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Justification by Faith
Published on Thursday, February 5th, 1914.
C. H. SPURGEON,
At the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington.
On Lord's Day Evening, April 28th, 1867.
"Therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ." Romans 5:1 .
WE DESIRE this evening not to preach upon this text as a mere matter of doctrine. You all believe and understand the gospel of justification by faith, but we want to preach upon it tonight as a matter of experience, as a thing realized, felt, enjoyed, and understood in the soul. I trust there are many here who not only know that men may be saved and justified by faith, but who can say in their own experience, "Therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ," and who are now at the present moment walking and living in the actual enjoyment of that peace.
Wishing to speak of the text, then, in this sense, I shall ask you to accompany me, not only with your ears, and with the attention which you usually give so generously, but also with the eye of your self- examination, asking yourselves, as we proceed step by step, "Do I know that? Have I received that? Have I been taught of God in this matter? Have I been led into that truth?" And our hope will be that some person to whom these things have hitherto been merely external, and therefore valueless, may be led by God to get hold of them, so that they may be matters of soul, and heart, and conscience, so that they may enjoy them, and find themselves where once they feared they would never be, namely, in a state of reconciliation with God, happily enjoying peace with the Most High.
Our first few thoughts shall be some plain, earnest talk concerning:
I. A FEW PRELIMINARY DISCOVERIES WHICH A MAN MAKES BEFORE HE GETS PEACE WITH GOD.
These, I do not think, are by any means foreign to the text, or merely imported to it, but belong rightfully to it. You see that Paul, before he came to this justification by faith, had been speaking about sin. It would not have been possible for him to have given an intelligible definition of justification without mentioning that men are sinners, without informing them that they had broken God's holy law, and that the law, by and of itself, could never restore them to the favour of God. Now, some of these things of which I am going to speak are absolutely necessary, if not to my sermon, yet certainly to your spiritually understanding even so much as one jot or tittle of what it is to be justified by faith.
Well, then, what are these things? The first discovery that a man is led by the Spirit of God to make before he is justified is, that it is important to be justified in the sight of God. Many people do not know this. You shall step into a shop this evening, and find a man at the counter, and you say to him, "Well, do you never go to a place of worship?" "No," he would say, "but I am quite as good as those who do." "How so?" "Well, I am a great deal better than some of them." "How is that?" "Well, I never failed in business; I never duped people in a limited liability company; I never told lies; I am no thief; I am not a drunkard; I am as honest as the days are long in the middle of June; and that is more than you can say of some of your religious people." Now, that man has got a hold of one part of a good man's character. There are two parts, but he can only see one, namely, that man is to be just to man. He sees that, but he does not see that man is to be also just to God. And yet if that man were really to think a little while, he would see that the highest obligations of a creature must be, not to his fellow-creatures, but to his Creator, and that, however just a man may be to another man, yet if he be altogether unjust to God, he cannot escape without the severest penalty. But oh! the most of men think that so long as they keep the laws of the land, so long as they give to their fellow-men their due, it matters not though God's day should be a subject of scorn, God's will be used as men will, and God's law trodden under their feet. Now, I think that everyone here who will but put his fingers to his brow for a moment and think, that he will see that, even though a man may go before the bar of his country, and say before any judge or jury, "I have in nothing injured my fellow-man; I am just before men," yet it does not make the man's character perfect. Unless he is also able to say, "And I am also just before the presence of the God who made me, and whose servant I am," he has only kept one half, and that the less important, of God's law for him.
It cannot help being, it must be, important to the highest degree that you and I should stand on good terms with the great God unto whom we shall so soon return in the great day when he shall say, "Return ye children of men." We must then render up our souls to him who created us. Well, you can surely go as far as that with me that it is necessary. You do feel, do you not, a desire in your heart to be just before your Maker? I am thankful that you can go so far.
The next thing is this. A man, when the Spirit of God is bringing him to Christ, discovers that his past life has been marred badly, by serious offences against the law of God. Before the Spirit of God comes into our soul, we are like being in a room in the dark: we cannot see in it. We cannot discover the cobwebs, the spiders, the foul and loathsome things that may be lurking there. But when the Spirit of God comes streaming into the soul, the man is astonished to find that he is what he is, and especially if he sits down and opens the book of the law, and, in the light of the divine Spirit, reads that perfect law, and compares with it his own imperfect heart and life. He will then grow sick of himself, even to loathing and, sometimes, despair. Take but one command. Perhaps there are some here who will say, "I know I have been very chaste all my life, for the command saith, 'Thou shalt not commit adultery,' and I have never broken it; I am clean there." Ay, but now hear Christ explain the command, "He that looketh upon a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart." Now, then, who amongst us can say that we have not done that? Who is there upon earth, if that be the meaning of the command, who can say, "I am innocent?" If the law of God, as we are told by Scripture, has to deal, not with our outward actions alone, but with our words, and with our thoughts, and with our imaginations if it is so exceeding broad that it applies to the most secret part of a man, then who of us can plead guiltless before the throne? No, dear brethren, this must be understood by you, and by me, before we can be justified, that we are full of sin. What if I say that we are as full of sin as an egg is full of meat? We are all sin. The imagination and the thought of our heart is evil, and only evil, and that continually. If some of you plume yourselves with the notion that you are righteous, I pray God to pluck those fine feathers off you and make you see yourselves, for if you never see your own nothingness, you will never understand Christ's all-sufficiency. Unless you are pulled down, Christ will never lift you up. Unless you know yourselves to be lost, you will never care for that Saviour who came "to seek and to save the lost." That is a second discovery, then; that it is important to be just before God, but that on account of the spirituality of God's moral law, and our consequent inability to keep it perfectly, we are very far from standing in that position.
Then there comes another discovery, namely, that consequently it is utterly impossible for us to hope that we ever can be just before God, on the footing of our own doing. We must give it up now, as an utterly lost case. The past is past: that can never be by us blotted out, and the present, inasmuch as we are weak through the flesh, is not much better than the past; and the future, notwithstanding all our fond hopes of improvement, will probably be none the better, and so salvation by the works of the law becomes to us a dreary impossibility. The law said, "Cursed is everyone that continueth not in all things written in the book of the law to do them." I was conversing on one occasion with one of our most illustrious Jewish noblemen, and when I put to him the question he believed himself to be perfectly righteous, and I believe if any man could be so by his moral conduct, he might have fairly laid claim to it; but when I said to him, "Now, there is your own law for it, 'Cursed is everyone that continueth not in all things written in the book of the law to do them': have you continued in all things?" he said, "I have not." "Then," I said, "the curse is upon you: how do you hope to escape from it?" and I found that to be a question for which he, at any rate, had no answer; and it is a question which, when properly understood, no man can answer, except by pointing to the cross of Christ and saying, "He was made a curse for us that we might be made a blessing." Unless you and I keep the law of God perfectly, it matters little how near we get to perfection. It is as though God had committed to our trust a perfect crystal vase, and had said, "If you keep that whole, and present it to me, you shall have a reward." But we have cracked it, chipped it; ah! my brethren, the most of us have broken it and smashed it to pieces. But we will suppose that we have only cracked it a little. Yes, but even then we have lost the reward, for the condition was that it should be perfectly whole, and the slightest chip is a violation of the condition upon which the reward would have been given. Never you say that you will not break it farther. Nay, but you have broken it. You have thrown yourselves now out of the list. It sometimes seems hard when you tell people that if they have violated the law in one point, they have broken the whole of it; but it is not so hard as it looks to be, for if I tell a man who is going down a coal- mine on a long chain that, if he shall break one link of the chain, it does not matter, though all the other hundreds or thousands of links may be sound; if there is only one link that is broken, down will descend the basket, and the poor miner be dashed to pieces. Nobody thinks that hard. Everybody recognizes that as being a matter of mechanical law, that the strength of a chain must be measured by its weakest part. And so the strength of our obedience must be gauged by the very point in which it fails. Alas! our obedience has failed, and, through it, no one of us can ever be just before God.
Now, I want to stop a minute, and put the question round the galleries, and below stairs. Have you all got as far as that? It is important to be just before God: we see that we are not so: do we see that we cannot be so? Are we quite convinced that by our own obedience to the law of God, it is hopeless for us to think of standing accepted before the Most High? I pray the Eternal Spirit to convince you all of this, or you will keep on knocking at the door until you are quite sure that God has nailed it up for ever, and you will go scrambling over that Alp, and tumbling down this precipice, until you are convinced that it is impossible for you to climb it, and then you will give up your desperate endeavour and come to God in God's way, which is quite another way from your own. I trust that we are all convinced of this.
Let us notice one more preliminary discovery. A man, having found out all this, suddenly discovers that, inasmuch as he is not just before God, and cannot be, he is at the present moment under condemnation. God is never indifferent towards sin. If, therefore, a man be not in a state in which God can justify him, he is in a state in which God must condemn him. If you are not just before God, you are condemned at this very moment. You are not executed, it is true, but the condemnation has gone forth against you, and the sign that it is so is your unbelief, for "He that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed on the Son of God." How some of you would spring up from your seats tonight if all on a sudden you got the information that you had been condemned by the courts of your country; but when I say that you have been condemned by the Court of Heaven, this glides across your conscience like drops of water or oil over a marble slab. And yet, my hearers, if thou didst but know the meaning of what I am saying and I pray God the Holy Ghost to make thee know it it would make thy very bones to quiver! God has condemned thee. Thou art out of Christ. Thou hast broken his law. God has lifted his hand to smite thee, and, though his mercy tarries for awhile, yet days and hours will soon be gone, and then the condemnation shall take the shape of execution, and where will thy soul be then? Now, you must have the sentence of condemnation passed in your own soul, or else you will never be justified, for until we are condemned by ourselves we are not acquitted by God. Again, I pause and say, Dost thou feel this, my dear hearer? If thou dost, instead of despairing, be hopeful. If thou hast the sentence of death within thee, be thankful for it, for now shall life be given thee from the hand of God's grace.
Having occupied, perhaps, too much time over that, we now come more immediately into the text to:
II. SHOW THE GOSPEL LEARNING WHICH IS TAUGHT TO US BY THE SPIRIT OF GOD.
That gospel learning I may give you in a few sentences, namely, these: that, inasmuch as through man's sin, the way of obedience is for ever closed, so that we none of us can ever pass by it to a true righteousness, God has now determined to deal with men in a way of mercy, to forgive them all their offences, to bestow upon them his love, to receive them graciously, and to love them freely. He has been pleased, in his infinite wisdom, to devise a way by which without injury to his justice, he can yet receive the most undeserving sons of men into his heart, and make them his children, and can bless them with all the blessings which would have been theirs had they perfectly kept God's law, but which now shall come to them as a matter of gift and undeserved grace from himself.
I trust we have learned that; that there is a plan of salvation by grace, and by grace alone; and it is a great thing to know that where grace is, there are no works.
It is a blessed thing never to muddle in your head the doctrine of working, and the doctrine of receiving by grace, for there is an essential and eternal difference between the two. I hope you all know that there can be no mixing of the two. If we are saved by grace, it cannot be by our own merits, but if we depend upon our own merits, then we cannot appeal to the grace of God, since the two things can never be mingled together. It must be all works or else all grace. Now, God's plan of salvation excludes all our works. "Not of works, lest any man should boast." It comes to us upon the footing of grace, pure grace alone. And this is God's plan, namely, that, inasmuch as we cannot be saved by our own obedience, we should be saved by Christ's obedience. Jesus, the Son of God, has appeared in the flesh, has lived a life of obedience to God's law, and in consequence of that obedience, being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross, and our Saviour's life and death make up a complete keeping and honouring of that law which we have broken and dishonoured, and God's plan is this: "I cannot bless you for your own sakes, but I will bless you for his sake; and now, looking at you through him, I can bless you though you deserve it not; I can pass by your undeserving; I can blot out your sins like a cloud, and cast your iniquities into the depths of the sea through what he has done; you have no merits, but he has boundless merits; you are full of sin and must be punished, but he has been punished instead of you, and now I can deal with you." This is the language of God, put into human words, "I can deal with you upon terms of mercy through the merits of my dear Son." This is the way in which the gospel comes to you, then. If you believe in Jesus, that is to say, if you trust him, all the merits of Jesus are your merits, are imputed to you: all the sufferings of Jesus are your sufferings. Everyone of his merits is imputed to you. You stand before God as if you were Christ, because Christ stood before God as if he were you he in your stead, you in his stead. Substitution! that is the word! Christ the Substitute for sinners: Christ standing for men, and bearing the thunderbolts of the divine opposition to all sin, he "being made sin for us who knew no sin." Man standing in Christ's place, and receiving the sunlight of divine favour, instead of Christ.
And this, I say, is through trusting, or believing. God's way of your getting connection with Christ is through your reliance upon him. "Therefore, being justified" how? Not by works; that is not the link, but "being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." Christ offers to God the substitution: through faith we accept it: and from that moment God accepts us.
Now, I want to come to this, dear friends. Do you know this? Have you been taught this by the Spirit of God? Perhaps you learned it in the Assembly's Catechism when you were but children: you have learned it in the various classes since then, but do you know it in your own soul, and do you know that God's way of salvation is through a simple dependence upon his dear Son? Do you so know it that you have accepted it, and that you are now resting upon Jesus? If so, then thrice happy are you!
But, going further, I have now to dwell for a minute or two upon:
III. THE GLORIOUS PRIVILEGE OF THE TEXT.
We have led you, and I hope the Spirit of God has led you, too, through the preliminary discoveries, and through the great discovery that God can save us through the merits of another, and now let us notice this glorious privilege word by word.
"Being justified." The text tells us that every believing man is at the present moment perfectly justified before God. You know what Adam was in naked innocence in Paradise. Such is every believer. Ay, and more than that. Adam could talk with God because he was pure from sin, and we also have access with boldness unto God our Father because, through Jesus' blood, we are clean. Now, I do not say that this is the privilege of a few eminent saints, but here I look around these pews and see my brethren and sisters scores and hundreds of them all of whom are tonight just before God perfectly so; completely so; so just that they never can be otherwise than just; so just that even in heaven they will be no more acceptable to God than they are here tonight. That is the state into which faith brings a poor, lost, guilty, helpless, good-for- nothing sinner. The man may have been everything that was bad before he believed in Jesus, but as soon as he trusted Christ, the merits of Christ became his merits, and he stands before God as though he were perfect, "without spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing," through the righteousness of Christ.
Note, however, as we have noticed the state of justification, the means whereby we reach it. "Being justified by faith." The way of reaching this state of justification is not by tears, nor prayers, nor humblings, nor working, nor Bible-reading, nor church-going, nor chapel-going, nor sacraments, nor priestly absolution, but by faith, which faith is a simple and utter dependence and believing in the faithfulness of God, a dependence upon the promise of God, because it is God's promise, and is worthy of dependence. It is a reliance with all our might upon what God has said. This is faith, and every man who possesses this faith is perfectly justified tonight.
I know what the devil will say to you. He will say to you, "You are a sinner!" Tell him you know you are, but that for all that you are justified. He will tell you of the greatness of your sin. Tell him of the greatness of Christ's righteousness. He will tell you of all your mishaps and your backslidings, of your offences and your wanderings. Tell him, and tell your own conscience, that you know all that, but that Jesus Christ came to save sinners, and that, although your sin be great, Christ is quite able to put it all away. Some of you, it seems to me, do not trust in Christ as sinners. You get a mingle-mangle kind of faith. You trust in Christ as though you thought Christ could do something for you, and you could do the rest. I tell you that while you look to yourselves, you do not know what faith means. You must be convinced that there is nothing good in yourselves; you must know that you are sinners, and that in your hearts you are as big and as black sinners as the very worst and vilest, and you must come to Jesus, and leave your fancied righteousnesses, and your pretended goodnesses behind you, and you must take him for everything, and trust in him. Oh! to feel your sin, and yet to know your righteousness to have the two together repentance on account of sin, and yet a glorious confidence in the all-atoning sacrifice! Oh! if you could understand that saying of the spouse, "I am black, but comely" for that is where we must come black in myself, as black as hell, and yet comely, fair, lovely, inexpressibly glorious through the righteousness of Jesus.
My dear brethren and sisters, can you feel this? If you cannot feel it, do you believe it? And do you sing in the words of Joseph Hart?:
"In thy surety thou art free,
His dear hands were pierced for thee;
With thy Saviour's vesture on,
Holy as the holy one."
For so it is: you stand before God as accepted as Christ is accepted: and notwithstanding the inbred sin and corruption of your heart, you are as dear to God as Christ is dear, and as accepted in the righteousness of Christ as Christ is accepted in his own obedience.
Have we got so far? That is the point on which I want to enquire this evening. Have you got as far as to know at this moment that it is through faith we are justified? If so, I shall conduct you just one step farther, namely, to observe and this is coming back, whilst it is also going forward that "we are justified by faith through our Lord Jesus Christ." There is the foundation: there is the mainspring. There is the tree that bears the fruit. We are justified by faith, but not by faith of itself. Faith in itself is a precious grace, but it cannot in itself justify us. It is "through our Lord Jesus Christ." Simple as the observation is, I must venture to repeat it tonight, because it is hard for us to keep it in mind. But remember that faith is not the work of the Spirit within, but the work of Christ upon the tree. That upon which I must rest as my meritorious hope is not the blessed fact that I am now an heir of heaven, but the still more blessed fact that the Son of God loved me, and gave himself for me. My dear brethren, when all is fair weather within, there is such a temptation to say, "Well, now, it is all right with me, for I fee this, and I feel that." Very good these evidences are in their places, but evidences, you get equally clear evidences that you are not perfect; when you have to say, "Oh! wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" you will find that, instead of your beautiful evidences, you will have to fly to the cross. There was a time when I, too, could take a great deal of comfort in what I believe is the Spirit of God's work in my soul I do thank God for it, and bless him for it now but I trust I have learned to walk where poor Jack the huckster walked:
"I'm a poor sinner, and nothing at all;
But Jesus Christ is my all in all."
Brethren, it is down on the ground that we must live. We must build upon the rock itself. On the top of some mountains men sometimes build heaps of timber, so as to get a little higher. Well, now, some of these ricketty platforms, you know, get shaky, but when you get right down on the mountain itself, that never shakes, and you are perfectly secure there. So sometimes we get building up our ricketty platforms of our experience and our good works all very well in their way, but then they shake in the storm. Depend upon it, that the soul that clings to the rock, notwithstanding all that the Holy Spirit has done for it, and having nothing then to depend upon, more than the poor dying robber had when, without a single good work, he had to hang on the dying Christ alone oh! believe me, that soul is in the safest place to live in, Jesus, for a poor sinner when he is torn from his cups and his sins, and none but Jesus for the aged saint when he stays himself upon his bed to bear his last testimony:
"Nothing in my hands I bring:
Simply to thy cross I cling."
"Therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ."
And now, to crown all, there is here the precious, precious privilege which such men enjoy "we have peace with God." I know that this may seem a trifle to thoughtless people, but not to those who think. I cannot say that I sympathize with those people who shut their eyes to the beauties of nature. I have heard of good men travelling through fine scenery, and shutting their eyes for fear they should see. I always open mine as wide as ever I can, because I think I can see God in all the works of his hands, and what God has taken the trouble to make I think I ought to take the trouble to look at. Surely there must be something to see in a man's works if he be a wise man; and there must be something worth seeing in the works of God, who is all-wise. Now, it is a delightful thing to say, when you look upon a landscape, lit up with sunlight and shaded with cloud, "Well, my Father made all this; I never saw him, but I do delight in the work of his hands; he made all this, and I am perfectly at peace with him." Then as you are standing there, a storm comes on. Big drops begin to fall. There is thunder in the distance. It begins to peal louder and louder. Presently there comes a lightning's flash. Now, those who are not at peace with God may go and flee away, but those who are perfectly at peace with him may stand there and say, "Well, it is my Father who is doing all this; that is his voice; the voice of the Lord, which is full of majesty." I love to hear my Father's voice. I never am so happy as in a tremendous storm, and when the lightning flash comes, I think Well, it is only the flashing of my Father's eye: now, God is abroad: he seemed as if he had left the world before, but now he comes riding on the wings of the wind; let me go and meet him. I am not afraid! Suppose you are out at sea in a storm. You are justified by faith, and you say, "Well, let the waves roar; let them clap their hands: my Father holds the waters in the hollow of his hand, why should I be afraid?" Let me say to you that it is worth something to believe that God can put us in a calm state of mind when "earth is all in arms abroad." It is just so with the believer when temporal troubles come. There comes crash after crash until it seems as though every house of business would come down. Nothing is certain. Man has lost confidence and reliance in his fellow-man. Everything is going to the bad. But the Christian says, "God is at the helm; the whole business of business is managed by the great King: let the sons of earth do as they will, but:
"He everywhere hath sway,
And all things serve his might."
It is something to feel that my Father cannot do me a bad turn. Even if he should use his rod upon me, it will do me good, and I will thank him for it, for I am at perfect peace with him.
And then to come to die, and to feel, "I am going to God, and I am glad to go, for I am not going like a prisoner to a judge, but like a wife espoused goes to her husband, like a child home from school to the parents' arms. Oh! it is something to die with a sense of peace with God! Surely every thoughtful man will feel that. Now, if you trust Christ, you shall be justified by faith. Being justified, your heart shall feel that perfect peace is brought into it, so that you shall meet your Father's will with perfect equanimity, let it be what it may. Come life, come death, it shall not matter to you, for all is right between God and your souls.
Oh! I wish it were so with all present! It may be so if God the Spirit bring you to rest in Jesus. Nay, it shall be so, my dear friend; it shall be so with you tonight; though you never thought it would be when you came in here, yet you see it all now. It is simply believing, simply trusting. Oh! believe him! Trust him, and it shall be the joy of your soul to have a peace with God which, as the world did not give you, so the world shall never take away, but you shall have it for ever and ever. God grant it to each one of us! Amen.
'For Whom Did Christ Die?' and 'The Old, Old Story'
For Whom Did Christ Die?
Delivered on Lord's-Day Morning, September 6th, 1874, by
C. H. SPURGEON,
At the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington
"Christ died for the ungodly." Romans 5:6 .
In this verse the human race is described as a sick man, whose disease is so far advanced that he is altogether without strength: no power remains in his system to throw off his mortal malady, nor does he desire to do so; he could not save himself from his disease if he would, and would not if he could. I have no doubt that the apostle had in his eye the description of the helpless infant given by the prophet Ezekiel; it was an infant an infant newly born an infant deserted by its mother before the necessary offices of tenderness had been performed; left unwashed, unclothed, unfed, a prey to certain death under the most painful circumstances, forlorn, abandoned, hopeless. Our race is like the nation of Israel, its whole head is sick, and its whole heart faint. Such, unconverted men, are you! Only there is this darker shade in your picture, that your condition is not only your calamity, but your fault. In other diseases men are grieved at their sickness, but this is the worst feature in your case, that you love the evil which is destroying you. In addition to the pity which your case demands, no little blame must be measured out to you: you are without will for that which is good, your "cannot" means "will not," your inability is not physical but moral, not that of the blind who cannot see for want of eyes, but of the willingly ignorant who refuse to look.
While man is in this condition Jesus interposes for his salvation. "When we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly"; "while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us," according to "his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses and sins." The pith of my sermon will be an endeavour to declare that the reason of Christ's dying for us did not lie in our excellence; but where sin abounded grace did much more abound, for the persons for whom Jesus died were viewed by him as the reverse of good, and he came into the world to save those who are guilty before God, or, in the words of our text, "Christ died for the ungodly."
Now to our business. We shall dwell first upon the fact "Christ died for the ungodly"; then we shall consider the fair inferences therefrom; and, thirdly, proceed to think and speak of the proclamation of this simple but wondrous truth.
First, here is THE FACT "Christ died for the ungodly." Never did the human ear listen to a more astounding and yet cheering truth. Angels desire to look into it, and if men were wise they would ponder it night and day. Jesus, the Son of God, himself God over all, the infinitely glorious One, Creator of heaven and earth, out of love to me stooped to become a man and die. Christ, the thrice holy God, the pure-hearted man, in whom there was no sin and could be none, espoused the cause of the wicked. Jesus, whose doctrine makes deadly war on sin, whose Spirit is the destroyer of evil, whose whole self abhors iniquity, whose second advent will prove his indignation against transgression, yet undertook the cause of the impious, and even unto death pursued their salvation. The Christ of God, though he had no part or lot in the fall and the sin which has arisen out of it, has died to redeem us from its penalty, and, like the psalmist, he can cry, "Then I restored that which I took not away." Let all holy beings judge whether this is not the miracle of miracles!
Christ, the name given to our Lord, is an expressive word; it means "Anointed One," and indicates that he was sent upon a divine errand, commissioned by supreme authority. The Lord Jehovah said of old, "I have laid help upon one that is mighty, I have exalted one chosen out of the people"; and again, "I have given him as a covenant to the people, a leader and commander to the people." Jesus was both set apart to this work, and qualified for it by the anointing of the Holy Ghost. He is no unauthorised saviour, no amateur deliverer, but an ambassador clothed with unbounded power from the great King, a Redeemer with full credentials from the Father. It is this ordained and appointed Saviour who has "died for the ungodly." Remember this, ye ungodly! Consider well who it was that came to lay down his life for such as you are.
The text says Christ died. He did a great deal besides dying, but the crowning act of his career of love for the ungodly, and that which rendered all the rest available to them, was his death for them. He actually gave up the ghost, not in fiction, but in fact. He laid down his life for us, breathing out his soul, even as other men do when they expire. That it might be indisputably clear that he was really dead, his heart was pierced with the soldier's spear, and forthwith came there out blood and water. The Roman governor would not have allowed the body to be removed from the cross had he not been duly certified that Jesus was indeed dead. His relatives and friends who wrapped him in linen and laid him in Joseph's tomb, were sorrowfully sure that all that lay before them was a corpse. The Christ really died, and in saying that, we mean that he suffered all the pangs incident to death; only he endured much more and worse, for his was a death of peculiar pain and shame, and was not only attended by the forsaking of man, but by the departure of his God. That cry, "My God, my God! why hast thou forsaken me?" was the innermost blackness of the thick darkness of death.
Our Lord's death was penal, inflicted upon him by divine justice; and rightly so, for on him lay our iniquities, and therefore on him must lay the suffering. "It pleased the Father to bruise him; he hath put him to grief." He died under circumstances which made his death most terrible. Condemned to a felon's gibbet, he was crucified amid a mob of jesters, with few sympathising eyes to gaze upon him; he bore the gaze of malice and the glance of scorn; he was hooted and jeered by a ribald throng, who were cruelly inventive in their taunts and blasphemies. There he hung, bleeding from many wounds, exposed to the sun, burning with fever, and devoured with thirst, under every circumstance of contumely, pain, and utter wretchedness; his death was of all deaths the most deadly death, and emphatically "Christ died."
But the pith of the text comes here, that "Christ died for the ungodly"; not for the righteous, not for the reverent and devout, but for the ungodly. Look at the original word, and you will find that it has the meaning of "impious, irreligious, and wicked." Our translation is by no means too strong, but scarcely expressive enough. To be ungodly, or godless, is to be in a dreadful state, but as use has softened the expression, perhaps you will see the sense more clearly if I read it, "Christ died for the impious," for those who have no reverence for God. Christ died for the godless, who, having cast off God, cast off with him all love for that which is right. I do not know a word that could more fitly describe the most irreligious of mankind than the original word in this place, and I believe it is used on purpose by the Spirit of God to convey to us the truth, which we are always slow to receive, that Christ did not die because men were good, or would be good, but died for them as ungodly or, in other words, "he came to seek and to save that which was lost."
Observe, then, that when the Son of God determined to die for men, he viewed them as ungodly, and far from God by wicked works. In casting his eye over our race he did not say, "Here and there I see spirits of nobler mould, pure, truthful, truth-seeking, brave, disinterested, and just; and therefore, because of these choice ones, I will die for this fallen race." No; but looking on them all, he whose judgment is infallible returned this verdict, "They are all gone out of the way; they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one." Putting them down at that estimate, and nothing better, Christ died for them. He did not please himself with some rosy dream of a superior race yet to come, when the age of iron should give place to the age of gold, some halcyon period of human development, in which civilisation would banish crime, and wisdom would conduct man back to God. Full well he knew that, left to itself, the world would grow worse and worse, and that by its very wisdom it would darken its own eyes. It was not because a golden age would come by natural progress, but just because such a thing was impossible, unless he died to procure it, that Jesus died for a race which, apart from him, could only develop into deeper damnation. Jesus viewed us as we really were, not as our pride fancies us to be; he saw us to be without God, enemies of our own Creator, dead in trespasses and sins, corrupt, and set on mischief, and even in our occasional cry for good, searching for it with blinded judgment and prejudiced heart, so that we put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter. He saw that in us was no good thing, but every possible evil, so that we were lost, utterly, helplessly, hopelessly lost apart from him: yet viewing us as in that graceless and Godless plight and condition, he died for us.
I would have you remember that the view under which Jesus beheld us was not only the true one, but, for us, the kindly one; because had it been written that Christ died for the better sort, then each troubled spirit would have inferred "he died not for me." Had the merit of his death been the perquisite of honesty, where would have been the dying thief? If of chastity, where the woman that loved much? If of courageous fidelity, how would it have fared with the apostles, for they all forsook him and fled? There are times when the bravest man trembles lest he should be found a coward, the most disinterested frets about the selfishness of his heart, and the most pure is staggered by his own impurity; where, then, would have been hope for one of us, if the gospel had been only another form of law, and the benefits of the cross had been reserved as the rewards of virtue? The gospel does not come to us as a premium for virtue, but it presents us with forgiveness for sin. It is not a reward for health, but a medicine for sickness. Therefore, to meet all cases, it puts us down at our worst, and, like the good Samaritan with the wounded traveller, it comes to us where we are. "Christ died for the impious" is a great net which takes in even the leviathan sinner; and of all the creeping sinners innumerable which swarm the sea of sin, there is not one kind which this great net does not encompass.
Let us note well that in this condition lay the need of our race that Christ should die. I do not see how it could have been written "Christ died for the good." To what end for the good? Why need they his death? If men are perfect, does God need to be reconciled to them? Was he ever opposed to holy beings? Impossible! On the other hand, were the good ever the enemies of God? If such there be are they not of necessity his friends? If man be by nature just with God, to what end should the Saviour die? "The just for the unjust" I can understand; but the "just dying for the just" were a double injustice an injustice that the just should be punished at all, and another injustice that the just should be punished for them. Oh no! If Christ died, it must be because there was a penalty to be paid for sin committed, hence he must have died for those who had committed the sin. If Christ died, it must have been because "a fountain filled with blood" was necessary for the cleansing away of heinous stains; hence, it must have been for those who are defiled. Suppose there should be found anywhere in this world an unfallen man perfectly innocent of all actual sin, and free from any tendency to it, there would be a superfluity of cruelty in the crucifixion of the innocent Christ for such an individual. What need has he that Christ should die for him, when he has in his own innocence the right to live? If there be found beneath the copes of heaven an individual who, notwithstanding some former slips and flaws, can yet, by future diligence, completely justify himself before God, then it is clear that there is no need for Christ to die for him. I would not insult him by telling him that Christ died for him, for he would reply to me, "Why should he? Cannot I make myself just without him?" In the very nature of things it must be so, that if Christ Jesus dies he must die for the ungodly. Such agonies as his would not have been endured had there not been a cause, and what cause could there have been but sin?
Some have said that Jesus died as our example; but that is not altogether true. Christ's death is not absolutely an example for men, it was a march into a region of which he said, "Ye cannot follow me now." His life was our example, but not his death in all respects, for we are by no means bound to surrender ourselves voluntarily to our enemies as he did, but when persecuted in one city we are bidden to flee to another. To be willing to die for the truth is a most Christly thing, and in that Jesus is our example; but into the winepress which he trod it is not ours to enter, the voluntary element which was peculiar to his death renders it inimitable. He said, "I lay down my life of myself; no man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself." One word of his would have delivered him from his foes; he had but to say "Begone!" and the Roman guards must have fled like chaff before the wind. He died because he willed to do so; of his own accord he yielded up his spirit to the Father. It must have been as an atonement for the guilty; it could not have been as an example, for no man is bound voluntarily to die. Both the dictates of nature, and the command of the law, require us to preserve our lives. "Thou shalt not kill" means "Thou shalt not voluntarily give up thine own life any more than take the life of another." Jesus stood in a special position, and therefore he died; but his example would have been complete enough without his death, had it not been for the peculiar office which he had undertaken. We may fairly conclude that Christ died for men who needed such a death; and, as the good did not need it for an example and in fact it is not an example to them he must have died for the ungodly.
The sum of our text is this all the benefits resulting from the Redeemer's passion, and from all the works that followed upon it, are for those who by nature are ungodly. His gospel is that sinners believing in him are saved. His sacrifice has put away sin from all who trust him, and, therefore, it was offered for those who had sin upon them before. "He rose again for our justification," but certainly not for the justification of those who can be justified by their own works. He ascended on high, and we are told that he "received gifts for men, yea, for the rebellious also." He lives to intercede, and Isaiah tells us that "He made intercession for the transgressors." The aim of his death, resurrection, ascension, and eternal life, is towards the sinful sons of men. His death has brought pardon, but it cannot be pardon for those who have no sin pardon is only for the guilty. He is exalted on high "to give repentance," but surely not to give repentance to those who have never sinned, and have nothing to repent of. Repentance and remission both imply previous guilt in those who receive them: unless, then, these gifts of the exalted Saviour are mere shams and superfluities, they must be meant for the really guilty. From his side there flowed out water as well as blood the water is intended to cleanse polluted nature, then certainly not the nature of the sinless, but the nature of the impure; and so both blood and water flowed for sinners who need the double purification. To-day the Holy Spirit regenerates men as the result of the Redeemer's death; and who can be regenerated but those who need a new heart and a right spirit? To regenerate the already pure and innocent were ridiculous; regeneration is a work which creates life where there was formerly death, gives a heart of flesh to those whose hearts were originally stone, and implants the love of holiness where sin once had sole dominion. Conversion is also another gift, which comes through his death, but does he turn those whose faces are already in the right direction? It cannot be. He converts the sinner from the error of his ways, he turns the disobedient into the right way, he leads back the stray sheep to the fold. Adoption is another gift which comes to us by the cross. Does the Lord adopt those who are already his sons by nature? If children already, what room is there for adoption? No; but the grand act of divine love is that which takes those who are "children of wrath even as others," and by sovereign grace puts them among the children, and makes them "heirs of God, joint heirs with Jesus Christ."
To-day I see the Good Shepherd in all the energy of his mighty love, going forth into the dreadful wilderness. For whom is he gone forth? For the ninety and nine who feed at home? No, but into the desert his love sends him, over hill and dale, to seek the one lost sheep which has gone astray. Behold, I see him arousing his church, like a good housewife, to cleanse her house. With the besom of the law she sweeps, and with the candle of the word she searches, and what for? For those bright new coined pieces fresh from the mint, which glitter safely in her purse? Assuredly not, but for that lost piece which has rolled away into the dust, and lies hidden in the dark corner. And lo! grandest of all visions! I see the Eternal Father, himself, in the infinity of his love, going forth in haste to meet a returning child. And whom does he go to meet? The elder brother returning from the field, bringing his sheaves with him? An Esau, who has brought him savoury meat such as his soul loveth? A Joseph whose godly life has made him lord over all Egypt? Nay, the Father leaves his home to meet a returning prodigal, who has companied with harlots, and grovelled among swine, who comes back to him in disgraceful rags, and disgusting filthiness! It is on a sinner's neck that the Father weeps; it is on a guilty cheek that he sets his kisses; it is for an unworthy one that the fatted calf is killed, and the best robe is worn, and the house is made merry with music and with dancing. Yes, tell it, and let it ring round earth and heaven, Christ died for the ungodly. Mercy seeks the guilty, grace has to do with the impious, the irreligious and the wicked. The physician has not come to heal the healthy, but to heal the sick. The great philanthropist has not come to bless the rich and the great, but the captive and the prisoner. He puts down the mighty from their seats, for he is a stern leveller, but he has come to lift the beggar from the dunghill, and to set him among princes, even the princes of his people. Sing ye, then, with the holy Virgin, and let your song be loud and sweet, "He hath filled the hungry with good things, but the rich he hath sent empty away." "This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners." "He is able to save to the uttermost them that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them." O ye guilty ones, believe in him and live.
II. Let us now consider THE PLAIN INFERENCES FROM THIS FACT. Let me have your hearts as well as your ears, especially those of you who are not yet saved, for I desire you to be blessed by the truths uttered; and oh, may the Spirit of God cause it to be so. It is clear that those of you who are ungodly and if you are unconverted you are that are in great danger. Jesus would not interpose his life and bear the bloody sweat and crown of thorns, and nails, and spear, and scorn unmitigated, and death itself, if there were not solemn need and imminent peril. There is danger, solemn danger, for you. You are under the wrath of God already, and you will soon die, and then, as surely as you live, you will be lost, and lost forever; as certain as the righteous will enter into everlasting life, you will be driven into everlasting punishment. The cross is the danger signal to you, it warns you that if God spared not his only Son, he will not spare you. It is the lighthouse set on the rocks of sin to warn you that swift and sure destruction awaits you if you continue to rebel against the Lord. Hell is an awful place, or Jesus had not needed to suffer such infinite agonies to save us from it.
It is also fairly to be inferred that out of this danger only Christ can deliver the ungodly, and he only through his death. If a less price than that of the life of the Son of God could have redeemed men, he would have been spared. When a country is at war, and you see a mother give up her only boy to fight her country's battles her only well-beloved, blameless son you know that the battle must be raging very fiercely, and that the country is in stern danger: for, if she could find a substitute for him, though she gave all her wealth, she would lavish it freely to spare her darling. If she were certain that in his heart a bullet would find its target, she must have strong love for her country, and her country must be in dire necessity ere she would bid him go. If, then, "God spared not his Son, but freely delivered him up for us all," there must have been a dread necessity for it. It must have stood thus: die he, or the sinner must, or justice must; and since justice could not, and the Father desired that the sinner should not, then Christ must; and so he did. Oh, miracle of love! I tell you, sinners, you cannot help yourselves, nor can all the priests of Rome or Oxford help you, let them perform their antics as they may; Jesus alone can save, and that only by his death. There on the bloody tree hangs all man's hope; if you enter heaven it must be by force of the incarnate God's bleeding out his life for you. You are in such peril that only the pierced hand can lift you out of it. Look to him, at once, I pray you, ere the proud waters go over your soul.
