When is the last time you thought about the Holy Spirit?
Asked the Spirit to help you? Contemplated the Spirit’s power in your prayers? Believed the Holy Spirit was enabling you to turn from sin? Discerned him prompting you to evangelize? Realized him quickening your heart for Christ? Noticed the Spirit of Christ illuminating your heart and mind as you sat with coffee at your side and a double-edged sword shimmering in your hands?
Dear Christian, the Spirit is at work in you. Don’t be discouraged. You may feel like God is sick and tired of waiting for you to get it together. Well, remember that the fruit of the Spirit is also a description of the Spirit himself. He is loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle, and in control. You are in good hands. Patient and gentle hands. Keep up (Galatians 5:25). Like a kind older brother grinning and motioning to his slow-witted sibling, “Come on, bud, keep up.” That’s us. And that’s a safe place to be because it’s with God.
Charles Spurgeon understood the Sprit’s role in the Christian life. He was eager for the Spirit’s work in his life and ministry. “Without the Spirit of God we can do nothing. We are as ships without wind or chariots without steeds. Like branches without sap, we are withered. Like coals without fire, we are useless.” O, how we need the Spirit! Just think: How will we turn from sin, love our brothers and sisters and Christ—and our enemies—serve the church, evangelize the lost, raise our children, pursue godliness, and lean into the glory to be revealed? By the indwelling, filling, and anointing of the Holy Spirit.
The Spirit prompts and empowers disciples of the risen Christ for our long pilgrimage toward glory. Every step of the way, he’s with us—ministering to us, encouraging us, correcting us, and transforming us more into the image of the Lord Jesus. As you read these sermons from Spurgeon, don’t settle for a meeting with the mind of Spurgeon. No, no—seek the Spirit. Seek the work of God in your life. That’s why Spurgeon preached these words, so sinners like you and me could rest and run in the high-voltage work of God. Keep up.
Now Available: Our Savior’s Cries from the Cross by Charles Spurgeon
The words of a dying person are often dramatic and insightful, serving as a window into their soul.
The importance of the dying words of Jesus Christ are only amplified when realizing how all of history led to the cross and how the cross changed everything to follow.
Our Savior’s Cries from the Cross shares sermons by Charles Spurgeon on six of Christ’s cries from the cross. As you open this volume, our prayer is that your heart would be broken and warmed; broken by your sin that nailed Christ to the cross, and warmed by knowing that “God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
Let the Prince of Preachers bring you to the foot of the cross to behold the glory of our Savior.
Complete List of Jesus Christ’s Cries from the Cross
Luke 23:34 – “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
Luke 23:43 – “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
John 19:26-27 – When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.
Matthew 27:46, Mark 15:34 “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
John 19:28 – “I thirst.”
John 19:30 – “It is finished.”
Luke 23:46 – “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!”
Top Quotes from Our Savior’s Cries from the Cross
To cease from prayer is to renounce the consolations which our case requires. Under all distractions of spirit, and overwhelmings of heart, great God, help us still to pray, and never from the mercy-seat may our footsteps be driven by despair.
I feel as though I could better kneel before my Lord’s cross at this moment than stand in this pulpit to talk to you. I want to adore him; I worship him in heart for that prayer; if I knew nothing else of him but this one prayer, I must adore him, for that one matchless plea for mercy convinces me most overwhelmingly of the deity of him who offered it, and fills my heart with reverent affection.
Remember, my dear hearer, if there be nothing good in you, and if there be everything conceivable that is malignant and bad, yet none of these things can be any barrier to prevent Christ’s exercising the office of Intercessor for you.
He lives, and while he lives he pleads; and while there is a sinner upon earth to be saved, there shall be an intercessor in heaven to plead for him.
I believe that there is never presented to God anything but a perfect prayer now; I mean, that before the great Father of us all, no prayer of his people ever comes up imperfect; there is nothing left out, and there is nothing to be erased; and this, not because their prayers were originally perfect in themselves, but because the Mediator makes them perfect through his infinite wisdom, and they come up before the mercy-seat moulded according to the mind of God himself, and he is sure to grant such prayers.
O ye trembling believers, trust him with your concerns! Come hither, ye guilty, and ask him to plead for you. O you that cannot pray, come, ask him to intercede for you.
Tell to sinners that sin will damn them, that Christ alone can take away sin, and make this the one passion of your souls, “Father, forgive them, forgive them!
The gospel is meant also for those who persecute religion; it aims its arrows of love against the hearts of its foes.
My brethren, you must not live to yourselves; the accumulation of money, the bringing up of your children, the building of houses, the earning of your daily bread, all this you may do; but there must be a greater object than this if you are to be Christlike, as you should be, since you are bought with Jesus’ blood. Begin to live for others, make it apparent unto all men that you are not yourselves the end-all and be-all of your own existence, but that you are spending and being spent, that through the good you do to men God may be glorified, and Christ may see in you his own image and be satisfied.
At all times of the world’s history, when things appear to have gone to pieces, and Satan seems to rule the hour, do not let us despair, but be quite sure that, somehow or other, light will come out of darkness, and good out of evil.
Grace can transform a reviling thief into a penitent believer.
I very gravely question whether there was ever greater faith in this world than the faith of this thief; for he, beyond all others, realised the painful and shameful death of the Lord Jesus, and yet believed.
I wish that some who have been professors for years had as clear a faith as the thief; but they are too often confused between law and gospel, works and grace, while this poor felon trusted in nothing but the Saviour and his mercy.
True faith confesses Christ, and, at the same time, confesses its sin. There must be repentance of sin and acknowledgment of it before God if faith is to give proof of its truth. A faith that never had a tear in its eye, or a blush on its cheek, is not the faith of God’s elect. He who never felt the burden of sin, never felt the sweetness of being delivered from it.
We have heard people talk about this dying thief as if he never did anything for his Master; but let me ask the Christian church if it has not members in its midst—gray-haired members, too, who have never, through fifty years of profession, borne one such bravely honest and explicit testimony for Christ as this man did while he was agonising on the cross.
If a sick man cares more for pardon than for health, it is a good sign. Soul mercies will be prized above all others where faith is in active exercise.
Dead souls live in an instant when the breath of the Spirit quickens them.
Thu art saved if thou believest in Jesus. The finished work of Christ is thine.
In order to complete the redemption of his chosen people, it was necessary for him to be both God’s well-beloved Son, and to be forsaken of his Father; he could truly say, as his saints also have sometimes had to say, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”
As long ago as Isaiah’s day, “Zion said, The Lord hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten me.” But the Lord’s reply was, “Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee. Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands.”
The misery, that men will suffer in the world to come, will be self-created misery arising out of the fact that they loved sin so much that they brought eternal sorrow upon themselves.
O brother, in proportion as you are holy, the absence of the light of God’s countenance will be grief to you; and as Jesus was perfectly holy, it was the utmost anguish to him to have to cry to his Father, “Why hast thou forsaken me?”
If you bring me a gospel which can only be understood by gentlemen who have passed through Oxford or Cambridge University, I know that it cannot be the gospel of Christ. He meant the good news of salvation to be proclaimed to the poorest of the poor; in fact, the gospel is intended for humanity in general; so, if you cannot make me understand it, or if, when I do understand it, it does not tell me how to deliver its message in such plain language that the poorest man can comprehend it, I tell you, sirs, that your newfangled gospel is a lie, and I will stick to the old one, which a man, only a little above an idiot in intellect, can understand.
Was there ever any other love like this,—that the Prince of life and glory should condescend to this shame and death?
Hate sin, and heartily loathe it; but thirst to be holy as God is holy, thirst to be like Christ, thirst to bring glory to his sacred name by complete conformity to his will.
Sin destroyed Christ, and by that destruction Christ destroyed Sin.
Lo! the Saviour stands to-day with the keys of death hanging at his girdle, and he waits until the hour shall come of which no man knoweth; when the trump of the archangel shall ring like the silver trumpets of Jubilee, and then he shall say, “Let my captives go free.”Then shall the tombs be opened in virtue of Christ’s death, and the very bodies of the saints shall live again in an eternity of glory.
The words “It is finished!”consolidated heaven, shook hell, comforted earth, delighted the Father, glorified the Son, brought down the Spirit, and confirmed the everlasting covenant to all the chosen seed.
All the pains that God asks, Christ has suffered; all the satisfaction by way of agony in the flesh that the law demandeth, Christ hath already endured. “It is finished!”
Go ye next to the foolish among your own countrymen who call themselves Protestants, but who are Papists after all, who think by their gifts and their gold, by their prayers and their vows, by their church-goings and their chapel-goings, by their baptisms and their confirmations, to make themselves fit for God; and say to them, “Stop, ‘it is finished;’God needs not this of you. He has received enough; why will ye pin your rags to the fine linen of Christ’s righteousness? Why will you add your counterfeit farthing to the costly ransom which Christ has paid in to the treasure-house of God? Cease from your pains, your doings, your performances, for ‘it is finished;’Christ has done it all.”
Why improve on what is finished? Why add to that which is complete? The Bible is finished, he that adds to it shall have his name taken out of the Book of Life, and out of the holy city: Christ’s atonement is finished, and he that adds to that must expect the selfsame doom.
God as much accepts a sinner who only believed in Christ five minutes ago, as he will a saint who has known and loved him eighty years, for he does not accept men because of any anything they do or feel, but simply and only for what Christ did, and that is finished.
Oh! poor sinner, wilt thou have Christ or no? “Ah,” saith one, “I am willing enough, but I am not worthy.” He does not want any worthiness. All he asks is willingness, for you know how he puts it, “Whoever will let him come.” If he has given you willingness, you may believe in Christ’s finished work
Oh, my brethren, you will not do better, after all, than to quote Scripture, especially in prayer. There are no prayers so good as those that are full of the Word of God.
If God is our Father, and we regard ourselves as going home when we die, because we go to him, then he will receive us.
Let us enjoy the high privilege of resting in God in all times of danger and pain.
Why study and pray the prayers of the Apostle Paul? One word: transformation. Of the many benefits we have in learning from Paul, a few stand out:
We see how the Holy Spirit wants us to pray.
Scripture provides a wealth of prayers inspired by the Holy Spirit, each of them giving a glimpse into the unsearchable wisdom of Almighty God. These prayers should shape our priorities and our entire outlook on life.
So often, we pray such small, self-centered prayers instead of asking how God would have us pray. As we read and pray Paul’s prayers, God will work His purposes in us as we contemplate what Paul prayed for and why. Paul prayed for the eyes of Ephesian hearts enlightened (Ephesians 1:18) and rejoiced in the rich fellowship he had with the Thessalonian church (1 Thessalonians 3:9–13). When was the last time you prayed for either of those things?
Spurgeon illustrates why we want to pray according to God’s priorities: “A man might try to fill us and fail, but God, who made us, knows every corner and cranny of our nature, and can pour in joy and peace till every portion of our being is flooded, saturated, and overflowed with delight.”
We can pray along with Paul confident of God’s answers.
Praying God’s prayers according to God’s priorities means we can be sure of God’s answers. This doesn’t mean He will answer as we expect, but it does mean God will answer prayers according to His will as He promises (1 John 5:14). Since Scripture is His revealed will, praying Paul’s prayers guarantee God’s answers.
Let this sink into your soul. As you earnestly pray for God to strengthen your faith to grasp the depths and riches of Christ’s love (Ephesians 3:14–19), God will answer you—He wants you to experience the profundity of Christ’s love.
“Expect great things, expect things beyond all expectation,” Spurgeon writes. “Your largest hopes shall all be exceeded. Hope, and hope, and yet hope again, and each time hope more and more, but the Lord will give you more than you have hoped for.”
Our minds will be enlightened and affections stirred.
As we contemplate the prayers and petitions of the great apostle, God’s Spirit will illuminate the prayers and shape the desires of our heart. Instead of merely praying for circumstances and our to-dos, our hearts will pray for things like the filling of our minds with “the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God…” (Colossians 1:9–10). As we pray prayers like this and see God answer us, our hearts will be drawn into deeper delight and communion with our Father.
As you pick up Lessons from the Apostle Paul’s Prayers, let the Holy Spirit mentor you in prayer as you enter into Paul’s prayer closet. This isn’t a comprehensive study on Paul’s prayers, but rather eight sermons working through rich nuggets from Paul’s prayers. Don’t read this book to finish; read to change. Note helpful verses and quotes and incorporate them into your daily prayer routine. Put down the book and get on your knees. Cry out to God in worship, dependence, and intercession. He will hear you and He will answer.
The prayer of Paul in Philippians 1:9–11 is our prayer for this volume:
“And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.”
To make prayer of any value, there should be definite objects for which to plead. My brethren, we often ramble in our prayers after this, that, and the other, and we get nothing because in each we do not really desire anything.
Now, my own soul’s conviction is, that prayer is the grandest power in the entire universe; that it has a more omnipotent force than electricity, attraction, gravitation, or any other of those secret forces which men have called by names, but which they do not understand.
God has promised to hear prayer, and he will perform his promise.
Sometimes we think we are too busy to pray. That also is a great mistake, for praying is a saving of time.
Unless I believe my prayer to be effectual it will not be, for on my faith will it to a great extent depend.
Christian, look up then and rejoice. There is always an open ear if you have an open mouth. There is always a ready hand if you have a ready heart.
Prayer is the natural outgushing of a soul in communion with Jesus. Just as the leaf and the fruit will come out of the vine-branch without any conscious effort on the part of the branch, but simply because of its living union with the stem, so prayer buds, and blossoms, and fruits out of souls abiding in Jesus.
Hearts abiding in Christ send forth supplications as fires send out flames and sparks.
True prayer is measured by weight, and not by length. A single groan before God may have more fullness of prayer in it than a fine oration of great length.
The best praying man is the man who is most believingly familiar with the promises of God. After all, prayer is nothing but taking God’s promises to him, and saying to him, “Do as thou hast said.” Prayer is the promise utilized. A prayer which is not based on a promise has no true foundation.
When we cannot pray as we would, it is good to pray as we can.
Nor should a true Christian relax his prayer through mental difficulties, I mean those perturbations which distract the mind, and prevent the concentration of our thoughts. Such ills will happen to us.
It is a grand thing when the soul can bolt the doors against distractions, and keep out those intruders; for then it is that prayer and faith will perform their miracle, and our soul shall be filled with the blessing of the Lord.
Not to pray because you do not feel fit to pray is like saying, “I will not take medicine because I am too ill.” Pray for prayer: pray yourself, by the Spirit’s assistance, into a praying frame.
If I feel myself disinclined to pray, then is the time when I need to pray more than ever.
We often pray best when we stammer and stutter, and we pray worst when words come rolling like a torrent, one after another. God is not moved by words; they are but a noise to him. He is only moved by the deep thought and the heaving emotion which dwell in the innermost spirit.
The Lord hears the poor, and the ignorant, and the needy; he loves to hear their cry.
Prayer occupies a most important place in the life of the Christian.
Do you always remember, beloved, in coming to the mercy-seat, that you are coming to a King, and to One who gives like a King? Do you always open your mouth wide, and ask great things of the King who is so ready to bestow them upon you?
I have heard prayers that have seemed to me like dictating to God, rather than the humble, reverent petitions which should be presented by the creature to the Creator, or by the children of God to their loving Father in heaven. We are to come boldly unto the throne of grace, yet always with submission in our hearts,
Think not that God will be angry with thee for asking too much from him, and imagine not that thou wilt insult him by asking him for little things. If thou art a believer in Jesus, God is thy Father, so speak to him as thou wouldst to thine earthly father, only have far more confidence in coming to him than thou wouldst have in approaching the most affectionate earthly parent.
The very invitation to us to pray implies that there are blessings waiting for us at the mercy-seat: “let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace.”
Prayer is often the shadow of God’s coming blessing.
There has never been an instance yet of a man really seeking spiritual blessings of God without his receiving them.
It is the power of the Holy Ghost in us which creates all real prayer, even that which takes the form of a groan because the mind is incapable, by reason of its bewilderment and grief, of clothing its emotion in words.
A mother can translate baby-talk: she comprehends incomprehensible noises. Even so doth our Father in heaven know all about our poor baby talk, for our prayer is not much better.
That prayer which came from heaven will certainly go back to heaven. If the Holy Ghost prompts it, the Father must and will accept it, for it is not possible that he should put a slight upon the ever blessed and adorable Spirit.
We do not forget to eat: we do not forget to take the shop shutters down: we do not forget to be diligent in business: we do not forget to go to our beds to rest: but we often do forget to wrestle with God in prayer, and to spend, as we ought to spend, long periods in consecrated fellowship with our Father and our God.
The streaming wounds of Jesus are the sure guarantees for answered prayer.
If there be anything I know, anything that I am quite assured of beyond all question, it is that praying breath is never spent in vain.
The best way by which a prophet and teacher and learner can know the reserved truths, the higher and more mysterious truths of God, is by waiting upon God in prayer.
The saint may expect to discover deeper experience and to know more of the higher spiritual life, by being much in prayer.
My dear friends, wait upon God much in prayer, and you have the promise that he will do greater things for you than you know of.
Not to pray because you do not feel fit to pray is like saying, “I will not take medicine because I am too ill.” Pray for prayer: pray yourself, by the Spirit’s assistance, into a praying frame.
Prayer gives a channel to the pent-up sorrows of the soul, they flow away, and in their stead streams of sacred delight pour into the heart.
When joy and prayer are married their first born child is gratitude.
If I am to pray without ceasing, then every second must be suitable for prayer, and there is not one unholy moment in the hour, nor one unaccepted hour in the day, nor one unhallowed day in the year.
Nothing can set a barrier between a praying soul and its God.
As we breathe without ceasing, so must we pray without ceasing.
Never, never, never renounce the habit of prayer, or your confidence in its power.
He who prays without ceasing uses many little darts and hand-grenades of godly desire, which he casts forth at every available interval.
Praying is the end of preaching. Preaching is but the wheat-stalk, but praying is the golden grain itself, and he hath the best who gets it.
I believe that no man loves prayer until the Holy Spirit has taught him the sweetness and value of it.
When prayer is a mechanical act, and there is no soul in it, it is a slavery and a weariness; but when it is really living prayer, and when the man prays because he is a Christian and cannot help praying, when he prays along the street, prays in his business, prays in the house, prays in the field, when his whole soul is full of prayer, then he cannot have too much of it.
You need fear no foe if you can but pray.
You need always to pray, for you always want something. In no condition are you so rich as not to need something from your God.
Dear brethren, if we shut our ears to what Jesus tells us, we shall never have power in prayer, nor shall we enjoy intimate communion with the Well-beloved.
An obedient heart is needful if there is to be any happy converse between God and the soul.
God will not draw inconsistent professors and those who are dallying with sin into close contact with himself.
Your life, your heart, your whole being should be one perpetual discourse of the lovingkindness of the Lord, and your heart, even if the Lord be silent, should carry on fellowship by adoring his blessed name.
I never expect, until I get to heaven, to be able to cease confessing sin every day and every time I stand before God.
Here is a glimpse of four precious jewels Spurgeon mined from the quarry of prayer:
1. If you struggle getting started in prayer, read the Bible first and respond to what God says.
“If the flesh in its weakness hampers the spirit, then let the Bible reading come before the praying, that the soul may be awakened thereby.”
2. God, our all-powerful heavenly Father, is able and willing to grant our requests.
“Do you always remember, beloved, in coming to the mercy-seat, that you are coming to a King, and to One who gives like a King? Do you always open your mouth wide, and ask great things of the King who is so ready to bestow them upon you?”
3. Our gracious Father doesn’t need eloquent prayers to hear the cries of His children.
“A mother can translate baby-talk: she comprehends incomprehensible noises. Even so doth our Father in heaven know all about our poor baby talk, for our prayer is not much better.”
4. When we don’t feel like praying, pray for help.
“Not to pray because you do not feel fit to pray is like saying, ‘I will not take medicine because I am too ill.’ Pray for prayer: pray yourself, by the Spirit’s assistance, into a praying frame.”
Much more can be said about how Spurgeon’s sermons will encourage you to pray, but I’ll just invite you to read this book for yourself.
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Anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its sorrows, but only empties today of its strength.
Joy in the Lord is one of the best preparations for the trials of this life. The cure for care is joy in the Lord.
Cares are manifold; therefore, let your prayers be as manifold. Turn into a prayer everything that is a care. Let your cares be the raw material of your prayers, and, as the alchemists hoped to turn dross into gold, so do you, by a holy alchemy, actually turn what naturally would have been a care into spiritual treasure in the form of prayer. Baptize every anxiety into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, and so make it into a blessing.
Let your cares drive you to God. I shall not mind if you have many of them if each one leads you to prayer. If every fret makes you lean more on the Beloved, it will be a benefit.
Happiness lies more in the mind than it does the circumstances in which any individual is found. And the man within has far more to do with his own joy and sorrow than anything outside of him has.
Pride begets anxiety; true humility gives birth to patience.
The very essence of anxious care is the imagining that we are wiser than God, and the thrusting of ourselves into His place, to do for Him that which we dream He either cannot or will not do!
The man who is full of care, is ripe for any sin, but he who has cast his care on God stands securely, neither shall the evil one be able to touch him!
Cares have brought many to the poisoned cup, the halter, and the knife, and hundreds to the madhouse.
Away, then, with dark suspicions and anxieties! Is it care about past sin? “The blood of Jesus Christ, God’s dear Son, cleanses us from all sin.” Is it present temptation? “There has no temptation happened to you but such as is common to men: but God who is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above what you are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that you may be able to bear it.” Is it future peril? O, leave that with Him, for neither “things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the Love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
If you begin to think always of yourself, you will be miserable!
Never let anxieties about Sanctification destroy your confidence of Justification.
Happiness lies more in the mind than it does in the circumstances in which any individual is found, and the man within has far more to do with his own joy or sorrow than anything outside of him has. There have been some who have been perfectly free in a prison, while others have been in absolute bondage with wide estates to roam over.
Have that little bird in your bosom that sings sweetly of the love of God; wear the flower called heart’s-ease in your button-hole; and you may go merrily through a perfect wilderness of trouble and a desert of care. A hurricane of afflictions may beat about you, yet you shall be a blessed man, for all the elements of blessedness are within your own heart. God has given them to you, and the devil himself cannot take them away.
It is good for a man to have a holy care and to pay due attention to every item of his life, but, alas, it is very easy to make it into an unholy care and to try to wrest from the hand of God that office of Providence which belongs to Him and not to ourselves.
Cares are numerous and, therefore, let your prayers be as numerous. Turn everything that is a care into a prayer.
Leave off, then, this damaging habit of worry and take to this enriching habit of prayer! See how you will thus make a double gain—first, by avoiding a loss, and secondly, by getting that which will really benefit you and others, too!
Sometimes, when you have gone on praying for what God does not give you, it may be that there will steal over your mind the conviction that you are not on the right track and that result of your prayer will, in itself, do you good, and be a blessing to you.
Prayer that brings freedom from care is communion with God.
You do not know the gospel, dear friends, if you have not obtained peace through it; peace is the juice, the essence, the soul of the gospel.
Doctrines are clusters, but you have never trodden them in the wine vat, you have never quaffed the flowing juice of their grapes if you have not peacefully considered divine truth in the quiet of your heart.
He has the power to breathe peace into the heart, to create peace in the soul, and lull the spirit into that sweet sleep of the beloved which is the peculiar gift of heaven. “I will give you rest,” said he, and he can and will do it.
He is our peace; he came to bring it, and he left it behind him as he went away.
O friends, Christ has peace enough and to spare. He is himself, personally, the deep well-spring of an endless peace, and therefore we can understand why we always find peace in him.
So let us consider that every battle-field to which God calls us is only another opportunity of victory, and, Christ being with us, another certainty of victory. Onward, then, ye Christian soldiers!
Come, child of God, you know that He loves you! The proofs and pledges of that love rise up before your memory, so you cannot think that He will suffer you to be cast away!
Will He allow your present troubles to destroy you when so many others have not been able to hurt even a hair of your head? Trust in His love and dismiss your fears!
You have often heard, I daresay, that pretty little story which I cannot help telling again because it drops in so appropriately here, of the woman, on board ship, who was much disturbed in a storm, while her husband, the captain, was calm and restful. She asked him why he was so placid when she was so distressed. He did not answer in words, but he took down his sword and held it to her breast. She smiled. He said, “Why are you not afraid? This is a sharp sword, with which I could slay you in a minute.” “Ah,” she replied, “but I am not afraid of a sword when it is my husband who wields it.” “So,” said he, “neither am I afraid of a storm when it is my Father who sends it and who manages it.” Now, since all the trials and troubles of this mortal life are as much in the hand of the great God as that sword was in the hand of the good woman’s husband, we need not be afraid of them, for they are all in His power! When He rides aloft in His chariot, and the skies tremble at the sound, why should you tremble, even you timid ones?
Why did the Lord Jesus Christ go to sleep in a storm? Why, because He knew that all was right!
you who thus condemn yourself, should see that your very condemnation of yourself gives you hope of salvation! Why, the devil himself, I should think, would hardly dispute with some of you the fact that you are sinners. On the contrary, he has often been to you, and said, “See what a great sinner you are!” For once, he spoke the truth, though he did even that with an evil intention. If he says that to you, say to him, “Yes, Satan, you have proved that I am a sinner, but that is ‘my hope of salvation, for it is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.’” He who condemns himself, God absolves. He who is shut up in the prison of the Law, so that he cannot escape. He who writes his own death warrant, signs it and feels that he deserves to die—he is the man for whom the Lord Jesus Christ sets open the door of mercy and says, “Come unto Me, for I have absolved you. You are a free man. Be of good comfort. I died to redeem just such souls as you are.”
If you are never afraid about the condition of your soul, I am afraid for you!
It is but right that a trembling should come over the soul and that we should fall down in the presence of God humbled before Him!
May you, if you have fear, also have faith with your fear, and then afterwards have your faith without any fear! When faith gets strong enough, fears are expelled!
Hang all your weight upon the lover of souls now! Do not wait till you get rid of your fears and then go to Him—go now!
It is a “Come” which means not “Come to-morrow or next year,” but “Now, at once.” Advance, ye slaves, flee from your taskmaster now! Weary ones, recline on the promise now, and take your rest! Come now! By an act of instantaneous faith which will bring instantaneous peace, come and rely upon Jesus, and he will now give you rest. Rest shall at once follow the exercise of your faith. Perform that act of faith now. O may the eternal Spirit lead some labouring heavy laden soul to come to Jesus, and to come at this precise moment!
Jesus Christ gives us in the gift of himself all the rest we can ever enjoy, even heaven’s rest lies in him; but after we have received him we have to learn his value, and find out by the teaching of his Spirit the fulness of the rest which he bestows.
The rest of the Christian is found not in cowardice but in courage; it lies not in providing for ease but in the brave endurance of suffering for the truth.
My brother, if you cannot rest in poverty, neither would you in riches; if you cannot rest in the midst of persecution, neither would you in the midst of honour. It is the spirit within that gives the rest, that rest has little to do with anything without.
There is a further rest for us who believe, and a very sweet one; it is, in the love of God.
The old Puritan was right when he said, “Sinning will make thee leave off communing, or else communing will make thee leave off sinning;” for the indulgence of any known sin is not compatible with a close walk with God.
To miss even five minutes’ communion with Christ, is to lack an incalculable blessing.
Never be happy unless you are truly resting in Jesus.
The lives of millions of Christians around the world have been changed through the ministry of Charles Haddon Spurgeon. But how much do those of us who esteem him so highly really know about Charles Spurgeon, the man?
What were the events that shaped his life and made him the man who would be known as the Prince of Preachers? Through the Eyes of Spurgeon invites you to explore with us where and how Spurgeon lived, to follow his steps, to embrace the legacy he has left us.
Join us in seeing the world of Charles Spurgeon through his eyes.
The lives of millions of Christians around the world have been changed through the ministry of Charles Haddon Spurgeon. But how much do those of us who esteem him so highly really know about Charles Spurgeon, the man?
What were the events that shaped his life and made him the man who would be known as the Prince of Preachers? Through the Eyes of Spurgeon invites you to explore with us where and how Spurgeon lived, to follow his steps, to embrace the legacy he has left us.
Join us in seeing the world of Charles Spurgeon through his eyes.
Sermon No. 2871 Published on Thursday, February 18th, 1904, Delivered by C. H. SPURGEON, At the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington. On Thursday Evening, January 27th, 1876.
THE CHIEF CONCERN of a man should be, to see that his own soul is right in the sight of God. Solomon said, “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.” Many persons think a great deal about the adorning of the body, but do not think anything about the ornaments of the soul. The feeding of the physical frame engrosses much care, but the supply of spiritual food is often neglected. Yet, O man, thou thyself art better than thy body! Thine immortal soul is worth far more than that poor carcase of thine which will soon become food for worms; pad all the things that thou hast, what are they compared with thine inner self,—thy real self,—thy heart, thy soul, thy spirit?
In our text, our Savior bids us see to the condition of our mind: “Neither be ye of doubtful mind.” He thus calls our attention to the higher and nobler part of our mind, and bids us see to it that it is in a right state. No doubt there are some people who are in easier circumstances than others,—some who are in positions where they enjoy many comforts, while others are in places where they suffer many hardships; but, after all, happiness lies more in the mind than it does in the circumstances in which any individual is found, and the man within has far more to do with his own joy or sorrow than anything outside of him has. There have been some who have been perfectly free in a prison, while others have been in absolute bondage with wide estates to roam over. We have known some, whose spirits have triumphed when all around has tended to depress them; and we have seen others, who were wretched and desponding when they had, apparently, all that heart could wish. It is the mind which is the main thing; it will bring thee daylight or midnight, wealth or poverty, peace or war. I wish, dear friends, that half the time we spend in trying to better our circumstances were spent in bettering ourselves after the right fashion; and that even a tenth of the trouble we take to fit our circumstances to our desires were used in fitting our desires to our circumstances. If we did that, how much happier men and women we should be! Try as you may, you cannot alter the world in which your lot is cast, and you cannot alter God’s providential arrangements; So, would it not be better that you should be altered so as to suit the providence, and be resigned to the will of God? It is beautiful to see how often the inspired writers of Holy Scripture were busy with what I may call indoor work,—the work that has to be done within one’s own heart. “Bless the Lord, O my soul,” says David, in the 103rd Psalm; “and all that is within me, bless his holy name.” This indoor work, brethren and sisters in Christ, will always pay us best; and our Lord Jesus, in his exhortations, often bids us attend to it. Did he not say to his disciples, “Let not your heart be troubled”? A little later, he said to them, “In the world ye shall have tribulation;” and he says the same to his disciples in every age. It is no use for you to try to avoid that, for you will have tribulation; yet, “Let not your heart be troubled.” All the water in the sea will not hurt your vessel so long as you keep it outside; the danger begins when it gets inside the ship. So, it matters little what is outside you, if all is right within. Have that little bird in your bosom that sings sweetly of the love of God; wear the flower called heart’s-ease in your button-hole; and you may go merrily through a perfect wilderness of trouble and a desert of care. A hurricane of afflictions may beat about you, yet you shall be a blessed man, for all the elements of blessedness are within your own heart. God has given them to you, and the devil himself cannot take them away.
In speaking upon this text, I mean to preach a good part of the sermon to myself, for I need it as much as anybody does; but I ask each brother and sister to take home to themselves any part that suits them. And before I have done, I shall have a word for you unconverted people, and I pray God that that word may do you good, and that you may cease to be of a doubtful mind. The original of the text is not easy to explain, for the word translated “doubtful” is not used anywhere else in the New Testament. It appears to have something to do with meteors, so that the passage might be rendered, “Neither be ye of meteoric mind.”
As the word is so singular, there have been a great many different opinions as to its meaning. Some have said that it relates to high things that float above, such as the clouds. If they are right, our text says to us, “Do not be like the clouds,—do not have cloudy minds, blown about with every wind of doctrine.” Others render it, “Do not be like the birds, high up in the air, always on the wing, unsettled and uncertain, ever dying about, and never at rest.” Others find an allusion to the ship that is far out upon the sea, and the text says to them, “Do not always be at sea, tossed up and down; have some anchorage; do not be always drifting to and fro.” The word “doubtful” means so much that I do not expect to be able to tell you all that it means, but shall rather give you a few practical thoughts concerning it.
I. “Neither be ye of doubtful mind.” That is, first, CHILDREN OF GOD, BE NOT ANXIOUS.
Be not tossed up and down by your outward circumstances. If God prospers you, do not ride high, as the vessel does when the tide lifts it up; and if he does not prosper you, do not sink down as the vessel does when the tide ebbs away again. Do not be so affected by external things as to got into a state of worry, and fretfulness, and care, and anxiety, and distress.
Our Savior’s injunction means, “Do not be anxious about your temporal affairs.” Be prudent; you have no right to spend the money of other people, nor yet your own, in wastefulness. You are to be careful and discreet, for every Christian should remember that he is only a steward, and that he is accountable to his Master for whatever he has, and the use he makes of it. But when you have done your best with your little, do not worry because you cannot make it more. And when you have done your best to meet your expenses, do not sit down, and wring your hands because you cannot lessen them. You cannot make a shilling into a sovereign, but be thankful if you have the shilling; and if you sometimes find that you must live from hand to mouth, recollect that you are not the first child of God who has had his manna every morning, nor the first of God’s servants to have bread and flesh in the morning, and bread and flesh in the evening, with nothing to lay by for the morrow. If this is your case, be not staggered and astonished, as though some new thing had happened unto you; and do not begin to fret, and fume, and worry, and trouble yourself about what you cannot help. Can you alter it with all your worrying?
Have you,—you who are in the habit of worrying and fretting,—ever made any profit by doing so? How much a year do you think that anybody would give you for all your fretting? How much has it brought you in, Come, brother, if it is a good business, I would like to go into partnership with you; but I should like first to know something about your profits. As I look at your face, I notice that it is careworn and anxious. That does not seem to indicate that the business is a profitable one. If I listen to your speech, I hear you murmuring a great deal instead of praising God. That does not seem to me to be a profitable concern. In fact, as far as I have ascertained, either by my own experience or by the observation of others, I have never discovered that anxiety has comforted anybody, or that it has brought any grist to the mill, or any meal to the barrel. Well, if a thing does not pay, what is the good of it?
But perhaps you say, “I cannot help fretting and worrying.” No, my good brother or sister, but do you not think that the Lord can help you to help it, and that your faith in him, if it were what it ought to be, would soon be the end of your distress and trouble? Have you not found out yet—I have,—that the very anxiety, which arises through your being in a difficulty, unfits you to meet that difficulty? You are in a great hurry to do something or other, and that something or other does more mischief than could possibly have happened if you had kept still, resting in the Lord, and waiting patiently for him. Instead of doing so, you rush this way, and that way, and so add to your worries instead of decreasing them. You are like the servant with the basket of eggs on her head, who shakes her head because she is afraid her eggs will fall, and makes them fall by the very process of her trembling. So, you go and make ten troubles in endeavoring to get out of one. There is a text that is very easy to repeat, but not always so easy to obey: “Stand still, and see the salvation of God.” But you want to see your own salvation, so you cannot stand still. There is many a man who has run before God’s cloud, and who has been very glad to run or even to crawl back again. Some people are so anxious to carve for themselves that they cub their own fingers; they had better leave the carving in the hands of God, and take what he gives them, for he knows far better than they do what is good for them, and his hand is infinitely wiser than theirs can possibly be.
“Oh, but!” says one, “I feel that I must be doing something.” That “doing”will just be your undoing unless you stop and consider what God would have you do. The probability is that your action will be unwiso and hasty while you are in your present feverish condition. Wait till you get quite cool, brother; you will see your way far better then. At the present moment, you are in such a fidget and flutter that you are very apt to mistake your right hand for your left; and to put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter.
You say again that you cannot help being anxious. Then, my dear friend, I must very solemnly ask you what is the difference between you and the man of the world? There is an orphan child, and it is afraid it will not be fed; but you have a Father in heaven, and if you are afraid, surely, it is of little use for you to have such a Father. Are you not dishonoring his holy name by such conduct as that? Do you not think that others, who see you in this condition, will say, “There is not much power in religion, for these people, who profess to be Christians, are not comforted by it in their time of trouble, and it will not be of much use to them in the hour of their death.” Remember Jeremiah’s questions, “If thou hast run with the footmen, and they have wearied thee, then how canst thou contend with horses? and if in the land of peace, wherein thou trustest, they wearied thee, then how wilt thou do in the swelling of Jordan?” Surely it is time that we plucked up courage, and were not so easily disheartened, for we have worse trials on ahead than any we have yet been called to endure.
“That is just what I dread,” says one. What would you do, then, brother? “I have been thinking that perhaps I had better turn back.” But you have no armor for your back; and the perils of going back are far worse than the perils of going forward. Therefore, I charge thee, if thou art indeed a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, to play the man, and let thy faith overcome thy fear. Obey that gracious word, “Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.” Do you not believe that “all things work together for good to them thas love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose”? You say that you do. Do you not believe that?
“He sits a Sovereign on his throne
And ruleth all things well”?
You say that you do. Do you not believe he loves you with an everlasting love? Do you not know that he spared not his only begotten Son, but delivered him up for you; and do you think that, after having done so much for you, he will withhold from you anything that is necessary for your well-being? You must not think so. Brother, sister, it would be unkind, ungenerous, ungrateful to think so. Therefore, be not of anxious or doubtful mind concerning temporal things.
“Well,” says one, “as far as temporal supplies are concerned, I can leave them entirely in the hands of God; but my anxieties arise from quite another form of trouble. There is a Christian brother who is at enmity against me, and he has been spreading an ill report about me, although I have earnestly sought to walk before God in holy fear, and have watched every step that I have taken, and I feel so worried that I do not know what to do.” Well, dear friend, there is one rule which you will generally find to be applicable in such a case as yours. When you do not know what to do, do not do anything at all; and, usually, if the trouble has arisen through false reports about your own character, “the least said, the soonest mended.” I believe that, if there is anything you want to have well done, you had better do it yourself; but there is one exception to that rule, and that is the matter of defending yourself. No defense is needed for a good man who can say, “By the grace of God I am what I am.” You may leave that matter of your own character, therefore; and as to the good brother not getting on with you, if you have done anything that has grieved him, confess the wrong. “Well, perhaps, if I did, he might not meet me in the same spirit.” You have nothing to do with that, dear friend; that is his business, and God a You go and do the right thing, and then be no longer anxious about it, but leave the result with God
I hear another brother say, “My anxiety has nothing to do with my personal affairs; I am anxious about the cause of God,—the church over which I preside,—the Bible-class that I conduct,—the mission-field that I try to cultivate. Somehow, things do not go as I could wish, and I am greatly concerned that they are not more prosperous.” And what are you doing, good friend, to bring about that result? Are you telling the Lord about it, and agonizing before him in prayer? That is right; but if you are telling yourself about it, and your anxiety is confined to yourself, no good will come of that. “But, sir, all things seem to be going amiss.” Yes, I am constantly hearing that. There are some of our friends who believe that we have fallen upon the worst days that have ever been known in this world. Well, it may be so, I cannot say much about that; but I will say this, my dear friends,—that you and I are not of anything like so much importance to the Church of God as we may have imagined; and that the particular department of work which has been entrusted to us, though we ought to think well of it, and to do it well, is not, after all, the hinge upon which the whole universe turns. God managed the world very well before we were born, and he will manage it quite as well—when we are dead; his Church will not die, for the Lord still liveth, and his Spirit still abides in the Church, and therefore it must live.
But there will be trouble for us if we begin to think that everything depends upon us Uzzah was well intentioned, no doubt; yet God smote him for putting forth his hand to stay the ark of the Lord from falling. Let none of us become guilty of Uzzah’s sin. It is our business to serve the Lord with all our heart and soul, just as Martha, with all her energy, sought to prepare a supper for Jesus; but when we begin to be cumbered about our service, then we may expect the Master to say to us, as he did to Martha, “Thou art careful and troubled about many things: but one thing is needful; and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” It is not well that we should be cumbered about our service. No, brethren; the Lord loves his Church far better than we do, and he knows far better than we do how to manage her affairs, so we must
“Just do the little we can do,
And leave the rest with him.”
May his blessed Spirit help us so to get rid of all improper anxieties!
II. Another meaning of the text will make a second division of our subject. “BE NOT AMBITIOUS.”
That is, do not fly high; do not be as the clouds and the meteors, that not only move about, and are uncertain in their movements, but are also high and lofty.
Some people are troubled because they are aiming at amassing great wealth. Years ago, if anybody had told them they would one day possess what they have already obtained, they would have thought it was a wonderful sum, more than sufficient to satisfy all their desires. If somebody had asked them, “Will you retire from business then, and be quite happy and content?” they would have answered, “Oh, yes, certainly! “Well, they have gathered far more than that already, yet they are as grasping as ever, and they want more, and more, and more and they are by no means content with what they have, much as it is. We should all be happier than we are if we were more contented with what is really all that we need, namely having food and raiment, having neither poverty nor riches. Many men have been like that dog, in the fable, that had the meat in his mouth, but did not eat it because he saw the shadow of it in the water, and was so anxious to get that shadow as well as the substance that he already had that he lost the piece that he might have eaten. Such people are always trying to grasp the shadow, instead of enjoying what God has given to them. Let us not be of such a mind as that.
There are others, who are ambitious to attain a higher position. They might be very well content with the kind, good friends they have, but there was a lord, who once looked at them; and ever since that time, they have thought it a very wonderful thing to know a real, live lord. I have heard of a man who used to boast that the king once spoke to him; and though his majesty only told him to get out of the way, he was very proud of having been addressed by the king; and there are many people who think a great deal of that sort of thing. They are only shillings now, but they are anxious to get among the sovereigns. I have no sympathy with that desire; the best society in the world for me is a company of the Lord’s people; and whether they are poor or rich, so long as they are God’s saints, I feel myself at home with them. If a brother spoils the Queen’s English, and makes a great many mistakes in pronunciation, that does not matter to me. The real piety that is, in the man, the grace of God that is in his soul,—that is the thing which ought to please us. To be proud of our association with the great ones of the earth, is both a folly and a sin on the part of any child of God.
Sometimes, we are ambitious in the service of God beyond what we ought to be. You are doing well in that little chapel, my brother; the place is full, and God is blessing you; but you want a bigger place, or you want to get away from those poor people whom the Lord has helped through your ministry. Possibly, my friend, you are a Sunday-school teacher, and you have charge of the infants, and they love you, and you are fitted for the work; yet you are not content to be an infant class teacher, you would like a senior class, and a great stupid you would make of yourself, if you had such a class, for you are not adapted for it. It is well always to be seeking to do more for the Lord Jesus Christ, but I would earnestly discourage you from endeavoring to attain to a higher position merely for the sake of occupying it. Dear brethren and sisters, be not ambitious in this sense; for, after all, what is human greatness.” Have you ever met with a really great man who would have given a penny for his own greatness? Do you not know that the higher you rise, even in the Church of Christ, the more responsibility you have, and the heavier burdens you have to carry? Do you not also know that the way to be really great is to be little, and that he who is greatest of all is the one who has learned to be least of all? He who is chief in the Church of Christ is he who serves the Church most, and who is willing to go lowest for Christ’s sake. Cultivate that kind of greatness as much as you like; but put aside the other, and be not of ambitious mind even in your Lord’s service.
I meet, every now and then, people who are, I hope, God’s children, but they seem to me to have got into a very curious state of mind. They have notions, that are not at all according to the realities of every-day life,—flighty notions,—romantic notions about their own rights, and dignities, and importance, and so on. Ah, dear brethren and sisters, some of us were, in our own estimation, very important individuals, were we not, before the grace of God came into us? But when the grace of God works in us, we are made to feel that the very lowest and meanest place is a better position than we have any right to take. When we are in our right senses, we never give ourselves those high and mighty airs. A truly humble believer does not say, “So-and-so did not treat me with proper respect.” Oh, dear me! what is the proper respect to which you and I are entitled? May the Lord preserve us from such a spirit as that! But there are some people,—professing Christians, too,—whose heads are always being filled with that kind of nonsense. They do not seem to have learned that the spirit of Christ is a spirit of meekness, which teaches us to bear and forbear, to forgive until seventy times seven, to expect to have our rights trampled on, and to be willing to lay them all down for any who please to tread upon them. It is blessed to feel, “I will be content to take any place, so long as I can love others, and do them good by loving them, so long as I can but love them to Christ, and help them to love Christ, and manifest the love of Christ to them.” O brothers and sisters, we all need to go to school to our dear Lord and Master! You have never read that he said anything about his rights, or about defending his dignity. No, he who is the King of kings, and Lord of lords, was the servant of servants when he was here upon earth; and, truly, he that serves most is the most royal of all. Therefore, “let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus,” and then you will not be anxious or ambitious to be great.
III. A third meaning of the text is this, “BE YE NOT OF IRRESOLUTE MIND, WITHOUT DECISION OF CHARACTER.”
If you look at the connection of the passage, you will see that this meaning fits in exceedingly well. There are persons, in the world, who may be described as time-servers. The main consideration with them is, what they shall eat, or what they shall drink, or how they shall be clothed; so they are always watching to see which is the best way to go in reference to those matters. As the old proverb has it, they know on which side their bread is buttered; or, according to another familiar saying, they are waiting to see which way the cat jumps; and when they have ascertained that, their “principles” will lead them to jump in that particular direction. Mr. John Bunyan, in “The Pilgrim’s Progress,” has well described just such persons,—Mr. By-ends and Mr. Fair-speech; and some of us have known their descendants. You remember hearing of the waterman, who got his living by looking one way, and pulling another; and that waterman has had a great many sons, of very much the same character as himself, and they have made a certain kind of progress in the world by that sort of scheming. But you and I, beloved, are not to be of irresolute mind. Every Christian should say, “By the grace of God, my mind is made up to serve him, cost what it may. Does my Lord desire me to keep the Sabbath day holy? Sunday is the best day in my particular line of business, but that does not matter to me. My mind is made up to serve the Lord; and whatever it costs, will make no difference to me. There is a party to be held to-night; and I know that, if I go to it, I shall have to witness the utmost frivolity, and I shall have to be a partaker in what will be, to me, a good deal of sin. Uncle Jonas will be angry if I don’t go; but I mean to do the right thing, whether Uncle Jonas is pleased, or no.” That is the way all you, who have the love of God shed abroad in your hearts, ought to speak. The question, ” What is right?” being answered, you have only to do the right, whatever happens. This is what our Lord meant when he said to his disciples, “Neither be ye of doubtful mind.”
“Oh, but!” say some, “we really must look at both sides of that question. There may come a time when we know that a certain course is right; but, if we take it, we may bring ruin upon ourselves and upon others, too.” Let me read the 4th and 5th verses of this chapter, and when I have done so, there will to no need for you to say anything: “Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him; and the 8th and 9th verses: “Whosoever shall confess me before men, him shall the Son of man also confess before the angels of God: but he that denieth me before men shall be denied before the angels of God.” Does not that decide you to God grant that it may, and that you may henceforth say, “I will confess Christ, and act for the right and the true; and, by the aid of his blessed Spirit I will never hesitate to do as he bids me.
“‘Through floods and flames, if Jesus lead,
I’ll follow where He goes;’—
“neither will I be of doubtful mind.”
IV. A fourth meaning of the text is, BE YE NOT AT SEA SO FAR AS YOUR OWN PERSONAL SALVATION IS CONCERNED.
Brothers and sisters, there are some, who are not saved, who yet imagine that they are. There are many, who know nothing of vital godliness, yet who sing as joyfully as the brightest of saints, never suspecting their real condition in the sight of God. Whenever I meet with a man who never has had a doubt about his own condition, I feel inclined to quote to him those lines of Cowper,—
“He has no hope who never had a fear
And he that never doubted of his state,
He may perhaps-perhaps he may—too late.”
Beware of all presumption. There are some, who even decry any thing like self-examination. They cannot bear for us to look for the signs and tokens of the Holy Spirit’s work within them; and if we talk about practical—holiness, they say that we are getting upon legal ground, and turning aside to the “beggarly elements” of the law. From all such turn away, for they can do you no good. You are exhorted, in the Scriptures to examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith, and to prove your own selves; nay, self-examination alone is not sufficient, and you must cry, with the psalmist, “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in this way everlasting.”
But, on the other hand, there are some, who think that doubts and fears are necessary to a child of God. I draw a very grave distinction between doubting the truth of God’s promise, and questioning whether that promise is made to me; they are two very different things. To doubt the power of the blood of Jesus Christ to cleanse from all sin, is one thing; but, sometimes, to question whether I really have trusted in that blood, is quite another thing. The first is sinful; the second is only proper and discreet. I would advise everyone often to look-to the foundation of his faith, to see whether he really has believed in Jesus, and has, in his heart, the true life which grows out of such faith. But, brethren, there is really no reason in a man saying, “Whether I am a child of God, or not, I am sure I do not know; I sometimes hope I am;” and so on. I suppose there are few men who have not, at some time or other suffered pain; but it is not necessary for us always to have the toothache in order to prove that we really are men. And, in like manner, there are few Christians who have never had any doubts, yet it is not necessary to be always doubting in order to prove that we are Christians; but, as we are glad enough to get rid of pain, so are we to be glad to get rid of doubt by fully trusting our Lord who is so worthy of our trust. Dear brethren, you ought to know, you can know, you can know now, whether you are saved, or not. At any rate, if I did not know myself to be saved, I would give no sleep to my eyes, nor slumber to my eyelids, till I had found the Savior. If a shadow of a doubt about my being washed in the blood of Christ were on my soul, I would get to my knees, and not rise from them until I did really know that Christ had saved me. If you are in doubt, and yet are content about your condition, I fear that you know nothing at all about the matter; for the true child of God, if he is in any doubt about his salvation, is uneasy till that doubt is gone. He cannot rest till he knows that he is saved; and, after all, that is not a very difficult thing to know, for we are told, over and over again, in this blessed Book, that he that believeth in Christ is not condemned, but hath everlasting life. If you have believed in him, you are not condemned, you have his own word for it. He who trusts to Jesus only, builds on a sure foundation; so, if you are trusting in him, you may have the full assurance that you have passed from death unto life, and shall never come into condemnation. Do not, brother, go limping along all your life when you might run in the way of God’s commandments. A good old minister, of my acquaintance, when people used to say to him that they hoped, and hoped, and never got any further than that, was in the habit of replying, “You are always hoping, and hopping; I hope you will learn to run one of these days,—to run without weariness in the ways of God.”
The last thing I have to do is to bid all here present, who have not believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, to do so at once. My dear friends, my text says, “Neither be ye of doubtful mind. But you cannot help being of doubtful mind while you remain as you are, and I really wish that your conscience would trouble you even more than it now does,—that your uneasiness might become even greater, and your unrest yet more unrestful. Look at yourself, my dear hearer. You have not believed in Christ, so you are in debt to divine justice, and you are hopelessly bankrupt, for you cannot meet one in a million of the claims that are recorded against you; how can you rest as long as you are thus indebted to God? You are a prisoner, too. When Marshal Bazaine had many of the comforts of life on the Isle of St. Marguerite, off the coast of the South of France, he could not rest till he had regained his liberty; and I marvel how you can be so happy, even with the joys of this world, while you are without the great blessing of spiritual liberty. I wish you felt that you could not rest till you had become emancipated from the bondage of sin, and been made the Lord’s freeman. How would you like be in a condemned cell, and not to know when your execution was to take place! I am sure that you would pity any poor creature, whatever his crime, if you could see him under such circumstances. Perhaps you say that you are living in a wide world, and not in a prison; yet you are condemned already. It was said of the old Roman Empire that, if a man once broke the law, the whole world was a prison for him, for Caesar had almost universal sway; and God sees you wherever you are, and everywhere you are in the condemned cell; and, perhaps, before the sun shall rise again, your execution will have taken place.
I have been told that, some years ago, there went into the chamber of horrors at Madame Tussaud’s exhibition a young gentleman, who was foolish enough to put himself under the guillotine—in the place which had been occupied by criminals; and as he lay there, with his bare neck exposed to the terrible knife, he was so struck with horror that he was unable to move; and people who went by thought he was one of the waxwork figures and he could not stir until someone took him away. And, oh! if you did but know where you readily are, with that dreadful axe of divine justice just above your head, you might well be paralyzed with horror! Only let your breath fail, or your pulse stop, and down it descends to your utter destruction. But alas! you are insensible to these things. May the Spirit of God arouse you! May he make you feel your true position, and then I am sure you will not be content to remain a moment longer of a doubtful and undecided mind. Hearken, my friend. That sin of thine can be forgiven, for Jesus died for sinners. That heart of thine can be renewed by grace, for Jesus lives again. You can be delivered from the wrath to come, for Jesus has gone up on high to plead for just such sinners as you are. What are you to do in order that you may have Christ as your Savior? Why, as the hymn says,—
A SERMON INTENDED FOR READING ON LORD’S DAY, MARCH 11, 1984. DELIVERED BY C. H. SPURGEON, AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON, ON THURSDAY EVENING, JANUARY 12, 1888.
“Be careful for nothing; but in everything, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6, 7.
WE have the faculty of forethought, but, like all our faculties, it has been perverted, and it is often abused. It is good for a man to have a holy care and to pay due attention to every item of his life, but, alas, it is very easy to make it into an unholy care and to try to wrest from the hand of God that office of Providence which belongs to Him and not to ourselves. How often Luther liked to talk about the birds and the way God cares for them! When he was full of his anxieties, he used to constantly envy the birds because they led so free and happy a life. He talks of Dr. Sparrow, Dr. Thrush and others that used to come and talk to Dr. Luther and tell him many a good thing! You know, Brothers and Sisters, the birds out in the open, yonder, cared for by God, fare far better than those that are cared for by man. A little London girl, who had gone into the country, once said, “Look, mamma, at that poor little bird. It has not got any cage!” That would not have struck me as being any loss to the bird—and if you and I were without our cage, and the box of seed, and glass of water, it would not be much of a loss if we were cast adrift into the glorious liberty of a life of humble dependence upon God!
It is that cage of carnal trust and that box of seed that we are always laboring to fill, that makes the worry of this mortal life. But he who has Grace to spread his wings and soar away—and get into the open field of Divine trustfulness—may sing all the day and always have this for his tune—
“Mortal, cease from toil and sorrow;
God provides for the morrow.”
Here, then, is the teaching of the text—“Be careful for nothing.” The word, “careful,” does not now mean exactly what it did when the Bible was translated. At least it conveys a different meaning to me from what it did to the translators. I would say that we should be careful. “Be careful,” is a good lesson for boys and young people when they are starting in life, but, in the sense in which the word, “care-full,” was understood at the time of the translators, we must not be careful, that is, full of care. The text means, be not anxious—be not constantly thinking about the needs of this mortal life. I will read it again, stretching the word out a little, and then you will get the meaning of it—“Be care-full for nothing.” Oh, that God might teach us how to avoid the evil which is here forbidden, and to live with that holy carelessness which is the very beauty of the Christian life—when all our care is cast on God, and we can joy and rejoice in His Providential care of us!
“Ah,” somebody says, “I cannot help caring.” Well, the subject, tonight, is to help you to leave off caring or worrying and, first, consider, here, the substitute for care. Be careful for nothing, but be prayerful for everything—that is the substitute for care, “prayer and supplication.” Secondly, note the special character of this prayer which is to become the substitute for anxiety—“In everything, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God.” And then I hope we shall have a few minutes left in which to consider the sweet effect of this prayer—“The peace of God, which passes all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
I. To begin, then, here is, first, THE SUBSTITUTE FOR CARE OR ANXIETY.
I suppose it is true of many of us that our cares are numerous. If you once become careful, anxious, fretful, you will never be able to count your cares, even though you might count the hairs of your head. And cares are apt to multiply to those who are care-full and when you are as full of care as you think you can be, you will be sure to have another crop of cares growing up all around you. The indulgence of this evil habit of anxiety leads to its getting dominion over life, till life is not worth living by reason of the care we have about it. Cares are numerous and, therefore, let your prayers be as numerous. Turn everything that is a care into a prayer. Let your cares be the raw material of your prayers and, as the alchemists hoped to turn dross into gold, so you, by a holy alchemy, actually turn what naturally would have been a care into spiritual treasure in the form of prayer! Baptize every anxiety into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit—and so make it into a blessing!
Have you a care to get? Take heed that it does not get you! Do you wish to make gain? Mind you do not lose more than you gain by your gains. I beseech you, have no more care to gain than you dare turn into a prayer! Do not desire to have what you dare not ask God to give you. Measure your desires by a spiritual standard and you will thus be kept from anything like covetousness. Cares come to many from their losses—they lose what they have gained. Well, this is a world in which there is the tendency to lose. Ebbs follow floods and winters crush out summer flowers. Do not wonder if you lose as other people do, but pray about your losses. Go to God with them—and instead of fretting, make them an occasion for waiting upon the Lord and saying—“The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord. Show me why You contend with me, and deliver Your servant, I pray You, from ever complaining of You, whatever You permit me to lose!”
Perhaps you say that your care is neither about your gaining nor your losing, but about your daily bread. Ah, well, you have promises for that, you know! The Lord has said, “So shall you dwell in the land, and verily you shall be fed.” He gives you sweet encouragement when He says that He clothes the grass of the field—and shall He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? And the Lord Jesus bids you consider the fowls of Heaven, how they sow not, neither do they gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Go, then, to your God with all your cares! If you have a large family, a slender income and much ado to make ends meet, and to provide things honest in the sight of all men, you have so many excuses for knocking at God’s door—so many more reasons for being often found at the Throne of Grace! I beseech you, turn them to good account. I feel free to call upon a friend when I really have some business to do with him—and you may be bold to call upon God when necessities press upon you. Instead of caring for anything with anxious care, turn it at once into a reason for renewed prayerfulness.
“Ah,” one says, “but I am in perplexity. I do not know what to do.” Well, then, dear Friend, you should certainly pray when you cannot tell whether it is the right hand road, or the left hand, or straight on, or whether you should go back! Indeed, when you are in such a fog that you cannot see the next lamp, then is the time that you must pray. The road will clear before you very suddenly. I have often had to try this plan, myself—and I bear witness that when I have trusted to myself, I have been a gigantic fool! But when I have trusted in God, then He has led me straight on in the right way, and there has been no mistake about it! I believe that God’s children often make greater blunders over simple things than they do over more difficult matters. You know how it was with Israel, when those Gibeonites came, with their old shoes and clothes, and showed the bread that was moldy, that they said they took fresh out of their ovens. The children of Israel thought, “This is a clear case. These men are strangers, they have come from a far country, so we may make a league with them.” They were certain that the evidence of their eyes proved that these were no Canaanites, so they did not consult God! The whole matter seemed so plain that they made a league with the Gibeonites, which was a trouble to them ever afterwards! If we would, in everything, go to God in prayer, our perplexities would lead us into no more mistakes than our simplicities—and in simple things and difficult things we should be guided by the Most High.
Perhaps another friend says, “But I am thinking about the future.” Are you? Well, first, I beg to ask you what you have to do with the future? Do you know what a day will bring forth? You have been thinking about what will become of you when you are old, but are you sure that you will ever be old? I knew one Christian woman who used to worry herself about how she would get buried. That question never troubled me and there are many other matters about which we need not worry ourselves. You can always find a stick with which to beat a dog and, if you need a care, you can generally find a care with which to beat your own souls! But that is a poor occupation for any of you. Instead of doing that, turn everything that might be a subject of care into a subject of prayer. It will not be long before you have a subject of care, so you will not be long without a subject of prayer. Strike out that word, “care,” and just write in the place of it this word, “prayer”—and then, though your cares are numerous, your prayers will also be numerous.
Note, next, dear Friends, that undue care is an intrusion into God’s province. It is making yourself the father of the household instead of being a child—it is making yourself the master instead of being a servant for whom the master provides his rations. Now, if, instead of doing that, you will turn care into prayer, there will be no intrusion, for you may come to God in prayer without being charged with presumption. He invites you to pray. No, here, by His servant, He bids you, “in everything, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God.” Once more, cares are of no use to us, and they cause us great damage. If you were to worry as long as you wished, you could not make yourself an inch taller, or grow another hair on your head, or make one hair white or black! So the Savior tells us and He asks, if care fails in such little things, what can care do in the higher matters of Providence? It cannot do anything! A farmer stood in his fields and said, “I do not know what will happen to us all. The wheat will be destroyed if this rain keeps on. We shall not have any harvest at all unless we have some fine weather.” He walked up and down, wringing his hands, fretting and making his whole household uncomfortable. And he did not produce one single gleam of sunlight by all his worrying—he could not puff any of the clouds away with all his petulant speech, nor could he stop a drop of rain with all his murmurings.
What is the good of it, then, to keep gnawing at your own heart, when you can get nothing by it? Besides, it weakens our power to help ourselves and especially our power to glorify God. A care-full heart hinders us from judging rightly in many things. I have often used the illustration (I do not know a better) of taking a telescope, breathing on it with the hot breath of our anxiety, putting it to our eye and then saying that we cannot see anything but clouds! Of course we cannot, and we never shall while we breathe upon it. If we were but calm, quiet, self-possessed and God-possessed, we would do the right thing. We would be, as we say, “all there,” in the time of difficulty. That man may expect to have presence of mind who has the Presence of God. If we forget to pray, do you wonder that we are all in a fidget and a worry, and we do the first thing that occurs to us—which is generally the worst thing—instead of waiting till we saw what would be done and then trustfully and believingly doing it as in the sight of God? Care, or worry, is injurious, but if you only turn this care into prayer, then every worry will be a benefit to you.
Prayer is wonderful material for building up the spiritual fabric. We are, ourselves, edified by prayer. We grow in Grace by prayer and if we will but come to God every moment with petitions, we shall be fast growing Christians! I said to one this morning, “Pray for me, it is a time of need,” and she replied, “I have done nothing else since I awakened.” I have made the same request of several others and they have said that they have been praying for me. I felt so glad, not only for my own sake, who had received benefit from their prayers, but for their sakes, because they are sure to grow thereby! When little birds keep flapping their wings, they are learning to fly. The sinews will get stronger and the birds will leave the nest before long. That very clapping of their wings is an education—and the attempting to pray—the groaning, the sighing, the crying of a prayerful spirit, is, itself, a blessing! Leave off, then, this damaging habit of worry and take to this enriching habit of prayer! See how you will thus make a double gain—first, by avoiding a loss, and secondly, by getting that which will really benefit you and others, too!
Then, again, cares are the effect of forgetfulness of Christ’s closeness to us. Did you notice how the context runs? “The Lord is at hand. Be careful for nothing.” The Lord Jesus Christ has promised to come again and He may come tonight. At any moment He may appear! So Paul writes, “The Lord is at hand. Be careful for nothing; but in everything, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God.” Oh, if we could but stand on this earth as upon a mere shadow! If we could but live as those who will soon have done with this poor transient life! If we held every earthly thing with a very loose hand, then we would not be caring, and worrying, and fretting—but we would take to praying, for thus we would grasp the real, and the substantial, and plant our feet upon the invisible, which is, after all, the eternal! Oh, dear Friends, let the text, which I have read to you over and over again, now drop into your hearts as a pebble falls into a mountain lake and, as it enters, let it make rings of comfort upon the very surface of your soul!
II. Now we need to look into the text a little more closely to see, in the second place, THE SPECIAL CHARACTER OF THIS PRAYER. What sort of prayer is that which will ease us of care?
Well, first, it is a prayer which deals with everything. “In everything” “let your requests be made known unto God.”
You may pray about the smallest thing and about the greatest thing—you may not only pray for the Holy Spirit, but you may pray for a new pair of boots. You may go to God about the bread you eat, the water you drink, the garment you wear and pray to Him about everything. Draw no line and say, “So far is to be under the care of God.” Dear me, then, what are you going to do with the rest of life? Is that to be lived under the withering blight of a sort of atheism? God forbid! Oh, that we might live in God as to the whole of our being, for our being is such that we cannot divide it! Our body, soul and spirit are one, and while God leaves us in this world and we have necessities which arise out of the condition of our bodies, we must bring our bodily necessities before God in prayer. And you will find that the great God will hear you in these matters. Say not that they are too little for Him to notice—everything is little in comparison with Him! When I think of what a great God He is, it seems to me that this poor little world of ours is just one insignificant grain of sand on the seashore of the universe—and not worth any notice at all. The whole earth is a mere speck in the great world of Nature and, if God condescends to consider it, He may as well stoop a little lower and consider us! And He does so, for He says, “Even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.” Therefore, in everything let your requests be made known unto God.
The kind of prayer that saves us from care is prayer that is repeated—“In everything, by prayer and supplication.” Pray to God and then pray again—“by prayer and supplication.” If the Lord does not answer you the first time, be very grateful that you have a good reason for praying again! If He does not grant your request the second time, believe that He loves you so much that He wants to hear your voice again! And if He keeps you waiting till you have gone to Him seven times, say to yourself, “Now I know that I worship the God of Elijah, for Elijah’s God let him go, again, seven times before the blessing was given.” Count it an honor to be permitted to wrestle with the Angel of God! This is the way God makes His princes! Jacob had never been Israel if he had obtained the blessing from the Angel at the first asking—but when he had to keep on wrestling till he prevailed, then he became a prince with God! The prayer that kills care is prayer that is continued and importunate.
Next, it is intelligent prayer—“Let your requests be made known unto God.” I heard of a Muslim who spent, I think, six hours in prayer each day and, lest he should go to sleep when on board a ship, he stood upright and only had a rope stretched across, so that he might lean against it. And if he slept, he would fall. His objective was to keep on for six hours with what he called prayer. “Well,” I said to one who knew him, and who had seen him on board his boat on the Nile, “What sort of prayer was it?” “Why,” my friend replied, “he kept on repeating, ‘There is no God but God, and Mohammed is the prophet of God,’ the same thing over, and over, and over again.” I said, “Did he ask for anything?” “Oh, no!” “Was he pleading with God to give him anything?” “No, he simply kept on with that perpetual repetition of certain words, just as a witch might repeat a charm.”
Do you think there is anything in that style of praying? If you go on your knees and simply repeat a certain formula, it will be only a mouthful of words. What does God care about that kind of praying? “Let your requests be made known unto God.” That is true prayer! God knows what your requests are, but you are to pray to Him as if He did not know. You are to make known your requests, not because the Lord does not know, but, perhaps, because you do not know. And when you have made your requests known to Him, as the text tells you, you will more clearly have made them known to yourself. When you have asked intelligently, knowing what you have asked, and knowing why you have asked it, you will, perhaps, stop and say to yourself, “No, I must not, after all, make that request.” Sometimes, when you have gone on praying for what God does not give you, it may be that there will steal over your mind the conviction that you are not on the right track and that result of your prayer will, in itself, do you good, and be a blessing to you.
But you are to pray making your requests known unto God. That is, in plain English, say what you need, for this is true prayer. Get alone and tell the Lord what you need—pour out your heart before Him. Do not imagine that God needs any fine language! No, you need not run upstairs for your prayer book, and turn to a collect—you will be a long time before you find any collect that will fit you if you are really praying! Pray for what you need just as if you were telling your mother or your dearest friend what your need is. Go to God in that fashion, for that is real prayer, and that is the kind of prayer that will drive away your cares.
So, dear Friends, again, the kind of prayer that brings freedom from care is communion with God. If you have not spoken to God, you have not really prayed. A little child has been known (I daresay your children have done it) to go and put a letter down the grating of a drain and, of course, there was never any reply to a letter posted in that way. If the letter is not put into the postbox, so that it goes to the person to whom it is addressed, what is the use of it? So, prayer is real communication with God. You must realize that He is and that He is the Rewarder of them that diligently seek Him, or else you cannot pray. He must be a reality to you, a living reality, and you must believe that He hears prayer, and then you must speak with Him and believe that you have the petition that you ask of Him—and so you shall have it. He has never yet failed to honor believing prayer. He may keep you waiting for a while, but delays are not denials, and He has often answered a prayer that asked for silver by giving gold! He may have denied earthly treasure, but He has given heavenly riches of ten thousand times the worth—and the suppliant has been more than satisfied with the exchange! “Let your requests be made known unto God.”
I know what you do when you are in trouble—you go to your neighbor, but your neighbor does not want to see you quite so often about such business. Possibly you go to your brother, but there is a text that warns you not to go into your brother’s house in the day of your calamity. You may call on a friend too often when you are hard up—he may be very pleased to see you till he hears what you are after! But if you go to your God, He will never give you the cold shoulder. He will never say that you come too often. On the contrary, He will even chide you because you do not come to Him often enough!
There is one word which I passed over, just now, because I wanted to leave it for my last observation on this point— “By prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God.” Now what does that mean? It means that the kind of prayer that kills care is a prayer that asks cheerfully, joyfully, thankfully. “Lord, I am poor. Let me bless You for my poverty and then, O Lord, will You not supply all my needs?” That is the way to pray. “Lord, I am ill. I bless You for this affliction, for I am sure that it means some good thing to me. Now be pleased to heal me, I beseech You!” “Lord, I am in a great trouble, but I praise You for the trouble, for I know that it contains a blessing though the envelope is black-edged! Lord, help me through my trouble!” That is the kind of prayer that kills care—“supplication, with thanksgiving.” Mix these two things well! One drachma—no, two drachma of prayer—prayer and supplication, then one drachma of thanksgiving! Rub them together and they will make a blessed cure for care. May the Lord teach us to practice this holy art of the apothecary!
III. I finish with this third point, THE SWEET EFFECT OF THIS PRAYER—“And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
If you can pray in this fashion, instead of indulging evil anxiety, the result will be that an unusual peace will steal over your heart and mind. Unusual, for it will be “the peace of God.” What is God’s peace? The unruffled serenity of the infinitely happy God, the eternal composure of the absolutely well-contented God! This shall possess your heart and mind. Notice how Paul describes it—“The peace of God, which passes all understanding.” Other people will not understand it. They will not be able to make out how you can be so quiet. What is more, you will not be able to tell them, for if it surpasses all understanding, it certainly passes all expression! And what is even more amazing—you will not understand it yourself!
It will be such a peace that it will be to you, unfathomable and immeasurable. When one of the martyrs was about to burn for Christ, he said to the judge who was giving orders to light the pile, “Will you come and lay your hand on my heart? “The judge did so. “Does it beat fast?” enquired the martyr. “Do I show any sign of fear?” “No,” said the judge. “Now lay your hand on your own heart and see whether you are not more excited than I am.” Think of that man of God, who, on the morning he was to be burned, was so soundly asleep that they had to shake him to wake him—he had to get up to be burned! And yet knowing that it was to be so, he had such confidence in God that he slept sweetly. This is “the peace of God, which passes all understanding.” In those old Diocletian persecutions, when the martyrs came into the amphitheatre to be torn by wild beasts—when one was set in a red-hot iron chair, another was smeared with honey to be stung to death by wasps and bees—they never flinched!
Think of that brave man who was put on a gridiron to be roasted to death, who said to his persecutors, “You have done me on one side. Now turn me over to the other.” Why this peace under such circumstances? It was “the peace of God, which passes all understanding.” We do not have to suffer like that, nowadays, but if it ever comes to anything like that, it is wonderful what peace a Christian enjoys! After there had been a great storm, the Master stood up in the prow of the vessel and said to the winds, “Be still.” And we read, “there was a great calm.” Have you ever felt this? You feel it tonight if you have learned this sacred art of making your requests known unto God in everything and the peace of God which passes all understanding is keeping your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
This blessed peace keeps our hearts and minds—it is a guardian peace. The Greek word implies a garrison. Is it not an odd thing that a military term is used here and that it is peace that acts as a guard to the heart and to the mind? It is the peace of God that is to protect the child of God—strange but beautiful figure! I have heard that fear is the housekeeper for a Christian. Well, fear may be a good guardian to keep dogs out, but it has not a full cupboard! But peace, though it seems weakness, is the essence of strength and, while it guards, it also feeds us and supplies all our needs.
It is also a peace which links us to Jesus—“The peace of God which passes all understanding shall keep your hearts and minds.” That is, your affections and your thoughts, your desires and your intellect—your heart—so that it shall not fear. Your mind, so that it shall not know any kind of perplexity—“the peace of God shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” It is all, “through Christ Jesus” and, therefore, it is doubly sweet and precious to us!
O my dear Hearers, some of you come in here on Thursday nights and you do not know anything about this peace of God and, perhaps, you wonder why we Christian people make such a fuss about our religion! Ah, if you knew, you would, perhaps, make more fuss about it than we do, for if there were no hereafter—and we know that there is—yet the blessed habit of going to God in prayer and casting all our care upon Him helps us to live most joyfully, even in this life! We do not believe in secularism, but if we did, there would be no preparation for the earthly life like this living unto God and living in God! If you have a sham god and you merely go to Church or Chapel and carry your prayer book or your hymn book with you and, therefore, think you are Christians, you are deceiving yourselves! But if you have a living God and you have real fellowship with Him and constantly, as a habit, live beneath the shadow of the wings of the Almighty, then you shall enjoy a peace that shall make others wonder and make you, yourself, marvel, too, even, “the peace of God, which passes all understanding.” God grant it to you, my beloved Hearers, for Christ’s sake! Amen.
“Casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7.
NO one precept contains the whole of a believer’s duty; but usually in Scripture the precepts rise one above the other, like those stone steps by which the traveler in Egypt ascends to the pinnacle of the pyramid. You must first plant your feet firmly upon the preceding duty, before you shall be able fully to climb to the next command! Let me, then, call your attention to the precept which precedes my text— “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time.” You know, beloved, that there are some selfish, carnal cares which we must not cast upon God; it would be an insult to Him; it would be an act of infamy on our part if we should venture to ask for His assistance in them. Those are cares which would never molest us at all if we were obedient to the precept— “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God.” This cuts off the head at once of many of those anxieties into which Christians sometimes fall. For instance, covetous cares—if I desire to get and grasp more than is absolutely necessary, that I may hastily grow rich, I cannot, on my knees, ask God to carry this care for me, because it is none of His sending! He has taught me to say, “Give us this day our daily bread,” and He has given me a blessed example in Agur, that I may pray, “Give me neither poverty nor riches.” But I cannot go on my knees before God, honestly, as a miser, and ask that He would enable me to add house to house, and field to field! That care I never ought to indulge, and I never would endure it if I attended to the precept, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God.” There is, also, the care of ambition, when men desire to attain honors, eminence and fame; to stand foremost, to be exalted upon the pinnacle, to be looked up to by all, and to be almost adored by some! If we allow ambition to creep into our minds, we cannot go to God with it; it is a care which we dare not cast on God, for that were to empty the filth of our house upon the altar of God’s sanctuary! But then, I say, it is a care which would never fret us, if our souls were lowly before the Lord.
There are those cares, too, which we make for ourselves—those anxieties which anticipate the future—those foolish fears which are only created in our brain, and which vex the head, and then fret the heart—we cannot ask God to take those upon Himself; cares which have no existence except in our own fancies, we can scarcely cast on God. But then, beloved, we would never have them if we “humbled ourselves under the mighty hand of God.” Then, in such a state of subjection to the divine will, and of resignation to the eternal purpose, our soul would sit quietly and be still, and our spirit would not agitate itself with frivolities which it has itself imagined, with fancies which have no origin but in our own imagination. Oh that you may have divine grace to obey the preceding command, and then I think, without any limitation, I may address you in the words of the text—“Casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.” I repeat, sinful cares we cannot cast on God! But then, obeying the precept, “Humble yourselves,” would uproot such vexations! He who is down, need fear no fall. He whose soul is even as a weaned child, will fret and cry no more.
In addressing you this morning from so rich a text as this, I would pray rather that the Holy Spirit may deliver you from anxiety, than attempt to deliver you from it myself, for I am not even able to obey this precept myself, much less shall I enable you to do it! Only when the Spirit of God is upon the preacher can he cast his cares upon his God, and he is convinced by experience, that only as the Holy Spirit shall enable you, will you be able to do the same. However, that our words may be the means of your comfort and of your strengthening, let us speak on this wise. First, for a few minutes, let us expound this disease of care, giving some description of it. Secondly, let us manifest the blessed remedy of the text, endeavoring, in God’s name, to apply it. And lastly, let us hold out the sweet inducement of the second part of the sentence, in order that believers may be led to attempt the practicing of the precept, “He cares for you.”
