“Fear not, thou worm Jacob, and ye men of Israel; I will help thee, saith the Lord and thy redeemer the Holy one of Israel.” Isaiah 41:14
I SHALL SPEAK this morning to those that are discouraged, depressed in spirit, and sore troubled in the Christian life. There are certain nights of exceeding great darkness, through which the spirit has to grope in much pain and misery, and during which much of the comfort of the Word is particularly needed. Those seasons occur in this manner. Frequently they occur at the outset of a religious life. A young man, deeply impressed under the ministry, has been led to feel the weight of sin; he trusts also he has been led to look for salvation to the Christ who is preached in the gospel. In the young ardor of his spirit he devotes himself wholly to Christ; with the most solemn vows he dedicates body, soul, time, talents, all that he has, to the great work of serving God; he thinks it easy to fulfill his vow; he doth not count the cost; he reckons it will be easy to forsake gay companions, to renounce old established habits, and to become a Christian. Alas! before many days he finds out his mistake, if he did not reckon without his host he certainly reckoned without his heart, for his evil heart of unbelief had deceived him, he knew not how hard would be the struggle, and how desperate the wrestling between his old evil nature and the new-born principle of grace within him. He finds it to be like the rending off of right arms to give up old and cherished habits; he discovers it to be painful to renounce his former pursuits, as painful as it would be to pluck out his right eye. He sits down then, and he says, “If this be the trouble at the outset what may I expect as I proceed. O my soul, thou wast too fast in dedicating thyself to God; thou hast undertaken a warfare which thy prowess can never accomplish; thou hast started on a journey for which thy strength is not adequate; let me again return unto the world;” and if the Spirit saith, “Nay, thou canst not,” then the poor soul sits itself down in deep misery, and cries, “I can not go back and I can not go forward; what must I do? I am exceedingly discouraged because of the way.” The same feeling often overcomes the most valiant Christian veteran. He who has been long experienced in the things of the divine life will sometimes be over taken with a dark night and a stormy tempest; so dark will be the night, that he will not know his right hand from his left, and so horrible the tempest, that he can not hear the sweet words of his Master, saying, “Fear not, I am with thee.” Periodical tornadoes and hurricanes will sweep o’er the Christian; he will be subjected to as many trials in his spirit as trials in his flesh. This much I know, if it be not so with all of you it is so with me. I have to speak to-day to myself; and whilst I shall be endeavoring to encourage those who are distressed and down-hearted, I shall be preaching, I trust to myself, for I need something which shall cheer my heart — Why I can not tell, wherefore I do not know, but I have a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to buffet me; my soul is cast down within me, I feel as if I had rather die than live; all that God hath done by me seems to be forgotten, and my spirit flags and my courage breaks down with the thought of that which is to come. I need your prayers; I need God’s Holy Spirit; and I felt that I could not preach to-day, unless I should preach in such a way as to encourage you and to encourage myself in the good work and labor of the Lord Jesus Christ.