Sermon 1011. Job's Regret and Our Own
Delivered on Lord's-day Morning, September 17th, 1871, by
C. H. SPURGEON,
At the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington
"Oh that I were as in months past, as in the days when God preserved me when his candle shined upon my head, and when by hislight I walked through darkness; as I was in the days of my youth, when the secret of God was upon my tabernacle."-Job 29:2,3,4.
IF Job here refers to the temporal prosperity which he had lost, we cannot condemn him for his complaint, neither can we commendhim. It is but the expression of a natural regret, which would be felt by any man who had experienced such great reverses.But there is everywhere in the expressions which he uses such a strain of spirituality, that we are inclined to believe thathe had more reference to the condition of his heart than to the state of his property. His soul wasdepressed; he had lost the light of God's countenance; his inward comforts were declining, his joy in the Lord was ata low ebb, this he regretted far more than anything besides. No doubt he deplored the departure of those prosperous days when,as he words it, his root was spread out by the waters, and the dew lay all night upon his branch; but, much more did he bemoanthat the lamp of the Lord no more shone upon his head, and the secret of God was not upon his tabernacle. As his spiritualregrets are far more instructive to us than his natural ones, we will turn all our attention to them. We may, withoutviolence, appropriate Job's words to ourselves; for I fear that many of us can with great propriety take up our wailing andmourn for the days of our espousals, the happy days of our first love. I shall have to trouble you with many divisions thismorning; but I shall be brief upon each one, and I hope that our thoughts may be led onward, and rendered practically serviceabletous, by the blessing of God's Spirit.
I. Let us begin by saying, that regrets such as those expressed in the text are and ought to be very BITTER. If it be theloss of spiritual things that we regret, then may we say from the bottom of our hearts, "Oh that I were as in months past."
It is a great thing for a man to be near to God; it is a very choice privilege to be admitted into the inner circle of communion,and to become God's familiar friend. Great as the privilege is, so great is the loss of it. No darkness is so dark as thatwhich falls on eyes accustomed to the light. The poor man who was always poor is scarcely poor, but he who has fallen fromthe summit of greatness into the depths of poverty is poor indeed. The man who has never enjoyedcommunion with God knows nothing of what it must be to lose it; but he who has once been pressed upon the Savior's bosomwill mourn, as long as he liveth, if he be deprived of the sacred enjoyment. The mercies which Job deplored in our text areno little ones. First, he complains that he had lost the consciousness of divine preservation. He says, "Oh that I were as in months past, as in the days when God preserved me." There are days with Christians when theycan see God's hand allaround them, checking them in the first approaches of sin, and setting a hedge about all their ways. Their conscienceis tender, and the Spirit of God is obeyed by them; they are, therefore, kept in all their ways, the angels of God watchingover them, lest they dash their foot against a stone. But when they fall into laxity of spirit, and walk at a distance fromGod, they are not so preserved. Though kept from final and total apostasy, yet they are not kept from very grievous sin; for,likePeter who followed afar off, they may be left to deny their Master, even with oaths and cursings. If we have lost thatconscious preservation of God, which once covered us from every fiery dart; if we no longer abide under the shadow of theAlmighty, and feel no longer that his truth is our shield and buckler, we have lost a joy worth worlds, and we may well deploreit with anguish of heart.
Job had also lost divine consolation, for he looks back with lamentation to the time when God's candle shone upon his head, when the sun of God's love was as itwere in the zenith, and cast no shadow; when he rejoiced without ceasing, and triumphed from morning to night in the God ofhis salvation. The joy of the Lord is our strength, the joy of the Lord is Israel's excellency; it is the heaven of heaven,it is heaven even upon earth; and, consequently, to lose it,is a calamity indeed. Who that has once been satisfied with favor, and full of the blessing of the Lord, will be contentto go into the dry and thirsty land, and live far off from God? Will he not rather cry out with David, "My soul thirstethfor God; when shall I come and appear before God?" Surely his agonising prayer will be, "Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation,and uphold me with thy free Spirit." Love to God will never be content if his face be hidden. Until the curtain be drawnaside and the King's face be seen through the lattices, the true spouse will spend her life in sighing; mourning likea dove bereaved of its mate.
