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October 1st, 1871 by C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892)
"Let such as love thy salvation say continually, Let God be magnified." Psalms 70:4 .
These words occur at least three times in the book of Psalms, and therefore we may regard them as especially important. When God speaks once, twice, thrice, he doth as it were awaken us to peculiar attention, and call for prompt obedience to what he saith. Let us not be deaf to the divine voice, but let each one say, "Speak Lord, for thy servant heareth." You will observe that in this, and in the fortieth Psalm, this holy saying is put in opposition to the ungodly speeches of persecutors. The wicked say, "Aha, aha," therefore let those who love God's salvation have a common watchword with which to silence the malicious mockeries of the ungodly; let them say, "LET GOD BE MAGNIFIED." The earnestness of the wicked should be a stimulus to the fervency of the righteous. Surely, if God's enemies do not spare blasphemy and profanity, if they are always upon the watch to find reasons for casting reproach upon the name and church of Christ, we ought to be more than equally vigilant and diligent in spreading abroad the knowledge of the gospel, which magnifies the name of the Lord. Would to God his church were half as earnest as the synagogue of Satan! Oh that we had, in our holy cause, a tithe of the indefatigable spirit of those Scribes and Pharisees, who compass sea and land to make one proselyte! Even the archfiend shames us by his preserving industry, for he goeth up and down in the earth seeking whom he may destroy! The clause which we have selected for our text also follows immediately after another which may be looked upon as a stepping-stone to it. Before we can love God's salvation, we must be seekers of it; hence we read, "Let all those that seek thee rejoice and be glad in thee." There is a duty peculiar to seekers, let them see to it; and then there follows a further obligation peculiar to those who have found what they sought for. Let joy and rejoicing be first realised by the seeker through his receiving personally the grace of God, and then let us go on to a stage further. The fresh convert has his business mainly within; it will be well for him if his heart can, in sincerity, be glad in the Lord. When believers are young and feeble they are not fit for the battle; therefore, let them tarry at home awhile, and under their vine and fig-tree eat the sweet fruits of the gospel, none making them afraid. We do not send our children to hard service; we wait till their limbs are developed, and then appoint them their share in life's labors. Let the newly called be carried like lambs in the Savior's bosom, and borne as on eagles' wings. "Let all those that seek thee rejoice and be glad in thee." But when men have advanced beyond the earliest stage, when they are persuaded that Christ is theirs, and that they have been adopted into the family of God, then let them cheerfully accept active service. Let it not be now the main concern with them to possess a joyous experience on their own account, but let them studiously seek the good of their fellow creatures, and the glory of God. Strong men have strength given them that they may bear burdens and perform labors; light is this burden and blessed is this labor. Let them "say continually, Let God be magnified." I shall, therefore, hope that anything of earnest exhortation which shall be addressed to believers at this time, will come with double power to those of you who are advanced in the divine life. The more you know of God's salvation the more you will love it, and the more you love it the more are you bound to recognize the sacred duty and privilege of saying continually, "Let God be magnified." May each one of you here be willing to take up the obligation if you have enjoyed the benefit. It may simplify our discourse this morning if we arrange it under three heads. Here is, first, the character: "They that love thy salvation. Here is secondly, the saying: "Let them say continually, Let God be magnified. And here is, thirdly, the wish, the wish of the psalmist and of the psalmist's master, that all who answer to the character shall use the watchword, and say continually, Let God be magnified." I. We will begin, then, by discriminating THE CHARACTER. The individuals here spoken of are those who love God's salvation. Then it is implied that they are persons who are saved, because it is not according to nature to love a salvation in which we have no part. We may admire the salvation which is preached, but we shall only love the salvation which is experienced. We may hold orthodox views as to salvation, though not ourselves saved; but we shall not have earnest affection towards it unless we are ourselves redeemed by it from the wrath to come. Saved ones, then, are meant here, and we may add that they are so saved as to be assured of it, and consequently to feel the warm glow of ardent, grateful love. They love God's salvation because they have grasped it; they possess it, they know they possess it, and, therefore, they prize it, and their hearts are wedded to it. Beloved, I hope that the large proportion of this congregation could say before the heart searching God, "We are saved; we have come all guilty and heavy laden to the foot of the cross; we have looked up, we have seen the flowing of the Savior's precious blood, we have trusted in him as our atoning sacrifice, and by faith we have received full pardon through his precious blood." Happy people who have this blessing and know it! May no doubts ever becloud your sky! May you clearly read your titles to the mansions in the skies, written legibly and indelibly in the precious blood of Jesus Christ your Savior. You are the persons to whom we speak to-day; you know, and therefore love the salvation of God. But, more than this, to sustain and bring to perfection in the renewed heart an ardent affection towards the divine salvation of a sort that will continue, and become practically fruitful, there must be an intelligent consideration, and an instructed apprehension as to the character of this salvation. It is a great pity that so many professors have only a religion of feeling, and are quite unable to explain and justify their faith. They live by passion, rather than by principle. Religion is in them a series of paroxysms, a succession of emotions. They were stirred up at a certain meeting, excited, and carried away, and let us hope they were really and sincerely converted: but they have failed to become to the fullest extent disciples or learners. They do not sit at Jesus' feet, they are not Bereans who search the Scriptures daily to see whether these things be so: they are content with the mere rudiments, the simple elements: they are still little children and have need to be fed with milk, for they cannot digest the strong meat of the kingdom. Such persons do not discern so many reasons for admiring and loving the salvation of God, as the intelligent enlightened Spirit-taught believer. I would to God that all of us, after we have received Christ, meditated much upon his blessed person, and the details of his work, and the various streams of blessings which leap forth from the central fount of Calvary's sacrifice. All Scripture is profitable, but especially those Scriptures which concern our salvation. Some things lose by observation, they are most wondered at when least understood; but the gospel gains by study: no man is ever wearied in meditating upon it, nor does he find his admiration diminished, but abundantly increased. Blessed is he who studies the gospel both day and night, and finds his heart's delight in it. Such a man will have a steadier and intenser affection for it, in proportion as he perceives its excellence and surpassing glory. The man who receives the gospel superficially, and holds it as a matter of impression and little more, being quite unable to give a reason for the hope that is in him, lacks that which would confirm and intensify his love. Now, let me show you, beloved, what it is in salvation that the thoughtful believer loves; and I may begin by saying that he loves, best of all, the Savior himself. Often our Lord is called Salvation, because he is the great worker of it, the author and finisher, the Alpha and the Omega of it. He who has Christ has salvation; and, as he is the essence of salvation, he is the center of the saved ones' affection. Have you, beloved, carefully considered that Jesus is divine, that he counts it not robbery to be equal with God, being our Creator and Preserver, as well as our Redeemer? Do you fully understand that our Lord is infinite, eternal, nothing less than God; and yet for our sakes he took upon himself our nature, was clothed in that nature with all its infirmities, sin alone excepted, and in that nature agonized, bled, and died, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God. Oh, marvel of marvels, miracle of miracles! The immortal Lord stoops to death; the Prince of glory bows to be spit upon. Shame and dishonor could not make him start back from his blessed purpose, but to the death of the cross he surrendered himself. O, you who are saved, do you not love Christ, who is your salvation ? Do you not feel a burning desire to behold him as he is ? Is not his presence, even now, a nether heaven to you ? Will not a face to face view of his glory be all the heaven that your utmost stretch of imagination can conceive ? I know it is so. Your heart is bound to Jesus, his name is set as a seal upon it; therefore, I charge you to say continually, "Let God be magnified." Glory be to the Father who gave his Son, to the Son who gave himself, to the Spirit who revealed all this to us. Triune God, be thou extolled for ever and ever. But you love not only the Savior's person, but I am sure you delight in the plan of salvation. What is that plan? It is summed up in a single word substitution.
"He bore, that we might never bear, His Father's righteous ire."
Sin was not pardoned absolutely, else justice had been dishonored; but sin was transferred from the guilty to the innocent One. "The Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all." When our iniquity was found upon the innocent Lamb of God, he was "smitten of God and afflicted," as if he had been a sinner; he was made to suffer for transgressions not his own, as if they had been his own; and thus mercy and justice met together, righteousness and grace kissed each other. Alas! there are many who fight against this plan, but I rejoice that I am surrounded by warm hearts who love it, and would die for it. As for me, I know no other gospel, and let this tongue be dumb rather than it should ever preach any other. Substitution is the very marrow of the whole Bible, the soul of salvation, the essence of the gospel, we ought to saturate all our sermons with it, for it is the life-blood of a gospel ministry. We must daily show how God the Judge can be "just, and yet the justifier of him that believeth." We must declare that God has made the Redeemer's soul a sacrifice for sin, making him to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. Our plain testimony must be, that "he was made a curse for us;" that "he his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree;" that "he was once offered to bear the sins of many;" and that "he was numbered with the transgressors, and he bare the sin of many." About this we must never speak with bated breath, lest we be found unfaithful to our charge. And why, brethren, should we not joyfully proclaim this doctrine? for is it not the grandest, noblest, most divine, under heaven. The plan so adorns all the attributes of the Godhead, and furnishes such a safe footing for a trembling conscience to rest upon, such a fortress, castle, and high tower for faith to rejoice in, that we cannot do otherwise than love it. The very way and plan of it is dearer to our souls than life itself. Oh, then let us always say, "Let God be magnified," since he devised, arranged, and carried out this Godlike method of blending justice with mercy. But, beloved, we also love God's salvation when we consider what was the object of it. The object of it towards us was to redeem unto Christ a people who should be zealous for good works. The sinner loves a salvation from hell, the saint loves a salvation from sin. Anybody would desire to be saved from the pit, but it is only a child of God who pants to be saved from every false way. We love the salvation of God because it saves us from selfishness, from pride, from lust, from worldliness, bitterness, malice, sloth, and uncleanness. When that salvation is completed in us we shall be "without spot or wrinkle or any such thing," and shall be renewed in holiness after the image of Christ Jesus our Lord. That its great aim is our perfection in holiness is the main beauty of salvation. We would be content to be poor, but we cannot be content to be sinful; we could be resigned to sickness, but we could not be satisfied to remain in alienation from God. We long for perfection and nothing short of it will content us, and, because this is guaranteed to the believer in the gospel of Christ, we love his salvation, and we would say continually, "Let God be magnified." I might thus enlarge upon every part of this salvation, and say that it endears itself to us under every aspect, and from every point of view. We love his salvation because of one or two characteristics in it which especially excite our delight. Foremost is the matchless love displayed in it. Why should the Lord have loved men, such insignificant creatures as they are, compared with the universe? Why should he set his heart upon such nothings? But more, how could he love rebellious men who have wantonly and arrogantly broken his laws? Why should he love them so much as to give up his only begotten? These are things we freely speak of, but who among us knows what is their weight.; "God commendeth his love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." I believe that even in heaven, with enlarged faculties, it will be a subject of perpetual wonder to us that ever God could love and save us. And shall we not love the salvation which wells up from the deep fount of the Father's everlasting affection? O brethren, our hearts must be harder than adamant, and made of hell-hardened steel, if we can at once believe that we are saved and yet not love, intensely love the salvation which was devised by Jehovah's heart. We love his salvation, again, because, in addition to the display of wondrous love, it is so safe a salvation, so real, so true: we have not given heed to cunningly devised fables; we have not chanced our souls upon a fiction. We run no risk when we trust the Savior. Though one of our hymns puts it:
"Venture on Him, venture wholly, Let no other trust intrude."
