Sermon 1939. Shaved and Shorn, But Not Beyond Hope
A SERMON INTENDED FOR READING ON LORD'S-DAY, JANUARY 9, 1887.
DELIVERED BY C. H. SPURGEON,
AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON, ON LORD'S-DAY EVENING, SEPTEMBER 26, 1886.
"However, the hair of his head began to grow again after he was shaved." Judges 16:22.
LET me introduce the text to you. Samson was set apart from his birth to be the champion of Israel-to break the power of thePhilistines who lorded over God's people. Everything in his bringing up had reference to his peculiar calling as the heroof Israel, the hammer of Philistia. He was to be a Nazarite from his birth. Among other things which concerned the Nazarite,he never touched wine. No, nor grapes, nor husks of grapes, nor anything that came of the vine- which goes to show that thegreatest physical strength is attainable without the use of wine or strong drink. Whatever else overcame Samson, he was neverovercome with drunkenness, and yet he greatly sinned, which goes to show that total abstinence is not, of itself, enough toform a character. A Nazarite, in addition to abstinence from wine, also abstained from wearing the common appearance of men.He was not to have his hair at any time shaved or cut away-so that when Samson was grown up to manhood, he was covered witha shaggy mass of hair. He must have looked like the lion that he was. Those locks of his were the token of his consecrationto God, the outward marks of his being set apart to be the servant of the God of Israel. Can you not see him with the terribleglory of his hair upon him?
Poor Samson was as weak morally as he was strong physically and he fell a prey, first to one evil woman and then to another.Perhaps the extraordinary strength of his physical frame placed him under stronger temptation than is common to man-at anyrate, he was peculiarly constituted and seemed more like a wanton boy than a judge in Israel. Through this peculiar sin ofhis, the Philistines found opportunity to assail him. They tempted Delilah, whom he loved, to extract from him the secretof his great strength. He was so strong that he tore a lion as though it had been a kid. He was so strong that he carriedway the gates of the city in which they had shut him up! He was so strong that he smote an army of Philistines, "hip and thigh,with a great slaughter." The mercenary woman, upon whom he foolishly doted, extracted from him, by degrees, the secret ofhis strength. And while he lay asleep upon her lap, the Philistine lords caused a barber to cut away the locks of his head.He awoke from his sleep shaved. Then he went out and thought to fight the Philistines as before-but to his surprise he foundthat his strength was gone. The locks of his dedication had been shorn-he was no longer the acknowledged servant of the Lord-andhe was weak as other men. Then the Philistine lords took him captive, bored out his eyes-for such is the expression in themargin of our old Bibles-gouged out his eyes, bound him to the mill and made him work like a slave or an ass. In that pitiableplight our text finds him-but it comes with a key of deliverance to set free the captive!
My text runs thus-it is in the 22nd verse of the 16th Chapter of Judges-"However, the hair of his head began to grow againafter he was shaved."
Poor Samson! I roughly sketched his story as with a crayon just now. I cannot stay to attempt a more accurate portrait. PoorSamson, the champion of Israel, now the scoff of his enemies! Poor Samson, the hero of so many fights, now at last conqueredby his own foolishness! They have taken him; they have bound him; they have gouged out his eyes and there he stands-sightless-inthe midst of his adversaries, who bind him to the mill and lash him as he grinds for them. To humiliate him, they put himto woman's work, made hard so as to be the work of beasts. See what sin will do! See how the man who had fought God's battlessuffers great loss, great pain, great disfigurement, great dishonor and comes into a cruel and abhorred bondage through hissin! That shaved man made a slave is the picture of very many who once were
the avowed servants of God and were valiant for the Truth of God. They have given up their secret, they have told the worldthat which none should know but themselves. They have lost the locks of their dedication and they are led captive by the devilat his will. They cannot see as they used to see. Darkness shuts out all joy. They do not work for God as they used to work,for they are slaving for men, for poor, passing, earthborn objects! They have come into an awful bondage and they have, atthe same time, brought great dishonor and weakness upon the Church to which they belong. How the mighty are fallen!
Children of God, whatever God may do for you, take heed that you always remember that you can never gain anything by sin!It is loss, utter loss in every sense, to yield ourselves servants to sin! Again I cry, How the mighty are fallen! How hasthe champion become a slave at the mill! In the midst of our Churches how often are those who were excellent and useful broughtto nothing and made to be a derision! How often do our boldest warriors bring the Cross of Christ into contempt by their sin!The Lord keep us from thus falling! May we rather die than dishonor our Lord!
I begin thus upon the mournful key because I want to speak of God's great goodness to backsliders-and of how He restores them.But I want to warn them, at the very outset, that sin does not pay-that whatever may come of it through God's mercy, yet itis an evil and a bitter thing to wander from the Lord! Though Samson's hair grew again and his strength came back-and he diedgloriously fighting against the Philistines-yet he never recovered his eyes, or his liberty, or his living power in Israel!Short and effective was his last stroke against the adversary, but it cost him his life. He could not again rise to be theman he had been before. And though God did give him a great victory over the Philistine people, yet it was but as the flickerof an expiring candle-he was never again a lamp of hope to Israel. His usefulness was abated and even brought to an end throughhis folly. Whatever the Grace of God may do for us, it cannot make sin a right thing, or a safe thing, or a permissible thing!It is evil, only evil, and that continually. O children of God, be not enslaved by fleshly lusts! O Nazarites unto God, guardyour locks lest they be cut away by sin while you are sleeping in the lap of pleasure! O servants of Jehovah, serve the Lordwith heart and soul, by His Grace, even to the end-and keep yourselves unshorn by the world!
With that as a preface we come again to the text-"However, the hair of his head began to grow again after he was shaved."
First, let us see what this growing of the hair pictures; secondly, what it specifically symbolizes and thirdly, what it prophesies.
I. First, WHAT THIS GROWING OF THE HAIR PICTURES. I think that this pictures the gradual restoration of certain among us whohave backslidden from God. The hair was there upon Samson's head, though it had been cut short. Though the hair was shavedoff, yet the adversary could not take the roots away. It was a living thing and it would grow again. So is it with those whoare the people of God. The devil can shave them very closely and clip off their beauty, their strength and their consecration-buta living something is still there that will grow again! If there has been a real regenerating work of God-the Holy Spiritupon their hearts-it will show itself again. Though the fruit and holy outcome of this living principle may, for a while,be removed-sadly removed to their bitter loss and damage-yet I say the living roots of Divine Grace are still in the souland, before long, we shall have to say, "However, the hair of his head began to grow again." Wells may, for a while, be stopped,but the living water will break out and come to the surface again. The tree may lose every leaf which once adorned it, butits substance is in it-and when the spring smiles again, it will, once more, begin to bud. Eternal life may sleep, may faint-butit cannot utterly die-otherwise, how were it eternal life? The hair, though closely shaved, will grow again.
I will show you this hair in the process of growing. A man was once a member of a Christian Church, godly and gracious. Satanhas shaved him of all that was distinctive and religious. He has gone into the world; he has been put away by his brethren.His conduct was too inconsistent to allow of a continuance of his profession. But there had really been a change of heart-therehad been a radical work of Grace in his soul and, therefore, after a while, he begins to be very miserable and uneasy. Itis impossible for him to be happy among the Philistines who have captured him. His comrades, who flattered themselves thatthey had really got him, this time, cannot make him out. He has fits of melancholy. Occasionally he falls into a deep despondencyand he utters strange words which they do not like to hear, partly denunciations of himself-and partly prophecies of evilto those around him. He is evidently terribly uneasy in the ways of sin. Now he gets alone and sighs-
"Where is the blessedness I Anew When first I sa w the Lord?"
There is a something in his heart which troubles him both night and day. His soul is saying, "I will go and return to my firsthusband, for then was it better with me than now." However, his hair begins to grow again. It has been shaved very cleverly,but the roots have not been extracted and you can see that he will soon be a hairy man again. He cannot rest in his sin-notrue-born child of God ever can. Giant Slay-Good may pick up a pilgrim on the road when he is faint and weary, but he cannever pick the bones of a true Believer! He will come out of the den of the giant somehow or other. What a pity that he shouldever go into it!
Well, now notice that the man begins to drop in to hear a sermon. It is a long time since he was familiar with the house ofprayer, but he finds himself here, tonight, after a long absence! He remembers when he used to be always here- and he almostwaters the door with his tears as he thinks of the happy days which he used to enjoy in the midst of God's people-when hewelcomed the light of the Sabbath morning and the way was never too long for him to come up to the place of his love! In thosedays the Word of the Lord was sweet to him. He has not been for some time, but somehow he felt, today, that he must come again.How welcome he is! How glad I am to see him, though he looks so rough and grisly, and half-shaved!
I have heard-I am not sure of it, but I think that it is very likely-that he has been reading his Bible again. That poor Bookhad been left to be covered with dust, but he has taken it down and he has looked at a Psalm that once used to charm his heart.And he has wept over the passage which once revealed Christ to him. He even groaned to think that he should have forgottenthe voice of the Living God which used to speak to him through that holy Book. He read a sermon today, too. He has not oftendone that. He took a tract from someone in the street and he looked at it with eagerness! This, also, was a hopeful sign.
A little while ago, when he first forsook his Lord, he could blaspheme-he could say hard things against Christ and His Word-buthe does not do so now. It would be impossible for him, now, to ridicule religion! He is too tender for that. He has a strongdesire to hear, again, the message of Free Grace and dying love. He longs to listen once more to the ringing of those silverbells that once were music to his ears! I think it must be true that the Lord is bringing him back. Surely my test is beingfulfilled-"However, the hair of his head began to grow again." The devil could shave away those flowing locks which once adornedhim, but he could not cut out the roots which are deeper than he can reach. Do you not think that our shorn Samson may yetbe himself again? Surely his hair has begun to grow anew and tonight I trust that it will grow very quickly while he is inthis house of prayer hearing the glad tidings of free forgiveness!
I am most of all encouraged with the fact that he begins to feel in his soul an anguish and a bitterness-and an aching anda craving and a longing! I have great hopes of him, now that his old feelings are returning. I think I hear him say, "I cannotlive like this." He sighs, "I have tried the way of transgressors and it is hard. I have tested the life of sinful pleasureand there is nothing in it. The cups of the world are all froth! The devil's bread is all bran. It chokes me. It poisons me.I cannot endure it any longer. Oh, that I could get back to God! Oh, that I could be truly converted, if I never was converted!If I am, indeed, a child of God, oh, that He would once more manifest His pardoning love to me and show me my sins are forgiven,for I cannot rest as I am!" O my dear Brother, I was so sorry when you went astray-your backsliding has caused me many a pangof heart-but I begin to rejoice now as I hear you talk in that way, for I think that the text is coming true-"However, thehair of his head began to grow again"!
And now, stop till our uneasy friend gets home tonight. No, perhaps it will come to pass before he quits this assembly. Hebegins to pray, "God be merciful to me a sinner!" He does not say that aloud, for he would be afraid that somebody would hearhim. He is almost amazed that he is not put out of the place of worship, considering what kind of sinner he has been. He hassneaked in tonight, but he is in and he trembles to find it is so-he scarcely dares to lift his eye upward. He hardly daresto hope! His desire is to get back to God and to be forgiven-and so, with trembling hope and quivering fear, he has begunto pray. You notice that Samson began to pray when his hair began to grow. And when they took him into that temple where theywanted him to make sport for them, he breathed an earnest prayer to God that he might be strengthened but that once to doservice to his people and his God. How earnestly do I invite you that have gone away from God and His ways to pray tonightthat the Lord will return to you in mercy, fill you to the full once more with His Holy Spirit and make the bones which hehas broken rejoice! If you begin to pray, I shall begin to praise!
When you plead with tears, I shall begin to bless the Lord with exultation! For you it is coming true-"However, the hair ofhis head began to grow again after he was shaved."
And if that prayer should go still farther and you should say, "I will break off every connection that holds me to the pathsof sin," this would be better, still! If you were to cry, "I know what drew me aside. I will have no more to do with the evilwhich destroyed me," it would be a hopeful sign, indeed! Oh, if tonight there shall be a severance of yourself from the swineand from all the husks that they eat because you are determined to go to your Father, it shall be well with you! From ourChurch fellowship we sometimes find one drawn aside by one motive and another by another-alas, the ways downward are as plenteousas the gates of death! How many are tempted with unholy loves! How many are seduced by the fatal cup! Ah, how many go asidethrough false doctrine, heresy and the delusions of the day! How many are foolishly tempted by their own prosperity! Theygrow rich and cannot afford to worship where they once did!
On the other hand, how many are led aside by their poverty! They do not think that their clothes are good enough to come in-apiece of pride from which I pray that we may be delivered! Or, because they have come down in the world and cannot spend asonce they did, they forsake their Brothers and Sisters-and their Lord. For different reasons men go aside from the Truth ofGod and holiness. But it is a happy circumstance when they cry, "If I have been led away from Christ by anything sinful, Iwill give it up. I will part with my eye, or my arm, or my foot so that I may enter into the Kingdom of God, for it were betterfor me to enter into life blind, or crippled, or maimed, than that keeping these dear things I should be cast into Hell fire."When the Lord of Grace leads men to this resolve, we see the text fulfilled again- "However, the hair of his head began togrow again."
When the backslider comes to that pass, you will soon see other signs. The man who went so far astray now seeks the Lord afreshand begins again to run in His ways. When a Nazarite lost his consecration, all the years of his consecration before did notcount-he had to begin again. So some of you must begin again. Beginning again is sweet! Beginning again is safe! Even thoughI trust that I have not wandered from God, either in act or in heart, yet I often begin again. I delight to renew the loveof my espousals and rehearse the vows of my youth before the Lord my God! If the devil says to me, "Your religion is a pretence;your experience is a mistake," I do not attempt to argue with him upon those lines, but I reply, "I will not cavil about thepast, but I will begin again!" I am a sinner. I know that and the devil himself has not the impudence to tell me that I amnot! Then, Jesus Christ died for sinners and, therefore, I return to the sinners' Savior and trust Him even as if I had nevertrusted Him before! This I find to be the direct road to peace. To breathe again one's native air is a prescription most helpfulto those who would regain their health and strength! Can you not return again to the starting point, you that have wandered?If so, we shall all thank God for you and look upon you as a Samson whose hair begins to grow again after he has been shaved.
If the matter goes on rightly, I know what will happen-the forlorn backslider will begin to entertain a feeble hope. "Oh,"he says, "I trust that I may be restored! I shall be a miracle of Divine Grace if I am-and I think that I shall be." Furtheron he even cries, "I hope that I am restored and once more put among the children." He gets a bit of bread from the children'stable and though he feels that he is not much better than a dog, yet he makes bold to enjoy it. "The dogs eat of the crumbswhich fall from their master's table"-and this poor man is aware of that gracious fact and dares to take full advantage ofit! Sometimes, while he is eating a crumb of promise, it tastes so sweet that he whispers to himself, "I do not think thatI am a dog, after all. I think that I must be a child, for I have the taste that a child has. This is children's meat andI do so enjoy it that, perhaps, I am, after all, a child of God!"
Ah, and let me tell you that sometimes, when it is sunshiny weather, this poor seeker feels greatly encouraged and cheered!Though he will go limping to Heaven by reason of his past sin, yet, on bright days, he half forgets his lameness! He has playedthe prodigal and almost doubted his sonship, but with his face towards the Father's house, he now cries, "Behold what mannerof love the Father has bestowed upon me, that I should be called a child of God!" In his happiest times he feeds ready toburst out with rapture because he enjoys a sense of Divine Love. He even makes bold to declare- "Yes, I am forgiven! Jesussmiles and still loves me!" When he is quite alone and nobody can hear it, he even ventures to speak of himself as, afterall, one of those that the Father has loved with an everlasting love; that Christ has redeemed with precious blood; that theSpirit has renewed and that the Lord will never cast away. What a pleasure to see his faith thus coming back to him! "However,the hair of his head began to grow again."
We shall have him back, again, and we shall see him and know him, again, to be the same Samson that once we knew in his firstdays-before he had played the fool and brought himself into bondage! Soon we shall say, "Come in, and welcome, dear Brother;for the Lord has recovered you from the disfigurement which your sin brought upon you! You are again a Nazarite and your headand beard are covered with the tokens of your dedication. Come and take your place among those who are consecrated to theLord." How much I desire that it may be so with all who formerly turned away from the right path, but are now casting a longingglance towards it!
I think that is the picture which our text paints for us.
II. Now I am going to turn a little way round, still keeping the shorn champion well before us. In the second place, we haveto see in our text WHAT IT SPECIFICALLY SYMBOLIZES, that is to say, this text is a distinct type of some one thing. You seethat Samson's strength lay in his consecration. His hair was the token of his dedication to God. When he lost his locks, hedid, as it were, lose his consecration-and when he lost his consecration, he lost his strength. On the other hand, the onlyway by which he could regain his strength was to reestablish his consecration-and of this the growing, again, of his hairwas the type and token.
Well, now, I know some Churches which performed a great work a 100 years ago, or 50 years ago, or less. Their former dayswere heroic. Their palmy times were beautified with great prosperity. These Churches knew how to suffer and to serve; theywere faithful to the Truth of God and earnest in holy labor-and the Lord made them to be exceedingly useful. But now theyhave grown respectable and useless. They do nothing outrageous now-the question is-Are they doing anything? Their ministeris an extremely learned man and as polished as a looking-glass. Of course he never addresses himself to the vulgar, neitherdoes he oppose the views of his cultured hearers. The church, itself, is highly respectable-no one ever questions its highrespectability, or speaks of it without due deference to its prominent position. Yet it has ceased to be a power for good.It has no influence over the mass of sinners around it.
Of course its usefulness is a secondary consideration, for it must not be forgotten that it has a superior ministry and asuperior reputation! Its deacons are superior and so are most of the members! Besides, they have a celebrated choir and amost delightful organ! A great deal of money has been spent for that organ-and if that will not save souls and glorify God,what will? What are we to do with our respectability if we do not proclaim it by buying the most expensive organ in the market?But do not forget the choir. I think they wear surplices, but whether they do or not, the singing is fine, the building isof superior architecture, the pulpit is unique and the whole thing is done in a model manner! It is true that nobody is saved.There are no additions to the church-they have not used the baptistery for a long time-but they are wonderfully respectable!What more would you have?
In the opinion of some persons, Samson looked much improved when his matted hair was gone. He was more presentable; more fitfor good society. And so in the case of churches, the notion is that they are all the better for getting rid of their peculiarities.You who are in the secret know better and you will follow me while I sorrowfully seek a remedy for the unhappy weakness whichhas fallen upon many communities which once were strong in the Lord. How is this church, all shaved and shorn, this poor,enslaved and miserable concern, to be brought back to its old state? How is this Samson, that once was strong, to get itsstrength back? Why, only by letting its hair grow again! It must be consecrated to God again! This church must go back tothe old Gospel-it must say once more, "God forbid that I should glory save in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ." It mustagain become desirous for the conversion of men. Prayer must again become the delight of the whole church and its trust mustbe in the Spirit of the Lord! The Glory of God must take possession of the church instead of its desire to be fashionableand respectable-and when its locks grow again, its strength will come back. When it is consecrated to God, it will resumeits former force, bear its testimony as in better days and once again shake the world with its power!
Now the same truth applies to every preacher. There are some preachers who are splendid men and yet they are practical failures.You see in them wide knowledge, eloquent language and yet nothing. They can speak so properly that a senate might sit withadmiration at their feet-but when they have done, nobody is pricked in the heart, nobody is convinced of sin-nobody is ledto behold the beauties of Christ. Yet in their youth these men were soul-winners and were looked upon as champions for Christ!O Samson, how are we to make you strong again? That preacher must begin again to serve God with all his heart! He must giveup the idea of being a great man, or a learned man, or an eloquent man. He
must give up the idea of charming the elite and bringing together the fashionable-he must give himself up to glorify God bythe winning of souls!
When his hair grows again in that respect, we shall see what Samson can do. He will yet lay hold on the pillars of the Philistinetemple and bring them down about the heads of the lords. Give me a man perfectly consecrated and I do not care much what heis. He may be rough, unpolished and even illiterate-but if he is consecrated, the people will feel his power! He may be educatedso that he may understand all knowledge and he may speak as eloquently as Cicero-but if he is a consecrated man, his powerwill be none the less, but perhaps all the greater, because of his education. But this one thing is essential-there must beconsecration to God and downright earnestness in consequence, or else he will be a shaved Samson. May God give full consecrationto each one of us who stand before the people to speak in His name, for in that consecration lies the power of the Holy Spiritto bless us! He cannot and will not bless unconsecrated men! If we do not live to God's Glory, God will not use us.
The same is true of every Christian worker. I have seen this demonstrated over and over again in daily life. I have seen aChristian woman most useful in a class, bringing to the Savior many of the girls whom she has taught, but all of a suddena change has come-there have been no conversions and for years the class has dwindled away and nothing has come of it. Ifenquiry were to be made, it would be found that the consecration of the teacher had declined. She no longer spoke with tearfuleyes and earnest heart, seeking to love those girls to Christ. And because her consecration was gone, her strength was gone.It is just the same whether you preach in the street, or distribute tracts, or whatever you do-if you are wholly consecratedto God-you will be strong. I do not say that you will, by sincere devotion, alone, gain all the talents and all the mentalforces you might desire, but, believe me, force does not lie in these-these are like sword and spear, but the strength withwhich they are to be wielded lies elsewhere. You do not absolutely require great abilities, but you must have perfect consecration.Be thankful if you have javelin and shield, but go on without them if you have not been armed with them, for, to a devotedman even a castaway bone will be sufficient weapon! Samson did not wait till he found a weapon worthy of his heroic hands-heused such instruments as he found on the spot. It is in consecration that your strength will lie. Let but the arrow be wingedby a mighty pull of the bow and it will go straight forward in proportion to the force that has impelled it. Let but God fityou to His bow-and send you forward with Divine energy- what more do you need? The impulse that comes from on high is yourstrength-and that impulse is found in your consecration to your Lord!
Perhaps I am addressing some Christian person who is not altogether a worker, but partly a sufferer. He is only a privateChristian, bearing up as he may under the trials of life. You have grown rather dull of late, dear Friend. You do not enjoythings as you once did. You have not the vivacity and the enjoyment which you once had in the things of God. See to it-hasthere not been a razor at work upon you somewhere? Oh, yes, I knew a Brother who, when he had a little money, rejoiced tohave it because he gave abundantly to the cause of God! I believe that he is worth a hundred times as much as he was, then,and he gives a hundredth part of what he used to do when he was poorer! In proportion as his pocket has grown golden, hisheart has grown bronzy. He has gone down in himself in proportion as he has gone up in his property-and now he does not enjoythings as he used to. He is a poor creature to what he once was! Even in his own esteem he is not the happy man he once was!How much I wish that this good man's hair would grow so that he would again be living for his Lord, whom I trust he stillloves!
I know Christian people who used to spend an hour a day in prayer. The hour has dwindled into five minutes. They used to beconstant at week-night services. They very seldom gladden us with their presence, now, and they are not as happy as they oncewere. I can read this riddle. If a man were to reduce his meals to eating once a week, we could not guarantee his health.I would not guarantee that if a man never ate except on Sundays, he would grow strong. So I do not think that people who neglectthe means of Grace and give up their consecration can expect to be lively, happy, or vigorous. When the razor gets to workand the hair of conscious and resolute devotion to God begins to fall on the floor, lock after lock, the strength is departing-andonly as that hair begins to grow, again, and spiritual consecration returns, can these people expect to be useful, influentialand strong in the Lord!
I must say no more on this point, but it is most important, and I pray the Holy Spirit will stir up your pure minds concerningit.
III. I will close with this further consideration. We are now to remember WHAT IT PROPHESIED when Samson's hair began to growagain. I wonder why these Philistines did not take care to keep his hair from growing to any length? If cutting his hair oncehad proved so effective, I wonder why they did not send in the barber every morning to make sure that not a hair grew uponhis scalp or chin? But wicked men are not in all matters wise men. Indeed, they so conspicuously fail in one point or anotherthat Scripture calls them fools! The devil himself is a fool after all. He thinks that he is wonderfully cunning, but thereis always a place where he breaks down. These servants of Satan, these boastful Philistines said confidently, "We have donefor him now, once and for all. We have put out his eyes and what can a blind man do?" They do not go on cutting off his hairbecause they fancy that, once lost, the good man's strength is lost forever. Perhaps they said, "Now we have lashed him tothe mill-the stronger he gets, the more he can grind-therefore let his hair grow and so he will be the more useful to us."
Great was the foolishness of their wisdom! They were fostering their own destruction. Satan, also, is very cunning in gettinghold of backsliders, but he generally manages to let them slip by his over-confidence in their willfulness. Many a man haveI seen come back to the dear Savior on account of the oppression which he has endured from his old master, the Prince of Darkness!If he had been treated well, he might never have returned to Christ-but it is not possible for the citizens of the far countryto treat prodigals well-sooner or later they starve them and oppress them so that they run back home.
When Samson's hair began to grow, what did it prophesy? Well, first, it prophesied hope for Samson. I will be bound to saythat he put his hands to his head and felt that it was getting bristly. And then he put his hands to his beard and found itrough. Yes, yes, yes, it was coming and he thought within himself, "It will be all right soon. I shall not get my eyes back.They will not grow again. I am an awful loser by my sin, but I shall get my strength back again, for my hair is growing. Ishall yet be able to strike a blow for my people and for my God." So round the mill he went, grinding away, grinding away,but every now and then putting his hands to his head and thinking, "My hair is growing! Oh, it is growing again! My strengthis returning to me." The mill went round merrily to the tune of hope, for he felt that he would get his old strength back.When they loaded it and tightened it to make the work heavier, yet his hair was growing and so he found the burden lighterthan it had been before-and his heart began to dance within him in prospect of being his former self again!
Now, if any of you have signs of God's restoring Grace in your hearts and you are coming back to your God and Savior, be glad,be thankful! Do not hesitate to let your renewed devotion to God be seen by those around you. Come along, Brother, come along-yourBrethren wait to receive you! Come along, my wandering Sister, come along-all the people of God will welcome you! If the Graceof God is moving you at all, be hopeful and quicken your steps and come to Jesus! Come to Him just now even as you came atfirst. Yes, and if you never did come before, come now and throw yourselves at the foot of the Cross and look up to thosefive precious wounds! Look and live for there is life in a look at the Crucified One! There is life at this moment even forthe chief of sinners!
What did this prophesy? Joy for Samson, but, also, hope for Israel. Oh, if any of the Israelites did get in to see him inprison, how they must have been cheered by the sight of his returning hair! Some ancient Israelite would say to his brother,"I have been to see poor Samson. You remember him. We had to put him out of the Church, you know. Sad case. I have been tosee him." "How did he look?" "Well," he would say, "there was much to grieve me, but somewhat, also, to comfort me. He doesnot look as he did on the day when the Philistines shaved him. He looks quite hairy again." "Oh!" the other would say, "thenhe will get strong again-and when he is strong, he will use his mighty arms against the oppressors of his people. I know hewill fight for his country again. When he gets strong again, he will lift that brawny arm of his that smote the Philistinesand he will let them know that he is yet an Israelite. I know he will, for his heart will return to the love of God and Hischosen. Philistia shall not always triumph over us. There is hope for us."
So, my dear Brothers and Sisters, when we see in you some little signs of Grace and you are coming back, you do not know howcheerily we talk to one another! Why, at the Elders' Meeting, one of them said, "Our poor brother Jones was at the Tabernaclethe other night. You remember him." "Yes, we do remember him, indeed." "Well he was listening to our pastor; I was so pleasedto see him." Another Brother also said, "I am glad to tell you that Mrs. So-and-So, the sister that went so sadly astray,was outside the chapel-and when I pressed her to come in, she wept and said she wished she had never gone away. There is agood work going on there." We rejoice together and we say, "Thank God, they are com-
ing back!" Oh, you do not know the joy that you backsliders will give to the hearts of God's people if you do but return!There is joy not only with the Great Shepherd, but with His friends and His neighbors when the lost sheep is restored to thefold. Do you not know that the Chief Shepherd calls His Brethren together and says, "Rejoice with Me, for I have found Mysheep which was lost"?
Lastly, what did it prophesy? Well, it prophesied mischief for the Philistines. They did not know it, but if they could haveread the writing in Samson's heart, they would have understood that he meant to shave their nation quite as closely as theyhad shaved him! There was a storm brewing for Philistia. He that tore the lion as though it had been a kid was getting backhis strength! He that seized the jawbone of an ass and said, "Heaps upon heaps, with the jawbone of an ass have I slain athousand men," will soon be scattering death among the oppressors of his people! Woe to you, lords of Philistia! Woe to you,princes of Gaza!
When a sinner who has gone astray is restored again, it means mischief to the kingdom of Satan. Oh, how he will serve hisGod! How he will try to bring back his fellow sinners! Having had much forgiven, this man will love much and will serve Jesusmuch! He will be one of your earnest Christian men, depend upon it! He will be much in prayer! He will be careful in his walk!He will be holy in his speech! He will contend earnestly for the Doctrines of Grace! He will be a leader among the host ofGod, even as he had been a ringleader in sin! He will invade the dark places and lead the chief of sinners captive to theCross! Woe to you, Philistia, when Samson's hair grows again! Woe to the hosts of evil when the backslider is restored!
There, I have put it all before you. I have tried to put the matter interestingly, but all the while my heart has been yearningover you that have gone aside. I am pining for the restoration of those who have turned like the dog to his vomit and thesow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire. I long for your restoration, or your true conversion. I want to see a differentnature in you, that you may neither be dogs nor swine, but may become the real children of our God and Father! And then youwill not return to your former ways. If you have defiled yourselves, may you at once be washed! If you have wandered, mayyou at once be restored to Jesus and His Church, to the praise and the glory of His Divine Grace wherein He has made us acceptedin the Beloved! Amen.