Sermon 3512. Are You Mocked?
Published on Thursday, May 18th, 1916.
C. H. SPURGEON,
At the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington.
ON Lord's-day Evening, September 17th, 1871.
"Ye have shamed the counsel of the poor, because the Lord is his refuge."-Psalm 14:6.
GOD'S Word divides the whole human race into two portions. There is the seed of the serpent, and the seed of the woman-thechildren of God, and the children of the devil-those who are by nature still what they always were, and those who have beenbegotten again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. There are many distinctions among men,but they are not much more than surface-deep. This one distinction, however, goes right through, and it isvery deep. I may say that between the two classes, the saved and the unsaved, there is a great gulf fixed. There is aswide a difference between the righteous and the wicked as there is between the living and the dead. The Psalmist, David, inthis particular Psalm calls one class of men fools, and another class the poor. You will observe that he begins by describingthe fool, by which he does not mean one particular man. but the whole race as it is by nature-the whole of that portion ofthehuman race that remains unregenerate. In our text he describes another class as the poor, in which he comprehends allthe saved, all the godly, all the righteous, of whom our Redeemer hath said, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs isthe kingdom of heaven." Now from the very first, between the two seeds there has always been an enmity-an enmity which hasnever been mitigated, and never will. It displays itself in various ways, but it is always there. In some ages the enmityhas burstforth into open persecution-Herod has sought the young child to destroy it; Haman has sought to destroy the whole generationof Israel; stakes have been erected, and the faithful have been burnt; racks and inhuman engines of cruelty have been fashionedby the art of man, through the malice of his heart, to exterminate, if it were possible, the children of the living God. Forthere is war-perpetually war to the knife-war ever between the two generations. At this particular time the warfare isnot less bitter; but the restraints of Providence do not allow it to display itself as it once did, and it now generallytakes the form of cruel mockings so that our text is as applicable to the present race as it was in David's time, "Ye haveshamed the counsel of the poor, because the Lord is his refuge." The fool bath made a mock of the righteous man, called thepoor man; and this has been the subject of his mockery, that the godly man has been fool enough as he calls him, to put histrustin God, and to make this the main point and purpose of his life. There may be some here who have done this; all of usdo it to some extent until we are new-born. We ridicule, if not with the tongue, yet in our heart, those who have made Godtheir refuge, for when we begin to value the people of God, it is a sign of some degree of grace in us: "We know that we havepassed from death unto life, because we love the brethren"; but until we come into that state of grace there is a hatred orcontempt, more or less developed, against those who are resting in the living God.
Now I shall at this time first of all speak of those who are mocked; secondly, of the mockers; and thirdly, of how those who are mocked might to behave towards those who try to put them to shame. First, then, let us take the subject-the object-of the mockery of carnal minds.
I. WHO ARE MOCKED.
Here we have three points: "Ye have shamed the poor," that is, the persons; "the counsel of the poor," that is the reasons of their faith; then their faith itself, "because the Lord is his refuge."
To begin, it is very common for ungodly men to pour contempt upon God's people, the poor; and oftentimes they will do it bythe use of these words. It so happens that many of God's people are poor in pocket, and how often do hear the observation,"Oh! these Methodists, these Presbyterians, these Baptists, they are a set of poor people, mechanics, and servant-girls andso on," and how often is that uttered with a sneer upon the lips! Well now, that is a fine thing to makefun of, isn't it, for, after all, what is there to be ashamed of in honest poverty? I will stand here and say that ifI could stand to-morrow morning in Cheapside, and pick out a dozen poor men, and then if I were to pick out a dozen middle-classmen, and then if I were to pick out a dozen rich men, I believe, as to character, they would be very much of a muchness. Youshall go, if you will, and pick out at random twelve good princes, and see if you could do it; but I will pick you outtwelve working men that shall be honest, and upright, and chaste-which great men are not always. The poor are no worsethan the rich, and have no more right to be despised. And if it were true that all who fear God were poor, it might, perhaps,be rather to their credit than to their dishonour, for, at any rate, nobody would be able to say that their Dockets were linedwith the result of fraud. If they were poor, they would, at any rate, be free from many of the accusations that might bebrought against rich men. I care no more for one class than another, especially when I preach the gospel-you are all aliketo me, one as the other-but this I will say, that of all jests and all sneers that is one of the most ridiculous and meanagainst godly people, because they are poor.
