THERE are some believers with strong and vigorous faith. Soaring high, they can mount up with wings as eagles. Fleet of foot, they can run, and not be weary, or, with steady progress, they can walk and not faint. But all are not so highly privileged. I suppose there is seldom a family which has no sickly member. However hale and hearty most of the sons and daughters may be, there is likely to be some weak one among them. So it certainly is in the spiritual household, and it will be, therefore, my business, just now, to look after the weak ones. I trust that the word which I shall be enabled to speak may lead their companions to look after them, and may God grant that by these means, many troubled ones may be conducted into peace and safety!
IN GOD’S FLOCK, THERE ARE ALWAYS SOME LAME SHEEP. Some of these people of God, who are compared to lame sheep, seem to have been so from their birth. Their lameness is in their constitution. Do you not know some friends of yours who naturally incline to despondency? They al-ways look at the dark side of everything, and if there is no dark side at all, they have a very fine imagi-nation—so they very soon conjure up some difficulty or trouble. They appear to have been born with a propensity to read black-letter literature, and nothing else. Illuminated writings are not for them—they cannot bear the fine colors which delight our eyes—they like the dark points. If they turn to the Bible, they seem naturally to fall upon the threats; or if they read the promises, they shake their heads, and say, “Ah, these are not for us!” They make heavy troubles out of the common cares of life, and it is only car-rying out the same spirit which causes them to grieve and fret over the whole course of their Christian pilgrimage. For them, the road is always rugged, the pastures unsavory, and the waters turbid. You will find such unhappy souls in all our churches—people who seem from their very conformation to be lame as to their faith—timorous, trembling, and full of doubts and fears!
Can you not detect, too, some who are lame in point of character? They seem to have been so from their very birth. There is a something about their gait that is unsteady. As you look at them, you are ready to say, “Yes, good people they may be, but they are of a strange sort.” We hope they are sincere, but they are like Mephibosheth, who was dropped by his nurse, and was lame in both his feet. If they walk at all, it is a dreadful hobble. They do their best, and we cannot condemn them, but there is an awkwardness about their whole deportment. They are lame sheep at the best. With some, it is a cross temper. With others, it is a general moroseness which it does not seem as if the grace of God itself would ever cure in them, or it may be a natural indolence oppresses them. Or it is quite possible that ha-bitual impatience harasses them. Now, the grace of God should eradicate these vices—it can and will if you yield to its influence, for the grace of God, which brings salvation, teaches us to deny all ungodli-ness, and worldly lusts. With some of us, the conquest over such evil propensities has been already gained. Still, there are among us those sheep that are lame in this particular respect—they are, if I may say so, constitutionally unsound from their very first entrance into the fold!
Moreover, they betray their lameness when there is anything you give them to do. If they are Sunday school teachers, they cannot walk regularly, or keep step with their fellows, or they fail to help the young scholar on. Ask them to visit in any district—the steps they take are marked by indiscretion. Ap-point them to preach at any of your stations—their speech is not straightforward—they go over the plainest ground of gospel statement with a lack of consistency, like the walk of a man whose legs are not equal. Whatever they attempt, they do it just as a lame man would go on an errand. They are slow in their movements, and slovenly in their performances. Aptly are they compared to lame sheep. Well, you know such people. I wonder whether you are one yourself? At least there are some such about, lame from their birth.
“and how much ministry there is that has nothing but chaff in it! What else can we say of those exquisite preparations for the pulpit in which cuttings from the reviewers, tidbits from the poets, and choice scraps from Scripture writers are woven together with a fine overture to begin, and a flowing peroration to finish? What can we say of it but chaff, chaff, without a grain of pure wheat from first to last? I would like to chain eloquence down to a post—there let it be bound forever in the land of forget-fulness, never again let it lift its brazen face in this world! Aiming at oratory, cultivating rhetoric, the gospel, which eschews the words of man’s wisdom, and demands great plainness of speech, has been disparaged and displaced. We shall not get back a strong race of Christians till we get back such a sturdy band of outspoken men as dare their reputation, if not their lives, upon the unvarnished testimony they give to the truth they know, the truth as it is in Jesus, the truth as it burns in their own hearts, and fires their tongues—the truth as it commends itself to every man’s conscience in the sight of God! But, un-doubtedly, there are thousands of Christians at this good hour who are lame for life through unqualified, unhallowed teaching! God save us from its hateful witcheries, and its baneful influences! If we are called to preach, let us preach, but let us know what we have to say, and let us say it as though we meant it—or forever hold our tongues! There are some preachers who seem to speak as if they meant to say nothing, and they succeed to their heart’s content, if that is their intention! Nothing comes of it. The children of God, trained under their auspices, do not know whether God has an elect people or not, whether the saints will persevere, or whether they will fall away and perish. They do not know whether Christ redeemed everybody, or somebody! They have no clear notion whatever of the things which make for their peace. May we be preserved from all willful ignorance, and woeful infatuation! May God supply us constantly with strong meat, and sound health to digest it!
There are, and I suppose we may expect there always will be, lame ones in God’s flock, so I pro-ceed to show that THE REST OF THE FLOCK SHOULD SEEK THEIR HEALING. “Make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but rather be healed.”Some Christian people seem to be so inconsiderate, and unsympathetic, that they treat all the lame of the flock with harshness. You may be strong and vigorous in your physical constitution, strangers to nervousness and depression of spirits. Be thankful, then, but do not be presumptuous! Despise not those who suffer from infirmities that have never come upon you! Your turn may come before long. You are yet in the body, and exempt from no ailment to which your fellow creatures are prone. I have known hectoring spirits whose contumely it was hard to quiet, so did they jeer at the weaklings, and, presently, their own complaints have been hard to pacify, so they did moan over their own grievances! The more arrogant they have been when all was well with them, the more crestfallen, and desponding have they been in their gloom when things have gone ill with them. Those often who crow most, croak worst! There is a passage in the 34th chapter of Ezekiel which I should recommend every strong, rough man to read, and diligently consider—“Thus said the Lord God unto them: Behold, I, even I, will judge between the fat cattle, and between the lean cattle. Because you have thrust with side, and with shoulder, and pushed all the diseased with your horns till you have scattered them abroad; therefore will I save My flock, and they shall no more be a prey; and I will judge between cattle and cattle.” Jehovah is our Shep-herd, and He is very tender of His little lambs, and His weak sheep—and if we are not tender of them, too, we shall soon be made to smart for our hard-heartedness! It sometimes happens that those persons who have seldom or never had an illness in their lives, feel little sympathy for those who have to bear much pain and sickness. Others, who have never suffered from poverty, themselves, will sometimes shut up their heart of compassion against those who are in dire circumstances. Or if they dole out a charity, they will too often spoil a good deed with a harsh word. “You that are strong ought to bear the infirmi-ties of the weak.” And if that is too much to expect of you, the least that I can ask is that you will bear with them! I do beseech you, by the gentleness of Christ, that you tread lightly in the sick chamber, and speak softly to such as are crushed by adversity.
Have you not often proved the truth of those words of the psalmist, “You have known my soul in adversities”? And is it not so that the notice which the Lord has taken of you, and the care He has exercised over you, have made you love Him more tenderly than you ever did before? You could say with David, “Your right hand has held me up, and Your gentleness has made me great.” Oh, what prayer you have poured out when His chastening was upon you! Such prayer is sweet to the Lord Jesus Christ. I marvel not that He lets you suffer so much when your suffering yields such rich perfume! Well, dear friends, when we get so choice a compensation, now—what shall we receive hereafter? Sure-ly, in the ages to come, the lowliest of worshippers shall sing the loudest—
Their soprano notes shall rise above the angels’ harps, and the full tide of human voices with a distinct-ness like this, “MY soul does magnify the Lord, and MY spirit does rejoice in God my Savior!” The personal tribute of extraordinary love and gratitude shall thrill out its solo, and then blend with the gen-eral chorus!
The Lord bless these counsels to the strong, and these cordials to the weak—and may we all come to that blessed land where “the inhabitant shall not say, I am sick. The people that dwell therein shall be forgiven their iniquity”! Amen.
Lame Sheep by C. H. SPURGEON ON THURSDAY, OCTOBER 22, 1903