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The Beginning, Increase,and End of the Divine Life

Written by: Spurgeon, C.H.    Posted on: 03/31/2003

Category: Sermons

Source: CCN

                                                                                 

                              The Beginning, Increase, and End of the Divine                                                                     Life



                                                        A Sermon                                                           (No. 311)

                            Delivered on Sabbath Morning, April 29th, 1860, by the                                               REV. C.H. SPURGEON                                                 At Exeter Hall, Strand.



              "Though thy beginning was small, yet thy latter end should greatly increase."Job 8:7.

          This was the reasoning of Bildad the Shuhite. He wished to prove that Job could not possibly be an           upright man, for if he were so, he here affirms that his prosperity would increase continually, or that if he           fell into any trouble, God would awake for him, and make the habitation of his righteousness prosperous;           and though his family were now all destroyed, and his wealth scattered to the winds, yet if he were an upright           man, God would surely appear for him, and his latter end would greatly increase.               Now, the utterances of Bildad, and of the other two men who came to comfort Job, but who made his           wounds tingle, are not to be accepted as being inspired. They spake as menas mere men. They reasoned no           doubt in their own esteem logically enough; but the Spirit of God was not with hem in their speech, therefore with           regard to any sentiment which we find uttered by these men, we must use our own judgment; and if it be not in           consonance with the rest of Holy Scriptures, it will be our bounden duty to reject it as being but the word of           manof a wise and ancient man it is true, but still of a man only.               With regard to the passage which I have selected as a text, it is ruealtogether apart from its being said by           Bildad, or being found in the Bible at all; it is true, as indeed the facts of the book of Job prove: for Job did greatly           increase in his latter end. His beginning was small: he was brought down to poverty, to the potsherd and to the           dunghill; he had many graves, but no children; he had had many losses, he had now nothing left to lose; and yet           God did awake for him; his righteousness came out from he darkness which had eclipsed it; he shone in sevenfold           prosperity; s that the words of Bildad were prophetic, though he knew it not; God put into his mouth language           which did come true, after all. Indeed, we have here a great principlea principle against which none can ever           contend. The beginning of the godly and the upright man may be but very small, but his latter end shall greatly           increase.               Evil things may seem to begin well, but they end badly; there is the flash and the glare, but afterwards the           darkness and the black ash. They promise fairly: their sun rises in the zenith, and then speedily sets, never to rise           again. Evil things begin as mountains; they end as mole-hills. You sail upon their ocean at first, and as you sail           onward it shrinks into a river, and afterwards into a dry bed, if not into burning sands. Behold Satan in the garden           of Eden. Sin begins with the promise, "Ye shall be as gods!" How grand is its beginning! Where ends it? Shivering           beneath the trees of the garden, complaining of nakedness, sin comes to its end. Or see it in Satan himself. He           stretches out his right hand to snatch the diadem of heaven; he would be Lord paramount. He cannot bear to           serve, he longs to reign. Oh! Glittering vision, that enchants the eye of an arch-angelic spirit! But where ends it?           The vision is all gone, and is succeeded by "the blackness of darkness for ever;" and the chains reserved in fire for           those that kept not their first estate. So will it be with you, too, my friend, if you have chosen the path of evil.           To-day your mirth is as the crackling of thorns under a pot; it blazes, it crackles with excess of joy; to-morrow           thou shalt find nothing there but a handful of ashes, and darkness, and cold. Ay, the path of evil is down hill, from           its sunny summits, to its dark ravinesfrom the loftiness, which it assumes when it professes to be a cherub, to           that lowliness in which it finds itself to be a fiend. Evil goeth downward; it hath its great things first, and then its           terrible things last. No so, however, with good. With good the beginning is even small; but its latter end doth           greatly increase. "The path of the just is as the shining light," which sheds a few flickering rays at first, which           exercises a combat with the darkness, but it "shineth more and more unto the perfect day." As the coming forth of           stars at even-tide, when first one, and then another, and yet another struggles through the darkness, till at last the           whole starry host are marshalled on the heavenly plainsso it is with goodit beginneth with grains of sand, it           goeth on to hills, and anon it swelleth up to mountains; it beginneth with the rippling rillthe little cascade that           leapeth from its secret birth-place, and down the mountain it dasheth, it swelleth to a joyous stream, wherein the           fish do leap; anon it becomes a river, which bears upon the surface the navigation of nations, and then it rolls at           last an ocean that belts the globe. Good things progress. They are like Jacob's ladderthey ascend round by           round. We begin as men, we end as angels; we climb until the promise of Satan is fulfilled in a sense in which he           never understood it; we become as gods, and are made partakers of the Divine, being reconciled unto God, and           then having God's grace infused into us.               The principle, then, upon which I have to speak this morning, is this,that though the beginnings of good           things are small, yet their latter end shall greatly increase. Instead, however, of dealing with this as a mere           doctrine, I propose to use it practically; assume the fact, and then make a practical use of it. Three ends shall I           hope to servefirst, to quiet the fears of those who are but beginners in grace; secondly, to confirm their faith;           and, thirdly, to quicken their diligence. May I ask the prayers of God's people here that I may be strengthened in           this preaching? I cannot tell how it is,the cold clammy sweat comes over me now I am about to address you,           and I feel almost quivering with weakness; nevertheless, this is a subject which may strengthen me as well as you,           and therefore let us go to it at once.               I. First, then, for THE QUIETING OF YOUR FEARS. Thou sayest, my hearer, "I am but a beginner in           grace, and therefore I am vexed with anxiety, and full of timorousness." Yes, and it shall be my business if God           the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, shall enable me, to give thee some few sweet words which, like wafers made with           honey, thou mayest roll under thy tongue, and find them satisfactory and pleasant, even as that manna which           came down from heaven, and fed the Israelites in the wilderness.               Perhaps thy first fear, if I put it into words, is this:"My beginning is so small that I cannot tell when it did           begin, and therefore, methinks I cannot have been converted, but am still in the gall of bitterness." O beloved!           How many thousands like thyself have been exercised with doubts upon this point! They were not converted in an           instant; they were not stricken down as in the Revivals; they were not nerved with terrible alarms, such as John           Bunyan describeth in his "Grace Abounding;" but they were called of God, as was Lydia, by a still small voice.           Their hearts were gradually and happily opened to receive the truth; it was not as if a tornado or a hurricane           rushed through their spirits; but a soft zephr below, and they lived and came to God. And you doubt, do you,           because from this very reason you cannot tell when you were generated; it is but necessary for you to know that           you are so. If thou canst set no date to the beginning of thy faith, yet if thou dost believe now, thou art saved. If in           thy diary there stands no red-letter day in which thy sins were pardoned, and thy soul accepted, yet if thy trust be           in Jesus only, this very day thou art pardoned, and thou art accepted, despite thy ignorance of the time when.           God's promises bear no date; our notes are dated because there is a time when they run due, and we are apt to           forget them; God's promises bear none, and his gifts sometimes do not bear any. If thou art savedthough the           date be erasedyet do thou rejoice and triumph evermore in the Lord thy God. True, there are some of us who           can remember the precise spot where we first found the Saviour. The day will never be forgotten when these eyes           looked to he cross of Christ and found their tears all wiped away. But thousands in the fold of Jesus know not           when hey were brought in; be it enough for hem to know they are there. Let them feed upon the pasture, let them           lie down beside the still waters for whether they came by night or by day they did not come at a forbidden hour.           Whether they came in youth or in old age, it matters not; all times are acceptable with God, "and whosoever           cometh," come he when he may, "he will in no wise cast out."               Does it not strike you as being very foolish reasoning if you should say in your heart, "I am not converted           because I do not know when?" Nay, with such reasoning as that, I could prove that old Rome was never built,           because the precise date of her building is unknown; nay, we might declare that the world was never made, for its           exact age even the geologist cannot tell us. We might prove that Jesus Christ himself never died, for the precise           date on which he expired on the tree is lost beyond recovery; nor doth it signify much to us. We know the world           was made, we know that Christ did die, and so youif you are onw reconciled to God, if now your trembling           arms are cast around that cross, you too are savedthough the beginning was so small that you cannot tell when it           was. Indeed, in living things, it is hard to put the finger upon the beginning. Here is a fruit-will you tell me when it           began to be? Was it at the time when first the tree sent forth its fruit-bud? Did this fruit begin when first the flower           shed its exhalations of perfume upon the air? Indeed, you could not have seen it if you had looked. When was it?           Was it when the full-ripe flower was blown away, and its leaves were scattered to the wind, and a little embryo of           fruit was left? 'Twere hard to say it did not begin before that, and equally hard to say at what precise instant that           fruit began to be formed. Ay, and so is it with divine grace; the desires are so faint at the beginning, the           convictions are but the etchings upon the plate, which afterwards must be engraven with a harder instrument; and           they are such flimsy things, such transient impressions of divine truth, that 'twere difficult to say what is transient           and what permanent, what is really of the Spirit of God, and what is not; what hath saved the soul, or what only           brought it to the verge of salvation; what made it really live, or what was really the calling together of the dry           bones before the breath came, and the bones began to live. Quite your fears, my hearers, upon this point, for if ye           are saved, no matter when, ye never shall be unsaved.               Another doubt also arises from this point. "Ah! sir," saith a timid Christian, "it is not merely the absence of all           date to my conversion, but the extreme weakness of the grace I have." "Ah," saith one, "I sometimes think I have           a little faith, but it is so mingled with unbelief, distrust, and incredulity, that I can hardly think it is God's gift, the           faith of God's elect. I hope sometimes I have a little love, but it is such a beginning, such a mere spark, that I           cannot think it is the love which God the Holy Spirit breathes into the soul; my beginning is so exceeding small,           that I have to look, and look, and look again, at times, before I can discern it for myself. If I have faith, it is but as           a rain of mustard seed, and I fear it will never be that goodly tree, in the midst of whose branches the birds of the           air might rest." Courage, my brother, courage; however small the beginnings of grace, hey are such beginnings that           they shall have a glorious end. When God begins to build, if he lay but one single stone he will finish the structure;           when Christ sits down to weave, though he casts the shuttle but once, and that time the thread was so filmy as           scarcely to be discernable, he will nevertheless continue ill the piece is finished, and the whole is wrought. If thy           faith be never so little, yet it is immortal, and that immortality may well compensate for its littleness. A spark of           grace is a spark of Deityas soon may Deity be quenched as to quench gracethat grace within thy soul given           thee of the Spirit shall continue to burn, and he who gave it shall fan it with his own soft breath, for "he will not           quench the smoking flax;" he will bring it to a fire, and afterwards to a furnace, till thy faith shall attain to the full           assurance of understanding. Oh! Let not the littleness of God's beginnings stagger you. Who would think, if he           stood at the source of the Thames, that it would ever be such a river as it ismaking this city rich? So little is it           that a child might stop it with his hand, and but a handful of miry clay might dam its course, but there it rolls a           mighty river that man cannot stop. And so shall it be with thee; thy faith is so little that it seems not to exist at all,           and thy love so faint that it can scarcely be called love, but thy latter end shall greatly increase, till thou shalt           become strong and do exploits; the babe shall become a giant; and he that stumbled at every straw shall move           mountains, and make the very hills to shake.               Having thus spoken upon two fears, which are the result of these small beginnings, let me now try to quiet           another. "Ah!" saith the heir of heaven, "I do hope that in me grace hath commenced its work, but my fear is, that           such frail faith as mine will never stand the test of years. I am," saith he, "so weak, that one temptation would be           too much for me; how then can I hope to pass through yonder forest of spears held in the hands of valiant           enemies? A drop makes me tremble, how shall I stem the roaring flood of life and death? Let but one arrow fly           from hell it penetrates my tender flesh; what hen if Satan shall empty his quiver? I shall surely fall by the hand of           the enemy. My beginnings are so small that I am certain they will soon come to their end, and that end must be           black despair." Be of good courage, brother, have done with that fear one for all; it is rue, as thou sayest, the           temptation will be too much for thee, but what hast thou to do with it? Heaven is not to be won by thy might, but           by the might of him who has promised heaven to thee; thy crown of life is to be obtained, not by thy arm, but by           that arm which now holds it out, and bids thee run towards it. If thy perseverance rested upon thyself thou couldst           not persevere an hour; if spiritual life depended on itself it would be like the shooting-star, which makes a shining           trail for a moment and then is gone; but thanks be unto God, it is written"Because I live, ye shall live also." "For           ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God."