This is only a condescension to the feelings of trembling unbelievers, for there is no venture in it; it is sure and certain. Did God lay on Christ my sin? Was it really punished in him? Then there cannot exist a reason why I should be condemned, but there are ten thousand arguments why I should for ever be "accepted in the beloved." "Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us." Substitution is a basis for intelligent confidence; it satisfies both the demand of the law and the fears of conscience; and gives to believers a deep, settled, substantial peace, which cannot be broken. We love this salvation because we feel that it places a foundation of granite beneath our feet instead of the quicksand of human merit. Justice being satisfied is as much our friend as even mercy herself; in fact, all the attributes unite to guarantee our safety. We love God's salvation, too, because it is so complete. Nothing remains unfinished which is necessary to remove sin from the believer and give him righteousness before God. As far as atonement for sin is concerned, the expiation is most gloriously complete. Remember that remarkable expression of the apostle, where he describes the priests as continually standing at the altar, offering sacrifice year by year, and even day by day, because atonement by such means could never be finished. Such sacrifices could never take away sin; therefore must they be perpetually offered, and the priest must always stand at the altar. "But," saith the apostle, "this man (our great Melchisedec), after he had offered one sacrifice for sin for ever, sat down (for the work was accomplished), sat down at the right hand of God." Jesus has performed what the Aaronic priesthood, in long succession, had failed to do. Though streams of blood might flow from bullock, and from goat, like Kishon's mighty river, and though incense might smoke till the pile thereof was high as Lebanon, with all her goodly cedars, what was there in all this to make propitiation for sin? The work was but shadowed, the real expiation was not offered; it was a fair picture, but the substance itself was not there. But, when our Divine Lord went up to Calvary, and on the cross gave up his body, his soul, his spirit, a sacrifice for sin, he finished transgression, made an end of sin, and brought in everlasting righteousness. Herein, my brethren, we have strong consolation, the immutable things wherein it is impossible for God to lie, his word and oath, are our immovable security. By the atonement we are infallibly, effectually, eternally saved, for he has become the "author of eternal salvation, unto all them that obey him." How we love this salvation! Our inmost heart rejoines in it! I rejoice to preach it, brethren, and I delight to muse upon it, appropriating it to myself by faith in solitary thought. How it makes the tears stream down one's cheeks with joy, to think "He loved me, and gave himself for me: he took my sins, and he destroyed them, they have ceased to be, they are annihilated, they are blotted out like a cloud, and like a thick cloud have they vanished." Surely, we should have lost sanity, as well as grace, if we did not love this salvation, beyond the choicest joys of earth. II. Thus I have described the character, and now, secondly, we will meditate on THE SAYING. Every nation has its idiom, every language has its shibboleth, almost every district has its proverb. Behold the idiom of gracious souls, listen to their household word, their common proverb, it is this, "Let God be magnified! Let God be magnified!" Let us proceed at once to the consideration of it, I trust it belongs to us, it certainly does if we love his salvation. Observe that this is a saying which is founded upon truth and justice. "Let God be magnified," for it is he that saved us, and not we ourselves. We trace our salvation not to our ministers, nor to any pretentious priesthood. None can divide the honors of grace, for the Lord alone hath turned our captivity. He decreed our salvation, planned it, arranged it, executed it, applied it, and secures it. From beginning to end salvation is of the Lord, therefore, let God be magnified. Moreover, the Lord wrought salvation that he might be magnified thereby. It was God's object in salvation to glorify his own name. "Not for your sakes do I this, O house of Israel." Truly we desire that the Lord's end and purpose should be fully subserved, for it is his well-deserved due. O thou who hast bled upon the cross, may thy throne be glorious! O thou who wast despised and rejected of men, be thou extolled, and be thou very high. Thou deservest all glory, great and merciful God. Such a gift, such a sacrifice, such a work; thou oughtest indeed to be lauded and had in honor by all the intelligent universe. The saying is settled deep in truth, and established in right. This saying is naturally suggested by love. It is because we love his salvation that we say, "The Lord be magnified." You cannot love God without desiring to magnify him, and I am sure that you cannot know that you are saved without loving him. For here is a wonder, a central wonder of wonders to many of us, that ever we in particular were saved. I do not think I could be so wonder-struck and amazed at the salvation of you all as at my own. I should know it to be infinite mercy that saved any one of you, or all of you, I say I should know it, but in my own case I feel it is an unspeakable and inconceivably great mercy which has saved me; and I suppose each brother here, each sister here will feel a special love to Christ from the fact of being himself or herself an object of his love. We never sing, I am sure, with warmer hearts any hymn in our hymn-book than that one
"What was there in us that could merit esteem, Or give the Creator delight? Twas even so Father, we ever must sing, For so it seemed good in thy sight."
The Lord might have left as he has left others to carry out their own wills, and wilfully to reject the Savior, but since he has made us willing in the day of his power, we are for ever beyond measure under obligations to him. Let us say continually, "The Lord be magnified, which hath pleasure in the prosperity of his servants." Moreover, this saying of our text is deeply sincere and practical. I am sure David did not wish to see hypocrites multiplied; but such would be the case if men merely said, "Let God be magnified," and did not mean it. No doubt there is a great deal among professors of mere expression without meaning; it is sadly evident that much godly talk is only talk, but it ought not so to be. You know, how often charity is assumed, and men say to the naked and hungry, "Be ye warmed, and be ye filled;" but they give nothing to the poor, except vain words, which cannot profit them. So, too, often professors will sing:
"Fly abroad, thou mighty gospel, Win and conquer, never cease; May thy lasting wide dominion Multiply and still increase."
and so on; but there it ends; they have said it, but they have done nothing for it. Now, as he is condemned as a hypocrite who merely utters words of charity without deeds, so is he who shall say, "Let God be magnified," but who does not put forth his hand and throw in all his energies to promote that which he professes to desire. The wish must be, and oh! if we are saved by grace, it will be sincere, intense, and fervent in every believing heart. Moreover, it must not only be sincere, but it must be paramount. I take it that there is nothing which a Christian man should say continually, except this, "Let God be magnified." That which a man may say continually is assuredly the master-thought of his mind. Listen to the cherubim and seraphim; they continually do cry, "Holy! Holy! Holy! Lord God of Hosts!" Why cry they thus continually? Is it not because it is their chief business, their highest delight? So should it be with us; our end and aim should ever be to glorify him who redeemed us by his most precious blood. You are a citizen, but you are more a Christian. You are a father, but you are more a child of God. You are a laborer, but you are most of all a servant of the Most High. You are wealthy, but yet more enriched by his covenant. You are poor, but you are most emphatically rich if Christ is yours. The first, chief, leading, lordly, master-thought within you must be this, "Let God be magnified." And, brethren, the text tells us this must be continual. How earnest you feel about the cause of Christ when you have heard an inspiriting sermon, but how long does it last? Ah, those old days of mission enterprise, when Exeter Hall used to be crowded because missionaries had interesting stories to tell of what God was doing what enthusiasm there used to be where is it now? Where is it now? Echo might well answer "where is it now?" To a great degree it has departed. The zeal of many rises and falls like a barometer. They are hot as fire, and cold as ice, in the shortest space; their fervor is as transient as the flame of thorns, and hence it is very hard to turn it to any practical account. Oh, for more of the deep-seated principle of intense love to God's salvation, steady and abiding, which shall make a man say continually, "Let God be magnified." We would desire to wake up in the morning with this on our lips. We would begin with the enquiry, "What can I do to magnify God this day?" We would be in business in the middle of the day, and yet never lose the one desire to magnify God. We would return to our family at night, urged by the same impulse, "How can I magnify God in my household?" If I lie sick, I would feel that I must magnify God by patience; if I rise from that bed, I would feel the sweet obligation to magnify him by gratitude; if I take a prominent position, I am doubly bound to magnify him who makes me a leader to his dock, and, if I be unknown and obscure in the church, I must with equal zeal magnify him by a conscientious discharge of the duties of my position. Oh, to have one end always before us, and to press forward towards it, neither turning to the right hand nor to the left. As though we were balls shot out of a rifled cannon we would rush on, never hesitating or turning aside, but flying with all speed towards the center of the target. May our spirits be impelled by a divine energy towards this one only thing. The Lord be magnified! whether I live or die, may God be glorified in me! According to the text, this saying should be universal among the saints. It should be the mark of all those that love God's salvation, pertaining not to a few who shall be chosen to minister in public, but to all those whom grace has renewed. All of us, women as well as men, illiterate as well as learned, poor as well as rich, silent as well as eloquent, should after our own ability say, "Let God be magnified." Oh, would to God we were all stirred up to this! Our churches seem to be half alive. It is a dreadful thing to read of the punishment practiced by ancient tyrants when they tied a living man to a corpse, and he had to go about with this corpse strapped to him, and rotting under his nostrils, and yet that is too often the condition of the living ones in our churches: they are bound by ties of church union to a portion of the church which is spiritually dead, though not so manifestly corrupt as to render it possible for us to cut it off. The tares, which we may not root up, hamper and dwarf the wheat. O God, the Holy Ghost, make the church alive right through, from the crown of its head to the sole of its foot, so that the whole church may cry continually, "Let God be magnified." You will notice that the cry is an absolute one. It does not say, let God be magnified by me if he will please to make me successful in business, and happy, and healthy, but it leaves it open. Only let God be magnified, and he may do what he wills with me. As a poor soldier in the regiment of Christ, I only care for this that HE may win the day, and if I see him riding on his white horse and know that he is conquering, though I lie bleeding and wounded in a ditch, I will clap my hands and say, "Blessed be the name of the Lord." Though I be poor, and despised, and reproached, this shall compensate for all, if I can only hear that "him hath God highly exalted, and given him a name that is above every name; that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." I would close my eyes in death, and say, my soul is satisfied with favor and hath all she wants if Jesus be