Sermon 711. A Feast For Faith
DELIVERED ON SUNDAY MORNING, SEPTEMBER 16, 1866 BY C. H. SPURGEON, AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON.
"This also comes forth from the Lord of Hosts, Who is wonderful in counsel and excellent in working." Isaiah 28:29.
ISAIAH admired the farmer's skill in his calling. He mentions with admiration the various methods adopted by the farmer inthe rotation of crops, in the choice of different soils for certain seeds, in the methods of binding up and stowing away hisproduce. And he enlarges especially upon thedifferent methods of threshing which were used by the Orientals, some tender grain being threshed out by a staff in a man'shand, and others being dragged out of the husk by coarser means, such as by being trampled upon by the feet of oxen, pressedby the turning of a cart wheelupon them, or by the dragging them through a sharp threshing instrument having teeth. He considered, I suppose, that theart of agriculture was in a high state of perfection.
I wonder what he would say if he could observe it now, and see the wonderful machines which no sooner go into a field or abrickyard than they accomplish with ease in a few hours that which was once the labor of days or even weeks! Certainly hewould exclaim with even greater emphasis than he didconcerning the agriculture of his own day-"This also comes forth from the Lord of hosts." The sentiment of the text on itssurface is that the art, and science, and skill of man, are the gifts of God. The Prophet instances only agriculture, butthe same principle applies toall the arts and manufacturing, and in a higher degree, still, to those more sublime sciences which elevate the human mindand make us acquainted with the majestic and mysterious powers of Nature.
We are bound to trace human wisdom up to Divine wisdom, even in those things which have no relation to the eternal interestsof men, but which have a beneficial influence upon their present state. We read of Bezalel, the son of Uri, that the Lordsaid, "I have filled him with the spirit of God inwisdom, and in understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship. To devise cunning works, to work in gold,and in silver, and in brass, and in cutting of stones, to set them, and in carving of timber, to work in all manner of workmanship."Then it is added, "and inthe hearts of all that are wise-hearted I have put wisdom."
We are to ascribe the thoughtful, inventive mind, and the dexterous, clever hand, to Him who is the great Instructor of man.We trace directly to God the marvelous philosophy of Newton, and the skill of Watt and Stevenson, because the very slightestconsideration shows us that there was originallya peculiarity in the constitution and formation of such minds as theirs. The most of us could have done nothing of the kindif we had tried all our days. There may be men of inventive genius here, but I suppose that nine out of ten of us can makeno pretense to the possession ofanything of the sort, and therefore we are led to ask, "Where did the faculty come from?"
Surely the fertile brain of invention must be the Creator's gift! And Providence has also a hand in the business, for manymen whose minds would naturally have gone in the direction of invention are turned into quite another course by the forceof circumstances-
"Chill penury repressed their noble rage, And chilled the genial current of their soul."
It was surely God's Providence, which in other cases found a channel for the natural passion, and allowed the soul to flowas it willed. And how often, too, some of the greatest inventions have been due to the simplest incidents! The puffing ofsteam from a kettle, or the falling of an apple from atree have led thoughtful minds to discover great and important truths-and who shall attribute these circumstances to anybut to Him, who "works all things according to the counsel of His will"-and who gives wisdom to the wisest of the sons ofmen?
Let us adore the Mighty God, not only as we read our Bibles, but as we traverse the halls of art and science, and visit theexhibitions which in these days of ours are being reared on every side. Let us make man's skill speak to us of God's Glory,and as we look upon them, instead of saying, "Greatare you, O man! And great are the marvels of your genius," let us say, "Great are You, O God, in thus instructing man, andguiding him to those principles and properties of matter, by the knowledge of which his mortal existence is cheered and brightened."The drift of the writer ofthe text is this-if God thus instructs man in wisdom-how wise must He be Himself! If the mere rays which come from Him conveyto us so much light that we are perfectly astonished at what man can do, what must be the infinite wisdom in counsel, andthe excellence of workswhich are to be discovered in God Himself!
If the human mind at last has linked two far-divided continents together, and annihilated space and time, and even made theold ocean to be the preserver rather than the destroyer of the slender line along which the fluid lightning flashes at man'sbidding. If man has bridged the mightiest rivers,and has forced his roads through pathless forests and rocky mountains-being taught to do so by God-then what cannot Goddo? If the pupil, the poor puny pupil, can accomplish these marvels, what cannot the Master perform? Must He not be wonderfulin His counsel? Must Henot be excellent in His works?
Thus the Prophet conducts our mind from man to God. I wish that all teachers did the same! But how many there are whose mainbusiness appears to be to divert the mind from God, and to ignore His Existence! There are two things which shall occupy ourattention this morning. The first is the visionof God which the text presents to us, and the second is the lesson which such a vision is calculated to teach us.
I. First, let us behold THE VISION OF GOD WHICH IS PRESENTED TO US IN THE TEXT. The Lord of hosts is seen by the enlightenedeye, first of all, in His council-chamber, and then in His great workshop. And in both He is the subject of prophetic admiration.He is "wonderful in counsel." He is"excellent in working." Let us remark at the outset that it is clear from the text that God does not work without a plan.God has not left the world to chance.
There are some men who are always kicking against the doctrine of an eternal purpose, and who grow angry if you assert thatGod has settled what shall occur. It is by the consent of all agreed that man is foolish if he works without a plan, and yetthey cry out when we insist that God also, in allHis working, is fulfilling a well-arranged design! Depend upon it, however-let men rebel against this Truth of God as theywill-that God has determined the end from the beginning. He has left no screw loose in the machine! He has left nothing tochance or accident.Nothing with God is the subject of an "if or a "perhaps," but even the agency of man, free as it is-as untouched and undisturbedas if there were no God-even this is guided by His mysterious power, and works out thoroughly His own purpose in every jotand tittle!
He wings the thunderbolt and shall He not guide the most passionate spirit? He puts a bit into the mouth of the whirlwindand shall He not control the most ambitious will? He takes care that even the sea shall come no farther than He bids it andshall not the heart of man be equally subject to theDivine purpose? Yielding to man his free agency, giving to him his responsibility, leaving him as free as if there wereno purpose and no decree, yet the eternal Jehovah works out His plans, and achieves His purpose to the praise of His Glory!
The great principle of the text is that God has a plan-and that this plan is wonderful in itself, and is found to be excellentwhen it is carried out. This may be illustrated in many ways, and let us remark at once that it is illustrated in Nature.All creation is full of traces of design. Itis true that the Lord took no counsel with His angels, nor sought direction from any beings. "With whom took He counsel,and who instructed Him?" He alone meted out the heavens with a span, and weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills ina balance. But they were weighed andmeasured, and nothing was made without the most accurate calculation!
Even that which appears to us to be irregular in the Divine work is only undiscovered order. The stars seem cast about uponthe floor of Heaven as men might fling gold dust from their hands! Yet there is not a single star whose place might be alteredwithout mischief to the whole arrangement. Whohas studied astronomy that does not know that the size of every planet-its place in the solar system, the density of itsmatter, the length of its year, and everything connected with it-is arranged upon a scale so accurate that they can be calculatedby the mathematicianwith the utmost nicety? Such is the wisdom manifested in the arrangement of those ponderous orbs of Heaven! And here onearth is it not one of the clearest arguments for Godhead that design is visible everywhere?
Take the meanest animal, or the most minute insect, and you will find in it the most admirable contrivances to suit the habitsof the creature and to make it happy in its condition. No, these creatures not only show design, but supply proof that thedesign is excellent in its working, for everyfish that passes through the paths of the sea declares in its easy and graceful motion that the plan of its formation worksadmirably, and so with every bird and beast. No creature has to go to its Creator and complain, "There is a defect in my structure.I cannot carry out the endfor which I was designed." Our own bodies, too, so curiously worked, full of nerves and muscles, the matchless needleworkof God's patient fingers, have about them, if we did but observe them, ten thousand proofs of the surpassing foresight andmasterly art of the great Maker.
