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Obeying Christ's Orders June 13th, 1889 by C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892)
"His mother saith unto the servants, Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it." John 2:5 .
It does not need a strong imagination to picture Mary, probably at that time the widowed mother of our Lord. She is full of love, and of a naturally kind, sympathetic disposition. She is at a marriage; and she is very pleased that her Son is there, with the first handful of his disciples. Their being there has made a greater demand upon the provisions than was expected, and the supply is running short; so she, with an anxiety that was natural to such a mother, of her years, and of her gentle spirit, thinks that she will speak to her Son, and tell him that there is a want, so she says to him, "They have no wine." There was not much amiss in that, surely; but our Lord, who seeth not as man seeth, perceived that she was putting to the front her motherly relationship, at a time when it was needful that it should be in the background. How needful it was, history has shown; for the apostate church of Rome has actually made Mary a mediatrix, and prayers have been addressed to her; she has even been asked to use her maternal authority with her Son. It was well that our Savior should check anything that might tend to give any countenance to Mariolatry, which has been altogether so mischievous; and it was needful for him to speak to his mother with somewhat more of sharpness than, perhaps, her conduct, in itself alone, might have required. So her august Son felt bound to say to her, "Woman, what have I to do with thee in such a matter as this? I am not thy son as a miracle-worker; I cannot work to please thee. No; if I work a miracle as the Son of God, it cannot be as your son; it must be in another character. What have I to do with thee in this matter?" And he gives his reason: "Mine hour is not yet come." It was a gentle rebuke, absolutely needful from the prescience of all that would follow. You can easily picture how Mary took it. She knew Christ's gentleness, his infinite love, how for thirty years there had never come anything from him that had grieved her spirit. So she drank in the reproof, and gently shrank back, thinking much more than she said; for she was always a woman who laid up these things, and pondered them in her heart. She says very little, but she thinks a great deal; and we see in her after conduct, in respect to this very miracle, that she thought very much of what Jesus had said to her. Brethren, you and I, with the very best intentions, may sometimes err towards our Lord; and if he then in any way rebukes us, and puts us back, if he disappoints our hope, if he does not allow our ambitious designs to prosper, let us take it from him as Mary took it from Jesus. Let us just feel that it must be right, and let us in silence possess ourselves in his presence. Notice, then, this holy woman's quietude, ceasing to say a word, quietly drinking it all in; and then observe her wise admonition to the servants who were there to wait at the feast. Inasmuch as she had run before him, she would have them to follow after him, and she very wisely and kindly says to them, "Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it. Do not go to him with any of your remarks. Do not try to press him forward; do not urge him on; he knows better than we do. Stand back, and wait till he speaks; and then be quick to obey every single word that he utters." Beloved, I wish that, when we have learned a lesson, we would try to teach it. Sometimes our Master gives us a sharp word all to ourselves, and we would not tell anybody else what he has said. In our private communions, he has spoken to our conscience and to our heart; and we need not go and repeat that, as Mary did not. But, having learned the lesson well, let us then say to our next friend, "Do not err as I have done. Avoid the rock on which I struck just now. I fear that I grieved my Lord. My sister, I would not have you grieve him; my brother, I would try to tell you just what to do that you may please him in all things." Do you not think that we should minister to mutual edification if we did that? Instead of telling the faults of others, let us extract the essence from the discoveries which we make of our own errors, and then administer that as a helpful medicine to those who are round about us. This holy woman must have spoken with a good deal of power. Her tone must have been peculiarly forcible, and her manner must have made a great impression upon the servants, for you notice that they did exactly what she told them. It is not every servant who will let a guest come into the house, and set up to be mistress; but so it was when she spoke to those servants, with her deep, earnest tones, as a woman who had learned something that she could not tell, but who yet, out of that experience, had extracted a lesson for others. She must have spoken with a wonderful melting force when she said to them, "Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it;" and they were all looking on with awe after she had spoken, drinking in her message to them as she had drunk in the message of the Lord. Now I want to-night just to try to teach that lesson to myself and to you. I think that our own experience goes to show us that our highest wisdom, our very best prosperity, will lie in our cautiously keeping behind Christ, and never running before him, never forcing his hand, never tempting him, as they did who tempted God in the wilderness, prescribing to him to do this or that; but, in holy, humble obedience, taking these words as our life-motto henceforth, "Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it." I will handle my text in this way: First, What? Secondly, Why? Thirdly, What then? I. WHAT IS IT THAT WE ARE HERE BIDDEN TO DO? In a word, it is to obey You who belong to Christ, and are his disciples, take heed to this word of exhortation, Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it." I want you to notice, first of all, that these words were spoken, not to the disciples of Christ, but to the servants who, in the Greek, are here called diakonois, the persons who were brought in to wait at the table, and to serve the guests. I know not whether they were paid servants, or whether they were friends who kindly volunteered their services; but they were the waiters at the feast. They were not told to leave their master; they were not bidden to give up their avocation as waiters. They were servants, and they were to continue servants; but still, for all that, they were to acknowledge Christ as their Master without casting off their obedience to the governor of the feast. Mary does not say to these people, "Put down those pots, leave off carrying those dishes;" but while they continue to do what they were doing, she says to them, "Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it." I thought that point was well worthy of our notice, that these servants, still abiding, as they were, yet were to render obedience to Christ. That obedience, in the first place, would be prepared obedience. Mary came to get their minds ready to do what Christ should bid them. No man will obey Christ on a sudden, and keep on doing so. There must be a weighing, a considering; there must be a thoughtful, careful knowledge of what his will is, and a preparedness of heart, that whatever that will may be, as it is known so it shall be done. At first these servants did nothing. The guests wanted wine, but the servants did not go to Jesus, and say, "Master, wine is needed." Nay; but they stopped until he bade them fill the waterpots with water; then they filled them to the brim; but they did nothing till he bade them. A great part of obedience lies in not doing. I believe that, in the anxiety of many a trembling heart, the very best faith will be seen in not doing anything. When you do not know what to do, do nothing; and doing nothing, my brethren, will be found to be sometimes the very hardest work of all. In the case of a man in business, who has come into a difficulty, or of a sister with a sick child, or a sick husband, you know the impulse is to do something or other. If not the first thing that comes to hand, yet we feel that we must do something; and many a person has aggravated his sorrow by doing something, when, if he had bravely let it alone, believingly left it in God's hand, it would have been infinitely better for him. "Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it." But do not do what every whim or fancy in your poor brain urges you to do. Do not run before you are sent. They who run before God's cloud, will have to come back again; and very happy they will be if they find the way back again. Where Scripture is silent, be you silent. If there is no command thou hadst better wait till thou canst find some guidance. Blunder not on with a headlong anxiety, lost thou tumble into the ditch. "Whatsoever he saith unto you," do that; but until he speaks, sit thou still. My soul, be patient before God, and wait until thou knowest his bidding! This prepared obedience was to be the obedience of the spirit, for obedience lies mainly there. True obedience is not always seen in what we do, or do not do; but it is manifest in the perfect submission to the will of God, and the strong resolve that saturates the spirit through and through, that what he bids us we will do. Let your obedience, in the next place, be perfect obedience. Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it." It is disobedience, and not obedience, which prompts us to select from the commands of Christ such as we care to obey. If thou sayest, "I will do what Christ bids me as far as I choose," thou hast in fact said, "I will not do what Christ bids me, but I will do what I please to do." That obedience is not true which is not universal. Imagine a soldier in the army, who, instead of obeying every command of his captain, omits this and that, and says that he cannot help it, or that he even means to omit certain things. Beloved, take heed of throwing any precept of thy Lord upon the dunghill. Every word that he has spoken to thee is more precious than a diamond. Prize it; store it up; wear it; let it be thy ornament and thy beauty. "Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it," whether it relates to the Church of God and its ordinances, or to your walk out of doors among your follow-men, or to your relationship in the, family, or to your own private service for the Lord. "Whatsoever." See, there are to be no trimmings here, no cutting off of certain things: "Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it." Breathe this prayer at the present moment, "Lord, help me to do whatsoever thou hast said! May I have no choice; may I never let my own will come in to interfere; but, if thou hast bidden me do anything, enable me to do it, whatever it may be!" This obedience, then, being prepared and perfect, is to be also practical obedience: "Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it." Do not think about it, especially for a very long time, and then wait until it is more impressed upon you, or till there is a convenient season: "Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it." One of the great evils of the times is that of deliberating about a plain command of Christ, and asking, "What will be the result of it?" What have you to do with results? "But if I follow Christ in all things, I may lose my position." What have you to do with that? When a soldier is bidden to go up to the cannon's mouth, he is very likely to lose his "position", and something else; but he is bound to do it. "Oh, but I might lose my opportunities of usefulness!" What do you mean? That you are going to do evil that good may come? That is what it comes to. Will you really, before God, look that matter in the face? "Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it." At any expense, at any risk, do it. I have heard some say, "Well, I do not like doing things in a hurry." Very well, but what saith David? "I made haste, and delayed not to keep thy commandments." Remember that we sin every moment that we delay to do anything commanded by Christ. Whether every moment of delay is a fresh sin, I cannot say; but if we neglect any command of his, we are living in a condition of perpetual sinning against him; and that is not a desirable position for any of Christ's disciples to live in. Beloved, "whatsoever he saith unto you, do it." Do not argue against it, and try to find some reason for getting off it. I have known some believers who have not liked to have certain passages of Scripture read at the family altar, because they have rather troubled their consciences. If there is anything in the Bible that quarrels with you, you are wrong; the Bible is not. Come you to terms with it at once, and the only terms will be obey, obey, obey your Lord's will. I am not holding this up to you as a way of salvation; you know I should never think of doing that. I am speaking to those of you who are saved. You are Christ's servants, his saved ones; and now you have come to the holy discipline of his house, and this is the rule of it, "Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it." Do it practically. Have we not been talking too much about what should be done by our friends, or observing what others do not do? Oh, that the Spirit of God would come upon us, that our own walk might be close with God, our own obedience be precise and exact, our own love to Christ be proved by our continual following in his steps! Ours should be practical obedience. It must be also personal obedience: "Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it." You know how much there is done by proxy nowadays. Charity is done so. A is in a great deal of need, B hears of it, and is very sorry indeed, and so he asks C to come and help him; and then he goes to bed, and feels that he has done a good thing. Or else, when A has told his story to B, B looks out to see if there is some Society that will help him, although he never subscribes to the Society, because he does not think of doing that. His part is just to pass A on to C, or to the Society: and, having done that, he feels satisfied. Do you wish the Savior to say, in the last great day, "I was an hungred, and ye sent me to somebody else," or, "I was thirsty, and you directed me to the parish pump for drink"? Nothing of the kind. We must do something personally for Christ. So is it in the matter of endeavoring to win souls to Christ. There is nothing like personally speaking to people, button-holing them, looking them in the eye, talking your own personal experience over with them, and pleading with them to fly to Christ for refuge. Personal obedience is what is wanted. If one of these persons who were waiting had said, when the command had come from Christ to fill the waterpots, "John, you go and do that; William, you go and do that;" he would not have followed out Mary's command, "Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it." Do I touch the conscience of anybody here? Well, if so, from this time forth cease to be a servant of God by proxy, lest thou be saved by proxy, and to be saved by proxy will be to be lost. But do thou trust Christ for thyself, and then serve him for thyself, by his own mighty grace: "Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it." It must also be prompt obedience. Do it at once; delay will take the bloom from the obedience. "Whatsoever he saith unto you," stand ready to obey. The moment that the command "March," is given to the soldier, he marches. The moment a command comes to your heart, and you see it to be really in the Word of God, do it. Oh, the murdered resolutions that lie round about most men's lives! What they would have done, what they could have done, if they had but done it; but they have been building castles in the air, imagining lives they would like to lead, and not actually doing Christ's commands. Oh, for a prompt, personal, practical service to the Lord Jesus Christ! And in our case it is to be perpetual obedience. Mary said to these waiters, "Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it." "Keep on doing it; not only the first thing he says, but whatsoever he saith unto you. As long as this feast lasts, and he is here, do what my Son commands you." So, beloved, as long as we are in this world, until life's latest hour, may the Holy Ghost enable us to do just what Jesus bids us do! Can you say, my brethren and sisters,
"Jesus, I my cross have taken, All to leave, and follow thee"?
