For more than a century, Charles Haddon Spurgeon’s sermons have been consistently recognized, and their usefulness and impact have continued to the present day, even in the outdated English of the author’s own day.
Why then should expositions already so successful and of such stature and proven usefulness require adaptation, revision, rewrite or even editing? The answer is obvious. To increase its usefulness to today’s reader, the language in which it was originally written needs updating.
Though his sermons have served other generations well, just as they came from the pen of the author in the nineteenth century, they still could be lost to present and future generations, simply because, to them, the language is neither readily nor fully understandable.
My goal, however, has not been to reduce the original writing to the vernacular of our day. It is designed primarily for you who desire to read and study comfortably and at ease in the language of our time. Only obviously archaic terminology and passages obscured by expressions not totally familiar in our day have been revised. However, neither Spurgeon’s meaning nor intent have been tampered with.
(NIV) indicates that Scripture references is taken from the HOLY BIBLE: NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION (C) 1978 by the New York Bible Society, used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.
Breaking the Long Silence
By: Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892)
Dear friends, I am not able to say much to you at present. I should have gladly invited you to prayer every morning, if I had been able to meet you; but I did not have sufficient strength. I cannot refrain from saying a little to you, on this the last evening of the year, by way of retrospect, and perhaps on New Year’s morning I may add a word by way of prospect.
We have come so far on the journey of life; and, standing at the boundary of another year, we look back. Let each one look upon his own trodden pathway. You will not need me to attempt fine words or phrases: each one, with his own eyes, will now survey his own road.
Among the striking things to be noted are the dangers we have escaped. After Bunyan’s pilgrim had safely traveled the Valley of the Shadow of Death, the morning light dawned upon him, and sitting down, he looked back upon the terrible road which he had passed. It had once seemed an awful thing to him that he had marched through that valley by night; but when he looked back, and saw the horrors he had escaped, he must have felt glad that darkness had concealed much of its peril when he was actually in the midst of it. Much the same has it been with us: thank God, now that we clearly see the perils, we have passed them in safety.
During the year which closes this night, some of us have been very near to the jaws of death, and some of us have also skirted the abyss of despair; and yet we live and hope. Our path has been full of trials and temptations, and yet we have not been permitted to fall. Our heart has been torn with inward conflicts, and yet faith has proved victorious. No one of us knows how near he has been to some great sin, or some false step. A single act might have changed the whole aspect of life to us; but from that test we have been preserved. Others have stumbled, and sadly fallen; and we are of like passions with them: blessed be the hand which has held us up! The Greek liturgy speaks of the Savior’s “unknown sufferings.” Doubtless they were the greatest of all His woes. We may with equal accuracy speak of our “unknown dangers” for probably they have been the greatest of our perils. The Lord saw what we could not see, and kept us where we could not have kept ourselves.
I would remind you that to have averted evil is a choice favor. A Puritan father met his Son by arrangement. They had each traveled several miles to reach the appointed spot, and when they came together, the son thankfully observed, “Father, I have experienced a most remarkable providence on the road; for my horse stumbled three times, and even threw me, and yet I am unhurt.” His father answered, “That is good; but I have also enjoyed remarkable providence on the road, for my horse came all the way without stumbling once.” Truly, to be kept from danger is as great a privilege as to be kept in danger; but we forget this. Let us thank God for preserved lives, continued comforts, and unspotted characters; for these essentials are marked “Fragile,” and that they are not broken is a marvel of grace. Since we last met, how many have died! Plagues and deaths have been flying around us, like shots in the heat of a battle; and only He who, of old, covered David’s head in the day of battle, could have kept us from death. Our spiritual life still survives, and only He who holds the stars in their courses could have maintained us in our integrity. It ought to bring tears of gratitude to our eyes while, to quote the language of the Song of Solomon, we “look from the top of Hermon; from the lions’ dens, from the mountains of the leopards.”
For my own part, I dare not omit from my retrospect “the sins of the past
year,” of which I sincerely repent. He who does not know himself to be
sinful does not know himself at all. He who does not feel his own
unworthiness must surely have grown callous or conceited. Sins of
omission are those which trouble me most. I look back, and remember what
I might have done, and have not done; what opportunities of usefulness I
have not seized; what sins I have allowed to pass unrebuked; what
struggling beginners in grace I have failed to help. I cannot but grieve
that what I have done was not done better, or attended with a humbler
dependence upon God. I now perceive, in my holy things, faults in their
beginning, faults in their carrying on, and faults in their ending.
Delay to initiate, slackness in the act, and pride after it, defile our
best service. What an endless list our faults and failings they would
be! Oh, friends, when we examine one year of life carefully, looking
into the thoughts and motives and secret imaginings of the soul, how
humbled we ought to be! As I rode through the streets of Menton this
day, I felt bowed down with a sense of sin, and all of a sudden it
flashed into my mind, “Yes, and therefore, I have my part in the work of
the Lord Jesus, for He said expressly, ‘I did not come to call the
righteous, but sinners.'”
Why did Jesus die? He died for our sins: He would not have needed to die
for men if men had not sinned. Where there is no sin, there is no share
in the sin-offering. If we have no sin, we have no connection with that
Savior who came to save His people from their sins. For whom does Jesus
plead? He makes intercession for sinners: if I am not a sinner, I have
no assurance that he pleads for me. The whole mediatorial system is for
sinful men; and as I am conscious of guilt, so am I assured, by faith,
that 1 am within the circle of divine grace. My faith places her hand
upon the head of Him who was our Substitute and Scapegoat, and I see all
my sins and all the sins of all believers forever put away by Him who
stood in the sinner’s place. Let Your tears fall because of sin; but, at
the same time, let the eye of faith steadily behold the Son of man lifted
up, as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, that those who are
bitten by the old serpent may look unto Him [Jesus] and live. Our
sinnership is that emptiness into which the Lord pours his mercy. “This
is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus
came into the world to save sinners.” On that blessed fact I rest my
soul. Though I have preached Christ crucified for more than forty years,
and have led many to my Master’s feet, I have at this moment no ray of
hope but that which comes from what my Lord Jesus has done for guilty
“Look at Him there! the bleeding Lamb!
My perfect, spotless Righteousness,
The great unchangeable, ‘I AM,’
The King of glory and of grace.”
A flood of light breaks over the scene if we look back on our mercies!
Now for your arithmetic! Now begin to make your calculations! Think of
major mercies and minor mercies; fleeting mercies and eternal mercies;
mercies by day, and mercies by night; mercies averting evil, and mercies
securing good; mercies at home, and mercies abroad; mercies of bed and
board, of city and field, of, society and seclusion. Mercy affects every
faculty of the mind, and every portion of the body. There are mercies
for conscience, and fear, and hope; mercies for the understanding and the
heart; and, at the same time, there are mercies of eye, and ear, and
head, and hand. The whole landscape of life is golden with the light of
mercy. In the love of God we have lived, and moved, and had our being.
We see mercies new every morning, mercies old as the eternal hills
streams of mercy; oceans of mercy; mercy all, and all mercy.
God has been especially good to me. I think I hear each heart whisper,
“That is just what I was going to say.” Dear friends, I will not
monopolize the expression: it is most true from me; I do not doubt that
it is also true of each one of you. Can we conceive how God could have
been more gracious than He has been? If you are familiar with the Lord
of love, so that you dwell in Him, and His Spirit dwells in you, you will
join me in abundantly uttering the memory of his great goodness. How
wonderful is his loving kindness! How free! How tender! How faithful!
How lasting! How everlasting! No, I cannot even attempt an outline of
the Lord’s goodness to us during the year which is now waning: we must
each one review the record for himself. “How much do we owe to our
Lord?” is an question which must be personally answered by each one as an
One thing more before I close. What are the lessons which our gracious
God has intended us to learn by all that has happened during the year?
Each one of us has received his own discipline and learning; but not all
have had the same. It is written, “All the children shall be taught of
the Lord,” but all the children are not reading from the same page, at
the same moment.
Haven’t we learned to expect more of God, and less of men? To make fewer
resolutions, rather to carry out those which were wisely and devoutly
formed? Have we not seen more of the instability of earthly joys? Have
we not learned more fully the need of using the present, and ability
possessed? Are we not now aware that we are neither so good, so wise,
so strong, nor so constant as we thought we were? Have we been taught to
think less of ourselves so that Jesus may be lifted up, after the manner
of John the Baptist, who cried, “He must increase, but I must decrease”?
These are truths worth learning. I have neither the time nor the
strength to suggest more of those lessons which experience teaches us
when our hearts are, made ready for the divine schooling. We ought to
have learned much in 365 days. I hope we have. Permit me only to hint
at a truth which has come home to me.
During the past year I have been made to see that there is more love and
unity among God’s people than is generally believed. I speak not
egotistically, but gratefully. I had no idea that Christian people, of
every church, would spontaneously and persistently plead for the
prolonging of my life. I feel myself a debtor to all God’s people on
this earth. Each section of the church seemed to vie with all the rest
in sending words of comfort to my wife, and in presenting intercession to
God on my behalf. If anyone had prophesied, twenty years ago, that a
dissenting minister, and a very outspoken one, too, would be prayed for
in many parish churches, and in Westminster Abbey and St. Paul’s
Cathedral, it would not have been believed; but it was so.
There is more love in the hearts of Christian people than they know of
themselves. We mistake our divergencies of judgment for differences of
heart; but they are far from being the same thing. In these days of
criticism by unbelievers, believers of all sorts will be driven into
sincere unity. For my part, I believe that all spiritual persons; are
already one. When our Lord prayed that His church might be one, His
prayer was answered, and His true people are even now, in spirit and in
truth, one in Him. Their different modes of external worship are as the
furrows of a field; the field is none the less one, because of the marks
of the plow. Between rationalism and faith there is an immeasurable
abyss; but where there is faith in the Everlasting Father, faith in the
Great Sacrifice, and faith in the Indwelling Spirit, there is a living,
loving, lasting union.
I have learned, also, that when the one church pleads with powerful
prayers, she must and will be heard. No case is hopeless when many pray.
The deadliest diseases relax their hold before the power of unanimous
intercession. As long as I live, I am a visible embodiment of the fact
that, to the prayer of faith, presented by the Church of God, nothing is
impossible. It is worthwhile to have been painfully sick to have learned
this truth, and to have proved it in one’s own person.
In this little circle, probably one and another may say, “These are not
exactly the lessons that we have learned this year.” Perhaps not. But
if you have learned more of Jesus, and of His love, which passes
knowledge, it suffices. Be thankful if you have learned even a little of
Jesus. Do not judge yourself by the attainments of others who are older
or more experienced; but rejoice in the Lord. Bless God for starlight,
and He will give you moonlight; praise Him for moonlight, and He will
give you sunlight; thank Him for sunlight, and you shall yet come to that
land where they need not the light of the sun, for the Lord God gives
them light for ever and ever. May this year Close with blessing! Amen.
(In the morning the friends came together again, and Mr. Spurgeon
sat as before, and spoke with them; this time more briefly.)
Passing at this hour over the threshold of the New Year, we look forward,
and what do we see? If we could procure a telescope which would enable
us to see to the end of the year, would we be wise to use it? I think
not. We know nothing of the events which lie before us: of life or death
to ourselves or to our friends, or of changes of position, or of sickness
or health. What a mercy that these things are hidden from us! If we
foresaw our best blessings, they would lose their freshness and sweetness
while we impatiently waited for them. Anticipation would sour into
weariness, and familiarity would breed contempt. If we could foresee our
troubles, we would worry ourselves about them long before they came, and
in that fretfulness we should miss the joy of our present blessings.
Great mercy has hung up a veil between us and the future; and there let
Still, all is not concealed. Some things we clearly see. I say, “we”
but I mean those whose eyes have been opened, for it is not everyone who
can see in the truest sense. A lady said to Mr. Turner, “I have often
looked upon that prospect, but I have never seen what you have put into
your picture.” The great artist simply replied, “Don’t you wish you
could see it?” Looking into the future with the eye of faith, believers
can see much that is hidden from those who have no faith. Let me tell
you, in a few words, what I see as I look into the new year.
I see pathway made from this first of January, 1892, to the first of
January, 1893. I see a highway laid out by the foreknowledge and
predestination of God. Nothing of the future is left to chance; no, not
even the falling of a sparrow, nor the losing of a hair is left to
haphazard; but all the events of life are arranged and appointed. Not
only is every turn in the road marked in the divine map, but every: stone
on the road, and every drop of morning dew or evening mist that falls
upon the grass which grows it the roadside. We are not crossing a
trackless desert; the Lord has ordained our path in His infallible wisdom
and infinite love. “If the LORD delights in a man’s way, he makes his
steps firm” (NIV).
I next see, “a Guide provided” as our companion along the way. To Him we
graciously say, “You shall guide me with Your counsel.” He is waiting to
go with us through every part of the road. “The LORD himself goes before
you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you” (NIV).
We are not left to pass through life as though it were a lone wilderness,
a place of dragons and owls; for Jesus says, “I will not leave you as
orphans; I will come to you” (NIV).
Though we should lose father, and mother, and the dearest friends, there
is One who wears our nature, who will never leave us. One like the Son
of man is still treading the life-ways of believing hearts, and each true
believer comes up from the wilderness, leaning upon the Beloved. We feel
the presence of the Lord Jesus even now, in this room, where two or three
are gathered in his name; and I trust we shall feel it through all the
months of the year, whether it be the time of the singing of birds, or
the season of ripe fruits, or the dark months when the ground is frozen
into iron. In this Riviera, we ought to more readily realize our Lord’s
presence, because the country is so like “Your land, O Immanuel!” Here
is the land of oil olive, and of figs, and of the clusters of Eshcol. By
such a blue sea he walked, and up such rocky hills he climbed. But
whether here, or elsewhere, let us look for HIM to abide with us, to make
this year truly to be “a year of our Lord.”
Beside the way and the Guide, I perceive very clearly, by the eye of
faith, strength for the journey provided. Throughout the whole span of
the year, we shall find resting places, where we may rest and take
refreshment, and then go on our way singing, “He restores my soul.” We
shall have enough strength, but none to spare; and that strength will
come when it is needed, and not before. When saints imagine that they
have strength to spare, they turn sinners, and are apt to have their long
hair cut by the Philistines. The Lord of the way will find the pilgrims
with sufficient spending money for the road; but He may not think it wise
to burden them with excess funds.
God all-sufficient will not fail those who trust Him. When we come to
the place where we must shoulder the burden, we shall reach the place
where we will receive the strength. If it pleases the Lord to multiply
our troubles from one to ten, He will increase our strength in the same
proportion. To each believer the Lord still says, “Your strength will
equal your days” (NIV). You do not that you have the grace to die with:
what of that? You are not dying yet. While you still have to deal with
the business and duty of life, look to God for the grace which these
require; and when life is ebbing out, and your only thought is about
landing on the eternal shore, then look to God your Savior for dying
grace in dying moments. We may expect an inrush of divine strength when
human strength is failing, and a daily impartation of energy as daily
need requires. Our lamps shall be trimmed as long as they will need to
burn. Let not our present weakness tempt us to limit the Holy One of
Israel. There is a place of refuge on every pass over the Alps of life,
and a bridge across every river of trial which crosses our way to the
Celestial City. Holy angels are as numerous to guard us as fallen ones
to tempt us. We shall never have a need for which our gracious Father
cannot supply just what we need.
I see, most clearly, “a power overruling” all things which occur in the
way we walk. I see an refining process in which all things are
transformed. “In all things God works for the good of those who love
him, who have been called according to his purpose” (NIV). I see a
wonder-working hand which turns for us the swords of disease into the
plowshares of correction, and the spears of trial into the pruning-hooks
of discipline. By this divine skill, bitterness is made sweet, and
poisons turned to medicines. “Nothing shall by any means harm you,” is a
promise too strong for feeble faith; but full assurance finds it true.
Since God is for us, who can be against us? What a joy to see Jehovah
himself as our banner, and God himself with us as our Captain! Forward
then into the New Year, “No harm will befall you” (NIV).
One thing more, and this is brightness itself: this year we trust we
shall see God glorified by us and in us. If we realize our chief end, we
reach our highest enjoyment. It is the delight of the renewed heart to
think that God can get glory out of such poor creatures as we are. “God
is light.” We cannot add to his brightness; but we may act as reflectors,
which, though they have no light of their own, yet, when the sun shines
upon them, reflect His beams, and send them where, without such
reflection, they might not have come. When the Lord shines upon us, we
will cast that light upon dark places, and make those who sit in the
shadow of death to rejoice in Jesus our Lord.
We hope that God has been in some measure glorified in some of us during
the past year, but we trust He will be glorified by us far more in the
year which now begins. We will be content to glorify God either actively
or passively. We would have it so happen that, when our life’s history
is written, whoever reads it will not think of us as “self-made men,” but
as the handiwork of God, in whom His grace is magnified. May men not see
the clay in us, but the Potter’s hand. They said of one, “He is a fine
preacher”; but of another they said, “We never notice how he preaches,
but we feel that God is great.” We wish our whole life to be a
sacrifice; an altar of incense continually smoking with sweet perfume
unto the Most High. Oh, to be borne through the year on the wings of
praise to God; to mount from year to year, and raise at each ascent a
loftier and yet lowlier song unto the God of our life! The vista of a
praiseful life will never close, but continue throughout eternity. From
psalm to psalm, from hallelujah to hallelujah, we will ascend the hill of
the Lord; until we come into the Holiest of all, where, with veiled
faces, we will bow before the Divine Majesty in the bliss of endless
adoration. Throughout this year may the Lord be with you! Amen.
Transcribed by Tony Capoccia of
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