Sermon 939. The Pilgrim's Grateful Recollections
DELIVERED ON LORD'S-DAY MORNING, JULY 3, 1870,
BY C. H. SPURGEON,
AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON.
"And He humbled you, and suffered you to hunger, and fed you with manna, which you knew not, neither did your fathers know;that He might make you know that man does not live by bread only, but by every Word that proceeds out of the mouth of theLord does man live. Your raiment waxed not old upon you, neither did your foot swell, these forty years. You shall also considerin your heart, that, as a man chastens his son, so the Lord your God chastens you. Therefore you shall keep the commandmentsof the Lord your God, to walk in His ways, and to fear Him." Deuteronomy 8:3-6.
OUR aptness to forget God's mercies, is, alas, too conspicuous. It has been said that the annals of a prosperous and peacefulcountry are singularly uninteresting. Does this arise from the fact that we do not make memoranda of our mercies, or at leastif we do, they are far more readily blotted out than the record of our sorrows? We trace our joys in the sand, but we writeour afflictions on marble. We forget the streams of mercy, never ceasing, which flow so continually parallel with our pathway.
If we thus, ungratefully forget, it should cause us serious reflections when we see that God does not forget. Here in thisBook He brings to His people's memories all the mercies they have received, because they were always present before His ownmind. The child may forget the kindness of its mother, but the mother does not forget what she bore, and what she has sacrificedfor her child. The friend may forget what he has received, but it is not likely that the benefactor will forget what he hasbestowed. If God's memory, therefore, records all that He has given me, let me be ashamed to let my memory suffer these thingsto slip. What God counts worthy of His Divine recollection let me record on the pages of my memory, and often let me perusethe record.
We are also far too slow to draw the inference of obligation from benefits received. We receive the blessing, but we do notalways feel that a proportionate debt is due in return to God, the bounteous Giver of every good gift. Yet Divine Grace hasits obligations as well as laws-obligations which honorable minds reckon to be among the first to be discharged. If I do notdo what I ought because I fear the Law, at any rate let me prove that I am not so base as to be ungrateful to undeserved mercyand love.
It has been said by some, and there have been others whose lives have almost proved it, that the driving of the Law is moreeffectual to produce works than the sweet drawings of the Gospel. But it ought not to be so-and if it is so, the fault isin the man acted upon, and not in the principle of gratitude. For with right-minded men, with men educated by the Spirit ofGod, with men who are lifted up out of the common mass of mankind and endowed with the higher life, the highest motive thatcan be suggested even by infinite wisdom is the motive which is drawn from the transcendent love and Grace of God.
Now, Brethren, though we forget our obligations, it is clear from the text that God does not-for here, after giving a summaryof His benefits-He concludes by drawing an inference with the word, "therefore," and He tells Israel that having receivedso much, they were bound to walk in His ways and in His fear-and to keep His Commandments. If He thus considers, whose wisdomnone dare dispute, let us voluntarily, cheerfully, and practically concede that such is the very Truth. And let us ask thatHe will help us to be obedient, and resolve that, receiving His help, we will say in our hearts and lives--
"Loved of my God, for Him again
With love intense I burn; Chosen of Him before time began, I choose Him in return."
I shall now ask your attention to the list of favors given in the text, with the view of enforcing the Divine conclusionsfrom them.
I. LET US PASS IN REVIEW THE FAVORS OF THE LORD, taking what He did for Israel as being typical of what He has done for us.
1. The first blessing mentioned in our text is that of humbling-"And He humbled them, and suffered them to hunger." Not veryhighly esteemed among men will this favor be. And at first, perhaps, it may be regarded by ourselves as being more of a judgment-oneof the terrible things in righteousness-than a great favor from the Most High. But rightly judged, this is one of the mostadmirable proofs of the Lord's loving kindness, that He does not leave His people in their natural pride and obstinacy, butby acts of Grace brings them to their right mind.
Note in the text that the humbling was produced by hunger. What makes a man so humble as to be thoroughly in want? It wasnot hunger for luxury, merely-bread and water failed them. How could the soil beneath them of hot sand yield them a harvest?Where could they find a stream to slake their dreadful thirst which the broiling sun and the arid sand continually increased?To want bread and water is a short way of making a man feel that he is but a man, and that he is dependent, very dependent,upon the Providence of God.
