Excerpt from Pastor Charles Haddon Spurgeon’s message from 1886, “God’s Fire and Hammer” that has many applications today as it did in 1886!
Jeremiah 23:29 “Is not my word like as a fire? saith the LORD; and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces?”
“You hear these men speak and you are interested and pleased, and you say to yourselves, ‘This is fine oratory, this man has a grand way of speaking.’ You admire his style, his eloquence, his depth of thought and all that, but I say to you, ‘Is not My Word like as a fire?’ It comes not as a thing of beauty, but with force, with energy. It comes to you, not that you may stand and look at it, but it has within itself a burning and consuming force. And by this shall My Word be known from the word of man—that it has a mystic power about it which cannot be found in the words of men. And it is a breaking force, as when a mighty hammer strikes the rock, and strikes it again and again till even the solid granite is compelled to yield.”
The false prophets had no such force in their words. They did not pretend to have any fire in what they said. They spoke very pleasingly and very flatteringly—they made the people vain—they told them, in effect, that nothing would happen but what would delight them! They might go on in their sins, but it would be all right. They might indulge the most bland hopes that everything in the future would be according to their own wishes. That was man’s word, but when the Lord spoke by His servant, Jeremiah, His Word was “like as a fire.” There was something burning about it—human nature did not like it—but human nature was made to feel its force and power! When the false prophets spoke, they would bow and cringe to the people and say all manner of soft and pleasing things. But when Jeremiah spoke, in the name of Jehovah, every Word seemed to tell upon his hearers!
There is far too much teaching, nowadays, that will not comfort a mouse! You might hear it to all eternity and never be relieved of a single ounce of the burden of life. You might come in and out of the House of God and you might, perhaps, say, “Yes, it is very pretty,” but what is that to a man who has the burden of life to carry and the battle of life to fight? But when you hear the glorious Gospel of the blessed God, it lifts you up out of your discouragements and makes you say, after all, “It is worthwhile to live, it is worthwhile to suffer, it is worthwhile to press forward, for we see the great love the Lord has toward us, and what good things He has laid up in store for them that love Him.”
The Word of the Lord is like a fire, for it warms and comforts the hearts of His people. There is such a thing as unction—I cannot tell you what it is, but I can tell you when I hear a sermon from a man who has it—and I can tell you when I hear a sermon that is without it. And I know that if it is God’s Word, there is a savor, an unction, a sweetness, a delightfulness about it that makes our very hearts leap and dance within us because of the blessed and glorious sound of the Gospel of God! Happy are the people that know this joyful sound!
But next, fire is only at work very moderately when it yields us comfort. It has also the effect of paining and awakening. You put your finger in the fire and you will know that it burns! You lay your hand upon a red-hot bar of iron and you will not need anybody to tell you that there is fire within it! So, even if you are an unconverted man—if you have, as yet, no knowledge of the power of the Gospel of God—yet if you come in contact with it, I will guarantee you that you will know it! Very likely you will show that you know it by getting very angry, growing very indignant. Men do not like being singed and scorched by the Gospel!
When a fellow has burnt his hand, he does not feel pleased with the hot iron—and the Gospel often operates upon men most beneficially when it excites their wrath. I have not much hope of the sinner who keeps on hearing the Truth of God and saying, “Yes, I like that kind of preaching. I quite enjoy our minister’s sermons.” I have a great deal more hope of a man when he says, “I will never hear that fellow again, I cannot bear to listen to him,” and goes out in a rage! He will come back before long—the hook is in his jaw—he is feeling the sharpness of it and he will not be able to get away from it.
The Word of the Lord is as a fire and if a man touches fire, it will burn him and he will be made to know that he has come into contact with it. Have you not, dear Friends, felt it to be so? If you have sat for years under a ministry and have remained not only unconverted, but unmoved—if you have always felt perfectly pleased and satisfied with yourself and with what you have heard — I should think it cannot have been the Gospel of Jesus Christ! If it has been the true Gospel of the Grace of God, I am sure that it will either make you angry with yourself, or angry with your sin, or angry with itself, for, if you do not hate your sin, you will hate the Gospel with all its lovingness! God’s Word is so stern a witness against everything that is evil, that it is like fire, in that it pains, startles and awakens.
Men cannot go to sleep when their fingers are on fire—neither can they when the true Gospel is sounding aloud in their ears! Fire also has a melting power and so has the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. Oh, dear Friends, there are some of us who once had hearts of steel—nothing seemed able to move us and melt us but we came under the influence of the blessed Spirit of God and under the sound of the Gospel—and soon we began to feel, we began to tremble, we began to be in distress, we began to lament, we began to seek the Savior, we began to trust Him! All things were changed under the influence of this Divine fire. Oh, that we could get the hearts of many hardened ones into the very center of the blessed flame till the holy heat should make them flow like melted wax before the Presence of the God of Israel! Certainly the Gospel has a wonderful power to melt the heart of man.