Delivered on Sabbath Morning, December 18th, 1859, by the
REV. C.H. SPURGEON
At Exeter Hall, Strand
"And the barrel of meal wasted not, neither did the cruse of oil fail, according to the word of the Lord, which he spake by Elijah."--1 Kings 17:16.
IN the midst of wrath God remembers mercy. Divine love is rendered conspicuous when it shines in the midst of judgments. Fair is that lone star which smiles through the rifts of the thunder-clouds; bright is the oasis which blooms in the wilderness of sand; so fair and so bright is love in the midst of wrath. In the present instance, God had sent an all-consuming famine upon the lands of Israel and Sidon. The two peoples had provoked the Most High, the one by renouncing him, and the other by sending forth their queen Jezebel, to teach idolatry in the midst of Israel. God therefore determined to withhold both dew and rain from the polluted lands. But while he did this, he took care that his own chosen ones should be secure. If all the brooks are dry, yet shall there be one reserved for Elijah; and if that should fail, God shall still preserve for him a place of sustenance; nay, not only so, for God had not simply one Elijah, but he had a remnant according to the election of grace, who were hidden by fifties in a cave, and though the whole land was subject to famine, yet these fifties in the cave were fed, and fed from Ahab's table, too, by his faithful, God-fearing steward, Obadiah. Let us from this draw this inference, that come what may God's people are safe. If the world is to be burned with fire, among the ashes there shall not be found the relics of a saint. If the world should again be drowned with water, (as it shall not) yet should there be found another ark for God's Noah. Let convulsions shake the solid earth, let all its pillars tremble, let the skies themselves be rent in twain, yet amid the wreck of worlds the believer shall be as secure as in the calmest hour of rest. If God cannot save his people under heaven, he will save them in heaven. If the world becomes too hot to hold them, then heaven shall be the place of their reception and their safety. Be ye then confident, when ye hear of wars, and rumors of wars. Let no agitation distress you. Whatsoever cometh upon the earth, you, beneath the broad wings of Jehovah, shall be secure. Stay yourself upon his promise, rest ye in his faithfulness, and bid defiance to the blackest future, for there is nothing in it direful for you.
Though, however, I make these few observations by way of preface, this is not the subject of this morning. I propose to take the case of the poor widow of Sarepta as an illustration of divine love, as it manifests itself to man; and I shall have three things for you to notice. First, the object of divine love; secondly, the singular methods of divine love; and, then, in the third place, the undying faithfulness of divine love--"The barrel of meal did not waste, neither did the cruse of oil fail, according to the word of the Lord."
I. In the first place let me speak upon THE OBJECTS OF DIVINE LOVE.
1. And here we remark at the very beginning, how sovereign was the choice. Our Savior himself teaches us when he says, "I tell you of a truth, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elias, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months when great famine was throughout all the land; But unto none of them was Elias sent, save unto Sarepta, a city of Sidon, unto a woman that was a widow." Here was divine sovereignty. When God would make choice of a woman it was not one of his own favored race of Israel, but a poor benighted heathen, sprung from a race who of old had been doomed to be utterly cut off. Here was electing love in one of its sovereign manifestations. Men are always quarrelling with God because he will not submit his will to their dictation. If there could be a God who was not absolute men would think themselves gods, and hence sovereignty is tasted because it humbles the creature, and makes him bow before a Lord, a King, a Master, who will do as he pleases. If God would choose kings and princes, then would men admire his choice. If he would make his chariots stay at the door of nobles, if he would step from his throne and give his mercy only to the great, the wise, and the learned, then might there be heard the shout of praise to a God who thus honored the fine doings of man. But because he chooses to take the base things of this world, the things that are despised, and the things that are not; because he takes these things to bring to nought the things that are, therefore is God hated of men. Yet, know that God hath set apart him that is godly for himself. He hath chosen to himself a people whom he will bring to himself at last, who are his peculiar treasure, the favourites of his choice. But these people are by nature the most unlikely ones upon the face of the whole world. Men to-day sunken in sin, immersed in folly, brutalized, without knowledge, without wit, these are the very ones that God ordains to save. To them he sends the word in its effectual might, and these are plucked like brands from the burning. None can guess the reasons of divine election. This great act is as mysterious as it is gracious. Throughout Scripture we are continually startled with resplendent instances of unlimited sovereignty, and the case of this widow is one among the many. Electing love passes by the thousands of widows that dwelt in God's own land, and it journeys beyond the borders of Canaan, to cherish and preserve a heathen woman of Sarepta.
