Sermon 326. Everywhere And Yet Forgotten
DELIVERED ON SABBATH MORNING, JULY 29, 1860, BY THE REV. C. H. SPURGEON, AT EXETER HALL, STRAND.
"Who knows not in all these that tie hand of the Lord has worked this? In whose hand is the soul of every living thing andthe breath of all mankind.''
THESE verses occur in Job's answer to Zophar the Naamathite. Job had his failings, but certainly he appears less faulty inthis dialog than those three men who sought to reprove him and convict him of error. Zophar the Naamathite had the very highestopinion of his own personal wisdom. He addressed Job as though he had been an inferior. And all in the 11th Chapter he usedlanguage which though extremely beautiful, must have been very grating upon the ears of such a sufferer as Job; for it isa lecture full of high-flown language, abounding in poetry, and noble images, but containing little solid sense and less sympathy.Job, being exceedingly irritated both with the style and with the matter of Zophar's speech, begins at once to pluck off hisplumes and to pull to pieces his fine language. In biting irony Job cries from his dunghill-"No doubt but you are the people,and wisdom shall die with you. But I have understanding as well as you; I am not inferior to you; yes, who knows not suchthings as these?" You have put into flowery language things which an ordinary observer might discover! You have pointed tothe Heaven above and to the depth beneath, to prove a truth which the creeping insects of the earth could tell you, and whichthe fishes of the sea might proclaim! "Ask now the beasts, and they shall teach you; and the fowls of the air, and they shalltell you-or speak to the earth and it shall teach you-and the fishes of the sea shall declare unto you. Who knows not in allthese that the hand of the Lord has worked this?"
There is much temper here, but there is also very much of good common sense. I wish we had another Job to chastise the high-soundinglanguage of modern theologians. There are starting up in our midst, men, who if they are not heretics in doctrine, are aliensin speech. They are men described by the old preachers who say, "Mark!" but there is nothing to mark; and who shout, "Observe!"but there is nothing to observe, except the lack of everything that is worth observing! We know ministers who cannot speakin the common language of mankind, but must adopt the jargon of Carlyle, who sets language on its head, and puts the lastword first! These men must make the English language a slave to the German-the glorious grand old Saxon must buckle to theirheresies and conceal the depths of their lies! I pray God the time may come when some man may unmask them; when all thesewind-bags may be torn, and all these bladders may be pricked-when teachers have anything to tell us, if they will deliverthemselves so that all can understand. If they cannot use plain language, let their tongues go to school till they have learnedit! There is something so enticing and yet so flimsy in the modern theological school, that I feel compelled to warn you constantlyagainst it-its mystery is absurdity and its depth is pompous ignorance! There is no theology in it; it is a futile deviceto conceal the need of theological knowledge! A man with an education that may be complete in every department except thatin which he should excel, stands up and would teach Christians that all they have learned at the feet of Paul has been a mistake;that a new theology has been discovered-that the old phrases which we have used are out of date-the old creeds broken up!Well, what shall we do to this wiseacre and his fellow sages? Serve them? Wherever you meet them or their disciples, as Jobdid Zophar-laugh at them, dash their language to pieces, and remind them that the best things they tell us are only what thefishes of the sea, or the fowls of the air knew before them, and that their grandest discoveries are but platitudes whichevery child has known before, or else they are heresies that ought to be scouted from the earth!
The Truth of God upon which Job spoke was this-he wished to show that the fact of the Presence of God in all things was soclearly discernible, that men need not borrow the eagle's wing to mount to Heaven; nor need they enter into the heart of theLeviathan to find a chariot wherein to enter the depths of the sea. "No," he said, "no! The present Deity the beasts proclaim."The actual existence and the constant working of the Eternal God is sung by the very fowls of
Heaven, and the mute fishes of the sea leap up, and in their joyous reaping, seem to say, "The sea is His and He made it!"This Doctrine I wish to bring out this morning. Or, rather, thus would I speak of it. First, the present hand of God everywherein the universe. Secondly, our present and complete dependence upon that hand of God. And then let us learn some useful lessonsfrom the whole subject of Divine Providence. I. The first Doctrine is THE PRESENT HAND OF GOD.
1. That there is a God you need not that I should prove-that God is here, and there, and everywhere, you also firmly believe.But, alas, it is one thing to believe this Truth of God and quite another thing to hold it in perpetual remembrance! We maywrite it down far more easily upon the tables of our creed than upon the tablets of our memory. In fact, this is one of theDoctrines which all men are constantly forgetting; and even the righteous may often check themselves because they begin todegenerate into the fools who say in their hearts, "There is no God here." Strange is it that the name of the Lord shouldbe written everywhere so clearly, that even the blind might see it; and yet man is so doubly dark, that he does not observehis God even where God is most manifest and visible! I think, my Brothers and Sisters, this forgetfulness of God is growingupon this perverse generation. Time was, in the old Puritan days, when every shower of rain was seen to come from Heaven,when every ray of sunshine was blessed, and God was thanked for having given fair weather to ingather the fruits of the harvest.Then, men talked of God as doing everything! But in our days where is our God? We have the laws of matter. Alas, alas, thatnames with little meaning should have destroyed our memory of the Eternal One! We talk now of phenomena, and of the chainsof event, as if all things happened by machinery-as if the world were a huge clock which had been wound up in eternity, andcontinued to work without a present God! No, not only our philosophers, but even our poets rant in the same way; they singof the works of Nature. But who is that fair goddess, Nature? Is she a heathen deity, or what? Do we not act as if we wereashamed of our God, or as if His name had become obsolete?
Go abroad wherever you may, you hear but little said concerning Him who made the heavens, and who formed the earth and thesea-everything is "nature," and the "laws of motion," and of "matter." And do not Christians often use words which would leadyou to suppose that they believed in the old goddess, Luck, or rested in that equally false deity, Fortune, or trembled beforethe demon of Misfortune? Oh for the day when God shall be seen, and little else beside! Better, my Beloved, that philosophicaldiscoveries were lost, than that God should be concealed behind them! Better that our poets had ceased to write, and thatall their flaming words were buried with their ashes, than that they should serve as a cloud before the face of the EternalCreator! We must go back again to the remembrance of our God, and especially must the true Believer make the worldling feelthat the Christian has a God with him, a God about him, and a God within him; One who is his constant Companion and his Friend!So act, my Brothers and Sisters, that men may be compelled to say of you, "That man has a God whom he observes in all theevents of his family, ascribing to His Divine hand every sickness that falls upon his child, and every loss that occurs tohim in his business." My Brothers and Sisters, it is a doleful truth that there is nothing more easy to forget than the grandDoctrine that God is everywhere at work in the midst of us all!
2. Now, let me proceed to say that though this is a Truth so frequently forgotten, it is a fact of universal force. God worksever and everywhere. There is no place where God is not! You may traverse the silent valleys where the rocks enclose you oneither side till you can see but a strip of the blue sky; you may be the only traveler who has passed through that glen; thebirds may start up frightened, and the moss may tremble beneath the first tread of man; but God was there of old, upholdingyon rocky barriers, filling the flower cups with their perfume, and refreshing the lonely pines with the breath of His mouth!Or, descend, if you will, into the lowest depths of the sea where the water sleeps undisturbed; the very sand is motionlessin eternal quiet, but the footsteps of the Lord are there, reigning within the silent palace of the sea! You may borrow thewings of the morning, and fly to the uttermost parts of the sea, but God is there; mount to the highest Heaven, or dive intothe deepest Hell, and God is in both-hymned in everlasting song, or howled in eternal tortures! Everywhere and in every place,God dwells and is manifestly at work.
And not merely, my Friends, in every place, but in every time the Lord is present. From the beginning of the year even tothe end thereof, there is God! His eyes never sleep, His hands never rest. In the silent watches of midnight when the citysleeps, God is the Watchman, and when the sun wakes up and draws aside the curtains of the night, the Lord is abroad beforehim-on the waters, and on the snow-white summits of the mountains-and when again high noon is gained, and all the world isbusy with its toil and God forgotten, He is there amid the throng of men as well as in the deserts' wilds! Every place feelsHis footsteps, and every time trembles at His Presence. From everlasting to everlasting, O God, You are sensibly felt in everypassing moment! The pulsing of the eternal sea of time are caused by You, and there never is an instant when You have fledand left us to ourselves!
