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The Carnal Mind Enmity Against God
Delivered on Sabbath Morning, April 22, 1855, by the
REV. C. H. Spurgeon
At Exeter Hall, Strand.
"The carnal mind is enmity against God" Romans 8:7 .
This is a very solemn indictment which the Apostle Paul here prefers against the carnal mind. He declares it to be enmity against God. When we consider what man once was, only second to the angels, the companion of God, who walked with him in the garden of Eden in the cool of the day; when we think of him as being made in the very image of his Creator, pure, spotless, and unblemished, we cannot but feel bitterly grieved to find such an accusation as this preferred against us as a race. We may well hang our harps upon the willows, while we listen to the voice of Jehovah solemnly speaking to his rebellious creature. "How art thou fallen from heaven, thou son of the morning!" "Thou sealest up the sum, full of wisdom, and perfect in beauty. Thou hast been in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone was thy covering the workmanship of thy tabrets and of thy pipes was prepared in thee in the day that thou wast created. Thou art the anointed cherub that covereth; and I have set thee so; thou wast upon the holy mountain of God; thou hast walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire. Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee, and thou hast sinned; therefore, I will cast thee as profane out of the mountain of God; and I will destroy thee, O covering cherub, from the midst of the stones of fire."
There is much to sadden us in a view of the ruins of our race. As the Carthaginian, who might tread the desolate site of his much-loved city, would shed many tears when he saw it laid in heaps by the Romans; or as the Jew, wandering through the deserted streets of Jerusalelm, would lament that the ploughshare had marred the beauty and the glory of that city which was the joy of the whole earth; so ought we to mourn for ourselves and our race, when we behold the ruins of that goodly structure which God had piled, that creature, matchless in symmetry, second only to angelic intellect, that mighty being, man when we behold how he is "fallen, fallen, fallen, from his high estate," and lies in a mass of destruction. A few years ago a star was seen blazing out with considerable brilliance, but soon disappeared; it has since been affirmed that it was a world on fire, thousands of millions of miles from us, and yet the rays of the conflagration reached us; the noiseless messenger of light gave to the distant dwellers on this globe the alarm of "A world on fire!" But what is the conflagration of a distant planet, what is the destruction of the mere material of the most ponderous orb, compared with this fall of humanity, this wreck of all that is holy and sacred in ourselves? To us, indeed, the things are scarcely comparable, since we are deeply interested in one, though not in the other. The fall of Adam was OUR fall; we fell in and with him; we were equal sufferers; it is the ruin of our own house that we lament, it is the destruction of our own city that we bemoan, when we stand and see written, in lines too plain for us to mistake their meaning, "The carnal mind" that very self-same mind which was once holiness, and has now become carnal "is enmity against God." May God help me, this morning, solemnly to prefer this indictment against all! Oh! that the Holy Spirit may so convince us of sin, that we may unanimously plead "guilty" before God.
There is no difficulty in understanding my text; it needs scarcely any explanation. We all know that the word "carnal" here signifies fleshly. The old translators rendered the passage thus; "The mind of the flesh is enmity against God" that is to say, the natural mind, that soul which we inherit from our fathers, that which was born within us when our bodies were fashioned by God. The fleshly mind, the phronema sarkos, the lusts, the passions of the soul; it is this which has gone astray from God, and become enmity against him.
But, before we enter upon a discussion of the doctrine of the text, observe how strongly the Apostle expresses it. "The carnal mind," he says, "is ENMITY against God." He uses a noun, and not an adjective. He does not say it is opposed to God merely, but it is positive enmity. It is not black, but blackness; it is not at enmity, but enmity itself; it is not corrupt, but corruption; it is not rebellious, it is rebellion; it is not wicked, it is wickedness itself. The heart, though it be deceitful, is positively deceit; it is evil in the concrete, sin in the essence; it is the distillation, the quintessence of all things that are vile; it is not envious against God, it is envy; it is not at enmity, it is actual enmity.
Nor need we say a word to explain that it is "enmity against God." It does not charge manhood with an aversion merely to the dominion, laws, or doctrines of Jehovah; but it strikes a deeper and surer blow. It does not strike man upon the head; it penetrates into his heart; it lays the axe at the root of the tree, and pronounces him "enmity against God," against the person of the Godhead, against the Deity, against the mighty Maker of this world; not at enmity against his Bible or against his gospel, though that were true, but against God himself, against his essence, his existence, and his person. Let us, then, weigh the words of the text, for they are solemn words. They are well put together by that master of eloquence, Paul, and they were moreover, dictated by the Holy Spirit, who telleth man how to speak aright. May he help us to expound, as he has already given us the passage to explain.
We shall be called upon to notice, this morning, first, the truthfulness of this assertion; secondly, the universality of the evil here complained of; thirdly, we will still further enter into the depths of the subject, and press it to your hearts, by showing the enormity of the evil; and after that, should we have time, we will deduce one or two doctrines from the general fact.
I. First, we are called upon to speak of the truthfulness of this great statement. "The carnal mind is enmity against God." It needs no proof, for since it is written in God's word, we, as Christian men, are bound to bow before it. The words of the Scriptures are words of infinite wisdom, and if reason cannot see the ground of a statement of revelation, it is bound, most reverently, to believe it, since we are well assured, even should it be above our reason, that it cannot be contrary thereunto. Here I find it written in the Scriptures, "The carnal mind is enmity against God;" and that of itself is enough for me. But did I need witnesses, I would conjure up the nations of antiquity; I would unroll the volume of ancient history; I would tell you of the awful deeds of mankind. It may be I might move your souls to detestation, if I spake of the cruelty of this race to itself, if I showed you how it made the world an Aceldama, by its wars, and deluged it with blood by its fightings and murders; if I should recite the black list of vices in which whole nations have indulged, or even bring before you the characters of some of the most eminent philosophsers, I should blush to speak of them, and you would refuse to hear; yea, it would be impossible for you, as refined inhabitants of a civilized country, to endure the mention of the crimes that were committed by those very men who, now-a-days, are held up as being paragons of perfection. I fear, if all the truth were written, we should rise up from reading the lives of earth's mightiest heroes and proudest sages, and would say at once of all of them, "They are clean gone out of the way; they are altogether become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.
And, did not that suffice, I would point you to the delusions of the heathen; I would tell you of their priestcraft, by which their souls have been enthralled in superstition; I would drag their gods before you; I would let you witness the horrid obscenities, the diabolical rites which are to these besotted men most sacred things. Then after you had heard what the natural religion of man is, I would ask what must his irreligion be? If this is his devotion, what must be his impiety? If this be his ardent love of the Godhead, what must his hatred thereof be? Ye would, I am sure, at once confess, did ye know what the race is, that the indictment is proven, and that the world must unreservedly and truthfully exclaim, "guilty."
A further argument I might find in the fact, that the best of men have been always the readiest to confess their depravity. The holiest men, the most free from impurity, have always felt it most. He whose garments are the whitest, will best perceive the spots upon them. He whose crown shineth the brightest, will know when he hath lost a jewel. He who giveth the most light to the world, will always be able to discover his own darkness. The angels of heaven veil their faces; and the angels of God on earth, his chosen people, must always veil their faces with humility, when they think of what they were. Hear David: he was none of those who boast of a holy nature and a pure disposition. He says, "Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me." Hear all those holy men who have written in the inspired volume, and ye shall find them all confessing that they were not clean, no not one; yea, one of them exclaimed, "O wretched man that I am; who shall deliver me from the body of this death?"
And more, I will summon one other witness to the truthfulness of this fact, who shall decide the question; it shall be your conscience. Conscience, I will put thee in the witness-box, and cross-examine thee this morning! Conscience, truly answer! Be not drugged with the laudanum of self-security! Speak the truth! Didst thou never hear the heart say, "I wish there were no God?" Have not all men, at times, wished that our religion were not true? Though they could not entirely rid their souls of the idea of the Godhead, did they not wish that there might not be a God? Have they not had the desire that it might turn out that all these divine realities were a delusion, a farce, and an imposture? "Yea," saith every man; "that has crossed my mind sometimes. I have wished I might indulge in folly; I have wished there were no laws to restrain me; I have wished, as the fool, that there were no God." That passage in the Psalms, "The fool hath said in his heart, there is no God," is wrongly translated. It should be, "The fool hath said in his heart, no God." The fool does not say in his heart there is no God, for he knows there is a God; but he says, "No God I don't want any; I wish there were none." And who amongst us has not been so foolish as to desire that there were no God? Now, conscience, answer another question! Thou hast confessed that thou hast at times wished there were no God; now, suppose a man wished another dead, would not that show that he hated him? Yes, it would. And so, my friends, the wish that there were no God, proves that we dislike God. When I wish such a man dead and rotting in his grave; when I desire that he were non est, I must hate that man; otherwise I should not wish him to be extinct. So that wish and I do not think there has been a man in this world who has not had it proves that "the carnal mind is enmity against God."
But, conscience, I have another question! Has not thine heart ever desired, since there is a God, that he were a little less holy, a little less pure, so that those things which are now great crimes might be regarded as venial offences, as peccadillos? Has thy heart never said, "Would to God these sins were not forbidden! Would that he would be merciful and pass them by without an atonement! Would that he were not so severe, so rigorously just, so sternly strict to his integrity." Hast thou never said that, my heart? Conscience must reply, "Thou hast." Well, that wish to change God, proves that thou art not in love with the God that now is, the God of heaven and earth; and though thou mayest talk of natural religion, and boast that thou dost reverence the God of the green fields, the grassy meads, the swelling flood, the rolling thunder, the azure sky, the starry night, and the great universe though thou lovest the poetic beau ideal of Deity, it is not the God of Scripture, for thou hast wished to change his nature, and in that hast thou proved that thou art at enmity with him. But wherefore, conscience, should I go thus round about? Thou canst bear faithful witness, if thou wouldst speak the truth, that each person here has so transgressed against God, so continually broken his laws, violated his Sabbath, trampled on his statutes, despised his gospel, that it is true, aye, most true, that "the carnal mind is enmity against God."
II. Now Secondly, we are called upon to notice the universality of this evil. What a broad assertion it is. It is not a single carnal mind, or a certain class of characters, but "the carnal mind." It is an unqualified statement, including every individual. Whatever mind may properly be called carnal, not having been spiritualized by the power of God's Holy Ghost, is "enmity against God."
Observe then, first of all, the universality of this as to all persons. Every carnal mind in the world is at enmity against God. This does not exclude even infants at the mothers' breast. We call them innocent, and so they are of actual transgression, but as the poet says, "Within the youngest breast there lies a stone." There is in the carnal mind of an infant, enmity against God; it is not developed, but it lieth there. Some say that children learn sin by imitation. But no; take a child away, place it under the most pious influences, let the very air it breathes be purified by piety; let it constantly drink in draughts of holiness; let it hear nothing but the voice of prayer and praise; let its ear be always kept in tune by notes of sacred song; and that child, notwithstanding, may still become one of the grossest of transgressors; and though placed apparently on the very road to heaven, it shall, if not directed by divine grace, march downwards to the pit. Oh! how true it is that some who have had the best of parents, have been the worst of sons; that many who have been trained up under the most holy auspices, in the midst of the most favorable scenes for piety, have nevertheless, become loose and wanton! So it is not by imitation, but it is by nature, that the child is evil. Grant me that the child is carnal, and my text says, "the carnal mind is enmity against God." The young crocodile, I have heard, when broken from the shell, will in a moment begin to put itself in a posture of attack, opening its mouth as if it had been taught and trained. We know that young lions, when tamed and domesticated, still will have the wild nature of their fellows of the forest, and were liberty given them, would prey as fiercely as others. So with the child; you may bind him with the green withes of education, you may do what you will with him, since you cannot change his heart, that carnal mind shall still be at enmity against God; and notwithstanding intellect, talent, and all you may give to boot, it shall be of the same sinful complexion as every other child, if not as apparently evil; for "the carnal mind is enmity against God."
And if this applies to children, equally does it include every class of men. There be some men that are born into this world master-spirits, who walk about it as giants, wrapped in mantles of light and glory. I refer to the poets, men who stand aloft like Colossi, mightier than we, seeming to be descended from celestial spheres. There be others of acute intellect, who, searching into mysteries of science, discover things that have been hidden from the creation of the world; men of keen research, and mighty erudition; and yet of each of these poet, philosopher, metaphysician, and great discoverer it shall be said, "The carnal mind is enmity against God." Ye may train him up, ye may make his intellect almost angelic, ye may strengthen his soul until he shall take what are riddles to us, and unravel them with his fingers in a moment; ye may make him so mighty, that he can grasp the iron secrets of the eternal hills and grind them to atoms in his fist; ye may give him an eye so keen, that he can penetrate the arcana of rocks and mountains; ye may add a soul so potent, that he may slay the giant Sphinx, that had for ages troubled the mightiest men of learning; yet, when ye have done all, his mind shall be a depraved one, and his carnal heart shall still be in opposition to God. Yea, more, ye shall bring him to the house of prayer; ye shall make him sit constantly under the clearest preaching of the word, where he shall hear the doctrines of grace in all their purity, attended by a holy unction; but if that holy unction does not rest upon him, all shall be vain; he shall still come most regularly, but, like the pious door of the chapel, that turneth in and out, he shall still be the same; having an outside superficial religion, and his carnal mind shall still be at enmity against God. Now, this is not my assertion, it is the declaration of God's word, and you must leave it if you do not believe it; but quarrel not with me, it is my Master's message; and it is true of every one of you men, women, and children, and myself too that if we have not been regenerated and converted, if we have not experienced a change of heart, our carnal mind is still at enmity against God.
Again, notice the universality of this at all times. The carnal mind is at all times enmity against God. "Oh," say some, "it may be true that we are at times opposed to God, but surely we are not always so." "There be moments," says one, "when I feel rebellious; at times my passions lead me astray; but surely there are other favorable seasons when I really am friendly to God, and offer true devotion. I have (continues the objector), stood upon the mountain-top, until my whole soul has kindled with the scene below, and my lips have uttered the song of praise,
"These are thy glorious works, parent of good,
Almighty, thine this universal frame,
Thus wondrous fair; thyself how wondrous then!"
Yes, but mark, what is true one day is not false another; "the carnal mind is enmity against God" at all times. The wolf may sleep, but it is a wolf still. The snake with its azure hues, may slumber amid the flowers, and the child may stroke its slimy back, but it is a serpent still; it does not change its nature, though it is dormant. The sea is the house of storms, even when it is glassy as a lake; the thunder is still the mighty rolling thunder, when it is so much aloft that we hear it not. And the heart, when we perceive not its ebullitions, when it belches not forth its lava, and sendeth not forth the hot stones of its corruption, is still the same dread volcano. At all times, at all hours, at every moment, (I speak this as God speaketh it), if ye are carnal, ye are each one of you enmity against God.
Another thought concerning the universality of this statement. The whole of the mind is enmity against God. The text says, "The carnal mind is enmity against God." That is, the entire man, every part of him every power, every passion. It is a question often asked, "What part of man was injured by the fall?" Some think that the fall was only felt by the affections, and that the intellect was unimpaired; this they argue from the wisdom of man, and the mighty discoveries he has made, such as the law of gravitation, the steam-engine, and the sciences. Now, I consider these things as being a very mean display of wisdom, compared with what is to come in a hundred years, and very small compared with what might have been, if man's intellect had continued in its pristine condition. I believe that the fall crushed man entirely, albeit, when it rolled like an avalanche upon the mighty temple of human nature, some shafts were still left undestroyed, and amidst the ruins you find here and there, a flute, a pedestal, a cornice, a column, not quite broken, yet the entire structure fell, and its most glorious relics are fallen ones, levelled in the dust. The whole of man is defaced. Look at our memory; is it not true that the memory is fallen? I can recollect evil things far better than those which savor of piety. I hear a ribald song; that music of hell shall jar in my ear when gray hairs shall be upon my head. I hear a note of holy praise; alas! it is forgotten! For memory graspeth with an iron hand ill things, but the good she holdeth with feeble fingers. She suffereth the glorious timbers from the forest of Lebanon to swim down the stream of oblivion, but she stoppeth all the draff that floateth from the foul city of Sodom. She will retain evil, she will lose good. Memory is fallen. So are the affections. We love everything earthly better than we ought; we soon fix our heart upon a creature, but very seldom on the Creator; and when the heart is given to Jesus, it is prone to wander. Look at the imagination, too. Oh! how can the imagination revel, when the body is in an ill condition? Only give man something that shall well nigh intoxicate him; drug him with opium; and how will his imagination dance with joy! Like a bird uncaged, how will it mount with more than eagles' wings! He sees things he had not dreamed of even in the shades of night. Why did not his imagination work when his body was in a normal state when it was healthy? Simply because it is depraved; and until he had entered a foul element until the body had begun to quiver with a kind of intoxication the fancy would not hold its carnival. We have some splendid specimens of what men could write, when they have been under the accursed influence of ardent spirits. It is because the mind is so depraved that it loves something which puts the body into an abnormal condition; and here we have a proof that the imagination itself has gone astray. So with the judgement I might prove how ill it decides. So might I accuse the conscience, and tell you how blind it is, and how it winks at the greatest follies. I might review all our powers, and write upon the brow of each one, "Traitor against heaven! traitor against God!" The whole "carnal mind is enmity against God."
Now, my hearers, "the Bible alone is the religion of Protestants;" but whenever I find a certain book much held in reverence by our Episcopalian brethren, entirely on my side, I always feel the greatest delight in quoting from it. Do you know I am one of the best churchmen in the world; the very best, if you will judge me by the articles, and the very worst, if you measure me in any other way. Measure me by the articles of the Church of England, and I will not stand second to any man under heaven's blue sky in preaching the gospel contained in them; for if there be an excellent epitome of the gospel, it is to be found in the articles of the Church of England. Let me show you that you have not been hearing strange doctrine. Here is the 9th article, upon Original or Birth Sin: "Original Sin standeth not in the following of Adam; (as the Pelagians do vainly talk); but it is the fault and corruption of the nature of every man, that naturally is engendered of the offspring of Adam; whereby man is very far gone from original righteousness, and is of his own nature inclined to evil, so that the flesh lusteth always contrary to the spirit; and, therefore, in every person born into this world, it deserveth God's wrath and damnation. And this infection of nature doth remain, yea, in them that are regenerated; whereby the lust of the flesh, called in the Greek, phronema sarkos, which some do expound the wisdom, some sensuality, some the affection, some the desire, of the flesh, is not subject to the Law of God. And although there is no condemnation for them that believe and are baptized, yet the apostle doth confess, that concupiscence and lust hath of itself the nature of sin." I want nothing more. Will any one who believes in the Prayer Book dissent from the doctrine that "the carnal mind is enmity against God?"
III. I have said that I would endeavor, in the third place, to show the great enormity of this guilt. I do fear, my brethren, that very often when we consider our state, we think not so much of the guilt as of the misery. I have sometimes read sermons upon the inclination of the sinner to evil, in which it has been very powerfully proved, and certainly the pride of human nature has been well humbled and brought low; but one thing always strikes me, if it is left out, as being a very great omission; viz. the doctrine that man is guilty in all these things. If his heart is against God, we ought to tell him it is his sin; and if he cannot repent, we ought to show him that sin is the sole cause of his disability that all his alienation from God is sin that as long as he keeps from God it is sin. I fear many of us here must acknowledge that we do not charge the sin of it to our own consciences. Yes, say we, we have many corruptions. Oh! yes. But we sit down very contented. My brethren, we ought not to do so. The having those corruptions is our crime which should be confessed as an enormous evil; and if I, as a minister of the gospel, do not press home the sin of the thing, I have missed what is the very virus of it. I have left out the very essence, if I have not shown that it is a crime. Now, "The carnal mind is enmity against God." What a sin it is! This will appear in two ways. Consider the relation in which we stand to God, and then remember what God is; and after I have spoken of these two things, I hope you will see, indeed, that it is a sin to be at enmity with God.
What is God to us? He is the Creator of the heavens and the earth; he bears up the pillars of the universe; his breath perfumes the flowers; his pencil paints them; he is the author of this fair creation; "we are the sheep of his pasture; he hath made us, and not we ourselves." He stands to us in the relationship of a Maker and Creator; and from that fact he claims to be our King. He is our legislator, our law-maker; and then, to make our crime still worse and worse, he is the ruler of providence; for it is he who keeps up from day to day. He supplys our wants; he keeps the breath within our nostrils; he bids the blood still pursue its course through the veins; he holdeth us in life, and preventeth us from death; he standeth before us, our creator, our king, our sustainer, our benefactor, and I ask, is it not a sin of enormous magnitude is it not high treason against the emperor of heaven is it not an awful sin, the depth of which we cannot fathom with the line of all our judgment that we, his creatures, dependent upon him, should be at enmity with God?
But the crime may seem to be worse when we think of what God is. Let me appeal personally to you in an interrogatory style, for this has weight with it. Sinner! why art thou at enmity with God? God is the God of love; he is kind to his creatures; he regards you with his love of benevolence; for this very day his sun hath shone upon you, this day you have had food and raiment, and you have come up here in health and strength. Do you hate God because he loves you? Is that the reason? Consider how many mercies you have received at his hands all your life long! You are born with a body not deformed; you have had a tolerable share of health; you have been recovered many times from sickness; when lying at the gates of death, his arm has held back your soul from the last step to destruction. Do you hate God for all this? Do you hate him because he spared your life by his tender mercy? Behold his goodness that he hath spread before you! He might have sent you to hell; but you are here. Now, do you hate God for sparing you? Oh, wherefore art thou at enmity with him? My fellow creature, dost thou not know that God sent his Son from his bosom, hung him on the tree, and there suffered him to die for sinners, the just for the unjust? And dost thou hate God for that? Oh, sinner! is this the cause of thine enmity? Art thou so estranged that thou givest enmity for love? And when he surroundeth thee with favors, girdeth thee with mercies, encircleth thee with loving kindness, dost thou hate him for this? He might say, as Jesus did to the Jews, "For which of these works do ye stone me?" For which of these works do ye hate God? Did an earthly benefactor feed you, would you hate him? Did he clothe you, would you abuse him to his face? Did he give you talents, would you turn those powers against him? Oh, speak! Would you forge the iron and strike the dagger into the heart of your best friend? Do you hate your mother, who nursed you on her knee? Do you curse your father, who so wisely watched over you? Nay, ye say, we have some little gratitude towards earthly relatives. Where are your hearts, then? Where are your hearts, that ye can still despise God, and be at enmity with him? Oh! diabolical crime! Oh! satanic enormity! Oh! iniquity for which words fail in description! To hate the all-lovely to despise the essentially good to abhor the constantly merciful to spurn the ever beneficent to scorn the kind, the gracious one; above all, to hate the God who sent his son to die for man! Ah! in that thought "The carnal mind is enmity with God;" there is something which may make us shake; for it is a terrible sin to be at enmity with God. I would I could speak more powerfully, but my Master alone can impress upon you the enormous evil of this horrid state of heart.
IV. But there are one or two doctrines which we will try to deduce from this. Is the carnal mind at enmity against God? Then salvation cannot be by merit; it must be by grace. If we are at enmity with God, what merit can we have? How can we deserve anything from the being we hate? Even if we were pure as Adam, we could not have any merit; for I do not think Adam had any desert before his Creator. When he had kept all his Master's law he was but an unprofitable servant; he had done no more than he ought to have done; he had no surplus, no balance. But since we have become enemies, how much less can we hope to be saved by works! Oh! no; but the whole Bible tells us, from beginning to end, that salvation is not by the works of the law, but by the deeds of grace. Martin Luther declared that he constantly preached justification by faith alone, "because," said he, "the people would forget it; so that I was obliged almost to knock my Bible against their heads, to send it into their hearts." So it is true; we constantly forget that salvation is by grace alone. We always want to be putting in some little scrap of our own virtue; we want to be doing something. I remember a saying of old Matthew Wilkes: "Saved by your works! you might as well try to go to America in a paper boat!" Saved by your works! It is impossible! Oh! no, the poor legalist is like a blind horse going round and round the mill, or like the prisoner going up the treadwheel, and finding himself no higher after all he has done; he has no solid confidence, no firm ground to rest upon. He has not done enough "never enough;" conscience always says, "this is not perfection; it ought to have been better," Salvation for enemies must be by an ambassador, by an atonement, yea, by Christ.
Another doctrine we gather from this is, the necessity of an entire change of our nature. It is true, that by birth we are at enmity with God. How necessary then it is that our nature should be changed! There are few people who sincerely believe this. They think that if they cry, "Lord, have mercy upon me," when they lay a-dying, they shall go to heaven directly. Let me suppose an impossible case for a moment. Let me imagine a man entering heaven without a change of heart. He comes within the gates. He hears a sonnet. He starts! It is to the praise of his enemy. He sees a throne, and on it sits one who is glorious; but it is his enemy. He walks streets of gold, but those streets belong to his enemy. He sees hosts of angels; but those hosts are the servants of his enemy. He is in an enemy's house; for he is at enmity with God. He could not join the song, for he would not know the tune. There he would stand, silent, motionless; till Christ would say, with a voice louder than ten thousand thunders, "What dost thou here? Enemies at a marriage banquet? Enemies in the children's house? Enemies in heaven? Get thee gone? 'Depart, ye cursed, into everlasting fire in hell!'" Oh! sirs, if the unregenerate man could enter heaven, I mention once more the oft-repeated saying of Whitefield, he would be so unhappy in heaven, that he would ask God to let him run down to hell for shelter. There must be a change, if ye consider the future state; for how can enemies to God ever sit down at the banquet of the Lamb?
And to conclude, let me remind you and it is in the text after all that this change must be worked by a power beyond your own. An enemy may possibly make himself a friend; but enmity cannot. If it be but an adjunct of his nature to be an enemy, he may change himself into a friend; but if it is the very essence of his existence to be enmity, positive enmity, enmity cannot change itself. No, there must be something done more than we can accomplish. This is just what is forgotten in these days. We must have more preaching of the Holy Spirit, if we are to have more conversion work. I tell you, sirs, if you change yourselves, and make yourselves better, and better, and better, a thousand times, you will never be good enough for heaven, till God's Spirit has laid his hand upon you; till he has renewed the heart, till he has purified the soul, till he has changed the entire spirit and new-made the man, there can be no entering heaven. How seriously, then, should each stand and think. Here am I, a creature of a day, a mortal born to die, but yet an immortal! At present I am at enmity with God. What shall I do? Is it not my duty, as well as my happiness, to ask whether there be a way to be reconciled to God?
Oh! weary slaves of sin, are not your ways the paths of folly? Is it wisdom, O my fellow-creatures, is it wisdom to hate your Creator? Is it wisdom to stand in opposition against him? Is it prudent to despise the riches of his grace? If it be wisdom, it is hell's wisdom; if it be wisdom, it is a wisdom which is folly with God. Oh! may God grant that you may turn unto Jesus with full purpose of heart! He is the ambassador; he it is who can make peace through his blood; and though you came in here an enemy, it is possible you may go out through that door a friend yet, if you can but look to Jesus Christ, the brazen serpent which was lifted up.
And now, it may be, some of you are convinced of sin, by the Holy Spirit. I will now proclaim to you the way of salvation. "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up; that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life." Behold, O trembling penitent, the means of thy deliverance. Turn thy tearful eye to yonder Mount of Calvary! See the victim of justice the sacrifice of atonement for your transgression. View the Saviour in his agonies, with streams of blood purchasing thy soul, and with intensest agonies enduring thy punishment. He died for thee, if now thou dost confess thy guilt. O come, thou condemned one, self-condemned, and turn thine eye this way, for one look will save. Sinner! thou art bitten. Look! It is naught but "Look!" It is simply "Look!" If thou canst but look to Jesus, thou art safe. Hear the voice of the Redeemer: "look unto me, and be ye saved." Look! Look! Look! O guilty souls.
"Venture on him, venture wholly,
Let no other trust intrude;
None but Jesus, kind and loving,
Can do helpless sinners good."
May my blessed Master help you to come to him, and draw you to his Son, for Jesu's sake. Amen and Amen.
The Christian A Debtor
Delivered on Sabbath Evening, August 10, 1856, by the
REV. C. H. Spurgeon
At Exeter Hall, Strand.
"Therefore, brethren, we are debtors." Romans 8:12 .
OBSERVE the title whereby he addressed the Church "Brethren." It was the gospel which taught Paul how to say brother. If he had not been a Christian, his Jewish dignity would never have condescended to call a Roman "brother;" for a Jew sneered at the Gentile, and called him "dog." But now in the breast of this "Hebrew of Hebrews," there is the holy recognition of Christian fraternity without reserve or hypocrisy. The gospel softened the breast of Paul, and made him forget all national animosities, otherwise, one of the down-trodden race would not have called his oppressor, "brother." The Roman had his iron foot on the Jew; yet Paul addresses those, who subjugated his race, as "brethren." We repeat, a third time, it was the gospel which implanted in the soul of Paul the feeling of brotherhood, and removed every wall of partition which divided him from any of the Lord's elect. "So then," he said, "we are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God." He proclaimed the doctrine of the "one blood," and gloried in the fact of "one family" in Christ. He felt within him affinities with all the blood-bought race, and loved them all. He had not seen many of those whom he addressed; yet they were known to him, in the Spirit, as partakers of one glorious and blessed hope, and, therefore, he called them "brethren." My friends, there is a cementing power in the grace of God which can scarcely be over estimated. It resets the dislocated bones of society, rivets the bonds of friendship, and welds the broken metal of manhood into one united mass. It makes all brethren who feel its power. Grace links mankind in a common brotherhood; grace makes the great man give his hand to the poor, and confess a heavenly relationship; grace constrains the intellectual, the learned, the polite, to stoop from their dignity to take hold of the ignorant and unlettered, and call them friends; grace weaves the threads of our separate individualities into one undivided unity. Let the gospel be really felt in the mind and it will toll the knell of selfishness, it will bring down the proud from their elevated solitude, and it will restore the down-trodden to the rights of our common manhood. We need only the gospel thoroughly preached to bring about "liberty, equality, and fraternity," in the highest and best sense of these words. Not the "liberty, equality and fraternity," which the democrat seeks for, which is frequently another name for his own superiority, but that which is true and real that which will make us all free in the Spirit, make us all equal in the person of Christ Jesus, and give us all the fraternity of brethren, seeing that we are all one with our Lord, in the common bond of gospel relationship. Let the truths of Christianity work out their perfect work: and pride, bitterness, wrath, envy, and malice, must see their graves. This and this alone can restore the peace of divided families, and unite disputing relatives. Only let the gospel be preached, and there shall be an end of war; let it thoroughly pervade all ranks of society, and saturate the mind of nations, and there shall be no more lifting of the spears, they shall be used for pruning hooks; no bathing of swords in blood, for they shall be turned into the peaceful ploughshares of the soil; we shall then have no hosts encountering hosts; we shall have no millions slain for widows to deplore; but every man shall meet every other man, and call him "brother." And men of every kindred, and of every tribe, shall see in the face of every man, a relative allied to them by ties of blood. I am sure I feel, myself, the force of this word "brother," with regard to many of you. If ye be partakers of that glorious hope, if ye be believers in our glorious Redeemer, if ye have put your trust under the shadow of his wings, my hand and my heart with it, there is that word "brother" for you. And so addressing you, who love the Lord, under that title; I come at one to the text, "Brethren, we are debtors." We are all of us under obligations; let us consider the fact in the following manner: First, how are we to understand this? and secondly, how ought it to affect us?
I. HOW ARE WE TO UNDERSTAND THIS, "Brethren, we are debtors"? We may understand it in a thousand sense, for indeed we are debtors. Brethren, we who know and love the Lord, are debtors, not to one creditor, but to many.
We are debtors to the past. Methinks I see the fathers at their midnight lamps, the ancient saints in their much-frequented closets, the thrice brave preachers in their pulpits denouncing error, and the faithful pastors reproving wrong. To such who have preceded us we owe the purity of the Church, and to them we are debtors. methinks I see the martyrs and confessors rising from their tombs I mark their hands still stained with blood, and their bodies scarred with the wound of persecution. They tell me, that they of old maintained the truth, and preached it, in the midst of fire and sword that they bore death in defence of the cause of God, that they might hand down his holy word inviolate to us! I look on them, and see among their glorious ranks, some whose names are celebrated in every Christian land as the bold "lions of God," the immovable pillars of truth; men of whom the world was not worthy, whose praise is in all the churches, and who are now nearest the eternal throne. And as I look on them, and they on me, I turn to you all and say, "Brethren, we are debtors." We are debtors to the men who crossed the sea, and laughed at the fury of the storm, who risked the journeying, and the weariness, and all the various perils to which they were exposed, by reason of robbers and false brethren; we are debtors to each stake at Smithfield; we are debtors to the sacred ashes of the thousands who have there followed Jesus even unto death; we are debtors to the headless bodies of those who were beheaded for Christ Jesus; we are debtors to those who dared the lions in the amphitheatre and fought with wild beasts at Ephesus; we are debtors to the massacred thousands of the bloody church of Rome, and the murdered myriads of her pagan predecessors; we are debtors to them all. Remember the bloody day of St. Bartholomew, the valleys of Piedmont, and the mountains of Switzerland. Let the sacred mounds of our fathers' sepulchres speak to us. Is not this Bible opened and read by us all, the gift of their self-denying faithfulness? Is not the free air we breathe the purchase of their death? Did not they, by bitter suffering, achieve our liberty for us? And are we not debtors to them? Shall we not, in some degree, repay the immense debt of our obligation by seeking to make the future also debtors to us, that our descendants may look back and acknowledge that they owe us thank for preserving the Scriptures, for maintaining liberty, for glorifying God? Brethren, we are debtors to the past.
And I am quite sure we are debtors to the present. Wherever we go, we gather fresh proofs of the common observation, that we are living in a most marvellous age. It is an oft-repeated truth, and one which, perhaps, has almost lost its meaning from being so oft repeated, that this is the very crisis. The world has always been in a crisis, but this seems to use to be a peculiar one. We have around us appliances for doing good, such as men never possessed before; we behold around us machinery for doing evil, such as never was at work even in earth's worst days. Good men are labouring, at least with usual zeal, and bad men are strenuously plying their craft of evil. Infidelity, popery, and every other phase of anti-Christ are now straining every nerve. The tug of war is now with us. Look around you and learn your duty. The work is not yet done, the time of folding of hands has not yet arrived; our swords must not yet see their scabbards, for the foe is not yet slain. We see, in many a land, the proudest dynasties and tyrannies still crushing, with their mountain-weight, every free motion of the consciences and hearts of men. We see, on the other hand, the truest heroism for the right, and the greatest devotion to the truth in hearts that God has touched. We have a work to do, as great as our forefathers, and, perhaps, far greater. The enemies of truth are more numerous and subtle than ever, and the needs of the Church are greater than at any preceding time. If we be not debtors to the present, then men were never debtors to their age and their time. Brethren, we are debtors to the hour in which we live. Oh! that we might stamp it with truth, and that God might help us to impress upon its wings some proof that it has not flown by neglected and unheeded.
And, brethren, we are debtors to the future. If we, the children of God, are not valiant for truth now, if we maintain not the great standard of God's omnipotent truth, we shall be traitors to our liege Lord. Who can tell the fearful consequences to future generations if we now betray our trust. If we suffer orthodoxy to fail, or God's truth to be dishonored, future generations will despise and execrate our name. If we now suffer the good vessel of gospel truth to be drifted by adverse winds upon the rock, if we keep not good watch to her helm, and cry not well to her great Master that she may led to a prosperous end, surely those who are to succeed us will look on us with scorn, and say, "Shame on the men, who had so great and glorious a mission, and neglected it, and handed down to us a beclouded gospel and an impure Church." Stand up ye warriors of the truth, stand up firmly, for ye are debtors to the future, even as ye are debtors to the past. Sow well, for others must reap. You are fountains for coming generations; O, be careful that your streams are pure. May the Spirit of God enable you so to live, that you can bequeath your example as a legacy to the future.
And as we are debtors to all times, so we are all debtors to all classes. But there are some that always get well paid for what they do, and, therefore, I shall not mention them, since I am not aware that their claims need my advocacy. We may be remarkably indebted to members of parliament, but for the little they do they are tolerably well rewarded; at least, we take it that the place is more an honour to some of them than they are to their place. It may be true that we owe a great deal to the higher ranks of society; we may possibly, in some mysterious way, be much under obligation to the sacred personages who are styled lords and bishops, but it is not necessary that I should stand up for their claims, for I have no doubt they will take good care of themselves; at any rate they have usually done so, and have not allowed themselves to be robbed of much of their deservings. (Who would wish that they should? but it is possible to pay too dear, especially when you could get on as well without them as with them.) I shall not refer to any class of society, and say of them, we are debtors, except to one, and that is the poor. My brethren, we are debtors to the poor. "What!" says some one, "I, debtor to the poor?" Yes, my lady, thou art a debtor to the poorest man that ever walked the earth. The beggar shivering in his rags, may owe thee something, if thou givest him alms; but thou owest him something more. Charity to the poor is a debt. We are not at liberty to give or to refuse. God requires us to remember the poor, and their poverty is a claim upon our generosity. But in the case of the believing poor, their claim upon us is far more binding, and I beseech you do not neglect it. O how much we owe them. When I think how the poor toil day after day and receive barely enough to keep their souls within their bodies: when I think how frequently they serve their Church, unhonored and unrewarded, when I know some of them who perform the hardest deeds of service for our common Christianity, and are yet passed by with neglect and scorn; when I remember how many of them are toiling in the Sabbath-school, having neither emolument nor reward; when I consider how many of the lower classes are as prayerful, as careful, as honest, as upright, as devout, as spiritual as others are, and frequently more so, I cannot but say that we are debtors to all God's poor in a very large degree. We little know how many a blessing the poor man's prayer brings down upon us. I beseech you then, beloved, wherever you see a poor saint, wherever you behold an aged Christian, recollect he cannot be so much in debt to you as you are to him, for you have much, and he has but little, and he cannot be in debt for what he has not. Many of you will not feel the force of Christian reasons, let me remind you, that even you are obliged to the laboring poor. The rich man hoards wealth, the poor man makes it. Great men get the blessing, but poor men bring it down from heaven. Some men are the cisterns that hold God's rain; but other men are those who pray the rain from heaven, like very Elijahs, and many of these are to be found in the lower ranks of society. "Brethren, we are debtors;" what I have is not my own, but God's; and if it be God's, then it belongs to God's poor. What the wealthiest man has is not his own, but God's, and if it be God's then it is Christ's, and if Christ's, then his children's; and Christ's children are often those who are hungry, and thirsty, and destitute, and afflicted, and tormented. Take care then of that class, brethren, for we are debtors to them.
But while I have thus mentioned some of the different classes to whom we are debtors, I have not yet come to the point on which I desire to press your attention. Brethren, we are debtors to our covenant God; that is the point which swallows up all. I owe nothing to the past, I owe nothing to the future, I owe nothing to the rich, and nothing to the poor, compared with what I owe to my God. I am mainly indebted to these because I owe so much to my God. Now, Christian, consider how thou art a debtor to thy God. Remember thou art now a debtor to God in a legal sense, as thou art in Adam, thou art no longer a debtor to God's justice as thou once wast. We are all born God's creatures, and as such we are debtors to him; to obey him with all our body, and soul, and strength. When we have broken his commandments, as we all of us have, we are debtors to his justice, and we owe to him a vast amount of punishment, which we are not able to pay. But of the Christian, it can be said, that he does not owe God's justice a solitary farthing; for Christ has paid the debt his people owed. I am a debtor to God's love, I am a debtor to God's grace, I am a debtor to God's power, I am a debtor to God's forgiving mercy; but I am no debtor to his justice for he, himself, will never accuse me of a debt once paid. It was said, "It is finished!" and by that was meant, that what'er his people owed was wiped away for ever from the book of remembrance. Christ, to the uttermost, has satisfied divine justice; the debt is paid, the hand-writing is nailed to the cross, the receipt is given, and we are debtors to God's justice no longer. But then because we are not debtors to God in that sense, we become ten times more debtors to God than we should have been otherwise. Because he has remitted all our debt of sin, we are all the more indebted to him in another sense. Oh! Christian, stop and ponder for a moment! What a debtor thou art to Divine Sovereignty! Thou art not as some, who say, that thou didst choose thyself to be saved; but thou believest that God could have destroyed thee, if he had pleased and that it is entirely of his own good pleasure that thou art made one of his, while others are suffered to perish. Consider, then, how much thou owest to his Sovereignty! If he had willed it, thou wouldst have been among the damned; if he had not willed thy salvation, all thou couldst do would have been utterly powerless to deliver thee from perdition. Remember how much thou owest to his disinterested love, which rent his own Son from his bosom that he might die for thee! let the cross and bloody sweat remind thee of thine obligation. Consider how much you owe to his forgiving grace, that after ten thousand affronts he loves you as infinitely as ever; and after a myriad of sins, his Spirit still resides within you. Consider what you owe to his power; how he has raised you from your death in sin, and how he has preserved your spiritual life, how he has kept you from falling, and how, though a thousand enemies have beset your path, you have been able to hold on your way! Consider what thou owest to his immutability. Though thou hast changed a thousand times, he has not changed once; though thou hast shifted thy intentions, and thy will, yet he has not once swerved from his eternal purpose, but still has held thee fast. Consider thou art as deep in debt as thou canst be to every attribute of God. To God thou owest thyself, and all thou hast. "Brethren, we are debtors."
We are not only debtors to God in the light of gratitude for all these things; but because of our relationship to him. Are we not his sons, and is there not a debt the son owes to the father which a lifetime of obedience can never remove? I feel that to the knee that dandled me and the breast that gave me sustenance, I owe more than I can ever pay; and to him who taught me, and led me in the paths of truth I owe so much, that I dare not speak of the tremendous weight of obligation due to him. Beloved, if God be a father, where is honor? And if we be his sons, are we not thereby bound to love, serve, and obey him? Sonship towards an earthly parent brings with it a host of duties, and shall the Everlasting Father be unregarded? No. The true son of God will never blush to acknowledge that he is in subjection to the Father of spirits. He will rather glory in his high connection, and with reverence obey the commands of his Heavenly Parent. Remember again, we are Christ's brethren, and there is a debt in brotherhood. Brother owes to brother what he cannot pay until he dies. It is more than some men think to have been rocked in the same cradle and dandled on the same knee. Some esteem it nothing. Alas! it is a well-known truth, that if you want help you must go anywhere for it, save to your brother's house. Go not into thy brother's house in the day of thine adversity. Go to the greatest stranger, and he shall help thee; go to thy brother, and he shall oft upbraid thee. But this should not be so. Brotherhood has its ties of debt, and to my brother I owe what I shall not yet pay him. Beloved, are ye brothers of Christ, and do ye think that ye owe him no love? Are ye brothers and sisters of the saints, and think ye that ye ought not to love and serve them, even to the washing of their feet? Oh, yes, I am sure ye ought. I am afraid none of us feel enough how much we are debtors to God. Yea, I am certain that we do not. It is astonishing how much gratitude a man will feel to you if you have been only the instrument of doing him good; but how little gratitude he feels to God, the first cause of all! There have been many who have been won from drunkenness by hearing the preaching of God's Word even under myself, and those persons have been ready to carry me on their shoulders, from very gratitude, for joy; but I would be bound to say they make a far more feeble display of their thankfulness to my Master. At least, they seem to have lost their first love to him far sooner than they did to his servant. We remember to be grateful to all except our God. Our little debts we can pay. Debts of honor, as we call them which are no debts in some men's eyes we can discharge; but the great and solemn debt we owe to God is ofttimes passed by, neglected and forgotten. "Brethren, we are debtors."
II. In the second place, very briefly, WHAT OUGHT WE TO DRAW FROM THIS DOCTRINE, that we are debtors?
First, we think we should learn a lesson of humility. If we be debtors we never ought to be proud. All we can do for God is but a trifling acknowledgment of an infinite obligation; yea, more, our good works are gifts of his grace, and do but put us under greater debt to the author of them. Stay, then, ye who are puffed up by your achievements, consider ye have but poorly performed, not a deed of supererogation, but of ordinary duty. How much have you done after all, young man? I thought I saw you the other day looking amazingly great, because on such an occasion you really had done some little service to Christ's Church; and you looked astonishingly proud about it. Young man, didst thou do more than thou oughtest to have done? "No, I did not," you say; "I was a debtor." Then who should be proud of having paid only a part of his debt, when, after all, he owes a great deal more than he is worth? Is there anything to be proud of in having paid a farthing in the pound? I take it there is not. Let us do what we may, it is but a farthing in the pound that we shall ever be able to pay of the debt of gratitude we owe to God. It is curious to see how some men are proud of being greater debtors than others. One man has ten talents, and oh how proud he is, and how he looks down upon another who has but one, and says: "Ah, you are a mean man; I have ten talents." Well, then, thou owest ten talents, and thy brother owes only one; why should you be proud that you owe more than he does? It would be a foolish pride indeed, if two prisoners in the Queen's Bench were to boast, one saying, "I owe a hundred pounds," and the other replying, "I am a greater gentleman than you are, for I owe a thousand." I have heard that in the Marshalsea of old they did take rank according to the greatness of their debts. It is often so on earth: we take rank at times according to the greatness of our talents. But the greatness of our talents is only the amount of our debt; for, the more we have, the more we owe. If a man walks the streets, sticking his bill upon his breast, and proclaiming with pride that he is a debtor, you would say, "Sure he must be a madman; lock him up." And so if a man walk through the earth and lift up his head because of what God has given him, and say, "I am not to notice the poor, I am not to shake hands with the ignorant, because I am so great and mighty," you may with equal reason say, "Take away that poor creature, his pride is his insanity; put him in safe custody, and let him learn that all he has is his debt, and that he has no cause for pride."
Then again, how zealous we should be for our Master! Though we cannot pay all, we can at least acknowledge the debt. It is something on the part of a debtor if he will but acknowledge the claim of his creditor. Oh! how ought we day by day to seek, by living unto God, to acknowledge the debt we owe to him; and, if we cannot pay him the principal, yet to give him some little interest upon the talent which he has lent to us, and upon those stupendous mercies which he has granted to us. I beseech you, my dear friends, take this thought with you wherever you go: "I am a debtor, I must serve my God. It is not left to my pleasure whether I will do it or no; but I am a debtor, and I must serve him."
If we all believed this, how much easier it would be to get our churches into good order! I go to one brother, and I say, "Brother, there is such-and-such an office in the Sabbath-school; will you take it?" "Well, sir, you know how much I love the cause, and how earnest I am in doing everything that I can to serve my Maker; but (now comes the end of it all) I really work so hard all the week that I cannot afford to go out on the Sabbath to Sunday-schools." There you see, that man does not know that he is a debtor. I take him a bill to-morrow morning, and he says, "Do you coming begging?" I say, "No; I have brought a bill; look at it." "Oh, yes," he says, "I see; there is the cash." Now that is the way to act; to feel and acknowledge that you are a debtor; when there is a thing to be done, to do it, and to say, "Do not thank me for it, I have only done what I ought to have done; I have only paid the debt that I owed."
Then let me give you just one piece of homely advice before I send you away. Be just before you are generous, and especially before you are generous to yourselves. Take care that you pay your debts before you spend money upon your pleasures. I would recommend that to many Christians. Now, there are some of you here incommoding us to-night, and making us very hot. You have been very generous to yourselves by coming here, but not very just to your ministers in neglecting the places of worship where you ought to have gone. You said to yourselves, "We have no doubt we ought to be there; that is our debt; nevertheless we should like to gratify our curiosity for once, by hearing this singular preacher, who will be sure to say something extravagant that will furnish the occasion for a joke for the next fortnight." Now, why did you come here till you had paid your debt? You should have rallied round your own minister and strengthened his hands in the work of the Lord. Again; how many a man is there who says, "I want such-and-such a luxury; I know the cause of God demands of me more than I give it, but I must have that luxury, that shilling shall go to myself, and not to God." Now if you had a debtor who owed you more than he could pay, and you saw him going off on pleasure in a horse and gig to-morrow, you would say, "It is all very well his having that fine horse and gig, and going down to Greenwich; but I would rather that he should pay me the ten pound note I lent him the other day. If he cannot afford to pay, he ought to keep at home till he can." So in regard to God. We come and spend our time and our money upon our pleasures before we pay our just and fair debts. Now, what is not right towards man is not right towards God. If it is robbing man to spend the money in pleasure wherewith we ought to pay our debts; it is robbing God if we employ our time, our talents, or our money, in anything but his service, until we feel we have done our share in that service. I beseech you, members of churches, deacons, or whatever you may be, lay this to heart. To God's cause you are debtors. Do not expect to get thanked at last for doing much, for after all you have done, you will only have done what is your duty.
Now, farewell to such of you as are debtors in that sense; but just one word to those who are debtors in the other sense; Sinner, thou who owest to God's justice, thou who hast never been pardoned; what wilt thou do when pay-day comes/ My friend over there, you who have run up a score of black sins, what will you do when pay-day comes, and no Christ to pay your debts for you? What will you do if you are out of God and out of Christ at the last pay-day, when the whole roll of your debts to God shall be opened, and you have no Christ to give you a discharge? I beseech thee, "Agree with thy creditor quickly, whilst thou art in the way with him; lest he deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer to cast thee into prison: verily I say unto thee, thou shall not come out till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing." But if thou agreest with thy creditor, he will, for Jesus' sake, blot out all thy debts, and set thee at liberty, so that thou shalt never be amenable for thine iniquities.
The Sons of God
Delivered on Sabbath Morning, October 7th, 1860, by the
REV. C. H. Spurgeon
At Exeter Hall, Strand.
"The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God; and if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together." Romans 8:16-17 .
MY brethren, what a contrast there is between the present and future estate of the child of God! The believer is here the brother to the worm; in heaven he shall be next of kin to the angels. Here he is covered with the sweat and dust which he acquired by Adam's fall; there his brow shall be bright with the immortality which is conferred upon him by the resurrection of Christ. Here the heir of heaven is unknown; he is in disguise, full often clad in the habiliments of poverty, but there his princely character shall be discerned and acknowledged, he shall be waited upon by angels, and shall share in the admiration which the universe shall pour upon the glorified Redeemer. Well said our poet just now,
"It doth not yet appear, how great we must be made."
I think I need not remind you of your condition here below; you are too conversant with it, being hourly fretted with troubles, vexed with your own infirmities, with the temptations of Satan, and with all the allurements of this world. You are quite conscious that this is not your rest. There are too many thorns in your nest, to permit you to hope for an abiding city below the skies. I say, it is utterly needless for me to refresh your memories about your present condition; but I feel it will be a good and profitable work if I remind you that there are high privileges of which you are possessors even now; there are divine joys which even this day you may taste. The wilderness has its manna; the desert is gladdened with water from the rock. God hath not forsaken us; the tokens of his goodness are with us, and we may rejoice in full many a gracious boon which is ours this very day. I shall direct your joyous attention to one precious jewel in your treasury, namely, your adoption into the family of God.
There are four things of which I shall speak this morning. First, a special privilege; second, a special proof of it, the Spirit bearing witness with our spirit; then thirdly, a special privilege, that of heirship; and fourthly, the practical part of the sermon and the conclusion shall be a special manner of life demanded of such persons.
I. First, then, my brethren, a SPECIAL PRIVILEGE mentioned in the text. "We are the children of God." And here I am met upon the very threshhold by the opposition of certain modern theologians, who hold that sonship is not the special and peculiar privilege of believers. The newly discovered negative theology, which, I fear, has done some damage to the Baptist denomination, and a very large amount of injury to the Independent body the new heresy is to a large degree, founded upon the fiction of the Universal Fatherhood of God. The old divines, the Puritans, the Reformers, are now in these last days, to be superseded by men whose teaching flatly contradicts all that we have received of our forefathers. Our old ministers have all represented God as being to his people a father, to the rest of the world a judge. This is styled by our new philosophers as old cumbersome scheme of theology, and it is proposed that it be swept away a proposition which will never be carried out, while the earth remaineth, or while God endureth. But, at any rate, certain knight-errants have set themselves to do battle with windmills, and really believe that they shall actually destroy from the face of the earth that which is a fundamental and abiding distinction, without which the Scriptures are not to be understood. We are told by modern false prophets, that God in everything acts to all men as a father, even when he cast them into the lake of fire, and send upon them all the plagues that are written in his book. All these terrible things in righteousness, the awful proofs of holy vengeance in the judge of all the earth, and successfully neutralized in their arousing effect, by being quietly written among the loving acts and words of the Universal Father. It is dreamed that this is an age when men do not need to be thundered at; when everybody is become so tender-hearted that there is no need for the sword to be held "in terrorum" over mortals; but that everything is to be conducted now in a new and refined manner; God the Universal Father, and all men universal sons. Now I must confess there is something very pretty about this theory, something so fascinating that I do not wonder that some of the ablest minds have been wooed and won by it. I, for my part, take only one objection to it, which is that it is perfectly untrue and utterly unfounded, having not the lightest shadow of a pretence of being proved by the Word of God. Scripture everywhere represents the chosen people of the Lord, under their visible character of believers, penitents, and spiritual men, as being "the children of God," and to none but such is that holy title given. It speaks of the regenerate, of a special class me as having a claim to be God's children. Now, as there is nothing like Scripture, let me read you a few texts, Romans viii. 14. "As many are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God." Surely no one is so daring as to say, that all men are led by the Spirit of God; yet may it readily enough be inferred from our text, that those who are not led by the Spirit of God are not the sons of God, but that they and they alone who are led, guided and inspired by the Holy Spirit, are the sons of God. A passage from Galatians iii. 26. "For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus," declaring as it seems to me, and rightly enough, that all believers, all who have faith in Christ are the children of God, and that they become actually and manifestly so by faith in Christ Jesus, and implying that those who have no faith in Christ Jesus, are not God's sons, and that any pretence which they could make to that relationship would be but arrogance and presumption. And hear ye this, John i. 12. "To as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God." How could they have been the sons of God before, for "to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name, who were born not of blood," then they were not make the sons of God by mere creation "nor of the will of the flesh," that is to say, not by any efforts of their own "but of God." If any text can be more conclusive than this against universal sonship, I must confess I know of none, and unless these words mean nothing at all, they do mean just this, that believers are the sons of God and none besides. But listen to another word of the Lord in the first epistle of John, iii. 1-. "In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth no righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother." Here are two sorts of children, therefore all are not the children of God. Can it be supposed that those who are the children of the devil are nevertheless the children of God? I must confess my reason revolts against such a supposition, and though I think I might exercise a little imagination, yet I could not make my imagination sufficiently an acrobat to conceive of a man being at the same time a child of the devil, and yet a real child of God. Hear another, 2 Corinthians, vi. 17. "Come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty." Is not that "coming out" necessary to sonship, and were they his sons, were they his daughters, had they any claim or right to call him Father, until they came out from the midst of a wicked world, and were separate? If so, why doth God promise them what they have already. But again, Matthew v. 9. "Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God." A fine title indeed if it belongs to every man! Where is the blessedness of the title, for they might be lovers of strife, and yet according to modern theologians they might still be the sons of God. Let us mark a yet more positive passage, Romans ix. 8. "The children of the flesh, these are not the children of God." What then is to be said to this, "These are not the children of God." If any man will contradict that flatly well, be it so. I have no argument with which to convince the man who denies so strong and clear a witness. Listen to the divine apostle John, where in one of his epistles he is carried away in rhapsody of devout admiration, "Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God." And then he goes on giving a description of those who are the sons of God, who could not mean any but those who by a living faith in Christ Jesus, have cast their souls once for all on him. As far as I can guess, the main text on which these people build the doctrine of the universal Fatherhood, is that quotation which the apostle Paul took from a heathen poet "As certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring." The apostle endorses that sentiment by quoting it, and against that endorsement we can of course have no contention; but the word there used for "offspring," expresses no idea of Fatherhood in the majestic sense of the term, it is a word which might be used as appropriately for the young of animals, the young of any other creature, it has not about it the human sympathies which belong to a father and a son. I know, besides this, nothing which could support this new theory. Possibly they fancy that creation is a paternal act, that all created things are sons. This is too absurd to need an answer, for if so, horses and cows, rats and mice, snakes and flies are children of God, for they are surely creatures as well as we. Taking away this corner-stone, this fancy theory tumbles to the ground, and that theory which seemed to be as tall as Babel, and threatened to make as much confusion, may right soon be demolished, if you will batter it with the Word of God. The fact is, brethren, that the relationship of a son of God belongs only to those who are "predestinated unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of the Father's will:" Ephesians 1:5 . The more you search the Bible, the more sure will you be that sonship is the special privilege of the chosen people of God and of none beside.
Having thus, as far as I can, established my point, that the privilege of our text is a special one, let me dwell upon it for a moment and remark that, as a special one, it is an act of pure unmistakeable grace. No man has any right to be a son of God. If we are born into his family it is a miracle of mercy. It is one of the ever-blessed exhibitions of the infinite love of God which without any cause in us, has set itself upon us. If thou art this day an heir of heaven, remember, man, thou wast once the slave of hell. Once thou didst wallow in the mire, and if thou shouldst adopt a swine to be thy child, thou couldst not then have performed an act of greater compassion than when God adopted thee. And if an angel could exalt a gnat to equal dignity with himself, yet would not the boon be such-an-one as that which God hath conferred on thee. He hath taken thee from the dunghill, and he hath set thee among princes. Thou hast lain among the pots, but he hat made thee as a dove whose wings are covered with silver, and her feathers with yellow gold. Remember that this is grace, and parentage, look back to the hole of the pit whence thou art digged, and the miry clay whence thou wast drawn. Boast not, if thou art in the true olive. Thou art not there, because of thine original, thou art a scion from an evil tree, and the Divine Spirit hath changed thy nature, for thou wast once nothing but a branch of the vine of Gomorrah. Ever let humility bow thee to the very earth while thine adoption lifts thee up to the third heaven.
Consider again, I pray you, what a dignity God hath conferred upon you even upon you in making you his son. The tall archangel before the throne is not called God's Son, he is one of the most favoured of his servants, but not his child. I tell thee, thou poor brother in Christ, there is a dignity about thee that even angels may well envy. Thou in thy poverty art as a sparkling jewel in the darkness of the mine. Thou in the midst of thy sickness and infirmity art girt about with robes of glory, which make the spirits in heaven look down upon the earth with awe. Thou movest about this world as a prince among the crowd. The blood of heaven runs in thy veins; thou art one of the blood royal of eternity a son of God, descendant of the King of kings. Speak of pedigrees, the glories of heraldry thou hast more than heraldry could ever give thee, or all the pomp of ancestry could ever bestow.
II. And now I press forward to notice that in order that we may know whether we are partakers of this high this royal relationship of children of God, the text furnishes us with a SPECIAL PROOF "The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit that we are the children of God. You will notice here, my beloved, that there are two witnesses in court two who are ready to prove our filiation to the eternal God. The first witness is our spirit; the second witness is The Spirit, the eternal Spirit of God, who beareth witness with our spirit. It is as if a poor man were called into court to prove his right to some piece of land which was disputed. He standeth up and beareth his own faithful testimony; but some great one of the land some nobleman who lives near rises, stands in the witness box, and confirms his witness. So is it with our text. The plain, simple spirit of the humble-minded Christian cries, "I am God's child." The glorious Spirit, one with God, attests the truth of the testimony, and beareth witness with our spirit that we are the children of God.
Let us notice in the first place, how it is that our spirit is able to bear witness; and as this is a matter of experience, I can only appeal to those who are the true children of God; for no others are competent to give testimony. Our spirit bears witness that we are the children of God, when it feels a filial love to God. When bowing before his throne we can boldly say "Abba Father." "Thou art my father," then our spirit concludes that we are sons, for thus it argues, "I feel to thee as a child feeleth to its parent, and it could not be that I should have the feeling of a son if I had not the rights of a son if I were not a child thou wouldst never have given to me that filial affection which no dares to call thee "Father."
Sometimes, too, the spirit feels that God is its Father not only by love but by trust. The rod has been upon our back and we have smarted very sore, but in the darkest hour we have been able to say, "The time is in my Father's hands; I cannot murmur; I would not repine; I feel it is but right that I should suffer, otherwise my Father would never have made me suffer." He surely doth not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of man for nought; and when in these dark gloomy times we have looked up to a Father's face, and have said, "Though thou slay me, yet will I trust in thee; thy blows shall not drive thee from me; they shall but make me say, "Show me wherefore thou contendest with me, and purge me from my sin."" Then our spirit beareth witness that we are the children of God.
And are there not times with you, my dear friends, when your hearts feel that they would be emptied and void, unless God were in them. You have perhaps received an increase to your wealth, and after the first flush of pleasure which was but natural, you have said, "Vanity of vanities, all is vanity; this is not my joy." You have had many mercies in your family, but you have felt that in them all there was a lack of something which could satisfy your heart, and you have felt that that something was God. My God, thou art my all in all the circle where my passions move, the centre of my soul. Now these longings these pantings for something more than this world can give you were but the evidences of a child-like spirit, which was panting after its Father's presence. You feel you must have your Father, or else the gifts of his providence are nothing to you. That is, your spirit beareth witness that you are the child of God. But there are times when the heir of heaven is as sure that he is God's child as he is sure that he is his own father's son. No doubt can make him question. The evil one may whisper, "If thou be the son of God." But he says, "Get thee hence, Satan, I know I am the son of God." A man might as well try to dispute him out of the fact of his existence as out of that equally sure fact that he has been born again, and that by gracious adoption he has been taken into the family of God. This is our witnessing that we are born of God.
But the text, you see, furnishes us with a higher witness than this. God that cannot lie, in the person of the Holy Ghost, graciously condescendeth to say "Amen" to the testimony of our conscience. And whereas our experience sometimes leads our spirit to conclude that we are born of God, there are happy times when the eternal Spirit from off the throne, descends and fills our heart, and then we have the two witnesses bearing witness with each other, that we are children of God. Perhaps you ask me, how is this. I was reading a passage by Dr. Chalmers the other day, in which he says, that his own experience did not lead him to believe that the Holy Spirit ever gave any witness of our being the children of God, apart from the written Word of God, and his ordinary workings in our hearts. Now, I am not sure that the doctor is perfectly right. As far as his own experience went I dare say he was right, but there may be some far inferior to the doctor in genius, who nevertheless were superior in nearness of fellowship with God, and who could therefore go a little farther than the eloquent divine. Now, I do believe with him this morning, that the chief witness of God the Holy Spirit lies in this the Holy Spirit has written this book which contains an account of what a Christian should be, and of the feelings which believers in Christ must have. I have certain experiences and feelings; turning to the Word, I find similar experiences and feelings recorded; and so I prove that I am right, and the Spirit bears witness with my spirit that I am born of God. Suppose you have been enabled to believe in Jesus Christ for your salvation; that faith has produced love to Christ; that love to Christ has led you to work for Christ; you come to the Bible, and you find that this was just the very thing which was felt by early believers; and then you say, "Good Lord, I am thy son, because what I feel is what thou has said by the lips of thy servant must be felt by those who are thy children." So the Spirit confirms the witness of my spirit that I am born of God.
But again, everything that is good in a Christian you know to be the work of God the Holy Ghost. When at any time then the Holy Spirit comforts you sheds a sweet calm over your disturbed spirit; when at any period he instructs you, opens to you a mystery you did not understand before; when at some special period he inspires you with an unwonted affection, an unusual faith in Christ; when you experience a hatred of sin, a faith in Jesus, a death to the world, and a life to God, these are the works of the Spirit. Now the Spirit never did work effectually in any but the children of God; and inasmuch as the Spirit works in you, he doth by that very working give his own infallible testimony to the fact that you are a child of God. If you had not been a child he would have left you where you were in your natural state; but inasmuch as he hath wrought in you to will and to do of his own good pleasure, he that put his stamp on you as being one of the family of the Most High. But I think must go a little further than this. I do believe that there is a supernatural way in which apart from means, the Spirit of God communicates with the spirit of man. My own little experience leads me to believe that apart from the Word of God, there are immediate dealings with the conscience and soul of man by the Holy Spirit, without any instrumentality, without even the agency of the truth. I believe that the Spirit of God sometimes comes into a mysterious and marvellous contact with the spirit of man, and that at times the Spirit speaketh in the heart of man by a voice not audible to the ear, but perfectly audible to the spirit which is the subject of it. he assures and consoles directly, by coming into immediate contact with the heart. It becomes our business then to take the Spirit's witness through his Word, and through his works, but I would seek to have immediate, actual, undivided fellowship with the Holy Ghost, who by his divine Spirit, should work in my spirit and convince me that I am a child of God.
Now let me ask my congregation, do any of you know that you are God's children? Say not, "In my baptism, wherein I was made a member of Christ, and a child of God." There are not many in England, I think, who believe those words. There may be a few who do, but it has never been my misfortune to meet with them. Every one knows that it is a disgrace to a matchless prayer-book, that such words should be permitted to stand there-words so infamously untrue that by their gross untruthfulness they cease to have the destructive effect which more cunning language might have produced, because the conscience of man revolts against the idea that the sprinkling of drops of water upon the infants's brow can ever make it a member of Christ, and a child of God. But I ask you, does your spirit say to-day "I am God's child." Do you feel the longings, the loves, the confidences of a child? If not, tremble, for there are but two vast families in this world. They are the family of God, and the family of Satan their character how different their end, how strangely divided! But let me say again to thee, hast thou ever felt that the Holy Ghost has borne witness with thy spirit in his word, and in his work, in thee; and in that secret whisper has he ever said to thee, "Thou art my son, this day have I begotten thee." I conjure thee, give no sleep to thine eyes, no slumber to thine eyelids, till by this divine mysterious agency, thou art new made, new born, and new begotten, and so admitted not only nominally but really into the living family of the living God.
III. I shall now pass on to my third point. If it be settled in our mind by the true witness the spirit within us, and the Spirit of God, that we are God's children, what a NOBLE PRIVILEGE now appears to our view. "HEIRS OF GOD, and joint heirs with Christ." It does not always follow in human reasoning "if children, then heirs," because in our families but one is the heir. There is but one that can claim the heir's rights, and the heir's title. It is not so in the family of God. Man as a necessary piece of political policy, may give to the heir that which surely he can have not more real right to in the sight of God, than the rest of the family may give him all the inheritance, while his brethren, equally true born, may go without; but it is not so in the family of God. All God's children are heirs, however numerous the family, and he that shall be born of God last, shall be as much his heir as he who was born first. Abel, the protomartyr, entering alone into heaven, shall not have a more secure title to the inheritance than he who, last of woman born, shall trust in Christ, and then ascend into his glory. In heaven's logic it is true, "if children, then heirs."
And see what it is that we are heirs of. The apostle opens with the grandest part of the inheritance first heirs of God heirs not of God's gifts, and God's works, but heirs of God himself. It was said of king Cyrus, that he was a prince of so amiable a disposition, that when at any time he sat down at meat, if there were aught that pleased his appetite, he would order it to be taken away and given to his friends with this message, "King Cyrus found that this food pleased his palate, and he thought his friend should feed upon that which he enjoyed himself." This was thought to be a singular instance of his affability, and his kindness to his courtiers. But our God doeth more than this, he doth not send merely bread from his table, as in the day when man did eat angel's food; he doth not give us merely to drink the wines on the lees well refined the rich wines of heaven but he gives himself himself to us. And the believer is to be the heir, I say, not merely of God's works, not simply of God's gifts, but of God himself. Talk we of his omnipotence? his Allmightiness is ours. Speak we of his omniscience? all his wisdom is engaged in our behalf. Do we say that he is love? that love belongs to us. Can we glory that he is full of immutability, and changes not? that eternal unchangeableness is engaged for the defence of the people of God. All the attributes of divinity are the property of God's children their inheritance entailed upon them. Nay, he himself is ours. Oh what riches! If we could say this morning, that all the stars belong to us; if we could turn the telescope to the most remote of the fixed stars, and then could say with the pride of possession, so natural to man, "That star, a thousand times bigger than the sun, is mine. I am the king of that inheritance, and without me doth not a dog move his tongue." If we could then sweep the telescope along the milky way, and see the millions upon millions of stars that lie clustered together there, and could cry, "All these are mine," yet these possessions were but a speck compared with that which is in the text. Heir of God! He to whom all these things are but as nothing, gives himself up to the inheritance of his people.
Note yet a little further concerning the special privilege of heirship, we are joint heirs with Christ. That is, whatever Christ possesses, as heir of all things, belongs to us. Splendid must be the inheritance of Jesus Christ. Is he not very God of very God, Jehovah's only begotten Son, Most High and glorious, though he bowed himself to the grave and became the Servant of servants, yet God over all, blessed for ever. Amen.
Oh! what angelic tongue shall hymn his glory? What fiery lips shall ever speak of his possessions, of his riches, the unsearchable riches of God in Christ Jesus. But, beloved, all that belongs to Christ belongs to Christ's people. It is as when a man doth marry. His possessions shall be shared by his spouse; and when Christ took his Church unto himself he endowed her with all his goods, both temporal and eternal. He gives to us his raiments, and thus we stand arrayed. His righteousness becomes our beauty. He gave to us his person, it has become our meat and our drink; we eat his flesh and drink his blood. He gave to us hi inmost heart; he loved us even to the death. He gave to us his crown; he gave to us his throne; for "to him that overcometh will I give to sit upon my throne, even as I have overcome, and have sat down with my Father upon his throne." He gave to us his heaven, for "where I am, there shall my people be." He gave to us the fulness of his joy, for "my joy shall be in you, that your joy may be full." I repeat it, there is nothing in the highest heaven which Christ has reserved unto himself, "for all things are yours, and ye are Christ's and Christ is God's."
I cannot stay longer on that point, except just to notice, that we must never quarrel with this divine arrangement. "Oh," say you, "we never shall." Stay, stay, brother; I have known you do so already, for when all that is Christ's belongs to you, do ye forget that Christ once had a cross, and that belongs to you? Christ once wore a thorny crown, and if you are to have all that he has, you must bear the thorny crown too? Have you forgotten that he had shame and spitting, the reproach, the rebuke of men, and that he conceived all those to be greater riches than all the treasures of this world? Come, I know as you look down the inventory, you are apt to look a little askance on that cross, and you think, "Well, the crown is glorious, but I love not the spittle, I care not to be despised and rejected of men." Oh! you are quarreling with this divine arrangement, you are beginning to differ with this blessed policy of God. Why, one would have thought you would rejoice to take your Master for better or for worse, and to be partaker with him, not only in his glories but in his sufferings. So it must be, "If so be that we suffer with him that we also may be glorified together." Is there a place into which your Master went that you would be ashamed to enter? If so, methinks your heart is not in a right state. Would you refuse to go with him to the garden of his agony? Believer, would you be ashamed to stand and be accused as he was, and have false witness born against you? And would you blush to sit side- by-side with him, and be made nothing of as he was? Oh, when you start aside at a little jest, let your conscience prick you, and say, "Am I not a joint heir with Christ, and am I about to quarrel with the legacy? Did he not say, "In the world ye shall have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world?" And oh, would you be ashamed to die for Christ; methinks, if you are what you should be, you will glory in tribulations also, and count it sweet to suffer for Christ. I know the world turns this into ridicule and says, "That the hypocrite loves persecution;" no, not the hypocrite, but the true believer; he feels that though the suffering must ever be painful, yet for Christ's sake, it becomes so glorious that the pain is all forgotten.
Come, believer, will you be partaker with Christ to-day in the battle, and then divide this spoil with him? Come, will you wade with him through the deep waters, and then at last climb up the topless hills with him? Are you prepared now to be despised and rejected of men that you may at last ascend up on high, leading captivity captive? The inheritance cannot be divided; if you will have the glory, you must have the shame. He that will live godly in Christ Jesus must suffer persecution. Come, men, put your face against all weathers; be ready to come up hill, with the snow blowing in your face, be ready to march on when the tempest howls, and the lightnings flash over head, and the snow becomes knee-deep; nay, be ready to go into the crevasse with him, and perish, if need be. Who quarrels with this sacred regulation? Certainly no true child of God; he would not have it altered, even if he might.
IV. And now I come to my last point, upon which briefly but I hope interestingly. The SPECIAL CONDUCT naturally expected from those who are partakers of the peculiar privileges of being the children of God. In the golden age of Rome, if a man were tempted to dishonesty, he would stand upright, look the tempter in the face, and say to him, "I am a Roman." He thought that a sufficient reason why he should neither lie nor cheat. It ought to be ten times more than sufficient answer to every temptation, for a man to be able to say, "I am a son of God; shall such a man as I yield to sin?" I have been astonished in looking though old Roman history at the wonderful prodigies of integrity and valour which were produced by idolatry, or rather, which were produced by patriotism, and that principle which ruled the Romans, namely, love of fame. And I say it this morning, it is a shameful thing that ever idolatry should be able to breed better men than some who profess Christianity. And I think I may stand firmly while I argue here, that if a Roman, a worshipper of Jupiter or Saturn, became great or glorious, a Son of God ought to be nobler far. Look ye, sirs, at Brutus; he has established a republic, he has put down tyranny, he sits upon the judgment seat; his two sons are brought before him, they have been traitors to the commonwealth. What will the father do? He is a man of a loving heart and loves his sons, but there they stand. Will he execute justice as a judge, or will he prefer his family to his country? He covers his face for a moment with his hands, and then looking down at his sons, and finding that the testimony is complete against them, he says, "Lictors, do your work." They bare their backs, the rod scourgeth them. "Complete the sentence, lictors;" and their heads are smitten off in the father's presence. Stern justice swayed his spirit, and no other feeling could for a single moment make him turn aside. Christian men, do you feel this with regard to your sins. When you have been sitting on the judgment bench; there has been some favourite sin brought up, and you have, oh, let me blush to say it, you have wished to spare it, it was so near your heart, you have wished to let it live, whereas should you not as the son of God have said, "If my eye offend me, I will pluck it out and cast it from me, if my right hand offend me, I will cut it off, rather than I should in anything offend my God." Brutus slays his sons; but some Christians would spare their sins. Look again at that noble youth, Mutius Scoevola. He goes into the tent of King Pyrrhus with the intention to put him to death, because he is the enemy of his country; he slays the wrong man; Pyrrhus orders him to be taken captive. A pan of hot coals is blazing in the tent; Scoevola puts out his right hand and holds it; it crackles in the flame; the young man flinches not, though his fingers drop away. "There are 400 youths," says he, "in Rome as brave as I am, and that will bear fire as well; and tyrant," he says "you will surely die."" Yet here are Christian men, who, if they are a little sneered at, or snubbed, or get the cold shoulder for Christ's sake, are half ashamed of their profession, and would go and hide it. And if they are not like Peter tempted to curse and swear to escape the blessed imputation they would turn the conversation, that they might not suffer for Christ. Oh for 400 Scoevolas, 400 men who for Christ's sake would burn, not their right hands, but their bodies, if indeed Christ's name night be glorified, and sin might be stabbed to the heart. Or, read you that old legend of Curtius, the Roman knight. A great gulf had opened in the Forum, perhaps caused by an earthquake, and the auspices had said that the chasm could never be filled up, except the most precious thing in Rome could be cast into it. Curtius puts on his helmet, and his armour, mounts his horse and leaps into the cleft, which is said to have filled at once, because courage, valour, and patriotism, were the best things in Rome. I wonder how many Christians there are who would leap like that into the cleft. Why, I see you, sirs, if there is a new and perilous work to be done for Christ, you like to be in the rear rank this time; if there were something honourable, so that you might ride on with your well caparisoned steeds in the midst of the dainty ranks ye would do it; but to leap into certain annihilation for Christ's sake Oh! heroism, where is it fled whither has it gone. Thou Church of God, surely it must survive in thee; for to whom should it more belong to die and sacrifice all, than to those who are the sons of God. Look ye again at Camillus. Camillus had been banished from Rome by false accusations. He was ill-treated, abused, and slandered, and went away to retirement. Suddenly the Goths, the old enemies of Rome, fell upon the city. They surrounded it; they were about to sack it, and Camillus was the only man who could deliver it. Some would have said within themselves "Let the caitiff nation be cut off. The city has turned me out; let it rue the day that it ever drove me away." But no, Camillus gathers together his body of followers, falls upon the Goths, routs them and enters in triumph into Rome though he was an exile. Oh Christian, this should ever be your spirit, only in a higher degree. When the Church rejects you, casts you out, annoys, despises you, still be ready to defend her, and when you have an ill name even in the lips of God's people, still stand up for the common cause of Zion, the city of our solemnities. Or look you at Cincinnatus. He is chosen Dictator, but as soon as ever his dictatorship is over he retires to his little farm of three acres, and goes to his plough, and when he is wanted to be absolute monarch of Rome he is found at his plough upon his three acres of land and his little cottage. He served his country, not for himself, but for his country's sake; and can it be that you will not be poor yet honest for Christ's sake! Will you descend to the tricks of trade to win money. Ah, then, the Roman eclipses the Christian. Will you not be satisfied to serve God though you lose by it; to stand up and be thought an arrant fool, because you will not learn the wisdom of this world; to be esteemed a mad fanatic, because you cannot swim with the current. Can you not do it? Can you not do it? Then again I say to you, "Tell it not in Gath and publish it not in Askelon, then has a heathen eclipsed a Christian." May the sons of God be greater than the sons of Romulus. One other instance let me give you. You have heard of Regulus the Roman general; he was taken prisoner by Carthagenians, who anxiously wished for peace. They told him to go home to Rome, and see if he could not make peace. But his reply was, "No, I trust they will always be at war with you, for Carthage must be destroyed if Rome is to prosper." They compelled him, however, to go, exacting from him this promise, that if the Romans did not make peace he would come back, and if he came back they would put him to death in the most horrid manner that ever cruelty could invent. Regulus returns to Rome; he stands up in the senate and conjures them never to make peace in Carthage, but ot his wife and children, and tells them that he is going back to Carthage, and of course the tell him that he need not keep faith with an enemy. I imagine that he said, "I promised to go back, and though it is to pangs indescribable, I will return." His wife clings to his shoulder, his children seek to persuade him; they attend him to the waters' edge; he sails for Carthage; his death was too horrible to be described. Never martyr suffered more for Christ than that man suffered for his word's sake. And shall a Christian man break his promise? shall a son of God be less true than a Roman or a heathen? Shall it be, I say, that integrity shall be found in heathen lands and not be found here? No. May you be holy, harmless, sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation. I used this argument; I thought it might be a new one; I am sure it is a forcible one. You cannot imagine, surely, that God is to allow heathens to eclipse his children. Oh! never let it be so. So live, so act, ye sons of God, that the world may say of you, "Yes, these men bring forth the fruits of God; they are like their Father; they honour his name; they are indeed filled with his grace, for their every word is as true as his oath; their every act is sincere and upright; their heart is kind, their spirit is gentle; they are firm but yet they are generous; they are strict in their integrity, but they are loving in their souls; they are men who, like God, are full of love; but like him are severely just. They are sternly holy; they are, like him, ready to forgive, but they can by no means tolerate iniquity, nor hear that sin should live in their presence." God bless you, ye sons of God, and may those of you who are strangers to him, be convinced and converted by this sermon, and seek that grace by which alone you can have your prayer fulfilled:
"With them numbered may we be,
Now and through eternity."
The Joint Heirs and Their Divine Portion
Delivered on Sunday Morning, July the 28th, 1861 by the
Rev. C. H. SPURGEON,
At the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington
"Joint heirs with Christ." Romans 8:17 .
