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The Solar Eclipse
March 14th, 1858 by C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892)
"I form the light, and create darkness.' Isaiah 45:7 .
We are all expecting to-morrow to witness one of the greatest sights in the universe the annular eclipse of the sun. It is possible that many of us shall have gone the way of all flesh before such a sight shall again be seen in this country and we are therefore looking for it with some degree of expectation. It is probable that hundreds and thousands of the human race will be attracted by it, to study for a few hours at least, the science of astronomy. Certain it is that our astronomers are making the most capital they possibly can of it by endeavouring to thrust it in every way under our notice, in order to induce us to make the sun, the moon, and the stars a little more the object of' our attention than they have been hitherto. Surely I need offer no apology whatever if religion comes forward to-day, and asks that attention should be drawn to her, even by the eclipse itself. Without a doubt, if there be sermons in stones, there must be a great sermon in the sun; and if there be books in the running brooks, no doubt there is many a huge volume to be found in a sun suffering eclipse. All things teach us, if we have but a mind to learn. There is nothing which we can see, or hear, or feel, which may not be the channels of great instruction to us. Let us see whether this may not lead us this morning into a train of thought which may, under God's blessing, be something far better to us than the seeing of an eclipse. I shall note this morning, in addressing you, that since the Lord creates darkness as well as light; first of all, eclipses of every kind are part of God's way of governing the world; in the second place, we shall notice that since God creates the darkness as well as the light, we may conclude beyond a doubt that he has a design in the eclipse in the darkness as well as the light; and then, thirdly, we shall notice that as all things that God has created, whether they be light or whether they be dark, have a sermon for us, no doubt there are some sermons to be found in this. I. First of all, ECLIPSES ARE A PART OF GOD'S PLAN. In the olden times the ignorant people in England were frightened at an eclipse, they could not understand what it meant. They were quite sure that there was about to be a war, or a famine, or a terrible fire. They were absolutely certain that something fearful would happen; for they regarded it as being a prophecy of coming ills. They were totally at a loss to account for it, and knew nothing about the theory which now so satisfactorily sets our minds at rest. And you are aware, that till this day, in the East and in other parts of the world still in the ignorance of barbarism, an eclipse is looked upon as a very horrible and a very unaccountable thing. The Hindus still believe that a great dragon swallows the sun, and they may be seen by thousands plunging into their sacred river, the Ganges, praying to the gods that they may set the sun at liberty, that the dragon may be compelled to disgorge him. Hundreds of other most stupid and absurd theories are still prominently believed and held in different parts of the world, and I believe that here amongst a very great number of us, an eclipse is looked upon as something contrary to the general law of nature. Now, beloved, all that understand anything of God's works, know very well that eclipses are as much a part of nature's laws as the regular sunshine, that an eclipse is no deviation from God's plan, but that it is a necessary consequence of the natural motion of the moon and the earth around the sun and each other, that there should at some stated periods be eclipses, and when we see the eclipse to-morrow, we shall not look upon it as a miracle or anything out of the ordinary course of God's providence, but we shall say it was a necessity involved in the very plan whereby God governs the earth. And now, beloved, I have only said these things to draw your attention to other eclipses. There are certain eclipses which happen in God's providence as well as in God's grace. As in nature an eclipse is part of God's plan, and is in fact involved in it, so we believe that in providence the eclipse shall sometimes overshadow the earth. I mean, the adversities, the wars, the famines, which sometimes fall on the human race, are but a part of God's divine plan of governing the earth, and have some beneficial object in their falling upon us. First, let me invite your attention to providence at large. How many times have we seen providence itself eclipsed with regard to the whole race. Behold, the Lord creates the world, and placed man upon it. "Increase and multiply," is his law. Man multiplies, fills the earth, and replenishes it. The whole earth is populated, and its valleys and hills rejoice with the voice of song. On a sudden comes an eclipse. God sends a flood of rain; he draws the plugs of the great fountains of the mighty deep, and lets the water burst up upon the earth. He bids his rain descend, not in showers, but in whole cataracts at once, and the earth becomes a void waste covered with water, and afterwards a dreary swamp covered with mud, the whole human race, with the solitary exception of eight persons, having been swept away. This is what I mean by a providential eclipse. After that God again suffers man to multiply, and the earth to be replenished. Year after year the earth laughs with harvest, and the fields are made glad with God's bounties. For seven years following each other there is such an abundance of plenty on the earth that men know not how to gather up by handfuls the stores which God has east. These seven years are overpassed, and lo! there comes an eclipse of God's bounty. There is no calf in the stall, the olive fails, and the fields yield no meat, all the land goes to Egypt to buy corn, for only in Egypt is there corn to be found. There is a great eclipse of God's bounty which happens to the world. But I need not stop to particularize the thousand instances that have happened in history. Nations have grown strong and mighty; anon there has come an eclipse of their glories, and all that has been builded has crumbled to the earth. Vast empires have been builded, and they have become great, and beneath their sway some of their people have become happy. Some savage conqueror from the north has descended with his barbarous hordes, and swept away every vestige of civilization, and the earth seems to have gone back hundreds of years. There has been a dark eclipse. Or it may have happened differently. A city is prosperous and rich. In one unhappy night a fire seizes upon it, and like the stubble before the flame, the whole city is consumed, and over the ashes of their houses the inhabitants sit down to weep and die. At another time a plague is upon the multitudes, and the pits are filled with the dead. Nations die and perish, and whole hosts of men are carried to their graves. Now, all these great eclipses of God's favour, these darkenings of the heavens, these sudden glooms that fall upon the human race, are parts of God's plan of providence. Beloved, believe me, it is God's providence, when his paths drop fatness, and when the valleys rejoice on every side. It is a part of his plan when the fields are covered with corn, and when there is grass for the cattle; but it is equally as much a part of the plan of his providence to reduce the earth to famine, and bring the human race to misery at certain stated seasons, when he sees that an eclipse is absolutely necessary for their good. It is just the same with you in your own private concerns. There is a God of providence to you. Lo, these many years has he fed you, and has never denied you the supply of your wants. Bread has been given to you, and your water has been sure. Your children have been about you. You have washed your feet with butter, you have rejoiced; you have stood fast in the ways of God, and in the ways of happiness. You have been able to say, "Our ways are ways of pleasant ness, and all our paths are peace." You have not been, of all men, the most miser able, but in some respects connected with your life, and blessed by God's providence, you have been the happiest amongst the human race; and now a dark cloud has fallen upon you. The sunlight of God's providence has set while it was yet noon. When you were rejoicing in the brightness of your light, on a sudden a midday-midnight has fallen upon you, to your horror and dismay. You are made to say, "Whence does all this evil come upon me? Is this also sent of God?" Most assuredly it is. Your penury, your sickness, your bereavement, your contempt, all these things are as much ordained for you, and settled in the path of providence, as your wealth, your comfort, and your joy. Think not that God has changed. It involves no change of the sun when an eclipse overshadows it. The sun has not moved from its predestined spot. There standeth it, fixed and secure; or if it be true that it moveth, still it moveth with such regularity that to us it seemeth still. Beloved, so it is with God. It may be that his purposes are moving onward to some great and distant goal, which yet we cannot see, circling around himself in some greater circle than human knowledge yet can guess; but this is certain, that, so far as we are concerned, God is the same, and of his years there is no end, and from his fixed and settled path he hath not swerved. His glory is undimmed, even when eye cannot see it. His love is just as bright, even when the shinings of it are concealed. He hath not moved to the right hand nor to the left. With the Father of lights there is no variableness, neither the shadow of turning. He abideth fast and fixed, though all things pass away. Let me confide then in him. Eclipses in providence, like eclipses in nature, are but a part of his own grand plan, and necessarily involved in it. I suppose that it is impossible that the earth should revolve around the sun, and that the moon should spin continually round the earth, in the same plane of their orbit, without there being eclipses. Since God has made the ellipse, or the circle, the great rule of nature, it is impossible but that eclipses should occur. Now, did you ever notice that in providence the circle is God's rule still. The earth is here to-day; it will be in the same place this day next year; it will go round the circle; it gets no further. It is just so in providence. God began the circle of his providence in Eden. That is where he will end. There was a paradise on earth, when God began his providential dealings with mankind; there will be a paradise at the end. It is the same with your providence. Naked came ye forth from your mother's womb, and naked must ye return to the earth. It is a circle. Where God has begun, there will he end; and as God has taken the rule of the circle in providence, as well as in nature, eclipses must be sure to occur. Moving in the pre destined orbit of divine wisdom, the eclipse is absolutely and imperatively necessary in God's plan of government. Troubles must come; afflictions must befall; it must, needs be that for a season ye should be in heaviness, through manifold temptations. But I have said, that eclipses must also occur in grace, and it is so. God's rule in grace is still the circle. Man was originally pure and holy; that is what God's grace will make him at last, He was pure when he was made by God in the garden. That is what God shall make him, when he comes to fashion him like unto his own glorious image, and present him complete in heaven. We begin our piety by denying the world, by being full of love to God; we often decline in grace, and God will bring us back to the state in which we were when we first began, so that we shall rejoice in none but Christ, and give our hearts to him as we did at first. Hence, there must be an eclipse in grace, because even there the circle seems to be the rule of God's gracious government. Now beloved, you are in the eclipse some of you to-day. I hear you crying, "Oh that it were with me as in months past, when the candle of the Lord shone round about me! I looked for light, but lo, darkness came; for peace, but behold, trouble. I said in my soul, my mountain standeth firm, I shall never be moved. Lord, thou didst hide thy face, and I am troubled. I sink in deep mire where there is no standing. All thy waves and thy billows have gone over me. It was but yesterday that I could read my title clear; to-day my evidences are bedimmed, and my hopes clouded. Yesterday I could climb to Pisgah's top and view the landscape o'er, and count the fields that were flowing with milk and honey, and rejoice with confidence in my future inheritance. To-day my spirit sees no heaven, it has no hopes, but many fears; no joys, but much distress;" and you are apt to say, dear friends, "Is this a part of God's plan with me? Can this be the way in which God would bring me to heaven?" Yes, it is even so. The eclipse of your faith, the darkness of your minds, the fainting of your hopes, all these things are but the parts of God's plan for making you ripe for the great inheritance into which you shall soon enter. These trials are but waves that wash you on to the rocks; they are but winds that waft your ship the more swiftly towards the desired haven. As David says in the psalm, so might I say to you, "So he bringeth them to their desired haven." By honour and dishonour, by evil report and by good report, by plenty and by poverty, by joy and by distress, by persecution and by comforts, by all these things is the life of your soul, and by each of these are you helped to hold on your way, and to be brought at last to the great goal and haven of your hopes. Oh! think not, Christian, that your sorrows are out of God's plan; they are necessary parts of it; and inasmuch as he will bring many heirs of God unto glory, it is necessary that through much tribulation he should bring them thither. I have thus tried to bring out the first truth, that the eclipse is a part of God's government, and that our temporal afflictions, and our own sorrows of heart, are but a part of that grand scheme. Permit me to trespass on your patience one minute more, when I notice, that in God's great plan of grace to the world, it is just the same. Sometimes we see a mighty reformation worked in the church. God raises up men who lead the van of the armies of Jehovah. See! error flies before them like shadows before the sunlight. Behold! the strongest towers of the enemy are tottering to their fall. The shout of a King is heard in the midst, and the saints of the Lord take courage, that their great and final victory at last is come. A few more years and those reformers are dead, and their mantle has not fallen upon any. After great mountains come deep valleys. The sons of great men are often small and drivelling; so there cometh a poor lukewarm church. After the Philadelphian, state of love, there comes the Laodicean state of lukewarmness. The church sinks! and in proportion as she sinks the enemy advances. Victory! victory! victory! shout the hosts of hell; and pushing on their course, they drive back the Lord's host, and the world trembles as in the balances, for victory seems to be on the side of the enemy. Again there comes another time of refreshing, another Pentecost; some other leader is raised up of God. Another mighty judge is brought into Israel, to drive out the Hittites and the Amorites that have invaded God's Canaan. Once more, the world rejoices and the creature that hath toiled so long, hopeth to be delivered from its bondage alas! it sinks again. The rising hath its ebb, the summer hath its winter, and the joyous time hath its season of despondency to follow it; but, beloved, all this is a part of God's plan. Do you see how God governs the ocean? When he means to produce a flood-tide, he does not make the water come marching straight up upon the shore, but as you stand there you are absolutely certain that the sand will be covered, and that the flood will dash against the cliff at the foot of which you are standing. But you see a wave come marching up, and then it returns again, and then another wave, then it dies and rolls back and another follows it. Now, it is even so in the church of God. The day must be, when the knowledge of the Lord shall cover the earth as the waters cover the sea. But this must be accomplished by different waves, by up-growing and decrease, by multiplying and by division. It must be by triumph and by victory, by conquest and by defeat, that at last God's great purpose shall ripen, and the world shall become the kingdom of our Lord, and of his Christ. Think not then that eclipses of our holy religion, or the failure of great men in the midst of us, or the decline of piety, is at all apart from God's plan; it is involved in it, and as God's great purpose moving in the circle to bring forth another gracious purpose on earth must be accomplished, so beloved, an eclipse must necessarily follow, being involved in God's very way of governing the world in his grace. II. But, secondly, EVERYTHING THAT GOD DOES HAS A DESIGN. When God creates light he has a reason for it, and when he creates darkness he has a reason for it too. God does not always tell us his reason; he always has one, We call him a sovereign God, because sometimes he acts from reasons which are beyond our knowledge; but he is never an unreasoning God. It is according to the counsel of his will that he works; not according to his will, but according to the counsel of his will, to show you that there is a reason, a wisdom and counsel in everything that he does. Now I cannot tell you what is God's design in eclipsing the sun to-morrow; we can see many gracious purposes answered by it in our minds, but I do not know of what use it is to the world. It may be that if there never were an eclipse some great change might happen in the atmosphere, something far beyond the reach of all philosophical knowledge at present, but which may yet be discovered. It may be that the eclipse, like the tornado and the hurricane, has its virtue in operating upon this lower world in some mysterious way, but that we know not. However, we are not left in any darkness about other kind of eclipses; we are quite certain that providential eclipses, and gracious eclipses, have both of them their reasons. When God sends a providential eclipse he does not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men for nought. When pestilence stalks through the land and sweeps away its myriads, think not that God has done an unthought-of act without an intention in it. When war, with its blood-red sword, sweeps the nations and lays the mother bleeding with her child, imagine not that this cometh in vain; God hath some design in all these things, and permit me to tell you what I believe to be God's design, when he sends troubles into the world, and when he sends troubles upon us. It is this, it is to draw our attention to himself. Well, said an old divine," Nobody ever looks at the sun except when he is in an eclipse." You never thought about the sun yesterday; you will all of you be staring at him to-morrow. Pieces of smoked glass, telescopes, and all kinds of inventions down to a pail of water, will be used in order to look at the sun. Why don't you look at him when he is shining brightly? There is nothing interesting in that, because it is an ordinary object. Now do you not notice, that when everything goes well with the world they never think about God? People always get religious when they get into trouble. The churches were fuller in London when we had the cholera here, than they had been for many a long day. There were more ministers went to see sick people in those times than had ever been known before. People that never read their Bible, never prayed, never thought of going to God's house, were hurrying off to a place of worship, or reading their Bibles, or pretending at least to pray, though, afterwards, when it went away, they forgot all about it; yet they did think a little of it when they were in trouble. "Surely in trouble they will seek the Lord; in the day of their distress they will seek me early." Doubtless, we should entirely forget God, if it were not for some of those eclipses which now and then happen. God would not have his name remembered on earth at all by the race of man if he did not make them recollect his name, when he scourged it into them with his rod. Famine, pestilence, the sword, the flood, all these must come upon us to be terrible remembrancers, to make us think of the dread King who holds the thunders in his hand, and keeps the lightnings in his power. Doubtless, this is God's great design in his afflictive providences, to make us think of him. But there is another design. Some times troublous times tend to prepare the world for something better afterwards. War is an awful thing; but I doubt not, it purges the moral atmosphere, just as a hurricane sweeps away a pestilence. It is a fearful thing to hear of famine, or to hear of plague; but each of these things has some effect upon the human race. An evil generally goes to make room for a greater good. Men may bewail the fire of London, but it was the greatest blessing God could have sent to London. It burnt down a set of old houses that were placed so close together that it was impossible for them to be without the plague; and when these old things had been burnt down, there was then room for a healthier action; and there has been less plague, and less disease ever since. Many of the troubles that come to the great wide world, are meant to be like axes, to cut down some deadly upas tree, and lay it level with the ground. That tree, when it stood, scattered greater evil, though it scattered it gradually, than the injury which God sent on a sudden, did inflict, though it was more apparent to the mind, having come all at once. Ah, my hearer, God has sent thee providential trouble. Thou art not his child; thou dost not fear his name nor love him. Thou art saying, "Why has this trouble happened to me?" God has a gracious design in it. There are many men that are brought to Christ by trouble. Many a sinner has sought the Saviour on his sick bed who never would have sought him anywhere else. Many a merchant whose trade has prospered, has lived without God; he has been glad to find the Saviour when his house has tottered into bankruptcy. We have known many a person who could afford to despise God while the stream flowed smoothly on, but that same man has been compelled to bow his knee, and seek peace through the blood of Christ, when he has come into the whirlpool of distress, and the whirlwind of trouble hath got hold upon him. There is a story told, that in the olden times, Artaxerxes and another great king were engaged in a furious fight. In the middle of the battle a sudden eclipse happened, and such was the horror of all the warriors, that they made peace there and then. Oh, if an eclipse of trouble should induce you to ground arms and seek to be reconciled unto God! Sinner, you are fighting against God, lifting the arm of your rebellion against him. Happy shall you be if that trouble which is now fallen upon you should lead you to throw down the weapons of your rebellion, and fly to the arms of God and say, "Lord have mercy upon me a sinner." It will be the best thing that thou hast ever had. Thy trouble will be far better to thee than joys could have been, if thy sorrows shall induce thee to fly to Jesus who can make peace through the blood of his cross. May this be the happy result of thine own troubles and sorrows. But furthermore, eclipses of grace have also their end and design. The Christian asks why it is that God does not seem to favour him in his conscience as much as he did aforetime. "Why is it that I have not more faith? Why have the promises lost their sweetness? Why has the Word of God seemed to fail in its power in operating upon my soul? Why has God hidden his face from me?" Christian, it is that thou mayest begin to search thyself, and say, "Show me wherefore thou contendest with me." God's people are afflicted in order that they may not go astray. "Before I was afflicted," said the Psalmist, "I went astray, but now have I kept thy Word." Leave a Christian alone, and he becomes like a piece of iron covered with rust; he loses all his brightness. Take the file of affliction, and once more the brightness becomes apparent. Christians without trouble would be like oysters without the sickness; they would not have produced pearls. The pearl oyster would have no pearl unless some disease had fallen upon it; and were it not that trouble lights upon the Christian, he would live without producing the pearl of a holy and contented piety. God's rods are improvers; when they are laid upon us they always mend us. God scarifies the Christian, that he may cleanse him of his weeds; he ploughs him deep that he may turn up the subsoil to the air, that the influence of the Divine Spirit may rest upon him. He puts us into the crucible and into the furnace, that the heat may burn away our dross, and may consume all our impurities. He sends us into the deep waters, that they may be like a sacred baptism to us, and may help in sanctifying us, by delivering us from our pride, our lust, our worldliness, and our conceit. Happy is the man who understands this who knows that all things work together for good to them that love God, and believes that even an eclipse of God's countenance hath its end and design, in making him perfectly conformed to the image of Christ Jesus the Lord. III. And now not to detain you longer, I have got a sermon or two more to preach to you from the eclipse. To-morrow, Christians, if you will just remember what I am about to say you will learn a useful lesson. What is that which will hide the sun from us to-morrow? It is the ungrateful moon. She has borrowed all her light from the sun month after month; she would be a black blot, if the sun did not shine upon her, and now see all the return she makes is, she goes impudently before his face and prevents his light from shining upon us. Do you know anything at all like that in your own history? Have you not a great many comforts which you enjoy upon earth that are just like the moon? They borrow all their light from the sun. They would be no comforts to you unless God shone in them and they reflected back the light from his countenance. What is your husband, your wife; what are your children, your friends, your house, your home? What are all these but moons that borrow their light from the sun? Oh how ungrateful it is when we let our comforts get before our God; no wonder that we get an eclipse when we put these things that God gave to be our comforts into God's own throne and make them our idols. Oh! if our children take half of our hearts, if our friends take away our souls from Jesus, if like it was with Solomon, the wife leads the heart astray, if our goods, our house, our lands become the object of our life, if we set our affections upon them instead of setting them upon the things above, no wonder that there is an eclipse. Oh ungrateful heart that allows these moons of comfort to hide the sun. Old Master Brookes very prettily says, the husband gives his wife rings which she wears upon her finger as remembrances of his love. Suppose a wife should be so foolish as to love her jewels better than her husband, suppose she should set her heart more upon his love-tokens than upon his person, oh, what marvel if he should then take the rings and the jewels away that she might again love him. It is even so with us; God loves his children and he gives us strong faith and gives us joy and comfort, and then if we begin to set our hearts upon these more than upon him, he will come and take them away, for saith he, "I must have all thy love. I gave thee these to win thy love, not to rob me of it, and inasmuch as thou dost divert thine heart into them, instead of allowing thy love to flow in one channel towards me; I will stop up the channel of thy comfort, that thy heart may cleave to me, and to me alone.' Oh. for a heart that is like Anacreon's lyre, that would sing of love alone, that whatever subject you tried to bring to it, it would not resound with anything save love! Oh, that our hearts were like that towards God, so that when we tried to sing of comforts and of mercies, our hearts would only sing of God! Oh, that every string were made so divine, that it would never trill to any finger but the finger of the chief player upon my stringed instruments, the Lord Jesus Christ! Oh, that we had a heart like David's harp, that none but David could play; a soul that none but Jesus could make glad and cause to rejoice! Take care Christian, lest thy comforts like the moon eclipse thy sun. That is a sermon for thee, remember it, and be wise from it. And let the Christian recollect another sermon. Let him take his child out, and when he takes him outside the door, and he sees the sun begin to grow dark and all things fade away, and a strange colour coming over the landscape, the child will begin to cry and say, "Father the sun is going out, he is dying; we shall never have any light again." And as gradually the black moon creeps over the sun's broad surface and there remains only a solitary streak of light, the tears run down the child's eyes as he says, "The sun is nearly quenched; God has blown it out, it will never shine upon us again. We shall have to live in darkness;" and he would begin to weep for sorrow of heart. You would touch your child on the head, and say, "No, my little boy, the sun has not gone out; it is only the moon passing across its face; it will shine bright enough presently." And your boy would soon believe you; and as he saw the light returning, he would feel thankful, and would believe what you had said, that the sun was always the same. Now, you will be like a child to-morrow. When you get into trouble you will be saying, "God has changed." Then let God's Word speak to you as unto children, and let it say, "No, he has not changed; with him is no variableness, neither shadow of a turning."
"My soul through many changes goes, His love no variation knows."
And now, last of all, a total eclipse is one of the most terrific and grand sights that ever will be seen. We shall not see the eclipse here in all its majestic terror, but when the eclipse of the sun is total it is sublime. Travellers have given us some records of their own experience. When the sun has been setting far away, the mountains seemed to be covered with darkness, except upon their summits, where there was just a streak of light, when all below was swathed in darkness. The heavens grew darker and darker and darker, until at last it became as black as night, and here and there the stars might be seen shining, but beside them there was no light, and nothing could be discerned. I was thinking that if on a sudden the sun should set in ten-fold darkness, and never should rise again, what a horrid world this would be! If to-morrow the sun should actually die out, and never shine any more, what a fearful world this would be to live in! And then the thought strikes me ;Are there not some men, and are there not some here, who will one day have a total eclipse of all their comforts? Thank God, whatever eclipse happens to a Christian, it is never a total eclipse: there is always a ring of comfort left; there is always a crescent of love and mercy to shine upon him. But mark thee, sinner, when thou comest to die, bright though thy joys be now, and fair thy prospects, thou wilt suffer a total eclipse. Soon shall your sun set, and set in everlasting night. A few more months, and your gaiety shall be over; your dreams of pleasure shall be dissipated by the terrible wailing of the judgment-trump; a few more months, and this gay dance of revelry on earth shall all have passed away; and that passed away, remember, you have nothing to expect in the world to come but "a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation." Can you guess what the Saviour meant, when he said "outer darkness, where there is wailing and gnashing of teeth?" Can any tell except those eclipsed spirits that have been these many years writhing in the torments of eternal judgement; can any tell what is meant by that "Outer darkness !" It is darkness so thick, that hope, which lives anywhere, cannot dart even a feeble ray through its impenetrable gloom; it is a darkness so black that you have no candle of your own fancy, no fair imagination to illuminate. A horror thicker than the darkness of Egypt, a darkness that may be felt will get hold upon the spirit. "Depart, ye cursed," shall roll, like volumes of cloud and darkness over the accursed spirit. "Cursed, cursed, cursed," pronounced by the Sacred Trinity thrice, shall come, come like a three-fold ocean of unutterable depth, and shall in its caverns hide the soul beyond the reach of hope. I am but talking in simile and figure of a matter which none of us can thoroughly understand, but which each of us must know, unless we are saved by grace. My fellow-sinner, hast thou to-day any hope that when death shall come thou shalt be found in Christ? If thou hast none, beware and tremble; if thou hast any, take care it is "a good hope through grace." If thou hast no hope, but art seeking one, hear me while I tell thee the way of salvation. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, became man; he lived in this world, he suffered and he died; and the object of his death was this that all who believe may be saved. What you are required to believe is simply this. Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners: do you feel that you are a sinner? If so, he came to save you. All you have to do and that grace makes you do is to believe that he came to save sinners, and therefore came to save you. Mark, he did not come to save all; he came to save sinners. All men who can claim the title of sinners, Christ came to save. If you are too good to be a sinner, then you have no part in this matter; if you are too proud to confess that you are a sinner, then this has nothing to do with you; but if with a humble heart, with a penitential lip, you can say, "Lord, have mercy upon me a sinner," then Christ was punished for your sins, and you cannot be punished for them. Christ has died instead of you; believe on him, and you may go your way rejoicing that you are saved now, and shall be saved eternally. May God the Holy Spirit first teach you that you are a sinner, then lead you to believe that Christ died for sinners and then apply the promise, so that you may see that he died for you; and that done, you may "rejoice in hope of the glory of God," and your sun shall never set in an eclipse, but shall set on earth to rise with tenfold splendour in the upper sphere where it shall never know a cloud, a setting, or an eclipse.
Three Sermons: Sovereignty and Salvation; Life for a Look; The Life-Look
Sovereignty and Salvation
Delivered on Sabbath Morning, January 6, 1856, by the
REV. C. H. Spurgeon
At New Park Street Chapel, Southwark.
"Look unto me and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else." Isaiah 45:22 .
SIX years ago to-day, as near as possible at this very hour of the day, I was "in the gall of bitterness and in the bonds of iniquity," but had yet, by divine grace, been led to feel the bitterness of that bondage, and to cry out by reason of the soreness of its slavery. Seeking rest, and finding none, I stepped within the house of God, and sat there, afraid to look upward, lest I should be utterly cut off, and lest his fierce wrath should consume me. The minister rose in his pulpit, and, as I have done this morning, read this text, "Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else." I looked that moment; the grace of faith was vouchsafed to me in the self-same instant; and now I think I can say with truth,
"Ere since by faith I saw the stream
His flowing wounds supply,
Redeeming love has been my theme,
And shall be till I die."
I shall never forget that day, while memory holds its place; nor can I help repeating this text whenever I remember that hour when first I knew the Lord. How strangely gracious! How wonderfully and marvelously kind, that he who heard these words so little time ago for his own soul's profit, should now address you this morning as his hearers from the same text, in the full and confident hope that some poor sinner within these walls may hear the glad tidings of salvation for himself also, and may to-day, on this 6th of January, be "turned from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God!"
If it were within the range of human capacity to conceive a time when God dwelt alone, without his creatures, we should then have one of the grandest and most stupendous ideas of God. There was a season when as yet the sun had never run his race, nor commenced flinging his golden rays across space, to gladden the earth. There was an era when no stars sparkled in the firmament. for there was no sea of azure in which they might float. There was a time when all that we now behold of God's great universe was yet unborn, slumbering within the mind of God, as yet uncreate and no-existent; yet there was God, and he was "over all blessed for ever;" though no seraphs hymned his praises, though no strong-winged cherubs flashed like lightning to do his high behests, though he was without a retinue, yet he sat as a king on his throne, the mighty God, for ever to be worshipped the Dread Supreme, in solemn silence dwelling by himself in vast immensity, making the placid clouds his canopy, and the light from his own countenance forming the brightness of his glory. God was, and God is. From the beginning God was God; ere worlds had beginning, he was "from everlasting to everlasting." Now, when it pleased him to create his creatures, does it not strike you how infinitely those creatures must have been below himself? If you are potters, and you fashion upon the wheel a vessel, shall that piece of clay arrogate to itself equality with you? Nay, at what a distance will it be from you, because you have been in part its creator. So where the Almighty formed his creatures, was it not consummate impudence, that they should venture for a moment to compare themselves with him? Yet that arch traitor, that leader of rebels, Satan, sought to climb to the high throne of God, soon to find his aim too high, and hell itself not low enough wherein to escape divine vengeance. He knows that God is "God alone." Since the world was created, man has imitated Satan; the creature of a day, the ephemera of an hour, has sought to match itself with the Eternal. Hence it has even been one of the objects of the great Jehovah, to teach mankind that he is God, and beside him there is none else. This is the lesson he has been teaching the world since it went astray from him. He has been busying himself in breaking down the high places, in exalting the valleys, in casting down imaginations and lofty looks, that all the world might
"Know that he Lord is God alone,
He can create, and he destroy."
This morning we shall attempt to show you, in the first place, how God has been teaching this great lesson to the world that he is God, and beside him there is none else; and then, secondly, the special way in which he designs to teach it in the matter of salvation "Look unto me, and be ye saved: for I am God, and there is none else."
I. First, then, HOW HAS GOD BEEN TEACHING THIS LESSON TO MANKIND?
We reply, he has taught it, first of all, to false gods, and to the idolaters who have bowed before them. Man, in his wickedness and sin, has set up a block of wood and stone to be his maker, and has bowed before it. He hath fashioned for himself out of a goodly tree an image made unto the likeness of mortal man, or of the fishes of the sea, or of creeping things of the earth, and he has prostrated his body, and his soul too, before that creature of his own hands, calling it a god, while it had neither eyes to see, nor hands to handle, nor ears to hear. But how hath God poured contempt on the ancient gods of the heathen? Where are they now? Are they so much as known? Where are those false deities before whom the multitudes of Ninevah prostrated themselves? Ask the moles and the bats, whose companions they are; or ask the mounds beneath which they are buried; or go where the idle gazer walketh through the museum see them there as curiosities, and smile to think that men should ever bow before such gods as these. and where are the gods of Persia? Where are they? The fires are quenched, and the fire-worshipper hath almost ceased out of the earth. Where are the gods of Greece those gods adorned with poetry, and hymned in the most sublime odes? Where are they? They are gone. Who talks of them now, but as things that were of yore? Jupiter doth any one bow before him? And who is he that adores Saturn? They are passed away, and they are forgotten. And where are the gods of Rome? Doth Janus now command the temple? or do the vestal virgins now feed their perpetual fires? Are there any now that bow before these gods? No, they have lost their thrones. And where are the gods of the South Sea Islands those bloody demons before whom wretched creatures prostrated their bodies? They have well-nigh become extinct. Ask the inhabitants of China and Polynesia where are the gods before which they bowed? Ask, and echo says ask, and ask again. They are cast down from their thrones; they are hurled from their pedestals; their chariots are broken, their sceptres are burnt in the fire, their glories are departed; God hath gotten unto himself the victory over false gods, and taught their worshippers that he is God, and that beside him there is none else. Are their gods still worshipped, or idols before which the nations bow themselves? Wait but a little while, and ye shall see them fall. Cruel Juggernaut, whose car still crushes in its motion the foolish ones who throw themselves before it shall yet be the object of derision; and the most noted idols, such as Buddha, and Brahma, and Vishnu, shall yet stoop themselves to the earth, and men shall tread them down as mire in the streets; for God will teach all men that he is God, and that there is none else.
Mark ye, yet again, how God has taught this truth to empires. Empires have risen up, and have been gods of the era; their kings and princes have taken to themselves high titles, and have been worshipped by the multitude. But ask the empires whether there is any beside God? Do you not think you hear the boasting soliloquy of Babylon "I sit as a queen, and am no widow; I shall see no sorrow; I am god, and there is none beside me?" And think ye not now, if ye walk over ruined Babylon, that ye will meet aught save the solemn spirit of the Bible, standing like a prophet gray with age, and telling you that there is one God, and that beside him there is none else? Go ye to Babylon, covered with its sand, the sand of its own ruins; stand ye on the mounds of Nineveh, and let the voice come up "There is one God, and empires sink before him; there is only one Potentate, and the princes and kings of the earth, with their dynasties and thrones, are shaken by the trampling of his foot." Go, seat yourselves in the temples of Greece; mark ye there what proud words Alexander once did speak; but now, where is he, and where his empire too? Sit on the ruined arches of the bridge of Carthage, or walk ye through the desolated theatres of Rome, and ye will hear a voice in the wild wind amid those ruins "I am God, and there is none else." "O city, though didst call thyself eternal; I have made thee melt away like dew. Though saidst 'I sit on seven hills, and I shall last forever; ' I have made thee crumble, and thou art now a miserable and contemptible place, compared with what thou wast. Thou wast once stone, thou madest thyself; I have made thee stone again, and brought thee low." O! how has God taught monarchies and empires that have set themselves up like new kingdoms of heaven. that he is God, and that there is none else!
Again: how has he taught his great truth to monarchs! There are some who have been most proud that have had to learn it in a way more hard than others. Take, for instance, Nebuchadnezzar. His crown is on his head, his purple robe is over his shoulders; he walks through proud Babylon, and says, "Is not this great Babylon which I have builded?" Do you see that creature in the field there? It is a man. "A man?" say you; its hair has grown like eagles' feathers, and its nails like birds' claws; it walketh on all-fours, and eateth grass, like an ox; it is driven out from men. That is the monarch who said "Is not this great Babylon that I have builded?" And he is now restored to Babylon's palace, that he may "bless the Most High who is able to abase those that walk in pride." Remember another monarch. Look at Herod. He sits in the midst of his people, and he speaks. Hear ye the impious shout? "It is the voice of God," they cry, "and not the voice of man." The proud monarch gives not God the glory; he affects the God, and seems to shake the spheres, imagining himself divine. There is a worm that creepeth into his body, and yet another, and another; and ere that sun has set, he is eaten up of worms. Ah! monarch! though thoughtest of being a god, and worms have eaten thee! thou hast thought of being more than man; and what art thou? Less than man, for worms consume thee, and thou art the prey of corruption. Thus God humbleth the proud; thus he abaseth the mighty. We might give you instances from modern history; but the death of a king is all-sufficient to teach this one lesson, if men would but learn it. When kings die, and in funeral pomp are carried to the grave, we are taught the lesson "I am God, and beside me there is none else." When we hear of revolutions, and the shaking of empires when we see old dynasties tremble, and gray-haired monarchs driven from their thrones, then it is that Jehovah seems to put his foot upon land and sea, and with his hand uplifted cries "Hear! ye inhabitants of the earth! Ye are but as grasshoppers; 'I am God, and beside me there is none else.'"
Again: our God has had much to do to teach this lesson to the wise men of this world; for as rank, pomp, and power, have set themselves up in the place of God, so has wisdom; and one of the greatest enemies of Deity has always been the wisdom of man. The wisdom of man will not see God. Professing themselves to be wise, wise men have become fools. But have ye not noticed, in reading history, how God has abased the pride of wisdom? In ages long gone by, he sent mighty minds into the world, who devised systems of philosophy. "These systems," they said, "will last forever." There pupils thought them infallible, and therefore wrote their sayings on enduring parchment, saying, "This book will last forever; succeeding generations of men will read it, and to the last man that book shall be handed down, as the epitome of wisdom." "Ah! but," said God, "that book of yours shall be seen to be folly, ere another hundred years have rolled away." And so the mighty thoughts of Socrates, and the wisdom of Solon, are utterly forgotten now; and could we hear them speak, the veriest child in our schools would laugh to think that he understandeth more of philosophy than they. But when man has found the vanity of one system, his eyes have sparkled at another; if Aristotle will not suffice, here is Bacon; now I shall know everything; and he sets to work and says that this new philosophy is to last forever. He lays his stones with fair colors, and he thinks that every truth he piles up is a precious imperishable truth. But, alas! another century comes, and it is found to be "wood, hay, and stubble." A new sect of philosophers rise up, who refute their predecessors. So too, we have wise men in this day wise secularists, and so on, who fancy they have obtained the truth; but within another fifty years and mark that word this hair shall not be silvered over with gray, until the last of that race shall have perished, and that man shall be thought a fool that was ever connected with such a race. Systems of infidelity pass away like a dew-drop before the sun, for God says, "I am God, and beside me there is none else." This Bible is the stone that shall break in powder philosophy; this is the mighty battering ram that shall dash all systems of philosophy in pieces; this is the stone that a woman may yet hurl upon the head of every Abimelech, and he shall be utterly destroyed. O church of God! fear not; thou shalt do wonders; wise men shall be confounded, and thou shalt know, and they too, that he is God, and that beside him there is none else.
