Sermon 2104. The Inner Side of Conversion
DELIVERED ON LORD'S-DAY MORNING, SEPTEMBER 15, 1889,
BY C. H. SPURGEON,
AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON.
"I have surely heard Ephraim bemoaning himself thus: You have chastised me and I was chastised, as a bullock unaccustomedto the yoke: turn You me and I shall be turned. For You are the Lord my God. Surely after that I was turned, I repented; andafter that I was instructed, I smote upon my thigh: I was ashamed, yes, even confounded, because I did bear the reproach ofmy youth. Is Ephraim My dear son? Is he a pleasant child? For since I spoke against him, I do earnestly remember him still:therefore My heart is troubled for him. I will surely have mercy upon him, says the Lord." Jeremiah 31:18-20.
THERE are turning points in most lives. We go on in a straight line for a certain distance but suddenly we come to a placewhere we must make a choice of roads. All the rest of our journey may depend upon what we do at those particular points. Characteroften hinges on a day's resolve. Every now and then we meet with a man who has seemed hopeful enough till he has taken a wrongturn. And ever since then we have heard it said of him that "he has gone bad." That is a common and expressive phrase forgoing in the wrong direction openly and boldly. The man was not right before, but now he is wrong in conduct-heart and liferush together down a steep place into the sea of ruin.
On the other hand, the world may not often notice it, but the lovers of the souls of men observe, with great gladness, thatmen and women are suddenly pulled up and caused to turn in the right direction. I meet with many who were once gay and frivolous,who are now, "much tumbled up and down in their thoughts," as Master Bunyan would have said. And I mark their regret, theirhope, their trust, their brave resolve, their deliverance by the help of God, and their firm choice of that right road whichthey, from now on, follow earnestly. Their way is now upward, ever upward-a toilsome and rugged way it may be-but a safe anda right way, which leads them to, "glory and honor and immortality."
There are many turning points and places of deliberation in the pilgrimage of life. To some, those turning points come veryearly in youth-while they are yet boys and girls they are visited in conscience and impressed in spirit. And blessed are theyif they then and there seek the Lord. For they shall find Him, to the joy of their whole lives. To young men and maidens thereare stations on the line of life where they are called upon to decide as to their future road. Again and again the warningvoice is heard, "Change here for holiness and eternal life."
The lad is to be bound apprentice, or he is to take his first situation, or for some other reason he is, for the first time,to leave his father's roof-let him look upon this occasion as one of the most important seasons of his life. The night beforehe goes away will be, to that youth, if he is wisely led, a time for especially committing himself to God. When, for the firsttime, facing public life, the youth may well hear a voice saying to him, "Choose this day whom you will serve." The wholeof his future may depend upon how he begins in the house of business-the first step may influence every other.
When men and women are about to be married, how much of life then trembles in the balances! Upon the choice of a partner inlife the fashion of that life may depend. Whether self or Christ-the world or God-shall be the master motive of the household,may be decided by the finger which wears the plain gold ring. Too often is marriage entered on frivolously. And yet, if onecould see all the bearings of it, for good or for evil, one would judge the fullest consideration and the most prayerful thoughtto be nothing more than the demand of common sense on such a subject.
Changes in business, removals of residence, promotion to higher positions, or serious losses-all make new starting points.Birthdays, new years, graves wet with tears, or strange events in personal history have all become turning points in life'sways. Fierce temptations have also brought the lives of men to pauses and then to onrushes, which have contin-
ued to give force to all the rest of their existence. To yield at a certain moment has meant slavery for life. To overcomehas meant eternal triumph.
Joseph's career was determined by that grave moment in which he fled from the allurement of sin and left his garment in thetempter's hands. By that flight he prepared his way to become the savior of Egypt and the benefactor of his father's house.Take heed, my Brother, when you are tempted. For the next minute may be the pivot of your life. An interesting book has beenwritten upon "Turning Points in Life," and it is capable of indefinite extension. According to a man's station and disposition,those turning points take place at different periods. But whenever they are before us, they call for special prayer and trustin God.
There is, however, one turning point, and one only, which will secure salvation and eternal life. And that is what we callconversion, which is the first apparent result of regeneration, or the new birth. The man being renewed, the current of hislife is turned-he is converted. Of this turning point I desire to speak this morning, so far as pain and weakness will permit.
The text tells us a great deal about this turning-it is wonderful how clearly it describes it. The Bible must have been writtenby our Creator, for nobody but the Lord who created men could know so much about them. This volume reveals the secrets ofall hearts. It unveils our private thoughts. "The Law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul." And that conversion whichit works, it describes as none else can. Every touch is true to nature and marks the hand of One who is within us as wellas round about us. As you listen, may the Holy Spirit teach many of you what salvation means-may He turn you-and you willbe turned.
In our text we have man at the turning points as God observes him. "I have surely heard Ephraim bemoaning himself." Then wehave man just after the turning point, when he says, "Surely after that I was turned, I repented; and after that I was instructed,I smote upon my thigh." And then, thirdly, we have God viewing man at that turning point, crying with holy joy, "Is EphraimMy dear son? Is he a pleasant child? I will surely have mercy upon him, says the Lord."
I pray that I may be enabled, in plain and simple language, to describe that inner and vital experience with which many ofyou are well acquainted but which may, to others, still seem a strange thing.
I. First, here is MAN AT THE TURNING POINT AS GOD OBSERVES HIM. Is not that a wonderful Word of the Lord-"I have surely heardEphraim bemoaning himself? Of a certainty the Lord hears all the sorrowful voices of men. It may be that nobody else has heardyou-you would be very sorry that they should. But the Lord says, "I have surely heard Ephraim bemoaning himself." You didnot speak, you could not put your feelings into words-your utterance was a moan, a piteous noise, such as an animal mightgive forth-a moaning like that of a cow in pain.
The word here used, if you pronounce it deliberately, conveys its own meaning by its sound. The Lord hears "surely"-that isto say, He hears the sense and meaning of our wordless moans-He puts into language that which no words of ours could express.The Lord understands us better than we understand ourselves. Concerning the man here described, we note that he is in a stateof great sorrow about himself. He is not bemoaning the dead but he is bemoaning himself. His moans are not about his lostmoney or estate-he may be poor, but this is not his present grief.
His moans are not about his bodily pains-he may be sickly but his distress is in his spirit rather than in his flesh. Hismoans are not now about the bitterness of his lot, the weariness of his daily toil, or the oppression of the proud. No, hebemoans himself, himself only. This is sorrow, indeed. The grief is within. All the water outside the ship is of small account.It is when the leak admits the water to the hold that there is danger. "Let not your heart be troubled"-it matters somethingif your country or your house is troubled. But to you, the trying matter is if your heart is troubled.
We read that David's heart smote him-that is an ugly blow, against which there is no shield. "The spirit of a man will sustainhis infirmity. But a wounded spirit, who can bear?" This is what the Lord tenderly notes about the sinner at the turning point,that he bemoans himself. His first and deepest grief is that he himself is in an evil case. He moans his own sad plight. Ahme, nothing is such a bitter fountain to myself as myself! My Soul, you are in some respects my sole misery! You are my veryself. And if you are wrong, all is wrong. My Soul, how is it with you? What am I? Where am I? And where am I going? Lost!Lost! What have you lost? Alas, I have lost myself! Thus the Lord, "heard Ephraim bemoaning himself."
This bemoaning was addressed to his God. This is a very hopeful point about it-he cried to Jehovah, "You have chastised meand I was chastised." His deep trouble is poured out unto his God. It is a blessed thing when a man in his
distress turns to his God and not from him. It is well when the troubled heart cries, "Oh, that I knew where I might findHim! That I might come even to His seat! I would order my cause before Him and fill my mouth with arguments."
