Sermon 1075. A Root Out Of A Dry Ground
A SERMON DELIVERED ON LORD'S-DAY MORNING, OCTOBER 13, 1872,
BY C. H. SPURGEON,
AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON.
"A root out of a dry ground." Isaiah 53:2.
THE Prophet is speaking of the Messiah. He declares of Him, "He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, and as a rootout of a dry ground: He has no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him."It is marvelous that with such plain prophecies concerning the Messiah the Jews should have made such a fatal mistake in referenceto Him. They looked for a temporal prince who would come in splendor, notwithstanding that this and other Scriptures speakof His humiliation in express terms. Every unprejudiced person might have seen from this passage that the Messiah, when Hecame, was not to be surrounded with pomp but would come as "a Man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief," to be, "despisedand rejected of men."
Yet, though the Truth of God was written as with a sunbeam and the Jewish people were pretty generally acquainted with theirown Scriptures so that they had the opportunity of knowing it, yet when the Messiah came unto His own, His own received Himnot. And though favored with the clearest prophecies concerning Him, they rejected His claims and cried, "Let Him be crucified!"Does not this teach us that the most plain instruction, earnestly and forcibly delivered, will not be understood by the unregeneratemind? The carnal mind discerns not spiritual things-its eyes are darkened, its ears are heavy. Inspiration itself cannot puta spiritual Truth of God so clearly that men will see it unless their eyes are opened by the Holy Spirit. Vain is the bestlight to blind men!
Beloved, remember that what was true of the Jews is equally true of the Gentiles. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the simplestthing in the world, but no man truly understands it until he is taught of God. There are preachers who labor after simplewords and seek out instructive similitudes by which to make the Gospel clear to every apprehension-but still, of the unregenerateit may be said, "Their foolish heart is darkened." Sin has brought upon the human race a mental incapacity with regard tospiritual subjects. They rush on in darkness, though the Gospel creates a noonday around them-they grope for the wall likethe blind, though the Sun of Righteousness shines with infinite brightness!
Alas, to what has our nature fallen! How is the image of God marred within us! How ardently should we adore the Holy Spirit,that He stoops to us even in this, our blindness, and is pleased to remove the scales and pour light into our souls! Whateverwe have rightly discerned has been revealed to us by His teaching, for apart from His illumination we should have been asobstinately unbelieving as the Jews. Dear Hearers, how is it with you? Are you, also, blind? Though living in the Gospel day,it may be you have never seen the Savior with the eyes of faith. Are you blind, also? Oh, if you are, may He who alone canteach you to profit, instruct you in the faith of Jesus and in His light may you see light!
Now, turning to the text itself, you will observe that Isaiah describes our Lord Jesus as growing up like "a tender plant,"a weak branch, a suckling, a sapling, a plant that very readily might be destroyed. We cannot pass over that comparison withouta note or two, though we intend to dwell mainly upon the next clause. Our Lord Jesus Christ in His humiliation appeared ingreat feebleness. He was born a helpless Babe. He was, in His infancy, in great danger from the hand of Herod, and thoughpreserved, it was not by a powerful army, but by flight into another land.
His early days were not spent amid the martial music of camps, or in the grandeur of courts, but in the retirement of a carpenter'sshop-fit place for "a tender plant." His life was gentleness-He was harmless as a lamb. At any time it seemed easy to destroyboth Him and His system. When He was nailed to the Cross to die, did it not appear as if His whole work had utterly collapsedand His religion would be forever stamped out? The Cross threatened to be the death of Christianity as well as of Christ-butit was not so, for in a few days the power of the Divine Spirit came upon the
At its first setting up, how feeble was the kingdom of our Lord! When Herod stretched out his hand to vex certain of the Church,unbelief might have said, "there will be an utter end before long." When, in later years, the Roman Emperors turned the wholeimperial power against the Gospel, stretching forth an arm long enough to encompass the entire globe and uplifting a handmore heavy than an iron hammer-how could it be supposed that the Christian Church would still live on? It bowed before thestorm like a tender shoot but it was not uprooted by the tempest-it survives to this day-and although we do not rejoice atthis moment in all the success which we could desire, yet still that tender shoot is full of vitality!
We perceive the blossoms of hope upon it and expect soon to gather goodly clusters of success. Christianity in our own hearts-theChrist within us-is also a "tender plant." In its springing up it is as the green blade of corn which any beast that goesby may tread upon or devour. Oftentimes to our apprehension it has seemed that our spiritual life would soon die. It was nobetter than a lily with a stalk bruised and all but snapped in two. The mower's scythe of temptation has cut down the outgrowthof our spiritual life, but, blessed be God, He who comes down like rain upon the mown grass has restored our verdure and maintainedour vigor to this day! Tender as our religion is, it is beyond the power of Satan to destroy it! Weak as we are, we have notutterly fallen, nor shall we-for the feeble shall be victorious and the "lame shall take the prey."
Though Grace is often like the hyssop for its weakness, it is ever as the oak for endurance. Man threatens to crush the Church,or hopes to uproot true Grace from the heart of the timid Believers, but it shall not be done-the "tender plant" shall becomea goodly cedar and the weakness of God shall baffle the power of man!
Now let us turn to the similitude which we have selected for our text-"A root out of a dry ground." First, we will explainthe meaning of the metaphor. Then, secondly, we will speak of our experimental knowledge of its truth. Thirdly, we will dwell,for a while, upon the encouragements which it affords. And, fourthly, upon the glory which it displays.
I. First, then, this morning, our Lord Jesus is said to be "a root out of a dry ground." What is THE HISTORICAL MEANING OFTHIS METAPHOR? We believe that it applies to the Person of the Lord and also to His cause and kingdom-to Himselfpersonallyand to Himself mystically. He is "a root out of a dry ground."
A root which springs up in a fat and fertile field owes very much to the soil in which it grows. We do not wonder that someplants thrive abundantly, for the earth in which they are planted is peculiarly congenial to their growth. But if we see aroot or a tree luxuriating upon a flinty rock, or in the midst of arid sand, we are astonished and admire the handiwork ofGod. Our Savior is a root that derives nothing from the soil in which it grows, but puts everything into the soil. Christdoes not live because of His surroundings, but He makes those to live who are around Him-and Christianity in this world derivesnothing from the world except that which alloys and injures it, but it imparts every blessing to the place where it comes.
Note, then, this Truth of God-that Christ is always "a root out of a dry ground"-He derives nothing from without, but is self-containedand self-sustained in all the strength and excellence which He displays. Let us dwell on that Truth. It is quite certain thatour Lord derived nothing whatever from His natural descent. He was the Son of David and lawful heir to the royal dignitiesof the tribe of Judah, but His family had fallen into obscurity, had lost position, wealth, and repute. Joseph, His nominalfather, was only a carpenter. Mary, His mother, but a humble village maiden. The glory had altogether departed from Judahwhen Shiloh came. No crown was treasured amid the heirlooms of Joseph, and no scepter was comprehended in the scanty portionof Mary. He who was born King of the Jews inherited nothing from His parents by way of honor and dignity-His only portionwas the danger of being sought out by the cunning and cruelty of Herod.
Now, had our Lord been descended from the Pharaohs; had He come into the world as the scion of a long line of Caesars, oras the heir to a wide-spread monarchy, it would have been said, "Every man respects pedigree and descent, and hence the triumphsof His teaching." But who shall do otherwise than magnify the Lord alone, when the blessed and only Potentate is born in lowliestpoverty?-
"Lo God bedews old Jesse's root
With blessings from the skies;
He makes the Branch of promise shoot,
The promised Prince arise."
Nor did our Lord derive assistance from His nationality. It was no general recommendation to His teaching that He was of theseed of Abraham. Why, to this day, to many minds, it is almost shameful to mention that our Savior was a Jew. Though certainlythe Jew is of an honorable race, ancient and venerable-having been chosen of God of old-yet among the sons of men the nameof Jew has not yet lost the opprobrium which long ages of cruel oppression and superstitious hate have cast upon it.