Oh that being so wondrously made by God we might feel bound to show forth His praise! Beloved Friends, a second illustrationof this Truth of God may very easily be drawn from Providence. The great Providential operations of God are all the resultof His fore-determined purpose and decree. From thefirst moment when Hiddekel and Euphrates, with their silvery flood, rolled joyously through the midst of Paradise ripplingover sands of gold, down to the Last Great Day when the mighty angel shall stand upon the sea and upon the earth, and swearby Him that lives forever and everthat time shall be no longer-everything that has moved or shall move in Heaven, and, earth, and Hell, has been, is, andshall be according to the counsel and foreknowledge of God-fulfilling a purpose holy, just, wise, and unalterable!
The whole poem of Providence, when it shall be read in the light of eternity, shall be found worthy of the Infinite Mind.Even that part of human history which has been already written, though it may appear unintelligible at first sight, when itcomes to be thoroughly studied, has an explanationvery near at hand. Did not God, age by age, prepare the world for the coming of the Lord Jesus in the flesh? And is He notnow preparing it for His second coming in His Glory? All the way up till now every lover of the Lord will see that the awfulwheels of Providence have workedwith excellent regularity. Empires have fallen, but the Truth of God has risen! Dynasties have perished, but immortal principleshave conquered!
Slaughter has sown her seed in crimson furrows, but Liberty has ultimately reaped the golden harvest. Famine and Pestilencehave made the earth to quake beneath their terrible footsteps when they came as messengers of the avenging God, but flowersof goodness have sprung up in their awful tracks.The most fearful calamities have hidden us beneath their wings from calamities yet greater. The mischief of a day has begottenfor us blessings which have endured for ages! God has shown in Providence, even until now, that He is wonderful in designand excellent in working.
But, Believer, perhaps you will be more interested if I say that your own personal experience of that Providence goes to provethis with equal clearness. Oh, how wondrous in design has God been in His dealings with you! You have felt many trials, andyou are not able to understand the reason of itall. You have been sitting down by the side of the vast sea of Providence and you have been asking, Why this? And, Why that?And trying to fathom the mystery with the shallow line of your own judgment. But depend upon it that the need for all thatyou have suffered has been mostaccurately determined by God! You must have seen that He overrules all things for your good.
Have you not to thank God today, you gray-headed saints, for the afflictions of your youth? And as to the trials of your riperyears, can you not say of them, "Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now have I kept Your Word"? You lost a friend once,but you never knew how much you gained bythat loss, nor how much misery that trial spared you. Some of you might never have been saved at all were it not that, likeManasseh, you were taken among the thorns. You had determined to live and die a worldling, and if the house in which you livedso comfortably had not beenconsumed with fire you would have dwelt there still!
But now you are a stranger and a sojourner, and are looking for "a city which has foundations, whose Builder and Maker isGod." Happily for you, you did not see the plan of your life when you commenced it-but equally happy for you is it that therewas such a plan-that your life has beenarranged on the best possible principles so that if you had been gifted with unerring wisdom, you must have arranged a lifefor yourselves exactly similar to the one through which you have passed! I know you will say, "Well, to begin with, I wouldnot have been born a child ofpoverty if I could have helped it. I would have prospered in business if I could have had my own way. I would have beenin quite another locality from that in which I now reside if I could have had my own choosing."
Yet, be persuaded that in every deviation from your past lot, you would have been rushing into peril! And the happy resultsof which you will have to sing in Heaven might have been prevented had there been an alteration in any degree in
God's dealings with you. Many of you will be more pleased with another illustration. The wondrous planning of the excellentWorker is plainly seen in the great economy of Redemption. Well may angels desire to look into the scheme by which God ordainedthat fallen man should rise by his Fall, andshould rise by a means similar to that by which he fell! While God should be glorified even more than if sin had never entered,Redemption is the most Divine of God's thoughts.
