God Rejoicing in the New Creation
Intended for Reading on Lord's-day, July 5th, 1891,
C. H. SPURGEON,
At the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington
"Behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind. But be ye glad and rejoice for ever in that which I create: for, behold, I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy. And I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and joy in my people."Isaiah 65:17-19.
HIS PASSAGE, like the rest of Isaiah's closing chapters, will have completest fulfillment in the latter days when Christ shall come, when the whole company of his elect ones shall have been gathered out from the world, when the whole creation shall have been renewed, when new heavens and a new earth shall be the product of the Savior's power, when, for ever and for ever, perfected saints of God shall behold his face, and joy and rejoice in him. I hope and believe that the following verses will actually describe the condition of the redeemed during the reign of Christ upon the earth: "There shall be no more thence an infant of days, nor an old man that hath not filled his days: for the child shall die an hundred years old. They shall build houses, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, and eat the fruit of them. They shall not build, and another inhabit; they shall not plant, and another eat: for as the days of a tree are the days of my people, and mine elect shall long enjoy the work of their hands. They shall not labor in vain, nor bring forth for trouble; for they are the seed of the blessed of the Lord, and their offspring with them. And it shall come to pass, that before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear. The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, and the lion shall eat straw like the bullock: and dust shall be the serpent's meat. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain, saith the Lord."
And only man is vile."
There are lovely spots on this fair globe which ought to make even a blasphemer devout. I have said, among the mountains, "he who sees no God here is mad." There are things that God has made which overwhelm with a sense of his Omnipotence: how can men see them, and doubt the existence of the Deity? Whether you consider the anatomy of the body, or the conformation of the mighty heavens, you wonder that the scorner does not bow his headat least in silenceand own the infinite supremacy of God.
Well, now, if there beand I am sure there issomething pure and elevating in joy in God as the Creator of ordinary thingsas the Maker of all this first creationmuch more is there something bright, and pure, and spiritually exhilarating, in rejoicing in God's higher works, in God's spiritual works, in God's new creation. Methinks, if a man feels within him a new heart, and rejoices in his new birth; if he sees in others new and holier lives, and rejoices in them; if he listens to the preaching of the gospel, and discovers in it now and better principles, such as the old worn-out world could never have discoveredwhy, that man is a gracious man. The eye that can see the new nature is an eye that grace has given, and newly opened to new light. The heart that can rejoice in the new creation is a heart that is itself renewed, or else it would not comprehend spiritual things, and could not rejoice in them. I invite you, therefore, dear friendsyou that see, and know, and somewhat appreciate the new creation in its beginningsto joy, and to rejoice in it to-night. It is a delightful thing that God should make a tree, and bid it come forth in the springtide with all its budding verdure. It is a far better thing that God should take a poor thorny heart like yours and mine, and transform it till it becomes like the fir-tree or the pine-tree to his praise. It is a charming sight when bulbs, that have slept under ground through the winter, hold up their golden cups to be filled with the glory of the returning sun. But how much better that hearts that have lain dead in trespasses and sins should be moved by the secret touch of the Spirit of God to welcome the Sun of righteousness, and to rejoice in him! How glorious to see a slum become a sanctuary, a den of thieves a house of God! This is even more wonderful than for darkness to become light, and chaos yield to order. God's new creation, even in its beginnings here, and now, is a something to delight one's soul in. I pray you, delight yourselves therein. Behold, in the creation of a new heart, the manifest finger of God! What power to turn the human willto subdue fierce passionsto change the very core and center of the heart! This is power in the moral and spiritual world as great as anything which can be seen even in the convulsions of earthquakes. Herein is wisdom too! We speak of the wisdom of God as soon in anatomy, in botany; or in astronomy; yet this wisdom is still more to be seen in regenerationin the making of the sinner who wandered from God, to become a saint who follows after holiness, in the bringing of the opposer of Christ to become his friend and advocate. To rule the will, and yet leave it free; to guide the heart, and yet to let it choose; to reverse the law of being, and yet to violate no law of man's natureherein is the wisdom of the Highest himself. The attributes of God are to be seen in the visible creation; but they are to be seen in a brighter and superior light in the new creation. There is no one of the attributes of God which has not its illustration under the economy of grace; and blessed shall your whole being be if you can to the full rejoice in that which God creates.
There is one reason why you are called upon to rejoice in it, namely, that you are a part of it. When the angels saw God making this world, they sang together, and shouted for joy; but they were not a part of this lower world. They had nothing to do with man's estate, save as a matter of sympathy. But as for this new creation of our gracious God, you and I, beloved, who have believed in Jesus, are part of it. That same grace, which has quickened others into new life, has quickened us. The same Spirit, who has given new principles and new desires to others, has given them to us also. The Father hath begotten us again by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. We are the central beings of the new creation, and so let us joy and rejoice in it with all our soul, and mind, and strength.
I know, when I lay sore sick and tormented in body, it seemed always to be such a joy to me that I myself, my inner self, my spirit, had been new-created, and that my nobler part could rise above the suffering, and soar into the pure heavens of the spiritual realm; and I said of this poor body, "Thou hast not yet been new-created. Still doth the venom of the old serpent taint thee; but thou shalt yet be delivered. Thou shalt rise again if thou diest, and art buried, or thou shalt be changed if the Lord should suddenly come. Thou, poor body, thou that draggest me down to the dust in pain and sorrow, even thou shalt rise, and be made anew in 'the adoption, to wit, the redemption of the body'; for the now creation has begun in me, even the earnest of the Spirit." O beloved, cannot you rejoice in this? I would incite you to do so. Rejoice in what God is doing in this new creation! Let your whole spirit be glad! Overflow with gladness! Let loose the torrents of praise! Leap down, ye cataracts of joy!
Well, that is our first point. It is a joy in creation.
II. And, secondly, IT IS A JOY WHICH WILL ECLIPSE ALL THAT HAS GONE BEFORE.
Now, my text is, "And the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind." God's great new-creating work ought to fill us with such joy as to make us forget the old creation, as though we said to ourselves:What are the sun and the moon? We shall not have need of these variable lights in the perfection of the new creation, for in heaven, "They need no candle, neither light of the sun." What is the sea, though it be the very mirror of beauty? In that new creation there will be no more sea, and storms, and tempests will be all unknown. What are these luxuries of sight and hearing? We shall not want them when our eyes shall behold the King in his beauty in the land that is very far off, the joy of the spiritual is such that, while it admits the joy of the natural, yet, nevertheless, it swallows it up as Aaron's rod swallowed up the rods of the magicians. In those last days we shall be in tune with Dr. Watts when he sang
To our believing eyes!
The earth and seas are pass'd away,
And the old rolling skies.
"From the third heaven, where God resides,
"The God of glory down to men
"His own soft hand shall wipe the tears
As an instance of the expulsive power of a new delight, we all know how the memory of the old dispensation is gone from us. Brethren, did any one of you ever weep because you did not sit at the Passover? Did you ever regret the Paschal lamb? Oh, never, because you have fed on Christ! Was there ever man that knows his Lord that ever did lament that he had not the sign of the old Abrahamic covenant in his flesh? Nay, he gladly dispenses with the rites of the old covenant, since he has the fullness of their meaning in his Lord. The believer is circumcised in Christ, buried in Christ, risen in Christ, and in Christ exalted to the heavenly places. Did you ever regret the absence of the burnt-offering, or the red heifer, or any one of the sacrifices and rites of the Jews? Did you ever pine for the feast of tabernacles, or the dedication? No, because, though those were like the old heavens and earth to the Jewish believers, they have passed away, and we now live under new heavens and a new earth, so far as the dispensation of divine teaching is concerned. The substance is come, and the shadow has gone; and we do not remember it.
Now, I want you to feel just the same with regard to all your former life as you now feel towards that old dispensation. The world is dead to you, and you to the world. Carnal customs and attractions are for you abolished, even as the ancient sacrifices are abolished. What were your sins? They are blotted out: the depths have covered them: you shall see them again no more for ever. Seek not after them as though you had a lingering esteem for them. Let them not come to mind, except to excite you to repentance. What were your pleasures when you lived in sin? Forget them. They were very vapid, deceptive, destructive evils. You have a higher pleasure now which enchants your soul. What have been the sorrows of your past life, especially your sorrows while coming to Christ? You need not remember them; but, like the woman who remembereth no more her travail for the joy that a man is born into the world, so your birth into the new creation causes you to forget all the sufferings of your spirit in coming there. "Old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new!" I would to God that the joy of the new creation would so fill us right up to the brim that we should not imaging any other joy. This puts out all other joy as the sun hides all the stars. Let all go; let all go: rolled up as the heavens and the earth are to be, like vestures all outworn, let all of my past life be laid aside. Now put I on my new dress of sparkling joy and delight in the new things, for has not Christ made all things new to me? A new song is in my mouth, even praise to him for evermore; a new law is in my heart; and a new service engages all my powers.
There is great scope for enlargement here, but I will not linger, lest I chase away your joy by speaking about it unto weariness.
III. In the third place, IT IS A PRESENT AND A LASTING JOY; "But be ye glad and rejoice FOR EVER in that which I create." Be now glad, and now rejoice: it is a present joy. Take a delightful interest in that which God is now creating in the spiritual realm: though the work be only in the doing, yet be glad concerning it. Be glad in anything that the Lord has created in you. Has he created in you so much of the new life as to have produced conviction, repentance, faith in Christ, hope in the promise, longing for holiness? Be glad in this even if you have other circumstances pressing upon you, and causing you to be heavy of heart. Though you might be mourning because you are so sickly, yet be glad that you are born again. If somewhat distressed because you are so poor, yet be glad that you are a child of God, and have a place in the new family of love. Let the old things go, and grasp the new, the heavenly. The old creationbear with it a little longer, for the time of your redemption from its bondage draweth nigh. Find your joy where God would have you find it, namely, in that part of your nature which is new, in the now principles, the now promises, the now covenant, and the blood of the new covenant, which are yoursall of them. Look no longer for the living among the dead, but let your heart dwell in the living world with your living Lord, and be glad. The kingdom of God is within you, rejoice in it.
And I want you, also, to find your joy in the new creation of God, as you see it in others. The angels rejoice over one sinner that repents; surely you and I ought to do so! Try and do good, and bring others to Christ, and when a soul shows signs of turning to its God, let that be your joy. "be glad and rejoice in that which I create." I have had many rich draughts from this cup. I do not know anything that has made me so happy, hundreds and thousands of times in my life, as to see God at work in men's hearts; and, without exaggeration, to hear of this one and of that brought to Christ through the hearing or the reading of my sermons has been a heaven to me Oh, you may drink as much as you like of this cup of sympathy with God in his now creation-work! There is no intoxication about itto find a joy in the work of God in the hearts of others is healthy, unselfish delight. I know some snarling people who, if they hear of one being converted, say that "they hope it is genuine," which, being interpreted, means that they do not believe it is, and they almost hope it is not. "Oh, but," they say, if there is a great work done anywhere, "I never did like excitement! When I hear of many conversions, I expect many backsliding." Cold, dead fish that they are, excitement would not hurt them. A little boiling might do them good, perhaps. Ay, but if they meet with one who is an eminent Christian, and whose public character will bear the closest inspection, they say: "Ah, well! we do not know what he is at home;" and so they have always some sly word to say against God's work, just like the serpent in Eden coming, and hissing, "Yea, hath God said?" I would far rather be one of those that can see the beauty of God's handiwork in my fellow-Christians, than one who can spy out their defect. I think it is very beautiful where John Bunyan represents Christiana and Mercy as admiring each other. They had both enjoyed a wash in that wonderful beauty-giving bath, and Mercy said to Christiana, "How beautiful you are! I never saw anyone look so lovely as you are." But Christiania said that she was not beautiful at all; she could not see anything about herself to admire, while in Mercy she saw everything to esteem and love. Oh, to have an eye for the work of God in other people, and to rejoice in it! Such an eye sees not itself, and yet it is itself one of God's loveliest works. "Be ye glad and rejoice," says God, "in that which I create." Can we decline the sacred invitation? Nay, rather let us thankfully enter into the joy of our Lord. Be thankful for what God has done for yourself; be thankful for what God is doing in other people; and recollect that, if you once begin this joy, you need never renounce it, for the text says, "Be ye glad and rejoice for ever." Every day, and all the day, this light of joy is shining, for the Creator stays not his hand. As long as ever you live, there will be something in the new creation that shall be to you a wolf-spring of fresh joy and delight. Heaven will only enlarge this self-same joy. Be glad for ever, because God will ever be creating something fresh in which you may be glad.
IV. Again, in the fourth place, it may be said of the joy which we ought to feel, that IT IS A JOY WHICH GOD INTENDED FOR US: "For, behold, I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy." He has made the new city, the new people, the new world to be a source of joy.
Take Jerusalem as the emblem of the church of God. God always intended that his chosen, called, and converted people should be a rejoicing. He created you on purpose that you should yourselves be happy, and bring happiness to others. Do you not know that his name is the happy God, and nothing gives him greater happiness than to give happiness to his creatures? Do you think you were chosen to be a groaner all your days? Were you called to misery, dear brother? Does Jesus Christ say, "Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will make you doleful"? Does he say, "Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me, and ye shall find agony in your hearts"? No; but he talks about rest, and peace, and joy, and blessedness. One wrote to me, some years ago, and said that he came into this congregation, and he felt at once that he must be in the wrong place, because he found so large an assembly. God's people, he said, are a small remnant; there are few that shall be saved. He had settled that matter in his own expanded soul. But he was still more sure that he was in the wrong place when he looked at me, for I looked happy; and in his judgment, if I had known anything about the experience of a tried child of God, my face would have been much longer, more wrinkled, and more sadly serious. I confess that my face does betray at times the fact that I am happy; and I cannot help it. But when this good man looked round on the great congregationyou were not all here thenbut when he looked round on the vast congregation, and saw them all looking so happy, he felt that he must get out of the building as soon as he could, for such smiling people could not be the afflicted people of God. He walked, he said, some distance along our streets, feeling heavy at heart because of the joy he had witnessed; but at last he reached a little place in a court. The very aspect of the chapel gave him hopeit was so small, and so hidden away. He entered, and, to his satisfaction, he found in the congregation less than a score: here were the faithful few. At any rate, he could say of this, "Is it not a little one?" The minister was as doleful as could be desired, and the subject was full of lamentation. He tells me that he sat down there in peace, for he found himself at home. I am glad he was suited. Different people have different ways, you know; and some love to be comfortably wretched. But I find myself miserable only when I keep away from my Lord and his work of new-creation. I have always found hitherto that when I can get under the shadow of his wings, my soul is at rest, and I look upon that restfulness and happiness as the work and fruit of the Spirit"the fruit of the Spirit is joy and peace." My impression is that I am not right when I give way to depression and melancholy. I certainly should not go to a place of worship seeking for doubt and despondency. Neither should I conclude that I must be on the way to heaven, because I felt in my own heart some of the miseries of hell. When I am despondent, I say to myself, "Why art thou cast down, O my soul?" I probably know as much about depression of spirit as any man that lives; but I consider myself foolish and blameworthy, a fool for knowing so much darkness, and I do not want to feel any more of it. I would like to drive myself out of it once for all if I could; for we ought to be glad, and rejoice for ever in that which God creates. He has created his people a rejoicing: yea, his people to be a joy. Ours is a heritage of joy and peace. My dear brethren and sisters, if anybody in the world ought to be happy, we are the people. How large our obligations! How boundless our privileges! How brilliant our hopes!
Of that long'd-for nuptial day,
When our heavenly Bridegroom meets us
On his kingly, conquering way;
In the glory,
Bride and Bridegroom reign for aye."
What should make us miserable? Shall the children of the bridechamber mourn while the Bridegroom is with them? Sin?that is forgiven. Affliction?that is working our good. Inward corruptions?they are doomed to die. Satanic temptations?we wear an armor which they cannot penetrate. We have every reason for delight, and we have moreover this command for it, "Delight thyself also in the Lord, and he will give thee the desires of thy heart." God bring us into that blessed condition, and keep us there!
God intended not only that we should have joy, but that we should spread it among others. He intends that wherever we go we should be light-bearers, and set other lamps shining. Why are some so afraid of joy? They seem, wherever they go, to be busy in turning out the lambs. The first thing to be done is, "Take that child out." Dear little child, with its pleasant prattle, so happy at your feet!why send it away? If there is a very happy hymn in the book, do not sing it: it would be presumptuous. Sing
Crooked metre, key dismal, tune dolorous. I fear that certain Christians go through this world making it miserable as they march through it. Oh, that they could see that Christ has come to destroy the works of the devil, and would have us rejoice in the new creation of our God!
Alas, there are heady, hard-hearted persons abroad who, by their wilfulness and pride, would crush every flower in the garden beneath their wicked hoofs! Wherever they go, everything is despised, ridiculed, and kicked by them! This is the spirit of the evil one. Oh, do not so! Christian people, you dare not be so; you shall not be so: God will not let you be so: you must be gentle, compassionate, generous, kind, gracious. Wherever you go, try to make others happy; for God creates Jerusalem a rejoicing, and his people a joy: a joy to others who have no joy, a source of happiness to the saddest of our race. Help the widow, comfort the fatherless, succor the poor, cheer the desponding, tell the glad news to the weary heart. In the Father's hands, in Christ's hands, in the Spirit's hands, seek to break the prisoner's fetters, and to bring him out into the light of liberty: you, too, are anointed to proclaim liberty to the captives. May the God of infinite mercy help you and help me so to do!
Now, dear friends, just for a minute upon this creation. I want to show how the work of God does create a joy-making people. As soon as ever we are converted, what is one of the first things that comes of it? Why, joy. The morning I found Christ it snowed very hard. The snow-flakes fluttered around me, like white doves, as I went home; and I felt just as light as those, for my soul was washed whiter than snow. It was not a gloomy winter's day to me: but all nature wore her bridal dress in sympathy with my delight. Was it not so with you on the day of your now birth? Were you not as happy as ever you could be when you first found the Savior? So far, you see, the Lord creates joy; and it is better still further on. When the creation of God goes on, and a man is helped to conquer sin, when the work of grace in his soul grows and increases, he cries, "Thanks be to God which giveth us the victory," and he gets increased joy in his soul over every conquered sin. When you and I see sin subdued, do we not feel happy? Whenever the news comes to me that a man has been reclaimed from drunkenness, or a woman is saved from the streets, or when I hear of a hard-hearted sinner repenting, I rejoice in the Lord. Conversion-days are our high holidays. Revivals are our jubilees. Thus the Lord gives us opportunities for joy and rejoicing as his new-creation work proceeds stage by stage. Better days are in store, it may be, and I trust that in years to come we shall more and more behold God working, and shall rejoice therein.
But, by-and-by, there ill be a still greater joy. We shall enter into heaven, and there will be joy among the angels, and joy in our heart over God's new-creation work, which will proceed at a glorious rate. Then the nations will be converted to God. I know not when, nor exactly how, but the day shall come when Christ shall reign from pole to pole. And what a joy that will be! We shall indeed be glad in that which God creates, as the islands of the sea shall ring out his praise! Then Christ the Lord will come, and what joy and rejoicing there will be in that day when he has fully fashioned the new earth and the now heavens! His ancient people, the seed of Abraham, shall be gathered in with exultation. We will clap our hands when the longwandering nation shall turn unto the true God, and own the rejected Messiah, of the house of David! the Gentiles will not be jealous. They will rejoice as the Jew comes in; and then will the Jews rejoice over the Gentiles, as they see them worshipping Abraham's God. Everything that is to come in the eternal future flashes light into the eyes of believers, and calls upon them to rejoice in anticipation. Nothing prophesied should be dreaded by us. There is nothing foretold by seer, or beheld in vision, that can alarm the Christian. He can stand serenely on the brink of the great eternity, and say, "Come on! Let every event foretold become a fact! Pour out your vials, ye angels! Fall, thou star called Wormwood! Come, Gog and Magog, to the last great battle of Armageddon!" Nothing is to be dreaded: nothing is to be feared by those who are one with Jesus. To us remains nothing but joy and rejoicing, for God hath made his people a rejoicing; yea, his people a Joy.
V. I finish up with the last point, IT IS A JOY IN WHICH WE SHARE WITH GOD. Gently, my tongue! Timidly and cautiously speak thou here! Here is thy warrant for supposing a fellowship with God and man in this joy"Behold, I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy. And I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and joy in my people." The wonderful comes out here. God himself, the Ever-blessed, finds joy in his new creation. Herein is ground for marvelling. I have often said to you that, when the Lord made the material world, there was not much in it to touch his spiritual nature, and so he simply spoke and said, in plain prose, "It is good." That was all: he said it was good. But when the Lord has made new heavens and earth, when he has finished, when the bride of Christ shall be brought to himyou know the word, "He will rest in his love, he will joy over her with singing." Did you ever get into your hearts the idea of the Lord God singing? God singing over his church, over his Jerusalem, over his new creation! God singing! I can understand the angels singing for joy over God's work, but here is God singing over his own work. I will tell you something more wonderful than that: it is that you should be a part of that work, and that God should sing over you. And yet it is not so very wonderful, for is he not the Father, and doth not the Father sing over his prodigal son that wandered and is come back? is he not the Savior, and will not the Savior, who bought us with his blood, sing over us who are the purchase of his agonies? He is the Spirit, and shall not the Spirit, who has striven with us, and wrought all our works in us, sing when his work is done, and we are sanctified? Father, when thy eternal purposes are all fulfilled, thou wilt joy over thy people! Son of God, Redeemer, when all thy agonies shall have received their recompense in the salvation of thy redeemed, thou wilt rejoice over thy chosen! Holy Ghost, when all thy condescending, indwelling within us shall have accomplished its design, thou wilt rejoice in thy people! Come now, beloved, rejoice in sympathy with the divine heart! When the father found his son, he made the whole household merry, and shall not we be? When the woman had found her piece of money, she called together her friends and neighbors and she said, "Rejoice with me; for I have found the piece which I had lost." Shall not we rejoice with the Spirit over the lost silver pieces? When the shepherd brought home his sheep, he said, "Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost." Come, then, rejoice with the Father, rejoice with the Son, rejoice with the Spirit; and if the Lord God, as the Trinity in Unity, invites us to be glad and rejoice in that which he creates, let us not hold back, but let us sing his matchless love, and new-creating power, and infinite wisdom. I am sure you will sing, you must sing even now, if you know yourselves to be a part thereof.
And now I close with this observation. Nobody will ever rejoice in this new-creating work of God while he is rejoicing in his own works, and trusting in himself, and boasting his own merits. It is a sign of grace when a man is sick of self, and is in harmony with God. When he leaves off rejoicing in what he can do, and comes to rejoice in what God has done, and is doing, then a change has been wrought upon him. Some of you are trying to save yourselves, and make yourselves right before God: as well might the dead try to find life for themselves. It cannot be done. You must be made new by a power you have not within yourselfby a divine power. You must be born again, and this is the work of God; not your work. We shall know when this heavenly work is begun in you when you cease from rejoicing in anything that you are or can be of yourselves, and then shall you with us rejoice in that which God creates in you.
Ring the bells of heaven! Tune your voices, sons of earth! He who makes all things new is on the throne, working out his holy pleasure. Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Amen.
PORTION OF SCRIPTURE READ BEFORE SERMONRomans 8:19-28; 2 Peter 3:3-13.
HYMNS FROM "OUR OWN HYMN BOOK"345, 316, 360; 108 (FLOWERS AND FRUITS).