And as in every place and every time, so in every event there is God! Is the earth shaken by inward convulsions? It is Godthat heaves the mountains to and fro. Or, do the valleys laugh in the sunshine, and do the rejoicing farmers carry home theirharvests? God is manifest right there in the lavish bounty of his hands. The greatest political disasters are predestinated,guided and overruled by God. When an Attila scourges the earth, and reddens her soil with blood, his steps are ordered, arrangedand foreordained, as much as the flight of the eternal angel who shall blow the trumpet of the Gospel and proclaim the yearof Jubilee! There is no event, however base and vile, however grand and good, which is not within the management of the dreadSupreme! His dominion has no limit. Even the dark gulf of evil is spanned by the bridge of His wisdom. Journey onward tillyou seem to go where goodness is not found and Grace is all eclipsed- He dwells there in the thick darkness! He makes theclouds His chariot, and yokes the whirlwinds to His cart. Be of good cheer, Beloved, in every event you may behold your God!If invasion should ravage this fair island, if tyrants should set their foot on the neck of your liberties, if the streetsshould run with blood-God is even there, Supreme-His people still secure! And if it is so, that God is in every event, permitme to remind you that God is where there is no event When there is a lull upon the waters and all is stagnant; when politicalaffairs are quiet; when in the lesser world of your own house, and your own soul, there is a dead calm, perhaps the woefulprelude of a tempest-God is there! Great God, You stand in the midst of the silent desert, where not even the hum of the beedisturbs the dread solemnity of stillness! You are far down in the cleft of the rock where creature could not live! No, inthe heart of the solid adamant, You have Your palace, and beneath the surging of the ever-tossing sea You have a tabernacle.In the unknown ravine, the untraversed gorge, the Lord Jehovah has His dwelling place! He keeps yon rocks from tottering totheir fall; He swells those rivers till they roll along; Let Him but remove His hand, and earth's pillars totter to theirfall, Creation reels, and the universe expires! As dies the spark struck from the steel, so dies Creation if God ceases tobe present there. Oh, learn then evermore, that not only in His doings but in His resting; not only in His acting but in Hisstanding still, God is most manifest to you if you will but see Him-if your eyes, anointed with heavenly eye salve, are butopen to behold your Father and your King! This, I may well say, is a Truth of God which though much forgotten, is of universalforce!
3. Let me proceed a little further and remind you that this is a Truth of God worthy of perpetual remembrance. Do not lookat it as a mere speculation. I beseech you, do not think of a present God as a fact in which you have no interest. There isscarcely a Truth in the compass of Revelation which is more instructive, profitable, and consoling to the people of God thanthis-a present God in everything! Come, let me show you how worthy a remembrance it is. You have many mercies. Your God isin them all. Does not that thought sweeten the bread you eat? Will it not give a relish to the water that you drink? The airyou breathe, the clothes that are on your back-God is in each of them. Go to your home, where your best pleasures dwell-yourown sweet home, be it ever so homely-and when you look on your mercies say, "I see my gracious God here." Cast your eyes uponthe prattlers who climb your knee, and remember that they are a heritage from the Lord. Look at her who is the partner ofyour bosom, and see God's love and kindness in so good a gift. Look on all the prosperity that attends your business, lookon your growing crops, and your green fields, and see God in every mercy you receive! I would not have the worldling's wealth,for it is a wealth that came not from God! At least so far as he is concerned, it came not from a father's hands. But oh,to have benefits, every one of which smells of the treasury out of which it came! To look on your gold and on your silver,no, on your very penny-and see the impress of your God stamped there more clearly than the image of Caesar's own self! Tosit down to your table, and eat, and drink, and feel that every meal is a sacrament; that every robe you wear is a vestmentsent from Heaven; that in all these mercies there is the hand of a Covenant, promise-keeping God-why it will make you livea noble life! It was thought by the old heathens to be the grandest thing they could say of a man, that he should one dayeat at the tables of the gods. My Brothers and Sisters, we eat at these tables every day! At the table of my God I feast,and from His cup I drink! I have nothing which I have not received from Him; the Lord has given me all that I have!
But if it is very sweet to see God in our mercies, it is most consoling to discern Him in all our trials. Say not these areevil times. No times are evil where God is, for His Presence scatters all that is ill. Say not that you dwell in an evil place.
There is no evil place to the man who dwells with God. Think not that evil circumstances have happened to you. They seem tobe big with evil, but those clouds shall break in blessings on your head! Oh, if you can but look at your troubles as sentfrom God, it will take the sharpness from them, and turn them from wasps that sting, into bees that gather honey! Say, now,when your family is sick, "The Lord has placed His hand upon my wife, and on my children." When your treasure vanishes away,say, "The Lord has put His hands into my coffers, and emptied them." And when the ship is wrecked, say, "The Lord has my vesselon the rocks." And when the corn is spoiled, and the harvest is not gathered, say, "The Lord has sent the rain from Heaven.He has done it." Join with Job, the author of our text, and exclaim, "The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away, and blessedbe the name of the Lord!" Regard not the second causes but the first cause; not the trying creature, but the supporting Creator!
If it is pleasant to see God in our trials, I add it is very seasonable to remember Him in our dangers. To be at sea whenevery timber creaks in the ship, and when the mast is strained, and then to feel, "He holds the waves in the hollow of Hishands;" to stand in places where the danger is present, and terrible, and then to say, "My Father's shield is over me;" towalk through the midst of plague and pestilence, through the valleys that are steaming with mist, and malaria, and to feelthat God holds our breath, and that all the arrows that Death ever stored within his quiver can never find a place in ourheart until Jehovah bids them-oh, these things are sweet and pleasant! A man is never in danger when he feels this! At God'scommand, through Death's dominions and through Hell's domains, a man might march securely trusting in the voice which cries,"Fear not, I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God."
A present God! My Beloved, I cannot suggest a theme that may make you more full of courage in times of danger and trouble!I think I need not enlarge upon this point further than to add, you will find it exceedingly helpful and consoling if youcan discover God in your trifles. Our life is made up of trifles, and if we had a God only for the great things, and not forthe little things, we would be miserable, indeed! If we had a God of the Temple, but not a God of the tents of Jacob, wherewould we be? But blessed be our heavenly Father, He who wings an angel, guides a sparrow; He who rolls a world along, moldsa star and marks its orbit when it trickles from its source! There is a God in the motion of a grain of dust blown by thesummer's wind, as much as in the revolutions of the stupendous planet! There is a God in the sparkling of a firefly, as trulyas in the flaming comet! Carry home, I beseech you, to your houses the thought that God is there-at your table, in your bedchamber,in your workroom and at your counter. Recognize the doing and Being of God in every little thing. Think for a moment, andyou will find that there are many promises of Scripture giving the sweetest consolation in trivial matters. "He shall giveHis angels charge over you to keep you in all your ways. They shall bear you up in their hands." Why? Lest you fall from aprecipice? Lest you dash yourself from a pinnacle? No, "Lestyou dash your foot against a stone." A little danger, but a greatProvidence to ward us from it! And what also says the Scripture? Does it say, "The very days of your life are numbered?" Itsays not so, though that were true, but it says, "the very hairs off yourheadare all numbered." And what says the Scripture,yet again? Does it say, "The Lord knows the eagles and not an eagle falls to the ground without your Father?" No. But, "arenot two sparrows sold for a farthing? And one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father." A great God in littlethings, I am sure, will spare you a world of vexation if you will but remember this, for it is hence our vexations come. Weoften get into a bad temper about a trifle, when a great trial does not agitate us. We are angry because we have scalded ourselveswith a little water or have lost a button from our clothes, and yet the greatest calamity can scarcely disturb us. You smile,because it is true with all of you. Job himself, who said, "The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away," might have grownangry because of some rough edge in his potsherd. Take care that you see God in little things, that your mind may be alwayscalm and composed, and that you be not foolish enough to suffer a trifle to overcome a saint of God.
II. Now, my dear Friends, having thus brought forward the Doctrine of a God present everywhere, let me remind you of the secondhead-OUR ABSOLUTE DEPENDENCE UPON A PRESENT GOD AT THIS VERY MOMENT. We are absolutely dependent upon the will and pleasureof God for our life, our comforts, our means to enjoy our comforts, and especially for all spiritual blessings.
First, then, our life is entirely dependent upon God. One sees strange sights in journeying-scenes which will never be erasedfrom the memory. It was but a few days ago, just under a tremendous rock, I saw a vast mass of broken stones, and earth tossedabout in wild confusion and raised in huge hillocks. My driver said to me, "That is the grave of a village." Some years ago,there lived upon that spot a joyful and happy people. They went forth to their daily work, they ate, they drank-as men doto this day. One time they saw a great crack in the mountain that hung overhead. They heard alarming noises, but they hadheard such sounds before, and the old men said, "There might be something coming," but they did not know. Suddenly, however,without further notice, the whole side of the hill was in motion, and before the villager could escape from his hut, the villagewas buried beneath the fallen rocks! And there it lies; and neither bone of man, nor piece of the habitation of man has everbeen discovered in the wreck. So thoroughly was everything crushed and buried, that nothing by the most diligent search couldever be discovered! There are many villages standing in a like position at this day. I passed another spot, where there wasa shelving mountain with its layers slanting towards the valley. A town which had been built at the foot, had been entirelycovered and a lake filled up by one tremendous slide from the top of the hill. Yet, there stand new houses, and men ventureto live among the graves of their sires! We are apt to say, "How these people ought to look up every morning and say, 'O Lord,spare this village.'" Standing there where they might be crushed in a moment, where the slightest motion of the earth withinwould bring down the hill upon them, they ought to lift up their hearts to the Preserving One and say, "Oh keeper of Israel,keep us both day and night." Ah, but my Friends, you and I are in the same position! Though no crags overhang our homesteads;though no mountain threatens to leap upon our city-yet are there a thousand gates to death-there are other agencies besidethese which can hurry mortals to their tombs. You are sitting today as near to the jaws of death, as those villagers who aredwelling there. Oh that you felt it! One breath choked up, and you are dead! Perhaps your life is a thousand times in dangerevery moment. As many times as there are ebbing and flowing of the blood, as many times as there are breathing from the lungs-somany times does your life hang in such jeopardy that it only needs your God to will it, and you fall dead in your seat-andare carried out a pale lifeless corpse!
There are parts of the mountain passes of the Alps of such danger to the traveler, that when you traverse them in winter,the muleteers muffle the bells of their beasts, lest the faintest sound should bring down an avalanche of snow and sweep youinto the bottomless precipice beneath! Then, one would think, the traveler must feel that he is in God's hands. Yes, but youare in the same position now, though you see it not! Open but the eyes of your spirit, and you may see the avalanche overhangingyou today, and the rock trembling to its fall at this very moment. Only let your soul behold the latent lightning that Godconceals within His hands, and you may soon see that to crush a gnat with your finger is not as easy for you, as for God totake away your life now, or whenever He pleases! As it is with our life, my Brothers and Sisters, so is it with the comfortsof life. What would life be without its comforts? Much more, what would it be without its necessities? And yet how absolutelydependent are we upon God for the bread which is the staff of life! I never felt more truly the dependence of man upon hisGod than I did last Friday week. At the foot of the Alpine pass of the Splugen, I saw in the distances the whole road black,as if it had been spread over with heaps of black earth. As we neared it, we discovered it was a group of locusts in fullmarch-tens of thousands of myriads of them! As we drew nearer, they divided as regularly as if they had been an army and maderoom for the carriage. No sooner was it passed than the ranks were filled up again, and they went on in their devouring march.On we went for several miles and there was nothing to be seen except those creatures, literally covering the ground here andthere in thick layers like a shower of black snow! Then I realized the language of the Prophet-"Before them was like Eden;behind them was a desert." They had eaten up every green blade! There stood the Indian corn with just the dry stems, but everygreen particle was gone. In the front of their march you saw the vines beginning to ripen and the fields of grain hasteningto perfection. There stood the poor cottager at his door. The wheat that he had planted and the vines that he had tended,must all be eaten and devoured before his eyes! The pastures were literally alive with these fiery creatures. When they firstentered the field, there was green pasture for the cows of the poor cottagers; let them stop there an hour, and you mighttake up the dust by handfuls, and nothing left besides! "Ah," said my guide, "it is a sad thing for these poor people-in amonth's time those creatures will be as big and as long as my finger and then they will eat up the trees-the mulberry treeswith which the poor men feed their silkworms and which furnish them with a little wealth-they will devour every green thinguntil there is nothing left but the bare dry stem!"
Ah, I thought within myself, if God can thus sweep this valley and make a waste of it with these little creatures, what amercy it is that He is a kind and gracious God, or else He might let loose the same on all the people of the earth, and thennothing would stare us in the face but famine, despair and death! Perhaps you say to me, "Ah, but we do not expect the locustshere; we shall gather our harvests joyously." Speak not too quickly. God has been teaching us during the last two months ourabsolute and entire dependence upon Him. Let this rain continue but a little longer, let it continue till the appointed weeksof harvest shall come, and where are our people then? You may open your shops, you citizens of London, and you may imaginethat the harvest in the country will little affect you. But famine stares you in the face unless God withdraws the clouds,and bids the sun shine down upon us! The days shall come which we have heard our fathers speak of, when the bread was suchthat it could not be eaten; when it was not hard enough for one to hold in his hand; when you had a crust without, and thenwithin it was a mass ofjelly-wheat swimming in water, and not capable of being eaten by any except those pinched by hunger!The like must inevitably come unless God withdraws those clouds. Let the rain continue much longer, and there will scarcelybe a harvest, nothing for men to feed upon. Oh, my dear Friends, we never know from year to year how dependent-how absolutelydependent we are upon God! Does not the wheat spring out of the land? And does not every man, from the king to the peasant,live on bread? And if that staff fails, must not all totter to the ground with leanness on our bones and paleness on our faces?You are for that bread, and for that nourishment, and for all you have-as absolutely dependent upon God as a prisoner in hisdungeon is dependent upon his keeper for his daily bread and water! Oh that I could make you feel this and realize the forceof the fact!
Again-I said we were not simply dependent upon God for the comforts, but for the power to enjoy the comforts. It is an evilwhich we have seen under the sun-a man who had wealth, and riches, and plenty, but who had not power to eat thereof. I haveseen a man hungry and full of appetite, but no bread to eat. But I have seen a sight perhaps more sad-a man with food of themost luxurious kind-to whom taste seemed denied, to whom every mouthful was a thing of detestation! The Lord has but in Hisjudgment to smite any of us with only nervousness-that nervousness at which the strong may laugh, but which makes the weaktremble-and everything will become dark before you. He has but to affect some portion of your body, and you shall see no brightnessin the sun; the very fields shall lose their verdure before you; the most happy event shall only be a source of deeper gloom;you shall look on everything through a dark glass, and see nothing but darkness and despair. He has but to touch you withsickness, and motion may be misery, and even to lie upon a bed may be a repetition of tortures as you toss from side to side!Worse still, the Lord has but to put His finger on your brain, and you become a raving lunatic, or what may seem better, butmore despicable, a driveling idiot! Oh, how little, then, has He to do to overturn your all, to pull down that mighty castleof your joys, and darken the windows of your hope! You are, again, for life, for necessities, for comforts, as absolutelyin the hand of God as the clay upon the wheel is in the hand of the potter! You may rebel, but your rebellion is but the writhingof a worm! You may murmur, but your murmurs cannot affect Him. You may ask your comrades to join in league with you againstthe Almighty God, but His purpose will stand fast and you must submit! Bound in the iron chains of destiny, you must go theway He bids you, and you must suffer or you must rejoice at His beck and will! Tremble, oh, Man; tremble before God, for neverwas creature in the hand of creature, as creature is in the hand of Creator!
