Sermon 523. From Death To Life
A SERMON DELIVERED ON SUNDAY EVENING, JULY 26, 1863, BY THE REV. C. H. SPURGEON, AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON.
The Lord kills and makes alive: He brings down to the grave, and brings up."
1 Samuel 2:6.
THIS sentence occurs in the very remarkable song of Hannah, who was equally illustrious as a poetess and prevalent as a suppliant.She sings an experimental song, for her deep sorrow had been a living death to her, and her joyful exaltation was a triumphantresurrection. Her hymn is a goldenbracelet set with the jewels of sparkling contrasts. And this verse, with its vivid opposition between life and death, restorationand the grave, bears in it diamonds of the finest quality. Like the ewes in the Canticles, this verse bears twins.
There is the double blessing of Othniel's wife in this text-it has both the upper and the nether springs as its inheritance.It has its own plain and natural meaning, which lies upon its surface like dust of gold. It has, moreover a spiritual meaning,which needs to be dug for like silver inthe mine.
I. In reference to ITS FIRST AND MOST MANIFEST MEANING, "The Lord brings down to the grave and brings up." Here the agencyof God, in life and death, is clearly revealed to us. How well it is to discern the Lord's hand in everything. Our Puritanforefathers were custom to speak of God asrestraining the bottles of Heaven, or sending a gracious rain; as sending forth the wind, or hiding it in His storehouse.But we have grown so wise that we begin to understand how the rain is formed, and we talk about the winds as if we had beeninto the chambers from which theycome howling forth and had discovered all the secrets of the universe.
We ascribe events to second causes, to the laws of nature, and I know not what. I think it were far better if we would goback to the good old way of talking and speaking of the Lord as being in everything. While we do not deny the laws of nature,nor decry the discoveries of science, we willsuffer none of these to be hung up as a veil before our present God. O foolish wisdom, which widens the distance betweenme and my heavenly Father! O sweet simplicity of love, which sees the God of love in every place, at every hour! I need notelescope to see my God-behold, Osons of men, He is here-and my heart joyfully perceives Him.
God is in life and death, in sickness and in health. This, surely, will soften the pains of sickness and gild the joys ofrecovery. If you look upon sickness and restoration as merely the products of natural causes, you will not feel humbled whenyou are stretched upon the bed, nor grateful whenyou walk out again, and breathe the fresh air. But if you see God's finger in touching your bones and your flesh, you willbe humbled under the chastisement. And if you discern His hand in restoring your youth, like the eagle's, you will be able,like David, to say, "Bless the Lord,O my Soul, and forget not all His benefits."
Let others forget God if they will, that is the attribute of the wicked. But let His saints remember Him and let them speakwell of His name and have it in their mouths all the day long-
"It is God who lifts our comforts high, Or sinks them in the grave."
This most precious fact should produce several gracious results in our hearts.
First of all, it should awaken gratitude. What a mercy it is that we are here this evening! You would think it more a mercy,perhaps, if certain of yonder seats had been left unoccupied because those who sat there but a few days ago have gone theway of all flesh. If those pews could tell you wheretheir former owners now are, you would praise the preserving hand of God far more heartily. Why, I looked just now withsolemn gaze upon a spot where was custom to sit one who has heard me preach for years, but God has lately called him to Hisbar.
And I turn my head and look upon another spot-just there-where used to sit another friend, but this last week, while journeyingin Wales for his health, he ran down a slope on one of the beautiful mountains a little more rapidly than he should have done.The fence at the bottom gave wayand he was precipitated into an eternal world. Even in our recreations, what dangers dog our heels!
You sometimes smile at old-fashioned people who thank God for "journeying mercies," and "journeying protections," but, indeed,such petitions are as fitting as ever they were. I always like to offer to my God thanksgivings for mercies known and merciesunknown. Christ had unknown sufferings and weenjoy, as the result, unknown mercies. When we know that-
"Dangers stand thick through all the ground, To push us to the tomb, And fierce diseases wait around, To hurry mortals home," our preservation from these dangers should make us bless our God,"who redeems our life from destruction." Glory be to that solitary arm which shields us from a vast array of foes! While it causes gratitude, dear Friends, it should compel consideration and lead us to pray that sickness and health maybe sanctified to us. "The Lord brings down to the grave," and it is His rule never to do anything without a purpose. "He doesnot afflict willingly nor grieve the children of men for nothing." There is always a "needs be," if "we are in heaviness throughmanifold temptations." Is it not the part of wisdom to say, with Job, "Show me why you contend with me?" Should not the sickchamber be a place where we should seek God? Indeed, where is there a place in which we should not seek Him? Brethren, we ought to ask the sanctified use of everything.Are we not to ask a blessing at the table upon our every meal? What is there, then, upon which we do not need the blessingof God? But especially do we need it upon our trials. Ask a blessing, my Brothers and Sisters, upon your troubles. Say graceover a table which is not so well loaded as it used to be. Say grace over broken bones and aching heads, over pains and pangsand partings, for there you want Divine Grace more than anywhere else, with the exception, it is true, of your prosperity-andthere, likely enough, you need a double portion of His Spirit. If we have been lifted up from the couch of languishing and suffering, then let us quietly expect the comfortable fruitsof righteousness which are afterwards to be brought forth in those who are exercised with trials. Let us pray God that thepruning may make us bring forth more fruit. That the filing may make us shine the more brightly. That the furnace may consumeour dross, and the deep rivers drown our follies. If the rod shall scourge our sloth to death, and the staff shall strengthenour faith, both rod and staff shall be seen to be in the Lord's hands and shall therefore comfort us. I think you will all agree with me, too, that the Lord's bringing us low and raising us up again, should cause great searchingof heart. Suppose I had died when last I was sick-was I then prepared to die? Woman, you remember when you last were stretchedupon that sickbed and even the physician had given you up for hopeless? God spared you. But if He had not, where now wouldyour soul be? Let your conscience answer that question and it may be that it will make you tremblingly say, "I should havebeen like unto them that go down into the pit."
If it had been your lot, my Hearers, some of you to have perished as this friend of ours has done during the past week,
1 dare not have said of you, "Lord, we thank You that it has pleased You to take this, our Brother, to Yourself." I couldnot have uttered a sentence of hope concerning you. I should have forged a lie had I comforted your friends by holding outa fraction of hope concerning your soul's salvation,for alas, are there not some of you who are Gospel-hardened, and grow worse rather than better?
While we are preaching to you, and pleading with you, and weeping for you to turn to Christ; and while we are trying to liftup Jesus upon His Cross in the hope that the Spirit may thereby attract you, you are getting to look upon the Gospel as anold, old tale, and upon the preacher himself as onewhom you have heard so often, that really he is growing quite tedious and dull. Ah, there are some of you whom I could stironce, as a thunderclap, or a flash of lightning would have startled you, but you can almost sleep under my voice now. Godknows I am willing enough to confessmy own lack of zeal and earnestness.
But still, my Hearers, it is not thatwhich keeps some of you from coming to Christ. It is because you keep putting off theday of repentance by perpetual procrastination. You live in a continual suicide, always destroying your own soul. Meanwhile,that which does not melt you, hardens you, and soyou grow worse and worse, ripening like tares for the fire. My dear Friends, let the judgments of God lead you to try yourhearts and to see what your state before God may be. "Beware lest He take you away with His stroke: then a great ransom cannotdeliver you."
To those of us who are Believers in Christ, restoration from sickness, and the privilege of again coming up to God's Houseafter an absence from it through illness, should suggest renewed activity. Hurry up! Hurry up! For behind you are the flyingwheels of the chariot of Death, and the axles aregrowing red hot with speed. Fly, Man, if you would accomplish your lifework, for you have not a moment to spare! I thinkI see my work before me-the wheat ripe unto the harvest-"broad acres and wide fields"-multitudes, multitudes, in the valleyof decision!
"Arise," says the Master, "reap for me!" I have reaped until my arm aches and my head swims. I wipe the hot sweat from myweary brow and would gladly rest awhile, but He says, "Reap! Reap! Reap! Reap while the morning's dew is falling! Reap whilethe hot sun scorches the ripening corn! Reap whilethe sun is setting! Reap until he has quite gone down. Then you shall rest from your labors. But until then your work shallnot be done!" Am I to reap alone?
My Brothers and Sisters, there are many new, bright sickles-here is one for each of you. Up and to the fields, my fellow reapers!Men and women, up from your lethargy! Woe unto you that are at ease in Zion, who lie upon beds of down and forget that menare making their beds in Hell! Get upand begin to be troubled for the sorrows of God's people, for the deaths of sinners, for the destruction of this great city.If ever Jonah's soul was stirred within him as he thought of Nineveh, much more ought yours and mine to be stirred with theburden of this great London.
There is no time to waste. Men are dying! Hell is filling! How dare you loiter! Again I sound the alarm. Work, O you saintsof the Lord, with all your might! Work with both your hands, by night and by day! Sow beside all waters! In the morning sowyour seed and in the evening withhold not yourhand. Let, then, the nearness of death and the shortness of life be to us as double spurs to stimulate our jaded spiritsto fresh action.
What need I say more? You who are scholars in the college of affliction are more fit to instruct me than I am to teach you.I shall but add this one thought-surely, if it is the Lord who brings down to the grave-and He may do it at any day, we oughtto be very watchful. Are we not, manyof us, like the virgins of the parable? We have fallen asleep. We have our lamps with us, but are not they almost out? Itis the dead hour of night and all things are quiet. I think I hear a cry which ought to startle every sleeper-"Behold, theBridegroom comes! Go out to meetHim!"
Can you sleep after that? Do I not see you startled? You rub your drowsy eyes. You look at your lamps and you find the oilgone. You seek to trim them and the cry fills you with alarm and confusion, "Behold, the Bridegroom comes! Go out to meetHim!" But some of you have no oil, and now you try toborrow it where it is not to be had. Alas for you, for you will be shut out, and shut out forever! Others of you have oilin your vessels, but you need hastily to trim your lamps or else the Bridegroom will come and find you sleeping.
The Lord grant that as He may come today, as you, sitting there in your seat, may die. As I, standing here, may cease to breathebefore the next word shall come from my lips, we may all be ready-
"That awful, that tremendous day, Is coming, who shall tell? For as a thief Unheard, unseen, it steals with silent pace Throughnight's dark gloom. Perhaps as here I stand, And rudely talk of these tremendous themes, Soon shall the tongue be checked,and dumb the mouth That lisps the falteringstrain. O Power supreme, You Guardian of my life, Preserve me from a dread surprise in death. From ways where I might weepto find a grave, Keep You Your servant by Your mighty Grace. O may Your heavenly summons never disturb, Nor come unwelcome,to my waiting heart But find me raptin meditation high, Hymning my great Creator! Or in prayer, Bringing the blessing down upon the crowd; In earnest work forJesus, lifting up His Cross and glory of His saving name." Be watchful, Brothers and Sisters, for the Lord brings down tothe grave, and from that grave Hebrings us not up again to work, though He will bring us up to the reward and to the rest which remain for the people ofGod. I shall now leave the text as it stands naturally. And briefly, but O may the Spirit of God help me to do it earnestly,try to speak of it in a spiritualsense.
II. OUR TEXT SEEMS TO INDICATE A STATE OF HEART THROUGH WHICH THOSE PASS WHO ARE BROUGHT TO GOD. There always is, in everycase, though not to the same degree, a stripping time before there is a clothing time. There must be an emptying before thereis a filling. There is the digging out of thefoundations before the building up of the house. There is a time in which this verse is fulfilled-"The Lord kills and makesalive: He brings down to the grave and brings up."
Let me describe now, for the comfort of those who are passing through the same, what that state of heart is in which the Lordbrings down to the grave. I shall speak now experimentally, for if there breathes one soul on earth that can speak experimentallyhere, I am that man.
The sinner is led, first of all, to hear his own sentence pronounced. He was getting careless and thoughtless before, butnow he is brought to think Thinking, he perceives his sins. Perceiving his sins, he fears an angry God looking down from Heaven,no, with His sword drawn, reaching down fromHeaven, to smite him on account of his iniquities. Well do I remember when I stood speechless at God's bar. Not a word hadI to answer Him with for one sin of a thousand.
When I read, "Cursed is everyone that continues not in all things which are written in the Book of the Law, to do them," Iknew that that curse was upon me, for I had not continued in anything, much less in all things'written in the Book of theLaw. It seemed to me as though I saw the Judge openthe book. Not to read my indictment-for that had already been published-but to proclaim the sentence. The trial had beengone through. I myself had made confession of my crimes, and now the Judge put on the black cap and commanded me to be takento the place from which Iwas to suffer eternal wrath.
When that sentence was to be executed He did not tell me, but it appeared to me as if it must come the next moment. And ifit did come, I knew I could not blame the justice of God, for I deserved it well. Is that your position? Oh, where are youtonight, poor condemned Sinner? Perhaps I cannot seeyou, for the crowd is great, nor can you see me, for you are in a corner, but yet you are bowing your head and saying, "Ah,that is just my case. I am cursed and I deserve it. God is angry with the sinner every day, I am a sinner and deserve thatanger."-
"There is a dreadful Hell And everlasting pains, Where sinners must with devils dwell, In darkness, fire, and chains."
"That is my lot," you are saying. And you are wringing your hands while you are speechless as to any self-justification andare only able to say, "It is most just. I deserve it well"?
Further than this-the convicted sinner is often made to feel not only the sentence and the justice of it, but the very horrorof death itself You may have read in the narrative of the old American war of the execution of deserters. They were broughtout one bright morning, while yet the dewwas on the grass and were bid to kneel down, each man in his coffin. And then a file of soldiers stepped forth. The wordwas given and each man fell down in his coffin in which he was to be buried. Such things as the punishment of deserters arecommon in every war, but what must bethe horror of the man who stands there, knowing that the bullet is waiting to reach his heart?
In the old wars, they used to have a black heart sown on the man's breast and all the soldiers were to take aim and fire atthat. Why the man must suffer a thousand deaths while he stood waiting for the word of command! I have stood there, spiritually.And there are hundreds here who have thusfaced their eternal doom. They have felt the horrors of death get hold upon them and the pangs of Hell encompass them-andthey have found trouble and sorrow. O Sinners, if you know yourselves, you will soon feel this, for do you not know that ifyou are without Christ, you arestanding in that position now?
The great guns of the Law, charged to the muzzle, are all pointed at you. They do but wait the fatal moment when the upliftedfinger of Justice shall bid them be discharged. And where will you be then? Lost beyond hope! Ruined beyond remedy! Beware,Sinner, beware of this. "Well," says one, "thatis the horror which I felt tonight. I felt as I came along that it was a wonder the earth did not open and swallow me up.And though I am now in God's House, I feel as if such a wretch as I am ought not to be in the company of the faithful. I wonderthat I am still alive. I am readyto cry out with the hymn writer-
"Tell it, unto sinners tell; I am, I am out of Hell."
Ah, dear Friends, this is another part of the experience through which many are called to go before the Lord who brings themdown to the grave and vouchsafes to bring them up again.
Then there is yet a further death which the convicted sinner is made to feel and that is the death of inability. While weare unregenerate, we think that we can do everything. Nothing is so easy, we imagine then, as believing. It is mere child'splay to pray to God, only a trifle to turn to God,and get a new heart. Yes, but when man begins to work in real earnest, he finds it a very different thing. He feels likeone in a swoon. There lies a woman who has fainted. You tell her it is but to put up her finger, to open her eyes, to moveher limbs, to walk into the fresh air,to drink a draught of water, and to recover. Yes, but she cannot do any of these things!
In one sense she can. The faculties are there, but they are all in a dormant state and so utterly powerless that all the womanis conscious of is her inability. Such is the state of the sinner when under a sense of guilt. He feels that deadly swoonof death into which Adam threw all his children.Now he moans most wretchedly, in words like those of good old John Newton-
"I would, but cannot sing, I would, but cannot pray. For Satan meets me when I try, And frightens my soul away. I would, butcan't repent, Though I endeavor often. This stony heart can never relent Till Jesus makes it soft. I would, but cannot love,Though wooed by love Divine. No arguments havepower to move A soul so base as mine.
could I but believe! Then all would easy be;
1 would, but cannot-Lord, relieve, My help must come from You!"
He feels himself brought into a perfect state of death, as if a stupor had gone through every nerve and frozen every musclerigidly in its place. Even the lifting of his little finger to help himself appears to be beyond his power. I am glad, dearFriend, you are brought here, for I know the Lordnever does empty a soul thoroughly of all creature-strength without very soon showing what the Creator can do! If He hasbrought you down to this grim sepulcher of corruption, dishonor, weakness, and self-despair, He will shortly bring you upagain. It is when you are strong that Iam afraid of you. But when you are weak, then my hopes are high.
The climax of your disease is just the dawn of my hopes. Your direst poverty is the time when I expect to see you enriched-forwhen you are completely emptied and have nothing, then Jesus Christ will be your strength and your salvation. Trust Him tobe your All in All now that you are nothingat all. There must, at least in some degree, be a sense of thus being brought down to the grave before there will be a bringingup again.
No doubt, the man now sees death written upon all his hopes. There was a door through which I had hoped to enter eternal life.I had spent much time in painting it, and making it comely to look upon. It seemed to me to have a golden knocker, a marblethreshold, and posts and lintels ofmahogany-and I thought it was the door of life for me. But now what do I see? I see a great black Cross on it, and overit there is written, "Lord, have mercy upon us." This door is the door to Heaven by my own good works, which I thought fullsure would always be open to me.
But lo, I see that all my best works are bad and, "Lord, have mercy upon us," is the highest thing my works can produce forme! Still I must cry, even over them, "God have mercy upon my good works. Forgive me for my best deeds, for I need to be forgiveneven for these." The death of legal hope isthe salvation of the soul. I like to see legal hope swung up like a traitor. There let him hang to rot before the sun, morecursed than any other that was ever hanged on a tree. O, Soul, have done with him, for while you are so fond of him, whileyou treat him with the best youhave, and set him at the head of your table, you are ruined. But when you slay him and drive him from you, then it is thatyour joy and your hope begin. No more, then, concerning this death-"The Lord brings down."
But now a word or two of comfort for any of you who are brought down to this spiritual grave. There are many precious promisesfor such. "Awake, you that sleep, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give you light." "Though you have lain among thepots, yet shall you be as the wings of a dovecovered with silver and her feathers with yellow gold." Remember the experience of Jonah-"For You had cast me into the deep,in the midst of the seas. And the floods compassed me about: all Your billows and Your waves passed over me. Then I said,I am cast out of Your sight.Yet I will look again toward Your holy temple...I went down to the bottoms of the mountains. The earth with her bars wasabout me forever: yet have You brought up my life from corruption, O Lord my God."
Let the hope of Jeremiah be your consolation-"But though He cause grief, yet will He have compassion according to the multitudeof His mercies. For He does not afflict willingly nor grieve the children of merit." You that are brought very low, you feelthat you are wounded tonight. Do you notknow how many promises there are to the wounded ones? "He heals the broken in heart, and binds up their wounds." Was notJesus Christ sent on purpose for this-"to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the openingof the prison to them that arebound?" The name of our God is "Jehovah-Rophi: the Lord that heals you."
His own words are, "I will restore health unto you and I will heal you of your wounds." "I have seen his ways and will healhim: I will lead him, also, and restore comforts unto him and to his mourners." You are tonight like the dead. Do you notremember that passage in Ezekiel, fraught with richmercy to you, where the Lord speaks concerning Israel, that they said their bones were dry, their hope was lost, and theywere cut off from their parts? But, nevertheless, He would raise them up and they should live in His sight? "Therefore prophesyand say unto them, Thus says theLord God, Behold, O My people, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, and bring you intothe land of Israel.
"And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I have opened your graves, O My people, and brought you up out of your graves,and shall put My Spirit in you and you shall live and I shall place you in your own land: then shall you know that I, theLord, have spoken it and performed it, says theLord." Remember how Hosea, speaking of the dead who were slain as you are, says, "The third day He will raise us up andwe shall live in His sight"? And that passage we read just now-"I kill and I make alive"-do you not see the comfort of it?
That "and" is a diamond rivet, joining the two sentences together. You cannot separate the, "I kill," from the, "I make alive,"for where God kills by His Spirit, He always quickens by the same. He does not in this life kill our legal hopes and our carnalsecurity without by-and-by making us alive.You will tell me that the Lord has withdrawn from you. But, oh, what a multitude of promises there are for you! "For a smallmoment have I forsaken you. But with great mercies will I gather you." "If any walk in darkness and see no light, let himtrust in the name of the Lord." Sothat though you have lost the comfortable hope of His love, you are still to trust in Him.
"Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him," said Job. And so do you, though you are slain, still trust-for there is stillground for trust-no sinner was ever brought too low for God to bring him up again. Others have been as low as you are now.Remember Heman the Ezrahite, whosemournful notes we read just now in the eighty-eighth Psalm. What words are these-"You have laid me in the lowest pit, indarkness, in the deeps. Your wrath lies hard upon me and You have afflicted me with all Your waves...I am afflicted and readyto die from my youth up: whileI suffer Your terrors I am distracted. Your fierce wrath goes over me. Your terrors have cut me off"?
Yet this man of God received comforts, after all, from the God of his salvation. You yourself are not brought so low as youwould be if you had a still clearer view of your sins. Remember, God's mercy is so great that you may sooner drain the seaof its water, or deprive the sun of his light, ormake space too narrow-than diminish the great mercy of God. So that though brought to the very last pinch, and dead likethe free among the slain that go down into the pit, you may still find mercy in the Lord our God.
Let me beg you never to be satisfied until you get a Savior. Do not be content with any comfort short of faith in Christ.Do recollect, dear Friends, that you must not be satisfied because you have good desires, or because you experience holy feelings.When friends say to you, "God has begun thegood work in you, and you may be content, for He will carry it on"-remember, you can never be sure that God has begun thegood work till you have believed in Christ. Believe in Jesus Christ! That is, as far as you are concerned, the first clearproof that God has begun asaving work in you.
And it is for you, though dead and ruined, though swooning and fainting, and unable to do anything as of yourself, to swooninto the arms of the Savior. It is for you to faint, as many a child has done, into its father's arms-to die in the bosomof the Savior and lie buried in His grave. Oh,this is a happy, happy way of being nothing-that Christ may be All in All. And now I close, for time fails us, by just noticing,that where God has thus killed and brought down, we may rest assured He will certainly bring up again.
Beloved Friends, the Lord does not send His Holy Spirit to bring sinners to a sense of their need whom He does not intendto save, for that were a waste of His Divine energy. He leaves reprobates, for the most part, to their natural hardness andimpassive hearts. But those whom He deigns to makesensible of guilt, those whom He deigns to condemn in their consciences, and to write the sentence of death in their members-theseHe intends, sooner or later, to bring up again from their despondency. Why, it stands to reason that He will! "Ah," said onegood old Divine onceto a fainting sinner, "You cost Christ too much for Him to let you perish! He bought you too dearly to let you be a castawayforever."
Remember, since you are His-and we have a comfortable hope that you are because you sigh and cry and have a blessed hungerand thirst after Him-since you are His, I say, you are very precious in His sight and He will not, therefore, suffer you tobe lost. "Oh," says one, "can I be achild of God after all, and yet be brought so low as I have been?" Some months ago, there were two women who kept a shopand they put all their money, some hundred pounds, in sover- eigns, under the fireplace at night, in a bag, to save it fromthieves. The cleaning girl clearedaway the ashes, and of course, cleared away the sovereigns, too, and they were swept into the dust heap.
Well, this gold might have said to itself, "Now I am going to the dust heap! How worthless I am, because I am put here amongthe lowest dregs-here is a piece of old rag-and here a rotten mass of filth. I cannot be a gold sovereign or else I shouldnot be cast here." Ah, but you see,when they came to rake the heap they raked the golden coins out again! The sovereigns were, by-and-by discovered. They mightbe in the ashes, but they were not to lie there forever.
So you may be brought to feel yourselves the lowest, the worst, and the most useless of all creatures-but if the Lord hasset His love upon you, you are gold in His esteem-none the less because of the ashes and the dunghill upon which you may becast. And He will yet bring you up again.Remember, there may be a work of Divine Grace in your heart and yet you may not know it. There are many pebbles in the bottomof a river which you cannot see, but they are there. There may be some degree of faith and hope and love, and yet your soulmay be so much disturbed that youcannot as yet perceive it. Or the Lord may be really bringing you up from the grave and yet the muddiness of your thoughtsand the darkness of your soul's eyes may prevent your perceiving what the Lord is doing for you.
Still, I repeat it, He willbring you up again. O let your faith seize hold on this comforting assurance. If it is not doneyet, it will be in due time. "Well, how will it come?" says one, "how will the Lord give me comfort?" My dear Friend, I donot know the manner of it. It may comesuddenly-before this service is over you may feel all the joy that a Believer can know. It may be that the Lord will revealHimself to you as you are walking home, or tonight while you are in prayer before you go to your rest. Possibly it will comegradually-first theblade, then the ear-and then the full corn in the car.
There are some to whom the light of life comes as the light of the rising sun-first a glimmering twilight. Then the ruddyhues upon the clouds. Then a flood of light and afterwards the sun has fully risen. It may be so with you. But there is onething I know-when your hope does come,when God quickens you from your grave-it will be just at that moment when you are led to look away from your own feelings,your own doings, and your own willings, and to look to Christ alone.
I heard the other day a trembling woman-I hope she will yet be rejoicing in the Lord-I heard her saying she was afraid shenever should be saved. I told her I was afraid so, too, for she would not believe in Christ, but was always raising questionsand doubts. Well, she said, she didnot know whether the Lord had begun a good work in her. I told her I did not know that either, and that I did not enquireabout it. I knew what the Gospel said and that was, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved." But she said,perhaps it was not God's time. Ah, Isaid, "Today is the accepted time; today is the day of salvation."
Ah, she said, but she could not believe. I asked her why she could not believe. Could she not believe what Christ said? WasHe a liar? Could she dare to say that she could not believe her God? Well, she did not exactly mean that, but then there wereher sins. But, I said, "The blood of Jesus Christcleans us from all sin." Well, she said, she hoped she should have the strivings of the Spirit and that one day she shouldget right. My sister, said I, I charge you before God, your business is to come to Christ and to come to Christ now. But ifyou stop anywhere short of that, inany sort of feelings or experience, then you will never get to your journey's end.
A believing sinner's business is with Jesus and not with the Spirit's operations. The Spirit works salvation in him, but heis nowhere bid to look to the Spirit for salvation. No man can come to the Father but by Christ. And no man can come to anacknowledgment of the Spirit's operations but by asight of Christ. I grant you that the Spirit brings us to the Cross, but we do not know when we come that the Spirit isat work with us. By a mysterious force we come to Jesus and then afterwards we look back and say, "Why, it must have beenthe Spirit of God that drew me toChrist." You are not, however, to begin with that-you are to begin by looking at the Cross.
Although I have been talking to you about how God wills to bring us down, I have not set up these feelings as a standard ofexperience, or as being the grounds of our salvation. A sense of need is a sign of our salvation, for no soul ever will cometo live through the life of Christ unless he hasfirst been slain by the great sword of the Law. No sinner ever comes empty-handed to Jesus till he has been knocked downand robbed of all the worthless trash which he prizes as jewels. But still, I say for all this, the thing which saves thesoul is for that dead, helpless,swooning, feeble, lost, ruined soul, to look to Him who hangs on yonder Cross-where the Just suffers for the unjust, thatHe may bring us to God.
This is how the Lord brings us up again. I know there will be some who will say they have not felt all I have described toany great degree or extent. Remember, again, I do not set this up as a standard to keep you from Christ. I have been preachingthus in order to catch you who do not comebecause you have terrors-not to frighten those who come with- out them. There are two sorts of you we have to deal with.Some of you say you cannot believe in Christ because you have such terrible convictions. You wish you had not felt them. Andanother class of you say if youhad these horrible terrors, you could believe in Christ. There is no pleasing either of you.
Now, remember, you that have the convictions, the Lord who brings you low will bring you up again. And you that have not theconvictions, you still have this preached to you-"Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief." Cometo Jesus just as you are, you shall havesuch conviction as the Lord sees fit for you. You shall, indeed, be led in the same way as others. Though, being blind,you will not know at the time that it is the same way. You will be killed and you will be made alive. You will be emptiedand you will be filled. You will be madenothing and Jesus shall be your All in All.
O that my Master would bless these few rambling remarks to some of you. I do not like drawing the bow at a venture. I cannotstand that metaphor. I love to draw the bow at a certainty, to smite some of you and I would to God that the Lord would dothat now. The Lord greatly blesses that class overwhich our dear sister, Mrs. Bartlett, presides-but there are still some in it who are unconverted. O that the Lord mightbring some of them in tonight! You young women who take an interest in the things of God-may the Lord now decide you. I wantto speak personally andaffectionately to you now, because you may be in the grave before another Sunday.
As I look around me here, I miss some of my congregation, and in such a large congregation as this, there are at least twowho depart every week. I suppose, according to the natural order of things, two of you must die each week. And when I thinkof this solemn fact, I ask-where are the two?Where are the two who are to be the victims of death this week? "Perhaps they are at home, sick," you say. Ah, well, perhaps,also, they are here in good, strong health. Prepare to meet your God, young men, for you are not too young to die! And youin the Sunday school. I am sopleased to hear of the boys being converted and of the girls being brought in.
But, O children, some of you may soon make a little hillock in the cemetery with your young bodies! May the Lord make youyoung Samuels. Remember, it was Samuel's mother who penned this text-may you be led to feel your need of Jesus and then tofind Him for the salvation of your soul. You whoare diligent in business, but are not fervent in spirit, you will be busy buying and selling all the week, but oh, do notsell your souls! "Buy the Truth and sell it not." You, gray heads, yonder, what a multitude of old men we always have in thisassembly and I am glad to see thefathers here, though I often wonder how aged Christians can be fed by such a child as I am.
But still, those gray hairs only make a fool's cap for you if you have grown old in sin as well as old in years. God helpyou, that you may yet be made babes in Grace though you are on the very verge of the grave.
God add His blessing, but we will not separate till we have sung this one verse-and I beg none to sing it but those who deeplycan feel it-
"Just as I am, without one plea, But that Your blood was shed for me, And that You bid me come to You, O Lamb of God, I come,I come!"