Sermon Introductions: A Weaned Child (Spurgeon)
Spurgeon took his text from Psalm 131:2:
But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me.
When I first read the text, I did not immediately gain the meaning of the simile. While for some it may immediately make sense, for others the image could be disorienting at first. Thus Spurgeon has the task of unpacking the image.
Second, Spurgeon must also draw a line from the text to the life of the hearer — why should I desire to have such a soul? What is the advantage of such a heart?
Third, he will need to draw a line from one’s present trouble to the blessing promised in the text. This is perhaps the most common failing of a exegetical preacher: he may expertly explain some facet of the text and even tell the hearer that the end to be obtained — but without explanation of the relationship between means and ends, the end serves only to distress and discourage the hearer.
The Bible never lays out demands without also explaining the means. Moreover, it never lays out the means without sympathy for one’s affections. Yes, many — perhaps most — preachers fail to see and convey the logical and affections in right tandem. But, and this is a great part of his genius, this was not a fault of Spurgeon.
Here is the introductory paragraph of Spurgeon’s sermon, “The Weaned Child”. Note how Spurgeon both sets out the need for the text, and the beauty of the metaphor — but he does so in a way that draws it out in sympathy with the weakness of our flesh [I have broken it out into multiple paragraphs for ease of reading]:
I was once conversing with a very excellent aged minister, and while we were talking about our frames and feelings, he made the following confession: he said, “When I read that passage in the psalm, ‘My soul is even as a weaned child,’ I wish it were true of me, [note how he draws the need -- not by telling us that we need this, but in showing us a representative man who expresses his desire & need] but I think I should have to make an alteration of one syllable, and then it would exactly describe me at times, ‘My soul is even as a weaning rather than a weaned child,’ for, said he, “with the infirmities of old age, I fear I get fretful and peevish, and anxious, and when the day is over I do not feel that I have been in so calm, resigned, and trustful a frame of mind as I could desire.”
I suppose, dear brethren, that frequently we have to make the same confession. [This is a technique which Spurgeon uses often: he makes a particular statement -- here the wish of the particular minister -- and raises it to a general proposition in which we share] We wish we were like a weaned child, but we find ourselves neglecting to walk by faith, and getting into the way of walking by the sight of our eyes, and then we get like the weaning child which is fretting and worrying, and unrestful, and who causes trouble to those round about it, and most of all, trouble to itself. [Here is sympathy with our weakness. Spurgeon does not treat his hearer as a freak or fraud because holiness seems foreign to our flesh. The Lord showed excellent patience with the weak -- it was the surehearted, confident types that he gave his sharpest rebukes.]
Weaning was one of the first real troubles that we met with after we came into this world, and it was at the time a very terrible one to our little hearts. We got over it somehow or other. We do not remember now what a trial it was to us, but we may take it as a type of all troubles; for if we have faith in him who was our God from our mother’s breasts, as we got over the weaning, and do not even recollect it, so we shall get over all the troubles that are to come, and shall scarcely remember them for the joy that will follow. [He again draws out the meaning of the text, the need for its truth, and the sympathy for our weakness. A poor preacher will tell say, "You need to know this." Spurgeon here has drawn out the affections and thought, and one says, "I need to know this." That is why so many Sunday sermons are forgotten in the lobby and we still read these words a hundred and some years later.]
If, indeed, Dr. Watts be correct in saying that when we get to heaven we shall “recount the labors of our feet,” then, I am quite sure that we shall only do it, as he says, “with transporting joy.” There, at least, we shall each one be as a weaned child.