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46. Good Cheer for the Needy
For the needy shall not always be forgotten; the expectation of the poor shall not perish for ever. Psalm 9:18
The practical value of a text very much depends upon the man to
whom it comes The song of the troubadour was charming to
Richard Coeur-de-Lion because he knew the responsive verses.
The trail is full of meaning to the Indian, for his quick eye knows
how to follow it; it would not mean a tithe as much to a white man. The sight of
the lighthouse is cheering to the mariner, for from it he gathers his where-
abouts. So will those who are spiritually poor and needy eagerly lay hold on this
promise, prize it, and live upon it with content.
It is literally true that the needy are remembered of God, and though they
may be overlooked by man's laws, the Lord will rectify that error at the last. In
better times also he will so order governments that they shall look with peculiar interest upon the poor. Using the text spiritually we see:
I. TWO BITTER EXPERIENCES ENDED.
1. "The needy shall not always be forgotten." You have been forgotten
- By former friends and admirers.
- In arrangements made, and plans projected.
- In judgments formed, and in praises distributed.
- In help estimated, and reliance expressed.
In fact, you have not been a factor in the calculation; you have been forgotten as a dead man out of mind. This has wounded you deeply, for there was a time when you were consulted among the first.
This will not be so always.
2."The expectation of the poor shall not perish for ever" You have been disappointed,
- In your natural expectation from justice, gratitude, relationship, age, sympathy, charity, etc.
- In your confidence in man.
- In your judgment of yourself.
- In your expectations of providence.
This disappointment shall only be temporary. Your expectation shall not perish for ever: you shall yet receive more than you expected.
II. TWO SAD FEARS REMOVED, FEARS WHICH ARE NORMALLY
SUGGESTED BY WHAT YOU HAVE ALREADY EXPERIENCED.
1. Not for ever shall you be forgotten,
2. Nor shall your expectation perish,
- You shall not meet with final forgetfulness
- In the day of severe trouble.
- In the night of grief and alarm for sin.
- In the hour of death.
III. TWO SWEET PROMISES GIVEN.
1. "Not always be forgotten;" you shall not be overlooked:
- Your weakness shall not frustrate the power of God.
- Your sin shall not dry up the grace of God.
- Your constitutional infirmities shall not cause your overthrow.
- Your future trials shall not be too much for you.
- In the arrangements of providence.
- At the mercy-seat, when you are pleading.
- From the pulpit, and in the Word, when your soul is hungering.
- At the Breaking of Bread, when you long for communion with your Lord.
- In your sufferings and service, when to be thought of by the Lord will be your main consolation.
- By the angels, or by any other spiritual agencies.
- By the Father, Son, or Holy Ghost.
2. "Expectation shall not perish for ever." You shall not be disappointed
- Peace shall visit your heart.
- Sin shall be vanquished without and within.
- Mercy shall deliver in trial and out of trial.
- Assurance shall be gained, and all its strong confidence.
- Eminent joys shall be obtained, and an abundant entrance into glory.
- Let the poor man hope in God.
- Let him feast on the future if he find the present to be scant.
- Above all, let him rest in the promise of a faithful God.
The pain of being forgotten is forcibly expressed in the words ascribed by Cowper to Alexander Selkirk in his solitude,
My friends, do they now and then send
A wish or a thought after me?
O tell me I yet have a friend
Though a friend I am never to see.
An aged Christian, lying, on his death-bed in a state of such extreme weakness that he was often entirely unconscious of all around him, was asked the cause of his perfect peace. He replied,"When I am able to think, I think of Jesus; and when I am unable to think of him, I know he is thinking of me."
Thirty years ago, before the Lord caused me to wander from my father's house and from my native place, I put my mark upon this passage in Isaiah: "Thou shalt know that I am the Lord" (Isa. 49:23.) Of the many books I now possess, the Bible that bears this mark is the only one that belonged to me at that time. It now lies before me, and I find that, although the hair which then was dark as night has meanwhile become as sable silvered, the ink which marked this text has grown into intensity of blackness as the time advanced, corresponding with, and in fact recording, the growing intensity of the conviction that "they shall not be ashamed" who wait for Thee. I believed it then, but I know it now, and I can write "Probatum est" with my whole heart over against the symbol which that mark is to me of my ancient faith .... Under many perilous circumstances, in many most trying scenes, amid faintings within and fears without, and under tortures that rend the heart, and troubles that crush it down, I have waited for Thee, and lo I stand this day as One not ashamed Dr. John Kitto
In choosing a minister, and in all other church acts, let us be sure to remember the poor of the flock; they should, in fact, have double consideration, for the Lord would not have them to be overlooked. Do not let them suppose that they are forgotten.
Let us beware of disappointing a needy person. He sets great store by a promise when he greatly needs the help, and if it does not come in due time it causes him sharp distress. Let us never disappoint one of the Lord's poor, for the Lord will never do so himself.
What recompenses there will be in the eternal state, and what changes of position! Reputations will have a resurrection as well as bodies. Dishonor and neglect shall be rewarded with glory and honor. Disappointment through unjust withholding shall be doubly repaid by surprises of unlooked-for happiness. The wheel will turn, and that part of it which touched the dust shall mount aloft. Those words, "not always;' are a wonderful abatement to present ingratitude, and those, "not for ever," are an equal solarium under this life's trials.
Charles Hadden Spurgeon
47. Revelation and Conversion
The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. Psalm 19:7
Trees are known by their fruit, and books by their effect upon the mind. It is not the elegance of its diction but the excellence of its influence by which a book is to be estimated.
By "the law of the Lord" David means the whole revelation of God, as far as it had been given in his day; but his remark is equally true of all that God has since been pleased to speak by his Spirit.
This holy law may be judged of by its effect upon our own selves; It touches man's very soul, with the best conceivable result; and hence the Psalmist speaks of it in the most eulogistic manner as both perfect and sure. Its effects prove it to be complete and certain.
I. THE WORK OF THE WORD OF GOD IN CONVERSION.
Not apart from the Spirit, but as it is used by the Spirit for diverse ends, all needful to salvation.
1. To convince men of sin: they see what perfection is, that God demands it, and that they are far from it.
5. To bring the heart nearer and nearer to God. Emotions of love, desires for holiness, devotion, self-searching, love to men, humility, etc. these are all excited, sustained, and perfected in the heart by the Word of God.
6. To restore the soul when it has wandered. Renewing tenderness, hope, love, joy, etc., by its gentle reminders.
7. To perfect the nature. The highest flights of holy enjoyment are not above or beyond the Word. Nothing is purer or more elevated than Holy Scripture. The Word also slays all sin, promotes ffery virtue, prepares for every duty, etc.
II. THE EXCELLENCE OF THIS WORK DONE BY THE WORD.
2. To drive men from false methods of seeking salvation, to bring them to self-despair, and to shut them up to God's method of saving them.
3. To reveal the way of salvation, by grace, through Christ, by faith.
4. To enable the soul to embrace Christ as its all in all. By setting forth promises and invitations, which are opened up to the understanding and sealed to the heart, etc.
The operations of grace by the Word are altogether good and not evil; and they are timed and balanced with infinite discretion. The Word of the Lord works marvelously, perfectly, and surely.
1. It removes despair without quenching repentance.
III. THE CONSEQUENT EXCELLENCE OF THE WORD.
l. We need not add to it if we would secure conversion in any special case, or on the largest scale.
2. Gives pardon, but does not create presumption.
3. Gives rest, but excites the soul to progress.
4. Breathes security, but engenders watchfulness.
5. Bestows strength and holiness, but begets no boasting.
6. Gives harmony to duties, emotions, hopes, and enjoyments.
7. Brings the man to live for God, before God. and with God; and yet makes him none the less fitted for the daily duties of life.
2. We need not keep back any doctrine for fear of damping the flame of a true revival.
3. We need not extraordinary gifts with which to preach it: the Word will do its own work.
4. We have but to follow the Word to be converted. It would be useless to run after new doctrine in the hope of being more powerfully affected. The old is better, and nothing better than the old Gospel can be imagined. It fits a man's needs as a key fits a lock.
5. We have but to keep to it to become truly wise: wise as the aged, wise as necessity requires, wise as the age, wise as eternity demands, wise with the wisdom of Christ.
- Cling to the Scripture.
- Study the whole revelation of God.
- Use it as your chief instrument in all holy service.
A remarkable proof that the Bible is its own witness is given by a writer from Oporto, who records the following reply of a man he met crouching in a ditch, to an inquiry as to what book he was reading:-"Well, if you won't betray me, I acknowledge that this is a New Testament. I bought it of a man who was selling such books, and determined to know something of its contents. I dare not tell anybody that I have it, not even my wife. So I have no one to teach me. Yet it is not difficult to understand, for as I read it makes itself plain to me."
"The process of enlightenment in many Romanist minds," says an observer, "is shadowed forth by the experience of one whom I saw but last week. He sat down to read the Bible an hour each evening with his wife. In a few evenings he stopped in the midst of his reading, and said 'Wife, if this book is true, we are wrong.' He read on, and in a few days longer, said, 'Wife, if this book is true, we are lost.' Riveted to the book, and deeply anxious, he still read, and in a week more joyfully exclaainled, 'Wife, if this book is true, we may be saved.' A few weeks more reading, and taught by the Spirit of God through the exhortations and instructions of a City Missionary, they both placed their faith in Christ, and are now rejoicing in hope." Christian Treasury
I have many books that I cannot sit down to read; they are, indeed, good and sound, but, like halfpence, there goes a great quantity to a small amount; there are silver books, and a very few golden books; but I have one book worth them all, called the Bible. John Newton
It is the Book of God. What if I should
Say, God of Books?
Let him that looks
Angry at that expression, as too bold,
His thoughts in silence smother
Till he find such another.
The longer I live the higher is my estimate of an expository ministry, embracing the whole Word of God. I have on purpose tried certain truths to see if they will produce conversion, and I have not failed in any case. Outlying doctrines meet with certain outlying minds which could not be reached by the usual range of teaching. What would seem to be the eccentricities of truth are all needed for impressing eccentric conditions of thought and heart. I prayerfully preached the Resurrection and many were raised to spiritual life; I preached divine sovereignty when a revival was in full swing and it deepened and continued the work. The omission of certain truths from certain ministries may account for their barrenness. O that ministers would believe that the Word needs no improving, but is already perfect, "converting the soul"; and that it requires no suiting to the times, for it still makes wise the simple.
If there is any knowledge fully in our possession, it is certainly that which comes to us by experience. That a certain material will float in the water may be proved by a knowledge of its specific gravity; but we will feel more fully assured of the fact if we have seen it tried, and we will regard our answer to an objector, "1 have seen it floating in water frequently," as simply sufficient to silence all objections. Ay, we will regard such a statement as fully more conclusive than, "It must float, for its specific gravity is lighter than water." On this same principle-and it is the principle of common sense-how fully we can prove that the Bible is the Word of God! Yes, every Christian carries the proof with him in his own experience. A poor Italian woman, a fruit-seller, had received the Word of God in her heart, and became persuaded of the truth of it. Seated at her modest stall at the head of a bridge she made use of every moment in which she was unoccupied in her small traffic, in order to study the sacred volume. "What are you reading there, my good woman?" said a gentleman one day, as he came up to the stall to purchase some fruit. "It is the Word of God;' replied the fruit-vendor. "The Word of God! Who told you that? .... He told me so Himself." "Have you ever spoken with Him, then?" The poor woman felt a little embarrassed, more especially as the gentleman insisted on her giving him some proof of what she believed. Unused to discussion, and feeling greatly at a loss for arguments, she at length exclaimed, looking upward, "Can you prove to me, sir, that there is a sun up if the sky? .... Prove it!" he replied. "Why, the best proof is that it warms me, and that I can see its light." "So it is with me," she replied joyously; "the proof of this Book's being the Word of God is that it warms and lights my soul" Bertram's Homiletic Encyclopedia
McCheyne somewhere says "Depend upon it; it is God's word, not man's comment on God's word, which converts souls." I have frequently observed that this is the case. A discourse has been the means of conviction or of decision; but usually upon close inquiry I have found that the real instrument was a scripture quoted by the preacher. A large fruit may contain and nourish a tiny seed; when the fruit falls into the ground and the shoot springs up, the real life was in the central pip, and not in the juicy fruit which encompassed it. So the divine truth is the living and incorruptible seed: the sermon is as needful as the apple to its pip; but still the vitality, the energy, the saving power, was in the pip of the Word, and only in a minor sense in the surrounding apple of human exposition and exhortation.
Charles Hadden Spurgeon
48. Salus Jehovae
But the salvation of the righteous is of the Lord. Psalm 37:39
Salvation is a very large term, and describes the whole life of true believers-their whole experience, from their first consciousness of the ruin of the fall to their entrance into glory. They feel their need of being perpetually saved from self, sin, Satan, and the world. They trust in God for preservation, and their end is peace (verse 37).
The prosperous sinner is on another tack, and comes to another conclusion: he disowns all need of salvation, and considers his success to be of his own winning. Alas, there comes to him a turning of the tables before long; according to the preceding verse: "The transgressors shall be destroyed together; the end of the wicked shall be cut off." God is not with the unrighteous; they have neither safety, nor strength, nor salvation in their time of trouble.
Our text contains a broad statement, of which we may say,
I. THIS IS THE ESSENCE OF SOUND DOCTRINE.
The salvation of the righteous is of the Lord, even of the Triune Jehovah,
Father, Son and Holy Ghost in:
1. The planning.
2. The providing.
3. The beginning.
4. The carrying on.
5. The completion.
II. THIS IS A NECESSARY FACT. The saints recognize it; for
1. Their inward conflicts make them know that God alone must work salvation. They are too fickle and feeble to save themselves.
2. Their outward temptations drive them to the same conclusion. They are well kept whom God keeps, but none else.
3. The world's hate drives them away from all hope in that quarter. God is greater than a world in arms.
4. Their daily trials and afflictions would crush them if Omnipotence did not sustain them. Only God's grace can be all-sufficient.
5. The perishing of hypocrites is a sad proof of how little man can do. Temporary believers perish like blossoms which never knit to fruit, and therefore fall from the tree.
III. THIS IS A SWEET CONSOLATION. This truth, that unto God the Lord belongeth the salvation of his saints, acts graciously,:
1. Leading them to solid trust.
2. Exciting them to believing prayer.
3. Urging them to look out of self.
4. Inspiring them with great thoughts of God, and
5. Leading them to offer adoring praise unto their Redeemer.
IV. THIS IS A REASON FOR HUMILITY.
1. It strips the righteous of all pride in the fact of their being saved.
2. Of all exultation in self because they continue in their integrity.
3. Of all undue censure of the fallen; for they themselves would have failed, had not the Lord upheld them.
4. Of all self-confidence as to the future, since their weakness is inherent and abiding.
5. Of all self-glorying, even in heaven, since in all things they are debtors to sovereign grace.
V. THIS IS A FRUITFUL GROUND OF HOPE.
1. In reference to our own difficulties: God can give us deliverance.
2. In reference to our tried brethren: the Lord can sustain, sanctify, and deliver them.
3. In reference to seeking souls: we may leave their cases in the Savior's hands. He is able to save to the uttermost.
4. In reference to sinners: they cannot be too degraded, obstinate, ignorant, or false; God can work salvation even in the worst.
"Salvation is of the Lord." This is the sum of Jonah's discourse; one word for all; the very moral of his history. The mariners might have written upon their ship, instead of Castor and Pollux, or the like device, "Salvation is the Lord's," the Ninevites in the next chapter might have written upon their gates, "Salvation is the Lord's," and all mankind, whose cause is pitted and pleaded by God against the hardness of Jonah's heart, might have written in the palms of their hands, "Salvation is the Lord's." It is the argument of both the Testaments, the staff and support of heaven and earth They would both sink, and all their joints be severed, if the salvation of the Lord were not. The birds in the air sing no other note, the beasts in the field give no other voice than Salus Jehovah, Salvation is the Lord's .... And "what shall I more say?" as the Apostle asked (Heb. 11 ) when he had spoken much, and there was much more behind, but time failed him. Rather, what should I not say? for the world is my theater at this time, and I neither think nor can feign to myself anything that hath not dependence upon this acclamation, Salvation is the Lord's. King on Jonah
Thus the saints hold heaven. Not by conquest, but by heritage. Won by another arm than their own, it presents the strongest imaginable contrast to the spectacle in England's palace that day when the King demanded to know of his assembled nobles by what title they held their lands? What title! At the rash question a hundred swords leapt from their scabbards. Advancing on the alarmed monarch, "By these," they said, "we won, and by these will keep them?' How different the scene which heaven presents! All eyes are turned on Jesus with looks of love; gratitude glows in every bosom, and swells every song; now with golden harps they sound his praise; and now, descending from their thrones to do him homage, they cast their crowns in one glittering heap at the feet which were nailed on Calvary. From this scene, learn in whose name to seek salvation, and through whose merits to hope for it; and with a faith in harmony with the worship of the skies, be this your language: "Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto thy name give glory." Dr. Guthrie
"This brook will soon run dry," said one. "Nay," quoth his fellow, "it flows from a living spring, which was never known to fail in summer or in winter?' A man was reputed to be very rich by those who saw his expensive houses, and horses, and charges; but there were others who judged that his name would soon be in the Gazette, for he had no capital. "There is nothing at the back of it,"
said one, and the saying meant much. Now, the believer has the eternal deep for his spring of supply, and the all-sufficiency of God as the substance of his wealth. What cause has he to fear?
If salvation were partly of God and partly of man it would be as sorry an affair as that image of Nebuchadnezzar's dream, which was part of iron and part of clay. It would end in a break-down. If our dependence were upon Jesus in a measure, and our own works in some degree, our foundation would be partly on the rock and partly on the sand, and the whole structure would fall. O to know the full meaning of the words, "Salvation is of the Lord"?
Experience alone can beat this truth into men's minds. A man will lie broken at the foot of the precipice, every bone dislocated by the fall, and yet hope to save himself. Piles of sin will fall upon him and bury him, and yet his self-trust will live. Mountains of actual transgression will overwhelm him, and yet he will stir himself to self-confident effort, working like the Cyclops with Etna heaped upon them. Crushed to atoms, every particle of our nature reeks with conceit. Ground to powder, our very dust is pungent with pride. Only the Holy Ghost can make a man receive that humbling sentence "Salvation is of the Lord."
Charles Hadden Spurgeon