Click here to learn more!
Brought Up from the Horrible Pit
August 13th, 1882 by C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892)
"I waited patiently for the LORD; and he inclined unto me, and heard my cry. He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings. And he hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God: many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the Lord." Psalms 40:1-3 .
This passage has been used with great frequency as the expression of the experience of the people of God, and I think it has been very rightly so used. It is a very accurate picture of the way in which sinners are raised up from despair to hope and salvation, and of the way in which saints are brought out of deep troubles, and made to sing of divine love and power. Yet I am not certain that the first verse could be truthfully uttered by all of us; I question, indeed, whether any of us could thus speak. Could we say "I waited patiently for the Lord." Think ye, brethren, might it not read "I waited impatiently for the Lord," in the case of most of us? All the rest may stand true, but this would need to be modified. We could hardly speak in our own commendation if we considered our conduct in the matter of patience, for that is, alas, still a scarce virtue upon the face of the earth. If we read the psalm through we shall see that it was not written exclusively to describe the experience of God's people. Secondarily we may regard it as David's language, but in the first instance a greater than David is here. The first Person who uttered these words was the Messiah, and that is quite clear if you read the psalm through; for we fall upon such language as this: "Sacrifice and offering, Thou didst not desire; mine ears hast Thou opened; burnt offering and sin offering hast Thou not required. Then said I, come I in the volume of the book it is written of Me, I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart." We need not say with the Ethiopian, "Of whom speaketh the prophet this? Of himself or of some other?" For we are led at once by the plainest indications to see that He is not speaking of Himself, but of our Lord and if we needed confirmation of this we get it in Hebrews 10:0 , where Paul expressly quotes this passage as referring to the Lord Jesus. To Him, indeed, alone of all men can it with accuracy be applied. So this morning I shall have to show that this text of ours is most fit to be the language of the Lord, our representative and covenant Head. When I have shown this, you will then see how we can use the self-same expressions, because we are in Him. Each believer becomes a mirror in which is reflected the experience of our Lord; but it would be ill for us to be so taken up with the mere reflection as to forget the express image by which this experience is formed in us. I shall ask you, then, at this time, to observe our divine Lord when in His greatest trouble. Notice, first, our Lord's behavior "I waited patiently for the Lord; and he inclined unto me, and heard my cry": then consider, secondly, our Lord deliverance, expressed by the phrase, "He brought me up also out of a horrible pit, out of the miry clay," and so forth: then let us think, thirdly of the Lord's reward for it "many shall see, and fear, and trust in the Lord": that is His great end and object, and in it He sees of the travail of His soul and is satisfied. We shall close, fourthly, by perceiving the Lord's likeness in all His saved ones; for they also are brought up from the pit of destruction, and a new song is put into their mouths. He is not ashamed to call them brethren, since in each one of them his own experience is repeated though upon a smaller scale. I. First, let us think of OUR LORD'S BEHAVIOR. "I waited patiently for the Lord." Here we greatly need the teaching of the Holy Ghost; may it be given us abundantly. First, our Lord's conduct when He was under the smarting rod was that of waiting. He waited upon the Lord all His life, and this waiting became more conspicuous in His passion and death. He went down into Gethsemane, and there He prayed earnestly; but with sweet submission; for He said, "Nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt." Complete submission was the essential spirit of His prayer. He rose up from prayer all crimson with His bloody sweat, and He went to meet His foes, delivering Himself up voluntarily to be led as a sheep to the slaughter. He did not unsheathe the sword as Peter did; much less did He flee, like His disciples, but He waited upon the will of the Most High, enduring all things till the Father should give Him deliverance. When they took Him before Annas and Caiaphas, and Pilate and Herod, hurrying Him from bar to bar, how patiently He kept silence, though false witnesses appeared against Him. Like a sheep before her shearers He was dumb, submitting Himself without a struggle. In the omnipotence of patience He held His Peace even from good, because it was so written of Him. When they led Him away to crucifixion through the streets of Jerusalem He did not even encourage the lamentations of the sympathizing women who surrounded him; but in His wondrous patience He said, "Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me." He did not refuse to bear His cross, or to let the cross bear Him. He did not complain of contempt and contumely, since these were appointed Him. When they nailed Him to the tree, and there He hung in the burning sun, tortured, fevered, agonizing, the words that escaped Him were those of murmuring and repining, but those of pity, pain, patience, and submission. Till He bowed His head, and gave up the ghost, He bowed His whole being to His Father's will, waiting His time and pleasure. He steadily took a long draft at the appointed cup, and drained it to the bitter end. His eyes were unto the Lord as the eyes of servants are to the hands of their masters; He waited in service, in hope, in resignation, and in confidence. He knew that God would help Him and deliver Him, He knew that His head would be raised on high above the sons of men; but still He waited for the Father's time, and meanwhile made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Himself the form of a servant, and as a servant yielded all His strength to the work which was given Him to do. He was willing in the hour of His passion to be treated as the scum and scorn of all mankind, nor did He hurry the hour when all the shame and scorn should blossom into glory and honor. He went down in His waiting even to the utmost of self-denial, and truly proved that He came not to do His own will, but the will of Him that sent Him. Never man served and waited like this man. Our text adds to this word "waited" the word "patiently." "I waited patiently." If you would see patience, look not at Job on the dunghill, but look at Jesus on the cross. Job, the most patient of men, was assuredly impatient at the same time; but this blessed Lord of ours gave Himself up completely, and showed not the slightest sign of repining. Not a speck of impatience can be detected in the crystal stream of our Lord's submission. His soul was all melted, and it all flowed into the mold of the Father's will: no dross was in or about Him, nothing which refused to melt and to run into the mold. One would have supposed that He would have spoken an angry word to Judas, who betrayed Him; instead of which He gently asked of Him, "Friend, wherefore art thou come?" It would not have seemed wonderful if He had upbraided the Jews who so falsely accused Him, or the rulers who so unjustly treated Him; but here is the patience of the saintly One, He was perfect master of His own Spirit. His answer to His murderers was the prayer, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." So meek and lowly in heart was He that to men He gave no sharp replies: His answers were all steeped in gentleness; take for example His word to the high priest: "If I have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil; but if well, why smitest thou me?" They sat down around the cross and mocked Him, jeered at Him, insulted over Him, and made mirth even of His cries and prayers; but He did not utter a single word of rebuke, much less did He leap from the cross to dash His mockers in pieces, and prove by their destruction that He was indeed the mighty Son of God. "I waited patiently," saith He. No thought or word or deed of impatience can be charged upon Him; waiting, He waited, and waited still. We are in such a hurry when we are in trouble; we hasten to escape from it at once; every minute seems an hour, and every day an age. "Help me speedily, 0 my God!" is the natural cry of the child of God under the rod; but our Savior was in no ill haste to get from the chastisement which came upon Him for our sakes: He was at leisure in His woe. So thoroughly was He resolved to do His Father's will that even on the morning of His resurrection He arose with deliberation, and quitted the grave in order, folding His grave clothes and laying the napkin by itself. He steadily persevered in all His work of holiness and sorrow of sacrifice, never accepting deliverance till His work was done. Patiently He endured to have His ear bored to the door-post, to have His head encircled with thorns, His cheeks disdained with spittle, His back furrowed with the lash, His hands and feet nailed to the wood, and His heart pierced with the spear. In His body on the tree patience was written out in crimson characters. Now, this was needful for the completeness of His atonement. No expiation could have been made by an impatient Savior. Only a perfect obedience could satisfy the law; only an unblemished sacrifice could put away our sins. There must not, therefore, be about our Substitute a trace of resistance to the Father's will, nor as a sacrifice must He struggle against the cords, or turn His head away from the sacrificial knife. In truth, His was a willing, patient doing and suffering of the divine will. "He gave His back to the smiters and His cheeks to them that plucked off the hair: He hid not His face from shame and spitting." "I waited patiently for the Lord," saith He; and you know, brethren, how true was the declaration. But while the Savior thus waited, and waited patiently, we must not forget that He waited prayerfully, for the text speaks of a cry which He lifted up, and of God's inclining Himself to it. That patience which does not pray is obstinacy. A soul silent to God is apt to be sullen rather than submissive. A stoical patience hardens itself against grief, and asks no deliverance; but that is not the patience which God loves, it is not the patience of Christ. He used strong crying and tears unto Him that was able to save Him from death. Let Gethsemane tell of that wrestling which infinitely excelled the wrestling of Jacob: Jabbok is outdone by Kedron. His was a wrestling, not to sweat alone, but unto sweat of blood: he sweats who works for bread, the staff of life; but He sweats blood who works for life itself. What prayers those must have been under such a fearful physical, mental, and spiritual agony which were so fervent that they brought an angel from the throne, and yet so submissive that they are the model of resignation. He agonized as earnestly as if He sought His own will, and yet He wholly resigned Himself to the Father, saying, "Lo, I come: in the volume of the book it is written of me, I delight to do thy will, O my God." Our Lord was always praying: there never was a moment in His life in which He was not in full communion with God, unless we except the period when He cried, "Why hast thou forsaken me?" He did often go aside to pray a more special prayer, but yet even when He spoke to the people, even when He faced His foes, His soul was still in constant fellowship with His Father. But ah, when He came between the upper and the nether millstones, when this good olive was ground in the olive press, and all the oil of His life was extracted from Him, then it was that His strong crying and tears came up before the Lord His God, and He was heard in that He feared. Now, brothers and sisters, look at your pattern, and see how far short you have come of it. At least, I will remember with regret how far short I have come of it. Have we waited? Have we not been in too great a hurry? Has it not been too much our desire that the Lord might make His will like our will rather than make our will like His? Have you not had a will of your own sometimes, and a strong will too? Have you not been as the bullock unaccustomed to the yoke? Have you not kicked against the pricks? You have not waited, but you have worried. Can we say that we waited patiently? Oh, that patience! Every man thinks he has it until he needs it, but only let his tender point be touched, and you will see how little patience he possesses. It is the fire which tires our supposed resignation, and under that process much of our palace of patience burns like wood, hay, and stubble. Old crosses fit the shoulder, but let a new cross be laid upon us and we writhe under it. Suffering is the vocation of a Christian, but most of us come short of our high calling. Our Lord Jesus has joined together reigning and suffering, for we read of "the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ"; He was the royal example of patience, but what are we? Remember, again, that Jesus prayed importunately while He waited: "being in an agony, he prayed more earnestly." Have we not at time restrained prayer? Have we not pleaded as an excuse for our feeble petitions the very facts which ought to have been a spur to our earnestness? "I felt too ill to pray." Coldest thou not pray for health with all the more fervency? "I felt too burdened to pray." Shouldst thou not pray for help to bear thy burden? Can we ever safely say to ourselves, "I may be excused from supplication now, for my sorrow is great." Talk not so. Here is thy balm and benediction, thy comfort and thy cordial: here is thy strength and succor, thy constancy and confidence. Even in the midnight of the soul let us arise and pour out our hearts like water before the Lord. O tried believer, get thee to thy knees, and from above the mercy-seat the glory of the Lord shall shine forth upon thee. Pray even as Jesus did, and as all His saints have done, so shall you in patience possess your soul. In due time the Lord inclined to the afflicted suppliant, listening to his moaning from the bottom of the pit; of this it is high time for us to speak. Yet let us not leave this first point till we learn from the example of our Lord that patience is seen in waiting as well as in suffering. To bear a great weight for an hour or two is nothing compared with carrying a load for many a day. Patience knows its letters, but waiting reads the page, and praying rehearses it in the ears of God. Let us add to our patience waiting, and to waiting prayer. II. We come, secondly, to consider OUR LORD'S DELIVERANCE. In due time, when patience had had her perfect work, and prayer had at last prevailed, our suffering Lord was brought up again from the deeps of sorrow. His deliverance is set forth under two images. First, it is represented as a bringing up out of a horrible pit. It is a terribly suggestive metaphor. I have been in the dungeon in Rome in which, according to tradition, Peter and Paul were confined (though, probably, they were never there at all). It was indeed a horrible pit, for originally it had no entrance but a round hole in the rock above; and when that round hole at the top was blocked with a stone, not a ray of light nor a particle of fresh air could possibly enter. The prisoners were let down into the cavern, and there they were left. When once the opening was closed they were cut off from all communication with their fellow men. No being has ever been so cruel to man as man. Man is the worst of monsters to his kind, and his cruel inventions are many. He has not been content to leave his fellows their natural liberty, but he built prisons and digged pits in which to shut up his victims. At first they would place a man in a dry well merely for custody and confinement, or they would drop him into some hollow cavern in the earth in which corn or treasure had been concealed; but afterwards with greater ingenuity of malice they covered over the top of these pits so that the prisoners could not be partakers of God's bountiful air, or the merciful light of the sun, or the silver sheen of the moon. Covered all over and shut in, the captives were buried alive. Even in modern times we have seen what they call oubliettes, or dungeons in which prisoners were immured, to be forgotten as dead men out of mind, buried so as never to come forth again. Such unfortunates as were doomed to enter these tombs of living men bade farewell to hope. They were inhabitants of oblivion, dwellers in the land of death shade, to remain apart from their kind, cut off from memory. These worst of dungeons may illustrate our text "He brought me up also out of a horrible pit." In the original we get the idea of a crash, as when some mailed warrior in the midst of the battle stumbles into a pit, and there he lies bruised and broken: and there is the thought of the fall of waters rushing strangely, furiously, mysteriously. The Hebrew hath it, "The pit of noises," or as some render it, "the pit of destruction." Such was the condition of our dear Redeemer when He was bearing our sin and suffering in our stead. Just notice, first, that our Lord was like a man put into a pit, and so made to be quite alone. Imagine yourself now confined in one of those caverns, with the big stone rolled over the mouth of it. There would be neither hearing nor answering. Now will you know the dread solemnity of silence. You may speak, but no gentle whisper of sympathy will reach your ears in return; you may cry again and again and make the dungeon's dome echo to your voice, but you are speaking as to brass no man cares for your soul. You are alone; alone in a fearful solitude. Thus it happened to our Savior. All His disciples forsook Him and fled, and what was infinitely worse, His God forsook Him too. He cried, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" Can any man tell me all that was meant by that infinite lament? Of course, a prisoner in such a pit as that was in total darkness. He could not see the walls which enclosed him, nor so much as his own hand. No beam of sunlight ever wandered into that stagnant air; the captive would have to grope for the pitcher of water and the morsel of bread which a cruel mercy would allot to him. Our Lord was in the dark; midnight brooded over His spirit. He said "Now is my soul troubled." "My soul is exceeding sorrowful even unto death." His was a pit of gloom, the region of the shadow of death, a land of darkness as darkness itself When a man is shut up in a pit he is, of course, full of distress. If you were, any of you, to go into one of the solitary cells of our own jails, I warrant you a short sojourn in it would be quite enough. These cells some years ago were thought to be wonderful cures for all sort of evil dispositions in men, but probably they have oftener destroyed reason than conquered depravity. Go in, if you dare. Ask the warder to shut to the door, and leave you in the dark all alone, that you may try the solitary system for yourself. No, I should not advise you to try it even for five minutes, for you might even in that short pace inflict such an injury upon your nervous system as you would never recover. I believe that many of the gentler ones here would be quite unable to bear total darkness and solitude even for the shortest space. In the grim gloom the soul is haunted with phantom fears, while horror peoples the place which is empty of human beings; the heart is worried with evil imaginations, and pierced with arrows of distress; grief takes hold of the spirit, and alarm conquers hope. In our Lord's case, the grief and sorrow which He felt can never be described, nor need it be conceived. It was something tantamount to the miseries of damned souls. The holy Jesus could not feel the exact misery which takes hold on abandoned rebels, but He did suffer what was tantamount to that at the judgment seat of God. He gave a quid pro quo, a something which in God's esteem, reckoning the dignity of His mighty person, stood instead of the sinner's eternal suffering. He felt woe upon woe, night blackening night. Do not try to realize His agony; He wills that you should note, for He has trodden the winepress alone, and of the people there we're none with Him, as if to show that none could understand His sorrows, and that we can do no more than speak of His "unknown sufferings." But I must add, to complete the figure, that shut up in such a pit there might be a great tumult above, like to the tramping of armed hosts, or there might be a rush of waters underneath the captive deep in earth's bowels. He could not tell what the noise was, nor whence it came; and hence he would often be in terrible fear while he sat alone in the thick darkness. Our lord had His fears, for we read that He was heard in that He feared. Torrents of sin rushed near Him; floods of wrath were heard around Him, and cataracts of grief fell upon Him. Besides, there was a mystery about this anguish which intensified it a mystery not to be written or explained. Our Redeemer's spirit was cast down within Him far beyond anything that is common to men; in that horrible pit, that pit of destruction, He lay with none to pity or sustain. But, Oh, change the strain, and sing unto the Lord awhile, as we read the verse, "He brought me up out of a horrible pit." The Lord Jesus Christ was lifted up from all sorrow of spirit at that moment when He said so bravely, "It is finished," and though He died yet was He lifted up from death, as it is written, "Thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption." His Spirit ascended to God, and by-and-by, when the third day had blushed with morning light, His body rose from the tomb, to ascend in due time to glory. He came up out of the pit of the grave, delivered from all fear of corruption, pain, or defeat. Now His sorrow is ended, and His brow is clear from care. His visage is marred no more: He bears the scars which do but illumine His hands and feet with splendor, but
No more the bloody spear, The cross and nails no more, For hell itself shakes at his name, And all the heavens adore.
Sing ye unto the Lord, ye saints of His, as ye behold your Master brought up again from among the sorrowful, the despised, the deserted, the dead. A second figure is, however, used here to express our Lord's grief and deliverance from it "Out of the miry clay." Travelers tell us that wherever pits are still used as dungeons, they are damp, foul and utterly loathsome; for they are never cleansed, however long the prisoner may have been there, or however great the number of victims shut up within them. You know what the prisons of Europe were in Howard's days, they were even worse in the East in periods further back. The imprisoned wretch often found himself sinking in more; he found no rest, no hope of comfort, and when extricated he needed a hand to drag him out of the thick clay. Our blessed Lord and Master found Himself when He was suffering for us where everything appeared to give way beneath Him; His spirits sank, His friends failed Him, and His heart melted like wax. Every comfort was taken from Him. His blessed manhood found nothing upon this earth upon which it could stay itself, for He had been made sin for us, made a curse for us, and so every foundation of comfort departed from Him. He was deprived of visible support, and reduced to a sad condition. As a man who has fallen into a slough cannot stir so as to recover himself, so was it with our Redeemer, who says in the Psalms "I sink in deep mire, where there is no standing." Some morasses are so destructive that, if a man should once fall into them, he might give up his life for lost unless some one came that way to drag him out. So did the Savior sink in the miry clay of our sin and misery until the Lord Almighty lifted Him out. The clay of sorrow clung to Him; it held to Him while He was performing the great work of our redemption. But the Lord brought Him up out of it. There is no mire upon His garments now: his feet no longer sink, He is not held by the bands of death, He slides not into the grave again. He was dragged down, as it were, by hearing our sin, but that is over, and He hath ascended on high: He hath led captivity captive, and received gifts from men. All honor be unto Him, and to His Father who delivered Him. As we read our text we pursue this story of out Master's deliverance, and we are told that He was brought up out of the lowest deeps. Say the words or sing them as you choose "He brought me up." God upraised His obedient Son from the depths into which He had descended on our account. He was brought up, like Jonah who went to die bottom of the mountains, and yet was landed safely on the shore. He was brought up like Joseph, who rose from a pit to a palace; like David, who was led up from the sheepfold to the kingdom. "The king shall joy in thy strength, O Lord; and in thy salvation how greatly shall he rejoice! His glory is great in thy salvation: honor and majesty hast thou laid upon him. For thou hast made him most blessed forever: Thou hast made him exceeding glad with thy countenance." Then we are told He was set on a rock, and oh, the glory of our blessed Lord in this matter, for now He stands on a firm foundation in all that He does for us. Judgment and truth confirm His ways, and the Judge of all the earth approves His doings. Christ has no sandy foundation for His work of mercy or His word of comfort. When He saves He has a right to save: when He puts away sin He does it on indisputable grounds: when He helps and delivers His people He does it according to law, according to the will of the Highest. As Justifier, Preserver, and Perfecter of His people, He stands upon a rock. This day I delight to think of my Lord as settling His church with Himself upon the immutable foundations of the covenant, on the decree of God, on the purpose of the Father, on His own work, and on the promise of God that He would reward Him in that work. Well may we say that His feet are upon a rock, for He is Himself, by another figure, the Rock of ages, the Rock of our salvation. And now the goings of our glorious Christ are established. When He goes out to save a sinner, He knows that He can do it, and has a right to do it. When He goes up to His Father's throne to make intercession for sinners, His goings are established, and the desire of His heart is given Him. When He comes in among His church, or marches forth with his people to the ends of the earth, His goings are established. "For the king trusteth in the Lord, and through the mercy of the most High he shall not be moved." He shall surely come a second time without sin unto salvation, for so has the Father decreed: His glorious goings are as surely established as were those of His labor and suffering. We shall never be without a Savior: we shall never have a fallen or a vanquished Savior; for His goings are established for continuance, certainty, and victory. Such honor have all His saints; for "the steps of a good man are ordered of the Lord"; and again, "none of his steps shall slide." Best of all, there is a new, song in the mouth of our Well-beloved. It is grand to think of Jesus singing. Read the twenty-second Psalm, and you will find Him doing it, as also in the Hebrews: "In the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee." Toward the end of His earthly career you hear Him bursting into song. Was not that a grand occasion just before His passion, when He was going out to die; we read that "after supper they sang a hymn." If we had been bound to die that night, as He was, we should rather have wept or prayed than sang. Not so our Lord. I do not know what psalm they sang: probably a part of the great Hallel, usually sung after the Passover, which consists of those Psalms at the end of the book which are so full of praise. I believe the Savior Himself pitched the tune and led the strain. Think of Him singing when near His hour of agony! Going to scorn and mockery, singing! Going to the thorn-crown and the scourge, singing! Going to death, even the death of the cross, singing! For the joy that was set before Him He endured the cross, despising the shame! But now, what must that new song be which He leads in heaven? "They sang, as it were, a new song before the throne"; but it is He that leads the heavenly orchestra. How greatly He excels Miriam, the sister of Moses, when she took her timbrel and led forth the women in their dances, saying, "Sing unto the Lord, for he hath triumphed gloriously: the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea." This is called "the song of Moses, the servant of God and of the Lamb"; so I gather that the Lamb's new song is after the same triumphant fashion: it is the substance of that which Moses' song foreshadowed. In Christ Jesus the Lord our God has led captivity captive. Let us praise Him on the high sounding cymbals. Sing unto the Lord, for He hath triumphed gloriously. The powers of darkness are destroyed; sin, death, and hell are drowned in the atoning blood: the depths have covered them: there is not one of them left. Oh, "sing unto the Lord, for he hath triumphed gloriously." "Ascribe ye greatness unto our God." III. Such is the exalted condition of our Lord at this hour; let us turn and look upon THE LORD'S REWARD. The Lord's reward for having gone down into the horrible pit, and having gunk in the miry clay for us, is this that "Many shall see, and fear, and trust in the Lord. "Many!" Not all mankind, but "many" shall look to Jesus and live. Alas! Vast numbers continue in unbelief, but "many' shall believe and live; and the Lord's "many" means very many. As I was thinking over my text, I thought, "I hope there will be some at the Tabernacle this morning that belong to the I many who shall see and fear and trust in the Lord." "Many shall" for the Lord hath promised it. But, Lord, they will not. "But they shall," says God. Oh, but many refuse. "But they shall," says God and He hath the key of men's hearts, and power over their judgments and their wills. "Many shall." Do you, oh ye unbelievers, think that Jesus shall die in vain? Oh, sinners, if you will nor have Christ, others will. You may despise Him, but He will be none the less glorious. You may reject His salvation but He shall be none the less mighty to save. He is a king, and ye cannot pluck a single jewel from His crown. If you arc so foolish as to provoke His iron rod so that He shall break you in shivers with it, yet He will be ijorious in the sight of God, and He will save His own. Notwithstanding your hardness of heart, be this known unto you, oh House of Israel, that "many shall see, and fear, and trust in the Lord." What shall the many do? They shall "see." Their eyes shall be opened, and they shall see their Lord in the horrible pit, and in the miry clay, and as they look they shall see that He was there for them. What joy this will create in their spirits! If they do not see the Lord Jesus as their Substitute they shall, at any rate, be made to see the exceeding sinfulness of sin. If when Jesus only takes imputed sin, and has no sin of His own, yet He must be cast into the horrible pit and sink in the miry clay; then what will become of men who have their owns sins about them, provoking the fierce anger of the Lord? If God thus smites His well beloved, oh sinner, how will He smite you! Beware, ye that forget Him, lest He tear you in pieces, and there be none to deliver you. By the suffering Surety all covered with His own gore, I do beseech you, provoke not God; for if His Only Begotten must suffer so, you must suffer yet more if you break His law, and next reject His gospel. "Many shall see." Do you wonder that it is added, "and shall fear?" It makes men fear to see a bleeding Christ, and to know that they crucified Him. It makes men fear, however, with a sweet filial fear that is akin to hope, when they see that Jesus died for sinner, the Just for the unjust, to bring them to God. Oh, when they see the Lord of love acting as a scapegoat, and bearing their sins away into the wilderness of forgetfulness, they begin to hate their evil ways, and to have a reverent fear of God; for so saith the Scripture, "there is forgiveness with thee that thou mayest be feared." But best of all and this is the chief point they come to "trust in the Lord." They build their hope of salvation upon the righteousness of God as manifested in Christ Jesus. Oh, I would to God that some of you would trust Him at once. Beloved friend, are you trying to be saved by your own works? That is a delusion. Are you hoping to be saved by your own feelings? That is a lie. But you can be saved, you shall be saved: if you will trust yourself with that blessed One who was alone in the dark pit of noises for the sake of sinners, and slipped in the miry clay for the ungodly, you shall assuredly be saved from wrath through Him. Trust Him, and as surely as He liveth you shall be saved; for he that trusteth in Him cannot perish. God's truthfulness were gone if the believer could be lost. Hath He not said, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved." The throne of God must rock and reel before the cross. IV. Fourthly, let us see THE LORD'S LIKENESS in His people. This whole passage, as I said in the beginning, has often been used by individual believers as a description of their own deliverance. It is a true picture, because we are made like unto our Head, and all the brethren are partakers of that which the Head has endured. Do I speak to any of my Master's servants in sore trouble? Dear friends, are you made to wait, though your trial is sharp and severe? Is it so that your prayer has not yet been answered? Then remember the waiter's place was once occupied by the Lord Jesus, for He says, "I waited patiently." If the Lord keeps you waiting for a certain blessing year after year do not despair. He will give it at length if it be truly for your good, for He hath said, "no good thing will I withhold from them that walk uprightly." He kept His Son waiting, and He may very well keep you in like posture, for how long did you delay, and cause the Lord of grace to wait on you! "Blessed are they that wait for Him." I have seen people very uppish when they have called on a public man and have had to wait a little; they feel that they ought not to be kept in the lobby, but suppose some young man said to them, "I am his own son, and yet I have been waiting an hour." Then they are more patient. So when God keeps you waiting do not be proud, and say, "Wherefore should I wait for the Lord any longer?" but remember "It is good for a man both to hope and quietly wait for the salvation of God." Jesus waited "waited patiently." Seek to be like Him, and in patience possess your soul. "I cannot see how I am to be delivered." Wait. "Ah, this is such a heavy burden." Wait. "But I am ready to die under this terrible load." Wait! Wait on! Though He tarry, wait for Him: He is worth waiting for. "Wait" is a short word, but it takes a deal of grace to spell out its full meaning, and still more grace to put it in practice. Wait: wait. "Oh, but I have been unfortunate." Wait. "But I have believed a promise, and it has not been fulfilled." Wait; for you wait in blessed company: you may hear Jesus saying, "I waited patiently." Blessed be His name, He is teaching us to do the same by His gracious Spirit. Next, the Lord may send you, His dear child, a very heavy sorrow: you may fall into the horrible pit, and see no light, no comfort, and no one may be able to cheer you or help you. Some that have a touch of despondency in their nature have been brought so low as almost to despair of life. They have sat in darkness and seen no light: they have felt the walls of their prison and have not discovered a crack or cranny through which escape was possible: they have looked up, and even then they have seen nothing to console them. Ah, well, here is a word I commend to you the Savior says it: "He brought me up." The Lord God can and will bring up His troubled ones. You will have to write in your dairy one of these days. "He brought me up." I was in the dark, I was in the dungeon, but "He brought me up." I can personally say this with gladsome gratitude, for He hath brought me up," again and again. My heart is glad as I reflect upon my past deliverances. I have often wondered why I so often shut up in prison, and bound as with fetters of steel; but I cease to wonder when I think of the many among you who are called to wear the like bonds. This is my portion, that I may be a witness-bearer for my God, and that I may be able to speak to the experiences of God's tempted people, and tell how graciously the Lord delivers His servants who trust in Him. Faith shall never be shamed or confounded, world without end. God can and will hasten to the rescue of the faithful. I set to my seal also that "He brought me up"; and, beloved brother in tribulation, He will bring you up; only rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him. "Ah," say you, "But I do not know how to stand, for I sink as in miry clay, through faintness of heart: I cannot find the slightest foothold for my hope." No, you are sinking in the miry clay like your Master; but in answer to prayer the Lord will bring you up out of your hopeless state, and He will set your feet upon a rock and establish your goings, and give you joy, and peace, and delight. Wherefore see, and fear, and trust in God, and give glory to His blessed name. Lastly, do I address any seeking one who finds no rest for the sole of his foot? Dear friend, are you sinking in the deep mire of your guilt? The Lord can pardon you, for "the blood of Jesus Christ, his Son, cleanseth us from all sin." Are you shut up by conscience in the prison-house under a just sense of deserved wrath? Jesus will give you immediate rest if you come to Him. Do you feel as if you cannot kneel to pray, for your very knees slip in the mire of doubt? Remember, Jesus makes intercession for the transgressors. Do you seem as if, every time you move, you are burying your hope, and slipping deeper and deeper into ruin? The Lord hath plenteous redemption. Do not despairs You cannot not deliver yourself, but God can deliver you: you cannot stand of yourself, but God can make you to stand. You cannot go to Him nor go abroad among your fellow-men with comfort, but the Lord can make you to run in His ways. You shall yet go forth with joy and be led forth with peace; the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. Only see Christ, and fear and trust your God, and you too shall sing unto Jehovah your deliverer, and this shall be your song:
He raised mc from a horrid pit, Where mourning long I lay, And from my bonds released my feet, Deep bonds of miry clay.
Firm on a rock he made me stand, And taught my cheerful tongue I praise tire wonders of his hand In a new thankful song.
"Lo, I Come": Exposition
April 26th, 1891 by C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892)
"Sacrifice and offering thou didst not desire, mine ears hast thou opened: burnt offering and sin offering hast thou not required. Then said I, Lo, I come: in the volume of the book it is written of me, I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart." Psalms 40:6-8 .
Explained to us by the apostle Paul in Hebrews 10:5-7 :
"Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me: in burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hast had no pleasure. Then said I, Lo, I come in (the volume of the book it is written of me,) to do thy will, O God."
We have, in the use made of the passage by the inspired apostle, sufficient authority for applying the quotation from the fortieth psalm to our divine Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. With such a commentary, we are sure of our way and our whereabouts. We might have been perplexed as to its meaning had it not have been for this; although, I think, even without the guidance of the New Testament passage, those who are familiar with Holy Writ would have felt that the words could not be fulfilled in David, but must belong to a greater than he, even to the divine Messiah, who in the fullness of time would come into the world. We rejoice that the Lord Jesus himself here speaks of himself. Who but he can declare his own generation? Here he is both the subject of the words and the speaker also. The word is from himself and of himself, and so we have double reason for devout attention. He tells us what he said long ago. He declares, "Then I said, Lo, I come." Because he has come to us, we gladly come to him; and now we reverently wait upon him to hear what our Lord shall speak; for, doubtless, he will speak peace to us, and will cause us to learn, through his Spirit, the meaning of his words. O Savior, say to each of our hearts, "Lo, I come"! I. Without further preface, I call upon you to notice, first, THE SWEEPING AWAY OF THE SHADOW. "Sacrifice and offering thou didst not desire . . .: burnt offering and sin offering hast thou not required." When the Son of God is born into the world, there is an end of all types by which he was formerly prefigured. The symbols end when the truth itself is made fully manifest. The sacrifices of the law had their times and place, their teaching and their influence. Blessed were those in Israel whose spiritual minds saw beneath the outward sign, and discerned the inward truth! To them the sacrifices of the holy place were a standing means of fellowship with God. Day after day they saw the Great Propitiation as they beheld the morning and the evening lamb: so often as they looked upon a sacrifice, they beheld the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world. In the Paschal supper they were instructed by the slaying of the unblemished victim, the roasting with fire, the sprinkling of the blood upon the door without, and the feasting upon the sacrifice within. Spiritual men could have found in the rites and ceremonies of the old law a very library of gospel literature; but, alas! the people were carnal, sensual, and unbelieving, and therefore they often forgot even to celebrate the appointed sacrifices: the Passover itself ceased for long periods, and when the festivals were maintained, there was no life or reality in them. After they had been chastened for their neglect, and made to wander in exile because of the wandering of their hearts after their idols, they were restored from captivity, and were led to keep the ceremonial law; but they did it as a heartless, meaningless formality, and thus missed all spiritual benefit: with the unlighted candle in their hand they blindly groped in the dark. They slew the sacrifices, and presented their peace-offerings; but the soul had gone out of the service, and at last their God grew weary of their formal worship, and said, "Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto me." We read, "To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? saith the Lord: I am full of the burns offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he-goats. When ye come to appear before me, who hath required this at your hand, to tread my courts?" When once the life is gone out of the best symbolism, the Lord abhors the carcass; and even a divinely ordained ritual becomes a species of idolatry. When the heart is gone out of the externals of worship, they are as shells without the kernel. Habitations without living tenants soon become desolations, and so do forms and ceremonies without their spiritual meaning. Toward the time of our Lord's coming, the outward worship of Judaism became more and more dead: it was time that it was buried. It had decayed and waxed old, and was ready to vanish away, and vanish away it did; for our Lord set aside the first, or old, that he might establish the second, or new. The stars were no longer seen with their twinklings, for the sun had arisen. The removal of these things was wholesale. We have four sorts of sacrifice mentioned here, but I need not go into details. Sacrifices in which blood was shed were abolished when the Son of God offered himself without spot unto God. Bloodless offerings, such as fine flour, and wine, and oil, and sweet cane bought with money, and precious incense which were tokens of gratitude and consecration these also were no longer laid upon the altar. Sacrifice and offering both were not desired; and burnt-offerings, which signified the delight of God in the great Sacrifice, were ended by the Lord's actual acceptance of that Sacrifice itself. Even the sin-offering, which was burned without the camp as a thing accursed, altogether ceased. It represented sin laid upon the victim, and the victim's being made a curse on that account. It might have seemed always useful as a reminder, for they were always sinning, and always needing a sin-offering; but even this was not required. Nothing of the old ceremonial law was spared. Now we have no ark of the covenant, with its shekinah light between the wings of the cherubim. Now we have no brazen laver, no table of shewbread, no brazen altar, and no sacred veil: the holy of holies itself is gone. Tabernacle and temple are both removed. "Neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, shall men worship the Father"; but the time is come when "they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth." A clean sweep has been made of all the ancient rites, from circumcision up to the garment with its fringe of blue. These were for the childhood of the church, the pictures of her first school-books; but we are no longer minors, and we have grace given us to read with opened eyes that everlasting classic of "the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." Now hath the brightness of the former dispensation been quite eclipsed by the glory which excelleth. As these outward things vanish, they go away with God's mark of non-esteem upon them: they are such things as he did not desire. "Sacrifice and offering thou didst not desire." The Lord God had no desire for matters so trivial and unsatisfactory. They were good for the people, to instruct them, if they had been willing to learn; but they fulfilled no desire of the heart of God. He says, "Will I eat the flesh of bulls, or drink the blood of goats?" By the prophet Micah he asks, "Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil." These furnish no delight for the great Spirit, and give no pleasure to the thrice holy Jehovah. The formal worshipper supposed that his offerings were, in and of themselves, pleasing to God, and therefore brought his "burnt offerings, with calves of a year old." So far as they believingly understood the meaning of a sacrifice, and presented it in faith, their offerings were acceptable; but in themselves considered these were far from being what the Lord desired. He that filleth heaven and earth saith, "I will not reprove thee for thy sacrifices or thy burnt offerings, to have been continually before me. I will take no bullock out of thy house, nor he goats out of thy folds. For every beast of the forest is mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills. I know all the fowls of the mountains: and the wild beasts of the field are mine. If I were hungry, I would not tell thee: for the world is mine, and the fullness thereof." The spiritual, the infinite, the almighty Jehovah could not desire merely outward ritual, however it might appear glorious to men. The sweetest music is not for his ear, nor the most splendid roses of priests for his eye. He desired something infinitely more precious than these, and he puts them away with this note of dissatisfaction. And more, these sacrifices passed away with the mark upon them that they were not what God required. "Burnt offering and sin offering hast thou not required." What did God require of man? Obedience. He said by Samuel, "To obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams." He saith in another place, "He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?" The requirement of the law was love to God and love to men. This has always been God's great requirement. He seeks spiritual worship, obedient thought, holy living, grateful praise, devout prayer these are the requirements of the Creator and Benefactor of men. Ritualistic matters were so far required as they might minister to the good of the people, and while they stood they could not neglect them without loss; but they were not the grand requirement of a just and holy God, and therefore men might fulfill these without stint or omission, and yet God would not have of them what he required. Yes, he asks, "Who hath required this at your hand, to tread my courts?" To see his law magnified, his justice vindicated, his sovereignty acknowledged, and his holiness imitated, is more to his mind. Absolute conformity to the standard of moral and spiritual rectitude which he has set up is his demand, and he can be content with nothing less. These things are not found in sacrifice and offering, neither do they always go therewith, and therefore the outward sacrifice was not what God required. They were so to be put always as never to be followed by the same kind of things. Shadows are not replaced by other shadows. The ceremonials of Aaron are not to be followed by another set of carnal ordinances. There are some who seem to think that they are so to be. Instead of Aaron, whom God ordained, we have a so-called priesthood among us at this day, claiming an apostolical succession, which is impossible if they are priests, since no apostle was a priest. Instead of rites which God has ordained we have rites of man's invention. The blessed ordinances of our Lord Jesus Christ, such as baptism and the Lord's Supper, have been prostituted from their instructive and memorial intent into a kind of witchcraft; so that by what is called baptism children are said to be born again, and made members of Christ and children of God, while in the second, or what they call Holy Communion, the sacrifice of Christ is profanely said to be repeated or continued, even in the unbloody sacrifice of the mass. Ah, friends! our Lord did not put away that grand, magnificent system of Mosaic rites to introduce the masquerade in which Rome delights, which certain Anglicans would set up among us. No, no; we have done with the symbolic system, and have now but the two outward ordinances of baptism and the Lord's Supper, which are meant only for believers who know what it is to be buried with Christ, and to feed on him. You have no right to bring in your own forms and ceremonies, and place them in the church of Christ. Beyond what God has ordained we may not dare to go; and even in those things we may not rest as though there were anything in them of their own operation, apart from their sacred teaching. These are instructive to you if you have a mind to be instructed, and if you know the truths which they set forth; but do not imagine that men have come under another kind of ceremonialism, another system of ritual and rubric, for it is not so. The rites appropriate to priests are abolished with the Aaronic priesthood, and can never be restored: "He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second." When he cometh into the world these carnal ordinances must go out of the world. Sacrifice and offering, burnt offering and sin offering, and all other patterns of heavenly things, are swept away when the heavenly things themselves appear. II. Thus much upon the shadows being swept away; and now, secondly, let us view THE REVELATION OF THE SUBSTANCE. We find the Son of God himself appearing. We read here, and we hear him say "Mine ears hast thou opened." The Lord himself comes, even he who is all that these things foreshadowed. When he comes he has a prepared ear. The margin hath it, "Mine ears hast thou digged." Our ears often need digging; for they are blocked up by sin. The passage to the heart seems to be sealed in the cave of fallen man. But when the Savior came, his ear was not as ours, but was attentive to the divine voice. He says, "He wakeneth mine ear to hear as they that are taught. The Lord God hath opened mine ear, and I was not rebellious." Our Lord was quick of understanding in the fear of the Lord: he knew what the will of the Lord was, and he could say, "I do always the thing that pleases him." As man, he had a divine instinct of holiness, which made him to know and love the Father's will, and caused him always to translate that will into his own life. You see he came with an opened ear, and some think that here we have an allusion to the boring of the ear in the case of the servant who had a right to liberty, but refused to quit his servitude, because he loved his master, and wished to remain with him for ever. It is not certain that there is any such reference; but it is certain that our Lord was bound for ever to the service which he had undertaken for his Father, and that he would not go back from it. He pledged himself to redeem us, and he set his face like a flint to do it. He loved his Father, and he loved his chosen so much that he vowed to execute the Father's work, even to what I might call "the bitter end," if I did not know that it was a sweet and blessed end to him. His ear was prepared for his service. But our Lord came also with a prepared body: hence, the apostle Paul, when he quoted this passage, probably taking the words from the Septuagint translation, writes, "A body hast thou prepared me." You will wonder how, in one passage, it should speak of the ear, and the next should speak of the body; and yet there is small difference in the sense. We do not think of an ear without a body that would be a sorry business. The reading in the Hebrews is involved in the text as it stands in the Psalm. If the ear is there, a body is there; you cannot even dream of an ear hearing if separate from the rest of the body. The apostle gives us the sense of the text rather than the words; and, at the same time, dealing as he was with Jews by whom the Septuagint was prized, he quoted from the version which they would be sure to acknowledge and very properly and wisely so because that version was perfectly accurate as to the meaning of the Hebrew. Any way, he was inspired to read it "A body hast thou prepared me." There was fashioned by the Holy Ghost, in the womb of the blessed Virgin, a body fitted to embody the Son of God. Wrought mysteriously, by means into which we must not inquire for what God hath veiled must remain covered that body was suited to set forth the great mystery, "God manifest in the flesh." The whole body of Christ was prepared for him and for his great work. To begin with, it was a sinless body, without taint of original sin, else God could not have dwelt therein. It was a body made highly vital and sensitive, probably far beyond what ours are; for sin has a blunting and hardening effect even upon flesh, and his flesh, though it was in the "likeness of sinful flesh," was not sinful flesh, but flesh which yielded prompt obedience to his spirit, even as his whole human nature was obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. His body was capable of great endurance, so as to know the griefs and agonies and unspeakable sorrows of a delicate, holy, and tender kind which it was necessary for him to bear. "A body hast thou prepared me." In the fullness of time he came into that body, which was admirably adapted to enshrine the Godhead. Wondrous mystery, that the infant of Bethlehem should be linked with the Infinite; and that the weary man by the shores of Galilee should be very God of very God, revealed in a body prepared for him! "A body hast thou prepared me": he had a prepared ear and a prepared body. He who assumed that body was existent before that body was prepared. He says, "A body hast thou prepared me. Lo, I come." He from old eternity dwelt with God: the Word was in the beginning with God, and the Word was God. We could not any one of us have said that a body was prepared for us, and therefore we would come to it; for we had had no existence before our bodies were fashioned. From everlasting to everlasting our Lord is God, and he comes out of eternity into time the Father bringing him into the world. He was before all worlds, and was before he came into the world to dwell in his prepared body. Beloved, the human nature of Christ was taken on him in order that he might be able to do for us that which God desired and required. God desired to see an obedient man, a man who would keep his law to the full; and he sees him in Christ. God desired to see one who would vindicate the eternal justice, and show that sin is no trifle; and behold our Lord, the eternal Son of God, entering into that prepared body, was ready to do all this mighty work, by rendering to the law a full recompense for our dishonor of it! An absolutely perfect righteousness he renders unto God: as the second Adam, he presents it for all whom he represents. He bows his head a victim beneath Jehovah's sword, that the truth, and justice, and honor of God might suffer no detriment. His body was prepared to this end. Incarnation is a means to atonement. Only a man could vindicate the law, and therefore the Son of God became a man. This is a wonderful being, this God in our nature. "Emmanuel" is a glorious word. Surely for the incarnation and the atonement the world was made from the first. Was this the reason why the morning stars sang together when they saw the cornerstone of the world, because they had an inkling that here God would be manifest as nowhere else beside, and the Creator would be wedded to the creature? That God might be manifested in the Christ, it may even be that sin was permitted. Assuredly, there could have been no sacrifice on Calvary if there had not first of all been sin in Eden. The whole scheme, the whole of God's decrees and acts, worked up to an atoning Savior. Of the pyramid of creation and of providence Christ is the apex: he is the flower of all that God hath made. His diving nature in strange union with humanity constitutes a peerless personage, such as never was before, and can never be again. God in our nature one Being, and yet wearing two natures, is altogether unique. He saith, "A body hast thou prepared me. Lo, I come." Think of this: it is a truth fitter for meditation than for sermonizing. The Lord give us to know it well by faith! III. But now, thirdly, I call your attention to THE DECLARATION OF THE CHRIST, made in the text: "Sacrifice and offering thou didst not desire. Then said I, Lo, I come." Observe when he says this. It is in the time of failure. All the sacrifices had failed. The candle flickered, and was dying out, and then the great light arose, even the eternal light, and like a trumpet the words rung out, "Lo, I come." All this has been of no avail; now I come. It is in the time of failure that Christ always does appear. The last of man is the first of God; and when we have come to the end of all our power and hope, then the eternal power and Godhead appears with its "Lo, I come." When our Lord comes, it is with the view of filling up the vacuum which had now been sorrowfully seen. God does not desire these things; God does not require these things; but he does desire and he does require something better: and lo, the Christ has come to bring that something. That awful gap which was seen in human hope when Moses had passed away, and the Aaronic priesthood, and all the ordinances of it were gone, Christ was born to fill. It looked as if the light of ages had been quenched, and God's glorious revelation had been for ever withdrawn; and then, in the dark hour, Jesus cries, "Lo, I come!" He fills the blank abyss: he gives to man in reality what he had lost in the shadow. When he appears, it is as the personal Lord. Lay the stress upon the pronoun, "Lo, I come." The infinite Ego appears. "Lo, I come." No mere man could talk thus, and be sane. No servant or prophet of God would ever say, "Lo, I come." Saintly men talk not so. God's prophets and apostles have a modest sense of their true position: they never magnify themselves, though they magnify their office. It is for God to say, "Lo, I come." He who says it takes the body prepared for him, and comes in his own proper personality as the I AM. "In him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily." He comes forth from the ivory palaces to inhabit the tents of manhood. He takes upon himself the body prepared for him of the Lord God, and he stands forth in his matchless personality ready to do the will of God. "It pleased the Father that in him should all fullness dwell." Everything is stored up in his blessed person, and we are complete in him. Observe the joyful avowal that he makes "Lo, I come." This is no dirge: I think I hear a silver trumpet ring out "Lo, I come." Here is a joyful alacrity and intense eagerness. The coming of the Savior was to him a thing of exceeding willingness. "For the joy that was set before him he endured the cross, despising the shame." He comes with a word calling attention to it; for he is not ashamed to be made partaker of our flesh. "Lo," saith he, "I come. Behold, behold, I come." This is no clandestine union; he bids heaven behold him come into our nature. Earth is bidden to gaze upon it. O ye sinners, listen to this inviting "Lo!" Others have cried to you, "Lo, here! and Lo, there"; but Jesus looks on you, and cries, "Lo, I come." Look hither: turn all your thoughts this way, and behold your God in your nature ready to save you. Verily, the incarnate God is a subject meet for the loftiest thoughts of sages, and for the lowliest thoughts of children. Blessed are the children of grace who can sit at the feet of the incarnate God and look up, forgetting all the wisdom of the Greeks, and all the sign-seeking of the Jews in the satisfaction which they find in Jesus. I think, too, I hear in this declaration of the coming One a note of finality. He takes away the sacrifice from Aaron's altar; but he says, "Lo, I come." There is an end of it. "Lo, I come." Is there anything after this? Can anything supersede this "Lo, I come." "Lo, I come" has been the perpetual music of the ages. Read it, "Lo, I am come"; for it is in the present tense, and how sweet the sound! Christ is come, and joy with him. Read it as well in the future, if you will, "Lo, I come," for he comes "the second time without sin unto salvation"; here is our chief hope! "Lo, I come." He himself is the last word of God. "In the beginning was the Word"; and so he was God's first word. But he is the end as well as the beginning: God's last word to man; Christ is God's ultimatum. Look for no new revelation "Lo, I am come," shines on for ever. Do not ask, "Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another?" He has come; look for no other. Behold, he came to give what God desires, what God requires; what would you more? Let him be all your salvation and all your desire. Let him be "the desire of all nations." He is the fulfillment of all the requirements of the human race, as well as the full amount of what God requires. IV. Next, I beg you to note THE REFERENCE TO PRECEDING WRITINGS. He says, "Lo, I come: in the volume of the book it is written of me." If I preached from the passage in the Epistle to the Hebrews, I might fairly declare that in the whole volume of Holy Scripture much is written of our Lord and prescribed for him as Messiah. The page of inspiration is fragrant with the name of Jesus. He is the top line of the entire volume, and in the Greek word I see a half allusion to this. He is the head-line of contents to every chapter of Scripture. He is of all Scripture the sum. "In the beginning was the word." Everything speaks of him. The Pentateuch, and the books of the prophets, and the Psalms, and the gospels, and the epistles all speak of him. "In the volume of the book it is written of me." Preaching as I am from the Psalms, I cannot take so long a range. I must look back and find what was written in David's day, and within the Pentateuch certainly; and where do I find it written concerning his coming? The Pentateuch drips with prophecies of Christ as a honeycomb overflowing with its honey. Chiefly is he to be found in the head and front of the book: so early as the opening chapters of the Book of Genesis, when Adam and Eve had sinned, and we were lost, behold he is spoken of in the volume of the book in these terms: "The seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent's head." So early was it written that the Redeemer would be born in our nature to vanquish our foe. But I confess I do not feel shut out from another interpretation. I conceive that our Lord here refers to another book, the book of the divine purposes, the volume of the eternal covenant. There was a time before all time, when there was no day but the Ancient of Days, when all that existed was the Lord, who is all in all: then the sacred Three entered into covenant, in mutual agreement, for a sublime end. Man sinning, the Son of God shall be the surety. Christ shall bear the result of man's offense; he shall vindicate the law of God, and make Jehovah's name more glorious than ever it has been. The second person of the divine Unity was pledged to come, and take up the nature of men, and so become the firstborn among many brethren to lift up a fallen race, and to save a number that no man can number, elect of God the Father, and given to the Son to be his heritage, his portion, his bride. Then did the Well-beloved strike hands with the eternal God, and enter into covenant engagements on our behalf: "In the volume of the book it is written." That sealed book, upon whose secrets no angel's eye has looked, a book written by the finger of God long before he wrote the Book of the law upon tables of stone, that book of God may be spoken of in the Psalm, "And in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them." Our Lord came to carry out all his suretyship engagements: his work is the exact fulfillment of his engagements recorded in the eternal covenant, "ordered in all things and sure." He acts out every mysterious line and syllable, even to the full. Then he said, "A body hast thou prepared me. Lo, I come: in the volume of the book it is written of me." It is ever a pleasing study to see our Lord, both in the written Word, and in the eternal covenant of grace. V. I must close with the fifth point, THE DELIGHT OF HIM THAT COMETH. He said, "Lo, I come." As I have already told you, there is wonderful delight in that exclamation "Lo, I come"; but lest we should mistake our Lord, he adds, "I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart." There can be no denial of his joy in his service. Note well, that he came in compete subserviency to his Father, God. "I delight to do" what? "Thy will." His own will was absorbed in the divine will. His pleasure it was to say, "Not as I will, but as thou wilt." It was his meat and his drink to do the will of him that sent him, and to finish his work. Though he was Lord and God, he became a lowly servant for our sakes. Though high as the highest, he stooped low as the lowest. The King of kings was the servant of servants, that he might save his people. He took upon him the form of a servant, and girded himself, and stood obediently at his Father's call. He had a prospective delight as to his work. Before he came, he delighted in the thought of his incarnation. The Supreme Wisdom saith, "My delights were with the sons of men." Happy in his Father's courts, he yet looked forward to an access of happiness in becoming man. "Can that be?" saith one. Could the Son of God be happier than he was? As God, he was infinitely blessed; but he knew nothing by experience of the life of man, and into that sphere he desired to enter. To the Godhead there can be no enlargement, for it is infinite; but still there can be an addition; our Lord was to add the nature of man to that of God. He would live as man, suffer as man, and triumph as man, and yet remain God: and to this he looked forward with a strange delight, inexplicable except upon the knowledge of the great love he bore to us. He had given his heart so entirely to his dear bride, whom he saw in the glass of predestination, that for her he would endure all things.
"Yea, saith the Lord, for her I'll go Through all the depths of care and woe, And on the cross will even dare The bitter pangs of death to bear."
It was wondrous love. Our Lord's love surpasses all language and even thought. I am talking prodigies and miracles at every word I utter. It was delightful to our Lord to come hither. "What did he delight in?" saith one. Evidently he delighted in God's law. "Thy law is within my heart." He resolved that the beauties of the law of the Lord should be displayed by being embodied in his own life, and that its claims should be vindicated by his own death. To achieve this, he delighted to come and keep it and honor it by an obedience both active and passive. He delighted in God's will also, and that is somewhat more; for law is the expression of will, and this may be altered; but the will of the great King never changes. Our Lord delighted to carry out all the purposes and desires of the Most High God. He so delighted in the will of God that he came to do it, and to bear it, "by the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all." He delighted also in God. He took an intense delight in glorifying the Father. He came to reveal the Father, and make him to be beloved of men. He did all things to please God. Moreover, he took a delight in us; and here, though the object of his love is less, the love itself is heightened by the conspicuous condescension. The Lord Jesus took a deep delight in his people, whose names were written on his heart, and graven on the palms of his hands. His heart was fixed on their redemption, and therefore he would present himself as a sacrifice on their behalf. The people whom the Father gave him from before the foundation of the world lay on his very soul; for them he had a baptism to be baptized with, and he was straitened till it was accomplished. He gave himself no rest till he had left both joy and rest to ransom his own. May I go a step further and say that he had an actual delight in his coming among men? "I delight to do thy will, O my God" not merely to think of doing it. When our Lord was here, he was the most blessed of men. Do you start? Do you remind me that he was "a man of sorrows"? I grant you that none was more afflicted; but I still stand to it, that within him dwelt a joy of the highest order. To him it was joy to be in sorrow, and honor to be put to shame. Do you think that lightens our estimate of his self-denial and disinterestedness? Nay, it adds weight to it. Some people fancy that there is no credit in doing a thing unless you are miserable in doing it. Nay, brethren, that is the very reverse. Obedience which is unwillingly offered and causes no joy in the soul, is not acceptable. We must serve God with our heart, or we do not serve him. Obedience rendered without delight in rendering it is only half obedience. You shall say what you will about the greatness of my Lord's agonies. You shall never go too far in your estimate of his unfathomable griefs; but going with you to the full in it all, I shall take liberty still to say that he had within himself a fountain of joy, which enabled him to endure the cross, and even to despise the shame. Blessed among men was he, even when he was made a curse for us! With delight he gave himself for us, and made a cheerful surrender of himself, that he might be the ransom for many. The text is express upon that fact. And all this because our Lord came with such intense heartiness. He says, "Yea, thy law is within my heart." Our Lord is most thorough in all that he does. His work is never slovenly, nor in a half-hearted way. He does not even sit on the well and talk to a poor woman, but what his heart is there. He does not go into a fisherman's hut, but what his heart is there, and he heals the sick one. He does not sit down to supper with his followers, but what his heart is there, and he reveals his love. I wish we were always at home when the Lord calls for us! Sometimes we are all abroad, and our heart is away from the service of our Father; but he loved the Lord with all his heart, and mind, and strength. For us he gave his whole being, rejoicing to redeem us. He was always intense. Whether he preached or practiced, Jesus was all there and always there. Hence his delight; for what a man does with his heart he delights to do. These two sentences are melodious of joy to my ear. "I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart." Hear this one other word. It is all done now. Jesus has fulfilled the Father's will in the salvation in the midst of his ransomed ones. And shall I tell you, need I tell you, what must be the delight, the heavenly joy of our lord, now that the work is finished? He is now the focus, the center, the source of bliss. What must be his own delight! We often say of the angels that they rejoice over one sinner that repenteth. I doubt not that they do, but the Bible does not say so. The Bible says, "There is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth." What means the presence of the angels? Why, that the angels see the joy of Christ when sinners repent. Hear them say to one another, "Behold the Father's face! How he rejoices! Gaze on the countenance of the Son! What a heaven of delight shines in those eyes of his! Jesus wept for these sinners, but now he rejoices over them. How resplendent are the nail-prints to-day, for the redeemed of the Lord's death are believing and repenting! That blessed countenance which is always as a sun, shineth in the fullness of its strength, now that he sees of the travail of his soul." He who suffered feels a joy unsearchable,
"The first-born sons of light Desire in vain its depths to see: They cannot read the mystery The length, the breadth, the height."
Oh, the joy of triumphant love! The joy of the crucified, whose prepared body is the body of his glory as once it was the body of his humiliation! In that manhood he still rejoices, and delights to do the will of the Father. My time has fled, and yet I am expected to say something about missions. What shall I say? My brothers, sisters, all of you, do you know anything about the truths I have spoken? Then go and tell the heathen that the Lord is come. Here is a message worth the telling. Mary Magdalene, and the other Maries, haste to tell the disciples that the Lord had risen; will you not go and tell them that he has come down to save? "Lo, I come," saith he. Will you not take up his words, and go to the people who have never heard of him, and say, "Lo, he has come." Tell the Ethiopians, the Chinese, the Hindus, and all the islands of the sea that God has come hither to save men, and has taken a prepared body, that he might give to God all he required, and all that he desired, that sinful men might be accepted in the Beloved, with whom God the Father is well pleased. Go, and take to the heathen this sacred Book. "In the volume of the book it is written of him." Do not begin to doubt the Book yourself. Why should you send missionaries to teach them about a book in which you do not yourself believe? Tell the nations that "In the volume of the book it is written of him." Believe this Book, and spread it. Help Bible societies, and all such efforts; and aid missionary societies, which carry the Book and proclaim the Savior. The men of the Book of God are the men of God, such as the world needs. Bid such men go and open the Book of God, and teach the nations its blessed news. Go, dear friends, and assure the heathen that there is happiness in obedience to God. So the Savior found it. He delighted in God's will, even to the death, and they will also know delight as in their measures they bow before the authority of the Word and the will of the one living and true God, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob. Jehovah, the I AM, must be worshipped, for beside him there is none else. Give glory unto God, whom our Lord Jesus has come to glorify. Amen.
"Lo, I Come": Application
May 3rd, 1891 by C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892)
"Then said I, Lo, I come." Psalms 40:7 .
To my great sorrow, last Sunday night I was unable to preach. I had prepared a sermon upon this text, with much hope of its usefulness; for I intended it to be a supplement to the morning sermon, which was a doctrinal exposition. The evening sermon was intended to be practical, and to commend the whole subject to the attention of enquiring sinners. I came here feeling quite fit to preach, when an overpowering nervousness oppressed me, and I lost all self-control, and left the pulpit in anguish. I come hither this morning with the same subject. I have been turning it over, and wondering why it was so. Peradventure, this sermon was not to be preached on that occasion, because God would teach the preacher more of his on feebleness, and cast him more fully upon the divine strength. That has certainly been the effect upon my own heart. Perhaps, also, there are some here this morning who were not here last Lord's-day evening, whom God intends to bless by the sermon. The people were not here, peradventure, for whom the eternal decree of God had designed the message, and they may be here now. You that are fresh to this place, should consider the strange circumstance, which never happened to me before in the forty years of my ministry; and you may be led to enquire whether my bow was then unstrung that the arrow might find its ordained target in your heart. The two sermons will now go forth together from the press; and perhaps, going together, they may prove like two hands of love wherewith to embrace lost souls, and draw them to the Savior, who herein saith, Lo, I come." God grant it may be so! The times when our Lord says, "Lo, I come," have all a family likeness. There are certain crystals, which assume a regular shape, and if you break them, each fragment will show the same conformation; if you were to dash them to shivers, every particle of the crystal would be still of the same form. Now the goings forth of Christ which were of old, and his coming at Calvary, and that great advent when he shall come a second time to judge the earth in righteousness, all these have a likeness the one to the other. But there is a coming of what I may call a lesser sort, when Jesus cries "Lo, I come" to each individual sinner, and brings a revelation of pardon and salvation, and this has about it much which is similar to the great ones. My one desire this morning is to set forth the Lord Jesus as saying to you, as once he did to me, "Lo, I come." Still he cries to the weak, destitute, forlorn, hopeless sinner, "Lo, I come." I shall talk about that coming, and hope that you will experience it now, and thus be able to follow me in what I say. I speak to the unconverted mainly; but while I do so I shall hope to be refreshing the grateful memories of those already saved; but this will all depend upon the working of the Spirit of God. To him, then, lift up your hearts in prayer. I. I will commence with this observation: THE LORD CHRIST HAS TIMES OF HIS FIRST COMINGS TO MEN; "Then said I, Lo, I come." What are these times? Mayhap some here present have reached this season, and this very day is the time of blessing when the text shall be fulfilled: "Then said I, Lo, I come." Go with me to the first record in the volume of the Book, when it was said that he should come. You will find it in the early chapters of Genesis. Jesus said, "Lo, I come" when man's probation was a failure. Man in the Garden of Eden had every advantage for obedience and life. He had a perfect nature, created without bias towards evil, and he was surrounded with every inducement to continue loyal to his Maker. He was placed under no burdensome law. The precept was simple and plain: "Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die." Only one tree was reserved: all the rest were given up to be freely enjoyed. In a very short time some think it was on the first day, but that we do not know our mother Eve ate of the fruit, and father Adam followed her, and thus human probation ended in total failure. They were weighed in the balances, and found wanting: "Adam being in honor continued not." At that point we read in the volume of the Book that the Seed of the woman should bruise the serpent's head. Then our Redeemer said, "Lo, I come." Hearken to me, my friend: you also have had your probation, as you have thought it to be. You quitted your father's roof with every hope, your mother judged you to be of a most amiable character, and your friends expected to see in you one whose life would honor the family. You thought so yourself. Your probation has reversed that hope: you have turned out far other then you should have been; and looking back upon the whole of your life to this moment, you ought to be ashamed. It has been a terrible breaking down for you, and for all who know you; and you are sitting in this place feeling, "Yes, it is so; the tests have proved me to be as a broken reed. I am under condemnation by reason of my transgressions against God." How rejoiced I am to tell you that, at such a time when you are conscious that you are a dead failure, Jesus says, "Lo, I come!" If you had not been a failure you would not have wanted him, and he never comes as a superfluity; but now in your complete break-down you must have him or perish, and in infinite pity he cries, "Lo, I come." Is not this good news for you? Believe it and live. That also was a time when man's clever dealings with the devil had turned out a great failure. The serpent came and said, "God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil." How craftily he put it! How cunningly he insinuated that God was jealous of what man might become, and was keeping him back from a nobler destiny! He even dared to say, "Ye shall not surely die," thus giving the Lord the lie direct. He seemed to say His threat is a mere bugbear, a thing to scare you from a great advance in knowledge and position. "Ye shall not surely die." Eve, in her supposed wisdom, was not able to cope with the serpent's subtlety. "And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat." The devil had played his cards so well that man was left bankrupt of virtue, bankrupt of happiness, bankrupt of hope. Then, in the volume of the Book, it was written, "I said, Lo, I come." Yes, in the hour when hellish falsehood had robbed man of everything. No man hath yet dealt with the devil without being a loser. The arch-deceiver promises very fairly; but he lies from beginning to end. I know he promised you pleasure unbounded, and liberty unrestrained. Now, the pleasure is burnt out, and the ashes of that which once blazed and crackled, are terrible to look upon. As for liberty, where is it? You have become the bond-slave of sin. You were to enjoy life, and lo, you are plunged in death! It may be, there are in this house persons who bear in their bodies the marks, not of the Lord Jesus, but of the devil's temptations. He has made you so to sin that your bones are filled with the sins of your youth; and you know it. He needs a long spoon who eats out of the same dish as the devil, and your spoon has not been long enough. Sin has overreached and betrayed you; and you stand trembling before God as the result of having listened to the falsehoods of hell, and having rejected the commands of heaven. Supposing such a person to be present and I feel sure he is I pray that he may hear my text as from the Lord Jesus himself. "Then said I, Lo, I come." The devil has trodden you down, but Jesus comes to raise you up. Your paradise is lost, and by him it is to be restored. Jesus has come to give repentance and remission of sins. That crafty head which deceived you, the Lord Jesus has broken; he came for this purpose. If you had not been betrayed, you would not have needed a deliverer; but your misery has made room for his mercy. Not while Adam is perfect in paradise is there any news of the Seed of the woman bruising the serpent's head; but after the serpent has done his deceitful work, and has ruined the race, then we hear that ancient gospel of God, and see the sole hope of fallen man. Here is good cheer for you who look with shame upon your foolish yielding to Satan's deceits. You are caught as silly birds in a snare; you have been as foolish as the fish of the sea which are taken in a net; but when you are captives, Christ comes to be your Liberator, and God commends his love towards you in that while you are yet sinners Christ died for the ungodly. Further than this, when we find the first promise of our Lord's coming, "in the volume of the Book," we find that man's covering was a failure. The guilty pair had gathered the leaves of the fig-tree, and had made themselves aprons, for they know that they were naked. This was the first fruit of that boasted tree of knowledge, and it is the principal one to this day. Their scant coverlet contented them for a little while; but when the voice of the Lord God was heard in the garden they confessed that their aprons were good for nothing; for Adam owned that he was afraid because he was naked, and that therefore he had hidden himself in the thick groves of the garden. It is easy to make a covering which pleases us for a season; but self-righteousness, presumption, pretended infidelity, and fancied natural excellence all those things are like green fig-leaves, which shrivel up before long, lose their freshness, and are rather an exposure than a covering. It may be that my hearer has found his imaginary virtues failing him. It was when our first parents knew that they were naked that the Savior said, "Lo, I come." My downcast hearer, if you are no longer in your own esteem as good as you used to be; if you can no longer hide the fact that you have broken God's law, and deserve his wrath; if you no longer believe the devil's lie that you shall suffer no penalty, but may even be the better for sin, then the Lord the Savior says to you, "Lo, I come." To you, O naked sinner, shivering in your own shame, blushing scarlet with conviction to you he comes. When you have nothing left of your own, he comes to be your robe of righteousness, wherein you may stand accepted with God. That first news of the coming Champion came at a time when all man's pleas were failures. Adam had thrown the blame on Eve "The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat." Eve had also thrown the blame on the serpent; but the Lord God had silenced all such excuses, and driven them from their refuges. He had made them feel their guilt, and had pronounced upon them the inevitable sentence; and then it was that he spake of the "Seed of the woman." Here was man's first, and last, and best hope. So too, my friend, when you dare no longer plead your innocence, nor mention extenuations and excuses, then Jesus comes in. If conscience oppresses you so sorely that you cannot escape from it; if it be so that all you can say is "Guilty, Wilfully Guilty," then Jesus comes. If you neither blame your surroundings, nor your companions, nor the providence of God, nor our physical weakness, nor anything else, but just take all the blame to yourself because you cannot help doing so, then Jesus comes in. Verily you have sinned against God, against your parents, against your fellowmen, against light, against knowledge, against conscience, and against the Holy Ghost; no wonder, therefore, that you stand speechless, unable to offer any plea by way of self-justification. It is in that moment of shame and confusion that the Savior says, "Lo, I come." For such as you are he is an Advocate. When a sinner cannot plead for himself, Christ pleads for him; when his excuses have come to an end, then will the Lord put away his sin, through his own great sacrifice. Is not this a precious gospel word? When our Lord did actually arrive, fulfilling the text by being born of a woman, it was when man's religion had proved a failure. Sacrifices and offerings had ceased to be of any value: God had put them away as a weariness to him. The scribes and the Pharisees, with all their phylacteries and wide-bordered garments, were a mere sham. There seemed to be no true religion left upon the earth. Then said Christ, "Lo, I come." There was never a darker thirty years than when Herod slew the innocents, and the chief priests and scribes pursued the Son of God, and at last nailed him to the tree. It was then that Jesus came to us to redeem us by his death. Do I speak to any man here whose religion has broken down? You have observed a host of rites and ceremonies: you were christened in your infancy, you were duly confirmed, you have taken what you call "the blessed sacrament"; or it may be you have sat always in the most plain of meeting-houses, and listened to the most orthodox of preachers, and you have been amongst the most religious of religious people; but now, at length, the Spirit of God has shown you that all these performances and attendances are worthless cobwebs which avail you nothing. You see now that
"Not all the outward forms on earth, Nor rites that God has given, Nor will of man, nor blood, nor birth, Can raise a soul to heaven."
You are just now driven to despair, because the palace of your imaginary excellence has vanished like the baseless fabric of a vision. If 1 had told you that your religiousness was of no value, you would have been very angry with me, and perhaps you would have said, "That is a bigoted remark, and you ought to be ashamed of making it." But now the Spirit of God has told it you, and you feel its force: he is great at convincing of sin. When the Spirit of truth comes to deal with the religiousness of the flesh, he withers it in a moment. All religion which is not spiritual is worthless. All religion which is not the supernatural product of the Holy Ghost is a fiction. One breath from the Spirit of God withers all the beauty of our pride, and destroys the comeliness of our conceit; and then, when our own religion is dashed to shivers, the Lord Jesus comes in, saying, "Lo, I come." He delights to come in his glorious personality, when the Pharisee can no longer say, "God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men"; and when the once bold fisherman is crying, "Lord, save, or I perish." If you feel that you need something infinitely better than Churchianity, or Dissenterism, or Methodism in fact, that you need Christ himself to be formed in you then to you, even to you, Jesus says, "Lo, I come." When man is at his worst, Christ is seen at his best. The Lord walks to us on the sea in the middle watch of the night. He draws nigh to those souls which draw nigh to death. When you part with self you meet with Christ. When no shred of hope remains, then Jesus says, "Lo, I come." Once more. The Lord Jesus is to come a second time; and when will he come? He will come when man's hope is a failure. He will come when iniquity abounds, and the love of many hath waxed cold. He will come when dreams of a golden age shall be turned into the dread reality of abounding evil. Do not dream that the world will go on improving and improving, and that the improvement will naturally culminate in the millennium. No such thing. It may grow better for a while, better under certain aspects; but, afterwards the power of the better element will ebb out like the sea, even though each wave should look like an advance. That day shall not come except there be a falling away first. Even the wise virgins will sleep, and the men of the world will be, as in the days of Noah, eating and drinking, marrying and being given in marriage. On a sudden, the Lord will come as a thief in the night. The deluge of fire will find men as unprepared as did the deluge of water. He will come taking vengeance on his adversaries. When things wax worse and worse we see the tokens of his speedy coming. He will shortly appear, for the sky is darkening. When every hope will seem blotted out, and nothing but grim ages of anarchy and ungodliness are to be expected, then our Deliverer will come. When the tale of bricks was doubled in Egypt, Moses came; and when the world attains to its utmost unbelief and iniquity, Jesus will come. So at this moment my hearer may be saying, "I cannot be worse than I am; if I am not actually in hell already, yet I feel a fire within which tortures my soul. The sword of vengeance hangs over my hoed suspended by a single hair. I tremble to live, and I fear to die. Lost! Lost! Lost! I am past hope! "This is the time for my text: "Then said I, Lo, I come." He who is able to save to the uttermost appears to the soul when every other hope disappears. In your deep distress I see a token for good. You are now reduced to spiritual death, and now I trust the eternal life will visit you. Now all this I put before you in simple language, believing what I say, and trusting that if I describe your case, you will know that I mean it for you. I have heard of a preacher who was so fearful lest he should be thought personal, that he said to his congregation, "Lest any of you should think that what I have said was meant for you, I would observe that the sermon I am preaching was prepared for a congregation in Massachusetts." I can plead nothing of the sort. I refer to you, my hearer, in the most pointed manner. I will attend to Massachusetts, if ever the Lord sends me there; but just now I mean you. Oh, that you may have grace to take home these thoughts to yourselves; for if you do so, they will by the Spirit's power bring the light of hope into your souls! II. Secondly, I would remark that CHRIST COMES TO SINNERS IN THE GLORY OF HIS PERSON: "Then said I, Lo, I come." Note that glorious I! Have you not seen people engaged in urgent work who did not understand their business Apprentices, and other unskillful people, are muddling time away. They are making bad worse, and running great risk. Perhaps a great calamity will occur if the work is not done well and quickly. A first-rate worker is sent for. See, the man has come who understands the business. He cries, "Let me come! Stand out of my way! You are on the wrong tack: let me do it myself!" You have not blamed him for egotism, for the thing needed to be done, and he could do it, and the others could not. Everybody recognized the master workman, and gave place to him. The announcement of his coming was the end of the muddle, and the signal of hope. Even so Jesus comes to you sinners, and his presence is your salvation. He says, "Lo, I come." What does he mean? He means, the setting of all else on one side. There is the priest he has not helped you much; he may go, for Jesus says, "Lo, I come." There are your own efforts and doings; there are your feelings and thinkings; there are your ceremonies and austerities; there are your prayers and tears; there are your hearings and readings all these must be laid aside as grounds of confidence, and Jesus alone must be your trust. He can do for you what none of these can. You are trying to work yourself up to repentance and faith, and you cannot succeed. Let him come, and he will bring every good thing with him. It is glorious to see our Lord throwing down all our bowing walls and tottering fences, and to hear him cry, "Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation." Everything else vanishes before his perfect salvation. Before him there is a setting of self aside. You have been your own confidence. What you could feel, or do, or think, or resolve, had become the ground of your confidence; but now Jesus puts self down, and he is himself exalted. By working yourself to death, you cannot effect our own salvation. Lo, Jesus comes to save you. You cannot weave yourself a garment. Lo, he comes to clothe you from heed to foot with his own seamless robe of righteousness. He annihilates self that he may fill all things. Here is a glorious setting of himself at our side and in our place. Mr. Moody tells a story, which I would fain hope may be true; for one would like to hear something good about a Czar of Russia, and especially about our once enemy, the Emperor Nicholas. The story concerns a soldier in the barracks who was much distressed by his heavy debts. He was in despair, for he owed a great deal of money, and could not tell where to get it. He took a piece of paper, and made a list of his debts, and underneath the list he wrote, "Who will pay these debts?" He then lay down on the barrack bed, and fell asleep, with the paper before him. The Emperor of Russia passed by, and, taking up the paper, read it, and being in a gracious mood signed at the bottom, "NICHOLAS." Was not that a splendid answer to the question? When the soldier woke up and read it, he could scarcely believe his own eyes. "Who will pay these debts?" was the despairing question. "Nicholas" was the all-sufficient answer. So are we answered, Who will bear our sins? The grand reply is "JESUS." He puts his own name to our liabilities, and in effect, that he may meet them, he says, "Lo, I come." Your debt of sin is discharged when you believe in Christ Jesus. "Without shedding of blood is no remission;" but the blood of Jesus Christ, God's dear Son, cleanseth us from all sin. You are not now to bear your own sins. Behold the scape-goat, who carries them away into the wilderness! Yea, Jesus says, "Lo, I come!" He takes our sins upon himself, he bears their penalty, and we go free. Blessed word "Lo, I come": I come to take your weight of sin, your burden of punishment. I come to be made a curse for you, that you may be made the righteousness of God in me. Sinner, stand out of the way, and let Jesus appear for you, and fill your place! He sets you on one side, and then he sets himself where you have been. Jesus is now the one pillar on which to lean, the one foundation on which to build, the one and only rest of our weary souls. He sets himself where we can see him; for he cries, "Lo, I come"; that is to say, "See me come." He comes openly, that we may see him clearly. How I wish the Lord would reveal himself at this moment to each one of those who are weary of earth, of self, of sin, and possibly even weary of life itself! Oh, if you could but see Jesus standing in your room and stead, you would have faith to stand in his place, and so become "accepted in the Beloved"! O Lord, hear my prayer, and cause poor hearts to see thee descending from the skies, to uplift sinners from the dark abyss! Holy Spirit, touch that young man's eyes with heavenly salve, that he may see where salvation lies. Deal with that poor woman's dim eyes also, that she may perceive the Lord Christ, and find peace in him. Jesus cries, "Lo, I come! Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth."
"There is life for a look at the Crucified One; There is life at this moment for thee. Then look, sinner look unto him, and be saved Unto him who was nail'd to the tree."
Should you even lie in all the despair and desolation which I described, I would persuade you to believe in Jesus. Trust him, and you shall find him all that you want. Our lord sets himself to be permanently our all in all. When he came on earth, he did not leave his work till he had finished it. Even when he rose to glory, he continued his service for his chosen, living to intercede for them. Jesus was a Savior nineteen hundred years ago, and he is a Savior still; and he will be a Savior until all the chosen race shall have been gathered home. He tells us, "I said, Lo, I come"; but he does not say, "I said, I will go away, and quit the work." Our Lord's ear is bored, and he goes out no more from the service of salvation. It is not written of any penitent souls, "Ye shall seek me, but shall not find me"; but it is written, "If thou seek him, he will be found of thee." O my hearer, you are now in the place where the gospel is preached to you yes, to you, for we are sent to preach the gospel to every creature; and though you should be the worst, and most benighted, and most guilty of all the creatures out of hell, yet you are a creature, and we preach Christ to you. O poor heart, may the Lord Jesus say to you "Lo, I come!" for he comes to stay, to stay until he has worked salvation in you as he has worked out salvation for you. He will not leave a believer till he has presented him spotless before the throne of God with exceeding joy. I wish I could make all this most clear and plain. You are altogether ruined by your own fault, and you cannot undo the evil. You have done all you can, and it has come to nothing. You are steeped in sin up to your throat; yea the filth has gone over your head: you are as one drowned in black waters. Despairing one, cast not your eyes around to seek for a friend, for you will look in vain to men. No arm can rescue you, save one; and that is the arm of Jesus, who now cries "Lo, I come." Set everything else on one side, and trust yourself with the Savior, Christ the Lord. III. Oh, that many may be comforted while I dwell on a third head! CHRIST IN HIS COMING IS HIS OWN INTRODUCTION. Here our Lord is his own herald, "Lo, I come." He does not wait for an eloquent preacher to act as master of the ceremonies to him: he introduces himself. Therefore even I, the simplest talker on earth, may prove quite sufficient for my Lord's purpose if he will graciously condescend to bless these plain words of mine. It is not I that say that Jesus comes, but in the text our Lord himself declares, "Then said I, Lo, I come." You need not do anything to draw Christ's attention to you; it is Christ who draws your attention to himself. Do you see this? You are the blind bat; and he is all eye towards you, and bids you look on him. I hear you cry, "Lord, remember me," and I hear him answer, "Soul, remember me." He bids you look on him when you beseech him to look on you. He comes when quite unsought, or sought for in a wrong way. To many men and women Christ has come though they had not even desired him. Yea, he has come even to those who hated him. Saul of Tarsus was on his way to worry the saints at Damascus, but Jesus said, "Lo, I come"; and when he looked out of heaven he turned Saul, the persecutor, into Paul, the apostle. The promise is fulfilled, "I was found of them that sought me not; I was made manifest unto them that asked not after me." Herein is the glorious sovereignty of his love fully exercised, and grace reigns supreme. "Lo, I come," is the announcement of majestic grace which waiteth not for man, neither tarrieth for the sons of men. Our Lord Jesus is the way to himself. Did you ever notice that? He comes himself to us, and so he is the way by which we meet him. He is our rest, and the way to our rest; he says, "I am the way." You want to know how to get to Christ? You have not to get to Christ, for he has come to you. It is well for you to come to Christ; but that is only possible because Christ has come to you. Jesus is near you: near you now. Backslider, he comes to you! Wandering soul, roving to the very brink of perdition, the good Shepherd cries, "Lo, I come." He is the way to himself. Remember, also, that he is the blessing which he brings. Jesus not only gives life and resurrection, but he says, "I am the resurrection and the life." Christ is salvation, and everything needful to salvation is in him. If he comes, all good comes with him, or rather in him. An enquirer once said to a minister, "The next step for me is to get a deeper conviction of sin." The minister said, "No such thing, my friend: the next step is to trust in Jesus, for he says, Come unto me." To come to Jesus, or rather to receive Jesus who has come to us, is the one essential step into eternal salvation. Though our Lord does say, "Come unto me," he has preceded it with this other word, "Lo, I come." Poor cripple, if you cannot come to Jesus, ask him to come to you; and he will. Here you lie, and you have been for years in this case; you have no man to put you into the pool, and it would do you no good if he did; but Jesus can make you whole, and he is here. You cannot stir hand or foot because of spiritual paralysis; but your case is not hopeless. Listen to my Lord in the text, "Then said I, Lo, I come." He has no paralysis. He can come, leaping over the mountains of division. I know my Lord came to me, or I should never have come to him: why should he not come to you? I came to him because he came to me.
"He drew me, and I followed on, Charmed to confess the voice divine."
Why should he not draw us also Is he not doing so? Yield to the pressure of his love. "Then said I, Lo, I come." You see our Lord is his own spokesman. He says to me, "Go and tell those people about my coming"; and I gladly do so; but you will forget my words, and refuse to accept the Coming One. Your consciences will be unawakened, your hearts unmoved: I fear it will be so. But if this text be fulfilled concerning our Lord this day "Then said I, Lo, I come" you will hear HIM. If he speaks he is himself the Almighty Word, and his voice will reach your hearts, and accomplish his purpose. Dear Christian people, join with me in this prayer: Lord, speak to thy chosen ones that lie here in their death-like despair, far off from thee, and say to each one of them, "Lo, I come." O downcast soul, this is your morning: this is the set time to favor you: this day is salvation come to your house and to your heart. Make haste and come down from the tree of your frivolity or your self-righteousness. Receive the Lord Jesus, for to-day he must abide in your house and in your heart: the hour for the imperial "must" of the eternal purpose has arrived. God grant it may be so! May this be an hour of which Jesus shall declare, "Then said I, Lo, I come!" IV. Our next point is this CHRIST, TO CHEER US, REVEALS HIS REASONS FOR COMING. Only a few words on this. Note the rest of the verse: "Lo, I come: in the volume of the book it is written of me." When we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly, because it was the due time according to covenant purposes. Christ comes to a guilty sinner, just as he once came to a manger and a stable, because so it was appointed. There is nothing for him to get, but everything for him to give; but he comes because so it is written in the volume of the divine decrees
"Thus the eternal counsel ran, Almighty grace, arrest that man."
Therefore in love the Savior appears to the sinner, and by grace arrests him in his mad career. It is his Father's will. Christ's coming to save a soul is with his Father's full consent and aid. The Father wills that you who believe in him, lost though you be, should now be saved, and Jesus comes to do the will of the Father. He comes because his heart is set on you. He loves you, and so he hastens to your rescue. Your salvation is his delight. Though your soul is sunk in a sea of need, and you are in despair because of that need, Jesus loves you, and comes to meet your case. The best of all is that Jesus loves you. One asked an old man of ninety, "Do you love Jesus?" and the old man answered with a smile, "I do, indeed; but I can tell you something better than that." His friend said, Something better than loving Jesus! What is that?" The old disciple replied, "He loves me." O soul, I wish you could see this fact, which is indeed better than your love to Jesus, namely, his love to you! Because he loved his redeemed from before the foundation of the world, therefore in due time he says, "Lo, I come." The fact is, you have need, and he has love, and so he comes. There is no hope for you unless he does come, and that is why he comes. If you had a penny of your own, he would not give you his purse; if you had a rag of your own, he would not give you his robe; if you had a breath of your own, he would not give you his life. But now you are naked, and poor, and miserable, and lost, and dead, Jesus reveals himself, and you read concerning him, "Then said I, Lo, I come." He gives you his reasons reasons not in yourself, but all in his grace. There is no good in you; there is no reason in you why the Lord should save you; but because of his free, spontaneous, rich, sovereign, almighty grace, he leaps out of heaven, he descends to earth, he plunges into the grave to pluck his beloved from destruction. V. Here is my last word: CHRIST'S COMING IS THE BEST PLEA FOR OUR RECEIVING HIM, and receiving him now. O sirs, remember you have not to raise the question whether he will come or not. He is come. You have not to say, How can I come to him? He comes to you. You do want a Mediator between your soul and God; but you do not want any mediator between yourself and Jesus; for he says, "Lo, I come." To you in all your filthiness, in all your condemnation, in all your hopelessness, he comes. Wait not for anybody to introduce you to him, or him to you; he has introduced himself, and here is his card "Then said I, Lo, I come." No pleas are needed to persuade him to come to you, for he says, "Lo, I come." Though you cannot think of a single argument why he should appear to you in mercy, he does so appear. It is written, "I will have mercy upon her that had not obtained mercy; and I will say to them which were not my people, Thou art my people; and they shall say, Thou art my God." O words of wondrous grace! Our gracious Lord does not wait for our entreaties; but of his own accord he says, "Lo, I come." Without asking you, and without your asking him, he puts in an appearance in the sovereignty of his grace. No search is needed to find the Lord, for he comes in manifested grace, and calls upon us to see him. "I have long been searching for Christ" murmurs one. What! seeking for the sun at noonday? Jesus is not lost. It is you that are lost, and he is searching for you. He says, "Lo, I come": it is you that will not come. Still one declares that he has been seeking the Lord Jesus for many a day. This is sadly strange, for Jesus is near. "Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? or, Who shall descend into the deep? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that if thou wilt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thy heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved." If thou believest in the Lord Jesus Christ, thou shalt be saved. Searching after Christ? Nay, verily he saith, "Lo, I come." Moreover, no waiting is needed, and no preparation is to be made by you. Why do you wait? HE does not wait, but cries, "Lo, I come!" "I will get ready for Christ", say you; but it is too late to talk so, when he cries, "Lo, I am come." Receive him! If you are in yourself sadly unready, yet he himself will make everything ready for himself. Only open wide the door, and let him in. Do you say, "But I am ashamed"? Be ashamed. He bids you be ashamed, and be confounded, while he declares, "I do not this for your sakes." Yet be not so ashamed as to commit another shameful deed by shutting the door in your Redeemer's face. Shut not out your own mercy. A pastor in Edinburgh, in going round his district, knocked at the door of a poor woman, for whom he had brought some needed help; but he received no answer. When next he met her, he said to her, "I called on Tuesday at your house." She asked, "At what time?" "About eleven o'clock; I knocked, and you did not answer. I was disappointed, for I called to give you help." "Ah, sir!" said she, "I am very sorry. I thought it was the man coming for the rent, and I could not pay it, and therefore I did not dare to go to the door." Many a troubled soul thinks that Jesus is one who comes to ask of us what we cannot give; but indeed he comes to give us all things. His errand is not to condemn, but to forgive. Miss not the charity of God through unbelief. Run to the door, and say to your loving Redeemer, "Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof; but as thou hast come to me, I welcome thee with all my heart." No assistance is wanted by Christ on your part. He does not come with half a salvation, and look to you to complete it. He does not come to bring you a robe half woven, which you are to finish. How could you finish it? Could the best saint in the world add anything to Christ's righteousness? No good man would even dream of adding his home-spun to that raiment which is of wrought gold. What! are you to make up the deficient ransom price? Is it deficient? Would you bring your clods of mud into the royal treasury, and lay them down side by side with sapphires? Would you help Christ? Go, yoke a mouse with an elephant! Go harness a fly side by side with an archangel. But dream not of yoking yourself with Christ. He says, "Lo, I come", and I trust you will reply, "My Lord, if thou art come, all is come, and I am complete in thee."
"Thou, O Christ art all I want, More than all in thee I find."
Receive him: receive him at once. Dear children of God, and sinners that have begun to feel after him, say with one accord, "Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus." If he says, "Lo, I come," and the Spirit and the bride say, Come; and he that heareth says, Come, and he that is athirst comes, and whosoever will is bidden to come and take the water of life freely; then let us join the chorus of comes, and come to Christ ourselves. "Behold, the Bridegroom cometh; go you out to meet him!" Ye who most of all need him, be among the first and gladdest, as you hear him say, "Lo, I come." All that I have said will be good for nothing as to saving results unless the Holy Ghost shall apply it with power to your hearts. Join with me in prayer that many may see Jesus just now, and may at once behold and accept the present salvation which is in him. Amen.
The Master's Profession The Disciple's Pursuit
April 21, 1870 by C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892)
"I have preached righteousness in the great congregation: lo, I have not refrained my lips, O Lord, thou knowest. I have not hid thy righteousness within my heart, I have declared thy faithfulness and thy salvation: I have not concealed thy lovingkindness and thy truth from the great congregation." Psalms 40:9 ,Psalms 40:10 .
