It is all very well to take a passage of Scripture, isolate it from the context, and use it as the motto of a sermon; but it is evidently not the natural and fair way of treating the word of God. You may do so for the most part with tolerable safety, for God’s truth, even when it is broken up into little pieces, still retains its purity and perfection like certain crystals, which, however much they may be subdivided, always bear the same crystalline form. So true in every particle and detail is the revelation of God, that though you should take it up and dash it to pieces, yet every little fragment will bear the original impress. But this is no excuse for treating the Scriptures in an unjustifiable manner instead of expounding them according to the rules of common sense. Texts ought always to be handled with a reverential deference to the mind of the divine Spirit who indited them. When we attempt to rivet your attention on a verse or the fraction of a verse of the Bible we desire you also to be scrupulously attentive to the affinities in which it stands. If any of my published sermons should in any instance appear to violate this rule, you will bear me witness that it has been my constant habit throughout all my ministry among you to read and open up, as best I could, the whole chapter from which I have selected a few words as the motto of my discourse. I have honestly endeavoured to give you the special mind of the Spirit either in the exposition or in the sermon.
Faith in God enables many of you, I know right well, to bear much hardship, and exercise much self-denial, and yet to persevere in your ministry. My heart rejoices over the many brethren here whom God has made to be winners of souls; and I may add that I am firmly persuaded, concerning many here present, that the privations they have undergone, and the zeal they have shown in the service of their Lord, though unrewarded by any outward success, are a sweet savor unto God. True faith makes a man feel that it is sweet to be a living sacrifice unto God. Only faith could keep us in the ministry, for ours is not a vocation which brings with it golden pay; it is not a calling which men would follow who desire honor and rank. We have all kinds of evils to endure, evils as numerous as those which Paul included in his famous catalogue of trials; and, I may add, we have one peril which he does not mention, namely, the perils of church-meetings, which are probably worse than perils of robbers. Underpaid and undervalued, without books and without congenial associates, many a rural preacher of the gospel would die of a broken heart, did not his faith gird him with strength from on high.
Brethren, our faith also, resting upon the doctrines of the gospel and upon the God of the gospel, embraces the power of prayer. We believe in the prevalence of supplication. I am afraid that this belief is going out of fashion in the so-called Christian world. The theory of some is, that prayer is useful to ourselves, but that it cannot be operative upon God; and much is said about the impossibility of the Divine purposes being changed, and the utter unlikelihood of a finite being affecting God by his cries. We also hold that the purposes of God are not changed; but what if prayer be a part of His purpose, and what if He ordains that His people should pray when He intends to give them blessings? Prayer is one of the necessary wheels of the machinery of providence. The offering of prayer is as operative in the affairs of the world, and the production of events, as the rise of dynasties or the fall of nations. We believe that God in very truth hearkens to the voices of men.
Public worship is a part of the great system by which God blesses the world. It has much to do with the gathering, the sustenance, the strengthening, the invigorating, and the extension of the Church of Christ; and it is through the Church of Christ that God accomplishes his purposes in the world. Oh, the blessings that come to us in our public assemblies! Are there not, sometimes, days of heaven upon earth? Have we not felt our hearts burning within us when we have been listening to the Word, or joining in the praise or the prayer? Those houses of God where the gospel is truly preached, whatever their architecture may be, are the beauty and the bulwarks of the land. God bless them! Wherever the Lord’s people are gathered together, in a cathedral or in a barn,— it does not matter where,— it is none other than the house of God, and the very gate of heaven when God is there; and who among us would dare to stay away? As long as we have legs to carry us, and health with which to use those legs, let us be found among the waiting assemblies in God’s sanctuary.
“How shall we describe the doom of an unfaithful minister? And every unearnest minister is unfaithful. I would definitely prefer to be consigned to Tophet as a murderer of men’s bodies than as a destroyer of men’s souls; neither do I know of any condition in which a man can perish so fatally, so infinitely, as in that of the man who preaches a gospel which he does not believe, and assumes the office of pastor over a people whose good he does not intensely desire. Let us pray to be found faithful always, and ever. God grant that the Holy Spirit may make and keep us so.”
“The work of Christ was to bring in a perfect righteousness. For whom, think you? For those who had a righteousness? That were a superfluity. Why should he weave a garment for those who were already clothed in scarlet and fine linen? He had, moreover, to shed his blood. For whom his blood? Wherefore the agony in the garden? Wherefore the cry upon the cross? For the perfect? Surely not, beloved. What need had they of an atonement? Verily, brethren, the fact that Jesus Christ bled for sin upon the cross bears, on its very surface, evidence that he came into the world to save sinners. And then look at God’s end in the whole work. It was to glorify himself, but how could God be glorified by washing spotless souls, and by bringing to everlasting glory by grace those who could have entered heaven by merit? Inasmuch as the plan and design both aim at laying the greatness of human nature in the dust, and exalting God, and making his love and his mercy to be magnified, it is implied as a matter of necessity, that it came to deal with undeserving, ill-deserving sinners, or else that end and aim never could be accomplished.”
C.H. Spurgeon, “The Friend of Sinners,” June 29, 1862.
The suffering Messiah will be brought forth again this morning, not by Pilate, but by one who longs to do him honour, and when he stands before you, and is proclaimed again in the words, “Behold your King!” will you also cry, “Away with him, away with him”? Let us hope that there will not be found here hearts so evil as to imitate the rebellious nation and cry, “We will not have this man to reign over us.” Oh that -each one of us may acknowledge the Lord Jesus to be his King, for beneath his sceptre there is rest and joy. He is worthy to be crowned by every heart, let us all unite in beholding him with reverence and receiving him with delight. Give me your ears and hearts while Jesus is evidently set forth as standing among you, and for the next few minutes let it be your only business to “Behold your King.”
“If you conceive that by your good works you shall enter heaven, never was there a more fell delusion, and you shall find at the last great day, that your hopes were worthless, and that, like sear leaves from the autumn trees, your noblest doings shall be blown away, or kindled into a flame within you yourselves must suffer for ever. Take heed of your good works; get them after faith, but remember, the way to be saved is simply to believe in Jesus Christ.”
This world is not the rock beneath our feet which it seems to be; it is no better than those green, but treacherous, soft, and bottomless bogs, which swallow up unwary travellers. We talk of terra firma as if there could be such a thing as solid earth; never was adjective more thoroughly misused, for the world passeth away and the fashion thereof. Every now and then, in order to enforce this distasteful truth upon us, the God of providence gives the world, in some way or other, a warning shake. The Lord has only to lay one finger upon the world, and the mountains are carried into the midst of the sea, while the waters of the ocean roar and are troubled until the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. The most solid fabrics of human skill and industry are dissolved at the voice of the Most High; though they appear to possess the firmness of earth and claim the sublimity of heaven, yet one divine word shakes earth and heaven in a moment. Looking back through history, you will observe many periods of very tremendous shakings, the records of which are indelibly engraved upon human memory. An empire has been piled up by conquest, and cemented by policy and power; monarchs of gigantic mind have been sustained by armies of indomitable valour, and great dynasties have been established whose reign promised to be as enduring as the sun. but God has shaken, and the diadem has fallen, and the kingdom become desolate.
“A Lesson from the Great Panic,” MTP 12:690 (1866)