Therefore, because God has put us in this world as in a theatre, to contemplate his glory, let us acknowledge him to be such as he declares himself to us, and because he gives us the second instruction which is even more familiar in his word, let us be more confident and stirred with a burning zeal to aspire unto him until we reach that goal, and let us be aware that this world was created for that purpose and that our Lord has placed us here and has favored us with living here and enjoying all the things he has created.
Now, the sun was not made for itself and is even a creature without feeling. The trees, the each, which produces food for us — all of that works for man. The animals, although they move and have some feeling, do not do for all that have this high capacity to understand what belongs to God, for they do not discriminate between good and evil. We also see that their life and death are for men’s use and service.
Jean Calvin, “The Triune God at Work (Gen. 1:1-2)” in Sermons On Genesis, Chapters 1:1-11:4: Forty-Nine Sermons Delivered in Geneva between 4 September 1559 and 23 January 1560, trans. Rob Roy McGregor (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, ©2009), 6.
However, we need note here that we are more than cursed and abominable if we, being masters and possessors of all the good things God has bestowed upon us, do not at least show gratitude as we worship him and confess that everything comes from.
Id., at p. 10. This is the great indictment of humanity:
21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.
24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.
Romans 1:21–25 (ESV)
There are many things which Spurgeon does particularly well in his preaching which make his sermons memorable. Here is an example of Spurgeon asking the hearer to visualize and be present at an event:
But I will take you somewhere else, where you shall still behold the “Man of Sorrows.” I will lead you to Pilate’s hall, and let you see him endure the mockeries of cruel soldiers: the smitings of mailed gloves, the blows of clenched fists; the shame, the spitting, the plucking of the hair: the cruel buffetings. Oh! can you not picture the King of Martyrs, stript of his garments- exposed to the gaze of fiend-like men? See you not the crown about his temples, each thorn acting as a lancet to pierce his head? Stark you not his lacerated shoulders, and the white bones starting out from the bleeding flesh? Oh, Son of Man! I see thee scourged and flagellated with rods and whips how can I henceforward cease to remember thee? My memory would be more treacherous than Pilate, did it not ever cry, Ecce Homo,- “Behold the man.”
Charles H. Spurgeon, Spurgeon’s Sermons, vol. 1, no. 2 “The Remembrance of Christ”
The sermon’s content is in the title: the immutability of God. It breaks down into three sections: some ways in which God is unchangeable; proof of the point and application. His text is,
“I am the Lord, I charge not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.”-Malachi 3:6.
The Introduction. He begins with a contrast, the proper study of mankind is not man, but rather God. He discusses how the contemplation of God is the highest task a human can undertake — and the best for the human being:
Oh, there is, in contemplating Christ, a balm for every wound, in musing on the Father, there is a quietus for every grief- and in the influence of the Holy Ghost, there is a balsam for every sore. Would you lose your sorrows? Would you drown your cares? Then go plunge yourself in the Godhead’s deepest sea; be lost in his immensity; and you shall come forth as from a couch of rest, refreshed and invigorated. I know nothing which can so comfort the soul, so calm the swelling billows of grief and sorrow; so speak peace to the winds of trial, as a devout musing upon the subject of the Godhead.
I. A general statement of the doctrine.
God is unchangeable in his essence.
God is unchangeable in his attributes.
God is unchangeable in his plans.
God is unchangeable in his promises.
God is unchangeable in his threatenings.
God is unchangeable in the objects of his love.
II. Proof of the point.
It is implied in the very idea of God.
His perfection implies he is unchangeable.
His infinity implies he is not changeable.
His actions imply he is unchangeable.
III. Those who benefit from this fact.
He asks who are these “sons of Jacob”. In short, the elect. But in it also refers to particular people, those who are in most need of an unchangeable God.
IV. What is the benefit of this truth?
A strong arm hath saved me. I have started back and cried, O God! could I have gone so near sin, and yet come back again? Could I have walked right up to the furnace and not fallen down, like Nebuchadnezzar’s strong men, devoured by the very heat? Oh! is it possible I should be here this morning, when I think of the sins I have committed, and the crimes which have crossed my wicked imagination? Yes, I am here, unconsumed, because the Lord changes not. Oh! if he had changed, we should have been consumed in a dozen ways; if the Lord had changed, you and I should have been consumed by ourselves; for after all Mr. Self is the worst enemy a Christian has. We should have proved suicides to our own souls; we should have mixed the cup of poison for our own spirits, if the Lord had not been an unchanging God, and dashed the cup out of our hands when we were about to drink it. Then we should have been consumed by God himself if he had not been a changeless God. We call God a Father- but there is not a father in this world who would not have killed all his children long ago, so provoked would he have been with them, if he had been half as much troubled as God has been with his family. He has the most troublesome family in the whole world-unbelieving, ungrateful, disobedient, forgetful, rebellious, wandering, murmuring, and stiffnecked. Well it is that he is longsuffering, or else he would have taken not only the rod, but the sword to some of us long ago. But there was nothing in us to love at first, so there cannot be less now. John Newton used to tell a whimsical story, and laugh at it too, of a good woman who said, in order to prove the doctrine of Election, “Ah! sir, the Lord must have loved me before I was born, or else he would not have seen anything in me to love afterwards.” I am sure it is true in my case, and true in respect most of God’s people; for there is little to love in them after they are born, that if he had not loved them before then, he would have seen no reason to choose them after- but since he loved them without works, he loves them without works still; since their good works did not win his affection, bad works cannot sever that affection- since their righteousness did not bind his love to them, so their wickedness cannot snap the golden links. He loved them out of pure sovereign grace, and he will love them still. But we should have been consumed by the devil and by our enemies-consumed by the world, consumed by our sins, by our trials and in a hundred other ways, if God had ever changed.
A sermon truly begins with the listener: Why should I listen to this man? He asks for my attention, why should I care? (Now, note, I am not saying that the Words of God should not be carefully attended to. That is unquestionably true.)
When one comes to a sermon, the preacher has the duty to presenting the great matter of eternity before him. Baxter rightly wrote, “I preach as never sure to preach again, and as a dying man to dying men.” But too often sermons which begin with cute, often funny stories, cannot command that sort of gravity. If the sermon merely begin a joke, how do we ever get to matters of eternal consequence?
This introduction by J.D. Jones certainly opens up a matter of profound gravity. He also immediately makes it to Scripture. He asks a question and answers with the Text. He also demonstrates by means of a contemporary reference (WWI), that the question is immediately relevant:
IF A MAN DIE—
THERE is no question to which the human soul more eagerly desires a clear and sure answer than this one: “If a man die, shall he live again?” It is an old, old question. Job asked it long ago in an agony. The one fact he could see, the one fact which admitted of no challenge or dispute, was the tragic fact of death. “Man dieth and wasteth away; yea, man giveth up the ghost, and where is he? As the waters fail from the sea, and the river decayeth and drieth up, so man lieth down and riseth not: till the heavens be no more, they shall not awake, nor be roused out of their sleep.” And yet, if the grave really was the end, if death was the very last word, it seemed to Job that life was just a tangled web of injustice and wrong, and that there could not be a wise and good God at the heart of things. That sorely-tried patriarch passionately desired an assurance that man should live again. He almost demanded a future life to rectify the wrongs and waste and distresses of this. There is entreaty, there is pathetic appeal, there is passion and desire in this question: “If a man die, shall he live again?”
Thousands and tens of thousands of people are asking that same question with a similar urgency in these days of ours. The awful harvest which death has been reaping in the Great War has made it the question of questions for a vast host of bereaved fathers and mothers and wives and lovers. They want to know—what of their beloved dead? Is a grave in France or Mesopotamia, or beneath the waters of the North Sea the end of them, or shall they live again?
J. D. Jones, If a Man Die (New York: George H. Doran Company, 1918), 9–12.