Sermon 624. Present Privilege And Future Favor
DELIVERED ON WEDNESDAY EVENING, MARCH 29, 1865, BY C. H. SPURGEON, AT UPTON CHAPEL.
"The eternal God is your refuge and underneath are the everlasting arms: and He shall thrust out the enemy from before you.And shall say, Destroy them." Deuteronomy 33:27.
THERE is a great satisfaction in having such a text as this, for even if the preacher should not be able to say anything toedification, yet the text itself is rich food for the saints and may fully satisfy their hunger. Let but a child of God reallydigest such a royal dainty as this and he shallbe as well fed as was Elijah when, waking up, found food under the juniper tree, in the strength of which he might go forforty days. This one verse may, by the Holy Spirit, be made sufficiently nourishing to sustain a Believer from that placewhere he now is, to the gates of Glory."The eternal God is your refuge and underneath are the everlasting arms."
It is fabled that the swan sings but once and that just before it dies. So Moses, who had been all his life a Prophet, nowcloses his career a poet and dies singing! He praises God, setting Him above all gods and defying all men to find one likeunto Him. "Who is like unto the God of Jeshurun?" Notsatisfied with this, he also exalts in the highest degree all the people who have God to be their portion. "Happy are you,O Israel. Who is like unto you?" I may say that my text is a combination of the two-he is here extolling God, the everlastingand eternal God who is ourrefuge-and he is here admiring the privilege of Believers who have such a God to rest upon.
While we are speaking, therefore, this evening, if you are not profited by our words, yet your hearts may be blessed if youpraise God for His great goodness towards you. And may you also feel melted with holy joy at the blessed privileges whichbelong to you as the people of God-in havingsuch a God who is so good to you. The text naturally divides itself into two parts-the present and the future. In the presentwe have the eternal God to be our refuge. In the future it is written that He shall thrust out the enemy from before us andshall say, "Destroy them."
I. Beginning then, with the first part of the text, THE PRESENT BLESSING appeals to me to give us three distinct thoughts.God is our shelter. "The eternal God is your refuge." But the word, "refuge," according to many of the best translators, maybe read, "mansion," or "abiding place." So herecomes a second thought-that God is our abode. Then the next sentence gives us the third thought, "And underneath are theeverlasting arms," so that God is our support, as well as our shelter and our abode.
1. We will begin our meditation, in the Spirit's power, by considering God as our shelter. The children of Israel, while theywere in Egypt and in the wilderness, were a type of God's visible Church on earth. Moses was speaking primarily of them, butsecondarily, of all the chosen ones of God inevery age. Now, as God was the shelter of His ancient people Israel, so is He the refuge of His saints through all time.And first, He was eminently their shelter when they were under bondage and the yoke was heavy. When they had to make brickswithout straw and the taskmastersoppressed them, then the people cried unto the Lord and God heard their cry and sent unto them His servant Moses.
So also there often comes to men a time when they begin to feel the oppression of Satan. I believe that many ungodly men feelthe slavery of their position. Even some of those who are never converted have sense enough to feel at times that the serviceof Satan is a hard one, yielding but littlepleasure and involving awful risks. Some men cannot go long making bricks without straw without being more or less consciousthat they are in the house of bondage. These, who are not God's people, under the pressure of mind consequent upon a partialdiscovery of their state, turn tosome form of pleasure or self-righteousness in order to forget their burden and yoke.
But God's elect people, moved by a higher power, are led to cry unto their God. It is one of the first signs of a chosen soul-thatit seems to know, as if by heavenly instinct-where its true refuge is. Dear Brothers and Sisters, you remember that althoughyou knew but little ofChrist-and in doctrinal matters you were very dark, though you did not un- derstand, perhaps, even your own need-yet therewas a something in you that made you pray and realize that only at the Mercy Seat could you find your refuge.
Before you were a Christian, before you could say-"Christ is mine"-your bedside was the witness to many flowing tears whenyour aching heart poured itself out before God, perhaps in strains like these-"O God, I need something. I do not know whatit is I need, but I feel aheaviness of spirit. My mind is burdened and I feel that You only can unburden me. I know that I am a sinner! Oh, that Youwould forgive me! I hardly understand the plan of salvation, but one thing I know-I want to be saved! I would arise and gounto my Father-my heartpants to make Your bosom my refuge."
Now, I say that this is one of the first indications that such a soul is one of God's chosen, for it is true, just as it wasof Israel in Egypt, that God is the refuge of His people even when they are under the yoke. When captivity is led captive,the Eternal God becomes the refuge of His peoplefrom their sins. The Israelites were brought out of Egypt. They were free-albeit they were marching they knew not where-yettheir chains were snapped. They were emancipated and needed not to call any man, "Master."
But look, Pharaoh is angry and he pursues them! With his horses and his chariots he hastens after them. The enemy said, "Iwill pursue, I will overtake, I will divide the spoil. My lust shall be satisfied upon them." Thus there is a period in thespiritual life when sin labors to drag back thesinner who has newly escaped from it. Like hosts ready for battle, all the poor sinner's past iniquities hurry after himand overtake him in a place where his way is hedged in. The poor fugitive would escape, but he cannot! What, then, must hedo? You remember, then, Moses criedunto the Lord. When nothing else could be found to afford shelter to the poor escaped slaves. When the Red Sea rolled beforethem and the mountains shut them in on either side. When an angry foe pursued them, there was one road which was not stoppedup and that was the king'shighway upward to the Throne-the way to their God-and therefore they began at once to travel that road, lifting up theirhearts in humble prayer to God, trusting that He would deliver them.
You know the story too well for me to need to repeat it here-how the uplifted rod divided the watery deeps. How the peoplepassed through the sea as a horse through the wilderness and how the Lord brought all the hosts of Egypt into the depths ofthe sea-that He might utterly destroythem so that not one of them was left and those who had seen them one day saw them no more forever.
Beloved, in this sense God is still the refuge of His people. Our sins which pursued us so hotly have been drowned in thedepths of the Savior's blood. They sank to the bottom like stones. The depths have covered them-there is not one, no, notone of them left-and we, standing upon theshore in safety can shout in triumph over our drowned sins! "Sing unto the Lord for He has triumphed gloriously and allour iniquities has He cast into the midst of the sea." While God is thus the refuge of His people under the yoke, and whensin seeks to overcome them, He is alsotheir refuge in times of need.
The children of Israel journeyed into the wilderness but there was nothing for them to feed upon there. The arid sand yieldedthem neither leeks, nor garlic, nor cucumbers. And no brooks or rivers, like the Nile, were there to quench their thirst.They would have famished if they had been left todepend upon the natural productions of the soil. They came to Marab, where there was a well, but the water was very bitter.At other stations there were no wells whatever and even bitter water was not to be had. What then? Why, the unfailing refugeof God's people in the wildernesswas prayer. Moses, their representative, always betook himself to the Most High-at times falling upon his face in agonyand at other seasons climbing to the top of the hill and there pleading in solemn communion with God that He would deliverthe people.
And you have heard full often how men did eat angels' food in the desert-how Jehovah rained bread from Heaven upon His peoplein the howling wilderness and how He smote the rock and waters gushed forth. You have not forgotten how the strong wind blewand brought them flesh so that they ateand were satisfied. Israel had no need unsupplied. Their garments waxed not old and though they went through the wilderness,their feet grew not sore. God supplied all their needs. We in our land must go to the baker, the butcher, the clothier andmany others in order to equipourselves fully. But the men of Israel went to God for everything. We have to store up our money and buy this in one placeand that in the other-but the Eternal God was their refuge and their resort for everything and in every time of need theyhad nothing to do but to lift uptheir voice to Him.
Now it is just so with us spiritually. Faith sees our position today to be just that of the children of Israel then- whateverour needs are the Eternal God is our refuge. God has promised you that your bread shall be given you and that your water shallbe sure. He who gives spirituals willnot deny temporals. The Mighty Master will never suffer you to perish while He has it in His power to succor you. Go toHim with whatever may be the trouble which weighs you down. Do not suppose your case too bad, for nothing is too hard forthe Lord! Dream not that He will refuseto undertake temporals as well as spirituals-He cares for you in all things.
In everything you are to give thanks, and surely in everything by prayer and supplication you may make known your needs untoGod. In times when the cruse of oil is ready to fail and the handful of meal is all but spent, then go to the All-SufficientGod and you shall find that they who trust in Himshall not lack any good thing. Furthermore, our God is the refuge of His saints when their enemies rage. When the host waspassing through the wilderness they were suddenly attacked by the Amalekites. Unprovoked, these marauders of the desert setupon them and destroyed the tail endof them. And what did Israel do? The people did not ask to have a strong body of horsemen, hired out of the land of Egyptfor their refuge, or even if they did wish it, He who was their wiser self, Moses, looked to another arm than that of man,for he cried unto God!
How glorious is that picture of Moses, with uplifted hands, upon the top of the hill giving victory to Joshua in the plainsbelow! Those uplifted arms were worth ten thousand men to the hosts of Israel. No, twice ten thousand had not so easily gottena victory as did those two extended arms whichbrought down Omnipotence itself from Heaven! This was Israel's master-weapon of war-their confidence in God. Joshua shallgo forth with men of war, but the Lord, Jehovah-Nissi, is the banner of the fight and the giver of the victory! Thus, dearFriends, the Eternal God is ourrefuge. When our foes rage we need not fear their fury. Let us not seek to be without enemies, but let us take our caseand spread it before God.
We cannot be in such a position-that the weapons of our foes can hurt us, while the promise stands good-"No weapon that isformed against you shall prosper and every tongue that rises against you in judgment You shall condemn." Though earth andHell should unite in malice, the EternalGod is our castle and stronghold, securing to us an everlasting refuge. To close our remarks upon this point-when theirfalls into sin had cursed the people of God and provoked the Most High so that He sent fiery serpents among them-even thenthe Eternal God was theirrefuge. When we are conscious that sin has brought us into any mischief or sorrow, we are apt to feel-"I must not go toGod with this, because it is clearly the natural and inevitable result of my sin-it is a rod of my own making."
Yes, but we may go even with that, for if the Lord should send the fiery serpents, still, you must fly into the arms of thatvery God who has sent the serpents to bite you-for it is He, and He alone who can lift up the bronze serpent before your tearfuleyes and give you life through lookingat it! We make a mistake when we imagine that we may not go to God as sinners! We may feel unworthy to go, but we must notthink that we shall be unwelcome. I do not go to my Heavenly Father in times of need because I feel there are excellenciesin me which will qualify me forreceiving His help! No! I go because I feel unfit to be blessed and am therefore anxious for the blessing!
I go because I feel unworthy of deliverance and am the more desirous that I may get deliverance from the God of Grace. TheEternal God, then, is our refuge in a thousand ways. I have only given you a few hints on this part of the subject but wewill sum them up and then you can enlarge on them atyour leisure. Under the yoke, before sin is forgiven, if you are a child of God the Eternal God is your refuge. When youhave escaped from sin and the past haunts you, still the Eternal God is your refuge. When, in the wilderness, your needs pressyou down, whether they are temporalor spiritual, then the Eternal God is your refuge. And when your enemies attack you, or your own guilt has brought you intosuch a position that God Himself chastises you sharply, still, even then it holds good and true that the Eternal God is yourrefuge if you believe in Him.
2. Now take the second thought with brevity. The Eternal God is our mansion, our dwelling, our abiding place. The childrenof Israel had no other and therefore if God were not their dwelling place, they were houseless. Pilgrims of the weary foot.They found no city to dwell in. At eventide theypitched their tents but they struck them again in the morning. The trumpet sounded and they were up and away. If they werein a comfortable valley for one day, yet that relentless trumpet bade them resume their wearisome march through the wildernessin the morning. And, perhaps theythought they lingered the longest where an encampment was least desirable. Nevertheless they always had a dwelling placein their God.
If I might use such a description without seeming to be fanciful, I would say that the great cloudy canopy which covered themall day long from the heat of the sun was their roof-and that the blazing pillar which protected them by night was their familyfireside. God Himself dwelt in the verymidst of them in the bright shining light, the Shekinah, within the holy place and up from the very spot there rose thegreat pillar which was cloud by day and fire by night. And so, within the compass of God's protecting Presence they founda perpetual abode. So Moses sings, "Lord,You have been our dwelling place in all generations."
Wherever they were, if they were but under the shadow of that cloud they were quite at home and whenever they got within theradius of the bright pillar of fire, they felt that they were not away from the family circle. Now I hope that many of uscan say that the Eternal God is our dwellingplace-
"Home, home, Sweethome, There's noplace like home," says the song, and certainly, if God is our home, the song has a depth of sweetness in it. Athome one feels safe. An Englishman's house is his castle-who shall intrude upon him there? When the bolt is drawn, when thecurtains are drawn, when the family gathers round the fireside, then we have shut the world and all our enemies' babblingtongues out and we dwell in quiet. So when we get to our God, not bolts of brass nor gates of iron could guard God's people so well as that wall of fire whichJehovah is to all His chosen. When we draw near to God in sweet communion we feel as if the devil himself were dumb- "Then, let the earth's old pillars shake, And all the wheels of Nature break. Our steadfast souls shall fear no more, Thansolid rocks when billows roar."
At home, too, we take our rest. Out in the world, in the workshop, we toil until the sweat streams from our face. In the pulpit,in the midst of our congregations, our mind is so active and on the alert that the brain is often wearied. But at home wecast ourselves down upon the couch and feel thatnow the day's work is over and that the happy evening of rest has come.
When I get to my God, no servile works have I to do-no hewing of wood and drawing of water, like a Gibeonite, in God's house!But here I am, His servant, happy in His service and finding sweet rest in what I do for Him. "We that have believed, do enterinto rest," and there is a peace which,"passes all understanding, which keeps our heart and mind, through Christ Jesus." At home we let our hearts loose. We castaside all dignity there-we are no longer on our guard like men in armor. We are not afraid that our children will misunderstandus, or that our dear oneswill misconstrue our words and sentiments. We feel at ease.
So is it when we are with our God. I dare tell Him what I dare not tell anyone else. There is no secret of my heart whichI would not pour into His ear. There is no wish that might be deemed foolish or ambitious by others which I would not communicateto Him. Surely, if "the secret of the Lord iswith them that fear Him," the secrets of them that fear Him ought to be, and must be with their Lord. It is at home, ifanywhere, that a man is thoroughly happy and delighted. He takes his soul's best solace there. His eyes sparkle most at hisown fireside. Whatever the man may beabroad with all his cares and his troubles, he can't wait to get home, as going to the place of his delight.
So I trust it is with us and our God. We go out, like Noah's dove. With weary wings we fly over the watery waste, ready todrop. But we come back again, like that same dove, into Noah's hand and there we find our resting place forever. It is forhome that a man works and labors. I am sure when Isee the workers filling the streets, just when work is over, that the most of them have a home to go to for the sake ofwhich they toil. What makes that man work so hard? Why, there are three little ones at home who must be fed! How is it thathe is content to go through so muchtoil? There is a wife at home dear to his soul and for her and the babes he fights the battle of life bravely.
Be it ever so homely. Be it up ever so many pairs of stairs, yet the thought of that little room and of the dear ones thereat home gives strength to the man to bear his burden and helps his fingers to fly the quicker over his work. In this sense,too, I think we can say that our gracious God isour home, our mansion. The love of God strengthens us. We do but think of Him in the Person of His dear Son and a glimpseof the suffering face of the Redeemer constrains us to labor. We feel that we must work, for we have brethren yet to be saved!We have uncalled ones yet to bebrought in! We have the head of Christ to crown-we have the Father's heart to make glad by bringing home to Him His waywardand wandering sons.
We will pause here and see if we can say, "Yes, 'tis true, Lord. You are, as the Eternal God, our mansion and dwelling place."I pray, dear Friends, do not say this in words unless you know in truth that the Eternal God is your dwelling place.
3. We must be very brief on the third part of this present privilege-"Underneath are the everlasting arms." This means thatGod is our support, and our support just when we begin to sink. We want support when we are sinking and by the arms being"underneath," it seems that this support isgiven just when we are going down. At certain seasons the Christian sings very low in humiliation. He has a deep sense ofhis own sin. He is humbled before God till he scarcely knows how to lift up his face and pray because he appears, in his ownsight, so abject, so mean, so base,so worthless.
Well, Child of God, remember that when you are at your worst, yet "underneath you are the everlasting arms." Christ's Atonementdives deeper than your sin. Sin may sink you ever so low, but the great Atonement is still under all! I will give you a textwhich proves it. "He is able to save unto theuttermost them that come unto God by Him." You may have gone very low, but you can never have gone so low as, "the uttermost."Here is another. "All manner of sin and of iniquity shall be forgiven unto men." You have plunged into nearly all sorts ofsin, but you have not gone into,"all manner of sin." Or if you have, it may be forgiven so that this promise goes underneath you. The love of God, the powerof the blood and the prevalence of the intercession are deeper down than sin with all its Hell-born vileness can ever sinkthe sinner while breath is in hisnostrils
Again, the Christian sometimes sinks very deeply in sore trials from without. He loses his property. His children die. Hiswife is carried to the grave-every earthly prop is cut away. What then? He goes down, down, down-yet still underneath himare the everlasting arms! You cannot sinkso deep in distress and affliction, but what the Covenant Grace of an ever-faithful God will be still lower than you are-evenwhen at your very lowest! Look at your Savior-you are never so low as He was. Perhaps you cannot pay your rent and you areto be turned out ofthat little room-this is falling low, indeed. But what did your Savior say-"Foxes have holes and the birds of the air havenests, but I, the Son of Man, have not where to lay My head."
I have supposed you to be in a very sad case, but, you see, underneath you there are the sufferings of Christ. Perhaps yourfriends have forsaken you. Yes, but hear Him-"He that eats bread with Me has lifted up his heel against Me." He is deeperin the mire than you. You are very, very, verypoor, but see, there He hangs upon the Cross-stripped naked, without a rag to cover Him-deserted by all. You have gone veryfar, but not so far as that. Jesus represents the great goodness of God in its communion with your need and in Him your Godputs underneath you Hiseverlasting arms.
Possibly you are sinking very deep down, under trouble from within. You have felt such vexatious of spirit as you never thoughtyou could have known. You have waged such a conflict as you never dreamed of. The fountains of the great deep have been brokenup. And, as a deluge, sin threatens to coveryour spirit and drown all the life in your heart. Beloved, you cannot, even there, be brought so low as Christ was, forwhat did He say-"My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?"
God is still with you to be your succor and if you have lost the light of your Father's countenance, yet you have not lostit to so great an extent as your Savior did. You have not yet sweat "great drops of blood." You have not yet prayed with strongcrying and tears and found that the cup couldnot be removed altogether. You have not yet descended into the depths, as your Savior did. And so we will take it for grantedthat underneath you, wherever you may be, there are the everlasting arms. I think I see the devil trying to drown a Believer,but underneath are theeverlasting arms. Satan says, "I will have him yet," and down he dives lower still-but the everlasting arms are even there.
Why, look what he did with Jonah. He got him into the whale's belly, but he was not content with that. The whale, of course,was near the surface when it first sucked Jonah in. But it goes down, perhaps half a mile-it must go deeper yet and so itstirs up the deep in its pain, for it has anindigestible morsel within and it does not know what to do with it. It plunges down, down, DOWN, till Jonah says he wentto the bottoms of the mountains and the weeds were wrapped about his head and the earth with her bars was about him forever-yeteven then, "underneath werethe everlasting arms," and therefore the whale comes up and Jonah stands upon the dry land once more! So shall it be withyou, Beloved, for in your worst trials and times of difficulty underneath you are the everlasting arms!
And this, also, I may give you by way of comfort in any weary labors in which you may be engaged. There are some of God'sservants who feel as if they would willingly die-for to serve God, though very pleasant-is at times very hard work. And whenone is sincere in God's service and isready to drop, one will cry out, "Oh, when shall the day of rest come?" Courage, courage, you fainting soldier! Underneathare the everlasting arms-you shall have strength equal to your day! Your shoes shall be iron and brass! You shall end yourjourney well and you shallfight the fight till the victory comes.
At last, when death comes, the promise shall still hold good. We shall stand in the midst of Jordan and, like poor Christian,it is possible that we may begin to sink-but may we have some Hopeful with us then, to say, as Hopeful did to Christian, "Beof good cheer, my Brother. I feel thebottom, it is good"-for underneath us there will be the everlasting arms. You may be full of pain and anguish and the spiritmay sink into a spiritual death even before the natural death comes on. You may feel dying to be dreadful work. But still,if the worst should come toworst-you shall yet in the hour of extremity win the victory! You shall triumph over death and enter into the Presence ofGod and bless His name because, "underneath you are the everlasting arms."
I can scarcely venture on the second part of my subject tonight at all, for we have not done with the first point. I wishyou to notice those two phrases which are the pith of the text. "The Eternal God." "Everlasting arms." "The Eternal God."Here is antiquity. The God who was before all worlds isforever my God. Oh, how I love that word, "eternal"! But, Brothers and Sisters, there are some people who do not believein an Eternal God. At any rate they do not believe in Him as being theirs eternally. They do not believe that they belongedto Christ before they were born. Theyhave a notion that they only had God to be theirs when they believed on Him for the first time. They do not believe in Covenantsettlements and eternal decrees and the ancient purposes of the Most High.
But let me say that for comfort there is no thought more full of sweetness than that of an Eternal God engaged in Christ Jesusto His people to love and bless and save them all! One who has made them the distinguished objects of His discriminating regardfrom all eternity. It is the ETERNAL God.And then there are the "everlasting arms"-arms that will never drop, arms that will never grow weary, arms that will neverlose their strength. They put the two words, "eternal," and, "everlasting," together and they remind us of another sweet word-immutability.Aneverlasting God that faints not, neither is weary, that changes not and turns not from His promise. Such is the God we delightto adore and to use as our eternal shelter, our dwelling place and our support.
II. The second part of the subject, AS TO THE FUTURE, I cannot dwell upon for want of time but only give you an outline ofwhat one might have said upon it if there had been opportunity. He who has been our God in the past will certainly be ourGod in the future! And in the future we have twothings to comfort us-Divine work, and we have a Divine command. Here is the Divine work-He will thrust out our enemies beforeus. Whatever your difficulties may be, whatever your sins may be against which you have to contend, remember, Jehovah leadsthe van and crushesyour foes before you come to them.
You have to fight, Christian, with vanquished enemies and it is an easy thing when you have to overcome a dragon who has hadhis head broken already by your risen Lord. Therefore Dr. Watts makes us sing for our comfort-
"Hell and your sins resist your course, But Hell and sin are vanquished foes! Your Savior nailed them to the Cross, And sung the triumph when He rose."
Before you get to your difficulties, your God will have removed them. The stone was laid at the mouth of the sepulcher andthe women said, "Who shall roll away the stone?" But when they arrived at the spot they found that the stone had been rolledaway by an angel long before.
March on, Christian-the Jordan may be very deep-but as soon as the feet of God's priests touch the border of the river itshall be dried up! You shall have before you ten thousand things which may appall you, but if you will but go on in the strengthof faith, they shall prove to be butthe shadows which disappear when the sun rises. There is Divine work always going on before God's people-His shield alwaysgoes in front-His sword always cuts and clears the way and we have but to follow where He leads. When the children of Israelpassed over Jordan, thepriests who bore the ark first dipped their feet in the stream and it parted before the servants of the Lord because Godwas between the cherubim.
So in every crossing which lies in the path to the city of our God, that better city, Jerusalem the golden, we see the footprintsof one who is our Priest-touched with a sense of our infirmities and griefs because He has endured the same before us! Itis He who has planted His feet in thedarkest depths and made a path through the mightiest waters so that we need not fear-but may boldly plunge in-assured thatwe only follow Him whose Presence will ever enable us to say, "Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, Iwill fear no evil, for Youare with me, Your rod and Your staff they comfort me."
We follow the Captain of our salvation who says, "Come on, follow Me." He goes before. Every dart that wounds you passes byHim. Yes, He has felt the first smart of each poisoned arrow in the devil's quiver and the venomous power has been washedaway in His blood. There is not a weapon in Hell'sarmory whose edge has not been turned on the armor of our great Champion. The keenness of every blade is gone since it wasburied in His wounds. When Jacob wrestled with the nameless one till the break of day, he came out of the contest with onesinew withered so that he limped tohis grave. And thus each of our foes has received a touch from the finger of Him, "who comes up from Edom with dyed garmentsfrom Bozrah, traveling in the greatness of His strength."
And that touch has crippled the power of our enemies. They are spoiled and robbed of much of their satanic might because theyhave been beneath the heel of Him who has trod down all our foes beneath His feet. Still, we are not to be idle, for we havenext a Divine command. He shall thrust out ourenemies, but He will also say, "Destroy them." We have to take God's Word and to be obedient to it in the future. Whateversins we have, there is only one thing to be done with them and that is to "destroy them."
A man has a number of faults and he says, "Well, Sir, there is my drunkenness and my swearing and so on. I am quite agreeableto what you say, I will destroy them. I will hang them on a gallows as high as that on which Haman would have hanged Mordecai.But, Sir, I have little a trick in mytrade-I should not like to tell everybody of it-it is a very profitable one and I do not think it is so very bad, for nearlyeverybody else in the trade does it. Do you not think the best way would be to practice it and give part of the money I getby it to God's cause?I will be very careful and do it only when compelled."
My dear Friend, I have only one thing to say to you about your sin and that is, "destroy it!" Do not try to make it better,to dress it up, swear it in and make a soldier of it for Christ-no-destroy it! This is your work. If your eyes offend you,"pluck them out." "Oh," says another,"but I have a very bad temper. I sometimes fly into a passion. I think I must try to get over it by degrees, but still Ican make a great many excuses for myself and am I not quite right in doing so?" My dear Sir, I can only say one thing andthat is, "destroy it," for the onlyproper treatment of sin is to cut it off and cast it from you. Do not pamper it or excuse it, but destroy it! Smite it tothe heart if you can and never be satisfied till you have utterly destroyed it.
Look at Saul. He has been against the Amalekites and he brings home a very beautiful flock of sheep and bullocks and so on.He is told to destroy them all, but he brings them home and Agag with them. Why did he not kill Agag? Well, he was such agentleman, such a thorough gentleman, that he did notlike to kill him. It was a public duty to sweep the commonplace Amalekites out of the way-they were such rascals! But thisAgag, why, he walked so delicately, he had such a nice way with him, he was so winning, he had such an enchanting face, hadthe manners and air, in fact,of an Israelite-it would be a pity, a great pity to kill him!
So Saul brought home the best of the sheep and the beasts and the cattle and Agag with them. But Samuel comes in and is inno sweet mood when he hears the bleating of the sheep. He demands of Saul-"Have you done as God commanded you?" "Yes I have,"said Saul. "Then what mean the bleating ofthe sheep and the lowing of the cattle that I hear?" "Oh," said Saul, "I did not slay them all. I thought I had better sparesome of the best of them as an offering unto God, so I kept them alive and I have also kept Agag."
What came of it? Did the Prophet spare the Amalekite? No, truly! Samuel first told Saul that God had put him away from beingking and then he said, "Bring Agag," and Agag came to him. You can imagine how he would come-and he said, "Surely the bitternessof death is past." There he stood and Ithink I see Samuel, getting gray then, very gray and not very fit for such service, but he looked for the nearest swordthat he could get and though it is not a Prophet's work to kill, yet as soon as he could grasp a sword he hewed Agag in pieces!He was not content to cut his headoff, but hewed him in pieces, as a man would chop a block of wood-to show the anger and detestation which God had towardsthe most princely sins.
Now, Christian, your business with sin is in the Spirit's power to serve it as Samuel did Agag-to hew it in pieces and showthe utmost hatred towards it. So far from making excuses for it, seek to devise ways by which you may mortify it and put itto death. When the Prophet Elijah hadreceived the answer to his prayer and the fire from Heaven had consumed the sacrifice in the presence of all the people,he called upon the assembled Israelites to take the priests of Baal and, said he, "Let not one escape." And he took them alldown to the brook Kishon and slewthem there.
So must it be with our sins-each one must die-let not one escape! Spare it not for its much crying. Strike, though it be adarling sin as dear as an Isaac. Strike, for God struck at sin when it was on His Son. Even so, with stern unflinching purpose,condemn to death that sin which mayhave been the darling of your heart. Spare it not, because it may make sport or be of use in any way. Remember Samson, howhe gathered strength as his locks grew once more and how he avenged himself upon his foes. Beware lest your sins which areonly for awhile repressed and nottotally destroyed, should rise up again and with new-found might should hurl you to the ground and bury you in the wreckof your noblest hopes and deeds.
You will probably ask how you will be able to accomplish this work. Why, take the promise we have been talking about-"Theeternal God is your refuge and underneath are the everlasting arms." If you would triumph over darkness set yourself in thePresence of the Sun of Righteousness. There isno place so well adapted for the discovery of sin, and recovery from its power and guilt, as the immediate Presence of God.Get into God's arms and you will see how to hit at sin and will gather strength to give the final blow which shall lay themonster in the dust. Job never knewhow to get rid of sin half so well as he did when his eye of faith rested on God and he abhorred himself and repented indust and ashes.
The fine gold of the Christian is often becoming dim and the spots will appear upon the surface showing that we dwell amongthe sons of earth in a world which lies in the Wicked One. We want some sacred fire which shall consume away the dross andgive us back the brightness we have lost. Go to God,He is a consuming fire-not to your spirit-but to your sins. You may so plead the work of Christ and the Covenant of Graceas to make the very Nature of God, which would condemn you out of Christ, to cleanse you, being in Christ Jesus!
You will be sanctified by the God who would have destroyed you had you not fled for refuge to the hope set before you. Youhave strength to overcome sin given you in the Covenant of Grace. You have strength to drive out your own iniquities. Youhave strength to win battles for your Master, becausein Christ Jesus He has promised to be with you even unto the end. May the past experience stimulate you to future exertionand let the goodness of God excite you to a sacred jealousy and to a holy revenge against those sins which are hateful inHis sight. May God bless you,Brethren, for Christ's sake.