How many, alas, of the precious saints of God must we shut out from being believers, if there is no faith but what amounts to assurance…. shall we say their faith went away in the departure of their assurance? How oft then in a year may a believer be no believer? even as often as God withdraws and leaves the creature in the dark. Assurance is like the sun-flower, which opens with the day and shuts with the night. It follows the motion of God’s face; if that looks smilingly on the soul, it lives; if that frowns or hides itself, it dies. But faith is a plant that can grow in the shade, a grace that can find the way to heaven in a dark night. It can “walk in darkness, and yet trust in the name of the Lord.”
The shepherds were keeping their flocks by night. Probably a calm, peaceful night, wherein they felt the usual difficulty of keeping their weary eyelids open as sleep demanded its due of them. All of a sudden, to their amazement, a mighty blaze lit up the heavens and turned midnight into midday! The glory of the Lord, by which, according to the idiom of the language, is meant the greatest conceivable glory as well as a divine glory, surrounded and alarmed them! And in the midst of it they saw a shining spirit, a form, the like of which they had never beheld before, but of which they had heard their fathers speak, and of which they had read in the books of the prophets so that they knew it to be an angel. It was, indeed, no common messenger from heaven, but “the angel of the Lord,” that choice presence angel, whose privilege it is to stand nearest the heavenly majesty, “’mid the bright ones doubly bright,” and to be employed on weightiest errands from the eternal throne of God. “The angel of the Lord came upon them.” Are you astonished that at first they were afraid? Would you not be alarmed if such a thing should happen to you? The stillness of the night, the suddenness of the apparition, the extraordinary splendor of the light, the supernatural appearance of the angel—all would tend to astound them and to put them into a quiver of reverential alarm—for I doubt not there was a mixture both of reverence and of fear in that feeling which is described as being “sorely afraid.” They would have fallen on their faces to the ground in fright had there not dropped out of that, “glory of the Lord,” a gentle voice, which said, “Fear not.” They were calmed by that sweet comfort and enabled to listen to the announcement which followed. Then that voice, in accents sweet as the notes of a silver bell, proceeded to say, “Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.” They were bid to shake off all thoughts of fear and to give themselves up to joy! Doubtless they did so and, among all mankind, there were none so happy at that dead of night as were these shepherds who had seen an amazing sight! They would never forget that night and now were consulting whether they should not hasten away to gaze upon a sight which would be more delightful still, namely, the Babe of which the angel spoke!
Mark well that believing what they did, these simple-minded shepherds desired to approach nearer the marvelous babe. What did they do but consult together and say, “Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing which has come to pass”? O beloved, if you want to get the joy of Christ, come near to Him! Whatever you hear about Him from His own book, believe it! But then say, “I will go and find Him.” When you hear the voice of the Lord from Sinai, draw not near unto the flaming mountain—the law condemns you, the justice of God overwhelms you. Bow at a humble distance and adore with solemn awe. But when you hear of God in Christ, hasten there! Hasten there with all confidence, for you are not come unto the mountain that might not be touched, and that burned with fire—you are come unto the blood of sprinkling, which speaks better things than that of Abel! Come near, come nearer, nearer still! “Come,” is His own word to those who labor and are heavy laden, and that same word He will address to you at the last—“Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from before the foundation of the world.” If you want joy in Christ, come and find it in His bosom, or at His feet! There John and Mary found it long ago. And then, my brothers and sisters do what the shepherds did when they came near. They rejoiced to see the babe of whom they had been told! You cannot see with the physical eye, but you must meditate—and so see with the mental eyes this great, grand and glorious truth of God that the word was made flesh and dwelt among us! This is the way to have joy today, joy such as fitly descends from heaven with the descent of heaven’s King! Believe! Draw near! And then fixedly gaze upon Him, and so be blest!
The Great Birthday Sermon #1330 http://www.spurgeongems.org Volume 22 2 2
This is my playes last scene, here heavens appoint
My pilgrimages last mile; and my race
Idly, yet quickly runne, hath this last pace,
My spans last inch, my minutes latest point,
And gluttonous death, will instantly unjoynt
My body, and soule, and I shall sleepe a space,
But my’ever-waking part shall see that face,
Whose feare already shakes my every joynt;
Then, as my soule, to’heaven her first seate, takes flight,
And earth-borne body, in the earth shall dwell,
So, fall my sinnes, that all may have their right,
To where they’re bred, and would presse me, to hell.
Impute me righteous, thus purg’d of evill,
For thus I leave the world, the flesh, the devill.