SCALES TAKEN FROM THE EYES.
NO. A SERMON PUBLISHED ON THURSDAY, JULY 7TH, 1910,
DELIVERED BY C. H. SPURGEON,
AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON.
“And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales.” - Acts 11:18.
THIS means that the film upon Saul’s eyes was comparable to the scales of a fish, or else that it fell off as scales might fall. When the blinding film was gone, light broke into the darkness of Saul. In different men, sin manifests its chief power in different parts of their nature. In the case of many, sin is most apparent in their eyes; that is to say, ignorance, error, and prejudice have injured their mental sight. Some have the withered hand of conscious inability, others have the deaf ear of mental obtuseness; but there are far more who hear the joyful sound, and display much energy, but they hear without understanding, and are zealous without knowledge, for they are blind. This was Saul’s condition. He was thoroughly honest: we might say of his heart, when; it was at its worst, that it was always true to its convictions. He was no deceiver, and no timeserver. He went in for what he believed to be right with all his might; lukewarmness and selfish policy were alien to his nature. He dashed with all his might against the doctrine of the cross because he thought it to be an imposition. His fault lay in his eyes, and so, when the eyes were set right, Saul was right. When he perceived that Jesus was, after all, the Messiah, the man became just as earnest a follower of Christ as before he had been a persecutor.
We will talk about scales falling from men’s eyes. I want to address those who would be right if they knew how; who are earnest, but it is in the wrong direction, for they do not see the truth. If the Lord, in his infinite mercy, will but touch that sightless eyeball, and remove the film, so that they discern the right way, they will follow it at once. May the Lord remove many scales while we are proceeding!
First, we will speak of scales which men fail to perceive, because they are inside . Secondly, we will show what makes these scales come to the outside so that men do perceive them ; then, thirdly, what instrumentality the Lord uses to take these outside scales away ; and, fourthly, what did Saul see when the scales were gone ?
I. First, then,THERE ARE SCALES WHICH MEN DO NOTPERCEIVE. Saul had scales upon his eyes when he was on the road to Damascus; but if you had looked at his face, he would have appeared to have as bright an eye as any man. Scales on his eyes! Why, he was a sharp-sighted philosopher, a Pharisee, and a teacher of others. He would not have believed you for a minute if you had said to him, “Saul, you are blind.” Yet blind he was, for his eyes were shut up with inside scales, — the worst sort of scales that can possibly becloud the sight. Saul had the scale of self to darken his eye. He had a great idea of Saul of Tarsus. If he had written down his own character, he would have begun it, “a Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee,” and then he would have gone on to tell of countless good works, and fastings, and prayers, and have finished with, “concerning zeal, persecuting the church.” He was far too great in his own estimation to become a disciple of Jesus Christ. How could the Rabbi who sat at the feet of Gamaliel become a follower of the despised Galilean? Poor peasants might follow the man of Nazareth, but Doctor Saul of Tarsus, — a man so educated both in the knowledge of the Hebrew literature and of the Greek philosophy, — it was not likely that he would mingle with fishermen and peasants in adoring the Nazarene. This is the reason why a great many people cannot see the beauties of Christ, and cannot come to him that they might have life, namely, because they are so great in their own esteem. Ah, my lord, it might have been a goad thing for you if you had been a pauper! Ah, good moralist, it might not be amiss for you if you would sit by the side of those who have lost character among men, and discover that after all, there are not many shades of difference between you and them! Great “I” must fall before the great Savior will be seen. When a man becomes nothing in his own estimation, then Jesus Christ becomes everything to him; but not till then. Self is an effectual darkener of the windows of the soul. How can men see the gospel while they see so much of themselves? With such a noble righteousness of their own to deck themselves with, is it likely that they will buy of Christ the fine white linen which is the righteousness of saints?
Another scale on Saul’s inner eye was ignorance , and learned ignorance, too, which is by far the worst kind of ignorance. Saul knew everything but what he ought to have known; he was instructed in all other sorts of learning, but he did not know Christ. He had never studied the Lord’s claim and character; he had picked up the popular rumors, and he had thought them to be sterling truth. Ah, had he known, poor soul, that Jesus of Nazareth really was the Christ, he would never have haled men and women to prison; but the scale of ignorance was over his eyes. And how many there are in this city of London, in what we call this “enlightened” nineteenth century, who know a great deal about a thousand things, but nothing about the one thing needful! They have never troubled to study that; and so, for lack of knowledge, they grope as the blind.
With ignorance generally goes another scale, namely, prejudice . The man who knows nothing about truth is usually the man who despises it most.
He does not know, and does not want to know. “Don’t tell me,” he says, “don’t tell me.” He has nothing but a sneer for you when you have told him the truth to the best of your ability; the man has no candor, he has made up his mind, he has. Besides, his father before him was not of your religion, and do you think he is going to be a turncoat, and leave the old family faith? “Don’t tell me,” says he, “I don’t want to know anything of your canting Methodism,” or “Presbyterianism”, or whatever it is that he likes to call it. He is so wise! He is wiser than seven men that can render a reason.
O prejudice, prejudice, prejudice, how many hast thou destroyed! Men who might have been wise have remained fools because they thought they were wise. Many judge what the gospel ought to be, but do not actually inquire as to what it is. They do not come to the Bible to obtain their views of religion, but they open that Book to find texts to suit the opinions which they bring to it. They are not open to the honest force of truth, and therefore are not saved by it. Oh, that this scale would fall from every eye which it now closes.
Saul’s soul was also darkened by the scale of unbelief . Saul had seen Stephen die. If he saw the martyr’s heavenly face, he must have noticed the wondrous peace which sat upon his countenance when he fell asleep amid a shower of stones; but Saul did not believe. Though no sermon, is like the sight of a martyrdom, yet Saul was not convinced. Perhaps he had heard about the Savior more than he cared to remember, but he did not believe it; he counted the things rumored concerning him to be idle tales, and cast them under his feet. O brothers and sisters, what multitudes are being ruined by this cruel unbelief towards Christ! Some of you, too, whom I have been addressing for years, are believers in the head, but unbelievers in the heart, not really putting your trust in Jesus. Who can see if he refuses the light? Who shall find salvation if he will not trust the Savior for it?
Unbelief is as sure to destroy those who are guilty of it as faith is sure to save believers.
Then the scale of habit , too, had formed over Saul’s inner eye, for he had been for a long time what he then was. “Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots?” If so, then he that is accustomed to do evil may learn to do well. They say that use is second nature; and when the first nature is bad, the second nature is like the first, only it goes further in wrong. Ah, dear friends, some of you have been so accustomed to refuse the gospel, so accustomed to follow after the pleasures and the vices of the world, that it does not seem possible that you should follow after Christ.
Habits of secret sin are peculiarly blinding to the soul. May this scale be speedily made to fall!
Another scale is worldliness , and Saul had that upon his inner eye, for he loved the praise of men. He had his reputation to maintain, for he had profited beyond most of his brethren, and was reckoned to be a most hopeful and rising teacher of Israel. It was not likely that Saul would believe in Jesus Christ, for then he would have to lose, the esteem of his fellow-countrymen. The fear of man, and the love of man’s applause, how they prevent men from seeing the truth about Jesus, and recognizing him as the Son of God! “How can ye believe, which receive honor one of another?” How can men bow themselves before Jesus Christ when, all the while, they are bidding high for the homage of their fellow-sinners? The love of adulation, which is a form, of worldliness, blinds the eye; and so will any other love of things beneath the moon. Let but the heart be set upon this blinding world, and there will be little sight for things divine.
II. These scales were upon the inside of Saul’s eyes when he was on the way to Damascus, but now we have to notice them BROUGHT TO THE OUTSIDE.
Those outside scales revealed in type and figure what had always been the matter with Saul; they were the material index of the spiritual mischief under which he had long labored, only now they were brought outside so that he knew they were there, and others could perceive that they were there. Now there was hope that they would be removed from the eye; now that he was conscious of them, the evil was half cured. What brought those scales to the outside, and made Saul know that he was blind?
Well, first, it was the exceeding glory of Christ . He says, “About noon, suddenly there shone from heaven a great light round about me,” and he adds, “I could not see for the glory of that light.” Let my Lord Jesus Christ only manifest himself to any of you, and you will be well enough aware of your blindness, and you will say to yourselves, “What a strangely blind being I must have been not to have loved such beauty as this, — not to have yielded myself to such grace as this, — not to have trusted myself to so complete a Savior as this!” Oh, the glory of Christ! It has even laid the saints prostrate when they have seen it. Those who dwell nearest to their Lord are frequently overcome with the exceeding brightness of his glory, and have to confess with those favored three, — “When, in ecstasy sublime, Tabor’s glorious steep we climb, At the too-transporting light, Darkness rushes o’er our sight.” So it is with the sinner when he gets his first view of a glorious Christ, the inrush of the glory makes him mourn his native blindness; he perceives that he has had no perception, and knows that he has known nothing.
Another thing which made the scales pass to the outside of Saul’s eyes was that unanswerable question , “Why persecutest thou me?” That brought home to him a sense of his sin. “Why ?” That was a “why” for which Saul of Tarsus could not find a “because.” When he discovered that the man of Nazareth was the glorious Christ of God, then, indeed, he was “confounded.” He could make no reply to the demand, “Why persecutest thou me?” Oh, that the Lord would fix such a “why” in some of your hearts! Why should you live in sin? Why are you choosing the wages of unrighteousness? Why are you hardening your hearts against the gospel?
Why are you ridiculing it? Why do you sneer at the servants of God? If the Holy Spirit drives that “why” home to your heart, you will begin to say, “What a blind fool I am to have acted as I have done, to go kicking against the pricks, fighting against my best friend, and pouring scorn on those whom I ought most of all to admire!” The why from the lip of Christ will show you your blindness.
The scales were on the outside of Saul’s eyes now, because his soul had been cast into a terrible bewilderment . We read of him that, when his eyes were opened, he saw no man; but, trembling and astonished, he asked the Lord what he must do. Some of us know what that experience means. We have been brought under the hand of God till we have been utterly astonished, — astonished at our Savior, astonished at our sin, astonished that there should be a hope remaining for us, astonished that we should have rejected that hope so long. With this amazement, there was mixed trembling lest, after all, the mercy should be too great for us, and the next word from the Lord should be, “You have kicked against the pricks so long that, henceforth, the gates of mercy are shut against you.” May the Lord fill some of you with trembling and astonishment, and, if he does, then you will perceive the blindness of your soul, and cry for light.
I have no doubt the scales became all the more, perceptible to poor Saul when he came to those three days and nights of prayer ; for, when you get a man on his knees, and he begins crying for mercy, he is in the way of being more fully taught his need of it. If relief does not come at once, then the penitent cries more and more intensely; his heart all the while is aching more and more and he perceives how blind he must have been to bring himself into such a condition. It is a good thing, sometimes, when the Lord keeps a man in prayer, pleading for the mercy, and pleading, and pleading, and pleading on and on, until he perceives how great his need of that mercy is. When he has bitterly felt the darkness of his soul, he will be exceedingly bold in bearing light to his fellowmen. May God bring many of you to agonizing prayer; and if that prayer should last days and nights, and you should neither eat nor drink for anguish of spirit, I warrant you that you will learn your blindness thoroughly, and the scales upon your eyes will be painfully evident to yourself.
III. Now thirdly, and here I should like to stir up the people of God to a little practical business; — we have seen Saul with the scales outside his eyes: he now knows that he is blind, though he did not know it before when he was a proud Pharisee; he can see a great deal better now than he could when he thought he could see; but, still, there he is, in darkness, and we long for the scales to be removed;WHAT INSTRUMENTALITY DID THE LORD USE TO GET THE SCALES AWAY?
It was not an angel, nor was it an apostle, but it was a plain man , named Ananias, who was the means of bringing sight to blind Saul. We do not know much about this useful brother. We know his name, and that is enough; but Ananias was the only person whom the Lord used in taking off the scales from this apostle’s eyes. Dear brethren, dear sisters, too, there are some of you, if you be but alive to it, whom God will bless in like work. Perhaps this very night, though you are unknown and obscure Christian people, he may make you to be the means of taking the scales from the eyes of somebody who will be eminently useful in future years.
The Holy Spirit blessed the great apostle to the Gentiles by Ananias, and he may lead another of his mighties to himself by some obscure disciple.
Ananias was a plain man, but he was a good man. You can see that Ananias was a thorough man of God. He was one who knew his Lord, and recognized his voice when he said to him, in a vision, “Ananias,” and he was a man whom the Lord knew, for he called him by his name. “I have called thee by thy name: thou art mine.” The Lord will not send you on his errands unless you are sound, and sincere, and living near to him; but, if you be that, no matter how feeble you may be, I beseech you be looking not, even to-night, for some blind soul to whom you may be as eyes.
Notice, that this Ananias was a ready man , for when the Lord spoke to him, he said, “Behold, I am here, Lord.” I know many professors who would have to answer, “Behold, I am anywhere else, Lord, but certainly not here.” They are not “all there” when they are in Christ’s work; the heart is away after something else. But, “Behold, I am here, Lord,” is a grand thing for a believer to say when his Lord bids him seek the wanderer.
It is well to say, “Behold, I am here, Lord, ready for the poor awakened one. If he wants a word of comfort, I am ready to say it to him; if he wants a word of direction, here am I, as thou shalt help me to speak it to him.”
My brother, be thou like Ananias was, a ready man.
And he was an understanding man , for, when the Lord said to him concerning Saul, “Behold; he prayeth,” he knew what that meant. He well understood the first indication of grace in the soul. Beloved, you must have a personal experience of the things of God, or you cannot help newborn souls. If you do not yourself know what it is to pass from death to life, and do not know the marks of regeneration, you are useless.
At the same time, he was a discerning man , — an inquiring, discriminating man, for he began to say, “Lord, I have heard by many of this man.” He wanted to know a little about Saul, so he inquired of the great Master as to his character, and whether it was a genuine work of grace in his soul. It will not do to pat all people on the back, and give them comfort without examining into their state. Some of you must know by this time that indiscriminate consolation does more hurt than good. Certain classes need no consolation, but rather require reproof. They want wounding before they can be healed; and it is a good thing to know your man, and especially to wait upon the Lord, and ask him to tell you about your man, so that you may know how to deal with him when you do come to him. Use all diligence to know the case as Ananias did.
But when once he had made his inquiry, he was an obedient man . He was told to go into a house where I do not suppose he had ever left his card in his life; but he did not stop for an introduction, but went off at once to the house of Judas, and inquired for one called Saul, of Tarsus. He had divine authority; the Lord had given him a search-warrant, and so he entered the house. “Thus the eternal mandate ran Almighty grace, arrest that man.” Ananias must be the sheriff’s officer to go and arrest Saul in the name of the Lord, and so away he went.
And you will notice what a personal-dealing man he was, for he did not stand at a distance, but, putting his hands on him, he said, “Brother Saul .”
Ah, that is the way to talk to people who are seeking the Lord; not to stand five miles off, and speak distantly, or preach condescendingly, as from the supreme heaven of a sanctified believer, down to the poor sinner mourning below. No, go and talk to him; call him brother. Go and speak to him, with a true, loving, brotherly accent, as Ananias did, for he was a brotherly man .
Ananias also was a man whose subject was Christ . As soon as ever you do speak to the sinner, let the first thing you have to say be, “The Lord, even Jesus .” Whatever you say next, begin with that, “Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus.” Have something to say about Jesus, but say it personally and pointedly, not as though you were alluding to persons living in Australia seven hundred years ago, but as referring to Brother Saul, and intending the word for him.
Among Christian people, there are mighty hunters before the Lord, who strive after souls, but I wish that a hundred times as many really cared for the souls of their fellow-men. Some church members never speak to anybody about spiritual things. You come into your pews, and you like two sets if you can get them; like gentlemen in a first-class carriage, you want a compartment to yourselves; and then, after service, no matter who is impressed, many of you have not a word to say. Should it be so, brethren?
We should always be on the look out to seat strangers comfortably, and afterwards to drive home by personal remark any truth which may have been advanced. “Ah! says one, but I may speak to the wrong person.”
Suppose you did, is it such a mighty misfortune to miss your mark once:
Ah, brethren, if you were to address the wrong person fifty times, and ultimately meet the right one once in a year, it would well reward you. If you were to receive rebuffs, and rebuffs, and rebuffs, and yet at last you should find out the Brother Saul who is to have the scales removed by you, and by none but you, you would be well rewarded. A plain common-sense word from a common-sense Christian has often been the very thing to set some able critic at liberty. Some man of profound mind — a Thomas of abundant doubts and questions, — has only just wanted a simple-hearted Christian man to say the right word, and he has entered into peace and liberty. You must not think that learned personages, when the Lord touches them in the heart, want to be talked to by doctors of divinity. Not they! They become as simple-hearted as others, and, like dying kings and dying bishops, they ask to hear a shepherd pray, because they find more savor, more plainness, more earnestness, more faith, and more familiarity with God, in the humble expressions of the lowly than in the language of courtly preachers. Do not, therefore, Brother Ananias, say, “I cannot go and talk to anybody. I have never been to college.” Do not, sister in Christ, keep back because you are a woman, for oftentimes the Lord makes the sweet and gentle voice of woman to sound out the music of grace. God grant that many of us may be the instruments of taking the scales from men’s eyes!
IV. LASTLY,WHAT DID SAUL SEE WHEN THE SCALES WERE GONE?
The first person he saw was Brother Ananias . It was a fine sight for Saul to see Brother Ananias’s Christian countenance beaming with love and joy.
I fancy he was like one of our elders, a fine old Christian man, with love to souls written on his face. When Saul opened his eyes, it must have done him good to see just such a face as that, — a plain, simple man full of holy zeal and intense anxiety for his good. Dear friend, if the Lord opens your eyes, you will see the brotherhood of Christians. Perhaps you will enjoy that among the first delights of your Christian experience; and, for a little while, your faith, it may be, will hang upon the testimony of an instructed Christian woman, and your confidence will need confirmation by the witness of a more advanced brother in the Lord. But, my fellow-worker, the saved one will never see Brother Ananias unless Ananias goes to him, and becomes the means of opening his eyes; but if you will go and do that, you will win a friend who will love you as long as life lasts. There are some of you between whom and myself there are ties which death cannot snap. I will find you out in heaven if I can and I know you will desire to meet me.
The Lord gave you to me as my spiritual children; and if it should come to pass that earthly fathers should not see their children in heaven, yet the spiritual father will see his children there praising and blessing the Lord.
One of the next joys to knowing Christ yourself must surely be that of leading others to know him. Seek after this bliss.
The next thing that Saul would see would be a Savior in Christ , for Ananias said to him, “The Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight.”
Now he would see what an opener of the eyes Jesus is, what a mighty Savior for sinners. And, oh, this is a blessed sight, — to see Christ as a Savior, as my Savior, opening my eyes, so, that I can say, “One thing I know, whereas I was blind, now I see.” This is a heavenly sight. May you help many to gaze upon it!
Right speedily he saw the Spirit of God waiting to fill him : “that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost.” Ah, dear soul, when thou hast come to see Christ, then the blessed Spirit will become dear to thee, and thou wilt rejoice to think that he will dwell in thee, to sanctify thee, to enlighten thee, to strengthen thee, and to make thee a vessel of mercy unto others.
One more thing that Saul saw, when his eyes were opened, was what some do not see, although their eyes are opened in other aspects. “He received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized .” He saw the duty of believed baptism, and he attended to it directly. You who believe in Jesus should confess Jesus, and you who have confessed Jesus should gently bestir the memories of those very retiring young converts, who are afraid to put on Christ in baptism. You know right well that salvation lies in the believing, but still how singularly the two things are put together, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.” The two things are joined together by Christ, so let no man put them asunder. Surely, dear friends, wherever there is a genuine faith in Christ, there ought to be a speedy obedience to the other matter. I once met a man who had been forty years a Christian, and believed it to be his duty to be baptized; but when I spoke to him about it, he said, “He that believeth shall not make haste.” After forty years delay, he talked about not making haste. I quoted to him another passage: “I made haste, and delayed not to keep thy commandment,” and showed him what the meaning of his misapplied passage was. Now, soul, do not delay.
As soon as Saul’s eyes were opened, straightway he took upon himself the outward badge of the Christian faith, and arose, and was baptized. Now, I call upon you who love the Lord Jesus Christ not to play the coward, but come out, and own your Lord and Master. You that are truly his disciples, confess it. I like to see the soldier wearing his red coat; it is the right thing for him to wear his regimentals. It is the same with the soldiers of Christ.
What are you ashamed of? Be ashamed of being ashamed, if you are ashamed of Christ. “Oh, but, I am afraid I might not hold on my way!”
Whose business is it to make you hold on your way? Is it not his business who has bidden you to take up your cross, and follow him, and who has said, “Whosoever shall confess me before men, him will I confess before my Father which is in heaven; but whosoever shall deny me, before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven”?
I pray the Lord to bless the feeble words of mine. O souls, O souls, it does seem to me so dreadful that so many of you should come here continually, and yet be blinded! I try to talk plainly about your souls need, and about Christ Jesus as able to meet that need; how long must I repeat the old story? Once again, I beseech you, think upon my Lord and Master, and see what a Savior He is, and how suitable it is for you. I would entreat you to delay no longer, but to close in with the invitations of his mercy. I think, sometimes, that my Master deserves that we should do more than invite you. We command you, in the name of Jesus of Nazareth to bow before his scepter, for he is the King. Own his dominion, and let him be your Savior, for this know, — that his gospel comes with divine authority as well as with gentle persuasion, neither can men reject it except at the peril of their souls. He whom I preach to you to-night will shortly come to be your Judge; and if you will not trust, him, on his cross, you must tremble before him on his throne. Oh, come to him! Simple trust is the way to come to him. Believe in him, and he is yours, and his salvation is yours.
THE TWO DOORS.
OUR hotel stands upon the side of a hill, and so has two entrances, one in the usual position, and the other on the second floor; so that to meet some friends we who live upon the first story have to go down, and to speak with others we have to go up. This is the position of the average Christian; he has to come down to the weakness and scant spirituality of many of his brethren, but he must climb to have fellowship with better developed children of God. We allowed a friend to pass us the other day at the higher level, but by running down stairs we overtook him before he had passed our front door on the beach; and thus when you are unable to have communion with a brother in his high joys you can meet him upon the lower platform of his trials and infirmities. Some cannot understand the joys of the saints, and others cannot tolerate their griefs; it is well to have a porch on each of the two levels, so as to “weep with them that weep, and rejoice with them that do rejoice.”
NOTES OF THE EDITORS TRIP TO MENTONE.
As we are unable to furnish particulars of anything done in the Christian world, or in our own little domain at the Tabernacle, and are altogether over the edge of public life, we can only fill up our space with notes of our journey in search of health and rest. Some of our friends take such a personal interest in the Pastor himself that they have asked for this, and we do not profess to have modesty enough to refuse their loving request.
MONDAY,JAN. 22 — We left Charing Cross at 10:45 in company with our beloved deacon, Mr. Joseph Passmore, and two gentlemen whom we have long regarded as our country deacons, Mr. Teller, of Waterbeach, and Mr. Abraham, of Minster, near Oxford. The day was cold, the sea smooth, and the journey from Boulogne to Paris about as dull as other traversers of that monotonous piece of country usually find it: but the yoke was removed from the shoulder, and pleasant companions were with us, and the time sped away. The next day was bitterly cold, and there was a piercing wind, but we saw some of the old sights over again, rode into the Bois de Boulogne, and tried to forget those burdens which have of late seemed so heavy to our soul. We lingered long in the Sainte Chapelle, that glorious vision of azure and crystal. We almost dreamed there of the unclouded skies where the weary are eternally at rest. We should like to gaze upon that gem of purest ray serene every morning in the year; one would surely never tire of such sweetness of light. Verily God maketh man a creature exceeding wise; what must his own wisdom be? By God’s blessing the change of scene made our nights more refreshing than they have long been.
O sleep, what a boon thou art!
WEDNESDAY,JAN 24 — We had eleven hours of cold ride to Lyons. The ground was all white with frost, but the country very pleasant to look upon, our track following the course of rivers, and running through many towns with historical associations. We are not going to inflict extracts from Murray upon our readers, or we could spin out a long description. The land is well tilled, and abounds in vineyards and corn lands. It was odd to see a woman driving a plough with two horses, but she seemed well at home at the work, and probably would not thank us for our pity.
Mountains in the distance covered with snow made us glad that our iron way was unobstructed, and we sang, “Praise God, from whom all blessings flow.”
Lyons was, as we have generally found it, sweltering in fog, and we were glad before eleven at night to be housed at the Hotel de l’Univers, close to the station, though not much aided in our slumbers by the roaring of lions and the trumpeting of elephants confined in a traveling menagerie in the square. We tried to see something in Lyons on Thursday, for there really is a good deal to be seen, but as the fog was too thick for us to do more than dimly discern the opposite banks of the rivers we made but small discoveries, and waited patiently till we felt strong enough for another day’s journey. Lyons was no improvement upon London as far as damp and cold were concerned. We had come far and fared no better, but then we knew it would be better on before. We cheerfully traverse weary ways when we have a sunny clime before us. Life itself is such a journey to the land “Where everlasting spring abides, And never-withering flowers.”
FRIDAY,JAN. 26. — We were off soon after seven for nearly nine hours more of rail. We had a coupe, and so could see all that was to be seen, and could there be more? From the land of vines we glided into the region of mulberries, and on to that of olives, with here and there an orange to mark the neighborhood of a still sunnier clime. The Rhone was almost constantly in view, rushing between two walls of rock, backed by giant mountain masses, and the views were sublime. We were in the country of the Camisards and other heroic strugglers for our holy faith against the outrageous tyranny and sevenfold persecutions of Popish monarchs, — there was Valence still the headquarters of the Reformed Church in the South, and Orange, aforetime a city of refuge for the persecuted Huguenot.
The blood of saints has bedewed all that fruitful region, and watered the neighboring desert with its priceless drops. There, too, stands the monstrous dungeon-like pile of Avignon, the perpetual refutation of Rome’s lying claim to apostolical succession, and perpetual unity and catholicity. Within these gloomy walls reigned successive Antipopes, making the Papal church a two headed giant, each head cursing the other with equal vehemence and infallibility. We dined beneath the shadow of the palace walls, and found no terrors in the cave from which Giant Pope has gone to bite his nails, and grin at pilgrims whom he is no longer able to devour. On we went till the blue waters of the Mediterranean informed us that the day’s journey was nearly over, and we were near the city of Marseilles. The wind was blowing terribly, and in walking through the streets we were scarcely able, to keep upon our feet. So far we had gained in warmth but to no very great degree: damp, however, was gone, and so one factor of rheumatism had disappeared.
SATURDAY,JAN. 27, — we were on our way to Hyeres, and found on the road that great coats were an encumbrance, for we were in the heat of an average June day. At Hyeres beneath a cloudless sky, with a blazing sun, we thought we had found the golden isles at last, and could count on a summer holiday in mid-winter. There were avenues of palms, hedges of blooming roses, oranges, and pepper trees, and gardens all in full bearing, and withal a little town as quiet as a country village, just the spot for a Sabbath’s halt. In the evening the temperature fell so much as to make the blazing pine logs on the hearth a real luxury, and in cheerful chambers we spent the evening, and at night our sleep was exceeding sweet to us.
The Sabbath was luxurious, no sky could be clearer, no created sun could bear more healing beneath its wings. We thought of beloved ones far away, and as we broke bread together in our chamber in memory of our dying Lord, we had fellowship with the saints at home, yea, and with the whole family in heaven and on earth, and best of all with the ever glorious Head of the One Church “above, beneath.” In an olive garden we also whiled away a couple of hours, lying in the blessed sunshine, almost too warm to bear, and speaking together of the goodness of the Lord which we had each experienced.
This is a very cheap spot to sojourn in, the charges being little over five shillings per diem for lodging and three good meals a day, for those who take up permanent residence and do not demand the very best rooms. We cannot imagine a more delightful dwelling place if it were not for one exception, which is not a little one. The sun went down on Sunday night amid great splendor, and the full moon made the scene wondrously clear and lustrous, and all was after Herbert’s mind, “so calm so bright”; but the next morning saw a notable change. The sun was equally bright, but the mistral was abroad, a terrible wind, which is similar to our east wind with its worst qualities made yet more vicious. How it howled and raved, and raged, and tossed the palms about and bowed the trees and worried everybody! This one could bear; but the dust! Well, it seemed to cut the eyes, fill the hair, and make the teeth grind grit, besides demanding one’s hat and lifting the body as if the feet must no longer touch the ground. We gave up the unequal contest and remained indoors on Monday, resolved to remove our tent to Cannes and see whether the boisterous wind was equally abroad on the other side the Estrelles. Thus readily can the Lord stir up our nest, and make us say of the most dainty abode, “Depart ye, depart ye, this is not our rest.”
JAN. 30. — The railway journey to Cannes was delightful; every inch of the road is a picture. Among the olive gardens which look so quiet and solemn and old-world-like, the locomotive seems out of place. The contrast took another form when we paused within a stone’s throw of an ancient Roman amphitheater, and saw the remains of fortifications, city gates, and arches of aqueducts. From the age of pagan civilization to the present, very imperfect though it be, what a stride! Could the victims of the arena have foreseen a period like this, they would have called it the age of gold as compared with their own.
Cannes, stretching out its wide arms to embrace a beautiful bay, is quite a different place from Hyeres, not only because it has the seaside element, but because the many villas of the wealthy give it an aristocratic character.
It is none the better for that, but it is all the handsomer. The bay is lovely indeed, and the isle of St. Marguerite helps to shut it in and make it the more picturesque. Alas, we had not yet escaped the mistral. In a somewhat quieter mood it had followed us from Hyers and cast dust upon us as before. Resolved, however, to gain health and strength by exercise, we pushed along the shore to the garden of the Hesperides, where a vast number of orange trees, still loaded with fruit, well justified by their golden apples the name of the garden. What a sight a well-kept garden presents when in full bearing! Here is the reward for abundant labor and expense.
Our Lord’s garden, for which all has been done that can be done, should be of all others the most fruitful: and truly a church when it yields plenteously its works of faith and labors of love is a sight comparable to Paradise of old, and her ministry becomes as apples of gold in baskets of silver.
We were weary with the day’s riding and walking, but found our sleep sweet to us, and our mind like a bird let loose. Blessed be the Lord, who resteth our soul
JAN. 31 — The wind blew still, and the day was by no means pleasant till a little before noon, when there came a sudden lull and then the gale ceased, and the soft balmy atmosphere comforted us. We took carriage to Grasse, a town above Cannes, more among the mountains, a place where essences, liqueurs, perfumes, and candied fruits are manufactured. The road ascended through fields of roses and forests of olive trees, and all along presented pleasant views; but the climax of the journey was the elevated esplanade of Grasse itself from which the far reaching scene is extraordinary, even for a land of beauty. We saw a sea of olives, dotted with villages like islands, and then, beyond all, the Mediterranean. We gazed in delight and wished that we could have lingered the livelong day, Our sojourn, however, was necessarily short, for the day was advanced, and it was needful to reach our hotel before the cold of evening could seize upon us. We observed rose-leaves and violets preserved as sweetmeats after the cunning manner of the confectioner, and for the first time we tasted violets and found them as sweet to the mouth as to the nose. Our friends need not be alarmed, we can assure them that our speech will not become flowery, we did not consume sufficient for that. Crack went the whip, and with the skid well on, we descended towards Cannes, dogs rushing out perpetually to bark at the hastening wheels. Cannes and canis must have a mysterious connection, for assuredly no town can boast such a canine population. There are dogs everywhere, and such curs as we never remember to have seen before. We never thought so badly of the canine race before, and are inclined to believe that the hard oriental feeling towards dogs so frequently shown in the Bible must have arisen from there being so many of them in eastern cities, and those of the worst breed.
In wandering through the markets and streets we were pleased to meet the colporteur with his Bibles, and to notice a little square watch-box, by courtesy called a kiosque, upon which some good body had pasted pictures, scriptural cards, and pieces of religious literature. As an indication that a true heart was doing what it could we welcomed this laudable attempt to publish the gospel, but if its author wishes to attract attention the little business should be done a little more artistically, and with somewhat of the common sense which a tradesman would show when displaying his goods. That which is done for Jesus deserves to be done in the best possible style. It is well, however, when we see work done at all, for a voice for Jesus has power in it even if it be not accurate in melody.
We basked in the sun, and watched the waves hour after hour, having no wish for exciting scenes, or picture galleries, or museums: rest, sweet rest, was all we sought, and, finding it, we were content. Cannes abundantly justifies the partiality of Lord Brougham, who here spent his later years; it is a choice spot, even in a land which is the favorite of the sun.
FEB. 2 was a day which we shall not seen forget, for we had a sail past the island of St. Marguerite, in whose gloomy prison once dwelt the man in the iron mask, and, what is more to our purpose, where many Protestant pastors pined away in that terrible period which succeeded the revocation of the edict of Nantes. In later days Marshal Bazaine made his escape from the island in 1874. One would imagine that some back door must have been left open, and that sentinels winked very hard, or the bird would not have flown. Our voyage took us to the island of St. Honorat, which in early times was to this region what Iona was to Scotland, an island of saints. Honorat, in the opening years of the fifth century, retired to this little isle, and attracted around him a number of students, many of whom became such famous missionaries that the Romish church has enrolled them among her saints. The best known to our readers will be Patrick, the evangelizer of Ireland. Christianity was then almost as pure as at the first, and we can well imagine the holy quietude in which hundreds of good men spent the years of their preparation for future ministry among the rocks of this sea-girt isle. It must have been a Patmos to them, with constant meditation and prayer, and when they, left its holy shores, they went forth, full of zeal, to cry like John the divine, “the Spirit and the bride say come, and whosoever will let him take the water of life freely.” In all ages it has seemed good unto the Lord to gather men around some favored instructor, and enable them, under his guidance, to sharpen their swords for the battle of life. Thus did Honorat and Columba in the olden time, and so did Wycliffe and Luther and Calvin in the Reformation times, train the armies of the Lord for their mission. Schools of the prophets are a prime necessary if the power of religion is to be kept alive and propagated in the land. As we sat under the umbrageous pines by the calm sea, and gazed upon the almost more than earthly scene around, our heart swelled with great desires, and our prayer went up to heaven that we also might do something to convert the nations ere we go hence and be no more. If God wills it we may yet commence new missionary operations, and we mean on our return to call our men together to pray about it. Perhaps there are warm hearts at home which may be moved to pray with us, and something may yet come out of our meditations among the pines of St. Honorat.
FEB. 3 saw us safely landed at Mentone, our delicious haven of rest.VALE.
Mr. Morison Cumming has accepted a call from the church at New Barnet, N. The chapel is one built by the London Baptist Association during the Rev. F. Tucker’s presidency.
Another brother, Mr. A.E. Spicer, has also just settled in Cornwall, having accepted an invitation to the church at Hayle.
LETTER FROM MR. SPURGEON.
BELOVED FRIENDS, — I have heard with the utmost satisfaction of the enthusiasm with which the special services have been taken up by so many of you. It is a token for good which encourages my largest expectations.
The anxiety of the church for conversions is in a very distinct manner connected with the desired result: for that desire leads to increased prayer, and so secures the effectual working of the Holy Spirit, and it also inspires an ardent zeal which sets believers working for the salvation of those around them, and this also is sure to produce fruit. I look there- fore for the conversion of many with as much confidence as I look for the ships to arrive at their haven when a fair wind is blowing.
To those who are thus earnest for the Lord’s glory I send my heart’s gratitude, and for those who are not as yet aroused to like ardor, I put up my fervent prayers that they may no longer lag behind their brethren. Our children are growing up around us, our great city is daily adding to its enormous bulk, and our cemeteries are being gorged with the dead; so long as one soul remained unsaved and in danger of the unquenchable fire, it behoves every Christian to be diligent to spread abroad the healing savor of the Redeemer’s name. Woe unto that man who conceals the light, while men are stumbling in the darkness. Woe unto him who keeps back the bread of life in the season of famine. Beloved, I am persuaded better things of you, though I thus speak.
Persevering, quiet believers, who in secret implore the divine blessing, and then regularly give their aid to the continuous worship, service, and intercession of the church, are the strength of the brotherhood, the main body of the hosts of the Lord. Let all such rejoice because their labor is not in vain in the Lord.
But we need also dashing spirits who will lead on in continually renewed efforts: thoughtful, practical men and women who will suggest and commence aggressive movements. We have such among us, but others need to be pressed into the service. One should canvass for the Sabbathschool, another should break up fresh tract districts, and a third should commence a cottage service, and a fourth should preach in a court or alley which has not been as yet visited. Brethren, we must all do all that can be done for Jesus, for the time is at hand when we must give in our account, and our Master is at hand.
Beloved in the Lord, my joy and crown, walk in all love to each other, in holiness towards God and in uprightness and kindness toward all men.
Peace be with you all.
May those who have heard the gospel among us, but have not as yet felt its power, be found by the Lord during the services which have been held in my absence. If they have escaped the net when I have thrown it, may some brother fisher of souls be more successful with them. It is very hard to think of one of our hearers being lost for ever, but how much harder will it be for them to endure in their own persons eternal ruin! May the great lover of men’s souls put forth his pierced hand, and turn the disobedient into the way of peace.
I am most grateful to report that my health is restored, my heart is no longer heavy, my spirits have revived, and I hope to return to you greatly refreshed. Loving friends in Christ, I beg to be continually remembered in your prayers. I send my love to my co-pastor and true helper, to the deacons, elders, and every one of you in Christ Jesus.
Yours heartily, C. H.SPURGEON.
Mentone, Feb. 13.