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Barriers Broken Down
Intended for Reading on Lord's-Day, July 26th, 1891,
C. H. SPURGEON,
At the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington
"For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God." Romans 10:3 .
YOU THAT HAVE YOUR BIBLES OPEN, kindly follow me from the first verse of the chapter. It begins, "Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved." If you really desire that men should be saved, pray for them. It is an empty wish, a mere formality, if you do not turn it into prayer. Every loving desire for any man or woman should, by the believer, be taken before God in prayer. We cannot expect that God will save men unless his people pray for it. There must be travail before the birth, and there must be travail in prayer with God before we can expect that many will be born again into the church of God. Oh, for more prayer! Let us cry to God in secret, and in the family, and in all our assemblies, that God would save the sons of men.
But prayer, if it is sincere, is always attended with effort. Hence the apostle begins to teach as well as to pray. He prays that Israel might be saved, and then he explains the difficulties in the way, and tries to remove them. You pray, dear friend, do you? But you never speak to the individual for whom you pray. Is your prayer sincere? I will not question it. But your prayer has hardly reached that pitch of passionate earnestness which will secure an answer; for if you were in downright earnest, you would go to the person for whom you pray, and explain the way of salvation. You want your boy to be a scholar. Then you send him to school. You want your girl to learn a certain trade. You put her apprentice to it, do you not? In the things of common life, that which you desire you use means to obtain. Oh, that in all our churches we might feel that while effort without prayer is presumption, and prayer without effort is hypocrisy, the holy blending of prayer and labor will produce, for certain, a grand result!
If we labor for souls, we must not be content unless souls are really saved; for the apostle says, "For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God." Well, does not that satisfy you, Paul? They are zealous for God. They are red-hot. "No," says he, "not unless it is in the right way. They have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge." We feel very thankful when we see tears stream down the cheek; but, you know, people cry at the theater, and there is not much in it. Pray God it may not end in a shower of tears; but that the heart may bleed as well as the eyes weep. It may happen that we have induced our hearers to give up some outward sins. So far, so good. But it is written, "Ye must be born again;" and if this vital change is not experienced, all outward reformation will land them short of heaven. Beloved, the apostle's love for souls led him to pray, and led him to labor; but it led him to be very concerned that none should stop short of real living faith in Christ, and justification by his blood and righteousness. When we are in the throes of a revival, and we think men are turning to Christ, let us be happy, and let us not throw any cold water upon anybody; but let us see that it is really the work of grace in the hearts of our hearers. Let us take care that the ploughshare goes down deep. Some soil wants even cross-ploughing and scarifying. Let us do the work thoroughly; for it is only those that are really converted that will stand. We do not want a lot of people that will run in at one door of the church, and out at the other; but we want saving work; and our prayer should be, "Lord, quicken the people into diving life, by divine truth, through the divine Spirit!"
Now observe, that the apostle, being thus earnest about souls, endeavors to be specially clear about the doctrine of justification by faith. If we want men to be truly converted, we must set before them the plan of salvation very clearly and distinctly. I meet with hundreds of persons who have had some kind of work upon their hearts, but they tell me that they walk in a mist. They have not quite understood it. They felt that they were on the rock, but they were not quite sure what the rock really was. It is a good thing that our zeal for God should be according to knowledge, that we know what we believe, and why we believe it; and know that we are saved, and how we are saved, and why we are saved; for if there be a mistake here, it may be fatal. Martin Luther, who, as we all know, continually preached the doctrine of justification by faith, said one day, that he felt half inclined to take the Bible, and bang it about the people's heads; for they seemed as if they would not get a hold of the doctrine that we are saved by faith in Jesus Christ, and by that alone. I suspect that knocking people's heads about with the Bible would not effect any very great result; but that was Martin Luther's way of putting it. Keep hammering away on that nail: "Believe, believe, believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved." Well, now, that was the particular battle-ground of Luther's day, so that he said, "The doctrine of justification by faith is the article of a standing or a falling church." If a church holds and preaches that, it is a church of Christ, notwithstanding many blunders. But, whatever it may preach, if it does not preach that, it is to be questioned whether it is not a fallen church, a church that has lost its true position.
The fight to-day is the same as in Luther's day. The words have changed, and men make other pretences; but the fight all along the line is still this Are we saved by our own merits, or by the merits of another? Are we righteous through what we do, or are we righteous through what Christ has done. Is sin put away by tears and repentances, or is sin washed away by the precious blood of Christ, and by that alone? Beloved, I trust that our pulpit will never give an uncertain sound upon this matter.
In our discourse we shall endeavor to show you that, while there are two righteousnesses, our own righteousness and the righteousness of God, there will always be, as there has always been, a conflict between the two. Men will choose their own righteousness, and they will not submit themselves to the righteousness of God.
You that are fellow-workers for Christ will be especially interested in this text; for it sets forth three difficulties in the way of a man's salvation. The first is, ignorance: "They being ignorant of God's righteousness." The next is, self-will: "And going about to establish their own righteousness." And the third is, flat rebellion: "Have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God."
I. Well, now, our first difficulty is with IGNORANCE.
"Ignorance is the mother of devotion," according to the Church of Rome. "Ignorance is the mother of error," according to the word of God. We love the spread of knowledge, although there is a knowledge which it were better not to know, as there is a philosophy that is nothing but vain deceit, and not true wisdom. What we want our fellow-men to possess, is spiritual knowledge. Especially do we desire that they may have, first and chiefly, knowledge with regard to God's righteousness; for the difficulty is, that men do not know what that righteousness is which God requires.
Do you want to be saved by your own righteousness? Do you know what kind of righteousness it must be? To be accepted, it must be perfect. That is to say, if you have committed but one sin, you have stained your character in the sight of God, and your hope of perfect righteousness is gone. God's law requires obedience, from the first moment that the creature understands that law, as long as ever that creature lives. Mark what it requires of you: "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind." Have you done that? "And thy neighbor as thyself." Have you done that? Why, there is not one of us he has done it. If we had kept the law of God completely, from the first command to the last, from the first day until now; even that would not save us; for, if there were to be one sinful word or deed during the rest of life, it would spoil the whole, and God could not accept our righteousness.
When a man commits one sin, he is guilty of disobedience to all the commands of God; for "he that offendeth in one point is guilty of all." Here is a chain containing twenty links. If I break one of them I have broken the chain. True, there are nineteen perfect links; but if number twenty is snapped, down goes the cage over the mouth of the mine, and the miners are killed. Suppose that I should be required to produce a perfect vase of alabaster, or clear crystal, as a present to the Queen. But my servant-maid has chipped it just a little. What is to be done? I may possibly find somebody to use some patent cement, and fasten the little pieces in their places; but when all is done, it is chipped; it is not perfect; and if it must be perfect before royalty can accept it, I must got another vase, for this one will not do.
Now, dear friend, while I am talking to you about a chip here and a chip there in your life, I am sure you must be saying, "Do not talk so, sir. Why, some of us have not only got chipped, but we are smashed right up. And as to broken links; why, we have fairly melted the chain; there is not a link loft. We have nothing, absolutely nothing, that we can bring before God." I am glad to hear it. If you are lost, you are the very ones Christ came to save; and if you have no righteousness of your own, you have got to the halfway house of salvation. When you strip a man, you are partly on the way to clothing him. When a man is changing his old clothes for better, he must get the old ones off first. Oh, how glad I am to meet with a real sinner! There are many sham sinners about. I saw, one day, in Italy, a fellow sticking out his arm, with an awful sore, and he begged of me. As I suspected that he had manufactured that sore with a little sulphuric acid, or by some such process, I did not feel the least pity for him. We have lots of people who come confessing their sins: "Oh, yes, we are sinners; we are sinners." They do not mean it: they are only sham sinners. A real sinner, one who feels his guilt, is a "sacred thing", as Hart says; "the Holy Ghost has made him so." He is an empty vessel that God is going to fill. He is a broken heart that God is going to make anew. But here is our trouble; that the mass of people are not aware how perfect, how complete, any righteousness must be, before God can accept it.
The next difficulty is, that men do not know that God has provided a righteousness for all believers. For every soul of Adam born, who will believe in Christ, there is a perfect righteousness; not ours, but God's. God came here in human form, not bound to be obedient; but "being found in fashion as a man, he became obedient"; obedient to his own law, and fulfilled every jot and tittle of it. He was "obedient unto death, even the death of the cross." And his obedience is ours, if we believe. God looks at us as if we had done what his Son has done. Christ died, and rose again; and God regards us as having died in him, and reckons that we are risen with him, and now live in him. Our righteousness is the righteousness of another, even of the Son of God a perfect righteousness, a divine righteousness, an everlasting righteousness. In the book of Daniel it is written that Messiah, the Prince, should "finish the transgression, make an end of sins, make reconciliation for iniquity, and bring in everlasting righteousness." He was "made sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him."
Alas! how many there are who do not know that God justifieth the ungodly; that sinners can be regarded as just, through what Christ has done and suffered; and that, believing in the precious Christ whom God has set forth to be a propitiation, the vilest are fair to look upon in God's esteem, and the far-off ones are made nigh by the blood of Christ! Oh, I wish that men knew it! I have sometimes thought that if they did but know it, if they did but really hear the gospel; they must believe it. You that preach Christ in the streets, go on preaching him. I saw a man preaching, the other day, with no creature but one dog to listen to him, and I really thought that he might as well have gone home. But I met with a story yesterday which I know to be true, and it showed me that I was making a mistake. There was a woman who for years had been in such dreadful despair that she would not even hear the gospel. She came to be very ill, and she said to one that called upon her, "You sent a man to preach under my window three months ago, and I got a blessing." "No," the friend said, "I never sent anybody to preach under your window." "Oh," she said, "I think you did, for he came and preached, and my maid said that there was nobody listening to him. I did not want to hear him; and as he made so much noise, my maid shut the window, and I lay down in bed; but the man shouted so, that I was obliged to hear him; and I thank God I did, for I heard the gospel, and I found Christ. Did you not send him?" "No," said the good man, "I did not." "Well," she said, "then God did. There was nobody in the street listening to him; but I heard the gospel, and I got out of my despair, and I found the Savior, and I am prepared to die." Fire away, brethren! You do not know where your shot will strike; but "there's a billet for every bullet." I believe that there is some soul whom God means to bless whenever we preach the gospel, depending upon his grace. But the mass of mankind are ignorant of the righteousness which God requires, and ignorant of the righteousness which God has provided.
Many are ignorant as to how they are to receive this righteousness. If there be such a righteousness, say they, how are we to get it? The current notion is, "I must pray so much; I must weep so much; I must feel so much." Ah! this is the common ignorance, whereas men should know that
"There is life for a look at the Crucified One."
"Why, everybody preaches this," says someone. I know they do, but people do not understand it, although you keep on preaching it; for until God the Holy Ghost makes men to know the meaning of what you say, they will but nod their heads, and pass on. Though I heard the gospel from my childhood, and was brought up upon the very knee of piety, I did not understand what I must do to be saved till I heard that text preached from "Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth." I do not believe that my ignorance was the fault of the preacher. It was certainly not the fault of my father, or my mother, and not the fault of the Bible, which I had read through again and again; but it was the fault of these dim eyes, that I could not see. Go on! go on! ye preachers of the Word. Spread abroad the knowledge of this great fact, that "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life."
The worst of this terrible ignorance is, that the mass of mankind do not know HIM who is our righteousness. Who is the Righteousness of God? Who is the Blessed One? God's only-begotten Son; God, the Word made flesh; born at Bethlehem, nurtured in the carpenter's shop, toiling here below, and wearing his life away for the souls of men; extending his arms upon the cross, giving his side to be pierced, his soul to be breathed out, his body to be laid in the tomb, that men might be saved. O Jesu! in thy wounds is our salvation; but men do not know it. O Jesu! thy death is the death of sin, thy life is our life unto God; but men do not know it. Alas! alas! men still go on in their blindness and ignorance; still is the Lord of life despised and rejected of men, and still his servants cry, "Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?"
You see our great difficulty is human ignorance ignorance, dear friends, even of the facts of the truth. You do not know how near to this place, in the very midst and heart of London, there are tens of thousands who do not know the name of Christ. You think it incredible; but I know that it is so. There are multitudes that have never read a chapter in the Word of God since they went to Sunday-school as children, and they never darken the threshold of God's house. There are streets, in neighbourhoods not far from here, where, if one man goes to a place of worship, he is marked by all his neighbors as a strange character. Let me turn aside for a moment, and ask you how in this city of London are we to get the gospel to the working-men to a great number of them? How does it get to some of them? How? Oh, little Mary sings it on father's knee on Sunday night. He has not been out to a place of worship; but his little girl has been to the Sunday-school; or his son Jack has been to the mission, and comes home, and tells his father what the preacher said. He will listen to his own children when he will listen to no one else. The way to increase the number of those who are not ignorant, is for us so to see the things of Christ, that others who have never seen them may have from us an intimation of what we have seen. Oh, it must be very painful to a blind man for another to say to him, "Now I am looking over a delightful landscape. Away there I can see a beautiful piece of water, and beyond the hills I see the sea. There is a ship going along." "Oh," the man says, "I wish I had eyes that I could see, too!" The Holy Spirit makes us see, that, as we tell the story, we may set others longing to see also. I think I reminded you once before, that when the prodigal came back, his father said, "Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his foot." But, you will notice, he never fed him. The father does not say anything about that. He says, "Bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry." Well, it is the servants and all the rest of the household that are to eat. There is nothing said about killing the fatted calf for the prodigal. No, no; you see he had lost his appetite, and others must begin to eat first; and then, when they began to eat, he was sure to join in with them. There is no surer way of begetting an appetite than seeing other people eating. Let us enjoy the things of Christ so much that poor sinners' mouths will water, and they will begin to ask, "What is thy Beloved more than any other beloved? What is this righteousness whereof you speak. What is this wonderful thing?" We have need to tell out what we know; for ignorance, even of the simple facts of the gospel, is extremely common.
Others are in great ignorance as to the excellence of the gospel. They do not know the peace, the joy, the rest it brings.
"His worth if all the nations knew,
Sure the whole world would love him too."
But they think that it is all more talk; a something all very well for parsons, and for some few other people, to get a hold of; but nothing for the working-man, nothing for the man of business, nothing for your noble gentleman who has his heaven at Newmarket, and his bliss at Epsom. Ah, dear friends! I would to God they know the pearl of great price, the incomparable value of salvation by blood; for then would they reckon the highest glory of this present world as unworthy to be compared with the least delight of the kingdom of God.
With many this ignorance is wilful. Nobody is so blind as the man that does not want to see; nobody so deaf as the man that does not wish to hear. Many are like the hogs in harvest very deaf when they are told to go out of the corn-field. And so, when sinners run riot in their sins, they are very deaf indeed when they are told to quit them, and fly to Christ for refuge. Some of you, perhaps, do not want to know too much. When you come to that part of the Bible that begins to touch your conscience, you say, "Shut that up." You will go on somewhere else. You do not want to know. Wilful ignorance will bring terrible damnation. If there be salvation, and you do not want to know it, then you deserve to be cast away.
There are some who are ignorant despairingly; and I do pity them, poor souls! They sigh and cry, "Oh, I cannot be saved, I am so guilty. My heart is so hard!" the devil tells men, first, that they can be saved any day they like; so they may put it off. Then, immediately afterwards, he says, "Salvation is not for such as you. You never had enough sense of sin. You never will have enough faith. God will never save you." Ah, my dear friend, I wish I could make you understand, that whoever comes to Christ he will in no wise cast out; for he himself hath said, "He that believeth on me hath" hath now "everlasting life." He shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck him out of Christ's hands. Some of us will give Christ great glory when we get to heaven. I think that some people will meet us at the gate, and say, "What! and have you got here?" I should not wonder if it was some elder brother. That elder brother was a good fellow. He was a real child, and he was always with his father, and all his father had was his. Yet he was surprised to see the prodigal come home after wasting his father's living. Ah, but it is those that cost the Lord so much in whom his infinite grace will be displayed! They will glorify him most. O ye despairing ones, if you must faint, faint away on to the bosom of Christ! Swoon away into the arms of the almighty Savior, and then it will be well to have swooned, and you will find in him your strength.
II. There is another thing that stands in our way that is worse than ignorance, and that is, SELF-WILL. Men, ignorant of God's righteousness, are said to be "going about to establish their own righteousness"; in other words, to set up the poor idol of their own righteousness. Man sees God's righteousness, and, instead of accepting it, he says, "I think I could match that. I will set up my own righteousness." There is a treasure of gold, and the man says, "No, I will not have that. I think that I could make a sovereign at home out of a bit of brass." Fool that he is! How shall he mimic God? If I were at heaven's wide-open gate, and a voice should say, "Enter freely," and I replied, "No, I think I prefer the Surrey hills, or a place down by the seaside" what a fool I should be! but, even then, not so great a fool as when forsaking the righteousness of God, I want to set up my own. A human thing at best, how shall that match the diving righteousness? An imperfect thing at best, how shall I compare that with the perfect righteousness of Christ? a fading, floating thing, always apt to be damaged by the next moment's temptation, how can I be so foolish? A ridiculous thing, an ignominious thing, a filthy thing. Paul said that his righteousness, which was of the law, was "blameless"; and yet he counted it dung that he might win Christ dung, the most filthy thing. Here, scavenger, take it away! Have any of you any righteousness of your own? I do not believe that even the dustman would take it. He would say, "No, the carts are not for carting away man's righteousness; we have no place bad enough to shoot it into." Shoot it into the bottomless pit: nay, even there they have not any righteousness; for they know their true condition. Human righteousness is a great lie: it is filthy rags. Away with it from off the face of the earth!
What do men try to do? In what vain efforts are they spending their time and strength? According to the text, they go about "to establish their own righteousness." I think you will better understand it, if I read it, "They go about to set up their own righteousness." You see it is a dead thing. "See here", they say; "we will make it stand." If I had a corpse here I am glad that I have not well, I set it up, and it tumbles down. Nevertheless, I will put its legs out a little wider, and see whether it will stand. Down it goes! Now I will prop it up. Surely, I can make this dead thing stand. But, no: it has a tendency to fall, and down it goes! Have I not seen a sinner try to set up the corpse of his own righteousness, and make it stand? At last he has been obliged to say what the fool said in the old classic, "It wants something inside"; and so it does: for until there is life within, it will not stand. Even so, our righteousness has no true vitality, no life within, and it will not stand.
Or, to use another illustration: it is like a man trying to patch up an old house. You find such in country villages; a place which nobody has ever repaired for fifty years. I do not know if there is any landlord; but if there is, he would like to forgot that he has such property. The main beam is nearly cracked through. The lath and plaster have gone long ago, and the birds go in and out the best parlour whenever they like; and the whole thing is tumbling down. A man buys it, and he says, "Now, you know, it is a pity to pull this house down; I think I will repair it." So he puts in a beam there, just under the roof; and he puts a strut here, and another timber there; and, by the time he has spent as much as would have built a house, he has got a very handsome ruin left, and nothing more. I think it was Charles the First who used to swear, "God mend me." Somebody said it would be an easier job to make a new one of him; and I believe it. When men say, "God mend me," they had better say, "God make me new." So, as to your righteousness; if you have a lot of it, and it is very good; if you have been christened, or baptized, if you like, and confirmed, and have always gone to your place of worship, and are so good that you wonder you can live in such a wicked world as this; if you have all that righteousness, the best thing to do with it is, to get rid of it; for it will ruin your soul. But this is what men do, they try "to set up" their own righteousness.
And then the text says that they "go about" to do this: "Going about to establish their own righteousness." That is to say, they set about it with great zeal. Some of you that know the Lord can recollect how you thought you would do it. Why, at first, when you started as a young man, you were never going to do any wrong. You were going to have a perfect righteousness of your own. You had an ugly temper, however, and it broke out indeed. "Well," you said, "I shall never do so again." You came down to breakfast, and you were as bad-tempered as ever; so you said, "Never mind, I will set it up now. I shall be a teetotaler. That will be a grand thing." So it was; but, somehow or other, down tumbled your righteousness again! Then you went to a place of worship. You said, "I will always be there." You began to think that you would grow into a saint; but you did not. Down tumbled your righteousness! Ever it went; and you, all the while, tried zealously to set it up. "Going about" implies great earnestness: when a man says, "I am going about a thing", he means that he is going to take his coat off going to work in his shirt-sleeves. He is going to toil at it for many hours. I recollect how I set to work in my shirt-sleeves to make a righteousness of my own; and I did very nicely indeed while it was dark. But when a little light from the cross broke in, I began to see the filthiness of it. And you, my friend, think yourself very beautiful when you cannot see yourself. But let the looking-glass be held before you, you would begin to see the spots of filth that defile the very best of your righteousness. Ah me! how foul the righteousness of men is; and yet they go about to set up their own righteousness.
To "go about" to establish a righteousness means, in the next place, that men have varied ways of doing it. Shall I tell you what I frequently meet with? I have talked with a person, and said, "Can you trust in your own works?" "Oh, no, sir, I can never do that." "Well, can you come to Christ, and take the righteousness of God?" "Well, sir, no; I do not feel enough my own emptiness." Look! This man is going to bring his own emptiness to help him. He actually thinks that, if he has not any righteousness, his own emptiness is good for something; and, if he can get to feel that, he will come and bring his feelings of emptiness to commend him to Christ. Did you ever hear of such a thing? You go to him, and you say, "My dear man, salvation is not on account of your feelings." Each time you drive him out of his refuge of lies, he hastens back to the old ground again something of himself. Suppose there is a ship out at sea, and the people on board feel that they are sale. One of them says, "I know that we shall not drift far out of our course." "Why?" "Because we have such a big anchor on board." You say, "Ah! he is a cockney. He must be a fool who believes in an anchor on board." Why, it is no good to anybody! It is when you "let go" the anchor, and lose sight of it, and the anchor gets an unseen grip down below, that it is good for something; but while the anchor is on board, it is only so much dead weight for the ship. You want to have your anchor on board, do you not? You do not like it to "enter into that which is within the veil:" that is too mysterious. You want to feel something, to have something of your own. O pride! O self-will! God will have salvation to be all of grace, and man will have it of debt. God gives the promise of his grace, and man puts his penny down to pay for it. Men's pennies and God's promises do not very well go together to buy heaven. He says, like a king, "You may have it for nothing;" and we say, "Lord, we think we could make up a little something to buy it." Well, then, you will never have it. His terms are free, rich, sovereign grace; a sinner, with nothing, receiving everything from God. He may have it. He may have it now. None can say him nay. But he stands chaffering, trying to pay his penny, as if God kept a shop. Has God come down to stand in your market, and cry to you, "Here, bring your gold and your silver to purchase my favor"? You know not who he is, for all things are his. If he were hungry, he would not tell you, for the cattle on a thousand hills belong to him. Will you have salvation freely? If so, take it freely. But if you will buy it, you and God can never agree.
Let me just close this point about human will, by saving that the efforts of men for their own salvation are deadly efforts. God will save them one way, and they want to be saved another. God says, "There is medicine. Take it; drink it." Man says, "No, I will grow my own drugs in my own garden, and I will compound my own physic;" and he goes and takes his own dose. And can he ever get well in such a way as that? God says, "I will forgive." Man says, "I will try and deserve to be forgiven"; as if that could be possible. I have heard that the Romanists say that venial sins are a kind of sins that deserve to be forgiven. What sort of sin must that be? Yet some men seem to think that, somehow or other, they can deserve to be forgiven. That would not be forgiveness at all. Come, come, ye vilest of the vile, ye lost and utterly undone! Come, come, you that have no righteousness, or the ghost of a shade of a shadow of a pretense of any! Come as you are. There is everything you want in Christ. Come and have him, and you shall not be refused; but reject his terms, and salvation can never be yours.
III. Now, very briefly, I want to speak upon the third difficulty, which is a gross evil, namely, FLAT REBELLION.
Observe my text, dear friend, if you forget everything else. I say, remember what the Lord says: "They have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God." This is a strange word. "Have not submitted themselves." Do you not wonder that such a word is used? Here is a criminal who will not submit to be pardoned. Here is a sick man who will not submit to be made well. Here is a man with a broken leg who will not submit to have it healed. Here is a poor beggar in the street who will not submit to be made into a gentleman. Why, the word seems quite out of place, does it not? It shows you the monstrous absurdity of self-righteousness, that men will not submit themselves to that which is the greatest blessing that heaven itself can bestow. It is a matter of submission.