exalted. Remember how David put it: when he had said "Let the whole earth be filled with his glory," he added, "Amen and amen. The prayers of David, the son of Jesse, are ended." He desired no more than that; that was the ultimatum of his wishes. Beloved, I trust it is the same with us. Nor is there any limit as to place or persons. My heart says, "Let God be magnified among the Wesleyans! The Lord be magnified among the Independents! The Lord be magnified among the Episcopalians! The Lord be magnified among the Baptists!" We pray very earnestly, "Let God be magnified in the Tabernacle," but we would not forget to cry, "Let God be magnified in all parts of London, in all counties of England, and Scotland, and Ireland." We desire no restriction as to race let God be magnified both in France and in Prussia; in Turkey and in Italy; in the United States and in Australia; among any and every people! So that God's name be magnified, what matters it how or where? We know no politics but this, "Let God be magnified." All nationalities sink before our relation to our God. Christians are cosmopolitan; we are burgesses of the New Jerusalem there is our citizenship; we are freemen of the entire new creation. What is all else to God's glory! So long as the Lord is glorified, let the empires go and the emperors with them; let nations rise or fall, so long as he comes whose right it is to reign; let ancient dynasties pass away, if his throne is but exalted. We would never dictate to the God of history; let him write out as he pleases the stanzas of his own august poem, but let this always be the close of every verse, "The Lord be magnified! The Lord be magnified! The Lord be magnified!" This is the continual saying of all them that love his salvation. III. We had much to say under our second head, but time will not tarry for us; therefore we must proceed to the last, which is THE WISH. Holy David, and David's perfect Lord both wish that we may say, "Let God be magnified." This wish is promoted by an anxiety for God's glory; it is a most holy wish, and it ought to be fulfilled. I shall ask your attention only for a minute or two to the reasons of the wish. Why should it be wished? First, because it always ought to be said, "Let God be magnified." It is only right, and according to the fitness of things, that God should be magnified in the world which he himself created. Such a handiwork deserves admiration from all who behold it. But when he new-made the world, and especially when he laid the foundation of his new palace in the fair colors of Jesus' blood, and adorned it with the sapphires of grace and truth; he had a double claim upon our praise. He gave his Son to redeem us, and for this let his praise be great and endless. Things are out of joint if God the Redeemer be not glorified. Surely the wheels of nature revolve amiss, if God the loving and gracious be not greatly magnified. As every right-hearted man desires to see right and justice done, therefore does he wish that those who love God's salvation may say continually, "Let God be magnified." But, we wish it next, because it always needs saying. The world is dull and sleepy, and utterly indifferent to the glory of God in the work of redemption. We need to tell it over and over and over again, that God is great in the salvation of his people. There are many, Who will rise up and deny God's Glory; revilers of all sorts abound in rage; but over and above their clamor, let the voice of truth be heard, "Let God be magnified." They cry, "the Bible is worn out." They doubt its inspiration, they question the deity of Christ, they set up new gods that have lately come up, that our fathers knew not. Let us confront them with the truth, let us oppose them with the gospel, let us overcome them through the blood of the Lamb, using this one only war-cry, "Let God be magnified." Everywhere in answer to all blasphemy, in direct conflict with profanity, let us lift up this voice with heart and soul. "Let God be magnified." And, again, we desire this, because the saying of this continually does good to the sayers. He who blesses God blesses himself. We cannot serve God with the heart without serving ourselves most practically. Nothing, brethren, is more for your benefit than to spend and be spent for the promotion of the divine honor. Then, again, this promotes the welfare of God's creatures. We ought to desire to spread the knowledge of God, because the dark places of the earth will never cease to be the habitation of cruelty till they become the temple of the Lord of hosts. Myriads are dying, while we are sitting complacently here souls are passing into eternity unforgiven. The wrath of God is abiding still upon the sons of men, for they know not Christ. What stronger motive could there be for desiring that God's name should continually be magnified. I have been told, and I believe it is the general impression, that at this particular time there is a great cessation of the zealous spirit which once ruled among Christians. We have passed over the heroic age, the golden period of missions, and we have come to the time in which the church rests upon her oars, takes matters quietly, what if I say regards them hopelessly? Very few young men are now coming forward, at least in our denomination, to offer themselves for missionaries; the funds are barely sustained and nothing more. I fear there is among those who conduct the affairs of missions too little of faith, and too much of bastard prudence, which last had better be banished to the bottomless pit at once, for it has long been the clog upon the chariot wheels of the gospel. Faith is too much cast into the background, and the work is viewed in a mercantile light, as though it were a rule of three sum so much money and so many men, and then so many conversions, whereas it is not so. God worketh not according to arithmetical rules and calculations. There is, I fear, on the whole, a general backsliding from the right state; and what a sad thing it is that it should be so, since at our best we were never too zealous. Few can bring the charge of fanaticism against the English Baptists: we have been too solid, if not stolid, for that. I almost wish it were possible for us to err in that direction, for if an evil it would at any rate be a novelty, if not an improvement. Why is this, and whence comes it? Years ago our fathers compassed this Jericho, they passed round it according to the Master's bidding, and are we about, after having done the same these many years, to relinquish the task, and lose the result? Do we fear that the walls will never fall to the ground? Brethren, I believe it is the duty of the Christian church to go on working quite as earnestly and zealously and believingly, if there be no conversions, as if half the world were transformed in a twelve month. Our business is not to create a harvest but to sow the seed; if the wheat does not come up, if we have sown it aright, our Master does not hold us responsible. If missions had been an utter failure it would be no sort of reason why we should give them up. There was a great failure when the hosts of Israel, on the first occasion, went round Jericho; a dreadful failure when they marched round the city twice, and the walls shook not; it was an aggravated failure when they had compassed it four times; it was a most discouraging defeat when they had tramped round it five times; and, on the whole, a breakdown, almost enough to drive them to despair, when they had performed the circuit six times and not a single brick had stirred in the wall. Yes; but then the seventh day made amends, when the people shouted and all the walls fell flat to the ground. Brethren, it is not yet time to shout, but we must continue marching and say, "Let God be magnified." The longer the walls stand, and the longer we wait, the louder will be our shout when they lie prostrate before us, as they shall; for, "Verily, verily, I say unto you there shall not be one stone left upon another that shall not be cast down." Remember the Greeks when they attacked old Troy: ye have the record in ancient story. They waited many years till their ships had well nigh rotted on the seas, but the prowess of Hector and the armed men of Troy kept back the "King of men," and all the hosts of the avengers. Suppose that after nine years had dragged along their weary length, the chiefs of the Greeks had said, "It is of no avail, the city is impregnable! O Pelasgi, back to your fair lands washed by the blue Aegean, you will never subdue the valor of Ilium." No.; but they persevered in the weary siege, with feats of strength and schemes of art, till at last they saw the city burned and heard the dire lament: "Troy was, but is no more" Let us still continue to attack the adversary. We are few, but strength lies not in numbers. The Eternal One has used the few where he has put aside the many. In our weakness lies part of our adaptation to the divine work; only let us gather up fresh faith, and renew our courage and industry, and we shall see greater things than these. "Pshaw," says one, "Protestant Christianity is in a miserable minority, it is ridiculous to suppose it will ever be the dominant religion of the world." We reply, that it is ridiculous, nay blasphemous, to doubt when God has sworn with an oath that "all flesh shall see the salvation of God." God's oath is better evidence than appearances; for, in a moment, if he wills it, he can give such an impetus to the Christian church, that she shall in her enthusiasm spread the gospel, and at the same time he can give such a turn to the human mind, that it shall be as ready to accept the gospel as the church is to spread it. Observe how the church grew during the first few centuries. After the apostles had died you do not find in the next century the name of any very remarkable man, but all Christians then were earnest, and the good cause advanced. They were mostly poor, they were generally illiterate, but they were all missionaries, they were all seeking to glorify God, and, consequently, before long, down went Jupiter, Saturn lost his throne, even Venus was abjured, and the cross, at least nominally, became supreme throughout all Europe. It shall be done again. In the name of the Eternal, let us set up our banners. Oh, ye that love the Lord and his salvation, vow it in your souls, determine it in your hearts, and, God the Holy Spirit being with you, if you have but faith in him, it will be no empty boast, no vain vaunting. God shall speak and it shall be done. The Lord of hosts is with us, the God of Jacob is our refuge; and such being the case, nothing is impossible to us. May the Lord stir us up with these thoughts, and fling us like firebrands into the midst of his church and the world, to set both on a blaze with love through the love that burns in our hearts. "Let God be magnified." Amen and Amen.
The Plea of Faith 2 Samuel 7:25
Pleading Psalms 70:5
The Plea of Faith
June 22, 1856 by C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892)
"Do as thou hast said.' 2 Samuel 7:25 .
Nathan had been giving to David, on God's behalf, sundry exceeding great and precious promises. David expresses his gratitude to God for having so promised, and he says, "Now, O Lord God, the word that thou hast spoken concerning thy servant, and concerning his house, establish it for ever, and do as thou hast said.'
It is a prayer to God. Those words naturally flowed from his lips: after hearing such precious promises, he was anxious for their fulfilment. Such words will be equally in place, if they shall be adopted by us in these modern times, and if, after reading a promise, on turning to God's Word, we should finish by saying, "Remember the word unto thy servant, upon which thou hast caused me to hope," it will be a practical application of the text, "Do as thou hast said."
I shall not commence my sermon to-night by endeavoring to prove that this Bible is what God has said; I do not come here to give you arguments to prove the inspiration of Scripture; I assume that I speak to a Christian congregation, and I assume, therefore, at starting, that this is God's word and none other. Leaving that matter, then, altogether, permit me to proceed at once to the text, understanding by what God has said, the Scriptures of his truth; and I trust there are some here who will be led, to-night, to cry to God in behalf of some promise made to their souls, "O Lord, do as thou hast said."