It is marvelous that He should give His own Son to be Incarnate for the sake of His creatures! That God the mighty Maker shouldappear in human flesh and become a Man, so that fallen, sinful, and miserable man might be lifted up, and become the son ofGod! What a dream was that of Jacob when he sawthe ladder, the foot of which rested upon the earth, and the top reached up to the seventh Heaven! That dream is more thanrealized when I see the foot of the ladder in the humanity of Christ, fixed in Bethlehem's manger, or if you will, at Calvary'sCross. And then behold the topof that ladder reaching up to the Eternal Throne, where He reigns as "God over all, blessed forever," who was also "theSon of Man."
When I look at each of the rungs of that ladder, and see the proofs of Divine love in the Savior's sighs and tears, and bloodysweat, and passion, and death, I am lost in wonder! Truly it is a matchless scheme by which Justice has its due, and Mercyhas its sway-by which Vengeance issatisfied, Holiness is gratified, and yet Love and Mercy, uncontrolled and unlimited-sway their silver scepter among thesons of men! When I see this great sight, those words of Isaiah's ring with a bell-like music in my ears, "He is wonderfulin counsel."
But, Beloved, when you see Redemption worked out, and when you think that God really gave His only Son and that this Son actuallydid come to Bethlehem-really lived among the sons of men, bowed His neck to the yoke of obedience, and gave His hands to thenails, and His side to thespear-you see His death was no fiction, but a grand reality! When you see that Redemption completed by the resurrectionof the Master and hear the angelic shouts as He ascends on high, leading captivity captive, and see Heaven lit up with a supernalsplendor as He mounts toHis well-earned throne, you then find that He is as wonderful in the carrying out of Redemption as He is in the proposingof it! You see, then, He is wonderful in counsel, and that He is also excellent in working.
Then, Brethren, turning from Redemption itself, look at the Gospel, and see how wonderful in counsel God was in that matter.If we were to hold a parliament of the wise men of England to settle the Gospel, I will undertake to declare now what theGospel would be. I am sure as to theresult-the majority of the members would decide that the Gospel to be preached should be this-That men should be exhortedto do their best to "live righteously, honestly, and soberly in this present evil world." And then, through the merits ofChrist, God would accepttheir lives, and they would be saved. Now, that happens NOT to be the Gospel, but the Law-or rather it is neither Law norGospel, but a mixture of both, which God despises! It is neither hot nor cold, and He spits it out of His mouth as an abhorredthing.
The Apostle Paul peremptorily, over and over again, tells us that salvation is not by works. No, he tells us that it is notby works and Divine Grace put together, either! He testifies that the two principles neutralize and kill each other, and thata man must either be saved wholly as the resultof God's favor, or else he must be saved altogether as the result of his own merit-for the two principles cannot in anyway be combined. The Gospel which we have to preach is just the reverse of what human wisdom would advise. It is not, "doand live," but "believe and live."
Now I will show you in a moment that the Gospel, which the world would propose, would be a most absurd Gospel, because itwould be of no service to the very persons who need it the most. Those who walk righteously, honestly, and soberly, may beput down as those who "have no need of a physician."Why, then, prescribe a medicine for them? Where would the Gospel be for the sick? As for the men who feel their guilt beforeGod, and their inability to conquer sin, what am I to say to them if the world's Gospel is the true one? I can say nothingat all to them upon thissupposition, but must leave them to their destruction!
If I find them lying upon the bed dying, or if I meet with them in the hour of extremity, I can have no word of comfort towhisper in their ear at all, but can only remind them that if they had lived righteously, honestly, and soberly, things wouldhave been different with them-which is notgood news but a rebuke! But now I can come to all men, whoever they may be, sunken in degradation and steeped in vice, andsay to them, "In the name of God trust Christ, and you shall be saved! The past shall be forgiven you, and as you trust Christthere shall come flashing intoyour soul a new life which shall make you hate the sins which have been your ruin, and make you love the ways of truth andrighteousness! You shall be saved as the result of God's free favor, and the proof of it shall be that you shall be savedfrom the power of sin and purifiedfrom your iniquities."
