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The holy spirit's withering work

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This is a collection of writings dealing with the withering work of the Holy Spirit, It is an unusual topic and only a few writers deal with it.

Publicada em: Espiritual
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The holy spirit's withering work

  1. 1. THE HOLY SPIRIT'S WITHERINGWORK EDITED BY GLENN PEASE THE WITHERING WORK OF THE SPIRIT C.H. Spurgeon “The voice said, Cry. And he said, What shall I cry? All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereofis as the flowerof the field: the grass withereth, the flowerfadeth: Because the spirit of the LORD bloweth upon it: Surely the people is grass. The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: But the word of our God shall stand forever.” —Isaiah40:6-8 “Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth forever. Forall flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away: but the word of the Lord endureth forever. And this is the word which by the gospelis preachedunto you.” —1 Peter 1:23-25 The passagein Isaiah which I have just read in your hearing may be used as a very eloquent description of our mortality, and if a sermon should be preached from it upon the frailty of human nature, the brevity of life, and the certainty of death, no one could dispute the appropriateness ofthe text. Yet I venture to question whether such a discourse would strike the central teaching of the prophet. Something more than the decayof our material flesh is intended here; the carnalmind, the flesh in another sense, was intended by the Holy Ghostwhen he bade his messengerproclaimthose words. It does not seem to me that a mere expressionof the mortality of our race was needed in this place by the context; it would hardly keeppace with the sublime revelations which surround it, and would in some measure be a digressionfrom the subject in hand. The notion that we are here simply and alone reminded of our mortality does not square with the New Testamentexpositionof it in
  2. 2. Peter, which I have also placed before you as a text. There is another and more spiritual meaning here beside and beyond that which would be containedin the greatand very obvious truth, that all of us must die. Look at the chapterin Isaiahwith care. What is the subjectof it? It is the divine consolationofZion. Zion had been tossedto and fro with conflicts;she had been smarting under the result of sin. The Lord, to remove her sorrow, bids his prophets announce the coming of the long-expectedDeliverer, the end and accomplishmentof all her warfare and the pardon of all her iniquity. There is no doubt that this is the theme of the prophecy; and further, there is no sortof question about the next point, that the prophet goes onto foretellthe coming of John the Baptist as the harbinger of the Messiah. We have no difficulty in the explanation of the passage,“Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the deserta highway for our God;” for the New Testamentagain and againrefers this to the Baptist and his ministry. The object of the coming of the Baptist and the mission of the Messiah, whomhe heralded, was the manifestation of divine glory. Observe the fifth verse:“The glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together:for the mouth of the Lord hath spokenit.” Well, what next? Was it needful to mention man’s mortality in this connection? We think not. But there is much more appropriateness in the succeeding verses, ifwe see their deepermeaning. Do they not mean this? In order to make room for the display of the divine glory in Christ Jesus and his salvation, there would come a withering of all the glory wherein man boasts himself: the flesh should be seenin its true nature as corrupt and dying, and the grace of God alone should be exalted. This would be seenunder the ministry of John the Baptistfirst, and should be the preparatory work of the Holy Ghostin men’s hearts, in all time, in order that the glory of the Lord should be revealedand human pride be forever confounded. The Spirit blows upon the flesh, and that which seemedvigorous becomes weak, thatwhich was fair to look upon is smitten with decay;the true nature of the flesh is thus discovered, its deceitis laid bare, its poweris destroyed, and there is space for the dispensationof the ever-abiding word, and for the rule of the Great Shepherd, whose words are spirit and life. There is a withering wrought by the Spirit which is the preparation 5
  3. 3. for the sowing and implanting by which salvationis wrought. The withering before the sowing was very marvellously fulfilled in the preaching of John the Baptist. Most appropriately he carriedon his ministry in the desert, for a spiritual desert was all around him; he was the voice of one crying in the wilderness. It was not his work to plant, but to hew down. The fleshy religion of the Jews was then in its prime. Phariseeismstalkedthrough the streets in all its pomp; men complacently restedin outward ceremonies only, and spiritual religion was at the lowestconceivable ebb. Here and there might be found a Simeon and an Anna, but for the most part men knew nothing of spiritual religion, but said in their hearts: “We have Abraham to our father,” and this is enough. What a stir he made when he called the lordly Pharisees a generationof vipers! How he shook the nation with the declaration, “Now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees”!Stern as Elias, his work was to level the mountains, and lay low every lofty imagination. That word, “Repent,” was as a scorching wind to the verdure of self-righteousness, a killing blast for the confidence of ceremonialism. His food and his dress calledfor fasting and mourning. The outward tokenof his ministry declaredthe death amid which he preached, as he buried in the waters of Jordan those who came to him. “Ye must die and be buried, even as he who is to come will save by death and burial.” This was the meaning of the emblem which he set before the crowd. His typical act was as thorough in its teaching as were his words:and as if that were not enough, he warned them of a yet more searching and trying baptism with the Holy Ghostand with fire, and of the coming of One whose fan was in his hand, thoroughly to purge his floor. The Spirit in John blew as the rough north wind, searching and withering, and made him to be a destroyerof the vain gloryings of a fleshly religion, that the spiritual faith might be established. When our Lord himself actually appeared, he came into a withered land, whose glories had all departed. Old Jesse’s stemwas bare, and our Lord was the branch which grew out of his root. The sceptre had departed from Judah, and the lawgiverfrom betweenhis feet, when Shiloh came. An alien sat on David’s throne, and the Roman calledthe covenant-land his own. The lamp of prophecy burned but dimly, even if it had not utterly gone out. No Isaiahhad arisenof late to console them, nor even a Jeremiahto lament their apostacy. The whole economyof Judaism was a worn-out vesture; it had waxedold, and was ready to vanish away. The priesthood was
  4. 4. disarranged. Luke tells us that Annas and Caiaphas were high priests that year— two in a yearor at once, a strange setting aside of the laws of Moses. All the dispensationwhich gatheredaround the visible, or as Paul calls it, the “worldly” sanctuary, was coming to a close;and when our Lord had finished his work, the veil of the temple was rent in twain, the sacrifices were abolished, the priesthoodof Aaron was setaside, and carnalordinances were abrogated, for the Spirit revealedspiritual things. When he came who was made a priest, “not after the law of a carnalcommandment, but after the powerof an endless life,” there was “a disanulling of the commandment going before for the weaknessand unprofitableness thereof.” Such are the facts of history; but I am not about to dilate upon them: I am coming to your own personalhistories— to the experience of every child of God. In every one of us it must be fulfilled that all that is of the flesh in us, seeing it is but as grass, must be withered, and the comeliness thereofmust be destroyed. The Spirit of God, like the wind, must pass over the field of our souls, and cause our beauty to be as a fading flower. He must so convince us of sin, and so reveal ourselves to ourselves, that we shall see that the flesh profiteth nothing; that our fallen nature is corruption itself, and that “they who are in the flesh cannot please God.” There must be brought home to us the sentence ofdeath upon our former legaland carnal life, that the incorruptible seedof the word of God, implanted by the Holy Ghost, may be in us, and abide in us forever. The subject of this morning is the withering work of the Spirit upon the souls of men, and when we have spokenupon it, we shall conclude with a few words upon the implanting work, which always follows where this withering work has been performed. 1. Turning then to tHE WORK OF THE SPIRIT IN CAUSING THE GOODLINESSOF THE FLESH TO FADE, let us, first, observe that the work of the Holy Spirit upon the soul of man in withering up that which is of the flesh, is very unexpected. You will observe in our text, that even the speakerhimself, though doubtless one taught of God, when he was bidden to cry, said “What shall I cry?” Even he did not know that in order to the comforting of God’s people, there must first be experienceda preliminary visitation. Many preachers of God’s gospelhave 6
  5. 5. forgottenthat the law is the schoolmasterto bring men to Christ. They have sownon the unbroken fallow ground, and forgotten that the plough must break the clods. We have seentoo much of trying to sew without the sharp needle of the Spirit’s convincing power. Preachers have laboredto make Christ precious to those who think themselves rich and increasedin goods; and it has been labor in vain. It is our duty to preachJesus Christ even to self- righteous sinners, but it is certainthat Jesus Christ will never be acceptedby them while they hold themselves in high esteem. Only the sick will welcome the physician. It is the work of the Spirit of God to convince men of sin, and until they are convincedof sin, they will never be led to seek the righteousness which is of God by Jesus Christ. I am persuaded, that whereverthere is a real work of grace in any soul, it begins with a pulling down: the Holy Ghostdoes not build on the old foundation. Wood, hay, and stubble will not do for him to build upon. He will come as the fire, and cause a conflagrationofall proud nature’s Babels. He will break our bow and cut our spear in sunder, and burn our chariotin the fire. When every sandy foundation is gone, then, but not till then, behold he will lay in our souls the great foundation-stone, chosenof God and precious. The awakenedsinner, when he asks thatGod would have mercy upon him, is much astonishedto find that, instead of enjoying a speedy peace, his soulis bowed down within him under a sense ofdivine wrath. Naturally enough he inquires: “Is this the answerto my prayer? I prayed the Lord to deliver me from sin and self, and is this the way in which he deals with me? I said, ‘Hear me,’ and behold he wounds me with the wounds of a cruel one. I said, ‘Clothe me,’ and lo! he has torn off from me the few rags which covered me before, and my nakedness staresme in the face. I said, ‘Wash me,’ and behold he has plunged me in the ditch till mine own clothes do abhor me. Is this the way of grace?” Sinner, be not surprised: it is even so. Perceivestthou not the cause of it? How canstthou be healedwhile the proud flesh is in thy wound? It must come out. It is the only way to heal thee permanently: it would be folly to film over thy sore, or heal thy flesh, and leave the leprosy within thy bones. The greatPhysician will cut with his sharp knife till the corrupt flesh be removed, for only thus can a sure healing work be wrought in thee. Dostthou not see that it is divinely wise that before thou art clothed thou shouldst be stripped! What, wouldst thou have Christ’s lustrous righteousness outside whiter than any fuller can make it, and thine own filthy rags
  6. 6. concealedwithin? Nay, man; they must be put away;not a single thread of thine own must be left upon thee. It cannot be that God should cleanse thee until he has made thee see somewhatofthy defilement; for thou wouldst never value the precious blood which cleansesus from all sin if thou hadst not first of all been made to mourn that thou art altogetheran unclean thing. The convincing work of the Spirit, whereverit comes, is unexpected, and even to the child of God in whom this process has still to go on, it is often startling. We begin again to build that which the Spirit of God had destroyed. Having begun in the spirit, we actas if we would be made perfect in the flesh; and then when our mistakenup-building has to be levelled with the earth, we are almost as astonishedas we were when first the scales fellfrom our eyes. In some such condition as this was Newtonwhenhe wrote:— “I askedthe Lord that I might grow In faith and love and every grace, Might more of his salvationknow, And seek more earnestlyhis face. ‘Twas he who taught me thus to pray, And he, I trust has answeredprayer; But it has been in such a way As almostdrove me to despair. I hoped that in some favour’d hour, At once he’d answermy request, And by his love’s constraining power Subdue my sins, and give me rest. 7 Instead of this, he made me feel The hidden evils of my heart; And let the angry powers of hell Assault my soul in ev’ry part.” Ah, marvel not, for thus the Lord is wont to answerhis people. The voice which saith, “Comfort ye, comfortye my people,” achieves its purpose by first making them hear the cry, “All flesh is grass, andall the goodliness thereofis
  7. 7. as the flowerof the field.” 2. Furthermore, this withering is after the usual order of the divine operation. If we considerwell the way of God, we shall not be astonishedthat he beginneth with his people by terrible things in righteousness. Observe the method of creation. I will not venture upon any dogmatic theory of geology, but there seems to be every probability that this world has been fitted up and destroyed, refitted and then destroyed again, many times before the lastarranging of it for the habitation of men. “In the beginning Godcreatedthe heaven and earth”? then came a long interval, and at length, at the appointed time, during sevendays, the Lord prepared the earth for the human race. Considerthen the state of matters when the great architectbegan his work. What was there in the beginning? Originally, nothing. When he commanded the ordering of the earth how was it? “The earth was without form and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep.” There was no trace of another’s plan to interfere with the great architect. “With whom took he counsel, and who instructed him, and taught him in the path of judgment, and taught him knowledge, andshowedto him the wayof understanding?” He receivedno contribution of column or pillar towards the temple which he intended to build. The earth was, as the Hebrew puts it, Tohu and Bohu, disorder and confusion— in a word, chaos. So it is in the new creation. When the Lord new-creates us, he borrows nothing from the old man, but makes all things new. He does not repair and add a new wing to the old house of our depraved nature, but he builds a new temple for his own praise. We are spiritually without form and empty, and darkness is upon the face of our heart, and his word comes to us, saying, “Light be,” and there is light, and, ere long, life and every precious thing. To take another instance from the ways of God: When man had fallen, when did the Lord bring him the gospel? The first whisper of the gospel, as you know, was, “I will put enmity betweenthee and the woman, betweenthy seedand her seed. He shall bruise thy head.” That whisper came to man shivering in the presence ofhis Maker, having nothing more to say by way of excuse;but standing guilty before the Lord. When did the Lord God clothe our parents? Notuntil first of all he had put the question, “Who told thee that thou wastnaked?” Notuntil the fig-leaves had utterly failed did the Lord bring in the covering skin of the sacrifice, andwrap them in it. If you will pursue the meditation upon the acts of God with men, you will constantly see the same thing. God has given us a
  8. 8. wonderful type of salvationin Noah’s ark; but Noahwas savedin that ark in connectionwith death; he himself, as it were, immured alive in a tomb, and all the world besides left to destruction. All other hope for Noah was gone, and then the ark rose upon the waters. Rememberthe redemption of the children of Israel out of Egypt: it occurredwhen they were in the saddestplight, and their cry went up to heaven by reasonof their bondage. When no arm brought salvation, then with a high hand and an outstretchedarm the Lord brought forth his people. Everywhere before the salvationthere comes the humbling of the creature, the overthrow of human hope. As in the backwoods ofAmerica, before there canbe tillage, the planting of cities, the arts of civilization, and the transactions ofcommerce, the woodman’s axe must hack and hew: the stately trees of centuries must fall: the roots must be burned, the old reign of nature disturbed. The old must go before the new can come. Even thus the Lord takes awaythe first, that he may establishthe second. The first heaven and the first earth must pass away, or there cannotbe a new heavenand a new earth. Now, as it has been outwardly, we ought to expectthat it would be the same within us; and when these witherings and fadings occurin our souls, we should only say, “It is the Lord, let him do as seemethhim good.” 3. I would have you notice, thirdly, that we are taught in our text how universal this process is in its range overthe hearts of all those upon whom the Spirit works. The withering is a withering of what? Of part of the flesh and some portion of its tendencies? Nay, observe, “All flesh is grass;and all the goodliness thereof”— the very choice and pick of it— “is as the flower of the field,” and what happens to the grass? Does anyof it live? “The 8 grass withereth,” all of it. The flower, will not that abide? So fair a thing, has not that an immortality? No, it fades;it utterly falls away. So, wherever the Spirit of Godbreathes on the soulof man, there is a withering of every thing that is of the flesh, and it is seenthat to be carnally minded is death. Of course, we all know and confess that where there is a work of grace, there must be a destruction of our delight in the pleasures ofthe flesh. When the Spirit of Godbreathes on us, that which was sweetbecomes bitter; that which was bright becomes dim. A man cannot love sin and yet possessthe life of God. If he takes pleasure in fleshly joys wherein he once delighted, he is still
  9. 9. what he was:he minds the things of the flesh, and therefore he is after the flesh, and he shall die. The world and the lusts thereofare to the unregenerate as beautiful as the meadows in spring, when they are bedeckedwith flowers, but to the regenerate soulthey are a wilderness, a salt land, and not inhabited. Of those very things wherein we once took delight we say, “Vanity of vanities; all is vanity.” We cry to be delivered from the poisonous joys of earth, we loathe them, and wonder that we could once riot in them. Belovedhearers, do you know what this kind of withering means? Have you seenthe lusts of the flesh, and the pomps and the pleasures thereof, all fade awaybefore your eyes? It must be so, or the Spirit of God has not visited your soul. But mark, whereverthe Spirit of God comes, he destroys the goodliness and flowerof the flesh; that is to say our righteousness withers as our sinfulness. Before the Spirit comes, we think ourselves as goodas the best. We say, “All these commandments have I kept from my youth up,” and we superciliouslyask, “What lack I yet?” Have we not been moral? Nay, have we not even been religious? We confess that we may have committed faults, but we think them very venial, and we venture, in our wickedpride, to imagine that, after all, we are not so vile as the word of God would lead us to think. Ah, my dear hearer, when the Spirit of God blows on the comeliness ofthy flesh, its beauty will fade as a leaf, and thou will have quite another idea of thyself; thou wilt then find no language too severe in which to describe thy past character. Searching deep into thy motives, and investigating that which moved thee to thine actions, thou wilt see so much of evil, that thou wilt cry with the publican, “Godbe merciful to me, a sinner.” Where the Holy Ghosthas withered up in us our self-righteousness, he has not half completedhis work;there is much more to be destroyedyet, and among the rest, awaymust go our boasted powerof resolution. Mostpeople conceive thatthey can turn to God whenever they resolve to do so. “I am a man of such strength of mind,” says one, “that if I made up my mind to be religious, I should be without difficulty.” “Ah,” saith another volatile spirit, “I believe that one of these days I can correctthe errors of the past, and commence a new life.” Ah, dear hearers, the resolutions of the flesh are goodlyflowers, but they must all fade. When visited by the Spirit of God, we find that even when the will is present with us, how to perform that which we would, we find not; yea, and we discoverthat our will is averse to all that is good, and that naturally we will not come unto Christ that we may
  10. 10. have life. What poor, frail things resolutions are when seenin the light of God’s Spirit! Still the man will say, “I believe I have, after all, within myself an enlightened conscienceand an intelligence that will guide me aright. The light of nature I will use, and I do not doubt that if I wander somewhat, I shall find my way back again.” Ah, man! thy wisdom, which is the very flower of thy nature, what is it but folly, though thou knowest it not? Unconverted and unrenewed, thou art in God’s sight no wiserthan the wild ass’s colt. I wish thou wert in thine own esteemhumbled as a little child at Jesus’feet, and made to cry, “Teachthou me.” When the withering wind of the Spirit moves over the carnal mind, it reveals the death of the flesh in all respects, especially in the matter of powertowards that which is good. We then learn that word of our Lord: “Without me ye can do nothing.” When I was seeking the Lord, I not only believed that I could not pray without divine help, but I felt in my very soul that I could not. Then I could not even feel aright, or mourn as I would, or groan as I would. I longed to long more after Christ; but, alas!I could not even feelthat I needed him as I ought to feelit. This heart was then as hard as adamant, as dead as those that rot in their graves. Oh, what would I at times have given for a tear! I wanted to repent, but could not; longed to believe, but could not; I felt bound, hampered and paralyzed. This is a humbling revelation of God’s Holy Spirit, but a needful one; for the faith of the flesh is not the faith of God’s elect. The faith which justifies the soul is the gift of God and not of ourselves. Thatrepentance which is the work of the flesh will need to be repented of. The flower of the flesh must wither; 9 only the seedof the Spirit will produce fruit unto perfection. The heirs of heaven are born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of man, but of God. If the work in us be not the Spirit’s working, but our own, it will droop and die when most we require its protection; and its end will be as the grass which today is, and tomorrow is castinto the oven. 4. You see, then, the universality of this withering work within us, but I beg you also to notice the completeness ofit. The grass, whatdoes it do? Droop? nay, wither. The flower of the field: what of that? Does it hang its head a little? No, according to Isaiahit fades;and according to Peter it falleth away. There is no reviving it with showers, it has come to its end. Even thus are the awakenedled to see
  11. 11. that in their flesh there dwelleth no goodthing. What dying and withering work some of God’s servants have had in their souls!Look at John Bunyan, as he describes himself in his “Grace Abounding”! For how many months and even years was the Spirit engagedin writing death upon all that was the old Bunyan, in order that he might become by grace a new man fitted to track the pilgrims along their heavenly way. We have not all endured the ordeal so long, but in every child of God there must be a death to sin, to the law, and to self, which must be fully accomplishedere he is perfected in Christ and taken to heaven. Corruption cannot inherit incorruption; it is through the Spirit that we mortify the deeds of the body, and therefore live. But cannotthe fleshly mind be improved? By no means; for “the carnal mind is enmity againstGod: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed canbe.” Cannot you improve the old nature? No; “ye must be born again.” Canit not be taught heavenly things? No. “The natural man receivethnot the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” There is nothing to be done with the old nature but to let it be laid in the grave;it must be dead, and buried, and when it is so, then the incorruptible seedthat liveth and abideth forever, will develop gloriously, the fruit of the new birth will come to maturity, and grace shall be exalted in glory. The old nature never does improve, it is as earthly, and sensual, and devilish in the saint of eighty years of age as it was when first he came to Christ; it is unimproved and unimprovable; towards God it is enmity itself; every imagination of the thoughts of the heart is evil, and that continually. The old nature called“the flesh lusteth againstthe Spirit, and the Spirit againstthe flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other,” neither can there be peace betweenthem. 5. Let us further notice that all this withering work in the soul is very painful. As you read these verses do they not strike you as having a very funereal tone? “All flesh is grass, andall the goodliness thereofis as the flower of the field: the grass withereth, the flower fadeth.” This is mournful work;but it must be done. I think those who experience much of it when they first come to Christ have greatreasonto be thankful. Their course in life will, in all probability, be much brighter and happier, for I have noticed that persons who are converted very easily, and come to Christ with but comparatively little knowledge oftheir own depravity, have to learn it afterwards, and they remain for a long time babes
  12. 12. in Christ, and are perplexed with matters that would not have troubled them if they had experienceda deeperwork at first. No sir; if grace has begun to build in your soul and left any of the old walls of self-trust standing, they will have to come down sooneror later. You may congratulate yourselfupon their remaining, but it is a false congratulation, your glorying is not good. I am sure of this, that Christ will never put a new piece upon an old garment, or new wine in old bottles: he knows the rent would be worse in the long run, and the bottles would burst. All that is of nature’s spinning must be unravelled. The natural building must come down, lath and plaster, roof and foundation, and we must have a house not made with hands. It was a greatmercy for our city of London that the greatfire clearedawayall the old buildings which were the lair of the plague, a far healthier city was then built; and it is a greatmercy for a man when God sweeps rightaway all his own righteousness and strength, when he makes him feelthat he is nothing and can be nothing, and drives him to confess that Christ must be in all, and that his only strength lies in the eternalmight of the ever-blessedSpirit. Sometimes in a house of business an old system has been going on for years, and it has causedmuch confusion, and allowedmuch dishonesty. You come in as a new manager, and you adopt an entirely new plan. Now, try if you can, and graft your method on to the old system. How it will worry you! Year after year you sayto yourself, “I cannot work it: if I had sweptthe whole away and started afresh, clear from the beginning, it would not have given me one-tenth of the trouble.” God does not intend to graft the system of grace upon corrupt nature, nor to make the new Adam grow out of the old Adam, but he intends to teachus this: “Ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.” Salvationis not of the flesh, but 10 of the Lord alone;that which is born of the flesh is only flesh at the best; and only that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. It must be the Spirit’s work altogether, or it is not what God will accept. 6. Observe, brethren, that although this is painful it is inevitable. I have already entrenched upon this, and shownyou how necessaryit is that all of the old should be takenaway; but let me further remark that it is inevitable that the old should go, because it is in itself corruptible. Why does the grass wither? Becauseit is a withering
  13. 13. thing. “Its rootis everin its grave, and it must die.” How could it spring out of the earth, and be immortal? It is no amaranth: it blooms not in Paradise:it grows in a soilon which the curse has fallen. Every supposedgoodthing that grows out of your own self, is like yourself, mortal, and it must die. The seeds of corruption are in all the fruits of manhood’s tree; let them be as fair to look upon as Eden’s clusters, they must decay. Moreover, it would never do, my brother, that there should be something of the flesh in our salvationand something of the Spirit; for if it were so there would be a division of the honor. Hitherto the praises of God: beyond this my own praises. If I were to win heaven partly through what I had don, and partly through what Christ had done, and if the energy which sanctified me was in a measure my own, and in a measure divine, they that divide the work shall divide the reward, and the songs ofheaven while they would be partly to Jehovahmust also be partly to the creature. But it shall not be. Down, proud flesh! Down! I say. Though thou cleanse andpurge thyself as thou mayst, thou art to the core corrupt; though thou labor unto weariness, thoubuildest wood that will be burned, and stubble that will be turned to ashes. Give up thine own self-confidence, andlet the work be, and the merit be where the honor shall be, namely, with God alone. It is inevitable, then, that there should be all this withering. 7. This last word by wayof comfort to any that are passing through the process we are describing, and I hope some of your are. It gives me greatjoy when I hear that you unconverted ones are very miserable, for the miseries which the Holy Spirit works are always the prelude to happiness. It is the Spirit’s work to wither. I rejoice in our translation: “Becausethe Spirit of the Lord bloweth upon it.” It is true the passagemay be translated, “The wind of the Lord bloweth upon it.” One word, as you know, is used in the Hebrew both for “wind” and “Spirit,” and the same is true of the Greek;but let us retain the old translationhere, for I conceive it to be the real meaning of the text. The Spirit of Godit is that withers the flesh. It is not the devil that killed my self- righteousness. Imight be afraid if it were: nor was it myself that humbled myself by a voluntary and needless self-degradation, but it was the Spirit of God. Betterto be brokenin pieces by the Spirit of God, than to be made whole by the flesh! What doth the Lord say? “I kill.” But what next? “I make alive.” He never makes any alive but those He kills. Blessedbe the Holy Ghostwhen he kills me, when he drives the swordthrough the very bowels of my own
  14. 14. merits and my self-confidence, forthen he will make me alive. “I wound, and I heal.” He never heals those whom he has not wounded. Then blessedbe the hand that wounds; let it go on wounding; let it cut and tear; let it lay bare to me myself at my very worst, that I may be driven to self-despair, and may fall back upon the free mercy of God, and receive it as a poor, guilty, lost, helpless, undone sinner, who casts himself into the arms of sovereigngrace, knowing that God must give all, and Christ must be all, and the Spirit must work all, and man must be as clayin the potter’s hands, that the Lord may do with him as seemethhim good. Rejoice,dearbrother, however low you are brought, for if the Spirit humbles you he means no evil, but he intends infinite goodto your soul. Now, let us close with a few sentences concerning THE IMPLANTATION. According to Peter, although the flesh withers, and the flower thereof falls away, yet in the children of God there is an unwithering something of another kind. “Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth forever.” “The word of the Lord endureth forever. And this is the word which by the gospelis preached unto you.” Now, the gospelis of use to us because it is not of human origin. If it were of the flesh, all it could do for us would not land us beyond the flesh; but the gospelofJesus Christ is super-human, divine and spiritual. In its conceptionit was of God; its greatgift, even the Saviour, is a divine gift; and all its teachings are full of deity. If you, my hearer, believe a gospelwhich you have thought out for yourself or a philosophical gospelwhich comes from the brain of man, it is of the flesh and 11 will wither, and you will die and be lostthrough trusting in it. The only word that can bless you and be a seedin your soulmust be the living and incorruptible word of the eternal Spirit. This is the incorruptible word, that “Godwas made flesh and dwelt among us;” that “Godwas in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespassesunto them.” This is the incorruptible word, that “whosoeverbelieveththat Jesus is the Christ, is born of God.” “He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he
  15. 15. that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begottenSon of God.” “Godhath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.” Now, brethren, this is the seed;but before it can grow in your soul, it must be planted there by the Spirit. Do you receive it this morning? Then the Holy Spirit implants it in your soul. Do you leap up to it, and say, “I believe it! I graspit! On the incarnate God I fix my hope; the substitutionary sacrifice, the complete atonementof Christ is all my confidence;I am reconciledto God by the blood of Jesus”?Thenyou possess the living seedwithin your soul. And what is the result of it? Why, then there comes according to the text, a new life into us, as the result of the indwelling of the living word, and our being born again by it. A new life it is; it is not the old nature putting out its better parts; not the old Adam refining and purifying itself, and rising to something better. No;have we not saidaforetime that the flesh withers, and the flowerthereof fades? It is an entirely new life. Ye are as much new creatures at your regeneration, as if you had never existed, and had been for the first time created. “Oldthings are passedaway;behold all things are become new.” The child of God is beyond and above other men. Other men do not possessthe life which he has received. They are but duplex— body and soul have they. He is of triple nature— he is spirit, soul and body. A fresh principle, a spark of divine life has dropped into his soul: he is no longera natural or carnal man, but he has become a spiritual man, understanding spiritual things, and possessing a life far superior to any thing that belongs to the restof mankind. Oh that God, who has withered in the souls of any of you that which is of the flesh, may speedily grant you the new birth through the Word. Now observe, to close, whereverthis new life comes through the word, it is incorruptible, it lives and abides forever. To getthe goodseedout of a true believer’s heart and to destroy the new nature in him, is a thing attempted by earth and hell, but never yet achieved. Pluck the sun out of the firmament, and you shall not even then be able to pluck grace out of a regenerate heart. It “liveth and abideth forever,” saith the text; it can neither corrupt of itself nor be corrupted. “It sinneth not, because it is born of God.” “I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.” “The waterthat I shall give him shall be in him a well of waterspringing up into everlasting life.” You have a natural life— that will die, it is of the flesh. You have a spiritual life— of that it is
  16. 16. written: “Whosoeverliveth and believeth in me shall never die.” You have now within you the noblestand truest immortality: you must live as God liveth, in peace and joy, and happiness. But oh, remember, dear hearer, if you have not this, you “shallnot see life.” What then— shall you be annihilated? Ah! no, but “the wrath of the Lord is upon you.” You shall exist, though you shall not live. Of life you shall know nothing, for that is the gift of God in Christ Jesus:but of an everlasting death, full of torment and anguish, you shall be the wretchedheritor— “the wrath of God abideth on him.” You shall be castinto “the lake of fire, which is the seconddeath.” You shall be one of those whose “wormdieth not, and whose fire is not quenched.” May God, the ever-blessedSpirit, visit you! If he be now striving with you, oh quench not his divine flame! Trifle not with any holy thought you have. If this morning you must confess that you are not born again, be humbled by it. Go and seek mercy of the Lord, entreat him to deal graciouslywith you and save you. Many who have had nothing but moonlight have prized it, and ere long they have had sunlight. Above all, remember what the quickening seedis, and reverence it when you hear it preached, “for this is the word by which the gospelis preachedunto you.” Respectit and receive it. Remember that the quickening seedis all wrapped up in this sentence:“Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.” “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.” The Lord bless you, for Jesus’sake.Amen. ¶ Sermon No. 999 Vol 17 from the Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit STUDYLIGHT RESOURCES Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary Isaiah40:7 The grass withers, the flowerfades, When the breath of the LORD blows upon it; Surely the people are grass.
  17. 17. Adam Clarke Commentary The grass withereth- The whole of this verse is wanting in three of Kennicott's and five of De Rossi's MSS., andin a very correctand ancientMS. of my own, and also in the Septuagint and Arabic. Surely the people "Verily this people" - So the Syriac; who perhaps read ‫הזה‬ . hezzah maah‫העם‬ Becausethe spirit of the Lord "Whenthe wind of Jehovah" - hcaur‫רוח‬ ‫יהוה‬ Jehovah, a wind of Jehovah, is a Hebraism, meaning no more than a strong wind. It is well known that a hot wind in the eastdestroys every greenthing. Compare Psalm 103:16. Two MSS. omit the word ‫הוהי‬ Yehovah, Jehovah. Copyright Statement These files are public domain. Bibliography Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Isaiah40:7". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/isaiah- 40.html. 1832. return to 'Jump List' Albert Barnes'Notes onthe Whole Bible The grass withereth- Soonwithers. Its beauty is soongone. The flowerfadeth - Soonfades;or fades when the wind of Yahweh passes over it. So is also with man. He loses his vigor, and dies at once when Yahweh takes awayhis strength and beauty. Becausethe spirit of the Lord bloweth upon it - This should be rendered, undoubtedly, ‹When the wind of Yahweh bloweth upon it.‘ The word ‹spirit‘ here does not suit the connection, and does not express the idea of the prophet. The word ‫רוח‬ rûach means, properly, “breath” - a breathing, or blowing; and is often used indeed to denote spirit, soul, life. But it often means a breath of
  18. 18. wind; a breeze; air in motion Job 41:8; Jeremiah 2:24; Jeremiah14:6. It is applied to the coolbreeze which springs up in the evening (Genesis 3:8; compare Genesis 8:1; Isaiah7:2; Isaiah 41:16;and also a tempest, or hurricane Job1:19; Job 30:15; Isaiah27:8. The ‹wind of Yahweh‘ means that which Yahweh sends, or causes;and the expressionhere refers, doubtless, to the hot or poisonous eastwinds which blow in Oriental countries, and which wither and dry up everything before them (compare Jonah 4:8). Surely the people is grass - Lowth reads this, ‹this people;‘ referring to the Jewishnation. So the Syriac. Perhaps it refers to the people of Babylon (so Rosenmuller), and means that mighty people would fade awaylike grass. But the more probable interpretation is that which regards it as referring to all people, and of course including the Jews and the Babylonians. The sense, according to this view, is, ‹all nations shall fade away. All human power shall cease. But the promise of Yahweh shall survive. It shall be unchanging amidst all revolutions; it shall survive all the fluctuations which shall take place among people. It may, therefore, be trusted with unwavering reliance.‘To produce that reliance was the object of the proclamation. On this passage, descriptive of the state of man, the reader will at once be reminded of the beautiful language of Shakespeare: This is the state of man! Today he puts forth The tender leaves of hope: to-morrow blossoms, And bears his blushing honors thick upon him; The third day comes a frost, a killing frost, And when he thinks, goodeasyman, full surely His greatnessis a-ripening, nips his root, And then he falls - - Neverto hope again. Hen. VIII, Act. ii. Sc. 2. In the following passagefrom Tasso, the same image is adopted:
  19. 19. The gentle budding rose (quoth he) behold, That first scantpeeping forth with virgin beams, Half ope, half shut, her beauties doth up-fold In their dear leaves, and less seenfairer seems, And after spreads them forth more broad and bold, Then languishes and dies in lastextremes. So in the passing of a day doth pass The bud and blossomof the life of man, Nor e‘er doth flourish more, but, like the grass Cut down, becomethwithered, pale, and wan. Fairfax, Edit. Windsor, 1817. Copyright Statement These files are public domain. Bibliography Barnes, Albert. "Commentaryon Isaiah40:7". "Barnes'Notes onthe New Testament". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/isaiah- 40.html. 1870. return to 'Jump List' John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible The grass withereth, the flowerfadeth,.... And so does man, and all his glory and goodliness:
  20. 20. because the Spirit of the Lord bloweth upon it: alluding to some impetuous and blasting wind blowing upon herbs and flowers, to the withering and fading of them; see Psalm103:15, legalordinances ceasedupon the pouring forth of the Spirit. The external excellenciesofmen, or their outward advantages, perishat the breath of God, at the blast of his nostrils, when takenawayby death; and at conversionthe Spirit of the Lord blows a blast upon all the goodliness ofman; the operations of the Spirit are compared to wind, John 3:8, which, like that, are free, and, as he pleases,are invisible and imperceptible, land powerful and efficacious, andthese cause a withering in men's goodness;the Spirit of God shows that their holiness is not true holiness;that their righteousness has only the appearance ofone before men; and their religion and godliness a mere form; and their goodworks, "splendida peccata", shining sins; that those are insufficient to justify and save, and bring to heaven; upon which they fade awayand die in their esteem, who now reckonthem but loss and dung, Philemon 3:6, "surely the people is grass";the people of the Jews, withall their external advantages;yea, all people, with all the excellenciesofhuman nature, or consideredin their best estate, possessedof all that is reckonedgoodand great, being but mere natural men. The Targum restrains this to the ungodly, as it does the former verse, rendering it, "as grass the wickedamong the people are esteemed;' as it does the former, thus, "the wickedare as grass, and their strength as the stubble of the field.' So Kimchi interprets them of the nations that come with Gog and Magog;and Jarchiof the princes of the kingdoms; but very wrongly, since it is true of all flesh, or of all mankind. Copyright Statement The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernisedand adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rightes Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
  21. 21. A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855 Bibliography Gill, John. "Commentary on Isaiah 40:7". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/isaiah- 40.html. 1999. return to 'Jump List' Geneva Study Bible The grass withereth, the flowerfadeth: because the l breath of the LORD bloweth upon it: surely the people [is] grass. (l) The spirit of Godwill discoverthe vanity in all that seems to have any excellencyof themselves. Copyright Statement These files are public domain. Text Courtesyof BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission. Bibliography Beza, Theodore. "Commentaryon Isaiah 40:7". "The 1599 Geneva Study Bible". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/gsb/isaiah-40.html. 1599-1645. return to 'Jump List' Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible spirit of the Lord — rather, “wind of Jehovah” (Psalm103:16). The withering eastwind of those countries sentby Jehovah(Jonah 4:8).
  22. 22. the people — rather, “this people” [Lowth], which may refer to the Babylonians [Rosenmuller]; but better, mankind in general, as in Isaiah 42:5, so Isaiah 40:6, “all flesh”; this whole race, that is, man. Copyright Statement These files are a derivative of an electronic edition prepared from text scannedby Woodside Bible Fellowship. This expanded edition of the Jameison-Faussett-BrownCommentary is in the public domain and may be freely used and distributed. Bibliography Jamieson, Robert, D.D.;Fausset,A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Isaiah40:7". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfb/isaiah-40.html. 1871-8. return to 'Jump List' Calvin's Commentary on the Bible 7.The grass is withered. This might be understood to relate to the beauty of the fields, which is spoiled by a single gust of wind, as it is said, (Psalms 103:16,)“As soonas the wind passethover it, it is gone;” for we know that the wind is called “the Spirit of God” in other passages. ButI am more inclined to think that the metaphor is adapted to the present subject; for otherwise the application of it would be somewhatobscure. The Prophet therefore explains what object he has in view, by saying that men, with all their glory, are nothing else than grass;theft is, because the Spirit of God will quickly carry them awayby a single breath. Becausethe Spirit of Jehovahhath blown upon it. The meaning may be thus explained, “Howeverillustrious are the gifts with which men are endowed, yet
  23. 23. as soonas the Spirit of God shall blow upon them, they shall fed that they are nothing.” For the false confidence with which they intoxicate themselves springs from this source, that they do not appearbefore God, but, in order to indulge freely in flattering themselves, creepinto places of concealment. That they may no longer deceive themselves by a foolishdelight in falsehood, the Prophet drags them into the presence ofGod, and admits that apparently they flourish, when they have been withdrawn from God; but as soonas the Lord has breathed upon them, all their strength and beauty perish and decay. But it may be thought that he assigns to “the Spirit of God” an office which is greatly at variance with his nature; for it belongs to him “to renew by his powerthe face of the earth.” (Psalms 104:30.)On the other hand, if the Lord withdraw his Spirit, all is reduced to nothing. Here Isaiah asserts whatis exceedinglydifferent, and appears to contradictDavid. But there is no absurdity in saying that all things are renewed by the powerof the Spirit, and again, that what formerly appearedto be something is reduced to nothing; for we are nothing but in God, and, in order that we may begin to be something in him, we must first be convinced, and made thoroughly to know, that we are vanity. Therefore does the Lord breathe upon us, that we may know that of ourselves we are nothing. Surely the people is grass. The Prophetadded this, that all might know that he was not speaking of foreigners, but of that people which gloriedin the name of God; for the Jews might have thought that they were more excellent, and held a higher rank than other men, and that on this accountthey ought to be exempted from the common lot. He therefore addresses theta expresslyand by name, that they may not claim anything for themselves above others; as if he had said, that they would act wiselyif, through a conviction of their poverty, they should castawayall confidence in themselves. In a word, the Prophet, after having mentioned consolation, shews in what way men must be prepared to receive it; for they are not capable of it till they have formerly been reduced to nothing. Our hardness must therefore be softened, our haughtiness must be eastdown and laid low, our boasting must be put to shame, and our hearts must be subdued and humbled, if we wish to receive with any advantage the consolations whichthe prophets bring to us by the command of God.
  24. 24. Copyright Statement These files are public domain. Bibliography Calvin, John. "Commentary on Isaiah 40:7". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cal/isaiah-40.html. 1840-57. return to 'Jump List' John Trapp Complete Commentary Isaiah40:7 The grass withereth, the flowerfadeth: because the spirit of the LORD bloweth upon it: surely the people [is] grass. Ver. 7. Becausethe Spirit of the Lord bloweth upon it.] Or, when the breath of the Lord bloweth upon it. Godcan easilyblow men to destruction, dissipate them as so many vile dust heaps. [Job 4:9; Job 34:14-15 Psalms 104:29 Daniel 2:34-35 Zechariah4:6] Surely the people is grass.]Have we not heard; have we not seenfrom the beginning; doth not every day’s experience sealto it, that all flesh is grass? yea, hath not God oft heard our attestations? We shake ourheads, we confess it is true, &c., and yet we lay it not rightly to heart, though so deeply asseveredand assuredus. Copyright Statement These files are public domain.
  25. 25. Text Courtesyof BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission. Bibliography Trapp, John. "Commentary on Isaiah 40:7". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/isaiah- 40.html. 1865-1868. return to 'Jump List' Matthew Poole's EnglishAnnotations on the Holy Bible The Spirit of the Lord; or, the breath, &c, as this word is rendered, Psalms 147:18;the wind, as it frequently signifies, which hath this effectupon grass and flowers, Psalms 103:16 James1:11. The people; the same which he calledflesh, and said they were grass, Isaiah 40:6; which, that he might prove, in this verse he first declares the frail nature of grass and flowers, and then he applies this to the people. Or, this people; the Jews no less than the Gentiles; for here is an article in the Hebrew text, which is frequently emphatical and restrictive. Copyright Statement These files are public domain. Text Courtesyof BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission. Bibliography Poole, Matthew, "Commentaryon Isaiah40:7". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mpc/isaiah-40.html. 1685. return to 'Jump List' Expository Notes ofDr. Thomas Constable
  26. 26. The breath (Heb. ruah, sometimes translated"Spirit") of the Lord not only brings life (cf. Genesis 1:2), but it also brings death to people, even His people, as well as to their enemies and to the grass and flowers. The Apostle James combined these figures into one: "flowering grass" (James 1:10). The hot winds that blew into Israelfrom the eastquickly withered the grass, and the prophet likened this wind to God"s wilting judgments on humankind. Copyright Statement These files are public domain. Text Courtesyof BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission. Bibliography Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentaryon Isaiah 40:7". "ExpositoryNotes of Dr. Thomas Constable". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcc/isaiah-40.html. 2012. return to 'Jump List' E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes spirit. Hebrew. ruach. App-9. Copyright Statement These files are public domain. Text Courtesyof BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission. Bibliography
  27. 27. Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on Isaiah 40:7". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bul/isaiah-40.html. 1909-1922. return to 'Jump List' Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged The grass withereth, the flowerfadeth: because the spirit of the LORD bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass. The grass withereth... because the Spirit of the Lord bloweth upon it - or, the wind of Yahweh (Psalms 103:16). The withering eastwind of those countries sent by Yahweh (Jonah 4:8). But the Spirit of Yahweh is what sends the 'blast' upon proud but frail man; as He did upon Sennacherib(Isaiah 38:7). The people (Hebrew, ha'am) - rather, this people (Lowth), which may refer to the Babylonians (Rosenmuller); but better, mankind in general, as in Isaiah 42:5; so Isaiah 40:6, "all flesh;" this whole race - i:e., man. Copyright Statement These files are public domain. Text Courtesyof BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission. Bibliography Jamieson, Robert, D.D.;Fausset,A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Isaiah40:7". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/isaiah- 40.html. 1871-8. return to 'Jump List' Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers (7) The spirit of the Lord bloweth upon it.—Better, the breath, or the wind of Jehovah, as we are still in the regionof the parable, and the agencyis
  28. 28. destructive, and not quickening. A “wind of Jehovah” would be a mighty storm-blast, tearing up the grass and hurling it to destruction. The image of the fading flower reminds us of the well-knownHomeric simile, “As are the generations ofleaves, so are those of men.” (Comp. Psalms 103:15-16.) The word of our God . . .—Primarily the prophetic word revealing the will of God, but including all manifestations of His being (Psalms 119:41;Psalms 119:65;Psalms 119:89;John 1:1). END OF STUDYLIGHT RESOURCES THE SPIRIT OF GOD, LESSON 16, ISAIAH 40:7 November 19, 2015 by Dr. Mike Bagwell The Holy Spirit is so very, very unpredictable! His ways are “past finding out,” using Paul’s words from Romans 11:33. And today’s Lessonprovides an example. “The grass withereth, the flowerfadeth: BECAUSE THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD BLOWETHUPON IT: surely the people is grass.”Isaiah40:7 The Holy Spirit, the Life Giver, causing things (people) to wither, to fade away? In essence“to die?” Like the grass ofthe field? Is this the Spirit of God Who is love, joy, peace, gentleness,goodness, meekness? Yes. Is the Spirit of God Who brought order out of chaos in Genesis chapterone, during Creationweek? Yes. Is this the Spirit of God Whom Jesus calledthe “Comforter?”
  29. 29. Yes. Then, what’s He doing in Isaiah 40:7? “The grass withereth, the flowerfadeth: because the spirit of the LORD bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass.” Oh, friends reading here today … this is always the Holy Spirit’s first job with mankind! He must, before any lost soul can be saved… “blow” upon that individual’s heart! Cause it to shrink from its natural pride! Cause it to be seared, burned by the very thoughts of eternal punishment, a devil’s Hell! In other words, bring that potential convert to Jesus UNDER CONVICTION! Here’s Jesus, describing this “blowing” of the Spirit, His “withering” Ministry. “And when he (the Holy Spirit) is come, he will REPROVE the world of sin, and of righteousness,and of judgment.” John 16:8 Reprove! Convict! Blow upon with a withering Breath! He must kill (that despicable human pride) before He can extend Life! Self-sufficiencymust be made to fade … ere trust on Jesus, trust in Jesus, can be birthed! The Holy Spirit, the Destroyer… before the Holy Spirit the Sustainer! Have any of YOU ever been under conviction? Do you recallthat sense of being on your way to Hell, such an awareness helping propel you to Jesus? I do! Jesus said, agreeing with our Text: “Excepta corn of wheatfall into the ground and die, it abideth alone:but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.” John 12:24, this is just a re-wording of Isaiah40:7, folks.
  30. 30. Thank God for the day my consciousness was scorchedby the Spirit … and then renewedby faith in Jesus … unto eternal life! Hallelujah! — Dr. Mike Bagwell THE WITHERING WORK OF GOD’S SPIRIT by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr. A sermon preachedat the Baptist Tabernacle ofLos Angeles Lord’s DayEvening, March 12, 2017 In the liberal seminary they taught us that there were two Isaiahs. But they were wrong. The first 39 chapters speak of the sins and coming captivity of the people. But from chapter40 to the end, the prophet speaksoftheir redemption. The secondhalf speaks ofsalvationthrough the sufferings of Christ. “The voice said, Cry. And he said, What shall I cry? All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness [loveliness, NASV;their glory, NIV] thereof is as the flowerof the field: The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the spirit of the Lord bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass. The grass withereth, the flowerfadeth: but the word of our Godshall stand for ever” (Isaiah 40:6-8). “The voice said, Cry.” What voice was it that spoke to the prophet? It was “the mouth of the Lord,” spokenof in verse five. The Hebrew word for “cry” is qârâ. It means “to call out – [confronting] a personmet” (Strong #7121). It is the same Hebrew word used in Isaiah 58:1,
  31. 31. “Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and shew my people their transgression, and the house of Jacobtheir sins” (Isaiah58:1). That’s the way John the Baptistpreached. John the Baptist referred to Isaiah 40:3. He said, “I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Isaiah” (John 1:23; Isaiah 40:3). The Greek word translated“crying” in John 1:23 is bǒaō. It means “to shout...cry out” (Strong). The Hebrew word and the Greek word sayit is to “cry aloud” (Isaiah 58:1). It means that the preachermust speak loudly as the mouthpiece of God... “Shouting and crying out” to those who are lost and confused! Preachers shouldcry out to their hearers the Word of God. Sadly, this is not the popular style of preaching today. There is a fundamental disobedience to the Bible in preaching today. Modernministers have “quit preaching and gone to teaching,” as the old-timers put it. These modern ministers do not obey God. God saidto Isaiah, “Cry aloud, and spare not.” Modern preaching does not follow the example of Jesus. Jesus“cried...inthe temple” (John 7:28), nor is it like Jesus whenHe “stoodand cried” in John 7:37. Nor is it like Peter on the Day of Pentecost.He “lifted up his voice” and shouted the words God had given him (Acts 2:14). Dr. John Gill said, “And lifted up his voice, that he might be heard by the whole multitude...as well as to shew his zeal and fervour, of spirit and fortitude of mind; for being endued with the Spirit from on high, he was fearless ofmen” (An Exposition of the New Testament;note on Acts 2:14). So, I must repeat, there is a fundamental disobedience to God in our pulpits today, a terrible disobedience in the very manner and style of preaching. The Apostle Paul gave this as a sign of apostasyin the last days. He said, “Preachthe word... For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears (wanting to have their ears tickled, NASV)” (II Timothy 4:2, 3). There is constant“teaching” in our time, but preaching has been forgotten. All we hear is teaching – “teaching” without urgency and fire! That’s all they learn in today’s seminaries!Dry-as-dust, verse-by-verse teaching!No one is confrontedwith the Gospeland no one is disturbed from their spiritual sleepby “teaching.”You cannot “teach” goats to be sheep! They must be preachedout of their sinfulness and sloth! “The voice said, Cry” (Isaiah 40:6). That is the style of real Gospelpreaching! Nothing but
  32. 32. preaching will be used by God to move dead hearts and sluggish minds! Nothing but soul-stirring preaching can do that! Brian H. Edwards said, “Revivalpreaching has a power and authority that bring the Word of God like a hammer to the heart and conscience.This is exactly what is absentfrom most of our preaching today. The men who preach in revival are always unafraid and urgent” (Revival! A People SaturatedWith God, Evangelical Press, 1997edition, p. 103). Dr. Lloyd-Jones was one of the greatestpreachers of the twentieth century. He said, “Whatis preaching? Logic on fire!...It is theologyon fire. And a theologywhich does not take fire is a defective theology... preaching is theologycoming through a man who is on fire... I say that a man who canspeak on these things without passionhas no right whatsoeverto be in a pulpit; and should never be allowedto enter one” (Preaching and Preachers, p. 97). Then Isaiah said, “What shall I cry?” (Isaiah 40:6). One young man told me what a seminary professorsaid. He said that a six-month plan of sermons should be prepared in advance. I utterly detesta man doing such a thing! A man who does that cannothave real, God-givensermons! It is not possible! Spurgeonwas the greatestpreacherofall time. He never did that. The true preachermust ask God for his sermons, and wait for God to give them to him. “What shall I cry?” I must cry out the messageGodhas given me to preach. Someone saidI preach like Hitler. In a sense he was right. Hitler spoke lies with greatpassion. We should speak the truth with greatpassion!Only passionate preaching canmove men to action. Bible expositions put them to sleep!Dr. Lloyd-Jones said, “Presentday preaching does not save men. It does not even annoy men, but leaves them preciselywhere they were, without the slightestdisturbance.” This is wrong! They need to be disturbed! “The voice said, Cry. And he said, What shall I cry? All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness [loveliness]thereofis as the flowerof the field…The grass withereth, the flowerfadeth” (Isaiah 40:6, 8). I. First, I must cry out on the shortness oflife.
  33. 33. “The voice said, Cry. And he said, What shall I cry? All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereofis as the flowerof the field…The grass withereth, the flowerfadeth” (Isaiah 40:6, 8). Soonlife passesaway. Thathappens very soon. It seems like your youth will go on forever– but it passes very quickly. I am writing my autobiography. My son Robertaskedme to do it. I will be seventy-sixyears old in a few weeks.It seems like I was a young man only a few months ago!And so it will be with you! The summer sun comes up. The grass turns brown. The flowers wither and die. Life is transitory, fleeting, temporary, brief, and short-lived. The Apostle James spoke ofthis. He said, “But the rich...is made low: because as the flowerof the grass he shall pass away. For the sun is no soonerrisen with a burning heat, but it withereth the grass, and the flower thereoffalleth, and the grace ofthe fashion of it perisheth: so also shall the rich man fade awayin his ways” (James 1:10-11). Very few people see that. They work and grasp to advance in this world without realizing the obvious – it will end soonerthan they think! C. T. Studd (1860-1931)was one of the few rich men to see that. He inherited a large fortune, but he gave it all awayand went as a missionary to China – and later he went to the heart of Africa when it was dangerous. And it was C. T. Studd who said, Only one life, ‘twill soonbe past; Only what’s done for Christ will last. I wish every young personwould read about C. T. Studd, and make him one of your heroes!If only you could see the truth of his poem! Only one life, ‘twill soonbe past; Only what’s done for Christ
  34. 34. will last. Jesus said, “What shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Mark 8:36, 37). “The voice said, Cry. And he said, What shall I cry? All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness [loveliness]thereofis as the flowerof the field…The grass withereth, the flowerfadeth” (Isaiah 40:6, 8). Therefore I must preachoften on the shortness of life! And you should think about the shortness of your life. The Bible says, “So teachus to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom” (Psalm90:12). II. Second, I must cry out on the withering work of the Holy Spirit. The word “wither” means to shrivel, to dry up, and lose its freshness. Isaiah 40:7 says, “The grass withereth, the flowerfadeth: because the spirit of the Lord bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass” (Isaiah40:7). Spurgeonsaid, “The Spirit of God, like the wind, must pass over the field of your souls, and cause [your] beauty to be as a fading flower. He must convince [you] of sin... that [you may] see [your] fallen nature is corruption itself, and that ‘they which are in the flesh cannotplease God.’ [That we may feel] the sentence ofdeath upon our former carnal life...onlythe sick will want a physician...The awakenedsinner, when he asks that God have mercy on him, is astonishedto find that, instead of a speedy peace, his soul is bowed down with a sense ofGod’s wrath...foryou would never value the [Blood of Christ] which cleanses us from all sin if you had not first been made to mourn that you are an unclean thing” (“The Withering Work of the Spirit,” pp. 375, 376). That is the withering work of the Holy Spirit. It is the work of the Holy Spirit that dries up your false hopes, that shows you the deadness ofyour heart, that withers awayall hope from your mind, that makes you see that your only real hope is in Christ, who died in your place to save you from sin. When the Holy Spirit “withers” your soul, then you will see that your so-called“goodness” is
  35. 35. nothing but filthy rags, that nothing you have done so far canmake you acceptable to God; that all you have done cannot save you from judgment and Hell. That is why God lets you have a false conversion. He may let you have many false conversions before He gives you peace. It doesn’t mean that God has left you. Not at all! God is using these false conversions. He is using them to make you cry, “All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereofis as the flowerof the field.” God is withering, drying up your false hope of doing or saying something to save yourself. John Newtonsaid, I hoped that in some favoured hour, At once he’d answermy request, And by his love’s constraining power Subdue my sins and give me rest. Instead of this, he made me feel The hidden evils of my heart; And let the angry powers of hell Assault my soul in every part. Ask Ayako! Ask Danny! Ask John Cagan!Ask me! We all cried out for God to give us rest – but instead He made us feellike Sheila Ngann. She said, “I felt so disgusted with myself.” Another girl said, “I am so displeasedwith myself.” Dr. Caganand I told her she must feelmore than just “displeased.”Like Sheila, she must feel“disgusted.” Until you feel that you are totally “disgusted” with yourself, you will not experience the withering, the inner lostness that is common among those who are really converted. The word “wither” is very important. You must know what it means to understand what is happening to you. The word “withereth” means “to be
  36. 36. ashamed...to dry up (as water)...to be ashamed, confounded, and withered away” (Strong #300). “The grass withereth, the flowerfadeth: because the spirit of the Lord bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass” (Isaiah40:7). That’s what must happen in your heart. The Holy Spirit must wither and dry up your self-confidence. Until your heart wilts like a dying flower – until you are embarrassedand ashamedof your own depraved nature. As Sheila said before her conversion, “I felt so disgustedwith myself.” That is what happens in a real conversion. “The grass withereth, the flowerfadeth: because the spirit of the Lord bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass” (Isaiah40:7). When you are disgustedwith yourself, then we must tell you to trust Jesus. He will cleanse youfrom sin with His Blood, and save you from God’s judgment. The greatevangelistGeorge Whitefieldsaid, “Did God ever show you that you have no faith in Jesus? Didyou ever pray, ‘Lord, help me lay hold on Christ’? Did God ever convince you of your inability to come to Christ, and make you cry out in prayer for faith in Christ? If not, you won’t have peace in your heart. May God give you solid peace in Jesus, before you die and have no further chance” (“The Methodof Grace”). You must experience an intense struggle with sin before you will have a real conversion. You must feelsome of what Christ felt when your sin was placedon Him in the Garden of Gethsemane. You must feel some of what He felt when He cried out, “My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death…O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me” (Matthew 26:38, 39). Please standand sing hymn number 10, “Come, Ye Sinners.” Come, ye sinners, poor and wretched, Weak and wounded, sick and sore; Jesus ready stands to save you, Full of pity, love and power: He is able, He is able, He is willing, Doubt no more; He is able, He is able, He is willing, Doubt no more.
  37. 37. Come, ye weary, heavy laden, Bruised and broken by the fall; If you wait until you’re better, You will never come at all: Not the righteous, not the righteous, Sinners Jesus came to call; Not the righteous, not the righteous, Sinners Jesus came to call. See the Saviour, now ascended, Pleadthe merit of His blood; Throw yourself on Him completely, Let no other trust intrude; None but Jesus, none but Jesus, Cando helpless sinners good; None but Jesus, none but Jesus, Cando helpless sinners good. (“Come, Ye Sinners” by JosephHart, 1712-1768;alteredby the Pastor). Now listen to the words of a hopeful convert. Here is one young person’s testimony. I was looking for a way to save myself. I was full of pride, too proud to even admit to myself that I was too prideful. I still remember how I fought against God to not trust in Jesus… I started to read the Bible, to "practice" praying every day, to be more involved with the church's activities. But I found no inner peace in myself. Deepdown inside, I knew I was still lost but too proud and too cowardly to even face it. I hid myself from the thought that I was a sinner. Did everything I could to put that thought away, to distractmyself. I lookedfor any excuses to justify my faith, to make myself feelbetter from my sinful nature. And then God opened the Heavenand sent down the revival, and once again, my pride was too greatto admit that I needed Jesus to save me…At this point, I was mentally exhausted. I beganto see that no matter what I do, I couldn't save myself from my sin, my sin from not trusting in Jesus, my sin from being self-righteous. I was helpless. I was struggling within myself trying to trust Jesus but my pride wouldn't let me… I gave up on all hope, I gave up on myself. I felt my sin pressedon all my thoughts, all my
  38. 38. senses.I felt sick of being alive. And at that moment, by a miracle, Jesus came to me, and for the first time in my life, I trusted Him. I was trying to come to Jesus but I couldn't, and Jesus came to me when I thought I would never be saved. When Jesus came to me, it was so simple to trust in Him… Jesus acceptedme and washedme with His Blood... Every goodness in me is because Jesus savedme. I cannotstop my tears when I think of Jesus, tears of joy, tears of thankfulness for what He has done for me. With all the love Jesus has for me, I cannotpossibly love Him enough, I cannot thank Him enough. All I can do is to give my best, my life for Jesus, my Saviour. WHEN YOU WRITE TO DR. HYMERS YOU MUST TELL HIM WHAT COUNTRYYOU ARE WRITING FROM OR HE CANNOT ANSWER YOUR E-MAIL. If these sermons bless you send an e-mail to Dr. Hymers and tell him, but always include what country you are writing from. Dr. Hymers’ e-mail is at rlhymersjr@sbcglobal.net(click here). You can write to Dr. Hymers in any language, but write in English if you can. If you want to write to Dr. Hymers by postalmail, his address is P.O. Box 15308,Los Angeles, CA 90015.You may telephone him at (818)352-0452. (END OF SERMON) You can read Dr. Hymers' sermons eachweek onthe Internet at www.sermonsfortheworld.com. Click on “SermonManuscripts.” These sermonmanuscripts are not copyrighted. You may use them without Dr. Hymers’ permission. However, all of Dr. Hymers’ video messages, andall other sermons on video from our church, are copyrighted and canonly be used by permission. Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith: “Come, Holy Spirit, Heavenly Dove” (by Dr. Isaac Watts, 1674-1748;
  39. 39. to the tune of “O Set Ye Open Unto Me”). THE OUTLINE OF THE WITHERING WORK OF GOD’S SPIRIT by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr. “The voice said, Cry. And he said, What shall I cry? All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereofis as the flowerof the field: The grass withereth, the flowerfadeth: because the spirit of the Lord bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass. The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever” (Isaiah 40:6-8). (Isaiah 40:5; 58:1; 40:3; John 1:23; John 7:28, 37; Acts 2:14; II Timothy 4:2, 3) I. First, I must cry out on the shortness oflife, Isaiah40:6; James 1:10-11;Mark 8:36, 37; Psalm90:12. II. Second, I must cry out on the withering work of the Holy Spirit, Isaiah40:7; Matthew 26:38, 39. 2 © Copyright 1998 ChapelLibrary: annotations. Printed in the USA. Permissionis expresslygranted to reproduce this material by any means, provided 1. you do not charge beyond a nominal sum for costof duplication 2. this copyright notice and all the text on this page are included. Chapel Library is a faith ministry that relies entirely upon God’s faithfulness. We therefore do not solicit donations, but we gratefully receive support from those who freely desire to give. Chapel Li- brary does not necessarilyagree with all doctrinal positions of the authors it publishes. Worldwide, please download material without charge from our website, or contactthe
  40. 40. international distributor as listed there for your country. In North America, for additional copies of this bookletor other Christ-centeredmaterials from prior centuries, please contactCHAPEL LIBRARY 2603 WestWright Street Pensacola, Florida 32505 USAPhone: (850)438-6666 • Fax: (850)438-0227 chapel@mountzion.org • www.chapellibrary.org 3. 3 THE WITHERING WORKOF THE HOLY SPIRIT The voice said, Cry. And he said, What shall I cry? All flesh is grass, andall the goodliness thereof is as the flowerof the field: the grass withereth, the flowerfadeth; Becausethe spirit of the LORD bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass. The grass withereth, the flowerfadeth: But the word of our God shall stand forever. — Isaiah40:6-8 Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth forever. Forall flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flowerof grass. The grass withereth, and the flowerthereof falleth away:but the word of the Lord endureth forever. And this is the word which by the gospelis preachedunto you. —1 Peter1:23-25 The passagein Isaiahwhich I have just readin your hearing may be used as a very eloquent description of our mortality, and if a sermon should be preachedfrom it upon the frailty of human nature, the brevity of life, and the certainty of death, no one could dispute the appropriateness of the text. Yet I venture to question whether such a dis- course would strike the central teaching of the prophet. Something more than the decayof our material flesh is intended here. The carnalmind, the flesh in another sense, was intended by the Holy Ghostwhen He bade His messengerproclaimthose words. It does not seemto me that a mere expressionof the mortality of our race was needed in this place by the context. It would hardly keeppace with the sublime revelations which sur- round it, and would in some measure be a digression from the subjectin hand. The no- tion that we are here, simply and alone, reminded of our mortality does not square with the New Testamentexposition of it in Peter, which I have also placedbefore you as a text. There is another and more spiritual meaning here, beside and beyond that which would be containedin the greatand very obvious truth, that all of us must die. Look at the chapterin Isaiahwith care. What is the subjectof it? It is the divine con- solationof Zion. Zion had been tossedto and fro with conflicts. She had been smarting under the result of sin. The Lord, to remove her sorrow, bids His
  41. 41. prophets announce the coming of the long-expectedDeliverer, the end and accomplishmentof all her warfare and the pardon of all her iniquity. There is no doubt that this is the theme of the proph- ecy. And further, there is no sort of question about the next point, that the prophet goes on to foretell the coming of John the Baptistas the harbinger of the Messiah. We have 4. 4 no difficulty in the explanation of the passage, “Prepareye the way of the Lord, make straight in the deserta highway for our God” (Isa 40:3); for the New Testamentagainand againrefers this to the Baptistand his ministry. The objectof the coming of the Baptistand the mission of the Messiah, Whom he heralded, was the manifestationof di- vine glory. Observe the fifth verse: “The glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together:for the mouth of the Lord hath spokenit.” Well, what next? Was it needful to mention man’s mortality in this connection? We think not. But there is much more appropriateness in the succeeding verses,if we see their deeper meaning. Do they not mean this? In order to make room for the display of the divine glory in Christ Jesus and His salvation, there would come a withering of all the glory wherein man boasts himself; the flesh should be seenin its true nature as corrupt and dying, and the grace ofGod alone should be exalted. This would be seenunder the ministry of John the Baptistfirst, and should be the preparatory work of the Holy Ghostin men’s hearts, in all time, in order that the glory of the Lord should be revealed and human pride be forevercon- founded. The Spirit blows upon the flesh, and that which seemedvigorous becomes weak;that which was fair to look upon is smitten with decay. The true nature of the flesh is thus discovered. Its deceitis laid bare, its power is destroyed, and there is space for the dis- pensation of the ever-abiding Word, and for the rule of the Great Shepherd, Whose words are spirit and life. There is a withering wrought by the Spirit which is the prepara- tion for the sowing and implanting by which salvation is wrought. The withering before the sowing was very marvelously fulfilled in the preaching of John the Baptist. Mostappropriately he carried on his ministry in the desert, for a spir- itual desertwas all around him; he was the voice of one crying in the wilderness. It was not his work to plant, but to hew down. The fleshy religion of the Jews was then in its prime. Pharisaismstalkedthrough the streets in all its pomp; men complacentlyrested in outward ceremonies only, and spiritual religion
  42. 42. was at the lowestconceivable ebb. Here and there might be found a Simeon and an Anna, but for the most part men knew nothing of spiritual religion, but said in their hearts:“We have Abraham to our father” (Luk 3:8), and this is enough. What a stir he made when he calledthe lordly Pharisees a generationof vipers! How he shook the nation with the declaration, “Now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees” (Mat 3:10)! Stern as Elias, his work was to level the mountains, and lay low every lofty imagination. That word, “Repent,” was as a scorching wind to the verdure 1 of self-righteousness,a killing blast for the confidence of ceremoni-alism. His food and his dress calledfor fasting and mourning. The outward token of his ministry declared the death amid which he preached, as he buried in the waters of Jor-dan those who came to him. “Ye must die and be buried, even as He Who is to come will save by death and burial.” This was the meaning of the emblem which he setbefore the crowd. His typical actwas as thorough in its teaching as were his words. And as if that were not enough, he warned them of a yet more searching and trying baptism with the Holy Ghost and with fire, and of the coming of One Whose fan was in His hand, thor- 1 verdure – greenness, especiallyof fresh, flourishing vegetation. 5. 5 oughly to purge His floor. The Spirit in John blew as the rough north wind, searching and withering, and made him to be a destroyerof the vain gloryings of a fleshly religion, that the spiritual faith might be established. When our Lord Himself actually appeared, He came into a withered land, whose glo-ries had all departed. Old Jesse’s stemwas bare, and our Lord was the branch which grew out of his root. The sceptre had departed from Judah, and the lawgiverfrom betweenhis feet, when Shiloh came. An alien saton David’s throne, and the Roman called the cove-nant-land his own. The lamp of prophecy burned but dimly, even if it had not utterly gone out. No Isaiah had arisenof late to console them, nor even a Jeremiahto lament their apostasy. The whole economyof Judaism was a worn-out vesture; it had waxed old, and was ready to vanish away. The priesthood was disarranged. Luke tells us that Annas and Caiaphas were high priests that year—two in a year or at once, a strange setting aside of the laws of Moses. All the dispensationwhich gatheredaround the visible, or as Paul calls it, the “worldly” sanctuary, was coming to a close. And when our Lord had fin-
  43. 43. ished His work, the veil of the temple was rent in twain, the sacrificeswere abolished, the priesthoodof Aaron was setaside, and carnalordinances were abrogated, for the Spirit revealedspiritual things. When He came Who was made a priest, “not after the law of a carnalcommandment, but after the powerof an endless life” (Heb 7:16), there was “a disannulling of the commandment going before for the weakness andunprofitable- ness thereof” (Heb 7:18). Such are the facts of history; but I am not about to dilate 2 upon them. I am coming to your own personalhistories—to the experience of every child of God. In every one of us it must be fulfilled that all that is of the flesh in us, seeing it is but as grass, must be withered, and the comeliness thereof must be destroyed. The Spirit of God, like the wind, must pass over the field of our souls, and cause our beauty to be as a fading flower. He must so convince us of sin, and so revealourselves to ourselves, that we shall see that the flesh profiteth nothing; that our fallen nature is corruption itself, and that “they that are in the flesh cannot please God” (Rom 8:8). There must be brought home to us the sentence of death upon our former legaland carnal life, that the incorruptible seedof the Word of God, implanted by the Holy Ghost, may be in us, and abide in us forever. The subject of this morning is the withering work of the Spirit upon the souls of men, and when we have spokenupon it, we shall conclude with a few words upon the implanting work, which always follows where this withering work has been performed. 1. Seven Observations Regarding this Work First. Turning then to the work of the Spirit in causing the goodliness ofthe flesh to fade, let us, first, observe that the work of the Holy Spirit upon the soulof man in with- ering up that which is of the flesh, is very unexpected. You will observe in our text that even the speakerhimself, though doubtless one taught of God, when he was bidden to cry, said “What shall I cry?” Even he did not know that in order to the comforting of 2 dilate – to describe or setforth at length or in detail. 6. 6 God’s people, there must first be experienceda preliminary visitation. Many preachers of God’s Gospelhave forgottenthat the Law is the schoolmasterto bring men to Christ. They have sown on the unbroken fallow ground, and forgotten that the plough must break the clods. We have seentoo much of trying to sew without the sharp needle of the Spirit’s convincing power. Preachers have labored to make Christ precious to those who think
  44. 44. themselves rich and increasedin goods;and it has been labor in vain. It is our duty to preach Jesus Christ even to self-righteous sinners, but it is certainthat Jesus Christ will never be acceptedby them while they hold themselves in high esteem. Only the sick will welcome the physician. It is the work of the Spirit of Godto convince men of sin, and until they are convinced of sin, they will never be led to seek the righteousnesswhich is of God by Jesus Christ. I am persuadedthat whereverthere is a realwork of grace in any soul, it begins with a pulling down; the Holy Ghostdoes not build on the old foundation. Wood, hay, and stubble will not do for Him to build upon. He will come as the fire, and cause a conflagration3 of all proud nature’s Babels. He will break our bow and cut our spearin sunder, and burn our chariot in the fire (Psa 46:9). When every sandy foundation is gone, then, but not till then, behold He will lay in our souls the greatFoundation-stone, chosenofGod and precious. The awakenedsinner, when he asks that God would have mercy upon him, is much astonishedto find that, insteadof enjoying a speedypeace, his soul is bowed down within him under a sense ofdivine wrath. Naturally enough he inquires: “Is this the answerto my prayer? I prayed the Lord to deliver me from sin and self, and is this the way in which He deals with me? I said, ‘Hear me,’ and behold He wounds me with the wounds of a cruel one. I said, ‘Clothe me,’ and lo! He has torn off from me the few rags which coveredme before, and my naked- ness stares me in the face. I said, ‘Wash me,’ and behold He has plunged me in the ditch till mine own clothes do abhor me. Is this the way of grace?”Sinner, be not surprised: it is even so. Perceivestthou not the cause of it? How canstthou be healed while the proud flesh is in thy wound? It must come out. It is the only way to heal thee permanently. It would be folly to film over thy sore, orheal thy flesh, and leave the leprosy within thy bones. The greatPhysician will cut with His sharp knife till the corrupt flesh be re- moved, for only thus cana sure healing work be wrought in thee. Dostthou not see that it is divinely wise that before thou art clothed thou shouldst be stripped! What, wouldst thou have Christ’s lustrous righteousness outside whiter than any fuller can make it, and thine own filthy rags concealed within? Nay, man; they must be put away;not a sin- gle thread of thine own must be left upon thee. It cannot be that God should cleanse thee until He has made thee see somewhatofthy defilement; for thou wouldst never value the precious blood which cleansesus from all sin if thou hadst not first of all been
  45. 45. made to mourn that thou art altogetheran unclean thing. The convincing work of the Spirit, whereverit comes, is unexpected, and even to the child of God in whom this process has still to go on, it is often startling. We begin againto build that which the Spirit of God had destroyed. Having begun in the spirit, we actas if we would be made perfect in the flesh; and then when our mistakenupbuilding has to 3 conflagration – destructive fire, usually an extensive one. 7. 7 be leveled with the earth, we are almost as astonishedas we were when first the scales fellfrom our eyes. In some such condition as this was Newton when he wrote:I askedthe Lord that I might grow In faith and love and every grace, Mightmore of His salvation know, And seek more earnestlyHis face. ‘Twas He who taught me thus to pray, And He, I trust has answeredprayer; But it has been in such a way As almost drove me to despair. I hoped that in some favour’d hour, At once He’d answermy request, And by His love’s constraining power Subdue my sins, and give me rest. Instead of this, He made me feelThe hidden evils of my heart; And let the angry powers of hell Assault my soul in ev’ry part. Ah, marvel not, for thus the Lord is wont to answerHis people. The voice which saith, “Comfortye, comfort ye my people” (Isa 40:1) achieves its purpose by first making them hear the cry, “All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereofis as the flower of the field.” Second. Furthermore, this withering is after the usual order of the divine operation. If we considerwell the way of God, we shall not be astonishedthat He beginneth with His people by terrible things in righteousness. Observe the method of creation. I will not venture upon any dogmatic theory of geology, but there seems to be every probability that this world has been fitted up and destroyed, refitted and then destroyedagain, many times before the last arranging of it for the habitation of men. “In the beginning God createdthe heaven and earth.” Then came a long interval, and at length, at the appoint- ed time, during sevendays, the Lord prepared the earth for the human race. Considerthen the state of matters when the greatArchitect began His work. What was there in the beginning? Originally, nothing. When He commanded the ordering of the earth how was it? “The earth was without form and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep” (Gen 1:2). There was no trace of another’s plan to interfere with the greatArchi- tect. “With whom took he
  46. 46. counsel, and who instructed him, and taught him in the path of judgment, and taught him know-ledge, and showedto him the way of understand- ing?” (Isa 40:14). He receivedno contribution of column or pillar towards the temple which He intended to build. The earth was, as the Hebrew puts it, Tohu and Bohu, dis- order and confusion—ina word, chaos. So it is in the new creation. When the Lord new- creates us, He borrows nothing from the old man, but makes all things new. He does not repair and add a new wing to the old house of our depraved nature, but He builds a new 8. 8 temple for His own praise. We are spiritually without form and empty, and darkness is upon the face of our heart, and His Word comes to us, saying, “Light be,” and there is light, and, ere long, life and every precious thing. To take another instance from the ways of God: When man had fallen, when did the Lord bring him the Gospel? The first whisper of the Gospel, as you know, was, “I will put enmity betweenthee and the woman, betweenthy seedand her seed;it shall bruise thy head” (Gen 3:15). That whisper came to man shivering in the presence of his Maker, hav- ing nothing more to say by way of excuse;but standing guilty before the Lord. When did the Lord Godclothe our parents? Not until first of all He had put the question, “Who told thee that thou wastnaked?” (Gen3 11). Not until the fig-leaves had utterly failed did the Lord bring in the covering skin of the sacrifice, andwrap them in it. If you will pur- sue the meditation upon the acts of God with men, you will constantly see the same thing. God has given us a wonderful type of salvation in Noah’s ark. But Noahwas savedin that ark in connectionwith death; he himself, as it were, immured alive in a tomb, and all the world besides left to destruction. All other hope for Noahwas gone, and then the ark rose upon the waters. Rememberthe redemption of the children of Israelout of Egypt. It occurredwhen they were in the saddestplight, and their cry went up to heaven by reasonof their bondage. When no arm brought salvation, then with a high hand and an outstretched arm the Lord brought forth His people. Everywhere before the salvationthere comes the humbling of the creature, the overthrow of human hope. As in the backwoodsofAmerica, before there can be tillage, the planting of cities, the arts of civi- lization, and the transactions ofcommerce, the woodman’s axe must hack and hew. The stately trees of centuries must fall: the roots must be burned; the old reign of nature
  47. 47. dis- turbed. The old must go before the new cancome. Even thus the Lord takes awaythe first, that He may establishthe second. The first heaven and the first earth must pass away, or there cannot be a new heavenand a new earth. Now, as it has been outwardly, we ought to expectthat it would be the same within us; and when these witherings and fadings occurin our souls, we should only say, “It is the Lord: let him do what seemethhim good” (Isa 3:18). Third. I would have you notice, thirdly, that we are taught in our text how universal this process is in its range over the hearts of all those upon whom the Spirit works. The withering is a withering of what? Of part of the flesh and some portion of its tendencies? Nay, observe, “All flesh is grass;and all the goodliness thereof”—the very choice and pick of it—“is as the flowerof the field,” and what happens to the grass? Doesany of it live? “The grass withereth,” all of it. The flower, will not that abide? So fair a thing, has not that an immortality? No, it fades;it utterly falls away. So, whereverthe Spirit of God breathes on the soul of man, there is a withering of every thing that is of the flesh, and it is seenthat to be carnally minded is death. Of course, we all know and confess that where there is a work of grace, there must be a destruction of our delight in the pleas- ures of the flesh. When the Spirit of God breathes on us, that which was sweetbecomesbitter; that which was bright becomes dim. A man cannot love sin and yet possessthe life of God. If he takes pleasure in fleshly joys wherein he once delighted, he is still what 9. 9 he was. He minds the things of the flesh, and therefore he is after the flesh, and he shall die. The world and the lusts thereof are to the unregenerate as beautiful as the meadows in spring, when they are bedeckedwith flowers, but to the regenerate soulthey are a wilderness, a salt land, and not inhabited. Of those very things wherein we once took de- light we say, “Vanity of vanities; all is vanity” (Ecc 1:2). We cry to be delivered from the poisonous joys of earth; we loathe them, and wonder that we could once riot in them. Beloved hearers, do you know what this kind of withering means? Have you seenthe lusts of the flesh, and the pomps and the pleasures thereof, all fade away before your eyes? It must be so, or the Spirit of God has not visited your soul. But mark, whereverthe Spirit of God comes, He destroys the goodliness and flowerof the flesh; that is to sayour righteousness withers as our sinfulness. Before the Spirit comes, we think ourselves as goodas the best. We say, “All
  48. 48. these things have I keptfrom my youth up,” and we superciliously 4 ask, “What lack I yet?” (Mat 19:20). Have we not been moral? Nay, have we not even been religious? We confess that we may have com- mitted faults, but we think them very venial, 5 and we venture, in our wickedpride, to imagine that, after all, we are not so vile as the Word of God would lead us to think. Ah, my dear hearer, when the Spirit of God blows on the comeliness ofthy flesh, its beauty will fade as a leaf, and thou will have quite another idea of thyself. Thou wilt then find no language too severe in which to describe thy past character. Searching deepinto thy mo- tives, and investigating that which moved thee to thine actions, thou wilt see so much of evil, that thou wilt cry with the publican, “God be merciful to me a sinner” (Luk 18:13). Where the Holy Ghosthas withered up in us our self-righteousness, He has not half completed His work. There is much more to be destroyedyet, and among the rest, away must go our boastedpowerof resolution. Mostpeople conceive that they can turn to God wheneverthey resolve to do so. “I am a man of such strength of mind,” says one, “that if I made up my mind to be religious, I should be without difficulty.” “Ah,” saith another volatile spirit, “I believe that one of these days I cancorrectthe errors of the past, and commence a new life.” Ah, dear hearers, the resolutions of the flesh are goodlyflowers, but they must all fade. When visited by the Spirit of God, we find that even when the will is present with us, how to perform that which we would, we find not; yea, and we discoverthat our will is averse to all that is good, and that naturally we will not come unto Christ that we may have life. What poor, frail things resolutions are when seenin the light of God’s Spirit! Still the man will say, “I believe I have, after all, within myself an enlightened con- science and an intelligence that will guide me aright. The light of nature I will use, and I do not doubt that if I wander somewhat, I shall find my way back again.” Ah, man! Thy wisdom, which is the very flowerof thy nature, what is it but folly, though thou knowestit not? Unconverted and unrenewed, thou art in God’s sight no wiser than the wild ass’s colt. I wish thou wert in thine own esteem humbled as a little child at Jesus’feet, and made to cry, “Teachthou me” (Job 34:32). 4 superciliously – with haughty contempt. 5 venial – excusable; trifling; minor; not seriouslywrong.

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