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Exposition of Ephesians 1:1-23
1, 2. Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, to the saints which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus; grace be to you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ. 3, 4. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: according as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, 4. That we should be holy and without blame before him in love: 5. Having predestinated us 5. Unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, 6. To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. 7, 8. In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace; wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence; 9, 10. Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself; that in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all thing in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him: 11. In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, 11, 12. Being predestined according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will: that we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ. 13, 14. In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with the holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory. 15-23. Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and love unto all the saints, cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers; that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him; the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; they ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward, who believe; according to the working of his mighty power, which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: and hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things in the church, which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all. "How Paul glows as he writes on this great theme! He waxes warm, and rises to an enthusiasm of eloquence. We could not stop to explain his words; that were to spoil their mystic poetry. Oh, to have a heart that can glorify Christ as Paul did! Truly, if we know ourselves to be one with Christ, and know the privileges which come to us through that blessed gate, we may indeed extol him with all our heart and soul.
HYMNS FROM "OUR OWN HYMN BOOK" 232; Psalms 103:1-22 , Version I.; 219; and the Doxology.
Blessing for Blessing
Intended for Reading on Lord's-day, July 24th, 1892,
C. H. SPURGEON,
At the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington
On Lord's-day Evening, October 26th, 1890.
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessing in heavenly places in Christ: according as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love." Ephesians 1:3 , Ephesians 1:4 .
God blesses us; let us bless him. I pray that every heart here may take its own part in this service of praise.
"O thou, my soul, bless God the Lord,
And all that in me is,
Be stirred up his holy name
To magnify and bless!"
Sit in your seats, and keep on blessing God from the first word of the sermon to the last; and then go on blessing God till the last hour of life, and enter into heaven into the eternal glory, still blessing God. It should be our life to bless him who gave us our life. It should be our delight to bless him whom give us all our delights. So says the text, and so let us do: "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ."
I. Our first occupation, at this time, will be that of BLESSING GOD.
But how can we bless God? Without doubt the less is blessed of the Greater. Can the Greater be blessed by the less? Yes, but it must be in a modified sense. God blesses us with all spiritual blessings; but we cannot give him any blessings. He needs nothing at our hand; and if he did, we could not give it. "If I were hungry," saith the Lord, "I would not tell thee: for the world is mine, and the fulness thereof." God has an all-sufficiency within himself, and can never be thought of as dependent upon his creatures, or as receiving anything form his creatures which he needs to receive. He is infinitely blessed already; we cannot add to his blessedness. When he blesses us, he gives us a blessedness that we never had before; but when we bless him, we cannot by one iota increase his absolutely infinite perfectness. David said to the Lord, "My goodness extendeth not to thee." This was as if he had said, Let me be as holy, as devout, and as earnest as I may, I can do nothing for thee; thou art too high, too holy, too great for me to be really able to bless thee in the sense which thou dost bless me.
How, then, do we bless God? Well, I should say, first, that this language is the expression of gratitude. We say with David, "Bless the Lord, O my soul," and we say with Paul, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ." We can bless God by praising him, extolling him, desiring all honour for him, ascribing all good to him, magnifying and lauding his holy name. Well, we will do that. Sit still, if you will, and let your heart be silent unto God; for no language can ever express the gratitude that, I trust, we feel to him who has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in Christ Jesus. Praise him also in your speech. Break the silence; speak of his glory. Invite other to cry with you, "Hallelujah!" or "Hallels unto Jah!" "Praise to Jehovah!" Ascribe ye greatness unto our God. Oh, that all flesh would magnify the Lord with us!
This language is also the utterance of assent to all the blessedness that is ascribed to the Lord. After hearing how great he is, how glorious he is, how happy he is, we bless him by saying, "Amen; so let it be! So would we have it! He is none to great for us, none too blessed for us. Let him be great, glorious and blessed, beyond all conception." I think that we bless God when we say concerning the whole of his character, "Amen. This God is our God for ever and ever." Let him be just what the Bible says he is; we accept him as such. Sternly just, he will not spare the guilty. Amen, blessed be his name! Infinitely gracious, ready to forgive. Amen, so let it be! Everywhere present, always omniscient. Amen, so again do we wish him to be! Everlastingly the same, unchanging in his truth, his promise, his nature. We again say that we are glad of it, and we bless him. He is just such a God as we love. He is indeed God to us, because he is really God, and we can see that he is so, and every attribute ascribed to him is a fresh proof to us that Jehovah is the Lord. Thus, we bless him by adoration.
We also bless God in the spreading of his kingdom. We can win hearts to him through his mighty grace blessing our service. We can fight against evil; we can set up a standard for the truth. We can be willing to suffer in repute, and every way else, for his name's sake. We can by his grace do all this, and thus we are blessing God. Surely, dear friends, if it is well-pleasing in God's sight that sinners should repent, if it makes heaven the gladder, and makes joy in the presence of the angels that men should repent, we are in the best and most practical way blessing God when we labour to bring men to repentance through faith in Christ Jesus.
There is also another way of blessing God which, I trust, we shall all endeavour to practise; and that is by the doing good to his children. When they are sick, visit them. When they are downcast, comfort them. When they are poor, relieve them. When they are hard pressed by outward adversaries, stand at their side, and help them. You cannot bless the Head, but you can bless the feet; and when you have refreshed the feet, you have refreshed the Head. He will say, "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me." If they be naked, and you clothe them; if they be sick, and you visit them; if they be hungry, and you feed them; you do in this respect bless God. David not only said, "Thou art my Lord: my goodness extendeth not to thee;" but added, "but to the saints that are in the earth, and to the excellent in whom is all my delight." You can be good to them, and in that respect you may be blessing God. He has done so much for us, that we would fain do something for him; and when we have reached the limit of our possibilities, we long to do more. We wish that we had more money to give, more talent to use, more time that we could devote to his cause, we wish that we had more heart and more brain; sometimes we wish that we had more tongue, and we sing,
"Oh, for a thousand tongues to sing
My great Redeemer's praise!"
This word "blessed" is an attempt to break the narrow circle of our capacity. It is an earnest endeavour of a burning heart to lay at God's feet crowns of glory which it cannot find: "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ."
II. But now, secondly, we shall spend a little time in VIEWING GOD in the light in which Paul sets him before us: "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ."
We bless the god of nature. What beauties he has strewn around us! We bless the God of providence. How bountifully doth he send us harvests and fruitful seasons! We bless the God of grace who hath redeemed us, and adopted us as his children. But here is a peculiar aspect of God, which should call forth our highest praises; for he is called "the God and Father or our Lord Jesus Christ."
When we see God in connection with Christ, we see God through Christ, when we see God in Christ, then our hearts are all aflame, and we burst out with, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ." God apart from Christ that is a great and glorious theme; but the human mind fails to grasp it. The infinite Jehovah, who can conceive him? "Our God is a consuming fire." Who can draw near to him? But in the Mediator, in the Person of the God, the Man, in whom we find blended human sympathy and divine glory, we can draw nigh to God. There it is that we get our hands upon the golden harp-strings, and resolve that every string shall be struck to the praise of God in Christ Jesus.
But note carefully that God is described here as the God our Lord Jesus Christ. When Jesus knelt in prayer, he prayed to our God. When Jesus leaned in faith upon the promises, he trusted in God that he would deliver him. When our Saviour sang on the passover night, the song was unto God. When he prayed in Gethsemane, with bloody sweat, the prayer was unto our God. Jesus said to Mary at the sepulchre, "Go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God." How we ought to bless God when we think that he is the God, whom our Redeemer blesses! This is the God who said of Christ, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." Delightful thought! When I approach Jehovah, I approach the God or our Lord Jesus Christ. Surely, when I see his blood-stained footprints there on the ground before me, though I put my shoe off from my foot, for the place is holy ground, yet I follow with confidence where my Friend, my Saviour, my Husband, my Head has been before me; and I rejoice as I worship the God of our Lord Jesus Christ.
He is also called the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. This is a great mystery. Think not that we shall ever understand the high relationship between the first and second Persons of the blessed Trinity, the Father and the Son. We speak of eternal filiation, which is a term that does not convey to us any great meaning; it simply covers up our ignorance. How God is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ as God, we do not know; and perhaps to wish to gaze into this tremendous mystery were as great a folly as to look at the sun, and blind ourselves with its brilliance. It is so; that ought to be enough for us. God the Father is the Father of Jesus Christ as to his divine nature: "Thou art my Son; this day I have begotten thee." He is also his Father as to the human side of his nature. He was begotten of the Holy Ghost. That body of his, that human life, came of God; not of Joseph, not of man. Born of a woman, God sent forth his Son; but he was his Son then. It was God's son that was born at Bethlehem. Gabriel said to the Virgin Mary, "That holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God." Now take the two natures of their wondrous blending in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ, and you see how the great God is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Yet, sweet thought, he is my Father, too; my Father is Christ's Father. Jesus Christ's Father is our Father, and he teaches us all to call him, "Our Father, which art in heaven." Often in prayer he said, "Father"; and he bids us say the same, putting the plural pronoun before it, "Our Father." Now will you not bless the Lord, who is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ? Do you not feel a glowing in your hearts, as you think of the near and dear relationship into which you are brought through Jesus Christ? The God of Jesus Christ, the Father of Jesus Christ, is my God, my Father, too. Blessed, blessed, blessed, for ever blessed be that dear name!
III. Our third occupation, at this time, is that of RECOUNTING HIS GREAT MERCIES. I will read the rest of the third verse: "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ."
This recapitulation of mercies is written with full assurance; and you will not bless God unless you have a touch of that same experience. Paul does not say, "Who has, we hope and trust, blessed us," but he writes, "Who hath blessed us." Ah, beloved, if you have a full assurance that God has blessed you in Christ, and that now his smile rests upon you, and all the benisons of the covenant are stored there for you, I think that you cannot help saying, "Blessed, blessed be the name of the Most High!" that doubt, that trembling, this it is that empties out the marrow from the bone of our blessedness. If you have suspicions about the truth of this precious Book, if you have questions about the truth of the doctrines of grace, if you have doubts about your own interest in those things. I do not wonder that you do not praise God, for a blessing which is only mine by peradventure, well, peradventure I shall be grateful for it; but peradventure I shall not. But if I know whom I have believed, if I have a firm grip of spiritual mercies, if all heavenly things are mine in Christ my Lord, I can sing, "Wake up, my glory; awake psaltery and harp; I myself will awake right early." "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings."
With this full assurance should come intense delight: "Who hath blessed us." God has blessed us. Come, brethren, he has not done some trifle for us, which we can afford to ignore. He has not merely given us some absolutely necessary boons, which we must have, for we could not live without them; but he has in grace dealt still more abundantly with us. He has gone beyond workhouse fare, and made us a feast with saints and princes. He has given us more than home-spun garments; he has put upon us robes of beauty and of glory, even his own spotless righteousness. He has blessed us; we are blessed; we feel that we are. Each believer can say:
"I feel like singing all the time,
For my tears are wiped away;
For Jesus is a Friend of mine,
I'll praise him every day.
I'll praise him! Praise him! Praise him all the time!"
We are not sitting here, and groaning, and crying, and fretting, and worrying, and questioning our own salvation. He has blessed us; and therefore we will bless him. If you think little of what God has done for you, you will do very little for him; but if you have a great notion of his great mercy to you, you will be greatly grateful to you gracious God.
Let me also remark, next, that as assurance and delight lead to blessing God, so does a right understanding of his mercies. To help your understanding, notice what Paul says: "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings." An enlightened man is grateful to God for temporal blessings; but he is much more grateful to God for spiritual blessings, for temporal blessings do not last long; they are soon gone. Temporal blessings as not definite marks of divine favour, since God gives them to the unworthy, and to the wicked, as well as to the righteous. The corn, and wine, and oil, are for Dives; and Lazarus gets even less than his share. Our thanks are due to God for all temporal blessings; they are more than we deserve. But our thanks ought to go to God in thunders of hallelujahs for spiritual blessings. A new heart is better than a new coat. To feed on Christ is better than to have the best earthly food. To be an heir of God is better than being the heir of the greatest nobleman. To have God for our portion is blessed, infinitely more blessed than to own broad acres of land. God hath blessed us with spiritual blessings. These are the rarest, the richest, the most enduring of all blessings; they are priceless in value. Wherefore, let me beg you to join in blessing the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed you with spiritual blessings.
But did you notice the word "all"? I must bring that out clearly. I must turn the microscope on it. "Who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings." Surely, Paul means that we have not a spiritual blessing which God did not give. We have never earned one; we could never create one. All spiritual blessings come from the Father; he has really given us all spiritual blessings. "I have not received them," says one. That is your own fault. He hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in Christ. A new heart, a tender conscience, a submissive will, faith, hope, love, patience, we have all these in Christ. Regeneration, justification, adoption, sanctification, perfection are all in Christ. If we do not take them out, it is the fault of our palsied hand, that has not strength enough to grasp them; but he has given us all spiritual blessings in Christ. Whenever you read your Bible, and see a great promise, do not hesitate to claim it. He hath given us all spiritual blessings in Christ. "I am afraid," says one, "that I should be presuming if I took some of the promises." He hath given us all spiritual blessings in Christ. You are in your Father's house; you cannot steal; for your Father says, "Help yourself to what you like." He has made over his whole estate of spiritual wealth to every believing child of his; wherefore take freely, and you will, by doing so, glorify God. He hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in Christ.
This he has done in the "heavenly places." What does that mean, "Who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places"? Does it not mean that he is working upon us all spiritual blessings out of the heaven where he dwells? Or does it mean much more, that his is sending us all these spiritual blessings to bring us to the heaven where he dwells, and where he would have us dwell?
I want to stir up your heart by reminding you that all the spiritual blessings we receive are the richer and rarer because they are given to us "in Christ." Here are the blessings; and Christ is the golden casket that holds them all. When the City of London makes a man a freeman of the city, the document giving him his liberty is usually presented to him enclosed in a golden casket. Christ is that golden casket, in which we find the charter of our eternal liberty. He hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in Christ. If they came to us any other way, we might lose them; or we might not be sure that they were genuine; but when they come to us in Christ, they come to stay, and we know that they are real. If Christ is mine, all blessings in heavenly places are mine.
I seemed, to myself, to be talking very drily of things that ought to be swimming in a sea of joy and delight. Beloved, do not let my faint words rob my Lord of any of his glory. He has done such great things for you; bless his name. We cannot stand up, and ask for instruments of music with which to sound his praise; but we can sit still, and each one say, "Blessed be his name! It is all true; he has blessed me; I know that he has. He has blessed me, with a liberal hand, with all spiritual blessings. He has blessed me, just where I wanted blessing, where I was poorest in spiritual things. I could make my way in business, but I could not make my own way in grace; so he has blessed me with all spiritual blessings; and he has made the garments all the dearer because of the wardrobe in which he has hung them. He has given me these royal things in Christ; and as I look to my dear Lord, and see what there is for me stored up in him, I prize each thing the more because it is in him. Come, Holy Spirit, set our hearts on fire with blessing and praise to God for all the great things that he has done for us!"
IV. I shall close with this fourth remark: Let us bless God, BEHOLDING THE MANNER OF HIS GIFTS. That is described in the fourth verse: "According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love."
Now, brethren, we are to praise God because all spiritual blessings have come to us in the same way as our election came, "according as he hath chosen us in him." How did that come? Well, it came of his free, sovereign grace. He loved us because he would love us. He chose us before he chose us. "Ye have not chosen me; but I have chosen you." If there is any virtue, if there be any praise in us now, he put it there. To the bottomless abyss of his own infinite goodness we must trace the election of his grace. Well, now, every blessing comes to us in the same way. God hath not blessed thee, my brother, with usefulness because thou didst deserve it; but because of his grace. He did not redeem thee, or regenerate thee, or sanctify thee, or uphold thee, because of anything in thee. Again and again, by the prophet Ezekiel, did the Lord remind his ancient people that the blessings he bestowed upon them were all gifts of his grace. "Therefore say unto the house of Israel, Thus saith the Lord God, I do not this for your sakes, O house of Israel, but for mine holy name's sake." And again, "Not for your sakes do I this, saith the Lord God, be it known unto you: be ashamed and confounded for you own ways, O house of Israel." Every blessing comes to us with the hall-mark of sovereign grace upon it. As the Lord distributed the gifts of his grace, he says, "May I not do as I will with my own?" He does so, and we bless, and praise, and adore the sovereign grace of God, which having chosen us, continues to bless us according as he hath chosen us in Christ.
Next, we have to bless God that all his gifts come to us in Christ. Notice Paul's words, "according as he hath chosen us in him." God called us in Christ. He justified us in Christ. He sanctified us in Christ. He will perfect us in Christ. He will glorify us in Christ. We have everything in Christ, and we have nothing apart from Christ. Let us praise and bless the name of the Lord that this sacred channel of his grace is as glorious as the grace itself. There is as much grace in the gift of Christ to save us as there is in the salvation which Christ has wrought out for us. "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ."
Again, all our blessings come from the divine purpose. Listen: "Who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: according as he hath chosen us in him." No spiritual blessing comes to any man by chance. No man gets a boon from God through his "good luck:; it all comes according to the eternal purpose of God which he purposes or ever the earth was.
"Long e'er the sun's refulgent ray
Primeval shades of darkness drove,
They on his sacred bosom lay,
Loved with an everlasting love."
"Before the foundation of the world", says the text, there was a purpose in the heart of God, and in that purpose we were chosen, and by that same purpose God continues to bless us. Look, beloved, God never gives his people either a gift or a grace without his purpose. Has God given you a brain cleat, quick, capacious? Think for him. Has God given you a tongue fluent, eloquent? Speak for him. He does not give you these gifts without purpose. Has God given you influence among your fellow-men? Use it for him. Your election came according to his purpose; and so have all your gifts, and much more, all your graces. Have you a strong, bright-eyes faith? Have you burning zeal? Have you vehement love? Have you any of these gifts of the covenant? Use them for a purpose. God has given them for a purpose; find out what that purpose is, and glorify God thereby.
Lastly, the text tells us that God blesses us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: according as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, "that we should be holy and without blame before him in love." God's choice of us was not because we were holy, by to make us holy; and God's purpose will not be fulfilled unless we are made holy. Some people, when they talk about salvation, mean escaping from hell, and getting into heaven by the skin of their teeth. We never mean any such thing. We mean deliverance from evil, deliverance from sin. Like a dog in the manger, they cannot eat the hay themselves, and they growl at those who can. If you wish to be safe from sin, ask God for that great blessing, and he will give it to you; but if you do not want it, do not complain if God says, "I shall give it to such and such a person, and you that do not even ask for it shall be left without it." If you do not care to be holy, you shall not be holy. If you did not care for it, and wish for it, you might have it, for God denies it to none who seek it at his hands. But if you neither wish for it, nor value it, why do you lift your puny fist against the God of heaven because he hath chosen others, that they should be holy and without blame before him in love?
The object of our election is our holiness, and the object of every spiritual blessing is our holiness. God is aiming at making us holy. Are you not glad of that? May I not say, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, because his aim in every gift is to make us holy"? Brothers and sisters, would we not sacrifice everything we have, and count it no sacrifice, if we might be perfectly holy? I said to a young girl, who came to join the church, "Mary, are you perfect?" She looked at me and said, "No, sir." I said, "Would you like to be?" "Oh, that I would! I long for it; I cry for it." Surely, the God who makes us long to be perfect, has already wrought a great work in us; and if we can say that, to be perfect, would be heaven to us, then we are already on the road to heaven, and God is working out in us his eternal purpose, which is, "that we should be holy."
There is one thing more: "That we should be holy and without blame before him in love." Does that mean that we are to be loving, full of love, and without blame in that matter? Well, I am afraid that there are not very many Christians who are without blame on the score of love. I know a man, a noble man intellectually, and, in some respects, spiritually. I believe that he would die at the stake for the grand old Calvinistic faith; but he is as hard as iron; you cannot feel any kind of love to him, for he does not feel any kind of love to anybody else. That man is not without blame before God in love. I have known others; wonderful Christians they appear to be, they could pray for a week; but if you are poor, and ask them for a little help, your asking will all be in vain. I do not think that they are without blame before God in love. O brothers, God has chosen us to be loving, he has ordained us to be loving; and all the innumerable blessings which he has given to us, he sends to win us to a loving spirit, that we may be without blame in that matter. Our dear friend, Mr. William Olney, whom we remember here still, and never can forget, was, I think, without blame in that matter of love. I sometimes thought that he used to shed his love on some who might have been the better for a hard word; for they were deceivers; but he could not bring his mind to think that anybody could be a deceiver; and if anybody was in want of help, no matter though their own misconduct had brought them into poverty, his hand was in his pocket, and out again, very quickly with help for them. He never failed in love; and I pray that you and I, with prudence and wisdom mixed with it, may be without blame before God in the matter of love. Love your fellow-Christians. Love poor sinners to Christ. Love those that despitefully use you. Love those round about you who are strangers to the love of God. It may be that they will see in your love some little image of the love of God, as in a drop of water you may sometimes see the sun and the heavens reflected. God make us to be reflections of the love of God! His purpose is that we may be holy and without blame before him in love.
Now, I have set before you a rare treasury. Does this treasury belong to you? My dear hearers, is Christ yours? Are you trusting him? If not, there is nothing yours. Without Christ, you can do nothing, and you are nothing, and you have nothing. Come to Jesus as you are, and put your trust in him, and then all things are yours. If Christ be yours, beloved, then I charge you bless the Lord, ay, bless the Lord again and again, for you will never bless him as much as he deserves to be blessed. Let us finish this service as we closed our worship this morning, by singing the doxology,
"Praise God from whom all blessings flow."
The Epistle to the Ephesians is a complete Body of Divinity. In the first chapter you have the doctrines of the gospel; in the next, you have the experience of the Christians; and before the Epistle is finished, you have the precepts of the Christian faith. Whosoever would see Christianity in on treatise, let him "read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest" the Epistle to the Ephesians.
1, 2. Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, to the saints which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus; grace be to you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
All down through the ages this benediction comes to us, even to as many of us as are " the faithful in Christ Jesus." "Grace be to you," brethren and sisters, grace in every form of it, the free favour of God, all that active force of grace which comes of his unmerited love. May you have a fresh draught of it at this time! "and peace." May you feel a deep peace with God, with your own conscience, and with all the world! Oh, that you might find an atmosphere of quiet calm about your mind at this very moment! The double blessing of "grace" and "peace" comes "from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ."
3, 4. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: according as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world,
One of the first doctrines of our holy faith is that of the union of all believing souls with Christ. We are blessed with all spiritual blessings in Christ. Apart from Christ we are nothing; in Christ we have "all spiritual blessings" We are rich as Christ is rich, when we are united to him by the living bond of faith. Another great doctrine of Holy Scripture is that of election. We are blessed in Christ according as the Father "hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world." Why did God choose any unto eternal life? Was it because of any holiness in them then existing, or forseen to exist? No, by no means; for we read that: "According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world,"
4. That we should be holy and without blame before him in love:
We are chosen, not because we are holy, but that we may be made holy. The election precedes the character, and is indeed the moving cause in producing the character. Before the foundation of the world, God chose us in Christ, "that we should be holy and without blame before him in love." You see, then, beloved brethren and sisters, the end for which the Lord chose you by his grace.
5. Having predestinated us
Having destined us before we were born,
5. Unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will,
The chosen ones are adopted; they become the children of God. The universal Fatherhood of God, except in a very special sense, is a doctrine totally unknown to Scripture. God is the Father of those whom he adopts into his family, who are born again into his family, and no man hath any right to believe God to be his Father except through the new birth, and through adoption. And why God thus elects or adopts is declared here: "According to the good pleasure of his will." He does as he pleases. That old word of God is still true: "I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion." Men do not like that doctrine; it galls them terribly; but it is the truth of God for all that. He is Master and King, and he will sit on the throne, and none shall drag him thence.
6. To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.
There is another precious doctrine, the acceptance of those who are adopted. We are beloved of God; he has a complacency toward us; he takes a delight in us; we are acceptable in his sight. Oh, what a blessing this is! But remember that it is all in Christ: "Accepted in the beloved." Because Christ is accepted, therefore those who are in him are accepted.
7, 8. In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace; wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence;
In the working out of the economy of grace, God has been lavish with his love; but yet there have been wisdom and prudence in it. He did not suffer the full light of the gospel to break in upon our eyes at first, lest we should have been blinded by it. Jesus had many things to say unto his disciples; but they could not bear them all at once; so, by little and little he has led us on, and led us up, abounding always in his grace, and only limiting the display of it by our capacity to receive it.
9, 10. Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself; that in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all thing in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him:
Everything that is in Christ shall be gathered in; all his chosen, all that the Father gave him, all that he hath redeemed by blood, all that he hath effectually brought into union with himself shall be gathered together in one. There shall be one flock under one Shepherd.
11. In whom also we have obtained an inheritance,
Not only shall we have it, but we have it now. We have heaven in the price of it, in the principles of it, in the promise of it, in the foretaste of it.
11, 12. Being predestined according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will: that we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ.
The enmity of men's hearts to this doctrine of predestination was seen in the House of Common, not a fortnight ago, when one who ought to have known better talked about "the gloomy tenets of Calvin." I know nothing of Calvin's gloomy tenets; but I do know that I read here of predestination, and I read here that God hath his own way, and his own will, and that he reigns and rules, and so he will until the world's end; and all who are loyal subjects wish God to rule. He is a traitor who would not have God to be King; for who is infinitely good and kind as God is? Let him have his divine will. Who wishes to restrain him? Whether we wish is or not, however, the Lord reigneth; let the earth rejoice, and let his adversaries tremble. Our predestination is "according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will."
13, 14. In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with the holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.
Those who believe in Christ have the Holy Spirit dwelling in them: the Holy Spirit is a part of heaven, "the earnest of our inheritance"; and wherever he dwells, it is not possible that the heart should lose the inheritance. It is entailed upon those in whom the Spirit dwells. Judge, there, dear brethren, whether the Spirit of God dwells in you or no.
15-23. Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and love unto all the saints, cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers; that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him; the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; they ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward, who believe; according to the working of his mighty power, which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: and hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things in the church, which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.
How Paul glows as he writes on this great theme! He waxes warm, and rises to an enthusiasm of eloquence. We could not stop to explain his words; that were to spoil their mystic poetry. Oh, to have a heart that can glorify Christ as Paul did! Truly, if we know ourselves to be one with Christ, and know the privileges which come to us through that blessed gate, we may indeed extol him with all our heart and soul.
HYMNS FROM "OUR OWN HYMN BOOK" 232; Psalms 103:0 , Version I.; 219; and the Doxology.
'Redemption Through Blood, the Gracious Forgiveness of Sins' and 'The Treasure of Grace'
Redemption Through Blood, the Gracious Forgiveness of Sins
Intended for Reading on Lord's-Day, June 7th, 1891,
C. H. SPURGEON,
At the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington
"In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace." Ephesians 1:7 .
READ THE CHAPTER, and carefully note how the apostle goes to the back of everything, and commences with those primeval blessings which were ours before time began. He dwells on the divine love of old, and the predestination which came out of it; and all that blessed purpose of making us holy and without blame before him in love, which was comprehended in the covenant of grace. It does us good to get back to these antiquities to these eternal things. You shake off something of the dust of time, as you no longer walk adown its restless ages; but traverse the glorious eternity, where centuries seem no more than fallen leaves by the way. Thousands of years are less than a drop of a bucket compared with the lifetime of the Almighty. How sublime a thing to climb, in contemplation, to the everlasting God and the eternal council-chamber, and to see the heart of love beating towards the chosen people before all time, and the infinite mind of God devising and purposing their good! This is an exceeding great refreshment, and the wonder is that so few believers dare to ascend this sublime hill of the Lord, there to commune with him that was, and is, and is to come.
After the apostle had briefly touched upon that subject, he then began to speak of present blessings matters of actual experience; and he commenced by saying, "In whom we have redemption." The grace of the eternal past is a matter of faith; but here is something which is within our grasp and enjoyment. The other we believe; but this we actually and literally receive. "We have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins."
And here let me say what a charming thing it is to deal with experimental divinity; not with theories, but with matters of fact, great facts which are dear to you, because they have been wrought in you, and you have not been merely a delighted spectator of them, but you have been the subject and object of them. "In whom we have redemption." Whether others have it or not, we have "redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins." We do not hope for it, but we have it. We do not merely think so, but we know that we have it. We are redeemed; we are free from bondage; we are forgiven, and are no longer under condemnation.
At this time, as God shall help me, I shall dwell upon the forgiveness of sins. We have not time to plunge into the deeps of the eternal purpose, nor even to dive into the full doctrine of redemption; but, as the swallow with his wing touches the brook, and then is up and away, so must it be with my thought at this time a mere touch of the river of the water of life will be a blessing to myself; and as I cast a little spray over you, I hope it will refresh you also. May the Holy Spirit help our meditation!
I. The first observation, taken distinctly from the text, is this THAT THE FORGIVENESS OF SINS IS A GRAND BLESSING. The apostle has mentioned it, if you notice, amongst the great things of God his electing love, his adoption of us by Jesus Christ, his acceptance of us in the Beloved. Side by side with these colossal mercies he puts this one, that we have "the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace." This is a blessing of no mean stature, for it marches with the giants of election and adoption. Let it stand prominently out before us at this time.
What is this "forgiveness of sins"? Too often, in popular talk, it is supposed that the chief and main thought of the forgiven sinner is that he has escaped from hell. Salvation means much more than this; and what it further means is too much kept in the background, but yet I will begin with rescue from punishment; for if sin be pardoned, the penalty is extinguished. It would not be possible for God to forgive, and yet to punish. That would be a forgiveness quite unworthy of God. It would, indeed, be no forgiveness at all. We are certain that the everlasting punishment of sin declared in Scripture, will never happen to the man who is forgiven. When transgression is removed the soul stands clear at the bar of God, and there can be no further penalty. "I absolve thee," says the great Judge; and that carries with it weight, so that a man that is forgiven is cleared of the punishment which he must otherwise have borne. "Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered." "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus."
Yet divine favor restored is a still brighter result of forgiveness to many. Speaking from my own experience, while I was under conviction of sin I had less apprehension of the punishment of sin than I had of sin itself. I do not know that I very frequently trembled at the thought of hell: I did so whenever it came before my mind; but when I was in the hand of the Holy Ghost, as a Spirit of bondage convincing me of sin, my great trouble was that God was angry with me properly and rightly so. I mourned that I had offended my Maker, that I had grieved the living God, that I had sinned against his righteous will, and that I could not rejoice in his favor, nor sun myself in his smile. I felt that it was right on the part of the holy God to be displeased with me. I believe that the great joy of forgiveness, to the believer, is that God has taken away his anger from him. That sweet hymn, which we often sing, is a paraphrase of a passage in Isaiah
"I will praise thee every day,
Now thine anger's turned away;
Comfortable thoughts arise
From the bleeding sacrifice."
"Though thou wast angry with me, thine anger is turned away, and thou comfortedst me." Forgiveness means this among men. A person has grieved and wronged me. I feel hurt in my mind about it. When I forgive him, I no longer feel grieved or angry with him: I think of him as aforetime, and we are on good terms. If my forgiveness is genuine and in God's case it is emphatically so then there is no resentment left. The offense is as though it had never been committed. I say to the person who did me wrong, "I take a sponge, and I wipe it all off the slate: give me your hand, let us stand as we stood before." The pardon of sin by God is after such a fashion. He blots out the sin as the Oriental erases with his pencil the record made upon his waxen tablet, so that no trace of it remains. He smiles where else he must have frowned; he gives complacent love where else there must have been indignation and wrath. Do you not think that this is the sweetest way of looking at the forgiveness of sin? If you are at this time under legal work, feeling the tortures of a guilty conscience, you will appreciate such a pardon very highly. In the case of the poor penitent prodigal, it was the kiss of his father's lip, it was his restoration to his father's heart, it was the cheering words of his father's love, that constituted to him the sweetest fragrance of the rose of forgiveness. Yes, the Lord Jesus Christ has come, that we poor, guilty ones may be restored to the favor of God, and walk consciously in the light of his countenance, because sin is removed.
This pardon of sin, being of this full and sweet character, involving both the reversal of the penalty of sin, and the ending of the distance that intervened between us and God, brings with it the removal of much distress and sorrow from the heart! I do not think that there can be any grief outside of hell that is more terrible to bear than the wounds of conscience. We read that "David's heart smote him"; and, believe me, the heart can smite as with an iron mace, and smite where the bruise is felt intensely. Give me into the power of a roaring lion, but never let me come under the power of an awakened, guilty conscience. Ay, shut me up in a dark dungeon, among all manner of loathsome creatures snakes and reptiles of all kinds but, oh, give me not over to my own thoughts when I am consciously guilty before God! This, surely, is the worm that dieth not, and the fire that is not quenched. I do not speak now what I have merely heard of; though, if you will read Mr. Bunyan's "Grace Abounding," you will find a striking account of it there; but I speak of what I have felt in my own soul. No pains of body can rival, for a moment, the agonized feeling of the heart, when the hot irons of conviction burn their way through the soul. When God sets up the conscience, and makes it a target for his arrows, they drink up the life blood of our spirit, till we cry out, and wonder how such anguish can come to a creature so insignificant. Our soul seems too small a cup to contain such an ocean of misery too narrow a field for so cruel a battle. It is not the Lord that is the author of the misery; but he is giving us up for a while, that we may be filled with our own ways, and learn the bitterness of our own sin. When the Lord comes to us with a forgiving word, these sorrows are gone, like the mists of the morning when the sun arises. We grieve still to think that we have sinned; but that gnawing remorse, that vulture eating up the liver, is smitten with death, and the man breathes hopefully again. Though the penitence remains, the torment is removed from me, when God has forgiven me.
Let me say here, that full forgiveness of sin, consciously enjoyed, will not only lift an enormous weight from off the soul, but it will breathe into the heart a great joy. When you know that sin is forgiven, you cannot be sad as before. The thought of perfect pardon, if it does but fill the spirit, will thrust out gloom, and remove apathy. It will make the lame man leap as a hart: he may still be lame, but he will leap as if he were not. And the tongue of the dumb, even though untrained to speech, shall be made to sing concerning free grace and dying love. When the thoughts are concentrated upon the enjoyment of complete forgiveness, full reception into the divine favor, and the blotting out of sin, then is the heart lifted into the suburbs of heaven. My dear hearers, do you know what I am talking about Some of you do, blessed be the name of the Lord; but I am afraid that some of you do not; and you never can know the sweetness of mercy until you first have tasted the bitterness of sin. You will never know how grace can heal until you have felt how sin can wound. There is no clothing you till you are stripped; there is no making you alive till you are killed; there is no filling you till you are empty. The Lord filleth the hungry with good things, but the rich he sends empty away. God himself will never comfort you till you are driven to self-despair; and if you have already come to that, it is a great privilege to me to be allowed to tell you that the fact of forgiveness of sin is not only a doctrine of the creed, but it is a promise of God's Word. "I believe in the forgiveness of sins:" this is no mere formula, but a realized fact with me. Removal of the penalty, removal of God's offense against us, the clearing away of all the turbid waters within the heart, and the creation of joy and peace through perfect reconciliation to God this is a summary account of the forgiveness of sin. It is a blessing vast and rich.
II. And now, secondly, THE FORGIVENESS OF SINS IS BOUND UP WITH REDEMPTION BY BLOOD. Take the text, "In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins." Redemption and forgiveness are so put together, as to look as if they were the same thing. Assuredly they are so interlaced and intertwisted that there is no having the one without the other. Do you ask "How is it that there should always need to be redemption by blood, in order to the forgiveness of sin?" I call your attention to the expression, "Redemption through his blood." Observe, it is not redemption through his power, it is through his blood. It is not redemption through his love, it is through his blood. This is insisted upon emphatically, since in order to the forgiveness of sins it is redemption through his blood, as you have it over and over again in Scripture. "Without shedding of blood is no remission." But they say they say that substitution is not just. One said, the other day, that to lay sin upon Christ, and to treat him as guilty, and let him die for the unjust, was not just. Yet the objector went on to say that God forgave men freely without any atonement at all. Of this wise critic I would ask Is that just? Is it just to pass by breaches of the law without a penalty? Why any law at all? and why should men care whether they keep it or break it? It was stated by this critic that God, out of his boundless love, treated the guilty man as if he were innocent. I would ask if that be right, where is the wrong of God's treating us as innocent because of the righteousness of Christ? I venture to affirm that pardon is needless, if not impossible, upon the theory that the man, though guilty, is treated as if he were not guilty. If all are treated alike, whether guilty or not guilty, why should any one desire pardon? It were easy to answer cavillers, but they really are not worth the answering. It is to me always sufficient if I find a truth taught in Scripture: I ask no more. If I do not understand it, I am not particularly anxious to understand it: if it be in the Scriptures, I believe it. I like those grand, rocky truths of the Bible which I cannot break with the hammer of my understanding, for on these I lay the foundations of my soul's confidence. Redemption by blood is here linked with forgiveness of sins, and in many other Scriptures we find it plainly stated. It is so. Let that stand for a sufficient answer to all objectors.
And it is so, if we come to think of it, because this reflects great honor upon God. They say, "Let God simply forgive the sin, and have done with it." But where, then, were his justice? "Shall not the Judge of the earth do right?" He threatened sin with punishment. If he does not execute his threatening, what then? Can we be sure that he will fulfill his promise? If he break his word one way might he not break it another? If all the Lord should not execute the penalty which he has threatened to sin, would it not look as if he made a mistake in threatening a penalty at all? Would it not seem as if he had been too severe at the first, and then had to catch himself up, and revise his own judgment afterwards? And shall that be? Might it not be supposed that, after all, God made much ado about nothing, and that he was really jesting with men when he threatened them with fearful punishment on account of sin? Shall God say, "Yea," and "Nay"? Shall he speak and unspeak? This is according to the folly of man. Sometimes it may even be wisdom in a fallible man to reverse his word, and retract his declaration; but with God this cannot be. It is needful for the vindication of his own justice, his wisdom, and his holiness, that he shall not forego one of his threatenings, any more than one of his promises; and, since it is just that sin should be punished, and that, though the sinner should in wondrous mercy be permitted to go free, it is wise and just that Another should step in God's own Self should step in and bear for the sinner what is due to the justice of the Most High. The substitution of our Lord in our room and stead is the central doctrine of the gospel, and it greatly glorifies the name of God.
Besides that, beloved, that sin should not be pardoned without an atonement, is for the welfare of the universe. This world is but a speck compared with the universe of God. We cannot even imaging the multitudes of beings over which the great Lawgiver has rule; and if it could be whispered anywhere in that universe that, on this planet, God tampered with law, set aside justice, or did anything, in fact, to save his own chosen, so that he threw his own threatening behind his back, and disregarded his own solemn ordinance; why, this report would strike at the foundations of the eternal throng! Is God unjust in any cave? Then how can he judge the universe? What creatures, then, would fear God, when they knew that he could play fast and loose with justice? It were a calamity even greater than hell itself that sin should go unpunished. The very reins of moral order would be snatched from the hand of the great Charioteer, and I know not what of mischief would happen. Evil would then have mounted to the high throne of God, and would have become supreme throughout his domains. It is for the welfare of the universe, throughout the ages, that in the forgiveness of sins there should be redemption by blood. Let lovers of anarchy cavil at it; but let good men accept the sacrifice of the Son of God with joy as the great establishment of law and justice.
Moreover, this also is arranged for our comfort and as assurance of heart. I protest before you all that, if I had been anywhere assured, when I was under conviction of sin, that God could forgive me outright without any atonement, it would have yielded no sort of satisfaction to me; for my conscience was sitting in judgment upon myself, and I felt that if I were on the throne of God, I must condemn myself to hell. Even if I could have derived a temporary comfort from the notion of forgiveness apart from atonement, the question would afterwards have come up how is this just? If God does not punish me, he ought to do so; how can he do otherwise? He must be just, or he is not God. It must be that such sin as mine should bring punishment upon itself. Never, until I understood the great truth of the substitutionary death of Christ, could my conscience get a moment's peace. If an atonement was not necessary for God, it certainly was necessary for me; and it seems to me necessary to every conscience that is fairly instructed as to the absolute certainty that sin involves deserved sorrow, and that every transgression and every iniquity must have its just recompense of reward. It was necessary for the perpetual peace of every enlightened conscience that the glorious atonement should have been provided.
Besides that, the Lord meant to save us in a safe way for the promotion of our future reverence for the law. Now, if sin had been blotted out so readily, and nothing more said of it, what effect would that have had on us in the future? I think that everyone who has felt the burden of sin, and has stood at the foot of the cross, and heard the cries of the great Sacrifice, and read God's wrath against sin written in crimson lines upon the blessed and perfect person of the innocent Savior every such person feels that sin is an awful thing. You cannot trifle with transgression after a vision of Gethesmane. You cannot laugh at it, and talk about the littleness of its demerit, if you have once stood on Golgotha, and heard the cry, "Eli, Eli, lame sabachthani?" The death of the Son of God upon the cross is the grandest of all moral lessons, because it is a lesson that affects the very soul of the man, and changes his whole idea of sin. The cross straightens him from the desperate twist which sin gave him at the first. The cure of the first Adam's fall is the second Adam's death the second Adam's grace, which comes to us through his great sacrifice. We love sin till we see that it killed our best Friend, and then we loathe it evermore. I say, again, that if the great Father did forgive you, and said, "There is nothing in it; go your way, it is all over;" you would have lacked that grandest source of sanctified life which now you find in the wounds of him who has made sin detestable to you, and has made perfect obedience, even unto death, the subject of you soul's admiration. Now you long to be unto the great Father, in your measure, what your great Redeemer was to him when he magnified the law, and made it honorable. This is no mean benefit.
O beloved friends, I do bless the Lord, at this time, for the forgiveness of sins through redemption by blood. There is something worth preaching in this truth. You can live on it; you can die on it. I am constantly almost every week at the death-beds of our members here: we are so large a church that one or two every week are going home. When we begin to talk about the precious blood of Jesus the blood of the everlasting covenant, you should see the brightness of dying eyes! I mark the quiet of the departing spirit; and as my dear friends grip my hand, their testimony is unvaryingly, "Jesus is the Rock of our confidence, and all is well."
O Lord Jesus, hold thou thy cross before my closing eyes! O blessed Redeemer, what will a man do in death who has not thy death to be the death of his sin? How can a man live who has never seen thee lay down thy life in his stead, "the Just for the unjust, to bring us to God"? Whatever others may say, let us repeat our text, with solemn assurance, "In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins."
III. But now, thirdly and the text is very clear upon this, as upon the other two points THE FORGIVENESS OF SIN IS STILL A MATTER OF GRACE, AND OF RICH GRACE. "We have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace."
I admit that the forgiveness of sins, on God's part, is a matter of justice, now that the redemption by blood has been completed. The man believes; the man confesses his sin; and it is written, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins." The sacrifice is so great that it justly puts away the sin, and it is righteously forgiven. But observe this: the act of God in forgiving is not one atom the less gracious, because, in his infinite wisdom, he has so contrived that it is unquestionably just. If any make this assertion, they will be called upon to prove it; and they can prove it.
Pardon is the more gracious to us that it does not come to us in an unrighteous way. We see God's great prudence and wisdom in planning the method by which he may "be just, and the Justifier of him that believeth." Those thoughts and plans on God's part are all tokens of great love to us. Beloved, it is only by grace that we are justified; yet that this grace is exercised in a way of justice causes the grace to be not less, but even manifestly more gracious.
The death of Christ, the redemption by blood, instead of veiling the grace of God, only manifests it. Put the thing before your own minds. Suppose that somebody has offended you, and you say, "Think no more of it; it is all forgiven." Very well: that is kind of you, and commendable. It shows the graciousness of your character. But suppose, on the other hand, you were in office as a judge, and felt compelled to say, "I am willing to forgive you, but your offense has resulted in such and such great mischiefs, and all these things have to be cleared away. I will tell you what I will do. I will clear them away myself. I will bear the result of your sin in order that my pardon may be seen to be most sure and full. I will pay the debt in which you have involved yourself. I will go to the prison to which you ought to go, as the consequence of what you have done. I will suffer the effect of your wrongdoing instead of condemning you to suffer it." Well, now, the forgiveness that dost you so much would manifest your graciousness much more than that which costs you nothing beyond a kind will, and a tender heart. Oh, if it be so, that God, the Divine Ruler, the Judge of all the earth, says to guilty man, "I will pardon you, but it is imperative that my law be carried out; and this cannot be done except by the death of my dear Son, who is one with me, who is very God of very God, who himself wills to stand in your stead, and vindicate my justice, by suffering the penalty due to you" then I say that the grace of God is a thousand-fold more clearly shown than by the free forgiveness which "modern thought" pleads for! Pardon which has cost God more than it cost him to make all worlds which has cost him more than to manage all the empires of his providence which has cost him his Only-begotten Son, and has cost that Only-begotten Son a life of sorrow and a death of unutterable and immeasurable anguish I say that this pardon is pre-eminently gracious. Love is more displayed in this, infinitely more, than by a mere word and a wave of the hand, which would dismiss the sinner, without any attempt at an atoning sacrifice.
Besides, beloved, be this always remembered, that it is in the application of redemption, and the personal pardon of any sinner, through the blood of Jesus, that the grace of God is best seen by that sinner. To each one pardon through the Lord Jesus comes, not only according to grace, but "according to the riches of his grace." I can understand that God should forgive you, all of you. I could hear it with full belief, and it would not astonish me. But that he should pardon me that I should have the forgiveness of sins, and redemption by blood that does astonish me. And I believe that any person, under a sense of sin, sees more of the grace of God in his own salvation than in the salvation of anybody else. He may be quite conscious that he has never been a thief, or a drunkard, or a murderer; and yet, when he comes to look at it, he may see reasons why the pardon of sin in his case should be more remarkable than even in the case of a drunkard, or a thief, or a murderer. There may be elements in his own case which may make him seem to have sinned even more grievously than open transgressors, because he transgressed against greater light, with less temptation thereto, and with a direr presumption of rebellion against the Most High. That Jesus died, is unutterable grace; but that he loved me, and gave himself for me, this is overwhelming grace, and makes the heir of heaven say with emphasis, Blessed be God that, in Jesus, I have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace!
Do you not feel at this time, you that have been pardoned, that nothing but the riches of God's grace could ever have pardoned you? No scanty grace could have provided an atonement equal to your iniquities. Poverty of grace would have left you ruined by your debt of sin. Riches of grace were wanted, and riches of grace were forthcoming in redemption by blood, and in the full, perfect, irreversible forgiveness which God gave you in the day when you believed on Jesus Christ your Savior. Oh, that the Holy Spirit would help you to sing of the grace of God to-day and every day!
IV. Thus far have I brought you, then, in three remarks. Kindly follow me in the fourth one, upon which I will not be long.
Fourthly, THIS FORGIVENESS OF SINS IS ENJOYED BY US NOW. "In whom we have" we have "redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace." I remember the astonishment with which I sat in a ministers' meeting, and heard one, who professed to be a preacher of the gospel, assert that he did not think that any one of us could be sure that he was forgiven. I ventured at once to say that I was sure; and I was pleased, but by no means surprised, to find that others dared to say the same. I hope I have hundreds before me who enjoy the same assurance.
Brethren, if there be no consciousness of the forgiveness of sins possible, how can there be any rest for the conscience? Yet Jesus says, "Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." What rest is possible to the condemned? Can you go to bed to-night with your sins unforgiven? Some of you may have the foolhardiness to do that, but I would not dare to do it. See where you are. Within a moment you may be dead. Within that moment you will be in hell, past all hope. In a single instant you may be eternally lost: can you endure the thought? Our breath has but to stop, or the heart to cease beating, and instantly life is over. How can you be at peace, while sin is unforgiven? Unless sin had made men mad, they would never rest till they were cleared from their sins. There cannot be any true rest without a consciousness of forgiveness. Yet that rest is promised; therefore the present enjoyment of an assurance of forgiveness must be possible.
And, next, where could there ever be that great love in the hearts of men and women which we read of in Scripture? She that washed the Savior's feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head would she have done so if she had not known that she was forgiven? She loved much, because she had had much forgiven her. And the stimulus, the zeal, the fervor that spurs on a man in his service and suffering for the Lord Jesus, must arise out of the consciousness that the Lord has done great things for him, and the conclusion that therefore he must do great things for his Lord. Surely, you have robbed Christianity of its highest moral force, if you have denied the possibility of knowing that you are pardoned.
Moreover, where is there any testimony of the power of grace? We that come and preach to you may be liars unto you if we ourselves have never tasted and handled pardoning grace. We do, at any rate, but retail to you a second-hand gospel, which we have never tested and proved for ourselves. If I did not know, in my very soul, that the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin, how could I dare to face you with the gospel message? I have not impudence enough to tell you of what might be, or might not be, about which I am uncertain myself. God grant me grace to break stones, or sweep chimneys, sooner than come and tell you a cunningly-devised fable, or a tale about which I have no assured certainty, derived from personal knowledge! Could I say to you, "I dare say there is bread, but I myself am hungry, I have never eaten a mouthful of the provision which I offer you"? Think of my saying to one perishing of thirst, "There is living water flowing from the rock; but personally I am thirsty." You might say to me at once, "Then go home to your house, and next time you appear, be sure of the truth of what you tell us. If you do not believe it, how should we believe it?" Beloved, there are thousands, there are tens of thousands, on earth still who know that the Son of God has power on earth to forgive sins; and there are myriads in heaven who passed to their felicity confident that they had been forgiven, and they sang on earth the same song that they sing in heaven, "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain." They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. They know it, they have no doubt about it. Many of us know it here, and rejoice therein at this moment.
Dear friend, what would you give to have this assurance? Thou mayest have it "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved." "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved." Whoso believeth in him is justified from all sin. "He that believeth in him hath everlasting life." Oh, that God's grace may lead you to cast away all other confidences, and to lay your guilty spirit down at Jesus' feet! Then shall you go your way rejoicing that you also, with us, can say, "In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins."
V. Fifthly and this is only a brief head; but it is a point that must not be left out THE FORGIVENESS OF SINS BINDS US TO OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST. Let us read the text again. "In whom we have redemption through his blood." We have nothing apart from Jesus. Every blessing of the covenant binds us to Christ. Covenant gifts are so many golden chains to fasten the soul of the believer to his Lord. Our wealth of mercy is all in Christ. There is nothing good outside of Christ When are we pardoned, brethren? When have we forgiveness? Why, when we are in him, "in whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins." O son of Adam, living without Jesus, hear and take warning! So long as thou art out of Christ, thou must bear thine own burden till it crush thee to the dust; but as soon as thou hast touched the hem of his garment, there is a link of connection; and if thou canst rise from that to holding him by the feet, the union is closer; and if thou canst from that become like Simeon, who took him up in his arms, then mayest thou cry, "Mine eyes have seen thy salvation." When thou hast Christ to the full, thou hast grace to the full. It is as you are in Christ in connection and communion with Christ that you receive the pardon of sin, for all the pardon is in him. Do you see that?
"In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins." The forgiveness is not so much in his office, and in his work, as in himself. When thou gettest Christ, thou hast redemption; for he is redemption. When thou gettest Christ, thou hast forgiveness of sins; for he is the propitiation for our sins. He has put the sin away by the sacrifice of himself. Get Christ, and thou hast the proof, the evidence, the sum, the substance of perfect pardon. If thou acceptest the Beloved, thou art "accepted in the Beloved." When thou art in him, then thou art forgiven; but thy forgiveness is alone in him. In him thou hast redemption: out of him thou art in bondage.
Beloved, every day, as we go afresh to God for a sense of pardon, let us know that we can never got it except as we come still viewing Jesus. I notice that some believers, when they get rather dull and cold, begin the work of self-examination. This may appear very proper, but it is dreary work. I do not believe, dear friends, if you are very poor, that you will ever get rich by looking through all your empty cupboards. If it is very cold, and you have no coals in the cellar, you will not become warm by going into the cellar, and seeing that there is nothing below but an empty coal-hole. No, no; if our graces are to be revived, we must begin with a renewed consciousness of pardon through the precious blood; and the only way to get that sense of pardon is to go to the cross again, even as we went at the first. I sometimes wonder that you do not get tired of my preaching, because I do nothing but hammer away on this one nail. I have driven it in up to the head, and I have gone round to the other side to clinch it; but still I keep at it. With me it is, year after year, "None but Jesus! None but Jesus!" Oh, you great saints, if you have outgrown the need of a sinner's trust in the Lord Jesus, you have outgrown your sins, but you have also outgrown your grace, and your saintship has ruined you! He that has the mind of Christ within him must still come to his Lord, just as he came at the first.
I frankly confess that still I cry to my Lord Jesus
"Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to thy cross I cling."
Still, to this day, I have no redemption in myself, but only in Jesus. I am not an inch forwarder as to the ground of my trust. Is it not so with you? Do we not still say of Jesus "In whom we have redemption through his blood"? To this day we find no reason for forgiveness in ourselves. The precious blood is still our one plea. Lost and condemned are we apart from the one offering of our Great High Priest. But cleansed and justified are we in him.
"Oh! how sweet to view the flowing
Of his sin-atoning blood,
With divine assurance knowing,
He has made my peace with God."
You know the story of the poor bricklayer, who fell from a scaffold, and when they took him up, he was so much injured that they fetched a minister to him, who, stooping over him, said, "My dear man, you have a very short time to live. I entreat you to make your peace with God." To the surprise of the minister, the man opened his eyes, and said, "Make my peace with God, sir? It was made for me nearly nineteen hundred years ago, upon the cross of Calvary, by him that loved me, and gave himself for me." Oh, the joy which this creates in the heart! Yes, it is in Jesus that the peace is made effectually made, made for me, made for you, made for all believers. In Jesus is perfect redemption. In Jesus pardon is provided, proclaimed, presented, and sealed upon the conscience. Go and live on Jesus; live with Jesus; live in Jesus; never go away from Jesus; and may he be dearer to you every day of your lives! Blessed be his adorable name! Amen, and Amen.
PORTION OF SCRIPTURE READ BEFORE SERMON Ephesians 1:1-23 .
HYMNS FROM "OUR OWN HYMN BOOK" 289, 293, 296.
Mr. Spurgeon is recovering from the great weakness left upon him by an attack of influenza, and he hopes to preach at the Tabernacle next Lord's-day. May this sickness be sanctified to the glory of God!
Just Published. Crown 8vo, 64 pages. Price Sixpence.
THE GREATEST FIGHT IN THE WORLD.
The Pastors' College Conference Address, 1891.
By C. H. SPURGEON.
PASSMORE & ALABASTER, Paternoster Buildings; and all Booksellers.
The Treasure of Grace
Delivered on Sabbath Morning, January 22nd, 1860, by the
REV. C. H. Spurgeon
At Exeter Hall, Strand.
"The forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace." Ephesians 1:7 .
AS IS ISAIAH among the prophets, so is Paul among the apostles; each stands forth with singular prominence, raised up by God for a conspicuous purpose, and shining as a star of extraordinary brilliance. Isaiah spake more of Christ, and described more minutely his passion and his death than all the other prophets put together. Paul proclaimed the grace of God free, full, sovereign, eternal race beyond all the glorious company of the apostles. Sometimes he soared to such amazing heights, or dived into such unsearchable depths, that even Peter could not follow him. He was ready to confess that "our beloved brother Paul, according to his wisdom given unto him," had written "some things hard to be understood." Jude could write of the judgments of God, and reprove with terrible words, "ungodly men, who turned the grace of God into lasciviousness." But he could not tell out the purpose of grace as it was planned in the eternal mind, or the experience or grace as it is felt and realized in the human heart, like Paul. There is James again: he, as a faithful minister, could deal very closely with the practical evidences of Christian character. And yet he seems to keep very much on the surface; he does not bore down deep into the substratum on which must rest the visible soil of all spiritual graces. Even John, most favoured of all those apostles who were companions of our Lord on earth sweetly as the beloved disciple writes of fellowship with the Father and his Son Jesus Christ even John doth not speak of grace so richly as Paul, "in whom God first showed forth all long-suffering as a pattern to hem which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting." Not, indeed, that we are at any liberty to prefer one apostle above another. We may not divide the Church, saying, I am of Paul, I of Peter, I of Apollos; but we may acknowledge the instrument which God was pleased to use; we may admire the way in which the Holy Ghost fitted him for his work; we may, with the churches of Judea, "glorify God in Paul." Among the early fathers Augustine was singled out as the "Doctor of Grace;" so much did he delight in those doctrines that exhibit the freeness of divine favour. And surely we might affirm the like of Paul. Among his compeers he outstripped them all in declaring the grace that bringeth salavation. The sense of grace pervaded all his thoughts as the life blood circulates through all the veins of one's body. Does he speak of conversion, "he was called by grace." Nay, he sees grace going before his conversion, and "separating him from his mother's womb." He attributes all his ministry to grace. "To me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ." See him at any time, and under any circumstances, whether bowed down with infirmity, or lifted to the third heavens with revelation, he has but one account to give of himself, "By the grace of God I am what I am."
There are no ministers who contend so fully and so unflinchingly for free, sovereign, unconditional grace, as those who before their conversion have revelled in gross and outrageous sin. Your gentleman preachers who have been piously brought up, and sent from their cradle to school, from school to college, and from college to the pulpit, without encountering much temptation, or being rescued from the haunts of profanity they know comparatively little, and speak with little emphasis of free grace. It is a Bunyan who breathed curses, a Newton who was a ver monster in sin; it is the like of these, who cannot forget for one hour of their lives afterwards, the grace that snatched them from the pit, and plucked them as brands from the burning. Strange indeed that God should have it so. The providence is inscrutable that permits some of the Lord's chosen people to wander and rove as far as sheep can stray. Such men, however, make the most valiant champions for that grace which only can rescue any sinner from eternal woe.
This morning we propose to expound to you "the riches of God's grace; this is the Treasure; then, secondly, we shall speak of the "Forgiveness of Sins," which is to be judged of by that Measure; the forgiveness is according to the riches of his grace; and we shall afterwards wind up by considering some of the privileges connected therewith.
I. First, consider the RICHES OF HIS GRACE. In attempting to search out that which is unsearchable, we must, I suppose, use some of those comparisons by which we are wont to estimate the wealth of the monarchs, and mighty ones of this world. It happened once that the Spanish ambassador, in the haleyon days of Spain, went on a visit to the French ambassador, and was invited by him to see the treasures of his master. With feelings of pride he showed the repositories, profusely stored with earth's most precious and most costly wealth. "Could you show gems so rich," said he, "or aught the life of this for magnificence of possessions in all your sovereign's kingdom?" "Call your master rich?" replied the ambassador of Spain, "why; my master's treasures have no bottom" alluding, of course, to the mines of Peru and Petrosa. So truly in the riches of grace there are mines too deep for man's finite understanding ever to fathom. However profound your investigation, there is still a deep couching beneath that baffles all research. Who can ever discover the attributes of God? Who can find out the Almighty to perfection? We are at a loss to estimate the ver quality and properties of grace as it dwells in the mind of Deity. Love in the human breast is a passion. With God it is not so. Love is an attribute of the divine essence. God is love. In men, grace and bounty may grow into a habit, but grace with God is an intrinsic attribute of his nature. He cannot but be gracious. As by necessity of his Godhead he is omnipotent, and omniprescent, so by absolute necessity of his divinity is he gracious.
Come then, my brethren, into this glittering mine of the attributes of the grace of God. Every one of God's attributes is infinite, and therefore this attribute of grace is without bounds. You cannot conceive the infinity of God, why, therefore, should I attempt to describe it. Recollect however, that as the attributes of God are of the like extent, the gauge of one attribute must be the gauge of another. Or, further, if one attribute is without limit, so is another attribute. Now, you cannot conceive any boundary to the omnipotence of God. What cannot he do? He can crate, he can destroy; he can speak a myriad universe into existence; or he can quench the light of myriads of stars as readily as we tread out a spark. He hath but to will it, and creatures without number sing his praise; yet another volition, and those creatures subside into their naked nothingness, as a moment's foam subsides into the wave that bears it, and is lost for ever. The astronomer turns his tube to the remotest space, he cannot find a boundary to God's creating power; but could he seem to find a limit, we would then inform him that all the worlds on worlds that cluster in space, hick as the drops of morning dew upon the meadows, are but the shreds of God's power. He can make more than all these, can dash those into nothingness, and can begin again. Now as boundless as is his power, so infinite is his grace. As he hath power to do anything, so hath he grace enough to give anything to give everything to the very chief of sinners.
Take another attribute if you please God's omniscience, there is no boundary to that. We know that his eye is upon every individual of our race he sees him as minutely as if he were the only creature that existed. It is boasted of the eagle that though he can outstare the sun, yet when at his greatest height, he can detect the movement of the smallest fish in the depths of the sea. But what is this compared with the omniscience of God? His eye tracks the sun in his marvellous course, his eye marks the winged comet as it flies through space. His eye discerns the utmost bound of creation inhabited or uninhabited. There is nothing hid from the light thereof, with him there is no darkness at all. If I mount to heaven he is there; if I dive to hell he is there; if I fly mounted on the morning ray beyond the western sea,
"His swifter hand shall first arrive,
And there arrest the fugitive."
There is no limit to his understanding, nor is there to his grace. As his knowledge comprehendeth all things, so doth his grace comprehend all the sins, all the trials all the infirmities of the people upon whom his heart is set. Now, my dear brethren, the next time we fear that God's grace will be exhausted, let us look into this mine, and then let us reflect that all that has ever been taken out of it has never diminished it a single particle. All the clouds that have been taken from the sea have never diminished its depth, and all the love, and all the mercy that God has given to all but infinite numbers of the race of man, has not disminished by a single rain the mountains of his grace. But to proceed further; we sometimes judge of the wealth of men, not only by their real estate in mines and the like, but by what they have on hand stored up in the treasury. I must take you now, my brethren, to the glittering treasury of divine grace. Ye know its names, it is called the Covenant, have you not head the marvellous story of what was done in the olden time before the world was made. God foreknew that man would fall, but he determined of his own infinite purpose and will that he would raise out of this fall a multitude which no man can number. The Eternal Father held a solemn council with the Son and Holy Spirit. Thus spoke the Father:--"I will that those whom I have chosen be saved!" Thus said the Son:--"My Father, I am ready to bleed and die that thy justice may not suffer and that thy purpose may be executed." "I will," said the Holy Spirit, "that those whom the Son redeems with blood shall be called by grace, shall be quickened, shall be preserved, shall be sanctified and perfected, and brought safely home." Then was the Covenant written, signed, and sealed, and ratified between the Sacred Three. The Father gave his Son, the Son gave himself, and the Spirit promises all his influence, all his presence, to all the chosen. Then did the Father give to the Son the persons of his elect, then did the Son give himself to the elect, and take them into union with him; and then did the Spirit in covenant vow that these chosen ones should surely be brought safe home at last. Whenever I think of the old covenant of grace, I am perfectly amazed and staggered with the grace of it. I could not be an Arminian on any inducement; the ver poetry of our holy religion lies in these ancient things of the everlasting hills, that glorious covenant signed and sealed, and ratified, in all things ordered well from old eternity.
Pause here, my hearer, awhile, and think before this world was made, ere God had settled the deep foundations of the mountains, or poured the seas from the laver of the bottom of his hand, he had chosen his people, and set his heart on hem. To them he had given himself, his Son, his heaven, his all. For them did Christ determine to resign his bliss, his home, his life; for them did the Spirit promise all his attributes, that they might be blessed. O grace divine, how glorious thou art, without beginning, without end. How shall I praise thee? Take up the strain ye angels; sing these noble themes, the love of the Father, the love of the Son, the love of the Spirit.
This, my brethren, if ye think it over, may well make you estimate aright the riches of God's grace. If you read the roll of the covenant from beginning to end, containing as it does, election, redemption, calling, justification, pardon, adoption, heaven, immortality if you read all his, you will say, "This is riches of grace God, great and infinite! Who is a God like unto thee for the riches of thy love!"
The riches of great kings again, may often be estimated by the munificence of the monuments which they reared to record their feats. We have been amazed in these modern times at the marvellous riches of the kings of Nineveh and Babylon. Modern monarchs with all their appliances, would fail to erect such monstrous piles of palaces as those in which old Nebuchadnezzar walked in times of yore. We turn to the pyramids, we see there what the wealth of nations can accomplish; we look across the sea to Mexico and Peru, and we see the relics of a semi-barbarous people but we are staggered and amazed to think what wealth and what mines of riches they must have possessed ere such works could have been accomplished. Solomon's riches are perhaps best judged of by us when we think of those great cities which he built in the wilderness, Tadmore and Palmyra. When we go and visit those ruins and see the massive columns and magnificent sculpture, we say, Solomon indeed was rich. We feel as we walk amid the ruins somewhat like the queen of Sheba, even in Scripture the half has not been told us of the riches of Solomon. My brethren, God has led us to inspect mightier trophies than Solomon, or Nebuchadnezzar, or Montezuma, or all the Pharaohs. Turn your eyes yonder, see that blood-bought host arrayed in white, surrounding the throne hark, how they sing, with voice triumphant, with melodies seraphic, "Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever." And who are these? Who are these trophies of his grace? Some of them have come from the stews of harlotry; many of them have come from the taverns of drunkenness. Nay, more, the hands of some of those so white and fair, were once red with the blood of saints. I sere yonder the men that nailed the Saviour to the tree; men who cursed God, and invoked on themselves death and damnation. I see there Manasseh, who shed innocent blood so much, and the thief who in the last moment looked to Christ, and said, "Lord, remember me." But I need not turn your gaze so far aloft; look, my brethren, around, you do not know your next neighbour by whom you are sitting his morning, it may be. But there are stories of grace that might be told by some here this morning, that would make the ver angels sing more loudly than they have done before. Well, I know these cheeks have well nigh been scarlet with tears when I have heard the stories of free grace wrought in this congregation. Then are those known to me, but of course not so to you, who were among the vilest of men, the scum of society. We have here those to whom cursing was as their breath, and drunkenness had grown to be a habit; and yet here they are servants of God, and of his church; and it is their delight to testify to others what a Saviour they have found. Ah, but my hearer, perhaps thou art one of those trophies, and if so, the best proof of the riches of his grace is that which thou findest in thy own soul. I think God to be gracious when I see others saved, I know he is because he has saved me; that wayward, wilful boy, who scoffed a mother's love, and would not be melted by all her prayers, who only wished to know a sin in order to perpetrate it? Is he standing here to preach the gospel of the grace of God to you to-day? Yes. Then there is no sinner out of hell that has sinned too much for grace to save. That love which can reach to me, can reach to you. Now I know the riches of his grace, because I hope I prove it, and feel it in my own inmost heart, my dear hearer, and may you know it too, and then you will join with our poet, who says
"Then loudest of the crowd I'll sing,
While heavens resounding mansions ring
With shouts of sovereign grace."
Go a little further now. We have thus looked at the wine and treasures, and at the monuments. But more. One thing which amazed the queen of Sheba, with regard to the riches of Solomon, was the sumptuousness ofhis table. Suth multitudes sat down to it to eat and drink, and though they were many, yet they all had enough and to spare. She lost all heart when she saw the provisions of a single day brought in. I forget just now, although I meant to refer to the passage how many fat beast, how many bullocks of the pasture, how many bucks and fallow deer and game of all sorts, and how many measures of flour and how many gallons of oil were brought to Solomon's table every day, but it was something marvellous; and the multitudes that had to feast were marvellous also, yet had they all enough. And now think my brethren of the hospitalities of the God of grace each day. Ten thousand of his people are this day sitting down to feast; hungry and thirsty they bring large appetites with them to he banquet, but not one of them returns unsatisfied; there is enough for each, enough for all, enough for evermore. Though the host that feed there is countless as the stars of heaven, yet I find that not one lacks his portion. He openeth his hand and supplies the want of every living saint upon the face of the earth. Think how much grace one saint requires, so much that nothing but the Infinite could supply him for one day. We burn so much fuel each day to maintain the fire of love in our hearts, that we might drain the mines of England of all their wealth of coal. Surely were it not that we have infinite treasures of race, the daily consumption of a single saint might out-demand everything that is to be found upon the face of the earth. And yet it is not one but many saints, and many hundreds, not for one day, but for many years; not for many years only, but generation after generation, century after century, race after race of men, living on the fulness of God in Christ. Yet are none of hem starved; they all drink to he full; they eat and are satisfied. What riches of grace then may we see in the sumptuousness of his hospitality.
Sometimes, my brethren, I have thought if I might but get the broken meat at God's back door of grace I should be satisfied; like the woman who said, "The dogs eat of the crumbs that fall from the master's table;" or like the prodigal who said, "Make me as one of thy hired servants." But you will remember that no child of God is ever made to live on husks; God does not give the parings of his grace to he meanest of them, but they are all fed like Mephibosheth; they eat from the kings own table the daintiest dishes. And if one may speak for the rest, I think in matters of grace we all have Benjamin's mess we all have ten times as we could have expected, and though not more than our necessities, yet are we often amazed at the marvellous plenty of grace which God gives us in the covenant and the promise.
Now we turn to another point to illustrate the greatness of the riches of God's grace. A man's riches may often be judged of by the equipage of his children, the manner in which he dresses his servants and those of his household. It is not to be expected that the child of the poor man, though he is comfortably clothed, should be arrayed in like garments to those which are worn by the sons of princes. Let us see, then, what are the robes in which God's people are apparelled, and how they are attended. Here again I speak upon a subject where a large imagination is needed, and my own utterly fails me. God's children are wrapped about with a robe, a seamless robe, which earth and heaven could not buy the like of if it were once lost. For texture it excels the fine linen of the merchants; for whiteness it is purer than the driven snow; no looms on earth could make it, but Jesus spent his life to work my robe of righteousness. There was a drop of blood in every throw of the shuttle, and every thread was made of his own heart's agonies. 'Tis a robe that is divine, complete; a better one than Adam wore in the perfection of Eden. He had but a human righteousness though a perfect one, but we have a divinely perfect righteousness. Strangely, my soul, art thou arrayed, for thy Saviour's garment is on thee; the royal robe of David is wrapped about his Jonathan. Look at God's people as they are clothed too in the garments of sanctification. Was there ever such a robe as that? It is literally stiff with jewels. He arrays the meanest of his people every day as though it were a wedding day; he arrays them as a bride adorneth herself with jewels; he has given Ehtiopia and Sheba for them, and he will have them dressed in gold of Ophir. What riches of grace then must there be in God who thus clothes his children!
But to conclude this point upon which I have not as yet begun. If you would know the full riches of divine grace, read the Father's heart when he sent his Son upon earth to die; read the lines upon the Father's countenance when he pours his wrath upon his only begotten and his well-beloved Son. Read too the mysterious handwriting on the Saviour's flesh and soul, when on the cross quivering in agony the waves of swelling grief do o'er his bosom roll. If ye would know love ye must repair to Christ, and ye shall see a man so full of pain, that his head, his hair, his garments bloody be. 'Twas love that made him sweat as it were great drops of blood. If ye would know love, you must see the Omnipotent mocked by his creatures, you must hear the Immaculate slandered by sinners, you must hear the Eternal One groaning out his life, and crying in the agonies of death, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" In fine, to sum up all in one, the riches of the grace of God are infinite, beyond all limit; they are inexhaustible, they can never be drained; they are all-sufficient, they are enough for every soul that ere shall come to take of them; there shall be enough for ever while earth endureth, until the last vessel of mercy shall be brought home safely.
So much, then, concerning the riches of His grace.
II. For a minute or two, let me now dwell upon THE FORGIVENESS OF SINS. The treasure of God's grace is the measure of our forgiveness; this forgiveness of sins is according to the riches of his grace. We may infer, then, that the pardon which God gives to the penitent is no niggard pardon. Have not you asked a man's pardon sometimes, and he has said, "Yes, I forgive you," and you have thought, "Well, I would not even have asked for pardon if I thought you would have given it in such a surly style as that; I might as well have continued as I was, as to be so ungraciously forgiven." But when God forgives a man, though he be the chief of sinners, he puts out his hand and freely forgives; in fact, there is as much joy in the heart of God when he forgives, as there is in the heart of the sinner when he is forgiven; God is as blessed in giving as we are in receiving. It is his very nature to forgive; he must be gracious, he must be loving, and when he lets his heart of love out to free us from our sins it is with no stinted stream; he doth it willingly, he upbraideth it not. Again: if pardon be in proportion to the riches of his grace, we may rest assured it is not a limited pardon, it is not the forgiving of some sins and the leaving of others upon the back. No, this were not Godlike, it were not consistent with the riches of his grace. When God forgives he draws the mark through every sin which the believer ever has committed, or ever will commit. That last point may stagger you, but I do believe with John Kent, that in the blood of Christ
"There's pardon for transgressions past,
It matters not how black their cast;
And, oh! My soul, with wonder view,
For sins to come there's pardon too."
However many, however heinous, however innumerable your sins may have been, the moment you believe they are ever one of them blotted out. In the Book of God there is not a single sin against any man in this place whose trust is in Christ, not a single one, not even the shadow of one, not a spot, or the remnant of a sin remaining, all is gone. When Noah's flood covered the deepest mountains, you may rest assured it covered the mole-hills; and when God's love covers the little sins it covers the big ones, and they are all gone at once! When a bill is receipted fully there is not an item which can be charged again, and when God pardons the sins of the believer there is not one single sin left; not even half-an-one can ever be brought to his remembrance again. Nay, more than this; when God forgives, he not only forgives all but once for all. Some tell us that God forgives men and yet they are lost. A fine god yours! They believe that the penitent sinner finds mercy, but that if he slips or stumbles in a little while he will be taken out of the covenant of grace and will perish. Such a covenant I could not and would not believe in; I tread it beneath my feet as utterly despicable. The God whom love when he forgives never punishes afterwards. By one sacrifice there is a full remission of all sin that ever was against a believer, or that ever will be against him. Though you should live till your hair is bleached thrice over, till Methuselah's thousand years should pass over your furrowed brow, not a single sin shall ever stand against you, nor shall you ever be punished for a single sin; for every sin is forgiven, fully forgiven, so that not even part of the punishment shall be executed against you. "Well, but," saith one, "how is it that God does punish his children?" I answer, he does not. He chastises them as a father, but that is a different thing from the punishment of a judge. If the child of a judge were brought up to the bar, and that child were freely forgiven all that he had done amiss, if justice exonerated and acquitted him, it might nevertheless happen that there was evil in the heart of that child which the father, out of love to the child, might have to whip out of him. But there is a great deal of difference between a rod in the hand of the executioner, and a rod in a father's hand. Let God smite me, if I sin against him, yet it is not because of the guilt of sin, there is no punishment in it whatever, the penal clause is done away with. It is only that he may cure me of my fault, that he may fetch the folly out of my heart. Do you chasten your children vindictively because you are angry with them? No; but because you love them; if you are what parents should be, the chastisement is a proof of your affection, and your heart smarts more than their body pains, when you have to chasten them for what they have done amiss. God is not angry against his children, nor is there a sin in hem which he will punish. He will whip it out of them, but punish them for it he will not. O glorious grace! It is a gospel worth preaching.
"The moment a sinner believes,
And trusts in his crucified God,
His pardon at once he receives
Redemption in full through Christ's blood."
All is gone; every atome gone; gone for ever and ever; and well he knows it.
"Now freed from sin I walk at large,
My Saviour's blood my full discharge;
At his dear feet my soul I lay,
A sinner saved, and homage pay."
Having thus spoken of the pardon of sin as being fully commensurate with the grace of God, I will put this question to my hearer: My friend, are you a forgiven man? Are your sins all gone? "No," saith one, "I cannot say they are, but I am doing my best to reform." Ah! you may do your best to reform, I hope you will, but that will never wash away a single blood-red stain of guilt. "But," saith one, "may I, just I am, believe that my sins are forgiven?" No, but I tell thee what thou mayst do. If God help thee, thou mayst now cast thyself simply upon the blood and righteousness of Christ; and the moment thou dost that, thy sins are all gone, and gone so that they never can return again. "He that believeth on the Lord Jesus Christ shall be saved." Nay, he is saved in the moment of his faith. He is no more in the sight of God received as a sinner; Christ has been punished for him. The righteousness of Christ is wrapped about him, and he stands accepted in the beloved. "Well, but," saith one, "I can believe that a man, after he has been a long time a Christian, may know his sins to be forgiven, but I cannot imagine that I can know it at once." The knowledge of our pardon does not always come the moment we believe, but the fact of our pardon is before our knowledge of it, and we may be pardoned before we know it. But if thou believest on the Lord Jesus Christ with all hine heart, I will tell thee this: If thy faith be free of all self-trust thou shalt know to-day that thy sins are forgiven, for the witness of the Spirit shall bear witness with thy heart, and thou shalt hear that secret, still small voice, saying, "Be of good cheer; thy sins, which are many, are all forgiven." "Oh," saith one, "I would give all I have for that." And you might give all you have, but you would not have it at that price. You might give the firstborn for your transgression, the fruit of your body for the sin of your soul, you might offer rivers of oil, and ten thousand of the fat of fed beasts; you would not have it for money, but you may have it for nothing; it is freely brought to you; you are bidden to take it. Only acknowledge your sin, and put your trust in Christ, and there is not one man among you who shall hear aught about his sin in the day of judgment. It shall be cast into the depth of the sea it shall be carried away for ever.
I will give you a picture, and then leave this subject. See, there stands the high-priest of the Jews. A goat is brought to him: it is called "the scape-goat." He puts his hands upon the head of this goat, and begins to make confession of sin. Will you come and do the like? Jesus Christ is the scape-goat; come and lay your hand on his thorn-crown'd head by faith, and make confession of your sin, as the high-priest did of old. Have you done it? Is your sin confessed? Now believe that Jesus Christ is able and willing to take your sin away. Rest wholly and entirely on him. Now what happens? The high-priest takes the scape-goat, gives it into the hand of a trusty man, who leads it over hill and down dale, till he is many miles away, and then, suddenly loosing its bonds, he frightens it, and the goat flees with all its might. The man watches it till it is gone, and he can see it no more. He comes back, and he says, "I took the scape-goat away, and it vanished out of my sight; it is gone into the wilderness." Ah, my hearer, and if thou hast put thy sins on Christ by a full confession, remember he has taken hem all away, as far as the east is from the west, they are gone, and gone eternally. Thy drunkenness, thy swearing is gone, thy lying, thy theft is gone, thy Sabbath-breaking, thy evil thoughts are gone all gone, and thou shalt never see them again
"Plunged, as in a shoreless sea,
Lost, as in immensity."
III. And now I conclude by noticing THE BLESSED PRIVILEGES WHICH ALWAYS FOLLOW THE FORGIVENESS WHICH IS GIVEN TO US ACCORDING TO THE GRACE OF GOD. I think here are a great many people who do not believe there is any reality in religion at all. They think it is a very respectable thing to go to church and to go to chapel, but as to ever enjoying a consciousness that their sins are all forgiven, they never think about that. And I must confess that, in the religion of these modern times, there does not seem to be much reality. I do not hear at this day that clear ringing distinct proclamation of the gospel that I want to hear. It is a grand thing to carry the gospel to all manner of men, to take it to the theatre, and the like, but we want to have the gospel undiluted the milk must have a little less water with it. There must be a more distinct, palpable truth taught to the people, a something that they can really lay hold of, a something that they can understand, even if they will not believe it. I trust no man will misunderstand me this morning in what I have said. There is such a thing as having all our sins forgiven now. There is such a thing as knowing it and enjoying it. Now I will show you what will be the happiness resulting to you, should you obtain this blessing.
In the first place, you will have peace of conscience, that heart of yours that throbs so fast when you are alone will be quite still and quiet. You will be least alone when you are alone. That fear of yours which makes you quicken your step in the dark because you are afraid of something, and you do not know what, will all be gone. I have heard of a man who was so constantly in debt, and continually being arrested by the bailiffs, that once upon a time, when going by some area railings, having caught his sleeve upon one of the rails, he turned round and said, "I don't owe you anything, Sir." He thought it was a bailiff. And so it is with unforgiven sinners, wherever they are, they think they are going to be arrested. They can enjoy nothing. Even their mirth, what is it, but the colour of joy, the crackling of thorns under the pot; there is no solid steady fire. But when once a man is forgiven, he can walk anywhere, He says, "to me it is nothing whether I live or die, whether ocean depths engulf me, or whether I am buried beneath the avalanche, with sin forgiven, I am secure. Death has no sting to him. His conscience is at rest. Then he goes a step further. Knowing his sins to be forgiven he has joy unspeakable. No man has such sparkling eyes as the true Christian; a man then knows his interest in Christ, and can read his title clear. He is a happy man, and must be happy. His troubles, what are they? Less than nothing and vanity; for all his sins are forgiven. When the poor slave first lands in Canada, it may be he is without a single farthing in his purse, and scarcely anything but rags on his back; but he puts his foot on British soil, and is free; see him leap and dance, and clap his hands, saying, "Great God I thank thee, I am a free man." So it is with the Christian, he can say in his cottage when he sits down to his crust of bread, thank God I have no sin mixed in my cup it is all forgiven. The bread may be dry, but it is not half so dry as it would be if I had to eat it with the bitter herbs of a guilty conscience, and with a terrible apprehension of the wrath of God. He has a joy that will stand all weathers, a joy that will keep in all climates, a joy that shines in the dark, and glitters in the night as well as in the day.
Then, to go further, such a man has access to God. Another man with unforgiven sin about him stands afar off; and if he thinks of God at all it is as a consuming fire. But the forgiven Christian looking up to God when he sees the mountains and the hills, and rolling streams and the roaring flood, he says, "My Father made them all;" and he clasps hands with the Almighty across the infinite expanse that sunders man from his Maker. His heart flies up to God. He dwells near to him, and he feels that he can talk to God as a man talketh with his friend.
Then another effect of this is that the believer fears no hell. There are solemn things in the Word of God, but they do not affright the believer. There may be a pit that is bottomless, but into that his foot shall never slide; it is true there is a fire that never shall be quenched, but it cannot burn him. That fire is for the sinner, but he has no sin imputed to him; it is all forgiven. The banded host of all the devils in hell cannot take him there, for he has not a single sin that can be laid to his charge. Daily sinning though he is, he feels those sins are all atoned for; he knows that Christ has been punished in his stead, and therefore Justice cannot touch him again.
Once more, the forgiven Christian is expecting heaven. He is waiting for the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, for if death should intervene before that glorious advent, he knows that to him sudden death is sudden glory; and in the possession of a quiet conscience and of peace with God, he can go up to his chamber when the last solemn hour shall come; he can gather up his feet in his bed; he can bid farewell to his brethren and companions, to his wife and to his children, and can shut his eye in peace without a fear that he shall open them in heaven. Perhaps never does the joy of forgiven sin come out more brightly than it does on a dying bed. It has often been my privilege to test the power of religion when I have been sitting by the bedside of the dying. There is a young girl in heaven now, once a member of this our church. I went with one of my beloved deacons to see her when she was very near her departure. She was in the last stage of consumption. Fair and sweetly beautiful she looked, and I think I never heard such syllables as those which fell from that girl's lips. She had had disappointments, and trials, and troubles, but all these she had not a word to say about, except that she blessed God for hem; they had brought her nearer to the Saviour. And when we asked her whether she was not afraid of dying, "No," she said, "the only thing I fear is his, I am afraid of living, lest my patience should wear out. I have not said an impatient word yet, sir, hope I shall not. It is sad to e so ver weak, but I think if I had my choice I would rather be here than be in health, for it is very precious to me; I know that my Redeemer liveth, and I am waiting for the moment when he shall send his chariot of fire to take me up to him." I put the question, "Have you not any doubts?" "No, none, sir, why should I? I clasp my arms around the neck of Christ." "And have not you any fear about your sins?" "No, sir, they are all forgiven, I trust the Saviour's precious blood." "And do you think that you will be as brave as this when you come actually to die?" "Not if he leaves me, sir, but he will never leave me, for he has said, 'I will never leave thee nor forsake thee.'" There is faith, dear brothers and sisters, may we all have it and receive forgiveness of sins according to the riches of his grace.
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Spurgeon, Charle Haddon. "Commentary on Ephesians 1". "Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent