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Prayer Answered, Love Nourished
February 27th, 1859 by C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892)
"I love the Lord, because he hath heard my voice and my supplication." Psalms 116:1 .
In the Christian pilgrimage it is well for the most part to be looking forward. Whether it be for hope, for joy, for consolation, or for the inspiring of our love, the future after all must be the grand object of the eye of faith. Looking into the future we see sin cast out, the body of sin and death destroyed, the soul made perfect and fit to be a partaker of the inheritance of the saints in light. And looking further yet, the believer's soul can see Death's river passed, the gloomy steam forded; he can behold the hills of light on which standeth the celestial city; he seeth himself enter within the pearly gates, hailed as more than a conqueror crowned by the hand of Christ, embraced in the arms of Jesus, glorified with him, made to sit together with him on his throne, even as he has overcome and has sat down with the Father upon his throne. The sight of the future may well relieve the darkness of the past, the hopes of the world to come may banish all the doubtings of the present. Hush, my fears! this world is but a narrow span, and thou shalt soon have passed it. Hush, hush, my doubts! death is but a narrow stream, and thou shalt soon have forded it. Time, how short eternity, how long! Death, how brief immortality, how endless!
"Oh the transporting, rapturous scene That rises to my sight! Sweet fields arrayed in living green, And rivers of delight.
Filled with delight my raptured soul Would here no longer stay, Though Jordan's waves around me roll, Fearless I'd launch away."
Yet nevertheless the Christian may do well sometimes to look backward; he may look back to the hole of the pit and the miry clay whence he was digged the retrospect will help him to be humble, it will urge him to be faithful. He may look back with satisfaction to the glorious hour when first he saw the Lord, when spiritual life for the first time quickened his dead soul. Then he may look back through all the changes of his life, to his troubles and his joys, to his Pisgahs and to his Engedis, to the land of the Hermonites and the hill Mizar. He must not keep his eye always backward, for the fairest scene dies beyond, it will not benefit him to be always considering the past, for the future is more glorious far; but nevertheless at times a retrospect may be as useful as a prospect; and memory may be as good a teacher as even faith itself. This morning I bid you stand upon the hill-top of your present experience and look back upon the past, and find therein motives for love to God; and may the Holy Spirit so help me in preaching and you in hearing, that your love may be inflamed, and that you may retire from this hall, declaring in the language of the Psalmist, "I love the Lord, because he hath heard my voice, and my supplication." The particular objects which you are now to look back upon are the manifold and manifest answers to prayer, which God has given you. I want you now to take up a book which you ought often to read, the book of remembrance which God has written in your heart of his great goodness and continued mercies; and I want you to turn to that golden page wherein are recorded the instances of God's grace in having listened to your voice and having answered your supplications. I shall give you seven reflections, each of which shall stir up your hearts to love our God whose memorial is that he hears and answers prayers. I. And the first thing I would have you recollect is, YOUR OWN PRAYERS. If you look at them with an honest eye, you will be struck with wonder that ever God should have heard them. There may be some men who think their prayers worthy of acceptance: I dare say the Pharisee did. But all such men shall find that however worthy they may esteem their prayers, God will not answer them at all. The true Christian in looking back weeps over his prayers, and if he could retrace his steps he would desire to pray better, for he sees that all his attempts at prayer in the past have been rather blundering attempts than actual successes. Look back now Christian upon thy prayers, and remember what cold things they have been. Thou hast been on thy knees in the closet, and there thou oughtest to have wrestled as Jacob did, but instead of that thy hands have fallen down, and thou hast forgotten to strive with God. Thy desires have been but faint, and they have been expressed in such sorry language, that the desire itself seemed to freeze upon the lips that uttered it. And yet, strange to say, God has heard those cold prayers, and has answered them too, though they have been such that we have come out of our closets and have wept over them. At other times our hearts have been broken, because we felt as if we could not feel, and our only prayer was, "God forgive us that we cannot pray." Yet, notwithstanding, God has heard this inward groaning of spirit. The feeble prayer which we ourselves despised, and which we thought would have died at the gate of mercy, has been nursed, and nurtured, and fostered, and accepted, and it has come back to us a full grown blessing, bearing mercy in both its hands. Then again, believer, how infrequent and few are your prayers, and yet how numerous and how great have God's blessings been. Ye have prayed in times of difficulty very earnestly, but when God has delivered you, where was your former fervency? In the day of trouble you besieged his throne with all your might and in the hour of your prosperity, you could not wholly cease from supplication, but oh! how faint was the prayer compared with that which was wrung out of your soul by the rough hand of your agony. Yet, notwithstanding that, though you have ceased to pray as you once did, God has not ceased to bless. When you have forgotten your closet, he has not forgotten your house, nor your heart. When you have neglected the mercy-seat, God has not left it empty, but the bright light of the Shekinah has always been visible between the wings of the cherubim. Oh! I marvel that the Lord should regard those intermittent spasms of importunity which come and go with our necessities. Oh! what a God is he that he should hear the prayers of men who come to him when they have wants, but who neglect him when they have received a mercy, who approach him when they are forced to come, but who almost forget to go to him when mercies are plentiful and sorrows are few. Look at your prayers, again, in another aspect. How unbelieving have they often been! You and I have gone to the mercy-seat, and we have asked God to bless us, but we have not believed that he would do so. He has said, "whatsoever ye ask in prayer, believe that ye shall have it, and ye shall have it." Oh! how I could smite myself this morning, when I think how on my knees I have doubted my God! What would you think of a man who came before you with a petition, and said, "Sir, you have promised to give me such-and-such a thing if I asked for it; I ask for it, but I do not believe you will give it me." You would say "Get you gone until you believe me better. I will give nothing to a man who doubts my word." Often might the Lord have spurned us from his mercy-seat, when we have come to him, not believing the very promises which we were pretending to plead. How small, too, the faith of our most faithful prayers! When we believe the most, how little do we trust; how full of doubting is our heart, even when our faith has grown to its greatest extent! What Christian is there here who is not ashamed of himself for having so often doubted a God who never yet denied himself, who was never once untrue, nor once unfaithful to his word? Yet, strange to tell, God has heard our prayers; though we believed not, he abode faithful. He has said "Poor heart, thy weakness makes thee doubt me, but my love compels me to fulfill the promise, even though thou doubtest." He has heard us in the day of our trouble; he has brought us sweet deliverance, even when we dishonored him by trembling at his mercy-seat. I say again, look back upon your prayers, and wonder that God should ever have heard them. Often, when we awake in the morning, and find our house and family all secure, and remember what a poor family prayer we uttered the night before, we must wonder the house was not burnt and all in it. And you in the church, after you have been to the prayer-meeting and prayed there, and God has actually listened to you, and multiplied the church and blessed the minister, do you not say afterwards, "I wonder that he should have heard such poor prayers as those that were uttered at the prayer-meeting?" I am sure, beloved, we shall find much reason to love God, if we only think of those pitiful abortions of prayer, those unripe figs, those stringless bows, those headless arrows, which we call prayers, and which he has borne with in his longsuffering. The fact is, that sincere prayer may often be very feeble to us, but it is always acceptable to God. It is like some of those one-pound notes, which they use in Scotland dirty, ragged bite of paper; one would hardly look at them, one seems always glad to get rid of them for something that looks a little more like money. But still, when they are taken to the bank, they are always acknowledged and accepted as being genuine, however rotten and old they may be. So with our prayers: they are foul with unbelief, decayed with imbecility, and worm-eaten with wandering thoughts; but nevertheless, God accepts them at heaven's own bank, and gives us rich and ready blessings, in return for our supplications. II. Again: I hope we shall be led to love God for having heard our prayers, if we consider THE GREAT VARIETY OF MERCIES WHICH WE HAVE ASKED IN PRAYER, AND THE LONG LIST OF ANSWERS WHICH WE HAVE RECIEVED. Now, Christian, again be thine own preacher. It is impossible for me to depict thine experience as well as