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A Poor Man's Cry, and What Came of It
March 8th, 1891 by C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892)
"This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles." Psalms 34:6 .
In the morning of last Lord's-day we labored to bring sinners to their God; and the Lord graciously made the Word effectual. We gave voice to the invitation to return, and we entreated men to take with them words, and turn unto the Lord. God's people found it a happy time. It is a very singular fact, but an undoubted one, that the simple gospel which saves sinners also feeds saints. Saints are never better pleased than when they hear those first truths which instruct sinners in the way to God. The Lord be thanked that it is so! On this occasion I want to speak of what happens to those who do return to God; because many have newly been brought, through mighty grace. Some of them I have seen; and I have rejoiced over them with exceeding great joy. They tell me that they did distinctly lay hold on eternal life last Sabbath day; and they are clear about what it means. They came out of darkness into his marvellous light; they knew it, and could not resist the impulse at once to tell those with whom they sat in the pews, that God had brought them up out of the horrible pit, and had set their feet upon the rock of salvation. For this joyful reason, I think we will go a step further, and talk of the happiness of those who have come back to their Father, have confessed sin, have accepted the great sacrifice, and have found peace with God. It is my heart's desire that those sheep who have come into the fold may be the means of inducing others to enter. You know how one sheep leads another; and perhaps when some come to Christ, many others will follow. When one of our professional beggars knocks at a door, and gets well received, he is very apt to send another. I have heard that vagrants make certain marks near the door by way of telling others of the confraternity which are good houses to call at. If you want many beggars at your house, feed one and another of them well, and birds of the same feather will flock to you. Perhaps while I am telling how Christ has received poor needy ones, others may pluck up courage and say, "We will go also." If they try it, they may be sure of receiving the same generous welcome as others have done; for our Lord keeps open house for coming sinners. He has distinctly said, "Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out." That does not refer merely to those who have come, but to those who are coming; and to you, dear hearers, who will come at this hour. Jesus bids every hungry and thirsty soul come to him at once, and be satisfied from his fullness. Our text tells how they have sped who have cried to God. "This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles." I. The first lesson we shall learn, this morning, is upon THE NATURE AND THE EXCELLENCE OF PRAYER: This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him, and saved him."
"Prayer is appointed to convey The blessings God ordains to give."
He gives us prayer as a basket, and then he pours the blessings of his grace into it. We shall learn from the text much about prayer. Evidently it is a dealing with the Lord. "This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him." He cried to the Lord that the Lord might hear him. His prayer was not intended for men, nor was it mainly meant to be a relief to his own mind; it was intended for the ear of God, and it went where it was intended to go. The arrow of desire was shot towards heaven. It reached the mark it was designed to reach. This poor man cried to the Lord; and the Lord is the right person to whom to appeal in prayer. I am afraid that many public prayers are a performance to please the congregation; and when they are mixed with music, it is hoped that they will influence men of taste. Even private prayer is not always directed to God as it should be. I have heard ignorant people sometimes use the expression, "The minister came and prayed to me." That is a great mistake. We do not pray to you; we pray to God. We pray for you, but not to you. Yet I am afraid that the blunder reveals a mournfully dark state of mind as to what prayer is and does. I fear that many prayers are meant for the ears of men, or have no meaning at all beyond being regarded as a sort of incantation which may mysteriously benefit the utterer of them. Believe me, to repeat good words is a small matter: to go over the best composed forms of devotion will be useless, except the heart rises into real dealings with God. You must speak with God, and plead with him. I often question those who come to join the church in this fashion: "You say there is a great difference in you: is there a difference in your prayers"? I very frequently get such an answer as this: "Yes, sir; I now pray to God. I hope that he hears me. I know that he is near, and I speak to him; whereas before I did not seem to care whether God was there or not. I said my prayer by rote, and it did not seem like speaking to anybody." Prayer is dealing with God. The best prayer is that which comes to closest grips with the God of mercy. Prayer is to ask of God, as a child asks of its father, or as a friend makes request to his friend. O my hearer, thou hast forgotten God; thou hast lived without speaking to him: this has been the case for years. Is not this a wrong state of things? Thou art now in need: come and spread thy case before thy God; ask him to help thee. Thou needest to be saved; beg of him to save thee. Let thy prayer reach from thine heart to the throne of God: else, however long it may be, it will not reach far enough to bless thee. From this psalm we learn that prayer takes various shapes. Notice, in the fourth verse, David writes, "I sought the Lord, and he heard me." Seeking is prayer. When you cannot get to God, when you feel as if you had lost sight of him, and could not find him, your seeking is prayer. "I sought the Lord, and he heard me"; he heard me seeking him; heard me feeling after him in the dark; heard me running up and down if haply I might find him. To search after the Lord is prayer such as God hears. If your prayer is no better than a seeking after one you cannot as yet find, the Lord will hear it. In the next verse David puts it, "They looked unto him." Then a looking unto God is a prayer. Often the very best prayer is a look towards God a look which says, "Lord, I believe thee: I trust thee; be pleased to show thyself to me." If there is "life in a look," then there is the breath of life in a look, and prayer is that breath. If you cannot find words, it is ofttimes a very blessed thing to sit still, and look towards the hills whence cometh our help. I sometimes feel that I cannot express my desires; and at other seasons I do not know my own desires, except that I long for God; in such a case I sit still and look up. "In the morning will I direct my prayer unto thee, and will look up." A look is a choice prayer, if it is the look of a tearful eye towards a bleeding Savior. We might describe prayer in many other ways; as for instance, in this one "O taste and see that the Lord is good," which you meet with in verse 8. Tasting is a high kind of prayer; for it ventures to take what it asks for. When we come boldly to the throne of grace, we have a taste of grace in the act of coming. That is a very acceptable prayer which boldly ventures to believe that it has the petition which it has asked of God. Believe that God has heard thee, and thou art heard. Take the good thy God provides thee: take it to thyself boldly, and fear not. Come boldly to the throne of the heavenly grace, that you may find and receive. Lay hold upon the blessing which you need so much, and it will be neither robbery nor presumption. But frequently according to our text, prayer is best described as a cry. What means this? "This poor man cried." This poor man did not make a grand oration; he took to crying. He was short: it was only a cry. In great pain a man will cry out; he cannot help it, even if he would. A cry is short, but it is not sweet. It is intense, and painful, and it cannot be silenced. We cry because we must cry. This poor man cried, "God be merciful to me a sinner." That is not a long collect, but it collects a great deal of meaning into a few words. That was a short cry, "Lord, save, or I perish"; and that other, "Lord, help me." "Save, Lord," is a notable cry, and so is "Lord remember me." Many prevailing prayers are like cries because they are brief, sharp, and uncontrollable. A cry is not only brief, but bitter. A cry is a sorrowful thing; it is the language of pain. It would be hard for me to stand here and imitate a cry. No; a cry is not artificial, but a natural production: it is not from the lips, but from the soul, that a man cries. A cry, attended with a flood of tears, a bitter wail, a deep-fetched sigh these are prayers that enter into the ears of the Host High. O penitent, the more thou sorrowest in thy prayer, the more wings thy prayer has towards God! A cry is a brief thing, and a bitter thing. A cry has in it much meaning, and no music. You cannot set a cry to music. The sound grates on the ear, it rasps the heart, it startles, and it grieves the minds of those who hear it. Cries are not for musicians, but for mourners. Can you expound a child's cry? It is pain felt, a desire for relief naturally expressed, a longing forcing itself into sound; it is a plea, a prayer, a complaint, a demand. It cannot wait, it brooks no delay, it never puts off its request till to-morrow. A cry seems to say, "Help me now! I cannot bear it any longer. Come, O come, to my relief!" When a man cries, he never thinks of the pitch of his voice; but he cries out as he can, out of the depths of his soul. Oh, for more of such praying! A cry is a simple thing. The first thing a new-born child does is to cry; and he usually does plenty of it for years after. You do not need to teach children to cry: it is the cry of nature in distress. I never heard of a class at a Board School to teach babes to cry. All children can cry; even those who are without their reasoning faculties can cry. Yea, even the beast and the bird can cry. If prayer be a cry, it is clear that it is one of the simplest acts of the mind. O my hearer, whatever thou needest, pray for it in the way which thy awakened heart suggests to thee. God loves natural expressions when we come before him. Not that which is fine, but that which is on fire, he loves. Not that which is dressed up, but that which leaps out of the soul just as it is born in the heart, he delights to receive. This poor man did not do anything grand, but from his soul he cried. A cry is as sincere as it is simple. Prayer is not the mimicry of a cry, but the real thing. You need not ask a man or woman, when crying, "Do you mean it?" Could they cry else? A true cry is the product of a real pain, and the expression of a real want; and therefore it is a real thing. Dear souls, if you do not know how to pray, cry. Cry because you cannot pray. Cry because you are lost by nature and by practice, and will soon be lost for ever unless grace prevent. Cry with a strong desire to be saved from sin, and to be washed in the precious blood of Jesus. Pour out your hearts like water before the Lord. Just as a man takes a pitcher, and turns it upside down, and pours the water all out, so turn your hearts upside down, and let them flow out until the last dreg has run away. "Ye people, pour out your heart before him." Such an outpouring of heart will be a cry and a prayer. But now note, further, concerning the nature and excellence of prayer, that prayer is heard in heaven. "This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him." He was all alone, so that nobody else heard him; but the Lord heard him: yes, the Lord, even Jehovah of hosts, the All glorious, bowed his ear to him. In God's ear the songs of angels are continually resounding; yea, he heareth all the voices of all the creatures he has made: yet he stooped from his eternal glory, and gave attention to the poor man's cry. Never imaging that a praying heart ever pleads to a deaf God; or that God is so far removed from men that he takes no note of their desires. God does hear prayer: he does grant the desires and requests of lowly men. I do not think that we shall ever pray in downright earnest unless we believe that God hears. I have been told that prayer is an excellent devotional exercise, highly satisfying and useful, but that there its result ends; for we cannot imagine that the Infinite Mind can be moved by the cries of men. Do not believe so gross a falsehood, or you will soon cease to pray. No man will pray for the mere love of the act, when he has arrived at the opinion that there is no good in it so far as God is concerned. Brethren, amidst all the innumerable goings forth of divine power the Lord never ceases to listen to the cries of those who seek his face. It is always true: "The righteous cry, and the Lord heareth." Wonderful fact this! Truly marvelous! It might surpass our faith if it were not written in his Word, and experienced in our lives. Many of us know that the Lord has heard us. Doubt about this matter has long been buried under a pyramid of evidence. We have often come from the throne of grace as sure that God had heard us as we were sure that we had prayed; in fact, our doubts all lie around our own praying, and do not touch our assurance that God hears true prayer. The abounding answers to our supplications have been proofs positive that prayer climbs above the region of earth and time, and touches God and his infinity. Yes, it is still the case that the Lord hearkens to the voice of a man. It is still Jehovah's special title the God that heareth prayer. The Lord will hear your prayer, my hearer, even if you cannot put it into words: he has an ear for thoughts, and sighs, and longings. A wordless prayer is not silent to him. God reads the intents of the heart, and cares more for these than for the syllables of the lips. This poor man could not speak: his heart was so full that he could only cry; but Jehovah heard him. Once more, prayer has this excellence: that it wins answers from God. "The Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles." God does put forth power in answer to prayer. I know the difficulties which are started concerning this. There is a fixed purpose, from which God does not depart; but this is by no means inconsistent with the prevalence of prayer; for the God who decrees to give us blessings has also decreed that we shall ask for them. The prayer and the providence are alike appointed by the predestination of God. Our praying is the shadow of God's giving. When he is about to bestow a blessing he first of all works in us earnest prayer for it. God moves us to pray; we pray; God hears, and answers: this is the process of grace. The Lord does in very deed answer prayer. I read yesterday certain notes taken by an interviewer, who called on me some years ago. He reports that he said to me, "Then you have not modified your views in any way as to the efficacy of prayer?" In his description he says "Mr. Spurgeon laughed, and replied, Only in my faith growing far stronger and firmer than ever. It is not a matter of faith with me, but of knowledge and every-day experience. I am constantly witnessing the most unmistakable instances of answers to prayer. My whole life is made up of them. To me they are so familiar as to cease to excite my surprise; but to many they would seem marvelous, no doubt. Why, I could no more doubt the efficacy of prayer than I could disbelieve in the law of gravitation. The one is as much a fact as the other, constantly verified every day of my life. The interviewer reported me correctly, and I would repeat the testimony. I could speak with even deeper confidence to-day. More than forty years I have tried my Master's promise at the mercy-seat, and I have never yet met with a repulse from him. In the name of Jesus I have asked and received; save only when I have asked amiss. It is true I have had to wait, because my time was ill-judged, and God's time was far better; but delays are not denials. Never has the Lord said to me, or to any of the seed of Jacob, "Seek ye my face" in vain. If I were put into