Classic Sermon Library
/Back to Index Page
Back to Classic Sermons Index
Learning in Private 
What to Teach In Public

by Charles H. Spurgeon

NO. 2674

“What I tell you in darkness, that speak ye in light: and what ye hear in the
ear, that preach ye upon the housetops.” — Matthew 10:27.

I HOPE that many who are now present long beyond everything else to be
useful to their fellow-creatures. We do not want to go to heaven alone; we
are most anxious to lead others to the Savior. I remember a very
remarkable telegram, which was sent from England, by a lady who had
sailed from New York with all her children. She landed in England after
being shipwrecked, but she had to send to her husband this brief but
suggestive telegram, “Saved, — alone.” Ah! that last sad word seemed as
if it took almost all the sweetness out of the first one. “Saved alone.” May
that never be what we shall have to say as we enter heaven; but may we
have the privilege of saying, “Here am I, Father, and the children whom
thou hast given me.” May it be my joy to be able to say, “Here am I and all
my congregation, saved in the Lord with an everlasting salvation.”

So we begin with the assurance that all of you who know the Lord want to
be useful; but, if that is to be the case, preparation is necessary. You say
that you are going out to battle, young man, do you? Well, do not be in
such a hurry. You have no rifle or sword, you will be in the way of the
other soldiers rather than an addition to them. Unless you are, first of all,
properly trained, you will certainly make a failure of your soldiering. The
man who jumps into the army is not a warrior all at once; there must be
drill, there must be a certain course of training, before he can be of any
service to the Queen. So is it with Christ’s disciples. He did not send them
out to preach directly he called them from their former occupations; but he
kept them with himself for a time till they had learned at least some of the
lessons they were to impart to others; for how could they teach what they
did not know? Can a thing which is not in a man come out of him? And if
it has never been put into him, how can it be got out of him? So our
Savior, in the words of our text, encouraged his disciples to proclaim, even
upon the housetops, the gospel which he had revealed to them; but he also
gave them to understand that, first of all, they had need of preparation
before they would be qualified to deliver their message: “What I tell you in
darkness, that speak ye in light: and what ye hear in the ear, that preach ye
upon the housetops.”

I. I want, first, to speak to you, who desire to work for Jesus, concerning
his own definition of AN INVALUABLE PRIVILEGE FOR ALL CHRISTIANS: “What I tell you in darkness,” “what ye hear in the ear.”

From our Lord’s words, I learn that it is the great privilege of Christians to
realize, first, that Christ is still alive, and still with his people, still
conversing with his chosen ones, still by his Divine Spirit speaking out of
his very heart into the hearts of his true disciples. Christ was born an infant,
but he is no infant now. Christ died, but he is not dead now. He is risen; he
has gone up into his glory; he sits upon the throne of God; but, at the same
time, by a very real spiritual presence he is with all his people, as he said to
his disciples, “Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.”
And there is nothing that can so fit a man for holy service as to have
Christ’s eyes looking into his eyes, and reading him through and through,
and to have Christ’s pierced hand laid on his heart till the very impress of
its wound is there reproduced, filling that heart with a loving grief for
others. “Oh!” says one, “I think that I could speak for Christ if that should
ever be true to me.” Ah! my friend, you will never speak aright until it is
true to you. Not with those mortal eyes will you see him, but your heart
shall behold him without any help from those dull optics. Not with your
ears shall you hear his voice, but your heart shall attend to his message
without the use of those poor impediments of ears. You shall know that he
is with you, you shall be sure of it, for his life shall touch your life, his spirit
shall flood and overflood your spirit; and then, but not till then, shall you?
be fit to speak in his name. That is the first part of this invaluable privilege,
— we are permitted to realize our Lord’s presence with us personally.

Next, we are enabled to feel Christ’s word as spoken to us: “I tell you.”
The message of the gospel is applied by Christ directly and distinctly to our
own soul. We do not look for any new revelation, but we do expect the old
revelation to be made to our hearts and consciences in all its wondrous
power. We expect that the words which Jesus spoke should ring in our
souls with such music as they evoked when he first uttered them, and that
we should, by the working of his Spirit, feel the force of those words just
as they did who heard him with their outward ears; and we shall never fully
preach the gospel till then. A man may go to College, he may learn all
about the letter of Scripture, but he is no minister of God if he has not sat
at Jesu’s feet, and learned of him; and when he has learned of him, and the
truth has come home to his heart as his own per sonal possession given to
him by Christ, then shall he speak with more than mortal power, but not till
then. Step back into the rear rank, sir, if Christ has never spoken to you
thus, and wait there until he has done so. If the Master has given you no
message, do not run; what is the use of running if you have nothing to tell?
Do you think that you are to make up your own message as you run? Ah!
then, you are not Christ’s servant, for his servant waits until he has heard
the message from his Master, and then it is both his duty and his privilege
to tell it out just as he has heard it: “What I tell you in darkness, that speak
ye in light: and what ye hear in the ear,” — “I myself whispering it into
your personal ear, that you may receive it direct from me, — this it is
which you are to go and proclaim upon the housetops.”

The text seems to imply that these communications are made to us again
and again. There are some of us who are called to spend our whole lives in
our Master’s service; and unless we are often alone with him, listening to
the message he has for us to deliver, our streams will not continue to run. I
thank God that, during the last few weeks, while I have been in the South
of France, I have had a blessed period of privately hearing the word afresh
from the Master. It has been a constant joy and delight to me to meditate
again and again upon the truths which I have preached, to feed upon them
in my own soul, and in quiet communion with God to be gathering spiritual
stores of nourishment for you, of which, first of all, I had proved the power
and preciousness to my own heart. I would earnestly urge all Christian
workers to be sure to get some time alone for the prayerful study of the
Word. The more of such time that you can get, the better will it be both for
yourself and for others. You know that it is impossible for a sower of seed
to be always scattering, and never gathering; the seed-basket must be filled
again and again, or the sowing must come to an end. You cannot keep on
distributing bread and fish to the multitude, as the disciples did, unless,
every now and then, you go back to the Master, and say, “My Lord, I need
more bread and more fish, for my supply is running short. Give me more,
that I may give out more.”

Make such occasions as often as you can. I am glad to see so many of you,
my young friends, busy for the Master; but I pray you not to forget that it
was Mary, who sat at the Master’s feet, of whom he said that she had
chosen that good part which should not be taken away from her. It is well
to be like Martha, busy on your Lord’s behalf; but you cannot do without
Mary’s quiet meditation. You must have the contemplation as well as the
activity, or else you will do mischief, and not really honor the Master.
Suppose you see a carpenter, with a little hammer in his hand, go round the
workshop, and gently tap a hundred nails on the head; you rightly say that
he has not done any good at all. But here is another workman, with a good
heavy hammer, and when he does hit a nail, he drives it home, and he does
not leave it till he has driven it home, and clinched it, too. There is a way of
seeming to be doing a great deal, and yet really doing nothing; and there is
also a way of apparently doing but little, but then it is good solid work,
thoroughly well done. Nobody can do this solid, permanent work, in a
spiritual sense, without often getting alone with the Lord Jesus Christ.
Avail yourselves also, dear friends, of those special opportunities which
God makes for you to receive his messages. Sometimes he takes one of his
servants, and puts him right away for a while. “Be thou silent,” says he,
“and I will talk to thee.” Perhaps the Lord takes away the strength, the
bodily vigor of his servant; there is the Christian woman, who longs to be
going up and down her district, laid upon a sick bed; or there is the earnest,
faithful Sunday-school teacher, no longer able to instruct his class. Yet it is
in God’s wisdom that the nets are sometimes drawn out of the water, that
there may be an opportunity to mend them, otherwise they would not
always take the fish that are ready to be caught. It is true economy to let
the cannon rest till it gets cool, or else there may be mischief done to the
men who are firing it, instead of to the enemy; and all of us need rest, every
now and then, if we are to be fitted for future service. Above all, we need
often to go to Christ, to get from his hand a fresh stock of that gospel
provision which we are afterwards to dispense to the people in his name. I
pray you, who are seeking to serve the Savior, to take good note of the
advice I have been trying to give you.

II. Now, secondly, this going to Christ, to hear the Word directly from
him, is itself A MOST BLESSED PREPARATORY PROCESS FOR ALL CHRISTIAN WORKERS. Let me show you how it is so.

First, if you get your message of mercy directly and distinctly from the
living Christ, you will have truth in its personality, — living, acting,
feeling, for he is “the way, the truth, and the life.” The message will come
to you with power because he uttered it, and you will therefore preach him
as well as it. We do not want a misty, cloudy Christ — a sort of impalpable
phantom, to comfort us; we want a real Christ, God and man, really among
us, and really able to save unto the uttermost all them that come unto God
by him. So, my dear brother, if you go to him for your message, you will
be sure not to forget him. He will be real to you, and your teaching will
make him real to other people. Some ministers preach very finely about
Christ; but that which saves sinners is preaching Christ himself. He is our
salvation, and we shall never put that salvation in tangible, graspable, real
form unless we go to him, and get distinctly from himself the message we
are to deliver on his behalf.

By doing this, we shall also have truth in all its purity. You know that,
when the light of the gospel shines through me, it takes a little tinge of
color from me, just as when it shone through Luther, there was a Lutheran
shade about the truth; and when it shone through John Calvin, there was a
Calvinistic tinge. Shining through any man, God’s light will be tinged to a
certain extent, just as it is when shining through the very best glass that
was ever made. You had better get into the sunlight for yourself, so that
you may have it in all its purity. I am of the mind of that man who said that
the milk was so bad where he lived that he would move into the country,
and keep a cow for himself. It is just so with the gospel; there is nothing
like going to the Lord Jesus Christ himself as to the well-head of doctrine,
and saying to him, “Master, what dost thou teach? What can I learn from
thee?” Our unfailing rule is, — What did Jesus say about this or that? How
did his Spirit speak by the apostles? It is that living with Christ, from day to
day, which will give us the truth of God in all its purity.

And it will also give us truth in its due proportions. We are all of us
lopsided in one way or another. I suppose that there is not a pair of eyes in
this world that is absolutely a pair. There is scarcely anything about us that
is exactly as it ought to be, we are all of us somewhat wrong; and, hence,
there is no man who teaches all truth in its exact proportions. One man
sees the responsibility of man, and he preaches it; another sees the
sovereignty of God, and he preaches that. Cannot we find a brother who
preaches both those truths? Yes, no doubt we can; but, then, that brother
will probably fail to see some other truth. If we knew all truths in their
right proportions, we should be God rather than man, for we should
practically possess omniscience. But to avoid giving undue prominence to
any one truth, and casting another truth into the shade, the best remedy is
to get your teaching direct from Christ himself. You think you see a certain
doctrine in the Bible; well, then, take it to him who gave you the Bible, and
say, “Blessed Lord Jesus, by thy Spirit, teach this doctrine to me. Let me
know, by thy teaching, what this passage of Scripture means, for I am
prepared to receive whatever thou dost impart to me.” If you do this, dear friends, you will get truth in its personality, truth in its purity, truth in its due proportions.

And, let me add, that you will then get truth in its power. When the truth
of God has broken your heart, and afterwards bound it up; when Christ has
so spoken it to you that you have felt the power of it, then you will speak it
as men should speak who are ambassadors for God. George Fox was
called a Quaker because, when he preached, he often trembled and quaked.
Was that folly on his part? Nay; for he had so felt the power of what he
spoke that his very body was full of emotion while he delivered that truth
to others. And well may you and I also tremble at the Word of the Lord.
But, on the other hand, whenever that Word comes home with sweetness
to the heart, you must often have noticed with what sweetness the man
tells it out to others. There is nobody who can preach the gospel like the
man who has experienced its power. You know that the tale of a tale, the
report of a report, is a very poor thing; but when a man gets up, and says,
concerning some notable event, “I was there, I saw it all,” then you listen
to him. So, if you can say of Christ, “He is indeed precious, for he is
precious to me; he can save, for he has saved me; he can comfort, and
cheer, and gladden, for he has done all that to me,” — then you speak with
power to others, because Christ has spoken with power to you.

And there is something more than that. A man who receives the gospel
distinctly from Christ will speak the truth in Christ’s spirit. Did you ever
hear a man preach the gospel in a passion? You wonder at my question, yet
such a thing has happened; but if you are present on such an occasion, you
feel sure that the man did not get his message — or, at any rate, he did not
get his manner — from his Master. The other day, I saw a man offer a bit
of bread to a poor, lean, half-starved dog; the animal did not seem to care
for bread, so he turned away; and, then, directly, the man was so angry
with the creature because he would not have the bread that he threw a
stone at him. There is a certain kind of preaching that is just like that; the
minister seems to say, “You dogs of sinners, there is the gospel for you;
will you have it? If you do not, I will throw a stone at you.” Well now,
neither dogs nor men admire ‘that sort of treatment; and, certainly, the
Lord Jesus Christ never intended us to deliver his message in that kind of
fashion. There are some, I believe, who preach the. doctrines of grace very
much as a dog of mine acts with his rug. When I go home to-night, he will
bring it out, and drag it up to my feet, just because he wants me to try and
take it away from him, that he may growl over it. So have I seen some
people preach the doctrine of election, and other truths like it, as if they
wanted some Arminian to try to run away with them, or have a fight over
them. Now that is not the way which Christ teaches us to preach; he never
bids us proclaim the gospel in such a way that we seem to want to make an
Irish fight over it. No, no, no; go direct to Christ for truth, and you will
preach it strongly, honestly, openly, positively, but you will always preach
it with love.

That is the plan I recommend to you — the system of getting the gospel
fresh from the mouth of Jesus, and then delivering it, as far as we can, in
Jesus Christ’s tones and in Jesus Christ’s spirit. I can assure you, my dear
friends, that we shall never know how Jesus preached till we hear him
speak in our hearts, and then endeavor to imitate the tone of that speech
which our inward ears have heard. Oh, to preach Christ in a Christly way,
— to tell of mercy in the spirit of mercy, and to preach grace in a truly
gracious way!

Here is the time to say that, if you go to Christ for all the truth you preach,
and if you proclaim it in his way, then you will preach it with what is called
“unction.” Do you know what unction is? I do, but I cannot tell you. I can
tell when a man has not any unction, and I can tell when he has; but I do
not know exactly how to define and describe it, except by saying that it is a
special anointing from the Spirit of God. There is an old Romish tale of a
monk who had been the means of converting great numbers of persons;
but, on a certain occasion, he was detained in his journey, and could not?288
reach the congregation in time to conduct the service. The devil thought it
was a fine opportunity for him to speak to the people, so, putting on the
cowl of the monk, he went into the pulpit, and preached; according to the
story, he preached about hell, — a subject with which he was well
acquainted, — and the hearers listened very attentively. Before he finished
his discourse, the holy man appeared, and made the devil disclose himself
in his proper form. “Get you gone,” said he to Satan, “but however dared
you preach the truth as you were. doing when I came in?” “Oh!” replied
Satan, “I did not mind preaching the truth, for there was no unction in it,
so I knew that it could not do any hurt to my cause.” It was a curious
legend, but there was a great truth at the bottom of it, — where there is no
unction, it does not matter what we preach, or how we preach it. One of
my friends behind me sometimes says to me, after the service, “I believe
that God has been blessing the people, for there has been plenty of dew
about.” That is what we want, that holy dew, which the Spirit of God so
graciously bestows. You may preach to one congregation, but it is all in
vain, for there is no dew about; but, at another time, it is sweet preaching
and blessed hearing, because there is plenty of dew about; and the way to
get that dew is by coming straight out of the Master’s presence, with the
Master’s message ringing in your own ear, to tell it out as nearly as
possible as he has told it to you.

Once more, this preparation for declaring the truth is very valuable,
because it enables a man to have truth in its certainty. Concerning the truth
of God, questions are continually being raised nowadays; many people ask,
with Pilate, “What is truth?” Even preachers put that question. Why do
they not hold their tongues until they know? Suppose a servant comes to
the door to bring you the answer to a question which you have sent to her
mistress. She begins to talk on all sorts of subjects, and you say to her, “Do
you not know what the reply is from your mistress to my enquiry?” She
says, “Well, to tell you the truth, I have not been to her to know what her
reply is, but I am making up an answer myself.” Of course, you say to her,
“I do not want to hear your answer; go to your mistress at once, and
whatever message she has to send to me, kindly report it to me, for that is
all I want to know.” So we say to the minister, “Tell us what your Master
has told you; we don’t want to hear anything else.” If he says, “I think - er,
I beg your pardon, I am very anxious not to appear dogmatical; but with
great diffidence I submit to you,” you reply, “My dear sir, we want you to
be dogmatical. If you have been to your Master, and he has given you a message for us, tell it to us; and if you have not been to him, and he has not
told you anything to say on his behalf, then clear out of that pulpit, for you
have no right to be there. Go and earn an honest living at breaking stones,
or something of that sort.” 

An ambassador who is not commissioned by his sovereign had better be sent home by the first ship that is going that way. He who comes professedly as a messenger from God, and yet declares that, for the life of him, he does not know what God would have him preach, proclaims his own condemnation, and we say to him, “We cannot let our souls run the risk of being lost; so, if you have no message from Christ for us, we will not waste our time by listening to you.” Be sure, dear friends, to have as your minister a man who lives with God, and walks with God; a man who leans his head on the bosom of Jesus, and then comes forward and speaks what his Master has whispered right into his ear. Men are startled when they hear him; they say, “Who is this fellow? Where did he learn such things?” But, with awful earnestness, so that his hearers sometimes think him half-demented, he tells out what he feels that he must tell out because he has received it from his Lord and Master. He says, “That is the truth, whether you take it or leave it. I will preach to you nothing but what God has told me. I cannot and I dare not turn aside from what I believe to be his teaching.” Look at Martin Luther whom God raised up to speak so bravely for him. People said, “This man is so positive, so dogmatic;” but he could not be otherwise, his whole heart and soul were possessed by certain great truths, and he felt that he must proclaim them, whether men put him in prison, or dragged him away to the stake. And such a man, speaking after that fashion, shook the Vatican and the most powerful empires of the earth, and was the means of bringing light to
multitudes who otherwise would have remained in darkness. In like manner
as the Reformer did, get you to your Lord, my brother; get you to your
Savior, my sister; receive your message from him, and what he speaks
privately into your ear, that tell you wherever you have the opportunity,
but mind that you do not tell anything else.

III. Now I must finish with THE CONSEQUENT PROCLAMATION: “What I
tell you in darkness, that speak ye in light: and what ye hear in the ear, that
preach ye upon the housetops.”

First, it has been told me in the ear, and whispered into my very soul, that
there is pardon for the greatest guilt through faith in Jesus Christ, — that
his precious blood, shed on Calvary’s cross, is able to cleanse from all sin
of every kind, and that as many as believe in him are saved. “Their sins,?290
which were many, are all forgiven.” I heard this said once, and I thought it
was true; nay, I heard it many times from those who would not have said
what was false. But, on a never-to-be-forgotten day, I myself looked to
him who did hang upon the cross. It had been clark clays with my spirit
until then, and my burden had been exceedingly heavy; I was like a man
who would have preferred to die rather than to live, and I might even have
laid violent hands upon myself, in the hope of ending my misery, but that
the dread of something worse after death did haunt me. I found neither rest
nor respite until I heard one say, “Look unto Christ, and you shall be
saved. Look, young man, look; for he says, ‘Look unto me, and be ye
saved, all the ends of the earth;’“ and there and then I did look unto him;
and that my sins were at that moment forgiven me, I do know as surely as I
know that I am standing here, and speaking to you. I might be made to
doubt some things about which I feel tolerably certain; but I must
absolutely lose my reason before I can ever doubt the fact that I then
passed out of despair into something higher than hope, and rose from the
very gates of hell into a joy that is with me, even now. Shall I not tell to
others what the grace of God has done for me? Shall I not lay hold of
every poor sinner’s hand, and say, “Look you to Christ, and you also shall
be saved, even as I was?” Shall I not, from the very housetops, shout again
and again, —

“There is life for a look at the Crucified One;
There is life at this moment for thee?”

Further, there is another thing that has been whispered in my ear. It is that,
by faith in Christ, the ruling power of sin is immediately broken, and that
every sin, of every kind, may be overcome by faith in the blood of Jesus
Christ. I heard one man laughing at another because he said that he had a
clean heart. Ah, me! but that may have been true, for every man who
believes in Christ has a clean heart. Are you nominally a Christian, and yet
yore’ Christianity does not make you holy? I implore you to throw such
worthless Christianity to the dogs, for it is worse than useless to you. If
your religion does not make you holy, it will damn you as surely as you are
now alive. It is simply a painted pageantry to go to hell in; but it is not the
true religion of the Lord Jesus Christ. He that believes in Christ shall be
delivered from sin, he shall trample it under his feet; he may have a life-long
battle with it, nay, I am sure he will have that, else Christ would never
have taught his disciples to pray, “Lead us not into temptation.” When
there is no more sin in us, we need not fear temptation; there is no risk of
fire to the man who has no tinder in his heart. The Lord can keep his
people, and he will preserve them. “He will keep the feet of his saints.”
Brother, have you fallen into drunkenness? Faith in Christ can turn that cup
bottom upwards for you. Are you a swearer? My Master can rinse your
mouth out, so that you shall never speak in that shameful fashion any more,
or even be tempted to do so, for I have known swearers cured in a
moment, and the temptation to blaspheme has never come back to them.
Have you been a thief, or a liar? Have you been a fornicator, or an
adulterer? Are you unjust, unholy, and unclean? There is provision for
washing sinners such as you are; there is a fountain opened for sin and for
uncleanness, and Christ can deliver you from the power as well as from the
penalty of sin. Only trust him about it; come and rest your soul upon him.
Oh! if there be a harlot here, or a man who has fallen into all sorts of gross
sin, Christ can and will deliver you if you will only come and repose your
heart’s trust in him.

I cannot tell you all that I have had whispered into my ear, but I must
mention one other thing that I know; it is that faith in Christ can save a
man from every sort of fear in life and in death. Faith in Christ can make
even trouble to be welcome, and affliction to be regarded as a gain. Faith in
the Lord Jesus Christ can make poverty to be sweet, and sickness to be
borne with patience. The ills of life are turned into blessings when once a
man believes in Jesus, and fully trusts in him. I am not now saying what I
alone know, but what a groat many others here also know. There are
hundreds — I might truthfully say thousands — here who can say the same
as I can about these matters. Lot me prove my assertion. You who have
found that faith in Christ sweetens life to you, speak out, and say, “Yes.”
Has Christ sweetened life to you who have believed in him? If so, say,
“Yes.” [Many voices: “Yes.”] Of course you can say it, and you are not
ashamed to say it over and over again; is he the joy of your heart? [Voices:
“Yes.”] Has he made your very soul to leap within you when you have
kept close to him? [Voices: “Yes.”] I knew that you would answer “Yes”
to that question, for it is even so with you; there is a joy, which sometimes
comes upon the Christian, and which I cannot attempt to describe, but it
bears us right away above all physical pain, and everything that might
depress the spirit; and the heart is made strong in the Lord, and in the
power of his might. Oh, he is a precious Christ! Is there one person here
who has trusted in Christ, who is willing to give him up? [Voices: “No.”]
There is not one, I am sure. You hardly need to answer the question, for?292
there never was one individual, who really knew Christ, who could give
him up. They who leave him have only fancied that they knew him; they
have never really trusted him.

Possibly, dear friend, you are in trouble because you say that you feel
afraid to die to-night. Well, but perhaps you are not going to die to-night;
and, therefore, dying grace has not yet been given to you. But when the
time comes for you to die, then very likely you will not feel the slightest
fear. My brother said to me, the other day, when he had been seeing one of
our members pass away, “Brother, we can say to one another what the two
Wesleys said, ‘Our people die well.’“ So they do; they often die shouting
for very joy; and, at any rate, they go home peacefully, quietly welcoming
the everlasting future and the glory that Christ has laid up for them. Oh,
yes! we know that “to die is gain.” Some of us have been laid very low,
and we have thought that we were about to die, and we have had the
greatest joy then, — greater than we ever knew before in all our lives; and,
therefore, we tell it out to others, and we mean to tell it out as long as we
live. Salvation by grace, through faith in Jesus, is no dream, no fiction, let
sceptics say what they will. Our experience — and we are as honest as they
are, and no more fanatical than they are, — our experience agrees with
what our Lord has revealed to us in his Word; and, therefore, when we
preach the gospel, or relate what grace has done for us, we use Christ’s
very words, and say, “We speak that we do know, and testify that we have
seen.” God grant that many of you may be able to bear similar testimony,
for our Lord Jesus Christ’s sake! Amen.

Archived by Robert L. Cobb
-Administrator, News For Christians Dot Com
Back to Index Page