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A Cheering Congratulation
by C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892)
"Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven; whose sin is covered." -- Psalms 32:1
Men have all of them their own ideals of blessedness. Those ideals are often altogether contrary to the sayings, which our Saviour uttered in his Sermon on the Mount. They count those to be blessed who are strong in health, who are abundant in riches, who are honoured with fame, who are entrusted with command, who exercise power-those, in fact, who are distinguished in the eyes of their fellow-creatures. Yet I find not such persons called " blessed " in God's Word, but oftentimes humble souls, who might excite pity rather than envy, are congratulated upon the blessings which they are heirs to, and which they shall soon enjoy. To the penitent there is no voice so pleasant as that of pardon. God, who cannot lie-God, who cannot err-tells us what it is to be blessed. Here he declares that " blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven; whose sin is covered. " This is an oracle not to be disputed.
Forgiven sin is better than accumulated wealth. The remission of sin is infinitely to be preferred before all the glitter and the glare of this world's prosperity. The gratification of creature passions and earthly desires is illusive-a shadow and a fiction; but the blessedness of the justified, the blessedness of the man to whom God imputeth righteousness is substantial and true. How apt we are to say in our hearts, "Would God Adam had never fallen, for blessed must be the man who never sinned!" Could any man have attained to a perfect life, which deserved commendation at God's hands, blessedness would surely glow around him like a halo; at his feet the earth would blossom; in his nostrils the air would breathe sweet odours; and his ears would be regaled with the sweet singing of birds; "content, indeed, to sojourn while he must below the skies, But having there his home." Such a man would feel and find the beams of brightness playing over the entire expanse of life, and the thrill of gladness filling his heart with unbroken peace. The mountains and hills would break forth into singing, and all the trees of the field would clap their hands, to multiply his inlets to happiness. But it is not of such imaginary bliss that our sacred Psalmist loves to sing; because, however true, it would be a mere mockery to tell us, who are so deeply fallen, of sweet delights that those alone could know who never fell.
Our time of probation is over. We of mortal race were proved, tried, and condemned long ago. It is not possible now for us to have the blessedness of uncorrupted innocence. And yet, thank God, blessedness is still possible to us, sinners though we be. We may hear the voice of the ever blessed of God pronouncing us to be blessed. His mercy can secure to use what our merit could never have earned, for so it is written , " Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven; whose sin is covered. " May every one of us partake of this blessedness, and know and rejoice in the full assurance.
Now the observations I address to you shall be very simple; but if they come home to us as true, and we can grasp them with a lively faith, they will be none of the less gratifying to us because they seem common.
I. Forgiven There is Forgiveness With God: Transgression May Be Forgiven.
It is spoken of here, not as a flight of fancy, or a poetic dream; it is not an imaginary or a possible circumstance, but it is described as a fact that does occur, and has been the happy lot of some who knew its sweet relief, and felt its strange felicity-" Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven. " Do not take the words with all their weight of meaning; for though taught in our catechisms, embodied in our creeds, and admitted in our ordinary conversation on religious subjects, the belief in the forgiveness of sins is not always sincere and hearty.
When the guilt of sin is felt, and the burden of sin grows heavy, and when the wound stinks and is corrupt, as the Psalmist says, we are very apt to doubt the possibility of pardon; or, at least, of our own pardon. Under deep conviction of sin, and a sense of the peculiar heinousness of our own guilt, there is a haze and more than a haze-a thick fog, which hides the light of this doctrine from our view. We think all men pardonable except ourselves. We can believe in the doctrine of forgiveness of sin for blasphemers, for thieves, for drunkards, even for murderers; but there is some particular aggravation in the sin which we have committed that appears to us to admit of no place of repentance, to find no promise of absolution.
So, writing bitter things against ourselves, we become our own accusers and our own judges, and seem as if we would even become our own executioners. In our distraction we are thus prone to doubt that our transgression can be forgiven.
And, beloved, I am not sure that those of us who are saved do not sometimes have misgivings about this grand truth. Although I know that I am saved in Christ, yet at times when I look back upon my life, and especially dwell upon some dark blots which God has forgiven, but for which I can never forgive myself, the question comes across me, "Is it so? Is that really blotted out? It was so crimson, so scarlet; can it be that the spot is entirely gone?"
We know that, being washed in the blood of Christ, we are whiter than snow; but it is not always that our faith can realize the forgiveness of sins while our heart and conscience are revolving the flagrancy of their guilt. It should not be so. We ought to be able to bear, at one and the same time, a vision of sin in all its horror, and a full view of the sacrifice for sin in all its holiness and acceptance to God-to feel that we are guilty, weak, lost, and ruined, yet to believe that Christ is not only able to save to the very uttermost, but that he has saved us-to confess our crimes, while we cast ourselves without a question into his blessed arms. I trust that we can do this. But, alas! a fly may find its way into the sweetest pot of ointment, a little folly may taint a good reputation, and an unworthy doubt may tarnish the purest faith; so it may be profitable to remind even the forgiven man that forgiveness of sin is possible, that forgiveness of sin is presented in the gospel as a covenant blessing, that forgiveness of sin it the possession of every believer in Jesus, that his sin has gone entirely and irreversibly, and that for him all manner of sin has been forgiven, blotted out, and put away through the precious blood of Jesus, seeing that he has believed in God's great propitiatory sacrifice.
Peradventure there has strolled into this sanctuary tonight some professing Christian who, though a true child of God, has foully stained his profession. It may be, my dear friend, that in your weakness, and to your shame, and to your confusion of face, you have forsaken God, and have fallen into sin. You knew better, you who have instructed others, you who would have denounced such conduct with great severity in your fellow-creatures, have fallen into the transgression yourself, and now you are conscious that both the sin and its results are very bitter; you are smarting under the rod, your bones have been sore broken, and, perhaps, while I am speaking, it seems as if my words were putting them out of joint again where there had been a little healing.
Beloved brother or sister in Christ, if your sin be a public sin, a grievous sin, a black and foul sin; if it be a sin which conscience cannot for a moment tolerate, a sin which God's people must detest, even thought it be in you who are dear to them, let me entreat you not to suffer the deceitfulness of sin to drive you to despair; in the anguish of remorse do not shun the mercy seat. Doubt not that the Lord is still ready to pardon you. Let not Satan persuade you that you have sinned a sin which is unto death. Nay, come to the cross of Christ. The blood of Jesus was real, and it was really shed to wash away real sin, not sin in the abstract, as we talk of it here, but sin in the concrete, as you have committed it--such sin as yours; nay, your sin, that special sin, that degrading sin, that sin which you are ashamed to mention, that sin which makes you now, even at the very thought of it, hang your head and blush. Know of a truth that your sin is pardonable.
Do you ask me why I draw this inference from my text? I answer that it was penned by David, when his crimes were complicated, his character corrupted, and his case seemed beyond the possibility of a cure. Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God! Whatever your sin may have been, it can scarcely have exceeded his in atrocity. You know how he added sin to sin; you know how high he stood, and how low he sunk; and you know how sweetly he could sing, " Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven; whose sin is covered. " It shines forth more clearly now than ever it shone before. Sin is pardonable; the Lord God is merciful and gracious.
Hear the heavenly invitation, " Come, now, let us reason together; though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as wool; though they be red like crimson, they shall be whiter than snow. " Hear Jehovah's voice out of heaven, " I, even I, am he that blotteth out thine iniquities for my name's sake: I will not remember thy sins. " With such a peerless proclamation of perfect pardon we leave this point. We trust, however, that you will not leave it till you have proved its preciousness and its power. Observe now that the pardon being proved, the:--
II. Blessedness May Be Enjoyed.
So much sadness comes from a sense of sin that it is not easy for a penitent to regard pleasure as within his reach, or for a criminal to imagine that cheerfulness can become his habitual condition. How have I heard a man say, "Were God to forgive me, I do not think I could be happy; such is my sin that, though it should be put away, the memory would haunt me, the disgrace would distract me; my own conscience would confound me; I never could blend with the blessed ones." Is not this just what the prodigal said, " I am not worthy to be called thy son; make me as one of thy hired servants? "
He could not think so well of his father as to suppose that he could receive him again into his affections as his child; hence he would be content to take the yoke of service, and to be a hired servant of his father's; not a servant born in the house, though these were common enough among the Jews; but a hired servant, willing to be even with the lowest class of servants, so that he might but live in his father's house. I know that this is often the feeling of humble souls, but look at the text and observe the blessed truth which it teaches. You may not only be forgiven, my dear friends, but you may enjoy, notwithstanding your past sin blessedness, even on earth.
Oh! look up through those tears! They can all be wiped away, or should they continue to flow in a long life of penitence, if they do not fall upon the Saviour's feet, which thou wouldest fain wash with the tears of thine affection, and wipe with the hairs of thy head, thou shalt find those tears to be precious drops that ye need not rue. Though evangelical repentance may be compared to bitter herbs in one respect, to be eaten lamenting, yet in another respect there is no grace so sweet as repentance. In heaven, it is true, they do not repent, but here on earth it well becomes the saints. It is sweet here below to sit and weep one's heart away in sorrow for sin at the foot of the cross of Christ, saying, "With my tears his feet I bathe;" and although we shall have done with it when we reach those blissful shores, until then repentance shall be the occupation of our lives.
But dear friends, you may suppose that as sincere repentance always leads to great searching of heart, it cannot be blessed, yet it really is so. Repentance, as we have already said, is a sweet grace. You remember that the prodigal shed his tears, his best tears, in his father's heart, and sobbed out, " Father, I have sinned! " Oh! what a place for repentance is the bosom of God, with his love shed abroad in the heart, making you contrite and moving you to say, "How could I have sinned against so good a God? How could I be an enemy to one who is so full of grace? How could I run away and spend my substance with harlots, when here was my Father's deep care for my welfare? How could I choose their base love, when a love so pure, so true, so constant, was waiting for me?" Oh! it is a holy sorrow that hath a clear life ensuing; and I tell you that, however deep your repentance may be, it shall not stand in the way of your being blessed; but shall even prove to be one contributory stream to the blessedness of your experience.
Does the memory of your sins haunt you, and do you feel that you shall always hang your head as one whom pardon could not purge? Not thus did the apostle Paul reflect on his many sins. Though he bewailed the wickedness of his heart, and was ashamed of the evil he had done, yet his humility after he was converted took the form of gratitude, cheering his very soul with the most lively impulse. While confessing that he was the very chief of sinners, at the same time and in the same breath he said, " This is a faithful saying, worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. " Conscious of his own infirmities, he could exclaim, " O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death? " Yet, confident of his full redemption, he could add, " I thank god, through Jesus Christ our Lord. " Moreover, hurling defiance at all his accusers, he asks, " Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect? "
No bolder or more triumphant champion of divine grace that that apostle, who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious, but now rejoices to bear record, " I obtained mercy that, in me, Jesus Christ might show forth all long-suffering as a pattern to them who should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting. " What though your past offences be never so rank, and your present shame should sting you with ever so much poignant sorrow, yet with thrills of bless you shall prove the full blessedness of the man whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.
Methinks I hear one say, "Few men have fallen more deeply into sin that I have; if converted, I might be pointed out as an illustrious monument of divine grace; yet, what with vanities which have matured into vices, and passing follies which have grown into positive evil habits, it is not likely I should ever attain the same eminence in grace as those who were trained from childhood in the sanctuary, and never lived a dissolute life, or risked a desperate death, as I have done." Let me assure you that this is a great fallacy. The heights of glory are now open to those who once plunged in to the depths of sin. Say not, slave of Satan, that thou canst not be soldier of the cross. Thou canst be a heroic soldier. Thou mayest win a crown of victory. Why needest thou be weak in faith? Thou canst not be languid in love. Great sinner as thou art, thou hast in this a sort of advantage; thou wilt love much because thou hast had much forgiven thee. Surely, if thy love be warmer than that of others, thou hast the mainspring of zeal, the mightiest force within to mould thy future course. Instead of being less than others, thou shouldest seek to outdo them all, not out of carnal emulation, but out of holy strife.
I counsel thee, poor sinner, when thou comest to Christ, do not try to hide thyself in some obscure corner; but come to the light, that thou mayest have near and intimate fellowship with thy Lord; for the love thou hast to him, show kindness to his lambs; by thy generosity to his disciples, show thy gratitude to the Master; grudge no service; be ready to spend, and to be spent; yield yourself a living sacrifice to him who redeemed thee from thy sins and restored thee to his favour. I liked what one said to me today when I was seeing enquirers who are seeking membership with us. "By God's grace," he said, "I will try to make up for lost time."
Let this be your resolve, dear friends. If you are called by grace when the day is far spent and the time in which you can hope to serve your Lord is getting brief, do not waste an opportunity, but engage with all your heart and soul in the work of faith and labour of love for the Lord Jesus. Some of us were called at the first or second hour of the day, and while we were yet children we found some employment in the vineyard. Still, we cannot sever Christ as we would. Oh! I wish I had a thousand tongues that I might tell out his love, and could live a thousand lives to proclaim his grace amongst the sons of men! But as for you, whose time must, in the course of nature, be so short; you who have given so much of your lives to Satan-do not let Christ now be put off with the fag end, but give him the very best of your love, the fat of your sacrifice, the strength and soul of your being.
And as to the matter of enjoyment, I cannot believe for a moment that when a great sinner is blessed with a great pardon, he should fail to have the fullness of joy which so divine a benefit must properly excite. My observation has been that the joy of those who have been graciously forgiven after having greatly transgressed rather exceeds than falls short of the joy of such as are more gradually brought into gospel liberty. Oh! no; my Master will not adjudge you to take a second rank.
He who was by birth an alien, and in open rebellion an enemy to God, shall have all the rights of citizenship, and partake of all the privileges of the saints. Not he who, like Samuel, was lighted to his couch in childhood by the lamps of the sanctuary, is more welcome at the Father's board than the returning prodigal. Such blessedness is in store for some of you. You have fallen; you have lost your character; you have stifled the voice of your own conscience; you have forfeited all title to self-respect.
But by Christ redeemed, in Christ restored, this infinite blessedness shall be your portion. Have you been put out of the Church? Have your brethren been compelled to withdraw from fellowship with you because of your flagrant sin? Have you been convicted of a crime, and suffered a term of imprisonment? There is blessedness possible to you yet. There may have strayed in here one who from the fold has wandered very far. Though you have forfeited your good name, I simply and sincerely point out to you the means whereby you may yet transform your blighted life into a blessed life. Glory to God and peace to your own soul shall immediately follow your trust in the sacrifice of Christ. " Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. " Seemeth it not to thee that this is the very fountain of all blessings? Thou comest here to the streamhead, to the source of the great wide river of mercies.
Those of you, therefore, who believe in the forgiveness of sins should not be satisfied till you have the title-deeds, enjoy the possession, and revel in the blessedness of this reconciliation to God. "If I am a Christian," said a sister to me hesitantly; "but I do not like that ugly 'if,'" she added; "I must get rid of it." So she prayed the Lord, "Let there be no 'if' between me and thee." I would have you pray in like manner. Oh! those horrible "ifs"! They are spiritual mosquitoes that sting and harass us; they are like stones in the shoes, and you cannot travel with them. Hear what David says: "Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile." Still enlarging upon our last point, rather than venturing on to anything fresh, observe:--
III. That the State of Forgiveness is Evidently a State of Blessedness if we Remember the Contrast it Involves.
Ask the sinner, conscious of his guilt and its penalty, who is bemoaning himself and crying out, " God, be merciful to me a sinner! " what wouldest thou think if thy condition could be changed and thy conscience cleansed by one line of the pen, or by one word of the lips that can pronounce pardon? Would not that be blessed beyond wishful thought or wakeful dream? "Oh!" say you, "I would count no penance too sever, no sacrifice too costly, if I might but get my sins cancelled, forgiven, and completely obliterated." Look at poor Christian, wringing his hands, sighing and crying. Why was it? He wanted to have his burden taken off. Had you spoken to him, he would have told you he was willing to go through floods and flames if he could get relief from his burden, and be clean rid of it. Seeing how every anxious soul longs for forgiveness, clearly it must be a state to be greatly desired, and those who do attain it find it to be full of gladness, delight, and rejoicing. It is indeed blessed to have sin forgiven; but, oh! how wretched to face its infamy, to feel its malignity, to fear its terrible penalty. Witness a soul in despair; that is a dreadful sight; I think I would sooner walk fifty miles than see a despairing soul; I have seen several such, shut up in the iron cage. You may talk, talk, talk, and try to give some cheer, but it is of no use. No promises can comfort; the gospel itself seems to have no charm. Were you to put the question to a despairing soul, "Would it be a blessed thing to have sin forgiven?" sharp, quick, and decided would the answer be.
Not the lips only -- the heart would express itself in every muscle of the face, in every limb of the body-the nerves all tingling with joy, the eyes shining with gleams of heaven. Ask dying sinners, stung with remorse at the memory of their lives, and filled with dread at the prospect of the future, whether it is not a blessed thing to have sins forgiven. Though they may have trifled hitherto, the death-hour forbids dissembling. Now the vanities of time pass like a shadow, and the realities of eternity come up like a specter. "Too late!" they cry; "too late! Had we but fled to Christ before! Had we but turned our eyes to him in years gone by, then hope would have cheered us in this extremity!" But it is not death they dread so much as the after-death; not present dissolution, but (shall I say it?) the damnation that may follow. Unforgiven sin! Who can paint the sentence it must meet?
Could we peer into that world where wicked spirits are tormented ever and anon, and there ask the question, "Would it be a blessed thing to be forgiven?" ah! you can guess the answer. I pray thee, friend, and tempt not the terror for thyself. Trifle not with kind entreaty; know that 'tis treason so to do. The pardon spurned will recoil on your own head. You will bewail in everlasting misery the mercy that, through your willfulness, was unavailing. Blessed must he be whose sins are forgiven, for it enables him to escape from the horrible doom of the impenitent.
But you shall have a witness nearer at hand. You know, as a fact recorded in the Gospels, that the Son of man had power on earth to forgive sins. You know, too, from the testimony of the Acts of the Apostles, that his Names, by faith in his Name, are invested with the same power. By the ministry of the Holy Spirit one may hear now, as in days of yore, a voice of divine authority saying, " Thy sins are forgiven thee; go in peace. " It was only last week I met with one who had been forgiven on the previous Sunday.
The sweet relief, the calm belief, and the true blessedness of that man was such that you could see it flashing from his eyes and animating every faculty of his being. The whole man was so full of joy that he did not know how to contain himself. The drift of all his conversation was, "I have found Christ; I have laid hold on eternal life! I have trusted in Jesus! I am saved!" His joy, though uttered in part, was unutterable.
I sympathized in his ecstasy, remembering that it was so with me. I wanted to tell everybody that Christ was precious, and was able to save. Oh! yes, the young convert is a good witness, though the old Christian is quite as good. It is a blessed thing to have had fifty years' enjoyment of the forgiveness of sin. I have half a mind to call some of our venerable friends up here to bear their witness. I am sure they would not stammer: or had they lost the power of ready speech through infirmity of the flesh, their testimony would be sound and vigorous, for they would tell you unhesitatingly how blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. I wish I had time to show you that forgiveness of sin is not only blessed of itself, but:--
IV. All its Concomitants Help to Swell the Tide of Blessing.
A thousand felicities follow in its train. He who is forgiven is justified, acquitted, vindicated, sent forth without a stain or blemish on his reputation; he is regenerated, quickened, invigorated, and brought into newness of life; more still, he is adopted, initiated into a divine family, invested with a new relationship, and made heir of a heritage entailed by promise. The work of sanctification begun in him here will one day be completely perfected. He who is forgiven was elected from before the foundations of the world. He was redeemed with the precious blood of Jesus.
For him Christ stood as his sponsor, surety, and substitute at the bar of justice. To the forgiven man all things have become new. Our Lord Jesus Christ has raised him up and made him sit in heavenly places with him. He is even now a son and heir, a child of God, a prince of the blood imperial, a priest and a king who shall reign with Christ forever and ever. He who is washed in the precious blood is favoured beyond any words that I can find to express it. Ten thousand blessings are his portion. "How precious!" such a pardoned one may exclaim; " how precious are thy thoughts unto me, O God! How great is the sum of them! " But the:--
V. Blessedness of the Man Whose Transgression is Forgiven, Whose Sin is Covered, Will be Mainly Seen in the Next State.
That disembodied spirit, clear of spot or blemish, washed and whitened in the blood of the Lamb, passes without fear into the invisible world. It trembles not, though it appears before the eye of justice. No award can come to the forgiven soul except this, " Come, thou blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for thee. " We commit the body of the forgiven sinner to the grave in " sure and certain hope of a joyful resurrection. " We give his flesh to be the food of the word, and his skin may rot to dust; but though worms destroy his body, yet in his flesh shall he see God, whom his eyes shall see for himself and not another.
I was astonished some little time ago when I heard a good pastor, standing by the coffin or an honoured minister, say, "There lies nothing of our brother." Not so, thought I. The bodies of the saints were purchased by Christ; though flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, neither can corruption inherit incorruption, yet there will be such a marvelous change pass over the body of the forgiven sinner that the same body-changed, but still the same body-shall be reunited with the disembodied spirit to dwell at God's right hand. Hark! Hark! The trumpet sounds! Oh! my brethren, we can but speak in prose. These great scenes we shall all of us see. We shall then think after another fashion. The trumpet sounds. The echo reaches heaven. Hell startles at the sound to its nethermost domains. This trembling earth is all attention. The sea yields up her dead. A great white cloud comes sailing forth in awful majesty. Upon it there is a throne, where Jesus sits in state.
But his heart has no cause to quake whose sins are all forgiven. Well may the ransomed soul be calm amidst the pomp and pageantry of that tremendous day; for he who sits upon the throne is the Son of man, in whose blood we have been washed. Lo! This is the same Jesus who said, " I have forgiven thee. " He cannot condemn us. We shall find him to be our Friend whom others find to be their Judge. Blessed is that man who is forgiven!
See him, as with ten thousand times ten thousand others, pure as himself and like to himself, who had washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb, he ascends to the Celestial City, a perfect man in body and in soul, to dwell for ever there! Hark to the acclamations of the ten thousand times ten thousand, the sound of the harpers harping with their harps, and the song that is like great waters. Write, yea, write now, "Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord, for they rest from their labours, and their works do follow them." But doubly blessed are they then that they rise from the dead. Once they were sinners washed in blood; but then, in body and in soul, they shall have come, through the precious blood, to see Jesus face to face.
Oh! how I wish that all of us knew this blessedness! Seek it, friends, seek it. It is to be found. " Seek ye the Lord while he may be found; call ye upon him while he is near. " I am especially encouraged in preaching the gospel this evening, because I have just been seeing some who have been recently converted. There are hearers of the gospel among you who have been listening to me for many years. Often have I feared that, in your case, I had laboured in vain; but I have great hope now concerning some of you. The Lord keeps bringing in the old hearers of eight, nine, and ten years' standing.
Oh! I pray that Lord to save every one of you, and bring you into the fold. I do long and pant that I may present you all before my Master's face with joy! Even should you go and join other churches, and serve the Lord elsewhere, that will cause me no sorrow or regret. But God forbid that any of you should despise mercy, reject the gospel, and die in your sins. May you prove the blessedness of pardon, and then shall we meet, an unbroken congregation, before the Throne.
The Lord grant it, for his Name's sake. Amen.
The Danger of Unconfessed Sin
by C. H. SPURGEON
“When I kept silence, my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long.”-Psalms 32:3 .
It is well known that in ordinary cases grief which is kept within the bosom grows more and more intense. It is a very great relief to shed tears; it gives a vent to the heart. We sometimes pity those who weep, but there is a grief too deep for tears, which is far more worthy of compassion; we ought most to pity those who cannot weep. A dry sorrow is a terrible one, but clear shining often follows the rain of tears. Tears are hopeful things; they are the dewdrops of the morning foretelling the coming day. So is it also a very great consolation to tell your story to a friend; I do not know whether it would not be a comfort to speak it to a little child, even if the child could not understand you. There is something in telling your sorrow and letting it out; otherwise it is like a mountain tarn which has no outlet, into which the rains descend and the torrents rush, and at last the banks are broken and a flood is caused. Let thy soul flow forth in words as to thy common griefs, it is well for thee. A festering wound is dangerous. Many have lost their reason because they had good reason to tell their sorrows, but had not reason enough to do so. Much talk hath in it much of sin, but a heart full of agony must speak or burst; therefore let it talk on and even repeat itself, for in so doing it will spend itself.
And spends its bitterness in tears;
My child of sorrow,
Weep out the fullness of thy passionate grief,
And drown in tears
The bitterness of lonely years.”
We shall now, however, think of spiritual sorrows, and to these the same rule applies. “When I kept silence,” and did not pour out my sorrow where I ought to have confessed it, “my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long.”
Is it not a great mercy for us that we have the Book of Psalms, and the life of such a man as David? Biographies of most people nowadays are like the portraits of a past generation, when the art of flattery in oils was at its height. There is no greater cheat than a modem biography; it is not the man at all, but what he might have been if he had not been something else. They give you a lock of his hair, or his wig, or his old coat, but seldom the man; they make huge volumes out of a heap of his letters which ought to have been burned, and copy little scraps of pictures which he used to draw for friends, and neither the letters nor the sketches ought ever to have been published. Like burglars, they break into a man’s chamber and purloin his hidden things; they hold up to the public eye what was meant for privacy only, and expose the secrets of the man’s heart and hearth. Things which the man would never have drawn or written if he had thought that they would meet the public eye are dragged forth and brought out as precious things, and so they are, but precious nonsense. We have no biographers nowadays. When Boswell died the greatest of all biographers died, and he was not far removed from a fool. If a man lives a noble life he may well shrink from dying, because he knows what will become of him nowadays when writers of his memoirs unearth him, and tear him to pieces. David’s psalms are his best memorial. There you have not the man’s exterior, but his inward soul; they do not reveal the outward manifestations of the man, but you see the man’s heart-the inner David, the David that groaned and the David that wept, the David that sighed and the David that sinned, the David that yearned after God, and the David that was eaten up with the zeal of God’s house-the man who was born in sin and groaned over sin, and was yet the man after God’s own heart. What a wonderful autobiography of a wonderful life that Book of Psalms is! David was a many-sided man, and his life was like the life of our Lord in this respect-that it seemed to comprehend the lives of all other men within itself. There is no man, I suppose, who has known the Lord in any age since David wrote but has seen himself in David’s psalms as in a looking-glass, and has said to himself, “This man knows all about me. He has been into every room of my soul-into its lowest cellar and into its loftiest tower; he has been with me in the dens of my inbred sin and in the palaces of my fellowship with Christ, from which I have looked upon the glory of God.” Here is a man who “seems to be, not one, but all mankind’s epitome.” Though we mourn over David’s sin, yet we thank God that it was permitted, for if he had not so fallen he had not been able to help us when we are conscious of transgression. He could not have so minutely described our griefs if he had not felt the same. David lived, in this respect, for others as well as for himself.
I am thankful that David was permitted to try the experiment of silence after his great sin, for he will now tell us what came of it- “When I kept silence, my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long.”
We shall apply this first, as it should be, to the erring child of God convinced of his sin; and then, secondly, we shall remind you that the same rule holds good with the awakened sinner in whom the Spirit of God has begun to work a sense of guilt.
I. First, Let Us Think Of The Child Of God. Children of God sin! Some of them have claimed to be well-nigh free from it; but-I will say no more; I think they sinned when they talked in such a lofty strain. God’s children sin, for they are still in the body. If they are in a right state of heart they will mourn over this, and it will be the burden of their lives, Oh that they could live without sin! it is this that they sigh after, and they can never be fully content until they obtain it. They do not excuse themselves by saying, “I cannot be perfect,” but they feel that their inability is their sin. They regard every transgression and tendency to sin as a grievous fault, and they mourn over it from day to day. They would be holy as Christ is holy. To will is present with them, but how to perform that which they would they find not.
Now, when the child of God sins, the proper thing for him to do is at once to go and tell his heavenly Father. As soon as ever we are conscious of sin, the right thing is not to begin to reason with the sin, or to wait until we have brought ourselves into a proper state of heart about it, but to go at once and confess the transgression unto the Lord, there and then. Sin will not come to any very great head in any man’s heart who does this continually. God will never have great chastisements in store for those who are quick confessors of sin. You know how it is with your child. There has been something broken, perhaps, by carelessness; there has been some violation of a rule of the house, but if he comes and catches you by the sleeve, and says, “Father,” or “Mother, I am very sorry that I have been doing wrong”-why, you know, while you are sorry that he should transgress you are glad to think that his heart is so right that without being questioned he comes of his own accord and tells you so frankly that he was wrong. Whatever grief you may feel about his fault, you feel a greater joy in the frankness of his confession and the tenderness of his conscience, and you have forgiven him, I am sure, before he has got half way through his openhearted acknowledgment. You feel that you cannot be angry with so frank and penitent a child. Though sometimes you may have to put on a sour look, and shake your head, and reprimand, and scold a little, yet if the little eyes fill with tears, and the confession becomes still more open, and the sorrow still more evident, it is not hard to move you to give the child a kiss and send him away with, “Go and sin no more; I have forgiven thee.” Our heavenly Father is a much more tender Father than any of us, and therefore, if we, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto our children, how much more shall our heavenly Father forgive us our trespasses. “Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him,” and therefore he has compassion upon the children of men when they acknowledge their offenses. We are not more ready to forgive our children than our heavenly Father is ready to forgive us. We may be quite sure of that. And so, if it be our habit-and I do trust it is-never to suffer guilt to lie upon our consciences, but to go as soon as ever we are sensible of a fault and own it before the Lord, asking pardon from him for Jesus’ sake, there will be no great amount of damage done to ourselves, and the Lord’s anger will not wax hot against us, neither will severe chastisements happen to us. We may endure sharp afflictions, because they are often sent for another purpose, but we shall not have visitations of paternal wrath. Many trials are not sent for chastisements at all, but as preparations for higher usefulness; for every branch that beareth fruit he purgeth it, evidently not because of any offense in the branch, but even because the branch is good and does bear fruit, and, therefore, it is allowed the special privilege of the pruning knife that it may bring forth more fruit. Speedy and full confession will not prevent tribulations which are meant merely for instruction, but it will avert trials which are intended as severe chastisements; and this will be no small benefit. Did not David pray, “O Lord, rebuke me not in thy wrath, neither chasten me in thy hot displeasure”?
Now, it sometimes happens that God’s children, when they have done wrong-especially if they have done very, very wrong-do not go and confess it. When there is the most necessity for confession, there is often the greatest tardiness in making it. It was so in David’s case. Alas! how foully had he fallen! It is never to any purpose to try and excuse David’s sin. There are certain palliating circumstances, but he never mentioned them, and, therefore, we need not. Indeed, if David were here to-night, and we were to begin excusing his sin, he would rise with tears in his eyes and say, “For God’s sake do not attempt it. Let it stand in all its deformity, that the power of God’s mercy may be the more clearly seen in washing me and making me whiter than snow.” But David’s heart was very naughty. It was sound towards God as a rule; there was deep love to God always there, but it had become overlaid and crusted with what was always David’s great besetment-the strong passions of his impulsive nature. He had followed in some measure the ill example of neighboring kings, in taking a number of wives to himself, and this had fed rather than checked his natural tendencies; and at length in an evil hour, he fell into a crime of deepest dye. He knew that he was doing wrong. He sinned against light and knowledge, but, alas, he did not hasten to his God and confess the grievous crime.
I think I can see why he could not have gone straight away from the sin to confession, for the sin prevented the confession-the sin blinded the eye, stultified the conscience, and stupefied the entire spiritual nature of David. Hence he did not confess at once; but surely he felt as if he must own the fault when the time came for prayer. I have no doubt that David prayed after a sort, but he must have presented very formal and mutilated prayers so long as he refused to acknowledge his transgression. When the time came for David to finger his harp, perhaps he did so, and went through a song or a psalm; but he could never reach to the essence of true praise by pouring out his heart before God while the foul sin was hidden in his bosom. How could he? His psalms and his prayers were silence before God, whatever sound he made, for his heart did not speak, and God would not hear him. However sweet the tone or the tune, his songs were nothing to the Most High, for his heart was silent. And why was he silent when he knew that he was wrong? Why did he not go to God at once? Well, it was partly because he was stupefied by his sin. He was fascinated, captivated, and held in bondage by it. Oh, brethren and sisters, beware of the basilisk eye of sin. It is dangerous even to look at sin, for looking leads to longing. A look at sin often leads to a lusting after sin, and that soon ripens into the actual indulgence. No man even thinks of sin without damage. I saw a magnificent photograph in Rome, one of the finest I had ever seen, and right across the middle there was the spectre mark of a cart and two oxen, repeated many times. The artist had tried to get it out, but the trace remained. While his plate was exposed to take the view, the cart and the oxen had gone across the scene, and they were indelible. Often in the photograph of a fine building you will see the shade of a man who passed by, who is there represented by a sort of ghostly figure. Upon our soul every sinful thought leaves a mark and a stain that calls for us to weep it out-nay, needs Christ’s blood to wash it away. We begin with thinking of sin, and then we somewhat desire the sin; next we enter into communion with the sin, and then we get into the sin, and the sin gets into us, and we lie as oak in it. So David did. He did not feel it at first, but there he was, plunged into the evil deeps. In such a state sin does not appear burdensome. A man with a pail of water on his head feels it to be heavy, but if he dives he does not feel the weight of the water above him because he is actually in it and surrounded by it. When a man plunges into sin he does not feel the weight of the sin as he does when he is out of that dreadful element; then he is burdened by it. So David did not feel his guilt at first; he knew that he had done wrong, but he did not perceive the exceeding heinousness of his evil deed, and therefore he did not confess it.
