For more than a century, Charles Haddon Spurgeon's sermons have been consistently recognized, and their usefulness and impact have continued to the present day, even in the outdated English of the author's own day.
Why then should expositions already so successful and of such stature and proven usefulness require adaptation, revision, rewrite or even editing? The answer is obvious. To increase its usefulness to today's reader, the language in which it was originally written needs updating.
Though his sermons have served other generations well, just as they came from the pen of the author in the nineteenth century, they still could be lost to present and future generations, simply because, to them, the language is neither readily nor fully understandable.
My goal, however, has not been to reduce the original writing to the vernacular of our day. It is designed primarily for you who desire to read and study comfortably and at ease in the language of our time. Only obviously archaic terminology and passages obscured by expressions not totally familiar in our day have been revised. However, neither Spurgeon's meaning nor intent have been tampered with.--Tony Capoccia
All Scripture references are taken from the HOLY BIBLE: NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION (C) 1978 by the New York Bible Society, used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.
C. H. SPURGEON
"When they had seen Him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told." (Luke 2:17-20)
Every season has its own proper fruit: apples for autumn, holly berries for Christmas. The earth brings forth according to the period of the year, and with man there is a time for every purpose under heaven. At this season, the world is engaged in congratulating itself and in expressing its complimentary wishes for the good of its citizens; let me suggest extra and more solid work for Christians. As we think today of the birth of the Savior, let us aspire after a fresh birth of the Savior in our hearts; that as He is already created in us, "the hope of glory," we may be "made new in the attitude of our minds;" that we may go again to the Bethlehem of our spiritual nativity and do our first works, enjoy our first loves, and feast with Jesus as we did in the holy, happy, heavenly days of our initial walk with Jesus. Let us go to Jesus with something of that youthful freshness and excessive delight which was so manifest in us when we looked to Him at the first; let Him be crowned anew by us, for He is still adorned with the dew of His youth, and remains "the same yesterday, today and forever."
The citizens of Durham, though they dwell not far from the Scotch border, and consequently in the olden days were frequently liable to be attacked, were exempted from the agony of war because there was a cathedral within their walls, and they were set aside to the Church's service, being called in the olden times by the name of "holy work-folk." Now, we citizens of the New Jerusalem, having the Lord Jesus in our midst, may well excuse ourselves from the ordinary ways of celebrating this season; and consider ourselves to be "holy work-folk," we may keep it in a different way than other men, in holy contemplation and in blessed service of that gracious God whose unspeakable gift the newborn King is to us.
I selected this text this morning because it seemed to indicate to me four ways of serving God, four methods of executing holy work and exercising Christian thought. Each of these verses sets before us a different way of sacred service:
1. Spreading the word widely by telling others what we have seen and heard.
2. Holy amazement and astonishment.
3. Treasuring and pondering.
4. Glorifying and giving God praise.
I do not know which of these four responses accomplishes the best service for Christ, but I think that if we could combine all these mental emotions and outward exercises, then we would be sure to praise God in a most godly and acceptable fashion.
I. To begin then, in the first place, we find that some celebrated the Savior's birth by "Spreading the word" by telling others what they heard and seen; and truly we may say of them that; "they had something" to say in men's ears that was well worth the hearing.
That for which prophets and kings had waited long, had at last arrived to them. They had found out the answer to the perpetual question. They could have run through the streets with the ancient philosopher, crying, "Eureka! Eureka!" for their discovery was far superior to his. They hadn't discovered a solution to a mechanical problem or a metaphysical dilemma, but their discovery was second to none ever made by men of real value, since it has been like the Tree of Life to heal the nations, and a River of Water of Life to make the City of God glad.
They had seen more than angels--they had beheld the angel's King, the Angel of the Covenant whom we delight in. They had heard the music of heaven, and when they came near the manger, the ear of their faith had heard the music of earth's hope, a mystic harmony which would ring through all the ages--the grave sweet melody of hearts attuned to praise the Lord, and the glorious swell of the holy joy of God and man rejoicing in glad accord. They had seen God incarnate--such a sight that he who gazed on it must of been speechless in absolute astonishment. But could they remain silent when their eyes had seen such a vision? Impossible! To the first person they met outside that lowly stable door they began to share their matchless account, crying, "Come and worship! Come and worship Christ, the newborn King!"
As for us, beloved, don't we have also have something to relate that demands proclamation? If we talk of Jesus, who can blame us? This, indeed, will make the tongue declare the mystery of God incarnate for our sake, bleeding and dying that we might neither bleed nor die, descending to the earth that we might ascend to heaven, and wrapped in human cloths that we might have the grave-clothes of corruption unwrapped from our bodies. Here is such a story, so profitable to everyone that he who spreads it the most often does best, and he who speaks the least has the most reason to accuse himself for sinful silence.
They had something to tell, and "that something had in it the perfect blending which is the secret sign and royal mark of Divine authorship; a unique joining of majesty and simplicity;" angels singing--singing to shepherds! Heaven bright with glory! Bright at midnight! God! A Baby!! The Infinite! An Infant from eternity past!! The Ancient of Days! Born of a woman!! What could be more simple than the inn, the manger, a carpenter, a carpenter's wife, and a child? What could be more majestic than a "great company of the heavenly host" singing at midnight with their joyous chorus, and God Himself in human flesh being revealed. A child is an ordinary sight, but what a marvel to see "The Word" which was "with God in the beginning, make His dwelling among us so we could see His glory--the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth." Brethren, we have a story to tell--simple and majestic. What could be simpler? "Believe and live." What could be more majestic? "God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them!" A system of salvation so wonderful that angelic minds cannot help but adore Him as they meditate on it; and yet so simple that the children on earth can rightly sing its virtues as they sing, "Hosanna! Blessed is He that comes in the name of the Lord." What a splendid combining of the majestic and the simple have we in the great atonement offered by the incarnate Savior! Oh, make known to all men this saving truth!
The shepherds needed no excuse for making the announcement everywhere of the Savior's birth, "for what they shared, they had first received from heaven." Their news was not muttered in their ears by well known philosophers, nor brought to light by profound study, not conceived in poetry, nor found as a treasure trove among the volumes of the ancient; but it was revealed to them by an angel who led the angelic host, and testified, "Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord." When heaven entrusts a man with a merciful revelation, he is bound to deliver the good tidings to others. What, keep an eternal proclamation of mercy a secret? Why were the angels sent, if not to spread the message to all the world? According to the teaching of our own beloved Lord we must not be silent, for He commands us, "What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs." Beloved, you have heard a voice from heaven--you are born again, given an eternal hope of heaven, you have heard the Spirit of God bearing witness of God's truth in you, and teaching you heavenly things. You then must celebrate this Christmas by telling your fellowmen what God the Holy Spirit has seen fit to reveal to you.
But though the shepherds told what they heard from heaven, remember that, "they spoke of what they had seen below." They had, by observation, believed deep in their hearts those truths which they heard spoken by the angels and what they saw with their eyes. No one can speak of the things of God with any success until the doctrine which he finds in the Bible he also believes in his heart. We must bring down the mystery and make it clear, by knowing, by the teaching of the Holy Spirit, its practical power on the heart and conscience. My brethren, the gospel which we preach is most surely revealed to us by the Lord; but, moreover, our hearts have tried and proved, have grasped, have felt, have realized its truth and power. We may not have been able to understand its heights and depths, yet we have felt its mystic power upon our heart and spirit. It has revealed sin to us better; it has revealed to us our acquittal. It has killed the reigning power of sin, it has given us Christ to reign over us, the Holy Spirit to dwell within our bodies as in a temple. Now "we must" speak. I do not urge any of you to speak of Jesus who merely know the Word as you find it in the Bible, your teaching will have little power; but I do earnestly speak to you who know its mighty influence on the heart, who have not only heard of the babe but have seen Him in the manger, taken Him up in your own arms and received Him as being born to you, a Savior to you, Christ, the anointed for you, Jesus the Savior from sin for you. Beloved, can you do otherwise than speak of the things which you have seen and heard. God has made you taste and handle this precious Word of Life, and you must not, you dare not hold your peace, but you "must" tell it to friends and neighbors--what you have felt within.
These were shepherds, "uneducated men." I will guarantee you that they couldn't read a book; there is every probability that they didn't even know a single letter of the alphabet. They were shepherds, but they preached good; and, my brethren, whatever some may think, preaching is not to be confined to those educated gentlemen who have degrees from a college or university. It is true that education is not an impediment to grace, and may be a fitting weapon in a gracious hand, but often the grace of God has glorified itself by the plain clear way in which uneducated men have understood the gospel and have proclaimed it. I would not mind asking the whole world to find a person with a Master's Degree who is now living that has brought more souls to Christ Jesus than Richard Weaver. If twenty educated religious leaders have done a tenth as much in the way of soul-winning as that one man, then I would be surprised. Let us give to our God all the glory, but still let us not deny the fact that Richard Weaver, a sinner saved, who speaks with a poor man's English, fresh from the coal pit, tells the story of the cross by God's grace in such a way that the most Reverend Preachers might humbly sit at his feet to learn the way to reach the heart and melt the stubborn soul. It is true an uneducated brother is not suited for every work--he has his own sphere--but he is quite able to tell of what he has seen and heard.
If you have seen Jesus and heard His saving voice, if you have received truth from the Lord, felt its tremendous power coming from God to you, and if you have experienced its mighty effect upon your own spirit, why you can surely speak out what God has written within you. If you cannot get beyond that into the deeper mysteries, into the more knotty points, well, well, there are some who can, and so you need not be uneasy; but you can at least reveal the first and foundational truths, and they are by far the most important. If you cannot speak in the pulpit, if you would blush, and your tongue would refuse to function in the presence of many, there are your children, you are not ashamed to speak before them; there is the little cluster around the fireplace on Christmas eve, there are your fellow workers at your place of employment, there is a little audience somewhere to whom you could speak to about Jesus' love to lost ones. Do not go beyond what you know; do not plunge into what you have not experienced, for if you do you will be out of your depth, and then very soon you will be floundering and causing a lot of confusion. Go as far as you know; and since you do know yourself as a redeemed sinner and Jesus as a Savior, and a great one too, talk about those two matters, and good will come of it. Beloved, each one in his own position, tell what you have heard and seen; share that among the sons of men.
But "were they authorized?" It is a great thing to be authorized! Unauthorized ministers are shameful intruders! Unordained men entering the pulpit, who are not called by God to speak--very horrible! Very horrible indeed! The unsaved mind utterly fails to fathom the depth of horror which is contained in the idea of an unauthorized man preaching and daring to teach the way of salvation. To me this horror seems very much like a schoolboy's fright at a monster which his fears had conjured up. I think if I saw a man slip through the ice into a cold watery grave, and I could rescue him from drowning, it would not wrong for me to be the means of saving him, though I may not be one who has been certified as a Life Saver. I imagine if I saw a fire, and heard a poor woman scream at an upper window, and likely to be burned alive, if I should put a ladder up to the window, and preserve her life, it would not be wrong though I were not a member of the local Fire Department. If a company of brave volunteers should chase an enemy out of their own county, I do not know that it would be anything so shocking, although they were not members of the country's regular armed forces. But mark you, the ministers and others like them are called by God, and thus are authorized by divine ordinance, for every man who hears the gospel is authorized to tell it to others. Do you want authority? Here it is--confirmation from the Word of God, "Let him who hears say, 'Come!'--that is, let every man who truly hears the gospel invite others to come and drink of the water of life." This is all the warrant you require for preaching the gospel according to your ability.
Not every man has the ability to preach the Word, and we would not want to hear every man preach in the great congregation, for if we all were mouths, what a great vacuum would exist in the Church; yet every Christian in some way should deliver the Good News. Our wise God is careful that the preaching of the Word will not be disorderly, for He does not give the pastoral and teaching gifts to very many; yet every man according to his gifts, let him minister. Every one of you though not in the pulpit, yet in the pew, in the shop, somewhere, anywhere, everywhere, make known Jesus Christ the Savior. Let this be your authority: "Let him who hears say, 'Come!'" I never thought of asking any authority for crying "Fire," when I saw a house burning; I never dreamed of seeking any authority for doing my best to rescue a poor perishing fellow-man, nor do I mean to seek it now! All the authority you need, any of you, is not the authority which can stream from popes decorated with elaborate religious clothing and trinkets, but the authority which comes direct from the great Head of the Church, who gives authority to every one who hears the gospel, to teach his neighbor, saying, "Know the Lord."
Here, dear brethren, is one way for you to keep a holy, and in some sense a merry Christmas. Imitate these humble men, of whom it is said, "When they had seen Him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child."
II. We set before you, now, another way of celebrating Christmas, by HOLY WONDER, ADMIRATION, AND ADORATION.
"All who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them." We will have little to say of those persons who merely wondered, and did nothing more. Many are amazed by the Gospel. They are content to hear it, pleased to hear it; if not in itself something new, yet there are new ways of putting it, and they are glad to be refreshed with the variety. The preacher's voice is to them as the sound of one that makes pleasant music with an instrument. They are glad to listen. They are not skeptics, they do not criticize, they raise no objections; they just say to themselves, "It is an admirable gospel, it is a wonderful plan of salvation. Here is the most astonishing love, most extraordinary condescension." Sometimes they marvel that these things should be told to them by shepherds; they can hardly understand how uneducated and ignorant men could speak of these things and how the shepherds could ever have learned such things. How is it that they seem so enthusiastic about them, what has happened to them that they are able to speak as they do. But after holding up their hands and opening their mouths for about nine days, the wonder subsides, and they go their way and think no more about it.
There are many of you who are amazed whenever you see God working in your neighborhood or workplace. You hear of somebody being converted who was a very wicked sinner and you say, "It is very amazing!" There is a revival; and you happen to be present at one of the meetings when the Spirit of God is working gloriously: you say, "Well, this is a very astonishing thing!" Even the newspapers can afford a corner at times for very great and extraordinary works of God the Holy Spirit, but there all the emotion ends; it is all amazement, and nothing more.
Now, I trust it is different with us; that we will not think of the Savior and of the doctrines of the gospel which He came to preach simply with amazement and astonishment, for this will do us no good. On the other hand, there is another form of amazement which is very much like adoration. I think it would be very difficult to draw a line between holy wonder and real worship, for when the soul is overwhelmed with the majesty of God's glory, though it may not express itself in song or even utter its voice with bowed head in humble prayer, yet it silently adores. I am inclined to think that the astonishment which sometimes seizes the human intellect at the remembrance of God's greatness and goodness is, perhaps, the purest form of adoration which ever rises from mortal men to the throne of the Most High. This kind of amazement I recommend to those of you who from the quietness and solitude of your lives are scarcely able to mimic the shepherds in telling the account to others: you can at least be like the circle of the worshipers before the throne by being amazed at what God has done.
Let me suggest to you that holy amazement at what God has done should be very natural to you. That God should reflect on His fallen creature man, and instead of sweeping him away with the broom of destruction would devise a wonderful plan for his redemption, and that He would Himself undertake to be man's Redeemer, and to pay his ransom price, is, indeed, marvelous! Probably it is most marvelous to you in its relation to yourself, that you should be redeemed by blood; that God would forsake the thrones and royalties above to suffer disgrace on the earth for you. You know yourself that you can never see an adequate motive or reason in your own flesh for such a deed as this, you will say, "Why was such love given to me?" If David sitting in his house could only say, "Who am I, O Sovereign LORD, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far?" What should you and I say? Had we been the most meritorious of individuals, and had unceasingly kept the Lord's commands, we could not have deserved such a priceless blessing as incarnation; but sinners, offenders, who revolted and turned away from God, further and further, what would we say of this incarnate God dying for us, but "This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins." Let your soul lose itself in amazement, for amazement, dear friends, is in this way a very practical emotion. Holy amazement will lead you to grateful worship; being astonished at what God has done you will pour out your soul with astonishment at the foot of the golden throne with the song, "To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!"
Filled with this amazement will cause you a godly watchfulness; you will be afraid to sin against such love as this. Feeling the presence of the mighty God in the gift of His dear Son, you will take off your shoes, because the place where you are standing is holy ground. You will be moved at the same time to a glorious hope. If Jesus has given Himself to you, if He has done this marvelous thing on your behalf, you will feel that heaven itself is not too great for your expectation, and that the rivers of pleasure at God's right hand are not too sweet or too deep for you to drink of. Who can be astonished at anything when he has once been astonished at the manger and the cross? What amazement is there left after one has seen the Savior. The seven wonders of the world! Why, you may put them all into a nutshell--technology and fine art can exceed them all; but this one wonder is not the wonder of earth only, but of heaven and earth, and even hell itself. It is not the wonder of the past, but the wonder of all time and the wonder of eternity. They who have seen human wonders a few times, at last cease to be astonished; the noblest structure that an architect ever raised, at last fails to impress the onlooker; but not so this marvelous temple of incarnate Deity; the more we look the more we are astonished, the more we become accustomed to it, the more have we a sense of its surpassing splendor of love and grace. There is more of God, let us say, to be seen in the manger and the cross, than in the sparkling stars above, the rolling deep below, the towering mountain, the teeming valleys, the abodes of life, or the abyss of death. Let us then spend some choice hours of this festive season in holy amazement, such as will produce gratitude, worship, love, and confidence.
III. A third manner of holy work, namely, HER HEART TREASURING AND PONDERING, you will find in the next verse.
One at least, and let us hope there were others, or at any rate let us ourselves be others--one treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. She wondered: she did more--she pondered. You will observe there was an exercise on the part of this blessed woman of the three great parts of her being; her memory--she treasured all these things; her affections--she treasured them in her heart; her intellect--she pondered them, considered them, weighed them, turned them over; so that memory, affection, and understanding were all exercised about these things. We delight to see this in Mary, but we are not at all surprised when we remember that she was in some sense the most concerned of all on earth, for it was from her that Jesus Christ had been born. Those who come nearest to Jesus and enter most closely into fellowship with Him, will be sure to be the most engrossed with Him. Certain persons are best esteemed at a distance but not the Savior; when you have known Him completely, then you will love Him with the love which passes all understanding; you will comprehend the heights, and depths, and lengths, and breadths of His love; and when you will do so, then your own love will swell beyond all length and breadth, all height and depth. The birth most concerned Mary, and therefore she was the most impressed with it. Note the way in which her concern was shown; she was a woman, and the grace which shines best in the female is not boldness--that belongs to the masculine mind; but affectionate modesty is a feminine beauty, and hence we do not read so much of her sharing the Good News to others as pondering within. No doubt she had her circle of friends, and she shared the joy of her heart; but for the most part she, like another Mary, sat still in the house. She worked, but her work was most directly for Him, her heart's joy and delight. Like other children, the holy child needed care, which only a mother's hand and heart could exercise; she was therefore engrossed with Him. O blessed preoccupation! Sweet encounter! Do not count that to be unacceptable service which occupies itself rather with Jesus than with His disciples or His wandering sheep. That woman who broke the alabaster jar and poured the ointment upon our Jesus Himself was accused by Judas, and even the rest of the disciples thought that the poor had lost a benefit, but "She has done a beautiful thing to me," was the Savior's answer.
I desire to bring you to this thought, that if during this season you shy quiet ones cannot speak to others, or have no desirable opportunity or suitable gift for that work, you may sit still with Jesus and honor Him in peace. Mary took the Lord in her arms; oh that you may bear Him in yours! She performed works for His person directly; you can imitate her. You can love Him, bless Him, praise Him, study Him, treasure Him, ponder Him, comprehend His character, and imitate His life; and in this way; though your worship will not blaze forth among the sons of men, and scarcely benefit them as some other forms of work, yet it will both benefit you and be acceptable to your Lord. Beloved, remember what you have heard about Christ, and what He has done for you; make your heart the golden cup to hold the rich recollections of His past loving-kindness; make it a pot of manna to preserve the heavenly bread whereon saints have fed in days gone by. Let your memory treasure up everything about Christ which you have either heard, or felt, or known, and then let your fond affections hold Him close forevermore. Love him! Pour out that alabaster jar of your heart, and let all the precious ointment of your affection come streaming on His feet. If you cannot do it with joy do it sorrowfully, wash His feet with tears, wipe them with the hairs of your head; but love Him, love the blessed Son of God, your ever tender Friend. Let your intellect be exercised concerning the Lord Jesus. Turn over and over by meditation what you read. Do not be those who only read the words--don't stop at the surface; dive into the depths. Don't be like the swallow which touches the brook with her wing, but be like the fish which penetrates to the deepest part. Drink deep portions of His love; do not sip, but dwell at the well as Isaac did at the well Lahai-roi. Stay with your Lord: let Him not be to you as a traveler that stays only for a night, but constrain Him, saying, "Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over." Hold Him, and do not let Him go. The word "ponder," as you know, means to weigh. The scales of judgment are ready. Oh, but where are the scales that can weigh the Lord Christ? "Surely the nations are like a drop in a bucket; they are regarded as dust on the scales; He weighs the islands as though they were fine dust." Who will lift Him up? "He weighed the mountains on the scales." On what scales will we weigh Him? Be it so, if your understanding cannot comprehend, let your affections apprehend; and if your spirit cannot surround the Lord Jesus in the arms of its understanding, let it embrace Him in the arms of your affection. Oh, beloved, here is blessed Christmas work for you, if, like Mary, you treasure up all these things in your heart and ponder them.
IV. The last piece of holy Christmas work is to come. "The shepherds returned," we read in the twentieth verse, "GLORIFYING AND PRAISING GOD for all the things that they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told." Returned to what? "Returned to the business" of looking after the lambs and sheep. Then if we desire to glorify God we need not give up our business.
Some people get the notion into their heads that the only way in which they can live for God is by becoming ministers, missionaries, or Bible teachers. How many of us would be shut out from any opportunity of magnifying the Most High if this were the case. The shepherds went back to the sheep-pens glorifying and praising God. Beloved, it is not occupation, it is earnestness; it is not position, it is grace which will enable us to glorify God. God is most surely glorified in that factory corner where the godly worker, as he assembles the parts sings of the Savior's love, yes, glorified far more than in many a church pulpit where the minister performs his duties. The name of Jesus is glorified by the cab driver as he drives his vehicle and blesses his God, or speaks to his fellow cabby by the roadside as much as by the evangelist who, throughout the country, is thundering out the gospel. God is glorified by our remaining in our vocation. Take care you do not leave your calling, and take care you do not dishonor your profession while in it. Do not think much of yourselves, and do not think too little of your callings. There is no honest, moral, business which is not sanctified by the gospel. If you turn to the Bible, you will find the most menial forms of labor have been in some way or other connected either with the most daring deeds of faith, or else with persons whose lives have been otherwise illustrious; keep to your calling, brother, keep to your calling! Whatever God has made you, when He calls you for salvation, then remain in that position in life, unless you are quite sure, mind that, unless you are quite sure that He is calling you to something else. The shepherds glorified God though they went back to their trade.
They glorified God "though they were shepherds." As we have already said, they were not educated men. So far from having an extensive library full of books, it is probable they could not read a word; yet they glorified God. This takes away all excuse for you good people who say, "I am not a scholar; I never had any education, I never even attended Sunday-school." Ah, but if your heart is right, you can glorify God. Never mind, don't be discouraged because you know so little. Learn more if you can, but make good use of what you do know. It is indeed a pity that you had to start work at an early age, therefore you couldn't even acquired even the rudiments of knowledge, but don't think that you can't glorify God. If you want to praise God, then live a holy life, you can do that by His grace, without a degree. If you want to do good to others, then be good in yourself, and that is a way which is as open to the most illiterate as it is to the best educated. Be of good courage! Shepherds glorified God, and so may you. Remember there is one thing in which they had as an advantage over the wise men. The wise men needed a star to lead them; the shepherds did not. The wise men went the wrong way even with a star, they stumbled into Jerusalem, the shepherds went straight to Bethlehem. Simple minds sometimes find a glorified Christ where educated people miss Him because of their confusion over their educated approach. A good doctor used to say, "Look, these simple uneducated persons have entered into the kingdom, while we learned men have been fumbling for the latch." It is often so; therefore you simple minds, be comforted and glad.
The way in which these shepherds honored God is worth noticing. They did it by praising Him. Let us regard the singing of sacred songs more than we sometimes do. When the song is bursting in full chorus from the thousands in this church, it is nothing but noise in the ear of some men; but if those who are singing the songs have true hearts that are touched with the love of Jesus, then it is not a mere noise in God's estimation, there is a sweet music in it that delights His ear.
What is the great purpose of all Christian effort? When I stood here the other morning preaching the gospel, my mind was fully focused on the winning of souls, but while preaching I seemed to go beyond that. I thought, Well, that is not the chief end after all--the chief end is to glorify God. Then it struck me all of a sudden, "If when singing a Psalm or a hymn, we really do glorify God, then we are doing more than by preaching; because preaching is only a means by which we win the lost, whereas, singing hymns is a direct way to glorify God." If we praise God with our hearts and tongues then we are glorifying Him in the surest possible way, we are really glorifying Him then. Sing then, my brethren! Sing not only when you are together but sing alone. Lighten your work with psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs. Make your family happy with sacred music. We sing too little, I am sure, yet the revival of religion has always been attended with the revival of worshipful Christian songs. Luther's translations of the psalms into songs were as much a blessing as Luther's discussions and controversies; and the hymns of Charles Wesley, and Cennick, and Toplady, and Newton, and Cowper, aided as much in the quickening of spiritual life in England as the preaching of John Wesley and George Whitefield. We need more singing. Sing more and murmur less, sing more and slander less, sing more and criticize less, sing more and complain less. God grant us today, as these shepherds did, to glorify God by praising Him.
I am not quite done with the shepherds yet. What was the subject of their praise? It appears that they praised God for what they had heard. If you think about it, there is good reason for blessing God every time we hear a gospel sermon. What would the souls in hell give if they could hear the gospel once more, and be allowed to respond to the pure and free salvation grace? What would dying men on their deathbeds give if they could once more hear the preaching of the gospel, and have another warning and an opportunity to yield to Christ. Brethren, what would you give sometimes when you are immobilized by sickness and cannot come and fellowship with the God's children, when your heart and your flesh cry out for the Living God? Well, praise God for what you have heard. You have heard the faults of the preacher, let him agonize over them. You have heard his message from God, do you bless God for that? Nearly all sermons can make you sing if you are in the right mind. Praise God that you have heard that there is a Savior! Praise God that you have heard that the plan of salvation is very simple! Praise God that you have a Savior for your own soul! Praise God that you are forgiven, that you are saved! Praise Him for what you have heard, but observe, they also praised God for what they had seen.
Look at the twentieth verse--"heard and seen." There is the sweetest music--it is what we have experienced, it is what we have felt within, it is what we have made our own--the things that we have received by yielding to the King. Mere hearing may make some music, but the soul of song must come from seeing with the eye of faith. And, dear friends, you who have seen with that God-given eyesight, I pray you, do not let your tongues be tied in sinful silence, rather let them speak loudly to the praise of sovereign grace, wake up your glory and awake songs of praise and your musical instruments. One point for which they praised God was "for all the things they had heard and seen. Observe the last sentence, "which were just as they had been told." Haven't you found the gospel within you just what the Bible said it would be? Jesus said He would give you grace--haven't you received it? He promised you rest--haven't you received it? He said that you would have joy, and comfort, and life through believing in Him--haven't you received all these? Aren't His ways, ways of pleasantness, and His paths, paths of peace? Surely you can say with the queen of Sheba, "Indeed, not even half was told me, I have found Christ more sweet than His servants could ever have told us. I looked upon the likeness as they painted it, but it was a mere dab as compared with Himself--the King in His beauty. I have heard of the promised land, but oh! it flows with milk and honey more richly and sweetly than men were ever able to tell me with their most vivid words. Surely, what we have seen keeps pace with what we have heard. Let us then glorify and praise God for what He has done.
I want to say something to those who are not yet converted, and I then will be done. I do not think you can begin at the seventeenth verse, but I wish you would begin at the eighteenth. You cannot begin at the seventeenth--you cannot tell others what you have not felt; do not try it. Neither teach Sunday-school, nor attempt to preach if you are not converted, for to the wicked, God says: "What right have you to recite my laws or take my covenant on your lips?"
But I pray to God, that you would begin with the eighteenth verse--"amazed!" Amazed that you are still alive, being spared from death that would have brought immediate judgment into the fires of hell--amazed that His precious Holy Spirit still strives to convert you despite your many wicked sins. Amazed that this morning the gospel message of eternal life is still being offered to you after all your rejections of it in the past.
I want you to begin there, because then I would have the hope that you would go on to the next verse, and so go from amazement to pondering. Oh sinner, I wish you would ponder the doctrines of the cross. Think of your sin, God's wrath, judgment, hell, the Savior's blood, God's love, forgiveness, acceptance, heaven--think on these things. Go from amazement to pondering. And then I would pray to God that you would then go on to the next verse, from pondering to glorifying. Take Christ, look to Him, trust Him. Then sing "I am forgiven," and go your way a believing sinner, and therefore a sinner saved, washed in the blood, and cleansed. Then go back after that to the seventeenth verse, and spread the Word to others.
But as for you Christians who are saved, I want you to begin this very afternoon at the seventeenth verse.
"Then will I tell sinners all around
What a dear Savior I have found:
I'll point to His redeeming blood,
And say--'Look! the way to God!'"
Then when the day is over, go into to your bedroom and wonder, admire and
adore; spend half an hour or so, like Mary, in pondering and treasuring up the
day's work and the day's message from the Word in your hearts, and then close it
all with that which never must close--go on tonight, tomorrow, and all the days
of your life, glorifying and praising God for all the things that you have seen
and heard. May the Master bless you for Jesus Christ's sake. Amen.
Added to Bible Bulletin Board's "Spurgeon Collection" by:
Bible Bulletin Board
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