A Wafer of Honey
A Sermon Published On Thursday February 8th, 1906
Delivered By C.H. Spurgeon,
At The Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington,
In The Year 1863
“Thy grace is sufficient for thee.” — 2 Corinthians 12:9.
LET no Christian imagine that he will ever have immunity from trouble while he continues in the body. Should you be favored with visions and revelations of the Lord, caught up to the third heaven, admitted into Paradise, and privileged to hear things which it were not lawful for a man to utter, conclude not that you have escaped the rod; rather expect that such high privilege will need heavy affliction to balance it. If God has given you the great sail and the prosperous wind, he will also give you the heavy ballast to keep your keel deep in the stream. Do not expect, dear brethren, that because you have been strengthened in the faith, you will therefore be loosed from the burden of the flesh; neither because you may have been the means of strengthening others, that, therefore, trouble will be light to you. Even into your ship the deep waters may come. Think not that it is so water-tight that the billows will only dash against it. You may be called to feel heaviness, your faith may be all but staggered, and your soul may have to cry out from the depths, because of the slender strength you possess.
The Lord has such ways of chastising his children as make them feel. We think, some of us, after we have suffered a certain amount of trouble, that we have been so inured to it we shall no longer be moved as we used to be. The apostle Paul had been beaten with rods, tossed about in shipwrecks, yet he had suffered hunger and thirst and nakedness, till he felt that, if any man had a right to glory after the flesh, he had. Still, even he found that the Lord had a way of getting at his heart, and making it smart. He had thorns in the flesh, messengers of Satan that did most effectually buffet him. We, too, must have trials, — briars of a kind that shall come right home to us, and touch us in our bones and in our flesh.
Neither let us think, dear friends, that even the privilege of the mercy-seat will shield us from the rod. When chastened we run to prayer; but we shall not, therefore, escape the chastisement. Paul, an apostle, prays; he, who certainly must have understood “the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man”, beseeches the Lord thrice, yet the thorn in the flesh was not blunted, much less removed; he still had to suffer as he had done aforetime. Oh, how often we think we can use the mercy-seat for our own lust! is not prayer too sacred a thing for us to make a selfish use of it? When God gives us the key of his storehouse, and bids us take what we will, shall we use even a single promise of his Word merely to pander to our own desires, and to enable us to escape from enduring hardness as good soldiers of Jesus Christ! If we thus misuse prayer, we may be excused for it, but we shall not be accepted in it. Even Paul is nonsuited when he asks ease for the flesh. He gets no release from trouble. He gets something better, however; for the Lord says to him, “My grace is sufficient for thee; for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” Thus, beloved, we must reckon upon the adversities that are sure to befall us. “In the world ye shall have tribulation.” This is one of the divine shells and wills. The Lord will chasten those whom he loves, and his children shall suffer it, of a surety. It is as sure as any other thing in the world, “Ye shall have tribulation.”
I. To these who have proved the truth of this declaration, the text will be peculiarly sweet. THERE ARE CERTAIN SORE VEXATIONS OF SPIRIT, FOR WHICH GRACE IS THE ONLY BALM. The Lord does not say, “My providence shall protect thee.” Nothing of the kind; — grace is the remedy in this case, and, I take it, this was because the apostle was suffering in the very core and center of his being. There are many trials, the grief of which may be fully assuaged by ordinary providences; but these, that come and wound a man to the quick, require grace as their only effectual balm.
Past experience of grace is of no avail in such a case; it is present grace that is promised in the text, and it is present grace that is required. When we have sometimes been bowed down, and walked in darkness, and seen no light, we have called the remembrance our song in the night, and our spirit has made diligent search; but that very song has been turned into howling in the remembrance, and all that we thought we felt, and thought we knew, has vanished from before our eyes. I do not know how it has been with you, but there have been times with me when I could set no value upon my past experience. The devil has said it was all a delusion, my faith mere presumption, my hope mere excitement, and all my joys but the effusion of animal spirits. There will be a time when he will bid you look back, and all the way will look like the valley of the shadow of death. You cannot see one hopeful sign in it; and you turn over the books of experience, and read them, and you think, “Well, my spot is not the spot of God’s children, and my footprints do not seem to be at all like the footprints of the flock.” I tell you, if you have ever done business in deep waters, you have found that anchors at home are of no use in a storm, and that the anchor which stood so well a year ago, if it is left at home on shore, is of no use to you now in the storm. It is present grace, nothing but present grace, that will do now. You have eaten all the cold meats, and you have brought out from the cupboard every moldy crust you can find, and now your soul is reduced to the very last, and fainteth within you, and now you must cry to your God in your trouble, and get present grace in this your time of need.
And if past experience is of no avail, much less is past success. Somebody might have touched the apostle on the shoulder, and have said, “Paul, Paul, Paul! What must you feel the buffetings of Satan? Did you not establish the church at Corinth, and plant churches throughout all Asia Minor! Who has served his God so faithfully as you have done? Have you not been in journeyings often, in perils by waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by the sword, in watchings and fastings? Have you not had the care of all the churches? Has not your Master highly distinguished you, and made you not a whit behind the very chief of the apostles? What multitudes of spirits are now before the thrown that were born, under God, through your ministry! And what thousands are still on the road who call you their spiritual father, and to whom you have been as a nursing mother in the faith! “If you had said this to the apostle, he would have replied, “Yes, sometimes this might have comforted me; if it had been a question of my apostle-ship, this would have been satisfactory; if the point in hand had been a, question, as to whether my ministry has been owned of God, this would have been decisive; but I am touched in another place now, and the wound is so deep, my sore is grievous, and my heart is so exceedingly heavy, that no kindly thought of others, and no pleasant musings of my own, bring me the slightest relief. O Lord, I am oppressed, undertake for me! The Lord knows how to succor him, and therefore he gave him that gracious assurance, “My grace is sufficient for thee.”
I think it is well, dear friends, to remember the Lord’s past goodness; but we must not live on that, we must go and get fresh supplies from heaven. Old manna, to this day, though it came from heaven, will always breed worms, and stink, if it is kept. There is no alteration in it from the days of Moses; it is the manna at this moment. You must eat the manna as you get it, and go constantly for more; but the old manna will be of very little use to you. It is only on Sabbath days, when your soul is perfectly at rest and quiet, — it is only at these sweet resting seconds, which the soul sometimes enjoys, that the remembrance of the past becomes very sweet. You must have daily present dispensations of manna from the throne of God.
In such a case as this, to which the apostle was brought, we feel sure that the fact of his high office, and his eminent attainments of grace, would not have been a sufficient consideration. Paul, who shall match thee? So deep in knowledge, and so ardent in zeal, thou seemest to have a seraph’s spirit. So mighty in word, and yet, withal, so humble in thine own esteem, thou art surely a prince in Israel. Paul was not one of the young men, much less one of the babes in grace. He says, “There are not many fathers,” though certainly he himself was worthy to be called a patriarch. Yet that fact would not comfort him. And, brethren, you may come to such hard pinches that your growth in grace, and the flourishing of your virtues, will not afford so much as a drop of comfort to you; you will have to go to the eternal fountain to drink, for even these marble cisterns will have been broken, and will hold no water.
Observe, further, brethren, that the Lord does not say, “The consolation of your brethren shall be sufficient for you.” Oh, how sweet it is to be comforted by our fellow-Christians! Let those who will, walk in isolation; give me sweet communion, for, to tell one’s trial to a true brother in Christ is often to lighten the weight, as if half of it were removed. Sometimes, it is to be wholly relieved, for the words of some wise men in our Israel are indeed as balm that bringeth speedy healing to the wound. But there are wounds which the stranger intermeddleth not with, nay, that even the dearest friend cannot touch; there are certain vexations of spirit, and disquietudes of soul, that mock human agency. I have had, sometimes, to converse with some members of the church, and I have never felt so much the littleness of my own power as when I have tried be comfort them, and failed. I thought it was because I was but as a little child in experience, and could not talk with them as a father in Israel might have done, whose years might have given him more wisdom; but I have found that even the fathers have failed, and that years have not always sufficed to give sufficient knowledge to comfort the troubled conscience, or to remove the burden from the called shoulder. No, there are cases that mock the ordinary practitioner, and must be taken straight away to the great Physician, for the only thing that will survive the purpose is the grace, the present grace of an all-sufficient God.
I might prolong this catalogue; but you, who experimentally know the truth, will know, from your own experience, that there are trials and there are points in affliction where nothing can possibly console but the immediate outpouring and receiving of the grace of God.
II. And now, beloved, in the second place, let me say that SUFFICIENT GRACE IS A SURE BALM, that even for the most acute disorder, the most chronic disease, “grace” is “sufficient.”
Why, do you not perceive that it just meets the fear which trial excites. What is the Christian’s fear when he is buffeted, tried, and afflicted. I know him in his sober senses, he has a fear of sin. Listen to him. “I am afraid of being poor,” says he, “not because I dislike poverty, but I am afraid of my faith, lest I should murmur against God. I am not afraid of suffering,” says he; “if God send it to me, I am willing to receive it; but I am afraid of my faith, lest the pangs should be too severe, and I should doubt my God. I am not,” says he, “afraid of slander or of persecution. I have learnt to rejoice in this, for so am I made a member of the goodly fellowship of the martyrs;
but I am afraid lest I should deny my Lord, or be ashamed of him, or prove an apostate, after all. As I look forward to the temptations of the world, and the suggestions of Satan, and the corruptions of the flesh which shall yet assail me, I am not afraid of their coming if I can but be guaranteed that they shall not cause me to sin; “for the only real wound the Christian gets is when he has sinned. Sufferings are only scars, flesh wounds; same are the real woundings. We are never trampled on by Satan, however low our spirits may sink; it is only when we give way, and would fain capitulate in very terror, and begin to be afraid, that Satan is really victorious. The battle of sin is the battle in which Satan gains the victory; but suffering, and shame, and distress, and peril, and nakedness, and sword, are no triumphs to Satan, for “in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.”
You see then, brethren, that grace just meets the danger because it deals with sin. You are afraid that your patience will give out, so the Lord says, “My grace shall operate upon thy patience, and make thee to endure.” You think your faith will fail, so the Lord says, “My grace gave thee thy faith, and my grace, like oil secretly applied to the fire by One standing behind the wall, shall keep thy faith burning while the devil pours on his floods to quench it. It was my grace that first taught thee to love my great name; so, when persecuted, my grace shall make thee love me better. I have kept thee from apostasy until now, and, let what will come, my grace, by which I guaranteed thy final severance, shall be sufficient for thee, and thou shalt come out of all thy trials and troubles like silver out of the furnace, not defiled, but cleansed and purified by the flames.” You see then, brethren, that this assurance does actually touch the fear which the Christian ever has before his eyes; nay, it does not merely touch the fear, but it absolutely touches all the real danger. It is as though the Lord should say to one of his servants, who was standing alone, while thousands of his enemies were shooting at him with their arrows, “They shall shoot at thee, but I have covered them with armor from head to foot.” Or it is as if you or I trembled at the thought of crossing the deep sea, and the Lord had said, “The sea is deep, and thou must cross it; but I will be by thee, and thou shalt go through it dry-shod.” Or it is as if he said, “The fire is hot, and thou must walk through the midst of it, those glowing coals thy foot must know; but I will so cover thee by my power that the flames shall not hurt thee; thou shalt walk through the fire, and not so much as the smell of it shall pass upon thee.”
What matters it how much we suffer if we have grace to endure it? Put a believer where you will, if his Master gives him grace, he is in the best place he can be for security. I have heard brethren sometimes say, “Such a minister is in great danger; his position is lofty, his head will be burned.” Ah! brethren, if he had had the keeping of his own head, it would have been turned long ago. And your head will turn even if you are on the ground if you have the keeping of it; but if God set a man as high as the stars, and if he kept him there, he would be able to sing, “Thou makest my feet like hinds’ feet, and maketh me to stand on high places.” It is the grace we have, not the position we occupy, that is the important matter. If a man had grace enough, you might put him in the worst haunts of sin, and he would be the better for being there. Now, do not think I say what I do not know. Solomon saw hyssops grow on walls, and cedars on Lebanon; howbeit, I have seen cedars grow on walls, and hyssops on Lebanon. I have seen the smallest Christians in the best places, and the best Christians in the worst positions. I have seen, in the midst of the haunts of the harlot, grace shining in all the purity and chastity of lovely womanhood; and in the haunt of the thief and of the burglar, God has been pleased to have some choice saint, that, for honesty, integrity, and holy living, might, have been worthy to have walked in a bishops palace, or to have adorned the best Evangelical drawing-room in England. Brethren, it is not the position that is the main thing; the best of men may grow in the worst places, and some of the meekest of believers may be found where there ought to have been the bravest. I will leave this point, therein, by repeating that, whatever may be the trial of heart which a man may have to endure, this assurance just meets the case, “My grace is sufficient for thee.”
III. And, lately, SHOULD NOT THE ASSURANCE THAT WE SHALL RECEIVE SUFFICIENT GRACE MAKE US EXCEEDINGLY GLAD?
“My grace is sufficient for thee,” — what then? “Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities,” — not only gladly, but “most gladly.” Nothing else will make you happy. The grace of God comes to meet your case, and now how happy you should be! Think about the sureness of this fact, that sufficient grace will be ours. My dear brethren, I am not careful about preaching tonight, I merely talk right on about some, things that you know, and can testify. It has been so, has it not, in your experience? If there be one saint here who has an accusation to make against his Lord, let him speak. He might well say to you, “Have I been a wilderness unto Israel? Which of you have I failed to succor? When have I violated my promise? You have been in the waters, — were you drowned? You have passed through the fire, — were you burned? What loss have you ever sustained by your troubles?” Did I ever refuse to hear your cry when you called upon me? When was it that, in the day of battle, I did not cover your head, and that I left you as a prey to the destroyer? “My answer is, — O Lord, thou knowest all things, and thou knowest that thy servant’s witness is, —
“When trouble, like a gloomy cloud,
Has gather’d thick and thunder’d loud,
He near my soul has always stood,
His lovingkindness, oh, how good”
And is not that your case, my brother, my sister in the Lord? I am sure it is. Well, then, this ought to make you glad. “My grace is sufficient for you,” says the Lord. Your past experience proves it. Gladly, therefore, rejoice that you have an opportunity yet again of testing and trying the good Word of the Lord.
Again, is not God’s grace sufficient for you in your present emergency? Have you had some trouble today? I suppose you have had quite sufficient, too, for I never did find a day yet that had not enough trouble in it, and sufficient for the day is the evil thereof; — well, but, have you not had sufficient grace today? Do you feel dull, and heavy, and gloomy in God’s house of prayer? Well, but there is grace to be had; and, therefore, looking to him ere you go to your bed, you may still have another day to sing of the sufficient grace which was given in the needful hour. “Oh, but,” you say, “it is not now; I can trust God for today; but there are clouds looming before me, and I fear to enter the cloud.” Well but, my dear friend, if he is faithful to thee today, add that to the fact that he was faithful yesterday; is he not the same yesterday, today, and for ever; and oughtest thou not at once to rejoice in him? Furthermore, ask thy father, and he shall tell thee; turn thou to the records of inspiration, and they shall teach thee; were the righteous ever forsaken, and when did the Lord cast off his chosen? They have been certainly in quite as deep waters as you have ever known; you have not yet been brought to lose all that you have, to lose every child; not-yet do you sit among the ashes, and scrape yourself with a potsherd, as Job did; not yet to the fullest extent can you say, “They that walked in the streets did condemn me;” not yet have ye drunk of that cup, and been baptized with the baptism of him who said, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”
“His way was much rougher and darker than thine,” —
and yet your Lord triumphed; and all his people, in all ages, and under every circumstance, have triumphed in him. If you could find one child of God who has been left, and if you could find one instance in which God has been untrue to you, then it would be fair for you to be depressed in spirit; but until then, most joyful should you be.
Recollect also, brethren, that we should never know how sufficient grace was if it were not for these troubles; therefore, we ought to be glad of all the lessons that assure us how ample and sufficient this grace is. I know not whether all soldiers love the thought of war, but there are many who plead for a campaign. How many an officer of low rank has said, “There is no promotion, no hope of rising, no honors, as if we had to fight. If we could run to the cannon’s mouth, there would be some hope that we might gain promotion.” Men get few medals to hang upon their breasts who never know the smell of gunpowder. The brave days, as men call them, of Nelson and Trafalgar, have gone by, and we thank God for it; but still we do not expect to see such brave old veterans, the offspring of this age, as them who are still to be found lingering in our hospitals, the relics of our old campaigns. No, brethren, we must have trials if we are to get on. Young men do not become midshipmen altogether through going to the school at Greenwich, and climbing the mast on dry land; they must go out to sea, and be on deck in the storm; and if we are to be amongst the worthies, we must have stood side by side with King David, we must have gone down into the pit to slay the lion, or have lifted up the spear against the eight hundred, as Adino did. Conflicts bring experience, and experience brings that growth in grace which is not to be attained by any other means.
Besides, brethren, how is God’s grace to be seen by other men in the world except by our trials? Grace is given to keep us from sin, which is a great blessing; but what is the good of grace except it is in the time when the trial comes? certainly, the grace that will not stand in the hour of temptation or affliction, is a very spurious sort of grace; and we had better get rid of it, if we have it. When a godly woman’s child dies, the infidel husband sees the mother’s faith. When the ship goes down, and is lost in the sea, the ungodly merchant understands the resignation of his fellowman. When pangs shows through our body, and ghastly death appears in view, people see the patience of the dying Christian. Our infirmities become the black velvet on which the diamond of God’s love glitters all the more brightly. Thank God I can suffer, thank God I can be made the object of shame and contempt; for, in this way, God shall be glorified. This shall be the wonder of many, and to the praise of his own grace, that so mean and so contemptible a thing was made the instrument of effecting his purpose.
I will say no more, except to commend this assurance to you, and ask you to take it home, and lay it on your tongue; it will be like a wafer made with honey. Mind you have it for your breakfast tomorrow morning, and let it be your constant daily meal; live on it: “My grace is sufficient for thee.” Let the word “thee” come home to your heart, as though God spoke it to you, and as if he had never spoken it to anyone before.
There are some of you to whom the text does not apply, except in this light. You have many sins; but if you trust Christ, his grace is sufficient for you. You have been head over heels in the kennel of sin; but the power of his blood is sufficient to make you white; and even if you have become a very prince and peer in the dominions of evil, the grace of Christ is sufficient to wash you whiter than the driven snow. May the Lord add his blessing on these feeble rambling remarks, for Jesus Christ’s sake! Amen.