Next, there was much pride in David’s heart. Have you a child who, when he has offended, knows he is wrong, but will not own it? If so, you talk to him, but he will not speak; he is quite silent, or, if he does speak, it is not in the right way; he makes some naughty, obstinate, strong-headed speech. You cannot bring him to say, “Father, I have done wrong;” but he tries to excuse himself in this way and that. Perhaps he partly denies the fault, and only mentions certain things that other people did, by way of excuse for himself. Now, what our children do to us we have often done to God. We have sullenly stood it out before him. I remember well a story of a reputable Christian man who on a certain occasion was betrayed into drinking. He was a long time in distress of mind about his sin. He had been drunk, but when he was spoken to about it, as he was, by some of the officers of the church, he said that he was “overtaken,” and added that “a very little affected him.” I think that is what he said; and he pleaded that some others had been overtaken too, and he did not see why such notice should be taken of a little slip. All this he said to leave a loophole for himself. When he had done saying that, he would add- Well, he did not know, he did not believe that he was drunk; he was sure that nobody could prove that he was, though he might have taken a little more than was good for him. His tongue talked in that way, but his heart knew better. He was a child of God, and he knew he was wrong, and he never got peace by making these shocking self-defences. He was, indeed, terribly tortured in his soul, till at last he went down on his knees, and said, “Lord, I have been drunk. There is no use in denying it; I, who am thy servant, have been drunk. Forgive me for thy mercy’s sake, and keep me henceforth from even tasting of the intoxicating cup.” He honestly confessed his transgression, and a sweet sense of pardon followed at once. It takes some professors a long time to get up to that point. We call our sin by some other name, and fancy that it is not quite so bad in us as it would be in others. Oh, the ways we have got of trying to extenuate; and, oh, the sullenness which has sometimes been put on and carried out for days and days together before the living God by God’s naughty children when they have fallen into an ill-temper.
I have no doubt that some have been silent before God for a time as to the confession of their wrong because of fear. They could not believe that, after all, their Father loved them. They thought that if they did confess they would receive a heavy sentence and be overwhelmed with wrath. David had often looked up into the face of God and known his love; but now that he had thrown dust into his own eyes he could not see God’s face, and he only felt God’s chastening hand, for he says, “Day and night thy hand was heavy upon me; my moisture is turned into the drought of summer.” The sun burned him up, but afforded him none of the sunshine of the face of God. Unbelief is sure to follow sin of the kind committed by David. When it has brought on sullenness of temper, then we begin to think that God deals hardly with us, whereas it is we that are dealing hardly with him. If we would confess, all would be well; but there is the hard point. It is not, if he would forgive, for he is ready to blot out the transgressions of his people, but the difficulty lies in if we would believe in his love. There is a great deal of the Pharisee in many Christians. You may question the statement, but I should not wonder if there is a good deal of the Pharisee in you, or else you would not have doubted the assertion. You are so much of a Pharisee that you do not think yourself a Pharisee. But we are prone to begin thinking, “Surely, surely, I at such a time was a worthy object of God’s love, but now I am not.” Oh, then, you were once a wonder of goodness, and marvelously worthy and excellent? Do not believe it. My dear brother, perhaps you were as bad when you had not openly transgressed as you are now, for then your disease may have taken the form of pride, and though it has now taken another shape, it may be no worse, for pride is as damnable as any other form of sin. He who says to himself, “I am righteous; I can stand before God and deserve his love,” is as surely lost as though he had fallen into gross sin. Take heed of the Pharisee that lurks within you.
Anyhow, whatever was the reason, David was silent about his sin for some long time. The result of it was that his sorrow became worse and worse. He could not pray; he tried to pray, but as he would not confess his sin, it stuck in his throat, and till that was out he could not pray. But still he must pray; so he took to roaring. That is to say, it was such inarticulate, indistinct prayer, and there was so much of his soul in it, that he calls it the roaring of a beast instead of the praying of a man. His inward grief over his unconfessed sin was such that his bones began to wax old. They are the pillars of the house, the strongest part of the entire system, but even they seemed as if they would decay. He was brought into ill health of body through the torment of his mind. He could find no peace, and yet he would not go and confess the sin. He was still sullenly looking up to God, not as a sinner, but as a saved one, and talking to God as if he were righteous, while at the same time his sin was crushing him. All this while, I say, his grief gathered, and there was only one cure for it; he ought to have confessed it to the Lord. As soon as it was confessed he was forgiven. How quick was that act of amnesty and oblivion David said, “I have sinned,” and Nathan said, “The Lord hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die.” If pardon be so near at hand, who would linger a moment? Who among us would not at once repair to our heavenly Father, and with our heads in his bosom sob out the confession of our sin? Because he is so ready to forgive we ought to be ready to confess.
I may be addressing a child of God, or one who thought that he was a child of God, who has grievously fallen. My brother, go thou with haste to thy Lord, and acknowledge thine iniquity. He bids thee come. Only confess thine iniquity in which thou hast transgressed against the Lord, and he will have mercy upon thee now. And oh, what a relief it is when you have discharged the load, and when the voice of mercy has said, “Thou art forgiven; go in peace.” What would I give for that, says one. Well, thou needest not give anything. Do but confess, and if thou confess into the ear of God, with faith in his dear Son, for Jesus’ sake he will accept thee, and seal thy pardon home to thy soul. Come and unburden thy spirit at the bleeding feet of the Redeemer, and leap for joy.
Thus have I tried to encourage the Lord’s own children to own their sins. I do not know for whom these words are particularly meant, but I am driven to say them, for I labor under the strong impression that there is some child of God here who is almost despairing of the Lord’s mercy and who is well nigh ready to renounce his profession of religion because he fears that the Lord’s mercy is clean gone for ever. My dear friend, judge not so harshly of him who loves thee still. Did he not love us when we were dead in trespasses and sins, and will he not love us if now our sin has wounded us again? He never loved us because we were good, and therefore as he knew all that we should be, he will not change in his affection. He “commendeth his love to us in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for the ungodly”-died for us as sinners. If you never did come to him-if all your religion has been a mistake-do not begin to argue upon that matter, but come to Jesus now, for the first time. Many and many a score times have I done that. When the devil has said, “Your faith has been mere delusion, and your experience has been all a fiction,” and I have replied, “I will not dispute with you, Sir Devil, but I will just go to Christ as a sinner, for I know he came to seek and to save sinners, even lost ones, such as I am; and I will humbly ask him anew to be my Savior.” That is a short cut to comfort, may the Spirit lead you into it. Be not baffled by Satanic suggestions, but come to Jesus over again, and over again, and over again, “to whom coming as unto a living stone”-looking unto Jesus-not having looked once, but continually looking and trusting in him.
II. But now I must have a few minutes, while we use this same subject in reference To The Awakened Sinner.
Some in this place, perhaps, have lately been aroused to a consciousness of guilt before God; but one thing they have not done, they have never made confession of their sin. They feel the burden of it in a measure, and they will feel it more, but as yet they have kept their grief to themselves; neither to God nor man have they poured out their souls. To speak to our fellow-men about our heart troubles is comparatively of little use, and yet I would not recommend persons under conviction of sin always to hide their souls’ sorrows from their Christian friends. They might often be much helped if they would communicate their thoughts to those who have gone further on the road to heaven, and know more about Christ and the way of salvation. Yet, for the most part, a wounded conscience, like a wounded stag, delights to be alone that it may bleed in secret. It is very hard to get at a man under conviction of sin; he retires so far into himself that it is impossible to follow him. Ah, you poor mourners, I know how you try to conceal your pains. I will tell you one reason why you do not like to tell your mother, your sister, your brother. It is because you think your feelings are so strange; you suppose that nobody ever felt like you; you have the notion that you must be the worst person that ever lived, and therefore you are ashamed to tell what you feel for fear your friends should scout you out of their society. Ah, poor soul; you do not know; you do not know. We have all been on your road. When you tell of your sin, you put us in memory of the way in which we talked, perhaps five-and-twenty years ago, or more, when we, too, felt sin a burden as you feel it now. When you tell us of the greatness of your sin, and think that we shall surely despise you, and never speak to you again, tears of joy are in our eyes to think that you feel as we did. We are glad to discover your tender and contrite spirit; we only wish that thousands felt as you do. Do you not remember what George Whitefield said when his brother at the dinner table said that he was a lost soul? Mr. Whitefield said, “Thank God,” and his brother wondered. “Why,” said Whitefield, “Jesus came into the world to seek and to save that which was lost.” The more black you think yourself to be, the brighter is our hope of you; when you poor tremblers give yourselves an awful character we know it is correct, and we do not wish to contradict you, but we are glad to hear you say it, and to know that you feel it, because now we see in you that which will prepare you to value a precious Christ. A man who says, “I am well clothed,” is not likely to accept Christ’s righteousness. But when he cries, “How naked I am, how useless are these fig-leaves,” he is the man for Christ’s robes. When you meet with a man who says “I am full; I feast on my own righteousness,” what is the good of inviting him to the gospel banquet? You must invite him, for you are commanded to do so; but he will refuse to come. But when you meet with another who is hungry, and faint, and ready to die-ah! there is the man for your money. Bid him come where the oxen and the fatlings are killed, and all things are ready. His mouth is watering while you speak to him, and he will come with you, and sit down at the banquet of the King. We are glad, poor sinner, to hear your tale; and therefore the next time you meet with a Christian, I would advise you to tell him a little of it. But still that is not what you most want. You need to lay bare your deep sorrow before your God; and, oh, if you do it, there stands the promise, “He that confesseth and forsaketh his sins shall find mercy.” Confession before God was never sincerely offered but absolution from the Most High was sure to follow.
Remember that, even though you do not go and tell the Lord, he knows already, and therefore concealment is in vain. He needs not your confession for his information, but for your own benefit. But if you do not confess to him, you certainly will never obtain pardon, for there is not between the covers of the holy Bible a single intimation that God will ever pardon unconfessed sin. If you cover and cloak it, and feel no repentance about it, and do not bring it to Christ, you cannot expect to receive mercy from the offended Lord.
Now, it happens with some that, though they are conscious of sin, they do not confess it; and what is the result? Why, it increases their misery. It is impossible that you should find peace while sin continues to gather in your soul. It is a festering wound; the lancet must be let in, there cannot be rest until it is so. I have known a sinner before confession of sin feel as if he could lay violent hands upon himself, so intense was his anguish. Well do I remember repeating to myself the words of the prophet, “My soul chooseth strangling rather than life,” for of all the tortures in this world an awakened conscience, pressed down with a sense of guilt, is the worst. The Spanish Inquisition invented cruel racks and thumbscrews, but there is no inquisitor like a man’s own conscience, for it can put the screw upon the soul to the uttermost degree. Let a man’s conscience loose upon him, and at once the worm commences to gnaw, and the fire begins to burn. They used in olden times to ascribe the torment of hell to the devil; but we do not want any devil for that; conscience can measure out an infinite misery. Let but remorse lay its thongs of wire upon a man, and it will scarify him, and gash him to the very soul. So long as a man continues silent before God, and does not own his sin, if the Lord really has begun to deal with him, he will have to suffer more and more from the pangs of conscience.
But, then, increase of sorrow accompanied by this silence is a very dangerous piece of business. I spoke cheeringly just now of those of you who are under a sense of sin, but it was only in the hope that you would go to God, through Jesus Christ, and confess your sin; for if you refuse to do so, your position is one of very great danger. “What danger?” say you. Why, if sin remain festering within you, and your sorrow increases, you will come to despair altogether, and that is an awful prospect indeed. You remember John Bunyan’s picture of the man in the iron cage? There is not in the “Pilgrim’s Progress” an incident more terrible. Now, you are forging the bars of a cage for yourself as long as you refuse to acknowledge your guilt before God. Those who are in the iron cage of despair will tell you that they delayed to acknowledge sin, that they refused to accept Christ, that they suppressed their feelings, and so brought themselves into bondage. They were pleased to hear ministers preach about conviction of sin, and speak of deep sorrow, and the like; but they did not care to be told that it was their duty, there and then, to believe in Jesus; they could not endure that doctrine. They liked to be comforted in the notion that there was something good in feeling a sense of sin, apart from believing; whereas, if a soul will not believe in Christ, its sense of sin may be an evil instead of a benefit to it. Nothing can be good that is unsalted with faith. “With all thy sacrifices thou shalt offer salt;” and if the salt of faith be absent, the sacrifice is unacceptable.
We have known some who, through getting into despair, have afterwards fallen into utter hardness of heart. They used to be malleable; they used to feel the strokes of the divine hammer; now they feel nothing, but are as hard as the blacksmith’s anvil. They have got into such a condition that they wickedly say, if God will save them they will be saved, but they have nothing to do with it. They once were tender; now they are presumptuous. They say “there is no hope,” and therefore, on the theory of the old proverb that they may as well be hanged for a sheep as for a lamb, in all probability they will go on to commit worse sins than ever. Some of the biggest sinners that have ever disgraced the name of humanity have been persons who were once tender of conscience and were on the point of conversion, but they did violence to conviction, came to despair of ever entering heaven, and in the end determined that as they must go to hell they would go there with a high hand and an outstretched arm. He who has seen heaven’s gate open before him, but has not stepped in, is the man who above all others is likely to find the hottest place in hell. You may think it strange for me to say so, but I know it is so, for such persons go by the way of despair into hardness of heart, and then into the grossest transgression. Yes, and this is the back door to atheism, for when a man feels that God and he never can be at peace,-when he has made up his mind that he never will confess his sin,-what is the first thing that he does to comfort himself? He says- “There is no God.” And what does the declaration, “There is no God,” mean? It means this, that the man feels that he would be much more happy if there were no God. That is what it means, and nothing more. It is the man’s wish rather than his creed, and he wishes it because he despairs and his heart has grown hard. Oh, when God makes your heart soft as wax, mind who puts the seal upon it. If the Spirit of the living God set not the seal of deep repentance and holy faith upon the softened soul, there is another that will put the seal of despair, and perhaps of atheism and of defiant sin upon it; and then woe worth the day to you that ever you were born. Refusal to confess is a perilous thing for your soul. I am sure that when a man begins to be awakened to a sense of sin, if he tarries long in that condition he is being entangled moment by moment in the Satanic web. The devil cares little about careless sinners. “Let them alone,” says he, “they will come to me by-and-by,” And as for very religious people who possess no true godliness, the devil does not bother them; he says, “No, let the hypocrites be in peace; they are going my way as nicely as possible. Why should I arouse them by causing them mistrust as to their state?” But the moment that souls are startled into a sense of sin the devil says to himself, “I shall lose them,” and so he plies all his arts, and uses all his craft, if by any means he may prevent their escape. Man, now is your time to flee away to the city of refuge without tarrying even for an hour, for even now all the devils in hell are after you. They did not trouble about you before, but they are after you now with sevenfold energy. Close in with Christ, then, and at once escape them all. Oh, may the Spirit of God enable you now to find eternal mercy through the confession of your sin to God and looking to Christ for mercy-the mercy which he is so willing to give.
This is the last point. There is no hope, then, of any comfort to a bruised heart except by its confessing its guilt. I would earnestly urge upon every one conscious of sin to go with troubled heart and heaving bosom and confess his transgression to the Lord at once. I would do it in detail, if I were you. I find it sometimes profitable to myself to read the ten commandments, and to think over my sins against each one of them. What a list it is, and how it humbles you in the dust to read it over! When you come to that command- “Thou shalt not commit adultery,” “Ah,” say you, “I have never been guilty there.” But when you are told by the Savior that a lustful glance breaks that command, how it alters all! Then you perceive that fleshly desires and imaginations are all sins, and you humble yourself in the dust. You read also, “Thou shalt not kill,”- “Well,” say you, “I never killed anyone”; but you change your note when you hear that “he that is angry with his brother without a cause is a murderer.” When you see the spirituality of the law, and the way in which you have broken all the commandments ten thousand times over, be sure to confess it all, right sorrowfully. I find it good to look all round sometimes, and think, “I am a father; there are my sins against my children. Have I trained them up for God as I should? I am a husband; there are sins in that relationship. I am a master; there are sins in that position; how have I acted towards my servants? I am a pastor; how many sins occur in that relationship?” Why, you will not look around you, if God opens your eyes, without being helped to see what you ought to confess. Take the very limbs of your body, and they will accuse you; sins of the brain in evil thoughts, sins of the eye in idle glances, sins of this little naughty member, the tongue, which does more mischief than all the rest. There is no member without its own special sins. There are sins of the ear-how often have we heard the gospel, but heard it in vain. On the other hand, have we not too often lent a willing ear to unholy words. and to wicked stories against our neighbors? I need not read over the calendar of our offenses from this pulpit; go and write it out in the closet, and pour out a flood of tears over it. If yon are willing to confess, everything will help you to confession, and there is good reason for doing it at once. May the Holy Spirit work with its tenderest influences to melt your heart into contrition.
Remember while you are confessing, that each one of your sins has a world of evil in it. There is a mine of sin in every little sin. You have taken up a spider’s nest sometimes-one of those little money-spinner’s nests-and you have opened it. What thousands of spiders you find hanging down and hastening away in divers directions. What a myriad of them. So in every sin there is a host of sins. There is a conglomeration of many kinds of evil in every transgression, therefore be humbled on account of each one. Confess your iniquities before God, and accept the punishment as being your righteous due. There stands the block, and there is the place for your neck; put it down, and say, “Lord, I submit to my sentence, and if thou biddest the headsman strike I cannot complain.” Go before God as the citizens of Calais came before the English king, with ropes about their necks. Submit yourselves to the punishment due to your offense, and then make an appeal ad misericordiam, to the mercy of God alone, and say, “For Christ’s sake-for his blood’s sake-have mercy upon me. There is no man, woman, or child in this Tabernacle who shall do that to-night who shall be rejected; for “him that cometh to me,” saith Christ, “I will in nowise cast out.” And this is the right way of coming-the way of confessing your sin and acknowledging the evil of it and turning to the great Substitute for deliverance. Say that you deserve to be sent to hell, and cast yourself upon the mercy of God in Christ Jesus, trusting in the great Surety and Sacrifice, and you shall be accepted in and through him. This is the way of life, and he who runs therein shall find salvation.
Terrible Convictions and Gentle Drawings
May 6, 1860 by C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892)
"When I kept silence, my bones willed old through my roaring all the day long. For day, and night thy hand was heavy upon me: my moisture is turned into the drought of summer." Psalms 32:3-4 .
David here describes a very common experience amongst convinced sinners. He was subjected to extreme terrors and pangs of conscience. These terrors were continual; they scared him at night with visions, they terrified him all day with dark and gloomy forebodings. "Day and night thy hand was heavy upon me." His pain was so extreme, that when he resorted to prayer he could scarcely utter an articulate word. There were groanings that could not be uttered within his spirit; and hence he calls his prayer roaring a "roaring all the day long." Wherever he was, his spirit seemed to be always sighing, sending a full torrent of melancholy groans upwards towards God; a "roaring all the day long." So far did this groaning proceed, that at last his bodily frame began to show evidences of it. He grew old, and that not merely in the lines of the countenance and the falling in of the cheeks, but his very bones seemed as if they partook of the suffering. He became like an old man before his time. We have heard of some who through severe trouble have had their hair blanched in a single night. But here was a man who did not show merely externally, but even internally, the heavy pressure of grief, on account of sin. His bones grew old, and the sap of his life, the animal spirits, were all dried up; his "moisture was turned into the drought of summer." So intimate is the connection between the body and the soul, that when the soul suffers extremely, the body must be called to endure its part of grief. Verily in this ease it was but simple justice, for David had sinned with his body and with his soul too. By fornication he had defiled his members; he had looked out from his eyes with lustful desires, and had committed iniquity with his body, and now the frame which had become the instrument of unrighteousness, becomes a vehicle of punishment, and his body bears its shave of misery, "my moisture is turned into the drought of summer." We gather from what David says in this Psalm, and indeed in all these seven penitential Psalms that his convictions on account of his sin with Bathsheba, and his subsequent murder of Uriah, were of the deepest and most poignant character, and that the terrors he experienced were indescribable, filling his soul with horror and dismay. Now, this morning, I propose to deal with this case, so common among those who are under conviction of sin. There are many, who, when the Lord is bringing them to himself, are alarmed by reason of the hardness of the stroke with which he smites them, and the sternness of the sentence which he pronounces against them. After having dealt very solemnly with that character, I shall then turn and spend a fear moments in trying to comfort another class of parsons, who, strange to say, are without comfort, because they do not have these terrors, and are unhappy because they have never experienced this unhappiness. Strange perversity of human nature, that when God sends the terrors we doubt, and when he withholds them we doubt none the less. May God the Spirit bless my discourse doubly to these two different conditions of men. I. First, then, let me address myself with lovingkindness to those who are now THE SUBJECTS OF GOD'S REBUKE AND THE TERRORS OF GOD'S LAW. To you would speak on this wise; first, detect the causes of your terror. In the second place tell you God's design in subjecting you thereto, and then point you to the great remedy. 1. As for the causes of your terror they are many, and perhaps in your case the cause may be so peculiar that the wit of man may not be able to discover it. Nevertheless, the remedy which I have to propound at the end, will most assuredly be adapted to your case, for it is a remedy which reaches all diseases, and is a panacea for all ills. You tell me you are sore troubled by reason of conviction, and that your convictions of sin are attended by the most terrible and gloomy thoughts, I am not at a loss to tell you why it is. I shall this morning borrow my divisions from quaint old Thomas Fuller, whose book happened to be thrown in my way this week by Providence, and as I cannot say better things than he said, I shall borrow much of his description of the causes of the terrors of conviction. First, those wounds must be deep which are given by so strong a hand as that of God. Remember, sinner, it is God that is dealing with you; when you lay dead in your sins he looked on you, and now he has begun not only to look, but to smite; he is now wounding you with the design of afterwards making you whole; he is killing you that he may afterwards make you spiritually alive. You have now entered the lists with DO other than the Almighty God; do you wonder, then, that when he smites, his blows fell you to the ground? Are you astonished that when he wounds, his wounds are deep and hard to heal? Besides, remember it is an angry God that you have to deal with; one who has had patience with you in your sins these thirty, forty, or fifty years, and now he has come forth himself to compel you to throw down the weapons of your rebellion, and to take you captive by trio justice, that he may afterwards set you free by his grace. Is it any marvel, then, that when an angry God a God who has restrained his anger these many years comes out in battle against you, you find it hard to resist him, and that his blows bruise you and break your bones, and make your spirit feel as if it must verily die, crushed beneath the mighty hand of a cruel one? Be not astonished at all your terrors; God on Sinai, when he came to give the law, was terrible; but God on Sinai, when he comes to bring the law into the conscience, and to strike it home, must be more terrible far. When God did but stretch out his hand with the two tables of stone, Moses did exceedingly fear and quake; but when he throws those tables of stone upon you, and makes you feel the weight of that law which you have broken, it is but little marvel that your spirit is bruised and mangled, and dashed into a thousand shivers. Again, it is no wonder that you are sore troubled when you remember the place where God has unrounded you. He has not wounded you in your hand, or in your head, or in your foot; he is striking at your conscience the eye of your soul; he wounds you in your heart in your inmost soul. Every wound that God gives to the convicted man is a wound in the very heart in the very vitals; he cuts into the core of the liver, and makes his darts cut through the gall, and parches your inward parts with agony. It is not now a disease that has laid hold merely on your skin or flesh, but it is a something which makes the life-floods boil with hot anguish. He has now shot his arrows into your inmost spirit, thrust his fingers into your eyes and put out their light. Oh! ye need not wonder that your pains are fearful, when God thus smites you on the tenderest part of a conscience which be has made tender by his grace. He may well smart that has salt rubbed into hi' wounds. You have been lashed with the ten-thonged whip of the law till your heart is all bare and bleeding, and now God is scattering, as it were, the salt, and making all those wounds to tingle and smart. Oh! ye might wonder, if ye did not feel, when God is thus casting bitterness into the fountain of your life. Besides these, there is a third cause for this your pain, namely, that Satan is now busy upon you. He sees that God is wounding you and he does not wish that those wounds shall heal; he therefore trusteth in his fangs, and teareth open the flesh, and trieth if he cannot pour his poison into that very flesh which God has been wounding with the sword. "Now," saith he, "that God is against him will I be against him too. God is driving him to sadness; I will drive him farther still, and urge him to despair. God has brought him to the precipice, to the edge of his self-righteousness, and bidden him look down and see the yawning gulf. Now," says Satan, "one push more, and over he will go." He has come forth, therefore, with all his strength, hoping that the hour of your conviction shall be also the hour of your condemnation. He will tempt you, perhaps, as he did Job, till you any, "My soul chooseth strangling rather than life." He will seek to bring you low, like Jeremiah, until you are ready to wish you had never been born, rather than that you should suffer like this. You can well understand, if a man had been wounded, that it were hard work for the most skillful surgeon to heal him if some vile wretch should tear away the liniments and rend open the wounds as fast as they began to close. Oh! pray against Satan! Cry aloud to your God to deliver you from this fiend, for he is the cause of much of your distress; and if you were rid of him, it may be that your wound would soon heal, and you would find peace. But, remember, the remedy that I shall have to propound to you is a remedy against devils. It is the fiend's confusion as well as sin's destruction. Let them come against you as they may. The remedy I shall have to propound can heal the wounds of Satan, and the tearings of his tangs, as well as those sorrows of soul which God has brought upon you. You may discover a yet further reason why you are so sore wounded, when you consider the terrible nature of that weapon with which God has wounded you. He had not made a little gash with some slender instrument, but if I understand your case aright, he has brought against you the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. Its Word condemns you; its threatenings strike you like barbed arrows. You turn to the law as it is here revealed, and it is altogether on a smoke against you. You turn to the promises, and even they wound you, because you feel you have no right to them. You look at the most precious passages, but they do not assuage your grief, but the rather increase it, because you cannot realize them and lay hold upon them for yourself. Now, this is God using his Word against you, and you know what a weapon that is, "the sword of the Spirit, which is quick and powerful, piercing to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart." They are cut deep that are wounded by the Word of God. If it were my words which had brought you into this fear, you might soon get rid of it; but these are God's words. Were it a father's curse, it might be hard to give you comfort; but it is God's curse that bath gone out against you the curse of the God who made you. He himself bath told you that the sinner shall not stand in his sight, and that he hateth the workers of iniquity. He has himself brought home to your conscience some of those awful passages: "God is angry with the wicked every day;" "He will by no means clear the guilty;" "Our God is a consuming fire;" "The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God." With such weapons as these; with red-hot shot fired against you with all the power of the Spirit, it remains no longer a wonder that your soul should be sharply racked, and your very bones should wax old through your roaring all the day long. Furthermore, there is another cause for this deep disease of conviction, namely, the foolishness of the patient. Physicians will tell you that they can heal one man vastly more quickly than another, even though the disease be precisely the came, and the same remedies be used; for there are some men who help the physician by the quietude of them spirits by the ease and resignation of their minds,their heart is and this gives "health to the navel, and marrow to the bones." But other men are fretful, disturbed, vexed, anxious, questioning this and questioning that; and then the remedies themselves cease to have their proper effect. It is even so with you; you are a foolish patient; you will not do that which would cure you, but you do that which aggravates your woe; you know that if you would east yourselves upon Christ Jesus you would have peace of conscience at once; but instead of that, you are meddling with doctrines too high for you, trying to pry into mysteries which the angels have not known, and so you turn your dizzy brain, and thus help to make your heart yet more singularly sad. You know that you are trying still to work out a righteousness of your own, and this is making your wounds stinking and corrupt. You know, too, that you are looking more to your faith than you are to the object of your faith; you are looking more to what you feel than to what Christ felt; you spend more time in looking at your convictions than you do at Christ's vicarious sacrifice upon the cross. You are a foolish patient; you are doing that which aggravates your complaint. Oh that you were but wiser, and these terrors and these pangs might the sooner be over; you would not tarry so long in the prison if you would but use the means of escape, instead of seeking to dash your head against its strong walls, walls that will not move with all your ravings, but which will only break, and bruise, and wound you the more. You seek to file your fetters, and you rivet them; you seek to unbind them yourself, and you thrust them the deeper into your flesh; you grasp the hammer, and here is the fetter about your wrist; you think to snap it, but you send the iron through the flesh, and make it bleed; you make yourself worse by all your attempts to make yourself better, so that much of your sorrowful conviction is due to your own absurdity, your own ignorance and folly. And, once more, I must give you another reason. There is no wonder that you are under great and terrible pain when under conviction, for it is a disease in which nothing can ever help you but that one remedy. All the joys of nature will never give you relief. I have heard of some vain man who once wore the gown of a clergyman, who was "visited by a poor creature under distress of mind, in the days of Whitfield;" he said to the penitent, "You have been among the Methodists." "I know I have," said he. "Then don't go among those fellows; they have made you mad." "But what am I to do to get rid of the distress of mind I now feel?" "Attend the theater," said he; "go off to balls; take to gaming and the like; and in that way you will soon dissipate your woe." But as he that poureth vinegar upon nitre, so is he that singeth songs to a sad heart; it is taking away a man's garment to make him warm; it is heaping snow upon his head to dissolve the frostbite, sending him back to draff and dung that he may stay his hunger therewith, thrusting him into the kennel that he may get rid of the stench that offends his nostrils Nay, but if these be the true woundings of God, sinful pleasures will make you worse instead of better; and even the usual comforts of life will lose all power to console you. The words of the tenderest wife, the most loving husband, the mercies of Providence, the blessings of home, all these will be of no avail to you to cure this disease. There is one remedy for it; but none of these will so much as touch it. Quaint old Fuller uses language to this effect, when Adam had sinned, he became suddenly plunged in misery; the birds sang as sweetly, the flowers bloomed as brightly, and the air was as balmy, and Eden quite as blissful; but Adam was in misery; he had unparadised paradise. God had not said a word against him, and yet he went and hid himself under the trees of the garden to find a shelter there. There was nothing in the whole garden that could give Adam a moment's delight, because he was under a sense of sin. And so will it be with you. If you could be put in paradise, you would not be the happier. Now that God has convinced you of sin, there is only one cure for you, and that one cure you must have; for you may ramble the world round and you will never find another. You may try your best with all the pleasures and mercies of this life, but you would be in torment, even though you could be taken to heaven, unless this one remedy should appease your aching heart. 2. I have thus, I think, given you sufficient reasons for the great poignancy of your grief; but now, secondly, what are God's designs in thus plunging you deeply in the mire? He does not deal so with all his people; some he brings in a very gentle way to himself. Why, then, does he deal thus hardly with you? The answers to this question are these: there are some questions best unanswered; there are some dealings of God about which we have no right to ask a question If he draws you to heaven, though it were through hell itself, you ought to be content. So long as you are but saved, however fearful the process, you ought not to murmur. But I may give you some reasons after all. In the first place, it is because you were such a stony-hearted sinner, so dead, so careless, that nothing else ever would have awakened you but this-trumpet. It would have been of no use to bring out the gospel with its dulcet notes; it would have been of little service for David to play on his harp before you. You needed to be aroused, and therefore it is that God has hurled his thunderbolts at you one after another, and has been pleased to make heaven and earth shake before you that you might be made to tremble. You were so desperately set on mischief, so stolid, so indifferent, that if saved, God must save you in such a way, or else not at all. And then again, the Lord knows that there is that in your heart which would take you teach to your old sins, and so he is making them bitter to you; he is burning you, that you may be like the burnt child that dreads the fire; he is letting you see the disease in its full climax, that you may from henceforth avoid the company in which that disease was found; he has taught you the full evil of' your heart, the full obnoxiousness of sin, in order that from this day forth you may become a more careful walker, and may the more zealously hate every false way. Besides, it may possibly happen that he designs this out of love to your soul, to make you the more happy afterwards. He is filling your mouth with wormwood, and breaking your teeth with gravel-stone, that you may have a richer appreciation of the luscious flavour of the will of pardon when he pours it into your heart. It is making you feed on ashes the serpent's meat that when you come to eat children's meat the bread of heaven your joy may be multiplied sevenfold. I am one of those poor souls who for five years led a life of misery, and was almost driven to distraction; but I can heartily say, that one day of pardoned sin was a sufficient recompense for the whole five years of conviction. I have to bless God for every terror that ever seared me by night, and for every foreboding that alarmed me by day. It has made me happier ever since; for now, if there be a trouble weighing upon my soul, I thank God it is not such a trouble as that which bowed me to the very earth, and made me creep like a very beast upon the ground by reason of heavy distress and affliction. I know I never can again suffer what I have suffered; I never can, except I be sent to hell, know more of agony than I have known; and now, that ease, that joy and peace in believing, that "no condemnation" which belongs to me as a child of God, is made doubly sweet and inexpressibly precious, by the recollection of my past days of sorrow and grief. Blessed be thou, O God, for ever, who by those black days, like a dreary wilt bath made these summer days all the fairer and the sweeter! The shore is never so welcome as when you mount it with the foot of a shipwrecked mariner just escaped from the sea; food never so sweet as when you sit at the table after days of hunger; water never so refreshing as when you arrive at the end of a parched desert, and have known what it is to thirst. And yet one other reason let me give you, and I need not keep you longer on this point. Possibly, God is bringing you thus, my dear friends, because he means to make great use of you. We are all God's weapons against the enemy. All his saints are used as instruments in the Holy War; but there are some whom God uses in the thickest part of the battle. They are his swords whom he wields in his hand, and strikes innumerable blows with them. These he anneals again, and again, and again. He is annealing you. He is making you meet to be a mighty one in his Israel by-and-bye. Oh! how sweetly you will able to talk to others like yourself, when you once get comfort; and oh! how much you will love him when he once puts away your sin! Will you not? Oh! I think I see you the first day after your sins are forgiven. Why you will be wanting to preach: I should not wonder if you will be going out into the streets, or hurrying to your old companions, and saying to them, "My sins are washed away." Why there will tee nothing too hard for you. The Lord gets his best soldiers out of the highlands of affliction. These are Highlanders that carry everything before them. They know the rivers of sin, they know the glens of grief, and now their sins are all washed away, they know the heights of self-consecration, and of pure devotion; they can do all things through Christ, who strengtheneth them, the Christ who has forgiven them. Do you not think I have just driven the nail home here? Do you not feel in your spirit, that if Jesus would forgive you, you would do everything for him? Oh! I know if I should give out that hymn
"Then loudest of the crowd I'll sing, While heaven's resounding mansions ring With shouts of sovereign grace."