Is it your wish that, until you enter into his rest, you should always bear his yoke, and follow his footsteps? Temporary Christians are not Christians. Those who ask for furlough from this divine service have never entered it. We have put on our regimentals never to take them off. As certain old knights in times of war slept in their armor, and had the lance and shield always ready to hand, so must the Christian be, from this time forth and for ever. "Ours not to reason why," ours not to delay when the command comes; but ours, while there is breath in our body, and life in our spirit, to serve him who hath redeemed us with his precious blood. Thus I have feebly set before you what it is that we are called to do, that is, to obey Christ's orders. II. Now for a few minutes let us ask, WHY IS THIS TO BE DONE? Beloved, why were these men to do what Jesus bade them? Let that melt into, "Why are you and I to do what Jesus bids us?" First, Christ is by nature worthy of obedience. I count it an honor to serve Christ. Oh, what is he? Perfect Man, rising nobly above us all; perfect God, infinitely majestic in his two natures. Why, it seems to me as if we ought to love to do his bidding, and long to be conformed to his image! Here is the rest for our aspiring spirit. Here are the glory and the honor and the immortality for which we pant. By the glory of Christ, whom you unseen adore, "Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it." Beside that, Christ is our only hope. All our prospects for the future depend upon him. Glory be to his blessed name! There is none like him. If he were gone from us, and we could not trust in him, life would be an endless darkness, an abyss of woe. By all the glory of his nature, and all that we owe to him, and all that we look for from him, I charge you, beloved friends, "Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it." More than that, he is all-wise, and so fit to lead. Who but he could get these people out of their trouble at the feast when they wanted wine? He knew the way out of it all, a way that would manifest his own glory, and make his disciples believe in him, and make everybody round about happy. But if be did not show the way, nobody could. So let us obey him, for his commands are so wise. He never has made a mistake, and he never will. Let us commit our way unto his keeping; and whatsoever he saith unto us, let us do it. Besides, beloved, Christ has hitherto rewarded our obedience. Did you ever act rightly, and after all find it a mistake? Some of us have had to do very grievous things in our time, that have gone sorely against the grain. Would we do them again? Ay, that we would, if they cost ten times as much! No man has ever, in looking back, to regret that he followed the voice of conscience, and the dictates of God's Word; and he never will, though he should even go to prison and to death for Christ's sake. You may lose for Christ, but you shall never lose by Christ. When all comes to be totalled up, you shall be a greater gainer because of the apparent loss. He has never deceived you, and never misled you. Obedience to him has always brought you real solid peace. Therefore, "whatsoever he saith unto you, do it." Yet once more, Christ is our Master, and we must obey him. I hope, beloved, that there is no one among us here who would call him Master, and yet not do the things that he says. We do not talk about him as one who was once great, but who is gone away, and whose influence is now upon the wane, because he is not up to "the spirit of the age." No, but he still lives, and we still commune with him. He is our Master and Lord. When we were baptized into his death, it was no mere matter of form; but we were dead to the world, and we lived to him. When we took his sacred name upon us, and were called Christians, it was no sham; we meant that he should be Captain, King, and Master of our spirits. He is no Baali, that is, domineering lord; but he is Ishi, our Man, our Husband; and, in his husbandly relationship he is Lord and Governor of every thought and every motion of our nature. Jesus, Jesus, thy yoke is easy, and thy burden is light! It is lightsome and joyous to bear it. To get away from it, would be misery indeed; and that is one reason why I say to you to-night, "Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it," because if you do not, you cast off your allegiance to him; and what are you going to do then? To whom will you go if you turn away from him? Every man must have a master. Will you be your own master? You cannot have a greater tyrant. Will you let the world be your master? Are you going to be a servant of "society"? There are no worse slaves than these. Are you going to live for pelf, for honor, for what is called "pleasure"? Ah, me, you may as well go down to Egypt, to the iron furnace, at once! To whom can we go? Jesus, to whom can we go, if we go away from thee? Thou hast the words of eternal life. "Bind the sacrifice with cords, even unto the horns of the altar." Throw another bond of love about me, another cord of sweet constraint, and let me never even think of parting with thee. Let me be crucified to the world, and the world to me. Do not your hearts pray after that fashion? Oh, to be wholly Christ's, entirely Christ's, for ever Christ's! Yes, yes, we will listen to the command, "Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it." I have given you the reason why we should obey Christ's orders. III. And now, beloved, let me occupy the last few minutes in answering this question, WHAT WILL FOLLOW FROM THIS OBEDIENCE? Suppose we do whatever Christ commands us, what then? I will tell you what then. The first thing is, that you will feel free from responsibility. The servant, who has done what his master has bidden him, may in his own mind fear that some dreadful consequences may follow, but he says to himself, "It will be no fault of mine. I did what I was bidden to do." Now, beloved, if you want to get rid of the whole burden of life, by faith do whatsoever Christ commands you. Then, if the heavens should seem about to fall, it would be no business of yours to shore them up. You have not to mend God's work, and keep it right. I remember what Mr. John Wesley said to his preachers: "Now, brethren, I do not want you to mend my rules. I want you to obey them." That is pretty strong from John Wesley; but from our Lord Jesus Christ it comes most suitably. He does not want us to get altering, and mending, and touching up, and looking at consequences. No; do exactly what he tells you, and you have nothing to do with the consequences. You may have to bear them, but that he will give you grace to do; and it shall be your joy to bear all ill consequences that come of firm obedience to Christ. This kind of doctrine does not suit the year 1889. If you go over to Scotland, and see where the Covenanters' graves are, anybody who thinks according to the spirit of this age will say that they were just a set of fools to have been so stubborn and so strict about doctrine as to die for it. Why, really, there is not anything in the now philosophy that is worth dying for! I wonder whether there is any "modern thought" doctrine that would be worth the purchase of a cat's life. According to the teaching of the broad school, what is supposed to be true to-day may not be true to-morrow, so it is not worth dying for. We may as well put off the dying till the thing is altered; and if we wait a month, it will be altered, and thus, at the last, you may get the old creed back again. The Lord send it, and send us yet a race of men who will obey what he bids them, and do what he tells them, and believe what he teaches them, and lay their own wills down in complete obedience to their Lord and Master! Such a people will feel free from responsibility. Then you shall feel a sweet flow of love to Christ. The disobedient child well, he will not be turned out of the house, because he will not do the bidding of his mother and father; but when he does not submit to the rule of the house, he has a hard time of it, and he ought to have. There is that evening kiss, it is not as warm as it would have been; and that morning greeting, after long disobedience, has no happiness in it; and, indeed, the more kind father and mother are, the more unhappy he is. And the sweet love of Christ is such that it makes us unhappy in disobedience. You cannot walk contrary to Christ, and yet enjoy fellowship with him; and the more dear and near he would be to you, so much the wider does the gap seem to be when you are not doing his bidding. Besides, there is no carrying out your faith except by doing as he bids you. That faith which lies only in a creed, or in a little pious book, is not good for much. Faith does what Christ bids it do, and it delights to do so. It rejoices to run risks, it delights to put off from the land, and get out to sea. It is glad to sacrifice itself when Jesus calls for it, because faith cannot be satisfied without bearing fruit, and the fruit of faith is obedience to him in whom we believe. Beloved, I also think that, if we will obey Christ in what he says, we shall be learning to be leaders. Wellington used to say that no man is fit to command until he has learned to obey; and I am sure that it is so. We shall never see a race of really first-rate men unless our boys and girls are made to obey their parents in their childhood. The essential glory of manhood is lost when disobedience is tolerated; and, certainly, in the Church of God, the Lord does put his leading servants through very severe ordeals. The best place for the books of a minister is not his library, but a sick-bed very often. Affliction is our school; and before we can deal with others, God must deal with us. If thou wilt not obey, thou shalt not be set to command. And lastly, I do believe that learning to obey is one of the preparatives for the enjoyments of heaven. Why, in heaven, they have no will but God's will! Their will is to serve him, and delight themselves in him; and if you and I do not learn here below what obedience to God is, and practice it, and carry it out, how could we hope to be happy in the midst of obedient spirits? Dear hearers, if you had never learned to trust Christ and obey him, how could you go to heaven? You would be so unhappy there that you would ask God to let you run nto hell for shelter, for nothing would strike you with more horror than to be in the midst of perfectly holy people who find their delight in the service of God. May the Lord bring us to this complete obedience to Christ! Then this world will be an inclined plane, or a ladder such as Jacob saw, up which we shall trip with holy gladness till we come to the top, and find our heaven in perfect obedience to God. It is not Mary who speaks to you to-night, but it is the Church of God, the mother of all who truly love Christ; and she says to you, "Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it," and if you will do it, he will turn the water into wine for you. He will make your love more glad and happy than it ever would have been without obeying him, and he will provide for you. Obey him, and he will comfort you. Obey him, and he will perfect you. Be with him in the ways of duty, and you shall be with him in the home of glory. The Lord grant this, of his infinite grace, giving to us to know the will of Christ, and then working in us to will and to do of his own good pleasure! Amen and Amen.
