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Light for Those Who Sit in Darkness
September 10, 1871 by C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892)
"The land of Zabulon, and the land of Nephthalim, by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles; the people which sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up," Matthew 4:15-16 .
Full of love to the place where he had been brought up, our Lord had gone to Nazareth, and in the Synagogue he had preached the gladdest tidings; but, alas, the greatest of prophets end the Lord of prophets, received no honor in his own country. "He came unto his own and his own received him not." Expelled the city by violence, the patient one turned his footsteps another way, yet, even when justly angry, love guided his footsteps. He must go for the Nazarenes had proved themselves unworthy, but whither shall he go? He will go to the outcasts, to that part of his country which was most neglected, to that region where the population was mixed and degenerate so as to be called, not Galilee of the Jews, but Galilee of the Gentiles, where from distance from Jerusalem little was known of the worship of the temple, where error was rampant, where men's minds were enveloped in darkness, and their hearts in the gloom of deathshade. The loss of Nazareth shall be the gain of Galilee. Even his judgment upon a place is overruled in mercy, and even thus to day there are some in this house who have often had Jesus preached to them from their very childhood, but until this hour they have refused obedience to the gospel's command. What if he should now turn away from them; I pray he may not have done so already. Yet, in turning away from them, he will deal with others in mercy. As the casting away of the Jews was the salvation of the Gentiles, so the leaving of these privileged ones shall open a door of mercy and hope to those who have not enjoyed the privilege aforetime. To you who are not familiar with the gospel sound, to you who count yourselves more unworthy than the rest of mankind, to you desponding and despairing ones who write bitter things against yourselves, to you is the gospel sent. As aforetime, the Lord preached to Zabulon and Nephthalim, and the people who sat in darkness saw a great light, even so is he this day proclaimed among you. From the text it appears that some are in greater darkness than others; and that, secondly, for such there is a hope of light; but that, thirdly, the light which will come to them lies all in Christ; and, fourthly (joyful news!) that light is already sprung up all around them: they have but to open their eyes to delight in it. I. SOME SOULS ARE IN GREATER DARKNESS THAN OTHERS. It appears from the text that it was so in Christ's days, and certainly it is so now. Divine sovereignty runs through all God's dealings. He does not even distribute the privilege of hearing the gospel to all alike, for some lands are as yet untrodden by the missionary's foot, while here at the corner of all our streets the gospel is preached to us. Some, from the very circumstances of their birth and parentage, have never attended the worship of God, while others, even before they had the discretion to choose, were carried in their parents' arms to the place where prayer is wont to be made. God distributeth his grace and privileges even as he wills. In the text, those persons who were more deplorably circumstanced than others are described first as being in darkness "The people that sat in darkness;" by which is meant, first, ignorance. The Galileans were notoriously ignorant: few teachers of the law had been among them; they did not know even the letter of the law. So are there many, to whom the gospel, even in the theory of it, is a thing scarcely known. They may have gone to places of worship in this country from their youth up, and have never heard the gospel, for the gospel is a rare thing in some synagogues; you shall hear philosophy, you shall hear ceremonialism and sacramentarianism cried up, but the blessed truth, "Believe, and live," is kept in the background, so that men may come to full age, ay, and even to old age, in Christian England, and yet the plan of salvation by the righteousness of Jesus Christ may be an unknown thing to them. They sit in the darkness of ignorance. The consequence is, that another darkness follows, the darkness of error. Men who know not the truth, since they must have some faith, seek out many inventions; for, if they are not taught of God, they soon become taught of Satan, and apt scholars are they in his school. Galilee was noted for the heresies which abounded there. But what a mercy it is that God can save heretics. Those who have received false doctrine, and added darkness to darkness in so doing, can yet be brought into the glorious light of truth. Though they may have denied the Deity of Christ, though they may have doubted the inspiration of Scripture, though they may have fallen into many traps and pitfalls of false doctrine, yet the Divine Shepherd, when he seeks his lost sheep, can find them out and bring them home again. In consequence of being in the darkness of ignorance and error, these people were wrapt in the gloom of discomfort and sorrow. Darkness is an expressive type of sorrow. The mind that knows not God, knows not the heart's best rest. There is no solace for our griefs like the gospel of Jesus Christ, and those who are ignorant of it are tossed about upon a stormy sea, without an anchorage. Glory be to God; when sorrow has brought on a midnight, grace can transform it into noon. This darkness of sorrow was no doubt attended with much fear. We love not darkness because we cannot see what is before us, and therefore we are alarmed by imaginary dangers; and, in the same way, those who are ignorant of the light of Christ will frequently be the victims of superstitious dread; ay, and true and well founded fears will arise too, for they will dread death, and the bar of God, and the sentence of justice. Believe me, there is no darkness so black as the horror which surrounds many an awakened conscience when it sees its ruin, but cannot find a Savior; feels its sin, and cannot see the way by which it may be expiated. Here, then, we have considered one part of this sad condition; perhaps it describes some of you. It is said next that they "sat in darkness." Matthew did not quote from Isaiah correctly; I think he purposely alters it. Isaiah speaks, in his ninth chapter, of a people that "walked in darkness;" but here the evangelist speaks of a people who "sat in darkness." That is a state of less hopefulness. The man who walks is active, he has some energy left, and may reach a brighter spot; but a man sitting down is inactive, and will probably abide where he is. "The people that sat in darkness" as if they had been there a long while, and would be there longer yet. They sat as though they had been turned to stone. They "sat in darkness," probably through despair; they had, after a fashion, striven for the light, but had not found it, and so they gave up all hope. Their disappointed hearts told them that they might as well spare those fruitless efforts, and therefore down they sat with the stolidity of hopelessness. Why should they make any more exertion? If God would not hear their prayers, why should they pray any longer? Being ignorant of his abounding grace, and of the way of salvation by his Son, they considered themselves as consigned to perdition. They "sat in darkness." Perhaps they sat there so long that they reached a state of insensibility and indifference, and this is a horrible condition of heart; but, alas! a very common one. They said, "What matters it, since there is no hope for us? Let it be as fate appoints, we will sit still, we will neither cry nor pray." How many have I met with who are not only thus in darkness, but are half-content to dare the terrible future, and sullenly to wait till the storm-cloud of wrath shall burst over them. It is a most sad and wretched condition, but what a blessing it is that this day we have a gospel to preach to such. Our description is not complete, for the text goes on to speak of them as sitting "in the region of death;" that is to say, these people lived in a territory that appeared to be ruled by death, and to be death's haunt and natural abode. Many at this time, and in this City, are truly living in the domain of spiritual death. All around them is death. If they have stepped into this house this morning, their position is an exception to their general one. They will go home to a Sabbath-breaking household; they hear habitually oaths, profane language, and lascivious songs; and thus they breathe the reek of the charnel-house. If they have a good thought, it is ridiculed by those about them. They dwell as among the tombs, with