Sermon 397. Fire! Fire! Fire!
Delivered on Sunday Morning, June 23rd, 1861 by the
Rev. C. H. SPURGEON,
At the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington
"When thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee."-Isaiah 43:2.
BEFORE we explain the metaphor of the text, it may be well for us to remark that we are not sufficiently grateful, I fear,for the preservation which God affords to us from fire. To be startled at the dead of night with the alarming cry, and tofind one's self and children and goods in danger of being immediately consumed, must be no small trial. I have felt myselfextreme gratitude to God that while both on the right hand and on the left the flames have raged, he has beenpleased to spare to us this temple of our solemnities, this place where we delight to worship. And is it not meet thatwe should each and all render to him our hearty thanks for sparing our habitations preserving the roof under which we rest,enabling us to go out and to come in in perfect safety? Or, probably, I may be addressing some this morning who have had escapedfrom the very midst of the fires. Let such not only bless God for preservation in the past, but let them celebrate his goodnessin plucking them as brands out of the burning. Let them be extremely grateful to God that while others this day are dyingas a black heap of ashes who but yesterday were living men, we are still in the land of the dying unburned and unsinged. Itwas at least the trap of many of you, during the past week, and again last night, to witness a conflagration of awful grandeur,in which tongues of flame, mountains of fire, and pillars of smoke, made a spectacle to be gazed at with interest while itproduced terrors and apprehensions that could awe the wildest mob into silence. With you and me it is a common mercy tobe preserved day by day, and night by night from the devouring element. Yet when the dreadful catastrophe is within view-whenthose we know personally or by repute are sufferers-and when at the same time we look on with a sense of our own present security-thensurely we ought to give more than a common expression of gratitude to God for mercies that at other times we aretoo apt to paste over unheeded as but the effects of a common Providence. Never was a truer sentence uttered than whenone said, "These mercies are not valued until they are lost, and these preservations are not esteemed until they are withdrawn."Let us thank God while we have the mercies, lest he be provoked by our ingratitude and take forth his rod and scourge us.Then, indeed, might we cry out under the smart, and wish and desire that we had our mercies back again. Thus much I couldnot inmy conscience withhold at a time when there are judgments around us enough to make us tremble, and mercies enough in thelittle circles of home to make us exceedingly grateful. Let us now take the text in its real signification. Of course thewalking through the fire here is put for the severest form of trouble: You have, in the commencement of the verse, troubledescribed as passing through the water. This represents the overwhelming influence of trial in which the soul is sometimesso coveredthat it becomes like a man sinking in the waves. "When thou goest through the rivers,"-those mountain torrents which withterrific force are often sufficient to carry a man away. This expresses the force of trouble, the power with which it sometimeslifts a man from the foothold of his stability, and carries him before it. "When thou passest through the rivers they shallnot overflow thee." But going through the fire expresses not so much the overwhelming character and the upsetting power oftrouble as the actual consuming and destructive power of trouble and temptation. The metaphor is more vivid, not to, saymore terrific, than that which is employed in the first sentence, and yet vivid and awful though it be, it is certainly nottoo strong a figure to be used as the emblem of the tribulations, temptations and afflictions, through which the Church andpeople of God have been called to pass. We may apprise the richness of the promise in proportion to the astonishing characterofthe metaphor, and we ought to value the privilege which it confers in the precise ratio of the dreadful character of thedanger against which it preserves us. "When thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned, neither shall the flamekindle upon thee."
We shall talk of three things, this morning, as the Holy Ghost may enable us; first of all, a terrible pathway,-walking around the fire; secondly, an awful danger,-the danger of being burned and utterly consumed; and thirdly, a double insurance,-"Thou shalt not be burned, neither shall the fire kindle upon thee."