                                            "The feeblest saint shall win the day,                                           Though death and hell obstruct the way,"

          because that feeble sain is girded with Jehovah's strength. If I had to fight in another man's strength, and I knew           that he had gigantic force, I should not estimate the power of my own limits and muscles, but of his limbs and           muscles; and so if I have to fight in the strength of God, I am not to reckon by what I can do, but what he can do;           not what I am able, but what he is able to accomplish. I am not to go forth bound and limited, and cramped, and           bandaged by my own infirmity, but make free, and valorous, and unconquerable through that Divine omnipotence,           which first spake all things into existence, and now maintaineth all things by the word of his power. Stand up, poor           brother, full of fears though you be, and for once glory in your infirmities, and boast in your Master. I say it in thy           behalf, and on my ownye principalities and powers of darkness, ye leaguered hosts of hell, ye enemies in human           form, or in form demoniac, I challenge ye all; more than a match for ever one of you am I if God be with me; less           than nothing were I, if left alone; but were I weaker than I am I would defy you all, for God is my strength;           Jehovah is become my strength and my song; he also has become my salvation, therefore will we tread down our           enemies, and Moab shall become as straw that is trodden down for the dunghill; in God will be rejoice, yea in God           will we greatly rejoice, and in him will we rejoice all the day.               Thus have I dealth with a third fear. Let me seek to quiet and pacify one other fear. "Nay, but," say you, "I           never can be saved; for when I look at other people, at God's own true children,I am ashamed to say it,I am           but a miserable copy of them. So far from attaining to he image of my Master, I fear I am not even like my           Master's servants. Look at such-an-one, how he preaches the truth with power, what fluency he has in prayer,           what service he undertakes! But II am such a beginner in grace, that

                                              'Hosannas languish on my tongue,                                                     And my devotion dies.'

          I live at a poor dying rate. I sometimes run, but oftener creep, and seldom or ever fly. Where others are shaking           mountains, I am stumbling over mole-hills. The saints seem to bestride this narrow world like some great colossus,           but I walk under their huge legs, and peep about, to find myself a poor dishonoured slave. I have no power, no           strength, no might." Pause, brother, pause; stop thy murmuring for a moment. If some little star in the sky should           declare it was not a star, because it did not shine as brightly as Sirius or Arcturus, how foolish would be its           argument! If the moon should insist upon it that she was never made by God, because she could not shine as           brightly as the sun, fie on her pale face, that she cannot be content to be what her Lord hath made her! If the           nettle would not bloom, because it was not a pine, and if the hyssop on the wall refused to row, because it was not           a cedar, oh! What dislocation would there be in the noble frame of this universe! If these murmurings that vex us           vexed the whole of God's creatures, then were this earth a howling wilderness indeed. Now, let me talk to thee a           moment, to calm thy fears. Hast thou, my brother, ever learned to distinguish between grace and gifts? For know           that they are marvellously dissimilar. A man may be saved who has not a grain of gifts; but no man can be saved           who hath no grace. Yonder brother who prayed, yonder friend who preaches, yonder sister who spokeall these           perhaps acted so well, because God had given hem excellent gifts. It might not be that it was because of grace.           When you are in the prayer-meeting, and hear a brother extremely fluent, remember that there are men quite as           fluent about their daily business, and that fluency is not fervency, and that even the appearance of fervency is not           absolutely an evidence that there is fervency in the soul. If thou art so mean a thing that thou canst not spell a           word in any book, or put six words together grammatically, if thou canst offer no prayer in public, if thou art so           poor a scholar that every fool is wiser than thou art, yet if thou hast grace in thy heart, thou art saved, and that is           the matter in point just now, whether thou art saved or not. "Covet earnestly the best gifts;" but still, sit not down           and murmur because thou hast them not, for one grain of grace outweighs a pound of gifts; one particle of grace is           far more precious than all the gifts that Byron ever had, or that Shakespeare ever possessed within his soul, vast           and almost infinite though the gifts of those men certainly were.               And yet another question would I put to you. My dear brother, have you ever learned to distinguish between           grace that saves, and the grace which develops itself afterwards? Remember, there are some races that are           absolutely necessary to the saving of the soul; there are some others that are only necessary to its comfort. Faith,           for instance, is absolutely necessary for salvation; but assurance is not. Love is indispensible; but that high degree           of love which induces the martyr's spirit, does not reign in the breast of ever one, even of those who are saved.           The possession of grace in some degree is needful to salvation; but the possession of grace in the highest degree,           though it be extremely desirable, is not absolutely necessary for an entrance into heaven. Bethink thee, then, thus           to thyself, if I be the meanest lamb in Jesus' fold, I would be happy to think that I am in the flock; if I be the           smallest babe in Jesus' family, I will bless his name to think that I have a portion among the sanctified. If I be the           smallest jewel in the Saviour's crown, I will glisten and shine as best I can, to the praise of him that bought me           with his blood. If I cannot make such swelling music in the orchestra of heaven as the pealing organ may, then will           I be but as a bruised reed, which may emit some faint melody. If I cannot be the beacon fire that scares a           continent, and throws its light across the deep, I will seek to be the glow-worm that may at least let the weary           traveller know something of its whereabouts. O Christians! Ye that have but little beginnings, quiet your fears; for           these little beginnings, if they be of God, will save your soul, and you may in this rejoice, yes, rejoice exceedingly.               I must ask your patience now while I turn to the second head, and I shall dwell upon that very briefly indeed.               II. Upon this head I wish to say a word or two for THE CONFIRMATION OF YOUR FAITH. I am sure           you will give me your prayerful attention while I speak for the confirmation of my own faith as well as yours.               Well, brothers and sisters, the first confirmation I would offer you is this:Our beginnings are very, ver small,           but we have a joyous prospect in our text. Our later end shall greatly increase; we shall not always be so distrustful           as we are now. Thank God, we look for days when our faith shall be unshaken, and firm as mountains be. I shall           not for ever have to mourn before my God that I cannot love him as I would. I trust that he in my latter end will           give me more of his Spirit, that I shall love him with all my heart, and soul, and strength. We have entered into the           gospel school; we are ignorant now, but we shall one day understand with all saints what are the heights, and           depths, and lengths, and breadths, and know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge. We have hope that, as           these hairs grow grey, we shall "grow in grace, a

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