Is it so with any of you here present? Have you given up running to your neighbor? Is yours a grief with which no neighborcould understand? Does it afford you some relief to look God-ward? Does even your despair turn its almost stone-blind eyesin the direction of the sun? When you cry and moan, are those cries and moans unto God? Do you sit alone and keep silent toall else? And do you speak to God in secret? Then let me assure you that there is hope. I am glad, dear Friend, because Iperceive that whatever bitterness may be in your heart, there will come a sweet ending to it.
If the vessel's head is toward the Lord, no storm will ever sink it. You have come to a blessed turning point in your lifewhen you are driven to address your sore complaints unto the Lord God. It is no work of mere nature when the heart talks withGod. Look at the multitudes of prayers which unconverted men daily repeat. What dead formalities they are! They do not speakto God! They repeat a certain set of fine words to the air, or to the skies. But God is not there. A mouthful of words everymorning and night, uttered without thought of the living God-to what end are these?
True prayer sees God present and speaks to Him as to a living, listening Person. Hear how Ephraim spreads his case beforeGod! Come, Heart, be of good cheer, some great good is coming to you, now that you are coming to God! If you are speakingto the Lord, though it is only in sighs and moans, He hears you, and He will answer you, and speak comfortably unto you.
Notice how Ephraim in the text has spied out his God as having long ago dealt with him. He tells the Lord that He has chastisedhim-"You have chastised me and I was chastised." The man had not before observed the hand of God in his suffering-but he doesnow. He lost his wife-he did not see God in this stroke chastening him. His children were taken from him-he did not see thehand of God even in that affliction. I see the suffering man before me-he has been brought low by sickness. But he has notconsidered who it is that has weakened his strength in the way and shortened his days.
His spirits sink, his mind is wretched. He has not yet felt that it is the hand of the Lord which is heavy upon him. It isa mark that the careless heart has come to a change, when the man who had not God in all his thoughts now sees Him in hislife and cries, "You have chastised me." I have hope of that man who sees God's hand, even though he sees only a rod in it.
In this case, "You have chastised me and I was chastised," would seem to mean that it was a very sore punishment- he was indeed,chastised-there was no mistaking the smart. Our heavenly Father does not play with the rod. When He deals the blow, He meansthat it shall be felt. "You have chastised me and I was chastised-I felt it and I bemoan myself because of it." I may be speakingto some here who are smarting, even now, under the afflicting hand of God. Let them acknowledge that hand-turn to Him thatsmites them and kiss the hand which inflicts the blow-so shall the rod of the Lord be turned away from them, and they shallknow that in very faithfulness He has afflicted them.
But the mourner in our text means more than this by his moans-he owns that the chastening had not set him right. "You havechastised me, and I was chastised." And that was all. He had smarted but he had not submitted. He had not obeyed but had stillfurther rebelled. He was "as a bullock unaccustomed to the yoke." He was like the unbroken calf, which cannot bear the yokeand will not work in the furrow-which, being goaded-kicks back at the driver and thus hurts itself all the more with the goad.
Human nature is restive under the yoke of the Law. Its shoulder will not endure the pressure of the command. When sin bringssorrow as its wage, the proud spirit of man is angered and he resents that which God justly lays on him. In the time of hisaffliction many a man sins more and more. Now it may happen that I am speaking to a person here whose portrait is photographedin this verse. God has chastised you, but all that has come of it is that you have been chastised- you have not yielded, youhave not repented, you have not made confession of sin. You have not asked for mercy through the Lord Jesus Christ.
This is a very sad and dangerous state of things. Every chastisement which ends in chastisement-and produces no salutary fruit-notonly involves solemn responsibility but it casts a sevenfold blackness over future guilt. He that goes astray over the thorn-hedgeof affliction is not likely to return. May God save us from unsanctified chastisements, for they are full often the outridersof destruction! "He, that being often reproved hardens his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy."
Ephraim feels this and fears the result of having been thus obstinate towards God. Was there not grave reason for fear? Ifthe fire will not separate the dross from the lump of ore, what is to be done with it, but to cast it away as reprobate? Whatis the Lord to say to those whom He has chastised in vain but this-"Ephraim is joined unto his idols: let him alone"? If therampant young bullock will not bear the yoke, bring forth the axe. That which will not bend shall break-that which cannotbe mended must be thrown away.
Yet there is something better than this. The mourner in our text despairs of all but God. He cannot turn himself and chastisementwill not turn him. He has no hope left but for God Himself to interpose. "Turn You me and I shall be turned." Lord, You didsend a fever-it has burnt me but it has not melted me! Let Your love do what Your furnace could not! Lord Jesus, come Yourselfand melt this iron heart! Lord, You have sent death and he has frightened me, but he has not changed me!
Come Yourself and do by Your life what the fear of death could not! Lord, I have been subjected to pains and plagues thatmight have broken the pride of a Pharaoh, but I have been exceedingly obstinate and have wickedly stood out against You. ComeYourself, with Your own almighty Grace and conquer even me! Turn You me and I shall be turned. But I despair of any otherpower ever working conversion in me.
Surely, it does not need that I speak with any powerful language to my dear hearers this morning when I beseech you to makeyour personal appeal to the Lord Himself. If you have not yet yielded to the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord, and ifoutward means have up to now failed-if even the sadness of your life has not been the means of bringing thought into yourheart and repentance into your soul, then cry to the Lord God and entreat Him by His Holy Spirit to deal with you. You aredriven into a corner-nothing can save you now but the Lord God Himself. Cry to Him, for you have no other hope.
Pray, "Turn You me, O Lord, for You only can turn me. O Lord, place Your hand upon the helm of my ship and turn it as Youwill! Come into my vessel, O Lord Jesus, for my ship is driven with winds and tossed with waves! Come You and take supremecommand, and be both Captain and Pilot to me! Turn You me and I shall be turned."
Holy Scripture plainly teaches us that although man is a free agent, yet the Lord can control his will without destroyingit. He can turn the will and heart by forces which act in perfect harmony with the laws of the human mind. He can make usas freely turn as if there were no constraint. And yet the glory of every holy movement and turn shall be due unto the Lord,alone. My Hearer, you may rightly and wisely pray at this hour-"Lord, if Your judgments fail, let Your Grace prevail. If afflictionsare too feeble, set Your Omnipotent Grace to work. Turn me and I shall be turned."
To all this confession, poor bemoaning Ephraim adds another word, whereby he submits to the supreme sway of Jehovah his God-"ForYou are the Lord, my God." Happy is that heart which, in its despair, throws itself at the feet of its covenant God, crying,"You are the Lord, my God"! He does as good as say-Man cannot help me. I cannot help myself. Even Your chastenings have notavailed to turn me. Lord, I appeal to You, Yourself! You are Jehovah-You can do all things. You are my God, for You have mademe. And therefore you can make me new. I pray You, therefore, exercise Your own power and renew Your poor broken and deifiedcreature. Fashion me according to Your mind, that I may answer to Your purposes."
Beloved Friends, I do not feel that I can preach, but I wish my heart could get at your hearts. I cannot do this-but may themystic finger of the Holy Spirit now touch the hearts of any who are awakened and aroused but not decided. And may they beled to take the blessed step of casting themselves upon God as He is revealed in Christ Jesus, humbly saying, "You are theLord, my God"!
Thus I have dimly described the man at the turning point. And it only remains to note that all this was done and felt, notin pretense, but indeed, and of a truth. The Lord says, "I have surely heard Ephraim." What was said was truly said, so thatGod surely heard it. That experience which is not real and not really worked in the soul will prove to be nothing better thanthe painted pageantry of a dead soul-a disguise to go to Hell in. Pretend to no feeling which is not real. Profess no emotionwhich is not deeply and truly felt. In all things be sincere, and most of all be accurate when describing your inner conditionbefore the heart-searching Jehovah.
II. Secondly, let us hear MAN AFTER THE TURNING POINT. Here you have the description in the nineteenth verse. It begins with"Surely." Is it not very remarkable that each of these verses should be stamped with the hallmark,
and each one bear the word, "surely"? The Lord said He had "surely heard Ephraim bemoaning himself." And here Ephraim says,"Surely after that I was turned, I repented."