It is said that there was no nation, immediately after the time of our Savior, that the Romans ardently hated except the Jews.The Romans were peculiarly tolerant of all religions and customs-by conquest their empire had absorbed men of all languagesand creeds and they usually left them undisturbed. But the Jewish faith was too peculiar and intolerant to escape derisionand hatred. After the siege of Jerusalem by Titus, the Jews were hunted down and the connection of Christianity with Judaismso far from being an advantage to it, became a serious hindrance to its growth. Christianity was confused with Judaism andmade to share the political disgrace of the Jewish nation as well as its own reproach.
Had our Savior been born in Greece, there is no doubt that as a religious teacher He would have commanded far more attentionthan as coming forward from Jerusalem or Nazareth. He owed nothing to His Jewish birth, for if anything good could have comeout of Israel in former days, behold into what a state it had fallen-it was dead politically, religiously, and mentally! Lookat Phariseeism-what shall I say of it but that it had perverted the noblest into the basest? Look at the Sadducees with theirprofession of superior wisdom, their intense unbelief, and, I may add, their consequent folly. Whatever power the Jewish Monotheismmay have had in the world had perished beneath the destructive influences of a ritualistic Phariseeism and a broad churchof the Sadducees. Our Savior, could He have disowned all connection with Israel, might have been rather strengthened thanweakened by so doing. He was, in this respect, "a root out of a dry ground."
Mentally, among the Jews nothing was left. No harp resounded with Psalms like those of David. No Prophet mourned in plaintivetones like Jeremy or sang in the rich organ tones of Isaiah. There remained not even a Jonah to startle, or a Haggai to rebuke!No wise man gave forth his proverbs, nor preacher took up his parable. The nation had mentally reached its dregs. Its scribeswere dreaming over the letters of Scripture, insensible to its inner sense-and its elders were driveling forth traditionsof the fathers-and so sinking lower and lower in an empty superstition. It was a "dry ground" out of which Jesus sprang.
Nor did the Savior owe anything to His followers. He might have selected, had He pleased, certain eminent persons as His firstconverts. Casting His eyes upon the reigning Caesar and his royal subordinates, He might have turned their hearts to serveHim and so have surrounded Himself with a discipleship culled from men of renown. But He did not do so, else would men havesaid, "His religion might well spread with such powerful men at its head." The Man chosen out of the people passed by thenoble and elected the base. He might have journeyed at once to Athens and have collected from the remnant of the old philosophicschools the choice thinkers of the age. There still survived the sects of the Stoics and the Epicureans-and the old learningof Socrates and Plato was not quite forgotten.
He might have called to His feet the leaders in the more potent schools of thought, but He did not so, else they would havesaid that Christianity might well triumph with such master minds to propagate it. He might have gone to the Forum at Romeand there have selected men of mighty eloquence. He might have converted the orators of the tribune, or the persuasive speakersof the senate and have set such men to lead the van of the new faith-but He did not do so, else they would have said thatrhetoric achieved the victory and eloquence, with her charms, had spell-bound the world.
See you not how He hastens to the fisher boats on the Lake of Gennesaret and calls men of the roughest exterior and the leastcultured intellect? Shall a world-subduing religion be disseminated by peasants and mariners? So did He ordain it! He selectedmen commonly known to be unlearned and ignorant, and made them Apostles of the faith! Whatever they became in later life,He made them that. Peter did not make Christianity, but Christianity made Peter what he was. Paul brought nothing to Christ,but Christ gave everything to Paul. I admit that the Apostles became great men-they were eloquent and learned in the truestsense of the term, being taught of God. But Jesus, as "the root," bore them, they did not bear the root! This wondrous rootfertilized the soil in which it grew! It derived nothing from the men, but gave the men all they possessed. But we will passon.
Our Savior is "a root out of a dry ground" as to the means which He chose for the propagation of His faith. Nobody wondersthat Mohammedanism spread. After the Arab prophet had for a little while himself personally borne the brunt
of persecution, he gathered to his side certain brave spirits who were ready to fight for him at all odds. You marvel notthat the sharp arguments of scimitars made many converts. Any religion will win assent when the alternative is either conversionor instant death! Give a man a strong right hand and a sharp saber and he is a fit missionary of Mohamed's doctrine! Our Saviorgave to His soldiers neither spears nor swords, but said, "Put up again your sword into his place: for all they that takethe sword shall perish with the sword."
He asked no aid from governments, He disowned the temporal arm altogether as His ally. Had our Savior been a State-churchman,and not, as He was, the grandest of Nonconformists, it would have been said that under the wings of the State His Church wasfostered into power. If Caesar had said, "I will gather your children together as a hen gathers her chickens under her wings,"it would not have been surprising if the brood of Christians had multiplied indefinitely. But our Savior sought no succorfrom potentates and rested not upon an arm of flesh. The people would make Him a king, but He hid Himself, for His kingdomis not of this world, and therefore His servants did not fight. Our Savior, as He used no force, so neither did He use anymeans which might enlist man's lower nature on His side.
When I have heard of large congregations gathered together by the music of a fine choir, I have remembered that the same thingis done at the opera house and the music hall and I have felt no joy. When we have heard of crowds enchanted by the sublimemusic of the pealing organ, I have seen in the fact rather a glorification of St. Cecilia than of Jesus Christ. Our Lord trustedin no measure or degree to the charms of music for the establishing His Throne. He has not given to His disciples the slightestintimation that they are to employ the attractions of the concert room to promote the kingdom of Heaven. I find no rubricin Scripture commanding Paul to clothe himself in robes of blue, scarlet, or violet-neither do I find Peter commanded to weara surplice, an alb, or a chasuble.
The Holy Spirit has not cared even to hint at a surpliced choir, or at banners, processions and processional hymns. Now, ifour Lord had arranged a religion of fine shows and pompous ceremonies, and gorgeous architecture, and enchanting music, andbewitching incense and the like, we could have comprehended its growth-but He is "a root out of a dry ground," for He owesnothing to any of these. Christianity has been infinitely hindered by the musical, the aesthetic and the ceremonial devicesof men, but it has never been advantaged by them, no, not a jot! The sensuous delights of sound and sight have always beenenlisted on the side of error, but Christ has employed nobler and more spiritual agencies.
Things which fascinate the senses are left to be the chosen instruments of Antichrist, but the Gospel, disdaining Saul's armor,goes forth in the natural simplicity of its own might, like David, with sling and stone. Our holy religion owes nothing whateverto any carnal means-so far as they are concerned, it is "a root out of a dry ground." Neither did the Savior owe anythingto the times in which He lived. Christianity, it is said by some, came upon the field at a time when it was likely to succeed.I utterly deny it! It was born at a period of history when the world, by wisdom, knew not God and men were most effectuallyalienated from Him. The more thinking part of the world's inhabitants at the time of Christ's coming were atheistic and maderidicule of the gods-while the masses blindly worshipped whatever was set before them.
The whole set and current of thought at the advent of our Lord was in direct opposition to such a religion as He came to inculcate.It was an age of luxury-Rome was full of wealth and the desire for self-indulgence. Wherever Romans settled, they built magnificentvillas and used all the arts for the gratification of the flesh-was this a preparation for the doctrines of the Cross? Itwas an age of universal vice. It is a great mercy that most of the ancient cities have been destroyed and their works of artdashed to shivers-for many of them were unutterably vicious-and such as remain are doing not a little to degrade humanity.
Vices which now we dare not speak of were then perpetrated in public! Things that are now detested were performed as a partof sacred worship! The world was rotten through and through. If darkness is a preparation for light, I grant you the worlddid prepare itself for Christ. If an Augean stable, poisoned with a putridity which supersedes all common rottenness, is inreadiness for the coming of Him who shall cleanse it, the world was prepared for Jesus, but not else. I deny that He owedanything to His times. He came when the times could not help Him in any degree whatever, and His religion was "a root outof a dry ground."
Neither, again, let me say, did the religion of Jesus owe anything to human nature! It is sometimes said that it commendsitself to human nature. It is false-the religion of Jesus opposes unrenewed human nature. In Christ's day
revenge was one of the most glorious things known-it was sung of, it was preached upon, it was the joy of men-and what religionbut Christianity ever taught men never to retaliate? Christ said, "Love your enemies, and pray for them that despitefullyuse you." Is this in human nature? Is there anything in the commands of Christ that at all flatters pride or conciliates lust?He judges our thoughts as well as our actions. "He that looks upon a woman to lust after her has committed adultery with heralready in his heart." Is that agreeable to human nature? Do you think that runs in the same vein as our passions?
Mohammed prospered because his religion pandered to human weakness! But there is in the religion of Christ no yielding towhat are called the natural passions, no providing for sensual desires. "Take up," He says, "not your scimitar but your cross."He says not, "Increase your harem." No, but, "Crucify the flesh." Is there any glorification of human intellect in the religionof Jesus? Is not its invariable command, "Believe, and live"? If Christianity spreads, it spreads in opposition to human natureby changing human nature, by making it what it never was and never could have been had not the incorruptible Truth of Godbeen planted in it like "a root in a dry ground." Thus much, and perhaps too much, upon the historical meaning of the metaphor.
II. Now, briefly, but earnestly, OUR KNOWLEDGE OF ITS TRUTH EXPERIMENTALLY. Beloved, you remember your own conversion? WhenJesus Christ came to you to save you, did He find any fertile soil in your heart for the growth of His Grace? I must bearwitness that to convince me of sin and humble me, He had need of all the mighty hammers of His power to break my rocky heart.Conviction of sin was no natural product of my mind. Repentance was a plant of the Lord's right hand planting and not a nativeof the soil. Remorse we might have had by nature, but repentance, never!
And, Brothers and Sisters, if now we have believed in Christ Jesus and are resting in Him, I am sure we must admit that faithnever sprang up naturally in the garden of our hearts-the Holy Spirit taught us how to believe in Jesus and led us to lookunto Him that we might be saved. So far from helping Christ, my whole soul was opposed to Him. If now I bow before His feetand delight to call Him my Master and my Lord, it is because I am subdued by His power, not because I have educated myselfto it, or was at all inclined thereto. Religion, true religion, in the heart at conversion is "a root out of a dry ground."
Let me ask you who look into your own hearts-how have you found them since? Has there been anything in your natural humanitycongenial with the new life which Grace has begotten within you? You have the higher life in your souls, has it found sustenancein your flesh? Ah, it is sadly the reverse. Christ's life has come into us like Israel into the wilderness and it finds inus no food. If manna does not drop from Heaven and water leap from the smitten rock, it must die in the desert of our soul."In me, that is, in my flesh," said the Apostle, "there dwells no good thing." Our carnal nature is still as evil as everit was-"The carnal mind is enmity against God, it is not reconciled to God, neither, indeed, can it be."
If you have Divine Grace in your hearts today, Beloved, you have been made to feel that it is "a root out of a dry ground."I bless the Lord that we have felt this at peculiar seasons. When you have had great joy in God, great exhilaration and delight,has it not usually been at times when you might least have expected it? When the body is gradually pining away with sicknesswe have seen the spirit more triumphant than it was in health, deriving none of its joy from the strength of Nature, but flourishingupon a secret provender of which the world knows nothing-it has been "a root out of a dry ground." Sometimes we have beendesponding in spirit. Our animal spirits, as they are called, have been quite dried up and yet, before we knew it, our soulshave been made like the chariots of Amminadab and we have flashed and glowed with sacred delight! "A root out of a dry ground"again.