While it is a strange word, it is a very searching word. Is it so, that, the reason why I am not saved is that I will not submit? Do I stick out? Have I an iron sinew in my neck? Am I such a self-willed fool that I will not submit before my Maker will not yield even to have salvation for nothing? Am I so proud that I scorn to be a pauper before God? That is just it. That is the reason why many have not peace. If they were bankrupts, if they were cleaned right out, they would have perfect rest of soul; but still they stand out, and, in their self-righteousness, fight against God.
It is a very true word. I am sure that there is many a sinner who has not anything to be proud of, and yet he is as proud as Lucifer. Why, there are harlots that are proud of their own righteousness. There are drunkards proud of their own righteousness. I do not know where they get it from; but proud of it they are. I have heard say that a dustman can be as proud as my Lord Mayor. And so the vilest sinner can be proud of his own righteousness. "Why", say you, "he has not any to be proud of." No more have you: I mean you good, moral persons, you who never do anything wrong, as you think. You have not any more righteousness than he has, if it comes really to be measured up, and tested by the Word of God. Still, it is so: the worse the man, the harder he is to bow before the righteousness of God.
It is a very suggestive word. "They have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God." They will not own that God is King. They quarrel with his sovereignty. How can the rebel be forgiven when he begins to question whether the king is king? When he begins to deny the rights of the magistrate to condemn him, how can he be pardoned? You must yield, my friend. Submit to the fact that God is God, or else you will not submit to God's righteousness. Man thinks that God is hard, austere, demanding too much; and while God puts before him everything for nothing, yet still he says that the price is too high. It is his heart that is too high, his proud looks that want bringing down. Oh, that God would bring them down! The man will not submit to the power of God. He will not yield himself up to God to work with him, and in him, and for him. He wants to do all himself; and then, if he got to heaven, he would throw his cap up, and want to share the glory. But it will not do. It is all of grace from first to last; and the sinner must consent that it shall be so, or else the gate of heaven will never give him admittance.
Lastly, it is a very cheering word. "They have not submitted themselves to the righteousness of God." "And is that all that I have to do to submit myself? Is that all?" you say. There is a feather in the cap of your pride. Take it out. You have a weapon of rebellion by your side. Throw it down. Just submit yourself there, with folded hands, with the rope around your neck. Say, "Lord, if my soul be sent to hell, I deserve it. I submit, and I plead for mercy. I plead the precious blood. I not only submit to take that plea, but I delight to take it. I am happy to believe that
'Thou hast promised to forgive
All who on thy Son believe.
Lord, I know thou canst not lie:
Give me Christ, or else I die.'"
Beloved friend, may the Holy Spirit lead you to submit! You have been kicking and struggling; now submit. You have been despairing, and talking about its being presumptuous to believe. Submit. Give all that up. No more of your talk! Come to faith! When a man submits to God, that man has got the victory. When God is King, you are safe. When you take Christ to be everything, and you are nothing, then neither death nor hell shall ever divide you from the heart of God. When you are not your own, you are Christ's; but so long as you are dependent upon self, you do not know the Lord, and you cannot know him.
May God bless this simple testimony to each and all, and to his name be praise! Amen.
PORTION OF SCRIPTURE READ BEFORE SERMON Romans 9:1-33 .
HYMNS FROM "OUR OWN HYMN BOOK" 554, 556, 538.
It is very difficult to know what report to give, week by week, concerning Mr. SPURGEON'S illness. Before last week's sermon had reached country readers, he had apparently become much worse, and the gravest apprehensions were entertained. Then came an improvement, which made everyone full of thanksgiving; and this again was followed by a return of the terrible delirium which has been such a trying portion of the present illness. One thing we can say, Mr. SPURGEON is in the Lord's hands; and he will do with him what is right.
When friends read that there is an abatement of the most serious symptoms, let them not slacken their supplications, but "continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving." On the other hand, if all hope of recovery appears to be gone, let them still plead with the Lord, if it be his gracious will, to raise up his dear servant, and strengthen him for future service.
Christ the End of the Law
Delivered on Lord's-Day Morning, November 19th, 1876, by
C. H. SPURGEON,
At the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington
"For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth." Romans 10:4 .
YOU REMEMBER we spoke last Sabbath morning of "the days of the Son of man." Oh that every Sabbath now might be a day of that kind in the most spiritual sense. I hope that we shall endeavour to make each Lord's Day as it comes round a day of the Lord, by thinking much of Jesus by rejoicing much in him, by labouring for him, and by our growingly importunate prayer, that to him may the gathering of the people be. We may not have very many Sabbaths together, death may soon part us; but while we are able to meet as a Christian assembly, let us never forget that Christ's presence is our main necessity, and let us pray for it and entreat the Lord to vouchsafe that presence always in displays of light, life and love! I become increasingly earnest that every preaching time should be a soul-saving time. I can deeply sympathize with Paul when he said, "My heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they might be saved." We have had so much preaching, but, comparatively speaking, so little believing in Jesus; and if there be no believing in him, neither the law nor the gospel has answered its end, and our labour has been utterly in vain. Some of you have heard, and heard, and heard again, but you have not believed in Jesus. If the gospel had not come to your hearing you could not have been guilty of refusing it. "Have they not heard?" says the apostle. "Yes, verily:" but still "they have not all obeyed the gospel." Up to this very moment there has been no hearing with the inner ear, and no work of faith in the heart, in the case of many whom we love. Dear friends, is it always to be so? How long is it to be so? Shall there not soon come an end of this reception of the outward means and rejection of the inward grace? Will not your soul soon close in with Christ for present salvation? Break! Break, O heavenly day, upon the benighted ones, for our hearts are breaking over them.
The reason why many do not come to Christ is not because they are not earnest, after a fashion, and thoughtful and desirous to be saved, but because they cannot brook God's way of salvation. "They have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge," We do get them by our exhortation so far on the way that they become desirous to obtain eternal life, but "they have not submitted themselves to the righteousness of God." Mark, "submitted themselves," for it needs submission. Proud man wants to save himself, he believes he can do it, and he will not give over the task till he finds out his own helplessness by unhappy failures. Salvation by grace, to be sued for in forma pauperis, to be asked for as an undeserved boon from free, unmerited grace, this it is which the carnal mind will not come to as long as it can help it: I beseech the Lord so to work that some of you may not be able to help it. And oh, I have been praying that, while this morning I am trying to set forth Christ as the end of the law, God may bless it to some hearts, that they may see what Christ did, and may perceive it to be a great deal better than anything they can do; may see what Christ finished, and may become weary of what they themselves have laboured at so long, and have not even well commenced at this day. Perhaps it may please the Lord to enchant them with the perfection of the salvation that is in Christ Jesus. As Bunyan would say, "It may, perhaps, set their mouths a watering after it," and when a sacred appetite begins it will not be long before the feast is enjoyed. It may be that when they see the raiment of wrought gold, which Jesus so freely bestows on naked souls, they will throw away their own filthy rags which now they hug so closely.
I am going to speak about two things, this morning, as the Spirit of God shall help me: and the first is, Christ in connection with the law he is "the end of the law for righteousness"; and secondly, ourselves in connection with Christ "to everyone that believeth Christ is the end of the law for righteousness."
I. First, then, CHRIST IN CONNECTION WITH THE LAW. The law is that which, as sinners, we have above all things cause to dread; for the sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. Towards us the law darts forth devouring flames, for it condemns us, and in solemn terms appoints us a place among the accursed, as it is written, "Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things that are written in the book of the law to do them." Yet, strange infatuation! like the fascination which attracts the gnat to the candle which burns its wings, men by nature fly to the law for salvation, and cannot be driven from it. The law can do nothing else but reveal sin and pronounce condemnation upon the sinner, and yet we cannot get men away from it, even though we show them how sweetly Jesus stands between them and it. They are so enamoured of legal hope that they cling to it when there is nothing to cling to; they prefer Sinai to Calvary, though Sinai has nothing for them but thunders and trumpet warnings of coming judgment. O that for awhile you would listen anxiously while I set forth Jesus my Lord, that you may see the law in him.
Now, what has our Lord to do with the law? He has everything to do with it, for he is its end for the noblest object, namely, for righteousness. He is the "end of the law." What does this mean? I think it signifies three things: first, that Christ is the purpose and object of the law; secondly, that he is the fulfillment of it; and thirdly, that he is the termination of it.
First, then, our Lord Jesus Christ is the purpose and object of the law. It was given to lead us to him. The law is our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ, or rather our attendant to conduct us to the school of Jesus. The law is the great net in which the fish are enclosed that they may be drawn out of the element of sin. The law is the stormy wind which drives souls into the harbour or refuge. The law is the sheriff's officer to shut men up in prison for their sin, concluding them all under condemnation in order that they may look to the free grace of God alone for deliverance. This is the object of the law: it empties that grace may fill, and wounds that mercy may heal. It has never been God's intention towards us, as fallen men, that the law should be regarded as a way to salvation to us, for a way of salvation it can never be. Had man never fallen, had his nature remained as God made it, the law would have been most helpful to him to show him the way in which he should walk: and by keeping it he would have lived, for "he that doeth these things shall live in them." But ever since man has fallen the Lord has not proposed to him a way of salvation by works, for he knows it to be impossible to a sinful creature. The law is already broken; and whatever man can do he cannot repair the damage he has already done: therefore he is out of court as to the hope of merit. The law demands perfection, but man has already fallen short of it; and therefore let him do his best. He cannot accomplish what is absolutely essential. The law is meant to lead the sinner to faith in Christ, by showing the impossibility of any other way. It is the black dog to fetch the sheep to the shepherd, the burning heat which drives the traveller to the shadow of the great rock in a weary land.
Look how the law is adapted to this; for, first of all, it shows man his sin. Read the ten commandments and tremble as you read them. Who can lay his own character down side by side with the two tablets of divine precept without at once being convinced that he has fallen far short of the standard? When the law comes home to the soul it is like light in a dark room revealing the dust and the dirt which else had been unperceived. It is the test which detects the presence of the poison of sin in the soul. "I was alive without the law once," said the apostle, "but when the commandment came sin revived and I died." Our comeliness utterly fades away when the law blows upon it. Look at the commandments, I say, and remember how sweeping they are, how spiritual, how far-reaching. They do not merely touch the outward act, but dive into the inner motive and deal with the heart, the mind, the soul. There is a deeper meaning in the commands than appears upon their surface. Gaze into their depths and see how terrible is the holiness which they require. As you understand what the law demands you will perceive how far you are from fulfilling it, and how sin abounds where you thought there was little or none of it. You thought yourself rich and increased in goods and in no need of anything, but when the broken law visits you, your spiritual bankruptcy and utter penury stare you in the face. A true balance discovers short weight, and such is the first effect of the law upon the conscience of man.
The law also shows the result and mischief of sin. Look at the types of the old Mosaic dispensation, and see how they were intended to lead men to Christ by making them see their unclean condition and their need of such cleansing as only he can give. Every type pointed to our Lord Jesus Christ. If men were put apart because of disease or uncleanness, they were made to see how sin separated them from God and from his people; and when they were brought back and purified with mystic rites in which were scarlet wool and hyssop and the like, they were made to see how they can only be restored by Jesus Christ, the great High Priest. When the bird was killed that the leper might be clean, the need of purification by the sacrifice of a life was set forth. Every morning and evening a lamb died to tell of daily need of pardon, if God is to dwell with us. We sometimes have fault found with us for speaking too much about blood; yet under the old testament the blood seemed to be everything, and was not only spoken of but actually presented to the eye. What does the apostle tell us in the Hebrews? "Whereupon neither the first testament was dedicated without blood. For when Moses had spoken every precept to all the people according to the law, he took the blood of calves and of goats, with water, and scarlet wool, and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book, and all the people saying, this is the blood of the testament which God hath enjoined unto you. Moreover he sprinkled with blood both the tabernacle, and all the vessels of the ministry. And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is not remission." The blood was on the veil, and on the altar, on the hangings, and on the floor of the tabernacle: no one could avoid seeing it. I resolve to make my ministry of the same character, and more and more sprinkle it with the blood of atonement. Now that abundance of the blood of old was meant to show clearly that sin has so polluted us that without an atonement God is not to be approached: we must come by the way of sacrifice or not at all. We are so unacceptable in ourselves that unless the Lord sees us with the blood of Jesus upon us he must away with us. The old law, with its emblems and figures, set forth many truths as to men's selves and the coming Saviour, intending by every one of them to preach Christ. If any stopped short of him, they missed the intent and design of the law. Moses leads up to Joshua, and the law ends at Jesus.
Turning our thoughts back again to the moral rather than the ceremonial law, it was intended to teach men their utter helplessness. It shows them how short they fall of what they ought to be, and it also shows them, when they look at it carefully, how utterly impossible it is for them to come up to the standard. Such holiness as the law demands no man can reach of himself. "Thy commandment is exceeding broad." If a man says that he can keep the law, it is because he does not know what the law is. If he fancies that he can ever climb to heaven up the quivering sides of Sinai, surely he can never have seen that burning mount at all. Keep the law! Ah, my brethren, while we are yet talking about it we are breaking it; while we are pretending that we can fulfil its letter, we are violating its spirit, for pride as much breaks the law as lust or murder. "Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? Not one." "How can he be clean that is born of a woman?" No, soul, thou canst not help thyself in this thing, for since only by perfection thou canst live by the law, and since that perfection is impossible, thou canst not find help in the covenant of works. In grace there is hope, but as a matter of debt there is none, for we do not merit anything but wrath. The law tells us this, and the sooner we know it to be so the better, for the sooner we shall fly to Christ.
The law also shows us our great need our need of cleansing, cleansing with the water and with the blood. It discovers to us our filthiness, and this naturally leads us to feel that we must be washed from it if we are ever to draw near to God. So the law drives us to accept of Christ as the one only person who can cleanse us, and make us fit to stand within the veil in the presence of the Most High. The law is the surgeon's knife which cuts out the proud flesh that the wound may heal. The law by itself only sweeps and raises the dust, but the gospel sprinkles clean water upon the dust, and all is well in the chamber of the soul. The law kills, the gospel makes alive; the law strips, and then Jesus Christ comes in and robes the soul in beauty and glory. All the commandments, and all the types direct us to Christ, if we will but heed their evident intent. They wean us from self, they put us off from the false basis of self- righteousness, and bring us to know that only in Christ can our help be found. So, first of all, Christ is the end of the law, in that he is its great purpose.
And now, secondly, he is the law's fulfillment. It is impossible for any of us to be saved without righteousness. The God of heaven and earth by immutable necessity demands righteousness of all his creatures. Now, Christ has come to give to us the righteousness which the law demands, but which it never bestows. In the chapter before us we read of "the righteousness which is of faith," which is also called "God's righteousness"; and we read of those who "shall not be ashamed" because they are righteous by believing unto righteousness." What the law could not do Jesus has done. He provides the righteousness which the law asks for but cannot produce. What an amazing righteousness it must be which is as broad and deep and long and high as the law itself. The commandment is exceeding broad, but the righteousness of Christ is as broad as the commandment, and goes to the end of it. Christ did not come to make the law milder, or to render it possible for our cracked and battered obedience to be accepted as a sort of compromise. The law is not compelled to lower its terms, as though it had originally asked too much; it is holy and just and good, and ought not to be altered in one jot or tittle, nor can it be. Our Lord gives the law all it requires, not a part, for that would be an admission that it might justly have been content with less at first. The law claims complete obedience without one spot or speck, failure, or flaw, and Christ has brought in such a righteousness as that, and gives it to his people. The law demands that the righteousness should be without omission of duty and without commission of sin, and the righteousness which Christ has brought is just such an one that for its sake the great God accepts his people and counts them to be without spot or wrinkle or any such thing. The law will not be content without spiritual obedience, mere outward compliances will not satisfy. But our Lord's obedience was as deep as it was broad, for his zeal to do the will of him that sent him consumed him. He says himself, "I delight to do thy will, O my God, yea thy law is within my heart." Such righteousness he puts upon all believers. "By the obedience of one shall many be made righteous"; righteous to the full, perfect in Christ. We rejoice to wear the costly robe of fair white linen which Jesus has prepared, and we feel that we may stand arrayed in it before the majesty of heaven without a trembling thought. This is something to dwell upon, dear friends. Only as righteous ones can we be saved, but Jesus Christ makes us righteous, and therefore we are saved. He is righteous who believeth on him, even as Abraham believed God and it was counted unto him for righteousness. "There is therefore, now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus," because they are made righteous in Christ. Yea, the Holy Spirit by the mouth of Paul challengeth all men, angels, and devils, to lay anything to the charge of God's elect, since Christ hath died. O law, when thou demandest of me a perfect righteousness, I, being a believer, present it to thee; for through Christ Jesus faith is accounted unto me for righteousness. The righteousness of Christ is mine, for I am one with him by faith, and this is the name wherewith he shall be called "The Lord our righteousness."
Jesus has thus fulfilled the original demands of the law, but you know, brethren, that since we have broken the law there are other demands. For the remission of past sins something more is asked now than present and future obedience. Upon us, on account of our sins, the curse has been pronounced, and a penalty has been incurred. It is written that he "will by no means clear the guilty," but every transgression and iniquity shall have its just punishment and reward. Here, then, let us admire that the Lord Jesus Christ is the end of the law as to penalty. That curse and penalty are awful things to think upon, but Christ has ended all their evil, and thus discharged us from all the consequences of sin. As far as every believer is concerned the law demands no penalty and utters no curse. The believer can point to the Great Surety on the tree of Calvary, and say, "See there,oh law, there is the vindication of divine justice which I offer to thee. Jesus pouring out his heart's blood from his wounds and dying on my behalf is my answer to thy claims, and I know that I shall be delivered from wrath through him." The claims of the law both as broken and unbroken Christ has met: both the positive and the penal demands are satisfied in him. This was a labour worthy of a God, and lo, the incarnate God has achieved it. He has finished the transgression, made an end of sins, made reconciliation for iniquity, and brought in everlasting righteousness. All glory be to his name.
Moreover, not only has the penalty been paid, but Christ has put great and special honour upon the law in so doing. I venture to say that if the whole human race had kept the law of God and not one of them had violated it, the law would not stand in so splendid a position of honour as it does today when the man Christ Jesus, who is also the Son of God, has paid obeisance to it. God himself, incarnate, has in his life, and yet more in his death, revealed the supremacy of law; he has shown that not even love nor sovereignty can set aside justice. Who shall say a word against the law to which the Lawgiver himself submits? Who shall now say that it is too severe when he who made it submits himself to its penalties. Because he was found in fashion as a man, and was our representative, the Lord demanded from his own Son perfect obedience to the law, and the Son voluntarily bowed himself to it without a single word, taking no exception to his task. "Yea, thy law is my delight," saith he, and he proved it to be so by paying homage to it even to the full. Oh wondrous law under which even Emmanuel serves! Oh matchless law whose yoke even the Son of God does not disdain to bear, but being resolved to save his chosen was made under the law, lived under it and died under it, "obedient to death, even the death of the cross."
The law's stability also has been secured by Christ. That alone can remain which is proved to be just, and Jesus has proved the law to be so, magnifying it and making it honourable. He says, "Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For verily I say unto you, till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled." I shall have to show you how he has made an end of the law in another sense, but as to the settlement of the eternal principles of right and wrong, Christ's life and death have achieved this forever. "Yea, we established the law." said Paul, "we do not make void the law through faith." The law is proved to be holy and just by the very gospel of faith, for the gospel which faith believes in does not alter or lower the law, but teaches us how it was to the uttermost fulfilled. Now shall the law stand fast forever and ever, since even to save elect man God will not alter it. He had a people, chosen, beloved, and ordained to life, yet he would not save them at the expense of one principle of right. They were sinful, and how could they be justified unless the law was suspended or changed? Was, then, the law changed? It seemed as if it must be so, if man was to be saved, but Jesus Christ came and showed us how the law could stand firm as a rock, and yet the redeemed could be justly saved by infinite mercy. In Christ we see both mercy and justice shining full orbed, and yet neither of them in any degree eclipsing the other. The law has all it ever asked, as it ought to have, and yet the Father of all mercies sees all his chosen saved as he determined they should be through the death of his Son. Thus I have tried to show you how Christ is the fulfillment of the law to its utmost end. May the Holy Ghost bless the teaching.
And now, thirdly, he is the end of the law in the sense that he is the termination of it. He has terminated it in two senses. First of all, his people are not under it as a covenant of life. "We are not under the law, but under grace." The old covenant as it stood with father Adam was "This do and thou shalt live": its command he did not keep, and consequently he did not live, nor do we live in him, since in Adam all died. The old covenant was broken, and we became condemned thereby, but now, having suffered death in Christ, we are no more under it, but are dead to it. Brethren, at this present moment, although we rejoice to do good works, we are not seeking life through them, we are not hoping to obtain divine favour by our own goodness, nor even to keep ourselves in the love of God by any merit of our own. Chosen, not for our works, but according to the eternal will and good pleasure of God; called, not of works, but by the Spirit of God, we desire to continue in this grace and return no more to the bondage of the old covenant. Since we have put our trust in an atonement provided and applied by grace through Christ Jesus, we are no longer slaves but children, not working to be saved, but saved already, and working because we are saved. Neither that which we do, nor even that which the Spirit of God worketh in us is to us the ground and basis of the love of God toward us, since he loved us from the first, because he would love us, unworthy though we were; and he loves us still in Christ, and looks upon us not as we are in ourselves, but as we are in him; washed in his blood and covered in his righteousness. Ye are not under the law, Christ has taken you from the servile bondage of a condemning covenant and made you to receive the adoption of children, so that now ye cry, Abba, Father.
Again, Christ is the terminator of the law, for we are no longer under its curse. The law cannot curse a believer, it does not know how to do it; it blesses him, yea, and he shall be blessed; for as the law demands righteousness and looks at the believer in Christ, and sees that Jesus has given him all the righteousness it demands, the law is bound to pronounce him blessed. "Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile." Oh, the joy of being redeemed from the curse of the law by Christ, who was "made a curse for us," as it is written, "Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree." Do ye, my brethren, understand the sweet mystery of salvation? Have you ever seen Jesus standing in your place that you may stand in his place? Christ accused and Christ condemned, and Christ led out to die, and Christ smitten of the Father, even to the death, and then you cleared, justified, delivered from the curse, because the curse has spent itself on your Redeemer. You are admitted to enjoy the blessing because the righteousness which was his is now transferred to you that you may be blessed of the Lord world without end. Do let us triumph and rejoice in this evermore. Why should we not? And yet some of God's people get under the law as to their feelings, and begin to fear that because they are conscious of sin they are not saved, whereas it is written, "he justifieth the ungodly." For myself, I love to live near a sinner's Saviour. If my standing before the Lord depended upon what I am in myself and what good works and righteousness I could bring, surely I should have to condemn myself a thousand times a day. But to get away from that and to say, "I have believed in Jesus Christ and therefore righteousness is mine," this is peace, rest, joy, and the beginning of heaven! When one attains to this experience, his love to Jesus Christ begins to flame up, and he feels that if the Redeemer has delivered him from the curse of the law he will not continue in sin, but he will endeavour to live in newness of life. We are not our own, we are bought with a price, and we would therefore glorify God in our bodies and in our spirits, which are the Lord's. Thus much upon Christ in connection with the law.
II. Now, secondly, OURSELVES IN CONNECTION WITH CHRIST for "Christ is the end of the law to everyone that believeth." Now see the point "to everyone that believeth," there the stress lies. Come, man, woman, dost thou believe? No weightier question can be asked under heaven. "Dost thou believe on the Son of God?" And what is it to believe? It is not merely to accept a set of doctrines and to say that such and such a creed is yours, and there and then to put it on the shelf and forget it. To believe is, to trust, to confide, to depend upon, to rely upon, to rest in. Dost thou believe that Jesus Christ rose from the dead? Dost thou believe that he stood in the sinner's stead and suffered the just for the unjust? Dost thou believe that he is able to save to the uttermost them that come unto God by him? And dost thou therefore lay the whole weight and stress of thy soul's salvation upon him, yea, upon him alone? Ah then, Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to thee, and thou art righteous. In the righteousness of God thou art clothed if thou believest. It is of no use to bring forward anything else if you are not believing, for nothing will avail. If faith be absent the essential thing is wanting: sacraments, prayers, Bible reading, hearings of the gospel, you may heap them together, high as the stars, into a mountain, huge as high Olympus, but they are all mere chaff if faith be not there. It is thy believing or not believing which must settle the matter. Dost thou look away from thyself to Jesus for righteousness? If thou dost he is the end of the law to thee.
Now observe that there is no question raised about the previous character, for it is written, "Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth." But, Lord, this man before he believed was a persecutor and injurious, he raged and raved against the saints and haled them to prison and sought their blood. Yes, beloved friend, and that is the very man who wrote these words by the Holy Ghost, "Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth." So if I address one here this morning whose life has been defiled with every sin, and stained with every transgression we can conceive of, yet I say unto such, remember "all manner of sin and of blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men." If thou believest in the Lord Jesus Christ thine iniquities are blotted out, for the blood of Jesus Christ, God's dear Son, cleanseth us from all sin. This is the glory of the gospel that it is a sinner's gospel; good news of blessing not for those without sin, but for those who confess and forsake it. Jesus came into the world, not to reward the sinless, but to seek and to save that which was lost; and he, being lost and being far from God, who cometh nigh to God by Christ, and believeth in him, will find that he is able to bestow righteousness upon the guilty. He is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone that believeth, and therefore to the poor harlot that believeth, to the drunkard of many years standing that believeth, to the thief, the liar, and the scoffer who believeth, to those who have aforetime rioted in sin, but now turn from it to trust in him. But I do not know that I need mention such cases as these; to me the most wonderful fact is that Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to me, for I believe in him. I know whom I have believed, and I am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed to him until that day.
Another thought arises from the text, and that is, that there is nothing said by way of qualification as to the strength of the faith. He is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone that believeth, whether he is Little Faith or Greatheart. Jesus protects the rear rank as well as the vanguard. There is no difference between one believer and another as to justification. So long as there is a connection between you and Christ the righteousness of God is yours. The link may be very like a film, a spider's line of trembling faith, but, if it runs all the way from the heart to Christ, divine grace can and will flow along the most slender thread. It is marvelous how fine the wire may be that will carry the electric flash. We may want a cable to carry a message across the sea, but that is for the protection of the wire, the wire which actually carries the message is a slender thing. If thy faith be of the mustard-seed kind, if it be only such as tremblingly touches the Saviour's garment's hem, if thou canst only say "Lord, I believe, help thou mine unbelief," if it be but the faith of sinking Peter, or weeping Mary, yet if it be faith in Christ, he will be the end of the law for righteousness to thee as well as to the chief of the apostles.
If this be so then, beloved friends, all of us who believe are righteous. Believing in the Lord Jesus Christ we have obtained the righteousness which those who follow the works of the law know nothing of. We are not completely sanctified, would God we were; we are not quit of sin in our members, though we hate it; but still for all that, in the sight of God, we are truly righteous and being qualified by faith we have peace with God. Come, look up, ye believers that are burdened with a sense of sin. While you chasten yourselves and mourn your sin, do not doubt your Saviour, nor question his righteousness. You are black, but do not stop there, go on to say as the spouse did, "I am black, but comely."
"Though in ourselves deform'd we are,
And black as Kedar's tents appear,
Yet, when we put Thy beauties on,
Fair as the courts of Solomon."
Now, mark that the connection of our text assures us that being righteous we are saved; for what does it say here, "If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved." He who is justified is saved, or what were the benefit of justification? Over thee, O believer, God hath pronounced the verdict "saved," and none shall reverse it. You are saved from sin and death and hell; you are saved even now, with a present salvation; "He hath saved us and called us with a holy calling." Feel the transports of it at this hour. "Beloved, now are we the sons of God."
And now I have done when I have said just this. If any one here thinks he can save himself, and that his own righteousness will suffice before God, I would affectionately beg him not to insult his Saviour. If your righteousness sufficeth, why did Christ come here to work one out? Will you for a moment compare your righteousness with the righteousness of Jesus Christ? What likeness is there between you and him? As much as between an emmet and an archangel. Nay, not so much as that: as much as between night and day, hell and heaven. Oh, if I had a righteousness of my own that no one could find fault with, I would voluntarily fling it away to have the righteousness of Christ, but as I have none of my own I do rejoice the more to have my Lord's. When Mr. Whitefield first preached at Kingswood, near Bristol, to the colliers, he could see when their hearts began to be touched by the gutters of white made by the tears as they ran down their black cheeks. He saw they were receiving the gospel, and he writes in his diary "as these poor colliers had no righteousness of their own they therefore gloried in Him who came to save publicans and sinners." Well, Mr. Whitefield, that is true of the colliers, but it is equally true of many of us here, who may not have had black faces, but we had black hearts. We can truly say that we also rejoice to cast away our own righteousness and count it dross and dung that we may win Christ, and be found in him. In him is our sole hope and only trust.
Last of all, for any of you to reject the righteousness of Christ must be to perish everlastingly, because it cannot be that God will accept you or your pretended righteousness when you have refused the real and divine righteousness which he sets before you in his Son. If you could go up to the gates of heaven, and the angel were to say to you, "What title have you to entrance here?" and you were to reply, "I have a righteousness of my own," then for you to be admitted would be to decide that your righteousness was on a par with that of Immanuel himself. Can that ever be? Do you think that God will ever allow such a lie to be sanctioned? Will he let a poor wretched sinner's counterfeit righteousness pass current side by side with the fine gold of Christ's perfection? Why was the fountain filled with blood if you need no washing? Is Christ a superfluity? Oh, it cannot be. You must have Christ's righteousness or be unrighteous, and being unrighteous you will be unsaved, and being unsaved you must remain lost forever and ever.
What! has it all come to this, then, that I am to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ for righteousness, and to be made just through faith? Yes, that is it: that is the whole of it. What! trust Christ alone and then live as I like! You cannot live in sin after you have trusted Jesus, for the act of faith brings with it a change of nature and a renewal of your soul. The Spirit of God who leads you to believe will also change your heart. You spoke of "living as you like," you will like to live very differently from what you do now. The things you loved before your conversion you will hate when you believe, and the things you hated you will love. Now, you are trying to be good, and you make great failures, because your heart is alienated from God; but when once you have received salvation through the blood of Christ, your heart will love God, and then you will keep his commandments, and they will be no longer grievous to you. A change of heart is what you want, and you will never get it except through the covenant of grace. There is not a word about conversion in the old covenant, we must look to the new covenant for that, and here it is "Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and an new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them." This is one of the greatest covenant promises, and the Holy Ghost preforms it in the chosen. Oh that the Lord would sweetly persuade you to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and that promise and all the other covenant engagements shall be fulfilled to your soul. The Lord bless you! Spirit of God, send thy blessing on these poor words of mine for Jesus' sake. Amen.
PORTION OF SCRIPTURE READ BEFORE SERMON Romans 10:1-21 .
HYMNS FROM "OUR OWN HYMN BOOK" 231, 535, 647.
A Monument for the Dead, and a Voice to the Living
Delivered on Lord's-Day Morning, January 7th, 1883, by
C. H. SPURGEON,
At the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington
"For Moses describeth the righteousness which is of the law, That the man which doeth those things shall live by them. But the righteousness which is of faith speaketh on this wise, Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down from above:) Or, Who shall descend into the deep? (that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead.) But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach; that if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved." Romans 10:5-9 .
YOU see by this mourning that our church has been bereaved. I have lost a friend tender and true to me, and my heart is too full for utterance.* I scarcely knew what to preach from this morning; but at last I settled in my mind that I would raise a memorial to my departed friend by preaching a sermon which should be connected with himself. Therefore I cast about me, and I considered what subject he would wish me to preach from if he were sitting behind me this morning as he was last Lord's-day. I had no difficulty in answering that question. His life and death pointed in one direction. He was a man of rare common sense, straightforward and downright in his aims, and most pithy in his speech, with such a mixture of mother-wit that he might have been taken for John Ploughman's brother, as indeed he was. He cared nothing for oratory, which I have heard him call "a flash in the pan"; he delighted in the plain, solid gospel of Jesus Christ. I know that he would have said to me, Give them Christ crucified, and salvation by grace through faith, as plainly as ever you can; for when he was sore sick and in the very agony of death, he repeated as his dying creed
"Nothing in my hand I bring:
Simply to thy cross I cling."
and in his own quaint way he added, "They may talk as much as ever they like, but the whole of it lies in Jack the Huckster's verse
'I'm a poor sinner, and nothing at all
But Jesus Christ is my an in all.'"
You will find that story in the first volume of my sermons.** In Park-street early in my ministry I told the story, and it did my friend good, and helped to rest his soul all those years ago, so that he remembered it and repeated it at the last. For his sake let me tell it again.
This Huckster Jack was a poor, wicked fellow, who had gone about from village to village, swearing, drinking, huckstering and perhaps pilfering. Some thought him half-witted, but the story would show his wind to be sound enough. He heard a poor woman sing somewhere
I'm a poor sinner, and nothing at all;
But Jesus Christ is my all in all."
He remembered the words, and what was better, he felt their sense; and he kept on humming them to himself till God's good Spirit engraved them on his heart. There they were recorded, and Jack was a new man and a saved man. So he essayed to join himself unto the church, but the brethren looked suspiciously at him and enquired, "What is your experience?" He said he had no experience but this
"I'm a poor sinner, and nothing at all
But Jesus Christ is my all in all."
The good elders very properly asked, "Are you converted? Have you been born again?" and Jack replied, "I do not know much about these things; but this I do know and am sure of
'I'm a poor sinner, and nothing at all
But Jesus Christ is my all in all.'
They put him back for awhile, to try if he would grow in his knowledge, but he never went an inch beyond the first standard. He know what he did know, and to that he held fast
"I'm a poor sinner, and nothing at all
But Jesus Christ is my all in all."
Well, they must take him into the church; they could not well refuse a man with such a confession of faith; and when he was in the church, walking with the brethren, he was happier than the rest of them, at which they greatly marvelled, and one said to him, "Brother Jack, don't you sometimes feel doubts and fears? "Doubts," he said, "what do you mean? I never doubt that
'I'm a poor sinner, and nothing at all;'
for I have daily proofs of it, and why should I doubt that
'Jesus Christ is my all in all'?
for he says he is, and I must believe him." "Ah, well," said one, "sometimes I enjoy good frames and feelings, and feel very happy, and then I lose them, and sink in spirit." Jack answered, "I never get lower than I am, for I am down at the bottom
'A poor sinner, and nothing at all.'
I cannot get lower than that, can I? But I am also at the top,
'for Jesus Christ is my all in all,'
and I cannot get higher than that, can I?" They tried him many ways with their blessed experience, of which you and I have got cart-loads, perhaps waggon-loads; but he could not be drawn out of his one firm position. They tried him with their various attainments, depressions, anxieties, quibbles, and questions; but still the huckster would not budge. He had bought the truth and would not sell it, and so he stuck to
"I'm a poor sinner, and nothing at all;
But Jesus Christ is my all in all."
The conies are a feeble folk, yet have they their habitations among the rocks: they are safe, but they keep to their hiding place.
Of course our new Perfection brethren, spick and span saints as they are, are not like Jack, they are not "poor sinners, and nothing at all," and I am afraid lest some of them should find out that Jesus Christ is not their all in all. But if you and I are as he was, "poor sinners, and nothing at all," we may, with firm and resolute grip, lay hold upon the other line, "But Jesus Christ is my all in all." Christ's fullness is meant for our emptiness; Christ's righteousness is meant for our sin, salvation is for the lost. When you and I are no longer sinners, Christ is no longer our Savior; when you and I no more need him, then we shall not have him. Our need is our warrant, and if that be gone, all is gone. Jesus did not bleed and die to be a superfluity to us: he cattle to meet a grim necessity. As long as we are nothing Christ is our all in all; we may be sure of that, and that is just the gospel in a nutshell. I want to preach that same gospel this morning, in the hope that in after days this word may be scattered far and wide, and some Jack the Huckster, or some other like him, may find himself to be utterly empty and undone, and may then know that Christ is ordained to be his salvation. Jesus came into the world to save real sinners, not sham sinners; for he is a real, and not a pretended Savior. He saves those who are always confessors of sin, always needy in themselves, and therefore always glad of him. Even in their best estate the saved ones need their Lord: even if we walk in the light as God is in the light, and have fellowship with him, we still sin, and still the blood of Jesus Christ, his Son, cleanseth us from all sin.
I now plunge into my text. Notice, first, what Moses said. Moses said, "That the man which doeth those things shall live by them." Next, what the gospel says: "But the righteousness which is of faith speaketh on this wise," and so on. Thirdly, we shall consider what the Scripture saith: "Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed." Then, fourthly, we will hear what experience saith; for we may bring in the experience of believers to back up the declarations of God.
I. I invite your earnest attention to the first point WHAT MOSES SAITH: "Moses describeth the righteousness which is of the law, That the man which doeth those things shall live by them." This is a clear statement. There is no mystery or obscurity about it. You need not go to the universities and earn a degree of D.D. in order to understand this declaration: it is as plain as words can make it. If you wish to be saved by the law you must do its commands and you shall live. The law is written in the ten commandments; you know them; and if you desire to live by them you must keep them. It will not suffice for you to learn those commands by heart, or to write them up in your churches, or to read them over and say, "Lord, have mercy upon us, and incline our hearts to keep this law": all that may be well enough, but it is not to the point. If you are to be saved by the commandments you must do them: that is clear. Moses does not allow any person to dream that under the law he can be saved in any other way than by perfect obedience thereto. "For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified." Whatever it is that God has commanded, you must do; whatever he forbids, you must avoid; for by such obedience alone can you live.
Mark you, Moses does not tone down the law to suit our fallen state, or talk of our doing our best and God's being satisfied with our imperfect obedience. No, he says only, "He that doeth those things shall live by them." He demands perfect and entire obedience, if life is to come of it. He does not say that if you have broken the law you may still live by some other means. No, if the law is once broken it is all over with you as to salvation thereby: one single fault takes away the possibility of your ever being justified by the law. "He that doeth those things," that is, always, without exception, with all his heart and soul and strength "he shall live by them"; but nobody else. Be he Jew or be he Gentile, his only righteousness by law must come through the doing of the law. Moses says nothing about wearing phylacteries, or washing hands, or offering incense, or performing ceremonies in order to righteousness. No; clear, straight, cutting like a sharp razor, he puts before us the single sentence, "He that doeth those things shall live by them."
Judge ye whether any one of us has fulfilled the whole law. To my mind this word of Moses is conclusive that none of us can possibly live by the works of the law. We cannot keep the law now, for we have already broken it: the vase is fractured, and to talk of keeping it entire is nonsense. But even if it were not already broken, should we get through to-morrow with its temptations, bearing such a heart as we have within us, without breaking that perfect and spotless law? I am sure we should not. You that hope to be saved by your works are indulging a forlorn hope; what never you may do or be in the future, the past has already ruined you. The way to heaven up the steep sides of Sinai is inaccessible to trembling feet like ours. If you were to be saved by the law you should have begun without sin, continued without sin, and then it would be needful to end without sin. There would not be a moment of your life in which you could be at peace, for there would always be the fear that in some unguarded instant you would transgress, and lose all. But why talk I so? It is no longer in our power to dream of a perfect, life-long obedience. We went astray from the womb, speaking lies; we were rebellious to our parents in our childhood, and wayward in our youth; in our early manhood we were carried about with this passion and with that, and since then all kinds of evils have led us astray. We are as full of evil as an egg is full of meat, and our heart is like a cage of unclean birds. I can say no less. The hope of salvation by works is black despair; yet we have a set of men on the face of the earth who are always wanting us to preach up this hopeless hope, and urging us to lay this heavy burden upon the shoulders of dying men. They would have us proclaim salvation by the works of the law. This, they say, would at least make men moral and keep them sober: whereas even in this they err against the light; for it has been proved by history that such preaching makes men worse and worse. The idea of salvation by works sits like an awful incubus upon the breast of humanity, and presses out of the soul all hope, thus robbing man of strength to attempt true holiness. When a man has lost all hope he throws the reins upon his neck and runs into all manner of iniquity, judging that he may as well be hanged for a sheep as a lamb.
Clear, then, as possible it must be to every man among us who will think, that if the only way of salvation by the works of the law is by the keeping of the law in its entirety, then that road is closed against us, and the sooner we have done with it the better; for then we shall turn our thoughts in the right direction, and travel on the way which the Lord in great mercy has prepared for us. This is what Moses saith: hear it and be humbled.
II. Now I ask you to listen to WHAT THE GOSPEL SAITH. "The righteousness which is of faith," or believing, "speaketh on this wise, Say not in thy heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring, Christ down from above:) or, Who shall descend into the deep? (that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead.) But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach; that if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved."
Now observe, first, that the gospel claims to be like the law in its clearness. Moses claimed for the law which God had given to the people through him that it was clear, and within the range of their knowledge and understanding. I will read his exact words to you. Turn to Deuteronomy 30:11 . "For this commandment which I command thee this day, it is not hidden from thee, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go up for us to heaven, and bring it unto us, that we may bear it, and do it? Neither is it beyond the sea, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go over the sea for us, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it? But the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that thou mayest do it." Now Paul here very adroitly takes these words out of the mouth of Moses, alters them somewhat, and as good as says, "It was the boast of the law that it was clear, known, and accessible to the people; but much more is this the glory of the gospel." Did not I show you just now that when Moses spoke he did not mystify the matter, but put it plainly, "The man that doeth those things shall live by them." So also the gospel by no means involves itself in obscurity, but says, Believe and live, quite as distinctly as Moses said, "Do and live." Here you have it, "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved." Moses' utterance was single and by itself. He did not say, "Do and thou shalt live, and yet there is another way." No; under the law it was nothing but "Do and live; leave undone and die." So the gospel does not propose a second way, and suggest "a larger hope," but it declares with solemn decision, "He that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God." It is just as clear as ever the law was, and quite as sharply distinct. Herein is no mystery: Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners, and whosoever believeth in him shall not perish, but have everlasting life. Wrapping everything up into one, the gospel says, "Trust thou in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thy sins shall be forgiven thee, and thou shalt be saved." This believing, or trusting, is the whole of the matter, and neither heaven above nor the abyss beneath will ever reveal another salvation.
I want to call your special attention to the fact that Paul borrows the words of Moses; for his intent was the ending of all fears. No man among us doubts that if he had performed the law of God the Lord would give him life; but it is equally certain that if we have believed in the Lord Jesus Christ we have eternal lire. No trembling sinner doubts but that by the breaking of the law we are condemned: be you equally sure of it, that by not believing you are condemned. As no keeper of the law would have been lost on any ground whatever, so no believer in Christ shall be lost on any ground whatever; as no breaker of the law could escape punishment, so no unbeliever in Christ can he saved. The gospel states its message as clearly as the law. As positively as the law utters its promise and threat, so positively and unalterably doth the gospel deliver its decree. The believer in Jesus shall be saved because he is a believer; and Christ's veracity is staked thereon: "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life."
Oh, but this is a very blessed thing to have to say to you. I do not come to-day with a gospel veiled in mystery and shrouded in doubt; I do not bring a message which you cannot understand or receive; neither do I come with "ifs" and "buts" and "peradventures," but with this, "Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved." "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved." "Whosoever believeth in him hath everlasting life." This is as certain and clear as the utterance of that dreadful roll of thunder which has just now left on your minds the thought, "He that doeth these things shall live by them."
Let us go a little further. What saith the gospel? Why, next, it forbids the questions of despair. "The righteousness which is of faith speaketh on this wise, Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? or, Who shall descend into the deep?" When a man is at length awakened to a sense of sin he cries, "I long to be saved! All that I have and all that I am I would give to escape from the righteous wrath of God. Sirs, what must I do to be saved? Surely it would need that I mount to heaven to own my sin, or dive to hell to bear its punishment. I want a righteousness which would need as much labor to produce as a climb to heaven would need; and I require an expiation for sin as great as though a man were plunged into the abyss itself, and there were made to suffer the divine anger. How is it possible that I can be saved? "This wail of despair takes many forms: one man puts it thus: "What doings can I perform by which I can be saved?
'Could my zeal no respite know,
Could my tears for ever flow,
All for sin could not atone.'"
Another, despairing of deliverance by his doings, runs upon his feelings, and cries, "If I am to be saved, surely I shall need to experience joys like those which are felt by spirits before the throne. If I had a sense of sin as deep as that of lost souls in hell, I could hope that I should be saved." Thus the second man looks to excitements and feelings just as the first looked to works and self-denials. Now, the gospel forbids us to dream in this fashion. Talk not thus. Say not even in thy heart that by these doings or feelings thou canst be saved. Perhaps thou wouldst be ashamed to say it with thy lips; but do not say it at all; do not say that the way to heaven is hard, or mysterious, or in any degree apart from the simple act of believing. Do not suppose that anything is wanted as to doings or feelings in order to complete the righteousness which is wrought out by the Lord Jesus, and imputed by God to the believer.
Ah, then the heart foolishly cries, "I must know a great deal; as much as if I had been to heaven and seen for myself, or as if I had dived into the depths and made discoveries there." No, you must not: the gospel is simple; salvation is as plain as a pikestaff; familiar an homespun; easy as the A B C of your childhood. Say not in thine heart that thou must be educated, trained, and made into a scholar. No, confess yourself a sinner; trust in the sinner's Savior, and you are saved.
"Ah, well," says one, "I know I must undergo a singular experience-either I must be carried right away to heaven with delirious delight, or be plunged into the waves of hell in frightful despair." No, my dear friend, do not say that even in your thought. The righteousness of faith lies not in dreams and visions, delusions or depressions: it lies only in reliance upon the work of Jesus finished for you. Go not to the loom to weave a righteousness. The garment is woven already; put it on; Christ gives it to you. Dig not into the bowels of the earth to find the gold of salvation. Christ holds it out to you: take it freely, and be rich for ever. So one of the first works of the gospel is silencing the questions of our unbelief.
Next, this precious gospel translates these questions, and then answers them. Listen. A voice cries "Who shall ascend into heaven?" The gospel replies, if you did ascend to heaven what would you do there, without Christ, the anointed Savior? You say, "Who shall descend into the deep?" Listen, man. If you were to descend there, what would you do without him whom God has anointed to save? If you find him in it will not much matter where you find him, in heaven or in the deep, for he must be almighty everywhere. Now hearken. Thou sayest, "Who shall ascend into heaven?" the top and bottom of such an ascent must be, "to bring Christ down." Hear this! Jesus has come down: years ago be left the glories of his Father. Hast thou not heard the tale? Being Pure, blazing, glorious Godhead, "Light of lights, very God of very God," on a sudden they found him in a stable hanging on a woman's breast. Angels saw him and wondered. He came down, indeed, when he was born; and, being down so low as that, he descended to the carpenter's shop, to the weariness of the well's brink, and to a thirst which made him say, "Give me to drink." Lower than that, he descended to being "despised and rejected of men." he was Lord of heaven and earth, and yet they called him Beelzebub, and talked of him as a drunken man and a wine-bibber. Having descended all that length he went lower still. Listen, angels, you will not weary while I tell the story over again he went into Gethsemane where he put on the crimson garment of his own bloody sweat; and then to Pilate's hall, where they did falsely accuse him, and spit on him, and scourge him, and make a jest of him; and then to that cross whereon they nailed him in his nakedness, so that he hung in agony, to die in fever and in thirst, till he cried, "It is finished." He descended into the grave, so that he dwelt among the dead! We know not how low he went, but we are told that "he descended into the lower parts of the earth." Oh, my bearer, our salvation lies in this! Not in our descending, but in Christ's descending our hope is to be found. Listen to it, lost ones; you need not climb to heaven: Christ has come down from heaven to you; and if you lie among the spiritually dead to-day, or think you do, he has come down to you, and you need not enquire bow you can go up to him. No prayers, or tears, are wanted to bring him down: he has already come and is near at hand. You asked, "Who shall descend into the deep?" Now listen. Here is your answer. You need not "bring up Christ again from the dead," for the Lord has risen indeed. His soul scarce descended among the shades before it quitted them for ever; that day he died he was in Paradise, and the thief was with him there as a trophy. Up also his body rose on the light of the third day; and he sojourned for forty days among his disciples. At the close of that period he rose into the air, ascending high. As they watched him rising higher, and yet higher, at last a cloud received him: he has gone up to the Father's throne, as the sinner's Savior: at the throne he stands to-day to intercede for sinners, and from that throne he bends to comfort those who come to him. Now, your hope lies wholly in what this Son of God did in his descent and ascent. God has brought him again from the dead and exalted him at his own right hand, and this is not for himself, but for all those who trust in him. His death is instead of the death of our souls: his life is the life of our spirits. Now, soul, thou hast nothing to do with asking vain questions; thou hast to accept the result of the Savior's actual performances. The saving work is done, done by him who was anointed of the Lord to do it. Look to him and salvation is thine. Thy salvation rests in Jesus, rest thou in Jesus. Throw thyself upon him now; even as a babe casts itself upon its mother's breast. Have done with every other confidence. What canst thou need more than to rely upon the Anointed of the Lord?