See, before us, prayer mixed with faith soon answered. Not many moments after Ephraim had said, "You are the Lord, my God,"he felt that he was turned. He treats it as a matter of fact and speaks of "after that I was turned." There is a sacred momentin the life of the chosen of God in which he is turned. I do not think that every man can tell when that turning took place.But it did take place in the case of every saved one.
Looking back, he has to look for the fruit of the turning. And that may be very perceptible, though the secret mystic workmay in itself be hidden. In quickening the soul from its death in sin, there must be a moment in which the sinner is deadand another in which he lives. The actual transition from death to life must be instantaneous, though the signs of it maybe gradual. "A point of time, a moment's space," works the inner transformation. Quick as a lightning flash is the implantationof the Divine life. The dead man lives at once-the condemned is in an instant pardoned.
A man must be either condemned or forgiven, and this is a great change. The Divine life itself must either be there or notbe there. And so there must be a true line over which the man passes, once and for all, when he proceeds from darkness intolight, from death into life. "I was turned," says he. Many others of us can say, "I was turned." My Friend, do you rememberwhen you were turned? Do you know your spiritual birthday and the spot of ground where Jesus unveiled His face to you? Someof us do, although others do not.
The main point is to be turned. To know the place and time is a secondary matter. Yet I say some of us know when we were turned.And here is one reason why we remember it, for repentance came with turning. "After that I was turned, I repented." The man,when awakened, cried, "Break! Break! Break, O heart!" But it would not break. He said to himself, "I long to feel," but hecould not feel-his heart seemed to be as an adamant stone. If he did, for a moment, experience a melting emotion, it passedaway and his goodness was as the morning cloud, or as the early dew.
But now, after he was turned, repentance came easily. No effort was required. The heart of stone had turned to flesh and therock smitten by the Divine rod gushed with floods of penitential grief. "I repented," says he, meaning, I changed my mindabout a thousand things-I loved what I had hated, I hated what I had loved. I loathed what had been called my pleasure. Ilonged for what I had despised as being dull and dreary. "I repented"-I felt deep sorrow for sin and I quit it to follow afterobedience and holiness.
Repentance is a sweet and sure evidence of a Divine conversion. He that is truly turned, turns his face to the wall to weepand pray. You can not make yourself repent. But when God has changed your heart, you will repent as naturally as the brookflows down the valley when once its bands of ice are thawed. "After that I was turned, I repented."
Deep sorrow followed upon farther instruction. The Holy Spirit does not leave the convert but gives him further instruction.And out of that comes a sorer regret, a more complete self-abasement. "I smote upon my thigh," says Ephraim, even as the publicansmote upon his breast. Do you not hear him cry, "Ah me, what have I done? What have I done?" His conviction was deeper, afterhe was instructed, than it had been before. God takes us into His school and He begins to show us the evil of sin-the greatiniquity of rebelling against a God so good, so kind-against a Law so just, so righteous.
And then we begin to abhor ourselves. Especially does the Holy Spirit instruct us as to the Person, and work, and love, andDivine Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. And this makes us loathe ourselves still more. We begin to see that there is salvationin none other, but only in the Lord-and that His salvation by Christ Jesus is to be had for nothing-a free gift of SovereignGrace. And that it is given at once to all who seek the Lord, believing in Christ Jesus, however great their guilt may be.Nothing makes a man smite upon his breast with a deep sorrow for sin like knowing the Grace of God as it is revealed in thesuffering and death of the incarnate God.
As a man knows more of himself, more of Christ, more of God, and more of the hereafter, he becomes indignant with himselfand deals heavy blows at himself. "After that I was instructed, I smote upon my thigh." Want of knowledge tends to make menhardened, unfeeling, self-complacent, and proud. But when they are instructed by the Divine Spirit, then they are ready toinflict wounds upon themselves as worthy of buffetings and blows. "God be merciful to me a sinner" is a fit prayer for theinstructed-and the lowliest posture well becomes such a one.