thou canst read it thyself. What multitudes of prayers have you and I put up from the first moment when we learnt to pray! The first prayer was a prayer for ourselves; we asked that God would have mercy upon us, and blot out our sin. He heard that. But when he had blotted out our sins like a cloud, then we had more prayers for ourselves. We have had to pray for sanctifying grace, for constraining and restraining grace; we have been led to ask for a fresh assurance of faith, for the comfortable application of the promise, for deliverance in the hour of temptation, for help in the time of duty, and for succor in the day of trial. We have been compelled to go to God for our soup, as constant beggars asking for everything. Bear witness, children of God, you have never been able to get anything for your souls elsewhere. All the bread your soul has eaten has come down from heaven, and all the water of which it has drank has come out of that living rock, Christ Jesus the Lord. Your soul has never grown rich in itself; it has always been a pensioner upon the daily bounty of God; and hence your prayers have had to ascend to heaven for a range of spiritual mercies all but infinite. Your wants were innumerable, and, therefore, the supplies have been innumerable, and your prayers have been as varied as the mercies hare been countless. But it is not for your soul alone that you have pleaded, your body has had its cries. You have been poor, and you have asked for food and raiment. How frequently have they been given to you. Not by miracles it is true. The ravens do not bring you bread and meat, but bread and meat comes without the ravens which is a greater miracle still. It is true your raiment has waxed old, and therefore you have not realized the miracle of the children of Israel in the wilderness, whose clothes never grew old, nevertheless you have had a greater miracle still, for you have had new ones when you wanted them. All your necessities have been provided for as they have arisen. How often have these necessities come upon you? So great have they been at times, that you have said, "Surely the Lord will forsake me and deliver me over; I shall not have my bread given me, nor shall my water be sure." But hitherto God has fed you; you are not starved yet, and by the grace of God you won't be. You have been told many a time by unbelief that you would die in the workhouse; but you are out of it even now, though it seems as if a thousand miracles had been put together to keep you from it. Then again; how often sickness has laid hold upon you, and like Hezekiah, you have turned your face to the wall, and cried, "Lord, spare thy servant, and let him not go down to the grave in the midst of his days:" and here you are, the living, the living to praise God. Recollect the fever and the cholera, and all those other fierce diseases which have laid you low; remember those prayers you uttered, and those vows you made. Oh! do not you love the Lord because he hath heard your voice and your supplication? How frequently too have you prayed for journeying mercies, and he has protected you in the midst of accidents. You have asked for blessings in your going out and your coming in blessings of the day and of the night, and of the sun and of the moon; and all these have been vouchsafed to you. Your prayers were innumerable; you asked for countless mercies, and they have all been given. Only look at yourrself: are not you adorned and bejewelled with mercies as thickly as the sky with stars. Think how you have prayed for your family. When you first knew the Lord your husband feared him not; but how you wrestled for your husband's soul! and now the tear is in your eye while you see your husband sitting by your side in the house of God, and recollect, it is not many months ago since he would have been in the tavern. Your children too have through your prayers been brought to God. Mothers, you wrestled with God that your children might be God's children, and you have lived to see them converted. How great the mercy to see our offspring called in early youth. Oh! love the Lord, because in this respect too he has heard your voice and your supplication. How often have you presented before God your business, and he has helped you in that matter. How frequently have you laid your household sorrows before him, and he has delivered you in that case. And some of us can sing of blessings given to us in the service of God in his church. We have lived to see the empty sanctuary crowded to the full, we have seen our largest attempts successful beyond our most sanguine hopes; we have prayed for sinners, and seen them saved; we have asked for backsliders, and have seen them restored; we have cried for a Pentecost, and we have had it; and by God's grace we are crying for it again, and we shall have it once more. O minister, deacon, elder, church member, father, mother, man of business, hast thou not indeed cause to say, "I love the Lord, because he hath heard my voice and my supplications?" I am afraid the very fact that God hears our prayers so constantly, leads us to forget the greatness of his mercy. Let it not be so, "Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits." Let this to-day be brought to mind, and let me raise a song to the God who hath heard the voice of my supplication. III. Let us note again THE FREQUENCY OF HIS ANSWERS TO OUR FREQUENT PRAYERS. If a beggar comes to your house, and you give him alms, you will be greatly annoyed if within a month he shall come again; and if you then discover that he has made it a rule to wait upon you monthly for a contribution, you will say to him, "I gave you something once, but I did not mean to establish it as a rule." Suppose, however, that the beggar should be so impudent and impertinent that he should say, "But I intend sir to wait upon you every morning and every evening:" then you would say, "I intend to keep my gate locked that you shall not trouble me." And suppose he should then look you in the face and add still more, "Sir, I intend waiting upon you every hour, nor can I promise that I won't come to you sixty times in an hour; but I just vow and declare that as often as I want anything so often will I come to you: if I only have a wish I will come and tell it to you; the least thing and the greatest thing shall drive me to you; I will always be at the post of your door." You would soon be tired of such importunity as that, and wish the beggar anywhere, rather than that he should come and tease you so. Yet recollect, this is just what you have done to God, and he has never complained of you for doing it; but rather he has complained of you the other way. He has said, "Thou hast not called upon me, O Jacob." He has never murmured at the frequency of your prayers, but has complained that you have not come to him enough. Every morning when you have risen your cry has gone up to him; again with the family you have cried to the God of Jacob; at eventide you have gathered together and have prayed to him, and whenever ye have a trial, or a want, or a doubt, or a fear, ye have, if ye have done rightly, sped away swiftly to his throne and told him all. Speak now, saint, has he once said to you "Get you gone, thou weariest me?" Has he ever said "Mine ear is heavy that it cannot hear, my arm is shortened that I cannot save?" Has he said, "Away with thee, I want not thus to be perpetually hearing thee? What is thy harsh grating voice, that I should always give mine ear to it? Am I not hearkening to the songs of angels, to the shouts of cherubim? Away with thee, tease me not. At certain seasons thou mayest come, on the Sabbath-day thou mayest pray, but I want not to hear thee in the week?" No, no, he has sweetly embraced us every time, he has always bowed the heaven and come down to listen to our feeble cries; he has never denied a promise, never broken his word, even when we have pleaded a thousand times a day. Oh I will love the name of such a patient God as this, who bears with my prayers though they be as a cloud of hornets in the air. IV. Go a little further and you will have another thought arising. Think of THE GREATNESS OF THE MERCY FOR WHICH YOU HAVE OFTEN ASKED HIM. We never know the greatness of our mercies till we get into trouble and want them. I talk to-day of pardoned sin, but I confess I do not feel its preciousness as once I did. There was a time when my sins lay heavy on me; conscience accused me, and the law condemned me, and I thought if God would but pardon me, it would be the greatest thing he ever did. The creating of a world seemed to me to be but little compared with the taking away of my desperately evil sins. Oh, how I cried, how I groaned before him; and he has pardoned me, and blessed be his name for it. But I cannot estimate the value of his pardon to-day so well as I could when I was seeking it almost driven to despair. Oh, remember soul, when thou didst ask for pardon thou wast asking for that which worlds could not buy; thou wast asking for that which could only be procured through the lifeblood of the Son of God. Oh! what a boon was that! And yet he did not look thee in the face and say, "Thou hast asked too much." No, but he gave it freely. He upbraided not; he blotted out all thy sins, and washed thee at once in the river of the Saviour's blood. Since that time what large things hast thou asked! Thou wast in trouble once, it seemed as if bankruptcy must overtake thee, and thou didst cry to him. If the world heard it it would have said, "What a fool art thou to ask this of thy God he will never deliver thee!" Unbelief, like Rabshekeh, wrote a blasphemous letter, and thou didst lay it before the Lord; but even when thou wast in prayer, thy heart said, "The Lord will not deliver thee this time. The lion will surely devour thee. The furnace will most certainly burn thee up." But you did put up a poor, groaning prayer, and you dared to ask great things, namely, that God would put his hand out of heaven and save you from the waters, that