Children have died and perhaps a beloved wife has been taken away. Possibly business has been against us, trials have multipliedand yet at that very season we have walked nearer to God than ever we did before, and had more delight in His company, andhave known more of the power of the Holy Spirit in our souls than ever we did in days of prosperity-all to show us that theGrace within us lives by its own inward vigor and by supernatural help-and owes nothing to bodily health, nothing to outwardcircumstances-but is still a root flourishing best in a dry ground! There is much that is painful about this experience ofthe dryness of the ground, but there is something delightful in the experience of the growing of the root under such circumstances,for then all the glory is given to the Lord alone, and we dare not touch it, no, not so much as with one of our fingers.
III. But I will pass on. This whole subject appears to me to afford much ENCOURAGEMENT to many. And first, let me speak, asearnestly as I can, a word to those of you who are seeking after the Savior but are very conscious of your own sinfulness.You are depressed under a sense of being unworthy to be saved, and what is perhaps worse, you feel that though the Gospelis preached to you, you are unable to receive it of yourself. Deadness and powerlessness are the main thoughts upon your mind.
Now, Beloved, let this console you. Christ Jesus, when He saves a sinner, borrows no help whatever from the sinner himself."It pleased the Father that in Him should all fullness dwell." If there is all fullness in Him, He does not need any contributionfrom us, and, blessed be His name, He never waits for any. We can give none and He will receive none. Christ is all-does notthat cheer you? Do you say, "I need power"? In Him is strength. "I need wisdom" you say -He is "made of God unto us wisdom.""I need a tender heart"-who can give it to you but Christ? "But, ah, I need to repent"-is He not "exalted on high to giverepentance?" "But I long for faith." Well, and have you never read, "it is not of yourselves, it is the gift of God"? He is"a root out of a dry ground," and your ground is very, very dry. He will come and put fertility into it, but remember He doesnot first need fertility in you.
Poor, helpless, hopeless, stripped, and emptied one, you need not look for, nor desire anything in yourself to prepare youfor Jesus! He delights to come into empty hearts to fill them with His love-into cold hearts to warm them with His sacredflame-and into dead hearts to give them life. Now, the same thought which may thus comfort the seeker, and I pray it may,ought also to encourage any Christian who has been making discoveries of his own barrenness. It is not every child of Godthat knows himself thoroughly. We may go on a long time after our first conversion without any very deep understanding ofwhat poor things we are.
Have you begun to see yourself in the looking glass of the Word and does the sight alarm and distress you? Are you crying,"My barrenness! My barrenness"? Beloved Brothers and Sisters, Christ "is a root out of a dry ground," and though you are thusbarren now, you are not one whit more barren than you always have been! Your sin alarms you, but it was always there! Yournatural death disgusts you, but it is no new thing. "Oh, but I seem to be less, now, than I was!" You never were anythingand if you had begun by understanding you were nothing, you would have begun in a wiser and happier state than you are now.
Whenever the child of God says, "I find my total of natural strength is getting smaller," he is only approximating to thetruth, for his strength is "perfect weakness." Beloved, when we get to realize the lesson taught us in our Baptism, we aredrawing near to the Truth of God. What is that? you ask. Why, it is the burial of the creature in Christ's tomb! Circumcisionsignifies the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but Baptism teaches us the burial of it altogether, as an incorrigibleand utterly corrupt thing, not to be reformed and mended but to be reckoned as dead and buried. "Mortify therefore your memberswhich are upon the earth." Be nothing at all, and let Jesus be All in All. When at any time you are cast down by a sense ofyour nothingness, remember that your Lord is "a root out of a dry ground."
The same comfort avails for every Christian worker. You who work for Jesus in the pulpit, or in the Sunday school, or elsewhere,I am quite sure, if God blesses you, you do not always feel the same. Those machines that preach regularly in the same wayaccomplish very little. God means to use men, and while men are men they will be sensitive and changeable. Flesh and bloodare not like marble-they change-and God means to use the feelings of His ministers and His servants for Divine ends and purposes.If God ever honors a man in public, He will whip him every now and then behind the door, and make him cry out, "Who is sufficientfor these things?"