Now, Paul declares, or rather the gospel speaking for itself declares, this word of life by faith in the risen Christ to be near us, that is, to be accessible to us. As your next door neighbor's house is not hard to get at, so neither is salvation by the gospel. It is nigh you; it is nigh you now: it will never be nigher than it is at this moment. You may now believe in Christ and live eternally. Difficulty there is none: only believe and thou art saved. It is not a mystical, obscure thing; it is near and familiar. Believe in Christ as you would believe in your friend: believe that he died for sinners, and trust in him for salvation. If God has made you feel yourself a sinner, then Christ is such a Savior as you need and you may have him at once: the only difficulty lies in the way being so easy that you can hardly think it can be so. Have done with doings, and feelings, and trust yourself with Christ. "The word is nigh thee." It is simple; indeed, so simple that people try to obscure it in order to understand it. It is such milk for babes that I have known people refuse such plain truth because they were not willing to be treated like little children. Just as I lean all my weight upon this rail so do I lean my soul wholly upon Christ. If what Christ has done will not save a sinner I am damned; for I have nothing else to depend upon; but if it will save, and sure I am that it will, I am saved as surely as Christ has risen from the dead. This is the substance of the matter Christ saves, and we trust. This is what that word of faith says, even the gospel which we preach. I am afraid we say a great deal at times which rather lumbers and cumbers the gospel than makes it clear. Perhaps I am doing the same this morning, but I do not mean to do it. I mean to let it stand out simply before you, that the incarnation, the life, the death, and the resurrection of Christ are the one foundation upon which we must depend for eternal salvation, and upon that alone; and if we do so depend we shall most assuredly be saved.
Yet note, that Paul opens this up into two things. He says, "If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved." So there must be confession with the mouth. Do not leave that out. Do not suppose that you can be a believer and conceal your faith. As I said the other day, Do not behave like a rat behind the wainscot, only daring to come out in the dark. That is not Christ's way. If you trust in him with your heart, trust him openly, and confess him with your mouth, owning that he is your Lord, and your Savior. He has put the two things together, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved." The believing and the confession of that believing in God's own way are never to be separated, for "With the heart man believeth unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation." See ye well to this.
III. Thirdly, let us consider, WHAT THE SCRIPTURE SAITH; "Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed." "Whosoever." Whatever man in all the world, throughout all the ages, shall come and trust himself on Christ shall never be ashamed of having done so. You, dear friend, down the aisle there, it you trust in Christ you shall never be ashamed of your hope. You, up there in the gallery, however guilty you may have been, or however moral you may have been, it matters not, if your one hope is in what Christ has done, you shall never turn round on your dying bed, and cry, "I made a mistake in trusting Christ." You know what Cardinal Bellarmine said: he was a great antagonist of Luther, and thought that we might trust in our works; but, looking it all over, he admitted that inasmuch as no man could be quite sure that he had done enough good works, it was perhaps best on the whole and safest to trust altogether to the blood and merits of Jesus Christ. I have always felt obliged to the Cardinal for that admission; because the best is good enough for me, and since trusting in Jesus is the safest, I intend to stick to it even to the end. There is really no other hope, for if you get a little bit of your own works put into the building, of your hope, you have just so much rotten timber in the fabric, and that rot will plague the whole house, and turn it into dust at the last. No man that rested in Christ, and Christ alone, ever was ashamed of his hope; and none ever shall be. There is sure ground here. The Rock of Ages never fails.
What else does the Scripture say? It says that no man is forbidden to believe; "for there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him." There never was a sinner yet to whom God said, "You must not trust my Son": on the contrary, it is written, "Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out." What about the doctrine of election? I need not speak about it this morning: I believe it, and rejoice in it: but it is not at all contrary to this precious truth. Read this verse, "All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out." Whoever will in the whole world believe in Christ may do so; he is neither too old or too young, or too rich, or too poor, or too wicked, or too moral; if he will but trust Christ he shall be saved, and he is fully allowed and permitted, yea, commanded to believe and live.
Once, again, though your faith should only be strong enough to lead you to pray, yet it shall save you, for "Whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved." Suppose your faith cannot work miracles; never mind about miracles. Suppose you cannot walk on the sea, like Peter: never mind; you are not called to do it. Can your faith pray? Can it cry? Then call upon the Lord, and you shall be saved. Poor dear heart, if you can but trust Christ, even though the feeblest possible manifestation of it should be the only thing visible, namely, your calling upon God in prayer, it must and shall save you.
IV. Now, I hope I have put it plainly. I have tried my best; and so I close by bidding you hear WHAT EXPERIENCE SAITH. What does experience say about believing in Christ! Experience says, and we are some of us here to say it, that it is the grandest way of living in the world. I assure you that I daily find the value of living by faith. In hours of dire distress and great heaviness of spirit, of which I know enough, I prove the power of faith in Jesus. Ah, my Lord, what should I do then if I could not as "a poor sinner, and nothing at all" find Christ to be my "all in all." Fair-weather sailors, who go out in their little painted perfection boats, are people who have had small temptation and little soul-trouble. They are generally gentlemen in good health, with regular incomes and sweet tempers, and so they soon reach their imaginary sinlessness vain creatures that they are; but you never get any of that among the poor, suffering, tried people of God. In stormy weather our beauty and glory soon turn pale; when the devil meets us face to face, he cracks up our tinsel perfection with a blow. He laughs at all our comeliness, he knows that it is a hollow cheat, a vile sham. In the moments when the soul is in the lowest depths, faith is the only way to live. That mode of living which will do for the depths is safe for the heights.
How blessed it is when a child of God has actually fallen into sin, God keep us so that we never may, but if guilt is on the soul, what is a poor creature to do? He can do nothing unless he has learned this precious truth, that he is nothing at all, and Jesus Christ is his all in all. Then he knows that Jesus will blot out his transgressions, and create in him a clean heart, and restore him to himself again, though now, like David, his sin is ever before him.
Yes, and I find a self-denying, Christ-exalting faith to be good in times of jubilation and success. The only way to keep right and humble is to be nothing, and let Jesus be all in all. If God has blessed your ministry or other holy work, the devil whispers, "You are a pretty fellow; you have done wonders"; and up you will go if you are not steadied by the firm conviction that you may not glory, since you are nothing at all in yourself, and your sole help is in Jesus your Lord. When God gives you growth in grace and fruitfulness in good works it will be your safety to be as little as ever you were, and to trust in nothing but the work of the Lord. This blessed faith keeps men down when they are apt to go up, and up when otherwise they would be apt to go down. It is a holy balancing pole: we can walk the narrowest line with this in our hands, and fear no fall. Ourselves nothing, Christ everything that is it. Keep to it.
Now as to the test of death. Does this sort of faith enable men to face death with courage? I have had almost thirty years among you, and God has been very gracious to us, so that we have lost very few comparatively by death; but now many are going home, and, according to the course of nature, many of our honored brethren and sisters will soon follow. As to those who have been called home, how have they died? I have the deep satisfaction of saying that when our dear brethren and sisters fall asleep they reflect honor upon the gospel which we have preached. Ask those who have seen them die. These dear ones at this hour look back upon me and say, "Go on: preach the same gospel to others; for we found it blessed truth to die upon." Look at our dear, departed brother, Mr. Higgs, the last who has crossed the stream. His sons and daughters will tell you that his death was sad to them, but not to him. He suffered agonizing pain, but his peace was as deep as the sea. He had no uncertainty; he was as sure of his safety as it it had been a matter of calculation by the rules of arithmetic. He knew whom he had believed, and knew what the Lord had done for him, and he could not see a weak point in it all. He spent the whole night in trying to cheer and comfort others: he had no trembling thought about himself. He did not say, "Have pity upon me, have pity upon me, O my friends, for the hand of the Lord hath touched me." No; he knew that Christ was the resurrection and the life, and he was ready to depart. He wished his beloved ones to go to their beds; and since they would stop with him, he desired them to sing." "What shall we sing?" "Sing" said he,
"For ever with the Lord,
Amen, so let it be."
It is hard singing when your father is dying, but it was not hard to him. He bade them read that chapter, "Let not your hearts be troubled"; and, as they read it, he did not take the verses, and apply them to himself. No, he directed the comfort to his dear wife, for she had greater need of it than he had his faith was firm. It was for her he cared, and for those about him as for himself, all was rest. One said somewhat roughly to him a fortnight before, "Don't be downhearted; you may got better yet." "Stop a minute," said he. "What do you mean? I have never been down-hearted at anything my life; certainly not at the thought of dying. If it was the Lord's will that I should die in the street at this moment, I would cheerfully go." He never said a word more than he felt; yet that was the style of man. God send us more like him men to whom religion is for home consumption. Not a pretty toy for Sundays, but food to live upon; a common-sense hope; a blunt man's religion that he can carry into business. One reported to me the other day a word which cheered me much. An Italian gentleman, who has known me since I have been at Mentone, was asked, "Are you a Catholic?" "No, I am not." "Are you a Protestant?" I am not sure, for I know little about it." "What are you?" "I am of Mr. Spurgeon's religion, which makes people happy themselves, and causes them to do good to others." I thank God he could say that of my religion: it did this for my dear friend it made him a happy man, whose pleasure it was to please others: and now he has passed away in full sunlight into a still brighter noon. Amen, so let it be.
The top and bottom of the matter is, "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ." Be nothing; be nobody; and trust Him. Do not believe in yourself, but believe in Jesus. Have as many good works as you can cram into your life, but never tell anybody about them, or think anything of them. The best of them are but filthy rags: stow them all away in the coal-hole, and look to the merits of your Lord for salvation. Go to Jesus for everything. He says, "I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou may be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed." Take his counsel. As he whom we sorrow for today could die peacefully, and even merrily, so shall you and I if we rely on the same Savior. When our time comes to depart, we shall just step aside and say, "Good-bye, dear friends, awhile: we will meet again in the home of the blessed." I hear him say so at this moment; and I answer him, "Dear brother, we will be with you speedily."
* William Higgs, Esq., for many years a beloved deacon of the church in the Metropolitan Tabernacle, fell on asleep January 3rd, 1883, in his fifty-ninth year.
** See No. 47. "Christ's Prayer for his People."
A Simple Sermon for Seeking Souls
Delivered on Sabbath Morning, July 12, 1857, by the
REV. C. H. Spurgeon
at the Music Hall, Royal Surrey Gardens.
"Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved." Romans 10:13 .
IT has been said by an eminent divine that many of us in preaching the word suppose too great knowledge in our hearers. "Very often," says this divine, "there are in the congregation persons who are totally unacquainted with the great science of divinity. They are entire strangers to the whole system of grace and salvation." It is proper, then, that the preacher should address himself to his hearers sometimes as if they were totally ignorant of his message, and tell it to them as a new thing, going over the whole of it as if he believed them to be ignorant of it; "For," says this good man, "it is better to suppose too little knowledge, and so to explain the thing clearly, to the meanest comprehension, than to suppose too much, and thus to let the ignorant escape without a word of instruction."
Now, I think, I shall not this morning err in his point of view, for I shall assume that some of my congregation, at least, are totally unacquainted with the great plan of salvation. And you that know it well, and have tried its preciousness, will bear with me, I am sure, whilst I try in the simplest words that human lips can put together to tell out the story of how men are lost, and how men are saved according to the words of my text by calling upon the name of the Lord.
Well then, we must begin at the beginning. And we must first tell our hearers, that inasmuch as our text talks of men being saved, it implies that men need saving, and we tell them that if men had been as God created them, they would have needed no saving. Adam in the garden wanted no salvation, he was perfect, pure, clean, holy, and acceptable before God. He was our representative, he stood as the representative for all the race, and when he touched the forbidden fruit, and ate of the tree of which God had said, "Thou shalt not eat thereof, or thou shalt surely die." When he so transgressed against God, he needed a Saviour and we, his offspring through his sin, are born into this world, each of us needing a Saviour. We, who are now present, must not however throw blame on Adam; no man was ever yet damned for Adam's sin alone. Children dying in infancy are, without doubt, saved by sovereign grace through the atonement which is in Christ Jesus. No sooner do they close their eyes to earth than being innocent of any actual sin they at once open them on the bliss of heaven. But you and I are not children. We need not talk just now of Adam's sins. We have our own to a count for, and God knoweth they are enough. Holy Scripture tells us that we all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God, and conscience beareth witness to the same truth. We have all broken the great commands of God, and in consequence thereof the just God is bound in justice to punish us for the sins we have committed. Now, my brethren, it is because you and I have broken the divine law, and are subject to the divine wrath, that we stand in need of mercy. Every one of us therefore every one of us if we would be happy, if we would dwell in heaven with God for ever, must be saved.
But there is great confusion in the minds of men as to what being saved is. Allow me, then, just to say, that salvation means two things. It means in the first place, our escaping from the punishment of sins committed; and it means in the next place, the escaping from the habit of sin, so that in future we shall not live as we have lived. The way in which God saves you is twofold: he finds man a sinner breaking his law, he says, "I forgive you, I will not punish you. I have punished Christ instead of you you shall be saved." But that is only half the work. He says in the next place "Man, I will not let you go on sinning as you have been wont to do; I will give you a new heart, which shall subdue your evil habits. So that whereas you have been the slave of sin, you shall be free to serve me. Come away, you are not going to serve that black master of yours any more, you must leave that demon, I will have you to be my child, my servant. Thou sayest, 'I cannot do so.' Come, I will give thee grace to do it; I give thee grace to break off drunkenness, grace to renounce thy swearing, grace to give up Sabbath-breaking; I give thee grace to run in the ways of my commandments, and to find them to be a delightful road." Salvation, then, I say, consists of two things deliverance on the one hand from the habit of living in enmity with God; and, on the other hand, from the punishment annexed to transgression.
The great subject of this morning, which I shall attempt to dwell upon in very plain language; attempting no flights of oratory whatever is, how men may be saved. That is the one great question. Let them remember what to be saved is. It is to be made Christians, to have new thoughts, new minds new hearts, and then, it is to have a new home for ever at God's right hand in bliss. How may they be saved? "What must I do to be saved?" is a cry springing from many lips here this morning. The answer of my text is this "Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved." I shall first try to explain the text a little explanation. Secondly, I shall try to clear the text from some errors about salvation, which are very popular that will be refutation. And then, thirdly, I shall press the usefulness of my text upon your minds: that will be exhortation. Explanation, refutation, exhortation, you will remember the points, and may God impress them upon your minds!
I. First, then, EXPLANATION What is here meant by calling upon the name of the Lord? And I tremble at this very moment, when I try to explain my text, for I feel it is very easy to darken words without knowledge." Full many a time has a preacher rendered Scripture dark by his explanations, instead of making it brighter. Many a preacher has been like a painted window, shutting out the light, instead of admitting it. There is nothing whatever puzzles me more, and tries my mind more, than the answer to that simple question, What is faith? What is believing? What is calling upon the name of the Lord? In order to get the true sense of this, I turned to my concordance, and looked out the passages where the same word is employed; and, so far as I can judge, I may state from the authority of Scripture, that the word "call" signifies worship, so that I might translate it thus "Whosoever worships God shall be saved." But you must let me explain that word "worship" according to the Scripture signification of it which must be received, in order to explain the word "call."
To call upon the name of the Lord, in the first place, signifies to worship God. You will find in the book of Genesis that, "when men began to multiply upon the face of the earth, then began men to call upon the name of the Lord." That is they began to worship God, they builded altars in his name, they certified their belief in the sacrifice that was to come, by offering a typical sacrifice upon the altar they had reared, they bowed their knee in prayer; they lifted their voice in sacred song, and cried, "Great is Jehovah, Creator, Preserver, let him be praised, world without end." Now, whosoever whoever he may be in the wide, wide world, who is enabled by grace to worship God, in God's way, shall be saved. If you worship him by a Mediator, having faith in the atonement of the cross, if you worship him by humble prayer and hearty praise, your worship is a proof that you shall be saved. You could not thus worship, unless you had grace within your heart, and your faith and grace are a proof that you shall have glory. Whosoever, then in lowly devotion, on the green sward, beneath the wide-spreading branches of a tree, beneath the vault of God's heaven, or in God's house, or out of it whosoever shall worship God with a pure heart fervently, looking for acceptance through the atonement of Christ, and meekly casting himself upon the mercy of God, shall be saved. So stands the promise.
But lest any man should run away with a mistaken idea of what worship is, we must just explain a little further. The word "call," in holy Scripture meaning, signifies prayer. You remember the case of Elijah: when the prophets of Baal roughs to get rain from the false god, he said, "I will call upon God" that is to say, "I will pray to God that he may send the rain." Now, prayer is a sure sign of divine life within. Whosoever prayeth to God through Christ, with sincere prayer shall be saved. Oh, I can remember how this text cheered me once. I felt the weight of sin, and I did not know the Saviour. I thought God would blast me with his wrath, and smite me with his hot displeasure! From chapel to chapel I went to hear the word preached, but never a gospel sentence did I hear; but this one text just preserved me from what I believe I should have been driven to the commission of suicide through grief and sorrow. It was this sweet word "Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved." Well, I thought, I cannot believe on Christ as I could wish. I cannot find pardon, but I know I call upon his name, I know I pray, ay, and pray with groans and tears and sighs day and night; and if I am ever lost, I will plead that promise "Oh God thou saidst, he that calleth upon thy name shall be saved; I did call; wilt thou cast me away? I did plead thy promise; I did lift up my heart in prayer; canst thou be just, and yet damn the man who did really pray?" But mark that sweet thought: prayer is the certain forerunner of salvation. Sinner, thou canst not pray and perish; prayer and perishing are two things that never go together. I ask you not what your prayer is; it may be a groan, it may be a tear, a wordless prayer, or a prayer in broken English, ungrammatical and harsh to the ear: but if it be a prayer from the inmost heart, thou shalt be saved; or else this promise is a lie. As surely as thou prayest whoever thou mayest be whatever thy past life, whatever the transgressions in which thou hast indulged, though they be the foulest which pollute mankind, yet if from thine heart thou hast learned to pray
"Prayer is the breath of God in man
Returning whence it came"
And thou canst not perish with God's breath in thee. "Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved!"
But the word "call" signifies a little more, it signifies trust. A man cannot call upon the name of the Lord, unless he trusts in that name. We must have reliance upon the name of Christ, or else we have not called aright. Hear me, then, poor tried sinner; thou hast come here this morning sensible of thy guilt, awakened to thy danger; here is thy remedy. Christ Jesus the Son of God, became a man; he was "born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead and buried." He did this to save sinners such as thou art. Wilt thou believe this? Wilt thou trust thy soul to it? Wilt thou say "Sink or swim, Christ Jesus is my hope; and if I perish I will perish with my arms around his cross, crying
'Nothing in my hands I bring
Simply to the cross I cling?'"
Poor soul, if thou canst do that, thou wilt be saved. Come, now, no good works of thine own are needed no sacraments, all that is asked of thee is this, and that he gives thee. Thou art nothing; wilt thou take Christ to be everything? Come, thou art black, wilt thou be washed? Wilt thou down on thy knees, and cry, "Lord, have mercy upon me, a sinner, not for anything I have done, or can do, but for his dear sake, whose blood streamed from his hands and feet, in whom alone I trust?" Why sinner the solid pillars of the universe shall totter rather than thou shouldst perish; ay heaven should weep a vacant throne, and an extinguished Godhead, rather than the promise should be violated in any case in the world. He that trusteth in Christ, calling on his name, shall be saved.
But once more, and then I think I shall have given you the whole scripture meaning of this. Calling on the name of the Lord signifies professing his name. You remember what Ananias said to Saul, afterwards called Paul, "arise and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling upon the name of the Lord." Now, sinner if thou wouldst be obedient to Christ's word, Christ's word says, "He that believeth, and is immersed, shall be saved." Mark, I have translated the word. King James would not have it translated. I dare not be unfaithful to my knowledge of God's word. If it means sprinkle, let our brethren translate it "sprinkle." But they dare not do that; they know they have nothing in all classical language that would ever justify them in doing that, and they have not the impudence to attempt it. But I dare translate it "He that believeth, and is immersed, shall be saved." And though immersion is nothing, yet God requires of men who believe that they should be immersed, in order to make a profession of their belief. Immersion is nothing, I repeat, in salvation, it is the profession of salvation; but God requires that every man that puts his trust in the Saviour should be immersed, as the Saviour was, in order to the fulfillment of righteousness. Jesus went meekly down from Jordan's shore, to be immersed beneath the wares; and so let every believer be baptized in his name. Now some of you draw back from the thought of making a profession. "No," you say, "we will believe and be secret Christians." Hear you this then "If any man be ashamed of me, and of my words in this generation; of him will I be ashamed, when I shall come in the glory of my Father, with all his holy angels." I will repeat a truism; not one of you in your lives ever knew a secret Christian, and I will prove it to demonstration. For if you knew a man to be a Christian, it could not be a secret; for if it had been a secret how came you to know it? Then, as you never knew a secret Christian, you are not justified in believing there ever is such a one. You must come out and make a profession. What would Her Majesty think of her soldiers, if they should swear they were loyal and true, and were to say "Your Majesty, we prefer not to wear these regimentals; let us wear the dress of civilians! We are right honest men and upright; but we do not care to stand in your ranks, acknowledged as your soldiers, we had rather slink into the enemy's camp, and into your camps too, and not wear anything that would mark us as being your soldiers!" Ah! some of you do the same with Christ. You are going to be secret Christians, are you, and slink into the devil's camp, and into Christ's camp, but acknowledged by none? Well, ye must take the chance of it, if ye will be so; but I should not like to risk it. It is a solemn threatening, "of him will I be ashamed when I come in the glory of my Father, and all his holy angels with me!" It is a solemn thing, I say, when Christ says, "Except a man take up his cross and follow me, he cannot be my disciple." Now, then, I claim of every sinner here whom God has awakened to feel his need of a Saviour, obedience to the command of Christ, in this point, as well as in every other. Hear the way of salvation: worship, prayer, faith, profession. And the profession, if men would be obedient, if they would follow the Bible, must be done in Christ's way, by a baptism in water, in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. God requireth this; and though men are saved without any baptism, and multitudes fly to heaven who are never washed in the stream, though baptism is not saving, yet if men would be saved, they must not be disobedient. And inasmuch as God gives a command, it is mine to enforce it. Jesus said, "Go and preach the gospel to every creature: he that believeth, and is immersed, shall be saved; he that believeth not shall be damned."
Here, then, is the explanation of my text. No churchman here can object to my interpretation. The Church of England holdeth dipping. It only saith, if children be weak they are to be sprinkled; and it is marvellous what a many weakly children there have been born lately. I am astonished to find any of you alive, after finding that so much weakness has everywhere existed! The dear little ones are so tender, that a few drops suffice instead of the dipping which their own church enforces. I would that all churchmen were better churchmen; if they would be more consistent with their own articles of faith, they would be more consistent with Scripture, and if they were a little more consistent with some of the rubrics of their own church, they would be a little more consistent with themselves. If your children are weak, you can let them be sprinkled; but if you are good churchmen you will immerse them, if they can bear it.
II. But now, the second point is REFUTATION. There are some popular errors with regard to salvation, which need to be cured by refutation. My text says, "whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved."
Now, one idea which conflicts with my text is this, that a priest or a minister is absolutely necessary to assist men in salvation. That idea is current in other places besides the Romish Church; there are many, alas! too many who make a dissenting minister as much their priest as the Catholic makes his priest his helper. There are many who imagine that salvation cannot be accomplished except in some undefinable and mysterious way and the minister and the priest are mixed up with it. Hear ye then, if you had never seen a minister in your lives, if you had never heard the voice of the bishop of the church, or an elder thereof, yet if ye did call on the name of the Lord your salvation would be quite as sure without one as with one. Men cannot call upon a God they do not know. The necessity of a preacher lies in telling what the way of salvation is, for how can they hear without a preacher, and how can they believe in him of whom they have not heard? But the preacher's office goes no further than just the telling of the message, and after we have told it, God, the Holy Spirit, must apply it; for further we cannot go. Oh, take care of priestcraft, take care of mancraft, of ministercraft, of clergycraft. All God's people are clergy, we are all God's cleros, all his clergy, if we have been anointed with the Holy Spirit, and are saved. There never ought to have been a distinction between clergy and laity. We are all clergy who love the Lord Jesus Christ, and you are as much fit to preach the gospel, if God has given you the ability, and called you to the work by his Spirit as any man alive. No priestly hand, no hand of presbyterian which means priest written large no ordination of men is necessary; we stand upon the rights of manhood to speak what we believe, and next to that we stand upon the call of God's Spirit in the heart bidding us testify his truth. But, brethren, neither Paul, nor an angel from heaven, nor Apollos, nor Cephas can help you in salvation. It is not of man, neither by men, and neither Pope, nor Archbishop, nor bishop, nor priest, nor minister, nor any one hath any grace to give to others. We must each of us go ourselves to the fountain-head, pleading this promise "Whosoever calleth on the name of the Lord Jesus, shall be saved." If I were shut up in the mines of Siberia, where I could never hear the gospel, if I did call upon the name of Christ the road is just as straight without the minister as with him, and the path to heaven is just as clear from the wilds of Africa, and from the dens of the prisonhouse and the dungeon, as it is from the sanctuary of God. Nevertheless for edification, all Christians love the ministry, though not for salvation; though neither in priest nor preacher do they trust, yet the word of God is sweet to them, and beautiful on the mountains are the feet of them that bring glad tidings of peace."
Another very common error is, that a good dream is a most splendid thing in order to save people. Some of you do not know the extent to which this error prevails. I happen to know it. It is received among many persons, that if you dream that you see the Lord in the night you will be saved, and if you can see him on the cross, or if you think you see some angels, or if you dream that God says to you, "You are forgiven, all is well;" but if you do not have a very nice dream you cannot be saved. So some people think. Now, if it be so, the sooner we all begin to eat opium the better; because there is nothing that makes people dream so much as that, and the best advice I could give would be let every minister distribute opium very largely, and then his people would all dream themselves into heaven. But, out upon that rubbish; there is nothing in it. Dreams, the disordered fabrics of a wild imagination; the totterings often of the fair pillars of a grand conception; how can they be the means of salvation? You know Rowland Hill's good answer; I must quote it, in default of a better. When a woman pleaded that she was saved because she dreamed, he said, "Well, my good woman, it is very nice to have good dreams when you are asleep; but I want to see how you act when you are awake; for if your conduct is not consistent in religion when you are awake I will not give a snap of the finger for your dreams." Ah, I do marvel that ever any person should go to such a depth of ignorance as to tell me the stories that I have heard myself about dreams. Poor dear creatures, when they were sound asleep they saw the gates of heaven opened, and a white angel came and washed their sins away, and then they saw that they were pardoned; and since then they have never had a doubt or a fear. It is time that you should begin to doubt, then very good time that you should; for if that is all the hope you have, it is a poor one. Remember it is, "whosoever calls upon the name of God," not whosoever dreams about him. Dreams may do good. Sometimes people have been frightened out of their senses in them; and they were better out of their senses than they were in, for they did more mischief when they were in their senses than they did when they were out; and the dreams did good in that sense. Some people, too, have become alarmed by dreams; but to trust to them is to trust to a shadow, to build your hopes on bubbles, scarcely needing a puff of wind to burst them into nothingness. Oh! remember, you want no vision, no marvellous appearance. If you have had a vision or a dream, you need not despise it; it may have benefitted you: but do not trust to it. But if you have had none, remember that is the mere calling upon God's name to which the promise is appended.
And now, once again, there are others, very good sort of people too, that have been laughing while I was talking about dreams, and now it is our turn to laugh at them. There are some people who think they must have some very wonderful kind of feelings, or else they cannot be saved; some most extraordinary thoughts such as they never had before, or else certainly they cannot be saved. A woman once applied to me for admission to church-membership. So I asked her whether she had ever had a change of heart. She said, "Oh yes sir, such a change as you know," she said, "I felt it across the chest so singular, sir; and when I was a praying one day I felt as if I did not know what was the matter with me, I felt so different. And when I went to the chapel, sir, one night, I came away and felt so different from what I felt before, so light." "Yes," I said "light-headed, my dear soul, that is what you felt, but nothing more, I am afraid." The good woman was sincere enough; she thought it was all right with her, because something had affected her lungs, or in some way stirred her physical frame. "No," I hear some of you say, "people cannot be so stupid as this." I assure you that if you could read the hearts of this present congregation, you would find there are hundreds here that have no better hope of heaven than that, for I am dealing with a very popular objection just now. "I thought," said one addressing me one day, "I thought when I was in the garden, sure Christ could take my sins away, just as easily as he could move the clouds. Do you know, sir, in a moment or two the cloud was all gone, and the sun was shining. Thought I to myself, the Lord is blotting out my sin." Such a ridiculous thought as that, you say, cannot occur often. I tell you, it does, very frequently indeed. People get supposing that the veriest nonsense in all the earth is a manifestation of divine grace in their hearts, Now, the only feeling I ever want to have is just this, I want to feel that I am a sinner and that Christ is my Saviour. You may keep your visions, and ecstasies and raptures, and dancings to yourselves; the only feeling that I desire to have is deep repentance and humble faith; and if, poor sinner, you have got that, you are saved. Why, some of you believe that before you can be saved there must be a kind of electric-shock, some very wonderful thing that is to go all through you from head to foot. Now hear this, "The word is nigh thee, in thy mouth and in thy heart. If thou dost with thy heart believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and with thy mouth dost confess, thou shalt be saved." What do ye want with all this nonsense of dreams and supernatural thoughts? All that is wanted is, that as a guilty sinner I should come and cast myself on Christ. That done, the soul is safe, and all the visions in the universe could not make it safer.
And now, I have one more error to try to rectify. Among very poor people and I have visited some of them, and know what I say to be true, and there are some here, and I will speak to them, among the very poor and uneducated, there is a very current idea that somehow or other salvation is connected with learning to read and write. You smile, perhaps, but I know it. Often has a poor woman said, "Oh! sir, this is no good to poor ignorant creatures like us; there is no hope for me, sir; I cannot read. Do you know, sir, I don't know a letter? I think if I could read a bit I might be saved; but, ignorant as I am, I do not know how I call: for I have got no understanding, sir." I have found this in the country districts too, among people who might learn to read if they liked. And there are none but can, unless they are lazy. And yet they sit down in cold indifference about salvation, under the notion that the parson could be saved, for he reads a chapter so nicely; that the clerk could be saved, for he said "Amen" so well; that the squire could be saved, for he knew a great deal, and had a vast many books in his library, but that they could not be saved, for they did not know anything, and that therefore it was impossible. Now, have I one such poor creature here? I will speak plainly to you. My poor friend, you do not want to know much to go to heaven. I would advise you to know as much as ever you can; do not be backward in trying to learn. But in regard to going to heaven, the way is so plaint that "the wayfaring man, though a fool, shall not err therein." Do you feel that you have been guilty, that you have broken God's commandments that you have not kept his Sabbath, that you have taken his name in vain that you have not loved your neighbor as yourself, nor your God with all your heart. Well, if you feel it, Christ died for such as you; he died upon the cross, and was punished in your stead, and he tells you to believe it. If you want to hear more about it, come to the house of God and listen, and we will try to lead you to something else. But remember, all you want to know to get to heaven is the two things that begin with S. Sin and Saviour. Do you feel your sin? Christ is your Saviour trust to him pray to him; and as sure as you are here now, and I am talking to you, you will one day be in heaven. I will tell you two prayers to pray. First, pray this prayer, "Lord, show me myself." That is an easy one for you. Lord, show me myself, show me my heart, show me my guilt; show me my danger, Lord, show me myself. And, when you have prayed that prayer, and God has answered it, (and remember, he hears prayer) when he has answered it, and shown you yourself, here is another prayer for you, "Lord, show me thyself: Show me thy work, thy love, thy mercy, thy cross, thy grace." Pray that, and those are about the only prayers you want to pray, to get to heaven with, "Lord, show me myself;" "Lord, show me thyself." You do not want to know much, then. You need not spell, to get to heaven; you need not be able to speak English, to get to heaven; the ignorant and rude are welcome to the cross of Christ and salvation.
Excuse my thus answering these popular errors; I answer them because they are popular, and popular among some who are present. O men and women, hear the word of God once more. "Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved." Man of eighty, child of eight, young man and maiden, rich, poor, literate, illiterate, to you is this preached in all its fullness and freeness, yea, to every creature under heaven "whosoever "( and that shuts out none,) "whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved."
III. And now I have nothing to do except to finish with EXHORTATION. My exhortation is, I intreat you by the name of God believe the message which this day I declare from God's word. Do not turn away from me because the message is simply delivered, do not reject it because I have chosen to preach it simply and plainly to the poor, but hearken again, "Whosoever calleth on the name of the Lord shall be saved." I beseech you believe this. Does it seem hard to believe? Nothing is too hard for the Most High. Do you say, "I have been so guilty, I cannot think God will save me?" Hear Jehovah speak: "My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are my ways your ways. As high as the heavens are above the earth, so high are my thoughts above your thoughts, my ways above your ways." Do you say, "I am excluded. Surely, you cannot mean that he would cave me?" Hark you; it says, "Whosoever" "whosoever" is a great wide door, and lets in big sinners. Oh, surely, if it says, "whosoever," you are not excluded if you call there is the point.
And now come, I must plead with you, and I will use a few reasons to induce you to believe this truth. They shall be Scripture reasons May God bless them to you, sinner. If thou callest on Christ's name thou wilt be saved. I will tell thee first, thou wilt be saved because thou art elect. No man ever called on Christ's name yet who was not elected. That doctrine of election which puzzles many and frightens more, never need do so. If you believe, you are elect, if you call on the name of Christ you are elect, if you feel yourself to be a sinner, and put your trust in Christ you are elect. Now, the elect must be saved, for them there is no perdition. God has predestinated them unto eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of Christ's hands. God does not choose men, and then cast them away; he does not elect them, and then cast them into the pit. Now, you are elect, you could not have called if you had not been elected your election is the cause of your calling, and inasmuch as you have called, an do call upon the name of God, you are God's elect. And from his book not death nor hell can ever erase your name. 'Tis an omnipotent decree. Jehovah's will be done! His chosen must be saved, though earth and hell oppose, his strong hand shall break their ranks, and lead his people through. You are one of these people. You shall at last stand before his throne, and see his smiling face in glory ever lasting, because you are elect.
Now, another reason. If thou callest upon the name of the Lord thou shalt be saved, because thou art redeemed. Christ has bought thee, and paid for thee, poured out the hottest of his heart's blood to buy thy ransom, split his heart, and riven it to splinters to buy thy soul from wrath. Thou art a bought one, thou knowest it not, but I see the blood-mark on thy brow. If thou callest on his name though thou hast as yet no comfort, yet Christ has called thee his own. E'er since that day when he said "It is finished," Christ has said, "My delight is in him, for I have bought him with my blood," and because thou art bought thou shalt never perish. Not one of Jesus' blood-bought ones was ever lost yet. Howl, howl, O hell, but howl thou canst not over the damnation of a redeemed soul. Out upon the horrid doctrine that men are bought with blood, and yet are damned, it is too diabolical for me to believe. I know that what the Saviour did he did, and if he did redeem he did redeem, and those redeemed by him are positively redeemed from death and hell and wrath. I can never bring my mind to the unrighteous idea that Christ was punished for a man, and that such a man will be punished again. I never could see how Christ could stand in a man's stead and be punished for him, and yet that man be punished again. No, inasmuch as thou callest on God's name there is proof that Christ is thy ransom. Come, rejoice! If he was punished, God's justice cannot demand a double vengeance, first, at the bleeding Surety's hands and then again at thine. Come, soul put thine hand upon the Saviour's head, and say "Blest Jesus, thou wast punished for me." Oh, God, I am not afraid of thy vengeance. When my hand is on the atonement, smite, but thou must smite me through thy Son. Smite, if thou wilt, but thou canst not for thou hast smitten him, and sure thou wilt not smite again for the same offense. What! Did Christ at one tremendous draught of love, drink my damnation dry? and shall I be damned after that? God forbid! What! shall God be unrighteous forget the Redeemer's work for us and let the Saviour's blood be shed in vain? Not hell itself has ever indulged the thought which has only been worthy of the men who are traitors to God's truth. Ay, brethren, if ye call on Christ, if ye pray, if ye believe, ye may be quite sure of salvation, for ye are redeemed, and the redeemed must not perish.
Shall I tell you one more reason? Believe this truth: it must be true. For it ye call upon the name of God, "In my Father's house," says Christ, "there are many mansions," and there is one there for you. Christ has prepared a house and a crown, from before the foundation of the world, for all them that believe. Come! dost thou think Christ will prepare a house, and not carry the inhabitant there? Will he make crowns, and then lose the heads that are to wear them! God forbid! Turn thine eye towards heaven. There is a seat there that must be filled, and must be filled by thee; there is a crown there that must be worn, and must be worn by thee. Oh! be of good cheer: heavens preparation shall not be too abundant, he shall make room for those that believe, and because he hath made that room those that believe shall come there. Oh! I would to God I might know that some soul could lay hold on this promise! Where are you? Are you standing away among the crowd there, or sitting here in the body of the hall or in the topmost gallery? Are you feeling your sins? Do you shed tears in secret on account of them? Do you lament your iniquities? Oh! take his promise "Whosoever (sweet whosoever!) whosoever calleth upon the name of the Lord shall be saved." Say thus. The devil says it is of no use for you to call; you have been a drunkard. Tell him it says, "Whosoever," "Nay," says the evil spirit, "it is of no use for you, you have never been to hear a sermon, or been in the house of God these last ten years." Tell him it says, "Whosoever." "No," says Satan, "remember the sins of last night, and how you have come up to the MUSIC HALL stained with lust." Tell the devil it says. "Whosoever," and that it is a foul falsehood of his, that you can call on God and yet be lost. No; tell him that
"If all the sins that men have done
In thought, or word, or deed,
Since worlds were made or time begun,
Could meet on one poor head,
The blood of Jesus Christ alone
For all this guilt could well atone."
Oh lay this to thine heart. May God's Spirit do it! "Whosoever calleth upon the name of the Lord shall be saved."
The Whole Machinery of Salvation
Intended for Reading on Lord's-Day, September 24th, 1893,
C. H. SPURGEON,
At the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington
On Lord's-day Evening, August 18th, 1889.
"How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!" Romans 10:14-15 .
PLEASE NOTICE, dear friends, that in the thirteenth verse we have the way of salvation set before us in the plainest terms: "Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved." I remember well when I lived on that verse for many months. I longed for salvation; I could not see that there was any way of hope for me; I thought that I must be left out, that I was too sinful, or too hard, or too something or other, so that others might be saved, but I should not be. But when I read this verse, I did what I ask you to do, I caught at it; it seemed like a life-line thrown to a sinking man. I clung to it, and it became a life-buoy to me: "Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved." "Ah!" thought I, "I do call on that blessed name, I will call on that glorious name; if I perish, I will never cease to invoke that sacred name." An invocation of the name of God, a trusting in God, and a consequent calling upon God and acknowledgment of God, this it is that saves the soul.
But I must get you to notice these words a little more in detail. There is here, first, a wide word, a very wide word: "Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved." "Whosoever." I have heard that, when a person is making his will, if he wishes to leave all he has to one person, say to his wife, if he just says so, that is the best thing he can do; but he had better not go into details, and begin making a list of what he is leaving, because he will probably leave something or other out. Now, in order to make this will of God very distinct, he does not go into any detail, but he just says, "Whosoever." That means the black man, and the red man, and the yellow man, and the white man. It means the rich man, and the poor man:, and the man who is not a man. It means everybody of every sort, and those who are of no sort at all, or of all sorts put together. "Whosoever." That includes me, I am sure; but I am equally certain that; it includes you, you in the aisles who were never here before, you who are quite unknown in London, you who are a stranger and a foreigner, whoever you may be. It is much better to have it put so, without going into detail, because otherwise somebody might be left out. I have often thought that, if I had read in Scripture that "If Charles Haddon Spurgeon shall call upon the name of the Lord, he shall be saved," I should not have felt half as sure of salvation as I do now, because I should have concluded that there might have been somebody else of that name, and very likely there is, and I should have said, "Surely it did not mean me;" but when the Lord says "Whosoever," I cannot get out of that circle. It is a big net that seems to entangle all men in its meshes. "Whosoever." If I call upon the name of the Lord, if you call upon the name of the Lord, if the man who lies upstairs a-dying calls upon the name of the Lord, we shall be saved. What a wide word that "whosoever" is!
And then, next, what an easy word we have here! "Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord." Anybody can call upon the name of the Lord. Everybody understands what it is to call "Hi, there!" Have you not often used such a call as that? And if you have been in distress or danger, have you never called, "Help, help, help?" Very well, he who can thus call, let him call upon God, invoke his help, clamor for his mercy, crave his pity. If he does that; in a believing way, as we shall have to show you, trusting that God will hear him, he shall be saved. So there is no difficulty here that wants a doctor of divinity to explain; the truth is put mainly in monosyllabic words: "Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved." It is as plain as a pikestaff. Oh, that you might see it, and begin to call upon the name of the Lord by earnest prayer!
But here is another word, a sure word: "Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved." There is no "if" here; no "maybe" here; but a glorious "shall." Our shalls and wills are poor, puny things; but God's "shall" is firm as the eternal mountains. "Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved," as surely as there is a God. The Lord has made no mistake; he will not revoke his declaration by changing his mind. "Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved." Oh, that many would call upon his name, tonight, and find immediate salvation, which will last them throughout life, and throughout eternity, for "shall be saved" reaches a very long way, even throughout the eternal ages that are yet to come.
Now here, you see, friends, we have a wonderful remedy for the disease of sin, very simple and very abundant; but the difficulty is to get it to the people who need it. I am going to talk about that matter in very plain language, because I want to be very practical, and I pray that God's Spirit may make my whole discourse to be so.
In our text there are four necessities upon which Paul insists. Praying to God, calling upon his name, will save a man; but first, there is no praying aright without believing: "How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed?" But, secondly, there is no believing without hearing: "How shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard?" Thirdly, there is no hearing without a preacher: "How shall they hear without a preacher?" And fourthly, and lastly, there is no effective preaching without being sent: "How shall they preach except they be sent?"
I. First, then, THERE IS NO PRAYING ARIGHT WITHOUT BELIEVING, from which I gather this moral, then let us believe. Since we must pray, and only by prayer can find salvation, and there is no praying without believing, may the Lord help us to believe, for how shall we pray aright unless we do believe?
I think that I have persons here tonight who have commenced to pray, who have begun pleading with God. I hope, dear friends, nay, I feel sure of it, that, if that prayer is sincere, there is a measure of faith in it, for would you ask God to save you if you did not believe that you needed to be saved? There is a measure of faith in that. Would you ask God to save you if you did not think that there is a way of salvation by which he can save you? There is a measure of faith in believing that. I think that you believe that there is a Savior. There is a measure of faith in that; and, I hope, a measure of saving faith, too, in your believing that, notwithstanding all your sins and sinfulness, there is a Savior provided, who is able to save to the uttermost them that come unto God by him. You may not have much faith; but you must have some faith if you are really praying to God from your heart, and entreating him to save you.
I think, too, that you must have a little faith that the Savior will save you. You have been praying to him to do it. Would you have expressed that desire, and have come to him in prayer about it, unless there was some kind of sediment of faith in your heart? I want to put it very gently to you, yet very plainly. Remember, faith is not measured by the quantity, but by the quality. A man of strong faith is happier, but he is not more truly saved, than a man of weak faith, so long as he has any faith at all. If yours is only feeble faith, the Lord will say to you, "Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace." The faith that comes behind Christ, and touches the hem of his garment, is a saving faith; and I think that is what you are doing when you say, "Lord Jesus, save me." If this is a real prayer, and not a sham one, if it comes from your heart, there is, at any rate, a tint, a shade, if not an actual color of faith, upon your soul already, How could you call on him in whom you have not believed? Would we call for help from a person who we did not think would help us or could help us? No; the mere fact of calling upon anyone for help proves that we have some measure of confidence in that person, that lie can and will help us. Well, if thou believest as much as that concerning Christ, and if thou wilt cast thyself upon the believing that thou shalt be saved, I would that thou hadst more faith, but even that little faith will bear thee into heaven.
You believe also that Christ can and does hear you. Ah, you would not have been alone upstairs this afternoon, crying for mercy, if yea had thought that there was nobody to hear you! Rational beings do not go and ask of nobody. You believe that Christ is able to hear you, and you have some faith that he does hear you, for which I am very thankful indeed.
I think that I may add that you are measurably trusting to Christ Certainly, you are not trusting to anybody else. The fact that you often pray to him for mercy, for the pardon of sin, for the renewal of your nature, proves that you have some degree, at least, some faint measure of faith in him. Now, let me exhort you, while you keep on praying, to mix more faith with your praying. "With all thine offerings thou shalt offer salt," and with all thy prayings thou shalt offer faith. When thou askest anything of God, believe, and thou shalt receive. When thou dost appeal to his mercy, believe in the mercy. When thou art pleading for his help, believe in the help, for there is much power in faith. "According to your faith, be it unto you."
You all know, surely, what believing is. You say, "I shall go home to pray." No, no, no; believe, and pray as much as ever you like, and a believing prayer will save you. "Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved;" but "how then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed?" Faith comes first. Believe, then, before you do anything else. May God, of his great mercy, enable, some poor sinner to have done with doings and with feelings, and to trust, just to trust Jesus! There you are, hanging up there in a tree; you are afraid of failing down, so you cling with all your might. Suppose that a strong man comes underneath, and says, "Here, drop into my arms; I will catch you, I am able to bear your weight." If you trust, him, you will drop into his arms. That is what you have to do with Christ tonight; trust him, and let go every other confidence; just drop into his arms, and you shall he saved. Remember, then, this first lesson, that there is no praying aright without believing.
II. Now we go another step, and come to the second necessity. THERE IS NO BELIEVING WITHOUT HEARING: "How shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard?"
The word "heard" is to be understood in a wide sense. Reading is a kind of hearing. It is not merely listening with the ear; but you must, by some means or other, come to a knowledge of the truth, and you cannot know what you do not hear, or read, or learn. The truth must come under your notice, so that you are aware of it, or else there can be no faith in you concerning it. I hope that none of you ever believe with the faith of the man who, when he was asked what he believed, said that he believed what the church believed. "Well," said one, "what does the church believe?" "Oh!" he replied, "the church believes what I believe." "Well, then, please tell me, what do you and the church believe?" "We both believe the same thing," answered he; and he could be got no farther. Now, there is no faith in that at all; it is simple ignorance, and nothing more. "How shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard?" Why, to believe a thing is to know the ins and outs of it! To get at it by reading it or hearing it, are only different forms of the same thing. Well, now, if any man here desires faith, what should he do to obtain it? Sit still, and say, "I will try to believe?" Certainly not. Suppose that I were to announce to you tonight that the Czar of all the Russias is dead, and you said that you wished to believe it. You could not believe it by an effort of your mind; you would inquire for evidence of the truth of my statement, or you would wait till you saw the telegrams tomorrow, and so you would learn whether it was true or not. It is not a distinct act of the will alone that brings faith: "Faith cometh by hearing."
Listen, then. The offener you hear the gospel, the better. I mean you who have not yet believed it. As you are hearing it, you may come to believe it. It may insensibly, as it were, steal over you. Having heard it, and heard it, and heard it, again and again, you may at last find yourself believing that Jesus suffered on the cross for you. I recommend all seekers after Christ to hear the Word often.
Take another piece of advice. Hear better; hear with both your ears at once; hearken as you would listen if the preacher were telling you how you could make a fortune in ten minutes. How everybody would listen, how everyone would want to have a front seat, so as to make no mistake! How the pencils would go to work to take down the instructions! Hear that way, for there is more at stake than a fortune, even your immortal soul. Heaven and hell hang upon the hearing or not hearing of the Word. Hear often, and hear well.
But so hear as to try to understand it, and if you cannot meet with the preacher who seems to proclaim an all-round gospel, do what is better, go to the Bible itself. Read this blessed Book through studiously, with such helps as good men can give you. Yes, try and understand the truth, and prove it by experience. Come to this Book, and come to the house of prayer with this thought on your mind, "There is a something that I have to believe, and I am going to know what it is; I am going to know the top of it and the bottom of it, the head and the front and the heart of it; and, at any rate, I will, if I can, know what it is, and what are the grounds and reasons for it." Hearing thus, you will believe it.
