Do Not Fear Disasters
(Originally titled: What Are the Clouds?)
August 19, 1855
C. H. SPURGEON
“Clouds are the dust of his feet.”—Nahum
Copyright 2005 by Tony Capoccia. This updated file may be freely copied,
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Verses quoted, unless otherwise noted, are taken from the HOLY BIBLE: NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION, ©1978 by the New York Bible Society, used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.
This sermon, preached by Tony Capoccia, is now available on Audio CD: www.gospelgems.com
It is possible
for a man to read too many books. We will not despise learning, we will book
undervalue education, such achievements are very desirable; and, when his
talents are sanctified to God, the man of learning frequently becomes, in the
hands of the Spirit, far more useful than the ignorant and the uneducated; but
at the same time, if a man acquires his knowledge entirely from books, he will
not find himself to be a very wise man. There is such a thing as packing so
many books in your brains that they cannot work—pouring in piles of type, and
letters, and manuscripts, and papers, and pamphlets, and volumes, and books in
your head, that your brains are absolutely buried and
cannot move at all. I believe that many of us, even as we have sought to learn
by books, have neglected those great volumes which God has given us; we have
neglected to study this great book, the Bible!
perhaps, we have not been careful enough students of the great volume of
nature, and we have forgotten that other great book, the human heart. For my
own part, I desire to be somewhat a student of the heart; and I think I have
learned far more from conversation with my fellowmen than I ever did from
reading, and the examination of my own experience, and the workings of my own
heart, have taught me far more of humanity than all the intellectually
challenging and abstract books I have ever perused. I like to read the book of
my fellow creatures; nothing delights me so much as when I see a multitude of
them gathered together, or when I have the opportunity of having their hearts
poured into mine, and mine into theirs. He will not be a wise man who does not
study the human heart, and does not seek to know something of his fellow
creatures and of himself. But if there is one book I love to read above all
others, next to the book of God, it is the volume of nature.
I don’t care what
letters they are that I read, whether they are the golden spellings of the name
of God up above in the stars, or whether I read, in rougher lines, his name
printed on the raging floods, or see it written in the beauty and awesomeness
of the huge mountains, the rushing waterfall, or the quiet forest. Wherever I
look in nature I love to discern my Father's name spelled out in living
characters; and when I can find any really green fields, I would do as Isaac
did, go into the fields in the evening and muse and meditate upon the God of
nature. I thought in the cool of last evening. I would reflect on my God, by
his Holy Spirit, and see what message he would give me. There I sat and watched
the clouds, and learned a lesson in the great hall of Nature's college. The
first thought that struck me was this, as I saw the white clouds rolling in the
sky—that I will soon see my Savior mounted on a great white throne, riding on
the clouds of heaven, to call men to judgment. My imagination could easily
picture the scene, when the living and the dead would stand before his Great
White Throne, and would hear his voice pronounce their eternal destiny. I
remembered, moreover, that text in Ecclesiastics ,
“Whoever watches the wind will not plant; whoever looks at the clouds will not
reap” [Ecclesiastes 11:4]. I thought how many times that I and my brother
ministers have paid attention to the clouds. We have listened to the voice of
prudence and of caution when we have stared at the clouds. We have stopped when
we ought to have been sowing because we were afraid of the multitude, or we
refused to reap and take in the people into our churches, because some good
brother thought we were too quick about the matter. I rose up and thought to
myself, I will pay no attention to the clouds nor the winds, but when the wind
blows a hurricane I will throw the seed with my hands, if then the hurricane
becomes even stronger, and the clouds even darker, still I will reap, and rest
assured that God will preserve his own wheat, whether I gather it under the
clouds of a hurricane or in the sunshine. And then, when I sat there
considering God, thoughts struck me as the clouds rushed along through the
skies, thoughts which I must give to you this morning. I trust they were
somewhat for my own instruction, and possibly they may be for yours too. “The
clouds are the dust of his feet.”
I. Well, the first remark I make on this subject will be—the way of God is generally hidden.
This we gather
from the text, by noting the connection, “The Lord has his way is in the
whirlwind [Greek: “hurricane”] and the storm, and clouds are the dust of his
feet” [Nahum 1:3]. When God works his wonders he always conceals himself. Even
the motion of his feet causes clouds to arise; and if these; clouds are but the
dust of his feet,” how deep must be that dense darkness which veils the Eternal
God. If the small dust which he causes is of equal magnitude with our clouds—if
we can find no other figure to image “the dust of his feet” than the clouds of heaven, then, how obscure must be the motions of
the Eternal One, how hidden and how shrouded in darkness! This great truth
suggested by the text, is well borne out by facts. The ways of God are hidden
ones. Cowper was correct when he sang,—
“He plants his footsteps in the sea,
And rides upon the storm.”
His footsteps cannot be seen, for, planted on the sea, the next wave washes them away; and placed in the storm, turbulent and chaotic as the air is then, every impression of his chariot wheels is soon erased. Look at God, and at whatever he has purposed to do, and you will always see him to have been a hidden God. He has concealed himself, and all his ways have been veiled in the strictest mystery. Consider his works of salvation. How did he hide himself when he determined to save mankind? He did not clearly reveal himself to our forefathers. He gave them simply one dim lamp of prophecy which shone in words like these “The offspring [seed] of the woman will crush the serpent’s head [Genesis 3:15];” and for four thousand years God concealed his Son in mystery, and no one understood what the Son of God was to be. The smoking incense clouded their eyes, and while it showed something of Jesus, it hid far more. The burning victim sent its smoke up towards the sky, and it was only through the dim mists of the sacrifice that the pious Jew could see the Savior. Angels themselves, we are told, desired to look into the mysteries of redemption, yet though they stood with their eyes intently fixed upon it, until the hour when redemption developed itself on Cavalry, not a single angel could understand it. The profoundest scholar might have sought to find out how God could be just and yet the justifier of the ungodly; but he would have failed in his investigations. The most intensely pious man might meditate, with the help of that portion of God's Spirit which was then given to the prophets, on this mighty subject, and he could not have discovered what the mystery of godliness was—”God manifest in the flesh.” God marched in clouds, “He walked in the whirlwinds [hurricanes];” he did not tell the world what he was about to do; for it is his plan to surround himself in darkness, and “the clouds are the dust of his feet.” Ah! and so it has always been in
Turn your eye along the page of history, and see how mysterious God’s dealings have been. Who would conceive that Joseph sold into
“Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never failing skill,
He treasures up his bright designs,
And works his sovereign will.”
And yet, beloved, you and I always want to know what God is doing. There is a great war taking place somewhere on the earth. We have experienced some great disasters, and we are reading the accounts in the news and saying, “What is God doing there?” What did he do in the last war? What was the benefit of it? We see that even Napoleon was the means of doing good, for he broke down the aristocracy and made all subsequent monarchs respect the power, and the rights of the people. We see what the result was even of that dreaded hurricane, that it swept away a pestilence which would have devoured many more than the storm did. But we ask, “What is God doing with this world?” We want to know what will be the consequences. Suppose we should humble
Or, perhaps, you are not troubled about
All things are
working together for good; but what each individual thing is doing, would be
impossible to explain. Yet, you child of Adam, with your finite intellect, are
continually stopping to ask, “Why is this?” The infant lies dead in its crib.
Why was infancy snatched away? Oh, ruthless death, could you not gather ripe
corn; why snatch the rosebud? Wouldn’t a wreath of withered leaves suit you
better than these tender blossoms? Or, you are asking of
II. This second thought is—GREAT THINGS WITH US ARE LITTLE THINGS WITH GOD.
What great things clouds are to us! There we see them moving through the skies! Then they rapidly increase till the whole sky turns black and a dark shadow is cast upon the world; we foresee the coming storm, and we tremble at the mountains of cloud, for they are great. Are they truly great things? No, they are only the dust of God’s feet. The greatest cloud that ever swept the face of the sky, was but one single particle of dust stirred up by the feet of the Almighty Jehovah. When clouds roll over clouds and the storm is very terrible, it is but the chariot of God, as it speeds along the heavens, raising a little dust around him! “The clouds are the dust of his feet.” Oh! can you grasp this idea my friends, or had I words in which to put it into your souls, I am sure you would sit down in solemn awe of that great God who is our Father, or who will be our Judge. Consider that the greatest things with man are little things with God. We call the mountains great, but what are they? They are but “the dust on the scales” [Isaiah 40:15].
We call the nations great, and we speak of mighty empires, but before God the nations are nothing but “a drop in a bucket.” We call the islands great and boast of them—yet God’s Word declares that “He weighs the islands as though they were fine dust” [Isaiah 40:15]. We speak of great and mighty men and yet God says—“The people of the earth [in his sight] are like grasshoppers” [Isaiah 40:22]. We talk of huge planets in motion millions of miles from us—in God’s sight they are like little atoms dancing up and down in the sunbeam of existence.
Compared with God there is nothing great. True, there are some things which are little with man that are great with God. Such are our sins which we call little, but which are great with him; and his mercies, which we sometimes think are little, he knows are very great mercies towards such great sinners as we are. Things which we consider great are very little with God. If you knew what God thought of our talk sometimes, you would be surprised at yourselves. We have some great trouble enter our lives—we become so burdened with it, saying, “O Lord God! what a great trouble I am weighed down with.” Why, I think, God might smile at us, as we do sometimes at a little child who tries to pick up something that is too heavy for it (but which you could hold between your fingers), the child staggers, and says, “Father, what a heavy weight I am carrying.” So there are people who stagger under the great trouble which they think they are bearing. Great, beloved! There are no great troubles at all: “the clouds are the dust of his feet.” If you would only consider them so, the greatest things with you are but little things with God.
Suppose, now, that you had all the troubles of all the people in the world, that they all came pouring down on your head: what are these torrents of trouble to God?—“Drops in a bucket.” What are whole mountains of grief to him? Why, “He weighed the mountains on the scales,” as if they were dust. [Isaiah 40:12]. And he can easily remove your trials. So, in your weariness, don’t sit down and say, “My troubles are too great.” Listen to the voice of mercy, which says, “Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall” [Psalm 55:22].
You often will
hear two Christians talk. One of them will say, “O my troubles, and trials, and
sorrows, they are so great I can hardly sustain them; I don’t know how to bear
my afflictions from day to day.” The other says, “Ah! my
troubles and trials are not less severe, but, nevertheless, they have been less
than nothing. I can laugh at impossibilities, and say they will be done.” What
is the cause of the difference between these men? The secret is that one of
them carried his troubles, and the other did not. It doesn’t matter to a porter
how heavy a load may be, if he can find another to carry it all for him. But if
he is to carry it all himself, of course he does not like a heavy load. So one
man bears his troubles himself and gets his back nearly broken; but the other
cast his troubles on the Lord. Ah! it doesn’t matter
how heavy troubles are if you can cast them on the Lord. The heavier they are
so much the better, for the more you have gotten rid of, then the more there is
laid upon the Rock of our salvation. Never be afraid of troubles. However heavy
they are, God's eternal shoulders can bear them. He, whose omnipotence is
testified by the revolving planets, and systems of enormous galaxies, can well
sustain you. Is his arm too short, that he cannot save, or is he weary, that he
cannot hold you tightly? Your troubles are nothing to God, for the very “clouds
are the dust of his feet.”
And this encourages me, I assure you, in the work of the ministry; for any man who has his eyes open to the world at large, will acknowledge that there are many clouds brooding over
The church needs
shaking, like the man on the mountain-top does when the cold numbs him into a
deadly slumber. The churches have gone to sleep for the lack of zeal, for the
lack of fire. Even those who hold sound doctrine are beginning to slumber. Oh
may God stir the church up! One great black cloud, only broken here and there
by a few rays of sunlight, seems to be hanging over our happy country. But,
beloved, there is comfort, “for the clouds are the dust
of his feet.” He can scatter them in a moment. He can raise
up his chosen servants, who have only to put their mouth to the trumpet, and
one blast will awaken the sleeping sentinels, and startle the sleeping camp.
God has only to send out again some evangelist, some flying angel, and the
churches will start up once more, and she who has been clothed in sackcloth,
will shed her garments of mourning and put on a garment of praise, instead of
the spirit of heaviness. The day is coming, I hope, when the Church will sit,
not without her diadem, crownless; but with her crown on her head, she will
grasp her banner, take up her shield, and, like that heroic maiden of old who
roused a whole nation, will go forth conquering and to conquer. We have a great
hope, because “the clouds are the dust of his feet.”
Yes, and what clouds rest on the world at large! What black clouds of Catholic superstition, Mohammedanism, and idolatry. But what are all these things? We don’t care about them at all, brethren. Some say that I am getting very enthusiastic about the latter-day glory, and the coming of our Savior Jesus Christ. Well, I don't know. I get all the happier the more enthusiastic I am, so I hope I will keep at it, for I believe there is nothing that so comforts a servant of God as to believe that his Master is coming. I hope to see him. I would not be surprised to see Jesus Christ tomorrow morning. He may come then. “Because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you don’t expect him” [Matthew 24:44].
He who learns to watch for Christ, will never be surprised when he comes. Blessed will that servant be, whom, when his Lord comes, he will find busy about his duty. But some say he cannot come yet; there are so many clouds, and so much darkness in the sky, it cannot be expected that the sun will rise yet. Is that a good reason? Do the clouds ever impede the sun? The sun moves on despite all the mists; and Jesus Christ can come clouds or no clouds. We do not need light before he appears; he will come and give us light, afterwards, scattering the darkness with the glory of his own eyes. But you say, “How are these idolatrous systems to be destroyed?” God could do it in an hour if he pleased. Religion never moves by years and weeks. Even false religions grow like mushrooms. False religions attained colossal proportion in a very few years. Take the case of Mohammedanism—the new-born faith of Islam became the religion of millions in an incredible short period and if a false religion could spread so quickly, will not a true one run along like fire amidst the stubble, when God will speak the word? Clouds are but “dust of his feet.”
A little while
ago some of us were fretting about Mormonism, and we said, “It will never be
broken up.” Some stupid fellows in
III. Now, one more remark. “The clouds are the dust of his feet.” Then we learn from that, that THE MOST TERRIBLE THINGS IN NATURE HAVE NO TERROR TO A CHILD OF GOD.
Sometimes clouds are very fearful things to sailors; they expect a storm when they see the clouds and darkness gathering. A cloud to many of us, when it foretells an approaching storm is a very unpleasant thing. But let me read my text, and you will see what I mean by my remark that the most terrible things in nature are not terrible to the saints. The clouds are the dust of HIS feet,”—of God's feet. Don’t you see what I mean? There is nothing terrible now, because it is only the dust of my Father's feet. Did you ever know a child who was afraid of the dust of his father's feet? No; if the child sees the dust of his father's feet in the distance, what does he do? He rejoices because it is his father, and runs to meet him. So the most awful things in nature, even the clouds, have lost all their terror to a child of God, because he knows they are but the dust of his Father's feet. If we stand in the midst of the lightning storm, a flash strikes the cedar in the field, or splits the oak of the forest; another flash succeeds, and then another, till the whole sky becomes a sea of flame. We don’t fear, for they are only the flashes of our Father's sword as he waves it in the sky. Listen to the thunder as it shakes the earth and exposes the forests; we don’t shake at the sound.
“The God that rules on high,
And thunders when he please,
That rides upon the stormy sky,
And manages the seas.
“This awful God is ours,
Our Father and our love.”
We are not afraid, for we hear our Father's voice. And what favored child ever quaked at his Father's speech. We love to hear that voice; although it is deep, low, loud, yet we love its matchless melody, for it issues from the depths of affection. Put me to sea, and let the ship be driven along, that wind is my Father's breath let the clouds gather, they are the dust of my Father's feet; let the waterspout appear from heaven, it is my Father dipping his hand in the water. The child of God fears nothing. All things are his Father’s; and divested now of everything that is terrible, he can look upon them with complacency, for he says, “The clouds are the dust of his feet.”
“He drives his chariot through the sky,
Beneath his feet his thunders roar;
He shakes the earth, he veils the sky,
My soul, my soul, this God adore—
He is your Father, and your love.”
Fall down before his feet and worship him, for he has loved you by his grace. You know there are many fearful events which may happen to us; but we are never afraid of them, if we are saints, because they are the dust of his feet. Deadly disease may ravage this fair city once again; and thousands may die, and the funeral procession may be constantly seen in our streets. Do we fear it? No, the pestilence is but one of our Father’s servants, and we are not afraid of it, although it walks in darkness. There may be no wheat, the flocks may be cut off from the herd and the stall; nevertheless, famine and distress are our Father’s doings, and what our Father does we will not view with alarm. There is a man there with a sword in his hand—he is an enemy, and I fear him, yet my father has a sword, and I don’t fear him; I rather love to see him have a sword, because I know he will only use it for my protection.
But there is to come a sight more grand, more terrific, more sublime, and more disastrous than anything earth has yet witnessed; there is to come a fire before which Sodom's fire will pale to nothingness; and the inferno of continents will sink into less than nothing and vanity. In a few more years, my friends, Scripture assures us, this earth and all that is in it, is to be burned up. That deep molten mass which now lies in the bosom of our mother earth is to burst up—the solid matter is be melted down into one vast globe of fire; the wicked—shrieking, wailing, and cursing, will become a prey to these flames that will blaze upward from the breast of earth; comets will shoot their fires from heaven; all the lightnings will launch their bolts upon this poor earth, and it will become a mass of fire. But does the Christian fear it? No. Scripture tell us we will be caught up together with the Lord in the air, and will be forever with the Lord.
IV. To conclude. The fourth observation is, ALL THINGS IN NATURE ARE CALCULATED TO TERRIFY THE UNGODLY MAN.
I now speak to all the ungodly men and women now present in this place of worship, it is a very solemn fact that you are at enmity with God—you are hostile to God; that having sinned against God, God is angry with you—not angry with you today, but angry with you every day, angry with you every hour and every moment. It is, moreover, a most sad and solemn fact that there is a day coming, when this anger of God will burst out, and when God will utterly destroy and devour you. Now listen to me for a moment, while I try to make all nature preach to you a solemn warning, and the wide world itself a great high priest, holding up its finger and calling you to flee for mercy to Jesus Christ, the King of kings.
Sinner, have you ever seen the clouds as they roll along the sky? Those clouds are the dust of the feet of Jehovah. If these clouds are but the dust, what is he himself? And then, I ask you, are you not extremely foolish to be at war with such a God as this? If “the clouds are the dust of his feet, how foolish you are to be his enemy. Do you think you can stand before his majesty? I tell you, he will snap your spear as if it were nothing but a reed. Will you hide yourself in the mountains? They will be melted at his presence; and though you cry to the rocks to hide you, they would fail to give you any concealment before his burning eyes. O, do but consider, my dear fellow creatures, you who are at war with God, wouldn’t it be folly if you were to oppose an angel? Would it not be the utmost stupidity if you were to commence a war even with her majesty the Queen? I know it would, because you have no power to stand against them; but consider how much more mighty is the Eternal God. Why, he could put his finger upon you at this moment and crush you as I could an insect. Yet this God is your enemy; you are hating him, you are at war with him!
consider, unsaved man and unsaved woman, that you have grievously rebelled
against him; that you have incensed his soul, and he is angry, and jealous, and
furious against every sinner. Consider what you will do in that great day of
wrath, when God will fall upon you. Some of you believe in a god that has no
anger, and no hatred towards the wicked. Such a god is not the God of
Scripture? He is a God who punishes the ungodly. Let me ask you sinner: Can you
stand before his indignation? Can you endure the fierceness of his anger? When
his fury is poured out like fire, and the rocks are thrown down by him, will it
be a good thing to be in the hands of the Almighty, who will tear you apart?
Will you think it easy to lie down in hell with the breath of the Eternal
fanning the flames? Will you delight yourself to think that God will create new
torments for you, sinner, to make your doom most cursed if you do not repent
and turn to him? What, wicked man and wicked woman, are the terrors of Jehovah
nothing to you? Don’t you tremble and shake before the fierceness of his fury?
Ah! you may laugh now; you may go away, my listener, and smile at what I have
said; but the day will declare it: the hour is coming—and it may be soon—when
the iron hand of the Almighty will be upon you; when all your senses will be
the gates of misery, your body the house of weeping, and your soul the epitome
of woe. Then you will not laugh and despise God.
But now to finish up, let me just give you one word more; for, beloved, why do we use these threats; why do we speak of them? It is only the words of the angel, who, grabbing
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