"Surely," says one, "the Church of God does not need to be taught this." Yes, we answer, she does; for of all beings, those whom God has made the objects of his grace are perhaps the most apt to forget this cardinal truth, that he is God, and that beside him there is none else. How did the church in Canaan forget it, when they bowed before other gods, and therefore he brought against them mighty kings and princes, and afflicted them sore. How did Israel forget it; and he carried them away captive into Babylon. And what Israel did, in Canaan and in Babylon, that we do now. We too, too often, forget that he is God, and beside him there is none else. Doth not the Christian know what I mean, when I tell him this great fact? For hath he not done it himself? In certain times prosperity has come upon him; soft gales have blown his bark along, just where his wild will wished to steer; and he has said within himself: "Now I have peace, now I have happiness, now the object I wished for is within my grasp, now I will say, 'Sit down, my soul, and take thy rest; eat, drink, and be merry; these things will well content me; make thou these thy god, be thou blessed and happy.'" But have we not seen our God dash the goblet to the earth, spill the sweet wine, and instead thereof fill it with gall? and as he has given it to us, he has said "Drink it, drink it: ye have thought to find a god on earth, but drain the cup and know its bitterness." When we have drunk it, nauseous the draft was, and we have cried, "Ah! God, I will drink no more of these things; thou art God, and beside thee there is none else." And ah! how often, too, have we devised schemes for the future, without asking God's permission! Men have said, like those foolish ones James mentioned, "We will do such-and-such things on the morrow; we will buy and sell and get gain." whereas they knew not what was to be on the morrow,, for long ere the morrow came they were unable to buy and sell; death had claimed them, and a small span of earth held all their frame. God teaches his people every day, by sickness, by affliction, by depression of spirits, by the forsakings of God, by the loss of the Spirit for a season, by the lackings of the joys of his countenance, that he is God, and that beside him there is none else. And we must not forget that there are some special servants of God raised up to do good works, who in a peculiar manner have to learn this lesson. Let a man, for instance, be called to the great work of preaching the gospel. He is successful; God helped him; thousands wait at his feet, and multitudes hang upon his lips; as truly as that man is a man, he will have a tendency to be exalted above measure, and too much will he begin to look to himself, and too little to his God. Let men speak who know, and what they know let them speak; and they will say, "It is true, it is most true." If God gives us a special mission, we generally begin to take some honor and glory to ourselves. But in review of the eminent saints of God, have you never observed how God has made them feel that he was God, and beside him there was none else? Poor Paul might have thought himself a god, and been puffed up above measure, by reason of the greatness of his revelation, had not there been a thorn in the flesh. But Paul could feel that he was not a god, for he had a thorn in the flesh, and gods could not have thorns in the flesh. Sometimes God teaches the minister, by denying him help on special occasions. We come up into our pulpits and say, "oh! I wish I could have a good day to-day!" We begin to labor; we have been just as earnest in prayer, and just as indefatigable; but it is like a blind horse turning round a mill, or like Samson with Delilah: we shake our vain limbs with vast surprise, "make feeble fight," and win no victories. We are made to see that the Lord is God, and that beside him there is none else. Very frequently God teaches this to the minister, leading him to see his own sinful nature. He will have such an insight into his own wicked and abominable heart, that he will feel as he comes up the pulpit stairs that he does not deserve so much as to sit in his pew, much less to preach to his fellows. Although we feel always joy in the declaration of God's Word, yet we have known what it is to totter on the pulpit steps, under a sense that the chief of sinners should scarcely be allowed to preach to others. Ah! beloved, I do not think he will be very successful as a minister who is not taken into the depths and blackness of his own soul, and made to exclaim, "Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ." There is another antidote which God applies in the case of ministers. If he does not deal with them personally, he raises up a host of enemies, that it may be seen that he is God, and God alone. An esteemed friend sent me, yesterday, a valuable old Ms. of one of George Whitefield's hymns which was sung on Kennington Common. It is a splendid hymn, thoroughly Whitefieldian all through. It showed that his reliance was wholly on the Lord, and that God was within him. What! will a man subject himself to the calumnies of the multitude, will he toil and work day after day unnecessarily, will he stand up Sabbath after Sabbath and preach the gospel and have his name maligned and slandered, if he has not the grace of God in him? For myself, I can say, that were it not that the love of Christ constrained me, this hour might be the last that I should preach, so far as the ease of the thing is concerned. "Necessity is laid upon us; yea, woe is unto us if we preach not the gospel." But that opposition through which God carries his servants, leads them to see at once that he is God, and that there is none else. If every one applauded, if all were gratified, we should think ourselves God; but, when they hiss and hoot, we turn to our God, and cry,
"If on my face, for thy dear name,
Shame and reproach should be,
I'll hail reproach and welcome shame,
If thou'lt remember me."
II. This brings us to the second portion of our discourse. Salvation is God's greatest work; and, therefore, in his greatest work, he specially teaches us this lesson, That he is God, and that beside him there is none else. Our text tells us how he teaches it. He says, "Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth." He shows us that he is God, and that beside him there is none else, in three ways. First, by the person to whom he directs us: "look unto me, and be ye saved." Secondly, by the means he tells us to use to obtain mercy: "Look," simply, "Look." And thirdly, by the persons whom he calls to "look:" "Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth."
1. First, to whom does God tell us to look for salvation? O, does it not lower the pride of man, when we hear the Lord say, "Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth?" It is not. "Look to your priest, and be ye saved:" if you did, there would be another god, and beside him there would be some one else. It is not "Look to yourself;" if so, then there would be a being who might arrogate some of the praise of salvation. But it is "Look unto me." How frequently you who are coming to Christ look to yourselves. "O!" you say, "I do not repent enough." That is looking to yourself. "I do not believe enough." That is looking to yourself. "I am too unworthy." That is looking to yourself. "I cannot discover," says another, "that I have any righteousness." It is quite right to say that you have not any righteousness; but it is quite wrong to look for any. It is, "Look unto me." God will have you turn your eye off yourself and look unto him. The hardest thing in the world is to turn a man's eye off himself; as long as he lives, he always has a predilection to turn his eyes inside, and look at himself; whereas God says, "Look unto me." From the cross of Calvary, where the bleeding hands of Jesus drop mercy; from the Garden of Gethsemane, where the bleeding pores of the Saviour sweat pardons, the cry comes, "Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth." From Calvary's summit, where Jesus cries, "It is finished," I hear a shout, "Look, and be saved." But there comes a vile cry from our soul, "Nay, look to yourself! look to yourself!" Ah, my hearer, look to yourself, and you will be damned. That certainly will come of it. As long as you look to yourself there is no hope for you. It is not a consideration of what you are, but a consideration of what God is, and what Christ is, that can save you. It is looking from yourself to Jesus. P! there be men that quite misunderstand the gospel; they think that righteousness qualifies them to come to Christ; whereas sin is the only qualification for a man to come to Jesus. Good old Crisp says, "Righteousness keeps me from Christ: the whole have no need of a physician, but they that are sick. Sin makes me come to Jesus, when sin is felt; and, in coming to Christ, the more sin I have the more cause I have to hope for mercy." David said, and it was a strange thing, too, "Have mercy upon me, for mine iniquity is great." But, David, why did not you say that it was little? Because, David knew that the bigger his sins were, the better reason for asking mercy. The more vile a man is, the more eagerly I invite him to believe in Jesus. A sense of sin is all we have to look for as ministers. We preach to sinners; and let us know that a man will take the title of sinner to himself, and we then say to him, "Look unto Christ, and ye shall be saved." "Look," this is all he demands of thee, and even this he gives thee. If thou lookest to thyself thou art damned; thou art a vile miscreant, filled with loathsomeness, corrupt and corrupting others. But look thou here seest thou that man hanging on the cross? Dost thou behold his agonized head dropping meekly down upon his breast? Dost thou see that thorny crown, causing drops of blood to trickle down his cheeks? Dost thou see his hands pierced and rent, and his blest feet, supporting the weight of his own frame, rent well-nigh in twain with the cruel nails? Sinner! dost thou hear him shriek, "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabbacthani?" Dost thou hear him cry, "It is finished?" Dost thou mark his head hang down in death? Seest thou that side pierced with the spear, and the body taken from the cross? O, come thou hither! Those hands were nailed for thee; those feet gushed gore for thee; that side was opened wide for thee; and if thou wantest to know how thou canst find mercy, there it is. "Look!" "Look unto me!" Look no longer to Moses. Look no longer to Sinai. Come thou here and look to Calvary, to Calvary's victim, and to Joseph's grave. And look thou yonder, to the man who near the throne sites with his Father, crowned with light and immortality. "Look, sinner," he says, this morning, to you, "Look unto me, and be ye saved." It is in this way God teaches that there is none beside him; because he makes us look entirely to him, and utterly away from ourselves.
2. But the second thought is, the means of salvation. It is, "Look unto me, and be ye saved." You have often observed, I am sure, that many people are fond of an intricate worship, and involved religion, one they can hardly understand. They cannot endure worship so simple as ours. Then they must have a man dressed in white, and a man dressed in black; then they must have what they call an altar and a chancel. After a little while that will not suffice, and they must have flower-pots and candles. The clergyman then becomes a priest, and he must have a variegated dress, with a cross on it. So it goes on; what is simply a plate becomes a paten, and what was once a cup becomes a chalice; and the more complicated the ceremonies are, the better they like them. They like their minister to stand like a superior being. The world likes a religion they cannot comprehend. But have you never noticed how gloriously simple the Bible is? It will not have any of your nonsense; it speaks plain, and nothing but plain things. "Look!" There is not an unconverted man who likes this, "Look unto Christ, and be ye saved." No, he comes to Christ like Naaman to Elijah; and when it is said, "Go, wash in Jordan," he replies, "I verily thought he would come and put his hand on the place, and call on the name of his God. But the idea of telling me to wash in Jordan, what a ridiculous thing! Anybody could do that!" If the prophet had bidden him to do some great thing, would he not have done it? Ah! certainly he would. And if, this morning, I could preach that any one who walked from here to Bath without his shoes and stockings, or did some impossible thing, should be saved, you would start off tomorrow morning before breakfast. If it would take me seven years to describe the way of salvation, I am sure you would all long to hear it. If only one learned doctor could tell the way to heaven, how would he be run after! And if it were in hard words, with a few scraps of Latin and Greek, it would be all the better. But it is a simple gospel that we have to preach. It is only "Look!" "Ah!" you say, "Is that the gospel? I shall not pay any attention to that." But why has God ordered you to do such a simple thing? Just to take down your pride, and to show you that he is God, and that beside him there is none else. O, mark how simple the way of salvation is. It is "Look! look! look!" Four letters, and two of them alike! "Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth." Some divines want a week to tell what you are to do to be saved; but God the Holy Ghost only wants four letters to do it. "Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth." How simple is that way of salvation! and O, how instantaneous! It takes us some time to move our hand, buy a look does not require a moment. So a sinner believes in a moment; and the moment that sinner believes and trusts in his crucified God for pardon, at once he receives salvation in full through his blood. There may be one that came in here this morning unjustified in his conscience, that will go out justified rather than others. There may be some here, filthy sinners one moment, pardoned the next. It is done in an instant. "Look! look! look!" And how universal it is! Because, wherever I am, however far off, it just says, "Look!" It does not say I am to see; it only says, "Look!" If we look on a thing in the dark, we cannot see it; but we have done what we were told. So, if a sinner only looks to Jesus he will save him; for Jesus in the dark is as good as Jesus in the light; and Jesus, when you cannot see him, is as good as Jesus when you can. It is only, "Look!" "Ah! says one, "I have been trying to see Jesus this year, but I have not seen him." It does not say, see him, but "Look unto him." And it says that they who looked were enlightened. If there is an obstacle before you, and you only look in the right direction, it is sufficient. "Look unto me." It is not seeing Christ so much as looking after him. The will after Christ, the wish after Christ, the desire after Christ, the trusting in Christ, the hanging on Christ, that is what is wanted. "Look! look! look!" Ah! if the man bitten by the serpent had turned his sightless eyeballs towards the brazen serpent, though he had not seen it, he would still have had his life restored. It is looking, not seeing, that saves the sinner.
We say again, how this humbles a man! There is a gentleman who says, "Well, if it had been a thousand pounds that would have saved me, I would have thought nothing of it." But gold and silver is cankered; it is good for nothing. "Then, am I to be saved just the same as my servant Betty?" Yes, just the same; there is no other way of salvation for you. That is to show man that Jehovah is God, and that beside him there is none else. The wise man says, "If it had been to work the most wonderful problem, or to solve the greatest mystery, I would have done it. May I not have some mysterious gospel? May I not believe in some mysterious religion?" No; it is "Look!" "What! am I to be saved just like that Ragged School Boy, who can't read his letters?" Yes, you must, or you will not be saved at all. Another says, "I have been very moral and upright; I have observed all the laws of the land; and, if there is anything else to do, I will do it. I will eat only fish on Fridays, and keep all the fasts of the church, if that will save me." No, sir, that will not save you; your good works are good for nothing. "What! must I be saved in the same way as a harlot or a drunkard?" Yes, sir; there is only one way of salvation for all. "He hath concluded all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all." He hath passed a sentence of condemnation on all, that the free grace of God might come upon many to salvation. "Look! look! look!" This is the simple method of salvation. "Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth."
But, lastly, mark how God has cut down the pride of man, and has exalted himself by the persons whom he has called to look. "Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth." When the Jew heard Isaiah say that, "Ah!" he exclaimed, "you ought to have said, 'Look unto me, O Jerusalem, and be saved.' That would have been right. But those Gentile dogs, are they to look and be saved?" "Yes," says God; "I will show you Jews, that, though I have given you many privileges, I will exalt others above you; I can do as I will with my own."
Now, who are the ends of the earth? Why, there are poor heathen nations now that are very few degrees removed from brutes, uncivilized and untaught; but if I might go and tread the desert, and find the Bushman in his kraal, or go to the South Seas and find a cannibal, I would say to the cannibal or the Bushman, "Look unto Jesus, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth." They are some of "the ends of the earth," and the gospel is sent to as much to them as to the polite Grecians, the refined Romans, or the educated Britons. But I think "the ends of the earth" imply those who have gone the farthest away from Christ. I say, drunkard, that means you. You have been staggering back. till you have got right to the ends of the earth; you have almost had delirium tremens; you cannot be much worse. There is not a man breathing worse than you. Is there? Ah! but God, in order to humble your pride, says to you, "Look unto me, and be ye saved." There is another who has lived a life of infamy and sin, until she has ruined herself, and even Satan seems to sweep her out at the back door; but God says, "Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth." Methinks I see one trembling here, and saying, "Ah, I have not been one of these, sir, but I have been something worse; for I have attended the house of God, and I have stifled convictions, and put off all thoughts of Jesus, and now I think he will never have mercy on me." You are one of them. "Ends of the earth!" So long as I find any who feel like that, I can tell them that they are "the ends of the earth." "But," says another, "I am so peculiar; if I did not feel as I do, it would be all very well; but I feel that my case is a peculiar one." That is all right; they are a peculiar people. You will do. But another one says, "There is nobody in the world like me; I do not think you will find a being under the sun that has had so many calls, and put them all away, and so many sins on his head. Besides, I have guilt that I should not like to confess to any living creature." One of "the ends of the earth" again; therefore, all I have to do is to cry out, in the Master's name, "Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else." But thou sayest, sin will not let thee look. I tell thee, sin will be removed the moment thou dost look. "But I dare not; he will condemn me; I fear to look." He will condemn thee more if thou dost not look. Fear, then, and look; but do not let thy fearing keep thee from looking. "But he will cast me out." Try him. "But I cannot see him." I tell you, it is not seeing, but looking. "But my eyes are so fixed on the earth, so earthly, so worldly." Ah! but, poor soul, he giveth power to look and live. He saith, "Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth."