Moreover, Job deplored the loss of divine illumination. "By his light," he says, "I walked through darkness," that is to say, perplexity ceased to be perplexity; God shed such alight upon the mysteries of providence, that where others missed their path, Job, made wise by heaven, could find it. Therehave been times when, to our patient faith, all things have been plain. "If any man will do his will, he shall know of thedoctrine;" but, if we walk far off from God,then, straightway, even the precious truth of God is no more clear to us, and the dealings of God with us in providenceappear to be like a maze. He is wise as Solomon who walks with God, but he is a very fool who trusts his own understanding.All the wit that we have gathered by observation and experience will not supply us with sufficiency of common sense, if weturn away from God. Israel, without consulting God, made a league with her enemies; she thought the case most plain when sheenteredinto hasty alliance with the Gibeonites, but she was duped by cunning because she asked not counsel of the Lord. In thesimplest business we shall err, if we seek not direction from the Lord; yet, where matters are most complicated, we shallwalk wisely, if we wait for a voice from the oracle, and seek the good Shepherd's guidance. We may bitterly lament, therefore,if we have lost the Holy Spirit's light. If now the Lord answereth us not, neither by his word, nor by his providence, ifwewander alone, crying Oh that I knew where I might find him, we are in an evil case, and may well sigh for the days, whenby his light we walked through darkness.
Moreover, Job had lost divine communion: so it seems, for he mourned the days of his youth, when the secret of God was upon his tabernacle. Who shall tell to anotherwhat the secret of God is? Believing hearts know it, but they cannot frame to pronounce aright the words that could explainit, nor can they convey by language what the secret is. The Lord manifests himself unto his people as he doth not unto theworld. We could not tell the love passages that there arebetween believers and their Lord; even when they are set to such sweet music as the Song of Solomon, carnal minds cannotdiscern their delights. They cannot plough with our heifer, and therefore they read not our riddle. As Paul in heaven sawthings which it were unlawful for a man to utter, so the believer sees and enjoys in communion with Christ what it would notonly be unlawful but impossible for him to tell to carnal men. Such pearls are not for swine. The spiritual discerneth allthings,but he himself is discerned of no man. Now, it is a high privilege, beyond all privileges, to enter into familiar intercoursewith the Most High, and the man who has once possessed it, and has lost it, has a bitterer cause for regret than if, beingrich, he had lost his wealth; or being famous, he had lost esteem; or being in health, he were suddenly brought to the bedof languishing. No loss can equal the loss of thee, my God! No eclipse is so black as the hiding of thy face! No storm issofierce as the letting forth of thine indignation! It is grief upon grief to find that thou art not with me as in the daysof old. Wherever, then, these regrets do exist, if the men's hearts are as they should be, they are not mere hypocriticalor superficial expressions, but they express the bitterest experiences of our human existence. "Oh that I were as in monthspast" is no sentimental sigh, but the voice of the innermost spirit in anguish, as one who has lost his firstborn.
