Spurgeon Sunday Week 23

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“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 morning—or 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!”…

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!”…

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!'”…

We have, perhaps, become self-confident and self-righteous. If so, that is a reason why it is not with us as in months past. Ah! my friends, that old rascal self-righteousness, you will never get rid of him as long as you live. The devil was well pictured under the form of a serpent because a serpent can creep in anywhere, though the smallest crevice. Self-righteousness is a serpent; for it will enter anywhere. If you try to serve your God, “What a fine fellow you are,” says the devil. “Ah! don’t you serve your God well! You are always preaching. You are a noble fellow.” If you go to a prayer meeting, God gives you a little gift, and you are able to pour out your heart. Presently there is a pat on the back from Satan. “Did not you pray sweetly? I know the brethren will love you; you are growing in grace very much.” If a temptation comes, and you are able to resist it, “Ah!” says he at once, “you are a true soldier of the cross; look at the enemy you have knocked down; you will have a bright crown by-and-bye; you are a brave fellow!” You go on trusting God implicitly; Satan then says, your faith is very strong: no trial can overcome you: there is a weak brother, he is not half as strong as you are!” Away you go, and scold your weak brother, because he is not as big as you, and all the while Satan is cheering you up, and saying, “What a mighty warrior you are! so faithful—always trusting in God, you have not any self-righteousness.” The minister preaches to the Pharisee: but the Pharisee is not fifty-ninth cousin to you; you are not at all self-righteous in your own opinion, and all the while you are the most self-righteous creature in existence. Ah! beloved, just when we think ourselves humble we are sure to be proud; and when we are groaning over our pride we are generally the most humble. You may just read your own estimate backwards. Just when we imagine we are the worst, we are often the best, and when we conceive ourselves the best, we are often the worst. It is that vile self-righteousness who creeps into our souls, and makes us murmur, “Oh that I were as in months past!” Your candle has got the snuff of self-righteousness upon it; you want to have that taken away, and then you will burn all right. You are soaring too high; you require something that will bring you down again to the feet of the Saviour, as a poor lost and guilty sinner—nothing at all; then you will not cry any longer. “Oh that I were as in months past!”…

Poor soul! God can make thee a new man. God the Holy Spirit can build a new house out of thee, with neither stick nor stone of the old man in it, and he can give thee a new heart, a new spirit, new pleasures new happiness, new prospects, and at last give thee a new heaven. “But,” says one “I feel that I want these things; but may I have them?” Guess whether you may have them, when I tell you—”This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners.” It does not say it is worthy of some acceptation, but it is worthy of all the acceptation you will ever give it. If you now say, “Jesus came into the world so save sinners, I believe he did! I know he did; he came to save me,” you will find it “worthy of all acceptation.” You say still, “But will he save me?” I will give you another passage: “Whosoever cometh unto me I will in no wise cast out.” Ah! but I do not know whether I may come! “Whosoever,” it saith. “Him that cometh unto me I will in no wise cast out.” “Whosoever will, let him come,” it is written. Dost thou will? I only speak to such as will, who know their need of a Saviour. Dost thou will? Then God the Holy Spirit says, “Whosoever will let him come, and take the water of life freely.”