Look not on me, because I am black, because the sun has looked on me: my mother's children were angry with me…
I. THE FAIREST CHRISTIANS ARE THE MOST SHAMEFACED WITH REGARD TO THEMSELVES. The person who says, "Look not upon me, because I am black," is described by some one else in the eighth verse as the "fairest among women." Others, who thought her the fairest of the fair, spoke no less than the truth when they affirmed it; but in her own esteem she felt herself to be so little fair, and so much uncomely, that she besought them not even to look upon her. Why is it that the best Christians depreciate themselves the most? Is it not because they are most accustomed to look within? They keep their books in a better condition than those unsafe tradesmen, the counterpart of mere professors, who think themselves "rich and increased in goods," when they are on the very verge of bankruptcy. In his anxiety to be pure from evil, the godly man will be eager to notice and quick to detect the least particle of defilement; and for this reason he discovers more of his blackness than any other man is likely to see. He is no blacker, but he looks more narrowly, and therefore he sees more distinctly the spots on his own character. The genuine Christian also tries himself by a higher standard. He knows the law to be spiritual, and therefore he judges many things to be sinful which others wink at; and he counts some things to be important duties which others regard as trifles. The genuine Christian sets up no lower standard than perfection. He does not judge himself by others, but by the exact measure of the Divine requirements, by the law of God, and especially by the example of his Lord and Master; and when he thus sets the brightness of the Saviour's character side by side with his own, then it is that he cries out, Look not upon me, for I am black. Another reason why the fairest Christians are generally those that think themselves the blackest, is that they have more light. When the light of God comes into the soul, and we see what purity really is, what holiness really is, then it is the contrast strikes us. Though we might have thought we were somewhat clean before, when we see God in His light we see light, and we abhor ourselves in dust and ashes. Our defects so appal our own heart, that we marvel they do not exhaust His patience. The better Christian a man is, the more abashed he always feels; because to him sin is so exceedingly hateful, that what sin he sees in himself he loathes himself for far more than others do. A very little sin, as the world calls it, is a very great sin to a truly awakened Christian. Now, I think our text seems to say just this: there were some that admired, the Church. They said she was fair. She seemed to say, "Don t say it; you don t know what I am, or you would not praise me. Every Christian, in pro portion as he lives near to God, will feel this self-abasement, this lowliness of heart; and if others talk of admiring or of imitating him, he will say, "Look not upon me, for I am black." And as he thus, in deep humility, begs that he be not exalted, he will often, desire others that they would not despise him." It will come into his mind, Such and such a man of God is a Christian indeed; as he sees my weakness, he will contemn me. Such-and such a disciple of Christ is strong; he will never be able to bear with my weakness. Such and such a Christian woman does, indeed, adorn the doctrine of God her Saviour; but as for me, alas! I am not what I ought to be, nor what I would be. Children of God, do not look upon me with scorn. I will not say that you have motes in your own eyes. I have a beam in mine. Look not upon me too severely. Judge me not harshly. If you do look at me, look to Christ for me, and pray that I may be helped; "for I am black, because the sun hath looked upon me."
II. THE MOST DILIGENT CHRISTIAN WILL BE THE MAN MOST AFRAID OF THE EVILS CONNECTED WITH HIS WORK. "Evils connected with his work!" says one. "Does work for God have evils contingent upon it?" Yes; but for every evil connected with the work of God, there are ten evils connected with idleness. I speak now only to the workers. I have known some whom the sun has looked upon in this respect; their zeal has grown cold through non-success. You went out, first of all, as a Christian, full of fire and life. You intended to push the Church before you, and drag the world after you. But you have been mixed up with Christians for some years of a very cool sort. Use the thermometer to-night. Has not the spiritual temperature gone down in your own soul? Perhaps you have not seen, many conversions under your ministry? or in the class which you conduct you have not seen many children brought to Jesus? Do you feel you are getting cool? Then wrap your face in your mantle to-night, and say "Look not upon me, for in losing my zeal I am black, for the sun hath looked upon me." Perhaps it has affected you in another way, for the sun does not bring freckles out on all faces in the same place. Perhaps it is your temper that is grown sour? Sometimes this evil of sun-burning will come in the shape of joy taken away from the heart by weariness. I do not think any of us are weary of God's work. If so, we never were called to it. But we may get weary in it. The toil is more irksome when the spirits are less buoyant. Well, I would advise you to confess this before God, and ask for a medicine to heal you. You had need get your joy back, but first you must acknowledge that you have lost it. Say, "I am black, because the sun hath looked upon me."
III. THE MOST WATCHFUL CHRISTIAN IS CONSCIOUS OF THE DANGER OF SELF-NEGLECT. "They made me the keeper of the vineyards; but mine own vineyard have I not kept." Solemnly, let me speak again to my brethren who are seeking to glorify Christ by their lives. I met some time ago with a sermon by that famous divine, Mr. Henry Melvill, which consists all through of one solitary thought, and one only image well worked out. He supposes a man to be a guide in Switzerland. It is his duty to conduct travellers in that country through the sublime passes, and to point out to them the glories of the scenery, and the beauties of the lakes, and streams, and glaciers, and hills. This man, as he continues In his office, almost inevitably gets. to repeat his descriptions as a matter of course; and everybody knows how a guide at last comes to "talk book," and just iterate words which do not awaken any corresponding feeling in his own mind. Yet when he began, perhaps it was a sincere love of the sublime and the beautiful that led him to take up the avocation of a guide; and at first it really was to him a luxury to impart to others what he had felt amidst the glories of nature; but as, year after year, to hundreds of different parties, he had to repeat much the same descriptions, call attention to the same sublimities, and indicate the same beauties, it is almost impossible but that he should get to be at last a mere machine. Through the hardening tendency of custom, and the debasing influence of gain, his aptest descriptions and most exquisite eulogies come to be of no greater account than the mere language of a hireling. Every worker for Christ is deeply concerned in the application of this parable; because the peril of self-complacency increases in precisely the same ratio as the zeal of proselytizing. When counselling others, you think yourself wise. When warning others, you feel yourself safe. When judging others, you suppose yourself above suspicion. You began the work with a flush of ardour; it may be with a fever of enthusiasm; a sacred instinct prompted, a glowing passion moved you. How will you continue it? Here is the danger — the fearful danger — lest you do it mechanically, fall into a monotony, continue in the same train, and use holy words to others with no corresponding feeling in your own soul.
IV. THE MOST CONSCIENTIOUS CHRISTIAN WILL BE THE FIRST TO INQUIRE FOR THE ANTIDOTE, AND TO USE THE CURE. What is the cure? The cure is found in the verse next to my text. See, then, you workers, if you want to keep up your freshness, and not to get blackened by the sun under which you labour, go to your Lord again — go and talk to — Him. Address Him again by that dear name, "Thou whom my soul loveth." Ask to have your first love rekindled; strive after the love of your espousals. Oh, to be always full of love to Him! You will never get any hurt by working for Him then; your work will do you good. The sweat of labour will even make your face the fairer. The more you do for souls, the purer, and the holier, and the more Christlike will you he, if you do it with Him. Keep up the habit of sitting at His feet, like Mary, as well as serving Him with Martha. You can keep the two together; they will balance each other, and you shall not be barren or unfruitful, neither shall you fall into the blackness which the sun is apt to breed.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Look not upon me, because I am black, because the sun hath looked upon me: my mother's children were angry with me; they made me the keeper of the vineyards; but mine own vineyard have I not kept.