the First Week of Advent
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Charles Spurgeon's "Morning & Evening"
“Christ also suffered for us.”
Then said the mariners
They put him to the question, and did not condemn him without a hearing. There was more justice among these heathen sailors than we often find among professed Christians, who will judge by appearances and condemn in haste.
He spoke out like an honest man, as he was. He owned that his occupation was the fear of the Lord, and he hesitated not to claim for his God supremacy over all the Babel of gods to whom they had been praying. He was ashamed of himself, but not of his religion.
They knew what he had done, but they asked his motive for so doing. What could have induced him to flee from one who had made the sea and the dry land, and could therefore overtake him in his flight, wherever he might go?
They were loth to lift up their hands against him; they dreaded to injure him, though his guilt was clear; they did not even insult him, as some would have done. From this let us learn never to be severe with our brethren, even though their faults should cause us great trouble and danger; let us rather appeal to their better judgment, and lead them to suggest a remedy themselves.
Herein Jonah, who was an eminent type of our Lord Jesus, sets before us the doctrine of substitution, in a figure. Jesus is cast into the sea of wrath, and it becomes calm to us. This is the most glorious of all revealed truths, and most needful to be believed and personally rested in.
Jonah, in the verse before us, appears in an amiable light, as clothed with humility, a true penitent, ready to receive chastisement without complaint.
The mildness of Jonah and his deep concern for their safety touched their hearts, and they resolved to save him if they could, but all in vain. In a figure, we are here taught the spiritual truth, that no toiling of our own can save us; it is by the death of the Substitute alone that we can be delivered.
They forsook their false gods and prayed only to Jehovah. Their efforts to save Jonah were unavailing, therefore they were driven to cast him overboard, but they would not do it till they had made one last solemn appeal to heaven. What a sight it must have been, to see these men on their knees, amidst the fury of the storm, and what a pleasure to hear them cry, “We beseech thee, O Lord, we beseech thee.” Nor did they forget all this when the tempest subsided; their fulfilment of their vows is the most pleasing point in the case.
This was one of the most solemn funerals that ever took place. Into the raging billows the living man was cast as into hit grave, and lo, all was still. The sacrifice was offered, and peace returned. Marvellous type of our redemption! Do we all understand that it is by Jesus’ death that we must live?
When men are saved from destruction they are bound to give glory unto God, both with words and gifts. Let us at this time honour the Lord by our songs and our thank-offerings, for he alone is the Rock of our salvation.
How shall I praise th’ eternal God,
That infinite Unknown?
Who can ascend his high abode,
Or venture near his throne?
Sinners before his presence die;
How holy is his name!
His anger and his jealousy
Burn like devouring flame.
Justice upon a dreadful throne
Maintains the rights of God;
While mercy sends her pardons down,
Bought with a Saviour’s blood.
Come, ye that love the Saviour’s name,
And joy to make it known;
The Sovereign of your heart proclaim,
And bow before his throne.
Lo he on David’s ancient throne,
His power and grace displays,
While Salem with its echoing hills,
Sends forth the voice of praise.
Sing, ye redeem’d! Before the throne,
Ye white-robed myriads fall;
Sing, for the Lord of glory reigns,
The Christ, the heir of all.
To the Lord we all things owe,
To the Lord we love to give:
Day by day his mercies flow,
Day by day to him we’ll live.
Thus we sanctify our store
Cleanse the canker from our gold;
And the Lord returns us more,
Fifty and a hundredfold.
Our best offering is small,
But in condescending love,
He who is the Lord of all
Smiles upon it from above.
Never leave us, nor forsake us,
Thou on whom our souls rely,
Till thou shalt for ever take us
To behold that glory nigh;
Which, though distant,
Fills thy people’s hearts with joy.
All our strength at once would fail us,
If deserted, Lord, by thee;
Nothing then could aught avail us,
Certain our defeat would be:
Those who hate us
Thenceforth their desire would see.
But we look to thee as able,
Grace to give in time of need:
Heaven we know is not more stable,
Than the promise which we plead:
‘Tis thy promise
Gives thy people hope indeed.
Could I so false, so faithless prove,
To quit thy service and thy love;
Where, Lord, could I thy presence shun,
Or from thy dreadful glory run?
If mounted on a morning ray
I fly beyond the Western sea,
Thy swifter hand would first arrive,
And there arrest thy fugitive.
O may these thoughts possess my breast
Where’er I rove, where’er I rest!
Nor let my weaker passions dare
Consent to sin, for God is there.
From a heart by sin deceivèd,
Bent with froward will, to take
Its own downward course of madness,
Save us for thy mercies’ sake.
From a soul whose deathlike slumber
Will not at thy voice awake,
But sleep on, nor heed its danger,
Save us for thy mercies’ sake.
“Lord, save us: we perish.”
He who prepared the storm prepared the fish. It was expressly prepared for his divine purpose. What species it belonged to it is idle to enquire.
Thomas Jones, in his “Jonah’s Portrait,” well observes, “He must be a preacher whether he will or no. When he was sent to preach to one city only, he refused; and now the Lord compels him to preach, not to one city, but to the whole world, by making him a type of Christ in his death, burial, and resurrection. ‘As Jonah was three days and three nights in the whales belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.’ When the servants of God run away from an easy service, their Master frequently appoints them a harder task. If Jonah will not preach up and down the streets of Nineveh, he shall preach from the bottom of the sea. Man’s highest wisdom is to obey his God, whatever work he appoints for him to do. If they who are sent to preach will not preach willingly, storms and tempests shall prepare them for their work. Many have fallen into dismal darkness and the deep, for want of more zeal and fidelity in their Master’s service; when they are tried they come forth as gold. Let those who desert God and his service learn how necessary it is to return; and let those who repent see that ‘with the Lord there is mercy, and with him is plenteous redemption.’“
He had lost all heart for prayer on board ship, but he began anew when plunged in sore distress.
Out of the centre of the unseen world which the belly of the fish resembled, Jonah sent up his plaintive cry and was heard. Prayer can reach the ear of God from the depths of the sea.
Jonah 2:3 , Jonah 2:4
If thou wilt not look on me, yet will I keep mine eyes upon thee, if peradventure grace should yet be shelved me.
He felt as if the seaweeds had become his winding-sheet.
Low as he went, he might have gone far lower had not divine power and mercy intervened. He lived on still, and this made him glad. Even in the belly of the fish he uttered his thankfulness.
He anticipates his deliverance, and commences to rejoice in it.
This is a summary of sound theology, and perhaps if more Christians had felt the depth of soul trouble, there would be more of such solid divinity preached and believed.
A word was enough, the fish was glad to be rid of his burden; and at the word of the Lord the enemies of his people shall be glad to let them go, that they may escape the judgments which else would come upon them.
Salvation! oh, the joyful sound!
‘Tis pleasure to our ears;
A sovereign balm for every wound,
A cordial for our fears.
Buried in sorrow and in sin,
At hell’s dark door we lay;
But we arise, by grace divine,
To see a heavenly day.
Salvation! let the echo fly
The spacious earth around,
While all the armies of the sky
Conspire to raise the sound.