the flood might not overflow you. Are you not surprised at this time that you dared to ask so much! You would not dare to ask so largely of any of your friends; you would not have gone to one and said, "I must have a thousand pounds by such and such a day, will you lend it to me?" you knew you would not get it. Yet you asked it of your God. It came, and here you are, the living to praise his name; and if this were the right place you would stand up and testify that God did hear you, that in the day of sorrow and tribulation he delivered you. Now do you not love him for giving you such great things as these? God's mercies are so great that they cannot be magnified; they are so numerous they cannot be multiplied, so precious they cannot be over-estimated. I say, look back to-day upon these great mercies with which the Lord has favored thee in answer to thy great desires, and wilt thou not say, "I love the Lord because he has heard my voice and my supplications?" V. Another aspect of this case, perhaps, will reach our hearts more closely still. HOW TRIVIAL HAVE BEEN THE THINGS WHICH WE HAVE OFTEN TAKEN BEFORE GOD, AND YET HOW KINDLY HAS HE CONDESCENDED TO HEAR OUR PRAYERS. It is a singular thing, that our hearts are often more affected by little than by great things. You may feed a child all the year round, and never get its thanks, but give it a sweetmeat or an orange, and you may have its heart and its gratitude. Strange that the bounties of a whole year should seem to be lost, while the gift of a moment is greatly prized. A little thing, I say, may often touch the heart more than a great thing. Now, how often have we, if we have acted rightly, taken little things before the Lord. I believe it is the Christian's privilege to take all his sorrows to his God, be they little or be they great. I have often prayed to God about a matter at which you would laugh if I should mention it. In looking back I can only say it was a little thing, but it seemed great at the time. It was like a little thorn in the finger, it caused much pain, and might have brought forth, at last, a great wound. I learned to lay my little troubles at the feet of Jesus. Why should we not? Are not our great ones little? and is there, after all, much difference between great troubles and little ones in the sight of God? The queen will stand at one hour listening to her ministers, who talk with her about public business, but does she seem less a queen when, afterwards, her little child runs to her as its mother, because a gnat has stung it? Is there any great condescension the matter? She who was a right royal queen when she stood in the privy chamber is as right royal a queen and as well-beloved a mother of the nation, when she takes the little child upon her knee, and gives it a maternal kiss. Her ministers must not present trifling petitions, but her children may. So the worldling may say this morning, "How absurd to think of taking little troubles to God." Ah! it might be absurd to you, but to God's children it is not. Though you were God's prime minister, if you were not his child, you would have no right to take your private troubles to him; but God's meanest child has the privilege of casting his care upon his Father, and he may rest assured that his Father's heart will not disdain to consider even his mean affairs. Now let me think of the innumerable little things God has done for me. In looking back, my unbelief compels me to wonder at myself, that I should have prayed for such little things. My gratitude compels me to say, "I love the Lord, because he has heard those little prayers, and answered my little supplications, and made me blessed, even in little things which, after all, make up the life of man." VI. Once more, let me remind you, in the sixth place, of THE TIMELY ANSWERS WHICH: GOD HAS GIVEN YOU TO YOUR PRAYERS, and this should compel you to love him. God's answers have never come too soon nor yet too late. If the Lord had given you his blessing one day before it did come, it might have been a curse, and there have been times when if he had withheld it an hour longer it would have been quite useless, because it would have come too late. In the life of Mr. Charles Wesley, there occurs a memorable scene at Devizes. When he went there to preach, the curate of the parish assembled a great mob of people, who determined to throw him into the horse-pond, and if he would not promise that he would never come into the town again they would kill him. He escaped into the house and hid himself upstairs. They besieged the house for hours, battering at the doors, breaking every pane of glass in the windows, and at last to his consternation, they climbed the roof, and began to throw the tiles down into the street, so as to enter the house from above. He had been in prayer to God to deliver him, and he said, "I believe my God will deliver me;" but when he saw the heads of the people over the top of the room in which he was concealed, and when they were just about to leap down he very nearly gave up all hope, and he thought surely God would not deliver him, when in rushed one of the leaders of the mob, a gentleman of the town who did not wish to incur the guilt of murder, and proposed to him that he would get him away if he would only promise that he would never come back again. "No," said he, "I will never promise that. "But," said the man, "Is it your intention that you will not return immediately?" "Well" he said, "I do not say I shall come back just yet, I do not see any use in it. As you drive me away, therefore I shall shake off the dust of my feet against you, but I mean to come back again before I die." "Well," said the man, that will do, if you only promise you will not come back directly I will get you away." And so, by a great deliverance, he was saved from the jaw of the lion and the paw of the bear. His prayer was answered at the right time. Five minutes afterwards he would have been dead. Now cannot you say that the answer has come to you punctually at the very tick of the clock of wisdom, not before nor after. VII. Now, the seventh recollection with which I would inspire you is this will you not love the Lord, when you recollect the special and great instances of his mercy to you? You have had seasons of special prayer and of special answer. Let me picture a man. There was one who feared not God, nor regarded man. He was engaged in business, and his affairs were not propitious, but rather everything went against him. He went against God, and kicked the more because God kicked against him. He had servants about him that feared God and worshipped him; but as for himself, he had no thought or regard for religion. His affairs became more and more perplexed and involved. One day he passed by the house of one of his workmen, where prayer was wont to be made, and listening, he heard words uttered in supplication that touched his heart. Though he was the master, he went inside and listened to his servant while he preached. God touched that man's heart, and made him feel his need of a Saviour. He went home, and he had now double cause for prayer. He went to the Lord, and told him he was a poor, wretched undone sinner, and that he wanted mercy; and then he told the Lord beside though he did not make it very prominent, that he was a poor, almost broken merchant; and that if God did not appear for him, he knew not but that he must be driven out of house and home. These two cases were laid before God. First of all, God heard his prayer for his soul. He gave him joy and peace in believing; and poor as he was at that time, he found enough to assist in erecting a house where the gospel might be preached. The Lord who had delivered him spiritually, now came to his assistance temporally. His affairs took a different turn, floods of prosperity rolled in upon him, and he is at this very day a living witness of the power of God to answer man's prayer for spiritual and for temporal things too. And if it were needed, he could bear his willing witness of special answer in that special time of necessity. And does he not love his God? I know he does; for he delights to honor him, he delights to give of his substance to him. And there may be others of you here present whose characters have been pictured in this one which I have pourtrayed before you; who are saying, "Surely he means me." Oh, will you not then, at the recollection of what God did in that double mercy, say, "love him. What can I do for him? There is nothing too great for me to give; nothing too large for me to do. Only let me know my duty, and the recollection of his marvellous bounty shall lead me to give of my substance to him; to give my whole heart to him. I will be wholly his, and hope that in death he will receive me to himself." Men and women, my brethren and sisters in Christ, will you look back a few short years, and recollect the time when you were on your knees before God, seeking him? I could fix my eye to-day upon many a man who has been a drunkard, a swearer, a breaker of God's holy day, a hater of everything good. I think I see you in that upper chamber of yours. Oh, how you cried, how you groaned! Oh, with what agony did you pour out your unutterable sighs! You rose up, and you thought God would not have mercy on you. You went to your business; but how wretched you were! You went back again to the chamber. And how the beam out of the wall could speak now, and tell you how you cried and cried, and cried again before his mercy-seat. Do you love him but a little to-day? has your love grown cold? Go home and look again upon the chair against which you kneeled. Look at the very walls, and see if they do not accuse you, saying, "I heard you pray to God for mercy, and he has heard you. How I see your cold-heartedness; I mark your lukewarmness in his cause." Go home to your chamber, fall on your knees, and with tears of gratitude say
"O thou, my soul, bless God the Lord; And all that in me is Be stirred up, his holy name To magnify and bless!"
Some of us can recollect other special seasons of prayer. Members of my church, I remind you of that solemn season, when, like a hurricane of desolation, the judgment of God swept through our midst. Standing in this pulpit this very morning, I recall to myself that evening of sorrow, when I saw my people scattered like sheep, without a shepherd, trodden upon, injured, and many of them killed. Do you recollect how you cried for your minister, that he might be restored to a reason that was then tottering? Can you recollect how ye prayed that out of evil God would bring forth good, that all the curses of the wicked might be rolled back upon themselves, and God would yet fill this place with his glory? And do you remember how long ago that is, and how God has been with us ever since, and how many of those who were injured that night, are now members of our church, and are praising God that they ever entered this house? Oh! shall we not love the Lord? There is not a church in London, that has had such answers to prayer as we have; there has not been a church that has had such cause to pray. We have had special work, special trial, special deliverance, and we ought pre-eminently to be a church, loving God, and spending and being spent in his service. Remember again the varied times of your sickness, when you have been sick, sore, and nigh unto death. Let me picture, my own experience that I may remind you of yours. I remember when I came to this pulpit in agony, and preached you a sermon which seemed to cost me my life's blood at every word I uttered. I was taken home to my bed full of grief and agony I remember those weary nights, those doleful days, that burning brow, those roaming thoughts, those spectres that haunted my dreams, that sleep without sleep, that rest that knew no rest, that torture, and that pain. Then I sought God, and cried that he would spare me to stand in this pulpit once again. Oh! I thought then, in my poor foolish way, that I would preach as I ne'er had preached before, as "a dying man to dying men." I hoped my ministry was not over; I trusted I might have another opportunity of freeing myself from the blood of hearers, if any of that blood were on my skirts. Here I stand, and I have to chide myself that I do not love him as I ought: yet nevertheless, in the recollection of his great mercy, saving my soul from death, and mine eyes from tears, I must love him, and I must praise him; and I must in reminding each of you of similar deliverances, beseech and entreat you to bless the Lord with me. O let us magnify his name together. We must do something fresh, something greater, something larger than we have done before. Having thus delivered these thoughts, I shall want you now for about three minutes to listen to me while I teach you three lessons which ought to spring from this sevenfold retrospect. What shall I say then? God has heard my voice in my prayer. The first lesson, then, is this He shall hear my voice in my praise. If he heard me pray, he shall hear me sing; if he listened to me when the tear was in mine eye, he shall listen to me when my eye is sparkling with delight. My piety shall not be that of the dungeon and sick bed; it shall be that also of deliverance and of health.
"I'll praise my Maker with my breath; And when my voice is lost in death, Praise shall employ my nobler powers: My days of praise shall ne'er be past, While life and thought and being last, Or immortality endures."
Another lesson. Has God heard my voice? Then I will hear his voice. If he heard me I will hear him. Tell me, Lord, what wouldst thou have thy servant do, and I will do it; what wouldst thou have me believe, and I will believe it. If there be a labor which I have never attempted before, tell me to do it, and I will say, "Here am I; Lord, send me." Is there an ordinance to which I never attended? Dost thou say, "Do this in remembrance of me;" is it thy command? However non-essential it seems to be, I will do it, because thou hast told me to do it. If thou hast heard my feeble voice, I will hear thine, even though it be but a still small voice. Oh that you would learn that lesson! The last lesson is, Lord, hast thou heard my voice? then I will tell others that thou wilt hear their voice too. Didst thou save me? O Lord, if thou savedst me thou canst save anybody. Didst thou hear my prayer?
"Then will I tell to sinners round, What a dear Saviour I have found;"
and I will bid them pray too. O you that never pray, I beseech you begin from this hour. May God the Spirit lead you to your chambers, to cry to him! Remember, if you ask through Jesus, you cannot ask in vain. I can prove that in a thousand instances God has heard my supplication. There was nothing more in me than there is in you. Go and plead the promise; plead the blood, and ask for the help of God's Spirit; and there is not one in this assembly who shall not receive the blessing, if God shall lead him to pray. Young man, young woman, go home; plead with God for yourself first; you that love him, plead for others. Let every one of us practice the second verse of this Psalm, "Because he hath inclined his ear unto me, therefore will I call upon him as long as I live."
May 3rd, 1860 by C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892)
"O Lord, truly I am thy servant; I am thy servant and the son of thine handmaid thou hast loosed my bonds." Psalms 116:16 .
These sentences suggest a contrast. David's religion was one of perfect liberty; "Thou hast loosed my bonds." It was one of complete service; "Truly l am thy servant. I am thy servant and the son of thine handmaid." Did I say the text suggested a contrast? Indeed the two things need never be contrasted, for they are found to be but part of one divine experience in the Jives of all God's people. The religion of Jesus is the religion of liberty. The true believer can say, when his soul is in a healthy state, "Thou hast loosed my bonds. The penal fetters with which my soul was once bound are all dashed to shivers; I am free!" "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit." The burdensome bonds of ceremonials are all cast to the winds. Henceforth the beggarly elements are trodden under foot; shadows have yielded to substance, and the type and the symbol cease to oppress; the true light now shineth, and the torches are quenched. "Thou hast loosed my bonds," that is to say, thou hast not only saved me from the penal consequences of my sin and from the heavy burden of the old Mosaic ceremonial law, but thou hast moreover delivered me from the spirit of bondage which once led me to serve thee with the fear of an unwilling slave. Thou hast taken the yoke from my neck, and the goad from behind my back. Thou hast made me thy freed man. No more do I crouch at thy feet or go to thy footstool cowering like a slave, but l came to thee with privilege of access, up to thy very throne. By the Spirit of adoption I cry, my Father. Thou dost own the kindred. For by the self-same Spirit I am sealed to the day of redemption. Thus, O Lord, "thou hast loosed my bonds." Nor if religion has had its full sway in us, is this all. Thou hast loosed me from the bonds of worldly maxims; thou hast delivered me from the fear of man; thou hast rescued me from the stooping and fawning which made me once the slave of every tyrant who laid claim to my allegiance, and thou hast made me now the servant of but one Master, whose service is perfect liberty. Whereas before I spoke with bated breath, lest I should offend, and even my condolence had continually to yield to the whims and prejudices of another man, behold now "thou hast loosed my bonds." As an eagle with my eye on the sun, with wings outstretched true to the line upward which I soar, bound no longer to the rooks of prejudice or the mounds of worldly maxim free, entirely free to serve my God without let or hindrance. "Thou hast loosed my bonds." Vast and wide is the liberty of the believer. The Antinomian, when he essays to describe gospel liberty, only errs by forgetting that such liberty is consistent with the fullest service. But we enjoy all the liberty that even an Antinomian theology could offer. A liberty to be holy is a grander liberty than a license to be sinful. A liberty to be conscientious; a liberty to know forgiven sin; a liberty to trample upon conquered lusts, this is an infinitely wider liberty than that which would permit me to be the comfortable slave of sin, and yet indulge the delusive hope that I may one day enter the kingdom of heaven. The largest expressions that can ever be used by the boldest minister of free grace, cannot here be exaggerations. Luther may exhaust his thunders, and Calvin may spend his logic, Zuingle may utter his periods with fiery zeal, but after all the grand things that have been spoken about the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free, we are freer than those men knew. Free as the very air we breathe is the Christian, if he live up to his privileges. If he be in bondage at all, it is because he hath not as yet yielded his spirit fully to the redeeming and emancipating influence of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. In the fullest and widest sense therefore, the believer may cry, "Thou hast loosed my bonds." Nor is this liberty merely consistent with the profoundest and most reverent service, but the service is, indeed, a main characteristic of the exalted freedom. "Truly I am thy servant; I am thy servant and the son of thine handmaid." This does not convict with the sentence that follows it, "Thou hast loosed my bonds." This fact of my being God's servant is to me a proof and evidence, my, and a delightful fruit and effect of my having kind my bonds loosed by the great Emancipator, the Lord Jesus Christ. Service then, as well as liberty I Service is ordained to be a constant characteristic of the true religion of the Lord Jesus Christ. "We are not our own, we are bought with a price." There is not n hair upon our head, there is not a passion in our spirit, there is not a single power or faculty in our mind which is our own. We are all bought all purchased, we are all, every single particle of us, the purchased property of the Lord Jesus Christ perfectly free, and yet perfectly the property of Jesus supremely blest with the widest liberty, and yet in the fullest sense the property of another the shackled servants of the Lord Jesus Christ. This service, my brethren, it appears from the text, should be true, "O Lord, truly I am thy servant " I fear there is very much service of God that only lies in terms and words. Men sit and sing hymns, in which they cry
"And if I might make some reserve, And duty did not call; I love my God with zeal so great, I'd freely give him all."
But within an hour their nets belie their song. There is much of service in our own thought which never comes to service in net. I do not doubt but that we often compliment ourselves upon schemes we have devised, which fall dead to the ground, like blasted figs, never having been carried into effect. We go to our chambers and bend our knees, and Satan whispers some word of self-satisfaction to us, because we have some project on our soul, some device in our heart, though that project has never come to service, has only been an unborn intention, has never come into the life of an act. I would that each one of us knew more fully the meaning of this word, "truly." "O Lord, truly I am thy servant;" so truly that mine enemies cannot dispute it; so truly that if they dare dispute it, my next action shall contradict them; so truly that never in any act of my life shall I give them reason to suppose the contrary; so truly thy servant, that my thoughts yield thee obedience as well as my hands my head as well as my heart; my heart as well as my feet. "Truly I am thy servant!" Not so in name and by profession, but so by actual deeds of holy endurance, and of noble daring for thee. "O Lord, truly I am thy servant." This service, it appears to me also from the text, is continual. "I am thy servant," is the utterance at this moment. "I am thy servant," is the utterance of the next. "I am thy servant," is my utterance to-day. "I am thy servant," will be my utterance when I come to die. Never should the Christian think that any other language will ever be in his lips anything less than traitorous. "I am thy servant," is to be the exclamation of the man the moment his spirit knows its sins forgiven. "I am thy servant" is to be his constant monitor when he stands exposed to temptation; it is to be his continual spur when idleness in a Laodicean spirit would make him lukewarm. "I am thy servant" is it to be his joy in the time of the hardest of labor. "I am thy servant" is to be his song in the time of the sternest suffering. Continually and ever we are the servants of God. We may change our masters upon earth, but our Master who is in heaven is our Master for ever We may cease to serve our country. but we could not cease to serve our God. We may cease to be linked with any denomination, but we could not cease to be the servants of Christ. Even should it be possible for us to be so forgetful of our obligations as to dream for a moment of not being the servants of the Church, we could not harbor the thought that we should cease to be the servants of Christ. "I am thy servant." Let the next moment repeat it; let the next hour echo it, let the next year continue to resound it; let my whole life prolong it; and let eternity be a continuation of the solemn swell. "Truly, I am thy servant; I am thy servant and the son of thine handmaid: thou hast loosed my bonds." May I take the liberty now after offering you these few remarks by way of introduction, as a sort of running commentary upon my text may I take the liberty of concentrating your thoughts upon one particular, during the rest of my sermon. There is one important point which I wish to bring before this prevent audience, namely, the duty and the excellence of personal service for their Lord and Master. I think I shall be warranted in confining my text, although it contains far more, to the repetition of that pronoun "I," "Truly I am thy servant; I am thy servant and the son of thine handmaid: thou has loosed my bonds." The personality of the text seems to be conspicuous to allow me now to restrain myself to that one topic the duty of the personal service of Christ. I do feel at this peculiar season, when God as visited some parts of our land with rich revival, and when we have reason to hope that revival will extend through this great city, I do feel just mew that no topic can be more adapted to the times than the topic of personal service personal consecration of every Christian to his Lord's will. This evening, then, I shall first speak upon the nature of personal service; secondly, its reasonableness; thirdly, its excellence; and in the last place, come to that which is no doubt upon your own minds, the special assistance which the Religious Tract Society yields to personal effort in the Redeemer's kingdom. I. First, then, THE NATURE OF PERSONAL SERVICE. Let me explain it by a contrast. The service of God among us has grown more and more a service by proxy. I would not be censorious. Judge ye what I say, and if there be but any measure of truth in it, let the truth come home to your soul. Do we not observe even in the outward worship of God, at times a great attempt towards worship by proxy? Do we not often hear singing certainly never in this place but do we not often hear singing the praises of God confined to some five or six or more trained men and women who are to praise God for us? Do we not sometimes have the dreary thought, when we are in our churches and chapels, that even the prayer is said and prayed by the minister for us? There is not always