Sermon 2453. A Hard Case
A SERMON INTENDED FOR READING ON LORD'S-DAY, FEBRUARY 23, 1896.
DELIVERED BY C. H. SPURGEON,
AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON, ON THURSDAY EVENING, FEBRUARY 18, 1886.
"For God speaks once, yes twice, yet man perceives it not. In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falls uponmen, while slumbering on their beds; then He opens the ears of men, and seals their instruction, that He may withdraw manfrom his purpose, and hide pride from man. He keeps back his soul from the Pit, and his life from perishing by the sword."Job 33:14-18.
HOW persevering is Divine love! "God speaks once." I have heard many a father say to his child, "Do not let me have to speakto you again." But the great Father has to speak again and when it is written, "God speaks once, yes twice, yet man perceivesit not," we see how great is the stubbornness of the human heart! And we also see the gentleness of Divine love. When Elihusaid, "God speaks once, yes twice," he meant that the Lord speaks repeatedly. Divine loving kindness has many voices. Godoften speaks to us in our childhood. Some of us hardly remember when first our Lord called us, as He called Samuel, saying,"Samuel, Samuel," and each for himself answered, "Here am I." We cannot forget the voices of our youth and boyhood-the messagesthat the Lord sent to us through loving parents and kind-hearted teachers, or the direct admonitions of the Holy Spirit. Godspoke to us and spoke to us again, and spoke to us yet again-but we regarded not His voice. There are none so deaf as thosewho will not hear-and we were among those who would not hear even that voice to which Heaven and earth attend-that voice whicheven the dead will one day hear-when they that hear shall live!
Do we not admire the great patience of God with us? I am sure we ought to and if we do, it will make us repent of our negligenceof the Divine voice, so that, henceforth, we shall say with David, "When you said, Seek you My face; my heart said unto You."Note that, "my heart said unto You, Your face, Lord, will I seek." Oh, for the quick ear to catch the faintest sound of theDivine voice! Oh, for a ready heart, waiting for those tender condescending admonitions which the Lord is waiting to speakto us!
But God has voices which He uses in such a way that men must and shall hear. There is not only the patience of love, but thereis also the Omnipotence of love. God does not merely attempt to make men hear, but He succeeds in doing it. When the splendorof His love makes bare His holy arm and He puts forth all His force, the unwilling heart is made willing in the day of Hispower-the rebel spirit is led in chains of love a willing captive to His conquering Lord!
I am now going to speak somewhat of that matter and, keeping to our text, I want to say, first, that man is very hard to influencefor good. His ear has to be opened. His heart has to be broken off from its evil purposes. His pride has to be conquered.There are many things to be done before men are fully influenced to their eternal salvation. Then, secondly, God knows howto come at them. By day or by night, by voices heard when they are in the midst of their business, or, "in a dream, in a visionof the night, when deep sleep falls upon men, while slumbering on their beds; then He opens the ears of men and seals theirinstruction." Thirdly, thus the Lord accomplishes great purposes for men-"That He may withdraw man from his purpose, and hidepride from man. He keeps back his soul from the Pit, and his life from perishing by the sword."
I. So, then, first, let us begin with what is a very humbling consideration, namely, that MAN IS VERY HARD TO INFLUENCE FORGOOD.
This is true, now, and it always has been true since sin entered the world, "Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopardhis spots? Then may you also do good that are accustomed to do evil." Still is the Savior's sad complaint most true of verymany, "You will not come to Me, that you might have life." The noblest, the most tender, the most potent forces spend themselvesin vain upon the heart of man! It is hard as the nether millstone. It is "deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked."It does not seem, by nature, to be more amenable to heavenly influences than is the deaf adder to the voice of the charmers,for it will not listen, charm them ever so wisely.