the witness-box, and knew that I should be cross-examined by the keenest of lawyers, I should not hesitate to bear my testimony, that by many infallible proofs the Lord has proved to me that he heareth prayer. But, my hearers, if you need evidence on this point, try it yourselves. Remember, the Lord has said, "Call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me." Here is a fair test. Make an honest experiment concerning it. I have no doubt that at this moment I could call upon hundreds in this congregation who would not refuse to stand up and say that the Lord heareth prayer. "This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him." I might call on many a man and woman here who could solemnly declare that they cried, and the Lord heard them." Are you at this service, Hannah? You were here the other morning with a sorrowful spirit; and now I see by your countenance that the Lord has smiled upon you, and your soul is magnifying his name. Prayer has done this for you. Is it not so? God answers the supplications of his believing people; and of this we are witnesses. Thus have I set the matter before you; and I would remind you of the words of the Lord Jesus, "Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: for every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened." Thus have we been instructed by our text as to the nature and excellence of prayer. II. Let us move on, and note, secondly, that our text leads us to think upon THE RICHNESS AND FREENESS OF DIVINE GRACE. Great grace is revealed in this statement "This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles." You will see the richness and the freeness of grace, when you consider the character of the man who prayed: "this poor man cried." Who was he? He was a poor man; how terribly poor I cannot tell you. There are plenty of poor men about. If you advertised for a poor man in London, you might soon find more than you could count in twelve months: the supply is unlimited, although the distinction is by no means highly coveted. No man chooses to be poor. David, on the occasion which suggested this psalm, was so poor that he had to beg bread of the Lord's priests; and though he was a soldier he had to borrow a sword from their treasures. He had no house, no home; no calling, no income, no country, no safes, for his life. He was poor indeed who wrote these words "This poor man cried." Why should men imagine that poverty is an injury to prayer? Will the Lord care about the age of your coat? What is it to him that you have a shallow pocket, and a scanty cupboard? "This poor man cried." Does God hear poor men? Ay, that he does, the poorest of the poor, the poor in spirit. He hears those who are so poor that even hope has dropped out of their box; and that is the last thing to go. This poor man was also a troubled man, for the text speaks of "all his troubles" a great "all," I warrant you. He did not know what to do; he could not see his way in his blizzard of trials; he was surrounded with difficulties, as with an iron net, and he could not hope for a deliverer. He was a troubled man, and because he was a troubled man he cried. People wondered what he cried about, but they would not have done so had they known his inward griefs. His old companions thought he had gone out of his mind: they said religion had turned his brain, and they kept out of his way. This poor man cried, and no man noticed him because he was so poor and so wretched; but "the Lord heard him." He does not turn away from the doleful and the desolate: he takes delight in coming to them, and binding up their wounds. This poor man was a mournful man: a man altogether broken down, a man who could not hold his head up; he blushed and was ashamed, both before God and man. All he did, when alone, was to cry; and if one watched him closely in company, the tears might be seen forcing their way from his heart through the eye, and down the cheek. This poor man cried: for he was so feeble, so faint, so forlorn, that he could not do otherwise; but "the Lord heard him." The Lord so heard him as to make that poor man rich in grace. I feel sure, also, that "this poor man" was a strange fellow. What did he want with crying when others were laughing? It is not a pleasant nor a usual sight to see strong men weep. Some men weep because they are very tender-hearted; but many others do so, I am persuaded, because they have been given to drink. This man was given to inward crying: he cried day and night unto the Lord because of a secret wound which never ceased to bleed. People could not make him out, and they came to despise him, or at least to be shy of him: but "the Lord heard him." He was also a changed man. Why, he used to come in of an evening, and to be a thoroughly jolly companion; but now he looks as miserable as an owl, and nobody desires his company, he is such a kill-joy. "Poor miserable creature!" people say. Even his wife sighs and says, "What has become of my poor dear husband?" He was a poor man, and as sad and singular as he was poor. He sought out secret places, and there he sighed and cried before the Lord. But yet he was a hopeful man. There must have been some hope in him, though he could not perceive it; for people do not cry for help unless they have some hope that they will be heard. Despair is dumb: where there is a cry of prayer there is a crumb of hope. A cry is a signal of distress, and people will not hoist a rag on a pole unless they have a little hope that a passing vessel may spy it out, and come to their rescue. There is not only hope for a man, but hope in a man as long as he can pray; ay, as long as he can cry. If you do but long, and look, and seek, and sigh after God, you are one of those poor men whom I have tried to describe, and good will come to you. I can see that poor man now. I used to know him, for he was born in my native town, and he went to the school where I was a scholar. He was hardly a man, but only a youth; and then I used to sleep with him, or rather to lie awake at nights with him, and hear him groan. He has prayed in my hearing many a time, and very poor praying it was; but he meant what he said. I have been with him in the fields, and he used to tell me that he was such a vile creature that he feared that he must be cast into hell for ever; he was afraid that he was not one of the chosen and redeemed people of God, and that he should never be able to believe in Jesus. I knew him when he gave himself up for lost. I know him now. I see him whenever I use the looking-glass, and I must say on his behalf this morning "This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles." Oh, the freeness and the richness of grace, that God should hear nobodies, that God should look upon those who are less than the least of all saints, and the very chief of sinners! If you desire further to see the richness and freeness of grace, by the help of the Holy Spirit, I beg you to remember the character of the God to whom this poor man cried. He who prayed was poor, and his prayer was poor; but he did not pray to a poor God. This poor man was powerless; but he did not cry to a feeble God. This poor man was empty; but he went to God's fullness. He was unworthy; but he appealed to God's mercy. Our God delighteth in mercy; he waiteth to be gracious; he takes pleasure in blessing the weary sons of men. This poor man cried to that Savior who is able to save to the uttermost. O my friend, never mind how poor you are: you are not crying to your own poor self. Remember, you have not to draw water out of your own emptiness; you come to God, who is the fountain of grace. Your merit is poverty itself; but the mercies of God are unsearchable riches. The power by which you are to be saved lies not in your own spirit, but in the Holy Spirit. Therefore cry with great hope, and believe that God is as great in his grace as in his power and wisdom. While we are thinking of the freeness and richness of this grace in the text, I would have you notice the character of the blessing. "The Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles." He gave him salvation from the whole of his troubles. His sins were his great troubles; the Lord saved him out of them all through the atoning sacrifice. The effects of sin were another set of grievous troubles to him; the Lord saved him out of them all by the renewal of the Holy Ghost. He had fallen into a perilous position by his own fault, and troubles came upon him thick and heavy; but in answer to prayer the Lord made a way of escape for him, out of them all, and led him into peace. He had troubles without and within, troubles in the family and in the world, and he felt ready to perish because of them; but the Lord delivered him out of them all. Note that word "all"; it is large and comprehensive. If you will kindly look at the psalm, you will see the range of this delightful deliverance. We read in verse 4: "He delivered me from all my fears." Sometimes our fears are more painful than our troubles. We suffer more in dreading troubles than in enduring them; but prayer banishes such fears. We see that all shame was removed in the same way: "They looked unto him and were lightened, and their faces were not ashamed." Happy men; for the shame of their sin is gone! Their shame and their fears went when their prayers were heard. They were no longer distressed about the past, and no longer under apprehension of wrath in the future: he saved them out of all their fears." If you will look further on you will find that the Lord saved them out of all their wants (verse 9): "There is no want to them that fear him"; "they that wait upon the Lord shall not want any good thing." Oh, to be saved from the pinch of dire necessity within the soul saved from all fear, all shame, all trouble, and then from all want! This is a grand salvation! But this is not all; for this poor man was saved from all dangers (verse 20): "He keepeth all his bones: not one of them is broken." He saved him out of all real peril. And, lastly, he saved him from all apprehension of desertion "None of them that trust in him shall be desolate." The salvation that God gives in answer to prayer is a perfect one; and he gives it freely, gives it in answer to a poor man's cry, without money or merit. How complete is God's deliverance! Did you ever notice how perfect was the answer which God gave to the prayer of Moses when he cried to God for Pharaoh in the day of the plagues? When the locusts covered the land, Moses prayed, and we read, "There remained not one locust in all the coasts of Egypt" (Exodus 10:19 ). So was it with the frogs, and even with the flies: "He removed the swarms of flies from Pharaoh, from his servants, and from his people; there remained not one." Pharaoh could not have found a specimen of locust, or fly, in all Egypt. So you may be devoured with troubles as the land by locusts, and they may be croaking in your ears like the frogs in the bed-chambers of Egypt; but when the Lord bids them go," they will depart from you, and you will be in quiet. He who puts away as a cloud your iniquities, and as a thick cloud your sins, will soon drive away your troubles like a swarm of buzzing flies. "The Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles." Is not this free grace? Is not this rich mercy? And, once more, think that this all came through a cry. A cry is all that the poor man brought. He did not go through a long performance; he did not perform a laborious set of ceremonies "This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him." What can be simpler? Oh, you think you want a priest, do you? a priest on whom a bishop has laid his hands? Or you dream that you must go to a holy place, a pile of stones put together in architectural form. Possibly you even dream that you must pine all through Lent, and not expect joy till you reach Easter. What folly is all this! You have but to cry, and the Lord will hear you. There is but one priest even the Lord Jesus. There is but one holy place his glorious person. There is but one holy time, and that is to-day. When the Spirit of God works a cry in the heart of the poor man, that cry climbs up to heaven by the way of Jacob's ladder, and at the same instant mercy comes down by the same ladder. Our Lord Jesus Christ is that ladder which joins earth and heaven together; so that our prayers go up to heaven, and God's mercy comes down to us on earth. Oh, that men would be content with the blessedly simple apparatus of grace: "This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles"! III. I must be brief on my last head; but it is a very important one. Consider THE NEED AND THE USEFULNESS OF PERSONAL TESTIMONY. It is David who says, "This poor man cried." You see he tells the story: he writes it down in a book for us to read; he weaves it into a psalm for us to sing. Testimony is a weighty thing for the persuasion and winning of men; but it must be of the right kind. It should be personal, concerning things which you yourself know: "This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him." Never mind if you should be charged with being egotistical. That is a blessed egoism which dares to stand out and bear bold witness for God in its own person. "This poor man cried"; not somebody over the water "and the Lord heard him," not a man down the next street. The more definite and specific your testimony, the better and the more convincing. One of our evangelists writes me, that when he was praying with an inquirer, and trying to lead him to Jesus, he was much helped by a working man coming in, and kneeling down by their side, and saying, "Lord, save this poor soul, even as thou didst save me at two o'clock this morning!" Afterwards the evangelist asked him how he came to use such an expression. "Well," said the man, "I was saved then; just as the clock struck two I found the Savior, and I always like to tell when a thing happens." Somehow or other, that "two o'clock in the morning" helped the inquirer mightily; it put such a reality into the transaction. He thought, "This man knows that he was saved at two o'clock in the morning, why should I not be saved now, at eight o'clock in the evening." I do not say that we can all tell the date of our conversion: many of us cannot. But if we can throw in such details, let us do so; for they help to make our testimony striking. Our witness should be an assured one. We must believe, and therefore speak. Do not say, "I hope that I prayed; and I I trust that the Lord heard me." Say, "I prayed, and the Lord heard me." If you begin to stutter when you are giving your evidence for the Lord Jesus, worldlings will not believe you. Are you sure? If you are not sure yourself, you cannot assure others. The accent of conviction is indispensable if you would convince. Be sure that you have cried, and be sure that God has heard you, and then bear testimony to what you have tried and proved. Give your testimony cheerfully. "This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him." Do not say it as if it were a line from "the agony column"; but write it as a verse of a psalm of such a psalm as this, which begins with, "I will bless the Lord at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth." Your testimony must have for it sole aim the glory of God. Do not wish to show yourself off as an interesting person, a man of vast experience. We cannot allow the grace of God to be buried in ungrateful silence. When he made the world the angels sang for joy, and when he saves a soul we will not be indifferent. Let us call together our friends and our neighbors, and charge them to rejoice with us, for our Lord has found us, though we were lost. Remember how the father, when the prodigal came back, said to his household, "Let us eat, and be merry." So, dear friends, be glad at heart that the Lord has saved you, and tell others of what he has done, saying, "This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him." Testimonies to facts have weight with men. Those who live to win souls have learned from experience that facts are grand things to use in their holy service. When you are teaching people doctrines they will often be inattentive and unmoved; but when you come to facts they listen and feel their force. I sat not long ago with one whom I would fain win for my Lord, and I told him certain facts with regard to the Lord's hearing prayer