posted by Phil Johnson
The PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from The Spurgeon Archive. The following excerpt is Spurgeon's introduction to a sermon, "The Great Privation: or,
the Great Salvation," originally preached at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, sometime in the first half-decade after the Tabernacle opened. The message was published in 1865.
"O that thou hadst hearkened to my commandments! then had thy peace been am a river, and thy righteousness as the waves of the sea."Isaiah 48:18.
ROM this verse we may learn that when God smites men on account of sin, it gives him no pleasure. The voice which speaks is not that of the seraphic prophet, but it is the voice of the Lord God of the prophets himself. The manner is not merely the majestic formula, "Thus saith Jehovah," but it is supplemented with words intended to remind us of his graciousness and his goodwill. "Thus saith the Lord, thy Redeemer," he who rescued thee from perils past, "the Holy One of Israel," the faithful Promiser, who hath shown thee his counsels and his statutes.
Moreover, he challenges attention with more simple, touching mementoes of his kindness, when he adds, "I am the Lord thy God which teacheth thee to profit, which leadeth thee by the way that thou shouldest go." As the instructor of their childhood and the guide of their riper years, he first expresses the most natural interest in their welfare, and then pitifully bewails the folly of his children.
Speaking after the manner of men, to chasten his own people is a pain and a grief to his heart: "Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him." John Knox said that he never chastised his children without tears in his own eyes. Jeremiah, in the bitterest chapter of his unparalleled Lamentations, bears this grateful witness to our covenant God: "He doth not afflict willingly nor grieve the children of men." And surely if in the gentler chastisement of his hands, the Most High takes no pleasure, much less can he find delight in that withering curse which destroys the finally impenitent.
Beloved, the eternal torment of men is no joy to God. The ruin of a sinner gives Him no satisfaction. While the calamity is such as He only can estimate; the warnings, expostulations, and entreaties He hath spoken furnish proof upon proof of his pity.
Hear his own words, nay, hearken as he swears, listen to his own oath: "As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live."
Not vengeance, but mercy: to kiss the returning prodigal; to wash the feet of the guilty sinner; to press the rebel to his bosom, and to adopt him into his familythis is happiness to God. When, therefore, he rises to judgment and pronounces the fearful sentence, "Depart, ye cursed," and casts down the transgressor to hell, and delivers him over unto the tormentors, though he vindicates the justice of his throne, it is "His strange work, to bring to pass his act, his strange act."
Even the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction have experience of God's longsuffering. How tardily he puts off the time! How often he tarries before he inflicts the stroke! How he hides his power while he unfolds his patience; he refrains the fierceness of his anger, because he is "God, and not man!" "How shall I give thee up, Ephraim? how shall I deliver thee, Israel? how shall I make thee as Admah? how shall I set thee as Zeboim? mine heart is turned within me, my repentings are kindled together."
Let me appeal to you then, my hearers, those of you who have entertained hard thoughts of God, correct them now, banish them from your breasts tonight. You may take pleasure in the damnation of your fellow men: my God hath no such pleasure; you may find gratification in your sins, but he grieves over them; for as he sees your course, he foresees your end.
Nor is this the only lesson which lays on the surface of the text. Still speaking after the manner of men, I beg you to observe, that the Lord addresses words of poignant regret over the prize the sinner has lost, as well as the penalty he has incurred.
So did Jesus Christ look upon Jerusalem. Musing on the desolation to which she should shortly come, he reflected on the preservation in which she might have safely stood. Just as little chickens cluster under the hen's wings, nestling there in genial warmth and peaceful security, so might Israel have found prosperity in her own borders, and protection against foreign invaders under the shadow of the wings of the Lord God Almighty. Ye remember how he burst into tears; ye can never forget that cry of his, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!"
Such, too, are the words of my textwords which I pray God may rouse your thoughts, and be graven deeply on your hearts. God looks upon the "peace" you might enjoy, and the "righteousness" that would enrich you, did you hearken to his commandments, and obey his great mandate, "Believe and live." He espies you afar off from peace; he beholds what you cannot yet discern, the clouds gathering round your head. It may be you feel in a dead calm. He utters this pathetic exclamation, "O that thou hadst hearkened to my commandments! then had thy peace been like a river, and thy righteousness as the waves of the sea."
Sinner! the eternal God weeps over you while you are utterly careless about yourself. The infinite heart of my divine Master yearns over you. The voice which has often reproved you, now mourns your hapless state in plaintive tones. Methinks I hear the chords of his heart in notes of pity, far exceeding all that prophets, apostles, and ministers could ever utter. "O that that sinner would believe in Jesus! O that he would give me his heart! O that he would be obedient to my word! Then his peace should flow in purity and fertility like a river; and then his righteousness should roll in boundless plenty, and multiply its grand impressive witness like the waves of the sea."