Sermon 1636. Chastened Happiness
DELIVERED ON LORD'S-DAY MORNING, DECEMBER. 25, 1881,
BY C. H. SPURGEON,
AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON.
"They shall fear and tremble for all the goodness and for all the prosperity that I procure unto it." Jeremiah 33:9.
GOD'S ancient people sadly provoked Him with their idolatries from age to age. He was longsuffering to them to the last degree,but at length He grew weary of them and, according to His own words, "He abhorred His own inheritance." He caused them tobe carried away into captivity and their land became a desert, or the heritage of strangers. Israel became a scattered peopleon the brink of national extinction, for their iniquities had hidden the face of the Lord from them. Yet the Lord, even Jehovah,had entered into a Covenant concerning them with Abraham, His friend, which Covenant He had afterwards renewed with His servantDavid.
This latter Covenant the Lord is said, by the Prophet Jeremiah, to remember even when Jerusalem is desolate. We read in the20th verse and onward these words-"Thus says the Lord: If you can break My Covenant of the day, and My Covenant of the night,and that there should not be day and night in their season; then may also My Covenant be broken with David, My servant, thathe should not have a son to reign upon his throne." Even in Israel's worst days, when her representative man was the weepingProphet Jeremiah, and when her sorrows were greater than even he could express, yet the Lord revealed His love and promisedthat blessed days should dawn for the seed of Abraham!
These days have not yet come, but they shall surely arrive, for God has not cast away His people whom He did foreknow. Thereis yet a history for Israel-her sun is clouded, but it has not set. As surely as stands the Covenant with day and night, sosurely shall the chosen people return from their captivity and possess the land which the Lord has given them. In those daysthe Lord will build them as at the first and cleanse them from all their iniquities. Then they shall not be proud or arrogant,for His goodness shall startle and astound them and they shall be amazed, even, unto trembling when they see what great thingsJehovah has done for them! The memory of their great national offenses and especially of their long rejection of the Messiahshall cause them to wear their high dignity without pride-they shall be subdued by love to a child-like fear of again offending-theyshall tremble as they see the Lord God of their fathers glorifying all His Grace in them. Thus much for the strict contextof the text.
At this time we shall loosen the verse from its stall and bring it forth to our own pastures. Its primary significance isnot only its teaching, for the words of the Lord are full of eyes and look in many ways. We may use this promise in referenceto all the Lord's people, for the promise is sure to all the seed. That which is true of the Jew, one way, is true of allthe chosen seed in the same sense or in another. No privilege of the Covenant is absolutely private, either to Jew or Gentile,but in its highest form, if not in its lowest, it is the common property of all the heirs of salvation. We are joint heirswith Christ Jesus and as He inherits all blessing, so, also, do we. Paul, in his Epistle to the Galatians, has well said,"If you are Christ's, then are you Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise."
Let me, then, read the text, again, and let us appropriate it to ourselves-"They shall fear and tremble for all the goodnessand for all the prosperity that I procure unto it." Such honor and blessing have all the saints! Our text suggests, at theoutset, the remark that all the good things which make up prosperity are to be traced unto the Lord. Woe unto us if we receivegood and perfect gifts and yet forget the Father of Lights from whom they come! These benefits are not from beneath, but fromabove-let them not be passed by in ungrateful silence-but let us send, upward, humble and warm acknowledgments. He who forgetsmercy deserves that mercy should forget him. God grant we may never be such practical atheists as to receive daily bountiesfrom God and not return a daily song.
As each gleaming wave of the sea reflects the light of the sun, so let each ripple of our life flash with gratitude for thebenediction of Heaven. All good comes from the Altogether Good, who is of good the essence, the Creator and the Giver. Especiallyis this true of all spiritual blessings-of such goodness as comes not so much from benevolence to creatures as from mercyto sinners. As a being, I am grateful that my Creator is kind to me. But as a sinner, if my Judge smiles upon me, I admireHis exceeding Grace! His justice had left me unblessed to perish through my sin if His mercy had not found a way to spareand to cleanse. You who know not only your insignificance, but also your unworthiness, are held under special bonds to liftup your hearts in fervent gratitude to the Lord.
I remark, next, that temporal mercies are always best when they come in their proper order. I have no doubt our text includesboth temporal and spiritual good, but certainly the temporals are arranged in the second rank, for the eighth verse runs-"Iwill cleanse them from all their iniquity, whereby they have sinned against Me; and I will pardon all their
iniquities, whereby they have sinned, and whereby they have transgressed against Me." And after this we have mention of goodnessand prosperity. After pardon, peace and plenty are golden blessings-without which they might prove a curse. To an unforgivensinner the richest enjoyments of this life are as the food which fattens the bullock for the slaughter. But when sin is pardoned,common mercies become tokens of a Father's love and ripen beneath the sun of Divine Love into an inexpressible sweetness!
The children of God bless God for bread and water because God has made these things matters of promise and they come as Covenantprovisions. Cheered by Grace, the child of poverty finds contentment in that which otherwise might seem but prison fare. Muchor little must depend upon the way in which you look upon it and what to the Believer is enough, might be to the worldlinga mere pittance because Grace has not trained his mind to rejoice in the will of the Lord. Blessed be God if He has givenus first, the fruits of the sun of Grace, and then the fruits put forth by the moon of Providence! The main thing is to beable to sing, "Bless the Lord who forgives all your iniquities, who heals all your diseases," and after that it is most pleasantto add, "who satisfies your mouth with good things."
What shall I say of the happiness of those persons who have spiritual and temporal blessings united, to whom God has givenboth the upper and the nether springs, so that they possess all things necessary for this life in fair proportion and then,far above all, enjoy the blessings of the life to come? Such are first blessed in their spirits and then blessed in theirbasket and in their store! In their case, double favsot r calls for double praise, double service, double delight in God!Let them take for their example the Psalmist in the 71st Psalm, who found himself increased in greatness, comforted on everyside and then exclaimed, "I will also praise You with the psaltery, even Your truth, O my God unto You will I sing with theharp, O You Holy One of Israel. My lips shall greatly rejoice when I sing unto You; and my soul, which You have redeemed."
And yet, and yet, and yet-if we are very happy, today, and though that happiness is lawful and proper because it arises bothout of spiritual and temporal things in due order-yet in all human happiness there lurks a danger! There is a wealth whichhas a sorrow necessarily connected with it. And I think that even when God makes rich and adds no sorrow therewith, yet Hemakes provision against an ill which otherwise would surely come. Let me remind you of that memorable passage, "There theglorious Lord will be unto us a place of broad rivers and streams." The Lord is all that to His believing people. But then,broad rivers and streams have a danger appertaining to them, for these are waterways by which the pirates of the sea approacha city and plunder it-and hence for Zion's protection it is added, "Wherein shall go no galley with oars, neither shall gallantship pass thereby."
Thus the Lord gives the benefit without the danger naturally attendant upon it! He gives peace, but prevents carnal security.And He gives happiness but prevents the pride and presumption which are too apt to grow out of it. The text speaks of goodnessand prosperity procured for us and then tells us that all danger which might arise out of it is averted by a gracious workupon the heart. The Lord sends a chastened joy-"They shall fear and tremble." Instead of unduly exulting in their possessionsand becoming high-minded and vain-glorious, the Lord's people are kept lowly and self-distrustful, O Glory to God! The Lord'sWord is, and thus their happiness brings Glory fulfilled, "It shall be to Me a name of joy, a praise and an honor before allthe nations of the earth, which shall hear all the good that I do unto them."
This, then, is our subject-the sanctifying and mellowing of our joy. We shall try to see the Lord's loving wisdom in thismatter, that we may the more wisely love Him and the more intelligently estimate His prudent conduct towards us. We shallfirst notice this toning down of our joy. And then, in the second place, we shall observe the feelings by which this chastenedeffect is produced. And thirdly we shall look to the measure in which most of us can enter into this experience of a joy,toned and tinted by fear and trembling.
I. Let us think a little about THE TONING DOWN OF OUR GREAT JOYS. As I have said, we need Grace in enjoying both temporaland spiritual prosperity and, therefore, I shall speak upon them both. Even when we are filled with holy delight it is hardto carry a full cup with a steady hand. When most lifted up with spiritual joy, we are not beyond gunshot of the enemy. Weneed the armor of God on the right hand as well as on the left. Even when we serve the Lord, it must be with fear and in Hisglorious Presence we must rejoice with trembling. In the cup of salvation there are drops of bitterness and so must it be-forunmixed delight in this world would be dangerous.
Unbroken prosperity in worldly things has proved perilous to many Christians. It is no theory, but a matter of sad fact, thatmany men, as they rise as to one world, sink as to another. I am even afraid that long-continued health of body is not alwaysfor the health of a man's soul and that to be without care and trouble is not the best way to soul-prosperity. When the seais smooth, the ship makes poor sailing. Men are bird-limed by their rest and ease and have small care to fly Heavenward. Weare apt to lose our God among our goods! Is it not so? If the world's roses had no thorns, should we not think it Paradiseand forego all desires for the gardens above?
If Israel in Egypt had dwelt luxuriously, would a cry for deliverance have ever gone up to Heaven? And had Pharaoh been contentto ease their burdens, would they ever have marched for Canaan? Alas, we are apt to chill in our desires for Heaven when weget to the warm side of the hedge and hear the smooth side of the world's tongue. When the flowers of
earth charm us, we cast our eyes downward and forget the stars of Heaven-at least the danger lies that way. Wise men darenot ask for unmingled prosperity, for they are not sure they can bear it! When first we travel to the south and escape thisland of fog, we delight without measure in the sunshine and are anxious to bask in it throughout the whole day. Do you wonder?
Yet, before long, experience suggests a sunshade, for the stranger finds that his head cannot endure the full rays of thesun! In the same way, many a man has suffered a sunstroke in his mind, heart and character, by making money too fast and prosperingtoo much. There is a danger of another kind in a spiritual experience which is all smooth and pleasant. You all remember thefate of Moab who had been at ease from his youth and had become settled upon his lees-may it never be ours. Yet I have seenprofessors lose their balance while filled with delight. I am not one of those who would speak evil of excitement in religion-menget excited about politics-why should they not be excited about eternal things? Still, there is a kind of delirious religionabroad which I would have men avoid. Its joys are not calm and quiet, but fanatical and noisy. Be sober! Do not give up thereins of your judgment and permit your feelings to run away with you.
Some Christians have been so uniformly joyous that they have grown elated and self-conceited, even as Jeshurun waxed fat andkicked. A few have even supposed themselves to be absolutely perfect while in the flesh-a mere supposition, disproved by theirown need of modesty! We have seen brethren carry their heads so high that they could hardly understand a poor Believer whowas wrestling against sin and in the strength of God overcoming his corruptions-they have become censorious and have condemnedtheir brethren as if they had been appointed to be judges in Israel to set up whom they would, and put down whom they chose.Repose of mind, caused as much by sound bodily health as by spiritual joy, has made men think uncharitably of sick and sorrowfulsaints who have been very dear to Jesus, though very doubtful to themselves. Alas, a succession of excitements has, in somecases, bred self-sufficiency. And this has made men light-headed and they have been carried away by different heresies.
Ecclesiastical history will tell you that some who have boasted of their high spiritual delights have gone far in vain imaginingsand have ended in the worst forms of immorality. It is an extraordinary fact that super-spirituality has often been foundto dwell next door to sensuality-and men have turned the wine of holy love into the vinegar of lust. I need not go to ancientchronicles to prove this-a word to the wise suffices. Even spiritual joy needs a dash of salt, if not of wormwood, to be mingledwith it. Holy delight needs to be coupled with sacred grief. Repentance must go with faith, patience with hope, humility withfull assurance and conscious self-emptiness with a sense of the all-sufficiency of Christ.
I would remind you, next, that unmixed joy would be fallacious because there is no such thing here below. If a man shouldbecome perfectly content with the things of this world, it would be the result of a false view of things. This is an erroragainst which we should pray, for this world cannot fill the soul-and if a man thinks he has filled his soul with it-he isunder a gross delusion! The best thing of earth is but a bubble, tinted with rainbow hues and unsubstantial as a dream! Everyearthly joy has within it, the seeds of its own destruction! Oh Man, if you did but know yourself, much more your God, youwould be assured that visible things can never satisfy the desires of a spiritual being!
As to spiritual joy, I say that in no man's experience can it be long without admixture and yet be true. Never, at any moment,can a Christian be in such a position that he has not some cause, either for dissatisfaction with himself, or fear of thetempter, or anxiety to be faithful in service. Our streams of joy blend with currents of fear. Blessed be God, my sin is forgivenme-this joy calls up its balancing thought-Oh that the Spirit of God may help me not to sin again! Again I sing-Blessed beGod, I have gotten the victory over an evil habit. But my song is followed by the prayer-Lord, enable me to conquer all evils,even those which as yet I know not. Thus joy and fear hang like the two scales of a balance-I mean not the fear which lovecasts out, but the filial fear which love fosters.
If God has preserved His servant in the day of battle, he has no room to boast, for here comes another enemy. Temptationscome wave after wave and, having breasted one, we prepare for another. We cannot yet shout the victory, for, lo, the foesadvance, squadron upon squadron! Their routed battalions are succeeded by new armies and it behooves us to quit ourselveslike men. We dwell where, in our God, we have the utmost reason for delight, but where, in all things, we perceive the mostweighty arguments for solemnity. Rejoice always, but cease not to fear and tremble for all the goodness and all the prosperitythat the Lord has procured for you.
Once more, unmixed delight on earth would be unnatural. We are not in Heaven, yet, and perfect bliss lives not beneath thesecloudy skies, nor within the pale sway of the moon. While we are in this body we groan, though we have the first fruits ofthe Spirit, for we are in a creation which together groans and travails in pain until now. Our years must have their winterswhile the world revolves. When the Dutch had the trade of the East in their hands, they were accustomed to sell "birds ofparadise" to the untraveled people of these realms. These specimen birds had no feet, for they had craftily removed them.The merchants declared that the species lived on the wing and never alighted. There was so much of truth in the fable, thathad they been really and veritably, "birds of paradise," they would not have found a place for
their feet upon this globe! Truly, birds of paradise do come and go, and flit from Heaven to earth, but we see them not, neithercan we build cages to detain them!
While you are here, expect reminders of the fact that this is not your rest. If you could attain to perfect joy on earth youmight be justified in saying, "I have no longing for Heaven. I am perfectly clear of sin, care and trouble-I may as well staywhere I am. What need to go further if I can fare no better?" Let no man dream that things will ever come to this with him.Ah, yon lovely flowers of spring this year, you have looked forth too soon! It is strangely mild weather for December, butSpring has not yet arrived. Possibly it is so with some of my hearers-because the Lord is smiling upon you it is very mildweather with your souls-and you dream that the winter of trouble is ended and that your Heaven has begun. Be not deceived!You are not yet-
"Where everlasting spring abides With never-withering flowers." Perhaps a touch of frost may do you good by preventing yourgetting into an unnatural and unsound condition!
Thus much, then, upon the first point, the toning down of our joys which is wisely managed by our Father's wisdom and prudence.
II. Secondly, we are to see how this toning down is done and observe THE FEELINGS BY WHICH THIS SOBERING EFFECT IS PRODUCED-"Theyshall fear and tremble for all the goodness and for all the prosperity that I procure unto it." Why fear and tremble? Is notthis, in part, a holy awe of God's Presence? Remember that text, "Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, forit is God which works in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure." The argument for fear and trembling is the workof God in the soul! Because God is working in you, there must be no trifling. If the eternal Deity deigns to make a workshopof my nature, I, too, must work, but it must be with fear and trembling. So, then, the blessed Presence of God is the Believer'sjoy, and the very fact that He has worked it in him is a cause for the fear and trembling which comes over the spirit of thejoyous Believer. That, I think, is the first meaning of our text.
God has been very good to me, unspeakably good to me, and I have plainly seen the traces of His fatherly hand in my life.Yes, I have so seen them that I have cried out with adoring amazement in many a Bethel, "How dreadful is this place! It isnone other than the House of God and the very gate of Heaven." So has it been with you, dear Friends. When God has come verynear to you in a blaze of mercy. When He has done things that you looked not for when your mouth has been filled with laughterand your tongue with singing because of His goodness, have you not, at the same time, felt overcome by the excess of His favor?Have you not been able to sympathize with Peter when, at the sight of his boat full of fish, he cried, "Depart from me, forI am a sinful man, O Lord"? Have you not felt a solemn trembling like Manoah when he feared that he must die because he hadseen an angel of the Lord?
I know it has been so with you! A little mercy would have made you sing, but a great mercy has made you sit in silence beforethe Lord, or fall on your knees in adoration! A common Providence would have charmed you, but an extraordinary Providencehas overwhelmed you. You have lain in the dust at Jesus' feet, feeling yourself to be but dust and ashes-and yet every particleof dust has been full of wondering love to God. This is one way in which God keeps His people right in the days of their joy-wherea shallow drink might have intoxicated-He gives so deep a draught that the danger is past and holy wonder takes the placeof unholy pride!
But next to that, there rises up in the mind of every favored Christian a deep repentance for past sin. He asks himself thisquestion, "How could I have lived as I have done when God has entertained such love towards me?" When I discovered the electionof God's Grace and when I saw at what a price I had been redeemed by our Lord Jesus, I was ashamed of all my evil ways. WhenI read my name inscribed on the palms of Jesus' hands; when I understood that I was united to Him by a union that never couldbe broken, I said to myself, "What a thousand fools I have been to have lived forgetful of my highest glory, unmindful ofmy dearest Friend!" To have lived year after year in open enmity against my Lord seemed like a grim and ghastly dream-almosttoo horrible to be true!
Have you not felt the same? Have you not felt ashamed and confounded at the memory of your former life? Have you not feltas if you could never open your mouth any more because of all your unkindness to your heavenly Friend? Such penitent reflectionskeep the Lord's people right, by creating a fear and trembling in the presence of His overflowing goodness. Let me ask youanother question. Has not your deepest sense of unworthiness come upon you when you have been conscious of superlative mercy?When the Lord has scourged and chastened you, you have seen your sins, in your sorrows, and have been ashamed, but, by thememory of His great goodness, you have been far more corrected and humbled.
When our secret sins are set in the light of God's countenance, it is a light, indeed! Oh, the shame my soul has known whenthe Lord has caressed me, when He has kissed me with the kisses of His mouth! Then I have said, "Ah, Lord, why this to me?What am I that you deal thus lovingly with me?" It was when Jehovah came and showed Himself to Job, not in chastening, notwith fire of God, or whirlwind, nor with sore boils and blains, but as His own dear Covenant God-it
was then that Job said-"Now my eyes see You, therefore I abhor myself in dust and ashes." Love makes the crimson of sin morered than ever! Blood-bought pardon makes sin look black as sackcloth of hair! I tell you, Sirs, it is not the flames of Hell,but the glories of Heaven that most of all fill us with trembling before the Lord!
Nothing touches the heart like undeserved and unexpected love. Love's glance flashes to the very core of the heart and makesthe offender, like Peter, go forth and weep bitterly. Do we not each cry, "Would God I could never sin again! Oh, that I couldperfectly serve my God without a slip, even to my last day, because of His great love for me"? We tremble and are afraid becauseof the unutterable Grace which has met our utter unworthiness and rivaled it, until Grace has gotten unto itself the victory!Have you never noticed how the Lord brings His people to their bearings and keeps them steady, under a sense of great love,by suggesting to their hearts the question, "How can I live as becomes one who has been favored like this?"
Did you ever feel that the glory of the palace of love made you afraid to dwell in it? When you have put on your best apparel,those garments which are whiter than any fuller on earth could make them-the matchless righteousness of God-have you not feltfearful of defiling your robes? Did you ever see yourselves adorned as a bride for her husband in all the gifts and Gracesof the Holy Spirit and have you not said to yourselves "What manner of people ought we to be?" You have scarcely known whichway to turn, or how to move! You feared to walk lest you should defile those silver sandals and those feet so newly washed!You did not know what to touch for fear you should stain those hands which Christ had jeweled with His love and made whiteas ivory with His effectual cleansing! Have you not felt as if you dared not speak till you had prayed, "Lord, open You mylips"?
You have been afraid to look for fear your eyes should glance on evil and, therefore, you have prayed, "Turn my eyes awayfrom beholding vanity." There has been such a fear, such a caution, such a holy jealousy upon you that instead of being liftedup by favor, you have been humbled by it! Grace never makes a man vain. When a soul is adorned with glory and beauty and madeto shine like the star of the morning, it acknowledges its borrowed comeliness and brightness-and is mildly radiant with reflectedrays. When raised up by the special favor of our God into communion with Himself, we are afraid of trespassing against thedecorum of almighty love, fearful of violating the propriety of Sovereign Grace!
The Lord our God is a jealous God and He will be had in reverence by those who are around Him. This fact has made us feellike those Apostles who were filled with fear as well as with great joy. To know how to behave ourselves in the House of Godhas been our anxiety! We have felt like a poor countryman, bred and born in the wilds, who finds himself in a court and feelsstrange in such a place. Thus have we been clothed with humility as we have worn the garments of praise. Exalted to be kingsand priests, our kingdom and priesthood have called forth our careful thought and vainglory has thus been banished.
And have you never felt a fear lest God's goodness should be abused by you? I have been smitten to the very heart as witha secret blow in moments of delight when I have thought, "And suppose, after all, I should not serve God faithfully in myfavored position and should not be approved of Him at the last? What if I should seem to be an Apostle and prove to be a Judas?What if I should speak of Christ and yet be nothing better than a sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal?" That heart-piercingfear will wound pride if anything will! Have you never been thus put to the question by your conscience? Have not other questionsarisen of a similar character? You have seen your children around you and you have been happy with them, but have you notthought, "What if I should not train them aright and they should grow up to be a sorrow to me and a dishonor to the Churchof God?"
When prospered in business, have you never said to yourself, "What if I should become a worshipper of the golden calf? Whatif covetousness should eat out the heart of my devotion? What if, when my Master calls me to account for my talents, He shouldcast me away for having hid them in a napkin?" Have you never been tried by such thoughts? If you have never thus examinedyourself, you had better do so at once! He who has never questioned his own condition had better make an immediate enquiry.He who has never felt great searching of heart needs to be searched with candles. It is idle to take things for granted, forall of us must be tried by fire and even "the righteous scarcely are saved." No man's Hell shall be more terrible than thatof the self-confident one who felt so sure of Heaven that he would not take the ordinary precaution to ask whether his titledeeds were genuine or not.
One more thought may also occur to the most joyous Believer. He will say, "What if after rejoicing in all this blessednessI should lose it?" "What," cries one, "do you not believe in the final perseverance of the saints?" Assuredly I do, but arewe saints? There's the question! Moreover, many a Believer who has not lost his soul has, nevertheless, lost his present joyand prosperity, and why may not we? The good man has shone as a star of the first magnitude, but suddenly he has dwindledinto darkness. He has been unwatchful and in consequence, by the dozen years together, he has had to go softly in the bitternessof his soul.
We have known fathers in Israel who have stepped aside and though they have, by deep repentance, found their way to Heaven,they have gone sorrowing there. Look at David's history! Who was happier all the early part of his life? Note that one sinwith Bathsheba and ask who was more tried and troubled than David throughout the rest of his pilgrimage?
The doctrine of Final Perseverance was never intended for the comfort of any who are afraid of self-examination, or who arenot watchful-for it is by no means at variance with the other doctrine that many who are sure of Heaven in their own mindswill never enter there because Jesus never knew them! Great joy may be only a meteor, great excitement may be a mirage ofthe desert, great confidence may be a will-o'-the-wisp luring to destruction! The highest seats in the synagogue do not securefor their occupants a place among the shining ones above.
Many rejoicing professors will yet discover that their spot was not the spot of God's people and their song was not the newsong which God puts into the mouth. And what if that should be your case and mine? So, when I stand upon my high mountain,let me pray, "Lord, hold You me up." Let him that thinks he stands, take heed lest he fall, for he is the man who is mostin danger. He who is most full of holy delight is still to watch, for did not Jesus say, "What I say unto all, watch"? Godgrant that we may be helped to watch against the arrow which flies by day as much as against the pestilence which walks indarkness!
Thus you see how the Lord, by working upon our innermost feelings, sobers us in the hour of joy, even as the text has it-"Theyshall fear and tremble for all the goodness and for all the prosperity that I procure unto it."
III. By way of practical application, let us now consider THE MEASURE IN WHICH YOU AND I CAN ENTER INTO THIS EXPERIENCE. Ithought to myself, if I begin to make individual applications I shall have before me a never-ending task because every manhas had a distinct experience of this Truth of God if he has safely stood upon the high places of joy. We have, hundreds ofus, perceived the benefits of the dark lines and shades of life's picture, and we see how fit and proper it is that tremblingshould mingle with transport. As the fruit of experience I have learned to look for a hurricane soon after an unusually delightfulcalm. When the wind blows hard and the tempest lowers, I hope that before long there will be a lull-but when the seabirdssit on the waves and the sail hangs idly, I wonder when a gale will come.
To my mind there is no temptation so bad as not being tempted at all. The worst devil in the world is when you cannot seethe devil at all because the villain has hidden himself away within the heart and is preparing to give you a fatal stab-
"More the treacherous calm I dread Than tempests thundering overhead."
This general statement may suffice and as I cannot make an application to each one, personally, I think I will apply the truthto this Church as a whole. When this building was not yet ready for opening, we held a meeting in it and I remember amongthe speakers there was one who is now with God, Mr. Jonathan George, of Walworth. He made use of this text in a little speechthat he made-he said, "It would be well for us all to remember when God blesses us with any measure of prosperity, that prosperityis very hard to bear. How is that? Cannot Christianity or the Grace of God bear it? No, it is because of the extreme carnalityand pride of our hearts. Here is a portion of Scripture we should all remember-'They shall fear and tremble for all the prosperitythat I send.'
"It is a blessing when God has succeeded our poor efforts and poured out a blessing upon us, if we are jealous of our ownhearts and fear and tremble! Oh God, how rich, how beneficent You are! Let us not lose Your full blessing by our own pride,by pointing to some second cause and saying, 'It was I. It was ourselves. It was our ministers.'" Verily I say unto you, thewords of the man of God have been fulfilled! How I have feared and trembled because the Lord's mercy to us has been so extraordinary!As a Church we have enjoyed so many years of growth, prosperity, unity and happiness, that one is apt to fear that it cannotlast much longer! Certainly it cannot be perpetuated except by fresh power from the Lord who is wonderful in working.
One begins to think, "Must not something happen to spoil our concord? Will power always continue with the preached Word? Willnot the candle burn low in the socket? Such holy jealousy, if faith is also active, will help to keep us right. Evils maybe prevented by the foresight of them. Through Grace, by our fear of falling, we may be helped to stand. Brothers and Sisters,we are just now in a critical time of our life as a Church. Whatever of novelty there was about our movements has long sincevanished-and those who came among us from curiosity know us no more. Your pastor's ministry cannot be expected to be as freshand vigorous as it used to be, for upon his head the gray hairs far outnumber the darker ones-and perhaps gray hairs are stealingover his preaching, too! If natural vigor fails, now is the time to see whether the power which has sustained us is of Godor not! We know what the answer to the text will be-out of weakness we shall be made strong!
Besides, my Brethren, certain invaluable helpers who were with us in the beginning-and rare men they were-are going Home.One by one our leaders are being called away-will more be found? Will they be of equal worth and weight? I know they will,yet these are solemn questions. We are in the middle of the river, now, and in the middle the river is deepest and hardestto ford. Now we need that underneath us there should be the everlasting arms! I am weaker than ever. You, also, are weakerthan ever-but the eternal God faints not! We have the same old Gospel and you will not grow tired of it, though it is preachedby the same old Spurgeon. The Holy Spirit will abide with us and that will
make up for the weakness of our spirit! You who have been earnest at prayer will not, I hope, lose your zeal, for the MercySeat is still accessible. To persevere is the difficulty.
It would be easy to burn at a stake for five minutes, but to be surrounded with smoldering firewood of green wood and to burnby slow degrees would be torture, indeed! Yet such is the patience of saints. Keeping up your burning zeal, your personalholiness, your evangelizing efforts and all your spiritual works after 27 years is no mean test of your faith! He that enduresto the end, the same shall be saved. Yes, Brothers and Sisters, these are the thoughts that come into my mind and preventmy saying we have done well and may rest on our oars. Far from anything like exaltation or self-congratulation, I feel morethan ever inclined to lie low at the feet of my Master and kiss the very dust He stands upon! I feel more disqualified, moreunsuitable, more unable for my Lord's work than ever-and yet I am glad in the Lord and find joy in His name! Since there isan everlasting arm that never can be palsied-since there is a brow that knows no wrinkle and a Divine mind that is never perplexed-wego forward in hope and cast ourselves upon our eternal Helper once again!
You have heard of the ancient giant, Antaeus, who could not be overcome because as often as Hercules threw him to the ground,he touched his mother, Earth, and rose renewed. Such is your lot and mine, often to be cast down, and as often to rise bythat casting down! "When I am weak then am I strong." Let us glory in infirmity because the power of Christ does rest uponus! Let us be content to decrease, that Christ may increase-to be nothing that Jesus may be All-in-All! If we fear and tremblefor all the goodness that God has procured for us, it is not a fear that He will change, or a trembling lest He should bedefeated. The fear and trembling are for ourselves-not for Him! I have no fear and trembling about the Gospel! I have preachedit many years in this place and its attractive perfume is undiminished.
I read the other day of a grain of musk which had been kept for 10 years in a room where the air was perpetually changed-itscented that chamber from year to year-and yet when it was weighed by the most delicate scales-no diminution of its bulk wasapparent! So the Gospel continues to be as ointment poured forth, savoring the thousands that come here year by year-and yetit is as full of fragrance and freshness as ever-and so shall it be even if, for a thousand ages, it should be our theme!
Come we, then, with comfort back to the unalterable Gospel, to the undying Spirit, to the unchanging God-here is room forjoy unspeakable and full of Glory! Up with your banners, then! Forward to new victories! In the name of the God of Jacob letus be steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord. Amen.