for the College and the Orphanage, and other parts of my work for the Lord. I marked the deep interest which these facts produced. He believed me to be a man of integrity, and he could not resist the conclusion that the Lord is a prayer-hearing God. To yourself and to others one fact is better than a dozen inferences. Even the hardest of the Gradgrinds can only say, "What I want is facts." Test prayer for yourself, and then boldly state the results, and you will have power with men. Personal experience is far more convincing than observation: tell facts which you have yourself experienced: "This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles." Such testimony will have most weight with the same sort of men as yourselves. When a poor man tells what the Lord did for him, he wins the attention, and gains the belief of other poor men. When any event happens to a person like myself, I become interested in it. The poor man says, "I see he is a poor man like myself, and if God hears him, why should he not hear me?" Does not your brother's salvation cheer you, and make you feel that you will cry to the Lord too? How wonderfully God has heard prayer from men in singular positions! He heard Jacob when his angry brother Esau was close upon him with armed men. At Jabbok the Lord heard him by night; and he met his brother the next morning with a smiling face. Israel in Egypt was in sore bondage, but the Lord heard his people's cry, and sent Moses, and divided the Red Sea, and brought forth his chosen. The Lord heard Samson when he was ready to die of thirst. He heard the men of Reuben who cried to God in the battle against the Hagarites, "and he was entreated of them, because they put their trust in him." He heard Hezekiah and Isaiah when Rabshakeh wrote his blasphemous and slanderous letter. We read that, "for this cause they prayed, and cried to heaven. And the Lord sent an angel, who cut off all the mighty men of Assyria." David prayed in the cave, and Elijah on Carmel, and Jeremiah in prison, and the Lord heard them. There was once a man in the belly of a fish miraculously kept alive. The great fish felt ill with such a thing as a living man within him; and therefore it dived deep down till the prisoner felt himself to be at the bottom of the mountains. Then, to get vegetable medicine, the fish rushed among the sea meadows, and Jonah cried, "The weeds were wrapped about my head." He was in a strange, dark, horrible place, and he says of it, "Out of the belly of hell cried I." Was his cry of any use? Yes; we read, "Out of the belly of hell cried I, and thou heardest my voice. My prayer came in unto thee, into thine holy temple." Wherever you may be, and in whatsoever trial you may be involved, the Lord will hear your cry, and come to your help. If any soul here is, like Jonah, in the very belly of hell in feeling and apprehension, yet, his cry will prevail with heaven, and he shall know that "salvation is of the Lord." A poor man's cry will sound, through the telephone of Christ's mediation, in the ear of God, and he will respond to it. Now, this witness, dear friends, while it is very strong to those who are like ourselves, willl be increased in force as one and another shall join us. One person says, "I cried to the Lord, and he heard me." "But," says an objector, that is a special case." Up rises a second witness, and says, "This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him." "Well, that is only two; and two instances may not prove a rule." Then, up rises a third, a fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, and in each case it is the same story "This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him." Surely he must be hardened in unbelief who refuses to believe so many witnesses. I remember the story of a lawyer, a sceptic, who attended a class-meeting where the subject was similar to our theme of this morning. He heard about a dozen tell what the Lord had done for them; and he said, as he sat there, "If I had a case in court, I should like to have these good people for witnesses. I know them all, they are my neighbors, they are simple-minded people, straightforward and honest, and I know I could carry any case if I had them on my side." Then he very candidly argued that what they all agreed upon was true. He believed them in other matters, and he could not doubt them in this, which was to them the most important of all. He tried religion for himself, and the Lord heard him; and very soon he was at the class-meeting, adding his witness to theirs. If I were to put the question at this moment to my present audience, what would be the result? Our friend Mr. Stott said just now in prayer that we were a very promiscuous company this dark morning. I agree with him. Still I will try it. You that have had answers to prayer say, "Ay (The response came like a thunderclap.) I am sure there are none of us who have ever tried the power of prayer who would have to say "No." If I were to put the contrary, there would be no answer. All who are accustomed to pray will vote with the ayes. Go home, then, with the words of our text in your hearts and on your tongues "This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles." Glory be to God! Amen.
Two Sermons: Seeking Richly Rewarded and Lions Lacking--But the Children Satisfied
Seeking Richly Rewarded
June 26th, 1870 by C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892)
"The young lions do lack, and suffer hunger, but they that seek the Lord shall not want any good thing." Psalms 34:10 .
The young lions are very strong; they are as yet in the freshness of their youth, and yet their strength does not always suffice to keep them supplied. The young lions are very crafty; they understand how to waylay their game and leap upon them with a sudden spring at unawares, and yet, with all their craftiness, they howl for hunger in the wood. The young lions are very bold and furious, very unscrupulous; they are not stayed from any deed of depredation, and yet for all that, free-booters as they are, they sometimes lack, and suffer hunger. These are just the type of many men in the world; they are strong men, they are cunning men, they are thoroughly up to the times smart, sharp men. If anybody could be well supplied, one would think they should be. But how many of them go to bankruptcy and ruin, and, with all their cunning, they are too cunning, and, with all their unscrupulousness, they manage at last full often, to come to an ill end. They do lack and suffer hunger. But here are the people of God they are regarded as simpletons, such simpletons as to seek the Lord instead of adopting the maxims of universal worldly wisdom namely, "Seek yourself"; they have given up what is called the first law of human nature, namely, self-seeking, self-pleasing, self-serving, and have come to seek the Lord, to seek to magnify him. And what comes of their simplicity? "They shall not want any good thing." Notwithstanding their want of power, their want of cunning, and the check which conscience often puts upon them so that they cannot do what others can to enrich themselves, yet for all that, they have a fortune ensured to them: they "shall not want any good thing." Let us look at this text now, and together consider it thus: first, the seeking of the Lord which is here intended; and then following upon that, the promise that is given upon such seeking. 1. THE SEEKING OF THE LORD HERE INTENDED. We must be particular and very precise about this. The promise is so rich that we wish to win it fully, but we do not wish to be dishonest. We would not take a word of God that does not belong to us, lest we should deceive ourselves, and be guilty of robbing God. We must go carefully and jealously here, and must search ourselves to see if in very deed and truth we are such as really seek the Lord. Now, the term to "seek the Lord," I may say, is the description of the life of the Christian. When he lives as he should, his whole life is seeking the Lord. It is with this he begins. "Behold, he prayeth," that is, he seeks the Lord. The has begun to be conscious of his sin; he is seeking pardon of the Lord. He has begun to be aware of his danger; he is seeking salvation in the Lord. He is now aware of his powerlessness, and he is looking for strength to the Lord. Those deep convictions, those cries and tears, those repentings and humblings, and, above all, those acts of simple confidence in which he casts himself upon the great atonement made upon Calvary's bloody tree those are all acts of seeking the Lord. Now, perhaps, some of you have got no farther than this. Well, you shall have your proportion of blessing, according to your strength. You shall have your share in it, little as you are. He will give to his children at the table their portion, as well as to those who have grown to manhood. After a man has attained unto eternal life by confiding in the Lord Jesus, he then goes on to seek the Lord in quite another way. No wonder; since he has found the Lord, or rather has been found of him, and yet he still presses on to apprehend him of whom he has been already apprehended. He still presses forward, seeking the Lord, and he seeks the Lord thus. He seeks now to know the Lord's mind, the Lord's law and will. "Show me what thou wouldest have me to do," saith he. "Lord, I went by my own wit once, and I brought myself into a dark wood: I lost myself: I was at hell's brink, and thou didst save me: now, Lord, guide and direct me: be pleased to teach me: open my lips when I speak: guide my hands when I act: I wait at thy feet, feeling that:
"For holiness no strength have I; My strength is at thy feet to lie."
The man now seeks the Lord by daily and constant prayer, seeking that he may be upheld, guided, constrained in paths of righteousness, and restrained from the ways of sin. He becomes a seeker of the Lord after sanctification as once he was after justification. And then he becomes a seeker of the Lord in a further sense. He seeks to enjoy the Lord's love, and his gracious fellowship and communion. He seeks to get near in reverent friendship to his Lord. He now longs to grow up in the likeness of Christ, that his intercourse with the Father and the Son may be more close, more sweet, more continuous. He feels that God is his Father, and that he is no longer at a distance from him in one sense, for he is made nigh by the blood of the cross. Yet sometimes he is oppressed with a sense of his old evil heart of unbelief and in departure from the living God, and he cries out, "Draw me nearer to thyself." In fact, his prayer always is:
"Nearer my God to thee, Nearer to thee: E'en though it be a cross that raiseth me, Still all my cry shall be, Nearer to thee, nearer to thee."
He seeks the Lord's company. He delights to be in God's house, and at God's mercy-seat, and at the foot of the cross, where God reveals himself in all his glory. He is constantly crying for a larger capacity to receive more of God, and the longing of his soul is, "When shall I come and appear before God?" He feels that he never shall be satisfied till he awakes up in the Lord's likeness. Now, all this, which may be private within him, and scarce known to any, operates practically in an outward seeking of the Lord which makes the man's life to be sublime. The genuine Christian lives for God. He makes the first object of all that he does the glory of God, the extension of the Redeemer's kingdom, the showing forth of his praise, who has brought him out of darkness into marvellous light. He is a young man, an apprentice; he has been converted, and he says, "Now, what can I do while I am in this house to make it better, to make it happier and holier, that men may see what the religion of Jesus is? How can I recommend my Lord and Master to those among whom I dwell to my master and my mistress, and my fellow-servants?" He becomes a tradesman on his own account, and when he opens that shop-door he says, "I do not mean to trade for myself, I will make this to be my object, that this shall be God's shop; God has got to keep me; he has promised that he will; therefore, I may take what I want for the daily subsistence of myself and my children; but I will keep the shop for God for all that, and if he prospers me, I will give him of my substance; but whatever comes of it, I will so trade across my counter, so keep those books, and manage those bills, that I will let the world see what a Christian trader is, and I will seek thus to recommend my Lord and my God, and my object shall be to make him famous." He seeks the Lord on Sundays. He desires at the Sunday-school, or the preaching-station, or anywhere he may serve, to be glorifying God. But he equally seeks him on Mondays and other weekdays, for he believes there is a way of turning over calicoes, weighing pounds of tea, ploughing acres of land, driving a cart, or whatever else he may be called to do, by which he can honour God, and cause others to honour him. Now, I say very solemnly I hope I am mistaken in what I say but I fear I am not I am afraid there are many professors who would tell a lie if they said that they sought God always in their business, for though they are the members of a church, and you would not find them out in anything seriously inconsistent, yet their whole life is inconsistent because for a Christian to live for anything but the Lord Jesus Christ is inconsistent. It is inconsistent to the very root and core, to the tenour and aim, the supreme object of life, altogether inconsistent. A man has a right to live, to bring up his family, to educate them and see them comfortably settled in life; but that ought to be only for God's glory. That, he, acting as a father, is expected to do for if a man careth not for his own household, he is worse than a heathen man and a publican that God may be glorified by his doing his duty. But when I see some people putting by their thousands, and getting rich for no sort of reason that I know of, except that people may say, "How much did he leave behind him?" how can I believe that those professors, as they take the sacramental cup, are doing anything but drinking condemnation unto themselves? When I see some Christian men who profess to be living for nothing, but to be respectable, and to be known, and honoured, and noticed, but never seem to care about the souls of men, nor about Christ's glory, never shedding a tear over a dying sinner, nor heaving a sigh over this huge and wicked city which is like a millstone upon the neck of some of us, like a nightmare perpetually upon our hearts when I see these men so cold, so indifferent, so wrapped up in themselves, what can I think but that their religion is but a cloak, a painted pageantry, for them to go to hell in, which shall be discovered at the last, and be a theme for the laughter of the fiends. Oh! may God grant that we may all be able truly to say, "I seek the Lord; I am sure, I am certain that I seek him," for if we can feel that that is true, then we can take the promise of the text; if not, we may not touch it. If we, as professing Christians, fire not at top and bottom, in heart, and soul, and spirit, and in all that we do, really seeking the glory of God, the promise does not belong to us; but if we can from our very souls declare, "Notwithstanding a thousand infirmities, yet, Lord, thou knowest all things: thou knowest that I love thee, and that I seek thine honour," then this is true of us, and no one of us shall want any good thing. Just a word or two more about this, for one must discriminate thoroughly well before we come to the promise. It is too rich and precious to be bestowed upon the wrong persons, and there are some who hope to get this promise, who feel that they must not take it. We must be among those who seek the Lord heartily, not merely saying that we do, or wishing that we did, but, filled with the Holy Spirit, and in the power of his blessed residence in our souls, we must be panting after God's glory heartily, otherwise I do not see that we can put our hands on the promise without presumption. We must be seeking it honestly, too, for there is a way of seeking God's good and your own at the same time I mean having a sinister and selfish motive. We may preach, and not be preaching only for God at all. A man may live in the Sanctuary, in holy engagements from morning until nights and yet may never ardently, intensely seek the Lord. A man may be a great giver to charities, a great attender at prayer-meetings, a great doer of all kinds of Christian work, and yet he may never seek the Lord, but may yet be seeking to have his name known, to be noted as a generous man, or be merely seeking to get merit to himself, or self-complacency to his own conscience. It is a downright honest desire to serve and glorify God while we are here that is meant in the text. If we have got it and I think we may readily see whether we have or not then is the word of the Psalmist true to us. We must seek God's glory heartily, honestly, and we must seek it most obediently. A man cannot say, "I am seeking God's glory," when he knows he is disobeying God's command in what he is doing. How can I say that I am desiring to glorify God by following a pursuit which is sinful, by giving loose to my anger, and speaking rashly; by giving rein to my passions, by indulging my own desires, by being proud and domineering over my fellow-Christians, or by being pliant, fearful, timid after an unholy sort, and not being bold for God and for his truth? No, we must watch ourselves very narrowly and cautiously. We must be very careful of our own spirits. We soon get off the line. Even when we are keeping correct outwardly, we may be getting very inconsistent inwardly by forgetting that the first, last, midst, and sole object of a bloodbought spirit is to live for Christ, and that if saints on earth were what they should be, they would be as constantly God's servants as the angels are in heaven; they would be as much messengers of God in their daily calling as the seraphs are before the eternal throne. Oh! when will the Spirit of God lift us up to anything like this? The most of us are still hunting after things that will melt beneath the sun, or rot beneath the moon. We are gathering up shadows to ourselves; things which have no abiding substance: seeking self, seeking anything rather than the blessed God. Lord! forgive us this sin wherein we have fallen into it, and make us truly such as truly seek the Lord! Now, let us be prepared to behold: II. THE PROMISE OF THE REWARD OF SUCH SEEKING. "They that seek the Lord shall not want any good thing." That is, not one of them. They that first stepped into Bethesda's pool were healed, and no others; but here everybody that steps into this pool is healed; that is to say, everyone that seeks the Lord has this promise the least, as well as the greatest: the Little-faiths and the Much-afraids as much as the Great-hearts and the Stand-fasts. They that seek the Lord, whether they are chimney-sweeps or princes, whether they are tender children, or seasoned veterans in the Master's great army they shall want no good thing. "Well, but" somebody says, "there are some of them that are in want." They are in want? Yes, that may be, but they are not in want of any good thing. They cannot be. God's word against anything you say, or I say. If they seek the Lord, they shall not, they cannot, they must not want any good thing. "Well, at any rate, they want what appears to be a good thing." That is very likely; the text does not say they shall not be. "Well, but they want what they once found to be a good thing; they want health is not that a good thing? It was a good thing to them when they had it before, yet they want health; does not that go against the text?" No, it does not in any way whatever. The text means this, that anything which is absolutely good for him, all circumstances being considered, no child of God shall ever want. I met with this statement in a work by that good old Puritan, Mr. Clarkson, which stuck by me when I read it some time ago. I think the words were these, "If it were a good thing for God's people for sin, Satan, sorrow, and affliction to be abolished, Christ would blot them out within five minutes, and if it were a good thing for the seeker of the Lord to have all the kingdoms of this world put at his feet and for him to be made a prince, Jesus would make him a prince before the sun rose again." If it were absolutely to him, all things being considered, a good thing, he must have it, for Christ would be sure to keep his word. He has said he shall not want it, and he would not let his child want it, whatever it might be, if it were really, absolutely, and in itself, all things considered, a good thing. Now, taking God's Word and walking by faith towards it, what a light it sheds on your history and mine! There are many things for which I wish, and which I sincerely think to be good, but I say at once, "If I have not got them, they are not good, for if they were good, good for me, and I am truly seeking God, I should have them: if they were good things, my heavenly Father would not deny them to me: he has said he would not, and I believe his pledged word." I think sometimes it would be a good thing for me if I had more talents, but if it were a good thing I should have more, I should have them. You think it were a good thing, if you were to have more money. Well, if he saw it to be good, you would have it. "Oh!" say you, "but it would have been a good thing if my poor mother had been spared to me: if she had been alive now, it would have been a good thing, and it would be a good thing certainly for us to be in the position I was five years ago before these terrible panic times came." Well, if it had been a good thing for you to have been there, you would have been there. "I don't see it." says one. Well, do not expect to see it, but believe it. We walk by faith, not by sight. But the text says so. It says not that every man shall have every good thing, but it does say that every man that seeks the Lord shall have every good thing. He shall not want any good thing, be it what it may. "Well, I doubt it," says one. Very well; I do not wonder that you do, for your father Adam doubted it, and that is how the whole race fell. Adam and Eve were In the garden, and they might have felt quite sure that their heavenly Father would not deny them any good thing, but the devil came and whispered, and said to them, "God doth know that in the day you eat of the fruit of that tree you will be as gods; that fruit is very good for you, a wonderfully good thing; never anything like it, and that one good thing God has kept away from you." "Oh!" said Eve, "then I will get it," and down we all fell. The race was ruined through their doubting the promise. If they had continued to seek the Lord, they would not have wanted any good thing. That fruit was not a good thing to them; it might have been good in itself, but it was not good to them, or else God would have given it to them, and their doubting it brought all this terrible sorrow on us. So it will upon you, for let me show you you say, perhaps, "It would be a very good thing for me to be rich." God has stopped you up many times. You have never prospered when you thought you were going to. You will put out your hand, perhaps, to do a wrong thing to be rich, but if you say, "No, I will work, and toil, and do what I can, but if I am not prospered, it is not a good thing for me to be prospered, and I would not do a wrong thing, if it would bring me all the prosperity that heart could desire," then you will walk uprightly and God will bless you; but if you begin to doubt it and say, "That is a good thing, and my heavenly Father does not give it to me," you will, first of all, get hard and bitter thoughts against your heavenly Father, and then you will get wicked thoughts and wrong desires, and these will lead you to do wrong things, and God's name will be greatly dishonoured thereby. How do you know what is a good thing for you? "Oh! I know," says one. That is just what your child said last Christmas. He was sure it was a good thing for him to have all those sweets: he thought you very hard that you denied them to him, and yet you knew better. You had seen him before so made ill through those very things he now longed for. And your heavenly Father knows, perhaps, that you could not bear to be strong in body; you would never be holy if you had too robust health. He knows you could not endure to be wealthy: you would be proud, vain, perhaps wicked: you do not know how bad you might be if you had this, perhaps. He has put you in the best place for you. He has given you not only some of the things that are good for you, but all that is good for you, and there is nothing in the world that is really, solidly, abidingly good for you, but you either have it now, or you shall have it ere long. God your Father is dealing with you in perfect wisdom and perfect love, and though your reason may begin to cavil and question, yet, your faith should sit still at his feet, and say "I believe it; I believe it, even though my heart is wrung with sorrow; I am a seeker of God; I do seek his glory, and I shall not want any good thing." Methinks someone in the congregation might say to me, "Look at the martyrs; did not they seek the Lord above all men?" Truly so, but what were you about to object? "Why, that they wanted many good things; they were in prison, sometimes in cold, and nakedness, and hunger; they were on the rack tormented, many of them went to heaven from the fiery stake." Yes, but they never wanted any good thing. It would not have been a good thing to them as God's martyrs to have suffered less, for now read their history. The more they suffered, the brighter they shine. Rob them of their sufferings, and you strip their crowns of their gems. Who are the brightest before the eternal throne? Those who suffered most below. lf their could speak to you now, they would tell you that that noisome dungeon was, because it enabled them to glorify God, a good thing to them. They would tell you that the rack whereon they did sing sweet hymns of praise was a good thing for them, because it enabled them to show forth the patience of the saints, and to have their names written in the book of the peerage of the skies. They would tell you that the fiery stake was a good thing, because from that pulpit they preached Christ after such a fashion as men could never have heard it from cold lips and stammering tongues. Did not the world perceive that the suffering of the saints were good things, for they were the seed of the Church? They helped to spread the truth, and because God would not deny them any good thing he gave them their dungeons, he gave them their racks, he gave them their stakes, and these were the best things they could have had, and with enlarged reason, and with their mental faculties purged, those blessed spirits would now choose again, could they live over again, to have suffered those things. They would choose, were it possible, to have lived the very life, and to have endured all they braved, to have received so glorious a reward as they now enjoy. "Ah! well, then," says one, "I see I really have not understood a great deal that has happened to me: I have been in obscurity, lost my friends, been despised, felt quite broken down; do you mean to tell me that that has been a good thing?" I do. God has blessed it to you. He will enable you to say, "Before I was afflicted I went astray; but now have I kept thy law." And if you get more grace, you will say it is a good thing, for is it not a good thing for you to be conformed to the likeness of Christ? How can you be if you have no suffering? If you never suffer with him, how can you expect to reign with him? How are you to be made like him in his humiliation, if you never are humbled? Why, methinks every pain that shoots through the frame and thrills the sensitive soul helps us to understand what Christ suffered, and being sanctified, gives us the power to pass through the rent veil, and to be baptized with his baptism, and in our measure to drink of his cup, and, therefore, it becomes a good thing, and our Father gives it us, because his promise is that he will not deny or withhold any good thing from those that walk uprightly. I feel, brethren, as though my text were too full for me to go on with it, there is such a mass in it, and if you will take it home and turn it over at your leisure, you may do with it better than I can, if I attempt wire-drawing and word-spinning. There is the text. It seems to me to speak as plainly as the English tongue can speak. Give yourselves up to God wholly and live for him, and you shall never want anything that is really good for you; your life shall be the best life for you, all things considered in the light of eternity, that a life could have been. Only mind you keep to this the seeking of the Lord. There is the point of it. Get out of that, and there may be some promise for you, but certainly not this one. You have got out of the line of the promise; but keep to that and seek the Lord, and your life shall be, even if it be a poverty-stricken one, such a life that if you could have the infinite intelligence of your heavenly Father, you would ordain it to be precisely as it now is. "They that seek the Lord shall not want any good thing." Why, how rich this makes the poor! How content this makes the suffering! How grateful this makes the afflicted! How does it make our present state to glow with an unearthly glory! But, brethren, we shall never understand this text fully this side of heaven. There we shall see it in splendour. They that seek the Lord here shall have up yonder all that imagination can picture, all that fancy could conceive, all that desire could create. You shall have more than eye hath seen, or ear hath ever heard. You shall have capacities to receive of the divine fulness, and the fulness of the pleasures that are with God for evermore shall be yours. But again I come back to that, are you seeking the Lord? That is a question I have asked my own heart many and many a time Do I seek the Lord's glory in all things? I ask it of you, you young men who are starting in business. Now, you know you can if you like go into business for yourselves; I mean you can make your trade tell for yourselves, and live to yourselves, and the end will be miserable, and the way to it will not be happy. But if God's Spirit shall help you young men and women early in life to give your hearts to Jesus, and to say, "Now, God has made us, we will serve him that made us; Christ has bought us, we will serve him that bought us; the Spirit of God has given us a new life, we will live for this new and quickening Spirit" then I do not stand here to promise you ease and comfort, for in the world you shall have tribulation, but I do say in God's name that he will not withhold one good thing from you, and that when you come to be with him for ever and ever you will bless him that he did for you the best that could be done even by infinite wisdom and infinite love. You shall have the best life that could be lived, the best mercies that could be given, and the best of all good things shall be yours here and hereafter. There may be some here, however, who have long passed the days of youth, and up till now have never had a thought of their Maker. The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master's crib, but they have not known God. If you keep a dog, he fawns on you, and follows at your heels. There is scarcely any creature so ignorant but what it knows its keeper. Go to the Zoological Gardens and see if those animals that are most deficient in brain are not still obedient to those that feed them. Yet here is God, good and kind to a man like you, and you have lived to be forty, and have never had an idea of loving and serving God. Are you lower sunk than the brutes? Think of that! But Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners such as you. Repent! May God's Eternal Spirit lead you to repentance of this great sin of having lived in neglect of God, and from henceforth, seeking pardon for the past through the atoning sacrifice, and strength for the future through the Divine Spirit, seek the Lord, and you shall find that you shall not want any good thing. The Lord bring you there, and save and bless you eternally! Amen.
Lions Lacking But the Children Satisfied
Delivered on Sabbath Morning, February 10, 1856, by the
REV. C. H. Spurgeon
At New Park Street Chapel, Southwark.
On behalf of the Baptist Fund for the Relief of Poor Ministers.
"The young lions do lack, and suffer hunger; but they that seek the Lord shall not want any good thing." Psalms 34:10 .
RIGHT truly did Paul say, "Whereby he hath given unto us exceeding great and precious promises;" for surely this promise is exceeding great indeed. In the entire compass of God's holy word, there is not to be found a precious declaration which can excel this in sweetness; for how could God promise to use more than all things? how could even his infinite benevolence stretch the line of his grace farther than it hath gone in this verse of the psalm? "They that seek the Lord shall not want any good thing." There is here no reserve; nothing is kept back; there is no solitary word of exception. There is no codicil in this will striking off the smallest portion of the estate; there is no caveat put in to warn us that there are domains upon which we must not intrude; a large field is laid before the children of God; a wide door is open, and no man can shut it. "They that seek the Lord shall not want any good thing."
Now, we shall notice, first of all, the Christian character beautifully delineated. "They that seek the Lord;' secondly, we shall notice a promise set in a glorious light by a contrast, "they shall not want any good thing," although the young lions do lack and suffer hunger;" and thirdly, we shall consider whether we cannot bring some evidence to prove the fulfilment of the promise.
I. First, we have here a very short, but very beautiful DESCRIPTION OF A TRUE CHRISTIAN: he is said to "seek the Lord." "They that seek the Lord (Or Jehovah, as the original has it) shall not want any good thing." Ah! beloved, if some of us had the drawing up of this description we should have made it too narrow. Possibly some of you might have said, "They that seek the Lord in the established church, within the pale of the state religion, shall not lack any good thing;" others might have said, "They that seek the Lord in the orthodox Calvinistic manner shall not lack any good thing;" and others might have said, "They that seek the Lord in the Baptist fashion, or the Methodist fashion, or some other, shall not lack any good thing." But it is not written so. It is written, "They that seek the Lord," in order that it may take in the Lord's people of all classes and denominations, and all shades of character. It is a description very brief, yet full and comprehensive, including Christians in all stages and positions. Now let me show you that the Christian, in whatever portion of his spiritual history he may be, is one that seeks the Lord.
We commence with conviction of sin. That is where God begins with us, and no man is a Christian unless the Holy Spirit has revealed to him in his own entire helplessness, his want of merit, and absence of power ever to accumulate merit in the sight of God. Well, then, the man who is under a conviction of sin, and feels his need of a Saviour what is he doing? What is his occupation, now that he is hungering and thirsting after righteousness? Why, he is seeking the Lord. Ask him what is his one want, and he will say, 'Christ is all my desire: I rise early in the morning, and the first thought I have is, 'O that I knew where I might find him?' I am in my business, and my ejaculatory prayers go up to heaven like hands searching for Jesus; and when I lie down again upon my bed, my heart says, 'I seek him whom my soul loveth: I seek him, but I find him not.'" Such a man will offer prayer. Why? Not because there is any merit in it, not because he will be praised for it, but to seek the Lord. He turns the pages of Scripture, not as he would a book of philosophy, from curiosity, or for mere instruction, but to seek the Lord. He has one passion, one desire to seek the Lord. For that he would barter his life, and be content to have his name cancelled from the register of men below, if he might but find the Lord Jesus, desiring above everything to have his name recorded in some humble place in the Lamb's book of life. Are you thus in the dim morn of spiritual life seeking the Lord? Is he your one object of pursuit? Rejoice then, and tremble not, for the promise is to you in this earlier stage of your calling, when you are only just struggling into being, "They that seek the Lord shall not want any good thing."
But let us go a stage further on, when the Christian has found the Saviour, and is justified, when he can say, in those sweet words I so often repeat,
"Now, freed from sin I walk at large,
My Jesu's blood's my full discharge."
You will find that he has not left off seeking the Lord. No; he seeks now to know more of him; he seeks to understand more of the heights and depths, and lengths, and breadths of the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge. I ask any one here who has an assurance that he is a pardoned man, thoroughly justified and complete in Christ are you not seeking the Lord? "Oh yes," you say, "I thirst, I long to know more of him; I feel that all I have ever known of him is like the whispering of the sea in the shell, while the awful roar of the sea itself has not yet reached mine ears. I have heard the whisperings of Christ in some little mercy, and I have heard his bounties sing of bottomless, eternal, unchangeable love; but oh! I long to plunge into the sea itself, to bathe myself in the broad ocean of his infinite generosity and love to me." No Christian ever fancies that he knows enough of his Master; there is no Christian who has found the Lord who does not desire to be better acquainted with him. "Lord, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest," is the cry of the man who has had his sins forgiven. He sitteth down at the feet of Jesus, and looketh up to him, and saith, "Master, teach me more; I am a little child; thou art a great instructor; oh! I long to love and learn more of thee." He is ever seeking the Lord; and, in this more advanced stage, the promise to him is, "They that seek the Lord shall not want any good thing."
But go a little further on, when the Christian has scarcely ever a shadow of a doubt of his acceptance; he has progressed so far in spiritual life that he has attained to the stature of a perfect man in Christ Jesus; his faith has become so confident, that
"His steady soul doth fear no more
Than solid rocks when billows roar."
He can read his "title clear to mansions in the skies;" he has climbed the Delectable Mountain; his feet are standing fast upon a rock, and his goings are established; but even then he is seeking the Lord. In the highest flights of his assurance, on the topmost pinnacle of his faith, there is something yet beyond. When he had sailed farthest into the sea of Acceptance, there are Fortunate Isles that he hath not reached; there is an ultima thule, a distant land, that he hath not yet seen. He is still seeking the Lord; he feels that he has "not yet attained;" he is still "pressing forward to the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus." But then he seeks the Lord in a different fashion; he seeks him that he may put a crown on his head; he is not seeking him for mercy, but to give him praise. Oh, that my heart could find thee! that all its strings might sing sweet music to thee. Oh that my mouth could find thine ear, and that I might bid it open and listen to the whisper of my song. Oh that I knew where thou didst dwell, that I might sing hard by the eaves of thy habitation, and that thou mightest hear me ever that I might perpetually send the songs of my gratitude up to thy sacred courts? I seek thee that I may break the alabaster box of praise on thy dear sacred head. I seek thee that I may put my soul upon the altar, and sacrifice my living self to thee. I seek thee, that I may go where cherubim are singing, whom I envy, because they
"All night long unwearied sing
High praises to the Eternal King."
I will seek thee in business, that there I may adorn the doctrine of God my Saviour in all things. I will seek thee in my songs that I may hymn thy praise. I will seek thee in my musings, that I may magnify the Lord in my thoughts. I will seek thee in my words, that my conversation may show forth thy praise. I will seek thee in my gifts of benevolence, that I may be like my Saviour. I will seek thee ever, for enough I have attained to know that I am thine and thou art mine, though I have nought else to ask of thee, seeing thou hast given me thyself; though thou art
"Bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh,
My kinsman near allied by blood,"
though now my soul stands perfect in thee, and
"Not a shadow of a spot
Can on my soul be found,"
yet still I will seek thee-seek to honor thee-seek to kiss those blessed feet that bled for me seek to worship that dear "man who once on Calvary died," and put crowns of eternal unfading honor upon his blessed, thorn-crowned, but now exalted brow.
Then bring the Christian to the last period of life, to the brink of death. Set him on those hoary rocks that skirt the edge of Jordan; let him sit there, looking down at the dark stream rolling rapidly below, not afraid to wade it, but rather wishing to die that he may be with Jesus. Ask the old man what he is doing, and he will answer, "Seeking the Lord." But I thought thou hadst found him many a year, old man? "So I have, but when I found him I sought him more; and I am seeking him now seeking him that I may be complete in him, at his appearing; that I may be like him when I shall see him as he is. I have sought to understand more of his love to me, and now I do not know it all. I know as much as mortal can know; I am living in the land of Beulah. See this bunch of spices; angel hands have brought it to me, a present from my King; here are tokens of his love, his mercy, and his grace. And dost not see yonder the golden light of the celestial city? and didst not hear just now the sweet singing of the angels?" "Nay, nay," saith the young man, "I hear them not." "But," the old man replies, "I am on the edge of Jordan, and my ears are open, whereas thine are dull, still I am doing what I have done all my life-long seeking the Lord, and till this pulse shall cease its perpetual beating, I will still seek him, that dying, I may clasp him in my arms, the antidote of death."
You will readily confess that this description of a Christian is invariably correct. You may take the youngest child of God yon little boy ten years old, who has just been baptized, and received into the church. Ask what he is doing? "Seeking the Lord." Follow him till he becomes a middle-aged man with all the cares of life about him. Ask what he is doing then? Still he answers, "Seeking the Lord." Put a few grey hairs upon his head, and let him know that half a century has gone. Again, ask what he is doing? "Seeking the Lord." Then make his head all frosty with the winters of old age, and ask him the same question; and he will still reply, "Seeking the Lord." Take away those hairs until the head is entirely bald, and the man is trembling on the grave; what is he doing then? "Seeking the Lord." Ay, as long as we are in this body, whatever our position, or condition, this will ever apply to us: "They that seek the Lord shall not want any good thing."
But let us not leave this one point without asking you one solemn question. Will you answer it? I beseech you to answer it to yourselves. Are ye seeking the Lord? Nay; some of you there, if you only can have your bottle of wine and your fowl, that will satisfy you better than seeking the Lord. There is another give you health and strength and let you enjoy the pleasures of this world, and that will be better to you than seeking the Lord. There is another flying in the face of the Almighty, cursing and swearing you are not seeking the Lord. Another is here this morning who once thought that he did seek the Lord, but he has left off doing it now; he went away from us because he was not of us, for, "if he had been of us, he doubtless would have continued with us." There is a young woman who thought she sought the Lord once, but she has gone astray, she has backslidden, proving that after all that it was mere excitement. Would God I could include you all in this promise this morning; but can I, dare I, must I? No, I must not. As the Lord liveth, if you are not seeking the Lord, the devil is seeking you; if you are not seeking the Lord, judgment is at your heels. Even now, the swift-winged angel of justice is holding the torch before the fierce messenger of vengeance who, with his naked dagger, is about to execute the wrath of God upon your spirit. Ah! take no lease of your lives; fancy not that you are to live for ever. If you have not sought the Lord, as Jonathan Edwards said, "thou standest over the mouth of hell upon a single plank, and that plank is rotten." You are hanging over hell by a single rope, and all the strands of the rope are creaking, snapping, breaking. Remember after death, judgment; and after judgment, woe; and after woe, nought; for woe, woe, woe, must be for ever. "The wrath to come! The wrath to come! The wrath to come!" It needs a damned spirit to start from the grave to preach to you, and let you know something of it; but though one should rise from the grave with all the scars of all his torments upon him, with his hair all crisp by the hot fire of vengeance, his body scorched in the flames which no abatement know, though he should tell you with a tear at every word and a groan as a stop at every sentence, and a deep sigh on every syllable, how horribly he feels, how damnably he is tormented, still ye would not repent. Therefore we will say little of it. May God the Holy Ghost seek you, and then you will seek him, and you shall be turned from darkness to light, from the power of Satan unto God.
II. Now we come to THE PROMISE SET FORTH BY WAY OF CONTRAST. "they shall not want any good thing:" that is the jewel. "The young lions do lack and suffer hunger;" that is the foil to set off the jewel and make it shine more brightly. "They shall not want any good thing." I can hardly speak of that, for there is too much to say. Did you never see a horse let into a wide field where the grass grew so thickly, that he scarcely knew where to begin to eat? If not, you have seen children taken into the field where wild flowers grow; it is so full of them in their liveries of white and yellow that the children know not where to pluck first, they have so wide a choice. That is how I feel when I have such a text as this: "They that seek the Lord shall not want any good thing." We have heard of the celebrated cheque for a million pounds which has been preserved; here is one for millions of millions. Here is a promise wide as our wants, large as our necessities, deep as our distresses. There are some persons whose ambitious desires are very much like the Slough of Despond, which, though the king's labourers cast in thousands of tons of good material, never could be filled up. But the Lord can fill them. However bottomless our desires, however deep our wishes, however high our aspirations, all things meet in this promise, "They that seek the Lord shall not want any good thing."
We take it concerning things spiritual. Are we wanting a sense of pardon? We shall not want it long. Are we desiring stronger faith? We shall not want it long. Do you wish to have more love to your Saviour, to understand more concerning inward communion with Jesus? You shall have it. "They that seek the Lord shall not want any good thing." Do you desire to renounce your sins, to be able to overcome this corruption or that? to attain this virtue, or that excellency? "They that seek the Lord shall not want any good thing." Is it adoption, justification, sanctification, that thou wantest? "Thou shalt not lack any good thing."
But are thy wants temporal? Dost thou want bread and water? No, I know thou dost not, for it is said, "Bread shall be given thee, and thy water shall be sure." Or, if thou dost want it somewhat, it shall come before long; it shall not be to starvation. David said, "I have been young and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread." Do you want clothes? You shall have them. "He that clothes the lilies of the valley, will he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?" Do you need temporary supplies. You, shall receive them, for "your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of these things." Whatever your desire, there is the promise, only go and plead it at the throne, and God will fulfil it. We have no right to look for the fulfilment of the promises unless we put the Promiser in mind of them, although truly, at times, he exceeds our desires or wishes. He gives us these promises as his notes of hand, his bills of exchange, and if we do not take our notes to get them cashed at the throne it is our fault, for the promise is just as good: "they that seek the Lord shall not want any good thing."
But here is a contrast, and we will proceed to that at once. "The young lions do lack and suffer hunger; but they that seek the Lord shall not want any good thing." The old Psalter has it: "The rich had need, and they hungered; but seekers of the Lord shall not be lessed of all good." It appears that there is only the difference of a very little mark in the Hebrew between the words "mighty men" and "young lions." But it is of very little consequence for, doubtless "the young lions" are put by way of figure to denominate certain characters of men who do "lack and suffer hunger."
There are certain men in the world who, like the lions, are kings over others. The lion is lord of the forest, and at his roar others tremble; so are there men who walk about among us noblemen, respectable, great, honorable persons who are had in reverence and esteem; and they suppose, sometimes, because they are lions they are sure never to have any spiritual hunger. They are great and mighty men; they have no need of a Saviour. Are they not the elders of the city? are they not mighty men of valour? are they not noble and great! They are, moreover, so excellent in their own esteem that their proper language seems to be when they come before their Maker's bar: "Lord, I had not a very bad nature, and wherein it was a little bad, I made the best of it! and wherein I did not do quite as well as I ought, Jesus Christ will make it up." Talk to these men about being depraved! "Rubbish!" they say; they know better; their heart is pure enough. They have no need of the Holy Spirit; they are young lions; you small mice may want it, but not they indeed! They have no need of another's righteousness to cover them; their old shaggy mane is glory enough to them. But do you know these young lions "lack and suffer hunger;" ay, even when we do not know anything about it? They can play bombast before men, but they "lack and suffer hunger" when they are alone. A suspicion often crosses their minds that their righteousness is not good for much; they know very well that while they can make a long prayer the poor widow's house sticks in their throat; that while they boast of their good works they are no better than they should be. You may think, perhaps, like David, that "they are not plagued like other men." But you don't know that. They are very often plagued when they do not tell you. When they roar so loudly their mane scarcely covers their bare ribs. "The young lions do lack and suffer hunger;" but, blessed be God, "they that seek the Lord shall not want any good thing." Poor and helpless though they are, having no works of righteousness of their own, confessing their sin and depravity, they shall want no good thing. Is it not amazing? There is a poor sinner who has sinned against God and in every way dishonored his name; yet he cannot lack any good thing.
"Poor, helpless worms in Christ possess
Grace, wisdom, peace, and righteousness."
Again, by young lions we may understand men of cunning and men of wisdom. The lion goeth out at night, and prowleth silently through the jungle. It hath a keen scent, and knoweth where to find its prey. It scenteth the fountain, and knoweth that the antelope will go there to drink. When he comes, the lion croucheth down, with wild eyes looks upon him, and in a moment, ere the antelope is aware, he is in the fangs of the lion. Men of cunning and wisdom have you not seen such? Have you not heard their boastful exclamation, "Submit myself to a dogmatical preacher! No, sir, I will not. Believe in the plenary inspiration of the Scriptures! I cannot believe in any such absurdity. Sit at the feet of Jesus and learn of him in the Scriptures! No, sir, I cannot. I like something to discuss; I like an intellectual religion; I cannot believe everything simply because God says it. I want to be allowed to judge for myself. Am I not wise learned?" And when he sees us in distress, sometimes he says, "Nonsense! you have no brains! you, poor Calvinists must be bereft of your senses." And yet we can show as many men of sense as they can, and we are not afraid of them, however much they glory in their wisdom. But sometimes the poor Christian is frightened by them; he cannot answer their sophisms; he does not see his way through their labyrinths, and cannot escape from their nets. Well, don't try to escape from them. Let them talk on; the best answer is often silence. But do you know that these young lions so gloriously self-sufficient when in argument with you, in secrecy often "lack and suffer hunger?" There was never an infidel in the world that did not suffer spiritual hunger, though he might not confess it. His creed did not satisfy him; there was a hollow place, an aching void somewhere, which the world could never fill. But "they that seek the Lord," who take the Scriptures for their guide, who bow implicity to the words of Jehovah, "do not lack any good thing." They feel no hollow unoccupied; Christ has filled their hearts, and they are satisfied with his presence and his love. "The young lions do lack, and suffer hunger: but they that seek the Lord shall not want any good thing."
Again, the young lions denote those who are very strong, so that they hope to save themselves, and very swift in their course of profession. Some are very fierce in the matter of religion, very anxious to obtain salvation; and they are very strong, so that they think it scorn to borrow strength of another. Like the Jews, they follow after righteousness, but they do not attain it because they seek it by the works of the law. Have you never seen what they will do? There is a goodly chapel they have built; they are engaged at six o'clock in the morning at prayers, and repeat so many Ave Marias and Pater-nosters; then comes the daily service, the mass, and all that rubbish the messe, as they call it in France, and verily a mess it is; then they whip themselves, fetch blood from their bodies, and perform all kinds of penances. Even among Protestants, meritmongery is not quite gone by; for there be many who are full of holy works, in which they are thursting for salvation. The poor Christian says, "I cannot perform all these works; I wish it were in my power to serve the Lord more devoutly." But dost thou not know that these "young lions do lack, and suffer hunger?" The formalist is never satisfied with all his forms; the hypocrite is never contented; there is always something he misses that makes his heart ache.
Then we may take it in a temporal sense. Young lions may mean deep cunning schemers. Have you never seen men with their thousand schemes and plans to make themselves rich, men who can overreach others, who are so subtle that you cannot see through them? Their instinct seems to be cunning. They are always lying in wait to take advantage of others; they prowl the world around, to seize on the helpless widow and the defenceless orphan. Or, perhaps, they may be following more legitimate schemes yet, such as are full of speculation and will involve the exercise of all their wits. Surely such can live if others stand. But no, they are just the men who "lack and suffer hunger;" their schemes all prove futile; the arrow which they shoot returneth on their own head and woundeth them. But they who lie gently down in passive faith, singing
"Father, I wait thy daily will;
Thou shalt divide my portion still,
Give me on earth what seems thee best,
'Till death and heaven reveal the rest,"
do not lack any good thing.
Again, by "young lions," we may understand "rich men" men who have abundance. We have known persons who have ridden in fine carriages and dwelt in noble mansions, brought to the depths of poverty. Every now and then we hear of men, almost millionares, who are turned out into the very streets. Kings have walked our soil without their crowns, and nobles even now are living on our charity. Daughters of men in high positions have to work as menials, and long sometimes to be allowed to do that. The rich sometimes "lack, and suffer hunger;" but they that wait on the Lord," poor as they may be, "do not lack any good thing."
Again, this may apply to you who earn your living by bodily labour. Perhaps you are a weak and sickly man; you are not one of the "young lions," like your neighbour, a strong big fellow, who can earn his day's wages without the least difficulty. He says to you, perhaps, "I shouldn't like to be such a poor lean thing as you are. If you should be ill, what would become of you? You trust in Providence, but I trust in my big arms. The best providence is to take care of yourself to go and eat a good dinner, and keep yourself in trim." Nay, nay; have you not seen those young lions, "lack and suffer hunger?" Our missionary can tell of strong men whom he visits, who cannot find employment, but are brought almost to starvation; while he does not find that they that wait on the Lord lack any good thing. Don't be afraid because you have a sick and weakly frame; labour as hard as you can, and be sure, that if you wait on the Lord you will not lack any good thing.
Once more, the lion is a creature that overcomes and devours all others. We have some such in our society; you find them everywhere. They put their hand upon you, and you feel you are in a vice. They understand law better than you do: and woe be to you if you make a mistake! won't they take advantage of you? So in business they can always over-reach you; like sharks, if they do not devour you altogether, they leave you minus a leg or an arm. Yes, but you have seen these men, too, "lack and suffer hunger." And amongst all the miserable miscreants that walk the earth, there is none so destitute as the young lion that lacks, and suffers hunger. He puts his money into a bag full of holes; and methinks hell laughs at the covetous man, at him who grasps his neighbour's wealth. "Ha! ha!" says the devil, "damn thy soul to win nothing! send thy soul to hell to win a dream! A thing which thou hadst, but is gone; thou didst grasp it it was a shadow! Sold thine immortal spirit to win a bubble which burst in thy grasp." Christian, do not be concerned about temporal things; trust in God; for while "young lions do lack, and suffer hunger, they that seek the Lord shall not want any good thing.
III. And now, I come to the third part, which is THE FULFILMENT OF THE PROMISE. Time fails me, and I shall not try to prove to you that God can in the ordinary course of his providence make a distinction between the righteous and the wicked; that would be an easy task. While God has the hearts of all men under his control, he can make the rich give where he pleases; and he can influence the church, and those that love the Lord, always to take care of the Lord's poor. But I am going to state one or two facts by way of stimulating you to assist me in the noble enterprise of endeavouring to support the poor disabled ministers of the everlasting gospel. Amongst the particular Baptists we have a fund called the Baptists Fund. It was instituted in 1717, in order to afford assistance to ministers in England and Wales, who were in poverty and distress, in consequence of the inability of their churches and congregations to furnish them with a competent maintenance for themselves and their families. During nearly a century and a half, it has carried out, so far as its funds were sufficient, the benevolent purposes for which it was established. It publishes its accounts yearly; and from the last printed statement for 1854-5, it appears that in that year, one hundred and sixty-five cases were relieved in England, and sixty-five in the Principality, by grants in money to the amount of £1,560, no one receiving a larger sum than £10, and no grant being in any case made where the minister's income from every source exceed £80. In addition to the money grants, books also of the value together of £155 have been presented to thirty-five poor ministers unable to purchase them. Towards raising the necessary funds to meet these cases, collections are annually made in this and in number, character, and circumstances of the objects to be relieved, and the purpose for which the relief is afforded are considered, it will be well understood that this is no ordinary collection. We have the right of four votes, one for the pastor and three messengers sent by us, owing to our fathers having in olden times deposited £150 by way of starting the fund, the interest of which sum, and of that given by other churches, is spent every year. Different legacies having been left by other persons, a considerable sum has accumulated, and I believe the yearly income is somewhere about £2,000 at the present time. We need, however, much more. I am not going to detain you long by telling you about the fund, but I will read you one or two letters from the recipients. The first is from an old minister aged eighty.
[It is thought best not to print these, lest the worthy men who wrote them should feel aggrieved.]
I think I need add nothing more to move you. There are many poor ministers now, who, when they go up the pulpit stairs, are obliged to hold their arms pretty close to their bodies lest they should rend their coats to pieces; and I have seen them with such coats on, as you would not like to put on if you were going into the meanest chapel in London. I have myself found livery for some of these holy men year by year, but one person cannot supply the necessities of all. I know the case of a preacher who walked to a chapel, within ten miles of this spot, and preached in the morning, and walked back again; he also preaching in the evening, and had to walk back to his house; and what do you think the deacons gave him? The poor man had nothing else to live upon, and he was nearly eighty years of age. When he had finish (oh! don't hear it, ye angels! pray shut up your ears) they gave him a shilling! That was for his day's work. Another brother told me some time ago that he preached three sermons, walking eight miles and back again and going dinnerless all the while; and the deacons gave him the munificent sum of half-a-crown! Oh! if you knew all the circumstances connected with the fund, you would not long restrain your benevolence. The funds are mostly given to those who preach the gospel gospel ministers of the best sort, men who preach what we consider to be gospel Calvinistic sentiments. And the funds must always be given in that way, for so the deed directs it. I bless God for this society, and I ask you, under God, to take care of it, that while "the young lions do lack, and suffer hunger," the ministers of the Lord shall "not want any good thing."
For more than a century, Charles Haddon Spurgeon's sermons have been consistently recognized, and their usefulness and impact have continued to the present day, even in the outdated English of the author's own day.
Why then should expositions already so successful and of such stature and proven usefulness require adaptation, revision, rewrite or even editing? The answer is obvious. To increase its usefulness to today's reader, the language in which it was originally written needs updating.
Though his sermons have served other generations well, just as they came from the pen of the author in the nineteenth century, they still could be lost to present and future generations, simply because, to them, the language is neither readily nor fully understandable.
My goal, however, has not been to reduce the original writing to the vernacular of our day. It is designed primarily for you who desire to read and study comfortably and at ease in the language of our time. Only obviously archaic terminology and passages obscured by expressions not totally familiar in our day have been revised. However, neither Spurgeon's meaning nor intent have been tampered with.
