CHARLES HADDON SPURGEON’S LAST SERMON
Preached at Mentone 1st January 1892
Passing at this hour over the threshold of the New Year, we look forward, and what do we see? Could we procure a telescope which would enable us to see to the end of the year, should we be wise to use it? I think not. We know nothing of the events which lie before us – of life or death to ourselves or to our friends, or of changes of position, or of sickness or health. What a mercy that these things are hidden from us! If we foresaw our best blessings, they would lose their freshness and sweetness while we impatiently waited for them. Anticipation would sour into weariness, and familiarity would breed contempt. If we could foresee our troubles, we should worry ourselves about them long before they came, and in that fretfulness we should miss the joy of our present blessings. Great mercy has hung up a veil between us and the future; and there let it hang.
Still, all is not concealed. Some things we clearly see. I say ‘we’;
but I mean those whose eyes have been opened, for it is not everyone who can see in the truest sense. A lady said to Mr. Turner, ‘I have often looked upon that prospect, but I have never seen what you have put into your picture.’ The great artist simply replied, ‘Don’t you wish you could see it?’ Looking into the future with the eye of faith, believers can see much that is hidden from those who have no faith. Let me tell you in a few words, what I see as I look into the New Year.
I see a pathway made up from this January 1st 1892, to January 1st 1893. I see a highway cast up by the foreknowledge and predestination of God. Nothing is left to chance; nay, not the falling of a sparrow, nor the losing of a hair, is left to haphazard; but all the events of life are arranged and appointed. Not only is every turn in the road marked in the divine map, but every stone on the road, and every drop of morning dew or evening mist that falls upon the grass which grows at the roadside. We are not to cross a trackless desert;
the Lord has ordained our path in His infallible wisdom and infinite love. “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord; and He delighteth in his way.’
I see, next, a Guide provided, as our Companion along the way. To Him we gladly say, ‘Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel.’ He is waiting to go with us through every portion of the road. “The Lord, he it is that doth go before thee: he will be with thee; he will not fail thee.’ We are not left to pass through life as though it were a lone wilderness, a place of dragons and owls; for Jesus says, ‘I will not leave you comfortless; I will come unto you.’
Though we should lose father and mother, and the dearest friends, there is One who wears our nature, who will never quit our side. One like unto the Son of Man is still treading the life-ways of relieving hearts, and each true believer cometh up from the wilderness leaning upon the Beloved. We feel the presence of the Lord Jesus even now, in this room where two or three are gathered together in His name, and I trust we shall feel it all through the months of the year, whether it be the time of the singing of birds, or the season of ripe fruits, or the dark months when the clods are frozen into iron. In this Riviera we ought the more readily to realize our Lord’s presence, because the country is so like ‘Thy land, O Immanuel!’ Here is the land of oil, olive, and of figs, and of the clusters of Eschol. By such a blue sea He walked, and up such rocky hills. He climbed. But whether here or elsewhere, let us look for Him to abide with us, to make this year truly to be ‘a year of our Lord.’
Beside the way, and the Guide, I perceive very clearly, by the eye of faith, strength for the journey provided. Throughout the whole distance of the year we shall find halting places, where we may rest and take refreshment, and then go on our way singing, ‘He restoreth my soul.’ We shall have strength enough, but none to spare; and that strength will come when it is needed and not before. When saints imagine they have strength to spare, they turn sinners, and are apt to have their locks shorn by the Philistines. The Lord of the way will find the pilgrims with sufficient spending-money for the road; but He may not think it wise to burden them with superfluous funds.
God all-sufficient will not fail those that trust Him. When we come to the place for the shoulderings of the burden, we shall reach the place for receiving the strength. If it pleases the Lord to multiply our troubles from one to ten, He will increase our strength in the same proportion. To each believer the Lord still says, ‘As thy days, so shall thy strength be.’ You do not yet feel that you have grace to die with: what of that? You are not yet dying. While you have yet to deal with the business and duty of life, look to God for the grace which these require; and when life is ebbing out, and your only thought is about landing on the eternal shore, then look to God your Saviour for dying strength for dying moments. We may expect an inrush of divine strength when human strength is failing, and a daily impartation of energy as daily need requires. Our lamps shall be trimmed as long as they shall need to burn. Let not our present weakness tempt us to limit the Holy One of Israel. There is a hospice on every pass over the Alps of life, and a bridge across every river of trial which crosses our way to the Celestial City. Holy angels are as numerous to guard us as fallen ones to tempt us. We shall never
have a need for which our gracious Father has furnished no supply.
I see, most plainly, a Power overruling all things which occur in the way we tread. I see an alembic in which all things are transformed. ‘All things work together for good to them that love God, to them that are called according to His purpose’. I see a wonder-working hand which turns for us the sword of disease into the ploughshares of correction, and the spears of trial into the pruning hooks of discipline. By this divine skill, bitters are made sweet, and poisons turned to medicines. ‘Nothing shall by any means harm you,’ is a promise too strong for feeble faith; but full assurance finds it true. Since God is for us, who can be against us? what a joy to see Jehovah Himself as our banner, and God Himself with us as our Captain! Forward then into the New Year, ‘for there shall no evil befall you.’
One thing more, and this is brightness itself: this year we trust we shall see God glorified by us and in us. If we realize our chief end we reach our highest enjoyment. It is the delight of the renewed heart to think that God can get glory out of such poor creatures as we are. ‘God is light.’ We cannot add to His brightness; but we may act as reflectors, which, though they have no light of their own, yet, when the sun shines upon them, reflect his beams, and send them where, without such reflection, they might not have come. When the Lord shines upon us, we will cast that light upon dark places, and make those who sit in the shadow of death to rejoice in Jesus our Lord. We hope that God has been in some measure glorified in some of us during the past year, but we trust He will be glorified by us far more more in the year which now begins. We will be content to glorify God either actively or passively. We would have it so happen that, when our life’s history is written, whoever reads it will not think of us as ‘self-made men,’ but as the handiwork of God, in whom His grace is magnified. Not in us may men see the clay, but the Potter’s hand. They said of one, ‘He is a fine preacher’; but of another they said, ‘We never notice how he preaches, but we feel that God is great’. We wish our whole life to be a sacrifice; an altar of incense continually smoking with sweet perfume upon the Most High. Oh, to be borne through the year on the wings of praise to God; to mount from year to year, and raise at each ascent a loftier and yet lowlier song unto the God of our life! The vista of a praiseful life will never close, but continue throughout eternity. From psalm to psalm, from hallelujah to hallelujah, we will ascend the hill of the Lord, until we come to the holiest of all, where, with veiled faces, we will bow before the Divine Majesty in the bliss of endless adoration. Throughout this year may the Lord be with you! Amen.
The Sword and the Trowel, 1892.