one direction, and then in another, but they never follow the right thing. When they are thoughtful no good comes of their thoughts. Their waters cast up what? Pearls and corals? No; "mire and dirt." I do not need to explain those words. If any of you have to keep company with these restless beings, you know how foul-mouthed they can be. They cast up worse things than mire and dirt when they are stirred up. Oh, say not, "Am I a sea, or a whale?" Think of yourself as being as restless as a whale when the harpoon is in him; as restless as the sea when a storm is moving its lowest depths. Let us say, next, that the sea can be furious and terrible, and so can ungodly men. When a man is in a fury, what a wild beast he can be! A landsman looks on the sea when it has put on its best behavior, and he says, "I should not mind going a voyage. It must be splendid to steam over such a sea! I feel I shall make a splendid sailor." Let him look at that same ocean by-and-by. Where is the sea of glass now? Where are the gentle waves, which seemed afraid to ripple too far upon the sand? The sea roars and rages and raves. The Atlantic in a storm is terrible; but have you ever seen a tempest in a man's nature? It is an awful sight, and one which causes gracious eyes to weep. What a miserable object is a man with the drink in him! He was as decent a fellow as one could talk with; but now that the drink has mastered him the devil has come on board, and you will do well to give him a wide berth. The same is true of passion. Concerning angry men our advice would be, "Put not to sea in a storm, neither argue with a man in a passion." You do not know what he will do, and he does not know himself. Such a man will be grieved enough when he sobers down; but meanwhile, while the storm is on, he cares for nothing. His eyes flash lightning, his face is black as tempest, his mouth foams, and his tongue rages. In his case, "The sea roars, and the fullness thereof." When you feel the Lord's restraint, you need not ask, "Am I a sea, or a whale?" for your own heart may answer, "You can be more furious than the sea itself." Think, again, how unsatisfied is the sea. It draws down and swallows up stretches of land and thousands of tons of cliff, but it is not filled up. "All the rivers run into the sea; yet the sea is not full." Huge Spanish galleons went to the bottom, with thousands of gold and silver pieces on board; but the sea was never the richer. When, on some dreadful night, our coasts are strewn with wrecks, and hundreds of lives are lost, the devouring deep is never the more satisfied. The sea is a hungry monster, which could swallow a navy, and then open its mouth for more. Are not many men made of the same craving sort? If you gave them half a world they would cry for the other half; and if they had the whole round globe they would weep for the stars. Man's mind never rests in sweet content till God himself satisfies it with himself. O man, without true religion it is your fate to go for ever hungering and thirsting; or, like the sea, yeasting and foaming, after you know not what. Human nature is like the sea for mischief. How destructive is the ocean, and how unfeeling! It makes widows and orphans by the thousand, and then smiles as if it had done nothing! Terrible havoc it can work when once its power is let loose! Do not talk of the destructiveness of the sea; let the reckless sinner think of the destructiveness of his own life. You that are living in sin, and in vice, what wrecks you have caused! How many who set out on the voyage of life, and bade fair to make a splendid passage, have gone upon the rocks through you! A foul word, a loose song, a filthy act, and a gay craft has become a wreck. Conscience can fill in the details. Ah me! one cannot say to God, "Am I a sea, or a sea monster?" or he might well reply, "No shark has devoured so many as the drunkard in his cups, the swearer in his presumption, and the unclean in his lust!" Ah me! I could weep to think how much of mischief any one of you who are unconverted may yet do! The Lord deliver you from being left derelict, to cause wreck to others! We must not forget that we are less obedient to God than the sea is. Nothing keeps back the sea from many a shore but a belt of sand; and though it rages in storm and tempest, the sea goes back in due time and leaves the sand for children to play upon. It knows its bounds and keeps them. When the time comes for the tide to rise, the obedient waters march upon the shore in unbroken ranks, and fill up every creek. They do not linger behind their time. When the moment comes to stay where they are, they rest at flood. Then comes the instant to begin the ebb, and no matter how boisterous the waves may be, they fall back at God's bidding. What, after all, is more orderly than the great sea? Would to God we were like it in this! How readily this great creature yields! A little wind springs up, and its waves answer at once to the breath of heaven. When the sun crosses the line, the equinoctial gales know their season; while at all times the great currents cease not the flow which God has appointed them. The sea is obedient to the Lord, and so was that great fish of which we read just now: "The Lord spake unto the fish, and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry land." As for us, we refuse to obey; and when left to ourselves, what law can restrain us? Is there anything in heaven or earth which a proud sinner will not venture to attempt? God blocks up the road to hell with hedge, and ditch, and chain; but we break over them. He digs a trench across our way, and we leap over it. He piles a mountain in the road, and as if our feet were like hinds' feet, we leap upon the high places of presumption. A man will go against wind and tide in his determination to be lost. O sea! O sea! thou art but a child with thy father, as compared with the wicked and rebellious heart of man! It is a bad argument, then. We need to be looked after. We need to be watched. We need to be kept in check, even more than a sea or a whale. We need the restraining providence and constraining grace of God to keep us from deadly sin. IV. Last of all, I would remark that ALL THEY COMPLAINED OF WAS SENT IN LOVE. They said, "Am I a sea, or a whale, that thou settest a watch over me?" but if they had known the truth they would have blessed God with all their hearts for having watched over them as he has done. First, God's restraint of some of us has kept us from self-ruin. If the Lord had not held us in we might have been in prison; we might have been in the grave; we might have been in hell! Who knows what would have become of us? An old Scotchman said to Mr. Rowland Hill, what I am quite sure would have been as true of me. He looked into Mr. Hill's face so keenly and so often, that at last good Rowland asked him, "Why are you looking at my face so much?" "I was thinking", said the Scotchman, "that if you had not been converted by the grace of God, you would have been a terrible sinner." And, surely, this would have been my case. Nothing half-and-half would have contented me. I should have gone to the end of my tether. Is not the same true of some of you? How many times has the Lord laid his own hand on us to stay us from a fatal step! If we were checked in our youth, and brought there and then to Jesus, it was a gracious deed on God's part. If we have been hindered during a sinful manhood, and have at length been made to bow before the will of the Lord, this also is great grace. Left to ourselves, we should have chosen our own destruction. Do you not think that God's taking you apart, and giving you a tender conscience, and admonishing you so often, proves his great love to you. Surely someone has prayed for you. There is a mother here to-night. I hope she will not mind my telling you what she did last Tuesday when I was sitting in my vestry. She brought me a little brown paper parcel with £50 in it, and she gave it for the British and Foreign Sailors' Society. She has a son whom she has not heard of for years. He went to sea, and she cannot find him, or get any tidings of his whereabouts; but she hopes that a missionary of this Society may meet him in some strange place, and bring him to the Savior. She prays that it may be so, and, therefore, she brings her self-sacrificing offering a great sum, I am sure, for her that she may help to support the good Society which, she hopes, may be a blessing to her boy. There are other sailors to whom God's love is seen in their being followed up by a mother's pleadings. Ah, friend! the Lord would not have checked you so if he had not intended to bless you. That broken leg of yours is to keep you from running too far into sin. That yellow fever was sent to cool the fever of your sin. Your missing that ship caused you to miss shipwreck and death. These mishaps were all tokens of love to you. The Lord would not let you perish. He resolves to save you. You are one of his chosen. Christ bought you with his blood, and he means to have you for his own. If you will not come to him with a gentle breeze he will fetch you by a storm. Yield to the pressure of his love. If you will be as the horse and the mule, which have no understanding, he will break you in and manage you with bit and bridle; but it would be far better if you would be ruled by love. I think I see tokens of electing love upon you in those very things which you have kicked against. The Lord is working to bring you to himself, and to himself you must come. The prodigal son was driven home by stress of weather. If his father had had the doing of it, he could not have worked the matter better. His hungry belly and his pig-feeding fetched him home. The unkindness of the citizens of the far country helped to hurry him back to his father. Hardship, and want, and pain, are meant to bring you back, and God has used them to that end; and the day will come when you will say, "I bless God for the rough wave which washed me on shore. I bless God for the stormy providence which drowned my comfort, but saved my soul." Once more, and I have done. God will not always deal roughly with you. Perhaps to-night he will say his last sharp word. Will you yield to softer means? They say that oil poured on troubled waters will make them smooth: God the Holy Ghost can send to your troubled soul a lifelong calm. The winds and waves on the Galilean sea all went to sleep in an instant. How? Why, when Jesus came walking on the water he said to the warring elements, "Be still." The waves crouched like whipped dogs at his feet, though they had roared like lions before. He said to the winds, "Hush!" and they breathed as softly as the lips of a babe. Jesus is here at this hour. He that died on Calvary looks down on us: believe on him. He lifts his pierced hands, and cries, "Look unto me, and be ye saved." Will you not look to him? Oh, that his grace may lead you at once to say, "He is all in all to me!" Here is a soul-saving text for you: "God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." Accept the Savior; and though you be as a sea, or as a whale, you shall no longer complain of the Lord's watching you, but you shall rejoice in perfect liberty. He is free who loves to serve his God. He makes it his delight that he is watched of the Lord. The Lord bless sailors! May we all meet in the Fair Havens! May the flag of your Society bless every sea, because God blesses its missionaries! I wish for it the utmost prosperity, and I judge it to be worthy of the most generous aid of all Christian men. In all respects it is exactly to my mind. The Lord send prosperity to it! Amen.
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Spurgeon, Charle Haddon. "Commentary on Job 7". "Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent