Sermon Concluding Part
Delivered on Sunday Morning, March 15th, 1863, by the Rev. C. H. SPURGEON, At the Metropolitan Tabernacle.
"Then Samuel took a stone, and set it between Mizpeh and Shen, and called the name of it Eben-ezer, saying, Hitherto hath the Lord helped us."1 Samuel 7: 12.
You must read first of all its central word, the word on which all the sense depends, where the fullness of it gathers. "Hitherto the LORD hath helped us." Note, beloved, that they did not stand still and refuse to use their weapons, but while God was thundering they were fighting, and while the lightnings were dashing in the foeman's eyes they were making them feel the potency of their steel. So that while we glorify God we are not to deny or to discard human agency. We must fight because God fighteth for us. We must strike, but the power to strike and the result of striking must all come from him. You see they did not say, "Hitherto our sword hath helped us, hitherto Samuel has encouraged us." No, no-"hitherto the Lord has helped us." Now you must admit that everything truly great must be of the Lord. You cannot suppose a thing so great as the conversion of sinners, the revival of a Church can ever be man's work. You see the Thames when the tide is ebbing what a long reach of foul, putrid mud, but the tide returns. Poor unbeliever, you who thought the river would run out till it was all dry and the ships be left aground, see, the flood comes back again, joyfully filling up the stream once more. But you are quite certain that so large a river as the Thames is not to be flooded except by ocean's tides. So you cannot see great results and ascribe them to man. Where there is little worlk done men often take the credit themselves, but where there is great work done, they dare not. If Simon Peter had been angling over the side of his ship and had caught a fine fish, he might have said, "Well done fisherman!" But when the boat was full of fish, so that it began to sink, he could not think of himself then. No, down he goes with "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord." The greatness of our work compels us to confess that it must be of God, it must be of the Lord alone. And, dear friends, it must be so if we consider the little with which we began. Jacob said as he came over Jordan, "With my staff I crossed this Jordan, but now am I become two bands." Surely his becoming two bands must be of God, for he had nothing but his staff. And do you not remember some few of you here present one morning when we crossed this Jordan with a staff? Were we a hundred when first I addressed you? What hosts of empty pews, what a miserable handful of hearers. With the staff we crossed that Jordan. But God has multiphed the people and multiphed the joy, till we have become not only two bands but many bands; and many this day are gathering to hear the gospel preached by the sons of this church, begotten of us, and sent forth by us to minister the word of life in many towns and villages throughout these three kingdoms. Glory be unto God, this cannot be man's work. What effort made by the unaided strength of man will equal this which has been accomplished by God. Let the name of the Lord, therefore, be inscribed upon the pillar of the memorial. I am always very jealous about this matter. If we do not as a Church and a congregation, if we do not as individuals, always give God the glory, it is utterly impossible that God should work by us. Many wonders I have seen, but I never saw yet a man who arrogated the honor of his work to himself, whom God did not leave sooner or later. Nebuchadnezzar said, "Behold this great Babylon that I have builded." Behold that poor lunatic whose hair has grown like eagle's feathers, and his nails like bird's claws - that is Nebuchadnezzar. And that must be you, and that must be me, each in our own way, unless we are content always to give all the glory unto God. Surely, brethren, we shall be a stench in the nostrils of the Most High, an offense, even like carrion, before the Lord of Hosts, if we arrogate to ourselves any honor. What doth God send his saints for? That they may be demigods? Did God make men strong that they may exalt themselves into his throne? What, doth the King of kings crown you with mercies that you may pretend to lord it over him? What, doth he dignify you that you may usurp the prerogatives of his throne? No: you must come with all the favors and honors that God has put upon you, and creep to the foot of his throne and say, What am I, and what is my father's house that thou hast remembered me. "Hitherto the Lord hath helped us."
I said this text might be read three ways. We have read it once by laying stress upon the center word. Now it ought to be read looking backward. The word "hitherto" seems like a hand pointing in that direction. Look back, look back. Twenty years -thirty-forty-fifty-sixty-seventy-eighty-"hitherto ! " say that each of you. Through poverty-through wealth- through sickness-through health-at home-abroad-on the land-on the sea-in honor-in dishonor-in perplexity-in joy-in trial-in triumph-in prayer-in temptation- hitherto. Put the whole together. I like sometimes to look down a long avenue of trees. It is very delightful to gaze from end to end of the long vista, a sort of leafy temple with its branching pillars and its arches of leaves. Cannot you look down the long aisles of your years, look at the green boughs of mercy overhead, and the strong pillars of lovingkindness and faithfulness which bear your joys? Are there no birds in yonder branches singing? Surely, there must be many. And the bright sunshine and the blue sky are yonder; and if you turn round in the far distance, you may see heaven's brightness and a throne of gold. "Hitherto ! hitherto ! "
Then the text may be read a third way,-looking forward. For when a man gets up to a certain mark and writes "hitherto," he looks back upon much that is past, but "hitherto" is not the end, there is yet a distance to be traversed. More trials, more joys: more temptations, more triumphs: more prayers, more answers: more toils, more strength: more fights, more victories: more slanders, more comforts: more hons and bears to be fought, more tearings of the hon for God's Davids, more deep waters, more high mountains: more troops of devils, more hosts of angels yet. And then come sickness, old age, disease, death. Is it over now? No, no, no! We will raise one stone more when we get into the river, we will shout Ebenezer there: "hitherto the Lord hath helped us," for there is more to come. An awakening in his likeness, climbing of starry spheres, harps, songs, palms, white raiment, the face of Jesus, the society of saints, the glory of God, the fullness of eternity, the infinity of bliss. Yes, as sure as God has helped so far as to-day, he will help us to the close. "I will never leave thee, I will never forsake thee: I have been with thee, and I will be with thee to the end." Courage, brethren, then; and as we pile the stones, saying, "Hitherto the Lord hath helped us," let us just gird up the loins of our mind, and be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be revealed in us, for as it has been, so it shall be world without end.
I want some oil to pour on this pillar-I want some oil. Jacob poured oil upon it and called upon the name of the Lord. Where shall I get my oil. Grateful hearts, have ye any oil? Prayerful spirits, have ye any? Companions of Jesus, have ye any? Ye that commune with him day and night, have ye any? Pour it out, then. Break your alabaster boxes, oh ye Mary's. Pour out your prayers this morning with mine. Offer your thanksgivings with my grateful expressions of thanks. Come each of you, pour this oil upon the top of this Ebenezer to-day, I want some oil, I wonder whether I shall get it from yonder heart. Oh, says one, my heart is as a flinty rock. I read in scripture that the Lord brought oil out of the flinty rock. Oh, if there should be a soul led to believe in Christ this morning, if some heart would give itself up to Christ to-day! Why not so? why not? The Holy Ghost can melt flint and move mountains. Young man, how long are we to preach to you, how long to invite you, how long to pain you, how long to entreat you, to implore you? Shall this be the day that you will yield? Dost thou say, "I am nothing?" Then Christ is everything. Take him, trust him. I know not a better way of celebrating this day of Ebenezer and thanksgiving, than by some hearts this day accepting the marriage ring of Christ's love, and being affianced unto the Son of God for ever and ever. God grant it may be so. It shall be so if you pray for it, O true hearts. And unto God be glory for ever. Amen.