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.
O LORD, raise up thy power, and come among us, and with great might succour us; that whereas, through our sins and wickedness, we are sore and hindered in running the race that is set before us, thy bountiful grace and mercy may speedily help and deliver us; through the satisfaction of thy Son our Lord, to whom with thee and the Holy Ghost be honour and glory, world without end. Amen.
O, God, who has become our Father through Christ. We give thanks that you have taught us to pray and promised us that you will much less deny us what we ask in faith than our fathers would refuse us earthly things. Teach us not to think of your heavenly majesty in an earthly manner, and to expect from your almighty power all things we need for body and soul. Grant us first of all that we may rightly know you, and sanctify, glorify, and praise you in all your works, in which shine forth your almighty power, wisdom, goodness, righteousness, mercy, and truth. Grant us also that we may so direct our whole life – our thoughts, words, and actions – that your name is not blasphemed because of us but always honoured and praised.
By your Word and Spirit, govern us that more and more we would submit to you. Grant that your Church would be preserved and increased here on earth. Destroy the works of the devil, every power that raises itself against you, and every conspiracy against your holy Word. Do all this until the fullness of your kingdom comes, wherein you shall be all in all.
Assist us that we and all men may deny our own will, and without any murmuring obey your will, for it alone is good. Grant also that everyone may carry out the duties of his office and calling as willingly and faithfully as the angels in heaven.
Provide us with all our bodily needs so that we may acknowledge that you are the only fountain of all good, and that our care and labour, and also your gifts, cannot do us any good without your blessing. Grant, therefore, that we may withdraw our trust from all creatures and place it only in you.
For the sake of Christ’s blood,do not impute to us, wretched sinners; any of our transgressions, nor the evil which still clings to us, as we also find this evidence of your grace in us that we are fully determined wholeheartedly to forgive our neighbour.
In ourselves we are so weak that we cannot stand even for a moment. Moreover, our sworn enemies – the devil, the world, and our own flesh – do not cease to attack us. Therefore, uphold and strengthen us by the power of Your Holy Spirit, so that we may not go down to defeat, but always firmly resist our enemies, until we finally obtain the complete victory.
All this we ask knowing that as our King, having power over all things, You are both willing and able to give us all that is good, and because your holy name will be forever glorified. We confess and take comfort that you have much more certainly heard our prayer than we feel in our hearts that we desire this of you. Amen.
-Based on the Heidelberg Catechism, LD 46-52
I Asked the Lord that I Might Grow – Indelible Grace
I asked the Lord that I might grow
In faith and love and every grace
Might more of His salvation know
And seek more earnestly His face
Twas He who taught me thus to pray
And He I trust has answered prayer
But it has been in such a way
As did drive me to despair
I hoped that in some favored hour
At once He’d answer my request
And by His love’s constraining power
Subdue my sins and give me rest
Instead of this He made me feel
The hidden evils of my heart
And let the angry powers of Hell
Assault my soul in every part
Yea more with His own hand He seemed
Intent to aggravate my woe
Crossed all the fair designs I schemed,
Cast out my feelings, laid me low
Lord why is this, I trembling cried
Wilt Thou pursue thy worm to death?
“Tis in this way” The Lord replied
“I answer prayer for grace and faith”
“These inward trials I employ
From self and pride to set thee free
And break thy schemes of earthly joy
That thou mayest seek thy all in me,
That thou mayest seek thy all in me.”
- John Newton 1779
This week I’ve learned that I am very prideful. I have often prayed:
“No trial is so hard to bear as a sense of sin. If Thou shouldst give me choice to live in pleasure and keep my sins, or to have them burnt away with trial, give me sanctified affliction.”
But did I ever understand what I was asking for? No. And in that I see God’s grace because otherwise I never would have prayed to be purified, not in this way, not through such a painful and heart wrenching trial. Then I never would have felt such a strong sense of joy and happiness, knowing that I’ve forgiven and been forgiven, and knowing that I am loved and can still love. I thought I was being destroyed but in reality I was being driven to a new reliance on Him. I believe that I’ve been broken and destroyed this week so that I would reexamine my life. I see my pride and weakness more clearly now and while I’m writing this at an hour past midnight, I can say that I’ve learned a bit more about what it means to trust God. In my pride I doubted God’s plan, his goodness and his love for me. We can’t see or know God’s plan but faith is believing in what we do not yet see. All the trials and agonies of this life, the pains inflicted by those dearest to us and the sufferings we endure can be used by God to teach and transform us. Through the trials and in this way of faith we can confess with David, “Though my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will receive me.”(Ps 27:10, NIV) While also saying, “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!”(Ps 133:1)
This week I also I learned that I loved and will continue loving my friends. I learned that I trusted and will continue to trust my friends, but can’t view them as infallible, I can’t make idols out of them. I’ve learned that my friends deeply love and trusted me in ways I’ve never understood or realized. I certainly have regrets. I regret the stupid and hurtful things I’ve said to others and the hurtful things done to me; I regret the things I’ve done to myself and the harm I’ve inflected on my body; I regret most of all the sins I’ve committed against a Holy and Loving God. I questioned his plan and went so far as to doubt his love. But perhaps, as a result of this sanctified affliction, I’ve also gained a glimpse of the meaning to this part of the same prayer:
“I thank Thee for Thy wisdom and Thy love, for all the acts of discipline to which I am subject, for sometimes putting me into the furnace to refine my gold and remove my dross.”
-“Confession and Petition,” The Valley of Vision.