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June 15, 1856 by C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892)
"Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest." Psalms 51:4 .
Yesterday was to me a day of deep solemnity; a pressure rested on my mind throughout the whole of it, which I could not by any possibility remove, for at every hour I remembered that during that day one of the most fallen of my fellow-creatures was launched into an unknown world, and made to stand before his Maker. Some might have witnessed his execution without tears; I think I could not even have thought of it for long together without weeping, at the terrible idea of a man so guilty, about to commence that endless period of unmingled misery, which is the horrible doom of the impenitent, which God hath prepared for sinners. Yesterday morning the sun saw a sigh which sickened it the sight of a man launched, by a judicial process, into eternity, for guilt which has rendered him infamous, and which will stamp his name with disgrace as long as it shall be remembered.
There is now agitating the public mind something which I thought I might improve this day, and turn to very excellent purpose. There are only two things concerning which the public have any suspicion. The verdict of the jury was the verdict of the whole of England; we were unanimous as to the high probability, the well-nigh absolute certainty of his guilt; but there were two doubts in our minds one of them but small, we grant you, but if both could have been resolved we should have felt more easy than we do now. The one was concerning the criminal's guilt, and the other was concerning his punishment. At least some few of our fellow-countrymen have been afraid, lest we may not have been justified when we spoke against him, and quite clear when he was judged. Two things were wanted: we should have liked to have had his own confession, and certainly we should have preferred something more than circumstantial evidence; we desired to have had the testimony of an eye-witness, who could swear to the deed of murder done. But, moreover, there is also a strong feeling in the mind of many, that the severity of the punishment is questionable. There are some who pronounce authoritatively, that the murderer's blood must be shed for murder; but there are some who think the Christian dispensation has ameliorated the law, and that now it is no longer "eye for eye, tooth for tooth." Many persons in England have shuddered at the thought of executing a penalty so fearful, on any man, however great his crime, seeing that it puts him beyond the pale of hope. I shall not enter into the question of the rightness of capital punishment; I have my opinion upon it, but this is not exactly the place to state it: I only wish to use these facts as an illustration of the text. David says, "O Lord, hear my own confession: 'against thee, thee only, have I sinned,' and by my own confession thou wouldst 'be justified when thou speakest, and clear when thou judgest.' And, Lord, there is something else besides my own confession. Thou, thyself, wast eye-witness of my deed. 'Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight;' and now thou art, indeed, 'justified when thou speakest, and clear when thou judgest.' And as to the severity of my punishment, there can be no doubt of that." There may be doubt of the severity, when man executes punishment for a crime against man, but there can be no doubt when God himself executes vengeance for a crime that is committed against himself. "Thou art justified when thou speakest; thou art clear when thou judgest."
Our subject this morning, then, will be, both in the condemnation and in the punishment of every sinner, God will be justified: and he will be made most openly clear, from the two facts of the sinner's own confession, and God himself having been an eye-witness of the deed. And as for the severity of it, there shall be no doubt upon the mind of any man who shall receive it, for God shall prove to him in his own soul, that damnation is nothing more nor less than the legitimate reward of sin.
There are two kinds of condemnation: the one is the condemnation of the elect , which takes place in their hearts and consciences, when they have the sentence of death in themselves, that they should not trust in themselves a condemnation which is invariably followed by peace with God, because after that there is no further condemnation, for they are then in Christ Jesus, and they walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. The second condemnation is that of the finally impenitent , who, when they die, are most righteously and justly condemned by God for the sins they have committed a condemnation not followed by pardon, as in the present case, but followed by inevitable damnation from the presence of God. On both these condemnations we will discourse this morning. God is clear when he speaks, and he is just when he condemns, whether it be the condemnation which he passes on Christian hearts, or the condemnation which he pronounces from his throne, when the wicked are dragged before him to receive their final doom.
I. In the first place, CONCERNING THE CHRISTIAN, when he feels himself condemned by conscience and by God's Holy Spirit, and when he hears the thunders of God's law proclaiming against him a sentence which, if it had not been already executed on his Saviour, would have been fulfilled on him, the man has no grounds whatever at that time to plead any excuse; but he will say in the words of the Psalmist, "Thou art justified when thou speakest, and clear when thou judgest." Let me show you how.
1. In the first place, there is a confession . With regard to the man who was executed yesterday, there was no confession; we could not have expected it; such crimes could not have been committed by a man capable of confessing them. The fact that he died hardened in his guilt is proof well-nigh conclusive that he was guilty; for had he betrayed any emotion, or had he bowed his knees and cried for mercy, we might then have suspected that he had not been guilty of so dark a deed of blood; but from the very fact that he hardened his heart, we infer that he was capable of committing crimes, the infamy of which point them out as the offspring of a seared and torpid conscience. The Christian, when he is condemned by the Holy Law, makes a confession, a full and free confession. He feels, when God records the sentence against him, that the execution of it would be just, for his now honest heart compels him to confess the whole story of his guilt. Allow me to make some remarks on the confession which is followed by pardon.
First, such a confession is a sincere one . It is not the prattling confession used by the mere formalist, when he bends his knee and exclaims that he is a sinner; but it is a confession which is undoubtedly sincere, because it is attended by awful agonies of mind, and usually by tears, and sighs, and groans. There is something about the penitent's demeanour which puts it beyond the possibility of a fear that he is a deceiver when he is confessing his sin. There is an outward emotion, manifesting the inward anguish of the spirit. He stands before God, and does not merely turn king's evidence against himself, as the means of saving himself, but with tears in his eyes he cries, "O God, I am guilty;" and then he begins to recount the circumstances of his crime, even as if God had never seen him. He tells to God what God already knows, and then the Gracious One proves the truth of the promise, "He that confesseth his sin shall find mercy."
In the next place, that confession is always abundantly sufficient for our own condemnation. The Christian feels that if he had only half the sin to confess that he is obliged to tell out to God, it would be enough to damn his soul for ever that if he had only one crime to acknowledge, it would be like a millstone round his neck, to sink him for ever in the bottomless pit. He feels that his confession is superabundantly enough to condemn him that is almost a work of supererogation to confess all, for there is enough in one tenth of it to send his soul to hell, and make it abide there for ever. Have you ever confessed your sins like this? If not, as God liveth, you have never known what it is to make a true confession of your sin; you have never had the sentence of condemnation passed on you, in that way which is succeeded by mercy; but you are yet awaiting that terrible sentence which shall be succeeded by no words of love, but by the execution of the sentence of infinite indignation and displeasure.
This confession is attended with no apology on account of sin . We have heard of men who have confessed their guilt, and afterwards tried to extenuate their crime, and shew some reasons why they were not so guilty as apparently they would seem to be; but when the Christian confesses his guilt, you never hear a word of extenuation or apology from him. He says, "Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight:" and in saying this, he makes God just when he condemns him, and clear when he sentences him for ever. Have you ever made such a confession? Have you ever thus bowed yourselves before God? Or have you tried to palliate your guilt, and call your sins by little names, and speak of your crimes as if they were but light offences? If you have not, then you have not felt the sentence of death in yourselves, and you are still waiting till the solemn death-knell shall toll the hour of your doom, and you shall be dragged out, amidst the universal hiss of the execration of the world, to be condemned for ever to flames which shall never know abatement.
Again: after the Christian confesses his sin, he offers no promise that he will of himself behave better . Some, when they make confessions to God, say, "Lord, if thou forgive me I will not sin again;" but God's penitents never say that. When they come before him they say, "Lord, once I promised, once I made resolves, but I dare not make them now, for they would be so soon broken, that they would but increase my guilt; and my promises would be so soon violated, that they would but sink my soul deeper in hell. I can only say, if thou wilt create in me a clean heart, I will be thankful for it, and will sing to thy praise for ever; but I cannot promise that I will live without sin, or work out a righteousness of my own. I dare not promise, my Father, that I will never go astray again;
'Unless thou hold me fast, I feel I must, I shall decline, And prove like them at last.'
Lord, if thou dost damn me, I cannot murmur; if thou dost cast me into perdition, I cannot complain; but have mercy upon me, a sinner, for Jesus Christ's sake." In that case, you see, God is justified when he condemns, and he is clear when he judges, even clearer than any earthly judge can be, because it is seldom that such a confession as that is ever made before the bar.
2. Again: when the Christian is condemned by the law in his conscience, there is something else which makes God just in condemning him beside his confession, and that is the fact, that God himself , the Judge, comes forward as a witness to the crime. The convinced sinner feels in his own soul that his sins were committed to the face of God, in the teeth of his mercy, and that God was an exact and minute observer of every part and particle of the crime for which he is now to be condemned, and the sin which has brought him to the bar. "Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight : that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest."
The convinced sinner who has just become a Christian feels at that time that God was a witness, and that he was a most veracious witness that he saw, and saw most clearly; and when God, by his law, says to him, "Sinner, you did such-and-such a thing, and such-and-such a thing," the awakened conscience says, "Lord, that is true; it is true in every circumstance." And when God goes on to say, "Your motives were vile, your objects were sinful," conscience says, "Ay, Lord, that is true; I know that thou didst see it, and that thou art a sure observer; thou art no false witness, but all that thou sayest in thy law about me is true." When God says, "The poison of asps is under thy lips, thy throat is an open sepulchre, thou dost flatter with thy tongue," conscience says, "It is all true;" and when he says, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked," conscience says, "It is all true;" and the sinner has this awful thought, that every sin he ever sinned is written in heaven, and God records it there; he feels, therefore, that God is just when he condemns, and clear when he judges.
And, moreover, God is not simply a veracious witness, but the testimony God gives is an abundant one . You know that in some cases which are brought before our courts, the witness swears that he saw the man do so-and-so; but then he may be mistaken as to the identity of the person; perhaps he did not see the whole transaction; and then he has not pried into the man's heart to see what was the man's reasons, which may make the crime lighter or greater, as the case may be. But here we have a witness who can say, "I saw all the crime; I saw the lust when it was conceived; I saw the sin when it was brought forth; I saw the sin when it was finished, bringing forth death; I saw the motive; I beheld the first imagination; I saw the sin when, as a black rivulet, it started on its way, when it suddenly began to increase by contributions of evil, and I saw it when it became at last a broad ocean of unfathomable depth an ocean of guilt which human foot could not pass, and over which the ship of mercy could not have sailed, unless some mighty pilot had steered it by shedding his own blood." Then the Christian feels that God having seen it all, is justified when he speaks, and clear when he condemns. I should feel a solemn responsibility, if I were a judge, in putting on the black cap, to condemn a man to death; because, however carefully I may have weighed the evidence, and however clear the guilt of the prisoner may have seemed, there is possibility of mistake, and it seems a solemn thing to have consigned a fellow-creature's soul to a future world, even with a possibility of an error in that judgment; but if I had myself beheld the bloody act, with what ease of mind might I then put on the black cap, and condemn the man as being guilty, for I should know, and the world would know, that having been a witness I should be just when I spake, and clear when I condemned. Now, that is just what the Christian feels when God condemns him in his conscience, he puts his hand upon his mouth, and yields without a word to the justness of the sentence. Conscience tells him he was guilty, because God himself was a witness.
3. The other question which I hinted at as being on the public mind, is the severity of the punishment . In the case of a believer, when he is condemned, there is no doubt about the justice of the punishment. When God the Holy Ghost in the soul passes sentence on the old man, and condemns it for its sins, there is felt most solemnly in the heart the great truth, that hell itself is but a rightful punishment for sin. I have heard some men dispute whether the torments of hell were not too great for the sins which men can commit. We have heard men say that hell was not a right place to send such sinners to as they were; but we have always found that such men found fault with hell because they knew right well they were going there. As every man finds fault with the gallows who is going to be hung, so do many men find fault with hell because they fear that they are in danger of it. The opinion of a man about to be executed must not be taken with regard to the propriety of capital punishment, nor must we take the opinion of a man who is himself marching to hell concerning the justice of hell, for he is not an impartial judge. But the convinced sinner is a fair witness; God has made him so, for he feels in his soul that there will be pardon given to him, and that God, by grace, will never condemn him there; but at the same time he feels that he deserves it, and he confesses that hell is not too great a punishment, and that the eternity of it is not too long a duration of punishment for the sin which he has committed. I appeal to you, my beloved brethren and sisters. You may have had doubts as to the propriety of your being sent to hell before you knew your sins; but I ask you, when you were convinced of God, whether you did not solemnly feel that he would be unjust if he did not damn your soul for ever. Did you not say in your prayer, "Lord, if thou shouldst now command the earth to open and swallow me up quick, I could not lift up my finger to murmur against thee; and if thou wert now to roll o'er my head the billows of eternal fire, I could not, in the midst of my howlings in misery, utter one single word of complaint about thy justice?" And did you not feel that if you were to be ten thousand, thousand years in perdition, you would not have been there long enough? You felt you deserved it all; and if you had been asked what was the right punishment for sin, you dare not, even if your own soul had been at stake, have written anything except that sentence, "everlasting fire." You would have been obliged to have written that, for you felt it was but deserved doom. Now, was not God just then when he condemned, and clear when he judged? and did he not come off clear from the judgment seat? because you, yourself, said the sentence would not have been one whit too severe if it had been fulfilled instead of being simply recorded, and then you, yourself, set at liberty. Ah! my dear friends, there may be some who rail at God's justice; but no convinced sinner ever will. He sees God's law in all its glorious holiness, and he smites his hand upon his breast, and he says, "O sinner that I am! that I ever could have sinned against such a reasonable law and such perfect commandments!" He sees God's love towards him, and that cuts him to the very quick. He says, "Oh! that I should ever have spit on the face of that Christ who died for me! Wretch that I am, that I could ever have crowned that bleeding head with the thorns of my sins, which gave itself to slumber in the grave for my redemption!" Nothing cuts the sinner to the quick more than the fact, that he has sinned against a great amount of mercy. This indeed, makes him weep; and he says, "O Lord, seeing I have been so ungrateful, the direst doom thou canst ever sentence me to, or the fiercest punishment thou canst ever execute upon my head, would not be too heavy for the sins I have committed against thee."
And then the Christian feels too, what a deal of mischief he has done in the world by sin. Ah! if he has been spared to middle age before he is converted, he looks back and says, "Ah! I cannot tell how many have been damned by my sins; I cannot tell how many have been sent down to perdition by words which I have used, or deeds which I have committed." I confess, before you all, that one of the greatest sorrows I had, when first I knew the Lord, was to think about certain persons with whom I knew right well that I had held ungodly conversations, and sundry others that I had tempted to sin; and one of the prayers that I always offered, when I prayed for myself, was that such an one might not be damned through sins to which I had tempted him. And I dare say this will be the case with some of you when you look back. Your dear child has been a sad reprobate; and you think, "Did not I teach him very much that was wrong?" and you hear your neighbours swear, and you think, "I cannot tell how many I taught to blaspheme." Then you will recollect your boon companions, those you used to play cards or dance with, and you will think, "Ah! poor souls, I have damned them." And then you will say, "Lord, thou art just, if thou damnest me." When you reflect what a deal of mischief you have done by your sin, you will then say, "Lord, thou art clear when thou judgest; thou art justified when thou condemnest." I warn you who are going on in your sins, that one of the most fearful things you have to expect is, to meet those in another world who perished through being led astray by you. Think of that, O man! thou who hast been an universal tempter! There is a man now in perdition, who was taught to drink his first glass through you. There lies a soul on his death-bed, and he says, "Ah! John, I had not been here, as I now am, if you had not led me into evil courses which have weakened my body, and brought me to death's door." Oh! what a horrible fate will yours be, when, as you walk into the mouth of hell, you will see eyes staring at you, and hear a voice saying, "Here he comes! here comes the man that helped to damn my soul!" And what must be your fate, when you must lie for ever tossed on the bed of pain with that man whom you were the means of damning? As those who are saved will make jewels in the crowns of glory to the righteous, sure those whom you helped to damn will forge fresh fetters for you and furnish fearful faggots, to increase the flames of torment which shall blaze around your spirits. Mark that, and be you warned. The Christian feels this terrible fact, when he is convinced of sin, and that makes him feel that God would be clear if he judged him, and would be justified if he condemned him. So much concerning this first condemnation.
II. But now a little concerning THE SECOND CONDEMNATION, which is the more fearful of the two. Some of you have never been condemned by God's law in your conscience. Now, as I stated at first, that every man must be condemned once, so I beg to repeat it. You must either have the sentence of condemnation passed on you by the law in your conscience, and then find mercy in Christ Jesus, or else you must be condemned to another world, when you shall stand with all the human race before God's throne. The first condemnation to the Christian, though exceedingly merciful, is terrible to bear. It is a wounded spirit, which none can endure. But, as for the second condemnation, if I could preach with sighs and tears, I could not tell you how horrible that must be. Ah, my friends, could some sheeted ghost start from its tomb, and be re-united to the spirit which has been for years in perdition, possibly such a man might preach to you, and let you know what a fearful thing it will be to be condemned at last. But as for my poor words, they are but air; for I have not heard the miserere of the condemned, nor have I listened to the sighs, and groans, and moans of lost spirits. If I had ever been permitted to gaze within the sheet of fire which walls the Gulf of Despair if I had ever been allowed to walk for one moment o'er that burning marl whereon is built the dreadful dungeon of eternal vengeance, then I might tell you somewhat of its misery; but I cannot now, for I have not seen those doleful sights which might fright out eyes from their sockets, and make each individual hair stand upon your heads. I have not seen such things; yet, though I have not seen them, nor you either, we know sufficient of them to understand that God will be just when he condemns, and that he will be clear when he judges. And, now, I must go over the three points again; but I must be very brief about them.
1. God will be clear when he condemns a sinner, from this fact, that the sinner when he stands before God's bar, will either have made a confession , or else such will be his terror, that he will scarce be able to brazen it out before the Almighty. Look at Judas. When he comes before God's bar, will not God be clear in condemning him? for he himself confessed, "I have sinned against innocent blood," and he cast down the money in the temple. And few men are so hardened as to restrain themselves from acknowledging their guilt. How many of you, when you thought you were dying, made a confession upon your death-beds to you God! And mark you, there will be many of you, who, when you come to die, though you have never confessed, yet will lie there, and confess before God in your moments of wakefulness during the night, the sins of your youth, and your former transgressions; and it may be, that when you are laying there, God's vengeance will be heavy on your conscience, that you will be obliged to tell those who stand about your bed, that you have been guilty of notorious sins. Ah! will not God be just when you shall go straight from your death-bed to his bar, and he shall say, "Sinner, thou art condemned on thine own confession; there is no need for me to open the book, no need for me to pronounce the sentence; thou hast thyself pronounced thine own guilt; ere thou didst die, thou didst stamp thyself with condemnation; 'depart ye cursed!'" And though there will be many die who never made a confession in this world, and perhaps there will be some professors so brazen-faced that they will even stand before God's throne, and say, "When saw we thee a hungered, and fed thee not? When saw we thee naked, and clothed thee not?" yet I cannot believe that most of them will be able to plead any excuse. I find Christ saying of one that he stood speechless when he was asked how he got in, not having on a wedding garment; and so it may be with you, sirs. You may brazen it out when here, you may scorn the law and despise the thunders of Sinai; but it will be different with you then. You may sit up in your bed, and rail against Christ, even when death is staring you in the face; but you will not do it then. Those bones of yours which you thought were of iron, will suddenly be melted; that heart of yours, which was like steel or the nether millstone, will be dissolved like wax in the midst of your bowels; you will begin to cry before God, and weep, and howl: you yourself will testify to your own guilt, when you say, "Rocks! hide me; mountains! on me fall;" for you would need no mountains and no rocks to fall upon you, if you were not guilty. You will be justly condemned, for you will make your own confession when you stand before God's bar. Ah! if you could see the criminal then, what a difference there is in him! Where now are those eyes that stared so impiously at the Bible? Where now are those lips which said, "I curse God and die!" Where now is that heart which once so stout, that spirit once so valiant, as to laugh at hell and talk familiarly with death? Ah! where is it? Is that the selfsame creature he whose knees are knocking together, whose hair is standing up on end, whose blanched cheek displays the terror of his soul? Is that the selfsame man who just now was burning with impudent rage against his Maker? Yes, it is he; hear what he has to say, "O God, I hate thee; I confess it; I was unjust in the world tat has gone by, and I am unjust now; wreck thy vengeance on me; I dare ask no mercy, and no pardon, for fixed is my heart still to rebel against thee; indissoluble are the bonds of my guilt: I am damned, I am damned, and I ought to be." Such will be the confession of every man, when he shall stand before his God at last, if he is out of Christ, and unwashed in the Saviour's blood. Sinners! can ye hear that and not tremble? Then I have a wonder before me this day a wonder of conscience, a wonder of hardness of heart, a wonder of impenitency.
2. But in the second place, God will be just, because there will be witnesses there to prove it. There will be none of you my dear friends, if you are ever condemned, who will be condemned on circumstantial evidence: there will be no necessity for the deliberation of a jury; there will be no conflicting evidence concerning your crimes; there will be no doubts to testify in your favour. In fact, if God himself should ask for witnesses in your case, all the witnesses would be against you. But there will be no need of witnesses; God himself will open his Book; and how astonished will you be, when all your crimes are announced, with every individual circumstance connected with them all the minuteness of your motives, and an exact description of your designs! Suppose I should be allowed to open one of the books of God, and read that description, how astonished you would be! But what will be your astonishment, when God shall open his great book and say, "Sinner, here is thy case," and begin to read! Ah! mark how the tears run down the sinner's cheek; the sweat of blood comes from every pore; and the loud thundering voice still reads on, while the righteous execrate the man who could commit such acts as are recorded in that book. There may be no murder staining the page, but there may be the filthy imagination, and God reads what a man imagines; for to imagine sin is vile, though to do it is viler still. I know I should not like to have my thoughts read over for a single day. Oh! when you stand before God's bar, and hear all this, wilt thou not say, "Lord, thou wilt condemn me, but I cannot help saying thou art just when thou condemnest, and clear when thou judgest." There will be eye-witnesses there.
3. But lastly, in the sinner's heart there will be no doubt at last as to the righteousness of his punishment . The sinner may in this world think that he can never by his sins by any possibility deserve hell; but he will not indulge that thought when he gets there. One of the miseries of hell will be that the sinner will feel that he deserves it all. Tossed on a wave of fire he will see written in every spark that emanates therefrom, "Thou knewest thy duty, and thou didst it not." Tossed back again by another wave of flame, he hears a voice saying, "Remember, you were warned!" He is hurled upon a rock, and whilst he is being wrecked there, a voice says, "I told thee it would be better for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for thee." Again he plunged under another wave of brimstone, and a voice says, "He that believeth not shall be damned;' thou didst not believe, and thou art here." And when again he is hurled up and down on some wave of torture, each wave shall bear to him some dreadful sentence, which he read in God's Word, in a tract, or in a sermon. Yes, it may be, my friends, that I shall be one of your tormentors in hell, if you should be damned. I trust in God that I myself shall be in heaven; and perhaps, if ye are lost, one of the most powerful things that shall tend to increase your misery will be the fact that I have always tried to warn you, and warn you as earnestly as possible; and when you lift up your eyes to heaven, you will shriek, and say, "O God! there is my minister looking down reprovingly on me, and saying, 'Sinner, I warned thee.'" If thou art lost, it is not for want of preaching; if thou art damned, it is not because I did not tell thee how thou mightest be saved; if thou art in hell, it is not because I did not weep over thee, and urge thee to flee from the wrath to come, for I did warn thee, and that will be the terror of thy doom that thou hast despised warnings and invitations, and hast destroyed thyself. God is not accountable for thy damnation, and man is not accountable for it; but thou thyself hast done it. And thou wilt say, "O Lord, it is true I am now tossed in fire, but I myself lit the flame; it is true that I am tormented, but I forged the irons which now confine my limbs; I burned the brick that hath built my dungeon; I myself didst bring myself here; I walked to hell, even as a fool goeth to the stocks, or an ox to the slaughter; I sharpened the knife which is now cutting my vitals; I nursed the viper which is now devouring my heart; I sinned, which is the same as saying that I damned myself; for to sin is to damn myself the two words are synonymous." Sin is damnation's sire; it is the root, and damnation is the horrible flower which must inevitably spring from it. Ay, my dear friends, I tell you yet again, there will be nothing more patent before the throne of God than the fact, that God will be just when he sends you to hell. You will feel that then, even though you do not feel it now.
I thought within myself just this minute, that I heard the whisper of some one saying, "Well, sir, I feel that such men as Palmer, a murderer, will feel that God is just in damning them; but I have not sinned as they have done." It is true; but if thy sins be less, remember that thy conscience is more tender, for according to the amount of guilt, men's consciences generally begin to get harder, and because thy conscience is more tender, thy little sin is a great sin, because it is committed against greater light and greater tenderness of heart; and I tell you that a little sin against great light may be greater than a great sin against little light. You must measure your sins not by their apparent heinousness, but by the light against which you sinned. No crime could be much worse than the crime of Sodom; but even Sodom, filthy Sodom, shall not have so hot a place as a moral young lady, one who has fed the poor and clothed the naked, and done all she could, except loving Christ. What say you to that? Is it unjust? No. If I be a less sinner than another, I all the more deserve to be damned, if I do not come to Christ for mercy. Oh! my dear hearers, my beloved hearers, I cannot bring you to Christ. Christ has brought some of you himself, but I cannot bring you to Christ. How often have I tried to do it! I have tried to preach my Saviour's love, and this day I have preached my Father's wrath; but I feel I cannot bring you to Christ. I may preach God's law; but that will not affright you, unless God sends it home to your heart; I may preach my Saviour's love, but that will not woo you, unless my Father draw you. I am sometimes tempted to wish that I could draw you myself that I could save you. Sure, if I could, ye should soon be saved! But ah! remember, your minister can do but little; he can do nothing else but preach to you. Do pray that God would bless that little, I beseech you, ye who can pray. If I could do more, I would do it; but it is very little I can do for a sinner's salvation. Do, I beseech you, my dear people, pray to God to bless the feeble means that I use. It is his work and his salvation; but he can do it. O poor trembling sinner, dost thou now weep? Then come to Christ! O poor haggard sinner, haggard in thy soul! come to Christ! O poor sin-bitten sinner! look to Christ! O poor worthless sinner! come to Christ! O poor trembling, fearing, hungering, thirsting sinner! come to Christ! "Ho! everyone that thirsteth, come ye to the waters; and he that hath no money, come, buy wine and milk; yea, come buy wine and milk, without money and without price." Come! Come! Come! God help you to come! for Jesus Christ's sake. Amen.
Two Sermons: The Wordless Book and A Mingled Strain
The Wordless Book
January 11th, 1866 by C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892)
"Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow." Psalms 51:7 .
I daresay you have most of you heard of a little book which an old divine used constantly to study, and when his friends wondered what there was in the book, he told them that he hoped they would all know and understand it, but that there was not single word in it. When they looked at it, they found that it consisted of only three leaves; the first was black, the second was red, and the third was pure white. The old minister used to gaze upon the black leaf to remind him of his sinful state by nature, upon the red leaf to call to his remembrance the precious blood of Christ, and upon the white leaf to picture to him the perfect righteousness which God has given to believers through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ his Son.
I want you, dear friends to read this book this evening, and I desire to read it myself. May God the Holy Spirit graciously help us to do so to our profit! I. First, LET US LOOK AT THE BLACK LEAF.
There is something about this in the text, for the person who used this prayer said, "Wash me," so he was black and needed to be washed; and the blackness was of such a peculiar kind that a miracle was needed to cleanse it away, so that the one who had been black would become white, and so white that he would be "whiter than snow."
If we consider David's case when he wrote this Psalm, we shall we that he was very black. He had committed the horrible sin of adultery, which is so shameful a sin that we can only allude to it with bated breath. It is a sin which involves much unhappiness to others besides the persons who commit it; and it is a sin which, although the guilty ones may repent, cannot be undone. It is altogether a most foul and outrageous crime against God and man, and they who have committed it do indeed need to be washed.
But David's sin was all the greater because of the circumstances in which he was placed. He was like the owner of a great flock, who had no need to take his neighbour's one ewe lamb when he had so many of his own. The sin in his case was wholly inexcusable, for he so well knew what a great evil it was. He was a man who had taken delight in God's law, meditating in it day and night, He was, therefore, familiar with the commandment which expressly forbad that sin; so that, when he sinned in this way, he sinned as one does who takes a draught of poison, not by mistake, but well knowing what will be the consequences of drinking it. It was wilful wickedness on David's part for which there cannot be the slightest palliation.
Nay, more; not only did he know the nature of the sin, but he also knew the sweetness of communion with God, and must have had a clear sense of what it must have meant for him to lose it. His fellowship with the Most High had been so close that he was called "the man after God's own heart." How sweetly has he sung of his delight in the Lord. You know that, in your happiest moment, when you want to praise the Lord with your whole heart, you cannot find any better expression than David has left you in his Psalms. How horrible it is that the man who had been in the third heaven of fellowship with God should have sinned in this foul fashion.
Besides, David had received many providential mercies at the Lord's hands. He was but a shepherd lad, and God took him from feeding his father's flock, and made him king over Israel. The Lord also delivered him out of the paw of the lion and out of the paw of the bear, enabled him to overthrow and slay giant Goliath, and to escape the malice of Saul when he hunted him as a, partridge upon the mountains. The Lord preserved him from many perils, and at last firmly established him upon the throne; yet, after all these deliverances and mercies, this man, so highly favoured by God, fell into this gross sin.
Then, also, it was a further aggravation of David's sin that it was committed against Uriah. If you read through the lists of David's mighty men, you will find at the end the name of Uriah the Hittite; he had been with David when he was outlawed by Saul, he had accompanied his leader in his wanderings, he had shared his perils and privations, so it was a shameful return on the part of the king when he stole away the wife of his faithful follower who was at that very time fighting against the king's enemies. Searching through the whole of Scripture, or at least through the Old Testament, I do not know where we have the record of a worse sin committed by one who yet was a true child of God. So David had good reason to pray to the Lord, "Wash me," for he was indeed black with a special and peculiar blackness.
But now, turning from David, let us consider our own blackness in the sight of God . Is there not, my dear friend, a peculiar blackness about your case as a sinner before God? I cannot picture it, but I ask you to call it to your remembrance now that your soul may be humbled on account of it. Perhaps you are the child of Christian parents, or you were the subject of early religious impressions; or it may be that you have been in other ways specially favoured by God, yet you have sinned against him, sinned against light and knowledge, sinned against a mother's tears a father's prayers, and a pastor's admonitions and warnings. You were very ill once, and thought you were going to die, but the Lord spared your life and restored you to health and strength, yet you went back to your sin as the dog returns to his vomit, or the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire. Possibly a sudden sense of guilt alarmed you, so that you could not enjoy your sin, yet you could not break away from it. You spent your money for that which was not bread, and your labour for that which did not satisfy you, yet you on wasting your substance with riotous living until you came to beggary, but even that did not wean you from your sin. In the house of God you had many solemn warnings, and you went home again and again resolving to repent, yet your resolves soon melted away, like the morning cloud and the early dew, leaving you more hardened than ever. I remember John B. Gough, at Exeter Hall, describing himself in his drinking days as seated upon a wild horse which was hurrying him to his destruction until a stronger hand than his own seized the reins, pulled the horse down upon its haunches, and rescued the reckless rider. It was a terrible picture, yet it was a faithful representation of the conversion of some of us. How we drove the spurs into that wild horse, and urged it to yet greater speed in its mad career until, it seemed as if we would even ride over that gracious Being who was determined to save us! That was sin indeed, not merely against the dictates of an enlightened conscience, and against the warnings which were being continually given to us, but it was what the apostle calls treading under foot the Son of God, counting the blood of the covenant an unholy thing, and doing despite unto the Spirit of grace.
Let me, beloved, before I turn away from this black leaf, urge you to study it diligently, and to try to comprehend the blackness of your heart and the depravity of your lives. That false peace which results from light thoughts of sin is the work of Satan; get rid of it at once, if he has wrought it in you. Do not be afraid to look at your sins, do not shut your eyes to them; for you to hide your face from them may be your ruin, but for God to hide His face from them will be your salvation. Look at your sins and meditate upon them until they even drive you to despair. "What!" says one, "until they drive me to despair?" Yes; I do not mean that despair which arises from unbelief, but that self-despair which is so near akin, to confidence in Christ. The more God enables you to see your emptiness, the more eager will you be to avail yourself of Christ's fullness. I have always found that, as my trust in self went up, my trust in Christ went down; and as my trust in self went down my trust in Christ went up, so I urge you to take an honest view of your own blackness of heart and life, for that will cause you to pray with David, "Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow." Weigh yourselves in the scales of the sanctuary, for they never err in the slightest degree. You need not exaggerate a single item of your guilt, for just as you are you will find far too much sin within you if the Holy Spirit will enable you to see yourselves as you really are.
II. But now we must turn to the second leaf, THE BLOOD-RED LEAF OF THE WORDLESS BOOK, which brings to our remembrance the precious blood of Christ.
When the sinner cries, "Wash me," there must be some fount of cleansing where he can be washed "whiter than snow." So there is, but there is nothing but the crimson blood of Jesus that can wash out the crimson stain of sin. What is there about Jesus Christ that makes him able to save all who a unto God by him? This is a matter upon which Christians ought to mediate much and often. Try to understand, dear friends, the greatness of the atonement. Live much under the shadow of the cross. Learn to
"View the flowing Of the Saviour's precious blood, By divine assurance knowing He has made your peace with God."
Feel that Christ's blood was shed for you, even for you. Never be satisfied till you have learned the mystery of the five wounds; never be content till you are "able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge."
The Power of Jesus to cleanse from sin must lie, first, in the greatness of his person. It is not conceivable that the sufferings of a mere man, however holy or great he might have been, could have made atonement for the sins of the whole multitude of the Lord's chosen people. It was because Jesus Christ was one of the persons in the Divine Trinity, it was because the Son of Mary was none other than the Son of God, it was because he who lived, and laboured, and suffered and died, and was the great Creator, without whom was not anything made that was made, that his blood has such efficacy that it can wash the blackest sinner so clean that they are "whiter than snow." The death of the best man who ever lived could not make an atonement even for his own sins, much less could it atone for the guilt of others; but when God himself "took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men," and "humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross," no limit can be set to the value of the atonement that he made. We hold most firmly the doctrine of particular redemption, that Christ loved his Church, and gave himself for it; but we do not hold the doctrine of the limited value of his precious blood. There can be no limit to Deity, there must be infinite value in the atonement which was offered by him who is divine. The only limit of the atonement is in its design, and that design was that Christ should give eternal life to as many as the Father has given him; but in itself the atonement is sufficient for the salvation of the whose world, and if the entire race of mankind could be brought to believe in Jesus, there is enough efficacy in his precious blood to cleanse everyone born of woman from every sin that all of them have ever committed.
But the power of the cleansing blood of Jesus must also lie in the intense sufferings which he endured in making atonement for his people. Never was there another case like that of our precious Saviour. In his merely physical sufferings there may have been some who have endured as much as he did, for the human body is only capable of a certain amount of pain and agony, and others beside our Lord have reached that limit; but there was an element in his sufferings that, was never present in any other case. The fact of his dying in the room, and place, and stead of his people, ,the one great sacrifice for the whole of his redeemed, makes his death altogether unique, so that not even the noblest of the noble army of martyrs can share the glory with him. His mental sufferings also constituted a very vital part of the atonement, the sufferings of his soul were the very soul of his sufferings. If you can comprehend the bitterness of his betrayal by one who had been his follower and friend, and of his desertion by all his disciples, his arraignment for sedition and blasphemy before creatures whom he had himself made; if you can realize what it was for him, who did no sin, to be made sin for us, and to have laid upon him the iniquity of us all; if you can picture to yourself how be loathed sin and shrank from it, you can form some slight idea of what his pure nature must have suffered for our sakes. We do not shrink from sin as Christ did because we are accustomed to it, it was once the element in which we lived, and moved had our being; but his holy nature shrank from evil as a sensitive plant recoils from the touch. But the worst of his sufferings must have been when his Father's wrath was poured out upon him as he bore what his people deserved to bear, but which now they will never have to bear.
"The waves of swelling grief Did o'er his bosom roll, And mountains of almighty wrath Lay heavy on his soul."
For his Father to have to hide his face from him so that he cried in his agony, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" must have been a veritable hell to him. This was the tremendous drought of wrath which our Savior drank for us to its last dregs so that our cup might not have one drop of wrath in it for ever. It must have been a great atonement that was purchased at so great price.
We may think of the greatness of Christ's atonement in another way. It must have been a great atonement which has safely landed such multitudes of sinners in heaven, and which has saved so many great sinners, and transformed them into such bright saints. It must be a great atonement which is yet to bring innumerable myriads into the unity of the faith, and into the glory of the church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven. It is so great an atonement, sinner, that if thou wilt trust to it, thou shalt be saved by it however many and great thy sins may have been. Art thou afraid that the blood of Christ is not powerful enough to cleanse thee? Dost thou fear that his atonement cannot bear the weight of such a sinner as thou art? I heard, the other day, off a foolish women at Plymouth who for a long while, would not go over the Saltash Bridge because she did not think it was safe. When, at length, after seeing the enormous traffic that passed safely over the bridge, she was induced to trust herself to it, she trembled greatly all the time, and was not easy in her mind until she was off it. Of course, everybody laughed at her for thinking that such a ponderous structure could not bear her little weight. There may be some sinner, in this building, who is afraid that the great bridge which eternal mercy has constructed, at infinite cost, across the gulf which separates us from God, is not strong enough to bear his weight. If so, let me assure him that across that bridge of Christ's atoning sacrifice millions of sinners, as vile and foul as he is, have safely passed, and the bridge has not even trembled beneath their weight, nor has any single part of it ever strained or displaced. My poor fearful friend, your anxiety lest the great bridge of mercy should not be able to bear your weight reminds me of the fable of the gnat that settled on the bull's ear, and then was concerned lest the powerful beast should be incommoded by his enormous weight. It is well that you should have a vivid realization of the weight of your sins, but at the same time you should also realize that Jesus Christ, by virtue off his great atonement, is not only able to bear the weight of your sins, but he can also carry indeed, he has already carried upon his shoulders the sins of all who shall believe in him right to the end of time; and he has borne them away into the land of forgetfulness, where they shall not be remembered or recovered for ever. So efficacious is the blood of the everlasting covenant that even you, black as you are, may pray, with David, "Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow."
III. This brings me to THE WHITE LEAF OF THE WORDLESS BOOK, which is just as full of instruction as either the black leaf or the red one: "Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow ."
What a beautiful sight it was, this morning, when we looked out, and saw the ground all covered with snow! The trees were all robed in silver; yet it is almost an insult to the snow to compare it to silver, for silver at its brightest is not worthy to be compared with the marvelous splendour that was to be seen wherever the trees appeared adorned with beautiful festoons above the earth which was robed in its pure white mantle. If we had taken a piece of what we call white paper, and laid it down upon the surface of newly-fallen snow, it would have seemed quite begrimed in comparison with the spotless snow. This morning's scene at once called the text to my mind: "Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow." You, O black sinner, if you believe in Jesus, shall not only be washed in his precious blood until you become tolerably clean, but you shall be made white, you shall be "whiter than snow." When we have gazed upon the pure whiteness of the snow before it has become defiled, it has seemed as though there could be nothing whiter. I know that, when I have been among the Alps, and have for hours looked upon the dazzling whiteness of the snow, I have been almost blinded by it. If the snow were to lie long upon the ground, and if the whole earth were to be covered with it, we should soon all be blind. The eyes of man have suffered with his soul through sin, and just as our soul would be unable to bear a sight of the unveiled purity a God, our eyes cannot endure to look upon the wondrous purity of the snow. Yet the sinner, black through sin, when brought under the cleansing power of the blood of Jesus, becomes "whiter than snow."
Now, how can a sinner be made "whiter than snow"? Well, first of all, there is a permanence about the whiteness of a blood-washed sinner which there is not about the snow . The snow that fell this morning was much of it anything but white this afternoon. Where the thaw had begun to work, it looked yellow even where no foot of man had trodden upon it; and as for the snow in the streets of London, you know how soon its whiteness disappears. But there is no fear that the whiteness which God gives to a sinner will ever depart from him; the robe of Christ's righteousness which is cast around him is permanently white.
"This spotless robe the same appears When ruin'd nature sinks in years No age can change its glorious hue, The robe of Christ is ever new."
It is always "whiter than snow." Some of you have to live in smoky, grimy London, but the smoke and the grime cannot discolour the spotless robe of Christ's righteousness. In yourselves, you are stained with sin; but when you stand before God, clothed in the righteousness of Christ, the stains of sin are all gone. David in himself was black and foul when he prayed the prayer of our text, but clothed in the righteousness of Christ he was white and clean. The believer in Christ is as pure in God's sight at one time as he is at another. He does not look upon the varying purity of our sanctification as our ground of acceptance with him; but he looks upon the matchless and immutable purity of the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ, and he accepts us in Christ, and not because of what we are in ourselves. Hence, when we are once " accepted in the Beloved," we are permanently accepted; and being accepted in him, we are "whiter than snow."
Further, the whiteness of snow is, after all, only created whiteness . It is something which God has made, yet it has not the purity which appertains to God himself; but the righteousness which God gives to the believer is a divine righteousness, as Paul says, "He hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. " And remember that this is true of the very sinner who before was so black that he had to cry to God, "Wash me and I shall be whiter than snow." There may be one who came into this building black as night through sin; but if he is enabled now, by grace, to trust in Jesus, his precious blood shall at once cleanse him so completely that he shall be "whiter than snow." Justification is not a work of degrees; it does a progress from one stage to another, but it is the work of a moment and it is complete. God's great gift of eternal life is in a moment, and you may not be able to discern the exact moment when it is bestowed. Yet you may know even that; for, as soon as you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, you are born of God, you have passed from death unto life, you are saved, and to all eternity. The act of faith is a very simple thing, but it is the most God-glorifying act that a man can perform. Though there is no merit in faith, yet faith is a most ennobling grace, and Christ puts a high honour upon it when he says, "Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace." Christ puts the crown of salvation upon the head of faith, yet faith will never wear it herself, but lays it at the feet of Jesus, and gives him all the honour and glory.
There may be one in this place who is afraid to think that Christ will save him My dear friend, do my Master the honour to believe that there are no depths of sin into which you may have gone which are beyond his reach. Believe that there is no sin that is too black to be washed away by the precious blood of Christ, for he has said, "All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men," and " all manner of sin " must include yours. It is the very greatness of God's mercy that sometimes staggers a sinner. Let me use a homely simile to illustrate my meaning. Suppose you are sitting at your table, carving the joint for dinner, and suppose your dog is under the table, hoping to get a bone or a piece of gristle for his portion. Now, if you were to set the dish with the whole joint on it down on the floor, he would probably be afraid to touch it lest he should get a cut of the whip; he would know that a dog dose not deserve such a dinner as that, and that is just your difficulty, poor sinner, you know that you do not deserve such grace as God delights to give. But the fact that it is of grace shuts out the question of merit altogether. "By grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God." God's gifts are like himself, immeasurably great. Perhaps some of you think you would be content with crumbs or bones from God's table. Well, if he were to gives me a few crumbs or a little broken meat, I would be grateful for even that, but it would not satisfy me; but when he says to me, "Thou art my son, I have adopted thee into my family, and thou shalt go no more out for ever;" I do not agree with you that it is too good to be true. It may be too good for you but it is not too good for God; he gives as only he can give. If I were in great need, and obtained access to the Queen, and after laying my case before her, she said to me, " I feel a very deep interest in your case, here is a penny for you," I should be quite sure that I had not seen the Queen, but that some lady's maid or servant had been making a fool of me. Oh, no! the Queen gives as Queen, and God gives as God; so that the greatness of his gift, instead of staggering us, should only assure us that it is genuine, and that it comes from God. Richard Baxter wisely said, "O Lord, it must be great mercy or no mercy, for little mercy is of no use to me!" So, sinner, go to the great God, with your great sin, and ask for great grace that you may be washed in the great fountain filled with the blood of the great sacrifice, and you shall have the great salvation which Christ has procured, and for it you shall ascribe great praise for ever and ever to Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God grant that it may be so, for Jesus' sake! Amen.
A Mingled Strain
In the year 1886
by C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892)
“Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.” Psalms 51:7 .
In what state of heart should we come to the communion-table? It is no light matter: in what manner shall we come before the Lord in so sacred an ordinance? By the very nature of the sacred supper we are taught that there should be a mixture of emotions. The bitter and the sweet, the joyful and the sorrowful, are here intermingled. The sacrifice of Christ for sin is it more a subject of sorrow or of joy? Can we look to the cross without mourning for sin? Can we look at it without rejoicing in pardon bought with blood? Is not the most suitable state of heart for coming to the communion-table just this mourning for our transgression, and joy because of the great salvation? There is a double character about this holy rite: it is a festival of life, and yet it is a memorial of death. Here is a cup; it is filled with wine; this surely betokens gladness. Hearken to me; that wine is the symbol of blood! This as surely betokens sorrow. In my hand is bread bread to be eaten, bread which strengtheneth man’s heart; shall we not eat bread with thankfulness? But that bread is broken, to represent a body afflicted with pain and anguish: there must be mourning on account of that agony. At the Paschal supper, the lamb of the Lord’s Passover had a special sweetness in it: yet the commandment expressly ran “with bitter herbs they shall eat it.” So is it at this table. Here we with joy commemorate the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world, but with deep sorrow we recall the sin which, though taken away, causes us in the recollection of it to repent with great bitterness of heart.
Our text is the expression of one who is deeply conscious of sin, and yet is absolutely certain that God can put away that sin. Thus it holds in one sentence a double thread of meaning. Here is a depth of sorrow, and a still greater deep of hopeful joy: “deep calleth unto deep.” I thought that this expression of mixed feeling might guide us as to our emotions at this holy festival.
I. I shall handle the text by making three observations. The first will be this: There Are Times When The Language Of A Sinner Is Most Suitable To A Child Of God.
There are seasons when it is about the only language that he can use, when he seems shut up to it, and he uses it without the slightest suspicion that it is out of place upon his lips; and, indeed, it is not out of place at all. I suppose that everybody will agree that the language of David in this psalm was most suitable to his condition. When he prayed, “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow,” he prayed a proper prayer, did he not? Surely no one is going to cavil with David over this petition; and yet I cannot be sure. The modern way of handling the Bible is to correct it here, and amend it there; tear it to pieces, give a bit to the Jews, and a bit to the Gentiles, and a bit to the church, and a bit to everybody, and then make it out that sometimes the old servants of God made great blunders. We, in modern times, are supposed to be more spiritual, and to know a great deal better than the inspired saints of the Old and New Testaments. But still, I should not think that anybody would say that David was wrong; and if he did, I should reply: This is an inspired psalm, and there is not half a hint given that there is any incorrectness in the language of it, or that David used language under an exaggerated state of feeling, which was not truly applicable to a child of God. I think that nobody will doubt that David was a child of God, and that, even when he had defiled himself, he was still dear to the great Father’s heart. I gather, therefore I feel sure of it that he was quite right in praying the language of this fifty-first psalm, and saying, “Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness; according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions; wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin!”
Yet this is precisely the way in which an unconverted man ought to pray, just the way in which every soul that comes to God may pray. It is only an enlargement of the prayer of the publican, “God be merciful to me a sinner!” This language, so suitable to the sinner, was not out of place in the mouth of one who was not only a believer, but an advanced believer, an experienced believer, an inspired believer, a teacher of others, who, with all his faults, was such a one as we shall rarely see the like of again. Yes, amongst the highest of saints, there was a time with one of them, at least when the lowliest language was appropriate to his condition. There is a spirit abroad which tells us that children of God ought not to ask for pardon of their sins, for they have been pardoned; that they need not use such language as this, which is appropriate to sinners, for they stand in a totally different position. What I want to know is this: where are we to draw the line? If, on account of a certain sin, David was perfectly justified in appealing to God in the same style, as a poor, unforgiven sinner would have done, am I never justified in doing so? Is it only a certain form of evil which puts a man under the necessities of humiliation? It may be that the man has never fallen into adultery, or any other gross sin; but is there a certain extent of sin to which a man may go before, as a child of God, he is to pray like this? And is all that falls below that high-water mark of sin a something so inconsiderable that he need not go and ask any particular forgiveness for it, or pray like a sinner at all about it? May I under most sins speak very confidently as a child of God, who has already been forgiven, to whom it is a somewhat remarkable circumstance that he should have done wrong, but still by no means a serious disaster? I defy anybody to draw the line; and if they do draw it, I will strike it out, for they have no right to draw it. There is no hint in the Word of God that for a certain amount of sin there is to be one style of praying, and for a certain lower amount of sin another style of praying.
I venture to say this, brethren, going farther that, as this language is certainly appropriate in David’s mouth, and as it would be impossible to draw any line at which it would cease to be appropriate, the safest and best plan for you and for me is this seeing that we are sinners, if we have not been permitted to backslide so much as David, yet we had better come in the same way: we had better take the lowest place, urge the lowliest plea, and so make sure work of our salvation. It is safest to assume the greatest supposable need. Let us put ourselves into the humblest position before the throne of the heavenly grace, and cry, “Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions!”
But is not a man of God forgiven? Ay, that he is! Is he not justified? Ay, that he is. “Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect?” Let that all stand true in the highest sense that you can give to it; but, for all that, the sinner’s cry is not thereby hushed into silence. True children of God cry, and let me tell you they cry after a stronger fashion than other children. They have their confessions of sin, and these are deeper and more intense than those of others. Whatever our confidence may be, our Lord Jesus Christ never told us to pray, “Lord, I thank thee that I am forgiven, and therefore have no sin to confess: I thank thee that I need not come to thee as a sinner!” But he put into the mouth of his disciples such words as these: “Our Father, which art in heaven, forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them that trespass against us.” I reckon that the Lord’s Prayer is never out of date. I expect to be able to pray it when I am on the brink of heaven, and if I should ever be sanctified to the fullest extent, I shall never turn round to the Savior, and say, “Now, my Lord, I have got beyond thy prayer! Now, Savior, I can no more address my Father who is in heaven in this language, for I have outgrown thy prayer!” Brethren, the notion sounds to me like blasphemy. Never shall I say to my Savior, “I have no necessity now to come to thy precious blood, or to say to thee, ’Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.’” Listen, brethren: “If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another,” and what then? Why, even then “the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.” We still want the blood when walking in the light, as God himself is in the light.
While we are here below we shall need to use just such language as David did. Appropriate as our text is to the sinner, it is equally appropriate to the saint, and he may continue to use it till he gets to heaven. Remark, brethren, that when our hearts cannot honestly use such language, we may think that we are upraised by faith, but it is possible that we may be upblown by presumption. When we do not bow into the very dust, and kiss the Savior’s feet, and wash them with our tears, we may think that it is because we are growing in grace, but it is far more likely that we are swelling with self-esteem. The more holy a man is, the more humble he is. The more really sanctified he is, the more does he cry about his sin, whatever it may be “Oh, wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” When you get the clearest possible view of God, what will be the result? Why, the deepest downcasting in your own spirit. Look at Job. He can answer his wretched accusers, but when he sees God ah, then he abhors himself in dust and ashes! Was Job wrong in heart? I question whether any of us are half as good as Job. I am sure few of us could have played the man as he did under his sorrows. With all the failure of his patience, the Holy Ghost does not call it a failure, for he says, “Ye have heard of the patience of Job.” He says not “of his impatience,” but “of his patience;” and yet this blessed, patient man, patient even by God’s own testimony, when he saw God, abhorred himself. Look at Isaiah, again. Was there ever a tongue more eloquent, more consecrated, more pure? Were there ever lips more circumcised to God than those of that mighty evangelical prophet? And yet, when he beheld the glory of the Lord, the train of the Lord filling the temple, he said, “Woe is me! for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips.” Those of you that can do so may come to my Master’s table tonight as saints: I shall come as a sinner. You that feel that you can come there glorying in your growth in grace may so come if you like: I shall come feeling that I am nothing, less than nothing. I shall endeavor to come to the cross just as I came at first, for I find that if I get beyond the position of a believing sinner, I get into a dangerous condition. Safety lies in conformity to truth, and truth will not allow any of us to glory before God. The more I know the Lord, and the more I live in communion with him, the more do I feel happy in lying at his feet, and looking up to him to be my all in all. I would be nothing, and let Christ be everything. Take this from one who has been a preacher of the gospel for more than thirty-five years, and a soul-winner who needs not to be ashamed I am as entirely dependent upon the free mercy of the Lord this day as ever I was, and I look to be saved in the same manner as the thief upon the cross.
II. Secondly, let me make another observation. It shall be this: An Extraordinary Sense Of Guilt Is Quite Consistent With The Strongest Faith.
It is a blessed thing when the two go together. David was under an extraordinary sense of sin, and right well he might be, for he had committed an extravagant transgression. He had done a very grievous wrong to man, and committed great lewdness before the Lord; and when the Spirit of God at last aroused his conscience, through the rebuke of Nathan, it is not at all wonderful that he should have bowed down under a deeply humiliating sense of his own guiltiness. He was guilty, deeply guilty more guilty than even he himself knew. You and I, perhaps, may also be by God’s grace favored with a deep sense of sin. But I hear some people say, “Did I understand you rightly, sir, or did my ears deceive me? Favored with a deep sense of sin?“ “Yes, I said that; for while sin is horrible, a thorough sense of it, bitter as it is, is one of the greatest favors with which God blesses his chosen. I am sure that there are some of God’s children whose experience is shallow and superficial, for they do not know the heights and depths of redeeming love, neither are they established in the doctrines of grace, and all because they never were deeply ploughed with a sharp sense of sin. These know nothing of subsoil plowing, so as to turn their very hearts up under the keen ploughshare of the law. But that man who knows what sin means, and has had it burned with a hot iron into the core of his spirit, is the man who knows what grace means, and is likely to understand its freeness and fullness. He who knows the evil of sin is likely to know the value of the precious blood. I could scarcely ask for any of you a better thing than that you should fully know in your own spirit the horribleness of sin as far as your mind is capable of bearing the strain.
David was so conscious of his guilt that he compares himself to a leper. The language of the text refers, I believe, to the cleansing of lepers. Hyssop was dipped in blood, and then the sacrificial blood was sprinkled upon the polluted individuals to make them clean. David felt that he had become a leprous man. He felt like one who has contracted the horrible, the polluting, the incurable disease of leprosy. He felt that he was not fit to come near to God, nor even to associate with his fellowman. He confessed that his guilt was such that he ought to be put away, shut out from the assembly of the people. His guilt had polluted a whole nation, of whom he was the representative, and to whom he was the example. Did you ever feel like that? I tell you that you do not know all the pollution of sin unless you have been made to feel yourself to be a polluted thing. If you had fifty leprosies, they would not pollute you like sin, for a poor leper is not really polluted: he may bear a grand and noble soul within that rotting body. Sin alone is real pollution, hellish pollution, and abominable pollution. There is nothing in hell that is worse than sin; even the devil is only a devil because sin made him a devil: so that sin is the most horrible and intolerable evil that can fall upon the spirit of man. David felt that dreadful truth. But yet, mark you, though he felt the horror of the disease of sin, his faith was strong enough to make him use the confident language of the text, “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean.” Black as my sin is, filthy, as it is, if thou do but purge me, O my God, I shall be clean.
Yes, David is sure that God can cleanse him. He pleads as one who has no question upon the matter towards God. His prayer is “Do thou purge me, and I shall be clean! Apply the precious blood of the great Sacrifice to me, O God, and I shall be whiter than snow!” There is about the Hebrew a sense which I could hardly give you, except I were to put it thus: “Thou wilt un-sin me.” As though God would take his sin right away, and leave him without a speck of sin, without a single grain of it upon him. God could make him as if he had never sinned at all. Such is the power of the cleansing work of God upon the heart that he can restore innocence to us, and make us as if we had never been stained with transgression at all. Believest thou this? Believest thou this? Oh, thou art a happy man, if, under the deepest conceivable sense of sin, thou canst still say, “Yes, I believe that he can wash me, and make me whiter than snow!
But will you follow me while I go a step farther? The words of our text are in the Hebrew in the future tense, and they might be read, “Thou shalt purge me, and I shall be clean;” so that David was not only certain about the power of God to cleanse him, but about the fact that God would do it: “Thou shalt purge me.” He cast himself, confessing his sin, at the feet of his God, and he said, “My God, I believe that, through the great Atonement, thou wilt make me clean!” Have you faith like that of David? Believest thou this? Beloved, some of us can boldly say, “Ay, that we do; we believe not only that God can pardon us, but that he will, ay, that he has pardoned us; and we come to him now, and plead that he would renew in us the cleansing work of the precious blood, and of the water, which flowed from the side of Christ, and so make us perfectly clean! Yea, we believe that he will do it; we are sure that he will: and we believe that he will continue to cleanse us till we shall need no more cleansing. Hart’s hymn sings concerning the precious blood
“If guilt removed return and remain,
Its power may be proved again and again.”
This witness is true, and we set our seal to it.
The Psalmist David believed that, although his sin was what it was, yet God could make a rapid cleansing of it. He speaks of the matter as wrought promptly, and speedily. It took seven days to cleanse a leper; but David does not follow the type when the reality excels it. He says, “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean.” It is done directly, done at once; washed, and whiter than snow. It will not take seven days to wipe out the crimes of seven years; nay, if a man had lived seventy years in sin, if he did but come to his God with humble confession, and if the precious blood of Jesus were applied to him, his sins would vanish in the twinkling of an eye. The two facts come together. “Purge me: I shall be clean. Wash me: I shall be whiter than snow.” It is done at once. Note the rapidity of the cleansing.
Mark the effectual character of the purgation. “Purge me, and I shall be clean.” Not “I shall think that I am,” but “I shall be. I shall be like a man perfectly healed of leprosy.” Such a man was not purged in theory, but in reality; so that he could go up to the court of the Lord’s house, and offer his sacrifice among the rest of Israel. So, if thou wash me, Lord, I shall be really clean! I shall have access to thee, and I shall have fellowship with all thy saints.
Once more David believed that God could give him internal cleansing. “In the hidden parts,” says he, “thou shalt make me to know wisdom.” I do like that about the text. It is “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean.” Where? Hands? Yes. Feet? Yes. Head? Yes. All this is good; but what about the heart? There is the part that you and I cannot cleanse, but God can. Imagination, conscience, memory, every inward faculty, the Lord can purge us in all these. “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean.” This includes the whole man. And this declaration falls from the lip of a man who knew himself to be as defiled as he could be, a very leper, only fit to be put away into his own several house, and shut up there for fear of contaminating the rest of mankind. He boldly says, “If the Lord wash me, I shall be clean, I am certain of it. I shall be perfectly clean, and fit to have communion with himself.”
Notice one more remark on this point, namely, that David, while thus conscious of his sins, is so full of faith towards God that he appropriates all the cleansing power of God to himself: “Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean.” There are four personal words in one verse. It is easy to believe that God can forgive sin in general, but that he can forgive mine in particular that is the point. Ay, it is easy to believe that he can forgive man, but to believe that he will forgive such a poor specimen of the race as I am is quite another matter! To take personal hold upon divine blessings is a most blessed faculty. Let us exercise it. Can you do it? Brothers and sisters, can you do it? You that cannot call yourselves brothers and sisters, you far-away ones, can you come to Christ, all black and defiled as you are, and just believe in him, that you shall be made whole? You will not be believing too much the Great Sinners’ Friend. According to your faith be it unto you.
III. This brings us to our third and last point, upon which I will speak with great brevity. Notice that A Deep Sense Of Sin And A Confident Faith In God Make The Lord’s Name And Glory Pre-Eminently Conspicuous.
God is the great actor in the text before us. He purges and he washes, and none but he. The sins and the cleansing are both of them too great to allow of any inferior handling.
“Purge me.” He makes it all God’s work. He does not say anything about the Aaronic priest. What a poor miserable creature the priest is when a soul is under a sense of sin! Have you ever met with a person who has been really broken in heart who has gone to a priest? If so, he has been made ashamed of his looking to man, for he has found him to be a broken cistern that can hold no water. Why, my brethren, if we had this platform full of popes, and one poor soul under a sense of sin to be comforted, the whole lot of them could not touch the sinner’s wound, nor do anything to stanch the bleeding of his heart! No, no, the words of the best of men fall short of our need. As the dying monk said, “Tua vulnera, Jesu!” “Thy wounds, Jesus!” These can heal, but nothing else can. God must himself wash us. Nothing short of his personal interposition will suffice.
Now, notice the next word, “Purge me with hyssop.” We must have faith, which is represented by hyssop. How little David makes of faith! He thinks of it only as the poor “hyssop.” Many questions have been raised as to what hyssop was. I do not think that anybody knows. Whatever it may have been, it was a plant that had many little shoots and leaves, because its particular fitness was that the blood would cling to its many branches. Its use was that it stored the blood, and held it there in ruby drops upon each one of its sprays: and that is the particular suitability of faith for its peculiar office. It is an excellent thing in itself; but the particular virtue of faith lies in this that it holds the blood so as to apply it. Scarlet wool was used in the ceremony of cleansing, and the scarlet wool was useful because it soaked in the blood, and held it within itself: but the hyssop was still more useful because, while it held the blood, it held it ready to drop. That is how faith holds the great Sacrifice: it holds the atoning blood upon every spray, ready to drop upon the tortured conscience. Faith is the sprinkling hyssop: it is nothing in itself, but it applies to the soul that which is our cleansing and our life.
David, moreover, seems to me to say, “Lord, if thou wilt purge me with the blood of the great Sacrifice, it does not matter how it is done! Do it with the little hyssop from off the wall. However tiny and insignificant the plant may be, yet it will hold the precious drops, and bring them to my heart, and I shall be whiter than snow.” It is God, you see it is God all the way through.
“And I” there is just that mention of himself; but what of himself? Why, “I shall be the receiver. I shall be clean.” “I.” What about that intensive “I”? “I shall be whiter than snow”; I shall be the material on which thou workest the guilty pardoned the polluted made clean the leper made whole, and permitted to come up to thy house.
That is all I ask my Lord tonight that he will let me come to his table, and be the receiver, the eater, the drinker, the cleansed one, the debtor, the bankrupt debtor, plunged over head and ears in debt to the heavenly Creditor. Oh, to be nothing; to lie at his feet! Oh, to be nothing, but washed washed in the blood! How sweet it is no longer to ride on horses, but to have God for your all in all; no longer to go forth sword in hand, boasting our strength, and glorying in what we can do, but to sit down at Jesus’ feet, and sing the victory which he alone has won! Come, let us pray from our very hearts, “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.” God bless you, for Jesus’ sake! Amen.
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Spurgeon, Charle Haddon. "Commentary on Psalms 51". "Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Christ the King / Proper 29 / Ordinary 34