This Gospel seems to me to be wonderful in its counsel because it is suited to the most abject and the most depraved. AndI am a witness, among ten thousand others, that it is excellent in its working. The other system I spoke of would be bad inits working. Many preachers have had to confess theuselessness of mere moral preaching. One of them said he preached up honesty till his parish swarmed with thieves. Thereis no instance, I believe, on record where the mere preaching of the Law made a man love God, or where the heart ever was,or ever could be, renewed byinculcating good works. As well hope to make a blackamoor white by pelting him with snowballs.
And if it were right to do so, we could point out cases in this house this morning by scores, where the preaching of the Savior'slove and the testimony of a free salvation for the undeserving has melted the heart, has changed the morals, has, in fact,produced such an effect that the drunkardloves sobriety, that the harlot has become chaste, and that the most abandoned are saved. The Gospel plan is excellent inits working. The other plan, which looks as if it would repress vice, pulls up the very floodgates of it, for what you commanda man not to do, that he will do!But when you come to him, not with a command, but with a sweet invitation of love, and with wooing words of comfort, biddinghim look to Jesus and live, then the command which was irksome and impossible before becomes an easy yoke.
I must hardly tarry longer to illustrate this great principle, or otherwise I might have spoken upon God's plan and God'swork in inward experience. The experience of every Christian is, in some respects, different from the experience of everyother, but it is still the result of God's plan. Yourbeing led through a certain state of deep depression and of severe mental exercise is down in the book-and as for my Brotheryonder-his being led through a state of exultation and rapturous delight is down in the plan, too. And it is right, that inone case you shouldhave defeat, and that in the other case you should enjoy triumph.
My Brother shall be made a perfect man in Christ Jesus by his joys-some excellencies will be in him which nothing but joycould have fostered. You also shall be brought to spiritual development by your sorrows, and some powers shall be in you whichnothing but sorrow ever could have educatedin your case. The experiences of God's servants are very like the wanderings of the children of Israel in the wilderness-theywere led here, and there, and round about-and yet their road was the best way to Canaan. Sometimes a straight line is notthe shortest distancebetween two places. It is in mathematics, but it is not in experience, for there may be something between through whicha straight line could not be drawn. There may be something in you which renders it necessary that God should not lead youin a straight line, and it may be bestfor you to avoid insuperable obstacles by going round about.
Another illustration will be found in the use of instrumentality. It is a wonderful design of God to use one man to be themeans of the conversion of another, because the man who does the work is as much benefited as the man upon whom the work isdone. It is a great means of Divine Grace to theminister to be allowed to preach, as well as a great means of Grace to the hearers to be able to hear. The Sunday schoolteacher is as much benefited as are his scholars, and all of you who are watering others shall be watered yourselves. It isa wise thing on the part of God to usethe Christian for the good of others because it tends to edification.
And then how excellent it is in working! I am sure there is nothing more excellent than when a Church is all at work. Thenyou see the excellencies of instrumentality-no quarrellings, no bickering, no jealousies-all are active. But let the sameChristians have nothing to do andstraightway they meet with that black master who is said always to find work for idle people! They begin snarling. Theybecome cantankerous and full of bitterness. They find fault, first with all the world in general, and then with their Brethrenin particular, and lastly withthemselves! No man is so near to the utmost extremity of misery as that man who has nothing to do. "How died so and so?"said one. "He died of having nothing to do," was the answer. "Ah," said the other, "that is enough to kill any of us!" Andso it is. Let us escape from such acalamity.
It is wise in God's counsel to use instrumentality, and it is excellent in working when it comes to be carried out. I mustnot, however, weary you with these illustrations. I will only say that the best illustration of all will be when, at the last,God's counsels shall be perfectly fulfilled! Theend is coming. Although the ages may appear to drag their weary length along, yet he who looks upon them after God's fashionconsiders them to be but as a watch in the night. In a few more days the whole of God's purposes, with regard to the raceof men here below, will befulfilled. The last messenger of
Mercy will have delivered his message, and the last elect soul will have received it. The time shall come when the last vesselof mercy shall be taken out from among the ruins of the Fall, and set in its place where Jesus dwells.
Then comes the end, and when that end comes, we shall read, as far as may be, the whole of God's purpose as one grand poem!And there will not be one verse in it that has a syllable too much, or a word too little. There will not be one stanza orcanto redundant, much less one that iserased-but from beginning to end we shall see the master pen and the mastermind drawing forth the glorious array of majesticthoughts! And with angels, seraphs, principalities, and powers, we shall burst forth into one mighty song, "Hallelujah! Hallelujah!Hallelujah! The LordGod Omnipotent reigns!"
We shall see how, from the first even to the last, the King has been sitting upon the floods and ruling all things accordingto His own will. "From seeming evil still educing good, and better still, and better still in infinite progression," to thepraise of His own Glory forever and ever.
II. This being the doctrine of the text, I now want, as God shall help me, to give you SOME OF THE LESSONS FROM IT. Believeme, I have not laid down this doctrine in order that it may be a bed for you to stretch yourselves upon, nor even that itmay be a coverlet for you to wrap yourselves init-but I have done it with a practical purpose in view!
First, I have a word to say to those unconverted persons who have some desire after salvation. Dear Hearers, I would to Godthat, seeing His counsel is so wondrous, you would agree to it. It is in His counsel that sinners shall be saved by Gracethrough believing in Christ. You have been setting upyour own notion. You say that sinners should be saved by getting themselves into a state of gloominess. That sinners shouldbe saved by humbling their minds. At least that is what I suppose you are saying, for you say you cannot be saved becauseyou do not feel enough-that isto say, your plan is that you should be saved as sinners, prepared to be saved-and God's plan is that you should be savedjust as you are.
He wills to deal with you just where you now are, in your spiritual blindness, ignorance, hardness of heart, or whatever elsemay be the form of your spiritual malady. His plan is that you should look to Jesus as you are, and that looking, you shouldlive! You will find this plan of God's not onlywise in counsel, but also excellent in working. I have tried it and therefore I can speak experimentally. It is a blessedway of salvation, that way of, "Look and live." But the blessedness of it must be felt to be understood. I looked to Him andwas lightened, and many, many, manyaround me have done the same and could rise up now and sing the hymn-
"I came to Jesus as I was, Weary, and worn, and sad. I found in Him a resting place, And He has made me glad."
You gave your mental assent to the principle which I laid down, that God is wonderful in His design, and excellent in workingout His design. Oh that you might give your heart's consent to this Truth of God, and say, "Yes, Lord, it is a good way ofsalvation. I yield myself to it. Lord, worksalvation in me. I will from now on have nothing to do with my own merit and strength. I will be dead, Lord, that You maylive in me. I will be nothing, that You may be my All in All." Oh, I am happy, I am thrice happy, if a soul is now agreeingto that! O Heart! You shall see Hisface, for when you accept Him it is a clear proof that He has long ago loved you! And when you are agreed with Him it isbecause He determined that you should be a sheep of His pasture.
Another word, and this is not to the sinner, but to you, the people of God. You believe that God is wise in His counsel, andexcellent in His working, and you did not kick against the Truth as I laid it down, did you? Now I want you to agree to thisin your own particular case. I know there aresome of you here who, when it comes to the point, believe it as a doctrine, but you do not believe it in your own case.You say, "I cannot understand God's dealings with me." As if it were expected that you should! But you also add, "I cannotbelieve that God has good designs init." My dear Friend, you must believe it, or else-what? Shall I dare to say it? Yes, I will say it-John said that if a mandid not believe God, he made God a liar, and so you who do not believe in God's wisdom make Him a fool!
Do you not shrink from that? I know you must! You do in effect, when you doubt the wisdom of Providence-make God out to bea blunderer-or else to be unkind! Would you do either? No, your heart is shocked at the idea! It is all right, then, my Sister.It is all right, my Brother. Therecannot be a doubt of it, can there? If our business is in His hands, it will all come right. You cannot get the rudder round-thevessel will go on the wrong tack. But He can do it. He knows how to get to the point that you are aiming at, and that He isaiming at, and He willget you there even as sailors get their vessels to where they want to go by tacking about.
So will it be with you. Your course is all mapped out by your Lord. Nothing will take Him by surprise. There will be no noveltiesto Him. There will be no occurrences which He did not ordain, and for which, therefore, He has not provided. He has arrangedall, and you have but to patiently wait andyou shall sing a song of deliverance. But these are not the lessons I wanted to teach. They are both valuable, but I nowdesire to speak to those of my Brothers and Sisters who are my fellow workers. The workers and the sufferers are the creamof the Church. Workers, here is alesson for you. I will try to learn it myself. It is this-when we are going to work for God do not let us be in such a mightyhurry. I know our slow-going friends will like that advice, but I do not mean what they think I do!
Do not let us seem to encourage them in their laziness by making blunders through being hasty, for they will be sure to say,"Ah, you should have been as slow as we are, and you would not have fallen into these errors." Just so, but it is better todo good and blunder than to lie and rot inidleness. Brother workers, let us have a well-formed plan, and let it be God's plan. Very frequently I am afraid that wesketch out our plan ourselves, and if we do that without waiting upon God we are not walking in the path of faith-we are notbringing in Him who is"wonderful in counsel" to our help. And we must not, therefore, expect to have Him who is "excellent in working" for ourassistance. We must do God's work in His own way.
Sitting with Mary at the Master's feet is the very best preparation for doing the work which Martha did without being "cumbered"by it. Oh, when I know that I am following and not leading-that I am not running before God's cloud, and like a fool, huntingout my own way in thewilderness-but I see that I have His footsteps before me-it is happy and safe walking! Friends may say, "Ah, rash youngman, you are risking so much," and Unbelief may cry, "Let me see the pounds, shillings, and pence and we can go on!" But Faithcries, "If it is God'sway. I know I am no fool! I know I am safe."-
" 'Tis safer, Lord, to trust in You, And on Your care depend, Than trust in men of high degree, Or even ha ve kings our friend."
God never fails the man who, in simple, child-like faith, rests entirely upon Him. Have you never noticed that when you arecontent to wait for God's plan it opens up to you very wonderfully? You could not have opened it up. You did not understandit, but He cleared the way. Instead of laying awakeall night, how much better to go to sleep and wake up in the morning and find that God has done all for you. Faith goesforward in the name of God, and the gates of iron open to her through Divine strength. Let not your wisdom misguide you-yourfolly will not if your wisdomdoes not. Let not your strength make you weak, and then your weakness will be no hindrance. Do not imagine, when you havelearned God's plan, that you will comprehend it-for it was not meant for you to comprehend.
I do not suppose that the most of the bricklayers who are employed by our great builders understand at all what the housewhich they are building is to be like. Very likely nine out of ten of those who go up the ladder with the troughs of mortar,or stand on the scaffolding with their trowels atwork have no idea as to whether the building is to come out Gothic or Grecian. They have nothing to do with that! They havemerely to carry their mortar and to lay the bricks and do their day's work.
This is just what you and I have to do. Whether the Lord may leave me to carry out the work, or whether He may take me offand put others to accomplish His design should be the same to me. I have but to do my daily work, and to trust the great Architectwho is, "wonderful in counsel and excellentin working," that though I may not know it, He will most certainly bring out the best results from the accumulated laborsof all His servants. Again, when we do know God's plan, we must remember to carry it out, for that same God who is "wonderfulin counsel" is also "excellent inworking."