I. First, then, let us speak a little upon this TERRIBLE PATHWAY.
The sacramental host of God's elect has never had an easy road along which to journey. I see the fields on fire, the prairieis in a blaze, the very heavens are like a furnace, and the clouds seem rather to be made of fire than water. Across thatprairie lies the pathway to heaven, beneath that blazing sky the whole Church of God must make its perpetual journey. It startedat the first in fire, and its very glory at the last shall take place in the midst of the fierypassing away of all things. When first there was a Church of God on earth, in the person of Abel it was persecuted, Cainlifted up his cruel club to slay his brother; and when the children of Seth were the representatives of God's chosen, theywere without doubt the subject of the jeer and gibe of the descendants of Cain. Noah, the preacher of righteousness enduredduring his one hundred and twenty years, the hardness of heart and carelessness of an unthinking world; he and his family,who werethe remnant of the Church in the latter part of those days, were constantly exposed to the laughter and persecution ofmen. When God had destroyed the earth with water, and the whole race of man was contained within the ark, you would thinkthat then, certainly, the Church within the ark would be secure from molestation. But no, we find him ready to detect thefailings of his parents, and no doubt a ringleader of everything that was vile and vicious, just as we have reason to hopethat some ofhis brethren adhered to the most true God. From that day forward, whether you read through the life of Abraham, or Isaac,or Jacob, it still standeth true, "He that is born after the flesh persecuteth him that is born after the Spirit." Whetherwe refer you to the history of Israel by the side of the brick-kilns of Egypt, or to the host of God constantly beset by themarauders of the Amalekites, you find it still to be true that through much tribulation the people of God must wade theirway toCanaan. And if you look further on in history, between David and Saul, between Hezekiah and Sennacherib, between the faithfulfollowers of God after the captivity who would rebuild the temple, and Sanballat the Horonite; between the Maccabees and AntiochusEpiphanes, there must always be preserved a deadly feud, to let it be seen that the world must hate God's people, and mustharass them and seek to hunt them out, while they, on the other hand, must steadily pursue their onward march throughthe midst of billows of fire till they come at last to their eternal rest. Find me the abode of the Church of God andI can smell the furnace not far off. Show me the follower of the God of Abraham and I shall soon find the host of enemiesready for the attack. Up till the days of the Saviour the kingdom of heaven suffered violence, not only from its friends whowould take it, but from those enemies who world assault it. From the blood of Abel down to the blood of Zecharias the sonofBarachias, the pathway of the Church hath been a blood-besprinkled time. Since that day, what tongue can tell the sufferingsof the people of God? Since Christ became martyr as well as Redeemer, has there been a season in which God's people have notsomewhere or other been made to feel that they are not of the world, and that the world does not love them because they arenot of the world? In apostolic times, Stephen expires beneath a shower of stones, James is killed with a sword, certainothers of the saints are vexed; believers are scattered abroad. The Roman lion takes up the fight, Herod delights in thegore of the Christians, and smears the confessors of that holy faith with pitch and sets them in his gardens that they mightbe literally, as they were spiritually, the lights of the world. Let the catacombs of Rome witness to their sorrowful livesand let the Capitol witness to their terrible deaths. Let the old dungeons, some of which still remain, testify to the placeswhere they wore out their dreary lives, and let the blood-stained Campus Martius still show where they cheerfully surrenderedthose lives for Christ. Oh! if the lands could speak, if the Earth could vomit forth her blood what stories could still betold of the way they were slain. Some of them were tortured, others sawn asunder, some stoned, and others burnt to death;though of them the world was not worthy. All the Roman Emperors, with but few exceptions, were persecutors; and the Christianemperors were as bad as the Pagan, for the Christian emperors were not Christians, nor were they members, as I believe,of a Christian Church. The Christian Church, and especially that Church of which we are still members, which has never defiledits garments, but which, never having had any alliance with the Church of Rome, has never needed to be reformed,-that Churchunder its different names, Paulitians, Novations, Albigenses, Lollards, Wyckliffites, Anabaptists, Baptists, hasalways suffered. It matters not what state, what Church, may have been dominant, whether it has been Christian or anti-Christian,the pure Church of Christ has always been the victim of persecution, and though she has persecuted never, but has always maintainedinviolate, disunion from the state, and an utter hatred of all laws which would bind the conscience of man, yet has she beenespecially destitute, afflicted, tormented, and if she hath to-day a little breathing time, perhaps it is ratherowing to the timidity which has made us keep back our sentiments, than to any charity towards ourselves. Find the Churchof Christ wherever you will, and you shall find her scorned and despised of man. Find her in Scotland, and her Covenantershave to hide themselves in the midst of the mountain, and read the Word of God by the lightning flash, to escape from thedragoons of Claverhouse. Find her in England and where was she? Not in the cathedrals of her cities, but in the dungeons ofher ruraltowns like Bedford with John Bunyan; not among the great and noble who were the persecutors, but among the poor and conscientiouswho were the persecuted. "If you want to find the drunkards and sinners of the worst dye," said one of our preachers at orbefore Cromwell's time, "you can find them in Church and state, but if you wish to find the men who are holy and who serveGod, you must look into the felon's dungeons for them, for that is where they have been cast by the powers that be."Everywhere from the first day until now, it is not respectable to be a follower of Christ. If we follow Christ fully andfaithfully before God, it is not equitable and praiseworthy before men. To take up his cross and to perform the ceremonieswhich he ordains, man hates. To adhere to truths which never were and never can be palatable to the carnal mind of man, is,and ever has been to excite animosity. The pathway of the Church, then, has been one of fire and flame. As it has been sowith theChurch, we may suspect there is some reason for it, and that reason has to be found in the great fact that the Churchis in an enemy's country. She is not among her friends, she is a pilgrim and a stranger upon the earth. She is a bird thathas lost her place, and all the birds round about her are against her, because she is a speckled one and belongs not to thecommon flock. If we were of the world, the world would love its own, but "because," said Christ, "ye are not of the worldbut I havechosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you." "We know," said he, "it hated me before it hated you." TrueChristians are aliens, foreigners, men that speak another speech, men who are actuated by different motives, men who livefor different ends, who are governed by different maxima from the rest of the men of this world, therefore it is that theirpathway must be one of trial and opposition. All things the Christian teaches are so dead against the pleasures of the worldlingand his gain, that it is no wonder he opposes us. Men hate the gospel because the gospel does not like them. That Churchis never true to her Christ, nor true to herself which does not draw upon herself the hatred of ungodly men, by a faithfultestimony against their sins.
It hath fared well with the Church when she hath been persecuted, and her pathway hath been through fire. Her feet are shodwith iron and brass. She ought not to tread on paths strewed with flowers; it is her proper place to suffer. Christ redeemedthe world with agonies, and the Church must teach the world by the example of her anguish. First of all, the blood of Christwas shed meritoriously, and afterwards the blood of his Church is shed testimonially, to will the worldby suffering. When you hear of the massacre of Christians in Madagascar, weep for their death, but do not be utterly castdown. This is a good work. This is the way the Church grows. There is no loss in the army of Christ when the best preachersfall and the mightiest evangelists are put to death. They are not lost, the blood is well shed and gloriously well spent.It is buying victory. It is procuring crowns for Jesus Christ. It is after all accomplishing higher results by dying thancouldhave been effected by doing. It is under the heaviest fire of artillery that the loyal, the brave, and the true do themost daring feats of prowess. When one hero falls, from his ashes other heroes arise. The post of danger is the post of honor,therefore fresh aspirants will be found ready to lead the brigade. Moreover, my friends, if the path of fire be always a pathof terror, it is often a path of progress. Melancholy as it is to mark the ruins of a conflagration, while the dying emberssmoulder, how often you must have observed more majestic edifices raised to replace the structures that have been consumed!Thus fearful disasters are made to stimulate industry and nourish enterprise.
