Abstinence from sin.
To abstain from sin for any reason is, so far, good; but yet you may abstain from sin from a motive which will lend no virtue to your abstinence. Some abstain from sin from fear of men, or from hope of gain: as the thief is honest when he sees the policeman, and the beggar becomes pious when a dole is to be had at church. One sin will often kill another sin, as the miser shuns profligacy because he is too mean to spend his money riotously. But to abstain from sin because you love God—ay, that is the thing.
I heard of a Christian man, whose mill-wheel was seen to be in motion on a Sunday. The people going to worship, wondered greatly thereat. But one who went by set their minds at rest, by pointing out that the wheel was going idly round, because the water by accident was allowed to flow over it. But the man said it was like their minster, and his sermons. There is no work being done, but the wheel goes round, clickety click, clickety click, though it is not grinding anything. Therein it also greatly resembles many an organization for spiritual service; the water is passing over it, glittering as it flows, but the outside motion does not join on to any human need, nor produce any practical result, and nothing comes of the click and hum.
Adorning the Doctrine.
When the famous Spartan warrior Brasidas complained that Sparta was so small a state, his mother replied to him, "My son, Sparta has fallen to your lot, and it is your duty to adorn it." Christian man, adorn the doctrine of God, your Savior, in all things. Wherever you are found, endeavor in that place to live out eternal life.
Adversity tests Faith.
I remember Mr. William Jay saying that birds' nests are hard to find in summer-time, but anyone could find a bird's nest in winter. When all the leaves are off the trees the nests are visible to all. Often in the days of our prosperity, we fail to find our faith; but when our adversity comes, the winter of our trial bares the boughs, and we see our faith at once. We are sure that we believe now, for we feel the effect of faith upon our character. "Before I was afflicted I went astray," said David, "but now have I kept thy word." He found that his faith was really there by his keeping God's Word in the time of his affliction.
The bow of trouble shot David like an arrow towards God! It is a blessed thing when the waves of affliction wash us upon the rock of confidence in God alone, when darkness below gives us an eye to the light above.
Affliction God's Seal.
Affliction is the seal of the Lord's election.
I remember a story of Mr. Mack, who was a Baptist minister in Northamptonshire. In his youth he was a soldier, and calling on Robert Hall, when his regiment marched through Leicester, that great man became interested in him, and procured his release from the ranks. When he went to preach in Glasgow, he sought out his aged mother, whom he had not seen for many years. He knew his mother the moment he saw her; but the old lady did not recognize her son. It so happened that when he was a child, his mother had accidentally wounded his wrist with a knife. To comfort him she cried, "Never mind, my bonnie bairn, your mither will ken you by that when ye are a man." When Mack's mother would not believe that a grave, fine looking minister could be her own child, he turned up his sleeve and cried, "Mither, mither, dinna ye ken that?" In a moment they were in each other's arms. Ah, brethren! the Lord knows the spot of His children. He acknowledges them by the mark of correction.
Your affliction quickened your prayers. There is a man trying to write with a quill pen; it will not make anything but a thick stroke; but he takes a knife and cuts fiercely at the quill till it marks admirably. So we have to be cut with the sharp knife of affliction, for only then can the Lord make use of us. See how sharply gardeners trim their vines, they take off every shoot, till the vine looks like a dry stick. There will be no grapes in the spring, if there is not this cutting away in the autumn and winter. God quickens us in our afflictions through His Word.
Some time ago, I read in a paper or a gentleman being taken up before a magistrate. What was the charge against him? Nothing very serious, you will say. He was found wandering in the fields. He was asked where he was going, and he said he was not going anywhere. He was asked where he came from, and he said he did not know. They asked him where his home was, and he said he had none. They brought him up for wandering. As what? A dangerous lunatic. The man who has no aim or object in life, but just wanders about anywhere or nowhere, acts like a dangerous lunatic, and assuredly he is not morally sane.
Are you like a vessel which is left to the mercy of the winds and waves? Ignoble condition! Perilous case! What! are you no more than a log on the water? I should not like to be a passenger in a vessel which had no course marked out on the chart, no pilot at the wheel, no man at the watch. Surely, you must be derelict, if not water logged; and you will come to a total wreck before long.
I have often admired the language of Mohammed, when in the battle of Ohod he said to his followers, pointing to their foes," Charge them! I can hear the wings of angels as they hasten to our help." That was a delusion on his part, for he and his men were badly beaten; but it is no delusion in the case of the servants of Christ. We can hear the wings of angels. Providence is always working with you while you are working for God.
Man can always find ways of sinning against God. I remember, in my younger days, a school boy who, when at play with his companions, would fly into furious passions, and would at once throw something at the person with whom he was angry; and the point I noticed was that he always had something to throw. Let him be in the schoolroom, playground, or in the street, there would surely be a stone, or a book, or a slate, or a cup ready to his hand. So it is with men who fight against the Lord; they discover, weapons everywhere, in the fury of their rebellion. The evil brain is quick in devising, the depraved ear is swift in apprehending, and the sinful hand is deft in carrying out any and every scheme of disobedience to the Lord.
Answers to prayer.
I read yesterday, certain notes taken by an interviewer, who called on me some years ago. He reports that he said to me:—"Then you have not modified your views in any way as to the efficacy of prayer?" In his description he says:—"Mr. Spurgeon laughed and replied, 'Only in my faith growing far stronger and firmer than ever. It is not a matter of faith with me, but of knowledge and every day experience. I am constantly witnessing the most unmistakable instances of answers to prayer. My whole life is made up of them.'"
Anxiety for souls.
I have heard of one brought to Christ who was a very great sinner—of so stiff a neck that he never would be approached by anybody who aimed at his conversion. He hated the very mention of religion. He answered all appeals very coarsely. But one of his neighbors felt forced to go to him very early in the morning and say to him, "I beg your pardon for intruding so early, but I lay awake all last night thinking about you; and I cannot rest till I tell you something." He answered, "What were you thinking about me for? I don't want any of your thoughts." "Oh," said the other, "I felt so sorry to think that if you were to die, you would die without hope." The bearish man replied, "Mind your own business." "But," said the other, "that is my business. I think my heart will break unless I see you saved." All the answer was, "Go away with you, don't come here with any of your cant." The brother went home weeping, but he was not the only one who felt his heart breaking. The bearish one went away from his forge, and said to his wife, "I can always answer these religious fellows. I do not care for your parsons a bit, but that neighbor of ours has been in here, and he says it will break his heart unless I am converted; and that beats me." He was beaten. Out of a sort of kindly pity for his neighbor's weakmindedness, with a mixture of an unacknowledged feeling on his own account, he went to hear the preaching of the Word and was brought to Jesus.
Anxiety of soul.
I remember a woman not long ago who said that at her work it came across her mind, "I am not saved." She was sweeping the room, and when she finished that, she said to herself, "I have to cook the dinner, but I am not saved." She went into the kitchen and had her fire and food all ready, but all the while she was putting things in the pot she kept saying to herself, "I am not saved." And so it was when she was busy all the afternoon, and when her husband came home, she could not help blurting out, "Oh, husband, I am not saved." But he was, and he pointed her to Christ; they knelt together, and oh, how he prayed with her. She found that which she so earnestly sought, and it was not many days before she could say, "Oh, husband, I am saved."
A caviller in an omnibus said to a Christian man one day, "Why, you have nothing after all to rest upon. I can prove to you that your Scriptures are not authentic." The humble Christian man replied, "Sir, I am not a learned man, and I cannot answer your questions; but I believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and I have experienced such a change of character, and I feel such joy and peace through believing, that I wish you knew my Savior, too." The answer he received was a very unexpected one: the unbeliever said, "You have got me there; I cannot answer that." Just so, we have got them there. If we know what has been wrought in us by grace, and know assuredly the sustaining power of that grace, they cannot overcome us. The full assurance man baffles the very devil.
Many who believe on the name of Jesus are not sure that they have eternal life; they only hope so. Occasionally they have assurance, but the joy is not abiding. They are like a minister I have heard of, who said he felt assured of his salvation "except when the wind was in the east." It is a wretched thing to be so subject to circumstances as many are. What is true when the wind is in the soft south or the reviving west, is equally true when the wind is neither good for man nor beast. Jesus would not have our assurance vary with the weather glass, nor turn with the vane.
Abide after cleansing where you were before cleansing.
A bushelful of resolutions is of small value; a single grain of practice is worth the whole.
A cake made of memories will do for a bite now and then, but it makes poor daily bread.
A change of life alone can prove a change of heart.
A Christian's life should be the decalogue written large.
Additions and subtractions are weeds which it is hard to keep out of the garden of conversation.
Adversity has less power to harm than prosperity.
A faith look at Jesus breaks the heart both for sin and from sin.
A faith that never wept is a faith that never lived.
A frequent hearer is likely to become a fervent believer.
A gash in the conscience may disfigure a soul forever.
A gospel that does not suit everybody does not suit anybody.
A groundless hope is a mere delusion.
A little food cooked is better for dinner than a great joint raw.
A living argument is invincible.
All true hearts are not fit for fight.
A man may have another heart and yet he may not have a new heart.
Amid a torrent of sin and sorrow, you may cross the stream of time upon the stepping stones of the places marked, "Jehovah-Shammah."
Angels have a special liking for sleeping saints.
An ounce of faith is better than a ton of learning. A pilgrim's life is not all feasting.
Apologies for disobedience are mere refuges of lies.
A praiseful heart is a soul-winning heart. A quiet conscience is a little heaven.
A rock which is in nobody's way, may stand where it is.
A saint shines on men when God has shone on him.
As earth goes, Christ comes.
A small musket ball, in full career, will do more execution than a great cannon-ball which lies still.
A smile from Jesus in the morning will be sunshine all the day.
A smith can shoe a horse, though he has never studied astronomy.
A vision of God is the quietus of boasting.
A week without a Sabbath is perpetual bondage.
A wordless prayer is not silent to God.
A working Christ makes a raging devil.
—Barbed Arrows from the Quiver of C. H. Spurgeon