Their hunger was, no doubt, increased in its power to humble them by their position. They were not hungry, in Goshen, norin Canaan, but hungry in a waste, howling wilderness, where, let them search as they would, they could find nothing availablefor sustenance. They were reduced to the most abject condition of spirit, and broken by the most urgent wants. And yet, Isay, this was a great blessing to them, for, being humbled, they were put in a position where God could bless them.
Speaking after the manner of men, there are some positions where God cannot bless us. If we are proud and lifted up, it isnot consistent to the Divine honor and glory that He should smile upon us. But when we are laid low at the foot of the Throne,then there is an opportunity for God to come and deal with us in pity and Grace. It was good, therefore, for Israel to beplaced where God's mercy could flow to them. Being there, and being hungry, there were opportunities given for Divine Graceand bounty. A man who is not hungry cannot be fed-why needs he, at any rate, to be fed? And if fed, he will not be gratefulas a hungry man.
But now when they are famishing, now will God work His miracles. The open windows of Heaven shall, to their astonishment,rain down their daily food, and up through those open casements shall their praise and thankfulness ascend to the Throne ofGod. There is room for mercy where there is misery-space for Grace where there is poverty. Happy was Israel, therefore, tohe humbled by hunger, and placed where mercy could glorify itself. They were thus, by their being made needy, brought to receivesuperior supplies. If they had possessed the corn of Egypt, they would have missed the manna of Heaven.
If beneath their feet there had sprung up crops of common wheat from which they could have reaped their daily supplies, theywould have missed the angels' food which fell from Heaven around their camp. Absence of meals was more than compensated bythe presence of manna. It is a blessed thing to have a famine of the creature, if thereby we are supplied by the Creator!
Now, my dear Friends, just remember for a minute, that this was your case and mine. Years ago, in the case of some of us,the Lord met with us and brought us into a painful state of spiritual hunger. All our supplies failed us. We had thought beforethat time we were at feast as good as others, that we might somehow work our way to Heaven, and we were satisfied, after afashion, with worldly joys. But the Lord suddenly took away our earthly comforts, or took away our rest and enjoyment of them,and at the same time we saw sin and its punishment before us-and we were brought to a condition in which we were like thosein the wilderness, who were afflicted with fiery serpents, and bitten with scorpions.
Our thoughts would not suffer us to rest. Our sins plagued and tormented us. We looked round for comfort, and we could findnone. We looked and looked again, and we only found fresh cause to despair. We were driven right away from self. What a mercyit was that we were so humbled, for then the Lord could reveal His love to us! What a blessing it was
that we were so wretched, for then there was room for Jesus to come with His pardoning blood, and the Holy Spirit to comewith His Divine quickening, and the promise of the Father to come with all its fullness of Grace and Truth. And oh, how blessedly,being deprived of earthly consolations, were we supplied with heavenly ones!
Our self-confidence, what a blessing it was to lose it, for we had confidence in Christ instead of it! Our carnal security,happy were we to see it wither, for we had security in Christ given us in the place of it and our self-righteousness. Thricehappy was it for us that it was totally dried up, for now we come to drink water out of the living Rock of Christ Jesus, andHe has become our joy, our song, and our salvation. You remember well that humbling season-you have had such seasons since.You have been brought, since then, into great spiritual straits, when you found that all the supposed Grace which you hadin store utterly failed you, even as the manna which the children of Israel unbelievingly tried to lay by in store-it bredworms and stank.
You have been brought down to deep spiritual poverty, but that has been a great blessing to you, for each renewed season ofsoul poverty has been the prelude for a fresh season of Divine manifestation of Grace. When I find myself brought very lowin spirit, and made to see the depravity of my heart, and to groan over my own weakness, I have learned to expect better things.I have been thankful for humblings because I have learned by experience that when I am emptied the Lord means to fill me.That when I am brought low it is only a preface to being lifted by the Divine Spirit.