you would say, "Ah, that I will; if ever he forgives such a wretch as I am, and takes such a poor worm as me to his bosom, nothing shall be too hard for me. I will give him all in this life, and I will give and eternity of praise in the life to come." 3. But now I am impatient to come to the word of comfort which I have for you upon the great remedy. Sinners' distressed on account of sin, and bowed with terror down, there is a way of salvation for thee, a way open and accessible, accessible now. Thou mayest now have all thy griefs assuaged, and all thy sorrows may flee away. Hear thou then the remedy, and hear it as from the lip of God, and take care that thou availest thyself of it now, for the longer thou tarriest, the harder will it be to avail thyself of it. "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved." Dost understand me? Trust Christ and you are saved; trust him now and all your sins are gone; there is not one left. Past, present, and to come, all gone. "Am I to feel nothing?" No, not as a preparation for Christ; trust Jesus and thou art saved. "Are there no good works required of me?" None, none; good works shall follow afterwards. The remedy is a simple one; not a compound mixture of thy things and Christ; it is just this the blood of Jesus Christ. There is Jesus on his cross. His hands are bleeding; his heart is bursting; his limbs are tortured; the powers of his soul are full of agony. Those sufferings were offered to God in the place of our sufferings, and "Whosoever believeth in him shall not perish, but have everlasting life." Believe on him now. "But I may not," says one. Thou mayest, nay, not only thou mayest, but thou art condemned if thou dost not believe him now. "I cannot," saith one. Canst not believe thy Lord? Is he a liar? Canst thou not believe his power to save? The Son of God in agony, and yet no power to save!! "I cannot think he shed his blood for me," saith such an one. Thou art commanded to trust him. Thou shalt read thy title clear in him afterwards. Thy business now is simply with him, not with thine interest in him. That shall be known afterwards. Trust him now and thou art saved. Faith is not believing that Christ died for me. If Christ died for every man, then every Arminian, saved or unsaved, bath the true faith: for he believes Christ died for every man. We as Calvinists, do not believe this, but we believe faith consists in trusting Christ, and whosoever trusts Christ shall know as the effect of that trues, that Jesus died for him, and he is saved. Trust Jesus now; just as thou art, fall flat on thy face before him. Away with that last dirty rag of thine that last good work; away with that last filthiness that last good thought; thy good thought, and thy good works are rags and filthiness. Come just as thou art; naked, lost, ruined, helpless, poor. If thou art so bad that I cannot describe thee, and thou canst not describe thyself, yet come. Mercy's free, mercy's free. I am never afraid of preaching grace too free, or a Christ too willing to save. You do want a Mediator to come to God with, but you want none to come to Christ with. You do need some preparation if you are going to the Father; you want none if you are coming to the Son. Come as you are; and God himself must be untrue, his throne must have foundations apart from righteousness, Christ must be false, and this Bible a lie, before one soul that trusts Jesus can ever perish. There is the remedy, by the power of the Holy Spirit; avail thyself of it. Now God help thee and thou art fully saved. II. I shall now want your patient attention for another five or ten minutes, while I take upon myself what was a double duty, because I was afraid w shout the last part of the sermon the first part might do hurt. In the last part of the sermon I have to deal with some WHO HAVE NEVER FELT THESE TERRORS AT ALL, AND WHO STRANGE TO SAY IT, WISH THEY HAD FELT THEM. I suppose I may have conversed now with somewhere verging upon two thousand souls who have been brought to know the Lord under my instrumentality, and I have very often noticed that a considerable proportion of these, and of the best members of our Church too, were brought to know the Lord not by legal terrors, but by gentler means. Sitting one day last week, I saw some twenty-three, and I should think that there might be as many as twelve out of the twenty-three whose convictions of sin were not distinctly marked with the terrors of the law. An excellent young woman comes! before me "What was the first thought that set you really seeking the Savior?" "Sir, it was Christ's lovely character that first made me long to be his disciple. I saw how kind, how good, how disinterested, how self-sacrificing he was, and that made me feel how different I was to what he was. I thought Oh! I am not like Jesus!' and that sent me up to my chamber, and I began to pray! I often have cases like this I preach a terrible sermon upon the law, and I find sinners get comfort under it; I preach another sermon upon Election, and I find poor sinners get awakened under it. God blesses the Word in the very opposite manner to which I thought it would be blessed, and he brings very, very many, to know their state by nature by things which we should have thought would rather have comforted than alarmed them. "The first religious impression I ever had," said another, "that set me seeking the Savior, was this; a young companion of mine fell into sin, and I knew that I was likely to do the same if I was not kept by some one stronger than myself; I therefore sought the Lord, not on account of past sin at first, but because I was afraid of some great future sin. God visited me, and I then felt conviction of sin and was brought to Christ." Singularly enough too I have met with at least a score of persons who found Christ and then mourned their sins more afterwards than they did before. Their convictions have been more terrible after they have known their interest in Christ than they were at first. They have seen the evil after they have escaped from it; they had been-plucked out of the miry clay, and their feet set on a rock, and then afterwards they have seen more fully the depth of that horrible pit out of which they have been snatched, So that it is not true that all who are saved suffer these convictions and terrors;. There are a considerable number who are drawn by the cords of love and the bands of a man. There are some who, like Lydia. have their hearts opened not by the crowbar of conviction, but by the pick-lock of divine grace. Sweetly drawn, almost silently enchanted by the loveliness of Jesus, they say, "Draw me, and I will run after thee." And now you ask me the question "Why has God brought me lo himself in this gentle manner? "Again I say there are some questions better unanswered than answered. God knows best the reason why he does not give you these terrors; leave that question with him. Put I may tell you an anecdote. There was a man coce who had never felt these terrors and he thought within himself "I never can believe I am a Christian unless I do." so he prayed to God that he might feel them, and he did feel them, and what do you think is his testimony? He says, "Never, never do that, for the result was fearful in the extreme." If he bad but known what he was asking for, he would not have asked for anything so foolish. I knew a Christian man once who prayed for trouble. He was afraid he was not a Christian, because he had no trouble; but when the trouble came, he soon discovered how foolish he was to be asking for a thing which God in mercy had kept back from him. O be not foolish enough to sigh for misery. Thank God that you go to heaven along the walls of salvation; bless the Master that he does not call you in the cloudy and dark day, but brings you gently to himself; and be content, I pray you, to be called by the music of the voice of love. May it not happen that Jesus Christ has thus brought you for another reason? He knew that you were very weak, and your mind was very frail, and if you had felt these terrors you might have gone, mad; and you might have been in a lunatic asylum now instead, if you had passed through them. It is true his grace could have kept you, but God always tempers the willed to the shorn lamb, and he will not treat the weak ones as he does the strong ones. And I think again, it may be that if God had given you these feelings you would have grown self-righteous. You would have trusted in them, so he has not given you them. You have not got them to build on, thank God for that, for now you must build on Christ. You say "If I had felt these things, I think I should have been saved." Yes, then you would have trusted in your feelings; the Lord knew that, and therefore he has not given you them. He has given you nothing at all, therefore you must now rest on Christ and nowhere else but there. Oh! do so now. It may be, again, that he has kept you there because he means to make you needful useful to some who like yourself have come gradually to him, for you can say to them when you find them in distress, "Why Jesus Christ brought me gently, and therefore be of good cheer, he is bringing you too." I always like to see in my church some of all sorts. Now there is a brother I could point out this morning who has never known in his life, and I think never will know, about the plague of his own heart, to such an extent as some of us have learnt. He has never gone through fire and through water, but on the contrary is a loving-hearted spirit; a man who spends and is spent in his Master's service, he knows more of the heights of communion than some of us. For my part though I do not want to change places with anybody-I think I could trust my Master if I had his experience, as well as I can trust him with my own. For what has experience to do with it after all? We do not rest on experiences, and frames, and doings;
"Our hopes are fixed on nothing less Than Jesus blood and righteousness."
Now to you then, in conclusion, I preach the same remedy. Poor soul, thou longest to be troubled; ay! but I'd rather have thee long to get relief. Jesus Christ hangs on the cross, and if thou wilt trust him, thou shalt be saved. Just as thou art, as I said to my other friend just now Just as thou art, take Christ as he is. Now, never think about getting ready for Christ; he does not want anything of yours. You need not trim and dress yourselves to come to Christ. Even your frames and feelings are not the wedding garment. Come naked. "But sir, I am so careless." come careless, then. "But I am so hardhearted." come hard-hearted, then. "But I am so thoughtless." come thoughtless, then, and trust Christ now. If you trust him, you will not trust a deceiver. You will not have put your soul into the hand of one who will let it fall and perish. ' Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved," whether convicted by terror or by love, for "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved. he that believeth not "feel what he may, and be in terror though he may. "shall be damned." Amen.
Confession of Sin Illustrated by the Cases of Dr. Pritchard and Constance Kent
July 23rd, 1865 by C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892)
"I acknowledged my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin." Psalms 32:5 .
David's grief for sin was long and terrible. Its effects were visible upon his outward frame; "his bones waxed old;" "his moisture was turned into the drought of summer." No remedy could he find, until he made a full confession before the throne of the heavenly grace. He tells us, that for a time he kept silence, and then his heart became more and more filled with grief: like some mountain tarn whose outlet is blocked up, his soul was swollen with torrents of sorrow. He dreaded to confront his sin. He fashioned excuses; he endeavoured to divert his thoughts, by giving his mind to the cares of his kingdom or the pleasures of his court, but it was all to no purpose; the rankling arrow made the wound bleed anew, and made the gash more wide and deep every day. Like a festering sore his anguish gathered and increased, and as he would not use the lancet of confession, his spirits became more and more full of torment, and there was no rest in his bones because of sin. At last it came to this, that he must return unto his God in humble penitence, or he must die outright; so he hastened to the mercy-seat, and there unrolled the volume of his iniquities before the eye of the all-seeing One, acknowledging all the evil of his ways in language such as you read in the fifty-first and other penitential Psalms. Having done this, a work so simple and yet so difficult to pride, he received at once the token of divine forgiveness; the bones which had been broken were made to rejoice, and he came forth from his closet to sing the blessedness of the man whose transgression is forgiven, and whose sin is covered. See, dear friends, the value of a truthful grace-wrought confession of sin; it is to be prized above all price, for he that confesseth his sin and forsaketh it, shall find mercy. Now, it is a well known fact, that when God is pleased to bestow upon men any choice gift, Satan, who is the god of counterfeits, is sure very soon to produce a base imitation, true in appearance, but worthless in reality: his object is deception, and full often he succeeds. How many there are who have made a worthless confession, and yet are relying upon it as though it were a work of grace; they have come before God as a matter of form, and have said, "Lord, have mercy upon us, miserable sinners;" and having so done, imagine that they have received the divine absolution, when alas! alas! it is easy to be deceived, and difficult to cultivate within one's heart that genuine repentance, which is the work of God the Holy Ghost. May God grant us his gracious assistance while we describe two widely different sorts of confession which have been very vividly brought before us during the past week; and then we will have a few words upon the exercise of the royal prerogative of mercy which is vested in God, who gives forgiveness to those whose confession is sincere. I. Let me set before you TWO SORTS OF CONFESSION. At this present moment, unhappily, two persons are lying under sentence of death, for murders of the most atrocious character. Without wishing to say a single word with regard to the state of soul of either of these persons for into that it is no business of mine to pry it seems to me that the published reports of their cases, may very properly furnish us with types of two sorts of persons. It is remarkable that two such cases as those of Dr. Pritchard and Constance Kent should be before the public eye at the same moment and that the points of contrast in their confession should be so exceedingly clear. I cannot but hope and pray that we may gather some few lessons of warning from crimes which have no doubt exercised a great influence for evil upon the masses of our country. The confession which has been made by Dr. PRITCHARD, maybe taken as a specimen of those which are full often made by impenitent sinners, which can never be regarded as acceptable before the throne of the Most High. Here is a man who is accused of the atrocious crime of murdering his wife and his mother-in-law, and when he answers to the indictment, we are not astonished to hear him plead, "Not Guilty!" I am far from being severe upon him for so pleading, but viewing him as a type, I would remind you that thousands of those who call themselves "miserable sinners" in our public services, if they were called to plead before the bar of God, would have the effrontery to say "Not Guilty." They might not use the words, very probably they would use terms having the opposite meaning, but their heart-plea would be, "not guilty." If they had the law of God explained to them and they were questioned upon each commandment, "Have you broken this? Have you broken that?" though ready enough to confess in the gross that they have sinned, when it came to details they would be for denying all. We have heard of a woman who readily allowed that she was a sinner "O yes, sir, we are all sinners. Just so, sir." But when the visitor sat down and opened the book, and pointing to the commandment, said, "Have you ever had any other God save the Lord?" She did not know that she ever had. "Had she ever taken God's name in vain?" "O dear no, sir, I never did anything so wicked." Each precept was explained, and she very positively claimed that she had not broken it. She had not violated the Sabbath; she had not killed anybody; she had not committed adultery; she had not borne false witness, or coveted anything; she was altogether, in detail, innocent, though in the gross she was quite willing to say as other people, "Oh, yes! I am a sinner, of course, sir, we are all sinners!" which, being interpreted, means, "I am ready to say anything you like to put into my mouth, but I do not believe a syllable of it." The inward speech of the unconverted man is, "I am not guilty." Ask the unhumbled transgressor, "Art thou worthy of God's wrath?" and his proud heart replies, "I am not." "Art thou worthy to be cast away for ever from God's presence on account of sin?" and the unbroken, uncontrite soul replies. "I am not. I am no thief, nor adulterer, nor extortioner; I have not sinned as yon publican has done. I thank God that I am not as other men are." Man pleads Not Guilty, and yet all the while within his heart, so proud and boastful, there may readily he discerned abundant evidence of abounding sin. The leprosy is white upon his unclean brow, and yet the man claims to he sound and whole. If there were no other evidence against us, the very pride which boasts of innocence would be sufficient to convict us of sin, and will be so when we are taught right reason by the Holy Spirit. The guilty man whose case we are now looking upon as an illustration, endeavoured, as a means of defense for himself, to involve another in the dreadful guilt and punishment of his atrocious sin. There were very distinct signs that he would have been perfectly satisfied if the woman who had ministered to his sinful pleasures had been accused and condemned of the crime of which he alone was guilty. Certainly this is the case with the great mass of those who are compelled to acknowledge their sins. Our first parent could not deny that he had taken of the forbidden fruit, but he laid the blame upon Eve: "The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree and I did eat." Ah Adam! where is thy manliness, where thy love to thy spouse, that thou wouldest involve in the ruin her who was bone of thy bone so as to escape thyself? And she! she will not take the blame for a moment, but it is the serpent; she casts all the sin on him. In this first ease of sin, the attempt was less atrocious than in that of the prisoner before us, because there was real guilt both in the woman and in the serpent, while it does not appear that the servant girl in Pritchard's family had any share in the poisoning. However, the human heart is such, that if we could really throw all the shame and blame of sin upon another who was perfectly innocent, there would he a strong temptation to do so if we might by such means be considered innocent. Nay, let me show that Adam virtually did that, for he said "The woman whom thou gavest me," thus virtually laying the blame of his rebellious deed upon God himself. And God, what hand had he in Adam's eating of the fruit of the accursed tree? It was an act of Adam's free will, he did as he pleased concerning it, and the most holy God could in no sense be made partaker of his transgression. Yet, think of it! He would sooner that the great God, who is hymned of angels as the thrice Holy One, should bear the fault of his iniquity than he would bear it himself. Such are we naturally. We may bend the knee and say we are miserable sinners, but unless the grace of God has taught us to make true confession we are always for shifting the burden to some other shoulder, and making it out that alter all, though nominally miserable sinners, we are not so bad as a great many other people, and have a deal saddled upon us which really is no fault of ours, but belongs to providence, to fate, to our fellow men, to the devil, to the weather, and I know not what besides. The convicted criminal who stands before us in our picture made no confession whatever until the case was proved and sentence pronounced. The case was clear enough, but he did his best to make it difficult; had he been completely free from the crime, his bearing and tone could have been scarcely more confident when asserting his innocence. I admit that it was very natural that tie should not aid to convict himself, it is because it is so natural that the man serves so admirably as a representative of human nature when it makes its impenitent confessions. When it could not avail the wretch to withhold the truth, when facts were brought out so clear, when the jury had decided, when the judge had pronounced sentence, then, and not till then, he yielded to tears and entreaties, and proffered a confession, such as it was. So is it ever with unregenerate humanity; though cognizant of sin, we only acknowledge before the Lord that which is too glaring to be denied. Sin may he held up before the eyes of the man who is guilty of it, and often he will disown his own offspring, or assert that it is not what God's Word declares it to be. Holy Scripture accuses us of a thousand sins which we practically claim to he innocent of, for we flatter ourselves that the Bible puts too harsh a construction upon our actions, and that we are not what it declares us to be. When our fellow-men concur in censuring our fault we are compelled to blush, but of what value is a repentance which owes its existence to the overwhelming testimony of our fellow offenders against us. This force-work is far removed from the free and ready acknowledgments of a man whose heart is touched by divine grace and melted by the love of Jesus. When men are upon their dying beds, when the ghosts of their iniquities haunt them, when the red hand of guilt draws the curtain, when they can almost hear the sentence of the last judgment. then they will make a confession, but may we not fear that it is of little value, since it is wrung and extorted from them by fear of hell and horror of the wrath to come. True repentance wrought in us by the Holy Ghost drops as freely as honey droppeth from the comb, but merely natural confessions are like the worst of the wine squeezed by main force from the dregs. O dear friends, God deliver you from ungracious confessions of sin, and enable you sincerely to repent at the foot of Jesus' cross! When the confession came, in the case before us, it was very partial. He had killed one, but he professed himself guiltless of the other's death. Villain as he was, on his own shewing, he could go the length of owning half his crime, but then be started back and acted the liar. No, she died by accident, and he, to avoid being charged unjustly innocent creature as he was had put the poison in the bottle afterwards. He had the wickedness to feign a wonder that his tale was not believed, and likened those who doubted him to those who would not believe the Lord of glory. Now, the confessions of unregenerate men are precisely of this sort. They will go the length of owning, if they have been drinking, or if they have broken the laws of the state, "yes, we have offended here," but the great mass of sins against God are not confessed, nor allowed to be sins at all. Men will often lay a stress upon sins of which they are not conspicuously guilty, and omit those which are the most glaring. What unrenewed man thinks it a sin to forget God, to forsake the Creator's fountain of living waters for the cisterns of the creature, or to live without God in the world? And yet, these are the most crying of all iniquities. To rob God of his glory, to despise his Son, to disbelieve the gospel, to live for self, to be self-righteous all these are heinous evils, but what carnal man owns to them as such? Covetousness! again, who ever confesses that? Thousands are guilty of it, but few will own it even in private before the Lord. No confession will he acceptable before God, unless you are willing to make a clean breast of the whole of your evil ways, words and thoughts, before the searcher of hearts. I do not wonder if you should fail to tell to others your offenses; it were not meet you should do so except wherein you have offended them and may make retribution by the confession; but before God you must open all, you must roll away the stone from the mouth of that sepulcher, even though your iniquity, like Lazarus, should stink. There must be no mincing the matter, things must he called by their right names; you must be willing to feel the horrible sinfulness of sin, amid as far as you can, you must descend to the very bottom of its terrible guiltiness, and acknowledge its blackness, its heinousness, its devilry, its abomination. No confession will he acceptable before God, if you knowingly and wilfully gloss over any sin; if you make any exception, or are partial with respect to any form of iniquity. That confession which hides some sins and only confesses certain others stops one leak in the soul and opens another. Nor ought it to he forgotten, that when the criminal had confessed his sin, yet still in the last confession which we may suppose to have been true, there are words of extenuation, and nothing to indicate any deep and suitable sensibility of his great enormity. He hints at reasons why he was scarcely accountable a sort of madness and the influence oh strong drink must be execrated for the crime, and not the man himself. O God, thou knowest how often in our natural confessions, before thy grace met with us, we made wretched and mean excuses for ourselves! We said that a strong temptation overcame us; it was an unguarded moment; it was our constitution amid our besetting sins; it was our friend who led us astray; it was God's providence which tried us; it was anything rather than ourselves we were to blame, no doubt, but still there were extenuating circumstances. Beloved friends! a man can never make a true confession till he feels that sin is his own sin, and is willing to confess it as such; he must cease to apologize any longer, and must just stand forth before the Lord, and cry, "I have sinned, willfully and infamously, and here, standing in thy presence, I acknowledge it: but if a word of apology could save my soul, I dare not utter it, for I should again be guilty of a lie." May this teach us to seek out rather the aggravations of our sin than fancied extenuations of it. Try to see the worst of thy case, sinner, more than to gloss it or gild it over and make it seem better than it is. All this, remember, was committed by this miserable murderer, who is so soon to appear before his God, not through ignorance, but in spite of a clear consciousness of the wrong of his deed. Had he been some person of a low mental organization, or of neglected intellect, there might be some plea. If, for instance, he had never been able to read, and had received his only education amid thieves and vagabonds, there might have been some excuse, and we might have said, "It is the sin of the community which fails to provide moral and religions instruction for the people;" but here is a man who knows better, who, I suppose, had listened to thousands of sermons, had a knowledge of the Bible, had pretended to pray, was well taught as to the matter of right and wrong, and yet still, in defiance of all this, he sins, and to make the matter worse, shows no signs of softening of heart, no tenderness, no melting, nothing of deep regret, and shame, and contrition, and humbleness of heart, but is, apparently (I say no more) as obdurate in confessing his guilt as when he was denying it. Ah! but there are too many who make confession, having no broken hearts, no streaming eyes, no flowing tears, no humbled spirits. Know ye this, that ten thousand confessions, if they are made by hardened hearts, if they do not spring from really contrite spirits shall he only additions to your guilt as they are mockeries before the Most High. Let these suffice as remarks upon unacceptable confession. Oh Lord, let thy Holy Spirit give to the guilty one, of whom we have been speaking, and to us all that broken and contrite heart, which thou wilt accept through Jesus Christ! The second case must now come before us, and here again I do not desire to speak anything about the state of heart of CONSTANCE KENT, I only speak of her outward act, and only of that as a symbol of true confession. Here is one avowedly guilty of a most atrocious murder, a very great and terrible crime; but when she appears in court she is brought there upon her own confession; her life was in no danger from the witness of other people. She surrendered herself voluntarily, and when she stood before the judge, she pleaded guilty. No doubt her anxious friends had suggested to her the desirableness of pleading "Not guilty," hoping to save her life by failure in the evidence, or plea of insanity, or some other legal method of saving criminals from the gallows. Mark, however, how distinctly she says "Guilty;" and though the question is repeated and space is given her to retract, her reply is still the one self-condemning word "GUILTY!" Even so before the Lord, whenever we come to confess we must approach him with this cry, Guilty, Guilty! "Lord, I cannot say anything else. If hell be my eternal portion for it, I dare say no other. The stones in the streets would cry out against me if I denied my guilt. When my memory shows me the record of my days, its truthful witness is that I have broken thy law; and when my conscience looks at the way in which I have transgressed, it cannot say anything but this, 'Thou hast wilfully broken God's law and thou deservest his wrath.'" Now sinner, thou shalt never be at peace with God until thou art willing unreservedly to plead "Guilty." That self-righteous spirit of thine must he cast out as though it were the very devil, for it is next akin to the devil, and is quite as mischievous, and thou must he brought down humbly to lie at the foot of Jehovah's throne and confess that thou dost richly deserve his wrath, for thou hast defied his righteous law and sinned against him with a high hand. You must plead "Guilty," or remain guilty for ever. You shall never find pardon through Jesus Christ till you are willing, truly and really, to own yourself a sinner. Constance Kent was anxious to free all others from the blame of her sin. Her counsel says, in open court, "Solemnly, in the presence of Almighty God, as a person who values her own soul, she wishes me to say that the guilt is her own alone; and that her father and others, who have so long suffered most unjust and cruel suspicions, are wholly and absolutely innocent." This is well spoken. I know nothing of this young woman's heart, but using her as an illustration rather than an example, we are safe in saying that it is a very blessed sign of true repentance when the sinner cries out with David, "I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me. Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight." There will be in a gracious penitent no attempt to lay the blame upon the tempter, or upon providence; no dwelling upon circumstances, the suddenness of the temptation, or the hastiness of one's temper. "Oh God," says the sinner, " I have sinned myself; I have nothing in the world that is so trimly my own as my own sin. For this my sin, I alone am accountable, and I feel it, amid I cannot, I dare not impeach any one else with being guilty of my sin. I must stand in my own person before thee, O God, even if that involves my eternal ruin." it will never do for you to lay the blame on your mothers and fathers because they did not teach you better, upon the minister for not being earnest enough, or upon your master for telling you to do wrong. It is true that we may be partakers of your sins in a measure, but if you be sincerely penitent, the guilt which will strike you will not be another man's guilt, nor another man's share in your sin, but your own guilt. A sinner has not been brought truly before the Lord in humble contrition, unless his cry is "Lord! I have sinned, I have sinned so as to be guilty myself, in my own person. Have mercy upon me!" The unhappy young woman now condemned to die needed no witness to come forward to prove her guilt and ensure her conviction. No one saw the deed; it was done so secretly that the most expert detectives were not able to find a satisfactory clue to the mystery. There may he collateral evidence to support her confession; it may, or it may not he true that her conviction would now have been certain had her confession been retracted; but she did not need that, for without any voice of man to witness she witnessed against herself. It will never suffice for us merely to confess to the Lord what other people have seen, and to feel guilty because we know that the case is reported in the neighborhood. Many people who have fallen into sin, have felt very penitent because they knew they should damage their names, or lose their situations; but to have your private sin brought before you by conscience, and voluntarily without any pressure but the burden of sin itself and the work of the Holy Spirit, to come before God and say, "Lord, thou knowest in this matter I have offended, and though none saw me except thine eye and mine; yet thine eye might well flash with anger at me, while mine shall he wet with many a tear of penitence on account of it:" that is what you need, Sinner, thou must come before God now and let out thine heart without any external pressure. Spontaneously must thy soul flow out, poured out like water before the Lord, or thou must not hope that he will give thee pardon. She confessed all. It was a solemn moment when the judge said, "I must repeat to you, that you are charged with having wilfully, intentionally, and with malice killed and murdered your brother. Are you guilty or not guilty?" Yes, she was guilty, just as the judge had put it. She did not object to those words which made the case come out so black. The willfulness? yes, she acknowledged that. The intention, the malice? yes, all that. The killing, the murdering was it just murder? was it nothing less? No, nothing else. Not a word of extenuation. She acknowledges all, just as the judge puts it. She is guilty in very deed of the whole charge. Sinner, will you confess sin as God puts it? Many will confess sin after their own fashion, but will you confess it as God puts it? Are you brought to see sin as God sees it? as far as mortal eye could bear that dreadful sight, and do you confess now just what God lays to your door, that you have been his enemy, a traitor, full of evil, covered with iniquity? Will you confess that you have crucified his dear Son, and have in all ways deserved his hottest wrath and displeasure will you plead guilty to that? If not, you shall have no pardon; but if you will do this, he is merciful and just to forgive you your sins through Jesus the great atoning sacrifice. She had not, nor had her counsel for her, a single word to say by way of apology; in fact, at her request, one supposed excuse was utterly discarded: "She wishes me to say that she was not driven to this act, as has been asserted, by unkind treatment at home, as she met with nothing there but tender and forbearing hove." Her counsel might have said she was very young it was hoped that her youth might plead for her. Being young, she might be readily led astray by an evil passion might not that excuse liner? It was long ago, and her confession was her own; she had brought herself there into that dock might not this he a reason for mercy? Nothing of the kind. The judge might think so if he pleased, but there was nothing said for her about that, nor did she desire that it should he suggested. She might secretly hope, but her confession was so thorough, that there was not a single word to sully its clear stream. So, sinner, if you come before God, you must not say, "Lord, I am to be excused because of my position I was in poverty, and I was tempted to steal; or, I had been in bad company, and so I learned to blaspheme; or, I had a hard master, and so I was driven to sin to find some pleasure there." No; if you are really penitent, you will find no reason whatever why you should have sinned, except the evil of your own heart, and that you will plead as an aggravation, not as an excuse. "Guilty! guilty! guilty! am I, O God, before thy face; I offer no excuse, no extenuation. Thou must deal with me upon pure mercy, if thou dost save me, for justice can only award me my well-deserved doom." Notice that when she was asked whether she had anything to say why sentence of death should not he passed upon her, there was still a solemn silence. Was there no reason to he given why the dreadful sentence of being hanged by the neck until dead, should not he passed upon a young and weeping girl? She did not so much as hint at one. I remember well the time when I thought there was no reason why the flames of hell should not consume me, and why the crushing weight of God's wrath should not roll over me for ever and for ever. Methinks every sinner who has really come to Christ, tins been made to feel that however angry God may he with sin, tine is not one whit too angry. Until we know the power of divine grace, we read in the Bible concerning eternal punishment, and we think it is too heavy and too hard, and we are apt to kick against it, and find out some heretic or other who teaches us another doctrine; but when the soul is really quickened by divine grace, and made to feel the weight of sin, it thinks the bottomless pit none too deep, and thine punishment of hell none too severe for sin such as it has committed. This is not the emotion of a mind rendered morbid by sickness, but these are the genuine workings of God the Holy Ghost in the soul, bringing the man to stand guilty before the Lord, with his mouth closed, not able to say a word against the sentence of divine justice. May God bring such there who have never been there yet! In the confession, as we read the story, there was much tenderness. I do not wonder that the judge exhibited deep emotion, who could help it? Remember, I am not pretending to know her heart, I am only judging the externals; as far as thine externals went there seemed to be a great brokenness of spirit. She appeared really to know what guilt meant, and to stand there with this resolve upon her soul, that though she could not make any atonement for her crime, she would acknowledge it honestly, and accordingly she confessed it as one who felt within her own soul the terrible weight of her guilt. This is the manner in which we must stand before God if we would find mercy. It is all very well for us to use fine language, but words alone are worthless. Those words which come fresh from your lips, dictated by your own heart, because the Holy Ghost is there, will suffice if the heart be in them. It is to the contrite that the promise is given. Look to Jesus for contrition, for without it there is no pardon. II. Thus we have tried, as far as we could, to bring out the distinctions which pertain to confessions, and now let us have a word or two upon THE EXERCISE OF THE PREROGATIVE OF MERCY ON GOD'S PART. "Thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin." In every case where there is a genuine, gracious confession, mercy is freely given. There is a notion abroad, that confession deserves mercy. We read in the papers such remarks as these, "expiating sin by confession," or, "made such atonement as he could by confessing his sin." Confession makes no atonement in any shape whatever. There is no one single word in that law which I read to you this morning, in the twentieth of Exodus, about the possibility of taking away sin by mere confession. Justice has but one rule, and that is, sin must be punished. If the sinner violates law, law in the case of man may remit the penalty, but in the case of God never. The attributes of God are not like the qualities of man, they never come into collision with one another, nor do they abridge the sphere of each other. The justice of God is as awful and all-reaching as if line had not a grain of mercy, while the mercy of God is as unrestrained and Almighty as if he were utterly unjust. The reason why sin can be forgiven in the case of a penitent sinner is, because for that sinner Jesus Christ has borne the full weight of all the wrath which his sin deserves. The fire-cloud of Jehovah's wrath was waiting for the sinner the sinner must receive the whole of its dread discharge; but for every sinner that repenteth and believeth in him Christ stood beneath that terrible cloud, and all the lightning was discharged on him. He suffered as incarnate God, all the chastisement which was due to his people. The grief of our Savior we can never tell: the woes of Gethsemane and Gabbatha and Golgotha are not to he expressed, but they were accepted by God in the stead of all the suffering and grief which the law most righteously claimed on every law-breaker. And now, through what Christ Jesus has done, the eternal mercy of God comes streaming forth in perfect consistency with justice. Mercy provided the great substitute, and now mercy with loving heart calls upon sinners repenting and believing, and assures them that all sin is put away through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Let every sinner know, then, that although his repentance does not deserve mercy, the God of love has been pleased to promise free pardon to all those who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, because Christ deserves it. Pardon is given to penitent sinners as a matter of justice, as well as mercy, because of the throes, and grief, and agonies of the Divine Redeemer. How consistent it is with the nature of things that penitent sinners, and penitent sinners only should obtain mercy through Jesus Christ! When you read the story of the man who made no confession till it was forced out of him, although you can respond to his wish, "Fellow creatures, pray for me," you cannot feel much sympathy, if any, with him. His conduct seems to harden one's heart against him, not merely because of his guilt, but because of the lie of his confession, But, when you read the other story, although it contains no request to pray, you find you do not want one for your heart cries at once, "Father forgive her;" and you think within yourself, "If the prerogative of mercy can be exercised in this case, let it be." If it were put to a show of hands of all our country whether the law should be executed on Constance Kent, I think we should all say "Let the penitent sinner live." Great was her offense, and no excuse is to he offered for her, as she offers none for herself. It was a great and dreadful crime, which must be a blight upon her all her days, yet, let her he spared for she has confessed most fully not on the ground of justice, but on the ground that this seems to he a case in which, if the prerogative of mercy is to be sovereignly exercised at all, it should now have free scope. Methinks when the eternal God sees a poor sinner standing before himself, and hears him cry, "I am guilty, Lord! I am guilty through and through! I alone am guilty! I have broken thy law! If thou smite me thou art just! My heart is broken because I have sinned. I cannot he more wretched than I now am, for sin is my plague and my misery; and while I confess it I do not think that my confession has any merit in it. Save me for Jesus' sake!" "Why, methinks," the mighty God says, "I have brought that soul, through my grace, into a state in which it is ready to receive the precious gift of justification and pardon through the blood of my dear Son." See how one grace gives a fitness for another. The sinner is brought to Jesus, his heart is broken, and then it is ready to he bound up. Time penitent sinner has paid honour to the prerogative of the law-giver. He has, as far as he could do so, dethroned the law-giver by his sin, but now by his confession he restores him to his throne. Such a sinner knows the bitterness of sin, amid knowing its bitterness, he will hate it for the future. If he be pardoned, he will not go back as the dog to his vomit, or the sow that is washed to her wallowing in the mire. This pardoned sinner will not take to himself the credit of having been pardon by his confessions, he will not go abroad and talk lightly of his sin, he will he sure to speak much of the leniency of the Law-giver and the power of Jesus' precious blood; he will admire evermore, even in eternity, the mighty grace which pardoned such as he is. On the other hand, if man were forgiven, and no true penitence wrought in him, what would be the result? Why, it would he turning wolves loose upon society. Methinks if God gave forgiveness to men without working a work of grace in them by which they are brought to repentance, it would he offering a premium for sun, it would he breaking down the floodgates which restrain vice, it would be destroying all the excellent fruits which free grace is intended to produce. What! is the man to he pardoned for all the past and to remain without repentance for his evil ways? Then will he make the future just as the past has been; nay, he will sin with a higher hand and with a stronger arm. because he sees with what impunity he may rebel. What! shall a proud, unhumbled sinner rejoice in the forgiving love of the Father Then will he arrogantly boast that there was not much evil in his sin after all; he will lie no singer to the praise of sovereign grace, but rather, with the boastful lips of the legalist he will render unto himself praise for the dexterous manner in which he has escaped from the condemnation due to sin. God will give pardon to those only to whom he gives repentance, for it were unsafe to give it elsewhere. God bring us down and lay us in the dust, for then, and then only. are we prepared to hear him say, "Thy sins, which are many, are forgiven thee." I take it for granted that there are some here who will say, "I wish I could repent. I know that it would not merit eternal life. I understand that faith faith in Jesus Christ is the way by which I must he saved, but I would he humbled on account of sin." My dear friend, your desire to he humble may perhaps he an indication that you are already in that condition; but, if you are lamenting your hardness of heart, I will suggest two or three things. Remember your past sins. I do not want you to write out a list of them all, there is not paper enough in this world for that, but let some of them start out before your memory, arid if they do not make you blush, they might to do so. Next think over all the aggravations of those sins. Recollect the training you had as a child. You were blessed with godly parents. Remember the providential warnings you received. Think of the light and knowledge against which you have offended; that tenderness of conscience against which you kicked. Then I beg you to consider against what a God you have offended, so great, so good, so kind, who has never done you a displeasure, but has been all generosity and kindness to you till this day. Your offenses have been insults against the King of heaven. Your transgressions have been undermining, as far as they could, the throne of the eternal majesty. Look at sin in the light of God, to he humbled. And if this will not do it, let me pray that God the Holy Spirit may take you to the foot of the cross. Remember, that in order that sin might he put away, it was necessary that God should he veiled in human flesh. No one else could bear the load of sin but God, and he only could bear it by becoming man. See the suffering of the Savior when "despised and rejected." Mark the spitting, the shame, the smiting. Watch his wounds;
"Count the purple drops, and say, 'Thus mast sin be wash'd away.'"
