Charles Simeon.

Helps to composition ; or, Six hundred skeletons of sermons, several being the substance of sermons preached before the university (Volume 4) online

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passage before us. It is in his name that the Prophet
speaks: it was he " who gave his back to the sinkers,"
and encountered all his enemies with a full assurance of
final success: and he it is who, in the text, proclaims

I. Comfort to the desponding

There are some of God's people, who, notwithstand-
ing their integrity, walk in a disconsolate and despond-
ing frame

[For the most part, the ways of religion are ways of
pleasantness and peace; though there may be found some ex-
ceptions to this general rule — Not but that real and nnmixt reli-
gion must of necessity make men happy: but there are some,
whose views of divine truth are clouded, whose souls are ha-
rassed with the temptations of Satan, and who are at the same
time too much under the influence of unbelief, who are not hap-
py; notwithstanding they truly " fear God, and conscientiously
obey his voice, they are in darkness and have no light;" . at least,
their hope is so faint and glimmering, that it scarcely affords
them any support at all — If we were not able to assign any rea-
son for the divine conduct in this particular, it would be quite
sufficient for us to know, that God never suffers his people to be
" in heaviness through manifold temptations," except when he
sees some peculiar " necessity" for such a dispensation to-
wards them 2 — ]

i i i . -i i iii ii

* 1 Pet. i. 6.


But to them is directed the most encouraging advice
[Let not such persons stiy, " The Lord hath forsaken and
forgotten me:" b let them not conclude, that because their he-
misphere is dark, it shall never be light; (for " light is sown for
the righteous," though it may not instantly spring up) but
" let them trust in the name of the Lord, and stay upon their
God" — The name of the Lord is a strong tower, whither they
may run, and in which they may find safety* 1 — Tn the most
distressing circumstances let them " encourage themselves in
the Lord their God:" e and if he appear to frown, still let
them say with Job, Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him 1
— And whenever disquieting thoughts arise, let thenl chide
their unbelief, as David didj 8 and determine, if they perish,
to perish at the foot of the cross, pleading for mercy in the
dame of Jesus — ]

To persons, however, of a different description the
Lord changes his voice; and speaks

II. Terror to tlie secure

While some are disquieted without a cause, there are
others causelessly secure

[To " kindle a fire and compass ourselves with its sparks 1 '
seems a natural and obvious expression for seeking our own
ease and pleasure: and this may be done, either by self-
pleasing endeavours to "establish a righteousnesss of our own,
instead of submitting to the righteousness of God;" or by
giving up ourselves to worldly occupations .and carnal enjoy-
ments — Now they, who find all their satisfaction in one or
other of thvse ways, are very numerous; while they who
serve God in sincerity, but walk in darkness, are compara-
tively very few:' 1 and so persuaded are they, for the most
part, of the happy issue of their conduct, that they wiii scarce-
ly listen to any thing which may be spoken to undeceive them
-—But, how numerous or confident soever they may be, their
state is widely different from what they apprehend-—]

To them God addresses a most solemn warning

[Sometimes, when the obstinacy of men renders them
almost incorrigible, God speaks to them in a way of irony —
Here he bids them go on in their own way, and get all the com-
fort they can; but warns them withal what doom they must
assuredly expect at his hands — Precisely similar to this is his

6 Isai xlix. 11. c Ps. xcvii. 11. d p r ov. xviii. 10.

« 1 Sam. xxx. 6. f Job xiii. 15. s Ps xlii. II.

h This is strongly intimated in the text, " Who is, 8ccl? Beh'old, c r

yr, Sec/'

YdulY* LI

258 A WORD IN SEASON. (40.Y.;

warning to the same description of persons in the book of
Ecclesiastes 1 — And how awfully is it often realized in a dying
hour! When they are lying on a bed of " sickness, how much
wrath and sorrow" are mixed in their cupi k And, the very
instant they depart out of the body, what " tribulation and
anguish" seize hold upon them! Alas! who can conceive
what it is to lie down in everlasting burnings? Yet thus shall
their lamp be extinguished; and their sparks of created com-
fort be succeeded by a fire that shall never be quenched'—]

We cannot conclude this subject better than by di-
recting the attention of all to two important truths con-
nected with it

1. To believe God's word is our truest wisdom
[What advice can be given to a disconsolate soul bettcr

than that administered in the text? We may " oiler thou-
sands »f rams, or ten thousands of rivers of oil; yea, we may
give our first-born for our transgression, the fruit of our body
for the sin of our soul;" but we can never attain comfort in
any other way than by an humble trust in the promises of
God: we must, u even against hope, believe in hope:"" 1 our
•* joy and peace must come by boieving" — Nor is there less
follv in arguing against the threatenings of (.lod, than in
questioning his promises — li Clod say respecting those who
vest in self-righteous observances, or carnal enjoyments, that
they shall lie down in sorrow, our disbelief of it will not make
void his word: it will come to pass, even if the whole crea-
tion should unite to oppose it — Though men therefore may
account it folly to believe the word of («od, let us remember,
that it is our truest wisdom; and that, without an humble
affiance in it, we cannot be happy either in time or eter-

2. To obey God's word is our truest happiness

[We cannot have a more unfavourable picture of religion,
nor a more favourable view of a carnal state, than in the text:
yet who Would hesitate which state to prefer? Who would
not rather be " altogether such as Paul," notwithstanding his
chain, than be like Festus or Agrippa on their thrones?"
"Who woul rather be in the destitute condition of JLazarus,

and attain ' nd, than live as Dives for a little time, and
then want .< op of water to cool his tongue?" — Yes, the most
alllictive circumstances of a religious man are infinitely prefer-
able, all things considered, to the most prosperous state which
an ungodly man can enjoy: the one sows in tears to reap in
joy; and the other sows the wind to reap the whirlwind 1 ' —

' EccL xi. '.»• k Keel. v. 17. ■ Job xviii. 5, 6.

»> Horn. iv. IS. n Acts xvi. 39. ° l.uke xvi. 1 ( J — S I

9 tins, vi it.. 7.

15.) A WORD [N fiKAfi(i\.

Lit us then be persuaded tint to serve God is to 'consult our
truest happiness, and that in keeping his commandments there
is great reward 4 — ]

l i Ps. xix. 1 1,


Hos. v. 13. When lEphraim servo his sickness, and fudah saw
his wound, then went Ephtaim to the Assyrian, and sent to
king 'J arch: yet could he not heal you, nor cure you of your

MEN continually provoke God to chastise them, but
rarely make a due improvement of his chastisements.
Instead of turning to God, they dishonour him more by
applying to the creature under their distress rather than
to him. The ten tribes, when punished for their willing
compliance with Jeroboam's edicts/' sought repeatedly to
the Assyrians for help instead of humbling themselves be-
fore God: but they found, as *' Judah" also did on simi-
lar occasions, that their confidence in the creature served
only to involve them in shame and disappointment.

Taking the text simply as an historical fact, we deduce
from it two observations, which deserve our consideration,

I. Men, in times of trouble, are prone to look to the
creature for help, rather than to God

This wus one of the most common and heinous sins
of the Jewish nation: 1 " and it is universal also amongst

a Ver. l!, 12. God consumed them as moth d.oes a garment) or
as rottenness the bones, Becretly, slowly, gradually, effectually,

11 Sometimes they relied on Egypt; Isaiah xtfx. 1 — S. and xxxi. 1.
Sometimes on Assyria (as Manahem did on Paul, 2 Kings xv. 19.
and Alia/, did on Tiglath pilnescr, 2 Kings xvi. 7.) and sometimes
on themselvesj Isaiah xxii. 8 — 11. " Jareb" here certainly \\\> i
the king of Assyria: but whether it wis his proper name, or a name
given htm by (lie prophet, is uncertain. It means Defender, and
might l)c applied to him in a taunting manner. In this view it would*
be a very severe Barcastn. Sec - Chron. xxviii. '' D,


1 . In troubles of a temporal nature

[In sickness of body ', we lean, like. Asa, c on the physician.

in distress of mind, we complain and murmur; but forget to

. pray.? In straitened circumstances, we expect relief from

friends, or our own exertions. God is invariably our last


2. In spiritual troubles

[Under conviction of sin, we betake ourselves to the ob-
servance of duties, and make resolutions to amend our lives,
instead of fleeing to Christ as the refuge of lost sinners. e hi
seasons also of temptation, or desertion, we adopt a thousand
expedients to remove our burthens, but will not cast them on
the Lord/ Though foiled ten thousand times, we cannot
bring ourselves to lie as clay in the potter's hands; but will
rest in the means, instead of looking simply to God in the use
of means.]

But the longer we persist in it the more we shall find,


IL The creature cannot efford'us anv aftectual succour
There are circumstances indeed wherein friends mav


be instrumental to our relief: but they can do

1. Nothing effectual

[The consolations which are administered by man, or by
the vanities of this world, are poor empty, transient. 8 ' Not
the whole universe combined can ever bring a man to " glory
in tribulations, 1 ' 1 ' and to say with Paul, " I take pleasure in
them for the sake of Christ:"' as soon might they enable him
to stop the sun in its course, as to reduce to experience the
paradoxes of that holy apostle. k ]

2. Nothing of themselves

[It is not a little humiliating to see how weak are man's
endeavours to heal either the disorders of the body, or the
troubles of the soul, when God is pleased to withhold his
blessing. The best prescriptions, or the wisest counsels, are
even lighter than vanity itself. Reasonings, however just and
scriptural, have no weight: advice, however sweetened with
love and sympathy, is rejected: the very grounds of consola-
tion are turned into occasions of despair. 1 When God says,
" Let there be light," there is light: but till then, the soul is
shut up in impenetrable darkness. 1 "]

e 2 Chron. xvi. 12. d Gen. iv. 13, 14. e Isaiah lv. 2.

f 1 Sam. xvi. 14 — 16. s Jer. ii. 13. h Rom. v. 3.

i 2 Cor. xii. 10. k 2 Cor. vi. 10. I Ps.lxxvii. 2, 3,
P Job xxxiv. 29.



1. Let us guard against this sinful propensity, both in
our national and personal eoncerns

[We cannot but see how prone we are, as a nation, to
rest on human alliances, and human efforts* Would to God
we could correct this fatal error, and trust more entirely in the
great disposer of all events!

As individuals at least we may, and must, correct it. If
we would have the blessing of (iod, and not his curse, we
must renounce all creature-confidence, and trust in him

2. Let us especially rely on Christ as the healer of our

[He is " the healer of the nations," " Jehovah, who
healeth us:" p there is no physician besides him; nor any
balm, but his blood. We may use whatever means we will,
either to pacify our conscience, or to purify the heart; but
we shall find that they can u not heal us, nor cure us of our
wound." But Christ is all-sufficient: he can in one moment
purge us by his blood, and renovate us by his Spirit. To him
then let us look with humble, uniform, unshaken affiance.]

n Jer. xvii. 5 — 8. See David's example, Ps. lx. 11. and cxxi. 1, 2.
° Rev. xxii. 2. P Exod. x. 26.


Hos. v. 5. The pride of Israel cloth testify to his face: there-
fore Israel and Ephraim shall fall in their iniquity; fudah
also shall fall with them.

ALL profess to hate pride — Yet all are more or less
infected with it — The very best of men are not wholly
free from its influence — But, in the unregenerate, it is
the governing principle of all their actions — It was one
of the most distinguishing features in the character of
Sodom" — The professing people of God also were led
captive by it — And were brought thereby under his just
and heavy displeasure — We shall make some observa-
tions upon

•- 1 T.zek. xvi. 49.


I, The sin of Israel

The slate of Israel was not peeuliar to that nation —
Human nature is in all ages the same — Nor does pride
manifest itself more strongly any where than amongst our-
selves — Behold

1. The careless sinner

[What determined opposition is there in the hearts of
many to the authority of God! — They will not submit to his
light and easy yoke — If required to obey, they object to the
command itself as severe and impracticable — If warned of
the consequences of their disobedience, they make light of all
God's threatenings — If urged to receive the gospel salvation,
they deride it as foolishness 13 — The language of their heart is,
Who is Lord over us? we know not the Lord; neither will
we obey his voice 6 ' — That this proceeds from pride, there can
be no tloubt — God himself traces such conduct to this, as its
proper source and principle* 1 —- And doth not this " testify to
the face" of many amongst us? Is not this the conduct
which almost universally obtains? — Yea, are not xve sensible
that it too justly describes either our present or our former
state? — ]

2. The self-righteous formalist

[Persons of this description have kept themselves free
from gross enormities — Or perhaps have reformed their con-
duct after having given the rein to all their appetites — But
their pride rises in proportion to their fancied attainments —
They look with contempt on others who are openly immoral e
• — And bless themselves that they are not as other men f —
Meanwhile " they feel not the plague of their own heart" —
The}' deny the representation Avhich the scripture gives of
their fallen stated — They cannot endure to think themselves
deserving of God's wrath — Nor will they submit to be saved
by the righteousness of God h — And whence does all this ori-
ginate?' — Surely pride and self-exaltation are properly pointed
out as the spring from whence it flows'-i-Yet doth not this
disposition also lamentably prevail?' — Doth it not testify to
the face of some whom we are now addressing? — Are there
not some amongst ourselves who trust in their own wisdom,
strength, and righteousness, instead of fleeing to Christ as
blind, helpless, hopeless creatures?- — Some, who are too proud
to accept salvation on the footing of publicans and harlots?
— Yea, some, who will rather perish in their sins, than seek to
have them purged away in the Redeemer's blood?]

b 1 Cor. ii. 14. c Ps. xii. 4. Exod. v. 2. d Ps. x. 4, 5.

e Isaiah lxv. «r. ' Puke xviii. 9, 1 1. e- Rev. iii. 17.

'• Rom. x. 3. ' Luke xviii. 14.

(407 - .) THE DANGER OF PRIDE. 20.,

3. The hypocritical professor

[None arc more pulled up with pride than some who
Mould be thought followers of the lowly Jesus — They are
conceited of their knowledge — And will bear with none who
do not pronounce their shibboleth — They profess indeed to
believe that their hearts are deceitful and desperately wicked
— Yet they will never listen to instruction or reproof — Nor
can they be persuaded to deny their own will in any thing for
the good of others — None are more ready than these to set up
themselves in opposition to all constituted authorities — St.
.lude speaks of them as " murmurers and complainers," as
u despising dominion and speaking evil of dignities" 1 ' — Nor
are there any people under heaven to whom Solomon's de-
scription of the proud man may be more fit!} applied 1 — Alas!
does not the Spirit also testify to the face of many? — Never
was there a period when it prevailed in so great a degree —
Surely it may well be numbered among the most heinous sins
of this nation—]

Having followed the sins of Israel, what can we ex-
pect but to participate in

II. The judgment denounced against them

To "fall" must certainly import some heavy judg-
ment — This threatening was not fully accomplished but
in the utter destruction of the Jewish nation -Nor can
we hope to escape the displeasure of God while we har-
bour in our hearts an evil that is so offensive to him — •

The proud will most generally fall in this -world
[In their own conceit their mountain stands so strong as
to bid defiance to every assault — They think that they shall
never be moved 1 " — But how irresistibly have the haughtiest
monarchs been hurled from their throne!" — How speedily have.
the most powerful empires been brought to desolation! — •
How instantaneously have God's judgments often marked the
heinousness of this sin! 1 ' — M they be exalted for a time they
are almost invariably brought low at last* 1 — ]

They are absolutely certain to fall in the eternal world

[If indeed they repented of their sin, they would find

mercy with (jod — A broken and contrite heart he will never

despise 1 ' — Though he will resist the proud, yet he will give

k Ver. 8, 16. ' Prov. xxx. 12, 13. m Ps. xxx. 6, 7.

n Dan. v. 20,23. ° Ezek. xxviii. 2, 6, 8. Isaiah xiv. 12 — 15.
p 2 Chron. xxxii. 25. Acts xii. 23. 'i Ps. lxxiii. 6,9, 18.

' Ps. 11 17.


grace unto the humble — He will look on him with pleasure
and complacency 3 — -But nothing can ever reconcile him to " a
man that walketh in pride" — -He will surely abase the proud 4
-—He has irreversibly decreed their utter destruction" — Nor
shall the whole universe combined prevent the execution of
his vengeance on one single individual amongst them* — ]

The observance of ceremonial duties will never com-
pensate for the want of true humility

[Judah retained the forms of religion which Israel and
Ephraim had cast away — Yet because Judah resembled Israel
in their sin, they were to be involved in Israel's calamity* — •
Thus must all, however zealous and exemplary in other re-
spects, be brought down and confounded before God z — Even
a preacher of righteousness, if lifted up with pride, shall fall
into the condemnation of the devil a — The rule laid down by
God himself shall surely be observed to all eternity 13 — ]

ItfFER /

1. How excellent is the gospel of Christ!

[Nothing but the gospel ever did, or ever can, humble
the soul' — The law may terrify; but it is the gospel alone that
melts us into contrition — -That no sooner reaches the heart,
than it brings down our high looks — It turned, in an instant,
thousands of bloodthirsty murderers into meek, loving, and
obedient followers of the Lamb 1 - — And thus does it still ope-
rate on all who receive it in sincerity 11 — Let us then listen to it
with delight — Let us pray, that a sight of the crucified Sa-
viour may produce its due effect upon us e — And let us loath
ourselves the more in proportion as we are persuaded that
God is pacified towards us f ' — ]

2. What need have we all to watch and pray!
[There are none who are out of the reach of this malig-
nant principle — St. Paul, after having been caught up to the
third heavens, was in danger of being overwhelmed by it ff — ■
And who amongst us does not find that it is ready to puff us
up on every occasion? — Let us remember that this ruined the
very angels in heaven — And that it must be mortified in us, if
ever we would obtain mercy in the last day — Let us guard
against the first risings of it in the heart— And, whenever it
testifies to our face, let us implore mercy of the Lord, that the
thought of our hearts may be forgiven as h — In this way we
shall be preserved, though in the midst of danger— And be
exalted in due time to glory and honour, and immortality — f

* Isaiah lvii. 15. l Dan. iv. 37. u Mai. iv. 1.

x Prov. xvi. 5. y The text. 7 Isaiah ii. 11, 12.

* 1 Tim. hi. 6. b Luke xviii. 14. c Acts ii. 37, 41, 4'.
d Acts ix. 6. and xvi. 29, 33. p Zech. xii. 10.

* Ezck. xvi. 63. s 2 Cor. xii. 7. •' Acts vii. 22=


Rom. xi. 20. Be not high-minded, but fear.

THE deep mysteries of our religion are calculated at
Once to encourage sinners, and to humble saints. The
sovereignty of God is a great depth; and it was awfully
displayed in the rejection of the Jews, and the admission
of the Gentiles into his church. This is the subject of
which the Apostle speaks in the whole context: and he
makes use of it as the means of provoking to emulation
the Jews themselves, and at the same time of guarding
the believing Gentiles against self-preference, and self-

In considering his exhortation, we shall

I. Explain its import

The former part of it contains a dissuasive from pride
[The proper tendency of religion is to produce humility:
but, through the corruption of our nature, pride will take oc-
casion even from the grace of God itself, to rise in our hearts.
What self-complacency will sometimes arise from a conscious-
ness of our superior attainments in truth and holiness ! What
acrimonious severity towards those, who dishonour their pro-
fession! And what contemptuous disregard of those who are
yet immersed in ignorance and sin! Together with this self-
preference, we are also too apt to indulge a secure and self-
depending spirit, and to think " our mountain so strong, that
we can never be moved. " a But as the former disposition is
most hateful to God, b so the latter also is an object of his utter
abhorrence. In both these views therefore it becomes every
believer to attend to the Apostle's advice, and, instead of en-
tertaining too high an opinion of his own wisdom, strength,
or goodness, to " think soberly. ,1d ]

In the latter part the Apostle recommends humility
and watchfulness

[By " fear," we are not to understand a slavish dread of
God's wrath; for that, so far from being opposite to pride, is
in many cases the offspring of it. That which is here recom-
mended is, a holy jealousy over ourselves, lest by any means
we be tempted to walk unworthy of our high privileges, and
thereby provoke God to deprive us of them. We are in the

a Ps. xxx. 7. b Isaiah lxv. 5.

c Jer. xvii. 5. Prov. xxviii. 26. d Rom. xii. 3,

Vol.- IV. M m


midst of an ensnaring world, beset with many and subtle ad-
versaries, and ready to be beguiled by a treacherous and de-
ceitful heart. Hence, like St. Paul himself,' we are necessi-
tated to use the utmost circumspection, diligence, and self-de-
nial^ lest, after all our exertions, our labour prove in vain.]
To shew the importance of this exhortation, we shall

II. Point out the reasons of it

Many reasons might be assigned: but we shall con- ,
tent ourselves with noticing* three:

1. We have no stability in ourselves

[As all our ability and inclination to what is good, are de-
rived from God at firsts so must we receive continual sj^pties
from him, even as of light from the sun. Without his constant
superintendence, both the visible world, and the new creation
in the soul of man, would soon revert to their original chaos^
This the Apostle elsewhere urges as a motive to diligence/
and, in the words before us, to humility and care. Nor can we
well have a more powerful argument; for if " we stand by
faith" only, and not by any wisdom or strength of our own, it
becomes us to maintain a spirit suited to our weak and depen-
dent state.]

2. Others, apparently as safe as we, have been rejected
[Many have long made a profession of religion, and de-
parted from it at last. g Demas stands as an aw ful monument of
human weakness.' 1 Lot's wife is pointed out to us in the same
view.' 1 The Jews, who were brought out of Egypt, and yet
were destroyed in the wilderness, are expressly set forth as ex-
amples to us. k And, above all, the rejection of the Jewish na-
tion for their iniquities, after they had been so long the peculiar
people of God, speaks loudly to us. This in particular is urged
by the Apostle in the words following the text; 1 and it teaches

Online LibraryCharles SimeonHelps to composition ; or, Six hundred skeletons of sermons, several being the substance of sermons preached before the university (Volume 4) → online text (page 25 of 48)