VOICES FROM POMPEII BY C. H. SPURGEON.
ARUSH of thought has hurried through our soul while traversing the streets of the long lost city of Pompeii. Worn as its pavements are by the traffic of a thousand chariots in days of yore, it is all silent now, and its temples and palaces echo only to the footfalls of inquisitive visitors, who guess its life from its suggestive relics. The city was not destroyed by a fiery stream of molten lava, as is popularly supposed; but it would seem that first there fell a shower of ashes and cinders, with here and there a huge mass of volcanic matter; and then there followed torrents of liquid mud, which flowed over all and formed over the city a crust, preserving everything that remained from further injury or decay. Had the stream been burning lava, it must have melted down the bronzes, calcined the marbles, and reduced all to one vast heap of molten matter; as it is, the most delicate frescoes remain uninjured, the most minute articles are found in their integrity, and even such readily combustible materials as thread and skeins of silk, are gathered from the ruined dwellings. We have seen a glass jar of oil still retaining its contents, delicate bottles of perfume apparently as fresh as when purchased at the shop, and amphorae of wine, with the age of the vintage as freshly marked thereon, as though but yesterday placed in the cellar. How marvelous does all this seem when we remember that the city was buried in A.D. 79, and, therefore, has lain in its grave for close upon eighteen hundred years.
Comparatively few human remains have been found in the excavations, for although the inhabitants of Pompeii had but scant warning, it appears that the bulk of the population were, at the time of the eruption, assembled in the great amphitheater, which is outside the town, and, finding themselves cut off from the rest of the city by the falling ashes, they made their escape from the impending doom. All of them were not, however, so fortunate, for some six hundred skeletons have been exhumed, and as yet a bare half of the city has been uncovered. In the ear of our imagination have sounded voices from the dead in Pompeii, and in a hurried moment we sit down to record the impressions they have made.
The full chorus of the disinterred chants one solemn line, “Be ye also ready, for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of Man cometh.” To many in that fair abode of luxury and vice the outbreak of Vesuvius appeared to be the end of all things. When the darkness which might be felt settled down upon them; when the earth rumbled and reeled beneath them; when the groaning waves of the tortured sea foamed beyond them; when the scorching glare of vivid lightnings flashed above them, and huge rocks blazing and hissing with fire fell all around them; they believed that the world’s death had come, — and so, indeed, in a manner it had come to them, but in a fuller and truer sense it hastens on for us! Even now, while the ink is flowing from our pen, the Lord may be on his way, and may suddenly appear. In Pompeii’s last tremendous hour the bread was in the oven, but the baker never saw it taken from it; the meat was seething in the pot never to be eaten; the slave was at the mill, the prisoner in the dungeon, the traveler at the inn, the money dealer in his treasury, but none of these saw aught of their labors, their pains, their pleasures, or their profits again. The burning dust fell over all, the poisonous vapors sought out every crevice, and the ocean of mud buried inhabitant and habitation, worshipper and temple, worker and all that he had wrought! Should a sudden overthrow come upon us also, are we ready? Could we welcome the descending Lord, and feel that for us his coming with clouds to recompense justice would be a joyful appearing, to be welcomed with exulting acclamation? The question is too important to be dismissed until honestly answered: may sincerity direct the examination it suggests.
A very large proportion of the dead were discovered in the barracks; thirtyfour were found together, beyond all doubt the guard called out for the fatal night discipline must have been powerful indeed to have kept men to their duty at such a time, especially when they were not far from the city gate. It would seem that the officers’ wives and children shared in the same spirit, and remained with the band, and with them, those ever faithful friends of man, the dogs who had fed beneath their table. Soldiers are expected to endure hardness, and these Roman legionaries discharged their trust to the last. Christians are called soldiers of Christ; shall they be less firm, less bravely obedient, even unto death? Whoever flees in the evil day, a Christian must not. His it is to be at his post at all hazards, and faithless never. Christian and coward, saint and deserter, are words as much opposed as heaven and hell. Every one has heard of the lone soldier at the Herculaneum gate of Pompeii, who stepped under an arch to shelter himself from the hot ashes, and there remained close by the gate which he was set to guard, and was found there spear in hand, faithful unto death, His martial voice rings in our ear, and bids us, even if alone, abide in our appointed place come what may. Ours it is not to consult personal ease or safety, but to abide where the great Lord of all has marked our station till he himself shall release us from it. Like the dove which was found sitting upon her nest in the garden of Diomed, if we are entrusted with the care of others we must sooner perish than forsake our charge. If Jesus has said “feed my lambs,” we must not flee when the wolf cometh, but must, under evil report and good report, feed the flock of God which he hath purchased with his own blood.
One of the first buildings seen by the traveler upon entering the excavations, is the villa whose owner is supposed to have been named Diomed, because a tomb on the opposite side of the road bears that name.
In the ample cellars of this house seventeen persons were found huddled in a corner, who from their ornaments and dress are believed to have been females, and some of them the ladies of the house. Where was the father, the master, the husband of the family? Why did he not form the center of the group, and prove the mainstay of the tremblers in their hour of horror?
A skeleton, believed to be that of the master of the house, was found near the garden gate, with the key of his villa firmly grasped in his hand; and behind him was an attendant with one hundred pieces of money in his girdle. What was he about to do? He was doubtless fleeing for his life and perished in the attempt: but why escape alone? It would have been useless to carry the key if the door remained unlocked. Had he then fastened in his family and left them all to die? Let us not judge even the dead severely: perhaps the timid females would not venture with him, and he went to discover for them a way of escape. The taking of a considerable sum of money with him does not give much countenance to the theory, but this much is clear, for some reason or other the strong man left his household behind him and sought safety for himself. Meanwhile, outside his door, on the other side of the road, a lady stumbled through the heaps of small loose pumice stones which filled the roadway, and sought a shelter under the vault of the hemicycle where many a traveler had rested ere he entered the splendid city of pomps. She was not alone, but had two children clinging to her garments, and she carried another at her breast. Did she sever herself from the little ones? Did self-preservation drive her to drop her helpless burden? No; folded in each other’s arms they fell into their last sleep, the mother still cherishing in death the children, about whose necks her love had hung pearls and finest gold while yet their days were happy. “Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion upon the son of her womb?” Man is too often hard and selfish, but a mother’s heart is tender, and her love makes sacrifices and counts them sweet.
In the streets of abundance, in the house of a money-changer, in a dark vault-like room at the rear of the building, lies a skeleton upon a heap of rubbish, with outstretched arms and clutching fingers, as if he had been grasping at earth with his last life-throb. Near him the diggers found some 400 coins, mostly of silver, with quite a little fortune in rings and cameos.
Was he a thief, and were these the spoils he had gathered and purchased with his life? Was he a money-lender, and were these his capital and his securities for loans? No man can answer these questions, but the blending together of death and gold in one story is no new thing; it is, indeed, but another among a thousand instances in which death has slain men with gilded darts. In another place was found an adventurous pilferer, who, after the destruction of the city, had marked the spot where stood a rich man’s house, had burrowed down into it, and had met his end through the falling in of the earth upon him. He digged for treasure, and knew not that he had prepared his grave; fit warning to other earthworms among men that they also perish not in their groveling, though it is to be feared the admonition is seldom heeded, and men continue to barter heaven for yellow clay. Less ignobly died the prisoners in their cells, and the soldiers in their stocks, for they were bound by no voluntary fetters, and may have been free in spirit while they lay in durance. Avarice both imprisons and degrades.
The skeleton in the large room behind the Temple of Isis reveals the overpowering energy of even a base animal appetite, for there it was found with bones of chickens, eggshells, fishbones, bread, wine, and a garland of flowers around it. He must have been a rare feeder who could find stomach for his meat amid such convulsions of nature; his worship of his belly had furnished him with a courage which far nobler devotions have not excelled.
It shows how sottish he becomes who lives to eat instead of eating to live; he may one day die by his eating, and go from the banquets of Bacchus to the tortures of Tophet. Let all men beware of the tyranny of carnal passions, for no despots are so exacting as the appetites of the flesh.
Suicide by one’s own teeth is the meanest of deaths, and involves a man in everlasting contempt; the cruelest of tyrants have not demanded this of their victims. By all that we value for time and for eternity, let us conquer fleshly appetites lest they conquer us.