Surely for these reasons we may reckon our humblings among the choicest favors of Heaven. And as here the humbling standsfirst in the text, so let it not be last in our song. As it is put here as the frontispiece to the volume of grateful remembrances,let it be prominent in our minds. "He humbled you, and caused you to hunger." Oh, blessed hour in which he prostrated my soulat His feet! Oh, happy season when He stripped me of what I thought my glory, but which were filthy rags! Oh, thrice memorableperiod when He wounded me with the arrows of conviction, when He slew me by the Law-for this was but a preparation for healingme with His touch of love, and making me alive with the eternal life which is in Christ Jesus. The first mercy, then, is thatof humbling the soul.
2. I shall have to notice, in the second place, the Divine feeding. We shall now see ourselves mirrored in the case of Israelas in a glass. "He humbled you, and suffered you to hunger, and fed you." How sweetly that follows, "suffered you to hunger,and fed you." The light close on the heels of the darkness. Is there a desponding soul here who has been suffered to hunger?"Blessed are you that do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for you shall be filled." That "and" in the text is like adiamond rivet, none can ever take it out or break it. "He suffered you to hunger, and fed you." He who suffers you to hungerwill be sure to feed you yet upon the bountiful provisions of His Grace. Be of good cheer, poor mourning
Now let us notice what our spiritual food has been, Brethren. I said the first remark shall be, we have been fed spirituallyevery day. We have had day by day our souls' daily bread. As the manna fell daily, so has the food of our souls been givenus from time to time by the power of the Spirit of God. Israel in the wilderness was always on the brink of starvation, yetnever knew a want. There was nothing between the people's being starved except (and what a blessed exception!), except theDivine interposition. They could not go to their stores, and say, "Here are tons of food." They could not, as you may in goingdown the Thames, look at huge warehouses full of corn laid by in store.
No, no, there was not a halfpenny worth of store in the house of any Israelite as he went to bed, the whole place was bare,all was gone. There was nothing between them and being starved, I say, but the Divine faithfulness. This is precisely howI have lived, by His Grace, before the Lord ever since I have known Him. There has been nothing between my soul and fallingfrom Grace except the Divine faithfulness-no, nothing whatever of past experience, or all the present knowledge that couldhave stood me in any place in the time of trial. Not a man among you has anything spiritually to depend upon but the dailyinterpositions of Covenant Grace.
Let the child of God remember this, and when he feels himself very weak in himself, and driven to his Lord in prayer, lethim rejoice that he is just where God would have him be. When I am weak, then am I strong. When I have nothing, then haveI all things. While I have nothing to depend upon of the old corn of the land, the manna will continually fall, and day byday my strength shall be renewed. Has that been your experience, dear Brothers and Sisters? If it has been, then everydaygive a fresh song to God, who interposes between your soul and death.
Yet though the manna came every day, it was always sufficient. I spoke of starvation, but Israel never had any reason evento think of it, for the provender which God sent was not limited so that any man could say, "It is not sufficient for
me." What sufficed one man might not suffice another in ordinary food, but of the manna every man had enough. So to this dayit has been in Grace with every Believer. God has given to you and to me, up till this hour, all the Grace we have needed,and though He has given us so much, there is as much more left in the infinite provision as if He had never drawn upon it.Go to the richest man's store, and take something out, and there is so much less remaining. But when the manna came from Heaven,there was just as much manna left after it had come as before.
So the Grace of God is just as all-sufficient after you and I have received as it was at the first. The only stint the Israeliteknew in the matter of the manna was the limit of his own capacity to receive. He might have as much as ever he could eat.And if we have not had more Grace, it has been our own fault. If we have not lived nearer to God, if we have not possessedmore joy, or been more useful-we have not been straitened in our God-we have been straitened in our heart. We have had theprovisions of His Grace day by day. We have had as much as we asked for, and often a great deal more. And we might have hadas much more as we would if we had but had larger desires and greater confidence in God. The Lord's name be praised for dailyfood in this wilderness, and for sufficient food.