Let me briefly remark, that if this is true concerning temporals, how doubly true is it with regard to spiritual things. Thereis no Christian Grace which has in it a particle of self-existence. Faith, love, courage-are all sweet flowers-but their rootsare in God. There may be streams of gratitude in your heart, but the springs thereof are in Him. Your soul may be devotedand consecrated, but the locks of your devotion will be shorn off, as was the hair of Samson, unless the eternal God preservesit. If you and I shall endure to the end, if we shall pass through the Valley of Death with calmness, if we shall stand beforethe Throne of God with confidence, if we shall enter into bliss with joy-all these things must come of God! Let Him lock upthe treasury of His Grace, or dry up the channel of His Love-the noblest Christian who breathes, would become the vilest ofreprobates-and he who has best served his God, would become the most abject minion of Hell! Oh, learn that you are absolutelydependent upon God! He can leave you, and where are you? He can help you, and you shall stand securely. So is it with thesinner-he is in God's hands to save him or to destroy him! He can give him up, like Pharaoh, to hardness of heart, or He canmelt his heart, and bow his stubborn will. He can throw the reins upon his neck and say, "Let him alone, Ephraim is givenunto idols." Or He can make him willing in the day of His power, create in him a new heart, and a right spirit, and save himfrom the wrath to come! O God, You are over all and You are all! Man is nothing before You. You have Your will. You do asYou please among the angels in Heaven and among the inhabitant of this lower world! "Yours is the kingdom, the power and theglory, forever and ever. Amen."
III. I come to my third and last point, namely, THE LESSONS FROM THIS SUBJECT. First, a few lessons to the saint, and thento the sinner.
To the saint first. Child of God, see where you are. You, even you, are completely in the hands of your God! Your life, yourdeath, your prosperity in this world, your growth in Grace, your peace-all things rest upon His Sovereign will. Nothing canharm you, unless He bids it; nothing can cheer you, unless He commands it; you rest not in your own hands. Be your will everso headstrong, be your mind ever so stubborn, either you must yield cheerfully, or else you must bend unwillingly. You areabsolutely, and entirely, and in every respect, placed at the will and disposal of Him who is your God! And now, child ofGod, let me ask you this question. Are you grieved because of this? Does this Doctrine trouble you? Let God lay aside Hisscepter-are you prepared to wield it? Had you rather have followed your will than be at God's disposal? Would you rather thatHe should be in everything, and that He should do as He wills, or that it should be left to you? Oh, I see you, you countlessarmies of God-I see you bow your knees at once, and cry, "O Lord, we bless You that it is not so! We praise You that You haveleft nothing to our disposal, but that You have sway everywhere." This is not the subject of groaning, but of mirth and joyto us! We set up our banners with this watchword, "The Lord reigns." We go on our journey with this as our constant cordial,"God is here." With this as our shield, we lift up our arm against calamity! With this as our sword, we rush into the thickof the battle against sin! The Lord reigns-"Let the earth rejoice, let the multitude of the isles be glad thereof." GreatGod, if I could have it otherwise, I would not. If I could reverse Your decision, and if I could erase the lines of trial,and write in the place thereof, the gilded lines of joy, I couldnot, and I wouldnot do it! If the book of my destiny werein my power today, I neither would erase a word nor insert a syllable; be it unto me even as You will! "Not my will but Yoursbe done." It is easy to say this, but oh, how hard to felit when it comes to the trial! We must pray, that when darkness fillsthe sky, when the coffin lies in the silent chamber, and the precious one is sleeping in the arms of death; when the tidehas swept away all we have, when beggary stares us in the face, when slander follows us at the back, still to say, "Jehovah,Your tempests are better than my sunshine, and the storm which You have brewed is better to me than the brightest days ifI had made them for myself." Take care, child of God, that you hold fast and firm this, your confidence, which shall havegreat recompense of reward!
