Sermon 673. Secret Sins Driven Out By Stinging Hornets
DELIVERED ON SUNDAY MORNING, JANUARY 28, 1866,
BY C. H. SPURGEON, AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON.
"Moreover the Lord your God will send the hornet among them, until those who are left, who hide themselves from you, are destroyed."Deuteronomy 7:20.
LET us spiritualize the story of the conquest of Canaan by the children of Israel. Canaan was given to Abraham and to hisseed by a covenant of salt. Our body, soul, and spirit are given to Christ Jesus to be His portion and His heritage- and thenewborn principle within us which representsthe seed of Israel is to conquer the whole of our manhood for Christ that He may have possession of it in all its powersand passions, parts and faculties. When our Lord Jesus Christ died, He died not only for our souls but also for our bodies-Hedid not purchase a right to apart of us only but to the entire man. He contemplated in His passion the sanctification of us wholly-spirit, soul, andbody-that in this triple kingdom He Himself might reign supreme without a rival.
It is the business of the newborn nature which God has given to the regenerate to assert the rights of the Lord Jesus Christ."My Soul, so far as you are a child of God, you must conquer all the rest of yourself which yet remains unblest. You mustsubdue all your powers and passions to the silverscepter of Jesus' gracious reign, and you must never be satisfied till He who is the King by purchase becomes also the Kingby gracious coronation, and reigns in you supreme."
Although Israel had Canaan by right, the Jebusites and eight mighty nations had it in possession. And alas, we are made painfullyto feel that though Christ has a right to us and He alone should reign in our mortal bodies, yet sin has a dwelling placein us! Those old sins which were born with usand seem as if they will never die till we, ourselves, are wrapped in our winding sheets, have entered into us and willdwell in us. I may say of our nature what was said in Egypt during the plague of frogs: "Behold these filthy things have comeup into our chambers and into ourovens, and our kneading troughs."
There is no part of our heart too hot or too sacred for sin to intrude into it. The whole head is sick and the whole heartis faint-from the sole of the foot even to the head-naturally-there is nothing but wounds and bruises and putrefying sores.Sin has entrenched itself in ournature and it is not to be cast out by our mere talking about it nor by our best resolutions. Our sins have chariots ofiron, as those of us know who have to contend with them, and their cities are walled up to Heaven their entrenchments areso strong! Our sins have so workedthemselves into our flesh that our flesh cries out, "Spare them!"
"Surely the bitterness of death is past," said Agag when he came delicately before Samuel. And thus our sins come so delicatelyto us, assume such pleasant shapes, and are so congenial, that something whispers, "Let them live!" It is hard to slay them-sodifficult to cut them up root andbranch, for they are in possession-and the new nature is but a babe! "But the old nature is the old man, and it is a veryunequal fight between a babe and an old man!" The new nature has just emerged into an atmosphere which is not congenial withit, while the old nature haseverything to help it-the devil from beneath, the world from without, and even the cares of business, of life-all seem toact as allies to the old nature.
Meanwhile the new nature has to fight alone. If the Eternal Spirit were not our helper, and if He who is the Father of ournew nature were not also its support and its succor, long ago it would have died and been utterly cut off by the hosts ofits foes! Christ and holiness have a right to us, butsin is in possession.
What then, Beloved? Why this-since sin has no right to any part of us, we go about a good and legal warfare when we seek,in the name of God, to drive it out! O my Body, you are a member of Christ! Shall I take you and subjugate you to the Princeof Darkness? O my Soul, Christ has sufferedfor your sins and redeemed you with His most precious blood! Shall I suffer your memory to become a storehouse of evil,or your passions to become firebrands of iniquity? Shall I surrender my judgment to be perverted by error, or my will to beled in fetters of iniquity?
No, my Soul, you are Christ's, and sin has no right to you. Sin shall not have dominion over us, for we are not under Lawbut under Grace. Christ has bought us and paid for us! God has willed us over to Christ. We belong to Him! We are His portionand His reward. Sin has no legal right, then, butit has possession-and you know that is nine points of the law. But we will dispute the nine points! We will bring the onegrand point-that God, the Judge of all, has decided that the blood-bought belong to Christ! And we will fight it out evento the death against these,our sins!
We are told if we read this chapter in a spiritual sense that we must in no way suffer any kind or sort of truce with sin.I believe that many Believers-I hope they are Believers-have given up warring with a part of their sins. They are not drunkards,they are not thieves. They are notgiven to uncleanness of walk or language. But theirs may be a hasty temper and they do not try to subdue that. They thinkthat that is constitutional, and they plead for it as though it must be spared! This one tribe-these Jebusites-must be sparedaccording to theirsinful talk.
But oh, Beloved, I have no more right as a Christian to suffer bad temper to dwell in me than I have to suffer the devil himselfto dwell there! I know it has been said very often that Divine Grace is often grafted on a crab tree stock. So it is. Butin this spiritual husbandry the graft willinfluence all below as well as that which is above it. What is the fruit of it? Is it a crab tree? No! The fruit does notcome from the crab tree, but from the better nature! And though I am grafted upon a crab tree, yet my fruit must partake ofthe new nature, and I must bringforth sweet fruit.
Some people think-or perhaps they may not know it-that they are naturally troubled with pride, that they have naturally ahigh spirit, or a haughty temper. And when they are told of it they grow rough with whomever dares to mention it! And theythink this is not a sin. But, oh, Beloved,pride in a Christian is one of the most loathsome vices! What can there be in you and in me to be proud of? Owing all wehave to the gift of God-having nothing but what He gives us, and going back to our own poverty unless God keeps us-how darewe lift up our head?
God smote Nebuchadnezzar and made him go and eat grass like the ox, and his hair grew like eagles' feathers, and his nailslike birds claws-all because of his pride! And some of God's dear children have been suffered to make dreadful falls of it,and all because they were lifted up and said,"I shall never be moved, my mountain stands firm." We must beware of these sins and not make a truce or parley with them!I must not say of any one sin, "I cannot help it, and therefore I will not contend with it."
Beloved, down with them! Down with them all! In the name of God we must destroy them, or else they will destroy us! I maysay of our sins what a Scotch officer said to his soldiers when taken in an ill position. Said he, "My lads, there are theenemy! Kill them, or they will kill you!" And so mustI say of all sins. There they are! Destroy them, or they will destroy you! Your only way of entering into eternal life isby being more than a conqueror through Him who has loved you. You know how it is written, "To him that overcomes will I giveto eat of the hidden manna," but tosuch only. "Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good."
And as we are not, thus, to excuse some sins and permit them to live, so, above all, we must not fall into a dispirited stateof mind and suppose we never can drive sins out. I do not think we shall ever be perfect in this life, but how near to perfectiona Christian may come is a question which Ishould not like to discuss in words, but prefer endeavoring to find out in practice. How much a Believer may be like ChristI will not venture to affirm, but certainly there have been some men upon earth of whom we might say, without exaggeration,that you might take them for anexample, for their Master seemed to live again in them.
There is no need that you should always give way to pride, or sloth, or covetousness, or any other form of sin. You are ableto overcome them-not in your own strength-the weakest of them would be too much for you in that. But you may overcome themthrough the blood of the Lamb! "This isthe victory which overcomes the world, even our faith," and our faith will be able to subdue these sins. Just as faith ofold put to flight the armies of the aliens, so it can even to this day. Do not, then, dear Friends, ask, "How shall I dispossessthem, for they are greater andmightier than I?" Go to the strong for strength and wait humbly upon God, and He, the mighty God of Jacob, will surely cometo the rescue and you shall have to sing of victory through His Grace!
There is a word of encouragement given in the chapter to those who have a tendency to doubt in this matter. Israel was remindedthat God brought them out of Egypt. He delivered them from the house of bondage. And you are reminded, dear Friends, thatyou are saved! Christ has done a greater work foryou than remains to be accomplished in you. To bear the weight of your sins and to break the iron yoke of spiritual bondagefrom off your necks required that
Christ should die! And that being done, it is, comparatively, but a light work to deliver you from indwelling sin. The greaterwork is done!
Jehovah became Man in human flesh. He lived on earth. God, the Word, was made flesh and dwelt among us, and in due time stooped,in His obedience, even to death, the death of the Cross! All your sins have been destroyed by Christ and there is no condemnationfor you to dread since Christ has died.You are forgiven! The yoke is snatched from off your shoulders! You are made free by the Son, and you are free, indeed!You are in the wilderness, it is true, but you have come through the Red Sea where your sins have been drowned. Your enemies,your old sins, you shall see no more!The manna falls about your camp. The fiery, cloudy pillar leads you through the wilderness.
And since you have seen what God has done, will you be afraid as to the future? Courage, courage! He never begins withoutintending to finish. It shall never be said of Him, "This man began to build, but was not able to complete the structure."Courage, courage! He has not brought you out of Egyptthat you may be destroyed. What would the heathen say concerning your God, if, after all, you should fall and perish? Youshall win the day! You shall have every inch of the promised land-only be strong and be very courageous-for the Lord willsurely drive out your sinsand take your body, soul, and spirit as a consecrated and holy possession forever.
But there is a notion among some Christians who are but little instructed, and who, knowing nothing of experience, that sanctificationis an instantaneous work. There are some who think that the moment they believe in Jesus they shall never be troubled withany sin again, whereas, it is then thatthe battle begins! The moment sin is forgiven it ceases to be my friend and becomes my deadly foe. When the guilt of sinis gone then the power of sin becomes obnoxious and we begin to strive against it. Every now and then we hear of friends whocannot understand my teaching on thispoint. They say they do not feel any sort of uprising sin within themselves.
Oh, Beloved, I wish you did! For I am afraid you know nothing of the Gospel life if you do not. I will not give a penny foryour religion if it has no inward conflict. Even virtuous heathens have got farther than that-for some of them have writtenthat they felt themselves to be as two mencontending or fighting-and surely Christians have got farther still, or ought to have! This, I know, be it what it may withyou-I have to fight every day to get but one inch nearer to Heaven! And I feel I will be wrestling at the last moment-thatI shall have ascuffle upon Jordan's brink with my corruptions.
Remember how John Knox had it! He had fought with men-I may say he had fought with beasts at Ephesus-and yet at his last expiringmoments he had the sternest struggle he had ever known with self-righteousness. You would have thought, "Surely John Knoxcould not be self-righteous!" Theman who had denounced all trusting in good works was yet vexed with the very same thing he had denounced. And so it willbe with you. No matter how near you live to God, or how closely you follow Christ, you will have more or less of evil to contendwith still. No, I must say themore holy you get, the more you will have to fight against sin. The whiter a garment becomes, the more easily is a spotseen-and the more you get like Christ the more you will detect how unlike Him you are!
A spiritual sense will be quickened so that you will discover that to be sin which you did not think to be evil. And you willoften feel, when you are most progressing in Grace, you are not growing at all, or if so, certainly it seems to be downward.When I think myself most unholy, I am mostholy-and when I bemoan my own sinfulness, then am I most likely to be accepted of God! It is best to think little of one'sself. But whether you do or not, take this for granted-you will have to drive out your sins little by little-they will notall be cast out atonce-it will be a life's work. And you will never have to take off your armor or sheath your sword till you go to the warrior'sbed and rest in the grave.
I now wish to call your attention specially to the verse before us. It appears that after a long conflict with Canaan, someof these old inhabitants still existed. They hid themselves in caves, and so on-but they were to be fetched out by a verysingular means-hornets. These hornetswere to discover them and bring them out-perhaps sting them to death, or, if not, make them come out to be slain by thechildren of Israel.
Three things are to be noticed, then, this morning. The first is sins which are left and saved in us-even in us who have formany years been followers of Christ. Secondly, a singular means of destroying them. And then, thirdly, a suggestive lessonfor us all-teaching us to examine ourown hearts for these secret sins.
I. And first, dear Friends, SINS WHICH ARE LEFT AND HIDDEN. John Bunyan very wisely describes the town of Mansoul after ithad been taken by Prince Immanuel. The Prince rode to the Castle called the Heart and took possession of it and the wholecity became His. But there were certain Diabolonians,followers of Diabolus, who never left the town. They could not be seen in the streets. They could not be heard in the markets.They never dared to occupy a house, but lurked about in certain old dens and caves.
Some of them got impudent enough even to hire themselves out for servants to the men of Mansoul under other names. There wasMr. Covetousness who was called Mr. Prudent Thrifty. And there was Mr. Lasciviousness, who was called Mr. Harmless Mirth.They took other names and lived there, much to theannoyance of the town of Mansoul. They skulked about in holes and corners, and only came out on dark days when they coulddo mischief and serve the Black Prince.
Now in all of us, however watchful we may be, though we may set Mr. Pry Well to listen at the door and he may watch, and myLord Mayor, Mr. Understanding, is very careful to search all these out, yet there will remain much hidden sin. I think weought always to pray to God to forgive us sins thatwe do not know anything about. "Your unknown agonies," says the old Greek liturgy. And there are unknown sins for whichthose agonies make atonement. Perhaps the sins which you and I confess are not a tenth of what we really commit. Our eyesare not sufficiently opened to know ofthe heinousness of our own sin-and it is possible that if we could fully know the extent of our own sinfulness it woulddrive us mad!
It is possible that God, in His mercy, suffers us to be somewhat blind to the abominable accursedness of sin. He gives usenough of it to make us hate it, but not enough to drive us absolutely to despair. Our sin is exceedingly sinful. Now allowme to suggest that among the sins which lurk in usthere is the old one of unbelief. You have had a very great deliverance, my dear Brothers and Sisters, and you think youhave no more unbelief left in you. You do not know that old villain, Unbelief, is never to be taken by the heels, or if heis put in the stocks, he soon managesto escape.
You will have unbelief this very afternoon, if you happen to meet with any trouble, and though now you say, "I never can staggerat the promise through unbelief," I should not wonder but what a little depression of spirits, perhaps weariness in God'sservice, might make you to be as doubting asever you were in your life! Do not harbor the pleasing delusion that your unbelief is dead. It is hidden, but it will comeout again. Especially among these lurkers I must mention pride. Oh, we think, "How could I be proud? Why I have been throughsuch an experience of my ownweakness and sinfulness that I cannot be proud." We little think that all the while we are talking we are saying about theproudest thing that we could possibly say!
I talked once, I remember, with a man who thought himself a very eminent Christian. He told me that what with affliction andexperience the Lord had wiped pride completely out of him. I said, "He must have hit you very hard, Brother." I thought, whilehe was talking, he was the incarnation ofpride, but I did not remember that I, myself, was probably quite as bad for thinking I should not like to have talked ashe did. Pride is such a cunning thing! It likes to wear the robes of a prince but it is satisfied to wear the rags of a beggarif it cannot. So long as it may getinto our hearts it cares not what shape it assumes.
That detestable sin of pride-we can all condemn it in other people-and yet probably we have, each one, got a leaven of it,even in our spirits, at this very moment. You are a proud thing, my Brother. You are a proud thing, my Sister. There is stillpride lurking in us all! And besidethese there is also a great amount of wrath and ill temper in us. Oh, we think there is no one so good-tempered as we are-wehave not betrayed ourselves into an angry word for months! Yes, but it is very easy to be good-tempered when you have it allyour own way. It is a veryeasy thing to be amiable, and kind, and loving, and never to be angry when the wife is so kind, and the children obedient,and the servants attentive, and business prospers!
But, my dear Brothers and Sisters, how would it be if matters were to change, and they may very soon? Suppose you were irritatedas Brother So-and-So is-what then? Yon know we are not to judge the man by the circumstances-we must judge him intrinsicallyby himself. A barrel of gunpowderis not very dangerous to sit upon or to have under one's bed at night, or to make a pillow of. It is a very safe thing,indeed, provided that there is no fire anywhere about. It has not blown up, and yet it has been under one's couch all thewhile. Ah, but if the sparks had happenedto fly, as they do fly in your neighbor's house across the road, can you say that your powder is quite different from hispowder?
And I think sometimes when we think we have destroyed anger, and put down the tendency of wrath, it is only because the Canaanitehas hidden himself and we cannot see him! But he is still there and may come out again one day. So is it often with our discontentand rebellion. I do not know that I amdiscontent-several of you can say the same. You feel happy this morning, grateful and thankful. You can sing-
"I would not change my blest estate For all the earth calls good or great."
Yes, but you must not be too sure that you have no discontent left in your heart. Now suppose-and the supposition is so easyto make-suppose your best beloved should sicken and die? You can bless a giving God-could you bless a taking God? Supposethat your riches took tothemselves wings, and every one of them should fly away? Could you still praise the God who is as good when He takes aswhen He gives? Brethren, we know not of what spirit we are. When we fancy we could run with the horsemen, it were well toremember that we have not always beenable to run with the footmen! And when we fancy such-and-such a friend behaved ill in deep affliction, it were well if weremembered ourselves often, lest we also should repine-for discontent may be one of the sins lurking in our soul.
Moreover, idolatry is a sin that is often found there. You do not know that you idolize your child, and you will never knowit until that child dies-but then you will find it out. You do not know that you idolize your substance. But if it were gone,or you had to give it up and were ready,like Job's wife to say, "Curse God and die," you would then discover that it was your golden calf. Idolatry has been thesin of all ages and all times. Those dear children of God, whose hearts should tell of Jehovah, and Jehovah alone, have needto keep careful watch lest at thesame time they indulge self-confidence which is only another form of idolatry-the worship of ourselves instead of God.
Let us beware lest we indulge in self-satisfaction, and think that our righteousness is something satisfactory after all.It is a blessed thing to find idolatry out, but it will hide itself if it can. It is well to consider the question, "How isit these things hide themselves in us? Other peoplefind them out-how is it we cannot find them?" It is certain that you can detect other men's faults, but you cannot detectyour own! The lookers-on often see more than the players, and we sometimes perceive more at a distance than when we approachnear.
The fact is that partiality to ourselves blinds us to our own imperfections and makes us see the mote in our brother's eyethough there is a beam in our own! In many cases this ignorance arises from want of searching. It is not pleasant work toseek out faults-"take us the foxes, the littlefoxes that spoil the vines." It is not easy work. We do not like finding out sin. Too many of us are lazy about religion-wedo the work of God deceitfully, we do not search our hearts with candles and try ourselves as with crucibles as in a furnace-weare not purifiedseven times over, and so sin escapes for want of a hearty search to find it out.
Besides, sin is so subtle it changes its shape. If Satan cannot shoot us from above, he will do it from below. If he cannotassail us in the head, he will seek to cast us down by tripping us with the foot. Sins of every shape, form and hue come uponus, and the great probability is that in tryingto kill one sin we shall fall into another. Often in aiming to attain to a virtue we have overshot the mark and gone intoa vice. We have wanted to honor God and humble ourselves, and then we have grown mean in spirit. We wanted to be noble andbold, and have grown intimidating. Wewanted to be loving, and we grew to be falsely charitable, tolerating sin. We wanted to be stern against sin, and have grownbitter against friends who have fallen into it. We mistake the narrow road and break the hedge either on the right hand oron the left.
It is the subtlety of sin that makes it so hard for us to find it out. Besides, Beloved, we have fallen into the bad habitof comparing and contrasting ourselves with others. We are constantly indulging in the supposition, "Oh, well, I am betterthan some." We look at our fellow Christians and seetheir inconsistencies, and say, "Well, I do not do that." The Pharisaic prayer is very common, even among Christians, Iam afraid, "Lord, I thank You that I am not as other men." The preacher himself, though he might preach humility to you, sometimesgets to comparing himself withother preachers, and his hearers, he doubts not, do the same.
"Oh," you think, "I am more quick in God's work, more earnest than some Christians. I wish they would wake up, too." But,while we are censuring them, we are really laying a flattering unction to our own souls by supposing we are so much betterand that we have cut off so much of our own sins. Oh,Beloved, take heed of comparing yourselves with others, for this is not wise!
Come to Christ and look at Him, and then your faults will be apparent. View His perfection, and in the light of that yourown infirmities will soon be discovered. But if you look at your Brother's righteousness, which is but little better thanyours, and perhaps not as good, you will be apt to getproud and lifted up-and so fall into sin. I shall not, however, enlarge upon this point. There are, no doubt, in all ofus, Canaanites still dwelling in the land that will be thorns in our side.
II. Now, secondly, A SINGULAR MEANS FOR THEIR DESTRUCTION-"YOUR GOD WILL SEND THE HORNET AMONG THEM." These fellows resortedto caves and dens. God employed the very best means for their destruction. I suppose these hornets were large wasps-two orthree times, perhaps, as large as awasp-with very terrible stings. It is not an unusual historical fact to find districts depopulated by means of stinginginsects. In connection with the journey of Dr. Livingstone, we can never forget that strange kind of guest which is such apest to the cattle in any districtthat the moment it appeared they had either to fly before it or to die.
The hornet must have been a very terrible creature. But it is not at all extraordinary that there should have been hornetscapable of driving out a nation. The hornet was a very simple means. It was no sound of trumpet, nor even the glitter of miracles-itwas a simple, natural means offetching these people out of their holes. It is well known that insects in some countries will sting one race of peopleand not another. Sometimes the inhabitants of a country are not at all careful about mosquitoes, or such creatures, when strangersare greatly pestered with them.
God could, therefore, bring hornets which would sting the Jebusites but not molest the Israelites, and in this way the Canaaniteswere driven out of their holes. Some died by the stings of hornets and others were put in the way of the sharp swords of themen of Israel, and thus they died. Thespiritual analogy to this is the daily trouble which God sends to every one of us. I suppose you have all got your hornets.Some have hornets in the family. Your child may be a hornet to you-your wife, your husband, your brother, the dearest friendyou have-may be adaily cross to you. And, though a dead cross is very heavy, a living cross is heavier by far.
To bury a child is a great grief, but to have that child live and sin against you is ten times worse. You may have hornetsthat shall follow you to your bedchamber-some of you may know what that means-so that even where you ought to find your restand your sweetest solace, it is therethat you receive your bitterest stings of trouble. The hornet will sometimes come in the shape of business. You are perplexed-youcannot prosper-one thing comes after another. You seem to be born to trouble more than other people. You have ventured onthe right hand, butit was a failure. You pushed out on the left, but that was a breakdown.
Almost everybody you trust fails immediately and those you do not trust are the people you might have safely relied upon.You seem to be infested with those hornets in your business to make everything go ill with you. You have perplexity upon perplexity-nothingso serious as to be yourruin-but a deal of fretful trouble which keeps you uneasy. Others have hornets in their bodies. Some have constant headaches-achesand pains pass and shoot along the nerves of others. If you could but be rid of it, you think, how happy you would be! Butyou have got yourhornet and that hornet is always with you.
If I tried to get through the whole list of hornets I should need all the morning, for there is a particular grief to everyman. Each man has his own form of obnoxious sting which he has to feel. You will come running to your friend sometimes, andsay, "Oh, I have such trouble! So-and-So has beensaying such-and-such a thing of me. If I had not so many bad neighbors I should get on. This is the worst trouble a mancould have." You do not know, you do not know. The heart knows its own bitterness. There is a skeleton in every closet. Everyman has a shoe that pinches more orless- and there is not a Christian on earth who has not a hornet!
But what are they for? They are sent with the same object with which God sent hornets into Canaan, namely, to drive out theCanaanites! And I shall have to show you that they do so. Your hornets drive you to prayer. Just put in the word hornet intothe verse we have been singing-
"Hornets make the promise sweet, Hornets give new life to prayer, Hornets bring me to His feet, Lay me low and keep me there," and you have got the drift of what these daily hornets do. You would not pray if you hadnot trouble! I am afraid you would grow lax, cold, indifferent-but these sting you, and you say, "I must go to my God forcomfort under this pest, this nuisance."
Why, what a blessing that is for you to be stung to your Father's feet-blessed sting that brings you there! You would notvalue the promises half as much if it were not for the hornets. You turn to some precious Word of God that just suits yourcase, and you say, "I never saw such sweetnessin that as I do now. Blessed be God for sending a passage so suitable to my condition." The hornets take you to the promise,and seem to point you to the place where the milk and honey flow.
And how they also tend to lay you at His feet after you have been hasty in temper! After you have felt how proud you musthave been, all because of the hornet that brought the pride out, you have gone to God and said, "Lord, I did not think I wassuch a fool. I should not have believed it. Ifanyone had said to me yesterday, 'You would do so-and-so,' I would have said, 'Is your servant a dog that I should do sucha thing?' But this has so troubled me, bit me in a sore place, irritated me, that I could not bear it that I have done whatI would not have done for all theworld."
That just shows what there was there before. You see, if sin had not been in you, it could not have come out! All the troublein the world does not put sin in the Christian-it brings it out. And just as disease is all the better when it is fetchedout to the surface, that so its power in theinterior may be destroyed, so is it a blessing-a painful blessing- when the hornet comes and makes us see the evil thatotherwise would have lain hidden in us. You know, my dear Friends, practically, I dare say what I mean.
The other day you were in such a heavenly frame of mind-you had had half an hour alone, or had just come home from Tabernacleand enjoyed the service, and something patted you on the back and said, "How you are grown in Divine Grace!" You did not sayit in words, but you did think, "Well, Iam getting on. There is something good in me after all." When you got home, perhaps the meat was badly cooked, or therewas something done the very opposite to what you had wished, and it seemed to be done on purpose to irritate you. You thoughtso, and without a moment'sconsideration you said some very strong words-very strong, indeed!
Then something came and touched you on the other shoulder and said, "Ah, is this growing in Divine Grace?" And you felt veryhumbled, taken down a great many notches. And when you went upstairs to bed, if you had gone up there without that hornet,your prayer would have been a Pharisee's prayer!But as it was, when you got there all you could say was, "God be merciful to me a sinner." The hornet had done you a worldof good! It might have fetched out a little bad temper, but for all that it had fetched out your pride and self-conceit.
The daily troubles we have are meant to drive us to God, to drive us to the promise, and also to show us where our weak pointsare in order that we may contend with all our might against them. I believe, my dear Friends, that the hardest-hearted, mostcross-grained, and most unlovely Christians inall the world are those who never have had much trouble! And those who are the most sympathizing, loving, and Christ-like,are generally those that have the most affliction. The worst thing that can happen to any of us is to have our path made toosmooth, and one of the greatestblessings that ever the Lord gave us was a cross.
"I should never have been able to see," said one, "if I had not been blind." And said another, "I should never have been ableto run the race set before me if I had not broken my leg." Our infirmities are channels of blessing! Our difficulties, trials,vexations, and perplexities are most sweet andblessed means of Grace to our souls. I think we ought to be very thankful to God for the hornet. Says one, "I am not." "Notrial for the present seems to be joyous but grievous. Nevertheless afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness."
When you are in a sane mind, my dear Brothers and Sisters, and God the Holy Spirit really teaches you to be wise, you willgo and thank God for hornets. "Lord, I bless You that You have not left me unchastised. I praise You for the cares and troubleswhich are so unpleasant to my flesh, by whichthat flesh is mortified. I thank You, Father." You never hear a child say this, but if it were a wise child it would. "Ithank You, my Father, for the rod. I thank You, O my God, that You have not let me have my own will, that You have blightedmy prospects, crossed my hopes, marredmy plans, cast down my expectations, taken away my joys. I thank You, O You great Liberator, for having broken the goldenbars of my cage to give my spirit liberty, and for having snapped the bonds of my captivity which bound me to the earth, thatI might be able to mount upwards toYourself." Whenever you are singing God's praise, say, "He sent us hornets, for His mercy endures forever: let Him be blessedevermore."
There is one point I want you to notice in the text. It would be guilt on my part to pass it without observation, and thatis we are expressly told the hornets came from God. He sent them. "The Lord your God will send the hornet." This will helpyou, perhaps, to bear their stings another time. Godweighs your troubles in scales and measures out your afflictions, every drachma and scruple of them. And since they come,therefore, directly from a loving Father's hand, accept them with grateful cheerfulness! And pray that the result which DivineWisdom has ordained to flow fromthem may be abundantly realized in your sanctification-in being made like Christ.
III. And now I have to close by observing that we have here A VERY SUGGESTIVE LESSON TO OURSELVES, a lesson which we havealready anticipated, but let us repeat it. It is this. What is my particular besetting sin? Have I been careful in self-examination?Have I issued a constant search warrantagainst the subtle forms of evil? If not, I must expect to have the hornet. God never punishes His children for sin, butHe chastens them for it paternally. You may often discover what your sin is by the chastisement, for you can see the faceof the sin in the chastisement-theone is so like the other.
Dear Friend, what is your particular trouble today-what hornet stings you? Go to God with Job's request, "Show me why Youcontend with me." If the consolations of God are small with you, it is because there is some secret sin in you. Look at thetrouble you have today and see if you cannotdiscover the sin. A disobedient child-is it possible that you also are living in some act of disobedience to your heavenlyFather? Is it a servant who annoys you? Is it possible that you also are an ill servant of the King, idle and indifferentto His command?
Is it a loss in business? May it not be possible that you are not attending to God's business, and therefore His Church isa loser and therefore He makes you a loser in your own business? Is it sickness in the flesh? May there not be some spiritualsickness there which is necessary to keep in checkand to subdue? Has someone else treated you haughtily? May you not also be haughty? Has another slandered you and are yousmarting under it? Have you ever spoken against the children of God? May you not have an itching tongue, too, and God is makingyou feel the smart of it so thatyou may mind how you remove the bridle from the unruly tongue?
Has someone undervalued your labor and spoken depreciatingly of your motives? May you not also have had hard thoughts concerningsome of your Brethren in Christian labors? Do you feel, just now, under great depression of spirit? Is it not possible thatyou have neglected to enter into fellowshipwith Christ in His suffering, and therefore He is bringing you down into it by force? I know not how it may be with you,Beloved, but this I know-I have not searched my own soul as I would desire to do in the future. I would wish to find out everythingthat is within me thatis evil-that it may be dragged forth and executed at once!
It is stern work. It is work that never could be done if it were not for that precious assurance that God is with us. God,the mighty God of Jacob, will have us to be His people. He has prepared a Heaven for a perfect people and He will make usperfect that He may neither lose us, nor the place Hehas prepared for us. He has sworn by Himself He will never leave you. He will, with a mighty hand and an outstretched armdrive out your lusts and corruptions till you shall be perfect as your Father in Heaven is perfect!
Come, then, you men of war, take to your harness and buckle on your armor, and nerve your souls for combat! "You have notresisted unto blood, striving against sin." "Consider Him who endured such contradiction of sinners against Himself, lestyou be weary" in yourselves. And now-from now on,and forever-fight the good fight for the crown that fades not away.
I have been speaking to saved ones, and to saved ones, only. But you that are unsaved will have the hornets, too. Only thosehornets will be of no use to you! They will sting you away from God, rather than to Him. Your troubles will only make youdislike and hate the Most High the more. Oh that HisGrace would visit you and change your heart! And then, maybe your trials might be sanctified to fetch you to your Father'sface. May it be so, and His shall be the glory evermore. Amen.