Take this, dear friends, for a new year's text, both ye who love the Lord, and ye who are only looking for the first time. Christian! in all thy troubles through this year, look unto God and be saved. In all thy trials and afflictions, look unto Christ, and find deliverance. In all thine agony, poor soul, in all thy repentance for thy guilt, look unto Christ, and find pardon. This year, remember to put thine eyes heavenward, and thine heart heavenward, too. Remember, this day, that thou bind round thyself a golden chain, and put one link of it in the staple of heaven. Look unto Christ; fear not. There is no stumbling when a man walks with his eyes up to Jesus. He that looked at the stars fell into the ditch; but he that looks at Christ walks safely. Keep your eyes up all the year long. "Look unto him, and be ye saved;" and remember that "he is God, and beside him there is none else." And thou, poor trembler, what sayest thou? Wilt thou begin the year by looking unto him? You know how sinful you are this morning; you know how filthy you are; and yet it is possible that, before you open your pew door, and get into the aisle, you will be as justified as the apostles before the throne of God. It is possible that, ere you foot treads the threshold of your door, you will have lost the burden that has been on your back, and you will go on your way, singing, "I am forgiven, I am forgiven; I am a miracle of grace; this day is my spiritual birthday." O, that it might be such to many of you, that at last I might say, "Here am I, and the children thou hast given me." Hear this, convinced sinner! "This poor man cried, and the Lord delivered him out of his distresses." O, taste and see that the Lord is good! Now believe on him; now cast thy guilty soul upon his righteousness; now plunge thy black soul into the bath of his blood; now put thy naked soul at the door of the wardrobe of his righteousness; now seat thy famished soul at the feast of plenty. Now, "Look!" How simple does it seem! And yet it is the hardest thing in the world to bring men to. They never will do it, till constraining grace makes them. Yet there it is, "Look!" Go thou away with that thought. "Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else."
Life for a Look
March 22, 1877 by C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892)
"Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else." Isaiah 45:22 .
Since this text was blessed to my conversion, many years ago, I have often preached from it; but, on this occasion, I am not going to speak of it as a whole. There is only one thought that I shall endeavor to bring out of it, and I intend to act as the gold-beaters do with the metal upon which they work, that is, beat it out very thin; and, perhaps, when it covers a wide surface, some may be able to see it who have not previously perceived its preciousness and power. The great sin of man, ever since he has fallen, has been that of idolatry. He is ever seeking to get away from God, who' is real, but whom he cannot see, and to make for himself a god, which can only be an idol, but which pleases him because he can gaze upon it. And thus it comes to pass that, some with images of wood and stone, and others with carnal confidences and the like, put something else into the place which should be occupied by God alone; and they look to that something, and expect good from it, instead of looking for all good to God, and' to him alone, This looking to anything which usurps the place of God cannot but be most offensive to him, and it must also be very disappointing to ourselves, for it is impossible for the false god to yield us any true comfort, When matters come to a pinch, and we really need succor, we shall find that we have been leaning upon a broken reed if we have been trusting to anything except the Lord our God. For a while, the idolater may delight himself in the idol which he has so dexterously carved, and which he has covered with silver plates, and adorned with golden chains; but when he finds that he cries in vain to his god in the day of trouble, when he discovers that no answer comes to his earnest prayer, in his disappointment and vexation of spirit, he is ready to lie down in despair. It must be so, more or less, with all of us. If we trust in anything but God, we shall be disappointed; and if we are living for anything but the unseen One, who created and still sustains us, we shall have to lie down in sorrow despite the sparks of the fire we have ourselves kindled. Yet note the Lord's great patience even with those who are thus provoking him by this idolatry of theirs. What think you, sirs? If you had made men, and sustained them, and provided for them, yet they did not worship you, or serve you, or fear you, or trust you; but, instead, transferred their fear, or love, or trust, to mere idols that had eyes, but Could not see, and had hands, but could not help, would you not feel righteously angry? Would it not grieve you to have a dead thing, which these people had themselves made, put into your place? I am sure it would; and the Lord our God is a jealous God, and he has been, generation after generation, provoked by the idolatries of men. Yea, and he has even been provoked by us who profess to be his people, but who have loved something else better than we have loved him. Why, some of us have actually trusted ourselves more than we have trusted the lord; and, sometimes, in the hour of trial, we have fled to a friend, and relied upon an arm of flesh, instead of trusting in the Lord alone. Yet how patient he has been under it all! And how blessedly does this chapter teach us the lovingkindness of the Lord! Here he admonishes his ancient people with great gentleness, while he also reasons with great force of argument. Tenderly he chides the wrongdoers, and then earnestly he invites them to a better way. He seems to say to them, "Have done with these idols once for all. You have come into trouble and difficulty through looking to them, yet they could not save you; now turn away from them, and look unto me. Though you are like the very ends of the earth, and have gone as far away from me as you could, as if you would escape from my presence altogether if that were possible; yet, now, in the hour of your distress, turn your eyes unto me, and see if I will not help you. Come and trust me just this once. 'Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else. "Listen to this divine message, ye who have forgotten your God, as, in these gracious terms, he bids you turn your eyes unto him, and let your expectations be from him. Our text, as I road it, teaches me, first, that for salvation out of any trouble, we should look to God alone. When I have spoken briefly upon that point, I shall carry the principle into deeper spiritual matters by showing you, in the second place, that, for eternal salvation, we must assuredly look to God alone. I. First, then, FOR SALVATION OUT OF ANY TROUBLE, WE SHOULD LOOK TO GOD ALONE. You know, brethren, that there are some troubles in which men do look to God alone. I have known even the most profane, godless men turn to God, after a fashion, in the hour of supreme peril. It has often been observed that men, in time of storm or shipwreck those who had used blasphemous language, and ridiculed all religion, when they have been caused to reel to and fro, and stagger like drunken men, and have been at their wits' end, they have cried unto the Lord in their trouble. And in earthquakes, when the very globe itself doth rock and reel, as though it were as unstable as the restless sea, and huge buildings are rent in pieces, and strong towers come tumbling down, thousands of men have cried aloud to God to save them. Knees, unused to devotion, have been bent in abject terror; while hearts, that never felt the gracious presence of God, have begun to tremble at the majestic display of his power. This kind of experience has often been witnessed in ungodly men at the approa.ch of death. When, at last, the chill drops stand on their brow, when they know that life is almost over, and their soul is melting in their dire distress, and the dark gates of the grave stand wide open before them, then they also cry unto the Lord in their trouble. Now, if men will act thus by the compulsion of great calamity, is there not sound reason why you should, cheerfully and willingly, do the same, and resort to God in every trial, and difficulty, and dilemma? Why do not men seek divine help in other matters also? It is evident that God's hand is in other things besides shipwrecks, and earthquakes, and death; and it has often been proved that he is able to help in the lesser troubles a well as the greater ones. It is the Lord that quickens the wheels of commerce, or that stays them, and so causes distress. It is the Lord that permitteth the good and the evil which happen unto men. "Shall there be evil in a city, and the Lord hath not done it?" Is there a cry or a wail in war that God doe's not hear? Then, why should we not go to him in every time of peril and trouble, even in the minor trials and difficulties of life? Why must we have a severe sickness in order to drive us to God? Why is it that only the very peril of life brings us to our knees? It ought not to be so, especially with the Lord's own children. Is anything too unimportant for the Lord to notice? Is any trial too slight for you to bring in prayer before him? If you, fathers, listen to your children's little tales of sorrow, if you, mother, with your needle, deftly take out the tiniest thorn from your child's hand, how much more' will your Father, who is in heaven, note all the little trials you have to bear in this life, and deliver you out of them all Look unto him, then, and be ye saved out of all the trials that beset you. Brethren and sisters, we ought habitually to look to God; in the morning, looking to him for the mercies of the day; at night, looking to him for the pardon that shall cover the day's offenses; in the morning, expecting strength for the day's burden; and, in the evening, laying down the burden at the Master's feet, and blessing him for the grace which has sustained us. "But," says one, "may we not use means to help us out of our difficulties?" Of course you may; you would be wrong if you did not. He, who bids you pray for harvest, would have you sow your seed. He who would have you ask to be guided all your journey through, would have you also follow industriously the track of the fiery-cloudy pillar. Yes, use the means, but mind that you trust in God while you use the means, and trust in God beyond all means; and when means utterly fail, and you have come to the limit of the tether of your own wit and skill, then feel as if you were flung into the bare arms of God, and confide all the more because there is nothing else that you can do. You are not to make faith in God an excuse for idleness. It would be equally wrong to make your industry a pretext for trusting to yourselves, instead of confiding only in God. Let this be the rule of your whole life. For all things, trust in God; in all matters, submit to God; and, in all ways, serve God. You may take this divine command, "Look unto me," as the motto which shall illuminate your pathway at all times. You can stand safely on the high hills of prosperity as long as you look unto him; and even in the chilly valley of adversity, your heart shall rejoice while you keep looking unto him. You may go forth to battle against innumerable foes, and conquer them all while you look unto him. You may lie upon the bed of sickness, and be able to bear your pain with patience while you look unto him; and you shall come, at last into the valley of death-shade; death's sullen stream shall begin to flow over your feet, and chill your heart's blood; but, if you are still looking unto the Lord, the promise of our text shall be fulfilled to you, and you shall be saved, for he is God, and beside him there is none else. II. Now, secondly, while this is the principle, which should guide all believers, it is also the right principle for those who are beginning to be believers, that is, those who are seeking the salvation of their souls. FOR ETERNAL SALVATION, WE MUST LOOK TO GOD ALONE. I want to keep you to this point if I can, so I ask you to remember, first, that salvation is not to be found in any mere agent. The idolatry, which leads some men to make blocks of wood and stone into objects of worship, has led others to make gods of what are called "the means of grace," selecting this or that matter, sometimes, that which is of divine appointment, and, sometimes, things which are the result of human invention. At one time, you may find a man resting the whole weight of his soul on what he calls "sacraments." Has he not been baptized, and is he not therefore a member of Christ, a child of God, and an inheritor of the kingdom of heaven? He goes regularly to what he calls "Holy Communion", and he supposes that he has received grace by the eating of "consecrated" bread and the drinking of "consecrated" wine. But, beloved, "sacraments" become mere idols, just as much as the false god of the Hindoo, when we expect salvation from them. We have put the Christian ordinances altogether out of their place when we have allowed them to usurp the position, which belongs only to the Savior. I do not suppose that many of you will do this; yet I am some times afraid that you may fall into an equal error of much the same character. Some people seem to suppose that, because God blesses the hearing of sermons, (and he does bless it, even as he blesses other means that he has ordained,) therefore they shall surely be saved through the hearing of sermons; or because good books are often exceedingly useful, and lead men to Christ, they expect that, by reading such books, they shall be saved; and, especially, because the Bible itself is the best of books the Book of God, and the God of books, because it gives much light to those who are in darkness, they suppose that, if they search the Scriptures, they will have eternal life. Now, dear friends, sermons, good books, and even the Bible itself, may be made into idols, if you look to them for salvation, and expect that, by hearing and by reading, and going no further, you will be saved. You must go beyond all these things, and get to God himself; and say, with David, "My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from him." The two Christian ordinances of baptism and the Lord's supper are precious things. The ministry of the Word, and the inspired Word as we have it recorded in this Book, these are precious things; but they are only like the porch through which we pass to get to God himself. If a man stays in the porch, instead of passing through it to the great Host of the house, he misses the design and end of the porch, which is not intended to keep the man upon the threshold, but that he should pass through it, and find the God who dwells within. It is very easy to look to mere agents for salvation, but it is not to be found there. "Salvation is of the Lord," and of the Lord alone. No man in the world can accomplish this great work. The psalmist had learned that lesson when he wrote, "None of them can by any means redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him." Though a man should speak with the tongues of men and of angels, yet, if you are not led, by his speech, to look to God for salvation, you will not be saved; and though the ordinances of God's house are observed before you in all their sacred simplicity, yet they can yield you no profit if you do not pass beyond that which is seen by the eye, and look unto the great invisible God, to whom your soul must draw nigh, in spirit and in truth, if you are ever to find salvation. Does someone ask, "To what, then, are we to look?" I will try to tell thee if thou wilt listen. Thou art guilty; so, in order that thou mayest be saved, thou needest to have thy sins pardoned; and thou needest also that thy heart should be renewed by God's almighty grace. So, the great thing that thou needest to know, and look at, and rely upon, is the mercy of God. Especially do thou think much of the greatness of that mercy. If thy sin be great, remember that it is so, and mourn over it; but recollect also that God's mercy is a bottomless, boundless ocean, which can swallow up, and cover for ever, the great mountain of thy guilt. The merciful God is able to put away all thy sin. Think, too, of the freeness of that mercy, which asks nothing at thy hand; no price, no bribe, to move the heart of God to take pity upon thee, for his heart burns with love of itself. It does not need you to bring anything to make him love you, or to incline him to be ready to forgive you. He is so already from the very force of his own character. God's mercy is free, and full, and rich, and abundant. To Moses, he "proclaimed the name of the Lord" in that remarkable utterance, "The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity, and transgression, and sin." He clasps his lost child to his bosom, and rejoices that he is found. Yet remember also that God's mercy is sovereign, that he saveth whom he will, and that there is no reason, known to thee, why he should not save thee as well as any other sinner, especially since that sovereignty of his is generally displayed toward the most unlikely and undeserving. Well says the apostle, "Not many wise men after the flesh not many mighty, not many noble, are called but God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise: and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; and base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: that no flesh should glory in his presence." Ponder this great truth, and then say to thy soul, "I, a guilty sinner, needing salvation, must look for it to the rich, full, free, ever-flowing, over-flowing, sovereign, everlasting mercy of God." O eye that weeps because of sin, beholds this glorious attribute of the God of mercy and of grace, and let thy tears be dry! Then, since God says, "Look unto me," let me ask you whether you are looking unto him as he has revealed himself to us in his Word. If you simply look to God as he reveals himself in nature, you will have but a very imperfect view of him, and you will derive' but little comfort from him. We cannot possibly understand him there so well as we do when he speaks to us, not by the signs and hieroglyphics of nature, but in the plain words that we can read in our own mother tongue in this blessed Book. Therefore, if thou wouldst be saved, look to God here where he looks at thee from the pages of his Word, and hear what he tells thee there. He tells thee, by almost innumerable promises, that he is ready to forgive thy sin if thou dost repent of it, and trust his Son. Then, to his promises, he adds such gracious and cheering invitations as this, "Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool;" and such loving exhortations as this, "Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon." Read this blessed Book, search out its exceeding great and precious promises, study its many invitations, and also examine the examples that are given in its records of the multitudes of sinners God has saved by his