men whose mouths are open sepulchres, pouring forth all manner of offensiveness. How sad a condition! It seems to such poor souls, perhaps, being now a little awakened, that everything about them is prophetic of death. They are afraid to take a step lest the earth should open a door to the bottomless pit. I remember well, when I was under conviction, how all the world seemed in league against me, the beasts of the field and the stones thereof. I wondered then the heavens could refrain from falling upon me, or the earth from opening her mouth to swallow me up. I was under sentence of divine wrath, and felt as if I were in a condemned cell, and all creation were but the walls of my dungeon. "They sat in the region of death." But it is added that they sat "in the shadow of death;" that is, under its cold, poisonous, depressing shade; as though grim death stood over them in all they did, and his shadow kept from them the light of heaven. They are sitting there this morning: they are saying to themselves, "Preach, sir, as you may, you will never comfort me: you may tell me of love and mercy, but I shall never be cheered thereby: I am chilled through my very marrow, as though the frost of death had smitten me: I am unable now to hope, or even to pray, even my desires are all but dead. Like a frozen corpse is my soul." And it is implied, too, that to such death itself is very near, for those who are in the shadow of a thing are near to the thing itself; and the sinner, bewildered and amazed at the guilt of his sin, is only sure of one thing, and that is, that he is in immediate danger of being cast into hell. I have known some afraid to shut their eyes at night, lest they should open them in torments; others have been afraid to go to their beds, lest their couch should become their coffin; they have not known what to do, by reason of depression of spirit. Job's language has been theirs, "My soul is weary of my life." It is clear to me that the description of the text very accurately pictures many of the sons of men. I pray God that none of you poor darkened souls may be so foolish as to try to exclude yourself from it, though such is the perversity of despondency that I greatly fear you may do so. However small we make the meshes of the gospel net, there are certain little fish that will find a way of escaping from its blessed toils, though we try to meet the character, we miss it through the singular dexterity of despair. The fact is that when a man is sin-sick, his soul abhorreth all manner of meat, and unless the beloved physician shall interpose, he will die of famine with the bread of life spread out before him. Dear friends, may the Lord visit you with his saving health, and give to the saddest of you joy and peace in believing. II. Having given the description of those in the darkness, let us now pass on to the second point. FOR THOSE WHO ARE IN A WORSE CONDITION THAN OTHERS THERE IS HOPE AND LIGHT. To the benighted land of Zabulon and Naphtali the gospel came, and evermore to souls enwrapt in gloom the gospel has come as a cheering and guiding light; and there are good reasons why it should be so. For, first, among such people the gospel has reaped very rich fruit. Among barbarous nations Christ has won great trophies. The poor Karens are wonders of grace, the cannibals of the South Sea Islands are miracles of mercy, and among the once enslaved Ethiopians there are warm and loving hearts which rejoice in Jesus' name. In this city, I will venture to say, that no churches reflect more honor upon the Master's name than those which have been gathered from among the destitute districts. What wonders God has done by that blessed church in Golden Lane, under our dear brother Orsman? What conversions have taken place in connection with the mission churches of St. Giles' and Whitechapel? churches made of the poorest of the poor and the lowest of the low. God is glorified when the thief and the harlot are washed and cleansed and made obedient to the law of Christ. When those who are healed stand at the pastor's side, even ribald tongues are silent, or are made to exclaim, "What hath God wrought?" The same is true of persons mentally depressed, who are despairing of themselves; many such have been converted. Some of us were brought very low before we found the Savior; lower we could not well have been: we were emptied like a dish that a man wipes and turns upside down; we had not even a drop of hope left in us; but we rejoice in Christ to-day, and we say to despairing souls, we are personal witnesses that Christ has saved such as you are, he has in our case caused light to shine on those who sat in darkness, and out of death's cold shade into life's full light he has brought us as prisoners of hope; and, therefore, he can do the same with you. Be of good courage, there is hope for you. It is a further consolation to sad hearts, that many promises are made to such characters, even to those who are most dark. How precious is that word, "Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." Is not that made for you, ye burdened and laboring sinners? What say you to that gracious word "When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue faileth for thirst, I the Lord will hear them, I the God of Jacob will not forsake them?" Is there no light in that word of love "Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon?" Is there no music in this passage "Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage? he retaineth not his anger for ever, because he delighteth in mercy. He will turn again, he will have compassion upon us; he will subdue our iniquities; and thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea?" I recollect when my soul was stayed for weeks on that one short word, "Whosoever calleth upon the Lord, shall be saved." I knew I did call on his name, and therefore I hoped to see his salvation. Many have laid hold and rested themselves on this faithful saying, "Him that cometh to me, I will in no wise cast out." He will receive any "him" or "her" in all the world that comes, be he or she ever so defiled. That also is a rich word, "He is able to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them." What a word was that of our Master when he commanded his disciples to preach the gospel to every creature, beginning at Jerusalem. They were to commence their labors amongst his murderers, amongst hypocritical Pharisees and proud Herodians; they were to begin where the devil reigned most supreme, and to present Christ to the worst sinners first. See you, then, that great sinners, so far from being excluded, are just those to whom the good news is to be first published. Be of good comfort, then, ye that sit in darkness: there are special promises for you. Moreover, remember, that the conversion of the more deplorably dark and despairing brings the highest degree of glory to God. When his glory passes by great sin, then it is mercy indeed. Where it is greatly displaced, it is greatly extolled. Many are saved by Christ, in whom the change is not very apparent, and consequently but little fame is brought to the good Physician through it; but, oh, if he will have mercy upon yonder mourner, who has been these ten years in despair; if he will say, "Woman, thou art loosed from thine infirmities," the whole parish will ring with it! If Jesus will come and save that black, ignorant sinner, whom everybody knows because he has become a pest and a nuisance to the town; if such a demoniac has the devil cast out of him, how all men will say. "This is the finger of God." Yes, a poor wretch brought back again, as the sixty-eighth Psalm has it, "from Bashan, and from the depths of the sea," is a splendid trophy to the conquering power of Almighty grace. God's great object is to glorify his great name; and, as this is best accomplished when his mercy delivers the worst cases, there is surely hope for those who sit in darkness, bound in affliction and iron. Moreover, when they happily behold the light, such persons frequently become eminently useful to others. Their experience aids them in counseling others, and their gratitude makes them eager to do so. O sweet light, how precious art thou to blind eyes, when they are newly opened. You do not know what it is to be blind: thank God that you do not: there are some here, however, who painfully know what constant darkness is; it is a grievous privation: but when their eyes are opened, as they will be in another state, and they see that best of sights, the King in his beauty, how sweet will light be to them!
"Nights and days of total blindness Are their portion here below; Beams of love from eyes of kindness, Never here on earth they know. But on high they shall behold Angels tuning harps of gold; Rapture to the new-born sight; Jesus in celestial light!
So, when the spiritual eye has long been dim, and we have mourned and wept for sin, but could not beheld a Savior, light is sweet beyond expression. And, because it is so sweet, there is a necessity within the enlightened soul to tell out the joyful news to others. When a man has deeply felt the evil of sin, and has at length obtained mercy, he cries with David, "Then will I teach transgressors thy ways, and sinners shall be converted unto thee." John Bunyan's impulse when he found the Savior was to tell the crows on the ploughed ground about it, and he lived to do better than talk to crows, for day by day, from generation to generation, his works proclaim the Friend of sinners, who leads them from the City of Destruction to the Celestial glory. Zealous saints are usually those who once were in great darkness; they see what grace has done for them, and for that very reason they feel an attachment to their dear Lord and Master, which they might never had felt if they had not once sat in the valley of the shadow of death. So, poor troubled ones, for these reasons, and fifty more I might bring if time did not fail me, there is hope for you. III. But now, the best part of our discourse comes under the third head. THE TRUE LIGHT FOR A SOUL IN DARKNESS IS ALL IN CHRIST. Hear ye the text. "The people which sat in darkness saw great light." Now Christ is not only light, but great light; he reveals great things, he manifests great comforts, saves us from great sin and great wrath, and prepares us for great glory. He is, however, a Savior that must be seen. "The people that sat in darkness saw great light." Light is of no use unless it be seen. Faith must grasp the blessings which the Savior brings. "Look unto me, and be ye saved, all ye ends of the earth." We must see the Savior with a glance of faith, then have we light. Let us consider how clearly Christ Jesus himself is the light of every believing eye, and delivers the most troubled soul from its misery. In him is light, and the light is the light of men. Jesus personally is the day-dawn and the morning without clouds. First, there is light in Christ's name for a troubled sinner. What is it? Jesus. Jesus, a Savior. I am a sinner lost and ruined, but I rejoice, for Jesus has come to seek and to save that which was lost. My sins trouble me, but he shall save his people from their sins. Satan annoys me, but he has come to destroy the works of the devil. He is not a nominal, but a real Savior. We know captains and colonels who have no troops, and never saw fighting, but not so the Captain of our salvation; he brings many sons unto glory. If a man is called a builder, we expect him to build; if a merchant, we expect him to trade; and as Jesus is a Savior, he will carry on his sacred business, he will save multitudes. Why, surely there is comfortable hope here. Do you not see the dawning in the name of Savior? Surely if he comes to save, and you need saving, there is a blessed suitability in you for one another. A prisoner at the bar is glad to meet one who is by profession an advocate, a ship out of its track welcomes a pilot; a traveler lost on the moors is delighted if he meets one who is by trade a guide; and so a sinner should rejoice at the bare mention of a Savior. There is similar encouragement in the second name, Christ, for it means anointed. Our Lord Jesus is not an amateur Savior, who has come here without a commission from God; he is not an adventurer, who sets up on his own account to do a kind of work for which he is not qualified: no, the Spirit of the Lord is upon him, for the Lord hath anointed him to this work of saving souls. He is Jesus Christ, whom God hath sent. Him hath God the Father sealed. He spake not of himself, but God was with him, and in him. Why, beloved friend, now that I am in the light I can see a whole sunful of splendor in that double name Jesus Christ, and yet I fear that those who are in darkness may not perceive it. Whom God anoints to save, must surely be both able and willing to save the guilty. This name is as the morning star; look at it, and know that day is near. It has such joy in it that misery itself ought to leap with holy mirth at the sound of it. It is our delightful task to add that there is light for those who sit in darkness in our Lord's person and nature. Mark right well who this Jesus Christ is. He is in the constitution of his person both God and man, divine and human, equal with God and fellow with man. Do you not see in this fact the love of God, that he should be willing to take humanity into union with himself? If God becomes man, he does not hate men, but has love towards them. Do you not see the suitability of Christ to deal with you, for he is like yourself a man, touched with the feeling of your infirmities; of a human mother born, he hung at a woman's breast, he suffered hunger and thirst and weariness, and, dead and buried in the tomb, he was partaker in our doom as well as our sorrow? Jesus of Nazareth was most truly a man, he is bone of our bone and flesh of your flesh. O sinner, look into the face of the man of sorrows and you must trust him. Since he is also God, you therein see his power to carry on the work of salvation. He touches you with the hand of his humanity, but he touches the Almighty with the hand of his Deity. He is man, and feels your needs; he is God, and is able to supply them. Is anything too tender for his heart of love? Is anything too hard for his hand of power? When the Lord himself, that made the heavens and digged the foundations of the earth, comes to be your Savior, there remains no difficulty in your being saved. Omnipotence cannot know a difficulty, and, O sinner, to an omnipotent Savior it is not hard to save even you. A look of faith will give you perfect pardon. A touch of the hem of the Redeemer's garment will heal you at once. Come, then, and trust the incarnate God. Cast yourself into his arms at once. There is light, moreover, in his offices, and, indeed, a brightness of glory which a little thought will soon perceive. What are his offices? I cannot stay to mention a tithe of them, but one of them is that of Mediator. Your soul longs to speak to God and find acceptance with him, but you are afraid to venture into his terrible presence. I wonder not at your fear, for "even our God is a consuming fire." But be of good comfort, the way of access is open, and there is One who will go in unto the King with you, and open his mouth on your behalf. Jesus has interposed and filled the great gulf which yawned between the sinner and his righteous judge. His blood has paved the crimson way; his cross has bridged each stream; his person is the highway for those who would draw near to God. Now, as Christ Jesus is the Mediator between God and man, and you want one, take him and you will have light at once. You desire, also, this day a sacrifice, to make atonement for your iniquities; that also you will find in Christ. God must punish sin, every transgression must receive its just recompense of reward; but, lo, Christ has come, and as the scape-goat he has carried sin away; as the sin-offering he has removed transgression. Is not this good news? But I hear you say that your sins are too many and great. Do you then foolishly think that Christ is a sin-bearer for the innocent? That would be ridiculous. Do you suppose that Christ bore little sins only? That is to make him a little Savior. Beware of this. Nay, but mountain sins, heaven-defying sins, were laid on him when he hung upon the tree, and for these he made effectual atonement. Is there no light in all this? Moreover, to mention only one other office, our Lord is an Intercessor. Perhaps, one of your greatest difficulties is that you cannot pray. You say, "I cannot put a dozen words together; if I groan, I fear I do not feel in my heart what I ought to feel." Well, there is One who can pray for you if you cannot for yourself. Give him your cause to plead, and do not doubt but that it shall succeed. God grant you grace, as you see each office of Christ, to perceive that it has a bright side for sinners. I doubt not, light streams continually from every part of the sun to cheer the worlds that revolve around it; so, from the whole of Christ, there issues forth comfort for poor and needy souls. He delighteth in mercy. He is a Savior and a great one. He is all love, all tenderness, all pity, all goodness; and the very chief of sinners, if they do but see him, shall see light. Once again, if you want light, think of his character, as the meek and lowly Savior. Little children loved him; he called them and they willingly came, for he was meek and lowly of heart. O sinner, could he refuse thee? Do you think he could give you a hard word and send you about your business, if you were to seek mercy to day? It could not be; it is not in the nature of him, who was both the Son of God and the Son of Man, ever to repel a heart that fain would cling to him. Until he has once acted harshly to a coming sinner, you have no right to dream of his rejecting you, if you come to him. Think for a minute of his life. He was "separate from sinners," we are told, and yet it is elsewhere said of him, "this man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them." Friend of sinners was his name, and is still. Think of that self-denying life spent among the sick and the sinful for their good. And then think of his death, for here the light of grace is focused; the cross, like a burning-glass, concentrates the light and heat of Christ's love upon the sinner. See him agonizing in the garden for sins that were not his own: see him scourged with awful flagellations for transgressions in which he had no share: behold him bleeding and dying on the tree for his enemies; sufferer for iniquities in which he never was a participator, for in him was no sin. It must be true that God can save me, if Christ has died in the stead of the guilty. This argument has killed my unbelief. I cannot disbelieve, when I see incarnate God suffering for the guilty, the just for the unjust, to bring them to God.
"Sinners! come, the Savior see, Hands, feet, side, and temples view; See him bleeding on the tree, See his heart on fire for you!
View awhile, then haste away, Find a thousand more, and say: Come, ye sinners! come with me, View him bleeding on the tree."
I wish it were in my power to convey the light which I see in the cross into the mental eyeballs of all my hearers, but I cannot; God the Holy Ghost must do it. Yet, beloved, if ever you get light, it will be in this way: Christ must be a great light to you. Nobody ever found light by raking in his own inward darkness; that is indeed seeking the living among the dead. You may rake as long as ever you will among the embers of your depravity before you will find a spark of good there. Away from self, away from your own resolutions, away from your own prayers, repentances, and faith; away to Christ on the cross must you look. All your hope and help are laid on Immanual's shoulders. You are nothing. Not a rag nor a thread of your own righteousness will do; Christ's robe of righteousness must cover you from head to foot. Blow out your paltry candles, put out the sparks which you have vainly kindled, for behold the Sun is risen! "Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee." Ye want no other light than that of Jesus: dream of no other. Give up self, give up self-hope, be in utter despair of anything that you can do, and now, whether you sink or swim, throw yourself into the sea of Christ's love: rest in him and you shall never perish, neither shall any pluck you from his hands.
"Cast your deadly 'doing' down, Down at Jesus' feet, Stand in him, in him alone, Gloriously complete."
IV. But, lastly, we would say to every poor soul in darkness, you need be in darkness no longer; for LIGHT IS ALL AROUND YOU: it has already "sprung up." What a mercy, my dear despairing hearer, that you are not in hell! You might have been there: many no worse than you are there; and yet here you are in the land of hope. This day God does not deal with you according to the law, but after the gospel fashion; you are not come to Sinai this morning, no burning mountain is before you, and no tones of thunder peal from it; you are come unto Mount Zion, where the mediator of the new covenant speaks peace and pardon. I have no commission to curse you, but I have distinct authority from my Master to bid you come and receive his blessing. On Zion's top to-day ye have come to the blood of sprinkling; you might have been called to the blood of your own execution! No devils are around you, but an innumerable company of angels, who wish you well. See that ye refuse not him that speaketh. Remember, dear hearers, that to-day the gospel command is sent to you all; you that are most despairing, you are bidden to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. "Prove that," say you. I prove it thus: he bade his disciples go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature; you are a creature, therefore we preach it to you. And what was the gospel? Why, just this: "He that believeth and is baptised, shall be saved: he that believeth not shall be damned." That gospel, then, comes to you God commandeth all men, everywhere, to repent. O what mercy it is that the light of the gospel shines around you still! Will you shut your eyes to it? I beseech you, do not so wickedly. Moreover, the provisions of the gospel, which are full of light and love, are all around you at this moment. If you will now believe in Christ Jesus, every sin that you have committed shall be forgiven you for his namesake; you shall be to God as though you had never sinned; the precious blood shall make you as white as snow. "But that will not suffice," says one, "for God righteously demands obedience to his holy law, and I have not kept his commandments, and therefore am weighed in the balances and found wanting." You shall have a perfect righteousness in one moment if you believe in Jesus, "even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works." Happy is the man to whom Jesus Christ is made wisdom and righteousness, and he is so to every one that believeth." There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus." "Ah," say you, "but I have a bad heart and an evil nature." If thou believest, thy nature is changed already, "A new heart also will I give them, and a right spirit will I put within them." "They shall also walk in my judgments, and observe my statutes, and do them." He can change you so that you shall scarcely know yourself; you shall be a new creature in Christ Jesus; old things shall pass away and all things shall become new. He will take away the heart of stone, and give you a heart of flesh. "Alas," say you, "even this is not enough, for I shall never hold on in the ways of righteousness, but shall go back unto perdition." Hear, O thou trembler, these gracious words: "I will put my fear in their hearts, and they shall not depart from; me." And what saith our Lord himself? He saith, "They shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of my hand." "The water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up unto everlasting life." "But what, if I go astray," says one. Then he will heal your backslidings, receive you graciously, and love you freely. "He restoreth my soul." He will not suffer even his wandering sheep to perish, but once again will he put them in the right way. "Ah, but my soul-poverty is deep, and my wants will be too great." How can you say this? Is he not the God all sufficient? Has the arm of the Lord waxed short! Did he not furnish a table in the wilderness? Is it not written, "My God shall supply all your need?" He shall cause all grace to abound towards you. "Fear not thou worm Jacob, I will help thee, saith the Lord." "Ah, but," saith one, "I shall surely be afraid to die, for I am afraid of it even now." "He that liveth and believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live." "When thou passest through the rivers, I will be with thee." Death is swallowed up in victory. Having loved his own which are in the world, he will love them to the end. Thou shalt have such faith in dying moments that thou shalt say: "O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?" "But you do not mean me," saith one. I mean you that sit in darkness, you that are ignorant, you that are depressed, you that have no good thing of your own, you that cannot help yourselves, you lost ones, you condemned ones, I mean you. And this is God's message to you: "God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved." "Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; to declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus." "He that believeth on him is not condemned." Oh, come, ye guilty; for he is ready to forgive you. Come, ye filthy; the fountain is ready for your cleansing. Come, ye sorrowful, since joy is prepared; his oxen and fatlings are killed, for all things are ready; come to the feast of love. But I hear you say, "I must surely do something." Have done with your doings, and take Christ's doings. "Oh, but I do not feel as I should." Have done with your feelings: Christ's feelings on the cross must save you, not your own feelings. "Oh, but I am so vile." He came to save the vile.
"Come, in all thy filthy garments, Tarry not to cleanse or mend; Come, in all thy destitution, As thou art, and he'll befriend. By the tempter's vain allurements, Be no longer thou beguiled: God the Father waits to own thee As his dear adopted child."
"But I have been an adulterer, I have been a thief, I have been a whoremonger, and everything that is bad." Be it so, yet it is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. All manner of sin and of blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men. It is true that you are much worse then you think you are: you may tell me you are horribly bad, but you have no idea how bad you are: the hottest place in hell is your desert; but it is to you the mercy is sent; to you, O man, to you, O woman, to you who have defiled yourself with all manner of unmentionable enormities, even to you, thus saith the Lord, "I have blotted out thy sins like a cloud and like a thief; cloud thy transgressions; return unto me and I will have mercy upon thee." I cannot say more. I wish I had the power to speak, I was about to say, with the tongues of men and of angels, but I have such a blessed message to deliver to you, that I feel it need not goodly words, the message itself is all that is needed if the Spirit bless it. Oh, do not reject it, I beseech you, you guilty ones! you despairing ones, do not turn from it, put not away from you the kingdom lest you prove yourselves unworthy, and bring upon yourselves wrath unto the uttermost. If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land. Receive the Lord Jesus as your Savior, now on the spot. May God the Holy Spirit lead you to do this, for Jesus' sake. Amen.
How To Become Fishers of Men
by C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892)
"And Jesus saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men." Matthew 4:19 .
When Christ calls us by his grace we ought not only to remember what we are, but we ought also to think of what he can make us. It is, "Follow me, and I will make you." We should repent of what we have been, but rejoice in what we may be. It is not "Follow me, because of what you are already." It is not "Follow me, because you may make something of yourselves;" but, "Follow me, because of what I will make you." Verily, I might say of each one of us as soon as we are converted, "It doth not yet appear what we shall be." It did not seem a likely thing that lowly fishermen would develop into apostles; that men so handy with the net would be quite as much at home in preaching sermons and in instructing converts. One would have said, "How can these things be? You cannot make founders of churches out of peasants of Galilee." That is exactly what Christ did; and when we are brought low in the sight of God by a sense of our own unworthiness, we may feel encouraged to follow Jesus because of what he can make us. What said the woman of a sorrowful spirit when she lifted up her song? "He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth up the beggar from the dunghill, to set them among princes." We cannot tell what God may make of us in the new creation, since it would have been quite impossible to have foretold what he made of chaos in the old creation. Who could have imagined all the beautiful things that came forth from darkness and disorder by that one fiat, "Let there be light?" And who can tell what lovely displays of everything that is divinely fair I lay yet appear in a man's formerly dark life, when God's grace has said to him, "Let there be light?" O you who see in yourselves at present nothing that is desirable, come you and follow Christ for the sake of what he can make out of you. Do you not hear his sweet voice calling to you, and saying, "Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men?" Note, next, that we are not made all that we shall be, nor all that we ought to desire to be, when we are ourselves fished for and caught. This is what the grace of God does for us at first; but it is not all. We are like the fishes, making sin to be our element; and the good Lord comes, and with the gospel net he takes us, and he delivers us from the life and love of sin. But he has not wrought for us all that he can do, nor all that we should wish him to do, when he has done this; for it is another and a higher miracle to make us who were fish to become fishers to make the saved ones saviours to make the convert into a converter the receiver of the gospel into an imparter of that same gospel to other people. I think I may say to every person whom I am addressing If you are saved yourself, the work is but half done until you are employed to bring others to Christ. You are as yet but half formed in the image of your Lord. You have not attained to the full development of the Christ-life in you unless you have commenced in some feeble way to tell to others of the grace of God: and I trust that you will find no rest to the sole of your foot till you have been the means of leading many to that blessed Savior who is your confidence and your hope. His word is Follow me, not merely that you may be saved, nor even that you may be sanctified; but, "Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men." Be following Christ with that intent and aim; and fear that you are not perfectly following him unless in some degree he is making use of you to be fishers of men. The fact is, that every one of us must take to the business of a mancatcher. If Christ has caught us, we must catch others. If we have been apprehended of him, we must be his constables, to apprehend rebels for him. Let us ask him to give us grace to go a-fishing, and so to cast our nets that we may take a great multitude of fishes. Oh that the Holy Ghost may raise up from among us some master-fishers, who shall sail their boats in many a sea, and surround great shoals of fish! My teaching at this time will be very simple, but I hope it will be eminently practical; for my longing is that not one of you that love the Lord may be backward in his service. What says the Song of Solomon concerning certain sheep that come up from the washing? It says, "Every one beareth twins, and none is barren among them." May that be so with all the members of this church, and all the Christian people that hear or read this sermon! The fact is, the day is very dark. The heavens are lowering with heavy thunder-clouds. Men little dream of what tempests may soon shake this city, and the whole social fabric of this land, even to a general breaking up of society. So dark may the night become that the stars may seem to fall like blighted fruit from the tree. The times are evil. Now, if never before, every glow-worm must show its spark. You with the tiniest farthing candle must take it from under the bushel, and set it on a candlestick. There is need of you all. Lot was a poor creature. He was a very, very wretched kind of believer; but still, he might have been a great blessing to Sodom had he but pleaded for it as he should have done. And poor, poor Christians, as I fear many are, one begins to value every truly converted soul in these evil days, and to pray that each one may glorify the Lord. I pray that every righteous man, vexed as he is with the conversation of the wicked, may be more importunate in prayer than he has ever been, and return unto his God, and get more spiritual life, that he may be a blessing to the perishing people around him. I address you, therefore, at this time first of all upon this thought. Oh that the Spirit of God may make each one of you feel his personal responsibility! Here is for believers in Christ, in order to their usefulness, something for them to do. "Follow me." But, secondly, here is something to be done by their great Lord and Master: "Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men." You will not grow into fishers of yourselves, but this is what Jesus will do for you if you will but follow him. And then, lastly, here is a good illustration, used according to our great Master's wont; for scarcely without a parable did he speak unto the people. He presents us with an illustration of what Christian men should be fishers of men. We may get some useful hints out of it, and I pray the Holy Spirit to bless them to us. I. First, then, I will take it for granted that every believer here wants to be useful. If he does not, I take leave to question whether he can be a true believer in Christ. Well, then, if you want to be really useful, here is SOMETHING FOR YOU TO DO TO THAT END: "Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men." What is the way to become an efficient preacher? "Young man," says one, "go to college." "Young man," says Christ, "follow me, and I will make you a fisher of men." How is a person to be useful? "Attend a training-class," says one. Quite right; but there is a surer answer than that Follow Jesus, and he will make you fishers of men. The great training-school for Christian workers has Christ at its head; and he is at its head, not only as a tutor, but as a leader: we are not only to learn of him in study, but to follow him in action. "Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men." The direction is very distinct and plain, and I believe that it is exclusive, so that no man can become a fisherman by any other process. This process may appear to be very simple; but assuredly it is most efficient. The Lord Jesus Christ, who knew all about fishing for men, was himself the Dictator of the rule, "Follow me, if you want to be fishers of men. If you would be useful, keep in my track." I understand this, first, in this sense: be separate unto Christ. These men were to leave their pursuits; they were to leave their companions; they were, in fact, to quit the world, that their one business might be, in their Master's name, to be fishers of men. We are not all called to leave our daily business, or to quit our families. That might be rather running away from the fishery than working at it in God's name. But we are called most distinctly to come out from among the ungodly, and to be separate, and not to touch the unclean thing. We cannot be fishers of men if we remain among men in the same element with them. Fish will not be fishers. The sinner will not convert the sinner. The ungodly man will not convert the ungodly man; and, what is more to the point, the worldly Christian will not convert the world. If you are of the world, no doubt the world will love its own; but you cannot save the world. If you are dark, and belong to the kingdom of darkness, you cannot remove the darkness. If you march with the armies of the wicked one, you cannot defeat them. I believe that one reason why the church of God at this present moment has so little influence over the world is because the world has so much influence over the church. Nowadays we hear Nonconformists pleading that they may do this and they may do that things which their Puritan forefathers would rather have died at the stake than have tolerated. They plead that they may live like worldlings, and my sad answer to them, when they crave for this liberty, is, "Do it if you dare. It may not do you much hurt, for you are so bad already. Your cravings show how rotten your hearts are. If you have a hungering after such dog's meat, go, dogs, and eat the garbage. Worldly amusements are fit food for mere pretenders and hypocrites. If you were God's children you would loathe the very thought of the world's evil joys, and your question would not be, 'How far may we be like the world?' but