Click to donate today!
The Christian's Heaviness and Rejoicing
Delivered on Sabbath Morning, November 7th, 1858, by the
REV. C.H. SPURGEON
at the Music Hall, Royal Surrey Gardens.
"Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations."-- 1 Peter 1:6
THIS VERSE TO A WORLDLY MAN looks amazingly like a contradiction; and even to a Christian man, when he understands it best, it will still be a paradox. "Ye greatly rejoice," and yet "ye are in heaviness." Is that possible? Can there be in the same heart great rejoicing, and yet a temporary heaviness? Most assuredly. This paradox has been known and felt by many of the Lord's children, and it is far from being the greatest paradox of the Christian life. Men who live within themselves, and mark their own feelings as Christians, will often stand and wonder at themselves. Of all riddles, the greatest riddle is a Christian man. As to his pedigree, what a riddle he is! He is a child of the first Adam, "an heir of wrath, even as others." He is a child of the second Adam: he was born free; there is therefore now no condemnation unto him. He is a riddle in his own existence. "As dying, and behold we live; as chastened, and not killed." He is a riddle as to the component parts of his own spiritual frame. He finds that which makes him akin to the devil--depravity, corruption, binding him still to the earth, and causing him to cry out, "O wretched man that I am;" and yet he finds that he has within himself that which exalts him, not merely to the rank of an angel, but higher still--a something which raises him up together, and makes him "sit together with Christ Jesus in heavenly places." He finds that he has that within him which must ripen into heaven, and yet that about him which would inevitably ripen into hell, if grace did not forbid. What wonder, then, beloved, if the Christian man be a paradox himself, that his condition should be a paradox too? Why marvel ye, when ye see a creature corrupt and yet purified, mortal and yet immortal, fallen but yet exalted far above principalities and powers--why marvel ye, that ye should find that creature also possessed of mingled experience, greatly rejoicing, and yet at the same time, "in heaviness through manifold temptations."
I would have you this morning, look first of all at the Christian's heaviness: he is "in heaviness through manifold temptations;" and then, in the next place, at the Christian's great rejoicing.
I. In the first place, HIS HEAVINESS. This is one of the most unfortunate texts in the Bible. I have heard it quoted ten thousand times for my own comfort, but I never understood it till a day or two ago. On referring to most of the commentaries in my possession, I cannot find that they have a right idea of the meaning of this text. You will notice that your friends often say to you when you are in trouble, "There is a needs be for this affliction;" there is a needs be, say they, "for all these trials and troubles that befall you." That is a very correct and scriptural sentiment; but that sentiment is not in the text at all. And yet, whenever this text is quoted in my hearing, this is what I am always told, or what I conceive I am always told to be the meaning,--that the great temptations, the great trials which befal us, have a needs be for them. But it does not say so here: it says something better; not only that there is a needs be for our temptations, but that there is a needs be for our heaviness under the temptation. Now, let me show you the difference. There is a man of God, full of faith--strong; he is about to do his Master's work, and he does it. God is with him, and gives him great success. The enemy begins to slander him; all manner of evil is spoken against him falsely for Christ's name sake. You say, there is a needs be for that, and you are quite correct: but look at the man. How gallantly he behaves himself! He lifts his head above his accusers, and unmoved amidst them all, he stands like a rock in the midst of a roaring tempest, never moved from the firm basis on which it rests. The scene changes, and instead of calamity, perhaps he is called to endure absolute persecution, as in apostolic times. We imagine the man driven out from house and home, separated from all his kindred, made to wander in the pathless snows of the mountains; and what a brave and mighty man he appears, when you see him enduring all this! His spirits never sink. "All this can I do," says he, "and I can greatly rejoice in it, for Christ's name's sake; for I can practice the text which says, 'Rejoice ye in that day and leap for joy;'" and you will tell that man there is a needs be for his persecution; he says, "Yes, I know it, and I fear not all I have to endure; I am not cowed by it." At last imagine the man taken before the Inquisition and condemned to die. You still comfort him with the fact, that there is a needs be that he shall die--that the blood of the martyrs must be the seed of the church--that the world can never be overcome by Christ's gospel, except through the sufferings and death of his followers--that Christ stooped to conquer, and the church must do the same--that through death and blood must be the road to the church's victory. And what a noble sight it is, to see that man going to the stake, and kissing it--looking upon his iron chains with as much esteem as if they had been chains of gold. Now tell him there is a needs be for all this, and he will thank you for the promise; and you admire the man; you wonder at him. Ah! but there is another class of persons that get no such honour as this. There is another sort of Christians for whom this promise really was intended, who do not get the comfort of it. I do admire the man I have pictured to you: may God long preserve such men in the midst of the church; I would stimulate every one of you to imitate him. Seek for great faith and great love to your Master, that you may be able to endure, being "stedfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord." But remember, that this text has not in it comfort for such persons; there are other texts for them; this text has been perverted for such a use as that. This is meant for another and a feebler grade of Christians, who are often overlooked and sometimes despised.
I was lying upon my couch during this last week, and my spirits were sunken so low that I could weep by the hour like a child, and yet I knew not what I wept for--but a very slight thing will move me to tears just now--and a kind friend was telling me of some poor old soul living near, who was suffering very great pain, and yet she was full of joy and rejoicing. I was so distressed by the hearing of that story, and felt so ashamed of myself, that I did not know what to do; wondering why I should be in such a state as this; while this poor woman, who had a terrible cancer, and was in the most frightful agony, could nevertheless "rejoice with joy unspeakable, and full of glory." And in a moment this text flashed upon my mind, with its real meaning. I am sure it is its real meaning. Read it over and over again, and you will see I am not wrong. "Though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness." It does not say, "Though now for a season ye are suffering pain, though now for a season you are poor; but you are 'in heaviness;'" your spirits are taken away from you; you are made to weep; you cannot bear your pain; you are brought to the very dust of death, and wish that you might die. Your faith itself seems as if it would fail you. That is the thing for which there is a needs be. That is what my text declares, that there is an absolute needs be that sometimes the Christian should not endure his sufferings with a gallant and a joyous heart; there is a needs be that sometimes his spirits should sink within him, and that he should become even as a little child smitten beneath the hand of God. Ah! beloved, we sometimes talk about the rod, but it is one thing to see the rod, and it is another thing to feel it; and many a time have we said within ourselves, "If I did not feel so low spirited as I now do, I should not mind this affliction;" and what is that but saying, "If I did not feel the rod I should not mind it?" It is just how you feel, that is, after all, the pith and marrow of your affliction. It is that breaking down of the spirit, that pulling down of the strong man, that is the very fester of the soreness of God's scourging--"the blueness of the wound, whereby the soul is made better." I think this one idea has been enough to be food for me many a day; and there may be some child of God here to whom it may bring some slight portion of comfort. We will yet again dwell upon it. "Though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations."
And here let me for a moment or two try to explain why it is that there is an absolute needs be, not merely for temptations and troubles, but likewise for our being in heaviness under them.
In the first place, if we were not in heaviness during our troubles we should not be like our Covenant Head--Christ Jesus. It is a rule of the kingdom that all the members must be like the head. They are to be like the head in that day when he shall appear. "We shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is." But we must be like the head also in his humiliation, or else we cannot be like him in his glory. Now, you will observe that our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ very often passed through much of trouble, without any heaviness. When he said, "Foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man hath not where to lay his head," I observe no heaviness. I do not think he sighed over that. And when athirst he sat upon the well, and said, "Give me to drink," there was no heaviness in all his thirst. I believe that through the first years of his ministry, although he might have suffered some heaviness, he usually passed over his troubles like a ship floating over the waves of the sea. But you will remember that at last the waves of swelling grief came into the vessel; at last the Saviour himself, though full of patience, was obliged to say "My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death;" and one of the evangelists tells us that the Saviour "began to be very heavy." What means that, but that his spirits began to sink? There is a more terrible meaning yet, which I cannot enter into this morning; but still I may say that the surface meaning of it is that all his spirits sank within him. He had no longer his wonted courage, and though he had strength to say, "Nevertheless, not my will, but thine be done;" still the weakness did prevail, when he said, "If it be possible let this cup pass from me." The Saviour passed through the brook, but he "drank of the brook by the way;" and we who pass through the brook of suffering must drink of it too. He had to bear the burden, not with his shoulders omnipotent, but with shoulders that were bending to the earth beneath a load. And you and I must not always expect a giant faith that can remove mountains: sometimes even to us the grasshopper must be a burden, that we may in all things be like unto our head.
Yet again; if the Christian did not sometimes suffer heaviness he would begin to grow too proud, and think too much of himself, and become too great in his own esteem. Those of us who are of elastic spirit, and who in our health are full of everything that can make life happy, are too apt to forget the Most High God. Lest we should be satisfied from ourselves, and forget that all our own springs must be in him, the Lord sometimes seems to sap the springs of life, to drain the heart of all its spirits, and to leave us without soul or strength for mirth, so that the noise of tabret and of viol would be unto us as but the funeral dirge, without joy or gladness. Then it is that we discover what we are made of, and out of the depths we cry unto God, humbled by our adversities.
Another reason for this discipline is, I think, that in heaviness we often learn lessons that we never could attain elsewhere. Do you know that God has beauties for every part of the world; and he has beauties for every place of experience? There are views to be seen from the tops of the Alps that you can never see elsewhere. Ay, but there are beauties to be seen in the depths of the dell that ye could never see on the tops of the mountains; there are glories to be seen on Pisgah, wondrous sights to be beheld when by faith we stand on Tabor; but there are also beauties to be seen in our Gethsemanes, and some marvellously sweet flowers are to be culled by the edge of the dens of the leopards. Men will never become great in divinity until they become great in suffering. "Ah!" said Luther, "affliction is the best book in my library;" and let me add, the best leaf in the book of affliction is that blackest of all the leaves, the leaf called heaviness, when the spirit sinks within us, and we cannot endure as we could wish.
And yet again; this heaviness is of essential use to a Christian, if he would do good to others. Ah! there are a great many Christian people that I was going to say I should like to see afflicted--but I will not say so much as that; I should like to see them heavy in spirit; if it were the Lord's will that they should be bowed down greatly, I would not express a word of regret; for a little more sympathy would do them good; a little more power to sympathize would be a precious boon to them, and even if it were purchased by a short journey through a burning, fiery furnace, they might not rue the day afterwards in which they had been called to pass through the flame. There are none so tender as those who have been skinned themselves. Those who have been in the chamber of affliction know how to comfort those who are there. Do not believe that any man will become a physician unless he walks the hospitals; and I am sure that no one will become a divine, or become a comforter, unless he lies in the hospital as well as walks through it, and has to suffer himself. God cannot make ministers--and I speak with reverence of his Holy Name--he cannot make a Barnabas except in the fire. It is there, and there alone, that he can make his sons of consolation; he may make his sons of thunder anywhere; but his sons of consolation he must make in the fire, and there alone. Who shall speak to those whose hearts are broken, who shall bind up their wounds, but those whose hearts have been broken also, and whose wounds have long run with the sore of grief? "If need be," then, "ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations."
I think I have said enough about this heaviness, except that I must add it is but for a season. A little time, a few hours, a few days, a few months at most, it shall all have passed away; and then comes the "eternal weight of glory, wherein ye greatly rejoice."
II. And now to the second part of the text. Here we have something far more joyous and comfortable than the first. "WHEREIN YE GREATLY REJOICE." And can a Christian greatly rejoice while he is in heaviness? Yes, most assuredly he can. Mariners tell us that there are some parts of the sea where there is a strong current upon the surface going one way, but that down in the depths there is a strong current running the other way. Two seas do not meet and interfere with one another; but one stream of water on the surface is running in one direction, and another below in an opposite direction. Now, the Christian is like that. On the surface there is a stream of heaviness rolling with dark waves; but down in the depths there is a strong under-current of great rejoicing that is always flowing there. Do you ask me what is the cause of this great rejoicing? The apostle tells us, "Wherein ye greatly rejoice." What does he mean? You must refer to his own writings, and then you will see. He is writing "to the strangers scattered throughout Pontus," and so forth. The first thing that he say's to them is, that they are "elect according to the foreknowledge of God;" "wherein we greatly rejoice." Ah! even when the Christian is most "in heaviness through manifold temptations," what a mercy it is that he can know that he is still elect of God! Any man who is assured that God has "chosen him from before the foundation of the world," may well say, "Wherein we greatly rejoice." Let me be lying upon a bed of sickness, and just revel in that one thought. Before God made the heavens and the earth, and laid the pillars of the firmament in their golden sockets, he set his love upon me; upon the breast of the great high priest he wrote my name, and in his everlasting book it stands, never to be erased--"elect according to the foreknowledge of God." Why, this may make a man's soul leap within him, and all the heaviness that the infirmities of the flesh may lay upon him shall he but as nothing; for this tremendous current of his overflowing joy shall sweep away the mill-dam of his grief. Bursting and overleaping every obstacle, it shall overflood all his sorrows till they are drowned and covered up, and shall not be mentioned any more for ever. "Wherein we greatly rejoice." Come, thou Christian! thou art depressed and cast down. Think for a moment. Thou art chosen of God and precious. Let the bell of election ring in thine ear--that ancient Sabbath bell of the covenant; and let thy name be heard in its notes and say, I beseech thee, say, "Doth not this make thee greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, thou art in heaviness through manifold temptations?"
Again, you will see another reason. The apostle says that we are "elect through sanctification of the Spirit unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ,"--"wherein we greatly rejoice." Is the obedience of the Lord Jesus Christ girt about my loins, to be my beauty and my glorious dress; and is the blood of Jesus sprinkled upon me, to take away all my guilt and all my sin and shall I not in this greatly rejoice? What shall there be in all the depressions of spirits that can possibly come upon me that shall make me break my harp, even though I should for a moment hang it upon the willows? Do I not expect that yet again my songs shall mount to heaven; and even now through the thick darkness do not the sparks of my joy appear, when I remember that I have still upon me the blood of Jesus, and still about me the glorious righteousness of the Messiah
But the great and cheering comfort of the apostle is, that we are elect unto an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for us. And here, brethren, is the grand comfort of the Christian. When the child of God is sore-stricken and much depressed, the sweet hope, that living or dying, there is an inheritance incorruptible, reserved in heaven for him, may indeed make him greatly rejoice. He is drawing near the gates of death, and his spirit is in heaviness, for he has to leave behind him all his family and all that life holds dear. Besides, his sickness brings upon him naturally a depression of spirit. But you sit by his bedside, and you begin to talk to him of the
"Sweet fields beyond the swelling flood,
Arrayed in living green."
You tell him of Canaan on the other side the Jordan--of the land that floweth with milk and honey--of the Lamb in the midst of the throne, and of all the glories which God hath prepared for them that love him; and you see his dull leaden eye light up with seraphic brightness, he shakes off his heaviness, and he begins to sing,
"On Jordan's stormy banks I stand,
And cast a wishful eye,
To Canaan's fair and happy land,
Where my possessions lie"
This makes him greatly rejoice; and if to that you add that possibly before he has passed the gates of death his Master may appear--if you tell him that the Lord Jesus Christ is coming in the clouds of heaven, and though we have not seen him yet believing in him we rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory, expecting the second advent--if he has grace to believe in that sublime doctrine, he will be ready to clap his hands upon his bed of weariness and cry, "Even so, Lord Jesus, come quickly! come quickly!"
And in drawing to a close, I may notice, there is one more doctrine that will always cheer a Christian, and I think that this perhaps is the one chiefly intended here in the text. Look at the end of the 15th verse; "Reserved in heaven for you who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation;" This perhaps will be one of the greatest cordials to a Christian in heaviness, that he is not kept by his own power, but by the power of God, and that he is not left in his own keeping, but he is kept by the Most High. Ah! what should you and I do in the day when darkness gathers round our faith, if we had to keep ourselves! I can never understand what an Arminian does, when he gets into sickness, sorrow, and affliction; from what well he draws his comfort, I know not; but I know whence I draw mine. It is this. "When flesh and heart faileth, God is the strength of my life, and my portion for ever." "I know whom I have believed, and I am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day." But take away that doctrine of the Saviour's keeping his people, and where is my hope? What is there in the gospel worth my preaching, or worth your receiving? I know that he hath said, "I give unto my sheep eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand." What, Lord, but suppose they should grow faint--that they should begin to murmur in their affliction. Shall they not perish then? No, they shall never perish. But suppose the pain should grow so hot that their faith should fail: shall they not perish then? No, "they shall not perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand." But suppose their sense should seem to wander, and some should try to pervert them from the faith: shall they not be perverted? No; "they shall never perish," But suppose in some hour of their extremity hell and the world and their own fears should all beset them, and they should have no power to stand--no power whatever to resist the fierce onslaughts of the enemy, shall they not perish then? No, they are "kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation, ready to be revealed," and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand." Ah! this is the doctrine, the cheering assurance "wherein we greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if needs be, we are in heaviness through manifold temptations."
One word before I send you away. There are some of you here to whom this precious passage has not a word to say. Our heaviness, O worldling, "our heaviness is but for a season." Your heaviness is to come; and it shall be a heaviness intolerable, because hopelessly everlasting. Our temptations, though they be manifold, are but light afflictions and are but for a moment," and they "work out for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;" but your joys that you now have are evanescent as a bubble, and they are passing away, and they are working out for you a far more exceeding and eternal weight of misery. I beseech you, look at this matter. Search and see whether all be right with your spirits--whether it be well for you to venture into an eternal state as you are; and may God give you grace, that you may feel your need of a Saviour, that you may seek Christ, lay hold upon him, and so may come into a gracious state, wherein ye shall greatly rejoice, even though for a season, if needs be, ye should be in heaviness through manifold temptations!
The New Nature
Delivered on Sunday Morning, June the 30th, 1861 by the
Rev. C. H. SPURGEON,
At the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington
"Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for over. For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away: but the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you."-- 1 Peter 1:23-25
PETER HAD earnestly exhorted the scattered saints to love each other "with a pure heart fervently," and he wised fetches his argument, not from the law, nor from nature, nor from philosophy, but from that high and divine nature which God hath implanted in his people. Love each other with a pure heart fervently, for ye have been born again, not with corruptible seed, but with incorruptible. I might compare Peter to some judicious tutor of the princes of the blood, who labors to beget and foster a kingly spirit in the king's sons. From their position and descent he brings argument for a dignified behavior: "Do not act foolishly, it would be unseemly in a king; speak not so, ribald language would be unbecoming to a prince; indulge not in these vanities, such folk would be degrading to the illustrious of the earth." So looking upon God's people, as being heirs of glory, princes of the blood royal, descendants of the King of kings, earth's true and only real aristocracy, Peter saith to them, "See that ye love one another, because of your noble birth, being born of incorruptible seed; because of your pedigree, being descended from God, the Creator of all things; and because of your immortal destiny, for you shall never pass away, though the glory of flesh shall fade, and even its very existence shall cease. I think it would be well, my brethren, if in a spirit of humility, you and I recognized the free dignity of our regenerated nature, and lived up to it. Oh! what is a Christian? If you compare him with a king, he adds priestly sanctity to royal dignity. The king's royalty often lieth only in his crown, but with a Christian it is infused into his very nature. Compare him with a senator, with a mighty warrior, or a master of wisdom, and he far excelleth them all. He is of another race than those who are only born of woman. He is as much above his fellows through his new birth, as man is above the beast that perisheth. As humanity towers in dignity high above the grovelling brute, so doth the regenerate man o'ertop the best of human once-born mortals. Surely he ought to bear himself, and act as one who is not of the multitude, one who has been chosen out of the world, distinguished by sovereign grace, written among "the peculiar people," and who therefore cannot grovel as others grovel, nor own think as others think. Let the dignity of your nature, and the brightness of your prospects, O believers in Christ, make you cleave to holiness, and hate the very appearance of evil.
In the text there are three points which, I think, will well repay our very serious attention. The apostle evidently speaks of two lives, the one, the life which is natural, born, matured, and perfected only by the flesh; the other, the life which is spiritual, born of the spirit, in antagonism with the flesh, surviving it and triumphantly rising to celestial glory. Now, in speaking of these two lives, the apostle brings out, first of all, a comparison and a contrast between the two births, for each life hath its own birth. Then he brings out a contrast between the manifest existence of the two lives; and then lastly, between the glory of the two lives, for each life hath its glory, but the glory of the spiritual life far excelleth the glory of the natural.
I. First, then, the apostle Peter draws A COMPARISON AND CONTRAST BETWEEN THE TWO BIRTHS WHICH ARE THE DOORWAYS OF THE TWO LIVES.
First, we have said that every life is prefaced by rib birth. It is so naturally--we are born; it is so spiritually--we are born again. Except a man be born he cannot enter into the kingdom of nature; except a man be born again he cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven. Birth is the lowly gateway by which we enter into life, and the lofty portal by which we are admitted into the kingdom of heaven.
Now there is a comparison between the two births; in both there is a solemn mystery. I have read, I have even heard sermons, in which the minister seemed to me rather to play the part of a physician than of a divine, exposing and explaining the mysteries of our natural birth, across which both God in nature and the good man in delicacy must ever throw a veil. It is a hallowed thing to be born, as surely as it is a solemnity to die. Birthdays and deathdays are days of awe. Birth is very frequently used in Scripture as one of the most graphic pictures of solemn mystery. Into this, no man may idly pry, and Science herself, when she has dared to look within the veil, has turned back awestricken, from those "lower parts of the earth" in which David declares us to be "curiously wrought." Greater still is the mystery of the new birth. That we are born again we know, but how, we cannot tell. How the Spirit of God openeth upon the mind, how it is that he renews the faculties and imparts fresh desires by which those faculties shout be guided, how it is that he enlightens the understanding, subdues the will, purifies the intellect, reverses the desire, lifts up the hope, and puts the fear in its right channel, we cannot tell, we must leave this among the secret things which belong unto God. The Holy Ghost worketh, but the manner of his operation is not to be comprehended. "The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but thou canst not tell whence it cometh nor whither it goeth, so is every one that is born of the Spirit." Oh! my hearers, have you felt this mystery? Explain it you cannot, nor can I, nor ought we to attempt an explanation, for where God is silent it is perhaps profanity, and certainly impertinence for us to speak. The two births then are alike in their solemn mystery.
But, then, we know this much of our natural birth, that in birth there is a life created. Yonder infant is beginning his being, another creature has lifted up its feeble cry to heaven, another mortal has come to tread this theater of action, to breathe, to live, to die. And so in the new birth, there is an absolute creation, we are made new creatures in Christ Jesus, there is another spirit born to pray, to believe in Christ to love him here, and to rejoice in him hereafter. As no one doubts but that birth is the manifestation of a creation, so let no one doubt but that regeneration is the manifestation of a creation of God, as divine, as much beyond the power of man, as the creation of the human mind itself.
But we know also that in birth there is not only a life created, but a life communicated. Each child hath its parent. The very flowers trace themselves back to a parental seed. We spring, not from our own loins, we are not self-created, there is a life communicated. We have links between the son and the father, and back till we come to father Adam. So in regeneration there is a life, not merely created, but communicated, even the very life of God, who hath begotten us again unto a lively hope. As truly as the father lives in the child, so truly doth the every life and nature of God live in every Swiss born heir of heaven. We are as certainly partakers of the divine nature by the new birth as we were partakers of the human nature by the old birth: so far the comparison holds good.
Equally certain is it, that in the natural and in the spiritual birth there is life entailed. There are certain propensities which we inherit, from which this side the grave we shall not be free. Our temperament brave or gay, our passions slow or hasty, our propensities sensual or aspiring, our faculties contracted or expansive are to a great measure an entailed inheritance as much linked to our future portion as are wings to an eagle or a shed to a snail. No doubt much of our history is born within us, and the infant hath within himself germ of his future actions. If I may so speak, there are those qualities, that composition and disposition of nature which will naturally, if circumstances assist, work out in full development certain results. So is it with us when we are born again: a heavenly nature is entailed upon us. We cannot but be holy; the new nature cannot but serve God, it must, it will pant to be neater to Christ, and more like him. It hath aspirations which time cannot satisfy, desires which earth cannot surfeit, longings which heaven itself alone can gratify. There is a life entailed upon us in the moment when we pass from death unto life in the solemn mystery of regeneration.
In the old birth, and in the new birth also, a life is also brought forth which is complete in all its parts and only needs to be developed. Yon infant in the oracle shall never have another limb, or another eye. Its limb hardens, it grows, it gathers strength, its brain also enlarges its sphere, but the faculties are there already, they are not implanted afterward. Verily, so is it in the new-born child of God. Faith love, hope, and every grace are there the moment he believes in Christ. They grow 'tis true, but they were all there in the instant of regeneration. The babe in grace who is just now born to God, hath every part of the spiritual man, it only needs to grow till he becomes a perfect man in Christ Jesus.
Thus far, you perceive, that the two births have a very close resemblance to one another. I pray you, now that I have introduced the subject, do not turn from it till you have thought of the reality of the new birth, as you must of the reality of the first. You were not here if you had not been born, you shall never he in heaven unless you are born again, you had not been able to-day to hear, or think, or see, if you had not been born. You are not to-day able to pray or to believe in Christ, unless you are born again. The enjoyments of this world you could never have known, if it had not been for birth, the saved delight of God you do not know to-day, and you never shall know unless you be born again. Do not look upon regeneration as though it were a fancy or a fiction. I do assure you, my hearers, it is as real as is the natural birth; for spiritual is not the same as fanciful, but the spiritual is as real as even nature itself. To be born again is as much a matter of fact to be realised, to be discerned, and to be discovered, as to be born for the first time into this vale of tears.
But now comes the contrast--"being born not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible." Herein lieth the contrast between the two. That child which has just experienced the first birth has been made partaker of corruptible seed. The depravity of his parent lieth sleeping within him. Could he speak, he might say so. David did,--"Behold, I was born in sin and shaped in iniquity." He receiveth the evil virus which was first infused into us by the fall. Not so, however, is it when we are born again. No sin is then sown within us. This sin of the old flesh remains but there is no sin in the newborn nature, it cannot sin because it is born of God himself; it is as impossible for that new nature to sin as for the Deity itself to be defiled. It is a part of the divine nature--a spark struck off from the rental orb of light and life, and dead or dark it cannot be, because it would be contrary to its nature to be either the one or the other. Oh, what a difference! In the first birth--born to sin, in the next--born to holiness; in the first--partakers of corruption, in the next--heirs of incorruption in the first--depravity, in the second--perfection. What broader contrast could there be! What should make us more thoroughly long for this new birth than the glorious fact that we are by its means consciously lifted up from the ruins of the fall, and made perfect in Christ Jesus.
In the birth of the flesh too, what dread uncertainties attend it! What shall become of yonder child? It may live to curse the day in which it was born, as did the poor troubled patriarch of old. What sorrow may drive its ploughshares along its yet unwrinkled brow? Ah! child, thou shalt be gray-headed one day, but ere that comes thou shalt have felt a thousand storms beating about thine heart and head. Little dost thou know thy destiny, but assuredly thou shalt be of few days and full of trouble. Not so in the regeneration, we shall never rue the day in which we are born again, never look back upon that with sorrow, but always with ecstasy and delight, for we are ushered then, not into the hovel of humanity, but into the palace of Deity. We are not then born into a valley of tears, but into an inheritance in the Canaan of God.
That child too, so fondly the object of its mother's love may one day vex or break its parent's heart. Are not children doubtful mercies? Bring they not with them sad forebodings of what they yet may be? Alas for the pretty prattlers who have grown up to be convicted criminals! But blessed be God, they who are sons of God shalt never break their father's heart. Their new nature shall be worthy of Him that gave it existence. They shall live to honor him, they shall die to be perfectly like him, and shall rise to glorify him for ever. We have sometimes said that God her a very naughty family, but surely the naughtiness is in the old Adam nature, and not in Jehovah's gracious work. There is no naughtiness in the new creature. In that new creature there is no taint of sin. God's child as descended from his loins, can never sin. The new nature which God hath put into it doth never wander, death never transgress. It were not the new nature if it did, it were not God's offspring, if it all, for that which cometh of God is like Him, holy, pure, and undefiled, separate from sin. In this indeed lieth a strange difference. We know not to what that first nature tendeth, who can tell what bitterness it shall bring forth? But we know whither the new nature tendeth, for it ripeneth towards the perfect image of Him that created us in Christ Jesus.
Perhaps without my endeavoring to enlarge further you could yourselves muse upon this theme. It remains but for me upon this first head to return with earnestness to that point upon which I fear the greatest difficulty lies--the realisation of this birth--for we repeat it, we are speaking of a fact and not a dream, a reality and not metaphor.
Some tell you that the child is regenerated when the drops fall from priestly fingers. My brethren, a more fond and foul delusion was never perpetrated upon earth. Rome itself did never discourse upon a wilder error than this. Dream not of it. O think not that it is so. "Except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God." The Lord himself addresses this sentence not to an infant but to a fullgrown man. Nicodemus--one who was circumcised according to the Jewish law, but who yet, though he had received the seal of that covenant, needed as a man to be born again. We all without exception must know this change. Your life may have been moral, but it will not suffice. The most moralised human nature can never attain to the divine nature. You may cleanse and purge the fruit of the first birth, but still the inevitable decree demands the second birth for all. If from your youth up you have been so trained that you have scarcely known the vices of the people; so tended, hedged in, and kept from contamination with sin, that you have not known temptation, yet you must be born again, and this birth, I repeat it, must be as much a, fact, as true, as real, and as sure as was that first birth in which you were ushered into this world. What do you know of this, my hearer? What do you know of this? It is a thing you cannot perform for yourself. You cannot regenerate yourself any more than you could cause yourself to be born. It is a matter out of the range of human power it is supernatural, it is divine. Have you partaken of it? Do not merely look back to some hour in which you felt mysterious feelings. No, but judge by the fruits. Have your fears and hopes changed places? Do you love the things you once hated, and hate the things you once loved? Are old things passed away? Have all things become new? Christian brethren, I put the query to you as well as to the rest. It is so easy to be deceived here. We shall find it no trifle to be born again. It is a solemn, it is a momentous matter. Let us not take it for granted because we have given up drunkenness that we are therefore converted, because we do not swear, because now we attend a place of worship. There is more wanted than this. Do not think you are saved because you have some good feelings, some good thoughts. There is more required than this--ye must be born again. And oh, Christian parents, train up your children in the fear of God, but do not be content with your training--they must be born again. And Christian husbands, and Christian wives, be not satisfied with merely praying that your partner's characters may become moral and honest; ask that something may be done for them which they cannot do for themselves. And you, philanthropists, who think that building new cottages, using fresh plans for drainage, teaching the poor economy, will be the means of emparadising the world; I pray you go further than such schemes as these. You must change the heart. It is but little use to alter the outward till you have renewed the inward. It is not the bark of the tree that is wrong so much as the sap. It is not the skin--it is the blood--nay, deeper than the blood--the very essence of the nature must be altered. The man must be as much made anew as if he never had an existence. Nay, a greater miracle than this, these most be two miracles combined--the old things must pass away, and new things must be cleated by the Holy Ghost. I tremble while I speak upon this theme, lest I, your minister, should know in theory but not in experience a mystery so sublime as this. What shall we do but together offer a prayer like this--"O God, if we be not regenerate let us know the worst of our state, and if we be, let us never cease to plead and pray for others till they too shall be renewed by the Holy Ghost." That which is born of the flesh is flesh; its best endeavors go no higher than flesh, and the flesh cannot inherit the kingdom of God. That which is born of the Spirit alone is spirit, and only the Spirit can enter into spiritual things, inherit the spiritual portion which God has provided for his people. I have thus passed through the somewhat delicate and extremely difficult task of bringing out the apostle's meaning--the comparison between the two births, which are the door-steps of the two lives.
II. I now come to the second point--THE MANIFEST DIFFERENCE OF THE TWO LIVES RESULTING FROM THE TWO BIRTHS.
Brethren, look around you. To what shall we compare this immense assembly? As I look upon the many colors, and the varied faces, even if it were not in the text, I am certain that a meadow thickly besprinkled with flowers would rise up before my imagination. Look at the mass of people gathered together, and doth it not remind you of the field in its full summer glory, when the king-cups, daisies, cloves, and grass blooms, are sunning themselves in countless varieties of beauty? Ay, but not only in the poet's eye is there a resemblance, but in the mind of God, and in the experience of man. "All flesh is grass;" all that is born of the first birth, if we compare it to grass in poetry, may be compared to it also in fact, from the frailty and shortness of its existence. We passed the meadows but a month ago, and they were moved in verdant billows by the breeze like waves of ocean when they are softly stirred with the evening gale. We looked upon the whole scene, and it was exceeding fair. We passed it yesterday and the mower's scythe had cut asunder beauty from its roots, and there it lay in heaps ready to be gathered when fully dry. The grass is cut down so soon, but if it stood, it would wither, and handfuls of dust would take the place of the green and coloured leaves, for doth not the grass wither and the flowers thereof fall avidly? Such is mortal life. We are not living, brethren, we are dying. We begin to breathe, and we make the number of our breaths the less. Our pulse is "beating funeral marches to the tomb." The sand runs down from the upper bulb of the glass, and it is emptying fast. Death is written upon every brow. Man, know that thou art mortal, for thou all art born of woman. Thy first birth gave thee life and death together. Thou dost only breathe awhile to keep thee from the jaws of the grave, when that breath is spent, into the dust of death thou tallest there and then. Everything, especially during the last few weeks, has taught us the frailty of human life. The senator who guided the affairs of nations and beheld the rise of a free kingdom, lived not to see it fully organized, but expired with many a weighty secret unspoken. The judge who has sentenced many, receives his own sentence at the last. From this earth, since last we met together, master-minds have been taken away, and even the monarch on his throne has owned the monarchy of Death. How many of the masses too have fallen, and have been carried to their long home! There have been funerals, some of them funerals of honored men who perished doing their Master's will in saving human life, and alas, there have been unhonoured burials of others who did the will of Satan, and have inherited the flame. There have been deaths abundant on the right hand and on the left, and well have Peter's words been proved--"All flesh is grass, and all the glory thereof is as the flower of the field; the grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away."
Now, brethren, let us look at the other side of the question. The second birth gave us a nature too--Will that also die? Is it like grass, and its glory like the flower of the field? No, most certainly not. The first nature dies because the seed was corruptible. But the second nature was not created by corruptible seed, but with incorruptible, even the Word of God into which God has infused his own life, so that it quickens us by the Spirit. That incorruptible word produces an incorruptible life. The child of God in his new nature never dies. He can never see death. Christ, who is in him, is the immortality and the life. "He that liveth and believeth in Christ shall never die." And yet again, "Though he were dead yet shall he live." When we are born again, we receive a nature which is indestructible by accident, which is not to be consumed by fire, drowned by riveter, weakened by old age, or smitten down by blast of pestilence; a nature invulnerable to poison; a nature which shall not be destroyed by the sword; a nature which can never die till the God that gave it should himself expire and Deity die out. Think of this, my brethren, and surely you will find reason to rejoice. But perhaps, you ask me, why it is the new nature can never die? I am sure the text teaches it never can. "But not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, even of the Word of God which liveth and abideth for ever." If that does not teach that the spiritual nature which is given us by the new birth never dies, it does not teach anything at all; and if it does teach that, where goes Arminian doctrine of falling from grace; where go your Arminian fears of perishing after all? But let me show you why it is that this nature never dies. First, from the fact of its nature. It is in itself incorruptible. Every like produces in like. Man, dying man, produces dying man; God, eternal God, produces everlasting nature when he begets again unto a lively hope, by the resurrection of Christ from the dead. "As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy:" the earthy dies, we who are earthy die too. "As is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly," the heavenly never dies, and if we are born as the heavenly, the heavenly nature dieth neither. "The first Adam was made a living soul." We are made living souls too, but that soul at last is separated from the body. "The second Adam is made a quickening spirit," and that spirit is not only alive but quickening. Do you not perceive it?--the first was a quickened soul--quickened, receiving life full a season; the second is a quickening spirit, giving out life, rather than receiving it; like that angel whom some poet pictures, who perpetually shot forth sparklers of fire, having within himself an undying flame, the fountain of perpetual floods of light and heat. So is it with the new nature within us, it is not merely a quickened thing which may die, but a quickening thing which cannot die, being Snide like unto Christ the quickening Spirit. But then, more than this, the new nature cannot die, because the Holy Spirit perpetually supplies it with life. "He giveth more grace"--grace upon grace. You know the apostle puts it thus: "If when we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more being reconciled we shall be saved by his life." Is not the Holy Spirit the divine agent by whom the life of Christ is infused into us? Now, the life-floods which the Holy Spirit sends into us, co-work with the immortality of the new-born spirit, and so doubly preserve the eternity of our bliss. But then, again, we are in vital union with Christ, and to suppose that the new nature could die out, were to imagine that a member of Christ would die, that a finger, a hand, an arm, could rot from the person of Jesus, that he could be maimed and divided. Doth not the apostle say, "Is Christ divided?" And was it not written, "Not a bone of him shall be broken?" and how were this true, if we were broken from him, or rolled from his body? My brethren, we receive the divine sap through Christ the stem that divine sap keeps us alive but more the very fact that we are joined to Christ preserves our life, "Because I live ye shall live also." The new life cannot die, because God is pledged to keep it alive. "I give unto my sheep eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of my hand." "My Father which gave them me is greater than all, and none shall pluck them out of my Father's hand." And yet again, "The water which I shall give him shall be in him a well of water, springing up unto everlasting life." And yet again, "He that believeth in me shall never hunger and never thirst." And so might we repeat multitudes of passages where the divine promise engages omnipotence and divine wisdom, to preserve the new life. So then, let us gather these all up in one. As a man born of the flesh, I shall die, as a new man born of the Spirit, I shall never die. Thou. O flesh, the offspring of flesh thou shalt see corruption. Thou, O spirit, new-created spirit, offspring of the Lord corruption thou shalt never see. With our glorious Covenant Head we may exclaim "Thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, nor wilt thou suffer thine holy one to see corruption." I shall die, yet never die. My life shall flee, yet never flee. I shall pass away, and yet abide; I shall be carried to the tomb, and yet, soaring upward, the tomb can ne'er contain the quickened Spirit. Oh, children of God, I know not any subject that ought more thoroughly to lift you out of yourselves than this. Now let the divine nature live in you; come, put down the animal for a moment, put down the mere mental faculty; let the living spark blaze up; come, let the divine element, the newborn nature that God has given to you, let that now speak, and let its voice be praise; let it look up and let it breathe its own atmosphere, the heaven of God, in which it shall shortly rejoice. O God, our Father, help us to walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit, seeing that we have by thine own self been quickened to an immortal life.
III. I now come to the last, and perhaps the most interesting point of all. THE GLORY OF THE TWO NATURES IS CONTRASTED. Every nature has its glory. Brethren, look at the field again. There is not only the grass but there is the flower which is the glory of the field. Sometimes many coloured hues begem the pastures with beauty. Now, the painted flower is the glory of the verdant field. It conies up later than the grass, and it dies sooner, for the grass is up a long while before the flower blooms, and when the flower is dead, the stalk of the grass still retains vitality. It is precisely so with us. Our nature has its glory, but that glory does not arrive for years. The babe has not yet the glory of full manhood, and when that glory does come, it dies before our nature dies, for "they that look out of the windows are darkened, the grinders cease because they are few." The man loses his glory and becomes a tottering imbecile before life becomes extinct. The flower comes up last and dies first, our glory comes last and dies first, too. O flesh! O flesh! what contempt is passed upon thee! Thy very existence is frail and feeble, but thy glory more frail and feeble still. It grows but late and then it dies, alas how soon! But what is the glory of the flesh? Give me your attention for a moment while I tell you briefly. In some, the glory of the flesh is BEAUTY. Their face is fair to look upon, and as the handiwork of the Great Worker, it should be admired. When a person becometh vain of it, beauty becomes shame; but to have well-proportioned features is, doubtless, no mean endowment. There is a glory in the beauty of the flesh, but how late it is developed, and how soon it fades! How soon do the cheeks become hollow! how frequently does the complexion grow sallow, and the bright eyes are dimmed, and the comely visage is marred! A part, too, of the glory of the flesh is physical strength. To be a strong man, to have the bones well set and the muscles well braced,--to have good muscular vigor is no small thing. Many men take delight in the legs of a man, and in the strength of his arm. Well, as God made him, he is a wonderful creature, and 'twere wrong for us not to admire the masterpiece of God. But how late does muscular strength arrive! There are the days of infancy, and there are the days of youth, when as yet the strong man is but feeble; and then, when he has had his little hey-day of strength, how doth the stalwart frame begin to rock and reel! and the rotting teeth and the whitened hair show that death has begun to claim the heriot clay, and will soon take possession of it for himself "The glory thereof falleth away." To others, the glory of the flesh lies rather in the mind. They have eloquence, they can so speak as to enchant the ears of the multitude. The bees of eloquence have made their hives between the lips of the orator, and honey distils with every word. Yes, but how late is this a coming! How many years before the child speaks articulately, and before the young man is able to deliver himself with courage! And then, how soon it goes!--till, mumbling from between his toothless jaws, the poor man would speak the words of wisdom, but the lips of age deny him utterance. Or, let the glory be wisdom. There is a man whose glory is his masterly power over others. He can foresee and look further than other men, he can match craft by craft: he is so wise that his fellows put confidence in him. This is the glory of the flesh; how late is it in coming!--from the puking child, what a distance up to the wise man! And then how soon it is gone! How often, while yet the man himself in his flesh is in vigor has the mind strewn symptoms of decay! Well, take what ye will to be the glory of the flesh, I will still pronounce over it "Vanity of vanities, all is vanity." If the flesh be frail, the glory of the flesh is frailer still, if the grass wither, certainly the flower of the grass withereth before it.
But is this true of the new nature? Brethren, is this true of that which was implanted at the second birth? I have just shown you, I think, that the existence of the new nature is eternal, because it was not born of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible. I have tried to show that it can never perish and can never die. But your unbelief suggests, "Perhaps its glory may." No, its glory never can. And what is the glory of the new-born nature? Why, its glory first of all is beauty. But what is its beauty? It is to be like the Lord Jesus. We are, when we shall see him as he is, to be like him. But that beauty shall never fade, eternity itself shall not hollow the cheeks of this seraphic comeliness, nor dim the brilliant eye of this celestial radiance. We shall be like Christ, but the likeness shall ne'er be marred by time, nor consumed by decay. I said just now that the glory of the flesh consisted sometimes in its strength, so does the glory of the Spirit consist in its vigor, but then it is a force that never shall be expended. The strength of the new-born nature is the Holy Ghost himself, and while Deity remains omnipotent, our new nature shall go on increasing in vigor till we come first to the stature of perfect men in Christ Jesus, and next come to be glorified men standing before his throne. The flower of the new nature you cannot see much of yet, you see through a glass darkly. That flower of glory consists perhaps, too, in eloquence. "Eloquence," say you, "how can that be?" I said the glory of the old nature might be eloquence, so with the new, but this is the eloquence--"Abba Father." This is an eloquence you can use now. It is one which when you cannot speak a word which might move an audience, shall still remain upon your tongue to move the courts of heaven. You shall be able to say, "Abba Father," in the very pangs of death, and waking from your beds of dust and silent clay, more eloquent still you shall cry, "Hallelujah," you shall join the eternal chorus, swell the divine symphony of cherubim and seraphim, and through eternity your glory shall never part awry. And then, if wisdom be glory, your wisdom, the wisdom which you inherit in the new nature, which is none other than Christ's who is made of God unto us, wisdom shall never fade, in fact it shall grow, for there you shall know even as you are known. While here you see through a glass darkly, there you shall see face to face. You sip the brook to-day, you shall bathe in the ocean tomorrow; you see afar off now, you shall lie in the arms of wisdom by-and-bye; for the glory of the Spirit never dies, but throughout eternity expanding, enlarging, blazing, gloryfying itself through God, it shall go on never, never to fail. Brethren, whatever it may be which you are expecting as the glory of your new nature, you have not yet an idea of what it will be. "Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him." But though he hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit, yet, I fear we have not fully learned them. However, we will say of this glory, whatever it may be, it is incorruptible, undefiled, and it fadeth not away. The only question we have to ask, and with that we wish, is--are we born again? Brethren, it is impossible for you to possess the existence of the new life without the new birth, and the glory of the new birth you cannot know without the new heart. I say--are you born again Do not stand up and say, "I am a Churchman, I was baptized and confirmed." That you may be, and yet not be born again. Do not say, "I am a Baptist, I have professed my faith and was immersed." That you may be, and not be born again Do not any, "I am of Christian parents." That you may be, and yet be an heir of wrath, even as others. Are you born again be Oh! souls, may God the Holy Ghost reveal Christ to you, and when you come to see Christ with the tearful eyes of a penitential faith, then be it known unto you that you are born again and that you have passed from death unto life, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, he that believeth not shall be damned." God help you to believe!
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Spurgeon, Charle Haddon. "Commentary on 1 Peter 1". "Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible". https://studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent