Sermon 1217. Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth
A SERMON DELIVERED ON LORD'S-DAY EVENING, DECEMBER 26, 1875,
BY C. H. SPURGEON,
AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON.
"Rightly dividing the word of truth." 2 Timothy 2:15.
TIMOTHY was to divide rightly the Word of God. Every Christian minister must do this if he would make full proof of his ministryand if he would be clear of the blood of his hearers at the Last Great Day. Of the whole 20 years of my printed sermons, Ican honestly say that this has been my aim-rightly to divide the Word of Truth. Wherein I have succeeded, I magnify the nameof the Lord. In which I have failed I lament my faultiness. And now once more we will try, again, and may God the Holy Spirit,without whose power nothing can be done aright, help us rightly to divide the Word of Truth.
The expression is a very remarkable one because it bears so many phases of meaning. I do not think that any one of the figuresby which I shall illustrate it will be at all strained, for they have been drawn from the text by most eminent expositors,and may be fairly taken as honest comments, even when they might be challenged as correct interpretations of the text. "Rightlydividing the word of truth" is our authorized version, but we leave it for a little to consider other renderings. Timothywas neither to mutilate, nor twist, nor torture, nor break in pieces the Word of God, nor keep on the outside of it, as thosedo who never touch the soul of a text, but rightly to divide it, as one taught of God to teach others.
I. The Vulgate version translates it-and with a considerable degree of accuracy-"Rightly HANDLING the word of truth." Whatis the right way, then, to handle the Word of Truth? It is like a sword and it was not meant to be played with. That is notrightly to handle the Gospel. It must be used in earnest and pushed home. Are you converted, my Friends? Do you believe inJesus Christ? Are you saved, or not? Swords are meant to cut and hack, wound and kill-and the Word of God is for prickingmen in the heart and killing their sins. The Word of God is not committed to God's ministers to amuse men with its glitter,nor to charm them with the jewels in its hilt, but to conquer their souls for Jesus!
Remember, dear Hearers, if the preacher does not push you to this-that you shall be converted, or he will know the reasonwhy. If he does not drive you to this-that you shall either willfully reject, or cheerfully accept Christ-he has not yet knownhow rightly to handle the great "sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God." Now, then, where are you personally at thismoment? Are you unbelievers, upon whom the wrath of God abides, or are you Believers who may lay claim to that gracious Word,"Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that believes in Me has everlasting life"? Oh that the Lord would make His all-discerningWord go round this place and strike at every conscience and lay bare every heart with its mighty power!
He that rightly handles the Word of God will never use it to defend men in their sins, but to slay their sins! If there isa professing Christian here who is living in known sin, shame upon him! And if there is a non-Christian man who is livingin sin, let his conscience upbraid him! What will he do in that day when Christ comes to judge the hearts of men? Remember,the books shall be opened and every thought shall be read out before an assembled universe! I desire to handle the Word ofGod so that no man may ever find an excuse in my ministry for his living without Christ and living in sin, but may know clearlythat sin is a deadly evil and unbelief the sure destroyer of the soul! He has, indeed, been made to handle the word arightwho plunges it like a two-edged sword into the very heart of sin!
The Gospel ought never to be used for frightening sinners from Christ. I believe it is so handled sometimes. Sublime doctrinesare rolled like rocks in the sinner's way and dark experiences set up as a standard of horror which must be reached beforea man may believe in Jesus-but to rightly handle the Word of Life is to frighten men to Christ rather than from Him-yes, towoo them to Him by the sweet assurance that He will cast out none that come! That He asks no preparations of them, but ifthey come at once, as they are, He will assuredly receive them. Have I not handled the Word of Truth in this way hundredsof times in this house? Has it not been a great magnet attracting sinners? As a magnet has
two poles, and with one pole it repels, so, no doubt, the Truth of God repels the prejudiced, rebellious heart-and thus itis a savor of death unto death. But our object is so to handle it that the attractive pole may come into operation throughthe power of the Spirit of God-and men may be drawn to Christ.
Moreover, if we rightly handle the Word of God we shall not preach it so as to send Christians into a sleepy state. That iseasily done. We may preach the consolations of the Gospel till each professor feels "I am safe enough. There is no need towatch, no need to fight, no need for any exertion whatever! My battle is fought, my victory is won. I have only to fold myarms and go to sleep." No, no! This is not how we handle the Word of God, but our cry is, "Work out your own salvation withfear and trembling; for it is God which works in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure. Watch and pray that youenter not into temptation. Reckon not yourselves to have attained unto perfection, but forget the things that are behind,and reach forward to that which is before, looking unto Jesus."