THE APOSTLE has proceeded through a simple but exceedingly forcible train of reasoning till he gains this glorious point "Joint heirs with Christ." He begins thus "Ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear, but ye have received the spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father." This is a fact which he takes for granted because he has perceived it in the hearts of believers. We do cry, "Abba, Father." From this he infers that if God has given us the Spirit whereby we call him "Father," then we are his children, which is plain, fair, and clear reasoning. Then he adds "If children then heirs" though this does not hold true in all families, because all children are not heirs, frequently the first-born may take all the estate; but with God so long as they are children they have equal rights. "If children then heirs." He goes on to say, "Heirs of God;" for if they are heirs they inherit their Father's property. God is their Father, they are therefore God's heirs! Well, but God hath another Son, one who is the first-born of every creature. Exactly so, therefore if we be heirs, as Christ Jesus is the heir of all things, we are "joint heirs with Christ." I think you will see that, like links in a chain, these different truths draw each other on the spirit of adoption proves the fact of adoption; by the act of adoption we are children; if children then heirs; if heirs, heirs of God; but since there is another heir, we must therefore be joint heirs with Christ Jesus. Blessed is the man to whom this reasoning is not abstract, but experimental. Happy is he who can follow the apostle step by step, and say, "Yes, I have this morning the spirit of a son; I know that my heart loves God, and I look to him as my Father, with trust, with confidence, and with love; then I am surely his son, because I have the Spirit a son; then I am his heir; I am the heir of God; and thus my faith lays hold upon the thrice-precious words of this glorious text I am joint heir with Christ."
I would invite you, my brethren in Christ Jesus, this morning, to do three things; first, let us consider the terms of the will "joint heirs with Christ;" secondly, let us go forth and view the estates what it is of which we are joint heirs; and when we have done so, let us proceed at once to administer, for God hath made his children administrators as web as heirs.
I. First, then, there is A LEGAL TERM IN THE WILL UPON WHICH THE WHOLE MATTER WILL HINGE. We are called "joint heirs with Christ" what meaneth this?
1. It means, first of all, that our right to the divine heritage stands or falls with Christ's right to the same inheritance. We are co-heirs; if he be truly an heir, so are we; and if he be not, neither are we. Our two interests are intertwined and made one, we have neither of us any heirship apart from the other; we are joint heirs, Christ jointly with us; ourselves jointly with Christ. So, then, it follows that if there be any flaw in the will, so that it be not valid, if it be not rightly signed, sealed, and delivered, then it is no more valid for Christ than it is for us. If there be some points in the covenant of grace where wisdom has been deficient, and therefore by error it may miscarry, or by lack of legal right may prove null and void, it is as surely null towards Christ as towards ourselves, for he is jointly concerned therein. If according to law we are only heirs-presumptive, whose rights may be superseded, then our great joint heir, so far as he is co-heir with us, is superseded also. If it be possible that by some decree in heaven's high court, it should be certified and determined that the inheritance is not rightly ours, because some one part of the covenant was left in a precarious state so that it became void and of no effect, then, thine inheritance, O thou King of kings, has failed thee in the very day when it hath failed us. I trust you will lay hold upon that thought; if Christ as God's heir has a perfect right to what his Father has bestowed upon him, even so have we, for our rights are nonexistent. If our title be true and just, so is his, and if his rights of heritage be true and just, so are ours. Oh! blessed thought for the believer! Jesus must lose the reward of his agonies before we can lose the fruits of them. Jesus the Mediator must lose the glory which his finished work has procured for him, ere one of his co-heirs can miss of it; he must come down from that glory which he now inhabiteth, and cease to be honored as "the Lamb that was slain, and hath redeemed us unto God by his blood," if any one of his people shall be deprived of that glory, and be cast into hell. The will, if valid for one, is valid for all.
But perhaps there may be a suit in law made against the will; some antagonist may set up a counter claim; an enemy to the entire family may proceed at once to attack the will with venom and with malice; he may take it into the Heavenly Court of Chancery, and there, before the great Judge, the question may be tried as to whether the inheritance be legally and lawfully ours. Very well, be it so; but then it is Christ's interest that is at stake as well as mine; he will be co-respondent in the suit. When Satan stood forth to accuse Joshua, the high priest, he did in effect accuse Christ as well as that chosen disciple, and the Lord was not slow to put in his rejoinder to the objection: "The Lord rebuke thee, O Satan, even the Lord that hath chosen Jerusalem rebuke thee: is not this a brand plucked out of the fire? "If Satan bring an accusation before God against any of the Lord's redeemed, that accusation is made against the Redeemer himself, for God's people are so one with Christ, that you must first bring the charge against Christ himself ere you dare to lay it against any of his elect. Do not say you: can charge the members with sin; you may do so in the inferior courts of earth, but the bill will be ignored in the supreme court of heaven, since before that bar the accepted substitute appears to answer an demands. You must enter your suit against the Head if you would attack the members, for verily the action at law which can be pleaded against the member of the body must be pleaded against the Head itself, for no court can allow a distinction between the body and the head in an notion at law. If it be possible that the malice and the graft of hell could invent some scheme by which the covenant could he put out of court, and the promise of grace could be made to fail, then Christ fails with his people, and the heir of all things loses his inheritance as soon as one single one of the other heirs shall have his right to the inheritance disproved. Our rights are joint rights, and most be either jointly acknowledged or jointly denied. "We are joint heirs with Christ."
Yet, further, to illustrate the full meaning of the joint heirship suppose, after the via had been proved and acknowledged to be right, it shall be found in winding up the affairs of the testator, that nothing is left to distribute suppose, after all this boast and talk about being heirs, the property should be nil, or there should even be found a debt against the estate what then? Why, my brethren, if we get nothing, Christ gets nothing; if there should for us, there is no heaven for Christ. If there should be no thrones for us, there would be no throne for him; if the promise should utterly fail of fulfillment to the least of the joint heritors, it must also fail of accomplishment to our Lord Jesus Christ himself. Be the property much or little, we are co-heirs; if there be infinite treasures, Christ hath them, and we have them; but if there be no treasure whatever, and faith should end in disappointment, and hope in despair, the calamity which impoverishes us must also impoverish our great co-heir. When we are poor, and in eternity have no shelter; when we in the next world shall find no heaven and no bliss, then, wandering as outcast orphans, we shall see our Elder Brother an outcast orphan too; if we be portionless and penniless, the Firstborn among many brethren must be portionless and penniless also, for with him we stand or we fall.
And then suppose that, in winding up the estates, it should be found that, though there be something left, yet it be a mere trifle, scarcely worth an acknowledgment: enough to excite appetite but not sufficient to satisfy it what if it should come out at last, that heaven is not the infinite joy we have been taught to expect; suppose its bliss should be but inferior joy, such as might be found even in this world below suppose that the harps have no melody, the crowns but little glory, and heaven's streets but slight magnificence what then? What they are to us they are to our co-heir. Saints with little glory, then Christ with little glory; believers with a narrow heaven, then Christ with a narrow heaven. If they drink but little from the river of pleasure, his draughts must be shallow too, for their joy is his joy, and his glory he has given them. He shall see of the travail of his soul and shall be satisfied, and ye who long for his appearing shall be satisfied also when ye wake up in his likeness.
I have been dwelling upon the black side in order to bring the bright one out by contrast. We are joint heirs. So you see if there be any flaw, if there be any action to set aside the will, or if there be found no effects, or if the effects be slender, the loss falleth upon the co-heirs; not on one alone, nor on the other alone, but on the two, since they are jointly designated heirs in the will, and they are only heirs as they stand in relationship with one another. But oh! my brethren, let us revel with delight for a moment in the contrast which I might present to you. There is no flaw in God's will with regard to Christ. The heathen may rage, and the kings of the earth take counsel together, but God saith, "I will declare the decree, yet have I set my Son upon any holy hill of Zion." There is no fear whatever that, by any accident or by mistake, Christ should miss the honor to which his Father hath ordained him, he must be with his Father where he is. Just as little fear is there for you and for me if we be heirs of God. Thus runs the decree, and thus shall the fulfillment follow "I will that they whom thou hast given me be with me where I am." No suit in law can stand against Christ; it were idle to dream it for a moment He has satisfied God's law, magnified it and made it honorable; he has discharged all the debts which as surety he took upon himself. Who shall accuse the Redeemer? Who shall lay any thing to the charge of him who rose again from the dead? Nor can any creature accuse his saints, nor can heaven, or earth, or hell disprove our rights or infringe upon our title so long as his title stands undisputed and indisputable. We shall see his face; the devils in hell cannot hinder it; we shall possess the promised rest, still the fiends that are beneath shall not rob us of the heirloom. And, believer, there is no fear that Christ shall be the possessor of nothing or heir of little things. He is the Son of God the infinitely rich, and God will not give to his Son a petty dowry or a trifling portion. "Ask of me," saith he, and he gives him unlimited permission to ask, not as Herod who would give only the half of his kingdom, but as one who would give everything to his Son whom he hath appointed heir of all things, and by whom he make the worlds. And O my soul, thy portion cannot be slender nor thy dowry narrow, since it is the same inheritance which Christ has from his Father's hands. Weigh the riches of Christ in scales and his treasures in balances and then think to count the treasures which belong to the saints. Reach the bottom of Christ's sea of joy, and then hope to understand the bliss which God hath prepared for them that love him. Overleap the boundaries of Christ's possession if you can, and then dream of ending a limit to the possessions of the elect of God. "All things are yours, for ye are Christ's and Christ is God's."
2. There is another point under the first head which I must not omit. Then it appears if we are called joint heirs with Christ, we legally and strictly have no inheritance apart from him. Soul, this suggests to thee a solemn enquiry, "Art thou in Christ or not?" Think not that thou canst ever be a partaker of the fullness of God Unless thou art in Christ with him vitally and personally, one. One of two joint heirs has no right apart from the other. The signature of the one will not avail to alienate the estate, nor can he sell it by his own right, nor have it all at his own separate disposal, or in his own sole possession or holding. He has, in fact, no right at all, except as he is taken in connection with his co-heir. Consider this, believer. You have no right to heaven in yourself; your right lieth in Christ. If you be pardoned, it is through his blood; if you be justified, it is through his righteousness; if you be sanctified, it is because he is made of God unto you sanctification; if you be taught in the ways of God, it is because he becomes your wisdom; if you shall be kept from falling it will be because you are preserved in Christ Jesus; and if you are perfected, it is because you are complete in him, and if you be glorified at the last, it will be because God the Father hath glorified his Son Jesus. The promises are yea and amen to thee, but only in Christ Jesus, in whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh at things after the counsel of his own will. Make thou thyself assured, then, that thou art in union with Christ, for out of him thou hast no rights whatever.
3. The title of joint heir contains another mystery which I cannot withhold, although it must be judiciously handled Christ, as coheir, has (of his own free grace) so identified himself with what his rights as co-heir are not to be separated or viewed apart from ours. As God, by his own right, the Lord Jesus is possessor of all things, since he made and supports all things; but as Jesus, the mediator, the federal head of the covenant of grace, he hath no rights apart from his people. See, brethren, he enters into glory, but not for himself alone, for it is written, "Whither the forerunner is for us entered." Hebrews 6:20 . Does he stand in the presence of God he appears in the presence of God for us; Hebrews 9:24 . Adam's death was not simply his own private loss, for in Adam all died, and Christ's life and all the consequences of his obedience are not merely his own, but the joint riches of all who are in him, of whom he is the federal head, and on whose behalf he accomplished the divine will. When Christ gave himself for us, he gave us all the rights and privileges which went with himself, so that now he has, as our Brother, no heritage apart from us, although, as Eternal God, he hath essential rights to which no creature may venture to pretend.
Yet one more remark before we leave this point. While dwelling upon this joint heirship, let us remark what an honor is conferred upon us. To have anything to do with a great man is thought by some persons to be a distinguished mark of honor; to be set down in a will as co-heir with some great prince or noble would be considered indeed a great thing; but what honor is conferred on thee, believer, to be joint heir with the King of kings, the Wonderful, the Counsellor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace! Thou camest here to-day from thy toil, and thy bones have scarce forgotten yesterday's weariness; but thou art coheir with him who rules all heaven; thou art come here in poverty and thou wilt go home to a scant meal in a narrow room, but thou art co-heir with him who made the worlds, by whom: all thinks consist; you have come here weak and feeble, doubting, distrustful, and cast down, but I tell thee, weak though thou be, and in thine own judgment less than the least of all yet the same hand that wrote Christ heir of all things wrote thy name with his, and till a hand can be found that can blot out thy Redeemer's name thine shall stand and abide fair ever and ever. Come, lift up thine head; envy no man his dukedom; think no man's princeship worth thy coveting; thou art greater than the greatest, for thou art joint heir with Christ; in dignified relationship thou hast no superior upon earth; and except those who are joint heirs with thee, thou hast not an equal, since thou art joint heir with Christ. And wilt thou think, yet again, what cause there is that thou shouldest realize to-day thy union with Christ, since thou art joint heir with him. Soul, thou art linked with Christ in the Eternal business of the Eternal Father. When he decreed Christ to be blessed above all the blessed, he decreed thee to be a partaker with him. Christ was always considered as having you in him, and you were always considered by God as being in Christ. I pray you consider yourself as being in Christ. Look to-day upon thine own being, not as a stray spark, but as a portion of Christ's fire, not as a solitary drop, but as a part of that deep sea of love which we can Christ Jesus. Think of thyself now, not as a man or separate individual, but as a member of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. These are blessed subjects, though I cannot speak upon them as I would. I always find when I have to deal with these "fat things full of marrow," that words fail us; and perhaps it is well, for then the excellency of the power is proved to be not by words of man but in the weight, and fullness, and richness of gospel matter. Joint heirs with Christ Jesus! I defy you to exhaust that topic, though you should think about it all the days of the next week, nay, though you should muse upon it till eternity commences with your soul.
II. IN VIEWING THE ESTATES we must remark that to our present apprehension they are divided into two parts, the first part of the inheritance is one which flesh and blood would fain do without it is the inheritance of suffering. When Christ was God's heir, and was here on earth, he was heir of the cross, heir of shame, and spitting, and cruel mockings, and scourgings. If we are joint heirs with him, we, too, must partake of the same. Come with me, believer, to your estates, and behold, just on the edge of your Father's great inheritance, lies the swamp and morass of affliction. Now this is yours. If this be not yours, neither are the rest, for they are in the same indenture, and they are beg seethed to you in the same will. The same legacy that left peace with you, also left tribulation with you, while you are in this world. Come now, though this be an exceedingly noisome spot, though it be a piece of ground which thou wouldst fain leave out and give to thine enemies, yet there is a possibility of getting great treasure and great riches out of it; therefore do not scorn it. But if thou scorn it, remember, thou scornest the rest of the inheritance, for they are all one and indivisible in your Father's will. Christ's cross is entailed on all heirs of God. Will you take the cross? What! do thy shoulders forbid, and refuse themselves the pain of bearing it? Then, remember, thy head must deny itself the pleasure of wearing the crown. No cross no crown. If you are joint heir and would claim one part of the estate, you must take the rest. Are you ready to throw up your own claim, and say, "I will not be heir of anything?" Be it so, then; but until you are, you must be ready to suffer in this world the afflictions of the chosen eons, for they are a part of the inheritance. But, remember, Christ is coheir with you in this. "In all their afflictions he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them." Added to this you must also be the heir of persecution. Christ had to be persecuted and so must you. If you, for fear of shame, and out of the love of the flesh, will not follow Christ through an evil generation, neither shall you follow him when he marches through the streets of heaven in triumph, amidst the acclamations of angels. You must endure persecution; but then, remember, he will be joint heir with you. "Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?" "He had not persecuted Christ," you say, "it was only some poor men and women that he had haled to prison, or scourged in the synagogue, to compel them to blaspheme." Ay, but Christ was co-heir with theirs, and when Saul persecuted the poor servants of Jesus, he pet the Master too. Will you be sharers with him? Will you be scoffed at for his sake? Will you be willing to endure the revilings of slanderous tongues? for if not, inasmuch as you reject one part of the inheritance you reject the rest. There is a third black portion, too, namely, temptation. You must be tempted of Satan, you must be tried by the world, the flesh, of the devil. Do you shrink from it? Do you say, "I would not be a Christian, if I must always be on my guard, and always fighting against temptation from without and from within?" Remember, in this, too, Christ is your co-heir. "He was tempted in all points like as we are." "We have not an High Priest that cannot be touched with a feeling of our infirmities." Do you shrink from being tempted? Would you take Job's jewels, but not his dung-hill? Would you have David's crown, but not his caves of Adullam, and rocks of the wild goats? Would you have your Master's throne, but not his temptation in the wilderness? Then, remember, it cannot be; when you refuse the one, you relinquish all claim to the other. The co-heir is heir to the entire estate; and if he says, "No, not to that portion," then he is not heir to any; and if he makes exemption anywhere, he makes exemption to the whole. The joint heirship reaches from the gloomy patina of deep affliction up to the bright ineffable splendor of the throne of bliss, nor can any man reverse the record. "If so be that we suffer with him, we shall also be glorified together."
Now, let us march with joyful footsteps onward to the other part of the inheritance. As this is a legal question, and as in matters of wills everything should be proven and sworn to, let us have, concerning our inheritance, the evidence of God: that cannot lie. Now, first, brethren, as co-heirs with Christ, we are heirs of God so the text tells us. Oh! who can tell what God is? The finite cannot grasp the infinite. We who are but babes cannot hold the great ocean of Godhead in our infantile palms. We know not what God is, nor the measure of his attributes. But, remember, the text tells us that all God is, is ours. Is he omnipotent? Thine omnipotence is ours, O God, to be our defense. Is he omniscient? Thine infinite wisdom, O God, is mine to guide me. Is he eternal? Thine eternity, O God, is mine to keep me in existence, that I may ever be preserved. Is he full of love and grace? Then all thy love, as though there were not another to be loved, is mine, O God, and all thy grace, as though there were never another sinner to partake of it, is mine. "The Lord is the portion of mine inheritance and of my cup." Psalms 16:5 . "God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever." Psalms 73:26 . Take another passage. Turn to Romans, the 4:chapter, 13th verse (Romans 4:13 ) and you will find that there the promise that was made to the seed was that he should be heir of the world. "Ask of me," said his rather, "and I will give thee the heathen for thy inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession." "This world is ours," says the apostle in another place, and ours because it is Christ's by right of inheritance. There is nothing here below which does not belong to a believer. If he hath wealth, let him use it in his Master's service, for it is his. If he hath poverty, it is better for him, for poverty is his to help him, to be sanctified, and to long for heaven. Whatever happens to him sickness or health, adversity or prosperity, everything is his here below. You may walk the broad acres of this round globe, and never look upon a single spot that is not yours. You may cast your eye to the remotest star, or send your thoughts beyond into the untraversed leagues of space, but look where you will, as all is Christ's, so all is yours. You have not come of age, so you do not possess it yet, but the day shall come when Christ shall come to this earth, and take possession of it, and then his saints shall reign with him. "The meek shall inherit the earth, and delight themselves with the abundance of peace." In Hebrews 1:2 ., we are told that God has appointed Christ heir of all things. Then we are heirs of all things heaven and earth, time and eternity, anything that you can conceive of the things that can be named and cannot be named, things conceivable and inconceivable, finite and infinite, human and divine. Christ's property extends to all, and we are co-heirs. Therefore, our rights and our property extend to all things whatsoever they may be. "For all things are yours; whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come, all are yours, and ye are Christ's, and Christ is God's." Then in James 2:5 ., we are spoken of as being heirs of the kingdom. Christ hath a kingdom that shall never be moved. He ruleth over all. Doth he call himself a King? he hath made us kings. Is Christ a priest? We are priests unto our God. Dries he sit upon a throne? We shall overcome and sit down with him upon his throne. Will he judge the nations? Know ye not that the saints shall judge the world! Will he be received with triumph by his Father? So shall we when his Father shall say, "Well done, good and faithful servant." Will he be ruler over many things? So shall we be when he shall say unto us, "Enter ye into the joy of your Lord." Hath he joy? We shall have joy too, for we shall have his joy. Is he glorious? So must we be, for we shall be made like him. Is he everlasting? So shall we be, for because he lives, we shall live also. Brethren, I pray you, if your thoughts now can bring themselves to the matter, gather up all the honors, glories, treasures, riches, that your thought have ever conceived as belonging to Christ, and while the hymn is ringing in your ear "Crown him, crown him, crown him, Lord of all;" remember that you are co-heirs with him. Oh! it is a glorious truth. Oratory may stand back, and eloquence may hold her tongue. The doctrine must be stated in its naked truth. She is, "when unadorned, adorned the most." This glorious truth is most sweet when earth's honeyed words are taken away, and most lustrous when we no longer attempt to illuminate her with human language. We are heirs with Christ. All that he has, all that he is, therefore, belongeth to us.
III. Now, thirdly, and this is the practical part of the discourse, let us proceed to ADMINISTER TO THE EFFECTS. How can we do that, say you? Well, in the first place, there is one part of the property which we may enjoy at once. Behold, I present to you the fair cross of your once crucified Elder Brother. When you came here this morning you were troubled, and as you came in you were envying your neighbor. You were saying of such-and-such an ungodly person, "Everything seems to go well with him, but as for me, all the day long am I plagued, and chastened every morning." You were murmuring at the dispensations of God. Now, you have heard your Father's will read, and you find that you are joint heirs with Christ. You discover that Christ had his cross, and you are asked to administer to the will. Come, take your cross up and bear it with joy. You will have to carry it. Whether you take it up or not, your murmuring will not lighten your afflictions. You can make your wooden cross into an iron one, if you choose, by being of a fretful disposition. Resignation to God's will takes the weight out of the cross, but a proud spirit that will not bow to God's will change a wooden cross into an iron one. Now which shall it be! You must be chastened, you must feel the goad; will you kick against the pricks and so wound yourself more than you would have been by the goad itself? Why will you inflict more sorrow on yourself than God indicts? Be patient, and you only feel the rod as it is in God's hands, but when you are impatient and clutch at the rod, you briny it down with the weight of God's hand and your own hand too. Now be quiet. Not only be quiet, but be glad. Say, "I count it to be my joy to be permitted to be a partaker of the sufferings of Christ. I will count it to be my highest glory if I may be made a knight of the cross, and may carry that cross upon my shoulder: to the world a badge of dishonor, but to me the ensign of glory, the escutcheon of honor. I cannot of course picture what your precise trouble is. Some of you have a trouble perhaps, in her who is dearest to you. Others of you have affliction in your children, many of you are tried in your business, and some of you in your bodies with chronic or acute diseases. I know you have an a cross, or if you have not, I hope you will soon have one, for where there is no cross there is no Christ. The cross and Christ are nailed together by four nails, and they will never be disassociated in the experience of any Christian. All the sheep of the Great Shepherd are marked with the cross, and this not only in the fleece, but in the flesh. "If ye be without chastisement whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards and not sons. "Now, I say begin at once to administer, by shouldering the cross and bearing your troubles and your persecutions with patience and with joy.
But next: why cannot we administer also to the blessed part of the glorious testament! Brethren, faith can do wonders. While sense is grovelling down below, faith with eagle wing cuts through the cloud and mounts to heaven. If you have faith enough brethren, you may this mourning be raised up to sit together in heavenly places with Christ Jesus. Come, faith, and help me now to lay my fingers among the strings of the golden harp. Yea, that harp is mine, and my soul by faith would make every string resound with melody. Glory be unto thee, O God, glory be unto thee; my soul is in heaven, I with the cherubim and seraphim would bow, and sing, and rejoice with them I veil my face in this most joyful moment wiping every tear from my poor eyes, I bid them look upon thy glory in Christ. My soul would even now take her seat upon the throne; where my treasure is, there shall my heart be also.
"Even now I will adore him,
With the glorious hosts above,
Who for ever bow before him,
And unceasing sing his love.
I will begin the music here.
And so my soul shall rise;
Oh! for some heavenly note to, bear
My passions to the skies.
E'en now by faith I join my hands
With those that went before.
All hail! ye blood-besprinkled bands
Upon the eternal shore."
Oh! holy Immanuel, exalted as thou art, thy co-heirs here below begin by faith to partake of thy glory. Methinks my head wears the crown; the white robe is girt about me, and my feet tread no more the battle fields, but the streets of peaceful bliss. Jerusalem, my spirit is come to thee, and unto thy glorious assembly. O ye first-born whose names are written in heaven, I take my seat with you and join your rapturous adoration. O God, thou Judge of all, my spirit meets thee robed in my Saviour's righteousness, and salutes thee as my Father and my all. O eternity, eternity eternity! time is gone, and change is over, and I am floating on thy pacific waves where winds can never howl and tempests never lower. My soul hath made me like the chariots of Aminadib, and I have gotten me away to the hills of myrrh and the mountains of frankincense.
Last of all, I have another practical point. God has given Christ the heathen for his inheritance, and the uttermost ends of the earth for his possession, and we are co-heirs with him. Brethren, let us advance to take the property. But how! Why some of you can do so by preaching the gospel to poor sinners in the streets. Others, this afternoon, by teaching your children in the class. You can say, "God has given these souls to Christ, I am going to take them in Christ's name." Others of you who can do little yourselves, can this day assist by sending forth men of God to preach the gospel of Christ. Germany belongs not to the cloudy philosopher, but to Christ. Holland, Belgium, Russia, and Poland, belong not to their kings and czars, Christ is the King of kings, these lands belong to us. Go up; take them. Say not, "There are giants in the land," ye are strong enough to smite them. Say not, "Lutheranism and Popery are mighty." So they are, but he that is with you is mightier far. As Jonathan of old, with his armor, climbed up the steep place in the cleft of the rock and began to mow down his enemies, so, believer, alone or with your friend, as God has called you, climb up, for verily the possession is yours, and you may take it. All that the Church wants to-day is courage and devotion. Let but the Church know her rights and claim them, let her cease to assimilate herself to the sons of earth, let her cease from her accursed fornication with the state, and she shall become the pure, chaste bride of Christ. Let her, then, as Christ's queen, claim the earth as hers, and send her heralds forth from sea to sea to bid all men bow before him, and confess him to be their King. God's power will be with her heralds, God's might shall be with her armies, and the earth shall soon submit, and Christ shall reign for ever and ever. "Say to the North, give up, and to the South, keep not back; bring my sons from afar, and my daughters from the ends of the earth." Say it, Christians, say it this morning; say it by your prayer, your deeds, your constant energy, say it by your benefactions, demand the earth for Christ, demand it for yourselves, for ye are "joint heirs with Christ." I pray you take the possession now.
Poor prodigal sinner, may our Father bring thee home, for there is an inheritance even for thee. "Believe on the Lord Jesus and thou shalt be saved."
Creation's Groans and the Saints' Sighs
Delivered on Lord's-Day Morning, January 5TH, 1868, by
C. H. SPURGEON,
At the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington.
"We know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the first-fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body." Romans 8:22-23 .
MY venerable friend, who, on the first Sabbath of the year, always sends me a text to preach from, has on this occasion selected one which it is very far from easy to handle. The more I have read it, the more certainly have I come to the conclusion that this is one of the things in Paul's epistles to which Peter referred when he said, "Wherein are some things hard to be understood." However, dear friends, we have often found that the nuts which are hardest to crack have the sweetest kernels, and when the bone seems as if it could never be broken, the richest marrow has been found within. So it may by possibility be this morning; so it will be if the Spirit of God shall be our instructor, and fulfil his gracious promise to "lead us into all truth."
The whole creation is fair and beautiful even in its present condition. I have no sort of sympathy with those who cannot enjoy the beauties of nature. Climbing the lofty Alps, or wandering through the charming valley, skimming the blue sea, or traversing the verdant forest, we have felt that this world, however desecrated by sin, was evidently built to be a temple of God, and the grandeur and the glory of it plainly declare that "the earth is the Lord's and the fulness thereof." Like the marvellous structures of Palmyra of Baalbek, in the far off east, the earth in ruins reveals a magnificence which betokens a royal founder, and an extraordinary purpose. Creation glows with a thousand beauties, even in its present fallen condition; yet clearly enough it is not as when it came from the Maker's hand the slime of the serpent is on it all this is not the world which God pronounced to be "very good." We hear of tornadoes, of earthquakes, of tempests, of volcanoes, of avalanches, and of the sea which devoureth its thousands: there is sorrow on the sea, and there is misery on the land; and into the highest palaces as well as the poorest cottages, death, the insatiable, is shooting his arrows, while his quiver is still full to bursting with future woes. It is a sad, sad world. The curse has fallen on it since the fall, and thorns and thistles it bringeth forth, not from its soil alone, but from all that comes of it. Earth wears upon her brow, like Cain of old, the brand of transgression. Sad would it be to our thoughts if it were always to be so. If there were no future to this world as well as to ourselves, we might be glad to escape from it, counting it to be nothing better than a huge penal colony, from which it would be a thousand mercies for both body and soul to be emancipated. At this present time, the groaning and travailing which are general throughout creation, are deeply felt among the sons of men. The dreariest thing you can read is the newspaper. I heard of one who sat up at the end of last year to groan last year out; it was ill done, but in truth it was a year of groaning, and the present one opens amid turbulence and distress. We heard of abundant harvests, but we soon discovered that they were all a dream, and that there would be scant in the worker's cottage. And now, what with strifes between men and masters, which are banishing trade from England, and what with political convulsions, which unhinge everything, the vessel of the state is drifting fast to the shallows. May God in mercy put his hand to the helm of the ship, and steer her safely. There is a general wail among nations and peoples. You can hear it in the streets of the city. The Lord reigneth, or we might lament right bitterly.
The apostle tells us that not only is there a groan from creation, but this is shared in by God's people. We shall notice in our text, first, whereunto the saints have already attained; secondly, wherein we are deficient; and thirdly, what is the state of mind of the saints in regard to the whole of the matter.
I. WHEREUNTO THE SAINTS HAVE ATTAINED.
We were once an undistinguished part of the creation, subject to the same curse as the rest of the world, "heirs of wrath, even as others." But distinguishing grace has made a difference where no difference naturally was; we are now no longer treated as criminals condemned, but as children and heirs of God. We have received a divine life, by which we are made partakers of the divine nature, having "escaped the corruption which is in the world through lust." The Spirit of God has come unto us so that our "bodies are the temples of the Holy Ghost." God dwelleth in us, and we are one with Christ. We have at this present moment in us certain priceless things which distinguish us as believers in Christ from all the rest of God's creatures. "We have," says the text, not "we hope and trust sometimes we have," nor yet "possibly we may have," but "we have, we know we have, we are sure we have." Believing in Jesus, we speak confidently, we have unspeakable blessings given to us by the Father of spirits. Not we shall have, but we have. True, many things are yet in the future, but even at this present moment, we have obtained an inheritance; we have already in our possession a heritage divine which is the beginning of our eternal portion. This is called "the first-fruits of the Spirit," by which I understand the first works of the Spirit in our souls. Brethren, we have repentance, that gem of the first water. We have faith, that priceless, precious jewel. We have hope, which sparkles, a hope most sure and steadfast. We have love, which sweetens all the rest. We have that work of the Spirit within our souls which always comes before admittance into glory. We are already made "new creatures in Christ Jesus," by the effectual working of the mighty lower of God the Holy Ghost. This is called the first-fruit because it comes first. As the wave-sheaf was the first of the harvest, so the spiritual life which we have, and all the graces which adorn that life, are the first gifts, the first operations of the Spirit of God in our souls. We have this.
It is called "first-fruits," again, because the first-fruits were always the pledge of the harvest. As soon as the Israelite had plucked the first handful of ripe ears, they were to him so many proofs that the harvest was already come. He looked forward with glad anticipation to the time when the wain should creak beneath the sheaves, and when the harvest home should be shouted at the door of the barn. So, brethren, when God gives us "Faith, hope, charity these three," when he gives us "whatsoever things are pure, lovely, and of good report," as the work of the Holy Spirit, these are to us the prognostics of the coming glory. If you have the Spirit of God in your soul, you may rejoice over it as the pledge and token of the fulness of bliss and perfection "which God hath prepared for them that love him."
It is called "first-fruits," again, because these were always holy to the Lord. The first ears of corn were offered to the Most High, and surely our new nature, with all its powers, must be regarded by us as a consecrated thing. The new life which God has given to us is not ours that we should ascribe its excellence to our own merit: the new nature is Christ's peculiarly; as it is Christ's image and Christ's creation, so it is for Christ's glory alone. That secret we must keep separate from all earthly things; that treasure which he has committed to us we must watch both night and day against those profane intruders who would defile the consecrated ground. We would stand upon our watch-tower and cry aloud to the Strong for strength, that the adversary may be repelled, that the sacred castle of our heart may be for the habitation of Jesus, and Jesus alone. We have a sacred secret which belongs to Jesus, as the first-fruits belong to Jehovah.
Brethren, the work of the Spirit is called "first-fruits," because the first-fruits were not the harvest. No Jew was ever content with the first-fruits. He was content with them for what they were, but the first-fruits enlarged his desires for the harvest. If he had taken the first-fruits home, and said, "I have all I want," and had rested satisfied month after month, he would have given proof of madness, for the first-fruit does but whet the appetite does but stir up the desire it never was meant to satisfy. So, when we get the first works of the Spirit of God, we are not to say, "I have attained, I am already perfect, there is nothing further for me to do, or to desire." Nay, my brethren, all that the most advanced of God's people know as yet, should but excite in them an insatiable thirst after more. My brother with great experience, my sister with enlarged acquaintance with Christ, ye have not yet known the harvest, you have only reaped the first handful of corn. Open your mouth wide, and God will fill it! Enlarge thine expectations seek great things from the God of heaven and he will give them to thee; but by no means fold thine arms in sloth, and sit down upon the bed of carnal security. Forget the steps thou hast already trodden, and reach forward towards that which is before, looking unto Jesus.
Even this first point of what the saint has attained will help us to understand why it is that he groans. Did I not say that we have not received the whole of our portion, and that what we have received is to the whole no more than one handful of wheat is to the whole harvest, a very gracious pledge, but nothing more? Therefore it is that we groan. Having received something, we desire more. Having reaped handfuls, we long for sheaves. For this very reason, that we are saved, we groan for something beyond. Did you hear that groan just now? It is a traveller lost in the deep snow on the mountain pass. No one has come to rescue him, and indeed he has fallen into a place from which escape is impossible. The snow is numbing his limbs, and his soul is breathed out with many a groan. Keep that groan in your ear, for I want you to hear another. The traveller has reached the hospice. He has been charitably received, he has been warmed at the fire, he has received abundant provision, he is warmly clothed. There is no fear of tempest, that grand old hospice has outstood many a thundering storm. The man is perfectly safe, and quite content, so far as that goes, and exceedingly grateful to think that he has been rescued; but yet I hear him groan because he has a wife and children down in yonder plain, and the snow is lying too deep for travelling, and the wind is howling, and the blinding snow flakes are falling so thickly that he cannot pursue his journey. Ask him whether he is happy and content. He says, "Yes, I am happy and grateful. I have been saved from the snow. I do not wish for anything more than I have here, I am perfectly satisfied, so far as this goes, but I long to look upon my household, and to be once more in my own sweet home, and until I reach it, I shall not cease to groan." Now, the first groan which you heard was deep and dreadful, as though it were fetched from the abyss of hell; that is the groan of the ungodly man as he perishes, and leaves all his dear delights; but the second groan is so softened and sweetened, that it is rather the note of desire than of distress. Such is the groan of the believer, who, though rescued and brought into the hospice of divine mercy, is longing to see his Father's face without a veil between, and to be united with the happy family on the other side the Jordan, where they rejoice for evermore. When the soldiers of Godfrey of Bouillon came in sight of Jerusalem, it is said they shouted for joy at the sight of the holy city. For that very reason they began to groan. Ask ye why? It was because they longed to enter it. Having once looked upon the city of David, they longed to carry the holy city by storm, to overthrow the crescent, and place the cross in its place. He who has never seen the New Jerusalem, has never clapped his hands with holy ecstasy, he has never sighed with the unutterable longing which is expressed in words like these
"O my sweet home, Jerusalem,
Would God I were in thee!
Would God my woes were at an end,
Thy joys that I might see!"
Take another picture to illustrate that the obtaining of something makes us groan after more. An exile, far away from his native country, has been long forgotten, but on a sudden a vessel brings him the pardon of his monarch, and presents from his friends who have called him to remembrance. As he turns over each of these love-tokens, and as he reads the words of his reconciled prince, he asks "When will the vessel sail to take me back to my native shore?" If the vessel tarries, he groans over the delay; and if the voyage be tedious, and adverse winds blow back the barque from the white cliffs of Albion, his thirst for his own sweet land compels him to groan. So it is with your children when they look forward to their holidays; they are not unhappy or dissatisfied with the school, but yet they long to be at home. Do not you recollect how, in your schoolboy days, you used to make a little almanack with a square for every day, and how you always crossed off the day as soon as ever it began, as though you would try and make the distance from your joy as short as possible? You groaned for it, not with the unhappy groan that marks one who is to perish, but with the groan of one who, having tasted of the sweets of home, is not content until again he shall be indulged with the fulness of them. So, you see, beloved, that because we have the "first-fruits of the Spirit," for that very reason, if for no other, we cannot help but groan for that blissful period which is called "the adoption, to wit, the redemption of the body."
II. Our second point rises before us WHEREIN ARE BELIEVERS DEFICIENT? We are deficient in those things for which we groan and wait. And these appear to be four at least.
The first is, that this body of ours is not delivered. Brethren, as soon as a man believes in Christ, he is no longer under the curse of the law. As to his spirit, sin hath no more dominion over him, and the law hath no further claims against him. His soul is translated from death unto life, but the body, this poor flesh and blood, doth it not remain as before? Not in one sense, for the members of our body, which were instruments of unrighteousness, become by sanctification, the instruments of righteousness unto the glory of God; and the body which was once a workshop for Satan, becomes a temple for the Holy Ghost, wherein he dwells; but we are all perfectly aware that the grace of God makes no change in the body in other respects. It is just as subject to sickness as before, pain thrills quite as sharply through the heart of the saint as the sinner, and he who lives near to God, is no more likely to enjoy bodily health than he who lives at a distance from him. The greatest piety cannot preserve a man from growing old, and although in grace, he may be "like a young cedar, fresh and green," yet the body will have its grey hairs, and the strong man will be brought to totter on the staff. The body is still subject to the evils which Paul mentions, when he says of it that it is subject to corruption, to dishonour, to weakness, and is still a natural body.
Nor is this little, for the body has a depressing effect upon the soul. A man may be full of faith and joy spiritually, but I will defy him under some forms of disease to feel as he would. The soul is like an eagle, to which the body acts as a chain, which prevents its mounting. Moreover, the appetites of the body have a natural affinity to that which is sinful. The natural desires of the human frame are not in themselves sinful, but through the degeneracy of our nature, they very readily lead us into sin, and through the corruption which is in us, even the natural desires of the body become a very great source of temptation. The body is redeemed with the precious blood of Christ, it is redeemed by price, but it has not as yet been redeemed by power. It still lingers in the realm of bondage, and is not brought into the glorious liberty of the children of God. Now this is the cause of our groaning and mourning, for the soul is so married to the body that when it is itself delivered from condemnation, it sighs to think that its poor friend, the body, should still be under the yoke. If you were a free man, and had married a wife, a slave, you could not feel perfectly content, but the more you enjoyed the sweets of freedom yourself, the more would you pine that she should still he in slavery. So is it with the Spirit, it is free from corruption and death; but the poor body is still under the bondage of corruption, and therefore the soul groans until the body itself shall be set free. Will it ever be set free? O my beloved, do not ask the question. This is the Christian's brightest hope. Many believers make a mistake when they long to die and long for heaven. Those things may be desirable, but they are not the ultimatum of the saints. The saints in heaven are perfectly free from sin, and, so far as they are capable of it, they are perfectly happy; but a disembodied spirit never can be perfect until it is reunited to its body. God made man not pure spirit, but body and spirit, and the spirit alone will never be content until it sees its corporeal frame raised to its own condition of holiness and glory. Think not that our longings here below are not shared in by the saints in heaven. They do not groan, so far as any pain can be, but they long with greater intensity than you and I long, for the "adoption, to wit, the redemption of the body." People have said there is no faith in heaven, and no hope; they know not what they say in heaven it is that faith and hope have their fullest swing and their brightest sphere, for glorified saints believe in God's promise, and hope for the resurrection of the body. The apostle tells us that "they without us cannot be made perfect;" that is, until our bodies are raised, theirs cannot be raised, until we get our adoption day, neither can they get theirs. The Spirit saith Come, and the bride saith Come not the bride on earth only, but the bride in heaven saith the same, bidding the happy day speed on when the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For it is true, beloved, the bodies that have mouldered into dust will rise again, the fabric which has been destroyed by the worm shall start into a nobler being, and you and I, though the worm devour this body, shall in our flesh behold our God.
"These eyes shall see him in that day,
The God that died for me;
And all my rising bones shall say,
'Lord, who is like to thee?'"
Thus we are sighing that our entire manhood, in its trinity of spirit, soul, and body, may be set free from the last vestige of the fall; we long to put off corruption, weakness, and dishonour, and to wrap ourselves in incorruption, in immortality, in glory, in the spiritual body which the Lord Jesus Christ will bestow upon all his people. You can understand in this sense why it is that we groan, for if this body really is still, though redeemed, a captive, and if it is one day to be completely free, and to rise to amazing glory, well may those who believe in this precious doctrine groan after it as they wait for it.
But, again, there is another point in which the saint is deficient as yet, namely, in the manifestation of our adoption. You observe the text speaks of waiting for the adoption; and another text further back, explains what that means, waiting for the manifestation of the children of God. In this world, saints are God's children, but you cannot see that they are so, except by certain moral characteristics. That man is God's child, but though he is a prince of the blood royal, his garments are those of toil, the smock frock or the fustian jacket. Yonder woman is one of the daughters of the King, but see how pale she is, what furrows are upon her brow! Many of the daughters of pleasure are far more fair than she! How is this? The adoption is not manifested yet, the children are not yet openly declared. Among the Romans a man might adopt a child, and that child might be treated as his for a long time; but there was a second adoption in public, when the child was brought before the constituted authorities, and in the presence of spectators its ordinary garments which it had worn before were taken off, and the father who took it to be his child put on garments suitable to the condition of life in which it was to live. "Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be." We have not yet the royal robes which become the princes of the blood; we are wearing in this flesh and blood just what we wore as the sons of Adam; but we know that when he shall appear who is the "first born among many brethren," we shall be like him; that is, God will dress us all as he dresses his eldest son "We shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is." Cannot you imagine that a child taken from the lowest ranks of society, who is adopted by a Roman senator, will be saying to himself, "I wish the day were come when I shall be publicly revealed as the child of my new father. Then, I shall leave off these plebeian garments, and be robed as becomes my senatorial rank." Happy in what he has received, for that very reason he groans to get the fulness of what is promised him. So it is with us to-day. We are waiting till we shall put on our proper garments, and shall be manifested as the children of God. Ye are young princes, and ye have not been crowned yet. Ye are young brides, and the marriage day is not come, and by the love your spouse bears you, you are led to long and to sigh for the marriage day. Your very happiness makes you groan; your joy, like a swollen spring, longs to leap up like some Iceland Geyser, climbing to the skies, and it heaves and groans within the bowels of your spirit for want of space and room by which to manifest itself to men.
There is a third thing in which we are deficient, namely, liberty, the glorious liberty of the children of God. The whole creation is said to be groaning for its share in that freedom. You and I are also groaning for it. Brethren, we are free! "If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed." But our liberty is incomplete. When Napoleon was on the island of St. Helena, he was watched by many guards, but after many complaints, he enjoyed comparative liberty, and walked alone. Yet, what liberty was it? Liberty to walk round the rock of St. Helena, nothing more. You and I are free, but what is our liberty? As to our spirits, we have liberty to soar into the third heaven, and sit in the heavenly places with Christ Jesus; but as for our bodies, we can only roam about this narrow cell of earth, and feel that it is not the place for us. Napoleon had been used to gilded halls, and all the pomp and glory of imperial state, and it was hard to be reduced to a handful of servants. Just so, we are kings we are of the blood imperial; but we have not our proper state and becoming dignities we have not our royalties here. We go to our lowly homes; we meet with our brethren and sisters here in their earth-built temples; and we are content, so far as these things go, still, how can kings be content till they mount their thrones? How can a heavenly one be content till he ascends to the heavenlies? How shall a celestial spirit be satisfied until it sees celestial things? How shall the heir of God be content till he rests on his Father's bosom, and is filled with all the fulness of God?
I wish you now to observe that we are linked with the creation. Adam in this world was in liberty, perfect liberty; nothing confined him; paradise was exactly fitted to be his seat. There were no wild beasts to rend him, no rough winds to cause him injury, no blighting heats to bring him harm; but in this present world everything is contrary to us. Evidently we are exotics here. Ungodly men prosper well enough in this world, they root themselves, and spread themselves like green bay trees: it is their native soil; but the Christian needs the hothouse of grace to keep himself alive at all and out in the world he is like some strange foreign bird, native of a warm and sultry clime, that being let loose here under our wintry skies is ready to perish. Now, God will one day change our bodies and make them fit for our souls, and then he will change this world itself. I must not speculate, for I know nothing about it; but it is no speculation to say that we look for new heavens and a new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness; and that there will come a time when the lion shall eat straw like an ox, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid. We expect to see this world that is now so full of sin as to be an Aceldama, a field of blood, turned into a paradise, a garden of God. We believe that the tabernacle of God will be among men, that he will dwell among them, and they shall see his face, and his name shall be in their foreheads. We expect to see the New Jerusalem descend out of heaven from God. In this very place, where sin has triumphed, we expect that grace will much more abound. Perhaps after those great fires of which Peter speaks when he says, "The heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat," earth will be renewed in more than pristine loveliness. Perhaps since matter may not be annihilated, and probably cannot be, but will be as immortal as spirit, this very world will become the place of an eternal jubilee, from which perpetual hallelujahs shall go up to the throne of God. If such be the bright hope that cheers us, we may well groan for its realisation, crying out,
"O long-expected day, begin;
Dawn on these realms of woe and sin."
I shall not enlarge further, except to say that our glory is not yet revealed, and that is another subject of sighing. "The glorious liberty" may be translated, "The liberty of glory." Brethren, we are like warriors fighting for the victory; we share not as yet in the shout of them that triumph. Even up in heaven they have not their full reward. When a Roman general came home from the wars, he entered Rome by stealth, and slept at night, and tarried by day, perhaps for a week or two, among his friends. He went through the streets, and people whispered, "That is the general, the valiant one," but he was not publicly acknowledged. But, on a certain set day, the gates were thrown wide open, and the general, victorious from the wars in Africa or Asia, with his snow-white horses bearing the trophies of his many battles, rode through the streets, which were strewn with roses, while the music sounded, and the multitudes, with glad acclaim, accompanied him to the Capitol. That was his triumphant entry. Those in heaven, have, as it were, stolen there. They are blessed, but they have not had their public entrance. They are waiting till their Lord shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the trump of the archangel, and the voice of God; then shall their bodies rise, then shall the world be judged; then shall the righteous be divided from the wicked; and then, upstreaming in marvellous procession, leading captivity captive for the last time, the Prince at their head, the whole of the blood-washed host, wearing their white robes, and bearing their palms of victory, shall march up to their crowns and to their thrones, to reign for ever and ever! After this consummation the believing heart is panting, groaning, and sighing.
Now, I think I hear somebody say, "you see these godly people who profess to be so happy and so safe, they still groan, and they are obliged to confess it." Yes, that is quite true, and it would be a great mercy for you if you knew how to groan in the same way. If you were half as happy as a groaning saint is, you might be content to groan on for ever. I showed you, just now, the difference between a groan and a groan. I will shew you yet again. Go into yonder house. Listen at that door on the left, there is a deep, hollow, awful groan. Go to the next house, and hear another groan. It seems to be, so far as we can judge, much more painful than the first, and has an anguish in it of the severest sort. How are we to judge between them? We will come again in a few days: as we are entering the first house we see weeping faces and flowing tears, a coffin, and a hearse. Ah, it was the groan of death! We will go into the next. Ah, what is this? Here is a smiling cherub, a father with a gladsome face: if you may venture to look at the mother, see how her face smiles for joy that a man is born into the world to cheer a happy and rejoicing family. There is all the difference between the groan of death and the groan of life. Now, the apostle sets the whole matter before us when he said, "The whole creation groaneth," and you know what comes after that, "travaileth." There is a result to come of it of the best kind. We are panting, longing after something greater, better, nobler, and it is coming. It is not the pain of death we feel, but the pain of life. We are thankful to have such a groaning.
The other night, just before Christmas, two men who were working very late, were groaning in two very different ways, one of them saying, "Ah, there's a poor Christmas day in store for me, my house is full of misery." He had been a drunkard, a spendthrift, and had not a penny to bless himself with, and his house had become a little hell; he was groaning at the thought of going home to such a scene of quarrelling and distress. Now, his fellow workman, who worked beside of him, as it was getting very late, wished himself at home, and therefore groaned. A shopmate asked, "What's the matter?" "Oh, I want to get home to my dear wife and children. I have such a happy house, I do not like to be out of it." The other might have said, "Ah, you pretend to be a happy man, and here you are groaning." "Yes," he could say, "and a blessed thing it would be for you if you had the same thing to groan after that I have." So the Christian has a good Father, a blessed, eternal home, and groans to get to it; but, ah! there is more joy even in the groan of a Christian after heaven, than in all the mirth and merriment, and dancing, and lewdness of the ungodly when their mirth is at its greatest height. We are like the dove that flutters, and is weary, but thank God, we have an ark to go to. We are like Israel in the wilderness, and are footsore, but blessed be God, we are on the way to Canaan. We are like Jacob looking at the wagons, and the more we look at the wagons, the more we long to see Joseph's face; but our groaning after Jesus is a blessed groan, for
"'Tis heaven on earth, 'tis heaven above,
To see his face, and taste his love."
III. Now I shall conclude with WHAT OUR STATE OF MIND IS.
A Christian's experience is like a rainbow, made up of drops of the griefs of earth, and beams of the bliss of heaven. It is a checkered scene, a garment of many colours. He is sometimes in the light and sometimes in the dark. The text says, "we groan." I have told you what that groan is, I need not explain it further. But it is added, "We groan within ourselves." It is not the hypocrite's groan, when he goes mourning everywhere, wanting to make people believe that he is a saint because he is wretched. We groan within ourselves. Our sighs are sacred things; these griefs and sighs are too hallowed for us to tell abroad in the streets. We keep our longings to our Lord, and to our Lord alone. We groan within ourselves. It appears from the text that this groaning is universal among the saints: there are no exceptions; to a greater or less extent we all feel it. He that is most endowed with worldly goods, and he who has the fewest; he that is blessed in health, and he who is racked with sickness; we all have in our measure an earnest inward groaning towards the redemption of our body.
Then the apostle says we are "waiting," by which I understand that we are not to be petulant, like Jonah or Elijah, when they said, "Let me die," nor are we to sit still and look for the end of the day because we are tired of work; nor are we to become impatient, and wish to escape from our present pains and sufferings till the will of the Lord is done. We are to groan after perfection, but we are to wait patiently for it, knowing that what the Lord appoints is best. Waiting implies being ready. We are to stand at the door expecting the Beloved to open it and take us away to himself.
In the next verse we are described as hoping. We are saved by hope. The believer continues to hope for the time when death and sin shall no more annoy his body; when, as his soul has been purified, so shall his body be, and his prayer shall be heard, that the Lord would sanctify him wholly, body, soul, and spirit.
Now, beloved, the practical use to which I put this, I am afraid somewhat discursive, discourse of this morning is just this. Here is a test for us all. You may judge of a man by what he groans after. Some men groan after wealth, they worship Mammon. Some groan continually under the troubles of life; they are merely impatient there is no virtue in that. Some men groan because of their great losses or sufferings; well, this may be nothing but a rebellious smarting under the rod, and if so, no blessing will come of it. But the man that yearns after more holiness, the man that sighs after God, the man that groans after perfection, the man that is discontented with his sinful self, the man that feels he cannot be easy till he is made like Christ, that is the man who is blessed indeed. May God help you, and help me, to groan all our days with that kind of groaning. I have said before, there is heaven in it, and though the word sounds like sorrow, there is a depth of joy concealed within,
"Lord, let me weep for nought but sin,
And after none but thee;
And then I would, O that I might,
A constant weeper be."
I do not know a more beautiful sight to be seen on earth than a man who has served his Lord many years, and who, having grown grey in service, feels that, in the order of nature, he must soon be called home. He is rejoicing in the first-fruits of the Spirit which he has obtained, but he is panting after the full harvest of the Spirit which is guaranteed to him. I think I see him sitting on a jutting crag by the edge of Jordan, listening to the harpers on the other side, and waiting till the pitcher shall be broken at the cistern, and the wheel at the fountain, and the spirit shall depart to God that made it. A wife waiting for her husband's footsteps; a child waiting in the darkness of the night till its mother comes to give it the evening's kiss, are portraits of our waiting. It is a pleasant and precious thing so to wait and so to hope.
I fear that some of you, seeing ye have never come and put your trust in Christ, will have to say, when your time comes to die, what Wolsey is said to have declared, with only one word of alteration:
"O Cromwell, Cromwell!
Had I but served my God with half the zeal
I served the world, he would not, in mine age,
Have left me naked to mine enemies."
Oh, before those days fully come, quit the service of the master who never can reward you except with death! Cast your arms around the cross of Christ, and give up your heart to God, and then, come what may, 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." While you shall for awhile sigh for more of heaven, you shall soon come to the abodes of blessedness where sighing and sorrow shall flee away.
The Lord bless this assembly, for Christ's sake. AMEN.
PORTION OF SCRIPTURE READ BEFORE SERMON Romans 8:1-39 .
The Holy Spirit's Intercession
Delivered on Lord's-Day Morning, April 11th, 1880, by
C. H. SPURGEON,
At the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington
"Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should what pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according the to will of God." Romans 8:26-27 .
THE APOSTLE PAUL was writing to a tried and afflicted people, and one of his objects was to remind them of the rivers of comfort which were flowing near at hand. He first of all stirred up their pure minds by way of remembrance as to their sonship, for saith he "as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God." They were, therefore, encouraged to take part and lot with Christ, the elder brother, with whom they had become joint heirs; and they were exhorted to suffer with him, that they might afterwards be glorified with him. All that they endured came from a Father's hand, and this should comfort them. A thousand sources of joy are opened in that one blessing of adoption. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have been begotten into the family of grace.
When Paul had alluded to that consoling subject he turned to the next ground of comfort namely, that we are to be sustained under present trial by hope. There is an amazing glory in reserve for us, and though as yet we cannot enter upon it, but in harmony with the whole creation must continue to groan and travail, yet the hope itself should minister strength to us, and enable us patiently to bear "these light afflictions, which are but for a moment." This also is a truth full of sacred refreshment: hope sees a crown in reserve, mansions in readiness, and Jesus himself preparing a place for us, and by the rapturous sight she sustains the soul under the sorrows of the hour. Hope is the grand anchor by whose means we ride out the present storm.
The apostle then turns to a third source of comfort, namely, the abiding of the Holy Spirit in and with the Lord's people. He uses the word "likewise" to intimate that in the same manner as hope sustains the soul, so does the Holy Spirit strengthen us under trial. Hope operated spiritually upon our spiritual faculties, and so does the Holy Spirit, in some mysterious way, divinely operate upon the new-born faculties of the believer, so that he is sustained under his infirmities. In his light shall we see light: I pray, therefore, that we may be helped of the Spirit while we consider his mysterious operations, that we may not fall into error or miss precious truth through blindness of heart.
The text speaks of "our infirmities," or as many translators put it in the singular of "our infirmity." By this is intended our affliction, and the weakness which trouble discovers in us. The Holy Spirit helps us to bear the infirmity of our body and of our mind; he helps us to bear our cross, whether it be physical pain, or mental depression, or spiritual conflict, or slander, or poverty, or persecution. He helps our infirmity; and with a helper so divinely strong we need not fear for the result. God's grace will be sufficient for us; his strength will be made perfect in weakness.
I think, dear friends, you will all admit that if a man can pray, his trouble is at once lightened. When we feel that we have power with God and can obtain anything we ask for at his hands, then our difficulties cease to oppress us. We take our burden to our heavenly Father and tell it out in the accents of childlike confidence, and we come away quite content to bear whatever his holy will may lay upon us. Prayer is a great outlet for grief; it draws up the sluices, and abates the swelling flood, which else might be too strong for us. We bathe our wound in the lotion of prayer, and the pain is lulled, the fever is removed. We may be brought into such perturbation of mind, and perplexity of heart, that we do not know how to pray. We see the mercy-seat, and we perceive that God will hear us: we have no doubt about that, for we know that we are his own favoured children, and yet we hardly know what to desire. We fall into such heaviness of spirit, and entanglement of thought, that the one remedy of prayer, which we have always found to be unfailing, appears to be taken from us. Here, then, in the nick of time, as a very present help in time of trouble, comes in the Holy Spirit. He draws near to teach us how to pray, and in this way he helps our infirmity, relieves our suffering, and enables us to bear the heavy burden without fainting under the load.
At this time our subjects for consideration shall be, firstly, the help which the Holy Spirit gives; secondly, the prayers which he inspires; and thirdly, the success which such prayers ore certain to obtain.
I. First, then, let us consider THE HELP WHICH THE HOLY GHOST GIVES.
The help which the Holy Ghost renders to us meets the weakness which we deplore. As I have already said, if in time of trouble a man can pray, his burden loses its weight. If the believer can take anything and everything to God, then he learns to glory in infirmity, and to rejoice in tribulation; but sometimes we are in such confusion of mind that we know not what we should pray for as we ought. In a measure, through our ignorance, we never know what we should pray for until we are taught of the Spirit of God, but there are times when this beclouding of the soul is dense indeed, and we do not even know what would help us out of our trouble if we could obtain it. He see the disease, but the name of the medicine is not known to us. We look over the many things which we might ask for of the Lord, and we feel that each of them would be helpful, but that none of them would precisely meet our case. For spiritual blessings which we know to be according to the divine will we could ask with confidence, but perhaps these would not meet our peculiar circumstances. There are other things for which we are allowed to ask, but we scarcely know whether, if we had them, they would really serve our turn, and we also feel a diffidence as to praying for them. In praying for temporal things we plead with measured voices, ever referring our petition for revision to the will of the Lord. Moses prayed that he might enter Canaan, but God denied him; and the man that was healed asked our Lord that he might be with him, but he received for answer, "Go home to thy friends." We pray evermore on such matters with this reserve, "Nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt." At times this very spirit of resignation appears to increase our spiritual difficulty, for we do not wish to ask for anything that would be contrary to the mind of God and yet we must ask for something. We are reduced to such straits that we must pray, but what shall be the particular subject of prayer we cannot for a while make out. Even when ignorance and perplexity are removed, we know not what we should pray for "as we ought." When we know the matter of prayer, we yet fail to pray in a right manner. We ask, but we are afraid that we shall not have, because we do not exercise the thought, or the faith, which we judge to be essential to prayer. We cannot at times command even the earnestness which is the life of supplication: a torpor steals over us, our heart is chilled, our hand is numbed, and we cannot wrestle with the angel. We know what to pray for as to objects, but we do not know what to pray for "as we ought" it is the manner of the prayer which perplexes us, even when the matter is decided upon. How can I pray? My mind wanders: I chatter like a crane; I roar like a beast in pain; I moan in the brokenness of my heart, but oh, my God, I know not what it is my inmost spirit needs; or if I know it, I know not how to frame my petition aright before thee. I know not how to open my lips in thy majestic presence: I am so troubled that I cannot speak. My spiritual distress robs me of the power to pour out my heart before my God. Now, beloved, it is in such a plight as this that the Holy Ghost aids us with his divine help. and hence he is "a very present help in time of trouble."
Coming to our aid in our bewilderment he instructs us. This is one of his frequent operations upon the mind of the believer: "he shall teach you all things." He instructs us as to our need, and as to the promises of God which refer to that need. He shows us where our deficiencies are, what our sins are, and what our necessities are; he sheds a light upon our condition, and makes us feel deeply our helplessness, sinfulness, and dire poverty; and then he casts the same light upon the promises of the Word, and lays home to the heart that very text which was intended to meet the occasion the precise promise which was framed with foresight of our present distress. In that light he makes the promise shine in all its truthfulness, certainty, sweetness, and suitability, so that we, poor trembling sons of men, dare take that word into our mouth which first came out of God's mouth, and then come with it as an argument, and plead it before the throne of the heavenly grace. Our prevalence in prayer lies in the plea, "Lord, do as thou hast said." How greatly we ought to value the Holy Spirit, because when we are in the dark he gives us light, and when our perplexed spirit is so befogged and beclouded that it cannot see its own need, and cannot find out the appropriate promise in the Scriptures, the Spirit of God comes in and teaches us all things, and brings all things to our remembrance, whatsoever our Lord has told us. He guides us in prayer, and thus he helps our infirmity.
But the blessed Spirit does more than this, he will often direct the mind to the special subject of prayer. He dwells within us as a counsellor, and points out to us what it is we should seek at the hands of God. We do not know why it is so, but we sometimes find our minds carried as by a strong under current into a particular line of prayer for some one definite object. It is not merely that our judgment leads us in that direction, though usually the Spirit of God acts upon us by enlightening our judgment, but we often feel an unaccountable and irresistible desire rising again and again within our heart, and this so presses upon us, that we not only utter the desire before God at our ordinary times for prayer, but we feel it crying in our hearts all the day long, almost to the supplanting of all other considerations. At such times we should thank God for direction and give our desire a clear road: the Holy Spirit is granting us inward direction as to how we should reckon upon good success in our pleadings. Such guidance will the Spirit give to each of you if you will ask him to illuminate you. He will guide you both negatively and positively. Negatively, he will forbid you to pray for such and such a thing, even as Paul essayed to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit suffered him not: and, on other hand, he will cause you to hear a cry within your soul which shall guide your petitions, even as he made Paul hear the cry from Macedonia, saying, "Come over and help us." The Spirit teaches wisely, as no other teacher can do. Those who obey his promptings shall not walk in darkness. He leads the spiritual eye to take good and steady aim at the very centre of the target, and thus we hit the mark in our pleadings.
Nor is this all, for the spirit of God is not sent merely to guide and help our devotion, but he himself "maketh intercession for us" according to the will of God. By this expression it cannot be meant that the Holy Spirit ever groans or personally prays; but that he excites intense desire and created unutterable groanings in us, and these are ascribed to him. Even as Solomon built the temple because he superintended and ordained all, and yet I know not that he ever fashioned a timber or prepared a stone, so doth the Holy Spirit pray and plead within us by leading us to pray and plead. This he does by arousing our desires. The Holy Spirit has a wonderful power over renewed hearts, as much power as the skillful minstrel hath over the strings among which he lays his accustomed hand. The influences of the Holy Ghost at times pass through the soul like winds through an Eolian harp, creating and inspiring sweet notes of gratitude and tones of desire, to which we should have been strangers if it had not been for his divine visitation. He can arouse us from our lethargy, he can warm us out of our lukewarmness, he can enable us when we are on our knees to rise above the ordinary routine of prayer into that victorious importunity against which nothing can stand. He can lay certain desires so pressingly upon our hearts that we can never rest till they are fulfilled. He can make the zeal for God's house to eat us up, and the passion for God's glory to be like a fire within our bones; and this is one part of that process by which in inspiring our prayers he helps our infirmity. True Advocate is he, and Comforter most effectual. Blessed be his name.
The Holy Spirit also divinely operates in the strengthening of the faith of believers. That faith is at first of his creating, and afterwards it is of his sustaining and increasing: and oh, brothers and sisters, have you not often felt your faith rise in proportion to your trials? Have you not, like Noah's ark, mounted towards heaven as the flood deepened around you? You have felt as sure about the promise as you felt about the trial. The affliction was, as it were, in your very bones, but the promise was also in your very heart. You could not doubt the affliction, for you smarted under it, but you might almost as soon have doubted the divine help, for your confidence was firm and unmoved. The greatest faith is only what God has a right to expect from us, yet do we never exhibit it except as the Holy Ghost strengthens our confidence, and opens up before us the covenant with all its seals and securities. He it is that leads our soul to cry, "though my house be not so with God, yet hath he made with me an everlasting covenant ordered in all things and sure." Blessed be the Divine Spirit then, that since faith is essential to prevailing prayer, he helps us in supplication by increasing our faith. Without faith prayer cannot speed, for he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed, and such an one may not expect anything of the Lord; happy are we when the Holy Spirit removes our wavering, and enables us like Abraham to believe without staggering, knowing full well that he who has promised is able also to perform.
By three figures I will endeavour to describe the work of the Spirit of God in this matter, though they all fall short, and indeed all that I can say must fall infinitely short of the glory of his work. The actual mode of his working upon the mind we may not attempt to explain; it remains a mystery, and it would be an unholy intrusion to attempt to remove the veil. There is no difficulty in our believing that as one human mind operates upon another mind, so does the Holy Spirit influence our spirits. We are forced to use words if we would influence our fellow-men, but the Spirit of God can operate upon the human mind more directly, and communicate with it in silence. Into that matter, however, we will not dive lest we intrude where our knowledge would be drowned by our presumption.
My illustrations do not touch the mystery, but set forth the grace. The Holy Spirit acts to his people somewhat as a prompter to a reciter. A man has to deliver a piece which he has learned; but his memory is treacherous, and therefore somewhere out of sight there is a prompter, so that when the speaker is at a loss and might use a wrong word, a whisper is heard, which suggests the right one. When the speaker has almost lost the thread of his discourse he turns his ear, and the prompter gives him the catch-word and aids his memory. If I may be allowed the simile, I would say that this represents in part the work of the Spirit of God in us, suggesting to us the right desire, and bringing all things to our remembrance whatsoever Christ has told us. In prayer we should often come to a dead stand, but he incites, suggests, and inspires, and so we go onward. In prayer we might grow weary, but the Comforter encourages and refreshes us with cheering thoughts. When, indeed, we are in our bewilderment almost driven to give up prayer, the whisper of his love drops a live coal from off the altar into our soul, and our hearts glow with greater ardour than before. Regard the Holy Spirit as your prompter, and let your ear be opened to his voice.
But he is much more than this. Let me attempt a second simile: he is as an advocate to one in peril at law. Suppose that a poor man had a great law-suit, touching his whole estate, and he was forced personally to go into court and plead his own cause, and speak up for his rights. If he were an uneducated man he would be in a poor plight. An adversary in the court might plead against him, and overthrow him, for he could not answer him. This poor man knows very little about law, and is quite unable to meet his cunning opponent. Suppose one who was perfect in the law should take up his cause warmly, and come and live with him, and use all his knowledge so as to prepare his case for him, draw up his petitions for him, and fill his mouth with arguments, would not that be a grand relief? This counsellor would suggest the line of pleading, arrange the arguments, and put them into right courtly language. When the poor man was baffled by a question asked in court, he would run home and ask his adviser, and he would tell him exactly how to meet the objector. Suppose, too, that when he had to plead with the judge himself, this advocate at home should teach him how to behave and what to urge, and encourage him to hope that he would prevail, would not this be a great boon? Who would be the pleader in such a case? The poor client would plead, but still, when he won the suit, he would trace it all to the advocate who lived at home, and gave him counsel: indeed, it would be the advocate pleading for him, even while he pleaded himself. This is an instructive emblem of a great fact. Within this narrow house of my body, this tenement of clay, if I be a true believer, there dwells the Holy Ghost, and when I desire to pray I may ask him what I should pray for as I ought, and he will help me. He will write the prayers which I ought to offer upon the tablets of my heart, and I shall see them there, and so I shall be taught how to plead. It will be the Spirit's own self pleading in me, and by me, and through me, before the throne of grace. What a happy man in his law-suit would such a poor man be, and how happy are you and I that we have the Holy Ghost to be our Counsellor!
Yet one more illustration: it is that of a father aiding his boy. Suppose it to be a time of war centuries back. Old English warfare was then conducted by bowmen to a great extent. Here is a youth who is to be initiated in the art of archery, and therefore he carries a bow. It is a strong bow, and therefore very hard to draw; indeed, it requires more strength than the urchin can summon to bend it. See how his father teaches him. "Put your right hand here, my boy, and place your left hand so. Now pull"; and as the youth pulls, his father's hands are on his hands, and the bow is drawn. The lad draws the bow: ay, but it is quite as much his father, too. We cannot draw the bow of prayer alone. Sometimes a bow of steel is not broken by our hands, for we cannot even bend it; and then the Holy Ghost puts his mighty hand over ours, and covers our weakness so that we draw; and lo, what splendid drawing of the bow it is them! The bow bends so easily we wonder how it is; away flies the arrow, and it pierces the very centre of the target, for he who giveth have won the day, but it was his secret might that made us strong, and to him be the glory of it.
Thus have I tried to set forth the cheering fact that the Spirit helps the people of God.
II. Our second subject is THE PRAYER WHICH THE HOLY SPIRIT INSPIRES, or that part of prayer which is especially and peculiarly the work of the Spirit of God. The text says, "The Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered." It is not the Spirit that groans, but we that groan; but as I have shown you, the Spirit excited the emotion which causes us to groan.
It is clear then the prayers which are indited in us by the spirit of God are those which arise from our inmost soul. A man's heart is moved when he groans. A groan is a matter about which there is no hypocrisy. A groan cometh not from the lips, but from the heart. A groan then is a part of prayer which we owe to the Holy Ghost, and the same is true of all the prayer which wells up from the deep fountains of our inner life. The prophet cried, "My bowels, my bowels, I am pained at my very heart: my heart maketh a noise in me." This deep ground-swell of desire, this tidal motion of the life-floods is caused by the Holy Spirit. His work is never superficial, but always deep and inward.
Such prayers will rise within us when the mind is far too troubled to let us speak. We know not what we should pray for as we ought, and then it is that we groan, or utter some other inarticulate sound. Hezekiah said, "like a crane or a swallow did I chatter." The psalmist said, "I am so troubled that I cannot I have roared by reason of the disquietness of my heart"; but he added, "Lord, all my desire is before thee; and my groaning is not hid from thee." The sighing of the prisoner surely cometh up into the ears of the Lord. There is real prayer in these "groanings that cannot be uttered." It is the power of the Holy Ghost in us which creates all real prayer, even that which takes the form of a groan because the mind is incapable, by reason of its bewilderment and grief, of clothing its emotion in words. I pray you never think lightly of the supplications of your anguish. Rather judge that such prayers are like Jabez, of whom it is written, that "he was more honourable than his brethren, because his mother bare him with sorrow." That which is thrown up from the depth of the soul, when it is stirred with a terrible tempest, is more precious than pearl or coral, for it is the intercession of the Holy Spirit.
These prayers are sometimes "groanings that cannot be uttered," because they concern such great things that they cannot be spoken. I want, my Lord! I want, I want; I cannot tell thee what I want: but I seem to want all things. If it were some little thing, my narrow capacity could comprehend and describe it, but I need all covenant blessings. Thou knowest what I have need of before I ask thee, and though I cannot go into each item of my need, I know it to be very great, and such as I myself can never estimate. I groan, for I can do no more. Prayers which are the offspring of great desires, sublime aspirations, and elevated designs are surely the work of the Holy Spirit, and their power within a man is frequently so great that he cannot find expression for them. Words fail, and even the sighs which try to embody them cannot be uttered.
But it may be, beloved, that we groan because we are conscious of the littleness of our desire, and the narrowness of our faith. The trial, too. may seem too mean to pray about. I have known what it is to feel as if I could not pray about a certain matter, and yet I have been obliged to groan about it. A thorn in the flesh may be as painful a thing as a sword in the bones, and yet we may go and beseech the Lord thrice about it, and getting no answer we may feel that we know not what to pray for as we ought; and yet it makes us groan. Yes, and with that natural groan there may go up an unutterable groaning of the Holy Spirit. Beloved, what a different view of prayer God has from that which men think to be the correct one. You may have seen very beautiful prayers in print, and you may have heard very charming compositions from the pulpit, but I trust you have not fallen in love with them. Judge these things rightly. I pray you never think well of fine prayers, for before the thrice holy God it ill becomes a sinful suppliant to play the orator. We heard of a certain clergyman who was said to have given forth "the finest prayer ever offered to a Boston audience." Just so! The Boston audience received the prayer, and there it ended. We want the mind of the spirit in prayer, and not he mind of the flesh. The tail feathers of pride should be pulled out of our prayers, for they need only the wing feathers of faith; the peacock feathers of poetical expression are out of place before the throne of God. Hear me, what remarkably beautiful language he used in prayer!" "What an intellectual treat his prayer was! Yes, yes; but God looks at the heart. To him fine language is as sounding brass or tinkling cymbal, but a groan has music in it. We do not like groans: our ears are much too delicate to tolerate such dreary sounds; but not so the great Father of spirits. A Methodist brother cries, "Amen," and you say, "I cannot bear such Methodistic noise"; no, but if it comes from the man's heart God can bear it. When you get upstairs into your chamber this evening to pray, and find you cannot pray, but have to moan out, "Lord, I am too full of anguish and too perplexed to pray, hear thou the voice of my roaring," though you reach to nothing else you will be really praying. When like David we can say, "I opened my mouth and panted," we are by no means in an ill state of mind. All fine language in prayer, and especially all intoning or performing of prayers, must be abhorrent to God; it is little short of profanity to offer solemn supplication to God after the manner called "intoning." The sighing of a true heart is infinitely more acceptable, for it is the work of the Spirit of God.
We may say of the prayers which the Holy Spirit works in us that they are prayers of knowledge. Notice, our difficulty is that we know not what we should pray for; but the Holy Spirit does know, and therefore he helps us by enabling us to pray intelligently, knowing what we are asking for, so far as this knowledge is needful to valid prayer. The text speaks "of the mind of the Spirit." What a mind that must be! the mind of that Spirit who arranged all the order which now pervades this earth! There once was chaos and confusion, but the Holy Spirit brooded over all, and His mind is the originator of that beautiful arrangement which we so admire in the visible creation. What a mind his must be! The Holy Spirit's mind is seen in our intercessions when under his sacred influence we order our case before the Lord, and plead with holy wisdom for things convenient and necessary. What wise and admirable desires must those be which the Spirit of Wisdom himself works in us!
Moreover, the Holy Spirit's intercession creates prayers offered in a proper manner. I showed you that the difficulty is that we know not what we should pray for "as we ought," and the Spirit meets that difficulty by making intercession for us in a right manner. The Holy Spirit works in us humility, earnestness, intensity, importunity, faith, and resignation, and all else that is acceptable to God in our supplications. We know not how to mingle these sacred spices in the incense of prayer. We, if left to ourselves at our very best, get too much of one ingredient or another, and spoil the sacred compound, but the Holy Spirit's intercessions have in them such a blessed blending of all that is good that they come up as a sweet perfume before the Lord. Spirit-taught prayers are offered as they ought to be. They are his own intercession in some respects, for we read that the Holy Spirit not only helps us to intercede but "maketh intercession." It is twice over declared in our text that he maketh intercession for us; and the meaning of this I tried to show when I described a father as putting his hands upon his child's hands. This is something more than helping us to pray, something more than encouraging us or directing us, but I venture no further, except to say that he puts such force of his own mind into our poor weak thoughts and desires and hopes, that he himself maketh intercession for us, working in us to will and to pray according to his good pleasure.
I want you to notice, however, that these intercessions of the Spirit are only in the saints. "He maketh intercession for us," and "He maketh intercession for the saints." Does he do nothing for sinners, then? Yes, he quickens sinners into spiritual life, and he strives with them to overcome their sinfulness and turn them into the right way; but in the saints he works with us and enables us to pray after his mind and according to the will of God. His intercession is not in or for the unregenerate. O, unbelievers you must first be made saints or you cannot feel the Spirit's intercession within you. What need we have to go to Christ for the blessing of the Holy Ghost, which is peculiar to the children of God, and can only be ours by faith in Christ Jesus! "To as man as received him to them gave he power to become the sons of God"; and to the sons of God alone cometh the Spirit of adoption, and all his helping grace. Unless we are the sons of God the Holy Spirit's indwelling shall not be ours: we are shut out from the intercession of the Holy Ghost, ay, and from the intercession of Jesus too, for he hath said, "I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me."
Thus I have tried to show you the kind of prayer which the Spirit inspires.
III. Our third and last point is THE SURE SUCCESS OF ALL SUCH PRAYERS.
All the prayers which the Spirit of God inspires in us must succeed, because, first, there is a meaning in them which God reads and approves. When the Spirit of God writes a prayer upon a man's heart, the man himself may be in such a state of mind that he does not altogether know what it is. His interpretation of it is a groan, and that is all. Perhaps he does not even get so far as that in expressing the mind of the Spirit, but he feels greenings which he cannot utter, he cannot find a door of utterance for his inward grief. Yet our heavenly Father, who looks immediately upon the heart, reads what the Spirit of God has indited there, and does not need even our groans to explain the meaning. He reads the heart itself: "he knoweth,' says the text, "what is the mind of the Spirit." The Spirit is one with the Father, and the Father knows what the Spirit means. The desires which the Spirit prompts may be too spiritual for such babes in grace as we are actually to describe or to express, and yet the Spirit writes the desire on the renewed mind, and the Father sees it. Now that which God reads in the heart and approves of for the word to "know" in this case includes approval as well as the mere act of omniscience what God sees and approves of in the heart must succeed. Did not Jesus say, "Your heavenly Father knoweth that you have need of these things before you ask them"? Did he not tell us this as an encouragement to believe that we shall receive all needful blessings? So it is with those prayers which are all broken up, wet with tears, and discordant with those sighs and inarticulate expressions and heavings of the bosom, and sobbings of the heart and anguish and bitterness of spirit, our gracious Lord reads them as a man reads a book, and they are written in a character which he fully understands. To give a simple figure: if I were to come into your house I might find there a little child that cannot yet speak plainly. It cries for something, and it makes very odd and objectionable noises, combined with signs and movements, which are almost meaningless to stranger, but his mother understands him, and attends to his little pleadings. A mother can translate baby-talk: she comprehends incomprehensible noises. Even so doth our Father in heaven know all about our poor baby talk, for our prayer is not much better. He knows and comprehends the cryings, and meanings, and sighings, and chatterings of his bewildered children. Yea, a tender mother knows her child's needs before the child knows what it wants. Perhaps the little one stutters, stammers, and cannot get its words out, but the mother sees what he would say, and takes the meaning. Even so we know concerning our great Father:
"He knows the thoughts we mean to speak,
Ere from our opening lips the break."
Do you therefore rejoice in this, that because the prayers of the Spirit are known and understood of God, therefore they will be sure to speed.
The next argument for making us sure that they will speed is this that they are "the mind of the Spirit." God the ever blessed is one, and there can be no division between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. These divine persons always work together, and there is a common desire for the glory of each blessed Person of the Divine Unity, and therefore it cannot be conceived without profanity, that anything could be the mind of the Holy Spirit and not be the mind of the Father and the mind of the Son. The mind of God is one and harmonious; if, therefore, the Holy Spirit dwells in you, and he move you to any desire, then his mind is in your prayer, and it is not possible that the eternal Father should reject your petitions. That prayer which came from heaven will certainly go back to heaven. If the Holy Ghost prompts it, the Father must and will accept it, for it is not possible that he should put a slight upon the ever blessed and adorable Spirit.
But one more word, and that circles the argument, namely, that the work of the Spirit in the heart is not only the mind of the Spirit which God knows, but it is also according to the will or mind of God, for he never maketh intercession in us other than is consistent with the divine will. Now, the divine will or mind may be viewed two ways. First, there is the will declared in the proclamations of holiness by the Ten Commandments. The Spirit of God never prompts us to ask for anything that is unholy or inconsistent with the precepts of the Lord. Then secondly, there is the secret mind of God, the will of his eternal predestination and decree, of which we know nothing; but we do know this, that the Spirit of God never prompts us to ask anything which is contrary to the eternal purpose of God. Reflect for a moment: the Holy Spirit knows all the purposes of God, and when they are about to be fulfilled, he moves the children of God to pray about them, and so their prayers keep touch and tally with the divine decrees. Oh would you not pray confidently if you knew that your prayer corresponded with the sealed book of destiny? We may safely entreat the Lord to do what he has ordained to do. A carnal man draws the inference that if God has ordained an event we need not pray about it, but faith obediently draws the inference that the God who secretly ordained to give the blessing has openly commanded that we should pray for it, and therefore faith obediently prays. Coming events cast their shadows before them, and when God is about to bless his people his coming favour casts the shadow of prayer over the church. When he is about to favour an individual he casts the shadow of hopeful expectation over his soul. Our prayers, let men laugh at them as they will, and say there is no power in them, are the indicators of the movement of the wheels of Providence. Believing supplications are forecasts of the future, He who prayeth in faith is like the seer of old, he sees that which is to be: his holy expectancy, like a telescope, brings distant objects near to him. He is bold to declare that he has the petition which he has asked of God, and he therefore begins to rejoice and to praise God, even before the blessing has actually arrived. So it is: prayer prompted by the Holy Spirit is the footfall of the divine decree.
I conclude by saying, see, my dear hearers, the absolute necessity of the Holy Spirit, for if the saints know not what they should pray for as they ought; if consecrated men and women, with Christ suffering in them, still feel their need of the instruction of the Holy Spirit, how much more do you who are not saints, and have never given yourselves up to God, require divine teaching! On, that you would know and feel your dependence upon the Holy Ghost that he may prompt the once crucified but now ascended Redeemer that this gift of the Spirit, this promise of the Father, is shed abroad upon men. May he who comes from Jesus lead you to Jesus.
And, then O ye people of God, let this last thought abide with you, what condescension is this that Divine Person should dwell in you for ever, and that he should be with you to help your prayers. Listen to me for a moment. If I read in the Scriptures that in the most heroic acts of faith God the Holy Ghost helpeth his people, I can understand it; if I read that in the sweetest music of their songs when they worship best, and chant their loftiest strains before the Most High God, the Spirit helpeth them, I can understand it; and even if I hear that in their wrestling prayers and prevalent intercessions God the Holy Spirit helpeth them, I can understand it: but I bow with reverent amazement, my heart sinking into the dust with adoration, when I reflect that God the Holy Ghost helps us when we cannot speak, but only groan. Yea, and when we cannot even utter our groanings, he doth not only help us but he claims as his own particular creation the "groanings that cannot be uttered." This is condescension indeed! In deigning to help us in the grief that cannot even vent itself in groaning, he proves himself to be a true Comforter. O God, my God, thou hast not forsaken me: thou art not far from me, nor from the voice of my roaring. Thou didst for awhile leave the Firstborn when he was made a curse for us, so that he cried in agony, "Why hast thou forsaken me?" but thou wilt not leave one of the "many brethren" for whom he died: the Spirit shall be with them, and when they cannot so much as groan he will make intercession for them with groanings that cannot be uttered. God bless you, my beloved brethren, and may you feel the Spirit of the Lord thus working in you and with you. Amen and amen.
PORTION OF SCRIPTURE READ BEFORE SERMON Romans 8:14-39 .
HYMNS FROM "OUR OWN HYMN BOOK" 1009, 978, 400.
The True Christian's Blessedness
Delivered on Sabbath Morning, October 18, 1857, by the
REV. C. H. Spurgeon
at the Music Hall, Royal Surrey Gardens.
"We know that all things work together far good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose." Romans 8:28 .
I. WE have here the description of a true Christian, and a declaration of that Christian's blessedness. We have him first very succinctly, but very fully described in these words "Them that love God, them who are the called according to his purpose." These two expressions are the great distinguishing marks whereby we are able to separate the precious from the vile, by discovering to us who are the children of God.
The first contains an outward manifestation of the second "Them that love God." Now, there are many things in which the worldly and the godly do agree, but on this point there IS a vital difference. No ungodly man loves God at least not in the Bible sense of the term. An unconverted man may love a God, as, for instance, the God of nature, and the God of the imagination; but the God of revelation no man can love, unless grace has been poured into his heart, to turn him from that natural enmity of the heart towards God, in which all of us are born. And there may be many differences between godly men, as there undoubtedly are; they may belong to different sects, they may hold very opposite opinions, but all godly men agree in this, that they love God. Whosoever loveth God, without doubt, is a Christian; and whosoever loveth him not, however high may be his pretensions, however boastful his professions, hath not seen God, neither known him for "God is love, and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him." True believers love God as their Father; they have "the spirit of adoption, whereby they cry Abba, Father." They love him as their King, they are willing to obey him, to walk in his commands is their delight; no path is so soft to their feet as the path of God's precepts, the way of obedience thereunto. They love God also as their Portion, for in him they live and move and have their being; God is their all, without him they have nothing, but possessing him, however little they may have of outward good, they feel that they are rich to all the intents of bliss. They love God as their future Inheritance, they believe that when days and years are past they shall enter into the bosom of God; and their highest joy and delight is the full conviction and belief, that one day they shall dwell for ever near his throne, be hidden in the brightness of his glory, and enjoy his everlasting favor. Dost thou love God, not with lip-language, but with heart-service? Dost thou love to pay him homage? Dost thou love to hold communion with him? Dost thou frequent his mercy-seat? Dost thou abide in his commandments, and desire to be conformed unto his Image? If so, then the sweet things which we shall have to say this morning are thine. But if thou art no lover of God, but a stranger to him, I beseech thee do not pilfer to-day and steal a comfort that was not intended for thee. "All things work together for good," but not to all men; they only work together for the good of "them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose."
Note the second phrase, which contains also a description of the Christian "the called according to his purpose." However much the Arminian may try to fritter away the meaning of this 8th chapter of the Romans we are obliged as long as we use terms and words to say, that the 8th chapter of the Romans and the 9th, are the very pillars of that Gospel which men now call Calvinism. No man after having read these chapters attentively, and having understood them, can deny that the doctrines of sovereign, distinguishing grace, are the sum and substance of the teaching of the Bible. I do not believe that the Bible is to be understood except by receiving these doctrines as true. The apostle says that those who love God are "the called according to his purpose" by which he means to say two things first, that all who love God love him because he called them to love him. He called them, mark you. All men are called by the ministry, by the Word, by daily providence, to love God, there is a common call always given to men to come to Christ, the great bell of the gospel rings a universal welcome to every living soul that breathes; but alas! though that bell hath the very sound of heaven, and though all men do in a measure hear it, for "their line is gone out into all the earth and their Word unto the end of the world" yet there was never an instance of any man having been brought to God simply by that sound. All these things are insufficient for the salvation of any man; there must be superadded the special call, the call which man cannot resist, the call of efficacious grace, working in us to will and to do of God's good pleasure. Now, all them that love God love him because they have had a special, irresistible, supernatural call. Ask them whether they would have loved God if left to themselves, and to a man, whatever their doctrines, they will confess
"Grace taught my soul to pray,
Grace made my eyes o'erflow,
'Tis grace that kept me to this day
And will not let me go."
I never heard a Christian yet who said that he came to God of himself, left to his own free-will. Free-will may look very pretty in theory, but I never yet met any one who found it work well in practice. We all confess that if we are brought to the marriage-banquet
"'Twas the same love that spread the feast
That gently forced us in
Else we had still refused to taste,
And perished in our sin."
Many men cavil at election; the very word with some is a great bug ear; they no sooner hear it than they turn upon their heel indignantly. But this know, O man, whatever thou sayest of this doctrine, it is a stone upon which, if any man fall, he shall suffer loss, but if it fall upon him it shall grind him to powder. Not all the sophisms of the learned, nor all the legerdemain of the cunning, will ever be able to sweep the doctrine of election out of Holy Scripture. Let any man hear and judge. Hearken ye to this passage in the 9th of Romans! "For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand not of works, but of him that calleth; It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger. As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated. What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid! For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy." "Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? for who hath resisted his will? Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honor, and another unto dishonor! What if God, willing to show his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much long-suffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory. Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles." These are God's words; if any man doth cavil at them, let him cavil; he rejecteth the testimony of God against himself. If I promulgated the doctrine on my own authority, I could not blame you if you should turn against me, and reject it; but when, on the authority of Holy Scripture, I propound it, God forbid that any man should quarrel therewith.
I have affirmed, and I am sure most Christians will bear witness, that what I said was the truth, that if any man loveth God he loves him because God gave him grace to love him. Now, suppose I should put the following question to any converted man in this hall. Side by side with you there sits an ungodly person; you two have been brought up together, you have lived in the same house, you have enjoyed the same means of grace, you are converted, he is not; will you please to tell me what has made the difference? Without a solitary exception the answer would be this "If I am a Christian and he is not, unto God be the honor." Do you suppose for a moment that there is any injustice in God in having given you grace which he did not give to another? I suppose you say, "Injustice, no; God has a right to do as he wills with his own; I could not claim grace, nor could my companions, God chose to give it to me, the other has rejected grace wilfully to his own fault, and I should have done the same, but that he gave 'more grace,' whereby my will was constrained." Now, sir, if it is not wrong for God to do the thing, how can it be wrong for God to purpose to do the thing? and what is election, but God's purpose to do what he does do? It is a fact which any man must be a fool who would dare to deny that God does give to one man more grace shall to another; we cannot account for the salvation of one and the non-salvation of another but by believing, that God has worked more effectually in one man's heart than another's unless you choose to give the honor to man, and say it consists in one man's being better than another, and if so I will have no argument with you, because you do not know the gospel at all, or you would know that salvation is not of works but of grace. If, then, you give the honor to God, you are bound to confess that God has done more for the man that is saved than for the man that is not saved. How, then, can election be unjust, if its effect is not unjust? However, just or unjust as man may choose to think it, God has done it, and the fact stands in man's face, let him reject it as he pleases. God's people are known by their outward mark: they love God, and the secret cause of their loving God is this God chose them from before the foundation of the world that they should love him, and he sent forth the call of his grace, so that they were called according to his purpose, and were led by grace to love and to fear him. If that is not the meaning of the text I do not understand the English language. "We know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose."
Now, my hearers, before I proceed to enter into the text, let the question go round. Do I love God? Have I any reason to believe that I have been called according to his purpose? Have I been born again from above? Has the Spirit operated in my heart in a manner to which flesh and blood never can attain? Have I passed from death unto life by the quickening agency of the Holy Ghost? If I have, then God purposed that I should do so, and the whole of this great promise is mine.
II. We shall take the words one by one, and try to explain them.
1. Let us begin with the word "work." "We know that all things work." Look around, above, beneath, and all things work. They work, in opposition to idleness. The idle man that folds his arms or lies upon the bed of sloth is an exception to God's rule; for except himself all things work. There is not a star though it seemeth to sleep in the deep blue firmament, which doth not travel its myriads of miles and work; there is not an ocean, or a river, which is not ever working, either clapping its thousand hands with storms, or bearing on its bosom the freight of nations. There is not a silent nook within the deepest forest glade where work is not going on. Nothing is idle. The world is a great machine, but it is never standing still: silently all through the watches of the night, and through the hours of day, the earth revolveth on its axis, and works out its predestinated course. Silently the forest groweth, anon it is felled; but all the while between its growing and felling it is at work. Everywhere the earth works; mountains work: nature in its inmost bowels is at work; even the center of the great heart of the world is ever beating; sometimes we discover its working in the volcano and the earthquake, but even when most still all things are ever working.
They are ever working too, in opposition to the word play. Not only are they ceaselessly active, but they are active for a purpose. We are apt to think that the motion of the world and the different evolutions of the stars are but like the turning round of a child's windmill; they produce nothing. That old preacher Solomon once said as much as that. He said "The sun also ariseth, and the sun goeth down, and hasteth to his place where he arose. The wind goeth toward the south, and turneth about unto the north; it whirleth about continually, and the wind returneth again according to his circuits." But Solomon did not add, that things are not what they seem. The world is not at play; it hath an object in its wildest movement. Avalanche, hurricane, earthquake, are but order in an unusual form; destruction and death are but progress in veiled attire. Everything that is and is done, worketh out some great end and purpose. The great machine of this world is not only in motion, but there is something weaving in it, which as yet mortal eye hath not fully seen, which our text hinteth at when it says, It is working out good for God's people.
And once again, all things work in opposition to Sabbath. We morally speak of work, especially on this day, as being the opposite of sacred rest and worship. Now, at the present moment all things work. Since the day when Adam fell all things have had to toil and labor. Before Adam's fall the world kept high and perpetual holiday; but now the world has come to its work-days, now it hath to toil. When Adam was in the garden the world had its Sabbath: and it shall never have another Sabbath till the Millennium shall dawn, and then when all things have ceased to work, and the kingdoms shall be given up to God, even the Father, then shall the world have her Sabbath, and shall rest; but at present all things do work.
Dear brethren, let us not wonder if we have to work too. If we have to toil, let us remember, this is the world's week of toil. The 6,000 years of continual labor, and toil, and travail, have happened not to us alone, but to the whole of God's great universe; the whole world is groaning, and travailing. Let us not be backward in doing our work. If all things are working, let us work too "work while it is called to-day, for the night cometh when no man can work." And let the idle and slothful remember that they are a great anomaly; they are blots in the great work-writing of God; they mean nothing; in all the book of letters with which God has written out the great word "work," they are nothing at all. But let the man that worketh, though it be with the sweat of his brow and with aching hands, remember that he, if he is seeking to bless the Lord's people, is in sympathy with all things not only in sympathy with their work, but in sympathy with their aim.
2. Now, the next word, "All things work together." That is in opposition to their apparent confliction. Looking upon the world with the mere eye of sense and reason, we say, "Yes, all things work, but they work contrary to one another. There are opposite currents; the wind bloweth to the north and to the south. The world's barque, it is true, is always tossed with waves, but these waves toss her first to the right and then to the left; they do not steadily bear her onward to her desired haven. It is true the world is always active, but it is with the activity of the battle-field, wherein hosts encounter hosts and the weaker are overcome." Be not deceived; it is not so; things are not what they seem; "all things work together." There is no opposition in God's providence; the raven wing of war is co-worker with the dove of peace. The tempest strives not with the peaceful calm they are linked together and work together, although they seem to be in opposition. Look at our history. How many an event has seemed to be conflicting in its day, that has worked out good for us? The strifes of barons and kings for mastery might have been thought to be likely to tread out the last spark of British liberty; but they did rather kindle the pile. The various rebellions of nations, the heavings of society, the strife of anarchy, the tumults of war all, all these things, overruled by God, have but made the chariot of the church progress more mightily; they have not failed of their predestinated purpose "good for the people of God." I know my brethren, it is very hard for you to believe this. "What!" say you? "I have been sick for many a day, and wife and children, dependent on my daily labor, are crying for food: will this work together for my good?" So saith the word, my brother, and so shalt thou find it ere long. "I have been in trade," says another, "and this commercial pressure has brought me exceedingly low, and distressed me: is it for my good?" My brother, thou art a Christian. I know thou dost not seriously ask the question, for thou knowest the answer of it. He who said, "all things work together," will soon prove to you that there is a harmony in the most discordant parts of your life. You shall find, when your biography is written, that the black page did but harmonize with the bright one that the dark and cloudy day was but a glorious foil to set forth the brighter noon-tide of your joy. "All things work together." There is never a clash in the world: men think so, but it never is so. The charioteers of the Roman circus might with much cleverness and art, with glowing wheels, avoid each other; but God, with skill infinitely consummate, guides the fiery coursers of man's passion, yokes the storm, bits the tempest, and keeping each clear of the other from seeming evil still enduceth good, and better still; and better still in infinite progression.
We must understand the word "together," also in another sense. "All things work together for good:" that is to say, none of them work separately. I remember an old divine using a very pithy and homely metaphor, which I shall borrow to-day. Said he, "All things work together for good; but perhaps, any one of those 'all things' might destroy us if taken alone. The physician," says he, "prescribes medicine; you go to the chemist, and he makes it up; there is something taken from this drawer, something from that phial, something from that shelf: any one of those ingredients, it is very possible, would be a deadly poison, and kill you outright, if you should take it separately, but he puts one into the mortar, and then another, and then another, and when he has worked them all up with his pestle, and has made a compound, he gives them all to you as a whole, and together they work for your good, but any one of the ingredients might either have operated fatally, or in a manner detrimental to your health." Learn, then, that it is wrong to ask, concerning any particular act of providence; is this for my good? Remember, it is not the one thing alone that is for your good; it is the one thing put with another thing, and that with a third, and that with a fourth, and all these mixed together, that work for your good. Your being sick very probably might not be for your good only God has something to follow your sickness, some blessed deliverance to follow your poverty, and he knows that when he has mixed the different experiences of your life together, they shall produce good for your soul and eternal good for your spirit. We know right well that there are many things that happen to us in our lives that would be the ruin of us if we were always to continue in the same condition. Too much joy would intoxicate us, too much misery would drive us to despair: but the joy and the misery, the battle and the victory, the storm and the calm, all these compounded make that sacred elixir whereby God maketh all his people perfect through suffering, and leadeth them to ultimate happiness. "All things work together for good."
3. Now we must take the next words. "All things work together for good." Upon these two words the meaning of my text will hinge. There are different senses to the word "good." There is the worldling's sense: "Who will show us any good?" by which he means transient good, the good of the moment. "Who wilt put honey into my mouth? Who will feed my belly with hid treasures? Who will garnish my back with purple and make my table groan with plenty?" That is "good," the vat bursting with wine, the barn full of corn! Now God has never promised that "all things shall work together" for such good as that to his people. Very likely all things will work together in a clean contrary way to that. Expect not, O Christian, that all things will work together to make thee rich; it is just possible they may all work to make thee poor. It may be that all the different providences that shall happen to thee will come wave upon wave, washing thy fortune upon the rocks, till it shall be wrecked, and then waves shall break o'er thee, till in that poor boat, the humble remnant of thy fortune thou shalt be out on the wide sea, with none to help thee but God the Omnipotent. Expect not, then, that all things shall work together as for thy good.
The Christian understands the word "good" in another sense. By "good," he understands spiritual good. "Ah!" saith he, "I do not call gold good, but I call faith good! I do not think it always for my good to increase in treasure, but I know it is good to grow in grace. I do not know that it is for my good that I should be respectable and walk in good society; but I know that it is for my good that I should walk humbly with my God. I do not know that it is for my good that my children should be about me, like olive branches round my table, but I know that it is for my good that I should flourish in the courts of my God, and that I should be the means of winning souls from going down into the pit. I am not certain that it is altogether for my good to have kind and generous friends, with whom I may hold fellowship; but I know that it is for my good that I should hold fellowship with Christ, that I should have communion with him, even though it should be in his sufferings. I know it is good for me that my faith, my love, my every grace should grow and increase, and that I should be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ my blessed Lord and Master." Well, Christian, thou hast got upon the meaning of the text, then. "All things work together," for that kind of good to God's people. "Well!" says one, "I don't think anything of that, then." No, perhaps thou dost not; it is not very likely swine should ever lift their heads from their troughs to think aught of stars. I do not much wonder that thou shouldst despise spiritual good, for thou art yet "in the gall of bitterness and the bonds of iniquity;" a stranger to spiritual things, and let thy despising of spiritual things teach thee that thou art not spiritual, and therefore thou canst not understand the spiritual, because it must be spiritually discerned. To the Christian, however, the highest good he can receive on earth is to grow in grace. "There!" he says, "I had rather be a bankrupt in business than I would be a bankrupt in grace; let my fortune be decreased better that, than that I should backslide; there! let thy waves and thy billows roll over me better an ocean of trouble than a drop of sin, I would rather have thy rod a thousand times upon my shoulders, O my God, than I would once put out my hand to touch that which is forbidden, or allow my foot to run in the way of gainsayers." The highest good a Christian has here is good spiritual.
And we may add, the text also means good eternal, lasting good. All things work together for a Christian's lasting good. They all work to bring him to Paradise all work to bring him to the Saviour's feet. "So he bringeth them to their desired haven," said the Psalmist by storm and tempest, flood and hurricane. All the troubles of a Christian do but wash him nearer heaven; the rough winds do but hurry his passage across the straits of this life to the port of eternal peace. All things work together for the Christian's eternal and spiritual good.
And yet I must say here, that sometimes all things work together for the Christian's temporal good. You know the story of old Jacob. "Joseph is not, Simeon is not, and now ye will take Benjamin away; all these things are against me," said the old Patriarch. But if he could have read God's secrets, he might have found that Simeon was not lost, for he was retained as a hostage that Joseph was not lost but gone before to smooth the passage of his grey hairs into the grave, and that even Benjamin was to be taken away by Joseph in love to his brother. So that what seemed to be against him, even in temporal matters, was for him. You may have heard also the story of that eminent martyr who was wont always to say, "All things work together for good." When he was seized by the officers of Queen Mary, to be taken to the stake to be burned, he was treated so roughly on the road that he broke his leg; and they jeeringly said, "All things work together for good, do they? How will your broken leg work for your good?" "I don't know," said he, "how it will, but for my good I know it will work, and you shall see it so." Strange to say, it proved true that it was for his good; for being delayed a day or so on the road through his lameness, he just arrived in London in time enough to hear that Elizabeth was proclaimed queen, and so he escaped the stake by his broken leg. He turned round upon the men who carried him, as they thought, to his death, and said to them, "Now will you believe that all things work together for God?" So that though I said the drift of the text was spiritual good, yet sometimes in the main current there may be carried some rich and rare temporal benefits for God's children as well as the richer spiritual blessings.
4. I am treating the text as you see, verbally. And now I must return to the word "work" to notice the tense of it. "All things work together for good." It does not say that they shall work, or that they have worked; both of these are implied, but it says that they do work now. All things at this present moment are working together for the believer's good. I find it extremely easy to believe that all things have worked together for my good. I can look back at the past, and wonder at all the way whereby the Lord hath led me. If ever there lived a man who has reason to be grateful to Almighty God, I think I am that man. I can see black storms that have lowered o'er my head, and torrents of opposition that have run across my path, but I can thank God for every incident that ever occurred to me from my cradle up to now, and do not desire a better pilot for the rest of my days, than he who has steered me from obscurity and scorn, to this place to preach his word and feed this great congregation. And I doubt not that each of you, in looking back upon your past experience as Christians, could say very much the same. Through many troubles you have passed, but you can say, they have all been for your good. And somehow or other you have an equal faith for the future. You believe that all things will in the end work for your good. The pinch of faith always lies in the present tense. I can always believe the past, and always believe the future, but the present, the present, the present, that is what staggers faith. Now, please to notice that my text is in the present tense. "All things work," at this very instant and second of time. However troubled, downcast, depressed, and despairing, the Christian may be, all things are working now for his good; and though like Jonah he is brought to the bottom of the mountains, and he thinks the earth with her bars is about him for ever, and the weeds of despair are wrapped about his head, even in the uttermost depths all things are now working for his good. Here, I say again, is the pinch of faith. As an old countryman once said to me, from whom I gained many a pithy saying "Ah! sir, I could always do wonders when there were no wonders to do. I feel, sir, that I could believe God; but then at the time I feel so there is not much to believe." And he just paraphrased it in his own dialect like this "My arm is always strong, and my sickle always sharp, when there is no harvest, and I think I could mow many an acre when there is no grass; but when the harvest is on I am weak, and when the grass groweth then my scythe is blunt." Have not you found it so too? You think you can do wondrous things; you say,
"Should earth against my soul engage,
And hellish darts be hurled,
Now I can smile at Satan's rage,
And face a frowning world."
And now a little capful of wind blows on you and the tears run down your cheeks, and you say, "Lord, let me die; I am no better than my fathers." You, that were going to thrash mountains, find that molehills cast you down.
It behoveth each of us, then, to comfort and establish our hearts upon this word "work." "All things work." Merchant; though you have been sore pressed this week, and it is highly probable that next week will be worse still for you, believe that all things even then are working for your good. It will cost you many a pang to keep that confidence; but oh! for thy Master's honor, and for thine own comfort, retain that consolation. Should thine house of business threaten to tumble about thine ears so long as thou hast acted honourably, still bear thy cross. It shall work, it is working for thy good. This week, mother, thou mayest see thy first-born carried to the tomb. That bereavement is working for thy good. O man, within a few days, he that hath eaten bread with thee may lift up his heel against thee. It shall work for thy good. O thou that art high in spirits to-day, thou with the flashing eye and joyous countenance, ere the sun doth set some evil shall befal thee, and thou shalt be sad. Believe then that all things work together for thy good; if thou lovest God, and art called according to his purpose.
5. And now we close by noticing the confidence with which the apostle speaks. "A fiction!" says one; "a pleasant fiction, sir!" "Sentimentalism!" says another; "a mere poetic sentimentalism." "Ah!" cries a third; "a downright lie." "No," says another, "there is some truth in it, certainly; men do get bettered by their afflictions, but it is a truth that is not valuable to me, for I do not realize the good that these things bring." Gentlemen, the apostle Paul was well aware of your objections; and therefore mark how confidently he asserts the doctrine. He does not say, "I am persuaded;" he does not say, "I believe;" but with unblushing confidence he appears before you and says, "We" (I have many witnesses) we know that all things work together." What Paul are you at? So strange and startling a doctrine as this asserted with such dogmatic impudence? What can you be at? Hear his reply! "'We know;' In the mouth of two or three witnesses it shall all be established; but I have tens of thousands of witnesses." "We know," and the apostle lifts his hand to where the white-robed hosts are praising God for ever. "These," says he, "passed through great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb: ask them!" And with united breath they reply, "We know that all things work together for good to them that love God." Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, Daniel, all the mighty ones that have gone before, tell out the tale of their history, write their autobiography, and they say, "We!" It is proven to a demonstration in our own lives; it is a fact which runs like a golden clue through all the labyrinth of our history "All things work together for good to them that love God." "We," says the apostle again and he puts his hand upon his poor distressed brethren he looks at his companions in the prisonhouse at Rome; he looks at that humble band of teachers in Rome, in Philippi, in all the different parts of Asia, and he says, "We!" "We know it. It is not with us a matter of doubt; we have tried it, we have proved it. Not only does faith believe it, but our own history convinces us of the truth of it." I might appeal to scores and hundreds here, and I might say, brethren, you with grey heads, rise up and speak. Is this true or not? I see the reverend man rise, leaning on his staff, and with the tears "uttering his old cheeks, he says, "Young man it is true, I have proved it; even down to grey hairs I have proved it; he made, and he will carry; he will not desert his own!" Veteran! you have had many troubles, have you not? He replies, "Youth! troubles? I have had many troubles that thou reckest not of, I have buried all my kindred, and I am like the last oak of the forest, all my friends have been felled by death long ago. Yet I have been upheld till now, who could hold me up but my God!" Ask him whether God has been once untrue to him and he will say, "No; not one good thing hath failed of all that the Lord God hath promised; all hath come to pass!" Brethren, we can confidently say, then, hearing such a testimony as that, "We know that all things work." Besides, there are you of middle age, and even those of us who are young: the winter has not spared our branches, nor the lightnings ceased to scathe our trunk; yet here we stand; preserved by conquering grace. Hallelujah to the grace that makes all things work together for good!
O my hearer, art thou a believer in Christ? If not, I beseech thee, stop and consider! Pause and think of thy state; and if thou knowest thine own sinfulness this day, believe on Christ, who came to save sinners, and that done, all things shall work for thee, the tumbling avalanche, the rumbling earthquake the tottering pillars of heaven, all, when they fall or shake, shall not hurt thee, they shall still work out thy good. "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and be baptized, and thou shalt be saved," for so runneth the gospel. The Lord bless you! Amen.
Delivered on Lord's Day Morning, March 24th, 1872, by
C. H. SPURGEON,
At the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington
"For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren." Romans 8:29 .
YOU WILL HAVE NOTICED that in this chapter, Paul has been expounding a very deep inward, spiritual experience. He has written concerning the spirit of bondage, and the spirit of adoption, the infirmities of the flesh, and the helpings of the spirit; the waiting for the redemption of the body, and the groanings which cannot be uttered. It was most natural, therefore, that a deep spiritual experience should bring him to a clear perception of the doctrines of grace, for such an experience is a school in which alone those great truths are effectually learned. A lack of depth in the inner life accounts for most of the doctrinal error in the church. Sound conviction of sin, deep humiliation on account of it, and a sense of utter weakness and unworthiness naturally conduct the mind to the belief of the doctrines of grace, while shallowness in these matters leaves a man content with a superficial creed. Those teachings which are commonly called Calvinistic doctrines are usually most beloved and best received by those who have had much conflict of soul, and so have learned the strength of corruption and the necessity of grace.
Note, also, that Paul in this chapter has been treating of the sufferings of this present time; and though by faith he speaks of them as very inconsiderable compared with the glory to be revealed, yet we know that they were not inconsiderable in his case. He was a man of many trials; he went from one tribulation to another for Christ's sake; he swam through many seas of affliction to serve the church. I do not wonder, therefore, that in his epistles he often discourses upon the doctrines of foreknowledge, and predestination, and eternal love, because these are a rich cordial for a fainting spirit. To be cheered under many things, which otherwise would depress him, the believer may betake himself to the matchless mysteries of the grace of God, which are wines on the lees well refined. Sustained by distinguishing grace, a man learns to glory in tribulations also; and strengthened by electing love, he defies the hatred of the world and the trials of life. Suffering is the college of orthodoxy. Many a Jonah, who now rejects the doctrines of the grace of God, only needs to be put into the whale's belly and he will cry out with the soundest free-grace man, "Salvation is of the Lord." Prosperous professors, who do no business amid David's billows and waterspouts, may set small store by the blessed anchorage of eternal purpose and everlasting love but those who are "tossed with tempest, and not comforted, are of another mind." Let these few sentences suffice for a preface. I utter them not in the spirit of controversy, but the reverse.
Our text begins by the expression, "Whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate," and many senses have been given to this word "foreknow" though in this case one commends itself beyond every other. Some have thought that it simply, means that God predestinated men whose future history ho foreknow. The text before us cannot be so understood, because the Lord foreknows the history of every man, and angel, and devil. So far as mere prescience goes, every man is foreknown, and yet no one will assert that all men are predestinated to be conformed to the image of the Lord Jesus. But, it is further asserted that the Lord foreknow who would exercise repentance, who would believe in Jesus, and who would persevere in a consistent life to the end. This is readily granted, but a reader must wear very powerful magnifying spectacles before he will be able to discover that sense in the text. Upon looking carefully at my Bible again I do not perceive such a statement. Where are those words which you have added, "Whom he did foreknow to repent, to believe, and to persevere in grace?" I do not find them either in the English version or in the Greek original. If I could so read them the passage would certainly he very easy, and would very greatly alter my doctrinal views; but, as I do not find those words there, begging your pardon, I do not believe in them. However wise and advisable a human interpolation may be, it has no authority with us; we bow to holy Scripture, but not to glosses which theologians may choose to put upon it. No hint is given in the text of foreseen virtue any more than of foreseen sin, and, therefore, we are driven to find another meaning for the word. We find that the word "know" is frequently used in Scripture, not only for knowledge, but also for favor, love, and complacency. Our Lord Jesus Christ will say, in the judgment, concerning certain persons, "I never knew you," yet in a sense he knew them, for he knows every man; he knows the wicked as well as the righteous; but there the meaning is, "I never knew you in such a respect as to feel any complacency in you or any favor towards you." See also John 10:14-15 , and 2 Timothy 2:19 . In Romans 11:2 , we read, "God hath not cast away his people which he foreknow," where the sense evidently has the idea of fore-love; and it is so to be understood here. Those whom the Lord looked upon with favor as he foresaw them, he has predestinated to he conformed to the image of his Son. They are, as Paul puts it in his letter to the Ephesians, "predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his will."
I am anxious not to tarry over controverted matters, but to reach the subject of my sermon this morning. Here we have in the text conformity to Christ spoken of as the aim of predestination; we have, secondly, predestination as the impelling force by which this conformity is to be achieved; and we have, thirdly, the firstborn himself set before us as the ultimate end of the predestinations and of the conformity. "that HE might be the first-born among many brethren."
I. Mark then, with care, that OUR CONFORMITY TO CHRIST IS THE SACRED OBJECT OF PREDESTINATION. Into predestination itself I will not now pry. The deeper things shall be left with God. I think it was Bishop Hall who once said, "I thank God I am not of his counsels, but I am of his court." If I cannot understand I will not question, for I am not his counsellor, but I will adore and obey, for I am his servant. Now, to-day, seeing we are here taught the object of his predestination, it will be our business to labor after it, to bless God that he has set such an object before him, and pray that we may be partakers in it. Here stands the case. Man was originally made in the image of God, but by sin he has defaced that image, and now we who are born into this world are fashioned, not in the heavenly image of God, but in the earthy image of the fallen Adam. "We have borne," says the Apostle, in the first Epistle to the Corinthians, "the image of the earthy." The Lord in boundless grace has resolved that a company whom no man can number, called here "many brethren," shall be restored to his image, in the particular form in which his Eternal Son displays it. To this end Jesus Christ came into the world and bore our image, that we, through his grace, might bear his image. He became a partaker of our infirmities and sicknesses that we might be partakers of the divine nature in all its excellence and purity. Now, therefore, the one thing to which the Lord is working us through his Spirit, both by providence and by grace, is the likeness of the Lord from heaven. He is evermore transforming the chosen, removing that defilement of sin, and moulding them after the perfect model of his Son, Jesus Christ, the second Adam, who is the firstborn amongst the "many brethren."
Now, observe, that this conformity to Christ lies in several things. First, we are to be conformed to him as to our nature. What was the nature of Christ, then, as divine? We must not pry into it, but we know that he was verily of the nature of God. "Begotten not made," says the Athanasian Creed, and it says truly too, "being of one substance with the Father." Now, we also, though we at our conversion are new creatures, are also said to be "begotten again into a lively hope." To be begotten is something more than to be made: this is a more personal work of God; and that which is begotten is in closer affinity to himself than that which is only created. As Christ was, as the only-begotten of the Father, far above mere creatures; so also to be begotten of God, in our case, means far more than even the first and perfect creation could imply. As to his humanity our blessed Lord, when he came into this world, underwent a birth which was a remarkable type of our second birth. He was born into this world in a very humble place, amidst the oxen, and in the manger; but yet he lacked not the songs of angels, and the adoration of the heavenly hosts. Even so we also were born of the Spirit without human observation; men of this world saw no glory whatsoever in our regeneration, for it was not performed by mystic rites, or with sacerdotal pomp. The Spirit of God found us in our low estate, and quickened us without outward display. Yet at that selfsame moment, where human eyes saw nothing seraphic eyes beheld marvels of grace, and angels in heaven rejoiced over one sinner that repented, singing once again "glory to God in the highest." When Lord was born a few choice spirits welcomed his birth; an Anna and a Simeon were ready to take the new-born child into their arms and bless God for him: and even so there were some that hailed our new birth with much thanksgiving; friends and well-wishers who had watched for our salvation were glad when they beheld in us the true heavenly life, and gladly did the take us up into the arms of Christian nurture. Perhaps, also, there was one who had travailed in birth till Christ was formed in us the hope of glory, and how happy was that spirit to see us born unto God; how did our spiritual parent ponder each gracious word which we uttered, and thank God for the good signs of grace which could be found in our conversation. Then, too, a worse than Herod sought to kill us. Satan was eager that the new-born child of grace should be put to death, and, therefore, sent forth fierce temptations to slay us; but the Lord found a shelter for our infant spiritual life, and preserved the young child alive. In us the living and incorruptible seed abode and grew. As many of you as have been born again have been conformed to the image of Christ in the matter of his birth, and you are now partakers of his nature. It is not possible for us to be divine, yet it is written that we are made "partakers of the divine nature." We cannot be precisely as God is, yet as we have borne the image of the earthy we shall also bear the image of the heavenly, whatever that image may be. The new birth as surely stands us with the image of Christ as our first birth impressed us with a resemblance to the fathers of our flesh. Our first birth gave us humanity; our second birth allies us with Deity. As we were conceived in sin at the first, and shapen in iniquity, even so in regeneration our new man is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created us. He that sanctifieth and they that are sanctified are all of one; for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren.
Furthermore, this conformity to Christ lies in relationship as well as in nature. Our Lord is the Son of the Highest, the Son of God; and truly, beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Jehovah has declared that he will be a father unto us, and that we shall be his sons and his daughters. As surely as Jesus is a son, so surely are we, for the same Spirit bears witness to both, as it is written "And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father." When Jesus came into the world as God's Son, he was not left without attesting proofs. His first public appearance, when he came to the waters of baptism, was signalled by a voice out of the excellent glory, which said, "this is my beloved Son," and the descending Spirit, like a dove, rested upon him. So is it also with us. The voice of God in the word has testified to us our Heavenly Father's dove; and the Holy Spirit has borne witness with our spirits that we are the children of God. When first we dared to come forward and say "we are on the Lord's side," some of us had sacred tokens of sonship which have never been forgotten by us, and oftentimes since then we have received renewed seals of our adoption from the Great Father of our spirits. "He that believeth on the Son hath the witness in himself," so that he can with his brethren say plainly "we know that we have passed from death unto life." God has given us full assurance, and infallible testimony, and in all this we rejoice. We have believed in Jesus, and it is written, "as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to as many as believed on his name."
Our Lord was declared to be the Son of God by the actions which he performed, both towards God and towards man. As a Son he served his Father, you could see the nature of God in him, in his deep sympathy with God and in his exact imitation of God. Whatever God would have done under the circumstances, that Jesus did. You perceive at once, by his deeds, that his nature was godlike. His works bore witness of him. It was evermore most clear that he acted towards God as a son towards a father. Now in proportion as God's determination has been carried out in us, we also act to God as children towards a loving father, and whereas the children of darkness speak of their own, and like their father, who is a liar, speak the lie; and like their father, who is a murderer, act out wrath and bitterness, even so the children of God speak the truth, for God is true, and they are full of love, for God is love; and their life is light, for their God is light. They feel that they must act, under the circumstances in which they are placed, as they would suppose Jesus would have acted, who is the Son of the ever blessed Father. Moreover, Christ wrought miracles of mercy towards men, which proved him to be the Son of God. It is true we can work no miracles, yet can we do works which mark God's children. We cannot break the bread and multiply it, we can, however, generously distribute what we have, and thus in feeding the hungry we shall prove ourselves children of our Father who is in heaven; we cannot heal the diseased with our touch, still we can care for the sick, and so in love towards the suffering we can prove ourselves to be children of the tender and ever-pitiful God. But our Lord has told us that greater works than his own shall we do, because he is gone to his Father; and these greater works we do. We can work spiritual miracles. Today, can we not stand at the grave of the dead sinner, and say, "Lazarus, come forth?" And has not God often made the dead to rise at our word, by the power of his Spirit! Today, also, we can preach the gospel of Jesus Christ, casting it about us as it were as our garment, and he that toucheth the hem thereof shall he not also be made whole to-day, even as when Jesus was among men? This day, if we do not break fish and barley loaves, we bring you better food; this day, if we cannot give to men opened eyes and unstopped ears, yet in the teaching of the gospel of Jesus, by the power of the Spirit, the mental eye is cleansed, and the soul's ear also is purged; so that in every child of God, in proportion as he labors in the power of the Spirit for Christ, the works which he does bear witness of him that he is the son of God. His zeal in doing them proves that he has the spirit of a child of God, and the result of those works proves that God works in him as he will never do in any but his own children. Thus, in relationship, as well as in nature, we are conformed to the image of Christ.
Thirdly, we are to be conformed to the image of Christ in our experience. This is the part of the subject from which our craven spirit often shrinks, but if we were wise it would not be so. What was the experience of Christ in this world? for that ours will be. We may sum it up as referring to God, to men, to the devil, and to all evil.
His experience with regard to God, what was that? "Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered." Though without sin, he was not without suffering. The firstborn of the divine family was more sorely chastened than any other of the household; he was smitten of God and afflicted till, as the climax of all, he cried Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani. Oh, the bitterness of that cry "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" It was the father bruising the firstborn son; and, if you and I, brethren, are to be conformed to the image of the firstborn, though we may expect from God much fatherly love, we may also reckon that it will show itself in parental discipline. If ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons; but, if ye be true sons, like to the firstborn, the rod will make you smart, and sometimes you will have to say, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" "For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?" If we are predestinated to be conformed to the image of his son, the Lord has predestinated us to much tribulation, and through it shall we inherit the kingdom.
Next survey our dear covenant Head in his experience in relation to men. "He came unto his own, and his own received him not." "He was despised and rejected of men." He said, "Reproach hath broken mine heart, and I am full of heaviness." Now, brethren, in the very proportion in which we are conformed to the image of Christ we shall have to "go forth unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach:" for the disciple, if he be a true disciple, is not above his Master, nor the servant above his Lord. If they have called the Master of the house Beelzebub, much more will they call them of his household by some yet more opprobrious title, if they can invent it. The saints of God must not expect crowns where Christ found a cross; they must not reckon to ride in triumph through those streets which saw the Savior hurried to a malefactor's death. We must suffer with him if we would be glorified with him. Fellowship in his sufferings is needful to communion with his glory.
Then, consider our Lord's experience with regard to the prince of the power of the air. Satan was no friend to Christ, but finding him in the desert he came to him with this accursed "if" "If thou be the Son of God." With that attack upon his Sonship the fiend commenced the battle. "If thou be the Son of God." You know how thrice he assailed him with those temptations which are most likely to be attractive to poor humanity, but Jesus overcame them all. The arch enemy, the old dragon, was always nibbling at the heel of our great Michael, who has for ever crushed his head. We are predestinated to be conformed to Christ in that respect; the serpent's subtlety and cruelty will assail us also. A tempted head involves tempted members. Satan desires to have us and to sift us as wheat. He attacked the Shepherd, and he will never cease to worry the sheep. Inasmuch as we are of the seed of the woman, there must be enmity between us and the seed of the serpent.
And, as to all evil, our Lord's entire life was one perpetual battle. He was fighting evil in the high places and evil in the low, evil among the priests and evil among the people, evil in a religious dress, in Pharisaism, and evil in the dress of philosophy amongst the Sadducees; he fought it everywhere: he was the foe of everything that was wrong, false, selfish, unholy or impure. And you and I must be conformed to Christ in this respect. We are to be holy, harmless, undefiled and separate from sinners. Ye are of God, little children, and the whole world lieth in the wicked one. We are chosen out of the world to be a peculiar people, adversaries to all evil, never sheathing our sword till we enter into our rest. We are to be like him then in nature, in relation, in experience.
Fourthly. We are to be conformed to Christ Jesus as to character. Time and ability alike fail us to speak of this. I only pray that God's Spirit may make our lives to speak of it. He was consecrated to God; so are we to be. The zeal of God's house ate him up; so should it consume us also. He went about his Father's business; so should we ever be occupied. Towards man he was all love; it becomes us to be the same. He was gentle and kind and tender; as he was, so are we to be in this world. He did not break the bruised reed, nor quench the smoking flax; neither should we. Yet was he stern in the denunciation of all evil; so should we be. Purity, holiness, unselfishness, all the virtues, should glow in us as they shone in him. Ah, and blessed be God they will too, by the work of the Spirit. Our text speaks not only of what we ought to be, but of what we shall be, for we are predestinated to be conformed to the image of God's Son. My brethren, what a glorious model! Behold it, wonder at it, and bless God for it. You are not to be conformed to the mightiest of the apostles, you will one day be purer than were Paul or John while here below; you are not to be conformed to the sublimest of the prophets, you shall be like the prophets' Master; you are not to be content with your own conception of that which is beautiful and lovely, but God's perfect conception incarnated in his own Son is that to which you shall certainly be brought by the predestination of God.
Just a sentence upon another point. We are to be conformed to the image of his Son, fifthly, as to our inheritance for he is heir of all things, and what less are we heirs of, since all things are ours? He is heir of this world. "Thou madest him to have dominion over all the works of thy hands: thou hast put all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen, yea, and the fowl of the air and the fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the sea." We see not yet all things put under man, but we see Jesus who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor; and in the person of Christ Jesus this day we, the men who are made in his image, have dominion over all things, being all made kings and priests unto God, and in Christ Jesus ordained to reign with him forever and ever. "If children then heirs," says the apostle; therefore, whatever Christ has we have, and though we may be very poor and unknown, yet whatever belongs to Christ to us. "The good of all the land of Egypt is yours," said Joseph to his brethren, and Jesus saith this to all his people, "All are yours, for ye are Christ's, and Christ is God's."
I must close this point time goes much too swiftly this morning when descanting upon this delightful theme by observing that we are to be conformed to Christ in his glory. We will think of our bodies, for that is a point surrounded with consolation, since he shall change our vile body and make it like unto his glorious body. We are like Adam now in weakness and pain, and we shall soon be like him in death, returning to the ground whence we were taken; but we shall rise again to a better life, and then shall we wear in glory and incorruption the image of the second Adam, the Lord from heaven. Conceive the beauties of the risen Redeemer. Let your faith and your imagination work together to portray the unutterable glories of Immanuel, God with us, as he sits at the right hand of the Father. Such and so bright shall our glories be in the day of the redemption of the body. We shall behold his glory, we shall be with him where he is, and we shall be ourselves glorious in his glory. Is he exalted? you also shall be lifted up. Is he a King? you shall not be uncrowned. Is he a victor? you also shall bear a palm. Is he full of joy and rejoicing? so also shall your soul be filled to the brim with delights. Where he is every saint shall be ere long.
Thus much upon the sacred end of predestination.
II. Now, observe that PREDESTINATION IS THE IMPELLING FORCE TOWARDS THIS CONFORMITY. This truth divides itself thus: it is the will of God that conforms us to Christ's image rather than our own will. It is our will now, but it was God's will when it was not our will, and it only became according to our will when we were converted, because God's grace had made us willing in the day of its power. We cannot be made like Christ unwillingly; a consenting will is essential to the likeness of Christ; unwilling obedience would be disobedience. Naturally we never will towards good without God, but God works in us to will and to do. God treats us as men responsible and intelligent, and not as stone or metal; he made us free agents, and he treats us as such. We are willing now to be conformed to the image of Jesus, yea, we are more than willing, we are anxious and desirous for it; but still the main and first motive power lay not in our will, but in his will, and to-day the immutable force which is best to be depended upon does not lie in our fickle, feeble will, but in the unchanging and omnipotent will of God. The force that is conforming us to Christ is the will of God in predestination.
And so, too, it is rather God's work than our work. We are to work with God in the matter of our becoming like to Christ. We are not to be passive like wood or marble; we are to be prayerful, watchful, fervent, diligent, obedient, earnest, and believing, but still the work is God's. Sanctification is the Lord's work in us. "Thou hast wrought all our works in us." From the first, and now, and to the last, "he that hath wrought us to the selfsame thing is God, who also hath given to us the earnest of the Spirit." There is no holiness in us of our own creating; no good thing in us of our own fashioning. "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above." "Not unto us, not unto us, but unto thy name be praise." Still, true as it is that we are free agents, yet the Lord is the potter and we are the clay upon the wheel, and it is his work, and not ours, that makes us like to Christ. It there be a touch of our finger anywhere upon the vessel, it mars and does not beautify. It is only where God's hand has been that the vessel begins to assume the form of the model.
Therefore, beloved, all the glory must be unto God and not to us. It is a great honor to any man to be like Christ; God does not intend that his children should have no honor, for he puts honor upon his own people; but, still, the true glory lies with him, since he has made us and not we ourselves. Cannot we say this morning with thankful hearts, "By the grace of God I am what I am?" and do we not feel that we shall lay all our honors, whatever they may be, at his dear feet, who hath according to his abundant mercy predestinated us to be conformed to the image of his Son?
III. Now I must come to the third point, upon which with brevity. It sweetly appears that the ULTIMATE END OF ALL THIS IS CHRIST. "Predestinated to be conformed to the image of his Son, that HE," "that HE" God is always driving at something for him, his well-beloved Son. He aims at his own glory in the glory of his dear Son; if he blesses us the text of last Sabbath is still true, "not for your sakes do I this;" it is for the sake of a higher, a better one than we are, it is "that he might be the first-born." Now, if I understand the passage before us, it means this. First, God predestinates us to be like Jesus that his dear Son might be the first of a new order of beings, elevated above all other creatures, and nearer to God than any other existences. He was Lord of angels, seraphim and cherubim obeyed his behests; but the Son desired to be at the head of a race of beings more nearly allied to him than any existing spirits. There was no kinship between the Lord Jesus and angels, for to which of the angels had the Father said at any time, "Thou art my Son?" They are by nature servants, and he is the Son, this is a wide distinction. The Eternal Son desired association with beings who should be sons as he was, towards whom he could stand in a close relationship as being like to them in nature and Sonship, and the Father therefore ordained that a seed whom he has chosen should be conformed to the image of the Son, that his Son might head up and be chief among an order of beings more nearly akin to God than any other. The serpent said to Eve, "God doth know that ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil." That lie had in it a residuum of truth, for by sovereign grace we have become such. There were no obedient creatures in the world of that sort, knowing good and evil, in the days of Eden's glory. The angels in heaven had known good, and only good, and preserved by grace had not fallen; the evil spirit had fallen, and he knew evil, but he had forgotten good, and was incapable of ever choosing it again; he is now for ever banished from hope of restoration. But here are we who know both good and evil; we understand the one, and the other too, and now there is begotten in us a nature which loves holiness and cannot sin, because it is born of God; we are left free agents, yea, we are freer than ever we were, and yet in this life, and in the life to come, our path is like that of the just which shineth more and more unto the perfect day. Angels know not evil; have never had to battle with evil known and felt within; they have not tried the paths of sinful pleasure, and through grace been turned from them, so as with full purpose of heart to cleave to holiness for ever. Jesus now heads a race assailed but victorious; sorely tempted but enabled to overcome. Joyfully and cheerfully for ever shall it be our delight to do the Father's will. For ever with Christ at our head he shall be the nearest to the eternal throne; the most attached of servants, because also sons; the most firmly adhesive to good, because we once knew the bitterness of evil. Even as Christ had to drink the cup of suffering, for sin, we also have sipped of it. We have known horror caused by guilt, and, therefore, for the future shall be throughout eternity a nobler race, freer to serve, and serving God after a nobler fashion than any other creatures in the universe. I take it that it is the meaning of the text, that the Lord would have Christ to be the first of a nobler order of beings.
But, secondly, the object of grace is that there may be some in heaven with whom Christ can hold brotherly converse. Note the expression, "Many brethren" not that he might be the firstborn among many, but among "many brethren," who should be like himself. Our blessed Lord delights in fellowship; such is the greatness of his heart that he would not be alone in his glory, but would have associates in his happiness. Now, I speak with bated breath. God can do all things, but I see not any way by which he could give to his only-begotten Son beings that should be akin to himself, except through the processes which we discover in the economy of grace. Here are beings that know evil, and know also good, beings placed under infinite obligations by bonds of love and gratitude to choose for ever the good, beings with a nature so renewed that they always must be holy beings; and these beings can commune with the incarnate God upon spurring as angels cannot, upon the penalty of guilt as angels cannot; upon heart-throes, conflicts, reproaches, and brokenness of spirit as angels cannot: and to them the Lord Jesus can reveal the glory of holiness, the bliss of conquering sin, and the sweetness of benevolence as only they can comprehend them. Renewed men are made fit companions for the Son of God. He shall feast all the more joyously because they shall eat bread with him in his kingdom. He shall be joyful when he declares the Lord's name unto his brethren. He shall joy in their joy, and be glad in their gladness.
No doubt, however, the text means that these will for ever love and honor the Lord Jesus Christ himself. The children look up to the firstborn. In the East the firstborn is the lord and king of the household. We love Jesus now, and esteem him our head and chief. How will we, when we once get to heaven, love and adore him as our dear elder brother with whom we shall be on terms of the closest familiarity and most reverent obedience. How joyfully will we serve him, how rapturously adore him. Shall we not want to have our voices made more loud till they become as thunders, or like many waters, or surely we shall not be able to praise him as we would? If there be work to do for him in future ages we will be the first to volunteer for service; if there be battles to be fought in times to come with other rebellious races, if there be wanted servants to fly over the vast realms of the infinite to carry Jehovah's messages, who shall fly so swiftly as we shall, when once we feel that in his courts we shall dwell not as mere servants, but as members of the royal family, partakers of the divine nature, nearest to God himself. What bliss to know that he who is "very God of very God," and sits on the eternal throne, is also of the same nature with ourselves, our kinsman, who is not ashamed even amidst the royalties of glory to call us brethren. O brethren, what honors are ours! What a heritage lies before us! Who among us would change with Gabriel? We shall have no need to envy angels, for what are they but ministering spirits, servants in our Father's halls; but we are sons, and sons of no inferior order, no sons of a secondary rank like Abraham's children born of Keturah, or like the son of the bondwoman, but we are the Isaacs of God, born according to the promise, heirs of all that he hath, a seed beloved of the Lord for ever. Oh, what joy ought to fill our spirits this morning, at the prospect which this text reveals, and which predestination secures!
Perhaps our fullest thought upon the text is this. God was so well pleased with his Son, and saw such beauties in him, that he determined to multiply his image. "My beloved," said he, "thou shalt be the model by which I will fashion my noblest creature, I will for thy sake make men able to converse with thee, and bound to thee by bands of love, who shall be next akin to myself, and in all things like to thee." Behold from heaven's mint golden pieces of inestimable value are sent forth, and each one bears the image and superscription of the Son of God. The face of Jesus is more lovely to God than all the worlds, his eyes are brighter than the stars, his voice is sweeter than bliss; therefore doth the Father will to have his Son's beauty reflected in ten thousand mirrors in saints made like to him, and his praises chanted by myriads of voices of those who love him, because his blood has saved them. The Father knew how happy his Son would be to associate his chosen with himself, for of old his delights were with the sons of men. As a shepherd loves his sheep, as a king loves his subjects, so Jesus loves to have his people around him; but deeper yet is the mystery, as it is not good for a man to be alone, and as for this cause doth a man leave his father and mother and is joined unto his wife, and they twain are one flesh, even so is it with Christ and his church. He was made like to her for her salvation, and now she is made like to him for his honor. In what way could the Father put greater honor on his Son than by forming a race like to himself, who shall be the many brethren among whom he is the well-beloved firstborn?
Now, brethren, this word I say and send you home. Keep your model before you. You see what you are to come to, therefore, set Christ before your eyes always. You see what you are predestinated to be: aim at it, aim at it every day. God worketh, and he worketh in you not to sleep, but to will and to do according to his own good pleasure. Brethren, grieve at your failures; when you see anything in yourselves that is not Christlike mourn over it, for it must be put away, it is so much dross that must be consumed; you cannot keep it, for God's predestination will not let you retain anything about you which is not according to the image of Christ. Cry mightily to the Holy Spirit to continue his sanctifying work upon you; beseech him not to be grieved and vexed, and, therefore, in any measure to stay his hand. Cry, "Lord, melt me, pour me out like wax, and set thy seal upon me until the image of Christ be clearly there." Above all, commune much with Christ. Communion is the fountain of conformity. Live with Christ and you will soon grow like Christ. They said of Achilles, the greatest of the Grecian heroes, that when he was a child they fed him upon lion's marrow, and so made him brave; feed upon Christ and be Christlike. They record on the other hand of blood-thirsty Nero, that he became so because he was suckled by a woman of a ferocious, barbaric nature. If we drink in our nutriment from the world, we shall be worldly; but, if we live upon Christ and dwell in him, our conformity with him shall be readily accomplished, and we shall be recognized as brethren of that blessed family of which Jesus Christ is the firstborn. How I wish every one here had a share in the text: I mourn that some have not, for he that believeth not on the Son hath not life, and therefore cannot have conformity to a living Christ. God grant to you all to be believers in Christ, now and for ever. Amen and amen.
PORTION OF SCRIPTURE READ BEFORE SERMON Romans 8:16-39 ; 1 Corinthians 15:39-58 .
"THE SWORD AND THE TROWEL." Edited by C. H. SPURGEON.
Contents for April, 1872.
Advice Gratis. By C. H. Spurgeon.
The Story of an Eventful Life.
The Gospel in France.
Recollections of the Rev. Rowland Hill. By an Old Member of Surrey Chapel.
Remarks on Beecher's Life of Christ. By Vernon J. Charlesworth.
Cromwell's Puritanism. By E. Leach.
A New Interpretation of Pilgrim's Progress. By G. Rogers (Continued.)
Parental Duties. By Edward Dennett.
The Sinners of Mullion.
Report of Visitor from the Sunday School Union (Lambeth Auxiliary).
Pastors' College Account.
Orphanage for Girls.
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London: Passmore & Alabaster, 18, Paternoster Row, and all Booksellers.
Predestination and Calling
Delivered on Sabbath Morning, March 6th, 1859, by the
REV. C. H. Spurgeon
at the Music Hall, Royal Surrey Gardens.
"Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called." Romans 8:30
THE GREAT BOOK OF GOD'S DECREES is fast closed against the curiosity of man. Vain man would be wise; he would break the seven seals thereof, and read the mysteries of eternity. But this cannot be; the time has not yet come when the book shall be opened, and even then the seals shall not be broken by mortal hand, but it shall be said, "The lion of the tribe of Judah hath prevailed to open the book and break the seven seals thereof."
Eternal Father, who shall look
Into thy secret will?
None but the Lamb shall take the book,
And open every seal.
None but he shall ever unroll that sacred record and read it to the assembled world. How then am I to know whether I am predestinated by God unto eternal life or not? It is a question in which my eternal interests are involved; am I among that unhappy number who shall be left to live in sin and reap the due reward of their iniquity; or do I belong to that goodly company, who albeit that they have sinned shall nevertheless be washed in the blood of Christ, and shall in white robes walk the golden streets of paradise? Until this question be answered my heart cannot rest, for I am intensely anxious about it. My eternal destiny infinitely more concerns me than all the affairs of time. Tell me, oh, tell me, if ye know, seers and prophets, is my name recorded in that book of life? Am I one of those who are ordained unto eternal life, or am I to be left to follow my own lusts and passions, and to destroy my own soul? Oh! man, there is an answer to thy inquiry; the book cannot be opened, but God himself hath published many a page thereof. He hath not published the page whereon the actual names of the redeemed are written; but that page of the sacred decree whereon their character is recorded is published in his Word, and shall be proclaimed to thee this day. The sacred record of God's hand is this day published everywhere under heaven, and he that hath an ear let him hear what the Spirit saith unto him. O my hearer, by thy name I know thee not, and by thy name God's Word doth not declare thee, but by thy character thou mayest read thy name; and if thou hast been a partaker of the calling which is mentioned in the text, then mayest thou conclude beyond a doubt that thou art among the predestinated "For whom he did predestinate, them he also called." And if thou be called, it follows as a natural inference thou art predestinated.
Now, in considering this solemn subject, let me remark that there are two kinds of callings mentioned in the Word of God. The first is the general call, which is in the gospel sincerely given to everyone that heareth the word. The duty of the minister is to call souls to Christ, he is to make no distinction whatever "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature." The trumpet of the gospel sounds aloud to every man in our congregations "Ho, everyone that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price." "Unto you, O men, I call; and my voice is to the sons of man" (Proverbs 8:4 ). This call is sincere on God's part; but man by nature is so opposed to God, that this call is never effectual, for man disregards it, turns his back upon it, and goes his way, caring for none of these things. But mark, although this call be rejected, man is without excuse in the rejection; the universal call has in it such authority, that the man who will not obey it shall be without excuse in the day of judgment. When thou art commanded to believe and repent, when thou art exhorted to flee from the wrath to come, the sin lies on thy own head if thou dost despise the exhortation, and reject the commandment. And this solemn text drops an awful warning: "How shall ye escape, if ye neglect so great salvation." But I repeat it, this universal call is rejected by man; it is a call, but it is not a attended with divine force and energy of the Holy Spirit in such a degree as to make it an unconquerable call, consequently men perish, even though they have the universal call of the gospel ringing in their ears. The bell of God's house rings every day, sinners hear it, but they put their fingers in their ears, and go their way, one to his farm, and another to his merchandise, and though they are bidden and are called to the wedding (Luke 14:16-18 ), yet they will not come, and by not coming they incur God's wrath, and he declareth of such, "None of those men which were bidden shall taste of my supper" (Luke 14:24 ). The call of our text is of a different kind; it is not a universal call, it is a special, particular, personal, discriminating, efficacious, unconquerable, call. This call is sent to the predestinated, and to them only; they by grace hear the call, obey it, and receive it. These are they who can now say, "Draw us, and we will run after thee."
In preaching of this call this morning, I shall divide my sermon into three brief parts. First, I shall give illustrations of the call; second, we shall come to examine whether we have been called; and then third, what delightful consequences flow therefrom. Illustration, examination, consolation.
I. First, then, for ILLUSTRATION. In illustrating the effectual call of grace, which is given to the predestinated ones, I must first use the picture of Lazarus. See you that stone rolled at the mouth of the sepulchre? Much need is there for the stone that it should be well secured, for within the sepulchre there is a putrid corpse. The sister of that corrupt body stands at the side of the tomb, and she says, "Lord, by this time he stinketh, for he hath been dead four days." This is the voice of reason and of nature. Martha is correct; but by Martha's side there stands a man who, despite all his lowliness, is very God of very God. "Roll ye away the stone," saith he, and it is done; and now, listen to him; he cries, "Lazarus, come forth!" that cry is directed to a mass of putridity, to a body that has been dead four days, and in which the worms have already held carnival; but, strange to say, from that tomb there comes a living man; that mass of corruption has been quickened into life, and out he comes, wrapped about with graveclothes, and having a napkin about his head. "Loose him and let him go," saith the Redeemer; and then he walks in all the liberty of life. The effectual call of grace is precisely similar; the sinner is dead in sin; he is not only in sin but dead in sin, without any power whatever to give to himself the life of grace. Nay, he is not only dead, but he is corrupt; his lusts, like the worms, have crept into him, a foul stench riseth up into the nostrils of justice, God abhorreth him, and justice crieth, "Bury the dead out of my sight, cast it into the fire, let it be consumed." Sovereign Mercy comes, and there lies this unconscious, lifeless mass of sin; Sovereign Grace cries, either by the minister, or else directly without any agency, by the Spirit of God, "come forth!" and that man lives. Does he contribute anything to his new life? Not he; his life is given solely by God. He was dead, absolutely dead, rotten in his sin; the life is given when the call comes, and, in obedience to the call, the sinner comes forth from the grave of his lust, begins to live a new life, even the life eternal, which Christ gives to his sheep.
"Well," cries one, "but what are the words which Christ uses when he calls a sinner from death?" Why the Lord may use any words. It was not long ago there came unto this hall, a man who was without God and without Christ, and the simple reading of the hymn
"Jesus lover of my soul,"
was the means of his quickening. He said within himself, "Does Jesus love me? then I must love him," and he was quickened in that selfsame hour. The words which Jesus uses are various in different cases. I trust that even while I am speaking this morning, Christ may speak with me, and some word that may fall from my lips, unpremeditated and almost without design, shall be sent of God as a message of life unto some dead and corrupt heart here, and some man who has lived in sin hitherto, shall now live to righteousness, and live to Christ. That is the first illustration I will give you of what is meant by effectual calling. It finds the sinner dead, it gives him life, and he obeys the call of life and lives.
But let us consider a second phase of it. You will remember while the sinner is dead in sin, he is alive enough so far as any opposition to God may be concerned. He is powerless to obey, but he is mighty enough to resist the call of divine grace. I may illustrate it in the case of Saul of Tarsus: this proud Pharisee abhors the Lord Jesus Christ; he has seized upon every follower of Jesus who comes within his grasp; he has haled men and women to prison; with the avidity of a miser who hunts after gold, he has hunted after the precious life of Christ's disciple, and having exhausted his prey in Jerusalem, he seeks letters and goes off to Damascus upon the same bloody errand. Speak to him on the road, send out the apostle Peter to him, let Peter say, "Saul, why dost thou oppose Christ? The time shall come when thou shalt yet be his disciple." Paul would turn round and laugh him to scorn "Get thee gone thou fisherman, get thee gone I a disciple of that imposter Jesus of Nazareth! Look here, this is my confession of faith; here will I hale thy brothers and thy sisters to prison, and beat them in the synagogue and compel them to blaspheme and even hunt them to death, for my breath is threatening, and my heart is as fire against Christ." Such a scene did not occur, but had there been any remonstrance given by men you may easily conceive that such would have been Saul's answer. But Christ determined that he would call the man. Oh, what an enterprise! Stop HIM? Why he is going fast onward in his mad career. But lo, a light shines round about him and he falls to the ground, and he hears a voice crying, "Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me; it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks." Saul's eyes are filled with tears, and then again with scales of darkness, and he cries, "Who art thou?" and a voice calls, "I am Jesus, whom thou persecutest." It is not many minutes before he begins to feel his sin in having persecuted Jesus, nor many hours ere he receives the assurance of his pardon, and not many days ere he who persecuted Christ stands up to preach with vehemence and eloquence unparalleled, the very cause which he once trod beneath his feet. See what effectual calling can do. If God should choose this morning to call the hardest-hearted wretch within hearing of the gospel, he must obey. Let God call a man may resist, but he cannot resist effectually. Down thou shalt come, sinner, if God cries down; there is no standing when he would have thee fall. And mark, every man that is saved, is always saved by an overcoming call which he cannot withstand; he may resist it for a time, but he cannot resist so as to overcome it, he must give way, he must yield when God speaks. If he says, "Let there be light," the impenetrable darkness gives way to light; if he says, "Let there be grace," unutterable sin gives way, and the hardest-hearted sinner melts before the fire of effectual calling.
I have thus illustrated the call in two ways, by the state of the sinner in his sin, and by the omnipotence which overwhelms the resistance which he offers. And now another case. The effectual call may be illustrated in its sovereignty by the case of Zaccheus. Christ is entering into Jericho to preach. There is a publican living in it, who is a hard, griping, grasping, miserly extortioner. Jesus Christ is coming in to call some one, for it is written he must abide in some man's house. Would you believe it, that the man whom Christ intends to call is the worst man in Jericho the extortioner? He is a little short fellow, and he cannot see Christ, though he has a great curiosity to look at him; so he runs before the crowd and climbs up a sycamore tree, and thinking himself quite safe amid the thick foliage, he waits with eager expectation to see this wonderful man who had turned the world upside down. Little did he think that he was to turn him also. The Saviour walks along preaching and talking with the people until he comes under the sycamore tree, then lifting up his eyes, he cries "Zaccheus, make haste and come down, for today I must abide in thy house." The shot took effect, the bird fell, down came Zaccheus, invited the Saviour to his house, and proved that he was really called not by the voice merely but by grace itself, for he said, "Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give unto the poor, and if I have taken anything from any man by false accusation, I restore unto him fourfold;" and Jesus said, "This day is salvation come unto thy house." Now why call Zaccheus? There were many better men in the city than he. Why call him? Simply because the call of God comes to unworthy sinners. There is nothing in man that can deserve this call; nothing in the best of men that can invite it; but God quickeneth whom he will, and when he sends that call, though it come to the vilest of the vile, down they come speedily and swiftly; they come down from the tree of their sin, and fall prostrate in penitence at the feet of Jesus Christ.
But now to illustrate this call in its effects, we remind you that Abraham is another remarkable instance of effectual calling. "Now the Lord had said unto Abraham, get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will show thee," and "by faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went." Ah! poor Abraham, as the world would have had it, what a trial his call cost him! He was happy enough in the bosom of his father's household, but idolatry crept into it, and when God called Abraham, he called him alone and blessed him out of Ur of the Chaldees, and said to him, "Go forth, Abraham!" and he went forth, not knowing whither he went. Now, when effectual calling comes into a house and singles out a man, that man will be compelled to go forth without the camp, bearing Christ's reproach. He must come out from his very dearest friends, from all his old acquaintances, from those friends with whom he used to drink, and swear, and take pleasure; he must go straight away from them all, to follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. What a trial to Abraham's faith, when he had to leave all that was so dear to him, and go he knew not whither! And yet God had a goodly land for him, and intended greatly to bless him. Man! if thou art called, if thou art called truly, there will be a going out, and a going out alone. Perhaps some of God's professed people will leave you; you will have to go without a solitary friend, maybe you will even be deserted by Sarah herself, and you may be a stranger in a strange land, a solitary wanderer, as all your fathers were. Ah! but if it be an effectual call, and if salvation shall be the result thereof, what matters it though thou dost go to heaven alone? Better to be a solitary pilgrim to bliss, than one of the thousands who throng the road to hell.
I will have one more illustration. When effectual calling comes to a man, at first he may not know that it is effectual calling. You remember the case of Samuel; the Lord called Samuel, and he arose and went to Eli, and he said, "Here am I, for thou calledst me." Eli said, "I called not, lie down again. And he went and lay down." The second time the Lord called him, and said, "Samuel, Samuel," and he arose again, and went to Eli, and said, "Here am I, for thou didst call me," and then it was that Eli, not Samuel, first of all perceived that the Lord had called the child. And when Samuel knew it was the Lord, he said, "Speak; for thy servant heareth." When the work of grace begins in the heart, the man is not always clear that it is God's work; he is impressed under the minister, and perhaps he is rather more occupied with the impression than with the agent of the impression; he says, "I know not how it is, but I have been called; Eli, the minister, has called me." And perhaps he goes to Eli to ask what he wants with him. "Surely," said he, "the minister knew me, and spoke something personally to me, because he knew my case." And he goes to Eli, and it is not till afterwards, perhaps, that he finds that Eli had nothing to do with the impression, but that the Lord had called him. I know this I believe God was at work with my heart for years before I knew anything about him. I knew there was a work; I knew I prayed, and cried, and groaned for mercy, but I did not know that was the Lord's work; I half thought it was my own. I did not know till afterwards, when I was led to know Christ as all my salvation, and all my desire, that the Lord had called the child, for this could not have been the result of nature, it must have been the effect of grace. I think I may say to those who are the beginners in the divine life, so long as your call is real, rest assured it is divine. If it is a call that will suit the remarks which I am about to give you in the second part of the discourse, even though you may have thought that God's hand is not in it, rest assured that it is, for nature could never produce effectual calling. If the call be effectual, and you are brought out and brought in brought out of sin and brought to Christ, brought out of death into life, and out of slavery into liberty, then, though thou canst not see God's hand in it, yet it is there.
II. I have thus illustrated effectual calling. And now as a matter of EXAMINATION let each man judge himself by certain characteristics of heavenly calling which I am about to mention. If in your Bible you turn to 2 Timothy 1:9 , you will read these words "Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling." Now here is the first touchstone by which we may try our calling many are called but few are chosen, because there are many kinds of call, but the true call, and that only, answers to the description of the text. It is "an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began." This calling forbids all trust in our own doings and conducts us to Christ alone for salvation, but it afterwards purges us from dead works to serve the living and true God. If you are living in sin, you are not called; if you can still continue as you were before your pretended conversion, then it is no conversion at all; that man who is called in his drunkenness, will forsake his drunkenness; men may be called in the midst of sin, but they will not continue in it any longer. Saul was anointed to be king when he was seeking his father's asses; and many a man has been called when he has been seeking his own lust, but he will leave the asses, and leave the lust, when once he is called. Now, by this shall ye know whether ye be called of God or not. If ye continue in sin, if ye walk according to the course of this world, according to the spirit that worketh in the children of disobedience, then are ye still dead in your trespasses and your sins; but as he that hath called you is holy, so must ye be holy. Can ye say, "Lord, thou knowest all things, thou knowest that I desire to keep all thy commandments, and to walk blamelessly in thy sight. I know that my obedience cannot save me, but I long to obey. There is nothing that pains me so much as sin; I desire to be quit and rid of it; Lord help me to be holy"? Is that the panting of thy heart? Is that the tenor of thy life towards God, and towards his law? Then, beloved, I have reason to hope that thou hast been called of God, for it is a holy calling wherewith God doth call his people.
Another text. In Philippians 3:13-14 you find these words. "Forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those which are before, I press towards the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus." Is then your calling a high calling, has it lifted up your heart, and set it upon heavenly things? Has it lifted up your hopes, to hope no longer for things that are on earth, but for things that are above? Has it lifted up your tastes, so that they are no longer grovelling, but you choose the things that are of God? Has it lifted up the constant tenor of your life, so that you spend your life with God in prayer, in praise, and in thanksgiving, and can no longer be satisfied with the low and mean pursuits which you followed in the days of your ignorance? Recollect, if you are truly called it is a high calling, a calling from on high, and a calling that lifts up your heart, and raises it to the high things of God, eternity, heaven, and holiness. In Hebrews 3:1 , you find this sentence. "Holy brethren partakers of the heavenly calling." Here is another test. Heavenly calling means a call from heaven. Have you been called, not of man but of God? Can you now detect in your calling, the hand of God, and the voice of God? If man alone call thee, thou art uncalled. Is thy calling of God? and is it a call to heaven as well as from heaven? Can you heartily say that you can never rest satisfied till you
"behold his face
And never, never sin,
But from the rivers of his grace,
Drink endless pleasures in."
Man, unless thou art a stranger here, and heaven is thy home, thou hast not been called with a heavenly calling, for those who have been so called, declare that they look for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God, and they themselves are strangers and pilgrims upon the earth.
There is another test. Let me remind you, that there is a passage in scripture which may tend very much to your edification, and help you in your examination. Those who are called, are men who before the calling, groaned in sin. What says Christ? "I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance." Now, if I cannot say the first things because of diffidence, though they be true, yet can I say this, that I feel myself to be a sinner, that I loathe my sinnership, that I detest my iniquity, that I feel I deserve the wrath of God on account of my transgressions? If so, then I have a hope that I may be among the called host whom God has predestinated. He has called not the righteous but sinners to repentance. Self-righteous man, I can tell thee in the tick of a clock, whether thou hast any evidence of election. I tell thee No; Christ never called the righteous; and if he has not called thee, and if he never does call thee, thou art not elect, and thou and thy self-righteousness must be subject to the wrath of God, and cast away eternally. Only the sinner, the awakened sinner, can be at all assured that he has been called; and even he, as he gets older in grace, must look for those higher marks of the high heavenly and holy calling in Christ Jesus.
As a further test, keeping close to scripture this morning, for when we are dealing with our own state before God there is nothing like giving the very words of scripture, we are told in the first epistle of Peter, the second chapter, and the ninth verse, that God hath called us out of darkness into marvelous light. Is that your call? Were you once darkness in regard to Christ; and has marvelous light manifested to you a marvelous Redeemer, marvelously strong to save? Say soul, canst thou honestly declare that thy past life was darkness and that thy present state is light in the Lord? "For ye were sometime darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord; walk as children of the light." That man is not called who cannot look back upon darkness, ignorance, and sin, and who cannot now say, that he knows more than he did know, and enjoys at times the light of knowledge, and the comfortable light of God's countenance.
Yet again. Another test of calling is to be found in Galatians, the fifth chapter, and the fifteenth verse. "Brethren, ye have been called into liberty." Let me ask myself again this question, Have the fetters of my sin been broken off, and am I God's free man? Have the manacles of justice been snapped, and am I delivered set free by him who is the great ransomer of spirits? The slave is not called. It is the free man that has been brought out of Egypt, who proves that he has been called of God and is precious to the heart of the Most High.
And yet once more, another precious means of test in the first of Corinthians, the first chapter, and the ninth verse. "He is faithful by whom ye were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord." Do I have fellowship with Christ? do I converse with him, commune with him? Do I suffer with him, suffer for him? Do I sympathize with him in his objects and aims? Do I love what he loves; do I hate what he hates? Can I bear his reproach; can I carry his cross; do I tread in his steps; do I serve his cause, and is it my grandest hope that I shall see his kingdom come, that I shall sit upon his throne, and reign with him? If so, then am I called with the effectual calling, which is the work of God's grace, and is the sure sign of my predestination.
Let me say now, before I turn from this point, that it is possible for a man to know whether God has called him or not, and he may know it too beyond a doubt. He may know it as surely as if he read it with his own eyes; nay, he may know it more surely than that, for if I read a thing with my eyes, even my eyes may deceive me, the testimony of sense may be false, but the testimony of the Spirit must be true. We have the witness of the Spirit within, bearing witness with our spirits that we are born of God. There is such a thing on earth as an infallible assurance of our election. Let a man once get that, and it will anoint his head with fresh oil, it will clothe him with the white garment of praise, and put the song of the angel into his mouth. Happy, happy man! who is fully assured of his interest in the covenant of grace, in the blood of atonement, and in the glories of heaven! Such men there are here this very day. Let them "rejoice in the Lord alway, and again I say rejoice."
What would some of you give if you could arrive at this assurance? Mark, if you anxiously desire to know, you may know. If your heart pants to read its title clear it shall do so ere long. No man ever desired Christ in his heart with a living and longing desire, who did not find him sooner or later. If thou hast a desire, God has given it thee. If thou pantest, and criest, and groanest after Christ, even this is his gift; bless him for it. Thank him for little grace, and ask him for great grace. He has given thee hope, ask for faith; and when he gives thee faith, ask for assurance; and when thou gettest assurance, ask for full assurance; and when thou hast obtained full assurance, ask for enjoyment; and when thou hast enjoyment, ask for glory itself; and he shall surely give it thee in his own appointed season.
III. I now come to finish up with CONSOLATION. Is there anything here that can console me? Oh, yes, rivers of consolation flow from my calling. For, first, if I am called then I am predestinated, there is no doubt about it. The great scheme of salvation is like those chains which we sometimes see at horse-ferries. There is a chain on this side of the river fixed into a staple, and the same chain is fixed into a staple at the other side, but the greater part of the chain is for the most part under water, and you cannot see it: you only see it as the boat moves on, and as the chain is drawn out of the water by the force that propels the boat. If today I am enabled to say I am called, then my boat is like the ferry-boat in the middle of the stream. I can see that part of the chain, which is named "calling," but blessed be God, that is joined to the side that is called "election," and I may be also quite clear that it is joined on to the other side, the glorious end of "glorification." If I be called I must have been elected, and I need not doubt that. God never tantalized a man by calling him by grace effectually, unless he had written that man's name in the Lamb's book of life. Oh, what a glorious doctrine is that of election, when a man can see himself to be elect. One of the reasons why many men kick against it is this, they are afraid it hurts them. I never knew a man yet, who had a reason to believe that he himself was chosen of God, who hated the doctrine of election. Men hate election just as thieves hate Chubb's patent locks; because they cannot get at the treasure themselves, they therefore hate the guard which protects it. Now election shuts up the precious treasury of God's covenant blessings for his children for penitents, for seeking sinners. These men will not repent, will not believe; they will not go God's way, and then they grumble and growl, and fret, and fume, because God has locked the treasure up against them. Let a man once believe that all the treasure within is his, and then the stouter the bolt, and the surer the lock, the better for him. Oh, how sweet it is to believe our names were on Jehovah's heart, and graven on Jesus' hands before the universe had a being! May not this electrify a man of joy, and make him dance for very mirth?
Chosen of God ere time began.
Come on, slanderers! rail on as pleases you. Come on thou world in arms! Cataracts of trouble descend if you will, and you, ye floods of affliction, roll if so it be ordained, for God has written my name in the book of life. Firm as this rock I stand, though nature reels and all things pass away. What consolation then to be called: for if I am called, then I am predestinated. Come let us at the sovereignty which has called us, and let us remember the words of the apostle, "For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world, to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: that no flesh should glory in his presence. But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: that, according as it is written, he that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord."
A second consolation is drawn from the grand truth, that if a man be called he will certainly be saved at last. To prove that, however, I will refer you to the express words of scripture: Romans 11:29 "The gifts and calling of God are without repentance." He never repents of what he gives, nor of what he calls. And indeed this is proved by the very chapter out of which we have taken our text. "Whom he did predestinate, them he also called; and whom he called, them he also justified; and whom he justified, them he also glorified," everyone of them. Now, believer, thou mayest be very poor, and very sick, and very much unknown and despised, but sit thee down and review thy calling this morning, and the consequences that flow from it. As sure as thou art God's called child today, thy poverty shall soon be at an end, and thou shalt be rich to all the intents of bliss. Wait awhile; that weary head shall soon be girt with a crown. Stay awhile; that horny hand of labor shall soon grasp the palm branch. Wipe away that tear; God shall soon wipe away thy tears for ever. Take away that sigh why sigh when the everlasting song is almost on thy lip? The portals of heaven stand wide open for thee. A few winged hours must fly; a few more billows must roll o'er thee, and thou wilt be safely landed on the golden shore. Do not say, "I shall be lost; I shall be cast away." Impossible.
Whom once he loves he never leaves,
But loves them to the end.
If he hath called thee, nothing can divide thee from his love. The wolf of famine cannot gnaw the bond; the fire of persecution cannot burn the link, the hammer of hell cannot break the chain; old time cannot devour it with rust, nor eternity dissolve it, with all its ages. Oh! believe that thou art secure; that voice which called thee, shall call thee yet again from earth to heaven, from death's dark gloom to immortality's unuttered splendours; Rest assured, the heart that called thee, beats with infinite love towards thee, a love undying, that many waters cannot quench, and that floods cannot drown. Sit thee down; rest in peace; lift up thine eye of hope, and sing thy song with fond anticipation. Thou shall soon be with the glorified, where thy portion is; thou art only waiting here to be made meet, for the inheritance, and that done, the wings of angels shall waft thee far away, to the mount of peace, and joy, and blessedness, where
Far from a world of grief and sin,
With God eternally shut in,
thou shall rest for ever and ever. Examine yourselves then whether you have been called. And may the love of Jesus be with you. Amen.
'The Believer's Challenge' and 'A Challenge and a Shield'
The Believer's Challenge
Delivered on Sabbath Morning, June 5th, 1859, by the
REV. C. H. Spurgeon
at the Music Hall, Royal Surrey Gardens.
"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" Romans 8:34 .
THE PROTEST OF an innocent man against the charge of an accuser may well be strong and vehement. But here we have a more uncommon and a sublimer theme. It is the challenge of a justified sinner protesting with holy and inspired fervour that his character is clear and his conscience clean, even in the sight of heaven. Yet it is not the natural innocence of his heart, but the perfect mediation of the Lord Jesus Christ, which gives him this amazing confidence. May the Spirit of God enable me to expound to you this most blessed portion of God's Word.
We have before us in the text the four marvellous pillars upon which the Christian rests his hope. Any one of them were all-sufficient. Though the sins of the whole world should press on any one of these sacred columns, it would never break nor bend. Yet for our strong consolation, that we may never tremble or fear, God hath been pleased to give us these four eternal rocks, these four immovable foundations upon which our faith may rest and stand secure. But why is this? why needeth the Christian to have such firm, such massive foundations? For this simple reason: he is himself so doubtful, so ready to distrust, so difficult to be persuaded of his own security. Therefore hath God, as it were, enlarged his arguments. One blow might, we should have imagined, have been enough to have smitten to death our unbelief for ever; the cross ought to have been enough for the crucifixion of our infidelity, yet God, foreseeing the strength of our unbelief, hath been pleased to smite it four times that it might be razed to rise no more. Moreover, he well knew that our faith would be sternly attacked. The world, our own sin, and the devil, he foresaw would be continually molesting us; therefore hath he entrenched us within these four walls, he hath engarrisoned us in four strong lines of circumvallation. We cannot be destroyed. We have bulwarks, none of which can possibly be stormed, but when combined they are so irresistible, they could not be carried, though earth and hell should combine to storm them. It is, I say, first, because of our unbelief; and secondly, because of the tremendous attacks our faith has to endure, that God has been pleased to lay down four strong consolations, with which we may fortify our hearts whenever the sky is overcast, or the hurricane is coming forth from its place.
Let us now notice these four stupendous doctrines. I repeat it again, any one of them is all-sufficient. It reminds me of what I have sometimes heard of the ropes that are used in mining. It is said that every strand of them would bear the entire onnage, and consequently, if every strand bears the full weight that will ever be put upon the whole, there is an absolute certainty of safety given to the whole when twisted together. Now each of these four articles of our faith is sufficient to bear the weight of the sins of the whole world. What must be the strength when the whole four are interlaced and intertwisted, and become the support of the believer? The apostle challenges the whole world, and heaven and hell too, in the question, "Who is he that condemneth?" and in order to excuse his boldness, he gives us four reasons why he can never be condemned. "Christ has died, yea, rather, is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us." We shall first look over these four pillars of the believer's faith, and then, afterwards, we shall ourselves take up the apostle's challenge, and cry, "Who is he that condemneth?"
I. The first reason why the Christian never can be condemned is because CHRIST HATH DIED. We believe that in the death of Christ there was a full penalty paid to divine justice for all the sins which the believer can possibly commit. We teach every Sabbath day, that the whole shower of devine wrath was poured upon Christ's head, that the black cloud of vengeance emptied out itself upon the cross, and that there is not left in the book of God a single sin against a believer, nor can there possibly be even a particle of punishment ever exacted at the hand of the man that believeth in Jesus, for this reason, that Jesus has been punished to the full. In full tale hath every sin received sentence in his death. He hath suffered, the just for the unjust, to bring us to God. And now, if you and I are enabled this morning to go beneath the bloody tree of Calvary, and shelter ourselves there, how safe we are! Ah! we may look around and defy all our sins to destroy us. This shall be an all-sufficient argument to shut their clamorous mouths, "Christ hath died." Here cometh one and he cries, "Thou hast been a blasphemer." Yes, but Christ died a blasphemer's death, and he died tor blasphemers. "But thou hast stained thyself with lust." Yes, but Christ died for the lascivious. The blood of Jesus Christ, God's own Son, cleanseth us from all sin; so away foul fiend, that also has received its due. "But thou hast long resisted grace, and long stood out against the warnings of God." Yes, but "Jesus died;" and say what thou wilt, O conscience, remind me of what thou wilt; lo this shall be my sure reply in "Jesus died." Standing at the foot of the cross, and beholding the Redeemer in his expiring agony, the Christian may indeed gather courage. When I think of my sin, it seems impossible that any atonement should ever be adequate; but when I think of Christ's death it seems impossible that any sin should ever be great enough to need such an atonement as that. There is in the death of Christ enough and more than enough. There is not only a sea in which to drown our sins, but the very tops of the mountains of our guilt are covered. Forty cubits upwards hath this red sea prevailed. There is not only enough to put our sins to death, but enough to bury them and hide them out of sight. I say it boldly and without a figure, the eternal arm of God now nerved with strength, now released from the bondage in which justice held it, is able to save unto the uttermost them that come unto God by Christ.
This was my subject last Sabbath day, therefore I take it I shall be fully justified in leaving the first point that Christ hath died, while I pass on to the other three. You will bear in mind that I discussed the doctrine of the satisfaction of Christ's atonement by his death, in the sermon of last Sunday morning. I come, therefore, to notice the second argument. Our first reason for knowing that we cannot be condemned is, because Christ has died for us.
II. The second reason a believer hath, is that CHRIST HAS RISEN AGAIN.
You will observe that the apostle has here prefixed the words, "yea rather!" Do you see the force of this expression? As much as to say, it is a powerful argument for our salvation, that Christ died; but it is a still more cogent proof that every believer shall be saved, that Christ rose again from the dead. This does not often strike us. We generally receive more comfort at the cross than we do at the empty sepulchre. And yet this is just through our ignorance and through the blindness of our eyes; for verily to the enlightened believer there is more consolation in Jesus arising from the tomb, than there is in Jesus nailed to the cross. "Yea rather," said the apostle; as if he would have it, that this is a still more powerful argument. Now what has the resurrection of Christ from the dead to do with the justification of a believer? I take it thus: Christ by his death paid to his Father the full price of what we owed to him. God did as it were hold a bond against us which we could not pay. The alternative of this bond, if not paid, was, that we should be sold for ever under sin, and should endure the penalty of our transgressions in unquenchable fire. Now Jesus by his death paid all the debt; to the utmost farthing that was due from us to God Christ did pay by his death. Still the bond was not cancelled until the day when Christ rose from the dead; then did his Father, as it were, rend the bond in halves, and blot it out, so that thenceforward it ceases to have elfect. It is true that death was the payment of the debt, but resurrection was the public acknowledgment that the debt was paid. "Now," says Paul, "yea rather, he is risen from the dead." O Christian, thou canst not be condemned, for Christ has paid the debt. Look at his gore, as it distils from his body in Gethsemane and on the accursed tree. But rather, lest there should be a shadow of a doubt, that thou canst not be condemned, thy debts are cancelled. Here is the full receipt; the resurrection hath rent the bond in twain. And now at Gods right hand there is not left a record of thy sin; for when our Lord Jesus Christ quitted the tomb, he left thy sin buried in it once for all cast away never to be recovered. To use another figure, Christ's death was as it were the digging out of the gold of grace out of the deep mines of Jesus' sufferings. Christ coined, so to speak, the gold which should be the redemption of his children, but the resurrection was the minting of that gold; it stamped it with the Father's impress, as the current coin of the realm of heaven. The gold itself was fused in the atoning sacrifice, but the minting of it, making it into that which should be the current coin of the merchant, was the resurrection of Christ. Then did his Father stamp the atonement with his own image and his own superscription. On the cross I see Jesus dying for my sins as an expiating sacrifice; but in the resurrection I see God acknowledging the death of Christ, and accepting what he has done for my indisputable justification. I see him putting his own imprimatur thereupon, stamping it with his own signet, dignifying it with his own seal, and again I cry, "Yea rather, who is risen from the dead," who then can condemn the believer? To put Christ's resurrection yet in another aspect. His death was the digging of the well of salvation. Stern was the labour, toilsome was the work; he dug on, and on, and on, through rocks of suffering, into the deepest caverns of misery; but the resurrection was the springing up of the water. Christ digged the well to its very bottom, but not a drop did spring up; still was the world dry and thirsty, till on the morning of the resurrection a voice was heard, "Spring up O well," and forth came Christ himself from the grave, and with him came the resurrection and the life; pardon and peace for all souls sprang up from the deep well of his misery. Oh! when I can find enough for my faith to be satisfied with even in the digging of the well, what shall be my satisfaction when I see it overflowing its brim, and springing up with life everlasting? Surely the apostle was right when he said, "Yea rather, who hath risen from the dead." And yet another picture. Christ was in his death the hostage of the people of God. He was the representative of all the elect. When Christ was bound to the tree, I see my own sin bound there; when he died every believer virtually died in him; when he was buried we were buried in him, and when he was in the tomb, he was, as it were, God's hostage for all his church, for all that ever should believe on him. Now, as long as he was in prison, although there might be ground of hope, it was but as light sown for the righteous; but when the hostage came out, behold the first fruit of the harvest! When God said, "Let my Anointed go free, I am satisfied and content in him," then every elect vessel went free in him; then every child of God was released from durance vile no more to die, not to know bondage or fetter for ever. I do see ground for hope when Christ is bound, for he is bound for me; I do see reason for rejoicing when he dies, for he dies for me, and in my room and stead; I do see a theme for solid satisfaction in his burial, for he is buried for me; but when he comes out of the grave, having swallowed up death in victory, my hope bursts into joyous song. He lives, and because he lives I shall live also. He is delivered and I am delivered too. Death hath no more dominion over him and no more dominion over me; his deliverance is mine, his freedom mine for ever. Again, I repeat it, the believer should take strong draughts of consolation here. Christ is risen from the dead, how can we be condemned? There are e'en stronger arguments for the non-condemnation of the believer in the resurrection of Christ than in his precious death and burial. I think I have shown this; only may God give us grace to rest upon this precious "yea, rather, who is risen from the dead."
III. The next clause of the sentence reads thus: "WHO IS EVEN AT THE RIGHT HAND OF GOD." Is there not any word of special commendation to this? You will remember the last one had, "Yea, rather." Is there nothing to commend this? Well, if not in this text, there is in another. If, at your leisure, you read through the fifth chapter of this epistle to the Romans, you will there very readily discover that the apostle proves, that if Christ's death be an argument for our salvation, his life is a still greater one. He says in the tenth verse of that chapter, "If, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more" that's the word I wanted "much more we shall be saved by his life." We may look, then, at this third clause, as having a "much more" before it, comparing Scripture with Scripture. We cannot be condemned for "Christ hath died. Yea rather, is risen again; (much more) is even at the right hand of God." Here is an argument which hath much more power, much more strength, much more force than even Christ's death. Sometimes I have thought that impossible. Last Lord's day, I thought by God's good help I was enabled to persuade some of you that the death of Christ was an argument too potent to be ever denied an argument for the salvation of all for whom he died. Much more, let me now tell you, is his life, much more the fact that he lives, and is at the right hand of the Father. Now I must call your attention to this clause, remarking that in other passages of God's Word, Christ is said to have sat down for ever at the right hand of God. Do observe with care the fact that he is always described in heaven as sitting down. This seems to me to be one material argument for the salvation of the believer Christ sits in heaven. Now, he never would sit if the work were not fully done. Jesus when he was on earth, had a baptism to be baptised with, and how was he straitened until it was accomplished! He had not time so much as to eat bread, full often, so eager was he to accomplish all his work. And I do not, I cannot imagine that he would be sitting down in heaven in the posture of ease, unless he had accomplished all unless "It is finished!" were to be understood in its broadest and most unlimited sense. There is one thing I have noticed, in looking over the old levitical law, under the description of the tabernacle. There were no seats whatever provided tor the priests. Every priest stands daily ministering and offering sacrifice for sin. They never had any seats to sit on. There was a table for the shew-bread, an altar, and a brazen lover; yet there was no seat. No priest sat down; he must always stand; for there was always work to be accomplished, always something to be done. But the great high priest of our profession, Jesus, the Son of God, hath taken his seat at the right hand of the majesty on high. Why is this? Because, now the sacrifice is complete for ever, and the priest hath made a full end of his solemn service. What would the Jew have thought if it had been possible for a seat to have been introduced into the sanctuary, and for the high priest to sit down? Why, the Jew would then have been compelled to believe that it was all over, the dispensation was ended; for a sitting priest would be the end of all. And now we may rest assured, since we can see a sitting Christ in heaven, that the whole atonement is finished, the work is over, he hath made an end of sin. I do consider that in this there is an argument why no believer ever can perish. If he could, if there were yet a chance of risk, Christ would not be sitting down; if the work were not so fully done, that every redeemed one should at last be received into heaven, he would never rest, nor hold his peace.
Turning, however, more strictly to the words of the text, "Who is even at the right hand of God" what meaneth this? It means, first of all, that Christ is now in the honourable position of an accepted one. The right hand of God is the place of majesty, and the place of favour too. Now, Christ is his people's representative. When he died for them they had rest; when he rose again for them, they had liberty; when he was received into his Father's favour, yet again, and sat at his own right hand, then had they favour, and honour, and dignity. Do you not remember that the two sons of Zebedee asked to sit, one on the right hand and the other on the left? Little did they know that they had already what they asked for for all the church is now at the right hand of the Father; all the church is now raised up together, and made to sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. The raising and elevation of Christ to that throne of dignity and favour, is the elevation, the acceptance, the enshrinement, the glorifying of all his people, for he is their common head, and stands as their representative. This sitting at the right hand of God, then, is to be viewed as the acceptance of the person of the surety, the reception of the representative, and therefore, the acceptance of our souls. Who is he that condemneth, then? Condemn a man that is at the right hand of God! Absurd! Impossible! Yet am I there in Christ. Condemn a man who sits next to his Father, the King of kings! Yet there is the church, and how can she in the slightest degree incur condemnation, when she is already at the right hand of the Father with her covenant head. And let me further remark, that the right hand is the place of power. Christ at the right hand of God signifies that all power is given unto him in heaven and in earth. Now, who is he that condemns the people that have such a head as this? O my soul! what can destroy thee if omnipotence is thy helper? If the aegis of the Almighty covers thee, what sword can smite thee? If the wings of the Eternal are thy shelter, what plague can attack thee? Rest thou secure. It Jesus is thine all-prevailing king, and hath trodden thine enemies beneath his feet, if sin, death, and hell, are now only parts of his empire, for he is Lord of all, and if thou art represented in him, and he is thy guarantee, thy sworn surety, it cannot be by any possibility that thou canst be condemned. While we have an Almighty Saviour, the redeemed must be saved; until omnipotence can fail, and the Almighty can be overcome, every blood-bought redeemed child of God is safe and secure for ever. Well did the apostle say of this "much more much more than dying and rising again from the dead, he lives at the right hand of God."
IV. And now I come to the fourth; and this also hath an encomium passed upon it "WHO ALSO MAKETH INTERCESSION FOR US." Our apostle, in the epistle to the Hebrews, puts a very strong encomium upon this sentence. What does he say upon it? A little more than he said about the others. The first one is, "Yea rather;" the second one is, "Much more." And what is the third? Remember the passage "He is able also to save them unto the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them." Lo! this is "to the uttermost;" what we thought, perhaps, to be the very smallest matter in the recital, is just the greatest. "To the very uttermost" he is able to save, seeing he ever lives to intercede the strongest argument of the whole four. Let us try to meet this question, "Why does Christ intercede to day in heaven?" A quaint old divine says, that "When God in his justice rose from his throne to smite the surety, he would make no concession whatever. The surety paid the debt." "Yet," said the Judge, "I will not come down to earth to receive the payment; bring it to me." And therefore the surety first groped through death to fight his way up to the eternal throne, and then mounting aloft by a glorious ascension, dragged his conquered foes behind him, and scattering mercies with both his hands, like Roman conquerors who scattered gold and silver coins in their triumph, entered heaven. And he came before his Father's throne and said, "There it is; the full price: I have brought it all." God would not go down to the earth for payment; it must be brought to him. This was pictured by the high priest of old. The high priest first took the blood, but that was not accepted. He did not bring the mercy-seat outside the veil, to carry the mercy-seat to the blood. No; the blood must he taken to the mercy-seat, God will not stoop when he is just; it must be brought to him. So the high priest takes off his royal robes, and puts on the garments of the minor priest, and goes within the veil, and sprinkles the blood upon the mercy-seat. Even so did our Lord Jesus Christ. He took the payment and bore it to God, took his wounds, his rent body, his flowing blood, up to his Father's very eyes, and there he spread his wounded hands and pleaded tor his people. Now here is a proof that the Christian cannot be condemned, because the blood is on the mercy-seat. It is not poured out on the ground; it is on the mercy-seat, it is on the throne; it speaks in the very ears of God, and it must of a surety prevail.
But, perhaps, the sweetest proof that the Christian cannot be condemned, is derived from the intercession of Christ, if we view it thus. Who is Christ, and who is it with whom he intercedes. My soul was in raptures when I mused yesterday upon two sweet thoughts; they are but simple and plain, but they were very interesting to me. I thought that had I to intercede for anybody, and do a mediating part, if I had to intercede for my brother with my father, I should feel I had got a safe case in hand. This is just what Jesus has to do. He has to intercede with his Father, and mark, with our Father too. There is a double precedent to strengthen our confidence that he must prevail. When Christ pleads, he does not plead with one who is stronger than him or inimical to him, but with his own Father. "My Father," saith he "it is my delight to do thy will and it is thy delight to do my will, I will then that they, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am." And then he adds this blessed argument, "Father those for whom I plead are thine own children, and thou lovest them as much as I do," yea, "thou hast loved them as thou hast loved me." Oh, it is no hard task to plead, when you are pleading with a Father for a brother, and when the advocate can say, "I go to my Father and to your Father, to my God and to your God." Suppose, my dear friends, that any of you were about to be tried for your life, do you think you could trust your advocacy with any man you know? I do really think I should be impatient to speak for myself. But my counsel would say, "Now just be quiet, my dear sir, you perhaps may plead more earnestly than I can, because it is for your own life, but then you do not understand the law, you will make some blunder or other, and commit yourself and spoil your own cause." But still I think if my life were in hazard, and I stood in the dock, and my counsel were pleading for me, my tongue would be itching to plead for myself, and I should want to get up and just say, "My lord, I am innocent, innocent as the babe newly born, of the crime laid to my charge. My hands have never been stained with the blood of any man." Oh! I think I could indeed plead if I were pleading for myself. But, do you know, I have never felt that with regard to Christ. I can sit down and let him plead, and I do not want to get up and conduct the pleading myself. I do feel that he loves me better than I love myself. My cause is quite safe in his hands, especially when I remember again that he pleads with my father, and that he is his own Father's beloved Son, and that he is my brother and such a brother a brother born for adversity.
"Give him, my soul, thy cause to plead,
Nor doubt the Father's grace."
It is enough; he has the cause, nor would we take it from his hand even if we could
"I know that safe with him remains,
Protected by his power
What I've committed to his hands
Till the decisive hour."
Well did the apostle say, "To the very uttermost he is able to save them that come unto God by him, because he ever lives to make intercession for them."
I have thus given you the four props and pillars of the believer's faith. And now my hearers, let me just utter this personal appeal to you. What would you give, some of you, if you could have such a hope as this? Here are four pillars. Oh unhappy souls, that cannot call one of these your own! The mass of men are all in uncertainty; they do not know what will become of them at last. They are discontented enough with life and yet they are afraid to die. God is angry with them, and they know it. Death is terrible to them; the tomb affrights them, they can scarcely understand the possibility of having any confidence this side of the grave. Ah, my hearers, what would you give if you could obtain this confidence? And yet it is within reach of every truly penitent sinner. If you are now led to repent of sin; if you will now cast yourself on the blood and righteousness of Christ, your eternal salvation shall be as sure as your present existence. He cannot perish who relies on Christ, and he who hath faith in Jesus may see the heavens pass away, but not God's Word. He may see the earth burned, but into the fire of hell he can never go. He is safe, and he must be saved, though all things pass away.
And now this brings me to the challenge. Fain would I picture the apostle as he appeared when he was uttering it. Hark! I hear a brave, strong voice, crying, "Who shall lay anything to my charge?" "Who is that? Paul. What! Paul, a Christian! I thought Christians were a humble, timid people." "They are so; but not when they are arrayed in the robes, and invested with the credentials of their Sovereign. They are lambs in the harmlessness of their dispositions, but they have the courage of lions when they defend the honours of their King. Again, I hear him cry, "Who shall lay anything to my charge?" and he casts his eyes to heaven. Is not the wretch smitten dead? Will not such presumption as this be avenged? Does he challenge purity to convict him of guilt? O Paul, the thunderbolt of God will smite thee! "No," says he, "it is God that justifieth, I am not afraid to face the highest heaven, since God has said that I am just. I can look upward without distressing fear." "But hush! repeat not that challenge." "Yes," saith he, "I will. Who is he that condemneth." And I see him look downwards; there lies the old dragon, bound in chains, the accuser of the brethren; and the apostle stares him in the face, and says, "Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect?" Why, Paul, Satan will bring thundering accusations against thee; art thou not afraid? "No," says he, "I can stop his mouth with this cry, 'It is Christ that died;' that will make him tremble, for he crushed the serpent's head in that victorious hour. And I can shut his mouth again 'yea rather, that is risen again,' for he took him captive on that day; I will add, 'who sitteth at the right hand of God.' I can foil him with that, for he sits there to judge him and to condemn him for ever. Once more I will appeal to his advocacy 'Who maketh intercession for us.' I can stop his accusation with this perpetual care of Jesus for his people." Again, cries Paul, "Who shall lay anything to my charge?" There lie the bodies of the saints he has martyred, and they cry from under the altar "O Lord! how long wilt thou not avenge thine own elect?" Paul says, "Who can lay anything to my charge?" And they speak not; "because," says Paul, "I have obtained mercy who was before a blasphemer, a persecutor, and injurious, that in me first he might show forth all longsuffering." "Christ hath died, yea rather, hath risen again." And now standing in the midst of men who mock, and boast, and jeer, he cries "Who can lay anything to my charge?" and no one dares to speak, for man himself cannot accuse; with all his malevolence, and acrimony, and malice, he can bring nothing against him; no charge can stand at the bar of God against the man whom he hath absolved through the merits of the death of Christ, and the power of his resurrection.
Is it not a noble thing for a Christian to be able to go where he may, and feel that he cannot meet his accuser; that wherever he may be, whether he walketh within himself in the chambers of conscience, or out of himself amongst his fellow men, or above himself into heaven, or beneath himself into hell, yet is he a justified one, and nothing can be laid to his charge. Who can condemn? Who can condemn? Yea, echo O ye skies; reverberate, ye caverns of the deep. Who can condemn when Christ hath died, hath risen from the dead, is enthroned on high, and intercedes?
But all things pass away. I see the heavens on fire, rolling up like a scroll I see sun, moon, and stars pale now their feeble light the earth is tottering; the pillars of heaven are rocking; the grand assize is commenced the herald angels descend, not to sing this time, but with thundering trumpets to proclaim, "He comes, he comes to judge the earth in righteousness, and the people in equity." What says the believer now? He says, "I fear not that assize, for who can condemn?" The great white throne is set, the books are opened, men are trembling, fiends are yelling, sinners are shrieking "Rocks hide us, mountains on us fall;" these make up an awful chorus of dismay. There stands the believer, and looking round on the assembled universe of men and angels, he cries, "Who shall lay anything to my charge?" and silence reigns through earth and heaven. Again he speaks, and fixing his eyes full on the Judge himself, he cries, "Who is he that condemneth?" And lo, there upon the throne of judgment sits the only one who can condemn; and who is that? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who sitteth on the right hand of God, who maketh intercession for him. Can those lips say, "Depart, ye cursed," to the man for whom they once did intercede? Can those eyes flash lightnings on the man whom once they saw in sin, and thence with rays of love they did lift him up to joy, and peace, and purity? No! Christ will not belie himself. He cannot reverse his grace; it cannot be that the throne of condemnation shall be exalted on the ruins of the cross. It cannot be that Christ should transform himself at last; but till he can do so, none can condemn. None but he hath a right to condemn, for he is the sole judge of right and wrong, and if he hath died shall he put us to death, and if he hath risen for us, shall he thrust us downwards to the pit, and if he hath reigned for us and hath been accepted for us, shall he cast us away, and if he hath pleaded for us, shall he curse us at the last? No! Come life, come death, my soul can rest on this. He died for me. I cannot be punished for my sin. He rose again, I must rise, and though I die yet shall I live again. He sits at the right hand of God, and so must I. I must be crowned and reign with him for ever. He intercedes, and he must be heard. He beckons me, and I must be brought at length to see his face, and to be with him where he is.
I will say no more; only may God give us all an interest in these four precious things. An angel's tongue might fail to sing their sweetness, or tell their brightness and their majesty; mine has failed but this is well. The excellency of the power is in the doctrine, and not in my preaching. Amen.
A Challenge and a Shield
Intended for Reading on Lord's-Day, January 24th, 1892,
C. H. SPURGEON,
At the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington
On Lord's-Day Evening, August 24th, 1890.
"Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died." Romans 8:34 .
Here are two very wonderful challenges thrown out by the apostle Paul. First, he boldly defies anyone to charge the chosen of God with sin: "Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect?" and then, even if any charges should be brought against them, he defies all our foes to secure an adverse verdict: "Who is he that condemneth?" This would be a very bold challenge even for a man who had been righteous from his youth up. If there had been a man, in the history of the world, who from his infancy had known God, and who had grown up serving him, devoting himself entirely to the cause of the Lord Christ; and if he had kept the commandments without fail, as far as man could judge, it would be a very hazardous thing even for him to say. "Who is he that condemneth?" For human righteousness is only human; being human, it is finite; and, being finite, it falls short somewhere or other. The best of men are but men at the best; to be a man is to be a fallen creature, and being fallen creatures, we cannot of ourselves perfectly please the thrice-holy Jehovah. In many things we all offend.
The man who uttered this challenge, "Who is he that condemneth?" and uttered it under the inspiration of God, did not, however, occupy the position of a sinless man. His early years had been spent in opposition to his Saviour. He had been exceedingly mad against the disciples of Christ, and had persecuted them even unto strange cities. In another place he calls himself the very chief of sinners; and yet it is this man who dares to ask the question, "Who is he that condemneth?" It is a bold, brave challenge; but it never could have been uttered by Paul if it had not been accompanied by the next sentence, "It is Christ that dies." First, he flings down the gauntlet, and challenges a battle, crying, "Who is he that condemneth?" And then he holds up a shield so broad that he is completely concealed behind it, and every enemy is defeated in the conflict, because "It is Christ that dies." Happy shall you and I be if, though covered with sin, though guilty and unclean, we nevertheless shall have faith to believe in the Christ that dies, a faith so strong, and confident that we shall dare to stand both now, and at the judgment-seat of Christ, and say, "Who is he that condemneth?" May we have this faith on our dying bed, when the pulse is faint and feeble, and heart and flesh begin to fail! May we still, between the very jaws of death, have solid confidence in God, and dare to ask for the presence of men and devils, too, "Who is the that condemneth?" being made bold to do so because we have believed in the Christ that died.
Paul has, in this case, only one answer to the question, "Who is he that condemneth?" He meets it by the blessed fact that "It is Christ that died." I recommend that we should, each one of us, have but one hope of salvation. As long as we have half-a-dozen, we have half-a-dozen doubtful ones: but when it comes to only one, and that such a sufficient one as the truth that "It is Christ that died," we have a well-founded hope, in which we may rest with confidence. Such a hope as this is "an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast"; and the man who has this anchor on board the barque of his life can never suffer spiritual shipwreck. When the Emperor Charles the Fifth went to war with Francis the First, King of Naples, he sent a herald to him, declaring war in the name of the Emperor of Germany, King of Castille, King of Aragon, King of Naples, King of Sicily, and he went on with many more titles, giving his sovereign all the honours that were his due. When the herald of Francis the First took up the gage of battle, he would not be outdone in the list of honours, so he said, "I take up the challenge in the name of Francis the First, King of France; Francis the First, King of France; Francis the First, King of France; Francis the First, King of France; Francis the First, King of France." He just repeated his master's name and office as many times as the other gentleman had titles. So it is a grand thing, whenever Satan comes and begins to accuse you, just to say, "Christ has died, Christ has died." If any confront you with other confidences, still keep you to this almighty please, "Christ has died." If one says, "I was christened, and confirmed," answer him by saying, "Christ has died." Should another say, "I was baptized an adult," let your confidence remain the same: "Christ has died." When another says, "I am a sound, orthodox Presbyterian," you stick to this solid ground, "Christ has died." And if still another says, "I am a red-hot Methodist," answer him in the self-same way: "Christ has died." Whatever may be the confidences of others, and whatever may be your own, put them all away, and keep to this one declaration, "It is Christ that died." There is enough in that one truth to include all that is excellent in the others, and to answer all the accusations that may be brought against you. "Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died." I would put the trumpet to my lips while I preach, and sound out this one note, praying that it may be a death-blast to all accusations that can be brought against believers in Christ.
I want you to notice that Paul does not even rest his confidence as to the believers' safety upon the fact that they are able to say, "We have trusted in Christ; we have loved Christ; we have served Christ." He allows nothing to mar the glory of this one blessed fact, "It is Christ that died." If he adds anything at all, it is still something about that same Christ "yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us."
This is a subject upon which I delight to speak; for here is all my hope and confidence. In these words I see first, a challenge to all comers: "Who is he that condemneth?" Secondly, I see here, a remedy for all sin. If any take up the gage of battle, and say, "We condemn you," we shall have this for our complete answer to every one, "It is Christ that died." And lastly, I see here, an answer to every accusation arising from sin. "Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died."
I. Here is A CHALLENGE TO ALL COMERS. By the grace of God, the apostle stands defiantly in the midst of all the believer's foes, and flings down the gauntlet before them all. The encounter to which he challenges them is not to be a mere tilt in a tournament, but a battle for life or death. Who enters the lists against the believer? First comes Satan; then the world; then conscience; and last of all the law of God. Over them all the believer triumphs. "It is Christ that died," becomes both his sword and his shield; and when the dread conflict is over, and even while it is raging, he sings, "Thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."
The first who takes up the believer's challenge is Satan. Some do not believe in the personality of the devil; but I am as sure of it as I am of the personality of his children who deny their own father. Those of us who have passed through any spiritual conflicts know that Satan is a terribly real personage. He attacks us on the right hand and on the left, from beneath and from above. Very dexterously, with infernal malice, he endeavours to condemn the child of God. It is his business to be the accuser of the brethren, and he carries it on with very great vigour. He knows enough of our conduct to be able, truthfully, to bring to our memory much that might condemn us. When this fails, he never sticks at an accusation because it does not happen to be true. Being the father of lies, he will accuse us of things of which we are not guilty, or, when it suits his purpose, he will exaggerate our guilt, and make it appear worse than it is, in order that he may drive us to despair. There is only one way to successfully resist the onset of the arch-enemy; but that one way ensures certain victory. Up with your shield, and say, "Yes, it is all true, or it might have been, for my heart is so evil that it would have led me to any sin; but 'It is Christ that died.'" This will defeat your great adversary.
Suppose Satan should come to anyone who is seeking the Saviour, and say, "You will never find the Lord; you have sinned beyond all limit; you are too far gone for mercy to reach you; you must perish;" it will be your highest wisdom to give him this one reply, "It is Christ that died." That short sentence completely answers to all his accusations. There is no terror to him like the terror of the cross. He gloated over the crucifixion once, and he has been distressed and terrified by it ever since. Tell him that you are a sinner, and that if he should paint your sin in its blackest colours, you would not even then despair, for it would still be true that Christ "is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him." Christ has died, and there is more than enough virtue in his death to atone for the blackest or most crimson sins ever committed by men. Close beside the bottomless pit of our iniquity stands the cross whereon Christ has made recompense for all our faults; and when we set Christ over against the gulf of our sin, we see that he far transcends it. Sin is great, but Christ is greater. His precious blood takes away every stain of guilt. Take care that you do not answer Satan with any other argument than this: "It is Christ that died." Again and again let this blow, from the sword of the Spirit, descend upon him, "It is Christ that died," and you will soon be acclaimed the victor over your greatest foe. In this way "Resist the devil, and he will flee from you."
When you have overcome Satan, the world will come forth to attack you, and to dispute your claim to be numbered amongst the people of God. As long as you go with evil companions, they will applaud you. You will be "a jolly good fellow" while you join them in their folly; but when you give up their ways, their habits, and their society, then they will say that you are melancholy, and no longer fit company for such, "hail fellows, well met", and they will turn away from you. If you follow after Christ, and find eternal life, when they hear of it, they will sneer at you, and bring up all your past life against you. They will say, "What! you converted? You are as bad as any one of us. What! you a saint? Well, certainly, you made no pretension to it six months ago; you were about as black as a man could be." The world will begin to throw in the believer's teeth all his former iniquities, when he sets forth with the cry, "Who is he that condemneth?" Tell the world, once for all, that it may condemn you, if it pleases, for it condemned the Lord Jesus long ago, and say that, therefore, you think but little of the condemnation of your fellow-men. Tell the men of the world that it is right that they condemn you for all your past life, for doubtless you have been what they say you are, you will not dispute that fact; but tell them also that what Paul wrote to the Christians at Corinth is true of you, "Ye are washed, ye are sanctified, ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God." Tell even them that Christ died. If they say that Christ's death does not repair the injury you have done to your fellow-men, tell them that, as far as you can, you mean to make restitution to them; and wherein you have done the world an ill turn, let them know that your Master has done it more good than you ever did it harm. The influence of his holy religion has made abundant atonement to the world for any wrong that you ever did to it. He has rendered more of good to men than you ever rendered of evil. In all your answers to the accusations of the world, take care that you base your hopes concerning forgiven sin upon the death of Christ. The world will, before long, understand what you mean by saying that Christ has made atonement for your sin; and, perhaps, here and there, a few of those who ridiculed you will be inclined to know more about this matter, and in private may come and ask you how the death of Christ has saved your soul. At any rate, meet the attack of the world as you met the attack of Satan, with this weapon only: "It is Christ that died," and you will be "more than conquerors through him that loved us."
The third foe that will seek to condemn you, and one that you have great cause to fear, is your own conscience; but the weapon which has discomfited your other foes will also avail you against this one. Still, this foe is fierce and terrible. Let me feel the worm that never dies rather than the stings of an offended conscience, if indeed this is not itself, "the worm that dieth not." Fire such as martyrs felt at the stake were but a plaything compared with the flames of a burning conscience. We read that, when David had cut off Saul's skirt. "It came to pass afterward that David's heart smote him." It is an ugly knock that a man's heart gives when it smites him. There is no getting away from yourself, and when you yourself condemn yourself, then you are condemned indeed. You go to your bed, but your conscience is there, and it will not sleep. You go out to your pleasures, but your conscience goes with you, and spoils your mirth. You would forget your guilt in your daily business, but your conscience calls out at such a rate that there is no hearing anything else. Thunderbolts and tornadoes are nothing in force compared with the charges of a guilty conscience.
What is to be done when a man condemns himself? Can he still be valiant, and maintain his ground, calling out, "Who is he that condemneth?" Yes, blessed be God, even this foe can be overcome by the weapon the believer wields in the power of God, for he can tell conscience, as he told his former opponents, "It is Christ that died." It is a wonderful story this old, old story, of Jesus and his love to guilty sinners; let me tell it once again. God so loved me that he willed to forgive me; but for the sake of the world which he governs righteously he could not forgive me without an atonement for my sin. It would not have been consistent with his justice for him to pass by my sin. What was to be done? His own dear Son came, and stood in my place, and took my sin upon him. Knowing that my sin deserved death, he willingly died, the Just for the unjust, that he might bring me to God. God is well pleased with the death of Christ as the vindication of his justice, and for Christ's sake he says to me, "I have blotted out as a thick cloud thy transgressions, and as a cloud thy sins: return unto me; for I have redeemed thee." Tell conscience that Christ has died for your sins, according to the Scriptures, and it will be perfectly satisfied: it will not go to sleep, but it will use its voice for other purposes, and it will no longer seek to condemn you.
There is still another foe that answers your challenge, "Who is he that condemneth?" Forth it steps into the arena, and we behold the law of God. What shall we say to that? The law of God says, "Thou shalt," and we have not done what it commands. The law of God says, "Thou shalt not," and we have done exactly what we were forbidden to do. Only too true is that confession, "We have left undone those things which we ought to have done, and we have done those things which we ought not to have done, and there is no health in us." The law condemned us in former days, and would again overthrow us if we ventured to meet it unarmed. It must condemn sin, for "the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just and good." But when it has attacked us, and done its worst, there comes in the majesty of divine sovereignty. God is King over all, and able to govern the world according to his own mind, which mind is always infinitely just. He decrees that Christ Jesus, the Well-Beloved, even his own other self, who is one with him, should come into the world and bear the sin of man, make amends to the injured honour of God, and magnify the law before the eyes of the whole universe. If the guilty sinner dies, the law is honoured; but if God shall assume human flesh, and die for that sinner, the law is even more honoured. When Christ Jesus took away our guilt, and "his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree," justice was more terribly displayed than when guilty sinners sink to hell. We are only creatures after all, and when we are condemned, we sink down into destruction, and suffer for our sin; but he is the eternal God, and when he takes our nature, and cries, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" and bleeds his life away in agony, then is the law of God abundantly honoured. Therefore do we say to that law, "Law, thou hast nothing to do with me; I am 'not under law, but under grace.' My Substitute has kept the law on my behalf. He has borne the penalty which I ought to have borne, and I am clear. I am now dead to the law. I have died in Christ, and my life now is that of a child of God, for I have been lifted to that high estate by my redeeming Lord."
There is now nobody left that I know of, that can condemn us, except the Judge; and if we have escaped our opponents Satan, the world, conscience, and the law, we need not fear to stand even at God's judgment seat. The Judge is now on our side; and none of us need fear anybody's condemnation if the Judge does not condemn us. You come into court with your case, and the counsel on the other side condemns you. When he sits down, he has done his worst; and his witnesses also condemn you; but if the verdict is in your favour, and the judge says that you leave the court with a stainless character, you do not care about the condemnation of others. Now, there is but one Judge the man Christ Jesus. It is he that died for us. He cannot bring us in debt to divine justice; for in his own hands and feet are the nail-prints, which are the receipts of justice in full settlement of all claims against us. He has paid all we owed and he will vindicate his own death, and claim for the travail of his soul its due reward, which is the forgiveness and the salvation of all guilty men who have come and put their trust in him. Wherefore, since it is only our Judge who can condemn us, and since he is the very Person who has paid our debt for us, and put our sin away, we dare to repeat again, with additional emphasis, our ringing challenge to all the universe, "Who is he that condemneth?"
"Who now accuseth them,
For whom their Ransom died?
Who now shall those condemn
Whom God hath justified?
Captivity is captive led;
For Jesus liveth, who was dead."
In the second place, I see in our text A REMEDY FOR ALL SIN. On this I shall speak very briefly. We stand boldly in front of all our foes, because we know that we are free from the evil which once condemned us: it is all gone. Our confidence is therefore strong, and it is so because Christ's dying has removed all sin from all believers.
"Look," says one, "there is sin. It is true that you are a believer, but you have sinned often, for years, in all sorts of way." Yes, as we look, we must confess that it is true, there is the sin. But yonder is the Saviour,, and he is called Jesus, "For he shall save his people from their sins." He has come on purpose to put away our sin, and when he died, he made an end of it. The answer, therefore, to the statement, "There is sin," is this, "Christ has died."
Another says, "Yes, but then you have been specially guilty, there is great sin against a great God. You have continued in it, and persisted in it." True, we do confess that accusation; but then there is a great sacrifice, for he that came to save us, laid down his life for us; and greater sacrifice than this could never be. "Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree." This is the grandest message of the gospel, that "Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures." The apostle Paul puts this "first of all", and every true preacher of the good tidings of salvation will follow his example. We have, indeed, in the death of Christ, a great atonement; an atonement so great, that none can measure its height and depth, its length and breadth. The glory of the Person who died, the anguish and the suffering he endured, the love that moved him to give himself up to death for us, all make us see how great the atonement is. There is great sin; that we know only too well: but we also rejoice in the knowledge that there is a great atonement to cover all our sin, "For it is Christ that died."
"But, interrupts another, "God must punish sin. It is not optional with him, it is an inevitable law of the universe. Transgress the law, and punishment will follow." It is even so; but listen: God must punish sin, and God has punished sin. He took the great mass of the sins of believers, and piled the whole on Christ; and when he hung upon the cross as his people's Substitute, even his Father hid his face from him. He died, the Prince of glory died the ignominious felon's death, in the room and place and stead of guilty men. God has punished sin; and when men say, "God must punish sin," we answer, "Sin has been punished, for Christ has died."
Not only is our sin punished, but the sin is gone. If my friend over yonder has paid my debt, it is gone. I owe no man anything after the debt has been paid, whether by myself, or by somebody else; and if Christ took our sin upon himself, and suffered for it, the sins for which he suffered are gone, plunged as in a shoreless sea, drowned in the Redeemer's blood. They are gone, and gone for ever!
"He breaks the power of cancelled sin,
He sets the prisoners free;
His blood can make the foulest clean,
His blood availed for me."
And that my sins are gone is further clear, for he rose again from the dead. "It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again." If he had not paid the debt, he would have remained in the prison of the grave; but he rose again. He has discharged the debt; and we have still another assurance that it is all gone, for the apostle goes on to speak of Christ "who is even at the right hand of God." He would not be there if he were a debtor. If Christ owed anything to the justice of God by reason of his suretyship engagements, he would not be at God's right hand: but he owes nothing whatever. Both the sinner and the Surety are now free. The debt is paid, and Christ is at the right hand of God. And as to our weaknesses and infirmities, he is there to plead for his people: "Who also maketh intercession for us." He ever liveth to secure effectually the eternal salvation of every soul for whom he died, even for every one who puts his trust in him. Are you among the number? Oh, if you, my dear hearers, knew the joy and peace that would come to you if you but trusted in the doctrine of substitution, you would not rest until you were able to say, "Christ was in my place, that I might stand in his place: my sins were laid on him, that his righteousness might be girded on me." If you understood how delightful it is to get out of yourself into Christ, and to live because Jesus died, you would not linger and doubt, and fear, but you would say, "If it be so, I will come to Christ, and I will trust him, that with you I may say, 'The chastisement of our peace was upon him, and with his stripes we are healed.'" This, then is God's great remedy for sin: "It is Christ that died."
III. Now I want your attention while I try to show that this blessed sentence, "It is Christ that died," is AN ANSWER TO EVERY ACCUSATION which, under any circumstances, may arise from sin. We have seen that Christ's death enables us to conquer our foes, and frees us from our sins. It also delivers us from every fear and doubt. The death of Christ gives us a full salvation. I cannot mention all the accusations which sin makes, but I will mention a great many of them very quickly, and show how the man who believes in Christ, the dying Christ, the risen Christ, the reigning Christ, is able to meet and overcome them.
Sometimes the accusing whisper comes to your ear, "You have sinned against a great God. It will be a terrible thing to have to answer to the great and mighty God for having so sinned." I will make no answer to that accusation but this: "It is Christ that died." Christ himself, the great and mighty God is the "Interpreter, one among a thousand", able to stand between me and God. It is true that God is great, but he cannot ask for more than divine righteousness, and in Christ I present that. Nay, his law never asked for more than human righteousness divine. The law has, therefore, more than it asked for, and I am thus not afraid of the anger of the great God. It is the mighty God himself who came here to be a Man, and to die in our stead, for is it not written that God hath bought his people with his own blood? We read of "the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood." It is a strong expression, but as it is Scriptural, we cannot alter it; and we have no wish to do so. Oh, beloved, if we have a God for our Redeemer, though our sins against God be very many, and though they be very black and foul, yet Christ's infinite sacrifice meets them all.
"Love of God, so pure and changeless,
Blood of God, so rich and free,
Grace of God, so strong and boundless,
Magnify them all in me,
"You have robbed God of his glory," another voice seems to say. "You know how you used to blaspheme his name." Or, perhaps, you were more polite; you did not curse and swear, but the accusation comes: "You argued against God and his Son, and against his blessed gospel; you have robbed him of his glory." To that I give the same answer, "It is Christ that died." I know that I have robbed God of his glory, but Christ has brought all the glory back again. I see "the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." A dying Saviour brings more glory to the love of God, ay, and to the justice of God, than any mortal sinner could have done; more than any perfect man, though he lived throughout eternity, could have done. Thus, that doubt is answered by the same all-powerful argument: "It is Christ that died."
"Ah!" says the accuser "but you sinned against light and knowledge. You cannot deny it. When you sinned, you were not like the common people of the street, who know no better. You had a godly father; you had a Christian mother; you were trained in the fear of God. You read your Bible in early youth, and you went astray with a vengeance; for when you sinned, you knew that you were sinning, and yet you transgressed." Yes, I know that it was so; and Christ, to meet my sin against knowledge brings a sacrifice offered with his own full knowledge of all that it involved.
"This was compassion like a God,
That when the Saviour knew
The price of pardon was his blood,
His pity ne'er withdrew."
"Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands," poured out water, and began to wash his disciples' feet, and then went, with full knowledge of all that was before him, to pour out his blood to wash their souls from guilt. In the midst of his agony on the tree, he still had full understanding concerning his sacrifice: "Knowing that all things were now accomplished," he bowed his head, and died. Thus my ill knowledge is met by the great and heavenly knowledge with which he went about the work of offering a complete atonement in my place and stead. "It is Christ that died."
"Ay, ay!" says yet another accuser; "but you have sinned with delight. You took a pleasure in it. You were not as some who were mere drudges to sin. You drank it down like sweet wine, and you could not have too much of it." Ah! It is so; but then my Lord Christ delighted to come to be my Saviour. In the volume of the Book it is written of him: "I delight to do thy will, O my God! Yea, thy law is within my heart.: I took pleasure in sin; but, "he, for the joy that was set before him, endured the cross, despising the shame." Therefore, over against my delight in sin, I set his delight in presenting to the Father his perfect righteousness and his all-sufficient substitutionary sacrifice: "It is Christ that died."
I do not seem to want to preach. I want to sit down, and suck all the sweetness out of this blessed truth: "It is Christ that died." Ah! But another bitter taunt comes to me, "You have sinned in spirit. You not only sinned with your body, with your eyes, your lips, your hands; but you have sinned in imagination and desire very horribly." Ah, brethren! Here we must bow our heads. All manner of evil things we commit in our thoughts; sin runs to riot in our spirit. Well, we confess that too; but then Christ suffered in his spirit. The sufferings of his soul were the very soul of his sufferings. He not only groaned in body, when beaten by the Roman soldiers, and pierced with nails and thorns; but in soul he was overwhelmed by exceeding heaviness, and by the desertion of his God. To atone for the sin of my soul there is the sorrow of his soul; if I poured out my soul in sin, he poured out his soul unto death, and he was numbered with the transgressors. "It is Christ that died."
If the black thought then comes up, "Ah! but you have aforetime refused Christ. Many times you put him away. You quenched conscience. You went to the house of God, not to pray, but to laugh. Ay, and when Christ would have pulled you away, you held hard on to your sin! You long rejected Christ." Yes; but I set over against that the fact that he always would have me. He loved me to the death; and albeit that he foresaw and foreknew that I should reject him, yet he would not take "No" for answer from me; but he resolved that his true grace should conquer me truly, and make me willing in the day of his power.
Still the accuser continues reminding us of our past life: "you have trusted in others, and turned away from Christ; you went everywhere before you came to him." Did you ever want to hire a horse in a market-town? You went to some place, and asked the price, and thought it too high; then you went away to half-a-dozen other stablekeepers, and could not do any better, so you came back to the first; but he, displeased with you, very possibly said, "I do not want your custom. You have been to everybody else; you may go to them now." I have known a surly man act in that way; but Christ never turns us away because we only come to him when others fail us. Many have gone round the world to look for a saviour other than the Lord Jesus Christ, and they have only come to him when all others have failed them. It is astonishing where men will go to seek salvation. Some go to Rome, and some to Oxford; some go I know not where. They seek in vain; for there is no Saviour to be found, except at Calvary; and after you have made the circuit of the globe, and compassed heaven and hell to find another way of salvation, you will have to come back to Christ. Blessed be his name, he will not refuse you even then, if you will but believe him! The proof of love to the uttermost is that "It is Christ that died."
But I feel a darkness coming down over my spirit, and in the darkness there is a fiendish voice that says, "But you have committed unknown sins, sins that nobody else knows, and there have been sins which you yourself did not know. Hidden in your heart there is a damning spot which your eye has not discovered." Here comes in this blessed word taken out of the Greek litany, "By thine unknown sufferings." It is almost as good as Scripture; for Scripture leads us to think of the sufferings of Christ as an unfathomable deep. Who can tell us what Christ's suffering really was? It goes into the region of things unknown; it goes beyond the knowable; for flesh and blood will never be able to comprehend what Jesus suffered when the great flood of human sin came rushing down upon him, and filled his spirit to the brim. "It is Christ that died." My unknown sins are buried in the unknown deeps of his almighty sacrifice.
Ah! but another thought comes up, "You know that he died; but then you have slain your Lord. You had a share in his death. You know that every sinner is guilty of the murder of Christ." I know it; I know it to my shame and confusion; yet do I live by him I slew, I am saved by him I murdered; and I glory in the grace that makes such a miracle of mercy possible."
"With pleasing grief and mournful joy
My spirit now is filled,
That I should such a life destroy,
Yet live by him I killed."
Whether it was by mine or by any other wicked hands, yet it was by "the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God," that Jesus died, in the stead of all who believe in him: I believe in him, therefore he has died for me. He died for his murderers, for those that mocked and insulted him; for he commanded his disciples to begin preaching the gospel at Jerusalem, where they crucified him, to preach it even to those who had hounded him to his doom. O dear friends, what comfort lies in this word, "It is Christ that died."!
"Ah!" says the accuser, but you are still sinful. What if Christ died for all your past sins? What about your present sinfulness?" Well, about that, I have this to say, "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." I believe that, when Christ died, he took all the sins of all his people, past, present, and to come, and when the whole mass was condensed into one bitter cup, he drank it all up.
"At one tremendous draught of love,"
leaving not so much as a single drop of wormwood or gall for any to drink who put their trust in him. Come, my hearer, if what I say to you be true (and I will answer for its truth at God's great judgment-seat), then I pray you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ; for "he that believeth in him shall not be ashamed, nor confounded, world without end." I am in this boat myself. If it sinks, I am lost; but it will not sink, for the Plot of the Galilean Lake is on board. Come in with me, let us sail together to glory. I will not say, "Let us sink or swim together," for there is no sinking to a soul that rests in Christ. This is a good seaworthy vessel: "It is Christ that died." God has accepted Christ in the place of his people; and you, accepting Christ to stand in your stead, shall find that your sin is put away, that his righteousness is yours, and that you are "accepted in the Beloved." I have once more preached the gospel to you as plainly and as simply as I can. Whether you will receive it, or not, must rest with yourselves. May God the Holy Spirit lead you to trust in "Christ that died"! God bless you! Amen.
PORTION OF SCRIPTURE READ BEFORE SERMON Romans 8:26-39 .
HYMNS FROM "OUR OWN HYMN BOOK" 537, 553, 297.
LETTER FROM MR. SPURGEON.
MY DEAR READERS, Your weekly preacher is still weakly; but though his progress towards strength is slow, it has been steadily maintained during the late trying weather. When we consider how many have died, your chaplain is very grateful to be alive, to be able to send forth his usual discourse from the press, and to be, as he hopes, half an inch nearer to his pulpit. Happy will he count himself when he is able to preach with the living voice.
Would it not be well for all the churches to hold special meetings for prayer concerning the deadly scourge of influenza? The suggestion has, no doubt, been made by others; but I venture to press it upon Christians of all denominations that they may, in turn, urge all their pastors to summon such meetings. Our nation is fast learning to forget God. In too many instances ministers of religion has propagated doubt, and the result is a general hardening of the popular feeling, and a greatly-increased neglect of public worship. It is written, "When thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness." Let us, who believe in inspired Scripture, unite our prayers that it may be even so. With a court and a nation in deepest mourning, it is a time to cry mightily unto the Lord.
I have been able again to revise a sermon without assistance. It is upon Psalms 105:37 ; and, if the Lord will, it will be published next week.
Yours, in deep sympathy with all the sick and the bereaved,
C. H. SPURGEON
Menton, Jan. 17, 1892.
Intended for Reading on Lord's-Day, November 22, 1896,
C. H. SPURGEON,
At the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington.
On Lord's-day Evening, November 7th, 1886.
"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 creatures, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." Romans 8:38-39 .
A CHRISTIAN BROTHER was asked, one day, "To what persuasion do you belong?" He parried the question at first, for he did not think that it was very important for him to answer it. So the enquirer asked him again, "But what is your persuasion?" "Well," said he, "if you must know my persuasion, this is it, '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.'" I also am of that persuasion. Somebody says, "That is Calvinistic doctrine." If you like to call it so, you may; but I would rather that you made the mistake of the good old Christian woman who did not know much about these things, and who said that she herself was "a high Calvarist." She liked "high Calvary" preaching, and so do I; and it is "high Calvary" doctrine that I find in this passage. He who hung on high Calvary was such a lover of the souls of men that from that glorious fact I am brought to this blessed persuasion, "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."
Paul was fully persuaded of this great truth. Did he not learn it by revelation? I doubt not that God at first supernaturally revealed it to him; but yet, in order that he might be still more sure of it, God was pleased to reveal it to him again and again, till his trembling heart was more and more completely persuaded of it. It may have seemed to him, as it does to some of us, to be almost too good to be true, and therefore the Holy Spirit so shed abroad this truth in the apostle's mind that he yielded to it, and said, "I am persuaded." He may have thought, with a great many in the present day, that it was necessary to caution believers against falling from grace, and to be a little dubious about their final perseverance in the ways of God; but, if he ever had such fears, he gave them up, and said, "I am, yes, I am persuaded that nothing can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
Beside that, I suppose that the apostle was persuaded through reasoning with himself from other grand truths. He said to himself, "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." He argued that, if the death of Christ reconciled God's enemies to himself, the life of Christ will certainly preserve safely those who are the friends of God; that was good argument, was it not?
I have no doubt that Paul also argued with himself from the nature of the work of grace, which is the implantation of a living and incorruptible seed which liveth and abideth for ever. Christ spoke of it as the putting of a well into us, and he said, "The water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life." And as Paul thought of the nature of this new life, he felt persuaded that it would not die; he was convinced that he would never be separated from the love of God.
Moreover, I doubt not that Paul remembered the doctrine of the union of believers with Christ, and he said to himself, "Shall Christ lose the members of his body? Shall a foot or an arm be lopped off from him? Shall an eye of Christ be put out in darkness?" And he could not think that it could be so; as he turned the matter over mentally, he said, "If they be indeed one with Christ, I am persuaded that nothing can separate them from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
Now, dear brethren, if I could extend the time for this service to four-and-twenty hours, I might give you all the arguments, or the most of the arguments, which support the blessed truth of the nonseparation of believers from the love of Christ. As for my own convictions, I never can doubt it, I am fully persuaded concerning it. This truth seems to me to have struck its roots into all the other truths of Scripture and to have twisted itself among the granite rocks which are the very foundation of our hope. I, too, am persuaded by a thousand arguments, and persuaded beyond all question, that nothing shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Yet more, I fancy that. Paul had been persuaded of this truth by his own experience. He had endured persecution, imprisonment, famine, shipwreck, he had suffered from scorn and scandal, pain of body, and depression of spirit. "A night and a day," said he, "I have been in the deep," and I will warrant you that many a night and many a day he had been in spiritual deeps; yet he had survived them all, and he could testify to the faithfulness of his God, and say at the end, as the issue of his sufferings, "I am persuaded that nothing in creation is able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
Thus he was persuaded of this truth by revelation, by argument, and by experience; and I should like you to notice that he was not only persuaded that none of the powers he mentions will separate us from the love of Christ, but that they cannot do it. He puts it thus, they are not able to separate us. Yet these are the strongest forces imaginable death, life, angels, principalities, powers, the dreary present and the darker future. Paul summons all our foes, and sets them in battle array against us, and when he has added up the total of all their legions, he says that he is persuaded that they shall not be able shall not be able, mark you, to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
I. In this discourse I am only going to handle the topic of Paul's persuasion. Paul says, "I am persuaded," and it is implied that, first, HE IS PERSUADED OF THE LOVE OF GOD. He could not be persuaded that nothing could separate us from a thing which did not exist, so he is persuaded, first of all, of the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Come, my brothers and sisters, are you persuaded of the love of God? Are you intelligently persuaded not only that God is love, but that God loves you? Are you fully persuaded of the love of God, the love of the Father who chose us, because he would choose us, for nothing but his love; the love of Jesus, the Son of God, who bowed himself from his glory that he might redeem us from our shame; the love of the Holy Ghost who has quickened us, and who comes to dwell in us that we may by-and-by dwell with him? Are you persuaded of this love of God to you? Happy man, happy woman, who can truly say, "I am persuaded that God loves me. I have thought it over, I have fully considered it, I have-thoroughly weighed it, and I have come to this persuasion, that the love of God is shed abroad in my heart."
Then, next, it is the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. That is, his great love in giving his dear Son to die for us. I am not going to expatiate upon this wondrous theme. The thoughts are too great to need to be spun out, or you can do that in your private meditations. Is it not a wonderful thing that God loved me, and loved you, (let us individualize it,) that God so loved us that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him might not perish, but have everlasting life? He gave his Son for you; and for me. It is as though one bartered a diamond to buy a common pebble from the brook, or gave away an empire to purchase some foul thing not worthy of being picked off a dunghill. Yet we are persuaded that he did it, and that the love of God is most clearly to be seen in the faot that he gave his Son Jesus Christ to die instead of us.
And, once more, we are persuaded of the love of God to all who are in Christ. We believe in Christ, and so we come to be in Christ by our believing; and now we are persuaded that, to as many as receive Christ, to them gives he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name, and therefore all who believe in Jesus are beloved of the Lord, not because of anything good in them, but for Jesus Christ's sake. He loves Christ so much that he loves us notwithstanding our unloveliness, because Jesus Christ has covered us with his robe of righteousness, and he has said, "My Father, consider them as lost in me, hidden in me, made one with me." And the Father says, "Yes, my beloved Son, I will love them; Jesus, I will love them for thy sake."
So we are persuaded of these three things: first, that God loves us; next, that God has shown his love to us by the gift of his Son Jesus Christ; and then, that his divine love comes streaming down to us because we are in Christ, and are loved for his sake. I want you, dear friends, to get this persuasion into you. If you are not so persuaded, here is honey, but you do not taste it; here is light, but you do not see it; here is heaven, but you do not enter the pearly gate. Beloved, if you would be saved, you must be persuaded of this truth; and when you are persuaded of it, you will know the joy of it.
II. That leads me to pass on to the second thing of which Paul was persuaded. It does not appear on the surface of the text; but if you look a minute, you will see that PAUL WAS PERSUADED THAT HE AND ALL THE SAINTS ARE JOINED TO GOD BY LOVE. Otherwise, he could not have said, "I am persuaded that things present and things to come shall not be able to separate us." We must be joined together, or else the apostle would not talk of separation. There is a picture for you to contemplate, God and ourselves joined together by the bonds of love in Christ Jesus. God loves Christ, and we love Christ, so we have a meeting-place; we love the same blessed Person, and that brings us to love one another.
There are two things that join God and a believer together; the first is, God's love to the believer, and the second is, the believer's love to God. It is as when two dear friends lovingly embrace with their arms around each other's neck, there is a double link binding them together. Or, to come nearer the truth, it is as when a mother puts her arms around the neck of her little child, and her child puts its tiny arms about the mother's neck; that is how we and God are joined together.
Are you persuaded that it is so with you, dear friends? Can you each one say, as you sit in your pew to-night, "God loves me, and that loved joins him to me;" and "I love God, and that love joins me to him"? I believe that the apostle was persuaded that these two blessed links existed between him and the great God, and he was persuaded that neither of those two links would ever be broken. God could not withdraw from Paul his embrace of love, and Paul felt that, by divine grace, he could not withdraw his embrace of love from his God; but he must have been first of all persuaded that both those embraces were there. Are you, my dear hearer, persuaded that it is so with you? Are your arms about the neck of the great Father? Are the great Father's loving arms about your neck? Be persuaded of that truth, and you are indeed happy men and happy women; what more could you wish to say than to be able truthfully to say that?
III. Now, to come to what is evidently in the text, and to dwell upon it for a little while, Paul being thus persuaded that there was a love of God, and that there was a union through love between the soul and its God, now says that HE IS PERSUADED THAT NOTHING CAN EVER BREAK THOSE BONDS.
He begins by mentioning some of the things that are supposed to separate, and the first is, death. It sends a shiver through some when we begin to speak of death, and the bravest man who ever lived may well tremble at the thought that he must soon meet the king of terrors; but, brothers and sisters, if Christ loves us, and we love Christ, we may well be persuaded that death will not break the union which exists between us. I have lately seen one or two of our friends almost in the very article of death; I think that they cannot long survive, but I have come out from their bed-chamber greatly cheered by their holy peacefulness and joy. I can see that death does not break the believer's peace; it seems rather to strengthen it. I can see that there is no better place than the brink of Jordan, after all. I have seen the brethren, and the sisters, too, sit with their feet in the narrow stream, and they have been singing all the while. Death has not abated a single note of their song; nay, more, I have known some of them who are like the fabled swan which is said never to sing till it dies. Some of them who were rather heavy and sad of spirit in their days of health have grown joyous and glad as they have neared the eternal kingdom. There is nothing about death that the believer should construe it into a fear that it will separate him from the love of Christ. Christ loved you when he died; he will love you when you die. It was after death remember that, it was after death that his heart poured out the tribute of blood and water by which we have the double cure; see, then, how he loves us in death and after death. There is nothing about death that should make Christ cease to love us; our bodies will be under his protection and guardian care, and our souls shall be with Christ, which is "far better" than being anywhere else. Do not, therefore, fear death. In the days when this Epistle was written, the saints had to die very cruel deaths by fire, by the cross, by wild beasts in the amphitheatre; they were sawn asunder, they wandered about in sheep skins and goat skins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented; yet they never feared death. It is very wonderful how the Church of Christ seems always to brighten up at the idea of death by martyrdom. The grandest, most heroic, days in Christendom were the days of the Pagan persecutions, wined, to be a Christian, meant to be doomed to die. In English history, the days of Mary, when the saints at Smithfield bore witness for Christ at the stake, were grand days; and in Madagascar, did you ever read a more thrilling story than the record of the bravery of those Christian men and women who suffered the tyrant's cruelty? And at the present moment, in Central Africa, where Bishop Hannington has been put to death, we hear that there is an edict for the killing of Christians, yet hundreds of black men come forward to confess that they are followers of Christ. It is a wonderful thing. We do not ask for these persecutions, but their might do us great good if they came. Certainly, this wondrous ship of Christ's Church, when she ploughs her way through waves of blood, makes swifter headway to the heavenly haven than she does in times of calm. So, beloved friends, there is nothing in death to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.
The apostle says next, "nor life." I must confess that I am more afraid of life than of death. "Oh!" says one, "but dying is such hard work." Do you think so? Why, dying is the end of work; it is living that is hard work. I am not so much afraid of dying as I am of sinning; that is ten times worse than death. And what if some of us should live very many years? "There's the respect that makes calamity of so long life," that there is so much longer time for temptation and trial. If one might have his choice, one might be content to have a short warfare, and to enter upon the crown at once. But we may be permitted to live on to extreme old age; do you dread it? There is nothing about old age to separate you from the love of Christ; he hath made, and he will bear; even to hoar hairs will he carry you; therefore, be not afraid. The ills of life are many, the trials of life are many, the temptations of life are more; O life, life, life here below, thou art, after all, little better than a lingering death! The true life is hereafter. "Yet," says Paul, "I am persuaded that life cannot separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus." He means that, if we were tempted by the love of life to deny Christ' we should be strengthened so that we should not deny him even to save our lives, for his people have been brave enough in this respect in all times. Paul himself counted not his life dear unto him that he might win Christ, and be found in him; wherefore he says that he is persuaded that neither death, nor life, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Then he mentions angels, principalities, and powers. Well, the good angels cannot separate us from the love of God; we are sure that they would not wish to do so, and whatever spiritual creatures may frequent the earth, they cannot separate us from the love of Christ. Does the apostle mean devils, fallen angels, that would overthrow us, some of them as "principalities" by their dignity, others of them as "powers" by their subtle, crafty force, does he refer to devils? I think he does, and this, then, is our comfort, that, if we have to meet the arch-fiend himself foot to foot in terrible duel, and we may, for men of God have had so to meet him, and he that does battle with the adversary will gain nothing by it but sweat of blood and aching heart, even if he shall win the victory, so that we may well pray, "Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one," still we have this comfort, that even though he may rejoice over us for a moment, and may cast us down, he cannot separate us from the love of Christ; he may open many of our veins, and make us bleed even to utter weakness, but the life-vein he can never touch. There is a secret something about the Christian of which Satan wishes to spoil him, but which is entirely out of his reach, so the saint sings, "I am persuaded that neither angels, nor principalities, nor powers can separate me from the love of Christ. You may come on, battalions of the adversary, with all your terrible might sweeping hypocrites and deceivers before you, like chaff before the wind, but as many as are linked to Christ by his eternal love shall stand firm against you, like the solid rocks against the billows of the sea." Wherefore, be confident, dear brethren, that these spiritual beings, these unseen forces, these strange and mysterious powers which you cannot fully understand, can none of them separate you from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus your Lord.
Having summarily disposed of all of them, Paul adds, "nor things present." I like this thought. He is persuaded that things present cannot separate us from Christ. I wonder what the things present are with you, my dear hearers. One of you says, "Well, it is an empty pocket with me." Others will say, "It is a family of children who have no bread." Some may say, "It is the prospect of bankruptcy." Another will say, "Ah, it is an insidious disease that will soon carry me to my grave!" A mother will say, "It is rebellious children who are breaking my heart." Well, whatever it may be, and the woes of the present are very many, there is nothing that can separate us from the love of Christ.
I was feeling very heavy, I scarcely knew why, when I caught at this text; and it seemed to come in so pleasantly for me when my spirits were down. "Things present." Even a depressed and desponding state of mind, whatever the cause of it is, whether weariness of brain or heaviness of heart, cannot separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. Then, what can it do? Why, sometimes, it can drive us to Christ; let us pray that it may. But anyhow, things present cannot separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.
Then the apostle says, "nor things to come." Well, I wonder what is "to come." O friends, I sometimes feel a strange trembling when I stand upon this platform to speak to you, because the words that I utter are often so remarkably fulfilled of God as really to amaze me. Two Sunday nights ago, when I stood here to preach about the longsuffering of God being salvation,* I spoke, in the middle of the sermon, as if personally addressing someone who was present, who had lately been ill with fever, and who had come to the Tabernacle, still weakly, and scarcely recovered. There was a young man here, who exactly answered to the description I gave, and who wrote home to his mother something like this (I have the letter): "I went to Spurgeon's Tabernacle on Sunday night, and I heard such a sermon. I never felt anything like it before. He looked at me, and picked me out as if I was the only man there, and described me exactly." Then he gave the words I used, and continued, "It was a true description of myself. If the sermon is printed, pray get me a copy that I may read it when I come home, for I felt the power of it, and I prayed there and then that God would bring me to my mother's God, and save me." That was on the Sunday, mark you; on the Wednesday, he was at Gravesend, there was a collision, and he and five others were drowned. The mother received that letter about an hour before she heard the news that her son was dead, and the parents write to tell me what a balm it was to their spirits that God's providence should bring their boy in here just before he was to meet his God.
So, you see, I cannot help wondering what the "things to come" will be for you who are here. With some, who can tell? as the Lord liveth, there may be but a step between you and death; and if you have no Christ, and have never tasted of his love, you are running awful risks even in going one step further. You have walked on, and on, and on, and there has hitherto always been something beneath your footfall; but the next step may precipitate you into the abyss. Wherefore, seek the Lord now ere it be too late. As for the child of God, he knows no more about his immediate future than you do; but he knows this, that there is nothing in the future that can separate him from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Therefore, let the future bring with it what it may, all will be well with him.
Now the apostle adds two more expressions, "nor height, nor depth." There are some brethren who dwell in the heights; I am rather pleased to meet with dear friends who never have any doubts or fears, but are always full of joy and ecstasy, and who go on to tell us that they have left all these things behind, and have risen to the heights of bliss. But what I do not like is when they look down from those awful heights upon us poor Christians and say that they cannot believe in us because we are anxious, because we practice self-examination, because we have to struggle against sin. They do not struggle; they have risen beyond all struggling, they rub their hands, and sing of everlasting victory. Well, my dear brother, you up there on the topmost bough, you will not frighten me with all your heights, though I cannot get up there, and I could not stay there if I could get up so high. This one thing I know, I am sure that there is nothing in those heights that can separate me from the love of Christ; I will stick to that, whatever revelations there may be to the enthusiastic, whatever raptures and ecstasies and extreme delights any may have, they cannot separate me from Christ. I am glad that you have them, brother, may you always keep them; and if I cannot have them, I shall sit down in my struggles and temptations, and still say that there is nothing in the heights, in high doctrine or in high living, that can separate me from the love of Christ.
I am a little more acquainted with the depths, and I meet with many Christian people who are very familiar with those depths. I could indicate some dear friends here who I hope are not in the depths now, but I have seen them there. You were very low down, brother; we had to stoop to call to you; the waters of God's waves and billows seemed to have gone over you; you have been down to the depths, and I have been there with you. But there is nothing in the-depths that can separate us from the love of Christ. Jonah went down to the depths of the sea, but he oame up with this testimony, that there was nothing there to separate us from the love of God. No; though you should be weary of your life, though you should never have a ray of light by the month together, there is nothing there to separate you from the love of Christ. You may go down, down, down, till you seem to have got beyond the reach of help from mortal man; but there are cords and bands which bind you to Christ that even these depths can never break, come what may.
The apostle ends the list by saying, "nor any othe creature." It may be read, "Nor anything in creation, nor anything that ever is to be created," nothing shall ever separate us-from the love of Christ. Oh, what a sweet persuasion is this! Let us go forward into the future, however dark it is, with this confidence, that, one thing at least we know, the love of Christ will hold us rest, and by his grace we will hold fast to him. We are married to him, and we shall never be divorced. We are joined to him by a living, loving, lasting union that never shall be broken.
IV. I have done when I have called your attention to one more thing. Did you notice how the text begins? It begins with the word "for." "For I am persuaded." What does that mean? That shows that this is used as an argument drawn from something mentioned before. What is that? "Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us, for I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life," and so on. It seems, then, dear friends, that PAUL'S PERSUASION HELPED TO BRING HIM TO VICTORY.
He was persuaded that Christ would not leave him, and that he would not be allowed to leave Christ, and this stirred him up to deeds of daring. Oh, where there is real cause for fighting, there cannot be victory without striving! Paul was so persuaded that Christ would never leave him that he became a fighter, and he went in with all his might against the world, the flesh, and the devil. Some say that this doctrine would send us to sleep; it never does, it wakes us up. The doctrine that I am quite sure to gain the victory, makes me fight. If I did not know that I should win it, I might think that I would let discretion be the better part of my velour; but, being assured that Christ will be with me all through, I feel incited to war against all that is evil that I may overcome it in his strength.
Yes, and the apostle seems to hint that this persuasion that Christ would not leave him made him aspire to a very great victory. Men do not reach what they do not aspire to, and Paul says, "We are more than conquerors." Therefore, he aspired to be a complete and perfect conqueror. And this persuasion helped him to gain his aspiration. By God's grace, the man who trusts in Christ's eternal love, and believes in the immutability of the divine purpose, and therefore is persuaded that he can never be separated from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus, he is the man to win a glorious victory by his faith in his great God. Wherefore, let us be encouraged to go on, and fight against everything that is evil, especially in ourselves, and tread down all the powers of darkness, since nothing can stand against us while Christ is sor us; and for us he must be for ever and ever.
I wish that all here present had a share in my blessed text. It is an intense regret to me that I cannot present it to some of you. You do not know the love of Christ. Oh, that you would come and learn it! May the sweet Spirit lead you to Jesus, cause you to look to him upon the cross, and trust in him; then you will have something worth hearing, for you will have a love that changeth never, a love that shall never be separated from you nor you from it. God bless you, for Christ's sake! Amen.
In the previous chapter, Paul was writing to some who ought to have been teachers, but who needed still to be taught the first principles of the gospel; they were such babes in grace that they needed the milk of the Word, the very simplest elements of gospel truth, and not the strong meat of solid doctrine. The apostle, however, desires that the Hebrew believers should understand the sublimer doctrines of the gospel, and so be like men of full age who can eat strong meat. In this chapter he exhorts them to seek to attain to this standard.
Verse 1. Therefore leaving the principles
The rudiments, the elementary truths,
1. Of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection;
Let us go from the school to the university, let us have done with our first spelling-books, and advance into the higher classics of the kingdom.
1. Not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God,
Let us make sure that the foundation is laid, but let us not have continually to lay it again. Let us go on believing and repenting, as we have done; but let us not have to begin believing and begin repenting, let us go on to something beyond that stage of experience.
2. Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.
Let us take these things for granted, and never dispute about them any more, but go on to still higher matters.
3. And this will we do, if God permit.
We must keep on going forward; there is no such thing in the Christian life as standing still, and we dare not turn back.
4-6. For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, if they shall fall away,
Note that Paul does not say, "If they shall fall;" but, "If they shall fall away," if the religion which they have professed shall cease to have any power over them, then, it shall be impossible
6. To renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.
If all the processes of grace fail in the case of any professors, what is to be done with them? If the grace of God does not enable them to overcome the world, if the blood of Christ does not purge them from sin, what more can be done? Upon this supposition, God's utmost has been tried, and has failed. Mark that Paul does not say that all this could ever happen; but that, if it could, the person concerned would be like apiece of ground which brought forth nothing but thorns and briers.
7, 8. For the earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God: but that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned.
If, after having ploughed this ground, and sown it, and after it has been watered by the dew and rain of heaven, no good harvest ever comes of it, every wise man would leave off tilling it. He would say, "My labor is all thrown away on such a plot of ground as this, nothing more can be done with it, for after having done my utmost nothing but weeds is produced, so now it must be left to itself." You see, my dear hearers, if it were possible for the work of grace in your souls to be of no avail, nothing more could be done for you. You have had God's utmost effort expended upon your behalf, and there remains no other method of salvation for you.
I believe that there have been some professors, such as Judas and Simon Magus, who have come very near to this condition, and others who are said, after a certain sort, to have believed, to have received the Holy Spirit in miraculous gifts, and to have been specially enlightened so as to have been able to teach others; but the work of grace did not affect their hearts, it did not renew their natures, it did not transform their spirits, and so it was impossible to renew them to repentance.
How notice what Paul says:
9. But, beloved, we are persuaded better thing of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak.
Harsh as the apostle's words may seem, they are not meant for you who are really believers in Christ, and in whom the Holy Spirit has wrought a complete change of heart and life; Paul is not speaking of such as you.
10. For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labor of low, which ye have shewed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister.
If you have proved by your works that the grace of God is within you, God will not forget you; he will not leave you, he will not cast you away. You know the contrast in the speech between different persons concerning this doctrine. One will wickedly say, "If I am a child of God, I may live as I like." That is damnable doctrine. Another will say, "If I am a child of God, I shall not want to live as I like, but as God likes, and I shall be led by the grace of God into the path of holiness, and through divine grace I shall persevere in that way of holiness right to the end." That is quite another doctrine, and it is the true teaching of the Word of God.
11. And we desire that every one of you do shew the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end:
Keep it up; be as earnest to-day as you were twenty years ago, when you were baptized and joined the church: "Show the same diligence unto the end." Still, "work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure."
12-15. That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises. For when God made promise to Abraham because he could swear by no greater, he sware by himself, saying, Surely blessing I will bless thee, and multiplying I will multiply thee. And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise.
Wherefore, brethren, you and I also are patiently to endure, to hold on even to the end, and God's sure promise will never fail us.
16-18. For men verily swear by the greater: and an oath for confirmation is to them an end of all strife. Wherein God, willing more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath: that by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us:
It seems a great change in this chapter from the sad tone at the beginning to the joyous note at the end; but, indeed, there is no contradiction between the two. Paul is but giving us two sides of the truth, both equally true, the one needful for our warning, the other admirable for our consolation. God will not leave you, my brethren, he has pledged himself by covenant to you, and he has given au oath that his covenant shall stand. Wherefore, be of good courage, and press forward in the divine life, for your work of faith and labor of love are not in vain in the Lord; so let us "lay hold upon the hope set before us:"
19. Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which entereth into that within the veil;
Sailors throw their anchors downwards; we throw ours upwards. Their anchor goes within the veil of the waters into the deeps of the sea; ours goes within the veil of glory, into the heights of heaven, where Jesus sits at the right hand of God: "within the veil;"
20. Whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.
*See Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, No. 1,997, "God's Longsuffering: an Appeal to the Conscience."
HYMNS FROM "OUR OWN HYMN BOOK" 735, 738.
Cloth, gilt. Price 1s 6d.
A CARILLON OF BELLS
TO RING OUT THE OLD TRUTHS OF
"FREE GRACE AND DYING LOVE."
It has been the good pleasure of the Lord to bless my "Personal Notes On a Text" to many of His tried and afflicted people, and to make them messengers of comfort in hours of sorrow or darkness. Very gently did He lead me into this unthought-of service, and most graciously has He hitherto sustained me in it; first giving me in my own heart the joy of His Word, and then enabling me to minister of that rejoicing to others.
When a friend suggested that these "Notes" should be gathered together, and arranged in a small book, I felt it was quite possible that the Lord in His tenderness would continue to speak by them to some who needed consolation or encouragement. So the little volume is now ready, and I shall be a happy woman if God will use it to make music in any worn and weary heart. I have called it, "A Carillon of Bells," because its one aim and object is to summon the Lord's people to bless and praise His Holy Name; and every note, from the highest to the lowest, is meant to peal forth the melody of "free grace and dying love." There is nothing new in the book; no, for "the old is better," it tells of ancient covenants, and everlasting love, and full atonement, and final perseverance, grand old doctrines on which a soul may stand without fear when heaven and earth are passing away, and the Son of Man comes in His glory.
In these days of daring infidelity, and awful treason against the Most High, I count it an unspeakable honour to be permitted to testify to the power of the old truths, and the pleasantness of the old paths, and the unfailing faithfulness of God in the fulfilment of each and all of His precious promises; and though my voice is less than a Whisper amid the roar and turmoil of conflicting opinions and blasphemous theories, I know that God can hear it, and that He will accept the loving tribute which my heart thus offers to Him. Reprinted from "Mrs. C. H. Spurgeon's Work-room" in "The Sword and the Trowel," December, 1896.
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Spurgeon, Charle Haddon. "Commentary on Romans 8". "Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26