The Waterpots at Cana by C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892)
"Jesus saith unto them, Fill the waterpots with water. And they filled them up to the brim." John 2:7 .
Do you know the narrative. Jesus was at a wedding feast, and when the wine ran short, he provided for it right bountifully. I do not think that I should do any good if I were to enter upon the discussion as to what sort of wine our Lord Jesus made on this occasion. It was wine, and I am sure it was very good wine, for he would produce nothing quite but the best. Was it wine such as men understand by that word now? It was wine; but there are very few people in this country who ever see, much less drink, any of that beverage. That which goes under the name of wine is not true wine, but a fiery, brandied concoction of which I feel sure that Jesus would not have tasted a drop. The fire-waters and blazing spirits of modern wine manufacturers are very different articles from the juice of the grape, mildly exhilarating, which was the usual wine of more sober centuries. As to the wine such as is commonly used in the East, a person must drink inordinately before he would become intoxicated with it. It would be possible, for there were cases in which men were intoxicated with wine; but, as a rule, intoxication was a rare vice in the Savior's times and in the preceding ages. Had our great Exemplar lived under our present circumstances, surrounded by a sea of deadly drink, which is ruining tens of thousands, I know how he would have acted. I am sure he would not have contributed by word or deed to the rivers of poisonous beverages in which bodies and souls are now being destroyed wholesale. The kind of wine which he made was such that, if there had been no stronger drink in the world, nobody might have thought it necessary to enter any protest against drinking it. It would have done nobody any hurt, be sure of that, or else Jesus our loving Savior would not have made it. Some have raised a question about the great quantity of wine, for I suppose there must have been no less than one hundred and twenty gallons, and probably more. "They did not want all that," says one, "and even of the weakest kind of wine it would be a deal too much." But you are thinking of an ordinary wedding here, are you not, when there are ten or a dozen, or a score or two, met together in a parlor? An oriental wedding is quite another affair. Even if it be only a village, like Cana of Galilee, everybody comes to eat and drink, and the feast lasts on for a week or a fortnight. Hundreds of people must be fed, for often open house is kept. Nobody is refused, and consequently a great quantity of provision is required. Besides, they may not have consumed all the wine at once. When the Lord multiplied loaves and fishes, they must eat the loaves and fishes directly, or else the bread would grow moldy, and the fish would be putrid; but wine could be stored and used months afterwards. I have no doubt that such wine as Jesus Christ made was as good for keeping as it was for using. And why not set the family up with a store in hand? They were not very rich people. They might sell it if they liked. At any rate, that is not my subject, and I do not intend getting into hot water over the question of cold water. I abstain myself from alcoholic drink in every form, and I think others would be wise to do the same; but of this each one must be a guide unto himself. Jesus Christ commenced the gospel dispensation, not with a miracle of vengeance, like that of Moses, who turned water into blood, but with a miracle of liberality, turning water into wine. He does not only supply necessaries, but gives luxuries, and this is highly significant of the kingdom of his grace. Here he not only gives sinners enough to save them, but he gives abundantly, grace upon grace. The gifts of the covenant are not stinted or stunted, they are neither small in quantity nor in quality. He gives to men not only the water of life that they may drink and be refreshed, but "wines on the lees well refined" that they may rejoice exceedingly. And he gives like a king, who gives lavishly, without counting the cups and bottles. As to one hundred and twenty gallons, how little is that in comparison with the rivers of love and mercy which he is pleased to bestow freely out of his bountiful heart upon the most needy souls. You may forget all about the wine question, and all about wine, bad, good, or indifferent. The less we have to do with it the better, I am quite sure. And now let us think about our Lord's mercy, and let the wine stand as a type of his grace, and the abundance of it as the type of the abundance of his grace which he doth so liberally bestow. Now, concerning this miracle, it may well be remarked how simple and unostentatious it was. One might have expected that when the great Lord of all came here in human form he would commence his miraculous career by summoning the scribes and Pharisees at least, if not the kings and princes of the earth, to see the marks of his calling and the guarantees and warrants of his commission; gathering them all together to work some miracle before them, as Moses and Aaron did before Pharaoh, that they might be convinced of his Messiahship. He does nothing of the kind. He goes to a simple wedding among poor people, and there in the simplest and most natural way he displays his glory. When the water is to be turned into wine, when he selects that as the first miracle, he does not call for the master of the feast even, or for the bridegroom himself or for any of the guests, and begin to say, "You clearly perceive that your wine is all gone. Now, I am about to show you a great marvel, to turn water into wine." No, he does it quietly with the servants: he tells them to fill the waterpots: he uses the baths: he does not ask for any new vessels, but uses what were there, making no fuss or parade. He uses water, too, of which they had abundance, and works the miracle, if I may so speak, in the most commonplace and natural style; and that is just the style of Jesus Christ. Now, if it had been a Romish miracle it would have been done in a very mysterious, theatrical, sensational way, with no end of paraphernalia; but, being a genuine miracle, it is done just as nearly after the course of nature as the supernatural can go. Jesus does not have the waterpots emptied and then fill them with wine, but he goes as far with nature as nature will go, and uses water to make the wine from; therein following the processes of his providence which are at work every day. When the water drops from heaven, and flows into the earth to the roots of the vine, and so swells out the clusters with ruddy juice, it is through water that wine is produced. There is only a difference as to time whether the wine is created in the cluster, or in the waterpots. Our Lord does not call for any strangers to do it, but the ordinary servants shall bring ordinary water; and while they are drawing out the water, or what appears to them to be water, the servants shall perceive that the water has been turned into wine. Now, whenever you try to serve Jesus Christ do not make a fuss about it, because he never made any fuss in what he did, even when he was working amazing miracles. If you want to do a good thing, go and do it as naturally as ever you can. Be simple hearted and simple minded. Be yourself. Do not be affected in your piety, as if you were going to walk to heaven on stilts: walk on your own feet, and bring religion to your own door and to your own fireside. If you have a grand work to do, do it with that genuine simplicity which is next. akin to sublimity; for affectation, and everything that is gaudy and ostentatious, is, after all, mean and beggarly. Nothing but simple naturalness has a bout it a genuine beauty; and such a beauty there is about this miracle of the Savior. Let all these remarks stand as a kind of preface; for now I want to draw out the principles which are hidden in my text; and then, secondly, when I have displayed those principles, I want to show how they should be carried out. I. "Jesus saith unto them, Fill the waterpots with water." WHAT ARE THE PRINCIPLES INVOLVED IN OUR LORD'S MODE OF PROCEDURE? First, that, as a rule, when Christ is about to bestow a blessing he gives a command. This is a fact which your memories will help you to establish in a moment. It is not always so; but, as a general rule, a word of command goes before a word of power, or else with it. He is about to give wine, and the process does not consist in saying, "Let wine be," but it begins by a command addressed to men, "Fill the waterpots with water." Here is a blind man: Christ is about to give him sight. He puts clay on his eyes, and then says, "Go to the pool of Siloam and wash." There is a man with his arm swinging at his side, useless to him: Christ is going to restore it, and he says, "Stretch forth thine hand." Ay, and the principle goes so far that it holds good in cases where it would seem to be quite inapplicable, for if it be a child that is dead he says, "Maid, arise;" or if it be Lazarus, who by this time stinks, being four days buried, yet he cries, "Lazarus, come forth." And thus he bestows a benefit by a command. Gospel benefits come with a gospel precept. Do you wonder that this principle which is seen in the miracles is seen in the wonders of his divine grace? Here is a sinner to be saved. What does Christ say to that sinner? "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved." Can he believe of himself? Is he not dead in sin? Brethren, raise no such questions, but learn that Jesus Christ has bidden men believe, and has commissioned his disciples to cry, "Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." "The times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men everywhere to repent." And he bids us go and preach this word "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved." But why command them? It is his will to do so, and that should be enough for you who call yourself his disciple. It was so even in the olden times, when the Lord set forth in vision his way of dealing with a dead nation. There lay the dry bones of the valley, exceeding many, and exceeding dry, and Ezekiel was sent to prophesy to them. What said the prophet? "O ye dry bones, hear the word of the Lord." Is that his way of making them alive? Yes, by a command to hear; a thing which dry bones cannot do. He issues his command to the dead, the dry, the helpless, and by its power life comes. I pray you, be not disobedient to the gospel, for faith is a duty, or we should not read of "the obedience of faith." Jesus Christ, when he is about to bless, challenges men's obedience by issuing his royal orders. The same thing is true when we come away from the unconverted to believers. When God means to bless his people and make them blessings it is by issuing a command to them. We have been praying to the Lord that he would arise and make bare his arm. His answer is, "Awake, awake, O Zion." We ask that the world may be brought to his feet, and his reply is, "All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them." The command is to us the vehicle of the blessing. If we are to have the blessing of converts multiplied, and churches built up, Christ must give us the boon: it is altogether his gift, as much as it was his to turn the water into wine; yet first of all he says to us, "Go ye and proclaim my salvation unto the ends of the earth," for thus are we to fill the waterpots with water. If we be obedient to his command we shall see how he will work how mightily he will be with us, and how our prayers shall be heard. That is the first principle that I see here: Christ issues commands to those whom he will bless. Secondly, Christ's commands are not to be questioned, but to be obeyed. The people want wine, and Christ says, "Fill the waterpots with water." Well, now, if these servants had, been of the mind of the captious critics of modern times, they would have looked at our Lord a long while, and objected boldly: "We do not want any water; it is not the feast of purifications; it is a wedding feast. We do not require water at a wedding. We shall want water when we are going up to the synagogue, or to the temple, that we may purify our hands according to our custom: but we do not want water just now: the hour, the occasion, and the fitness of things, call for wine." But Mary's advice to them was sound " Whatsoever he saith to you, do it." Thus, too, let us neither question nor cavil, but do his bidding straight away. It may sometimes seem that Christ's command is not pertinent to the point in hand. The sinner, for instance, says, "Lord, save me: conquer in me my sin." Our Lord cries, "Believe," and the sinner cannot see how believing in Jesus will enable him to get the mastery over a besetting sin. There does not at first sight appear to be any connection between the simple trusting of the Savior and the conquest of a bad temper, or the getting rid of a bad habit, such as intemperance, passion, covetousness, or' falsehood. There is such a connection, but recollect, whether you can see the connection or not, it is yours "not to reason why," but yours to