II. But, secondly, let me remind you that these regrets are NOT INEVITABLE; that is to say, it is not absolutely necessarythat a Christian man should ever feel them, or be compelled to express them. It has grown to be a tradition among us, thatevery Christian must backslide in a measure, and that growth in grace cannot be unbrokenly sustained. It is regarded by manyas a law of nature, that our first love must grow cold, and our early zeal must necessarily decline. I donot believe it for a moment. "The path of the just is us the shining light, which shineth more and more unto the perfectday;" and were we watchful and careful to live near to God, there is no reason why our spiritual life should not continuouslymake progress both in strength and beauty. There is no inherent necessity in the divine life itself compelling it to decline,for is it not written, "It shall be in him a well of water, springing up unto everlasting life;" "out of his belly shall flowrivers of living water." Grace is a living and incorruptible seed that liveth and abideth for ever, and there is nowhereimpressed upon the divine life a law of pining and decay. If we do falter and faint in the onward path, it is our sin, andit is doubly sinful to forge excuses for it. It is not to be laid upon the back of some mysterious necessity of the new naturethat it should be so, but it is to be brought as a charge against ourselves. Nor do outward circumstances ever furnish ajustification to us if we decline in grace; for, under the worst conditions, believers have grown in grace: deprived ofthe joys of Christian fellowship, and denied the comforts of the means of grace, believers have nevertheless been known toattain to a high-degree of likeness to Christ Jesus: thrown into the midst of wicked companions, and forced to hear, likerighteous Lot, the filthy conversation of the ungodly, yet Christian men have shone all the brighter for the surrounding darkness,andhave been able to escape from a wicked and perverse generation. Certain is it, that a man may be an eminent Christian,and be among the poorest of the poor: poverty need not, therefore, make us depart from God; and, it is equally certain, thata man may be rich, and for all that may walk with God and be distinguished for great grace. There is no lawful position ofwhich we may say, "It compels a man to decline in grace."
And, brethren, there is no period of our life in which it is necessary for us to go back. The young Christian, with all thestrength of his natural passions, can by grace be strong and overcome the Wicked One; the Christian in middle life, surroundedwith the world's cares, can prove that "this is the victory which overcometh the world, even our faith." The man immersedin business may still be baptised of the Holy Ghost. Assuredly, old age offers no excuse for decline:"they shall still bring forth fruit in old age; they shall be fat and flourishing; to show that the Lord is upright."No, brethren as Christ said to his disciples, when they would fain have sent the multitude away to buy meat, "they need notdepart;" so would he say to the whole company of the Lord's people, "ye need not depart;" there is no compulsion for declinein grace." Your sun need not stand still, your moon need not wane. If you cannot add a cubit to your spiritual stature, atany rate,it need not decrease. There are no reasons written in the book of your spiritual nature why you, as a believer, shouldlose fellowship with God, and, if you do so, take blame and shame to yourself, but do not ascribe it to necessity. Do notgratify your corruptions by supposing that they are licensed to prevail occasionally, neither vex your graces by conceivingthat they are doomed to inevitable defeat at a certain season. The spirit that is in us lusteth to evil, but the Holy Spiritis ableto subdue it, and will subdue it, if we yield ourselves to him.
III. But, now, I am compelled Lo say that the regrets expressed in our test are exceedingly COMMON, and it is only here andthere that we meet with a believer who has not had cause to use them. It ought not to be so, but it is so. How grievouslyoften will the pastor hear this among the other bleatings of the sheep: "Oh that I were as in months past, as in the dayswhen God preserved me:"
"What peaceful hours I then enjoy'd,
How sweet, their memory still;
But they have left an aching void
The world can never fill."
The commonness of this lamentation may be somewhat accounted for, by the universal tendency to undervalue the present andexaggerate the excellence of the past. Have you never noticed this in natural things, we are prone to cast a partial eye uponsome imaginary "good old times?" It is gone, and therefore it was good; it is here, and therefore it is dubious. In the middleof the summer, we feel that the heat is so relaxing that a frost would be the most delightful thingconceivable; we love, we say, the bracing air of winter; we are sure it is much healthier for us: yet, usually, when winterarrives, and the extreme cold sets in, we are all most anxious for the advent of spring, and we feel that somehow or otherthe frost is more trying to us than the heat. Personally, I met with an illustration of this tendency the other day. I wentdown a steep cliff to the sea shore, and during the descent every step tried my weak knees, and I felt that going down hillwasthe most difficult travelling in the world. Soon I had to return from the sands, and climb the steep path again; and,when I began to pant and puff with the difficult ascent, I changed my opinion, and felt that I would a great deal sooner godown than come up. The fact is that whatever is with us we think to be the worse, and whatever was with us we conceive tobe the better. We may, therefore, take some discount from our regrets; for, peradventure, were we more conscious of the benefitof thepresent state, and did we make less prominent the difficulty of it, we should not sigh to be as we were in months past.
