Words to Rest On
Intended for Reading on Lord's-Day, April 3rd, 1892,
C. H. SPURGEON,
At the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington
On Thursday Evening, September 18th, 1890.
"And the people rested themselves upon the words of Hezekiah king of Judah."2 Chronicles 32:8.
t is very beautiful reading the story of Hezekiah, to see how the people always went with him. God had
prepared the nation for a change, and when the hour came the man came with it. Under his father Ahaz, the people had been idolaters, and had forsaken
God; but, when Hezekiah became king, he had a zeal for the worship of Jehovah, and on the very threshold of his reign, he began what proved to be a
glorious reformation in the land. He seems to have been a man who was attractive to the people, and they took up his line of things at once with
enthusiasm. Whether he proposed to break down the idols, to cleanse the temple, or to bring tithes into the house of God, they made no objection; but,
on the contrary, they followed his word with much vigor and earnestness. It is a grand thing when God sends a man who can guide others aright;
especially when, in times of apostasy and spiritual declension, a leader is given who becomes a guide back to the old paths. We should feel exceedingly
grateful whenever, in any place, God raises up a judge to deliver Israel, and when the people serve God all the days of that judge.
If thou the truth wouldst teach.
Thy soul must overflow, if thou
Another's soul wouldst reach:
It needs the overflow of heart
To give the lips full speech."
The man in whose words we are likely to find rest must be a good man. Hezekiah, from all we read of him, was evidently such a man. When greatness and goodness are blended, as in his case, there is sure to be a wide influence exerted. When there is eminence of ability as well as eminence of character found in a man, it often follows that what is described in this verse is true, the people rest themselves upon his words, even as they did upon Hezekiah's.
Again, a man whose words are to be rested upon, must be a courageous man. Hezekiah had this qualification. He had waited upon God in prayer, and knew God would deliver him, so that bidden farewell to fear; he was calm, and therefore bold. When he spoke to the captains of the soldiers, there was no trepidation in his voice or in his manner. He spoke like one who was
Confident of victory."
Courage in one man breeds courage in another, and once coward has the contagion of cowardice about him; many will turn tail when one runs. But, if a man stands like a rock, unmoved, he will soon have a body of others behind him who will have borrowed courage from his example. Paul in the storm is an example of this. I suppose he has a little insignificant-looking Jew, yet when the sailors and the soldiers were alarmed at the tempest, he calmly and quietly told them not to be afraid, and they borrowed courage from his faith. He told them that no harm would come to them; that though the ship would be lost, their lives have been given to him in answer to his prayer; and since they had fasted long, he bade them to eat, and they did eat. All his orders were carried out as fully as if he had been the centurion in command of the soldiers, or the captain in charge of the ship. Because he was bold he made them brave; he commanded them, because he could command himself. Oh, my brothers and sisters, may you have the courage of your convictions! May you be brave enough to do right, and to speak right, and to stand up for the gospel, whoever rails at it! If you do, you have only to bide your time; and you will be master over meaner men who cannot be trusted. He that will but "hold the fort" when others are giving up their castles, shall by-and-by, God helping him, behold a race of valiant men, who, like himself, shall believe in their Master's coming, and will not quit the field until he appears. God grant to many here to be bold in the way of holiness, in their own circle, in their own families! They must be assured that there will be found some who will rest upon their words, because they see their courage.
Further, a man who is to have his words much rested in, must also be a hearty man; indeed, he must be an enthusiast. Of such a spirit was Hezekiah, for we read in the last verse of the previous chapter, "and in every work that he began in the service of the house of God, and in the law, and in the commandments, to seek his God, he did it with all his heart." This is the kind of man whom people will follow. Let them but see that the whole of the man leads them, and not only a bit of him, and they will quickly learn to rely on his word. Put all your heart into what you do, or else put none of it. There are some people who seem as if they have no heart, or at least their heart is only a kind of valve for the expulsion of blood, and not over vigorous in that direction, I fear. Any other kind of heart you cannot discover. Nobody will follow mere head. There must be a heart displayed by the man who would have a hearty following. If you want to lead others aright, lead them by showing that you yourself love the way. Be intense; be emphatic; throw your whole being into it. Be hearty when you are working, when you are praying, when you are singing. In all that you do for God, and for your fellow-Christians, let your heart be manifest; and then it is highly probable that it may happen to you, as it did to Hezekiah, that many will rest upon your words.
In the case of such a man, God will add his sanction by granting success: he will be a prosperous man. I did not finish the last verse of the previous chapter just now. It reads: "He did it with all his heart, and prospered." He prospered because he did everything with all his heart. God set his seal to that which he did so heartily. A man may be devout and holy, and yet not be outwardly prospered. Such a man may do useful work for the Lord; but the man whom God chooses for a leader, he will also qualify and bless. He will put his mark upon him; and when people see that man is enabled by God to go from strength to strength, that his enterprises do not end in disaster, but that by the grace of God he leads his followers on from victory to victory, they are sure to rest themselves upon his word.
Let me add, that he who could help others must be a man who has respect for God's Word. We may safely rest ourselves upon a man's words when, like Hezekiah, his words are full of God, and when, evidently, he has nothing to say but what God has first said to him. Such a man becomes the medium by which God speaks to your soul. "With him is an arm of flesh; but with us is the Lord our God to help us, and to fight our battles." Even had this been spoken by another, it was a divine truth, and any man might have rested upon it. If any of us must needs be very original, if we must think out our own theology, and go on speculating from day to day, our people will be very foolish if they ever rest themselves upon our fickle, vapid words. But if the minister of Christ is as God's mouth, if he be dependent upon the Spirit of God for teaching; then God will speak through him, and the people will hear. If his one aim be, not to be original, but to repeat God's thought as far as he knows them, and to speak the truth revealed as far as he can get a grip of it, such a man will often come to know that the people are resting themselves upon his words; for his words will be not so much his, but God's words through him. May our prayer then be
In living echoes of thy tone;
As thou hast sought, so let me seek
Thy erring children, lost and lone."
Here a word of caution is necessary. Since men are permitted to say words upon which other people rest, let us be careful how we speak. There may be some here, who have attained, by years of holy living and deep experience, to a position of great influenceone of you in a Bible-class, another in a village station, several of you, perhaps, in your pulpits. Brothers and sisters, what a very responsible position we occupy when young people and others are resting upon your words! I will not say whether they are altogether right or wrong in doing so; but I know this is their habit; therefore, what manner of people ought we to be, how choicely we should use language, how determines we ought to be to let all our teachings be Scriptural, and not to mingle the precious with the vile; remembering the promise, "If thou take forth the precious from the vile, thou shalt be as my mouth."! Do not let us even sportively say what may injure others. I have known children take in earnest what others have said in jest. It were often better that some things were not said even in sport; for such flippant utterances have either misled the children, or they have injured the influence of those who have uttered them when they have spoken another time. Since it so happens that many of those around us are of feeble mind, and need a strong mind to guide them, let those who lead be doubly careful of their conversation and conduct. Since those who know their own weakness lean perhaps too much upon their teachers, let their teachers cry to God that they may be helped to teach nothing but what is right. May you and I never lead another even one inch astray! May none of us ever be in communion with that which is not true! May we stand right out from all connection with that which we feel to be contrary to the mind of God! Let us try to live in such a way that, if another were to take us for an example, he might copy us through and through and do himself no harm. I set before you a very high standard, and one which no man will reach except under divine instruction; but since the necessary teaching is freely given to all who seek it, I would urge you to be quick scholars in the school of grace. I fear very few of us have ever reached this excellent standard, but that is no reason why we should not study our lesson with redoubled energy. Remember that Hezekiah must speak aright when the people of Jerusalem rest themselves upon his words. O Hezekiah, be not silent when thou oughtest to speak; speak not when thou oughtest to be silent; and never speak except when the Lord shall open thy lips, that thy mouth may show forth his praise! Since thou hast this responsibility that the people rest upon thy words, be sure to give them words solid enough, and reliable enough to rest upon. As thou hast "wrought that which was good and right and truth before the Lord", speak also true and right and good words to the people: and then it shall be well both with them and with thee.
II. In the second place, let us turn the other way, and look at THE KIND OF PEOPLE WHO REST ON SUCH A MAN'S WORDS. I am not going to praise all these people, nor am I going to blame them. I wish to use discrimination, and judge each case upon its merits. Sometimes it is the best possible thing for a man to rest himself on the words of another; but often such a course is a very foolish one.
Children do so with their parents, and if they have gracious and godly parents. They do well to rest themselves on their father's or on their mother's word. When I was a boy, I never doubted what my father believed. And when I was under the influence of my grandfather who taught the Word of God, I was such a little simpleton, that I never set up my judgment against his. I find that very small boys are not now so foolish; I wish they were wise enough to be as foolish as I was! When I grew up, I never suspected a doctrine because my father believed it. No, my leaning went the other way; and if my godly father found peace and comfort in a word, I thought that what was good for him was good for his son. I was foolish enough to lean upon the words of my elders in this way, and somehow, though others often think that such a course is folly, I am glad that it was so. I thank God, too, that my sons were as foolish as their father; and that what their father believed had an attraction for them. I hope that they judged for themselves, as I also tried to do, when I came to riper years; but, at the first, it was the words of my parents that led me to Christ. What I knew of the elements of the gospel I received largely, without a question, from them, and I do not think it was an ill bequest. Now, dear parents, mind that your children are able to believe in you. I like children to have fathers and mothers whom they can trust. A young friend has written me a letter, asking me to preach a sermon on, "Fathers, provoke not your children to anger." Well, will you kindly consider that I have preached it? I fear I could not make a long sermon of it; but it is necessary to tell some of you parents that I suspect you are not quite so considerate as you ought to be. I do not know the man for whom the word is intended, but I wish he would take the sermon as if I had preached it to him. Now, fathers and mothers, your children do rest themselves upon your words, if you are fathers and mothers worth having. Be careful, then, of what you say. I like that boy who said, "I know that it is true, for mother said it. Whatever mother says is true, and it is true if it is not true, of mother said it." It is a blessed thing when boys and girls can feel such confidence in their parents that they are sure that their word is beyond all question. It is so much easier for them to have faith in God in the days to come, if first they have been able to have faith in their father and mother. Faith of any kind is so tender a plant, that is should be carefully nourished wherever it is found; and as children often, and rightly too, rest themselves upon the words of their parents, it behoves the parents to give them words whereon they may rest safely.
Illiterate people, who cannot read, belong to another class, who must needs rest themselves upon the words of others. They are but grown-up children, if they are persons of no education, though I am glad to think the number of those who cannot even read their Bible for themselves is constantly decreasing. Still, there are many persons who are so taken up with daily toil that they have no opportunity of searching for themselves. Although God has given many of them gracious judgments, so that they seem to know truth from error by a kind of inward instinct, yet, for the most part, much of the teaching that they receive must come to them as the utterance of some man in whose life they believe, and whom they believe to be under a divine influence which makes him speak continually with an endeavour for their good. Whether this is right or not, it is so; and every man who is placed in a position where many such hang upon his words, must therefore learn to speak only as God speaks to him, lest he himself should sin, and lest the hundreds who accept what he says as being true, would also be led astray.
This is also the case with regard to unconverted persons who have no spiritual discernment, and who can have none, in their first hearing of the gospel. Very largely, men believe in Christ not only through the Scriptures, but through the testimony of those who already know the Lord. This was implied by our Saviour's words, in that wondrous intercession with his Father. Christ said concerning his disciples, "Neither pray I for these alone; but for them also which shall believe on me through their word." It is part of the economy of grace that the testimony of the saints shall be used of the Spirit to lead people to Christ. We bear witness to forgiveness which we have received; we bear witness to a change of heart which we have experienced; we bear witness to the power of prayer; and like the men of Sychar, the people who hear us, first believe our word, and that leads them to Christ. After they have met with him, they may say, with much truth, "Now we believe, not because of thy saying: for we have heard him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world." Still, it will always be true that, at the beginning, it was because of our saying that they believed. It is a large part of our ministry to bear witness to the truth recorded in the Book of God; and oftentimes the witness himself is believed, and then what he says is believed because of the faith the hearer has in him. Although some are unworthy of such credence, yet so it does happen. Christian men, you are like the Bibles of the people. They do not read the Book, but they read you; and if they see Christ in you truly represented, they will, perchance. Come to the knowledge of him. But, if you caricature him, dreadful evil will come of it. I beseech you, be very careful. If the preacher, when he is addressing a mass of people who never read the Word of God, contorts and distorts the truth, what wonder is it if the people miss the salvation of Christ altogether, seeing that they rest upon his word? If he only gives half of the truth, or only one side of it; if he paints one doctrine out of proportion to another; if he misses the love and tenderness of Christ; and even if he omits the justice and stern truthfulness of God, he may so misrepresent God and Christ, and so misinterpret the whole system of grace to the people, that when they rest upon his words they will be resting upon a broken reed, and fall to their eternal destruction.
Persons who naturally run in a groove form another class who rest upon the words of men. There are some people of considerable capacity who, nevertheless, partly from a want of elasticity of mind, and partly from excess of common-sense, are very apt to keep to beaten tracks. They are not altogether to be censured, for some of them are the salt of the earth; but they are a trifle monotonous in their method of life. Still, with some this is very natural. They are like the tramcars that only get off line by accident. Well, I think that, if I were a tramcar, I should like to run on the trams after I got used to it. If they lead in the right direction, we might do much worse than travel by tram. There are, however, a number of people who always will live like that. Having attended at such a place of worship, and having been brought up in the midst of a certain set of godly people, they scarcely deviate one jot from the teaching that they have received. Almost by necessity of their nature they rest on what they hear.
There is one class more I should like to mention, not because I am fond of them, but for the opposite reason; I mean those who profess always to do their own thinking, who will not have any creed, and who say that they will not follow anybody. If you will trace them home, they are, in nine cases out of ten, the veriest slaves that ever lived. They are the bond-servants of some heretic or other, who has put it into their heads that, in following him, they become free men. Why, there are thousands of people that laugh at us for believing in the old doctrine of the fall of men, who, nevertheless, rest themselves implicitly upon the words of some infidel philosopher, or else they follow some favourite heretic in broadcloth upon whom they rest their confidence through thick and thin. They speak much of their deep thought, but they never think; they make up for want of brains by talking the jargon supposed to be spoken by highly intellectual people, though, in most cases, it requires a very vivid imagination to make the supposition. These, who thus take for granted the heterodox words of their favorite leaders, though they do not acknowledge them, incur great guilt, and their leaders are doing grievous mischief in uttering the words upon which their followers stay themselves.
Before I leave this point, I would urge you earnestly to be careful both as to the man you hear, and the words of his on which you rest. I beseech any of you who are attendants here, who are resting yourselves upon my words, to cease that habit. If I tell you anything that is not consistent with God's Word, away with my word, and away with me, too. If you hear from em anything which Christ would not have taught, I shall grieve to the last degree if you believe it. But if you fling it away, and ascribe it to the infirmity and fallibility of the preacher, it will be better for you. Or if there are some of you here who are resting yourselves upon any other man's words, I exhort you to know thoroughly the man and his communications, and do not, even when you know him, take his words without an appeal "to the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them." Bring all men's words to the test of God's words/ "Beloved, believe not every spirit; but try the spirits, whether they are of God." Blindly follow no man. "But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you" from this blessed Book, "let them be accursed." When a man has a message from God, listen to him earnestly, with an open mind ready to be taught; but never think of making him the master of your spirit. "The people rested themselves upon the words of Hezekiah the king;" and they did well in doing so; for he was a man worthy of their trust. But had he been under another kind of king, or a man of a different character and temperament, they might have ruined themselves by relying upon the words which he spoke to them. Again, therefore, I utter the caution, be careful both as to the man you hear, and the words of his on which you rest.
III. And now I close with my third head, by asking you to consider THE KIND OF WORDS THAT YOU MAY REST ON. We come to speak now, not of the kind of men who speak restful words, nor of the kind of men who find rest in such words when they are spoken; but of the kind of words in which you and I may rest.
You may safely rest in words which urge you to faith in God. Are you exhorted to-night to lay your burden of sin down at Jesus' feet? Obey such a word as that without questioning. You may well rest on words which bid you to believe in Christ, and you may, without fear, believe in him who has all grace and wisdom and power to save and to bless you. Through the hearing of such words, may you soon be able to say
This weary soul of mine;
His right hand me embraces,
I on his breast recline.
I love the name of Jesus,
Immanuel, Christ, the Lord;
Like fragrance on the breezes,
His name abroad is poured."
Are you, who are believers, encouraged to roll your care on your great Father, according to that word, "Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you"? You will do no wrong in obeying to the full every admonition to believe your God, and to believe his Christ. If our preaching tends to create faith, and foster it, it goes the right way; but, whatever clever things may be said, if the tendency is to undermine faith, and if the words you hear increase that tendency, they are mischievous, eternally mischievous, to the souls of men.
You may always rest, in the next place, on words which are the words of God himself. If God has said it, it is sure. If those men could rest themselves upon the words of Hezekiah the king, how is it that some of you, who are God's people, cannot rest yourselves upon the words of God our King? You believe his promises, you say, but still you are very restless. You have some of that terrible fever of unbelief on you. Beloved, try to practise the art of resting yourself upon the Word of God. God has promised me such and such a thing. I believe it, therefore I have got it. "No," you say, "the word is not fulfilled yet." Ah, but I have got it notwithstanding! If a friend gives me a cheque for five pounds, though I have never seen his money, I have the five pounds. I do not want to see his money, for I have his five-pound cheque in my pocket; I have his guarantee for the amount; and though I have not received the coin, I believe that I have the five pounds, and so I have. And if thou believest that thou hast the blessing for which thou hast asked, go thy way, and rejoice that thou hast it, for it is thine in the promise, and God's promise is as valuable as God's fulfillment. Rest yourselves, then beloved, in the words of God. Are you afraid of being too peaceful? Are you afraid of being too happy? Are you afraid of living too blessed a life? Are any of you afraid of having too much heaven here below? Well, do not give way to such idle fears. The more thou can rest, the more will God be pleased with thee. "Comfort ye, comfort ye, my people:" saith your God; "speak ye comfortably to comfortably to Jerusalem;" and if he bids us comfort you, you may be sure that he wants you to be comforted. Be comforted, therefore. Rest yourselves in his word. I have had to praise with 'bated breath those who rested on Hezekiah's word; I have thrown in little bits of necessary caution and interjection of doubt; but, if you desire to rest on God's Word, I need not caution you against trusting the Lord too much. Though you believe God up to the hilt, though you believe God desperately, though you believe God to the utmost, though you believe him infinitely, he will never fail you. Your confidence in him can never exceed that which he deserves. He will warrant it all. "Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed;" and again it is written, "Ye shall not be ashamed nor confounded world without end." You can never be wrong in resting upon the words of God himself. Even in your greatest weakness you may look to him, and say
Thine can never fail,
Words which thou thyself shalt give me
You may always believe, also, in words which are sealed by the Lord Jesus. If the mark of his blood is upon any word, thou needest never doubt it. If he has died, how canst thou perish? If he has bidden thee come, how can he cast thee out? If thou dost rest upon his finished work, how canst thou be condemned? Believe, I pray thee, and rest thee on the blood-sprinkled words of this wondrous Book.
And storms may sweep the sky;
The blood-sealed friendship changes not,
Thy cross is ever nigh.
"I change; he changes not,
Believe also, most firmly, and rest yourself most fully on words which have been blessed to other men. If other have been saved by a word, that word will suit thee. If God's promise proved true to my father, it will be true to me. There is no private interpretation of God's "great and precious promises." They are not hedged about with a ring-fence. They are as much mine as they were Abraham's or Jacob's-as much mine as they were Peter's or Paul's; and I will have them, too, by faith, and have what those promises include. Beloved, rest yourselves upon the words of God, upon which others have rested, and you shall find them to be as true in your experiences as in the experience of those who have gone before.
Last of all, you may surely rest upon words which breathe a sense of rest into the soul. I love all the words of God; but there are some that have an aroma of rest around them. Were you ever in such trouble that, when you read the chapter beginning with those sweet words, "Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me," you read it in vain? I think I never did. With the tears in my heart as well as in my eyes, I have read that blessed verse, again and again, and I have been comforted. That eighth chapter of the Epistle to the Romans is a wonderful light when you are in the dark; when I read those glorious doctrines, I find golden stepping stones through the Slough of Despond. And, as for the Psalms, why the man who wrote most of them seemed to be "not one, but all mankind's epitome." He has lived out all our lives, yours, and mine, and millions besides; his psalms breathe peace around us; and, as we accept the truths they reveal, we are enabled to rest upon them.
To all of us the time will come when we shall want rest. Dear young people, however long you may live, unless the Lord descend from heaven in glory, the time will come when you will die. You will want a pillow then; and, oh, may it be said of all of us then, "The people rested themselves upon the words of Jesus"! These promises are the best pillows for dying heads. There is no one who will suit you now, and suit you then. "He hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee." Go, brother, anywhere on earth, and even up to heaven with that in thy hand: "I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee." Or will this other word suit you better, "My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness"? But I need not go on giving these words to you; you know them well. If you are not familiar with them, I should advise you to get a little book called Clarke's Precious Promises, where you will find them all arranged. General Gordon, who was killed at Khartoum, used to carry a copy in his pocket wherever he went, and he and many others have found it to be a great help to them. Get hold of the promises of God, and when you feel downcast, when the wind is in the east, when the liver does not work, or when you have a real heart-ache, when the dear child is dead, when the beloved wife is sick, or when there is trouble in the house from any cause, then get you the words of the Lord; and may it always be said of you: "The people rested themselves on the words of King Jesus, the King of kings, and the Lord of lords"!
Oh, that the Holy Spirit might lead some poor soul to rest on these precious words of God even now for the first time; and unto the Lord shall be praise for ever and ever! Amen.
PORTION OF SCRIPTURE READ BEFORE SERMON2 Chronicles 32.
HYMNS FROM "OUR OWN HYMN BOOK"23 (Vers. II.), 759, 614.