To this deep sorrow there followed shame. Ephraim says, "I was ashamed, yes, even confounded." This man knew everything before.Now he knows nothing, but is confounded. Once he could dispute and dispute and dispute. But now
he stands silent before his Judge. He formerly felt himself quite able to defend his own cause, but now he stands ashamed.Before he was turned, he might have raised objections to the Gospel-yes, raised them by the mile. And if you had answereda legion of them, he would have summoned another legion to his help.
But now he proposes no defense, the blush mantles his cheek and he pleads guilty. It is very difficult to bring the sinnerwhere he has nothing to say. But in this case the man is muddled, confused, ashamed, silenced-and has neither excuse nor extenuationto offer. He stands like a convicted felon, who, when he is asked by the judge if he has anything to say in stay of sentence,lays his hand on his mouth, and, blushing scarlet, confesses by his silence that he deserves to die. This is the man withwhom Mercy can work her will.
"Well," says one, "you are not painting a very pretty picture." No, I am not. But I am painting a truthful one. When God theHoly Spirit brings a man to the great turning point, He empties him, strips him and lays him low. One of the very first feelingsof the new-born life is amazement, dismay, self-abhorrence, self-despair. Truth requires that such as we are by nature shouldbe ashamed. It is no mock modesty. We ought to be ashamed, for we have acted shamefully. The Holy Spirit makes a man see this.
What the man could once boast of, he could not now mention without disgust. He could formerly come forth, wearing a brazenforehead, but now he seeks holes and corners where he may hide his guilty face. He hangs his head and judges himself worsethan the worst. He even wishes that he had never been born, or that he had been made a dog or a toad, rather than have beena man. God often brings men down to this condition in order that they may be on ground whereon He can meet them in the wayof Divine Grace.
Lastly on this point, memory now comes in and revives the reproach of youth. Memory is a very terrible torture to a guiltyheart. "Son, remember!" is one of the voices heard in Hell. "I was ashamed, yes, even confounded, because I did bear the reproachof my youth." The formerly forgetful man now recollects what he used to be in years gone by. How convenient it is to forget.But how damnable! Forgotten sin steels the heart and blinds the conscience-and so destroys the soul.
Ephraim had forgotten his green and foolish years when he was in the first fury of his sinful madness. Do you say to me, "Iwas sowing my wild oats then"? I answer, "You were sowing and soon will come the time for reaping." Go down, now, to the fieldand see what has come of your random life! Wild oats are seldom barren. I have known them grow up into a harvest of unquenchableflames! God has not forgotten your youthful provocation.
Ah, when memory is awake, it piles huge piles of firewood upon the fires of remorse and the flame rises to the heavens. Itis a great reproach to a man to have been a rebel in his youth-it shows how ingrained a traitor he is. I can only comparethe sinner with a quickened memory to one who is traveling across the plains of Russia dreaming in his carriage and all ofa sudden he is aroused by the sharp bark of a wolf behind him. And this is followed up by a thousand cruel voices of brutes,hungry and gaunt and grim, all eager for his blood.
Listen to the patter of those eager feet! The howls of those hungry demons! From where did they come? You thought that yoursins were dead long ago and quite forgotten. See, they have left their tombs! They are on your track. Like wolves, your oldsins are pursuing you. They rest not day nor night. They prepare their teeth to tear you apart. Where will you flee? How canyou escape the consequences of the past? They are upon you, these monsters-their hot breath is in your face-who can now saveyou?
Only a miracle can rescue you from the reproach of your youth-will that miracle be worked? May we dare to look for it? Wehave something better than a mere hope to set before you. Jesus meets these packs of wolfish sins. He interposes between usand them. He drives them back! He scatters them! There is not one of them left! For our sakes He has borne reproach. He gaveHis back to the smiters and his cheeks to them that plucked off the hair-He hid not His face from shame and spitting. Andby this substitution of Himself, He has set His people free. But till this is seen and known by faith, the man is in a hopelessstate-neither is any in a more horrible condition. He is ashamed, confounded and crushed with reproach. All this is workinga true and deep work in his soul. Better things are coming.
