Sermon 2924. Preventing Grace
A SERMON PUBLISHED ON THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 23, 1905.
DELIVERED BY C. H. SPURGEON,
AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON, IN THE YEAR 1862.
"And David said to Abigail, Blessed is the Lord God of Israel, who sent you this day to meet me, and blessed is your advice,and blessed are you, because you have kept me this day from coning to bloodshed, and from avenging myself with my own hand."1 Samuel 25:32,33.
I MUST tell you the story, for if you do not realize the circumstances, you will not understand these words. David was inthe position of an outlaw in his county. He knew that he was one day to be king over Israel, but he had such reverence forSaul, the Lord's' anointed, that he would do nothing that would look like usurpation, or seem in any way to injure the reigningmonarch. Some 400 restless spirits who had been impoverished by the tyrannical government of Saul, persons who were in debtand generally discontented, came to him in the caves of Adullam and there formed an army of freebooters of which David wasthe head. A little while afterwards, 200 others, men like-minded, came and united themselves with this force so that Davidfound himself at the head of an army of 600 men of war, all of them valiant men, ready for exploits. You will see he was ina very difficult position-he must find work for these men. They were soldiers of fortune and they must be employed, yet itwas impossible for him to act like a traitor-he would not lead his men against his king. He would not begin a revolution inorder to provide for his followers.
What, then, must he do if he desired to still be loyal to the king and, at the same time, not to disband his men? He occupiedhis forces in peacefully guarding the herds of the great sheep-masters who fed their flocks on the high steeps of Carmel.This is not a thing uncommon in the East even today. Certain sheikhs, with their body of followers, sometimes undertake tokeep off the Bedouin Arabs and other marauders who attack the flocks of the sheep-master and, of course, they expect to havesome kind of remuneration for their trouble.
Now, all through the time that the sheep were in the pasture, David and his men watched over the flocks of a certain sheep-mastercalled Nabal. When the time came round for shearing the flocks, David sent some of his followers to Nabal, to the feast ofsheep shearing, presenting his request that some contribution might be sent for the support of his men on account of theirhaving taken care of Nabal's flocks which otherwise would certainly have been diminished by systematic plunder. But Nabalhad got all the good he wanted from David and he refrained not from answering David's messenger in a most rude, surly manner."There are many servants," he said, "now-a-days, that break away, every man, from his master. Shall I then take my bread andmy water, and my flesh that I have killed for my shearers, and give it unto men whom I know not where they are?"
Such a churlish message could not fail to nettle David. Indeed, we know that it stung him to the quick. He had not run awayfrom his master, but his master had driven him away and, as one who was apart from Saul, but yet was not Saul's antagonist,he was doing the best he could to maintain the peace. His blood boiled over. "Have I guarded the flocks of this miserablewretch," he said, "all this time, and kept my men there merely to attend his sheep, when they might have been profitable atsome other work? And now, when I send to him, instead of giving me a donation, he answers me in this churlish manner!" Then,turning to his men, he said, "Gird you on, every man, his sword, we will show this fellow how to treat us." So, leaving 200men to guard the caves, 400 marched out, David at the head, his hot blood all ablaze within him, his anger showing in hisface. "God do so to me," he said, "and more, also, if I leave so much as a dog of that man's house alive by the morning light!"He sallied forth doubtless with the full intent to destroy Nabal, to make his house a heap of ruins and then to devastatethe sheep-master's estate! What a false position for a child of
God! But David was naturally impulsive and somehow men that have any life in them do sometimes get their tempers aroused.We hear of some people that are as quiet and as peaceful and as easy as a pond of stagnant water-certainly their peace doesnot flow like a river, and their righteousness is never lashed to fury like the waves of the sea. David was not one of these.
As the son of Jesse rashly pursues the man of Mount Carmel, he meets a woman, Nabal's wife. Perhaps a hard thought comes overhim to smite her, but no-she is a woman-David cannot strike her! And, what is more, she is at his feet, asking him to layall the blame at her door. Then she goes on to tell him that her husband is a very foolish and churlish man and she hopesDavid will not take offense at his words. She has brought him a present and she tells him that when he shall come to be king,it will be a great ease to his mind to think he never fought his own battles, but only the Lord's. She reminds him of thefuture and so she makes him forget the present. After a while his heart yields to quiet reflections-he acts rather as a saintthan as a soldier, putting up his sword into the sheath and leaving the matter with his God. Righteous vengeance was soonasserted, when barbarous revenge was stopped, for ten days afterwards Nabal died. The Lord Himself dealt out retributive justiceto the adversary, while the Lord's servant was held back from indiscriminate slaughter.
That is all we shall have occasion to say about the narrative. It suggests our subject, which is "Preventing Grace"- the Gracewhich God sends to prevent saints and sinners from running into sin. I hope before the service is over many of us, in lookingback upon our past lives, will gratefully bless the Lord-bless His Providence and bless the man or the woman whom He has sentto teach us and to keep us back from evil-that we shall thank Him because we have oftentimes been turned back from doing thewrong thing and by an overruling counsel been led of Him in the paths of righteousness.
Of this preventing Grace we shall speak in two ways. We will deal first of all with the people of God and with them but briefly,though they are the only persons who will ever be able to recognize the value and feel thankfulness for this precious benefit.Then we shall see how Grace often prevents even men who are notfollowers of Jesus.
I. PREVENTING GRACE IS ENJOYED BY ALL THE PEOPLE OF GOD.
Dear Friends, some of us can bless God at this hour that preventing Grace came to us in the shape of a godly education. Weheard no blasphemies when we lay in the cradle, no curses startled us from our dreams. Many of us saw no drunkenness beneaththe roof of our father's house, no vulgar books were put in our way. Many of you were trained from your youth up to know theScriptures like Timothy-and some of you have even heard something of the voice of God speaking to you as He did to Samuel.Blessed be God for a holy mother! Blessed be God for an affectionate, prayerful father! Blessed be you of the Lord, you thatbrought us forth for God and blessed is your advice, for you have kept us from many a sin!
Since then, preventing Grace has come in the shape of godly associations. We need, none of us, to be very proud of what weare if we think what we might have been had we been put in other positions! If, instead of being bound apprentice to a goodmaster and afterwards brought into association with religious people in the Sunday school, in the Bible Class and in the congregation,your lot had been thrown where you could pick up your education in the street and take your college degree in the coal-holeor the theater-who can tell but you had been as black a sinner as those whom you now pass by in the street, wondering thatthey are so vile? Much of a man's character comes from other men. What we are is not all of ourselves. We are deep in debtto others. Indeed, what man is there upon whom there have not been a hundred fingers to mold him and a thousand influencesto make his plastic character what it is? I know that the Grace of God is a thing that makes a man right before God, but Iknow, also, that holy associations (or ever Grace comes into our heart to renew us) prevent us from indulging in sins intowhich, under other circumstances, we should certainly have plunged!
In extolling preventing Grace, what shall I say, dear Friends, besides this, of the Providential circumstances which havekept us from sin? There have been times with some of us in our younger days before we knew Christ, when the temptation wasvery strong, but the opportunity was not near. And at other times the opportunity has been before our eyes, but there wasno temptation. God help the man that has the temptation and the opportunity at the same time! Many and many a man has receivedthe preventing and restraining Grace of God when the devil has been hindered from throwing the two dice at one time. It isof Grace that at one time there has been the fire in the heart, but no fuel, while at
another there has been the fuel but the fire did not burn just at that time so as to make it convenient or desirable for theman to sin. Oh, Friends, the river of our life has been winding and tortuous in its course! Had it wound in another way, ithad been very different from what it is and, perhaps, a word-as we say, "an accident," a chance hit-may have turned the wholeof it! Now we can say that our moral reputation is unblemished, whereas otherwise we should have had to lament that we hadbeen immoral, debauched and depraved if it had not been for this preventing Grace of God working through Providential circumstances.
There is a fountain which is the father of two rivers and these two rivers both take their rise in a lake at the top of ahill. Both rivers start from the same place, but when they end their course they are some five hundred miles apart. Beholdthis drop of water! There it lies. Which way shall it go? Shall it go down that stream and find its way to yonder sea, ordown this stream to another destiny? It needs but a motion of a bird's wing to move that drop either way and it shall go rollingonward into yonder sea, or it shall find another channel and pursue its course far apart. So has it been with us. The Graceof God-preventing Grace had much to do with the Providence which puts us in such-and-such a channel instead of casting usinto another that allowed us to come into contact with holy people rather than to emaciate us with the vilest of the vile!This is a hard blow at our self-righteousness. If we had not had our hearts changed and if Providential circumstances hadbeen a little different, we might have been lost before now.
But besides the power of conversion to change life, how much Believers owe to the Grace of God exercised through trial andsuffering! They would have gone astray, but they were barred down by affliction. They would have leaped the hedges of God'sLaw, but they were clogged by some adversity. Some men owe much to the fact that they were never in good health. A blind eye,or a crippled leg, or a maimed arm may have been in the hands of God a great blessing in keeping some of you back from iniquitiesin which otherwise you might have indulged! We never know what innumerable streams of good flow from that well which we callMarah, but which God often makes to be an Elim to our souls-
"Determined to save He watched over my path, When, Satan's blind slave, I sported with death." I suppose, dear Brothers andSisters in Christ, that in looking back you can say, "I can see the finger of God in a great many places where I might haveruined myself-there, and there, and there-though I knew Him not, His arms were underneath me. He guided me with His eyes.He led me by His right hand that I might not be utterly destroyed."
Now, Christian, if you would think of this a little, you would be very grateful, indeed, to God for this. I know if you hadsinned even more, the blood of Christ could wash your guilt away-and if your iniquities had been still greater, you wouldnot have overreached the power of Divine Love. But think now how good it is for you that you were not allowed-I speak, ofcourse, only to some of you-to go so far! How much sorrow you have been spared! From what evil habits have you been saved!What temptations are now kept away from you which, if God had not kept you back from sin in former days, might otherwise hadoverwhelmed you!
Perhaps there is a man here who is a Christian and though he knows he is redeemed, he would give his right arm if he couldforget his unregenerate days. There are some men who might say, "I would give my eyes if I could forget what they have seen,and lose my ears if I could remember no more what they have heard." Why, there is a snatch of an old song that will come overyou when you are in prayer! And when you are trying to get right up to Heaven there is some old black remembrance of the merrimentor dissipation of the former days that checks your flight and is as a clog to the eagle and will not let it mount! There ismany a man who might have been a leader in God's camp who is afraid to come out and who, if he had come out, would have butlittle force because of the weakness some old habit has brought upon him. He feels he cannot do what he would for Christ becauseof the past. If this to not your experience, then thank God for preventing Grace!
I preached this morning to the chief of sinners, I was glad to do it, but whenever I do, I find some who wish they had beengreater sinners-not because they love sin, but because they think they would then see a greater change in themselves whenthe Grace of God lays hold of them. Instead of this, thank God most devoutly you are big enough sinners as you are. Thereis enough of vileness and corruption. There is enough of base depravity. There is enough of abominable sin in you now! ThankGod if you have not been allowed to give vent to the evil within you and run to an excess of riot. I write every day amongmy mercies that I was taught to run in wisdom's way.
But, once again, dear Friend, if you have not been permitted to run into outrageous folly, do not think that you are any nearerChrist because of this. Do not imagine that you are to be saved in any different way from the most outrageous drunk or themost depraved of harlots! There is the same way to Heaven for you who are highly esteemed among men as for the man who liesrotting in a jail for his crime. I tell you, Sirs, you who think you have done no wrong, you must go to Heaven by the bloodand righteousness of Christ as much as the convict at the hulks! And when you get to Glory you shall have no more right toboast of your own merits or your own goodness than the thief who went from the cross to Glory, or that woman that was a sinnerand loved much because she was much forgiven! "Other foundation can no man lay than that is laid." And while it is cause forcongratulation that you may not have wandered so far into sin as others, it is also cause for trembling, for verily I sayunto you, publicans and harlots often enter the Kingdom of Heaven before Pharisees! Some who were the vilest of the vile havecome to Christ-have penitently accepted His righteousness while others robed in their own righteousness have gone down toHell and perished with a double destruction with the rags of their righteousness about them!
I hope I have in no way whatever said anything which on the one hand detracts from the value of an early religious trainingand preventing Grace, nor anything on the other hand which detracts from the Grace which saves the very vilest of the vile.I feel that sometimes when we are preaching, we seem to look after the scum and the riffraff and we forget many others. Iwould not forget one of you, my dear Hearers, who hear me Sabbath after Sabbath. God is my Witness, if I thought I had missedany one of you I would be too glad to preach a sermon only for that one person, if I might but win his soul. What did I say?Preach a sermon? I would preach 50 sermons! I would preach my whole life but to win one of you and think myself well paidwith such a blessed reward for such easy toil. But whether you are great sinners or little sinners outwardly, remember youare all vile in the inner nature-and the same Grace is presented to you all. "Whoever will, let him take of the waster oflife freely."
II. The second part of our discourse is to be addressed to those who as yet have not experienced the Grace of God in its constrainingand quickening power. They, too, in a very real sense have received the preventing Grace of God, for THE PREVENTING GRACEOF GOD IS UNIVERSAL.
Without the preventing Grace of God to restrain man, he would be unbearable, and if it were not for the preventing Grace ofGod in society, a nation would be an impossibility, and a well-ordered commonwealth would be a thing for which we might long,but should never be able to realize. Men would be little better, we believe, than the beasts of the forest, tearing and devouringone another if the Grace of God did not keep them in check. And this, I think, is proved by the fact that the further yourecede from the Light of the Gospel-the further you get from the agencies which preventing Grace is most likely to use-themore cruel and savage men are toward each other. I thank God that this is a land where preventing Grace is felt even by thevery worst. I do not believe there is a burglar or a murderer but has been the subject of it, but has had to strive againstit and against his own conscience before he could consummate his crime and give himself up to iniquity. You have had preventingGrace keeping you back from sin. Sinner, if you cannot thank God for this, we can! We bless the Lord that He restrains youand does not permit you to be worse than you are. We pray that this preventing Grace may never be taken from you, or elseyou shall be like some wild horse that has desired to dash over the precipice, who, when the rein is laid upon his neck, leapsto his doom and destroys himself and as many as are attached to him.
Yet, while it is universal, this preventing Grace of God is much detested and abhorred by some men. Some can hardly toleratethe restrictions which Christianity has imposed upon the nation! They are vexed that they have to shut up shop on Sunday and,by a sort of custom, are compelled to go and hear the Word of God. They wish they lived in some place where they could dojust as they liked. The wife who wants her husband and family to go up and hear the Gospel is thought harshly of because ofit. Some men would even like, if they could, to have a family that was all the devil's-but somehow or other God will not letthem have their way. The godless man gets a godly wife and he is angry. By-and-by it turns out that one of the children receivesGod's saving Graces and he cannot bear the thought of it. I have seen men in spiritual things just like madmen of Bedlam.God knew that those men would ruin themselves if they were let alone, so, first of all, he straitjacketed them with poverty,that they could not do what they would. Then, afterwards, when they began to tear and foam, He put them into a godly family,as maniacs are put into a padded room, so that, dash themselves as they will, they cannot hurt themselves! These men cannotget loose, but they will strain at their bonds and
foam and gnash because God has hold of them-and will not let the devil get the full mastery of them as they would like. OSinner, the day may come when God will say of you, "Let him have his own way." If He should give you up, then your doom willbe sealed forever and your fate more desperate than words can describe! God help you and keep you from yourself, or else youwill soon destroy yourself and go post haste to destruction!
But to turn to a more cheerful view of it, in many persons this preventing Grace leads to something higher. After preventingGrace has kept you back from sin, in comes quickening Grace and shows you the hatefulness of sin. And after that comes pardoningGrace and gives you power to believe in Jesus and, lo, your sins are put away! May God grant that this may be the case withsome of you who have got no further yet than preventing Grace. Be grateful for that, thank God with all your heart for it!May it lead you to repentance. May it lead you to put your trust in Jesus and in Him only! Then you will pass from the mereprevention in which Grace is a shackle, to the liberty in which Grace becomes a shield and a sword, the joy and the sun ofyour life! May the long-suffering of God lead you to repentance!
But once again, to turn to the solemn chord once more, where it does not lead to higher things, preventing Grace increasesthe responsibility of the man who receives it. If a man will go over hedge and ditch to Hell, he shall find it a hard fallwhen he gets to the edge. If, when we put poison out of the way and remove everything with which a man can destroy himself,yet he will tear open his own veins, he is a suicide, indeed! Who shall pity him? And when God hedges you about, if you breakthe hedges-when He puts a bit in your mouth, if you stand chomping it until at last you get it from your jaws and turn toyour own way-this will not be done without bringing on your head at the Last Great Day thunders of curses from the universethat shall judge you and the full lightning of wraths from the hand of God who shall condemn you!
I fear there are some here who are sinning against the Light of God. You are not without warnings in this land, not withoutcalls and wooing invitations-the time was when you might have gone into many of the churches in London and not have heardthe Gospel so that you could understand it, but now in the corners of the streets and in the theatres you may hear it if youwill. And God is my Witness when I say there is one place where you can hear it preached with earnestness and I rejoice toknow there are thousands of others! Souls, if you perish, it is not for lack of invitations to Christ! If you will not haveChrist, it is a willful rejection! If you will be lost, blame not the minister-lay it not at our door-we are clear of yourblood! We shake our garments of the dust of your souls! We will not be responsible for you. We warn you, we cry aloud to youand if you will not hear, but will go and turn to the downward road, on your own heads be your doom forever and ever!
But instead of enlarging on these and other points, I will try, as God shall help me, to give you a little advice, in thehope that some who have come up, perhaps to a cattle show, or the Handel Festival, or the Great Exhibition, may get more thanthey came for! Who can tell, some of you may have to say in time and eternity, "Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, who sentyou this day to meet me, and blessed be your advice!"
Now, young man fresh from the country, you have a scheme in your head and you are going to carry it out tomorrow. If my prayerfor you is heard you will not do so! You have come up to London to have a merry time of it-I hope you will have a merry timeof another sort! Consider your ways. Think! Why will you go willfully and with your eyes open into that sin? It may be thelast sin you will ever commit! It may be that you will die in the act. Great God, how prophetic these words may be! Am I pronouncingthe doom of some soul here? Such things have happened and it may be that they will happen again. Oh, I pray you, Friend, stayyour hand. Shall I fall down upon my knees and pray you to stop, for an impulse is upon me to speak thus-do not, do not, itis for your life! Back with your hand, man, for fear of the viper's tooth! You are playing on the hole of the asp, but histongue is ready and his fang shall envenom all your veins! By God, by Christ, by Heaven, by Hell, I entreat you, you who haveintended some sin, cease from it! May this advice be blessed to you!
Have you not already had enough? What, man? Have you killed yourself and is not that enough? Are you a lost man tonight andis not that enough? Would you bury deep in sin even your last hope? The leprosy is in you now-would you make it stare in men's faces on your very forehead? Oh, stop! Stop! You have gone far enough, the wonder is that you are spared, seeing you havegone so far! What has all your indulgence up to now brought you? Is there real pleasure in sin? What has been your experienceup till now? Is it not a rough road, though it promised to be a joyous one? Have you not already had enough to bear as theresult of your evil conduct? Why, therefore, continue to spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor forthat which satisfies not? As the voice of one crying in the wilderness would I now seek to prepare the way of the Lord intoyour heart! Cease from evil, man! Consider your sin and repent of it, for I hope that to you the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.
What if, instead of going into sin tonight, you should take my advice and seek the Savior and find Him? If God bless you,you shall be saved, but if you have shut your ears to God's pleading, it shall not be my fault. Man! Man! You are lost andruined by the Fall, but there is One who is able to save, even to the uttermost, those that come to Him. To come to Christis to trust Him. I have preached this Gospel for many years and I do not think I ever finished a sermon except in one way-bytrying to explain what is meant by this simple trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. Young man, you have the idea that you are todo 20 things. You have been trying to get ready for Christ-that is not the Gospel. That is the Law! The Gospel is trust JesusChrist, trust Jesus Christ! He died upon the Cross that He might bear the punishment of the sins of all who believe in Him.So to believe in Him is to trust Him. Trust Him and them it is certain that your sins were laid on Christ and that He sufferedin your place. Come to Jesus, come to Jesus, Sinner, come now!
What if this should be the time when the Lord shall meet with you? Write it down, you angels, in your golden tablets! Recordthe birthday of a soul! Take down your harps, you bright ones! Strike the chords with a new and Heaven-born ardor. Cherubimand seraphim, lift up your voices to notes untried as yet while God Himself breaks forth into a song, rejoicing in singingover them that come unto Him through Jesus Christ, His Son. "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved." Believenow, you in this area and you in these galleries. Oh, that you would believe in Jesus now! Thank God if you have not goneto the great lengths some have gone, but remember you cannot be saved except through faith in Jesus! If you have gone to thegreatest lengths, thank God you have not yet gone too far, for He can still reach you. He has a long arm and He can find youin the very depths of your iniquity. Trust Him, Sinner, trust Him, now, and there shall be joy in Heaven over sinners thatrepent more than over 99 just persons that need no repentance! May God add His own blessing for Jesus' sake. Amen.
EXPOSITION BY C. H. SPURGEON: JONAH1.
Verses 1-3. Now, the word of the LORD came unto Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, andcry against it; for their wickedness is come up before Me. But Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarshish from the Presence of theLORD, and went down to Joppa; andhe founda ship going to Tarshish: so hepaid the fare thereof, and went down into it, to gowith them unto Tarshish from the Presence of the LORD. Observe the misconduct of the Prophet Jonah. He had a plain commandfrom the Lord and he knew it to be a command, but he felt that the commission given to him would not be pleasant and honoringto himself and, therefore, he declined to comply with it. We see, from his action, how some who really know God may act asif they knew Him not. Jonah knew that God was everywhere, yet he "rose up to flee unto Tarshish from the Presence of the Lord."What strange inconsistencies there often are even in good men! Here is one who is favored with a Divine commission-one whoknows God and fears Him-yet, for all that, he ventures on the fool's errand of endeavoring to escape from the Omnipresent!He "went down to Joppa," which was the port of his country, "and he found a ship going to Tarshish."
Learn from this that Providence alone is not a sufficient guide for our actions. He may have said, "It was very singular thatthere was a ship there going to Tarshish just when I reached the port. I gather from this that God was not so very disinclinedfor me to go to Tarshish." Precepts, not Providences, are to guide Believers. And when Christians quote a Providence againsta Precept-which is to set God against God-they act most strangely. There are devil's providences as well as Divine Providences,and there are tempting providences as well as assisting Providences, so learn to judge between the one and the other.
4. But the LORD sent out a great windinto the sea, and there was a mighty tempest in the sea, so that the ship was like tobe broken. Learn, hence, that "Omnipotence has servants everywhere." The Lord is never short of sheriff's officers to arrestHis fugitives and on that occasion He "sent out a great wind into the sea." "The wind blows where it wishes." That is true,but it is also true that the wind blows where God wishes-and He knew how to send that great wind to the particular ship. Nodoubt many ships were on the Mediterranean at that time, but possibly unto none of them was the
storm sent save unto the one which carried Jonah, son of Amittai! We say, "Every bullet has its billet," and this great windwas sent to pursue the fugitive Prophet.
5. Then the mariners were afraid, and cried every man unto his god. If there is ever a special time for prayer, it is a timeof need. Nature seems then to compel men to utter prayer of such a sort as it is, for it is but nature's prayer at the best!"The mariners were afraid, and cried every man unto his god."
5. And cast forth the wares that were in the ship into the sea, to lighten it of them. Life is precious and a man will giveup everything else in order to save it. Satan spoke the truth when he said, "Skin for skin, yes, all that a man has, willhe give for his life." From the action of these mariners we may learn that sometimes we may lighten our ship for the safetyof our souls. When we have less to carry, we probably shall sail more safely. Losses and crosses may turn out to be our greatestgains. Let the ill-gotten ingots go to the bottom of the sea and lo, the ship rights herself at once!
5. But Jonah was gone down into the depth of the ship; and he lay and was fast asleep. The greatest sinner on that ship appearedto be the least concerned about the storm which had come because of him! He did not even seem to know that there was a storm,for he had "gone down into the depth of the ship; and he lay and was fast asleep."
6. So the shipmaster came to him, and said unto him, What are you doing, O sleeper? Arise, call upon your God. Perhaps yourGod will think upon us, that we perish not I t is hard when sinners have to rebuke saints! And when an uncircumcised Gentilecan address a Prophet of God in language like this!
7. And theysaid everyone to his fellow, Come andlet us cast lots, that we mayknowfor whose cause this evilis upon us. So theycast lots and the lot fell upon Jonah. We commend not the action of these men in casting lots, but we admire the Providenceby which the lot fell upon Jonah. Solomon says, "The lot is cast into the lap," but he did not say that it was right thatlots should be cast into the lap-and he very properly added-"but the whole disposing thereof is of the
8. Then theysaid unto him, Tell us, weprayyou for whose cause this evilis upon us, What isyour occupation? And from wherehave you come? What is your country? And of whatpeople are you? I do not know whether these men had traded with those whothen lived in these islands, but they had a very English custom of not judging a man before they had heard him speak. It wouldbe well if we all practiced it more-so that before we condemn men, we were willing to hear their side of the story. Consideringthat there was such a storm raging, the questions put to Jonah were remarkably calm. They were very comprehensive and wentto the very root of the matter.
9. And he said unto them, I am an Hebrew. That let them know from where he came and what his country was.
9. And I fear the LORD, the God of Heaven, which has made the sea and the dry land. That, I suppose, must be regarded as hisoccupation. And what a blessed occupation it is-to be occupied with the fear of the Lord! So, you see that though Jonah wasnot properly following his occupation while he was on board that ship, yet he did not hesitate to avow, "I am a Hebrew; andI fear the Lord, the God of Heaven, which has made the sea and the dry land." The child of God, even when he gets where heought not to be, if you test him and try him, will stand to his colors. He will confess that he is, after all, a servant ofthe living God.
10. Then were the men exceedingly afraid, and said unto him, Why have you done this?Jonah had to go through this catechism,question after question, and this was the hardest of them all. "Why have you done this?" Could you, dear Friend, submit everyaction of your life to this test? "Why have you done this?" I am afraid that there are some actions, which we have performedfor which we could not give a reason, or the reasons for which we would not like to give to our fellow men, much less to ourGod!
10, 11. For the men knew that he fled from the Presence of the LORD, because he had told them. Then said they unto him, Whatshall we do to you, that the sea may be calm to us?Here is another question! the catechism is not yet finished and this isone of the most difficult questions of all.
11, 12. For the sea was growing more tempestuous. And he said unto them, Take me up and cast me forth into the sea; so shallthe sea be calm to you. Notwithstanding all his faults, Jonah was an eminent type of Christ. We know that from our Lord'sown words, for he was as long in the belly of the whale as Christ was in the heart of the earth. Here he seems to be a typeof our Savior! "Take me up, and cast me forth into the sea: so shall the sea be calm to you."
12, 13. For Iknnow that for my sake this great tempest is upon you. Nevertheless the men rowedhard to bring it to the land.They showed a deal of good feeling in all their treatment of Jonah. They could not bear to take away a fellow creature's life,so they pulled and tugged in order to get the ship to land.
13, But they could not: for the sea continued to grow more tempestuous against them. Their safety lay in the sacrifice-notin the labor. They rowed hard to bring the ship to land, but their efforts were of no avail. If they would cast Jonah overboard,then they would be safe.
14, 15. They then cried unto the LORD, andsaid, We beseech You, OLORD, we beseech You, let us notperish for this man's life,and lay not upon us innocent blood: for You, O LORD, have done as it pleased You. So they took up Jonah. Put the emphasison the first phrase, "So they took up Jonah"-that is, with great reluctance, with much pity and sorrow, not daring to do sucha deed as that wantonly and with a light heart. When men do deeds like this on a far greater scale and go to war with a lightheart, they will have a heavy heart before long. If ever you have to cast a brother out of the Church-if ever you have torelinquish the friendship of any man-do it as these men did with Jonah- patiently, and carefully. Investigate the matter anddo not act until you are driven to it after consulting the Lord.
15, 16. And cast him forth into the sea: and the sea ceased from her raging. Then the men feared the LORD exceedingly, andoffered a sacrifice unto the LORD, and made vows. Jonah had been the means of causing a greater change than he expected! Hisconduct and punishment had been a warning to those thoughtless sailors. They could not but believe in the God who had thusfollowed up His fugitive servant.
17. Now the LORD had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. He prepared a storm, He prepared a fish and we afterwardsread that He prepared a gourd and He prepared a worm. In the great things of life and in the little things, God is alwayspresent! The swimming of a great fish in the sea is, surely, not a thing that is subject to law. If ever there is free agencyin this world, it must certainly be in the wanderings of such a huge creature that follows its own instincts and plows itsway through the great wastes of the wide and open sea! Yes, that is true. Yet there is a Divine predestination concerningall its movements. Over every motion of the fin of every minnow, predestination presides! There is no distinction of littleor great in God's sight-He that wings an angel guides a sparrow! "The Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah."
17. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights. So round about the truant Prophet was the preventingGrace of Jehovah.