I. Our first remark shall be HOW IMPORTANT IT IS TO KNOW WHAT GOD HAS SAID, for unless we know what God has said, it will be folly to say, " do as thou hast said." Perhaps there is no book more neglected in these days than the Bible. I do verily believe there are more mouldy Bibles in this world than there are of any sort of neglected books. We have stillborn books in abundance; we have innumerable books which never see any circulation except the circulation of the butter shop, but we have no book that is so much bought, and then so speedily laid aside, and so little used, ad the Bible. If we buy a newspaper, it is generally handed from one person to another, or we take care to peruse it pretty well; indeed some go so far as to read advertisements and all. If a person purchases a novel, it is well known how he will sit and read it all the way through, till the midnight candle is burnt out; the book must be finished in one day, because it is so admirable and interesting; but the Bible, of course, in the estimation of many, is not an interesting book; and the subjects it treats of are not of any very great importance. So most men think; they think it is a very good book to carry out on a Sunday, but never meant to be used as a book of pleasure, or a book to which one could turn with delight. Such is the opinion of many; but no opinion can be more apart from the truth; for what book can treat of truths one-half so important as those that concern the soul. What book can so well deserve my attention as that which is written by the greatest of all authors, God himself? If I must read a valuable book with attention, how much more ought I to give my mind to the study of that book which is invaluable, and which contains truth without the slightest admixture of error? And if books upon my health, or books which only concern the doings of my fellow creatures occupy some of my time, and deservedly so, how much more time should I spend in reading that which concerns my everlasting destiny; which reveals to me worlds hitherto unknown; which tells me how I may escape from hell and fly to heaven? But I must remark, that even among Christian people, the Bible is one of the least read books that they have in their house. What with our innumerable magazines, our religious newspapers, and our perpetual controversies about the Bible, it is too seldom that people read the Bible. There certainly is not that reading of it that there used to be. Our predecessors, the ancient Puritans, would scarcely read any book but that; and if a book was not concerning the Bible, they did not care about reading it at all. Perhaps therein they may have been too strait and narrow, and may somewhat have cramped their minds; but I would rather have a little truth, and have a mind filled with that, though that mind should only be as large as a nutshell, than have the most gigantic intellect, and have that crammed with error. It is not the greatness of our intellect, it is the rightness of it, that makes us men in this world, and right men before God. I beseech you, therefore, you who are members of Christian churches, if you have but little time, do not expend it in reading ephemeral books, but take your Bible and read it constantly; and I promise you one thing, that if you are already Christians, the more you read the Bible the more you will love it. You may find it hard, perhaps, at present, to read a short passage and meditate upon it all day; but as you proceed you will see such depths unfathomable, such heights beyond your ken; and you will discover such unutterable sweetness in this precious honey-comb dropping with drops of honey, that you will say, "I must have more of it," and your spirit will always cry, "Give, give;" nor will it be content until you can have God's statutes upon your mind daily, to be your songs in the house of your pilgrimage.
The errors of this present age have sprung from a non-reading of the Bible . Do you think, my brethren, that if we all read the Scriptures with judgment, and desired to know them rightly, there would be so many sects as there are? Heresies and schisms have sprung from this; one man has gone a little astray upon a point; another man, without referring to Scripture, has endorsed all he has said; another one has added something else to it; and then another one, being cunning, full of subtlety of the devil, has twisted passages of Scripture, and has woven them into a system, which has been fashioned in the first place by mistake, has accumulated and become more colossal by sundry other mistakes which naturally accrued to it, and at last has been perfected by the craft of designing heretics.
And, again: bigotry, ill feeling, and uncharitableness, must all be traced, in a large degree, to our want of reading the Bible . What is the reason why yon man hates me, because I preach what I believe to be right? If I do speak the truth am I responsible for his hating me? Not in the least degree. I am sometimes told by my people that I attack certain parties very hard. Well, I cannot help it; if they are not right, it is not my fault if they come in my way, that I am compelled to run over them. Suppose two of you should be driving in the road to-morrow, and one of you should be on the right side of the road, and some accident should occur, you would say, "Sir, the other man ought to have pulled up, he must pay the damages, for he had no business there at all on his wrong side." And it will be the same with us if we preach God's truth; we must go straight on; if the greatest ill-feeling in the world rise up we have nothing to do with it. God's truth will sometimes bring about warfare; Jesus Christ, you know, said himself that he came to put warfare between man and man; to set the mother-in-law against the daughter-in-law, and the daughter-in-law against mother-in-law; and that a man's foes should be those of his own household. But if there be ill-feeling, if there be clamouring of sects, to whom is it due? Who is responsible for it? Why, the man who makes the new sects, not the man who abides fast and firm by the old one. If I am safely moored by a good strong anchor of fundamental truth, and some other shall strike my vessel and sink himself, I will not pay the damages. I stand firm: if others chose to go away from the truth, to cut their cables and slip their moorings; then let them. God grant that we may not do the same. Hold the truth, my friends, and hold it as the easiest method of sweeping away heresies and false doctrines. But now-a-days, you know, you are told, "Oh, it does not matter what you believe; doctrines are nothing;" ad they have tried lately to make a very happy family of us, like the happy family near Waterloo Bridge, where all kinds of creatures are shut up together; but they are only kept in order by a lath which the man, when we turn our heads, applies between the bars of the cage. Just so with denominations; they want to amalgamate us all. We differ in various doctrines, and therefore some of us must be wrong, if we hold doctrines which are directly hostile to each other. But we are told, "It does not signify; doubtless, you are all right." Now, I cannot see that. If I say one thing, and another man says another, how, by all that is holy, can both speak the truth? Shall black and white be the same colour? Shall falsehood and truth be the same? When they shall be, and fire shall sleep in the same cradle with the waves of the ocean, then shall we agree to amalgamate ourselves with those who deny our doctrines, or speak evil of what we believe to be the gospel. My brethren, no man has any right to absolve your judgment from allegiance to God; there is liberty of conscience between man and man, but there is none between God and man. No man has a right to believe what he likes; he is to believe what God tells him; and if he does not believe that though he is not responsible to man, or to any set of men, or to any government, yet mark you, he is responsible to God. I beseech you, therefore, if you would avoid heresies, and bring the church to a glorious union, read the Scriptures. Read not so much man's comments, or man's books, but read the Scriptures, and keep your faith on this, "God has said it." If you cannot make all God's truths agree, yet remember God has not made two sets of truth opposite to each other; that were an impossibility which even God himself could not accomplish mighty though he be. My brethren, always stand by what God has said, and do not be turned aside from it by all the arguments that can be brought to bear against you. "Search the Scriptures, for they testify of Christ."
II. And now for our second point, ALL THAT FAITH WANTS TO BUILD UPON IS WHAT GOD HAS SAID. "Do as thou hast said." The only solid foothold that faith has is, " It is written , God hath said it." When a sinner comes to God he must have nothing else to rely upon except this, "Do as thou hast said." There is a tendency in most men's minds to bring before God something which he did not say. Many of you, I dare say, will go and ask God in prayer for something for which you cannot prove a positive promise that he will ever give it to you. You go to God and say, "Lord, do as John Bunyan said, do as Whitfield said, let me have an experience like theirs." Now, that is all wrong. We must, when we come to God, say only, "Lord, do as thou hast said." And then, again, I do believe that many of those who are members of our churches have not put their faith simply in what God has said. If I were to go round to some of you and ask you why you believe yourselves to be Christians, it is marvellous what strange reasons many of you would bring. It is very singular what strange views persons often have as to the way of salvation. It is hard to bring a sinner to God simply with this, "Lord, do as thou hast said."
I know some who think themselves to be God's children, because they dreamed they were. They had a very remarkable dream one night, and if you were to laugh at them they would be unutterably indignant; they would cut you at once out of the family of God, and call you an "accuser of the brethren." They do not rely upon what God has said in the Bible; but they had some singular vision, when deep sleep had fallen upon them, and because of that vision, they reckon they are children of God. In the course of my seeing persons who come to me, I hear every now and then a story like this, "Sir, I was in such-and-such a room, and suddenly I thought I saw Jesus Christ, and heard a voice saying such-and-such a thing to me, and that is the reason why I hope I am saved." Now, that is not God's way of salvation; the sinner is not to say, "Lord, do as I dreamed, do as I fancy;" but "Do as thou hast said." And if I have any one here who has never had a dream, or vision, he does not want to have, if he goes to God with this, "Lord, thou hast said Christ died to save sinners, I am a sinner, save me," that is faith, "Do as thou hast said." But there are other persons far more rational, who if they were asked the reason for their supposing that they are saved, would speak of some remarkable rhapsody which, on a particular occasion they had when hearing a certain minister; or of a particular text which struck them suddenly, and transported them to the seventh heaven, and they had such thoughts as they never had before. "Oh! sir," they say, "it is marvellous, I thought my heart would break, it was so full of joy and gladness; I never felt so before in all my life; and when I went out of the house, I felt so light and so ready to run home, I thought I should sing al the way; so I know I must be a child of God." Well, you may know it, but I don't, because there are many persons who have been deluded by the devil in that fashion, who never had faith in Christ. Faith in Christ never rests in rhapsody; it rests on a "thou hast said it." Ask faith whether it will ever take its standing on anything but a "thou hast said," and faith will answer, "No; I cannot climb to heaven on a ladder made of dreams, they are too flimsy to bear my feet." Faith, why dost thou not march on? Why dost thou not cross that bridge? "No," says faith, "I cannot; it is made up of rhapsodies, and rhapsodies are intoxicating things, and I cannot place my feet upon them." Faith will stand on a promise, though it be no bigger than grain of mustard seed; but it could not stand on a rhapsody if it was as large as the everlasting mountains. Faith can build on a "thou hast said it;" but it cannot build on frames and feelings, on dreams and experiences it only relies on this "Thou hast said it." Let me caution my hearers against suppositions, which some of them have as to salvation. Some persons think that the Holy Spirit is a kind of electric shock working in the heart; that there is some mysterious and terrible thing they cannot understand, which they must feel, not only very different from what they ever felt before, but even superior to anything described in God's Word. Now, I beg to tell you, that so far from the effectual operation of the Holy Spirit being a dark thing in its manifestation, it is, because it is the Holy Spirit, a thing of simplicity and light. The way of salvation is no great mystery, it is very plain; it is "believe and live." And faith needs no mysteries to hang itself upon; it catches hold of the bare naked promise, and it says, "Lord, do as thou hast said."