This is rightly to handle the Word of God. And, oh, Beloved, there is one thing that I dread above all others-that I shouldever handle the Word of God so as to persuade some of you that you are saved when you are not. To collect a large number ofprofessors together is one thing. But to have a large number of true saints built together in Christ is quite another. Toget up a whirl of excitement and to have people influenced by that excitement so that they think, full surely, that they areconverted, has been done a great many times. But the bubble, has, by-and-by, vanished. The balloon has been filled until ithas burst. God save us from that! We want sure work-lasting work-a work of Divine Grace in the heart.
If you are not converted, do not pretend that you are. If you have not known what it is to be brought down to see your ownnothingness and then to be built up by the power of the Spirit upon Christ as the only foundation, O, remember that whateveris built upon the quicksand will fall with a crash in the hour of trial! Do not be satisfied with anything short of a deepfoundation, cut in the solid rock of the work of Jesus Christ. Ask for real vital godliness, for nothing else will serve yourturn at the Last Great Day. Now, this is rightly to handle the Word of God-to use it to push the Truth of God home upon menfor their present conversion, to use it for the striking down of their sins-to use it to draw men to Christ, to use it toarouse sinners and to use it to produce, not mere profession, but a real work of Grace in the hearts of men
May the Holy Spirit teach all the ministers of Christ after this fashion to handle the two-edged sword of the Spirit, whichis the Word of God.
II. But now, secondly, my text has another meaning. It has an idea in it which I can only express by a figure. "Rightly dividing,or STRAIGHT CUTTING. A plowman stands here with his plow and he plows right along from this end of the field to the other,making a straight furrow. And so Paul would have Timothy make a straight furrow right through the Word of Truth. I believethere is no preaching that God will ever accept but that which goes decidedly through the whole line of Truth from end toend, is always thorough, honest and downright. As the Truth of God is a straight line, so must our handling of the Truth bestraightforward and honest, without shifts or tricks.
There are two or three furrows which I have labored hard to plow. One is the furrow offree Grace. "Salvation is of the Lord"-Hebegins it, He carries it on, He completes it. Salvation is not of man, neither by man, but of Grace alone. Grace in election,Grace in redemption, Grace in effectual calling, Grace in final perseverance, Grace in conferring the perfection of Glory-itis all Grace from beginning to end! If we say, at any time, anything which is really contrary to this distinct testimony thatsalvation is of Grace, do not believe us! This furrow must be plowed fairly, plainly and beyond all mistake.
Sinner, you cannot be saved by any merit, penance, preparation, or feeling of your own! The Lord, alone, must save you asa work of gratis mercy, not because you deserve it, but because He wills to do it to magnify His abundant love. That is thestraight furrow of the Word. We endeavor always to make a straight furrow upon the matter of human depravity-to preach thatman is fallen, that every part and passion of his nature is perverted, that he has gone astray altogether, is sick from thecrown of his head to the sole of his feet-yes, is dead in trespasses and sins, and corrupt before God. "There is none thatdoes good, no, not one."
I have noticed some preachers plowing this furrow very crookedly, for they say, "There are still some very fine points aboutman and many good things in him which only need developing and educating." You may have read, in the history of Mr. Whitfield'stime, what a howl was made at him because he once said that man was half beast and half devil. I do
not think he ever got nearer the truth than when he said that-only I would beg the beast's pardon-for a beast would scarcelybecome so evil and vile as human nature becomes when it is left alone to fully develop itself! O pride of human nature, weplow right over you!
The hemlock stands in your field and must be cut up by the roots. Your weeds smile like fair flowers, but the plow must goright through them till all human beauty is shown to be a painted Jezebel, and all human glorying a bursting bubble. God iseverything, man is nothing! God in His Grace saves man, but man by his sin utterly ruins himself until God's Grace interposes.I like to plow a straight furrow here. Another straight furrow is that offaith. We are sent to tell men that he that believesand is baptized shall be saved, and our duty is to put it so. "Salvation is not of works"-works is not the furrow. Not ofprayers-that is not the furrow. Not of feelings-that is not the Gospel Arrow. Not of preparations and amendments and reforms-butby faith in Jesus Christ. He that believes on Him is not condemned.
As we begin the new life by faith, we must abide in it by faith. We are not to be saved by faith up to a certain point andthen to rely upon ourselves. Having begun in the Gospel we are not to be perfected by the Law. "The just shall live by faith."We live by faith at the wicket gate and we live by faith until we enter into our eternal rest. Believe!-that is the grandGospel precept and we trust we have never gone out of this furrow, but have tried to plow right across the Gospel field fromend to end, crying, "Look unto Me and be you saved, all you ends of the earth, for Jehovah is God, and beside Him there isnone else."
Another furrow which some do not much like to plow, but which must be distinctly marked if a man is an honest plowman forGod, is that of repentance. Sinner, you and your sins must part! You have been married long and you have had a merry timeof it, perhaps, but you must part. You and your sins must separate, or you and your God will never come together! You maynot keep one sin. They must all be given up! They must be brought out like the Canaanite kings from the cave and hanged upbefore the sun. Not one darling must be spared. You must forsake them, loathe them, abhor them and ask the Lord to overcomethem. Do you not know that the furrow of repentance runs right through the Christian's life? He sins, and as long as he sinshe repents of his sin. The child of God cannot love sin-he must loathe it as long as he sees any of it in existence!
There is the furrow of holiness, that is the next turn the plowman takes. "Without holiness no man shall see the Lord." Wehave preached salvation by Grace, but we do not preach salvation to those who still continue in sin. The children of God area holy people-washed, purged, sanctified and made zealous for good works. He who talks about faith, and has no works to provethat his faith is a living faith, lies to himself and lies before God. It is faith that saves us, not works-but the faiththat saves us always produces works. It renews the heart, changes the character, influences the motives and is the means inthe hand of God of making the man a new creature in Christ Jesus. No nonsense about it, Sirs- you may be baptized and re-baptized,you may attend to sacraments, or you may believe in an orthodox creed-but you will be damned if you live in sin.
You may become a deacon, or an elder, or a minister, if you dare, but there is no salvation for any man who still harborshis sins. "The wages of sin is death"-death to professors as well as to non-professors. If they hug their sins in secret,God will reveal those sins in public and condemn them according to the strict justice of His Law. These are the furrows wehave tried to plow-deep, sharp cut and straight. O, that God might plow them, Himself, in all your hearts, that you may know,experimentally, how the Truth of God is rightly divided!
III. There is a third meaning to the text. "Rightly dividing the word of truth" is, as some think, an expression taken fromthe priests dividing the sacrifices. When they had a lamb or a sheep, a ram or a bullock to offer, after they had killed it,it was cut in pieces, carefully and properly. And it requires no little skill to find out where the joints are, so as to cutup an animal discreetly. Now, the Word of Truth has to be taken to pieces wisely-it is not to be hacked or torn as by a wildbeast-but rightly divided.
There has to be DISCRIMINATION AND DISSECTION. It is a great part of a minister's duty to be able to dissect the Gospel-tolay one piece there, and another there, and preach with clearness, distinction and discrimination. Every Gospel minister mustdivide between the Covenant of Works and the Covenant of Grace. It is a very nice point, that, and many fail to discern itwell, but it must always be kept clear, or great mischief will be done. Confusion worse confounded follows upon confusingGrace and Law. There is the Covenant of Works-"This do, and you shall live," but its voice is
not that of the Covenant of Grace which says, "Hear and your soul shall live." "You shall, for I will"-that is the Covenantof Grace.
It is a covenant of pure promise unalloyed by terms and conditions. I have heard people put it thus-"Believers will be savedif, from this time forth, they are faithful to Grace given." That smells of the Covenant of Works! "God will love you"-saysanother-"if you-." Ah, the moment you get an "if" in it, it is the Covenant of Works and the Gospel has evaporated! Oil andwater will sooner mix than merit and Grace! When you find the Covenant of Works anywhere, what are you to do with it? Why,do what Abraham did and what Sarah demanded, "Cast out the bondwoman and her son, for the son of the bondwoman shall not beheir with my son, even with Isaac."
If you are a child of the Free-Grace promise, do not suffer the Hagar and Ishmael of legal bondage and carnal hope to livein your house. Out with them! You should have nothing to do with them. Let Law and Gospel keep their proper places. The Lawis master to bring us to Christ, but when we have come to Christ we are no longer under a schoolmaster. Let the Law principlego its way to work conviction in sinners and destroy their ill-grounded hopes, but you abide in Christ Jesus even as you havereceived Him. If you are to be saved by works then it is not of Grace, otherwise work is no more work. And if saved by Grace,then it is not of human merit, otherwise Grace is no more Grace. To be absolutely clear, here, is of the first importance,for on the rocks of legality many a soul has been cast away.
We need, also, to keep up a clear distinction between the efforts of nature and the work of Grace. It is commendable for mento do all they can to improve themselves, and everything by which people are made more sober, more honest, more frugal, bettercitizens, better husbands, better wives is a good thing. But that is nature and not Grace. Reformation is not regeneration."You must be born again," still stands for the good as well as for the bad. To be made a new creature in Christ Jesus is asnecessary for the moral as for the debauched, for when flesh has done its best, "that which is born of the flesh is flesh"-andmen must be born of the Spirit or they cannot understand spiritual things, or enter into Heaven.
I have always tried to keep up this distinction and I trust none of you will ever mistake the efforts of nature for the worksof Divine Grace. Do what you can for human reformation, for whatever things are honest and of good repute you are to foster,but, still, never put the most philanthropic plan, or the most elevating system in the place of the work of Sovereign Grace,for, if you do, you will do 10 times as much mischief as you can possibly do good. We must rightly divide the Word of Truth.
It is always well, too, for Christian men to be able to distinguish one Truth of God from another. Let the knife penetratebetween the joints of the work of Christ for us and the work of the Holy Spirit in us. Justification, by which the Righteousnessof Christ is imputed to us, is one blessing. Sanctification, by which we, ourselves, are made personally righteous, is anotherblessing. I have known some describe Sanctification as a sort of foundation, or at least a buttress for the work of Justification.Now, no man is justified because he is sanctified-he is justified because he believes in Him that justifies the ungodly. Sanctificationfollows Justification. It is the work of the Spirit of God in the soul of a Believer, who, first of all, was justified bybelieving in Jesus while as yet he was unsanctified. Give Jesus Christ all the glory for His great and perfect work and rememberthat you are perfect in Christ Jesus and accepted in the Beloved. But, at the same time, give glory to the Holy Spirit andremember that you are not yet perfect in holiness, but that the Spirit's work is to be carried on and will be carried on allthe days of your life.
One other point of rightly dividing should never be forgotten-we must always distinguish between the root and the fruit. Heis a very poor botanist who does not know a bulb from a bud-but I believe that there are some Londoners who do not know whichare roots and which are fruits, so little have they seen of anything growing! And I am sure there are some theologians whohardly know which is the cause and which is the effect in spiritual things. Putting the cart before the horse is a very absurdthing, but many do it. Hear how people will say-"If I could feel joy in the Lord I would believe." Yes, that is the cart beforethe horse, for joy is the result of faith, not the reason for it! "But I want to feel a great change of heart, and then Iwill believe." Just so-you wish to make the fruit the root. "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ," that is the root of the matter!Change of life and joy in the Lord will spring up as gracious fruits of faith and not otherwise. When will you discriminate?
Thus I have given you three versions of my text-rightly handling, straightly furrowing, and wisely discriminating.
IV. The next interpretation of the Apostle's expression is practically CUTTING OUT the Word for holy uses. This is the sensegiven by Chrysostom. I will show you what I mean here. Suppose I have a skin of leather before me and I want to
make a saddle. I take a knife and I begin cutting out the shape. I do not want those parts which are dropping off on the rightand round this corner-they are very good leather-but I cannot, just now, make use of them. I have to cut out my saddle andI make that my one concern.
Or, suppose I have to make a pair of reins out of the leather. I must take my knife round and work away with one object, keepingclearly before me what I am aiming at. The preacher, to be successful, must also have his wits about him. And when he hasthe Bible before him he must use those portions which will have a bearing upon his grand aim. He must make use of the materiallaid ready to his hand in the Bible. Every portion of the Word of God is very blessed and exceedingly profitable, but it maynot happen to be connected with the preacher's immediate subject and, therefore, he leaves it to be considered another time.And, though some will upbraid him for it, he is much too sensible to feel bound to preach all the doctrines of the Bible ineach sermon!
He wants to have souls saved and Christians quickened and, therefore, he does not forever pour out the vials and blow thetrumpets of prophecy. Some hearers are crazy after the mysteries of the future. Well, there are two or three Brothers in Londonwho are always trumpeting and vialing. Go and hear them if you want to! I have something else to do. I confess I am not sentto decipher the Apocalyptic symbols-my errand is humbler but equally as useful-I am sent to bring souls to Jesus Christ!
There are preachers who are always dealing with the deep things, the very deep things. For them the coral caves of mysteryand the far descending shafts of metaphysics have a mighty charm. I have no quarrel with their tastes, but I do not thinkthe Word of God was given us to be a riddle book. To me the plain Gospel is the part which I cut out and rightly cut out ofthe Word of God. There is a soul that needs to know how to find peace with God. Some other Brother can tell him where predestinationfalls in with free agency, I do not pretend to know. But I do know that faith in Jesus brings peace to the heart. My businessis to bring forth that which will save souls, build up saints and set Christians to work for Christ. I leave the mysteries,not because I despise them, but because the times demand that we, first, and above all other things, seek the souls of men!
Some Truths of God press to be heard. They must be heard now, or men will be lost. The other Truths they can hear tomorrow,or by-and-by, but now escape from Hell and fitness for Heaven are their immediate business! Fancy the angels sitting downwith Lot and his daughters, inside Sodom, and discussing predestination with them, or explaining the limits of free agency!No, no! They cry, "Come along," and they take them by the arm and lead them out, saying, "Flee, flee, flee, for fire is comingdown from Heaven and this city is to be destroyed!"
This is what the preacher has to do-leaving certain parts of the Truth of God for other times, he is now rightly dividingthe Word of Truth when he brings out that which is of pressing importance. In the Bible there are some things that are essential,without which a man cannot be saved at all. There are other things which are important, but still, men are saved, notwithstandingtheir ignorance of those things. Is it not clear that the essentials must have prominence? Every Truth ought to be preachedin its turn and place, but we must never give the first place to a second Truth, or push that to the front which was meantto be in the background of the picture.
"We preach Christ," said the Apostle, "Christ and Him crucified." And I believe that if the preacher is rightly to dividethe Word, he will say to the sinner, "Sinner, Christ died, Christ rose again, Christ intercedes. Look to Him. As for the difficultquestions and nice points, leave them for awhile. You shall discuss them by-and-by, so far as they are profitable to you,but just now, believing in the Lord Jesus Christ is the main matter." The preacher must, thus, separate the vital from thesecondary, the practical from the speculative and the pressing and immediate from that which may be lawfully delayed. Andin that sense he will rightly divide the Word of Truth.
V. I have given you four meanings. Now I will give you another, leaving out some I might have mentioned. One thing the preacherhas to do is to ALLOT TO EACH ONE HIS PORTION. And here the figure changes. According to Calvin, the intention of the Spirit,here, is to represent one who is the steward of the house and has to apportion food to the different members of the family.He has rightly to divide the loaves so as not to give the little children and the babes all the crust. He has to rightly supplyeach one's necessities, not giving the strong men milk, nor the babes hard diet- not casting the children's bread to the dogs,nor giving the swine's husks to the children-but placing before each his own portion.
Let me try and do it. Child of God, your portion is the whole Word of God. Every promise in it is yours! Take it. Feed onit. Christ is yours. God is yours. The Holy Spirit is yours. This world is yours and worlds to come. Time is yours. Eternityis yours. Life is yours. Death is yours. Everlasting Glory is yours! There is your portion! It is very sweet to give you yourroyal meat. The Lord gives you a good appetite. Feed on it! Feed on it! Sinner, you who believe not in Jesus, none of thisis yours! While you remain as you are, only the threats are yours. If you refuse to believe in Jesus, neither this life northe next is yours, nor time, nor eternity. You have nothing good.
O, how dreadful is your portion now, for the wrath of God abides on you! O, that you were wise, that your character mightbe changed, for until it is, we dare not flatter you. There is not a promise for you, nor a single approving sentence! Youget your food to eat and your raiment to put on, but even that is given to you by the abounding long-suffering of God andit may become a curse to you unless you repent. I am sorry to bring you such a portion but I must be honest with you. Thatis all that I can give you. God has said it-it is an awful sentence-"I will curse their blessings." O, Sinner, the curse ofthe Lord is in the house of the wicked!
We have also to divide a portion to the mourners, and O, how sweet a task that is, to say to those that mourn in Zion thatthe Lord will give them beauty for ashes. "Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted." The Lord will restorepeace unto His mourners! Fear not, neither be dismayed, for the Lord will help you! But when we have given the mourners theirsweet meats we have to turn round upon the hypocrites and say to them, "You may hang your heads like bulrushes. You may rendyour garments and pretend to fast, but the Lord, who knows your heart, will suddenly come and unmask you! And if you are notsincere before Him-if you are weighed in the balances and found wanting-He will deal out the gall of bitterness to you forever!For his mourners there is mercy, but for the deceiver and the hypocrite there is judgment without mercy."
It is a very pleasant thing, moreover, to deal out a portion to the seeker-when we say, "He that seeks finds, and to him thatknocks it shall be opened." "Come unto Me all you that labor and are heavy laden," says Christ, "for I will give you rest."Take your portion and be glad! We have to turn round and say to others who think they are seekers, but who are delaying, "Howlong will you wait between two opinions?" How is it that you continually hesitate and refuse to believe in Jesus, and stayin the condition of unbelief, when the Gospel mandate is, "Believe-believe now and live"? So we have to give to one comfort,to another counsel-to one reproof, to another encouragement. We have to give to one the invitation-to another the warning.This is to rightly divide the Word of Truth.
Yes, and sometimes God enables His servants to give the Word very remarkably to some men. I believe that if I were to tella few of the things which have happened to me during the last 21 years they would not be believed. Or if I were to tell youof passages of history which are known to me that have occurred in this Tabernacle to people who have come here and to whomI have spoken the exact Word, not knowing them for a moment, the facts would sound like fictions. I will give you one instance.Some of you may remember my preaching from the text, "What if your father answers you roughly?" There came into the vestry,after that sermon, a venerable Christian gentleman, bringing with him a young foreigner whom he was anxious to satisfy uponone point.
He said, "Sir, I want you kindly to answer this question-have you seen me, concerning this young gentlemen?" "No, Sir, certainlynot," I said. And assuredly, though I knew the gentleman who addressed me, he had never spoken to me about the foreign strangerwhose very existence was, up to that moment, unknown to me. Said he, "This young gentleman is almost persuaded to be a Christian.His father is of quite another faith and worships other gods. And our young friend knows that if he becomes a Christian hewill lose his father's love. I said to him, when he conversed with me, come down and hear Mr. Spurgeon this morning. "Herehe came, and your text was, 'What if your father answers you roughly?' Now, have you ever heard a word from me about thisyoung gentleman?" "No, never," I said. "Well," said the young man, "it is the most extraordinary thing I ever heard in mylife." I could only say, "I trust it is the voice of God to your soul. God knows how to guide His servants to utter the Wordmost fitted to bless men."
Some time ago a town missionary had, in his district, a man who never would suffer any Christian person to come into his house.The missionary was warned by many that he would get a broken head if he ventured on a visit. He therefore kept from the housethough it troubled his conscience to pass it by. He made a matter of prayer of it, and one morning he boldly ventured intothe lion's den and the man said, "What have you come here for?" "Well, Sir," he said, "I
have been conversing with people in all the houses along here, but I have passed you by because I heard you objected to it.But somehow I thought it looked cowardly to avoid you and therefore I have called."
"Come in," the man said. "Sit down, sit down. Now, you are going to talk to me about the Bible. Perhaps you do not know muchabout it yourself. I am going to ask you a question and if you can answer me you shall come again. If you do not answer it,I will bundle you downstairs. Now," he said, "do you understand me?" "Yes," said the other, "I do understand you." "Well,then," he said, "this is the question-where do you find the word, 'girl,' in the Bible, and how many times do you find it?"The city missionary said, "The word, 'girl,' occurs only once in the Bible, and that is in the Book of Joel, the third chapterand the third verse. 'They sold a girl for wine.'"
"You are right," he said, "but I would not have believed you knew it, or else I would have asked you some other question.You may come again." "But," said the missionary, "I should like you to know how I came to know it. This very morning I waspraying for direction from God and when I was reading my morning chapter I came upon this passage, 'And they sold a girl forwine,' and I took down my Concordance to see whether the word, 'girl,' was to be found anywhere else. I found that the word,'girls,' occurs in the passage, 'There shall be girls and boys playing in the streets of Jerusalem,' but the word did notoccur as, 'girl,' anywhere but in Joel."
The result, however, of that story, however odd it seems, was that the missionary was permitted to call and the man took aninterest in his visits. And the whole family were the better-the man and his wife, and one of his children becoming membersof a Christian Church some time afterwards. What an extraordinary thing it seems, yet, I can assure you that such extraordinarythings are as commonplaces in my experience. God does help His servants rightly to divide the Word, that is to say, to allota special portion to each special case, so that it comes upon the man as if everything about him was known.
Before I came to London, a man met me one Sunday, in a dreadful state of rage. He vowed he would horsewhip me for bullyinghim from the pulpit. What had I said, I asked. "What have you said? You looked me in the face and said, 'What more can Goddo for you? Shall He give you a good wife? You have had one-you have killed her by bad treatment! You have just got anotherand you are likely to do the same by her.'" "Well," I said, "did you kill your first wife by your bad treatment?" "They sayso, but I was married on Saturday," said he. "Did you not know it?" "No, I did not, I assure you," I replied. "I have no knowledgewhatever of your family matters, and I am sure I wish you joy with your new wife." He cooled down a great deal but I believethat I had struck the nail on the head that time-that he had killed his wife with his unkindness and he scarcely liked tobring his new wife to the place of worship to be told of it.
The cap fit him. And if any cap fits you, I pray you wear it, for so far from shrinking from being personal, I do assure youI try to be as personal as I can, for I long to see the Word go home to every man's conscience, and convict him and make himtremble before God and confess his sin and forsake it!
VI. You must give me a few more minutes while I take the last point, which is this. Rightly to divide the Word of
Truth means to TELL EACH MAN WHAT HIS LOT AND HERITAGE WILL BE IN ETERNITY. Just as when Canaan was conquered, it was dividedby lot among the tribes, so the preacher has to tell of Canaan, that happy land, but he has to also tell of the land of darknessand of death-shade, and to let each man know where his last abode will be. You know it. You who come here know it.
Need I repeat a story that we have gone over and over a thousand times? As many as believe in Jesus and are renewed in heart,and are kept by the Grace of God through faith unto salvation, shall inherit eternal life. But as for those who believe noton God, who reject His Son, who abide in their sins-there remains nothing for them but "a fearful looking for of judgmentand of fiery indignation." "The wicked shall be turned into Hell with all the nations that forget God." "These shall go awayinto everlasting punishment; but the righteous into life eternal." "Beware," says God-"Beware, you that forget God, lest Itear you in pieces and there be none to deliver." O, the wrath to come! The wrath to come!
Believer, there is your portion-in the blessed land! Sinner, unless you repent, there is your portion-in the land of darknessand of weeping-of wailing and of gnashing of teeth! I take a religious newspaper from America and the last copy I had of itbore on it these words at the end, in good large type, printed in a practical, business-like, American way-"If you do notwant to have this paper, discontinue it NOW. If you wish to have it for the year 1876, send your subscription NOW. If youhave any complaint against it, send your complaint NOW. If you have removed, send a notice of your change of residence NOW."
There was a big "NOW" at the end of every sentence! As I read it, I thought, well, that is right. That is common sense. Andit struck me that I would say to you on this last Sunday night of the year, if you wish to forsake your sins, forsake themNOW. If you would have mercy from God through Jesus Christ, believe on Him NOW. What fitter time than before the dying yearis gone-NOW, NOW, NOW? In that very paper I read a story concerning Messrs. Moody and Sankey on the same point.
The story is that while they were preaching in Edinburgh, there was a man sitting opposite to them who was very deeply interested,and was drinking it all in. There was a pause in the service and the man went out with his friend, but when he reached thedoor he stopped and his friend said, "Come away, Jamie." "No," he said, "I will go back. I came here to get good to my souland I have not taken it all in yet, I must go back again." He went back, and sat in his old place and listened again. TheLord blessed him. He found Christ and so found salvation. Being a miner, he went down the pit the next day, to his work, anda mass of rock fell on him. He was taken out, but he could not recover. He said to the man who was helping him out, "O, Andrew,I am so glad it was all settled last night. Oh, Mon," said he, "it was all settled last night."
Now, I hope those people who were killed in the railway accident on Christmas Eve could say-"It was all settled the nightbefore." What a blessed thing it will be for you, if you should meet with an accident tomorrow, to say, "Blessed be God, itwas all settled last night. I gave any heart to Jesus, I yielded myself to His Divine Love and Mercy, and I am saved." O HolySpirit, grant it may be so, and You shall have the praise. Amen and amen!
PORTION OF SCRIPTURE READ BEFORE SERMON-2 Timothy 2. HYMNS FROM "OUR OWN HYMN BOOK"-1,041, 960.