No doubt the sufferings of the Church, and the fact that she has to pass through the fire, must be ascribed to the great truththat thus her God is glorified.
Brethren, you and I do not glorify God much; for we have very little to suffer. The blood red crown of martyrdom is such anobject of ambition, or it should be, to the believer that he might almost regret that it is not in his power to coin it. We!what do we suffer? Somebody slanders our character. What is that? Somebody abuses us in the newspaper, what is that? We areaccused of one crime and another. What can it signify to a man who knows his conscience is right in thesight of God? What does he care if all the babbling tongues of all the liars in earth and hell should be let loose againsthim; he can bear all that and endure it quietly. It is nothing. When I read the stories of the Book of Martyrs, and note howour great reformers fought for Christ, and manfully won the victory, I blush for ourselves. Why, brethren, we live in suchsilken times that glory is scarce possible to us. We have much to do, but we have nothing to suffer. We cannot prove our lovetoChrist as they did. They indeed were a highly honored people who were permitted to glorify Christ even in the very fires.Look at it in this light, and the light afflictions you have to endure, will seem to be as nothing at all, when you thinkof the weight of glory which they shall bring to your Lord and to yourself. But as history confirms the statement that theChurch of Christ must walk through the fire, so does the history of each individual Christian teach him that he must walkthroughthe fire too.
"The path of sorrow and that path alone,
Leads to the land where sorrow is unknown."
Through much tribulation we must inherit the kingdom. Think it no strange thing when the fiery trial shall happen to you.If you have the common afflictions of the world do not wonder. You must have them. The same thing happeneth both to the eviland to the good. You lose in business, you have reverses and disappointments, do not stagger at these in the way to heaven.You must have these, they are necessary to your spiritual health. Worse than that, you have strangetemptations, you are placed in a position where you are constantly exposed to sin. It must be so. This too, is the pathwayof God's people, you must have these fiery temptations, that you, being tried in the fire, may come forth as "gold seven timespurified." You have mental anxieties. Neither let these seem a wonder to you. They fall to the lot of all the saints of theMost High. Moreover, you will have to endure the attacks of Satan, you must go through the valley of the shadow of death,andfight with Apollyon as Christian did, you are not to be exempted from the hardness of Christian warfare. If you will mountthe hill, you must climb; if you are to win the crown, you must win it by sheer might. Think not this a strange thing. Andif in doing good you meet with difficulties, let not that stagger you. It is but right and natural. I tell you again, if therebe any pathway in which there be not fire, tremble, but if your lot be hard, thank God for it. If your sufferings be great,bless the Lord for them, and if the difficulties in your pathway be many, surmount them by faith, but let them not castyou down. Be of good courage, and wait on the Lord, setting this constantly in your minds that he has not promised to keepyou from trouble, but to preserve you in it. It is not written, "I will save thee from the fire," but "I will save thee inthe fire," not "I will quench the coals," but "they shall not burn thee," not "I will put out the furnace," but "the flamesshall notkindle upon thee." Write it down and expect it to come true, that in this world thou shalt have tribulation. Only followthy glorious leader, be it through flood or flame.
II. We will now turn to our second point-there is AN AWFUL DANGER.
The promise of the text is based on a prophecy that follows it. As I glance my eye down the chapter, I see that it tells ushow God taught his people by terrible things in the past; and how he hath terrible lessons to teach them in the future. Ifthe judgment of Egypt, and of Ethiopia, and Seba, are behind us, we have startling destinies that rise up to view before us.There is a people to be gathered in, and we are to be the agents in gathering them. Fear not, saith theLord, though thou walkest through the fire in fulfilling my mission. God speaks to the north, "Give up;" and to the south,"Keep not back. Bring my sons from far, and my daughters from the ends of the earth." But the manner of Egypt is repeatedagain. The monarch said, "I will not let them go." Jealousy is stirred. The fire burns: the coals thereof have a vehementflame. And they that come forth from the bondage of this world must walk through the fire, even as those that came forth fromEgypthad to pass through water. The fire of prophecy is no poetic fiction, it is real fire. It will burn. If it doth not burn the believer, it is not for want of energy, it is because some supernatural restraint is laid onit, or some supernatural protection vouchsafed to the saint. My brethren, the Church has had very painful experience thatpersecution is a fire which does burn. How many ministers of Christ, when the day of tribulation came, forsook their flocksand fled. When King Edwardthe Sixth was on the throne, there were many who professed to be Protestants and preached justification by faith. WhenMary returned the vicar of Bray was but a specimen of a great class, his principles being to keep his living. When again Elizabethwas upon the throne, there were plenty who found it to be profitable to profess the reformed faith. But when acts of conformitywere passed afterwards by which those who had hitherto used a Christian freedom in the Church of England, were drivenout, there were some who said they did not love prelacy but hated it, while others who had heretofore professed the oldPuritanical doctrines, finding that their livings were to be lost thereby, held fast to this world, and let the things ofthe next world shift for themselves. Too many have forsaken the Church as Demas forsook Paul. Their piety would not standthe fire, they could walk with Christ in silvery slippers, but they could not go barefoot; they had no objection whateverto accompanyhim to his throne, but they had some slight difficulties about going with him to his cross; they would not mind bearingthe weight of his glory, but the weight of the cross of tribulation was much too great for their constitutions. Persecutionis a fire which does burn.
Again: I see iniquity raging on every side. Its flames are fanned by every wind of fashion. And fresh victims are being constantlydrawn in. It spreads to every class. Not the palace nor the hovel are safe. Not the lofty piles that are raised for merchandise,nor the graceful edifice that is constructed for worship. Iniquity, whose contagion is fearful as fire, spreads and preysupon all things that are homely and comely, things useful and things sacred are not exempt. Wemust walk through the fire. We who are God's witnesses must stand in its very midst, to pour the streams of living waterupon the burning fuel, and if not able to quench it, at least we must strive to prevent its spread. There are young men whoseyouthful lusts, inflammable as they are, have not yet ignited. They are in imminent danger. "Fire! fire!" we may well cry.We may give the alarm this morning to you, young man who are in the midst of ribald companions. I may cry "fire!" to you whoarecompelled to live in a house where you are perpetual tempted to evil, I may cry, "fire!" to you who are marked each day,and have to bear the sneer of the ungodly-"fire!" to you who are losing your property and suffering in the flesh, for manyhave perished thereby. Oh! may God grant you never may! I see today before my mind's eye the blackened skeletons of hundredsof fair professions. Multitudes-multitudes have perished in the valley of temptation who once, to all human judgment, hadbidfair for heaven and made a show in the flesh! How many, too, have fallen under the attacks of Satan! This is a fire thatdoes burn. Many a man has said, "I will be a pilgrim;" but he has met Apollyon on the road and he has turned back. Many aman has put on the harness, but he has given up the battle soon,-put his hand to the plough and looked back. There are morepillars of salt than one. If Lot's wife were a solitary specimen, it were well, but there have been tens of thousands who,likeher, have looked back to the plains of Sodom, and like her, as they are in their spirit, have stood for ever what theywere,-lost souls. We ought not to look upon our dangers with contempt. They are dangers, they are trials, we ought to lookupon our temptations as fires. Oh, they are fires! If you think they are not fires you are mistaken. If you enter then, inyour own strength, saying "Oh I could bear them," you will find that they are real fires, which, with forked tongues, shalllick upyour blood, consume it in an instant, if you have not some better guard than your own creature power.
III. I will not tarry longer here, because I want to get to the pith and marrow of the promise. "Though thou walkest throughthe fire thou shalt not be burned, neither shall the flame kindle upon thee." Here is A DOUBLE INSURANCE.
Dr. Alexander, an eminent and most admirable American commentator says there appears to be some mistake in the translationhere, because he thinks the two sentences are an anti-climax. "Thou shalt not be burned;" and then follows, "neither shallthe flame kindle upon thee." It strikes me, however, that in the second clause we have the higher gradation of a climax. "Thoushalt not be burned," to the destruction of thy life, nor even scorched to give thee the mostsuperficial injury, for "the flames shall not kindle upon thee." Just as when the three holy children came out of thefiery furnace; it is said, "upon their bodies the fire had no power, nor was a hair of their head singed; neither were theircoats changed, nor had the smell of fire passed on them. "So the text seems to me to teach that the Christian Church underall its trials has not been consumed, but more than that-it has not lost anything by its trials. The Lord's Church has neverbeendestroyed yet by her persecutors and her trials. They have thought they crushed her, but she lives still. They had imaginedthat they had taken away her life, but she sprang up more vigorous than before. I suppose there is not a nation out of whichChrist's Church has ever been utterly driven. Even Spain, which seemed at last to have accomplished it by the most perseveringbarbarities, finds still a few believers to be a thorn in the side of her bigotry; and as for our own denomination, in thevery country, where by the most frightful massacres, it was believed that the sect of Anabaptists had been utterly extinguished,our good and esteemed brother Mr. Oncken has been the means of reviving it, so that throughout all Germany, and in parts ofDenmark, and Prussia, and Poland, and even Russia itself, we have sprung up into a new, vigorous, and even wonderful existence.And in Sweden where, under Lutheran government, the most persecuting edicts had been passed against us, we have beenastonished to find within ten years three hundred churches suddenly spring up, for the truth has in it a living seed whichis not to be destroyed.
But I have said that the Church not only does not lose her existence, but she does not lose anything at all. The Church hasnever lost her numbers. Persecutions have winnowed her and driven away the chaff; but not one grain of wheat has been takenaway from the heap. Nay, not even in visible fellowship has the Church been decreased by persecution. She is like Israel inEgypt; the more they were afflicted the more they multiplied. Was a bishop put to death to-day? Ten youngmen came the next morning before the Roman proctor and offered themselves to die, having that very night been baptisedfor the dead bishop, having made their confession of faith that they might occupy his position. "I fill up the vacancy inthe Church, and then die as he did." Was a woman strangled or tortured publicly? Twenty women appeared the next day and cravedto suffer as she suffered, that they might honor Christ. Did the Church of Rome in more modern times burn one of our gloriousreformers-John Huss-yet did not Martin Luther come forward as if the ashes of Huss had begotten Luther? When Wycliffehad passed away, did not the very feet of Wycliffe being persecuted help to spread his doctrines, and were there not foundhundreds of young men who in every market-town in England read the Lollard's Scriptures and proclaimed the Lollard's faith?And so depend upon it, it shall ever be. Give a dog a bad name and you hang him, give a Christian a bad name and you honorhim. Dobut give to any Christian some ill name and before long a Christian denomination will take that name to itself, and itwill become a title of honor. When George Fox was called "Quaker" it was a strange name, one to laugh at, but those men ofGod who followed him, called themselves Quakers too and so it lost its reproach. They called the followers of Whitfield andWesley "Methodists," they took the title of Methodists and it became a respectful designation. When many of our Baptist forefathers,persecuted in England, went over to America to find shelter, they imagined that among the Puritans they would have a perfectrest, but Puritan liberty of conscience meant, "The right and liberty to think as they did, but no toleration to those whodiffered." The Puritans of New England as soon as ever a Baptist made his appearance amongst them, persecuted him with aslittle compunction as the Episcopalians had the Puritans. No sooner was there a Baptist, than he was hunted up and broughtbeforehis own Christian brethren. Mark you, he was brought up for fine, for imprisonment, confiscation and banishment beforethe very men who had themselves suffered persecution. And what was the effect of this? The effect has been that in Americawhere we were persecuted, we are the largest body of Christians. Where the fire burnt the most furiously, there the good oldCalvinistic doctrine was taught, and the Baptist became the more decidedly a Baptist than anywhere else, with the most purityandthe least dross. Nor have we ever lost the firmness of our grip upon the fundamental doctrine, for which our forefathersstained the baptismal pool with blood, by all the trials and persecutions that have been laid upon us, and never shall we.
Upon the entire Church, at the last, there shall not be even the smell of fire. I see her come out of the furnace. I see heradvance up the hill towards her final glory with her Lord and Master, and the angels look at her garments; they are not tattered.Nay, the fangs of her enemies have not been able to make a single rent therein. They draw near to her, they look upon herflowing ringlets, and they are not crisp with heat: they look upon her very feet, and though she hastrodden the coals they are not blistered, and her eyes have not been dried up by the furiousness of the seven times heatedflame. She has been made more beautiful, more fair, more glorious, by the fires, but hurt she has not been, nor can she be.Turn, then, to the individual Christian, and remember, that the promise stands alike firm and fast with each believer. Christian,if you be truly a child of God, your trials cannot destroy you, and what is better still, you can lose nothing by them.You may seem to lose for to-day, but when the account comes to be settled, you shall not be found to be a farthing theloser by all the temptations of the world, of all the attacks of Satan which you have endured. Nay, more, you shall be wondrouslythe gainer. Your trials having worked patience and experience, shall make you rich. Your temptations have taught you yourweakness, and shown you where your strength lieth, shall make you strong.
From your first trouble, till the last enemy shall be destroyed, you shall not lose a fraction, jot, or tittle, by anythingor every thing which God in his providence, or the world in its fury, of Satan in his craftiness, shall ever be able to layupon you. Upon you, not the smell of fire shall have passed. You shall not be burned, neither shall your hosen, nor your hats,but like the men that you read of in Daniel, you shall be wholly preserved intact from the flame.
I shall close now, having spoken the general truth by making some particular applications of this precious promise. Thereis a brother here who during the last three or four months has had wave upon wave of affliction: everything goes against him.He is an upright, honest, indefatigable merchant, yet, let him do what he will, his substance wastes away like snow beforethe sun. It appears that for every ship of his the wind blows the wrong way, and where others will by theventure he loses all.
"He sees each day new straights attend,
And wonders when the scene shall end."
When I spoke of walking through the fire just now, he said, "Ah! that is what I have been doing, I have been walking throughit these months, to God and my own soul alone is it known how hot the furnace is." Brother, will you take home my text thismorning. Perhaps God sent you here not for the sermon, but for the text. Perhaps you strolled here to-day, not being a regularattendant, on purpose that this text might comfort you. "When thou goest through the fire, thou shaltnot be burned." When your troubles are all over, you shall still be left, and what is more, "neither the flame shall kindleupon you." When the winding up time comes, you shall not be any the loser. While you think you have lost substance, you shallfind when you read Scripture, that you only lose shadows. Your substance was always safe, being laid up in the keeping ofChrist in Heaven. You shall discover in the issue, that these trials of yours were the best things that could happen to you.The day shall come when you will say with David, "I will sing of judgment and mercy." "Before I was afflicted I went astray,but now I have kept thy word." Or perhaps there is some young woman here,-and the case I am about to paint is a very commonone-alas, too common in this city. You love the Saviour my sister, but you are very poor, and you have to earn your livingby that sorriest of all means. When the sun rises in the morning he sees you with that needle in your hand,
"Sewing at once with a double thread
A shroud as well as a shirt."
and all day long you have scarcely time to rest for meals, and at eventime, when the fingers are worn and the eyes are heavy,you shall have need to refrain from sleep because the pittance is so small that you can scarcely live upon it. We know hundredsof that class who always constrain our pity, because they work go hard for so little wage. Peradventure your mother is dead,and your father does not care about you. He is a drunken sot, and you would be sorry to meet himperhaps in the street. You have no helper, no friends. You do not care to tell anybody, you would not like to take anythingif charity should offer it to you; you feel it the hardest thing all is to be tempted as you are. There seems to you to beby the path open the road to plenty, and in some degree to delight. But you have said, "No, no," and you have loathed thetemptation, and you have stood-and I have known how year after year some of you have fought with temptation, and struggledon,when sometimes you were well nigh starved; but you would not do this great wickedness against God.
My sister, I pray you take the encouragement of this text to strengthen you for the future battles. You have been going throughthe fires. But you are not consumed yet, and I bless God, upon your garments the smell of fire has not passed. Hold on mysister, hold on, through all the sorrow thou hast, and all the bitterness which is heavy enough to crush thy spirit; holdon, for thy Master sees thee. He will encourage and strengthen thee, and bring thee more than conquerorthrough it all in the end. I address, too, this morning, some youthful minds. Young men who love Christ, and as soon asthey get home after attending the house of prayer, the taunting enquiry made by their fellow-workmen is-"You have been tosome meeting-house, I dare say." How cruel sometimes worldly young men are to Christian young men! Cruel, for when there area dozen worldlings and only one Christian they consider it to be honorable for the dozen to set upon one. Twelve big tallfellowswill sometimes think it a fine game to pass from hand to hand some little lad of fifteen, and make sport and mockery ofhim. There is honor, it is said, among thieves, but there seems to be no honor at all among worldlings when they get a youngChristian in this way. Well, young man, you have borne with it; you have said, "I will hold my tongue and won't say a word,""though your heart was hot within you, and while you were musing the fire burned." Remember what I have often said to you,theanvil does not get broken even if you keep on striking it, but it breaks all the hammers. Do you do the same. Only holdon, and these fires shall not consume you. If the fires should burn up your piety, it would only prove that your piety wasnot worth having. If you cannot stand a few jokes and jeers, why, you are not builded together in that habitation of God whichhe hath made fire-proof. Bear up and in the end you will find that this hard lot of yours, this severe discipline, did youa dealof good, and made you a better man than you ever would have been if you had been dandled on the lap of piety, and keptfrom the battle. In after years your high and eminent post of usefulness may be, perhaps, owing to the severe and harsh disciplineto which you were put in your younger days. "It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth. "Or, mayhap, I am speakingto some one who has met with opposition from his own ungodly relations. Remember how Jesus said, "I am come to send fireon the earth, and what will I, if it be already kindled? From henceforth there shall be five in one house divided, twoagainst three and three against two." Perhaps your father has threatened you, or what is more bitter still, your husband hasthreatened to discard you. Now indeed you are walking through the fires. He rails at your godliness, makes a mock of everythingyou love, and does his best by cruelty to break your heart. My dear sister in Christ, you shall not be burned by the fire.Ifgrace be in your heart the devil can't drive it out, much less your husband. If the Lord has called you by his grace,all the men on earth, and all the fiends in hell can reverse the calling, and you shall find in the end that you have notsuffered any loss; the flame has not kindled upon you. You shall go through the fire and bless God for it. From a dying bed,or at least through the gates of Paradise you shall look back upon the dark path of the way and say it was well, it was wellfor methat I had to carry that cross, and that now I am permitted to wear this crown. Who is on the Lord's side this morningof this congregation? While Jehovah speaks on high in the thunder, let us speak on earth in tones of earnestness. Who is onthe Lord's side among you? You that are not, be warned. "Tophet is ordained of old. He hath made it deep and large. The pilethereof is fire and much wood. The breath of the Lord, like a stream of brimstone, doth kindle it." You that are on his side,setup your banners to-day. He saith, "Fear not, I am with thee; when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned,neither shall the flame kindle upon thee." May the Lord bless the words we have spoken. Though hastily suggested to our minds,and weakly delivered to you, the Lord bless them for Christ's sake.