Giving a drink to a corpse.

I recently stumbled upon this quote that I just have to share with you. I’ve been making my way through Charles Spurgeon’s classic book, The Saint and His Saviour: The Progress of the Soul the Knowledge of Jesus. This lengthy volume of meditations from the “Prince of Preachers” is loaded with passages that speak to the assorted experience that await the soul whose faith is in Jesus. Of particular value are, of course, Spurgeon’s words to the afflicted soul. At the close of one chapter, Spurgeon furnishes his thoughts by excerpting a passage from 17th century Anglican churchman, William Gurnall. This quote is especially evocative, hitting the nerves of those who are enduring adverse circumstances. Gurnall writes:

Promises are like the clothes we wear. If there be heat in the body to warm them, they warm us, but if there be none, they give none. So where there is living faith, the promise will afford warm comfort; but on a dead, unbelieving heart, it lies cold and ineffectual: it has no more effect than pouring a cordial down the throat of a corpse. Again, the promises do not throw out comfort as fire throws out heat; for then we should only need to go to them in order to be warmed: their heat is like the fire in the flint, which must be struck out by force, and this force can only be applied by faith.1

This paragraph is striking. Is it any wonder that during seasons of grief and suffering we aren’t uplifted? Could it be that we are giving a drink to a corpse? Indeed, the promises of Scripture furnish no comfort where there is no faith. If there is not first repentant belief in the Christ of reconciliation, there will not be found abundant solace in the heat of suffering. I have often wondered how those who don’t know Jesus persevere when trial strikes. I still wonder. When trouble comes and I am cast down, I wince to believe that there is a Sovereign over it all. But I shudder to think how that troubling circumstance could ever be navigated without a belief in that Sovereign.

So, if there is belief, the promises of God’s Word run down the throat of a parched sufferer. If there is no belief, God’s promises are a drink which runs down “the throat of a corpse.” Which is a vivid reminder to ask ourselves: Do I know this Jesus? Is my comfort in calamity found in the Christ of salvation? Are his promises “like cold water to a parched throat”? (Prv 25:25) I pray you have that assurance and solace no matter what your present situation. Soli Deo Gloria. Amen.


William Gurnall, quoted in Charles Spurgeon, The Saint and His Saviour: The Progress of the Soul the Knowledge of Jesus (Houston: Christian Focus, 1989), 381–82.