There let me leave that point, then. Hear the gospel; only mind that what you hear is the gospel. You can hear some very smart sermons, and very clever sermons; and, as a rule, I may say that the cleverer they are, the worse they are; where you see so much of the man, you will see very little of his Master; when everything seems yielded up to the turning of the phrases, putting the thing very grandly, and carrying you away with wonderful eloquence, the gospel itself gets put out of sight. Let the eloquent men have a shop for themselves on a Monday; but let us have the Sabbath-day given up to plain dealing with the souls of men. We want none of this word-daubing; men are going to heaven or to hell, and it is time that we came to close grips with them about this all-important matter. God help us so to do! Hear that which really is aimed at your heart and conscience; hear that which tells of Christ, and heaven, and the way thither; hearing that, you are on the way to believing it.
III. Thirdly, THERE IS NO HEARING WITHOUT A PREACHER: "and how shall they hear without a preacher?" Therefore, let us preach.
Someone must make the truth known to men. They will not find out about the Savior unless they are told of him. The gospel will not be revealed to men by any supernatural agency; we must go with it. They cannot learn it without being taught it. No man will know the gospel unless somebody shall tell it to him, by word of mouth, or by the gift of a book or a tract, or by a letter, or by the open preaching of the Word. Somebody must make it known to the man, for how can he believe in him of whom he has not heard, and how can lie hear without a preacher?
Who ought to preach, then? Everyone who can preach, should do so. The gift of preaching is the responsibility for preaching. I often wonder at some Christian men who cart fire away so grandly on the hustings, or the platform, but who never speak for Christ; they will have to account for those prostituted tongues. If a man can speak upon the temperance question, he can speak upon the salvation question; let him take care that he does so. I do not wish him to be silent on the one, but I do earnestly entreat him not to be silent on the other. There are a great many persons who ought to preach the gospel, but who do not. Every man who knows the gospel ought to make it known. "Let him that heareth say, Come." When you hear the gospel, tell it to somebody else; you Christian people are all bound, in proportion to your gifts and your opportunity, to make the gospel known. "Why!" says one, "I thought that work was for priests." Just so, it is only for priests; but then all believers are priests. By his mighty grace, our Lord Jesus Christ hath made us kings and priests unto God; and it is our duty, as well as our privilege, to exercise this blessed priestly function of telling to the sons of men the way whereby they may be saved. Each man, then, in this place, who knows Christ, and each woman and each young person, too, are bound to tell of Christ in some way or other to all who are round about them.
For this work, a high degree of gifts is not required. It does not say, "How shalt they hear without a doctor of divinity?" It does not say, "How shall they hear without a popular preacher?" Oh, dear! some of us would have been lost if we could not have been saved without hearing a man of great abilities. I thank God that I owe my conversion to Christ to an unknown person, who certainly was no minister in the ordinary acceptation of the term; but who could say this much, "Look unto Christ, and be saved, all ye ends of the earth." I learned my theology, from which I have never swerved, from an old woman who was cook in the house where I was an usher. She could talk about the deep things of God; and as I sat and heard what she had to say, as an aged Christian, of what the Lord had done for her, I learned more from her instruction than from anybody I have ever met with since. It does not require a college training to enable you to tell about Christ; some of the best workers in this church have little enough of education, but they bring many to Christ. Go on, my dear brothers and sisters, telling of Christ's love to you, even if you have very few gifts.
Remember that, when you have told out the story of the cross to men, you are rid of one responsibility. At any rate, if they perish, it will not be because they did not know; and if they perish through ignorance, it will not be that their ignorance was through your neglect in teaching them. Now, tonight, I wish that I could stir up everyone here to become a preacher, women and all; not that I care much for women preaching, but I want them to preach in the sense in which I have laid the matter down; that is, to make known to somebody the wondrous story of the cross. Speak to an individual, if you can. If you cannot do that, write. If you cannot write, send a sermon, or give a tract. Only do keep on making Christ known. I suppose that there are two or three thousand believers here tonight out of these six thousand people. If every one of you Christians would every day make Christ known to somebody, what a missionary organization we should be! How can they hear without a preacher? Now, let every one of you become, in the sense in which the text means it, a preacher, by telling out in some form or other, and making known in some way or other, the wondrous doctrine of salvation by faith in Jesus Christ.
It is pitiable that anybody should live and die without knowing the gospel. You can have no idea, unless you go into the houses in many of our streets, what absolute ignorance there is in this city of London about the simple elements of the gospel of Christ. City missionaries have often told me stories that have amazed and appalled me. You think, because so many come to some of our houses of prayer, that the people of London go into the house of God. There is at least a million of people, and perhaps two millions, who never attend any place of worship at all. There would be three millions, I suppose, out of our five millions, who only occasionally go to any place of worship at all. Why speak of "heathendom?" We have it at our doors. The more earnest a man is to win souls, the more he is shocked, amazed, and appalled by the necessity there is to keep on making known the gospel of Christ. And now they are starting new the-elegies, inventing falsehoods. Up with you, men and Christians publish Christ again. The only way to put this false fire out is with the old fire of the gospel; men fear that fire. Put down the new heresy with the old orthodoxy. Bring out Christ crucified. Cry again, with Luther's earnestness, "Believe and live!" Cry again, with Calvinistic determination, "Salvation is all of grace, of grace alone, through faith in Jesus Christ." I would to God that we might all preach thus. If we had but all our church-members resolved to testify the gospel of the grace of God, then should we see men hearing; then should we find men believing; and men believing are men saved.
IV. So I come to the fourth necessity, with which I shall close. THERE IS NO EFFECTIVE PREACHING WITHOUT BEING SENT: "and how shall they preach, except they be sent?"
"Ah!" says one, "now we have you in a corner. We must not all go and preach, if we are not sent." If you are not sent, do not go.
But what does it mean, "How shall they preach, except they be sent?" A man who goes to tell others about Christ must feel that he is sent to do it, or he will never do it properly and effectively.
The man who is sent, first of all, has a message given to him. You do not say to your servant, "You go north, south, east, west, and that is all." No, if you send him, you give him a message: "Go and say to Mr. So-and-so, this and that;" or you write it down, and you say, "Deliver that letter to such a person." You do not leave him to go and say whatever he likes: "John, I want you to call on Mr. So-and-so to-morrow morning, and to say whatever first comes into your head." You do not act like that, do you? Yet that is the notion some people have, nowadays, of what a preacher is; he is a man who makes his message up as he goes along; he is a "thinker;" he excogitates the gospel out of his own brains. I have heard of a German who is said to have constructed a camel out of his own consciousness. Very likely; but I am sure that nobody will construct the gospel that way he must receive it by the Rev. of God. The other plan is not Paul's notion, for he asks, "How shall they preach, except they be sent?" First, then, get your message, be determined to know nothing among men but what the Lord. himself has revealed to you in his Word, by the teaching of his Spirit. Get it well into you; say to yourself, "What I am going to speak is nothing of my own; else it would fall flat and powerless; but I am going with, 'Thus saith the Lord.' This is God's message." Then, if you are sent, you will preach, and you will so preach that men will hear; and they will so hear that they will believe; and they will so believe that they will be saved. But you must go as a God-sent man, having received your message from the mouth of your Master.
Next, I think that, even if we get a message from God, we want something more than that, there must be an impulse felt within, that shall compel us to speak of Christ. If you merely go and flippantly talk about Jesus Christ to people, you may as well talk about anything else; but if you pity them, if you love them, if you feel that they must not be lost, that you cannot bear the thought of it, if it is in your mind, so that yea cannot sleep while you are thinking of such an one because he is going down to perdition, if it gets such a burden that it oppresses you, and weighs you down, so that you must speak to somebody about his soul, ah, then you will speak, for you will feel that you are sent! Now, my impression is that, if we are in a right state of heart, we shall always feel like that. If a Christian man were in a right condition c f heart, whether he found himself in the train, or along a country road, or at, the railway-station, or in the police-court, or waiting in the lobby of a house, or anywhere, he would begin at once to deal with the person with whom he came into contact about his soul. I wish that it were your habit to be always looking out for souls. Up then, ye Christian men, and seek as God shall help you, by every means in your power, to make known Christ to the dying all around you! But you will not do it unless you are sent, driven, impelled, forced; you will not win souls for Christ till the gospel is like a fire in your bones, and you feel that woe is unto you if you do not preach it.
Well now, before you go to try to do that, there is one thing more. You cannot do it effectively unless you are sent; and to be sent means to have power given you with which to do the work. Can that power be had? If you feel impelled to cry to God to give you the power to preach, the spiritual power, the power of the Holy Ghost, if you are propelled to teach in the Sunday-school, and it is not worth doing unless you feel that you are impelled to it, and sent to it, then pray for the power to win the souls of those dear children for Christ. If you feel called upon to write a letter to a friend tomorrow about his soul or her soul, do it because you feel called upon to do it; but pray to God to show you how to do it. Pray to him to put the power into the words that you utter, that you may say the right words, and put even the right tone into those words. There is a good deal even in the tone of the preacher. "How shall they preach, except they be sent?" They must be clothed with divine power; but the Lord can clothe even a child with that power; he has often done it. He can clothe a humble Christian woman, who never spoke in public, with the power to win souls; he has often done it. And you, brother, who have been quite satisfied to be a church-member and to do nothing for Christ, a most unsatisfactory state of things indeed, should begin to be doing something for him who has; done so much for you. First tarry at Jerusalem till you are endued with power from on high; and then go forth as Christ's witnesses; for how shall you preach, except you be sent? But the power being obtained, you must go forth, and tell out the message that your Lord has given you.
But you have not done it all till you have given a report to your Master. If you have been sent, you will go back to your Lord after you have delivered his message, and you will tell him what they have to say about it. Every man who is sent on an errand gives an answer by-and-by as to the reply of the person to whom he was sent. I am afraid that some teachers and preachers forget this. We ought to go, like Isaiah, back to the Master, and say, "Who hath believed our report, and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?" You have tried hard with Mary to bring her to Christ; did you ever tell the Master about Mary? Mother, you have tried hard with your boy to bring him to the Savior; have you ever told Jesus about your boy? Last Tuesday night, there were a mother and father who had a son about whom they had once been very hopeful; but he had left home, and gone away, for weeks, though he promised to return. He had gone off, and they had not heard a word about him. They came to a company of Christian people, last Tuesday night, broken-hearted. They had done their best to find their son, but they could not find him. It was to Haddon Hall that they came, and the people of God there prayed for his father and mother. The father himself prayed, and broke down with emotion about his lost son. He went home, and there was a letter from his son to say that the Savior had found him. He had given up the drink, and he hoped to be a comfort to his father and mother all the rest of their days. He was many miles away, and knew nothing of his father's prayer. Often, when you do not get on with people, go and tell the Lord Jesus Christ about it; say, "Lord, I have preached to them, I have prayed for them, I have talked to them, I have wept over them, I bear them on my heart as a burden. Their very name seems to burn itself with letters of fire into my soul. Lord, save them! Lord, save them, and they will be saved!" That is the way to win souls. If God works, he first of all makes us travail in birth for the souls of others, and then are they born into the kingdom.
The rest of the text is a kind of vision. The prophet sees persons coining down the mountain side; he looks at them, and perceives that they are not men of war; else the greaves upon their legs would be terrible to the peaceful inhabitants of the plain. Yet here they come, a great company from the mountain tops, descending into the valleys. Who are they? As he looks, he says, "How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!" They are coming bearing the white flag, servants of the great King with whom you have been at war. They bear the banner that speaks of peace with God.
We, to whom the text alludes, who are the preachers of this gospel of peace, say to you tonight: Sinner, throw down your weapons of rebellion. Guilty one, fight no longer against God; come, and be at peace with him. His peace is proclaimed to you through Jesus Christ. He will freely forgive you every transgression and iniquity; he is ready to forget and blot it all out. God invites you to be reconciled to him, to have done with warring against him. We preach peace to you; and, if you hear us, we then tell you glad tidings of good things, full pardon for all the past, a change of heart to be given to you, to make you a new creature in Christ Jesus, yes, to be given you tonight, before you leave the Tabernacle, help for the future to strive against sin; strength to conquer and tread the dragon beneath your feet, power to become a child of God, to become an heir of heaven, to be taken under the guardian wing of providence, to be directed by the infinite wisdom of the Holy Spirit. These glad tidings of good things are published to all of you, even you that are farthest off from Christ, and hope, and peace. Believe in Jesus; trust him; trust God in human flesh, trust him who bled to death upon the cross, and paid down the ransom for your soul, and trust him now. He will do all for you that you need to have done for you, and he will save you, and bring you to his right hand in glory.
Now I have talked all in vain unless the Lord shall apply the truth to you, and you believe it; do not wait for somebody to believe for you; trust Christ for yourself; believe in Jesus even now. Amen.
Verse 1. Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved.
Desire is the mother and the soul of prayer: "My heart's desire and prayer." These Israelites had hunted Patti about, and sought to kill him. They were his deadly enemies; but the only return he made them was to pray that. they might be saved. I hope you will never have a worse wish for your worst foe.
2. For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge.
Always see all the good that is to be seen; and, when you have to reprove and rebuke, begin by admitting what is good: "They have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge."
3. For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.
They were very zealous; but it was blind zeal. They were very energetic; 'but they used their energy in going the wrong way. God has a righteousness, and our wisest course is to submit to it. Our righteousness, if we set it up in opposition to God's way of salvation, will only increase our sin. You can be ruined by your righteousness, as surely as by your righteousness, if you set it in the place of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. "They being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God."
4. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.
If we get Christ by believing, we have the righteousness of the law. All that ever could come to us by the highest and most perfect obedience to the law, we get by faith in Christ Jesus.
5. For Moses describeth the righteousness which is of the law,
And being the one through whom the law was given, he knew how to describe it; and we may be sure that he made no mistake. This is his description of legal righteousness:
5. That the man which doeth those things shall live by them.
That is it: "Do and live." That is the law, and a very just law, too. Leave anything undone, or break the command in any respect and you die; that is the law.
6. But the righteousness which is of faith
This is quite another thing; it
6. Speaketh on this wise,
And it is Moses who speaks here, as in the previous verse. This is what the righteousness of faith says:
6-9. Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down from above:) Or, Who shall descend into the deep? (that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead.) But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart that is, the word of faith, which we preach; that if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.
God's way of salvation, then, is "Believe and live." Believe in Christ; Christ dying, Christ raised from the dead. If thou so believest, thou art saved. Thou needest not mount to heaven in rapture, nor dive to hell in remorse. As thou art, believe and live. This is the way of the righteousness of God.
10. For with the heart,man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
True faith must be accompanied by an open confession. Come forward, and outwardly own what you inwardly believe. Remember those words of the Lord Jesus, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved." Here, as there, the confession is put after the faith, as indeed it must be. First, the reality, the thing signified, faith; afterwards, the outward and visible sign in the confession of that faith.
11. For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.
He need never be ashamed of his faith. It will bear him up; it will bear him through; it will bear him up to heaven.
12,13. For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.
That is a wonderful sentence; catch at it. Doubting, troubled spirits, catch at it, believe it, practice it; and you shall find it true.
14,15. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? and how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!
See here the whole machinery of salvation. God provides salvation in Christ Jesus, he sends the preacher to tell of it, men hear, they believe, and salvation is theirs. You have not to make a righteousness, you have to accept the one that is made for you. It is not what you shall do that shall save you; it is what Christ has done. You are to get out of self-confidence into confidence in him; and as soon as you do so, you are saved.
16. But they have not all obeyed the gospel.
Oh, no; all who have heard it, have not obeyed it! There are many here who have heard it from their childhood, and yet they have not obeyed it. Notice the word "obeyed," for the gospel comes to you with the force of a divine command. If you reject it, you sin against it, for it is your duty to accept it: "but they have not all obeyed the gospel."
16. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report?
So few were the obedient, that he asked where they were.
17, 18. So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. But I say, Have they not heard?
Oh, may they hear, indeed!
18, 19. Yes verily, their sound went into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world. But I say, Did not Israel know? First Moses saith, I will provoke you to jealousy by them that are no people, and by a foolish nation I will anger you.
Has he not done it? Israel is rejected, and remains without Christ, while many out of "a foolish nation" of Anglo-Saxons, who were idolaters, have accepted Christ. People who were regarded as dogs by God's chosen nation Israel have come into the house of the Lord, and still Israel refuses to come.
20. But Esaias is very bold, and saith, I was found of them that sought me not;
Hear, then, you who have never had any religion; you who seldom go to the house of God. Even you may be saved, for it is written, "I was found of them that sought me not."
20. I was made manifest unto them that asked not after me.
Here is the manifestation of sovereign grace, God choosing and saving whom he wills, irrespective of their condition; exercising the sovereignty of his mercy in saving the most undeserving.
21. But to Israel he saith, All day long I have stretched forth my hands
In the attitude of invitation and entreaty, and readiness to receive,
21. Unto a disobedient and gainsaying people.
And that is what he has done to thee, O thou careless child of pious parents, thou unregenerate hearer of the Word! All day long has he stood and stretched forth his hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people. The Lord forgive all such, for Jesus' sake! Amen.
HYMNS FROM "OUR OWN HYMN BOOK" 485, 540, 503.
How Can I Obtain Faith?
Delivered on Lord's Day Morning, January 21st, 1872, by
C. H. SPURGEON,
At the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington
"So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." Romans 10:17 .
IT IS DIFFICULT to make men understand that the salvation of the gospel is not by works but entirely by grace, that it is not presented to men as the reward of their own endeavors, but is given to them freely upon their accepting it by an act of simple faith or trust in Jesus Christ. However plainly we may preach this truth, there will always be some who will misunderstand us, and as many more who will raise objections against it, as if it were their part to give an opinion, and not to do as they are bidden by the Lord. But when men are brought under the teaching of the word, to see that the pardon of their sins, and the acceptance of their souls does not lie with any merit of their own, or any doings of their own, another difficulty generally presents itself: they say, "What is this faith of which you speak?" and when we assure them that it is a simple trust or confidence in the finished work of Christ, then straightway they say, "How can we get this faith? How can we obtain this confidence?" To us, who have faith, this question is very easy to answer, for when we heard the gladsome news of a finished salvation for lost sinners, complete forgiveness for the guilty, and acceptance for the ungodly, simply upon believing in Jesus we came to Jesus, and we trusted in him, and we continue still to trust, and we have joy and peace through believing. We see far more reasons for belief than for doubt. Yet, nevertheless, there are hundreds and thousands who are awakened, and seriously enquiring, to whom this is a great difficulty "How can I get the faith which gives me possession of Christ Jesus, and brings me salvation?" Our text is the ready answer, practically a complete answer; not doctrinally or theologically complete, but practically perfect. "Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." "But faith is the work of the Holy Spirit in the soul is it not?" Certainly. "And it is given by the Spirit to God's own chosen?" Assuredly; yet, nevertheless, it was not necessary for the apostle to mention those facts here. Some persons are always for having a whole system of theology in every sermon, but it is not needful that they should be gratified. Paul is clear enough about the work of the Spirit in other places, and it is not needful that he should introduce that subject into every line he writes. It was practically unnecessary for him to mention that subject in the present instance, and, therefore, he did not do so. It would sometimes puzzle rather than instruct an enquirer if we were to go into the full details of a matter. For instance, if I am thirsty, how shall I quench my thirst? By a draught of water. But in what way can I obtain water? It quite suffices for practical purposes for you to tell me to go to the tap or the fountain. There is no need to explain to me before I drink that the water is supplied by a company, and forced to the spilt by sundry machines, having been first extracted from the great fountains beneath by artesian wells, or drawn from the river at Thames Ditton. Nor would it be needful in answer to my question to trace the river to the clouds, and to treat upon the formation of vapor by the skill and wisdom of God. Practically, to the thirsty man all you want to say is, "There's the water, drink." I will add another illustration. A man is hungry, and he asks you, "How can I get bread?" "Go to the baker's," you say. The answer is complete enough for him; it meets the case at once. If he wants a larger declaration of how bread is obtained, we can give it to him at another time when he is no longer hungry; we will tell him how the corn is sown in the furrow of earth, and how by mysterious processes of nature it germinates, grows, and ripens; we will trace it from the reaper to the thresher, and from the thresher to the mill, and we will also show that daily bread is as much a gift from heaven as the manna which dropped down upon the hungry people in the wilderness. But, it is not needful for the feeding, of the hungry that we should on every occasion go into all those details, although we hold very sound views upon them. And when you are dealing with an anxious person, it will suffice to say to him, "Faith cometh by hearing;" further information can be supplied under happier circumstances. I mean to keep to our text this morning, and if any shall charge me with an omission of the work of the Spirit, or a failure to trace all saving faith to the electing grace of God, I shall bear the charge without murmuring, only saying that my soul rejoices as much as that of any man living in the work of the Spirit of God; and, that the electing love of God and his determinate purposes are precious truths to me. If the text was sufficient for Paul; it will, I trust, be sufficient for you.
May the Spirit of God assist us while we meditate upon the way by which faith cometh. This shall be followed by a brief indication of certain obstructions which often lie in that way; and then we will conclude by dwelling upon the importance that faith should come to us by that appointed road.
I. First, then, THE WAY BY WHICH FAITH COMES TO MEN. "Faith cometh by hearing."
It may help to set the truth out more clearly, if we say, negatively, that it does not come by any other process than by hearing; not by any mysterious and strange method, but in the most simple and natural mode conceivable, namely, by the hearing of the word.
Some imagine that faith comes by hereditary descent, and they act upon the supposition. Hence, in certain churches, birthright membership is thought to be a proper practice, and the child of a Christian is thought to be a Christian. In some other churches, though the theory would not be stated in so many words, yet it is practically accepted, and children of pious parents are regarded as scarcely needing conversion. The text is forgotten which saith that the heirs of salvation are born, "not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, but of God." The typical covenant secured outward privileges to the children born after the flesh, but under the covenant of grace the blessing is secured to the spiritual and not to the natural seed. "He who was of the bondwoman was born after the flesh; but he of the freewoman was by promise." (Galatians 4:23 ). That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and nothing more: the new-born nature is not transmissible from father to son like a natural temperament or a cast of countenance. I know the answer will be that "the promise is to us and to our children," but it will be well for the objector to reply to himself by completing the quotation "even to as many as the Lord your God shall call." The fact is, that nothing spiritual is inherited by carnal generation. Our children, even if we are far advanced in grace, will still be "shapen in iniquity." No matter how high the sainthood of the professing Christian, his child (when capable of understanding) must for himself become a personal believer in Jesus.
It appears to be thought possible to infuse grace by sacraments. There are persons yet alive who teach that a babe may be regenerated by certain aqueous processes, and be thereby placed in "a state of salvation." But is not faith a perpetual concomitant of regeneration? and what is that regeneration worth which leaves a person an unbeliever, and, consequently, "condemned already, because he hath not believed on the Son of God?" Rest assured, that as faith does not come by descent, neither can it be produced by any rite which recognizes that descent: it comes in one way, and in one way only in every case, and that is, by the hearing of the word. To every person, whoever he may be, though nursed in the bosom of the church, and introduced to that church by the most solemn ritual, we are bound to say, you must hear as well as others, and you must believe as the result of that hearing as well as others, or else you will remain short of saving grace. Faith is not a mystery juggled into us by the postures, genuflexions, and mumblings of priests. We have heard a great deal about sacramental efficacy, but I think a man must have extraordinary hardihood who would say that either baptism, or the so-called Eucharist, are the sure creators of faith; yet see I not what saving service these forms can render to unbelieving men if they leave them in an unbelieving condition, and, consequently, in a state of condemnation. Seeing that without faith it is impossible to please God, the grace supposed to be conveyed by the mere participation in sacraments is of small value, it cannot give the cardinal requisite for acceptance before God. Faith cannot be washed into us by immersion, nor sprinkled upon us in christening; it is not to be poured into us from a chalice, nor generated in us by a consecrated piece of bread. There is no magic about it; it comes by hearing the word of God, and by that way only.
These are superstitions, you tell me, and scarcely need to be mentioned here; very well then, we will have done with them, and treat of superstitions which linger in our own congregations. There are some who fancy that faith cometh by feeling. If they could feel emotions either of horror or of exquisite delight, they would then, they think, be the possessors of faith; but till they have felt what they have heard described in certain biographies of undoubtedly good men, they cannot believe, or even if they have a measure of faith, they cannot hope that it is true faith. Faith doth not come by feeling, but through faith arises much of holy feeling, and the more a man lives in the walk of faith, as a rule, the more will he feel and enjoy the light of God's countenance. Faith hath something firmer to stand upon than those ever-changing frames and feelings which, like the weather of our own sunless land, is fickle and frail, and changeth speedily from brightness into gloom. You may get feeling from faith, and the best of it, but you will be long before you will find any faith that is worth the having, if you try to evoke it from frames and feelings.
"My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus' blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame;
But wholly lean on Jesus' name;
On Christ the solid rock I stand,
All other ground is sinking sand."
Some, also, have supposed that true faith will come to men by dreams and visions. It is surprising how a belief in these things lingers still in what is called this age of light; the notion is still current that if you dream of seeing Jesus, or fancy you have seen him while awake, or if a passage of Scripture strikes you, or if you hear or imagine that you hear a voice speaking to you, you are then a believer. Now, faith in Christ is like faith in anyone else, it comes to us by the same kind of mental processes, and is based upon simple principles and plain matters of fact, and needs no vision of the night. Though you should see all the angels in heaven, it would not prove that you would go to heaven, any more than my having seen the Pope's body guard would be a proof that I shall be made a Cardinal. Things which are seen of the eye save not, for the things which are seen are temporal, and cannot work eternal salvation. Moreover, men saw Christ, and yet pierced him and blasphemed him. Visions have been seen by heathens like Nebuchadnezzar, and angels have appeared to bad men like Balaam who, though he sighed out, "Let me die the death of the righteous," yet perished, fighting against the God of Israel. True faith has a more solid basis for its fabric than the fleeting fancies of the mind.
I beg you to notice, too, that it does not say in the text that faith comes through the eloquence, earnestness, or any other good quality of the preacher. Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word, not of man, but of God. The word of God is the substance of faith-creating preaching; it is by the hearing of God's word, and not by any other hearing that saving faith comes to the soul. I may hear a man descant upon the gospel with all the eloquence that can be commanded by the most fluent tongue, yet if my faith comes to me because the man spoke pathetically, or poetically, or argumentatively, or rhetorically, it is a poor miserable faith; being, of the power of the flesh, it will die, and so prove itself unlike the faith which springs from the incorruptible word of God, for that liveth and abideth for ever. On the other hand, I may hope for faith if I am listening to the true gospel, the very word of God, though the man who speaks it may be of stammering lips, and his voice may be disagreeable to my ear, and there may be much about his manner that does not commend itself to me. If he preaches truth it is by hearing not him, the man, but by hearing the word of God, that I shall come to faith. I do desire ever, as a preacher, to feel that it is not my word but God's word that saves souls; we are to explain it and expound it, but we are not to add to it, take from or conceive that we can improve it. We must not go into the pulpit and say, "I have been working out a subject from my own mind, and I am going to give you the result of my thoughts." We had better keep our own thoughts for some other place, and give the people the revealed truth of God. The theory now-a-days is that all preachers worth hearing by this refined generation must be profound thinkers, and inventors of improved theologies. Brethren, let man's thoughts perish for ever; the thoughts of God and not the thoughts of man will save souls. The truth of God should be spoken simply, with as little as possible of the embellishments of metaphysics, and philosophy, and high culture, and all that stuff. I say the word of God delivered as we find it is that which, when heard, brings faith to the souls of men. I counsel you, my occasional hearers, you who perhaps have come freshly to this city, or who reside where you have a choice of ministry, seek not that which tickles your ear, but that which your conscience approves as consistent with the word of God; and, though we or an angel from heaven should preach to you that which is not God's word, do not listen to us, for it will be mischievous to you. Hear you what God the Lord speaketh, and hear nothing else. What though he shall sound forth his word through a ram'shorn, if it be God's Spirit that giveth forth a certain sound, it shall be more profitable to your soul than though the silver trumpet should be set to the mouth of falsehood, and the sweetest music should regale your ear. The matter of a discourse is far more important than the manner. Saving faith never comes from hearing falsehood, but from the word of God alone.
I ought, perhaps, to add that the expression "by hearing," though of course literally it must be confined to the hearing of words vocally uttered, is meant to include in its spirit the reading of the word; for reading is a sort of hearing with the eyes, and faith has often come and will often come to men while they are reading the word of God for themselves. We must not kill the spirit of the text by excessive regard to the mere letter of it, and we should do so if we excluded readings, which is a quiet hearing of the still small voice of the printed page. Faith comes by the word of God reaching our minds, and our knowing and understanding it. The entrance of God's word giveth light. "Incline your ear and come unto me, hear and your soul shall live." Thus, we have spoken of it negatively.
Now, positively: "Faith cometh by hearing." Sometimes faith has come into men's minds by hearing the simple statement of the gospel. They have longed to be saved, and they have been told that Jesus the Son of God condescended to come into this world and to take upon himself the form of man, and as man to be partaker of our infirmities, and to offer himself as a sacrifice in the room, place, and stead of sinners; they have, moreover, been told that whosoever trusts in this substitutional sacrifice shall be saved, and straightway they have believed. All they have wanted has been merely to be informed of the way of salvation. God's Spirit has so prepared them that they have believed almost as soon as they have heard the saving truth. In many cases the only difficulty in the way of salvation has been a want of understanding the word. I know in my own case I would have given all I had, if I might but have been informed what I must do to be saved. Though I frequented places where the gospel was preached, I did not catch the meaning of believing, it puzzled me much. I do not remember to have heard the simple declaration that to trust in Jesus Christ would save my soul; or, possibly, I did hear it with my outward ears, but I must have been strangely infatuated, for I did not understand the sense; and I have often thought if I could have heard the way of faith simply stated, my soul would have leaped into liberty long before. I will not so say; but I am persuaded that faith often comes by hearing the simple declaration that God accepts sinners, not for what they are in themselves but for what Christ is, and that when sinners believe in Jesus they are saved there and then, and are acceptable with God through Jesus Christ his dear Son. The mere statement of this has brought, by the operation of the Spirit of God, faith into the soul. "How is this?" saith one. Well, it is because the gospel commends itself to some hearts as true upon the very first blush of it, it strikes them as being undoubtedly the gospel of God. It is the same in other matters; you sometimes hear a story about which you say, "Well, I do not know, it may be correct, but I shall have to look a little into that before I am certain;" but you often hear statements which you accept at once, because they commend themselves to your understanding, and you feel that they must be true. There are minds which God has so prepared that the moment they hear the gospel they respond to it. I think I hear the seeker after truth exclaim when he heard the gospel, "True? Why, how could it be otherwise? It is so divinely grand, so harmonious, so good, so gracious, so unexpected nobody could have thought of it but God himself it must be the truth." Having long sought goodly pearls of truth, the illuminated eye catches the gleam of the gospel and discerns it to be a priceless gem. Those are blessed indeed who are thus at once brought unto faith by the statement of the gospel.
To some others, the convincing point has been the suitability of the gospel to their case, for while they have heard it preached as a gospel for sinners, they have felt that they were certainly among that class. When the preacher has gone on to describe the misery of the fall, the utter ruin of human nature, its deceitfulness, feebleness, fickleness, and folly, the hearer has said, "Is the gospel sent to those who are thus lost, guilty, and impotent? Why, I am precisely in that condition?" And, then, when its great command is stated, namely, simple trust in Jesus, the soul perceives the suitability of the way of grace. We do not go to heaven to bring Christ down, or dive into the deeps to bring him up from the dead; we can neither keep the law nor find an atonement for our transgressions; but this simple trust, oh how suitable it is to undone sinners. Nothing to do I can do nothing; noticing to bring I have nothing to bring; it suits my case. Glory be to God for devising a plan so adapted to our wants. From the suitabilty of the gospel to the sinner, many have been by God's Spirit led to saving faith in Jesus, and so faith has come by hearing.
In many, I do not doubt, faith has come through hearing of the condescending pity and the melting love of Jesus. Oh, that we dwelt more on this; that he loved his enemies, that he died for the ungodly, that his heart yearns over the lost sheep, that he is willing to receive prodigal sons, for he is full of grace and truth.
"His heart is made of tenderness,
His bowels melt with love."
When such texts as the following have been preached on: "This man receiveth sinners." "Come unto me all ye that labor." "Ho, every one that thirsteth," etc. "All manner of sin and transgression shall be forgiven unto men." "Whosoever will, let him come and take the water of life freely." "Him that cometh unto me I will in no wise cast out," that melting strain has touched the heart, and led the most hardened to believe in a Savior so kind to the undeserving. Men have found it impossible not to believe in a friend so self-sacrificing, a Redeemer so altogether lovely. The sweet love of Jesus has an omnipotence in it to win souls. They yield "by mighty love subdued," unable to resist its charms, and as if they could hold out no longer, they throw themselves by an act of faith into the Savior's arms. I can well understand their singing, "I do believe, I must believe in such a friend as this." Faith comes by hearing of the free forgiveness procured by the agony, the stripes, the wounds, the death of Jesus, the lover of our souls.
At other times, faith has come not so much through hearing the statement of the gospel as from hearing of its authority. I may believe a statement because it looks like truth. I may, on the other hand, accept it not at all because I have myself perceived the apparent truth of it, but because of the person who tells it to me. And this is a very right and acceptable kind of faith. What has God said about my salvation? Before I hear it I am prepared to believe it on the testimony of God. He says it, and that is enough for me. I believe this Bible to be his book; I hear what it says, and whatsoever the Lord God hath said I must and will receive, whether it appears plain or not. There are persons who when they have heard the gospel preached have not at first believed it, but if it has pleased the Spirit of God to lead the minister to show that the gospel is of divine appointment, that the way proclaimed is ordained by God himself, and that God has set the sanction of his promise upon it "He that believeth and is baptised shall be saved" and has also set upon it the second sanction of his threatening "He that believeth not shall be damned" then they have yielded and given over all further question. God bids them trust in Jesus, and they do so through his grace. Without canvassing the statement itself they receive what God teaches, and since he hath set forth Christ to be a propitiation for sin they receive him us such: since he has said, "Look unto me and be saved," they look because God bids them look, and they are saved. To believe in Jesus is a command from God's own mouth, and is, therefore, to be obeyed, and the more so, because "he that believeth not God hath made him a liar, because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son; and this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son."
In some cases, too, the coming of faith has been helped by hearing and perceiving the veracity of the subordinate testifiers of the gospel, I mean the writers of the sacred book, the prophets, and chiefly the apostles. These men are worthy of credit they were honest, unsophisticated men, and they certainly gained nothing by testifying that Christ was the Messiah, and that he died and rose again from the dead. One of them, the Apostle Paul, lost his position, which was one of great eminence, and spent his whole life in toil, and suffering, and reproach, and ended with a bloody death because of what he preached, and thus he proved that he was a sincere, honest, upright man. If Paul or any other of the apostles were in the witness-box, nobody could demur to their evidence; whatever they said we should believe, because the men were truthful witnesses. Now, sometimes, persons have been led into faith in Christ, by feeling that those whom he sent to be testifiers to his person, death, and resurrection were evidently true to the core, and, therefore, their word was worthy of all acceptation.
I believe, dear friends, that faith has come by hearing in another way. Perhaps the preacher has not so much stated the gospel, and brought forward its authority, as explained it. and so faith has come. If we spent our time in nothing else but just explaining the text, "He that believeth and is baptised shall be saved," we might achieve a blessed life-work, and perhaps might see greater results than when our ministry takes a wider range. When the preacher takes up one by one the soul difficulties which prevent man from seeing what faith is, and keep him away from looking to Christ, and when he tries to show, as he should, that all the hope of the sinner lies out of himself, none of it in himself, that all his help for salvation is laid upon one that is mighty, even Jesus Christ the Son of God, and that he must look away from his own feelings, and prayings, and doings, and even away from his own believings as any ground of confidence, and must rest simply and alone upon the one sacrifice of Jesus; it has often happened that faith has come through the hearing of such an explanatory word.
In some cases, too, faith has come when the word has possessed a peculiar soul-revealing pointedness in it to the hearer's particular case. Remember the Samaritan Woman. Our Lord Jesus Christ explained to her the gospel, but she does not appear to have been enlightened by his explanations: it was that home stroke of his "Go, call thy husband and come hither," which won her to faith. Such revealings of the thoughts and intents of the heart will occur in any God-sent preaching of the gospel, just because the Word pierces to the dividing of soul and spirit, and lays bare the secrets of the soul. Then it is that hearers cry, "Come, see a man that told me all things that ever I did; is not this the Christ?" Thus, by the guidance of the Spirit, the word finds out the man, and faith cometh by hearing.
Faith, also, comes in to many by hearing, when we detail the experience of those who have tasted and handled the good word of life; when the preacher or teacher tells how he trusted in Jesus, and found pardon, peace, and life eternal; when he is able to point to others who have felt the same, some of whom, perhaps, were even greater offenders than the person addressed, then conviction and faith are wrought in the mind. We bid you see what Jesus has done for us, in the hope that you will trust and try him for yourselves. Jesus prayed for those who shall believe on him through our word, and we hope you will be among the number.
To set the whole matter clearly, we will suppose that you are laboring under a very serious disease, and a physician professes to heal you. You are quite willing to believe in him, but you cannot blindly follow any man, for there are thousands of quacks and impostors. You naturally want to know something about him. Now, in what way would you go to work to get faith in him? How would faith be likely to come to you? It would come by hearing. You hear him speak and you perceive that he understands your case, for he describes exactly all your symptoms, even those which none know but yourself and a skillful physician. You feel already some confidence in him. He next describes to you as much of the method of cure as you can comprehend, and it seems to you to be very reasonable, and withal suitable to the requirements of your case. His proposal commends itself to your best judgment, and you are already a stage nearer submission to his mode of operation. Then you enquire as to the man's character; you find that he is no mere pretender, but an authorized skillful, longestablished practitioner, well known for truthfulness, uprightness, and every good quality. Moreover, suppose in addition to this he charges you nothing whatever, but does everything gratis, having evidently no motive of gain, but being altogether disinterested, moved only by real pity for you, and a kind desire to remove your pain and save your life. Can you any longer refuse to believe and submit? But if, in addition to all this, he allows you his case-book, and bids you read case after case similar to your own in which he has affected perfect cure, and if some of these are your own acquaintances, if they are persons whom you know and esteem, why, sir, you will not insult him by saying, "I wish I could believe you;" but you will be unable to help trusting him, unless you are unwilling to be cured. Faith, in such a case, does not depend upon the will at all; you are convinced by hearing, and you become a believer. In the same way faith comes by hearing. You are unreasonable if you sit still and say, "I cannot make myself believe;" of course you cannot, but you hear, do you not, of how Christ heals sinners; you hear that he is backed by divine authority; you see that he really does save those who trust him, and what more of evidence do you want? O soul! it seems to me a harder thing not to believe in Jesus than to believe in him, if you are indeed willing to be made whole. When one has heard these things, and understands them, surely the mind, if it be not wilfully blinded, must receive the Savior. May God forgive your long perverseness, and by his Spirit open your eyes to see the simplicity of that faith which comes by hearing the word of God.
II. My time, however, flies much too rapidly this morning, and I must be brief on the second very important head, namely, OBSTRUCTIONS WHICH OFTEN BLOCK UP THIS WAY.
One is a want of intention, by which I mean that many persons come to hear, but they have no wish to be led into faith. Like the butterflies which flit from flower to flower, they extract no honey because they come not for such a purpose: while the bees dive into the cups and bells of the flowers, and come up loaded with their luscious food. Oh, if men came to hear, praying to be endowed with faith in Jesus, faith would surely come to them by hearing. Many persons in hearing a sermon, are like children looking, at a cornfield it is full of yellow garlic, or perhaps of scarlet poppies, and they cry "What a lovely field;" but the farmer thinks not so, he is looking for the wheat. Many a hearer watches for pretty speeches and flowery metaphors, and cries, "How well he puts it! What a well-turned sentence! How sweetly he quotes poetry!" and so on. Bah! Is that what you come to God's house for? O fools and slow of heart, is this your end in hearing the life-giving gospel of the bleeding Lamb? I assure you it is not this that we are aiming at in preaching to you. If you came to look after the good corn, you would care little for the gaudy poppies of a flaunting eloquence so much regarded by the men of these days. Come with the intent to find faith in Jesus; cry to God to make his word effectual to our salvation, and then hearing will be quite another business with you. Alas I fear you will perish, let us preach as we may, while we are regarded by you as mere orators to be criticized, and not as witnesses whose testimony is to be weighed.
Some do not hear aright for want of attention. Sleepy hearers are not likely to be led to faith. Eutychus may fall from the third loft and be taken up for dead, but he is not likely to become a believer by sleeping, even though Paul should be the preacher. We want attention in order to the real reception of the word. Oh how pleasant it is to preach to earnest hearers who lean forward to catch every syllable, anxious to know how they can be saved. Wandering hearts lose the benefit of the truth, and vain minds trifle away the privilege of a gospel ministry. Take heed how ye hear, otherwise ye may remain hearers only, and so perish in unbelief.
With many a want of candor is another reason why faith does not come by hearing. If a man hears with a prejudiced heart, making up his mind before hand what he will believe, he is not likely to be convinced, he puts himself as far as he can out of the reach of benefit. When the heart rebels against the word: when it says, "If this be true I am living a bad life, and I shall have to give up my pleasures, therefore will not accept it." Well then, faith does not come and cannot come by such hearing. Faith comes by hearing when a man does, as it were, give himself up to the word of God, like a person who is badly wounded and surrenders himself to the surgeon's hand. Oh, if I had a gangrened limb and it must be taken off, I think I would pray for patience enough to say, "O sir, if you can but spare my life cut to the very bone." When it is the soul that is concerned I would say to the preacher, "Sir, do not flatter me, do not tell me that which will please but delude me; I do not want your flattery, I do not want your fine words. "Sir, tell me what I am, and where I am in the sight of God, and how I can be saved; for it will little satisfy me to wake up in hell and remember that I used to hear a fine orator. I want to be saved in deed and of a truth." "Ah," says one, "but some preachers are not only bold, but rough in their expression." Yes, but suppose you were nearly drowned, and a strong swimmer plunged into the stream and plucked you out just as you were sinking for the last time, if he dislocated your arm would you grumble? No, you would say, "The bone can be set at another time, but my life could not have been restored." And so with the preacher, though he be rough, if it be the truth which he speaks, only pray that it may save your soul, and be content to put up with the man's infirmity, if by any means you may attain to salvation by Jesus Christ.
With some, how ever, hearing does not bring faith, because they hear without any after meditation. There is a great trial going on, as you know, in the Tichborne case. Every juryman, I doubt not, wants to judge righteously. I am sure the sleepy one is not likely to do so, and I am pretty clear that the juryman who is most likely to get at the truth will be the man who, when he gets away from the court, having heard attentively all the time, takes home the notes of the evidence, weighs it, and makes comparisons, and endeavors to sift out the truth. So I would say to you when you hear us preach, sift the sermon afterwards, turn our sermons over, pick holes in them if you like, and find out our mistakes; but oh, do search into the truth, and be not content till you find it. If you want to find Christ, the wisdom of God, you should seek for him as for silver. You are likely to believe the truth when your mind turns it over and over. Here is a bag, and I am willing to make a man rich, and, therefore, I drop into it pound after pound, but I find that the bag is just as empty as before; the reason is plain, there are holes in the bag, and the money drops through. Too many hearers are as a bag full of holes, and golden sermons will not bless them because they wilfully forget all. They will never come to faith because they do but look at their face in the glass of the word, and go their way and forget what manner of men they are. Oh for hearers who only need to know the gospel, and the evidence of it, and then consent thereto, saying, "It is the truth of God, I cannot quarrel with it; I joyfully receive it." Such are saved souls.
III. But, now, I am sorry to be so brief, but I must conclude by speaking, of THE IMPORTANCE THAT FAITH SHOULD COME TO US BY HEARING. I will let my words drop rapidly without any ornament, and remind you, dear friend, that if you have been a hearer and faith has not come to you, you are, this moment, in the gall of bitterness and in the bonds of iniquity. You believe not in Christ, and you make God a liar, because ye have not believed in his only-begotten Son. The wrath of God abideth on you. You are dead while you live. Without God, without Christ, and strangers to the covenant of promise. My soul pities you will you not pity yourselves? Hearers only; faithless, graceless, Christless! Christ died, but you have no part in his death. His blood cleanses from sin, but your sin remains upon you. Christ has risen, and he pleads before the throne, you have no part in that intercession. He is preparing a place for his people, but that place is not for you. Oh, unhappy soul! oh, wretched soul! out of favor with God, at enmity with eternal love, destitute of eternal life! Truly, if Jesus were here he would weep over you, as he did over Jerusalem, and say, "How often would I have gathered you as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not."
Ah, remember, though your present state is terrible it is not all. You will soon die, and you will die without faith. Remember that word of Christ, it is one of the most terrible I know of, "if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins." To die in a ditch, to die in a prison, to die on the gallows, none of us would desire it; but to die in your sins! O God, it is hell, it is eternal damnation. May the great Lord save you! But to perish for ever will be your lot as surely as you live, except you believe in Jesus and that speedily, for soon you will be out of the reach of all hearing. No more sermons, no more invitations of grace. Oh, what would you give to have the gospel once more when you are cast away from it! No more the preacher's voice, saying, "Turn ye, turn ye, why will ye die!" No more the pitiful accents of one who loves your souls, and fain would snatch you as firebrands from the flame: around you all will be dark, and hard, and the only message for you will be this, "He that is filthy, let him be filthy still."
"There are no acts of pardon passed,
In that cold grave to which we haste;
But darkness, death, and long despair,
Reign in eternal silence there."
Ah! then it will he no assuagement of your miseries that you once heard the gospel; it will rather increase your torment. Conscience will cry aloud "I heard the gospel of grace, and I heard the arguments which proved it true, but I rejected a gospel which God himself proclaimed, a gospel which was genuine on the face of it, a gospel full of such love as ought to have melted a rock, a gospel that was brought to me without money and without price, a gospel that was pressed upon me from my infancy to my hoar hairs I rejected it, I wilfully rejected it, not because it was not true, but because I would believe a lie, and would not believe the living God." Eternal Father, thou who art mighty to save, let not one among us go down into the pit with a lie in his right hand, refusing to accept the gospel of thy blessed Son! The Lord save you all, for Christ's sake. Amen.
PORTION OF SCRIPTURE READ BEFORE SERMON Romans 1:1-32 .
Sovereign Grace and Man's Responsibility
Delivered on Sabbath Morning, August 1, 1858, by the
REV. C. H. Spurgeon
at the Music Hall, Royal Surrey Gardens
"But Esaias is very bold, and saith, I was found of them that sought me not; I was made manifest unto them that asked not after me. But to Israel he saith, all day long I have stretched forth my hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people." Romans 10:20-21 .
DOUBTLESS THESE WORDS primarily refer to the casting away of the Jews, and to the choosing of the Gentiles. The Gentiles were a people who sought not after God, but lived in idolatry; nevertheless, Jehovah was pleased in these latter times to send the gospel of his grace to them: while the Jews who had long enjoyed the privileges of the Word of God, on account of their disobedience and rebellion were cast away. I believe, however, that while this is the primary object of the words of our text, yet, as Calvin says, the truth taught in the text is a type of a universal fact. As God did choose the people who knew him not, so hath he chosen, in the abundance of his grace, to manifest his salvation to men who are out of the way; while, on the other hand, the men who are lost, after having heard the Word, are lost because of their wilful sin; for God doth all the day long "stretch forth his hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people."
The system of truth is not one straight line, but two. No man will ever get a right view of the gospel until he knows how to look at the two lines at once. I am taught in one book to believe that what I sow I shall reap: I am taught in another place, that "it is not of him that willeth nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy." I see in one place, God presiding over all in providence; and yet I see, and I cannot help seeing, that man acts as he pleases, and that God has left his actions to his own will, in a great measure. Now, if I were to declare that man was so free to act, that there was no presidence of God over his actions, I should be driven very near to Atheism; and if, on the other hand, I declare that God so overrules all things, as that man is not free enough to be responsible, I am driven at once into Antinomianism or fatalism. That God predestines, and that man is responsible, are two things that few can see. They are believed to be inconsistent and contradictory; but they are not. It is just the fault of our weak judgment. Two truths cannot be contradictory to each other. If, then, I find taught in one place that everything is fore-ordained, that is true; and if I find in another place that man is responsible for all his actions, that is true; and it is my folly that leads me to imagine that two truths can ever contradict each other. These two truths, I do not believe, can ever be welded into one upon any human anvil, but one they shall be in eternity: they are two lines that are so nearly parallel, that the mind that shall pursue them farthest, will never discover that they converge; but they do converge, and they will meet somewhere in eternity, close to the throne of God, whence all truth doth spring.
Now, this morning I am about to consider the two doctrines. In the 20th verse, we have taught us the doctrines of sovereign grace "But Esaias is very bold, and saith, I was found of them that sought me not; I was made manifest unto them that asked not after me." In the next verse, we have the doctrine of man's guilt in rejecting God. "To Israel he saith, all day long I have stretched forth my hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people."
I. First, then, DIVINE SOVEREIGNTY AS EXEMPLIFIED IN SALVATION. If any man be saved, he is saved by Divine grace, and by Divine grace alone; and the reason of his salvation is not to be found in him, but in God. We are not saved as the result of anything that we do or that we will; but we will and do as the result of God's good pleasure, and the work of his grace in our hearts. No sinner can prevent God; that is, he cannot go before him, cannot anticipate him; God is always first in the matter of salvation. He is before our convictions, before our desires, before our fears, before our hopes. All that is good or ever will be good in us, is preceded by the grace of God, and is the effect of a Divine cause within.
Now in speaking of God's gracious acts of salvation, this morning, I notice first, that they are entirely unmerited. You will see that the people here mentioned certainly did not merit God's grace. They found him, but they never sought for him; he was made manifest to them, but they never asked for him. There never was a man saved yet who merited it. Ask all the saints of God, and they will tell you that their former life was spent in the lusts of the flesh; that in the days of their ignorance, they revolted against God and turned back from his ways, that when they were invited to come to him they despised the invitation, and, when warned, cast the warning behind their back. They will tell you that their being drawn by God, was not the result of any merit before conversion; for some of them, so far from having any merit, were the very vilest of the vile: they plunged into the very kennel of sin; they were not ashamed of all the things of which it would be a shame for us to speak; they were ringleaders in crime, very princes in the ranks of the enemy; and yet sovereign grace came to them, and they were brought to know the Lord. They will tell you that it was not the result of anything good in their disposition, for although they trust that there is now something excellent implanted in them, yet in the days of their flesh they could see no one quality which was not perverted to the service of Satan. Ask them whether they think they were chosen of God because of their courage; they will tell you, no; if they had courage it was defaced, for they were courageous to do evil. Question them whether they were chosen of God because of their talent; they will tell you, no; they had that talent, but they prostituted it to the service of Satan. Question them whether they were chosen because of the openness and generosity of their disposition; they will tell you that that very openness of temper, and that very generosity of disposition, led them to plunge deeper into the depths of sin, than they otherwise would have done, for they were "hail fellow, well met," with every evil man, and ready to drink and join every jovial party which should come in their way. There was in them no reason whatever why God should have mercy upon them, and the wonder to them is that he did not cut them down in the midst of their sins, blot out their names from the book of life, and sweep them into the gulf where the fire burneth. that shall devour the wicked. But some have said that God chooses his people because he foresees that after he chooses them, they will do this, that, and the other, which shall be meritorious and excellent. Refer again to the people of God, and they will tell you that since their conversion they have had much to weep over. Although they can rejoice that God has begun the good work in them, they often tremble lest it should not be God's work at all. They will tell you that if they are abundant in faith yet there are times when they are superabundant in unbelief; that if sometimes they are full of works of holiness, yet there are times when they weep many tears to think that those very acts of holiness were stained with sin. The Christian will tell you that he weeps over his very tears; he feels that there is filth even in the best of desires; that he has to pray to God to forgive his prayers, for there is sin in the midst of his supplications, and that he has to sprinkle even his best offerings with the atoning blood, for he never else can bring an offering without spot or blemish. You shall appeal to the brightest saint, to the man whose presence in the midst of society is like the presence of an angel, and he will tell you that he is still ashamed of himself. "Ah!" he will say, "you may praise me, but I cannot praise myself, you speak well of me, you applaud me, but if you knew my heart you would see abundant reason to think of me as a poor sinner saved by grace, who hath nothing whereof to glory, and must bow his head and confess his iniquities in the sight of God." Grace, then is entirely unmerited.
Again, the grace of God is sovereign. By that word we mean that God has an absolute right to give that grace where he chooses, and to withhold it when he pleases. He is not bound to give it to any man, much less to all men; and if he chooses to give it to one man and not to another, his answer is, "Is thine eye evil because mine eye is good? Can I not do as I will with mine own? I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy." Now, I want you to notice the sovereignty of Divine grace as illustrated in the text: "I was found of them that sought me not, I was made manifest to them that asked not after thee." You would imagine that if God gave his grace to any he would wait until he found them earnestly seeking him. You would imagine that God in the highest heavens would say, "I have mercies, but I will leave men alone, and when they feel their need of these mercies and seek me diligently with their whole heart, day and night, with tears, and vows, and supplications, then will I bless them, but not before." But, beloved, God saith no such thing. It is true he doth bless them that cry unto him, but he blesses them before they cry, for their cries are not their own cries, but cries which he has put into their lips; their desires are not of their own growth, but desires which he has cast like good seed into the soil of their hearts. God saves the men that do not seek him. Oh, wonder of wonders! It is mercy indeed when God saves a seeker; but how much greater mercy when he seeks the lost himself! Mark the parable of Jesus Christ concerning the lost sheep; it does not run thus: "A certain man had a hundred sheep, and one of them did go astray. And he tarried at home, and lo, the sheep came back, and he received it joyfully and said to his friends, rejoice, for the sheep that I have lost is come back." No; he went after the sheep: it never would have come after him; it would have wandered farther and farther away. He went after it; over hills of difficulty, down valleys of despondency he pursued its wandering feet, and at last he laid hold of it; he did not drive it before him, he did not lead it, but he carried it himself all the way, and when he brought it home he did not say, the sheep is come back," but, "I have found the sheep which was lost." Men do not seek God first; God seeks them first; and if any of you are seeking him to-day it is because he has first sought you. If you are desiring him he desired you first, and your good desires and earnest seeking will not be the cause of your salvation, but the effects of previous grace given to you. "Well," says another, "I should have thought that although the Saviour might not require an earnest seeking and sighing and groaning, and a continuous searching, after him, yet certainly he would have desired and demanded that every man, before he had grace, should ask for it." That, indeed, beloved, seems natural, and God will give grace to them that ask for it; but mark, the text says that he was manifested "to them that asked not for him." That is to say, before we ask, God gives us grace. The only reason why any man ever begins to pray is because God has put previous grace in his heart which leads him to pray. I remember, when I was converted to God, I was an Arminian thoroughly. I thought I had begun the good work myself, and I used sometimes to sit down and think, "Well, I sought the Lord four years before I found him," and I think I began to compliment myself upon the fact that I had perseveringly entreated of him in the midst of much discouragement. But one day the thought struck me, "How was it you came to seek God?" and in an instant the answer came from my soul, "Why, because he led me to do it; he must first have shown me my need of him, or else I should never have sought him; he must have shown me his preciousness, or I never should have thought him worth seeking;" and at once I saw the doctrines of grace as clear as possible. God must begin. Nature can never rise above itself. You put water into a reservoir, and it will rise as high as that, but no higher if let alone. Now, it is not in human nature to seek the Lord. Human nature is depraved, and therefore, there must be the extraordinary pressure of the Holy Spirit put upon the heart to lead us first to ask for mercy. But mark, we do not know an thing about that, while the Spirit is operating; we find that out afterwards. We ask as much as if we were asking all of ourselves. Our business is to seek the Lord as if there were no Holy Spirit at all. But although we do not know it, there must always be a previous motion of the Spirit in our heart, before there will be a motion of our heart towards him.
"No sinner can be beforehand with thee,
Thy grace is most sovereign, most rich, and most free."
Let me give you an illustration. You see that man on his horse surrounded by a body of troopers. How proud he is, and how he reins up his horse with conscious dignity. Sir, what have you got there? What are those despatches you treasure up with so much care? "Oh, sir, I have that in my hand that will vex the church of God in Damascus. I have dragged the fellows into the synagogue, both men and women; I have scourged them, and compelled them to blaspheme; and I have this commission from the high priest to drag them to Jerusalem, that I may put them to death." Saul! Saul! have you no love for Christ? "Love to him! No. When they stoned Stephen, I took care of the witnesses' clothes, and I rejoiced to do it. I wish I had had the crucifying of their Master, for I hate them with perfect hatred, and I breathe out threatenings and slaughter against them." What do you say of this man? If he be saved, will you not grant that it must be some Divine sovereignty that converts him? Look at poor Pilate, how much there was that was hopeful in him. He was willing to save the Master, but he feared and trembled. If we had had our choice, we should have said, "Lord, save Pilate, he does not want to kill Christ, he labours to let him escape; but slay the bloodthirsty Saul, he is, the very chief of sinners." "No," says God, "I will do as I will with mine own." The heavens open, and the brightness of glory descends brighter than the noon-day sun. Stunned with the light he falls to the ground, and a voice is heard addressing him, "Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks." He rises up; God appears to him: "Lo, I have made thee a chosen vessel to bear my name among the Gentiles." Is not that sovereignty sovereign grace, without any previous seeking? God was found of him that sought not for him; he manifested himself to one that asked him not. Some will say, that was it miracle; but it is one that is repeated every day in the week. I knew a man once, who had not been to the house of God for a long time; and one Sunday morning, having been to market to buy a pair of ducks for his Sunday dinner, he happened to see a house of God opened as he was passing by. "Well," he thought, "I will hear what these fellows are up to." He went inside; the hymn that was being sung struck his attention; he listened to the sermon, forgot his ducks, discovered his own character, went home, and threw himself upon his knees before God, and after a short time it pleased God to give him joy and peace in believing. That man had nothing in him to begin with, nothing that could have led you to imagine he ever would be saved, but simply because God would have it so, he struck the effectual blow of grace, and the man was brought to himself. But we are, each of us who are saved, the very people who are the best illustrations of the matter. To this day, my wonder is, that ever the Lord should have chosen thee. I cannot make it out; and my only answer to the question is, "Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in thy sight."
I have now, I think, stated the doctrine pretty plainly. Let me only say a few words about it. Some people are very much afraid of this truth. They say, "It is true, I dare say, but still you ought not to preach it before a mixed assembly; it is very well for the comfort of God's people, but it is to be very carefully handled, and not to be publicly preached upon." Very well, sir, I leave you to settle that matter with my Master. He gave me this great book to preach from, and I cannot preach from anything else. If he has put anything in it you think is not fit, go and complain to him, and not to me. I am simply his servant, and if his errand that I am to tell is objectionable, I cannot help it. If I send my servant to the door with a message, and he delivers it faithfully, he does not deserve to be scolded. Let me have the blame, not the servant. So I say; blame my Master, and not me, for I do but proclaim his message. "No," says one, "it is not to be preached." But it is to be preached. Every word of God is given by inspiration, and it is profitable for some good end. Does not the Bible say so? Let me tell you, the reason why many of our churches are declining is just because this doctrine has not been preached. Wherever this doctrine has been upheld. it has always been "Down with Popery." The first reformers held this doctrine and preached it. Well said it Church of England divine to some who railed at him, "Look at your own Luther. Do you not consider him to be the teacher of the Church of England? What Calvin and the other reformers taught is to be found in his book upon the freedom of the will." Besides, we can point you to a string of ministers from the beginning even until now. Talk of apostolic succession! The man who preaches the doctrines of grace has an apostolic succession indeed. Can we not trace our pedigree through a whole line of men like Newton, and Whitfield, and Owen, and Bunyan, straight away on till we come to Calvin, Luther, and Zwingle; and then we can go back from them to Savonarola, to Jerome of Prague, to Huss, and then back to Augustine, the mighty preacher of Christianity; and from St. Augustine to Paul is but one step. We need not be ashamed of our pedigree; although Calvinists are now considered to be heterodox, we are and ever must be orthodox. It is the old doctrine. Go and buy any puritanical book, and see if you can find Arminianism in it. Search all the book stalls over, and see if you can find one large folio book of olden times that anything in it but the doctrine of the free grace of God. Let this once be brought to bear upon the minds of men, and away go the doctrines of penance and confession, away goes paying for the pardon of your sin. If grace be free and sovereign in the hand of God, down goes the doctrine of priestcraft, away go buying and selling indulgences and such like things; they are swept to the four winds of heaven, and the efficacy of good works is dashed in pieces like Dagon before the ark of the Lord. "Well," says one, "I like the doctrine; still there are very few that preach it, and those that do are very high." Very likely; but I care little what anybody calls me. It signifies very little what men call you. Suppose they call you a "hyper," that does not make you anything wicked, does it? Suppose they call you an Antinomian, that will not make you one. I must confess, however, that there are some men who preach this doctrine who are doing ten thousand times more harm than good, because they don't preach the next doctrine I am going to proclaim, which is just as true. They have this to be the sail. but they have not the other to be the ballast. They can preach one side but not the other. They can go along with the high doctrine, but they will not preach the whole of the Word. Such men caricature the Word of God. And just let me say here, that it is the custom of a certain body of Ultra-Calvinists, to call those of us who teach that it is the duty of man to repent and believe, "Mongrel Calvinists." If you hear any of them say so, give them my most respectful compliments, and ask them whether they ever read Calvin's works in their lives. Not that I care what Calvin said or did not say; but ask them whether they, ever read his works; and if they say "No," as they must say, for there are forty-eight large voluines, you can tell them, that the man whom they call "a Mongrel Calvinist," though he has not read them all, has read a very good share of them, and knows their spirit; and he knows that he preaches substantially what Calvin preached that every doctrine he preaches may be found in Calvin's Commentaries on some part of Scripture or other. We are TRUE Calvinists, however. Calvin is nobody to us. Jesus Christ and him crucified, and the old fashioned Bible, are our standards. Beloved, let us take God's Word as it stands. If we find high doctrine there, let it be high; if we find low doctrine, let it be low; let us set up no other standard than the Bible affords.
II. Now then for the second point. "There now," says my ultra friend, "he is going to contradict himself." No, my friend, I am not, I am only going to contradict you. The second point is MAN'S RESPONSIBILITY. "But to Israel he saith, All day long I have stretched forth my hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people." Now, these people whom God had cast away had been wooed, had been sought, had been entreated to be saved; but they would not, and inasmuch as they were not saved, it was the effect of their disobedience and their gainsaying. That lies clearly enough in the text. When God sent the prophets to Israel, and stretched forth his hands, what was it for? What did he wish, thein to come to him for? Why, to be saved. "No," says one, "it was for temporal mercies." Not so, my friend; the verse before is concerning spiritual mercies, and so is this one, for they refer to the same thing. Now, was God sincere in his offer? God forgive the man that dares to say he was not. God is undoubtedly sincere in every act he did. He sent his prophets, he entreated the people of Israel to lay hold on spiritual things, but they would not, and though he stretched out his hands all the day long, yet they were "a disobedient and gainsaying people," and would not have his love; and on their head rests their blood.
Now let me notice the wooing of God and of what sort it is. First, it was the most affectionate wooing in the world. Lost sinners who sit under the sound of the gospel are not lost for the want of the most affectionate invitation. God says he stretched out his hands. You know what that means. You have seen the child who is disobedient and will not come to his father. The father puts out his hands, and says, "Come, my child, come; I am ready to forgive you." The tear is in his eye, and his bowels move with compassion, and he says, "Come, come." God says this is what he did "he stretched out his hands." That is what he has done to some of you. You that are not saved to-day are without excuse, for God stretched out his hands to you, and he said, "Come, come." Long have you sat beneath the sound of the ministry, and it has been a faithful one, I trust, and a weeping one. Your minister has not forgotten to pray for your souls in secret or to weep over you when no eye saw him, and he has endeavoured to persuade you as an ambassador from God. God is my witness, I have sometimes stood in this pulpit, and I could not have pleaded harder for my own life than I have pleaded with you. In Christ's name, I have cried, "Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." I have wept over you as the Saviour did, and used his words on his behalf, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how often would I have gathered thy children together as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not." And you know that your conscience has often been touched; you have often been moved; you could not resist it. God was so kind to you; he invited you so affectionately by the Word; he dealt so gently with you by his providence; his hands were stretched out, and you could hear his voice speaking in your ears, "Come unto me, come: come now, let us reason together; though your sins be as scarlet they shall be as wool; though they be red like crimson they shall be whiter than snow." You have heard him cry, "Ho every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters." You have heard him say with all the affection of a father's heart, "Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts, and let him turn unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him, and unto our God, for he will abundantly pardon." Oh! God does plead with men that they would be saved, and this day he says to every one of you, "Repent, and be converted for the remission of your sins. Turn ye unto me. Thus saith the Lord of hosts; consider your ways." And with love divine he woos you as a father woos his child, putting out his hands and crying, "Come unto me, come unto me." "No," says one strong-doctrine man, "God never invites all men to himself; he invites none but certain characters." Stop, sir, that is all you know about it. Did you ever read that parable where it is said, My oxen and my fatlings are killed, and all things are ready; come unto the marriage." And they that were bidden would not come. And did you never read that they all began to make excuse, and that they were punished because they did not accept the invitations. Now, if the invitation is not to be made to anybody, but to the man who will accept it, how can that parable be true? The fact is, the oxen and fatlings are killed; the wedding feast is ready, and the trumpet sounds, "Ho every one that thirsteth, come and eat, come and drink." Here are the provisions spread, here is an all-sufficiency; the invitation is free; it is a great invitation. "Whosoever will, let him come and take of the water of life freely." And that invitation is couched in tender words, "Come to me, my child, come to me." "All day long I have stretched forth my hands."
And note again, this invitation was very frequent. The words, "all the day long," may be translated "daily" "Daily have I stretched forth my hands." Sinner, God has not called you once to come, and then let you alone, but every day has he been at you; every day has conscience spoken to you; every day has providence warned you, and every Sabbath has the Word of God wooed you. Oh! how much some of you will have to account for at God's great bar! I cannot now read your characters, but I know there are some of you who will have a terrible account at last. All the day long has God been wooing you. From the first dawn of your life, he wooed you through your mother, and she used to put your little hands together, and teach you to say,
"Gentle Jesus meek and mild,
Look upon a little child,
Pity my simplicity;
Suffer me to come to thee."
And in your boyhood God was still stretching out his hands after you. How your Sunday-school teacher endeavoured to bring you to the Saviour! How often your youthful heart was affected; but you put all that away, and you are still untouched by it. How often did your mother speak to you, and your father warn you; and you have forgotten the prayer in that bed-room when you were sick, when your mother kissed your burning forehead, knelt down and prayed to God to spare your life, and then added that prayer, "Lord, save my boy's soul!" And you recollect the Bible she gave you, when you first went out apprentice, and the prayer she wrote on that yellow front leaf. When she gave it, you did not perhaps know, but you may now; how earnestly she longed after you, that you might be formed anew in Christ Jesus; how she followed you with her prayers, and how she entreated with her God for you. And you have not yet surely forgotten how many Sabbaths you have spent, and how many times you have been warned. Why you have had waggon-loads of sermons wasted on you. A hundred and four sermons you have heard every year, and some of you more, and yet you are still just what you were.
But sinners, sermon hearing is an awful thing unless it is blessed to our souls. If God has kept on stretching out his hands every day and all the day, it will be a hard thing for you when you shall be justly condemned not only for your breaches of the law, but for your wilful rejection of the gospel. It is probable that God will keep on stretching out his hands to you until your hairs grow grey, still continually inviting you: and perhaps when you are nearing death he will still say, "Come unto me, come unto me." But if you still persist in hardening your heart, if still you reject Christ, I beseech you let nothing make you imagine that you shall go unpunished. Oh! I do tremble sometimes when I think of that class of ministers who tell sinners that they are not guilty if they do not seek the Saviour. How they shall be found innocent at God's great day I do not know. It seems to be a fearful thing that they should be lulling poor souls into sleep by telling them it is not their duty to seek Christ and repent, but that they may do as they like about that, and that when they perish they will be none the more guilty for having heard the Word. My Master did not say that. Remember how he said, "And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I say unto you, That it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee." Jesus did not talk thus when he spoke to Chorazin and Bethsaida; for he said, "Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment, than for you." It was not the way Paul preached. He did not tell sinners that there was no guilt in despising the cross. Hear the apostle's words once more: "For if the word spoken by angels was stedfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompence of reward, how shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him." Sinner, at the great day of God thou must give an account for every warning thou hast ever had, for every time thou hast read thy Bible, ay, and for every time thou hast neglected to read it; for every Sunday when the house of God was open and thou didst neglect to avail thyself of the opportunity of hearing the Word, and for every time thou didst hear it and didst not improve it. Ye who are careless hearers, are tying faggots for your own burning for ever. Ye that hear and straightway forget, or hear with levity, are digging for yourselves a pit into which ye must be cast. Remember, no one will be responsible for your damnation but yourself, at the last great day. God will not be responsible for it. "As I live saith the Lord" and that is a great oath "I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth. but had rather that he should turn unto me and live." God has done much for you. He sent you his Gospel. You are not born in a heathen land; he has given you the Book of Books; he has given you an enlightened conscience; and if you perish under the sound of the ministry, you perish more fearfully and terribly, than if you had perished anywhere else.
This doctrine is as much God's Word as the other. You ask me to reconcile the two. I answer, they do not want any reconcilement; I never tried to reconcile them to myself, because I could never see a discrepancy. If you begin to put fifty or sixty quibbles to me, I cannot give any answer. Both are true; no two truths can be inconsistent with each other; and what you have to do is to believe them both. With the first one, the saint has most to do. Let him praise the free and sovereign grace of God, and bless his name. With the second, the sinner has the most to do. O sinner, humble thyself under the mighty hand of God, when thou thinkest of how often he hath shown his love to thee, by bidding thee come to himself, and yet how often thou hast spurned his Word and refused his mercy, and turned a deaf ear to every invitation, and hast gone thy way to rebel against a God of love, and violate the commands of him that loved thee.
And now, how shall I conclude? My first exhortation shall be to Christian people. My dear friends, I beseech you do not in any way give yourselves lip to any system of faith apart from the Word of God. The Bible, and the Bible alone, is the religion of Protestants; I am the successor of the great and venerated Dr. Gill, whose theology is almost universally received among the stronger Calvinistic churches; but although I venerate his memory, and believe his teachings, yet he is not my Rabbi. What you find in God's Word is for you to believe and to receive. Never be frightened at a doctrine; and above all, never be frightened at a name. Some one said to me the other day, that he thought the truth lay somewhere between the two extremes. He meant right, but I think he was wrong, I do not think the truth lies between the two extremes, but in them both. I believe the higher a man goes the better, when he is preaching the matter of salvation. The reason why a man is saved is grace, grace, grace; and you may go as high as you like there. But when you come to the question as to why men are damned, then the Arminian is far more right than the Antinomian. I care not for any denomination or party, I am as high as Huntingdon upon the matter of salvation, but question me about damnation, and you will get a very different answer. By the grace of God I ask no man's applause, I preach the Bible as I find it. Where we get wrong is where the Calvinist begins to meddle with the question of damnation, and interferes with the justice of God; or when the Arminian denies the doctrine of grace.
My second exhortation is, Sinners, I beseech every one of you who are unconverted and ungodly, this morning to put away every form and fashion of excuse that the devil would have you make concerning your being unconverted. Remember, that all the teaching in the world can never excuse you for being enemies to God by wicked works. When we beseech you to be reconciled to him, it is because we know you will never be in your proper place until you are reconciled. God has made you; can it be right that you should disobey him? God feeds you every day: can it be right that you should still live in disobedience to him? Remember, when the heavens shall be on a blaze, when Christ shall come to judge the earth in righteousness and his people with equity, there will not be one excuse that you can make which will be valid at the last great day. If you should attempt to say, "Lord, I have never heard the word;" his answer would be, "Thou didst hear it; thou heardest it plainly." "But Lord, I had an evil will." "Out of thine own mouth will I condemn thee; thou hadst that evil will, and I condemn thee for it. This is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men love darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil." "But Lord," some will say, "I was not predestinated." "What hadst thou to do with that? Thou didst; do according to thine own will when thou didst rebel. Thou wouldest not come unto me, and now I destroy thee for ever. Thou hast broken my law on thine own head be the guilt." If a sinner could say at the great day, "Lord, I could not be saved anyhow his torment in hell would be mitigated by that thought: but this shall be the very edge of the sword, and the very burning of the fire" Ye knew your duty and ye did it not: ye trampled on everything that was holy; ye neglected the Saviour, and how shall ye escape if ye neglect so great salvation?"
Now, with regard to myself; you may some of you go away and say, that I was Antinomian in the first part of the sermon and Arminian at the end. I care not. I beg of you to search the Bible for yourselves. To the law and to the testimony; if I speak not according to this Word, it is because there is no light in me. I am willing to come to that test. Have nothing to do with me where I have nothing to do with Christ. Where I separate from the truth, cast my words away. But if what I say be God's teaching, I charge you, by him that sent me, give these things your thoughts, and turn unto the Lord with all your hearts.
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Spurgeon, Charle Haddon. "Commentary on Romans 10". "Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11