The Desire of the Soul in Spiritual Darkness
Written by: Spurgeon, C.H. Posted on: 04/01/2003
"The Desire of the Soul in Spiritual Darkness" A Sermon by the REV. C.H. SPURGEON
"With my soul have I desired thee in the night."Isaiah 26:9.
NIGHT APPEARS to be a time peculiarly favorable to devotion. Its solemn stillness helps to free the
mind from that perpetual din which the cares of the world will bring around it; and the stars looking
down from heaven upon us shine as if they would attract us up to God. I know not how you may be
affected by the solemnities of midnight, but when I have sat alone musing on the great God and the
mighty universe, I have felt that indeed I could worship him; for night seemed to be spread abroad as a very
temple for adoration, while the moon walked as high priest, amid the stars, the worshippers, and I myself joined in
that silent song which they sang unto God: "Great art thou, O God! great in thy works. When I consider thy
heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars which thou hast ordained; what is man, that thou art
mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?" I find that this sense of the power of midnight not
only acts upon religious men, but there is a certain poet, whose character, perhaps, I could scarcely too much
reprobate: a man very far from understanding true religion; one whom I may, I suppose, justly style an infidel a
libertine of the worst order, and yet he says concerning night in one of his poems:
"Tis midnight on the mountains' brown,
The cold round moon shines deeply down;
Blue roll the waters, blue the sky
Spreads like an ocean hung on high,
Bespangled with those isles of light,
So wildly, spiritually bright;
Who ever gazed upon them shining,
And turning to earth without repining,
Nor wish'd for wings to flee away,
And mix with their eternal ray."
Even with the most irreligious person, a man farthest from spiritual thought, it seems that there is some power in
the grandeur and stillness of night to draw him up to God. I trust many of us can say, like David, "I have thought
upon thee continually, I have mused upon thy name in the night watches, and with desire have I desired thee in
the night." But I leave that thought altogether. I shall not speak of night natural at all, although there may be a
great deal of room for poetic thought and expression. I shall address myself to two orders of persons, and shall
endeavor to show what I conceive to be the meaning of the text. May God make it useful to you both. First, I shall
speak to confirmed Christians; and from this text I shall bring one or two remarks to bear upon their case, if they
are in darkness. Second, I shall speak to newly awakened souls, and try if I can find some of them who can say,
"With my soul have I desired thee in the night."
I. I am about to address this text to the more confirmed believer; and the first fact I shall educe from itthe
truth of which I am sure he will very readily admitis, that THE CHRISTIAN MAN HAS NOT ALWAYS A
BRIGHT SHINING SUN: that he has seasons of darkness and of night. True, it is written in God's word, "Her
ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace;" and it is a great truth that religionthe true religion of
the living Godis calculated to give a man happiness below as well as bliss above. But, notwithstanding,
experience tells us that if the course of the just be "as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the
perfect day," yet sometimes that light is eclipsed. At certain periods clouds and darkness cover the sun, and he
beholds no clear shining of the daylight, but walks in darkness and sees no light. Now there are many who have
rejoiced in the presence of God for a season; they have basked in the sunshine God has been pleased to give them
in the earlier stages of their Christian career; they have walked along the "green pastures," by the side of the "still
waters," and suddenlyin a month or twothey find that glorious sky is clouded: instead of "green pastures,"
they have to tread the sandy desert; in the place of "still waters," they find streams brackish to their taste and bitter
to their spirits, and they say, "Surely, if I were a child of God this would not happen." Oh! say not so, thou who
art walking in darkness. The best of God's saints have their nights; the dearest of his children have to walk through
a weary wilderness. There is not a Christian who has enjoyed perpetual happiness, there is no believer who can
always sing a song of joy. It is not every lark that can always carol. It is not every star that can always be seen.
And not every Christian is always happy. Perhaps the King of Saints gave you a season of great joy at first
because you were a raw recruit and he would not put you into the roughest part of the battle when you had first
enlisted. You were a tender plant, and he nursed you in the hot-house till you could stand severe weather. You
were a young child, and therefore he wrapped you in furs and clothed you in the softest mantle. But now you
have become strong and the case is different. Capuan holidays do not suit Roman soldiers; and they would not
agree with Christians. We need clouds and darkness to exercise our faith, to cut off self dependence, and make us
put more faith in Christ, and less in evidence, less in experience, less in frames and feelings. The best of God's
childrenI repeat it again for the comfort of those who are suffering depression of spiritshave their nights.
Sometimes it is a night over the whole church at once; and I fear we have very much of that night now. There are
times when Zion is under a cloud, when the whole fine gold becomes dim, and the glory of Zion is departed.
There are seasons when we do not hear the clear preaching of the word; when the doctrines are withheld; when
the glory of the Lord God of Jacob is dim; when his name is not exalted; when the traditions of men are taught,
instead of the inspirations of the Holy Ghost. And such a season is that when the whole church is dark. Of course
each Christian participates in it. He goes about and weeps, and cries, "O God, how long shall poor Zion be
depressed? How long shall her shepherds be 'dumb dogs that cannot bark?' Shall her watchmen be always blind?
Shall the silver trumpet sound no more? Shall not the voice of the gospel be heard in her streets?" O! there are
seasons of darkness to the entire church! God grant we may not have to pass through another! but that, starting
from this period, the sun may rise ne'er to set, till, like a sea of glory, the light of brilliance shall spread from pole
At other times, this darkness over the soul of the Christian rises from temporal distresses. He may have had a
misfortune as it is calledsomething has gone wrong in his business, or an enemy has done somewhat against
him; death has struck down a favourite childbereavement has snatched away the darling of his bosom, the crops
are blighted; the winds refuse to bear his ships homeward; a vessel strikes upon a rock, another founders, all goes
ill with him, and, like a gentle man who called to see me this week, he may be able to say, "Sir, I prospered far
more when I was a worldly man than I have done since I have become a Christian: for, since then, everything has
appeared to go wrong with me. I thought," be said, "that religion had the promise of this life as well as of that
which is to come." I told him, Yes, it had; and so it should be in the end. But he must remember there was one
great legacy which Christ left his people; and I was glad he had come in for a share of it"In the world ye shall
have tribulation; in me ye shall have peace." Yes! you may be troubled about this, you may be saying, "Look at
so-and-so: see how he spreads himself like a green bay-tree. He is an extortioner and wicked man, yet everything
he does prospers. You may even observe his death, and say, there are no bands in his death. "They are not in
trouble as other men, neither are they plagued like other men." Ah! beloved! ye are come into the sanctuary of
God this morning, and now shall ye understand their end. God hath set them in slippery places, but he casteth
them down to destruction. Better to have a Christian's days of sorrow, than a worldling's days of mirth. Better to
have a Christian's sorrows than a worldling's joys. Ah! happier to be chained in a dungeon with a Paul than reign
in the palace with an Ahab. Better to be a child of God in poverty than a child of Satan in riches. Cheer up, then,
thou downcast spirit, if this be thy trial. Remember that many saints have passed through the same; and the best
and most eminent believers have had their nights.
"But oh!" says another, "you have not described my night, sir. I have not much amiss in business; and I would
not care if I hadbut I have a night in my spirit." "O sir," says one, "I have not a single evidence of my
Christianity now. I was a child of God, I know; but something tells me that I am none of his now. There was a
season when I flattered myself that I knew something about godliness and God; but now I doubt whether I have
any part or lot in the matter. Satan suggests that I must dwell in endless flames. I see no hope for me. I am afraid I
am an hypocrite. I think I have imposed on the church and upon myself also. I fear I am none of his. When I turn
over God's Scriptures there is no promise; when I look within, corruption is black before me. Then while others
are commending me, I am accusing myself of all manner of sin and corruption. I could not have thought that I was
half so bad. I am afraid there cannot have been a work of grace in my heart, or else I should not have so many
corrupt imaginations, filthy desires, hard thoughts of God; so much pride, so much selfishness and self-will. I am
afraid I am none of his." Now, that is the very reason why you are one of his, that you are able to say that: for
God's people pass through the night. They have their nights of sorrow. I love to hear a man talk like that. I would
not have him do so always. He ought at times to enter into "the liberty where with Christ hath made him free." But
I know that frequently bondage will get hold of the spirit, But you say, "Surely no one ever suffers like that." I
confess I do myself constantly, and very often there are times when I could not prove my election in Jesus Christ,
nor my adoption, though I rejoice that for the most part I can cry,
"A debtor to mercy alone
Of covenant mercy I sing."
Yet at other seasons I am sure the meanest lamb in Jesu's fold I reckon ten thousand times more in advance than
myself and if I might but sit down on the meanest bench in the kingdom of heaven, and did but know I was in, I
would barter everything I had, and I do not believe there ever existed a Christian yet, who did not now and then
doubt his interest in Jesus. I think, when a man says, "I never doubt," it is quite time for us to doubt him, it is quite
time for us to begin to say, "Ah, poor soul, I am afraid you are not on the road at all, for if you were, you would
see so many things in yourself, and so much glory in Christ more than you deserve, that you would be so much
ashamed of yourself, as even to say, 'It is too good to be true.'"
2. The first part then is fully established by experience, that Christian men very frequently have their nights.
But the second thing here is that a Christian man's religion will keep its colour in the night. "With my soul have
I desired thee in the night." What a mighty deal of silver-slipper religion we have in this world. Men will follow
Christ when every one cries "Hosanna! Hosanna!" The multitude will crowd around the man then, and they will
take him by force and make him a king when the sun shines, when the soft wind blows. They are like the plants
upon the rock, which sprang up and for a little while were green, but when the sun had risen with fervent heat
straightway withered away. Demas and Mr. Hold-the-world, and a great many others, are very pious people in
easy times. They will always go with Christ by daylight, and will keep in company so long as fashion gives religion
the doubtful benefit of its patronage. But they will not go with him in the night. There are some goods whose
colour you can only see by daylightand there are many professors the colour of whom you can only see by
daylight. If they were in the night of trouble and persecution you would find that there was very little in them.
They are good by daylight but they are bad by night. But, beloved, do you not know that the best test of a
Christian is the night? The nightingale, if she would sing by day when every goose is cackling, would be reckoned
no better a musician than the wren. A Christian if he only remained steadfast by daylight, when every coward is
bold, what would he be? There would be no beauty in his courage, no glory in his bravery. But it is because he
can sing at nightsing in troublesing when he is driven well nigh to despair; it is this which proves his sincerity.
It has its glory in the night. The stars are not visible by daylight, but they become apparent when the sun is set.
There is full many a Christian whose piety did not burn much when he was in prosperity; but it will be known in
adversity. I have marked it in some of my brethren now present, when they were in deep trial not long ago. I had
not heard them discourse much about Christ before, but when God's hand had robbed them of their comfort, I
remember that I could discern their religion infinitely better than I could before. Nothing can bring our religion out
better than that. Grind the diamond a little and you shall see it glisten. Do but put a trouble on the Christian, and
his endurance of it will prove him to be of the true seed of Israel.
3. A third remark from this to the confirmed Christian is, all that the Christian wants in the night is his God.
"With desire have I desired thee in the night." By day there are many things that a Christian will desire besides his
Lord; but in the night he wants nothing but his God. I cannot understand how it is unless it is to be accounted for
by the corruption of our spirit, that when everything goes well with us we are setting our affection first on this
object andthen on another, and then on another; and that desire which is as insatiable as death and as deep as
hell never rests satisfied. We are always wanting something, always desiring a yet beyond. But if you place a
Christian in trouble you will find that he does not want gold thenthat he does not want carnal honourthen he
wants his God. I suppose he is like the sailor, when he sails along smoothly he loves to have fair weather, and
wants this and that to amuse himself with on deck. But when the winds blow all that he wants is the haven. He
does not desire anything else. The biscuit may be mouldy, but he does not care. The water may be brackish, but
he does not care. He does not think of it in the storm. He only thinks about the haven then. It is just so with the
Christian, when he is going along smoothly he wants this and that comfort; he is aspiring after this position, or is
wanting to obtain this and that elevation. But let him once doubt his interest in Christlet him once get into some
souldistress and trouble, so that it is very darkand all he will feel then is, "With desire have I desired thee in
the night." When the child is put upstairs to bed it may lie while the light is there, and look at the trees that shake
against the window, and admire the stars that are coming out; but when it gets dark and the child is still awake it
cries for its parent. It cannot be amused by aught else. So in daylight will the Christian look at anything. He will
cast his eyes round on this pleasure and on that! but, when the darkness gathers, it is "My God! my God! why
hast thou forsaken me?" "O why art thou so far from me and from the word of my roaring?" Then it is,
"Give me Christ or else I die;
These can never satisfy."
4. But now one more remark before I leave my address to confirmed saints. There are times when all the
saints can do is to desire. We have a vast number of evidences of piety: some are practical, some are
experimental, some are doctrinal; and the more evidences a man has of his piety the better, of course. We like a
number of signatures, to make a deed more valid, if possible. We like to invest property in a great number of
trustees, in order that it may be all the safer, and so we love to have many evidences. Many witnesses will carry
our case at the bar better than a few: and so it is well to have many witnesses to testify to our piety. But there are
seasons when a Christian cannot get any. He can get scarcely one witness to come and attest his godliness. He
asks for good works to come and speak him. But there will be such a cloud of darkness about him, and his good
works will appear so black that he will not dare to think of their evidences. He will say, "True, I hope this is the
right fruit, I hope I have served God but I dare not plead these works as evidences." He will have lost assurance
and with it his enjoyment of communion with God. "I have had that fellowship with him," perhaps he will say, and
he will summon that communion to come and be an evidence. But he has forgotten it, and it does not come, and
Satan whispers it is a fancy, and the poor evidence of communion has its mouth gagged, so that it cannot speak.
But there is one witness that very seldom is gagged, and one that I trust the people of God can always apply, even
in the night; and that is, "I have desired thee I have desired thee in the night." "Yes, Lord, if I have not believed in
thee, I have desired thee; and if I have not spent and been spent in thy service, yet one thing I know, and the devil
cannot beat me out of it, I have desired theethat I do knowand I have desired thee in the night, too, when no
one saw me, when troubles were round about me."
Now, my beloved, I hope there are many of you here this morning who are strong in faith. You do not,
perhaps, want what I have said; but I will advise you to take this cordial, and if you do not want to drink it now,
put it up in a small phial, and carry it about with you till you do; you do not know how long it may before you are
faint. And as Mr. Greatheart gave Christiana a bottle of wine to take with her that she might drink when she was
fatigued, so you take this, and do not laugh at a poor despised believer because he is not so strong as yourself.
You may want this yourself some day. I tell you there are times when a Christian will be ready to creep into a
mousehole if he might but get into heaven; when he would be glad to throw anything away to get into the smallest
crevice to escape from his fears; when the meanest evidence seems more precious than gold; when the very least
ray of sunlight is worth all the riches of Peru; and when a doit of comfort is more sweet than a whole heaven of it
may have been at other seasons. You may be brought into the same condition, so take this passage with you and
have it readyhave it ready to plead at the throne: "With desire have I desired thee in the night."
II. The second part of my sermon is to be occupied by speaking to NEWLY AWAKENED SOULS; and as I
have made four remarks to confirmed Christians, I will now endeavor to answer three questions to those who are
The first question they would ask me is this. How am I to know that my desires are proofs of a work of grace
in my soul? Some of you may say, I think I can go so far as the textI have desired God; I know I have desired
to be saved. I have desired to have an interest in the blood of Jesus, but how am I to know that it is a desire sent
of God, and how can I tell whether it will end in conversion? Hear me, then, while I offer one or two tests.
1. First, you may tell whether your desires are of God by their constancy. Many a man when he hears a
stirring sermon, has a very strong desire to be saved; but he goes home and forgets it. He is as a man who seeth
his face in a glass, goeth away, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he is. He returns again: once more
the arrow sticks hard in the heart of the King's enemy; he goes home, only to extract the arrow, and his goodness
is as the morning cloud; and as the early dew it passeth away. Has it been so with you? Have you had such a
desire? Will to-morrow's business take it away? Are you wanting Christ to-day? and will ye despise him
to-morrow? Then I am afraid your desires are not of God; they are merely the desires of a naturally awakened
conscience, just the stirrings of mere nature, and they will go as far as nature can go, and no farther. But if your
desires are constant ones take comfort. How long have they lasted? Have you been desiring Christ this last month
or these last three or four months? Have you been seeking him in prayer for a long season? And do you find that
you are anxious after Christ on the Monday as well as on the Sunday? Do you desire him in the shop when the
intervals of business allow you to do so? Do you seek him in the nightin the solemn loneliness, when no
ministers voice breaks on your ear, when no truth is smiting your conscience? Is it but the hectic flush of the
consumption that has come upon your cheek? which is not the mark of health. Or is it the real heat of a true
desire, which marks a healthy soul? Are you desiring God constantly? I admit there will be variations even to our
more sincere desires, but a certain measure of constancy is essential to their real value as evidences of a divine
2. Again: you may discern whether they are right or wrong by their efficacy. Some persons desire heaven very
earnestly, but they do not desire to leave off drunkenness: they desire to be saved, but they do not desire salvation
enough to shut their shops up on Sunday morning; or to bridle their tongues, and leave off speaking ill of their
neighbors. They desire salvation; but they do not desire it enough to come sometimes on the week-day to hear the
gospel. You may tell the truthfulness of your desires by their efficacy. If your desires lead you into real "works
meet for repentance," then they come from God. Wishes, you know, are nought unless they are carried out.
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