your one cry would be, 'How far can we get away from the world? How much can we come out from it?'" Your temptation would be rather to become sternly severe, and ultra-Puritanical in your separation from sin, in such a time as this, than to ask, "How can I make myself like other men, and act as they do?" Brethren, the use of the church in the world is that it should be like salt in the midst of putrefaction; but if the salt has lost its savor, what is the good of it? If it were possible for salt itself to putrefy, it could but be an increase and a heightening of the general putridity. The worst day the world ever saw was when the sons of God were joined with the daughters of men. Then came the flood; for the only barrier against a flood of vengeance on this world is the separation of the saint from the sinner. Your duty as a Christian is to stand fast in your own place and stand out for God, hating even the garment spotted by the flesh, resolving like one of old that, let others do as they will, as for you and your house, you will serve the Lord. Come, ye children of God, you must stand out with your Lord outside the camp. Jesus calls to you to-day, and says, "Follow me." Was Jesus found at the theater? Did he frequent the sports of the racecourse? Was Jesus seen, think you, in any of the amusements of the Herodian court? Not he. He was "holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners." In one sense no one mixed with sinners so completely as he did when, like a physician, he went among them healing his patients; but in another sense there was a gulf fixed between the men of the world and the Savior which he never essayed to cross, and which they could not cross to defile him. The first lesson which the church has to learn is this: Follow Jesus into the separated state, and he will make you fishers of men. Unless you take up your cross and protest against an ungodly world, you cannot hope that the holy Jesus will make you fishers of men. A second meaning of our text is very obviously this: abide with Christ, and then you will be made fishers of men. These disciples whom Christ called were to come and live with him. They were every day to be associated with him. They were to hear him teach publicly the everlasting gospel, and in addition they were to receive choice explanations in private of the word which he had spoken. They were to be his body-servants and his familiar friends. They were to see his miracles and hear his prayers; and, better still, they were to be with himself, and become one with him in his holy labor. It was given to them to sit at the table with him, and even to have their feet washed by him. Many of them fulfilled that word, "Where thou dwellest I will dwell:" they were with him in his afflictions and persecutions. They witnessed his secret agonies; they saw his many tears; they marked the passion and the compassion of his soul, and thus, after their measure, they caught his spirit, and so they learned to be fishers of men. At Jesus' feet we must learn the art and mystery of soul-winning to live with Christ is the best education for usefulness. It is a great boon to any man to be associated with a Christian minister whose heart is on fire. The best training for a young man is that which the Vaudois pastors were wont to give, when each old man had a young man with him who walked with him whenever he went up the mountainside to preach, and lived in the house with him, and marked his prayers and saw his daily piety. This was a fine instruction. Was it not? But it will not compare with that of the apostles who lived with Jesus himself, and were his daily companions. Matchless was the training of the twelve. No wonder that they became what they were with such a heavenly tutor to saturate them with his own spirit! And now to-day his bodily presence is not among us; but his spiritual power is perhaps more fully known to us than it was to those apostles in those two or three years of the Lord's corporeal presence. There be some of us to whom he is intimately near. We know more about him than we do about our dearest earthly friend. We have never been able quite to read our friend's heart in all its twistings and windings, but we know the heart of the Well Beloved. We have leaned our head upon his bosom, and have enjoyed fellowship with him such as we could not have with any of our own kith and kin. This is the surest method of learning how to do good. Live with Jesus, follow Jesus, and he will make you fishers of men. See how he does the work, and so learn how to do it yourself. A Christian man should be bound apprentice to Jesus to learn the trade of a Savior. We can never save men by offering a redemption, for we have none to present; but we can learn how to save men by warning them to flee from the wrath to come, and setting before them the one great effectual remedy. See how Jesus saves, and you will learn how the thing is done: there is no learning it anyhow else. Live in fellowship with Christ, and there shall be about you an air and a manner as of one who has been made in heart and mind apt to teach, and wise to win souls. A third meaning, however, must be given to this "Follow me," and it is this: "Obey me, and then you shall know what to do to save men." We must not talk about our fellowship with Christ, or our being separated from the world unto him, unless we make him our Master and Lord in everything. Some public teachers are not true at all points to their convictions, and how can they look for a blessing? A Christian man anxious to be useful, ought to be very particular as to every point of obedience to his Master. I have no doubt whatever that God blesses our churches even when they are very faulty, for his mercy endureth for ever. When there is a measure of error in the teaching, and a measure of mistake in the practice, he may still vouchsafe to use the ministry, for he is very gracious. But a large measure of blessing must necessarily be withheld from all teaching which is knowingly or glaringly faulty. God can set his seal upon the truth that is in it, but he cannot set his seal upon the error that is in it. Out of mistakes about Christian ordinances and other things, especially errors in heart and spirit, there may come evils which we never looked for. Such evils may even now be telling upon the present age, and may work worse mischief upon future generations. If we desire as fishers of men to be largely used of God we must copy our Lord Jesus in everything, and obey him in every point. Failure in obedience may lead to failure in success. Each one of us, if he would wish to see his child saved, or his Sunday-school class blessed, or his congregation converted, must take care that, bearing the vessels of the Lord, he is himself clean. Anything we do that grieves the Spirit of God must take away from us some part of our power for good. The Lord is very gracious and pitiful; but yet he is a jealous God. He is sometimes sternly jealous towards his people who are living in neglects of known duty, or in associations which are not clean in his sight. He will wither their work, weaken their strength, and humble them until at last they say, "My Lord, I will take thy way after all. I will do what thou biddest me to do, for else thou wilt not accept me." The Lord said to his disciples, "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature: he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved;" and he promised them that signs should follow, and so they did follow them, and so they will. But we must get back to apostolic practice and to apostolic teaching: we must lay aside the commandments of men and the whimseys of our own brains, and we must do what Christ tells us, as Christ tells us, and because Christ tells us. Definitely and distinctly, we must take the place of servants; and if we will not do that, we cannot expect our Lord to work with us and by us. Let us be determined that, as true as the needle is to the pole, so true will we be, as far as our light goes, to the command of our Lord and Master. Jesus says "Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men." By this teaching he seems to say "Go beyond me, or fall back behind me, and you may cast the net; but it shall be night with you, and that night you shall take nothing. When you shall do as I bid you, you shall cast your net on the right side of the ship, and you shall find." Again, I think that there is a great lesson in my text to those who preach their own thoughts instead of preaching the thoughts of Christ. These disciples were to follow Christ that they might listen to him, hear what he had to say, drink in his teaching, and then go and teach what he had taught them. Their Lord says, "What I tell you in darkness, speak ye in light: and what ye hear in the ear, that preach ye upon the housetops." If they will be faithful reporters of Christ's message, he will make them "fishers of men." But you know the boastful method nowadays is this: "I am not going to preach this old, old gospel, this musty Puritan doctrine. I will sit down in my study, and burn the midnight oil, and invent a new theory; then I will come out with my brand-new thought, and blaze away with it." Many are not following Christ, but following themselves, and of them the Lord may well say, "Thou shalt see whose word shall stand, mine or theirs." Others are wickedly prudent, and judge that certain truths which are evidently God's word had better be kept back. You must not be rough, but must prophesy smooth things. To talk about the punishment of sin, to speak of eternal punishment, why, these are unfashionable doctrines. It may be that they are taught in the Word of God, but they do not suit the genius of the age. We must pare them down. Brothers in Christ, I will have no share in this. Will you? O my soul, come not thou into their secret! Certain things not taught in the Bible our enlightened age has discovered. Evolution may be clean contrary to the teaching of Genesis, but that does not matter. We are not going to be believers of Scripture, but original thinkers. This is the vain-glorious ambition of the period. Mark you, in proportion as the modern theology is preached the vice of this generation increases. To a great degree I attribute the looseness of the age to the laxity of the doctrine preached by its teachers. From the pulpit they have taught the people that sin is a trifle. From the pulpit these traitors to God and to his Christ have taught the people that there is no hell to be feared. A little, little hell, perhaps, there may be; but just punishment for sin is made nothing of. The precious atoning sacrifice of Christ has been derided and misrepresented by those who were pledged to preach it. They have given the people the name of the gospel, but the gospel itself has evaporated in their hands. From hundreds of pulpits the gospel is as clean gone as the dodo from its old haunts; and still the preachers take the position and name of Christ's ministers. Well, and what comes of it? Why, their congregations grow thinner and thinner; and so it must be. Jesus says, "Follow me, I will make you fishers of men;" but if you go in your own way, with your own net, you will make nothing of it, and the Lord promises you no help in it. The Lord's directions make himself our leader and example. It is, "Follow me, follow me. Preach my gospel. Preach what I preached. Teach what I taught, and keep to that." With that blessed servility which becomes one whose ambition it is to be a copyist, and never to be an original, copy Christ even in jots and tittles. Do this, and he will make you fishers of men; but if you do not do this, you shall fish in vain. I close this head of discourse by saying that we shall not be fishers of men unless we follow Christ in one other respect; and that is, by endeavoring, in all points, to imitate his holiness. Holiness is the most real power that can be possessed by men or women. We may preach orthodoxy, but we must also live orthodoxy. God forbid that we should preach anything else; but it will be all in vain, unless there is a life at the back of the testimony. An unholy preacher may even render truth contemptible. In proportion as any of us draw back from a living and zealous sanctification we shall draw back from the place of power. Our power lies in this word, "Follow me." Be Jesus-like. In all things endeavor to think, and speak, and act as Jesus did, and he will make you fishers of men. This will require self-denial. We must daily take up the cross. This may require willingness to give up our reputation readiness to be thought fools, idiots, and the like, as men are apt to call those who are keeping close to their Master. There must be the cheerful resigning of everything that looks like honor and personal glory, in order that we may be wholly Christ's, and glorify his name. We must live his life and be ready to die his death, if need be. O brothers, sisters, if we do this and follow Jesus, putting our feet into the footprints of his pierced feet, he will make us fishers of men. If it should so please him that we should even die without having gathered many souls to the cross, we shall speak from our graves. In some way or other the Lord will make a holy life to be an influential life. It is not possible that a life which can be described as a following of Christ should be an unsuccessful one in the sight of the Most High. "Follow me," and there is an "I will" such as God can never draw back from: "Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men." Thus much on the first point. There is something for us to do: we are graciously called to follow Jesus. Holy Spirit, lead us to do it. II. But secondly, and briefly, there is SOMETHING FOR THE LORD TO DO. When his dear servants are following him, he says, "I will make you fishers of men;" and be it never forgotten that it is he that makes us follow him; so that if the following of him be the step to being made a fisher of men, yet this he gives us. 'Tis all of his Spirit. I have talked about catching his spirit, and abiding in him, and obeying him, and hearkening to him, and copying him; but none of these things are we capable of apart from his working them all in us. "From me is thy fruit found," is a text which we must not for a moment forget. So, then, if we do follow him, it is he that makes us follow him; and so he makes us fishers of men. But, further, if we follow Christ he will make us fishers of men by all our experience. I am sure that the man who is really consecrated to bless others will be helped in this by all that he feels, especially by his afflictions. I often feel very grateful to God that I have undergone fearful depression of spirits. I know the borders of despair, and the horrible brink of that gulf of darkness into which my feet have almost gone; but hundreds of times I have been able to give a helpful grip to brethren and sisters who have come into that same condition, which grip I could never have given if I had not known their deep despondency. So I believe that the darkest and most dreadful experience of a child of God will help him to be a fisher of men if he will but follow Christ. Keep close to your Lord and he will make every step a blessing to you. If God in providence should make you rich, he will fit you to speak to those ignorant and wicked rich who so much abound in this city, and so often are the cause of its worst sin. And if the Lord is pleased to let you be very poor you can go down and talk to those wicked and ignorant poor people who so often are the cause of sin in this city, and so greatly need the gospel. The winds of providence will waft you where you can fish for men. The wheels of providence are full of eyes, and all those eyes will look this way to help us to be winners of souls. You will often be surprised to find how God has been in a house that you visit: before you get there, his hand has been at work in its chambers. When you wish to speak to some particular individual, God's providence has been dealing with that individual to make him ready for just that word which you could say, but which nobody else but you could say. Oh, be you following Christ, and you will find that he will, by every experience through which you are passing, make you fishers of men. Further than that, if you will follow him he will make you fishers of men by distinct monitions in your own heart. There are many monitions from God's Spirit which are not noticed by Christians when they are in a callous condition; but when the heart is right with God and living in communion with God, we feel a sacred sensitiveness, so that we do not need the Lord to shout, but his faintest whisper is heard. Nay, he need not even whisper. "Thou shalt guide me with thine eye." Oh, how many mulish Christians there are who must be held in with kit and bridle, and receive a cut of the whip every now and then! But the Christian who follows his Lord shall be tenderly guided. I do not say that the Spirit of God will say to you, "Go and join yourself unto this chariot," or that you will hear a word in your ear; but yet in your soul, as distinctly as the Spirit said to Philip, "Go and join yourself to this chariot," you shall hear the Lord's will. As soon as you see an individual, the thought shall cross your mind, "Go and speak to that person." Every opportunity of usefulness shall be a call to you. If you are ready, the door shall open before you, and you shall hear a voice behind you saying, "This is the way; walk ye in it." If you have the grace to run in the right way you shall never be long without an intimation as to what the right way is. That right way shall lead you to river or sea, where you can cast your net, and be a fisher of men. Then, too, I believe that the Lord meant by this that he would give his followers the Holy Ghost. They were to follow him, and then, when they had seen him ascend into the holy place of the Most High, they were to tarry at Jerusalem for a little while, and the Spirit would come upon them and clothe them with a mysterious power. This word was spoken to Peter and Andrew; and you know how it was fulfilled to Peter. What a host of fish he brought to land the first time he cast the net in the power of the Holy Ghost! "Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men." Brethren, we have no conception of what God could do by this company of believers gathered in the Tabernacle to-night. If now we were to be filled with the Holy Ghost there are enough of us to evangelize London. There are enough here to be the means of the salvation of the world. God saveth not by many nor by few. Let us seek a benediction; and if we seek it let us hear this directing voice, "Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men." You men and women that sit before me, you are by the shore of a great sea of human life swarming with the souls of men. You live in the midst of millions; but if you will follow Jesus, and be faithful to him, and true to him, and do what he bids you, he will make you fishers of men. Do not say, "Who shall save this city?" The weakest shall be strong enough. Gideon's barley cake shall smite the tent, and make it lay along. Samson, with the jawbone, taken up from the earth where it was lying bleaching in the sun, shall smite the Philistines. Fear