My faith can on this promise live; I know that on this promise it never can die. But faith wants neither testimonies of man, nor learning of philosophers, nor eloquence of orators, nor rhapsodies, nor visions, nor revelations. It wants nothing else but what God has said applied to the heart; and it goes to God, and says, "Lord, do as thou hast said."
III. And now for the third remark. We see that faith is a very bold thing; when God says a thing it goes to God, and says, "Lord, do as thou hast said."
My third remark is, that FAITH IS QUITE RIGHT IN SO DOING. The Lord always meant, when he said a thing, that we should remind him of it. God's promises were never meant to be waste paper; he meant that they should be used. Whenever God gives a promise, if a man does not use that promise, the promise fails in effect to that man, and God's great intention therein is in some measure frustrated. God sent the promise on purpose to be used. If I see a Bank of England note, it is a promise for a certain amount of money, and I take it and use it. But oh! my friend, do try and use God's promises; nothing pleases God better than to see his promises put in circulation; he loves to see his children bring them up to him, and say, "Lord, do as thou hast said." And let me tell you that it glorifies God to use his promises. Do you think that God will be any the poorer for giving you the riches he has promised? Do you think he will be any the less holy for giving holiness to you? Do you think he will be any the less pure for washing you from your sins? And he has said, "Come now, let us reason together, though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as wool; though they be red, they shall be whiter than snow." Faith gets hold of that promise, and it does not stand saying, "this is a precious promise, I will look at it;" it goes right up to the throne, and says, "Lord, here is the promise, do as thou hast said." And God says, "Oh! faith, I am as glad to see the promise brought to me, as thou art to bring it; I meant my promise to be used, and the using of it glorifies me." Why, if any one gave us a cheque, and we did not go to have it cashed, though we might want the money badly enough, suppose we said, "I don't like to go," there would be some slur cast upon the character of the man whose signature had made it valid. And so when a Christian gets a promise, if he does not take it to God, he dishonors him. But when faith in all its raggedness and poverty, and sickness about it, goes to God and says, "Lord, I have nothing to recommend me but this, 'thou hast said it:' there is the promise, Lord, give me the fulfilment." God smiles, and says, "Ay, my child, I love to see thee trust me; there, take back the fulfilment, and go on thy way rejoicing." Never think that God will be troubled by your asking him about his promises so much. God likes to be troubled, if I may use such an expression; he likes you to go to his door, and say, "Great Banker, cash this note; great Promiser, fulfil this promise; great covenant God, fulfil thy covenant, and send me not empty away." "Do as thou hast said," is a legitimate request; we ought to say it; it honors God, and God meant that we should so use his promises, "Do as thou hast said."
Another remark. Faith has very good reasons for appealing to God to do as he has said . If you should say to faith, "Faith, why do you expect God to do as he has said it, why do you expect it?" Faith would answer, "I have a whole bundle of reasons that justify the act. And in the first place, I have a right to expect him to do as he has said, because he is a true God; I know he cannot lie. He has said he will give me such-and-such a thing; if he was not a truthful God, I would not say, 'do as thou hast said!' but since he is a true God, and never was known to break his promise, and since, moreover, by two immutable things, wherein it is impossible for God to lie his oath and his promise he has made the thing secure; and since I know that in Christ all the promises are yea and amen, I think I have good reason enough for going to him and saying, 'do as thou hast said.' If he were some fallible being who promised and would not perform, I might hesitate somewhat; but since he is always true and constantly precious, I will go and say to him, 'Lord, do as thou hast said.'" Poor sinner! God has said, "He that confesseth his sin shall find mercy." Now, if you go to God, you want no other plea than this, "Lord, do as thou hast said;' 'I have confessed my sins;' 'do as thou hast said.'" "But, sinner, why should I do as I have said? you do not deserve it." "Lord, thou art a true God."
"Thou hast promised to forgive, All who on thy Son believe; Lord I know thou canst not lie, Give me Christ or else I die."
Go, poor sinner, tell the Lord that, and as truly as he is God, he will never send you empty away. Faith has good reasons to feel that God is true, and therefore he will do as he has said. And not only so, but he is able to do it; his ability is infinite. His intentions also are the same , his promises never get worn out by being circulated, and they become all the more sure for being tried. Poor sinner, here again is a joyful thought: thou canst go to God, and say, "Lord thou hast promised to wash away all our iniquities, and cast them into the depths of the sea. Lord, if thou hadst been a changeable God, I might have thought thou wouldst not wash away mine, but thou didst wash Manasseh, and thou didst wash Paul; now, Lord, because thou art unchangeable, 'do as thou hast said.' For thou art just the same now, just as merciful, just as powerful, and just as kind as ever thou wert. What, wilt thou break thy promise, Lord? 'Do as thou hast said.'"
But faith puts it on stronger ground than this: it says, "Lord, if thou dost not do as thou hast said, thou wilt be dishonored, thou wilt be disgraced." If a man does not carry out his promise, he is cashiered; men care not to associate with on who breaks his promise; and what would become of God's great name if he were to break his promise? Poor black sinner! thou art coming to the fountain; God has given the promise that he will wash every sinner that comes to the fountain. Now, with reverence, let me speak it poor sinner; if Christ did not wash you, it would be a dishonor to his truth. If you were to go to Christ, and he were to cast you out, surely the devils in hell would despise the name of him who breaks his promise. Beloved, to suppose that God could violate his promise, is to suppose him divested of his Godhead. Take away God's honour from him, and he becomes less than man. Take away the honour which even man holds dear, and what do you make of God? "Oh! sir," you say, "but I do not deserve it; I am such a poor worthless creature, he will not keep his promise to me." I tell you that does not make a whit difference in God's promise; if he has promised, he is divinely bound to perform his promise, in whatever state you may be. Though you have slandered God, though you may have hated him and despised him, and run away from him, and in every way ill-treated him if he has made a promise to you here, I will be bound for my God. He would keep a promise to the devil if he had made one; and if he has made a promise to you who are ever so vile, he will keep that promise to you. Hear the promise, then, once more, Are you a sinner? "This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinner, even the chief." And, again: "He is able to save unto the uttermost them that come unto God by him." And, again: "Come unto me, all ye that are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." And let me say again, with the profoundest reverence, that if Christ did not give rest to every weary heavy laden sinner that came to him, he would be un-Christed, he would lose his truthfulness, he would be undeified, he would lose his veracity, and the loss of one poor believing sinner would be the loss of God's own godhead; it would be the dethroning of the immortal; it would be the pulling down of heaven, the breaking asunder of the universe, and the dissolution of creation's own earth, and of creation's self. Faith may well go to God, and say, "Lord, do as thou hast said; for if thou dost not, it will be a dishonor to thyself."
And now let us conclude by asking, what has God said ? I cannot tell you all that he has said to you, because I cannot mark out all the different characters here. But, my dear friends, whatever may be your character, from the earliest stage of religion up to the last, there is always some special promise to you; and you have only to turn your Bible over and find it out, and then go to God with "Do as thou hast said." Let me just select a few characters. There is one here, exceeding faint in the ways of the Lord. "Oh!" he says, "I am faint, though I hope I am pursuing." Now, here is the promise, "He giveth power unto the faint;" When you get such a promise, stick hard and fast to it; do not let the devil cheat you out of it, but keep on saying, "Lord, thou hast said, He giveth power unto the faint." "Do as thou hast said." Let it ring and ring again in the ears of the promiser, and he will be a performer yet. "Ah!" says another, "I am not faint; I am afraid I scarcely have life at all; I am a hungry and thirsty soul; I want Christ, but I cannot get at him." Hear this: "Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled." Take that promise to God, and keep to it: do not plead anything else, but go to God over and over again with this, "Lord, thou hast said it; do as thou hast said." Are you covered all over with sin, and under a deep sense of your iniquities? Go and tell him this: "Thou hast said, 'I will cast their iniquities into the depths of the sea.' Lord, I know I have these sins; I do not deny it; but thou hast said, 'I will pardon them.' I have no reason why thou shouldst pardon them; I cannot promise that I shall be better; but, Lord, thou hast said it, and that is enough; 'Do as thou hast said.'" Another one here is afraid lest he should not be able to hold on to the end, and lest after having been a child of God he should be a cast-away. Then, if that be thy state, go and take this to God: "The mountains may depart, and the hills may be removed, but the covenant of my love shall not depart from you;" and when you are thinking that Saviour is going away, catch hold of his skirts, and say, "Jesus, do as thou hast said. Thou hast said, 'I will never leave thee;' 'do as thou hast said.'" Or, if thou hast lost his presence, remember the promise, "I will come again to you." Go and say, "Lord, I have lost the sweet comfort of thy presence in my heart, but thou hast said, 'I will come again to you.'" And if Satan says, "He is gone away, and will never come back again," tell Satan he has nothing to do with it; God has said it, and keep to this, "Do as thou hast said." If you do that, you will want no other argument and no other reason.
Let us suppose a case, and having tried to illustrate the truth by it, we will have done. There is a desperate ruffian; he has been concerned in twenty burglaries; it is said he has committed several murders; the police are on his track, they are hunting after him; he cannot be discovered. The principal point is to discover him, for it is hoped that by his discovery and his pardon more good might be done than even by his execution. Persons come to this desperately bad fellow, and they tell him, "If you give yourself up, I dare say you will get a free pardon." "I do not give myself up on daresays," he says. Another comes, and says, "If you were to give yourself up, I would intercede for you; I know my lord so-and-so, and such a man, member of parliament, would intercede for you." "No," he would say, "let well alone. I am pretty safe now; I am not going to give myself up on the mere speculation that some one will intercede for me." But by-and-bye there comes out a huge placard, "V.R. Free pardon to such a man if he surrenders himself." He walks straight up to the place. Some one says to him, "Stop, my dear fellow; they will hang you, perhaps." "No," says he, "they won't." Some one says, "They have been many years looking after you; you do not think that if you get into the fangs of the law now the Queen will pardon you?" "Yes," he says, "I can trust her? she has never given a free pardon, and then executed anyone." He goes to the office, and they say, "We are astonished to see this fellow; he might have kept away; he had no necessity to give himself up." "See," says one, "there is a policeman, are you not afraid? There are the handcuffs; are you not afraid that they will be put on your wrists and that you will be put into jail?" "No," he says, "I will walk all through the prison, but there is not a cell in which I may be locked up. The Queen has said she will pardon me, and I do not want any thing else." "But look at your conduct; you know you deserve to be hanged." "I know I do, but I have received a free pardon, and I will surrender myself." "But who can tell how many buglaries you will commit if you are allowed to go free." "Never mind," she has promised to pardon me, and I know well that her word will not be violated. Sure the majesty of England will not lie against such an offender as I am." Now, you would not wonder at that, would you? It would be no very marvellous thing, because we can trust her Majesty pretty fairly. But it is the hardest thing to get sinners to come to God. "No," says one, "I have been a drunkard, God will not forgive me." My dear fellow, it is said, "All manner of sin and iniquity shall be forgiven to man." "Oh," says another, "I have been a swearer, I have been an infidel, I have blasphemed God, and broken all his statutes." My dear fellow-creature, it is said, "All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men," Cannot you believe it? God means what he says; and can you not come to God, trembling, though you be, and cast yourself before his feet, and say, "Lord, if thou dost damn me, I deserve it; if thou shouldst cast me down to hell, I know thou wouldst be just: but then Lord thou hast said, 'Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.'" I tell you God will do as he has said. If you have but faith to believe that promise, you never need fear.
Worthless, vilest of the vile, sweepings of the universe, the very offal of creation, if you come to God he will take you in, for his promise is not to be broken by reason of your vileness; he will receive you, if you can but plead a promise of your own case, and say to him, "Do as thou hast said." Now, then, I will say in conclusion, it will be easy enough for every poor sinner, for every penitent sinner, for every weak saint, to go home, and turn his Bible over; and by a little diligence he will be able to find out a promise that will exactly suit his case; and if he does not find such a promise, it will be because he did not look long enough, for there is one that just fits, and when he has got hold of it let him go to God, and say, "Lord, do as thou hast said," and let him keep to that; and the heavens would sooner fall than one of God's promises should be broken. Oh! trust my Master! oh! trust my Master; trust your souls to him! trust your bodies to him, I beseech you; do it, for his own name's sake! Amen and Amen.
October 29th, 1871 by C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892)
"But I am poor and needy: make haste unto me, O God: Thou art my help and my deliverer; O Lord, make no tarrying." Psalms 70:5
Young painters were anxious, in olden times, to study under the great masters. They concluded that they should more easily attain to excellence if they entered the schools of eminent men. Men have paid large premiums that their sons may be apprenticed or articled to those who best understood their trades or professions; now, if any of us would learn the sacred art and mystery of prayer, it is well for us to study the productions of the greatest masters of that science. I am unable to point out one who understood it better than did the psalmist David. So well did he know how to praise, that his psalms have become the language of good men in all ages; and so well did he understand how to pray, that if we catch his spirit, and follow his mode of prayer, we shall have learned to plead with God after the most prevalent sort. Place before you, first of all, David's Son and David's Lord, that most mighty of all intercessors, and, next to Him, you shall find David to be one of the most admirable models for your imitation.
We shall consider our text, then, as one of the productions of a great master in spiritual matters, and we will study it, praying all the while that God will help us to pray after the like fashion.
In our text we have the soul of a successful pleader under four aspects: we view, first, the soul confessing: "I am poor and needy." You have next, the soul pleading, for he makes a plea out of his poor condition, and adds, "Make haste unto me, O God!" You see, thirdly, a soul in it's urgency, for he cries, "Make haste," and he varies the expression but keeps the same idea: "Make no tarrying." And you have in the fourth and last view, a soul grasping God, for the psalmist puts it thus: "Thou art my help and my deliverer"; thus with both hands he lays hold upon His God, so as not to let Him go till a blessing is obtained.
I. To begin with, then, we see in this model of supplication, A SOUL CONFESSING. The wrestler strips before he enters upon the contest, and confession does the like for the man who is about to plead with God. A racer on the plains of prayer cannot hope to win, unless, by confession, repentance, and faith, he lays aside every weight of sin.
Now, let it be ever remembered that confession is absolutely needful to the sinner when he first seeks a Saviour. It is not possible for thee, O seeker, to obtain peace for thy troubled heart, till thou shalt have acknowledged thy transgression and thine iniquity before the Lord. Thou mayest do what thou wilt, ay, even attempt to believe in Jesus, but thou shalt find that the faith of God's elect is not in thee, unless thou art willing to make a full confession of thy transgression, and lay bare thy heart before God. We do not usually think of giving charity to those who do not acknowledge that they need it: the physician does not send his medicine to those who are not sick. The blind man in the gospels had to feel his blindness, and to sit by the wayside begging; if he had entertained a doubt as to whether he were blind of not, the Lord would have passed him by. He opens the eyes of those who confess their blindness, but of others, He says, "Because ye say we see, therefore, your sin remaineth." He asks of those who are brought to Him, "What wilt thou that I should do unto thee?" in order that their need may be publicly avowed. It must be so with all of us: we must offer the confession, or we cannot gain the benediction.
Let me speak especially to you who desire to find peace with God, and salvation through the precious blood: you will do well to make your confession before God very frank, very sincere, very explicit. Surely you have nothing to hide, for there is nothing that you can hide. He knows your guilt already, but He would have you know it, and therefore He bids you confess it. Go into the details of your sin in your secret acknowledgments before God; strip yourself of all excuses, make no apologies; say, "Against thee, thee only have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest." Acknowledge the evil of sin, ask God to make you feel it; do not treat it as a trifle, for it is none. To redeem the sinner from the effect of sin Christ Himself must needs die, and unless you be delivered from it you must die eternally. Therefore, play not with sin; do not confess it as though it were some venial fault, which would not have been noticed unless God had been too severe; but labour to see sin as God sees it, as an offence against all that is good, a rebellion against all that is kind; see it to be treason, to be ingratitude, or be a mean and base thing. Do not think that you can improve your condition before God by painting your case in brighter colours than it should be. Blacken it: if it were possible blacken it, but it is not possible. When you feel your sin most you have not half felt it; when you confess it most fully you do not know a tithe of it; but oh, to the utmost of your ability make a clean breast of it, and say, "I have sinned against heaven, and before thee." Acknowledge the sins of your youth and your manhood, the sins of your body and of your soul, the sins of omission and of commission, sins against the law and offenses against the gospel; acknowledge all; neither for a moment seek to deny one portion of the evil with which God's law, your own conscience, and his Holy Spirit justly charge you.
And oh, soul, if thou wouldst get peace and approval with God in prayer, confess the ill desert of thy sin. Submit thyself to do whatever divine justice may sentence thee to endure: confess that the deepest hell is thy desert, and confess this not with thy lips only, but with thy soul. Let this be the doleful ditty of thine inmost heart
"Should sudden vengeance seize my breath, I must pronounce thee just in death And, if my soul were sent to hell, Thy righteous law approves it well."
If thou wilt condemn thyself, God will acquit thee; if thou wilt put the rope about thy neck, and sentence thyself, then he who otherwise would have sentenced thee will say, "I forgive thee, through the merit of my son." But never expect that the King of heaven will pardon a traitor, if he will not confess and forsake his treason. Even the tenderest father expects that the child should humble himself when he has offended, and will not withdraw his frown from him till with tears he has said, "Father, I have sinned." Darest thou expect God to humble Himself to thee, and would it not be so if He did not constrain thee to humble thyself to Him? Wouldst thou have Him connive at thy faults and wink at thy transgressions? He will have mercy, but He must be holy. He is ready to forgive, but not to tolerate sin; and, therefore, He cannot let thee be forgiven if thou huggest thy sins, or if thou presumest to say, "I have not sinned." Hasten, then, O seeker, hasten I pray thee, to the mercy seat with this upon thy lips: "I am poor and needy, I am sinful, I am lost; have pity on me." With such an acknowledgment thou beginnest thy prayer well, and through Jesus thou shalt prosper in it.
Beloved hearers, the same principle applies to the church of God. We are praying for a display of the Holy Spirit's power in this church, and, in order to successful pleading in this matter, it is necessary that we should unanimously make the confession of our text, "I am poor and needy." We must own that we are powerless in this business. Salvation is of the Lord and we cannot save a single soul. The Spirit of God is treasured up in Christ, and we must seek Him of the great head of the church. We cannot command the Spirit, and yet we can do nothing without Him. He bloweth where He listeth. We must deeply feel and honestly acknowledge this. Will you not heartily assent to it my brethren and sisters at this hour. May I not ask you unanimously to renew the confession this morning? We must also acknowledge that we are not worthy that the Holy Spirit should condescend to work with us and by us. There is no fitness in us for his purposes, except he shall give us that fitness. Our sins might well provoke him to leave us: he has striven with us, he has been tender towards us, but he might well go away and say, "I will no more shine upon that church, and no more bless that ministry." Let us feel our unworthiness, it will be a good preparation for earnest prayer; for mark you, brethren, God will have His church before He blesses it know that the blessing is altogether from Himself. "Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord." The career of Gideon was a very remarkable one, and it commenced with two most instructive signs. I think our heavenly Father would have all of us learn the very same lesson which He taught to Gideon, and when we have mastered that lesson, He will use us for His own purposes. You remember Gideon laid a fleece upon the barn floor, and in the morning all round was dry and the fleece alone was wet. God alone had saturated the fleece so that he could wring it out, and its moisture was not due to its being placed in a favourable situation, for all around was dry. He would have us learn, that, if the dew of His grace fills any one of us with its heavenly moisture, it is not because we lie upon the barn-floor of a ministry which God usually blesses, or because we are in a church which the Lord graciously visits; but we must be made to see that the visitations of His Spirit are fruits of the Lord's sovereign grace, and gifts of His infinite love, and not of the will of man, neither by man. But then the miracle was reversed, for, as old Thomas Fuller says, "God's miracles will bear to be turned inside out and look as glorious one way as another." The next night the fleece was dry and all around was wet. For sceptics might have said, "Yes, but a fleece would naturally attract moisture, and if there were any in the air, it would be likely to be absorbed by the wool." But, lo, on this occasion, the dew is not where it might be expected to be, even though it lies thickly all around. Damp is the stone and dry is the fleece. So God will have us know that He does not give us His grace because of any natural adaptation in us to receive it, and even where He has given a preparedness of heart to receive, He will have us understand that His grace and His Spirit are most free in action, and sovereign in operation: and that He is not bound to work after any rule of our making. If the fleece be wet He bedews it, and that not because it is a fleece, but because He chooses to do so. He will have all the glory of all His grace from first to last. Come then, my brethren, and become disciples to this truth. Consider that from the great Father of lights every good and perfect gift must come. We are His workmanship, he must work all our works in us [Isaiah 26:12 ]. Grace is not to be commanded by our position or condition: the wind bloweth where it listeth, the Lord works and no man can hinder; but if He works not, the mightiest and most zealous labour is but in vain.
It is very significant that before Christ fed the thousands, He made the disciples sum up all their provisions. It was well to let them see how low the commissariat had become, for then when the crowds were fed they could not say the basket fed them nor that the lad had done it. God will make us feel how little are our barley loaves, and how small our fishes, and compel us to enquire, "What are they among so many?" When the Saviour bade His disciples cast the net on the right side of the ship, and they dragged such a mighty shoal to land, He did not work the miracle till they had confessed that they had toiled all the night and had taken nothing. They were thus taught that the success of their fishery was dependent upon the Lord, and that it was not their net, nor the way of dragging it, nor their skill and art in handling their vessels, but that altogether and entirely their success came from their Lord. We must get down to this, and the sooner we come to it the better.
Before the ancient Jews kept the passover, observe what they did. The unleavened bread is to be brought in, and the paschal lamb to be eaten; but there shall be no unleavened bread and no paschal lamb, till they have purged out the old leaven. If you have any old strength and self-confidence; if you have anything that is your own, and is, therefore, leavened, it must be swept right out; there must be a bare cupboard before there can come in the heavenly provision, upon which the spiritual passover can be kept. I thank God when He clears us out; I bless His name when He brings us to feel our soul poverty as a church, for then the blessing will be sure to come.
One other illustration will show this, perhaps, more distinctly still. Behold Elijah with the priests of Baal at Carmel. The test appointed to decide Israel's choice was this the God that answereth by fire let him be God. Baal's priests invoked the heavenly flame in vain. Elijah is confident that it will come upon his sacrifice, but he is also sternly resolved that the false priests and the fickle people shall not imagine that he himself had produced the fire. He determines to make it clear that there is no human contrivance, trickery, or maneuver about the matter. The flame should be seen to be of the Lord, and of the Lord alone. Remember the stern prophet's command, "Fill four barrels with water, and pour it on the burnt sacrifice, and on the wood. And he said, Do it a second time; and they did it a second time. And he said, Do it a third time; and they did it a third time. And the water ran round about the altar; and he filled the trench also with water." There could be no latent fire there. If there had been any combustibles or chemicals calculated to produce fire after the manner of the cheats of the time, they would all have been damped and spoiled. When no one could imagine that man could burn the sacrifice, then the prophet lifted up his eyes to heaven, and began to plead, and down came the fire of the Lord, which consumed the burnt sacrifice and the wood, and the altar stones and the dust, and even licked up the water that was in the trench. Then when all the people saw it they fell on their faces, and they said, "Jehovah is the God; Jehovah is the God." The Lord in this church, if He means greatly to bless us, may send us trial of pouring on the water once, and twice, and thrice; He may discourage us, grieve us, and try us, and bring us low, till all shall see that it is not of the preacher, it is not of the organization, it is not of man, but altogether of God, the Alpha and the Omega, who workest all things according to the council of His will.
Thus I have shown you that for a successful season of prayer the best beginning is confession that we are poor and needy.
II. Secondly, after the soul has unburdened itself of all weights of merit and self-sufficiency, it proceeds to prayer, and we have before us A SOUL PLEADING. "I am poor and needy, make haste unto me, O God. Thou art my help and my deliverer: O Lord, make no tarrying." The careful reader will perceive four pleas in this single verse.
Upon this topic I would remark that it is the habit of faith, when she is praying, to use pleas. Mere prayer sayers, who do not pray at all, forget to argue with God; but those who would prevail bring forth their reasons and their strong arguments and they debate the question with the Lord. They who play at wrestling catch here and there at random, but those who are really wrestling have a certain way of grasping the opponent a certain mode of throwing, and the like; they work according to order and rule. Faith's art of wrestling is to plead with God, and say with holy boldness, "Let it be thus and thus, for these reasons." Hosea tells us of Jacob at Jabbok, "that there he spake with us"; from which I understand that Jacob instructed us by his example. Now, the two pleas which Jacob used were God's precept and God's promise. First, he said, "Thou saidst unto me, Return unto thy country and to thy kindred": as much as if he put it thus: "Lord, I am in difficulty, but I have come here through obedience to thee. Thou didst tell me to come hither, into the very teeth of my brother Esau, who comes to meet me like a lion, Lord, Thou canst not be so unfaithful as to bring me into danger and then leave me in it." This was sound reasoning, and it prevailed with God. Then Jacob also urged a promise: "Thou saidst, I will surely do thee good." Among men, it is a masterly way of reasoning when you can challenge you opponent with his own words: you may quote other authorities, and he may say, "I deny their force"' but, when you quote a man against himself, you foil him completely. When you bring a man's promise to his mind, he must either confess himself to be unfaithful and changeable, or if he holds to being the same, and being true to his word, you have him, and you have won your will of him. Oh brethren, let us learn thus to plead the precepts, the promises, and whatever else may serve our turn; but let us always have something to plead. Do not reckon you have prayed unless you have pleaded, for pleading is the very marrow of prayer. He who pleads well knows the secret of prevailing with God, especially if he pleads the blood of Jesus, for that unlocks the treasury of heaven. Many keys fit many locks, but the master-key is the blood and the name of Him that died but rose again, and ever lives in heaven to save unto the uttermost.
Faith's pleas are plentiful, and this is well, for faith is placed in diverse positions, and needs them all. She hath many needs, and having a keen eye she perceives that there are pleas to be urged in every case. I will not, therefore, tell you all faith's pleas, but I will just mention some of them, enough to let you see how abundant they are. Faith will plead all the attributes of God. "Thou art just, therefore spare thou the soul for whom the Saviour died. Thou art merciful, blot out my transgressions. Thou art good, reveal thy bounty to thy servant. Thou art immutable thou hast done thus and thus to others of thy servants, do thus unto me. Thou art faithful, canst thou break thy promise, canst thou turn away from thy covenant?" Rightly viewed, all the perfections of Deity become pleas for faith.
Faith will boldly plead all God's gracious relationships. She will say to Him, "Art Thou not the creator? Wilt Thou forsake the work of thine own hands? Art Thou not the Redeemer, Thou hast redeemed thy servant, wilt Thou cast me away?" Faith usually delights to lay hold upon the fatherhood of God. This is generally one of her master points: when she brings this into the field she wins the day. "Thou art a Father, and wouldst Thou chasten us [as] though thou wouldst kill? A Father, and hast Thou no sympathy and no bowels of compassion? A Father, and canst Thou deny what Thine own child asks of Thee?" Whenever I am impressed with the divine majesty, and so, perhaps, a little dispirited in prayer, I find the short and sweet remedy is to remember that, although He is a great King, and infinitely glorious, I am His child, and no matter who the father is, the child may always be bold with his father. Yes, faith can plead any and all of the relationships in which God stands to His chosen.
Faith too, can ply heaven with the Divine Promises. If you were to go to one of the banks in Lombard Street, and see a man go in and out and lay a piece of paper on the tables and take it up again and nothing more; if he did that several times a day, I think there would soon be orders issued to the porter to keep the man out, because he was merely wasting the clerk's time, and doing nothing to purpose. Those city men who come to the bank in earnest present their cheques, they wait till they receive their money and then they go, but not without having transacted real business. They do not put the paper down, speak about the excellent signature and discuss the correctness of the document, but they want their money for it, and they are not content without it. These are the people who are always welcome at the bank, and not the triflers. Alas, a great many people play at praying, it is nothing better. I say they play at praying, they do not expect God to give them an answer, and thus they are mere triflers, who mock the Lord. He who prays in a businesslike way, meaning what he says, honours the Lord. The Lord does not play at promising, Jesus did not sport at confirming the word by His blood, and we must not make a jest of prayer by going about it in a listless unexpecting spirit.
The Holy Spirit is in earnest, and we must be in earnest also. We must go for a blessing, and not be satisfied till we have it; like the hunter, who is not satisfied because he has run so many miles, but is never content till he takes his prey.
Faith, moreover, pleads the performances of God, she looks back on the past and says, "Lord, thou didst deliver me on such and such an occasion; wilt thou fail me now?" She, moreover, takes her life as a whole, and pleads thus:
"After so much mercy past, Wilt thou let me sink at last?"
"Hast thou brought me so far that I may be put to shame at the end?" She knows how to bring the ancient mercies of God, and make them arguments for present favours. But your time would all be gone if I tried to exhibit, even a thousandth part of faith's pleas.
Sometimes, however, faith's pleas are very singular. As in this text, it is by no means according to the proud rule of human nature to plead: "I am poor and needy, make haste unto me, O God." It is like another prayer of David: "Have mercy upon mine iniquity, for it is great." It is not the manner of men to plead so, they say, "Lord, have mercy on me, for I am not so bad a sinner as some. But faith reads things in a truer light, and bases her pleas on truth. "Lord, because my sin is great, and thou art a great God, let Thy great mercy be magnified in me." You know the story of the Syrophenician woman; that is a grand instance of the ingenuity of faith's reasoning. She came to Christ about her daughter, and He answered her not a word. What do you think her heart said? Why, she said in herself, "It is well, for He has not denied me: since He has not spoken at all, He has not refused me." With this for an encouragement, she began to plead again. Presently Christ spoke to her sharply, and then her brave heart said, "I have gained words from Him at last, I shall have deeds from Him by-and-by." That also cheered her; and then, when He called her a dog. "Ah," she reasoned, "but a dog is a part of the family, it has some connection with the master of the house. Though it does not eat meat from the table, it gets the crumbs under it, and so I have thee now, great Master, dog as I am; the great mercy that I ask of Thee, great as it is to me, is only a crumb to Thee; grant it then I beseech Thee." Could she fail to have her request? Impossible! When faith hath a will, she always finds a way, and she will win the day when all things forebode defeat.
Faith's pleas are singular, but, let me add, faith's pleas are always sound; for after all, it is a very telling plea to urge that we are poor and needy. Is not that the main argument with mercy? Necessity is the very best plea with benevolence, either human or divine. Is not our need the best reason we can urge? If we would have a physician come quickly to a sick man, "Sir," we say, "it is no common case, he is on the point of death, come to him, come quickly!" If we wanted our city firemen to rush to a fire, we should not say to them, "Make haste, for it is only a small fire"; but, on the contrary, we urge that it is an old house full of combustible materials, and there are rumours of petroleum and gunpowder on the premises; besides, it is near a timber yard, hosts of wooden cottages are close by, and before long we shall have half the city in a blaze." We put the case as bad as we can. Oh for wisdom to be equally wise in pleading with God, to find arguments everywhere, but especially to find them in our necessities.