that hearty union in the one great prayer of the day which there should be whenever we are gathered together. The thought suggests itself continually to the thinking mind, "Is not much of the devotion confined to the minister, and to those few who pass through the service?", in fact, we have actually degraded ourselves by applying the term "performance" to divine worship. "Performance!" A phrase begotten in the theater, which certainly should have spent its existence there, has actually been brought into the house of God, and the services are now-a-day "performed," and the worship of God is gone through, and the thing is called the "doing duty" of the minister, and not the taking delight and the enjoying of a pleasure by the people. Do we not observe, too, that in an our churches there is too much now-a-day of serving God in acts of benevolence, and acts of public instruction through the minister! Your minister is supported; you expect him to discharge your duty for you; he is to he the means of converting sinners; he is to be the means of comforting the feeble minded; in fact, all the mass of duties that belong to the Church are considered to belong to the one man who is specially set apart to devote himself to the service of the ministry. Oh that this were rectified! Would to God that our people could all feel that no support of ministers can ever rid them of their own personal responsibility! I think I speak in the name of all my brethren in the ministry we repudiate the idea of taking your responsibility upon ourselves. We find that our own work is more than we can perform without our Master's strength. To come at last with clean hands before our Maker's bar, and to be able to say, "We are free from the blood of all men," will be as much as with the most arduous labors, and the most unremitting anxieties, we can expect to attain unto. We cannot take your work we do not pretend to do so. If you have dreamed of it, forget the delusion, and be rid of it once for all. I will do no man's duty but my own; I will not attempt to stand sponsor to your remissness, and take upon myself the sin of your sloth and lethargy; nor will any minister of Christ for a moment think that his most arduous efforts, and most self-denying exertions, can for a moment acquit you of being guilty of the blood of souls, unless you, each of you, do personally the utmost that you can. A sorry contrast to this principle, I fear, is presented in many, many a Christian Church. You have put one man into the rank, and he is to do all, while you are to sit still to be fed, to be edified, to be built up, as if you had nothing to do but to be stones and bricks that are to be built up, and not living men and women, who are to spend and be spent in the Redeemer's cause. Having thus sought to exhibit by contrast, let me now illustrate the nature of this personal service by an actual picture. Look at the early days of Christendom the Church's pride and glory when the purest air and the most refreshing dew were upon her mouth then was the day of personal service. The moment a man was converted to God in those days, he became a preacher; perhaps, within a week, a martyr. Every man then was a witness, not here and there a bishop, or now and then a confessor but every Christian whether he moved in Caesar's household, or whether he moved, like Lydia, in the pursuits of humble commerce every believer had a part in the service, and sought to magnify the name of his Master. Within but a few centuries after the death of Christ, the cross had been uplifted in every land; the name of Jesus had been pronounced in every known dialect; missionaries had passed through the deserts had penetrated into the remote recesses of uncivilized countries; the whole earth was at least, nominally evangelized. But what has befallen us now, my brethren? The results of the labors of the Church through a space of years what are they? They dribble into utter insignificance, when compared with the triumphs of the Apostolic times, and my own conviction is, that next to what I fear is the great cause the absence of the Spirit's influence next to that, and perhaps first of all, is the absence of personal agency in the service of the Lord Jesus Christ, whereby the Spirit is manifested in the diversities of his operations. What conqueror or mighty warrior could expect to will a campaign if his troops should vote that one in a hundred should be supported by their rations that one in a hundred should go to battle? No, ye legions! you must every one of you draw swords. Every heart must be stout, and every arm must be strong; the line must not be composed of here and there a warrior and an interval between, but every man must march forward, with the spirit of a lion and the strength of God, to do battle against the common enemy of souls. We shall never see great things in the world tin we have all roused ourselves to our personal responsibilities. God will not give the honor of saving the world to his ministers. He meant it for his Church; and until his Church is prepared to grasp it, God will withhold the grown which he has prepared for her brow, and for hers alone, and which none but she can over will. I think you may readily understand then what I mean by personal service. I mean this: if there be poor, it is not for you to subscribe to a society that shall send out paid agents for their relief but as far as lieth in you to visit them in their homes, and with your own hands supply them the bounty of a Christian heart. It is not for you to say the City Mission supplies admirably the lack of a sufficient number of ministers; the whole lack is supplied, I may be idle. It is for you to instruct them. You are to be as a burning and a shining light in the midst of this dark generation. Personal service is for you; it is for you to say, "Though I am content with my minister's labors, I cannot be content with my own. I must have more, and more, and more to do. I desire to spend all that I have in Jesus Christ's cause, and not to keep back a single power which I possess, but to be continually the living servant of the living God." II. Having thus explained the nature of personal service, let me pass on to observe THE REASONABLENESS OF THIS PERSONAL SERVICE. Heir of heaven, blood-bought and blood-washed, Jesus did not save thee by another. He did not sit in heaven himself at ease and then array Gabriel in his power and might and send him down to suffer, bleed, and die for you; but "He, his own self," mark the strong expression of Scripture "His own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree. "He might send out apostles and seventy disciples to preach, but he never relaxed his service when he employed others. He might kindle other lights, but he did not quench his own. He was himself your servant. He washed the disciples' feet, not through the medium of another disciple, but with his own hands. They fed the hungry, but he himself multiplied the fishes and brake the bread. He sent the gospel into the world, but not by missionaries, but by himself; he became his own preacher, his own expounder and then left the truth to be taken up by others, when he himself had ascended into glory. By the streaming veins, then, of the Lord Jesus Christ; by the blessed body which for your sake endured the curse the curse of toil, aggravated till it became not the sweat of the face, but the sweat of the heart in very drops of blood by these I hold the reasonableness of your personal service to him; and "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service." But, again, have you not a personal religion? You are not content with promises that are held in a sort of "joint stock" by the entire community; you long to have in your own heart the personal cry of adoption; nothing but vital personal union to the ton of God can ever satisfy you. You are not content with the general election; you feel that you must have a personal election and a personal calling. You long to read your title clear to mansions in the skies. The charter of free grace, bright as it is, doth not satisfy you unless you can see your name amongst its inheritors. All the broad acres of the promises cannot charm you, you can walk over them and can them your own. You live, if you be a true Christian, you live upon the personal realization of your interest in that covenant of grace. What more reasonable than that you should give personal service? Were I preaching to those who were dolts, this might be seen and felt too; but I speak to those who are wise men, because they have been taught of God, and I say what can be a more logical conclusion than that personal benefits enjoyed, and personal blessings received, should be reciprocated by personal cervices rendered? Further, let me remark to you that this personal service is reasonable, from the fact that personal service is the only kind of service at all available. I scarcely know whether you can serve God except by individual consecration. All that your minister can do is already due from him to God. You could not say before the eternal throne, "Great God, I am thy servant, but I serve thee by another." Might he not reply, "That other was my servant too?" Here is a man who has spent his whole life, and whom you have felt to do so; does he come before God and cry, "Great God, I have done all, and I have a surplus left to supplement the dilatory character of my fellows?" No; when we have done all, we are unprofitable servant; we have done no more than it was our duty to have done. How, then, can you by any means hope that you can serve God through us, when eve ourselves feel we cannot reach the mark to which we would have aspired in our own personal service to Jesus? Oh I brothers and sisters, if you will but think of it, all your idea of showing your gratitude to God by making another man to carry your burden on his back, is founded on idleness, and cannot be maintained in righteousness. More might I say, but I choose instead thereof to appeal to you thus: Does not the reasonableness of personal service strike you at once? If it does not, there was a time when it did. E thou be a child of God, there was a season when argument was quite unnecessary to thee. Dost thou remember the time when thy sins lay heavily upon thy breast, and thou didst cry both night end day, "God be merciful to me a sinner?" Hast thou forgotten that glad hour when at