do what Jesus bids you do; for it is in the way of the command that the miracle of mercy will be wrought. "Fill the waterpots with water," though what you want is wine. Christ sees a connection between the water and the wine, though you do not. He has a reason for the pots being filled with water, which reason, as yet, you do not know: it is not yours to ask an explanation, but to yield obedience. You are, in the first instance, just to do what Jesus bids you, as he bids you, now that he bids you, and because he bids you, and you shall find that his commandments are not grievous, and in keeping of them there is a great reward. Sometimes these commands may even seem to be trivial. They may look as if he trifled with us. The family were in need of wine; Jesus says, "Fill the waterpots with water." The servants might have said, "This is clearly a mere putting of us off and playing with us. Why, we should be better employed in going round to these poor people's friends, and asking them to contribute another skin of wine. We should be much better employed in finding out some shop where we could purchase more: but to send us to the well to fill those great waterpots that hold so much water does seem altogether a piece of child's play." I know, brethren, that sometimes the path of duty seems as if it could not lead to the desired result. We want to be doing something more; that something more might be wrong, but it looks as if we could thereby compass our design more easily and directly, and so we hanker after this uncommanded and perhaps forbidden course. And I know that many a troubled conscience thinks that simply to believe in Jesus is too little a thing. The deceitful heart suggests a course which looks to be more effectual. "Do some penance: feel some bitterness; weep a certain amount of tears. Goad your mind, or break your heart": so cries carnal self. Jesus simply commands, "Believe." It does appear to be too little a thing to be done, as if it could not be that eternal life should be given upon putting your trust in Jesus Christ: but this is the principle we want to teach you that when Jesus Christ is about to give a blessing he issues a command which is not to be questioned, but to be at once obeyed. If ye will not believe, neither shall ye be established; but if ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land. "Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it." The third principle is this that whenever we get a command from Christ it is always wisdom to carry it out zealously. He said, "Fill the waterpots with water," and they filled them up to the brim. You know there is a way of filling a waterpot, and there is another way of filling it. It is full, and you cannot heap it up; but still you can fill it up till it begins almost to run over: the liquid trembles as if it must surely fall in a crystal cascade. It is a filling fullness. In fulfilling Christ's commands, my dear brethren and sisters, let us go to their widest extent: let us fill them up to the brim. If it is "Believe," oh, believe him with all your might; trust him with your whole heart. If it is "Preach the gospel," preach it in season and out of season; and preach the gospel the whole of it. Fill it up to the brim. Do not give the people a half gospel. Give them a brimming-over gospel. Fill the vessels up to the very brim. If you are to repent, ask to have a hearty and a deep repentance full to the brim. If you are to believe, ask to have an intense, absolute, childlike dependence, that your faith may be full to the brim. If you are bidden pray, pray mightily: fill the vessel of prayer up to the brim. If you are to search the Scriptures for blessing, search them from end to end: fill the Bible-reading vessel up to the brim. Christ's commands are never meant to be done in a half-hearted manner. Let us throw our whole soul into whatever he commands us, even though, as yet, we cannot see the reason why he has set us the task. Christ's commands should be fulfilled with enthusiasm, and carried out to the extreme, if extreme be possible. The fourth principle is that our earnest action in obedience to Christ is not contrary to our dependence upon him, but it is necessary to our dependence upon him. I will show you that in a moment. There are some brethren I know who say, "Hem! you hold what you call revival services, and you try to arouse men by earnest appeals and exciting addresses. Do you not see that God will do his own work? These efforts are just your trying to take the work out of God's hands. The proper way is to trust in him, and do nothing." All right, brother. We have your word for it that you trust in him and do nothing. I take the liberty not to be so very certain that you do trust him, for if I remember who you are, and I think I have been to your house, you are about the most miserable, desponding, unbelieving person that I know. You do not even know whether you are saved yourself nine times out of ten. Well now, I think you should hardly come and cry yourself up for your faith. If you had such a wonderfully great faith, there is no doubt whatever that according to your faith it would be unto you. How many have been added to your church through your doing nothing this year that blessed church of yours, where you exercise this, blessed faith without works? How many have been brought in? "Well, we do not have very many additions." No, and I think you are not likely to have. If you go about the extension of the Redeemer's kingdom by inaction, I do not think that you go the way to work which Jesus Christ approves of. But we venture to say to you that we who go in for working for Christ with all our heart and soul, using any means within our reach to bring men in to hear the gospel, feel as much as ever you do that we cannot do anything at all in the matter apart from the Holy Spirit, and we trust in God, I think, almost as much as you do, because our faith has produced rather more results than yours has done. I should not wonder if it turns out that your faith without works is dead, being alone, and that our faith having works with it has been living faith after all. I will put the case thus: Jesus Christ says, "Fill the waterpots with water." The orthodox servant says, "My Lord, I fully believe that thou canst make wine for these people without any water, and by thy leave I will bring no water. I am not going to interfere with the work of God. I am quite certain that thou dost not want our help, gracious Lord. Thou canst make these waterpots to be full of wine without our bringing a single bucket of water, and so we will not rob thee of the glory of it. We will just stand back, and wait for thee. When the wine is made we will drink some of it and bless thy name; but meanwhile we pray thee have us excused, for pails are heavy carrying, and a good many must needs be brought to fill all those waterpots. It would be interfering with the divine work, and so we would rather take our ease." Do you not think that servants who talked so would prove that they had no faith in Jesus at all? We will not say that it would prove their unbelief, but we will say that it looks very like it. But look at the servant there who, as soon as ever Jesus commands" Fill the waterpots with water," says, "I do not know what he is at. I do not see the connection between fetching this water and providing the feast with wine, but I am off to the well: here, hand me a couple of pails. Come along, brother; come along and help fill the baths." There they go, and soon come joyfully back with the water, pouring it into the troughs till they are full up to the brim. Those seem to me to be the believing servants who obey the command, not understanding it, but expecting that, somehow or other, Jesus Christ knows the way to work his own miracle. By our earnest exertions we are not interfering with him, dear friends; far from it. We are proving our faith in him if we work for him as he bids us work, and trust in him alone with undivided faith. The next principle I must lay equal stress upon is this, our action alone is not sufficient. That we know, but let me remind you of it yet again. There are these waterpots, these troughs, these baths: they are full, and could not be fuller. What a spilling of water there is! You see that in their trying to fill them the water runs over here and there. Well, all these six great baths are full of water. Is there any more wine for all that? Not a drop. It is water that they brought, nothing but water, and it remains water still. Suppose that they should take that water into the feast; I am half afraid that the guests would not have thought cold water quite the proper liquid to drink at a wedding. They ought to have done so; but I am afraid they were not educated in the school of total abstinence. They would have said to the master of the feast, "Thou hast given us good wine, and water is a poor finish for the feast." I am sure it would not have done. And yet water it was, depend upon it, and nothing else but water, when the servants poured it into the pots. Even so, after all that sinners can. do, and all that saints can do, there is nothing in any human effort which can avail for the saving of a soul till Christ speaks the word of power. When Paul has planted and Apollos watered, there is no increase till God gives it. Preach the gospel, labor with souls, persuade, entreat, exhort; but there is no power in anything that you do until Jesus Christ displays his divine might. His presence is our power. Blessed be his name, he will come; and if we fill the waterpots with water, he will turn it into wine. He alone can do it, and those servants who show the most alacrity in filling up the waterpots are among the first to confess that it is he alone who can perform the deed. And now the last principle here is that although human action in itself falls short of the desired end, yet it has its place, and God has made it necessary by his appointment. Why did our Lord have these waterpots filled with water? I do not say that it was necessary that it should have been done. It was not absolutely necessary in itself; but in order that the miracle might be all open and above board, it was necessary; for suppose he had said, "Go to those waterpots and draw out wine," those who watched him might have said that there was wine there before, and that no miracle was wrought. When our Lord had them filled up with water, there remained no room for any wine to be hidden away. It was just the same as with Elijah, when, in order to prove that there was no concealed fire upon the altar at Carmel, he bade them go down to the sea, and bring water, and pour it upon the altar, and upon the victim, till the trenches were filled. He said, "Do it a second time," and they did it a second time; and he said. "Do it a third time," and they did it a third time, and no possibility of imposture remained. And so, when the Lord Jesus bade the servants fill the waterpots with water, he put it beyond all possibility that he should be charged with imposture; and thus we see why it was necessary that they should be filled with water. Moreover, it was necessary, because it was so instructive to the servants. Did you notice when I was reading it that the master of the feast, when he tasted the good wine, did not know where it came from. He could not make it out, and he uttered an expression which showed his surprise, mingled with his ignorance. But it is written, "The servants which drew the water knew." Now, when souls are converted in a church, it happens much in the same way with certain of the members, who are good people, but they do not know much about the conversion of sinners. They do not feel much joy in revivals; in fact, like the elder brother, they are rather suspicious of these wild characters being brought in: they consider themselves to be very respectable, and. they would rather not have the lowest of people sitting in the pew with them: they feel awkward in coming so near them. They know little about what is going on. "But the servants which drew the water knew": that is to say, the earnest believers who do the work, and try to fill the waterpots, know all about it. Jesus bade them fill the vessels with water on purpose that the men who drew the water might know that it was a miracle. I warrant you, if you bring souls. to Christ you will know his power. It will make you leap for joy to hear the cry of the penitent, and mark the bright flash of delight that passes over the new-born believer's face when his sins are washed away, and he feels himself renewed. If you want to know Jesus. Christ's miraculous power you must go and--not work miracles, but just draw the water and fill the waterpots. Do the ordinary duties. of Christian men and women things in which there is no power of themselves, but which Jesus Christ makes to be connected with his divine working, and it shall be for your instruction, and your comfort, that you had such work to do. "The servants which drew the water knew." I think that I have said enough upon the principles which lie concealed within my text. II. You must have patience with me while I try to apply these principles to practical purposes. LET US SEE HOW TO CARRY OUT THIS DIVINE COMMAND, "Fill the waterpots with water." First, use in the service of Christ such abilities as you have. There stood the waterpots, six of them, and Jesus used what he found ready to his hand. There was water in the well; our Lord used that also. Our Lord is accustomed to employ his own people, and such abilities as they have, rather than angels or a novel class of beings created fresh for the purpose. Now, dear brothers and sisters, if you have no golden chalices, fill your earthen vessels. If you cannot consider yourselves to be goblets of rarest workmanship in silver, or if you could not liken yourselves to the best Sevres ware, it does not matter; fill the vessels which you have. If you cannot, with Elias, bring fire from. heaven, and if you cannot work miracles with the apostles, do what you can. If silver and gold you have none, yet such as you have dedicate to Christ. Bring water at his bidding, and it will be better than wine. The commonest gifts can be made to serve Christ's purpose. Just as he took a few loaves and fishes, and fed the crowd with them, so will he take your six waterpots and the water, and do his wine-making therewith. Thus, you see, they improved what they had; for the waterpots were empty, but they filled them. There are a good many brethren here from the College to-night, and they are trying to improve their gifts and their abilities. I think you do right, my brethren. But I have heard some people say, "The Lord Jesus does not want your learning." No, it is very likely that he does not, any more than he needed the water: but then he certainly does not want your stupidity and your ignorance, and he does not want your rough, uncultivated ways of speaking. He did not seek for empty pitchers on this occasion; he would have them full, and the servants did well to fill them. Our Lord to-day does not want empty heads in his ministers, nor empty hearts; so, my brethren, fill your waterpots with water. Work away, and study away, and learn all you can, and fill the waterpots with water. "Oh," somebody will say, "but how are such studies to lead to the conversion of men? Conversion is like wine, and all that these young fellows will learn will be like water." You are right; but still I bid these students fill the waterpots with water, and expect the Lord Jesus to turn the water into wine. He can sanctify human knowledge so that it shall be useful to the setting forth of the knowledge of Jesus Christ. I hope that the day has gone by when it is so much as dreamed that ignorance and coarseness are helpful to the kingdom of Christ. The great Teacher would have his people know all that they can know, and especially know himself and the Scriptures, that they may set him forth, and proclaim his gospel. "Fill the waterpots with water." Next, to apply this principle, let us all use such means of blessing as God appoints. What are they? First, there is the reading of the Scriptures. "Search the Scriptures." Search them all you can. Try to understand them. "But if I know the Bible, shall I be therefore saved." No, you must know Christ himself by the Spirit. Still, "fill the waterpots with water." While you are studying the Scriptures you may expect the Savior will bless his own word, and turn the water into wine. Then there is attendance upon the means of grace, and hearing a gospel ministry. Mind you fill that waterpot with water. "But I may hear thousands of sermons and not be saved." I know it is so, but your business is to fill this waterpot with water, and while you are listening to the gospel God will bless it, for "faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." Take care to use the means which God appoints. Since our Lord has appointed to save men by the preaching of the word, I pray that he will raise up those who will preach without ceasing, in season and out of season, indoors and in the streets. "But they won't be saved by our preaching." I know that. Preaching is the water: and while we are preaching, God will bless it, and turn the water into wine. Let us distribute religious books and tracts. "Oh, but people won't be saved by reading them." Very likely not, but while they are reading them God may bring his truth to remembrance and impress their hearts. "Fill the waterpots with water." Give away abundance of tracts. Scatter religious literature everywhere. "Fill the waterpots with water," and the Lord will turn the water into wine. Remember the prayer-meeting. What a blessed means of grace it for it brings down power for all the works of the church: fill that waterpot with water. I have not to complain of your attendance at prayer-meetings; but oh, keep it up, dear brethren! You can pray. Blessed be his name, you have the spirit of prayer. Pray on! "Fill the waterpots with water," and in answer to prayer Jesus will turn it into wine. Sunday-school teachers, do not neglect your blessed means of usefulness. "Fill the waterpots with water." Work the Sunday-school system with all your might. "But it will not save the children merely to get them together, and teach them of Jesus. We cannot give them new hearts." Who said that you could? "Fill the waterpots with water." Jesus Christ knows how to turn it into wine, and he does not fail to do it when we are obedient to his commands. Use all the means, but take care that you use those means right heartily. I come back to that part of the text "And they filled them up to the brim." When you teach the young ones in the Sunday-school, teach them well. Fill them to the brim. When you preach, dear sir, do not preach as if you were only half awake; stir yourself up; fill your ministry to the brim. When you are trying to evangelize the community, do not attempt it in a half-hearted way, as if you did not care whether their souls were saved or not; fill them to the brim; preach the gospel with all your might, and beg for power from on high. Fill every vessel to the brim. Whatever is worth doing is worth doing well. Nobody ever yet served Christ too well. I have heard that in some services there may be too much zeal, but in the service of Christ you may have as much zeal as ever you will and yet not exceed, if prudence be joined therewith. "Fill the waterpots with water," and fill them to the brim. Go in for doing good with all your heart and soul and strength. Further, in order to apply this principle, be sure to remember when you have done all that you can do, that there is a great deficiency in all that you have done. It is well to come away from tract-distributing and Sunday-school teaching and preaching, and go home and get to your knees, and cry, "Lord, I have done all that thou hast commanded me, and yet there is nothing done unless thou givest the finishing touch. Lord, I have filled the waterpots, and though I could only fill them with water, yet I have filled them to the brim. Lord, to the best of my ability, I have sought to win men for thyself. There cannot be a soul saved, a child converted, or any glory brought to thy name by what I have done, in and of itself; but, my Master, speak the miracle-working word, and let the water which fills the vessels blush into wine. Thou canst do it, though I cannot. I cast the burden upon thee." And this leads me to the last application of the principle, which is trust in your Lord to do the work. You see, there are two ways of filling 'waterpots. Suppose these people had never been commanded to fill the waterpots, and their doing it had had no reference to Christ whatever; suppose that it had been a freak of their own imagination, and they had said, "These people have no wine, but they shall have a bath if they like, and so we will fill the six waterpots with water." Nothing would have come of such a proceeding. There would have stood the water. The Eton school-boy said, "The conscious water saw its God and blushed," a truly poetic expression; but the conscious water would have seen the servants, and would not have blushed. It would have reflected their faces upon its shining surface, but nothing more would have happened. Jesus Christ himself must come, and in present power must work the miracle. It was because he had commanded the servants to fill the waterpots with water that therefore he was bound, if I may use such an expression of our free King, bound to turn it into wine, for otherwise he would have been making fools of them, and they also might have turned round and said, "Why didst thou give us such a command as this?" If, after we have filled the waterpots with water, Jesus does not work by us, we shall have done what he bade us; but if we believe in him, I make bold to say that he is bound to come; for though we should be losers, and dreadful losers too, if he did not display his power, for we should have to lament, "I have labored in vain, and spent my strength for nought," yet we should not be such losers as he would be, for straightway the world would affirm that Christ's commands are empty, fruitless, idle. It would be declared that obedience to his word brings no result. The world would say, "You have filled the waterpots with water because he told you to do it. You expected him to turn the water into wine, but he did not do it. Your faith is vain; your whole obedience is vain; and he is not a fit Master to be served." We should be losers, but he would be a greater loser still, for he would lose his glory. For my part, I do not believe that a good word for Christ is ever spoken in vain. I am sure that no sermon with Christ in it is ever preached without result. Something will come of it, if not to-night, nor to-morrow; something will come of it. When I have printed a sermon, and seen it fairly in the volume, I have before long been delighted to hear of souls saved by its means. And when I have not printed, but only preached, a discourse, I have still thought, something will come of it. I preached Christ. I put his saving truth into that sermon, and that seed cannot die. If it shall lie in the volume for years, like the grains of wheat in the mummy's hand, it will live, and grow, and bear fruit. Consequently, I have heard but lately of a soul brought to Christ by a sermon that I preached twenty-five years ago. I hear almost every week of souls having been brought to Christ by sermons preached at Park Street, and Exeter Hall, and the Surrey Gardens, and therefore I feel that God will not let a single faithful testimony fall to the ground. Go on, brethren. Go on filling the waterpots with water. Do not believe that you are doing much when you have done your utmost. Do not begin to congratulate yourselves on your past success. All must come from Christ; and it will come from Christ. Do not go to the prayer-meeting and say, "Paul may plant and Apollos may water, but "--and so on. That is not how the passage runs. It says just the contrary, and runs thus, "Paul planteth, Apollos watereth, but God giveth the increase." The increase is surely given by God where the planting and sowing are rightly done. The servants fill the waterpots: the Master turns the water into wine. The Lord grant us grace to be obedient to his command, especially to that command, "Believe and live!" and may we meet him in the marriage-feast above to drink of the new wine with him for ever and ever. Amen and amen.
November 28th, 1858 by C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892)
"The governor of the feast called the bridegroom, and saith unto him, every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse; but thou hast kept the good wine until now." John 2:9-10 .
The governor of the feast said more than he intended to say, or rather, there is more truth in what he said than he himself imagined. This is the established rule all the world over: "the good wine first, and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse." It is the rule with men; and have not hundreds of disappointed hearts bewailed it? Friendship first the oily tongue, the words softer than butter, and afterwards the drawn sword. Ahithophel first presents the lordly dish of love and kindness to David, then afterwards that which is worse, for he forsakes his master, and becomes the counsellor of his rebel son. Judas presents first of all the dish of fair speech and of kindness; the Saviour partook thereof, he walked to the house of God in company with him, and took sweet counsel with him; but afterwards there came the dregs of the wine "He that eateth bread with me hath lifted up his heel against me." Judas the thief betrayed his Master, bringing forth afterwards "that which is worse." Ye have found it so with many whom ye thought your friends. In the heyday of prosperity, when the sun was shining, and the birds were singing, and all was fair and gay and cheerful with you, they brought forth the good wine; but there came a chilling frost, and nipped your flowers, and the leaves fell from the trees, and your streams were frosted with the ice, and then they brought forth that which is worse, they forsook you and fled; they left you in your hour of peril, and taught you that great truth, that "Cursed is he that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm." And this is the way all the world over I say it once again not merely with men, but with nature too.
"Alas, for us, if thou wert all, And nought beyond O earth;"
for doth not this world serve us just the same? In our youth it brings forth the best wine; then we have the sparkling eye, and the ear attuned to music; then the blood flows swiftly through the veins and the pulse beats joyously; but wait a little and there shall come forth afterwards that which is worse, for the keepers of the house shall tremble, and the strong men shall bow themselves; the grinders shall fail because they are few, they that look out of the windows shall be darkened, all the daughters of music shall be brought low; then shall the strong man totter, the grasshopper shall be a burden, and desire shall fail, the mourners shall go about the streets. First there is the flowing cup of youth, and afterwards the stagnant waters of old age, unless God shall cast into those dregs a fresh flood of his lovingkindness and tender mercy, so that once again, as it always happeneth to the Christian, the cup shall run over, and again sparkle with delight. O Christian, trust not thou in men; rely not thou upon the things of this present time, for this is evermore the rule with men and with the world "the good wine first, and when ye have well drunken, then that which is worse." This morning, however, I am about to introduce you to two houses of feasting. First, I shall bid you look within the doors of the devil's house, and you will find he is true to this rule; he brings forth first the good wine, and when men have well drunk, and their brains are muddled therewith, then he bringeth forth that which is worse. Having bidden you look there and tremble, and take heed to the warning, I shall then attempt to enter with you into the banquetting house of our beloved Lord and Master Jesus Christ, and of him we shall be able to say, as the governor of the feast said to the bridegroom, "Thou hast kept the good wine until now;" thy feasts grow better, and not worse: thy wines grow richer, thy viands are daintier far, and thy gifts more precious than before. "Thou hast kept the good wine until now." I. First, we are to take a warning glance at the HOUSE OF FEASTING WHICH SATAN HATH BUILDED: for as wisdom hath builded her house, and hewn out her seven pillars, so hath folly its temple and its tavern of feasting, into which it continually tempts the unwary. Look within the banquetting house, and I will shew you four tables and the guests that sit thereat; and as you look at those tables you shall see the courses brought in. You shall see the wine cops brought, and you shall see them vanish one after another, and you shall mark that the rule holds good at all four tables first the good wine, and afterwards that which is worse yea, I shall go further afterwards, that which is worst of all. 1. At the first table to which I shall invite your attention, though I beseech you never to sit down and drink thereat, sit the PROFLIGATE. The table of the profligate is a gay table; it is covered over with a gaudy crimson, and all the vessels upon it look exceedingly bright and glistening. Many there be that sit thereat, but they know not that they are the guests of hell, and that the end of all the feast shall be in the depths of perdition. See ye now the great governor of the feast, as he comes in? He has a bland smile upon his face; his garments are not black, but he is girded with a robe of many colours, he hath a honied word on his lip, and a tempting witchery in the sparkle of his eye. He brings in she cup, and says, "Hey, young man, drink hereat, it sparkleth in the cup, it moveth itself aright. Do you see it? It is the wine-cup of pleasure." This is the first cup at the banquetting house of Satan. The young man takes it, and sips the liquor. At first it is a cautious sip; it is but a little he will take, and then he will restrain himself. He does not intend to indulge much in lust, he means not to plunge headlong into perdition. There is a flower there on the edge of that cliff: he will reach forward a little and pluck it, but it is not his intention to dash himself from that beetling crag and destroy himself. Not he! He thinks it easy to put away the cup when he has tested its flavour! He has no design to abandon himself to its intoxication. He takes a shallow draught. But O how sweet it is! How it makes his blood tingle within him. What a fool I was, not to have tasted this before! he thinks. Was ever joy like this? Could it be thought that bodies could be capable of such ecstasy as this? He drinks again; this time he takes a deeper draught, and the wine is hot in his veins. Oh! how blest is he! What would he not say now in the praise of Bacchus, or Venus, or whatever shape Beelzebub chooses to assume? He becomes a very orator in praise of sin? It is fair, it is pleasant, the deep damnation of lust appeareth as joyous as the transports of heaven. He drinks, he drinks, he drinks again, till his brain begins to reel with the intoxication of his sinful delight. This is the first course. Drink, O ye drunkards of Ephraim, and bind the crown of pride about your head, and call us fools because we put your cup from us; drink with the harlot and sup with the lustful; ye may think yourselves wise for so doing, but we know that after these things there cometh something worse, for your vine is the vine of Sodom, and of the fields of Gomorrah, your grapes are grapes of gall, the clusters are bitter; your wine is the poison of dragons and the cruel venom of asps. Now with a leer upon his brow, the subtle govenor of the feast riseth from his seat. His victim has had enough of the best wine. He takes away that cup, and he brings in another, not quite so sparkling. Look into the liquor; it is not beaded over with the sparkling bubbles of rapture; it is all flat, and dull, and insipid; it is called the cup of satiety. The man has had enough of pleasure, and like a dog he vomits, though like a dog he will return to his vomit yet again. Who hath woe? Who hath redness of eyes? They that tarry long at the wine. I am now speaking figuratively of wine, as well as literally. The wine of lust bringeth the same redness of the eyes; the profligate soon discovers that all the rounds of pleasure end in satiety. "What!" says he, "What more can I do? There! I have committed every wickedness that can be imagined, and I have drained every cup of pleasure. Give me something fresh! I have tried the theatres all round: there! I don't care so much as one single farthing for them all. I have gone to every kind of pleasure that I can conceive. It is all over. Gaiety itself grows flat and dull. What am I to do?" And this is the devil's second course the course of satiety a fitful drowsiness, the result of the previous excess. Thousands there are who are drinking of the tasteless cup of satiety every day, and some novel invention whereby they may kill time, some new discovery whereby they may give a fresh vent to their iniquity would be a wonderful thing to them; and if some man should rise up who could find out for them some new fashion of wickedness, some deeper depths in the deeps of the nethermost hell of lasciviousness, they would bless his name, for having given them something fresh to excite them. That is the devil's second course. And do you see them partaking of it? Three are some of you that are having a deep draught of it this morning. You are the jaded horses of the fiend of lust, the disappointed followers of the will-o'-the-wisp of pleasure. God knows, if you were to speak your heart out you would be obliged to say, "There! I have tried pleasure, and I do not find it pleasure ; I have gone the round, and I am just like the blind horse at the mill, I have to go round again. I am spell-bound to the sin, but I cannot take delight in it now as I once did, for all the glory on it is as a fading flower, and as the hasty fruit before the summer. Awhile the feaster remains in the putrid sea of his infatuation, but another scene is opening. The governor of the feast commandeth another liquor to be broached. This time the fiend bears a black goblet, and he presents it with eyes full of hell-fire, flashing with fierce damnation. "Drink of that, sir," says he, and the man sips it and starts back and shrieks, "O God! that ever I must come to this!" You must drink, sir! He that quaffs the first cup, must drink the second, and the third. Drink, though it be like fire down your throat! Drink it, though it be as the lava of Etna in your bowels! Drink! you must drink! He that sins must suffer; he that is a profligate in his youth must have rottenness in his bones, and disease within his loins. He who rebels against the laws of God, must reap the harvest in his own body here. Oh! there are some dreadful things that I might tell you of this third course. Satan's house has a front chamber full of everything that is enticing to the eye and bewitching to the sensual taste; but there is a back chamber, and no one knoweth, no one hath seen the whole of its horrors. There is a secret chamber, where he shovels out the creatures whom he hath himself destroyed a chamber, beneath whose floor is the blazing of hell, and above whose boards the heat of that horrible pit is felt. It may be a physician's place rather than mine, to tell of the horrors that some have to suffer as the result of their iniquity. I leave that; but let me tell the profligate spendthrift, that the poverty which he will endure is the result of his sin of extravagant spendthriftcy; let him know, also, that the remorse of conscience that will overtake him is not an accidental thing that drops by chance from heaven, it is the result of his own iniquity; for, depend upon it, men and brethren, sin carries an infant misery in its bowels, and sooner or later it must be delivered of its terrible child. If we sow the seed we must reap the harvest. Thus the law of hell's house stands "first, the good wine, then, afterwards, that which is worse." The last course remains to be presented. And now, ye strong men who mock at the warning, which I would fain deliver to you with a brother's voice and with an affectionate heart, though with rough language. Come ye here, and drink of this last cup. The sinner has at the end brought himself to the grave. His hopes and joys were like gold put into a bag full of holes, and they have all vanished vanished for ever; and now he has come to the last; his sins haunt him, his transgressions perplex him; he is taken like a bull in a net, and how shall he escape. He dies, and descends from disease to damnation. Shall mortal language attempt to tell you the horrors of that last tremendous cup of which the profligate must drink, and drink for ever? Look at it: ye cannot see its depths, but cast an eye upon its seething surface, I hear the noise of rushing to and fro, and a sound as of gnashing of teeth and the wailing of despairing souls. I look into that cup, and I hear a voice coming up from its depths "These shall go away into everlasting punishment;" for "Tophet is prepared of old, the pile thereof is wood and much smoke, the breath of the Lord, like a stream of brimstone, shall kindle it." And what say ye to this last course of Satan? "Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? Who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings?" Profligate! I beseech thee, in the name of God, start from this table! Oh, be not so careless at thy cups; be not so asleep, secure in the peace which thou now enjoyest! Man! death is at the door, and at his heels is swift destruction. As for you, who as yet have been restrained by a careful father and the watchfulness of an anxious mother, I beseech you shun the house of sin and folly. Let the wise man's words be written on thine heart, and be thou mindful of them in the hour of temptation "Remove thy way far from her, and come not nigh the door of her house: for the lips of a strange woman drop as an honeycomb, and her mouth is smoother than oil: but her end is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two edged sword. Her feet go down to death; her steps take hold on hell." 2. Do ye see that other table yonder in the middle of the palace? Ah! good easy souls! Many of you had thought that you never went to the feast of hell at all; but there is a table for you too; it is covered over with a fair white cloth, and all the vessels upon the table are most clean and comely. The wine looks not like the wine of Gomorrah, it moveth aright, like the wine from the grapes of Eshcol; it seems to have no intoxication in it; it is like the ancient wine which they pressed from the grape into the cup having in it no deadly poison. Do ye see the men who sit at this table? How self-contented they are! Ask the white fiends who wait at it, and they will tell you, "This is the table of the self-righteous: the Pharisee sits there. You may know him; he has his phylactery between his eyes; the hem of his garment is made exceeding broad; he is one of the best of the best professors." "Ah!" saith Satan, as he draws the curtain and shuts off the table where the profligates are carousing, "be quiet; don't make too much noise, lest these sanctimonious hypocrites should guess what company they are in. Those self-righteous people are my guests quite as much as you, and I have them quite as safely." So Satan, like an angel of light, brings forth a gilded goblet, looking like the chalice of the table of communion. And what wine is that? It seems to be the very wine of the sacred Eucharist; it is called the wine of self-satisfaction, and around the brim you may see the bubbles of pride. Look at the swelling froth upon the bowl "God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican." You know that cup, my self-deceiving hearers; Oh that ye knew the deadly hemlock which is mixed therein. "Sin as other men do? Not you; not at all. You are not going to submit yourself to the righteousness of Christ: what need you? You are as good as your neighbours; if you are not saved, you ought to be, you think. Don't you pay everybody twenty-shillings in the pound? Did you ever rob anybody in your life? You do your neighbours a good turn; you are as good as other people." Very good! That is the first cup the devil gives, and the good wine makes you swell with self-important dignity, as its fumes enter your heart and puff it up with an accursed pride. Yes! I see you sitting in the room so cleanly swept and so neatly garnished, and I see the crowds of your admirers standing around the table, even many of God's own children, who say, "Oh that I were half as good as he." While the very humility of the righteous provides you with provender for your pride. Wait awhile, thou unctious hypocrite, wait awhile, for there is a second course to come. Satan looks with quite as self-satisfied an air upon his guests this time as he did upon the troop of rioters. "Ah!" says he, "I cheated those gay fellows with the cup of pleasure I gave them, afterwards, the dull cup of satiety, and I have cheated you, too; you think yourselves all right, but I have deceived you twice, I have befooled you indeed." So he brings in a cup which, sometimes, he himself doth not like to serve. It is called the cup of discontent and unquietness of mind, and many there be that have to drink this after all their self-satisfaction. Do you not find, you that are very good in your own esteem, but have no interest in Christ, that when you sit alone and begin to turn over your accounts for eternity, that they do not square somehow that you cannot strike the balance exactly to your own side after all, as you thought you could? Have not you sometimes found, that when you thought you were standing on a rock, there was a quivering beneath your feet? You heard the Christian sing boldly,
"Bold shall I stand in that great day, For who aught to my charge shall lay? While, thro' thy blood, absolv'd I am From sin's tremendous curse and shame."
And you have said, "Well, I cannot sing that, I have been as good a Churchman as ever lived, I never missed going to my church all these years, but I cannot say I have a solid confidence." You had once a hope of self-satisfaction; but now the second course has come in, and you are not quite so contented. "Well," says another, "I have been to my chapel, and I have been baptized, and made a profession of religion, though I was never brought to know the Lord in sincerity and in truth, and I once thought it was all well with me, but I want a something which I cannot find." Now comes a shaking in the heart. It is not quite so delightful as one supposed, to build on one's own righteousness. Ah! that is the second course. Wait awhile, and mayhap in this world, but certainly in the hour of death, the devil will bring in the third cup of dismay, at the discovery of your lost condition. How many a man who has been self-righteous all his life, has, at the last discovered that the thing whereon he placed his hope had failed him. I have heard of an army, who, being defeated in battle, endeavoured to make good a retreat. With all their might the soldiers fled to a certain river, where they expected to find a bridge across which they could retreat and be in safety. But when they came to the stream, there was heard a shriek of terror "The bridge is broken, the bridge is broken!" All in vain was that cry; for the multitude hurrying on behind, pressed upon those that were before and forced them into the river, until the stream was glutted with the bodies of drowned men. Such must be the fate of the self-righteous. You thought there was a bridge of ceremonies; that baptism, confirmation, and the Lord's Supper, made up the solid arches of a bridge of good works and duties. But when you come to die, there shall be heard the cry "The bridge is broken, the bridge is broken!" It will be in vain for you to turn round then. Death is close behind you; he forces you onward, and you discover what it is to perish, through having neglected the great salvation, and attempting to save yourself through your own good works. This is the last course but one: and your last course of all, the worst wine, your everlasting portion must be the same as that of the profligate. Good as you thought yourself to be, inasmuch as you proudly rejected Christ, you must drink the winecup of the wrath of God; that cup which is full of trembling. The wicked of the earth shall wring out the dregs of that cup, and drink them; and you also must drink of it as deep as they. Oh, beware in time! Put away your high looks, and humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and ye shall be saved. 3. Some of you have as yet escaped the lash, but there is a third table crowded with most honourable guests. I believe there have been more princes and kings, mayors and aldermen, and great merchants sitting at this table, than at any other. It is called the table of worldliness. "Humph," says a man, "Well, I dislike the profligate; there's my eldest son, I've been hard at work saving up money all my life, and there's that young fellow, he will not stick to business: he has become a real profligate, I am very glad the minister spoke so sharp about that. As for me there now; I don't care about your self-righteous people a single farthing; to me it is of no account at all; I don't care at all about religion in the slightest degree; I like to know whether the funds rise or fall, or whether there is an opportunity of making a good bargain; but that's about all I care for." Ah! worldling, I leave read of a friend of yours, who was clothed in scarlet, and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day. Do you know what became of him? You should remember it, for the same end awaits yourself. The end of his feast must be the end of yours. If your God is this world, depend upon it you shall find that your way is full of bitterness. Now, see that table of the worldly man, the mere worldling, who lives for gain. Satan brings him in a flowing cup, "There," says he, "Young man, you are starting in business; you need not care about the conventionalities of honesty, or about the ordinary old-fashioned fancies of religion; get rich as quick as ever you can. Get money get money honestly if you can, but, if not, get it anyhow," says the devil; and down he puts his tankard. "There," says he, "is a foaming draught for you." "Yes," says the young man, "I have abundance now. My hopes are indeed realised." Here, then, you see the first and best wine of the worldling's feast, and many of you are tempted to envy this man. "Oh, that I had such a prospect in business," says one, "I'm not half so sharp as he is, I could not deal as he deals; my religion would not let me. But how fast he gets rich! O that I could prosper as he does." Come, my brother, judge not before the time, there's a second course to come, the thick and nauseous draught of care. The man has got his money, but they that will be rich, fall into temptation and a snare. Wealth ill-gotten, or ill-used, or hoarded, brings a canker with it, that does not canker the gold and silver, but cankers the man's heart, and a cankered heart is one of the most awful things a man can have. Ah! see this money-lover, and mark the care which sits upon heart. There is a poor old woman, that lives near his lodge gate. She has but a pittance a week, but she says, "Bless the Lord, I have enough!" She never asks how she is to live, or how she is to die, or how she is to be buried, but sleeps sweetly on the pillow of contentment and faith; and here is this poor fool with untold gold, but he is miserable because he happened to drop a sixpence as he walked along the streets, or because he had an extra call upon his charity, to which the presence of some friend compelled him to yield; or perhaps he groans because his coat wears out too soon. After this comes avarice. Many have had to drink of that cup; may God save any of us from its fiery drops. A great American preacher has said, "Covetousness breeds misery. The sight of houses better than our own, of dress beyond our means, of jewels costlier than we may wear, of stately equipage, and rare curiosities beyond our reach, these hatch the viper brood of covetous thoughts; vexing the poor, who would be rich; tormenting the rich, who would be richer. The covetous man pines to see pleasure; is sad in the presence of cheerfulness; and the joy of the world is his sorrow, because all the happiness of others is not his. I do not wonder that God abhors him. He inspects his heart as he would a cave full of noisome birds, or a nest of rattling reptiles, and loathes the sight of its crawling tenants. To the covetous man life is a nightmare, and God lets him wrestle with it as best he may. Mammon might build its palace on such a heart, and Pleasure bring all its revelry there, Honour all its garlands it would be like pleasures in a sepulchre, and garlands on a tomb." When a man becomes avaricious, all he has is nothing to him; "More, more, more!" says he, like some poor creatures in a terrible fever, who cry, "Drink, drink, drink!" and you give them drink, but after they have it, their thirst increases. Like the horse-leech they cry, "Give, give, give!" Avarice is a raving madness which seeks to grasp the world in its arms, and yet despises the plenty it has already. This is a curse of which many have died; and some have died with the bag of gold in their hands, and with misery upon their brow, because they could not take it with them into their coffin, and could not carry it into another world. Well, then, there comes the next course. Baxter, and those terrible old preachers used to picture the miser, and the man who lived only to make gold, in the middle of hell; and they imagined Mammon pouring melted gold down his throat, "There," say the mocking devils, "that is what you wanted, you have got it now; drink, drink, drink!" and the molten gold is poured down. I shall not, however, indulge in any such terrible imaginations, but this much I know, he that liveth to himself here, must perish; he who sets his affections upon things on earth, hath not digged deep he has built his house upon the sands; and when the rain descends, and the floods come, down must come his house, and great must be the fall thereof. It is the best wine first, however; it is the respectable man, respectable and respected, everybody honours him, and afterwards that which is worse, when meanness has beggared his wealth, and covetousness has maddened his brain. It is sure to come, as sure as ever you give yourself up to worldliness. 4. The fourth table is set in a very secluded corner, in a very private part of Satan's palace. There is the table set for secret sinners, and here the old rule is observed. At that table, in a room well darkened, I see a young man sitting to-day, and Satan is the servitor, stepping in so noiselessly, that no one would hear him. He brings in the first cup and O how sweet it is! It is the cup of secret sin. "Stolen waters are sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant." How sweet that morsel, eaten all alone! Was there ever one that rolled so delicately under the tongue? That is the first; after that, he brings in another, the wine of an unquiet conscience. The man's eyes are opened. He says, "What have I done? What have I been doing? Ah," cries this Achan, "the first cup you brought me, I saw sparkling in that a wedge of gold, and a goodly Babylonish garment; and I thought, 'Oh, I must have that;' but now my thought is, What shall I do to hide this, where shall I put it? I must dig. Ay, I must dig deep as hell before I shall hide it, for sure enough it will be discovered." The grim governor of the feast is bringing in a massive bowl, filled with a black mixture. The secret sinner drinks, and is confounded; he fears his sin will find him out. He has no peace, no happiness, he is full of uneasy fear; he is afraid that he shall be detected. He dreams at night that there is some one after him; there is a voice whispering in his ear, and telling him "I know all about it; I will tell it." He thinks, perhaps, that the sin which he has committed in secret will break out to his friends; the father will know it, the mother will know it. Ay, it may be even the physician will tell the tale, and blab out the wretched secret. For such a man there is no rest. He is always in dread of arrest. He is like the debtor I have read of; who, owing a great deal of money, was afraid the bailiffs were after him: and happening one day to catch his sleeve on the top of a palisade, said, "There, let me go; I'm in a hurry. I will pay you to-morrow," imagining that some one was laying hold of him. Such is the position in which the man places himself by partaking of the hidden things of dishonesty and sin. Thus he finds no rest for the sole of his foot for fear of discovery. At last the discovery comes; it is the last cup. Often it comes on earth; for be sure your sin will find you out, and it will generally find you out here. What frightful exhibitions are to be seen at our police courts of men that are made to drink that last black draught of discovery. The man who presided at religious meetings, the man who was honoured as a saint, is at last unmasked. And what saith the judge and what saith the world of him? He is a jest, and a reproach, and a rebuke everywhere. But, suppose he should be so crafty, that he passes through life without discovery though I think it is almost impossible what a cup he must drink when he stands at last before the bar of God! "Bring him forth, jailor! Dread keeper of the dungeon of hell, lead forth the prisoner." He comes! The whole world is assembled, "Stand up, sir! Did you not make a profession of religion? did not every body think you a saint?" He is speechless. But many there are in that vast crowd who cry, "We thought him so." The book is open, his deeds are read: transgression after transgression all laid bare. Do you hear that hiss? The righteous, moved to indignation, are lifting up their voices against the man who deceived them, and dwelt among them as a wolf in sheep's clothing. Oh, how fearful it must be to bear the scorn of the universe! The good can bear the scorn of the wicked but for the wicked to bear the shame and everlasting contempt which righteous indignation will heap upon them, will be one of the most frightful things, next to the eternal endurance of the wrath of the Most High, which, I need not add, is the last cup of the devil's terrible feast, with which the secret sinner most be filled, for ever and ever. I pause now, but it is just to gather up my strength to beg that anything I may have said, that shall have the slightest personal bearing upon any of my hearers, may not be forgotten. I beseech you, men and brethren, if now you are eating the fat, and drinking the sweet of hell's banquet, pause and reflect what shall the end be? "He that soweth to the flesh, shall of the flesh reap corruption. He that soweth to the spirit, shall of the spirit reap life everlasting." I cannot spare more time far that, most assuredly. II. But you must pardon me while I occupy only a few minutes in taking you into the HOUSE OF THE SAVIOUR, where he feasts his beloved. Come and sit with us at Christ's table of outward providences. He does not feast his children after the fashion of the prince of darkness: for the first cup that Christ brings to them is very often a cup of bitterness. There are his own beloved children, his own redeemed; who have but sorry cheer. Jesus brings in the cup of poverty and affliction, and he makes his own children drink of it, till they say, "Thou hast made me drunken with wormwood, and thou hast filled me with bitterness." This is the way Christ begins. The worst wine first. When the serjeant begins with a young recruit, he gives him a shilling, and then, afterwards, come the march and the battle. But Christ never takes his recruits so. They must count the cost, lest they should begin to build, and not be able to finish. He seeks to have no disciples who are dazzled with first appearances. He begins roughly with them, and many have been his children who have found that the first course of the Redeemer's table has been affliction, sorrow, poverty, and want. In the olden time, when the best of God's people were at the table, he used to serve them worst, for they wandered about in sheep-skins and goat-skins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented, of whom the world was not worthy, and they kept on drinking of these bitter cups for many a day; but let me tell you afterwards he brought out sweeter cups for them, and you that have been troubled have found it so. After the cup of affliction, comes the cup of consolation, and, oh, how sweet is that! It has been the privilege of these lips to drink that cup after sickness and pain; and I can bear witness, that I said of my Master, "Thou hast kept the best wine until now." It was so luscious, that the taste thereof did take away every taste of the bitterness of sorrow; and I said, "Surely the bitterness of this sickness is all past, for the Lord has manifested himself to me, and given me his best wine." But, beloved, the best wine is to come last. God's people will find it so outwardly. The poor saint comes to die. The master has given him the cup of poverty, but now no more he drinks thereof, he is rich to all the intents of bliss. He has had the cup of sickness; he shall drink of that no more. He has had the cup of persecution, but now he is glorified, together with his Master, and made to sit upon his throne. The best things have come last to him in outward circumstances. There were two martyrs once burned at Stratford-le-Bow; one of them was lame, and the other blind, and when they were tied to the stake, the lame man took his crutch and threw it down, and said to the other, "Cheer up, brother, this is the sharp physic that shall heal us, I shall not be lame within an hour of this time nor shalt thou be blind." No, the best things were to come last. But I have often thought that the child of God is very much like the crusaders. The crusaders started of on their journey, and they had to tight their way through many miles of enemies and to march through leagues of danger. You remember, perhaps, in history, the story that when the armies of the Duke of Bouillon came in sight of Jerusalem, they sprang from their horses, clapped their hands, and cried, "Jerusalem, Jerusalem, Jerusalem." They forgot all their toils, all the weariness of the journey and all their wounds, for there was Jerusalem in their sight. And how will the saint at last cry, "Jerusalem, Jerusalem," when all sorrow, and all poverty, and sickness are past, and he is blest with immortality. The bad wine bad did I say? nay the bitter wine is taken away, and the best wine is brought out, and the saint sees himself glorified for ever with Christ Jesus. And now, we will sit down at the table of inward experience. The first cup that Christ brings to his children, when they sit at that table, is one so bitter that, perhaps, no tongue can ever describe it, it is the cup of conviction. It is a black cup, full of the most intense bitterness. The apostle Paul once drank a little of it, but it was so strong that it made him blind for three days. The conviction of his sin overpowered him totally; he could only give his soul to fasting and to prayer, and it was only when he drank of the next cup that the scales fell from off his eyes. I have drank of it, children of God, and I thought that Jesus was unkind, but, in a little while, he brought me forth a sweeter cup, the cup of his forgiving love, filled with the rich crimson of his precious blood. Oh! the taste of that wine is in my mouth this very hour, for the taste thereof is as the wine of Lebanon, that abideth in the cask for many a day. Do you not remember, when, after you had drunk the cup of sorrow, Jesus came and showed you his hands and his side, and said, "Sinner, I have died for thee, and given myself for thee; believe on me?" Do you not remember how you believed, and sipped the cup, and bow you believed again and took a deeper draught, and said, "Blessed be the name of God from this time forth and for ever; and let the whole earth say, 'Amen,' for he hath broken the gates of brass, and cut the bars of iron in sunder, and let the captives go free?" Since then the glorious Master has said to you, "Friend, come up higher!" and he has taken you to upper seats in the best rooms, and he has given you sweeter things. I will not tell you, to-day, of the wines you have drank. The spouse in Solomon's Song may supply the deficiency of my sermon this morning. She drank of the spiced wine of his pomegranate; and so have you, in those high and happy moments when you had fellowship with the Father, and with his Son, Jesus Christ. But tarry awhile, he has kept the best wine yet. You shall soon come near the banks of the Jordan, and then you shall begin to drink of the old wine of the kingdom, that has been barrelled up since the foundation of the world. The vintage of the Saviour's agony; the vintage of Gethsemane shall soon be broached for you, the old wine of the kingdom. You are come into the land "Beulah," and you begin to taste the full flavour of the wines on the lees well refined. You know how Bunyan describes the state which borders on the vale of death. It was a land flowing with milk and honey; a land where the angels often came to visit the saints, and to bring bundles of myrrh from the land of spices. And now the high step is taken, the Lord puts his finger upon your eyelids and kisses your soul out at your lips. Where are you now? In a sea of love, and life, and bliss, and immortality. "O Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, thou hast indeed kept the best wine until now! My Master! I have seen thee on the Sabbath, but this is an everlasting Sabbath. I have met thee in the congregation, but this is a congregation that shall ne'er break up. O my Master! I have seen the promises, but this is the fulfilment. I have blessed thee for gracious providences, but this is something more than all these: thou didst give me grace, but now thou hash given me glory; thou wast once my shield, but thou art now my sun. I am at thy right hand, where there is fullness of joy for ever. Thou hast kept thy best wine until now. All I ever had before was as nothing compared with this." And, lastly, for only time fails me, I could preach a week upon this subject. The table of communion is one at which God's children must sit. And the first thing they must drink of there, is the cup of communion with Christ in his sufferings. If thou wouldst come to the table of communion with Christ, thou must first of all drink of the wine of Calvary. Christian, thy head most he crowned with thorns. Thy hands must be pierced, I mean not with nails, but, spiritually thou must be crucified with Christ. We must suffer with him, or else we cannot reign with him; we must labour with him first, we must sup of the wine which his Father gave him to drink, or else we cannot expect to come to the better part of the feast. After drinking of the wine of his sufferings, and continuing to drink of it, we must drink of the cup of his labours, we must be baptized with his baptism, we must labour after souls, and sympathise with him in that ambition of his heart the salvation of sinners, and after that he will give us to drink of the cup of his anticipated honours. Here on earth we shall have good wine in communion with Christ in his resurrection, in his triumphs and his victories, but the best wine is to come at last. O chambers of communion, your gates have been opened to me; but I have only been able to glance within them; but the day is coming when on your diamond hinges ye shall turn, and stand wide open for ever and ever; and I shall enter into the king's palace and go no more out. O Christian! thou shalt soon see the King in his beauty; thy head shall soon be on his bosom; thou shalt soon sit at his feet with Mary; thou shalt soon do as the spouse did, thou shalt kiss him with the kisses of thy lips, and feel that his love is better than wine. I can conceive you, brethren, in the very last moment of your life, or rather, in the first moment of your life, saying, "He has kept the best wine until now." When you begin to see him face to face, when you enter into the closest fellowship, with nothing to disturb or to distract you, then shall you say "The best wine is kept until now." A saint was once dying, and another who sat by him said "Farewell, brother, I shall never see you again in the land of the living." "Oh," said the dying man, "I shall see you again in the land of the living that is up yonder, where I am going; this is the land of the dying." Oh brethren and sisters, if we should never meet again in the land of the dying, have we a hope that we shall meet in the land of the living, and drink the last wine at last.
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Spurgeon, Charle Haddon. "Commentary on John 2". "Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent