“Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him.”— Job xiii. 15.
THIS is one of the supreme sayings of Scripture. It rises, like an alpine summit, clear above all ordinary heights of speech, it pierces the clouds, and glistens in the light of God. If I were required to quote a selection of the sublimest utterances of the human mind, I should mention this among the first: “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him.” Methinks I might almost say to the man who thus spoke what our Lord said to Simon Peter when he had declared him to be the Son of the Highest: “Flesh and blood hath not revealed this unto thee.” Such tenacious holding, such immovable confidence, such unstaggering reliance are not products of mere nature, but rare flowers of rich almighty grace. The text contains a precious jewel of grace, fitly set in the purest gold of choice speech; happy is the man upon whose arm it can be worn as an ensign in the day of battle.
It is well worthy of observation that in these words Job answered both the accusations of Satan and the charges of his friends. Though I do not know that Job was aware that the devil had said, “Doth Job fear God for nought? Hast thou not set a hedge about him and all that he hath?” yet he answered that base suggestion in the ablest possible manner, for he did in effect say, “Though God should pull down my hedge, and lay me bare as the wilderness itself, yet will I cling to him in firmest faith.” The arch-fiend had also dared to say that Job had held out under his first trials because they were not sufficiently personal; “skin for skin, yea, all that a man hath will he give for his life. But put forth thine hand now and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse thee to thy face.” In the brave words before us Job most effectually silences that slander by, in effect, saying, “Though my trial be no longer the slaying of my children, but of myself, yet will I trust in him.” He thus in one sentence replies to the two slanders of Satan; thus unconsciously doth truth overthrow her enemies, defeating the secret malice of falsehood by the simplicity of sincerity. Job’s friends also had insinuated that he was a hypocrite. They inquired of him “Who ever perished, being innocent? or where were the righteous cut off?” They thought themselves quite safe in inferring that Job must have been a deceiver, or he would not have been so specially punished. To this accusation Job’s grand declaration of his unstaggering faith was the best answer possible, for none but a sincere soul could thus speak. Will a hypocrite trust in God when he slays him? Will a deceiver cling to God when he is smiting him? Assuredly not. Thus were the three miserable comforters answered if they had been wise enough to see it.
Our text exhibits a child of God under the severest pressure, and shows us the difference between him and a man of the world. A man of the world under the same conditions as Job would have been driven to despair, and in that desperation would have become morosely sullen, or defiantly rebellious! Here you see what in a child of God takes the place of desperation. When others despair he trusts in God. When he has nowhere else to look he turns to his heavenly Father; and when for a time, even in looking to God, he meets with no conscious comfort, he waits in the patience of hope, calmly expecting aid, and resolving that even if it do not come he will cling to God with all the energy of his soul. Here all the man’s courage comes to the front, not, as in the case of the ungodly, obstinately to rebel, but bravely to confide. The child of God is courageous, for he knows how to trust. His heart says, “Ay Lord, it is bad with me now, and it is growing worse, but should the worst come to the worst, still will I cling to thee, and never let thee go.” In what better way can the believer reveal his loyalty to his Lord? He evidently follows his Master, not in fair weather only, but in the foulest and roughest ways. He loves his Lord, not only when he smiles upon him, but when he frowns. His love is not purchased by the largesses of his Lord’s golden hand, for it is not destroyed by the smitings of his heavy rod. Though my Lord put on his sternest looks, though from fierce looks he should go to cutting words, and though from terrible words he should proceed to cruel blows, which seem to beat the very life out of my soul, yea, though he take down the sword and threaten to execute me therewith, yet is my heart steadfastly set upon one resolve, namely, to bear witness that he is infinitely good and just. I have not a word to say against him, nor a thought to think against him, much less would I wander from him; but still, though he slay me, I would trust in him.
What is my text but an Old Testament version of the New Testament, “Quis separabit?”— Who shall separate? Job does but anticipate Paul’s question. “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Was not the same Spirit in both Job and Paul? Is he also in us? If so, we are men indeed, and our speech is with power, and to us this declaration is no idle boast, no foolish bravado, though it would be ridiculous, indeed, if there were not a gracious heart behind it to make it good. It is the conquering shout of an all-surrendering faith, which gives up all but God. I want that we may all have its spirit this morning, that whether we suffer Job’s trial or not we may it any rate have Job’s close adherence to the Lord, his faithful confidence in the Most High.
There are three things in the text: a terrible supposition— “though he slay me”; a noble resolution, “yet will I trust in him and, thirdly, a secret appropriateness. This last will require a little looking into, but I hope to make it clear that there is a great appropriateness in our trusting while God is slaying us— the two things go well together, though it may not so appear.
I. First, then, here is A TERRIBLE SUPPOSITION though he slay me.” The Lord is here set forth as a slayer of his trusting servant. An idea full of terror. It is a supposition which in some senses cannot be tolerated for a minute— “Though he slay me.” Here I am, his dear child, one whom he has loved from before the foundation of the world, one for whom he laid down his life upon the cross, one of whom he has said, “I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands.” How can he slay me? If he do so, it can only be in a minor sense: as to my best and truest life, it must be safe, for he is its author and guardian, and cannot be its destroyer. Can a mother forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? Could she suffer a child of hers to die while she had power to keep it alive? Would she lay violent hands upon the child of her love and destroy it? God forbid. Neither will God destroy, or suffer to be destroyed, any one of his own dear children. Jesus has solemnly said— “I give unto my sheep eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of my hand.” The fairest children of the earth will die, for that which is born of the flesh is flesh, and all flesh is as decaying grass; but the feeblest child of God will live for ever, for the life of God in every degree of it is immortality. Time will put out the sun, the lamp of the moon will grow dim in ages yet to come, but neither time nor age shall quench a solitary spark of heaven-born grace and light. Though faith be but as a grain of mustard seed, it is essentially a living thing, and it is not conceivable that God himself should slay that which is quickened with his life. Though it be imperceptible sometimes even to the possessor of it, and though it should raise many painful questions as to whether it be there at all, yet if it be there, God will preserve it even to the end. Come, child of God, you must not suppose that the Lord will slay you for ever. You must not allow suppositions which would dishonour your God. You may suppose what you like if it be innocent, but you must not suppose that which would blaspheme the divine love, or cast a slur upon God’s fidelity to his promise. He may cast you aside for awhile, but he cannot cast you away for ever; he may take away your goods, but not your highest good. He may allow a cloud to rest upon your reputation, a blight to fall upon your usefulness, and a storm to sweep away your happiness, but his mercy is not clean gone for ever, he hath not in anger turned away his heart from you. He has chastened you sore, but he has not given you over unto death. No, you must not interpret the supposition of the text as though it said, “Though he leave me to perish, though he cast me into hell,” for that can never be. But I make bold to say that even if the devil were to whisper in your ear that the Lord would finally destroy you, it would be a glorious thing if you could bravely reply, “And if he did I would still trust him.” One old saint once used very daring, and perhaps unjustifiable, language when he said, in ecstacy of love, “If God casts me into hell, I will hold so fast by him that he shall go there too; I will not let him go, and hell itself will be no hell to me while he is there.” Beloved, say in your soul— Though the Lord should condemn me, I will not rebel, but confess that he is just; though he should refuse to hear my prayers, yet he is an infinitely good and blessed God, and I will praise him still. But, beloved, it cannot be that God should slay or condemn a believer, and you need not tolerate the supposition. Blessed be his name, he hath not cast away the people whom he did foreknow, neither has one soul that trusted in him ever been forsaken.
The terrible supposition before us is inclusive of all possible ills. “Though he slay me.” He means that if every form of evil up to actual death should come upon him, yet would he trust in God. Though he should lose all that he had in flock or field, in purse or portion, yet would he trust. In Job’s case away went the oxen and the asses, away went the sheep, away went the camels, and away went all the servants, and each time as the messenger came breathlessly running in, he said, “I only am left alone to tell thee.” At last the worst news of all came, for all his children were taken away at a stroke. All was gone, for his wife was as good as lost also, since she went over to the enemy, and said, “Curse God and die.” Well saith Job, “Though my troubles have left me bare of all but life, though nothing remains to me but this dunghill and the broken potsherd with which I scrape my sores, yet will I trust in the Lord.” Oh, it was bravely said!
In this resolve, as we have seen, he includes not only all losses of property, but all bereavements of friends; and I should like you Christian people to look this in the face. Perhaps the Lord may suddenly take away from you the dearest object of your heart’s affection— your husband or your wife; can you trust him then? The almost idolised children may be removed one by one, and leave sad vacancies within your heart. O fond wife, the beloved of your soul may pass away in the prime of his manhood, the brother may be cut down as the green herb, and the sister fade as a flower. Parents, children, brethren, any and all of these may be put far from you, and you may find yourselves as lone trees, whereas now you are surrounded by a kindred forest. You may be the last of the roses, left alone, scarcely blooming, but bowing your head amid the heavy showers of sorrow which drench you to the soul. Now, believer, if you are in such a deplorable case as that, can you still say, “If the Lord should go even further than this, should his next arrows penetrate my own lacerated heart, even then, as I bleed to death, I will kiss his hand”?
Job included in his supposition all kinds of pain. We can hardly imagine the bodily agony of Job when he was covered with sore boils from the sole of his foot unto his crown. None could approach him, the disease was so foul, neither could he endure to be touched. Yet he says, “Though I have all these boils, and even should they grow worse, so that the pains I now endure should become unendurable, and should I suffer the very anguish of death itself, yet still would I put my trust in my God. Neither poverty, loneliness, nor fierce torment shall make me forsake the Lord, nor shall all put together cause me to doubt him.” What a victory of faith is this!
Job at that time also suffered from dishonour, for those who once looked up to him with respect now despised him in their hearts. He says that those whose fathers he would have disdained to have set with the dogs of his flock, opened their mouths against him; and whereas, when he stood in the street, princes were silent in his presence to listen to his wisdom, now among the basest of mankind he had become a song and a byword. As for his mistaken friends, he had grown so weary of them that he said, “O that ye would altogether hold your peace, and it would be your wisdom.” Poor Job was sorely galled with the scorn poured on him at a time when he deserved both sympathy and honour, but yet his faith cries, “If I am more despised still, and forgotten as a dead man out of mind, yet will I trust in thee, my God.”
Connected with all this, the afflicted patriarch must have felt much depression of spirit. Did he not say, “Even to-day is my complaint bitter: my stroke is heavier than my groaning. For God maketh my heart soft, and the Almighty troubleth me”? Those of us who are subject to depression of spirit find much that is congenial in the Book of Job, his music is in tune with our own. How bitterly does he wail at times! What wondrous insight has he into the mystery of sorrow! Though his grief has never been thoroughly weighed, nor his calamities laid in the balances together, yet have his woes been considered by thousands of mourners, and have ministered a wealth of consolation to them. Job does not exclude his despondencies from his resolve, nay, he mainly intends them, for these are in a special sense a man’s own personal slaying, and he says, “Though he slay me,”— though my heart should break with anguish, pierced through with despondency, yet will I put my trust in God. I began by calling the supposition of our text a terrible one, and now I claim that I have shown it to be so, since it includes the coming upon us of all sorts of ills.
Listen yet again. This supposition goes to the extreme of possibility, if not beyond it, for it will be hard to find a case in which God has really slain any of his servants. The martyrs were slain for him, but not by him. To none of his children, save one, has the Lord been as Abraham was to Isaac when he unsheathed the knife to slay him. If it had been so, could we have been as the lamb beneath the sacrificial knife? The stones which slew Stephen, and the sword which slew James, were in the hands of cruel men, and not in the hands of God; but God himself is here supposed to slay us. Now, though he has not actually done so, we may enquire whether we could resign ourselves to him, even if he should take life and all with his own hand? Could we lie on the altar and not struggle? Do we hate even our own life also for love of him? What say we? Is our love stronger than death? God grant it may be so found.
Bub this supposition goes further than matters ever will go. Why, then, does the Psalmist suppose such a case? I answer because only by such suppositions can he express his faith to the full. Remember that psalm, “Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea.” We are not expecting the earth to move nor the mountains to plunge into the ocean, but in order to express our confidence, we declare that even such a quaking would not affect the foundation of our faith. God himself meets his people in like manner, by saying, “The mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed.” Child of God, you may suppose what never will occur, if you like, and project your soul by that supposition into depths of woe and grief, into which you will never actually come, and yet through divine grace you will resolve, “If it came even to that, still would I trust in him.”
Though the text supposes what will not actually occur, yet it is a just description of what often does occur as far as our conceptions go. Have you never known what it is to be in your own conceptions slain by God? My heart has known it often. It is as death itself to feel all your religion melt away like the hoar frost of the morning, when the sun has risen; and all your joys in which you delighted flying away like birds when a man doth clap his hands. Have you never had to begin all over again, at the very alphabet of repentance and childlike faith, and find even that no easy work. Did you never know what it was to get your cup right full of what you thought was holy joy and sweet experience, and then for the Lord to turn it bottom upward and let you see that it was a mixture of self-conceit and sentimentalism, with thick dregs at the bottom of pride and falsehood? Can you say with David, “I have seen an end of all perfection”? Have you never been brought down from imaginary riches to bitter but honest poverty? Have you never thought you were becoming so wonderfully sanctified that you could scarcely lay a split sheet of tissue paper between you and perfection, and then on a sudden the Lord has laid you naked and made you loathe the sight of your inborn corruptions? You have been as a cup which bubbled at the top and frothed over, and the Lord has blown off the froth and made you see the black draught of your inward vileness. God has many ways of thus slaying in his children all that ought to die. Thus he kills the spiritual hypocrisy which is so common in us all. Our life seems at times to run all into puffballs and bloated fungi of self-glorying, we think that we are something when we are nothing, and then the Lord prunes us back to our real condition. Do you never know what it is to be thus slain? Ah, my brethren, at times our life is a long experience of the power of death. Do you not know what it is to say, “Is this prayer? Why, while I prayed my thoughts were perplexed, distracted, and wandering. Is this faith? Why, even on the most vital points my soul dares scarcely speak with confidence! Is this love? — love to Christ, which even while I exercise it accuses me on account of its lukewarmness and want of self-denying ardour. Can this be spiritual life? Life at which I blush and over which I mourn! Life which scarcely reaches so far as feeling, and when it does, soon subsides into insensibility!” Beloved brethren, I speak from experience, all this is a kind of slaying by which the Lord hides pride from men and keeps them from the snares of vain confidence. Has he not written, “I kill and I make alive, I wound and I heal”? In these times of wounding and killing, which are very common to the experience of some of the children of God, the only thing we can do is still to trust,— “Though he slay me, I will trust in him.” Trust him though he sift out nine-tenths of thy hopes, burn up all thy experiences, grind thine evidences to powder, crush’ all thy realised sanctities, and sweep away all thy rests and refuges. Then, indeed, is the best time of all to exercise true faith.
Once more, the grim supposition of the text, if ever it teas realized by anybody it teas realized by our Lord Jesus. Our great covenant Head knows to the full what his members suffer. God did slay him, and glory be to his blessed name, he trusted God while he was being slain. “It pleased the Father to bruise him, he hath put him to grief;” yet from the lips of our dear Lord we hear no expressions of unbelief. Read the twenty-second Psalm, where he says, “Our fathers trusted in thee, they trusted in thee and thou didst deliver them, but I am a worm, and no man.” Hear how he pleads with God, and specially listen to his dying words, where, though he says, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” yet a few minutes after he cries, “Into thy hands I commit my spirit.” What! into the hands of a God who had forsaken him and smitten him; did he commit himself into those hands? Yes, into those very hands; and herein we must follow in his steps. Though the Lord cut, hew, hack, tear, and grind us to powder, yet out of the dust, and the tears, and the blood of the conflict we must look up to him and say, “I trust thee still.” Here is the patience of the saints! Here is the glory of faith! Blessed is the man who thus becomes more than a conqueror. I say it calmly, I would sooner be able to do as Job did, than to be one of yonder seraphim, who have never suffered, and consequently have never clung to a slaying God. I count it the grandest possibility of a created being that it should be able completely to yield itself up into the Creator’s hand, and unwaveringly believing in the Creator’s love, in hope believing against hope. Oh, royal word of a right royal soul, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him.”
II. Secondly, we have before us A NOBLE RESOLUTION— “yet will I trust in him.” Job meant that he was confident that the Lord “was just, and though he did not feel that the sufferings he was then enduring were sent upon him for his sins, yet he never doubted the righteousness of God in so afflicting him. His friends said, “You see, Job, you suffer more than anybody else, therefore you must have been a hypocrite, for God will not lay upon any man more than is just.” “No,” said Job, “I have been upright before the Lord; and yet, on the other hand, I do not accuse the Lord of injustice, I am sure he does what is right, and I trust him as much as ever.” There were two things to which Job stuck very firmly— “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him, but I will maintain my own ways before him” — that is, I will not admit that I have been a hypocrite, for I have been sincerely obedient to him; nor will I be driven to the other conclusion, that God is unjust in afflicting me. Job did not understand the Lord ’s reasons, but he continued to confide in his goodness. He set no terms or limits to the Lord’s action, but left all to his absolute will, and was sure that whatever he might do it must be right. Should death prevent all apparent possibility of making up to him all his losses and woes, his faith o’erleaped the sepulchre, and saw justice and mercy alive in the realms beyond, making all things right in the end. Oh, it was grand thus to champion almighty goodness in the teeth of death itself.
Now, dear brethren, you and I, if we are resting upon God may say, “Whatever happens, though I may not be able to understand God’s dispensations to me any more than Job understood God’s dispensations towards him, yet I am quite sure of this, that he will help me in my trouble, and I will, therefore, cast myself upon him, believing that as my days my strength shall be; or if he does not aid me in my trouble with manifest help I will still trust that he will bring me out of it, that if he seem to forsake for a while, yet it shall be said of me as of Gad, “a troop shall overcome him, but he shall overcome at the last.”
If I should neither receive present help nor immediate deliverance, yet I am persuaded that my good is designed by my long trial, and that God is making the worst things work out my everlasting benefit and his own glory; therefore will I submit to his will, and expect in the end to see the lovingkindness of the Lord. Yea, and if I should have neither present help nor deliverance, nor see any immediate good come of my affliction, yet will I repose myself upon God, for in some mysterious way or other I shall yet know that his providence was right and good; for he cannot err, his dealings must be wise; he cannot be unkind, his actions must be tender. Though the sharp edge of death itself invade me, I will hold to this belief, that thou, O Lord, doest all things right. If down to the sepulchre my steps must go, and through the gloomy valley’s darkest shade my pilgrimage must wend, yet will I fear no evil, for thy rod and staff shall be my confidence, and I will be sure that he who bids me die will bid me live again; up from the grave my body shall yet rise, and in my flesh shall I see God. As for my spirit, though it pass through the death shade, it shall come forth into a brighter light, and in the eternity of glory it shall receive abundant recompense for the sorrows of the present time. This is the faith for us to hold at all times— “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him.”
Why, think you, was Job able to speak thus positively about his trusting God? Was it not because he knew God? “They that know thy name will put their trust in thee.” If you would believe God you must know him. Those who are strangers to him cannot trust him. Oh, beloved, only think what God is! Sometimes when I am contemplating his being and character I feel as if I could leap for joy, and when I touch upon the theme in the pulpit I feel as if I could talk on for ever in his praise, and use the grandest, sweetest, richest words in human language to tell what a blessed God my God is. What! the Lord do wrong to any of us? Impossible! The Lord be unkind to us? The supposition cannot be endured for a single moment. After once knowing him we feel that all the goodness and kindness of fathers, mothers, brethren, children, husbands, wives, all put together, is only like one single drop of sweetness compared with that ocean full of honey which is to be found in his infinite love. Besides, we have not only his attributes to trust to, but his past actions to us. Did my Lord forgive me all my sin? and after that will he ever be unkind to me? Did he lay down his life for me upon the accursed tree, and can I dream that he will desert me? Have I looked into the wounds of my dying Saviour, and shall I ever murmur if he should multiply pains and sufferings and losses and crosses to me? God forbid. Such love as his forbids all fear. Did you ever lean on the Bridegroom’s arm? Have you ever sung like the bride in the canticle, “His left hand is under my head, and his right arm doth embrace me”? Did he ever stay you with flagons and comfort you with apples while your soul was sick with too much delight; and after all that will you indulge hard thoughts of him? Oh no, till the day break and the shadows flee away, we cannot think hardly of him who has dealt so kindly with us. His ways must be right; such wondrous acts of love as his have proved to us beyond all question that he is love, essential love, and cannot, therefore, do us an ill turn.
Beside this, we know the relationship in which he stands to us. It has been said that you cannot trust an enemy, and it has been equally well added you cannot trust a reconciled enemy: suspicion lingers long. But our God is no reconciled enemy, though he is sometimes represented as if he were so: he has loved us with an everlasting love; his is no friendship of yesterday, no passion which began to burn a month or two ago; but long ere the hills lifted up their heads he loved us. The bands of his fatherhood are upon us, and we can well commit ourselves into his hands.
Are any of us in great trouble this morning; then let us trust in the Lord now, for what else can we do? Suppose we give up trusting in him, to whom or whither should we go? If this anchor drags, what other holdfast can there be? Let us continue to trust our Lord, for he deserves it. He has never done aught that could justify us in doubting him. Has he ever been false to us? Ah, Judas, you sold your Master, but your Master never sold you. Ah, unbelieving heart, you have wandered from Jesus, but he never wandered from you. If you do not doubt him till you have cause for doubting him it will not be soon. Let us trust our God, for this is the sweetest comfort a man can have. This side heaven nothing can yield the afflicted man such support under trial as when he can fall back upon the strong love of God, and believe that the wisdom of God is overruling all. Nothing tends so to sanctify our trials, and produce good results from them, as faith in God. This is the Samson which finds honey in the lion. For a thousand reasons I would say, “Trust in the Lord at all times: ye people, pour out your hearts before him. God is a refuge for us.” Say ye each one, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him!”
III. And, now, the last point is this, A SECRET APPROPRIATENESS about it all.
There is a something about our Lord’s slaying us which should help us to trust him. I would sooner the Lord should slay me with troubles and trials than let me alone in my sin. What saith the Scriptures? “If ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards and not sons, for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?” I do not so much pity the children of God who have a cross to carry, I reserve my fears for those worldlings who are not in trouble as other men, neither plagued like other men. It would be very foolish for the afflicted one to say, “I am no child of God because he smites me”: there would be more reason in the sinner’s saying, “I am no child of God, for I have my portion in this life.” Surely there is something in you which God loves, or else he would not be killing that which he hates. If he hates the sin in you, it is a good sign; for where do we hate sin most? Why, in those we love most. If you see a fault in a stranger, you wink your eye, and say but little, but in your own dear child you are deeply grieved to observe it. Where there is true love there is a measure of jealousy, and the more burning the love the more fierce the jealousy, especially on the part of Jesus Christ. Where he sees sin in those who are very dear to him, his fury burns not against them, but against their sin, and he will not stop until he has slain it. His rebukes are severe, not because of want of love, but because he loves them so much. An ungodly man met me some years ago when I was suffering, and said to me in a jeering way, “Ah, whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, I see.” I said, “Yes, it is his custom.” “Ah,” said he, “so long as I am without the chastisement I am very content to be without the love.” Oh, it brought the red into my cheeks and the tears into my eyes, and I cried, “I would not change places with you for ten thousand worlds. If my God were to afflict me from head to foot I would bear it joyfully sooner than live a moment without his love.” When the Lord flogs us we love him, and we would not leave him though the devil should bribe us with all the kingdoms of the earth and the glory of them. Our Father puts us sometimes into the black hole, and we are there crying bitterly under a sense of his wrath, but we love him still, and if anybody were to find fault with him we would be up at once and say “He is a good God, and blessed be his name.”
Note again that the slaying of the creature is the very condition in which faith teas born, and in which she delights to display her power. We are saved by passing from death unto life. As Noah was like a dead man out of mind shut up in the ark, and by this burial passed into the new world; and as in the ordinance of baptism we are in like figure -buried with Christ that we may rise with him, so faith took her birth in the death of the creature at the time when the new life was breathed into us. When God is slaying all that is capable of death, and our new immortal life alone survives, faith feels as if her birthday had come over again and brought with it her native air.
Notice again, it is at times token God is slaying us that our faith is being tested whether it is true or not. When all the winds are fair how can you tell whether your barque would bear a storm? How much faith some of us have at times! Have you never felt as if you could fight seven devils with one hand? There was not a devil within seven miles when you were so bold; but when the smallest fiend has drawn near your courage has oozed out. We are like an old man whom I once knew, who said to me, “Here am I, eighty years old, and through the winter I often think, I wish I had a bit of mowing or reaping to do, for I feel quite young again; but as soon as harvest comes on. and I get down my old sickle, I have not done much before I feel the old man is a very old man, and had better leave that work alone.” Slaying times let us know whether our strength is real strength, and whether our confidence is true confidence, and this is good, for it would be a great pity for us to be stocked with heaps of sham faith, and fictitious grace, and ready-made holiness. Some of my friends talk as if they had holiness enough for a dozen people, but I am afraid if they were tried as some of us are they would find they had not half enough for one. This is the benefit of trial— it lets us see what is gold and what is tinsel, what is fact and what is fiction. Alas, how much religious fiction is abroad at this time!
Note further, that slaying times are the most favourable for trusting God. I have been putting a little riddle to myself. Here it is. Is it easier to trust God when you have nothing, or when you have all things? Is it easier to say, “Though he slay me, I will trust in him,” or to say, “Though he make me alive, I will trust in him”? Will you think it over? Shall I help you? Here is a man without a farthing in the world; his cupboard is bare, his flocks are cut off from the field, and his herds from the stall; is it hard for that man to trust in God? If you say so I will not dispute with you. But here is another man who has a bank full of gold, his meadows are covered with flocks and herds, his barns are ready to burst with corn, and his trade prospers on all hands. Now, sirs, is it easy for that man to trust God? Do you say “Yes”? I say “No.” I say that he has a very hard task indeed to live by faith, and the probabilities are that when he says, “I trust God,” he is trusting his barn or his bank. All things considered, it occurs to me that it is easier to trust God in adversity than in prosperity, because whatever trust there is in adversity is real trust, but a good deal of the faith we have in prosperity is a kind of trust which you will have to take upon trust, and whether it is faith or not is a matter of serious question. Sirs, where is the room for faith when you can see already all that you want? A full barn has no room for faith if she be any bigger than a mouse; but in an empty barn faith has scope and liberty. When the brook Cherith is dried up, when the poor widow has nothing left but a handful of meal and a little oil, then there is room for the prophet to exercise faith. Oh, brethren, it is well to go into action with clear decks. In the name of God, with double-shotted guns full of strong faith you can let the world and the flesh and the devil know what faith is; but while your deck is all hampered with comforts and visible resources faith can scarce stir a hand or move a gun. “Though he slay me,”— well, that means everything is gone, only breath enough left me just to exist; and now, my Lord, thou art all in all to me. Now can I say, “Whom have I in heaven but thee; there is none upon the earth that I desire beside thee.”
Once more, these slaying times are very desirable occasions, because they allow the child of God to show that he is not a mercenary professor, held to Christ by a cupboard love. If God were always to prosper us the world would say, “These Christians follow their God as stray dogs follow those who give them bones, but they have no sincere love.” When the Lord falls a whipping us, and we love him all the more, then they cannot say but what we are faithful, nor can they deny the work of grace in our souls. Oh, you that are Christians as long as it is pleasant to be Christians, you who make your love to Christ depend upon your feeling happy,— what despicable beings you are. Our Lord wants not such base disciples, but such as can say, “If I lose all I have, still I love thee, O my Saviour: thy sweet love is so precious that if death were threatened me I would still choose thee to be my all in all.” Love desires opportunities for proving her disinterestedness, and such is the opportunity of the text.
There are seeking souls here this morning, and I daresay they have said, “Mr. Spurgeon has been describing great faith, we shall never get to that.” I have been thinking, dear souls, what kind of a man is most like a little child. Is it not a very old man? What kind of faith is most like new-born faith? Why, the ripest and most advanced faith. My text is very old faith: “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him,” but the very first faith I had in Christ— I remember it well how — was just like it. I thought he would destroy me, I could not see how he could do otherwise, and yet be a just God. I thought he must strike me down if I went to him. He seemed to stand with a drawn sword in his hand, but I felt “Well, if he does slay me, I had better die by his hand than remain his enemy;” and I went to him. I was like the boy who ran away from his home, and dared not return, because he feared his father would flog him. He was out all night, shivering, cold, and wet, and had nothing to eat all day. By the time he got to the next evening, such was his dread of being alone all through another night, that he said to himself, “I would sooner feel my father’s rod than lie here,” and so he went home, and was received with tenderness. So with me. I thought if I went to the Lord, I should have to smart for it, but I concluded I would rather smart than be as I was, and so I went to him, and found I was safe. O poor souls, come to Jesus Christ in that fashion. Say
“I can but perish if I go,
I am resolved to try;
For, if I stay away,
I know I must for ever die.
But if I die with mercy sought,
When I the king have tried;
That were to die, delightful thought,
As sinner never died.”
Say, “If I go to hell, I will trust Christ; if I am cast away for ever, I will trust Christ and that cannot be, for “he that believeth in him is not condemned.” God grant you true faith, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.