Chapter 1.
Life's Wreckage Recovered

Text—"And I will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten." Joel 2:25.

The Fruits Of Wasted Years.—Recovered By Larger Grace—I. The Locust-Eaten Years.—What Kind Of Years They Are.—Dead Years Of Sin.—Of Unprofitable Labor.—Of Disappointment.—Of Fruitlessness.—Of Doubt And Depression.—Of A Low State Of Grace.—Of Backsliding.—II. Locust-Eaten Years Restored.—Repentance The First Condition.—Mary Magdalene's Years.—Sorrow Bringing Fruit In Power To Comfort.—III. What Is To Come Of It.—Satisfaction.—Communion.—Anointing.—The Locusts Blown Away.—

Lost years can never be restored literally. Time once passed is gone forever. Let no man make any mistake about this, or trifle with the present moment under any notion that the flying hour will ever wing its way back to him. As well recall the north wind, or fill again the emptied rain-cloud, or put back into their quiver the arrows of the lord of day. As well bid the river which has hastened onward to the sea, bring back its rolling floods, as imagine that the years that have once gone can ever be restored to us. It will strike you at once that the locusts did not eat the years: the locusts ate the fruits of the years' labor, the harvests of the fields; so that the meaning of the restoration of the years must be the restoration of those fruits and of those harvests which the locusts consumed. You cannot have back your time; but there is a strange and wonderful way in which God can give back to you the wasted blessings, the unripened fruits of years over which you mourned.

Fruits of Wasted Years

may yet be yours. It is a pity that they should have been locust-eaten by your folly and negligence; but if they have been so, be not hopeless concerning them. "All things are possible to him that believeth." There is a power which is beyond all things, and can work great marvels. Who can make the all-devouring locust restore his prey? No man, by wisdom or power, can recover what has been utterly destroyed. God alone can do for you what seems impossible; and here is the promise: "I will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten."

By giving to His repentant people larger harvests than the land could naturally yield, God could give back to them, as it were, all they would have had if the locusts had never come; and God, by giving you larger grace in the present and in the future, can make the life which has hitherto been blighted, and eaten up with the locusts, and the caterpillar, and the palmer-worm of sin and self and Satan, yet to be a complete and blessed and useful life, to His praise and glory. It is a great wonder; but Jehovah is a God of wonders, and in the kingdom of His grace miracles are common things.

We shall go into this subject, which I think must be very full of interest to those here present who have wasted years to mourn over, since they have hitherto done nothing for God, nor even for themselves. The locust hath eaten everything. The prospect of recovering the wreckage of a life must be of interest to them.

I. I shall first speak upon

Locust-Eaten Years

Years which the locust hath eaten: what sort of years are these? Well, first and darkest of all, there are the dead years of sin, of unregeneracy, impenitence, and unbelief. Without God, and without Christ, without life as to spiritual things! What a condition to be in! Oh, how many, many years have some passed in this horrible state! We all of us—those of us with whom God has dealt very graciously—always feel sorry that even our most early days should have been spent in sin. I was brought to know the Lord when I was fifteen years of age, and I have often said that I could wish I had known Him fifteen years before. Oh that one could from the very earliest openings of one's eyes have seen the light of the Eternal! But yet I fear me there are very many to whom the idea of conversion in boyhood and youth seems almost too good a thing to be true, for they have now reached thirty, forty, fifty years of age, and are still unreconciled, unrenewed. I could weep over you! We frequently meet with people older still, whose many years have all been graceless, locust-eaten years. Ah me! how sad to be old and unsaved, feeble with age, and yet without strength unto God!

Labor Lost

Now, remember that eating of the locust—that devouring of everything by the caterpillars—meant a laborious year, because that year the people ploughed and sowed, and watched their crops; although the labor was all in vain. So, he that does nothing for God, and has no spiritual blessing, yet has to work and to labor. None toil harder then those who are the slaves of lust, pleasure, self, and Satan. These people often labor as in the very fire. The way of transgressors is hard. They have to toil and slave, and tug and strive; for the yoke of the world is not easy, and its burden is not light. But nothing comes of it; and this is the gall of the bitterness. One does not mind working when there is good reward for it; but to plough and sow, and then to reap nothing, because the locust hath eaten it—this is misery!

The locust year was particularly

A Year of Disappointment

They looked for a harvest; in fact, they seemed to see it spring up, and then it was devoured before their eyes. Even so the ungodly man, the man who has no faith in Christ, is often charmed with the prospect of a happiness which he never reaches. A little more, and he will be content. He gets a little more; and this increases his thirst for yet another draught from the golden cup. Run as we may, when the heart shoots with its far-reaching bow, still the arrows are beyond us. The student must know a little more; the ambitious must climb a little higher upon the ladder of honor, and then he will be at ease. He learns, he reaches the honor; but the ease is still as distant as ever—perhaps it is even further off.

And, alas! they are fruitless years. O sirs, what have some of you ever done in this world yet? I heard of one who had made a half a million of money, and he died, and a Christian man said, "Now, I call that man's life

A Dead Failure

What has the man done? He has accumulated what he could not enjoy. He has scraped it together, and he has made no use of it whatever." Such persons remind me of jackdaws who will hoard I know not what—all kinds of treasures and trash; and what do they do but hide them in a hole behind the door? They cannot do anything with them. They have no sense to use them: whether they steal the abbot's ring or a bit of wire, it is all the same to jackdaws; and to misers, what can be the difference between a thousand pounds or a thousand pins, since they use neither? Alas! many have the power to get, but have not the faculty to use what they have gotten. Their years are eaten with the locust.

Now, very briefly let me mention that there is another sense in which the text can be used. There are some whose years have been eaten by the locust, through great dolor, and depression, and disappointment. They remember those happy days of springtide when they greatly rejoiced in God; but by some means they dropped their confidence, and lost their hope; their sky was darkened, and the wintry winds of despair howled around them. I am grieved for dear friends on whom the chill of long depression has fallen with terrible power. I frequently meet with these sons and daughters of melancholy, and my sorrow is that I am so often unable to deal wisely with them. Prisoners who have been immured till it almost seemed that the moss would grow on their eyelids, have yet been set free. Do not utterly despair, for here stands this gracious promise: "I will restore unto you the years which the locust hath eaten." God can give you back all those years of sorrow, and you shall yet be the better for them. You shall have to thank God for all this sadness of heart. It is

A Strange Story

that I tell you. Peradventure you will not believe me, but you shall live to see it true: God will grind sunlight for you out of your black nights: in yonder oven of affliction grace will prepare the bread of delight. I said this to a friend with whom I have often conversed—an earnest Christian woman, who for three years had defied all attempt to comfort her. We had prayed with her. Her godly, gracious husband, a minister of Christ, had laid out his heart to cheer her, but she had refused to be comforted; and yet, to my great joy, the other day I received a letter saying, "The Lord has opened the gates of my dungeon. My captivity has ended; and though I am sick in body, that does not matter, for I am restored in spirit." Yes, the Lord can loose the captives, and He does it. There are dear children of God who have been ten or twenty years the victims of despair, to whom, nevertheless, this promise has, in the fullness of time, been fulfilled, "I will restore unto you the years which the locust hath eaten."

And now, having given you those two versions of the text, let me give you another. I speak of those whose years have been wasted by their low state of grace. Many Christians are

Barely Christians

We may not be judges of our brethren; but if some professors are Christians, it is in a very small way. They seem to be like Hosea's "silly dove," without heart. I do not judge them: but I look at them with pitying wonder. How can they be content to be such useless things? How can they be satisfied to be so neutral, so double-minded, when all around them the stern conflict rages? I wish they would give us a little more evidence upon which to judge whether they are for us or for our enemies. The years which the locust hath eaten in some professors are far too many; and I would earnestly exhort any brother here who has had the locusts at him for a long time, and remind him that the promise stands, if he will avail himself of it, "I will restore unto you the years that the locust hath eaten." It is high time that he saw to it, for his case is a bad one. It is ill to be trading so ill, when a merchandise so precious as time is being lost.

Once more only, lest by these varied instances I should weary you. There are some in whom their years have been eaten up by the locusts in

Open Backsliding

This is one of the plagues of the church of God. Alas, for the many who did run well, but have suddenly stopped, and run no longer in the divine road! This is our frequent sorrow, even to heartbreak. We believe in the perseverance of the saints, but many are not saints, and therefore do not persevere. Nominal saints exhibit no final perseverance. Saints who have only the name of saints last but for a time, and then die away. In too many the life of God rather lingers than grows: their religion is so very weakly that they exhibit rather the sign of disease than of health. They wander away from their Lord and Master because they do not sufficiently feel His attractive power. Oh, that the Lord would be gracious in restoring such wanderers! Do I address any who have almost given up attendance on the means of grace? God have mercy upon you! Come and receive His restoring mercy. He will not cast you away, but He bids me say to you, that if you turn to Him according to the teaching of this chapter, He will yet restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten. It is a great wonder; but you shall see it, if you will seek the Lord yet again.

II. What does God say? "I will restore unto you the years that the locust hath eaten." This is our second head:

Locust-Eaten Years Restored

Notice, this is divine work, "I will restore unto you the years that the locust hath eaten." You cannot get them back. Nobody can give them back to you. But the omnipotent Jehovah says, "I will restore them to you." Can you believe that? All things are possible with God. Those dead years, those doleful years, those desponding years, those idle years, those backsliding years—all the harvests of them God can give them back to you. Look away from yourself and trust in the miracle-working God, while you hear this promise, "I will restore unto you the years which the locust hath eaten."

But notice that this restoration follows upon a true and genuine repentance. Repent, then. This is the great teaching and operation of the Gospel at its commencement upon the heart. "Repent, and be baptized, every one of you," is its first cry from the wilderness. "Turn ye every man from his evil ways." "Turn ye, turn ye, why will ye die, O house of Israel?" To go on in impenitence is to miss the blessing of my text. To go on in spiritual deadness—to go on in backsliding—will never bring the restoration of lost years. But he that shall unfeignedly confess his sin, shall heartily hate it, and shall turn unto God through Jesus Christ, trusting in the precious blood of His atonement, shall receive the unspeakably precious benediction of the Lord, the Restorer. Such a man shall plead this promise with God, and have it graciously fulfilled to him: "I will restore unto you the years that the locust hath eaten." It is a very remarkable promise, but you see to whom it is given.

This promise is only fulfilled by the exceeding grace of God; and it shall be my business for a minute to show you how the grace of God works it out. We take, for instance, a man or a woman who has been living for many

Years in Known Sin

Those years have all been wasted. How can God give us back the fruit of those wasted years? He can. He can. Seest thou that woman? She is a sinner, a common sinner of the town. She has spent her days, her nights, in wantonness. She comes into the room where the Saviour lies reclining at the dinner-table, and His feet are not far from the door. She bears a choice box of ointment; she has, besides that, eyes full of tears, and she stands behind Him weeping. She washes His feet with those tears. She loosens the luxuriant tresses of her head, those nets in which she had entangled many a living soul, and she bows down, and wipes those feet which with her tears she washed. While she kisses them with her lips, she wipes them with her hair. Now, that woman, in that day, had through grace restored to her the years which the locust had eaten. And you, too, my hearer, though you may have been so many years a sinner, can yet be so transformed as to overtake the saints. God can give you such a true repentance, such a burning love, such an enthusiastic consecration, that during the rest of your days you shall make up for all those wasted years.

I will suppose the locust has eaten many years by your being in great sorrow: and I believe that the Lord can easily make up to you.

The Wear and Fret of Grief

are great, but there is a remedy. Have I not seen some that have passed through years of deep soul-distress, who have been all their lifetime much the better for it? They have been more able to sympathize with poor, tried saints. They have had a truer, deeper, richer experience; and, as a rule, they have known the Gospel of Christ better, and they have had a tenderer love to Him who brought them up out of the horrible pit, and out of the miry clay. Personally I have been much the gainer by my sad hours and my sick-days. Your ills may become wells of comfort for others. The Lord can bring so much good out of the evil, so much light out of the darkness, so much joy out of the sorrow, that you shall one day say, "I thank God that I was shut up in Doubting Castle. I thank God I did sink in the deep mire where there was no standing, for He has restored to me the years that the locust hath eaten."

And if, again, the locust has eaten up your years through your being cold and indifferent and idle, God can recover you from this sad mischief. He will give you to repent bitterly of this great sin; for a great sin it is to lose a moment which should be used for Jesus. But yet, if the Lord shall visit you with an intense hatred of such idleness, and sting you into action, and at the same time draw you by the cords of love into full consecration, you will, perhaps, by redoubled zeal, recover the lost seasons. Oh that God would make it so with those who hitherto have sadly loitered in the race! Oh that our smouldering logs would become flaming firebrands! Oh that our sluggards could be aroused into enthusiasts!

Do not invite the locusts to come, I pray you, in the hope of getting back that which they devour. No, no; no—a thousand times no. We do not want the locusts at all: we cannot endure sin, or doubt, or trifling. We want every year to be fruitful—fruitful with a hundred-fold increase. But if the evils have come, let us turn to God with penitence and faith, and He can yet restore to us the losses they have caused. III. I have done, when I have said just a word or two upon a third point. Here are locust-eaten years, and here are these locust-eaten years restored: and now,

What Is to Come of It?

If God restores to us the years that the locust hath eaten. He has done a great deal for us; but notice that He is able to do yet more, and will do it, for what doth He say? He says, in the twenty-sixth verse, "And ye shall eat in plenty, and be satisfied, and praise the name of the Lord your God, that hath dealt wondrously with you: and my people shall never be ashamed." What a promise! You half-starved professors—you that are moping and mourning, who rise from the tables of the world unsatisfied, devoured with a griping hunger—if you turn to God with full purpose of heart, He will feed you with heavenly bread, and give you as real enjoyment as ever He gave to the best of His people. What shall come of it? Why, this shall come of it—that you who have had the most to mourn over shall be among the loudest singers. You shall praise the name of the Lord your God that hath dealt wondrously with you. You will cry, with tears running down your cheeks, "Who is a God like unto Thee, passing by transgression, iniquity, and sin?" I was a sinner up to the neck in filth; a despairing soul shut up in the densest darkness; but He has washed me, and He has brought me out into the light, and put a new song into my mouth. He is a glorious God—this God and Father of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. I pray you may have intense enjoyment of His marvellous grace, and may pour forth your whole souls in His praise.

Next, you shall have most clear and sweet communion with God. Hear what the prophet further says, "And ye shall know that I am in the midst of Israel and that I am the Lord your God, and none else, and My people shall never be ashamed." Wonderful! wonderful! that a far-off, outcast sinner should know his covenant God, and should say, "He is my God," and should enter into fellowship with Him, and should enjoy all the privileges of a friend of God. Wonderful that all his fear should be gone, and that he should instead be full of holy confidence, and have a right to hold up his head and never be ashamed! It shall be so, dear hearer. True repentance shall bring rest.

And then, best of all, the

Anointing Shall Come

upon you. I hope that the Lord has some here, at this hour, who did not know Him when they came within these walls, who, at this time, shall be called by His grace, and before long shall begin to tell to others what the Lord has done for them. O Lord, find ministers among these miserable sinners! Raise up for Thyself witnesses from among these careless youths! May the locusts all be blown away by a strong north wind, and never darken the air again! May these wasted years all be given back to you, and may you become the Lord's living, loving servants from this time forth. Oh, for the highest form of spiritual life! Oh, for the greatest possible usefulness! Oh, for grace to fill out our poor shrivelled lives till they arrive at a heavenly fullness! Oh, for the sacred breath of God to fill out all the canvas of our capacity! Lord, the sail flaps; the boat scarcely moves; we lie becalmed in indolence! Send us a breeze, we pray Thee, Grant us the wind of Thy Spirit to fill out every sail, that we may fly over the waves. Amen.