Sermon 993. The Northern Iron and the Steel
C. H. SPURGEON,
At the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington
"Shall iron break the northern iron and the steel?"-Jeremiah 15:12.
THE prophet Jeremiah was, as we saw upon a former occasion, a man of exquisitely sensitive character; not a prophet of iron,like Elijah, but nearer akin to him who was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. He lived in times which were peculiarlytrying to him, and in addition was called to exercise an office which involved him in perpetual sorrow. He loved the peopleamong whom he dwelt, yet was he commissioned by God to pronounce judgmentsupon them; this in itself was a hard task to such a nature as his. As a loving father, fearful of Eli's doom, uses therod upon his child, but feels each stroke in his own heart far more acutely than the child does upon his back, so every threateningword which the prophet uttered lashed his own soul, and cost his heart the direst panics. He went, however, to his work withunstaggering firmness; hopeful, perhaps, that when his countrymen heard the divine threatening, they would repent of theirsin, seek mercy, and find it. Surely if anything can add weight to the prophecy of the judgments of God, it is the tremblinglove, the anxious fear with which such a messenger as Jeremiah would deliver his warning. The deep sorrow of him who warnedthem ought to have driven the sinful nation to a speedier repentance; instead of which they rejected his warnings, they despisedhis person, and defied his God. As they thus heaped wrath upon themselves, they also increased his sorrow. He was adelicate, sensitive plant, and felt an inward shudder as he marked the tempest gathering overhead. Though a most loyalservant of his God, he was sometimes very trembling, and though he never ventured, like Jonah, to flee unto Tarshish, yethe cried in the bitterness of hie soul, "O that I had in the wilderness a lodging-place of wayfaring men; that I might leavemy people, and go from them!" The Jews treated him so harshly and unjustly, that he feared they would break his heart; theysmote himae with an iron rod, and he felt like one crushed beneath their unkindness. To silence his fear, the Lord assures himthat he will renew his strength. "Behold," saith he, "I have made thee this day a defenced city and an iron pillar, and brazenwalls against the whole land, against the kings of Judah, against the princes thereof, against the priests thereof, and againstthe people of the land. And they shall fight against thee; but they shall not prevail against thee; for I am with thee, saiththe Lord, to deliver thee." Thus the Lord promised to his servant the divine support which his trials demanded He neverdid and never will place a man in a trying position and then leave him to perish. David dealt thus treacherously with Uriah,but the Lord acts not thus with his servants. If the rebellious seed of Israel were iron, the Lord declared that his prophetshould be hardened by sustaining grace into northern iron and steel. If they beat upon him like hammers on an anvil, he shouldbemade of such strong, enduring texture, that he should be able to resist all their blows. Iron in the olden times amongstthe Israelites was very coarsely manufactured, but the best was the iron from the north. So bad was their iron generally,that an admixture of brass, which among us would be thought rather to deteriorate the hardness, was regarded as an improvement;so the Lord puts it, "Shall iron-the common iron-break the most firm and best prepared iron?" It cannot do so: and if thepeople acted like iron against Jeremiah, God would make his spirit indomitably firm, that they should no more be ableto put him down than common iron could break the northern iron and the steel.
That being the literal meaning, we shall draw from our text a general principle. It is a proverbial expression, no doubt,and applicable to many other matters besides that of the prophet and the Jews; it is clearly meant to show, that in orderto achieve a purpose, there must be a sufficient force. The weaker cannot overcome the stronger. In a general clash the firmestwill win. There must be sufficient firmness in the instrument or the work cannot be done. You cannot cutgranite with a pen-knife, nor drill a hole in a rock with an auger of silk. Some forces are inadequate for the accomplishmentof certain purposes. If you would break the best iron, you will be foiled if you strike it with a metal less hard.
I. We shall first of all apply this proverb to the PEOPLE OF GOD INDIVIDUALLY. Shall any power be able to destroy the saints?
We are sent into the world, if we are believers in Christ, like sheep in the midst of wolves, defenseless, and in danger ofbeing devoured, yet no power on earth can destroy the chosen disciples of Christ. Weak as they are, they will tread down thestrength of their foes. There are more sheep in the world now than wolves. There are parts of the world where wolves onceroamed in troops where not a wolf can now be found; yet tens of thousands of sheep feed on the hillside:one would not be very bold to say that the day will come when the wolf will only be known as an extinct animal, whileas long as the world lasts the sheep will continue to multiply. In the long run, the sheep has gained the victory over thewolf. And it is so with Christ's people. They appear to be weak, but there is a force about them which cannot be put down:they will overcome the ungodly yet, for the day will come when mighty truth shall prevail. God hasten that blessed and long-expectedday. Till then, when persecuted we are not forsaken, when cast down we are not destroyed. Many Christians, are placedin positions where they are subject to very great temptations and persecutions; they are mocked, laughed at, ridiculed, calledby evil names. Persecuted one, will you deny the faith? Are you going to put aside your colors, and relinquish the cross ofChrist? If so, I can only tell you, you are not made of the same stuff as the true disciples of Jesus-Christ; for when thegraceof God is in them, if the world be iron, they are northern iron and steel; they can bear all the blows which the worldmay possibly choose to lay upon them, and as the anvil breaks the hammers in the long run, so will they, by their patientendurance for Christ's sake, break the force of all persecution, and triumph over it. Do I speak to a young Christian, whohas come up to London, and finds himself placed where he is continually ridiculed? Will you shrink in the day of trial? Doyou mean toplay the coward? Shall the iron break the northern iron and the steel! Let it not be so. Be strong. Quit you like men;and in the energy of the Holy Spirit, endure as seeing him that is invisible. There is no need that we should fear, for amidall dangers the love of God shall live within us as a fire unquenchable. "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shalltribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?" "Nay, in all these things we are morethan conquerors through him that loved us."
Besides persecution, we are called frequently to serve the Lord under great difficulties. There are supreme difficulties connected with the evangelisation of this city. To stand here and preach to such a congregationas this, so large and so eager for the word, is a pleasure; but every sphere of labor is not equally cheering. Some of youwho go to the lodging-houses to speak, or who visit the alleys, or stand up in the low neighbourhoods to preach the word oflife,I know full well find it anything but child's play to serve your Lord under such conditions. Yours is rough hedging andditching work, with very little in it of rosewater and gentility, and very much of annoyance and disappointment. What, then,is your resolution? I trust it is this: that as much strength is needed, you will wait more than ever upon the strong Onetill the needed power is given you. I trust you are not of that craven spirit which shrinks at difficulty or toil. Will yougive waybefore the labors demanded of you? Do the redeemed of the Lord consent to give London up to Satan's rule? Do they sayin despair that its darkest parts cannot be enlightened? Will the church of God despair of any race or country? Will it say:"There is no converting the Romanist; there is no convincing the literate and crafty Brahmin?" Is the iron to break the northerniron and the steel? Will we not rather take a firmer grip upon Omnipotence, and draw down almighty help by the blessedvehemence of prayer? What are we at? What aileth us that we are so soon dispirited? Is the Lord's arm waxed short? Theapostles never thought of defeat; they believed that the gospel could break everything in pieces that stood in its way: andthey went without hesitation to the work which the Lord sent them to do. Twas theirs to dare and die; questions and forebodingswere not theirs. Into the bloody jaws of death those champions of Christendom rode on with dauntless courage, and won thevictory. And are we to give way under difficulties? Are we to be as reeds shaken of the wind? You, Sunday-school teacher,are you going to give up your class because the boys are unruly? You in the Ragged-school, are you thinking of closing thedoors, because as yet the children have not come in great numbers, or because the young Arabs are as wild as unbroken colts?You, who stood in the corner of the street the other night to preach, did you determine never to stand up and preach again,because of the rough reception you received? O man, be of different metal from this! If God has called you to do anything,do it, if you die in doing it. To a man for whom Jesus died, no work should seem hard, no sacrifice grievous. All things arepossible to those who burn with the love of God. There is nothing but what you can make a way through if you can find somethingharder to bore it with. Look at the Mont Cenis Tunnel, made through one of the hardest of known rocks; with a sharp tool,edged with diamond, they have pierced the heart of the Alps, and made a passage for the commerce of nations. As St. Bernardsays: "Is thy work hard? set a harder resolution against it; for there is nothing so hard that it cannot be cut by somethingharder still." May the Spirit of God work in thee invincible resolution and unconquerable perseverance. Let not the iron breakthe northern iron and the steel. Under persecutions and difficulties, let God's people resolve on victory, and by faiththey shall have it, for according to our faith so shall it be unto us.
One of the greatest trials to which the people of God are subject, in trying to serve their Master, is non-success. The seven lean kine, as they eat up the seven fat kine, sorely try the believer's faith. Alas! our disappointments seldomcome alone, but like Job's messengers, follow close upon each other's heels. When a man succeeds, he continues to succeed,as a rule; he derives encouragement from what God has already done by him, and goes from strength tostrength. Probably, however, there is more grace exhibited by the Christian, who, without present success, realises thethings not seen as yet, and continues still to work on. To labor is not easy, but to labor and to wait is harder far. It is a grand thing to continue patiently in well doing, confident that in the end the reward is sure. Heis a man indeed who under long-continued disappointment will not-
"Bate a jot
Of heart or hope, but still bear up and steer
Such a man "plucks success even from the spear-proof crest of rugged danger." The well-annealed steel within him ere longbreaks in shivers the common iron which strikes him so severely. To him, to overcome by grace is glory indeed.
Some of the greatest works that were ever performed by Christian people were not immediate in their results. The husbandmanhas waited long for the precious fruits of the earth. The question has been asked, again and again, "Watchman, what of thenight?" Some, no doubt, have had to labor all their lives, and have bequeathed to their heirs the promise whose fulfillmentthey had not personally seen. They laid the underground courses of the temple, and others entered intotheir labors. You know the story of the removal of old St. Paul's by Sir Christopher Wren. A very massive piece of masonryhad to be broken down, and the task, by pick and shovel, would have been a very tedious one, so the great architect prepareda battering-ram for its removal, and a large number of workmen were directed to strike with force against the wall with theram. After several hours of labor, the wall, to all appearances, stood fast and firm. Their many strokes had been apparentlylost, but the architect knew that they were gradually communicating motion to the wall, creating an agitation throughoutthe whole of it, and that, by-and-by, when they had continued long enough, the entire mass would come down beneath a singlestroke. The workmen, no doubt, attributed the result to the one crowning concussion, but their master knew that their previousstrokes had only culminated in that one tremendous blow and that all the nonresultant work had been necessary to prepare forthe stroke which achieved the purpose. O Christian people, do not expect always to see the full outgrowth of your labors!Go on, serve your God, testify of his truth, tell of Jesus' love, pray for sinners, live a godly life, serve God with mightand main, and if no harvest spring up to your joyous sickle, others shall follow you and reap what you have sown, and sinceGod will be glorified, it shall be enough for you. Let no amount of nonsuccess daunt you. Be uneasy about it, but do not bediscouraged; let not even this iron break the resolution of your soul; let your determination to honor Jesus be as thenorthern iron and the steel.
I might thus enlarge, but I have so many other things to speak of, that I shall pass on. The pith of what I want to say isthis: if any dear brother here, as a Christian, is put to very severe trials, he may depend upon it there is nothing thathappens to him but what is common to men, and that there is grace enough to be had to enable him to bear up under all. Thereis no need for any one soldier of God to turn his back in the day of battle. It is not right that any oneof us should consider himself doomed to be defeated. The Holy Spirit giveth power to the weak, and lifts the common warriorsinto the ranks of the mightiest. Fulness of grace is provided for us in Christ Jesus, and if we draw from it by faith we shallnot need to fail. Let us not be slow to arm ourselves with the divine might. Let us ask the Captain of our salvation to makeus as tough in the day of battle as the northern iron was beneath the blow of the common iron; that having done andsuffered all, we may still stand, and none may be able to rob us of our crown.
II. But we shall now make a second use of this same proverb. It is applicable to the cause of God in the world-to THE CHURCH.I shall speak but little upon this, for time would fail me. What power, however like to iron, shall suffice to break the kingdomof Jesus, which is comparable to steel? We every now and then hear the babyish talk of persons who say that the gospel willdie out in England-that Romanism will return in all its darkness, gospel light will beextinguished, and the candle which Latimer helped to light will be blown out. Atrocious nonsense, if not partial blasphemy.If this thing were of men it would come to nought; but if it be of God, who shall overthrow it? It has sometimes happenedthat fear has been the father of the thing it feared: let it not be so in this case; let us not court defeat by anticipatingit. As surely as the Lord liveth the end of the Romish Anti-Christ will come, and the long-expected angel shall cry with aloudvoice, "Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit,and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird." "Rejoice over her, thou heaven, and ye holy apostles and prophets; for Godhath avenged you on her." Revelation 18:2, 20. Other desponding prophets foretell that infidelity will so spread through all the churches and the fabric of society, thatat last we shall see this country without a gospel ministry, and perhaps, throughthe spread of revolutionary principles, bereft of all respect for law and order. We are to go down by way of Paris tothe foulness of Sodom, and thence into Pandemonium. Brethren, let those who will believe these evil tidings, I am not greatlymoved thereby; for there are eternal principles and immutable decrees which uphold my joyful hopes. Consider for a momentwhat is involved in these gloomy forebodings. Then the gates of hell are to prevail against the church, are they? Then Christis to be defeated by anti-Christ, is he? Then the pleasure of the Lord is not to prosper in his hand? Who said that? Who but a lying spirit that would lay low the faith and confidence of the people ofGod? It is no more possible for the truth of God and the church of God to be defeated, than for God himself to be overcomein conflict. Lo! Jehovah girds his church like a buckler on his arm: this is his battle-axe; this his weapons of war; andif you can wrench from his hand the weapons ofhis choice, then may you lift up the shout of triumph over the Eternal himself. But it never can be, for who shall standagainst the Lord and prosper? My brethren, we may well fear the crafty machinations of the church of Rome, for all the subtletyof the old serpent is within her; but with the wisdom of God to meet it, there can be no alarm. He taketh the wise in theirown craftiness: there is no device nor counsel against the Lord. We may well be dismayed at the insidious attacks ofscepticism; but while there remains a Holy Ghost to create and sustain faith in the world, we need not fear that the faithfulwill utterly cease out of the land. The thousands will still be reserved whose knees have never bowed to Baal. Infidelityand Socinianism have ready tongues, but every tongue that rises against the church in judgment she will condemn. The forgesof hell are busy in fashioning new weapons with which to assail us, but the Lord will break their bows and cut their spearsinsunder. They may and will defeat the dogmas of superstition, but the truths of revelation and the people who believe themthey can never overthrow. The iron will never break the northern iron and the steel. The church can bear the blows of Ritualismand Infidelity, and survive them all, and be the better for them too. See what the cause of Christ is. It is truth: thereinis victory. Who knows not that the truth must prevail? There is in the church of God, moreover, life, and life is a thingyoucannot overcome. A dead thing may be cut in pieces, and strewn to the winds of heaven; but the life in Christ's churchis that which has defied and overcome Satan a thousand times already. In the dark ages the enemy thought he had destroyedthe church, but life came into the monk in his cell, and Luther shook the world. The church in England fell into a deadlyslumber in the days of Whitfield and Wesley; but she was not dead, and therefore a time of awakening came. The flame burnedlow but theheavenly fire still lingered among the ashes, and only needed the Holy Spirit to blow upon it, and cause a hallowed conflagration.Six young men in Oxford were found guilty of meeting to pray: their offense was contagious, and soon there sprang up hundredsglorying in the same blessed crime. Earnest servants of the living God were forthcoming and no man knew whence they came;like the buds and blossoms which come forth at the bidding of spring, a people made willing in the day of God's powercame forward at once. Seeing that there is life in the church of God, you can never calculate what will happen withinits bounds to-morrow, for life is an unaccountable thing, and scorns the laws which bind the formal and inanimate. The statuesin St. Paul's Cathedral stand fixed on their pedestals, and the renowned dead in Westminster Abbey never raise a riot; butwho can tell what the living may next conceive or attempt? Men have said: "We will put down the troublesome religion of thesegospellers. Build prisons enough, forge chains enough, make racks enough, concoct tortures infernal enough, slay enoughvictims, and stamp out the plague." But their designs have never been accomplished. They hatched the cockatrice's egg, butthat which came of it died. They burnt the gospel out in Spain, did they not? And in the Low Countries they erased the memorythereof. How is it now? Has not Spain achieved her liberty at a blow? Is not also Belgium free to the preacher of the word?Noteven Italy or Rome itself is safe against the obnoxious heretic. Everywhere the gospel penetrates. Even the earth helpsthe woman, and swallows up the flood which the dragon casts out of his mouth to drown the man child: political rulers restrainthe violence of those who otherwise would slay the saints in one general massacre. It shall be so, right on through all theages till Christ comes-the iron shall not break the northern iron and the steel. Glory be to God, we have confidence inthis, and in the name of God we set up our banner. This, too, is a pleasing theme; but we must leave it and pass on toanother.
III. We may apply the principle to a very different matter indeed-THE SELF-RIGHTEOUS EFFORTS WHICH MEN MAKE FOR THEIR OWNSALVATION. We may remind them that the iron will never break the northern iron and the steel. The bonds of guilt are not tobe snapped by a merely human power. Here is a man with the fetters of his transgressions about him, but "he will get themoff," he says: prayer shall be his file; tears shall be the aquafortis to dissolve the metal, and his ownresolutions shall, like a hammer, dash the links in fragments. But it cannot be: the iron shall never break this northerniron and the steel. Habits of sin yield not to raspings of the unregenerate resolves. You are condemned, and only Christ theSon of God can set you free from the fetters which hold you in the condenmed cell. All your efforts apart from Jesus are utterlyuseless. He must bring liberty-you cannot emancipate yourselves. You say that you will break off the chains of evilhabit. There are some you can break off, but can you alter your nature? "Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopardhis spots?" That were an easy task compared with a man renewing his own heart. The imaginations of the thoughts of your heartare evil, only evil, and that continually, and do what you will they will remain so. The dead cannot give themselves life:it needs superior power to hew off the fetters which hold you prisoner in the sepulcher of your natural death. Your iron cannever break the northern iron and the steel which bind you to the slavery of hell. Do you think to force your way to heavenby ceremony? Do you imagine that baptism can wash away your sin, that confirmation can convey to you grace, that outward ceremoniesof man's devising, or of God's instituting can deliver you from wrath? Believe no such thing; there is no potency in all theseto deliver you from the bonds which hold you. The iron cannot break the northern iron and the steel. Come, sinner,with thy fetters, and day thy Christ here at the cross-foot, where Christ can break the iron at once. Come, bring thyself,chained as thou art, to him, or if thou canst not stir an inch, cry out to him! Ask him to deliver thee! He can do it. Trustin him, for trust in his precious blood and reliance upon his perfect sacrifice will make thee a free man in a moment, neverto be a bondslave again. But, oh, let not thy puny strength be wasted on so futile an effort as that which aims atself-salvation; how shall weakness achieve the labor of omnipotence, or death accomplish the sublimes miracle of the Immortal?Remember the work of salvation think how great it is, how worthy of a God; and then cease utterly from all self-reliance,for it is madness and blasphemy. Where were the need of the Holy Ghost, if you could regenerate yourself? Where would therebe room for a display of the power of sovereign grace, if man's will and effort could accomplish all? But I leave that topic,also, and pass on to another consideration.
IV. This same text is applicable to the case of any persons who are making SELF-RELIANT EFFORTS FOR THE GOOD OF OTHERS. Howpainfully are we made to feel, my brethren, after every series of our special services at this Tabernacle, that we of ourselvescan do nothing! How are we driven to the conclusion that it is not by might nor by power, but by the Spirit of God, and bythe Spirit of God alone! Man's heart is very hard; it is like the northern iron and the steel. Ourpreaching-we try to make it forcible, but how powerless is it of itself! The preacher seeks goodly words and illustrations;he brings forth the law of God, he gives forth threatenings in God's name; he reasons concerning judgment to come, and flinchesnot from declaring the eternal punishment of sin; he preaches the love of God, and the infinite mercy of Christ Jesus, andhe blends all this with an affection which longs for conversion, and he prays for God's blessing; but in many many heartsthere is no change, the northern iron and the steel remain unmovable. We call spirits from the vasty deep of their lostestate, but they come not at our bidding. We plead with sinners to be reconciled to God, and we beseech them as though Godhimself besought them by us; but they remain unreconciled; they are even the more obdurate in iniquity. The cries and tearsof a Whitfield would not avail. Though all the apostles reasoned with them they would turn to them a deaf ear. Herein thebestadapted means cannot break the northern iron and the steel. With some of you an instrumentality has been used which oughtto have been more prolific of results. A mother's tears, to your knowledge, have been shed for you. How affectionately hasshe spoken to you of the Savior, whom she loves: but powerful as your mother's pleadings would be on any other point, youreject them in the matter of your soul. How would it make you gray-headed man, your father, rejoice if he might see you saved!Inother matters this also would have weight with you, but it has none in this. You have had the gospel, too, some of you,put to you very, very tenderly by those whom you love best, but you are unsaved still. There could be no better means thanhuman love sanctified and strengthened by indwelling grace; it has been strong as iron, and would have broken any ordinaryheart, but it has not crushed yours, for it is hard as the northern iron and the steel. Ay, and you have been sick; you havebeenstretched upon the bed with fever, within a hair's breadth of hell; or you have been at sea, and escaped as with the skinof your teeth from shipwreck; but even the judgments of God have not aroused you. The iron has not broken the northern ironand the steel. This month, to some of you, there have been addresses delivered pointedly, plaintively, which should have moveda rock. I have been present at some of the meetings, when I have heard certain of our brethren speak in a way that made meinwardly say, "Surely these careless ones will yield to that." There has been much sighing and crying for your souls;and you have been spoken with personally, many of you; a kind hand has been put upon your wrist, and with tearful eye, brotherand sister have looked into your face, and told you of your danger and of your remedy. Oh I if this does not save you, whatwill? "What shall I do unto thee?" "O Ephraim, what shall I do unto thee?" What other instrumentality can be employed? Theironwill not break the northern iron and the steel. Children of God, you are driven to this, that here is a case in whichyou are powerless. You might as well reverse the wind, or move a star, or create a world, as soften these hardened hearts.What are you then to do? Certainly, you are to continue the effort; nothing must tempt you to relinquish it, or even to relaxyour zeal. If you cannot break the heart, truly it is no business of yours to do so; commit that work to him who is fullyequal tothe miracle, keep to your work, and fear not that the Lord will work with you. God bids you continue prayer, warning instruction,and invitation. If you knew that every soul you preached to or talked with would be lost, it were no less your duty to preachthe gospel; for the duty to tell out the gospel is not influenced by our success, but is based upon the commission of Christ:"Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature." It is not Ezekiel's duty to make the dry boneslive; but whether they live or not, it is his duty to prophesy upon them. Noah was none the less a preacher of righteousnessbecause none, save his own family, listened to his appeals and sought shelter with him in the ark. Go on with your work; butlet a sense of your personal inability make you fall back upon your God. Let it keep you from one self-reliant prayer or word,much more from one self-confident sermon or address. Every time we try to do good in our own strength, the effort bearsthe certainty of defeat in its own bowels. You shoot pointless darts; you wield a blunted sword when you go to work forGod without God. It is only when we go in God's power that we can save souls. "Except the Lord build the house, they laborin vain that build it: except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain." Lo, spiritual children are a heritageof the Lord, and the fruit of our soul's womb is his reward. Feel your weakness, my brethren, and then you shall know yourstrength. Go to the sinner in God's strength, and then shall you see the divine operation; but certainly not till then.What a blessing it has been to some of us at times to be made to lie very low in the dust, and see what unworthy creatureswe are! I have often noticed that when God intends to give a great blessing upon my ministry, and to let me know it, he usuallymakes me feel as if I had rather die than dive, because I feel myself so utterly unworthy to preach his word, and am madetobemoan my wretched unfitness to be used at all by my gracious Master. Let the stone lie in the brook, and let it be rounded,and made smooth by trituration of the water-it will do nothing of itself; but when it has been worn away enough by the brook,and David slings it, and smites the giant's brow, the stone cannot say, "I slew the giant by my own force;" but all men willgive glory to the champion who hurled it at the giant's forehead. Yes, God will have the glory, and he will take means toprevent us from usurping it. He will make us feel that the iron cannot break the northern iron and the steel, and thenhe will send us forth to victory. Truly my inmost heart confesses that if one heart has been won for my Lord Jesus by me,I am less than nothing in it, and he is all in all. My soul dares not touch the glory, but loathes every thought of self-praise.He hath done it, and to him be everlasting songs.
V. But now I must close-time warns me to do so-by remarking that this text has A VERY SOLEMN APPLICATION TO ALL THOSE WHOARE REBELS AGAINST GOD. Men sometimes think themselves of very great consequence. I spoke with one some years ago who hadprofessed to be a Christian, who addressed me very indignantly after some little argument, and said that ere long he intendedto produce a pamphlet which would extinguish Christianity. I remember making the remark, that I daredto say that the world would hear as much about it as when a fly fell into a pail of water and was drowned, and not muchmore. And then he was more indignant still; but I told him I had seen many a moth dash against my gas-burner in the evening,but I had never seen the light put out, though I had seen the wretched insect fall with singed wings upon my table, to sufferfor its fatal folly; and I feared that such a fate would happen to him. So rest assured it will be to you, O blasphemer ofGod,or hater of his Christ. Fight against God, would you? Measure your adversary, I charge you. The wax is about to wrestlewith the flame: the tow is about to contend with the fire. It is too unequal a warfare. If you are wise, you will select anotheradversary, and not attempt to go to war with the omnipotent King, with such a puny force as yours. "Hast thou an arm likeGod? or canst thou thunder with a voice like him?" You may be like iron: go and break the potsherds of the earth; they arefairgame for you; but do not contend against the northern iron and the steel, for these will break you. You will not be ableto deprive Christ of a single atom of his glory. You may blaspheme, but even that shall, somehow or other by a holy alchemy,be turned to his glory. You cannot thwart his decrees. The great wheels of his providence grind on, and woe to him who throwshimself in their track; they will surely grind him to powder. The huge Matterhorn lilts its colossal head above the clouds.Whowill may speak against it; but it bows not its giant form; and no matter what of snow and sleet may dash against its ramparts,there it stands, still the same; emblem herein of the great throne of the Eternal, firm and immutable, though all the universestorm at its foot. To resist God is to strike with naked feet against a goad. "It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks."You will hurt yourself; you cannot injure him, nor change his purposes by so much as the turning of a hair. God willhave his way: None shall resist his will. Everlasting and eternal are his decrees; and fast and fixed they ever must remain,though all earth and hell should unite in one great conspiracy. He thrusts a bit into the tempest's mouth, and rides uponthe wings of the wind. Confusion there is none to him. Adversaries, what are they? They are utterly consumed as the stubble.But take ye heed that God come not out against you, ye who are rebels; for if he once put on the war-harness and fight againstyou, woe unto you! Have you not heard? Hath no one told you of the arrows of his quiver? They are sharp, heart-piercing,infallible. Sickness can shake you till every nerve shall become a road for pain to carry on its dreadful traffic. Povertycan come upon you, and want, like an armed man. Death shall strike down ail your lovers, and your acquaintances shall sinkinto the abyss. Let God but come forth in judgment against a man, or a people, and what can he not do? Look at the nationacross theChannel, and see how God hath dealt with it. Turn to any other nation against whom his fiat has gone forth, and read thestory of its overthrow. What can emperors do, and what their imperial guards, and what their novel instruments of war, andwhat their death-dealing machines, that were to mow down thousands in an hour? He that sitteth in the heavens doth laugh;the Lord doth have them in derision. He hath broken the bow and cut the spear in sunder; he hath burned the chariot in thefire.Contend no more against the Almighty: put back thy sword into the scabbard, and submit thyself to the inevitable; forremember, ere long, O rebel against God, he will deal with thee in another fashion than he doth now. Let that breath whichis in thy nostrils go forth from thee, and where art thou then? I will quote one passage of Scripture and leave it to yourthoughts. "Beware, ye that forget God"-that is, the very mildest form of rebellion-"Beware, ye that forget God, lest I tearyou in pieces, and there be none to deliver." O may you never know what that means! Cast down your weapons. Come now,and ask for reconciliation. The ambassador of peace invites you. I point you no longer to his burning throne, but to yondercross. See there God in human flesh-bleeding, suffering, dying. Those wounds are fountains of mercy. Look to them, and youshall live. Wrath is appeased by the death of Jesus. Fury is no more in Jehovah! Trust in Jesus, the crucified, and yourtransgression shall be forgiven you. That precious blood shall make reconciliation: there shall be peace between you andGod; but O resist no longer, for the iron cannot break the northern iron and the steel.
The Lord bless you for Jesus' sake. Amen.
PORTION OF SCRIPTURE READ BEFORE SERMON-Isaiah 40. 9-31.
CLAPHAM, JUNE 5TH.
TO MY FRIENDS EVERYWHERE,
I HAVE now endured ten silent Sabbaths, and as I know that many of you are anxious to have accurate information as to my stateof health, and as I have now something cheerful to communicate, I feel bound to add the present note to this week's sermon.The pain of my disease, which has been intense, has now ceased for a week or more. I have had a succession of good nights,in which sweet sleep has so refreshed me that I felt each morning to be far in advance of the previousday. I am now very weak-weak as a little child-but by the same mercy which allayed the pain strength will be restored,and I shall have the pleasure of being again at my delightful labor. Please pray for me that I may be speedily and lastinglyrestored to health, if it be the Lord's will. Ask also that the furnace heat which I have suffered may produce its full effectupon me in my own soul and in my ministry. My heart's inmost desire, as the Lord knoweth, is the salvation of sinners andthe building up of his people in their most holy faith, to the glory of the Lord Jesus: hence it has been very grievousto me to have been debarred my pulpit and shut out from other means of usefulness. Nevertheless, no work has flagged at theTabernacle because of my illness; pecuniary help has been furnished just when it was needed, and spiritual help has been givenby the Lord of Hosts. We desire to accomplish more and to receive more blessing when our health is restored to us. SurelytheMaster has some great design to be answered by laying his servants aside: we trust it will prove to be so. Let our prayersbe more fervent, our zeal more ardent and our labors for the spread of the truth more abundant, and "God will bless us, andall the ends of the earth shall fear him."
I have one great favor to ask of all readers of the sermons, and that is, that they will try to spread them abroad, and increasethe number of regular subscribers. What has been good to you will be good for others if the Lord bless it. If you cannot preachyourself, you can distribute the word spoken by others.
I hope to be able to occupy the pulpit again by June 25th, if the Lord will; but all things are uncertain to us, especiallywhen one is slowly recovering from severe affliction.
Yours to serve till death,