Who is the speaker that gives utterance to these marvelous words? In the first instance they must be understood to proceed from our Lord Jesus Christ. By the Spirit of prophecy in the Old Testament they were spoken of him, and by the Spirit of interpretation in the New Testament they have been applied to him. Mark, then, how vehemently he here declares that he has fully discharged the work which he was sent to accomplish. When, in the days of his flesh, he was crying to his Father for preservation in a season of dire distress, he might well ask that he should then be helped, since all the previous strength he possessed had been laid out in his Father's service. But because this profession emphatically belongs to our Savior we need not suppose that it exclusively belongs to him. On the other hand, Christ being our forerunner and our example, we are encouraged to emulate the high calling and the dutiful obedience he so perfectly exhibited. I. UNDOUBTEDLY OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST, AS WE READ HIS HISTORY IN THE FOUR EVANGELISTS, MOST GLORIOUSLY FULFILLED HIS LIFE-MISSION. He was constantly testifying to the gospel of God, the gospel of his righteousness and of his grace. From the first moment when he, being full of the Holy Ghost, began to preach the gospel, until the day when he was taken up into heaven, while he blessed his disciples, he was instant in season and out of season. There were no waste moments of time, no neglected opportunities, no talents held in reserve. "I must work," was his motto. The zeal of God's house consumed him. It was his meat and his drink to do the will of him that sent him. A marvellous study is this life of Christ on earth; and as one looks at it thought begets thought, for
"Kindred objects kindred thoughts inspire, As summer clouds flash forth electric fire."
Mark ye not how he concentrated every attribute of his nature, ever faculty of his mind, and every power of his body in the one work he had undertaken to do his Father's will? He seems all his life through to have challenged the enquiry, "Wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business?" He was continually preaching the gospel. "Never man spake as this man," may apply to the quantity as well as the quality of his utterances. All places seemed to be alike suitable to his ministry. Your gowns and your pulpits, your chancels and naves, your aisles and transepts were of no account with him. He wanted no toga or rostrum, nor did he need a preconcerted arrangement of the assembly to lend grace to his discourses when he made known the word of God to the people and astonished them with his doctrine. He could speak anywhere even along the crowded thoroughfare, where the multitudes thronged him. He went down the lowest streets, and from the poorest beggars he didn't turn aside. He was not thwarted by the sneers, and sarcasms, and subtle questioning of the Pharisees and Sadducees. One thought possessed him, and he persistently wrought it out. His life-sermon as so thorough that nothing of earthly splendor could allure or distract him, or break the thread. He was always and everywhere either pleading with God for men, or else pleading with men for God. The reiterated expressions of these two verses are emphatically the truth: the asseverations are vehement, yet the effect is a noble vindication of integrity. "I have preached righteousness in the great congregation: lo, I have not refrained my lips, O Lord, thou knowest. I have not hid thy righteousness within my heart; I have declared thy faithfulness and thy salvation: I have not concealed thy lovingkindness, and thy truth from the great congregation." He was the great Witness for God, the great Testifier, who went proclaiming everywhere the kingdom of God, and the good tidings of salvation to man. Do not these words likewise suggest to you the thought that Christ testified frequently to the greatest crowds? "I have preached righteousness in the great congregation. . . . I have not concealed thy lovingkindness and thy truth from the great congregation." On the hill-top, where his disciples came unto him and he began with his benediction of "Blessed," the multitude that gathered together, when he sat down and taught them, was doubtless imposing. The people sometimes thronged to hear him in such numbers that the historian describes them as innumerable, and tells us that they trod one upon another. From the statement given us, that there were at one time five thousand and at another time four thousand men, besides women and children, collected together in the desert place and the wilderness, when he fed them, we might reasonably infer that in populous places the crowds assembled on a yet vaster scale. Of course, the whole population off Judea, scattered all over the land, was scarcely equal to the population of this city, and therefore greater crowds may be collected in London than could have been gathered in Jerusalem; yet the concourse there must at times have been exceedingly great and the spectacle unusually grand, especially when at the great feast our Lord stood up before the people, and rang out, in words clear and distinct "If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink." Why, for years afterwards, the very tones of his voice must have haunted the memories of those who stood and listened to him, if they rejected the message. It is not easy to stand up before a crowded assembly; let those who think so come and try. Oftentimes it tests a man's valor. It brings him many trials to his spirit to be prepared for the work. But our Lord Jesus Christ was fully equipped for his blessed ministry. He was a great preacher, with a great message, full of a great love, with a great Father by whom he was commissioned, sustained, cheered. All the qualities of his character and conduct were congruous. With a great assembly he was at home; for his sympathy was mighty in its aggregate and minute in its detail. At the same time, Christ did not want a great congregation to enable him to preach. The first verse of our text, if I catch the heart of its meaning, seems to me to intimate that he could speak personally to one or to two: "Lo, I have not refrained my lips, O Lord, thou knowest." From the court of human conscience to the court of divine omniscience the appeal is carried. Fame hath not heard of this private fidelity. Howbeit he that dwelleth in the heavens takes cognizance of it. "O Lord, thou knowest, and canst bear witness to it. When there was but one woman at the well's brink, I refrained not my lips." When there were but two his disciples, as he was going to Emmaus he opened his mouth. Whether they were those whom he had made or would make his disciples, he had a word for all at all times and at all seasons. In this we ought to imitate the Master. Be ready to tell of Christ not only when your heart is prepared for it at a set time, but at all times, whether you have prepared for it or not. Your spirit should be always on the alert; you should always be on the watch for souls. Fain would I be like the eagle that is on its way to the eyrie, and looks for it long before it comes in sight, and no sooner discerns it than, like a lightning-flash, it darts off and alights upon it. O for a heart that is set on winning souls, that is set on glorifying God, that is set on coming nearer to the model and being more conformed in this matter unto Christ our Head! Our Lord could truly assert that he had not kept back the gospel; he had preached it publicly to the crowds, and he had declared it privately, as opportunity allowed. That he never did seal his lips or stifle his testimony, he could call God to witness. Does not the tenth verse, in its first clause, intimate that Christ's preaching was never heartless preaching? "I have not hid thy righteousness within my heart." As if he had said, "It is in my heart, but I have never concealed it there. What I have received of thee, O my Father, I have made known unto the people: forsooth, thy will, which I have observed in heaven, and engaged to fulfill on earth; thy righteousness, as it appears in the justice of thy throne and the benevolence of thy laws; thy faithfulness, as it is verified in the stability of thy covenant and the perpetuity of thine ordinances; thy salvation, as it was prepared in thy counsels of old, and is displayed when thou makes bare thy right hand and thy holy arm; thy lovingkindness which flows in one perpetual stream of mercy; and thy truth, which sets the final seal to thy testimonies; all these have I treasured in my heart, not to hide them from the children of men, but to manifest them for the glory of thy name and the welfare of thy people." Is it so? Then this solemn protest before God is of vital interest to us. Henceforth every word, every statute, every precept of the gospel, comes to us distilled through the heart of Christ. I like the idea of pouring our sermons out of our own hearts. They must gone from our hearts, or they will not go to our hearers' hearts. But, oh, how full of gracious secrets our hearts ought to be, priceless secrets, which though hidden from the wise and prudent, are revealed unto babes! Jesus, we thank thee for this, that thou hast not concealed thy Father's lovingkindness and truth from us. See, too, our Master kept always to vital matters. We notice here how he uses words which show that his teaching had a distinct reference to God. "I have not hid thy righteousness; I have declared thy faithfulness and thy salvation; I have not concealed thy lovingkindness and thy truth from the great congregation." Our Lord in his teaching never seems to have diverged from the great central truth. We are too apt to be taken up with the mere externals, and if we do not become mere sectarians, it is just possible that points of our creed of the least importance occupy the most prominent place in our thought and conversation. Our Lord, with eagle eye, descries what is most important for men to know, and upon that he dwells. Sinners must know of God's righteousness; they will never know their sinfulness else, or knowing it they will think it to be a little thing. The righteousness of God comes like a stream of light into the soul, and reveals its corruption. God's salvation, again, must be shown in its true colors. It does not owe its origin, its accomplishment, or its application to our works or our merits, but it proceeds from God's grace, and redounds to his glory. I hold that this should be the cherished motive of the gospel preacher, to glorify God! While it should be the chief end and aim of Christians ordinarily, it is to be the chief end and aim of the preacher extraordinarily. Beyond everyone else, he is concerned with that which, beyond everything else, brings glory to him who is first, last, midst, and without end. Jesus Christ preached God's righteousness, and showed God's righteousness even in salvation, and then he preached that salvation fully. Nor, dear friends, did he withhold his testimony of the other attributes of God. Think for an instant of God's faithfulness. Oh, what a delightful theme! As immutability is a glory that belongs to all his attributes, so faithfulness pertains to all his purposes and promises. Well may his people everywhere rely upon his fidelity. Well may we tell that we serve no mutable God. "He is not a man that he should lie; neither the Soul of Man that he should repent. Hath he said, and shall he not do it? Or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?" Moreover he will rest in his love, "for the Lord will not forsake his people for his great name's sake." He is "the Father of lights, with whom is, no variableness, neither shadow of turning." His promises and his threatenings abide steadfast. Side by side with the faithfulness of God there is witness of his lovingkindness. Oh, what a glorious revelation! the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is the God of pity and of pardon, the God of love. Not of love as with us, in a mere effeminate sense, as though it were only an impulse of human admiration that would wink at iniquities. He is Love, love in the essence, love essentially divine; love consistent with holiness, that hums like flames of fire. In justice deep and terrible is God; in majesty he doth ride on the wings of the wind. This God of tempest, is the God of God, and this is the God whom Jesus preached; and while he did not conceal the sterner attributes of the Almighty, yet he did not forget to depict the heart of mercy and the hand that is ready to help. The God whom he preached is full of gentleness and tenderness. May we learn to believe in the God and Father whom his only begotten Son Jesus Christ delighted to make known, and if called to testify of Him may we testify fully and heartily as Jesus did. To sum up all, we may say that our Lord's three years' ministry was matchless in its perfection, such as he could look back upon without a single regret, but with unsullied complacency. It was matchless as to its doctrines, and as to its completeness it was unsurpassed. More might be said of his manner, which was full of tenderness to the men among whom he walked, and of his majestic oratory, which we may admire and seek to imitate, but which we can reach only at a distance, for it is peerless beyond all competition, it stands alone; "Never yet man spake like this man," shall be true of him to the world's end. All his life long there is no flaw, there is no excess. "I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do," he could truly say, as he laid down his earthly ministry, and ascended to exercise his ministrations before the throne. In the retrospect of his labors there was no occasion for self-reproach, no cause for a fault to be found, even by the accuser of the brethren. All was to be joy and rejoicing when he had completed his life-work. Thus much concerning our Lord. I have only opened the door for you to enter. I wonder whether it will ever be given to us to be able to say, as Christians, in our humbler measure, what he said, as the very Christ in such exalted strains? II. Let us now use the text IN REFERENCE TO OURSELVES. It ought to be the ambition of every believer here, in a sense more or less extensive, to be able to say, "I have preached righteousness; I have not refrained my lips; I have not hid thy righteousness within my heart; I have declared thy faithfulness and thy salvation; I have not concealed thy and thy truth." It is quite certain that many careless Christians will never be able to lay this unction to their heart. In all our churches there is a very large proportion of idle people. I hope they are saved; the Lord knows whether they are or not, but whatever else they are saved from, certainly they are not saved from laziness. We have in the visible church a large proportion of flesh that is not living, or if it is alive it gives very little indication of life. Now, I do like as pastor to be in fellowship with a living church, all alive, and everybody active. Though it may be our happy lot to have a goodly preponderance in this church of living men and women, I know there is a considerable portion of added flesh about it. Albeit, there are some portions of the body which may be said to be ornamental, it is equally true that they also have some distinct service; there is not one of them put there to do nothing. Some Christians seem to think themselves "a thing of beauty and a joy for ever" to the church, and that they have nothing to do in it for the common weal. They must imagine that they are ornaments, for certainly they are of no use, so far as any good offices are concerned. It used to be almost thought that the whole duty of man consisted in taking your sitting, paving your quarter's rent, filling up your place, and listening with more or less attention to the sermons that were preached. As to the idea of everybody doing something for Christ, and the exhortation to them as good soldiers of the cross not to shirk their duty, these people said that it was sheer madness. To do or dare, to labor or suffer in the cause of the Captain of our salvation, was no article of their creed. Sleepy souls, they presently become victims of their own infatuation. As men who habituate themselves to take opium, they grow soporific. Then their Christianity becomes like a dream. It may be they are filled with flattering illusions, but in full many a case they are scared with strange spectres that issue in the short sighs, weak cries, and dismal groans of doubt and fear. Alas for them! they will not be able to say, "I have preached righteousness; lo, I have not refrained my lips, O Lord, thou knowest. I have not hid thy righteousness within my heart; I have declared thy faithfulness and thy salvation; I have not concealed thy lovingkindness and thy truth." Nay, nay; when their conscience is awakened, they shall have poignant regrets that they have neglected so many glorious opportunities of bringing crowns to Christ. Nor will cowardly people be able to make this protest. Many Christians are of a retiring disposition, and their retiring disposition is exemplified somewhat in the same way as that of the soldier who felt himself unworthy to stand in the front ranks. He felt that it would be too presumptuous a thing for him to be in front, where the cannon balls were mowing down men on the right hand and on the left, and therefore he would rather be in the van-guard. I always look upon those very retiring and modest people as arrant cowards, and I shall venture to call them so. I ask not every man and woman to rush into the front ranks of service, but I do ask every converted man and woman to take some place in the ranks, and to be prepared to make some sacrifice in that position they choose or think themselves fit to occupy. But ah! there are some who shrink back from any post that demands toil or vigilance. When they were young their ardor was never kindled, the spirit of enterprise was never stirred within them. Had they shown any mettle then, they might have been lion-hearted now; had they done Nothing then, their career of usefulness might have been in full vigor now. But alas for the man upon whom there is the rust of wasted years; he waits, he doubts, he parleys still, and shelters himself under a fictitious humility. Would God I had more courage myself, but I will tell you one thing, I dare not fold my arms, nor dare I hold my tongue; it seems to me so awful a thing not to be doing good, and it seems to me so dastardly a thing to shrink back when opportunities lie in one's path. I do wish that some of you would learn to imitate the character of the godly man
"Who holds no parley with unmanly fears; Where duty bids, he confidently steers, Faces a thousand dangers at her call And, trusting in his God, surmounts them all."
The cowards will not be able to say, "I have preached righteousness: lo, I have not refrained my lips, O Lord, thou knowest. I have not hid thy righteousness within my heart; I have declared thy faithfulness and thy salvation: I have not concealed thy lovingkindness and thy truth." Nor, again, will spasmodic people be able to adopt this language. There are some people who, if there is a revival, are so marvelously zealous and earnest that we are ready to clap our hands, but all on a sudden they stop. That Sunday-school class they were just getting into right order, but before there was an opportunity to reap the fruit they felt it was not precisely what they were called to. That Young Men's Bible Class yes, that was a happy thought, the pastor was delighted; but, unfortunately, some little difficulty occurred that you had not foreseen, and that also has fallen through. So it has been in other cases. Know therefore that those who cannot, like the Master, look back upon a continuous and persevering testimony, will not be able to speak with a clear conscience as he did. But although so many classes of those who profess and call themselves Christians will not be able to take a happy retrospect of their lives, yet there are not wanting those who could do so. I have known men of one talent who without any self-righteousness could say, "I have preached righteousness; I have not regained my lips, O Lord, thou knowest. I have not hid thy righteousness within my heart; I have declared thy faithfulness and thy salvation; I have not concealed thy lovingkindness and thy truth." Dear good men in many a country village whose Dames will never be known to fame have gathered just a few people together and have preached on, on, on for years, and when they come to die in the Lord and rest from their labors, their works will follow them, and their life-service will be as acceptable as the services of, many men with ten times the talents and ten times the scope for their exercise. Perhaps the Master will say to them, "Well done!" with a stronger emphasis than to some who were better known. That poor girl whose only work she could do for Christ was to teach those two little children who were entrusted to her, and that nursery maid with but one gift, and one only, may be able to say, "I have preached righteousness; lo! I have not refrained my lips: I have declared thy faithfulness and thy salvation; I have not concealed thy lovingkindness and thy truth." You one-talent servants, you have this within your reach. And those, too, with an extremely narrow sphere may be able to say this. It is not, perhaps, the man who can stand and talk to thousands, but it may be you in the family the housewife, the kitchen maid, the serving-man, or the woman who has been bed-ridden for years, whose only audience will be a few poor neighbors, or perhaps, now and then, a generous friend it is you within these narrow spheres who may yet be able to say, "I have preached righteousness; I have not refrained my lips, O Lord, thou knowest; I have not hid thy righteousness within my heart; I have declared thy faithfulness and thy salvation; I have not concealed thy lovingkindness and thy truth." I have sat by a bedside where I have envied the poor woman despite the agonies and pains of body she suffered, because she yet could praise and magnify the lovingkindness revealed to her there. But, brethren, we may be, able to quote these words, some of us to whom greater talents have been committed. Though we may feel that we have not preached as earnestly as we could have wished; that we have not done our utmost towards those whom we have taught; that in our house-to-house visitation we have not been so earnest with poor souls as we might have been in this respect, for alas! alas! we are all unprofitable servants; yet we can say, "I have preached righteousness; I have not refrained my lips, O Lord, thou knowest. I have not hid thy righteousness within my heart; I have declared thy faithfulness and thy salvation; I have not concealed thy lovingkindness and thy truth." Fervently do I hope that those of you with the largest opportunities may yet be privileged to make this good profession with all sincerity. I am not afraid for those friends who have but narrow spheres sometimes I wish that mine were such I am not afraid for those in humbler fields, but oh, if with such spheres, and such churches as God here and there allots to some of his servants, they can thus give account of their stewardship, it will be grace indeed, and to grace alone will the honor be due. Yet let us hope that we too may be able to say, "I have preached righteousness in the great congregation; lo, I have not refrained my lips, O Lord, thou knowest. I have not hid thy righteousness within my heart; I have declared thy faithfulness and thy salvation; I have not concealed thy lovingkindness and thy truth from the great congregation." III. It is with an overwhelming sense of the importance as well as the moral grandeur of this profession that I repeat it to you again and again; for when we are able to feel this, and to say it humbly and confidently, with good faith and without guile, IT CASTS MUCH COMFORTABLE LIGHT ON MANY SOLEMN subjects. How awful to remember that every hour there are hundreds of men and women who are dying without Christ. Turn to the bills of mortality of this one city. Be our sentiments ever so charitable, let us judge with the utmost liberality, the dreadful fact fills our mind, and every knell speaks it to our heart, "They go out of this world unforgiven; they go before their Maker's bar without a hope!" I think our hearts would break with the dread recollection of this if we could not say, "I have preached righteousness in the great congregation; lo, I have not refrained my lips, O Lord, thou knowest. I have not hid thy righteousness within my heart; I have declared thy faithfulness and thy salvation: I have not concealed thy lovingkindness and thy truth from the great congregation." And how many deaths there always are among our hearers! What comfort can any Christian who knows you have, if you die unsaved, unless he is able to appeal to God, and say, "My Father, I did all I could to teach that soul the way of salvation; I did all I could to persuade him to accept the Christ of God"? Dear friends, whenever you see any of your neighbors, your relatives, your acquaintance die, can you forbear to ask yourselves, shall their blood be required at my hands? Are your skirts stained? Are there no blood drops there? Come, look them down, and say if you can ponder with a clear conscience the fact of a sinner dying in a Christless state without your being able to say, "I have done all I could to bring that soul to Christ"? And as for that dreadful outlook the hereafter of the lost would that we could believe the softer theories which some so eagerly embrace! We would, but dare not. We believe that those who die in their sins when they pass from this life into the next, shall find that second death to be no extinction of existence, but an eternity of sin and of misery, Ah! how can any of us bear to think of this if we feel that we are morally responsible for any one soul that is damned? Yet are we so, I speak but the bare truth, until we have delivered ourselves from that responsibility by faithful earnestness. Is there a Cain here who says, "Am I my brother's keeper?" I shall not appeal to your most sympathetic soul, but leave you to your Judge. But to the Christian I say, "No man liveth to himself." When you think of a spirit in despair, cast out for ever from the presence of his God and from the glory of his power, may you, friends, be able to say, "Great God, though I understand not thy ways, for thy judgments are a great deep; yet I warned the sinner, I admonished him to lay hold on Christ, and if he perished it was not for want of preaching to or for praying over; my warnings and tears were never spared. I did what was in me to prevent his ruin." Put in that light, we may look at least with some degree of serenity upon the doctrine of divine sovereignty. I must confess that the sovereignty of God is a great mountain whose top we cannot scale. I often marvel at the coldness with which some men talk of the sovereignty of God, as though it were of small concern whether men were lost or saved. They seem to take these things as easily as if they were only talking of blocks of wood, or fields filled with tares. I do not think that we can equitably plead the divine sovereignty as a counterpart to our futile efforts, till we can say, "I have done all that was possible to bring that soul to God, I have prayed over him and wept over him, and now if he perish I must believe that this man willfully rejected Christ, that his iniquities are upon his own head, and that in him, as a vessel of wrath, God will get glory as well as in vessels of mercy. The doom of the heathen is a subject in like manner of which it were too painful for any of us to speak unless we can say, "I have, as far as lieth in me, sought to do something for them." This is a thing about which we ought not to think with any ease, unless we feel that we would fain save them, and give them the knowledge of the gospel of Jesus Christ; and to carry out this, our cherished purpose, we will do the best we can. The uprisings of error often cause us dismay. Every now and then we see some old form of error spring up that was stamped out, as we supposed, in the days of our ancestors. Not unfrequently a foul old heresy is brought out as a brand new discovery, and all the world admires it, and wonders whence it came. Now, whenever these old heresies crop up, and are brought out as new, and lead men astray, it is a great comfort when you and I are able to say, "I have preached righteousness in the great congregation; lo, I have not refrained my lips, O Lord, thou knowest. I have not hid thy righteousness within my heart; I have declared thy faithfulness and thy salvation; I have not concealed thy lovingkindness and thy truth from the great congregation." Let men propagate whatever errors they choose, if we have no share in misleading the people, and are continually engaged in instructing them, we may wrap ourselves in our integrity, and lay the matter before our God to vindicate our righteous cause. The apathy of the church, which has lasted so long, is truly disheartening. With many a deep-drawn sigh do we bewail it. O that we could get the church to awake! You might sound the trump of the archangel before you could rouse full many to the appalling destitution by reason of which the people perish for lack of knowledge. Even the cries of lost souls, and the shrieks of the sinners in this Metropolis, rushing headlong to the pit that is bottomless, do not startle some of us. Yes, but if we can say, "I have preached righteousness; I have not refrained my lips, O Lord, thou knowest. I have declared thy faithfulness and thy salvation," then we may take courage to work nobly and to persevere under terrible difficulties. Though for awhile we should see no conversions; and though for a season the ploughshare should break against the rock, or against even the very adamant itself, yet still if we can say, "I have preached righteousness, I have not refrained my lips, O Lord, thou knowest. I have not hid thy righteousness within my heart; I have declared thy faithfulness and thy salvation; I have not concealed thy lovingkindness and thy truth" we are exonerated from blame; nay, more, we are unto God a sweet savor of Christ in the testimony we have delivered. Yes, brethren, I apprehend that amongst the sweetest dying-bed recollections, and amongst the minor comforts, in taking our farewell of the world as it is, not the least will be that of having been constant and faithful all our lives to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Give me a few minutes longer while I turn this sermon into the special direction which it was intended to take. I do not know that there are many more "young men" present to-night than there are usually at our week-day lecture. I generally find when I preach a sermon for any of our societies it so happens that everybody connected with the society seems to stay away. They would be willing enough to come if it were for the Primitive Methodist, or any other denomination. They are in love with everybody else except their own relations. I do not say this by way of censure, but surely if there be a people under heaven without a grain of clannishness it is that denomination to which we belong. If it had been a sermon for Jews or Turks the building would have been crowded; but as it is for ourselves it does not signify. However, if they are not present for whom it was intended, they may probably read the sermon; so I will add a few words expressly for them. Young man, it may be that you are one of those who ought to become a missionary; it may be that you ought to dedicate your life to some work for God either at home or abroad. Well, if it be so, do not mistake your path in life. We do not urge you to rush into the ministry, much less into the foreign ministry, unless you are called to it, for that is the very last place for a man to be in who is not called to the work. Act as a Christian young man for once in your life by asking whether it may not be your vocation to bear the cross of Christ into lands where as yet it is unknown. Surely, whatever answer you may feel called upon to give you will be ready for it. You will at least be willing to give yourself up to the very hardest form of service to which you maybe called. I should like you, then, to be sure about this on the outset lest you should in the turn of the road miss the path and so not be able to say at the last: "I have preached righteousness; lo, I have not refrained my lips, O Lord, thou knowest. I have not hid thy righteousness within my heart; I have declared thy faithfulness and thy salvation; I have not concealed thy lovingkindness and thy truth from the great congregation." I should not like you, if meant by the gifts of God for a great missionary, to die a millionaire. I should not like it, were you fitted to be a missionary, that you should drivel down into a king; for what are all your kings, what are all your nobles, what are all your stars, what are all your garters, what are all your diadems and your tiaras, when you put them all together, compared with the dignity of winning souls for Christ, with the special honor of building for Christ, not on another man's foundation, but preaching Christ's gospel in regions yet far beyond? I reckon him to be a man honored of men who can do a foreign work for Christ, but he who shall go farthest in self-annihilation and in the furtherance of the glory of Christ, he shall be a king among men, though he wear no crown that carnal eyes can see. Ask yourselves the question then, Christian young men, whether that is your vocation. Should it happen that you feel convinced this is not your calling, remember you may still in your daily business be able to say these words. Some of my friends here never will be able to say them. They have been church members for twenty years, and during all those twenty years they have not preached righteousness, they have refrained their lips, they have hidden his righteousness, they have not declared his faithfulness and his salvation, they have concealed his lovingkindness and his truth. You, young men and women, have an opportunity of doing what is gone from them. Though they might publish Christ abroad from now till they die, there are twenty years they must ever regret and look back upon as waste land for which they will have to give an account at the last. You have, it may be, those twenty years before you, and it is a noble thing to begin working young, and so long as ever you live to go on building on that work. I have heard it said that you should not put young converts to work for which they are not qualified. Ah! say I, put the youngsters in; they will never learn to swim if they are not put in at once. Why should you, young men and women, be received as church members at all unless you are prepared to do something for Christ? Work becomes you as well as worship. I mean, of course, if not disqualified by sickness, and even then there is a sphere for testimony. You can make a sick bed a pulpit to preach Christ, while by patience and resignation you show forth his praise. No one should join a church without seeking out something to do for the glory of Jesus Christ. Do start your lives, young men, with high purpose, that you may close them with holy cheer. In order to do this, you will need much more zeal than you are likely to possess by making resolutions, and much more grace than you will ordinarily get without much self-denial and devout consecration. You have need to be baptized into the Holy Ghost and in fire. I do like those converts who are thoroughly purged from the corruptions of the world, and thoroughly converted to God, every faculty of the mind and every member of the body being surrendered to Christ, all of them as instruments of righteousness. We seem to get some people who are not half converted. I hope their hearts are converted, but the effect is not to drain their pockets or to set their hands to work. You need, dear friends, to go much to Jesus Christ, to live much in communion with him, for this life-service has many expenses, and you have no ready money. You must go to the great exchequer of the King of kings and draw from its inexhaustible treasury. Do so. Do resolve to live lavishly in the service of Christ, and the divine storehouse will supply all that you need, be your ambition as large as it may. There are habits, it is true, to be acquired which must be the result of growth, for they cannot be matured without the manifold experience of sunshine and shower, summer and winter, heat and cold; to all of these you will be exposed. But when once you have yielded ourselves to those divine influences which foster life, you will prove that by all these things men live. To this I can bear you witness. Drudgery ceases to be irksome when the ruling passion of laboring for the Lord has begun to ferment in your breasts, and the sweet assurance that your labor is not in vain in the Lord has quickened a sacred enthusiasm in your spirit. It may be that in your apprenticeship you have to encounter many hardships, but it shall be that in the full discharge of your vocation you will reap a harvest of joy. God help you never to refrain from preaching the truth, never to withhold any part of it; may you be clear in all these matters as before the living God. Oh! yours will be cheerful dying if you familiarize yourselves with such noble living as this. You will have a welcome entrance into heaven if such has been your life on earth. The pastor, when he can preach no more the gospel, will say, "I preached when there was time, and now I will sing when sermons all are o'er." You Sunday-school teachers cannot teach any longer, but your Sabbath recreations below will prove the sweet prelude to your Sabbatic felicities above. Tract distributors, now that all your work is over, you will say, "I did but distribute the leaves of the tree of life for the healing of the people, but now I feed myself on all its luscious fruits." I do not say that rewards are given as mere rewards of merit, but this I do assuredly know, there are rewards given in respect of service through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and I pray you seek the prize. So run that you may obtain it. May you be able to say, "While I was down below where service could be done for my Master
"In works which perfect saints above, And holy angels cannot do,"
with all my might I labored to excel, and now I enter into the bliss of him who helped and strengthened me, who revealed his grace in me, and counted me worthy to put me into some part of the ministry of his church." God bless you, dear friends, and make you earnest to tell to others those things he has made known unto you, for our Lord Jesus Christ's sake. Amen.
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Spurgeon, Charle Haddon. "Commentary on Psalms 40". "Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Christ the King / Proper 29 / Ordinary 34