Sermon 420. Abram And The Ravenous Birds
A SERMON DELIVERED ON SUNDAY MORNING, NOVEMBER 24, 1861,
BY THE REV. C. H. SPURGEON,
AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON.
"But when the fowls came do wn upon the carcasses, Abram drove them away."
WE might use this text, if we chose, as a picture of the ease with which faith repels all attacks that are made upon Christ,the great sacrifice of the new Covenant. Ainsworth tells us that the original word which we translate "drove" has in it theforce of "puffed" them away. As if with a verypuff of breath these kites and vultures and eagles, were at once driven away from the bodies of the victims. Faith knowshow, when skeptical kites when blaspheming vultures, when speculative eagles come down to attack the sacrifice of Christ,to chase them away with but a puff ofher breath. "We know whom we have believed."
Let the earth shake, our confidence in Him cannot move. He is to us as real a Person as ourselves. No, we might doubt ourown existence, but Jesus, His power, His love, His precious blood, His prevalent atonement we dare not doubt. One puff ofthe breath of prayer and questions and taunts are gone.One puff of the breath of holy faith in praise and every skeptical attack is scattered to the winds as far as we are concerned.When these fowls come down upon the body of Christ, like Abram by faith we "puff" them away.
But I do not intend to use the text with such an object this morning, though one might legitimately do so. It seems to meto represent to us our duty when distracting thoughts invade the sanctity of our holy worship. Here is Abram. He has killedthe victims according to Divine order. He has laidthem in their places according to heavenly rule. He is waiting until God shall over those victims make and ratify the covenant.But meanwhile the buzzards and kites and vultures scent the bodies from afar and hasten to devour the flesh of the bullockand the ram. Abram chases themaway that so his sacrifice may not be spoiled and he may have real fellowship with God.
Brothers and sisters, we never attempt to worship God without finding many difficulties in the way.
"What various hindrances we meet, In coming to a mercy seat!"
We in our assemblies are like the angels in theirs, "When the sons of God came together, Satan came also among them." We findthat wherever we may be and in whatever frame of mind or with whatever earnestness we may attempt to worship God, there alwaysis a servant with us who must be told to stopat the foot of the mountain white we go and worship God. If not, our offerings will not be profitable to ourselves, noracceptable before God.
I shall attempt this morning, in dealing with this subject, first to enumerate some of those foul birds which come upon oursacrifice. Secondly, to show the necessity in driving them away. And thirdly, how we are to do it.
I. First then, LET US MENTION SOME OF THOSE WELL-KNOWN INTRUDERS WHICH ARE PERPETUALLY MOLESTING OUR PEACE AND DISTURBINGOUR SERVICE.
First, there are wicked thoughts-the sons of Satan. These respect no sacred places. The sanctity of our closet has been violatedwith thoughts of lust-the dignity of the mercy seat has not sufficed to repress the vile insinuations of blasphemy. Wickedness,though it dwells no more in the heartof the believer, yet seeks to find a lodging there. And well does it effect its purpose at times for it tarries like a wayfaringman for a night, lingering there sufficiently long to mar our devotion and to prevent our having joy in fellowship with God.Have you not found thesethoughts intruding into your house and on the Sabbath have not unhallowed things vexed you in the Sanctuary of God itself?Have you not found the sons of Belial still tormenting you? You would sing God's praise-perhaps a snatch of some unholy songsuggests itself.
You would pray unto God, but in your very access to the mercy seat you meet some fiend-like doubt. You would listen to thevoice of God with all attention but wicked temptations distract you. You would thank God with all your soul, but folly comesin to shut your mouth and prevent your praise. Thevery best of the saints have need to hold up their shield to keep off the fiery darts of Satan. Upon the best ground thatever was plowed with the Gospel plow Satan will scatter the worst seed. Tares will come up in God's most fruitful field-therewill be spots, even in our solemnfeasts- there will be these birds upon our most hallowed sacrifices.
But we must resolutely resist these harpies. These evil ones are not to be allowed at any time-but much less in the serviceof God. We must guard against them at all times and in all seasons, but much more when we stand in the presence of Him whosays, "Put off your shoes from off your feet, forthe place whereon you stands is holy ground." In company with these foul vultures fly those ravenous kites called worldlythoughts which spring from the force of habit. The wheels have been running the last six days in this direction-it is notquite so easy to reverse the actionand to make them go the other way. We have been sinking, sinking, sinking in the miry clay of daily business-it is not veryeasy for the soul that lies cleaving to the dust to rise at once towards Heaven.
It is no wonder when you have so many things to think of in this acre of competition that the ledger should lie there in frontof the pew instead of the Bible-and that at times the day-book should come in when your hand holds the hymnbook, or that youshould be thinking of a bad debt, or of along account which is rather precarious-instead of meditating upon the faithfulness of God and of pardons bought with blood.These traffickers molest the very temple and we have not always the scourge of small cords to drive them out nor the commandingpresence of the Savior, tosay, "Take these things hence, it is written, My house shall be called a house of prayer, but you have made it a den ofthieves."
How many a mother comes here with all her tribe of children on her shoulders? How many a father comes here with thoughts ofwhere he shall apprentice his eldest son or what shall become of his younger daughter? How many a merchant comes in and everywind that makes the windowpanes rattle remindshim of his ships at sea? How many a farmer is thinking of his land and the fitful gleams of sunshine and returning showersmake him remember his cattle and his crops? Shops and stalls, bushels and scales, silks and cottons, horses and cows and evenmeaner things intrude into yourhouse, O King of kings! Brethren, how often do some of you indulge in them? I hope there are none of you who keep your accountbooks on Sunday and yet how common is this in London!
There are some who shut up their shop in front and keep it open at the back-as if they would serve the devil and cheat theLord! If you register your ledgers on Sunday, why not open your shop? You might as well be in the shop as in the country house-thesin is just the same-only you now addhypocrisy to it-by pretending to serve God when you do not. But how many there are, sure believers in Christ, who wouldscorn to look at the ledger on the Sunday-and yet their mind is hampered with accounts and debtor and creditor will be strikingbalances continually in theirbrain?
Some professors on the Sabbath afternoon will be talking about the state of the markets and asking, "What do you think ofthe rise and fall of Consols?" "When will this terrible American war be over?" "When is it likely the Manchester factorieswill obtain full employment by the arrival of shiploads of cottons," or "How will Louis Napoleon pay his debts?" When they come up to the house of God in the evening theywonder how it is they do not get on with the preacher. The preacher might wonder how he could be of any service to such hearers.They wonder that the Sabbath isnot a refreshment to them. But how is it likely to be when they still continue in their worldly employments-giving theirhearts really to the world-though they profess to give their bodily presence to the service of Christ?
Besides wicked and worldly thoughts, another set of ravens will be croaking over us. I mean anxious thoughts which are thefruits of our unbelief. "Oh," says one, "how can I help it? If you knew my condition in business, you would not marvel thatcare will come in today! Loss after loss,continually going backward, though with energy and perseverance I seek to make progress. A large family-a once extensiveconnection-the constant fear of ruin-how can I hope to chase away anxious thoughts and carking cares on the day of rest?"My Brother, I make many excusesfor you. But while I make all excuses, let me remind you that it is written, "Casting all your care upon Him, for He caresfor you."
At least today there is no need that you should carry that burden. Why, it will be none the worse for this one day's lettingalone-and it certainly will be none the better for this blessed day being wasted in fretting and worrying yourself. What ifthe burden is heavy? Is it not enough to carryit six days? Why do you need to carry it on the seventh? What if the toil is severe-and we will allow that it is-is notthat the more reason why you should shorten the hours of your labor and not give the whole seven days to it?
On this day pour out before God-empty out your troubles at His feet and leave in His hands your difficulties and your trials-believingthat He knows them all and knows how to make them all work for your good. These carking cares must be chased away just asmuch as wicked thoughts, for "afterall these things do the Gentiles seek."
But sometimes in our prayers and in our Sabbath worship we are disturbed by those carrion crows called annoying thoughts,the offspring of our vanity. I will just mention some of them that you will think, perhaps, rather odd. But I have no doubtyou know them. We have known, sometimes, a sistercome to worship and she notices-"Why, Mrs. So-and-So is dressed differently from what she was last Sunday and she had anew bonnet the Sunday before!" O silly soul, to be allured like a butterfly with colors and flowers!
Then, look at yonder Brother. There is So-and-So sitting in the opposite gallery that he did not want to see today at anyrate, for he does not like the man and he feels that his very presence is a detriment and a drawback to the possibility ofdevotion. Or, perhaps, my Brethren, as you came inthere was some little mistake at the door or when our friend got to the pew he found it occupied by somebody else. Or heis not occupying just the door-seat where he likes to sit. Or, perhaps, he is standing in an inconvenient place. You knowthese are all trifles, complete trifles,the most despicable of things. But how many there are that irritate themselves about them? And why?
Because they have so high an opinion of their own dignity that they think these little things ought not to be endured by them.No, Sir, the aisle should be carpeted up which you walk-there should be an air cushion always provided, gratis, for you. Thereshould be treadles on purpose to show youinto the seat-and when you are there-every objectionable person in the congregation should be removed and everything shouldbe done for your personal comfort! You say, "No, I am not so foolish as that." I do not know that, my dear Sir-there is thegerm of it in most of us.
We want so many of these little punctilious and if we are not duly honored we cannot worship with comfort. The thought ofseeing God and enjoying the light of His countenance has not sufficient power over the carnal hearts of some to make themforget all the little inconveniences that must occur invast assemblies and in a great house like this in which we are gathered. There are some fretty-tempered souls that cannotworship because some trifle not worth a moment's notice has disturbed their minds. Now, these feelings must be striven against-thisvanity is not to be allowedin any one of us.
We must denounce it and chase it out-for it only makes us little in the esteem of others. And if we could but see ourselves,it wound make us contemptible in our own sight. Oh, bless His name, when a soul is hungry, it little matters how it gets itsFood. When a heart is really set on findingChrist, the man will care but little what may be his comfort or his discomfort. Only let the Truth of Jesus come into thesoul, let him feed on its marrow and its fatness and he will say, "I would rather be doorkeeper" (and that is a very objectionableoffice for anybody-if any ofyou tried it you would find it very inconvenient to worship God after having kept the door of the Tabernacle). "I wouldrather be a door-keeper in the house of God, than dwell with comfort and with ease in the tents of the wicked."
But I will mention a brood of eagles which will haunt Mount Zion-I mean ecclesiastical anxieties. And what do I mean by these?Why, that sometimes when our minds should be perfectly free for worshipping God-Church business, perhaps Church differences-thrustthemselves upon us. The deaconthinks he may worry himself a little about something that has occurred with the poor. The elder thinks it would be justifiableto be thinking over the case of such-and-such a refractory individual whose case has troubled him. The member thinks he maybe fretting about the dullnessof the minister. The minister thinks he may be groaning because some in the galleries have not joined the Church. And mark-all these are good things in their places-but they have no business at all with us when we come up to God's house to worshipHim.
Then these birds, even though they are like the sparrows that build under the eaves of the altar, must be driven away. Untilwe can get rid of them all we shall not find the day of rest such as it should be nor will our worship be acceptable beforethe Throne of God. Nor shall our own souls derivethe joy they ought to have from the service and presence of the Lord.
Probably in this description I have not yet touched your case but I will not try again, for I think you can yourself remembermany things which haunt you. Many a ship has been built here without a dry dock. Many a wagonload of corn has been sold herewithout a sample bag. Many a broad acre has beenplanted in this chapel-many a hundred head of oxen has been sold here. Many a loom has been set a-going, many a vessel hasbeen navigated, many a new shop front con- structed and many a building erected-when you might have been worshipping God.For in all our worship there arethose who will be sending their minds gadding abroad over mountains of vanity when they ought to be sitting still to seeand to understand the salvation of God.
II. I have described the birds. I have indicated the intruders. I have raised the hue and cry against them. Let me now seekto STIR YOU UP TO CHASE THEM AWAY.
Distracting cares must be driven away, first, for your own sake. Brethren, some of us have been alarmed to see how the lunaticasylums are everywhere needing fresh wings and the number of inmates so rapidly increasing. If there is one reason above allothers for this, I venture to assert it is theneglect of the Sabbath Day. No human brain can bear the perpetual toils of business except it knows how to pause and oilthe machinery by turning the mind in some other direction. Here we have merchants whose brains are exercised from the timethey rise till the time they go torest, yes, and their very dreams are disturbed by great schemes and plans.
And then, when the first day of the week comes, they are scheming still. Instead of pulling up and letting the horses of themind take a rest so that they may start afresh in the chariot on the next week- day, it is on, on, on, on-and then they wonderthat the poor creatures at last flag withweariness, or even drop dead upon the road. Flog them as you will, your minds cannot keep always at this stretch. We, whosehardest toil is on this day and who find that the great cares of a Church so large as this will follow us to our bed and thatall the days of the week we areoccupied thereby-find it to be one of our sternest trials to resist the fear that our reason may reel.
It is too hard for any man, even for the minister of God, to be always thinking, always working-even though that work be forGod Himself. You know what Solomon says. He says-"If the iron is blunt and he does not whet the edge, then must he have morestrength-but wisdom is profitable todirect," by which he means to say if the man would stop and whet his tool, it would be sharp and he would not need to expendhalf the strength-and he would do far more work. But here you have some who think the Sunday must be all work, work, work.Instead of which, if they were tostop to whet the edge of the tool, they would do far more in the end, while their soul would not be half so soon worn out.
You have heard persons say, "I would sooner wear out than rust out." There is no occasion for either if we would but keepthis day of rest as a perfect rest to our heart and soul. But that we can never do unless we love Christ for a Sabbath isan impossibility to an unconverted man. If we wouldbut, as Christians resting in Christ keep this first day of rest-giving our souls thorough ease-there would be no fear ofthe brain giving way. We should labor on, even to a good old age and then die in peace and our works would follow us. I cannotexpect you to believe me if Ishould say you can carry on your business all the days of the week without care, without diligence, without very earnestthought. We must be "diligent in business," and you must put both your hands to the wheel if you would make it go.
But do leave the wheel alone today. Now, have done with it. You will madden yourself, or, if it come not to so sad a climaxas that you will destroy your comfort, destroy the acuteness of your mental powers if you do not give them rest today. I amno preacher of the old legal Sabbath, those who areteachers of the Law insist upon that quite enough. As for me, I am a preacher of the Gospel and rejoice that believers arenot "under the Law, but under grace." A worldling is under the Law and it is his duty to remember the seventh day to keepit holy for so runs the Law which ishis taskmaster.
But I am not under the Law and therefore I keep this day-not the seventh, but the first day of the week on which my Saviorrose again from the dead-keep it not of Law, but of grace-keep it not as a slavish bondage, not as a day on which I am chainedand hampered with restraints against mywill. But I keep it as a day in which I may take holy pleasure in serving God and in adoring before His Throne. The Sabbathof the Jew is to him a task. The Lord's Day of the Christian, the first day of the week, is to him a joy, a day of rest, ofpeace and of thanksgiving. And ifyou Christian men can earnestly drive away all distractions so that you can really rest today it will be good for your bodies,good for your souls, good mentally, good spiritually, good temporally and good eternally.
Let me give you a second reason. You will find if you are able to take a perfect rest by driving away these evil thoughtswhen you are worshipping God, that you will do your work during the other days of the week far better. It was an old Popishfolly to try and tell what kind of weather therewould be by the weather on Sunday-"If it rains before mass, rain all the week more or less." Now, we do not believe thatliterally, but we do believe it in a spiritual sense. If you have a bad Sabbath-Day, you will have a bad week but if you havea good day of rest you will findit good with your souls the whole week long. Not that you will be without trouble all the week-that would not be good foryou-but you shall never be without grace during the week.
Nor if you have peace on the Sunday shall you be without peace on the Monday. The old Puritans used to say, "The first dayof the week was the market-day." And you know in the country villages in those times, their being fewer shops than there arenow, they went to market to lay in stock for theweek and if the good wife bought a small quantity of cheese, or meat, why then they were on short commons the whole weekthrough. So is it with us. This is our market-day and if we gain but little today we shall have slender diet during the otherdays. But if we get the basketloaded well-if we have reason to say, "The Lord has satisfied my soul with fatness and caused my spirit to delight in HisWord"-you will find that during the week your peace shall be like a river and your righteousness like the waves of the sea.
And then let me remind you, in the next place, that the character of this day demands that you should get rid of these thoughts.This is the day on which God said, "Let there be light and there was light." This is the day on which Christ rose again fromthe dead for our justification. Christ'sfinished atonement made an end of sin and brought in everlasting righteousness on this blessed day. This is the day on whichthe Holy Spirit came down from Heaven-the day on which the rushing mighty wind and the cloven tongues descended upon the Apostles.Therefore, according toapostolic custom, do we keep this day as the day of light, the day of resurrection, the day of the descent of the Holy Spiritthe Comforter.
Now, it is inconsistent with such a day-the day of light-for us to be in darkness. It is inconsistent with the day of resurrectionfor us to be raking in this grave of the world. It is inconsistent with this day of the descent of the Spirit for us to bethinking of carnal things and forgettingthe things which are above. It was a Romish tradition that on Easter morning the sun always danced-and to my mind on thisday when Jesus rose and left the dead, if the sun does not dance, our heart does. And if the world is not clad in sunlight,yet our soul is. And if today thevery sea does not clap its hands for gladness, yet shall our voices send forth gladsome Psalms.
Oh, this is not the day of bondage. Go under the whip of Moses who choose it to be so. This is the day offreedom and of delight-theday of peace and calm and rest and tranquility. Work and thoughts of work, doubts, fears, legality, self-righteousness areall inconsistent with the spirit of theday, for Christ has said, "It is finished!" So we must cease to work, too, not only with our hands but with our souls-workingno more for life, for that is given. Working no more for justification-for that is concluded. But today resting in Christ,for "It is finished!" Andfinding peace in Him, for "there is no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus."
We must leave all our cares with Him, for "nothing can separate us from the love of Christ" and then give up our souls toa glorious and victorious holy day which shall be a preparation for the eternal enjoyment of the perpetual feast of the glorifiedat the table of God in Heaven.
Now, for this reason-because they are so inconsistent with this day-I pray you get rid of all these obnoxious thoughts. GeorgeHerbert has put all I could say and far more, into two or three of his quaint verses, which I will give you-
"The other days and you Make up one man; whose face you are, Knocking at Heaven with your brow- The working days are the back part; The burden of the week lies there, Making the whole to stoop and bow, Till your release appears. Sundays the piilars are, On which Heaven's palace arched lies- The other days fill up the spare And hollow room with vanities. They are the fruitful beds and borders In God's rich garden-that is bare Which parts their ranks and orders. You are a day of mirth- And where the weekdays trail on ground, Your flight is higher, as your birth- O let me take you at the bound, Leaping with you from seven to seven, Till that we both, being tossed from earth, Fly handin hand to Heaven!"
Oh that is the true way of living-leaping from seven to seven, passing over the six days, that we may get once more to thesolid resting place of the day of rest. Be it so with you, Brethren, so when the fowls come down upon the sacrifice you maychase them away.
Another argument. The vain or anxious thought, when we are engaged in the worship of God, must be striven against becauseit must be grievous to the Holy Spirit. How can we expect that we shall have His presence and His assistance if we give Himnot our hearts? Good Mr. Manton says, "If a manshould send to a place of worship a skin stuffed with straw, it would be thought to be an insult but he might as well dothat as go there himself with his mind stuffed with vanities." Was it not a crime of old-"This people draws near to Me withtheir lips, but their heart is farfrom Me"? Can you conceive it enough to make long prayers if your minds are occupied all the while about the widow's house,or courting the approbation of man?
It is vain for us to bring these oblations unto God, for His requirement is, "My son, give Me your heart." How can the Lord,the high and lofty God ever accept the sacrifice where the heart is not found? It was considered to be one of the worst omensin the Roman sacrifices if the augurs discoveredthat the victim had no heart. So it must always be an ill omen to us, if in our worship our heart is not set on God andintently engaged in His service. O Spirit of God! how many of us have lost our comfort and the joy and peace of our faithbecause we have not-when we have beenupon our knees or engaged in sacred Songs, or in listening to the Word-compelled our thoughts to keep at home and bow downto the Most High?
What do you think? If you were in the presence of a king would he consider it to be comely or decent if you should forgetwhat you came there for? If while you offered your petition your mind should be engaged on other matters? Or if you shouldturn your back upon him to gaze out of the windowswhile His Majesty spoke to you? And what are you doing when your soul is looking to worldliness while God's own face isspeaking to you and His Word is being read in your ears? Oh, this is to insult the Most High. Angels veil their faces andshall our eyes be gadding abroad? Angelsbow themselves before Him and continually cry, "Holy, holy, holy" and shall we insult the Divine Majesty by coming herewith unholy thoughts, or with unhallowed anxieties, not veiling our faces, but permitting them to receive all that the lightof day can reveal to us of vanity, ofdeceit and of care? O God! Give us grace to know what You are-then shall we understand how You are to be worshipped in spiritand in Truth!
I shall add once more-these thoughts and cares must be driven away for if you do not strive against them they will increaseand multiply. This is a growing habit. I have not to complain in this congregation of any want of attention during the servicebut I have had the pain of seeing assemblieswhere the wandering eye has been indulged till at last it would be as pleasant and perhaps as profitable to address a loadof bricks as to address the people who were assembled. They come in listlessly, some of them a half-an-hour after the servicebegins. And in some where thehabit has grown worse and worse, the minister generally knows when to leave off because he sees the friends are coming into see the others go out.
They come gradually later and later and become more and more careless about what is uttered till an angel from Heaven wouldscarcely make them keep open their heavy eyes and a Prophet sent from God could not stir their stolid souls. The force ofhabit is like the velocity of a falling stone-itincreases in ever multiplying proportions. If I have indulged one unbelieving thought, there has always been another tofollow it. If I have allowed some little disturbance in the congregation to cast me down and distract my thoughts there hasbeen another and another andanother-till I have been in the pitiable condition of a minister who has been half afraid of his congregation.
And it will be so with you. We must strive against it! We must get rid of these carking thoughts! We must chase these birdsfrom the sacrifice! Away with you! Away with you! We cannot have you here! We must, we will worship God and if one effortwill not give us quiet, we must try again-for itmust be done-or else we shall destroy our peace and render the Sabbath as hard a day as any of the other days of the week,while the service of God will be to us a vanity and to Him a vain oblation.
III. I am now, then, in the last place, to try and briefly SHOW YOU HOW TO DO IT.
And we begin by saying first of all, set your heart upon it, for when the soul is set upon a thing then it is likely to accomplishit. Go up to God's house, saying, "I must give my soul to eternal matters today and I will. My soul cries after God as a thirstystag in the wilderness brays after thewater-brooks. O God, my heart is fixed today. I must have done with earth, I must begin with Heaven, I must say to all cares,sit still and I must say to my soul, Wake up my glory, wake, psaltery and harp, I myself will awake right early to praiseGod. And when the soul is thus setupon the matter there will be half the battle already fought and the victory almost won.
But when you have done this, remember next let the preparation of your heart before coming to the sacrifice assist you whenyou shall be there. We are told men ought not to preach without preparation. Granted. But we add, men ought not to hear withoutpreparation. Which, think you, needs the mostpreparation, the sower or the ground? I would have the sower come with clean hands but I would have the ground well plowedand harrowed, well turned over and the clods broken before the seed is cast in. It seems to me that there is more preparationneeded by the ground than by thesower-more by the hearer than by the preacher.
But this is forgotten-men come to market having made up their minds what they want to sell and what they will buy-and theygive their attention to how markets go and they act accordingly. But when men come into these places of worship they do notknow what they want-they come they know notwhat for. Perhaps it is to see the place, or hear the preacher-and they go away and they have no spiritual profit. How couldthey? What profit would a man make if he went there without a purpose and stayed there without looking after his own interests?Prepare your heartsprivately by communion with God and you shall have communion with Him in public. Meet God in your house and you shall meetHim in His house. What if the preacher should not profit you?-it is not the preacher you came after, but his God.
Be but wakeful and you will meet his God in the hymn, or in the chapter. Your heart must be in a right state beforehand. Youknow, Brethren, if you have a lake and the water is all rippled, there may be a cedar standing on its banks, but there cannotbe perfect reflection when the water isdisturbed. But when the water is as clear as glass, then whatever there is on the bank is reflected. Ah, you must bringyour heart calm and quiet to the house of God or else there cannot be an unbroken reflection of the image of God upon yourspirits. Oh, seek to come up here as abride adorned for her husband-as wedding guests going to the wedding feast with their garments on-expecting that they shallbe made glad. Come here as hungry ones pleading for food and thirsty souls all longing for the Water of Life.
But, this done, above all, cry to the Spirit of God for help to make your spirit rest. You have trouble. He is the Comforter.You have infirmities. But "the Spirit itself also helps our infirmities." You have sins. But the Spirit of God applies thepeace-speaking blood of Christ, gives you rest inconscience. Cry unto Him! Cry unto Him as a little child cries to its parent when it has attempted something which it cannotperform. Say, "Farther, help me! I would worship You- O enable me to do so. I would see You-touch my eyes with heavenly eye-salve.I would hear You-openmy ears today to Your voice and seal them up to all beside. I would feed on You-Lord, open my lips for You, the Bread ofHeaven and let me feed on nothing save Yourself." This done, He is a God that hears prayer and He will grant you the desireof your heart.
Then, when you have thus done and you come up to the house of God, still seek to continue in the same frame of mind, rememberingin whose immediate Presence you are. A Spartan youth was holding the censor at a sacrifice when Alexander was offering a victim.It chanced that while he held the censora hot coal fed upon his hand. The youth stood still and never flinched, lest by any utterance or cry the sacrifice shouldbe disturbed. For he said he was in the presence of Alexander and he would not have the sacrifice interrupted for him. Andthus he bore the pain of the burningcoal.
Let us remember that Spartan youth, but adding to what he said-"We are in the Presence of the Almighty God." Then, if thereis something which annoys us let us bear it unflinchingly, for we stand before Him for whom it is blessed to suffer and whowill surely reward them that seek Him in spiritand in Truth. It is written in Josephus that certain of the Jewish priests, at the time of the taking of the temple, werestanding at the altar. They were waving to and fro the slowed censers and offering their prayers and their victims. The Romansrushed in, sword in hand. Therewere shrieks and cries, murders and deaths.
The pavement was stained with blood. But the priests took no notice whatever, nor would they turn from their sacrifice tillthey were themselves slain. Oh, for something of their devotedness to God, that even death itself might not interrupt oursongs! But when it comes may we be found wrapped inmeditation, high hymning our great Creator, expecting
His glory and waiting for His appearance. Many instances we might quote of the attention which the superstitious heathen paidto their worship. Shall we be behind them in the reality and sincerity of our adoration of the Most High and Holy God? No,let us, keeping our minds always fixed uponbeholding the face of God, thus seek to chase away the birds from the sacrifice.
Another means I will give you-take care that your faith is in active exercise, or else you cannot chase away those thoughts.Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him. Be still and know that He is God. Trust in Him at all times. Pour out your heartsbefore Him. Wait on the Lord, be of goodcourage. Depend upon His power and His wisdom and thus you shall have no thought to trouble you of what you shall eat, orwhat you shall drink, or whether you shall be clothed. But like the birds of the air, the lilies of the valley which keepperpetual Sabbath, so shall you singand rest and Christ shall be glorified in you.
Take care also that you attend a ministry which draws you from earth-for there are some dead ministries which make the Sabbath-Daymore intolerable than any of the other days of the week. Such are the controversial ministries in which the brain is set toivory and exercised and troubled withquestions and dilemmas and disputes and contentions. I will not say it is wicked to preach such sermons on the Sabbath-Day.But I will say it is not consistent with Sabbath rest, for that rest is as much for the soul as for the body. The Sabbathwas not made alone for the animalpart of us, but for the spirit, that it might have a deep, profound calm, the ante past of the rest which remains for thepeople of God.
Seek a ministry that is full of Christ, full of Covenant faithfulness. A ministry not of "of and "but," but of "shall" and"will." Seek a ministry which vindicates the Spirit's power. Which, while it teaches fully the sinner's abject helplessness,dwells much upon the absolute Omnipotence of God tosave. Seek one which preaches a full Christ for empty sinners, whose theme is death and resurrection, whose object it isto make Christ precious to your heart and so to compel you to trust in Him. Thus you shall find it more easy to rest on theSabbath-Day than if you should attendunder the legal preaches whose theme is moral duties. Or under the mere doctrinal preacher whose object is contention andfighting. Or under the mere experimental preacher whose aim shall be to stir up the filthy mud of your heart-instead of pouringinto you the pure clean waterof the Truth as it is in Jesus.
O my Brothers and Sisters! I know how many there are of you who look forward all the week long to this day. And there aretimes when some of us, when we awake in the morning can spring from our beds saying, "Thank God, this is the day of rest."Today we can say, "Now, I am not to go to my toiltoday-farewell, the bricklayer's trowel or the carpenter's hammer-I have not to go to my books today. The high stool andthe desk and the pen are put away. I am not today to look after the servants and the fields and the barn. Not today to walkalong the shop and see how tradeis prospering or how it is receding. It is all over now. Just nail up those doors and leave them alone-have nothing to dowith them.
"Do not tell me that I have a house, or that I have anything to think of, except Christ Jesus, His Father and the Holy Spirit.Get you gone, vain thoughts! I cannot meddle with you, keep your distance, I have had enough of you. You have had your sixdays and you have pinched and pained me enough.Now my soul has passed through the wilderness, sits down at the well of Elim, sends down its pitcher, draws up draughtsof rest, climbs the tree path, plucks the sweet fruits and enjoys them in anticipation of the feast before the Throne of God."
Ah, this will be good for your bodies, good for your souls, good for you in all respects. And my sermon shall not be in vainthis morning if I have made you think every Sunday, "The birds will come down on the carcasses, but I will drive them away."Nor will it be in vain if, by God's grace, youwill come to look not only on this one day but on your seasons of prayer and meditation as being unloading seasons. Whenthe ship that has been sinking in the water almost to its edge and seems as if it would go down altogether is unloaded-andrises up and floats higher than itdid before. When the eagle gets the chain untied and leaps from the rock, up to its own native eyrie in the skies-when yourpoor bandaged captive soul that has been lying in the dark dungeon comes out to perfect liberty and takes its stroll abroad,forgetful of the prison and thechain.
Oh, for those heavens on earth-those precious queens of days! Time is the ring and these Sabbaths are the diamonds set init. The ordinary days are but the walks in the garden, hand trod and barren. But the Sabbaths are the beds full of rich choiceflowers. This day is Care's balm and cure, thecouch of time, the haven of divine calms. Come, my soul, throw yourself upon this couch. For now the bed is long enoughand the coverlet is broad enough-rest and take your ease- for you have come unto Jesus, to a finished sacrifice, to a completedrighteousness and your soul maybe satisfied in the Lord and your spirit may rejoice in the Lord your God. This is to keep Sabbath-Days.
An unconverted man cannot do this and there are many of you, I fear, here present who never knew what Sabbath means-neverhad a Lord's Day in your lives. In vain do you keep the day unless your hearts keep it too. Oh, may your hearts know how tofind in Christ a perfect rest! Then shall the landhave rest and shall keep her Sabbaths. May God give you grace to know your sin and enable you to fly to the Savior and findin Him all your soul wants. May He enable you to rest in Christ today and then you shall keep Sabbaths on earth till you keepthe eternal Sabbath before theThrone, "for thus says the Spirit, They rest from their labors."
"Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ" and you shall have rest. Trust Him and so shall you be saved and your spirit shall be atease.