But the sneer then takes another form. It is not that they are poor in pocket, so much as that they are very poor in education."Ah!" say they, "these people-well, what do they know? They are not philosophical; they are not amongst those who cultivatethe higher walks of literature; they are mostly plain, simple-minded people, and, therefore, they believe their Bibles." Well,I don't believe that. Amongst Christian people there are many men of as high an education as amongany class. The mind of Newton found root in Scripture, and discovered depths which it could not fathom. But even if yousay that, what of it? If these men have the wisdom which cometh from above, they have something that will last when the wisdomwhich is merely of this earth will have perished. Go, take the skull of the wise man in your hand, and look at it. Is it notas brown, is it not as ghastly a sight as the skul1 of the peasant? And what matters it to him, now that he lies among theclods of the valley, that once he spent his nights, with the lamp, poring into ancient tomes, or walked with his staffto heaven to measure the distance of the stars, or bored into the depths of the earth? It in all one to him, and if he isa lost soul, ah! who would not give the preference to the man that was learned in the kingdom of heaven beyond the man thatwas only learned in the things of earth? I see no great reason for jest on the subject therefore. And the sneer is, to saythe least,ungenerous; for if the ungodly be so much the wiser, let them show their wisdom by not sneering at those who do not happento possess their gifts, but who possess what is much more precious.
And then it will take another shape-this shaming of the poor because of their poverty. Whey will say, "Ah! but they are poorin spirit; they have not good ideas of themselves. Hear them-they are always confessing sinfulness and weakness, and theyappear to go through the world without self-reliance, relying upon some unseen power, and always distrusting themselves, andthey do not seem to have the pluck that the ungodly have. Why, we, we who know not God can drink, andthey will stop where we can go. And we can let out an oath, but they are afraid. And there is many a song that we cansing that these fastidious folks would not dare to hear, and there is many an amusement which we can enjoy which they, poorcreatures, are obliged to deny themselves." Ah! well, well, if they choose to be miserable, I do not know that you could dobetter than pity them. It would be a pity to be angry with them for not enjoying what you enjoy. Don't, therefore, sneer.But, afterall, sir, you know very well that there is more manliness in refusing to sin than there is in sinning; that there is morepluck in saying, "No, I cannot," than there is in being led by the devil, first into one sin, and then into another. And thesemen of the world that have this high spirit, and are so bold and brave-what is it better than the high spirit of a lunatic,who dares to put his hand in the fire? I dare not do that which would dishonour God. I am thankful to be such a coward thatIdare not venture it. But you shall not say that we are cowardly. Lived there ever a more earnest Christian than Havelock?Were there ever better soldiers than his Highlanders, who learned to bow the knee before Jehovah? But, O sirs, they couldfight; they were men brave enough in the day of battle, though they could not be brave in the way in which the ungodly are.Talk to us Christians about want of courage! Do you ever wish to see the Ironsides again in England, with old Oliver Cromwellattheir head? We hate war, but still we quote these instances to show that a man can bow before God like .a sneaking Presbyterian,as you call him, and yet rise up and drive the Cavaliers, like chaff before the wind. It is not true that we are poor in spiritin the sense that is often attached to us. We have as much of courage of the right kind as the ungodly have. But, sir, wecan afford to bear your jest. We are afraid to be damned; we are afraid to take a leap into the darkfuture, with wrath upon our heads; we do tremble before the living god, though we will tremble nowhere else. We count it no dim honour to fear him who is a consumingfire. But this is commonly the cry, "They're a poor set; they're a poor set of milksops." "Ye have shamed the counsel of thepoor."
But now the next point-a very common jest-is the reasons that Christian men give for being Christians. You notice the text says, "the counsel of the poor," for the Christian, when he becomes a believerin Christ, takes counsel about it. He does not believe his Bible because his grandmother did; he does not accept the Wordof God because some priest has told him it is true; he takes counsel, and considers. This counsel, however, is generally sneeredat, as thoughthere were no reasonableness in it; therefore, let me just state it.
