Man’s Scorn And God’s Succor
“My friends scorn me; but my eyes pour out tears unto God.”
WE know that Job’s sorrows were recorded, not for his honor, but for our profit. We are told to consider the patience of Job and truly we might often be sustained, cheered and comforted if we would but look upon that Patriarch in the depths of his grief. We are “born to sorrow” and if our cup is not embittered with it tonight, we must not expect to be long without a taste of the gall in our mouths.
There is one particular sorrow, however, which appertains to the early days of our spiritual life, concerning which I intend to speak tonight. It is the sorrow caused by the scorning of us by our friends. This becomes a very little sorrow to us in later days, but at the first it is a “trial of cruel mocking,” and a very severe one. I suppose the advanced Christian at last can even come to “rejoice in tribulations” of this sort–he counts it to be an honor–he rejoices and is exceedingly glad when men say all manner of evil against him falsely for Christ’s name’s sake. But at the first there is nothing, perhaps, more staggering to the young Christian than to find that his “worst foes” are they of his own household and that they who should have cherished and nurtured in him the piety which is so excellent a flower, do their cruel worst to nip it in the bud!
Without further preface, therefore, we shall try, as the Holy Spirit shall teach and help us, to speak to you upon avery common trial, “But my eyes pour out tears unto God.” First, then, let us think upon–
- A VERY COMMON TRIAL.
“My friends scorn me.” What is it they do? They scorn me. I shall apply the text tonight to scorn on account of religion. It is lately, my dear young friends–I address myself particularly to you–it is lately that you have been impressed. It is lately that you have considered your ways. There has been an evident alteration in you. You have become of a serious cast of mind. You are now a seeker–you desire salvation. For this reason your friends scorn you. Perhaps they say that you are so miserable that they cannot bear your company. Probably the remark is correct and you feel it to be so, but they do not know that this misery of yours will end in perfect joy. They do not comprehend this rough plowing of your soul, which is preparatory to the joyful harvest. They do not understand that the good Physician often uses the lancet and opens wide the wound before He comes with His downy fingers to close it and to heal it. You are miserable and you might expect them, therefore, to be the more gentle with you and to help your faith as much as possible, but instead of that, they continually tell you that your company is altogether unbearable–and so they scorn you. Meanwhile, they also insinuate that the attention which you are now paying to religious matters is with a sinister motive and design. They say that you are a hypocrite! They cannot understand that there can be such a thing as religious sincerity. To them it is all hypocrisy. They suppose that all those who seek to live godly lives in Christ Jesus are merely making a pretense with a view to some personal advantage. Do not be surprised if they insinuate that you “cant,” if they mimic any tone that may be peculiar to you–if in any and every way possible they throw in your face the insinuation that you are false and hypocritical. And, perhaps, they also twit you with your faults, which are, alas, too many–and are near the surface–and so very easily visible to them.
The old proverb says, “It is easy enough to find a stick with which to beat a dog,” and it is very easy for our friends with whom we live to rake up some fault of ours, to exaggerate it, and then to strike us as hard as they can with it! Very difficult, indeed, would it be for us to live so as to give them no such opportunity. Even when most careful, our very carefulness is sneered at as sanctimoniousness! And if we are particular, then we are severe, rigid, and, worst of all, “Puritanical.”
So that, do what we will, we must expect to have faults laid at our door. This is hard to bear. Your friends, in this respect, scorn you. And all the while they also tell you that, make what pretences you may, it is not at all likely that any good will come out of your religion. It is, they say, an old wives' fable and a cunning story. They have never proved the power of it in their own souls–they know no better and, therefore, they tell you to eat, drink, and be merry–fools as they are to think that this poor flesh and blood ought to have the first care before the soul that is born for better things! Fools, I say, as they are, to think that it ever can be wisdom to live for this little span of time and to forget eternity, which knows no end! Yet they will tell you to live while you live, that a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, to snatch the present joy. They say, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die and leave the spirit-world and the land that is to be revealed to those speculative minds who may care for such things!” And so, with a hoarse laugh, they would dismiss religion from you, or persuade you, if possible, to forget it. But, my dear Friends, you cannot forget it, for if God is dealing with you! His arrows stick fast in the soul. When the Spirit of God comes to deal with a man, if all the devils in Hell and all the sinners on earth should laugh around him all day long, it would only drive the shafts deeper into his soul! He who has never felt the power of the world to come is easily driven out of his profession, but he who has once been plowed and harrowed by the mighty Plowman of Conviction can never forget it! I recollect when my sins lay heavy upon me. I would not have been ashamed to have stood up before a parliament of kings and said that I knew sin to be exceedingly sinful, and that I thought that the sentence of my condemnation had gone forth from God. Yet, as to having any Scriptural thoughts, they were squeezed out of me by the rough hand of my conscience. I knew that sin was evil before God and that sin would destroy my soul. How could I doubt it when the hot sweat of horror stood on my brow at the thought of my past life? Doubts then soon fled to the winds! Ah, if God is so dealing with you, sore as the trial is, of being mocked by unbelieving friends, you will bear it and will come out of the ordeal none the worse! But still, meanwhile, I remind you that Job himself had to say, “My friends scorn me.”
Who are these people who scorn you? They are your friends and that makes it the harder to bear. Caesar said, “Et tuBrute?”–“And you, Brutus? Do you stab?” So, too, one of our Lord’s sharpest griefs was, “He that eats bread with Mehas lifted up his heel against Me.” It is hard for a young Christian to be persecuted by the father to whose judgment he has always looked up with respect. Harder still is it for a Christian woman to find the partner of her bosom steeled against her for the Truth of God’s sake. Oh, how they can get at our hearts, these husbands and these wives of ours–and if they happen to be enemies of Christ, what wounds they can make! “My friends scorn me.” You would not mind if it were merely the workpeople in the shop. You could escape from them, but you cannot escape from your own family. You would not mind it if the ribald herds around you mocked and taunted you, but some of your friends are people of excellent character in all points but one! One thing they lack, but the other things they have in such a degree that you almost blush to think that they excel you–and then it is very difficult to have a jeer from such. You had hoped that they would sympathize with you, instruct you and encourage you–but the very people to whom you looked for assistance have turned against you! One thing let me say–if those who have thus scorned you are merely “friends,” and are not related to you, they prove that they are not true friends–part from their company, I pray you!
But if they are those with whom Providence has united you with such bonds, that you must look upon it as being a part of the cross which you have to carry, well, then, you must take up that cross daily, even though it is a heavy and painful one, that you may follow your Lord and Master, Jesus Christ! When the three holy children were cast into the furnace, it was at least out of doors and away from their dwelling. And but for God’s rescue it would have destroyed them. But to have a furnace indoors and to have it always blazing–to go home every night into that furnace and to feel each day that the coals are heaped upon you, and still to hold on and refuse to bow the knee to evil, but still remain the true servant of Jesus Christ–oh, the ordeal is terribly severe! Job said that his enemies scorned him and why should you be allowed to escape, or expect to come off better than Job? I do trust that this will be in the nature of a good thing for you. It will make you feel less dependent upon an arm of flesh. It will drive you to God and I am sure that those make the strongest Christians who have to come out most distinctly and separately from their fellows. It is the very best enjoyment. The Covenanters tell us in their lives that the happiest seasons they ever had were among the bogs, swamps, mountains and the brown heath of Scotland when Claverhouse’s dragoons were after them! Then Christ seemed doubly precious to them, when the world had cast them out on the heath. Oh, there is no talk with Christ so sweet as that which He gives His people when they walk up the bleak side of the hill with Him, with the snow blowing in their teeth! Then He covers them with the mantle of His love and lets His soul out in springs of love, comfort and delight to them! Some of you who do not have persecution might almost wish to have it that you might know those dear delights, those intimate communing which Christ gives to His people in the day of battle and in the time of torment! Your friends may scorn you, but “there is a Friend that sticks closer than a brother.” Come to Him and He will not scorn you, but will be your great Comforter!
Your friends scorn you, but why do they do so? They do it you know not why. If it is on account of religion, I think I know the philosophy of it. They scorn you because you are different from them. I saw a canary light on the roof of ahouse opposite to a window where I was standing–and in almost a second afterwards some 30 or 40 sparrows surrounded it and began pecking away at it–and the reason was very obvious. It was of a different color from themselves. If it had been a sparrow, of their own dark, smoky, dusty hue, they would have let it alone. But here was a golden-winged stranger from the sunny isles and they must persecute it! And so, if you are a bird of paradise, you will find that word of the Prophet to be true, “My heritage is unto me as a speckled bird–the birds round about are against her.” So you will find the birds round about you–the ravens, hawks and vultures–against you. You are not understood, you know. If you are a true Christian, you cannot be understood! The greatest puzzle to a worldly man is a Christian! He is moved by motives which the worldling cannot understand. He is influenced by fears and hopes to which the worldling is a total stranger. They did not know your Lord–why should they know you? They crucified the Lord of Glory, not understanding that He was God, and so “it does not yet appear” what you are, nor does the world value you at your proper worth. Do not be astonished at it–it is partly malice and partly ignorance that leads men to scorn you! If, my dear Friend, you are a thorough-going Christian, you must not expect to escape scorn! Your life is a standing protest against the lives of others! You fear God, and they do not. You cannot live as they live. You cannot talk as they talk and when they note even your silence, it becomes provoking to them! If the world could have its way, it would not have a Christian living in it. “No,” the worldlings would say, “That man is a living provocation to our conscience–he thrusts thorns into our pillows and will not let us rest.” I am thankful if this is the case with you. And if so, it accounts for very much of the scorning which your friends pour upon you. I will not dwell upon the subject, however. You will have to find out the reason probably in your later experience.
But now, what is the best thing for you to do if your friends scorn you? Well, do not defend yourself! Do not getbad-tempered about it. Do not answer them. The best reply is, in most cases, complete silence. Only speak when you are quite sure that it is better to speak than to hold your tongue. Never give scorn for scorning. Remember that a worldly man may resist evil if he will, but Christ says to his friends, “I say unto you, resist not evil, and when you are smitten on one check, turn the other also.” I know that many of those good old non-resistance texts are looked upon as being quite out-of-date–as part of the Bible that is not to be preached. Well, when I get information from the skies that the text is to be covered over or silenced, I will say nothing about it–but as long as I find it there, I must say to you that that which men of the world call “pluck” and “fine spirit” very often comes only from the devil! Why are there fights and wars? They come from your own lusts. The Christian’s only answer to the persecutor is the answer of the anvil to the blows of the hammer. He bears them, bears, bears them and breaks the hammer by bearing them! This is how the Christian Church triumphs. She has never made a good hand at carnal weapons. It was an ill-day for our Puritan sires when they took up arms. It did religion no good in this land, but I believe, threw it back for a long time. It is for the Christian Church to suffer and to suffer on in confidence and in faith, and to make the world see that the anvil will outlast a thousand sets of hammers and will triumph when they are all broken to dust! You, dear Friends, especially will find it to be your wisest, as well as the most Christian course, to bear everything that is put upon you and to make no return except by being more kind and more generous than ever towards those who are most unkind to you!
Let me say, however, take care that you do not give any cause of offense. It is very easy for a man to make a martyr of himself when it is not his religion, but his particular way of holding it that brings on the martyrdom. Some people, really, are so ferocious in their convictions, so grim in their conscientiousness and so continually obtrusive that if they are persecuted, it is their manner that is persecuted and not the Gospel which they profess to hold! Do not give people anopportunity of opening their mouths against you, but pray God to make you very wise, so that, as in Daniel’s case, they may find nothing against you, save only touching the Lord God whom you worship. And then, that being done, if you are still scorned by your friends, look upon it as coming from God’s hands and that will very much soften it. Ask the Lord what is His purpose in it, what lessons He has to teach you. It may be it is to keep your pride down, or to strengthen you for some future conflicts or labors in His cause. And when you have waited upon Him for direction, rejoice and be exceedingly glad that you are permitted to suffer at all for Christ’s sake and so in patience you shall possess your souls. Walk uprightly before God, live as Christ lived and, my dear Friend, the day will come when you shall have outlived all this enmity and when those who now mock you will respect you. “When a man’s ways please the Lord, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.” At such a time, it may be some will be won by your gentleness and your holy conversation to become Christians, too, and what a joy that will be to you!
Now, I know that what I have been saying does not belong to a great many of you. But still, I must sometimes take texts which will apply to these special cases, especially as just now there are many who have been saved at the Agricultural Hall, and here, and elsewhere, and to whom the struggle for conscience' sake is quite a new thing. And a word or two by way of comfort to them I am sure you will not grudge. And now we shall turn to the second part of the sermon, and we find the Patriarch engaged in–
II. A REMARKABLE RESORT AND EXERCISE.
His friends were scorning him, but he did not answer them. He had a sharp word or two, certainly, but still, the direction of his mind and the bent of his spirit went another way. He thought of God and forgot them. Herein is wisdom. When you are perplexed with a trouble, when you are mortified by some wicked person, do not let that thing always fret you. Have you ever noticed how you may torment yourselves with some little thing if you like? There is a fly in the room and that fly may be almost as much a trouble to you as though it were an eagle if you let its buzz be always in your ears. And if you keep on thinking about that buzzing fly, you can magnify it into a big dragon with wings. But if you forget it, and go on with your writing or your needlework, the fly may buzz away 50 times as much, but it will not trouble you! It is a very blessed thing, when, having a care which you cannot get over, you take it to God in prayer and so get over it. I will tell you what I have sometimes done with some of my difficulties. I have turned them over–I have looked at them in all shapes and ways–I have considered every way of getting over them. I have been vexed, troubled and distressed for the time, and at last I have come to feel, “Well now, I cannot do anything with this. It is a hard shell–I cannot crack it. But I have frequently been enabled by Grace to deliberately take that matter and put it upon the shelf and say, "By God’s Grace I will never think about that again as long as I live–I have done the best I could with it, Lord, and if it does not get right, that is now Your business and not mine–I will be done with it forever.” Sometimes you will find that the trouble will get right as soon as you leave it alone. It is just your meddling with it that makes the difficulty. You do not see that at the time, but as soon as you just get out of the way, the whole thing becomes right at once! God’s wheels of Providence grind much more accurately than any of the wheels of our mental calculations. And when we are altogether out of joint, then it is that God comes in and shows us what His wisdom and power can do. Leave, then, the scorning friends, and betake yourselves to your God!
It is a very great mercy, let me say, that we may go to God when we are cast out by our friends–that if there are no other ears that will listen, God’s ears will always listen–and that if in all the earth there should not remain a sympathizing heart, there is the heart of the Man, Christ Jesus, still to be appealed to! And we shall never appeal to the sympathies of the Son of God in vain. Oh, my Brothers and Sisters, when every other door is shut, the door of God’s Grace is always open! Let all other ports be blocked, your vessel can always run into that one harbor which all the devils in Hell cannot close–the harbor of infinite love and unfailing care. “Trust you in the Lord forever, for in the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength.” In your darkest seasons, your very worst times–fly to your God and He will deliver you!
It seems from the text, however, that all Job could do was to pour out from his eyes a flood of tears. The word, “tears,” is not in the original Hebrew, but it is put into the translation, as it is supposed to give simpler sense to our ears. His “eyes poured out,” however, by which he meant that he did not so much pour out tears as his very heart, itself. As that grand old expositor, Joseph Caryl, says, “Job’s heart was hot within him and the steam of his fierce trouble distilled itself in drops of tears which fell upon the ground.” It was Job’s inmost soul that he poured out before God. Now, thereare many kinds of tears, but the best kind are those described in the text, “Tears unto God.” What a capital sermon somebody might make out of that! “Tears unto God”! Tears not poured out to men, nor unto the earth, nor unto myself, but unto God! Tears put into His bottle. Libations poured at the foot of His altar. Tears wept for God–for God to see, for God to hear, for God to think upon–for God to accept. Not tears for tears' sake, but tears like those of the penitent, tears in the privacy of one’s loneliness, tears only unto God! I hope, dear Friends, there are some among us who know the meaning of these tears. Some of you, I trust, are even now pouring forth the tears of repentance. Oh, those are blessed tears, tears of repentance that are tears unto God! It sometimes falls to my lot to have to talk to people about their sins. Sometimes they wish that I should do so and when I have tried to set their sins in their true light, tears have come. There have been tears because the offense has damaged the young man’s character. Tears because it injured the young man’s friends. Tears because a mother was grieved. Well now, when I have seen all these tears, I have been glad of them, such as they were, but they are not all the tears that we need. If you can only get one tear because the sin grieved God, it is wortha whole bottleful of the other tears! To see sin in the light of God’s Countenance is to truly see it. David hit the nail on the head when he said, “Against You, You only, have I sinned, and done this evil in Your sight.” My dear Hearer, you may be very sorry that you did wrong because it brought you into trouble. You may be very sorry, indeed, because you cannot take the position in life which you once occupied–but that is not a repentance that can serve you before God! But if you are sorry to think that you have grieved God. If, like the prodigal, you say, “Father, I have sinned against Heaven and in Your sight”–these are tears unto God and are such as He receives!
The next kind of tears unto God are the tears of desire. I wish these were more frequent. Those are the prayers thatprevail with God which are well salted with tears. I am afraid that the most of us do not pray as we should, but if we want to prevail, like Jacob, we must remember that Jacob wrestled with the Angel and then he prevailed. Weeping, which reveals the soul’s wrestling, will often do what nothing else can in bringing us great benedictions.
We have all felt the power of tears over our own feelings and affections, but the power of tears over God, who shall describe it? The blood of Jesus secures all He wills, and when our tears look towards and plead the blood of Jesus, then those tears cannot be refused.
My dear Hearer, if you cannot get peace, do not cease praying until you have obtained it. If you long for your sins to be pardoned and have been praying a long time for this–it may be for weeks or months–pray again tonight and do not give up praying until you know you have prevailed with God. Can you bear to perish? Can you endure to be cast away? If you cannot, then be importunate! Lay hold upon the horns of the altar and let this be your vow, “I will not let You go, except You bless me.” Then, when it comes to tears, you will get it. When it comes to your very soul being poured out before God, then shall God say unto you, “Your sins are forgiven you. Go in peace.”
Once more. These tears may be tears shed on behalf of others. We would prevail for the salvation of others if wethought more of their cases when on our knees, and worked our souls more thoroughly into tempests of sacred and holy passion on their behalf. We cannot expect to see our children saved unless we can weep over them. We must not expect to see our congregations blessed unless our soul bleeds for that congregation. And when I say, “tears,” I do not mean those drops from only the eyes, for some of us could not cry if our souls depended on it, and yet we may, though we let fall no watery tears, shed some of the best tears–tears dropping like sweet-smelling myrrh upon the altar of the all-seeing God! Oh, we must get to feel that we cannot let men die! We must get to feel as if we should die ourselves if they were lost! We must feel so desperately in earnest about it that we cannot sleep, nor go our way in peace unless such-and-such persons be turned unto God and find peace in Jesus! If this is our spirit, we shall have our desire and we shall see our beloved ones saved.
Thus, then, it seems that Job, instead of dealing with his enemies, spent his time in dealing with his God, and as words failed him, he took himself to the more potent rhetoric of tears and so melted his way into God’s heart, resting by faith upon the merits of the Redeemer who was yet to come! Do the same, my dear Friends, and God will give you the blessing you need!
But some of you say, “I would never think of weeping before God! I have no dealings with God.” No, but He will have dealings with you. If you should not now repent of your sins, you shall repent some day, but that shall be when repentance is too late! Tears of repentance here on earth are signs of Divine Grace, but tears of sorrow in Hell are only signs of bitter and destroying remorse! “There shall be weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth.” Oh, may God the Holy Spirit convict us of sin here and now, while there is a hope of mercy, that we may fly to Jesus' wounds, be washed in His blood and be saved–for if not, rest assured that we shall be convicted of sin one day when sin can never be pardoned, but the undying worm of self-accusing shall gnaw at our consciences forever, and forever and forever! Ah, my dear Hearer, do not boast because you cannot repent! Do not play the fool after that fashion, but rather ask God to break your heart of sin and so help you to repent! A tender conscience is such a blessing that you may well bemoan yourselves until God bestows it. Remember, however, that Jesus Christ can give a tender heart. It is one of the blessings of the Covenant of which He is the Surety. “A new heart also will I give them, and a right spirit will I put within them. I will take away the stony heart and give them a heart of flesh.” Plead that Covenant promise! And if you plead it now, believing in Jesus and trusting in Him, you shall get that new heart! You shall get a heart that can weep before God and so you shall be accepted through the righteousness of Jesus and your tears and your supplications shall prevail!
I may never speak to some of you again, but oh, I should like to leave that thought with you that to suffer for Christ is honor and that to weep before the Lord is the truest pleasure! But if you have despised in your heart those that are persecuted, remember that day when Christ shall come, and all His holy angels with Him! If you laugh at Christians now, you will no longer laugh, but lament then! Your song then–or rather wail–shall be very different from the one you sing now. Oh, may you now, while yet life lasts, and the day of mercy is not over, seek Jesus, cast in your lot with His people, take up His Cross, that by-and-by you may wear His crown, suffering now–if necessary–in sharing His reproach and shame, that then you may be delighted with His Glory!
The Lord Himself grant it to everyone of you! Amen.