Do not sit down and be so pleased with the plan that you never try it! I must confess that I like to see a well-thumbed Biblebetter than more dainty copies because I see that it has been used. When you see a plan in an architect's office that is verynew and very pretty to look at, you say, "Ah,nothing has been done with it." But when you see a plan that is smudgy, and torn, and almost broken through where it hasbeen folded, you know that the man has done something with it. Now, do not fall in love with the plan, and think it is verypretty but never carry it out! WhenDr. Guthrie wanted his Ragged-schools founded, he called on a certain minister, who said, "Well you know, Mr. Guthrie, thereis nothing very new in your scheme. I and Mr. So-and-So have been thinking over a plan similar to yours for the last twentyyears." "Oh, yes," said Dr.Guthrie, "I dare say. But you have never carried it out." So some people are always thinking over some very fine plan oftheir own-but while the grass grows the steed starves.
Now the God who plans also works. Let us believe this. Christian, God has planned to divide the Red Sea, and He says, "Goforward!" Are you going to sit still till the sea is divided for you? No, in God's name, Man, go forward, and the sea willbe divided when you need it to be divided, but notbefore. What use would there be in having the Red Sea out of its normal condition, and its bed laid dry for hours beforethe hosts are to walk through it? You shall have God's help when you need it, and you are not to expect that God will ministerto the cravings of your unbelief.No! Trust in Him and you shall see wonders!
I may not often quote my own life as an example except to you who are my friends and fellow workers, and to whom my life isbut your own brought out in public. You know how we, as a Church, have been led to see mysteriously the hand of God. I rememberone night, when we resolved to build this Houseof Prayer, we knew that we were poor, much too poor ever to be able to raise so large a sum as this house would cost-especiallywhen the vow was registered that it should never be built with borrowed money-but should either be paid for or else not builtat all.
I remember preaching that evening from the text, "And the iron did swim," and saying that the building of this house seemedas likely a thing to happen as if the iron should swim. But I said I was glad it was twenty-five thousand pounds which wewanted, for if it had been only five thousand pounds,or ten thousand pounds, we might feel able to raise it. But twenty-five thousand pounds was impossible-only I believed thatGod could do impossibilities! It was one of the most singular things that ever occurred, when a friend at a distance whomI never saw but once in mylife-and who had no connection with us-put down five thousand pounds himself toward it!
We were encouraged. We went to work, and the thing was done and as it went on, more and more singular helps were sent! Whenthe College of which I am president had been commenced, for a year or so, all my means were spent. My purse was dried up andI had no other means of carrying it on. I was inthis very House of Prayer one Sunday evening after I had spent all I had for the support of my young men for the ministry.There is a dear friend now sitting behind me who knows the truth of what I am saying. I said to him, "There is nothing leftwhatever." He said, "You have a goodBanker, Sir." "Yes," I said, "and I should like to draw upon Him now, for I have nothing." "Well," he said, "how do youknow? Have you prayed about it?" "Yes, I have." "Well, then, leave it with Him. Have you opened your letters?" "No, I do notopen my letters on Sundays."
"Well," he said, "open them for once." I did so, and in the first one I opened there was a banker's letter to this effect-"DearSir, We beg to inform you that a lady, totally unknown to us, has left with us two hundred pounds for you to use in the educationof young men." Such a sum has nevercome since, and it never came before! And I have no more idea than the dead in their graves how it came then, nor who itcame from! But to me it seemed that it came directly from God.
We have gone on successfully ever since with that work, and are resolved to launch out into others. And I believe that weonly need as a Church, and your pastor only needs as your pastor, to have faith in God, and we shall find Him "wonderful incounsel and excellent in working."
Wherever there is the hand of a true man there is the wing of an angel! Wherever there is the working of the sword of Joshuaand the prayer of Moses, the almighty arm of the God of Israel is present! You have but to believe, and to go forward, leaningupon Him who made Heaven and earth, and allwill be well.
Let us pluck up courage, and from this very morning let us feel that we are not to be guided by the dogmas of carnal prudencebut by the dictates of FAITH IN THE INVISIBELE GOD. Let us no longer measure means, and calculate possibilities, but let usgo to Him who cannot be measured or limited. Letus trust Him where we cannot trace Him. Let us serve Him with might and main, and, to use the words of Gerhardt-
"Let us in life and death His steadfast Truths declare, And publish with our latest breath, His love and guardian care!"