All Scripture references are taken from the HOLY BIBLE: NEW NTERNATIONAL VERSION (C) 1978 by the New York Bible Society, used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.
Updated Copy of this sermon copyrighted 1998 Ó by Tony Capoccia All Rights Reserved
Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892)
"Come, my children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the LORD." Psalms 34:11
It is a noteworthy, that good men frequently discover their duty when they are placed in the most humiliating situations. Never in David's life was he in a worse dilemma than that situation which prompted this Psalm to be written. It is, as you can read at the beginning, "A Psalm of David, when he faked insanity before Abimelech, who drove him away, and he left."
David was carried before King Achish, the Abimelech of Philistia, and in order to make his escape, he pretended to be insane by acting in very degrading ways which easily gave the impression that he had positively lost his mind. He was driven away from the palace, and as usual, when such men are in the street, a number of children gather around him. Later, when he sang songs of praise to God, remembering how he had become the laughing stock of little children, he seemed to say, "I have caused the future generations to think less of me because of my foolishness in the streets in front of the children; now I will endeavor to undo the mischief. Come, my children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the LORD."
It is very possible, that if David had never been in such a position, he never would have thought of this duty; for I do not discover in any other Psalm that David said, "Come, my children, listen to me." He had the worries of the cities and his nation pressing upon him, and he paid very little attention to the education of the youth; but here, being brought into the most difficult position which a man could possibly be in, acting the part of a man without reason, he remembers his responsibility. The exalted, or wealthy Christian, does not always remember their responsibility to the lambs.
Departing, however, from this thought, let me address myself to the text, "Come, my children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the LORD."
Today I have broken the sermon into five segments:
1. I shall give you one Doctrine
2. I shall give you two Encouragements
3. I shall give you three Warnings
4. I shall give you four Instructions
5. I shall give you five Subjects for children
And all of these will be taken from our text.
I. ONE DOCTRINE
"Come, my children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the LORD."
The doctrine is, that children are capable of being taught the fear of the Lord.
Commonly, men are the wisest after they have been the most foolish. David had been extremely foolish, and now he had become extremely wise; and being so it was not likely that he would speak foolish opinions, or give the type of directions that would be dictated by a weak mind.
We have heard it said by some that children cannot understand the great mysteries of Christianity. We even know some Sunday School teachers who cautiously avoid mentioning the great doctrines of the gospel, because they think the children are not prepared to receive them. The same mistake has crept into the pulpit, for it is currently believed, among a certain group of preachers, that many of the doctrines of the Word of God, although true, are not fit to be taught to the people, since they would misapply them to their own ruin. Away with such ideas, for this is one of the errors of the Roman Catholic Church.
Whatever my God has revealed must be preached. Whatever He has revealed, if I am not capable of understanding it, I will still believe it, and preach it. I am convinced that there is no doctrine of the Word of God which a child, if he is capable of salvation, is not capable of receiving. I would have children taught all the great doctrines of truth without a single exception, that they may in later life hold firmly to them. I can bear witness that children can understand the Scriptures, for I am sure that when I was a child I could have discussed many a complicated point of controversial theology, having heard both sides of the question freely stated among my father's circle of friends. In fact, children are capable of understanding some things in early life, which we can hardly understand in our later years.
Children have a simplicity of faith. Simplicity is analogous to the highest knowledge; indeed, many of us are not aware that there is little difference between the simplicity of a child and the genius of the profoundest mind. He who receives things simply, as a child, will often have ideas which the man who is prone to use deductive reasoning could never discover.
If you wish to know whether children can be taught, I point you to many in our churches, and in godly families not geniuses, but the more common children the Timothy's and Samuel's, and little girls too, who have come to know a Savior's love. As soon as a child is capable of being damned it is capable of being saved. As soon as a child can sin, that child can, if God's grace helps it, believe and receive the Word of God. As soon as children can learn evil, be assured that they are capable, under the teaching of the Holy Spirit, to learn good.
Never go to your Sunday School class with the thought that the children cannot understand you; for if you do not make them understand, it is because you do not understand it yourselves; if you do not teach children what you wish, it is because you are not fit for the task: you should use simpler words more fitted for their capacity, and then you would discover that it was not the fault of the child, but the fault of the teacher, if he did not learn. I believe that children are capable of salvation. He who in divine sovereignty redeems the gray haired sinner from the error of his ways, can turn a little child from his youthful lusts. He who in the eleventh hour finds some standing idle in the marketplace, and sends them into the vineyard, can call men at the dawning of the day to work for Him.
He who can change the course of the river when it has rolled onward and become a mighty flood, can control a newborn river leaping from its cradle fountain, and make it run in the channel He desires. He can do all things; He can work on children's hearts as He pleases, for all of them are under His control.
I will not delay to establish the doctrine, because I do not consider any of you are so foolish as to doubt it. But although you believe it, I fear many of you don't expect to hear of children being saved. Throughout the churches I have noticed a kind of abhorrence of any thing like early childhood godliness. We are afraid of the idea of a little boy loving Christ; and if we hear of a little girl following the Savior, we say it is a youthful fancy, an early impression that will die away. My dear friends, I ask you, never to treat the godliness of a young child with suspicion. It is a tender plant--don't brush it too hard.
I heard of a story some time ago, which I believe to be completely true. A dear little girl, some five or six years old, a true lover of Jesus, requested of her mother that she might join the church. The mother told her she was too young. The poor little thing was severely grieved; and after a awhile the mother, who saw that godliness was in the little girl's heart, spoke to the minister on the subject. The minister talked to the child, and said to the mother, "I am thoroughly convinced of her salvation and godliness, but I cannot take her into the church, because she is too young." When the child heard that, a strange gloom passed over her face; and the next morning when her mother went to her little bed, she saw the little girl laying there with a pearly tear or two on each eye, dead because of her grief; her heart was broken, because she could not follow her Savior, and do as He had commanded her.
I would not have murdered that child for all the world! Take care how you treat young devotion to Christ. Treat it very tenderly. Believe that children can be saved as much as yourselves. When you see the young heart brought to the Savior, don't stand by and speak harshly, mistrusting everything. It is better sometimes to be deceived than to be the one who causes a young child to be ruined. May God send to his people a more firm belief that little buds of grace are worthy of all of our care.
II. TWO ENCOURAGEMENTS
Now, secondly, I will give you two encouragements, both of which you will find in the text.
The first is that of godly example. David said, "Come, my children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the LORD." You are not ashamed to walk in the footsteps of David, are you? You won't object to follow the example of one who was first notably holy, and then notably great. Shall the shepherd boy, the giant killer, the psalmist of Israel, and the king, walk in footsteps which you are too proud to follow? Ah! no; you will be happy, I am sure, to be as David was. If you want, however, a greater example, even than that of David, listen to the Son of David while from his lips the sweet words flow, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these." I am sure it would encourage you if you always thought of these examples.
You teach children you are not dishonored by it. Some say you are nothing but a Sunday School teacher, but you are a noble person, holding an honorable office, and having illustrious predecessors. We love to see persons of some standing in society take an interest in Sunday Schools. One great fault in many of our churches is that the children are left to the young people to take care of the older members, who have more wisdom, take very little notice of them; and very often the wealthier members of the church stand aside as if the teaching of the poor were not (as indeed it is) the special business of the rich.
I hope for the day when the mighty men of Israel shall be found helping in this great warfare against the enemy. In the United States we have heard of presidents, of judges, Congressmen, and persons in the highest positions not condescending, for I hate to use such a term, but honoring themselves by teaching little children in Sunday School. He who teaches a class in Sunday School has earned a good degree. I would have rather received the title of S.S.T., than M.A., B.A., or any other honor that was ever conferred. Let me beg of you then to take heart, because your duties are so honorable. Let the royal example of David, let the noble, the godly example of Jesus Christ inspire you with fresh diligence and increasing love, with confident and enduring perseverance, still to go on in your mighty work, saying, as David did, "Come, my children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the LORD."
The second encouragement I will give is the encouragement of great success. David said, "Come, my children, listen to me;" he did not add, "Perhaps I will teach you the fear of the Lord" but "I will teach you." He had success; or if he had not, others have. The success of Sunday Schools! If I begin to speak of that I will have an endless theme; therefore I will not begin. Many books might be written on it, and then when all were written, we might say, "I suppose that even the world itself could not contain all that might be written."
Up above where the starry hosts perpetually sing His high praise up where the redeemed saints, dressed in white robes, continually throw their crowns before His feet--we may behold the success of Sunday Schools. There, too, where voices of those taken home to heaven early in their young lives, gather Sunday after Sunday, to sing, "Gentle Jesus, meek and mild," we see with joy the success of Sunday Schools. And in almost every pulpit of our land, and there in the pews where the deacons sit, and godly members join in worship--there is the success of Sunday Schools.
And far across the broad ocean in the islands of the south, in lands where those live who bow down before blocks of wood and stone--there are missionaries saved by Sunday Schools, whose thousands, redeemed by their labors, contribute to swell the mighty stream of the tremendous, incalculable, I had almost said infinite success of Sunday School instruction. Go on! go on! So much has been done; more will be done. Let all your past victories inflame you with love; let the remembrance of campaigns of triumph, and of battlefields, won for your Savior in the realms of salvation and peace, be your encouragement for fresh duty.
III. THREE WARNINGS
Now, thirdly, I give you three warnings.
The first is, remember who you are teaching. "Come, my children."
I think we ought always to have respect for our audience. Not that kind of respect that we need to worry that we are preaching to Mr. So-an-so, or to Sir William This, or the Honorable Mr. That because in God's sight title and position is a small matter; but we are to remember that we are preaching to men and women who have souls, so that we should not waste their time with things that are not worth their hearing. But when you teach in Sunday Schools, you are, if it is possible, in a more responsible situation even than a minister.
Ministers preach to grownup people--men of judgment, who, if they do not like what he preaches, have the option of going somewhere else; you teach children who have no option to go elsewhere. If you wrongly teach the child, he believes you; if you teach him heresies he will receive them; what you teach him now, he will never forget. You are not sowing, as some say, on virgin soil, for it has long been occupied by the devil; but you are sowing on a soil more fertile than it ever will be that will produce far better fruit now than it will do in the later years of its life; you are sowing on a young heart, and what you sow will be pretty sure to remain there, especially if you teach evil, for that will never be forgotten.
You are beginning with the child; take care what you do with him. Don't spoil him. Many a child has been treated like the Indian children, who had copper plates attached to their foreheads, so that they may never grow. There are many who know themselves to be illiterate now, just because those who had the care of them when young gave them no opportunities of getting knowledge, so that when they became old they cared nothing about it. Take special care what you are doing; you are teaching children; be very mindful of what you are accomplishing. Put poison in the spring, and it will impregnate the whole stream.
Take special care what you are trying to achieve, sir! You are twisting the sapling, and the old oak will therefore be bent. Be careful! It is a child's soul you are tampering with, if you are tampering at all; it is a child's soul you are preparing for eternity, if God is with you. I give you a solemn warning on every child's behalf. Surely, if it is treachery to administer poison to the dying, it must be far more criminal to give poison to the young life. If it is evil to mislead those who are gray headed, it must be far more so to turn aside the young heart to a road of error in which he may forever walk. Yes! it is a solemn warning you are teaching children.
The second warning is, remember that you are teaching for God. "Come, my children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord."
If you, as teachers, were only assembled to teach geography, I am sure I would not interfere if you were telling the children that the north pole was close to the equator; if you were to say that the extremity of South America lay right next to the coast of Europe; I would smile at your error. And perhaps, I would even maintain it was a joke, if I heard you assure them that England was in the middle of Africa. But you are not teaching geography or astronomy, nor are you teaching for business or for the world; but you are teaching them, to the best of your ability, for God.
You say to them, "Children, you come here to be taught the Word of God; you come here, if it is possible, that we may be the means of saving your souls." Care about what you are doing when you pretend to be teaching them for God. Wound the child's hand if you like, but, for the sake of God, don't touch his heart. Say what you like about earthly matters, but I beg you, in spiritual matters, be careful how you lead him. Oh! be careful that it is the truth which you convey, and only that. And now how solemn your work becomes! He who is doing a work for himself, let him do it as he likes; but he who in laboring for another, let him be careful how he does his work; he who is now employed by a governor, let him beware how he performs his duty; but he who labors for God, let him tremble at the thought of doing careless work! Remember you are working for God. I say this, because you profess to be His servants. I fear that many among you, are far from having this view of the matter.
The third warning is remember that your children need teaching. The text implies that, when it says, "Come, my children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord."
That makes your work all the more solemn. If children did not need teaching, I would not be so extremely anxious that you should teach them right; for works that are not necessary, men may do as they please. But here the work is necessary. Your child needs teaching! He was born in sin; in sin did his mother conceive him. He has an evil heart; he does not know God, and he never will unless he is taught. He is not like some ground of which we have heard, that has good seed lying hidden in its very heart; but, instead he has evil seed within his heart. God can place good seed there. You profess to be God’s instrument to scatter seed upon that child's heart; remember, if that seed is not sown, he will be lost forever, his life will be a life of alienation from God, and, at his death, he will be thrown into the everlasting fire.
Be careful, then, how you teach, remembering the urgent necessity of the situation. This is not a house on fire needing your assistance with a fire hose, nor is it an accident at sea, demanding your oar in the lifeboat, but it is a eternal spirit calling out loud to you, "Come over and help us." I beg you, teach "the fear of the Lord," and only that; be very anxious to say, and say truly, "I will teach you the fear of the Lord."
IV. That brings me, in the fourth place, to FOUR INSTRUCTIONS, and they are all in the text.
The first is "Get the children to come to your Sunday School." "Come, my children."
The great complaint with some is that they cannot get children. Go and get them to come. In London we are canvassing the city; that is a good idea, and you ought to canvass every village, and every town, and get every child you can; for David says, "Come, my children." My advice then, is, get the children to come, and do any thing to make it happen. Don't bribe them that is the only plan we object to; it is only adopted in Sunday Schools of the lowest order; Sunday Schools so bad that, even the fathers and mothers of the children have too much sense then to send them there. But, except for that, don't be very particular how you get the children to school.
Why, if I could only get people to come to my place by preaching in a black coat, I would have on a tuxedo tomorrow. I would have a congregation somehow. Better to do strange things than have an empty chapel, or an empty school room. When I was in Scotland, we sent one of our workers around a village to secure an audience, and his efforts were eminently successful. Spare no means. Go and get the children in. I have known ministers who have gone out in the streets on Sunday afternoon, and talked to the children who were playing in the street, so as to induce them to come to the school. This is what an earnest teacher will do. He will say, "Come to our school; you cannot believe what a nice school it is" Then he gets the children in, and, in his kind, winning manner, he tells them some stories and anecdotes about girls and boys, and so on. And in this way the school is filled. Go and catch them any way possible. There is no law against it. You may do what you like in battle. All is fair against the devil. My first instruction then is, get children, and get them any way possible.
The next instruction is, "Get the children to love you," if you can. That also is in the text. "Come, my children, listen to me."
You know how we used to be taught in our private schools, how we stood up with our hands behind us to repeat our lessons. That was not David's plan. "Come, my children come here, and sit on my knee." "Oh!" thinks the child, "how nice to have such a teacher! A teacher that will let me come near him, a teacher that does not say "go" but "come." The fault of many teachers is, that they do not let their children near them, but endeavor to foster a kind of awful respect. Before you can teach children you must get the silver key of kindness to unlock their hearts, and get their attention. Say, "Come, my children."
We have known some good men who are objects of hatred to the children. You remember the story of two little boys who were one day asked if they would like to go to heaven, and who, much to their teacher's astonishment, said they really would not. When they were asked "why not," one of them said, "I would not like to go to heaven because grandpa would be there, and would be sure to say, ‘get out of here boys, get out of here boys.’ I would not like to be there with grandpa."
If a boy has a teacher who always wears a sour look, but who talks to him about Jesus, what does the boy think? "I wonder whether Jesus was like you; if He was, I wouldn't like Him very much." Then there is another teacher who, if he is provoked even a little, spanks the child; and, at the same time, teaches him that he should forgive others, and how kind he ought to be. "Well," thinks the child, "that is no doubt the way to be, but my teacher does not show me how to do it." If you drive a boy from you, your power is gone, for you won't be able to teach him anything. It is a waste of time to attempt teaching those who do not love you. Try and make them love you, and then they will learn anything from you.
The next instruction is, "Get the children's attention." That is in the text, "Come, my children, listen to me."
If they do not listen, you may talk, but you will waste your words. If they do not listen, you go through your labors as an meaningless drudgery to yourselves and your students too. You can do nothing without securing their attention. "That is just what I cannot do," says one. Well, that depends on you. If you give them something worth listening to, they will be sure to listen. Give them something worth hearing, and they will certainly listen. This rule may not be universal, but it is very nearly so. Don't forget to give them a few real life stories. Stories and Illustrations are very much objected to by critics of sermons, who say they ought not to be used in the pulpit. But some of us know better than that; we know what will wake a congregation up; we can speak from experience, that a few good illustrations here and there are first rate things to get the attention of persons who won't listen to dry doctrine.
Try to learn as many short interesting stories as possible, in the week just before the class. Wherever you go, if you are really a good teacher, you can always find something to make into a story to tell your children. Then, when your class gets dull, and you cannot get their attention, say to them, "Do you know "such-and-such" place downtown?" and then they all open their eyes at once, if there is such a place in the town; or, just tell them something you may have read or heard just to secure their attention.
A dear child once said: "Father, I like to hear Mr. So-and-so preach, because he puts some ‘likes’ into his sermon ‘like this, and like that.’ Yes, children always love those "likes." Make parables, pictures, figures, for them, and you will always get their attention. I am sure if I were a boy listening to some of you, unless you told me a story now and then, you would as often see the back of my head as my face; and I don't know, if I sat in a hot classroom, but that my head would nod, and I should go to sleep, or be playing with Tom on my left, and do as many strange things as the rest, if you did not strive to interest me. Remember to make them listen.
The fourth instruction is, "Care about what you teach the children." "Come, my children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord."
Not to wear you out, however, I only hint at that, and press on.
V. In the fifth place, I give to you FIVE SUNDAY-SCHOOL LESSONS--five subjects to teach your children and these you will find in the verses following the text:
1. "Come, my children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord." The first thing to teach is "morality." "Whoever of you loves life and desires to see many good days, keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking lies. Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it."
2. The second is "godliness, and a constant belief in God's oversight." "The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their cry."
3. The third thing is "the evil of sin:" "The face of the LORD is against those who do evil, to cut off the memory of them from the earth. The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles."
4. The fourth thing is, "the necessity of a broken heart:" "The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit."
5. The fifth thing is "the inestimable blessedness of being a child of God:" "A righteous man may have many troubles, but the LORD delivers him from them all; he protects all his bones, not one of them will be broken. The LORD redeems his servants; no one will be condemned who takes refuge in Him."
I have given you these divisions, and now let me refer to them one by one. Here, then, is a model lesson for you: "Come, my children, listen to me: I will teach you the fear of the Lord." David begins with a question, "Who of you loves life and desires to see many good days?" The children like that thought; they would like to live to be old. With this introduction he begins and teaches them morality: "Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking lies. Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it."
Now, we never teach morality as the way of salvation. God forbid that we should ever mix up man's works in any way with the road to heaven; "For it is by grace we have been saved, through faith and this not from ourselves, it is the gift of God." But yet we teach morality, while we teach spirituality; and I have always found that the gospel produces the best morality in all the world. I would have the Sunday School teacher take special care of the morals of the boys and girls, speaking to them very particularly of those sins which are most common to youth. He may honestly and conveniently say many things to his children which no one else can say, especially when reminding them of the sin of lying, so common with children; the sin of little petty thefts, of disobedience to parents, and of failing to keep the Lord’s Day holy. I would have the teacher be very particular in mentioning these things, one by one; for it is of little help talking to them about sins in the mass: you must take them one by one, just as David did.
First look after the tongue: "Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking lies." Then look after the whole conduct: "Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it." If the child's soul is not saved by other parts of the teaching, this part may have a beneficial effect on his life; and so far so good. Morality, however, is comparatively a small thing.
The best part of what you teach is "godliness," a constant belief in God I said, not religion, but godliness. Many people are religious without being godly. Many have all the externals of godliness, all the outside of devotion such men we call religious but they have no thought about God. They think about their place of worship, their Sunday, their books, but nothing about God; and he who does not respect God, pray to God, love God, is an ungodly man with all his external religion, however good that may be. Labor to teach the child always to have an eye to God; write on his brow, "You, God, see me;" stamp on his books, "You, God, see me;" beg him to remember that,
"Within the embracing arms of God He forever will dwell;"
that the arms of Jehovah encompass him around while his every act and thought is under the eye of God. No Sunday School teacher discharges his duty unless he constantly lays stress on the fact that there is a God who notices everything. Oh! that we were more godly ourselves, that we longed for more godliness, and that we loved it better!
The third lesson is "the evil of sin." If the child does not learn that, he will never learn the way to heaven. None of us ever knew what a Savior Christ was till we knew what an evil thing sin was. If the Holy Spirit does not teach us "the exceeding sinfulness of sin," we shall never know the blessedness of salvation. Let us ask for His grace, then, we may forever be able to fight against the abominable nature of sin. "The face of the LORD is against those who do evil, to cut off the memory of them from the earth." Don't spare your child; let him know what sin leads to; don't, like some people, be afraid of speaking the consequences of sin clearly and unbiased.
I have heard of a father, one of whose sons, a very ungodly young man, died suddenly. He did not, as some would do, say to his family: "We hope your brother has gone to heaven." No; but, overcoming his natural feelings, he was enabled, by divine grace, to gather the older children, and say: "My sons and daughters, your brother is dead; I fear he is in hell; you knew his life and conduct, you saw how he behaved: God snatched him away." Then he solemnly warned them of the place to which he believed, and almost knew he had gone, begging them to avoid it; and then he was the means of bringing them to serious thought. But had he acted, as some would have done, with tenderness of heart, but not with honesty of purpose, and said he hoped his son had gone to heaven, what would the others have said? "If he is gone to heaven, there is no need for us to fear, we may live any way we like."
No, no; I believe that it is not unchristian to say of some men that they have gone to hell, when we have seen that their lives have been hellish lives. But it is often said: "Can you judge your fellow creatures?" No, but I can "know" them by their fruits; I do not judge them or condemn them; they judge themselves. I have seen their sins go before them to judgment, and I do not doubt that they shall follow after. "But couldn't they have been saved at the eleventh hour?" I do not know that they can. I have heard of one who was, but I do not know that there ever was another, and I cannot tell that there ever will be. Be honest then, with your children, and teach them, by the help of God, that evil will kill the wicked.
But you will not have done half enough unless you teach carefully the fourth point "the absolute necessity of a change of heart." Oh, may God enable us to keep this constantly before the minds of the children that there must be a broken heart and a repentant spirit, that good works will be of no use unless there be a new nature, that the most laborious duties, and the most earnest prayers will all be nothing, unless there is a true and thorough repentance of sin, and an entire forsaking of it through the mercy of God. Yes! you be very sure, whatever you leave out, that you tell them of the three R's, Ruin, Regeneration, and Redemption. Tell them that they are ruined by the fall, and that if they are redeemed by Christ they never can know it until they are regenerated by the Spirit. Keep these things before them; and then you will have the pleasing task of telling them.
In the fifth place, the "joy and blessedness of being, a Christian." Well, I need not tell you how to talk about that, for if you know what it is to be a Christian you will never be short of words. Yes! beloved, when we get on this subject, our mind loves to speak, for it goes crazy with joy, and frolics in its bliss. Oh! truly was it said: "Blessed is the man whose sin is forgiven, and whose sin is pardoned." Truly was it said: "But blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in Him." Always stress this point, that the righteous are a blessed people that God's chosen family, redeemed by blood and saved by power, are a blessed people here below, and will be a blessed people above. Let your children see that you are blessed. If they know you are in trouble, come with a smiling face, if it be possible, so that they may say: "Our teacher is a blessed man, although he is weighed down with his troubles." Always seek to keep a joyous face that they may know religion to be a blessed thing; and let this be one main point of your teaching, "A righteous man may have many troubles, but the LORD delivers him from them all; He protects all his bones, not one of them will be broken. The LORD redeems His servants; no one will be condemned who takes refuge in Him."
Thus I have given you these five lessons; and now, in conclusion, let me solemnly say, with all the instruction you may give to your children, you must be deeply conscious that you are not capable of doing any thing to effect the child's salvation, but that it is God Himself who from the first to the last must effect it all. You are a pen; God may write with you, but you can not write yourself. You are a sword; God may with you slay the child's sin, but you cannot slay it yourself. Therefore be always mindful of this, that you, yourself must first be taught by God, and then you must ask God to teach, for unless a higher teacher than you instruct the child, that child must perish. It is not all your instruction that saves his soul: it is the blessing of God resting on it.
May God bless your labors! He will do it if you are instant in prayer, constant in supplication; for never yet did the earnest preacher or teacher, labor in vain, and never yet has it been found that the bread cast upon the water has been lost.
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Spurgeon, Charle Haddon. "Commentary on Psalms 34". "Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent