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A Man of God Alone with God
SEPTEMBER 26 th 1878
C. H. SPURGEON
“I have declared my ways, and thou heardest me: teach me thy statutes.”-Psalms 119:26 .
Worldly men think very little of God. They live at a distance from him; they have no intercourse with him; like the fool, they have said in their heart, “No God,” and they try to realize in their lives their heart’s desire. Very different is it with the true believer. He recognizes God everywhere; he sees God in all the good or ill that checkers life; he believes that God has created every worm that crawls upon the face of the earth, and that he has painted every flower that blooms. The whole world is full of God to him who believes in God, and he has intercourse with God wherever he goes. He cannot live without it; it is his joy and delight. He is a child of God; so, how can he live happily in his Father’s house unless he often sees his Father’s face, and speaks with him, and hears his voice in return? The Christian makes much of God, and God makes much of him, for they have a mutual delight in one another. Hence, in such a text as this, you perceive how the psalmist talked with God, and God heard him, and he knew that God heard him; and then he spoke again to God, and said, “Teach me thy statutes.”
This is, perhaps, one of the main differences between the believer and the unbeliever,-between him that feareth God and him that feareth him not. The first lesson for man is, to know his God; the second is, to know himself; and as the unbeliever fails in the first, he fails in the second also, he does not know himself. He does not think much about himself,-about his real self, the most important part of his being. For his body, he caters freely, he can scarcely spend enough upon it; but he starves his soul. He scarcely recognizes its existence, and he has but little thought or care about the immortality to which it is ordained. But a true believer knows himself. We are sure, from our text, that he does, for he would not declare his ways if he did not know them. But he has practiced introspection, and looked within himself. He has practiced self-examination, and studied his own inner life. He does not profess to understand himself altogether; -for man is the next greatest mystery to God; God is the first mystery, and man is the second. He does not understand his own ways; he cannot always comprehend his own thoughts, or follow the devious wanderings of his own mind; but, still, he does know a good deal about himself; and when he goes before his God, he can truthfully say, “I have declared my ways, and thou heardest me.” Among other things, he has discovered his own ignorance, and hence he presents the prayer with which the text concludes, “Teach me.” He is ignorant even of God’s revealed will, so he prays, “’Teach me thy statutes,’ O Lord! I know the Book in which they are recorded, and I can learn them in the letter; but do thou teach them to me, in my spirit, by thy Spirit, that I may know them aright.”
This, then, is to be the subject of our meditation. Let us come to it, looking up to the Lord, and asking him to bless the meditation to each one of us. I shall take the text in two senses; the primary one is, I think, a man of God alone with God: “I have declared my ways” (understand, “to God”) “and thou heardest me: teach me thy statutes.” But I judge that it is lawful, especially in the light of the following verse, to believe that the psalmist may have alluded to his speaking with men; so., in the second part of my discourse, I shall speak of a man of God considering his own public testimony, and saying, when he had done so, “I have declared my ways, and thou heardest me: teach me thy statutes. Make me to understand the way of thy precepts: so shall I talk”-which must mean his speaking to others,-”so. shall I talk of thy wondrous works.”
I. So, first, we see here A Man Of God Alone With God; and we notice three things about him, he is making his case known: “I have declared my ways;” he is rejoicing in an audience which he has obtained: “thou heardest me;” and he is seeking a further blessing: “Teach me thy statutes.”
First, he is making his case known. I understand this to be, first, the language of a sinner confessing his sin: “I have declared my ways. He is a sensible sinner, and therefore he is not in a confessional box with the human ear of a fellow-sinner to listen to him; he is a rational being, who has not degraded himself so low as that. But he is confessing his sin to the great High Priest who can be “touched with the feeling of our infirmities;” to him who cannot be defiled by listening to our tale of sin; to him to whom alone will it avail to confess our sins, for “he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins,” if we confess them to him.
In each one of us now say, in this sense, “I have declared my ways” to the Lord? For this should be done, not only at our first coming to him, but continually throughout the whole of our life. We should look over each day, and sum up the errors of the day, and say, “’I have declared my ways,’-my naughty ways, my wicked ways, my wandering ways, my backsliding ways, my cold, indifferent ways, my proud ways; -the way of my words, the way of my thoughts, the way of my imagination, the way of my memory, for it has a treacherous way of remembering evil and forgetting good;-the way of my actions towards thee, my God, and there is much to regret there; the way of my actions in my family, in the world, and in the church.” What a sorrowful stock-taking each day would be to many professors if they were honest to themselves and to their God! Even those who “walk in the light, as God is in the light,” and have the closest fellowship with him, yet know that it is a very sweet and blessed thing even for them that “the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin;” forever they still sin, and it is necessary for each one of them to say continually, “I have declared my ways.”
Do you try to hide your sin, dear friend? It is useless for you to attempt to do so, for God ever sees it. Why do you seek to conceal what is always before his eye? Better far to confess it to him, that he may then cast it behind his back, and remember it against you no more forever. I believe that, often, as sinners confessing to God, we miss much true comfort for want of making a clean breast of our transgressions. Yet the Lord knows what is in our heart even though we do not own it. It has been well observed that, when Moses tried to excuse himself to God for not wanting to go to deliver Israel, he said that he was slow of speech, and God met that objection by giving him Aaron his brother to speak for him; but the Lord, in his reply to Moses, also said, “All the men are dead who sought thy life.” Moses had not said anything about that matter; but God knew that there was that fear in his heart, so he put his finger on the sore place at once. It is well when we can do that for ourselves; when, in our spirit, there is no guile; when we come, as David did, in the 51st Psalm, and confess the very sin which we have committed: “Deliver me from blood-guiltiness, O God,” calling it by its right name, then is it that the soul begins to get peace with God.
“But,” someone asks, “are we, then, to confess to God every sin in detail?” No, that would be impossible, and probably it would not even be useful; but there must be no wish to conceal any sin from God. Such a desire would be a vain one, for “all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do.” There must be an acknowledgment of the sins which we have not yet seen in their full heinousness. Each of us will do well to offer David’s prayer, “Cleanse thou me from secret faults.” If we have committed faults, which are hidden even from ourselves, we desire to be delivered from them so that they should not remain to our condemnation.
I do not suppose that any unregenerate sinner will act thus towards his God until the Holy Spirit has begun to work graciously within him. While the prodigal was wasting his substance with riotous living, be thought himself a fine gentleman; and even when he was feeding the swine, he only said, “I have had very bad luck.” But it was “when he came to himself” that he said, “I will arise and go to my father;” and it was when he felt his father’s warm kiss upon his cheek that he made the confession, “Father, I have sinned.” There is no contrition so deep as that of the man who can say concerning his sins,-
“I know they are forgiven;
But, still, their pain to me
Is all the grief and anguish
They laid, my Lord, on thee.”
So, then, our text is, first, the language of a sinner confessing his guilt to his God; but it is more than that. It is, next, the private talks of a patient with his doctor: “I have declared my ways.”
See, there is the little room upstairs, and there lies the patient whom the physician has come to try to cure. The doctor’s first work is to find out all he can about the patient’s disease, so he begins by asking concerning the various symptoms that have been noticed. He is sure to look at the sick man’s tongue, and you may learn a great deal, spiritually, of the condition of a man’s heart from the state of his tongue. The doctor will also sound the patient’s lungs, and test his heart, and take his temperature, and ask him a great many questions, not merely about what appears on the surface, but about his inmost self; and when, at last, the patient can say, “There, doctor, I have told you all, now will you prescribe for me?” he is in the condition of the psalmist when he said to the Lord, “I have declared my ways, and thou heardest me: teach me thy statutes.”
The text very accurately describes such a state of things as that which exists when a patient relates his symptoms to the physician, and then the physician prescribes for him; for, in addition to sin being a great evil in the sight of God, it is also a disease to which we are all prone, and from which only the great Physician can cure us. We cry out against it, and our better self fights against it, yet the old man within us, “the body of this death,” as Paul calls it, fights against the new nature, and we should be overcome were it not for divine grace. So it is well for us to declare our ways. Suppose I put it for myself or for you thus, “Lord, I find that, even when I am engaged in prayer, my thoughts wander. When I am in trouble, I get fretful and rebellious. When a little difficulty meets me in my business, I do not trust thee as I ought.
I sometimes find that, when I try to be humble, I become desponding; and when I am joyful, I become presumptuous. I seem to be like a pendulum swinging too far this way, and then too far that way. I know not how to steer the ship of my life between the Scylla of this sin and the Charybdis of that. O my Master, I am but dust and ashes, I am less than nothing, and vanity! If thou dost ask me what I ail, I seem to have all manner of diseases upon me at once. Sometimes, I am hot with fever, and full of wrath; and, at other times, I shiver with ague as though I did not know what I believed, and could not lay hold of thy truth with a firm grip. Sometimes I fear that I have a fatal disease upon me; and, certainly, were it not for thine unfailing medicine-the great catholicon-my soul would pine away, and die. Yet, and all these evil symptoms, there is one sign that, I trust, is for good. I do know where my help lies; and I look alone to thee for healing. I know that thy precious blood has cleansed me, and on that blood alone I do rely.” Thus the patient tells the good Physician, as far as he can, what he feels, and what is the disease from which he is suffering.
I think, too, that we might use another figure to illustrate the meaning of our text; it is like a client telling his advocate all about his affairs. It is a difficult case in law. There is an accuser who has come forward with very serious charges, and he brings witnesses to substantiate what he affirms, and the case is a very complicated one. The client says that he does not know how to plead for himself; he says that he is at his wits’ end, and he asks the advocate whether he has any argument that can avail for him. The advocate replies, “I must first know all about your case before I can advise you, so tell me everything.” Now, the Lord Jesus, your great Advocate, already knows all about you, yet he likes you to tell it all to him. It is always a good thing to-
“Tell it all to Jesus,
Comfort or complaint.”
Mind that you do tell it all to him; do not keep anything back. Tell him the complex part of your life, and tell him the black part of it; be sure to bring that out. Tell him that the accuser has good ground for his charges against you, and that he can bring abundant witnesses against you,-ay, that your own conscience will witness against you,-and that you do not know of any plea, on earth or in heaven, that can avail for you unless he will be your Advocate. Then, how dear that Advocate will be to you when he tells you that he can plead his righteousness, his life, his blood, and his death, for “if any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.”
I do not think, however, that we have reached the very marrow of our text until we regard it as describing the intimate communion of friend with friend: “I have declared my ways.” When two men become linked together in close friendship, they are in the habit of telling to one another all that happens in their lives; and if one of them is in a difficulty, he goes off to his friend, and tells him about it. They agree with Solomon that “two are better than one; for if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow;” and, by mutual counsel, wisdom will be found. The one who is in trouble tells his friend about it, and his friend, perhaps, puts to him a number of questions, not out of prying curiosity, but in order that he may become acquainted with the whole case, and so be qualified to advise or to help. And we, beloved, if we really know the Lord in spirit and in truth, are exalted to the position of friends of Jesus. “Henceforth,” said he to his disciples, “I call you not servants, for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.” “The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him; and he will show them his covenant.” The Lord said, “Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do?” when he was about to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah; and we must hide nothing from our God. It ought to be the daily habit of the believer to commune with his God; we ought to make him our Confidant in all things. You will go amiss, depend upon it, if you do not wait upon the Lord for guidance. “Bring hither the ephod,” was David’s command to the priests when he was in perplexity, and knew not what he ought to do. Israel made a great mistake with regard to the Gibeonites because the case seemed so simple to them that they did not need to consult the Lord concerning it. Here were men with dry and moldy bread, and with old shoes and clouted upon their feet; they said they had come from a far country, and the matter appeared so plain that the Israelites asked not counsel at the mouth of the Lord, but took of their victuals, and made a treaty with them, as they would not have done if they had consulted the Lord. I do not think that God’s people often go astray in the most difficult cases, for they do take them to the Lord in prayer. It is in simple matters that we make our greatest blunders, because we think we know what to do, and therefore we do not wait upon the Lord for guidance. Yet he who leans to his own understanding is trusting to a broken reed which will be sure to fail him just when he most needs it. So let us, each one, say to the Lord, in the language of the text, “I have declared my ways.”
Thus far, we have been thinking of the believer making his case known; now, secondly, we are to see him rejoicing that he has obtained an audience with God: “Thou heardest me.” I cannot tell you how my heart is touched with the sweetness of that short sentence. Didst thou hear me, O Lord? What condescension on thy part! Thou hast the whole universe to rule and govern; the sweetest songsters are in thy choirs, sounding forth thy praises day without night, yet thou heardest me. And I was not singing thy praises; but confessing my sins. I was not telling the story of all thy wondrous works; I was telling of my own wicked works, and of my sorrows and cares, and thou mightest well have said, “These things are too small, too insignificant to be brought before my notice;” yet thou didst not speak so, for thou heardest me.
But there is something even more wonderful than his condescension, methinks, and that is, his patience. It is an amazing thing that he should listen to us, and then, when the sad story is told, that he should not turn away in the greatness of his wrath, and utterly destroy us. I think that, if you were to tell out all that is in your own heart to any one of your most intimate friends, he would never speak to you again. We read many very charming biographies of men and women; but if the whole of their hives could be written,-which we may be thankful cannot be done,-the book would not be fit to be read. But the Lord listens to us, in some things that we have to confess to him, that we would not confess, and could not confess, and ought not to confess, in any human ear; yet he does not turn away from us in disgust. His pure and holy eyes cannot look upon iniquity except with the utmost abhorrence. He loathes sin in such a way as we can hardly imagine; yet, when a penitent sinner comes to confess to him, he patiently listens to the whole sorrowful story, and feels nothing but pity and love for the guilty narrator of it. This is truly wonderful, and is very different from the manner of men. A man would probably say, “You have told me now, sir, what I wish I had never heard, for I can never trust you again. I did not think you were so mean; I could not have believed it of you. You have told me something that has let me know that I have been cherishing a viper in my bosom. Never come to my house again; you are a person with whom I do not wish to be in any way associated.” That is how man talks; but when we have told the Lord everything, he does not spurn us from him, but he says, “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” He puts away our sin by blotting it out like a cloud, and our transgressions as a thick cloud, blessed be his holy name!
When the psalmist says, “Thou heardest me,” he means, “Thou heardest me with sympathy.” There are several different ways of hearing a story. When I have to deal with a case of very deep grief,-I do not know whether you have all learnt this lesson, but I will tell you how I act, and you may be wise if you do the same, especially if you are a young pastor. If you get a case of very deep grief, hold your tongue, and let the sorrowful one talk, and tell out all the painful details. Those various items may not be very interesting to you; but if you cease to listen to any one of them, you will be stopping the process of cure for that poor bleeding heart. Let the sufferer tell it all out, and do not grudge the time it takes. Interject a word or two of sympathy now and then, and be really sympathetic all the while; but let the troubled soul tell it all out, just as here the psalmist says to the Lord, “I have declared my ways, and thou heardest me.” If you do so, the tried one will go away, and say, “I was so comforted by my interview with the pastor, or with that friend; it did me so much good.” Yet you are conscious that you did nothing but listen to the story of sorrow, and that is the best thing you could possibly have done. “Mother,” said a little girl, “I can’t think why our neighbor is so glad for me to go in and see her. She has lost her little baby, and she sits and cries, and she says I -am such a comfort to her; but, mother, I never say anything; I only just put my arms round her neck, and I cry, too.” Ah! but that is the best way to comfort the sorrowing; and that is what Jesus does for you when you get near to him. He is touched with the feeling of our infirmity, and it is his being touched that enables us to bear the blow which has so grievously wounded our heart.
“Thou heardest me.” Even if the Lord did not seem to answer us, yet there would be much comfort to us from his hearing us, letting us tell all our grief to him, in the full belief that we are not merely telling it out to the air, or speaking to emptiness, but that into his ear, and into his heart, the story of our grief is falling. There is no comfort like this. Try it, mourning ones, ye who love his blessed name.
But I think that the psalmist meant even more than this when he said to God, “Thou heardest me.” Surely, he meant, “Thou didst graciously come to my help, ’I declared my ways,’-the sinfulness of them; ’and thou heardest me,’ and didst blot out my transgressions. ’I declared my ways,’-the disease of sin that was in my soul, and by thy stripes thou didst heal me, by thy Spirit thou didst sanctify me. ’I declared my ways,’-my legal difficulties, my accusers’ words; and thou didst hear me by answering them, and sending such joy and peace into my soul that I dared even to cry, ’Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again.’ I told thee all my ways; and, like a true and faithful friend, thou didst not spare anything that thou mightest help me. As thou didst give thy Son to redeem me, and thy Spirit to sanctify me, so didst thou give thy providence to succor me, and thy presence to comfort me. ’Thou heardest me;’ I did not cry to thee in vain.” Are not these words wondrously rich, dear brethren? I seem, in talking to you, as if I only skimmed the surface of them, as a swallow touches the brook with his wing, and is up and away again in a moment, but you may dive into their depths in your happy, heartfelt experience.
Now I come, in the third place, to this man of God alone with God seeking a further blessing: “Teach me thy statutes.” I think the psalmist means this, “My Lord, I have told thee all; now, wilt thou tell me all? I have declared to thee my ways; now, wilt thou teach me thy ways? I have confessed to thee how I have broken thy statutes; wilt thou not give me thy statutes back again? I have owned my weakness; now, wilt thou not strengthen me, that I may run in the way of thy commandments?”
We will take this request, “Teach me thy statutes,” in the same way as we took our first division. “I, a sinner, have confessed to thee, O Lord, my wicked ways; wilt thou not teach me thy statutes, that I may sin against thee no more? Teach me how to be holy. Teach me to repent, for repentance is one of thy statutes. Teach me to believe, for faith in thy dear Son is one of thy great gospel statutes. Teach me to pray, for this shall help to keep me pure, and prayer is a statute of thine. Teach me to watch against temptation. Teach me to search the Scriptures. Teach me to yield myself up to thee as a living sacrifice, which is my reasonable service; so teach me that I shall-
“No more from thee depart
No more thy Spirit grieve.”
Then, next, our text means, “I am a patient, and thou, O Lord, art my Physician. I have told thee the symptoms of my case; now wilt thou teach me thy statutes that I may be healed? I know that thy Word has a healing power, for it is written, ’He sent his Word, and healed them.’ Now, Lord, heal the bleeding wounds of my conscience by Jesus Christ the Incarnate Word. Heal my darkened understanding by thy Spirit’s illumination of it through thy Word. Thou seest what my disease is; thy Word is the great Pharmacopoeia, which contains remedies for all spiritual maladies, and thou knowest which will best suit my case. Prescribe for me: ’Teach me thy statutes.’”
Then, in the case of a client consulting his advocate, the text means, “I have declared my ways to thee, my great Advocate; now ’teach me thy statutes,’ I pray thee, that I may be wise to meet my accusers in future. ’Teach me thy way, O Lord, and lead me in a plain path, because of mine enemies.’ ’Teach me thy statutes,’ that I may not give occasion to the enemy to accuse me. Make me wise, since I have to deal with the craft of the devil, and the malice of the world. Teach me when to be silent and when to speak. Give me my Master’s wisdom, who baffled all his adversaries though they constantly sought to catch him in his speech. Teach me how to live so blameless and guileless a life that I may be both wise as a serpent and harmless as a dove. I have told thee the difficulty of my ways, and how my adversaries seek to entrap me; “teach me thy statutes,’ that I may escape like a bird from the snare of the fowler.”
Then, as a friend speaking to his friend, this passage means, “’I have declared my ways,’ now ’teach me thy statutes,’ O Lord, that I may never lose thy friendship! O my great Friend, I have told thee how remiss, and how unthankful and unkind I have been to thee; but do not thou be angry with me! Undertake to mend me, I pray thee. Make thy poor friend better. Some of my sin springs from ignorance, so ’teach me thy statutes.’ Much of it springs from my corrupt heart; so, O Lord, sanctify it by the power of thy cleansing Word! O Jesus, I cannot bear the thought of losing thy friendship! Thou hast taught me the sweetness of it, so do not take it away from me, for if now I were to lose thee, I should be of all men most miserable. The unregenerate sinner knows not the sweetness of thy love; but, like the swine, he is contented with his husks; but I have eaten heaven’s bread, and if I am to lose it now, woe is me, for I shall be doubly undone.” A poor man, who has always been poor, knows not the smart of poverty like the emperor or the prince who comes down to be a beggar. It must have been a sad sight to see Belisarius, the valiant general, brought down so low as to beg in the streets of Rome; and, oh! if a believer could lose the friendship of his Lord, he would be doubly damned. There would be two hells for him who had peeped into heaven, and tasted angels’ food, and then had lost it, and been cast away forever. Blessed be the name of the Lord, that shall never be the case with any true believer; and that it may not be the case with thee, pray this prayer, “O Lord, ’teach me thy statutes.’ I am a poor ignorant fool; but O my blessed Friend, to whom I have confessed my ignorance, teach thou me! I shall be but a dull scholar, yet do not put me out of thy class. It will show what a wonderful Teacher thou art if thou wilt teach me. It will make even the angels marvel if thou canst make a good scholar out of such a dullard as I am; yet here I am, Lord, ’teach me thy statutes.’“
II. Now for a few minutes let us turn to the second way of considering our text; that is, The Man Or God In Public Stating His Testimony.
First, then, according to this way of understanding the text, we have here a man of God who has borne his testimony. He has spoken to man experimentally. He has not spoken about something he has read of, but he says, “’I have declared my ways,’-the ways which I myself have trodden. I have told them of my evil ways, and warned them against the evils that lurk in the paths of sin. I have told them of the wounds I received in the house of sin, and I have warned others against going there. I have told them also of the ways of penitence, for thou hast graciously led me in them. I have told them of that bitter sweet or sweet bitter, the pleasing pain of weeping over sin. I have told them of the ways of faith; -how I was led by the law, as schoolmaster, to Christ; -how I was shut up from every other confidence, and then came and trusted in the Lord. ’I have declared my ways,’ and I have also told my fellow-sinners what the Lord has done for me, and what ways I have been led in since I have believed in Jesus. I have told them of the ways of answered prayer which I have trodden, of the ways of gracious help which have been vouchsafed to me. I have told them of my Ebenezers; of the ways of God’s providence, and related how I have been succoured, again and again, in the hour of my distress. ’I have declared my ways,’ and said of them all, ’Surely goodness and mercy have followed me all the days of my life.’“
We are bound, dear friends, not only to preach Christ’s gospel, but also to preach our experience of it. You remember that remarkable expression of our Lord, in one of his last prayers to the Father, “Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through”-what? “through their word.” Then, is it their word? No, it is the Lord’s, yet it is also theirs, for they have made it theirs by personal appropriation and experience of it. The truth of God never seems to have such vividness about it as when a man tells it out of his own soul. You read it in this blessed Book, and you know it is true, for God has revealed it; but when you hear a godly man say, “I have tasted and handled this, and have proved its truth,” then, somehow, there is a still greater force in it which brings the truth home to you. That is what this servant of God could say, “I have’ declared my ways.”
And he had not declared them with any view to vain-glory, but only that he might glorify God. Neither had he spoken of himself except with the object of persuading others to walk in the ways of the Lord in which he had himself been so graciously led. We must always be cautious as to how we speak of ourselves; we shall do well if we can say with the apostle Paul, “We preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake.” If we ever do speak about ourselves, it must be only as a foil or setting to that priceless jewel of the lovingkindness of the Lord. “I have declared my ways.”
The next sentence, “Thou heardest me,” teaches us that God had heard this man. What solemn work it is to preach if we have God for a hearer! You know how Richard Baxter felt about this matter,-
“I preached as never sure to preach again,
And as a dying man to dying men.”
We should so preach as though we knew that every word was being written down by the recording angel, and that God himself was listening to all that we said. This would make it a very solemn thing to open our mouth for the Lord, and to bear testimony for him; yet what a cheering thing it is that the Lord hears our testimony, and can confirm its truthfulness! For, as surely as any of you ever speak for the Lord, you will be misunderstood; and that is not the worst of it, you will also be willfully misrepresented by some of your hearers. The very thing you did say, they will declare that you ought to have said; and the thing that you did not say, they will pretend that you did say. They will turn your words upside down and inside out; I am judging by my own experience, for I have long proved that it is utterly impossible for me to utter a single sentence which someone or other cannot twist into mischief. This is a grievous evil under the sun,-that he that speaks is not judged according to his own words, but according to whatever men choose to put into those words, and to make them mean; so that the thing that was farthest from our thoughts, and which our soul abhorred, has often been set down to us, when we neither said nor thought anything of the kind. Now, if any of you are called to pass through that trouble,-and I daresay you will if you try earnestly to serve your Master,-fall back upon this declaration, “’I have declared my ways,’ honestly, simply, plainly, with a pure desire to glorify God and bless my fellow-men, ’and thou heardest me.’ I appeal to thee, O Lord, for thou knowest what was spoken! Thou art the supreme Judge, and to thee I bring my case.” When, with weeping eyes, and with broken words, my dear sister, you talk to some poor soul about the Savior, let it be a comfort to you that the Lord hearkens and hears, and that a Book of remembrance is kept before him in which are recorded all such holy acts as you are doing for him. My dear brother, perhaps you have not any special gift or talent, but yet you do try to talk about Jesus whenever you can, and somebody has heard what you said. It was very ungrammatical, and some people made a joke of it; and that grieves you very much, for you know that you were speaking in the sincerity of your heart. Now, do not you say one word the less because they jest about you; rather say the more, because you have the double advantage of affording some people a little amusement, and, at the same time, of doing good to others. Do not fret, or trouble, but just go straight on with your work for the Lord; and if you really did make a mistake, and used the wrong word, you can say, “Ah, but the Lord knew what I meant! Thou didst know, O Lord, with what simplicity of soul and earnestness of heart I spoke that word; and if it was not the right word, and if some even see occasion for mirth in it, yet thou heardest me.”
The last word of all is this,-and it fits in well with this view of the text,-this man needed more teaching, so he prayed, “Lord, ’teach me thy statutes.’ Now that I have become a teacher of others, teach thou me.” No man can teach if he’ is unwilling to be taught. Any gentleman who has “finished his education” will never be an educator of others. We must ourselves be continually making progress if we would lead others onward. I am sure that every brother here, who is engaged in the Lord’s work, will find that he needs to get fresh food for his own mind every day. He must eat a double portion, because he has to feed others as well as to be himself fed. He has not only to fill his basket with bread for the eater, but also with seed for the sower, so he needs a double-nay, a sevenfold portion,-that he may have enough for others as well as for himself.
A Bottle in the Smoke
Delivered on Sabbath Morning, March 23, 1856, by the
REV. C. H. Spurgeon
At New Park Street Chapel, Southwark.
"For I am become like a bottle in the smoke; yet do I not forget they statutes." Psalms 119:83 .
The figure of "a bottle in the smoke" is essentially oriental; we must therefore go to the East for its explanation. This we will supply to our hearers and readers in the words of the Author of the Pictorial Bible: "This doubtless refers to a leathern bottle, of kid or goat-skin. The peasantry of Asia keep many articles, both dry and liquid, in such bottles, which, for security, are suspended from the roof, or hung against the walls of their humble dwellings. Here they soon become quite black with smoke; for as, in the dwellings of the peasantry, there are seldom any chimneys, and the smoke can only escape through an aperture in the roof, or by the door, the apartment is full of dense smoke whenever a fire is kindled in it. And in those nights and days, when the smokiness of the hovels in which we daily rested during a winter's journey in Persia, Armenia, and Turkey, seemed to make the cold and weariness of actual travel a relief, we had ample occasion to observe the peculiar blackness of such skin vessels, arising from the manner in which substances offering a surface of this sort, receive the full influence of the smoke, and detain the minute particles of soot which rest upon them. When such vessels do not contain liquids, and are not quite filled by the solids which they hold, they contract a shrunk and shrivelled appearance, to which the Psalmist may also possibly allude as well as to the blackness. But we presume that the leading idea refers to the latter circumstance, as in the East blackness has an opposite signification to the felicitous meaning of whiteness. David had doubtless seen bottles of this description hanging up in his tent when a wanderer; and though he might have had but few in his palace, yet in the cottages of his own poor people he had, no doubt, witnessed them. Hence he says of himself, 'I am become,' by trouble and affliction, by trial and persecution, 'like a bottle in the smoke; yet do I not forget thy statutes.'"
First, God's people have their trials they get put in the smoke; secondly, God's people feel their trials they "become like a bottle in the smoke;" thirdly, God's people do not forget God's statutes in their trials "I am become like a bottle in the smoke; yet do I not forget thy statutes."
I. GOD'S PEOPLE HAVE THEIR TRIALS. This is an old truth, as old as the everlasting hills, because trials were in the covenant, and certainly the covenant is as old as the eternal mountains. It was never designed by God when he chose his people, that they should be an untried people; that they should be chosen to peace and safety, to perpetual happiness here below, and freedom from sickness and the pains of mortality. But rather, on the other hand, when he made the covenant, he made the rod of the covenant too; when he drew up the charter of privileges, he also drew up the charter of chastisements; when he gave us the roll of heirship, he put down the rods amongst the things to which we should inevitably be heirs. Trials are a part of our lot; they were predestinated for us in God's solemn decrees; and so surely as the stars are fashioned by his hands, he has fixed their orbits, so surely are our trials weighed in scales; he has predestinated their season and their place, their intensity and the effect they shall have upon us. Good men must never expect to escape troubles; if they do, they shall be disappointed; some of their predecessors have escaped them.
"The path of sorrow, and that path alone,
Leads to the land where sorrow is unknown."
Mark Job, of whose patience ye have heard; read ye well of Abraham, for he had his trials, and by his faith under them, when he offered up Isaac, he became "the father of the faithful." Note ye well the biographies of all the patriarchs, of all the prophets, of all the apostles and martyrs, and you shall discover none of those, whom God made vessels of mercy, who were not hung up like bottles in the smoke. It is ordained of old, that the cross of trouble, even as the sparks fly upwards; and when born again, it does seem as if we had a birth to double trouble; and double toil and trouble come to the man who hath double grace and double mercy bestowed upon him. Good men must have their trials; they must expect to be like bottles in the smoke.
Sometimes these trials arise from the poverty of their condition. It is the bottle in the cottage which gets into the smoke, not the bottle in the palace. The Queen's plate knows nothing of smoke; we have seen at Windsor how carefully it is preserved; it knoweth nothing of trial, no hands are allowed to touch that, so as to injure it, although even it may be stolen by accident when the guards are not careful over it. Still, it was not intended to be subject to smoke. So with God's poor people; they must expect to have smoke in their dwellings. We should suppose that smoke does not enter into the house of the rich, although even then our supposition would be false; but certainly we must suppose there is more smoke where the chimney is ill built, and the home is altogether of bad construction. It is the poverty of the Arab that puts his bottle in the smoke; so the poverty of Christians exposes them to much trouble, and inasmuch as God's people are for the most part poor, for that reason must they always be for the most part in affliction. We shall not find many of God's people in the higher ranks; not many of them shall ever be illustrious in this world. Until happier times come, when kings shall be their nursing fathers, and queens their nursing mothers, it must still be true that "God hath chosen the poor in this world, rich in faith, that they should be heirs of the kingdom." Poverty hath its privileges, for Christ hath lived in it; but it hath its ills, it hath its smoke, it hath it trials. Ye know not sometimes how ye shall be provided for; ye are often pinched for food and raiment, ye are vexed with anxious cares, ye wonder whence tomorrow's food shall come, and where ye shall obtain your daily supplies. It is because of your poverty that ye are hung up like a bottle in the smoke.
Many of God's people, however, are not poor; and even if they are, poverty does not occasion so much trouble to them as some suppose; for God, in the midst of poverty, makes his children very glad, and so cheers their hearts in the cottage that they scarce know whether it e a palace or a hovel; yea, he doth send such sweet music across the waters of their woe, that they know not whether they be on dry land or not.
But there are other trials: and this brings us to remark, that our trials frequently result from our comforts. What makes the smoke? Why, it is the fire, by which the Arab warms his hands, that smokes his bottle, and smokes him too. So, beloved, our comforts usually furnish us with troubles. It is the law of nature, that there should never be a good, without having an ill connected with it. What if the stream fertilize the land? It can sometimes drown the inhabitants. What if the fire cheer us? doth it not frequently consume our dwellings? What if the sun enlighten us? does he not sometimes scorch and smite us with his heat? What if the rain bring forth our food, and cause the flowers to blossom on the face of the earth? does it not also break the young blossom from the trees, and cause many diseases? There is nothing good without its ill, there is no fire without its smoke. The fire of our comfort will always have the smoke of trial with it. You will find it so, if you instance the comforts you have in your own family. You have relations; mark you, every relationship engenders its trial, and every fresh relationship upon which you enter opens to you, at one time certainly, a new source of joys, but infallibly also a new source of sorrows. Are you parents? your children are your joy; but those children cause you some smoke, because you fear, lest they should not be brought up in "the nurture and admonition of the Lord;" and it may be, when they come to riper years, that they will grieve your spirits, God grant they may not break your hearts by their sins! You have wealth. Well, that has its joys with it; but still, hath it not its trials and its troubles? Hath not the rich man more to care for than the poor? He who hath nothing sleepeth soundly, for the thief will not molest him; but he who hath abundance often trembles lest the rough wind should blown down that which he hath builded lest the rude storm should wreck that argosy laden with his gold lest an overwhelming and sudden turn in the tide of commerce should sweep away his speculations and destroy his hopes. Just as the birds that visit us fly away from us, so do our joys bring sorrow with them. In fact, joy and sorrow are twins; the blood which runs in the veins of sorrow, runs in the veins of joy too. For what is the blood of sorrow, is it not the tear? and what is the blood of joy? When we are full of joy do we not weep? Ah! that we do. The same drop which expresses joy is sorrow's own emblem; we weep for joy, and we weep for sorrow. Our fires gives smoke, to tell us that our comforts have their trials with them. Christian men! you have extraordinary fires, which others have never kindled; expect then to have extraordinary smoke. You have the presence of Christ; but then you will have the smoke of fear, lest you should lose it. You have the promise of God's Word there is the fire of it: but you have the smoke sometimes, when you read it without the illumination of God's Spirit. You have the joy of assurance; but you have also the smoke of doubt, which blows into your eyes, and well nigh blinds you. You have your trials, and your trials arise from your comforts. The more comfort you have, the more fire you have, the more sorrows shall you have, and the more smoke.
Again, the ministry is the great fire by which Christian men warm their hands: but the ministry hath much smoke with it. How often have you come to this house of God and had your spirits lifted up! But perhaps as often ye have come here to be cast down. Your harp strings at times have been all loose; you could not play a tune of joy upon them, you have come here, and Christ tuned your harp, so that it could awake "like David's harp of solemn sound." But at other times you have come here, and had all the rejoicings removed from you, by some solemn searching sermon. Last Sabbath day, how many of you there were like bottles in the smoke! This pulpit, which is intended at times to give you fire, is also intended to have smoke with it. It would not be God's pulpit if no smoke issued from it. When God made Sinai his pulpit, Sinai was altogether on a smoke. You have often been like bottles in the smoke, the smoke caused by the fire of God's own kindling, the fire of the gospel ministry.
I think, however, that David had one more thought. The poor bottle in the smoke keeps there for a long time, till it gets black; it is not just one puff of smoke that comes upon it; the smoke is always going up, always girding the poor bottle; it lives in an atmosphere of smoke. So, beloved, some of us hang up like bottles in the smoke, for months, or for a whole year. No sooner do you get out of one trouble, than you tumble into another; no sooner do you get up one hill, than you have to mount another; it seems to be all up hill to heaven with you. You feel that John Bunyan is right in his ditty "A Christian man is seldom long at ease; when one trouble's gone, another doth him seize." You are always in the smoke. You are linked perhaps with an ungodly partner; or perhaps you are of a singular temperament, and your temperament naturally puts clouds and darkness round about you, so that you are always in the smoke. Well, beloved, that was the condition of David; he was not just sometimes in trial, but it seemed as if trials came to him every day. Each day had its cares; each hour carried on its wings some fresh tribulation; while, instead of bringing joy, each moment did but toll the knell of happiness, and bring another grief. Well, if this is your case, fear not, you are not alone in your trials; but you see the truth of what is uttered here: you are become like bottles in the smoke.
II. This brings us to the second point: CHRISTIAN MEN FEEL THEIR TROUBLES. They are in the smoke; and they are like bottles in the smoke. There are some things that you might hang up in the smoke for many a day, and they would never be much changed, because they are so black now, that they could never be made any blacker, and so shrivelled now, that they never could become any worse. But the poor skin bottle shrivels up in the heat, gets blacker, and shows at once the effect of the smoke; it is not an unfeeling thing, like a stone, but it is at once affected. Now, some men think, that grace makes a man unable to feel suffering; I have heard people insinuate that the martyrs did not endure much pain when they were being burned to death; but this is a mistake, Christian men are not like stones; they are like bottles in the smoke. In fact, if there be an difference, a Christian man feels his trials more than another, because he traces them to God, and that makes them more acute, as coming from the God whom he loves. But at the same time, I grant you, it makes them more easy to bear, because he believes they will work the comfortable fruits of righteousness. A dog will bite the stone that is thrown at it, but a man would resent the injury on the man that threw the stone. Stupid, foolish, carnal unbelief quarrels with the trial; but faith goes into the Court of King's Bench at once, and asks its God "wherefore dost thou content with me." But even faith itself does not avert the pain of chastisement, it enables us to endure, but does not remove the trial. The Christian is not wrong in giving way to his feelings; did not his Master shed tears when Lazarus was dead? and did he not, when on the cross, utter the exceeding bitter cry, "My God! my God! why hast thou forsaken me?" Our Heavenly Father never intended to take away our griefs when under trial; he does not put us beyond the reach of the flood, but builds us an ark, in which we float, until the water be ultimately assuaged, and we rest on the Ararat of heaven for ever, God takes not his people to an Elysium where they become impervious to painful feelings: but he gives us grace to endure our trials, and to sing his praises while we suffer. "I am become like a bottle in the smoke:" I feel what God lays upon me.
The trial that we do not feel is no trial at all. I remember a remarkable case of assault and battery that was tried sometime ago. I knew a friend who happened to be in court. It was a most singular affair; for when the prosecutor was requested to state in what the assault consisted; he said, in curious English, "Ah! sir, he struck me a most tremendous blow." "Well, but where did he strike you?" "Well, sir, he did not hit me; it only just grazed me." Of course the judge said there was no assault and battery, because there was no real blow struck. So we sometimes meet with persons, who say, "I could bear that trial if it did not touch my feelings." Of course you could, for then it would be no trial at all. Suppose a man were to see his house and property burned, would you call it a trial, if he could do as Sheridan did, when his theatre was burned? He went to a house opposite, and sat down drinking, and jokingly said, "Surely, every man has a right to sit and warm his hands by his own fireside." It is feeling that makes it a trial; the essence of the trial lies in my feeling it. And God intended his trials to be felt. His rods are not made of wheat straw, they are made of true birch; and his blows fall just where we feel them. He does not strike us on the iron plates of our armour; but he smites us where we are sure to be affected.
And yet more: trials which are not felt are unprofitable trials. If there be no blueness in the wound, then the soul is not made better; if there be no crying out, then there will be no emptying out of our depravity. It is just so much as we feel, that we are profited; but a trial unfelt must be a trial unsanctified, a trial under which we do not feel at all, cannot be a blessing to us, because we are only blessed by feeling it, under the agency of God's Holy Spirit. Christian man! do not blush, because you are like a bottle in the smoke: because you are sensitive under affliction, for so you ought to be. Do not let others say, you ought not feel it so much, because your husband is dead, or your child is dead, or you have lost your property. Just tell them that you ought; for God sent the trouble, that you might feel it (not excessively, and murmur against God,) but that you might feel the rod, and then kiss it. That is patience: not when we do not feel, but when we feel it, and say, "Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him." "I am like a bottle in the smoke." Now, a bottle, when it is in the smoke, gets very black: so does the Christian, when he is in the smoke of trial, or in the smoke of the gospel ministry, or the smoke of persecution, get very black to his own esteem. It is marvellous how bright we are when everything goes right with us; but it is equally marvellous how black we get when a little tribulation comes upon us. We think very well of ourselves while there is no smoke; but let the smoke come, and it just reveals the blackness of our hearts. Trials teach us what we are; they dig up the soil, and let us see what we are made of; they just turn up some of the ill weeds on the surface; they are good, for this reason, they make us know our blackness.
A bottle, too, that hangs up in the smoke, will become very useless. So do we, often, when we are under a trying ministry, or a trying providence, feel that we are so very useless, good for nothing, like a bottle that has been hung up in the smoke, that nobody will ever drink out of any more, because it will smoke everything that is put in it, we feel that we are no use to anybody that we are poor unprofitable creatures. In our joys we are honorable creatures; we scarcely think the Creator could do without us; but when we are in trouble, we feel, "I am a worm, and no man" good for nothing; let me die; I have become useless, as well as black, "like a bottle in the smoke."
And then a bottle in the smoke is an empty bottle. It would not have been hung up in the smoke unless it had been empty. And very often under trials how empty we become; we are full enough in our joys; but the smoke and heat soon dry every atom of moisture out of us; all our hope is gone, all our strength is departed, we then feel that we are empty sinners, and want a full Christ to save us. We are like bottles in the smoke.
Have I described any of your characters? I dare say some of you are like bottles in the smoke. You do feel your trials; you have a soft, tender heart, and the arrows of the Almighty sink fast in it. You are like a piece of sea-weed, affected by every change of the weather; not like a piece of rock, that might be hung up and would never change, but you are capable of being affected, and it is quite right you should be: you are "become like a bottle in the smoke."
III. And now, beloved, the third and blessed thought is, that CHRISTIANS, THOUGH THEY HAVE TROUBLES, AND FEEL THEIR TROUBLES, DO NOT IN THEIR TROUBLES FORGET GOD'S STATUTES.
What are God's statutes? God has two kinds of statutes, both of them engraved in eternal brass. The first are the statutes of his commands; and of these he has said, "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but not one jot or tittle of the law shall fail till all be fulfilled." These statutes are like the statutes of the Medes and Persians; they are binding upon all his people. His precepts are a light and easy yoke; but they are one which no man must cast from his shoulders; all must carry the commands of Christ, and all who hope to be saved by him must take up his cross daily and follow him. Well, the Psalmist said, "In the midst of my trials I have not swerved from thy statutes; I have not attempted to violate thy commands; I have not in any way moved from the strict path of integrity; and in the midst of all my persecutions, I have gone straight on, never once forgetting God's statutes or commands." And then again: there are statutes of promise, which are equally firm, each of them as immortal as God who uttered them. David did not forget these; for he said of them, "Thy statutes have been my song, in the house of my pilgrimage;" and he could not have sung about them if he had forgotten them.
Why was it David still held fast by God's statutes? First of all, David was not a bottle in the fire, or else he would have forgotten them. Our trials are smoke, but not fire; they are very uncomfortable, but they do not consume us. In other parts of Scripture, the figure of fire may be applied to our trials, but here it would not be appropriate, because the bottle would be burned up directly, if it were in the fire. But the Christian may say, "True, it is all smoke round about me, but there is nothing which tends to burn up my piety; smoke may dim my evidence, but it cannot burn it; it may, and certainly will, be obnoxious to my eyes and nose, and all my senses, but it cannot burn my limbs; it may stop my breath, and prevent my drinking in the pure air of heaven, but it cannot consume my lungs and burn the vital parts of my body. Ah! it is well for thee, O Christian, that there is more smoke than fire in thy trials. And there is no cause why you should forget your God in your troubles; they may have a tendency to drive you from him, but like great waves, they often wash the drift wood of the poor lost barks upon the beach of God's love; and the mast, that might have floated out to sea, and been carried no one knows where, if often stranded on the shore, and there once more is made to do fresh service. So art thou, Christian, washed on shore by the waves of thy trouble, and never art thou washed away by them. "I have not forgotten thy statutes."
Another reason why, when David was in the smoke, he did not forget God's statutes was this, that Jesus Christ was in the smoke with him, and the statutes were in the smoke with him too. God's statutes have been in the fire, as well as God's people. Both the promise and the precept are in the furnace; and if I hang up in the smoke, like a bottle, I see hanging up by my side, God's commands, covered with soot, and smoke, subject to the same perils. Suppose I am persecuted: It is a comfort to know that men do not persecute me, but my Master's truth. It is a singular thing, with regard to all the envenomed shafts that have been hurled at me, that they have generally fallen on that part of my frame which is most invulnerable, because they have generally fallen on something I have quoted from somebody else, or proved from Scripture. They may go on; it is sweet to think that Jesus Christ is in the smoke as well as we are; and the more flame there is, the better we shall be able to see our Master in the smoke with us.
"By God's command where'er I stray,
Sorrow attends me all the way,
A never failing friend;
And, if my sufferings may augment
Thy praise, behold me well content
Let sorrow still attend!
It costs me no regret, that she
Who follow'd Christ should follow me;
And though where'er she goes,
Thorns spring spontaneous at her feet,
I love her and extract a sweet
From all my bitter woes."
Another reason why David did not forget the statutes was, they were in the soul, where the smoke does not enter. Smoke does not enter the interior of the bottle; it only affects the exterior. So it is with God's children: the smoke does not enter into their hearts; Christ is there, and grace is there, and Christ and grace are both unaffected by the smoke. Come up, clouds of smoke! curl upward, till ye envelop me! Still will I hang on the Nail, Christ Jesus the sure Nail, which never can be moved from its place and I will feel, that "while the outward man decayeth, the inward man is renewed day by day;" and the statutes being there, I do not forget them. "For I am become like a bottle in the smoke; yet I do not forget thy statutes." To such of you as can join with David, let me give a word of consolation. If you have been persecuted, and still hold fast by God's word if ye have been afflicted, and still persevere in the knowledge of our Lord and Master, you have every reason to believe yourself a Christian. If under your trials and troubles you remain just what you were when at ease, you may then hope, and not only so, but steadfastly believe and be assured that you are a child of God. Some of you, however, are very much like Christians, when you hear sermons full of promises; when I preach to you about bruised reeds, or address you with the invitation, "Come unto me, all ye that labour;" but when I give you a smoky sermon one which you cannot endure if you then can say, guilty, weak, and helpless I may be, but still I fall into his arms; sinful I know I am, and I have grace cause for doubt, but still
"There, there, unshaken will I rest,
Till this vile body dies;"
I know, poor, weak, and helpless though I am, that I have a rich Almighty Friend; if you can stand a little smoke, then you may believe yourself to be a child of God. But there are some fantastic people we know of, who are shocked with a very puff of smoke, they cannot endure it, they go out at once, just like rats out of the hold of a ship when they begin to smoke it; but if you can live in the smoke and say, "I feel it, and still can endure it," if you can stand a smoky sermon, and endure a smoky trial, and hold fast to God under a smoky persecution, then you have reason to believe, that you are certainly a child of God. Fair-weather birds! you are good for nothing; it is the stormy petrels that are God's favorites. He loves the birds that can swim in the tempest; he loves those who can move in the storm, and like the eagle, companion of the lightening flash, can make the wind their chariot, and ride upon forked flames of fire. If in the heat of battle, when your helmet is bruised by some powerful enemy, you can still hold up your head, and say, "I know whom I have believed," and do not swerve from your post, then you are verily a child of heaven; for constancy, endurance, and perseverance, are the true marks of a hero of the cross, and of the invincible warriors of the Lord. Those are no invincible ships that flee away before a storm; he is no brave warrior who hears reports from others that a fort is impregnable, and dares not attack it; but he is brave, who dashes his ship beneath the guns, or runs her well nigh aground, and gives broadside after broadside with a desperate valour against his foe; he who in the smoke and the tempest, in the clamour and roar of the battle, can yet cooly give his commands, and knowing that every man is expected to do his duty, can fight valiantly, he is a brave commander, he is a true soldier, he shall receive from his master a crown of glory. O Christian! cleave to thy Master in the smoke, hold on to thy Lord in the trials, and thou shalt be refined by thine afflictions; yea, thou shalt exceedingly increase, and be profited beyond measure.
However, I have some here who can consume their own smoke. There are some of my congregation who, when they have any trials, can manage to get over them very well themselves. They say, "Well, I don't care, you seem to be a sad set of simpletons, you feel everything; but as for me, it all rolls off, and I don't care for anything." NO, I dare say you don't but the time will come when you will find the truth of that little story you used to read when you were children, that don't care came to a very bad end. These persons are not like bottles in the smoke, but like pieces of wood hanging over it; but they will find there is something more than smoke by-and-bye; they will come to a place, where there is not only smoke, but fire; and though they can endure the smoke of this world's troubles, they will find it not so easy as they imagine to endure the unutterable burnings and the everlasting flames of that pit whose fire knows no extinction, and whose worm shall know no death. Oh! hardened sinner, thou hast sorrows now, which are like the skirmishers before an army, a few light-armed troops to lead the way for the whole hosts of God's avengers, who shall trample thee beneath their feet. One or two drops of woe have fallen on the pavement of thy life; thou laughest at them; ah! but they are the heralds of a shower of fire and brimstone, which God shall rain out of heaven upon thy soul throughout eternity. And yet you may be pitying us poor Christians, because of our troubles and sufferings. Pity us, do you? Ah! but our light afflictions is but for a moment, and it worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. Take your pity back, and reserve it for yourselves; for your light joy, which is but for a moment, worketh out for you a far more exceeding and eternal weight of torment, and your little bliss will be the mother of an everlasting, unutterable torture, which we shall happily escape. Your sun will soon set, and at its setting your night shall come; and when your night cometh, it will be night for ever, without hope of light again. Ere thy sun setteth, my hearer, may God give thee grace. Dost thou inquire what thou shouldst do to be saved? Again comes the old answer: "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and be baptized, and thou shalt be saved." If thou art no sinner, I have no salvation for thee; if thou art a Pharisee, and knowest not thy sins, I have no Christ to preach to thee; I have no heaven to offer to thee, as some have; but if thou art a sinner, a bona-fide sinner, if thou art a real sinner, not a sham one, I have this to tell thee: "Jesus Christ came to save sinners, even the chief;" and if thou wilt believe on him, thou shalt go out of this house of prayer, shriven, absolved, without a sin; forgiven, pardoned, washed, without a stain, accepted in the Beloved. As long as thou livest, that pardon shall avail thee; and when thou diest, thou wilt have nought to do, but to show it at the gates of paradise, to gain admittance. And then, in a nobler and sweeter song, that pardon shall form the basis of thy praise, while heaven's choirs shall sing, or while the praise of the Eternal shall be the chaunt of the universe. God bless thee! Amen.
The Lover of God's Law is Filled with Peace
January 22, 1888 by C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892)
“Great peace have they which love Your Law: and nothing shall offend them.” Psalms 119:165 .
This forms part of a devotional passage. It is not merely a statement that great peace comes to those who love the Law of God, but it is uttered as part of a hymn of praise unto the Lord. We cannot praise God better than by stating facts concerning Him and His Word. If you desire to praise God, you must speak of Him as He is. If you would pour out an acceptable libation before Him, you must fill the vessel from Himself, as the wellhead of all excellence. Our Te Deums are simply declarations of what God is there can be no higher praise. His praises can only be the reflection of His own light. All glory is already in Him, none can be added to Him. And so, when we are adoring Him for His Law and blessing Him for giving us His Word, we cannot do better than observe how that Law operates upon the heart and praise Him because it so works. We have no need to heap up flattering titles as men do with their kings. We have no need to invent exaggerated expressions. We have but to speak the simple Truth concerning our God and we have praised Him. By the word, “Law,” here is intended, not only the Law of the Ten Commandments but the whole of Divine Revelation, as it was in David’s time and as it is now. Whatever God has revealed is loved by saintly men. This sacred Book, which we commonly call the Bible, contains the mind of God so far as He has seen fit to reveal it to men. It is the Law of holiness as the guide of our actions and the Law of faith by which we receive of His Divine Grace. Here we have the Law of the kingdom of Heaven, the Law of life in Christ Jesus. As a Law of works, this holy Book convicts us of sin. As a Law of love it leads us to Jesus, to find forgiveness through His blood. In David’s day the Law was a smaller Book than ours but he found great peace in the reading of it it was even then competent for the highest spiritual ends. We have that Book at greater length but it is one and the same. The same Gospel is in Genesis as in Matthew. The Old Testament was perfect in itself as the Law of the Lord and the New Testament is but an expansion of the same Truth which the Old contains. We rejoice to find that our larger edition of the Word of God contains nothing which lessens that great peace which the earlier Scriptures were able to produce. As the light is clearer, the joy is brighter and the reasons for great peace are more clearly seen. God’s Law comprises all His precepts and in keeping these we have peace of conscience. It contains all His promises and these are our great peace in the hour of need. And it comprehends all those great doctrines which surround the Cross of Christ and the Covenant of Grace and each one of these is a fountain of peace to our hearts. We take this Book as a whole and in this way we have peace. We dare not rend it, we would not leave out any part of it lest we miss the blessed effect which, as a whole, it is calculated to produce. Sitting as learners at the feet of Jesus our Master, submitting our hearts and minds to the infallible teaching of the Holy Spirit who leads us into all Truth, we find that the peace of God, which passes all understanding, keeps our hearts and minds by Christ Jesus. Three things in the text are worthy of earnest attention. May the Spirit of God bless all we say! First, here is a spiritual character “they which love Your Law.” Secondly, here is a special possession “great peace have they.” And thirdly, here is a singular preservation “nothing shall offend them” or nothing shall be a stumbling block to them. Oh, that we may know our text experimentally! I. First, here is A SPIRITUAL CHARACTER “they which love Your Law.” Love lies deep it is in the heart it is not a thing of the surface, it is of the man’s own self. As a man loves so is he. To love God’s Law is to have the very nature and essence of our manhood in a right condition. To love the Word is something more than to read it, even though we should study it day and night. It is more even than to understand it. For the cold light of the intellect is of little worth compared with the warm sunlight of love. Many, no doubt, perceive the Truths which are taught in God’s Word and so become orthodox in their professed creed. But without love their faith is dead. You cannot learn the Law of God as you learn the laws of nature. Your heart must be affected by it and you must obey it in your life or you do not truly know it. Only he who does the will of God can know of the doctrine. Mere knowledge brings no peace to the man. The Truth must go from the head to the heart before its power is known. Some even try to keep the Law of the Lord so far as to make the outward life conformable to morality and religion. But this falls far short of the love of the heart. To stand in slavish fear and dread of God is better than to be utterly indifferent but it is a poor thing compared with love. Slaves obey their masters because of the lash and so do many outwardly follow the Word because of the spirit of bondage which will not permit them to rebel. But there is something lacking nothing in religion is sound till the heart goes with it. God says, “My son, give Me your heart,” and He cannot be satisfied with anything short of it. Search, then, my Hearers and see if you really love the Law of the Lord. He who loves the Word would not wish to have it altered, enlarged, or diminished it reveals enough for him and no more. For he is content with what God chooses to teach him. If he finds any want of conformity in his own thoughts to God’s thoughts, he throws his own thoughts away and sets up the Divine thoughts in their place. As he is reconciled to God in Christ Jesus, so is his mind reconciled to the teaching against which he at first rebelled. He loves the Law of the Lord just as he finds it. And instead of judging it and daring to set himself up as a dictator of what it ought to be, he is humble and docile and cries, “Speak, Lord, for Your servant hears.” He loves every Truth which the Lord declares yes, and the very style and method of the declaration. Every word of God’s Book has in it music for his ears, beauty for his eyes, honey for his mouth and food for his soul. The teachings of God’s Word are to the instructed Believer not only articles of faith but matters of life. Our faith has imbibed them and our experience has assimilated them. We could part with everything except what we have learned out of the Sacred Book by the teaching of the Holy Spirit. For that flows through our souls like the blood through our body and it is intermixed with every vital part of our being. Like wool which has been made to lie long in scarlet we are dyed ingrain. As certain insects take their color from the leaves they feed upon, so have we become tinctured to the core of our nature with the living and incorruptible Word. It has proved its own inspiration by inspiring us with its Spirit. Now we live in the Word as the fish in the stream. It is the element of our spiritual life. This may suffice to set before you the sort of people who obtain great peace from the Law of the Lord, because, in the truest sense, they love it. This inward and spiritual love to God’s Word includes many other good things. Permit me to use the connection in order to help myself as to order and to help you as to memory. Read the first verse of this octave the 161st verse “Princes have persecuted me without a cause: but my heart stands in awe of Your Word.” The love of God’s Law includes a deep reverence for it. That man is blessed who trembles at God’s Word. This Book is not to be compared with other books. It is not of the same class and order. It is inspired in a sense in which they are not. It stands alone and is not one among other books. As towers an Alp above the molehills of the meadow, so Holy Scripture rises above the purest, truest and holiest literature of man’s composing. Even if all those other books are purged of error and are corrected to the highest degree of human knowledge, yet would they no more reach to the degree of the Book of God than man can become God. It is supreme and of another quality from all the rest of them. Other writings we feel free to criticize but, “My heart stands in awe of Your Word.” The man who loves God’s Word does not trifle with it. It is far too sacred to be toyed with. He does not mock it. For he believes it to be God’s Word. With a docility which comes of true sonship, it is enough for him that his Father says so. His one anxiety is, as far as possible, to know the meaning of his Father’s Words and, that known, all debate is out of the question. “Thus says the Lord,” is to every true child of God the end of the matter. I have often told you, my dear Friends, that I view the difficulties of Holy Scriptures as so many prayer-stools upon which I kneel and worship the glorious Lord. What we cannot comprehend by our understanding, we apprehend by our affections. Awe of God’s Word is a main element in that love of God’s Law which brings great peace. This advances to rejoicing in it. Read verse 162 “I rejoice at Your Word, as one that finds great spoil.” As a conqueror in the glad hour of victory shouts over the dividing of the prey, so do Believers rejoice in God’s Word. I can recollect as a youth the great joy I had when the doctrines of Divine Grace were gradually opened up to me by the Spirit of Truth. I did not at first perceive the whole chain of precious Truth. I knew that Jesus had suffered in my place and that by believing in Him I had found peace. But the deep things of the Covenant of Grace came to me one by one, even as at night you first see one star and then another and by-and-by the whole heavens are studded with them. When it first became clear to me that salvation was all of grace, what a revelation it was! I saw that God had made me to differ from others I ascribed my salvation wholly to His free favor. I perceived that, at the back of the grace which I had received, there must have been a purpose to give that grace and then the glorious fact of an election of grace flowed in upon my soul in a torrent of delight. I saw that the love of God to His own was without beginning a boundless, fathomless, infinite, endless love which carries every chosen vessel of mercy from grace to glory. What a God is the God of Sovereign Grace! How did my soul rejoice as I saw the God of love in His sovereignty, immutability, faithfulness and omnipotence! “Among the gods there is none like unto You.” So will any young convert here rejoice if he so loves the Law of the Lord as to continue studying it and receiving the illumination of the Holy Spirit concerning it. As the child of God sees into the deep things of God he will be ready to clap his hands for joy. It is a delightful sensation to feel that you are growing. Trees, I suppose, do not know when they grow, but men and women do when the growth is spiritual. We seem to pass into a new Heaven and a new earth as we discover God’s Truth. A new guest has come to live within our mind and He has brought with Him banquets such as we never tasted before. Oh how happy is that man to whose loving mind Holy Scripture is opening up its priceless treasures! We know that we love God’s Word when we can rejoice in it. We wish that we could gather up every crumb of Scripture and find food in its smallest fragments. Even its bitter rebukes are sweet to us. I would kiss the very feet of Scripture and wash them with my tears! Alas, that I should sin against it by a thought, much more by a word! If it is but God’s Word, though some may call it nonessential, we dare not think it so. The little things of God are more precious than the great things of man. The Truth of God is no trifle to one who has fought his way to it and learned it in the school of affliction. “O my Soul, you have trod down strength!” And that which you have gained in the battle is your joyful spoil. Further than this, we receive Holy Scripture with emotion. David says, “I hate and abhor lying: but Your Law do I love.” He regards all that is opposed to the Law of the Lord as hateful lying. Those are hard words, David! Surely you are sinning against the charity of our cultured age! Yes, but when a man feels strongly, he cannot help speaking strongly. “I hate,” says he and that is not enough. He says, “I hate and abhor lying.” His whole being revolts at it. He means not only that lying with which in common life men would deceive their fellows that is hateful enough. But he refers especially to that kind of teaching which gives the lie to the Law of the Lord. For he adds, “But your Law do I love.” A good man’s hate of falsehood is as intense as his love of the Truth of God. It must necessarily be so. He who worships the true God detests and loathes idols. In these days there are many men to whom the Truths of Scripture are like a pack of cards to be shuffled as occasion suits. To them peace and quietness are jewels and the Truth of God is as the mire of the streets. It does not matter to them what this man preaches and what that man writes. Hold your tongue it will be all the same a hundred years from now and really, nobody can be quite sure of anything! To the man that is loyal to his Lord and faithful to his convictions, it can never be so. He hates the teaching which belies his God. He that has never felt his blood boil against an error which robs God of His glory does not love the Law, nor will he know that great peace which comes by having the Law enshrined in the heart. One other virtue is included in the love of the Word. According to the context, great gratitude to God for His Word is formed in the believing heart. “Seven times a day do I praise You because of Your righteous judgments.” God’s judgments written in His Word are matters of praise
“This is the judge that ends the strife Where wit and reason fail.”
God’s judgments actively going on in the world which tally with those predicted in His Word are also matters for adoring praise. The God of the Word is the God of the deed. What He says He does and every day and all the day we praise Him for it. Beloved, God may do what He wills and we will praise Him. He may say what He wills and we will praise Him. We read in His Word stern things, words of wrath and deeds of vengeance. Shall we try to soften them, or invent apologies for them? By no means. Jehovah our God is a consuming fire. We love Him, not as He is improved upon by “modern thought,” but as He reveals Himself in Scripture. The God of Abraham, of Isaac and of Jacob “this God is our God forever and ever He will be our Guide, even unto death.” Even when He is robed in the terror of His judgments, we sing praises unto His name. Even as they did at the Red Sea, when they saw Pharaoh and his host swallowed up in the mighty waters “Sing unto the Lord, for He has triumphed gloriously: the horse and his rider has He thrown into the sea.” Our hallelujahs are “to Him that slew mighty kings; for His mercy endures forever.” It is not mine to improve upon the character of Jehovah but to reverence and adore Him as He manifests Himself, either in judgment or in Divine Grace. I, who am less than nothing, and vanity, dare not scan His work, nor bring Him to my bar, lest I hear a voice saying, “No, but O man, who are you that replies against God?” What am I that I should be the ultimate judge of truth, or of justice, or of wisdom? Whatever God may be, or speak, or do that is right it is not mine to arraign my Maker but to adore Him. Extenuations, explanations and apologies may be produced from the best of motives. But too often they suggest to opposers that it is admitted that God’s most Holy Word contains something in it which is doubtful, or weak, or antiquated. It looks as though it needed to be defended by human wisdom. Brethren, the Word of the Lord can stand alone, without the propping which many are giving it. These props come down and then our adversaries think that the Book is down, too. The Word of God can take care of itself and will do so if we preach it and cease defending it. See that lion? They have caged him for his preservation shut him up behind iron bars to secure him from his foes! See how a band of armed men have gathered together to protect the lion. What a clatter they make with their swords and spears! These mighty men are intent upon defending a lion. O fools and slow of heart! Open that door! Let the lord of the forest come forth free. Who will dare to encounter him? What does he want with your guardian care? Let the pure Gospel go forth in all its lion-like majesty and it will soon clear its own way and ease itself of its adversaries. Yes, without attempting to apologize even for the severer Truths of Revelation, seven times a day do we praise the Lord for giving us His judgments, so righteous and so sure. I have shown you now, dear Friends, how this love lies deep in the heart and how it includes much of honor and reverence. Let me further remark that this love is productive of many good things. They that love God’s Word will meditate on it and make it the man of their right hand. What a companion the Bible is! It talks with us by the way, it communes with us upon our beds it knows us altogether and has a suitable word for every condition of life. Hence we cannot be long without listening to our Beloved’s voice in this Book of books. I hope we realize the character described in the first Psalm “His delight is in the Law of the Lord. And in His Law does he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water.” Love to the Word of God creates great courage in the defense of it. It is wonderful how the most timid creatures will defend their young, how even a hen becomes a terrible bird when she has to take care of her chicks even so, quiet men and women contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints and will not tamely submit to see the Truth of God torn in pieces by the hounds of error and hypocrisy. The love of the Law of God breeds penitence for having sinned against it and perseverance in obedience to it. It also begets patience under suffering, for it leads the man to submit himself to the will of God whom he loves so much. He says, “It is the Lord. Let Him do what seems good to Him.” The Word of God begets and fosters holiness. Jesus said, “Sanctify them through Your Truth; Your Word is Truth.” You cannot study the Scriptures diligently and love them heartily without having your thoughts and acts savored and sweetened by them. A gentleness and kindness will be infused into your spirit by the very tone of the Word. A sacred delicacy and carefulness of conduct will surround your daily life in proportion as you steep your mind in Scripture. Let me commend to you, my beloved Friends, that you live with the Law of the Lord till even men of the world perceive that you keep choice company. The trashy lives of most people are the fit outcome of the trash which they read. A life fed on fiction is a life of fiction. A life fed on Divine fact will become a life of Divine fact. I have no time in which to show you all the sweet uses of the Law of the Lord it does much for the formation of a perfect character. No molding force is so much to be desired as that of the Word of the Lord in the love of it. This much, however, I must add if in any of us there is a love of the Law of the Lord, this is a work of the Holy Spirit. Nature does not love God and hence it does not love God’s Law. Human nature is in open and active rebellion to everything that is commanded or commended by the thrice-holy God. If, then, you love God and His holy Law, the Holy Spirit has been at work in you. And by this new love it is proven that you are a new creature. The old nature delights itself in everything which is of the earth earthy. It is only the new and heavenly life which can appreciate and love heavenly things. My Brothers and Sisters, let your love of the Law be to you a proof of your regeneration you have passed from darkness into marvelous light for you love light. Let this be to you the evidence of your election you had never loved God and His Law if He had not loved you first. What can your love to God be but a reflection of His love to you? Hear Him say, “I have loved you with an everlasting love.” See, also, in this love of God’s Law the prophecy of your ultimate perfection. We do not keep the Law as we would. But if we desire to keep it, that which holds the will is the real Law of our life. If there is in us a strong and passionate desire to accept and obey God’s Word in everything and to be conformed to it in thought and life, that desire will ultimately get the victory. Use well the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God and by the force of your love give sin sharp and heavy thrusts and you shall conquer until every thought is brought into captivity to the Law of Christ. II. We have spent too long a time upon our first point and shall have to be brief upon the other heads. Our second division is a very sweet part of the text. Here is A SPECIAL POSSESSION, “great peace have they which love Your Law.” When Orientals meet each other their usual salutation is “Shalom” “Peace be to you.” The word does not mean merely quiet and rest but happiness or prosperity. Great peace means great prosperity. Those who love God’s Law have great blessedness in this life as well as in that which is to come. In loving the Law of God we have intense enjoyment and real success in life. Let us, however, take the text as we have it in our Bibles. By peace here is not meant that a man who loves God’s Law will have great peace with everybody, for that is not at all true. If David penned this sentence, he certainly was not an instance of great peace with men flowing out of his love to the Lord’s Law. He was a man of war from his youth. He had peace as a shepherd boy but even then he had to kill lions and bears and soon after he had to meet a giant in single combat. Neither in his family nor in Saul’s court was he at peace. He was hunted like a partridge upon the mountains and had to run for it from day to day. He had not much earthly peace. When he had done with Saul, the Philistines invaded the land. If it is possible, we are to live peaceably with all men. But He who has put enmity between the serpent and the woman never meant that we should enjoy the friendship of the world. The great peace which they have who love God’s Law refers to a peace which can exist when strife rages all around us. Does not it mean this first, great restfulness of the intellect? If we love God’s Law in the sense in which we have explained it, so as to stand in awe of it and rejoice over it, the result will be great peace of mind. Everybody must find infallibility somewhere. Some think it is with the Pope at Rome, others dream that it is in themselves the second theory is no more true than the first. Others of us believe that infallibility lies in the Word of God this Book is to us the final court of appeal. When God’s Holy Spirit leads us into the Truth which He has revealed in this Book, we feel a full assurance that we know the Truth of God and we speak from experience when we say that the loving belief of the Word brings us great intellectual repose. I care nothing what supposed philosophers may discover they cannot discover anything true which is contrary to God’s Word. I know that I am speaking that which is best for my fellow men in the highest and best sense, when I am not venting a theory but setting forth a Revelation from Heaven. He who gave us the infallible Book has all the responsibility for its contents. If I believe what God tells me and do what He bids me, the results are with Him and not with me. He is the ruler of the universe and not I. And if there are any terrible mysteries, He must explain them not I if they ought to be explained. I am like a servant who is sent to the door with a message. If I deliver the message which my Master gives me as I receive it, you must not be angry with me, for I did not invent the message, I only repeated it to you. Be angry with my Master, not with me. That is how I feel when I have done preaching. If I have honestly preached what I believe to be in God’s Word, I am free from all responsibility for my ministry. My responsibility lies in endeavoring to interpret the Word as clearly as I can. I am not accountable for its teaching. I have not before me the unbearable burden of composing a Gospel. I remember well a minister, whom I much respect, saying to me, “I wish I could feel as you do. You have certain fixed principles about which you are sure and you have only to state them and enforce them. But I am in a formative state. I make my theology fresh every week.” Dear me, I thought, what a hopeless state for progress and establishment! If the student of mathematics had no fixed law as to the value of numbers but made a new multiplication table every week, he would not make many calculations. If a baker were to say to me, “Sir, I am always altering the ingredients of my bread I make a different bread every week,” I should be afraid the fellow would poison me one of these days. I would rather go to a man whose bread I had found good and nourishing. I cannot afford to experiment in the Bread of Life. Besides, there is an intellectual unrest in all this kind of thing which is escaped from when we come to love the Word of the Lord as we love our lives. Oh, the rest of knowing within your very soul that the Truth of God you rest upon is a sure foundation! Those who love God’s Word have also a great peace which comes of a pacified conscience. Conscience is as a terrible wild beast when aroused and irritated by a sense of sin. Nothing will quiet conscience effectually and properly but the great doctrine of the Substitutionary sacrifice of Christ. When we see that God has laid on His only begotten Son all our iniquities and that the chastisement of our peace was exacted of Him as our Substitute, then conscience smiles upon us. If God is satisfied with regard to our sins, we are satisfied, too. We see in the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ that which must satisfy Divine justice and therefore our conscience receives a safe and holy quiet and we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom also we have received the atonement. And the same conscience also brings great peace when it bears testimony to renewal of heart and life. When a man knows in his own soul that he seeks to do that which is right in the sight of God, and that he is aspiring after a pure, gracious, useful life, he has great peace even when others ridicule him. If you have taken your own way and acted dishonestly for gain, peace will not visit your heart. But if you have loved God’s Law and kept to the way of strict integrity, you will have within your own bosom an angel of peace to strengthen you in the hour of sorrow. “The testimony of a good conscience is like the song of the angels to the shepherds at Bethlehem.” Beloved, what a peace the love of the Word brings to the heart! All hearts require an object of love. How many hearts have been broken because the thing beloved has disappointed them and proved false to their hopes? But when you love God’s Word, your love is not wasted upon an unworthy object. It introduces you to Christ and you love Him intensely, and however much you yield your heart to Him, you are always safe. Jesus is never a Judas to His friends. Jesus cannot be loved too well and hence the heart has great peace when it comes to Him. To love God’s Word gives great peace as to our desires. You will not be grasping after wealth when the Word is better to you than the most fine gold. You will not be ambitious to shine among men when to you the Word of the Lord is a kingdom large enough. Your desires will be regulated by true wisdom when your heart is garrisoned by the Word of the Lord which dwells in you richly. When Christ Himself is our All in All, we are harbored in the haven of peace. When our desires find their pasturage around the Great Shepherd’s feet, our ambitions cease to roam and we abide at home in peace. Content with a dinner of herbs in our Lord’s company, we no longer pine for the stalled ox of the wicked who prospers in his way. To love the Law is to cease from covetousness and to cease from covetousness is great peace. When we love God’s Law, we reach forward to the peace of resignation to God, acquiescence in His will and conformity to it. It is of no use to quarrel with God. Let me say more it is disgraceful, ungrateful and wicked for a child of God to do so. When we perfectly yield to God our heart’s sorrow is at an end. The sting of affliction lies in the tail of our rebellion against the Divine will. When we love God’s Word intensely, we take pleasure in persecutions, tribulations and infirmities, since they instruct us in the Divine promises and open up to us the hidden meanings of the Spirit. Our mind is so near to God and so pleased with all that pleases Him, that we do not desire to suffer less, or to be less weak, or less tried, than the will of God ordains. To love the Law and the Lawgiver goes a great way towards loving all that He appoints and decrees. And this is a garden of peace to all who know it. Besides, the love of the Word breeds a happy confidence in God as to all things in the past, the present and the future. Whatsoever the Lord does or permits must be right, or works right. “We know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them that are the called according to His purpose.” This is a very peace-breathing belief. When we love God’s Word, we see God at the beginning of everything, God at the end of everything and God in the middle of everything. And as we see Him present whom we love, we cease from anxious thought. “My soul is even as a weaned child.” Of such a man is it written, “His soul shall dwell at ease.” The Lord whom he takes to be his Shepherd makes him to lie down in green pastures and he asks no more. III. I am cramped by want of time. I must, therefore, in a very few words sum up what deserves to be spoken at length upon the third point. Here is A SINGULAR PRESERVATION “Nothing shall offend them.” There shall be no stumbling block in their way. Intellectual stumbling blocks are gone. One asks me, “Do you mean to say that you read the Bible and do not find difficulties in it?” I regard the Word of God as being infallibly inspired and therefore if I find difficulties in it, which I must do from the very nature of things, I accept what God says about those difficulties and pass on. The Word of God does not profess to explain all mysteries it leaves them mysteries and my faith accepts them as such. When out in a yacht in the Clyde we came opposite the great rock called the Rock of Arran. Our captain did not steam right ahead and rush at the rock no, he did what was much wiser he cast anchor for the night in the bay at the foot of it, so that we were sheltered from the wind by the vast headland. I remember looking up through the darkness of the night and admiring its great sheltering wing. A difficulty it was it became a shelter. Every now and then in Scripture you come before a vast Truth. Will you steam against it and wreck your soul? Will you not, with truer wisdom, cast anchor under the lee of it? Do we need to understand everything? Are we to be all brain and no heart? What should we be the better if we understood all mysteries? I believe God. I bow before His Word. Is not this better for us than the conceit of knowing and understanding? We are as yet mere children. We know in part. Of course, we are blessed, in this enlightened age, with some wonderfully great men who understand more than the ancients and either know the unknowable, or think they do. In a sentence I will give you the result of my observation upon men and things “No man knows everything except a fool and he knows nothing.” I have not yet met with any exception to this rule no, not even among the superior persons who prefer culture to Scripture. If you love the Word of God, you will see no difficulties which will in the least cause you to stumble. Love to the Word is the abolition of difficulties. Things hard to be understood become steppingstones on which to rise and not stumbling blocks over which to fall. “Nothing shall offend them.” Does not this also mean that no moral duty shall be a cross to them which shall cause them to turn aside? They will not turn away from Jesus because a sin has to be abandoned, a lust denied, or a pleasure given up. The man who has counted the cost will not be offended by his Lord’s requirements. Does Jesus say, “Do this”? He does it without demur. Does Jesus say, “Cease from that”? He withdraws his hand at once. When a man once loves the Law of God, albeit it involves self-denial, humiliation, loss he shrinks not at the cost. Self-denial ceases to be self-denial when love commands it. The Cross of Christ is an easy yoke and soon ceases to be a burden. A duty which for a little season is irksome, becomes pleasurable before long to a lover of the Law of the Lord. Moreover, the man who loves God’s Law is not offended if he has to stand alone. To some persons it is impossible to traverse a lonesome way but he that truly loves God’s Law resolves that if all men forsake him he will cleave to the Lord and His Truth. Can you not stand alone? Does solitude offend you? As for me, I am resolved, by God’s grace, not to follow a multitude to do evil. I will keep to the old faith and the old way if I never find a comrade between here and the celestial gates. I do not think a man loves God’s Word thoroughly till it breeds in him a self-contained peace so that he is satisfied from himself and drinks water out of the cistern of his own experience. Paul was not offended though at his first answer no man stood by him. What have we to do with other men as supporters of our faith? To their own master they stand or fall. As for our Master in Heaven, let us follow Him through life and unto death. For to whom else could we go? He only has the words of Eternal Life. Neither will such persons ever be so offended as to despair of God’s great cause. The night grows darker and darker but the man who loves the Divine Law expects the sun to rise at its appointed hour. Oh, that the Lord would hasten it in His own time! If He delays we will not, therefore, doubt. Divine Grace has produced, in past ages, men who were confident as to the triumph of the Truth of God when others feared for it. Look at the dauntless courage of Luther, who, when everybody else despaired of the Gospel, trusted his God and cheered his people and would not hear of drawing back. He could not pronounce the word “despair.” “Luther, can you shake Rome? The harlot sits enthroned upon her seven hills, can you hope to dislodge her, or loose the captive nations from her bonds? Can you do this?” “No,” said Luther, “but God can.” Luther brought his God into the quarrel and you know which way the conflict turned. Not today, nor tomorrow, nor in twenty years, may God’s Truth win but the Lord can afford to wait His lifetime is eternity. O Struggler for the Truth, make sure that you are with God and with the Truth and then be sure that God is with you in Truth and will deliver you. “Nothing shall offend them.” It is wonderful, if you love God’s Word, how things which are stumbling blocks to others cease to be injurious to you. Suppose you enjoy prosperity if you love God’s Law you will not be puffed up by deceitful riches or honors. You will be humble when all men admire you and all comforts flow in upon you. The Lord’s Word in your heart will be as a salt to your estate so that it breeds in you neither worldliness, nor forgetfulness of God, nor pride. Your goods shall be your good, if you learn to use them for God’s glory. The same will be true of adversity. He that can stand on the hilltop can stand in the valley. If you love God’s Law you are the man to be poor, to be sickly, to be slandered. For you can bear it all because you have meat to eat that the world knows not of. Your love to God’s Law will furnish you with a ceaseless stream of consolation. Nothing will dampen the flame of your spirit because the Lord feeds it secretly with a golden oil. O Servants of God, let us be glad together in this day of rebuke! The thunder is heard but it is mere noise. The sea roars but it is only roaring. Let us laugh at those who would silence faithful testimony. For the Lord God omnipotent reigns and great is the peace which He gives to the lovers of His Law. As for you who love not God’s Law, who know nothing of Jesus, because you have never submitted to the Law of faith there is no “great peace” for you. There may be the deceptive cry of, “Peace, peace, when there is no peace.” But may the Lord save you from it! Soul, there is no hope for you, you can not rest till you are at one with God. As surely as God made you, you must yield to your Maker and accept your Redeemer and be renewed by His Holy Spirit, or you are lost forever.
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Spurgeon, Charle Haddon. "Commentary on Psalms 119". "Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent