CONCERNING THE COLLEGE BY C. H. SPURGEON.
HE Pasting’ College has now entered on its fourteenth year, and during this long period has unceasingly been remembered of the God of heaven, to whom all engaged in it offer reverent thanksgiving. When it was commenced I had not even a remote idea of whereunto it would grow.
There were springing up around me, as my own spiritual children, many earnest young men who felt an irresistible impulse to preach the gospel, and yet with half an eye it could be seen that their want of education would be a sad hindrance to them. It was not in my heart to bid them cease their preaching; respect for the liberty of prophecying prevented that, neither would my advice to be silent, if I had felt it right to tender such an admonition, have availed with my zealous young brethren; they would respectfully but conscientiously have ignored my recommendation. As it seemed that preach they would, though their attainments were very slender, there appeared to be no other course open, but to give them an opportunity to educate themselves for the work.
The Holy Spirit very evidently had set his seal upon the work of one of them by certain conversions wrought under his open-air.addresses, it seemed therefore to be a plain matter of duty to instruct this youthful Apollos still further, that he might be fitted for wider usefulness. No college at that time appeared to me to be suitable for the class of men that the providence and grace of God drew around me. They were mostly poor, and most of the colleges involved necessarily a considerable outlay to the student, for even where the education was free, books, clothes, and other incidental expenses required a considerable sum per annum. Want of money therefore was a barrier in that direction. Men with every other qualification would be deprived of an education for want of money.
Moreover, it must be frankly admitted that my views of the gospel and of the mode of training preachers were and are somewhat different from those which I believed to sway the then existing Dissenting colleges. I may have been uncharitable in my judgment, but I thought the Calvinism of the theology then taught to be very doubtful, and the fervor of the generality of students to be far behind their literary attainments. I pronounce no such verdict at this present, it is not.mine to judge; but at that time it seemed to me that preachers of the grand old truths of the gospel, ministers suitable for the masses, were more likely to be found in an institution where preaching and divinity would be the main objects, and not degrees, and other insignia of human learning. Mine was a peculiar work, and I felt that without interfering with the laudable objects of other colleges, I could do good in my own way. By these and other considerations I felt led to take a few tried young men, and to put them under some able minister that he might train them in the Scriptures, and in all other knowledge helpful to the understanding and proclamation of the truth. This step appeared plain, but how the work was to be conducted and supported was the question — a question, be it added, solved almost before it occurred.
Two friends, Mr. Winser and Mr. W. Olney, both deacons of the church, promised aid, which with what I could give myself, enabled me to take one student, and I set about to find a tutor. My dear departed brother, Jonathan George, told me that I should find in Mr. George Rogers, then the pastor of the Independent Church, Albany Road, Camberwell, the very man I wanted. I saw him, and in the providence of God it had been so appointed that the work suggested was precisely what he had been preparing for for years, and was anxiously hoping would be assigned to him. This gentleman, who has remained during all this period our principal tutor, is a man of Puritanic stamp, deeply learned, orthodox in doctrine, judicious, witty, devout, earnest, liberal in spirit, and withal juvenile in heart to an extent most remarkable in one of his years. My connection with him has been one of uninterrupted comfort and delight. The most sincere affection exists between us, we are of one mind and one heart, and what is equally important, he has in every case secured not merely the respect but the filial love of every student. His capacity for work is all but boundless, for his love to his laborious occupation is intense. Into this beloved minister’s house the first students were introduced, and for a considerable period they were domiciled as members of his family.
Encouraged by the readiness with which the young men found spheres of labor, and by their singular success in soul-winning, I enlarged the number, but the whole means of sustaining them came from my own purse. The large sale of my sermons in America, together with my.dear wife’s economy, enabled me to spend from £ 600 to £800 in a year in my own favourite work, but on a sudden, owing to my denunciations of the then existing slavery in the States, my entire resources from that “brook Cherith” were dried up. I paid as large sums as I could from my own income, and resolved to spend all I had, and then take the cessation of my means as a voice from the Lord to stay the effort, as I am firmly persuaded that we ought on no pretense to go into debt. On one occasion I proposed the sale of my horse and carriage, although these were almost absolute necessaries to me on account of my continual journeys in preaching the Word. This my friend Mr. Rogers would not hear of, and actually offered to be the loser rather than this should be done. Then it was that I told my difficulties to my people, and the weekly offering commenced, but the incomings from that source were so meagre as to be hardly worth calculating upon. I was brought to the last pound, when a letter came from a banker in the City, informing me that a lady whose name I have never been able to discover, had deposited a sum of £200, which I was to use for the education of young men for the ministry. How did my heart leap for joy! I threw myself then and henceforth upon the bounteous care of the Lord, whom I desired with my whole heart to glorify, by helping his laborers whom he should send out into his harvest. Some weeks after, another £ 100 came in from the same bank, as I was informed, from another hand. Soon after, a beloved brother, Sir. Phillips, of Newman’s Court, Cornhill, a deacon of the church at the Tabernacle, began to give an annual supper to the friends of the College, at which considerable sums have from year to year been given. A dinner was also given by my liberal publishers, Messrs. Passmore and Alabaster, to celebrate the publishing of my five hundredth weekly sermon, at which £500 were raised and presented to the College, which grew every month, and rapidly advanced from its commencement with one up to forty students. Friends known and unknown, from far and near, were moved to give little or much to my work, and so the funds increased as the need enlarged. Then another earnest deacon of the church, Mr. Murrell, espoused as his special work the weekly offering, and by the unanimous voice of the church under my care the College was adopted as its own child. Since that hour the weekly offering has been a steady source of income, till in the year 1869 the amount reached exactly £1869.
There have been during this period times of great trial of my faith, but after a period of straitness, never amounting to absolute want, the Lord has always interposed and sent me large sums (on one occasion £1,000), from unknown donors. When the Orphanage was thrust upon me, it did appear likely that this second work would drain the resources of the first, and it is very apparent that it does attract to itself some of the visible sources of supply, but my faith is firm that the Lord can as readily keep both works in action as one, though the eye of reason fails to enable me to discover how.
Moreover, my own present inability to do so much by way of preaching abroad, occasions naturally the failure of another great means of income; and as my increasing labors at home will in all probability diminish that stream in perpetuity, there is another trial for faith. Yet if the Lord wills the work to be con-tinned, he will send his servant a due portion of the gold and silver, which are all his own; and therefore as I wait upon him in prayer, the all-sufficient Provider will show me that he can supply all my needs. About £5,000 is annually required for he. College, and the same sum will be needed for the Orphanage when it is filled with boys, but God will move his people to liberality, and we shall yet see greater things than these.
While speaking of pecuniary matters, it may be well to add that as many of the young men trained in the College have raised new congregations, and gathered fresh churches, another need has arisen, namely, money for building chapels. It is ever so in Christ’s work, one link draws on another, one effort makes another needed. For chapel-building, the College funds could do but little, though they have freely been used to support men while they were collecting congregations; but the Lord found for me one of his stewards, who on the condition that his name remains unknown, has hitherto as the Lord has prospered him, supplied very princely amounts for the erection of places of worship, of which up to this present hour, through help thus rendered, more than forty have been built, or so greatly renovated and enlarged, as to be virtually new structures. Truly may it be said, “What hath God wrought?”
Pecuniary needs however have made up but a small part of our cares.
Many have been my personal exercises in selecting the men. Candidates have always been plentiful, and the choice has been wide, but it is a serious responsibility to reject any, and yet more to accept them for training. When mistakes have been made, a second burden has been laid upon me in the dismissal of those who appeared to be unfit, for my aim has been to send away none who might ultimately become qualified, and yet to retain none who would be a burden rather than a service to the churches. Even with the most careful management, and all the assistance of tutors and friends, no human foresight can secure that in every case a man shall be what we believed and hoped. A brother may have been exceedingly useful as an occasional preacher, he may distinguish himself as a diligent student, he may succeed at first in the ministry, and yet when trials of temper and character, occur in the pastorate, he may be found wanting. We have had comparatively few causes for regret of this sort, but there have been some such, and though we know it must be so in the nature of things, yet these pierce us with many sorrows. I devoutly bless God that he has sent to the College some of the holiest, soundest, and most self-denying preachers I know, and I pray that he may continue to do so; but it would be more than a miracle if all should excel. Weakness in talent is sometimes so counterbalanced by deep earnestness, that one hesitates in forming an unfavourable judgment, especially when it is remembered that remarkable abilities often prove a snare, and in due time in frequent instances are attended by slender grace, the sure concomitant of the self-exaltation which great gifts so often create. While thus speaking of trials connected with the men themselves, it is most due to our gracious God to bear testimony that these have been comparatively light, and are not worthy to be compared with the great joy which we experience in seeing no less than two hundred and four brethren still serving the Lord according to their measure of gift, and all it is believed earnestly contending for the faith once delivered unto the saints; nor is the joy less in remembering that eleven have sweetly fallen asleep after having fought a good fight. At this hour some of the most flourishing Baptist churches in England and Scotland are presided over by pastors trained at the Tabernacle, and as years shall add ripeness of experience and stability of character, others will be found to stand in the front rank of the Lord’s host.
The young brethren are boarded generally in twos and threes, in the houses of our friends around the Tabernacle, for which the College pays a moderate weekly amount. The class-rooms are under the Tabernacle, and during the winter are so dark that I am very anxious to build more suitable apartments, and am only waiting for the Lord to send the means. Two thousand pounds at least would be required. The plan of separate lodging we believe to be far preferable to having all under one roof, for by the latter mode men are isolated from general family habits, and are too apt to fall into superabundant levity. The circumstances of the families who entertain our young friends are generally such that they are not elevated above the social position which in all probability they will have to occupy in future years, but are kept in connection with the struggles and conditions of everyday life.
Devotional habits are cultivated to the utmost, and the students are urged to do as much evangelistic work as they can. The severe pressure put upon them to make the short term as useful as possible leaves small leisure for such efforts, but this is in most instances faithfully economised. Although our usual period is two years, whenever it is thought right the term of study is lengthened to three or four years; indeed, there is no fixed rule, all arrangements being ordered by the circumstances and attainments of each individual.
As before hinted, our numbers have greatly grown, and now range from eighty to one hundred. Very promising men, who are suddenly thrown in our way are received at any time, and others who are selected from the main body of applicants come in at the commencement of terms. The church at the Tabernacle continues to furnish a large quota of men, and as these have usually been educated for two or more years in the evening classes of the College, they are more advanced and able to profit better by our two years of study. We have still no difficulty in finding spheres for men who are ready and fitted for them, though in one or two instances those who have left their former charges are now seeking fresh fields of service. There is no reason to believe that the supply of trained ministers is in advance of the demand. Even on the lowest ground of consideration, there is yet very much ground to be possessed; and when men break up fresh soil as ours are encouraged to do, the field is the world, and the prayer for more laborers is daily more urgent. If the Lord would but send us funds commensurate, there are hundreds of neighbourhoods needing the pure gospel, which we could by his grace change from deserts into gardens. How far this is a call upon the reader let him judge as in the sight of God. Shall there be the gifts and the graces of the Spirit given to the church, and shall there not also be sufficient bestowed of the earthly treasure? How much owest thou unto my Lord?
The College was for some little time aided by the zealous services of Mr. W. Cubitt, of Thrapstone, who died among us enjoying our highest esteem.
Mr. Gracey, the classical tutor, a most able brother, is one of ourselves, and was in former years a student, though from possessing a solid education, he needed little instruction from us except in theology. In him we have one of the most efficient tutors living, a man fitted for any post requiring thorough scholarship, and aptness in communicating knowledge.
Mr. Fergusson in the English elementary classes, does the first work upon the rough stones of the quarry, and we have heard from the men whom he has taught in the evening classes, speeches and addresses which would have adorned any assembly, proving to a demonstration his ability to cope with the difficulties of uncultured and ignorant minds. Mr. Johnson who zealously aids in the evening, is also.a brother precisely suited to the post which he occupies. These evening classes afford an opportunity to Christian men engaged during the day to obtain an education for nothing during their leisure time, and very many avail themselves of the opportunity. Nor must I forget to mention Mr. Selway, who takes the department of physical science, and by his interesting experiments and lucid descriptions, gives to his listeners an introduction to those departments of knowledge which most abound with illustrations.
Last, but far from least, I adore the goodness of God which sent me so dear and efficient a fellow helper as my brother in the flesh and in the Lord, J. A. Spurgeon. His work has greatly relieved me of anxiety, and his superior educational qualifications have much elevated the tone of the instruction given. All things considered, gratitude and hope are supreme in connection with the Pastors’ College, and with praise to God and thanks to a thousand friends, the president and all his allies gird up the loins of their mind for yet more abundant labors in the future. To every land we hope yet to send forth the gospel in its fullness and purity. We pray the Lord to raise up missionaries among our students and pastors, and to make every one at least a home missionary. Brethren, remember this work in your prayers, and in your allotment of the Lord’s portion of your substance.
LANDLORD AND TENANT.
BY C. H. SPURGEON.
“Set thine house in order for Thou shalt die, and not live.” — Isaiah 38:1.
NOTWITHSTANDING that a thousand voices proclaim our mortality, we are all too apt to put aside the contemplation of it. Since we cannot escape from death, we endeavor to shut our eyes to it, although there is no subject whose consideration would be more beneficial to us. Altering one word of the poet’s line, I may say— “‘Tis greatly wise to talk with our last hours.” To be familiar with the grave is prudence. To prepare for death it is well to commune with death. A thoughtful walk in the cemetery is good for our soups health. As Jeremy Taylor well observes: “Since a man stands perpetually at the door of eternity, and, as did John the Almoner, every day is building of his sepulcher, and every night one day of our life is gone and passed into the possession of death, it will concern us to take care that the door leading to hell do not open upon us, that we be not crushed to ruin by the stones of our grave, and that our death become not a consignation of us to a sad eternity.” The most of men prefer to cultivate less fruitful fields, and turn their thoughts and meditations to subjects trivial for the present, and useless for the future. “O that men were wise, that they understood this, that they would consider their latter end.”
Knowing this general aversion to my theme, I shall not treat it in a gloomy and heavy manner, but shall try to allure you to it by the use of similitudes pleasant and interesting. The subject shall supply the solemnity, and I hope the metaphor shall secure your interest. Forgive me, ye spiritual, if I seem too flippant, my words are not for you, but for a class whose souls I trust you love, who cannot as yet bear the more serious thoughts of wisdom, unless they be clothed in parable and picture.
OUR BODY,OUR PROPERTY,OUR FAMILY,THIS PRESENT LIFE,AND ALL ITS SURROUNDINGS,ARE IN THE TEXT DESCRIBED AS AHOUSE.
This simile is not at all unusual either in the Old or the New Testament. Moses was faithful in all his house, namely, his lifelong charge and duty. Our Lord said of the Pharisees that they devoured widows’ houses, meaning their estates; and Paul said, “We know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens,” here referring to his body. We will see what instruction we can find in this most simple but comprehensive comparison.
I. This mortal life and its surroundings are likened to a house, and the first point of the similitude will be seen if we enquire, who IsTHE LANDLORD?
The first answer is, that certainly we are not. To all men it may be truthfully said, “Ye are not your own.” We are tenants, but not freeholders.
We are mere tenants at will without a lease. The earthly house of this tabernacle belongs to him who built it; he who sustains it keeps the titledeeds in his own possession. Our house belongs to God. Dear friend, do you ever think of this? Do you remember as a matter of fact that you and yours are God’s property? He created you, and created you for his own glory.
Your soul was spoken into existence by him. Your bodily powers were all bestowed by his hand. You are the creature of the Almighty. In every vein, and sinew, and nerve of your body there are traces of the Divine Embroiderer’s skill. You are God’s in all the most secret goings and issues of your life, for to him you every day owe the continued possession of existence. Your breath is in your nostrils; butHE keeps it there. He has but to will it and the atoms composing your body whichHE now keeps apart from their fellows would return to the bosom of earth. You are but a walking heap of dust, and the cohesion of the various particles is maintained by the hand of Omnipotence. Let the sustaining power of God be withdrawn, and your bodily house would fall in the ruin of death and the utter dissolution of corruption. All that you have around you is in the same predicament, for food, and raiment, house and goods, are God’s gifts to you. The strength of hand or the nimbleness of brain that has enabled you to accumulate wealth or to live in comfort has all come from him. Day by day you are a commoner at the table of Divine bounty, a pensioner hour by hour upon the infinite mercy of God. You have nothing, and are nothing but as God pleases. You owe all you have and all you are to him.
It is most useful for each of us to know what are the rights of God towards us. Even if we do not acknowledge them, yet candour demands that at least we hear them defined. Sad is the reflection, however, that when we learn these rights if we resist them we become wilful robbers, and so increase our guilt. If we will not have God to reign over us, if in our spirits we say, like Pharaoh, “Who is the Lord that we should obey his voice?” it will go harder with us at the last than if we had never heard the claims of God proclaimed. Men and women, how is it that God has made you, and yet so many of you never think of him? Shall I bring against you the accusation which the prophet of old brought against his people? “Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth: for the Lord hath spoken, i have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me. The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master’s crib: but Israel doth not know, my people doth not consider.” Who among you would retain in your house a tool or a piece of furniture which was of no use or value to you? Who among you would keep so much as an ox or an ass if it rendered you no service? How much less would you nurture it if, instead thereof, it did you harm, if it had a spite against you, and lifted up its heel against you? And yet, are there not some here who have been forgetful of their obligations to their Maker, who have never been of any service to him, have never praised him, have never desired to advance his glory , but who, on the contrary , have even spoken high and haughty things against him, and it may be words of profanity and blasphemy. O God! how art thou illtreated in the very world which is full of thy goodmess? How do the creatures of thy hand render unto thee evil for good? Thy house which thou hadst let out to man is made into a castle for thy foes, a temple for idols, a den of thieves, a nest of unclean birds. Thou art ill requited at the hands of thy unworthy tenants! Thou best of Beings, thou Fountain of love and mercy, what dost thou receive from thy creatures but either forgetfulness or disdain?
Bear this in mind henceforth, that the house in which we dwell in this life, has God for the landlord, and that we are only tenants.
II. The simile runs farther.WHAT IS MAN’ S LEASE?
One would imagine from the way in which some men talk that we were freeholders; or at least had a lease for nine hundred and ninety-nine years.
The truth is, we are but tenants at will. We may possess the tenement in which our soul now finds a house for itself, together with its appurtenances and outhouses, for the term of seventy years; and the tenure may even be prolonged to fourscore years, or even to a longer term in rare cases, but at no one time is the tenure altered, we always occupy from moment to moment. Our lease is not for three, seven, fourteen, or twenty-one years, nor it is even from day to day, or from hour to hour; but from second to second we hold precarious possession. We are tenants at the absolute will of God. The commencement of a day never secures the ending of it to us alive, and the striking of the clock at the commencement of the hour is no guarantee that we shall hear it strike again. Every second we hold our lives, and goods, and chattels upon the sole tenure of the divine will. God has but to say, “Return, ye children of men,” and we return to the dust. Flowers are not more frail, moths more fragile, bubbles more unsubstantial, or meteors more fleeting than man’s life. What transient things we are. We are/ I mistake myself — we are not. We but begin to be, and ere we are, we are not. It is God alone who can say,”I AM.” None of human race should dare to pronounce that word. Yet how many live as if their tenant right of ‘this mortal life, and all its goods were a fixed tenure, and entail upon themselves, irrespective of assigns, or heirs, or superior lord of the manor or freeholder of the soil. “Their inward thought is, that their houses shall continue for ever, and their dwelling-places to all generations; they call their lands after their own names.” To these the words of the apostle James are very applicable, “Go to now, ye that say, To-day or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain: whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.” Yet how often we fall into the same error. Have you not, my friends, been laying out your plans for months and even years to come?
You have considered where you will spend the summer, and where you shall live when you retire from your business. Ah! boast not yourselves of to-morrow, much less of summer or of autumn, for you know not what a day, or even an hour, may bring forth. O man of dying woman born, ask of God to give thee day by day thy daily bread, and let thy living and thy planning be after the fashion of day by day, for when thou beginnest to reckon for far-off time, it looks as if thou hadst never prayed, “So teach me to number my days, that I may apply my heart unto wisdom.” O ye young ones, say not, “We will give the first and best of our days to the flesh, and offer to God the rest.” You may have no remaining years to offer; you may be consumed in the morning of your lives. Say not, ye men who are in the midst of the world’s business, “We will retire anon, and in the cool of our age we will think upon the things of God.” You may have no evening of old age, mayhap your sun will go down at noon. You may be called hence from the counting house while yet the ink upon the pages of the ledger is undried, and the Bible as yet unstudied. Set your house in order, for your great Landlord may serve an ejectment upon you, and there will be no hope of resisting it, though the wisest of physicians should seek to bar the door.
Here is the writ, and these are the express words, “Thou shalt die, and not live.” Even the most aged presume that they shall live yet longer still, and the traditions of Jenkyns and of Old Parr, I doubt not, have tempted hundreds to imagine, even when they have been verging upon eighty or ninety, that they may still live a few years longer in quiet possession of their tottering tenement whose pillars are shaken, whose windows are darkened, and whose very foundations are decaying. We cling with dreadful tenacity to this poor life, and the little which we foolishly call our all. It were well if we could cling with such fast hold to the life that is to come, for that alone is worth clinging to, since it is for ever, whereas this is to be but for a little time even at the longest. What a reflection it is that within a hundred years every one in our most crowded audiences (unless the Lord shall come) will be soundly sleeping amid the clods of the valley, and not one of all the present armies of men that populate our cities will be in possession of his house and lands, or will know aught of anything that is done under the sun. We shall have gone over to “the great majority;” we shall be perhaps remembered, perhaps forgotten, but at any rate, we ourselves shall mingle no more with our fellows in the mart, the street, the places,of worship, or the haunts of pleasure. We shall depart from sea and land, from city and village, from earth and all that is thereon. Where will our immortal natures be? Where will our spirits be? Shall we be communing among the blessed harpers whose every note is bliss, or shall we be for ever gnashing our teeth in remorse among the castaways who would not receive the mercy of God? We hold our house, then, on no firmer tenure than from minute to minute. Remember ye this, ye dwellers in these houses of clay!
There is this clause in the lease, which I am afraid some have never observed, namely, that the landlord has at all times the right of ingress and egress over his own property. I thank God that some of us have yielded to the Lord this right, and now our prayer often is that he would come into cur house, and search us, and try us, and know our ways, and see if there be any evil way in us, and lead us in the way everlasting. Time was when the last thing we wished for was the presence of God, when we said to him, “Depart from us, for we desire not the knowledge of thy ways,” but now being renewed by his Spirit, we say to him, “Abide with us.” Beloved friend, are you always ready to open the doors of your heart to God’s inspection? Do you delight in heavenly communion? Do you constantly invite the Lord Jesus to come in and sup with you and you with him? If not, you are forgetting one great clause in your lease, and let me also say, you are forgetting the greatest privilege that men can enjoy beneath the stars.
It is well for me to recall to your memories that according to our tenure, our great landlord permits us to call upon him to execute all repairs. Our circumstances are apt to grow straitened, and he it is who giveth us power to get wealth, he daily loadeth us with benefits. When our bodily tabernacle is shaken, he it is who healeth all our diseases. When sorrows and wants multiply he it is who satisfieth our mouth with good things, so that our youth is renewed like the eagle’s. It is well. no doubt, when we are sick to seek direction from the physician, but it is a Christian action to resort first to Jehovah-Rophi, the Lord that healeth us. “Is any sick among you?”
What saith the apostle? Does be say, “Let him use no medicine,” as some “Peculiar People” believe? Nay. Does he say, “Use medicine and nothing else,” as the most of professors do? No such thing. Does he say, Let him lie in bed and expect his minister to come and see him,” as though ministers, and elders, and deacons were omniscient? No such thing. “Is any sick? Let him send “ — that is his duty — ” let him send for the elders of the church,” and then, as the form of medicine then in vogue was that of anointing the body with oil, let them pray over him, and let them use the ordinary means, “anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.” Have your medicine by all means, your homoeopathy or your allopathy, or which:-ever may seem best, but besides that, make prayer your main confidence, for it is the Lord that healeth us. Jesus is the beloved Physician.
If we had more faith in God, and resorted more often to him by prayer and faith, the prescriptions of the medical man might be more often wise and his medicines more frequently useful. The Lord who made our house best knows how to repair the tenement, and he permits us to resort to him.
When you are sick, my friend, remember this and practice it.
III. Thus, then,’have we spoken of the lease. Now thirdly, we come to
THE RENT THAT IS TO BEPAID. We occupy a house, which is evidently not our own, and therefore there must be some rent to pay. What is it? The rent that God asks of his tenants is that they should praise him as long as they live. “Oh? say you, “that is but little.” I grant you that it is; it is but a peppercorn, a mere acknowledgement, but yet there are millions who never pay even that.
They offer the Lord no thanks, no love, no service. For the benefits they receive they make no return, or rather they make an evil recompense. The breath that he gives them is never turned to song; the food they cat is not sanctified with gratitude; the goods that he bestows are not tithed, nor are the first fruits of their increase offered to the Lord. Their hearts do not love him; their faith does not trust; in his dear Son; their lips do not speak of him and magnify his glorious name. This is most unrighteous and ungenerous. For us to praise God is not a costly or painful business. The heart that praises God finds a sweet return in the exercise itself. In heaven it is the heaven of perfect spirits to praise the Lord, and on earth we are nearest heaven when we are fullest of the praises of Jehovah. But how ungrateful are those who are tenants in God’s house, and yet refuse the little tribute which he asks of them!
The question is raised, how often ought the rent to be paid? You know, in law, the time when the rent of a house is due bears always a relation to the tenure upon which it is held. If a man takes a house by the year, he pays his rent by the year; if he takes it by the quarter, he pays by the quarter; and if we hold our house by the moment, we are hound to pay by the moment.
So, then, it was but simple justice when David said, “I will bless the Lord at all times, his praise shall continually be in my mouth.” To live in the perpetual exercise of praise to God is at once the Christian’s duty and delight. “Nay,” saith one, “but we cannot do that; we have other things to think of.” But remember, when the praises of God are not on our lips they should be in our hearts. The incense was in the censer even when it was not smoking; our praise should abide with us till opportunity permits the holy fire to be applied. Besides, I believe that our God is best praised in common things. He who mends a shoe with a right motive is praising God as much as the seraph who pours forth his celestial sonnet. You in your workshops, you in your families, you on your sick beds, you anywhere according to your avocations, if you offer through Jesus the Mediator the love of your hearts, are paying the rent of praise unto God Most High. Oh, to be continually doing this!
But, brethren, I am afraid that we are in arrears. Those of us who have paid the most rent are still far behindhand. Yes, you were grumbling this morning: that was not rendering a worthy recompense for benefits received.
Shall a living man complain? There are some who do little else but complain. They complain of the times, of the weather, of the government, of their families, of their trade; if for once they would complain of themselves, they might have a more deserving subject for fault-finding. The Lord is good, and doeth good, and let his name be blessed. Let us avow it as his people, that though he slay us yet will we trust in him; and if he make us groan under his heavy hand we will even weep out his praises, and our expiring sigh shall be but a note of our life’s psalm, which we hope to exchange full soon for the song of the celestial host above. Praising and blessing God in life, practically by obedience, and heartily with gratitude — this is the rent which is due for the house in which we dwell.
Are there not some of you who have not even recognised that you belong to God at all, and who up till now have been paying rent and service to another master? I am often in my soul amazed at what men will do for that black master, the devil. Why, sirs, the devil will sometimes summon men to one of his conventicles at the street corner, where the gas is flaming, and they will cheerfully obey the summons. They will meet in such places with companions, rude, boisterous, selfish, vulgar, and everything else that is undesirable, and call them jolly good fellows. If the devil would pick out some fine brave spirits for them to meet, men of wit and genius, and information, one would not wonder so much at the readiness with which the dupes assemble; but the congregations of Satan are usually made up of men and women of the lowest, and most degraded kind, and these people know it; but when they are beckoned of[to the assembly of the scorners, they go with the greatest readiness. And what is done at this gathering of the foolish? Well, they commune together in stupidities at which it must be’ hard to laugh, and meanwhile they pass round the cup of liquid fire, out of which they cheerfully drink, and drink and drink again, though each successive goblet is filled with deeper damnation. These willing slaves drink at their master’s bidding, though the cup makes their brain reel, sets their heart on flame, and makes them unable to keep their feet. Yes, and when he still eries, “Drink, yea, drink abundantly,” these faithful servants swallow down the poison till they lie down like logs, or roar like demons.
They will keep the death-cup to their lips, till delirium tremens comes upon them and possesses them as with hell itself. Thousands obediently render homage unto Satan by drinking away their lives, and ruining their souls.
How much further they go in serving their master than we do in following ours! Into hell itself they follow their accursed leader. They pay him his revenues without arrears, and yet his taxes are heavy, and his exactions are most oppressive. Why, we have seen great lords hand all their estates over to Beelzebub, and when he has set up before them an image in the shape of a horse with a blue ribbon, they have bowed down and worshipped and offered their all at his shrine! I wish we could meet with some who would do as much for Christ as these have done for the devil. Any kind of fashion which may rule the hour draws a mad crowd after it; no matter how absurd or ridiculous the mania, the worshippers of fashion cry, “These be thy gods, O Israel.” Yes, Satan is marvellously well obeyed by his servants. His rent is regularly paid, and yet he is not the rightful owner and has no title to the house of manhood. Yea, men will even run after him to offer their homage. They will throw down their lives before his Juggernaut car of profligacy, and cast themselves beneath its wheels; while the golden chariot of Christ, paved with love for men, traverses their streets, and they have not a word of acclamation or or’ praise for that Prince of Peace. O come, ye servants of Jesus, and be ashamed of this! Come and render to your Lord your Cull service. Throw your hearts’ enthusiasm into your religion.
Be at least as earnest for God as others are for the devil. Be at least as selfdenying and self-sacrificing as they are who run the mad career of sin. Pay your rent to the great Landlord, and let the arrears be made up.
IV. But, I must not linger. The next thought is —MAN’ S DUTY WITH REGARD TO THIS HOUSE OF WHICH HE IS THETENANT.
The text says, “Set thine house in order.” That shows that we are not to destroy it nor even to injure it. It should be the temple of the Holy Ghost.
Nothing should be done by us that may injure our body, for in the case of the believer it is a precious thing, ordained to rise again at the last day, since Christ Jesus has bought it, as well as the soul which it contains, with his own blood. Nor are we to waste our substance, for this is the accusation which of old was brought against the unjust steward, that he had wasted his master’s goods.
We are to set our house in order, that is, our own house. Some persons are very busy setting other people’s houses in order, and oh! how their tongues will go when they are sweeping out their neighbor’s kitchen, or dusting out his cupboard. Set your own house in order, sirs, before you attempt to arrange the affairs of other people.
Again, the tenant himself must do it. “Set thine house in order.” You must not leave it to a priest; you must not ask your fellow man to become responsible. You must make personal application to him who ran set all in order for you, even to him who came into the world and died for this very purpose. If you need oil for your lamps, you must go to them that sell, and buy for yourselves, for your fellow virgins can give you none of their oil.
Set thou thine own house in order.This isthe chief business of every living man as a tenant under God. What kind of order is my house to be set in? My conscience will help to tell me that. An enlightened conscience tells us in what kind of order our heart, our family, and our business should be; by its teachings we may learn how all the departments of the house should be ordered. It cannot be right that the body should be master over the soul; conscience tells us that. It cannot be right that the memory should retain only that which is evil. It cannot be right that the affections should grovel in the mire. It cannot be right that the judgment should put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter. Conscience says that the heart is never right till the whole man is in Christ, till by a living faith we have embraced Jesus as our full salvation, and have received the Holy Spirit as our sanctifier. We are never right till we are right with conscience, and conscience tells us that we are never right tilt we are right with God. “Set thine house in order;” obey the inward monitor, listen to the still small voice, and prepare to meet thy God. “What is God’s order?” You can see what his thought of order was when he wrote the ten commands by reading the twentieth of Exodus. You can learn what his order is under the gospel, for we read that a new commandment has Christ given us, that we love one another; and yet again “this is the commandment, that ye believe in Jesus Christ whom he hath sent.” Dear friend, is your house right with God? If at this moment you had to surrender possession, is everything ordered as you would wish? If the arrow of death should now fly through this sanctuary, and find a target in your heart at this moment, is it all right, is it all right, is it all right, as you would wish to have it when God’s eye shall look upon you in the day of judgment? What if in a single moment we should see the heavens on a blaze, and the earth should rock beneath our feet, and the dead should rise from their sepulchres; what if instead of this tabernacle and its gathered crowd we should now suddenly see the King himself upon the great white throne, and hear the archangel’s trumpet ringing out the notes, “Awake, ye dead, and come, ye quick, to judg-ment,” is everything with us as we should like to have it for the blaze of that tremendous day and the inspection of that awful Judge? Happy is that man who can say, “I have committed all to Christ; my body, soul, and spirit, all my powers and all my affections; I have committed all to him by faith and prayer; yes, come, Lord Jesus, come quickly, for it is all right even now.” “Set thine house in order,” then, conscience and God’s word will be your guide as to what is needed.
But I am afraid that in you, my friend, very many things need careful attention and re-arrangement. O that every day each of us lived a Christly life, for then we should not need to be told to set our house in order! I, as pastor of this church, though I trust I am not an idler, have never been able to look upon my own work with any sort of satisfaction. I am obliged to stand where the publican stood, with “God be merciful to me a sinner” upon my lip, for my work is too vast, and I am too feeble! Is there any man here who can say that he fills his sphere to the full without an omission or transgression,? If you can say so, my brother, I envy you, for it is not long before you will be in heaven. If that be not a self righteous estimate, or a vainglorious opinion of yourself, inasmuch as you are so meet for heaven, you shall soon be there — depend upon that. But whatever there may be about us now, dear friends, which is not what we feel it ought to be, let the call come to us to-night — ” Set thine house in order.” The vain regrets in which we sometimes indulge we often mistake for true repentance, but, let us recollect that “Repentance is to leave, The sins we loved before, And show that we in earnest grieve By doing so no more.” As believers in Jesus Christ, if there be anything deficient in us, if there be anything excessive in us, if there be aught that is contrary to the Lord’s mind and will, may the Holy Spirit come and correct it all, so that our house may be set in order.
Thus have I shown you in what manner our houses should be kept; but I am afraid that many of your houses want a great deal of setting in order.
Some of your houses want sweeping. The dust and filth of sin are lying all over the floors. You want the precious blood to be sprinkled, or else if the Lord begins to sweep with the besom of the law it will happen, as Bunyan tells us, that the dust will be enough to choke your prayers or to blind the eyes of your faith. May the gospel come and sprinkle the water of grace, and then may Christ come in and sweep your house; but you want more than sweeping — your house wants washing. Every floor needs cleansing, and there is no one who can do this but the Lord Jesus Christ. Nothing can make you clean but his blood. In many of the houses the windows are very filthy, and the light of the glorious gospel cannot enter, so as to bring with it an intelligent conception of the things of God. O that this may be set right! The very drainage in some men’s houses is neglected. Many a foul thing stagnates, ferments, and pollutes their souls. Ah! what is there that is in order in the unregenerate man? To all in that state the text calls loudly,” Set thine house in order.” But, sirs, unless Christ comes to help you it is a hopeless task; unless Christ and his Holy Spirit come to the rescue your houses will remain out of order still, everything filthy and everything disarranged; and when the great King shall come and find it so, woe unto you, woe unto you, in the day of his appearing!
V. We shall close with the last thought, which is this —WE ARE BIDDEN TO SET OUR HOUSE IN ORDER,BECAUSE WE ARE SERVED WITH ANOTICE TO QUIT.
“Set thine house in order; for thou shall die, and not live.” This is not a reason for setting a house in order which bad tenants would care to consider; they wish to leave the house in as delapidated a state as possible. But a just tenant desires to restore to his landlord his property unhurt. So is it with the ]nan who is right with God. He wishes that when he dies he may leave here on earth no trace of injury done to God, but many memorials of service rendered. He does not wish to leave the house as Satan left the poor possessed demoniac, rending and tearing him because he was coming out of him, having great wrath because his time was short. No, the honest man who loves his God, desires to leave everything behind him that shall honor God, and nothing that shall dishonor him. Whitfield used to tell a story of a young man who could not live in the house where his old father had dwelt, because he said “eve,y chair in it smelt of piety.” He was a wicked, godless, rebellious, Christless man, and he could not stay where his father’s holiness would force itself upon his memory, and rebuke him. Oh! I would like to make every chair in my house like that, so that when my boy comes into possession of it, he will think, “Why, there my father sat to study God’s Word, and there he used to kneel in prayer, and now I have his house I must imitate his ways. A dear man of God, who bas now gone to heaven, took me into his study one day, and said, “You see that spot?.... Yes.” “Well, thai, is the place where my dear wife used to kneel to pray, and that is where one morning when I came to look for her, as she did not come fown to breakfast, I found her dead.” “Oh!” said he, “that is holy ground;” and so it was, for she was a very gracious woman. O that we may so live that everything we leave behind us may be like Abel’s blood that cried from the ground. May our habits and manners be such that after our death everything associated with us may be perfumed with holy memories. God make it so! God make it so!
Are you sure it will be so? Some of you Christian people I must appeal to, are you not too negligent? Are there not with you, even with you, sins against the Lord our God? Might there not be much amiss with you if you were now called away? I beseech you set your house in order.
Beloved friend in Christ, do try that everything may be in order for your dying, and everything now prepared for your departure, if it should happen to-night. Do it for the Church’s sake. So live thai; when the church misses you there shall lie left, behind you your memory and your holy example to inspirit those who shall mourn your departure. So live that the world may miss your zealous efforts for its good. May all be so ordered in your life that you may never lead others astray by your example, but bequeath it as a legacy of encouragement to your successors. Order all things well for your children’s sake. They will be pretty much what their parents were. Sovereign grace may interpose, but ordinarily the mother shapes the child’s life. May your life be such that it shall be a fair mould for your child’s future existence.
Set your house in order, my dear brother, even though you are leaving it, because you are going to a better one if you are a believer in Christ. The old clay shed will be taken down, and you shall dwell in marble halls; y,,u shall leave the hovel for the mansion; the traveler’s tent shall be rolled up and put away in the tomb to be exchanged for a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. O let it not be said that you were so bad a tenant in the first house that you could not be trusted with a second, but may grace cause you so to set this house in order that you may quit it without reluctance, and enter into the next with alacrity; leaving your first house behind you without shame, in sure and certain hope of a blessed resurrection. May you cheerfully leave the first house, and joyfully surrender the key to the Great Landlord, because you know that, go where he will in all its rooms, he will see the remembrances of his own grace, the marks of his own workmanship, the beauties and adornments of his own Holy Spirit.
Then convoyed by ministering spirits to a better country, you shall become possessors of a heritage undefiled, which fadeth not away.
I desire, in closing, that all of us may offer the key of our house to the great Landlord, and own that we live on sufferance as his tenants. A dear brother told us the other day, when he was speaking of his being over seventy years of age, that his lease had run out, and that he was now living by the day. Let us each, in all things, carry out his remark, and live by the day. Let us remember that “Now is our salvation nearer than when we believed.” Let us not act as if we expected to remain long in these lowlands. It is a dreadful thing to see men who profess to be Christians unwilling to die. Should it be so, that when we feel ourselves ill, and likely to die, we should have a host of matters to arrange, and many regrets to express. Dear brethren, begin your regrets earlier, while there is time to retrieve the past. Regret now, and ask for grace now to do all that is in you for him who loved you and bought you with his blood.
As for you who have no redeeming blood upon you, I do not marvel that you live to yourselves. O you who despise Christ, I do not wonder if you despise yourselves so much as to be the slaves of pleasure. But you who are the elect of God, who are bought by the blood of Jesus, who are called by his Spirit, who profess to be his people, you have nobler things to live for. I pray you make us not to he ashamed of you by living as if you were mere worldlings, who have their portion in this life. Live for eternity. Live for Christs glory. Live to win souls. Behave as occupiers under a royal owner should behave. With such a Landlord, the best in the whole universe, be also the best of tenants, and evermore be mindful of the time of your removal to another land. Let my last words remain with you. and that they may, I will quote them from a book in which wisdom is set forth in goodly sentences. “Gird up thy mind to contemplation, trembling inhabitant of the earth; Tenant of a hovel for a day, thou art heir of the universe for ever!
For, neither congealing of the grave, not’ gulphing waters of the firmament, Nor expansive airs of heaven, nor dissipative fires of Gehenna, Nor rust of rest, nor wear, nor waste, nor loss nor chance, nor change, Shall avail to quench or overwhelm the spark of sou[within thee!
Look to thy soul, O man, for none can be surety for his brother:
Behold, for heaven — or for hell — thou canst not escape from Immortality!”
HOW SHALL WE SING?
COULD we rule the service of song in the house of the Lord, we should, wefear, come into conflict with the prejudices and beliefs of many most excellent men, and bring a hornet’s nest about our ears. Although we have neither the will nor the power to become reformer of sacred music, we should like to whisper a few things into the ear of some of our Jeduthuns or Asaphs, who happen to be “chief musicians” in country towns or rural villages. We will suppose the following words to be our private communication: — O sweet singer of Israel, remember that the song is not for your gloaT, but for the honor of the Lord, who inhabiteth the praises of Israel; therefore, select not anthems and tunes in which your skilfulness will be manifest, but sueh as will aid the people to magnify the Lord with their thanksgivings.
The people come together not to see you as a songster, but to praise the Lord in the beauty of holiness. Remember also, that you are not set to sing for;.ourself only, but to be a leader of others, many of whom know nothing of music; therefore, choose snell tunes as can be learned and followed by all, that none in the assembly may be compelled to be silent while the Lord is extolled. Why should so much as one be defrauded of his part through you? Simple airs are the best, and the most sublime; very few of the more intricate tunes are really musical. Your twists, and:fugues, and repetitions, and rattlings up and down the scale, are mostly barbarous noise-makings, fitter for Babel than Bethel. If you and your.choir wish to show off your excellent voices, you can meet at home for that purpose, but the Sabbath and the church of God must not be desecrated to so poor an end.
True praise is heart work. Like smoking incense, it rises from the glowing coals of devout affection. Essentially, it is not a thing of sound: sound is associated with it very properly for most weighty reasons, but still the essence and life of praise lie not in the voice, but in the soul. Your business in the congregation is to give to spiritual praise a suitable embodiment in harmonious notes. Take care that you do not depress what you should labor to express. Select a tune in accordance with the spirit of the psalm or hymn, and make your style of singing suitable to the words before you.
Flip-pantly to lead all tunes to the same time, tone, and emphasis, is an abomination; and to pick tunes at random is little less than criminal. You mock God and injure the devotions of his people if you carelessly offer to the Lord that which has cost you no thought, no care, no exercise of judgment. You can help the pious heart to wing its way to heaven upon a well-selected harmony! and you can, on the other hand, vex the godly ear by inappropriate or unmelodious airs, adapted rather to distract and dishearten, than to encourage intelligent praise. The Time is a very primary consideration, but it is too often treated as a matter of no consequence. Large bodies move slowly, and hence the tendency to drawl out tunes in numerous assemblies. We have heard the notes prolonged till the music has been literally swamped, drenched, drowned in long sweeps and waves of monotonous sound. On the other hand, we cannot endure to hear psalms and solemn hymns treated as jigs, and dashed, through at a gallop. Solemnity often calls for long-drawn harmony, and joy as frequently demands leaping notes of bounding, delight. Be wise enough to strike the fitting pace each time, and by your vigourous leadership inspire the congregation to follow en masse May we in the very gentlest whisper beg you to think very much of God, much of the singing, and extremely little of yourself. The best sermon is that in which the theme absorbs the preacher and hearers, and leaves no one either time or desire to think about the speaker; so in the best congregational singing, the leader is forgotten because he is too successful in his leadership to be noticed as a solitary person. The head leads the body, but it is not parted from it, nor is it spoken of separately; the best leadership stands in the same position. If your voice becomes too noticeable, rest assured that you are but a beginner in your art.
One of your great objects should be to induce all the congregation to join in the singing. Your minister should help you in this, and his exhortations and example will be a great assistance to you; but still as the Lord’s servant in the department of sacred song you must not rely on others, but put forth your own exertions. Not only ought all the worshippets to sing, but each one should sing praises with understanding, and as David says, “play skilfully” unto the Lord. his cannot be effected except by instructing the people in public psalmody. Is it not your duty to institute classes for young and old.? Might you not thus most effectually serve the church, and please the Lord? The method of Mr. Curwen, and the use of his Sol-fa Notation, will much aid you in breaking ground, and you can in after years either keep to the new method, or turn to the old notation as may seem best to you. Thousands have learned to sing who were hopelessly silent until the sol-fa system was set on foot. The institution of singers, as a separate order is an evil, a growing evil, and ought to be abated and abolished; and the instruction of the entire congregation is the readiest, surest, and most scriptural mode of curing it. A band of godless men and women will often install themselves in a conspicuous part of the chapel, and monopolise the singing to the grief of the pastor, the injury of the church, and the scandal of public worship; or else one man, with a miserable voice, will drag a miserable few after him in a successful attempt to make psalms and hymns hideous, or dolorous. Teach the lads and lasses, and their seniors, to run up and down the Sol-fa Modulator, and drill them in a few good, solid, thoroughly musical. tunes, and you, O sons of Asaph, shall earn to yourself a good degree. C. H.SPURGEON JOHN PLOUGHMAN AS A DUTCHMAN C. H.SPURGEON. WHEN I was a small boy, I remember being told by some wag or other that the Dutch had taken Holland. That wonderful bit of history did not open my eyes one-half so wide as when I saw that the Dutch had taken John Ploughman. Yes, Mr. Editor, we sometimes say, “that’s the fact, or I’m a Dutchman,” but John Ploughman can say so no more, for, like the Bishop of Oxford, he has been translated, and his see is the Zuyder Zee. Mr. Adama van Scheltema has turned John Ploughman’s Talk into PRAATGES VAN JAN PLOEGER, and on the cover of the book an Amsterdam artist has given John Ploughman, alias Jan Ploeger, a cap and a jacket, instead of a smock flock — ” a very great improvement,” says John’s wife. Best of all, seals and keys are visible below Jan Ploeger’s waistcoat, which, it is to be hoped, show that there is a watch snugly hidden away somewhere; though that is not quite certain, for nowadays we see chains and no watches, whips and no horses, sermons and no gospel, churches and no piety, wigs and no wisdom, degrees and no learning, and fine dress and no lady. As John Ploughman has never had such seals to his ministry before, he supposes it is a clear proof that he is rising in the world, or else that Dutch laborers are better off than English ones, certainly they had need be, as Tom Skinner says, who has to keep thirteen children and a wife on fourteen shillings a week, and pay rent into the bargain. By the way, his landlord is a squire, and Tom’s cottage is about a tenth as good as the squire’s piggeries. Pray don’t let a Dutchman or any other foreigner hear that.
When you are in Turkey, you must do as the Turkies do, and being now made a Dutchman, Jan Ploeger must talk as if he lived in Holland. Not a very easy thing this for a thorough-bred Englishman, but John has once been in Holland on his Master’s business, and so has picked up a Netherland proverb or two; and besides he has eaten a Dutch cheese, and walked through a field of Dutch clover, and so he feels wound up like a Dutch clock. So let us try it, as the boy said, when he ate all the pie. If we do not succeed no harm will come of trying.
Our talk is about prosperity, and some other things beside. Some cool evening or other, a certain burgomaster will sit in his summer-house and smoke his pipe and read these lines; to him Jan Ploeger wishes good health, a clear conscience, and rest in heaven at the end.
It is not given to every man to prosper, but, as a rule, perseverance brings success. Keep the windmills going, and the mere will yet grow good corn.
Though every shot does not bring down a bird, a careful marksman will carry home the crow. Step by step goes far; every day a thread makes a skein in a year; industry, by plodding on, gains the prize at last. Bit by bit the stalk builds her nest. Wide-awake and Waste-not will keep the sea from coming through the dyke, while Always-at-it and Work-hard will drag the net ashore with plenty of fish in it. He who follows the trade of thickheaded Michael, eating, drinking, and idling, says he was born on St.
Galpert’s night, three days before luck, but diligence and thrift are the darlings of fortune.
It is easier to prosper than to bear prosperity well, easier to get upon a tight rope than to walk on it, easier to fill a cup than to keep from spilling it when you carry it. When prosperity smiles, beware of its guiles. You may escape the smoke of poverty and fall into the fire of sin. Many a man can bear anything but good days. A man is not known till he comes to honor, but honors change manners. It may be true that clothes make the mart, but some clothes make very queer men. When men grow rich on a sudden, pride breeds in their purses, like mites in a Gouda cheese, and so it comes to pass the more silver the less sense. When Hendrick had climbed to the top of the ladder he looked down on his brothers. A dog with a bone knows no friend. Jan, when he is made a gentleman, does not remember his grandmother. The mouse in the meal-tub thinks he is the miller himself.
The man who is full of God’s meat often makes a god of himself, even as the fat ox kicks a; the master who fed him. Yet why should a man boast of his riches? Money does not make a man more honorable. Gold-water cannot wash a blackamoor white. An ape’s an ape though he wear a gold ring. A cat with a silver collar is not a lion. A pig is but a pig however full his trough may be. The ass in the arms of Bruges sits in an arm-chair, but he is all the more an ass for that. The king of tomtits is only a tom-tit after all. True honor belongs to the worth of men, not to what men are worth.
He is noble who performs noble deeds. Better poor with honor than rich with shame. None but very bad Jews worship a golden calf. Yet many a Mynheer Money lords it like an eel in a tub, and flies his flag as proudly as if he were Van Tromp himself. If wealth brought wit it would make our upstarts hide their empty heads, and pray for brains more than for gains.
Some men grow the more greedy, the less they are needy. They are of the race of Johnny Van Cleeve, who would always much rather have than give.
Their alms flow like a fountain from a broomstick. They would not even throw their bones to their dogs if they could gnaw them themselves. The more meal they eat the greater their hunger. You will never satisfy them till you put the Rhine into a flask, and put it into their pockets. Like the gapers outside the apothecaries’ shops, they are always opening their months for more. The bigger the snowball grows the more snow it tries to gather as it rolls, and the more dirt it draws up. Have is father to want. Covetous men would drink the sea and swallow the fish. It is bad drinking that makes a man thirsty, beware then of drinking at the fountain of greed. Ill worms breed in full meal bags; set not your heart on what so soon grows stale and sour.
We have seen men become great fools when they have become great owners. When the ass was too happy he must needs dance on the ice. Owls are blind if they get too much light. The boat with the great sail and little ballast was soon upset by the breeze. With too large a fire, many a, house has been burnt down. Men have been smothered in their own clothes, choked with their own fat, and ruined by their own riches. It is not every man who can keep a cool head when he gets to the top of the mast. Good servants often make bad masters. A cow on a throne never milks well.
Poor and respectable has grown into rich and abominable. When they put the cock on the steeple he left off calling the maids in the morning. The mastiff was a fine watchman, but when they made him butler he bit his master. The eagle did the tortoise no kindness, when he began teaching him to fly. A horse who is good before a plough would prove a sorry hack if he were put into Baron Van Wyck’s carriage. Let none of us court high places, for they are dangerous.He that abideth low falleth not. Rejoice in little, shun what is extreme, The ship rides safest in a little stream.
I do not believe that success in life is to be measured by the quantity of pelf a man loads himself with: as well count that horse to be happy which has most to draw. Riches are very uncertain blessings. It is said that the rich devour the poor, and the devil devours the rich, so I do not see much to choose between them; there is small choice for frogs, if they must be swallowed alive; one throat is very like another. Low places are damp, but if high places are cold I would choose to be in neither. If the ship is swallowed up in the sand, and wrecked on the rock, God give me to keep on shore. Better once in heaven, and poor on the road, than ten times near the gate and yet miss it to make money. Better be Delft ware and unbroken, than china and be smashed. Better at Amsterdam safe in the canal, than in the spice groves of Java in fear of your life. Better a happy ploughman, than a miserable burgomaster. The Hague is well when you are well, but even palaces are dark to heavy hearts. If the Prince of Orange is tripped up he falls as heavily as any of us. Misfortunes happen everywhere, and very great ones to great people. If deep swimmers and high climbers seldom die in their beds, then give me shallow creeks and low trees. If I cannot sleep in the church at Haarlem because of the great organ, then make my bed in the cupboard.
After all, riches are such bubbles, and honors are such baubles, that wise men will not fret for them. I would not find fault with money because I have not got it, lest you should tell me of the fox who called the grapes sour because he could not get at them; but I know they are sour, for those who have them often make very wry faces. A crown is no cure for the headache. Riches and troubles, ditches and frogs, go together. No one knows where another’s shoe pinches, but he can see it does pinch by the way the wearer hobbles. The richest man, whatever his lot, Is he who’s content with what he has got.
After honor and state follow envy and hate. After the sweet comes the sour. Night treads on the heels of day. Moreover, all these things perish in the using, and often fly away before you can use them. The finest tulips fade. Worldly good is ebb and flood. No man knoweth all his fortune till his time comes to die. Fortune and glass break soon, alas! It is good steering with wind and tide, but both change in due time. He that is at sea hath not the wind in his hands. He who rode in a carriage may yet sleep under a bush’ with rags for his coverlet. Where once was water for a whale may soon be scarce enough for a herring. It is bad building your house of butter in a world where the sun shines.
Moreover if money rules this world, it has no power in the world to come.
Where the streets are paved with pure gold like unto transparent glass, our poor dull muddy gold is of no value. Give me an inch of heaven sooner than a league of earth. That is good wisdom which is wisdom in the end.
Treasure laid up in heaven for me. Reader, what say you? Remember no dyke can keep out the waters of death. The end of time’s mirth is the beginning of eternity’s sorrow. Time goes, death comes. A worldling works hard, and death is his wages. Is his portion your choice? If so, John Ploughman must needs say, “Farewell,” but is sure;you will fare ill.
REASONS FOR SEEKING GOD BY C. H. SPURGEON.
“Seek him that maketh the seven stars and Orion. and turneth the, shadow of death into the morning· and maketh the day dark with night: that calleth for the waters of the sea, and poureth them out upon the face of the earth: the Lord is his name.” — Amos 5:8 IDOLATRY has been in every age the besetting sin of mankind.In some form or another the unregenerate are all given to it, andeven in God’s people there remains, in their old nature, a tendency towards it.
In its grosser manifestations idolatry is the desire of man to see God with his eyes, to have some outward representation of him who cannot be represented; who is too great, too spiritual, ever to be described by human language, much less to be sea forth by images of wood, and stone, however elaborately carved and cunningly overlaid with gold. There is a great God who filleth all space and yet is greater than space, whose existence is without beginning and without end, who is everywhere present, and universally self-existent; but man is so un-spiritual that he will not worship this great invisible One in spirit and in truth, lint craves after outward similitudes, symbols and signs. If Aaron makes a calf Israel forgets the divine Jehovah’s glory, and says unto the image of an ox that cateth grass;: “These be thy gods, O Israel, which brough; thee up out of Egypt.”
We are apt to imagine that it is a very stange freak of human depravity when men are led to worship visible objects and signs, but it is not at all unusual or singular; it is the general sin of all mankind. I suppose no man has been entirely free from it, and every believer has to contend against it in its subtler forms; for idolatry takes insinuating shapes, less gross in appearance but quite as sinful as the worship of Dagon or Ashtaroth. Take, for instance, the common religious idolatry of our own country, which consists in part of reverence to holy places, as if under the Christian dispensation, which is not one of type but of fact, holiness could inhere in stone, lime, wood, slate, iron, and brass, when architecturally arranged.
English idolatry further reveals itself in reverence to an order of men, not; because of their superior character, but because of certain mystic rites performed upon them, by virtue of which they are supposed to become the representatives of heaven, and the reservoirs of grace. How trustful are our English idolaters in these men when they behold them apparelled in vestments which the tailor has cut into fashions remarkably helpful to devotion. Without these priests and their sumptuous adomings, and grotesque disfigurements, our modern idolaters cannot publicly worship, but in these they have as much trust as the Ephesians in their great Diana.
They can only worship their God by objects which appeal to the senses. An outward altar, an outward priest, an outward ritual, outward rites — all these are nothing but another form of the old. idolatry of Babel and of Bethel. Man still turns from the unseen God; the unseen priest who has passed within the veil, man still ignores. The spiritual feast upon the body: and blood of Jesus Christ which is the joy of the saints, they know not; but the outward emblems are adored by some and held in great reverence by others. Bread and wine, which are but created and common things, even when placed on the table to assist us in communion, are made into deities by the blind idolaters of this age. Could Egypt or Assyria do worse? Bread used at the ordinance is but bread, and no other than ordinary bread; its emblematic use imparts to it no measure or degree of sanctity, much less of divinity. It is idolatry — flat, grovelling, idolatry — and nothing less, which on all sides is spreading its mantle of darkness over this land under the pretense of profoundly reverent piety.
Where Ritualism does not reign, how easy it is for men to be idolaters of themselves! What is self-reliance, understood as too many understand it, but idolatry of self? It is the opposite of dependence upon the living God, the great source of power and wisdom. Reliance upon my own wisdom, upon my own resolution, upon my own strength of mind — these are idolatries in a subtle and attractive shape. What is much of our overweening affection to our children and to our relatives? What is our unsubmissive repining but idolatry? How is it that we rebel against God if our friends are suddenly taken from us? O man, why is it that thy God has so little of thy love and the creature so much? There is a lawful affection; up to that point thou shouldst go. There is an unlawful affection, when by any means the creature comes before the Creator, to this thou inayst not descend. Unlawful love, love which idolises its object, is to be avoided with all our might. Then, again, perhaps a less excusable form of idolatry, though no excuse is to be offered for any, is that in which men idolise their estates, and put their confidence in their accumulations, living only to acquire wealth and position, struggling in the race not to win the crown which is immortal, but that poor wreath with which men crown the wealthy merchant, the diligent student, the eloquent barrister, the valiant man of arms. This is idolatry again, for it is set. ting up an earthly object in the place of the Creator. To God is due all my love, my trust, my fear. He made me, I am bound to serve him, and whenever I lay down at the feet of any person or object, dominion over my powers, apart from God, I am at once guilty of idolatry.
I cannot stay to tell you all the various forms which this idolatry assumes, but may God give us grace to strive against them, and those who still are dead in the idolatries may he deliver. May he save you from leaning upon an arm of flesh, from trusting in what maybe seen and handled, and bring you to rely upon the invisible God, to whom alone belongeth power and strength, and who has a right to our confidence and our service.
The text is addressed to those who have been guilty, either in word, or thought, or deed, of idolatry against God. It gives arguments to persuade them to turn away from everything else, and to seek the true God. We shall read the text, first, in ils natural sense, and then diving into its meaning a little more deeply, we shall find spiritual reasons in it for seeking to Jehovah, and to Jehovah alone.
I. First, then,IN THE NATURAL SENSE OF THE TEXT, We find a truth which is plain enough, but which we need constantly to be reminded of, namely, that Jehovah is real!!! God. If Jehovah were not really the Creator of the world, if he did not in very deed make the seven*stars and Orion, if he did not actually work in the operations of Providence, changing the night into day and day again into night, we might be excusable for not rendering him service, since homage might be safely withheld from an imaginary deity.
But, as God is real and exist as truly as we do, as our existence is dependent upon his sovereign will, and he is all in all, it is due to him that we should “seek his face.” And simple as that utterance is, I have need to push it home to you. I am afraid, dear friends, that many of you think of religion in its ]gearing towards God as being a very proper , but at the same time imaginative, matter. You do not practically grasp the thought that God is, and that he is the rewarder of them that diligently seek him. You do not lay hold upon this fact that as surely as there are fellow creatures round about you, there is a God close to you, in whom you live, and move, and have your being. The worldly men puts his foot down on the earth, and he says, “Ah! I believe in this! Here is something solid and I feel it.” He takes up certain fragments of that earth, yellow and glittering, and he says, “This is the main chance, I believe in this.” Just so, the created earth is real to him, and God who created all things, is to him but a shadowy being. He may not rudely deny his existence, but practically he reduces his thought of God to a mere fancy, and says in his heart. “No God.” My attentive hearer, I trust that thou art not so unwise. Thou knowest that God is, that he is even if we are not, that he filleth all things, and that he dwelleth everywhere; and since he is the Creator, the First and Chief of all things, I trust thou art anxious to seek him and yield him thy obedience.
Note from the text, that God is not only the true God, but he is the glorious God. I cannot understand how the heathen, supposing their gods had been gods, could worship such little, mean, base, and contemptible beings.
Think of Jove, for instance, the great god of Rome and Greece, what a disgusting animal he was! What a monster of sensuality, selfishness, and folly! I should feel it hard as a creature, to worship such a god as that, if god he could be. But when I think of him who made the stars and Orion, who stretched out the heavens like a curtain, and made the sky as a molten looking’-glass, who is magnificent in the acts of creation, marvellous in the wonders of grace, and unsearchable in all the attributes of his nature, my soul feels it to be her honor and delight to adore him. It is an elevation to the soul to stoop to the dust before such a one. The more we reverence him, and the less we become in our own sight, the more sublime are our emotions. Well did even a heathen say, “To serve God is to reign.” To serve such a God as ours is to be made kings and priests. Oh, were not our hearts perverted and depraved, it would be our greatest happiness, our highest rapture to sound forth the praises of a God so glorious, and our hearts would be evermore enquiring of him, “Lord, what wouldst thou have me to do? Thy will is wiser and better than mine own will. I ask no greater liberty than to be bound with thy bands of love; I ask no greater ease than to bear thy blessed yoke.’ Since then the Lord is real, and moreover so glorious as to he infinitely worthy of worship, we should seek him and live.
Again, Jehovah the true God is most powerful, for “he made the seven stars and Orion; he calleth for the waters of the sea, and poureth them out upon the face of the earth. Jehovah is his name.” Think reverently of him, for he is not like the gods of the heathen, of whom the prophet said in satire, “Eyes have they, but they see not; mouths have they, but they speak not; noses have they, but they smell not; hands have they, but they handle not.”
Contempt and ridicule are poured upon these wooden gods by the prophet, when he tells of the workman who takes one end of a log and makes a god of it, and then with the remainder kindles a fire, and warms his hands, and boils his pot. Such a god as this it is indeed a degradation for the human mind to worship, but the true God, who has displayed his power in the glittering firmament, and in the foaming sea, who is revealed with power to the eye of the astronomer in the innumerable worlds revolving in boundless space, such a God we must reverence. Oh! in the hour of storm and tempest, when the Lord is abroad riding in his chariot of thunder-cloud upon the wings of the wind, casting forth his hailstones and coals of fire, making the earth to shake at the sound of his voice, and breaking the cedars of Lebanon with the flash of his spear, we feel we must adore him, and as we bow before him reason endorses the worship which grace suggests. Is not his power a cogent reason for seeking him? Will not you who have lived without him now adore him? A real God, so glorious and so powerful, should surely command your reverent adoration.
Further, he is a God who work great marvels, achieving wonders every moment which would astonish us if we were not so used to beholding them. They tell the story — ’tis but a legend of the days of Solomon the wise, that the King astonished all beholders by taking a seed and producing from it in a few moments a full grown plant. They cried, “How wonderful! How astonishing!” But the wise man said, “This is only what the Lord doeth every day; this is what he is performing everywhere in his own time, and you see it, and yet, you never say, ‘ How wonderful! ‘“ When we have watched those who practice sleight-of, hand perform their feats, we have marvelled greatly, but what are a few poor conjuring tricks when compared with the ordinary, but vet matchless processes of nature? Our fields and hedgerows team with marvels never equalled by all the wisdom and skill of man. Walk into the grass field, and you tread on miracles. Listen to the birds as they sing in the trees, and you hear marvellous speech. If one little mechanical bird, with a few clockwork movements, were warbling out something like music in an exhibition, everybody would gather round it, and some would even pay to hear it sing, and yet thousands of birds sing infinitely more sweetly than anything that man can make, and men had rather kill them than admire them. Men fail to see the miracle which God is working in each living thing. Turn your eyes above you to the starry firmament, and watch the Pleiades and Arcturus with his sons; for though we know but little of them, they have won from many an observer an awestruck acknowledgment of the greatness of God, insomuch that it has been said— “An undevout astronomer is mad.” The order, the regularity, the manifest calculation and design which appear in every part of the constellations, in every single planet, in every fixed star, and in every part and parcel of the great multitude of words which God has created, are such decisive evidences that if men do not see something of God in them, they must be weak in their minds or wicked in their hearts.
Surely what is seen of God in this way has tended to make us worship him.
Many of you may know but little of astronomy, but still you see every day that God is working everywhere around us, and that heaven, and earth, and land, and sea, are teeming with the products of his marvellous skill. The revolutions of day and night, and the formation and fall of rain are indisputable proofs of the presence of eternal power and Godhead. Let us, therefore, seek the Lord! How is it that a man can go up and down in God’s world, and yet forget the God who made the whole? I do not suppose that a man could have walked through the exhibition at Paris without thinking of the emperor whose influence gathered all those treasures together, and who attracted the kings and princes of the earth to visit it; and yet men will go through this world, compared with which the Exposition was a box of children’s toys, and will not recognize God therein!
Oh! strange blindness, mad infatuation, that with God everywhere present, and such a God, the God whom to know is life eternal, whom to delight in is present happiness and future bliss — man is willingly ignorant, blind to his own best interests, senseless to the sweetest and the most ennobling emotions, and an enemy to his best friend! The surface of the text supplies us with motives for seeking God.
O that the Holy Spirit might supply us with grace that we might feel the motives, and be obedient to them!
II. We will now regard the text WITH AMORE SPIRITUALEYE. We speak to those who are sensible of their departure from the living God, and are anxious to be reconciled to him, by the forgiveness of their sins for Jesus’ sake, but our text has also a word for the obdurate and unawakened.
The Lord has been pleased to invite the penitent to come to him in many places of Scripture, but in this passage, in order that the invitation may miss of none, it is made exceedingly wide in its character. Our text will appear to be very wonderful if we notice the connection. “Ye who turn judgment to wormwood, and leave off righteousness in the earth, seek ye him.” There is no mention of those who thirst for him, who are humbled, and confess their faults, but this exhortation is given to those who have no good points about them, but many of the most pernicious traits of character. Those who turn judgment into wormwood, and leave off righteousness in the earth, even those are bidden to seek God. Marvellous mercy! Who after this shall dare despair? If my hearer has up to this day lived a stranger to God, the text does not exclude him from seeking God, but as with an angel’s voice it whispers, “Seek him.” If sin has perverted your judgment, yet seek the great Creator and Preserver; seek him, for you shall find him; you are not bidden to seek his face in vain; the command to seek him implies the certainty of his being found of you.
The reasons given for seeking the Lord are, spiritually, these. The Lord “maketh the seven stars “ — that is to say, the Pleiades, and he also “maketh Orion.” Now, the Pleiades were regarded as being the constellation of the spring, harbingers of the coming summer. We read of “the sweet influences of the Pleiades.” They are most conspicuous at the vernal period of the year. On the other hand, the Oriental herdsman, such as Amos was when he saw Orion flaming aloft, knew the wintry sign right well. Both the Pleiades and Orion are ordained of the Lord, he makes our joys and our troubles. See, then, the reason why we should seek God, because if Orion should just now be in the ascendant, and we should be visited with a winter of despondency, chilled by howling winds of fear and sharp frosts of dismay, if we seek to God he can withdraw Orion, and place us under the gentle sway of the Pleiades of promise, so that a springtime of hope and comfort shall cheer our souls, to be succeeded by a summer of rare delights and fruitful joys. Hearest thou this, poor troubled one?
Whatever thy sorrow may be, the God who made heaven and earth can suddenly change it into the brightest joy. By providence he can do it. Thy circumstances which are now so desperate can be changed by a touch of his hand Within an hour. To whom canst thou better apply for succor? And if thy heart be sick and sad with a sense of sin, and thou art pining with remorse, his grace can find a balm and cordial for thy wounded conscience, which shall give thee peace at once. Before the clock ticks again God can grant thee perfect salvation, blot out thy sins like a cloud, and like a thick cloud thine iniquities. Seek thou the pardoning God. Seek him, I say, for to whom else shouldst thou go? Where else shouldst thou look for strength but to the Strong? Where else for mercy but to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Lord, moreover, turns grief into joy. In the text it is added, “he turneth the shadow of death into the morning.” The long dark night of sorrow, blacker than darkness itself because it presages everlasting wrath, the night created by the grim shadow of death. cold, chill, terrible, may have fallen upon your soul, but the living God can at once transform this darkness into the brightness of the morning. When the sun arises with healing beneath his wings, the whole earth is made to smile, and even thus at once can the Lord make your whole nature glad with the light of his countenance.
Though you are ready to lie down in despair; though you suppose that hell yawns for you, and will soon receive your guilty soul — he can turn this shadow of death into the morning of peace and joy. To whom, then, should you go but to this God? He has already given his dear Son to be the way of life for us sinners. Have you ever heard of another who gave his son to die for his enemies? Gad not about after other helpers, but come at once to your heavenly Father’s arms, and with the prodigal say — ” I will arise and go to my Father!” If you are willing to come, the way is open, for Jesus died. You must not come arrayed in the supposed fitness of good works or good feelings, but you must come resting on the finished work of the appointed Savior. If you look to him you shall be lightened. If you come with his name upon your lips, you shall ask what you will, and it shall be done unto you. Should not this be a reason for coming, that he can turn your night into day, your winter into summer?
But the text bears another aspect, namely, that God can also turn your present joy into grief, and therefore you should seek him. Hemakes the seven stars give way to Orion. “He maketh the day darkwith night.” At this moment, it may be, that you are at ease; buthow long will you be so? Though you have no God, you are contentwith what you possess in this world, satisfied with your daily earnings,or with your yearly income, charmed with your wife, your children,your estate; but remember how soon your joys may be taken from you! Have you not heard how often God’s providence has stripped thehouse, stripped the family, stripped the man’s very soul of every com-fort? Remember ye not the story of Job, who in one day descendedfrom riches to poverty? Know ye not that if the wicked spread them-selves abroad like a green bay tree, they shall suddenly wither, andthough they be exceeding proud and strong, like the ox farted for theslaughter they shall come to their end? All our joys on earth aredependent upon the sovereign will of heaven. Some of you know thisby bitter experience, for you have seen the delight of your eves takenaway at a stroke, and the comfort of your heart carried to the grave.Now, to whom should you fly for succor, but to him upon whom allyour present comfort depends, and who can so soon take it all away?How prudent to be at peace with him! How wise, above all wisdom,to be reconciled to the mighty God!
But, alas, for those who haveoften been warned! They have hardened their necks, and will besuddenly destroyed. Their day will blacken into everlasting night.The proud sinner will die as others do, his we will pale, and his browgrow cold, for he must face inexorable Death, and then when he comesinto the land to which the wicked are banished, he will enter into theouter darkness, darkness which shall be felt, in the land of confusion,where there is no beginning of hope, or end of misery; who would thendesire to stand in his soul’s stead? Escape then before the darkness gathers.Seek him, O man, who maketh the day dark with night. “Ye sinners, seek his face, Whose wrath you cannot bear; Fly to the shelter of the cross, And find salvation there.” The last clause of the text suggests a third reason for seeking the Lord, namely, God may make that which is a blessing to some a curse to others. Did you observe it? Seek him that “calleth for the waters of the sea, and poureth them out upon the face of the earth.” This may allude to the deluge, when the waters of the ocean covered the very tops of the mountains; but it may be equally well explained by reference to the clouds which yield refreshing rain. The sun draws up the waters of the sea, leaving the salt behind; and, when these exhalations have floated their appointed time in the air, they descend upon the thirsty earth to make glad the soil. Now, since the clause bears two readings, it were well to note how the actions of God oftentimes bear two renderings. There is, for instance, the gift of his dear Son, an unexampled act of love, and yet to some of you it will prove a sayour of death unto death. To the unbeliever it will prove a terrible thing that Jesus ever came into the world. He is a precious corner-stone to those who build upon him, but those who stumble upon him shall be broken, and if fids stone shall fall upon any man it shall grind him to powder. That which is heaven’s greatest joy is hell’s greatest horror. When Christ shall come, the sight of him shall draw forth the acclamations of his people, but it will also cause anguish to his enemies. They shall weep and wail because of him.
They shall call upon the rocks to cover them, and upon the mountains to hide them from the face of him that sitteth upon the throne. Since you who’ so constantly hear the gospel cannot escape from it, but must have it made to you either a savor of death unto death or of life unto life, I pray that the Eternal Spirit may show you the wisdom of seeking God by Jesus Christ, and of seeking him now. It will be a dreadful tiling at the last great day to find the gentle Lamb become a Lion to you, to tear you in pieces when there shall be none to deliver! Why should that which is the meat of humble souls become yore’ poison? Why should the blood of that Savior, in which so many have washed their robes and made them white, be your condemnation? Remember, Jesus’ blood will be either upon you to cleanse you or upon you to condemn you. That dreadful cry of the Jews in the streets of Jerusalem — ” His blood be on us, and on our children,” what a curse it brought upon their race in the massacres within the city walls and, in the bitter exile and suffering which they have so long endured. Take care that the same curse do not bring upon you an eternal exile from God! Seek you his face, I beseech you! You may not long have opportunity to seek it.
The day of his mercy may close as closes this day with the setting sun. You may not survive to enjoy another day of gospel invitation. May God the blessed Spirit, who alone can do it, make you seekers, and then make you finders, and his shall be the praise!
Thus much to the unconverted. The people of God can think over the text in relation to themselves. It is rich in priceless instruction to them, but time forbids me to direct their meditations. Farewell.
JOHN PLOUGHMAN’S LETTER ON THE WAR.
TO NAPOLEON, EMPEROR OF THE FRENCH, AND WILLIAM, KING OF PRUSSIA.
THIS comes hoping that you are getting better, at least better tempered with one another, though I am much area;d, as the saying is, that you will be worse before you will be better. I beg to send my most disrespectful compliments. Scripture says, “Honour to whom honor is due;” but kings who go to war about nothing at all hare no honor due to them. So I don’t send you go much as would lay on your thumb nails. Perhaps you are not both alike, and only one of you is to blame for beginning this dreadful fight; but I do not know your secret tricks, for kings are as deep as foxes, and it is safest to lay it on to you both, for then the right one will he sure to get it.
I should like to give you both a month at our workhouse, and a taste of the cank, to bring your proud spirits down a bit, for I expect it is your high living that has made you so hot blooded.
Whatever do you see in fighting that you should be so fierce for it? One would thing you were a couple of game cooks, and did not know any better. When two dogs fight, one of them is pretty sure to come home lame, and neither of them will look the better for it. One or other of you will get a thrashing; I only wish it would come, on your bare backs, and not on your poor soldiers. What are you at? Have you got so much money that you want to blow it away in powder? If so, come and let off some fireworks down by Dorking, and please our boys. Or have you too many people, and therefore want to clear them off by cutting their throars? Why don’t you do this in a quiet way, and not make them murderers as well as murdered? I don’t think you know yourselves what it is you want;. but, like boys with new knives, you must be cutting something. One of you has the gout, and that d, es not sugar the temper much, and the other is proud about having beaten his neighbor; and so you must needs let off your steam by beginning a murderous war. You are as daft as you are days old if you think any good can come of it. If you think you will get ribands and flags by fighting, you had better buy them at first hand of the drapers; they will come a deal cheaper, and there will be no ugly blood stains on them. If you are such great babies you should come to our fair, and buy yourselves lots of stars and garters, and blue ribands, and the stall-keepers would be glad to serve you.
If you must have a fight, why don’t you strip and go at it yourselves as our Tom Rowdy and Big Ben did on the green; it’s cowardly of you to send a lot of other fellows to be shot on your account. I don’t like fighting at all, it’s too low-lived for me; but really if it would save the lives of the millions I would not mind taking care of your jackets while you had a set-to with fisticuffs, and I would encourage you both to hit his hardest at the gentleman opposite. I dare say if you came over to Surrey the police would manage to keep out of your way and let you have a fair chance of having it out; they have done so for other gentlemen, and I feel sure they would do it to oblige you. It might spoil your best shirts to have your noses bleed, and I dare say you would not like to strip at it, but there are plenty of ploughmen who would lend you their smock frocks for an hour or two, especially if you would be on your honor not to go off with them. Just let me know, and I’ll have some sticking plaster ready, and a bason of water, and a sponge, and perhaps our governors will let Madame Rachel out of jail, to enamel your eves, if they get a little blackened. I’ve just thought of a capital idea, and that is, if you will both drop a line to the keepers of the Agricultural Hall, where they have those Cumberland wrestling matches, they would let you have the place for a day, and give you half the takings, and I’ll be bound there would be a crowd, and no mistake. So you see you could get glory and ready-money too, and nobody would be kille. I like this idea, for then I can get out of my first offer, and can wash my hands of you, and I can truly say, the less I see of two such kicking horses as you are the better I shall be pleased. My good old grandfather set me against the Bonyparts when I was a boy, but I did think that you, Lewis, were a quieter sort than your uncle; however, what is bred in the bone will come out in the flesh, and as the old cock crows the young cock learns. Why you, the king of the Germans, want to go into the butchering line I don’t know; but if you are at the bottom of this it shows that you are a very bad disposed man, or you would be ashamed of killing your fellow creatures.
When war begins hell opens, and it is a bad office for either of you to be gate-opener to the devil; yet that’s what one of you is, if not both.
Did either of you ever think of what war means? Did you ever see a man’s head smashed, or his bowels ripped open? Why, if you are made of flesh and blood, the sight of one poor wounded man, with the blood oozing out of him, will make you feel sick. I don’t like to drown a kitten; I can’t bear even to see a rat die, or any animal in pain. But a man! where’s your hearts if you can think of broken legs, splintered bones, heads smashed in, brains blown out, bowels torn, hearts gushing with gore, ditches fall of blood, and heaps o[‘ limbs and carcases of mangled men? Do you say my language is disgusting? How much more disgusting must the things themselves be?
And you make them! How would you like to get a man into your palacegarden, and run a carving-knife into his bowels, or cut his throat? If you did that you would deserve to be hanged; but it would not be half so bad as killing tens of thousands, and you know very well that this is just what you are going to do. Do you fancy that your drums and fifes, and feathers and fineries, and pomp, make your wholesale murder one whit the less abominable in the sight of God? Do not deceive yourselves, you are no better than the cut-throats whom your own laws condemn; better, why you are worse, for your murders are so many. Think, I pray you, for your poor people will have to think whether you do or no. Is there so little want in the world that you must go trampling on the harvest with your horses and your men? Is there so little sorrow that you must make widows by the thousand? Is death so old and feeble that you must hunt his game for him, as jackals do for the lion? Do you imagine that God made men for you to play soldiers with? Are they only meant for toys for you to break? O kings, a ploughman tells you that their souls are as precious in God’s sight as yours, they suffer as much pain when bullets pierce them as ever you can do; they have homes, and mothers and sisters, and their deaths will be as much wept over as yours, perhaps more. How can you sit down to eat when you have caused war? Does not the blood rise in your throats and choke you? Or are you only devils with crowns on? Creatures who were never suckled at a woman’s breast, and therefore have no human feeling. It will be hard for you to think of the blood you have shed when you lie dying, and harder still to bear the heavy hand of God when he shall cast all murderers into hell. Whichever it is of you that has been the wicked cause of this war, I say you smell of blood; you ought to be more hated than the common hangman, and instead of being called “his majesty” you ought to be hooted as a demon.
You have both made mighty fine speeches, laying all the blame off of yourselves, but the worst cause generally gets the best pleading, for men who cannot walk take to horseback; but all the world knows that wranglers never will own that they are in the wrong, and your words will only go for what they are worth, which is not much. Emperor and king, who are you?
Though the great folk flatter you, you are only men. Have pity upon your fellow men. Do not cut them with swords, tear them with bayonets, blow them to pieces with cannon, and riddle them with shots. What good will it do you? What have the poor men done to deserve it of you? You fight for glory, do you? Don’t be such fools. I am a plain talking Englishman, and I tell you the English for glory i sDAMNATION, and it will be your lot, O kings, if you go on cutting and hacking your fellow men. Stop this war if you can, at once, and turn to some better business than killing men. Set up shambles and kill bullocks for your nations; you can then eat w. hat you slay, and there will be some reason in what you do. Before the deep curses of widows and orphans fall on you from the throne of God, put up your butcher knives and patent men-killers, and repent. From one who is no servant of yours, but A Fighter for Peace,JOHNPLOUGHMAN.READER! GIVE EAR!
THIS moment, while preparing the magazine for August, I have experienced a shock which I shall not soon forget. I opened a letter, and it commenced thus: — “REV.SIR, I feel it right, as a friend of Mr. H. E. Elliott’s, to apprise you of the sad fact that he died last evening.”
I have known him and respected him for many years. Only a day or two ago, I saw him and talked with him, and only yesterday I had from him the manuscript of Thursday evening’s Sermon. He was the reporter of my Sabhath evening and week evening sermons; and a most able reporter too, and kind, and courteous, and all that I could wish in his own sphere. He made no profession of religion, but he always spoke as if be had a share in it, and was ready at all times to serve the cause as only they are who love it. Can it be that he is gone? Are the nimble fingers still for ever? Is the pen of the ready writer fallen to be used no more? It is not a fact which I can realize all at once. How can Elliott be dead? I must sit down and try to grasp the sad truth.
How soon will the same record be made of me, and of thee, reader; yes, of the? is everything in fit order for the departure so certain, and it may be so near? It ought to be the first concern of life to be ready for the life to come.
Reason tells us that. Are we acting like rational beings with such a prospect before us, or are we rushing blindly on like the mad swine of the Gergesenes? It is well to lay these things to heart before we ourselves are laid in our sepulchres.
Reader, repentance of sin and faith in the Lord Jesus are the marks of a saved man. Are these signs seen in you or no? If not, take warning by the sudden calling away of others, and obey the gospel call at once. Trust now thy soul with him who died to bear the curse of heaven due for sin.
Commit now thy spirit into the hands which were nailed to the tree. Here in this silent place, where no eye sees thee bow the knee, lift up your heart, and yield thyself to the Christ of God. Is it done; then it is well. In Christ all is well for time and for eternity. Be persuaded to yield thy heart now.
When these words were written thou wast prayed for by thy friend, and he asked that thou might-est be lead to pray for thyself. C. H.SPURGEON.