They said two centuries ago that the trade of beggary was the easiest one to carry on, but it paid the worst. I am not sure about the last at this time, but certainly the trade of begging with God is a hard one, and undoubtedly it pays the best of anything in the world. It is very noteworthy that beggars with men have usually plenty of pleas on hand. When a man is hardly driven and starving, he can usually find a reason why he should ask aid of every likely person. Suppose it is a person to whom he is already under many obligations, then the poor creature argues, "I may safely ask of him again, for he knows me, and has been always very kind." If he never asked of the person before, then he says, "I have never worried him before; he cannot say he has already done all he can for me; I will make bold to begin with him." If it is one of his own kin, then he will say, "Surely you will help me in my distress, for you are a relation"; and if it be a stranger, he says, "I have often found strangers kinder than my own blood, help me, I entreat you." If he asks of the rich, he pleads that they will never miss what they give; and if he begs of the poor, he urges that they know what want means, and he is sure they will sympathize with him in his great distress. Oh that we were half as much on the alert to fill our mouths with arguments when we are before the Lord. How is it that we are not half awake, and do not seem to have any spiritual senses aroused. May God grant that we may learn the art of pleading with the eternal God, for in that shall rest our prevalence with Him, through the merit of Jesus Christ.
III. I must be brief on the next point. It is A SOUL URGENT: "Make haste unto me, O God. O Lord, make no tarrying." We may well be urgent with God, if as yet we are not saved, for our need is urgent; we are in constant peril, and the peril is of the most tremendous kind. O sinner, within an hour, within a minute, thou mayest be where hope can never visit thee; therefore , cry, "Make haste, O God, to deliver me: make haste to help me, O Lord!" Yours is not a case that can bear lingering: you have not time to procrastinate; therefore, be urgent, for your need is so. And, remember, if you really are under a sense of need, and the Spirit of God is at work with you, you will and must be urgent. An ordinary sinner may be content to wait, but a quickened sinner wants mercy now. A dead sinner will lie quiet, but a living sinner cannot rest till pardon is sealed home to his soul. If you are urgent this morning, I am glad of it, because your urgency, I trust, arises from the possession of spiritual life. When you cannot live longer without a Saviour, the Saviour will come to you, and you shall rejoice in Him.
Brethren, members of this church, as I have said on anoher point, the same truth holds good with you. God will come to bless you, and come speedily, when your sense of need becomes deep and urgent. Oh, how great is this church's need! We shall grow cold, unholy and worldly; there will be no conversions, there will be no additions to our numbers; there will be diminutions, there will be divisions, there will be mischief of all kinds; Satan will rejoice, and Christ will be dishonoured, unless we obtain a larger measure of the Holy Spirit. Our need is urgent, and when we feel that need thoroughly, then we shall get the blessing which we want. Does any melancholy spirit say, "We are in so bad a state that we cannot expect a large blessing"? I reply, perhaps if we were worse, we should obtain it all the sooner. I do not mean if we were really so, but if we felt we were worse, we should be nearer the blessing. When we mourn that we are in an ill state, then we cry the more vehemently to God, and the blessing comes. God never refused to go with Gideon because he had not enough valiant men with him; but he paused because the people were too many. He brought them down from thousands to hundreds, and he diminished the hundreds before he gave them victory. When you feel that you must have God's presence, but that you do not deserve it, and when your consciousness of this lays you in the dust, then shall the blessing be vouchsafed.
For my part, brethren and sisters, I desire to feel a spirit of urgency within my soul as I plead with God for the dew of His grace to descend upon this church. I am not bashful in this matter, for I have a license to pray. Mendicancy is forbidden in the streets, but, before the Lord I am a licensed beggar. Jesus has said, "men ought always to pray and not to faint." You land on the shores of a foreign country with the greatest confidence when you carry a passport with you, and God has issued passports to His children, by which they come boldly to His mercy seat; He has invited you, He has encouraged you, He has bidden you come to Him, and He has promised that whatsoever ye ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive. Come, then, come urgently, come importunately, come with this plea, "I am poor and needy; make no tarrying, O my God," and a blessing shall surely come; it will not tarry. God grant we may see it, and give Him the glory of it.
IV. I am sorry to have been so brief where I had need to have enlarged, but I must close with the fourth point. Here is another part of the art and mystery of prayer THE SOUL GRASPING GOD. She has pleaded, and she has been urgent, but now she comes to close quarters; she grasps the covenant angel with one hand, "Thou art my help." and with the other, "Thou art my deliverer." Oh, those blessed "my's," those blessed potent "my's." The sweetness of the Bible lies in the possessive pronouns, and he who is taught to use them as the psalmist did, shall come off a conqueror with the eternal God. Now sinner, I pray God thou mayest be helped to say this morning to the blessed Christ of God, "Thou art my help and my deliverer." Perhaps you mourn that you cannot get that length, but, poor soul, hast thou any other help? If thou hast, then thou canst not hold two helpers with the same hand. "Oh, no," say you, "I have no help anywhere. I have no hope except in Christ." Well, then, poor soul, since thy hand is empty, that empty hand was made on purpose to grasp thy Lord with: lay hold on Him! Say to Him, this day, "Lord, I will hang on thee as poor lame Jacob did; now I cannot help myself, I will cleave to Thee: I will not let Thee go except Thou bless me." "Ah, it would be too bold," says one. But the Lord loves holy boldness in poor sinners; He would have you be bolder than you think of being. It is an unhallowed bashfulness that dares not trust a crucified Saviour. He died on purpose to save such as thou art; let Him have His way with thee, and do thou trust Him. "Oh," saith one, "but I am so unworthy." He came to seek and save the unworthy. He is not the Saviour of the self-righteous: He is the sinners' Saviour "friend of sinners" is His name. Unworthy one, lay hold on Him! "Oh," saith one, "but I have no right." Well, since you have no right, your need shall be your claim: it is all the claim you want. Methinks I hear one say, "It is too late for me to plead for grace." It cannot be: it is impossible. While you live and desire mercy, it is not too late to seek it. Notice the parable of the man who wanted three loaves. I will tell you what crossed my mind when I read it: the man went to his friend at midnight; it could not have been later; for if he had been a little later than midnight, it would have been early in the morning, and so not late at all. It was midnight, and it could not be later; and so, if it is downright midnight with your soul, yet, be of good cheer, Jesus is an out of season Saviour; many of His servants are "born out of due time." Any season is the right season to call upon the name of Jesus; therefore, only do not let the devil tempt thee with the thought that it can be too late. Go to Jesus now, go at once, and lay hold on the horns of the altar by the venturesome faith, and say, "Sacrifice for sinners, Thou art a sacrifice for me. Intercessor for the graceless, Thou art an intercessor for me. Thou Who distributest gifts to the rebellious, distribute gifts to me, for a rebel I have been." When we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. "Such am I, Master; let the power of Thy death be seen in me to save my soul."
Oh, you that are saved and, therefore love Christ, I want you, dear brethren, as the saints of God, to practice this last part of my subject; and be sure to lay hold upon God in prayer. "Thou art my help and my deliverer." As a church we throw ourselves upon the strength of God, and we can do nothing without Him; but we do not mean to be without Him, we will hold Him fast. "Thou art my help and my deliverer." There was a boy at Athens, according to the old story, who used to boast that he ruled all Athens, and when they asked him how, he said, "Why, I rule my mother, my mother rules my father, and my father rules the city." He who knows how to be master of prayer will rule the heart of Christ, and Christ can and will do all things for His people, for the Father hath committed all things into His hands. You can be omnipotent if you know how to pray, omnipotent in all things which glorify God. What does the Word itself say? "Let him lay hold of my strength." Prayer moves the arm that moves the world. Oh for grace to grasp Almighty love in this fashion. We want more holdfast prayer; more tugging, and gripping, and wrestling, that saith, "I will not let thee go." That picture of Jacob at Jabbok shall suffice for us to close with. The covenant angel is there, and Jacob wants a blessing from him: he seems to put him off, but no put-offs will do for Jacob. Then the angel endeavours to escape from him, and tugs and strives; so he may, but no efforts shall make Jacob relax his grasp. At last the angel falls from ordinary wrestling to wounding him in the very seat of his strength; and Jacob will let his thigh go, and all his limbs go, but he will not let the angel go. The poor man's strength shrivels under the withering touch, but in his weakness he is still strong: he throws his arms about the mysterious man, and holds him as in a death-grip. Then the other says, "Let me go, for the day breaketh." Mark, he did not shake him off, he only said, "Let me go"; the angel will do nothing to force him to relax his hold, he leaves that to his voluntary will. The valiant Jacob cries, "No, I am set on it, I am resolved to win an answer to my prayer. I will not let thee go except thou bless me." Now, when the church begins to pray, it may be, at first, the Lord will make as though he would have gone further [Luke 24:28 ], and we may fear that no answer will be given. Hold on, dear brethren. Be ye steadfast, unmovable, notwithstanding all. By-and-by, it may be, there will come discouragements where we looked for a flowing success; we shall find brethren hindering, some will be slumbering, and others sinning; backsliders and impenitent souls will abound; but let us not be turned aside. Let us be all the more eager. And if it should so happen that we ourselves become distressed and dispirited, and feel we never were so weak as we are now; never mind, brethren, still hold on, for when the sinew is shrunk the victory is near. Grasp with a tighter clutch than ever. Be this our resolution, "I will not let thee go except thou bless me." Remember the longer the blessing is coming the richer it will be when it arrives. That which is gained speedily by a single prayer is sometimes only a second rate blessing; but that which is gained after many a desperate tug, and many an awful struggle, is a full weighted and precious blessing. The children of importunity are always fair to look upon. The blessing which costs us the most prayer will be worth the most. Only let us be persevering in supplication, and we shall gain a broad far-reaching benediction for ourselves, the churches, and the world. I wish it were in my power to stir you all to fervent prayer; but I must leave it with the great author of all true supplication, namely, the Holy Spirit. May He work in us mightily, for Jesus' sake. Amen.
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Spurgeon, Charle Haddon. "Commentary on Psalms 70". "Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible". https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 8 / Ordinary 13