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What Are the Clouds?

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

Category: Sermons

Source: CCN

What Are the Clouds?

A Sermon by the REV. C.H. SPURGEON

              "That clouds are the dust of his feet."Nahum 1:3.

          IT IS POSSIBLE for a man to read too many books. We will not despise learning, we will not undervalue           erudition, such acquisitions are very desirable; and, when his talents are sanctified to God, the man of           learning frequently becomes in the hands ofthe Spirit far more useful than the ignorant and the unlearned;           but at the same time, if a man acquire his knowledge entirely from books, he will not find himself to be a           very wise man. There is such a thing as heaping so many books on your brains that they cannot workpouring           such piles of type, and letters, and manuscripts, and papers, and prints, and pamphlets, and volumes, and tomes,           and folios, upon your weary head, that your brains are absolutely buried and cannot move at all. I believe that           many of us, whilst we have sought to learn by books, have neglected those great volumes which God has given us;           we have neglected to study this great book, the Bible! moreover, perhaps, we have not been careful enough           students of the great volume of nature, and we have forgotten that other great book, the human heart. For my own           part, I desire to be somewhat a student of the heart; and I think I have learned far more from conversation with           my fellow-men than I ever did from reading, and the examination of my own experience, and the workings of my           own heart, have taught me far more of humanity than all the metaphysical books I have ever perused. I like to           read the book of my fellow creatures; nothing delights me so much as when I see a multitude of them gathered           together, or when I have the opportunity of having their hearts poured into mine, and mine into theirs. He will not           be a wise man who does not study the human heart, and does not seek to know something of his fellows and of           himself. But if there be one book I love to read above all others, next to the book of God, it is the volume of           nature. I care not what letters they are that I read, whether they be the golden spellings of the name of God up           yonder in the stars, or whether I read, in rougher lines, his name printed on the rolling floods, or see it           hieroglyphed in the huge mountain, the dashing cataract, or the waving forest. Wherever I look abroad in nature I           love to discern my Father's name spelled out in living characters; and if we had any fields a little greener than           Moorfields, Smithfield, and Spafields, I would do as Isaac did, go into the fields at eventide and muse and           meditate upon the God of nature. I thought in the cool of last evening. I would muse with my God, by his Holy           Spirit, and see what message he would give me. There I sat and watched the clouds, and learned a lesson in the           great hall of Nature's college. The first thought that struck me was this, as I saw the white clouds rolling in the           skysoon shall I see my Savior mounted on a great white throne, riding on the clouds of heaven, to call men to           judgment. My imagination could easily picture the scene, when the quick and the dead should stand before his           great white throne, and should hear his voice pronounce their changeless destiny. I remembered, moreover, that           text in the Proverbs, "He that observeth the wind shall not sow and he that regardeth the clouds shall not reap." I           thought how many a time myself and my brother ministers have regarded the clouds. We have listened to the           voice of prudence and of caution we have regarded the clouds, we have stops when we ought to have been sowing           because we were afraid of the multitude, or we refused to reap and take in the people into our churches, because           some good brother thought we were too hasty about the matter. I rose up and thought to myself, I will regard           neither the clouds nor the winds, but when the wind blows a hurricane I will throw the seed with my hands, if           peradventure the tempest may waft it further still; and when the clouds are thick, still I will reap, and rest assured           that God will preserve his own wheat, whether I gather it under clouds or in the sunshine. And then, when I sat           there musing upon God, thoughts struck me as the clouds careered along the skies thoughts which I must give to           you this morning. I trust they were somewhat for my own instruction, and possibly they may be for yours. "The           clouds are the dust of his feet."               I. Well, the first remark I make upon this shall bethe way of God is generally a hidden one. This we gather           from the text, by regarding the connection, "the Lord hath his way in the whirlwind and in the storm, and the           clouds are the dust of his feet." When God works his wonders he always conceals himself. Even the motion of his           feet causes clouds to arise; and if these; clouds are but the dust of his feet," how deep must be that dense darkness           which veils the brow of the Eternal. If the small dust which he causes is of equal magnitude with our cloudsif           we can find no other figure to image "the dust of his feet" than the clouds of heaven, then, how obscure must be           the motions of the Eternal one, how hidden and how shrouded in darkness! This great truth suggested by the text,           is well borne out by facts. The ways of God are hidden ones. Cowper did not say amiss when he sang,

                                              "He plants his footsteps in the sea,                                                   And rides upon the storm."

          His footsteps cannot be seen, for, planted on the sea, the next wave washes them out; and placed in the storm,           rioting as the air then is, every impression of his chariot wheels is soon erased. Look at God, and at whatever he           has deigned to do, and you will always see him to have been a hidden God. He has concealed himself, and all his           ways have been veiled in the strictest mystery. Consider his works of salvation. How did he hide himself when he           determined to save mankind? He did not manifestly reveal himself to our forefathers. He gave them simply one           dim lamp of prophecy which shone in words like these "The seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent's head;"           and for four thousand years God concealed his Son in mystery, and no one understood what the Son of God was           to be. The smoking incense beclouded their eyes, and while it showed something of Jesus, it did hide far more.           The burning victim sent its smoke up towards the sky, and it was only through the dim mists of the sacrifice that           the pious Jew could see the Savior. Angels themselves, we are told, desired to look into the mysteries of           redemption, yet though they stood with their eyes intently fixed upon it, until the hour when redemption developed           itself on Cavalry, not a single angel could understand it. The profoundest sage might have sought to find out how           God could be just and yet the justifier of the ungodly; but he would have failed in his investigations. The most           intensely pious man might meditate, with the help of that portion of God's Spirit which was then given to the           prophets, on this mighty subject, and he could not have discovered what the mystery of godliness was"God           manifest in the flesh." God marched in clouds, "He walked in the whirlwinds;" he did not deign to tell the world           what he was about to do; for it is his plan to gird himself in darkness, and "the clouds are the dust of his feet." Ah!           and so it always has been in Providence as well as grace. God never condescends to make things very plain to his           creatures. He always does rightly; and therefore, he wants his people always to believe that he does rightly. But if           he showed them that he did so, there would be no room for their faith.               Turn your eye along the page of history, and see how mysterious God's dealings have been. Who would           conceive that a Joseph sold into Egypt would be the means of redeeming a whole people from famine? Who           would suppose that when an enemy should come upon the land, it should be after all but the means of bringing           glory to God? Who could imagine that a harlot's blood should mingle with the genealogy from which came the           great Messiah, the Shiloh of Israel? Who could have guessed much less could have compassed, the mighty scheme           of God? Providence has always been a hidden thing.

                                                "Deep in unfathomable mines                                                     Of never failing skill,                                               He treasures up his bright designs,                                                 And works his sov'reign will."

          And yet, beloved, you and I are always wanting to know what God is about. There is a war in the Crimea. We           have had some great disasters at Sebastopol, and we are turning over the papers, and saying, "Whatever is God           doing here?" What did he do in the last war? What was the benefit of it? We see that even Napoleon was the           means of doing good, for he broke down the aristocracy and made all monarchs respect for the future, the power,           and the rights of the people. We see what was the result even of that dread hurricane, that it swept away a           pestilence which would have devoured full many more. But we ask, "What is God doing with this world?" We           want to know what will be the consequences. Suppose we should humble Russia, where would it end? Can           Turkey be maintained as a separate kingdom? And ten thousand other questions arise. Beloved, I always think,           "let the potsherds strive with the potsherds of the earth," andas a good old friend of mine sayslet them crack           themselves, too, if they like. We will not interfere. If the potsherds will go smashing one another, why, then they           must. We pray that old England may come off the safest of them all. But we are not much concerned to know the           result. We believe that this war, as well as everything else, will have a beneficial tendency. We cannot see in           history that this world ever went a step backwards. God is ever moving it in its orbit; and it has always progressed           even when it seemed retrograding.               Or, perhaps, ye are not agitated about Providence in a nation, you believe that there God does hide himself;           but then there are matters concerning yourself, which you long to see explained. When I was in Glasgow. I went           over an immense foundry, one of the largest in Scotland, and there I saw a very powerful steam engine which           worked all the machinery in the entire building. I saw in that foundry such numberless wheels running round, some           one way and some another, I could not make out what on earth they were all about. But, I daresay, if my head           had been a little wiser, and I had been taught a little more of mechanics, I might have understood what every           wheel was doing, though really they seemed only a mass of wheels very busy running round and doing nothing.           They were all, however, working at something; and if I had stopped and asked "What is that wheel doing?" A           mechanic may have said, "It turns another wheel." "Well, and what is that wheel doing?" "There is another wheel           dependent upon that, and that again is dependent on another." Then, at last, he would have taken me and said,           "This is what the whole machinery is doing." Some ponderous bar of iron, perhaps, being grooved and cut, shaped           and polished"this is what all the wheels are effecting: but I cannot tell separately what each wheel is doing." All           things are working together for good; but what the things separately are doing, it would be impossible to explain.           Yet, thou child of Adam, with thy finite intellect, art continually stopping to ask, "Why is this?" The child lies dead           in the cradle. Wherefore, was infancy snatched away? Oh, ruthless death, couldst thou not reap ripe corn; why           snatch the rosebud? Would not a chaplet of withered leaves become thee better than these tender blossoms? Or,           you are demanding of Providence, why hast thou taken away my property? Was I not left, by a parent,           well-to-do, and some ravenous leech has swept all my substance away! It is all gone; why this, O God? Why not           punish the unjust? why should the innocent be allowed thus to suffer? Why am I to be bereft of my all? Says           another, "I launched into a business that was fair and honorable; I intended, if God had prospered me, to devote           my wealth to him. I am poor, my business never prospers. Lord, why is this?" And another says, "Hero I am           toiling from morning till night; and all I do I cannot extricate myself from my business, which takes me off so           much from religion. I would fain live on less if I had more time to serve my God." Ah! finite one! dost thou ask           God to explain these things to thee? I tell thee, God will not do it, and God cannot do itfor this reason: thou art           not capable of understanding it. Should the emmet ask the eagle wherefore it dasheth aloft in the skies? Shall           leviathan be questioned by a minnow? These creatures might explain their motions to creatures; but the           Omnipotent Creator, the uncreated Eternal, cannot well explain himself to mortals whom he hath created. We           cannot understand him. It is enough for us to know that his way always must be in darkness, and that we must           never expect to see much in this world.               II. This second thought isGREAT THINGS WITH US ARE LITTLE THINGS WITH GOD. What great           things clouds are to us! There we see them sweeping along the skies! Then they rapidly increase till the whole           firmament gathereth blackness and a dark shadow is cast upon the world; we foresee the coming storm, and we           tremble at the mountains of cloud, for they are great. Great things are they? Nay, they are only the dust of God's           feet. The greatest cloud that ever swept the face of the firmament, was but one single particle of dust starting from           the feet of the Almighty Jehovah. When clouds roll over clouds and the storm is very terrible, it is but the chariot           of God, as it speeds along the heavens, raising a little dust around him! "The clouds are the dust of his feet." Oh!           could ye grasp this idea my friends, or had I words in which to put it into your souls, I am sure you would sit           down in solemn awe of that great God who is our Father, or who will be our Judge. Consider, that the greatest           things with man are little things with God. We call the mountains great, but what are they? They are but "the small           dust of the balance." We call the nations great, and we speak of mighty empires, but the nations before him are           but as "a drop in the bucket." We call the islands great and talk of ours boastingly"He taketh up the isles as a           very little thing." We speak of great men and of mighty"The inhabitants of the earth in his sight are but as           grasshoppers." We talk of ponderous orbs moving millions of miles from usin God's sight they are but little           atoms dancing up and down in the sunbeam of existence. Compared with God there is nothing great. True, there           are some things which are little with man that are great with God. Such are our sins which we call little, but which           are great with him; and his mercies, which we sometimes think are little, he knows are very great mercies towards           such great sinners as we are. Things which we reckon great are very little with God. If ye knew what God thought           of our talk sometimes, you would be surprised at yourselves. We have some great troublewe go burdened with           it, saying, "O Lord God! what a great trouble I am burdened with." Why, methinks, God might smile at us, as we           do sometimes at a little child who takes up a load too heavy for it (but which ye could hold between your fingers),           and staggereth, and saith, "Father, what a weight I am carrying." So there are people who stagger under the great           trouble which they think they are bearing. Great, beloved! There are no great troubles at all: "the clouds are the           dust of his feet." If you would but so consider them, the greatest things with you are but little things with God.           Suppose, now, that ye had all the troubles of all the people in the world, that they all came pouring on your           devoted head: what are cataracts of trouble to God?" Drops in the bucket." What are whole mountains of grief           to him? Why, "he taketh up the mountains as the dust of the balance." And he can easily remove your trials. Sit           not down then thou son of weariness and want, and say, "My troubles are too great." Hear the voice of mercy:           "Cast thy burden on the Lord and he will sustain thee, he will never suffer the righteous to be moved." You shall           hear two Christians talk. One of them will say, "O my troubles, and trials, and sorrows, they are so great I can           hardly sustain them; I do not know how to support my afflictions from day to day." The other says, "Ah! my           troubles and trials are not less severe, but, nevertheless, they have been less than nothing. I could laugh at           impossibilities, and say they shall be done." What is the reason of the difference between these men? The secret           is, that one of them carried his troubles, and the other did not. It does not matter to a porter how heavy a load           may be, if he can find another to carry it all for him. But if he is to carry it all himself, of course he does not like a           heavy load. So one man bears his troubles himself and gets his back nearly broken; but the other cast his troubles           on the Lord. Ah! it does not matter how heavy troubles are if you can cast them on the Lord. The heavier they are           so much the better, for the more you have got rid of, and the more there is laid upon the Rock. Never be afraid of           troubles. However heavy they are, God's eternal shoulders can bear them. He, whose omnipotence is testified by           revolving planets, and systems of enormous worlds, can well sustain you. Is his arm shortened, that he cannot           save, or is he weary, that he cannot hold you fast? Your troubles are nothing to God, for the very "clouds are the           dust of his feet."               And this cheers me, I assure you, in the work of the ministry; for any man who has his eyes open to the world           at large, will acknowledge that there are many clouds brooding over England, and over the world. I received lately           a letter from a gentleman at Hull, in which he tells me that he sympathizes with my views concerning the condition           of the church at large. I do not know whether Christendom was ever worse off than it is now. At any rate, I pray           God it never may be. Read the account of the condition of the Suffolk churches where the gospel is somewhat           flourishing, and you will be surprised to find that they have had scarcely any increase at all in the year. So you           may go from church to church, and find scarcely any that are growing. Here and there a chapel is filled with           people; here and there you find an earnest minister; here and there an increasing church; here and there a good           prayer-meeting; but these are only like green spots. Wherever I have gone through England, I have been always           grieved to see how the glory of Zion is under a cloud; how the precious saints of Zion, comparable to fine gold           have become like earthen pitchers, the work of the hands of the potter. It is not for me to set myself up as           universal censor of the church, but I must be honest and say, that spiritual life, and fire, and zeal, and piety,           seemed to be absent in ten thousand instances. We have abundance of agencies, we have good mechanism but the           church, now-a-days is very much like a large steam engine, without any fire, without any hot water in the boiler,           without any steam. There is everything but steam, everything but life. England is veiled in clouds. Not clouds of           infidelity. I care not one fig for all the infidels in England, and I do not think it worth Mr. Grant's trouble to go           after them. Nor am I afraid of popery for old England. I do not think she will go back to thatI am sure she never           will. But, I am afraid of this deadness, this sloth, this indifference, that has come over our churches. The church           wants shaking, like the man on the mountain-top does when the cold benumbs him into a deadly slumber. The           churches are gone to sleep for want of zeal, for want of fire. Even those who hold sound doctrine are beginning to           slumber. Oh may God stir the church up! One great black cloud, only broken here and there by a few rays of           sunlight, seems to be hanging over the entire of this our happy island. But, beloved, there is comfort, "for the           clouds are the dust of his feet." He can scatter them in a moment. He can raise up his chosen servants, who have           only to put their mouth to the trumpet, and one blast shall awaken the sleeping sentinels, and startle the sleeping           camp. God has only to send out again some evangelist, some flying angel, and the churches shall start up once           more, and she who has been clothed in sackcloth, shall doff her garments of mourning and put on a garment of           praise, instead of the spirit of heaviness. The day is coming, I hope, when Zion shall sit, not without her diadem,           crownless; but with her crown on her head, she shall grasp her banner, take her shield, and, like that heroic           maiden of old who roused a whole nation, shall go forth conquering and to conquer. We hope thus much, because           "the clouds are the dust of his feet."               Aye, and what clouds rest on the world at large! What black clouds of Catholic superstition,           Mahommedanism, and idolatry. But what are all these things? We do not care about them at all, brethren. Some           say that I am getting very enthusiastic about the latter-day glory, and the coming of our Savior Jesus Christ. Well,           I don't know. I get all the happier the more enthusiastic I am, so I hope I shall keep on at it, for I believe there is           nothing so comforts a servant of God as to believe that his Master is coming. I hope to see him. I should not be           surprised to see Jesus Christ to-morrow morning. He may come then. "In such an hour as ye think not, the Son of           Man cometh." He who learns to watch for Christ, will never be surprised when he cometh. Blessed shall that           servant be, whom, when his Lord cometh, he shall find busy about his duty. But some say he cannot come yet;           there are so many clouds, and so much darkness in the sky, it cannot be expected that the sun will rise yet. Is that           a fair reason? Do the clouds ever impede the sun? The sun moves on despite all the mists; and Jesus Christ can           come clouds or no clouds. We do not want light before he appears; he will come and give us light, afterwards,           scattering the darkness with the glory of his own eyes. But you say, "How are these idolatrous systems to be cast           down?" God could do it in an hour if he pleased. Religion never moves by years and weeks. Even false religions           grow like mushrooms; much more true ones. False religions attained colossal proportion in a very few years. Take           the case of Mahommedanismthe new-born faith of Islam became the religion of millions in an increditable short           period and if a false religion could spread so quickly, shall not a true one run along like fire amidst the stubble,           when God shall speak the word? Clouds are but "dust of his feet." A little while ago some of us were fretting about           this Mormonism, and we said, "It will never be broken up." Some stupid fellows in America began to kill the poor           Mormonites, and so carve them into saints, which was the very way to establish them. Christians trembled, and           said, "What can this be? We shall have Sodom over again." But did you read the Times newspaper of Thursday           last? You will there see a wonderful instance of how God can scatter the clouds and make them dust of his feet.           He has caused to come out of the ground, near Salt Lake, at Utah, thousands of crickets, and all kinds of noxious           insects, that devour the crops; creatu

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