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Bible Commentaries

Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible

Luke 13

Verses 1-5

Accidents, Not Punishments

September 8, 1861 by C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892)

"There were present at that season some that told him of the Galileans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And Jesus answering said unto them, suppose ye that these Galileans were sinners above all the Galileans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish. Or those eighteen, upon whom the tower in Siloam fell and slew them, think ye that they were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem! I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish." Luke 13:1-5 .

The year 1861 will have a notoriety among its fellows as the year of calamities. Just at that season when man goes forth to reap the fruit of his labors, when the harvest of the earth is ripe, and the barns are beginning to burst with the new wheat, Death too, the mighty reaper, has come forth to out down his harvest; full sheaves have been gathered into his garner the tomb, and terrible have been the wailings which compose the harvest hymn of death. In reading the newspapers during the last two weeks, even the most stolid must have been the subject of very painful feelings. Not only have there been catastrophes so alarming that the blood chills at their remembrance, but column after column of the paper has been devoted to calamities of a minor degree of horror, but which, when added together, are enough to astound the mind with the fearful amount of sudden death which has of late fallen on the sons of men. We have had not only one incident for every day in the week, but two or three; we have not simply been stunned with the alarming noise of one terrific clash, but another, and another, and another, have followed upon each other's heels, like Job's messengers, till we have needed Job's patience and resignation to hear the dreadful tale of woes. Now, men and brethren, such things as these have always happened in all ages of the world. Think not that this is a new thing; do not dream, as some do, that this is the produce of an overwrought civilization, or of that modern and most wonderful discovery of steam. If the steam engine had never been known, and if the railway had never been constructed, there would have been sudden deaths and terrible accidents, not withstanding. In taking up the old records in which our ancestors wrote down their accidents and calamities, we find that the old stage coach yielded quite as heavy a booty to death as does the swiftly-rushing train; there were gates to Hades then as many as there are now, and roads to death quite as steep and precipitous, and traveled by quite as vast a multitude as in our present time. Do you doubt that? Permit me to refer you to the chapter before you. Remember those eighteen upon whom the tower in Siloam fell. What if no collision crushed them; what if they were not destroyed by the ungovernable iron horse dragging them down from an embankment; yet some badly-built tower, or some wall beaten by the tempest could fall upon eighteen at a time, and they might perish. Or worse than that, a despotic ruler, having the lives of men at his girdle, like the keys of his palace, might fall upon worshippers in the temple itself, and mix their blood with the blood of the bullocks which they were just then sacrificing to the God of heaven. Do not think, then, that this is an age in which God is dealing more hardly with us than of old. Do not think that God's providence has become more lax than it was, there always were sudden deaths, and there always will be. There always were seasons when death's wolves hunted in hungry packs, and, probably, until the end of this dispensation, the last enemy will hold his periodic festivals, and glut the worms with the flesh of men. Be not, therefore, cast down with any sudden fear, neither be ye troubled by these calamities. Go about your business, and if your avocations should call you to cross the field of death itself, do it, and do it bravely. God has not thrown up the reins of the world, he has not taken off his hand from the helm of the great ship, still

"He everywhere hath sway, And all things serve his might; His every act pure blessing is, His path unsullied light."

Only learn to trust him, and thou shalt not be afraid of sudden fear; "thy soul shall dwell at ease, and thy seed shall inherit the earth." The particular subject of this morning, however, is this the use which we ought to make of these fearful texts which God is writing in capital letters upon the history of the world. God hath spoken once, yea, twice, let it not be said that man regarded it not. We have seen a glimmering of God's power, we have beheld something of the readiness with which he can destroy our fellow-creatures. Let us "hear the rod and him that hath appointed it," and in hearing it, let us do two things. First, let us not be so foolish as to draw the conclusion of superstitious and ignorant persons that conclusions which is hinted at in the text, namely, that those who are thus destroyed by accident are sinners above all the sinners that be in the land. And, secondly, let us draw the right and proper inference, let us make practical use of all these events for our own personal improvement, let us hear the voice of the Savior saying, "Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish." I. First, then, LET US TAKE HEED THAT WE DO NOT DRAW THE RASH AND HASTY CONCLUSION FROM TERRIBLE ACCIDENTS, THAT THOSE WHO SUFFER BY THEM SUFFER ON ACCOUNT OF THEIR SINS. It has been most absurdly stated that those who travel on the first day of the week and meet with an accident, ought to regard that accident as being a judgment from God upon them on account of their violating the Christian's day of worship. It has been stated even by godly ministers, that the late deplorable collision should be looked upon as an exceedingly wonderful and remarkable visitation of the wrath of God against those unhappy persons who happened to be in the Clayton tunnel. Now I enter my solemn protest against such an inference as that, not in my own name, but in the name of Him who is the Christian's Master and the Christian's Teacher. I say of those who were crushed in that tunnel, think ye that they were sinners above all the sinners "I tell you, all: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish." Or those who perished but last Monday, think ye that they were sinners above all the sinners that were in London? "I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likes wise perish." Now, mark, I would not deny but what there have sometimes been judgments of God upon particular persons for sin; sometimes, and I think but exceedingly rarely, such things have occurred. Some of us have heard in our own experience instances of men who have blasphemed God and defied Him to destroy them, who have suddenly fallen dead; and in such cases, the punishment has so quickly followed the blasphemy that one could not help perceiving the hand of God in it. The man had wantonly asked for the judgment of God, his prayer was heard and the judgment came. And, beyond a doubt, there are what may be called natural judgments. You see a man ragged, poor, houseless; he has been profligate, he has been a drunkard, he has lost his character, and it is but the just judgment of God upon him that he should be starving, and that he should be an outcast among men. You see in the hospitals loathsome specimens of men and women foully diseased; God forbid that we should deny that in such a case the punishment being the natural result of the sin there is a judgment of God upon licentiousness and ungodly lusts. And the like may be said in many instances where there is so clear a link between the sin and the punishment that the blindest men may discern that God hath made Misery the child of Sin. But in cases of accident, such as that to which I refer, and in cases of sudden and instant death, again, I say, I enter my earnest protest against the foolish and ridiculous idea that those who thus perish are sinners above all the sinners who survive unharmed. Let me just try to reason this matter out with Christian people, for there are some unenlightened Christian people who will feel horrified by what I have said. Those who are ready at perversions may even dream that I would apologize for the breach of the day of worship. Now I do no such thing. I do not extenuate the sin, I only testify and declare that accidents are not to be viewed as punishments for sin, for punishment belongs not to this world, but to the world to come. To all those who hastily look on every calamity as a judgment I would speak in the earnest hope of setting them right. Let me begin, then, by saying, my dear brethren, do not you see that what you say is not true? and that is the best of reasons why you should not say it. Does not your own experience and observation teach you that one event happened both to the righteous and to the wicked? It is true, the wicked man sometimes falls dead in the street; but has not the minister fallen dead in the pulpit? It is true that a pleasure-boat, in which men were seeking their own pleasure on the Sunday, has suddenly gone down; but is it not equally true that a ship which contained none but godly men, who were bound upon an excursion to preach the gospel, has gone down too? The visible providence of God has no respect of persons; and a storm may gather around the "John Williams" missionary ship, quite as well as around a vessel filled with riotous sinners. Why, do you not perceive that the providence of God has been, in fact, in its outward dealings, rather harder upon the good than upon the bad? For; did not Paul say, as he looked upon the miseries of the righteous in his day, "If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable?" The path of righteousness has often conducted men to the rack, to the prison, to the gibbet, to the stake; while the road of sin has often led a man to empire, to dominion, and to high esteem among his fellows. It is not true that in this world God does punish men for sin, and reward them for their good deeds. For, did not David say, "I have seen the wicked in great power, and spreading himself like a green bay tree?" and did not this perplex the Psalmist for a little season, until he went into the sanctuary of God, and then he understood their end? Although your faith assures you that the ultimate result of providence will work out only good to the people of God, yet your life, though it be but a brief part of the Divine drama of history, must have taught you that providence does not outwardly discriminate between the righteous and the wicked that the righteous perish suddenly as well as the wicked that the plague knows no difference between the sinner and the saint and that the sword of war is alike pitiless to the sons of God and the sons of Belial. When God sends forth the scourge, it slays suddenly the innocent as well as the perverse and froward. Now, my brethren, if your idea of an avenging and Awarding providence be not true, why should you talk as if it were? And why, if it be not correct as a general rule, should you suppose it to be true in this one particular instance? Get the idea out of your head, for the gospel of God never needs you to believe an untruth. But, secondly, there is another reason. The idea that whenever an accident occurs we are to look upon it as a judgment from God would make the providence of God to be, instead of a great deep, a fiery shallow pool. Why, any child can understand the providence of God, if it be true that when there is a railway accident it is because people travel on a Sunday. I take any little child from the smallest infant-class form in the Sunday-school, and he will say, "Yes, I see that." But then, if such a thing be providence, if it be a providence that can be understood, manifestly it is not the Scriptural idea of providence, for in the Scripture we are always taught that God's providence is "a great deep;" and even Ezekiel, who had the wing of the cherubim and could fly aloft, when he saw the wheels which were the great picture of the providence of God, could only say the wheels were so high that they were terrible, and were full of eyes, so that he cried, "O wheel!" If I repeat it to make it plain if always a calamity were the result of some sin, providence would be as simple as that twice two made four; it would be one of the first lessons that a little child might learn. But Scripture teaches us that providence is a great depth in which the human intellect may swim and dive, but it can neither find a bottom nor a shore, and if you and I pretend that we can find out the reasons of providence, and twist the dispensations of God over our fingers, we only prove our folly, but we do not prove that we have begun to understand the ways of God. Why, look, sirs; suppose for a moment there were some great performance going on, and you should step in in the middle of it and see one actor upon the stage for a moment, and you should say, "Yes, I understand it," what a simpleton you would be! Do you not know that the great transactions of providence began near six thousand years ago? and you have only stepped into this world for thirty or forty years, and seen one actor on the stage, and you say you understand it. Tush! you do not; you have only begun to know. Only He knows the end from the beginning, only He understands what are the great results, and what is the great reason for which the world was made, and for which He permits both good and evil to occur. Think not that you know the ways of God; it is to degrade providence, and to bring God down to the level of men, when you pretend that you can understand these calamities and find out the secret designs of wisdom. But next, do you not perceive that such an idea as this would encourage Phariseeism? These people who were crushed to death, or scalded, or destroyed under the wheels of railway carriages, were worse sinners than we are. Very well, then what good people we must be; what excellent examples of virtue! We do not such things as they, and therefore God makes all things smooth for us. Inasmuch as we here traveled some of us every day in the week, and yet have never been smashed to pieces, we may on this supposition rank ourselves with the favorites of Deity. And then, do not you see, brethren, our safety would be an argument for our being Christians? our having traveled on a railway safely would be an argument that we were regenerate persons, yet I have never read in the Scriptures, "We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we have traveled from London to Brighton safely twice a day." I never found a verse which looked like this; and yet if it were true that the worst of sinners met with accidents, it would follow as a natural converse to that proposition, that those who do not meet with accidents must be very good people, and what Pharisaical notions we thus beget and foster. But I cannot indulge the fully for a moment. As I look for a moment upon the poor mangled bodies of those who have been so suddenly slain, my eyes find tears, but my heart does not boast, nor my lips accuse far from me be the boastful cry, "God, I thank thee that I am not as these men are!" Nay, nay, nay, it is not the spirit of Christ, nor the spirit of Christianity. While we can thank God that we are preserved, yet we can say, "It is of thy mercy that we are not consumed," and we must ascribe it to his grace, and to his grace alone. But we cannot suppose that there was any betterness in us, why we should be kept alive with death so near. It is only because he hath had mercy, and been very long-suffering to us-ward, not willing that we should perish, but that we should come to repentance, that he has thus preserved us from going down to the grave, and kept us alive from death. And then, will you allow me to remark, that the supposition against which I am earnestly contending, is a very cruel and unkind one. For if this were the case, that all persons who thus meet with their death in an extraordinary and terrible manner were greater sinners than the rest, would it not be a crushing blow to bereaved survivors, and is it not ungenerous on our part to indulge the idea unless we are compelled by unanswerable reasons to accept it as an awful truth? Now, I defy you to whisper it in the widow's ear. Go home to her and say, "Your husband was a worse sinner than the rest of men, therefore he died." You have not brutality enough for that. A little unconscious infant, which had never sinned, though, doubtless, an inheritor of Adam's fall, is found crushed amidst the debris of the accident. Now think for a moment, what would be the infamous consequence of the supposition, that those who perished were worse than others. You would have to make it out that this unconscious infant was a worse sinner than many in the dens of infamy whose lives are yet spared. Do you not perceive that the thing is radically false and I might perhaps show you the injustice of it best, by reminding you, that it may one day turn upon your own head. Let it be your own case that you should meet with sudden death in such a way are you willing to be adjudged to damnation on that account? Such an event may happen in the house of God. Let me recall to my own, and to your sorrowful recollection, what occurred when once we met together; I can say with a pure heart, we met for no object but to serve our God, and the minister had no aim in going to that place but that of gathering Tiffany to hear who otherwise would not have listened to his voice and yet there were funerals as the result of a holy effort (for holy effort still we avow it to have been, and the after smile of God hath proved it so). There were deaths, and deaths among God's people, I was about to say, I am glad it was with God's people rather than with others. A fearful fright took hold upon the congregation, and they fled, and do you not see that if accidents are to be viewed as judgments, then it is a fair inference that we were sinning in being there an insinuation which our consciences repudiate with scorn? However, if that logic were true, it is as true against us as it is against others, and inasmuch as you would repel with indignation the accusation that any were grounded or hurt on account of sin, in being there to worship God, what you repel for yourself repel for others, and be no party to the accusation which is brought against those who have been destroyed during the last fortnight, that they perished on account of any great sin. Here I anticipate the outcries of prudent and zealous persons who tremble for the ark of God, and would touch it with Uzzah's hand. "Well," says one, "but we ought not to talk like this, for it is a very serviceable superstition, because there are many people who will be kept from traveling on a Sunday by the accident, and we ought to tell them, therefore, that those who perished, perished because they traveled on Sunday." Brethren, I would not tell a lie to save a soul, and this would be telling lies, for it is not the fact I would do anything to stop Sunday labor and sin, but I would not forge a falsehood even to do that. They might have perished on a Monday as well as on a Sunday. God gives no special immunity any day of the week, and accidents may occur as well at one time as at another, and it is only a pious fraud when we seek thus to pray upon the superstition of men to make capital for Christ. The Roman Catholic priest might consistently use such an argument, but an honest Christian man, who believes that the religion of Christ can take care of itself without his telling falsehoods, scorns to do it. These men did not perish because they traveled on a Sunday. Witness the fact that others perished on the Monday when they were on an errand of mercy. I know not why or wherefore God sent the accident. God forbid that we should offer our own reason when God has not given us his reason, but we are not allowed to make the superstition of men an instrument for the advancing the glory of God. You know among Protestants there is a great deal of popery. I meet with people who uphold infant baptism on the plea, "Well, it is not doing any hurt, and there is a great deal of good meaning in it, and it may do good, and even confirmation may be blessed to some people, and therefore do not let us speak against it." I have nothing to do with whether the thing does hurt or not, all I have to do with is whether it is right, whether it is scriptural, whether it is true, and if the truth does mischief, which is a supposition we can by no means allow, that mischief will not lie at our door. We have nothing to do but to speak the truth, even though the heavens should fall, I say again, that any advancement of the gospel which is owing to the superstition of men is a false advance, and it will by-and-bye recoil upon the people who use such an unhallowed weapon. We have a religion which appeals to man's judgment and common sense, and when we cannot get on with that, I scorn that we should proceed by any other means; and, brethren, if there be any person who should harden his heart and say, "Well, I am as safe on one day as another," which is quite true, I must say to him, "The sin of your making such a use as this of a truth must lie at your own door, not at mine; but if I could keep you from violating the Christian's day of rest by putting before you a superstitious hypothesis, I would not do it, because I feel that though I might keep you from that one sin a little time, you would by-and-bye grow too intelligent to be duped by me, and then you would come to look upon me as a priest who had played upon your fears instead of appealing to your judgment." Oh! it is time for us to know that our Christianity is not a weak, shivering thing, that appeals to the petty superstitious fears of ignorant and darkened minds. It is a manly thing, loving the light, and needing no sanctified frauds for its defense. Yes, critic! turn thy lantern upon us, and let it glare into our very eyes; we are not afraid, truth is mighty and it can prevail, and if it cannot prevail in the daylight, we have no wish that the sun should set to give it an opportunity. I believe that very much infidelity has sprung from the very natural desire of some Christian people to make use of common mistakes. "Oh," they have said, "this popular error is a very good one, it keeps people right; let us perpetuate the mistake, for it evidently does good." And then, when the mistake has been found out, infidels here said, "Oh, you see now these Christian people are found out in their tricks." Let us have no tricks, brethren; let us not talk to men as though they were little children, and could be frightened by tales of ghosts and witches. The fact is, that this is not the time of retribution, and it is worse than idle for us to teach that it is do. And now, lastly and then I leave this point do you not perceive that the un-Christian and un-Scriptural supposition that when men suddenly meet with death it is the result of sin, robs Christianity of one of its noblest arguments for the immortality of the soul? Brethren, we assert daily, with Scripture for our warrant, that God is just, and inasmuch as he is just, he must punish sin, and reward the righteous. Manifestly he does not do it in this world. I think I have plainly shown that in this world, one event happens to both; that the righteous man is poor as well as the wicked, and that he dies suddenly as well as the most graceless. Very well, then, the inference is natural and clear, that there most be a next world in which these things must be righted. If there be a God, he must be just; and if he be just, he must punish sin; and since he does not do it in this world, there therefore must be another state in which men shall receive the due reward of their works, and they that have sown to the flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption, while they that have sown to the Spirit, shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. Make this world the reaping place, and you have taken the sting out of sin. "Oh," says the sinner, "if the sorrows men endure here be all the punishment they will have, we will sin greedily." Say to there, "No; this is not the world of punishment, but the world of probation; it is not the court of justice, but the land of mercy; it is not the prison of terror, but the house of long-suffering;" and you have opened before their eyes the gates of the future; you have set the judgment-throne before their eyes; you have reminded them of "Come, ye blessed," and "Depart, ye cursed;" ye have a more reasonable, not to say a more Scriptural, ground of appeal to their consciences and to their hearts. I have thus spoken with the view of putting down as much as I can the idea which is too current among the ungodly, that we as Christians hold every calamity to be a judgment. We do not; we do not believe that those eighteen upon whom the tower in Siloam fell were sinners above all the sinners that were in Jerusalem. II. Now to our second point. WHAT USE, THEN, OUGHT WE TO MAKE OF THIS VOICE OF GOD AS HEARD AMIDST THE SHRIEKS AND GROANS OF DYING MEN? Two uses; first, inquiry, and secondly, warning. The first inquiry we should put to ourselves is this: "Why may it not be my case that I may very soon and suddenly be cut off? Have I a lease of my life? Have I any special guardianship which ensures me that I shall not suddenly pass the portals of the tomb? Have I received a charter of longevity? Have I been covered with such a coat of armor that I am invulnerable to the arrows of death? Why am not I to die?" And the next question it should suggest is this: "Are not I as great a sinner as those who died? Are there not with me, even with me, sins against the Lord my God? If in outward sin others have exceeded me, are not the thoughts of my heart evil? Does not the same law which curses them curse me? I have not continued in all the things that are written in the book of the law to do them. It is as impossible that I should be saved by my works as that they should be. Am not I under the law as well as they by nature, and therefore am not I as well as they under the curse? That question should arise. Instead of thinking of their sins which would make me proud, I should think of my own which will make me humble. Instead of speculating upon their guilt, which is no business of mine, I should turn my eyes within and think upon my own transgression, for which I must personally answer before the Most High God." Then the next question is, "Have I repented of my sin? I need not be inquiring whether they have or not: have I? Since I am liable to the same calamity, am I prepared to meet it? Have I felt, through the Holy Spirit's convincing power, the blackness and depravity of my heart? Have I been led to confess before God that I deserve his wrath, and that his displeasure, if it light on me, will be my just due? Do I hate sin? Have I learned to abhor it? Have I, through the Holy Spirit, turned away from it as from a deadly poison, and do I seek now to honor Christ my Master? Am I washed in his blood? Do I bear his likeness? Do I reflect his character? Do I seek to live to his praise? For if not, I am in as great danger as they were, and may quite as suddenly be cut off, and then where am I? I will not ask where are they? And then, again, instead of prying into the future destiny of these unhappy men and women, how much better to inquire into our own destiny and our own state!

"What am I? my soul, awake, And an impartial survey take."

Am I prepared to die? If now the gates of hell should be opened, shall I enter there? if now beneath me the wide jaws of death should gape, am I prepared with confidence to walk through the midst of them, fearing no evil, because God is with me? This is the proper use to make of these accidents; this is the wisest way to apply the judgments of God to our own selves and to our own condition. O sirs, God has spoken to every man in London during these last two weeks; he has spoken to me, he has spoken to you, men, women, and children. God's voice has rung out of the dark tunnel, has spoken from the sunset and from the glaring bonfire round which lay the corpses of men and women, and he has said to you, "Be ye also ready, for in such an hour as ye think not, the Son of Man cometh." It is so spoken to you that I hope it may set you inquiring, "Am I prepared? am I ready? am I willing now to face my Judge, and hear the sentence pronounced upon my soul?" When we have used it thus for inquiry, let me remind you that we ought to use it also for warning. "Ye shall all likewise perish." "No," says one, "not likewise. We shall not all be crushed, many of us will die in our beds. We shall not all be burned, many of us will tranquilly close our eyes." Ay, but the text says, "Ye shall all likewise perish." And let me remind you that some of you may perish in the same identical manner. You have no reason to believe that you may not also suddenly be cut off while walking the streets. You may fall dead while eating your meals how many have perished with the staff of life in their hands! Ye shall be in your bed, and your bed shall suddenly be made your tomb. You shall be strong, hale, hearty, and in health, and either by an accident or by the stoppage of the circulation of your blood, you shall be suddenly hurried before your God Oh! may sudden death to you be sudden glory! But it may happen with some of us that in the same sudden manner as others have died, so shall we. But lately in America, a brother, while preaching the Word, laid down his body and his charge at once. You remember the death of Dr. Beaumont, who, while proclaiming the gospel of Christ, closed his eyes to earth. And I remember the death of a minister in this country, who had but just given out the verse

"Father, I long, I faint to see The place of thine abode; I'd leave thine earthly courts and flee Up to thy house, my God,"

when it pleased God to grant him the desire of his heart, and he appeared before the King in his beauty, then, may not such a sudden death as that happen to you and to me? But it is quite certain that, let death come when it may, there are some few respects in which it will come to us in just the same manner as it has to those who have so lately been hurried away. First, it will come quite as surely. They could not, travel as fast as they would, escape from the pursuer. They could not journey where they may, from home or to home, escape the shaft when the time had come. And so shall we perish. Just as surely, as certainly as death has set his seal upon the corpses which are not covered with the sod, so certainly shall he set his seal on us (unless the Lord should come before), for "it is appointed unto all men once to die, and after death the judgment." There is no discharge in this way; there is no escape for any individual by any bye-path, there is no bridge over this river; there is no ferry-boat by which we may cross this Jordan dryshod. Into thy chill depths, O river, each one of us must descend, in thy cold stream, our blood must be frozen; and beneath thy foaming billows our head must sink! We, too, must surely die. "Trite," you say, "and commonplace" and death is commonplace, but it only happens once to us. God grant that that once dying may perpetually be in our minds, till we die daily, and find it not hard work to die at the last. Well, then, as death comes both to them and to us surely, so will it come both to them and to us most potently and irresistibly. When death surprised them, then what help had they? A child's card house was not more easily crushed than these ponderous carriages. What could they do to help one another? They are sitting talking side by side. The scream is heard, and ere a second cry can be uttered, they are crushed and mangled. The husband may seek to extricate his wife, but heavy timbers have covered her body, he can only find at last her poor head, and she is dead, and he takes his sorrowful seat by her side, and puts his hand upon her brow, until it is stone cold, and though he has seen one and another plucked with broken bones from the midst of the ruined mass, he has to leave her body there. Alas! his children are motherless, and himself robbed of the partner of his bosom. They could not resist; they might do what they would, but as soon as the moment came, on they went, and death or broken bones was the result. So with you and me, bribe the physician with the largest fee, but he could not put fresh blood into your veins; pay him in masses of gold, but he could not make the pulse give another throb. Death, irresistible conqueror of men, there is none that can stand against thee, thy word is law, thy will is destiny! So shall it come to us as it did to them; it shall come with power, and none of us can resist. When it came to them, it came instantly, and would not brook delay. So will it come to us. We may have longer notice than they, but when the hour has struck there shall be no postponing it. Gather up thy feet in thy bed, O Patriarch, for thou must die and not live! Give the last kiss to thy wife, thou veteran soldier of the cross put thy hands upon thy children's head, and give them the dying benediction, for all thy prayers cannot lengthen out thy life, and all thy tears cannot add a drop to the dry wellspring of thy being. Thou must go, the Master sends for thee, and he brooks no delay. Nay, though thy whole family should be ready to sacrifice their lives to buy thee but an hour of respite, it must not be. Though a nation should be a holocaust, a willing sacrifice, to give its sovereign another week in addition to his reign, yet it must not be. Though the whole flock should willingly consent to tread the dark vaults of the tomb, to let their pastor's life be spared but for another year, it must not be. Death will have no delay; the time is up, the clock has struck, the sand has run out, and as certainly as they died when their time was come, in the field by sudden accident, so certainly must we. And then, again, let us remember that death will come to us as it did to them, with terrors. Not with the crash of broken timbers, perhaps, not with the darkness of the tunnel, not with the smoke and with the steam, not with the shrieks of women and the groans of dying men, but yet with terrors. For meet death where we may, if we be not in Christ, and if the shepherd's rod and staff do not comfort us, to die must be an awful and tremendous thing. Yes, in thy body, O sinner, with downy pillows beneath thy head, and a wife's tender arm to bear thee up, and a tender hand to wipe thy clammy sweat, thou will find it awful work to face the monster and feel his sting, and enter into his dread dominion. It is awful work at any time, and at every time, under the best and most propitious circumstances, for a man to die unprepared. And now I would send you away with this one thought abiding on your memories; we are dying creatures, not living creatures, and we shall soon be gone. Perhaps, as here I stand, and rudely talk of these mysterious things, soon shall this hand be stretched, and dumb the mouth that lisps the faltering strain, power supreme, O everlasting King, come when thou may, oh! may thou ne'er intrude upon an ill-spent hour; but find me wrapped in meditation high, hymning my great Creator; doing works of mercy to the poor and needy ones, or bearing in my arms the poor and weary of the flock, or solacing the disconsolate, or blowing the blast of the gospel trumpet in the ears of deaf and perishing souls! Then come when thou wilt, if thou art with me in life, I shall not fear to meet thee in death but oh, let my soul be ready with her wedding-garment, with her lamp trimmed and her light burning, ready to see her Master and enter into the joy of her Lord? Souls, ye know the way of salvation, ye have heard it often, hear it yet again! "He that believeth on the Lord Jesus has everlasting life." "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; he that believeth not shall be damned." "Believe thou with thy heart, and with thy mouth make confession." May the Holy Ghost give the grace to do both, and this done, thou may say,

"Come, death, and some celestial band, To bear my soul away!"

Accidents, Not Punishments

September 8, 1861 by C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892)

"There were present at that season some that told him of the Galileans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And Jesus answering said unto them, suppose ye that these Galileans were sinners above all the Galileans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish. Or those eighteen, upon whom the tower in Siloam fell and slew them, think ye that they were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem! I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish." Luke 13:1-5 .

The year 1861 will have a notoriety among its fellows as the year of calamities. Just at that season when man goes forth to reap the fruit of his labors, when the harvest of the earth is ripe, and the barns are beginning to burst with the new wheat, Death too, the mighty reaper, has come forth to out down his harvest; full sheaves have been gathered into his garner the tomb, and terrible have been the wailings which compose the harvest hymn of death. In reading the newspapers during the last two weeks, even the most stolid must have been the subject of very painful feelings. Not only have there been catastrophes so alarming that the blood chills at their remembrance, but column after column of the paper has been devoted to calamities of a minor degree of horror, but which, when added together, are enough to astound the mind with the fearful amount of sudden death which has of late fallen on the sons of men. We have had not only one incident for every day in the week, but two or three; we have not simply been stunned with the alarming noise of one terrific clash, but another, and another, and another, have followed upon each other's heels, like Job's messengers, till we have needed Job's patience and resignation to hear the dreadful tale of woes. Now, men and brethren, such things as these have always happened in all ages of the world. Think not that this is a new thing; do not dream, as some do, that this is the produce of an overwrought civilization, or of that modern and most wonderful discovery of steam. If the steam engine had never been known, and if the railway had never been constructed, there would have been sudden deaths and terrible accidents, not withstanding. In taking up the old records in which our ancestors wrote down their accidents and calamities, we find that the old stage coach yielded quite as heavy a booty to death as does the swiftly-rushing train; there were gates to Hades then as many as there are now, and roads to death quite as steep and precipitous, and traveled by quite as vast a multitude as in our present time. Do you doubt that? Permit me to refer you to the chapter before you. Remember those eighteen upon whom the tower in Siloam fell. What if no collision crushed them; what if they were not destroyed by the ungovernable iron horse dragging them down from an embankment; yet some badly-built tower, or some wall beaten by the tempest could fall upon eighteen at a time, and they might perish. Or worse than that, a despotic ruler, having the lives of men at his girdle, like the keys of his palace, might fall upon worshippers in the temple itself, and mix their blood with the blood of the bullocks which they were just then sacrificing to the God of heaven. Do not think, then, that this is an age in which God is dealing more hardly with us than of old. Do not think that God's providence has become more lax than it was, there always were sudden deaths, and there always will be. There always were seasons when death's wolves hunted in hungry packs, and, probably, until the end of this dispensation, the last enemy will hold his periodic festivals, and glut the worms with the flesh of men. Be not, therefore, cast down with any sudden fear, neither be ye troubled by these calamities. Go about your business, and if your avocations should call you to cross the field of death itself, do it, and do it bravely. God has not thrown up the reins of the world, he has not taken off his hand from the helm of the great ship, still

"He everywhere hath sway, And all things serve his might; His every act pure blessing is, His path unsullied light."

Only learn to trust him, and thou shalt not be afraid of sudden fear; "thy soul shall dwell at ease, and thy seed shall inherit the earth." The particular subject of this morning, however, is this the use which we ought to make of these fearful texts which God is writing in capital letters upon the history of the world. God hath spoken once, yea, twice, let it not be said that man regarded it not. We have seen a glimmering of God's power, we have beheld something of the readiness with which he can destroy our fellow-creatures. Let us "hear the rod and him that hath appointed it," and in hearing it, let us do two things. First, let us not be so foolish as to draw the conclusion of superstitious and ignorant persons that conclusions which is hinted at in the text, namely, that those who are thus destroyed by accident are sinners above all the sinners that be in the land. And, secondly, let us draw the right and proper inference, let us make practical use of all these events for our own personal improvement, let us hear the voice of the Savior saying, "Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish." I. First, then, LET US TAKE HEED THAT WE DO NOT DRAW THE RASH AND HASTY CONCLUSION FROM TERRIBLE ACCIDENTS, THAT THOSE WHO SUFFER BY THEM SUFFER ON ACCOUNT OF THEIR SINS. It has been most absurdly stated that those who travel on the first day of the week and meet with an accident, ought to regard that accident as being a judgment from God upon them on account of their violating the Christian's day of worship. It has been stated even by godly ministers, that the late deplorable collision should be looked upon as an exceedingly wonderful and remarkable visitation of the wrath of God against those unhappy persons who happened to be in the Clayton tunnel. Now I enter my solemn protest against such an inference as that, not in my own name, but in the name of Him who is the Christian's Master and the Christian's Teacher. I say of those who were crushed in that tunnel, think ye that they were sinners above all the sinners "I tell you, all: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish." Or those who perished but last Monday, think ye that they were sinners above all the sinners that were in London? "I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likes wise perish." Now, mark, I would not deny but what there have sometimes been judgments of God upon particular persons for sin; sometimes, and I think but exceedingly rarely, such things have occurred. Some of us have heard in our own experience instances of men who have blasphemed God and defied Him to destroy them, who have suddenly fallen dead; and in such cases, the punishment has so quickly followed the blasphemy that one could not help perceiving the hand of God in it. The man had wantonly asked for the judgment of God, his prayer was heard and the judgment came. And, beyond a doubt, there are what may be called natural judgments. You see a man ragged, poor, houseless; he has been profligate, he has been a drunkard, he has lost his character, and it is but the just judgment of God upon him that he should be starving, and that he should be an outcast among men. You see in the hospitals loathsome specimens of men and women foully diseased; God forbid that we should deny that in such a case the punishment being the natural result of the sin there is a judgment of God upon licentiousness and ungodly lusts. And the like may be said in many instances where there is so clear a link between the sin and the punishment that the blindest men may discern that God hath made Misery the child of Sin. But in cases of accident, such as that to which I refer, and in cases of sudden and instant death, again, I say, I enter my earnest protest against the foolish and ridiculous idea that those who thus perish are sinners above all the sinners who survive unharmed. Let me just try to reason this matter out with Christian people, for there are some unenlightened Christian people who will feel horrified by what I have said. Those who are ready at perversions may even dream that I would apologize for the breach of the day of worship. Now I do no such thing. I do not extenuate the sin, I only testify and declare that accidents are not to be viewed as punishments for sin, for punishment belongs not to this world, but to the world to come. To all those who hastily look on every calamity as a judgment I would speak in the earnest hope of setting them right. Let me begin, then, by saying, my dear brethren, do not you see that what you say is not true? and that is the best of reasons why you should not say it. Does not your own experience and observation teach you that one event happened both to the righteous and to the wicked? It is true, the wicked man sometimes falls dead in the street; but has not the minister fallen dead in the pulpit? It is true that a pleasure-boat, in which men were seeking their own pleasure on the Sunday, has suddenly gone down; but is it not equally true that a ship which contained none but godly men, who were bound upon an excursion to preach the gospel, has gone down too? The visible providence of God has no respect of persons; and a storm may gather around the "John Williams" missionary ship, quite as well as around a vessel filled with riotous sinners. Why, do you not perceive that the providence of God has been, in fact, in its outward dealings, rather harder upon the good than upon the bad? For; did not Paul say, as he looked upon the miseries of the righteous in his day, "If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable?" The path of righteousness has often conducted men to the rack, to the prison, to the gibbet, to the stake; while the road of sin has often led a man to empire, to dominion, and to high esteem among his fellows. It is not true that in this world God does punish men for sin, and reward them for their good deeds. For, did not David say, "I have seen the wicked in great power, and spreading himself like a green bay tree?" and did not this perplex the Psalmist for a little season, until he went into the sanctuary of God, and then he understood their end? Although your faith assures you that the ultimate result of providence will work out only good to the people of God, yet your life, though it be but a brief part of the Divine drama of history, must have taught you that providence does not outwardly discriminate between the righteous and the wicked that the righteous perish suddenly as well as the wicked that the plague knows no difference between the sinner and the saint and that the sword of war is alike pitiless to the sons of God and the sons of Belial. When God sends forth the scourge, it slays suddenly the innocent as well as the perverse and froward. Now, my brethren, if your idea of an avenging and Awarding providence be not true, why should you talk as if it were? And why, if it be not correct as a general rule, should you suppose it to be true in this one particular instance? Get the idea out of your head, for the gospel of God never needs you to believe an untruth. But, secondly, there is another reason. The idea that whenever an accident occurs we are to look upon it as a judgment from God would make the providence of God to be, instead of a great deep, a fiery shallow pool. Why, any child can understand the providence of God, if it be true that when there is a railway accident it is because people travel on a Sunday. I take any little child from the smallest infant-class form in the Sunday-school, and he will say, "Yes, I see that." But then, if such a thing be providence, if it be a providence that can be understood, manifestly it is not the Scriptural idea of providence, for in the Scripture we are always taught that God's providence is "a great deep;" and even Ezekiel, who had the wing of the cherubim and could fly aloft, when he saw the wheels which were the great picture of the providence of God, could only say the wheels were so high that they were terrible, and were full of eyes, so that he cried, "O wheel!" If I repeat it to make it plain if always a calamity were the result of some sin, providence would be as simple as that twice two made four; it would be one of the first lessons that a little child might learn. But Scripture teaches us that providence is a great depth in which the human intellect may swim and dive, but it can neither find a bottom nor a shore, and if you and I pretend that we can find out the reasons of providence, and twist the dispensations of God over our fingers, we only prove our folly, but we do not prove that we have begun to understand the ways of God. Why, look, sirs; suppose for a moment there were some great performance going on, and you should step in in the middle of it and see one actor upon the stage for a moment, and you should say, "Yes, I understand it," what a simpleton you would be! Do you not know that the great transactions of providence began near six thousand years ago? and you have only stepped into this world for thirty or forty years, and seen one actor on the stage, and you say you understand it. Tush! you do not; you have only begun to know. Only He knows the end from the beginning, only He understands what are the great results, and what is the great reason for which the world was made, and for which He permits both good and evil to occur. Think not that you know the ways of God; it is to degrade providence, and to bring God down to the level of men, when you pretend that you can understand these calamities and find out the secret designs of wisdom. But next, do you not perceive that such an idea as this would encourage Phariseeism? These people who were crushed to death, or scalded, or destroyed under the wheels of railway carriages, were worse sinners than we are. Very well, then what good people we must be; what excellent examples of virtue! We do not such things as they, and therefore God makes all things smooth for us. Inasmuch as we here traveled some of us every day in the week, and yet have never been smashed to pieces, we may on this supposition rank ourselves with the favorites of Deity. And then, do not you see, brethren, our safety would be an argument for our being Christians? our having traveled on a railway safely would be an argument that we were regenerate persons, yet I have never read in the Scriptures, "We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we have traveled from London to Brighton safely twice a day." I never found a verse which looked like this; and yet if it were true that the worst of sinners met with accidents, it would follow as a natural converse to that proposition, that those who do not meet with accidents must be very good people, and what Pharisaical notions we thus beget and foster. But I cannot indulge the fully for a moment. As I look for a moment upon the poor mangled bodies of those who have been so suddenly slain, my eyes find tears, but my heart does not boast, nor my lips accuse far from me be the boastful cry, "God, I thank thee that I am not as these men are!" Nay, nay, nay, it is not the spirit of Christ, nor the spirit of Christianity. While we can thank God that we are preserved, yet we can say, "It is of thy mercy that we are not consumed," and we must ascribe it to his grace, and to his grace alone. But we cannot suppose that there was any betterness in us, why we should be kept alive with death so near. It is only because he hath had mercy, and been very long-suffering to us-ward, not willing that we should perish, but that we should come to repentance, that he has thus preserved us from going down to the grave, and kept us alive from death. And then, will you allow me to remark, that the supposition against which I am earnestly contending, is a very cruel and unkind one. For if this were the case, that all persons who thus meet with their death in an extraordinary and terrible manner were greater sinners than the rest, would it not be a crushing blow to bereaved survivors, and is it not ungenerous on our part to indulge the idea unless we are compelled by unanswerable reasons to accept it as an awful truth? Now, I defy you to whisper it in the widow's ear. Go home to her and say, "Your husband was a worse sinner than the rest of men, therefore he died." You have not brutality enough for that. A little unconscious infant, which had never sinned, though, doubtless, an inheritor of Adam's fall, is found crushed amidst the debris of the accident. Now think for a moment, what would be the infamous consequence of the supposition, that those who perished were worse than others. You would have to make it out that this unconscious infant was a worse sinner than many in the dens of infamy whose lives are yet spared. Do you not perceive that the thing is radically false and I might perhaps show you the injustice of it best, by reminding you, that it may one day turn upon your own head. Let it be your own case that you should meet with sudden death in such a way are you willing to be adjudged to damnation on that account? Such an event may happen in the house of God. Let me recall to my own, and to your sorrowful recollection, what occurred when once we met together; I can say with a pure heart, we met for no object but to serve our God, and the minister had no aim in going to that place but that of gathering Tiffany to hear who otherwise would not have listened to his voice and yet there were funerals as the result of a holy effort (for holy effort still we avow it to have been, and the after smile of God hath proved it so). There were deaths, and deaths among God's people, I was about to say, I am glad it was with God's people rather than with others. A fearful fright took hold upon the congregation, and they fled, and do you not see that if accidents are to be viewed as judgments, then it is a fair inference that we were sinning in being there an insinuation which our consciences repudiate with scorn? However, if that logic were true, it is as true against us as it is against others, and inasmuch as you would repel with indignation the accusation that any were grounded or hurt on account of sin, in being there to worship God, what you repel for yourself repel for others, and be no party to the accusation which is brought against those who have been destroyed during the last fortnight, that they perished on account of any great sin. Here I anticipate the outcries of prudent and zealous persons who tremble for the ark of God, and would touch it with Uzzah's hand. "Well," says one, "but we ought not to talk like this, for it is a very serviceable superstition, because there are many people who will be kept from traveling on a Sunday by the accident, and we ought to tell them, therefore, that those who perished, perished because they traveled on Sunday." Brethren, I would not tell a lie to save a soul, and this would be telling lies, for it is not the fact I would do anything to stop Sunday labor and sin, but I would not forge a falsehood even to do that. They might have perished on a Monday as well as on a Sunday. God gives no special immunity any day of the week, and accidents may occur as well at one time as at another, and it is only a pious fraud when we seek thus to pray upon the superstition of men to make capital for Christ. The Roman Catholic priest might consistently use such an argument, but an honest Christian man, who believes that the religion of Christ can take care of itself without his telling falsehoods, scorns to do it. These men did not perish because they traveled on a Sunday. Witness the fact that others perished on the Monday when they were on an errand of mercy. I know not why or wherefore God sent the accident. God forbid that we should offer our own reason when God has not given us his reason, but we are not allowed to make the superstition of men an instrument for the advancing the glory of God. You know among Protestants there is a great deal of popery. I meet with people who uphold infant baptism on the plea, "Well, it is not doing any hurt, and there is a great deal of good meaning in it, and it may do good, and even confirmation may be blessed to some people, and therefore do not let us speak against it." I have nothing to do with whether the thing does hurt or not, all I have to do with is whether it is right, whether it is scriptural, whether it is true, and if the truth does mischief, which is a supposition we can by no means allow, that mischief will not lie at our door. We have nothing to do but to speak the truth, even though the heavens should fall, I say again, that any advancement of the gospel which is owing to the superstition of men is a false advance, and it will by-and-bye recoil upon the people who use such an unhallowed weapon. We have a religion which appeals to man's judgment and common sense, and when we cannot get on with that, I scorn that we should proceed by any other means; and, brethren, if there be any person who should harden his heart and say, "Well, I am as safe on one day as another," which is quite true, I must say to him, "The sin of your making such a use as this of a truth must lie at your own door, not at mine; but if I could keep you from violating the Christian's day of rest by putting before you a superstitious hypothesis, I would not do it, because I feel that though I might keep you from that one sin a little time, you would by-and-bye grow too intelligent to be duped by me, and then you would come to look upon me as a priest who had played upon your fears instead of appealing to your judgment." Oh! it is time for us to know that our Christianity is not a weak, shivering thing, that appeals to the petty superstitious fears of ignorant and darkened minds. It is a manly thing, loving the light, and needing no sanctified frauds for its defense. Yes, critic! turn thy lantern upon us, and let it glare into our very eyes; we are not afraid, truth is mighty and it can prevail, and if it cannot prevail in the daylight, we have no wish that the sun should set to give it an opportunity. I believe that very much infidelity has sprung from the very natural desire of some Christian people to make use of common mistakes. "Oh," they have said, "this popular error is a very good one, it keeps people right; let us perpetuate the mistake, for it evidently does good." And then, when the mistake has been found out, infidels here said, "Oh, you see now these Christian people are found out in their tricks." Let us have no tricks, brethren; let us not talk to men as though they were little children, and could be frightened by tales of ghosts and witches. The fact is, that this is not the time of retribution, and it is worse than idle for us to teach that it is do. And now, lastly and then I leave this point do you not perceive that the un-Christian and un-Scriptural supposition that when men suddenly meet with death it is the result of sin, robs Christianity of one of its noblest arguments for the immortality of the soul? Brethren, we assert daily, with Scripture for our warrant, that God is just, and inasmuch as he is just, he must punish sin, and reward the righteous. Manifestly he does not do it in this world. I think I have plainly shown that in this world, one event happens to both; that the righteous man is poor as well as the wicked, and that he dies suddenly as well as the most graceless. Very well, then, the inference is natural and clear, that there most be a next world in which these things must be righted. If there be a God, he must be just; and if he be just, he must punish sin; and since he does not do it in this world, there therefore must be another state in which men shall receive the due reward of their works, and they that have sown to the flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption, while they that have sown to the Spirit, shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. Make this world the reaping place, and you have taken the sting out of sin. "Oh," says the sinner, "if the sorrows men endure here be all the punishment they will have, we will sin greedily." Say to there, "No; this is not the world of punishment, but the world of probation; it is not the court of justice, but the land of mercy; it is not the prison of terror, but the house of long-suffering;" and you have opened before their eyes the gates of the future; you have set the judgment-throne before their eyes; you have reminded them of "Come, ye blessed," and "Depart, ye cursed;" ye have a more reasonable, not to say a more Scriptural, ground of appeal to their consciences and to their hearts. I have thus spoken with the view of putting down as much as I can the idea which is too current among the ungodly, that we as Christians hold every calamity to be a judgment. We do not; we do not believe that those eighteen upon whom the tower in Siloam fell were sinners above all the sinners that were in Jerusalem. II. Now to our second point. WHAT USE, THEN, OUGHT WE TO MAKE OF THIS VOICE OF GOD AS HEARD AMIDST THE SHRIEKS AND GROANS OF DYING MEN? Two uses; first, inquiry, and secondly, warning. The first inquiry we should put to ourselves is this: "Why may it not be my case that I may very soon and suddenly be cut off? Have I a lease of my life? Have I any special guardianship which ensures me that I shall not suddenly pass the portals of the tomb? Have I received a charter of longevity? Have I been covered with such a coat of armor that I am invulnerable to the arrows of death? Why am not I to die?" And the next question it should suggest is this: "Are not I as great a sinner as those who died? Are there not with me, even with me, sins against the Lord my God? If in outward sin others have exceeded me, are not the thoughts of my heart evil? Does not the same law which curses them curse me? I have not continued in all the things that are written in the book of the law to do them. It is as impossible that I should be saved by my works as that they should be. Am not I under the law as well as they by nature, and therefore am not I as well as they under the curse? That question should arise. Instead of thinking of their sins which would make me proud, I should think of my own which will make me humble. Instead of speculating upon their guilt, which is no business of mine, I should turn my eyes within and think upon my own transgression, for which I must personally answer before the Most High God." Then the next question is, "Have I repented of my sin? I need not be inquiring whether they have or not: have I? Since I am liable to the same calamity, am I prepared to meet it? Have I felt, through the Holy Spirit's convincing power, the blackness and depravity of my heart? Have I been led to confess before God that I deserve his wrath, and that his displeasure, if it light on me, will be my just due? Do I hate sin? Have I learned to abhor it? Have I, through the Holy Spirit, turned away from it as from a deadly poison, and do I seek now to honor Christ my Master? Am I washed in his blood? Do I bear his likeness? Do I reflect his character? Do I seek to live to his praise? For if not, I am in as great danger as they were, and may quite as suddenly be cut off, and then where am I? I will not ask where are they? And then, again, instead of prying into the future destiny of these unhappy men and women, how much better to inquire into our own destiny and our own state!

"What am I? my soul, awake, And an impartial survey take."

Am I prepared to die? If now the gates of hell should be opened, shall I enter there? if now beneath me the wide jaws of death should gape, am I prepared with confidence to walk through the midst of them, fearing no evil, because God is with me? This is the proper use to make of these accidents; this is the wisest way to apply the judgments of God to our own selves and to our own condition. O sirs, God has spoken to every man in London during these last two weeks; he has spoken to me, he has spoken to you, men, women, and children. God's voice has rung out of the dark tunnel, has spoken from the sunset and from the glaring bonfire round which lay the corpses of men and women, and he has said to you, "Be ye also ready, for in such an hour as ye think not, the Son of Man cometh." It is so spoken to you that I hope it may set you inquiring, "Am I prepared? am I ready? am I willing now to face my Judge, and hear the sentence pronounced upon my soul?" When we have used it thus for inquiry, let me remind you that we ought to use it also for warning. "Ye shall all likewise perish." "No," says one, "not likewise. We shall not all be crushed, many of us will die in our beds. We shall not all be burned, many of us will tranquilly close our eyes." Ay, but the text says, "Ye shall all likewise perish." And let me remind you that some of you may perish in the same identical manner. You have no reason to believe that you may not also suddenly be cut off while walking the streets. You may fall dead while eating your meals how many have perished with the staff of life in their hands! Ye shall be in your bed, and your bed shall suddenly be made your tomb. You shall be strong, hale, hearty, and in health, and either by an accident or by the stoppage of the circulation of your blood, you shall be suddenly hurried before your God Oh! may sudden death to you be sudden glory! But it may happen with some of us that in the same sudden manner as others have died, so shall we. But lately in America, a brother, while preaching the Word, laid down his body and his charge at once. You remember the death of Dr. Beaumont, who, while proclaiming the gospel of Christ, closed his eyes to earth. And I remember the death of a minister in this country, who had but just given out the verse

"Father, I long, I faint to see The place of thine abode; I'd leave thine earthly courts and flee Up to thy house, my God,"

when it pleased God to grant him the desire of his heart, and he appeared before the King in his beauty, then, may not such a sudden death as that happen to you and to me? But it is quite certain that, let death come when it may, there are some few respects in which it will come to us in just the same manner as it has to those who have so lately been hurried away. First, it will come quite as surely. They could not, travel as fast as they would, escape from the pursuer. They could not journey where they may, from home or to home, escape the shaft when the time had come. And so shall we perish. Just as surely, as certainly as death has set his seal upon the corpses which are not covered with the sod, so certainly shall he set his seal on us (unless the Lord should come before), for "it is appointed unto all men once to die, and after death the judgment." There is no discharge in this way; there is no escape for any individual by any bye-path, there is no bridge over this river; there is no ferry-boat by which we may cross this Jordan dryshod. Into thy chill depths, O river, each one of us must descend, in thy cold stream, our blood must be frozen; and beneath thy foaming billows our head must sink! We, too, must surely die. "Trite," you say, "and commonplace" and death is commonplace, but it only happens once to us. God grant that that once dying may perpetually be in our minds, till we die daily, and find it not hard work to die at the last. Well, then, as death comes both to them and to us surely, so will it come both to them and to us most potently and irresistibly. When death surprised them, then what help had they? A child's card house was not more easily crushed than these ponderous carriages. What could they do to help one another? They are sitting talking side by side. The scream is heard, and ere a second cry can be uttered, they are crushed and mangled. The husband may seek to extricate his wife, but heavy timbers have covered her body, he can only find at last her poor head, and she is dead, and he takes his sorrowful seat by her side, and puts his hand upon her brow, until it is stone cold, and though he has seen one and another plucked with broken bones from the midst of the ruined mass, he has to leave her body there. Alas! his children are motherless, and himself robbed of the partner of his bosom. They could not resist; they might do what they would, but as soon as the moment came, on they went, and death or broken bones was the result. So with you and me, bribe the physician with the largest fee, but he could not put fresh blood into your veins; pay him in masses of gold, but he could not make the pulse give another throb. Death, irresistible conqueror of men, there is none that can stand against thee, thy word is law, thy will is destiny! So shall it come to us as it did to them; it shall come with power, and none of us can resist. When it came to them, it came instantly, and would not brook delay. So will it come to us. We may have longer notice than they, but when the hour has struck there shall be no postponing it. Gather up thy feet in thy bed, O Patriarch, for thou must die and not live! Give the last kiss to thy wife, thou veteran soldier of the cross put thy hands upon thy children's head, and give them the dying benediction, for all thy prayers cannot lengthen out thy life, and all thy tears cannot add a drop to the dry wellspring of thy being. Thou must go, the Master sends for thee, and he brooks no delay. Nay, though thy whole family should be ready to sacrifice their lives to buy thee but an hour of respite, it must not be. Though a nation should be a holocaust, a willing sacrifice, to give its sovereign another week in addition to his reign, yet it must not be. Though the whole flock should willingly consent to tread the dark vaults of the tomb, to let their pastor's life be spared but for another year, it must not be. Death will have no delay; the time is up, the clock has struck, the sand has run out, and as certainly as they died when their time was come, in the field by sudden accident, so certainly must we. And then, again, let us remember that death will come to us as it did to them, with terrors. Not with the crash of broken timbers, perhaps, not with the darkness of the tunnel, not with the smoke and with the steam, not with the shrieks of women and the groans of dying men, but yet with terrors. For meet death where we may, if we be not in Christ, and if the shepherd's rod and staff do not comfort us, to die must be an awful and tremendous thing. Yes, in thy body, O sinner, with downy pillows beneath thy head, and a wife's tender arm to bear thee up, and a tender hand to wipe thy clammy sweat, thou will find it awful work to face the monster and feel his sting, and enter into his dread dominion. It is awful work at any time, and at every time, under the best and most propitious circumstances, for a man to die unprepared. And now I would send you away with this one thought abiding on your memories; we are dying creatures, not living creatures, and we shall soon be gone. Perhaps, as here I stand, and rudely talk of these mysterious things, soon shall this hand be stretched, and dumb the mouth that lisps the faltering strain, power supreme, O everlasting King, come when thou may, oh! may thou ne'er intrude upon an ill-spent hour; but find me wrapped in meditation high, hymning my great Creator; doing works of mercy to the poor and needy ones, or bearing in my arms the poor and weary of the flock, or solacing the disconsolate, or blowing the blast of the gospel trumpet in the ears of deaf and perishing souls! Then come when thou wilt, if thou art with me in life, I shall not fear to meet thee in death but oh, let my soul be ready with her wedding-garment, with her lamp trimmed and her light burning, ready to see her Master and enter into the joy of her Lord? Souls, ye know the way of salvation, ye have heard it often, hear it yet again! "He that believeth on the Lord Jesus has everlasting life." "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; he that believeth not shall be damned." "Believe thou with thy heart, and with thy mouth make confession." May the Holy Ghost give the grace to do both, and this done, thou may say,

"Come, death, and some celestial band, To bear my soul away!"

Verses 8-9

The Mustard Seed: A Sermon for the Sunday-School Teacher

October 20, 1889

by

C. H. SPURGEON

(1834-1892)

"Then said he, Unto what is the kingdom of God

like? and whereunto shall I resemble it? It is

like a grain of mustard seed, which a man took,

and cast into his garden; and it grew, and waxed a

great tree; and the fowls of the air lodged in the

branches of it."-- Luke 13:18-19 .

I shall not attempt fully to explain this great little

parable. A full exposition may be left for another

occasion. The parable may be understood to relate to

our Lord Himself, who is the living seed. You know also

how His church is the tree that springs from Him, and

how greatly it grows and spreads its branches until it

covers the earth. From the one man Christ Jesus,

despised and rejected of men, slain and buried, and so

hidden away from among men--from Him, I say, there

arises a multitude which no one can number. These

spread themselves, like some tree which grows by the

rivers of waters, and they yielded both gracious

shelter and spiritual food. I called it a great little

parable, and so it is: it has a world of teaching

within the smallest compass. The parable is itself like

a grain of mustard seed, but its meanings are as a

great tree.

At this time of the year, Sabbath-school teachers come

together especially to pray for a blessing on their

work, and pastors are invited to say a word to cheer

them in their self-denying service. This request I

would cheerfully fulfill, and therefore my discourse

will not be a full explanation of the parable, but an

adaptation of it to the cheering of those who are

engaged in the admirable work of teaching the young the

fear of the Lord. Never service more important; to

overlook it would be a grave fault. We rejoice to

encourage our friends in their labor of love.

In this parable light is thrown upon the work of those

who teach the Gospel. First, notice a very simple work:

"a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and cast

into his garden." Secondly, observe what came of it:

"it grew, and waxed a great tree; and the fowls of the

air lodged in the branches of it."

First, NOTICE A VERY SIMPLE WORK. The work of teaching

the gospel is as the casting of a grain of mustard seed

into a garden.

Note, first, what the nameless man did. "It is like a

grain of mustard seed, which a man took." He took it;

that is to say, picked it out from the bulk. It was

only one grain, and a grain of a very insignificant

seed; but he did not let it lie on the shelf; he took

it in his hand to put it to its proper use. A grain of

mustard seed is too small a thing for public

exhibition; the man who takes it in his hand is almost

the only one who spies it out. It was only a grain of

mustard seed, but the man set it before his own mind as

a distinct object to be dealt with. He was not sowing

mustard over broad acres, but he was sowing "a grain of

mustard seed" in his garden. It is well for the teacher

to know what he is going to teach, to have that truth

distinctly in his mind's eye, as the man had the grain

of mustard seed between his fingers. Depend upon it,

unless a truth is clearly seen and distinctly

recognized by the teacher, little will come of it to

the taught. It may be a very simple truth, but if a

someone takes it, understands it, grasps it, and loves

it, he will do something with it. Beloved, first and

foremost let us ourselves take the Gospel, let us

believe it, let us appreciate it, let us prize it

beyond all things; for truth lives as it is loved, and

no hand is so fit for its sowing as the hand which

grasps it well.

Further, in this little parable we notice that this man

had a garden: "Like a grain of mustard seed, which a

man took, and cast into his garden." Some Christian

people have no garden--no personal sphere of service.

They belong to the whole clan of Christians, and they

pine to see the entire band go out to cultivate the

whole world, but they do not come to personal

particulars. It is delightful to be warmed up by

missionary addresses, and to feel a zeal for the

salvation of all the nations; but, after all, the net

result of a general theoretic earnestness for all the

world does not amount to much. As we should have no

horticulture if people had no gardens, so we shall have

no missionary work done unless each person has a

mission. It is the duty of every believer in Christ,

like the first man, Adam, to have a garden to dress and

to till. Children are in the Sunday-schools by

millions: thank God for that! But have you a class of

your own? All the church at work for Christ! Glorious

theory! Are you up and doing for your Lord? It will be

a grand time when every believer has his allotment, and

is sowing it with the seed of truth. The wilderness and

the solitary place will blossom as the rose when each

Christian cultivates his own plot of roses. Where

should this unnamed man sow his mustard seed but in his

own garden? It was near him, and dear to him, and to it

he went. Teach your own children, speak to your

neighbors, seek the conversion of those whom God has

especially entrusted to you.

Having a garden, and having this seed, the man sowed

it, and simple as this is, it is the hinge of the

instruction. You have a number of seeds in a pill-box.

There they are: look at them! Take that box down this

day a year from now, and the seeds will be just the

same. Lay them by in that dry box for seven years, and

nothing will happen. Truth is not to be kept to

ourselves; it is to be published and advocated. There

is an old proverb, "Truth is mighty, and will prevail."

The proverb is true in a sense, but it needs to be

taken with a grain of salt. If you put truth away and

leave it without a voice, it won't prevail; it will not

even contend. When have great truths prevailed? Why,

when brave men have persisted in declaring them. Daring

spirits have taken up a cause which has been at the

first unpopular, and they have spoken about it so

earnestly and so often that at length the cause has

commanded attention; they have pressed on and on until

the cause has triumphed altogether. Truth has been

mighty, and has prevailed, but yet not without the

people who gave it life and tongue. Not even the Gospel

itself, if it is not taught, will prevail. If revealed

truth is laid on one side and kept in silence, it will

not grow. Mark how through the dark ages the Gospel lay

asleep in old books in the libraries of monasteries

until Luther and his fellow reformers fetched it out

and sowed it in the minds of men.

This man simply cast it into his garden. He did not

wrap it around with gold leaf, or otherwise adorn it,

but he put it into the ground. The naked seed came into

contact with the naked soil. O teachers, do not try to

make the Gospel look fine; do not overlay it with your

fine words or elaborate explanations. The Gospel seed

is to be put into the young heart just as it is. Get

the truth concerning the Lord Jesus into the children's

minds. Make them know, not what you can say about the

truth, but what the truth itself says. It is wicked to

take the Gospel and make a peg of it to hang our old

clothes upon. The Gos el is not a boat to be freighted

with human thoughts, fine speculations, scraps of

poetry, and pretty tales. No, no. The Gospel is the

thought of God; in and of itself it is the message

which the soul needs. It is the Gospel itself which

will grow. Take a truth, especially that great

doctrine, that humanity is lost and that Christ is the

only Savior, and see to it that you place it in the

mind. Teach plainly the great truth that whosoever

believes in Him has everlasting life, and that the Lord

Jesus bare our sins in His own body on the tree and

suffered for us, the just for the unjust--I say take

these truths and set them forth to the mind, and see

what will come of it. Sow the very truth; not your

reflections on the truth, not your embellishments of

the truth, but the truth itself. This is to be brought

into contact with the mind, for the truth is the seed,

and the human mind is the soil for it to grow in.

These remarks of mine are very plain and trite; and yet

everything depends upon the simple operation described.

Nearly everything has been tried in preaching of late,

except the plain and clear statement of the glad

tidings and of the atoning sacrifice. People have

talked about what the church can do, and what the

Gospel can do; we have been informed as to the proofs

of the Gospel, or the doubts about it, and so forth;

but when will they give us the Gospel itself? Friends,

we must come to the point and teach the Gospel, for

this is the living and incorruptible seed which abides

forever. It is an easy thing to deliver an address upon

mustard seed, to give the children a taste of the

pungency of mustard, to tell them how mustard seed

would grow, what kind of a tree it would produce, and

how the birds would sing among its branches. But this

is not sowing mustard seed. It is all very fine to talk

about the influence of the Gospel, the ethics of

Christianity, the elevating power of the love of

Christ, and so on; but what we want is the Gospel

itself, which exercises that influence. Sow the seed:

tell the children the doctrine of the Cross, the fact

that with the stripes of Jesus we are healed, and that

by faith in Him we are justified. What is wanted is not

talk about the Gospel, but the Gospel itself. We must

continually bring the living Word of the living God

into contact with the hearts of men. Oh, for the aid of

the Holy Spirit in this! He will help us, for He

delights to glorify Jesus.

That which is described in the parable was an

insignificant business: the man took the tiny seed and

put it into his garden. It is a very commonplace affair

to sit down with a dozen children around you and open

your Bible and tell them the well-worn tale of how

Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners. No

Pharisee is likely to stand and blow a trumpet when he

is going to teach children; he is more likely to point

to the children in the temple and sneeringly say,

"Hearest thou what these say?" It is a lowly business

altogether, but yet, to the mustard seed, and to the

man with a garden, the sowing is the all-important

matter. The mustard seed will never grow unless put

into the soil; the owner of the garden will never have

a crop of mustard unless he sows the seed. Dear Sunday-

school teacher, do not become weary of your humble

work, for none can measure its importance. Tell the

boys and girls of the Son of God, who lived and loved

and died that the ungodly might be saved. Urge them to

immediate faith in the mighty Savior that they may be

saved at once. Tell of the new birth, and how the souls

of human beings are renewed by the Holy Spirit, without

whose divine working none can enter the kingdom of

heaven. Cast in mustard seed, and nothing else but

mustard seed, if you want to grow mustard. Teach the

Gospel of grace, and nothing but the Gospel of grace,

if you would see grace growing in the hearts of your

young people.

Secondly, let us consider what it was that the man

sowed. We have seen that he sowed; what did he sow? It

was one single seed, and that seed a very small one; so

very, very small that the Jews were accustomed to say,

"As small as mustard seed." Hence the Savior speaks of

it as the smallest among seeds, which it may not have

been absolutely, but which it was according to common

parlance; our Lord was not teaching botany, but

speaking a popular parable. Yes, the Gospel seems a

very simple thing: Believe and live! Look to Jesus

lying in the sinner's stead! Look to Jesus crucified,

even as Israel looked to the brazen serpent lifted up

upon a pole. It is simplicity itself; in fact, the

Gospel is so plain a matter that our superior people

are weary of it and look out for something more

difficult of comprehension. People nowadays are like

the person who liked to hear the Scriptures "properly

confounded"; or like the other who said, "You should

hear our minister dispense with the truth." Sowing seed

is work too ordinary for the moderns; they demand new

methods. But, beloved, we must not run after vain

inventions; our one business is to sow the Word of God

in the minds of children. It is yours and mine to teach

everybody the simple truth that Jesus Christ came into

the world to save sinners, and that whosoever believes

in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life. We

know nothing else among adults or among children. This

one seed, apparently so little, so insignificant, we

continue to sow. They sneeringly say, "What can be the

moral result of preaching such a Gospel? Surely it

would be better to discourse upon morals, social

economics, and the sciences?" Ah, friends! if you can

do any good in those ways, we will not hinder you, but

our belief is that a hundred times more can be done

with the Gospel, for it is the power of God to

salvation to everyone that believes. The Gospel is not

the enemy of any good thing; say, rather, it is the

force by which good things are to be carried out.

Whatsoever things are pure and honest and of good

repute are all nurtured by that spirit which is

begotten by the simple Gospel of Christ. Yet

conversions do not come by essays upon morals but by

the teaching of salvation by Christ. The cleansing and

raising of our race will not be effected by politics or

science, but by the Word of the Lord, which lives and

abides forever. To bring the greatest blessings upon

our rising youth we must labor to implant in their

minds faith in the Lord Jesus. Oh, for divine power in

this work!

But the seed, though very small, was a living thing.

There is a great difference between a mustard seed and

a piece of wax of the same size. Life slumbers in that

seed. What life is we cannot tell. Even if you take a

microscope you cannot spy it out. It is a mystery, but

it is essential to a seed. The Gospel has a something

in it not readily discoverable by the philosophical

inquirer, if, indeed, he can perceive it at all. Take a

maxim of Socrates or of Plato, and inquire whether a

nation or a tribe has ever been transformed by it from

barbarism to culture. A maxim of a philosopher may have

measurably influenced a person in some right direction,

but who has ever heard of a someone's whole character

being transformed by any observation of Confucius or

Socrates? I confess I never have. Human teachings are

barren. But within the Gospel, with all its triteness

and simplicity, there is a divine life and that life

makes all the difference. The human can never rival the

divine, for it lacks the life-fire. It is better to

preach five words of God's Word than five million words

of human wisdom. Human words may seem to be the wiser

and the more attractive, but there is no heavenly life

in them. Within God's Word, however simple it may be,

there dwells an omnipotence like that of God from whose

lips it came.

Truth to tell, a seed is a very comprehensive thing.

Within the mustard seed what is to be found? Why, there

is all in it that ever comes out of it. It must be so.

Every branch and every leaf and every flower and every

seed that is to be is, in its essence, all within the

seed. It needs to be developed, but it is all there.

And so, within the simple Gospel, how much lies

concentrated? Look at it! Within that truth lie

regeneration, repentance, faith, holiness, zeal,

consecration, perfection. Heaven hides itself away

within the Gospel. Like a young bird in its nest, glory

dwells in grace. We may not at first see all its

results, nor, indeed, shall we see them at all until we

sow the seed and it grows; yet it is all there. Do you

believe it, young teacher? Have you realized what you

have in your hold when you grasp the Gospel of the

grace of God? It is the most wonderful thing beneath

the skies. Do you believe in the Gospel which you have

to teach? Do you discern that within its apparently

narrow lines the Eternal, the Infinite, the Perfect,

and the Divine are all enclosed? As in the babe of

Bethlehem there was the Eternal God, so within the

simple teaching of "Believe and live" there are all the

elements of eternal blessedness for people, and

boundless glory for God. It is a very comprehensive

thing, that little seed, that Gospel of God.

And for this reason it is so wonderful: it is a divine

creation. Summon your chemists, bring them together

with all their vessels and their fires. Select a jury

of the greatest chemists now alive, analytical or

otherwise, as you will. Learned sirs, will you kindly

make us a mustard seed? You may take a mustard seed,

and pound it and analyze it, and you may thus ascertain

all its ingredients. So far so good. Is not your work

well begun? Now make a single mustard seed. We will

give you a week. It is a very small affair. You have

all the elements of mustard in yonder mortar. Make us

one living grain; we do not ask for a ton weight. One

grain of mustard seed will suffice us. Great chemists,

have you not made so small a thing? A month has gone

by. Only one grain of mustard seed we asked of you, and

where is it? Have you not made one in a month? What are

you at? Shall we allow you seven years? Yes, with all

the laboratories in the kingdom at your service and all

known substances for your material and all the world's

coal beds for your fuel, get to your work. The air is

black with your smoke and the streams run foul with

your waste products; but where is the mustard seed?

This baffles the wise; they cannot make a living seed.

No; and nobody can make a Gospel, or even a new Gospel

text. The thinkers of the age could not even concoct

another life of Christ to match with the four Gospels

which we have already. I go further: they could not

create a new incident which would be congruous with the

facts we already know. Plenty of novel writers nowadays

can beat out imaginary histories upon their anvils: let

them write a fifth Gospel--say the Gospel according to

Peter, or Andrew. Let us have it! They will not even

commence the task. Who will write a new psalm, or even

a new promise? Clever chemists prove their wisdom by

saying at once, "No, we cannot make a mustard seed";

and wise thinkers will equally confess that they cannot

make another Gospel. My learned brethren are trying

very hard to make a new Gospel for this nineteenth

century, but you teachers had better go on with the old

one. The advanced men cannot put life into their

theory. This living Word is the finger of God. That

simple grain of mustard seed must be made by God, or

not at all; He must put life into the Gospel, or it

will not have power in the heart. The Gospel of Sunday-

school teachers, that Gospel of "Believe and live,"

however people may despise it, has Godgiven life in it.

You cannot make another which can supplant it, for you

cannot put life into your invention. Go on and use the

one living truth with your children, for nothing else

has God's life in it.

I want you to see what a little affair the sowing

seemed, as we answer the question, What was it to him?

It was a very natural act; he sowed a seed. It is a

most natural thing that we should teach others what we

believe ourselves. I cannot make out how some

professors can call themselves Christians and yet never

communicate the faith to others. That the young people

of our churches should gather other young people around

them and tell them of Jesus, whom you love, is as

natural as for a gardener to put seeds into his

prepared ground.

To sow a mustard seed is a very inexpensive act. Only

one grain of mustard: nobody can find me a coin small

enough to express its value. I do not know how much

mustard seed the man had; certainly it is not a rare

thing, but he only took one grain of it and cast it

into his garden. He emptied no exchequer by that

expenditure; this is one of the excellencies of Sabbath-

school work, that it neither exhausts the church of

people nor of money. However much of it is done, it

does not lessen the resources of our Zion; it is done

freely, quietly, without excitement, without sacrifice

of life, and yet what a fountain of blessing it is!

Still, it was an act of faith. It is always an act of

faith to sow seed, because you have, for the time, to

give it up and receive nothing in return. The farmer

takes his choice seed corn and throws it into the soil

of his field. He might have made many a loaf of bread

with it, but he casts it away. Only his faith saves him

from being judged a maniac: he expects it to return to

him fiftyfold. If you had never seen a harvest, you

would think that someone burying good wheat under the

clods had gone mad; if you had never seen conversions,

it might seem an absurd thing to be constantly teaching

to boys and girls the story of the Man who was nailed

to the tree. We preach and teach as a work of faith,

and remember, it is only as an act of faith that it

will answer its purpose. The rule of the harvest is,

"According to thy faith, be it unto thee." Believe,

dear teacher, believe in the Gospel. Believe in what

you are doing when you tell it. Believe that great

results from slender causes spring. Go on sowing your

mustard seed of salvation by faith, expecting and

believing that fruit will come thereof.

It was an act which brought the sower no honor. The

Savior has chronicled the fact that the man took a

grain of mustard seed and sowed it, but thousands of

people had gone on sowing mustard seed for half a

lifetime without a word. Nobody has ever spoken in your

honor, my friend, though you have taught the truth.

Dear teacher, go on sowing, though nobody should

observe your diligence or praise your faithfulness. Sow

the seed of precious truth in the garden of the child's

mind, for much more will come of it than you have dared

to hope.

It seems to me that our Lord selected the mustard seed

in this parable, not because its results are the

greatest possible from a seed--for an oak or a cedar

are much greater growths than a mustard tree--but He

selected it because it is the greatest result as

compared with the size of the seed. Follow out the

analogy. Come to yonder school, and see! That earnest

young man is teaching a boy, one of those wild

creatures of the street; they swarm in every quarter. A

dozen young Turks are before him, or say young Arabs of

the street; he is teaching them the Gospel. Small

affair, is it not? Yes, very; but what may come of it?

Think of how joyfully much may grow out of this little!

What is that young man teaching? Only one elementary

truth. Do not sneer; it is truth, but it is the mere

alphabet of it. He touches upon nothing deep in

theology; he only says, "Christ Jesus came into the

world to save sinners. Dear boy, believe in the Lord

Jesus and live." That is all he says. Can any good

thing come out of Nazareth? The teacher himself is

teaching the one truth in a very poor way; at least, he

thinks so. Ask him, when he has done, what he thinks of

his own teaching, and he replies, "I do not feel fit to

teach." Yes, that young man's teaching is sighed over,

and in his own judgment it is poor and weak, but there

is life in the truth he imparts and eternal results

will follow--results of which I have now to speak in

the second part of my sermon. May the good Spirit help

me so to speak as to encourage my beloved friends, who

have given themselves up to the Christlike work of

teaching the little ones!

Secondly, let us enquire, WHAT CAME OF IT?

First, "it grew." That was what the sower hoped would

come of it: he placed the seed in the ground hoping

that it would grow. It is not reasonable to suppose

that he would have sown it if he had not hoped that it

would spring up. Dear teacher, do you always sow in

hope, do you trust that the Word will live and grow? If

you do not, I do not think your success is very

probable. Expect the truth to take root and expand and

grow up. Teach divine truth with earnestness and expect

that the life within it will unveil its wonders.

But though the sewer expected growth, he could not

himself have made it grow. After he had placed the seed

in the ground he could water it, he could pray God to

make the sun shine on it, but he could not directly

produce growth. Only He that made the seed could cause

it to grow. Growth is a continuance of that almighty

act by which life is at first given. The putting of

life into the seed is God's work, and the bringing

forth of the life from the seed is God's work too. This

is a matter within your hope, but far beyond your

power.

A very wonderful thing it is that the seed should grow.

If we did not see it every day, we should be more

astonished at the growth of seed than at all the

wonders of magicians. A growing seed is God's abiding

miracle. You see a piece of ground near London covered

with a market garden, and after a few months you go by

the place and you see streets and a public square and a

church and a great population. You say to yourself, "It

is remarkable that all these houses should have sprung

up in a few months." Yet that is not at all so

wonderful as for a plowed field to become covered four

feet high with corn, and all without the use of wagons

to bring the material, or tools to work it up into a

harvest. Without noise of hammer, or the ringing of

trowels; without handiwork of man, the whole has been

done. Wonder at the growth of grace. See how it

increases, deepens, strengthens! Growth in grace is a

marvel of divine love. That a person should repent

through the Gospel, that he should believe in Jesus,

that he should be totally changed, that he should have

a hope of heaven, that he should receive power to

become a child of God--these are all marvelous things;

yet they are going on under our eyes and we fail to

admire them as we should. The growth of holiness in

such fallen creatures as we are is the admiration of

angels, the delight of all intelligent beings.

To the sower this growth was very pleasing. How

pleasant it is to see the seed of grace grow in

children! Do you not remember when you first sowed

mustard-and-cress as a child, how the very next morning

you went and turned the ground up to see how much it

had grown? How pleased you were when you saw the little

yellow shoot, and afterward a green leaf or two! So is

it with the true teacher: he or she is anxious to see

growth and makes eager inquiry for it. What was

expected is taking place and it is most delightful to

that teacher, whatever it may be to others. An

unsympathetic person cries, "Oh, I do not think

anything of that child's emotions. It is merely a

passing impression: he will soon forget it." The

teacher does not think so. The cold critic says, "I

don't think much of a child's weeping. Children's tears

lie very near the surface." But the teacher is full of

hope that in these tears is a real sorrow for sin, and

an earnest seeking after the Lord. The questioner says,

"It is nothing for a child to say that he gives his

heart to Jesus. Youngsters soon think that they

believe. They are so easily led." People talk thus

because they do not love children and live with the

desire to save them. If you sympathize with children,

you are pleased with every hopeful token and are on the

watch for every mark of divine life within them. If you

are a florist, you will see more of the progress of

your plants than if you are no gardener and have no

interest in such things. Think, then, of what my text

says: "It grew." Oh, for a prayer just now from all of

you this morning, "Lord, make the Gospel grow wherever

it falls! Whether the preacher scatters it, or the

teacher sows it; whether it falls among the aged

people, or the young; Lord, make the Gospel grow!" Pray

hard for it, friends! You cannot make it grow, but you

can prevail with God to bless it to His honor and

praise.

Next, having started growing, it became a tree. Luke

says, "It waxed a great tree." It was great in itself,

but the greatness was seen mainly in comparison with

the size of the seed. The growth was great. Here is the

wonder, not that it became a tree, but that being a

mustard seed, it should become "a great tree." Do you

see the point of the parable? I have already brought it

before you. Listen! It was only a word spoken--"Dear

boy, look to Jesus." Only such a word, and a soul was

saved, its sin was forgiven, its whole being was

changed, a new heir of heaven was born. Do you see the

growth? A word produces salvation! A grain of mustard

seed becomes a great tree! A little teaching brings

eternal life. That is not all: the teacher, with many

prayers and tears, took her girl home, and pleaded with

her for Christ, and the girl was led to yield her heart

to the dominion of Christ Jesus--a holy, heavenly life

came out of that pleading. See! she becomes a

thoughtful girl, a loving wife, a gracious mother, a

matron in Israel, such a one as Dorcas among the poor,

or Hannah with her Samuel. What a great result from a

little cause! The teacher's words were tearfully

spoken; they could not have been printed, for they were

far too broken and childlike; but they were, in God's

hands, the means of fashioning a life most sweet, most

chaste, most beautiful.

A boy was about as wild as any roamer of our streets; a

teacher knelt by his side with his arm about the lad's

neck. He pleaded with God for the boy, and with the boy

for God. That boy was converted, and as a youth in

business he was an example to the workroom; as a father

he was a guide to his household; as a man of God he was

a light to all around; as a preacher of righteousness

he adorned the doctrine of God his Savior in all

things. There is much more which I might easily

picture, but you can work it out as well as I can. All

that is to be desired may spring out of the simple talk

of a humble Christian with a youth. A mustard seed

becomes a great tree; a few words of holy admonition

may produce a noble life.

But is that all? Beloved, our teaching may preserve

souls from the deep darkness of the abode of the lost.

A soul left to itself might hurry down from folly to

vice, from vice to obduracy, from obduracy to fixed

resolve to perish; but by the means of loving teaching

all this is changed. Rescued from the power of sin,

like a lamb snatched from between the jaws of the lion,

the youth is now no longer the victim of vice, but

seeks holy and heavenly things. Hell has lost its prey,

and see up yonder, heaven's wide gate has received a

precious soul. "Sweeping through the gates of the New

Jerusalem" many have come who were led there from the

Sunday-school. They who once were foul are now white-

robed, washed in the blood of the Lamb. Hark to their

songs of praise! You may keep on listening, for those

songs will never come to an end. All this was brought

about through a brief address of a trembling brother

who stood up one Sunday afternoon to close the school

and talk a little about the Cross of Jesus. Or all this

came of a gentle sister who could never have spoken in

public, yet was enabled to warn a young girl who was

growing giddy and seemed likely to go sadly astray.

Wonderful that a soul's taking the road to heaven or to

hell should be made, in the purpose of God, to hinge

upon the humble endeavors of a weak but faithful

teacher! You see how the mustard seed grew until it

waxed a great tree.

This great tree became a shelter: "the fowls of the air

lodged in the branches of it." Mustard in the East does

grow very large indeed. The commonest kind of it may be

found eight or ten feet high, but there is a kind which

will grow almost like a forest tree, and there probably

were some of these latter trees in the sheltered region

wherein our Lord was speaking. A mustard which grew

here and there in Palestine was of sur prising

dimensions. When the tree grew, the birds came to it.

Here we have unexpected influences. Think of it. That

man took a mustard seed which you could hardly see if I

held it up. When he took the mustard seed, when he put

it into his garden, had he any thought of bringing

birds to that spot? Not he. You do not know all you are

doing when you are teaching a child the way of

salvation by Jesus Christ. When you are trying to bring

a soul to Christ, your action has ten thousand hooks to

it, and these may seize on innumerable things. Holy

teaching is the opening of a well, and no one knows all

the effect which the waters will produce on that spot.

There seems no link between sowing a grain of mustard

seed and birds of the air, but the winged wanderers

soon made a happy connection. There may seem no

connection between teaching that boy and the reclaiming

of cannibals in New Guinea, but I can see a very

possible connection. Tribes in Central Africa may have

their destiny shaped by your instruction of a tiny

child. When John Pounds bribed an urchin with a hot

potato to come and learn to read the Bible, I am sure

John Pounds had no idea of all the Ragged schools in

London, but there is a clear line of cause and effect

in the whole matter. A hot potato might be the coat of

arms of the Ragged school Union. When Nasmyth went

about from house to house visiting in the slums of

London, I do not suppose that he saw in his act the

founding of the London City Mission and all the Country

Town Missions. No one can tell the end of his

beginnings, the growth of his sowings. Go on doing good

in little ways and you shall one day wonder at the

great results. Do the next thing that lies before you.

Do it well. Do it unto the Lord. Leave results with His

unbounded liberality of love, but hope to reap at least

a hundredfold.

How many fowls came and roosted under that one mustard

tree I do not know. How many birds in a day, how many

birds in the year, came and found a resting place, and

picked the seeds they loved so well, I cannot tell.

When one person is converted, how many may receive a

blessing out of him none can tell. Now is the day for

romances: our literature is drenched with tales

religious or irreligious. What stories might be written

concerning benefits bestowed, directly and indirectly,

by a single godly man or woman! When you have written a

thrilling story upon the subject, I can assure you I

can match it with something better still. One single

individual can scatter benedictions across a continent,

and belt the world with blessing.

But what is that I hear? I see this mustard tree--it is

a very wonderful tree; but I not only see, I hear!

Music! music! The birds! the birds! It is early

morning, the sun is scarcely up--what torrents of song!

Is that the way to produce music? Shall I sow mustard

seed, and reap songs? I thought we must buy an organ or

purchase a violin, or by some wind or stringed

instrument come at music, but here is a new plan

altogether. Nebuchadnezzar had his flute, harp,

sackbut, psaltery, dulcimer, and all kinds of music,

but all that mingled sound could not rival the melody

of birds. I shall sow mustard seed now, and get music

in God's own way. Friends, when you teach your children

the Gospel of the Lord Jesus, you are sowing the music

of heaven. Every time you tell the tidings of pardon

bought with blood, you are filling the choirs of glory

with sweet voices which, to the Eternal Name, shall day

and night trill out songs of devout gratitude. Go on,

then, if this is to be the result. If even heaven's

high harmonies depend upon the simple teaching of a

Ragged school, let us never cease from our hallowed

service.

Having said so much, I now close with these three

practical observations. Are we not highly honored to be

entrusted with such a marvelous thing as the Gospel? If

it is a seed comprehending so much within it which will

come to so much if it be properly used, blessed and

happy are we to have such good news to proclaim! I

thought this morning, when I awoke into the damp and

rain, and felt my bones complaining, I shall be glad

when four more Sundays shall have gone, and I shall be

free to take a little rest in a sunnier clime. Jaded in

mind, and weary in spirit, I braced myself with this

reflection--what blessed work I have to do! What a

glorious Gospel have I to preach! I ought to be a very

happy man to have such glad tidings to bear to my

fellows. I said to myself, "So I am." Well now, beloved

teacher, next Sunday, when you leave your bed, and say,

"I have had a hard week's work, and I could half wish

that I had not to go to my class," answer yourself

thus: "But I am a happy person to have to talk to

children about Christ Jesus. If I had to teach them

arithmetic or carpentering, I might get tired of it,

but to talk about Jesus, whom I love, why, it is a joy

forever.

Let us be encouraged to sow the good seed in evil

times. If we do not see the Gospel prospering

elsewhere, let us not despair; if there were no more

mustard seed in the world, and I had only one grain of

it, I should be all the more anxious to sow it. You can

produce any quantity if only one seed will grow. So now

today there is not very much Gospel about, the church

has given it up, a great many preachers preach

everything but the living truth. This is sad, but it is

a strong reason why you and I should teach more Gospel

than ever. I have often thought to myself--Other men

may teach socialism, deliver lectures, or collect a

band of fiddlers that they may gather a congregation,

but I will preach the Gospel. I will preach more Gospel

than ever if I can; I will stick more to the one

cardinal point. The others can attend to the odds and

ends, but I will keep to Christ crucified. To those of

vast ability who are looking to the events of the day I

would say, "Allow one poor fool to keep to preaching

the Gospel." Beloved teachers, be fools for Christ, and

keep to the Gospel. Don't you be afraid. It has life in

it, and it will grow; only you bring it out, and let it

grow. I am sometimes afraid that we may prepare our

sermons and addresses too much, so as to make ourselves

shine. If so, we are like the man who tried to grow

potatoes--he never grew any, and he wondered much,

"for," said he, "I very carefully boiled them for

hours." So, it is very possible to extract all the life

out of the Gospel, and put so much of yourself into it

that Christ will not bless it.

And, lastly, we are bound to do it. If so much will

come out of so little, we are bound to go in for it.

Nowadays people want ten percent for their money. Hosts

of fools are readily caught by any scheme or

speculation or limited liability company that promises

to give them immense dividends! I would like to make

you wise by inviting you to an investment which is

sure. Sow a mustard seed, and grow a tree. Talk of

Christ, and save a soul; that soul saved will be a

blessing for ages, and a joy to God throughout

eternity. Was there ever such an investment as this?

Let us go on with it. If on our simple word eternity is

hung, let us speak with all our heart. Life, death, and

hell, and worlds unknown, hang on the lips of the

earnest teacher of the Gospel of Jesus. Let us never

cease speaking while we have breath in our body. The

Lord bless you! Amen, and Amen.

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Bibliographical Information
Spurgeon, Charle Haddon. "Commentary on Luke 13". "Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/spe/luke-13.html. 2011.