Then let it be noticed and this is the point I want constantly to keep before your view that Jesus died out of pure pity. He must have died out of the most gratuitous benevolence to the undeserving, because the character of those for whom he died could not have attracted him, but must have been repulsive to his holy soul. The impious, the godless can Christ love these for their character? No, he loved them notwithstanding their offences, loved them as creatures fallen and miserable, loved them according to the multitude of his loving-kindnesses and tender mercies, from pity, and not from admiration. Viewing them as ungodly, yet he loved them. This is extraordinary love! I do not wonder that some persons are loved by others, for they wear a potent charm in their countenances, their ways are winsome, and their characters charm you into affection; "but God commendeth his love towards us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us." He looked at us, and there was not a solitary beauty spot upon us: we were covered with "wounds, and bruises, and putrefying sores," distortions, defilements, and pollutions; and yet, for all that, Jesus loved us. He loved us because he would love us; because his heart was full of pity, and he could not let us perish. Pity moved him to seek the most needy objects that his love might display its utmost ability in lifting men from the lowest degradation, and putting them in the highest position of holiness and honour.
Observe another inference. If Christ died for the ungodly, this fact leaves the ungodly no excuse if they do not come to him, and believe in him unto salvation. Had it been otherwise they might have pleaded, "We are not fit to come." But you are ungodly, and Christ died for the ungodly, why not for you? I hear the reply, "But I have been so very vile." Yes, you have been impious, but your sin is not worse than this word ungodly will compass. Christ died for those who were wicked, thoroughly wicked. The Greek word is so expressive that it must take in your case, however wrongly you have acted. "But I cannot believe that Christ died for such as I am," says one. Then, sir, mark! I hold you to your words, and charge you with contradicting the Eternal God to his teeth, and making him a liar. Your statement gives God the lie. The Lord declares that "Christ died for the ungodly," and you say he did not, what is that but to make God a liar? How can you expect mercy if you persist in such proud unbelief? Believe the divine revelation. Close in at once with the gospel. Forsake your sins and believe in the Lord Jesus, and you shall surely live. The fact that Christ died for the ungodly renders self-righteousness a folly. Why need a man pretend that he is good if "Christ died for the ungodly?" We have an orphanage, and the qualification for our orphanage is that the child for whom admission is sought shall be utterly destitute. I will suppose a widow trying to show to me and my fellow trustees that her boy is a fitting object for the charity; will she tell us that her child has a rich uncle? Will she enlarge upon her own capacities for earning a living? Why, this would be to argue against herself, and she is much too wise for that, I warrant you, for she knows that any such statements would damage rather than serve her cause. So, sinner, do not pretend to be righteous, do not dream that you are better than others, for that is to argue against yourself. Prove that you are not by nature ungodly, and you prove yourself to be one for whom Jesus did not die. Jesus comes to make the ungodly godly, and the sinful holy, but the raw material upon which he works is described in the text not by its goodness but by its badness; it is for the ungodly that Jesus died. "Oh, but if I felt!" Felt what? Felt something which would make you better? Then you would not so clearly come under the description here given. If you are destitute of good feelings, and thoughts, and hopes, and emotions, you are ungodly, and "Christ died for the ungodly." Believe in him and you shall be saved from that ungodliness.
"Well," cries out some Pharisaic moralist, "this is dangerous doctrine." How so? Would it be dangerous doctrine to say that physicians exercise their skill to cure sick people and not healthy ones? Would that encourage sickness? Would that discourage health? You know better; you know that to inform the sick of a physician who can heal them is one of the best means for promoting their cure. If ungodly and impious men would take heart and run to the Saviour, and by him become cured of impiety and ungodliness, would not that be a good thing? Jesus has come to make the ungodly godly, the impious pious, the wicked obedient, and the dishonest upright. He has not come to save them in their sins, but from their sins; and this is the best of news for those who are diseased with sin. Self-righteousness is a folly, and despair is a crime, since Christ died for the ungodly. None are excluded hence but those who do themselves exclude; this great gate is set so wide open that the very worst of men may enter, and you, dear hearer, may enter now.
I think it is also very evident from our text that when they are saved, the converted find no ground of boasting; for when their hearts are renewed and made to love God they cannot say, "See how good I am," because they were not so by nature; they were ungodly, and, as such, Christ died for them. Whatever goodness there may be in them after conversion they ascribe it to the grace of God, since by nature they were alienated from God, and far removed from righteousness. If the truth of natural depravity be but known and felt, free grace must be believed in, and then all glorying is at an end.
This will also keep the saved ones from thinking lightly of sin. If God had forgiven sinners without an atonement they might have thought little of transgression, but now that pardon comes to them through the bitter griefs of their Redeemer they cannot but see it to be an exceeding great evil. When we look to Jesus dying on the cross we end our dalliance with sin, and utterly abhor the cause of so great suffering to so dear a Saviour. Every wound of Jesus is an argument against sin. We never know the full evil of our iniquities till we see what it cost the Redeemer to put them away.
Salvation by the death of Christ is the strongest conceivable promoter of all the things which are pure, honest, lovely, and of good report. It makes sin so loathsome that the saved one cannot take up even its name without dread. "I will take away the name of Baalim out of thy mouth." He looks upon it as we should regard a knife rusted with gore, wherewith some villain had killed our mother, our wife, or child. Could we play with it? Could we bear it about our persons or endure it in our sight? No, accursed thing! stained with the heart's blood of my beloved, I would fain fling thee into the bottomless abyss! Sin is that dagger which stabbed the Saviour's heart, and henceforth it must be the abomination of every man who has been redeemed by the atoning sacrifice.
To close this point. Christ's death for the ungodly is the grandest argument to make the ungodly love him when they are saved. To love Christ is the mainspring of obedience in men how shall men be led to love him? If you would grow love, you must sow love. Go, then; and let men know the love of Christ to sinners, and they will, by grace, be moved to love him in return. No doubt all of us require to know the threatenings of the wrath of God; but that which soonest touches my heart is Christ's free love to an unworthy one like myself. When my sins seem blackest to me, and yet I know that through Christ's death I am forgiven, this blest assurance melts me down.
"If thou hadst bid thy thunders roll,
And lightnings flash, to blast my soul.
I still had stubborn been;
But mercy has my heart subdued,
A bleeding Saviour I have view'd,
And now I hate my sin."
I have heard of a soldier who had been put in prison for drunkenness and insubordination several times and he had been also flogged, but nothing improved him. At last he was taken in the commission of another offence, and brought before the commanding officer, who said to him, "My man, I have tried everything in the martial code with you, except shooting you; you have been imprisoned and whipped, but nothing has changed you. I am determined to try something else with you. You have caused us a great deal of trouble and anxiety, and you seem resolved to do so still; I shall, therefore, change my plans with you, and I shall neither fine you, flog you, nor imprison you; I will see what kindness will do, and therefore I fully and freely forgive you." The man burst into tears, for he reckoned on a round number of lashes, and had steeled himself to bear them, but when he found he was to be forgiven, and set free, he said, "Sir, you shall not have to find fault with me again." Mercy won his heart. Now, sinner, in that fashion God is dealing with you. Great sinners! Ungodly sinners! God says, "My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are my ways your ways. I have threatened you, and you hardened your hearts against me. Therefore, come now, and let us reason together: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool." "Well," says one, "I am afraid if you talk to sinners so they will go and sin more and more." Yes, there are brutes everywhere, who can be so unnatural as to sin because grace abounds, but I bless God there is such a thing as the influence of love, and I am rejoiced that many feel the force of it, and yield to the conquering arms of amazing grace. The Spirit of God wins the day by such arguments as these; love is the great battering-ram which opens gates of brass. When the Lord says, "I have blotted out thy transgressions like a cloud, and like a thick cloud thine iniquities," then the man is moved to repentance.
I can tell you hundreds and thousands of cases in which this infinite love has done all the good that morality itself could ask to have done; it has changed the heart and turned the entire current of the man's nature from sin to righteousness. The sinner has believed, repented, turned from his evil ways, and become zealous for holiness. Looking to Jesus he has felt his sin forgiven, and he has started up a new man, to lead a new life. God grant it may be so this morning, and he shall have all the glory of it.
III. So now we must close and this is the last point THE PROCLAMATION OF THIS FACT, that "Christ died for the ungodly." I would not mind if I were condemned to live fifty years more, and never to be allowed to speak but these five words, if I might be allowed to utter them in the ear of every man, and woman, and child who lives. "CHRIST DIED FOR THE UNGODLY" is the best message that even angels could bring to men. In the proclamation of this the whole church ought to take its share. Those of us who can address thousands should be diligent to cry aloud "Christ died for the ungodly"; but those of you who can speak to one, or write a letter to one, must keep on at this "Christ died for the ungodly." Shout it out, or whisper it out; print it in capitals, or write it in a lady's hand "Christ died for the ungodly." Speak it solemnly, it is not a thing for jest. Speak it joyfully; it is not a theme for sorrow, but for joy. Speak it firmly; it is indisputable fact. Facts of science, as they call them, are always questioned: this is unquestionable. Speak it earnestly; for if there be any truth which ought to arouse all a man's soul it is this: "Christ died for the ungodly." Speak it where the ungodly live, and that is at your own house. Speak it also down in the dark corners of the city, in the haunts of debauchery, in the home of the thief, in the den to the depraved. Tell it in the gaol; and sit down at the dying bed and read in a tender whisper "Christ died for the ungodly." When you pass the harlot in the street, do not give a toss with that proud head of yours, but remember that "Christ died for the ungodly"; and when you recollect those that injured you, say no bitter word, but hold your tongue, and remember "Christ died for the ungodly." Make this henceforth the message of your life "Christ died for the ungodly."
And, oh, dear friends, you that are not saved, take care that you receive this message. Believe it. Go to God with this on your tongue "Lord save me, for Christ died for the ungodly, and I am of them." Fling yourself right on to this as a man commits himself to his lifebelt amid the surging billows. "But I do not feel," says one. Trust not your feelings if you do; but with no feelings and no hopes of your own, cling desperately to this, "Christ died for the ungodly." The transforming, elevating, spiritualising, moralising, sanctifying power of this great fact you shall soon know and be no more ungodly; but first, as ungodly, rest you on this, "Christ died for the ungodly." Accept this truth, my dear hearer, and you are saved. I do not mean merely that you will be pardoned, I do not mean that you will enter heaven, I mean much more; I mean that you will have a new heart; you will be saved from the love of sin, saved from drunkenness, saved from uncleanness, saved from blasphemy, saved from dishonesty. "Christ died for the ungodly" if that be really known and trusted in, it will open in your soul new springs of living water which will cleanse the Augean stable of your nature, and make a temple of God of that which was before a den of thieves. Trust in the mercy of God through the death of Jesus Christ, and a new era in your life's history will at once commence.
Having put this as plainly as I know how, and having guarded my speech to prevent there being anything like a flowery sentence in it, having tried to put this as clearly as daylight itself, that "Christ died for the ungodly," if your ears refuse the precious boons that come through the dying Christ, your blood be on your own heads, for there is no other way of salvation for any one among you. Whether you reject or accept this, I am clear. But oh! do not reject it, for it is your life. If the Son of God dies for sinners, and sinners reject his blood, they have committed the most heinous offence possible. I will not venture to affirm, but I do suggest that the devils in hell are not capable of so great a stretch of criminality as is involved in the rejection of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Here lies the highest love. The incarnate God bleeds to death to save men, and men hate God so much that they will not even have him as he dies to save them. They will not be reconciled to their Creator, though he stoops from his loftiness to the depths of woe in the person of his Son on their behalf. This is depravity indeed, and desperateness of rebellion. God grant you may not be guilty of it. There can be no fiercer flame of wrath than that which will break forth from love that has been trampled upon, when men have put from them eternal life, and done despite to the Lamb of God. "Oh," says one, "would God I could believe!" "Sir, what difficulty is there in it? Is it hard to believe the truth? Darest thou belie thy God? Art thou steeling thy heart to such desperateness that thou wilt call thy God a liar?" "No; I believe Christ died for the ungodly," says one, "but I want to know how to get the merit of that death applied to my own soul." Thou mayest, then, for here it is "He that believeth in him," that is, he that trusts in him, "is not condemned." Here is the gospel and the whole of it "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved: he that believeth not shall be damned."
I am a poor weak man like yourselves, but my gospel is not weak; and it would be no stronger if one of "the mailed cherubim, or sworded seraphim" could take the platform and stand here instead of me. He could tell to you no better news. God, in condescension to your weakness, has chosen one of your fellow mortals to bear to you this message of infinite affection. Do not reject it! By your souls' value, by their immortality, by the hope of heaven and by the dread of hell, lay hold upon eternal life; and by the fear that this may be your last day on earth, yea, and this evening your last hour, I do beseech you now, "steal away to Jesus." There is life in a look at the crucified one; there is life at this moment for you. Look to him now and live. Amen.
The Old, Old Story
Delivered on Sunday Evening, March 30th, 1862, by
C. H. SPURGEON,
At the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington
"In due time Christ died for the ungodly." Romans 5:6 .
There is a doctor of divinity here to-night who listened to me some years ago. He has been back to his own dwelling-place in America, and he has come here again. I could not help fancying, as I saw his face just now, that he would think I was doting on the old subject, and harping on the old strain; that I had not advanced a single inch upon any new domain of thought, but was preaching the same old gospel in the same old terms as ever. If he should think so he will be quite right. I suppose I am something like Mr. Cecil when he was a boy. His father once told him to wait in a gateway till he came back, and the father, being very busy, went about the city; and amidst his numerous cares and engagements, he forgot the boy. Night came on, and at last when the father reached home, there was great enquiry as to where Richard was. The father said, "Dear me, I left him early in the morning standing under such-and-such a gateway, and I told him to stay there until I came for him; I should not wonder but what he is there now." So they went, and there they found him. Such an example of childish simple faithfulness it is no disgrace to emulate. I received some years ago orders from my Master to stand at the foot of the cross until he came. He has not come yet, but I mean to stand there till he does. If I should disobey his orders and leave those simple truths which have been the means of the conversion of souls, I know not how I could expect his blessing. Here, then, I stand at the foot of the cross and tell out the old, old story, stale though it sound to itching ears, and worn threadbare as critics may deem it. It is of Christ I love to speak of Christ who loved, and lived, and died, the substitute for sinners, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God.
It is somewhat singular, but just as they say fish go bad at the head first, so modern divines generally go bad first upon the head and main doctrine of the substitutionary work of Christ. Nearly all our modern errors, I might say all of them, begin with mistakes about Christ. Men do not like to be always preaching the same thing., There are Athenians in the pulpit as well as in the pew who spend their time in nothing but hearing some new thing. They are not content to tell over and over again the simple message, "He that believeth in the Lord Jesus Christ hath everlasting life." So they borrow novelties from literature, and garnish the Word of God with the words which man's wisdom teacheth. The doctrine of atonement they mystify. Reconciliation by the precious blood of Jesus ceases to be the corner-stone of their ministry. To shape the gospel to the diseased wishes and tastes of men enters far more deeply into their purpose, than to re-mould the mind and renew the heart of men that they receive the gospel as it is. There is no telling where they will go who once go back from following the Lord with a true and undivided heart, from deep to deep descending, the blackness of darkness will receive them unless grace prevent. Only this you may take for a certainty.
"They cannot be right in the rest,
Unless they speak rightly of Him."
If they are not sound about the purpose of the cross, they are rotten everywhere. "Other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ." On this rock there is security. We may be mistaken on any other points with more impunity than this. They who are builded on the rock, though they build wood, and hay, and stubble, thereupon to their sore confusion, for what they build shall be burned, themselves shall be saved yet so as by fire. Now that grand doctrine which we take to be the keystone of the evangelical system, they very corner-stone of the gospel, that grand doctrine of the atonement of Christ we would tell to you again, and then, without attempting to prove it, for that we have done hundreds of times, we shall try to draw some lessons of instruction from that truth which is surely believed among us. Man having sinned, God's righteousness demanded that the penalty should be fulfilled. He had said, "The soul that sinneth shall die;" and unless God can be false, the sinner must die. Moreover, God's holiness demanded it, for the penalty was based on justice. It was just that the sinner should die. God had not appended a more heavy penalty than he should have done. Punishment is the just result of offending. God, then, must either cease to be holy, or the sinner must be punished. Truth and holiness imperiously demanded that God should lift his hand and smite the man who had broken his law and offended his majesty. Christ Jesus, the second Adam, the federal head of the chosen ones, interposed. He offered himself to bear the penalty which they ought to bear; to fulfil and honour the law which they had broken and dishonoured. He offered to be their day's-man, a surety, a substitute, standing in their room, place, and stead. Christ became the vicar of his people; vicariously suffering in their stead; vicariously doing in their stead that which they were not strong enough to do by reason of the weakness of the flesh through the fall. This which Christ proposed to do was accepted of God. In due time Christ actually died, and fulfilled what he promised to do. He took every sin of all his people, and suffered every stroke of the rod on account of those sins. He had compounded into one awful draught the punishment of the sins of all the elect. He took the cup; he put it to his lips; he sweat as it were great drops of blood while he tasted the first sip thereof, but he never desisted, but drank on, on, on, till he had exhausted the very dregs, and turning the vessel upside down he said, "It is finished!" and at one tremendous draught of love the Lord God of salvation had drained destruction dry. Not a dreg, not the slightest reside was left; he had suffered all that ought to have been suffered; had finished transgression, and made an end of sin. Moreover, he obeyed his Father's law to the utmost extent of it; he fulfilled that will of which he had said of old "Lo, I come to do thy will, O God: thy law is my delight;" and having offered both an atonement for sin and a complete fulfilment of the law, he ascended up on high, took his seat on the right hand of the Majesty in heaven, from henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool, and interceding for those whom be bought with blood that they may be with him where he is. The doctrine of the atonement is very simple. It just consists in the substitution of Christ in the place of the sinner; Christ being treated as if he were the sinner, and then the transgressors being treated as if he were the righteous one. It is a change of persons; Christ becomes sinner; he stands in the sinner's place and stead; he was numbered with the transgressors; the sinner becomes righteous; he stands in Christ's place and stead, and is numbered with the righteous ones. Christ has no sin of his own, but he takes human guilt, and is punished for human folly. We have no righteousness of our own, but we take the divine righteousness; we are rewarded for it, and stand accepted before God as though that righteousness had been wrought out by ourselves. "In due time Christ died for the ungodly," that he might take away their sins.
It is not my present object to prove this doctrine. As I said before, there is no need to be always arguing what we know to be true. Rather let us say a few earnest words by way of commending this doctrine of the atonement; and afterwards I shall propound it by way of application to those who as yet have not received Christ.
I. First, then, BY WAY OF COMMENDATION.
There are some things to be said for the gospel which proclaims the atonement as its fundamental principle. And the first thing to be said of it is, that in comparison with all modern schemes how simple it is! Brethren, this is why our great gentlemen do not like it, it is too plain. If you will go and purchase certain books which teach you how sermons ought to be made, you will find that the English of it is this, pick all the hard words you can out of all the books you read in the week, and then pour them out on your people on Sunday; and there is a certain set of people who always applaud the man they cannot understand. They are like the old woman who was asked when she came home from Church, "Did you understand the sermon?" "No;" she answered, "I would not have the presumption;" she thought it would be presumption to attempt to understand the minister. But the Word of God is understood with the heart, and makes no strange demands on the intellect.
Now, our first commendation on the doctrine of the atonement is, that it commends itself to the understanding. The way-faring man, though his intellect be but one grade beyond an idiot, may get a hold on the truth of substitution without any difficulty. Oh, these modern theologians, they will do anything to spirit away the cross! They hang over it the gaudy trappings of their elocution, or they introduce it with the dark mysterious incantations of their logic, and then the poor troubled heart looks up to see the cross and sees nothing there but human wisdom. Now I say it again, there is not one of you here but can understand this truth, that Christ died in the stead of his people. If you perish, it will not be because the gospel was beyond your comprehension. If you go down to hell, it will not be because you were not able to understand how God can be just, and yet the justifier of the ungodly. It is astonishing in this age how little is known of the simple truisms of the Bible; it seems to be always admonishing us how simple we ought to be in setting them forth. I have heard that when Mr. Kilpin was once preaching a very good and earnest sermon, he used the word "Deity," and a sailor sitting down below leaned forward and said, "Beg your pardon, sir, but who's he, pray? Do you mean God Almighty?" "Yes," said Mr. Kilpin,"I do mean God, and I ought not to have used a word which you could not understand." "I thank you sir," said the sailor, and looked as if he would devour the rest of the sermon in the interest which he felt in it even to the close. Now that one unvarnished face is but an index of that which prevails in every land. There must be simple preaching. A doctrine of atonement that is not simple, a doctrine which comes from Germany, which needs a man to be a great scholar before he can comprehend it himself, and to be a still greater adept before he can tell it to other such a doctrine is manifestly not of God, because it is not suited to God's creatures. It is fascinating to one in a thousand of them, but it is not suited to those poor of this world who are rich in faith; not suited to those babes to whom God has revealed the things of the kingdom while he has hidden them from the wise and prudent. Oh, you may always judge of a doctrine in this way. If it is not a simple doctrine, it does not come from God; if it puzzles you, if it is one which you cannot see through at once because of the mysterious language in which it is couched, you may begin to suspect that it is man's doctrine, and not the Word of God.
Nor is this doctrine of the atonement to be commended merely for its simplicity, but because while suiting the understand it also suits the conscience. How it satisfies the conscience no tongue can tell! When a man is awakened and his conscience stings him, when the Spirit of God has shown him his sin and his guilt, there is nothing but the blood of Christ that can ever give him peace. Peter might have stood up at the prow of the boat and have said to the winds and to the waves, "Peace, be still," but they would have gone on to roaring with unabated fury. The Pope of Rome, who pretends to be Peter's successor, may stand up with his ceremonies and say to the troubled conscience, "Peace, be still," but it will not cease it's terrible agitations. The unclean spirit that sets conscience in so much turmoil cries out, "Jesus I know, and his cross I know, but who are ye?" Yea, and it will not be case out. There is no chance whatever of our finding a pillow for a head which the Holy Ghost, has made to ache save in the atonement and the finished work of Christ. When Mr. Robert Hall first went to Cambridge to preach, the Cambridge folks were nearly Unitarians. So he preached upon the doctrine of the finished work of Christ, and some of them came to him in the vestry and said, "Mr Hall, this will never do." "Why not?" said he, "Why, your sermon was only fit for old women." "And why only fit for old women?" said Mr. Hall. "Because," said they, "they are tottering on the borders of the grave, and they want comfort, and, therefore, it will suit them, but it will not do for us." "Very well," said Mr. Hall, "you have unconsciously paid me all the compliment that I can ask for; if this is good for old women on the borders of the grave, it must be good for you if you are in your right senses, for the borders of the grave is where we all stand." Here, indeed, is a choice feature of the atonement, it is comforting to us in the thought of death. When conscience is awakened to a sense of guilt, death is sure to cast his pale shadow on all our prospects, and encircle all our steps with dark omens of the grave. Conscience is accompanied generally in its alarms with the thoughts of the near-approaching judgment, but the peace which the blood gives is conscience-proof, sickness-proof, death-proof, devil-proof, judgment-proof, and it will be eternity-proof. We may well be alarmed at all the uprisings of occupation and all the remembrance of past defilement, but only let our eyes rest on thy dear cross, O Jesus, and our conscience has peace with God, and we rest and are still. Now we ask whether any of these modern systems of divinity can quiet a troubled conscience? We would like to give them some cases that we meet with sometimes some despairing ones and say, "Now, here, cast this devil out if you can try your hand at it," and I think they would find, that this kind goeth not out save by the tears, and groans, and death of Jesus Christ the atoning sacrifice. A gospel without an atonement may do very well for young ladies and gentlemen who do not know that they ever did anything wrong. It will just suit your lackadaisical people who have not got a heart for anybody to see; who have always been quite moral, upright, and respectable; who feel insulted if you told them they deserved to be sent to hell; who would not for a moment allow that they could be depraved or fallen creatures. The gospel, I say, of these moderns will suit these gentlefolks very well I dare say, but let a man be really guilty and know it; let him be really awake to his lost state, and I aver that none but Jesus none but Jesus, nothing but the precious blood can give him peace and rest. For these two things, then, commend us to the doctrine of the atonement, because it suits the understanding of the mostly lowly, and will quiet the conscience of the most troubled.
It has, moreover, this peculiar excellency, that it softens the heart. There is a mysterious softening and melting power in the story of the sacrifice of Christ. I know a dear Christian woman who loved her little ones and sought their salvation. When she prayed for them, she thought it right to use the best means she could to arrest their attention and awaken their minds. I hope you all do likewise. The means, however, which she thought best calculated for her object was the terrors of the Lord. She used to read to her children chapter after chapter of Alleine's Alarm to the Unconverted. Oh, that book! how many dreams it gave her boy at night about the devouring flames and the everlasting burnings. But the boy's heart grew hardened, as if it were annealed rather than melted by the furnace of fear. The hammer welded the heart to sin, but did not break it. But even then, when the lad's heart was hard, when he heard of Jesus's love to his people, though he feared he was not one of them, still it used to make him weep to think Jesus should love anybody after such a sort. Even now that he has come to manhood, law and terrors make him dead and stolid, but thy blood, Jesus, thine agonies, in Gethsemane and on the tree, he cannot bear; they melt him; his soul flows through his eyes in tears; he weeps himself away from grateful love to thee for what thou hast done. Alas for those that deny the atonement! They take the very sting out of Christ's sufferings; and then, in taking out the sting, they take out the point with which sufferings of Christ pierce, and probe, and penetrate the heart. It is because Christ suffered for my sin, because he was condemned that I might to acquitted and not be damned as the result of my guilt: it is this that makes his sufferings such a cordial to my heart.
"See on the bloody tree,
The Illustrious sufferer hangs,
The torments due to thee,
He bore the dreadful pangs;
And cancelled there, the might sum,
Sins present, past, and sins to come."
At this present hour there are congregation met in the theatres of London, and there are persons addressing them. I do not know what their subjects are, but I know what they ought to be. If they want to get at the intellects of those who live in the back-slums, if they want to get at the consciences of those who have been thieves and drunkards, if they want to melt the hearts of those who have grown stubborn and callous through years of lust and iniquity, I know there is nothing will do it but the death on Calvary, the five wounds, the bleeding side, the vinegar, the nails, and the spear. There is a melting power here which is not to be found in all the world besides.
I will detain you yet once more on this point. We commend the doctrine of the atonement because, besides suiting the understand, quieting the conscience, and melting the heart, we know there is a power in it to affect the outward life. No man can believe that Christ suffered for his sins and yet live in sin. No man can believe that his iniquities were the murderers of Christ, and yet go and hug those murderers to his bosom. The sure and certain effect of a true faith in the atoning sacrifice of Christ is the purging out of the old leaven, the dedication of the soul to him who bought it with his blood, and the vowing to have revenge against those sins which nailed Jesus to the tree. The proof, after all, is the trial. Go into any parish in England where there lives a philosophical divine who has cut the atonement out of his preaching, and if you do not find more harlots, and thieves, and drunkards there than is usual, write me down mistaken; but go, on the other hand, into a parish where the atonement is preached, and that with rigid integrity and with loving earnestness, and if you do not find the ale-houses getting empty, and the shops shut on the Sunday, and the people walking in honesty and uprightness, then I have looked about the world in vain. I knew a village once that was perhaps one of the worst villages in England for many things; where many an illicit still was yielding it noxious liquor to a manufacturer without payment of the duty to the Government, and where, in connection with that, all manner of riot and iniquity were rife. There went a lad into that village, and but a lad, and one who had no scholarship, but was rough, and sometimes vulgar. He began to preach there, and it pleased God to turn that village upside down, and in a short time the little thatched chapel was crammed, and the biggest vagabonds of the village were weeping floods of tears, and those who had been the curse of the parish became its blessings; and where there had been robberies and villainies of every kind all round the neighbourhood, there were none, because the men who did the mischief were themselves in the house of God, rejoicing to hear of Jesus crucified. Mark me, I am not telling you an exaggerated story now, nor a thing that I do not know. Yet this one thing I remember to the praise of God's grace, it pleased the Lord to work signs and wonders in our midst. He showed the power of Jesus' name, and made us witnesses of the gospel which can win souls, draw reluctant hearts, and mould the life and conduct of men afresh. Why, there are some brethren here who go to the refuges and homes to talk to those poor fallen girls who have been reclaimed. I wonder what they would do if they had not the gospel tale to carry with them to the abodes of wretchedness and shame. If they should take a leaf out of some divinity essays, and should go and talk to them in high-flowing words, and philosophies, what good would it be to them? Well, what is not good to them is not good to us. We want something we can grasp, something we can rely upon, something we can feel; something that will mould our character and conversation, and make us to be like Christ.
II. Secondly, one or two points BY WAY OF EXHORTATION.
Christian man, you believe that your sins are forgiven, and that Christ has made a full atonement for them. What shall we say to you? To you first we say, what a joyful Christian you ought to be! How you should live above the common trials and troubles of the world! Since sin is forgiven, what matters what happens to you now? Luther said, "Smite, Lord, smite, for my sin is forgiven. If thou hast but forgiven me, smite as hard as thou wilt;" as if he felt like a child who had done wrong, and cared not how his father might whip him if he would but forgive him. So I think you can say, "Send sickness, poverty, losses, crosses, slander, persecution, what thou wilt, thou hast forgiven me, and my soul is glad, and my spirit is rejoiced." And then, Christian, if thou art thus saved, and Christ really did take thy sin, whilst thou art glad, be grateful and be loving. Cling to that cross which took thy sin away; serve thou him who served thee. "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service." Let not your zeal bubble over with some little ebullition of song. You may say,
"I love my God with zeal so great, that I could give him all,"
but sing it not in words unless thou dost mean it. Oh, do mean it! Is there nothing in your life that you do because you belong to Christ? Are you never anxious to show your love in some expressive tokens? Love the brethren of him who loved thee. If there be a Mephibosheth anywhere who is lame or halt, help him for Jonathan's sake. If there be a poor tired believer, try and weep with him, and bear his cross for the sake of him who wept for thee and carried thy sins.
And yet, again, Christian, if this be true that there is an atonement made for sin, tell it, tell it, tell it. "We cannot all preach," say you; no, but tell it, tell it. "I would not prepare a sermon;" tell it; tell out the story; tell out the mystery and wonder of Christ's love. "But I should never get a congregation;" tell it in your house; tell it by the fire-side. "But I have none but little children:" tell it to your children, and let them know the sweet mystery on the cross, and the blessed history of him who lived and died for sinners. Tell it, for you know not into what ears you may speak. Tell it often, for thus you will have the better hope that you may turn sinners to Christ. Lacking talent, lacking the graces of oratory, be glad that you lack these, and glory in your infirmity that the power of Christ may rest upon you, but do tell it. Sometimes there are some of our young men get preaching who had better hold their tongues, but there are many others who have gifts and abilities which they might use for Christ, but who seem tongue-tied. I have often said that if you get a young man to join a rifle corps, he has got something to do, and he puts his heart in it; but if you get the same young man to join a church, well, his name is in the book, and he has been baptized, and so on, and he thinks he has nothing more to do with it. Why, brethren, I do not like to have member of the church who feel they can throw the responsibility on a few of us while they themselves sit still. That is not the way to win battles. If at Waterloo some nine out of ten of our soldiers had said, "Well, we need not fight; we will leave the fighting to the few, there they are; let them go and do it all." Why, if they had said that, they would very soon have all been cut in pieces. They must every one of them take their turns, home, and foot, and artillery; men who were light-armed, and men of all kinds; they must march to the fray; yes, and even the guards, if they are held back as a reserve to the last, yet they must be called for, "Up guards, and at 'em;" and if there are any of you here that are old men and women and think you are like the guards, and ought to be spared the heavy conflict, yet up and at them, for now the world needs you all, and since Christ has bought you with His blood, I beseech you be not content till you have fought for him, and have been victorious through His name. Tell it; tell it; tell it; with a voice of thunder tell it; hear, with many voices mingling together as the sound of many waters; tell it till the dwellers in the remotest wilderness shall hear the sound thereof. Tell it there shall be ne'er a cot upon the mountain where it is not known, ne'er a ship upon the sea where the story has not been told. Tell it till there is never a dark alley that has not been illuminated by its light, nor a loathsome den which has not been cleansed by its power. Tell out the story that Christ died for the ungodly.
With a few words of application to unbelievers I draw to a close. Unbeliever, If God cannot and will not forgive the sons of penitent men without Christ taking their punishment, rest assured he will surely bring you to judgment. If, when Christ, God's Son, had imputed sin laid on him, God smote him, how will he smite you who are his enemy, and who have your own sins upon your head? God seemed at Calvary, as it were, to take an oath sinner, hear it! he seemed, as it were, to take an oath and say. "By the blood of my Son I swear that sin must be punished," and if it is not punished in Christ for you, it will be punished in you for yourselves. Is Christ yours, sinner? Did he die for you? Do you trust him? If you do, he died for you. Do not say, "No, I do not?" Then remember that if you live and die without faith in Christ, for every idle word and for every ill act that you have done, stroke for stroke, and blow for blow, vengeance must chastise you.
Again, to another class of you, this word. If God has in Christ made an atonement and opened a way of salvation, what must be your guilt who try to open another way; who say, "I will be good and virtuous; I will attend to ceremonies; I will save myself?'" Fool that thou art, thou hast insulted God in his tenderest point, for thou hast, in fact, trampled on the blood of Christ, and said, "I need it not." Oh, if the sinner who repents not be damned, with what accumulated terrors shall he be damned, who, in addition to his impenitence, heaps affronts upon the person of Christ by going about to establish his own righteousness. Leave it; leave your rags, you will never make a garment of them; leave the pilfered treasure of thine; it is a counterfeit; forsake it. I counsel thee to buy of Christ fine raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and fine gold that thou mayest be rich.
And consider this, one and all of you, oh my hearers! If Christ hath made atonement for the ungodly,then let, the question go round, let it go round the aisles and round the gallery, and let it echo in every heart, and let it be repeated by every lip, "Why not for me?" And "Why not for me?" Hope, sinner, hope; he died for the ungodly. If it had said he died for the godly, there were no hope for thee. If it had been written that he died to save the good, the excellent, and the perfect, then thou hast no chance. He died for the ungodly; thou art such an one; what reason has thou to conclude that he did not die for thee? Hark thee, man; this is what Christ said to thee, "Believe, and thou shalt be saved"; that is, trust, and thou shall be saved. Trust thy soul in the hands of him who carried thy load upon the cross; trust him now. He died for you; your faith is to us the evidence, and to you the proof that Christ bought you with his blood. Delay not; you need not even stay to go home to offer a prayer. Trust Christ with your soul now. You have nothing else to trust to; hang on him. You are going down; you are going down. The waves are gathering about you, and soon shall they swallow you up, and we shall hear your gurglings as you sink. See, he stretches out his hand. "Sinner," saith he, "I will bear thee up; though hell's fiery waves should dash against thee I will bear thee through them all, only trust me." What sayest thou, sinner? Wilt thou trust him? Oh, my soul, recollect the moment when first, I trusted in him! There is joy in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, but I hardly think that is greater joy than the joy of the repenting sinner when he first finds Christ. So simple and so easy it seemed to me when I came to know it. I had only to look and live, only to trust and be saved. Year after year had I been running about hither and thither to try and do what was done beforehand, to try and get ready for that which did not want any readiness. Oh, happy was that day when I ventured to step in by the open door of his mercy, to set at the table of grace ready spread, and to eat and drink, asking no question! Oh, soul, do the same! Take courage. Trust Christ, and if he cast thee away when thou has trusted him my soul for thine as we meet at the bar of God, I will be pawn and pledge for thee at the last, great day if such thou needest; but he cannot and he will not cast out any that come to him by faith. May God now accept and bless us all, for Jesus' sake! Amen.
Delivered on Sabbath Morning, November 23, 1856, by the
REV. C. H. Spurgeon
at the Music Hall, Royal Surrey Gardens.
"But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." Romans 5:8 .
I shall have nothing new to tell you; it will be as old as the everlasting hills, and so simple that a child may understand it. Love's commendation. "God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." God's commendation of himself and of his love is not in words, but in deeds. When the Almighty God would commend his love to poor man, it is not written, "God commendeth his love towards us in an eloquent oration"; it is not written that he commendeth his love by winning professions; but he commendeth his love toward us by an act, by a deed; a surprising deed, the unutterable grace of which eternity itself shall scarce discover. He "commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." Let us learn, then upon the threshold of our text, that if we would commend ourselves it must be by deeds, and not by words. Men may talk fairly, and think that thus they shall win esteem; they may order their words aright, and think that so they shall command respect; but let them remember, it is not the wordy oratory of the tongue, but the more powerful eloquence of the hand which wins the affection of "the world's great heart." If thou wouldst commend thyself to thy fellows, go and do not go and say; if thou wouldst win honour from the excellent, talk not, but act; and if before God thou wouldst show that thy faith is sincere, and thy love to him real: remember, it is no fawning words, uttered either in prayer or praise, but it is the pious deed, the holy act, which is the justification of thy faith, and the proof that it is the faith of God's elect. Doing, not saying acting, not talking these are the things which commend a man.
"No big words of ready talkers,
No fine boastings will suffice;
Broken hearts and humble walkers,
These are dear in Jesus' eyes."
Let us imitate God, then, in this. If we would commend our religion to mankind, we cannot do it by mere formalities, but by gracious acts of integrity, charity and forgiveness, which are the proper discoveries of grace within. "Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven." "Let your conversation be such as becometh the gospel of Christ;" and so shall you honour him, and "adorn the doctrine" which you profess.
But now for this mighty deed whereby God commended his love. We think that it is twofold. We believe the apostle has given us a double commendation of love. The first is, "God commendeth his love toward us, in that, Christ died for us"; the second commendation arises from our condition, "In that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us."
I. The first commendation of love, then, is this that "CHRIST DIED FOR US"; and as the whole text is double, so this sentence also contains a twofold commendation There is a commendation of love in the person who died Christ; and then in the act which he performed "Christ died for us."
First, then, it is the highest commendation of love, that it was CHRIST who died for us. When sinful man erred from his Maker, it was necessary that God should punish his sin. He had sworn by himself, "The soul that sinneth it shall die;" and God with reverence to his all-holy name be it spoken could not swerve from what he had said. He had declared on Sinai that he would by no means clear the guilty; but inasmuch as he desired to pardon the offending, it was necessary that some one else should bear the sufferings which the guilty ought to have endured, that so by the vicarious substitution of another, God might be "just, and yet the justifier of the ungodly." Now, the question might have arisen, "Who is he that shall be the scapegoat for man's offence? Who is he that shall bear his transgressions and take away his sins?" If I might be allowed to picture in my imagination (and mark, it is nothing more than imagination), I could almost conceive a parliament in heaven. The angels are assembled; the question is proposed to them: "Cherubim and seraphim, cohorts of the glorified, ye spirits that like flames of fire, swift at my bidding fly; ye happy beings, whom I have created for my honour! here is a question which I condescend to offer for your consideration: Man has sinned; there is no way for his pardon but by some one suffering and paying blood for blood. Who shall it be?" I can conceive that there was silence throughout the august assembly. Gabriel spoke not: he would have stretched his wings and flapped the ether in a moment, if the deed had been possible; but he felt that he could never bear the guilt of a world upon his shoulders, and, therefore, still he sat. And there the mightiest of the mighty, those who could shake a world if God should will it, sat still, because they felt all powerless to accomplish redemption. I do not conceive that one of them would have ventured to hope that God himself would assume flesh and die. I do not think it could have entered even into angelic thought to conceive that the mighty Maker of the skies should bow his awful head and sink into a grave. I cannot imagine that the brightest and most seraphic of these glorified ones would for an instant have suffered such a thought to abide with him. And when the Son of God, upstarting from his throne, spoke to them and said, "Principalities and powers! I will become flesh, I will veil this Godhead of mine in robes of mortal clay, I will die!" I think I see the angels for once astonished. They had seen worlds created; they had beheld the earth, like a spark from the incandescent mass of unformed matter, hammered from the anvil of Omnipotence, and smitten off into space; and yet they had not wondered. But on this occasion I conceive that they ceased not to marvel. "What! wilt thou die, O Word! Creator! Master! Infinite! Almighty! wilt thou become a man and die?" "Yes," saith the Saviour, "I will." And are you not astonished, mortal men? Do you not wonder? What, will you not marvel? The hosts of heaven still are wondering. Though it is many an age since they heard it, they have not yet ceased to admire; and do not you begin to marvel yet? Shall the theme which stirs the marvel of the seraph not move your hearts? That God himself should become man, and then should die for you! "God commendeth his love toward us, in that, Christ should die. Roll that thought over in your mind; ponder it in your meditations; weigh it in your hearts. If ye have right ideas of Godhead, if ye know what Christ is, if ye can conceive him who is the everlasting God, and yet the man if ye can picture him, the pure, holy, perfect creature, and yet the everlasting Creator if ye can conceive of him as the man who was wounded, and yet the God who was exalted for ever if ye can picture him as the Maker of all worlds, as the Lord of providence, by whom all things exist and consist if ye can conceive of him now, as robed in splendor, surrounded with the choral symphonies of myriads of angels, then perhaps ye may guess how deep was that stride of condescension, when he stepped from heaven to earth, from earth into the grave, from the grave down, it is said, into the lowest "sheol," that he might make his condescension perfect and complete. "He hath commended his love" to you, my brethren, in that it was Christ, the Son of God, who died for us.
The second part of the first commendation lieth here, that Christ died for us. It was much love when Christ became man for us, when he stripped himself of the glories of his Godhead for awhile, to become an infant of a span long, slumbering in the manger of Bethlehem. It was no little condescension when he divested himself of all his glories, hung his mantle on the sky, gave up his diadem and the pleasures of his throne, and stooped to become flesh. It was moreover, no small love when he lived a holy and a suffering life for us; it was love amazing, when God with feet of flesh did tread the earth, and teach his own creatures how to live, all the while bearing their scoffs and jests with cool unangered endurance. It was no little favour of him that he should condescend to give us a perfect example by his spotless life; but the commendation of love lieth here not that Christ lived for us, but that Christ died for us.
Come, dear hearers, for a moment weigh those words. "Christ died for us!" Oh, how we love those brave defenders of our nation who but lately died for us in a far-off land! Some of us showed our sympathy to their sons and daughters, their wives and children, by contributing to support them, when the fathers were laid low. We feel that the wounded soldier is a friend to us, and that we are his debtors for ever. We may not love war; we may not, some of us, think it a Christian act to wield the sword; but, nevertheless, I am sure we love the men who sought to defend our country with their lives, and who died in our cause. We would drop a tear over the silent graves of Balaclava, if we were there now. And, if it should ever come to pass that any one of them should be called to die for us, should we not henceforth love them? Do any of us know what is contained in that great word "die?" Can we measure it? Can we tell its depths of suffering or its heights of agony? "Died for us!" Some of you have seen death; you know how great and dread is its power; you have seen the strong man bowing down, his knees quivering; you have beheld the eyestrings break, and seen the eyeballs glazed in death; you have marked the torture and the agonies which appal men in their dying hours; and you have said, "Ah! it is a solemn and an awful thing to die." But, my hearers, "Christ died for us." All that death could mean Christ endured; he yielded up the ghost, he resigned his breath; he became a lifeless corpse, and his body was interred, even like the bodies of the rest that died. "Christ died for us."
Consider the circumstances which attended his death. It was no common death he died; it was a death of ignominy, for he was put to death by a legal slaughter; it was a death of unutterable pain, for he was crucified; and what more painful fate than to die nailed to a cross? It was a long protracted death, for he hung for hours, with only his hands and his feet pierced parts which are far away from the seat of life, but in which are situated the most tender nerves, full of sensibility. He suffered a death which for its circumstances still remain unparalleled. It was no speedy blow which crushed the life out of the body, and ended it; but it was a lingering, long, and doleful death, attended with no comforts and no sympathy, but surrounded with scorn and contempt. Picture him! They have hurled him on his back; they have driven nails through his hands and his feet; they have lifted him up. See! They have dashed the cross into its place. It is fixed. And now behold him! Mark his eyes, all full of tears; behold his head, hanging on his breast. Ah! mark him, he seems all silently to say, "I am poured out like water; all my bones are out of joint; I am brought into the dust of death." Hear him, when he groans, "I thirst." Above all, listen to him, whilst he cries, "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?" My words cannot picture him; my thoughts fail to express it. No painter ever accomplished it, nor shall any speaker be able to perform it. Yet I beseech you regard the Royal Sufferer. See him, with the eye of your faith, hanging on the bloody tree. Hear him cry, before he dies, "It is finished!"
"See from his head, his hands, his feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down!
Did e'er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?"
Oh! how i wish I could stir you! If I should tell you some silly story of a love-sick maid, ye would weep; if I should turn novelist, and give you some sad account of a fabled hero who had died in pain if it were a fiction, I should have your hearts; but this is a dread and solemn reality, and one with which you are intimately connected, for all this was done for as many of you as sincerely repent of your sins.
"All ye that pass by,
to Jesus draw nigh:
To you is it nothing that Jesus should die?"
Bethink you, that if you are saved, it is something to you, for the blood which trickles from his hands, distils for you. That frame which writhes in torture writhes for you; those knees, so weak with pain, are weak for you; those eyes, dripping with showers of tears, do drop for you. Ah! think of him, then, ye who have faith in him; look to him, and as many of you as have not yet believed, I will pray for you, that ye may now behold him as the expiation of your guilt; as the key which opens heaven to all believers.
Our second point was this: "God commendeth his love towards us," not only because Christ died for us, but that CHRIST DIED FOR US WHILE WE WERE YET SINNERS."
Let us for a moment consider what sort of sinners many of us have been, and then we shall see it was marvellous grace that Christ should die for men not as penitents"but as sinners. Consider how many of us have been continual sinners. We have not sinned once, nor twice, but ten thousand times. Our life, however upright and moral it has been, is stained by a succession of sins. If we have not revolted against God in the outward acts which proclaim the profligate to be a great sinner, yet the thoughts of our heart and the words of our lips are swift witnesses against us that we have continually transgressed. And oh! my brethren, who is there among us who will not likewise confess to sins of act? Who among us has not broken the Sabbath-day? Who among us has not taken God's name in vain? Who of us shall dare to say that we have loved the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our soul, and with all our strength? Have we never by any act whatsoever showed that we have coveted our neighbour's goods? Verily, I know we have; we have broken his commands, and it is well for us to join in that general confession "We have done those things which we ought not to have done; we have left undone those things which we ought to have done, and there is no health in us." Now, the sweet thought is, that Christ died for us, whilst he knew that we should be continual transgressors. Men, brethren, and fathers, he did not die for you as those who have committed but one fault, but as those who were emphatically "sinners;" sinners of years' standing; some of you sinners with grey heads; sinners who have persevered in a constant course of iniquity. As sinners we are redeemed, and by it we become saints. Does not this commend Christ's love to us, that he should die for sinners, who have dyed themselves with sin as with crimson and with scarlet; great and continual sinners.
Note again, he has died for us, although our sins were aggravated. Oh! there are some of us here who are great sinners not so much in the acts we have performed, as in the aggravation of our guilt. I reckon that when I sin, I sin worse than many of you, because I sin against better training than many of my hearers received in their youth. Many of you, when you sin, sin against faithful ministers, and against the most earnest warnings. It has been your wont to sit under truthful pastors; you have often been told of your sins. Remember, sirs, when you sin you do not sin so cheap as others: when you sin against the convictions of your consciences, against the solemn monitions of your pastors, you sin more grossly than others do. The Hottentot sinneth not as the Briton doth. He who has been brought up in this land may be openly more righteous, but he may be inwardly more wicked, for he sins against more knowledge. But even for such Christ died for men who have sinned against the wooings of his love, against the strivings of their consciences, against the invitations of his Word, against the warnings of his providence even for such Christ died, and therein he commendeth his love towards us, that he died for sinners. My hearer, if thou hast so sinned, do not therefore despair, it may be he will yet make thee rejoice in his redemption.
Reflect again, When we were sinners, we were sinners against the very person who died for us. "Tis strange, 'tis passing strange, 'tis wonderful," that the very Christ against whom we have sinned died for us. If a man should be injured in the street, if a punishment should be demanded of the person who attacked him, it would be passing strange if the injured man should for love's sake bear the penalty, that the other might go free; but 'twas so with Christ. He had been injured, yet he suffers for the very injury that others did to him. He dies for his enemies dies for the men that hate and scorn him. There is an old tradition, that the very man who pierced Christ's side was converted; and I sometimes think that peradventure in heaven we shall meet with those very men who drove the nails into his hands and pierced his side. Love is a mighty thing; it can forgive great transgressors. I know my Master said, "Begin at Jerusalem," and I think he said that because there lived the men who had crucified him, and he wanted them to be saved. My hearer, hast thou ever blasphemed Christ? Hast thou ever mocked him, and scoffed at his people? Hast thou done all thou couldst to emulate the example of those who spat in his holy face? Dost thou repent of it? Dost thou feel thou needst a Saviour? Then I tell thee, in Christ's name, he is thy Saviour; yes, thy Saviour, though thus hast insulted him thy Saviour, though thou hast trampled on him thy Saviour though thou hast spoken evil of his people, his day, his Word, and his gospel.
Once more, let us remember, that many of us as sinners have been persons who for a long time have heard this good news, and yet have despised it. Perhaps there is nothing more wonderful in the depravity of man than that it is able to forget the love of Christ. If we were not so sinful as we are, there is not one of us here this morning who would not weep at the thought of the Saviour's love, and I believe there is not a solitary man, woman, or child here, who would not say, "I love thee, O my God! because thou hast done so much for me." It is the highest proof of our depravity that we do not at once love the Christ who died for us. There is a story told of the convenanters of one named Patrick Welwood whose house was surrounded at a time when a minister had for security been hidden there. Claverhouse's dragoons were at the door, and the minister had fled. The master of the house was summoned, and it was demanded of him, "Where is the minister?" "He is gone; I cannot tell whither, for I know not." But they were not satisfied with that; they tortured him, and since he could not tell them where he was (for in reality he did not know), they left him, after inflicting upon him the torture of the thumbscrew; and they took his sister, a young girl who was living in the house. I believe she did know where the minister was concealed; but on taking her they asked her, and she said, "No, I can die myself, but I can never betray God's servant, and never will, as he may help me." They dragged her to the water's edge, and making her kneel down, they determined to put her to death. But the captain said, "Not yet; we will try to frighten her"; and sending a soldier to her, he knelt down, and applying a pistol to her ear, she was bidden to betray the minister or die. The click of the pistol was heard in her ear, but the pistol was not loaded. She slightly shivered, and the question was again asked of her. "Tell us now," said they, "where he is, or we will have your life." "Never, never," said she. A second time the endeavour was made; this time a couple of carabines were discharged, but into the air, in order to terrify her. At last they resolved upon really putting her to death, when Trail, the minister, who was hidden somewhere near, being aroused by the discharge of guns, and seeing the poor girl about to die for him, sprang forward, and cried, "Spare that maiden's blood, and take mine; this poor innocent girl, what hath she done?" The poor girl was dead even there with the fright, but the minister had come prepared to die himself, to save her life. Oh, my friends, I have sometimes thought that her heroic martyrdom was somewhat like the blessed Jesus. He comes to us, and says, "Poor sinner, wilt thou be my friend?" We answer, "No," He comes to us, and says, "Ah, I will make thee so," saith he, "I will die for thee"; and he goes to die on the cross. Oh! methinks I could spring forward and say, "Nay, Lord Jesus, nay, thou must not die for such a worm." Surely such a sacrifice is a price too large to pay for poor sinful worms! And yet, my hearers, to return again to what I have uttered before, you will hear all this, and nine out of ten will retire from this place, and say, "It was an old, old story"; and while ye can drop a tear for aught else, ye will not weep one tear for Jesus, nor sigh one sigh for him, nor will ye afford him even a faint emotion of love. Would it were different! Would to God he would change your hearts, that so ye might be brought to love him.
Further, to illustrate my text, let me remark again, that inasmuch as Christ died for sinners, it is a special commendation of his love for the following reasons: It is quite certain that God did not consider man's merit when Christ died; in fact, no merit could have deserved the death of Jesus. Though we had been holy as Adam, we could never have deserved a sacrifice like that of Jesus for us. But inasmuch as it says, "He died for sinners," we are thereby taught that God considered our sin, and not our righteousness. When Christ died, he died for men as black, as wicked, as abominable, not as good and excellent. Christ did not shed his blood for us as saints, but as sinners. He considered us in our loathsomeness, in our low estate and misery not in that high estate to which grace afterwards elevates us, but in all the decay into which we had fallen by our sin. There could have been no merit in us; and therefore, God commendeth his love by our ill desert.
Again: it is quite certain, because Christ died for us as sinners, that God had no interest to serve by sending his Son to die. How could sinners serve him? Oh! if God had pleased, he might have crushed this nest of rebels, and have made another world all holy. If God had chosen, the moment that man sinned he might have said unto the world, "Thou shalt be burned"; and like as a few years ago astronomers told us that they saw the light of a far-off world burning, myriads of miles away, this world might have been consumed with burning heat, and sin scorched out of its clay. But no. Whilst God could have made another race of beings, and could have either annihilated us, or consigned us to eternal torment, he was pleased to veil himself in flesh, and die for us. Surely then it could not have been from any motive of self-interest. God had nothing to get by man's salvation. What are the attractions of human voices in Paradise. What are the feeble symphonies which mortal lips can sing on earth, compared with the death of our Lord? He had angels enough. Do they not day without night circle his throne rejoicing? Are not their golden harps sufficient? Is not the orchestra of heaven large enough? Must our glorious Lord give up his blood to buy poor worms, that they may join their little notes with the great swell of a choral universe? Yes, he must; and inasmuch as we are sinners, and could by no possibility repay him for his kindness, "God commendeth his love towards us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."
But there is another commendation of love. Christ died for us "unasked." Christ did not consider me as an awakened heir of heaven, but as a dead, corrupt, lost, and ruined heir of hell. If he had died for me as an awakened heir of heaven, then I could have prayed for him to die, for then I have power to pray, and will to pray; but Christ died for me when I had no power nor will to lift my voice in prayer to him. It was entirely unasked. Where did ye ever hear that man was first in mercy? Did man ask God to redeem? Nay, rather, it is almost the other way; it is as if God did entreat man to be redeemed. Man never asked that he might be pardoned, but God pardons him, and then turns round and cries, "Return unto me, backsliding children of men, and I will have mercy upon you." Sinners! if you should go down on your knees, and were for months to cry for mercy, it would be great mercy if mercy should look upon you; but without asking, when we are hardened and rebellious, when we will not turn to Christ, he still comes to die for us. Tell it in heaven; tell it in the lower world! God's amazing work surpasses thought; for love itself did die for hatred holiness did crucify itself to save poor sinful men, and unasked for and unsought, like a fountain in the desert sparkling spontaneously with its native waters, Jesus Christ came to die for man, who would not seek his grace. "God commendeth his love towards us."
And now, my dear hearers, I want to close up, if the Spirit of God will help me, by endeavouring to commend God's love to you, as much as ever I can, and inviting as many of you as feel your need of a Saviour, to lay hold of him and embrace him now as your all-sufficient sacrifice. Sinner! I can commend Christ to thee for this reason: I know that thou needest him. Thou mayest be ignorant of it thyself, but thou dost need him. Thou hast a leprosy within thine heart thou needest a physician; thou sayest, "I am rich;" but sinner, thou art not thou art naked, and poor, and miserable. Thou sayest, "I shall stand before God accepted at last"; but, sinner, without Christ thou wilt not; for whosoever believeth not on Christ "hath not life, but the wrath of God abideth on him." Hear that, my dear hearers: "The wrath of God abideth on him." Oh! that wrath of God! Sinner, thou needest Christ, even though thou dost not think so. Oh, that the Lord would impress this upon thee! Again, a day is coming when thou wilt feel thy need of Christ if thou dost not now. Within a few short years, perhaps months or days, thou wilt lie upon the last bed that shall ever bear thy weight; soon thou shalt be stayed up by soft pillows; thy frame will be weak, and thy soul full of sorrow. Thou mayest live without Christ now, but it will be hard work to die without him. Thou mayest do without this bridge here; but when thou gettest to the river thou wilt think thyself a fool to have laughed at the only bridge which can carry thee safely over. Thou mayest despise Christ now, but what wilt thou do in the swellings of Jordan. Canst thou face death, and not be afraid? Nay, man, thou art affrighted now if the cholera is in the city; or if some little sickness is about thee thou shakest for fear; what wilt thou do when thou art in the jaws of death, when his bony hand is squeezing thee, and when his dart is in thy vitals? What wilt thou do then without a Saviour? Ah! thou wilt want him then. And what wilt thou do when thou hast passed that black stream, when thou findest thyself in the realm of spirits in that day of judgment, when the thunders shall be loosed, and the wings of the lightning shall be unbound when tempests shall herald with trumpet voice the arrival of the great Assize? What wilt thou do when thou shalt stand before his bar before whom, in astonishment, the stars shall flee, the mountains quake, and the sea be licked up with tongues of forked flame? What wilt thou do, when from his throne he shall exclaim, "Come hither, sinner," and thou shalt stand there alone, to be judged for every deed done in the body? Thou wilt turn thine head, and say, "Oh! for an advocate!" And he shall look on thee, and say, "I called, and ye refused; I stretched out my hand and no man regarded; I also will now laugh at your calamity, and mock when your fear cometh." Ah! what wilt thou do then sinner, when the judgment-seat is set? Oh! there will be weeping there will be weeping at the judgment-seat of Christ. And what wilt thou do in that day when he shall say, "Depart, ye cursed;" and when the black angel, with a countenance more fierce than lightening, and with a voice louder than ten thousand thunders, shall cry, "Depart!" and smite thee down where lie for ever those accursed spirits, bound in fetters of iron, who, long long ago, were cast into perdition? Say not, I tell thee terrible things: if it be terrible to speak of, how terrible it must be to bear! If you believe not what I say, I shall not wonder if you laugh at me; but as the most of you believe this, I claim your most solemn attention to this subject.
Sirs! Do ye believe there is a hell, and that you are going there? And yet do you still march heedless on? Do you believe that beyond you, when the stream of life is ended, there is a black gulf of misery? and do you still sail downwards to it, quaffing still your glass of happiness, still merry as the live-long day? O stay, poor sinner, stay! Stay! It may be the last moment thou wilt ever have the opportunity to stay in. Therefore stay now I beseech thee. And if thou knowest thyself to be lost and ruined, if the Holy Spirit has humbled thee and made thee feel thy sin, let me tell thee how thou shalt be saved. "He that believeth on the Lord Jesus Christ and is baptized, shall be saved. "He that believeth not," saith the Scripture "shall be damned." Do you not like that message? Ought I to have said another word instead of that? If you wish it, I shall not; what God says I will say; far be it from me to alter the messages from the Most High; I will, if he help me, declare his truth without altering. He saith "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; he that believeth not shall be damned." What is it to believe? To tell you as simply as possible: to believe is to give up trusting in yourself and to trust in Jesus Christ as your Saviour. The negro said, you know, "Massa dis here is how I believe when I see a promise, I do not stand on de promise; but I say, dat promise firm and strong; I fall flat on it; if de promise will not bear me, den it is de promise fault; but I fall flat on it." Now, that is faith. Christ says, "This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners." Faith is to say, "Well, then, sink or swim, that is my only hope; lost or saved, that is my only refuge. I am resolved, for this my last defence,
'If I perish there and die,
At his cross I still will lie'."
"What!" says one, "no good works?" Good works will come afterwards, but they do not go with it. You must come to Christ, not with your good works, but with your sins; and coming with your sins, he will take them away, and give you good works afterwards. After you believe, there will be good works as the effect of your faith; but if you think faith will be the effect of good works, you are mistaken. It is "believe and live." Cowper calls them the soul-quickening words, "believe and live." This is the sum and substance of the gospel.
Now, do any of you say this is not the gospel? I shall ask you one day what it is. Is not this the doctrine Whitfield preached? Pray what else did Luther thunder, when he shook the Vatican? what else was proclaimed by Augustine and Chrysostom, but this one doctrine of salvation in Christ by faith alone? And what did Paul write? Turn ye to his epistles. And what did our Saviour himself say, when he left these words on record "Go ye and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost?" And what did he command his disciples to teach them? To teach them this. The very words I have now repeated to you were his last commission. "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; he that believeth not shall be damned."
But again you say, "How can I believe that Christ died for me?" Why, thus, He says he died for sinners: canst thou say thou art a sinner? I do not mean with that fine complimentary phrase which many of you use, when you say, "Yes, I am a sinner;" and if I sit down to ask you, "Did you break that commandment?" "Oh, no," you will say: "Did you commit that offence?" "Oh, no;" you never did anything wrong. And yet you are sinners. Now that is the sort of sinners I do not think I shall preach to. The sort of sinners I would call to repentance are those whom Christ invited those who know that they have been guilty, vile, and lost. If thou knowest thy sinnership, so truly Christ died for thee. Remember that striking saying of Luther. Luther says, Satan once came to him and said, "Martin Luther, thou art lost, for thou art a sinner." Said I to him, "Satan, I thank thee for saying I am a sinner, for inasmuch as thou sayest I am a sinner, I answer thee thus Christ died for sinners; and if Martin Luther is a sinner, Christ died for him." Now, canst thou lay hold on that, my hearer? It is not on my authority, but on God's authority. Go away and rejoice; for if thou be the chief of sinners thou shalt be saved, if thou believest.
"Jesus, thy blood and righteousness
My beauty are, my glorious dress;
'Midst flaming worlds in these arrayed,
With joy shall I lift up my head.
Bold shall I stand in that great day.
For who aught to my charge shall lay?
While, thro' thy blood, absolv'd I am
From sin's tremendous curse and shame."
Sing that, poor soul, and thou hast begun to sing the song of Paradise. May the Lord, the Holy Spirit, apply these simple statements of truth to the salvation of your souls.
'Law and Grace' and 'Sin And Grace'
Law and Grace
Delivered on Sabbath Morning, August 26, 1855, by the
REV. C. H. Spurgeon
At New Park Street Chapel, Southwark.
"Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound." Romans 5:20 .
There is no point upon which men make greater mistakes than upon the relation which exists between the law and the gospel. Some men put the law instead of the gospel: others put the gospel instead of the law; some modify the law and the gospel, and preach neither law nor gospel: and others entirely abrogate the law, by bringing in the gospel. Many there are who think that the law is the gospel, and who teach that men by good works of benevolence, honesty, righteousness, and sobriety, may be saved. Such men do err. On the other hand, many teach that the gospel is a law; that it has certain commands in it, by obedience to which, men are meritoriously saved; such men err from the truth, and understand it not. A certain class maintain that the law and the gospel are mixed, and that partly by observance of the law, and partly by God's grace, men are saved. These men understand not the truth, and are false teachers. This morning I shall attempt God helping me to show you what is the design of the law, and then what is the end of the gospel. The coming of the law is explained in regard to its objects: "Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound." Then comes the mission of the gospel: "But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound."
I shall consider this text in two senses this morning. First, as it respects the world at large and the entrance of the law into it; and then afterwards, as respecting the heart of the convinced sinner, and the entrance of the law into the conscience.
I. First, we shall speak of the text as CONCERNING THE WORLD.
The object of God in sending the law into the world was "that the offence might abound." But then comes the gospel, for "where sin abounded, grace did much more abound." First, then, in reference to the entire world, God sent the law into the world "that the offence might abound." There was sin in the world long before God sent the law. God gave his law that the offence might seem to be an offence; ay, and that the offence might abound exceedingly more than it could have done without its coming. There was sin long before Sinai smoked; long ere the mountain trembled beneath the weight of Deity, and the dread trumpet sounded exceeding loud and long, there had been transgression. And where that law has never been heard, in heathen countries where that word has never gone forth, yet there is sin, because, though men cannot sin against the law which they have never seen, yet they can all rebel against the light of nature, against the dictates of conscience, and against that traditional remembrance of right and wrong, which has followed mankind from the place where God created them. All men, in every land, have consciences, and therefore all men can sin. The ignorant Hottentot, who has never heard anything of a God, has just so much of the light of nature, that in the things that are outwardly good or bad he will discern the difference; and though he foolishly bows down to stocks and stones, he has a judgment which, if he used it, would teach him better. If he chose to use his talents, he might know there is a God; for the Apostle, when speaking of men who have only the light of nature, plainly declares that "the invisible things of him, from the creation of the world, are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse." Romans 1:20 . Without a divine revelation men can sin, and sin exceedingly conscience, nature, tradition, and reason, being each of them, sufficient to condemn them for their violated commandments. The law makes no one a sinner; all men are such in Adam, and were so practically before its introduction. It entered that "the offence might abound." Now this seems a very terrible thought at first sight, and many ministers would have shirked this text altogether. But when I find a verse I do not understand, I usually think it is a text I should study; and I try to seek it out before my heavenly Father, and then when he has opened it to my soul, I reckon it my duty to communicate it to you, with the holy aid of the Spirit. "The law entered that the offence might abound." I will attempt to show you how the law makes offenses "abound."
1. First of all, the law tells us that many things are sins which we should never have thought to be so if it had not been for the additional light. Even with the light of nature, and the light of conscience, and the light of tradition, there are some things we should never have believed to be sins had we not been taught so by the law. Now, what man by light of conscience, would keep holy the Sabbath-day suppose he never read the Bible, and never heard of it? If he lived in a South Sea island he might know there was a God, but not by any possibility could he find out that the seventh part of his time should be set apart to that God. We find that there are certain festivals and feasts among heathens, and that they set apart days in honour of their fancied gods; but I should like to know where they could discover that there was a certain seventh day to be set apart to God, to spend the time in his house of prayer. How could they, unless indeed, tradition may have handed down the fact of the original consecration of that day by the creating Jehovah. I cannot conceive it possible that either conscience or reason could have taught them such a command as this: Remember the Sabbath-day to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work; but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God, in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor they daughter, thy manservant, nor they maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates. Moreover, if in the term "law" we comprehend the ceremonial ritual, we can plainly see that many things, in appearance quite indifferent, were by it constituted sins. The eating of animals that do not chew the cud and divide the hoof, the wearing of linsey-woolsey, the sitting on a bed polluted by a leper with a thousand other things, all seem to have no sin in them, but the law made them into sins, and so made the offence to abound.
2. It is a fact which you can verify by looking at the working of your own mind, that law has a tendency to make men rebel. Human nature rises against restraint. I had not known lust except the law had said, "Thou shalt not covet." The depravity of man is excited to rebellion by the promulgation of laws. So evil are we, that we conceive at once the desire to commit an act, simply because it is forbidden. Children, we all know, as a rule, will always desire what they may not have, and if forbidden to touch anything, will either do so when an opportunity serves, or will long to be able to do so. The same tendency any student of human nature can discern in man-kind at large. Is then the law chargeable with my sin? God forbid. "But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence. For sin taking occasion by the commandment deceived me, and by it slew me." Romans 7:7-8 , Romans 7:11 . The law is holy, and just, and good, it is not faulty, but sin uses it as an occasion of offence, and rebels when it ought to obey. Augustine placed the truth in a clear light when he wrote "The law is not in fault, but our evil and wicked nature; even as a heap of lime is still and quiet until water be poured thereon, but then it begins to smoke and burn, not from the fault of the water, but from the nature and kind of the lime which will not endure it." Thus, you see, this is a second sense in which the entrance of the law causes the offence to abound.
3. Yet again, the law increases the sinfulness of sin, by removing all excuse of ignorance. Until men know the law, their crimes have at least a palliation of partial ignorance, but when the code of rules is spread before them, their offenses become greater, since they are committed against light and knowledge. He who sins against conscience shall be condemned; of how much sorer punishment shall he be thought worthy who despises the voice of Jehovah, defies his sacred sovereignty, and willfully tramples on his commands. The more light the greater guilt the law affords that light, and so causes us to become double offenders. Oh, ye nations of the earth who have heard the law of Jehovah, your sin is increased, and your offence abounds.
Methinks I hear some say, "How unwise it must have been that a law should come to make these things abound!" Does it not, at first sight, seem very harsh that the great author of the world should give us a law which will not justify, but indirectly cause our condemnation to be greater? Does it not seem to be a thing which a gracious God would not reveal, but would have withheld? But, know ye, "that the foolishness of God is wiser than men;" and understand ye that there is a gracious purpose even here. Natural men dream that by a strict performance of duty they shall obtain favor, but God saith thus: "I will show them their folly by proclaiming a law so high that they will despair of attaining unto it. They think that works will be sufficient to save them. They think falsely, and they will be ruined by their mistake. I will send them a law so terrible in its censures, so unflinching it its demands, that they cannot possibly obey it, and they will be driven even to desperation, and come and accept my mercy through Jesus Christ. They cannot be saved by the law not by the law of nature. As it is, they have sinned against it. But yet, I know, they have foolishly hoped to keep my law, and think by works of the law they may be justified; whereas I have said, 'By the works of the law no flesh living can be justified;' therefore I will write a law it shall be a black and heavy one a burden which they cannot carry; and then they will turn away and say, 'I will not attempt to perform it; I will ask my Saviour to bear it for me.'" Imagine a case Some young men are about to go to sea, where I foresee they will meet with a storm. Suppose you put me in a position where I may cause a tempest before the other shall arise. Well, by the time the natural storm comes on, those young men will be a long way out at sea, and they will be wrecked and ruined before they can put back and be safe. But what do I? Why, when they are just at the mouth of the river, I send a storm, putting them in the greatest danger, and precipitating them ashore, so that they are saved. Thus did God. He sends a law which shows them the roughness of the journey. The tempest of law compels them to put back to the harbour of free grace, and saves them from a most terrible destruction, which would otherwise overwhelm them. The law never came to save men. It never was its intention at all. It came on purpose to make the evidence complete that salvation by works is impossible, and thus to drive the elect of God to rely wholly on the finished salvation of the gospel. Now, just to illustrate my meaning, let me describe it by one more figure. You all remember those high mountains called the Alps. Well, it would be a great mercy if those Alps were a little higher. It would have been, at all events, for Napoleon's soldiers when he led his large army over, and caused thousands to perish in crossing. Now, if it could have been possible to pile another Alps on their summit, and make them higher than the Himalaya, would not the increased difficulty have deterred him from his enterprise, and so have adverted the destruction of thousands? Napoleon demanded, "Is it possible?" "Barely possible," was the reply. "Avancez," cried Buonaparte; and the host were soon toiling up the mountain side. Now, by the light of nature, it does seem possible for us to go over this mountain of works, but all men would have perished in the attempt, the path even of this lower hill being too narrow for mortal footsteps. God, therefore, puts another law, like a mountain, on the top; and now the sinner says, "I cannot climb over that. It is a task beyond Herculean might. I see before me a narrow pass, called the pass of Jesus Christ's mercy the pass of the cross methinks I will wend my way thither." But if it had not been that the mountain was too high for him, he would have gone climbing up, and climbing up, until he sank into some chasm, or was lost under some mighty avalanche, or in some other way perished eternally. But the law comes that the whole world might see the impossibility of being saved by works.
Let us turn to the more pleasing part of the subject the superabundance of grace. Having bewailed the devastations and injurious deeds of sin, it delights our hearts to be assured that "grace did much more abound."
1. Grace excels sin in the numbers it brings beneath its sway. It is my firm belief that the number of the saved will be far greater than the damned. It is written that in all things Jesus shall have pre-eminence; and why is this to be left out? Can we think that Satan will have more followers than Jesus? Oh, no; for while it is written that the redeemed are a number that no man can number; it is not recorded that the lost are beyond numeration. True, we know that the visible elect are ever a remnant but then there are others to be added. Think for a moment of the army of infant souls who are now in heaven. These all fell in Adam, but being all elect, were all redeemed and regenerated, and were privileged to fly from the mother's breasts to glory. Happy lot, which we who are spared might well envy. Nor let it be forgotten that the multitudes of converts in the millennial age will very much turn the scale. For then the world will be exceedingly populous, and a thousand years of a reign of grace might easily suffice to overcome the majority accumulated by sin during six thousand years of its tyranny. In that peaceful period, when all shall know him, from the least even unto the greatest, the sons of God shall fly as doves to their windows, and the Redeemer's family shall be exceedingly multiplied.
What though those who have been deluded by superstition, and destroyed by lust, must be counted by thousands grace has still the pre-eminence. Saul has slain his thousands, but David his ten-thousands. We admit that the number of the damned will be immense, but we do think that the two states of infancy and millennial glory will furnish so great a reserve of saints that Christ shall win the day. The procession of the lost may be long; there must be thousands, and thousands, and thousands, of those who have perished, but the greater procession of the King of kings shall be composed of larger hosts than even these. "Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound." The trophies of free grace will be far more than the trophies of sin.
Yet again. Grace doth "much more abound," because a time shall come when the world shall be all full of grace; whereas there has never been a period in this world's history when it was wholly given to sin. When Adam and Eve rebelled against God, there was still a display of grace in the world; for in the garden at the close of the day, God said, "I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shalt bruise thy head, and thou shall bruise his heel;" and since that first transgression, there has never been a moment when grace has entirely lost its footing in the earth. God has always had his servants on earth; at times they have been hidden by fifties in the caves, but they have never been utterly cut off. Grace might be low; the stream might be very shallow, but it has never been wholly dry. There has always been a salt of grace in the world to counteract the power of sin. The clouds have never been so universal as to hide the day. But the time is fast approaching when grace shall extend all over our poor world and be universal. According to the Bible testimony, we look for the great day when the dark cloud which has swathed this world in darkness shall be removed, and it shall shine once more like all its sister planets. It hath been for many a long year clouded and veiled by sin and corruption; but the last fire shall consume its rags and sackcloth. After that fire, the world in righteousness shall shine. The huge molten mass now slumbering in the bowels of our common mother shall furnish the means of purity. Palaces, and crowns, and peoples, and empires, are all to be melted down; and after like a plague-house, the present creation has been burned up entirely, God will breathe upon the heated mass, and it will cool down again. He will smile on it as he did when he first created it, and the rivers will run down the new-made hills, the oceans will float in new-made channels; and the world will be again the abode of the righteous for ever and for ever. This fallen world will be restored to its orbit; that gem which was lost from the sceptre of God shall be set again, yea, he shall wear it as a signet about his arm. Christ died for the world; and what he died for, he will have. He died for the whole world, and the whole world he will have, when he has purified it and cleansed it and fitted it for himself. "Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound;" for grace shall be universal, whereas sin never was.
One thought more. Hath the world lost its possessions by sin? It has gained far more by grace. True, we have been expelled a garden of delights, where peace, love, and happiness found a glorious habitation. True, Eden is not ours, with its luscious fruits, its blissful bowers, and its rivers flowing o'er sands of gold, but we have through Jesus a fairer habitation. He hath made us sit together in heavenly places the plains of heaven exceed the fields of paradise in the ever-new delights which they afford, while the tree of life, and the river from the throne render the inhabitants of the celestial regions more than emparadised. Did we lose natural life and subject ourselves to painful death by sin? Has not grace revealed an immortality for the sake of which we are too glad to die? Life lost in Adam is more restored in Christ. We admit that our original robes were rent in sunder by Adam, but Jesus has clothed us with a divine righteousness, far exceeding in value even the spotless robes of created innocence. We mourn our low and miserable condition, through sin, but we will rejoice at the thought, that we are now more secure than before we fell, and are brought into closer alliance with Jesus than our standing could have procured us. O Jesus! thou hast won us an inheritance more wide than our sin has ever lavished. Thy grace has overtopped our sins. "Grace doth much more abound."
II. Now we come to the second part of the subject, and that is THE ENTRANCE OF THE LAW INTO THE HEART.
We have to deal carefully when we come to deal with internal things; it is not easy to talk about this little thing, the heart. When we begin to meddle with the law of their soul, many become indignant, but we do not fear their wrath. We are going to attack the hidden man this morning. The law entered their hearts that sin might abound, "but where sin abounded, grace did much more abound."
1. The law causes the offence to abound by discovering sin to the soul. When once God the Holy Ghost applies the law to the conscience, secret sins are dragged to light, little sins are magnified to their true size, and things apparently harmless become exceedingly sinful. Before that dread searcher of the hearts and trier of the reins makes his entrance into the soul, it appears righteous, just, lovely, and holy; but when he reveals the hidden evils, the scene is changed. Offenses which were once styled peccadilloes, trifles, freaks of youth, follies, indulgences, little slip, &c., then appear in their true colour, as breaches of the law of God, deserving condign punishment.
John Bunyan shall explain my meaning by an extract from his famous allegory: "Then the Interpreter took Christian by the hand and led him into a very large parlour that was full of dust, because never swept; in which after he had reviewed it a little while, the Interpreter called for a man to sweep. Now, when he began to sweep, the dust became so abundantly to fly about, that Christian had almost therewith been choked. Then said Interpreter to a damsel that stood by, 'Bring hither water, and sprinkle the room'; the which when she had done, it was swept and cleansed with pleasure. Then said Christian, 'What means this?' The Interpreter answered, 'This parlour is the heart of a man that was never sanctified by the sweet grace of the gospel. The dust is his original sin and inward corruptions that have defiled the whole man. He that began to sweep, at first, is the law; but she that brought the water and did sprinkle it, is the gospel. Now, whereas thou sawest that as soon as the first began to sweep, the dust did so fly about, that the room could not by him be cleansed, but that thou wast almost choked therewith; this is to show thee, that the law, instead of cleansing the heart (by its working) from sin, doth revive, Romans 7:9 , put strength into, 1 Corinthians 15:56 , and increase it in the soul, Romans 5:20 , even as it doth discover and forbid it, for that doth not give power to subdue. Again, as thou sawest the damsel sprinkle the room with water, upon which it was cleansed with pleasure; this is to show thee, that when the gospel comes in the sweet and precious influences thereof to the heart, then, I say, even as thou sawest the damsel lay the dust by sprinkling the floor with water, so is sin vanquished and subdued, and the soul made clean, through the faith of it, and consequently fit for the King of glory to inhabit.'"
The heart is like a dark cellar, full of lizards, cockroaches, beetles, and all kinds of reptiles and insects, which in the dark we see not, but the law takes down the shutters and lets in the light, and so we see the evil. Thus sin becoming apparent by the law, it is written the law makes the offence to abound.
2. Once again. The law, when it comes into the heart, shows us how very black we are. Some of us know that we are sinners. It is very easy to say it. The word "sinner" hath only two syllables in it, and many there be who frequently have it on their lips, but who do not understand it. They see their sin, but it does not appear exceedingly sinful till the law comes. We think there is something sinful in it; but when the law comes, we detect its abomination. Has God's holy light ever shone into your souls? Have you had the fountains of your great depravity and evil broken up, and been wakened up sufficiently to say, "O God! I have sinned?" Now, if you have your hearts broken up by the law, you will find the heart is more deceitful than the devil. I can say this of myself, I am very much afraid of mine, it is so bad. The Bible says, "The heart is deceitful above all things." The devil is one of the things; therefore, it is worse than the devil "and desperately wicked." How many do we find who are saying, "Well, I trust I have a very good heart at the bottom. There may be a little amiss at the top, but I am very good-hearted at bottom." If you saw some fruit on the top of a basket that was not quite good, would you buy the basket because they told you, "Ay, but they are good at the bottom?" "No, no," you would say, "they are sure to be best at the top, and if they are bad there, they are sure to be rotten below." There are many people who live queer lives, and some friends say, "He is good-hearted at bottom; he would get drunk sometimes, but he is very good-hearted at the bottom." Ah! never believe it. Men are seldom estimated better than they seem to be. If the outside of the cup or platter is clean, the inside may be dirty, but if the outside is impure, you may always be sure the inside is no better. Most of us put our goods in the window keep all our good things in the front, and bad things behind. Let you and I, instead of making excuses about ourselves, about the badness of our hearts, if the law has entered into your soul, bow down and say, "O the sin O the uncleanness the blackness the awful nature of our crimes!" "The law entered that the offence may abound."
3. The law reveals the exceeding abundance of sin, by discovering to us the depravity of our nature. We are all prepared to charge the serpent with our guilt, or to insinuate that we go astray, from the force of ill example but the Holy Spirit dissipates these dreams by bringing the law into the heart. Then the fountains of the great deep are broken up, the chambers of the imagery are opened, the innate evil of the very essence of fallen man is discovered.
The law cuts into the core of the evil, it reveals the seat of the malady, and informs us that the leprosy lies deep within. Oh! how the man abhors himself when he sees all his rivers of water turned into blood, and loathsomeness creeping over all his being. He learns that sin is no flesh wound, but a stab in the heart; he discovers that the poison has impregnated his veins, lies in his very marrow, and hath its fountain in his inmost heart. Now he loathes himself, and would fain be healed. Actual sin seems not half so terrible as in-bred sin, and at the thought of what he is, he turns pale, and gives up salvation by works as an impossibility.
4. Having thus removed the mask and shown the desperate case of the sinner, the relentless law causes the offence to abound yet more by bringing home the sentence of condemnation. It mounts the judgment seat, puts on the black cap, and pronounces the sentence of death. With a harsh unpitying voice it solemnly thunders forth the words, "Condemned already." It bids the soul prepare its defence, knowing well that all apology has been taken away by its former work of conviction. The sinner is therefore speechless, and the law, with frowning looks, lifts up the veil of hell, and gives the man a glimpse of torment. The soul feels that the sentence is just, that the punishment is not too severe, and that mercy it has no right to expect; it stands quivering, trembling, fainting, and intoxicated with dismay, until it falls prostrate in utter despair. The sinner puts the rope around his own neck, arrays himself in the attire of the condemned, and throws himself at the foot of the King's throne, with but one thought, "I am vile"; and with one prayer, "God be merciful to me a sinner."
5. Nor does the law cease its operations even here, for it renders the offence yet more apparent by discovering the powerlessness occasioned by sin. It not only condemns but it actually kills. He who once thought that he could repent and believe at pleasure, finds in himself no power to do either the one or the other.
When Moses smites the sinner he bruises and mangles him with the first blow, but at a second or a third, he falls down as one dead. I myself have been in such a condition that if heaven could have been purchased by a single prayer I should have been damned, for I could no more pray than I could fly. Moreover, when we are in the grave which the law has digged for us, we feel as if we did not feel, and we grieve because we cannot grieve. The dread mountain lies upon us which renders it impossible to stir hand or foot, and when we would cry for help our voice refuses to obey us. In vain the minister cries, "Repent," Our hard heart will not melt; in vain he exhorts us to believe; that faith of which he speaks seems to be as much beyond our capacity as the creation of the universe. Ruin is now become ruin indeed. The thundering sentence is in our ears, "CONDEMNED ALREADY," another cry follows it, "DEAD IN TRESPASSES AND SINS," and a third, more awful and terrible, mingles its horrible warning, "The wrath to come the wrath to come." In the opinion of the sinner he is now cast out as a corrupt carcass, he expects each moment to be tormented by the worm that never dies and to lift up his eyes in hell. Now is mercy's moment, and we turn the subject from condemning law to abounding grace.
Listen, O heavy laden, condemned sinner, while in my Master's name, I publish superabounding grace. Grace excels sin in its measure and efficacy. Though your sins are many, mercy hath many pardons. Though they excel the stars, the sands, the drops of dew in their number, one act of remission can cancel all. Your iniquity, though a mountain, shall be cast into the midst of the sea. Your blackness shall be washed out by the cleansing flood of your Redeemer's gore. Mark! I said YOUR sins, and I meant to say so, for if you are now a law-condemned sinner, I know you to be a vessel of mercy by that very sign. Oh, hellish sinners, abandoned profligates, off-casts of society, outcasts from the company of sinners themselves, if ye acknowledge your iniquity, here is mercy, broad, ample, free, immense, INFINITE. Remember this O sinner,
"If all the sins that men have done,
In will, in word, in thoughts, in deed,
Since words were made, or time began,
Were laid on one poor sinner's head.
The stream of Jesus' precious blood
Applied, removes the dreadful load."
Yet again, grace excelleth sin in another thing. Sin shows us its parent, and tells us our heart is the father of it, but grace surpasseth sin there, and shows the Author of grace the King of kings. The law traces sin up to our heart; grace traces its own origin to God, and
"In his sacred breast I see
Eternal thoughts of love to me."
O Christian, what a blessed thing grace is, for its source is in the everlasting mountains. Sinner, if you are the vilest in the world, if God forgives you this morning, you will be able to trace your pedigree to him, for you will become one of the sons of God, and have him always for your Father. Methinks I see you a wretched criminal at the bar, and I hear mercy cry, "Discharge him!" He is pallid, halt, sick, maimed heal him. He is of a vile race lo, I will adopt him into my family. Sinner! God taketh thee for his son. What, though thou art poor, God says, "I will take thee to be mine for ever. Thou shalt be my heir. There is thy fair brother. In ties of blood he is one with thee Jesus is thy actual brother!" Yet how came this change? Oh! is not that an act of mercy? "Grace did much more abound."
"Grace hath put me in the number
Of the Saviour's family."
Grace outdoes sin, for it lifts us higher than the place from which we fell.
And again, "where sin abounded, grace did much more abound"; because the sentence of the law may be reversed, but that of grace never can. I stand here and feel condemned, yet, perhaps, I have a hope that I may be acquitted. There is a dying hope of acquittal still left. But when we are justified, there is no fear of condemnation. I cannot be condemned if I am once justified; fully absolved I am by grace. I defy Satan to lay hands on me, if I am a justified man. The state of justification is an unvariable one, and is indissolubly united to glory. "Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea, rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God who also maketh intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or sword? Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." Oh! poor condemned sinner, doth not this charm thee, and make thee in love with free grace? And all this is YOURS. Your crimes, if once blotted out, shall never be laid to your charge again. The justification of the gospel is no Arminian sham, which may be reversed if you should in future turn aside. No; the debt once paid, cannot be demanded twice the punishment, once endured, cannot again be inflicted. Saved, saved, saved, entirely saved by divine grace, you may walk without fear the wide world over.
And yet, once more. Just as sin makes us sick, and grievous, and sad, so does grace make us far more joyful and free. Sin causeth one to go about with an aching heart, till he seems as if the world would swallow him, and mountains hang above ready to drop upon him. This is the effect of the law. The law makes us sad; the law makes us miserable. But, poor sinner, grace removeth the evil effects of sin upon your spirit, if thou dost believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, thou shalt go out of this place with a sparkling eye and a light heart. Ah! well do I remember the morning when I stepped into a little place of worship, as miserable almost as hell could make me being ruined and lost. I had often been at chapels where they spoke of the law, but I heard not the gospel. I sat down the pew a chained and imprisoned sinner; the Word of God came, and I went out free. Though I went in miserable as hell, I went out elated and joyful. I sat there black; I went away whiter than driven snow. God had said, "Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be whiter than snow." Why not this be thy lot, my brother, if thou feelest thyself a sinner now? It is all he asks of thee, to feel thy need of him, this thou hast, and now the blood of Jesus lies before thee. "The law has entered that sin might abound." Thou are forgiven, only believe it; elect, only believe it; 'tis the truth that thou are saved.
And now, lastly, poor sinner, has sin made thee unfit for heaven? Grace shall render thee a fit companion for seraphs and the just made perfect. Thou who art to-day lost and destroyed by sin, shalt one day find thyself with a crown upon thy head, and a golden harp in thine hand, exalted to the throne of the Most High. Think, O drunkard, if thou repentest, there is a crown laid up for thee in heaven. Ye guiltiest, most lost and depraved, are ye condemned in your conscience by the law? Then I invite you, in my Master's name, to accept pardon through his blood. He suffered in your stead, he has atoned for your guilt and you are acquitted. Thou art an object of his eternal affection, the law is but a schoolmaster, to bring thee to Christ. Cast thyself on him. Fall into the arms of saving grace. No works are required, no fitness, no righteousness, no doings. Ye are complete in him who said, "It is finished."
"Ye debtors whom he gives to know
That you ten thousand talents owe,
When humble at his feet you fall,
Your gracious God forgives them all.
"Slaves, that have borne the heavy chain
Of sin, and hell's tyrannic reign,
To liberty assert your claim,
And urge the great Redeemer's name.
"The rich inheritance of heaven,
Your joy, your boast, is freely giv'n;
Fair Salem your arrival waits,
With golden streets, and pearly gates.
"Her blest inhabitants no more
Bondage and poverty deplore!
No debt, but love immensely great;
Their joy still rises with the debt."
Sin And Grace
Published on Thursday, October 22nd, 1908.
C. H. SPURGEON,
At the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington
On Lord's-day Evening, November 1st, 1874.
"Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound." Romans 5:20 . Romans 5:1
THERE are two very powerful forces in the world, which have been here ever since the time when Eve partook of the forbidden fruit in the garden of Eden. Those two forces are sin and grace. A very great power is sin, a power dark, mysterious, baleful, but full of force. The sorrows of mankind, whence came they but from sin? We should have known no war, nor pestilence, nor famine, nor would aught of sickness or sorrow ever have smitten the human race had not sin sown its evil seed in this earth. Sin is the Pandora's box from which all evil has come to mankind. See what ravages death has made; its hillocks are everywhere. Its mighty scythe mows men down as the mower cuts down the grass of the field; but death came by sin and after death comes judgment, and, to the ungodly, the doom that never can be desired, the eternal wrath whose blackness the wildest tempest cannot imitate. Who digged this pit? It was the justice of God on account of sin, and sin must therefore be charged with the authorship of sorrow, disease, death, and hell. This is no mean power with which we have come into conflict; it is a veritable Goliath, stalking along and defyin the whole race of mankind.
The power that is to fight and overcome sin is ever described in the Word of God, as the natural goodness of human nature, Pshaw! That is but as wax before the fire, or as the fat of rams upon the altar; it is consumed in a moment in the fierce heat of sin. The force to combat sin is never described, in the truthful pages of God's Word, as the power of human endeavor to keep the law. Indeed, this has been tried, and it has utterly failed. The way to heaven is not up the steep sides of Sinai; that granitic mountain is too rugged and too high for unaided human feet to climb. Not there can be found the weapons with which a man may slay his sins, and fight his way to everlasting bliss.
The only counter force against sin is grace; so my text tells us, and we may learn the same truth from a hundred texts besides. And what is grace? Grace is the free favor of God, the undeserved bounty of the ever-gracious Creator against whom we have offended, the generous pardon, the infinite, spontaneous lovingkindness of the God who has been provoked and angered by our sin, but who, delighting in mercy, and grieving to smite the creatures whom he has made, is ever ready to pass by transgression, iniquity, and sin, and to save his people from all the evil consequences of their guilt. Here, my brethren and sisters in Christ, is a force that is fully equal to the requirements of the duel with sin; for this grace, of which I am going to speak, is divine grace, and hence it is omnipotent, immortal, and immutable. This favor of God never changes; and when once it purposes to bless anyone, bless him it will, and none can revoke the blessing. The gracious purpose of God's free favor to an undeserving man is more than a match for that man's sin, for it brings to bear, upon his sin, the blood of the incarnate Son of God, and the majestic and mysterious fire of the eternal Spirit, who burns up evil and utterly consumes it. With God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost united against sin, the everlasting purposes of grace are bound to be accomplished, sin must be overcome and my text proved to be true, "Where sin abounded, grace did more abound."
I. To illustrate the great principle of my text, I ask you to notice, first, that the context refers us to THE ENTRANCE OF THE LAW. "The law entered, that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound."
Instead of giving any historical statement concerning the introduction of the law in the days of Moses, I am going to speak about the experimental matter of the introduction of the law of God into our hearts. Those of you who have been converted remember the time when the law of the Lord first entered your heart. The law engraved on the two tables of stone, the law recorded in the Bible, does but very little for us; but when the law really enters our heart, is does much for us. What does it do?
The first thing the law does to most men is to develop the sin that is in them. Paul writes, "I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet." But, as soon as he found that there was a law against a certain sin, by some unhallowed instinct of his unrenewed nature, he wanted to do the very thing that he was forbidden to do. It was like that with us, the first effect of the entrance of the law of God into our hearts was to develop the sin that was already within us. "That is a dreadful thing," says one Yes, it is; but look at the matter from another aspect. Here is a man who has within him a dire disease which will be fatal if it is allowed to remain, so the physician gives him some medicine which throws the disease out. The man used to have a beautiful complexion, but after he has taken that medicine, his face is covered with blotches. Is that a bad thing? Yes, the blotches are bad, but the hidden disease was worse. While that disease was concealed within his system, and was killing him, he probably did not even know that is was there. He knew that he was not well, and perhaps thought that he was dying as the result of some other complaint; but now he sees what the disease is, and everybody sees it, and now that which looked like an evil thing may turn out to be for real good to the man. So does it often happen mentally, morally, and spiritually. A man's wicked heart is full of enmity against God, yet he thinks and perhaps he is right in thinking that he is outwardly a strictly moral man; but, lo! the law of God, with its requirements of perfect purity and Absolute obedience, enters his heart, and he rebels against it, and now the sin is apparent, even to himself. It is likely now that this man will repent of sin, it is highly probable that this development of his latent sin will lead him to form a different opinion of himself from any that he ever had before; and therefore, though the sin is evil, and the development of it is evil, yet, where sin abounded, grace shall much more abound, and so good shall come out of the evil after all.
When the law enters a man's heart, it also brings his sin out in very strong relief. He never saw his sin to be so black as he now sees it to be. A stick is crooked, but you do not notice how crooked it is until you place a straight rule by the side of it. You have a handkerchief, and it seems to be quite white; you could hardly wish it to be whiter; but you lay it down on the newly-fallen snow, and you wonder how you could ever have thought it to be white at all. So the pure and holy law of God, when our eyes are opened to see its purity, shows up our sin in its true blackness, and in that way it makes sin to abound; but this is for our good, for that sight of our sin awakens us to a sense of our true condition, leads us to repentance, drives us by faith to the precious blood of Jesus, and no longer permits us to rest in our self-righteousness; and so it can be said of us that, though the entrance of the law has made our sin to abound, "Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound."
The entrance of the law of God into the heart very generally causes great anguish. Well do I remember that experience, and so do some of you. When the law entered our hearts, it came not merely with a straight rule, and with a perfect pattern of whiteness, to show us our deformity and our blackness, but it also came with a heavy whip; and it laid that whip about our shoulders, and every time it fell it stung us to the quick. A little while ago, I met with a brother who said to me, "You cannot too forcibly describe the anguish of a convicted conscience; for," said he, "I remember when I reckoned how long it would be before I must, in the ordinary course of nature, be in hell. I said to myself, 'Suppose I live to be eighty years of age, yet how short a time it will be before I must be enduring the infinite wrath of God.'" Yes, that is the effect that the law of the Lord often produces upon a man when is enters his heart. It brings a mirror before him, and says to him "Look in there, and see not only what you have done, but also what is the just consequence of your evil deeds." A man no longer cavils at God's justice when the law once gets inside his heart; it shuts his mouth except for graons and sighs, and he has plenty of them.
It may be thought, by some people, to be a very sad thing that the law should come into a man's heart to break it, and to cause him such sorrow and anguish as I am trying to describe. Ah, but it is not so; it is a very blessed thing. You cannot expect God to clothe you until he has stripped you, nor to heal you until he has cut the proud flesh out of your wounds. When a woman is sowing with a fine white silken thread, see must have a sharp needle to go first, to make a way for the thread to go through after it; and the anguish of spirit, which the law creates in the soul, is just the sharp needle which makes a way for the fine silken thread of the gospel to enter our heart, and so to bless us. Let us thank God if ever we have experienced the entrance of his law into our hearts: for, although it makes sin to abound, is makes grace much more abound.
When the law gets thoroughly into a man's heart, it drives him to despair of himself. "Oh!" says he, "I cannot keep that law." Once, he thought that he was as good as other people, and a little better than most; and he did not know but that, with a little polishing, and a little help, he might be good enough, to win the favor of God and go to heaven; but when the law entered his heart, it soon smashed his idol to atoms. The Dagon of self-righteousness speedily falls before the ten commands of God, and is so broken that it can never be mended. Men try to set the stump of it up on its pedestal again; but so long as the law of the Lord is in the same temple with self-righteousness, self-righteousness can never be exalted again. To some people, it seems to be a dreadful thing to give a man such a bad opinion of himself, but, indeed, it is the greatest blessing that could come to him, for when he despairs of himself, he will fly to Christ to save him. When the last crust is gone from his cupboard, he will cry to the great Giver of the bread of life, whereof, if a man eat, he shall live for ever. You must starve the sinner's self-righteousness to mane him willing to feed on Christ; and thus the very depths of his despair, when he thinks that he must be lost for ever, will only lead him, by God's abundant love, to a fuller appreciation of the heights of God's grace.
Once more, when the law of God enters a man's heart, it pronounces a curse upon him. That was a singular scene which was beheld over against mount Ebal, and over against mount Gerizim, where one company read the curses, and another company read the blessings out of the book of the law. Now the law can do nothing for a sinner but say to him, "Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them;" but the gospel comes in, and it replies to the curse of the law with such words as these, "Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord impuneth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile." Let the law curse as is may, the gospel's blessing is richer and stronger, for the gospel says, "Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ;" and "there is therefore now no condemnation to them, which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit."
II. Now I change our line of thought, and come closer home to Christians, by noticing that the great principle of our text is also illustrated in THE AFTER-EXPERIENCE OF THE BELIEVER.
Some young converts imagine that, as soon as they believe in Christ and find peace with God, they will be perfect; and have no more sin within them. Such an erroneous idea will only prepare them for a great disappointment, for conversion is not the end of the battle with sin, it is only the beginning of that battle. From the moment that a man believes in Jesus, and is thereby saved, he begins his life-long struggle against his inbred sins. I hear that, there are some brethren and sisters who have become perfect, and I am pleased to hear it if it is true: but I am glad they are not members of my family, I do not think I could live with them very peaceably, as I have generally found that the so-called "perfect." People are usually not at all pleasant people to be associated with those of us who do not profess to be perfect. We wish we were perfect, and we wish that other people were perfect; but, hitherto, our investigations have led us to believe that the perfection which is claimed by certain persons is in every case a mistake, and in many cases is a delusion and a sham.
Our opinion is that men, after they are converted, and begin to examine themselves in the light of God's Word, if they are at all like us, find sin everywhere within them; sin in the affections, so that the hearts lusteth after evil things; sin in the judgment, so that it often makes most serious mistakes, and honestly puts bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter sin in the desires, so that though we try to curb them, they wander hither and thither, whither we would not; sin in the will, so that Lord Will-be-will proves that he is still very proud, and wants to have his own way, and is not willing to bow submissively to the will of God; sin in the memory, so that the most godly people can often recollect a snatch of a bad old song which they used to hear or to sing, far more readily than they can remember a text of Scripture; which they wish to treasure up in their memories, for memory has become unhinged, like all the rest of our faculties, and is quick to retain evil, and slow to retain that which is good. Brethren and sisters in Christ, in what part of our body does sin not dwell? Is there any single faculty, or power, or propensity that we have which will not lead us astray if we will let it do so? Are we not obliged to be always upon our guard against ourselves, and to watch ourselves as a garrison of soldiers would have to watch the natives of a country whom they had subdued, but who were anxious to throw off the yoke of the foreigners who had overcome them. In a similar fashion, grace is a foreigner in possession of our nature, and it holds by its own superior force what it has won; and only by its supernatural strength are we kept from regaining our former position.
Thus you see how sin abounds, even in the heart of a believer; but, blessed be God, grace doth much more abound there; for, although the will is still strong, there is a higher power that subdues and controls it so that our will is being gradually conformed to the will of God. Our affections, though they are apt to grovel here below, do soar towards Christ, for he really has won our hearts. Our desires do go astray, yet their main tendency is towards holiness. Blessed be the name of the Lord, unless we are awfully deceived, we do desire to do that which is well-pleasing in his sight. Our memory, too, though I have already confessed its faultiness, does often enable us to remember Jesus Christ, and it never will forget him whoever else it may forget. Ay, and our whole nature, though I have truly spoken of its faults, is a new nature, which God has wrought within us, a nature that is akin to the divine, and in this nature grace triumphs over sin, so that where sin aboundeth, grace doth much more abound.
The same truth may be learned in another way. Sin abounds in the believer, not merely in the shape of the original sin in which he was born, and in the tendency to sin which is ever present with him, but sin mars the best thing he ever does. Did you ever examine one of your own prayers, did you ever look at it critically after it was finished? Shall I tell you what it was like? It was like something that man had manufactured, and which, when observed by the naked eyed, looked very beautiful. Put a microscope over it, and look at it. Take a needle if you like, for that seems to be one of the most polished pieces of metal conceivable; and as soon as you place it under the microscope, you say, "Why, I have got a rough bar of iron here! Surely it cannot be a needle." Yes it is, but you are looking at it now with a power far beyond your ordinary sight; and, in like manner, when the grace of God opens a man's eyes to see his best actions as they appear in God's sight, he sees that those actions are marred by sin. There is not anything that he has done which appears to him to be what it ought to be when he looks at it aright in the light of God's Word. The most consecrated action of his life, the most devout communion with Christ, the most intense ardor after God, falls far short of what it ought to be, and has something in it which ought not to be there. When the grace of God is strong within us, it makes sin appear to abound even to our own vision; we see it in every hymn we sing, in every prayer we pray, in every sermon we preach.
Not only do we see sin in our best things, but we also discover sin in our omissions. We were never troubled about that matter before, but now we recollect that what we do not do is often sinful; not merely the wrong that we commit, but the good that we omit, the good that we neglect or forget to do. There is much sin there. Then we begin to examine our thoughts, and our trivial utterances, and we see them all crusted over with sin. Tested under the light of God's Word, everything seems to be honeycombed through and through with sin, so that sin indeed aboundeth. Well, what then? Why, then, this blessed text comes sweetly home to our hearts. "The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin." And now, how gloriously grace abounds! Now we prove the power of that precious blood which can wash us whiter than snow, so that God himself shall say to each one of us, "There is no spot in thee." Beloved brethren and sisters in Christ, I do firmly believe that a deep and clear sense of sin is necessary to a right estimation of the power of pardoning love. I am sure that it is a great blessing to us when we have a deep sense of our sinnership. God forbid that we should ever pray as the Pharisee did, "God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are." Far better would it be for us to imitate the publican, and cry, "God be merciful to me a sinner." None but those who are lost prize the Savior who came to seek and to save that which was lost, none but those who feel that they are foul and vile rightly value his cleansing blood. O beloved, when your sin abounds, then is the time to recollect that grace much more abounds. Sinner as you are, you are forgiven, you are "accepted in the Beloved," you are saved, you are a child of God, you shall be in heaven ere long, to praise for ever the grace that shall be crowned with glory.
Once more on this point. I believe that many of you have had an experience similar to mine, and that there have been times when you have been living specially near to God, and walking in the light of his countenance, when, on a sudden, the sin that dwelleth in you has seemed to attack you just when you least expected it. I know that my fiercest temptations often come to me immediately after my highest enjoyment of communion with God. They seem to come like a sharp draught of cold air the moment you step out of a warm room, and you hardly know what to do for the best, you are scarcely prepared for it. It will sometimes happen that a tempter, which you thought you had quite overcome, will rush upon you like a lion out of a thicket; or a passion, which you thought had been most eventually conquered, will come sweeping down upon you like a hurricane from the hills, and your poor little skiff upon the lake seems well-nigh overwhelmed with its furious onslaught. Then, as you look at yourselves, and are surprised to find so much sin in yourselves, you know that sin abounds; what do you do then? Well, I believe that, at such times, Christians try to nestle closer than ever under the wings of God, and they feel humbler, and they go to the precious blood of Jesus with a more intense desire to prove again its cleansing power; and they cry to the Strong for strength, and they feel more than ever they did before their need of the Holy Spirit's sanctifying power. Ralph Erskine said that he was more afraid of a sleeping devil than of a roaring devil, and there was good reason for his fear, for when the devil was roaring, the saints would be more on the watch than when he was quiet. The worst temptation in the world is not to be tempted at all; but when there is a strong temptation, and your soul is fully aware of it, you are on your guard against it. The wave of temptation may even wash you higher up upon the Rock of ages, so that you cling to it with a firmer grip than you have ever done before, and so again where sin abounds, grace will much more abound.
III. Now I must close with a few general observations upon another matter. The great truth revealed in our text is not only illustrated by the entrance of the law into the hearts of believers, and in the after-life of Christians, but also IN ALL THE BLESSINGS OF SALVATION.
It is very wonderful, but it is certainly true, that there are many persons in heaven in whom sin once abounded. In the judgment of their fellow-men, some of them were worse sinners than others. There was Saul of Tarsus, there was the dying thief, there was the woman in the city who was a sinner, a sinner in a very open and terrible sense. These, and many more of whom we read in the Scriptures, were all great sinners, and it was a great wonder of grace, in every instance, that they should be forgiven; but did they make poor Christians when they were converted? Quite the reverse; they loved much because they had been forgiven much. Amongst the best servants of God are many of those who were once the best servants of the devil. Sin abounded in them, but grace much more abounded when. It took possession of their hearts and lives. They were long led captive by the devil at his will, but they never were such servants to Satan as they afterwards became to the living and true God. They threw all the fervor of their intense natures into the service of their Savior, and so rose superior to some of their fellow-disciples, who did not so fully realize how much they owed to their Lord. I trust that any here present, who have gone far in sin, may be saved by the immeasurable grace of God ere they leave this building, and that, throughout the whole of their future lives, they may love Jesus Christ better, and serve him more than others who have not sinned as deeply as they have.
The same truth comes out if we think of what sin has done for us. O brethren, sin has infected the nature of man with a foul leprosy, a deadly disease, but Jesus has cured the disease, and given us a life of a holier kind than we ever knew before. Sin has robbed us; but Christ has restored to us more than sin ever took away from us. Sin has stripped us; but Christ has clothed us in a better robe than our natural righteousness could ever have been. Well do we sing of Jesus,
"In him the tribes of Adam boast
More blessings than their father lost."
Sin has brought us very low, but Christ has lifted us higher than we stood before sin cast us down. Sin took away from man his love to God, but Christ has given us an intenser love to God than Adam ever had, for we love God because he has first loved us, and given his Son to die for us, and we have, in his greater grace, a good reason for yielding to him a greater love. Sin took away obedience from man, nut now that saints obey to a yet higher degree than they could have doen before; for I suppose it would not been possible for unfallen man to suffer, but now we are capable of suffering for Christ; and many martyrs have gone signing to death for the truth, because, while sin made them capable of suffering, Christ's grace has made them capable of obedience to him in the suffering, and so of doing more to prove their allegiance to God than would have been possible if they had never fallen. Sin, dear brethren and sisters in Christ, has shut us out of Eden; yet let us not weep, for Christ has prepared a better paradise for us in heaven; Sin has deprived us of the river that rippled o'er sands of gold, and of the green glades of that blessed garden into which suffering could never have come unless sin had first entered, but God has provided for us "a pure river of water of life," and a lovelier garden than Eden ever was; and there we shall for ever dwell through the abounding grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, which has abounded even over our abounding sin.
Sin has separated us from God, but grace has brought us nearer to God than we ever were before sin divided us from him. Until Christ became man, there was no man on the earth, and there would have been no man, who was more to God than man could be to his Maker; but now there lives a Man who is more to God than any created being ever could be, for that Man is also God, and he sits at the right hand of his Father, and shares with him the control of the universe. That Man has brought the human race nearer to the Deity than the mere act of creation could possibly have done. Glory be to God for Jesus Christ, the Man from heaven, the Son of Mary, and the Son of the Highest. Sin wrought us untold mischief, but grace has made even that mischief to be a gain to us, for now we are sought with blood as, otherwise, we never could have been. Now we know both sin and righteousness as we could not otherwise have done; and now the whispering of the old serpent, which was a lie, has proved to have a truth concealed in it, for we are indeed as gods, since we have become partakers of the divine nature by virtue of our union with the Christ of God. O wondrous Fall, which would have broken us hopelessly had it not been for still more marvelous grace! O wondrous restoration which has lifted us up, and made us more perfect than we were before we were broken, and elevated us to a glory of which we could never have dreamed, had we lived with Adam and Eve in paradise, and remained in innocence for ever!
One practical remark I want to make before I close; it is this, if you have received this grace, which has abounded over your sin, take care that you do more for grace than you ever did for sin. It is wonderful how much people will do for sin, what they will give, what they will spend, and what they will endure to gratify their passions and serve their cruel taskmaster, Satan. I should not like to guess what some men waste on their lusts; I should not like to make a calculation as to what some people spend in a year on what they call their pleasures. Well, whatever the amount is, shall they give more, shall they do more for their god than we give and do for ours? Shall they be more intense in their adoration of Satan than we are in our obedience to God? That must never be, nor must we ever permit, them to outdo us in the praises of their treasure. They make night hideous with their praises of their god, Bacchus; but we do not often annoy them with the songs of Zion; it would be as well, perhaps, if we did; but we are often cowards in not rendering due praises to our God. They are not ashamed to make the welkin ring with their lascivious notes; then let us pluck up courage, and solidly assert the glories of our God and the wonders of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Especially, let us never be ashamed to say, "He loved me, and gave himself for me, and blessed be his holy name for ever and ever. Amen."
Verse 1. Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:2
This verse deserves to be printed in letters of gold. If you can truthfully say this, if it is indeed true of you, you are the happiest people under heaven. Let us read the verse again: "Therefore being justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:"
2. By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
We are not only at peace with God, but we are permitted to draw near to him, we have access to him, we have access to his favor, to his grace. We may come to God when we will; for he is reconciled to us, and we are reconciled to him, so we may now think of him with joy and gladness.
3. And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also:
Somebody seemed to say to the apostle, "You talk about peace with God, and access to God; but you are troubled in mind, you are sickly in body, you are poor in estate, just as other people are;" so Paul replies, "Yes, we know that it is so, "but we glory in tribulations also:'"
3. Knowing that tribulation worketh patience;
It is sent for our good; we accept our trials as a part of our estate, and in some respects, the very richest part of our estate. We get more good out of our adversity than out of our prosperity. Our troubles have made men of us, whereas our joys might have unmanned us. Trials have braced us up, and we glory in them, "knowing that tribulation worketh patience;"
4. And patience, experience; and experience, hope:
The longer we wait, the brighter do our eyes get. Our very trials when they have passed over us, leave us stronger and happier than we were before. Our experience works in us hope.
5. And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.3
What a blessed thing it is that, when troubles are shed abroad outside us, the love of God is shed abroad inside us; when we are tried without, we are comforted within; and so we are made strong, and we have no cause to fear.
6. For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.4
And as he died for us when we were ungodly, what will he not do for us now that he has sought us as his own? He gave the highest proof of his love to us when we were most unworthy of it, so will he leave us now? God forbid!
7. For scarcely
Now the apostle goes away from his theme, carried away by the still greater subject of the love of God in Christ Jesus, and the way of reconciliation by Christ, he goes on to that theme: "For scarcely"
7. For a righteous man will one die:
However "just" Aristides might be, nobody would die for him. However "righteous" a man might be, he would not, by his justice or righteousness, win enough affection to induce anybody to die for him.
7. Yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die.
There might possibly be some who would die for a John Howard, or a man of that ilk.
8. But God commendeth5 his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
When we were not even just, much less good, "Christ died for us."
9. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.
As he died for us, he will certainly save us. He who died for the ungodly will never cast away those whom he has justified. The death of Christ for his own people is the guarantee that he will love them even to the end.
10. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.
Did he love us when we were his enemies? Then most assuredly he will love us now that we are his friends. Did his death save us? Then, will not his life also save us? As he took such pains to reconcile us to his Father, will he not take equal pains nay, "much more"6 to preserve us safe to the end?
11. And not only so,
Paul seems to go up a ladder, and when he gets to the top of it, he sets up another on the top of that one, and proceeds to mount that. This is the second time that we have read, "And not only so,"
11. But we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement.
Christ has made atonements for us, and God has accepted that atonement on our behalf. We also have received it ourselves and now we are glad in God glad that there is a God, glad that there is such a God, and glad that he is our God and Father in Christ Jesus.7
12. Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:
It was by one man's sin that we all fell through the first Adam. Does anyone object to the justice of that? I pray you, do not object to what is your only hope. If you and I had each one sinned for himself or herself apart from Adam, our case would probably have been hopeless, like the case of the fallen angels, who sinned individually, and fell never to be set up again, but inasmuch as we fell representatively in Adam, it prepared the way for us to rise representatively in the second Adam, Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior. As I fell by another, I can rise by another; as my ruin was caused by the first man, Adam, my restoration can be brought about by the second Man, the Lord from heaven.
13, 14. For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, ever over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come.
Infants die, although they have never sinned; they die, because death is the penalty of sin; and as they die for faults not their own, so are the saved by righteousness not their own. They die, for Adam sinned; they live, for Jesus died.
15-17. But not as the offense, so also is the free gift. For if through the offense of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many. And not as it was by one that sinned, so is the gift: for the judgment was by one to condemnation, but the free gift is of many offenses unto justification. For if by one man's offense death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one,8 Jesus Christ.)
Adam's fall was terribly effectual, it has brought death upon the human race age after age; and Christ's death is wonderfully effectual, for on behalf of all those for whom he died his atonement so prevail as to put their sins away for ever.
19. For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.
That is the wonderful doctrine of "the gospel of Christ." It is rejected in these evil days; they call it simple, and I know not what beside; but here it is put as plainly as words can put it, "As by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous."
20. Moreover the law entered, that the offense might abound.
The law was not given to Moses to stop sin, or to forgive sin, but to make men see how evil sin is, and to make it evident to them how evil they are.
20. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound:
There was more grace than terror even in the law. It has served a gracious purpose, for it was given to make us realize our guilt, and so might drive us to seek the grace of God for its forgiveness. Salvation is all of grace. Sin cannot conquer grace; it has had a hard struggle for it, but grace will ultimately win the victory in all who believe in Jesus.
21. That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.
The drift of the whole chapter is to comfort believers in the time of trouble by the fact of the great love of God to them in the person of Jesus Christ their Lord and Savior.
HYMNS FROM "OUR OWN HYMN BOOK" 660, 233.
Other Sermons by Mr. Spurgeon, upon this text, are as follows: The New Park Street Pulpit, No. 37, "Law and Grace;" and Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, No. 2,012, "Grace Abounding over Abounding Sin."
See Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, No. 1,456, "Peace: a Fact and a Feeling."
See Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, No. 829, "The Perfuming of the Heart."
See Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, No. 1,191, "For Whom did Christ Die?" No. 1,345, "For whom is the Gospel Meant?" and No. 2,341, "The Undying Gospel for the Dying Year."
See The New Park Street Pulpit, No. 104, "Love's Commendation."
See Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, No. 2,587, "Much More."
See Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, No. 1,045, "Joy in a Reconciled God;" and No. 2,550, "Joy in God."
See Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, No. 2,544, "The One and the Many;" and No. 2,744, "Lost through one; Saved through One."
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Spurgeon, Charle Haddon. "Commentary on Romans 5". "Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 15 / Ordinary 20