Comfort for the Desponding
Written by: Spurgeon, C.H. Posted on: 03/31/2003
omfort for the Desponding" A Sermon by the REV. C.H. SPURGEON
"Oh that I were as in months past."Job 29:2.
FOR THE MOST part the gracious Shepherd leads his people beside the still waters, and makes them
to lie down in green pastures; but at times they wander through a wilderness, where there is no water,
and they find no city to dwell in. Hungry and thirsty, their soul fainteth within them, and they cry unto
the Lord in their trouble. Though many of his people live in almost constant joy, and find that
religion's ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace, yet there are many who pass
through fire and through water: men do ride over their heads,they endure all manner of trouble and sorrow. The
duty of the minister is to preach to different characters. Sometimes we admonish the confident, lest they should
become presumptuous; oftentimes we stir up the slumbering, lest they should sleep the sleep of death. Frequently
we comfort the desponding, and this is our duty this morningor if not to comfort them, yet to give them some
exhortation which may by God's help be the means of bringing them out of the sad condition into which they have
fallen, so that they may not be obliged to cry out for ever"Oh that I were as in months past!"
At once to the subject. A complaint; its cause and cure; and then close up with an exhortation to stir up your
pure minds, if you are in such a position.
I. First, there is a COMPLAINT. How many a Christian looks on the past with pleasure, on the future with
dread, and on the present with sorrow! There are many who look back upon the days that they have passed in the
fear of the Lord as being the sweetest and the best they have ever had, but as to the present, it is clad in a sable
garb of gloom and dreariness. They could wish for their young days over again, that they might live near to Jesus,
for now they feel that they have wandered from him, or that he has hidden his face from them, and they cry out,
"Oh that I were as in months past!"
1. Let us take distinct cases one by one. The first is the case of a man who has lost the brightness of his
evidences, and is crying out, "Oh that I were as in months past!" Hear his soliloquy:"Oh that my past days could
be recalled! Then I had no doubt of my salvation. If any man had asked for the reason of the hope that was in me,
I could have answered with meekness and with fear. No doubt distressed me, no fear harassed me; I could say
with Paul, 'I know whom I have believed,' and with Job, 'I know that my Redeemer liveth;'
'My steady soul did fear no more
Than solid rocks when billows roar.'
I felt myself to be standing on the rock Christ Jesus. I said
'Let cares like a wild deluge come,
And storms of sorrow fall;
Sure I shall safely reach my home,
My God, my heaven, my all'
But ah! how changed it is now! Where there was no cloud it; all cloud; where I could read my 'my title clear,' I
tremble to read my damnation quite as clearly. I hoped that I trusted in Christ, but now the dark thought rises up,
that I was a hypocrite, and had deceived myself and others. The most I can attain to, isMethinks I will hope in
him still; and if I may not be refreshed with the light of his countenance, still in the shadow of his wings will I
trust.' I feel that if I depart from him there is no other Savior; but oh! what thick darkness surrounds me! Like
Paul of old, there have been days and nights wherein neither sun, nor moon nor stars have appeared. I have lost
my roll in the Arbour of Ease; I cannot now take it out of my breast, and read it to console me on my journey; but
I fear that when I get to the end of the way they will deny me entrance, because I came not in by the door to
receive his grace and know his love, but have been deceived, have taken carnal fancies for the workings of the
Spirit, and have imputed what was but natural conviction to the work of God the Holy Ghost."
This is one phase, and a very common one. You will meet many who are crying out like that"Oh that I
were as in months past!"
2. Another phase of this great complaint, which it also very frequently assumes, is one under which we are
lamentingnot so much because our evidences are withered as because we do not enjoy a perpetual peace of
mind as to other matters. "Oh "says one, "Oh that I were as in months past; for then whatever troubles and trials
came upon me, were less than nothing. I had learned to sing
'Father, I wait thy daily will;
Thou shalt divide my portion still;
Give me on earth what seems thee best,
Till death and heaven reveal the rest.'
I felt that I could give up everything to him; that if he had taken away every mercy I could have said
'Yea, if thou take them all away,
Yet will I not repine;
Before they were possessed by me,
They were entirely thine.'
I knew no fear for the future. Like a child on its mother's breast I slept securely; I said, 'Jehovah-jireh, my God
will provide,' I put my business into his hands; I went to my daily labor; like the little bird that waketh up in the
morning, and knoweth not where its breakfast is to come from, but sitteth on the spray, singing
'Mortal, cease from toil and sorrow
God provideth for the morrow;'
so was I. I could have trusted Him with my very life, with wife, with children, with everything, I could give all into
his hands, and say each morning, 'Lord, I have not a will of my own, or if I have one, still, thy will be done; thy
wish shall be my wish; thy desire shall be my desire.' But 'oh that I were as in months past!' How changed am I
now! I begin fretting about my business; and if I lose now but a live pound note, I am worried incessantly,
whereas, if it were a thousand before, I could have thanked the God who took it away as easily as I could the God
that gave it to me. How the least thing disturbs me. The least shadow of a doubt as to some calamity that may
befall me, rests on my soul like a thick cloud. I am perpetually self-willed, desiring always to have just what I
wish. I cannot say I can resign all into his hands; there is a certain something I could not give up. Twined round
my heart there is an evil plant called self-love. It has twisted its roots within the very nerves and sinews of my
soul. There is something I love above my God. I cannot give up all now; but 'oh that I were as in months past!'
For then my mercies were real mercies, because they were God's mercies. "Oh," says he, "'that I were as in
months past!' I should not have had to bear such trouble as I have now, for though the burden might have pressed
heavily, I would have cast it on the Lord. Oh! that I knew the heavenly science of taking the burdens off my own
shoulders, and laying them on the Rock that supports them all! Oh! if I knew how to pour out my griefs and
sorrows as I once did! I have been a fool, an arrant fool, a very fool, that I should have run away from that sweet
confidence I once had in the Savior! I used then to go to his ear, and tell him all my griefs.
'My sorrows and my griefs I poured
Into the bosom of my God;
He helped me in the trying hour,
He helped me bear the heavy load.'
But now, I foolishly carry them myself, and bear them in my own breast, Ah!
'What peaceful hours I then enjoyed!'
Would that they would return to me."
3. Another individual perhaps is speaking thus concerning his enjoyment in the house of God and the means
of grace. "Oh," says one, "in months past, when I went up to the house of God, how sweetly did I hear! Why, I
sat with my ears open, to catch the words, as if it were an angel speaking; and when I listened, how at times did
the tears come rolling down my cheeks! and how did my eyes flash, when some brilliant utterance, full of joy to
the Christian, aroused my soul! Oh! how did I awake on the Sabbath morning, and sing,
'Welcome, sweet day of rest,
That saw the Lord arise;
Welcome to this reviving breast,
And these rejoicing eyes!'
And when they sang in the house of God, whose voice was so fond as mine. When I retired from worship, it was
with a light tread; I went to tell my friends and my neighbors what glorious news I had heard in the sanctuary.
Those were sweet Sabbaths; and when the prayer-meetings came round, how was I found in my places and the
prayers were prayers indeed to my spirit; whoever I heard preach, provided it was the gospel, how did my soul
feed and fatten under it! for I sat at a very banquet of joy. When I read the Scriptures they were always
illuminated, and glory did gild the sacred page, whenever I turned it over. When I bent my knee in prayer, I could
pour my soul out before God, and I loved the exercise; I felt that I could not be happy unless I spent my time
upon my knees; I loved my God, and my God loved me; but oh! how changed now! 'Oh that I were as in months
past!' I go up to God's house; it is the same voice that speaks, the same man I love so much, still addresses me;
but I have no tears to shed now; my heart has become hardened even under his ministry; I have few emotions of
joy; I enter the house of God as a boy goes to school, without much love to it, and I go away without having my
soul stirred. When I kneel down in secret prayer, the wheels are taken off my chariot, and it drags very heavily;
when I strive to sing, all I can say is, 'I would but cannot'; 'Oh that I were as in months past!' when the candle of
the Lord shone round about me!"
I trust there are not many of you who can join in this; for I know ye love to come up to the house of God. I
love to preach to a people who feel the word, who give signs of assent to itmen and women who can afford a
tear now and then in a sermonpeople whose blood seems to boil within them when they hear the gospel. I don't
think you understand much of the phase I am describing; but still you may understand a little of it. The word may
not be quite so sweet and pleasant to you as it used to be; and then you may cry out"Oh that I were as in
4. But I will tell you one point which perhaps may escape you. There are some of us who lament extremely
that our conscience is not as tender as it used to be; and therefore doth our soul cry in bitterness, "Oh that I were
as in months past!" "When first I knew the Lord," you say, "I was almost afraid to put one foot before another,
lest I should go astray; I always looked before I leaped; if there were a suspicion of sin about anything, I faithfully
avoided it; it there were the slightest trace of the trail of the serpent on it, I turned from it at once; people called
me a Puritan; I watched everything; I was afraid to speak, and some practices that were really allowable I utterly
condemned; my conscience was so tender, I was like a sensitive plant; if touched by the hand of sin, my leaves
curled up in a moment; I could not bear to be touched I was so tender, I was all over wounds, and if any one
brushed against me I cried out. I was afraid to do anything, lest I should sin against God. If I heard an oath, my
bones shook within me; if I saw a man break the Sabbath, I trembled and was afraid; wherever I went, the least
whisper of sin startled me; it was like the voice of a demon when I heard a temptation, and I said with violence,
'Get thee behind me, Satan,' I could not endure sin; I ran away from it as from a serpent; I could not taste a drop
of it; but 'Oh that I were as in months past.' It is true, I have not forsaken his ways; I have not quite forgotten his
law; it is true, I have not disgraced my character, I have not openly sinned before men, and none but God
knoweth my sin; but oh! my conscience is not what it once was. It did thunder once, but it does not now. O
conscience! conscience! thou art gone too much to sleep, I have drugged thee with laudanum, and thou art
slumbering when thou oughtest to be speaking! Thou art a watchman; but thou dost not tell the hours of the night
as thou once didst. O conscience! sometimes I heard thy rattle in my ears, and it startled me, now thou sleepest,
and I go on to sin. It is but a little I have done; still, that little shows the way. Straws tell which way the wind doth
blow; and I feel that my having committed one little sin, evidences in what way my soul is inclined. Oh! that I had
a tender conscience again! Oh! that I had not this rhinoceros conscience, which is covered over with tough hide,
through which the bullets of the law cannot pierce! Oh! that I had a conscience such as I used to have! ' Oh that I
were as in months past!'"
5. One more form of this sad condition. There are some of us, dearly beloved, who have not as much zeal for
the glory of God and the salvation of men as we used to have. Months ago, if we saw a soul going to destruction,
our eyes were filled with tears in a moment; if we did but see a man inclined to sin, we rushed before him with
tears in our eyes, and wished to sacrifice ourselves to save him; we could not walk the street, but we must be
giving somebody a tract, or reproving some one; we thought we must be for ever speaking of the Lord Jesus; if
there were any good to be done, we were always first and foremost in it: we desired by all means to save some,
and we did think at that time that we could give up ourselves to death, if we might but snatch a soul from hell. So
deep, so ardent was our love to our fellowmen, that for the love we bore Christ's name, we would have been
content to be scoffed at, hissed at, and persecuted by the whole world, if we might have done any good in it. Our
soul was burning with intense longing for souls, and we considered all things else to be mean and worthless; but
ah! now souls may be damned, and there is not a tear; sinners may sink into the scalding pit of hell, and not a
groan; thousands may be swept away each day, and sink into bottomless woe, and yet not an emotion. We can
preach without tears; we can pray for them without our hearts. We can speak to them without feeling their
necessities; we pass by the haunts of infamywe wish the inmates better, and that is all. Even our compassion
has died out. Once we stood near the brink of hell, and we thought each day that we heard the yellings and
howlings of the doomed spirits ringing in our ears; and then we said, "O God, help me to save my fellow-men
from going down to the pit! "But now we forget it all. We have little love to men, we have not half the zeal and
energy we once had. Oh! if that be your state, dearly beloved; if you can join in that, as your poor minister, alas!
can do in some measure, then may we well say, "Oh that I were as in months past!"
II. But now we are about to take these different characters, and tell you the CAUSE AND CURE.
1. One of the causes of this mournful state of things is defect in prayer; and of course the cure lies
somewhere next door to the cause. You are saying, "Oh that I were as in months past!" Come, my brother; we are
going into the very root of the matter. One reason why it is not with you as in months past is this: you do not pray
as you once did. Nothing brings such leanness into a man's soul as want of prayer. It is well said that a neglected
closet is the birth-place of all evil. All good is born in the closet, all good springeth from it; there the Christian
getteth it; but if he neglecteth his closet, then all evil comes of it. No man can progress in grace if he forsakes his
closet. I care not how strong he may be in faith. It is said that fat men may for a time live on the flesh they have
acquired; but there is not a Christian so full of flesh that he can live on old grace. If he waxes fat he kicks, but he
cannot live upon his fat. Those who are strong and mighty in themselves cannot exist without prayer. If a man
should have the spiritual might of fifty of God's choicest Christians in himself, he must die, if he did not continue
to plow. My brother, cannot you look back and say, "Three or four months ago my prayers were more regular,
more constant, more earnest than they are now; but now they are feeble, they are not sincere, they are not
fervent, they are not earnest? "O brother, do not ask anybody what is the cause of your grief; it is as plain as
possible; you need not ask a question about it. There is the cause; and where is the remedy? Why, in more prayer,
beloved. It was little prayer that brought you down; it is great prayer that will lift you up. It was lack of prayer that
brought you into poverty, it must be increase of prayer that will bring you into riches again. Where no oxen are the
crib is clean. There is nothing for men to eat where there are no oxen to plough; and where there are no prayers to
plough the soil, you have little to feed upon. We must be more earnest in prayer. Oh! beloved, might not the beam
out of the wall cry against us? Our dusty closets might bear witness to our neglect of secret devotion; and that is
the reason why it is not with us as in months past. My friends: if you were to compare the Christian to a
steam-engine, you must make his prayers, fed by the Holy Spirit, to be the very fire which sustains his motion.
Prayer is God's chosen vehicle of grace, and he is unwise who neglects it. Let me be doubly serious on this matter,
and let me give a home-thrust to some. Dear friend, do you mean what you say, and do you believe what you
saythat neglect of prayer will bring your soul into a most hazardous condition? If so, I will say no more to thee;
for thou wilt easily guess the remedy for thy lamentable cry, "Oh that I were as in months past!" A certain
merchant wishes that he were as rich as he used to be:he was wont to send his ships over to the gold country, to
bring him home cargoes of gold, but ne'er a ship has been out of port lately, and therefore can he wonder that he
has had no cargo of gold? So when a man prayeth he sends a ship to heaven, and it comes back laden with gold;
but if he leaves off supplication, then his ship is weather-bound and stays at home, and no wonder he cometh to
be a poor man.
2. Perhaps, again, you are saying, "Oh that I were as in months past!" not so much from your own fault as
from the fault of your minister. There is such a thing, my dear friends, as our getting into a terribly bad condition
through the ministry that we attend. Can it be expected that men should grow in grace when they are never
watered with the streams that make glad the city of our God? Can they be supposed to wax strong in the Lord
Jesus, when they do not feed on spiritual food? We know some who grumble, Sabbath after Sabbath, and say
they cannot hear such and such a minister. Why don't you buy an ear-trumpet then? Ah! but I mean, that I can't
hear him to my soul's profit. Then do not go to hear him, if you have tried for a long while and don't get any
profit. I always think that a man who grumbles as he goes out of chapel ought not to be pitied, but whipped, for he
can stay away if he likes, and go where he will be pleased. There are plenty of places where the sheep may feed in
their own manner; and every one is bound to go where he gets the pasture most suited to his soul; but you are not
bound to run away directly your minister dies, as many of you did before you came here. You should not run
away from the ship directly the storm comes, and the captain is gone, and you find her not exactly sea-worthy;
stand by her, begin caulking her, God will send you a captain, there will be fine weather by-and-bye, and all will
be right; but very frequently a bad minister starves God's people into walking skeletons, so that you can tell all
their bones; and who wonders that they starve out their minister, when they get no food and no nutriment from his
ministrations. This is a second reason why men frequently cry out, "Oh that I were as in months past!"
3. But there is a better reason still, that will come more home to some of you. It is not so much the badness of
the food, as the seldomness that you come to eat it. You know, my dear friends, we find every now and then that
there is a man who came twice a day to the house of God on the Sabbath. On the Monday night he was busy at
work; but his apron was rolled up, and if he could not be present all the while, he would come in at the end. On
the Thursday evening he would, if possible, come to the sanctuary, to hear a sermon from some gospel minister,
and would sit up late at night and get up early in the morning, to make up the time he had spent in these religious
exercises; but by-and-bye he thought, "I am too hard-worked; this is tiring; it is too far to walk." And so he gives
up first one service, and then another, and then begins to cry out, "Oh that I were as in months past!" Why,
brethren you need not wonder at it. The man does not eat so much as he used to do. Little and often is the way
children should be fed, t
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