Sermon 847. Joyful Transformations (No. 847)
Delivered on Lord's-Day Morning, December 27, 1868, by C. H. SPURGEON, at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington.
"I will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight." Isaiah 42:16
IN the pursuit of holiness the pilgrim is often surrounded with darkness. While in the pathway of evil the traveler is dazzledwith a glare of light. It is the way of the Tempter to make the downward path as attractive as possible with the flaring splendorof carnal pleasure. Sin is surrounded with a fascinating luster which enchants the unwary seeker of pleasure and leads himto his own destruction. Look at the palace of firewater, dedicated to the demon of drunkenness- it is brighter than any otherhouse in the street! See how it glitters with abundant lamps, and mirrors, and burnished brass! Rich with color are the flowerswhich bloom at the mouth of the old serpent's den.
As the sirens in the old classic fable enchanted mariners with their songs, so that, beneath the spell of their music theyturned the prows of their vessels towards the rocks of sure destruction, even so sin constrains the sons of men to make shipwreckof their souls. Evil seems to be surrounded evermore with a light that dazzles and fascinates, even as the brightness of thecandle attracts the moth to its destruction. As for the way of righteousness and truth, it appears from the text that murkyclouds frequently rest upon it and the way appears rough and crooked, otherwise it were not necessary to say, "I will makedarkness light before them."
Neither were it necessary that a Divine hand should interfere to make the crooked straight. Brothers and Sisters, the dayof evil commences with a flattering morning and changes into a tenfold night, but God's day, the day of good, begins at eventide.Like the primeval days of the creation, the evening and the morning were the first day. We who follow the Lord Jesus haveour night first and our day has yet to dawn-the sun of which shall no more go down. God keeps the best wine until the lastfor us, while at the banquet of Satan they set forth the best wine and afterwards that which is worse. Yes, the dregs arewrung out in the end for the wicked of the earth to drink. As for the righteous, they have their draughts of wormwood here,before their high festival begins, to give them appetite and zest for the banquets where wines on the lees well-refined shallsatiate their souls!
The subject of this morning is the great promise of God, that although His people shall sometimes be enveloped in gloom, theirdarkness shall be turned to light. Before the advance of faith the most terrible things lose their terror. We shall use thisone Truth of God in reference to Believers first, and then briefly turn it to the encouragement of earnest seekers.
I. First, in addressing THE BELIEVER, let us ring the bell of the text again. It has a sweet silver voice-"I will make darknesslight before them, and crooked things straight." Believer, observe that there often lies before you a grim darkness. Uponthat darkness let us make these comforting observations-first, that much of the darkness is of your own imagining. As we feela thousand deaths in fearing one, so do we feel a thousand afflictions in the fear of sorrows which will never come.
Probably the major part of our griefs are born, nourished, and perfected entirely in an anxious, imaginative brain. Many ofour sorrows are not woven in the loom of Providence, but are purely homespun and the pattern of our own invention. Some mindsare specially fertile in self-torture-they have the creative faculty for all that is melancholy, desponding, and wretched.If they were placed in the brightest isles beneath unclouded skies where birds of fairest wing poured out perpetual melodyand earth was rich with color and perfume, they would not be content till they had imagined for themselves a sevenfold Styx,an infernal Tartarus, a valley of death-shade! Their ingenuity is stimulated even by the mercies of God, and that which wouldmake others rejoice causes them to tremble lest the enjoyment should prove short-lived. Like certain painters, they delightin heavy masses of shade.
My Brother, you may, perhaps, have before your mind this very morning what seems a thick wall of horror, and yet it is nothingbut a cloud! Waiting, you imagine the obstruction to increase. But plucking up courage and advancing to meet the imaginaryhorror, you will yet laugh at yourself and at your foolish fears! And you will wonder how it was that you ever could havebeen cast down at nothing at all-and distressed by that which had no existence except in your dreams.
I remember well, one night, having been preaching the Word in a country village. I was walking home alone along a lonely footpath.I do not know what it was that ailed me, but I was prepared to be alarmed. When, sure enough, I saw something standing inthe hedge-ghastly, giant-like-and with outstretched arms. Surely, I thought, for once I have come across the supernatural!Here is some restless spirit performing its midnight march beneath the moon, or some demon of the pit! I deliberated withmyself a moment, and having no faith in ghosts I plucked up courage, and resolved to solve the mystery. The monster stoodon the other side of a ditch, right in the hedge. I jumped the ditch and found myself grasping an old tree which some waggishbody had taken pains to color with a little whitewash-with a view to frighten simpletons! That old tree has served me a goodturn full often, for I have learned to leap at difficulties and find them vanish or turn to triumphs!
Half our afflictions are only appalling in prospect because we do not know what they are. If we will but, in faith, patientlyawait them, they will be but light and transient. Thus, by chasing away the gloom of our dark imagination, God often makesdarkness light before us. Much, again, of the darkness which does really exist is exaggerated. There is some cause for alarm,but not one half the cause which your fancy pictures. "All these things are against me," says Jacob, "Joseph is not, Simeonis not. And now you will take Benjamin away." There was something in this complaint. Joseph was not with his father, Simeonwas kept in ward-but the old man had pictured Joseph devoured of an evil beast, and Simeon given up to be a perpetual slavein a foreign land. His fears had magnified the trouble which existed.
And, Believer, so probably it is with you. You shall find that the load which seems now to be far too ponderous for you tolift, shall be easily carried on the shoulders which Divine Grace shall strengthen if you have but confidence enough to ventureupon the task. That cross is not made of iron-it is only a wooden one. It may be painted with iron colors, but iron it isnot. It has been carried, yes, and a weightier one, by far, has been carried by other men before-shoulder it like a man, shoulderit like a man of God! Take up your cross daily and go forward with your Master, and you shall find that mountains shrink tomolehills, giants are seen to be but dwarfs, dragons and griffins are but bats and owls, and the leviathan, himself, a defeatedfoe!
Remember, too, that in many cases troubles disappear at the very moment when we expect them to be overwhelming. While we areanticipating them, they seem to block up the pathway completely and leave no door of escape. But on our venturesome advanceto them, they are not there at all, they have fled before us! See the host of Israel-they have escaped out of Egypt but theyare pursued by their taskmasters. They come to a spot where they are enclosed on either hand by mountains, while the chariotsof Egypt are in the rear. How is it possible for them to escape? They are entangled in the land. The wilderness has shut themin!
"Forward," cries the Prophet, "forward, hosts of God!" But how can they advance? The Red Sea rolls right in their path! Butno sooner do the feet of the priests touch the waters of the sea than the depths are divided-the waters stand upright as aheap-for God has made a pathway for His people through the heart of the sea! No better road could be desired than that whichthey found in the sandy bed of the sea. The trouble, which certainly did appear insurmountable, became the subject of triumph!Miriam's song and the voices of the daughters of Israel had in them a higher exultation than they could ever have known ifthey had not been able to cry aloud, "Sing unto the Lord, for He has triumphed gloriously: the horse and his rider has Hethrown into the sea."
Brothers and Sisters, your trials may, in a like case, vanish as soon as you arrive at them! You do not know what plan Godhas in store. He has an unused shaft which shall be the arrow of the Lord's deliverance for you. The Lord has a counterplotfor the plots of your enemies. You see but a part of His scheme-you have not as yet discovered the whole of His resources.And when He brings out His wonderful plan more fully, you will stand in amazement and even bless His name for the trial becauseit furnished so noble an opportunity for revealing to you the faithfulness and the power of your God. The same thing whichoccurred at the Red Sea happened, also, to the hosts of God when they came to the Jordan, for Jordan was driven back and fledat the Presence of the God of Israel.
If you should suffer trouble upon trouble, you, too, shall experience deliverance upon deliverance! Think of that mighty instancein which it was proved that God can clear the darkest skies and give us day for night! I refer to the case of Hezekiah. Whata blasphemous and insulting letter was that which came from Rabshakeh! What reviling language was that which the foul-mouthedlieutenant of Sennacherib hurled at Judah's king! Poor Hezekiah was a man of a holy and tender spirit, and was sorely dismayed.But when he spread that wretched letter before the Lord and bowed himself in sackcloth, little did he know how graciouslyGod would prevent the sorrow from ever coming to him in any other shape but in that of talk and boasting! "Thus says the Lordconcerning the king of Assyria, he shall not come into this city, nor shoot an arrow there, nor come before it with shields,nor cast a bank against it. By the way that he came, by the same shall he return, and shall not come into this city, saysthe Lord." And so it was! And so, O child of God, may it be with the troubles which now block your pathway-they shall vanishas you advance!
Reflect, again, that where this does not exactly occur and the trial does really come, yet the Lord has a way of making thetrials of His people to cease when they reach their culminating point. As the sea, when it reaches the highest mark of flood,can advance no further-but after pausing for awhile to enjoy the fullness of its strength, must then return to its ebb-sowith our most desperate sorrows. They reach the point designed and then they recede. See Abraham! God had bade him sacrificehis son. Abraham, probably mistaking the Lord's meaning, thought that he was to slay the child of promise. He proceeds toMount Moriah, piles the altar, takes with him the wood, binds his son, and places him upon the altar.
But just as he has unsheathed the knife and is about to perform the act of solemn obedience by sacrificing that which he heldmost dear, a voice is heard-"Lay not your hand upon the lad, neither do you anything unto him; for now I know that you fearGod, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son from Me." In the nick of time God intervenes-but mark when thatis-namely, when the Patriarch has proved the complete renunciation of his own will, and given up everything to the will ofGod-then deliverance comes. So shall it be with you, O tried Believer! When the trial has been submitted to in your own heartand you have laid aside your self-will and obstinacy-and are no longer murmuring and repining and rebelling-then shall Godtake away the coals of the furnace because the gold is purified!
That is a grand story of Alexander's confidence in his friend and physician. When the physician had mixed him a potion forhis sickness, a letter was put into Alexander's hand warning him not to drink the medicine, for it was poisoned. He held theletter in one hand and the cup in the other, and in the presence of his friend and physician, he drank up the draught. Andafter he had drained the cup, he bade his friend look at that letter and judge of his confidence in him. Alexander had unstaggeringfaith in his friend, which did not admit of doubt. "See now," said he, "how I have trusted you."
This is the assurance which the Believer should exercise towards his God. The cup is very bitter, and some tell us it willprove to be deadly. They tell us that it is so nauseous that we shall never survive the draught. Unbelief whispers in ourear, "Your coming tribulation will utterly crush you." Drink it, my Brothers and Sisters, and say, "If He slay me, yet willI trust in Him." It cannot be that God should be unfaithful to His promise, or unmindful of His Covenant! Your trial, then,will cease when it culminates-He will make darkness light before you when the darkest hour of the night has struck.
Brothers and Sisters, there is one most encouraging reflection concerning the adversity which lies before us, namely, thatevery trial of our pilgrimage life was foreseen of God, and we may depend upon it that it has been forestalled. Many a besiegedcity has been captured because the siege was not expected and therefore stores of provision and ammunition were not laid upfor the evil day. But God, who laid up seven years of food in Egypt against the seven years of famine which He foresaw, takescare to lay by in store for His saints against coming emergencies. How readily might Moses have been anxious about the commissaryof the tribes in the desert! "How shall such a host be fed? Where shall we find water? Can God furnish a table in the wilderness?"But in simple faith Moses led the chosen people into the wilderness, and lo, the heavens dropped with a rain of plenty andthe flinty rock gave forth its cooling streams so that the host knew no lack for 40 years! Though they had neither gatheredharvests nor vintage in all that space of time, yet Jehovah provided!
Once more be it remembered that if trial should come upon any one of us in its fullest force, and in no way should God mitigatethe fury of the storm, yet we have His promise for it and may rest confidently, therefore, that as our days our strength shallbe. I think I have before remarked to you that to be exempt from trouble would not be a desirablething, for the life of a man who has no trial is uneventful, poor of incident, uninteresting, ignoble, barren. But the lifeof a man who has done business in great waters has something noble and manly in it. And considering that Divine Grace is alwaysproportioned to the trial, I think it were wise to choose the trial for the sake of obtaining the Grace which is promisedwith it!