First, then, LET US ENDEAVOR TO DESCRIBE THE DISEASE OF CARE.
The care mentioned in the text, even though it is exercised upon legitimate objects, (and in this it differs from the cares of which I spoke just now, which were cares concerning wrong objects), care even when exercised upon legitimate objects if carried to excess, has in itself the nature of sin. This will be clear if you think for a moment that anything which is a transgression of God’s command is sin, and if there were no other command; the one in our text being broken would involve us in iniquity. But it is a precept earnestly repeated by our Savior many times, it is one which the apostles have reiterated again and again, and one which cannot be neglected without involving transgression. Besides, the very essence of anxious care is the imagining that we are wiser than God, and the thrusting of ourselves into His place, to do for Him that which we dream He either cannot or will not do! We attempt to think of that which we fancy He will forget; or we labor to take upon ourselves that burden which He either is not able or willing to carry for us. Now, this impertinence, this presumption, what if I say, this audacity, has in it the very nature of sin, to attempt to know better than God, to snatch from His hands the helm by which He guides affairs, to attempt to correct His charts, to re-map His providence! This, indeed, is such impertinence, that as the guardian Scripture pushes back the intruder; it demands of him, “Are you also one of the King’s counsel? What are you doing here? He took no counsel with you when He made the heavens and the earth, and balanced the clouds, and stretched out the skies like a tent to dwell in, how dare you come here and offer advice to perfect wisdom, and aid to omnipotent strength?” There is in anxious care the very nature of sin!
But, further, these anxious cares very frequently lead to other sins, sometimes to overt acts of transgression. The tradesman, who is not able to leave his business with God, may be tempted to indulge in the tricks of the trade. No, he may not only be tempted, but he may be prevailed upon, to put out an unholy hand with which to help himself. The professional or literary man, if he has no firm trust in providence, may lend his skill to indirect and unlawful ends; and each man, if he has no other snare, will be tried with this—to forsake prayer, and to forget the promise, in order to trust to the wisdom of a friend, or to the natural wisdom of some mentor in whom he puts confidence. Now, this is forsaking the fountain to go to the broken cisterns, a crime which was laid against Israel of old, a wrath provoking iniquity. Even if it led to no other act, except this sin of preferring the counsel of man to the direction of God, excessive anxiety were to be reprobated and detested! But think, my brothers and sisters, of the many sins which our anxieties engender in our hearts! Our unbelief which makes us doubt our God, our lack of love which is proven by our distrust of love, our lack of hope which puts out our eyes so that we cannot see the clear shining after the rain. Think, my brothers and sisters, how we fret and mistrust, and thus vex the Spirit of God, and often cause Him to depart from us, so that our prayers are hindered, so that our example is marred, so that we give ourselves rather to self-seeking than to seeking God! All these things are sins, the grapes of Gomorrah which grow on the vines of our cares. These base-born cares are the plentiful mothers of transgressions. Distrust is the egg out of which many a mischief is hatched; we indulge in these cares and think surely we are doing no wrong, whereas the indulgence in them is in itself a crime, and is besides a tempter which guides us onward to the commission of other iniquities, for the man who is full of care, is ripe for any sin, but he who has cast his care on God stands securely, neither shall the evil one be able to touch him!
To proceed further in uncovering this disease; as it is in itself sin, and the mother of sin, we note again that it brings misery. Where sin is, sorrow shall soon follow. He, who would have his spirit bowed down even to the very earth, has only to fix his thoughts upon himself, and his circumstances, instead of looking to God, and His promises! Some of you are placed in a very happy position in life, but, my dear brothers and sisters you can make yourselves miserable if you please. Others of you are put in what the world considers unhappy circumstances, but if God enables you, you can be supremely blessed! Poverty does not necessarily involve sorrow, nor do riches in themselves bring peace or happiness. If any of you wish for misery you need not go out of your own house, there is no need to travel far for causes of discontent! You can be filled with plenty and be poor; you can dwell in the midst of peace and be disturbed; you can possess the richest prosperity and yet be afflicted. We, to a very great extent, make our own position. God ordains providence, and either divine grace makes us happy, or sin racks us with pain. God does not make our misery! The cause of our trouble lies at our own door, not at His. Do you see that Christian there with the sparkling eyes, and the light footsteps, the man who is swift to run upon his Master’s errands? That man has many troubles, but when he wakes in the morning, if he retains remembrance of them, he bows his knee and leaves them with his God! He goes home, and the day has had much of sorrow in it, but he shakes the weight from his own shoulder, and leaves his burden upon God. That man, with all his troubles, is more blessed than yonder professor, who has very little to vex him, except that he vexes himself, by making every little thing a ground for fretfulness, magnifying every small mischance into a strange calamity, and by losing all patience, when all things suit not his proud will and dainty taste! Oh brothers and sisters, it is an ill thing for Christians to be sad. Let them rejoice, “Rejoice in the Lord always,” but they never can as long as they indulge in anxious cares!
Besides this, these anxious cares do not only lead us into sin, and destroy our peace of mind, but they also weaken us for usefulness. When one has left all his cares at home, how well he can work for his Master! But, when those cares tease us in the pulpit, it is hard preaching the gospel. When cares buzz in the ears, the music of divine grace is hard to hear. What would you say of your workman who should come to you in the morning with a heavy piece of family furniture upon his back? He calls himself your porter, he is about to carry your goods, and you see him going out of the door with your load, which is properly proportioned to his strength, but beside that he is carrying a heavy piece of his own upon his shoulders. You say to him, “My good man, what are you doing there?” “Oh sir, I am only loaded with household stuff.” I think you would say, “Well but you are not fit to do my work which you are engaged to do. I do not employ you to carry your own load; I had you here to carry mine.” “But sir,” he says, “I am so weak, I cannot carry both.” “Then leave yours alone,” you say, “and carry mine.” Or to use another simile; there was a great king who once employed a merchant in his service as an ambassador to foreign courts. Now the merchant, before he went away, said to the king, “My own business requires all my care, and though I am always willing to be your majesty’s servant, yet if I attend to your business as I ought, I am sure my own will be ruined.” “Well,” said the king, “you take care of my business, and I will take care of yours. Use your best endeavors, and I will answer for it that you shall be nothing the loser for the zeal which you take from yourself to give to me.” And so our God says to us, as His servants, “Do My work, and I will do yours. Serve Me and I will serve you.” Like Peter—Peter is fishing, Christ needs a pulpit to preach in. He borrows Peter’s boat, and preaches in it; well what about Peter’s fishing? Oh, the Master will take care of that, for no sooner is the sermon done than He says, “Launch into the deep, and let down your nets for a catch.” And Peter gets more in ten minutes through having lent his boat to his Master, than he might have done in ten weeks, if he had been fishing on his own account! Leave your cares with God, and care for Him—
“Make HIS service your delight,
Your needs shall be HIS care.”
The subject would not be complete if I did not add that these little cares, of whose guilt, perhaps, we think so little, do very great damage to our blessed and holy cause. Your sad and miserable countenances hinder souls who are anxious, and they present a ready excuse for souls who are careless. “Look,” they say, “look, that man is a Christian, the whole of the winters of a century have left their storm rifts on his forehead, and all the winds of ages seem to have ruffled his brow. He has no peace, no joy—who would be a Christian to be so miserable?” Thus, the careless man says he will not have hell here; he will leave that for hereafter. Even anxious spirits say, “It cannot be that this religion is true, for if it were really true, one would think it would be able to support its followers in the troubles of life. If God’s Word is true, that God will sustain His people, then Christians would be sustained, and believers would be cheered and comforted. But I see that they are as much fretful as other men, as impatient as they are, and that So-and-So, who makes a profession, is quite as weak, quite as easily bowed before the storm, as yonder man who has no God in whom to trust, and no promises on which to lean!” Ah, let it not be said so, Christian, through you; open not the enemy’s mouth to blaspheme! Let not the dragon find food through you, who are of the seed of the woman, but rather seek, casting your care on God, to disentangle yourself of all personal hindrances, that you may be avenged upon your Master’s adversaries as a good soldier of Jesus Christ! I close the description of this matter by saying that in the most frightful manner, cares have brought many to the poisoned cup, the halter, and the knife, and hundreds to the madhouse. What makes the constant increase of our lunatic asylums? Why is it that in almost every country in England, new asylums have to be erected, wing after wing being added to these buildings in which the imbecile and the raving are confined? It is because we will carry what we have no business to carry—our own cares! And until there shall be a general keeping of the day of rest throughout England, and until there shall be a more general resting of our souls, and all we have upon God, we must expect to hear of increasing suicides and increasing lunacies! So long as the present system of competition in business shall continue—and there seems no hope that it will ever cease, for the signs of the times suggest that the battle will grow sterner every day—it will become a more stern duty with each of us to cast our care on God, unless we would see reason reel, and would be howling maniacs in our cells. Oh, for your own sake, and for your children’s sake, for Christ’s sake and for His Church’s sake, I pray you spoil not the fair house which God has built! Cast not out the lovely tenant; leave not the temple of the Lord to be the prison of madness! Away with evil cares if you would still be a man.
II. I shall now want your attention to the second part of the subject, THE BLESSED REMEDY TO BE APPLIED.
Somebody must carry these cares. If I cannot do it myself, can I find any who will? My Father who is in heaven stands waiting to be my burden-bearer! With broad shoulders, with Omnipotence as His strength, He says “My child, roll your burden upon your God.” Blessed privilege, dare I neglect it? Can I be wicked enough to reject it, and to bear my cares myself? Here is the blessed remedy, “Cast your burden upon the Lord and He will sustain you.”
Now, in order rather to apply this remedy, than to describe it, by the help of God’s Holy Spirit, I will mention some of those fears, those cares, which are legitimate enough in their objectives, but, which can only be relieved by leaving them with God. One of the first and most natural cares with which we are vexed is the care for daily bread. “I would be content,” says one, “with food and raiment. If I can but provide things honest in the sight of all men, and see my family cared for, I shall then be happy.” “But” says one, “what shall I eat, what shall I drink, with what shall I be clothed? I am without a job, having, therefore, no opportunity to earn my livelihood; I am without substance, having, therefore, nothing to look upon by which I may be supported without labor. I am without friends or a patron who might give me his generous assistance. What shall I do?” You are a Christian, are you; you must use all diligence, that is your duty—but oh, if God shall help you, mingle no fretfulness with the diligence, no impatience with your suffering, and no distrust with your trials! No, remember what Jesus has said so sweetly to the point, “Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns. Yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much better than they? Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? And why take you thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow. They toil not, neither do they spin: and yet I say unto you that even Solomon in his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Why, if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, shall He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore, take no thought, saying “What shall we eat?” Or, “What shall we drink?” Or, “With what shall we be clothed?” (For after all, these things do the Gentiles seek): for your heavenly Father knows that you have need of all these things. But seek you first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.” Such a care as that, I say, is natural enough, and to bid a man shake it off when he is in actual need is cruelly absurd, unless you have a sure consolation to offer him. But you can say, “Cast your trial upon God.” Use your most earnest endeavors, humble yourself under the mighty hand of God; if you cannot do one thing, do another! If you cannot earn your bread as a gentleman, earn it as a poor man! If you cannot earn it by the sweat of your brains, do it by the sweat of your brow! Do something for an honest living—sweep a crossing if you cannot do anything else. If a man will not work, neither let him eat; but having brought yourself to that, if still every door is shut, “Trust in the Lord and do good, so shall you dwell in the land, and verily you shall be fed.”
Businessmen, who have not exactly to hunt for the necessities of life, are often tormented with the anxieties of large transactions and extended commerce. The failures of others, frequent bad debts, changes in the markets, monetary pressures, and sudden panics, cause a world of trouble! Through our fashion of credit in this age, it is very hard for a Christian to conduct business in the sober, substantial fashion which a tender conscience would prefer. “Owe no man anything”—if that could be interwoven into the system of trade, it would, I do not doubt, cure tens of thousands of ills, which now grow out of that credit system which seems to be unavoidable, but which, I am sure, involves many of the crimes which are committed, and very much of the care which racks businessmen! Well, through the present high-pressure system of trade, there is naturally much care. If any man here can say that he can go into his office having many in his employ, and never at all have care, I should think he must be a rarity in the world! Surely, he might walk till he dropped with weariness, before he would meet with another of the same order! But, if there is a brother here who has a business so extensive that he does not sleep at night, one who lies there tossing on his bed, thinking about this servant who may have robbed him, or about that vessel that is out at sea, or about the low prices of a certain article which has gone down since he laid in a large stock, and all those little things which all of you know—then I say, “brother, wait a minute! What are you doing? What are you doing? Are you sure that in this you have used your best prudence and wisdom, and your best industry, and given it your best attention?” “Yes.” Well then, what more have you to do? Suppose you like to weep all night, will that keep your ship from going on the Goodwin Sands? Suppose you could cry your eyes out, will that make a thief honest? Suppose you could fret yourself till you could not eat, would that raise the price of goods? One would think, if you were just to say, “Well, I have done all that is to be done, now I will leave it with God,” that you might go about your business, and have the full use of your senses to attend to it! Whereas, now, you fritter away your senses, and then commit blunders, and so you multiply your troubles by that very fretfulness by which you hoped to remove them! There—let them alone! We say, “Leave well enough alone.” But I say, “Leave ill alone,” leave them both alone, and with both your hands, for you will need both hands to honor your Master—with the hand of prayer, “In everything by prayer and supplication, making known your wants unto God.” And with the other hand, the hand of faith, trusting in God—lift your load right off your own shoulders, and let the whole crushing weight be left with your eternal God, for “He will sustain you, He will never suffer the righteous to be moved.”
Another anxiety of a personal kind, which is very natural and indeed very proper, if it is not carried to excess, is the care of your children. Blessed be God for our children! We do not sympathize with those who look upon them as afflictions, for we believe them still to be a heritage of the Lord. But what anxieties they involve! How shall we bring them up? How shall they be provided for? Will they honor their parents, or will they bring disgrace upon the name they bear? A child may be the greatest curse his parents ever had, while he may be their choicest comfort. “All these,” as an old Puritan said, “are doubtful blessings, and may be certain curses, yet, I will not have it that there is any doubt about their being blessings, as God sends them.” A Christian parent must have care about his children, and all the more because he is a Christian, since he will not be satisfied with their getting on in business, he will never be content till his children walk in the truth of God. Mother, father, you have prayed for your children; you trust you have set them a holy example; you labor day by day to teach them the truth as it is in Jesus; you have travailed in birth for their souls till Christ is formed in them. It is well. Now, let your souls quietly expect the blessing, leave your offspring with God; cast your sons and daughters upon their father’s God! Let no impatience intrude if they are not converted in your time, and let no distrust distract your mind if they should seem to belie your hopes.
I met yesterday with a few verses which sound like the warbling of an American song writer. They exactly suit my subject, and in reading them in private, they have touched my heart. Excuse me, therefore, if though I never read a sermon, I will for once read a part of one—
“The Master has come over Jordan,”
Said Hannah, the mother, one day.
“He is healing the people who throng Him,
With a touch of His finger, they say.
And now I shall carry the children,
Little Rachel and Samuel and John
I shall carry the baby, Esther,
For the Lord to look upon.”
The father looked at her kindly,
But he shook his head and smiled—
“Now, who but a doting mother
Would think of a thing so wild?
If the children were tortured by demons,
Or dying of fever it were well;
Or had they the taint of the leper,
Like many in Israel.”
“No, do not hinder me, Nathan!
I feel such a burden of care If I carry it to the Master,
Perhaps I shall leave it there.
If He lays His hand on the children,
My heart will be lighter, I know—
For a blessing forever and ever Will follow them as they go.”
So, over the hills of Judah,
Along by the vine-rows green,
With Esther asleep on her bosom,
And Rachel her brothers between;
Among the people who hung on His teaching,
Or waited His touch and His word,
Through the row of proud Pharisees listening,
She pressed to the feet of the Lord!
Now, why should you hinder the Master,
Said Peter, “With children like these?
See not how, from morning till evening,
He teaches and heals disease?”
Then Christ said, “Forbid not the children,
Permit them to come unto Me!”
And He took in His arms little Esther,
And Rachel He set on His knee.
And the heavy heart of the mother
Was lifted all earth-care above,
As He laid His hands on the brothers
And blessed them with most tender love;
As He said of the babes in His bosom,
“Of such are the kingdom of heaven”;
And strength for all duty and trial
That hour to her spirit was given.”
Thus do you, and thus inherit the blessing! But, each Christian will, in his time, have personal troubles of a higher order, namely, spiritual cares. He is begotten again unto a lively hope, but he fears that his faith will yet die. He hopes he has some spark of spiritual joy, but there are dark and dreary nights which lower over him, and he fears that his lamp will die out in darkness. As yet, he has been victorious, but he trembles lest he should one day fall by the hand of the enemy. Beloved, I beseech you; cast this care upon God for He cares for you. “I am persuaded that He who has begun a good work in you will carry it on and perfect it unto the day of Christ.” He has said, “I will never leave you, nor forsake you.” “The mountains shall depart and the hills be removed; but My kindness shall not depart from you, neither shall the covenant of My peace be removed, says the Lord who has mercy on you.” “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you: when you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon you.” “No good thing will I withhold from them who walk uprightly.” “I give unto My sheep eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of My hand.” Why, one might keep you all this morning, and this afternoon, and evening too, repeating the precious promises of God, and we might close them all by saying—
“What more can He say than to you He has said,
You who unto Jesus for refuge have fled?”
Away, then, with dark suspicions and anxieties! Is it care about past sin? “The blood of Jesus Christ, God’s dear Son, cleanses us from all sin.” Is it present temptation? “There has no temptation happened to you but such as is common to men: but God who is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above what you are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that you may be able to bear it.” Is it future peril? O, leave that with Him, for neither “things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the Love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” If you begin to think always of yourself, you will be miserable! Why, it is Christ who makes you what you are before the eyes of God. Look, then, to Jesus in order to find out what you are in God’s esteem! Soul, I say again, look at Christ and not at yourself; never let anxieties about Sanctification destroy your confidence of Justification. What if you are a sinner! Christ died to save sinners! What if you are undeserving? “In due time Christ died for the ungodly.” Divine grace is free! The invitation is still open to you—rest the whole burden of your soul’s salvation where it must rest. Do not be a Uzziah, lay no hasty hand upon the Ark of the Lord; above all, do not be an Uzziah, attempt not to offer sacrifices or usurp the priesthood, for Christ must stand for you, you cannot stand or do for yourself. Cast, then, your care on Him, for He cares for you!
I shall need your patient attention two or three minutes more, while trying to apply this remedy. I notice that there are many cares not of a personal, but rather of an ecclesiastical character, which often insinuate themselves, and plead for life, but, which must, nevertheless, be put away. I am sorry to confess, that if I do not preach to anyone else this morning, I shall now be preaching to myself. There are cares about how God’s work is to be carried on. I know a foolish young man who lies awake many nights thinking about that, and who sometimes by day makes himself foolishly sad, because with large purposes of heart, and with great designs in his soul, he sees not the way by which they are to be carried out, and has not yet attained the faith which—
“Laughs at impossibilities, And says, ‘It shall be done.’”
If any of you are suffering from the same sad disease, let me exhort you from the words of Peter, to cast the care about God’s work upon God. He never sent us a warfare at our own charge; He never did require us to do His work; that He will attend to Himself. And we ought to feel that if God does not enable us to do as much as we would, it is a blessed thing to be enabled and permitted to do as much as we can! If we think there are few men to work, or little means with which to work, we must not be fretful about where the means, or the men shall come from! We may properly pray, “Lord, send laborers,” and with equal propriety, we may ask, that He who has the silver and the gold, may give them for His own work. But after that, we must cast our care on God! Then, if we get over that, there will be another anxiety— one which frets me often enough—the success of God’s work! Oh, when there are souls converted, how our heart leaps for joy! When the church keeps continually increasing, how glad we are! But, if there is even a little lull, we feel so sad; if we do not see God’s arm always bare, we are ready to lie down and say, “Lord, let me die; I am no better than my fathers.” When we are in a low state of body and heart, too, that weakening sickness of unbelief, like the woman’s issue of blood, comes over us, and we feel that life is ebbing as success decreases. Now, this is a care we must cast on God! Preacher, your Great Employer sent you out to sow the seed, but if no grain of it should ever come up, if you sowed the seed as He told you, and where He told you, He will never lay the blame of a defective harvest to you. It is ours to preach—but to convert souls is God’s! It is ours to labor, but the success depends alone on Him. “They who go through the valley of Baca make it a well”—that is their business, to dig wells—“the rain also fills the pools”—it is not their business to fill the wells; and the wells do not get full from the bottom as they do in our country, it is the rain that fills the pools! The blessing comes from on high; and if we have dug the wells, and we have prayed six times, and as yet the rain has not descended, go again seven times, and the rain shall yet descend, and the pools shall be filled to the brim! Do not, therefore, let us have cares about success!
And sometimes there is another care. It is the care, lest some little slip made by ourselves or others, should give cause to the enemy to blaspheme. There are devils besides those in hell, there are some on earth. And some of these are too glad to find an opportunity, if there is a word that is ever so fitly spoken, to wrest it out of its context, and make stock and capital for blasphemy out of it! It is an easy task and one which any fool can accomplish, and this world is full of fools who are glad to find dirt to eat, and then having eaten it themselves, to cram it down others throats. One is sometimes afraid to walk for fear of breaking something in such a frail world as this; afraid to speak, lest we should say something which might open the enemy’s mouth. A careful jealousy is very well if it leads to caution, but very ill if it leads to a worrisome, weak anxiety! What have you and I to do with what the enemy may do? If the Lord does not chain the devil, I am sure we cannot! And if He does not shut the mouths of liars, I do not know that we ought to wish He would, for if He lets them open their mouths, I have no doubt they are best open. Many a time, as Christ rode into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey, the truth of God has ridden into the midst of Jerusalem in triumph on the back of its most despicable enemies. Beyond doubt, Christ has been lifted up even on the point of the spear, and the light of the gospel has beamed like a beacon from the stake where the martyr perished! Well, let us leave our enemies to do what they will, and only stand fast to the Lord and cast our care on Him.
And then, one is so afraid of being unfaithful at the last, lest the blood of souls should be on our garments. Oh, that thought has dashed me on my forehead to the floor many and many a time! This heavy burden crushes me into the most pitiable state, until the body sympathizes with the mind so fully, that if you could see me with the tears running from my eyes and the cold sweat starting from my head, you would say, “What a creature is that to go forth and preach?” The thought of having all of you to address, and that I must be faithful, or else your blood shall be required at my hands, is so awful a one, that in private I never dare to think of it, for it utterly unmans me! But oh, blessed be God, if He has enabled us to do all we can by His Spirit, we must leave it there! We know that He will not ask more of us than He has given to us, and if He has helped us so far, His shall be the glory. But if we have failed, even that, too, shall be washed away through His precious blood, and with all his weight of responsibility, the minister shall yet enter heaven, and find a place among the sanctified!
III. I close my last point with only a word, of THE SWEET INDUCEMENTS TO LEAVE YOUR BURDENS WITH HIM—“He cares for you.”
Believe in a universal providence, the Lord cares for ants and angels, for worms and for worlds. He cares for cherubim and for sparrows, for seraphim and for insects. Cast your care on Him, He who calls the stars by their names, and leads them out by numbers, by their hosts. Why do you say, O Jacob, and think, O Israel, “My way is passed over from God, and He has utterly forgotten me?” Let His universal providence cheer you! Think next of His particular providence over all the saints. “Precious shall their blood be in His sight.” “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.” “We know that all things work together for good to them who love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.” Let the fact that while He is the Savior of all men, He is especially the Savior of those who believe. Let that cheer and comfort you, that special providence which watches over the chosen, “The angel of the Lord encamps round about them who fear Him.” And then, thirdly, let the thought of His special love to you, be the very essence of your comfort. “I will never leave you, nor forsake you.” God says that as much to you, as He said it to any saint of old. “Fear not, I am your shield and your exceedingly great reward.” Oh, I wish, beloved, that the Holy Spirit would make you feel the promise as being spoken to you! Out of this vast assembly, forget the rest, and only think of yourself, for the promises are unto you, meant for you. Oh, grasp them! It is ill to get into a way of reading Scripture for the whole church, read it for yourselves, and specially hear the Master say to you this morning, “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me.” Imagine that you hear Him say, “I have prayed for you that your faith fail not.” Imagine you see Him walking on the waters of your trouble, for He is there, and He is saying, “Fear not, it is I; be not afraid.” Oh, those sweet words of Christ! Lord, speak them to me! Speak them to Your poor sorrowing child yonder! Speak them to each one of us! Speak them to us, and let us hear Your voice, and say, “Jesus whispers consolation! I cannot refuse it; I will sit under His shadow with great delight!”
Sinners, ungodly persons here, you know not God! I send you away when I have said this one thing. What a blessed thing it is to be a Christian, to have someone who will take your cares for you! Why, you know you will have your cares whether you are Christians or not, you are sure to have troubles even in the world, but then you have no Christ to comfort you, no God to sustain you, no promise to cheer you! You have the darkness without the lamp; you have to die without the immortality to follow! Oh that you knew what a Christian is, and your mouths would be watering to know the Christian’s privilege! I say to you, cast your sins upon Christ. Jesus Christ can take them. If you believe on Him there is proof that He did take them of old, did carry them, and suffered for them in His own person that you might go free! Oh may we each this morning, saint and sinner, come to the cross, and to the throne of grace, and say, “Lord, unload us of our burdens of guilt and care, and give us now to go on our way rejoicing,” because God, all-sufficient, has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”