Time would fail us to tell of the wretch who left his bones in a temple with all the evidence of his sacrilege about him. Will a man rob God? How will it fare with him should he perish in the act? Neither can we speak much of the gigantic personage, who with an axe had pierced a way through two walls of the temple of Isis in his efforts to escape from the all-surrounding death. He at least was no sluggard or foolhardy glutton. He perished, but he had made desperate efforts to be saved; many also will share this fate, in a spiritual sense, if they rely upon their own strength; but blessed be God, none shall ever be left to die, who labor against sin, trusting in the merits of the Redeemer. Vain also would it be to conjecture who was the owner of that remarkable brain that once filled that skull of striking conformation, which has excited the speculations of so many phrenologists. He whose eyes looked out from under that overhanging brow was crushed beneath a falling column, literally severed in twain by the prostrate mass. Had he lived and thought for God, for truth, for man? Or was he some arch deceiver, a deluder of the multitude? Echo alone answers to our inquiries, and she by mocking them. The tomb is silent, and so also are those to whom sepulcher is denied, But one thing is clear to the most superficial glance: these skeletons are the petrifactions of vitality, the abiding record of life’s latest moment. As in the forum remain the half-finished columns, with the last mark of the sculptor’s hand; as in the chambers of the household remain the essences and rouge of ill-fated beauty; as in the bath remains the strigil, and in the hall the treasure-casket; so in the stone-like relics of the departed Pompeiians abide the records of their concluding acts; they are the finis of their own history, observed by all men. Behold, at this hour our moral history is being preserved for eternity; processes are at work which will perpetuate our every act, and word, and thought; not alone the last line, but every word and letter of our actual history is being stereotyped for the world’s perusal in the day which shall reveal the secrets of men. We are not writing upon the water, but carving upon imperishable material — the chapters of our history are graven with an iron pen and lead in the rocks for ever.
Time and thought alike fail us just now: we have indicated a subject worthy of an abler pen, and we have done more if we have also suggested to our readers a worthy theme for thought.
A PLAIN TALK UPON AN ENCOURAGING TOPIC.
BY C. H. SPURGEON.
“When my soul fainted within me, then I remembered the Lord; and my prayer ,came in unto thee, into thine holy temple.” — Jonah 2:7.
THE experience of the saints is the treasure of the Church. Every child of God who has tried and proved the promises of God, when he bear’s his testimony to their truth, does as it were hang up his sword and spear on the temple walls; and thus the house of the Lord becomes like “the tower of David builded for au armory, whereon do hang a thousand bucklers all shields of mighty men.” The footsteps of the flock encourage, others who are following their track to the pastures above. Every preceding generation of saints has lived and suffered to enrich us with its experience. One great reason why the experience of saints in olden time is of such use to us, is this,. — they were men of like passions with ourselves. Were they otherwise we could not have been instructed by what they suffered. They endured the same trials and pleaded the same promises before the self-same God, who changes not in any measure or degree; so that we may safely infer that what they gained by pleading may also be obtained by us when surrounded by the same circumstances. If men were different, or :if the promises were changed, or if the Lord had varied, all ancient experience would be but an idle tale to us; but now, whenever we read in Scripture of what happened to a man of faith in the day of trial, we conclude that the like will happen to us; and when we find God helping and delivering his people, we know that he will even now show himself strong on our behalf, since all the promises are yea and amen in Christ Jesus to the glory of God by us. The covenant has not changed, it abideth firm as the eternal hills.
The preacher, therefore, feels ‘quite safe in directing you to the experience of Jonah, and in inviting you to make its lessons a practical guide to yourselves.
We shall use the lesson of the text, first, for the child of God; and,, secondly, for the sinner awakened and aroused.
Our text has an evident bearing upon those who fear the Lord, for such was Jonah. With all his mistakes he was a man of God, and. though he sought to flee from the service of his Master, yet his Master never cast him off; he brought back again his petulant messenger to his work and honored him in it, and he sleeps amongst the faithful, waiting for a glorious reward.
Think, then, of the saints’ condition. In Jonah’s case, as set forth before us, the child of God sees what a plight he may be brought into — his soul may faint in him.
Jonah was certainly in a very terrible condition in the belly of the fish, but the position itself was probably not so dark as his own reflections, for conscience would say to him, “Alas, Jonah! you came here by your own fault, you must needs flee from the presence of God, because in your pride and self-love you refused to go to Nineveh, that great city, and deliver your Master’s message.” It gives a sting to misery when a man feels that he himself is alone responsible for it. If it, were unavoidable that I should suffer, then I could not repine, but if I have brought all this upon myself, by my own folly, then there is a double bitterness in the gall. Jonah would reflect that now he could not help himself, in any way. It would answer no purpose to be self-willed now; he was in a place where petulance and obstinacy had no liberty. If he had tried to stretch out his arm, he could not; he was immured in a dungeon which imprisoned every sense as well as every limb, and the bolts of his cell his hand could :not draw; he was cast into the deep in the midst of the seas, the waters compassed him about even to the soul; the weeds were wrapped about his head. His state was helpless, and, apart from God, it was hopeless. Children of God may be brought into a similar condition, and yet be dear to the unchanging heart.
They may be poor and needy, and have no helper. :No voice may speak a word of sympathy, and no arm may be stretched out to succor them. The best of men may be brought into the worst of positions. You must never judge of character by circumstances. Diamonds may be worried upon the wheel, and common pebbles may bathe at ease in the brook. The most wicked are permitted to clamber to the high places of the earth, while the most righteous pine at the rich man’s gate, with dogs for their companions.
Choice flowers full often grow amid tangled briars. Who has not heard of the lily among ‘thorns? Where dwell the pearls? Do not the dark depths of the ocean conceal them, amid mire and wreck? Judge not by appearances, for heirs of light may walk in darkness, and princes of the celestial line may sit upon dunghills. Men accepted of God may be brought very very low, as Jonah was.
Let me remark that the hearts of God’s servitors may sometimes hint, in them; yes, absolutely faint in them, and that, first, through a renewed sense of sin. In this matter my tongue will not outrun my experience. Some of us have enjoyed for years a full assurance of our pardon and justification. We have walked in the light as God is in the light, and we have had fellowship with the Father and with the Son, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son hath cleansed us from all sin. We have often felt our hearts dance at the assurance that” there is, therefore, now no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus.” We have stood at the foot of the cross and seen the record of our sins nailed to the tree, as the token of their full discharge. Yet at this time we may be suffering an interval of anxious questioning, and unbelief may be lowering over us. It is possible that our faith is staggered, and, therefore, our old sins have risen upon us and are threatening our peace. At such times conscience will remind us of our shortcoming, which we cannot deny, and Satan will howl over the top of these shortcomings, “How can you be a child of God? If you were born from above, how could you have acted as you have done?” Then, if for a moment we look away from the cross, if we look within for marks of evidences, the horrible bog of our inward corruptions will be stirred, and there will pour into the soul such dark memories and black forebodings, that we shall cry, “I am lost utterly — my hope is hypocrisy — what can I do? What shall I do?” Let me assure you that under such exercises it is no wonder if the soul of the Christian faints in him. Be it remembered, also, that soul-fainting is the worst form of fainting. Though Jonah in the whale’s belly could not use, his eyes, he did not need them; and if he could not use his arms or his feet, he did not require to do so. It mattered not if they all failed him; but for his soul to faint — this was horror, indeed! So is it with us. Our other faculties’. may go to sleep if they will, but when our faith swoons, and our confidence staggers, things go very hard with us. Do not, however, my brother, when in Such a state write yourself down as a hypocrite, for many of the most valiant soldiers of the cross know by personal experience what this dark sensation means.
The same faintness will come over us at times through the prospect of prolonged pain or of severe trial; You have not yet felt the cruel smart, but you are well aware that it must come, and you shudder at the prospect. As it is true that “we feel a thousand deaths in fearing one,” so do we feel a thousand trials in the dread of one single affliction. The soldier is often braver in the midst of the battle than before the conflict begins. Waiting for the assault is trying work, even the crash of the onslaught is not. so great a test of endurance. I confess I feel an inward faintness in the prospect of bodily pain; it creates a swooning sickness of heart within me to consider it for a moment. And, beloved friend, it is no strange thing that is happening to you if your soul also faints because of difficulties or adversities that lie before you. May you have wisdom to do what Jonah did — to remember the Lord — for there and only there your great strength lieth.
Faintness will also come upon true Christians in connection with the pressure of actual sorrow. Hearts may bear up long, but they are very apt to yield if the pressure be continuous from month to month. A constant drip is felt even by a stone. A long day of drizzling rain is more wetting than a passing shower of heavy drops. Men cannot always be poor, or always be sick, or always be slandered, or always, friendless, without sometimes being tempted to say, “My heart is weary, when will the day break and the shadows flee away?” I say again, the very choicest of God’s elect may, through the, long abiding of bitter sorrow and heavy distress, be ready to faint in the day of adversity.
The like has happened to earnest Christians engaged in diligent service, when the, y have seen no present success. To go on tilling a thankless soil, to continue to cast bread upon the waters and to find no return, has caused many a true heart to faint with inward bleeding. Yet this is full often the test of our fidelity It is a noble thing to continue preaching, like Noah, throughout a life-time, amid ridicule, reproach, and unbelief; but it is not every man who could endure to do so. The most of us need success to sustain our courage, and we serve our Master with most spirit when we see immediate results. Faint hearts of that kind there may be among my fellow soldiers, ready to lay down the weapons of their warfare because they win no victory at this present; — my brethren, I pray you do not desert the field of battle, but, like Jonah, remember the Lord, and abide by the royal standard still.
It may be that inquiries will be made as to why and wherefore we should thus enlarge upon the different ways in which Christians faint. Our reply is, we have been thus particular in order to meet the temptation so common among young Christians, to fancy that they are singular in their trials. “Surely no one has ever felt as I feel,” says many a young Christian, “I don’t suppose another person ever hung down his head and his hands and became so utterly overcome as I am.” Do :not listen to that suggestion, for it is devoid of truth. Faintness is very common in the Lord’s hosts, and some of his mightiest men have been the victims of it. Even David himself, that hero of Judah, in the day of battle waxed faint, and had been slain if a warrior had not come to the rescue. Do not give way to faintness — strive against it vehemently; but, at the same time, should it overcome thee, cast not away thy confidence, nor write thyself down ‘as rejected of God[or one fatally fallen.
And now, brethren, we will notice the saints’ resort. Jonah when he was in sore trouble tells us, “I remembered the Lord.” What is there for a faint heart to remember in the Lord? Is there not everything? There is, first, his nature. Think of that. When I am faint with sorrow, let me remember that he is very pitiful and full of compassion: he will not strike too heavily, nor will he forget to sustain. I will, therefore, look up to him and say, “My Father, break me not in pieces. I am a poor weather-beaten barque which scarce can escape the hungry waves; send not thy rough wind against me, but give me a little calm that I may reach the desired haven.” By remembering that the Lord’s mercies are great, we shall be saved from a fainting heart.
Then I will remember his power. If I am in such a strait that I cannot help myself, yet he can help me. I have exigencies and sharp pinches, but there are no such things with him. There are no emergencies and times of severe pressure with God. With him all things are possible, therefore will I remember the Lord. If the difficulty be one which arises out of my ignorance, though I know not which way to take, I will remember his wisdom. I know that he will guide me; I will remember that he cannot mistake, and committing my way unto him my soul shall take courage.
Beloved, all the attributes of God sparkle with consolation to the eye of faith. There is nothing in the Most High to discourage the man who can say, “My Father, ray God, in thee do I put my trust.” None who have trusted in him have ever been confounded; therefore, if thy soul sink within thee remember the nature, and character, and attributes of God.
When you have remembered his nature, then remember his promises. What has he said concerning souls that faint? Think of these texts if you think of no other : — “I will never leave thee nor forsake thee.” “Thy shoes shall be iron and brass, and as thy days so shall thy strength be.” “My grace is sufficient for thee ;. for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” “Trust in the Lord and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed.” “No good thing will I withhold from them that walk uprightly.”
When we get upon this strain and begin to talk of the promises, we :need hours in which to enlarge upon the exceeding great and precious words, but we mention only these — -we let fall this handful for some poor Ruth to glean. When your soul is faint, catch at a promise, believe it., and say unto the Lord, “Do as thou hast said,” and your spirit shall speedily revive.
Remember, next, his covenant. What a grand word that word “covenant” is to the man who understands it. God has entered into covenant with his Son who represents us, his people. He has said, “As I have sworn that the waters of Noah should no more go over the earth; so have I sworn that I would not be wroth with thee, nor rebuke thee. For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but my kindness shall not depart; from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed.” Truly, we may say with good old Samuel “Although my house be not so with God; yet hath he made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and sure.” When everything else gives way, cling in the power of the Holy Spirit to covenant mercies and covenant engagements, and your spirit; shall be at peace.
Again, when we remember the Lord we should remember what he has been to us in past times. When some of us fall to doubting and fearing we are indeed blameworthy, for the Lord has never given us any occasion for doubting him. He has helped us in sorer troubles than we are passing through at; this time. We have tested his faithfulness, his power, and his goodness at a heavier rate than now, and though hardly tried they have never failed us yet; they have borne the strain of these twenty years and more, and show no signs of giving way; wherefore, then, are we distrustful? Many saints have proved the Lord’s faithfulness for fifty, sixty, or even seventy years ;~ how can they be of doubtful mind after :his?
What, has your God been. true for seventy years, and cannot you trust him a few more days? Has he brought you to seventy-five, and cannot you trust him. the few months more that you are to remain in the wilderness? Call to remembrance the days of old, the love of his heart, and the might of his arm, when he came to your rescue and toot: you out of the deep waters, and set your feet upon a rock, and established your goings. He is the same God still; therefore, when your sold fainteth within you, remember the Lord and you will be comforted.
Thus I have shown you the saint’s plight and the saint’s resort, and now, observe, the success Of his prayer. Jonah was so comforted with the thoughts of God that he began to pray, and his prayer was not drowned in the water, nor choked in the fish’s ‘belly, neither was it held captive by the weeds that; were about his head, but up it went like an electric flash, through waves, through clouds, beyond the stars up to the throne of God, and down came the answer like a return message. Nothing can destroy or detain a real prayer; its flight to the throne is swift and certain. God the Holy Ghost writes our prayers, God the Son presents our prayers, and God the Father accepts our prayers, and with a Trinity to help us in it, what cannot prayer perform? I may be speaking to some who are under very severs trials — I feel persuaded I am — let me beg them to take this promise to themselves as their own; and I pray God the Holy Ghost to lay it home to their hearts and make it theirs, — “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” God will not fail you though you fail yourself. Though you faint, he fainteth not, neither is weary. Lift up your cry, and he will lift up his hand. Go to your knees, you are strongest there; resort to your chamber, and it shall be to you none other than the gate of heaven. Tell your God your grief — heavy to you, it will be light enough to him.
Dilemmas will all be plain to his wisdom, and difficulties will vanish before his strength. Oh, tell it not in Gath that Israel cannot trust in God; publish it not in the streets of Askelon that trouble can dismay those who lean upon the eternal arm. With Jehovah in the van, O hosts of Israel, dare ye fear?
The Lord of hosts is with us, the God of Jacob is our refuge. What man’s heart shall quail, or what soul shall faint;? Lift up the hands that hang down, and confirm the feeble knees. Say unto the feeble in heart, “Be strong; fear not. God is with you; he will help you and that right early.”
Now we must change the subject altogether. Having addressed the people of God, we feel very anxious to speak to those concerning whom the Lord has designs of love, but who are not yet made manifest. The sinner when God comes to deal with him is brought into the same plight as Jonah. His soul faints in him. What does that show? It shows very much which we are glad to see. When a man’s soul faints within him, iris clear that his carelessness is gone. He used to take. things very easily, and as long as he could make merry from day to day, what cared he about heaven or hell?
The preacher’s warnings were to him so much rant, and his earnestness fanaticism; but now the man feels an arrow sticking in his own loins, and he knows that there is a reality in sin, it is to him in very deed an evil and a bitter thing. Now the cup of gall is put to his own lips, and he feels the poison in his own veins. His heart hints within him, and he remains careless no longer; which :is no small gain in the preacher’s estimation. His faintness also shows that he will be self-righteous no longer. Once he hoped he was as good as other people, and perhaps a little better; and for all that he could see, he was every whir as excellent, as the saints [hemselves.
They might speak about their’ trusting in Jesus Christ, but he was working for himself, and expected by his regular habits to win as good a place in the world to come as the best of believers. Ah! but now God has dealt with him, and let in the daylight into his soul, and he sees that his gold and silver are cankered, and that his fair linen is filthy and worm-eaten; he discovers that; his righteousnesses are filthy rags, and that he must have something better than the works of the law to trust in, or he must perish.
So far so good. Things are hopeful when there is no more self-reliance left in the sinner. The worst of human nature is that though it cannot lift a finger in its own salvation, it thinks it can do it all; and though its only place is the place of death, and it is a mercy when it comes to burial, yet that same human nature is so proud that it would, if it could, be its own redeemer. When God make man’s conscience a target for his fiery arrows, then straightway he feels that his life is no longer in him, and that he can do nothing, and he cries out, “God be merciful to me.” O that the two-edged sword of the gospel would slay all our spiritual self-reliance, and lay us in the dust at the feet of the Crucified Savior. Perhaps I speak to some who faint because, though they have given up all self-righteousness now, and relinquished all self-dependence, they yet. have not laid hold upon Christ and his salvation. “I have been trying to believe,” says one, “but I cannot succeed.” Well do I remember the time when I labored to believe. It is a strange way of putting it, yet so it was. When I wished to believe, and longed to trust, I found I could not. It seemed to me that the way to heaven by Christ’s righteousness was as difficult as the way to heaven by my own, and that I could as soon get to heaven by Sinai as by Calvary. I could do nothing, I could neither repent nor believe. I fainted with despair, feeling: as if I must be lost despite the gospel, and for ever driven from Jehovah’s presence, even though Christ had died. Ah! I am not sorry if you also are come to this, The way to the door of faith is through the gate of self-despair. Till thou hast seen thy last hope destroyed thou wilt never look to Christ for all things, and yet thou wilt never be saved until thou dost; for God has laid no help on you, he has laid help upon one that is mighty, even Jesus only, who is the sole Savior of sinners. Here, then, we have before us the sinner’s plight; and I will venture to call it, though it is a very wretched one, a very blessed one: and I heartily wish that every unconverted man were brought into such condition that his soul fainted within him.
Now, hear ye the gospel — incline your ear l-o it, and ye shall live. The way of salvation to you is the way which Jonah took. When his soul fainted, he remembered the Lord. I beseech you by the living God now to remember the Lord; ,red if you ask me what it is you should remember, I will tell you in a few words;. Remember the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Savior of sinners, him that suffered in the room of the guilty.
Know, assuredly, that, God has visited upon him the transgressions of his people. Now the sufferings of such an one as Jesus must have power to cleanse away sins. He is God, and if he deigns to die, there must be such merit in his death that he is able to save to the uttermost them that come unto God by him. You are bidden at this moment, in God’s name, to trust your soul in those hands that were nailed to the cross, and rest your life with him who poured out his soul unto death that you might live. In yourself you may well. despair, but remembering his name, coupled with the names of Gethsemane and Golgotha, remembering all his pains, and griefs, and woes, unutterable — remembering these by faith, there shall be salvation for you at this moment. Do I hear you sigh out,, “Oh! but I have nothing good within me?” Know, them, that all good is in him for thee; go to him for it. “But I am unworthy.” He is worthy; go to him for worthiness. “But I do not feel as I should.” He felt as he should; go to him for all thou shouldst feel. If thou bring a rusty farthing of thine own, God will not have it; it would only insult the precious gold of Ophir which Jesus freely gives thee, if he should allow thy cankered counterfeits to be mixed therewith.
Away with thy rags! Wouldst thou add them to the garment which Christ has woven? Dross, nay dung, the Apostle says ore’ best works are, if we venture to put them side by side with the merits of our Redeemer. None but Jesus can save. Oh, remember him, and live! “But,” says one, “I have tried to remember the Lord, but I find that while I can trust him to pardon my sins, yet I have such a hard heart, and so many temptations, and I am so weak for all that is good that I still despair.”
Hearken, then, yet again: remember the Lord. At this time remember the Holy Ghost. When Jesus ascended on high, the Holy Ghost was given, and he has never been recalled. The Holy Ghost is here in this assembly now, and in the Holy Ghost is your hope against indwelling sin. You comic lain that you cannot pray, but the Spirit helpeth our infirmities. You mourn that you cannot believe, but; faith is the gift of God and the work of the Holy Spirit. A tender heart, a penitential frame of mind, a right spirit — these are the work of the Holy Ghost in you. You can do nothing, but the Holy Ghost can work everything in you. Give yourself up to those \tear hands that were pierced, and the power of the Holy Spirit shall come upon you. A new heart will he give you and a right spirit will he put within you; you shall learn his statutes and walk in his ways. Everything is provided for the believer that he can possibly want. Oh, young man, anxious to be saved! the salvation of Jesus Christ precisely suits your ease. Oh, seeking soul! whatever it is thou cravest to make thee fit to dwell where God is for ever, it is all to be had, and to be had for the asking, for it is all provided in the covenant of grace; and if thou wilt remember Jesus the Lord, and the Holy Ghost — the indweller who renews the mind, thou wilt be cheered and comforted.
Yet let me not forget another person of the sacred majesty of heaven — remember the Father as well 8s the Son and the Spirit; and let me help thee to remember him. Thou, trembling sinner, thou must not think of God as severe or stern, for he is love. Wouldst thou be glad to be saved? He will be gladder still to save thee. Dost thou wish to return to thy God to-night?
Thy God already meets thee and bids thee come. Wouldst thou be pardoned? The absolution is on his lips. Wouldst thou be cleansed? The fountain of atoning blood was filled by his mercy and filled for all who believe. Come and welcome, come and welcome! The child is glad to be forgiven, but the father is gladder still to forgive. Jehovah’s melting bowels yearn to clasp his Ephraim to his breast. Seek him at once, poor souls, and ye shall not find him hard and cold, but waiting to be gracious, ready to forgive — a God delighting in mercy. Thus if you can think of God, the Son, the Spirit, and the Father, though your soul faint within you, you may be encouraged.
And so I close by bidding you, if such be the case, imitate Jonah’s example, and send up a prayer to heaven, for it will come up even to God’s holy temple. Jonah had no prayer-book, and you need none. God the Holy Ghost can put more living’ prayer into hall-a-dozen words of your own them you could get out; of a ton weight of paper prayers. Jonah’s prayer was not; notable for its words. The fish’s belly was not the place for picked phrases, nor for long-winded orations. We do not believe that he offered a long prayer either, but, it came right up from his heart and flew straight up to heaven, It was shot by the strong bow of intense desire and agony of soul, and, therefore, it speeded its way to the throne of the Most High. If you would now pray, never mind your words — it is the soul of prayer that God accepts. If you would be saved, go to your chamber, and rise not from your knees till the Lord has heard you. Ay, where you now are let your souls pour out themselves before God, and faith in Jesus will give you immediate salvation.
THE MARVELOUS RESERVOIR AMONG the greatest marvels which the traveler will see near Naples is the Piscina Mirabiles, a vast underground reservoir, to which water was brought from fifty miles distance by an aqueduct. Upon descending into it by a long flight of forty steps, it appears to be fitted for a temple or a palace, its area is so extensive and its architecture so imposing; it measures 220 feet by 83, and its vaulted roof of massive masonry is supported by forty-eight enormous pilasters, the whole structure being as firm as when it was first put together. It chills the visitor to his very marrow, and makes him glad to escape to the sunny air above. Once it was put to valuable use, and contained refreshing floods, but now it is as dark as it is stupendous.
Such is Calvinistic doctrines: if the life be in it, it is a fountain of living waters, a splendid store-house of vital nourishment, a gathering up of sacred streams from the divine wellhead of truth; but if the inward vitality be gone it is dark and dreary, repulsive to many, and chilling to all who enter it. We have known men who have dwelt in its empty vaults till they have become wretched as ghosts wandering among the tombs, and fierce as mountain wolves. To them the purposes of God were only dark retreats from the responsibilities of life, or prisons for the hopes of their fellow men. Pour in the life-bearing floods, and then you shall see the glory of that marvelous system, which comprises more of divine revelation than any other which the mind of man has ever discovered in the inspired page.
Calvinism, or, better still, Pauline doctrine, is a collection of the living waters of the gospel and so abundant are the stores which it treasures that they are the daily joy and rejoicing of ten thousand saints. We prize the reservoir, not for its masonry but for its contents; and so we value Calvinism; not so much for its massive logic, its stupendous grandeur, its sublime conceptions, and its vast compass, as for the gospel of our salvation which from its depth it has poured forth for the supply of human needs. Let its professors see to it that it becomes to them no dry doctrine, empty and void and waste; but let them receive it in its spiritual fullness and divine energy, and they need never blush to own in all companies that their faith is bound up with it. Our creed is no pigmy’s fancy, no ephemeral creation; — it is worthy of the loftiest genius, though plain enough to be comprehended by the wayfaring man. It is alike sublime and simple, for it is truth. C. H. S A SIN OF OMISSION OUR sojourn in Italy has almost made us forget the near approach of Christmas, and the needs of the boys, as to a festival. Last year, kind friends sent us all the materials for a noble Christmas dinner, and plenty of fruits, and toys. We were delighted to see the poor lads so happy. Will not our friends give them the same treat again? Those who have happy family circles of their own, would show their gratitude in a fitting manner if they sent a portion for the fatherless; and those who are bereaved or childless will find joy for themselves in giving joy to others. The Orphanage itself is needing substantial help; but this appeal is for an extra treat, at which the President presides. Please send the good things to the Stockwell Orphanage, or the money to buy them to C. H. Spurgeon, Nightingale Lane, Slapham. We shall be very grateful.