The Poor Raised up out of the Dust, and the Beggar Lifted up from the Dunghill - (Part 2)

Now the process that so cuts up self-righteousness, root and branch, in the soul, is the only process to bring it into the sweet enjoyment of gospel blessings. Many people do so mistake the road. If, this morning, instead of coming to the west, to Eden-street, I had gone to the east, to Zoar Chapel, I should certainly not now have been here. In like manner, a man can never reach heaven unless he travels heavenwards, Zion-wards, in the way that God has marked out for his people to walk in. It is a delusion to think that we are going to heaven unless we know something of divine teaching in the soul.

But if we know anything of divine teaching, we know what it is to be poor and needy, we know what it is, more or less, to have our mouth in the dust. But I said that people mistake the way to heaven. The ordinary way is to set up a ladder to reach from earth to heaven, and progressively clambering up the different rounds, at last to climb up into the abode of God. But that is not the way of God s people. They have to go down, down, down, that they may be raised up. It is not with them first "up, up, up," to scale the battlements of heaven. Every such step upwards in self is in reality only a step downwards; but, on the other hand, every step downwards in self, downwards into the depths of poverty, downwards into felt misery, downwards into soul-trouble and the real groanings of a broken heart-every such step downwards in self is, in fact, a step upwards in Christ. Until we get to the very bottom there is no promise. "He raiseth up the poor out of the dust." But how? He does it in a moment. The Lord does not raise up his people round by round, enabling them to clamber and crawl with their hands and feet to him. But, when he lifts up the poor out of the dust, he gives them a smile which reaches, so to speak, to the very bottom of their hearts; and that smile has such a miraculous power, such a drawing efficacy, that it lifts them in a moment out of the dust into the very bosom of God. When, therefore, the Lord raises up the poor out of the dust, he does not lift them up by a gradual process, step by step, as they went down. They were, perhaps, many years going down; but they are raised up in a moment. The God of all grace, by one word, or by one smile, lifts them up in a moment out of the lowest depths of felt degradation, "sets them among princes, and makes them inherit the throne of glory."

But we pass on to consider another portion of the text, where the saint is compared to a beggar; "and lifteth up the beggar from the dunghill." "The beggar," naturally viewed, is in a lower condition than "the poor". It is, as it were, the ne plus ultra,  the furthest extreme of pauperism. Poverty can go no lower than the condition of a mendicant. There are many "poor" people who have never come down so low as beggary. Yet every child of God must not only go down into soul-poverty, he must sink also into the lowest extreme of it; he must fall into beggary and mendicancy before he can be raised up to inherit the throne of glory. To be a beggar naturally is to gain one s daily bread by hourly petitioning, to have scarcely a rag to call one s own; to possess neither house nor home, neither cupboard nor pantry, but to live day to day on the compassion and bounty of others. Take this idea into spiritual things. A man is not a spiritual beggar who has a single penny of merit locked up at home, who has a single good thing in the strong chest of his own heart.

To be a beggar spiritually he must have nothing that he does not get by petitioning. But how humbling to nature, how crushing to the pride of man, that he cannot do anything by nature spiritually good, that he cannot create his own heart anew, that he cannot save his own soul, that he cannot believe, nor hope, nor love-in a word, that he cannot by any will or power of his own recommend himself to the favour of God! The beggar, you know, has nothing to work with or to trade upon. If he had but a bit of ground given him, he might till and cultivate it; if he had but a little money, he might buy and sell with it. But he has nothing to begin with, no point to start from; for "the destruction of the poor is their poverty." I am speaking, mark you, of a man reduced, say, by illness to beggary, not of street mendicants, who are generally imposters. So with God s people; if they could but work, if they could but cultivate nature s plot, and obtain a spiritual crop; or if they had but a little stock to begin with, which they might put out to interest and receive back with usury, why, then they would not be beggars. But to have everything so knocked out of their grasp, that they have not a single good thing, which they can call their own, and therefore are compelled to beg, and cry, and petition the Lord for everything spiritual and gracious, how humbling to the pride of man is this! Yet God s people know that they must walk in it.

Did you, did I, ever get anything but by begging? Have not God s ministers to beg for well nigh every sermon, to cry and groan for well nigh every text, for power to be felt in their souls, for thoughts to be inspired, and for words to be dictated? And have not the people of God, the hearers, to beg for every blessing at the footstool of mercy which they hope to receive, for every token for good, for every testimony, for every smile, for every evidence, every witness, that they are the Lord s? Have not God s people, with the utmost importunity, to besiege the throne of grace that they may receive those mercies as a free gift, without which they cannot live contented, nor die happy? If you are not a beggar, if you have a little stock yet in hand, a little field to till and cultivate of your own, you are not fit for the kingdom of God. Every penny of nature s stock must be spent before you can receive out of Christ s fullness grace for grace. Till you are a beggar, you have no manifested interest in gospel blessings.

But, having looked at the character of the spiritual beggar, we will accompany him to the spot where he is said to sit; for the beggar is to be lifted off "the dunghill." In this spiritual portrait which the Holy Ghost has given of a saint, how he seems to have heightened the colouring with every stroke of the pencil. He first of all describes him as "poor," and in the "dust." But this is not strong enough; this does not convey a sufficient idea of what a saint is. He takes the pencil again, and, so to speak, gives another touch to heighten it, and to set it before our eyes more clearly and vividly. He brings before us not only a poor man, but a "beggar," a mendicant. But that is not enough; the brush must once more touch the painting in order to heighten the description, and bring forth the character in its true colours; he, therefore, gives us the "the dunghill" as the seat on which the beggar sits. Now could you for a moment figure this in your mind s eye upon canvas; could you depict to yourself a saint of God, as here described, you would see in one corner a representation of a poor man with his mouth in the dust, and a voice would say within you, "That is a saint." But the same voice would also say as to the prophet, "Turn again;" see another sight.

In another corner of the picture you would see a beggar clothed in rags, like Lazarus, with wounds and bruises, and putrifying sores, not sitting in a chair; no, nor even resting on the ground, but lying on a dunghill. What, you may ask, does that mean? Surely it represents the deep corruptions of our heart. But, Hannah! how could you ever drop such a word as that? Talk about the dunghill in polite company! Introduce such a vulgar expression into the word of God! What must our elegant preachers, and our refined ministers in their gowns and gold rings, think of you to talk about a dunghill? And what must those, who are always confident, think of such a corruption preacher as you, Hannah? For surely there is something about corruption here. Hannah, in her song of praise, had not forgotten the dunghill. But some, who profess to have been once grovelling there, have so entirely forgotten it, that they never even speak of dung-gate now; and as to ever casting a glance over their shoulders, or even thinking for a moment of the dunghill, or of those that are on it, that is as much out of their sight as though it had no existence. But Hannah remembered it; and felt as the church expresses herself, "Remembering my affliction and my misery, the wormwood and the gall; my soul hath these still in remembrance, and is humbled in me." .{La 3:19,20} I shall not now, however, attempt to lay open the contents of this dunghill, which are better felt than described; though, I believe, I should offend some of your delicate nerves were I to bring forward some of the monsters which I have felt to lurk there, or even hint at some of the sights and smells which have disgusted me to the deepest self-loathing. Nor shall! dwell on what it is to be in it; but content myself with saying that "the dunghill" represents our corrupt nature; and that it must be spiritually opened up in a man s conscience to know what it is. For it is  out of it that the beggar is to be lifted to inherit the throne of glory; and if a man has never been in it, he cannot be lifted out of it.

To be then in the dunghill is to know and feel something of the deep corruptions of our nature. And O, the suffocating sensations which a man has when there. It is no pleasant spot; the stench in the nostrils is so overcoming, the sights presented to the eye are so disgusting that I am sure if a man knows what corruption is, he will never want to be in corruption. It is a libel-I might even use a shorter and more expressive word-but it is a libel upon experimental preachers to say that they gloat over corruption, that they either love it, or love to feel it, or love to speak about it. They know too well the misery of it to love it; they feel too much the suffocating stench of it to be pleased either with it, or their abode in it. But God puts them there for wise purposes-that they may abhor themselves, and love him the more when, from time to time, he lifts them out of it. But you see there is no lifting out till a man gets in. God has for the most part connected his mercies with our miseries, his promises with our necessities; as, therefore, he has suited his displays of mercy and grace to certain spots and places, we must go into those spots and places to realize the promised mercies.

But, I venture to say, that if some of those who are continually aiming their arrows of contempt against those whom they term corruption preachers, were told that, in the filthiest alley in London, in the very dirtiest house in that alley, in the most noisome garret, in that house, and in the foulest corner of that garret, there was a bag of gold, and if they went there they might take it for their pains-I am inclined to think that some who have such nice and delicate feelings that they cannot bear to hear a word about corruption from the pulpit, would not mind grubbing up to their very elbows in this filthy corner if they could only thereby get hold of the bag. Now the Holy Spirit in the Scriptures has suited his promises of mercy and grace to the lowest depths of man s felt filth and misery; it is, therefore, in those spots that grace and mercy are found. But who likes the noisome garret, or who loves its filthy corner? Nobody surely who has any cleanly or tender feeling. But if he knows that he must go there, that he may find the precious promises of the blessed Bible, and receive the sweet enjoyments of God s favour, he is even reconciled to endure nature s filth and guilt, if the Lord is but pleased there to whisper a sweet testimony that he is eternally, unchangeably His.

The Lord, then, has adapted these promises to a certain state, and he brings his people into that state that he may give them the promises, and make them sweet, savoury, and unctuous. It is out of the dust and out of the dunghill that God lifts his saints, and "sets them among princes"-O, what a change!-"and makes them inherit the throne of glory." What is it but the depth of their degradation that makes their exaltation so great? It is the sin and guilt, felt ruin and misery, that so enhance the blessings when they come down from God. What a change was it for Joseph, to be taken out of the dungeon, where his beard was not shaved, nor his raiment changed, and made second to Pharaoh in all the land of Egypt? Did not the dungeon make the honour all the greater? So, spiritually, it is bringing the soul out of the dust, and lifting the beggar out of the dunghill, that makes the promises so precious, it is this which, when he comes to "inherit the throne of glory," makes the change so blessed and so conspicuous.

This, then, is what God has told us about the saints; and happy are we, if we can trace in our hearts anything of God s work as here laid down, if we can discover anything of the teaching of the Spirit in our souls, so as to be either with our mouth in the dust, or on the dunghill, or sitting among the princes of God s people. To have the least spark or particle of divine teaching is an inestimable mercy, and a sure pledge and foretaste of eternal glory.