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The Duty of Remembering the Poor

Written by: Spurgeon, C.H.    Posted on: 04/07/2003

Category: Sermons

Source: CCN

                                        The Duty of Remembering the Poor by REV. C.H. SPURGEON

              "Only they would that we should remember the poor; the same which I also was forward to               do."Galatians 2:10.

          POVERTY is no virtue; wealth is no sin. On the other hand, wealth is not morally good, and poverty is           not morally evil. A man may be a good man and a rich man; it is quite certain that very frequently good           men are poor men. Virtue is a plant which depends not upon the atmosphere which surrounds it, but           upon the hand which waters it, and upon the grace which sustains it. We draw no support for grace from           our circumstances whether they be good or evil. Our circumstances may sometimes militate against the gracious           work in our breast, but it is quite certain that no position in life is a sustaining cause of the life of grace in the soul.           That must always be maintained by divine power, which can work as well in poverty as in riches; for we see some           of the finest specimens of the full development of Christianity in those who are the very meanest in temporal           circumstances; far outshining those whom we should have imagined, from their position in society, would have           had many things to assist their virtues and sustain their graces. Grace is a plant which draws no nourishment from           the wilderness in which it grows; it finds nothing to feed upon in the heart of man; all it lives upon it receives           supernaturally. It sends all its roots upwards, none downwards; it draws no support from poverty, and none from           riches. Gold cannot sustain grace; on the other hand, rags cannot make it flourish. Grace is a plant which derives           the whole of its support from God the Holy Spirit, and is therefore entirely independent of the circumstances of           man. But yet, mark you, it is an undeniable fact, that God hath been pleased for the most part to plant his grace in           the soil of poverty. He has not chosen many great, nor many mighty men of this world, but he hath "chosen the           poor of this worldrich in faithto be heirs of the kingdom of God." We should wonder why, were we not quite           sure that God is wise in his choice. We cannot dispute a fact which Scripture teaches, and which our own           observation supports, that the Lord's people are, to a very large extent, the poor of this world. Very few of them           wear crowns; very few ride in carriages; only a proportion of them have a competence; a very large multitude of           his family are destitute, afflicted, tormented, and are kept leaning, day by day, upon the daily provisions of God,           and trusting him from meal to meal, believing that he will supply their wants out of the riches of his fullness.               Now, to-night, we shall first of all mention the fact that God has a poor people; secondly, the dutywe           should remember the poor; and then, thirdly, the obligation for us to perform this duty; for there are sundry           reasons why we ought to be specially mindful of the poor of the Lord's flock.               I. First, then, THE LORD HAS A POOR PEOPLEa fact notorious to us all, which daily observation           confirms. Why does the Lord have a poor people? This is a question that might suggest itself to us, and we might           not at all times find it easy to answer it, if we were poor ourselves. God could make them all rich if he pleased; he           could lay hags of gold at their doors, he could send whole rivers of supplies, where now it is a desert, he could           scatter round their houses abundance of provisions; as once he made the quails lie in very heaps round the camp           of Israel, so now he could rain bread out of heaven to feed them. There is no necessity that they should be poor,           only as it pleases his own sovereign will. "The cattle upon a thousand hills are his," he could supply them; he could           make the rich men of this world give up all their wealth, if he so pleased to turn their minds; he could make the           richest, the greatest, and the mightiest, bring all their power and riches to the feet of his children, for the hearts of           all men are in his control. But he does not choose to do so; he allows them to suffer want, he allows them to pine           in penury and obscurity. Why is this? I believe that is a question we should not find it easy to answer, if we were           in the circumstances, but seeing that many of us are out of the affliction, we may perhaps hint at one or two           reasons why the Lord God has had, has, and always will have, a poor people in this world.               I. I think one reason is, to teach us how grateful we should be for all the comforts he bestows on many of us.           One of the sweetest meals I think I have ever eaten was after beholding a spectacle of penury which had made me           weep. When we see others wanting daily bread, does not our loaf at once taste very sweet? It may have been very           dry; but we saw some one begging for bread in the streets, and we thanked God for what we had that day, when           we knew that others wanted. When we take our walks abroad and see the poor, he must be but a very poor           Christian who does not lift up his eyes to heaven and thank his God thus

                                              "Not more than others I deserve,                                                 But God has given me more."

          If we were all made rich alike, if God had given us all abundance, we should never know the value of his mercies,           but he puts the poor side by side with us, to make their trials, like a dark shadow, set forth the brightness which he           is pleased to give to us in temporal matters. Oh! ye would never thank God half so much if ye did not see your           cause for thankfulness by marking the needs of others. Oh! ye dainty ones, that can scarcely eat the food that is           put before you, it would do you good it you could sit down at the table of the poor. Oh! ye discontented ones,           who are always murmuring at your households, because all kinds of delicacies are not provided for you, it would           do you good if you could sit down for a while to workhouse fare, and sometimes eat a little less than that, and fast           a day or two, to find your appetites. Ay, ye who never sing a song of praise to God, it would be no small benefit           to you, if you were for mice made to want his bounties, then you might be led to thank God for all his abundant           supplies. Even Christian men want a spur to their thankfulness. God gives us a great many mercies we never thank           him for Day by day his mercies come, but day by day we forget them. His mercies lie

                                                "Forgotten in unthankfulness,                                                   And without praises die."

          Put you out in the cold some winter's night, and would you not thank God for the fire afterwards? Make you thirst           for a little while, and how grateful would be the crop of water! Now, if God has not exposed us in this way, it is at           least an instance of his wisdom, that he has placed others in that position, to teach those of his family who are           more highly favored in temporal matters, how thankful they ought to be for the gifts of his providence.               2. That, however, I take it, is but a very low view of the matter. There are other and higher, and better           reasons. God is pleased always to have a poor people, that he may display his sovereignty in all he does. If there           were no poor saints, we should not so strongly believe the doctrine of the sovereignty of God, or, at least, if the           saints believed it, as they always must and will, yet the wicked, and those who despise it, would not have so clear           an evidence of it, and would not sin against such great light, which shines upon their poor dark, blind eyeballs from           evident displays of sovereignty in salvation. Those who deny divine sovereignty, deny it in the face of all           testimony certainly in the teeth of Scripture, for it is there positively affirmed, and God, in order that there may be           something besides Scripture, has made his providence bear out the written word, and has caused many of his           children to be the despised among the people. "I take whom I please," save God. "Ye would have me choose kings           and queens first; I choose their humble servants in their kitchens before I choose their masters and mistresses in           their banqueting halls. Ye would have me take the counsellor and the wise man; I take the fool first, that I may           teach you to despise the wisdom of man. I take the poor before the rich, that I may humble all your pride, and           teach you there is nothing in man that makes me choose him, but that it is the sovereign will of God alone which           creates men heirs of grace." I bless God that there are poor saints, for they teach me this lesson, that God will do           as he pleases with his own. They show me manifestly, that however much men may deny the sovereignty of God,           they cannot rob him of it, that he will still exert it to the very last, long as this earth shall stand, and mayhap find           ways of exerting it, even in future ages. Certainly the existence of a poor people in the world is proof positive in           the mind of the saint, and a plain and bold affirmation to the most obtuse intellect of the sinner, that there is a           sovereignty of God in the choice of men.               3. Again: God has a poor people, I take it, that he may display more the power of his comforting promises,           and the supports of the gospel. If all God's saints were well-to-do in this world, and never lacked, we should           scarcely realize the value of the gospel half so much, Oh! my brethren, when we find some that have not where to           day their heads, who yet can say, "Still will I trust in the Lord;" when we see some who have nothing but bread           and water who still glory in Jesus; when we see them "wondering where the scene shall end," seeing that "every           day new straits attend," and yet having faith in Christ, oh, what honor it reflects on the gospel! Let my rich friend           there stand up and say, "I have faith in God for to-morrow with regard to my daily bread;" you would say, "My           dear friend, I do not at all wonder at it, for you have plenty of money at home to buy your bread with, and a           salary coming in on such a day; there is not much opportunity for faith in your case." But when some poor           habakkuk rises and exclaims "although the fig-tree shall not blossom neither shall there be fruit in the vine," and so           on, "Yet will I trust in the Lord." Ah! then that shows the power of all-supporting grace. You know we hear of a           great many different inventions that will never stand a trial. One man advertises a swimining belt; a fine thing it           would be for dry land, but when it is tried at sea, I fear it will not exactly answer the purpose, and really we cannot           know the value of an invention unless we test it, and put it through all the trials when it is supposed to be able to           endure. Now, grace is tested in the poverty of believersthat they are still in a great degree an uncomplaining and           unmurmuring racethat they bear up under every discouragement, believing that all things work together for their           good, and that out of all their apparent evils some good shall ultimately springthat their God will either work a           deliverance for them speedily, or most assuredly support them in the trouble, as long as he is pleased to keep them           there beloved, this is no doubt one reason why God puts his people in poor circumstances. "There," says the           architect, "this building is strong." Ay, sir, but it must be tester!: let the wind blow against it. There is a lighthouse           out at sea: it is a calm nightI cannot tell whether the edifice is firm; the tempest must howl about it, and then I           shall know whether it will stand. So with religion, if it were not on many occasions surrounded with tempestuous           waters, we should not know that the ship was staunch and strong, if the winds did not blow upon it, as they do on           our poor tried brethren, we should not know bow firm and secure it is. The master-works of God are those that           stand in the midst of difficultieswhen all things oppose them, yet maintain their stand; these are his all-glorious           works, and so his best children, those who honor him most, are those who have grace to sustain them amidst the           heaviest load of tribulations and trials. God puts his people into such circumstances, then, to show us the power of           his grace.               4. Then, again: God often allows his people to be a tried and a poor people, just to plague the devil. The devil           was never more plagued in his life, I think, than he was with Job. As long as Job was rich, Job caused much envy           in Satan, but he never made him so angry as when he was poor. It was then that Satan was the most incensed           against him because, after all his trials, he would not curse God and die. You know, if a man thinks he can do a           thing, he will always wrap himself up in his self-complacency, till he tries to do it and then fails. So Satan thinks he           may overthrow one or other of God's children. "Now, Satan," says God, "I will give thee an opportunity of trying           thy skill: one of my children is very poor; I will cut off his bread and water, I will give him the water of affliction           to drink, and the bread of bitterness to eat; he shall be exceedingly tried; take him, Satan, drag him through fire           and water, and see what thou canst do with him." So Satan tries to starve out the divine life from his soul; but he           cannot do it, and he finds, after all he has done, that he is defeated, and he goes away plagued and vexed, and           feeling another hell within himself, though miserable enough before, because he was foiled in all his attempts to           tread out the spark of life in the heart of God's child. God often allows Satan to test the Lord's work. It is           marvellous that the crafty devil should continue to work when it all tends to the glory of God after all, but he is a           devil all over, and will ever continue so. He always will keep on meddling with God's children; he will persevere           even to the last moment; till every saint is safe across the Jordan, he will still be plaguing and vexing God's           beloved. Ah! then let us rejoice, God will deliver us, and bring us off safe at last, yea, "more than conquerors,           through him that loved us."               5. Furthermore, the design of our heavenly Father in allowing a poor people in this world, and keeping his           people poor, when he might make them rich, is possibly to give us some living glimpse of Christ. A poor man is           the image of Jesus Christ, if he be a Christian. All Christians are the image of Jesus Christ, for the sanctifying           influence of Christ exerted on them has made them in some degree like their Master. But the poor man is like his           Master, not only in his character, but in his circumstances too. When you look on a poor saint, you have a better           picture of Jesus than you have in a rich saint. The rich saint is a member of Christ; he has the image of his Master           stamped upon him, and that image shall be perfected when he shall arrive in heaven; but the poor saint has           something else; he has not only the most prominent feature, but the back-ground, and the fore-ground, and all in           the picture. He has the circumstances of it. Look at his brown hands, hardened by toil; such were his Savior's           once; look at his weary feet, blistered with his journeyings; such were his-Savior's many a time. He sits upon a           well from weariness, as did his Lord once; he hath nowhere to rest, nor had his Master; foxes had holes, and the           birds of the air had nests, but he had not where to lay his head He is fed by charity, so was his Master; others           supplied his wants. See! he sits down at an invited table, so did his Master; he had not one of his own. Thou seest           Christ, then; thou seest as much of Christ as thou wilt see just yet, until thou art taken up where thou shalt be like           him, and see him as he is. He would have us always remember the Savior's poverty: "How he was rich, and yet           for our sakes became poor." And just as, on some memorable day, they strike medals which bear the impress of           its hero, so I look upon every poor saint as being a medal struck from the mint divine, to be a memento of the           existence of our Lord Jesus Christ. He is to make me remember my Lord, to bid me meditate upon that wondrous           depth of poverty into which he stooped, that he might lift me up to light and glory. Oh! blessed Jesus, this is wise,           for we oft forget theewise that thou hast given us some opportunity to remember thee.               6. But now one more reason, and I have done with this part of the subject. The Lord, has a poor people in the           midst of us, for this reason, that he determines to give us opportunities of showing our love to him. Now, we           show our love to Christ when we sing of him and when we pray to him; but if there were no poor people in the           world we should often say within ourselves, "Oh I how I wish there were one of Christ's brethren that I could           help; I should like to give Christ something; I should like to show my Master that I loved him, not by words only           but by deeds too." And if all the poor saints were taken clean away, and we were all well-to-do, and had           abundance, there would be none to require any assistance, and I think we might begin to weep, because there           were no poor saints to help. It is one of the most healthy things in the world to help a saint; it is a great blessing to           our own souls; it is a healthy exercise of the mind to visit the poor of the Lord's flock, and distribute as we are           able of our substance to their necessities. Let us look upon it, not as a mere duty, but as a delight and privilege; for           if we were not able to give something of our substance to Christ, we should have to go down on our knees to ask           him to give us some opportunity of showing our love to him. Take away the saints, and one channel wherein our           love might flow is withdrawn at once. But that shall never be, for the poor we always shall have with us, and there           are some reasons why we always shall have them.               II. The second thing we shall endeavor to speak of is THE DUTY here alluded to: "They would that we           should remember the poor." "Remember the poor;" that word "remember" is a very comprehensive word.               We ought to remember the poor in our prayers. I need not remind you to offer supplication for the rich, but           remember the poor; remember them and pray that God would comfort and cheer them in all the trials of their           penury, that he would supply their wants out of the riches of his fullness. Let the angel touch you on the arm,           when you have nearly finished your prayer, and say, "Remember the poor; remember the poor of the flock." Let           your prayers always go up to heaven for them.               Remember the poor, too, in your conversation. It is remarkable that all of us remember the rich. We talk           about all men being equal, but I do not believe there is an Englishman who is not silly enough to boast, if he has           happened to be with a lord in his lifetime. To have seen a live lord is a most marvellous thing, and there is scarcely           one of us that could resist the temptation of talking about it. We may say what we like about believing in the           equality of mankind; so we do, till we happen to get a little elevated, then we don't believe it any longer. We are all           ready enough to pull others down when we are in humble circumstances; but when we get a little elevated, we           foolishly think it only a child's fancy that we indulged in, and that after all there are more differences than we           imagined. We always remember the rich. You see a man respectable in church; you always know him, don't you?           You are on the exchange, or walking down the street; you never find any difficulty in recognising him. Somehow           or other, your memory is very treacherous in remembering the poor, but very strong in remembering a rich man.           Let me remind you to "Remember the poor." It is singular enough that there, is no command to remember the           rich; I suppose because there is no necessity for it, for we usually remember them. But there is a command for us           to remember the poor. Now, the next time you see a poor brother coal-heaver, bricklayer, hodsman, or whatever           he may be, do know him, if you please; and if you see him in all his dirty garments still know him; do not forget           him; try and recolleet him. Next sacrament Sunday look him if the face as though you remembered him; for the           last twenty times you have seen him you have appeared as if you did not remember him, and the poor man's mind           has been hurt as much as if it were same slight on your part, because he was a poor brother. I will not say that it           was so, but I am rather afraid it was in some degree. Now, when you see him in the street, say, "Well, brother, I           know you," and if he comes up to speak to you, do not think it will lower you to be seen speaking to him in the           street. If he is your brother, acknowledge him; if he is not tell no lie about it, but leave the church, and make no           false professions. But if you believe it, carry it out.               Now, often, when you are walking home from the house of God, you do not remember the poor, do you. If           they should require to speak to you, however important their errand, they would not get attended to very           frequently. If Mr. So-and-so, who is a respectable gentleman, wanted you, "Oh! yes, sir, I can stop a moment and           have a little conversation with you;" but if a poor person wants you, "Oh! I am in such a hurry; I must go home;"           and you are sure to go off directly. Now, for the future, just reverse your habit. When you see a rich man, do just           what you like about attending to him; I know what you will like to do; but when you see a poor man, just make it           a point of conscience that you attend to him. I was very much pleased with the conduct of a brother who is here           present. He may remember the circumstance, and bless God that he gave him grace to act as he did. A short time           ago there stood in the aisle near his pew door, a gentleman and a poor fellow in a smock frock. I thought to           myself, "He will let one in I know, I wonder which it will be." I did not wait long, before out he came, and in went           the smock frock. He thought very rightly, that the gentlemen would stand a chance of getting a seat out of some of           you, but he thought it best to remember the poor; and it was likely that the poorman was the most tired, for he had           no doubt had a hard week's work, and probably a long walk, for there are not many smock frocks near London.           Therefore he gave in reality to the most necessitous. I say, again, "Remember the poor." There is no necessity to           tell you to remember the richto be very respectful, and to speak very kindly and lovingly to those who are           above you; you will take care of yourselves on that point; but it is the poor you are disposed not to attend to, and           therefore I will press on you this commandment, that you remember the poor.               But this especially means, I think, that in the provision for their necessities, we ought to remember the poor.           Some of us have pretty good need to remember the poor. I am sure I have, for I have about ten times as many           poor people come to me every day as I can possibly relieve. If I were as rich as the Mayor of London, or Her           Majesty the Queen, I could scarcely accede to the immense requests sometimes made to me. There is scarcely a           poor man that is hard run by his creditors, or a poor woman that cannot make up her rent, but they write to the           minister. All the poor souls come to him; and I think to myself, "What can I do with you? I have really done as           much as I can, and here are three or four more coming." So I am obliged to send them away, and can only pity,           but cannot assist; and this must be the case, unless some one shot a waggon load of gold before my door. Still, we           m

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