According to the text, before God, Himself, can save men, He has to open their ears-"Then He opens the ears of men." What?Are men's ears stopped up?" Perhaps not their outward ears-there are comparatively few persons who are very deaf. The mostof us can hear-we can hear the guineas jingle and are after them very soon! We can hear a complaint against our fellow menand repeat it very rapidly! We have very quick ears for some things that are not worth hearing. But towards God, men's earsare often stopped up! They are as if they had a film over them. As there is a veil over the heart and scales over the eyes,so is there a plug in the ear and none of us who preach the Word of the Lord can take out that plug, or get through man'sear to his heart! It is very sad that we should wear our lives away in constant thought of how to get and win men's attention.And yet, though we may succeed in exciting an apparent attention for the moment, what we have said has not penetrated theheart. We have hurled our javelin at behemoth and his scales have turned aside the shaft! We have done our best to awakenthe conscience and to fix the Truth of God in the heart, but, if the arm of the Lord is not revealed, we have to go back andcry with the Chief of the whole College of Preachers, "Who has believed our report?"
What is this plug that gets into men's ears? It is, of course, first of all, original sin-that taint of the blood which hasspoiled every human faculty and has closed the ears from hearing even the voice of God, Himself. Man does not hear God's voicebecause he does not want to hear it. His will, his mind, his nature is altogether estranged from God.
This original sin engenders in men great carelessness about Divine things. How quickly they are awakened by talk about politics!With what attention they will listen to a lecture upon matters relating to their health, or upon the fastest method of makingmoney! But when it comes to the soul and its eternal destiny in Heaven or Hell-when it is concerning the bleeding Savior andthe loving Father and the gentle wooing Spirit-men think we are doting, talking fancies, telling dreams, and they pooh-poohit all and cast it behind their backs! If it is a matter of any worth to them, they will possibly think of it tomorrow, butthey scarcely imagine it is worth while to trouble themselves about it now. Their ears are stopped up by carelessness.
Often, too, there is another form of plug which is very hard to get out of the ear-that is, worldliness. "I am too busy toattend to religion! I am so engaged that I cannot spare time to hear about it. You do not know how fully my time is occupied.Why, even on Sunday I must look into my books and balance my accounts!" With such men the world is in their heart-it has filledit and taken possession of all their thoughts. God is not in all their thoughts because the world is there. I have been toldthat you can scarcely hear the great clock at St. Paul's strike in the middle of the day-the noise of the traffic is so greatthat many persons who live near have not known when it was noon. And I do not wonder at it. But you can hear the warning bellat dead of night-far away sounds the note that marks the hour because then the traffic is hushed. Alas, many men never getinto that hush-they live in a noisy, clamorous, trafficking world-and this dulls and stops up their ears so that even thoughGod, Himself, speaks, they do not hear His voice!
In some cases, the ear is stopped up by prejudice. Men do not hear the Gospel because they do not want to hear it- nor willthey bring themselves to hear it. There is the preacher, for instance. They have heard such strange stories concerning himthat they will not listen to him. The very people, too, who profess to love godliness-well, those who are prejudiced see faultsin them-as if that were a reason why they should not, themselves, listen to the Gospel! But any excuse will suffice when youare not in earnest about anything. Yet it is a thousand pities that a man should be prejudiced against the salvation of hisown soul! It would be a foolish thing for a man to prejudice himself into rage and beggary, but it is far worse when a manprejudices himself out of eternal life into everlasting woe! There are tens of thousands, yes, millions, who, from their educationand surroundings and often from want of candor, would not listen to the Gospel though the angels themselves preached it! Forsome reason or other, they are prejudiced against angelic preaching and they would not listen to it, let it be what it might!It seems impossible, sometimes, to get a hearing with some men, even for our Lord, Himself. They have resolved, before theylisten to Him, that He cannot be the Son of God. Nathanael's question, "Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?" is on theirlips in a moment! "Is it possible that we should derive any benefit from listening to the carpenter's Son?" So, in one wayor another, their ear does not fulfill its true purpose, for it is stopped up by prejudice.
With a great many more, the ear seems to be doubly sealed up by unbelief. They will not believe that which God, Himself, hasspoken. If they do not go the full length of renouncing belief in the Inspiration of Scripture, yet they might as well, forthey do not read what the Scripture says! Or, if they do read, they read only to question and to cavil, to impose their ownmeaning upon the plain Words of God and so, in very truth, their ear is hermetically sealed with unbelief! Even HE-you knowwhom I mean-even He who was known to heal with a touch or a word, all who came to Him, could not do many mighty works in Hisown country because of the unbelief of the people-with such an evil power is unbelief girded! Oh, that God would save menfrom it! If they are to be saved, He must do it, for we cannot. When the ear is stopped up by unbelief, it matters not howwisely and how earnestly you proclaim the Truth of God-it will not affect the heart of the hearers.
So, Brothers and Sisters, I have shown you various ways in which the ear of man gets stopped up. It may also be stopped upby self-sufficiency. When a man has enough in himself to satisfy him, he wants nothing of Christ. When he fancies he can doeverything himself, why does he need to cry to the strong for strength? Sometimes the ear gets stopped up with the love ofsin. Our Lord Jesus said to the Jews who sought to slay Him, "How can you believe, which receive honor one of another, andseek not the honor that comes from God only?" And I may say to others, "How can you who love the drunk's cup believe in Christ?How can you believe in Christ, you who are unfaithful to your wives, or you young men who follow after evil and wantonnessin these polluted streets of ours?" How is it to be expected that the pure Gospel should be in favor with men who are givento uncleanness?
These things stop up men's ears so they say to the preacher, "If we attended to this Gospel, we could not go on in our sinsand we would be disturbed in our conscience-therefore we will hear you another day concerning this matter." When the daysof their dalliance are over and they have drained the cup of the world's pleasure and lust. When their bones are full of rottennessand their sins are dragging them fast to Hell-then, perhaps, they will turn to their God- but not now! Their ears are sealedwith the love of sin and with a hardness of heart which makes them impenitent for their iniquities. O Sirs, do you not seehow difficult it is to get at man's heart when you cannot even get through the gate that leads to it? Ear-gate is blockedup with mud and all the King's captains will fail to break a way through it unless the Prince Immanuel, Himself, shall comewith the irresistible battering ram of His almighty Grace and break down that gate by the sheer force of His Omnipotent love!
Then there is another difficulty. If we get through the ear and the man is influenced to listen, his heart does not retainthat which is good-he soon forgets it. Hence the text says of the Lord, "He opens the ears of men and seals their instruction."Oh, what defeats we have had! I mean we who are teachers and preachers from the pulpit, or you who give your instruction inthe Sunday school class. Ah, we think the child, the man, the woman has learned that Truth of God at last, but it is as muchas if we had written it on a blackboard-it is soon wiped out. "Oh, yes," we thought to ourselves, "we have put it so plainly,we have illustrated it so deftly, we have pressed it home so patiently and so earnestly that they can never forget it!" Alas,what we tried to write upon their minds is as if it were written upon water, or like the marks that a child makes upon thesand by the seashore which the next wave washes out!
How shall men be saved? We cannot impress them or, if we do impress them, how often it ends in nothing! See them stream intothe Enquiry Room! Note their tears! Listen to the story of their repentance! Hear their confessions and declarations thatthey have found the Savior! Read the report in the papers-so many saved! But, within six months, where are they? Are theyto be found in our churches? Are they working with the people of God? Some of them, for whom God be thanked, but, oh, howlarge a proportion have gone back, like the dog to his vomit, and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire! WouldI not, therefore, have these special efforts to reach the unsaved? Of course I would-all the same, even, for what I have said.Whatever comes of it, our duty is one thing, the result of it is quite another! That which comes of it is often so disappointingthat we are made to realize our own utter inability-and then we are made to rely alone upon God's all-sufficient ability!Unless He opens the ear, it is never opened! And unless He seals the instruction upon the heart, burning it into the conscienceas with a hot iron, setting His own instruction manual upon the innermost core of the being-all that is done is soon undoneand nothing is really done effectually!
Another difficulty must be noticed. That is, the purpose of so many men. Indeed, the secret purpose of all men-and from thispurpose men have to be withdrawn. The purpose of most men is to seek after happiness. And their notion is that they will findit by having their own way. They have not found it yet-their own way has led them into much sorrow. They purposed to change,especially in one particular direction, but still to follow their own way in another fashion. They were, perhaps, too coarse-theywill now be more polite. They were really outrageous in their sin-they will now be more decorous. They were, perhaps, goingat too fast a pace-they will go a little slower, but in the same direction, still seeking the pleasures of the world, stilldesiring to please self. But to bow before God and confess their sin-they will have none of that! To turn from all their evilways and to seek after perfect holiness-they will have none of that! To come to Christ and, in that coming, to be obedientto His supremacy and seek to follow His example, even as they hope to find pardon through His precious blood-they will nothave that!
Their purpose is-well, perhaps, just at the last, when they cannot make any more out of the world, they will come in and cheatthe devil in a mean and beggarly way-and try to sneak into Heaven by some back door if they can find one. After having giventheir lives to Satan, they will give their deaths to the Savior. That prayer of the meanest man mentioned in the whole Bibleis one which I have often heard quoted with commendation. That wicked wretch of a Balaam, after hating God's people, doingthem all the evil he could, and taking the reward for it, then prays, "Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my lastend be like his!" What an abominable request! For the man who had lived such a life as that to ask that he might die the deathof the righteous was atrocious and showed the awful blackness of his wicked heart! O Sirs, one day you will have to come toChrist and yield yourselves to His sway! If you do not bow before the scepter of His mercy, you will be broken in pieces bythe rod of His wrath!
The difficulty is to bring men to this submission, now, before it is too late. They have their own purpose and their own hope,and their own scheme-how can we get them away from them? He that will not be healed, who can heal him? He that is resolvedto be sick, who can make him whole? He that will die, who shall keep him alive? The man that will not eat, how can you feedhim? He that will not drink, how can you slake his thirst? O Sirs, this makes the difficulty of getting at men, that theyare bent on mischief, they have set their faces like a flint, as if determined to go down to Hell!
Yes, and there is one more thing which is, perhaps, the greatest barrier of all. It is not merely their deafness of ear, theirstubbornness of spirit and their resoluteness of purpose, but it is their pride of heart. Oh, this is like granite! Whereshall we find the diamond that can cut a thing so hard as man's pride? God can "hide pride from man," but we cannot! Man isso proud that he says that he has not sinned! Or, if he has sinned, he could not help it, poor creature that he is. Even ifhe has done wrong, he is no worse than his neighbors-and there are some beautiful traits of character about him-and thesewill furnish a sufficient covering for him! If he is told that he must believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, he greatly prefersto believe in himself! He will not come, as the publican did, and cry, "God, be merciful to me a sinner." Why should he? Heis not such a sinner as the publican was! He would be washed, but he does not feel that he is foul enough. He would be purifiedfrom sin, but then he is not quite certain that he has any sin from which he needs to be purified! And so, while the sickfind the Good Physician and are healed, these who fancy themselves to be in health die in their sins!
We can overcome almost anything but man's pride. You know the old story of dear Mr. Hervey who said to the godly farmer, "Ah,John, it is wonderful when God overcomes sinful self!" "Yes, Mr. Hervey," answered the farmer, "but it is a greater wonderwhen He overcomes righteous self." And so it is. It is easy for the Lord to save a sinner, but it is impossible for a self-righteousman to be saved until he is brought down from his fatal pride. I have heard of a lady who used to say that she could not bearto hear a certain style of preaching. "Why," she said, "according to that teaching, I have no advantage over the girls inthe street! And there is no better Heaven for a lady like me than there is for one of them!" So they shut themselves out witha sin which is as great as the sin which they condemn-for he that sets up his rags in preference to the robes of Christ-hethat prefers his own righteousness to the precious blood of the Only-Begotten-has insulted his God with an arrogance so terriblethat no sin can equal it in blackness! God save us from that sin! It needs God to do so, for only He can "hide pride fromman."
II. Now, secondly, though man is hard to influence, GOD KNOWS HOW TO COME AT HIM and He does it in many ways.
According to the text, He sometimes does it, "in a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falls upon men while slumberingon their beds." I have no doubt that many, many times, men's sleeping thoughts have been the beginnings of better things forthem. You see, reason holds the helm of the vessel when we are awake and, as a consequence, it keeps conscience down in thehold and will not let him speak. But in our dreams, reason has left the helm and then, sometimes, conscience comes up andin his own wild way he begins to sound such an alarm that the man starts up in the night! His very hair stands on end withfear-a fear which might begin in a dream, but which was not, itself, a dream, for there was something real and substantialat the back of it. Did you ever notice how God awakened Nebuchadnezzar, that greatest man, perhaps, of his age? Why, in adream! Then Nebuchadnezzar trembles and he sends for someone to interpret his dream. Many and many a man has dreamed of death,or dreamed of judgement-did you never have such a dream yourself? We do not attach any importance to dreams as prognosticationsor signs of our spiritual condition, but there can be no doubt that, frequently, conscience has been awake when the rest ofthe person has been asleep-and men have been startled in such a way that, when they did awake, they could not shake off theimpression of their dreams.
God gets at other men in a different way, namely, by affliction, or by the death of others. What messengers of mercy afflictionshave often been! The man has lost a dear baby on whom his heart's affection was set. Or, more often, still, some blessed littlechild who talked of Jesus and sang sweet hymns-and died with Heaven on its face-has been the means of getting at an ungodlyfather and an impenitent mother! No sermon reached them, but the little child-preacher touched them wondrously and, for months,perhaps for years, they could not shake off the impression. Some of you may remember other deaths. I will not harrow yourfeelings, but these death scenes have spoken loudly to you and you have not been able to forget them. God has opened yourear and I trust, also, that He has sealed His instruction upon your heart and that He has hidden pride from you and turnedyou from an evil purpose by means of personal afflictions or bereavements!
So have I known men awakened by strange Providences-by a fire, for instance, or by being in peril on board ship. Oh, how manyhave fallen on their knees when the vessel has begun to go down and before the lifeboat has been noticed! Bodily hunger, too,has brought some to hunger for Christ. And the result of their sin, when they have been in poverty, forlorn and lonely, andwhen nobody would associate with them because of their sin-perhaps even the plank bed and the hardiness of prison fare havebrought them to seek their Savior and their God. God can get at men. Even the great leviathan, though no man can pierce himwith a sword, has a weak place somewhere, where God can reach him. There is no sinner's heart so stout and stubborn but that,if God shall thrust at him, he shall soon find his heart melt like wax in the midst of his breast. The eternal God never yetcame into contact with men, either in the way of Divine Grace or vengeance, but He made them feel that He was not a man likethemselves, with whom they could wrestle and contend, but that He was infinitely greater than the very strongest of them.
If God does not come at men by strange Providences, how often He does it by singular words from the preacher! Oh, sometimeswe have to say things which we never intended to say. They come to us and we do not know where they are going-and some whoare not in the secret, ask, "Why did the preacher say that?" Sirs, if he studied mere propriety and wished to please all hishearers, he would not have said it! But he has said it and God has blessed it. Awkwardly as it was put, it was put in theright shape, according to God's own way of looking at things-and sinners were saved and God was glorified!
Then God has a way of coming to men's hearts by personal visitations, without dream, without speech, without voice. I haveoften heard one say, "It was many years since I had been to a place of worship, but when I rose in the morning, I felt a singularsoftness of spirit coming over me and I said, 'I think I shall go, today, to hear such-and-such a man, and see if there willnot be a word for me.'" Another has said, "I was at my work and I cannot tell how it was, but I felt that I must stop a bitand go aside and begin to pray." I remember one who is, I believe, at this moment a member of this Church. He said, "I leanedagainst some iron railings, for I could hardly hold myself up. I never remember having any conviction of sin before, but Iwas suddenly struck with a sense of sin, I know not how nor why." God can bring men to Himself, so let us never despair ofany!
When you are praying for people, believe that there are other agencies than yours at the back of all that you can say, orI can say, and the books can say, and Bibles can say! There is the Holy Spirit and it is a part of our creed of which we oughtoften to think-"I believe in the Holy Spirit." Bring the sinner in prayer to the Holy Spirit and rest in this Truth of God,that God can come at him by some means or other. Perhaps He will reach him through you-can you not speak to him tonight? Tryand get a word with some stranger here, in the Tabernacle. Speak an earnest, loving word about the Savior-and who knows?-theappointed time, the day of salvation for that soul may have come. God grant it!
III. My time has gone. I shall, therefore, ask you to listen to the outline of what I would have said upon the third point,and that is, WHEN GOD DOES GET AT MEN, HE ACCOMPLISHES GREAT PURPOSES.
His purpose is, first, to withdraw man from his own purpose. We have often admired the drawings of God-let us also admirethe withdrawings of God-"That He may withdraw man from his purpose." Sometimes a man has purposed at a certain moment to commita sin and God stops him from doing it. Perhaps if he had committed that one sin, the current of his life might have been turnedso as never to be altered again. But God stopped him then and there. "Up to this point," He says, "you have gone, but youshall go no further. That is your last oath, your last bout of drunkenness, your last act of uncleanness. Stop!" It is theLord who does this! He did it with some of us-He withdrew us from our purpose.
He also withdraws men from their general purpose of continuing in sin. They purpose to procrastinate, but God purposes thatthey shall postpone the acceptance of Grace no longer. They purpose that they will go a little further in sin, but God stopsthem then and there.
I find the translation may be that God withdraws man from his work, from that which has been his life-work-from the wholerun and tenor of his conversation, God withdraws him! A man goes out after having received the Word of the Lord and he isa different man from that hour. I remember one who kept a low public house and who heard the Word of God. He had no soonerheard it than when he reached home he smashed up his signboard with the first axe he could find and shut up the house, resolvingthat he would have no more to do with the evil traffic! There is many a man who has been just as decided and earnest as that.God has stopped him and withdrawn him from his purpose. Oh, there are some whose lives have been spent in infamy and, in aninstant, God has made them forsake it all-and they have loathed themselves! The change has been so sudden, as well as so radical,that all about them have gazed, admired and wondered at what the Grace of God has worked! When the Lord visits a man's heart,He withdraws him from his purpose.
I have it impressed upon me to believe that there is some soul here that is to be withdrawn from his purpose at once. I donot know what purpose you had upon your heart this afternoon, nor what your purpose is about where you are going to spendtonight, but I beseech you, if it was a purpose of sin, stop at once! Heed the word of warning-go no further. If you haveresolved tomorrow, or at any time during the week, that you will commit this or that sin, O Love Divine, turn the man andhe shall be turned! Deal with him this moment, O God, according to Your glorious Godhead, not according to the ficklenessof his will, but according to Your Almighty Grace! Change the lion into a lamb, the raven to a dove! Thus the Lord withdrawsman from his purpose.
Then what else does God do? He hides pride from man. That is a very strange expression, certainly, to, "hide pride from man."Did none of you ever hide away a knife from a child? Have you never hidden away fruit from your little children when theyhave had enough and they would have eaten more if they could find it? God often hides pride from men because if man can findanything to be proud of, he will be! Look at him, he is proud of his fine form! Look at that woman, how proud she is of herclothes, poor thing! One is proud of his ability, proud of his success, proud of his job, proud of his youth, proud of hisold age, proud of what he never did, proud of what he did do but could not help doing! There is no one of us who has evena pennyworth of stuff to be proud of, whatever we may be! But unless God hides it all away, we go and find something and comestrutting out just like our little children, when they say, "See my pretty coat?! See my new shoes?!"
Some of you mothers, in teaching your children to say that, bring them up to habits of pride. Well, they will only be likeyourself-and that is the way with us all-we will be proud and he who has the least to be proud of is often prouder than allthe rest! My Lord Mayor is not more proud of his badge and chain than many a crossing sweeper is of his ragged trousers! Pridecan live upon a dunghill as well as upon a throne! But God will hide pride from us, till, if we look about, we cannot findit and cannot see any reason for being proud. I pray God to hide from all of us, self-righteous pride, and self-seeking pride,and self-glorifying pride-to lay us low at the foot of the Cross. Whenever I find anybody saying, "I have attained to a perfectlysanctified life, I have no sinful propensities, I, I, I, I."-Ah, yes, if God had really dealt with you, He would have clippedyour I's down! They will not be half so straight in the back, and so tall, when God takes you in hand!
He hides pride from men. Some of the Lord's workers have grown so big that the least thing offends them- everything must beaccording to their own way, or they will have nothing to do with it. Oh, it will not do, Brothers and Sisters! If God is withus, He will hide pride from man. There is nothing He dislikes more than pride! What does He say of it? "The proud He knowsafar off." That is as much as to say that He will not touch them with a pair of tongs! He knows enough of them at a distance,He does not want them near Him! When He deals with us in the way of Grace, He hides pride from man.
Then, lastly, He thus secures man's salvation from destruction. "He keeps back his soul from the Pit and his life from perishingby the sword." How wonderfully has God kept some of us back from what would have been our destruction if we had gone on! PerhapsI speak to some here who have had many hairbreadth escapes-should not they live to God? I recollect with what solemn awe Ispoke to an officer who rode in the famous charge at Balaclava. It must be 20 years ago or more, I think, since I was withhim, and he was telling me of that terrible ride when the saddles were emptying on every side, and he rode on, and rode backunharmed. I could not but lay my hand upon him with great earnestness and say, "Are you not God's man since He spared youso? Will you not live to His Glory and give your heart to Him?"
And I would say that to all of you who have been often in fevers, or who have been near the gates of death. If you have beenpreserved, for what purpose was it? Surely, that you might yield yourselves to God, for He has interposed on purpose thatyour life should not go down to the Pit! I hope, also, that He has the higher design that you, yourselves, with your truestlife, should never go down into that Pit from which there is no escape. Oh, that He would deliver every man, woman and child,here, from the wrath to come! For, believe me, there is a wrath to come, a fire that burns and shall never be quenched! Oh,for that visitation of God that shall hide pride from us, and reveal a Savior to us, that shall withdraw us from our own purpose,to fulfill in us the Divine purpose! Then shall we be saved from going down into the Pit. The Lord enable us to believe inHis dear Son, Jesus Christ our Lord! Amen.
EXPOSITION BY C. H. SPURGEON: JOB33:6-33.
This is part of the speech of young Elihu, who had listened with much patience, but also with great indignation, to the harshspeeches of Job's three friends and to Job's self-righteous answers.
Verses 6, 7. Behold, I am according to your wish in God's stead; I also am formed out of the clay. Behold, my terror shallnot make you afraid, neither shall my hand be heavy upon you. Job had wished that he could argue his case with the Lord, Himself.If God would only withdraw the terror of His Presence from him, he would like to come even to His seat, and plead with Him."Oh!" he said, "that there were one who would stand between me and God, that I might plead with Him!" "Here am I," answeredElihu, "I am the man you need. God has sent me. Now come and plead with me. There is no terror in me to make you afraid-neitherhave I a heavy hand to crush you."
8-10. Surely you have spoken in my hearing, and I have heard the voice of your words, saying I am clean without transgression,I am innocent; neither is there iniquity in me. Behold, He finds occasions against me, He counts me for His enemy. Elihu putsthe case very plainly. "There, Job, you have said that you are perfectly innocent and yet you are made to suffer. You havebrought a charge against God, that He seeks occasion against you and treats you, who have always been His faithful friend,as though you were His enemy. You said"-
11,12. He puts my feet in the stocks, He marks all my paths. Behold, in this you are not just: I will answer you, that Godis greater than man. Here is the core of the whole matter. Whenever you and I begin to impugn the Justice of God, we oughtto remember who we are and what He is! There is no comparison between us and the great God Over All, blessed forever! Andfor us to begin to charge Him with injustice, or unkindness is a desperately wicked action, of that we may be quite sure atthe very outset.
13. Why do you strive against Him? For He gives not account of any of His matters. It is not for us to summon God to appearbefore us, as if He were our servant and we were His master, or to arraign Him before our judgment seat, and to sit thereas if the Holy One of Israel were a felon who must answer for His crimes! It is high treason and blasphemy against the MostHigh for us to think of sitting in judgment upon Him! This was Paul's way of putting the matter when someone raised a questionabout the Divine Decree. Paul did not answer the objector, except by saying, "No, but, O man, who are you that replies againstGod?" Let the moth contend with the flame, let the wax fight with the fire, let the stubble strive with the whirlwind, butas for us who are less than nothing, let us have no disputes with God! The fact is, God's dealings with us have an objective-Hetreats us, sometimes, with stern severity for our own good. We cannot always see the end from the beginning, but God has anend, and a gracious end, too, in all His dealings with His people.
14-22. For God speaks once, yes twice, yet man perceives it not. In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep fallsupon men while slumbering on their beds; then He opens the ears of men, and seals their instruction, that He may withdrawman from his purpose, and hide pride from man. He keeps back his soul from the Pit, and his life from perishing by the sword.He is also chastened with pain upon his bed, and the multitude of his bones with strong pain: so that his life abhors bread,and his soul dainty meat. His flesh is consumed away, that it cannot be seen and his bones that were not seen stick out. Yes,his soul draws near unto the grave, and his life to the destroyers. Yet in all this God is dealing with man in love and mercy!Man is a strange creature. He will not go in the right way by being drawn, so full often he must be driven. There is a whipfor a horse, a bridle for an ass, a rod for a fool's back-and we are such fools that we must often feel that rod and, sometimes,to a very painful extent till our soul draws near unto the grave and our life to the destroyers.
23, 24. If there is a messenger with him, an interpreter, one among a thousand to show unto man His uprightness then He isgracious to him, and says, Deliver him from going down to the Pit: I have found a ransom. Oh, what precious words! There isOne with God, One of a thousand, the Chief among ten thousand, the Messenger of the Covenant, the Mediator between God andman, the Man, Christ Jesus! When He comes in and makes man to see God's wondrous mingling of justice and mercy, then God turnsin Infinite Grace upon the starving, dying sinner and says, "Deliver him from going down to the Pit: I have found a ransom."
25-28. His flesh shall be fresher than a child's: he shall return to the days of his youth: he shall pray unto God, and Hewill be favorable unto him: and he shall see His face with joy: for He will render unto man His righteousness. He looks uponmen, and if any say, I have sinned, and perverted that which was right, and it prompted me not; He will deliver his soul fromgoing into the Pit, and his life shall see the light. Some Thursday nights ago, there strayed into this place one who hadlong hated God and who had openly expressed his hatred of Him. He was much prayed for by friends, but he was desperate inhis wickedness. He little dreamed, when he left his home, that he would come into this place. But so he did and here in thishouse God met with him and renewed his heart and made him to rejoice in the God he once despised! Here was a fulfillment ofthis text and I pray that it may be fulfilled again, tonight!
29-33. Lo, all these things works God oftentimes with man, to bring back his soul from the Pit, to be enlightened with thelight of the living. Mark well, O Job, hearken unto me: hold your peace and I will speak. If you have anything to say, answerme: speak, for I desire to justify you. If not, hearken unto me: hold your peace, and I shall teach you wisdom.