But mind one other thing, O heir of Heaven. Let your conversation be such as becomes this Doctrine! Speak of what you willdo, and of what will happen, always in respect to the fact that man proposes, but God disposes. When you hear your enemy vowsomething against you, smile, because your enemy is not God! And when you propose to yourself something which seems to yougood and pleasant, weep over your own folly if you are too confident, for you are not God! None but God can promise so asto cheer a sensible mind; none but God can threaten so as to alarm a Christian mind. The threats and promises of God are true,but neither the threats of man nor his promises are worth the words in which they are uttered! Oh, my dear Christian Brothersand Sisters, tried as some of you are in various and in arduous ways, I wish I could burn this Truth of God into your souls!But God the Holy Spirit must do it. I pray you stand to it that there is God in everything, and I am sure as the result ofit, you will be driven to more constant and earnest prayer. For if there is God in everything, take everything to God! IfGod has done you in, take the ill to God and He will set it right. This very season of the year suggests prayer. Prayer canreverse the winds, and stay the clouds, and let the infidel world see it is so. In the days of that eminent Scotch minister,Robert Blair, there had been for a long time a terrible rain, until at the time of harvest the wheat had grown an inch longafter it had ripened. The people met together for prayer, and that day it rained more furiously than it had done before. Yetthey separated in the firm belief that God had heard their prayer. Mr. Blair said to the assembly that he was sure, thoughGod might seem as if he mocked them, yet He was still a prayer-hearing and a prayer-answering God. That night the clouds werescattered and driven away and the harvest was gathered in. Some of the wheat had been spoiled, but most of it was housed insafety. Trust your God, then! Tempt Him not by murmuring. But prove Him-not as the children of Israel did-but prove Him asMalachi exhorts us, and see if He will not pour out blessings, and make the earth rejoice with the harvest! At any rate, benot as they who tremble in the day of calamity. Stand still, you children of God. You wear an armor that no weapon of mancan pierce! You dwell within a city, the bulwarks of which are impregnable! Let no fear invade you! Be strong and of goodcourage-your God is with you. He is better than all your fears! No, He shall exceed all your hopes! Set up your banners, andshout aloud, and rejoice in Him. God is with you, and the Lord Jehovah reigns!
In conclusion, my last word is to the sinner. You, who have not been converted, and have no part or lot in present salvation,to you I say this much-Man! Woman! You are in the hands of God. Whether you shall live to reach your home today or not, dependsabsolutely upon His will! Rich though you are, the wealth you possess can take to itself
wings and fly away at His will. He can fill your body with pains so terrible that you shall long for death, itself, to escapefrom them. He can make visions flit before your eyes, both when you sleep and when you wake, that shall so scare you thatyou would prefer the company of the devils in Hell to solitude! God can make you such a Hell to yourself, that you would seekeither knife or poison to escape from your own thoughts-and that He can do, and you cannot escape-no wings can bear you aboveHis dominion! No depth can hide you from His sway! But now, what is the path of wisdom? Is it wise to curse God, in whosehands your breath is? Is it a rational thing to treat with indifference Him upon whom you depend for time and for eternity?Your own self-interest would dictate a wiser course! Dash not your head against the bosses of His buckler. Be not mad enoughto run upon His glittering spear. What does wisdom say to you if you will but listen? It cries, "Be reconciled to God." Youcannot resist Him effectually-throw down your weapons and yield!
And what does the Scripture say to you? It says, "Today if you will hear His voice, harden not your heart." What says theChurch to you? It says, "Christ has received us-the Bride says, come." What says Christ to you? "I, even I, am He who blotsout your transgressions for My own sake." "Look unto Me, and be you saved, all the ends of the earth." "Bow the knee and kissthe Son, lest He is angry, and you perish from the way when His wrath is kindled but a little." Oh, Spirit of God, speak tothe madmen and make them sane! Speak to the men who fight against God, and bid them tremble at Him, and yield and seek Hisfavor! O Sinner, remember what He has said, "He who being often reproved, hardens his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed andthat without remedy." Hear you, in conclusion, those sweet Words of His-"Whoever will, let him come. The Spirit and the Bridesay, come. And let him who hears say, Come. And let him who is thirsty come. And whomever will, let him take the water oflife freely."