grace, the great sinners whom, in his abundant mercy, he has accepted, and made to be his children. Keep your eye fixed on God as he so graciously manifests himself in the pages of his own Book, for then you will be able to cry, with the prophet Micah, "Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage? he retaineth not his anger for ever, because he delighteth in mercy." O guilty soul, if thou wouldst find salvation, thou hast not to look to any priest, nor to any book, nor to any ceremony, nor to any doings of thine own; but to God as he has revealed himself in his Word. And, especially, is it intended that we should look unto God as he reveals himself in the person and work of his dear Son. This is the very essence of the gospel, that we should look to God in Jesus Christ, and so find salvation. That is where salvation is to be found, and nowhere else; "for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved;" and "other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ." Look, then, to the Lord Jesus Christ if you would find salvation. You say that you dare not come to God by reason of your great sin. You do well to regard your sin as great, and to mourn over it; but you must not be content with doing that. Look away to Jesus, the great Sin-bearer, on whom was laid the iniquity of all who believe in him, even as the prophet Isaiah says, "He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed." Look away from thy sin, sinner; nay, rather, follow thy sin as it is laid by God on the Sin-bearer's shoulders; and as thou lookest there, thou wilt find salvation. "But," you say, "I have no merit to plead before God; I cannot hope to meet with acceptance in his sight." Then listen to my text; God here says, "Look unto me, and be ye saved." God, in the person of his well-beloved Son, shows the only method by which you can be accepted by him. The perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ is both imputed and imparted to all who believe in him; therefore, dream not of trusting in your own merits. Indeed, you have none to trust in; a spider's web is more substantial than the flimsy, fancied merits of the best man under heaven; but if you look to what Christ was and is, to what he did, and what he suffered, you will find the garment the royal robe beyond all comparison for beauty, in which you may wrap yourself for time and for eternity. If thou puttest on this robe, friend, God will love thee, and bless thee; nay, I must reverse the order of my words, and say that, because God has loved thee, he has made it possible for thee to take the righteousness of Christ to be thy righteousness for ever and ever. "Ah! "says another; "but if I am to find salvation, I must escape from the power of sin, and I have no strength to do that." I know thou hast not; do not think of looking to thyself to find any, but listen again to our text, "Look unto me, and be ye saved." The sin, that thou canst not master, Christ can conquer. He can make the lust that now binds thee as with fetters of iron, to have no more power over thee. Have I not often seen this happen to a man who has been hound with chains that he could not break? But the Spirit of the Lord has come upon him, and he has snapped them as easily as Samson "brake the withs, as a thread of tow is broken when it toucheth the fire." Poor manacled slave of sin, Christ can enable thee to get thy liberty; look not to what thou canst thyself do, for that is nothing; look only to the omnipotence that dwells in the eternal arm of the once-crucified Redeemer. "But," you cry, "I should never hold on even if I did once look to Christ. If I were to begin to believe in him, I should be tempted, and should go back to the world." I know you would if the matter rested with you; but if the Lord Jesus Christ begins to work upon you, he will persevere with the task until he has fully accomplished it. Look thou to his faithfulness, for thou hast none apart from him. Look thou to his immutability, for thou art as fickle as the wind that continually changes its course. Rest thou wholly in the Christ who says to thee, "Look unto me, and be thou saved." "Oh!" you say, "but I have none of the gifts and graces that make up a Christian life." That is quite true, but Christ is ready to give them to you. He is a full-handed and a freehanded Savior; and when he begins to bless sinners, riches untold are lavished upon them so that they become rich as kings through the spiritual wealth, which Christ bestows upon them. There is nothing that any one of us can want between here and heaven, but is stored up for us in Christ, and we are to look to him alone for it. Oh, that the Lord would teach all of us this simple and blessed art, for this is the way of salvation! "Look unto me," to God in Christ Jesus, and be ye saved." Now I shall conclude by trying to strike this one nail on the head, and urging you to give your most earnest heed to this one matter of looking to God in Christ. Dear friend, you are seeking salvation, so the devil will make a dead set at you to try to keep you from looking unto Jesus. I cannot tell you exactly which way he will go to work, for he has many inventions; but I know that this will be one main point that he will drive at with you, he will try to get you, not to look to God, but to look somewhere else. Now, if you are determined to look to yourself, if you feel that you cannot help doing so, mind that you never look to yourself without mourning, for every look at yourself ought to cost you a tear. Look to yourself that you may sorrow over your sinful state, but never look there with any hope of finding salvation. When a man is altogether bankrupt, will he go and look into his ledger for consolation? When a man's house has been stripped by a distrait, will the poor penniless tenant go and gaze into the bare rooms to find comfort? When there is not a morsel of bread in the cupboard, will a man look into the empty dishes in order that he may appease the cravings of hunger? If the well is dry, what is the good of looking down to the bottom of it? So, dear friend, if you do not understand your ruined condition, look at yourself; but if you do know that you are lost and undone, you might as well look to the grave for life as to yourself for salvation. Do not let' the devil persuade you that there is anything good in you by nature, or that there is any hope of salvation for you in yourself. If he tells you that you are utterly bad, and ruined, and lost, believe him, for that is true; but if he ever tries to persuade you that there is some good in you, tell him that he lies; and you may also tell him that, if there were any good in you, there would be no hope for you even in that, for your only hope lies in that utter hopelessness which drives you out of yourself to God. You know how the high priest, under the old Jewish law, was commanded to treat the lepers who were brought before him. When there came a man, who said, "I think that my case is a very hopeful one; for I have a large spot of perfectly sound flesh on my arm, and I have another place on my foot, where my flesh is like that of a little child;" when the high priest heard the man say that, and he looked upon him, and saw that it was even so, he said to him, "Alas! you are a hopeless leper, and must be shut outside the camp;" and there he remained till he died. But there came another leper who was quite covered with the signs of the loathsome malady, and he said to the high priest, "My disease has gone to the very extreme; there is not a sound place in me; from the crown of my head to the sole of my foot, there is not a single spot that is not affected." "Ah, my brother!" replied the high priest, "I am glad to hear thee say that, and to be able to tell thee that now thou art clean." It appears that, when the leprosy threw itself out all over the body, the man would recover; but if it was only in a part of him, it was there for ever. Just so is it with the sinner; when he cannot see any good in himself, he is the man whom God will save; but, as long as there is a spot of his own supposed goodness as big as a pin's head, or a pin's point, he is still suffering from the leprosy of sin, and must be shut away from the people of the Lord. "That is strange talk," someone says. I hope it will be strangely comforting to some poor brokenhearted sinner, who has been well-nigh in despair, but who will now hope, believe, and live. Do not let Satan take your eyes away from Christ by any other device. I have known him trouble poor souls with questions about difficult doctrines, or various forms of church government, or about the disputes that arise even between Christian people. The sinner s one business is to look to Christ, and be saved; yet he will get bothering his head with this, and that, and the other, which he does not understand, and which he does not need to understand. Oh, what thousands of people there are who have some wonderful knot which they want to untie, and which they cannot untie! It would not make the slightest difference to them if it were untied, yet it keeps them from looking to God in Christ Jesus, that they may be saved. You may ask about church government afterwards; you may decide, further on, as to Calvinism or Arminianism; or as to the post-millennial or pre-millennial Advent of Christ; but those matters do not concern you now. When a man is drowning, he does not want to read "The Times" newspaper, or Adam Smith's "Wealth of Nations." He needs someone to help him out of the water before he is quite dead; and that is what you need, my unsaved friend; you need salvation, and you can only obtain it by looking unto God in Christ Jesus. I have known Satan also to take away a man's gaze from Christ by saying to him, "You do not know whether you are elect or not." Well, it is a very important question whether a man is one of the elect of God; but I beg you to remember that an unsaved sinner has nothing to do with his election, and that it is not possible for him to know anything about that matter at present. When he has believed in Jesus Christ, then he will have the evidence that he is one of the Lord's chosen people; but until he has done so, he has no reason to think that he is elect. Divine election is the eternal choice, which God the Father has made, and there is no way of coming to the Path ere except by Christ his Son. Redemption is the word with which you are first concerned; then, when you know the power of the precious blood of Jesus, you will have the proof of your election unto eternal life, and so you will begin to understand the "everlasting covenant ordered in all things and sure." Sometimes, and this is a common trick of Satan's, he tries to make men look at their own faith, instead of looking unto Jesus. "See," says he, "you have to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ; but have you the right kind of faith? Is yours the faith that saves?" Thus, he fixes your eye on your faith instead of on Christ; and then he will ask you, "Is your state of mind what it ought to be?" So you begin looking into your state of mind, and you enquire, "Have I a due sense of my need? Have I a proper realization of my dire necessities, and of the hardness of my heart?" My dear friend, whatever your question may he, whether it is holy or profane, it is out of place just now. The only questions that concern thee now are such as these, What has God revealed to me in his Word? What has God done for me through his Son! What does he say to me? What does he require of me? What does he promise to give me? You can find the answer to all those questions in our text, "Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth." The devil tells you that you have not got the right kind of eyes, or that you have a squint, or that you have a cataract over one of your eyes; he will say anything to keep you from looking to God in Christ. Yet that is where you are to look; and it is on him alone that you are to rely; and you are not to rely upon your reliance, nor on your faith, nor on your looking; but you are to place your complete dependence upon Jesus Christ and him crucified. I pray you to let this simple yet important truths sink into your mind and heart. Endeavor every day to know more of Jesus; and, to that end, search the Scriptures that you may learn more and more of God in Christ as he is there revealed. Do try to think more about him, you who are seeking the salvation of your souls. Get as much time as you can alone, that you may think of Jesus on the cross, and of all that God reveals to you in his dear bleeding wounds; for, the more you know of him, and the more you think of him, the more will you he able to rely upon him. Our confidence usually increases in proportion to our knowledge, if the thing known be really worthy of our trust. It is emphatically so with Christ. The more we know him, the more we shall trust and love him, Settle this matter in your mind as an absolute certainty that, whoever and whatever you are, you may look to God in Christ, and be saved. Do not let any doubt upon that point ever cross your mind. Our text says, "Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth;" and there are many other passages which are quite as wide in the sweep of their invitation; such as these, "Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely," and "him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out," and the very gospel commission itself, "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved." Whosoever thou mayest be, thou hast a perfect right to look to God, for he invites thee to do so. Nay, more than that, thou art bound to do so, for thou art commanded to do it, and there is this dreadful threatening against all who disobey the command, "He that believeth not shall be damned." Look thou, then, to God in Christ, without fear; for, looking unto him, thou shalt be saved. With this last point, I close. Let no feeling of thine beat thee off front looking to Christ. If, when thou lookest to God, thy sins seem to rise, and howl at thee, and say, "Who art thou that thou shouldst trust in God?" keep on looking all the same. And if it appears to thee that a thousand texts thunder against thee, look thou all the same. Look thou to God even if he appears to look at thee angrily. Run thou to his arms, for it is thine only place of shelter. If he takes his rod to chastise thee, still run to his arms. He cannot smite thee half so heavily as if his arm gets full swing at a distance from thee. Lay hold on God's strength. Just as the child, when his father is going to flog him, lays hold of his father's hands, and with his tears melts his father's heart, so do thou. Lay hold on the strength of God, and tell him that thou wilt trust in him. Even if he shall still seem to threaten thee, tell him that thou knowest that he delighteth in mercy, that thou hast heard of great sinners, like thyself, being saved by him, and that thou dost believe that Christ's precious blood will make thee clean, and that thou wilt continue to believe it come what may. Will he reject thee if thou comest to him thus? That is impossible. He never did shake off a soul that thus clung to his arm; he never drove from the door of his mercy one who was resolved to die upon the threshold of his house rather than trust to anyone else. So let nothing turn thee from looking to Jesus. Even if thou walkest without a ray of light, if thou shouldst be tried in circumstances, and so afflicted in body as to be at death's door, remember that the Lord has said, "Look unto me, and be ye saved." Do thou hang upon that blessed word; and this also, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved." Carry out both parts of that text; and when thou hast done so, claim the fulfillment of the promise, feeling sure that the mountains shall melt away, and the seas be lifted up with flaming tongues of fire, sooner than God shall be false to the promise he has made to thee, unworthy though thou art, if thou believest in Jesus Christ, and art baptized after his own example. May God the Holy Spirit enable thee thus to look to Christ; for, looking to him, as surely as he liveth, thou too shalt live; and, as surely as God is true, thou shalt be saved, for thou art saved the moment thou believest in God through Christ Jesus his Son. I have not attempted to set these great truths before you in fine language, for I want them to come home to the heart of everyone here present who is not yet saved. I recollect when I used to go to various places of worship meaning business, and my business was, to try to find a Savior if there really was one for me. I am sure that, if anybody in the whole place used to listen with both his ears, and all his heart, I did. I did not care anything about the preacher's elocution; the one thing that I wanted to know was what I must do to be saved. Am I addressing anyone in a similar case? If so, O thou poor soul, convinced of sin, I assure thee that, if thou believest in Christ Jesus, thou shalt be saved! Understand clearly, however, what the salvation is that he will give thee. It is not salvation from the consequences of your sin while you continue to indulge in it. He will save you from being the sinner that you now are. The ancient covenant promise runs thus, "From all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh." I can see some people, sitting before me now, who, if they had been told, a few years ago, that they would be what they now are, would have laughed such a notion to scorn, they would have poured the utmost contempt upon the speaker. "What!" such a man would have said, "I the man of pleasure, ever be found among canting hypocritical professors of religion? It is not likely." Many a man has said, "I know how to look after myself; I need none of the grace of God of which you think so much." Yet there are many such persons here at this moment, and they are rejoicing in the very thing they once despised; and their lives are now so altered that no two persons could be more different than their present self is from their old self. I am afraid their old self still occasionally visits them, but I am sure that they never show him indoors. They try, if they can, to push him into the back yard, and they get rid of him as quickly as possible. I have known many and one of this sort cry out, "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from this old enemy of mine? I never want to see him again." The change is marvelous between what he was and what he is; and such a change as that must be wrought in secret. Our Lord Jesus said to Nicodemus, "Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." Read that 3rd chapter of John's Gospel through; and, before you get to the end of it, you will find that the very same chapter, in which the new birth is insisted upon by our Lord, also has these verses in it, "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up; that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life," Both doctrines are true, and perfectly consistent with each other, the free grace of God, and the necessity of a change of heart and life. May you prove them consistent in your own experience, and then we will glorify God together forever and ever. Amen and Amen.
January 9, 1876 by C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892)
"Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else." Isaiah 14:22 .
I have preached a good many times from this text. I hope to do so, if life be spared, many more times. It was about twenty-six years ago, twenty-six years exactly last Thursday, that I looked unto the Lord, and found salvation, through this text. You have often heard me tell how I had been wandering about, seeking rest, and finding none, till a plain, unlettered, lay preacher among the Primitive Methodists stood up in the pulpit, and gave out this passage as his text: "Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth." He had not much to say, thank God, for that compelled him to keep on repeating his text, and there was nothing needed by me, at any rate, except his text. I remember how he said, "It is Christ that speaks. 'I am in the garden in an agony, pouring out my soul unto death; I am on the tree, dying for sinners; look unto me! Look unto me!' That is all you have to do. A child can look. One who is almost an idiot can look. However weak, or however poor, a man may be, he can look; and if he looks, the promise is that he shall live." Then, stopping, he pointed to where I was sitting under the gallery, and he said, "That young man there looks very miserable." I expect I did, for that is how I felt. Then he said, "There is no hope for you, young man, or any chance of getting rid of your sin, but by looking to Jesus;" and he shouted, as I think only a Primitive Methodist can, "Look! Look, young man! Look now!" And I did look; and when they sang a hallelujah before they went home, in their own earnest way, I am sure I joined in it. It happened to be a day when the snow was lying deep and more was falling; so, as I went home, those words of David kept ringing through my heart, "Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow;" and it seemed as if all nature was in accord with that blessed deliverance from sin which I had found in a single moment by looking to Jesus Christ. I have always felt inclined, when this time of the year comes round, to preach from this text. I have sometimes thought, "They will suppose I must go over the same ground again, and give them the same sermon; and so, perhaps, I shall not have so attentive an audience." I cannot help it if it is so, for I must preach from this text. As it was blessed to me, I hope it will be blessed to somebody else. I wanted to preach from it last Thursday night, on the exact anniversary of my spiritual birthday; but I was led to take another text, and I am glad I was; for, when I entered my vestry to-night, I found on the table this note: "Mr. Spurgeon I want to tell you that your 'good news,' last Thursday, was the means of reclaiming a wanderer. How good of Jesus to take such an one as I am back, and give me the joy I had when first I knew him! "The writer encloses a thanksgiving offering, and blesses the name of the Lord. So, this text has been reserved for to-night, and who knows but that there has come here somebody who was not here on Thursday night, and whom the Lord intends to bless? I only hope it may be so; indeed, I know it will be so. Let us read the text again: "Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else." This message is addressed, as you perceive, not to the Israelites, but to the Gentiles, to the nations at the very ends of the earth. Alas! many of these nations have long been looking to their idols. They do not feel at rest, they know that they lack something; and very earnestly are devout heathens looking to their false gods for what they need. They make great sacrifices, and spend vast sums of money upon their idol temples; but salvation does not come, and cannot come, through these false gods. Jehovah bids them look to him, that they may be saved. Some among the nations are throwing off the yoke of superstition; but, sad to say, they seem to be falling into skepticism instead. The Hindu, when educated, turns from his idols only to make an idol of his own judgment. Many men worship their own wisdom. They hope by searching to find out the Almighty unto perfection; and this theory and that they promulgate, and say, "This form of thought and the other will emancipate the human mind." Ah, it is not so! "The world by wisdom," in the old Socratic and philosophic days worked out that problem, and the result was that they "knew not God," but, "professing themselves to be wise, they became fools;" and that is where man, with his great thought and wisdom, always drifts to to some absurdity or another. Only Jehovah can save mankind. Philosophy is powerless in this matter. The nations have been looking long, first to this thing, and then to that, to save them. Sometimes, they have looked for some great conqueror, who will break the yoke of oppression, and set the people free. But how often have they been deceived, and the idols of the democracy have turned out to be the grossest tyrants that ever lived. Then there are various international and other societies formed, by which men are to lift themselves up by confederation. They will look there, too, in vain; though all men should join hand in hand,' they cannot do it. If they looked to God, there would be accomplished what all mankind would not be able to perform. One man advises this policy; another pleads for that form of government. One has this idea, and the other has another. And, every now and then, there seems to be a craze for something or other. Just now, we are told that civilization will do away with war, and I know not what besides. All evil is to be extinguished by the growth of commerce. But the Lord of hosts hath willed it that nothing shall save the nations but himself; and this poor, bleeding earth needs to be told, again and again, that, for her wounds, and she has many of them, there is no healing liniment but that which flows from the hands, and feet, and side of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. From the crown of her head to the sole of her foot, she is full of "wounds, and bruises, and putrefying sores," and for all these there is no cure but the blessed balm that flowed from Jesus' heart on Calvary, no remedy but the one sacrifice of Jesus Christ. "Look unto me," saith he, "and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else." O Lord, turn the eyes of the nations to thyself, and to thy Son! When this happens, then shall the day of the world's salvation have fully come. The general principle holds good in each particular case. As it is with the nations at the ends of the earth, so must it be with me, so must it be, dear friends, with you. There is no salvation but by looking unto God in Christ. Let us try to turn that thought over, not merely with the view of thinking of it, but that we may carry it into effect, that, if there be salvation to be had, we may have it, and have it at once. O God, grant that it may be so! First, we shall ask, What does the word "Look" mean in reference to God? Secondly, for what part of salvation are we to look to God? Thirdly, what is our encouragement to look? And, fourthly, when is the best time to look? I. First, Jehovah says, "Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth. WHAT DOES THIS WORD LOOK MEAN? It means a great deal more than I can tell you; and, among other things, it means this. First, consider that there is a God, and enthrone him in your mind as a real Person, the one living and true God. You have been trying to cure yourself of your spiritual maladies; now think of God as the great Physician of your soul. Let your mind turn towards him. You are like that young man who left his father's house, and whose circumstances became so bad, through his own fault, that he was obliged to take up very low and mean employment; and yet, with all that he could do, he did not earn enough to fill his belly. The best thing that he could do was to remember that he had a father; and the happiest day for him was when he came back to his father, and received a loving welcome from him. You say that you are not happy, you are not at rest, your conscience is disturbed, and you have tried ever so many things in order to get peace. Now, think about your God. Think about the loving Father who receives his wandering prodigal children; and as you think of him, you will have begun to look to him. While you are thinking about him, I wish you would remember this concerning him, that "God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them." Think of that wonderful truth that God came, here in human flesh and blood, and, for us men and for our salvation, died a cruel death upon the tree. Turn that over and over again, for it is there that your only hope of salvation lies. Do think of that; read often
"The old, old story Of Jesus and his love."
Think over all the details of it; accustom yourself to look towards God in Christ Jesus in your thoughts and contemplations. By the blessing of the Holy Spirit, this will breed faith in you. Set your face that way, look at God as he has revealed himself in the person of the great Propitiation, Jesus Christ his Son. Looking to God means, however, more than that. When you have considered him, and taken him into your calculations, then address yourself to him. Speak to him. Tell him where you are, and what you are. Tell him what you feel, and what you do not feel, and what you ought to feel, and what you wish to feel. Tell him what you want which you have not yet got. If you cannot pray, tell him so; if you cannot repent, and cannot believe, tell him so. Only speak to him, for that speaking will be a turning to look, and I find that the Hebrew word used here is not so well expressed by the word "look" as by the phrase "turning to look." If I want to look at the clock above my head, I must turn to look at it. In that fashion, I want you to turn towards God, to consider him, and then to speak to him. Tell him that you are a wretch undone without his sovereign grace. Tell him whatever you know to be the truth; do not mock him with mere words that do not come from your heart, but let your heart speak to him. Address him, for that is looking to him. Only, mind that you do get to God. The mischief is, dear friends, that we often stop somewhere short of God when we are seeking salvation. A Romanist, for instance, erects a crucifix, and bows down before it. The original intention of the crucifix, no doubt, was to help the person who used it to remember the death of Christ; but frequently, the thought rests on the crucifix, instead of upon the Christ. If the Romanist says that he does not worship the image, it is not true, because there is a certain "Our Lady of Lourdes," and another "Notre Dame de la Garde," and other "Our Ladies." Why is it that the Virgin Mary in a certain church, or a certain town, works great cures, and gets more worship, than "Our Lady" in a certain other place? The fact is, it is the image that is worshipped, and so is it with the crucifix; that gets the Romanists' worship, and not the Christ. They stop there; but why do I talk about this to you Protestants? Why, because many of you do just the same in other respects. You say, "Now, if I am to be converted, I ought to read the Bible." Yes, that is quite right. Read the Bible; but, if you stop at the Bible, you will no more get to God than if you stop at the crucifix. What you need is to get to God through what you read, and not merely to come to the Book. The Bible, or the most gracious words, or the most appropriate collects, or the most pious prayers cannot save you; you must pass through these things, which ought to be helps, and not make them into barriers, for, if you make them into barriers by stopping there, you never will be saved. You have to get to God, dear heart, to God in Jesus Christ; and I pray you, do not stop till you feel, "I have spoken to God in Jesus Christ; I have confessed to him my sins; I have sought his forgiveness; I have asked him for mercy." You are sure to get it if you have done so. But if you stop at this point, "I have prayed so often, I have read so much," these very readings and prayings will get to be idols, and they will keep you away from God. I used, when seeking the Lord, to read very much Doddridge's "Rise and Progress of Religion in the Soul," and an admirable book it is; and Baxter's "Call to the Unconverted." I would wake up as soon as the sun was up in the morning that I might read these books; but I must confess that, for many a day I stopped at Doddridge's "Rise and Progress" and Baxter's "Call." When I had read so much, and tried to feel what those good men said, there I stuck. Oh, that I had gone to Christ before! Oh, that I had got away from Doddridge's "Rise and Progress" and Baxter's "Call", and gone to Jesus Christ himself! I am not finding fault with those books; I commend them, but I find fault with myself for making so bad a use of the books. In like manner, I do not find fault with prayer or the reading of the Scriptures; God forbid! But I do complain of putting prayer and the reading of the Scriptures into the place of getting to God; for it is looking to him as he is revealed in Jesus Christ that will save the soul, and nothing short of that, be it what it may, will do so. Therefore, looking to God means that we are to consider God, and then to address ourselves to him. In the next place, to look to him means that we must know that, if we are ever to be saved salvation must come from God alone. Learn this O man, that you are helpless and hopeless apart from God; that you are shut up, and cannot come forth, bound with fetters of iron, and laid like the dead in their graves, numbered among the slain like those that go down into the pit; and no arm can help you but the arm of the Omnipotent; nothing can save you but the blood of Jesus Christ. Then, next, to look to him means expect that he will save you. Oh, what a step that is for anyone to take! I would that, by God's grace, you might take it, saying, "Nobody but God can save me. Salvation comes from him, but he is gracious; he has given his dear Son to die for sinners. I, a sinner, the most unworthy, perhaps, who ever lived, will, nevertheless, dare to hope that I shall be saved. Nay, more,
"' He has promised to receive All who on his Son believe;'
"so I will now trust his Son, and look to him to give me full and free salvation because I trust him." Joseph Hart's hymn puts it,
"Venture on him, venture wholly, Let no other trust intrude; None but Jesus Can do helpless sinners good."
Some have objected to the verse, because they say it is not a venture. It is very easy to be too critical. It is a venture to the sinner's thought; it appears to him to be a venture, and you must not expect him to talk as you wise men talk. Do not put into a sinner's mouth words that would be above his range of thought. I know it seemed a wonderful venture to me. I thought, "Can it be true that this is all I have to do? Have I to believe God's grace in Christ, and trust myself only to that? "Why, if the minister had said, "You must go home, and take a whip' and flog yourself; twenty lashes will do;" I tell you I would have laid them on as heavily as I could, for I should have felt, "I will make sure work of it;" and they would have been twenty of the sweetest cuts that ever a man endured. If they made me smart, I would have blessed God for them, so long as I received mercy through them. But there was nothing in the gospel about lashing myself, nothing even about lashing my conscience; I was toll simply to look to God as he revealed himself in Jesus Christ, and I did so, and thus I was saved. Possibly, someone asks, "Does that faith make any difference to a man?" It makes all the difference in the world. Suppose you have a bad servant, who is always doing wrong things; and you find out that the great reason why he so provokes you is that he does not believe in you, and has no respect for you. But, one day, you convince him of your kind feeling towards him, and prove to him that all you wish for is his good, and that you have been seeking his good all the while you have had him. Now that man is saved from his ugly temper by believing you to be good and kind; and from the moment when this change takes place, there is nothing too much for him to do for you. That is just the effect that faith in God has upon a sinner's moral character. Before you believe in God, you do not care much about him. It is true that you may do a few good works, with the hope of thereby getting salvation, just as your servant does as much or as little as he dares do, for the sake of his wages. But, oh! when once you believe in God, and serve him out of love, then you become like those old-fashioned servants that our grandmothers used to have; we cannot get them now. They used to serve their masters and mistresses from motives of affection, those old body-servants that the squires and dames used to have, who would cleave to them, wages or no wages, because they loved them so. What a grand thing it is to have faith in the heart! It will save a man entirely from his old ways, and his old lusts, and his old sins, by making him love God, and serve God out of love, which is the mightiest transforming motive that was ever implanted in the bosom of a lost soul. This is how God saves men, by leading them to trust in him in Jesus Christ. II. Secondly, FOR WHAT PART OF SALVATION ARE WE TO LOOK TO GOD? For every part of it, from beginning to end; and, first, for the pardon of sin, you must look to God in Christ; for who can pardon an offense except the person who was offended? If somebody over there has offended a brother yonder, it would be no use for me to say to that person, "I forgive you the offense." The other brother might say, "The wrong was not done to you, it was done to me. Only I, who have been offended, can forgive the offense." So, if you want the pardon of your sin, it is evident that it can only come from God. But you tell me that you feel as if you were not fit to be forgiven. Very well then, if there be such a fitness, I know there is none, but if there be any truth in what you mean, that fitness must be given you by God, and you must look to him for it.
"True belief and true repentance, Every grace that brings you nigh, Without money, Come to Jesus Christ, and buy."
Possibly you say to me, "It is not merely that I want to have my sins forgiven; I want to become a new man." You must look for that also to God. I think that the best man to clean a watch is the watchmaker, and the best person to renew the heart is the God who made the heart. He who made you can alone remake you. There is no power under heaven, except the power that created you, which can create you anew in Christ Jesus; so you must look to God for that. But you say, "Well, if I were made a new man, I fear that I should go back to my old sins. Must I not trust to something to keep me?" No, to nothing but God; for all the bonds and all the devices that men make, to keep themselves from sin, are of no more strength than a spider's web. God must keep you alive as well as make you live; "for I am God," saith he "and there is none else." Rest in the almighty power of God to keep you from going back to sin after he has rescued you from it. You know, also, that you must be perfect, or you can never enter heaven. How are you to become perfect? Well, you must look to God for that, too, for he, the perfectly Holy One, can sanctify you wholly, spirit, soul, and body. May your faith embrace the whole of salvation, and see it to be all in God in Christ, and look to God in Christ Jesus for it all! III. Our third question is, WHAT IS OUR ENCOURAGEMENT TO LOOK TO GOD? I tried to show you what it was to look to consider God, to speak with him, to trust in him as he is revealed in Christ Jesus, and to rest wholly in him. You say, "What is my encouragement to do that, and to expect that thus I shall be saved? May I do it? I know that trusting in Christ saves men, but may I trust him?" Your encouragement to do this is, first of all, God's command: "Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth." We, certainly, almost beyond the inhabitants of any other country, might have been called "the ends of the earth." There was a time when England was reckoned to be the Ultima Thule, the far-off land; it was supposed that there could be nothing beyond the British Islands. When the prophet spoke, these were the very ends of the earth; so, surely, God commands you, my dear hearer, to look unto him, inasmuch as you belong to the ends of the earth. If you tell me that you come from America, well, you also come from the ends of the earth. Do you say that you come from Australia? That is another of the ends of the earth. Some of you sail round the world; well, sometime or other, you have been at the ends of the earth; and you know that, when God sends his command to the ends of the earth it always includes everything within its bounds. He certainly commands the middle as well as the ends. Those who are farthest off from him are bidden to look unto him; and as he commands you to do it, what better warrant can you desire than his command? The gospel command is, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved." You never ought to say, "May I believe?" for God commands you to do so, and threatens you with punishment if you do not, for he says, "He that believeth not shall be damned." The only warrant for a sinner's believing is the command of the gospel. Oh, that you might be encouraged by that! The next encouragement for you is God's promise: "Look unto me, and be ye saved," as much as to say, "As surely as you look, you are saved. When you look, you are saved." Does it not mean that? If anyone said to you, "Sit down, and eat, and be filled," you would not say, "He only means that I am to sit down at a bare table;" but you would feel sure that he meant that there should be something on the table of which you might freely eat. So, sinner, do but look to the Lord; turn thine eye in confidence to God in Christ Jesus, for there is no other God and no other Savior; and when thou hast done this, thou shalt be saved at once. Still further to encourage you, you have the fact of his Godhead: "for I am God." You need a God to save you. You have a great load of sin resting upon you, but the Omnipotent can lift it off your shoulders. Then, there are the bonds of iniquity, the old habits of forty years, perhaps of fifty years; but Christ can tear away the iron net, and break the chains, and set the captive free in a moment, for he is God. Were the Savior any less than Divine, I should not dare to encourage sinners to believe in him; but there is a Divine Savior infinitely strong, and infinitely gracious, so, thou blackest, foulest, vilest sinner, why shouldst thou not obey the command of my text, and look unto him, expecting mercy and favor from him? Another encouragement to you comes from God's character. He knew that you sinners would be afraid that his justice would stand in your way, and that, though able to save you, he might not do it because you have been such great sinners, and he must punish you so kindly read what he says in the latter part of the 21st verse: "There is no God else beside me: a just God and a Savior: there is none beside me." God can justly save you by his wondrous plan of substitution; if you look unto him, he will not mar the integrity of his government or the severity of his justice in order to save you; for, by the blood of his dear Son, his law has been so magnified, and made so honorable, that he can be as just in pardoning as he would have been just in punishing. This doctrine of the atoning sacrifice of Christ is the marvellous mystery of the gospel, the greatest of all revealed truths; and this ought to take away from the guilty conscience everything that makes it fear to trust God. God's justice is satisfied by Jesus's death; therefore, trust him; I implore thee, trust him. Didst thou know the joy that faith brings, couldst thou but understand the peace, the liberty, the transport, the bliss, which simple confidence in Christ will bring to thee, thou wouldst not need my pleadings, but thou wouldst say, "Blessed Jesus, I rush into thine arms, accepting thee as my Savior, and rejoicing in thy great salvation." IV. Our last question was to be, WHAT IS THE BEST TIME IN WHICH TO LOOK TO THE LORD? I answer. the best time is God's time. And when is God's time? What does the Holy Spirit say is the best time? "To-day, if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts." This is God's time, to-day. I do not remember, nor do I think there is in the whole Bible, a single precept addressed to the sinner requiring him to repent and believe to-morrow, or next week. The gospel promise runs, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved;" but it does not say, "Believe next February," or "Believe next March," or "next year." It is understood that every gospel precept or command is for this present moment. God himself, my hearer, not I, poor, feeble man, but God himself saith to thee, "Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon;" and he says this to you at this very moment. What is thine answer? What reply shall I give to him who sent me to you with this message? Wilt thou have him to be the Savior, or wilt thou not? Say one or the other, which thou wilt. If I may plead with thee, I urge thee to say "Yes" from thy very heart. But I shall be almost satisfied if you will say one or the other, for that will bring you to the point; and if you say "no", it may be that, having taken up that position, you may begin to think where you are, and you will go home saying, "I have refused to look to Christ. I have refused the great salvation, and deliberately said, 'I will not look for salvation in God through Jesus Christ'". I wish, sinner, that you would even do that rather than act as so many do, who say, "Go thy way for this time; when we have a more convenient season we will send for thee;" for that tends to quiet conscience, although the convenient season never comes, and Felix is most infelix. There is nothing felicitous in what he says. Happy by name, he is most unhappy in his fatal procrastination concerning this all-important matter. I must have an answer to give to him that sent me Wilt thou now be saved or not? God sets the time; the time is now; so, say "Yes" or "No." Let me, however, remind you that the present is the only time you have. The past is gone; the future may never come. Should it come, it will be present when it does come. On this winged hour all eternity hangs. Possibly, you are thinking of what you will do when you get home; but you do not know that you will get there. Do not many fall in the street never to rise again? You are calculating upon what you will do to-morrow. The image of death will be on your face when you are asleep; are you quite sure that you will ever awake from that form of death into real life again? May not that bed become your sepulcher? You have planned what you intend to do on Monday, and Tuesday, and Wednesday; yet you know not what a day may bring forth. There is a seat, just there, that may speak to some of you. There used to sit, in that pew, one who was well known to you. He came home from business feeling slightly unwell; the doctor was sent for, but our friend was dead ere he arrived. Why should not that which has happened to many others, who have attended here, happen also to you, or to me? "Be ye also ready, for in such an hour as ye think not, the Son of man cometh." If I knew how to preach to you, so that I might win men to believe in Jesus Christ, God knoweth that there is nothing that I would not say, or leave unsaid, that might conduce to that end. I know that there is no power in mere rhetoric or oratory, so I have chosen to speak to you very plainly and simply, without any ornament of speech, and almost without an illustration, that he who runs may read. It is not one half so much my business, dear hearer, that you should be saved as it is yours When I have faithfully delivered the word of salvation, I wash my hands of you. If you refuse it I cannot help it. At your own door must your doom lie, and at your own door alone. Yet would I pluck you by the sleeve, and say, "Dear friend, you do need to be saved. Salvation must come from God, and he bids you look to him for it. Trust his Son for it. God in Christ must be your hope. Will you trust him? Do you understand me! Simply relying upon the atoning sacrifice, trusting in it, resting in it, believing God to be God, and henceforth yielding yourself up to be ruled by his goodness; believing Christ to be able to save you, and yielding yourself up to be saved by him, and guided in the way of holiness and peace; believing that the blood of Jesus can take away your sin, and trusting to it so to do; if so it be, it is done, and you are saved." The salvation has commenced which will never end, for, in the simple act of faith, there lies a living seed which the devil himself cannot crush, which, though it be small as the mustard seed, will begin to swell, and germinate, and send forth its shoots, till it shall be such a tree that many a happy bird of the air shall come, and sit and sing among its branches; and your life, made happy and shaded by this blessed faith in Jesus, shall then bring forth fruit unto God, and the end shall be everlasting life. God grant that it may be so, for his dear Son's sake! Amen.
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Spurgeon, Charle Haddon. "Commentary on Isaiah 45". "Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible". https://studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent