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To the Saddest of the Sad

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

Category: Sermons

Source: CCN

                                        To the Saddest of the Sad by C. H. SPURGEON,                                  

              "And Moses spake so unto the children of Israel: but they hearkened not unto Moses for anguish of               spirit, and for cruel bondage."Exodus 6:9.

          LITTLE WORDS OFTEN CONTAIN great meanings. It is often the case with that monosyllable "so." In           the present instance we must lay stress upon it and read the text thus"Moses spake so unto the           children of Israel." That is, he said what God told him to say. He did not invent his message. He did not           think out the gospel that he had to carry to the people. He was simply a repeater of the divine message.           As he received it, so he spake it. "Moses spake as unto the children of Israel." If he had not done so, the           responsibility must have rested upon himself, whether the nation was moved by his words or not; but when he           was simply God's ambassador, saying only what God would have him say, his responsibility was limited. If he           delivered the Lord's own word and it failed to win the heart of Israel, he could not be blamed. Although it was a           great sadness of heart to him that the people did not, and even could not, receive the divine message, yet as far as           he was concerned, his conscience was clear. It is ever so with the preacher of the gospel: if he declares the word           of the Lord as he has received it, whether men will hear or whether they will forbear, he is clear before God,           whatever his hearers may do or may not do.               I often wonder what those preachers do who feel called to make up their message as they go on; for if they           fail, their failure must be attributed in great measure to their want of ability to make up a moving tale. They have           to spread their sails to the breeze of the age, and to pick up a gospel that comes floating down to them on the           stream of time, altering every week in the year; and they must have an endless task to catch this new idea, or, as           they put it, to keep abreast of the age. Unless, indeed, like chameleons, they have a natural aptitude to change           colour, they must have a worrying time of it, and a horrible amount of shifting to get through. When they have           done their best to preach this gospel of their own, then they are accountable for having made that gospel. For           every bit of its teaching they are accountable, because they were the manufacturers of it, and it came forth from           their foundry, bearing their stamp. If they take this yoke upon them, and so refuse to learn of Christ, they will find           no rest to their souls. To me the preaching of the Lord's own gospel is a joy and a privilege; for notwithstanding           that concern for your souls loads me with the burden of the Lord, it is his burden, and not one which I have           selected for myself. I often feel on a Sabbath night when I go home weary: "I know that I have preached what I           believe to be God's gospel." I have not said anythingI have not intended to say anything that was my own. I           have not left out, at least, I have not intended to leave out anything that was in the text, nor anything which I           believe to be the teaching of the gospel of Christ. And then if you do not receive it, that is a sorrowful business,           but it is no concern of mine so that I shall have to answer for it at the last great day. When a man-servant goes to           the door with a message from his master, if you do not like what he tells you, do not be angry with him. What has           he to do with it? Has he said what his master told him to say? If he has, then be angry with his master if you must           be, or accept what his master says if you think fit; but let the poor man that brought the message be held clear if           he has faithfully reported his master's words. I claim that, if I have preached my Master's gospel, whether men are           saved or lost, whether they accept it or reject it, I must leave that with themselves, and not have their sin laid at           my door. How heartily do I cry to God that the Word may not be a savour of death unto death, but a savour of           life unto life; but oh, my hearers, if you perish after hearing the gospel of God, do not think that you can cast the           blame on me.               Now, the message Moses brought was rejected, and he knew why it was rejected. He could see the reason.           The people were in such bondage, they were so miserably ground down, they were so unhappy and hopeless, that           what he spake seemed to them to be as idle words. There are hundreds of reasons why men reject the gospel. We           will not go into them to-night. He that wants to beat a dog can always find a stick, and he that wishes to reject           Christ can always find a reason for it; and, however unreasonable a reason may be, it will serve a sinner's turn,           when that turn happens to be the making of some excuse for himself why he should not yield to the Saviour. Oh           that men were less cunning in making apologies for refusing the Lord Jesus!               Amongst all the reasons, however, that I ever heard, that with which I have the most sympathy, is this           onethat some cannot receive Christ because they are so full of anguish, and are so crushed in spirit that they           cannot find strength enough of mind to entertain a hope that by any possibility salvation can come to them. It is to           their sad case that I desire to speak. I think that I can speak to the case, if God help me, for I have felt the same. I           do remember when I could not believe even Jesus himself by reason of sore anguish and straitness of spirit; and,           therefore, as one who has worn the chains, I speak to those who are still in chains. I know the clanking of those           fetters, and what it is to feel the damp of the stone walls, and to fear that there is no coming out of prison, and to           be so despairing that even when the emancipator turned the great key in the lock, and set the door wide open, yet           still my heart had made for itself a direr cage, and I could not believe in the possibility of liberty, and therefore I           sat bound in a dungeon of my own creation. Ah! there is no Bastille so awful as that which is built by despair, and           kept under the custody of a crushed spirit. Many are the desponding ones whose eyes fail so that they cannot look           up, or look out. To such I speak. May God speak through me by the Holy Spirit, the Comforter!               I. And first, will you notice that what Moses brought to these people was glad tidings. IT WAS A FREE AND           FULL GOSPEL MESSAGE. To them it was the gospel of salvation from a cruel bondage, the gospel of hope, the           gospel of glorious promise. It is a very admirable type and metaphorical description of what the gospel is to us.           Moses' word to them was singularly clear, cheering, and comforting; but they could not receive it. "They           hearkened not unto Moses for anguish of spirit and cruel bondage."               First, Moses spoke to them about their God. He said, "You have a God, and his name is Jehovah, the God of           your fathers, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob." They looked up from their bricks, and they seemed to           say, "God? What have we to do with him? Oh, that the straw were given us to make our bricks! We are up to our           necks in this filthy Nile mud, making the bricks, and you come and talk to us about God. Go, and preach to           Pharaoh and the taskmasters that rule us; but as for us poor creatures, slaves that we are, we do not understand           you. What do you mean by JAH, Jehovah, our God? Bring us more garlic and onions, or lessen our daily tasks, or           take away the sticks from our drivers, and then we will listen to you." And so they shook their heads, and said that           such mysteries and theologies were not for them. And yet, dear sirs, if any of you are in such a case, it is for you.           Jehovah, Israel's God, was indeed their only hope, and he is your only hope also. Alas, that they should be so           unwise as to refuse to let the light shine upon them, for light it was! What a poor reason for refusing light because           the night is so dark! Man's best hope lies in his God. O you whose lives are bitter with toil and want, there is           something for you after all, much better than the hard saying, "What shall we eat, and what shall we drink?" There           is an inheritance above the grinding toil of every-day life. There is a portion much better than this killing care,           which frets so many of you and makes life a calamity to you. Do not, therefore, because of the heaviness of your           lot, refuse to hear about God, your Maker, your Benefactor. In that direction lies your only real hope. Have this           God for a father and a friend, and life will wear another aspect, and you will be another man.               Then Moses went on to tell them about a covenant. He said, "You have a God, and that God has said, "I           have also established my covenant with them, to give them the land of Canaan, the land of their pilgrimage,           wherein they were strangers.'" Covenant? Why, many of them would hardly know what it meant. "Covenant?"           said they, "God made a covenant with us poor brickmakers, that have to slave from morning to night without           wage, and now are forced to make bricks without straw?" God and a covenant: these are strange words in ears           that hear the curses of taskmasters and the crack of their whips. It sounded like mockery to them to talk of such           high matters. I doubt not they muttered to themselves, "This Moses is a mad philosopher who has grand           mouthfuls of words; but what are words to us? A bit of fish out of the Nile, or a cumber from the irrigated fields           would be a deal better than talking to us about a covenant." And yet, hearken. If any of you are in a sad condition,           your best hopes may lie this way. What if God has entered into covenant with you that he will bless you for Jesus           Christ's sake? There may be a mint of wealth for the sons of poverty in this everlasting covenant; and the best           kind of wealth, too. There may be for you a promised emancipation which will break the fetters which now hold           you, and set you free. I tell you that in the covenant of grace lies the charter of the poor and needy. At any rate, if           you come under that covenant it cannot be worse with you than it is now. You seem now to be under a covenant           of bondage and of sorrow, and any change will be for the better. If there be another covenanta covenant of           grace, and love, and peace, and everlasting faithfulness, it were worth while to hear about it, and to seek it out           until you discover whether you have part and lot in it. I entreat you, look into this matter. Hearken diligently to the           voice of the gospel. Hear, and your soul shall live.               So, when Moses had spoken of the covenant, he went on to speak yet more about God's pity to them. He           reported that Jehovah had said, "I have also heard the groaning of the children of Israel whom the Egyptians keep           in bondage, and I have remembered my covenant." I fancy that those words opened their eyes a little. They           looked up and said to one another, "Is there, indeed, a God who has heard our groanings? Oh, but," they           muttered, "look at the many years we have been groaning. Why, it is forty years since this man Moses first came           out and saw our burdens. Where has he been these forty years? What is the use of pity that is so tardy in its           movements?" And yet, dear sirs, if you are inclined to talk so, it may be that if God be slow he is sure; and if he           be slow to you it is out of patience and long-suffering to others. He knows best when and how to save his people.           Remember that when the tale of bricks was doubled then Moses came; and when you are getting to your very           worst, and your night is darkening into a sort of hellish midnight, it may be that your darkness is coming to an end.           Therefore, be not so bowed down as to let the brick-earth get into your ears and eyes and make you deaf and           blind. But do listen if there be anything to be heard that is better than your daily moans and groans. Listen to the           messenger of God who comes to tell of what God is about to do. He is a God full of compassion, and he has           respect unto broken hearts and tearful eyes.               And then Moses went on further with his blessed gospel message to tell them about the Lord's resolve to           rescue them by a great redemption. The Lord had said, "I am Jehovah, and I will bring you out from under the           burdens of the Egyptians, and I will rid you out of their bondage." Do you notice that all along the Lord uses           strong words, and speaks like a great king? "I am Jehovah. I will. I will. I will." When you go home just notice           what a number of "I wills" there are in this declaration of the great God. When God says, "I will," he means it;           depend upon it. He does not ask our leave, or wait for our help. "I will" is omnipotence putting itself into speech.           Jehovah will accomplish what he promises. He told them, therefore, that he meant to come to their rescue. "I will           bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will rid you out of their bondage, and I will redeem           you with a stretched out arm, and with great judgments." God means to save you. Poor, troubled, confessedly           guilty sinner, believe in Jesus Christ the Son of God, and trust yourself with him, and the Lord will save you. He           will deliver you from all the guilt of your past life, from the evil habits of your present life, and from the           temptations of your future life. He will break the yoke of Satan from off your neck and make you to be no more           the slave of sin, but you shall become the child of the living God.               Moses told them about the Lord's ways of grace and the inheritance which he had prepared for them. My           message is after the same sort. Thus saith Jehovah to-night, in the preaching of the gospel to every one that will           believe in Jesus, "I will save and I will deliver you; and I will be to you a God: and ye shall know that I am your           God, which bringeth you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. And I will bring you in unto the land,           concerning the which I did swear to give it to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob; and I will give it you for an           heritage: I am the Lord." These are great words, but they come from the mouth of the great God, who cannot lie.           Wherefore believe them, and take heart of hope. God will take you, poor guilty ones, to be his children. He will           promote you to be his willing servants. He will use you for his glory though now you dishonour his name. He will           sanctify you and cleanse you, and he will bring you to heaven, even you who have lien among the pots and have           been defiled in the brick-kilns of sin. He will never rest till he makes you sit upon his throne with him, where he is           glorified, world without end. This I speak to you who are in bondage. Even as Jesus said of old, so say I in my           measure as his messenger: "The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because he hath sent me to bind up the           broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound." Believe           you in Christ Jesus, and he who has come to save the lost will give you as clear and clean a deliverance from the           power of sin as Jehovah gave Israel deliverance from the power of the Egyptian tyrant. He will bring you out of           bondage and guide you through the wilderness till you come into the eternal rest, even to a goodlier land than           Canaan, though it flowed with milk and honey.               II. We come now to note that IT WAS RECEIVED WITH UNBELIEF CAUSED BY ANGUISH OF           HEART. The message was from the Lord, and it was full of hope for them, but they were too much broken down           to receive it. We can quite understand what that meant. Let us look into the case. They could not now receive this           gospel because they had at first caught at it, and had been disappointed. They were under a misapprehension,           for they expected to be free at once, as soon as Moses went to Pharaoh; and as they did not get immediate relief,           they fell back into sullen despair. When Moses came to them and said that God had appeared to him at the bush,           and had sent him to deliver them, they bowed their heads, and worshipped. Great things they looked for on the           morrow, for they were at the end of their patience; but after that, when Moses went in unto Pharaoh, and the           tyrant doubled their labour by denying them straw, then they could not believe in God or in his messenger. In the           process of salvation it often happensI have seen it many timethat after persons have come to hear the gospel,           after they have, in some measure, become attentive to its invitations, they have for a season been much more           miserable than they were before. Have you never noticed, in taking a medicine, how often you are made to feel           more sick before you are made well? It is often so in the workings of the great remedy of divine grace: it discovers           to us our disease that we may the more heartily accept the heavenly medicine. Yes, and in special cases there may           be evils within the spiritual system which must be thrown out in the flesh, to be made visible, and so to become           the subjects of repentance and abhorrence. The man who judges with shortness and straightness of judgment,           demands a remedy that will cure his soul of all evils on the spot, and if it does not evidently and immediately do           this, he cries, "Away with it." I find that the Hebrew word translated "anguish" here signifies shortness. Your           marginal Bibles have "straitness." So they could not believe because of the shortness of their judgment: they           measured God by inches. They limited the great and infinite God to minutes and days; and so, as they found           themselves at first getting into a worse case than before, they said to Moses, deliberately, "Let us alone, that we           may serve the Egyptians." They did as good as sayYou have done us no good; indeed you have increased our           miseries; and we cannot believe in you or accept your message as really from God, seeing it has caused us a           terrible increase of our sufferings.               Grace may truly and effectually come to a heart, and for a while cause no joy, no peace; but the reverse. I           have known many a man coming to this Tabernacle, who has been prospering in business, and so on, and yet he           has been going down to hell as fast as ever he could travel. Well, he has come and heard the gospel, and he has           made a great many improvements in his conduct, and has become a regular and attentive hearer; and at that very           time he has fallen into an affliction the like of which he had never experienced before; and he has consequently           complained, "Why, I am worse instead of better. I find my heart grows more rebellious against God than ever it           was before." I do not wonder that it should be so, for I have seen so many examples of it. The discipline of the           household of God begins very early. But a present increase of sorrow has nothing to do with what the main result           will be, except that it works towards it in a mysterious manner. Perhaps what you at first thought was genuine           faith was not faith; and God is going to knock down the false before he builds up the true. If you had an old           house, and any friend of yours were to say, "John, I will build you a new house. When shall I begin?" "Oh!" you           might say, "begin next week to build the new house." At the end of the week he has pulled half your old house           down. "Oh," say you, "this is what you call building me a new house, is it? You are causing me great loss: I wish I           had never consented to your proposal." He replies, "You are most unreasonable: how am I to build you a new           house on this spot without taking the old one down?" And so it often happens that the grace of God does seem in           its first work to make a man even worse than he was before, because it discovers to him sins which he did not           know to be there, evils which had been concealed, dangers never dreamed of. Thus the work of grace even makes           his bondage seem to be heavier than ever it was; and yet this is all done in wisdom, in love, and in fulfilment of the           promise which God has given. Yet I am never very much astonished when I find people ready almost to turn           away from the hearing of the gospel; because, after having at first heard it with pleasure, they find that, for the           time being, it involves them in even greater sorrow than before. How earnestly would I persuade them to           overcome their very natural tendency to a hasty judgment! Press on, dear friend. Be of good courage. Pharaoh           will not long be able to make you keep up that enormous number of bricks. Within a very few days he will be glad           to get rid of you. Wait hopefully; for the God who begins in darkness will end in light, and before long you will           come to understand those ways of mercy, which are now past finding out. Not many weeks after the sobbing and           sighing at the brickyards, Moses and the children at Israel sang this song unto the Lord: " Sing unto the Lord, for           he hath triumphed gloriously: the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea." The work of deliverance began           very grimly, but it ended very gloriously.               The inability of Israel to believe the message of Moses arose also from the fact that they were earthbound by           heavy oppression: the mere struggle to exist exhausted all their energy, and destroyed all their hope. The extreme           hardness of their lot made them despondent and sullen. They had to work from morning to night. The Egyptian           fellahs of the present age have known what it is to work very, very hard, and to let their earnings go into the           coffers of their precious princes. It seems always to have been so with wretched Egypt: it is ever the house of           bondage. But these Israelites, being not even Egyptians, but strangers in Egypt, were worked without any pity or           mercy. It was a daily question with them whether life was worth living under such cruel conditions. I do not           wonder that a great many are unable to receive the gospel in this city of ours, because their struggle for existence is           awful. I am afraid that it gets more and more intense, though even now it passes all bounds. If any of you can do           anything to help the toil-worn workers, I pray you, do it. The poor workwoman, who sits so many hours with the           candle and needle, and does not earn enough, when she has worked all those hours, to more than just pay the rent           and keep body and soul together, do you wonder that she thinks that this gospel of ours cannot be for her, and           does not care to listen to it? I know that it would be her comfort, but her soul refuseth to be comforted, she is so           crushed. The dock labourer, who comes home five days out of the six having earned nothing, and hears his little           children crying for breadis it any wonder that he cannot hear about heavenly things? Why, it is with our white           population very much as it was with the negro population of Jamaica. When there was work to be had, and they           could get enough to eat and more, our churches were crowded with them. They were the best of hearers and the           speediest of converts; they were soon gathered into immense churches. But when everything went badly with           them, and they had to work very hard barely to live, there were groups of backsliders, and multitudes who did not           feel that they could go to the house of God at all. They said that they had no garments to wear, and no money to           spare; and do you wonder at it? Their poverty was so grinding, and their toil so severe, that the services they had           once delighted in they had no heart for. It is all very easy to say that it ought not to be so; but it is so; and it is so           with multitudes in London. And yet, dear friendif such a one has come in here to-nightI pray you do not           throw away the next world because you have so little of this. This is sheer folly. If I have little here, I would make           sure of the more hereafter. If you have such a struggle for existence here, you should seek that higher, nobler,           better life, which would give you, even in penury and want, a joy and a comfort to which you are a stranger now.           May the Holy G

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