Terrible Convictions and Gentle Drawings
May 6, 1860
C. H. SPURGEON
"When I kept silence, my bones willed old through my roaring all the day long. For day, and night thy hand was heavy upon me: my moisture is turned into the drought of summer."Psalm 32:3-4.
David here describes a very common experience amongst convinced sinners. He was subjected to extreme terrors and pangs of conscience. These terrors were continual; they scared him at night with visions, they terrified him all day with dark and gloomy forebodings. "Day and night thy hand was heavy upon me." His pain was so extreme, that when he resorted to prayer he could scarcely utter an articulate word. There were groanings that could not be uttered within his spirit; and hence he calls his prayer roaringa "roaring all the day long." Wherever he was, his spirit seemed to be always sighing, sending a full torrent of melancholy groans upwards towards God; a "roaring all the day long." So far did this groaning proceed, that at last his bodily frame began to show evidences of it. He grew old, and that not merely in the lines of the countenance and the falling in of the cheeks, but his very bones seemed as if they partook of the suffering. He became like an old man before his time. We have heard of some who through severe trouble have had their hair blanched in a single night. But here was a man who did not show merely externally, but even internally, the heavy pressure of grief, on account of sin. His bones grew old, and the sap of his life, the animal spirits, were all dried up; his "moisture was turned into the drought of summer." So intimate is the connection between the body and the soul, that when the soul suffers extremely, the body must be called to endure its part of grief. Verily in this ease it was but simple justice, for David had sinned with his body and with his soul too. By fornication he had defiled his members; he had looked out from his eyes with lustful desires, and had committed iniquity with his body, and now the frame which had become the instrument of unrighteousness, becomes a vehicle of punishment, and his body bears its shave of misery,"my moisture is turned into the drought of summer." We gather from what David says in this Psalm, and indeed in all these seven penitential Psalms that his convictions on account of his sin with Bathsheba, and his subsequent murder of Uriah, were of the deepest and most poignant character, and that the terrors he experienced were indescribable, filling his soul with horror and dismay.
Now, this morning, I propose to deal with this case, so common among those who are under conviction of sin. There are many, who, when the Lord is bringing them to himself, are alarmed by reason of the hardness of the stroke with which he smites them, and the sternness of the sentence which he pronounces against them. After having dealt very solemnly with that character, I shall then turn and spend a fear moments in trying to comfort another class of parsons, who, strange to say, are without comfort, because they do not have these terrors, and are unhappy because they have never experienced this unhappiness. Strange perversity of human nature, that when God sends the terrors we doubt, and when he withholds them we doubt none the less. May God the Spirit bless my discourse doubly to these two different conditions of men.
I. First, then, let me address myself with lovingkindness to those who are now THE SUBJECTS OF GOD'S REBUKE AND THE TERRORS OF GOD'S LAW.
To you would speak on this wise; first, detect the causes of your terror. In the second place tell you God's design in subjecting you thereto, and then point you to the great remedy.
1. As for the causes of your terror they are many, and perhaps in your case the cause may be so peculiar that the wit of man may not be able to discover it. Nevertheless, the remedy which I have to propound at the end, will most assuredly be adapted to your case, for it is a remedy which reaches all diseases, and is a panacea for all ills. You tell me you are sore troubled by reason of conviction, and that your convictions of sin are attended by the most terrible and gloomy thoughts, I am not at a loss to tell you why it is. I shall this morning borrow my divisions from quaint old Thomas Fuller, whose book happened to be thrown in my way this week by Providence, and as I cannot say better things than he said, I shall borrow much of his description of the causes of the terrors of conviction.
First, those wounds must be deep which are given by so strong a hand as that of God. Remember, sinner, it is God that is dealing with you; when you lay dead in your sins he looked on you, and now he has begun not only to look, but to smite; he is now wounding you with the design of afterwards making you whole; he is killing you that he may afterwards make you spiritually alive. You have now entered the lists with DO other than the Almighty God; do you wonder, then, that when he smites, his blows fell you to the ground? Are you astonished that when he wounds, his wounds are deep and hard to heal? Besides, remember it is an angry God that you have to deal with; one who has had patience with you in your sins these thirty, forty, or fifty years, and now he has come forth himself to compel you to throw down the weapons of your rebellion, and to take you captive by trio justice, that he may afterwards set you free by his grace. Is it any marvel, then, that when an angry Goda God who has restrained his anger these many yearscomes out in battle against you, you find it hard to resist him, and that his blows bruise you and break your bones, and make your spirit feel as if it must verily die, crushed beneath the mighty hand of a cruel one? Be not astonished at all your terrors; God on Sinai, when he came to give the law, was terrible; but God on Sinai, when he comes to bring the law into the conscience, and to strike it home, must be more terrible far. When God did but stretch out his hand with the two tables of stone, Moses did exceedingly fear and quake; but when he throws those tables of stone upon you, and makes you feel the weight of that law which you have broken, it is but little marvel that your spirit is bruised and mangled, and dashed into a thousand shivers.
Again, it is no wonder that you are sore troubled when you remember the place where God has unrounded you. He has not wounded you in your hand, or in your head, or in your foot; he is striking at your consciencethe eye of your soul; he wounds you in your heartin your inmost soul. Every wound that God gives to the convicted man is a wound in the very heartin the very vitals; he cuts into the core of the liver, and makes his darts cut through the gall, and parches your inward parts with agony. It is not now a disease that has laid hold merely on your skin or flesh, but it is a something which makes the life-floods boil with hot anguish. He has now shot his arrows into your inmost spirit, thrust his fingers into your eyes and put out their light. Oh! ye need not wonder that your pains are fearful, when God thus smites you on the tenderest part of a conscience which be has made tender by his grace. He may well smart that has salt rubbed into hi' wounds. You have been lashed with the ten-thonged whip of the law till your heart is all bare and bleeding, and now God is scattering, as it were, the salt, and making all those wounds to tingle and smart. Oh! ye might wonder, if ye did not feel, when God is thus casting bitterness into the fountain of your life.
Besides these, there is a third cause for this your pain, namely, that Satan is now busy upon you. He sees that God is wounding you and he does not wish that those wounds shall heal; he therefore trusteth in his fangs, and teareth open the flesh, and trieth if he cannot pour his poison into that very flesh which God has been wounding with the sword. "Now," saith he, "that God is against him will I be against him too. God is driving him to sadness; I will drive him farther still, and urge him to despair. God has brought him to the precipice, to the edge of his self-righteousness, and bidden him look down and see the yawning gulf. Now," says Satan, "one push more, and over he will go." He has come forth, therefore, with all his strength, hoping that the hour of your conviction shall be also the hour of your condemnation. He will tempt you, perhaps, as he did Job, till you any, "My soul chooseth strangling rather than life." He will seek to bring you low, like Jeremiah, until you are ready to wish you had never been born, rather than that you should suffer like this. You can well understand, if a man had been wounded, that it were hard work for the most skillful surgeon to heal him if some vile wretch should tear away the liniments and rend open the wounds as fast as they began to close. Oh! pray against Satan! Cry aloud to your God to deliver you from this fiend, for he is the cause of much of your distress; and if you were rid of him, it may be that your wound would soon heal, and you would find peace. But, remember, the remedy that I shall have to propound to you is a remedy against devils. It is the fiend's confusion as well as sin's destruction. Let them come against you as they may. The remedy I shall have to propound can heal the wounds of Satan, and the tearings of his tangs, as well as those sorrows of soul which God has brought upon you.
You may discover a yet further reason why you are so sore wounded, when you consider the terrible nature of that weapon with which God has wounded you. He had not made a little gash with some slender instrument, but if I understand your case aright, he has brought against you the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. Its Word condemns you; its threatenings strike you like barbed arrows. You turn to the law as it is here revealed, and it is altogether on a smoke against you. You turn to the promises, and even they wound you, because you feel you have no right to them. You look at the most precious passages, but they do not assuage your grief, but the rather increase it, because you cannot realize them and lay hold upon them for yourself. Now, this is God using his Word against you, and you know what a weapon that is,"the sword of the Spirit, which is quick and powerful, piercing to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart." They are cut deep that are wounded by the Word of God. If it were my words which had brought you into this fear, you might soon get rid of it; but these are God's words. Were it a father's curse, it might be hard to give you comfort; but it is God's curse that bath gone out against youthe curse of the God who made you. He himself bath told you that the sinner shall not stand in his sight, and that he hateth the workers of iniquity. He has himself brought home to your conscience some of those awful passages:"God is angry with the wicked every day;" "He will by no means clear the guilty;" "Our God is a consuming fire;" "The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God." With such weapons as these; with red-hot shot fired against you with all the power of the Spirit, it remains no longer a wonder that your soul should be sharply racked, and your very bones should wax old through your roaring all the day long.
Furthermore, there is another cause for this deep disease of conviction, namely, the foolishness of the patient. Physicians will tell you that they can heal one man vastly more quickly than another, even though the disease be precisely the came, and the same remedies be used; for there are some men who help the physician by the quietude of them spirits by the ease and resignation of their minds,their heart is and this gives "health to the navel, and marrow to the bones." But other men are fretful, disturbed, vexed, anxious, questioning this and questioning that; and then the remedies themselves cease to have their proper effect. It is even so with you; you are a foolish patient; you will not do that which would cure you, but you do that which aggravates your woe; you know that if you would east yourselves upon Christ Jesus you would have peace of conscience at once; but instead of that, you are meddling with doctrines too high for you, trying to pry into mysteries which the angels have not known, and so you turn your dizzy brain, and thus help to make your heart yet more singularly sad. You know that you are trying still to work out a righteousness of your own, and this is making your wounds stinking and corrupt. You know, too, that you are looking more to your faith than you are to the object of your faith; you are looking more to what you feel than to what Christ felt; you spend more time in looking at your convictions than you do at Christ's vicarious sacrifice upon the cross. You are a foolish patient; you are doing that which aggravates your complaint. Oh that you were but wiser, and these terrors and these pangs might the sooner be over; you would not tarry so long in the prison if you would but use the means of escape, instead of seeking to dash your head against its strong walls,walls that will not move with all your ravings, but which will only break, and bruise, and wound you the more. You seek to file your fetters, and you rivet them; you seek to unbind them yourself, and you thrust them the deeper into your flesh; you grasp the hammer, and here is the fetter about your wrist; you think to snap it, but you send the iron through the flesh, and make it bleed; you make yourself worse by all your attempts to make yourself better, so that much of your sorrowful conviction is due to your own absurdity, your own ignorance and folly.
And, once more, I must give you another reason. There is no wonder that you are under great and terrible pain when under conviction, for it is a disease in which nothing can ever help you but that one remedy. All the joys of nature will never give you relief. I have heard of some vain man who once wore the gown of a clergyman, who was "visited by a poor creature under distress of mind, in the days of Whitfield;" he said to the penitent, "You have been among the Methodists." "I know I have," said he. "Then don't go among those fellows; they have made you mad." "But what am I to do to get rid of the distress of mind I now feel?" "Attend the theater," said he; "go off to balls; take to gaming and the like; and in that way you will soon dissipate your woe." But as he that poureth vinegar upon nitre, so is he that singeth songs to a sad heart; it is taking away a man's garment to make him warm; it is heaping snow upon his head to dissolve the frostbite, sending him back to draff and dung that he may stay his hunger therewith, thrusting him into the kennel that he may get rid of the stench that offends his nostrils Nay, but if these be the true woundings of God, sinful pleasures will make you worse instead of better; and even the usual comforts of life will lose all power to console you. The words of the tenderest wife, the most loving husband, the mercies of Providence, the blessings of home,all these will be of no avail to you to cure this disease. There is one remedy for it; but none of these will so much as touch it. Quaint old Fuller uses language to this effect, when Adam had sinned, he became suddenly plunged in misery; the birds sang as sweetly, the flowers bloomed as brightly, and the air was as balmy, and Eden quite as blissful; but Adam was in misery; he had unparadised paradise. God had not said a word against him, and yet he went and hid himself under the trees of the garden to find a shelter there. There was nothing in the whole garden that could give Adam a moment's delight, because he was under a sense of sin. And so will it be with you. If you could be put in paradise, you would not be the happier. Now that God has convinced you of sin, there is only one cure for you, and that one cure you must have; for you may ramble the world round and you will never find another. You may try your best with all the pleasures and mercies of this life, but you would be in torment, even though you could be taken to heaven, unless this one remedy should appease your aching heart.
2. I have thus, I think, given you sufficient reasons for the great poignancy of your grief; but now, secondly, what are God's designs in thus plunging you deeply in the mire? He does not deal so with all his people; some he brings in a very gentle way to himself. Why, then, does he deal thus hardly with you? The answers to this question are these: there are some questions best unanswered; there are some dealings of God about which we have no right to ask a question If he draws you to heaven, though it were through hell itself, you ought to be content. So long as you are but saved, however fearful the process, you ought not to murmur. But I may give you some reasons after all.
In the first place, it is because you were such a stony-hearted sinner,so dead, so careless,that nothing else ever would have awakened you but this-trumpet. It would have been of no use to bring out the gospel with its dulcet notes; it would have been of little service for David to play on his harp before you. You needed to be aroused, and therefore it is that God has hurled his thunderbolts at you one after another, and has been pleased to make heaven and earth shake before you that you might be made to tremble. You were so desperately set on mischief, so stolid, so indifferent, that if saved, God must save you in such a way, or else not at all.
And then again, the Lord knows that there is that in your heart which would take you teach to your old sins, and so he is making them bitter to you; he is burning you, that you may be like the burnt child that dreads the fire; he is letting you see the disease in its full climax, that you may from henceforth avoid the company in which that disease was found; he has taught you the full evil of' your heart, the full obnoxiousness of sin, in order that from this day forth you may become a more careful walker, and may the more zealously hate every false way.
Besides, it may possibly happen that he designs this out of love to your soul, to make you the more happy afterwards. He is filling your mouth with wormwood, and breaking your teeth with gravel-stone, that you may have a richer appreciation of the luscious flavour of the will of pardon when he pours it into your heart. It is making you feed on ashesthe serpent's meatthat when you come to eat children's meatthe bread of heavenyour joy may be multiplied sevenfold. I am one of those poor souls who for five years led a life of misery, and was almost driven to distraction; but I can heartily say, that one day of pardoned sin was a sufficient recompense for the whole five years of conviction. I have to bless God for every terror that ever seared me by night, and for every foreboding that alarmed me by day. It has made me happier ever since; for now, if there be a trouble weighing upon my soul, I thank God it is not such a trouble as that which bowed me to the very earth, and made me creep like a very beast upon the ground by reason of heavy distress and affliction. I know I never can again suffer what I have suffered; I never can, except I be sent to hell, know more of agony than I have known; and now, that ease, that joy and peace in believing, that "no condemnation" which belongs to me as a child of God, is made doubly sweet and inexpressibly precious, by the recollection of my past days of sorrow and grief. Blessed be thou, O God, for ever, who by those black days, like a dreary wilt bath made these summer days all the fairer and the sweeter! The shore is never so welcome as when you mount it with the foot of a shipwrecked mariner just escaped from the sea; food never so sweet as when you sit at the table after days of hunger; water never so refreshing as when you arrive at the end of a parched desert, and have known what it is to thirst.
And yet one other reason let me give you, and I need not keep you longer on this point. Possibly, God is bringing you thus, my dear friends, because he means to make great use of you. We are all God's weapons against the enemy. All his saints are used as instruments in the Holy War; but there are some whom God uses in the thickest part of the battle. They are his swords whom he wields in his hand, and strikes innumerable blows with them. These he anneals again, and again, and again. He is annealing you. He is making you meet to be a mighty one in his Israel by-and-bye. Oh! how sweetly you will able to talk to others like yourself, when you once get comfort; and oh! how much you will love him when he once puts away your sin! Will you not? Oh! I think I see you the first day after your sins are forgiven. Why you will be wanting to preach: I should not wonder if you will be going out into the streets, or hurrying to your old companions, and saying to them, "My sins are washed away." Why there will tee nothing too hard for you. The Lord gets his best soldiers out of the highlands of affliction. These are Highlanders that carry everything before them. They know the rivers of sin, they know the glens of grief, and now their sins are all washed away, they know the heights of self-consecration, and of pure devotion; they can do all things through Christ, who strengtheneth them, the Christ who has forgiven them.
Do you not think I have just driven the nail home here? Do you not feel in your spirit, that if Jesus would forgive you, you would do everything for him? Oh! I know if I should give out that hymn
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