An Infallible Sign of Revival
C. H. Spurgeon
A Sermon Delivered on Lord’s Day Evening November 12, 1876 at the Mertopolitan Tabernacle, Newington, London, England.
“The Lord alone shall be exalted in that day. Isaiah 2:11
In the eternal past the Lord alone was exalted. When He dwelt alone of ever the earth was, and when He commenced the mighty works of His creation, and the universe sprang into being at the fiat of His unhindered will, He alone was exalted. He made multitudes of creatures; perhaps we have no idea how many of them there were, and in what varied forms intelligent beings were created; but the Lord alone was exalted. Every angel adored Him: every creature knew its Lord. It was an ill day when there broke out a rival spirit, and when evil began to set up its throne in opposition to the God of good. The leader of the angels– the light bearer, sought to erect a rival throne. “How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning” Isa 14:12.
Then, by and by, in process of time, upon this world God’s glory was dimmed; here, too, another spake and was believed, and God was doubted. Another claimed man’s love and gained it, and God was disobeyed; on earth no longer was the Lord alone exalted as He had been in the quiet glades of Eden when our first parents worshipped none but God, and counted it the very cream and flower of their being that they might serve the Most High who had made them what they were. New, look where we may in this poor, fallen world, the Lord alone is not exalted; but there are lords many and gods many– spiritual wickednesses and principalities of evil– which set themselves up in opposition to the great King of kings and Lord of lords. Yet as surely as Jehovah liveth,
He will win the victory in this conflict. Ere the drama of the world’s history shall come to a close, it shall be known throughout the entire universe that the Lord, He is God; and the Lord alone shall be exalted.
It is a part of the work of grace– nay, it is the main object of the work of grace, and it is an object also of the work of providence to subserve this great end– that the Lord alone shall be exalted. For your comfort and for your instruction then, first, notice the occasions when my text has been true. I shall take the text out of its connection, not, I hope, unduly, and show that on a large scale there are several days in which the Lord alone has been exalted, and then we will come back to a little quiet meditation and look into our own experience to see whether there have not been days with us when the Lord alone has been exalted.
I. Come then, first, and notice WHEN THE LORD ALONE HAS BEEN EXALTED ON A LARGE SCALE.
The Lord alone has been exalted among men whenever He has been pleased to reveal Himself in the plenitude of His power. The revelations under the law were mainly revelations girt with terror. Under the Old Testament dispensation you find God coming out of His place to shake terribly the earth. When He bows the heavens and comes down, the mountains flew at His presence. The Lord alone was exalted in those days when He vindicated His justice and displayed His power against His enemies. Remember the flood when, after so many years of warning, the ark being prepared for the salvation of the believing few, God was pleased to draw up the flood-gates of heaven and to bid the cataracts of earth leap upward instead of downward, till over all the face of the world there was nothing but one mighty all-devouring wave. When in majestic silence the ark floated over the bosom of the world which had become the grave of Jehovah’s creatures, then the Lord alone was exalted in that day. And when men had multiplied again upon the face of the earth, and His people had gone down into Egypt; you know well the story, how proud Pharaoh said, “Who is the Lord that I should obey his voice?” Ex 5:2.
Then Moses came and with many strokes of his mystic rod he afflicted the fields of Zoan, he turned their waters into blood, and slew their fish. He spake and the flies came, and the frogs and the locusts, and that without number; yea, the Lord smote all the first-born of Egypt, the chief of all their strength, and in that night, when a cry went up from every Egyptian household, and the people of Israel were led forth like sheep by the hands of Moses and Aaron, the Lord alone was exalted. Then the nations knew that Jehovah wrought His will among the sons of men.
Nor was that all. When in their desperation the Egyptians pursued the Israelites into the very depths of the sea, the Lord burned and looked upon them and troubled the host of Pharaoh and took off their chariot wheels so that they drove heavily, when the sea returned in the fullness of its strength, and the depths had covered them until there was not one of them left, then Miriam’s song, “Sing ye to the Lord, for he hath triumphed gloriously” Ex 15:1,21, was but an exposition of our text, “The Lord alone shall be exalted in that day” Isa 2:11,17.
Time would fail me to tell forth all His mighty works, nor is there any need for me to recapitulate the records of the book of the wars of the Lord, “for the Lord is a man of war: the Lord is his name” Ex 15:3; and when He cometh forth to battle, then the Lord alone is exalted in that day.
May we never live to see a pestilence sweep through this land! But should such a visitation of God come upon us, then will our houses of prayer be thronged and men will begin to cry unto the Most High. May we never hear the noise of war in our streets! If such a calamity should befall us, and the Lord take the sword of war out of the scabbard, men will begin to learn righteousness. May He be pleased to have mercy upon us and lead us by gentle means to glorify His name. Were He to come in judgement then would the spirit of atheism and of idolatry, which now with brazen faces dare confront the gospel of Christ, betake themselves to darkness in which they were begotten. When the Lord comes forth in terror then is He alone exalted. Let us change the theme now, and see, too, how whenever God comes forth in his great mercy His name alone is exalted.
The day when the infant Church of Christ gathered in an upper room and sat there, all its members being of one heart and of one soul, and the Lord revealed His grace by the baptism of the Holy Spirit – when was heard the sound of the rushing mighty wind, when the tongues of fire sat on the disciples– when they began to speak as the Spirit gave them utterance, and thousands were added to the Church, that was a day when the Lord alone was exalted. Was there any whisper on that day of honour to be given to Peter, or to John, or to James, in the Church of God? Think you there was any trace of the spirit that could say, “I am of Cephas,” and “I am of John”? Ah, no. The name of the Lord was very precious to His people that day. They gave glory to the Lord both in the temple and in their own houses, eating their bread with gladness of heart. Only let the Lord show Himself in great blessing, then He alone is exalted. Behold, His enemies fly before Him because of His grace.
Well, brethren, it will be even so by and by also “in that day” of which we were reading just now with so much delight, when “the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be exalted on the top of the mountains, and all nations shall flow unto it” Isa 2:2.
There is to come a day when Christ shall be known and loved of every land. When the dwellers in the wilderness shall bow before him and His enemies shall lick the dust. I am not going into any details or prophetic descriptions of the millennium, but we do expect a day when the gospel shall win its way over this whole globe, and the poor world, instead of being swathed in mist and fog, shall come out of the cloud of her unbelief and out of the darkness of her sin, and shine like her sister stars at the feet of her great Creator. In that day the Lord alone shall be exalted. You will hear no more of the name of Pope, or Patriarch, or great religious leader receiving the chief honour; no great name set in the front of a section of the church shall be shouted in that day; the Lord alone shall be exalted.
So again it will be when yet ‘farther on in human history the end shall come, when you and I and all of woman born shall stand before the dread tribunal of the last great day; then shall the Lord alone be exalted.
There shall be no pomp of kings before that great white throne: there shall be no glare of riches there before the prince of the kings of the earth: honour and fame were so feverishly sought and so highly prized by the sons of men, shall melt away then like the fat of rams. Kings and their serfs, princes and their subjects shall stand together. There shall be no idol gods in that day, nor shall men receive homage of their fellows, but while the earth shall be reeling to its doom, and the heavens themselves dissolving, the Lord alone shall be exalted. Jehovah’s great and glorious name shall fill all ears and His majesty shall impress all hearts. May we be found in Christ in that great day! The Lord grant it for His mercy’s sake.
II. Now, in the second place, I am going to talk to you on humbler topics, endeavouring to bring our subject down to our own experience and to see WHEN THE LORD ALONE HAS BEEN EXALTED ON A SMALLER SCALE.
When it is written, the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day, we may understand that what is true on a great scale is equally true on a little scale in God’s kingdom. He works according to rule, so that if you split up some great crystal of His providence into as small fragments as you please each fragment shall be found to be crystallised in the same form. So, if in the grand events of history God is to be exalted, you will also find that in the little world of your own experience– in the history which is only recorded in your own pocket-book– in the story of your own life– that God is exalted too. Brothers and sisters, many of you already know, and I pray that others here who as yet do not know it may be brought to know it, that there have been red-letter days in your life when the Lord alone has been exalted. One of the earliest of these blessed days was when you first had a sense of sin. Ah, I had no thought how black I was until that day. I had never dreamed how corrupt was my heart, how vile my nature, how desperate my condition, how near the borders of hell I stood, till then. There came at length that day, in which the light of God shone into my soul and I saw the evil of my state, the danger of my condition, and the horrible rottenness of my whole nature even to the very core. Do you remember such a day in your experience, beloved brethren?
I know you do. Oh, what a withering day it was. Your flesh is grass, and do you not remember when the grass withered, and when the flower thereof faded away because the Spirit of the Lord was blowing upon it? Surely the people is grass. Do you recollect when you perceived in your heart a new rendering of that old passage, “And we all do fade as a leaf and our iniquities like the wind have taken us away, when you found your righteousness to be only a fading leaf and the strength of your passions to be like the wind that took you right away and carried you– you knew not whither? You seemed to be like a sear leaf blown away in a tempest of sin. Before that, you had thought yourself to be very fine; very few were more respectable or honourable than you; if you had not many glittering virtues, yet you felt you had no degrading vices; there was much about you that others might imitate, and if people did not respect you, you felt very angry; you felt they ought to pay great deference to such a one as you were, But you did not feel like this on that day– not on that day! No. In that day you threw your idols to the moles and to the bats; you wanted to forget that you ever thought you were righteous; you felt ashamed of even your most precious golden idol– your self-righteousness; you wanted to disown it, and you were afraid anybody should remind you that you ever worshipped it.
It seemed such a horrible thing that you should ever have talked about acceptance before God by your good works. Good works!
The very thought seemed a sarcasm on God, an irony of the devil. Good works indeed! Your prayers, your tears, your church-goings, your chapel-goings, all seemed like so much dung.’ You understood Paul’s strong language that day, your own righteousness was as offensive to you as his was to him. You put all your old hopes away with abhorrence. Oh, I know what happened to you, the Lord alone was exalted that day. If anybody had preached a sermon that day about the dignity of human nature, you would have been inclined, like Jenny Geddes, to throw a stool at his head. If anybody had talked that day of the great things man is capable of, and of virtue that still remain in him after the slight mischief of the fall, you would have felt indignant at such infamous falsehood, for God had stripped you bare of all your glory. In that day you felt yourself to be cast into a ditch, and your own clothes abhorred you.
But, oh! if any one had preached of the splendour of the great God that day, of the infinite majesty of His holiness, and of His justice, you would in silence have bowed your head and shed tears of contrition which would have been the best form of adoption from your penitent heart. If they had begun to preach the amazing mercy and the love of God in Christ, your heart would have leaped to hear the very sound of it, for there are no two things that ever so sweetly meet together as an empty sinner and a full Christ. When a soul sees itself it has got the eye with which to see Jesus. He that can see his own deformities, shall not be long before he sees the Lord’s unspeakable perfections. In that day of self-humbling, and cutting away, and casting down, I know the Lord alone was exalted in your soul.
Well, then there came another day in your experience which is very sweet to remember, the day when you saw Jesus hanging on the tree; when you put your trust in him and knew that he had taken away your iniquity and blotted out your sin.
Oh, I do remember that day, it was my best marriage day and birthday too; the day when I knew that sin was gone and gone for ever. How bright the cross shone that day! How bright were the eyes of Jesus, and how fair his wounds! Ah, the Lord alone was exalted that day. Had anybody preached to me of the power of sacraments and the magic of priests, I had abhorred them in my inmost soul, and I would have spoken my horror of the thought of giving the glory of the Lord to another. When the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth from all sin, where is the dastard that dares ask me to let him wash me and to let him put away my sin for me? The blood, the blood of Jesus hath taken all our guilt away, once and for ever; and woe betide the man that dares to stand up and put himself side by side with the all-cleansing Christ! That was how we felt. The Lord alone was exalted in that day. We fell just the same today. I am sure if people knew the power of the blood of Christ they could never become slaves to the superstitions of men. If they felt the force of being justified by faith in Jesus Christ they would be like Martin Luther when he sprang from his knees on Pilate’s staircase, never to go another step in the weary round of man-made ordinances.
What have we to do with these beggarly things when Christ our Lord has set us free and saved us for ever from the wrath to come? A sight of thy cross, O Jesus, makes the priests topple down like Dagon before the ark, and the sacraments that once were trusted in, to be despised if placed side by side with thee. Thou alone are exalted in that day.
Since then we have had some other very happy days. The life of a Christian has many illuminated letters in it. Our roll is not written within and without with lamentation. We have high days and holidays, and there are times of nearness to Christ which hardly dare to describe here. I could venture to talk of them to two or three choice friends that know the secret of the Lord, but these things are not for all ears. These are days when we realise the meaning of the Song of Songs, and bless God that ever the book of Canticles was written, else there would have been in the Bible no expression for our ardent love to Christ. On such days we say with rapture, “Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth” SOS 1:2. “Thy love is better than wine” SOS 1:2. “He brought me to the banqueting house and his banner over me was love” SOS 2:4. “Stay me with flagons, comfort me with apples: for I am sick of love” SOS 2:5. “His left hand is under my head, and his right hand doth embrace me” SOS 2:6. “I charge you, O ye daughters of Jerusalem, by the roes and by the hinds of the field, that ye stir not up, nor awake my love, till he please” SOS 2:7; 3:5. Read Rutheford’s letters if you know the secret beforehand; if not, they will be an enigma to you, even as the Song of Solomon must always be.
This much we may say, when Christ draweth us near to him, “The Lord alone is exalted in that day.” When he wraps us in his crimson vest and shows us all his name and saith, “I have loved thee with an everlasting love, therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee. I have graven thee on the palms of my hands” Jer 31:3, O brethren, “the Lord alone is exalted in that day.” Then self has gone. We cry, “I am black but comely;” and the blackness strikes us as much as the comeliness that Christ has put upon us. We sink into nothing at his feet. The manifestation of his glorious love makes us cry like Job, “I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear, but now mine eye seeth thee, wherefore I abhor myself and repent in dust and ashes” Job 42:5. The Lord alone is exalted in that day.
Well, you know, brothers and sisters, that after some of those high flights, when we have been on the top of the mount of transfiguration, we get exalted above measure, and then we have to be humbled. It is a wretched confession to make, but God’s people know how true it is. We wander from the Lord, and for a while He leaves us to ourselves, when we exalt ourselves. But return from our wandering, then the Lord alone is exalted in that day. You know how, perhaps, there have been weeks of estrangement between you and your Lord; He has been jealous of your heart, and you have been cold to him; you have gone perhaps into the world with too worldly a spirit, and the sweetness of His word has departed from you, and His voice is no longer heard in your soul. Then you begin to cry, “Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation and uphold me with thy free Spirit” Ps 51:12. You know what it is to cry:
“What peaceful hours I once enjoyed,
How sweet their memory still;
But now I find an aching void
The world can never fill.” “Return, O holy Dove! return,
Sweet messenger of rest!
I hate the sins that made thee mourn
And drove thee from my breast.”
Ah! when you get your prayer answered, then the Lord alone is exalted in that day. Do you know what it is to go creeping to the mercy-seat where once you used to go so boldly; to go there with many tears and with much shame when you used to go with a radiant face, and yet to find your Jesus waiting there? Do you know what it is to turn to the grand old book that once you used to read with sacred glee, and look there for a sinner’s promise such as might suit a broken heart, and to find it come home with just the old power, tall the bones which had been broken began to sing again, and your heart once more was joyous in the presence of your Lord? Ah, then I know your own beauty has been turned to ashes and all your comeliness has disappeared, for when the Lord restores a soul that soul also restores the Lord to His proper place, and the Lord alone is exalted in that day.
But at this rate my time will all be gone before I am half through my story.
Let me therefore hasten to say, dear brothers and sisters, that the Lord is exalted when a church begins to sigh and cry for the Lord’s presence. I hope that the power of the Lord is not forsaking us in any measure here, but it is my fret, my jealousy, lest He should in any wise depart from us– lest the spirit of prayer should go from us– lest love to souls should leave us and there should not be abundant conversions in the School and in the ministry, and everywhere around our borders. Should such a time of dearth over come to us, it will be a grand thing when a church can get together and begin to groan and cry for the Lord to return in power. When a church fools it, must get a blessing – I hope we are feeling it now – in proportion as that desire grows into an agony, the Lord alone will be exalted in that day. The preacher will feel, indeed he does feel every day more and more, his own unworthiness and inability for such a work; every other worker will, in proportion as the desire for God’s glory shall increase, feel himself to be less and less and still less and less in his own esteem. Oh, when we once come to wish for souls, nobody cares about being important, nobody wishes to be in the front; everybody wants to be there if he can serve God, but he does not want any place of honour, or court any badge of distinction by which he shall be known.
A church in agony for souls wants only to see men converted, and she does not care how or by whom the work is done so long as the people are but brought to Christ. Then is the Lord alone exalted.
When the blessing comes; and it is a notable day when it comes– when the word is with power and men are stricken down and begin to cry for mercy– when the inquirers are many and the converts are multiplied, and God blesses each brother and each sister with success in soul-winning– oh, then at such times the Lord alone is exalted. I do believe that whenever God sends prosperity to the church and of the members of the church begin to ascribe the success to themselves, the blessing is almost sure to go. God will not bless proud workers. If you are going to have a part of the fish for your self, you may cast the net where you like but you shall take nothing; but when you are fishing for your master he will fill your net to the full. I often think – and therein am I glad in days of sorrow– that when God means to bless any one of us, He generally lowers us into the very dust. When we are willing to be nothing, then the Lord alone is exalted in that day. If you that are cooks were about to serve a dinner, you would not use a dish, I am sure, until first of all you had cleansed it. You would first wipe it right out, then you would set it on the shelf, and when you wanted a goodly dish with which to serve up goodly meat, you would reach down the empty dish that you had well wiped, would not you? Some of us do not get quite wiped out of our last success, and so we have no more. We still retain a flavour of our last self-congratulation, and so the Master will not use us.
When He puts us in hot water, makes us see our filth, and then wipes us right out, and we perhaps are inclined to say, “Lord, I am good for nothing now,” we shall be more likely to be of some service to Him. Perhaps He will put us on the shelf for a while. He can easily do that with some of us; a little twinge of pain and sickness, and we are useless. We seem to say, “Lord, what am I but an empty, cracked dish?” Ah, but then he comes and takes us down and use us, and that is worth waiting for. I always expect a greater blessing when there is greater soul-humbling among us. Would not you be glad to be humbled, dear brother, if God would use you more as a consequence? Today I saw as I went home sores old crocks and broken bricks and pieces of all sorts of earthenware put by the side of the road because the road is going to be widened, and I thought to myself, “If the Lord would only use me as an old broken crock to help to make a roadway for Him to ride through London, so that He might be glorified, I would be glad to be thus honoured. Do not you feel so too? Well, perhaps he will take you at your word some of these days. Brother, if God humble you in order to use you, you may not like it as much as you think you will, but still that is how we should demean ourselves. We should be willing to be anything, or to be nothing, according to His will.
When Christian men feel they must live to the glory of God somehow, I know there is a blessing coming– ay, that the blessing has come, for then the Lord alone is exalted. When the man of God says, “I must not live any longer for saving money or simply to bring up my children respectably, or to get a subsistence for myself,” then the Lord is exalted. And when Christian men feel that they cannot live for a party or for a section of the church, but that they must live for God and Christ, and for the pure word of the gospel, and that everything else must go overboard except that which is for the glory of God, then we may be sure that the Lord has amongst us, and that He is working mightily. Behold, these are the signs thereof. When He has insulted all pride, dimmed all human glory, and magnified Himself, then indeed we have times of refreshing from His presence and the Lord alone is exalted in that day.
Now I have almost done. But I want you to notice that there is a day coming; it will come very soon to some of our venerable friends around me: it will come very soon– perhaps quite as soon– to some of us in middle life who are still in health, the day when we shall be called to go upstairs, because the Master has a message for us. When we read the message, it will say, “The time has come for thee to gather up thy feet in thy bed and to meet thy father’s God.” O brothers and sisters, the Lord alone will be exalted in that day if we be indeed His people. I fancy I see the dying minister when they bring up to him his sermons. Can he glory in them? He says, “I bless God that He enabled me to preach his truth. `Unto me who am less than the least of all saints is this grace given that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ,’ but I cannot glory in these.” If you shall bring up to him the number of his converts, and shall tell him of the churches that he built up, and the places that he has evangelised; I will tell you what he will say, “God forbid that I should glory save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” Gal 6:14. There take the best saint among us and put him on the borders of Emmanuel’s land, and let him hear the bells of heaven ring out the never-ending Sabbath: listen whether he will talk about himself or about the little church to which he belongs as if it were the whole Church of God. Oh no, no, no, a thousand times no.
On the borders of Emmanuel’s land all the glory is to the Lord alone. Redeeming blood, love, effectual calling, persevering grace,– all these will be sung about, but there will be no songs about ourselves or aught else but God, when we come there. Mother, are you making an idol of that babe? You will not be able to do that when you come near your departing hour. Christian man, are you making an idol of anything you have in this world? It will be utterly abolished then. Anything wherein you are trusting and finding comfort will fail you then. The Lord alone will then be your stay and your song! The Lord alone then! If you feel the bottom as you wade into the river, you will feel that it is good. But, by and by, you will be where there is no bottom; the river will be a river to swim in, and then will you want to know that underneath you are the everlasting arms. If you are sure of this you will take that mighty plunge as when a swimmer stretcheth out his hand to swim, and you will be in glory in a moment.
And, beloved, when we get into the glory, the Lord alone will be exalted there. What a difference will come over us in the matter of those little things wherein we glory now. Petty trifles sometimes lift us up very high. Oh, how loftily we carry our heads sometimes, poor fools that we are, because of this thing in which we are superior to some fellow worm, or that thing in which we have not erred as some other man has done. But oh, up there, up there, up there, all harps will be for Jesus! All the vials shall be full of odours for Jesus. Harps and tongues, voices and strings, all for the three-one God; all for the Lord alone. Free grace begins to teach. us here that God alone mush be exalted, and when we have learnt that lesson, well then, glory will come in to cap the whole and make us feel that it were absurd even to imagine that any person or any thing could share the glory with the infinite majesty of God.
There, now, I have done. Only I would ask you this– Is there one here that will not give God all the glory? If so, dear brother, you cannot be saved. Salvation may almost hinge upon this question,– Art thou willing to be saved so that the Lord alone shall be exalted in thy salvation? Art thou willing no more to trust in thy good works, thy prayers, thy tears, thy feelings, or anything else of thine own, but to come and trust in the finished work of Jesus, and give thyself up absolutely and entirely to be his. Art thou willing to be his servant, his property for ever, that henceforth thy only glory may be in his dear name, thy only boasting in his cross? If so, he accepts thee and he will save thee, but if thou must have the glory then thou shalt not have the salvation. Where then will thy glory be? He that glorieth in himself shall perish, but he that will glory only in the Lord shall live for ever. God bless you, for Christ’s sake. Amen.