Sermon 1534. Salvation By Works, A Criminal Doctrine
DELIVERED ON LORD'S-DAY MORNING, APRIL 18, 1880,
BY C. H. SPURGEON,
AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON.
"I do not frustrate the Grace of God: for if righteousness comes by the Law, then Christ is dead in vain." Galatians 2:21.
THE idea of salvation by the merit of our own works is exceedingly insinuating. It matters not how often it is refuted, itasserts itself again and again and when it gains the least foothold it soon makes great advances. Hence Paul, who was determinedto show it no quarter, opposed everything which bore its likeness. He was determined not to permit the thin end of the wedgeto be introduced into the Church, for well he knew that willing hands would soon be driving it home! Therefore when Petersided with the Judaizing party and seemed to favor those who demanded that the Gentiles should be circumcised, our brave Apostlewithstood him to his face. He always fought for salvation by Grace through faith and contended strenuously against all thoughtof righteousness by obedience to the precepts of the ceremonial or the moral Law.
No one could be more explicit than he upon the doctrine that we are not justified or saved by works in any degree, but solelyby the Grace of God. His trumpet gave forth no uncertain sound, but gave forth the clear note-"By Grace are you saved throughfaith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God." Grace meant Grace with Paul and he could not endure any tamperingwith the matter, or any frittering away of its meaning. So fascinating is the doctrine of legal righteousness that the onlyway to deal with it is Paul's way-stamp it out! Cry war to the knife against it! Never yield to it! And remember the Apostle'sfirmness and how stoutly he held his ground-"To whom," he says, "we gave place by subjection, no, not for an hour."
The error of salvation by works is exceedingly plausible. You will constantly hear it stated as a self-evident truth and vindicatedon account of its supposed practical usefulness, while the Gospel doctrine of Salvation by Faith is railed at and accusedof evil consequences. It is affirmed that if we preach salvation by good works we shall encourage virtue-and so it might seemin theory-but history proves, by many instances, that as a matter of fact where such doctrine has been preached virtue hasbecome singularly uncommon and that in proportion as the merit of works has been cried up, morality has gone down!
On the other hand, where Justification by Faith has been preached, conversions have followed and purity of life has been producedeven in the worst of men. Those who lead godly and gracious lives are ready to confess that the cause of their zeal for holinesslies in their faith in Christ Jesus. Where will you meet with a devout and upright man who glories in his own works? Self-righteousnessis natural to our fallen humanity and, therefore, it is the essence of all false religions. Be they what they may, they allagree in seeking salvation by our own deeds. He who worships his idols will torture his body, will fast, will perform longpilgrimages and do or endure anything in order to merit salvation! The Roman Catholic church holds up continually before theeyes of its votaries the prize to be earned by self-denial, by penance, by prayers, by sacraments or by some other performancesof man. Go where you may, the natural religion of fallen man is salvation by his own merits.
An old Divine has well said every man is born a heretic upon this point and he naturally gravitates towards this heresy inone form or another. Self-salvation, either by his personal worthiness, by his repentance or by his resolves is a hope ingrainedin human nature and very hard to remove. This foolishness is bound up in the heart of every child and who shall get it outof him? This erroneous idea arises partly from ignorance, for men are ignorant of the Law of God and of what holiness reallyis. If they knew that even an evil thought is a breach of the Law and that the Law once broken in any point is altogetherviolated, they would be at once convinced that there can be no righteousness by the Law to those who have already offendedagainst it.
They are also in great ignorance concerning themselves, for those very persons who talk about self-righteousness are, as arule, openly chargeable with fault. And if not, were they to sit down and really look at their own lives, they would soonperceive, even in their best works, such impurity of motive beforehand, or such pride and self-congratulation afterwards,that they would see the gloss taken off from all their performances and they would be utterly ashamed of them! Nor is it onlyignorance which leads men to self-righteousness-they are also deceived by pride. Man cannot endure to be saved on the footingof mercy-he hates to plead guilty and throw himself on the favor of the great King-he cannot stand to be treated as a pauperand blessed as a matter of charity!
He desires to have a finger in his own salvation and claim at least a little credit for it. Proud man will not have Heaven,itself, upon terms of Grace! As long as he can, he sets up one plea or another and holds to his own righteousness as thoughit were his life. This self-confidence also arises from wicked unbelief, for through his self-conceit, man will not believeGod. Nothing is more plainly revealed in Scripture than this-that by the works of the Law shall no man be jus-tified-yet men,in some shape or other, stick to the hope of legal righteousness! They will have it that they must prepare for Grace, or assistmercy, or in some degree deserve eternal life. They prefer their own flattering prejudices to the declaration of the heart-searchingGod! The Testimony of the Holy Spirit concerning the deceitfulness of the heart is cast aside and the declaration of God thatthere is none that does good, no, not one, is altogether denied. Is not this a great evil?
Self-righteousness is also much promoted by the almost universal spirit of trifling which is now abroad. Only while men triflewith themselves can they entertain the idea of personal merit before God. He who comes to serious thought and begins to understandthe Character of God, before whom the heavens are not pure and the angels are charged with folly-he, I say, that comes toserious thought and beholds a true vision of God, abhors himself in dust and ashes and is forever silenced as to any thoughtof self-justification! It is because we do not seriously examine our condition that we think ourselves rich and increasedin goods. A man may fancy that he is prospering in business and yet he may be going back in the world. If he does not facehis books or take stock, he may be living in a fool's paradise, spending largely when on the verge of bankruptcy.
Many think well of themselves because they never think seriously. They do not look below the surface and, therefore, theyare deceived by appearances. The most troublesome business to many men is thought-and the last thing they will do is to weightheir actions, or test their motives, or ponder their ways to see whether things are right with them. Self-righteousness,being supported by ignorance, by pride, by unbelief and by the natural superficiality of the human mind, is strongly entrenchedand cannot readily be driven out of men. Self-righteousness is evidently evil, for it makes light of sin! It talks of meritin the case of one who has already transgressed and boasts of excellence in reference to a fallen and depraved creature. Itprattles of little faults, small failures and slight omissions and so makes sin to be a venial error which may be readilyoverlooked. Not so faith in God, for though it recognizes pardon, yet that pardon is seen to come in a way which proves sinto be exceedingly sinful.
On the other hand, the doctrine of salvation by works has not a word of comfort in it for the fallen. It gives to the elderson all that his proud heart can claim, but for the prodigal it has no welcome. The Law has no invitation for the sinner,for it knows nothing of mercy. If salvation is by the works of the Law, what must become of the guilty and the fallen andthe abandoned? By what hopes can these be recalled? This unmerciful doctrine bars the door of hope and hands over the lostones to the executioner in order that the proud Pharisee may air his boastful righteousness and thank God that he is not asother men are!
It is the intense selfishness of this doctrine which condemns it as an evil thing. It naturally exalts self. If a man conceivesthat he will be saved by his own works, he thinks himself something and glories in the dignity of human nature! When he hasbeen attentive to religious exercises he rubs his hands and feels that he deserves well of his Maker-he goes home to repeathis prayers and before he falls asleep he wonders how he can have grown to be so good and so much superior to those aroundhim. When he walks abroad he feels as if he dwelt apart in native excellence, a person much distinguished from "the vulgarherd," a being whom to know is to admire. All the while he considers himself to be very humble and is often amazed at hisown condescension.
What is this but a most hateful spirit? God, who sees the heart, loathes it! He will accept the humble and the contrite, butHe puts far from Him those who glory in themselves. Indeed, my Brothers and Sisters, what have we to glory in? Is not everyboast a lie? What is this self-hood but a peacock feather, fit only for the cap of a fool? May God deliver us
from exalting self! And yet, we cannot be delivered from so doing if we hold, in any degree, the doctrine of salvation byour own good works. At this time I desire to shoot at the very heart of that soul-destroying doctrine, while I show you, inthe first place, that two great crimes are contained in the idea of self-justification. When I have brought forth that indictment,I shall further endeavor to show that these two great crimes are committed by many and then, thirdly, it will be a delightto assert that the true Believer does not fall into these crimes. May God, the Holy Spirit, help us while meditating uponthis important theme.
I. First, then, TWO GREAT CRIMES ARE CONTAINED IN SELF-RIGHTEOUSNESS. These high crimes and misdemeanors are frustrating theGrace of God and making Christ to have died in vain. The first is the frustration of the Grace of God. The word here translated,"frustrate," means to make void, to reject, to refuse, to regard as needless. Now, he that hopes to be saved by his own righteousnessrejects the Grace, or free favor, of God! He regards it as useless and in that sense frustrates it. It is clear, first, thatif righteousness comes by the Law, the Grace of God is no longer required. If we can be saved by our own merits, we need justice,but we certainly do not need mercy.
If we can keep the Law and claim to be accepted as a matter of debt, it is plain that we need not turn suppliants and cravefor mercy. Grace is a superfluity where merit can be proven. A man who can go into court with a clear case and a bold countenanceasks not for mercy of the judge and the offer of it would insult him. "Give me justice," he says! "Give me my rights" andhe stands up for them as a brave Englishman should do. It is only when a man feels that the law condemns him that he putsin a plea for mercy. Nobody ever dreamed of recommending an innocent man to mercy. I say, then, that the man who believesthat by keeping the Law, or by practicing ceremonies, or by undergoing religious performances he can make himself acceptablebefore God, most decidedly puts the Grace of God on one side as a superfluous thing as far as he is concerned! Is it not clearlyso? And is not this a crimson crime-this frustration of the Grace of God?
Next, he makes the Grace of God to be at least a secondary thing which is only a lower degree of the same error. Many thinkthat they are to merit as much as they can by their own exertions and then the Grace of God will make up for the rest. Thetheory is that we are to keep the Law as far as we can and this imperfect obedience is to stand good-as a sort of compromise-saya shilling in the pound, or fifteen shillings in the pound-according as man judges his own excellence. And then, what is requiredover and above our own hard-earned money, the Grace of God will supply-in short, the plan is every man is his own savior andJesus Christ and His Grace just make up for our deficiencies.
Whether men see it or not, this mixture of Law and Grace is most dishonoring to the salvation of Jesus Christ. It makes theSavior's work to be incomplete, though on the Cross He cried, "It is finished." Yes, it even treats it as being utterly ineffectualsince it appears to be of no use at all until man's works are added to it. According to this notion, we are redeemed as muchby our own doing as by the ransom price of Jesus' blood-man and Christ go shares, both in the work and in the glory! Thisis an intense form of arrogant treason against the majesty of Divine Mercy! This is a capital crime which will condemn allwho continue in it. May God deliver us from thus insulting the Throne of Grace by bringing a purchase price in our own handsas if we could deserve such peerless gifts of love!
More than that, he who trusts in himself, his feelings, his works, his prayers, or in anything except the Grace of God virtuallygives up trusting in the Grace of God altogether! Don't you know that God's Grace will never share the work with man's merit?As oil will not combine with water, so neither will human merit and heavenly mercy mix together! The Apostle says in Romans 11:6, "If by Grace, then it is no more of works: otherwise Grace is no more Grace. But if it is of works, then is it no more Grace:otherwise work is no more work." You must either have salvation wholly because you deserve it, or wholly because God graciouslybestows it, though you do not deserve it! You must receive salvation at the Lord's hands either as a debt or as a charity-therecan be no mingling of the ideas. That which is a pure gift of favor cannot also be a reward of personal merit! A combinationof the two principles of Law and Grace is utterly impossible. Trusting in our own works in any degree effectually shuts usout from all hope of salvation by Grace-and so it frustrates the Grace of God.
There is another form of this crime, that when men preach up human works, sufferings, feelings, or emotions as the groundof salvation, they deny the sinner confidence in Christ, for as long as a man can maintain any hope in himself, he will neverlook to the Redeemer. We may preach forever and ever, but as long as there remains latent in any one bosom a hope that hecan effectually clear himself from sin and win the favor of God by his own works, that man will never accept the proclamationof free pardon through the blood of Christ! We know that we cannot frustrate the Grace of God-it
will have its way and the eternal purpose shall be fulfilled. But as the tendency of all teaching which mixes up works withGrace is to take men away from believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, its tendency is to frustrate the Grace of God and everyact is to be judged by its tendency even if the Lord's Divine power prevents its working out its natural result.
No man can lay another Foundation than that which is laid, but inasmuch as they try to do so they are guilty of despisingthe Foundation of God as much as those builders of the olden times who rejected the stone which God had chosen to be the headof the corner. May the Grace of God keep us from such a crime as this, lest the blood of other men's souls should crimsonour garments. This hoping to be saved by our own righteousness robs God of His Glory. It as good as says, "We do not needGrace. We need no free favor." It reads of the New Covenant, which Infinite Love has made, but by clinging to the Old Covenantit puts dishonor upon it. In its heart it murmurs, "What need of this Covenant of Grace? The Covenant of Works answers everypurpose for us."