III. Now we will turn and HEAR GOD AT THIS TURNING POINT. Picture the poor guilty creature, confounded, covered with reproach,unable to defend himself in the least degree. And then the God whom he has so greatly offended comes in and cries, "Is EphraimMy dear son? Is he a pleasant child?" Does this look like a question? The answer has been already given in the ninth verseof this same chapter-"I am a Father to Israel and Ephraim is My first-born."
The gracious Lord sees Ephraim sore with chastisement, spent with weeping, pale with shame, and moaning with agony. And thenhis sonship is acknowledged. He bends over the crushed one and cries, "This is My son. This is My dear child." How graciouson God's part to acknowledge the guilty rebel as a son! What did the father do in the parable, when he saw his son a greatway off? He knew him to be his son and he had compassion and ran and fell upon his neck and kissed him.
God is eager to receive returning prodigals. The Lord as good as says, "He is My dear son. He is a pleasant child"! The sinnerthat despairs of self-salvation is "my dear son"! The sinner who bemoans himself for his transgressions is "a pleasant child"!How can it be? The heart of the Father in Heaven has great depths in it, unfathomable by our poor limited natures. We aretold, sometimes, that there is joy in the hearts of angels over sinners that repent. I do not doubt the fact. But that isnot the truth which the Bible tries to tell us. Holy Scripture says-"There is joy in the presence of the angels of God overone sinner that repents."
In whose Presence do the angels dwell? Why, in the Presence of God! The joy described in the parable of the finding of thelost sheep is the joy of God Himself over a repenting sinner! When a sinner is smiting upon his thigh, the Lord God is smilingon him. When he is ashamed and confounded, God is ready to own him as His dear Son. Oh, the heights and depths of sin-forgiving,sin-forgetting Grace! See, Beloved, here is love acknowledging the object of its choice-love confessing its near relationshipto one most unworthy and most sorrowful.
Then behold the same love well-pleased. The Lord does not merely say, "Ephraim is My son; yes, he is My child." But He callshim, "My dear son, a pleasant child." A pleasant child! Why, he has been full of rebellion from his birth! Yes. But he confessesit and mourns it. And he is a pleasant child when so much holy sorrow is seen in him. He is polluted with sin-his sins haveruined his beauty and diseased his soul! Yes, but he cried, "Turn me," and he has been turned-and now, by God's Grace, heis a pleasant child.
What a marvel that the thrice holy Lord should ever take pleasure in a sinner! Yet a sinner on his knees is a delight to theheart of the All-Merciful. A sinner with his eye on the Cross, believing in the Lord Jesus, is very dear to the Father. Ido believe that the great Lord would rather turn His eyes away from angels than fail to look upon a weeping pleader, crying,"God be merciful to me." "To this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembles at My word."O you kings and princes, with all your pomp and glory-you may knock at the door of Heaven and wait for notice!
O you peers of the realm, you may go your ways and seek great things of God, but He will no more regard you than the servantsat your doors! But if there is a poor, foul castaway-weeping and bemoaning himself-let him know that the Lord waits to begracious unto him. When a son, a pleasant child, is before the Father, in sorrow and reproach, the Father's heart and eyesare both with him to bless him. He is a dear son, he is a pleasant child. He takes him to His bosom, not because of his goodness,but because of his relationship.
Let me imagine a scene, such as our London homes have often seen. One of you has a little girl and she has behaved very badlyduring the day. Mother has threatened her with punishment for her continued ill-conduct. The child, in her bad temper, hasrun away. The evening comes on and where is Jane? Her brothers and sisters do not know. It is getting late. Where can shebe? Has anybody seen her? No, she is not hidden away at home-every room has been searched.
In alarm, someone is sent to the police station. Have you seen a little girl? No, they have not seen a little girl. It getsto be ten o'clock at night and the matter is very serious. Eleven strikes, like a knell. "Why don't you go to bed, dear Mother?""Go to bed! Why, I am her mother!" and she breaks out with, "My child! My dear child!" Surely a little while ago she mighthave been called a good-for-nothing little chit-one might have been glad to miss the worrying little troubler. But now Mothercries, "My child! My dear child!"
The clock strikes twelve. The small hours grow into great ages of grief. Father is troubled-he has been up and down the streetsand searched everywhere. You meet him and you say, "Well, she was, after all, a very commonplace child and most obnoxiousin disposition." "Ah, you do not know her. Oh, she was such a pretty girl! She had her peculiarities. But it makes me angryto hear a word against the dear child." Mother felt that she never knew before how much she loved that child!
What is that? What? Is the wanderer found? What joy beams from every face! Could you have imagined that one naughty childcould have made such a stir and caused such delight? Sinner, this is just what happens about you! Thus
does the great God think of His wanderers and rejoice when He sees them returning home. When you cry, "Father!" He answerswith, "Is he not My dear son? Is he not a pleasant child?" Love takes delight in repenting sinners.
Notice, in this case, love in earnest. The Lord says, "Since I spoke against him, I do earnestly remember him still." Thinkof that, "/ do earnestly remember him still"! God in earnest-that is a great conception! God in earnest over one moaning sinner!God earnest in thoughts of love, even when He bids the preacher tell the offender of the wrath to come. He says, Go and thunderat him and let loose the lightning of the Law upon him-and yet I earnestly remember him with thoughts of love! Tell him hewill be driven into everlasting fire if he repents not. And yet, in thus threatening him, I do earnestly remember him still.
Go, Providence, and frustrate his designs! Go, Death, and take away his child! Yet in all this, there are earnest thoughtsof love towards him. "Since I spoke against him," says God, "I do earnestly remember him still." These are charming wordsto me. They thrill my soul. I fear to handle them lest I brush off their bloom. God is never more in earnest to save a soulthan when He is dealing roughly with it.
How I wish I could put my thoughts into your hearts at once-instead of having to dilute them by my own words- and then seetheir strength watered down as they pass through your ears and your understanding and at last filter in drops into your hearts!May the Lord put His own thoughts into your souls by His holy Spirit, that you may know, in some measure, what His earnestremembrance means!
Notice, next, love in sympathy. Ephraim is bemoaning himself and what is the Lord doing? He says, "My heart is troubled forhim." God's heart is wounded when our hearts are broken! The tenderness of God is at work-His very life is stirred when asoul is crying to Him, "Turn me and I shall be turned"-Jehovah is in sympathy with Ephraim! When the rebel is moved with repentance,the forgiving Lord is moved with pity! God Himself repents of the evil with which He chastised the sinner when the sinnerrepents of the evil with which he grieved his God. Those are words which will bear much thinking on-"My heart is troubledfor him."
Then comes love in action-"I will surely have mercy upon him, says the Lord." I am so glad to think that the "surely" is foundagain in this place. "Surely" God heard Ephraim bemoaning. "Surely" he said that he was turned, and now God says, "SurelyI will have mercy upon him." The Lord God puts His hand and seal to it. Sinner, He assuredly forgives you. As surely as youhave been ashamed, so surely does He put away your reproach. Come to Him by Christ and He forgives you now. The bill of yourdebts is receipted-the handwriting which was against you is blotted out. The weight of your iniquity was laid on Christ Jesusof old and He Himself carried it away and hurled it into the abyss, so that it shall never be mentioned against you any more.
"I will surely have mercy upon him, says the Lord." What great mercy, what full mercy, what eternal mercy, is this! Yield,then, your stubborn hearts to this immeasurable love. Be captives in the embrace of compassion. Can you resist the charmsof goodness? When God comes forth with nothing in His heart but love and kindness, mercy and pardon, flee no longer from Him!Turn at His reproof.
And may this day, even this very moment, be the day of salvation, the beginning of days to you! Then will we bid them ringthe bells of Heaven, for there is joy today. May the Lord Himself have joy of you! May He, concerning you, rest in His loveand rejoice over you with singing! O Lord, grant me the joy of leading many to Yourself by this sermon, through your Son,Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit! Amen. Amen. Amen.