Some men hate the doctrine of divine Sovereignty; but those who are called by grace love it, for they feel, if it had not been for sovereignty they never would have been saved. Ah, if we are now his people, what was there in any of us to merit the esteem of God? How is it that some of us are converted, while our companions in sin are left to persevere in their godless career? How is it that some of us who were once drunkards, swearers, and the like, are now sitting here to praise the God of Israel this day? Was there anything good in us that moved the heart of God to save us? God forbid that we should indulge the blasphemous thought. There was nothing in us that made us better than others, or more deserving. Sometimes we are apt to think that it was the reverse. There was much in us that might have caused God to pass us by if he had looked to us. And yet, here we are, praising his name. Tell me, ye that deny divine sovereignty, how is it that the publicans and harlots enter into the kingdom of heaven, while the self-righteous Pharisee is shut out? How is it that from the scum and draft of this city, God picks up some of his brightest jewels, while among the learned and philosophic, there are very few that bow the knee to the God of Israel? Tell me, how is it that in heaven there are more servants than masters, more poor than rich, more foolish than learned? What shall we say of this?--"I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in thy sight."
2. But if there be sovereignty in the choice, I cannot omit another thought akin to it. What undeservingness there was in the person! She was no Hannah. I read not that she had smitten the Lord's enemies, like Jael, or had forsaken the gods of her country, like Ruth. She was no more notable than any other heathen. Her idolatry was as vile as theirs, and her mind as foolish and vain as that of the rest of her countrymen. Ah, and in the objects too, of God's love there is nothing whatever that can move his heart to love them; nothing of merit, nothing which could move him to select them. Hark! how the blood-bought ones all sing before the throne. They cast their crowns at the feet of Jehovah, and unitedly say, "Not unto us, not unto us, but unto thy name be all the glory for ever." There is no divided note in heaven upon this matter. Not one spirit in glory will dare to say that he deserved to come there. They were strangers once, and they were sought by grace. They were black, and they were washed in blood. Their hearts were hard, and they were softened by the Spirit. They were dead, and they were quickened by divine life. And all the reasons for this gracious work in and upon them are to be found in the breast of God, and not at all in them. Simple as this truth seems, and lying as it does at the very basement of the gospel system, yet how often is it forgotten! Ah! men and brethren, ye are saying, "I would come to Christ if I had a better character. I think that God would love me if there were some good works, and some redeeming traits in my character." Nay, but hear me, my brother, God loveth not man for anything in man. The saved ones are not saved on account of anything they did; but simply because he will have mercy on whom he will have mercy, and he will have compassion on whom he will have compassion. Thou art in as good a place as say other unregenerate sinner on the face of the earth; why should not God have mercy upon thee? Thy merits or thy demerits have nought to do with the matter. If God intends to bless, he looks not to what thou art. He finds his motive in the depth of his own loving will, and not in thee. Oh! canst thou believe it, that black, and filthy, and diseased, and leprous though thou be, the love of God can shed itself abroad in thy heart? O my trembling hearer! do not despair, for he is able to save unto the very uttermost.
3. In continuing to regard this woman, I want you to notice that her condition was miserable too, in the very last degree. She had not only to suffer the famine which had fallen upon all her neighbors, but her husband was taken from her. He would have shared with her the last morsel that his weary limbs could earn; he would have bidden her lean her head upon his strong and faithful breast, and would have said, "My wife, if there be bread to be had thy mouth shall taste it; if there be water to drink thou shalt not thirst." But alas! he was taken from her, and she was a widow. Besides this, he had left her no inheritance. She had no patrimony, no servant. You learn this from the fact that she had not even firewood. Now, there was no reason why she should not have had that even in time of famine of bread, for there was no famine of wood, unless she had been extremely poor. Such was her extremity that she goes outside the city upon the common lands to pick up a few sticks with which she may cook her meal. She had, you see then, nothing wherewithal to buy bread, for even the fuel she must gather for herself. I told you that her husband had left her nothing, yes, he had left her something; but that something, though much beloved, was but another fountain of trouble to her. He had left her a son, her only son, and this son has now to share her starvation. I believe he was too weak to accompany his mother upon this occasion. They had been so long without food that he could not rise from the bed, or else, good soul, she would have brought him with her, and he could have helped to gathers few sticks. But she had laid him upon the bed, fearing that he might die before she reached her home, knowing that he could not accompany her because his limbs were too feeble to carry the little weight of his own poor emaciated body. And now she has come forth with a double trouble, to gather a handful of sticks to dress her last meal, that she may eat it and die.
Ah, my dear friends, this is just where sovereign grace finds us all--in the depth of poverty and misery. I do not mean, of course, temporal poverty, but I mean spiritual distress. So long as we have a full barrel of our own merits, God will have nothing to do with us. So long as the cruse of oil is full to overflowing, we shall never taste the mercy of God. For God will not fill us until we are emptied of self. Ah, what misery does conviction of sin cause in the breast of the sinner. I have known some so wretched, that all the torments of the inquisition could not equal their agony. If tyrants could invent the knife, the hot irons, the spear, splinters put beneath the nails, and the like, yet could not they equal the torment which some men have felt when under conviction of sin. They have been ready to make an end of themselves. They have dreamed of hell by night, and when they have awakened in the morning it was to feel what they have dreamed. But then it has been in this very time when all their hope was gone, and their misery was come to its utmost extremity, that God looked down in love and mercy on them. Have I such a hearer in this crowd this morning? Have I not one who is smitten in his heart, whose life is blasted, who walks about in the weariness of his spirit, crying, "Oh, that I were gone out of this world, that I might be rid of sin; for oh, my burden presses upon me as though it would sink me to the lowest hell. My sin is like a millstone round my neck and I cannot get rid of it." My hearer, I am glad to hear thee speak thus; I rejoice in thy unhappiness; and that not because I love to see thee miserable, but because this sorrow of thine is a step to everlasting blessedness. I am glad that thou art poor, for there is one that will make thee rich. I am glad that barrel of meal of thine is wasted, for now shall a miracle of mercy be wrought for thee, and thou shalt eat the bread of heaven to the full. I am glad that cruse of oil is gone, for now rivers of love and mercy shall be bestowed on thee. Only believe it. In God's name I assure thee, if thou art brought to extremity God will now appear for thee. Look up, sinner--look away from thyself--look up to God who sits upon the throne, a God of love. But if that be too high for thee, look up sinner to yon cross. He that hangs there died for such as thou art. Those veins were opened for sinners utterly ruined and undone. That agony he suffered was for those who feel an agony of heart like thine. His griefs he meant for the grievers, his mourning made atonement for the mourners. Canst thou now believe the word which is written?--"This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners." Darest thou trust thyself now upon the merits of Christ? Canst thou say, "Sink or swim, my hope is in the cross." Oh, sinner, if God but help thee to do this, thou art a happy man. Thy poverty shall be removed, and like the widow of Sarepta, thou shalt know no lack until the day when God shall take thee up to heaven, where thou shalt be satisfied throughout eternity.
I do not know whether I have made what I intended to state sufficiently clear but what I wanted to bring out is this;--Just as God sent his prophet Elijah out of pure sovereignty to a woman who deserved nothing at his hands, and just as he sent a prophet to her in the time of her greatest misery and sorrow, so is the word of God sent to you, my hearer, this morning, if you are in a similar condition.