Then, again, regrets may in some cases arise from a holy jealousy. The Christian, in whatever state he is, feels his own imperfectionmuch, and laments his conscious shortcomings. Looking back, he observes with joy the work of grace in his soul, and does notperhaps so readily recollect the then existing deficiencies of nature; hence, he comes to think that the past was better thanthe present. He is afraid of backsliding, and therefore he jealously fears that he is so; heis so anxious to live nearer to God, so dissatisfied with his present attainments, that he dares not believe that he advances,but fears that he has lost ground. I know this in my own experience, for when lying sick I have frequently lamented that painhas distracted my mind, and taken off my attention from the word of God, and I have longed for those seasons of health whenI could read, meditate, and study with pleasure; but, now that I have risen up from the sick bed, and am growing strongagain, I frequently look back to the long nights and quiet days spent in my sick chamber, and think that it was betterwith me then than now, for now I am apt to be cumbered with much serving, and then I was shut in with God. Many a man is reallystrong in Christ; but, because he does not feel all the juvenile vivacity of his early days, he fears that ritual decreptitudehas come upon him. He is now far more solid and steadfast, if not quite so quick and impulsive; but, the good man in his holyjealousy marks most the excellencies of his juvenile piety, and forgets that there were grave deficiencies in it; while,in his present state, he notes the deficiencies, and fears to hope that he possesses any excellencies. We are poor judgesof our own condition, and usually err on one side or the other. All graces may not flourish at the same time, and defalcationsin one direction may be more than balanced by advantages in another. We may be deeper in humility if we are not higher indelight. We may not glitter so much, and yet there may be more real gold in us. The leaf may not be so green, but thefruit may be more ripe. The way may be rougher, and yet be nearer heaven. Godly anxiety, then, may be the cause of many regretswhich are, nevertheless, not warranted by any serious declension.
And, let me add, that very often these regrets of ours about the past are not wise. It is impossible to draw a fair comparisonbetween the various stages of Christian experience, so as to give a judicious preference to one above another. Consider, asin a parable, the seasons of the year. There are many persons who, in the midst of the beauties of spring, say, "Ah, but howfitful is the weather! These March winds and April showers come and go by such fits and starts, thatnothing is to be depended upon. Give me the safer glories of summer." Yet, when they feel the heat of summer, and wipethe sweat from their brows, they say, "After all, with all the full-blow of beauty around us, we admire more the freshness,verdure, and vivacity of spring. The snowdrop and the crocus, coming forth as the advance guard of the army of flowers, havea superior charm about them." Now it is idle to compare spring with summer; they differ, and have each its beauties. We areinautumn now, and very likely, instead of prizing the peculiar treasures of autumn, some will despise the peaceful Sabbathof the year, and mournfully compare you fading leaves to funeral sermons replete with sadness. Such will contrast summer andautumn, and exalt one above another. Now, whoever shall claim precedence for any season, shall have me for an opponent. Theyare all beautiful in their season, and each excels after its kind. Even thus it is wrong to compare the early zeal of theyoungChristian with the mature and mellow experience of the older believer, and make preferences. Each is beautiful accordingto its time. You, dear young friend, with your intense zeal, are to be commended and imitated; but very much of your fireI am afraid arises from novelty, and you are not so strong as you are earnest; like a newborn river, you are swift in current,but neither deep nor broad. And you, my more advanced friend, who are much tried and buffeted, to you it is not easy to holdonyour way under great inward struggles and severe depressions, but your deeper sense of weakness, your firmer grasp oftruth, your more intense fellowship with the Lord Jesus in his sufferings, your patience, and your steadfastness, are alllovely in the eyes of the Lord your God. Be thankful each of you for what you have, for by the grace of God you are what youare.
After making all these deductions, however, I cannot conceive that they altogether account for the prevalence of these regrets;I am afraid the fact arises from the sad truth that many of us have actually deteriorated in grace, have decayed in spirit,and degenerated in heart. Alas! in many cases, old corruptions have fought desperately, and for awhile caused a partial relapse.Grace has become weak, and sin has seized the occasion for attack; so that for a time the battleis turned, and Israel's banner is trailed in the mire. With many professors, I am afraid, prayer is neglected, worldlinessis uppermost, sin has come to the front, nature leads the van, and grace and holiness are in the background. It should notbe so, but I am afraid, ah, sadly afraid it is so.
IV. I will more fully speak upon this matter under the fourth head. Since these regrets are exceedingly common, it is to befeared that in some cases they are very sadly NEEDFUL. Now, let the blast of the winnowing fan be felt through the congregation.Behold, the Lord himself winnows this heap. Are there not many among us who once walked humbly with God, and near to him,who have fallen into carnal security? Have we not taken it for granted that all is well with us, andare we not settled upon our lees like Moab of old? How little of heart-searching and self-examination are practiced now-a-days!How little enquiry as to whether the root of the matter is really in us! Woe unto those who take their safety for granted,and sit down in God's house and say, "The temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord are we." Woe unto them that are at easein Zion. Of all enemies, one of the most to be dreaded is presumption. To be secure in a Christ is a blessing, to be securein ourselves is a curse. Where carnal security reigns, the Spirit of God withdraws. He is with the humble and contrite,but he is not with the proud and self-sufficient. My brethren, are we all clear in this respect? Do not many of God's peoplealso need to bemoan their worldliness? Once Christ was all with you, brethren; is it so now? Once you despised the world,and contemned alike its pleasures and its frowns; but now, my brethren, are not the chains of worldly custom upon you? Areyou notmany of you enslaved by fashion, and eaten up with frivolity? Do you not, some of you, run as greedily as worldlings afterthe questionable enjoyments of this present life? Ought these things to be so? Can they remain so and your souls enjoy theLord's smile? "Ye cannot serve God and mammon." "If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him." You cannotbe Christ's disciples, and be in fellowship with the ungodly. Come ye out from among them; be ye separate; touch not theunclean thing; then shall ye know right joyfully that the Lord is a Father to you, and that you are his sons and daughters.But, brethren, have ye gone unto Jesus without the camp, and do ye abide there with him? Is the line of your separation visible-ay,is it existing? Is there any separation at all? Is it not often the case that the professed people of God are mixed up withthe sons of men so that you cannot discern the one from the other? If it be so with anyone of us, let him humblehimself, and let him cry in bitterness, "Oh that I were as in months past."
Brethren and sisters feel ye the breath of the winnowing fan again. How is it with you as to private prayer? Are there notbelievers, and we hope true believers too, who are lax in devotion? The morning prayer is brief, but alas! it is not fervent;the evening prayer is too often sleepy; ejaculations are few and far between; communion with heaven is distant, suspended,almost non-existent in many cases. Look ye to this, my brethren; let each man commune with his own heart,and be still. Think not of others just now, but let each one consider his ways. How is it with your love to the soulsof sinners? There was a time when you would have done anything to bring a man to Christ, when any exertion you could haveput forth would have been made spontaneously, without the need of incessant exhortations; are you as ready to speak for Jesusnow as you once were? Do you watch to bring souls to him? Does the tear tremble in your eye, now, as it once did for lostsouls,perishing without Christ? Alas, upon how many has a hardening influence operated. Ah, and this is true even of us, ministers.We have grown professional in our service, and now we preach like automatons, wound up for a sermon, to run down when thediscourse is over, and we have little more care for the souls of men than if they were so much dirt. Trifles of criticism,fancies of speculation, or fopperies of oratory, fascinate too many who should be wise to win smile. God forgive us if wehavefallen into so deplorable a state.
Ah, and how many of God's people must confess that their conscience is not so tender now as it used be. The time was when,if you said half a word amiss, you would hide away to weep over it; when, in business, if there had been a little mistake,and anything that might be construed into want of integrity, you would have felt ashamed for a week that such a thing hadhappened; but now ah, professors hear ye this-some of you can be dishonest and speak words that border onlasciviousness, and be as others are, yet your heart does not smite you, but you come to the communion table and feelyou have a right to be there, and listen to the Word of God, and take comfort from it, when rather you should be ashamed andconfounded.
Let me enquire whether there are not many of us whose zeal is almost gone? We once loved the Savior intensely, and his causewe eagerly sought to serve, but now we take matters easily, and do not travail in birth for souls. Some rich men were wontto give most freely to the cause of God, but now covetousness has palsied the hand of generosity. Even poor Christians arenot always so ready with their two mites as they were in better days. You were wont to labor, too, butthat Sunday School class sees you no longer; no street preaching now; no tract distributing now; all forms of Christ'sservice you have renounced, for you fancy you have done enough. Alas, poor sluggard! Has the sun shone long enough? Has Godgiven you your daily bread long enough? Oh, cease not working, brethren, till God ceases to be merciful to you. "On, on, on,""forward, forward, forward," is the very motto of the Christian life. Let none of us talk of finality, for we have not yetattained. Till life is over, our zeal should still glow, and our labors for Christ should multiply.
Are there but other signs of declension, that some of us might, with but a very slight examination, discover in ourselves?Is not brotherly love, in many Christians, very questionable? Have they not forgotten, altogether, the family ties which bindall Christians to one another? And, with brotherly love, has not love to the Gospel gone too, so that now with many, one doctrineis almost as good as another? If a man can talk well, and is an orator, they enjoy his ministrywhether he advocates truth or error. Once they could go to the little meeting house, where Christianity was preached faithfullythough in an uncouth style, but now they must have the help of organs or they cannot praise God; and there must be millineryand genuflexions, or else they cannot pray to him; and they must listen to oratory and elocution, or else they cannot acceptGod's word. He is sickly who cannot dine without made dishes and spiced meats, but he is a healthy man of God who can eatheaven's bread and heaven's meat, even when it is not served on a lordly dish. Might not many of us blush, if we wereto think how low our graces are, how weak our faith, how few our good works, and our gracious words with which we should beartestimony to his name. Yes, in thousands of cases, Christians need not be stopped if they were to commence this mournful cry,"Oh that I were as in the days of my youth, when the secret of God was upon my tabernacle."
V. But, I must pass on to observe that these regrets BY THEMSELVES ARE USELESS. It is unprofitable to read these words ofJob, and say, "Just so, that is how I feel," and then continue in the same way. If a man has neglected his business, and sohas lost his trade, it may mark a turn in his affairs when he says, "I wish I had been more industrious;" but if he abidesin the same sloth as before, of what use is his regret? If he shall fold his arms and say, "Oh that I haddug that plot of land; oh that I had sown that field;" no harvest will come because of his lamentations. Up, man, up andlabor, or you will have the sluggard's reward, rags and poverty will still be your portion. If a man be in declining health,if drunkenness and riot have broken down his constitution, it may mark a salutary reform in his history if he confesses hisformer folly; but if his regrets end in mere expressions, will these heal him? I trow not. So neither will a man, affectedbyspiritual decline, be restored by the mere fact of his knowing himself to be so. Let him go to the beloved physician,drink of the waters of life again, and receive the leaves of the tree which are for the healing of the nations. Inactive regretsare insincere. If a man really did lament that he had lost communion with God, he would seek to regain it. If he doth notseek to be restored he is adding to all his former sins this of lying before God, in uttering regrets that he does not feelin hissoul.
I have known some, I fear who even satisfied themselves with expressions of regrets. "Ah," say they, "I am a deep experiencedman, I can go where Job went; I can mourn and lament as Job did." Remember, many have been on Job's dunghill, who knew nothingof Job's God; many have imitated David in his sins, who never followed him, in his repentance. They have gone from their sininto hell by the way of presumption, whereas David went from it to heaven by the road of repentanceand forgiveness. Never let us; merely because we feel some uneasiness within, conclude that this suffices. If in the deadof the night you should hear thieves in your house, you would not congratulate yourself because you were awake to hear them.You would waive all such comfortable reflections till the rogues were driven out and your property was safe; and so, whenyou know things are amiss with you, do not say "I am satisfied, because I know it is so." Up, men, and with all the strengththatGod's Holy Spirit can give you, strive to drive out these traitors from your bosom, for they are robbing your soul ofher best treasures.
VI. Brethren, these regrets when they are necessary are very HUMBLING. Meditate now for a minute. Think, dear brother, whatwas thy position in thy happiest times, in those days that are now past. Had you any love to spare then? You were zealous;were you too zealous? You were gracious; were you too gracious? Nay, in our best estate, we were very far short of what weought to be, and yet we have gone back from even that. It was a poor attainment at the best, have we falleneven from that. During the time we have been going back, we ought to have gone forward. What enjoyments we have lost byour wanderings! What progress we have missed! As John Bunyan well puts it, when Christian fell asleep and lost his roll, hehad to go back for it, and he found it very hard going back, and, moreover, he had to go on again, so that he had to traversethree times the road he need only have traveled once, and then he came in late at the gates of the palace Beautiful, and wasafraid of the lions, of which he would have had no fear had not the darkness set in. We know not what we lose, when welose growth in grace.
Alas, how much the church has lost through us, for if the Christian becomes poor in grace, he lessens the church's wealthof grace. We have a common exchequer as a church, and every one who takes away his proportion from it robs the whole. Dearbrethren, how accountable are many of us for the low tone of religion in the world, especially those of us who occupy theforemost ranks. If grace be at a low ebb with us, others say, "Well, look at so and so; I am as good as he."So much in the church do we take the cue from one another, that each one of us is in a measure responsible for the lowstate of the whole. Some of us are very quick to see the faults of others; may it not be that these faults are our own children?Those who have little love to others generally discover that there is little love in the church, and I notice that those whocomplain of the inconsistencies of others, are usually the most inconsistent persons themselves. Shall I be a robber of myfellow Christians? Shall I be an injury to the cause of Christ? Shall I be a comfort unto sinners in their sin? ShallI rob Christ of his glory,-I, who was saved from such depths of sin,-I, who have been favored with such enjoyments of hispresence,-I, that have been on Tabor's top with him, and seen him transfigured,-I, that have been in his banqueting house,and have drunk out of the flagons of his love,-shall I be so devoid of grace, that I shall even injure his children, and makehis enemies to blaspheme? Wretch that I am, to do this! Smite your breast, my brother, if such has been your sin; go homeand smite your breast again, and ask God to smite it, till, with a broken heart, you cry repentingly for restoration, andthen again go forth as a burning and a shining light, to serve your Master better than before.
VII. These regrets, then, are humbling, and they may be made very PROFITABLE in many other ways. First, they shew us whathuman nature is. Have we gone back so far? O, brethren, we might have gone back to perdition: we should have done so, if ithad not been for the grace of God. What a marvel it is that God has borne with our ill manners, when he might justly havelaid the reins on our necks, and suffered us to rush on in the road which we so often hankered after. See younot, dear brethren, what a body of death we carry with us, and what a terrible power it possesses? When you see the mischiefthat corruption has already done, never trust yourself, but look for new grace every day.
Learn again to prize what spiritual blessings yet remain. If you have such bitter regrets for what you have lost, hold fastwhat is still yours. Slip back no further, for if these slips have cost you so much, take heed that they do not ruin you.To continue presumptuous may be a proof that our profession is rotten throughout: only a holy jealousy can remove the suspicionof insincerity. Let your previous failings teach you to walk cautiously for the future. Be jealous, foryou serve a jealous God. Since grey hairs may come upon you, here and there, and you may not know it, search, watch, tryyourself day by day, lest you relapse yet more.