The Christian has taken counsel with his own weakness. He says, "I cannot trust myself; I am very apt to go wrong; therefore, will I put myself into the great Father's hands, andpray him to lead and guide me. I will not go to my business in the morning until I have asked for his protection, nor willI close the day without asking still that I may be under his care." His reason is because he feels himself to be a weak andfallible creature, and he wants protection.That looks to me to be very reasonable, but to some it seems to be the theme for laughter.
The Christian has next taken counsel with his observations. He has looked about in the world, and he could not see that ungodly men derive pleasure from their sins. He hears them shoutingloudly enough sometimes, but he knows who hath woe, and who hath redness of the eyes?"they that tarry long at the wine," menof drink; "they that go to seek mixed wine." He has seen the ungodly in their quieter moments, and observed how unsatisfactoryall their best things are,and, upon the whole, he considers that what the world offers to its devotees is not worth his seeking for. Moreover, theChristian man has sometimes seen the sinner die, and' having seen him die, he has discovered that there is nothing in theprinciples of ungodliness to give a man comfort in his dying hour. Some of us have heard language from ungodly men in theirdeaths that we would hardly like to repeat, the very memory of which makes our blood chill. I remember once being at the bedsideofa man who alternately cursed and asked me to pray. I could not pray as I would desire. I did what I could, and thee hewould tell me it was no good; his, sins would never be forgiven him; and then he would turn again to blasphemy. It was a dreadsight. I never saw-and I have seen many ungodly people did never saw one die of whom I could say, "Let me die the death ofthis sinner, and let my last end be like his"; nor do I think such sights are ever or anywhere to be seen. The Christian man,therefore, having taken counsel of that, looks for something better that may be his stay in the time of trouble, and behis comfort in the time of his departure out of this life. That looks to me to be good reasoning. I think it is, and yet thereare some who sneer at it.
The Christian man has also taken counsel with the Bible. Believing it to be God's Word, he feels that one word of God is worth a ton weight of human reason. He would sooner havea drachm of revelation than have all the weight of authority that could be brought to bear upon his mind. And assuredly, ifGod be true, he is not incorrect in his judgment.
Moreover, the Christian man has taken counsel with his own conscience, and he finds that when he walks near to God, he is most happy. He discovers that, in keeping God's commandments, there isgreat reward, and though he does not expect to be saved by his works, yet he finds himself most sustained when he walks mostcarefully and jealously before the world, and when most near to his heavenly Father. Taking such counsel as this, and findingit so much to his owninward advantage, I cannot blame him that he still puts his trust where he does.
Moreover, the Christian man takes counsel with his own experience. There are some of us who are as sure that God hears our prayers as we are sure that twice two make four. It is to us nota conjecture, no, nor even a belief, but a matter of fact. We are habitually in the custom of going to God and asking forwhat we want, and receiving it at his hands; and it is no use anybody telling us that prayer is useless. We find it constantlyuseful. It is of no avail forpeople to say these are happy coincidences. They are very strange indeed-strange coincidences when they occur again andagain, and again, and God continually hears our prayers. The witness that the Christian has to the truth of his religion doesnot lie in the books of the learned. He is thankful for them, but his chief witness lies here-in his own heart, in his owninward experience. Now we always say that you must speak as You find. The Christian has found God faithful to him, has foundhimsupport him in the time of trial, has found him answer his prayers in the hour of distress; and this is the counsel thathe has taken for himself, and he, therefore, for these reasons relies upon God. Well, sneer as some may, I think we will dowith our trust in God, my brethren, as the natives of a certain American State are said to have done when they, instead ofmaking a law-book, agreed that the State should be governed by the laws of God, until they had time to make better-we willcontinueto put our trust in God until somebody shall show us something better; we will still pray, and get answered; we will stillbear our troubles before God, and get rid of them; we will still rely upon Christ and find comfort until somebody shall bringus something better, and it won't be just yet; and, until then, sneers and laughter shall not much affect us.
And now, once more, the great point at which the ungodly mostly aim their scoffs is the actual faith of the believer. He has made God to be his refuge. And what, what do they say, Why, "It's all canting talk." I do not particularly know whatthat means, but if ever Christian men are accused of being cants, they can make the retort by saying that the canting is quiteas much on one side as the other, for of all cants the cant against cant is the worst cant that everwas canted. But surely if a man shall speak the truth in other things, and you know he does, it is not fair to say hedoes not speak the truth when he says he puts his trust in God. The man is not insincere.