Now, Brother, when you feel you are barren, do not fret or despair about it, but rather say, "Lord, here is a dry tree, comeand make it bear fruit and then I shall joyfully confess, 'from You is my fruit found.' Lord, I am a withered branch by nature,come and put sap into me and make me bud and blossom like Aaron's rod-so shall men see a miracle of Grace and You shall haveall the praise of it!" Do not think that your unfitness to be used is really a disqualification with God! The last thing aman might choose to fight with would be the jawbone of a donkey, and yet Samson found it handy enough and it made his victorythe more famous!
The last instrument God might choose to use might be yourself, and yet if He pleases, there is a fitness in your unfitnessand a qualification in your disqualification! A man's conceit that he is well prepared for God to use him will prove fatalto him. If a man is possessed of polished diction-very learned, a man of high family, a man of great repute,
and so on-the likelihood is that he will be esteemed by his fellows so much that the Lord will say, "I cannot use this manlest men glorify him."
Therefore God often uses young men because people know they are fools! He honors illiterate men that people may know thatit is not by their learning. He chooses home-spun people who speak without the polish which others have gained, and He usesthem because the world says, "He is an unlearned man, and a rough vulgar fellow." Do you not see that thus all the glory goesto God? The man's disqualifications are his fitness! "The rather, therefore," says the Apostle, "will I glory in infirmities,that the power of Christ may rest upon me." Go on, dear Worker, for Jesus is "a root out of a dry ground," and in your drynessHe will flourish!
Don't you think that this also ought to comfort all of us with regard to the times in which we live? They are said to be veryhorrible times-they always were ever since I have known anything of the world-and I suppose they always were in our fathers'time. We are always at a crisis according to some people. I am not about to defend the times-they are, no doubt, very bad-forthe innumerable spirits of evil are bold and active, while good men seem to have lost their courage. We find amalgamationsand compromises ad infinitum, and the precious Truth of God is trodden as the mire of the streets.
What about all this? Are we discouraged? Far from it! Bad times are famous times for Christ! When Wycliffe came the timeswere dark enough in England and therefore the morning star was the more welcome. When Luther came into the world the timeswere almost as black as they could be and therefore good times for reformation! The times were dead enough when Wesley andWhitfield came-but they proved glorious days for the Lord to work in! And if you discern now that there is not much prayerfulness,nor much spirituality, nor much truthful doctrine, nor much zeal-do not fret-it is thoroughly dry soil and now the root ofGrace will grow!
John Bunyan once said that when he heard the young fellows swear so profanely in his parish, he used to think what men Godwould make of them when he converted them! Let us think like that! Suppose He saves those wretched priests who are tryingto swallow down England? Suppose He converts these profane rationalists who almost deny God's existence-what penitent sinnersthey will make when He once breaks their hearts-and what preachers of the Word they will be when He renews them! Let us havegood hope! Our faith does not rise when people say the times are improving, nor do we despond when men denounce the timesas bad.
Eternity is the lifetime of God and He will work out His purposes. Time may ebb and flow, God is in no hurry. But if the worldgoes on for millions of years, God will triumph in the end and the poem of human history will not wind up with a dirge, butwill end with a triumphant hymn after all. Let us be of good courage about that. And thus we may be encouraged concerningany particularly wicked place. Do not say, "It is useless to preach down there, or to send missionaries to that uncivilizedcountry." How do you know? Is it very dry ground? Ah, well, that is hopeful soil! Christ is a "root out of a dry ground,"and the more there is to discourage, the more you should be encouraged.
Read it the other way. Is it dark? Then all is fair for a grand show of light! The light will never seem so bright as whenthe night is very very dark. Come with the salt of Christ where there is most rottenness. Where is the scene for the triumphof the physician but where disease has reigned supreme? Go with Christ's Gospel in your hands where it is most required. Thesame is true of individual men-you should never say, "Well, such a man as that will never be converted." You parents do notsay, "Now, there is Mary, she has a sweet temper. I expect to see her brought to Christ. And there is John, an open-heartedlad. He seems very attentive in the House of God, I expect to see him saved. But, as for Tom, he is such a wild daredevilfellow, I shall never see him saved."