not, neither be dismayed. Let your responsibilities drive you closer to your Master. Let horror of prevailing sin make you look into his dear face who long ago wept over Jerusalem, and now weeps over London. Clasp him, and never let go your hold. By the strong and mighty impulses of the divine life within you, quickened and brought to maturity by the Spirit of God, learn this lesson from your Lord's own mouth: "Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men." You are not fit for it, but he will make you fit. You cannot do it of yourselves, but he will make you do it. You do not know how to spread nets and draw shoals of fish to shore, but he will teach you. Only follow him, and he will make you fishers of men. I wish that I could somehow say this as with a voice of thunder, that the whole church of God might hear it. I wish I could write it in stars athwart the sky, "Jesus saith, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men." If you forget the precept, the promise shall never be yours. If you follow some other track, or imitate some other leader, you shall fish in vain. God grant us to believe fully that Jesus can do great things in us, and then do great things by us for the good of our fellows! III. The last point you might work out in full for yourselves in your private meditations with much profit. We have here A FIGURE FULL OF INSTRUCTION. I will give you but two or three thoughts which you can use. "I will make you fishers of men." You have been fishers of fish: if you follow me, I will make you fishers of men. A fisher is a person who is very dependent, and needs to be trustful. He cannot see the fish. One who fishes in the sea must go and cast in the net, as it were, at a peradventure. Fishing is an act of faith. I have often seen in the Mediterranean men go with their boats and enclose acres of sea with vast nets; and yet, when they have drawn the net to shore, they have not had as much result as I could put in my hand. A few wretched silvery nothings have made up the whole take. Yet they have gone again and cast the great net several times a day, hopefully expecting something to come of it. Nobody is so dependent upon God as the minister of God. Oh, this fishing from the Tabernacle pulpit! What a work of faith! I cannot tell that a soul will be brought to God by it. I cannot judge whether my sermon will be suitable to the persons who are here, except that I do believe that God will guide me in the casting of the net. I expect him to work salvation, and I depend upon him for it. I love this complete dependence, and if I could be offered a certain amount of preaching power, by which I could save sinners, which should be entirely at my own disposal, I would beg the Lord not to let me have it, for it is far more delightful to be entirely dependent upon him at all times. It is good to be a fool when Christ is made unto you wisdom. It is a blessed thing to be weak if Christ becomes more fully your strength. Go to work, you who would be fishers of men, and yet feel your insufficiency. You that have no strength, attempt this divine work. Your Master's strength will be seen when your own has all gone. A fisherman is a dependent person, he must look up for success every time he puts the net down; but still he is a trustful person, and therefore he casts in the net joyfully. A fisherman who gets his living by it is a diligent and persevering man. The fishers are up at dawn. At day-break our fishermen off the Doggerbank are fishing, and they continue fishing till late in the afternoon. As long as hands can work men will fish. May the Lord Jesus make us hard-working, persevering, unwearied fishers of men! "In the morning sow thy seed, and in the evening withhold not thine hand; for thou knowest not whether shall prosper, either this or that." The fisherman in his own craft is intelligent and watchful. It looks very easy, I dare say, to be a fisherman, but you would find that it was no child's play if you were to take a real part in it. There is an art in it, from the mending of the net right on to the pulling it to shore. How diligent the fisherman is to prevent the fish leaping out of the net! I heard a great noise one night in the sea, as if some huge drum were being beaten by a giant; and I looked out, and I saw that the fishermen of Mentone were beating the water to drive the fish into the net, or to keep them from leaping out when they had once encompassed them with it. Ah, yes! and you and I will often have to be watching the corners of the gospel net lest sinners who are almost caught should make their escape. They are very crafty, these fish, and they use this craftiness in endeavoring to avoid salvation. We shall have to be always at our business, and to exercise all our wits, and more than our own wits, if we are to be successful fishers of men. The fisherman is a very laborious person. It is not at all an easy calling. He does not sit in an armchair and catch fish. He has to go out in rough weathers. If he that regardeth the clouds will not sow, I am sure that he that regardeth the clouds will never fish. If we never do any work for Christ except when we feel up to the mark, we shall not do much. If we feel that we will not pray because we cannot pray, we shall never pray, and if we say, "I will not preach to-day because I do not feel that I could preach," we shall never preach any preaching that is worth the preaching. We must be always at it, until we wear ourselves out, throwing our whole soul into the work in all weathers, for Christ's sake. The fisherman is a daring man. He tempts the boisterous sea. A little brine in his face does not hurt him; he has been wet through a thousand times, it is nothing to him. He never expected when he became a deep-sea fisherman that he was going to sleep in the lap of ease. So the true minister of Christ who fishes for souls will never mind a little risk. He will be bound to do or say many a thing that is very unpopular; and some Christian people may even judge his utterances to be too severe. He must do and say that which is for the good of souls. It is not his to entertain a question as to what others will think of his doctrine, or of him; but in the name of the Almighty God he must feel, "If the sea roar and the fullness thereof, still at my Master's command I will let down the net." Now, in the last place, the man whom Christ makes a fisher of men is successful. "But," says one, "I have always heard that Christ's ministers are to be faithful, but that they cannot be sure of being successful." Yes, I have heard that saying, and one way I know it is true, but another way I have my doubts about it. He that is faithful is, in God's way and in God's judgment, successful, more or less. For instance, here is a brother who says that he is faithful. Of course, I must believe him, yet I never heard of a sinner being saved under him. Indeed, I should think that the safest place for a person to be in if he did not want to be saved would be under this gentleman's ministry, because he does not preach anything that is likely to arouse, impress, or convince anybody. This brother is "faithful:" so he says. Well, if any person in the world said to you, "I am a fisherman, but I have never caught anything," you would wonder how he could be called a fisherman. A farmer who never grew any wheat, or any other crop is he a farmer? When Jesus Christ says, "Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men," he means that you shall really catch men that you really shall save some; for he that never did get any fish is not a fisherman. He that never saved a sinner after years of work is not a minister of Christ. If the result of his life-work is nil, he made a mistake when he undertook it. Go thou with the fire of God in thy hand and fling it among the stubble, and the stubble will burn. Be thou sure of that. Go thou and scatter the good seed: it may not all fall in fruitful places, but some of it will. Be thou sure of that. Do but shine, and some eye or other will be lightened thereby. Thou must, thou shalt succeed. But remember this is the Lord's word "Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men." Keep close to Jesus, and do as Jesus did, in his spirit, and he will make you fishers of men. Perhaps I speak to an attentive hearer who is not converted at all. Friend, I have the same thing to say to you. You also may follow Christ, and then he can use you, even you. I do not know but that he has brought you to this place that you may be saved, and that in after years he may make you speak for his name and glory. Remember how he called Saul of Tarsus, and made him the apostle of the Gentiles. Reclaimed poachers make the best gamekeepers; and saved sinners make the ablest preachers. Oh, that you would run away from your old master to-night, without giving him a minute's notice; for if you give him any notice, he will hold you. Hasten to Jesus, and say, "Here is a poor runaway slave! My Lord, I bear the fetters still upon my wrists. Wilt thou set me free, and make me thine own?" Remember, it is written, "Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out." Never runaway slave came to Christ in the middle of the night without his taking him in; and he never gave one up to his old master. If Jesus make you free you shall be free indeed. Flee away to Jesus, then, on a sudden. May his good Spirit help you, and he will by-and-by make you a winner of others to his praise! God bless you. Amen.
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Spurgeon, Charle Haddon. "Commentary on Matthew 4". "Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Fifth Week after Easter