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the present day, even in the outdated English of the author’s own day.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.
All Scripture references are taken from the HOLY BIBLE: NEW INTERNATIONAL
VERSION (C) 1978 by the New York Bible Society, used by permission of
Zondervan Bible Publishers.
Like Fire . . and Like a Hammer
Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892)
JER 23:29-32, 34 “Is not my word like fire,” declares the LORD, “and like
a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces? “Therefore,” declares the LORD, “I
am against the prophets who steal from one another words supposedly from
me. Yes,” declares the LORD, “I am against the prophets who wag their own
tongues and yet declare, ‘The LORD declares.’
Indeed, I am against those who prophesy false dreams,” declares the LORD.
“They tell them and lead my people astray with their reckless lies, yet I
did not send or appoint them. They do not benefit these people in the
least,” declares the LORD. If a prophet or a priest or anyone else claims,
‘This is the oracle of the LORD,’ I will punish that man and his household.
When the Lord spoke by His servant, Jeremiah, His Word was “like fire.”
There was something burning about it: human nature did not like it, but
human nature was made to feel its force and power. When the false prophets
spoke, they would bow and genuflect to the people, and say all kinds of
soft and pleasing things; but when Jeremiah spoke, in the name of Jehovah,
every word seemed to bring conviction to his hearers. It was the same as
when the mighty man lifts up a sledge-hammer, and brings it down with all
his force on the stone that he wants to break. The message did not comfort
the ungodly, but it broke their hearts, for the prophet was seeking, if
possible, to separate them from their sins.
“The ox knows his master, the donkey his owner’s manger;” and we are not so
foolish that we don’t know what truth it is that cheers and comforts our
heart, and what kind of teaching it is that makes us glad in the midst of
our discontent. There is way too much teaching, nowadays, that will not
comfort a mouse. You could hear it for all of eternity, and never be
relieved of a single ounce of life’s burdens. You might come to church,
and you might say, “Yes, it is a highly polished sermon; but what is that
to a man who has the burdens of life to carry, and the daily battles to
fight?” But when you hear the glorious gospel of the blessed God, it lifts
you up out of your discouragements, and makes you say, after all, “It is
worth while to live, it is worth while to suffer, it is worth while to
press forward; for we see the great love the Lord has towards us, and what
good things He has laid up in store for those who love Him.” The Word of
the Lord is like a fire, for it warms and comforts the hearts of His
But God’s Word is like “a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces.” I
shouldn’t think that it would be any great education to learn how to use a
hammer; I don’t know, maybe it does; but it seems that in order to use a
hammer right, one has nothing to do but to strike with it. A person who is
trying to break up a pile of rocks, only has to hit them as hard as he can,
and to keep on hitting until they are all broken. Brethren, when you
preach, take the gospel hammer, and strike as hard as you can with it.
“Oh, but I must try to improve the way my hammer looks; it must have a
mahogany handle!” Never mind about the mahogany handle; use your hammer
for striking, for hammers are not for decoration, they are meant to be used
for real hard work. And when you come to use the gospel as it ought to be
used, the result is wonderful; it is a rock-breaking thing.
“Oh!” you cry, “there is a very hard-hearted man there!” Strike at him
with the gospel. “Oh, but he ridicules and scoffs at the truth!” Never
mind if he does, keep on striking him with the gospel. “Oh, but in a
certain town, I have wielded this hammer against the rock for years,
and nothing has come of it!” Still go on wielding it, for this is a hammer
that has never failed yet. Only continue to use it; everything is not
accomplished with one stroke; nor with twenty strokes. The rock that does
not yield the first time, nor the second time, nor the third time, nor the
twentieth time, will yield at last. There is a process of disintegration
taking place with every stroke; the great mass is inwardly moving even when
you cannot see that it is doing so; and there will come at last one blow of
the hammer which will seem to do the deed, but all the previous strokes
contributed to it, and brought the rock into the right state for breaking
it up at last. Hammer away, then, with nothing but the gospel of Jesus
Christ. The heart that is struck may not yield even year after year, but
it will yield at last.
Now, put the two together–the fire and the hammer–and you will see how
God makes His servants who are to be instruments for His use. He puts us
into the fire of the Word; He melts, He softens, He subdues. Then He takes
us out of the fire, and hammers us together into a single, compact whole,
with strokes that only He can give, till He has made us fit instruments for
His use; and He goes forward to His sacred work of conquering the
multitudes, having in His hands the polished instrument that He has forged
with the fire and the hammer of His Word.
How often have we seen men, who have not been moved even by the law of God,
as last won to Christ by the gospel–the gospel of free grace and dying
love, full forgiveness for the greatest sinners; immediate, irreversible
pardon given in a moment to every sinner who believes in Christ! Oh, how
this gospel has acted like a fire, and burned up all the sinner’s
opposition! How this gospel has also been like a hammer to break down
human stubbornness! The gospel of redemption through the precious blood of
Jesus, the gospel which tells of full atonement made, the gospel which
proclaims that the last penny of the ransom price has been paid, and that,
therefore, whoever believes in Jesus is free from the law, and free from
guilt, and free from hell–the preaching of the gospel has made men’s
hearts burn within them, and has destroyed the control of sin, and made men
joyfully flee to Christ.
So, preach the gospel then, the gospel of justification by faith, the
gospel of new birth by the Holy Spirit, the gospel of final perseverance
through the unchanging love of God. Preach the whole of the glorious
gospel of the blessed God, as it is revealed in the promise of grace, and
you will be doing fire-and-hammer work that will be of the highest quality.
As God’s Word is like a fire and like a hammer, if we have used it on
ourselves, let us try to use it on others. I have an opinion that there
are a great many persons in this world, whom we give up as hopeless, who
have never been really tried and tested with the gospel in all their lives.
I am afraid that there are persons of whom we speak as unlikely to be
converted, who have never been fully brought under the influence of the
fire of God’s Word, or beneath the fall of the hammer of the gospel. “I
brought one person to church,” says somebody. I am glad you have; but have
you ever spoken faithfully to that person about his soul? “Well, I don’t
know that I have; I have said a little to him.” Have you ever plainly put
the gospel before him? “Well, I don’t think he is the kind of person that
you speak to about the gospel directly.”
Ah! I see that you thought you were going to burn him without using fire,
and to break that rock without lifting the hammer. The fact is, you
believed that something better than the gospel fire was needed in his case,
or that something gentler than the gospel hammer was needed. Won’t you try
that old-fashioned hammer on him? Won’t you try that old fire on him? I
have heard of churches where men have said, “There is no good to be done
here, no one will change” and I have wondered if they were to try preaching
one of the old-fashioned sort of gospel sermons, if they could get
Whitefield to preach, or have someone to preach the same truth as
Whitefield preached, what results would follow.
When I am told that the hearts of the people are not affected by the
preaching in any place, I ask, “But was the gospel preached to them? Was
it the very Word of God that was preached?” Our words are like paper
pellets thrown against the wall, they effect nothing; but God’s Word is
like a shot fired from the world’s largest cannon. When it hits, it
crushes through every obstacle, and destroys everything that is opposed to
Why don’t we always set the whole truth before those whom we seek to save?
I believe that, sometimes, even in Sunday-schools, children are taught “to
love gentle Jesus,” and so on, as if that were the way of salvation. Why
not tell them to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ? Why is love to take the
place of faith? Let it be the same gospel for the children that you give
to the adults. Try them with the same gospel, and see what will come of
it; and let this work be attempted everywhere.
“But,” says someone, “there are certain places where you can’t do any good
if you try to preach the gospel. You must play music to the people, and
drum softly to them; and then you must have concerts and other
entertainments for them.” Very well, convert sinners that way if you can;
I do not object to any method that results in the winning of souls. Stand
on your head if that will save the people; but still, it seems to me that
if God’s Word is like a fire, there is nothing like it for burning; and if
God’s Word is like a hammer, there can be nothing like that Word for
hammering down everything that stands in the way of Jesus Christ. Why,
then, shouldn’t we continually try the gospel, and nothing but the gospel?
“Well,” says one, “but the poor people are dirty; we must clean them up
and fix the places where they are living.” Of course we must; go on
with them as fast as you can; the more of such things, the better. There
is nothing like soapsuds and new paint for dirty people and dirty places;
but you may paint and soapsud them as long as you like, yet that will not
save their souls without the gospel of Christ. You may go to them and
plead the fact that they shouldn’t get drunk, and I hope you will; the more
of it the better. Make them all give up drinking if you can, for it will
be a great blessing to them; but still, you have not really done anything
permanent if you stop there.
Try the gospel! Try the gospel! Try the gospel! When the gospel was
tried against the world in the days of Paul–when the power of the great
empire of Rome had crushed out liberty, and when lust of the most
abominable kind made the world reek in the nostrils of God–nothing was
done but preaching Jesus Christ and Him crucified, and the common people
heard of Jesus Christ, heard of Him gladly, and believed in Him; and very
soon down went the false gods, down went the brutal lusts of the Roman
empire, and a great part of the world was permeated with the gospel; and it
will have to be done again, and it must be done again. But remember that
it is only to be done by that same Word of the Lord which did it the first
time; and the sooner we get back to that Word, the better; and the more we
throw away everything else but the simple telling out of that Word, the
more speedy will be the victory, and the more swift and sure will be the
triumph for our God and for His Christ.
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