"Oh!" but they will say, "it is ridiculous-a man trusting in God." Yes, but you do not think it ridiculous to trust in yourselves.Many of you don't think it ridiculous to trust in some public man. Half of the world is trusting in its riches, and is thereanything ridiculous in leaning upon that arm that bears the earth's huge pillars up? If so, ridicule on. To trust weaknessseems to you to be sense. I say to trust Qmnipotence is infinitely superior wisdom, and we willcontinue to trust in God, for to us it seems to be no absurdity.
"But," they will say, "what does your God do for you? Some of you Christian people are very poor; some of you very sick-verymuch in trouble." Mark you, our God never said we should not be, but, on the contrary, told us it should be so. What he doesfor us is this-in six troubles he is with us, and in the seventh he does not forsake us. He never made us a promise that weshould be rich; he never made us a promise of constant help; on the contrary, it is written, "In theworld ye shall have tribulation." But our God does this for us, that we look upon those troubles as being so much firethat shall purge our silver: so much of the winnowing fan that shall drive away the chaff and leave the corn clean. We gloryin tribulation and rejoice in the afflictions which God has laid upon us. Still, that will always be a point of jest. Butthere is one remark I will make before I leave this. I should like any man who doubts the reality of faith in God to do godown toBristol, and go to Kingsdown and see the orphan-houses there, which Mr. George Muller has built. Now there they stand-substantialbrick and mortar, and inside there are 2,500 boys and girls. They eat a good deal, want a good deal of clothing, and so on.And how comes the money? All the world knows, and no man can gainsay it, that it comes in answer to prayer, and as the resultof Mr. Muller's faith-that, that faith has often been tried, but has never failed. What God has done for Mr. Muller, hehas done for scores of us after our own way, and in our own walk, and we glorify his name. Though that stands as a palpablewitness, we are not less able to say than Mr. Muller, there is a God that heareth prayer, and whoever may jest at faith, wecontinue in it still, and glory in it, and rejoice. Now this is what is the matter of jest for the mockers. But my time flies,so I must now speak a few words only upon:-
II. WHO ARE THE MOCKERS?
Our text says they are fools. Well, that is my opinion; but it does not signify what my opinion may be. The point that doessignify, however, is that it is God's opinion of every man who is not a believer or trusting in his God. In plain English,every such man is a fool. That is God's opinion of him-God that cannot err-who is never too severe, but who speaks the literaltruth-that he is a fool. Let me add, it will be that man's opinion of himself one day. If he shall everbe converted-oh! that he may!-he will think himself a fool to have been so long an unbeliever; and if not, when the truthof Scripture shall be proved, and he shall be cast into hell, then will he see his folly, and own himself to be what God saidbefore he was, namely, a fool. O sir, do not run the risk. There was an observation made by a countryman that is well worthquoting, when he said to the unbeliever. "I have two strings to my bow; you have not. Now," said he, "suppose there is noGod,I am as well off as you are; but suppose there is, where are you?" So can we say, "Suppose, after all, our religion shouldbe a delusion. It has made us very happy up till now; but as for you-suppose it should be true? Ah! where are you then, whohave despised it and have turned away from God?" May each man who does not believe in his God know how foolish he is. Nowas I gave you the reasons for the poor man's faith, let me give you the reasons why the unbeliever usually is an unbeliever.It isprincipally because he knows not God; and none of us like to trust a person we don't know. He knows nothing of the Most High, has never communed with him, noreven seen him in his works; and, therefore, he cannot trust him. The unbeliever will also say that he cannot trust God becausehe cannot see him, as if everything that is real must, therefore, be the object of sight as if there were not forces in natureabout which no doubts can be entertained that are far beyond the ken of sight.They will also say that they cannot trust God because they cannot understand him. If we could understand God, he would not be God, for it is a part of the nature of God that he should be infinitely greaterthan any created mind. I have heard of a man who went into a smith's smithy one day, and he began complaining of the wet weather."Why," said he, "smith, you talk about Providence! There is too much wet by half. If there were any Providence, it would managethings a great deal better.There is the wheat nearly all spoilt, and the barley is going. I tell you," says he, "there is no Providence; things don'tgo right." The smith took no notice of his observations, but after a while walked across the smithy, and took down an odd-lookingtool which he used in his craft, and said to him, "Do you know what that is used for?" "No," said he, I don't." "Look at it;look at it, and find out." He did look, and then he said he did not know. The smith put up that tool, and took downanother, an ugly-looking tool, and says he, "Do you know what I use that for?" "No," says the man, "I cannot conceivewhat you do with that." You can't! Look at it, and see; perhaps you will find out." He looked at the thing, and then he said,"No, I really do not know what is the use you put that to." The smith put it up, and then walked leisurely back and said,"You are a great dunce. You do not know the use of my tools, and I am only a smith; and you set up to judge of the use ofGod'stools, and say what is right and what is wrong. You don't even know about a smithy, and yet, you pretend to know aboutthe whole world. It is a most unreasonable reason not to believe in God because I cannot understand him. The reason at thebottom is this-the ungodly man does not trust God, because he is God's enemy. He knows there is a quarrel between the two.He has broken the law, he has become an enemy to his Maker; and how shall a man trust his enemy? Besides, he knows that Godwon't dowhat he would like God to do. He would like God to give him good health to go on in sin; he would like him to make himhappy in his lusts; he would like him to let him live a sinner and die a saint; he would like him to shape the world so thatman might take his sinful pleasure and live as he liked, and yet, after all, receive the wages of a righteous life; and asGod won't do that-won't bring himself down to the sinner's taste-therefore, the sinner says, "I cannot trust God," and thenhe turnsround and laughs at the man who can, just to quiet his own conscience and keep the little sense there is within him fromrebelling against him.
Now I spoke of the Christian's faith; just let me speak of the unbeliever's faith. It takes much more faith to be an unbelieverthan to be a believer. I am sure the philosophies of the present age which are currently set forth would require a deal morecredulity than I am the master of. I can believe Scripture readily, and without violence to my soul, but I could not acceptthe theory even of the development of our race, which is so much cried up nowadays, nor a great manyother theories. They seem to me to require a far greater sweep of credulity than anything that is written in the Wordof God. To the ungodly man this seems reasonable. "It is reasonable to trust a great man, and to hope that he will be the maker of you; it is reasonableto trust your own reason-to believe you can steer your own course; it is reasonable to be a self-made man, self-reliant; itis reasonable to look after the main change; it is reasonable to get all the money you can; it isreasonable to put your confidence in it (of course, it has not any wings, and won't fly away); it is a reasonable anddiscreet thing to live in this world as if you were to live for ever in it, and never think of another world at all." To agreat many it seems to be philosophy to get as far away from God as ever you possibly can, and then you will get to be a wiseman that the creature is wisest when it forgets its creator. That is the world's creed, and I can only say that if they scoffat ourcreed, we can fairly enough scoff at theirs. Trust in yourselves! Why, you are fools to think of such a thing. Trust inyour wealth! Have you not seen rich men disappear? How about a few years ago when-we must remember it well, and remember itsorrowfully-how a panic comes, and down go the towers of the great, and those who seemed to be rich burst like bubbles Andoh! the joys of earth! How soon are they scattered, how speedily do they disappear! What are they, after all, but a will o'thewisp? If it be a wise thing to live in this world, and never think of dying, God grant that I may be a fool. If it bea wise thing to think all about this poor body, and never about my immortal soul, may I never know such wisdom. If it be awise thing to go into the future as a leap in the dark, believing nothing, and only by that means kept from fear, may I neverknow such philosophy. Truly it seems to me to be wisdom that I, a creature who certainly did not make myself, should thinkof myCreator; that I, a sinner, should accept that blessed way of salvation, which is laid before me in the Word of God; thatI, weak and unable to steer my own course, should put my hand into the great Father's hand and say, "Lead me, guide me bythy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory." This may be jested at and sneered at, but it can bear a sneer and will outlivethe mocker. Now, lastly:-
III. HOW OUGHT THOSE WHO ARE MOCKED BEHAVE towards those that at mock at them? Well, the first thing is, never yield an inch. You young men in the great firms of London, you working men that work in the factories-you are sneered at. Let them sneer.If they can sneer you out of your religion, you have not got any worth having. Remember you can be laughed into hell, butyou can never be laughed out of it. A man may by ridicule give up what religion he thought he had,but if he cast away his soul, his companions who caused his loss cannot help him in the day of his travail, and anguish,and bitterness, before the throne of the Most High. Why be ashamed? "They called me a saint." I remember once a person callingme a saint in the street. All I thought was, "I wish he could prove it." Once a man, passing me in the street, said, "Thereis John Bunyan." I think I felt six inches taller at the least. I was delighted to be called by such a name as that. "Oh!butthey will point at you." Cannot you bear to be pointed at? "But they will chaff you." Chaff-let them chaff you. Can thathurt a man that is a man? If you are a molluscous creature that has no backbone, you may be afraid of jokes, and jeers, andjests; but if God has made you upright, stand upright and be a man. Moreover, there is one thing you should always do whenyou are ashamed-pray. The next verse in the Psalm is, "Oh! that God would turn the captivity of Zion." The best refuge forabeliever in times of persecution is his secret resort to God. Let him to on his kneed and say, "My Lord, I have been countedworthy to be spoken ill of for thy name's sake. Help me to bear it. Now is my time of trial. Strengthen me to bear this reproach.Grant that it may be no heavy burden to me, but may I rather rejoice in it for thy name's sake." God will help you, beloved.
Then next to that, pray always, most for those who treat you worst. Make them the constant subjects of your prayer.
And then I would say, in your actions prove the sincerity of your prayers by extra kindness towards those who are unkind to you. Heap coals of fire upon their head. That is an expression not always explained. When the crucible is to be brought to a greatheat, and the metal to be thoroughly melted, it is not enough for the coals all around it to glow. The silversmith that isdesiring to melt it thoroughly will heap them so that the metal shall be all surrounded byflames. Do so, I pray you, with any of your enemies; heap kindnesses upon them. A Christian woman had often prayed fora very ungodly and unkind husband, but her prayers were not heard. However she did this, she treated him more kindly thanshe had ever done before. If there was any little thing that she could think of that would please his palate, if she had todeny herself, that would be on the table. She kept the house scrupulously comfortable, and did all she could. And one daysomeone saidto her, "How is it that you, with such a husband can act so towards him?" "Well," she said, "I hope I shall win his soulyet, but if not"-and then the tears came in her eyes-all the happiness he will have will be in this life, and so I will lethim have all I can possibly give him, since he has no happiness in the life to come." Do that with the ungodly. Lay yourselfout to oblige and serve them. Let it be known of you that the best way to get a good turn out of you is to do you a bad turn."Oh!" says one, "it is too hard. Tread on a worm, and it will turn." And is a worm to be an example to a Christian? ChristJesus, art thou not better for an exemplar than a poor worm that creeps into the earth? What did our Saviour do but pray forhis murderers? The blood they shed redeemed them that shed it. We have heard the old story of the sandal-wood tree that perfumesthe axe that cuts it. Do you so, O Christian! Perfume with your love the axe that wounds you. Be like the anvil that neverstrikes the hammer again, but yet the anvil wears out many hammers by its indomitable patience. Be patient, be courteous,be kind-in a word, Christ-like; and how know you that these very persons who hate you most to-day will not love you well to-morrow,and come together with you to the communion table, and together rejoice in our blessed Saviour?
Now if I have seemed to preach too harshly to-night, it is not so in my heart. Oh! how I wish you all, everyone without exception,knew what a blessed life the Christian life is! I would, not lie for God himself, but I speak the truth to you. I never knewwhat perfect peace was until I looked to Christ upon the cross, and rested my soul on him. I have had trials, and have sufferedbitter pains, but I have always found consolation when I have turned my eyes to my bleedingSaviour, and have given myself up again to the great Father's hands. He is a blessed Lord. I serve a good Master. Trusthim, give your hearts up to him, and if you have spoken against his people, or rebelled against his love, he is willing toreceive you. He has no hard word to say to returning ones. Come to him; come and welcome. Come just now, and the Lord receiveyou, for his mercy's sake. Amen.