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The Wailing of Risca

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

Category: Sermons

Source: CCN

                                          The Wailing of Risca by the REV. C.H. SPURGEON                                              

              "Suddenly are my tents spoiled, and my curtains in a moment."Jeremiah 4:20.

          THE sorrow of the weeping prophet was exceeding heavy when he uttered these words of bitter           lamentation. A great and present burden from the Lord is weighing so heavily upon our hearts this           morning, that we cannot spare so much as a moment for sympathy with the griefs of past ages. God has           visited our land, and his strokes have been exceeding hard. We are constrained to take up a wailing, and cry aloud,           "Suddenly are my tents spoiled, and my curtains in a moment." There is a spot in South Wales which has           frequently yielded me a quiet and delightful retreat. Beautiful for situation, surrounded by lofty mountains, pierced           by romantic valleys, the breathing of its air refreshes the body, and the sight of the eyes makes glad the heart. I           have climbed its hills, I have seen the ever widening landscape, the mountains of Wales, the plains of England, and           the seas sparkling afar. I have descended the hills and marked the mist creeping up the side of the hills and           covering the woods in clouds. I have mingled with its godly men and women, and worshipped God in their           assemblies. These lips have ministered the Word in that once happy valley. I have been fired with the glorious           enthusiasm of the people when they have listened to the Word. Well doth my soul remember one night, which I           shall never forget in time or in eternity, when, crowded together in the place of worship, hearty Welsh miners           responded to every word of Christ's minister, with their "gogoniants" encouraging me to preach the Gospel, and           crying "Glory to God" while the message was proclaimed. I remember how they constrained me, and kept me well           nigh to midnight, preaching three semons, one after another, almost without rest, for they loved to listen to the           gospel. God was present with us, and many a time has the baptismal pool been stirred since then by the fruit of           that night's labour. Nor shall I ever forget when standing in the open air beneath God's blue sky, I addressed a           mighty gathering within a short distance of that spot; when the Spirit of God was poured upon us, and men and           women were swayed to and fro under the heavenly message, as the corn is moved in waves by the summer           winds. Great was our joy that day when the people met together in thousands, and with songs and praises           separated to their homes, talking of what they had heard. But now our visitation of that neighbourhood must ever           be mingled with sorrow. How hath God been pleased to smite down strong men, and to take away the young men           upon a sudden! "How suddenly are my tents spoiled, and my curtains in a moment." Oh! vale of Risca, I take up a           lamentation for thee: the Lord hath dealt sorely with thee. Behold, and see if there be sorrow in any valley like           unto thy sorrow which is done unto thee. The angel of death has emptied out his quiver upon thee; the awful           reaper hath gathered to himself full sheaves from thy beautifull valley.               You all know the story; it scarce needs that I should tell it to you. Last Saturday week some two hundred or           more miners descended in health and strength to their usual work in the bowels of the earth. They had not been           working long, their wives and their children had risen, and their little ones had gone to their schools, when           suddenly there was heard a noise at the mouth of the pit;it was an explosion,all knew what it meant. Men's           hearts failed them, for well they prophesied the horror which would soon reveal itself. They wait awhile, the foul           gas must first be scattered, brave men with their lives in their hands descend into the pit, and when they are able to           see with the dim miner's lamp, the light falls upon corpse after corpse. A few, a handful are brought up alive, and           scarce alive, but yet, thank God, with enough of the vital spark remaining to be again kindled to a flame; but the           great mass of those strong men have felt the grip of death. Some of them were brought up to the top with their           faces burned and scarred, with their bodies disfigured by the fire; but many are discovered whose faces looked as           if they sweetly slept, so that it was scarcely possible to believe that they really could be dead, so quietly had the           spirit quitted the habitation of clay. Can you picture to yourselves the scene? The great fires lit around the pit,           flaming both night and day, the thick mist, the pouring rain drenching the whole of the valley. Do you see the           women as they come clustering round the pit, shrieking for their sons, and their husbands, and their fathers. Do           you hear that shrill scream as yonder woman has just discovered the partner of her soul; and there do you mark           another bending over the form of her two stalwart sons, now alas taken from her for ever? Do you mark the           misery that sits upon the face of some who have not found their sons, or their fathers, or their husbands, or their           brothers, and who know not where they are, and feel a thousand deaths themselves because they feel convinced           that their precious ones have fallen, though their corpses cannot be found? The misery in that valley is past           description; those who have witnessed it, fail to be able to picture it. As the cry of Egypt in the night when the           destroying angel went through all the land and smote the firstborn; as the wail of Rachel when she could not be           comforted for her children, because they were not; such has been the howling, the weeping, the lamentation of           that fair but desolate valley.               My friends, this judgment has a voice to us, and the scarce buried bodies of those men which lie around us in           vision, have each a sorrowful lesson. The cry of the widow, and of the childless mother, shall come up into our           ears to-day; and, O Lord God of Saboath, may it so arouse us that we may hear, and fear, and tremble, and turn           unto theethat this dread calamity may be to us the means of our salvation, or if saved, the means of stirring us           up more earnestly to seek the salvation of our fellow men.               There are three points upon which I shall try to address you this morning, though I feel inadequate to such a           task. First, I shall say somewhat upon sudden bereavements; then I shall dwell awhile upon the fact of sudden           death; and afterwards we will say but a little, for we know but little, of the sudden exchange which sudden death           shall bring both to saints and sinners.               I. Our first sorrowful theme is SUDDEN BEREAVEMENTS.               Alas! alas! how soon may we be childless; how soon may we be widowed of the dearest objects of our           affections! O Lord, thou hast shown to us this day, how soon thou canst blast our gourds and wither all the fruits           of our vineyard. The dearest ones, the partners of our blood, how soon can death proclaim a divorce between           usour children, the offspring of our loins, how soon canst thou lay them beneath the sod. We have not a single           relative who may not become to us within the next moment a fountain of grief. All that are dear and precious to us           are only here by God's good pleasure. What should we be to-day if it were not for those whom we love, and who           love us? What were our house without its little prattlers? What were our habitation without the wife of our bosom?           What were our daily business without our associates and friends to cheer us in our trials? Ah! this were a sad           world indeed, if the ties of kindred, of affection, and of friendship all be snapped; and yet it is such a world that           they must be sundered, and may be divided at any moment.               From the fact that sudden bereavements are possiblenot only to miners and to women whose husbands are           upon the sea, but to us alsoI would that we would learn profitable lessons. And first let us learn to set loose by           our dearest friends that we have on earth. Let us love themlove them we may, love them we shouldbut let us           always learn to love them as dying things. Oh, build not thy nest on any of these trees, for they are all marked for           the axe. "Set not thine affections on things on earth," for the things of earth must leave thee, and then what wilt           thou do when thy joy is emptied, and the golden bowl which held thy mirth shall be dashed to pieces? Love first           and foremost Christ; and when thou lovest others, still love them not as though they were immortal. Love not clay           as though it were undyinglove not dust as though it were eternal. So hold thy friend that thou shalt not wonder           when he vanishes from thee; so view the partakers of thy life that thou wilt not be amazad when they glide into           the land of spirits. See thou the disease of mortality on every cheek, and write not Eternal upon the creature of an           hour.               Take care that thou puttest all thy dear ones into God's hand. Thou hast put thy soul there, put them there.           Thou canst trust him for temporals for thyself, trust thy jewels with him. Feel that they are not thine own, but that           they are God's loans to thee; loans which may be recalled at any momentprecious benisons of heaven, not           entailed upon thee, but of which thou art but a tenant at will. Your possessions are never so safe as when you are           willing to resign them, and you are never so rich as when you put all you have into the hand of God. You shall           find it greatly mitigate the sorrow of bereavements, if before bereavement you shall have learned to surrender           every day all the things that are dearest to you into the keeping of your gracious God.               Further, then, you who are blessed with wife and children, and friends, take care that you bless God for them.           Sing a song of praise to God who hath blessed you so much than others. You are not a widow, but there are many           that wear the weeds, and why is it not your lot? You are not bereaven of your spouse, but there is many a man           whose heart is rent in twain by such a calamity,why is it not your portion too? You have not to follow           to-morrow your little ones to their narrow gravesearly flowers that did but bud and never ripened, withering           alas! too soon. Oh! by the sorrow which you would feel if they were taken away, I exhort you to bless God for           them while you have them. We sorrow much when our gifts are taken away, but we fail to thank God that he           spared them to us so long. Oh! be not ungrateful, lest thou provoke the Lord to smite very low the mercy which           thou dost not value. Sing unto the Lord, sing unto his name. Give unto him the blessing which he deserves for his           sparing favors which he has manifested towards you in your household.               And then permit me to remind you that if these sudden bereavements may come, and there may be a dark           chamber in any house in a moment, and the coffin may be in any one of our habitations, let us so act to our           kinsfolk and relatives as though we knew they were soon about to die. Young man, so treat thy hoary father as           thou wouldst behave to him if thou knewest he would die to-morrow. When thou shalt follow him to the grave,           amidst all thy tears for his loss, let there not be one tear of repentance because of thine ill behaviour to him. And           you godly fathers and mothers, to you I have a special messageyour children are committed to your care; they           are growing up, and what if after they be grown up they should plunge into sin and die at last impenitent! Oh, let           not the fierce regret sting you like an adder,"Oh that I had prayed for my children! Oh that I had taught them           before they departed." I pray you so live, that when you stand over your child's dead body you may never hear a           voice coming up from that clay, "Father, thy negligence was my destruction. Mother, thy want of prayer was the           instrument of my damnation." But so live, that when you hear the funeral knell, for a neighbour even, you may be           able to say, "Poor soul, whether he is gone to heaven or to hell, I know I am clear of is blood." And with double           earnestness be it so with your children. "Yes," says one "but I have thought of teaching my children more of           Christ, and being more earnest in prayer for them bye-and-bye," but what if they should die to-morrow? "Yes,"           says the wife, "I have thought of speaking to my ungodly husband, and trying to induce him to attend the house of           God with me, but I was afraid he would only laugh at me, so I put it off for a month or two." Ah! what if he dies           before you have cleared your conscience of him? Oh, my brothers and sisters in Christ, if sinners will be damned,           at least let them leap to hell over our bodies; and if they will perish, let them perish with our arms about their           knees, imploring them to stay, and not madly to destroy themselves. If hell must be filled, at least let it be filled in           the teeth of our exertions, and let not one go there unwarned and unprayed for.               In the light, then, of sudden bereavements, let not another hour pass over your head, when you have reached           home, before you have freed your conscience of the blood of your children's souls. Gather them together around           you this afternoon, and say to them, "My dear children, I have learned to day that you may die; I knew it before,           but I have had it impressed upon my mind by a solemn incident. My dear children, I cannot help telling you, that           as you must die, I am anxious that God's Holy Spirit should graciously lead you to repent of sin and seek a           Saviour." And then, when you have told them the way to salvation in simple terms, put your arms about their           necks, and bid the little ones kneel down and pray, "O God! upon their infant hearts, stamp thou, the image of           thyself. As they are in the image of the earthy, so make them in the image of the heavenly, that at the last I may           be able to say, 'Here am I, and the children thou hast given me.'"               II. The second head of my discourse this morning was to be, SUDDEN DEATH, AS WE VIEW IT MORE           PARTICULARLY IN RELATION TO OURSELVES.               The miners of Risca had no more idea of dying that Saturday morning than you or I have, nor did there seem           much likelihood that they would. They had gone up and down the pit, some of them, many thousands of times in           their lives. It is true that some had perished there, but then, how very many had gone up and down and had not           perished. Nay, they had grown so fearless of danger, that some of them even thrust themselves into it, and in           defiance of every regulation for the preservation of human life, they were bold and careless, and would gratify a           selfish indulgence when a spark might have caused the destruction of them all. We will not say that it was any           negligence that caused this accidentGod forbid that we should lay anything to the charge of those who have now           departed, and have to answer before their Godbut, at any rate, sure it is that men who have most to do with           danger are generally the most callous, and those who are most exposed are usually utterly careless about the very           danger which others see but which they will not see themselves. Any warning you or I might have given them           would have been thought unnecessary, if not impertinent. "Why need I be so careful? I have done this fifty times           before. Why may I not do it again?" But as in a moment, although there was no lightning flash, no earthquake, no           opening of a pit to swallow them up, quick in a moment the gas explodes and they stand before the Eternal God. It           was but the twinkling of an eye, even as though the last trump had sounded (and indeed it did sound as far as they           were concerned), and down fell the lifeless corpse, and the spirit returned to God who made it. And you and I are           in danger too. We are not in the pit in the midst of explosive air, but there are a thousand gates to death. How           many there be who have fallen dead in the streets? How many sitting in their own homes? I stayed but a week or           two ago with an excellent Christian man, who was then in the halest and most hearty health. I was startled indeed           when I heard immediately after that he had come home, and sitting down in his chair had shut his eyes and died.           And these things are usual, and in such a city as ours we cannot go down a street without hearing of some such           visitation. Well, our turn must come. Perhaps we shall die falling asleep in our beds after long sickness, but           probably we shall be suddenly called in such an hour as we think not to face the realities of eternity. Well, if it be           so, if there be a thousand gates to death, if all means and any means may be sufficient to stop the current of our           life, if really, after all, spiders' webs and bubbles are more substantial things than human life, if we are but a           vapour, or a dying taper that soon expires in darkness, what then? Why, first, I say, let us all look upon ourselves           as dying men, let us not reckon on to-morrow. Oh! let us not procrastinate, for taken in Satan's great net of           procrastination we may wait, and wait, and wait, till time is gone and the great knell of eternity shall toll our           dissolution. To-day is your only time. O mortal men, the present moment is the only moment you may call your           own, and oh! how swift its wings! This hour is yours; yesterday is gone; to-morrow is with God, and may never           come. "To-day if ye hear his voice harden not your hearts." Many have had their first impressions from thoughts           of death, and hence it is that Satan never likes to let a man think of the grave. I know a family in which the           governess, the daughter of a Christian minister, was told upon her entering her office, that she was never to           mention the subject of death to the children. They were never to know even that children might die. I did not           marvel when I knew the infidelity of the head of the household. What better atmosphere for an infidel to breathe           in, than where the blast of death is never felt? Infidels ought to be immortal. They ought to live in a world where           they can never die, for their infidelity will never be able to pass the stream of Jordan. There are infidels on earth,           but there are none in heaven, and there can be none in hell. They are convincedconvinced by terrible           factsconvinced that there is a God while they are crushed beneath his vengeance, and made to tremble at his           eternal power. But I pray you, sirs, be not such fools as to live as though your bones were iron and your ribs were           brass. Let us not be such madmen as to run as though there were no bounds to our race; let us not play away our           precious days as though days were common as sands on a sea shore. That hour-glass yonder contains all the sands           of your life. Do you see them running? How swiftly do they empty out! With some of you, the most of the sands           are in the bottom bulb of the glass, and there are only a few to go trickling through the narrow passway of its days.           Ah! and that glass shall never be turned again; it shall never run a second time for you. Let it once run out and you           will die. Oh! live as though you meant to die. Live as though you knew you might die to-morrow. Think as though           you might die now, and act this very hour as though I could utter the mandate of death, and summon you to pass           through the portals of the tomb.               And then take care, I pray you, that you who do know Christ not only live as though you meant to die, but           live while you live. Oh what a work we have to do, and how short the time to do it! Millions of men unconverted           yet, and nothing but our feeble voice with which to preach the Word! My soul, shalt thou ever condemn thyself in           thy dying moments for having preached too often or too earnestly? No, never. Thou mayest rebuke thy soul, but           thou canst never bemoan thy excessive industry. Minister of Christ! in thy dying hour it will never be a theme of           reproach to you that you preached ten times in the week, that you stood up every day to preach Christ, and that           you so preached that you spent yourself, and wasted your body with weakness. No, it will be our dull sermons           that will haunt us on our dying beds, our tearless preaching, our long studyings, when we might have preached           better had we come away and preached without them; our huntings after popularity, by gathering together fine           words, instead of coming right up, and saying to the people, "Men and women, you are dying, escape for your life           and fly to Christ;" preaching to them in red-hot simple words of the wrath to come and of the love of Christ. Oh!           there are some of you members of our churches, who are living, but what are you living for? Surely you are not           living to get moneythat is the worldling's object. Are you living merely to please yourselves? Why that is but the           beast's delight. Oh! how few there are of the members of our churches who really live for God with all their might.           Do we give to God as much as we give to our own pleasures? Do we give Christ's service as much time as we           give to many of our trifling amusements? Why, we have professional men of education, men of excellent training           and ability, who when they once get into a church, feel that they could be very active anywhere else, but as           Christians they have nothing to do. They can be energetic in parish vestries or in the rifle corps, but in the church           they give their name, but their energies are dormant. Ah! my dear hearers, you who love the Saviour, when we           shall come before Christ in heaven, if there can be a regret, it will be that we did not do more for Christ while we           were here. I think as we fall down before his feet and worship him, if we could know a sorrow, it would be           because we did not bring him in more jewels for his crowndid not seek more to feed the hungry, or to clothe the           nakeddid not give more to his cause, and did not labour more that the lost sheep of the house of Israel might be           restored. Live while you live; while it is called to-day, work, for the night cometh wherein no man can work.               And let us learn never to do anything which we would not wish to be found doing if we were to die. We are           sometimes asked by young people whether they may go to the theatre, whether they may dance, or whether they           may do this or that. You may do anything which you would not be ashamed to be doing when Christ shall come.           You may do anything which you would not blush to be found doing if the hand of death should smite you; but if           you would dread to die in any spot, go not there; if you would not wish to enter the presence of your God with           such-and-such a word upon your lip, utter not that word; or if there would be a thought that would be uncongenial           to the judgement-day, seek not to think that thought. So act that you may feel you can take your shroud with you           wherever you go. Happy is he that dies in his pulpit. Blessed is the man that dies in his daily business, for he is           found with his loins girt about him serving his Master; but, oh, unhappy must he be to whom death comes as an           intruder, and finds him engaged in that which he will blush to have ever touched, when God shall appear in           judgment. Power supreme; thou everlasting King; permit not death to intrude upon an ill-spent hour, but find me           rapt in meditation high; hymning my great Creator; proclaiming the love of Jesus, or lifting up my heart in prayer           for myself and my fellow-sinners. Let me but serve my God, and then, Death, I will not say to thee when thou           mayest comecome when thou wilt; but if I might choose, come to me while I am yearning after souls; come to           me when the cry of inviting love is on my lip, and when I am weeping over the souls of men. Come to me, then,           that men may say,

                                          "He did his body with his charge lay down,                                    

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