“‘Hitherto the Lord hath helped us.’ (1 Samuel 7:12)
Were we a hundred when first I addressed you? What hosts of empty pews, what a miserable handful of hearers. With the staff we crossed that Jordan.
But God has multiplied the people and multiplied the joy, till we have become not only two bands but many bands; and many this day are gathering to hear the gospel preached by the sons of this church, begotten of us, and sent forth by us to minister the word of life in many towns and villages throughout these three kingdoms.
Glory be unto God, this cannot be man’s work. What effort made by the unaided strength of man will equal this which has been accomplished by God. Let the name of the Lord, therefore, be inscribed upon the pillar of the memorial. I am always very jealous about this matter.
If we do not as a Church and a congregation, if we do not as individuals, always give God the glory, it is utterly impossible that God should work by us. Many wonders I have seen, but I never saw yet a man who arrogated the honour of his work to himself, whom God did not leave sooner or later.
Nebuchadnezzar said, ‘Behold this great Babylon that I have built.’ Behold that poor lunatic whose hair has grown like eagle’s feathers, and his nails like bird’s claws—that is Nebuchadnezzar.
And that must be you, and that must be me, each in our own way, unless we are content always to give all the glory unto God. Surely, brethren, we shall be a stench in the nostrils of the Most High, an offence, even like carrion, before the Lord of Hosts, if we arrogate to ourselves any honour.
What doth God send his saints for? That they may be demigods? Did God make men strong that they may exalt themselves into His throne? What, doth the King of kings crown you with mercies that you may pretend to lord it over Him?
What, doth He dignify you that you may usurp the prerogatives of His throne? No; you must come with all the favours and honours that God has put upon you, and creep to the foot of His throne and say, What am I, and what is my father’s house that thou hast remembered me. ‘Hitherto the Lord hath helped us.’
I said this text might be read three ways. We have read it once by laying stress upon the centre word. Now it ought to be read looking backward. The word ‘hitherto’ seems like a hand pointing in that direction.
Look back, look back. Twenty years—thirty—forty—fifty—sixty—seventy—eighty—’hitherto!’ say that each of you. Through poverty—through wealth—through sickness—through health—at home—abroad—on the land—on the sea—in honour—in dishonour—in perplexity—in joy—in trial—in triumph—in prayer—in temptation—hitherto.
Put the whole together. I like sometimes to look down a long avenue of trees. It is very delightful to gaze from end to end of the long vista, a sort of leafy temple with its branching pillars and its arches of leaves.
Cannot you look down the long aisles of your years, look at the green boughs of mercy overhead, and the strong pillars of loving-kindness and faithfulness which bear your joys? Are there no birds in yonder branches singing? Surely, there must be many.
And the bright sunshine and the blue sky are yonder; and if you turn round in the far distance, you may see heaven’s brightness and a throne of gold. ‘Hitherto! hitherto!’
Then the text may be read a third way,—looking forward. For when a man gets up to a certain mark and writes ‘hitherto,’ he looks back upon much that is past, but ‘hitherto’ is not the end, there is yet a distance to be traversed.
More trials, more joys; more temptations, more triumphs; more prayers, more answers; more toils, more strength; more fights, more victories; more slanders, more comforts; more lions and bears to be fought, more tearings of the lion for God’s Davids; more deep waters, more high mountains; more troops of devils, more hosts of angels yet.
And then come sickness, old age, disease, death. Is it over now? No, no, no!
We will raise one stone more when we get into the river, we will shout Ebenezer there: ‘hitherto the Lord hath helped us,’ for there is more to come. An awakening in His likeness, climbing of starry spheres, harps, songs, palms, white raiment, the face of Jesus, the society of saints, the glory of God, the fullness of eternity, the infinity of bliss.
Yes, as sure as God has helped so far as today, He will help us to the close. ‘I will never leave thee, I will never forsake thee; I have been with thee, and I will be with thee to the end.’
Courage, brethren, then. And as we pile the stones, saying, ‘Hitherto the Lord hath helped us,’ let us just gird up the loins of our mind, and be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be revealed in us, for as it has been, so it shall be world without end.”
–Charles H. Spurgeon, “Ebenezer!” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons (vol. 9; London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1863), 166–167. Spurgeon preached this sermon on 1 Samuel 7:12 on March 15, 1863, at the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London, England.