C H Spurgeon
Metropolitan Tabernacle, London,
19 August 1886
“Cast thy burden upon the LORD, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved.” — Psalm lv. 22.
There are some burdens which we need not carry. Burdens of service, or burdens which come through our consecration to the Lord Jesus Christ,—these we will never lay down so long as we live. It shall be our joy to take up our cross daily, and follow Jesus; but there are certain burdens of care and sorrow, of which the text speaks, especially the burdens which come from the slander, and reproach, and oppression of ungodly men, which we need not carry. David says, “Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved.”
Beloved friends, the very best men in the world may be slandered; and if you should hear them evil spoken of, be you not among those who straightway condemn them. There are some who say, “Where there is smoke, there is sure to be fire;” and, although it is well known that “common fame is a common liar,” yet there are some, who are so fond of hearing or telling lies, that they are sure to believe such a lie as this, especially if it be spoken concerning a servant of God. Be you not, therefore, ready to believe all the reports that you hear against any Christian people. The best of men, as I have already reminded you, have been worst spoken of, and there are some who turn upon them directly, like lions scenting their prey.
I may be just now addressing some, who are the victims of the malice of ungodly men or women. I am sorry, dear friends, that this should be your lot, for it is among the bitterest of human afflictions; but, at the same time, I would remind you that nothing unusual has happened to you. You remember the three brave men who were cast alive into Nebuchadnezzar’s burning fiery furnace when it was heated seven times more than it was wont to be heated. You are scarcely enduring such a fiery trial as that; and, certainly, you are not suffering as did your Master, the Lord of all pilgrims who have made their way to heaven. But if, in any degree, it should happen that you are bearing a burden of this kind, the text will have a special message for you.
In speaking upon this passage, I want to keep it in connection with the whole Psalm. I do not think it is dealing properly with the Bible to pick out one verse here, and another there, without looking to see what the connection of the passage is. If men’s books were treated as God’s Book is often treated, we should make many a grand and noble literary work to appear to be an insane production. It is true that God’s Book can endure even such treatment as that. It is such a wonderful Book that, even a sentence torn out of it will convey most precious truth; but it is not fair to the Book, and it is not fair to yourself, to treat the Bible so. A text of Scripture should always be viewed in the setting in which God has placed it, for there is often as much that is admirable in the gold which forms the setting of the jewel as there is in the jewel itself.
So, looking at our text in that light, I shall begin by saying that, WHEN WE ARE MUCH TRIED AND BURDENED, THERE IS SOMETHING THAT WE ARE TEMPTED TO DO. The text does not mention it, but the Psalm does; and the text is an antidote to the malady which the Psalm describes or implies. “Cast thy burden upon the Lord,” is an injunction concerning that which we are to put in the place of something else which more naturally suggests itself to our poor foolish minds.
And, first, when we are in very severe trouble, we are tempted to complain. The psalmist says, in the second verse, “I mourn in my complaint, and make a noise.” As the children of God, we ought to avoid even the semblance of a complaint against our Heavenly Father; but when our faith is sorely tried, when some sharp reproach is stinging our spirit, we are all too apt to begin thinking and saying that God is dealing hardly with us. You know how Job, that most patient of men, became very impatient when his so-called “friends” poured vinegar instead of oil into his wounds. Smarting under their cruel treatment, he said some things which he had far better have left unsaid. O brethren, pray that, whenever the Lord lays his rod heavily upon you, your tears may have no rebellion in them! Whatever his providential dealings with you may be, may you be enabled to say, with Job, “Shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?” Let the worst come from his hand that can come, still say, with the patriarch, “The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” May you even join Job in his triumphant declaration, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him.” It is grand faith that enables a believer to say, “Though I should die at God’s altar, I will die like the lamb that is brought to the slaughter, or be like the sheep that is dumb before her shearers, and makes no complaint.”
The next natural temptation is that of giving up altogether, and lying down in despair. You get that in the fourth and fifth verses: “My heart is sore pained within me: and the terrors of death are fallen upon me. Fearfulness and trembling are come upon me, and horror hath overwhelmed me.” Have not some of you been sometimes tempted to say, “There, I can do no more; I must give all up; that last cruel blow has utterly broken me in pieces, and I feel that I can only lay me down, and die in the bitterness of my spirit”? Brothers and sisters, this is a temptation against which you must strive most earnestly. As no living man should complain, so no living man should despair, and especially no child of God. Up with thee, poor heart; thou hast not yet come to the end of God’s delivering mercy, even though thou hast come to the end of thy poor puny strength. The Lord shall light thy candle now that thy night is so dark. Thou shalt yet sing for very joy of heart though now thou canst only, like David, mourn in thy complaint, and make a noise. God will understand thy moaning, and thy mourning, and he will bring thee again from Bashan, and from the depths of the sea if thou hast sunk as low as that. Wherefore, talk not of dying before your time. Yet, if you do so, you will not be the first who has talked like that, for there was one, who never died, who said, “O Lord, take away my life; for I am not better than my fathers.” That was Elijah, the prophet of fire; yet, just then, he seemed as if he were only cold ashes rather than a vehement flame,another proof that the best of men are but men at the best.
The next very common temptation is, to want to flee from our present trials. You get that in verses six to eight: “I said, Oh that I had wings like a dove! for then would I fly away, and be at rest. Lo, then would I wander far off, and remain in the wilderness. I would hasten my escape from the windy storm and tempest.” Possibly, you are the pastor of a church, and things do not prosper as you could wish; I wonder where they do. But, in your case, you think there is such a little prosperity that you must give up your position, and run away. Young gunners, before they have become accustomed to the smell of gunpowder, and the noise of cannons, have often been known to desert their guns, and even old soldiers have sometimes felt what the “trembles” are. But, my brother, if this is your case, I beseech you not to run away. If you did flee, where would you go? You think you will run away, as Jonah did, do you? I warrant you that Jonah was very sorry that he had run away when he found himself, in the whale’s belly, at the very bottom of the mountains, in the depths of the sea; and you and I will be sure to get into greater trouble if we run away from the path of duty. Fight it out, man; stand your ground in the name of God, and in the strength of God. It may be that there are better days just now coming, and that Satan is seeking to drive you away just as you are on the brink of success.
Possibly, the special case in point is not that of a minister. It is some Mary, weeping at home because her brother Lazarus is dead. Martha is not a very congenial sister to her, so she does not even go with her when she goes to meet the Lord; yet, strangely enough, each of the sisters says the same words to Jesus, “Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.” In due time, the Master sends for Mary, and soon she has the joy of welcoming Lazarus back from the grave. Some of us get queer ideas into our heads at times; we resolve that we will go we know not where, and do we know not what. Ah, my dear friends, he, whose great trouble lies in his own heart, cannot run away from it, for he bears it about with him wherever he goes. The old man of the mountain, who sits upon your shoulder, and clings so tightly to you, if he be your own self, is not to be shaken off by your running away. Far wiser will it be for you to do as the text says, “Cast thy burden upon the Lord.” Then thou wilt want no wings like a dove, nor wilt thou wish to fly away to the wilderness; but thou wilt be willing to stay in the very midst of the battle, and even there thou wilt be in perfect peace. Trust thou in him, cast thou thy burden on him, for so thou wilt escape from this temptation of wanting to flee away from the place where he would have thee to be.
There is one other temptation that this Psalm suggests to me, and that is, the temptation to wish ill to those who are causing us ill. Perhaps mistaking the meaning of the passage, we are apt to pray the prayer in the ninth verse, “‘Destroy, O Lord!’ Our foes have slandered us, they have spoken ill of us, and we wish that they were dead, or that some great judgment might overtake them.” It will never do, dear friends, to indulge such a feeling as that. We shall be ourselves injured if we desire that others should be injured. Slander has indeed stung thee when thou harbourest the wish to sting another. Someone said, in my hearing, attempting to justify revenge or retaliation, “But if you tread on a worm, it will turn;” and I answered, “Is a poor worm, that only turns because of its agony through man’s cruelty, the pattern for a Christian man to follow? Will you look down to the dust of the earth to find the example that you are to imitate?” Wicked men trod upon Christ,—who even compared himself to a worm,—yet he did not turn upon them, except to cry, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” Let that be the only kind of turning that you ever practise towards your enemies. Do not be driven, by their evil speaking or their cruel deeds, into harshness of speech or even harshness of thought. I have known some persons, under sore trouble, who have at last become quite soured and bitter of spirit; that is all wrong, and very sad, and no good can ever come of such a state of heart as that. The bruising of the sycamore fig results in its growing sweeter, let thy bruising produce a similar effect upon thee. Remember the words of the Lord Jesus, in his wondrous Sermon on the Mount, “I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven.” If you do not act thus, which is the right thing for you to do, you will almost certainly do the wrong thing in some shape or other. Therefore, God help you to do what is right! Child, is thy father rough to thee? Then, love him until he becomes tender and gentle. Wife, is thy husband unkind to thee? Then, win him back by thy sweet smiles. Servant, is thy mistress harsh to thee? Even good women have sometimes dealt as hardly with their servants as Sarah dealt with Hagar. Well, if that is thy case, be not thou like Hagar, who despised her mistress. Submit thyself to her, for so shalt thou yet win her, as many a Christian slave of old, far worse treated than thou hast been, won his master or his mistress to Christ in those earliest and happiest days of Christianity. What is there for a Christian man to do but love his enemies? This is the most powerful weapon that we have in our armoury. We shall be wise as serpents if God teacheth us wisdom, and we shall also be harmless as doves if the Holy Spirit, like a dove, rests upon us, and makes us also to abound in gentleness. By this sign we shall conquer, for it is love that always wins the day.
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