“The proof of faith lies in perseverance.”
For Charles Spurgeon, the call of Abraham was like God’s call to sinners through the gospel. When God called Abraham he “left his country” and “he never went back again.” So too when needy sinners repent and believe in Jesus Christ their Christian pilgrimage begins.
Taking his text from Hebrews 11:15-16, Spurgeon sought to strengthen travelers who “desire a better country.” And to do so he exhorted them to perseverance, for after all “the proof of faith lies in perseverance.”
Specifically, Spurgeon was wary of that “sort of faith that does not run well” which “does not obey the truth.” Just as Abraham’s descendants resisted the temptation to return to Ur, so then must Christians resist the temptation to return to sin while living as “strangers and sojourners” until Christ comes again.
In the first section of his sermon, Spurgeon acknowledged each believer’s “opportunities…to return.” Here Spurgeon reflected that “It is a wonder of wonders that we have not gone back to the world, with its sinful pleasures and its idolatrous customs.”
Indeed, when Spurgeon considered the “strength of divine grace” he “[did] not marvel that the saints should persevere,” yet when he remembered the “weakness of their nature” it seemed a “miracle of miracles” that even one Christian “could maintain his steadfastness for a single hour.”
In Spurgeon’s view, the world was full of peril. There was peril in “company” and in “loneliness.” For Spurgeon, a man’s “business,” “flesh,” and “imagination” provided untold opportunities for indulgence in sin. Regardless of the circumstance or temptation, it was “only God’s grace” that could keep believers for while “the faith he gives should have its test” God’s preservation of his children would “glorify his name.”
In the second section of his sermon, Spurgeon emphasized the fact that the pleasures of heaven are better than those of earth. Here he asked his congregation, “Brethren, you desire something better than this world do you not? Has the world ever satisfied you?”
Now, Spurgeon acknowledged that “perhaps it did when you were dead in sin,” for “a dead world may satisfy a dead heart.” But because of Christ the Christian could say, “I know I long for something far better, something infinitely preferable to that which my eyes can see or that my tongue can express.”
And although in this fallen world Spurgeon could not always enjoy that “something better,” the Lord Jesus Christ, he exclaimed “I desire his presence.” Indeed, Jesus Christ the purest and greatest of all pleasures.
In the third section of his sermon, Spurgeon declared that “it would be unreasonable if we did not vehemently resist every opportunity…to go back.” Here Spurgeon reminded his congregation of those faithful pilgrims who had gone before. Just as “they confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on earth” so too should believers today.
Furthermore, he exhorted his hearers to “in your hearts feel that you cannot go back.” Believers were to remember the “ancient fraternity” of faithful saints who led the way. Since “no sorrow hath befallen thee but what thy noble ancestors have celebrated in cheery tones” Christians could look to the past for strength today.
Spurgeon also noted with urgency that “our lease of mortal life is fast running out. The time of our sojourn on earth is getting more and more brief.” With this in mind it was all the more urgent to finish well.
In the fourth, and final, section of his sermon, Spurgeon closed with “the sweetest part of the text,” namely that “‘God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he hath prepared for them a city.’”
For Spurgeon, this was especially important for two reasons. First, for God to associate with his people was a sign of “matchless condescension!” Not only would he save and deliver his people, be but was not ashamed to “own them” despite their faults.
Second, while believers below would experience “degradation” and be “mocked and despised by [their] fellows” yet they “shall have the highest honour that can be given, when we shall be citizens of the city which God has prepared.”
And so, Spurgeon counseled his congregation saying, “Do not wonder…if you have discomforts here….We tarry for a night: we are away in the morning.” Indeed, “Remember that your greatest joy while you are a pilgrim is your God.”
Why you should take up and read:
For Charles Spurgeon, the call to Christian pilgrimage began with repentance and belief in Jesus Christ, but would culminate in Christ’s glorious return. In this sermon Spurgeon called his hearers to sojourn circumspectly and to run well while remembering that “the proof of faith lies in perseverance.” For those seeking encouragement in their race please take up and read.
Here is the link to the Sermon of the Week:https://www.spurgeon.org/resource-library/sermons/the-pilgrims-longings#flipbook/
Phillip Ort serves as the Director of The Spurgeon Library at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City while studying in The Residency Ph.D. program.