II. Now, I come to the second point: THE GRACE OF GOD IN ITS DEALINGS.
I would have you notice first of all, that the love of God towards this woman in its dealings was of the most singular character, You will notice that the first word this poor woman heard from the God of Israel was one which rather robbed her than made her rich. It was this: "Fetch me, I pray thee, a little water in a vessel that I may drink." It was taking something from that already much-diminished store. And then on the heels of that there came another: "Bring me, I pray thee, a morsel of bread in thine hand." This was rather demanding than bestowing. And yet singular it is, this is just the way sovereign mercy deals with men. It is an apparent demand rather than an open gift. For what does God say to us when first he speaks? He says this: "Repent and be converted every one of you, in the name of the Lord Jesus." "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved." But saith the soul, "I cannot repent, it is beyond my power; I cannot believe--I would that I could believe--but this is beyond my reach. And has God asked me to exert a strength which I have not? Does he demand that of me which I cannot give? I thought that he gave; I did not know that he asked of me." Ay but soul, notice what this woman did in obedience to the command. She went and fetched the water, and she brought the morsel of bread; and the water was not diminished by what she gave, and the bread itself was increased in the spending of it. When God saith to the sinner, "Believe," if that sinner believeth, it is not by his own power, but by grace which goes with the command. But the sinner does not know that at first. He thinks that he believes: he thinks that he repents. Why, I do not believe that the meal which the woman brought to the prophet was any meal of hers: it was meal taken out of her store, and yet not taken out of it; it was meal given her by miracle--the first installment of miraculous provision. And so if thou believest, thou wilt say, "I have believed." Yes it was taken out of your barrel, but still it was not your believing, it was an; act of faith wrought in you. Here is a poor man with a withered arm: he wants to have that restored. Now, you will imagine that the first thing Christ will say to him will be, "Man, I will make thy withered arm alive; I will once more nerve it so that thou shalt have power to lift it." Nay, he does not say any such thing. But before he gives the man the power he says to him, "Stretch out thy hand!" Suppose he had cried out, "Sir, I cannot;" his withered arm would have hung dangling at his side till he died. But instead of that the command came; the man had the will to obey, and suddenly he had the power, for he stretched out his withered hand. What! say you, did he stretch out that hand of his own might! No, and yet he was commanded to do it. And so if you are willing to believe, if now your hearts say, "I would believe, I would repent," the power shall come with the will, and the withered hand shall be stretched out.
I do preach continually the exhortation and the command. I am not ashamed to say with the prophet Ezekiel, "Ye dry bones live! ye dead souls live." If this is esteemed unsound doctrine, I shall be yet more heretical. "Man cannot do it; why tell him to do it?" Why simply as an exercise of faith. If I tell a man to do what he can do, anybody can tell him that; but God's servant tells him to do what he cannot do, and the man does it; for God honors the command of his servant, and gives the strength with the command. To sinners dead in sin the cry is given this morning: "Do you want salvation? Believe on Christ. Would you have your sins forgiven? Look to him." Oh! do not answer, "I cannot believe, I cannot look." Instead thereof, may the Spirit of God incline your mind, so that you may say, "I will believe," and then you will believe. O may you say, "I will repent." and then you will repent. And though it be not your own strength, it will be a strength given so instantly upon the moment that you for a time will not know whether it is your strength or God's strength, until you get further advanced in the divine life, and then you will discover that all the strength from first to last is of God. I say that the dealings of divine grace with this woman are to be looked upon as extremely singular in that light. And yet they are but the type and the model of the dealings of God with all whom he saves.
3. Now, the next point. The dealings of love with this poor woman were not only singular, but exceedingly trying. The first thing she hears is a trial: Give away some of that water which thy son and thyself so much require! Give away a portion of that last little cake which ye intended to eat and die! Nay, all through the piece it was a matter of trial, for there never was more in the barrel than there was at the first. There was a handful at night, and a handful the next morning; but there never were two handfuls there at a time. To the very last there was nothing but just a little oil in the cruse. Whenever she looked at it, there was only a little glazing of oil to spread upon the meal cakes. The cruse was never full, there was not a drop more in it than there was at first. So that this woman the first time she had eaten the meal out of the barrel, might have thought to herself, "Well, I have breakfasted in a most extraordinary manner, but where shall I find food at noon." But when she went there was just one handful more. She took that out and prepared it, and unbelief would have whispered, "But there will be none at eventide." But, however, when night came there was just enough for the hour. The barrel never filled, and yet it never emptied. The store was little, but it was always sufficient for the day.
Now, if God saves us, it will be a trying matter. All the way to heaven, we shall only get there by the skin of our, teeth. We shall not go to heaven sailing along with sails swelling to the breeze, like sea birds with their white wings but we shall proceed full often with sails rent to ribbons, with masts creaking, ands the ship's pumps at work both by night and day. We shall reach the city at the shutting of the gate, but not an hour before. O believer, thy Lord will bring thee safe to the end of thy pilgrimage; but mark, thou wilt never have one particle of strength to waste in wantonness upon the road. There will be enongh to get thee up the hill Difficulty, but only enough then by climbing on your hands and knees. You will have strength enough to fight Apollyon, but when the battle is over your arm will have no strength remaining. Your trials will be so many, that if you had only one trial more, it would be like the last ounce that breaks the camel's back, But, nevertheless, though God's love should thus try you all the journey through, your faith will bear the trying, for while God dashes you down to the earth with one hand in providence, he will lift you up with the other in grace. You will have consolation and affliction weighed out in equal degree, ounce for ounce, and grain for grain; you will be like the Israelite in the wilderness, if you gather much manna, you will have nothing over; while blessed be God, if you gather little you shall have no lack. You shall have daily grace for daily trials.
From this interesting topic, I turn to another that is not less so. Although the Lord's dealings with this woman of Sarepta were very trying, yet they were very wise. Ye ask me--Why did not God give her a granary full of meal at once, and a vat full of oil instanter? I will tell you. It was not merely because of God's intent to try her, but there was wisdom here. Suppose he had given her a granary full of meal, how much of it would have been left by the next day? I question whether any would have remained, for in days of famine men are sharp of scent, and it would soon have been noised about the city, "The old widow woman who lives in such-and-such a street, has a great store of food." Why, they would have caused a riot, and robbed the house, and perhaps, have killed the woman and her son. She would have been despoiled of her treasure, and in four and twenty hours the barrel of meal would have been as empty as it was at first, and the cruse of oil would have been spilled upon the ground. What has that to do with us? Just this if the Lord should give us more grace than we want for the day, we should have all the devils in hell trying to rob us. We have enough to do, as it is, to fight with Satan. But what an uproar there would be! We should have tens of thousands of enemies pouncing upon our stock of grace, and we should have to defend our stock against all these assailants. Now, I think while it is good for us to have a little ready money on hand, to let our real sterling property remain in the hands of our great Banker above. Should thieves break in, as they often do, and steal my evidences and take away my comforts--they only take a few loose coppers, that I have in the house for convenience, they cannot steal my real treasure, for it is secured in a golden casket, the key of which swings at the girdle of the Lord Jesus Christ. Better for you to have an inheritance preserved in heaven for you, than to have it given to you to take care of for yourself; for you would soon lose it and become as poor as ever.
Besides, there was another reason why this woman had not her meal given to her all at once. Any meal-man knows that meal will not keep in great quantities. It soon breeds a peculiar kind of worm, and after a little while it grows musty, and no person would think of eating it. Now, grace is just of the same character. If you have a stock of grace, it breeds a worm called pride. Perhaps you may have seen that worm. It is a very prolific one. I find whenever I have a little extra stock of gifts, or grace, that this worm is sure to breed in the meal, and then soon it begins to smell musty, and is only fit for the dunghill. If we had more grace than we want, it would be like the manna of old, which when it was laid up, bred worms and stank. Besides, how much better it would be, even if it would keep, to have it fresh and fresh every day. Oh, to have the bread of heaven hot from heaven's oven every day! To have the water out of the rock, not as sailors have it in the casks for a long sea voyage, where the sweetest water ferments, and passes through many stages of decay; but, oh, to have it every hour trickling through the divine rock! to have it fresh from the divine fountain every moment, this is to have a happy life indeed.
This woman need never regret having nothing but a handful on hand, for she had thus the greater inducement to be frequent in her pleadings with God. After she had taken out a handful of meal, I think I see her lifting up her streaming eyes and saving, "Great God, it is now two years since for the first time I put the hand of faith into this barrel, and now every morning, and every noon, and every night, I have done the same, and I have never lacked. Glory be unto the God of Israel!" I think I see her praying as she went:--"Oh, Lord, shut not up the bowels of thy compassion. Thou hast dealt well with thy poor servant, and fed her this many a year. Grant that the barrel may not fail me now, for I have no stock in hand; grant that there may be a handful still to spare--always enough, always all that my necessities can require." Do you not see that she was thus brought into constant contact with God. She had more reasons for prayer, and more reasons for gratitude, than if she had received the blessing at once. This is one, reason why God does not give you grace to spare. He will have you come to him every day, nay, every hour. "Are you not glad of the plea? You can say each time you come, "Lord, here's a needy beggar at the door, it is not an idle man that is giving a runaway knock at the door of prayer, but, Lord, I am a needy soul: I want a blessing and I come."
I repeat it, the daily journey to the well of mercy is good for us. The hand of faith is blessed by the exercise of knocking at the gate. "Give us this day our daily bread" is a right good prayer; O for grace to use it daily with our Father who is in heaven!
Now, what is the drift of all this? Just this: among the thousands of letters that I continually receive from my congregation, I meet with this very common question:--"Oh, Sir, I feel such little faith, such little life, such little grace in my heart, that I am inclined to think I shall never hold out to the end, and sometimes I am afraid I am not a child of God at all." Now, my dear friend, if you want an explanation of this it is to be found in the text. You shall have just enough to carry you through your trials, but you shall have no faith to spare. You shall have just enough grace in your heart to keep you living day after day in the fear of God, but you shall have none to sacrifice to your boasting and yield to your own pride. I am glad to hear you say that you feel your spiritual poverty; for when we know ourselves to be poor, then we are rich, but when we think that we are rich and increased in goods, then we are naked, and poor, and miserable, and are in a sad plight indeed. Oh, I want you to remember for your comfort, that though you have never two handfuls of meal in the barrel at a time, yet there will never be less than one handful; that though you will never have a double quantity of oil at one time, yet there will always be the requisite quantity. There will be nothing over, but there shall be none lacking. So take this for your comfort, as your days so shall your strength be; as your needs so shall your grace be; as the demands of your necessity, such shall be the supply of God's mercy. The cup shall be full if it does not flow over, and the stream shall always run, even though it is not always brimming the banks.
III. I conclude by bringing you to the point upon which I shall dwell but briefly--for I pray that your life may be a far fuller sermon on this text than I can hope to preach--THE FAITHFULNESS OF DIVINE LOVE. "The barrel of meal wasted not, neither did the cruse of oil fail, according to the word of the Lord. which he spake by Elijah." You will observe that this woman had daily necessities. She had three mouths to feed; she had her herself, her son, and the prophet Elijah. But though the need was threefold, yet the supply of meal wasted not. Boys have large appetites, and no doubt her son very speedily devoured that first little cake. As for Elijah himself, he had walked no less a distance than one hundred miles; all weary with his journey, you may consider that he had a considerable appetite also; whilst she herself, having been long subjected to starvation, would doubtless feed to the full. But though their necessities were very great at the first, yet the barrel of meal wasted not. Each day she made calls upon it, but yet each day it remained the same. Now brethren, you have daily necessities. Because they come so frequently--because your trials are so many, your troubles so innumerable, you are apt to conceive that the barrel of meal will one day be empty, and the cruse of oil will fail you. But rest assured that according to the Word of God this shall not be the case. Each day, though it bring its trouble shall bring its help; though it bring its temptation it shall bring its succor; though it bring its need it shall bring its supply; and though day come after day, if you should live to outnumber the years of Methuselah, and though troubles come after troubles till your tribulations are like the waves of the sea, yet shall God's grace and mercy last through all your necessities, and you shall never know a lack. For three long years the heavens never saw a cloud, and the stars never wept the holy tears of dew upon the wicked earth; for three long years the women fainted in the streets, and devoured their own offspring for straitness of bread; for three long years the mourners went about the streets, wan, and weary, like skeletons following corpses to the tomb; but this woman never was hungry, never knew a lack; always supplied, always joyful in abundance. So shall it be with you. You shall see the sinner die, for he trusts his native strength; you shall see the proud Pharisee totter, for he builds his hope upon the sand; you shall see even your own schemes blasted and withered, but you yourself shall find that your place of defense shall be the munition of rocks; your bread shall be given you, and your water shall be sure. The staff on which you lean shall never break; the arm on which you repose shall never be palsied; the eye that looks on you shall never wax dim; the heart that loves you shall never grow weary; and the hand that supplies you shall never be weak. Do you not remember a time in your experience, not long ago, when you came to your wits' end? You said, "I shall surely fall by the hands of the enemy." Have you fallen? Are you not still preserved? Look back I pray you. It is not many months ago since business was running so dead against you, that you said, "I must give it up; ever since I have known the Lord I have had more trials than ever I had before." Have you given it up? You have gone through fires; let me ask you, have you been burnt? has there been a hair of your head singed? You have walked through waters--and deep waters have they been--have you been drowned? You said you should be, but have you? Have the water floods overflowed you? When all God's waves and God's billows had rolled over you, were you destroyed? Did they wash out your hope? Did your confidence give way? You once went down, as it were, into a very sea of trouble, and you thought you would have been drowned therein like Egypt of old. Did not the water-floods divide before you? did not the depths stand upright as a heap, and were not the floods congealed in the heart of the sea? You have had high mountains in your path, and you hare said, "I can never traverse this road, the mountains are too steep." But have you not climbed them, and let me ask you have you not been benefited by the climb? When you have stood upon their hoary summit, has not the view of your knowledge become wider? has not the breath of your prayer become purer, and freer? Say ye, have not your visits to the cold mountains of affliction strengthened you, and braced you for more glorious efforts than before? Now, then, let the past console the future. Snatch a torch from the altars of the past, and re-kindle the dying embers of to-day. He that has been with you in time past, will not leave you in time to come. He is God; he changeth not, he will not forsake you. He is God; he lieth not, he cannot leave you. He has sworn by himself, because he can swear by no greater, so that by two immutable things--his oath and his promise--we might have strong consolation, who have fled to the refuge to lay hold of the hope that is set before us. Though the barrel of meal hold but a scanty supply, though the cruse of oil contain but a drop, that meal shall last thee to the end, that cruse of oil, miraculously multiplied, hour by hour, shall be sufficient until thou shalt gather up thy feet in the bed, and with good old Jacob, end thy life with a song, praising and blessing the angel that hath redeemed thee out of all evil.
Now, having thus addressed myself to the children of God, I hope to their comfort, I wish to say just a word or two to those whom I have come here with the hope of blessing this morning--those of you who know nothing of the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. What would you think of the condition of the man who can say, and say truly too, without a blush or stammer, "I know that I am the object of God's eternal love; I know that he has put all my sins behind his back, and that I stand before him as accepted and as much beloved as if I had never sinned." What would you say if that man could confidently add, "I know that this shall be my position in time and in eternity. God so loves me that he cannot cease to love me. He will preserve me whatever be my troubles or temptations, and I shall see his face, and shall rejoice in his love eternally." Why, you answer, "If I could say that, I would give all that I am worth; if I were worth a thousand worlds I would give them all to say that." Is it, then, an unattainable thing? Is it so high beyond your reach? I tell you, and the witness that I bear is true, there are tens of thousands of men on the face of God's earth that enjoy this state. Not always can they say as much, but still they enjoy it year after year continually. There are some of us that know what it is to have no doubt as to our eternal state. At times we tremble, but at other times we can say "I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed to him unto that day." Again I hear you say, "Would to God I could say that." Well, my dear hearer, it is possible that thou shalt say it ere long; nay, to-night it may be, ere sleep shall close thy eyelets thou mayest be among the happy men. "No," saith one, "but I am the chief of sinners." Yes, but Christ is the Savior of the chief of sinners. "Nay," says another, "but my character is so had, my disposition is so evil." The Holy Ghost can change your disposition, can renew your will, and make you a new man in Christ." "Well," says a third, "I can understand that I may be pardoned, but I cannot think that I shall ever know it." That is the glory of the religion of Christ, that he not only forgives, but he tells you so: he sheds abroad in your heart a sweet consciousness of acceptance in him; so that you know better than if an angel could tell you, that you are now one of the family of God, that all your sins are gone, and that every good thing is yours by an eternal covenant. Again, saith a fourth, "I would that I could have it." Well, sinner, it is in thy way. Dost thou feel and know thyself to be undeserving, ill-deserving, and hell-deserving? Then all that is asked of thee is that thou wouldst simply confess thy sin to God; acknowledge that thou hast been guilty, and then cast thyself flat on thy face before the cross of Christ. He is able to save thee, sinner, for he is able to save to the very uttermost all that come unto God by him.
May God the Holy Spirit now send the word home, and may some who have been poor as the widow of Sarepta, now find a miraculous supply of grace through Jesus Christ our Lord! Amen.