This should teach us to live by faith, since our best attainments fail us. We rejoice to-day, but we may mourn to-morrow.What a mercy it is that our salvation does not depend on what we are or what we feel. Christ has finished our salvation; noman can destroy what he has completed. Our life is hid with Christ in God, and is safe there; none can pluck us out of Jehovah'shands. Since we so frequently run aground, it is clear that we should be wrecked altogether, if wewent to sea in a legal vessel with self for our pilot; let us keep to the good ship of free grace, steered by immutablefaithfulness, for none other can bring us to the desired haven. But oh, let that free grace fill us with ardent gratitude.Since Christ has kept us, though we could not keep ourselves, let us bless his name, and, overwhelmed with obligations, letus rise with a solemn determination that we will serve him better than we have ever done before; and may his blessed Spirithelp usto make the determination a fact.
VIII. So, to close; these regrets OUGHT NOT TO BE CONTINUAL: they ought to be removed, decidedly, removed, by an earnest effort,made in God's strength, to get back to the position which we occupied before, and to attain something better still.
Dear brethren and sisters, if any of you desire now to come into the higher life, and to feel anew your first love, what shallI say to you? Go back to where you started. Do not stay discussing whether you are a Christian or not. Go to Christ as a poorguilty sinner. When the door to heaven seems shut to me as a saint, I will get through it as a sinner, trusting in the preciousblood of Jesus. Come and stand again, as though all your sins were on you still, at the cross'sfoot, where still may be seen the dropping blood of the infinitely precious atonement. Savior, I trust thee again: guilty,more guilty than I was before, a sinful child of God, I trust thee: "wash me thoroughly from mine iniquities, and purge mefrom my sin." You will never have your graces revived, unless you go to the cross. Begin life again. The best air for a manto breathe when he is sickly is said to be that of his birthplace: it was at Calvary we were born; it is only at Calvary wecanbe restored when we are declining. Do the first works. As a sinner, repair to the Savior, and ask to be restored. Then,as a further means of health, search out the cause of your declension. Probably it was a neglect of private prayer. Wherethe disease began, there must the remedy be applied. Pray more earnestly, more frequently, more importunately. Or, was ita neglect of hearing the word? Were you enticed by novelty or cleverness away from a really searching and instructive ministry?Goback, and feed on wholesome food again perhaps that may cure the disease. Or, have you been too grasping after the world?Brother, you loved God when you had but one shop, you have two now, and are giving all your time and thoughts to business,and your soul is getting lean. Man alive, strike off some of that business, for it is a bad business that makes your soulpoor. I would not check industry or enterprise for a single moment; let a man do all he can, but not at the expense of hissoul.Push, but do not push down your soul. You may buy gold too dear, and may attain a high position in this world at a costwhich you may have to rue all your days. Where the mischief began, there apply the remedy. And oh, I urge upon you, and mostof all upon myself, do not make excuses for yourselves; do not palliate your faults; do not say it must be so; do not compareyourselves among yourselves, or you will be unwise; but to the perfect image of Christ let your hearts aspire, to the ardorofyour divine Redeemer, who loved not himself, but loved you; to the intense fervor of his apostles, who laid themselvesupon the altar of God for his sake, for Christ's sake, and for yours. Aspire to this, and may we as a church live near toGod, and grow in grace, then shall the Lord add to us daily of such as shall be saved.
There are some here who will say, "I do not comprehend this sermon: I have no cause to look back with regret. I have alwaysbeen much the same as I am. I know nothing of religion." The day shall come when you will envy the least and most tremblingbeliever. To you careless, Christless sinners, the day shall come when you will cry to the rocks for mercy, and beg them toconceal you from the eyes of him whom now you dare despise. I beseech you be not high minded, lift not upyour horn on high, speak not so exceeding proudly, bow before the Christ of God, and ask him to give you the new life;for even if that new life have declined and become sickly, it is better than the death in which you dwell. Go and seek graceof him who alone can give it, and he will grant it to you this day, for his infinite mercy's sake. Amen.
PORTIONS OF SCRIPTURE READ BEFORE SERMON-Revelation 2; 3:1-6.
MR. SPURGEON takes occasion to inform his weekly readers that the funds in hand for sustaining the Orphans under his careat Stockwell are gradually diminishing, and assistance will be very seasonable. About 200 fatherless boys are in the Orphanage.