The manna was a very mysterious thing. It is said in the text that it was food that they did not know, and which their fathershad not known. And, certainly, the Grace of God which has kept us to this day is a most mysterious power upon us. The worldlingdoes not understand what it is to eat the flesh of Christ and drink His blood, and though we know what it is by sweet experience,we could not explain it. We have lived to this day upon the promises of God, upon the inflowing of the Divine Spirit intoour souls, but we cannot tell from where it comes nor where it goes.
Nor do our fathers after the flesh know. And though our sires, who have gone before us to Heaven, fed on the same food, yetit was to them mysterious as it is to us. Talk of wonders! The Christian man is the greatest wonder in the world! Speak ofmiracles! What is the Christian life but a continued miracle? A series of miracles, like links in a chain, one following theother-kept alive in the midst of death, and supported by a marvelous food-which the world knows nothing of. We are wondersunto many, and more so to ourselves.
Brethren, the manna came from Heaven, and here is the very marrow of the Truth of God as to what we have lived upon spiritually-wehave lived upon heavenly food. If our supplies had depended on human ministry, they would have failed. If they had dependedupon the mere reading of good books, there might be times when we could read to profit. But the everlasting well-springs ofDivine love are not affected by our condition of body or of mind-the Grace and love that are treasured up in Christ Jesuscome to us when creature cisterns are broken, and all the help of friends is unavailing.
From You, great God, from You we have derived the nutriment of our spiritual life, and it has always come in due season-upto this hour we have known no lack. You have made us hunger when we have looked to earth for supplies, but when we have turnedto You our souls have been satisfied with marrow and fatness! Blessed be Your name forever-more! Dear Brothers and Sisters,do endeavor to live more and more upon unseen things. Let your fellowship be with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.Look not to the granaries of Egypt. Stay not yourself on an arm of flesh. Israel in the wilderness had no granaries, theylooked neither to Moab nor Ammon-they looked to Jehovah, and to Jehovah alone. And let it he so with you, and, assuredly,even in the time of famine, your spirit shall be satisfied.
The children of Israel in the wilderness were fed on the best food that ever fell to the lot of mortals. They did eat angels'food. Egypt and Assyria, with all their wealth, tasted not of bread which dropped from Heaven. But poor Israel in the howlingwilderness was fed with royal dainties. Let the sons of earth be nourished as they may, and fattened like kings' sons, yetthere are no faces that are so fair to look upon with holy joy and exultation as the faces of the men who feed on Christ Jesuswho is the Bread that came down from Heaven.
There are none who are so blessed as those who live upon God Himself-for they have this for their surpassing excel-lence-thateating as they do this bread, they live forever. He that eats other bread derives temporary nourishment from it, but beforelong he dies. He who feeds on Christ feeds on immortal food, and more-he becomes immortal himself- the food transforms theman. Matchless is the manna which comes from Heaven, for it makes us heavenly and bears us up to the Heaven from where itcame!
They who live on Christ become like Christ. Being fed upon Him, they become conformed unto His image, made meet to be partakersof the glory of God in Heaven. I wish I could speak so as to stir your hearts with gratitude, but the subject ought to doit without words of mine! And, sitting calmly here with Jordan sparkling before us, and Canaan hard
by on the other shore, we are bound to remember all the way whereby the Lord our God has led us-and the food which up to thisday has never failed us.
3. The third favor mentioned in the text, upon which we will pause awhile, is the remarkable raiment. "Your raiment waxednot old upon you." This has been interpreted by some to mean that they were able constantly to procure from the surroundingnations fresh changes of clothing. Others have said, and there is truth in the remark, that they had among them persons ofgreat skill who were able to use the produce of the flocks and herds, so that they were not without clothes to supply theirneeds. Indeed, if that is all the meaning, it declares a great cause for thankfulness.
The tribes never became a ragged regiment-though always on the march they were always well dressed-their clothes waxed notold. But I am not among those who like to blot out every miracle from the Word of God. As the history of the children in thewilderness is altogether miraculous, and cannot be accounted for without the introduction of Divine interposition, it seemsto me that it is as natural to expect their raiment to be miraculously given as to expect their food to be. And the run ofthe text, if it were read by an intelligent child without any prejudice, one way or the other, would suggest a miracle.
It stands in the midst of miracles, and is one itself. "Your raiment waxed not old upon you." Certainly this was the old interpretationwhich the rabbis put upon it-that by a continuous miracle their clothes did not wear out for the whole space of forty years.Though subject to the ordinary wear and tear incidental to traveling, yet their garments still continued to be as good atthe end of forty years as they were when first they left the land of Egypt. I believe that to be what the text means. Andhow, spiritually it is the case with us. "Your garments waxed not old upon you."
Do you remember, Brethren, when first you put your garments on? I do well remember when first I discovered, as Adam did inthe garden, that I was naked, and I hid myself. I tried then, as you did, to make a fig leaf covering for my-self-that wouldhave waxed old soon enough-for the fig leaves of our own righteousness soon wither and decay. But I was pointed to the righteousnesswhich God had prepared, even as Adam and Eve were pointed to the coats of skins which the Lord God had made ready for them.And then I put on the robe of Christ's righteousness which He had provided, and glory be to His name-that garment has notwaxed old upon me yet!
Is it not so with you? You are not found naked this day. Perhaps you have been a Believer forty or fifty years, but that robeof Grace is ever new and evermore as fresh as at the first, and as suitable as at the beginning. All your nakedness is hiddenfrom the face of God, and hidden from yourself, too. You can now rejoice in the Lord, and approach Him without fear. You donot want to hide yourself, but rather you wish to show yourself to God, and you say, "Search me, O God, and know my ways,try me, and know my heart." Our garment, then, which covers our nakedness, has not waxed
But we have a garment for more than this, namely, to make us acceptable. Jacob put on his brother Esau's clothes, and he obtainedthe blessing of his father. We, too, have put on the garments of Christ, and have won the blessing. He who went into the feastand had not on a wedding garment was cast out. The wedding garment which we wear today is the righteousness which Christ hasworked out for us-which He works in us by His Spirit. Now, blessed be His name, that which we put on many years ago, has notwaxed old yet-we are still accepted in the Beloved.
That robe has endured much wear and tear. What with our imperfections and sins, shortcomings and transgres-sions-if it hadnot been Divinely worked, it would have been worn out long ago. But blessed be His name, I know, and you know, that we areas acceptable to God this day, as we were when first we believed in Jesus. We are still dear children, still Beloved of theLord, still heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ Jesus-our garment of acceptance has not waxed old.
Besides, we have the garment of consolation. Men put on their clothes to warm and comfort them, and how often have we wrappedourselves about with the promises of God's Word-and with the doctrines of Revelation-and made garments of them to screen usfrom the cold blast of tribulation? These, also, have not waxed old. Glory be to God for those everlasting promises! Whenwe were young we trusted in them, and when we are old and gray-headed we shall still find them to be fountains of consolationas clear, and true, and sure, and precious as ever they were. You cannot point me to a stale promise in all God's Book. Neithercan you find me a worn-out doctrine.
The rabbis say that when the young Israelites grew older their clothes grew as they grew. I do not know how that was, butI do know that let us grow in mental stature as we may, the doctrines of the Gospel still are suitable for us. If
they were like milk to us when we were babes, they are strong meat to us when we become men. They always meet our needs andconditions, and thus we can joyfully say that the garment which covers our nakedness, which adorns us before God, and affordsus consolation, has not waxed old these forty years. Blessed be the name of the Most High for all this!
4. But we pass on again. The next blessing for which we ought to be grateful is that sustained personal strength. Our spiritualvigor has not decayed during our sojourn in the wilderness, for it is written, "Neither did your foot swell." A swollen footis the common ailment of pilgrims in the desert. Much marching over hot sand soon makes the feet become swollen and puffedup, or else it hardens them, and some read this text, "Neither did your foot become callous." In neither way in Israel's casewas the foot deformed, nor was walking rendered painful.
For forty years the pilgrims footed it without pain, and though it was a weary land, yet their strength held out till theycrossed the Jordan, and came into the promised rest. So it has been with us. Our foot has not swelled these forty years. Inthe way of perseverance we have been maintained and preserved. Personally I admire the Grace which has kept me in my course,though assailed by many, many fierce temptations, and exposed to great perils in my position. If I wonder, I dare say eachone of you have to wonder, too. There have been scores of times since you made a profession, when your feet were almost gone,your steps had well near slipped, and yet your foot has not swollen. You are still on the way, in the way, and nearing theend of the way, kept consistent, kept in godliness, even until now.
What a blessing! Suppose you had been permitted to faint? Suppose you had been suffered to fall on the road, and had no longerheld on your way? You know what the result must have been, for only to perseverance is the promise made. But God has helpedyou to hold on to this hour, and He will aid you even to the end. Up till now you have held on- have confidence-He will keepyou still. Your foot has not swelled in the way of perseverance.
Neither have you been lamed in the way of service. Perhaps you have been called to do much work for Christ, yet you have notgrown tired of it, though sometimes tired in it. Still you have kept to your labor, and found help in it. If you were evercalled to preach the Gospel, you would be compelled to see, even if you closed your eyes, how dependent you were upon God.Sunday after Sunday, and weekday after weekday, preaching still, having need to say something fresh continually, and oftenwondering where it will come from. The preacher is grateful that as yet his foot has not swollen.
You, too, have gone to your Sunday school, or you have held your position as a solitary testifier in the family, or you haveserved God as a missionary from door to door, and you have thought, "Surely, I shall come to the end of all I know, and allI can do," but you have not. Your foot has not swollen all these years, you have kept on in the way of service. So, too, yourfoot has not swollen in the way of faith. Such little faith you had at first, that you might well have thought it would alldie out by now.
See a spark that floats in the sea, see a stone that hangs in the air, surely these must come to an end. The one must be extinguished,and the other must fall! But it has not been so. God has not quenched the smoking flax, nor broken the bruised reed. Stillyour foot has not swollen. You believe in Jesus yet, and notwithstanding your unbelief, your faith still can give forth thecry of a loving child, and say, "Lord, I believe, help You my unbelief."
In addition to all this, your foot has not swollen in the way of fellowship. You have walked with God, and you have not grownweary of the holy communion. Sometimes that walking with God has cost you much effort, much struggling with inward corruptions,much determination to be clear from the customs and the ways of ungodly men. And you had long ago been tired had not you leanedon your Beloved. But you have leaned so much on Him that your foot has not swollen. You can still walk with Him, and hopeto do so until you come to your journey's end-and sit down with Him forever and ever.
Moreover, dear Brothers and Sisters, your foot has not swollen in the way of joy. You were happy young men in Christ Jesus,and you are happy fathers now. You were happy young women when first you gave your heart to Christ, and you have grown tobe matronly now, but you are as happy as in younger days. The novelty has not worn off, or rather one novelty has been succeededby another-fresh discoveries have broken out upon you-and Jesus has still to you the dew of His youth. If the old light haspassed away, yet the new light of a still brighter sun has come, and you are nearing the "sacred, high, eternal noon," wherethe Glory of God and of the Lamb shed splendor all around. He who walks with God shall never weary, though through all eternityhe continues the hallowed march. For all this we give to God our thanks yet again.
5. Bear with me when I notice in the fifth place the memorable blessing of chastisement. I must call special attention toit because God does so in these words, "You shall also consider in your heart." That unswollen foot, and that unworn garmentyou need not so much value as this-for this you are specialty bid to consider-to meditate upon in your very heart. Your deepestthoughts are to be given to it, and, consequently, your highest praises. "Consider in your heart, that as a man chastens hisson, so the Lord your God chastens you." My dear Friends, I speak as one of the most humble of God's servants, but I darenot withhold my testimony.
I can truly say of everything I have ever tasted in this world of God's mercy-and my path has been remarkably strewn withDivine loving kindness. I feel more grateful to God for the bodily pain I have suffered, and for all the trials I have enduredof many sorts, than I do for anything else except the gift of His dear Son. I am sure I have derived more real benefit andpermanent strength and growth in Grace, and every precious thing, from the furnace of affliction, than I have ever derivedfrom prosperity. In fact, I have for years looked upon my great prosperity as being sent as a test and trial of my Graces.
I regard it as the severest of ordeals which I must lay before God humbly, and ask for Grace to bear. But I have learned toregard affliction as being a sheltered nook in which I am more than usually screened from temptation, and in which I mightexpect to have the peculiar Presence of the Lord my God. I am not fearful of my ballast, but I am very anxious about my sail.Moreover, I have discovered that there is a sweetness in bitterness not to be found in honey-a safety with Christ in a stormwhich may be lost in a calm. I know not how to quite express my meaning, but even lowness of spirits and deep sadness havea peculiar charm within them which laughter may emulate in vain.
It is good for me that I have been afflicted. Now I think if I were to take the testimony of many Christian friends here,they would have to say much the same. So then, as you know all this, let me say nothing about it but just this- ponder andconsider much the gratitude you owe to God for His chastening rod. Dwell much in your heart upon what God evidently regardsas one of His distinguishing blessings. Do not pass over slightly what God would have you consider. Count the Cross and therod to be doubly worthy of your deepest thought. "Hear the rod and Him that has appointed it." Remember that whenever youare chastened you are not chastened as a slave-master smites his victim, nor as a judge orders the criminal to be lashed,but as a man chastens his son, so are you chastened.
Your chastisement is a sign of sonship, it is a token of love. It is intended for your good. Accept it, therefore, in thespirit of sonship, and "despise not the chastening of the Lord, neither faint when you are corrected of Him." Remember thatchastisement is an assured token of the Covenant relationship. It is the Lord your God that chastens you. If He were not yourGod He might let you alone. If He had not chosen you to be His own, He would not take such care of you. If He had not givenHimself to be your Treasure, He might not be so diligent in weaning you from all other treasures. But because you are HisHe will withdraw your love away from this poor world.
Perhaps He will take one child after another from you, that all the love that was lavished on the child might flow towardsHimself. Perhaps He will leave you a widow, that the love that ran in the channel of a husband may run altogether to Himself.Perhaps He will take away your riches, that the consolation you did derive from them may be all derived from Him. PerhapsHe will smite you, and then lay you on His own bosom, faint and helpless, that you may derive a strength and a joy from fellowship,close, and near with Himself. A closeness which you would never have had if it had not been that these other joys were removed.
I have seen a little plant beneath an oak tree sheltered from the storm, and wind, and rain, and it felt pleased and happyto be so screened. But I have seen the woodman come with his axe and fell the oak, and the little plant has trembled withfear because its protection was removed. "Alas, for me," it said, "the hot sun will scorch me, the driving rain will drownme, and the fierce wind will tear me up by the roots." But instead of these dreadful results, the shelter being removed, theplant has breathed freer air, drank more of the dews of Heaven, received more of the light of the sun, and it has sprung upand borne flowers which else had never bloomed, and seeds that never else had sown themselves in the soil.
Be glad when God thus visits you, when He takes away these overshadowing but dwarfing comforts to make you have a clear waybetween you and Heaven. So that heavenly gifts might come more plentifully to you. Bless God for chas-tenings! Let the sweetestnote of your music be to Him that lays not the rod aside, but like a father chastens His children for their good.
II. Now our time is gone, but you must even be detained, for it is necessary to dwell upon the last thought, which is THEINFERENCE FROM ALL THIS. All this humbling, feeding, clothing, strengthening, chastening-what of it all? Why this-"thereforeyou shall keep the commandments of the Lord your God, to walk in His ways, and to fear Him." If you have not shared in theseblessings, I shall not speak with you, for the inference would not tell upon you.
But if in very deed and truth every line here describes to the letter your Christian career, then let these arguments havepower with you. He has done thus much for you, will you not serve Him? Are you not His by a thousand bonds? Delivered outof deep distresses, supported under enormous burdens, forgiven heinous sins, saved with a great salvation-are you not nowbound by every tie that can bind an honorable man to be obedient to the Lord your God? Take the model of the text. Let yourobedience be universal. Keep the commandments of the Lord. Walk in His ways.
Set your heart to the Scriptures to find out what the Commandments are, and then, once knowing them, perform them at once.Settle it in your soul that you only want to know it is His will, and you will, by His Grace, neither question nor delay-butwhatever He says unto you, you will do. Shut not your eyes to any part of His teaching. Be not willfully blind where Christwould guide you with His Word. Let your obedience be entire. In nothing be rebellious. Let that obedience be careful. Doesnot the text say, "Keep the commandments," and does not the first verse say, "You shall observe to do"?
Keep it as though you kept a treasure, carefully putting your heart as a garrison round it. Observe it as they do who havesome difficult art, and who watch each order of the teacher, and trace each different part of the process with observant eye,lest they fail in their art by missing any one little thing. Keep and observe. Be careful in your life. Be scrupulous. Youserve a jealous God, be jealous of yourself. Let your obedience be practical. The text says, "Walk in His ways." Carry yourservice of God into your daily life, into all the minutiae and details of it.
Do not have an unholy room in your house. Let the bedchamber, let the banqueting hall, let the place of conversation, theplace of business-let every place be holiness unto your Gold. Walk in His ways. Whereas others walk up and down in the nameof their god, and boast themselves in the idols wherein they trust, you walk in the name of Jehovah your God, and glory alwaysto avow that you are a disciple of Jesus, God's dear Son-and let your obedience spring from principle, for the text says,"Walk in His ways, and fear Him."
Seek to have a sense of His Presence, such as holy spirits have in Heaven who view Him face to face. Remember He is everywhere.You are never absent from that Eye. Tremble, therefore, before Him with that sacred trembling which is consistent with holyfaith. Serve Him with faith and trembling, knowing that be you who you may, He is infinite and you are finite. He is perfectand you are sinful, He is All in All and you are nothing at all. With this sacred, reverential, childlike fear pregnant withinyour spirit, you will be sure to walk practically in obedience to Him.
I close by saving, we who have followed God's Word so far, and experienced the faithfulness of God so long, ought never togive way to unbelief. Your foot has not swollen, your garment has not waxed old these forty years-why will you then mistrustor be suspicious? If He meant to deceive you He would have left you long ago-
"He cannot have taught you To trust in His name, And thus far have brought you To put you to shame."
Go on! The present difficulty will melt like the past. Go on! The future mercy will be as sure as the mercies that have upto now come to you. Though winds and waves go over your head, and friends vanish from you, "trust in the Lord, and do good,so shall you dwell in the land, and, verily, you shall be fed." The heavens and the earth may pass away, and rocks turn torivers, and the sun turn to a coal, but the eternal promise never shall fail, and the heart of infinite love shall never change."Be of good comfort, and He shall strengthen your heart; wait, I say, on the Lord."
What encouragement all this gives to young Brethren who are setting out in the Christian life, or about to engage in the Christianministry! With that reflection I close. If your fathers, and your fellow Christians of elder years can say that their breadhas been given them, and their supplies have been all-sufficient, then rest assured, my Brethren, you are entering upon ahappy life, even if it is a tried and difficult one. For the Lord who has dealt so well with some of His people, gives inthat fact a pledge that He will deal so with all. Commit yourselves wholly to God. Give up all your powers to His service.Work for Him with all your hearts, and He will supply your needs.
Think not of this world's gain, but "seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness." Lay self in the dust, and let Christbe All in All. Live by the rule of Truth. Walk by the way of faith. Have confidence in God, and your path shall be as brightness,and your glory as a lamp that burns. Joined on earth to the hand of Christian soldiers, you shall, before long, be added tothe countless host of the Church triumphant, who at this hour bear witness that God is faithful, and that His promise is sure.
O you who are not Believers, methinks your mouths must water this morning to come and join with God's Israel! And rememberthat simply believing on the Lord Jesus Christ will bring you to be numbered with Israel. If you will but with your heartsaccept Christ to be your Savior, then His people shall be your people, His God shall be your God. Where He dwells and Hispeople dwell, you shall dwell. And if for awhile you are buried with Him, you shall arise again to live forever with Him inHeaven. May the Holy Spirit seal this on your hearts. Amen.