I should not wonder that he is just the very one whom God will bring to Himself and make him to be the joy and gladness ofyour old age! Who are you that you should set up to elect God's people? He has done that years ago and He has often electedthe very ones whom you would have cast out. Seek the conversion of all persons and all classes, all men, and all your relatives,and all your children for you do not know whether any shall be saved. He is "a root out of a dry ground." Look for the dryground and rather rejoice when you see it is dry ground, with the comfortable hope that the root will spring up there.
IV. I must close with a few words upon THE GLORY WHICH ALL THIS DISPLAYS. Christ's laurels, Beloved, at
this day are none of them borrowed. When He shall come in His glory there will be none among His friends who will say, "OKing, You owe that jewel in Your crown to me." None will whisper among themselves that if the honor is given to
the Captain yet it was a soldiers' battle, after all. No, but everyone will admit that Jesus was the Author and the Finisherof the whole work and therefore He must have all the glory of it, since we who were with Him were dry ground, and He gavelife to us and borrowed nothing from us.
In the end of the world it will be seen how Christ has sedulously shaken off from Him everything that could have marred Hisvictory. This is most prominent in history. The Church of God went on gloriously and subdued the nations till that unbaptizedheathen Constantine thought, as a piece of State policy, that he would get the Christians on his side to secure for him athrone which else he would have lost. And that old sinner made Christianity a national religion and from that day Christianitywas pure no more. You could not find pure religion except you went to the valleys of Piedmont, among the persecuted Waldenses,where it was maintained. Religion, as far as real, true, pure holiness was concerned, almost ceased to exist from the daywhen the royal hand inflicted a spiritual cancer upon the Church by its touch.
The Dark Ages were a chastisement to the Church for leaning upon an arm of flesh. Then came the Reformation and as long asmen preached the Gospel and depended upon spiritual power only, even persecution made it spread. But those sinners, Henrythe Eighth and Elizabeth, must needs extend the royal wing over it and it sickened almost to death. The despised Puritansbecame the representatives of the Crucified Lord. And then there came a time when these Puritans were multiplied, but theyerred-they took the sword, (and if Puritans take the sword they can fight, mark you), and they got the upper hand by the armof flesh-and then down went the spirituality of Puritanism because whoever it is that thinks to bring glory to God in thatway, God will have nothing to do with him.
And now, at this day the Lord may bless His dissenting people in this country, but if they seek political power and lean uponthe education of their ministers, or any other earthly thing, God will cast them off as He has all the others. History showsthat Christ blesses a humble, believing, trustful, spiritually-minded people. And history shows that when they cringe beforethe king, or use sword or bayonet-from that moment the Master puts them down and begins again at the first foundation-forit is "not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, says the Lord of Hosts." And so it shall be. When at the last the entireChurch shall rise in all its splendor, not a single stone shall bear the mark of the carver's tool of human workmanship-frombasement to pinnacle there shall be no token of human masonry!
No king shall be able to say, "I gave that glorious window of chrysolite." No prince shall say, "I contributed that pinnacleof sapphire or chrysoprasus." No minister shall be able to say, "My eloquence made yonder gate of agate and opened those windowsof carbuncle." No angel, even, shall be able to say, "I spread the sacred pavement of transparent gold like unto pure glass."But it shall be to God, to God, to God alone-the foundations laid in the Divine decree, the stones cemented with the fairvermillion of the Savior's atoning blood, each gem fashioned and placed by the mysterious Spirit of the living God and thewhole temple fitly framed together-glowing with the Glory of God, bright with the Presence of God, from foundation to pinnacle,it shall speak of God, God, God alone!
When that palace shall be complete, then from the ends of the earth shall be heard the shout, "Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah,the Lord God Omnipotent reigns!" Hushed will be every other acclamation! This anthem will drown them all. Let it in our heartsdrown them all. "The Lord, the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day, for He is God and beside Him there is none else!"Amen and Amen!