And surely, if God the Holy Ghost bless it, such a meditation will make thee see the blackness and vileness of sin. John Bradford said, that when he was in prayer, he never liked to rise from his knees till he began to feel something of brokenness of heart. Get thee up to thy chamber, then, poor sinner, if thou wouldst have a broken and contrite spirit, and come not out until thou hast it. Remember, that thou wilt never feel so broken in heart as when thou canst see Jesus bearing all thy sins. Faith and repentance are born together, and aid the health of each other.
"Law and terrors do but harden, All the while they work alone; But a sense of blood-bought pardon, Will dissolve a heart of stone."
Go as you are to Christ, and ask him to give that tenderness of heart which shall be to you the indication that pardon has come; for pardon cannot and will not come unattended by a melting of soul and a hatred of sin. Wrestle with the Lord! say, "I will not let thee go except thou bless me." Get a fast hold upon the Savior by a vigorous faith in his great atonement. Oh! may his Spirit enable thee to do this! Say in thy soul, " Here I will abide, at the horns of the altar; if I perish I will perish at the foot of the cross. From my hope in Jesus I will not depart; but I will look up still and say, Savior, thy heart was broken for me, break my heart! Thou wast wounded, wound me! Thy blood was freely poured forth, for me, Lord let me pour forth my team's that I should have nailed thee to the tree. O Lord, dissolve my soul; melt it in tenderness, and thou shalt be for ever praised for making thine enemy thy friend." May God bless you, and make you truly repent, if you have not repented; and, if you have, may he enable you to continue in it all your days, for Jesus Christ's sake. Amen.
Bit and Bridle: How to Escape Them
February 15th, 1891 by C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892)
"I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye. Be ye not as the horse, or as the mule, which have no understanding: whose mouth must be held in with bit and bridle, lest they come near unto thee." Psalms 32:8-9 .
The joy of full forgiveness is described in the first two verses of this psalm: "Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile." Oh, the blessedness of sitting at Jesus' feet, a sinner washed in his blood! Outside of heaven there is no greater joy; and even there they sing of bloodwashed robes. After a man is pardoned, anxiety is awakened as to how he shall be kept from sin in the future. The burnt child dreads the fire; and although his burns have all been healed, he dreads the fire none the less, but all the more. These who have been scorched by sin tremble at even a distant approach to the flame. You will always know whether you are delivered from the guilt of sin by answering this question Am I delivered from the love of sin? He who lost his way yesterday feels his need of a guide for to-day and to-morrow. How can the pardoned one endure the thought of again sinning against the Lord? David's great anxiety on this score is met by the gracious answer of the Lord: "I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go." Another thing is noteworthy: David was now rid of guile as well as guilt. Orientals pride themselves on their cunning, and David, by nature, had a considerable share of craft about him; but he now drives it from his spirit: he will not henceforth tolerate himself in deceit. When he had thrown away this false wisdom, this carnal prudence, he felt that he must look elsewhere for guidance. If he is no longer to plot and plan with the cunning which he had shown in the matter of Uriah, he will need other direction, and he looks up for it. See how our gracious God comes in with the promise of guidance. "The meek will he guide in judgment: and the meek: will he teach his way." "The Lord preserveth the simple." The upright, who can no longer trust their own deceitful hearts, shall find the Lord an all-sufficient guide. Happy is it for them that he has spoken such a word as this: "I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go." One other observation. We find David, in this psalm, reaching to a high state of joy, on account of his being forgiven. He exclaims, in the seventh verse, "Thou shalt compass me about with songs of deliverance." A very proper state of mind to be in. It is meet that the pardoned sinner should leap for joy. But, at the same time, the wisdom of God comes in, not to check the joy, but to render it more deep, more sure, and to prevent its coming to an untimely end. David is in ecstasies of delight; but he is to be reminded that he is not yet in heaven, and that he is compassed about with other things besides songs. The voice of God commends his joy, but also reminds him that there lies before him a future full of perils, a life strewn with temptations. He is henceforth to be a disciple as well as a singer; he needs to be instructed and taught in the way, for he is a pilgrim still, and not yet at his journey's end. Sound the timbrel if you will, and shout for joy and sing unto the Lord, for he hath triumphed gloriously; but remember that on the other side of the Red Sea there is a wilderness, and you will require much grace to traverse it such grace as only the Shepherd of Israel can give you. You will be wise to address yourselves to your journey, and resolve to follow him whose eye discerns the way, and whose hand can help you in it. A pilgrim's life is not all feasting. He has something else to do besides praising God upon the high-sounding cymbals. We must sit at Jesus' feet, as well as look to his cross. We are to bear his yoke and learn of him, that we may find rest unto our souls. This may stand as an introduction; for now I want to conduct you further into this grave business of the saved man. You are pardoned, my friend, you know you are, and you feel the joy of that knowledge. God grant that your joy may abound yet more and more! Sitting in your seat this morning, you are saying, "Oh, the heaped-up blessedness of the man whose transgression is forgiven, and whose sin is covered!" Yes, but you are not in heaven yet; something more is needed; not to secure the love of God, not to complete the work of sovereign grace; but to educate you for the skies, to make you meet to be a partaker of the inheritance of the saints in light. About that matter we are going to talk as the Holy Spirit shall enable us. That I may set before you, to the full, the teaching of the text, I would have you note, first, a privilege to be sought divine instruction, practical teaching, and tender guidance: secondly, a character to be avoided "Be ye not as the horse, or as the mule, which have no understanding." This will bring us to consider, thirdly, an infliction to be escaped "Whose mouth must be held in with bit and bridle." If you do not wish to be bitted and bridled, be readily obedient to the direction of your Lord. We will come to a close by reflecting that there is a freedom to be attained. You may be free from bit and bridle, and guided by the eye of God; you may find your way to heaven without the need of these rough chastisements which compel obedience. Oh, for the help of the great Teacher in this matter! I. First, here is A PRIVILEGE TO BE SOUGHT. I will proceed at once to set it forth from the words before us. This guidance is very full in its nature. Three words are used to describe it: "I will instruct thee, and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye." The first word is, "I will instruct thee" a promise fuller of meaning than would appear upon its surface. God is prepared to give you an inward understanding of spiritual things; for his instruction is intensely effectual upon the mind. The Lord is prepared to teach you in his truth; to make you wise in heavenly matters. Though saved, you are as yet a mere child, and unfamiliar with great truths. You know but little of divine things: you know little of yourself, little of your danger, little of holiness, and little of God; but the Lord here promises to take you for his pupil, and to be himself your instructor. He instructs so effectually as really to build up the mind; hence the psalmist says, "Through thy precepts I get understanding." Other instructors can awaken that measure of understanding which is already ours; but God giveth understanding to the simple. A good understanding is one of the gifts of his grace, and blessed are they who receive it. The second word is, "I will teach thee"; and this teaching is most practical, for the promise is I will teach thee in the way which thou shalt go." God adds the precept to the doctrine, and instructs us in both. Eminently precious is that practical teaching by which you are made to know what to do, and how to do it. Theoretical teaching is of small importance compared with this practical learning. The Lord will teach us the art and mystery of holiness. He will apprentice us to the Lord Jesus as the master of righteousness: he will make us journey-men one of these days, and turn us out full-blown "workmen that need not to be ashamed." Our great Teacher sends forth fine workmen, whose good works are seen of men, and cause them to glorify the Father in heaven. The promise of the Lord, in the third word of the verse, goes even further than doctrinal and practical instruction; for we read, "I will guide thee with mine eye." Herein is fellowship as well as instruction; for the guide goes with the traveler, and thus will God, in the process of our instruction, give us fellowship with himself. Blessed are they who follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth: they have both the privilege of holy walk and heavenly company. It is our high privilege that, while our Shepherd goes before us, he calls us by name, and we follow closely in his footsteps, as his well-beloved sheep. We are not only to be told the way, and led into the way, but to be accompanied in it by our teacher and friend. The education which the Lord provides is complete in all its branches, mind, and life, and heart are all under the divine tuition. This is no pauper school, or merely preparatory seminary: the text describes a high school of holiness, a grammar school of grace, a University of holiness. In this place of sacred instruction you may take high degrees if you will, and become teachers of others also. He who forgave you provides for you everything that you can need to make you a disciple indeed, a learner who in the ages to come shall make known to angels and principalities and powers the manifold wisdom of God. Who would not be a scholar in such a University as this? Note, next, that this teaching is divine in its source. See how it runs: "I will instruct thee." How delightful! "I will instruct thee: I will guide thee with mine eye." The Lord will not put us in a low class, where some half-instructed usher or pupil-teacher shall look after us. No; we shall all of us be taught by the Lord Jesus himself, and his Holy Spirit. It is written, "I will instruct thee: I will guide thee." Our Lord may instruct us by men who are taught of himself; but, after all, the best of his servants cannot teach us anything profitably except the Lord himself teaches by them and through them. He alone teaches us to profit. What a wonderful condescension it is that the Lord should become a teacher! Sunday-school teachers, adore the head of your sacred college, even God himself! "I will teach thee, I will instruct thee." They are well taught that are taught of God; and this privilege is common to all the family of love; for the Scripture saith, "All thy children shall be taught of the Lord." It is not said that a portion of them shall be left to be trained by angels or archangels; but they shall all be taught of the Lord. Jehovah himself will be the instructor of every soul that comes to him through Jesus Christ. Observe how wonderfully personal is this promised guidance. While the address in the ninth verse is in the plural, "Be ye not as the horse, or as the mule," the promise is in the singular to each individual: "I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go; I will guide thee with mine eye." Wonder of wonders, the Infinite focuses himself upon the insignificant! We who are less than the motes in the sunbeam, are nevertheless considered individually by him who filleth all in all, who is greater than all that he fills. "I will instruct thee." Yes, Jehovah will condescend to instruct that believer who is feeblest of all the company. Rejoice, my brother, that though thy understanding be a commonplace one, and though thy position be very obscure, yet the Lord does not say, "I will send thee to a preparatory school kept by some inferior teacher"; but he does say, "I will instruct thee." God instructs each believer as truly as if he were his only child. It is delightful to reflect that while Christ's death has a sufficient efficacy in it to save a believing world, yet if his design had been to save only me, he must have offered the same sacrifice as he has done. His death would have been needful to prove that "he loved me, and gave himself for me." So, while our Lord's teaching would suffice to instruct myriads of men who are willing to learn, yet does he condescend to bring all his teaching to bear upon each single person: "I will instruct thee, and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go." I note with comfort, in the text, what the French call tu-toi-age. Speaking to one another very familiarly, they say "thou" and "thee." How sweetly is this seen in this passage: "I will instruct thee, and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go. I will guide thee with mine eye"! Hear you not the great Father talking to his dear child? Yes, I hear him speaking to you and to me! Blessed be his name for such familiar love! Let us profit by its promise even to the full. Furthermore, this teaching is delightfully tender: "I will guide thee with mine eye"; that is to say, if you are willing to be so directed, the Lord will guide you, not by the rough means of bit and bridle, muzzle and cord, but with his eye a way which implies understanding on your part, and love on his part. It is a recognition of confidence in us when he promises thus to guide us. The mistress at the head of the table gives a nod to Sarah, she knows what it means, and the will of the lady is done at once. The master has not to enter into details with old John, who has been with him for so many years; he knows his wishes, and a wink or a look will speak volumes. Well-trained children of God have their faces toward him, and soon perceive his mind, and this secures their prompt obedience. They see much in little, and they make great account of every word of the Lord. When we are what we ought to be, the guidance of the Lord is not sent us in thunder, but in a still small voice; and his instruction comes, not in tempests and hailstones, but in sunbeams and dewdrops. Some saints can be effectually led with a hair-thread. Cords of love and bands of a man are at once the tenderest and the strongest bonds for a sanctified soul. "I will guide thee with mine eye" is a charming promise, but it is of no use to the blind, the stubborn, the careless, and the self-willed. What a pity that any should debar themselves from so choice a privilege! See, dear friends, you that have been lately pardoned; and you, of older years, who have long been forgiven, see what guidance there is for you all the way from your starting-point to the gate of pearl at the end of the road! I say this because I mean to wind up this point with the remark This teaching is constant. "I will instruct thee and teach thee; I will guide thee." He that has begun to guide will not suddenly desert: he that has commenced to teach you will never dismiss you from his class; he that has in a measure instructed you, and given you an understanding, will continue to teach you until he has perfected you in the knowledge of himself, and conformed you to the image of his Son. I feel most happy to think that such a privilege is promised and provided. I have heard of some who dream that, once forgiven, they may live as they list; but to such I would say, "You know nothing about the matter; you are in the gall of bitterness, and in the bonds of iniquity." The man who believes in Jesus for salvation, believes in him so as to be set free from his sins; and his great anxiety is to be saved from all iniquity, and to be led in the ways of righteousness to the glory of God. Here is comfort for you that are really seeking a holy life: God has made provision for your being led in it. He who has made you his child, will put you to school, and teach you until you shall know the Lord Jesus as the way, the truth, and the life. Soon shall you know your Father's name and character, and sing unto his praise among the bright intelligences that surround his throne. II. I now ask your attention while I show you A CHARACTER TO BE AVOIDED. We are told that since the Lord is ready to instruct us, we are not to be stubborn and wayward. It is ours to be docile and obedient. "Be ye not as the horse, or as the mule, which have no understanding: whose mouth must be held in with bit and bridle, lest they come near unto thee." We are not to imitate creatures of which we are the superiors. Man is made to have dominion over the horse and mule, and the whole animal creation: let him not seek his models among his servants. I have sometimes heard speeches which have looked in that unwise direction. One said, in my hearing, as an excuse for a passionate speech, "I could not help it. If you tread on a worm it will turn." Is a worm to be the example for a saint? By a worm in that case, I suppose, is meant a serpent; and are you to follow serpents in their malice and venom? I have heard the same thing turned the other way, and it has been made to appear as if an animal might be all the worse for copying a man. The driver of an omnibus was using his whip pretty freely upon one of his horses, and a gentleman sitting on the box-seat observed, "You never strike the horse on this side." "Bless you!" said the driver, "if I were to touch that mare, when I went near her in the stable at night, she would kick me like a Christian." What a remarkable simile, was it not? Like a Christian! Is that so, that Christians kick? that Christians are found taking revenge? Here is a matter about which we would urgently cry, "Be ye not as the horse, or as the mule." Never render evil for evil, railing for railing; for that is to copy the beasts of the field. Let us look upward to the highest for our model, and never go down to the beasts of the field for models. We must mind that we do not imitate creatures to whom we are so near akin. The mule has a touch of the ass in it, and I fear it is not the only creature of which this may be said. Is not man, as unredeemed, likened to the ass in the types of the Mosaic law? Ah, brethren! we are likened in Scripture to many strange beasts, and not without reason. St. Augustine and other ancient writers discuss, at length, the likeness which exists between men and mules. I am not going to follow them in their observations, but would simply say with Dr. Donne, "They have gone far in these illusions and applications; and they might have gone as far further as it had pleased them: they have sea-room enough, that will compare a beast and a sinner together; and they shall find many times, in the way, the beast the better man." I am afraid that it is so. David himself says, "So foolish was I, and ignorant: I was as a beast before thee"; and yet he was so good a man that he could add, "Nevertheless I am continually with thee." A large part of us is animal, and its tendency is to drag down that part which is more than angelic. How abject, and yet how august is man! Brother to the worm, and yet akin to Deity. Immortal and yet a child of dust. Be ye not the prey of your lower natures. As children of God, yield not yourselves to that which it is your duty to subdue. Have the horse and mule in subjection: keep under your body: do not bear the burden of the animal, but make the animal your burden-bearer. "Be ye not as the horse, or as the mule," but rise superior to flesh and blood. May the Spirit of the Lord help your infirmities in this matter! I believe the psalmist here alludes to the horse and mule as creatures naturally wild, and needing to be broken in and trained. We are by nature as the wild ass that snuffeth up the wind of the wilderness: "he scorneth the multitude of the city, neither regardeth he the crying of the driver." These wild creatures we can make nothing of till we break them in: be not like them, useless, untrained, unbroken. Yet this is how we begin life, naturally and spiritually. It is good to get broken in early in life: "it is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth." It is an ill thing for a man to have no restraint in youth, and no trouble in full-grown manhood. When men and women follow out their own sweet wills, the end thereof is seven-fold bitterness. A mind uncorrected is a vine unpruned, which yields no fruit, but trails along the ground, and rots as it trails. It is a grand thing to learn the meaning of the word "obey." It is ill with these who remain unsubdued: they are of little worth to themselves or to others. The Holy Spirit would not have any of the Lord's people to be of that wild, untamable character, for which there is neither use nor hope. Furthermore, we are not to imitate creatures devoid of reason. Be ye not as the horse, or as the mule, which have no understanding." He especially lays stress on this that they are without understanding. What does he mean by that? Horses and mules have been so trained that they have needed neither bit nor bridle, but have performed marvellous feats at a word. It is possible for these animals to be brought to so high a training that they obey the word of command without the use of force. They come to have an understanding of their owner's intent, and act as if they really entered into their master's designs. With the horses and mules of our streets, and of David's day, this is not the case; these display little understanding; and we are not to be like them. You are a reasoning man; act reasonably. You have understanding; do not act under mere impulse, blind wilfulness, or ignorant folly. Here is the point, brethren: what we need is to come to an understanding with God, and to keep in that condition. The horse does not understand his driver's wishes, except as he intimates them through the bit and bridle. When he is to turn, when he is to quicken his pace, and when he is to stand still, must be told to him through the rein; for apart from the bit in his mouth, he has no understanding of the man's mind. That thought which works in the mind of his driver is not working in the mule's mind, and therefore he has to feel a pull at his mouth to make him know his master's desire. We need to come to an understanding with God. "Be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is." Be sensitive to the Spirit of God. So dwell in God that he shall dwell in you, and his indwelling shall cause you to feel at once what it is that he would have you to do. May your will be so in accord with the Lord's will that you will only what he wills! This is the highest form of understanding that I know of; may we never rest till we have it. "Give me understanding, and I shall keep thy law." You know how we say, "I should like to come to some understanding with that man," for you feel that without it your relations are unsatisfactory. When two friends really understand each other's purpose, and enter into each other's design, then they act as if they were one. Be you so near to God in heart that you can be guided with his eye, because you understand the mind of your heavenly Father, and are in full sympathy with him. But the psalmist also adds, concerning the horse and the mule, that having no understanding, they are creatures with much self-will and waywardess. "Their mouth must be held in with bit and bridle, lest they come near unto thee." If you look at the Revised Version, you will find it is "else they will not come near unto thee"; and Calvin has it, "lest they kick at thee." This is a very obscure passage as to the words, but it is not at all doubtful as to its sense; for the point is that the animal will not do what it should do, but it will obstinately do what it ought not to do, until it gets the bit in its mouth to compel it to do its master's will. So is it with ourselves; but so it should not be. At one time we find men rashly rushing near to God; they have no reverence, no holy trembling and awe. Some appear to be as familiar with God as if he were one of themselves. Thus the Lord complains in the psalm: "Thou thoughtest that I was altogether such an one as thyself." Such vain people need a bit, lest they come near to God. They need to hear the voice which cries, "Draw not nigh hither: put off thy shoes from off thy feet." Oh, for more holy reverence! Others will not come near to God at all, and need a bit because they run off from the Lord into infidelity, blasphemy, or open vice. These endeavor to carry out their own wild wills, throwing up their heels as they please, and prancing over hill and plain with a defiant contempt of rule and order. We know that kind of people: let us not in any measure grow like them. There are horses and mules that will kick, and bite, and do grievous harm to these round about them, unless they are restrained with straps and harness. I am afraid I know some kicking saints as well as kicking sinners; and I am more afraid of these kicking professors than of the outwardly wicked. I would sooner be bitten by a wolf than by a sheep; that is to say, I could more readily bear injury from an ungodly man than from a professed believer. A kick from a Christian causes very serious wounding to a gracious heart. "It was not an enemy: then I could have borne it." Remember the question and answer "What are these wounds in thine hands? Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends." These are wounds indeed which our Lord receives from a traitorous disciple. "Be ye not as the horse, or as the mule, whose mouth must be held in with bit and bridle, lest they kick at thee." Kick not at the will of your Lord. Kick not at the doctrines of his Word. Kick not at the precepts of his house. Kick not at his servants. Kick not at his providences. Kick not at his cross. Surely, I need not further urge you to avoid this unlovely character. None of you would wish to be as the horse, or as the mule. III. I will now dwell for a few minutes upon AN INFLICTION TO BE ESCAPED. If you mean to be like the horse or the mule, you may readily be so, but you will have to pay the penalty. If the Lord means to save you, he will use a bit and a bridle upon you, if you render them necessary by your wilfulness. If you will be guided by his eye, there will be no need for such stern work: but if you are stubborn, he will not spare you. I may say of this bit and bridle, that such trappings are a curb upon freedom. A man would not endure to go about wearing a bit and a bridle; yet many a child of God is in that condition spiritually, because he is not subdued to the will of the Lord. Because he is not tender of conscience, because he is frequently disobedient, because he does not carry out his Lord's will, he has to suffer severe discipline, ad labor under serious disadvantage. If the man were willingly obedient to the divine will, things would go more happily with him. The bit is not applied unless it is found necessary; but it will be applied if needful. My text says, "Whose mouth must be held in with bit and bridle. Mark that must." That must arises out of the nature of the creature dealt with. Some men, if they are to go to heaven, must be poor on the road, or must be sick, or must be defeated, or must be misunderstood: not because there is any real necessity, apart from their obstinate, cross-grained nature, but because they themselves render it needful. God is resolved to save them, and therefore he will drive them to salvation with bit and bridle, rather than leave them free to rush downward to hell through the indulgence of their own passions and ambitions. Dear friends, what a wretched descent is this from being guided by God's eye! In the first case we have an intelligent servant so in accord with his Lord that a look suffices to set him running in the way of obedience; and in the second case we have an avowedly Christian man so out of accord with God that he has to be treated like a mule which will only yield under compulsion, and only obey as it is made to smart. I do not know, dear brethren, if this description applies to any one of you; but if it does, kindly take it home, and if I seem to be personal to you well, I intend to be personal, and, therefore, I dare not apologize. I am afraid that many of us ought to make it more personal to ourselves than we are likely to do. There is a hair of the mule's tail in every one of us. "Be ye not as the horse, or as the mule," or you shall have your mouth held in with bit and bridle. That is always a very unpleasant matter. It is not comfortable, even to a mule, to wear bit and bridle; and it certainly must be very unpleasant to a man. I have known brethren whom God could not use in the conversion of many souls, for they could not bear prosperity. The Lord did bless the preacher once, and he grew so great in his own esteem that he was not bearable to these around him. For the man's own sake the good Lord saw that it was not safe to let him be useful. Here is a man who formerly succeeded in business; but he grew so worldly, so purse-proud, so forgetful of God, that it was necessary to take his wealth away from him; and it has been done and now he is devout and lowly. Another man, when he is in health and strength, is so full of levity and carelessness that he plays the fool; and in order to keep him right it is necessary to let him have a sluggish liver, or an aching head, or a sick home, or something else, which may sober him. My friend, if God means to get you to heaven he will lead you there gently if you will freely go; but if you are obstinate and hard, he will thrust the bit between your jaws and drive you there. The less wilfulness the less harness; but if need be, you shall wear all the paraphernalia of an unquiet horse; for the great Trainer will have the upper hand of you, and thus he will save you. The Lord would be glad for you to go without these disagreeable things; but if you will have them, you shall have them. I know a person who is always grumbling; and I do not wonder that he always seems to have cause for it. It is like the child that I heard crying, and its mother said to it, "Hold your tongue! If you cry for nothing, I will soon give you something to cry for." Many a child of God has found something to cry for as the result of wanton murmuring. Some hearers even go to the house of God, and complain that the preacher says this, and does not say that, and omits the other. Before long the Lord removes the preacher they complained of, and they have nobody to feed their souls, and then they begin to wish they had the old preacher back again. Well, well, if you make rods for your backs, God will use them upon you. It is his custom not to let anything lie idle in his house; so, if you are busy making a rod, he will be busy in putting it to its proper use. But all this is unnatural to the child of God. Your children do not go about your house with bits in their mouths and bridles on their heads. God would not have his own regenerated ones going up and down in the world all bitted and bridled: but it shall be so sooner than they shall be lost. Disobedience is ruin: from that he must deliver his people. If we take delight in holiness we shall not need rough usage. Here is the sweet alternative I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye." This is God's way. Oh that it may be our way! May the good Spirit lead us into it! Do not drive your Savior to be stern with you. Do not choose the way of hardness the brutish way, the mulish way. "Be ye not as the horse, or as the mule, which have no understanding," for then you will become sad, gloomy, dull, stupid, and full of disquietude. It is essential that your iniquities should be subdued, and they shall be. He will save you save you from rebellion, save you from self-seeking and self-will. He will bend you to his holy will; and if it cannot come to pass anyhow else, then the bit and the bridle shall conquer you. O souls, submit yourselves unto God. Vex not his Holy Spirit by hardness of heart. IV. Now I close by noticing A FREEDOM TO BE ATTAINED. There are children of God who wear no bit or bridle: the Lord has loosed their bonds. To them obedience is delight: they keep his commands with their whole heart. The Son has made them free, and they are free indeed. They are free: first, because they are in touch with God. God's will is their will. They answer to the Lord as the echo to the voice. Happy is he who can say, "Whatever thou desirest, O my Lord, I would desire it because thou desires it." Then is it safe for the Lord to leave the man free from compulsion. It is written, "Delight thyself also in the Lord; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart." This large liberty can only be promised to these whose desires are in accordance with their heavenly delight. When the desires run towards God with delight, they shall surely be granted. When you and God have come to a good, clear understanding with each other, so that you yield to him in all things, then he will hear your prayers and give you the blessing which maketh rich and addeth no sorrow therewith. When you rejoice in Christ Jesus, in whom the Father is well pleased, then will the Lord be pleased with you. When you cry to him in the day of trouble, coming to the mercy-seat, where he delights to dwell, then he will meet with you, and lift up the light of his countenance upon you. You shall be free, next, because you are tutored. The Lord cannot trust our wild nature: he gives freedom where he gives his Spirit: "Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty." How does our Lord put it? "Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls." He gives rest through his blood; he makes you find rest through learning of him, and bearing his yoke. It is only a horse that has been long taught and trained by great skill that can be trusted to go through a performance without bit or bridle. I sometimes hope there will come a day when these who drive horses will not need to carry whips, because the noble animals have been so trained by kindness as to answer to a word. I fear that time is a long way off; but I have greater hope of you, beloved brethren, that you will be so trained that no constraint but that of the love of Christ will be needed to be put upon you. The law was not made for a righteous man. I hope we shall not need church discipline, or providential discipline, because we have been trained to joyful, watchful, exact obedience. Oh, that it were so! Teach me, O Lord! Teach me thy way. Show me what thou wouldest have me to do. Make me to know the perfect love which casts out fear. When we are thus instructed, the Lord will leave us by his sweet grace to be encompassed about by mercy, and to be guided by his eye. We shall be free, again, because always trusting. Look at the tenth verse: "He that trusteth in the Lord, mercy shall compass him about." Faith gives life, and more faith gives light and liberty. When we completely trust in God we shall do his will completely. When we raise no questions with God; when our reliance upon him is without reserve; when we know by faith that his will and way for us are perfect, then we shall run in the way of his commandments, because he has enlarged our steps. When we have received life more abundantly through a growing faith, it will be safe for our Lord to take away all bits and bridles; but not till then. When, through grace, faith has triumphantly mastered our whole being, we shall be victorious over the law of sin and death which dwells in our members, and tends to unrighteousness; and then shall the yoke be taken away, and the burden be removed. Blessed freedom this! Especially free because tender. "Be ye not as the horse, or as the mule": these are thick of skin, and tough of mouth, and so they are mastered by hard means. If we become as tender as the apple of an eye, God will guide us with his eye. If we avoid even the appearance of evil, and shun every false way with delicate sensitiveness of mind, we shall hear little about bits and bridles, and the many other sorrows which shall be to the wicked. Ah, dear brethren! what a difference there is between one man and another even in the same church, holding the same faith! One Christian man needs warnings repeated and urgent, and another is distressed with half a word of admonition. It is hard to stir one to generosity, or to any exertion in the Lord's cause, while another is earnest at once. Love works more in some than fear can produce in others. We have to use strong arguments and sharp cuts of the whip with certain sluggish minds, while others are all sensitiveness, and take to themselves censures which were never meant for them. Oh for a tender heart! May the heart of stone be taken away, and a heart of flesh be granted! May we be to the Lord's will as sensitive as the mercury to air and heat! The wave is flowing, and a cork upon the water is carried wherever the current moves. That same wave merely ripples at the side of a man-of-war, and it does not stir in the least degree. Saintly souls feel the ripples of the Holy Spirit, while self-sufficient professors know nothing of anything less than a tornado. Crave as a choice gift the renewal of a right spirit within you, and that right spirit will be eminently tender and pliant to the will of the Lord. My brothers and sisters, my longing is that you and I may stand with our faces towards the Lord, watching for the faintest indications of the divine will. May we be humble, teachable, and mild! May our soul be even as a weaned child! All this will lead to high joy. See how the psalm ends, "Shout for joy, all ye that are upright in heart"! When the bit is taken from the mouth, the tongue will show forth the praises of the Lord. When the bridle is gone, the mouth is free to sing unto the Most High. If the heart be well adjusted there will be music in the life. When we follow the Lord's guidance with alacrity, peace shall be our companion, and joy shall hover over us like a guardian angel. This world will be the vestibule of heaven when we begin even now to rehearse that perfect obedience which is the essential condition of bliss. Beloved, all this the Holy Ghost must work in our hearts, or it will never be there. Cry to him for it in the name of Jesus, and the Lord will give you an answer of peace. Amen.
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Spurgeon, Charle Haddon. "Commentary on Psalms 32". "Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent