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In The Fog
By Charles Spurgeon
THAT GOG AND MAGOG are legitimate sovereigns of our great city of London we will not venture to dispute; but there is a third potentate whose reign is far more real, and whose dominion is vastly more oppressive-his name is FOG. The other day we rode through London at noonday; through London, we said; we meant through a mass of vapor looking almost as thick as melted butter,
"with a sordid stain
Of yellow, like a lion's mane."
A stinging savor of smoke made our eyes run with tears, and a most uncomfortable clinging cobwebby dampness surrounded us like a wet blanket, and sent a cold chill to the very marrow of our bones. Light had departed, and darkness, tike a black pall, hung horribly over every street-a dense gloom which could not be cheered even by the lamps which in all the shops were burning as if night had set in. The fog sensibly affected all the organs of our body.
"Vapor importunate and dense,
It was at once with every sense.
The ears escape not. All around
Returns a dull unwonted sound."
Few were the passengers, and those few flitted before us like shadows, or passed shivering by us like wet sparrows looking out for shelter in a heavy rain. It was of no use to be wretched, and therefore we became thoughtful, and condensed a little of the black mist into drops of meditation.
Are we not all more or less travelling in a fog through this land of cloud and gloom? What is life? 'Tis but a vapor; and that vapor is often a thick, light-obstructing mist! Of the forms around us in God's fair universe have we much more discernment than a fog-picture? To some extent "a formless grey confusion covers all." where we see one trace of our glorious God, do we not fail to perceive a thousand of the divine touches of his pencil? We may not dare to say even of earthly things that "we see," or those who have formed some guess of what true seeing means will soon declare us to be blind. As to the revelation with which our heavenly Father has so graciously favored us, how little have we gazed upon it in the clear daylight of its own glory. Our prejudices, predilections, fancies, infirmities, follies, iniquities, unbeliefs, and vanities have raised a marsh-mist through which heaven's own stars can scarcely dart their cheering rays.
There is light enough abroad if the dense fog would suffer it to reach us, but for want of the wind of heaven to chase away the obscuring vapors we walk in twilight and see but glimmerings of truth. We are proud indeed if we dream of attaining a clear view of heavenly things by our own carnal minds while we grope under moral, mental, and spiritual glooms, which have made the best of men cry, "Enlighten our darkness, good Lord." Well did Paul say, "Here we know in part," and "here we see through a glass darkly." We have not yet attained to face-to-face vision: happy day shall it be when we escape from this cloud-land, and come into the true light where they need no candle, neither light of the sun.
We who have believed are not of the night nor of darkness, but yet the smoke of things terrestrial dims our vision and clouds our prospect. When we think of the doctrines of grace, of the person of Christ, of the experimental work of the Spirit-when we think of these simpler matters-to say nothing of the heaven which is to be revealed, of the prophetic apocalypse, or of the glorious coming of the Son of Man, how great does our ignorance appear and how small our knowledge! Faith believes what her God has told her; but by reason of "the turbid air" in which we live, how little do we understand of what we believe! When our fellows boastingly cry, "We see," how readily may we detect their blindness.
Those men who claim to know all things,-who are incapable of further enlightenment,-whose creed is made of cast iron and can never be altered,-these are the most blind of us all, or else they dwell amidst the thickest and densest mists. Surely, we are in a fog-the best of us feel the dread shadow of the fall hovering over us. O Sun of Righteousness shine forth! Remove our darkness; in thy light let us see light; then will our glad voices ring indeed, when we shall see thee as thou art, and shall be like thee! We would not give up what little we do see of our Beloved for all the world, for though it be but a glimpse, it is, nevertheless, a vision so blessed that it enables us to wait patiently until we shall see "the king in his beauty, and the land that is very far off."
Being once surrounded by a dense mist on the Styhead Pass in the Lake District, we felt ourselves to be transported into a world of mystery where everything was swollen to a size and appearance more vast, more terrible than is usual on this sober planet. A little mountain tarn, scarcely larger than a farmer's horse-pond, expanded into a great lake whose distant shores were leagues beyond the reach of out poor optics; and as we descended into the valley of Wastwater, the rocks rose on one side like the battlements of heaven, and the descent on the other hand looked like the dreadful lips of a yawning abyss; and yet when one looked back again in the morning's clear light there was nothing very dangerous in the pathway, or terrible in the rocks.
The road was a safe though sharp descent, devoid of terrors to ordinary mountain-climbers. In the distance through the fog the shepherd "stalks gigantic," and his sheep are full-grown lions. Into such blunders do we fall in our life-pilgrimage; a little trouble in the distance is, through our mistiness, magnified into a crushing adversity. We see a lion in the way, although it is written that no ravenous beast shall go up thereon. A puny foe is swollen into a Goliath, and the river of death widens into a shoreless sea. Come, heavenly wind, and blow the mist away, and then the foe will be despised, and the bright shores on the other side the river will stand out clear in the light of faith!
Men often mistake friends for foes because of the fog in which they walk. Mr. Jay tells us of one who saw a monster in the distance. He was greatly afraid, but having summoned courage enough to meet it, the monster turned out to be his own brother John. We frequently keep aloof from the best of people for want of knowing them: if we could see them as they are we should love them. The fog so marvelously magnifies faults and distorts peculiarities-we think men dragons if not devils in the distance, when a closer view assures us that they are saints and brethren. We all need to be cautioned against misjudging one another.
If the world-fog operates upon Christians who are the children of light, it is little wonder if it has a far worse influence upon unconverted men. They wander in a day of gloom and of thick darkness, in a "darkness which may be felt." Concerning them we may say that their mists shut out the sun. The mercy revealed in the gospel reaches not the sinner's eyes; his doubts, his sins, his follies keep it away from him. We have full often held up Christ crucified before the sinner, but he could not see him. We have preached a full salvation to the guilty one, but he could not discern it.
The beams of gospel light are obstructed by the dense mist of carnality in which the sinner lives. Alas for the ungodly! their state is one of such darkness that they lose their way. In the firm belief that they are traveling to heaven, they choose the path which leadeth to destruction. They go gaily on, dreaming that they shall reach the rest which remaineth for the people of God, but they stumble to fall for ever. False teaching, sinful inclination, prejudice and predilection, cast a cloud over the sinner's reason, so that he chooses his own damnation. Even when partially convinced of sin he betakes himself to his own self-righteousness and wanders like a blind man upon a vast plain, toiling hard to reach his destination but making no progress, for there is darkness over all his paths.
It is likely that in such a state as this the sinner may be very near the home where there is rest to be had, and yet he may not know it: in a dense fog it is no unusual thing for a person to be standing before his own door, in total ignorance of his own whereabouts. The sinner has heard the gospel preached, but he does not know it as good news for him. He has been present when the Spirit of God has been moving over the entire assembly, but he did not feel its power. When a mother's tears fell on his forehead he did not perceive that she was God's angel of mercy to him. When, afterwards, affliction came and he was laid on the bed of sickness to meditate, he did not know that God had designs of love towards him in bringing him low. Oh, that the Spirit of God would dispel these soul-destroying clouds, and make the sinner see that the knocker of mercy's gate is near his hand, and that if he do but knock the door will surely be opened, and he shall enter in to be housed, to be welcomed, to be feasted, to be blessed for ever!
This darkness, if it continue always, will lure the sinner on to his own destruction. It makes him wretched now, for to walk in spiritual darkness is misery indeed. Our London fog finds its way through your clothing, your flesh, and your bones, right into your very marrow, there is hardly anything more cold and penetrating, and the sinner's life is very like it; he tries to keep out the feeling of despondency and fear and apprehension, by a thousand inventions which the world calls pleasure, but he cannot do it. He is "without God," and he is therefore without hope; he is without Christ, and he is consequently without rest.
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He is well-pictured by those poor shivering, half-clad, hungry creatures whom we see in a foggy night hurrying on to get a cold seat on the workhouse doorstep. The worst of all is, that the sinner is hastening to his own destruction. He little knows what is before him. His last step was on the firm earth, but his foot now hangs over the jaws of perdition. Beware, O man, whom we seem to see in yonder fog on the brink of a precipice! Beware! for when that fatal plunge is once taken, remonstrances from friends and remorse from self will be all in vain!
To change our line of thought. Is there not a darkness which God sends on men,-not moral darkness, for "God is light, and in him is no darkness at all," but the gloom of adversity and affliction? The believer may be in thick darkness as to his circumstances and as to his soul's enjoyment of the comforts of religion. Some Christians are favored with constant sunlight, but others like nightingales, sing God's praises best in the night. How dense is this fog just now! Well, what about it? We do not recollect ever thanking God in family prayer for the light of the sun, but we will to-night right heartily. It may be that we should never value the sun, if he did not sometimes hide himself behind a cloud. How thankful is the Christian for peace of mind, when doubts and fears are gone! How grateful to God for prosperity when adverse days are over!
As one sees the lamps all lit, it strikes us that the darkness makes us value the means. On foggy nights every twopenny link boy is a jewel. He is of no use in the day; we drive the urchin away; but when it is very thick and foggy, we are glad to see the blaze of his torch. When we are high and lifted up, and are marching on joyously, we are apt to despise the means; but when we are troubled the throne of grace, the prayer-meeting, and the preaching of God's Word are highly prized. Certain professors, who cannot hear anybody except their favorite minister, would be glad of consolation from any lip, if soul trouble should overtake them. The candles of the promise stand us in good stead when we walk in the shades of sorrow, and the Word becomes a lamp unto our feet, and a light unto our paths.
When we are seeking our home in a fog, how we prize company. When you do not know where you are going, and have only half an idea that you are steering right, how cheerfully you make a friend of any poor laboring man who is going your way! If it be a rough-looking navvy, it does not matter, he is in the same distress, and you salute him. There is a close kinship in trouble. There are no gentlemen on board sinking ships: every man then is taken for what he is practically worth. When Christians are in the darkness of affliction, it is delightful to observe how "they that fear the Lord speak often one to another." Some poor old woman who knows the things of God by experience, becomes of more value to you in your hour of grief than the dainty gentleman whose company bewitched you aforetime.
We have harped long enough on this string, but we must strike it once more. When it is dark and misty abroad, the traveler longs the more earnestly to reach his home; and it is one of the blessings of our heavy crosses, our sicknesses, and our troubles, that they set us longing for heaven. When everything goes well with us, we exclaim, like Peter, "Lord, let us build three tabernacles, for it is good to be here." But the mists cover Tabor's brow, and we fear as we enter into the cloud, and long to be away where glooms can never come. After a long journey along a dismal, dreary, beclouded road, how delightful will it be when our Father shall shut to the door of his house above, and shut out every particle of darkness and sorrow for ever and ever.
Thus far we have thought of the believer's trials; but those who are not saved may yet be caught in a fog of trouble. We think we can see a lost one as we look into the haze around us. Yes-here is the picture. Up till lately he has always prospered. He was considered by all about him to be a knowing man; he knew "what's what," as the world says: he felt but little uneasiness of conscience or trouble of mind. All at once he has come into a state of doubt and distress. He is enveloped in a fog: he does not know which way to turn, he is non-plussed; he guided others, he wants a guide himself now, but dares not trust any man. All the old accustomed landmarks are gone from sight; whether to go this way or that he cannot tell.
His health fails; he is depressed in spirits and feels broken down. A mighty one has taken the old lion by his beard, a mysterious influence has cowed the valor of the boaster. Man in the mist we salute you, and are glad that you are where you are! Do not think that we rejoice in your sorrow for its own sake, but we hail it for its after consequences. We are rejoiced that your wisdom is turned to folly, for God's wisdom will now be displayed! Now you are beginning to feel uneasiness in the world we are greatly in hope that you will give it up, and seek your lasting good elsewhere. O man in the mist! you have come to a dead stop; prudence has cried, "Halt!" While you are thus perplexed, we pray that you may prayerfully consider your ways.
You have been in a bad way up till now; for that road is always bad in which God is forgotten and Jesus slighted! You have had troubles and sicknesses, these have been mercy's fog-signals laid down on your road, and they have startled you with their explosion; but you have gone on, and on, until you dare not proceed further, for you cannot see an inch on either side. Stop, poor friend, and listen to the voice of one who careth for the sons of men, "He that believeth on the Lord Jesus Christ shall be saved, but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only-begotten Son of God."
When a ship is enveloped in fog, what can she do better than cast her anchor? But you have no anchor, for you are without hope in Christ. God give you of his grace to receive the hope most sure and steadfast, and then your vessel shall ride at anchor and fear no ill.