The King’s Sharp Arrows
“Your arrows are sharp in the heart of the King’s enemies; whereby the people fall under You.”
WHEN our Lord Jesus Christ is represented as a King, we delight to think of Him as the Prince of Peace whose dominion shall put an end to all war and make it unnecessary for the nations of the earth to learn the arts of war any longer. Meanwhile, however, in this present state, evil is in the world, sin is all around us and thus sin is the curse of mankind. Christ, therefore, for our good, is a fighting King, combating evil and contending against sin in every shape and form and, in that aspect, we regard Him as standing in His glorious war chariot, riding through the world in the power of His Gospel, smiting right and left with the great sword of the Spirit and, at the same time, shooting His sharp arrows of Gospel Truth to the very ends of the earth! The Truth of God is the weapon that Christ uses. The weapons of His warfare are not carnal any more than are ours. The Truth of God is His sword and the Truth of God is His arrow!
There are some Truths which Jesus Christ proclaims in the Gospel and which He bids us also proclaim, which are like sharp arrows–wounding, piercing, killing–and of these I am about to speak, hoping and trusting that those arrows may, in all their sharpness, pierce all hearts that have not felt them yet! And that where they go, they may kill sin and that He may then come in to heal who has wounded them and to give life to those whom He has slain.
First, we shall ask and answer the question, what are those Truths which are like sharp arrows? why arethey arrows? how come they stick fast in human hearts?
- First, then, WHAT ARE THOSE TRUTHS WHICH ARE SHARP AS ARROWS IN THE HEARTS OF MEN?
There are many of them, but I shall only mention such as are most usually felt when men are convinced of sin. One arrow that is always sharp is this–the spirituality and holiness of the Law of God. Many men read the Law of the TenCommandments, or hear it read in their churches on the Sabbath, but they do not know that that Law means a great deal more than the mere words seem to convey. For instance, it is written, “You shall not commit adultery,” but Christ tells us that even though no act of unchastity is committed, the very thought of it is condemned and he who indulges anunclean look has already broken the command. The Law of God not only deals with the overt acts, but also with desireswhich scarcely amount to desires, in which a man pictures the sin and feels a pleasure in the picture, though he has not actually committed the sin. Now, when a man comes to understand in his heart, as well as to hear with his ears that God looks thus at his thoughts, imaginations, desires and words as well as at his actions, then he stands in awe and amazement of the Law and says, “I cannot keep this Law of God, for I am already condemned by it–and being condemned, what way of escape is there for me? How can I get my sins forgiven? By what means can I be reconciled to God?”
This Truth of God is, indeed, a sharp arrow, and well do I remember when first it pierced my heart and conscience. I felt that I could not stand the test of such a Law for a single moment and that if called to stand before God’s bar to be tried on such grounds, I would not require a trial, but must plead guilty at once, or stand there in silence to hear His righteous sentence of condemnation–
“How long beneath the Law I lay
In bondage and distress!
I toiled the precepts to obey,
But toiled without success.
Then, to abstain from outward sin,
Was more than I could do.
Now, if I feel its power within,
I feel I hate it too.”
Another of the Truths connected with Christ’s Gospel that is like a sharp arrow is this–the utter impossibility ofself-justification. This is one of the Truths of the Gospel that we must never fail to proclaim–“By the deeds of the Law there shall no flesh be justified in His sight.” Having offended against God, you cannot expiate the past by any actions of yours. If you should henceforth keep the Law without a single breach or slip, the fact remains that the sentence of condemnation has already gone forth against you! It is often said that this life is a life of probation, but that is not true. We have passed our probation! We have been proved guilty and we are already condemned! And we shall abide under that sentence of condemnation unless we have help outside of ourselves to rescue us from it. Lost, lost, lost–utterly lost is the entire human race apart from the Divine and supreme power which has been put forth in the Person of Jesus Christ! Well do I remember when I first learned that no works of mine–no repentance, no prayers, and no tears could deliver me from the horrible pit into which I was cast through sin! Then was I pierced, indeed, as with a barbed shaft that went right through my soul to the killing of all my proud hopes and boasts! May such an arrow from the King now pierce to the heart anyone here who still cherishes any hope of self-justification!
A third shaft from the King’s bow is this–the certainty of the judgment. If there is any one Truth that Christproclaimed more often than another, it seems to me to be this–that there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and of the unjust. And that the actions of this life will be reviewed in another life, and that rewards and punishments will be meted out by the Great Judge who cannot err. Kind and gracious as the mighty Prophet of Nazareth was, who has described in more graphic words than He did, the separation of the sheep from the goats–and the blessing of those on the right hand and the cursing of those on the left? What words could there be more terrible than His when He spoke of the worm that dies not and of the fire that never shall be quenched? O Sinner, your sin is immortal! And there is only One who can kill it and put it away–even Christ Jesus! You shall live again, Sir! It shall not be the end of you when you are carried to your grave and green grass grows above you. You shall live again and your thoughts, words and actions shall also live! Let them now live in your conscience. Let the recollection of them alarm you even before they arise and accuse you before Him who shall sit on the Great White Throne at the last tremendous Judgment Day! I know this–let a man be thoroughly convinced that he has sinned against God, that he cannot deliver himself from his sin and that as surely as he lives, there is a Day of Judgment awaiting him–he has an arrow sticking fast in his heart which he will be compelled to say is sharp as long as he is one of the King’s enemies!
Another sharp arrow is the sense of the need of an entire renewal of our nature if we are not to be condemned at thatJudgment–
“Not all the outward forms on earth,
Nor rites that God has given,
Nor will of man, nor blood, nor birth,
Can raise a soul to Heaven!
The Sovereign will of God alone
Creates us heirs of Grace–
Born in the image of His Son,
A new peculiar race.”
Christ’s words are clear and positive, “You must be born-again.” Some perhaps ask, “But Master, may we not reform and amend?” Yes, you may as far as you can, but that will not suffice. “But, Master, may we not observe certain ceremonies which You have ordained, may we not attend to Your precepts and so modify our present nature, and make ourselves fit for Heaven?” Jesus says to them, as He said to Nicodemus, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a man be born from above,” (for so stands the original), “he cannot see the Kingdom of God.” The Holy Spirit must come upon you and create in you new hearts and right spirits. There must be as total a change in you as though you actually became new creatures! Otherwise from Hell you can never escape and into Heaven you can never enter–and this is true not only of the debauched, the dissolute and the depraved, but also of the most moral, amiable and honorable of the whole human race! “You must be born-again,” or you cannot enter into Heaven. I remember how this sharp arrow stuck in my heart and how I wandered to and fro, hoping that I might yet be born-again–and sighing and crying in my soul because I lacked the one thing necessary–which I could not give to myself, but for which I must look up to that great God whom I had offended and who, I feared, would never deign to grant so great a gift to so unworthy a rebel! May that sharp arrow pierce other hearts just now!
Another arrow from the bow of King Jesus is the Sovereignty of God. God has the right to bestow His mercy whereHe wills, or to withhold it if He so pleases. His Grace is in no sense the discharge of a debt which He owes to us. If He had determined to destroy the whole race of men, we must admit that they had deserved such a doom. As He has chosen to save some, it is His Grace that has done it, so let Him be forever adored for it! The Apostle Paul, writing under Inspiration, quotes God’s words to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion,” and adds, “So then it is not of him that wills, nor of him that runs, but of God that shows mercy.” What humbling words are these! They make the sinner lie all broken and helpless at the feet of the God whom he has offended. They tell him that he cannot save himself, and that now his only hope lies absolutely in the Sovereign will of that God who can destroy him in a moment if He so wills! Men do not like this sharp arrow and will do anything to get rid of it. They will try to deny the truth of it if they can, but let the Lord once drive this arrow right home through the heart and conscience and I do not know any shaft out of the Divine quiver that is more killing to human pride and more deadly to self-righteousness than this eternal Truth of God which has already brought many to Christ and will bring many more, God blessing it–
“Praise the God of all creation,
Praise the Father’s boundless love!
Praise the Lamb, our expiation,
Priest and King enthroned above!
Praise the Fountain of salvation,
Him by whom our spirits live–
To the one Jehovah give.”
Further, the Lord Jesus Christ often drives the arrow of conviction home in this form–the aggravation of the sin ofmen when they sin against light and against love. It is no little evil to break God’s Law at all, but to do it knowingly is far worse than to do it ignorantly. To do it after many admonitions to the contrary, to continue to offend God after being frequently rebuked, to refuse all the invitations of His mercy, to resist the strivings of His Spirit, to be resolved to be lost, to be resolute upon damnation–this is the very worst form of sin! There are some of you in whose hearts this arrow might well find a place, for you were brought up by godly parents, you were dandled upon the knees of piety, you heard the name of Jesus among the first sounds that saluted your infant ears. You were carried to the House of God before you were old enough to walk there–and your mother’s tears have fallen upon your infant brow as she has wept out her prayers to God that the soul of her child might be precious in His sight.
Some of you remember when the Word used to prick your conscience as you heard it preached–you would go home and shut your bedroom door and kneel down and pray–and there was a time when, for weeks or months together, you could not sin as you used to, but felt obliged to give up one evil and another. Yet you resisted the conviction that was then upon you. You struggled against it, you overcame it and you went back into sin. You have never had so severe a contest with Grace since then–still, you have had some struggles and by dint of awful perseverance–oh, that we had half the perseverance to be saved that some have to be lost! By dint, I say, of awful perseverance, you have managed to remain a servant of Satan until now! Nor can we bring you to accept the Gospel of Christ. If you remain as you are, the Lord Jesus tells you, as He told the people of Capernaum and Bethsaida of old, that it shall be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah at the Day of Judgment than for you! It would have been better for you if you had never been born. It would have been better for you, Sir, if, when you were yet a babe, unconscious of right and wrong, a millstone had been hung about your neck and you had been cast into the depths of the sea! O man, I pray that this sharp arrow may strike you, now, and wound you and that God may bless it to you! If you and I should be lost after having such mothers and fathers as we had. If you and I should perish after such Christian training as we have had–when we meet each other in the lowest depths of Hell, our miserable salutation would surely be something of this kind, “What fools we were, with so much light to prefer the darkness, with so much love from God to resolve to hate Him! Knowing so well as we did our duty, what arrant fools we were to have neglected it! Knowing that sin was folly, how could we choose it? And knowing that holiness was happiness, for we saw it reflected in the faces of our dearest relatives and friends, how was it that we did not seek it for ourselves?” How we shall wring our hands in unutterable anguish if this should ever be our portion! The Lord prevent it, by His Grace!
The last sharp arrow that I shall mention is one which Christ Himself has often shot, it is this–that condemnationfor sin is a matter of this present time. Dear Hearers, if you have never heard this Truth of God before, hear it now and tremble at it! You have not to wait until you rise from the dead to receive your condemnation–“He that believes not is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only-begotten Son of God.” And as “there is, therefore, now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus,” so we may solemnly say, “There is, therefore, now a most weighty condemnation upon you who are not in Christ Jesus, who are walking not after the Spirit, but after the flesh.” Your sentence is already passed, like that of the poor wretch who is now lying in the condemned cell, tomorrow to suffer the extreme penalty of the law! Such is your lot–“condemned already.”
All these Truths of God are the sharp arrows from the bow of King Jesus!
II. Now, secondly, let us inquire, WHY ARE THEY CALLED ARROWS?
First, they are called arrows
because they are far-reaching. Some people who have never heard the Gospel have,
nevertheless, unexpectedly found one or other of these arrows rankling in their hearts. We have known men who have been at their ordinary work when one of these arrows has suddenly struck them. Where the voice of the minister could not go, there the arrow of Christ could find its mark! Never give up hope for the world, even in its darkest days. The world was once in a very midnight and there was a monk, named Luther, on his knees, going up the so-called staircase of Pilate at Rome–and repeating a prayer on every step in order to try to win his way to Heaven. And there came to him, while on those very stairs, an arrow from the King that pierced him right to his heart! The arrow bore this inscription, “The just shall live by faith”–a sentence which had previously been discovered by Luther in a Bible in the monastery at Erfurt. He was attempting to justify himself by works like that of climbing the so-called holy stairs. But he found that it was of no use and, through faith in Jesus, he became the great leader of the Reformers of his day! Perhaps at this very moment, while we are assembled here worshipping God, there may be men, similarly deluded, in places where an idolatrous system has usurped the name and place of Christianity, yet the Gospel may reach them even amidst the mummeries of the “mass”! Yes, and at the ale-bench, and in still worse places, if God so wills it, the arrow from the Prince’s bow may find its target and reach the human heart! Pray, my Brothers and Sisters, that the King may be profuse with His sharp arrows, so that many may fall under His power!
They are called arrows, again, because they are penetrating. These Truths of God enter a man’s heart whether helikes them or not. There are some of these arrows that are aimed at a man, but he seems to be clad in steel and they cannot gain an entrance for a time. But, by-and-by, they pierce him to the heart and cut him to the very quick. We have known some sinners to be very angry when this has been the case with them. That is of very little consequence so long as they do but get wounded by the arrows of King Jesus! Because these Truths wound people, penetrating their hearts, they are rightly called arrows.
They are also called arrows because if they once get in, they rankle, and you cannot get them out. Often have I heardsomething like this said by those who have come here to make a profession of their faith in Christ, “I was utterly godless and never went to any place of worship. But one evening I stole in here and listened to a sermon. I was angry to the last degree at what I heard–I could have cursed the preacher to his face! Yet, I do not know how it was, I soon found myself in this place again, wanting to know more about this religion that I detested all the time.” I have often heard a man say, “I could not help thinking of it, Sir. It haunted my dreams. It stayed with me at my work. I loathed it, yet there it was always near me! Certain questions arose within me that I could not answer and difficulties came up which I could not solve. So I was obliged to let this strange new influence which had got hold of me, still rankle within my heart.” I have sometimes likened an unconverted man to a wild giraffe in an African forest–and Christ’s Gospel, like a mighty lion, leaps upon him from the thicket, fastens its powerful fangs in his flesh and begins to tear away his very life. He strives and struggles, dashes here and there, and tries to rid himself of the awful load that he bears upon his back, but all his efforts are in vain. The poor giraffe in the grip of the lion is distracted–and the man under conviction of sin cannot imagine what is to become of him. He thinks that he is lost and that he must feel the full force of Divine Wrath against sin–yet this is the way of Mercy–it is thus that men are saved! At last the man falls down and then He who seemed to be his enemy stoops down and nobly gives back the life that appeared to have gone from him. Or, rather, gives him an infinitely nobler life and so the forgiven sinner lives forever! Oh, that the power of the Gospel may thus be exerted upon some wild, untamable spirit that may be here just now!
The Gospel message is especially called an arrow because it kills. What does it kill? It kills many things. Gospelpreaching, when applied by the Holy Spirit, kills carnal ease in men. A man, when he first hears the Gospel, may perhaps say, “What is the need to bother oneself about that? It will all come right, I have no doubt.” Ah, but let one of these Truths that I have mentioned–that Truth of God, for instance, about the Judgment to come–get into his heart and rankle there–the man will not talk any longer about not bothering himself! He must care. “Why,” he says, “tomorrow I may be before God’s Judgment Throne and I am unprepared to meet Him! My brother died only last week and my sister was taken away only a fortnight ago–and I may be called away at any moment. I cannot bear the thought of being in Hell forever! I must begin to think. I must begin to care about my soul.” Carnal ease is one of the first things that is killed by the arrows of Christ!
I will tell you another thing that is killed by these sharp arrows, and that is the foolish skepticism which some people think we ought to nurse and cuddle up in our places of worship. I do not believe that the skepticism of this age has so much to do with people’s heads as with their hearts. If they were not wicked, they would not doubt, but because they will not be holy, they will not believe. To answer many of their questions would be as foolish as to do what a boy did, according to a fable which I read in an old book the other day. A boy, in a scavenger’s cart, was so badly disposed that he said he would throw dirt in the face of the moon. And another boy, who, I suppose, was a great deal better, but certainly not any wiser, fetched a basin of water and a piece of sponge to wash the moon’s face. When I read that story, I thought of those who are always finding out some reason to doubt the authenticity of the Bible, or who throw dirt in the face of the Gospel in some other way. And then there is some well-meaning but foolish Divine who leaves off preaching the Truth of God and runs with his sponge and his basin of water to wash the face of the blessed Gospel which is as clean as the sun or the moon and needs none of his washing, for it is not defiled with the dirt that any fool may choose to fling at it! I believe that at the bottom of your hearts, you do not really doubt, for you know that God will bring you before His Judgment bar to give an account of your actions! And when the King’s sharp arrows pierce your hearts, all your whimsies die, your idle fancies flee away and your cry is, “Do I not believe? Indeed I do! Oh, that I could but doubt in order to get a little rest to my troubled spirit, or, rather, Blessed Spirit, come and teach me if there is not something to be believed by which a lost and condemned spirit may find peace with God!”
The arrows of Christ, wherever they come, always kill self-righteousness. There was never a shaft shot from Christ’s bow that was not fatal to all trust in our own goodness! Christ abhors that abomination and kills it wherever He finds it. Hardness of heart, lack of feeling–this is also slain wherever Christ’s sharp arrows come. So also is procrastination, that great ruiner of the souls of men. Oh, that some sharp arrow might fly from Christ’s bow into the heart of any sinner here who is saying, “There is time enough yet!” Instead of talking like that, he would say, “I want to be forgiven tonight! I cannot bear this terrible burden of guilt any longer. If there were no future, my present agony is so great that I long for immediate deliverance from it.” Jesus, You blessed Divine Archer, shoot forth Your arrows now into men’s hearts, that all these ills that they have–unbelief, hardness of heart, love of sin and delay, may fall down slain at Your glorious feet. And then come and save the sinners, by Your Grace, and Your head shall wear the crown forever and ever!
How gladly would I, if I could, say anything that might encourage any of you to trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, but I know that my feeble voice is not sufficient to help you. It is the almighty Spirit who alone can do this–and I earnestly pray that He may. My grief is not so much concerning you who are seeking the Savior, as concerning you who are not seeking Him. You may think that it is a trifling matter to preach the Gospel, or to listen to preaching. But the hour comes–and every moment brings it nearer–when you will know that the Truths of which I have been speaking are the only real things this side of Heaven and Hell! When you lie dying and are brought face to face with the mysteries of the next world, you will count all your money, your amusements and all else to be but foolery. Oh, do not trifle any longer with your eternal interests! If any of you must play the fool, do it with your money, or your estates, or your bodies, but do not do it with your immortal souls, for these, if once lost, can never be recovered! Once let the Divine sentence go forth, “Depart, you cursed,” and it can never be reversed and changed into a benediction! Once let the iron bar that shuts up lost spirits in Hell be driven home by the hand of Infinite Justice, and there is no hand in Heaven, or earth, or Hell, that can ever slide that iron bar back! Once done, ‘tis done forever! So, Sirs, I beseech you, escape to the Cross while you may! Look to Him who died upon it! Trust yourselves wholly to Him. Forsake your sins, walk in His ways and live as His followers should–for then, but not till then will you be safe!
III. And now, to conclude, having examined the King’s sharp arrows and seen why they are called by that name, let us inquire, HOW DO THEY GET INTO MEN’S HEARTS?
Many are the times that I have handled these arrows of the King. And many are the times that from this, my watchtower, I have shot them from my bow. And the Lord knows with what intense desire I have longed that they might enter the hearts of those at whom I have aimed them! I could, with my finger–but I shall not–indicate some of the targets at which I have aimed. I will mention no names–there is no need for me to do that–you know very well to whom these personal messages have been addressed. I suppose I cannot have been a good shot, for, with many of you, I have not yet found the joint in your harness through which I could reach your heart. Oh, that I might speedily be able to do so!
But, according to my text, the arrows which are there spoken of and which are shot by the King, do get right into the hearts of His enemies–and I suppose this is for two reasons–first, because the Lord Jesus Christ always takes goodaim. We cannot do this except as He puts His hands on our hands, for then the aim will be His rather than ours, like the shots of certain eminent people in great public occasions who have the sighting done for them by experts. It is only when the Lord Jesus Christ does this for us that the arrow of the Truth of God goes home to the heart and conscience of the hearer! Christ’s aim is always true. If the Truth of God should come home to any of you, believe that it was meant for you! Do not be vexed, or think that there has been a mistake. It was meant for you and although it may pain you, bless God for the pain! It will be better for you thus to be pained and afterwards be fitted to enter into Heaven, than to be left to get a seared and hardened conscience–and to be cast into Hell.
The other reason why these arrows of the King get into the hearts of his enemies is that together with the good aim, there is always almighty strength at the back of the bow. It is said that the bow of William the Conqueror was so strong that no man in England, except himself, could bend it. And the great bow of King Jesus is such as none of us can bend! It has the power of the Holy Spirit in it–it is the Holy Spirit, Himself, who gives force and power to the Word so that it pierces through all the sinner’s armor, the most vital part of his being and smites him even in the heart. Bearing this last thought in mind, I say to you who love the Lord, do you not see how dependent we are upon the Holy Spirit? There lie the arrows, but they will kill nobody till the Holy Spirit gets them into the hearts of sinners! There is much precious Truth in this blessed Book, but there it will lie till the Holy Spirit takes it and shoots it right into the hearts of men. So, what is our duty as Christian men and women? Why, dear Brothers and Sisters, let us never grieve the Holy Spirit! You know that we can do it by neglecting to honor Him, by falling out among ourselves, by cherishing unlovely dispositions, by being unholy. As church members, we can easily drive the Holy Spirit away from us, but, instead of grieving Him, let us honor Him and let us entreat Him to work with us.
Brothers and Sisters, pray for us. I believe I am the constant subject of the prayers of the different members of this Church–to whom I feel the deepest gratitude. But I also beg you to pray for all the ministers of Christ and for one another, and for all work that is being done for Christ. Remember the Sunday school teachers. Think of those good men who, all week, are doing the hard work of City Missionaries–and those good women who are working as Bible women–pray for all such laborers and for all who are doing anything for Christ–ask that the Holy Spirit may be with them to make their labors a means of blessing to the people. Whenever you seek to do anything for Christ–as you begin and as you go on, and when you conclude–let it all be done in real dependence upon the Holy Spirit! Blessed be God, the Holy Spirit is not far away from us, nor is He hard to find, for He dwells within the true Church of Christ. We are not to think of Him as if He were some mysterious Being, very far distant from us and not easily to be brought to us, to whom we need to cry as Baal’s priests cried to their idol god, “O Baal, hear us!” The Holy Spirit is always at work in the Church and it is a wonder that He does so much while the Church often does so little. Oh, if we were but all awake, all alive, all full of zeal, all full of love, all full of self-sacrifice, then, depending upon Him, we might expect to see the King’s sharp arrows flying from His bow to the right and to the left, behind and in the front, while tens of thousands would fall down before Him! And London, and Great Britain, and the world at large would behold the King riding in triumph in His glorious chariot of salvation!
The Lord send it! The Lord send it! I know your hearts say, “Amen!” But you must work for it and watch for it and pray for it–and then it will come! And unto Christ shall be the Glory forever. Amen.