the foot of Mercy's cross all the strings were loosed that bound that burden to thy back, and thou west free? Hast thou forgotten, then, those feelings of devout gratitude which made thee fall to the ground and cry, "My Master, take me; make something of me; do what thou wilt with me, only let me serve thee?" Most thou remember that hot haste in which thou didst rush into the world to tell to another the secret which God had whispered in thine ear? Dost thou remember now that first month of thy consecration to God, when thou couldest not do enough, when thou didst long to be rid even of necessary worldly employment's, that thou mightest devote thyself to God? Methinks I hear those sighs of thine now, "O that I were a doorkeeper in the house of my God I O that I could serve my Master with all my might, and with all my strength!" Ah, brethren I and if thou needest argument now, what doth it betoken but that thou best lost thy first love, and that thou hast fallen from the height of thy consecration? It seems to be believed by some men, who pretend to deep experience, that the love of Christians necessarily cools after conversion. I am sure it ought not to do so; and if it does, it were a feet which were disgraceful to us. To my mind, it is palpable that if we loved our Master much when we first knew him, we ought to love him with a tenfold degree of fervent attachment after we have known him more. Certain I am, if we have seen Christ, the very Christ, and have verily seen him, we shall be more deeply in love with him every day; whereas at first we thought him lovely, we shall come to know him so; and whereas once we thought anything we could do would be too little, we shall come to think that everything we could do would not be enough. I question that man's love altogether, who has to say of it, that it grew cold after a little season. What! Is the work of God's Spirit but a sort of spasmodic twitching. Is this all the Spirit does, to lay the lash upon the back of the ass and make it go its jaded journey for an instant with a little more quickened pace? Surely not God doth not thus work. It were an inferior work to any which is exhibited in nature if this were all he did. And shall grace be second to the deeds of nature? Does God send the planets on in their orbits, and do they continue to roll, and after he hath made a creature serve him, will he stop? Does he light the sun and does he blaze for ever, and will he kindle our zeal, and shall it soon be quenched? Is God's grace as the smoke from the chimney, as the morning cloud, and as the early dew that passeth away? God forbid that we should harbour the idea! No, brethren; and personal service, personal continued service too, is but the reasonable effect of that grace which God gave us at the first, and which he continues to give us every hour, and will give us till we mount to eternal glory. III. And now let me advance to my third point PERSONAL SERVICE ITS EXCELLENCE, This excellence is so manifold, that had I some three hours to preach in, I might continue to go through the list and not exhaust it. Among the first of its charms, personal service is the main argument of the Christian religion against the sceptic. The sceptic says the religion of Christ is maintained by men who make a gain of godliness. "Your living is dependent upon your advocating the canes," says the infidel. Even to our missionaries this is often said, and though an unworthy suspicion and utterly untrue of men who sacrifice much even when they gain most, uttered to men who in any other service might soon grow rich in their Masters service seldom, if ever yet nevertheless, the taunt being never so unworthy, it has great power over unthinking minds. Let the Church, however, but beam to work unanimously; lot every private man have his mission, let every man and woman beam to build nearest to their own house, and from that day scepticism begins to lose, at least; one of its argument; and with it, it loses one of its most formidable elements one of its deadliest weapons with which it has attacked the Church. "See there, see there," says the infidel, "there is an honest man, though he be an honest fool he does at least believe what he says, for he does it not by word, but personally, he doer it not by another, but by himself; not because he is paid for it, but because he loves it." Oh, sirs! it were greatly to the confusion of infidelity, if not to in utter destruction, if the whole Church could once see in its proper light, and carry out in its full measure, the grand doctrine of personal service. But further, I am persuaded that while it would be a grand argument against sceptics, it would be one of the greatest means of deciding that glass of waverers, who, although they are not skeptical, are negligent of the things of the kingdom. There is no way to make another man earnest like being earnest one's-self. If I see others who neglect the great salvation, and is I neglect it too, I patronize, and aid, and abet them in their neglect; but if that man sees me earnest about his salvation, he begins at once to put to himself the question, "Why is this? Here am I asleep and going down into hell, and this man who is no relation of mine, and who has no personal interest in me, is grieved, pained, and vexed because I am going wrong, and he cannot rest and be quiet because he fears I am in danger of the wrath to come." Oh! my brethren, there would be more souls, I do believe, moved to earnestness by earnestness, than by aught else. The closest logic, the most mighty rhetoric never convinced a soul so well as that mightiest of logic and of rhetoric the earnestness of a true Christian. Let men who are now slothful see us in earnest, and they will begin to follow in our wake, God will bless our example to them, and through us they will be saved. But further, the excellency of personal service, it strikes me, is not confined to the good we do, but should be argued from the good we get. We have in our Churches, men and women who are always looking for an opportunity for quarreling. If there be a member who has made the slightest slip, they report it to the public, they tell it in Gath, and publish it in the streets of Askelon. There is nothing that is right. If you do a thing to-day, it is wrong; if you were to alter it to-morrow, it would be just as wrong. They are never consistent in anything but in their inconsistent grumbling. The mightiest cure for the Church is to set them to work. Armies are troublesome things, even emperors find they must allow these hungry things to blunt their appetite with war. The Church itself can never be much blessed while it hath division in its own ranks. Its very activity will cause disorder; the very earnestness in the Christian will cause confusion, unless you lead forth that earnestness to its proper field of development. I have always found that where there is a quarrelsome Church, it is sure to be an idle Church, and where men are always "at it," they have very little time to find fault with one another. When we fuse iron, the two pieces will soon weld, bring two cold pieces together, and the stoutest arm and the heaviest hammer can never weld them. Let our Churches be united and they will be earnest; let them be cold, and they will be dashed to a thousand shivers. "And moreover, we have a large class of poor creatures, who, while not discontent with others, are discontent with themselves. They don't fight with other people, but they seem to be incessantly quarreling with a personal jealousy of their ownselves. They are not what they like to be, and they are not what they wish to be, and they don't feel as they should feel, and they don't think as they would like to think. They are always plunging their finger into their own eyes a, because they cannot see so well as they would wish, always ripping up the wounds they have, because those wounds smart, making themselves miserable in order that they may be happy, and at last, crying themselves into an inconsolable state of misery, they acquire a habit of mourning, until that mourning seems to be the only bliss they know. To use a homely illustration, and one which will be remembered, if another might not, the swiftest way for these cold souls to warm themselves is by setting them at once to work. When we were boys, we have sometimes gathered round our father's fire in the winter time, and almost sat upon it, yet we could not get wane; we rubbed our fingers, but they stir kept blue, at length our father wisely turned us out of doors and bade us work, and after some healthy pastime we soon came in with limbs no longer benumbed; the blood was circulated, and what tire could not do, exercise soon accomplished. Ministers of Christ, if your people cry to you, "Comfort us! comfort us! comfort them, and make the fire a good one; at the same time remember that all the fire you can ever kindle, will not warm them so long as they are idle. If they are idle they cannot be warm. God will not have his people eat the fat and drink the sweet, unless they are prepared to carry their burden and give a portion to others as well as seek meat for themselves. The benefit of personal service then is not confined to others, but will come to be enjoyed even by those who engage in it. An example or two here may tend to enforce the lesson I am anxious to inculcate. If you wish to prove the truth of this, you can begin to make a tolerable experiment in the course of the next half-hour. Do you want to feel grateful? Do not go home and get the hymn-book down. Just go down this street here, and take the first turning to the left or the right, whichever you please. Go up the first pair of stairs you come to; you see a little room; perhaps the husband has come home by now come home weary, and there is a swarm of children, all dirty, and so to live and sleep in; perhaps, that one room. Well, if you will only take a view of that with your own eyes, and then go home to your own house, you will begin to feel grateful. Or rise up to-morrow morning, and go to another house, and see a poor creature stretched on the bed of languishing, dependent on the parish allowance, and worse than that, dying with" our hope knowing nothing of God. or of the-way of salvation, and if that does not make you grateful when you think of your own interest in the precious blood of Jesus. I know nothing that will. Again, you want to be zealous and earnest. Next Sabbath morning walk down the New Cut, and if the open depravity does not make you earnest, your blood is fish's blood, and you have not the warmth of man's blood in you. Just see how the street is thronged all day with those who buy and sell, and get gain, while you are meeting in the house of God for prayer and praise. If that should not satisfy you, and you want to feel peculiarly zealous take your walk abroad and not only look on but begin to act. Take your stand amidst the crowd near the Victoria Theatre, and try to preach, and if you do not feel desirous when you hear their clamours and see their anxious eyes, as if they longed to hear you with eyes as wed as ears if that does not make you zealous, I know of nothing that will make you so. Take a handful of tracts in your hand, and a handful of coppers in your pocket two good things together, and give some of each to the poor people, and they will recollect you; and after you have gone to those the poorest and the most depraved if you do not go home with a feeling of gratitude mingled with one of earnest zeal for the salvation of souls, I do not know what remedy I can prescribe. I wish some of you fine ladies and gentlemen had the walking down some of out courts and alleys nay; I would wish you to have a special treat that you might always remember. I would like you to sleep one night at a lodging-house, I should dike you to eat one meal with the poor man; I should like you to sit in the midst of one drunken brawl, I should wish you to see one poor wife, her face all bleeding, where a brutal and degrading husband ha. been striking her; I should like you to spend one Sabbath in the midst of sin and debauchery; I should like you to see one scene of vice, and then hurry you away once and for all. Methinks, if I took you there not only to see, but to act and cooperate in some holy deed of service; book you there that you might thrust your hand into the kennel, and bring up some lost jewel; that you might thrust your finger into the very fire, that you might pluck some bread from the burning, I think that usefulness would not be all on the part of others, but to a great degree react upon your own heart. You would go home and say, "I could not have behaved it; I could not have imagined that the necessities of this city were so great; that the need of praying and preaching, and generous liberality, could have been one-tenth so huge." I am sure if you be Christians, from that time forward, you would be more indefatigable in your industry, and more unlimited in your gifts than before. I must not tarry longer, time reproves me, though if it be that any of you shall carry thou out in practice, the time employed in persuading you will be well spent. IV. I want now for a minute or two, to come to that Society, for which I stand here to plead to-night, and observe ITS PECULIAR ADAPTATION TO PERSONAL SERVICE. We love the Missionary Society, both for home and abroad, though it does in measure help us to serve God by proxy. I love the Bible Society, because that enables me to serve God personally. For the same reason, I moat ever love the Religious Tract Society, because that enables me, nay, compels me, if I would do anything, to do it myself. I think I need only just mention one or two particulars. The peculiar form of usefulness which the Religious Tract Society lays hold upon, is admirably adapted to those persons who have but little power and little ability, but nevertheless, wish to do something for Christ. They have not the tongue of the eloquent, but they may have the hand of the diligent. They cannot stand and preach, but they can stand and distribute here and there these silent preachers. They do not feel that they could subscribe their guinea, but they may buy their thousand tracts, and these they can distribute broadcast. How many a little one in Zion has spent his life in doing this good, when he could not perhaps have found any other good within his reach. This however, is but the beginning the smallest part of the matter. And when men begin with little efforts for Christ, such as the giving away of a tract, they become stronger to do something else afterwards. I speak personally to-night and excuse the allusion I remember the first service which my youthful heart rendered to Christ, was the doing up of tracts in envelopes, that might send them, with the hope that by choosing pertinent tracts, applicable to person. I knew, and then sealing them up, that God would bless them. And I well remember telling them and distributing them in a town in England where tracts had never been distributed before, and going from house to house, and telling in humble language, the things of the kingdom of God. I might have done nothing, if I had not been encouraged by finding myself able to do something. I sought to do something more and then from that something more, and now have I got beyond. And so I do not doubt that many of the servants of God have been led on to do something higher and nobler, because the first step was for good. I look upon the giving away of a religious tract as only the first step for action not to be compared with many another deed done for Christ; but were it not for the first step we might never reach to the second but that first attained, we are encouraged to take another, and so at the last, God helping us, we may be made extensively useful Besides, there is this to be said for the Society, that it does not make a man perform an act which looks like service but which is not. There is a real service of Christ in the distribution of the gospel in its printed form, a service the result of which heaven alone shall disclose, and the judgment-day alone discover. How many thousands have been carried to heaven instrumentally upon the wings of these tracts, none can tell. I might say, if it were right to quote such a Scripture, "The leaves were for the healing of the nations," verily they are so. Scattered where the whole tree could scarcely be carried, the very leaves have had a medicinal and a healing virtue in them and the real word of truth, the simple statement of a Savior crucified and of a sinner who shall be saved by simply trusting in the Savior, has been greatly blessed, and many thousand souls have been led into the kingdom of heaven by this simple means. And now what shall I say to bind up what has been already said into a compact form! Let each one of us, if we have done nothing for Christ, begin to do something now. The distribution of tracts is the first thing. Let us do that and attempt something else by-and-bye. Are we, on the other hand, diligently engaged already in some higher service for Christ, let us not despise those steps which helped us up, but let us now assist others with these steps that they too may rise from the grade of service which is theirs to a higher and a greater one. Let us in fact encourage this society at all times with our contributions and with our prayers. I would remind you that during this year the Tract Society has sent abroad some forty-two millions of tracts some four and a half millions more than last year. These have been sent throughout the whole earth. Extensive as man, I may say has been the action of this society not confined to any sect or denomination, or any class or clime. It has labored for all, and an Christians have labored with it, and God has given it a large measure of success. I think I may leave it in your hands to-night; but permit me this one word ere I bid you farewell. Many of you I shall never see again, and I remember that my own sermon tells me that I have personal service to perform for Christ. It is not enough for me to urge you to do it, I must do it too. My hearers, imagine not that any service you can do for Christ will save your souls if you are unrenewed. If your faith is not fixed in Jesus, your best works will be but splendid sins. All the performance of duties will not affect your salvation. Cease from your own righteousness, cease from all deeds of working out life, and "believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved." Trust Jesus, and you are saved, trust self, and you are lost. Just as you are, cast yourselves on Christ. I remember Dr. Hawker concluding an admirable discourse with these brief words: The words were addressed to Rebecca of old: "Wilt thou go with this man?" Let me conclude with the like words: Souls, will ye go with Christ? Will ye go to Christ?" "I would go with him," saith one, "but would he have me." Did he ever reject one that came to him? "I would go with Christ," saith another, "but I am naked." He will clothe thee. "I would go to him," says a third, "but I am filthy." He can cleanse you; nay, his own blood shall wash you, and his own veins will supply the purifying stream. "I would go with him, saith another, " but I am diseased and leprous, and cannot walk with him." Ah! but he is a great physician, and he can heal thee. Come as thou art to Christ. Many say, "But I cannot come." I remember a raying in the North of Ireland, in the revival, which just hits the mark. The young converts will say to one another, when one says, "I cannot come." "Brother, come if you can, and if you can't come, come as you can." Will you not come, when by coming to Christ you may save your soul? We do not know what faith is when we say to ourselves, "It is a something so mysterious I cannot reach it." Faith is trusting Christ. It is the end of mystery and the beginning of simplicity; the giving up of all those idle feelings and believings that aught else can save the soul, and the reception of that one master thought, that Christ Jesus is exalted on high to be a Prince and a Savior, to give repentance and remission of sins. Never soul perished trusting Jesus, never heart was blasted with perdition that had confidently rested itself upon the cross. There is thy hope, poor shipwrecked mariner, yonder constellation of the cross with those five stars, the wounds of Jesus Look there and live. One glance and thou art saved. Those soul-quickening words, "Believe and live," comprehend the whole gospel of God. May the Divine Spirit lead you now out of self unto Christ. O Lord! command thy blessing for Jesus' sake. Amen.
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Spurgeon, Charle Haddon. "Commentary on Psalms 116". "Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 8 / Ordinary 13