I noticed in a shop window last week, a little invention of singular interest. A small metal wire with a circular disk ateach end was suspended by a thread and continued, without ceasing, to oscillate between two small galvanic batteries, firsttouching one and then the other. A little card informed me that this piece of metal had continued to move to and fro betweenthose two batteries for more than 30 years, and had, during that time passed over 6,000 miles! The whole affair was so enclosedwithin a glass case that nothing was likely to disturb it, and so it kept the even tenor of its way with a history which couldbe summoned up in two lines of plainest prose-to and fro, to and fro, for 30 years, and that was its whole monotonous history!
Men's quiet lives are much after the same order. They have gone to business on Monday morning and home at night. The sameon Tuesday and all the days of the year-no dire struggles, no fierce temptations, no gracious victories-no Divine experiencesof heavenly love. Their whole inner life is meager of interest because so free from every trial. But look at the man who issubject to trials-temporal and spiritual, and acquainted with difficulties of every sort-he is like yon mass of iron on theprow of a gallant ship which has crossed the Pacific, and bathed itself in the Atlantic! Storms have dashed upon it. A myriadwaves have broken over it. It has seen the terrors of all the seas and gleamed in the sunlight of both hemispheres. It hasserved its age most gloriously-and when old and worn with rust-a world of interest surrounds it.
Let us, if our trials multiply, remember that Divine Grace in abundance will be given with them, and the mingled trial andthe Grace will make our lives sublime, prevent our being mere dumb driven cattle, and give us kinship with those who, throughmuch tribulation, have ascended to their thrones! The battle and the storm, the strife and the victory, the depression andthe uplifting-and all else that betides us in a varied and eventful life-shall help to make our eternal rest and glory themore sweet to us. Let us leave these musings upon expected glooms, relying confidently upon the promise that the Lord willmake darkness light before us, by some means or other, and will in no wise fail us in the hour of need!
For a minute or two let me more especially invite you again, children of God, to dwell upon the promise that the Lord willmake your darkness light. How soon can Omnipotence accomplish this! It takes us much time to create light. We must form companiesand erect machinery before we can tarn the night of our great cities into a partial day! But tomorrow morning, however blackthe previous night may have been, the great Father of Lights will illuminate our whole nation in a few minutes! He will makeeach wave of the sea and each dewdrop of the lawn to gleam with silvery sheen! God has but to bid the sun accomplish his courseand the world is lit up and the shadows flee away! How perfectly the work is done! The illumination is unrivalled in lavishglory. All our means of enlightenment are poor when compared with the sunlight-and so scant that we must measure its cubicfeet and dole it out for gold-while the Lord pours His infinitely superior illumination in measureless oceans over hill anddale, field and city-gladdening the cottage as well as the palace, and burnishing the beetle's wings as well as the eagle'spinions.
Even thus our heavenly Father can readily enough turn the deepest sorrows of His people into the most sublime joys, and Heneeds not to vex the sons of men with labor in order to achieve His purpose of pity! His own right hand, His own graciousSpirit can pour forth a fullness of consolation in a moment. Notice for your comfort some of the ways in which the Lord ofLove banishes the midnight of the soul. Sometimes He removes all gloom by the sun of His Providence. He bids prosperity shineinto the window of the hovel, and the poor grow rich. He lifts the beggar from the dunghill, and sits him among princes. Thewings of angels bear healing to the sick, and the man long tossing on his bed walks forth to breathe the pure sweet air solong denied him.
The great Arbiter of all events does but turn the wheel of fortune, and those who were lowest are highest-the last are firstand the first last! He can do the same for any of us, both in temporals and in spirituals, if so it seems good to Him. Hehas but to ordain it so and our poverty will be exchanged for plenty. Our Lord often cheers His people with the moon of theirexperience, which shines with borrowed light, but yet with a brightness calm and tranquil, well-beloved of the sons of sorrow.He bids us remember the days of old and our spirit makes diligent search-we find that He has neverleft His people, neither has He been treacherous to us. We remember when we were in a like case to the present-we note thatwe were well sustained and ultimately delivered-and so we are encouraged to believe that today shall be as the past and yetmore abundant.
Frequently our heavenly Father cheers His children by a sight of Jesus going before them. That path between overhanging rocksis so dark, that I, a poor timid child, shrink back from it. But how is my courage restored as I see Jesus bearing the lanternof His love and going before me into the thick darkness! I hear Him say, "Follow Me," and while He speaks I perceive a lightstreaming from His sacred Person. Every thorn of His crown gleams like a star! The jewels of His breastplate flash like lamps,and His wounds gleam with celestial splendor! "Fear not," says He, "for in all your afflictions I have been afflicted. I wastempted in all points like as you are, though without sin." Who can tell the encouragement given to the heir of Heaven bythe fact that the elder Brother has passed through all the dark passages which leads to the promised rest!
God had one Son without sin, but He never had a son without chastisement. He who always did His Father's will, yet had tosuffer. Courage, my Heart! Courage! If Jesus suffered-if that pang which tears your heart first was felt by Him- you may beof good cheer, indeed! Better still is the comfort derived from the grand Truth of God that Jesus is actually present in thedaily afflictions of Believers. Jesus knocks at my door and says, "Come with Me from Lebanon, My Spouse. Come with Me fromLebanon: look from the top of Amana, from the top of Shenir and Hermon, from the lions' dens, from the mountains of the leopards!"
I look forth from the window into the cold and dreary night, and I answer Him, "The night is black and cheerless. I have putoff my coat, how shall I put it on? I have washed my feet, how shall I defile them? I cannot arise and follow You." But theBeloved is not thus to be refused. He knocks again, and He says, "Come forth with Me into the fields, let us lodge in thevillages. There will I give you My loves." Overcome by His love, I arise and go with my heavenly Bridegroom. If the raindropsfall pitilessly upon me, yet it is most sweet to see that His head is also filled with dew, and His locks with the drops ofthe night. The howling wind tosses His garments as well as mine. His feet tread the same miry places as my own, and all thewhile He calls me His Beloved, His Love, His Dove, His Undefiled and tells me of the land which lies beyond the darkness.
And He speaks of the mountains of myrrh and of the beds of spices-the top of Amana, Shenir, and Hermon! My soul is meltedwhile my Beloved speaks and my heart feels it is sweet beyond expression to walk with Him, for lo, while He is near me thenight is lit up with innumerable stars, the sky is aglow with glory-every cloud flames like a seraph's wing-while the pitilessblast is all unable to chill the heart which burns within while He talks with me by the way. In later years you and I areapt to speak to one another of that dark night and its marvelous brightness-of that cold wind that was so strangely tempered.And we will say to one another, "I would gladly pass through a thousand nights in such Company! I would be willing to go ona midnight journey evermore with that dearest of friends, for oh, where He is, night is day! In His Presence, suffering isjoy! When He reveals Himself, pains are pleasures and earth blossoms with flowers of Eden." Thus does the Well-Beloved byHis Presence make our darkness light.
Oftentimes you and I have known, by experience, how the Lord has made our darkness light when in a moment a text of Scripturehas flashed up before our eyes like a beacon fire. I bless God there are parts of this precious Book which I do not only retainin my memory but in my heart. They have been so applied to my soul in times of need, that to forget them would be utterlyimpossible! They have burned their way into my inner nature and have become part and parcel of my consciousness. You cannot,of yourself, make a text so full of life and power by merely thinking of it-nor by praying over it, nor by studying the original-butthe Holy Spirit quickens the Word even as He quickens us.
A Word from the Lord will, at times, rise up from the page as though it had lain there like a sleeping angel. It will graspus by the hand, embrace us and revive us till in wonder we cry out, "Oh, precious and inexhaustible Word of God! Oh, sweetWord fresh from the lips of Jesus, how is it I could have read you so often but never understood your fullness and preciousnesstill now?" This is one of the ways of the Lord by which He makes darkness light, by snatching a firebrand from the altar ofHis Word and waving it as a torch before us that we may advance in its light! Thus you see, Beloved, God can readily turnour darkness into light.
Now the text leads us a little further, and speaks of "crooked things." So, Christian, for a moment think of the crooks ofyour lot. Like the pathway of the children of Israel through the wilderness, your course appears to be backwardand forward like the path which winds deviously through the woods among briers and thorns. The faithful Friend of pilgrimsknows the way that you take-all your steps are ordered of the Lord-and in due time, according to His Word, He will make themall straight for you.
Perhaps the crookedness of your lot lies in your poverty. You never have more than barely enough. Food and raiment you havehad, but still it has been dry bread and scant raiment. So far from faring sumptuously, you have almost known the need ofLazarus at the rich man's gate. You have reached thus far on your journey, but still yours has been a life of need and greatdistress. You thank God! You do not repine-still you know well that need is a crooked thing. Or, perhaps you have sufferedsome very crooked calamity. Your dear husband was taken away when the children needed most his training care, and when thelabor of those strong arms was wanted to find sustenance for the little ones. Alas, poor widow, that was a very crooked lossfor you!
Or, perhaps yonder husband has buried his beloved wife and feels that his loss is irreparable-a crooked thing which he cannotunderstand. He cannot guess why the all-wise God has permitted such a mother to be taken from children who needed her moldinghand. If some other people had died, you could have comprehended the reason-they were ripe and ready-but here was the youngand active whose life appeared so necessary! And she has been taken away from you, leaving behind a fountain of perennialtears. This is the crooked thing in your lot.
Perhaps during the late panic you suffered very severely. You had not been one of the speculators and had not ventured beyondyour depth, but still, incidentally, the fall of others dragged you down. You do not quite understand the reason for thatheavy blow-it is a crooked thing altogether-you have looked at it this way and that way, but you cannot see the why and thewherefore. You believe that God is wise, but it remains a matter of belief in this case-you cannot as yet see it to be a wisething.
Possibly your crook lies in a trying family at home. Woe to those who have crooked sons-sharper than an adder's tooth is anunthankful child. Have you a graceless daughter? Alas, what a trial is yours! Have you an ill-tempered, malicious wife, ora harsh, unchristian husband? Do you, yourself, love the Truth of God, and have you a partner who hates good things? Willyou go home today to hear the voice of blasphemy from your next of kin? Yours is a crook, indeed! Worse than all, if you haveno other crook, I am sure you will confess to a crooked self. If your own heart were not your plague, all the rest would matterlittle. Oh, what with our pride, our sloth, our evil desires, our angry temper, our doubts, and fears, and despondencies,self is the worst crook a man has to carry!
Then it may be you have crooked temptations, too. You are tempted to profanity. You hate the very thought of it, but still,the horrible suggestions haunt you! You are tempted to vices from which, by Divine Grace, you have been preserved, but towardswhich, as with a hurricane, Satan would whirl you! Your temptations abound day by day. You appear to yourself to be like aman beset with 10,000 bees-they compass you about, yes, they compass you about-and you know not how to destroy them! As manyas your thoughts, so many your temptations seem to be. Well, these are all crooked things, and in such a fallen world as this,crooked things will always be very common.
Now comes the promise-"God will make all the crooked things in the way of His people straight." It may be that they are straightnow, and that the making straight is only to make them seem so to us, for oftentimes that which we thought to be a misfortunewas the best thing that could ever occur to us! We complain of our crosses, yet are not our crosses our best estates? Howoften we kick against our highest good! We tear up that herb in the garden which has the noblest medicine in every leaf. Ofor Grace to know that there is much real good in sorrow, and that our trials are only crooked because our eyes are not focused!
The Lord also can bend the crooked straight and what will not bend He can break. How often in a family the ungodly Saul hasbeen made into a holy Paul! The crooked character has been bent straight-and where the man would not bend straight, the terriblejudgment of God has taken away the crook out of the household-so that the righteous might have peace and comfort! Do not beafraid, Believer-the Lord's great axe can clear a way through the thick forests of your greatest trials! Do you not see thegreat Pioneer going before you-His goings forth were of old, and by the name of "The Breaker" is He known, since He breaksdown all that can hinder the march of His people. Like the engineers in the advance of an army, those grand old sappers andminers who clear the way for the host-even so will the Lord cast up a highway for all His saints until He shall bring themto the City that has foundations whose Builder and Maker is He.
If He does not do this, He will give you power to leap over the difficulty. He will bid you, His servant, go straight on inthe path of duty-and strength-not your own, shall be given you so that you shall say with one of old, "By my God have I gonethrough a troop! By my God have I leaped over a wall." You shall cry like Deborah, "O my Soul, you have trod down strength."If our pathway were always clear in the way of duty, where were our faith? But when we force our way to Heaven through crowdsof enemies-hewing a lane by main force through the squadrons of Hell-then is our great Captain glorified and His Grace maderesplendent! Let us be of good courage, then, for the Lord will make the crooked straight at the end!
Two lessons, and then I shall turn to address a few words to the seeker. One is to the child of God. If God will thus makeall your darkness light and all your crooked things straight, do not forestall your troubles. They are darkness now. Leavethem alone, Man, and they will turn to light. They are crooked now-well, leave them to ripen-and God will make them straight.Some fruit which you gather from your trees is of such a nature that if you were to try and eat it in the autumn it wouldbe very sour, and would make you very sick. But just store it up a little, and see how luscious and juicy it becomes! It isa pity to destroy the fruit and pain yourself by premature use!
It is just so with your troubles-they are all darkness now-do not meddle with them. Leave them till God has ripened them andturned them into light. Yonder man is employed in carrying sacks of flour every day. He carries so many hundredweight eachtime and in the day it comes to tons-and so many tons a day will come to an enormous mass in a year. Now, suppose, on thefirst of January, this man were to calculate the year's load, and say, "I have all that immense mass to carry! I cannot doit!" You would remind him that he has not to carry it all at once-he has all the workdays of the year to carry it in. So weput all our troubles together and we cry, "However shall I get over them?" Well, they will only come one at a time, and asthey come the strength will come with them!
A man who has walked a thousand miles did not traverse the thousand miles at a step, nor in a day-he took his time and didit. And we, also, must take our time. With patience we shall accomplish our work. A fine lesson for us all is that word wait,wait, wait. Our second remark is this, always believe in the power of prayer, for if God promises to make your darkness light,He will be required to do it for you. And when you enquire of Him to do it, He will do it because He has so promised. I wishwe believed in prayer. I am afraid most of us do not. People will say, "What a wonderful thing it is that God hears GeorgeMuller's prayers!"
But is it not a sad thing that we should think it wonderful for God to hear prayer? We are come to a pretty pass, certainly,when we think it wonderful that God is true! Much better faith was that of a little boy in one of the schools at Edinburghwho had attended the Prayer Meetings, and at last said to his teacher who conducted the Prayer Meeting, "Teacher, I wish mysister could be got to read the Bible. She never reads it." "Why, Johnny, should your sister read the Bible?" "Because ifshe should once read it, I am sure it would do her good, and she would be converted and be saved." "Do you think so, Johnny?""Yes, I do, Sir, and I wish the next time there's a Prayer Meeting you would ask the people to pray for my sister, that shemay begin to read the Bible." "Well, well, it shall be done, John."
So the teacher gave out that a little boy was very anxious that prayers should be offered that his sister might begin to readthe Bible. John was observed to get up and go out. The teacher thought it very unkind of the boy to disturb the people ina crowded room and go out like that, and so the next day when the lad came, he said, "John, I thought that was very rude ofyou to get up in the Prayer Meeting and go out. You ought not to have done it." "Oh! Sir," said the boy, I did not mean tobe rude, but I thought I should just like to go home and see my sister reading her Bible for the firsttime."
That is how we ought to believe, and wait with expectation to see the answer to prayer. The girl was reading the Bible whenthe boy went home! God had been pleased to hear the prayer, and if we could but trust God after that fashion we should oftensee similar things accomplished. Do not say, "Lord, turn my darkness into light," and then go out with your candle as thoughyou expected to find it dark. But, after asking the Lord to appear for you, expect Him to do so, for according to your faithso will it be unto you.
II. And now, just a few words before we depart, TO THE SEEKER. Some here have long been desirous of finding peace with God,but they are still troubled and tossed to and fro in their minds. Now, my dear Friend, we have felt great joy in seeing youranxiety, but we are beginning to feel great sorrow to think that that anxiety should last so long andthat you should be so unbelieving as not at once to put your trust in the blessed Lord Jesus. He is able to save you, andHe will save you, now, if you trust Him.
It seems a very simple thing to rest alone on Him-simple as it is, it is most effectual for the soul's peace and joy. We aregrieved to think that you have been so long refusing to give Christ the credit which He so richly deserves. Now, perhaps,it may be you are puzzled about some doctrinal question. You have been asking your friends to explain this and that to you,and you have not yet had it all cleared up. Let me say, I am afraid you never will-for there are difficulties about our holyreligion which will never be explained on this side the grave-and, perhaps, not on the other.
If our religion were within our comprehension, we should feel it did not come from God-but being greater than our brain cangrasp, we see in this some traces of the infinite God who, in revealing Himself, does not display all His Glory, but onlya part of it to the sons of men. Dear Friend, believe that God's dear Son is able to save you, and trust in Him! When youhave done that, all these doctrinal difficulties, so far as they are at all important, will vanish! He has said it and youshall prove it true, "I will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight." You shall say to yourself, "Howcould I have raised so many quibbles? How foolish it was of me to be always debating and questioning when eternal mercy wasfreely presented to me!"
Perhaps your darkness today arises from a very deep depression of mind. Your notion is that you can never believe in JesusChrist till this depression is removed. But let me tell you your notion is wide of the truth, for the fact is, you are notat all likely to rise out of your depression until you first believe in Jesus. Sad and sorrowful as you are, what hindersyou to believe in the infinite Son of God as able to put away your sin? He must be able. The death of such a One must havehad an amount of merit in it not to be limited. Oh, if you can do Him the honor to trust Him, though you are like poor smokingflax, He will not quench you! Though you are worthless and weak as a bruised reed, yet if you can trust Him you are saved!O rely on Him, I pray you! For your soul's sake rest in the precious blood and you shall find your depression vanish, yourdarkness shall be light, your crooked things shall be made straight.
"Ah," you say, "but I labor under a load of sin!" Truly there is enough in your sin to make you troubled were it not thatfor this purpose Christ was born and came into the world, that He might take away sin! Why that great Sacrifice on Calvary'sCross, if not for great offenses? Don't you see that it is the very blackness of your sin that makes you need a Savior? Don'tyou know that Christ came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance? In due time He died for the ungodly such asyou. O throw your weary soul into His arms! Why do you look about after this and that? Why are you deceived with, "Lo here,and lo there!"? Looking to this and that for comfort? Come to Him! Come empty, naked, filthy! Come to be made everything thatis good through Him!
"Yes, but," you say, "my nature is so evil." Well, but your depravity is known and provided for in the text. Your sinfulness,like the crookedness mentioned in the text, shall be made straight! The Lord can overcome your natural disposition. Whateverthe peculiar form of your besetting sin, the Holy Spirit is more than a match for it. Though you have sinned very foully,He can forgive-and though you feel a strong temptation to sin in the same way again-He can correct the tendency in your natureand give you new longings which shall overcome the old. O that my Lord had His due of you, then you would not doubt Him!
Blessed Savior, King of kings, and Lord of lords deigning to stoop to suffer and to die, how can men doubt You? How can theylook into Your dear face and yet distrust You? How can they see Your blessed hands and feet and riven side, and yet suspectYou? O Sinner, cast yourself on Jesus and you shall have joy and peace given you today!
Three things I want you to notice in the text, and I have done. That which saves us is not what is, but what will be. "I willmake darkness light." "I will make crooked things straight." The crooked thing is really crooked now, but there is a transformationin store. Sinner, it is not what you are now that is to be your salvation. You are dark and crooked, but your salvation shallyet be given to you. You shall be light in the Lord, and upright through His Grace.
Note, secondly, it is not what you can do, but what God can do. "I will make darkness light." The sinner shall not turn hisdarkness into light, but "I," Jehovah-I who can do all things. I, who can create and can destroy, "I will make darkness lightbefore you, and crooked things straight." Notice again, that this work may not be yours at once, but it shall be soon. Itdoes not say, "I will make darkness light today." Still it does say, "I will."
Ah, then, let us look forward to the brightness which we cannot yet see and rejoice in the straightness which as yet we donot discern! God will keep His word to the minute, and His eternal "shalls" and "wills" shall never fall to the ground. Ipray God will bless the Word to you who are tried Believers-to give you peace and confidence. And to you who are seeking sinners,that you may trust in Christ and find salvation. The Lord bless you richly, for His name's sake. Amen.