By Elizabeth Prata
Charles Spurgeon was a great preacher. In his sermon What are the Clouds? He asks timeless questions. He asks the questions we ask today, when there are disasters, wars, tragedies. Why did my baby die? What did that war accomplish? Why was there a terrible hurricane?
Here Spurgeon speaks of mysterious Providence as he did so often. Providence is the outworking of the plan God has in His mind that He causes to happen and all things that He prevents from happening. It’s the working out of His will in the world. We might be but a microbe in the grand plan and cannot see all that He is doing nor know why. But we still ask, Why? Where is the good in this?
Many people have asked that question over time and are asking it today. The United States’ fast slide into socialism and eventual tyrannical dictatorship (I have no current inside knowledge, only that from history we understand these things usually follow according to the pattern), seem to be actually occurring before our eye. We have to remember that “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28. He has a purpose in everything and it’s good. We can’t see it ourselves, but that’s what faith and trust is for- to believe what we cannot see.
Here are some excerpts from Spurgeon’s sermon What Are the Clouds? which is read below. The person posting it retitled it Do Not Fear Disasters!, but if you look for the written sermon the title is What are the Clouds? and it’s based on Nahum 1:3,
“That clouds are the dust of his feet.”—Nahum 1:3.
Here is Charles Spurgeon:
“Turn your eye along the page of history, and see how mysterious God’s dealings have been. Who would conceive that a Joseph sold into Egypt would be the means of redeeming a whole people from famine? Who would suppose that when an enemy should come upon the land, it should be after all but the means of bringing glory to God? Who could imagine that a harlot’s blood should mingle with the genealogy from which came the great Messiah, the Shiloh of Israel? Who could have guessed much less could have compassed, the mighty scheme of God? Providence has always been a hidden thing.”
“And yet, beloved, you and I are always wanting to know what God is about. There is a war in the Crimea. We have had some great disasters at Sebastopol, and we are turning over the papers, and saying, “Whatever is God doing here?” What did he do in the last war? What was the benefit of it? We see that even Napoleon was the means of doing good, for he broke down the aristocracy and made all monarchs respect for the future, the power and the rights of the people. We see what was the result even of that dread hurricane, that it swept away a pestilence which would have devoured full many more.”
“But we ask, “What is God doing with this world?” We want to know what will be the consequences. Suppose we should humble Russia, where would it end? Can Turkey be maintained as a separate kingdom? And ten thousand other questions arise. Beloved, I always think, “let the potsherds strive with the potsherds of the earth,” and—as a good old friend of mine says—let them crack themselves, too, if they like. We will not interfere. If the potsherds will go smashing one another, why, then they must. We pray that old England may come off the safest of them all. But we are not much concerned to know the result. We believe that this war, as well as everything else, will have a beneficial tendency. We cannot see in history that this world ever went a step backwards. God is ever moving it in its orbit; and it has always progressed even when it seemed retrograding.”
Next, Spurgeon does what he does best, brings to mind a vivid picture of an abstract concept. Spurgeon was born in 1834 and died at the turn of the century, so he was a child of the Industrial Revolution. England went from agrarian society to an industrial society. Steam, rail, electricity, factories, and machinery came in, and Spurgeon often used machinery as part of the vivid illustration he wanted his hearers to picture. In the next excerpt, he describes a vast factory’s machinery to illustrate Providence.
“Or, perhaps, ye are not agitated about Providence in a nation, you believe that there God does hide himself; but then there are matters concerning yourself, which you long to see explained. When I was in Glasgow. I went over an immense foundry, one of the largest in Scotland, and there I saw a very powerful steam engine which worked all the machinery in the entire building. I saw in that foundry such numberless wheels running round, some one way and some another, I could not make out what on earth they were all about.”
“But, I daresay, if my head had been a little wiser, and I had been taught a little more of mechanics, I might have understood what every wheel was doing, though really they seemed only a mass of wheels very busy running round and doing nothing. They were all, however, working at something; and if I had stopped and asked “What is that wheel doing?” A mechanic may have said, “It turns another wheel.” “Well, and what is that wheel doing?” “There is another wheel dependent upon that, and that again is dependent on another.” Then, at last, he would have taken me and said, “This is what the whole machinery is doing.” Some ponderous bar of iron, perhaps, being grooved and cut, shaped and polished—”this is what all the wheels are effecting: but I cannot tell separately what each wheel is doing.”
“All things are working together for good; but what the things separately are doing, it would be impossible to explain. Yet, thou child of Adam, with thy finite intellect, art continually stopping to ask, “Why is this?” The child lies dead in the cradle. Wherefore, was infancy snatched away? Oh, ruthless death, couldst thou not reap ripe corn; why snatch the rosebud? Would not a chaplet of withered leaves become thee better than these tender blossoms? Or, you are demanding of Providence, why hast thou taken away my property? Was I not left, by a parent, well-to-do, and some ravenous leech has swept all my substance away! It is all gone; why this, O God?”
“Why not punish the unjust? why should the innocent be allowed thus to suffer? Why am I to be bereft of my all? Says another, “I launched into a business that was fair and honorable; I intended, if God had prospered me, to devote my wealth to him. I am poor, my business never prospers. Lord, why is this?” And another says, “Hero I am toiling from morning till night; and all I do I cannot extricate myself from my business, which takes me off so much from religion. I would fain live on less if I had more time to serve my God.” Ah! finite one! dost thou ask God to explain these things to thee? I tell thee, God will not do it, and God cannot do it—for this reason: thou art not capable of understanding it.”
And that’s the crux of the situation. If we were an ant in the illustration of the factory above, the same size and with the same ant-brain, gazing at the comings and goings of the angels and wondering about the vast machinery of heaven, we would not understand it even if God told us. That’s why we have faith. It’s why we trust.
I don’t like the direction the US is going or the direction any other country is going for that matter, especially pitiful Australia and Canada. I don’t like the idea of losing our position in the world which would invite attack and invasion from the hungry nations of wolves who have long slavered to conquer us. I don’t like the notion of losing my creature comforts, or even the necessities. Haven’t you noticed the ‘out of stock’ sign more often on food these days? I have.
No doubt in coming days we will ask “Why this, Lord?” Why is that happening?” We return to our Bible and hasten to turn the dog-eared pages to Romans 8:28 and sigh as we remember all things work for the good…and turn our eyes upward to ask for mercy on this pitiful ant, a small member of the great society of heaven amid terrifying machinery discharging thunderous good and woeful judgment. As Spurgeon said, pestilence is but God’s servant. And we know too, that War is God’s servant. Tyranny is God’s servant. Wildfire is God’s servant. Collapse is God’s servant. All these things are but the dust of His feet.
There is nothing happening that isn’t for the good to us who love Him and for both immediate and eventual fulfillment of His plan. Trust. Pray. Persevere. Repeat.