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The Great Assize
Delivered on Lord's Day Evening, August 25th, 1872, by
C. H. SPURGEON,
At the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington
"For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that everyone may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad." 2 Corinthians 5:10 .
THIS MORNING WE preached concerning the resurrection of the dead, and it seems consistent with order to carry forward our thoughts this evening, to that which follows immediately after the resurrection, namely: THE GENERAL JUDGMENT; for the dead rise on purpose that they may be judged in their bodies. The Resurrection is the immediate prelude to the Judgment. There is no need that I try to prove to you from Scripture that there will be a general judgment, for the Word of God abounds with proof-passages. You have them in the Old Testament. You find David anticipating that great assize in the Psalms (especially in such as the forty-ninth and fiftieth, the ninety-sixth Psalm, and the three that follow it), FOR MOST ASSUREDLY THE LORD COMETH: HE COMETH TO JUDGE THE EARTH IN RIGHTEOUSNESS. Very solemnly and very tenderly does Solomon in the Ecclesiastes warn the young man, that, let him rejoice as he may and cheer his heart in the days of his youth, for all these things God will bring him into judgment; for God will judge every secret thing. Daniel in the night visions beholds the Son of Man coming with the clouds of heaven, and drawing near to the Ancient of Days; then he sits upon the throne of judgment AND THE NATIONS ARE GATHERED BEFORE HIM. It was no new doctrine to the Jews; it was received and accepted by them as a most certain fact that there would be a day in which God would judge the earth in righteousness. The New Testament is very express. The twenty-fifth of Matthew, which we read to you just now, contains language, which could not possibly be more clear and definite, from the lips of the Saviour himself. He is the faithful witness, and cannot lie. You are told that before him will be gathered ALL NATIONS, and he shall divide them the one from the other, as the shepherd divideth the sheep from the goats. Other passages there are in abundance, as, for instance, the one that is now before us, which is plain enough. Another we might quote is in the second epistle to the Thessalonians, the first chapter, from the seventh to the tenth verse. Let Us read it, " And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power; when he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day." The book of the Revelation is very graphic in its depicting that last general judgment. Turn to the twentieth chapter, at the eleventh and twelfth verses. The seer of Patmos says, " And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works." Time would fail me to refer you to all the Scriptures. It is asserted over and over again by the Holy Spirit, whose Word is truth, that THERE WILL BE A JUDGMENT OF THE QUICK AND OF THE DEAD.
Beside that direct testimony, it should be remembered there is a convincing argument that so it must needs be, from the very fact that God is just as the Ruler over men. In all human governments there must he an assize held. Government cannot be conducted without its days of session and of trial, and, inasmuch as there is evidently sin and evil in this world, it might fairly be anticipated that there would be a time when God will go on circuit, and when he will call the prisoners before him, and the guilty shall receive their condemnation. Judge for yourselves: is this present state the conclusion of all things? If so, what evidence would you adduce of the divine justice, in the teeth of the fact that the best of men are often in this world the poorest and the most afflicted, while the worst of men acquire wealth, practice oppression, and receive homage from the crowd? Who are they that ride in the high places of the earth? Are they not those, great transgressors, who "wade through slaughter to a throne and shut the gates of mercy on mankind"? Where are the servants of God? They are in obscurity and suffering full often. Do they not sit like Job among the ashes, subjects of little pity, objects of much upbraiding? And where are the enemies of God? Do not many of them wear purple and fine linen and fare sumptuously every day? If there be no hereafter, then Dives has the best of it; and the selfish man who fears not God, is after all, the wisest of men and more to be commended than his fellows. But it cannot be so. Our common sense revolts against the thought. There must be another state in which these anomalies will all be rectified. "If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most miserable," says the apostle. The best of men were driven to the worst of straits in those persecuting times for being God's servants. How say ye then, "Finis coronat opus," the end crowns the work? That cannot be the final issue of life, or justice itself were frustrated. There must be a restitution for those who suffer unjustly: there must be a punishment for the wicked and the oppressor.
Not only may this be affirmed from a general sense of justice, but there is in the conscience of most men, if not of all, an assent to this fact. As an old Puritan says, "God holds a petty session in every man's conscience, which is the earnest of the assize which he will hold by and by; for almost all men judge themselves, and their conscience knows this to be wrong and that to be right. I say 'almost all,' for there seems to be in this generation a race of men who have so stultified their conscience that the spark appears to have gone out, and they put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter. The lie they seem to approve, but the truth they do not recognize. But let conscience alone and do not stultify her, and you shall find her bearing witness that there is a Judge of all the earth who must do right." Now this is peculiarly the case when conscience is allowed full play. Men who are busy about their work or entertained with their pleasures, often keep their consciences quiet. As John Bunyan puts it, they shut up Mr Conscience; they blind his windows; they barricade his doors; and as for the great bell on the top of the house, which the old gentleman was wont to ring, they cut the rope of it, so that he cannot get at it, for they do not wish him to disturb the town of Man-soul. But when death comes, it often happens that Mr. Conscience escapes from his prison-house, and then, I warrant you, he will make such a din that there is not a sleeping head in all Man-soul. He will cry out and avenge himself for his constrained silence, and make the man know that there is a something within him not quite dead, which cries out still for justice, and that sin cannot go unchastised. There must be a judgment, then. Scripture asserts it, that would be enough: but by way of collateral evidence the natural order of things requires it; and conscience attests it.
Now we come to consider what our text says about the Judgment. I pray you, brethren, if I should speak coldly tonight on this momentous truth, or fail to excite your attention and stir your deepest emotions, forgive me, and may God forgive me, for I shall have good reason to ask God's forgiveness, seeing that if ever a topic should arouse the preacher to a zeal for the honor of his Lord and for the welfare of his fellow creatures, and so make him doubly in earnest, it is this. But, then, permit me to say, that, if ever there was a theme quite independent of the speaker, which on its own account alone should command your thoughtfulness, it is that which I now bring before you. I feel no need of oratory or of speech well selected: the bare mention of the fact that such a judgment is impending, and will ere long occur, might well hold you in breathless silence, still the very throbbings of your pulse, and choke the utterance of my lips. The certainty of it, the reality of it, the terrors that accompany it, the impossibility of escaping from it, all appeal to us now and demand our vigilance.
I. Ask ye now, who is it, or who ARE THEY THAT WILL HAVE APPEAR BEFORE THE THRONE OF JUDGMENT? The answer is plain; it admits of no exemption: "We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ." This is very decisive, if there were no other text. We must all appear; that is to say, every one of the human race. We must all appear. And that the godly will not be exempted from this appearance is very clear, for the apostle here is speaking to Christians. He says, "We walk by faith, not by sight. We are confident. We labour" and so on; and then he puts it, "We must all appear." So that, beyond all others, it is certain that all Christians must appear there. The text is quite conclusive upon that point. And if we had not that text, we nave the passage in Matthew, which we have read, in which the sheep are summoned there as certainly as are the goats; and the passage in the Revelation, where all the dead are judged according to the things which are written in the books. They are all there. And if the objection should be raised, "We thought that the sins of the righteous being pardoned, and for ever blotted out, they could never come into judgment," we have only to remind you, beloved, that if they are so pardoned and blotted out, as they undoubtedly are, the righteous have no reason to fear coming into judgment. They are the persons who covet the judgment, and will be able to strand there to receive a public acquittal from the mouth of the great Judge. Who, among us, wishes, as it were, to be smuggled into heaven unlawfully? Who desires to have it said by the damned in hell, "You were never tried, or else you might have been condemned as we were." No, brethren, we have a hope that we can stand the trial. The way of righteousness by Christ Jesus enables us to submit ourselves to the most tremendous tests which even that burning day can bring forth. We are not afraid to be put into the balances. We even desire that day when our faith in Jesus Christ is strong and firm; for we say, "who is he that condemneth?" We can challenge the day of judgment. Who is he that shall lay anything to our charge in that day, or at any other, since Christ hath died and hath risen again?It is needful that the righteous should be there that there may not be any partiality in the matter whatever; that the thing may be all clear and straight, and that the rewards of the righteous may be seen to be, though of grace, yet without any violation of the most rigorous justice. Dear brethren, what a day it will be for the righteous! For some of them were perhaps some here present are lying under some very terrible accusation of which they are perfectly guiltless. All will be cleared up then, and that will be one great blessing of that day. There will be a resurrection of reputations as well as of bodies. Men call the righteous, fools; then shall they shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. They hounded them to death, as not being fit to live. In early ages they laid to the Christians charges of the most terrible character, which I should count it shame to mention. But then they will all be clear; and those of whom the world was not worthy, who were driven and hunted about find made to dwell in the caves of the earth, they shall come forth as worthy ones, and the world shall know her true aristocracy, earth shall own her true nobility. The men whose names she cast out as evil, all then be held in great repute, for they shall stand out clear and transparent without spot or blemish. It is well that there should be a trial for the righteous, for the clearing of them, the vindication of them, and that it should be public, defying the evil and criticism of all mankind.
"We must all appear." What a vast assembly, what a prodigious gathering, that of the entire human race! It struck me as I was meditating upon this subject, what would be the thoughts of Father Adam, as he stood there with Mother Eve and looked upon his offspring. It will be the first time in which he has ever had the opportunity of seeing all his children met together. What a sight will he then behold far stretching, covering all the globe which they inhabit, enough not only to people all earth's plains, but crown her hill-tops, and cover even the ways of the sea, so numberless must the human race have been, if all the generations that have ever lived, or shall ever live, shall at once rise from the dead. Oh, what a sight will that be! Is it too marvelous for our imagination to picture? Yet it is quite certain that the assemblage will be mustered, and the spectacle will he beheld. Every one from before the Flood, from the days of the Patriarchs, from the times of David, from the Babylonian kingdom, all the legions of Assyria, all the hosts of Persia, all the phalanx of the Greeks, all the vast armies and legions of Rome, the barbarian, the Scythian, the bond, the free, men of every color and of every tongue they shall all stand in that great day before the Judgment Seat of Christ. There come the kings no greater than the men they call their slaves. There come the princes but they have doffed their coronets, for they must stand like common flesh and blood. Here come the judges, to be judged themselves, and the advocates and barristers, needing an advocate on their own account. Here come those that thought themselves too good, and kept the street to themselves. There are the Pharisees, hustled by the Publicans on either side and sunk down to the natural level with them. Mark the peasants rising from the soil; see the teeming myriads from outside the great cities streaming in, countless hosts such as no Alexander or Napoleon ever beheld! See how the servant is as great as his master! "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity," are now proclaimed. No kings, no princes, no nobles, can shelter themselves behind their order, assert a privilege or claim an immunity. Alike on one common level they stand together, to be tried before the last tremendous tribunal. There shall come the wicked of every sort. Proud Pharaoh shall be there; Senacherib, the haughty; Herod, that would have slain the young child; Judas, that betrayed his master; Demas, that sold him for gold; and Pilate, who would fain have washed his hands in innocency. There shall come the long list of infallibles, the whole line of popes, to receive their damnation at the Almighty's hands, and the priests that trod upon the necks of nations, and the tyrants that used the priests as their tools they shall come to receive the thunderbolts of God which they so richly deserve. Oh, what a scene will it be! These little companies, which look to us so large when they are gathered together beneath this roof, how do they shrink into the drop of a bucket as compared with the ocean of life that shall swell around the throne at the last great Judgment day. They shall all be there.
Now, the most important thought connected with this to me, is that I shall be there; to you young men, that you will be there; to you, ye aged of every sort, that you, in propria personae each one shall be there. Are you rich? Your dainty dress shall be put off. Are you poor? Your rags shall not exempt you from attendance at that court. None shall say I am too obscure." You must come up from that hiding place. None shall say, "I am too public." You must come down from that pedestal. Everyone must be there. Note the word "We", "We must all appear."
And still further, note the word, "appear." " We must all appear." No disguise will be possible. Ye cannot come there dressed in masquerade of profession or attired in robes of state, but we must appear; we must be seen through, must be displayed, must be revealed; off will come your garments, and your spirit will be judged of God, not after appearance, but according to the inward heart. Oh, what a day that will be when every man shall see himself, and every man shall see his, fellow, and the eyes of angels and the eyes of devils, and the eyes of God upon the throne, shall see us through and through. Let these thoughts dwell upon your minds, while you take this for the answer to our first enquiry, "Who is to be judged?"
II. Our second question is, Who will be the judge? "We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ." That Christ should be appointed judge of all mankind is most proper and fitting. Our British law ordains that a man shall be tried by his peers, and there is justice in the statute. Now the Lord God will judge men, but at the same time it will be in the person of Jesus Christ the man. Men shall be judged by a man. He that was once judged by men shall judge men. Jesus knows what man should be; he has been under the law himself in deep humility, who is ordained to administer the law in high authority. He can hold the scales of justice evenly, for he has stood in man's place and borne and braved man's temptations; he therefore is the most fit judge that could be selected. I have sometimes heard and read sermons in which the preacher said that a Christian ought to rejoice that his judge is his friend. There may be no impropriety intended, still it seems to me rather a questionable suggestion. I should not like to put it use that way myself; because any judge that was partial to his friends when he sat on the judgment seat would deserve to come off the seat immediately. As a judge I expect no favoritism from Christ. I expect when he sits there he will deal out even-handed justice to all. I cannot see how it is right for any minister to hold it forth that we should find encouragement in the judge being our friend. Friend or no friend, we shall go in for a fair trial every one of us, and Christ will not be a respecter of persons. Of him whom God has appointed to judge the world, it shall not be said when the assize is over that he winked at the crimes of some and extenuated them, while he searched out the faults of others and convicted them. He will be fair and upright throughout. He is our friend, I grant you, and he will be our friend and Saviour for ever; but, as a judge, we must keep to the thought, and believe and maintain it that he will be impartial to all the sons of men. You will have a fair trial, man. He that will judge you will not take sides against you. We have sometimes thought that men have been shielded from the punishment they deserved, because they were of a certain clerical profession, or because they occupied a certain official position. A poor labourer who kills his wife shall be hanged, but when another matt of superior station does the like deed of violence, and stains his hands with the blood of her whom he had vowed to love and cherish, the capital sentence shall not be executed upon him. Everywhere we see in the world that with the best intentions justice somehow or other does squint a little. Even in this country there is just the slightest possible turning of the scale, and God grant that may be cured ere long. I do not think it is intentional; and I hope the nation will not long have to complain about it. There ought to be the same justice for the poorest beggar that crawls into a casual ward, as for his Lordship that owns the broadest acres in all England. Before the law, at least, all men ought to stand equal. So shall it be with the Judge of all the earth. Fiat justia, ruat coelum. Christ will by all means hold the scales even. Thou shalt have a fair trial and a full trial, too. There shall be no concealment of anything in thy favour, and no, keeping back of anything against thee. No witnesses shall be borne across the sea to keep them out of the way. They shall all be there, and all testimony shall be there, and all that is wanted to condemn or to acquit shall be produced in full court at that trial, and hence it will be a final trial. From that court there will be no appeal. If Christ, saith " Cursed!" cursed must they be for ever. If Christ saith "Blessed!", blessed shall they be for aye. Well, this is what we have to expect then, to stand before the throne of the man Christ Jesus the Son of God, and there to be judged.
III. Now the third point is, WHAT WILL BE RULE OF JUDGEMENT? The text says that "every one may receive the things done in his body according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad." Then it would appear that our actions will be taken in evidence at the last. Not our profession, not our boastings, but our actions will be taken in evidence at the last, and every man shall receive according to what he hath done in the body. That implies that everything done by us in this body will be known. It is all recorded; it will be all brought to light. Hence, in that day every secret sin will be published. What was done in the chamber, what was hidden by the darkness, shall be published as upon the housetop every secret thing. With great care you have concealed it, most dexterously you have covered it up; but it shall be brought out to your own astonishment to form a part of your judgment. There, hypocritical actions as well as secret sins will be laid bare. The Pharisee who devoured the widow's house and made a long prayer, will find that widow's house brought against him, and the long prayer too; for the long prayer will then be understood as having been a long lie against God from beginning to end. Oh, how fine we can make some things look With the aid of paint and varnish and gilt; but at the last day off will come the varnish and veneer, and the true metal, the real substance, will then be seen.
When it is said that everything that is done in the body will be brought up as evidence against us or for us, remember this includes every omission as well as every commission; for that which is not done that ought to have been done is as greatly sinful as the doing of that which ought not to be done. Did not you notice when we were reading the twenty-fifth chapter of Matthew, how those on the left hand were condemned, not for what they did, but for what they did not do: "I was an hungry, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink." Where would some of you stand, according to this rule, who have lived in neglect of holiness, and neglect of faith, and neglect of repentance, before God all your days? Bethink yourselves, I pray you.
Recollect, too, that all our words will be brought up. For every idle word that man shall speak he will have to give an account. And all our thoughts, too, for these lie at the bottom of our actions and give the true colour to them good or bad. Our motives, our heart sins, especially, our hatred of Christ, our neglect of the gospel, our unbelief all of these shall be read aloud and published unreservedly. "Well," saith one, "who then can be saved?" Ah! indeed, who then can be saved? Let me tell you who will be. There will come forward those who have believed in Jesus, and albeit they have many sins to which they might well plead guilty, they will be able to say, "Great God, thou didst provide for us a substitute, and thou didst say that if we would accept him he should be a substitute for us and take our sins upon himself, and we did accept him and our sins were laid upon him, and we have now no sins; they have been transferred from us to the great Saviour, substitute and sacrifice." And in that day there will be none who can put in a demurrer to that plea: it will hold good; for God has said, "Whosoever believeth on Christ Jesus shall never be condemned." Then will the actions of the righteous, the gracious actions, be brought forth to prove that they had faith. For that faith which never evidences itself by good works is a dead faith and a faith that will never save a soul. Now, if the dying thief were brought up, he would say, "My sins were laid on Jesus." "Ay, but how about your good works? Thou must have some evidence of thy faith," Satan might reply. Then would the recording angel say, "The dying thief said to his fellow thief who was dying with him, 'Wherefore art thou railing? In his last moments he did what he could; he rebuked the thief that was dying with him and made a good confession of his Lord. There was the evidence of the sincerity of his faith." Dear hearer, will there lie any evidence of the sincerity of your faith? If your faith has no evidence before the Lord, what will you do? Suppose you thought you had a faith and went on drinking. Suppose you did as I know some have done here, go straight from this place into the public house? Or suppose you joined the Christian church and remained a drunkard? Ay, and women have done that also as well as men. Suppose you professed to have faith in Christ and yet cheated in your weights and measures and common dealings? Do you think that God will never requite these things at your hands? Oh, sirs, if ye be no better than other men in your conduct, ye are no better than other men in your character, and ye will stand no better than other men in the judgment day. If your actions are not superior to theirs, you may profess what you will about your faith, but you are deceived, and, as deceivers, you will be discovered at the last great day. If grace does not make us differ from other men, it is not the grace which God gives his elect. We are not perfect, but all God's saints keep their eyes on the great standard of perfection, and, with strong desire, aim to walk worthy of their high calling of God and to bring forth works which prove that they love God; and if we have not these signs following faith, or if they are not put in as evidence for us, at the last great day we shall not be able to prove our faith. It will be proof positive that you hated God; for a man must hate God indeed who will spurn his counsels, give no heed to his reproof, scorn his grace, and dare the vengeance of him who points out the way of escape and the path that leadeth to life. He that will not be saved by God's mercy proves that he hates the God of mercy. If God gives his own Son to die and men will not trust in his Son, will not have him as their Saviour, that one sin, if they had no other, would at once prove that they were enemies of God and black at heart. But if thy faith be in Jesus, if thou lovest Jesus, if thy heart goes out to Jesus, if thy life be influenced by Jesus, if thou makest him thy example as well as thy Saviour, there will be evidence thou canst not see it, but there will be evidence in thy favour. For notice those gracious things, when the evidence was brought, and Christ said, "I was an hungry, and ye gave me no meat, thirsty and ye gave me no drink," they said, "O Lord, we never knew this." Should any man stand up here and say, "I have plenty of evidence to prove my faith," I should reply, "Hold your tongue, sir! Hold your tongue! I am afraid you have no faith at all, or you would not be talking about your evidence." But if you are saying, "Oh, I am afraid I have not the evidence that will stand me in good stead at the last," yet if all the while you have been feeding the hungry, and clothing the naked, and doing all you can for Christ, I would tell you not to be afraid. The master will find witnesses to say, "That man relieved me when I was in poverty. He knew I was one of Christ's and he came and helped me." And another will come and say (perhaps it will be an angel), "I saw him when he was alone in his chamber and heard him pray for his enemies." And the Lord will say, "I read his heart when I saw how he put up with rebuke, and slander, and persecution, and would not make any answer for my sake. He did it all as evidence that my grace was in his heart." You will not have to fetch up the witnesses: the judge will call them, for he knows all about your case; and as he calls up the witness, will be surprised to find how even the ungodly will be obliged to consent to the just salvation of the righteous. Oh, how the secret deeds and the true heart-sincerity of the righteous, when thus unveiled, will make devils bite their tongues in wrath to think that there was so much of grace given to the sons of men, with which to defeat persecution, to overcome temptation, and to follow on in obedience to the Lord. Oh yes, the deeds, the deeds, the deeds of men not their prating, not their profession, not their talk, but their deeds (though nobody shall be saved by the merits of his deeds) their deeds shall be the evidence of their grace, or their deeds shall be the evidence of their unbelief; and so, by their works shall they stand before the Lord, or by their world shall they be condemned as evidence and nothing more.
IV. Now the last point is this: What is the object of this judgment? Will sentence of acquittal and condemnation be given, and then the whole thing be over? Far from it. The judgment is with a view to the thereafter "That every man may receive the things done in his body." The Lord will grant unto his people an abundant reward for all that they have done. Not that they deserve any reward, but that God first gave them grace to do good works, then took their good works as evidence of a renewed heart, and then gave them a reward for what they had done. Oh, what a bliss it will be to hear it said, "Well done, good and faithful servant," and to find that you have worked for Christ when nobody knew it, to find that Christ took stock of it all, to you that served the Lord under misrepresentation, to find that the Lord Jesus cleared the chaff away from the wheat, and knew that you were one of his precious ones. For him, then, to say, "Enter into the joy of thy Lord," oh, what a bliss will it be to you.
But to the ungodly how terrible. They are to receive the things that they have done; that is to say, the punishment due, not every man alike, but the greater sinner the greater doom; to the man who sinned against light a greater damnation than to the man who had not the same light, Sodom and Gomorrah their place, Tyre and Sidon their place, and then to Capernaum and Bethsaida their place of more intolerable torment, because they had the Gospel and rejected it so the Lord himself tells us. And the punishment will not only be meted out in proportion to the transgression, but it will be a development of the evil actions done in the evil consequences to be endured, as every man shall eat the fruit of his own ways. Sin, after the natural order, ripens into sorrow. This is not a blind fate, but it is the operation of a divine law, wise and invariable. Oh, how dreadful it will be for the malicious man to have for ever to gnaw his own envious heart, to find his malice come home to him, as birds come home to roost, to hoot for ever in his own soul; for the lustful man to feel lust burning in every vein, which he can never gratify; for the drunkard to have a thirst, which not even a drop of water can allay; for the glutton who has fared sumptuously every day, to be in hunger perpetually; and the soul that has been wrathful to be for ever wrathful, with the fire of wrath for ever burning like a volcano in his soul; and the rebel against God for ever a rebel, cursing God whom he cannot touch, and finding his curses come back upon himself.
There is no punishment worse than for a man who is sinfully disposed to gratify his lusts, to satiate his bad propensities, and to multiply and fatten his vices. Only let men grow into what they would be, and then see what they would be like! Take away the policemen in some parts of London, and give the people plenty of money, and let their do just as they like. Last Saturday, it might be, there were half-a-dozen broken heads, and wives and children were in one general skirmish. Keep those people together: let their vigor continue unimpaired by age or decay, while they keep on developing their characters. Why, they would be worse than a herd of tigers! Let them give way to their rage and anger, with nothing to check their passions; let miserly, greedy people for ever go on with their greed. It makes them miserable here, but let these things be indulged in for ever, and what worse hell do you want? Oh, sin is hell and holiness is heaven. Men will receive the things done in their body. If God has made them to love him, they shall go on to love him; if God has made them trust him, they shall go on to trust in him; if God has made them to be like Christ, they shall go on to be like Christ, and they shall receive the things done in their body as a reward; but if a man has lived in sin, "he that is filthy shall be filthy still"; he that has been unbelieving shall be unbelieving still. This, then, shall be the worm that never dieth, and the fire which never shall be quenched, to which shall be added the wrath of God forever and ever. Oh, that we may have grace every one of us to flee to Christ! There is our only safety. Simple faith in Jesus is the basis for the character which will evidence at last that you are chosen of God. A simple belief in the merit of the Lord Jesus, wrought in us by the Holy Spirit, is the rock foundation upon which shall he built up, by the same divine hands, the character which shall evidence that the kingdom was prepared for us from before the foundations of the world. God work in us such a character, for Christ's sake. Amen.
PORTION OF SCRIPTURE READ BEFORE SERMON Matthew 25:1-46 .
The Believer A New Creature
Delivered on Sunday Morning, July 18th, 1869, by
C. H. SPURGEON,
At the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington
"Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature." 2 Corinthians 5:17 .
THIS TEXT IS exceedingly full of matter, and might require many treatises, and even multitudes of folios, to bring forth all its meaning. Holy Scripture is notably sententious. Human teachers are given to verbiage; we multiply words to express our meaning, but the Lord is wondrously laconic; he writeth as it were in shorthand, and gives us much in little. One single grain of the precious gold of Scripture may be beaten out into acres of human gold leaf, and spread far and wide. A few books are precious as silver, fewer still are golden; but God's Book hath a bank note in every syllable, and the worth of its sentences it were not possible for mortal intellect to calculate.
We have two great truths here, which would serve us for the subject of meditation for many a day: the believer's position he is "in Christ;" and the believer's character he is a "new creature." Upon both of these we shall speak but briefly this morning, but may God grant that we may find instruction therein.
I. First, then, let us consider THE CHRISTIAN'S POSITION he is said to be "in Christ."
There are three stages of the human soul in connection with Christ: the first is without Christ, this is the state of nature; the next is in Christ, this is the state of grace; the third is with Christ, that is the state of glory.
Without Christ, this is where we all are born and nurtured, and even though we hear the gospel, and the Bible be in all our houses, and even though we use a form of prayer, yet until we are born again, we are without God, without Christ, and strangers from the commonwealth of Israel. A man may stand at the banqueting-table, and may be without food, unless he puts out his hand to grasp that which is provided; and a man may have Christ preached in his hearing every Sabbath-day, and be without Christ, unless he putteth forth the hand of faith to lay hold upon him. It is a most unhappy condition to be without Christ. It is inconvenient to be without gold, it is miserable to be without health, it is deplorable to be without a friend, it is wretched to be without reputation, but to be without Christ is the worst lack in all the world. O that God would make all of us sensible of it who are now the subjects of it, and may we no longer tarry in the position of being without Christ.
The next state is that indicated in the text, "in Christ," of which I will say more by-and-by. "In Christ" leadeth to the third state, which we can never reach without this second one, namely, to be with Christ; to be his companions in the rest which he has attained, all his work and labour done; to be with him in the glory which he has gained, made to see it and to participate in it world without end. To be with Christ is the angels' joy, it is the heaven of heaven, it is the centre of bliss, the sun of paradise. Let us seek after it, and in order that we may have it, let us labour with all our heart and mind to be found in Christ now, that we may be in Christ in the day of his appearing.
Turn we now to the expression itself, "in Christ." I never heard of any persons being in any other man but Christ; we may follow certain leaders, political or religious, but we are never said to be included in them. We may take for ourselves eminent examples and high models of humanity, but no man is said in that respect to be in another. But this is a grand old scriptural phrase in which the disciple and the follower of Christ becomes something more than an imitator of his Lord, and is said to be in his Master. We must interpret this scriptural phrase by scriptural symbols. We were all of us in the first Adam. Adam stood for us. Had Adam kept the command, we had all of us been blessed. He took off the forbidden fruit and fell, and all of us fell in him. Original sin falleth upon us because of the transgression of our covenant head and representative, Adam the first; but all believers are in the same sense in Christ, Adam the second, the only other representative Man before God, the heavenly Man, the Lord from heaven. Now, as in Adam we all fell, so all who are in Christ are in Christ perfectly restored. The obedience of Christ is the obedience of all his people; the atonement of Christ is a propitiation for all his people's sins. In Christ we lived on earth, in Christ we died, in Christ we rose, and he "hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places" in himself. As the apostle tells us that Levi was in the loins of Abraham when Melchisedec met him, so were we in the loins of Christ from before the foundation of the world; faith apprehends that blessed truth, and thus by faith we are experimentally in Christ Jesus.
Noah's Ark was a type of Christ. The animals that were preserved from the deluge passed through the door into the ark, the Lord shut them in, and high above the foaming billows they floated in perfect safety. We are in Christ in the same sense. He is the ark of God provided against the day of judgment. We by faith believe him to be capable of saving us; we come and trust him, we risk our souls with him, believing that there is no risk; we venture on him confident that it is no venture; giving up every other hope or shadow of a hope, we trust in what Jesus did, is doing, and is in himself, and thus he becomes to us our ark, and we are in him.
Another similitude may be taken from the old Jewish law. By God's commands certain cities were provided throughout all Canaan, that an Israelite who should slay his fellow at unawares, might flee there from the avenger of blood. The city of refuge no sooner received the manslayer than he was perfectly free from the avenger who pursued him. Once within the suburbs or through the gate, and the manslayer might breathe safely, the executioner would be kept at bay. In the same sense we are in Christ Jesus. He is God's eternal city of refuge, and we having offended, having slain, as it were, the command of God, flee for our lives and enter within the refuge city, where vengeance cannot reach us, but where we shall be safe world without end.
In the New Testament the Lord Jesus explains this phrase of being in himself in another way. He represents us as being in him as the branch is in the vine. Now, the branch derives all its nourishment, its sap, its vitality, its fruit-bearing power, from the stem with which it is united. It would be of no use that the branch should be placed close to the trunk, it would be of no service even to strap it side by side with the stem, it must be actually in it by a vital union. There must be sap-streams flowing at the proper season into it, life-floods gushing into it from the parent stem; and even so there is a mysterious union between Christ and his people, not to be explained but to be enjoyed, not to be defined but to be experienced, in which the very life of Christ flows into us, and we by the virtue that cometh out of him into us, become like unto him, and bring forth clusters of good fruit unto his honour and unto God's glory. I trust you know what this means, beloved, many of you. May you live in the possession of it daily! May you be one with Jesus, knit to him, united to him never to be separated for ever. As the limb is in the body, even so may you constantly be one with Jesus.
We may be in Christ also as the stone is in the building. The stone is built into the wall and is a part of it. In some of the old Roman walls you can scarcely tell which is the firmer, the cement or the stone, for their cement was so exceedingly strong, that it held the stones together as though they were one mass of rock; and such is the eternal love which binds the saints to Christ. They become one rock, one palace wall, one temple, to the praise and glory of the God who built the fabric. Thus you see what it is to be in Christ: it is to trust him for salvation as Noah trusted the ark; it is to derive real life from him as the branch does from the stem; it is to lean on him, and to be united to him as the stone leans on the foundation and becomes an integral part of the structure.
The phrase "in Christ Jesus," then, has a weight of meaning in it. "How do we come to be there?" saith one. To whom we answer: our union to Christ is practically and experimentally wrought in us by faith when a man giveth himself up to Christ to sink or swim with Christ, when he leaneth his soul wholly on the Beloved, when as for his good works he abhorreth them, and as for his self-righteousness, he counteth it dross and dung, when he clingeth to the sole hope of the cross, then is such a man in Christ. He is further in Christ when he loves Jesus, when the heart having trusted and reposed in the cross, is moved with deep and warm affection to the Crucified, so that the soul clings to Christ, embracing him with fervent love, and Christ becomes the bridegroom, and the heart becomes his spouse, and they are married to one another in a union which no divorce can ever separate. When love and faith come together, then is there a blessedly sweet communion; these two graces become the double channel through which the Holy Spirit's influence flows forth daily, making the Christian to grow up more fully unto Christ Jesus in all things. The riper the Christian becomes, the nearer to the glory, the closer to the perfection which is promised, the more completely will he think and act, and live and move, in Christ his Master, being one with Jesus in all things. I shall not detain you longer over that one matter, every true Christian is in Christ.
II. Now we survey THE BELIEVER'S CHARACTER, for it is said that if any man be in Christ he is a "new creature." This is a great utterance. We shall not attempt to dive into it this were work for a leviathan divine but merely like the swallow, we touch the surface of it with our wing, and away.
What is meant by the Christian being a new creature? Three thoughts seem to me to spring up from the words, and the first is, the believer must then have been the subject of a radical change. He is said to be a new creature, which is of all things a most sweeping change. There are many changes which a man may undergo, but they may be far from being radical enough to be worth calling a new creation. Saul is among the prophets: hear how he prophesies; if they speak with sacred rapture the secrets of God, so doth he. Is not Saul converted the Scripture tells us that God gave him another heart! Ay, another heart, but not a new heart. A man may be changed from one sin to another, from reckless profanity to mocking formality, from daring sin to hypocritical pretension to virtue; but such a change as is very far from being saving, and not at all like the work which is called a new creation. Ahab went and humbled himself after his murder of Naboth, and God turned away His vengeance for awhile from him, but that temporary humiliation of Ahab was no sign of a renewal of his nature; it was like the changes of the sea, which today is smooth, but which anon will be as ravenous after wrecks as ever, being still unchanged in its nature, still voracious and cruel, fickle and unstable. Ahab may humble himself, but he is Ahab still, and as Ahab will he go down into the pit.
Conversion is sometimes described in Scripture as healing; yet the idea of healing does not rise to the radical character of the text. Naaman went down to the Jordan full of leprosy, and he washed himself, and came up, after the seventh immersion, with his flesh clean like unto a little child; but it was the same flesh and the same Naaman, and he was by no means a new creature. The woman, bowed down with infirmity those sad eighteen years, was marvellously changed when she stood upright, as a daughter of Abraham, loosed at last from her bondage; but she was the same woman, and the description does not answer to a new creature. No doubt there are great moral changes wrought in many which are not saving. I have seen a drunkard become sober; I have known persons of debauched habits become regular; and yet their changes have not amounted to regeneration or the new birth. The same sin has been within them, reigning still, though it has assumed a different garb, and used another voice. Ah, ye may be washed from outward leprosies, and ye may be made straight from your visible infirmities, but this will not suffice you; if you are in Christ you must have more than this; for "if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new."
Nor will the most startling changes suffice unless they are total and deep. The Ethiopian might change his skin, the leopard might suddenly lose his spots these would be strange prodigies; but the leopard would remain a leopard, and the Ethiop would still be black at heart; the improvement would not amount to new creation. So may a man give up every outward lust and every crying sin which he was wont to indulge, and yet, unless the change shall go far deeper than the outward life, he is not saved he is not a new creature, and, therefore, he is not in Christ Jesus. I venture to say, that even the metaphor of resurrection, which is often applied to conversion, does not go so far as the language of the text. The young daughter of Jairus is placed upon her bed, and she dies, and our Lord comes and saith to her, "Talitha cumi," and she opens her eyes, she awakes, she lives, she eats," still she is not a new creature; her mother receives her as the selfsame child. Even Lazarus, who has been dead and is supposed through four days of burial to have begun to stink, when he is called from the grave by the voice of Jesus, is the subject of a remarkable miracle, but it scarcely amounts to a new creation. He is the same Lazarus restored, not a new creature, but the same creature vivified from a transient sleep of death. Do you see, then, how very searching the word is here, a "a new creature," absolutely a new creation. It is a root and branch change; not an alteration of the walls only, but of the foundation; not a new figuring of the visible tapestry, but a renewal of the fabric itself. Regeneration is a change of the entire nature from top to bottom in all senses and respects. Such is the new birth, such is it to be in Christ and to be renewed by the Holy Ghost.
The text saith that we are new creatures through being in Christ. How comes that about? We have known persons inveigh very earnestly against the doctrine that men are saved by a simple faith in Jesus Christ. That is the gospel, and nothing else is the gospel, and those who do not preach that truth know nothing of God's gospel at all; for it is the very soul and essence of the gospel the article, as Luther used to say, by which a church stands or falls. We are saved by a simple faith in Jesus, but these people argue against this on the ground that there must be a great moral change in man before he can be reconciled to God and made meet to be with God for ever. But, my brethren, if the text be true, that those who are in Christ are new creatures, what greater change than this can be desired? I know no language, I believe there is none, that can express a greater or more thorough and more radical renewal, than that which is expressed in the term, "a new creature." It is as though the former creature were annihilated and put away, and a something altogether new were formed from the breath of the eternal God, even as in the day when the world sprang out of nothing, and the morning stars sang together over a new-made universe. Such is the fruit of being in Christ, to be a new creature. And what, ye moralists, want ye more than this? What, ye pretenders to perfection, what, ye mystic spiritualists, who strive after a strange holiness to which ye never attain, what, ye that bind heavy burdens upon men's shoulders which ye do not touch with your fingers yourselves, what want ye more than this, for a man to be absolutely made a new creature by being in Christ?
How is this done? We reply that the man who is in the first Adam, being translated into the second Adam, becomes legally a new creature. As in the first Adam he is judged and condemned, his punishment is laid upon his substitute; but as viewed in the second representative Man, he is legally, and before the bar of God's justice, a new creature. But this is not all: he who believes in Christ, finding himself completely pardoned as the result of his faith in the precious blood of Jesus, loves Christ, and loves the God who gave Christ to be his redemption, and that love becomes a master passion. We have all heard of the expulsive power of a new affection; this new affection of love to God coming into the soul, expels love to sin. It enters into the heart of man with such a royal majesty about it that it puts down all his predispositions towards evil, and his prejudices against the Most High, and with a real and divine power it reigns within the soul. I suppose the mode of this great change is somewhat after this sort: The man at first is ignorant of his God; he does not know God to be so loving, so kind, so good as he is; therefore the Holy Spirit shows the man Christ, lets him see the love of God in the person of Christ, and thus illuminates the understanding. Whereas the sinner thought nothing of' God before, or his few stray thoughts were all dark and terrible, now he learns the infinite love of God in the person of Christ, and his understanding gets clearer views of God than it ever had before. Then, in turn, the understanding acts upon the affections. Learning God to be thus good and kind, the heart, which was hard towards God, is softened, and the man loves the gracious Father who gave Jesus to redeem him from his sins. The affections being changed, the whole man is on the way towards a great and radical renewal, for now the emotions find another ruler. The passions, once rabid as vultures at the sight of the carrion of sin, now turn with loathing from iniquity, and are only stirred by holy principle. The convert groweth vehement against evil, as vehement as he once was against the right. Now he longeth and pineth after communion with God as once he longed and pined after sin. The affections, like a rudder, have changed the direction of the emotions, and meanwhile the will, that stubbornest thing of all, that iron sinew, is led in a blessed captivity, wearing silken fetters. The heart wills to do what God wills, yea, it wills to be perfect, for to will is present with us, though how to perform all that we would we find not. See then, beloved friends, how great is the change wrought in us by our being in Christ! It is a thorough and entire change, affecting all the parts, powers, and passions of our manhood. Grace doth not reform us, but re-creates us; it doth not pare away here and there an evil excrescence, but it implants a holy and divine principle which goes to instant war with all indwelling sin, and continues to fight until corruption is subdued, and holiness is enthroned.
I shall only pause to ask this one question do my hearers all know what such a change as this means? Believe me, you must know it personally for yourselves, or you can never enter heaven. Let no man deceive you. That regeneration which is said to be wrought in baptism, is a figment without the shadow of foundation. The sprinkling of an infant makes no change in that child whatever; it is, as I believe, a vain ceremony, not commanded of God, nor warranted in Scripture; and as the Church of England practises it, it is altogether pernicious and superstitious, and if there be any effect following it, it must be an evil effect upon those who wickedly lie unto Almighty God, by promising and vowing that the unconscious shall keep God's commandments, and walk in the same all the days of his life; which they cannot do for the child, inasmuch as they cannot even so do for themselves. Ye must have another regeneration than this, the work not of priestly fingers, with their hocus-pocus and superstitious genuflexions, but the work of the Eternal Spirit, who alone can regenerate the soul, whose office alone it is that can give light to the spiritually blinded eye, and sensation to the spiritually dead heart. Be not misled by the priests of this age. Ye profess to have cast off Rome, cast off her Anglican children. Wear not the rags of her superstition, nor bear her mark in your foreheads. Ye must be born again in another sense than formality can work in you. It must be an inward work, a spiritual work, and only this can save your souls. If any man be in Christ Jesus, he is a new creature, that is, he has experienced a radical change.
Secondly, another thought starts up from the expression in the text. There is divine working here. "A new creature." Creation is the work of God alone. It must be so. If any doubt it, let us bid them make the effort to create the smallest object. The potter places his clay upon the wheel, and shapes it after his own pleasure, he fashions the vase, but he is not the creator of it. The clay was there beforehand, he does but change its shape. Will any man who thinks he can play the creator, produce a single grain of dust? Call now, and see if there be any that will answer thee call unto nothingness, and bid a grain of dust appear at thy bidding. It cannot be. Now, inasmuch as Paul declares the Christian man to be a new creature, it is proven that the Christian man is the work of God, and the work of God alone, "Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God." The inner life of the Christian is the sole work of the Most High, neither can any pretend to put his finger thereto to help the Creator. In creation, who helped God? who poised the clouds for Him? who weighed the hills in scales to aid His skill, or helped Him dig the channels of the sea? Who aided in rolling the stars along? who took a torch to light up the lamps of heaven? With whom took the Almighty counsel, and who instructed him? If there be any that can stand with God in the making of the world, then may some pretend to compare with Him in the conversion of souls, but until that shall be, the new creation is God's sole domain, and in it His attributes, and His attributes alone, shine resplendent. "It is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy." The sovereign will of God creates men heirs of grace.
My brethren, it was more difficult, if such terms are ever applicable to Omnipotence, it was more difficult to create a Christian than to create a world. What was there to begin with when God made the world? There was nothing; but nothing could not stand in God's way it was at least passive. But, my brethren, in our hearts, while there was nothing that could help God, there was much that could and did oppose Him. Our stubborn wills, our deep prejudices, our ingrained love of iniquity, all these, great God, opposed thee, and aimed at thwarting thy designs. There was darkness in the first creation, but that darkness could not obstruct the incoming of light. "Light be!" was the eternal fiat, and light was. But, O great God, how often has thy voice spoken to us and our darkness has refused thy light! We loved darkness rather than light, because our deeds were evil; and it was only when thou didst put on the garments of thine omnipotence, and come forth in the glory of thy strength, that at the last our soul yielded to thy light, and the abysmal darkness of our natural depravity made way for thy celestial radiance. Yes, great God, it was great to make a world, but greater to create a new creature in Christ Jesus.
Chaos there was when God began to fit up this world for man; confusion dire, disorder rampant. But the Spirit of God moved on the face of the deep, and brought order speedily, for chaos could not resist the Spirit. But, alas! the disorder of our soul was stout in resistance to the order of God. We would not have His ways nor yield to His commands; but even as we could we set our faces like a flint against the will and power and majesty of the Eternal. Yet hath He subdued us, yet hath He made us the creatures of His mercy. Unto Him, then, be glory and strength! Unto Him be praise, world without end!
In the creation of the old world God first gave light, and afterwards he created life the life that crept, the life that walked, the life that dived, the life that flew in the midst of heaven. So hath He wrought in our hearts; He hath given us the life that creeps upon the ground in humiliation for sin; the life that walks in service, the life that swims in sacred waters of repentance, the life that flies on the wings of faith in the midst of heaven; and, as God separated the light from the darkness, and the dry land from the sea, so in the new creature He hath separated the old depravity from the new life. He hath given to us a holy and incorruptible life which is for ever separated from, and opposed to, the old natural death; and at last, when the old creation was all but finished, God brought forth man in His own image as the topstone. A like work He will do in us as His new creatures. Having given us light, and life, and order, He will renew in us the image of God. Yea, that image is in every man who is in Christ Jesus at this hour. Though it is not yet complete, the outlines, as it were, are there. The great Sculptor has begun to chisel out the image of Himself in this rough block of human marble; you cannot see all the features, the lineaments divine are not yet apparent; still, because it is in His design, the Master seeth what we see not; He seeth in our unhewn nature His own perfect likeness as it is to be revealed in the day of the revealing of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
Thus, dear brethren, I have tried to show you that the work which wrought in us when we come to be in Christ Jesus, is a divine work, because it is a new creation. I shall pause here again, and say to each hearer, Dost thou know what it is to be under God's hand, and to be wrought by God's workmanship? Strangers to God must be strangers to heaven. Beloved, if you have no more religion than you have worked out in yourself, and no more grace than you have found in your nature, you have none at all. A supernatural work of the Holy Ghost must be wrought in every one of us, if we would see the face of God with acceptance. This change is assuredly wrought in every man that is in Christ Jesus. If thou believest in the Lord Jesus, this work is begun and shall be carried on in thee; but if thou hast nothing about thee but thine own strivings and resolvings, thine own prayings and reformings, thou fallest short of the glory of God, and thou hast not that which will be a passport to the skies. God grant you yet to have it. I pray God His truth may go right through and through your souls like refining fire, and may you not be satisfied unless a true new birth, the work of the living God, be really in your possession even now.
We shall now come to the third point which the singular expression of the text brings up. The expression "a new creature," indicates remarkable freshness. It is very long since this world saw a new creature. If geologists tell true, there have been several series of creatures in different periods of time, and each race has given place to another race of new creatures fresh from creation's mint, new from God's hand. But it is now six thousand years at least, and some of us think many thousand years more, since the day when this last set of creatures came into this world, and started upon the race of life: all the creatures we now see are old and antiquated. The flower which springs from the soil, is the repetition of its like which bloomed five thousand years ago. Yonder meads bedecked with yellow king-cups and fair daisies are the facsimiles of those our sires looked upon three score years ago. As for ourselves, removed by long lines of pedigree from the man whom Jehovah formed in the garden, we by nature show small signs of the undefiled hand and sacred finger. The world is hackneyed and stale and old. Time wearily drags on to its Saturday night, it draws near to the last of its work-days with heavy footsteps. Any new creature coming fresh into the world would startle and amaze us all. What would men give if the Almighty hand would form a novelty in life, and send it among us; and yet, ye Athenian wits, that are for ever seeking after some new thing, the text tells you that there are new creatures upon earth, positive new creations, fruits that have the freshness and bloom of Eden about them, flowers unfaded, life with the dew of its youth upon it; and these new creatures are Christian men; these new creatures fresh from the divine hand, as though just fashioned between the eternal palms, are the men that weep for sin, the inca that confess their iniquity, the men that say, "God be merciful to us, sinners," the men who rest in the blood of the atonement, the men who love Christ Jesus, and live to the glory of the Most High; these are new creatures. There is a freshness about them; they have just come from the hand of God, they enjoy nearness to God, they get to the fountain-head of life, and drink where the crystal stream is cool and clear, and not mudded by long trickling through earthly channels. There is a freshness, I say, about them which is to be found nowhere else. I do believe this, believe it because I have experienced it. This world's a dream, an empty show; there is nothing lasting beneath the stars, everything of seeming joy soon palls upon the mind. Take to study, and ransack all the learned tomes, and your mind will soon be satiated with knowledge. Take to travel, and behold the fairest realms, climb the summits of the Alps, or traverse the valleys with all their picturesque beauty, and you will soon say, "I have exhausted all, I know it, I am weary of it." Follow what pursuit you will, like Solomon you may get to yourself gardens and palaces, singing men and singing women; or you may, if your folly be great enough, give yourself to wine; or if you will, addict yourself to commerce; but of the whole you will say ere long, "Vanity of vanities, all is vanity." The world is but a mirage; it melts, it disappears as the traveller passes on, and mocks his thirst with the deceptive image of the true. But, beloved, the spiritual life is not so. There is a freshness, a vivacity, a force, an energy, a power about it that never grows stale. He that prayed yesterday with joy, shall pray in fifty years' time, if he be on earth, with the selfsame delight. He that loves his Maker, and feels his heart beat high at the mention of the name of Jesus, shall find as much transport in that name, if he lives to the age of Methuselah, as he doth now. Year by year its sweets grow sweeter, its lights grow brighter, its novelties grow fresher, its joys more joyous, and its exhilarations more intense. We dance yet before the ark. While heart and flesh are failing the spirit gathers new strength, and joy gathers growing force. Let us seek after this new creatureship, this new power, this fresh life, this ever-vigorous youth, that laughs at decrepit earth and worn out time; this new life which counts even sun, and moon, and stars, but dying things, like flickering lamps smoking out their lives for want of oil; while the life divine, since it is fed by God, wears within it a secret immortality which death, and hell, and time, cannot impair.
Now I shall appeal to you again. Do you know anything about this freshness? If you do, you will find that the world does not understand you. A new creature put into this world, would be in a very strange position, from the mere fact of its being a new creature. Believer, you will find that the world does not suit you as it once did. You will be out of your element, pining for another world; for there must needs be a new world to suit a new creature. Do you feel pantings after the new world? God will not give you what He has not taught you to long for, but your cravings and longings are the shadows of the coming mercy. Ask yourselves whether you know these mysteries. If you do not, may the Lord teach you; and if you do, praise and bless his name.
To conclude. This subject leads us to two things. It leads us to self-examination. May I press upon every one to search himself, whether he knoweth what this being made a new creature means! But I will not detain you on this point, lest I weary you on this sultry morning. Pursue practically the exhortation I fail to enlarge upon verbally.
I would lead you to another thought, on which I will dwell for a moment. Our subject excites hope in the Christian. If God has made a new creature of him, which is the greatest work of grace, will he not do the lesser work of grace namely, make the new creature grow up unto perfection? If the Lord has turned you to himself, never be afraid that He will leave you to perish. If He had meant to destroy you, he would not have done this for you. God does not make creatures for annihilation. Chemists tell us that though many things are resolved into their primary gases by fire, yet there is not a particle less matter on the earth today than there was when it was created. No spiritual life that comes from God is ever annihilated. If you have obtained it, it never shall be taken from you it shall be in you a well of water springing up unto everlasting life. If when you were an enemy, God looked upon you in grace, and changed you, and made you what you now are, will He not now that you are reconciled continue to preserve and nurture you till He presents you faultless before His presence with exceeding great joy? The Lord grant it to you.
One other word of hope, and it is this: If salvation be entirely a creation of God, if God alone can work it, what hope this ought to give the most forlorn sinner! Ah! my dear friend, if your salvation rested on you, you might well despair. Chaos, if it remained with thee to make order, order could never be! Darkness, if it were thine to create the light, light could never shine! But God's fiat brings forth order and light. Sinner, if it were for thee to make thyself a saint, and work out thine own salvation alone, thou mightst well despair; but it is God's work, and He can do whatsoever He will. He can instantly dispel thy gloom, He can immediately overcome thine unbelief. He can change thy heart, He can make thee, the greatest of sinners, to become the brightest of saints. Lift up thy heart to Him. He heareth prayer. Heaven's gate is open. Seek, for he that seeketh findeth, and to him that knocketh it shall be opened; and God bless thee, for Christ's sake Amen.
PORTION OF SCRIPTURE READ BEFORE SERMON 1 John 3:1-24 .
Delivered on Sabbath Morning, June 3rd, 1860, by the
REV. C. H. Spurgeon
At Exeter Hall, Strand.
TO THE READERS OF THE PARK STREET PULPIT
MY DEAR BRETHREN,
Incessant labour has so completely wearied me, that I am compelled to retire for a few weeks from active service. The great Master bade his disciples to "go into the desert and rest awhile," and I feel that I should be acting in opposition to the warnings of Providence in my mental and physical frame if I did not seek repose. During my absence I shall continue to address you through the evening sermons, which are richer and more full of doctrinal truth than those of the morning. If the sermons addressed to the mixed assemblies of Exeter Hall have been in any measure profitable to you, I am full well assured that the evening sermons to the church of God will not fail, under the divine blessing, to edify you far more.
I shall hope to write a few lines to you, which will be appended to my weekly sermon, that the links of our communion may not be broken, and that I may have the opportunity of begging your daily prayers. The Lord bless you and preserve you until the day of His appearing.
I am, yours in Jesus,
Clapham, Monday, June 4th, 1860 C. H. Spurgeon.
"And all things are of God." 2 Corinthians 5:18 .
I WOULD HAVE YOU look on this text as being a summary of all the things which we have preached to you these years. It has been my endeavour, constantly and continually, to maintain that salvation is of God's good will, and not of man's free will; that man is nothing, and that Jesus Christ is both Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last. And I think I may truly say, "Now of the things which we have spoken, this is the sum" "all things are of God." And oh my brethren, what a large summary it is! it contains words which grasp the compass of everything that your mind can think upon "all things;" and it proclaims him to whom all things owe their being "God." Grasp this total if you are able, "All things!" What is here omitted? Surely whatsoever the Christian can desire is to be found in those words "all things." But lest even that should not be comprehensive enough, our summary contains a still greater word, one which is supreme over all, inasmuch as all things spring from his loins, and yet he remaineth still the same, as full as ever. "All things are of God." If we be thirsty, here are streams that never can be exhausted. If we be hungry, surely here is bread enough and to spare. If we be poor, here are treasures and riches that are utterly inexhaustible, for here we have all things, and all things in God.
I shall hope this morning to do two things; first, to lay down clearly and distinctly, the doctrine of this sentence, and then secondly, to shew the excellent practical tendency of such doctrine.
I. To begin with THE DOCTRINE ITSELF: "All things are of God." In enlarging upon that doctrine, I shall have need to sub-divide it, taking it first as to what, and then as to how, and then as to why.
"All things are of God!" What is meant here by the term, "all things?" The reply is to be found in the context all things of the new creation are of God. It is not necessary for us to remind you that all the things of the old creation are of God. None but the infidel will ever for a moment affirm, that there is anything which exist, apart from the Creator. We believe that he hath laid the beams of his chambers in the waters, he hath spread out the heavens like a tent to dwell in, the isles have been created by his hand, and the winds still are, as they ever were, under his guidance and control; nothing is, and nothing shall be, but that which he ordains, determines, and supports. Concerning the matter of the new creation, it is wonderful that there ever should have been any controversy. Do we call that man an infidel who should teach that some things of the old creation were of man? What name shall I give to the being who will dare to say that anything in the new creation of grace is of man? Surely if the first be an heresy, the second must be an heresy equally damnable, and perhaps more so. For the one doth but touch the external works of God, while the other thrusts its sacrilegious hand into the internal works of his grace, plucks the brightest jewel from his crown, and treads it in the dust. We hold, and ever must maintain, that all things, without exception, in the new creation, are of God, and of God alone.
"What things?" do you say again. We answer, all things that refer to the new nature all things that refer to our new privileges and to our new actions whatsoever things refer to the new nature are of God. The personal desire after Christ which is found in the sinner's contrite heart is of God. The first new hope which gilds the darkness of the poor benighted mind is of God. The first glimpse of new faith, when that man turns his eye to the Saviour, is of God. The first beginnings of divine love in the soul are of God. Leave men to themselves, and the corruption of their nature may fester, and rot, and breed the fungus of a vile imagination. But the life of God never yet sprung naturally from a dead heart. Whatsoever thing is good in its beginning, as well as in its perfecting, "cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning." Some seem to teach, that man is to take the first step in salvation, and God will take the rest. No, sirs, if man can take the first, he can take the last, and take the whole. If man, dead in trespasses and sins, can quicken himself, he certainly can maintain the life of which he is himself the author. If man, corrupt, debased, and cast away from God, can say, unawakened by grace, "I will repent, I will change my ways and turn to God." and if he can carry out that resolution to himself, and by his own unaided mind, then there is no room for God in salvation at all. Let man have the whole of it, and let him have all the glory. But know thou my hearer, if thou hast but one good thought in thy heart it is of God; if there be a something which says to thee, "Arise and go to thy Father," that voice is God's voice. If thy bowels begin to yearn towards the Father, whom thou hast angered and aggrieved, and if thy feet desire to leave the mountains of sin and vanity, and to tread the right road, it is a Father's hand that draws thee, it is a Saviour's voice that sweetly impels thee to seek his face, for " All things are of God."
Everything moreover with regard to the new nature is of God, not merely as to its first implanting, but as to its subsequent outworking and full development. Has the believer strength it is of God. Does he stand, and is he kept from falling his standing is of God. Is he preserved in the midst of temptation true to his covenant, and does he stand in the day of trial firm to his Master his integrity is of God. There is nothing in him by nature apart from God, which is not vile and deceitful. "In me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing." If there be anything good in my nature, if I have been transformed by the renewing of my mind, if I am regenerate, if I have passed from death unto life, if I have been taken out of the family of Satan, and adopted into the family of God's dear Son, and if I am now no more an heir of wrath, but a child of heaven, then all these things are of God, and in no sense, and in no degree whatever are they of myself.
Still further, as the new nature is of God, so the new privileges of the new nature are all of God; and what are these? Rich and precious assuredly they are. There is pardon, the washing away of all my sins, and who shall say that is not of God? There is justification, the being robed about with a snow-white garment, which shall make me meet to be partaker of the inheritance of the saints in light, and is not that of God? There is sanctification, which cuts out the very root of sin, and treads the old Adam-nature beneath the feet of the new-born babe in Christ; is not that of God? There is the privilege of adoption, which the Father has given to as many as believe on his only begotten Son, that they may have power to become the sons of God. O Lord, surely this adoption is of thee! There is communion, by which through Christ Jesus we have access by one Spirit unto the Father. But whoever dared to think of communion apart from the unspeakable grace of the Most High? I am sure, my brethren, you who have traced the heights, and depths, and lengths, and breadths of covenant mercies and covenant privileges, have never yet met with a single privilege which was not of God. You have walked the broad acres of God's rich grace, but you have not seen there a plant or a flower which was not of his sowing and of his rearing. When you have gone into the treasure house, and have taken down those shoes of iron and of brass, and that helmet of proof, that sword of steel, when you have laid hold upon that crown of eternal life that fadeth not away, you have been constrained joyfully to confess that all these things are of God. You cannot imagine such a thing as a single boon of grace, a single gift of mercy, which is of yourselves and not of God.
Once again, to conclude this summary, all the actions of the new nature are of God. See yonder missionary, leaving house and home, and all the comforts of his native land, to go and do battle for Christ among a people who will scorn him, mistrust his motives, and repay his self-denial with persecution. Do you see him with his life in his hand venturing even unto death? That man, oppressed with fever incidental to the land in which he has come to live, as he lies on his bed, with a melancholy interval for reflection, never repents of the step which he has taken. He recovers strength enough to crawl out beneath a tree and there he stands, and instead of recanting the vows he made of dedication to his Master, he confirms them yet afresh, by once again preaching the Word. He continues to labour until worn out, he commits his body to the earth far from his father-land and the homestead of his native land, a witness against the unbelievers, that God hath sent the gospel to them. Shall we applaud the man? Shall we with clamorous songs sing his praise? Let us give him his meed of tribute; he hath done valiantly. But let us remember that everything in him that was good, was of God. He would have been idle and indifferent, and careless to the souls of men had not God made him what he was. Does the martyr burn at the stake? Does the confessor lie and rot in the dungeon? Does the heroic child of God do battle against the current of his times, and seem to stem the flood with his own strong arm? Are Christians prepared to suffer contumely and scorn, and rebuke and reproof, for Jesus' sake? Surely all these things are of God. Is there a Christian munificent, generous, thoughtful of the woes of others? Is there another mighty in prayer and diligent in service? Can you meet with a third who lives so near to Christ that his face seems to shine with the lustre of Jesus' love, all these things are of God. Set down no virtue to man. Good things are exotics in the human heart. They are not like the weeds which spring up naturally in such poor soil as human hearts are made of, but they are rare choice flowers brought down of the Spirit's hand from above and then planted in this unkindly soil. Oh! let us ever know that anything, we can ever do or feel or think that is right, is of God. My brethren, discard for ever with detestation and abhorrence any doctrine which would lead you to think that any work, or grace, anything just, pure, lovely, or of good report, in man, is of man himself. Depend upon it, though it come to you in the garb of earnestness, and paint its cheeks, and look fair enough to you, it is the harlot of Popery in another dress. Only let such doctrine be pushed to its fair conclusion, and you come at once to salvation by works. Ever stand by the good old Calvinistic banner, the banner which Augustine waved of old, and which Paul handed down to us direct from our master Jesus; and hold, believe, and affirm, never swerving from it, that all things in the new creation are of God.
2. But the second division of the doctrine was to be How! How and in what respect are all things of God? All things in the new creation are of God in the planning. God from before all worlds planned the new creation with as much exactitude and wisdom as he did the old. There are some men who seem to think that God does his work bit by bit; altering and making additions as he goes on. They cannot believe that God had a plan ; they believe that the most ordinary architect on earth has prefigured to himself some idea of what he meant to build, though it were but a mud cottage, but the Most High God, who created the heavens and the earth, when he says, " Behold I make a new heaven and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness," hath no plan but what is left to the caprice of manhood; he is to have no decrees, no purposes, no determinations, but men are to do as they will, and so virtually man is to usurp the place of God, and God is to become the dependant of man. Nay, my brethren, in all the work of salvation, God is the sole and supreme designer. He planned the time when, and the manner how, each of his people should be brought to himself; he did not leave the number of his saved ones to chance, or to what was worse than chance to the depraved will of man; he did not leave the choice of the persons to mere accident, but on the stones of the eternal breastplate of the great High Priest he engraved the names of those he chose. He did not leave so much as one tent-pin, one single line or yard of canvas to be afterwards arranged; the whole of the tabernacle was given by pattern in the holy mount. In the building of the temple of grace every stone was squared and chiselled in the eternal decree, its place ordained and settled, nor shall that stone be dug from its quarry till the hour ordained, nor shall it be placed in any other position than that which God, after the counsel of his own will hath ordained. Everything in the new creation is of God in the planning.
Alas for us, however. if God had simply planned and left the execution to us! Everything in the new creation is of God in the purchase, and of God in the procuring. One price hath bought his people: that price the precious blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. Who contributed so much as a mite to that wealth of treasure which bought our souls? Did he not tread the wine-press alone? Had his people a part in enduring the load, the intolerable load of guilt that overwhelmed our suffering Lord, when he his own self bare our sins in his body on the tree? What arm helped him, or what other foot but his did tread the foeman down? Nay, O Lord! thou hast redeemed us by thy blood; we have not contributed thereto; thou art Alpha and Omega in this, and unto thee be all the honour.
And as it was of God in the planning, and of God in the purchasing, so it is all of God in the applying and bringing of it home to each individual conscience. The cross of Christ is not put up there merely for every man to look at, and then left to chance as to whether men will look or no. There stands the cross free to every soul that lives, but, nevertheless, God has determined that it shall not be neglected. There is a number that no man can number, who shall by all-constraining grace be brought to clasp that cross as the hope of their souls. Jesus shall not die in vain, and that because God will make men willing in the day of his power. They are hardened; he can break their hearts: they are stubborn; he can bend their knees; they will not come; but he can make them come. He hath a key that can wind up the human heart, and make it run at his pleasure. Think not that man is an independent being, so free that God cannot control him; that were to make man God, deify humanity, and undeify the Godhead. Man is free to be responsible, but he is not free from a perpetual bias and inclination to evil. But man is subject to the restraint or the constraint of God. If he doeth right, then it is God's constraint, and not his free-will. When he doeth wrong, God hath left him to himself; but as sure as ever he doeth good, it is because a Master-hand hath got him now. Man by nature is as a wild horse dashing yonder to the precipice; if he be restrained in his course and turn thitherward away from danger, it is because he hath a mighty rider, and one that knows how to pull the bit and guide him as be pleases; and though he kick and plunge, and long to turn away, his rider can pull him up upon his very haunches, and turn him round, and make him go as He wills, and lead him as He pleases. In this matter is it true that all the bringing home of the gospel to the soul of man is of God.
Nor is this all. The works of the new creation are of God, not only in the planning, procuring, and applying, but in the maintaining of them. Leave the Christian to himself to maintain the grace already begun, and he is gone. The candle is alight, but the devil's breath would blow it out. The gas is burning cut the connection between it and the great gasometer, and the light is quenched. The Christian lives, but it is because Christ lives, and because he is one with Christ. O Lord, if thou shouldst cease to send forth the streams of thy grace, thy glorious Church, with all her beauty, must be as a fading flower; all her strength would be fainting weakness, and she herself, though she be as a tower in her glory, must crumble down to the very earth, and lie with the base stones of the valley. All is of grace then, and all of God, in the maintaining.
Still more must it be all of grace in the completing. When you and I shall go up the celestial hills to the gates of Paradise, those last steps shall be of God as much as the first steps. And when we shall stand upon the golden streets, and wear the white robe, I am sure we shall not have a word to sing about free-will, or about self, but our cry will be, "Unto him that loved us and washed us from our sins in his own blood" unto him be all the glory for ever. Men may hold what doctrine they like on earth, they cannot hold any doctrine in heaven but that of free. rich, and sovereign grace. The song never was divided yet, and it never will be. There shall be no selfishness to mar its melody, but every heart shall send forth the same melodious notes of music, and every tongue shall mingle in the same undivided song "Thou hast done it; O Lord, thou hast done it
'Grace all the work shall crown,
Through everlasting days;
It lays in heaven the topmost stone,
And well deserves the praise.'"
3. My third point upon the doctrine was to be the "Why." Why is it that "all things are of God?" How can we clearly see this? I shall use no arguments but such as would be manifest and palpable to us all.
Everything in grace must be of God because we are quite clear there cannot be anything of man. Man is in such a position that there can be nothing of him. Lazarus was laying a corpse in his tomb; he comes forth quickened; the grave clothes are taken from him; he lives, he breathes; do tell me that his resurrection was in part owing to himself? Well, sir, your mind must be strangely deluded indeed. What could that dead man do towards his own. resurrection? Surely it must be a fact in philosophy which might strike every rational man, that that which does not exist, cannot put itself into existence. And so my new nature which did not exist before God gave it to me, could not bring itself into being. And yet you say a dead man makes himself alive, or at least does something towards it. Oh, sir, you cannot mean it; you cannot mean it. To reason with you were ridiculous. You must feel that if a man be dead there is nothing he can do; it must be a work of some superior power that can give him life. So with the sinner dead in sin, what can that sinner do? Unless the Scripture be an exaggeration, unless you are prepared to cast overboard that passage where we are spoken of as being dead in trespasses and sins, I cannot see how you can dream that man is capable of doing anything in the work of grace. He may work when God sets him working, and he will; he may move when God gives him power to move, and move he will then with joyful alacrity, but till then
"How helpless guilty nature lies,
Unconscious of her load,
The heart unchanged can never rise
To happiness and God."
Till the stone shall of itself fly upwards towards the sun, till the sea shall of itself beget fire, and until fire shall by its own nature distil the shower from its own bowels, then and not till then shall depraved humanity breathe goodness within itself. It must be grace; it must be grace alone.
Let me give you another reason why we are quite sure that all things in the work of grace are of God. It is expressly told us that every good gift, and every perfect gift, cometh from above. Now, that word "every " is very comprehensive; it does not exclude a single case. Is there any good gift? I am not told that some good gifts, and some perfect gifts are from above, but every one; and I am quite sure this rule must apply to any good gift you have any good gift in fact, that is in the heart of any man living upon the face of the earth. God were only in part the Father of lights, if there were light streaming from somewhere else; God were only in part the world's benefactor, if there were other fountains out of which the world could draw, and other helpers who could raise up souls to heaven.
Yet again, we are quite certain that all things are of God, because all the glory is God's. Now, if all the glory be God's it stands to reason that the work must have been his; for where the work is, there must be the merit. If man hath done it, man can claim the honour. If I have been my own Saviour, I will claim the honour and the dignity; and nothing but superior force can wrest from me the glory which I deserve. But if God hath done it, and if I must feel that I have been passive in his hands until he made me active, then must I lay all my honours at his feet, and crown him Lord of all. I am quite certain we do not differ here about God's having all the honour, and yet if we should differ about his doing all the work, we might have fair ground on which to dispute his right to take all the glory.
Oh, men and brethren, if I want argument, your own experience shall bear witness. You as Christians are compelled to feel "Thou hast wrought all our works in us." You can say, "We are his workmanship, created of God in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them."Set it down then for a certainty I have tried to explain it as best I can "All things are of God." Grasp every mercy of the covenant, and every blessing of grace, but say that all things in all senses, are wholly and entirely of God, the great giver of all.
II. And now I am proposing in the second part of my subject, briefly, to show THE EXCELLENT TENDENCIES OF THIS DOCTRINE.
There is one thing about the doctrines of the gospel which to my mind always commends them, they always enlist the attention of men, and rouse them to think. If you hear a sermon in which God's grace is magnified, you are perhaps offended you are angry because the doctrinal sentiments are not in keeping with your own carnal pride. For you to be angry is one of the healthiest things that can happen to you. Do not imagine that the sermon has been wasted when it has made you 'Vexed; conceive not that it has been lost upon you when it has made you angry with it. Perhaps there was but that joint of the harness through which the arrow could reach you, namely, your own anger against the truth. I have known many who have frankly confessed, that after they have been to this place, they felt disturbed; they could not sleep. They hated the preacher, and they hated the subject, yet, in about a month's time, they felt they must come again; they disliked it so much they were compelled to hear again of this matter. They could not quite see it, in fact, they would not; they would still hold to their own opinion, but they said within themselves, "I never thought so much about religion in all my life." There is a something in these doctrines that drives right into the soul of man. Other forms of doctrine run off like oil down a slab of marble, but this chisels them, cuts into the very quick. They cannot help feeling there is something here, which if they kick against, it has nevertheless force, and they must ask themselves, "Is the thing true or not?" They cannot be content with buffing it, and making themselves easy; It takes hold of their thinking powers, and wakes them up to enquiry whether these things are so or not. And it is remarkable that wherever the doctrine, that salvation is of God, and God alone, has been revived; it has always happened that God has sent a revival of true religion. To give you a practical illustration on the Continent I have been informed, by many who have had good reason to judge, that the Lutheran church is to a very great extent, fallen from its faith, and becoming Unitarian or Neological and the like, but the Calvinistic churches never, there they stand just the same. There is a salt in these doctrines which preserves truth; there is a savouriness and pungency about them which keeps the constitution of men right. It is a great big sheet anchor; it may seem cumbrous, and in these modern times it may be said to be rather rusty, but in days of storm, that great big bower anchor will have to be thrown out into the sea again. The more I preach the more am I concerned not to give a double testimony about this matter, but to lay it down clearly and distinctly that salvation is of God; that all things, in fact, in the new creation of grace, are of God, and God alone.
And oh! what enthusiasm these truths will stir up in the minds of those who believe them. I have heard them preached by simple, uneducated, unlearned men, and the congregations have been bathed in tears. There has been no stolidness upon the countenances of the hearers. They have heard as if they were hearing the very Word of God and felt the power of it. I have preached during this week in the simplest manner I could these truths to somewhere about twenty or thirty thousand Welsh people in one congregation, and such a sight I never saw, when all as one man they kept crying out, "Aha! Amen! Amen Gogoniant ;" the whole sermon through, carried away with enthusiasm because they heard again the good old truths that Christmas Evans used to thunder out to them, and which the Welsh still bold intact, even though the English may choose to reject and scorn them. There is something in them that would nerve men on to do mighty deeds. Cromwell's sword was so sharp and his arm so strong, because he knew the Lord of hosts and trusted in his mighty power, and believed in God's overcoming grace. This made the Ironsides invincible; there were never such men as they. The Calvinist's arm is always strong; he that is of God and knows not man, he who looks to God's purpose and grace and gives him all the glory, is not a man to bow before a tyrant, or to lick the feet of any being. He knows himself chosen of God, and he stands upright, and yet while standing he is full of a fire, of an enthusiasm that makes him work, and compels him to serve the cause of God and truth.
That, however, perhaps, is but by-the-bye. I have other tendencies to mention concerning this doctrine. The fact, that conversion and salvation are of God, is an humbling truth. It is because of its humbling character that men do not like it. To be told that God must save me if I am saved, and that I am in his hand, as clay is in the hands of the potter, "I do not like it," saith one. Well, I thought you would not; whoever dreamed you would? If you had liked it, perhaps it had not been true; your not liking it is an indirect evidence of its truthfulness. To be told that "he must work all my works in me," who can bring me so low as that? Where is boasting then! It is excluded. By what law? the law of works? No, but by the law of grace. Grace puts its hand on their boasting mouth, and shuts it once for all; and then it takes its hand off from the mouth, and that mouth now does not fear to speak to man, though it trembles at the very thought of taking any honour and glory from God. I must say I am compelled to say that the doctrine which leaves salvation to the creature and tells him that it depends upon himself, is the exaltation of the flesh, and a dishonouring of God. But that which puts in God's hand man, fallen man, and tells man that though he has destroyed himself, yet his salvation must be of God, that doctrine humbles man in the very dust, and then he is just in the right place to receive the grace and mercy of God. It is a humbling doctrine.
Again, this doctrine gives the death-blow to all self-sufficiency. What the Arminian wants to do is to arouse man's activity; what we want to do is to kill it once for all, to show him that he is lost and ruined, and that his activities are not now at all equal to the work of conversion; that he must look upward. They seek to make the man stand up; we seek to bring him down, and make him feel that there he lies in the hand of God, and that his business is to submit himself to God, and cry aloud, "Lord, save, or we perish." We hold that man is never so near grace as when be begins to feel that he can do nothing at all. When he says, "I can pray, I can believe, I can do this, and I can do the other," marks of self-sufficiency and arrogance are on his brow. But when he comes to his knees and cries,
"Oh for this no strength have I,
My strength is at thy feet to lie,"
then we think that God has blessed him, and that the work of grace is in his soul. O sinner! think not that thy own unaided arm can get the victory. Cry unto God, and beg him to take your soul in hand, for you cannot be saved unless he doth it for you. Bless him for the promise which says, "Him that cometh unto me, I will in no wise cast out." Oh ! cry to him, "Lord, draw me by thy grace, that I may run after thee; work all my works in me, and bring me to thyself and save me!" Not to yourself do we bid you look, nor to your prayers, nor to your faith, but to Christ and to his cross, and to that God who is "able to save unto the uttermost them that come unto God by him."
And there is in this doctrine some consolation for the troubled heart. If all things be of God, my soul, let not thy spirit be ruffled and affrighted by the tempest. "All things are of God;" if there were one thing of me, I were a lost man. If you were about to build a great bridge, and would let me have the placing of one stone, you shall build it as you please, and it will fall. Let me have the management of the keystone, and I will undertake that it shall not stand. So if in the work of salvation there is one thing left dependent upon myself, it must all fall; but if everything be guaranteed and settled by Eternal wills and shalls, then it stands fast and rests secure. Oh! joyous thought to the Christian, his soul is safe, he has given himself up into Christ's hand to be kept, and now the keeping rests with Christ, he has surrendered himself to his Lord and Master to be preserved, and now he knows that come what may, Christ is his bluckler and his shield, and nothing will hurt him. because Jesus keeps daily watch and ward, and will preserve him safely to the end. I do not know where our Arminian brethren get their consolation from. I know, if I believed their doctrine, I should be driven to distraction; but believing as I do, that those whom God begins to save, he will completely save, and that there is not a single stone in the entire building that can ever fail or give way, my soul can sing,
"This covenant stands secure,
Though earth's old columns bow;
The strong, the feeble, and the weak
Are one in Jesus now."
I have one more thing to say about this doctrine. It encourages the sinner. Sinner, sinner! come to Jesus; for "all things are of God." You are naked; the robe in which you shall be dressed is of God. You are filthy; the washing is of God. Come, and be washed. But you are unworthy; your worthiness must be of God. Come as you are, and he will cleanse you. You are guilty; your pardon is of God. Come to him, and his pardon shall be freely given. But you say, you are hard-hearted; a new heart is of God. Come to him; he will give you the heart of flesh, and take away the heart of stone. But, you say, "I cannot pray as I would." True prayer is of God; he will pour out upon you the Spirit of supplication. But you say, my very coming must be of God. Ay, blessed be God for that. And, therefore, if now you feel something saying to you, "Let me go and trust in Christ," that is of God. Oh ! come with cheerfulness; for there is nothing wanted of you, everything is of God. Is your heart barren? Fruitfulness is of God. Is your heart stubborn? Obedience is of God. Can you not repent? He is exalted on high to give you repentance. Repentance is of God. Do you say, " I cannot believe?" Faith is of God ; it is one of his unspeakable gifts. But do you say, "I am afraid I shall not be able to persevere! Perseverance is of God. All you are bidden to do is simply to be a receiver. Come with your empty pitcher, and hold it now to the flowing fountain; come with your empty lap, and receive the golden store; come with a hungry mouth to feed, and with thirsty lips to drink. You are asked to do nothing; you are asked to be nothing. Cease from thyself, O man, and begin with God. Leave off now to do, and feel, and be, and come and trust in him who did, and was, and felt for you ; and then afterwards, being saved, you shall begin to be, and to feel, and to act, through a new energy, leading to a new life. To live to Christ, you must first die to yourself. Every hope of mortal nurture must be killed before you can receive a divine hope within you. Come, bruised and mangled, crushed and broken, come and take Christ to be your all in all; and if thou canst not stretch out thine hand of thyself, as indeed thou canst not I speak in my Master's name, in the name of Jesus of Nazareth, by his Spirit's power, believe. It is the duty of God's servants not only to exhort, but with divine authority to command. Man with the withered hand! in the name of Jesus, stretch out thine hand. Thou who hast never believed or repented! "God commandeth all men everywhere to repent." Dost thou receive the command? The power goes with it. Art thou willing to obey it? That will is God's gift: the power is with the will. Believe Christ; trust Christ; take him to be everything, and you are saved; your sins are washed away; you are an heir of paradise, and you may rejoice. Clap your wings ye angels; tune your harps anew ye seraphs, ye redeemed! louder, louder, let your strains of music rise toward heaven. O, ye cherubim and seraphim! sing loud unto his name, of whom, and to whom, and by whom are all things, unto whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
A Solemn Embassy
A Sermon Published on Thursday, February 3rd, 1916. Delivered by C. H. SPURGEON, At the Newington. On Lord's-day Evening, 26th February, 1871.
"Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God." 2 Corinthians 5:20 .
THERE has long been war between man and his Maker. Our federal head, Adam, threw down the gauntlet in the garden of Eden. The trumpet was heard to ring through the glades of Paradise, the trumpet which broke the silence of peace and disturbed the song of praise. From that day forward until now there has been no truce, no treaty between God and man by nature. Man has been at variance with God. His heart has been at enmity towards God. He would not be reconciled to God. Never in the heart of any natural man, unless divine grace has put it there, has a desire to re-establish peace been felt or entertained. If any of you long to be at peace with your Maker, it is because his spirit has made you long for it. Left to yourselves, you would go from conflict to conflict, from struggle to struggle, and perpetuate the encounter, until it ended in your eternal destruction. But though man will not make terms with God, nor sue for peace at his hands, God shows his unwillingness any longer to be at war with man. That he anxiously desires man to be reconciled unto him, he proves by taking the first step. He, himself, sends his ambassadors. He does not invite them from the other party that were grace but he sends ambassadors, and he commands those ambassadors to be very earnest, and to plead with men, to pray them, to beseech them that they would be reconciled to God. I take this to be a sure pledge that there is love in the heart of God. Why, at the very announcement of these tidings, the rebellious sinner's ears should be opened! It were enough to make him say, "I will hearken diligently; I will hear what God the Lord shall speak, for if it be true that he takes the first step towards me, and that he is willing to make up this deadly quarrel, God forbid that I should turn away; I will even now hear and attend to all that God shall speak to my soul. "May he bless the message to you, that you may be reconciled to him without a moment's delay. John Bunyan puts it plainly enough." If a certain king be besieging a town, and he sends out the herald with a trumpet to threaten the inhabitants that, if they do not give up the town, he will hang every man of them, then straightway they come to the walls and give him back a reviling answer; they swear that they will fight it out, and will never surrender to such a tyrant. But if he sends an embassage with a white flag to tell them that, if they will but surrender and yield to their lawful king, he will pardon every one of them, even the very vilest of them will relent." Then, saith honest John, "do they not come trembling over the walls, and throw their gates wide open to receive their gracious monarch." Would that such a result might be accomplished to-night! While I speak of the great grace of this Prince of Peace, who now sends his ambassadors to the rebellious, may some rebel say, "Then I will be at peace with him; I will hold out no longer. So irresistible a love as this has dissolved my heart, resolved my choice, and constrained my allegiance." I. THE AMBASSADORS. Ambassadors are always specially welcome to a people who are engaged in a war which is beyond their strength, when their resources are exhausted, and the peril of defeat is imminent. If some tiny little principality has ventured to rebel against a great empire, when it is absolutely certain that its villages will be consumed, its provinces, ravaged, and that all its power will be crushed, ambassadors are pretty sure to receive a cordial welcome. Ah! man, thou best bid defiance to the King of Heaven, whose power is irresistible; by whom rocks are thrown down; whose voice breaketh the cedars of Lebanon; whose hand controlleth the great deep sea. He it, is who bindeth the clouds with a cord, and girdleth the earth with a belt! Angels that excel in strength cannot stand against him. From the lofty battlements of heaven he hurled down Satan, the great archangel, and the mighty host of rebellious morning stars! How canst thou stand against him; shall the stubble contend with the fire? Shall the potter's vessel resist the rod of iron? What art thou but a moth, easily crushed beneath his finger! The breath is in thy nostrils, and that is not thine own; how then canst thou, poor mortal, contend with him who only hath immortality? With art thou but a moth, easily crushed beneath his finger! Thy breath broken more rapidly than a sear leaf by the wind! How canst thou venture to be at war with one who has heaven and earth at his command, who holds the keys of hell and of death, and who has Tophet as his source of ammunition against thee? Listen to his thunders, and let thy blood curdle! Let his lightning flash, and how art thou amazed! How, then, canst thou stand against the greatness of his power, or endure the terror of his wrath? Happy for thee that terms of peace are proclaimed in your ears. God is willing to cease the warfare; he would not have thee be his adversary. Wilt thou not gladly accept what he proposeth to thee? Never, surely, was war more charged with disaster than that into which thou hast madly rushed. An ambassador is likewise always welcome to those who are labouring under a few of total and speedy destruction. If none of you are in that plight, I remember when I was, when I thought every day it was a marvel of mercies that I was kept alive, and wondered as I woke at morn that I was not lifting up my eyes with Dives in hell. Everything about Christ was precious to me then! I think I would have stood in the most crowded chapel, nor would I have been weary had I sat upon the hardest seat; no length of service would have wearied me, might I but have had an inkling that God would peradventure have mercy upon my soul. My eyes were full of tears. My soul was faint with watching, and I would have kissed the feet of any man who would have told me the way of salvation. But, alas! it seemed as if no man cared for my soul, till at last God blessed an humble instrument to give light to his poor dark child. Hence I know that the news of mercy will be exceedingly welcome to you who stand upon the jaws of hell, fearing that the gates will soon be bolted upon you, and that you will be for ever lost. You will be ready to cry like our Methodist friends, "Hallelujah! Glory! Hallelujah! Bless the Lord!" whilst you hear that God still sends an embassage of peace to your soul. And should not the fame of the King increase the zest with which the embassage is received? Comes it not from him who cannot lie! No temporary peace is proposed that may presently be broken, but a peace that shall stand fast for ever and ever. No temporary armistice, no brief interlude between the deeds of battle do we herald. Peace; eternal, unbroken peace; peace that shall endure in life and outlive death; peace which shall endure throughout eternity, we testify and make known to you. II. THE COMMISSION OF PEACE which God has entrusted us to proclaim? The words are concise, the sense is transparent." To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespass unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. "Let us open the commission. It lies in a nutshell." Thus saith the Lord of Hosts, As I live, saith the Lord, I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, but had rather that he should turn unto me and live." "Come now, let us reason together, saith the Lord; though your sins be as scarlet they shall be as wool, though they be red like crimson they shall be whiter than snow. Our commission begins with the announcement that God is love, that he is full of pity and compassion, that he is desirous to receive his creature back, that he willeth to forgive, and that he electeth, if it be consistent with the high attribute of his justice, to accept even the most rebellious, and to put them amongst his children. Our commission goes on to disclose the manner, as well as the motive, of mercy. Inasmuch as God is love, he, in order to remove all difficulties in the way of pardoning rebels, has been pleased to give his only begotten Son that he might stand in the room, place, and stead of those whom God has chosen; their sins he engaged to take; to carry their sorrows, and to make an atonement on their behalf. Thus the justice of God should be satisfied, and his love flow over to the human race. We declare, therefore, that God has given Christ, and he has made it a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that he came into the world to save sinners, even the very chief. Christ, the Son of God, has become man. Cheerfully and willingly he took upon himself our nature; veiled the form of Deity in a humble garb of clay; was born of the Virgin Mary, lived a life of holiness, and died a death of sacrifice. Through this marvellous death of the Man, the God, Christ Jesus, God is at peace with his people. The peace is made already, for he is our peace. God is at peace with every man for whom Jesus died. Jesus Christ stood in the room, place, and steed of his chosen people. Christ was punished for their sins. Justice cannot punish twice for one offense. Christ, the substitute, being punished, the sinner cannot be amenable for his own offences. Those for whom Jesus died go free. The proclamation is that God is willing to be reconciled, that he is reconciled. It is an announcement, not that you may have peace merely, but that peace is made with God by Jesus Christ for you full peace, without condition, not half-made, but wholly made; the penalty being completely paid to the last doit, and the sacrifice completely slaughtered till the last drop of blood had expiated the last offence. Moreover, there is no exception made in my commission to any form of sin unless it be the sin against the Holy Ghost which carries its own evidence as well as its consequence. Those to whom I now speak, if they feel any drawings of heart towards God have not committed that mortal crime. Murder, theft, forgery, felony, fornication, adultery, and covetousness, which is idolatry black and hideous as is the catalogue here is pardon for the whole. Ransack the kennels, however filthy; rake the slums, however odious; drag out the abominations of the age, however degrading; here is pardon not only possible, probable, but positive. Bring a man here who has stained himself crimson all over with every sort of infamy, though it be not the lapse of an hour, but the habit of a life, yet God is still able to forgive. Jesus Christ is able to save to the uttermost them that come unto God by him. III. A VERY SOLEMN DUTY. We are to beseech you as though God did beseech you, and we to do it in Christ's stead. You see God speaks when his ambassadors speak. I wonder, oh! I wonder, whether I have brain enough to compass the thought of how God would beseech you to be reconciled! 'Tis the Father's own self-pleading with his prodigal son. Can you imagine the father in the parable going after his son, and finding him in rags feeding swine? Can you conceive him saying, "My son, my dear son, come back! come back and I will forgive you all!" You think you hear that son saying to his father "Get you gone, I will not hear of it", till his father says "My dear son, why will you prefer the company of swine to your father's house? Why will you wear rags when you might be clothed in the best robe? Why will you starve in a far-off country when my house shall be full of feasting on your return?" What if that son should utter some indignant word, and tell his father to his face he never would go back! Oh! I think I see the venerable, loving man falling on his son's neck and kissing him, in his filth just as he is (for "the great love wherewith he loved us when we were dead in trespasses and sins!") and he says to the rebel that insults him and resents his tenderness, "My dear son, you must come back; I must have you; I cannot be without you. I must have you; come back!" In such a style we ought to plead with men. Ah! then, I cannot plead with you as I would. As though God himself, your offended Maker, came to you now as he did to Adam in the cool of the day, and said to you, "Oh! return to me, for I have loved thee with an everlasting love," even so, as though God spoke, would I woo you, ye chiefest sinners, to return to him. You know, dear friends, that the great God did send another ambassador, and that great ambassador was Christ. Now the Apostle says that we, the ministers, are ambassadors for Christ in Christ's stead. Christ is no more an ambassador; he has gone to heaven; we stand in his stead to the sons of men, not to make peace, but to proclaim it. What! am I then to speak in Christ's stead! But how can I picture my Lord Jesus standing here? Alas, my imagination is not equal to the task. Would that I had sympathy enough with him to put myself in his case so as to use his words. Methinks I see him looking at this great throng as once he looked at the inhabitants of Jerusalem. He turns his head round to these galleries, and about on yonder aisles, and at last he bursts into a flood of tears, saying, "How often would I have gathered thy children together as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not." He is choked with tears, and when he has paused a moment, he cries, "Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest; take my yoke upon you and learn of me, for I am meek and lowly of heart, and ye shall find rest unto your souls; a bruised reed I will not break, nor quench the smoking flax." IV. WHAT THEN? Others there are of you that will not be reconciled. I must have an answer from you. Do you hesitate? Do you delay? Do you refuse? You shall never have another warning, some of you! No tears of pity shall be wept for you again; no loving heart shall ever bid you come to Christ again must have your answer now. Yes or no. Wilt thou be damned or not? Wilt thou be saved or not? I will not have thee say, "When I have a more convenient season I will send for thee." Sinner, it cannot be a more convenient one than this. This is a convenient place; it is God's house. It is a convenient time; it is the Lord's day. Now, sinner, wilt thou be reconciled, restored, forgiven? "Wilt thou be made whole?" said Jesus, and I say the same to thee, "Wilt thou be made whole?" Do you say, "No"? Must I take that for an answer? Mark you, sinner, I have to tell my Master must tell him when I seek the closet of the King to-night; I must tell him your reply that you would not. What then remains for an ambassador to do when he has spoken to you in the name of the Sovereign? If you will not turn, we must shake off the dust of our feet against you. I am clear, I am clear, of the blood of you all, I am clear. If you perish, being warned, you perish wantonly. The wrath cometh upon you, not on him who, to the best of his power, has told his Master's message. Yet again, I beg you to accept it. Do you still say no? The white flag will be pulled down. It has been up long enough. Shall I pull it down, and run up the red flag now? Shall I hurl threatenings at you because you heed not entreaties?
"If your ears refuse The language of his grace, And hearts grow hard like stubborn Jews, That unbelieving race, The Lord in anger drest, Shall lift his trend and swear Ye that despised my promised rest Shall have no portion there."
But no, I cannot pull it down, that white flag! My heart will not let me do so; it shall fly there still, it shall fly there as a sign and a symbol of the day of grace. Mercy is still held out to you. But there is one coming I can hear his footsteps who will pull down that white flag. The vision haunts my eyes. That grim, heartless skeleton whom men call Death will rend the white flag from its place, and up will go the blood-red flag, with the black escutcheon of the thunderbolts. Where are you then, sinners? Where will you be then? You shudder at the thought. He lays his hand on you. There is no escape. Oh! turn ye, turn ye, turn ye! Come and welcome, sinner, come now while you are welcome. 'Tis love invites you. Jesus stretches out his hand to you all the day long. He has stretched out his hands to a rebellious, and a gainsaying generation. Do not say, "I will think of it," but yield to his love who around you now the bands of a man doth cast. Do not make a resolution, but commit yourself to the good confession. Now, even now, may sovereign grace constrain, and irresistible love draw you. May you believe with your heart, may you record your profession at once. Before you close your eyes in sleep, just as you would wish before your eyes are closed in death, may you be at peace with God. I pray God, as I entreat you, that this may come to pass, for his Son, Jesus Christ's sake. Amen.
The Heart of The Gospel
Delivered on Lord's-day Morning, July 18th, 1886, by
C. H. SPURGEON,
At the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington
"Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God. For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him." 2 Corinthians 5:20-21 .
THE heart of the gospel is redemption, and the essence of redemption is the substitutionary sacrifice of Christ. They who preach this truth preach the gospel in whatever else they may be mistaken; but they who preach not the atonement, whatever else they declare, have missed the soul and substance of the divine message. In these days I feel bound to go over again the elementary truths of the Gospel. In peaceful times we may feel free to make excursions into interesting districts of truth which lie far afield; but now we must stay at home, and guard the hearths and homes of the church by defending the first principles of the faith. In this age there have risen up in the church itself men who speak perverse things. There be many that trouble us with their philosophies and novel interpretations, whereby they deny the doctrines they profess to teach, and undermine the faith they are pledged to maintain. It is well that some of us, who know what we believe, and have no secret meanings for our words, should just put our foot down and maintain our standing, holding forth the word of life, and plainly declaring the foundation truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Let me give you a parable. In the days of Nero there was great shortness of food in the city of Rome, although there was abundance of corn to be purchased at Alexandria. A certain man who owned a vessel went down to the sea coast, and there he noticed many hungry people straining their eyes toward the sea, watching for the vessels that were to come from Egypt with corn. When these vessels came to the shore, one by one, the poor people wrung their hands in bitter disappointment, for on board the galleys there was nothing but sand which the tyrant emperor had compelled them to bring for use in the arena. It was infamous cruelty, when men were dying of hunger to command trading vessels to go to and fro, and bring nothing else but sand for gladiatorial shows, when wheat was so greatly needed. Then the merchant whose vessel was moored by the quay said to his shipmaster, "Take thou good heed that thou bring nothing back with thee from Alexandria but corn; and whereas, aforetime thou hast brought in the vessel a measure or two of sand, bring thou not so much as would lie upon a penny this time. Bring thou nothing else, I say, but wheat: for these people are dying, and now we must keep our vessels for this one business of bringing food for them." Alas! I have seen certain mighty galleys of late loaded with nothing but mere sand of philosophy and speculation, and I have said within myself, "Nay, but I will bear nothing in my ship but the revealed truth of God, the bread of life so greatly needed by the people." God grant us this day that our ship may have nothing on board it that may merely gratify the curiosity, or please the taste; but that there may be necessary truths for the salvation of souls. I would have each one of you say: "Well, it was just the old, old story of Jesus and his love, and nothing else." I have no desire to be famous for anything but preaching of the gospel. There are plenty who can fiddle to you the new music; it is for me to have no music at any time but that which is heard in heaven, "Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, to him be glory for ever and ever!"
I intend, dear friends, to begin my discourse with the second part of my text, in which the doctrine of Substitution is set forth in these words "He hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him." This is the basis and power of those appeals which it is our duty to make to the consciences of men.
I have found, my brethen, by long experience, that nothing touches the heart like the cross of Christ; and when the heart is touched and wounded by the two-edged sword of the law, nothing heals its wounds like the balm which flows from the pierced heart of Jesus. The cross is life to the spiritually dead. There is an old legend which can have no literal truth in it, but if it be regarded as a parable it is then most instructive. They say that when the Empress Helena was searching for the true cross they digged deep at Jerusalem and found the three crosses of Calvary buried in the soil. Which out of the three crosses was the veritable cross upon which Jesus died they could not tell, except by certain tests. So they brought a corpse and laid it on one of the crosses, but there was neither life nor motion. When the same dead body touched another of the crosses it lived; and then they said, "This is the true cross." When we see men quickened, converted, and sanctified by the doctrine of the substitutionary sacrifice, we may justly conclude that it is the true doctrine of atonement. I have not known men made to live unto God and holiness except by the doctrine of the death of Christ on man's behalf. Hearts of stone that never beat with life before have been turned to flesh through the Holy Spirit causing them to know this truth. A sacred tenderness the obstinate when they have heard of Jesus crucified for them. Those who have lain at hell's dark door, wrapped about with a sevenfold death-shade, even upon them hath a great light shined. The story of the great Lover of the souls of men who gave himself for their salvation is still in the hand of the Holy Ghost the greatest of all forces in the realm of mind.
So this morning I am going to handle, first, the great doctrine, and then afterwards, and secondly, as God shall help me, we shall come to the great argument which is contained in the 20th verse: "Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God." 2 Corinthians 5:20
1. First, then, with as much brevity as possible I will speak upon THE GREAT DOCTRINE. The great doctrine, the greatest of all, is this, that God, seeing men to be lost by reason of their sin, hath taken that sin of theirs and laid it upon his only begotten Son, making him to be sin for us, even him who knew no sin; and that in consequence of this transference of sin he that believeth in Christ Jesus is made just and righteous, yea, is made to be the righteousness of God in Christ. Christ was made sin that sinners might be made righteousness. That is the doctrine of the substitution of our Lord Jesus Christ on the behalf of guilty men.
Now consider, first, who was made sin for us? The description of our great Surety here given is upon one point only, and it may more than suffice us for our present meditation. Our substitute was spotless, innocent, and pure. "He hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin." Christ Jesus, the Son of God, became incarnate, and was made flesh, and dwelt here among men; but though he was made in the likeness of sinful flesh, he knew no sin. Though upon him sin was laid, yet not so as to make him guilty. He was not, he could not be, a sinner: he had no personal knowledge of sin. Throughout the whole of his life he never committed an offence against the great law of truth and right. The law was in his heart; it was his nature to be holy. He could say to all the world, "Which of you convinceth me of sin?" Even his vacillating judge enquired, "Why, what evil hath he done?" When all Jerusalem was challenged and bribed to bear witness against him, no witnesses could be found. It was necessary to misquote and wrest his words before a charge could be trumped up against him by his bitterest enemies. His life brought him in contact with both the tables of the law, but no single command had he transgressed. As the Jews examined the Paschal lamb before they slew it, so did scribes and Pharisees, and doctors of the law, and rulers and princes, examine the Lord Jesus, without finding no offence in him. He was the Lamb of God, without blemish and without spot.
As there was no sin of commission, so was there about our Lord no fault of omission. Probably, dear brethen, we that are believers have been enabled by divine grace to escape most sins of commission; but I for one have to mourn daily over sins of omission. If we have spiritual graces, yet they do not reach the point required of us. If we do that which is right in itself, yet we usually mar our work upon the wheel, either in the motive, or in the manner of doing it, or by the self-satisfaction with which we view it when it is done. We come short of the glory of God in some respect or other. We forget to do what we ought to do, or, doing it, we are guilty of lukewarmness, self-reliance, unbelief, or some other grievious error. It was not so with our divine Redeemer. You cannot say that there was any feature deficient in his perfect beauty. He was complete in heart, in purpose, in thought, in word, in deed, in spirit. You could not add anything to the life of Christ without its being manifestly an excrescence. He was emphatically an all-round man, as we say in these days. His life is a perfect circle, a complete epitome of virtue. No pearl has dropped from the silver string of his character. No one virtue has overshadowed and dwarfed the rest: all perfections combine in perfect harmony to make in him one surpassing perfection.
Neither did our Lord know a sin of thought. His mind never produced an evil wish or desire. There never was in the heart of our blessed Lord a wish for an evil pleasure, nor a desire to escape any suffering or shame which was involved in his service. When he said, "Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me," he never desired to escape the bitter potion at the expense of his perfect lifework. The "if it be possible," meant, "if it be consistent with full obedience to the Father, and the accomplishment of the divine purpose." We see the weakness of his nature shrinking, and the holiness of his nature resolving and conquering, as he adds, "nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt." He took upon him the likeness of sinful flesh, but though that flesh often caused him weariness of body, it never produced in him the weakness of sin. He took our infirmities, but he never exhibited an infirmity which had the least of blameworthiness attached to it. Never fell there an evil glance from those blessed eyes; never did his lips let drop a hasty word; never did those feet go on an ill errand, nor those hands move towards a sinful deed; because his heart was filled with holiness and love. Within as well as without our Lord was unblemished. His desires were as perfect as his actions. Searched by the eyes of Omniscience, no shadow of fault could be found in him.
Yea, more, there were no tendencies about our Substitute towards evil in any form. In us there are always those tendencies; for the taint of original sin is upon us. We have to govern ourselves and hold ourselves under stern restraint, or we should rush headlong to destruction. Our carnal nature lusteth to evil, and needs to be held in as with bit and bridle. Happy is that man who can master himself. But with regard to our Lord, it was his nature to be pure, and right, and loving. All his sweet wills were towards goodness. His unconstrained life was holiness itself: he was "the holy child Jesus." The prince of this world found in him no fuel for the flame which he desired to kindle. Not only did no sin flow from him, but there was no sin in him, nor inclination, nor tendency in that direction. Watch him in secret, and you find him in prayer; look unto his soul, and you find him eager to do and suffer the Father's will. Oh, the blessed character of Christ! If I had the tongues of men and of angels I could not worthily set forth his absolute perfection Justly may the Father be well pleased with him! Well may heaven adore him!
Beloved, it was absolutely necessary that any one who should be able to suffer in our stead should himself be spotless. A sinner obnoxious to punishment by reason of his own offences, what can he do but bear the wrath which is due to his own sin? Our Lord Jesus Christ as man was made under the law: but he owed nothing to that law, for he perfectly fulfilled it in all respects. He was capable of standing in the room, place, and stead of others, because he was under no obligations of his own. He was only under obligations towards God because he had voluntarily undertaken to be the surety and sacrifice for those whom the Father gave him. He was clear himself, or else he could not have entered into bonds for guilty men.
Oh, how I admire him, that being such as he was, spotless and thrice holy, so that even the heavens were not pure in his sight, and he charged his angels with folly, yet he condescended to be made sin for us! How could he endure to be numbered with the transgressors and bear the sin of many? It may be no misery for a sinful man to live with sinful men; but it would be a heavy sorrow for the pure-minded to dwell with a company of abandoned and licentious wretches. What an overwhelming sorrow it must have been to the pure and perfect Christ to tabernacle among the hypocritical, the selfish, and the profane! How much worse that he himself should have to take upon himself the sins of those guilty men. His sensitive and delicate nature must have shrunk from even the shadow of sin, and yet read the words and be astonished: "He hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin." Our perfect Lord and Master bare our sins in his own body on the tree. He, before whom the sun itself is dim and the pure azure of heaven is defilement, was made sin. I need not put this in fine words: the fact is itself too grand to need any magnifying by human language. To gild refined gold, or paint the lily, were absurd; but much more absurd would it be to try to overlay with flowers of speech the matchless beauties of the cross. It suffices in simple rhyme to say
"Oh, hear that piercing cry!
What can its meaning be?
'My God! my God! oh! why hast thou
In wrath forsaken me?'
"Oh 'twas because our sins
On him by God were laid;
He who himself had never sinn'd,
For sinners, sin was made."
This leads me on to the second point of the text, which is, what was done with him who knew no sin? He was "made sin." It is a wonderful expression: the more you weigh it the more you will marvel at its singular strength. Only the Holy Ghost might originate such language. It was wise for the divine Teacher to use very strong expressions, for else the thought might not have entered human minds. Even now, despite the emphasis, clearness, and distinctness of the language used here and elsewhere in Scripture there are found men daring enough to deny that substitution is taught in Scripture. With such subtle wits it is useless to argue. It is clear that language has no meaning for them. To read the 53rd chapter of Isaiah, and to accept it as relating to the Messiah, and then to deny his substitutionary sacrifice is simply wickedness. It would be vain to reason with such beings; they are so blind that if they were transported to the sun they could not see. In the church and out of the church there is a deadly animosity to this truth. Modern thought labours to get away from what is obviously the meaning of the Holy Spirit, that sin was lifted from the guilty and laid upon the innocent. It is written, "The Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all." This is as plain language as can be used; but if any plainer was required, here it is, "He hath made him to be sin for us."
The Lord God laid upon Jesus, who voluntarily undertook it, all the weight of human sin. Instead of its resting on the sinner, who did commit it, it was made to rest upon Christ, who did not commit to it; while the righteousness which Jesus wrought out was placed to the account of the guilty, are treated as righteous. Those who by nature are guilty, are regarded as righteous, while he who by nature knew no sin whatever, was treated as guilty. I think I must have read in scores of books that such a transference is impossible; but the statement has had no effect upon my mind. I do not care whether it is impossible or not with learned unbelievers: it is evidently possible with God, for he has done it. But they say it is contrary to reason. I do not care for that, either: it may be contrary to the reason of those unbelievers, but it is not contrary to mine; and if I am to be guided by reason, I prefer to follow my own. The atonement is a miracle, and miracles are rather to be accepted by faith than measured by calculation. A fact is the best of arguments. It is a fact that the Lord hath laid on Jesus the iniquity of us all. God's revelation proves the fact, and our faith defies human questioning! God saith it, and I believe it; and believing it, I find life and comfort in it. Shall I not preach it? Assuredly I will.
"E'er since by faith I saw the stream
His flowing wounds supply,
Redeeming love has been my theme,
And shall be till I die."
Christ was not guilty, and could not be made guilty; but he was treated as if he were guilty, because he willed to stand in the place of the guilty. Yea, he was not only treated as a sinner, but he was treated as if he had been sin itself in the abstract. This is an amazing utterance. The sinless one was made to sin.
Sin pressed our great Substitute very sorely. He felt the weight of it in the Garden of Gethsemane, where he "sweat as it were great drops of blood falling to the ground." The full pressure of it came upon him when he was nailed to the accursed tree. There in the hours of darkness he bore infinitely more than we can tell. We know that he bore condemnation from the mouth of a man, so that is written, "He was numbered with the transgressors." We know that he bore shame for our sakes. Did not your hearts tremble last Sunday evening when our text was, "Then did they spit in his face?" It was a cruel scorn that exhausted itself upon his blessed person. This, I say, we know. We know that he bore pains innumerable of body and mind: he thirsted, he cried out in the agony of desertion, he bled, he died. We know that he poured out his soul unto death, and yielded up the ghost. But there was at the back, and beyond all this, an immeasurable abyss of sufferings": probably to us they are unknowable sufferings. He was God as well as man, and the Godhead lent an omnipotent power to the manhood, so that there was compressed within his soul, and endured by it, an amount of anguish of which we can form no conception. I will say no more: it is wise to veil what it is impossible to depict. This text both veils and discovers his sorrow, as it says, "He made him to be sin." Look into the words. Perceive their meaning if you can. The angels desire to look into it. Gaze into this terrible crystal. Let your eyes search deep into this opal, within whose jewelled depth there are flames of fire. The Lord made the perfectly innocent one to be sin for us: that means more humiliation, darkness, agony, and death than you can conceive. It brought a kind of distraction and well-nigh a destruction to the tender and gentle spirit of our Lord. I do not say that our substitute endured a hell, that were unwarrantable. I will not say that he endured either the exact punishment for sin, or an equivalent for it; but I do say that what he endured rendered to the justice of God a vindication of his law more clear and more effectual than would have been rendered to it by the damnation of the sinners for whom he died. The cross is under many aspects a more full revelation of the wrath of God against human sin than even Tophet, and the smoke of torment which goeth up for ever and ever. Who would know God's hate of sin must see the Only Begotten bleeding in body and bleeding in soul even unto death: he must, in fact, spell out each word of my text, and read its innermost meaning. There, my brethen, I am ashamed of the poverty of my explanation, and I will therefore only repeat the full and sublime language of the apostle "He hath made him to be sin for us." It is more than "He hath put him to grief"; it is more than "God hath forsaken him"; it is more than "The chastisement of our peace was upon him"; it is the most suggestive of all descriptions "He hath made him sin for us." Oh depth of terror, and yet height of love!
So I pass on to notice in the third place, who did it? The text saith, "He hath made him to be sin for us"; that is, God himself it was who appointed his dear Son to be made sin for guilty men. The wise ones tell us that this substitution cannot be just. Who made them judges of what is right and just. I ask them whether they believe that Jesus suffered and died at all? if they believe that he did, how do they account for the fact? Do they say that he died as an example? Then I ask, is it just for God to allow a sinless being to die as an example? The fact of our Lord's death is sure, and it has to be accounted for.
In the appointment of the Lord Jesus Christ to be made sin for us, there was first of all a display of the Divine Sovereignty. God here did what none but he could have done. It would not have been possible for all of us together to have laid sin upon Christ; but it was possible for the great Judge of all, who giveth no account of his matters, to determine that so it should be. He is the fountain of rectitude, and the exercise of his divine prerogative is always unquestionable righteousness. That the Lord Jesus, who offered himself as a willing surety and substitute, should be accepted as surety and substitute for guilty man was in the power of the great Supreme. In his Divine Sovereignty he accepted him, and before that sovereignty we bow. If any question it, our only answer is, "Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God?"
The death of our Lord also displayed divine justice. It pleased God as the judge of all, that sin should not be forgiven without the exaction of the punishment which had been so righteously threatened to it, or such other display of justice as might vindicate the law. They say that this is not God of love. I answer, it is God of love, pre-eminently so. If you had upon the bench to-day a judge whose nature was kindness itself, it would behove him as a judge to execute justice, and if he did not, he would make his kindness ridiculous; indeed, his kindness to the criminal would be unkindness to society at large. Whatever the judge may be personally, he is officially compelled to do justice. And "shall not the Judge of all the earth do right? " You speak of the Fatherhood of God. Enlarge as you please upon that theme, even till you make a heresy of it; but still God is the great moral Governor of the universe, and it behoves him to deal with sin in such a way that it is seen to be an evil and a bitter thing. God cannot wink at wickedness. I bless his holy name, and adore him that he is not unjust in order to be merciful, that he does not spare the guilty in order to indulge his gentleness. Every transgression and disobedience has its just recompense of reward. But through the sacrifice of Christ he is able justly to pardon. I bless his holy name that to vindicate his justice he determined that, while a free pardon should be provided for believers, it should be grounded upon an atonement which satisfied all requirements of the law.
Admire also in the substitutionary sacrifice the great grace of God. Never forget that he whom God made to be sin for us was his own Son; ay, I go further, it was in some sense his own self; for the Son is one with the Father. You may not confound the persons, but you cannot divide the Son of God from the Father as to forget that God was in him reconciling the world unto himself. It is the Father's other self who on the cross in human form doth bleed and die. "Light of light, very God of very God": it is this Light that was eclipsed, that Godhead which purchased the church with his own blood. Herein is infinite love! You tell me that God might have pardoned without atonement. I answer, that finite and fallible love might have done so, and thus have wounded itself by killing justice; but the love which both required and provided the atonement is indeed infinite. God himself provided the atonement by freely and fully giving up himself in the person of his Son to suffer in consequence of human sin.
What I want you to notice here is this, if ever your mind should be troubled about the propriety or rightness of a substitutionary sacrifice, you may at once settle the matter by remembering that God himself "hath made him to be sin for us who knew no sin." If God did it, it is well done. I am not careful to defend an act of God: let the man who dares accuse his Maker think what he is at. If God himself provided the sacrifice, be you sure that he has accepted it. There can be no question ever raised about it, since Jehovah made to meet on him our iniquities. He that made Christ to be sin for us, knew what he did, and it is not for us to begin to say, "Is this right, or is this not right? " The thrice holy God hath done this, and it must be right. That which satisfies God may well satisfy us. If God is pleased with the sacrifice of Christ, shall not we be much more pleased? Shall we not be delighted, entranced, emparadised, to be saved by such a sacrifice as God himself appoints, provides, and accepts? "He hath made him to be sin for us."
The last point is, what happens to us in consequence? "That we might be made the righteousness of God in him." Oh this weighty text! No man living can exhaust it. No theologian lived, even in the palmiest day of theology, who could ever get to the bottom of this statement.
Every man that believes in Jesus is through Christ having taken his sin made to be righteousness before God. We are righteous through faith in Christ Jesus, "justified by faith." More than this, we are made not only to have the character of "righteous," but to become the substance called "righteousness." I cannot explain this, but it is no small matter. It means no inconsiderable thing when we are said to be "made righteousness." What is more, we are not only made righteousness, but we are made "the righteousness of God. "Herein is a great mystery. The righteousness which Adam had in the garden was perfect, but it was the righteousness of man: ours is the righteousness of God. Human righteousness failed; but the believer has a divine righteousness which can never fail. He not only has it, but he is it: he is "made the righteousness of God in Christ." We can now sing,
"With my Saviour's vesture on,
Holy as the Holy One."
How acceptable with God must those be who are made by God himself to be "the righteousness of God in him"! I cannot conceive of anything more complete.
As Christ was made sin, and yet never sinned, so are we made righteousness, though we cannot claim to have been righteous in and of ourselves. Sinners though we be, and forced to confess it with grief, yet the Lord doth cover us so completely with the righteousness of Christ, that only his righteousness is seen, and we are made the righteousness of God in him. This is true of all the saints, even of as many as believe on his name. Oh, the splendor of this doctrine! Canst thou see it, my friend? Sinner though thou be, and in thyself defiled, deformed, and debased, yet if thou wilt accept the great Substitute which God provide for in the person of his dear Son, thy sins are gone from thee, and righteousness has come to thee. Thy sins were laid on Jesus, the scapegoat: they are thine no longer, he has put them away. I may say that his righteousness is imputed unto thee; but I go further, and say with the text, "Thou art made the righteousness of God in him." No doctrine can be more sweet than this to those who feel the weight of sin and the burden of its curse.
II. So now, gathering all up, I have to close with the second part of the text, which is not teaching, but the application of teaching, A GREAT ARGUMENT. "Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God."
Oh, that these lips had language, or that this heart could speak without them! Then would I plead with every unconverted, unbelieving soul within this place, and plead as for my life. Friend, you are at enmity with God, and God is angry with you; but on his part there is every readiness for reconciliation. He has made a way by which you can become his friend a very costly way to himself, but free to you. He could not give up his justice, and so destroy the honour of his own character; but he did give up his Son, his Only Begotten, and his Well-Beloved; and that Son of his had been made sin for us, though he knew no sin. See how God meets you ! See how willing, how anxious he is that there should be reconciliation between you and God to-day it is not from want of kindness on his part; it is from want of willingness on yours. The burden of your ruin must lie at your own door: your blood must be on your own skirts.
Now observe what we have to say to you to-day is this: we are anxious that you should be at peace with God, and therefore we act as ambassadors for Christ. I am not going to lay any stress upon the office of ambassador as honourable or authoritative, for I do not feel that this would have weight with you: but I lay all the stress upon the peace to which we would fain have you reconciled also. I once knew him not, neither did I care for him. I lived well enough without him, and sported with trifles of a day, so as to forget him. He brought me to seek his face, and seeking his face I found him. He has blotted out my sins and removed my enmity. I know that I am his servant, and that he is my friend, my Father, my All. And now I cannot help trying in my poor way to be an ambassador for him with you. I do not like that any of you should live at enmity with my Father who made you; and that you should be wantonly provoking him by preferring evil to good. Why should you not be at peace with one who so mush wants to be at peace with you? Why should you not love the God of love, and delight in him who is so kind to you? What he hath done for me he is quite willing to do for you: he is a God ready to pardon. I have preached his gospel now for many years, but I never met with a sinner yet that Christ refused to cleanse when he came to him. I never knew a single case of a man who trusted Jesus, and asked to be forgiven, confessing his sin and forsaking it, who was cast out. I say I never met with one man whom he has restored to purity, and drunkards whom he has delivered from their evil habit, and with men guilty of foul sins who have become pure and chaste through the Lord Jesus. They have always told me the same story "I sought the Lord, and he heard me; he hath washed me in his blood, and I am whiter than snow." Why should you not be saved as well as these?
Dear friend, perhaps you have never thought of this matter, and this morning you did not some here with any idea of thinking of it; but why should you not begin? You came just to hear a well-known preacher; I pray you forget the preacher, and think only of yourself, your God and your Saviour. It must be wrong for you to live without a thought of your Maker. To forget him is to despise him. It must be wrong for you to refuse the great atonement: you so refuse it if you do not accept it at once. It must be wrong for you to stand out against your God; and you do stand out against him if you will not be reconciled to him. Therefore I humbly play the part of an ambassador for Christ, and I beseech you believe in him and live.
Notice how the text puts it: "We are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us." This thought staggers me. As I came along this morning I felt as if I could bury my head in my hands and weep as I thought of God beseeching anybody. He speaks, and it is done; myriads of angels count themselves happy to fly at his command; and yet man has so become God's enemy that he will not be reconciled to him. God would make him his friend, and spends the blood of his dear Son to cement that friendship; but man will not have it. See the great God turns to beseeching his obstinate creature! his foolish creature! In this I feel a reverent compassion for God. Must he beseech a rebel to be forgiven? Do you hear it? Angels, do you hear it? He who is the King of kings veils his sovereignty, and stoops to beseeching his creature to be reconciled to him! I wonder not that some of my brethen start back from such an idea, and cannot believe that it could be so: it seems so derogatory to the glorious God. Yet my text saith it, and it must be true "As though God did beseech you by us." This makes it awful work to preach, does it not? I ought to beseech you as though God spoke to you through me, looking at you through these eyes, and stretching out his hands through these hands. He saith, "All day long I have stretched forth my hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people." He speaks softly, and tenderly, and with paternal affection through these poor lips of mine, "as though God did beseech you by us.
Furthermore notice that next line, which if possible has even more force in it: "We pray you in Christ's stead." Since Jesus died in our stead we, his redeemed ones, are to pray others in his stead; and as he poured out his heart for sinners in their stead, we must in another way pour out our hearts for sinners in his stead. "We pray you in Christ's stead." Now if my Lord were here this morning how would he pray you to come to him? I wish, my Master, I were more fit to stand in thy place at this time. Forgive me that I am so incapable. Help me to break my heart, to think that it does not break as it ought to do, for these men and women who are determined to destroy themselves, and, therefore, pass thee by, my Lord, as though thou were but a common felon, hanging on a gibbet! O men, How can you think so little of the death of the Son of God? It is the wonder of time, the admiration of eternity. O souls, why will you refuse eternal life? Why will ye die? Why will ye despise him by whom alone you can live? There is one gate of life, that gate is the open side of Christ; why will ye not enter, and live? "Come unto me," saith he; "Come unto me." I think I hear him say it: "Come unto me all that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls." I think I see him on that last day, the great day of the feast, standing and crying, "If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink." I hear him sweetly declare, "Him that cometh to me I will no wise cast out." I am not fit to pray you in Christ's stead, but I do pray you with all my heart. You that hear my voice from Sunday to Sunday, do come and accept the great sacrifice, and be reconciled to God. You that hear me but this once, I would like you to go away with this ringing in your ears, "Be ye reconciled to God." I have nothing pretty to say to you; I have only to declare that God has prepared a propitiation, and that now he entreats sinners to come to Jesus, that through him they may be reconciled to God.
We do not exhort you to some impossible effort. We do not bid you do some great thing; we do not ask you for money or price; neither do we demand of you years of miserable feeling; but only this be ye reconciled. It is not so much reconcile yourselves as "be reconciled." Yield yourselves to him who round you now the bands of a man would cast, drawing you with cords of love because he was given for you. His spirit strives with you, yield to his striving. With Jacob you know there wrestled a man till the breaking of the day; let that man, that God-man, overcome you. Submit yourselves. Yield to grasp of those hands which were nailed to the cross for you. Will you not yield to your best friend? He that doth embrace you now presses you to a heart that was pierced with the spear on your behalf. Oh, yield thee! Yield thee, man! Dost thou not feel some softness stealing over thee? Steel not thine heart against it. He saith, with a Tone most still and sweet. "To-day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts." Believe and live! Quit the arch-enemy who has held thee in his grip. Escape for thy life, look not behind thee, stay not in all the plain, but flee where thou seest the open door of the great Father's house. At the gate the bleeding Saviour is waiting to receive thee, and to say, "I was made sin for thee, and thou art made the righteousness of God in me." Father, draw them! Father, draw them! Eternal Spirit, draw them, for Jesus Christ thy Son's sake! Amen.
PORTION OF SCRIPTURE READ BEFORE SERMON 2 Corinthians 4:0 and 5.
HYMNS FROM "OUR OWN HYMN BOOK" 917, 404, 284.
'Christ Our Substitute' and 'Substitution'
Christ Our Substitute
Delivered on Sabbath Evening, April 15th, 1860, by the
REV. C. H. Spurgeon
At New Park Street, Southwark.
"For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him." 2 Corinthians 5:21 .
SOMETIME AGO an excellent lady sought an interview with me, with the object as she said, of enlisting my sympathy upon the question of "Anti-Capital Punishment." I heard the excellent reasons she urged against hanging men who had committed murder, and though they did not convince me, I did not seek to answer them. She proposed that when a man committed murder, he should be confined for life. My remark was, that a great many men who had been confined half their lives were not a bit the better for it, and as for her belief that they would necessarily be brought to repentance, I was afraid it was but a dream. "Ah," she said, good soul as she was, "that is because we have been all wrong about punishments. We punish people because we think they deserve to be punished. Now, we ought to show them," said she, "that we love them; that we only punish them to make them better." "Indeed, madam," I said, "I have heard that theory a great many times, and I have seen much fine writing upon the matter, but I am no believer in it. The design of punishment should be amendment, but the ground of punishment lies in the positive guilt of the offender. I believe that when a man does wrong, he ought to be punished for it, and that there is a guilt in sin which justly merits punishment." "Oh no; she could not see that. Sin was a very wrong thing, but punishment was not a proper idea. She thought that people were treated too cruelly in prison, and that they ought to be taught that we love them. If they were treated kindly in prison, and tenderly dealt with, they would grow so much better, she was sure." With a view of interpreting her own theory, I said, "I suppose, then, you would give criminals all sorts of indulgences in prison. Some great vagabond who has committed burglary dozens of times I suppose you would let him sit in an easy chair in the evening before a nice fire, and mix him a glass of spirits and water, and give him his pipe, and make him happy, to show him how much we love him." "Well, no, she would not give him the spirits, but, still, all the rest would do him good." I thought that was a delightful picture certainly. It seemed to me to be the most prolific method of cultivating rogues which ingenuity could invent. I imagine that you could grow any number of thieves in that way; for it would be a special means of propagating all manner of roguery and wickedness. These very delightful theories to such a simple mind as mine, were the source of much amusement, the idea of fondling villains, and treating their crimes as if they were the tumbles and falls of children, made me laugh heartily. I fancied I saw the government resigning its functions to these excellent persons, and the grand results of their marvellously kind experiments. The sword of the magistrate transformed into a gruel-spoon, and the jail become a sweet retreat for injured reputations.
Little however, did I think I should live to see this kind of stuff taught in pulpits; I had no idea that there would come out a divinity, which would bring down God's moral government from the solemn aspect in which Scripture reveals it, to a namby-pamby sentimentalism, which adores a Deity destitute of every masculine virtue. But we never know to-day what may occur to-morrow. We have lived to see a certain sort of men thank God they are not Baptists though I am sorry to say there are a great many Baptists who are beginning to follow in their trail who seek to teach now-a-days, that God is a universal Father, and that our ideas of his dealing with the impenitent as a Judge, and not as a Father, are remnants of antiquated error. Sin, according to these men, is a disorder rather than an offence, an error rather than a crime. Love is the only attribute they can discern, and the full-orbed Deity they have not known. Some of these men push their way very far into the bogs and mire of falsehood, until they inform us that eternal punishment is ridiculed as a dream. In fact, books now appear, which teach us that there is no such thing as the Vicarious Sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ. They use the word Atonement it is true, but in regard to its meaning, they have removed the ancient landmark. They acknowledge that the Father has shown his great love to poor sinful man by sending his Son, but not that God was inflexibly just in the exhibition of his mercy, not that he punished Christ on the behalf of his people, nor that indeed God ever will punish anybody in his wrath, or that there is such a thing as justice apart from discipline. Even sin and hell are but old words employed henceforth in a new and altered sense. Those are old-fashioned notions, and we poor souls who go on talking about election and imputed righteousness, are behind our time. Ay, and the gentlemen who bring out books on this subject applaud Mr. Maurice, and Professor Scott, and the like, but are too cowardly to follow them, and boldly propound these sentiments. These are the new men whom God has sent down from heaven, to tell us that the apostle Paul was all wrong, that our faith is vain, that we have been quite mistaken, that there was no need for propitiating blood to wash away our sins; that the fact was, our sins needed discipline, but penal vengeance and righteous wrath are quite out of the question. When I thus speak, I am free to confess that such ideas are not boldly taught by a certain individual whose volume excites these remarks, but as he puffs the books of gross perverters of the truth, I am compelled to believe that he endorses such theology.
Well, brethren, I am happy to say that sort of stuff has not gained entrance into this pulpit. I dare say the worms will eat the wood before there will be anything of that sort sounded in his place; and may these bones be picked by vultures, and this flesh be rent in sunder by lions, and may every nerve in this body suffer pangs and tortures, ere these lips shall give utterance to any such doctrines or sentiments. We are content to remain among the vulgar souls who believe the old doctrines of grace. We are willing still to be behind in the great march of intellect, and stand by that unmoving cross, which, like the pole star, never advances, because it never stirs, but always abides in its place, the guide of the soul to heaven, the one foundation other than which no man can lay, and without building upon which, no man shall ever see the face of God and live.
Thus much have I said upon a matter which just now is exciting controversy. It has been my high privilege to be associated with six of our ablest brethren in the ministry, in a letter of protest against the countenance which a certain newspaper seemed willing to lend to this modern heresy. We trust it may be the means, in the hands of God, of helping to check that downward march that wandering from truth which seems by some singular infatuation, to have unsettled the minds of some brethren in our denomination. Now I come to address you upon the opic which is most continually assailed by those who preach another gospel "which is not another but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ," namely, the doctrine of the substitution of Christ on our behalf, his actual atonement for our sins, and our positive and actual justification through his sufferings and righteousness. It seems to me that until language can mean the very reverse of what it says, until by some strange logic, God's Word can be contradicted and can be made to belief itself, the doctrine of substitution can never be rooted out of the words which I have selected for my text "He hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him."
First, then, the sinlessness of the substitute; secondly, the reality of the imputation of sin to him; and thirdly, the glorious reality of the imputation of righteousness to us.
I. First, THE SINLESSNESS OF THE SUBSTITUTE.
The doctrine of Holy Scripture is this, that inasmuch as man could not keep God's law, having fallen in Adam, Christ came and fulfilled the law on the behalf of his people; and that inasmuch as man had already broken the divine law and incurred the penalty of the wrath of God, Christ came and suffered in the room, place, and stead of his elect ones, that so by his enduring the full vials of wrath, they might be emptied out and not a drop might ever fall upon the heads of his blood-bought people. Now, you will readily perceive that if one is to be a substitute for another before God, either to work out a righteousness or to suffer a penalty, that substitute must himself be free from sin. If he hath sin of his own, all that he can suffer will but be the due reward of his own iniquity. If he hath himself transgressed, he cannot suffer for another, because all his sufferings are already due on his own personal account. On the other and, it is quite clear that none but a perfect man could ever work out a spotless righteousness for us, and keep the law in our stead, for if he hath dishonoured the commandment in his thought, there must be a corresponding flaw in his service. If the warp and woof be speckled, how shall he bring forth the robe of milk-white purity, and wrap it about our loins? He must be a spotless one who shall become the representative of his people, either to give them a passive or active righteousness, either to offer a satisfaction as the penalty of their sins, or a righteousness as the fulfilment of God's demand.
It is satisfactory for us to know, and to believe beyond a doubt, that our Lord Jesus was without sin. Of course, in his divine nature he could not know iniquity; and as for his human nature, it never knew the original taint of depravity. He was of the seed of the woman, but not of the tainted and infected see of Adam. Overshadowed as was the virgin by the Holy Ghost, no corruption entered into his nativity. That holy thing which was born of her was neither conceived in sin nor shapen in iniquity. He was brought into this world immaculate. He was immaculately conceived and immaculately born. In him that natural black blood which we have inherited from Adam never dwelt. His heart was upright within him; his soul was without any bias to evil; his imagination had never been darkened. He had no infatuated mind. There was no tendency whatever in him that to do that which was good, holy, and honourable. And as he did not share in the original depravity, so he did not share in the imputed sin of Adam which we have inherited not, I mean, in himself personally, though he took the consequences of that, as he stood as our representative. The sin of Adam had never passed over the head of the second Adam. All that were in the loins of Adam sinned in him when he touched the fruit; but Jesus was not in the loins of Adam. Though he might be conceived of as being in the womb of the woman "a new thing which the Lord created in the earth," he lay not in Adam when he sinned, and consequently no guilt from Adam, either of depravity of nature, or of distance from God, ever fell upon Jesus as the result of anything that Adam did. I mean upon Jesus as considered in himself though he certainly took the sin of Adam as he was the representative of his people.
Again, as in his nature he was free from the corruption and condemnation of the sin of Adam, so also in his life, no sin ever corrupted his way. His eye never flashed with unhallowed anger; his lip never uttered a treacherous or deceitful word; his heat never harboured an evil imagination. Never did he wander after lust; no covetousness ever so much as glanced into his soul. He was "holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners." From the beginning of his life to the end, you cannot put your finger even upon a mistake, much less upon a wilful error. So perfect was he, that no virtue seems to preponderate, or by an opposing quality give a bias to the scale of absolute rectitude. John is distinguished for his love, Peter for his courage; but Jesus Christ is distinguished for neither one above the another, because he possesses all in such sublime unison, such heavenly harmony, that no one virtue stands out above the rest. He is meek, but he is courageous. He is loving, but he is decided; he is bold as a lion, yet he is quiet and peaceful as a lamb. He was like that fine flour which was offered before God in the burnt offering; a flour without grit, so smooth, that when you rubbed it, it was soft and pure, no particles could be discerned: so was his character fully ground, fully compounded. There was not one feature in his moral countenance which had undue preponderance above the other; but he was replete in everything that was virtuous and good. Tempted he was, it is true, but sinned he never. The whirlwind came from he wilderness, and smote upon the four corners of that house, but it fell not, for it was founded upon a rock. The rains descended, heaven afflicted him; the winds blew, the mysterious agency of hell assailed him; the floods came, all earth was in arms against him, but yet he stood firm in the midst of all. Never once did he even seem to bend before the tempest; but buffetting the fury of the blast, bearing all the temptations that could ever happen to man, which summed themselves up and consummated their fury on him, he stood to the end, without a single flaw in his life, or a stain upon his spotless robe. Let us rejoice, then, in this, my beloved brothers and sisters, that we have such a substitute one who is fit and proper to stand in our place, and to suffer in our stead, seeing he has no need to offer a sacrifice for himself; no need to cry for himself, "Father, I have sinned;" no need to bend the knee of the penitent and confess his own iniquities, for he is without spot or blemish, the perfect lamb of God's passover.
I would have you carefully notice the particular expression of the text, for it struck me as being very beautiful and significant, "who knew no sin." It does not merely say did none, but knew none. Sin was no acquaintance of his; he was acquainted with grief, but no acquaintance of sin. He had to walk in the midst of its most frequented haunts, but did not know it; not that he was ignorant of its nature, or did not know its penalty, but he did not know it; he was a stranger to it, he never gave it the wink or nod of familiar recognition. Of course he knew what sin was, for he was very God, but with the sin he had no communion, no fellowship, no brotherhood. He was a perfect stranger in the presence of sin; he was a foreigner; he was not an inhabitant of that land where sin is acknowledge. He passed through the wilderness of suffering, but into the wilderness of sin he could never go. "He knew no sin;" mark that expression and treasure it up, and when you are thinking of your substitute, and see him hang bleeding upon the cross, think that you see written in those lines of blood written along his blessed body, "He knew no sin." Mingled with the redness of his blood that Rose of Sharon; behold the purity of his nature, the Lily of the Valley "He knew no sin."
II. Let us pass on to notice the second and most important point; THE ACTUAL SUBSTITUTION OF CHRIST, AND THE REAL IMPUTATION OF SIN TO HIM. "He made him to be sin for us."
Here be careful to observe who transferred the sin. God the Father laid on Jesus the iniquities of us all. Man could not make Christ sin. Man could not transfer his guilt to another. It is not for us to say whether Christ could or could not have made himself sin for us; that certain it is, he did not take this priesthood upon himself, but he was called of God, as was Aaron. The Redeemer's vicarious position is warranted, nay ordained by divine authority. "He hath made him to be sin for us." I must now beg you to notice how very explicit the term is. Some of our expositors will have it that the word here used must mean "sin-offering." "He made him to be a sin-offering for us." I thought it well to look to my Greek Testament to see whether it could be so. Of course we all know that the word here translated "sin," is very often translated "sin-offering," but it is always useful, when you have a disputed passage, to look it through, and see whether in this case the word would bear such a meaning. These commentators say it means a sin-offering, well, I will read it: "He hath made him to be a sin-offering for us who knew no sin-offering." Does not that strike you as being ridiculous? But they are precisely the same words; and if it be fair to translate it "sin-offering" in one place, it must, in all reason, be fair to translate it so in the other. The fact it, while in some passages it may be rendered "sin-offering," in this passage it cannot be so, because it would be to run counter to all honesty to translate the same word in the same sentence two different ways. No; we must take hem as they stand. "He hath made him to be sin for us," not merely an offering, but sin for us.
My predecessor, Dr. Gill, edited the works of Tobias Crisp, but Tobias Crisp went further than Dr. Gill or any of us can approve; for in one place Crisp calls Christ a sinner, though he does not mean that he ever sinned himself. He actually calls Christ a transgressor, and justifies himself by that passage, "He was numbered with the transgressors." Martin Luther is reputed to have broadly said that, although Jesus Christ was sinless, yet he was the greatest sinner that ever lived, because all the sins of his people lay upon him. Now, such expressions I think to be unguarded, if not profane. Certainly Christian men should take care that they use not language which, by the ignorant and uninstructed, may be translated to mean what they never intended to teach. The fact is, brethren, that in no sense whatever take that as I say it in no sense whatever can Jesus Christ ever be conceived of as having been guilty. He knew no sin." Not only was he not guilty of any sin which he committed himself, but he was not guilty of our sins. No guilt can possibly attach to a man who has not been guilty. He must have had complicity in the deed itself, or else no guilt can possibly be laid on him. Jesus Christ stands in the midst of all the divine thunders, and suffers all the punishment, but not a drop of sin ever stained him. In no sense is he ever a guilty man, but always is he an accepted and a holy one. What, then, is the meaning of that very forcible expression f my text? We must interpret Scriptural modes of expression by the verbage of the speakers. We know that our Master once said himself, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood;" he did not mean that the cup was the covenant. He said, "Take, eat, this is my body" no one of us conceives that the bread is the literal flesh and blood of Christ. We take that bread as if it were the body, and it actually represents it. Now, we are to read a passage like this, according to the analogy of faith. Jesus Christ was made by his Father sin for us, that is, he was treated as if he had himself been sin. He was not sin; he was not sinful; he was not guilty; but, he was treated by his Father, as if he had not only been sinful, but as if he had been sin itself. That is a strong expression used here. Not only hath he made him to be the substitute for sin, but to be sin. God looked on Christ as if Christ had been sin; not as if he had taken up the sins of his people, or as if they were laid on him, though that were true, but as if he himself had positively been that noxious that God-hating that soul-damning thing, called sin. When the Judge of all the earth said, "Where is Sin?" Christ presented himself. He stood before his Father as if he had been the accumulation of all human guilt; as if he himself were that thing which God cannot endure, but which he must drive from his presence for ever. And now see how this making of Jesus to be sin was enacted to the fullest extent. The righteous Lord looked on Christ as being sin, and therefore Christ must be taken without the camp. Sin cannot be borne in God's Zion, cannot be allowed to dwell in God's Jerusalem; it must be taken without the camp, it is a leprous thing, put it away. Cast out from fellowship, from love, from pity, sin must ever be. Take him away, take him away, ye crowd! Hurry him through the streets and bear him to Calvary. Take him without the camp as was the beast which was offered for sin without the camp, so must Christ be, who was made sin for us. And now, God looks on him as being sin, and sin must bear punishment. Christ is punished. The most fearful of deaths is exacted at his hand, and God has no pity for him. How should he have pity on sin? God hates it. No tongue can tell, no soul can divine the terrible hatred of God to that which is evil, and he treats Christ as if he were sin. He prays, but heaven shuts out his prayer; he cries for water, but heaven and earth refuse to wet his lips except with vinegar. He turns his eye to heaven, he sees nothing there. How should he? God cannot look on sin, and sin can have no claim on God: "My God, my God," he cries, "why hast thou forsaken me?" O solemn necessity, how could God do anything with sin but forsake it? How could iniquity have fellowship with God? Shall divine smiles rest on sin? Nay, nay, it must not be. Therefore is it that he who is made sin must bemoan desertion and terror. God cannot touch him, cannot dwell with him, cannot come near him. He is abhorred, cast away; it hath pleased the Father to bruise him; he hath put him to grief. At last he dies. God will not keep him in life how should he? Is it not the meetest thing in the world that sin should be buried? "Bury it out of my sight, hide this corruption," and lo! Jesus, as if he were sin, is put away out of the sight of God and man as a thing obnoxious. I do not know whether I have clearly uttered what I want to state, but what a rim picture that is, to conceive of sin gathered up into one mass murder, lust and rapine, and adultery, and all manner of crime, all piled together in one hideous heap. We ourselves, brethren, impure though we be, could not bear this; how much less should God with his pure and holy eyes bear with that mass of sin, and yet there it is, and God looked upon Christ as if he were that mass of sin. He was not sin, but he looked upon him as made sin for us. He stands in our place, assumes our guilt, takes on him our iniquity, and God treats him as if he had been sin. Now, my dear brothers and sisters, let us just lift up our hearts with gratitude for a few moments. Here we are to-night; we know that we are guilty, but our sins have all been punished years ago. Before my soul believed in Christ, the punishment of my sin had all been endured. We are not to think that Christ's blood derives its efficacy from our faith. Fact precedes faith. Christ hath redeemed us; faith discovers his; but it was a fact of that finished sacrifice. Though still defiled by sin, yet who can lay anything to he charge of the man whose guilt is gone, lifted bodily from off him, and put upon Christ? How can any punishment fall on that man who ceases to possess sins, because his sin has eighteen hundred years ago been cast upon Christ, and Christ has suffered in his place and stead? Oh, glorious triumph of faith to be able to say, whenever I feel the guilt of sin, whenever conscience pricks me, "Yes, it is true, but my Lord is answerable for it all, for he has taken it all upon himself, and suffered in my room, and place, and stead." How precious when I see my debts, to be able to say, "Yes, but the blood of Christ, God's dear Son, hath cleansed me from all sin!" How precious, not only to see my sin dying when I believe, but to know that it was dead, it was gone, it ceased to e, eighteen hundred years ago. All the sins that you and I have ever committed, or ever shall commit, if we be heirs of mercy, and children of God, are all dead things.
"Our Jesus nailed them to his cross,
And sung the triumph when he rose."
These cannot rise in judgment to condemn us; they have all been slain, shrouded, buried; they are removed from us as far as the east is from the west, because "He hath made him to be sinf or us who knew no sin."
III. You see then the reality of the imputation of sin to Christ from the amazing doctrine that Christ is made sin for us. But now notice the concluding thought, upon which I must dwell a moment, but it must be very briefly, for two reasons, my time has gone, and my strength has gone too. "THAT WE MIGHT BE MADE THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD IN HIM." Now, here I beg you to notice, that it does not simply say that we might be made righteous, but "that we might be made the righteousness of God in him;" as if righteousness, that lovely, glorious, God-honouring, God-delighting thing as if we were actually made that. God looks on his people as being abstract righteousness, not nly righteous, but righteousness. To be righteous, is as if a man should have a box covered with gold, the box would then be golden; but to be righteousness is to have a box of solid gold. To be a righteous man is to have righteousness cast over me; but to be made righteousness, that is to be made solid essential righteousness in the sight of God. Well now, this is a glorious fact and a most wonderful privilege, that we poor sinners are made "the righteousness of God in him." God sees no sin in any one of his people, no iniquity in Jacob, when he looks upon them in Christ. In themselves he sees nothing but filth and abomination, in Christ nothing but purity and righteousness. Is it not, and must it not ever be to the Christian, one of his most delightful privileges to know that altogether apart from anything that we have ever done, or can do, God looks upon his people as being righteous, nay, as being righteousness, and that despite all of the sins they have ever committed, they are accepted in him as if they had been Christ, while Christ was punished for hem as if he had been sin. Why, when I stand in my own place, I am lost and ruined; my place is the place where Judas stood, the place where the devil lies in everlasting shame. But when I stand in Christ's place and I fail to stand where faith has put me till I stand there when I stand in Christ's place, the Father's everlastingly beloved one, the Father's accepted one, him whom the Father delighteth to honour when I stand there, I stand where faith hath a right to put me, and I am in the most joyous spot that a creature of God can occupy. Oh, Christian, get thee up, get thee up into the high mountain, and stand where thy Saviour stands, for that is thy place. Lie not there on the dunghill of fallen humanity, that is not thy place now; Christ has once taken it on thy behoof. "He made him to be sin for us." Thy place is yonder there, above the starry hosts, where he hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in him. Not there, at the day of judgment, where the wicked shriek for shelter, and beg for the hills to cover hem, but there, where Jesus sits upon his throne there is thy place, my soul. He will make thee to sit upon his throne, even as he has overcome, and has sat down with his Father upon his throne. Oh! That I could mount to the heights of this argument to-night; it needs a seraphic preacher to picture the saint in Christ, robed in Christ's righteousness, wearing Christ's nature, bearing Christ's palm of victory, sitting on Christ's throne, wearing Christ's crown. And yet this is our privilege! He wore my crown, the crown of thorns; I wear his crown, the crown of glory. He wore my dress, nay, rather, he wore my nakedness when he died upon the cross; I wear his robes, the royal robes of the King of kings. He bore my shame; I bear his honour. He endured my sufferings to this end that my joy may be full, and that his joy may be fulfilled in me. He laid in the grave that I might rise from the dead and that I may dwell in him, and all this he comes again to give me, to make it sure to me and to all hat love his appearing, to show that all his people shall enter into their inheritance.
Now, my brothers and sisters, Mr. Maurice, McLeod, Campbell, and their great admirer, Mr. Brown, may go on with their preaching as long as they like, but they will never make a convert of a man who knows what the vitality of religion is; for he who knows what substitution means, he who knows what it is to stand where Christ stands, will never care to occupy the ground on which Mr. Maurice stands. He who has ever been made to sit together with Christ, and once to enjoy the real preciousness of a transfer of Christ's righteousness to him and his sin to Christ, that man has eaten the bread of heaven, and will never renounce it for husks. No, my brethren, we could lay down our lives for this truth rather than give it up. No, we cannot by any means turn aside from this glorious stability of faith, and for this good reason, that there is nothing for us in the doctrine which these men teach. It may suit intellectual gentlefolk, I dare say it does; but it will not suit us. We are poor sinners and nothing at all, and if Christ is not our all in all, there is nothing for us. I have often thought the best answer for all these new ideas is, that the true gospel was always preached to the poor; "The poor have the gospel preached to hem." I am sure that the poor will never learn the gospel of these new divines, for they cannot make head or tail of it, nor the rich either; for after you have read through one of their volumes, you have not the least idea of what the book is about, until you have read it through eight or nine times, and then you begin to think you are a very stupid being for ever having read such inflated heresy, for it sours your temper and makes you feel angry, to see the precious truths of God trodden under foot. Some of us must stand out against these attacks on truth, although we love not controversy. We rejoice in the liberty of our fellow-men, and would have them proclaim their convictions; but if they touch these precious things, they touch the apple of our eye. We can allow a thousand opinions in the world, but that which infringes upon the precious doctrine of a covenant salvation, through the imputed righteousness of our Lord Jesus Christ, against that we must, and will, enter our hearty and solemn protest, as long as God spares us. Take away once from us those glorious doctrines, and where are we brethren? We may lay us down and die, for nothing remains that is worth living for. We have come to the valley of the shadow of death, when we find these doctrines to e untrue. If these things which I speak to you to-night be not the verities of Christ; if they be not true, there is no comfort left for any poor man under God's sky, and it were better for us never to have been born. I may say what Jonathan Edwards says at the end of his book, "If any man could disprove the doctrines of the gospel, he should then sit down and weep to think they were not true, for," says he, "it would be the most dreadful calamity that could happen to the world, to have a glimpse of such truths, and then for them to melt away in the thin air of fiction, as having no substantiality in them." Stand up for the truth of Christ; I would not have you be bigotted, but I would have you be decided. Do not give countenance to any of this trash and error, which is going abroad, but stand firm. Be not turned away from your stedfastness by any pretence of intellectuality and high philosophy, but earnestly contend for the faith once delivered to he saints, and hold fast the form of sound words which you have heard of us, and have been taught, even as ye have read in this sacred Book, which is the way of everlasting life.
Thus then, beloved, without gathering up my strength for the fray, or attempting to analyse the subtleties of those who would pervert the simple gospel, I speak out my mind and utter the kindlings of my heart among you. Little enough will ye reck, over whom the Holy Ghost hath given me the oversight, what the grievous wolves may design, if ye keep within the fold. Break not the sacred bounds wherein God hath enclosed his Church. He hath encircled us in the arms of covenant love. He hath united us in indissoluble bonds to the Lord Jesus. He hath fortified us with the assurance that the Holy Spirit shall guide us into all truth. God grant that those beyond the pale of visible fellowship with us in this eternal gospel may see their danger and escape from he fowler's snare!
Delivered on Sabbath Morning, July 19th, 1857, by the
REV. C. H. Spurgeon
at the Music Hall, Royal Surrey Gardens.
"For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him." 2 Corinthians 5:21 .
A BOOK is the expression of the thoughts of the writer. The book of nature is an expression of the thoughts of God. We have God's terrible thoughts in the thunder and lightning; God's loving thoughts in the sunshine and the balmy breeze; God's bounteous, prudent, careful thoughts in the waving harvest and in the ripening meadow. We have God's brilliant thoughts in the wondrous scenes which are beheld from mountain-top and valley; and we have God's most sweet and pleasant thoughts of beauty in the little flowers that blossom at our feet. But you will remark that God has in nature given most prominence to those thoughts that needed to have the pre-eminence. He hath not given us broad acres overspread with flowers, for they were not needed in such abundance, but he hath spread the fields with corn, that thus the absolute necessities of life might be supplied. We needed most of the thoughts of his providence; and he hath quickened our industry, so that God's providential care may be read as we ride along the roads on every side. Now, God's book of grace is just like his book of nature; it is his thoughts written out. This great book, the Bible, this most precious volume is the heart of God made legible; it is the gold of God's love beaten out into leaf gold, so that therewith our thoughts might be plated, and we also might have golden, good, and holy thoughts concerning him. And you will mark that, as in nature so in grace, the most necessary is the most prominent. I see in God's word a rich abundance of flowers of glorious eloquence; often I find a prophet marshalling his words like armies for might, and like kings for majesty. But far more frequently I read simple declarations of the truth. I see here and there a brilliant thought of beauty, but I find whole fields of plain didactic doctrine, which is food for the soul; and I find whole chapters full of Christ which is divine manna, whereon the soul doth feed. I see starry words to make the Scriptures brilliant, sweet thoughts to make them fair, great thoughts to make them impressive, terrible thoughts to make them awful; but necessary thoughts, instructive thoughts, saving thoughts, are far more frequent, because far more necessary. Here and there a bed of flowers, but broad acres of living corn of the gospel of the grace of God. You must excuse me, then, if I very frequently dwell on the whole topic of salvation. But last Sabbath I brought you one shock of this wheat, in the fashion of Christ's promise, which saith, "He that calleth on the name of the Lord, shall be saved." And then I sought to show how men might be saved. I bring you now another shock cut down in the self same field, teaching you the great philosophy of salvation, the hidden mystery, the great secret, the wonderful discovery which is brought to light by the gospel; how God is just, and yet the justifier of the ungodly. Let us read the text again, and then at once proceed to discuss it. I intend to do to-day, as I did last Sunday; I shall just be as simple as ever I can; and I shall not attempt one single flight of eloquence or oratory, even if I am capable of it; but just go along the ground, so that every simple soul may be able to understand. "For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him."
Note the doctrine; the use of it; the enjoyment of it.
I. First, THE DOCTRINE. There are three persons mentioned here. "He (that is God) hath made him (that is Christ) who knew no sin, to be sin for us (sinners) that we might be made the righteousness of God in him." Before we can understand the plan of salvation, it is necessary for us to know something about the three persons, and, certainly, unless we understand them in some measure, salvation is to us impossible.
1. Here is first, GOD. Let every man know what God is. God is a very different Being from what some of you suppose. The God of heaven and of earth the Jehovah of Abraham, of Isaac and Jacob, Creator and Preserver, the God of Holy Scripture, and the God of all grace, is not the God that some men make unto themselves, and worship. There be men in this so called Christian land, who worship a god who is no more God than Venus or Bacchus! A god made after their own hearts; a god not fashioned out of stone or wood, but fashioned from their own thoughts, out of baser stuff than ever heathen attempted to make a god of. The God of Scripture has three great attributes, and they are all three implied in the text.
The God of Scripture is a sovereign God; that is, he is a God who has absolute authority, and absolute power to do exactly as he pleaseth. Over the head of God there is no law, upon his arm there is no necessity; he knoweth no rule but his own free and mighty will. And though he cannot be unjust, and cannot do anything but good, yet is his nature absolutely free; for goodness is the freedom of God's nature. God is not to be controlled by the will of man, nor the desires of man, nor by fate in which the superstitious believe; he is God, doing as he willeth in the armies of heaven, and in this lower world. He is a God, too, who giveth no account of his matters; he makes his creatures just what he chooses to make them, and does with them just as he wills. And if any of them resent his acts, he saith unto them: "Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honor, and another unto dishonor?" God is good; but God is sovereign, absolute, knowing, nothing that can control him. The monarchy of this world, is no constitutional and limited monarchy; it is not tyrannical, but it is absolutely in the hands of an all-wise God. But mark, it is in no hands but his; no cherubim, not seraphim can assist God in the dispensation of his government.
"He sits on no precarious throne,
Nor borrows leave to be."
He is the God of predestination; the God upon whose absolute will, the hinge of fate doth turn.
"Chain'd to his throne, a volume lies,
With all the fates of men,
With every angel's form and size,
Drawn by th' eternal pen.
His providence unfolds the book,
And makes his councils shine,
Each opening leaf, and every stroke,
Fulfils some deep design."
This is the God of the Bible, this is the God whom we adore; no weak, pusillanimous God, who is controlled by the will of men, who cannot steer the bark of providence; but a God unalterable, infinite, unerring. This is the God we worship; a God as infinitely above his creatures, as the highest thought an fly; and higher still than that.
But, again, the God who is here mentioned, is a God of infinite justice. That he is a sovereign God, I prove from the words, that he hath made Christ to be sin. He could not have done it if he had not been sovereign. That he is a just God, I infer from my text; seeing that the way of salvation is a great plan of satisfying justice. And we now declare that the God of Holy Scripture is a God of inflexible justice; he is not the God whom some of you adore. You adore a god who winks at great sins; you believe in a god who calls your crimes peccadilloes and little faults. Some of you worship a god who does not punish sin; but who is so weakly merciful, and so mercilessly weak, that he passes by transgression and iniquity, and never enacts a punishment. You believe in a god, who, if man sins, does not demand punishment for his offense. You think that a few good works of your own will pacify him, that he is so weak a ruler, that a few good words uttered before him in prayer will win sufficient merit to reverse the sentence, if, indeed, you think he ever passes a sentence at all. Your god is no God; he is as much a false god as the god of the Greeks, or of ancient Nineveh. The God of Scripture is one who is inflexibly severe in justice, and will by no means clear the guilty. "The Lord is slow to anger, and great in power; and will not at all acquit the wicked." The God of Scripture is a ruler, who, when his subjects rebel, marks their crime, and never forgives them until he has punished it, either upon them, or upon their substitute. He is not like the god of some sectaries, who believe in a god without an atonement, with only some little show upon the cross, which was not, as they say, a real suffering of sin. Their god, the god of the Socinian, just blots out sin without exacting any punishment; he is not the God of the Scriptures. The God of the Bible is as severe as if he were unmerciful, and as just as if he were not gracious; and yet he is as gracious and as merciful as if he were not just yea, more so.
And one more thought here concerning God, or else we cannot establish our discourse upon a sure basis. The God who is here means, is a God of grace: think not that I am now contradicting myself. The God who is inflexibly severe, and never pardons sin without punishment, is yet a God of illimitable love. Although as a Ruler he will chastise, yet, as the Father-God, he loveth to bestow his blessing. "As I live, saith the Lord, I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth; but had rather that he should turn unto me and live." God is love in its highest degree. He is love rendered more than love. Love is not God, but God is love; he is full of grace, he is the plenitude of mercy, he delighteth in mercy. As high as the heavens are above the earth, so high are his thoughts of love above our thoughts of despair; and his ways of grace above our ways of fear. This God, in whom these three great attributes harmonize illimitable sovereignty, inflexible justice, and unfathomable grace these three make up the main attributes of the one God of heaven and earth whom Christians worship. It is this God, before whom we must appear; it is he who has made Christ to be sin for us, though he knew no sin.
2. Thus, we have brought the first person before you. The second person of our text is the Son of God Christ, who knew no sin. He is the Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds: begotten, not made; being of the same substance with the Father, co-equal, co-eternal, and co-existent. Is the Father Almighty? So is the Son Almighty. Is the Father infinite? So is the Son infinite. He is very God of very God: having a dignity not inferior to the Father, but being equal to him in every respect, God over all, blessed for evermore. Jesus Christ also, is the son of Mary, a man like unto ourselves. A man subject to all the infirmities of human nature, except the infirmities of sin; a man of suffering and of woe; of pain and trouble; of anxiety and fear; of trouble and of doubt; of temptation and of trial; of weakness and death. He is a man just as we are, bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh. Now, the person we wish to introduce to you, is this complex being, God and man. Not God humanized, not man Deified; but God, purely, essentially God; man, purely man; man, not more than man; God, not less than God, the two standing in a sacred union together, the God-Man. Of this God in Christ, our text says that he knew no sin. It does not say that he did not sin; that we know: but it says more than that; he did not know sin; he knew not what sin was. He saw it in others, but he did not know it by experience. He was a perfect stranger to it. It is not barely said, that he did not take sin into his heart; but, he did not know it. It was no acquaintance of his. He was the acquaintance of grief; but he was not the acquaintance of sin. He knew no sin of any kind, no sin of thought, no sin of birth, no original, no actual transgression; no sin of lip, or of hand, did ever Christ commit. He was pure, perfect, spotless; like his own divinity, without spot or blemish, or any such thing. This gracious person, is he who is spoken of in the text. He was a person utterly incapable of committing anything that was wrong. It has been asserted lately, by some ill-judged one, that Christ was capable of sin. I think it was Irving who started some such idea, that if Christ was not capable of sinning, he could not have been capable of virtue. "For," say they, "if a man must necessarily be good, there is no virtue in his goodness." Out upon their ridiculous nonsense. Is not God necessarily good? And who dares deny that God is virtuous? Are not the glorified spirits in heaven necessarily pure? and yet are they not holy because of that very necessity? Are not the angels, now that they are confirmed, necessarily faultless? and shall any one dare to deny angelic virtue! The thing is not true; it needs no freedom in order to create virtue. Freedom and virtue generally go together; but necessity and virtue are as much brother and sister as freedom and virtue. Jesus Christ was not capable of sin; it was as utterly impossible for Christ to have sinned, as for fire to drown or for water to burn. I suppose both of these things might be possible under some peculiar circumstances; but it never could have been possible for Christ to have committed or to have endured the shadow of the commission of a sin. He did not know it. He knew no sin.
3. Now I have to introduce the third person. We will not go far for him. The third person is the sinner. And where is he? Will you turn your eyes within you, and look for him, each one of you? He is not very far from you. He has been a drunkard: he has committed drunkenness and revelling and such like, and we know that the man who committeth these things, hath no inheritance in the kingdom of God. There is another, he has taken God's name in vain; he has sometimes, in his hot passion, asked God to do most fearful things against his limbs and against his soul. Ah! there is the sinner. Where is he? I hear that man, with tearful eye, and with sobbing voice exclaim, "Sir, he is here!" Methinks I see some woman here, in the midst of us, some of us have accused her perhaps, and she standeth alone trembling, and saith not a word for herself. Oh! that the Master might say, "neither do I condemn thee; go and sin no more." I believe, I must believe, that somewhere amongst these many thousands, I hear some palpitating heart, and that heart, as it beats so hurriedly crieth, "Sin, sin, sin, wrath, wrath, wrath, how can I get deliverance?" Ah! thou art the man, a born rebel; born into the world a sinner, thou hast added to thy native guilt thine own transgressions. Thou hast broken the commandments of God, thou hast despised God's love, thou hast trampled on his grace, thou hast gone on hitherto until now, the arrow of the Lord is drinking up thy spirit; God hath made thee tremble, he hath made thee to confess thy guilt and thy transgression. Hear me, then, if your convictions are the work of God's Spirit, you are the person intended in the text, when it says, "He hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that we " that is you "might be made the righteousness of God in him."
I have introduced the persons, and now I must introduce you to a scene of a great exchange which is made according to the text. The third person whom we introduce is the prisoner at the bar. As a sinner, God, has called him before him, he is about to be tried for life or death. God is gracious, and he desires to save him; God is just, and he must punish him. The sinner is to be tried; if there be a verdict of guilty brought in against him, how will the two conflicting attributes work in God's mind? He is loving, he wants to save him; he is just, he must destroy him! How shall this mystery be solved, and the riddle be solved? Prisoner at the bar, canst thou plead "Not Guilty?" He stands speechless; or, if he speaks, he cries, "I am Guilty!"
Shouldst thou smite my soul to hell,
Thy righteous law approves it well.
Then, you see, if he has pleaded guilty himself, there is no hope of there being any flaw in the evidence. And even if he had pleaded "not guilty," yet the evidence is most clear, for God, the Judge, has seen his sin, and recorded all his iniquities; so that there would be no hope of his escaping. The prisoner is sure to be found guilty. How can he escape? Is there a flaw in the indictment? No! it is drawn up by infinite wisdom, and dictated by eternal justice; and there is no hope there. Can he turn king's evidence? Ah! if we could be saved by turning king's evidence, we should all of us be saved. There is an anomaly in our law which often allows the greater criminal to escape, whilst the lesser criminal is punished. If the one is dastard and coward enough by betraying his comrade he may save himself. If you turn to the Newgate Calendar if any of you have patience enough to read so vile a piece of literature you will see that the greatest of two murderers has escaped whilst the other has been hanged, because he turned king's evidence. You have told of your fellows; you have said, "Lord, I thank thee, I am not as other men; I am not as that adulterer, or even as that publican. I bless thee, I am not like my neighbor, who is an extortioner, a thief, and so on." You are telling against your neighbor; you are joint sinners, and you are telling a tale against him. There is no hope for you; God's law knows of no such injustice as a man escaping by turning informer upon others. How then shall the prisoner at the bar escape? Is there any possibility? Oh! how did heaven wonder! how did the stars stand still with astonishment! and how did the angels stay their songs a moment, when for the first time, God showed how he might be just, and yet be gracious! Oh! I think I see heaven astonished, and silence in the courts of God for the space of an hour, when the Almighty said, "Sinner. I must and will punish thee on account of sin! But I love thee; the bowels of my love yearn over thee. How can I make thee as Admah? How shall I set thee as Zeboim? My justice says 'smite,' but my love stays my hand, and says, 'spare, spare the sinner!' Oh! sinner, my heart hath devised it; my Son, the pure and perfect shall stand in thy stead, and be accounted guilty, and thou, the guilty, shall stand in my Son's stead and be accounted righteous!" It would make us leap upon our feet in astonishment if we did but understand this thoroughly the wonderful mystery of the transposition of Christ and the sinner. Let me put it so plainly that every one can understand: Christ was spotless; sinners were vile. Says Christ "My father, treat me as if I were a sinner; treat the sinner as if he were me. Smite as sternly as thou pleasest, for I will bear it, and thus the bowels of thy love may overflow with grace, and yet thy justice be unsullied, for the sinner is no sinner now." He stands in Christ's stead, and with the Saviour's garments on, he is accepted." Do you say that such an exchange as this is unjust? Will you say that God should not have made his Son a substitute for us, and have let us go? Let me remind you it was purely voluntary on the part of Christ. Christ was willing to stand in our stead; he had to drink the cup of our punishment, but he was quite willing to do it. And let me tell you yet one more unanswerable thing, the substitution of Christ was not an unlawful thing, because the sovereign God made him a substitute. We have read in history of a certain wife whose attachment to her husband was so great, that the wife has gone into the prison and exchanged clothes with him; and while the prisoner was escaping, the wife has remained in the prison-house; and so the prisoner has escaped by a kind of surreptitious substitution. In such a case there was a clear breach of law, and the prisoner escaping might have been pursued and again imprisoned. But in this case the substitution was made by the highest authority. The text says, God "hath made him to be sin for us;" and inasmuch as Christ did stand in my room, place, and stead, he did not make the exchange unlawfully. It was with the full determinate counsel of Almighty God, as well as with his own consent, that Christ stood in the sinner's place, as the sinner doth now in Christ's place. Old Martin Luther was a man for speaking a thing pretty plainly, and sometimes he spoke the truth so plainly that he made it look very much like a lie. In one of his sermons he said, "Christ was the greatest sinner that ever lived." Now, Christ never was a sinner, but yet Martin was right. He meant to say, all the sins of Christ's people were taken off them and put on Christ's head, and so Christ stood in God's sight as if he had been the greatest sinner that ever lived. He never was a sinner; he never knew sin; but good Martin, in his zeal to make men understand what it was, said, "Sinner, you became Christ; Christ, you became a sinner!" It is not quite the truth; the sinner is treated as if he were Christ, and Christ is treated as if he were the sinner. That is what is meant by the text God "hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him."
Let me just give you two illustrations of this. The first shall be taken from the Old Testament. When, of old, men did come before God with sin, God provided a sacrifice which should be the representative of Christ, inasmuch as the sacrifice died instead of the sinner. The law ran, "He that sins shall die." When men had committed sin they brought a bullock or a sheep before the altar; they put their hand on the bullock's head and acknowledged their guilt; and by that deed their guilt was typically removed from themselves to the bullock. Then, the poor bullock, which had done no wrong, was slaughtered, and cast out as a sin offering, which God had rejected. That is what every sinner must do with Christ, if he is to be saved. A sinner, by faith, comes and puts his hand on Christ's head, and confessing all his sin, it is not his any longer, it is put on Christ. Christ hangs upon the tree; he bears the cross and endures the shame; and so the sin is all gone and cast into the depths of the sea. Take another illustration. We read in the New Testament, that "the Church (that is, the people of God) is Christ's bride." We all know that, according to the law, the wife may have many debts; but no sooner is she married than her debts cease to be hers, and become her husband's at once. So that if a woman be overwhelmed with debt, so that she is in daily fear of the prison, let her but once stand up and give her hand to a man and become his wife, and there is none in the world can touch her; the husband is liable for all, and she says to her creditor, "Sir, I owe you nothing; my husband did not owe you anything; I incurred the debt; but, inasmuch as I have become his wife, my debts are taken off from me, and become his." It is even so with the sinner and Christ. Christ marieth the sinner and putteth forth his hand, and taketh the Church to be his. She is in debt to God's justice immeasurably; she owes to God's vengeance an intolerable weight of wrath and punishment; Christ says, "Thou art my wife: I have chosen thee, and I will pay thy debts." And he has paid them, and got his full discharge. Now, whosoever believeth in Christ Jesus hath peace with God, because "he hath made Christ to be sin for us, though he knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him."
And now, I shall have finished the explanation of the text, when I just bid you remember the consequences of this great substitution. Christ was made sin; we are made the righteousness of God. It was in the past, long further back than the memory of angels can reach it was in the dark past, before cherubim or seraphim had flapped the unnavigated ether when as yet worlds were not, and creation had not a name, God foresaw the sin of man, and planned his redemption. An eternal covenant was formed between the Father and the Son; wherein the Son did stipulate to suffer for his elect; and the Father on his part, did covenant to justify them through the Son. Oh, wondrous covenant, thou art the source of all the streams of atoning love. Eternity rolled on, time came, and with it soon came the fall, and then when many years had run their round the fullness of time arrived, and Jesus prepared to fulfill his solemn engagement. He came into the world, and was made a man From that moment, when he became a man; mark the change that was wrought in him. Before, he had been entirely happy; he had never been miserable never sad; but now as the effects of that terrible covenant, which he had made with God, his Father begins to pour wrath upon him. What, you say does God actually account his Son to be a sinner? Yes, he does; His Son agreed to be the substitute, to stand in the sinner's stead. God begins with him at his birth; he puts him in a manger. If he had considered him as a perfect man, he would have provided him a throne: but considering him as a sinner, he subjects him to woe and poverty from beginning to end. And now see him grown to manhood; see him griefs pursue him, sorrows follow him. Stop, griefs, why follow ye the perfect? why pursue ye the immaculate? Justice, why dost thou not drive these griefs away? "the pure should be peaceful, and the immaculate should be happy." The answer comes: "This man is pure in himself, but he has made himself impure by taking his people's sin." Guilt is imputed to him, and the very imputation of guilt brings grief with all its reality. At last, I see death coming with more than its usual horrors; I see the grim skeleton with his dart well sharpened; I see behind him, Hell. I mark the grim prince of darkness, and all the avengers uprising from their place of torment; I see them all besetting the Saviour; I notice their terrible war upon him in the garden; I note him as he lies there wallowing in his blood in fearful soul-death. I see him as in grief and sorrow, he walks to Pilate's bar; I see him mocked and spit upon; I behold him tormented, maltreated, and blasphemed; I see him nailed to the cross; I behold the mocking continued, and the shame unabated; I mark him shrieking for water, and I hear him complaining of the forsakings of God! I am astonished. Can this be just that a perfect being should suffer thus? Oh, God, where art thou, that thou canst thus permit the oppression of the innocent? Hast thou ceased to be King of Justice, else why dost thou not shield the perfect One? The answer comes: Be still; he is perfect in himself, but he is the sinner now he stands in the sinner's stead; the sinner's guilt is on him, and, therefore it is right, it is just, it is what he hath himself agreed to, that he should be punished as if he were a sinner, that he should be frowned upon, that he should die, and that he should descend to Hades unblessed, uncomforted, unhelped, unhonored, and unowned. This was one of the effects of the great change which Christ made.
And, now, take the other side of the question, and I have done with explanation. What was the effect on us? Do you see that sinner there dabbling his hand in lust, defiling his garments with every sin the flesh had ever indulged in? Do you hear him cursing God? Do you mark him breaking every ordinance that God hath rendered sacred? But do you see him in a little season pursuing his way to heaven? He has renounced these sins; he has been converted, and has forsaken them; he is going on the way to heaven. Justice, art thou asleep? That man has broken thy law; is he to go to heaven? Hark, how the fiends come rising from the pit and cry "That man deserves to be lost; he may not be now what he used to be, but his past sins, must have vengeance." And, yet there he goes safely on his way to heaven, and I see him looking back on all the fiends that accuse him. He cries out, "Behold, who can lay anything to the charge of God's elect?" And when one would think all hell would be up in arms and accuse, the grim tyrant lieth still, and the fiends have nought to say; and I see him turning his face heavenward to the throne of God, and hear him cry "Who is he that condemneth?" as with unblushing countenance he challengeth the Judge. Oh! justice, where art thou? This man has been a sinner, a rebel; why not smite him to the dust for his impertinent presumption in thus challenging the justice of God? Nay, says Justice, he hath been a sinner, but I do not look upon him in that light now; I have punished Christ instead of him: that sinner is no sinner now he is perfect. How? perfect! Perfect, because Christ was perfect, and I look upon him as if he were Christ. Though in himself all black as the gates of Kedar, I consider him to be fair as the curtains of Solomon. I make Christ the sinner, and I punish Christ; I make the sinner Christ, and I magnify and exalt him. And I will put a crown of pure gold upon his head, and by-and-bye, I will give him a place among them that are sanctified, where he shall, harp in hand, for ever praise the name of the Lord. This is the grand result to sinners of the great exchange. "For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him."
II. Now, I have to come towards the close, to my second point, upon which I shall be brief but laborious. WHAT IS THE USE OF THIS DOCTRINE? Turn to the Scriptures and you will see. "Now, then, we are ambassadors for God, as though God did beseech you by us; we pray you in Christ's stead to be reconciled to God, for " here is our grand argument "He hath made him to be sin for us who knew no sin." Men and brethren, I am about to pray to you; I am about to beseech and exhort you; may the Spirit of God help me to do it with all the earnestness which becomes me. You and I shall face each other soon before the bar of the great judge, and I shall be responsible in the day of account for all I preach to you; not for my style or talent, or want of talent, I shall only be responsible for my earnestness and zeal in this matter. And, now, before God I entreat you most earnestly to be reconciled to him, you are by nature at enmity with God; you hate him, you neglect him, your enmity shows itself in various ways. I beseech you now be reconciled to God. I might entreat you to be reconciled, because it would be a fearful thing to die with God for your enemy. Who among us can dwell with devouring fire? who can abide with the eternal burnings? It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God, for our God is a consuming fire. Beware, ye that forget God, lest he tear you in pieces and there be none to deliver. I beseech you therefore, be reconciled to God. I might on the other hand, use another argument, and remind you that those who are reconciled to God, are thereby proved to be the inheritors of the kingdom of heaven. There are crowns for God's friends; there are harps for them that love him; there is prepared a mansion for every one that seeketh unto him. Therefore, if thou wouldst be blessed throughout eternity, be reconciled to God. But I shall not urge that; I shall urge the reason of my text. I beseech thee, my hearer, be reconciled to God, because if thou repentest, it is proof that Christ has stood in thy stead. Oh, if this argument do not melt thee, there is none in heaven or earth that can. If thy heart melteth not at such an argument as this, then it is harder than the nether millstone, sure thou hast a soul of stone, and a heart of brass, if thou wilt not be reconciled to God who hath written this for thine encouragement.
I beseech thee be reconciled to God, because in this there is proof that God is loving you. Thou thinkest God to be a God of wrath. Would he have given his own Son to be punished if he had hated thee? Sinner if God had anything but thoughts of love towards thee, I ask, would he have given up his Son to hang upon the cross? Think not my God a tyrant; think him not a wrathful God, destitute of mercy. His Son, torn from his bosom and given up to die, is the best proof of his love. Oh, sinner, I need not blame thee if thou didst hate thy enemy, but I must blame thee, call thee mad, if thou dost hate thy friend. Oh, I need not wonder if thou wouldst not be reconciled to one who would not be reconciled to thee; but, inasmuch as thou wilt not by nature be reconciled to the God who gave his own Son to die, I must marvel at the stupidity into which thine evil nature hath hurried thee. God is love; wilt thou be unreconciled to love? God is grace; wilt thou be unreconciled to grace. Oh, rebel that thou art of deepest dye if still thou art unreconciled. Remember, too, oh, soul, that the way is open for thy reconciliation, Thou needest not be punished; yea, thou shalt not be. If thou knowest thyself to be a sinner, by the Spirit's teaching, God will not punish thee to maintain His justice: that justice is sufficiently maintained by the punishment of Christ. He saith, "be reconciled." The child runneth away from his father when he hath sinned, because he fears his father will punish him; but when his father burns the rod, and with a smiling face says, "child, come hither," sure it must be an unloving child that would not run into such a father's arms. Sinner thou deservest the sword; God has snapped the sword across the knee of Christ's atonement, and now he says "Come to me." You deserve infinite, eternal wrath, and the displeasure of God; God has quenched that wrath for all believers, and now he says, "Come to me and be reconciled." Do you tell me that you are not sinners? I was not preaching to you. Do you tell me that you have never rebelled against God? I warn you that though you cannot find your own sins out, God will find them out. Do you say, "I need no reconciliation, except that which I can make myself?" Be warned that if thou rejectest Christ, thou rejectest thine only hope; for all that thou canst do is less than nothing and vanity. I was not preaching to thee, when I said, "Be reconciled." I was preaching to thee, poor afflicted conscience; I was preaching to thee thou that hast been a great sinner and transgressor, thou that feelest thy guilt; to thee, thou adulterer, trembling now under the lash of conviction; to thee; thou blasphemer, quivering now from head to foot; I preach to thee thou thief, whose eye is now filled with the tear of penitence; thou feelest that hell must be thy portion, unless thou art saved through Christ; I preach to thee, thou that knowest thy guilt; I preach to thee and to every one such, and I beseech thee to be reconciled to God, for God is reconciled to thee. Oh, let not your heart stand out against this.
I cannot plead as I could wish. Oh! if I could I would plead with my heart, with my eyes, and my lips, that I might lead you to the Saviour. You need not rail at me and call this an Arminian style of preaching; I care not for your opinion, this style is Scriptural. "As though God did beseech you by us, we pray you, in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God." Poor broken-hearted sinner, God is as much preaching to you this morning, and bidding you be reconciled, as if he stood here himself in his own person; and though I be a mean and puny man by whom he speaketh, he speaketh now as much as if it were by the voice of angels, "Be reconciled to God." Come, friend, turn not thine eye and head away from me; but give me thine hand and lend me thine heart whilst I weep over thine hand and cry over thine heart, and beseech thee not to despise thine own mercy, not to be a suicide to thine own soul, not to damn thyself. Now that God has awakened thee to feel that thou art an enemy, I beseech thee now to be his friend. Remember, if thou art now convinced of sin, there is no punishment for thee. He was punished in thy stead. Wilt thou believe this? Wilt thou trust in it, and so be at peace with God? If thou sayest, "No!" then I would have thee know that thou hast put away thine own mercy. If thou sayest, "I need no reconciliation," thou hast thrust away the only hope thou canst ever have. Do it at thine own hazard; I wash my hands of thy blood. But, but, but, if thou knowest thyself to need a Saviour if thou wouldst escape the hellish pit, if thou wouldst walk among them that are sanctified, I again, in the name of him that will condemn thee at the last day, if thou rejectest this invitation, implore and beseech thee to be reconciled to God. I am his ambassador. When I have done this sermon, I shall go back to court. Sinner, what shall I say of thee. Shall I go back and tell my Master that thou intendest to be his enemy for ever? Shall I go back and tell him, "They heard me, but they regarded not?" they said in their hearts, "we will go away to our sins and our follies, and we will not serve your God, neither fear him!" Shall I tell him such a message as that? Must I be driven to go back to his palace with such a fearful story? I beseech thee, send me not back so, lest my Master's wrath wax hot, and he say,
"They that despised my promised rest,
Shall have no portion there"
But oh! may I not go back to court to-day, and tell the Monarch on my knees, "There be some my Lord, that have been great rebels, but when they saw themselves rebels, they threw themselves at the foot of the cross, and asked for pardon. They had strangely revolted, but I heard them say, 'If he will forgive me I will turn from my evil ways, if he will enable me!' They were gross transgressors, and they confessed it; but I heard them say, 'Jesus, thy blood and righteousness are my only trust.'" Happy ambassador, I will go back to my Master with a gladsome countenance, and tell him that peace is made between many a soul and the great God. But miserable ambassador who has to go back and say, "There is no peace made." How shall it be? The Lord decide it! May many hearts give way to Omnipotent grace now, and may enemies of grace be changed into friends, that God's elect may be gathered in, and his eternal purpose accomplished.
III. And now, I close up by noticing the SWEET ENJOYMENT which this doctrine brings to a believer. Mourning Christian! dry up your tears. Are you weeping on account of sin? Why weepest thou? Weep because of thy sin, but weep not through any fear of punishment. Has the evil one told thee that thou shalt be condemned? Tell him to his face that he lies. Ah! poor distressed believer; art thou mourning over thine own corruptions? Look to thy perfect Lord, and remember, thou art complete in him, thou art in God's sight as perfect as if thou hadst never sinned; nay, more than that, the Lord our righteousness hath put a divine garment upon thee, so that thou hast more than the righteousness of man thou hast the righteousness of God. Oh! thou that art mourning by reason of in-bred sin and depravity, remember, none of thy sins an condemn thee. Thou hast learned to hate sin; but thou hast learned to know that sin is not thine it is put on Christ's head. Come, be of good cheer: thy standing is not in thyself it is in Christ; thine acceptance is not in thyself, but in thy Lord; with all thy sin, thou art as much accepted to-day as in thy sanctification; thou art as much accepted of God to-day, with all thine iniquities, as thou wilt be when thou standest before his throne, rendered free from all corruption. Oh! I beseech thee, lay hold on this precious thought, perfection in Christ! For thou art perfect in Christ Jesus. With thy Saviour's garment on, thou art holy as the holy ones; thou art now justified by faith; thou hast now peace with God. Be of good cheer; do not fear to die; death has nothing terrible in it to thee; Christ hath extracted all the gall from the sting of death. Tremble not at judgment; judgment will not bring thee another acquital, to add to the acquital already given in thy cause.
Bold shalt thou stand at that great day,
For who aught to thy charge can lay
Fully absolved by Christ thou art,
From sin's tremendous guilt and smart.
Ah, when thou comest to die, thou shalt challenge God; for thou shalt say, "My God, thou canst not condemn me, for thou hast condemned Christ for me, thou hast punished Christ in my stead. 'Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea, rather, that is risen again, who also sitteth on the right hand of God and maketh intercession for us:'" Christian, be glad; let thy head lack no oil, and thy face no ointment; "go thy way; eat thy bread with joy, and drink thy wine with a merry heart, for God hath accepted thy works." Do as Solomon bids us do; live happily all the days of thy life; for thou art accepted in the beloved thou art pardoned through the blood, and justified through the righteousness of Christ. What hast thou to fear? Let thy face ever wear a smile; let thine eyes sparkle with gladness; live near thy Master; live in the suburbs of the celestial city, as by-and-by when thy time has come thou shalt borrow better wings than angels ever wore, and out soar the cherubim, and rise up where thy Jesus sits sit at his right hand, even as he has overcome and has sat down upon his Father's right hand; and all this because the divine Lord, "was made to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him."
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Spurgeon, Charle Haddon. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 5". "Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 7 / Ordinary 12