It reads of the great gift of Grace in the Person of Jesus Christ and it does despite thereto by the secret thought that humanworks are as good as the life and death of the Son of God! It cries, "We will not have this Man to save us." A self-righteoushope casts a slur upon the Glory of God since it is clear that if a man could be saved by his own works, he would naturallyhave the honor of it. But if a man is saved by the free Grace of God, then God is glorified. Woe unto those who teach a doctrinewhich would pluck the royal Crown from the head of our Sovereign Lord and disgrace the Throne of His glory! God help us tobe clear of this rank offense against high Heaven. I grow warm upon such a subject as this, for my indignation rises againstthat which does dishonor to my Lord and frustrates His Grace.
This is a sin so gross that even the heathen cannot commit it! They have never heard of the Grace of God and therefore theycannot put a slight upon it-when they perish it will be with a far lighter doom than those who have been told that God isgracious and ready to pardon and yet turn on their heels and wickedly boast of innocence and pretend to be clean in the sightof God! This is a sin which devils cannot commit. With all the obstinacy of their rebellion, they can never reach to this!They have never had the sweet notes of Free Grace and dying love ringing in their ears and, therefore, they have never refusedthe heavenly invitation. What has never been presented to their acceptance cannot be the object of their rejection. Thus,my Hearer, if you should fall into this deep ditch, you will sink lower than the heathen, lower than Sodom and Gomorrah andlower than the devil, himself! Wake up, I pray, and do not dare to frustrate the Grace of God!
The second great crime which self-justification commits is making Christ to be dead in vain. This is plain enough. If salvationcan be by the works of the Law, why did our Lord Jesus die to save us? O, You bleeding Lamb of God, Your Incarnation is amarvel, but Your death upon the accursed tree is such a miracle of mercy as fills all Heaven with astonishment! Will any dareto say that Your death, O Incarnate God, was a superfluity, a wanton waste of suffering? Do they dare think You a generousbut unwise enthusiast whose death was needless? Can there be any who think Your Cross a vain thing? Yes, thousands virtuallydo this and, in fact, all do who make it out that men might have been saved in some other way, or may now be saved by theirown works and doings! They who say that the death of Christ goes only part of the way and that man must do something in orderto merit eternal life-these, I say, make this death of Christ to be only partially effective and, in yet clearer terms, ineffectualin and of itself!
If it is even hinted that the blood of Jesus is not price enough till man adds his silver or his gold, then His blood is notour redemption at all and Christ is no Redeemer! If it is taught that our Lord's bearing of sin for us did not make a perfectAtonement and that it is ineffectual till we either do or suffer something to complete it-then in the supplemental work liesthe real virtue and Christ's work, is in itself, insufficient! His death cry of, "It is finished," must have been all a mistakeif it is still not finished! And if a believer in Christ is not completely saved by what Christ has done, but must do something,himself, to complete it, then salvation was not finished and the Savior's work remains imperfect till we, poor sinners, lenda hand to make up for His deficiencies! What blasphemy lies in such a supposition that Christ, on Calvary, made a needlessand a useless offering of Himself and any man among you can be saved by the works of the Law!
This spirit also rejects the Covenant which was sealed with Christ's death. For if we can be saved by the old Covenant ofWorks, then the New Covenant was not required. In God's wisdom the New Covenant was brought in because the first had grownold and was void by transgression. But if it is not void, then the New Covenant is an idle innovation and the Sacrifice ofJesus ratified a foolish transaction! I loathe the words while I pronounce them! No one ever was saved under the Covenantof Works nor ever will be-the New Covenant is introduced for that reason-but if there is salvation by
the first, then what need was there of the second? Self-righteousness, as far as it can, disannuls the Covenant, breaks itsseal and does despite to the blood of Jesus Christ which is the substance, the certificate and the seal of that Covenant.
If you hold that a man can be saved by his own good works, you pour contempt upon the Testament of Love which the death ofJesus has put in force, for there is no need to receive as a legacy of love that which can be earned as the wage of work!O Sirs, this is a sin against each Person of the sacred Trinity! It is a sin against the Father. How could He be wise andgood and yet give His only Son to die on yonder tree in anguish if man's salvation could be worked by some other means? Itis a sin against the Son of God-you dare to say that our redemption price could have been paid another way and, therefore,His death was not absolutely necessary for the redemption of the world. Or, if necessary, yet not effectual, for it requiressomething to be added to it before it can effect its purpose.
It is a sin against the Holy Spirit and beware how you sin against Him, for such sins are fatal! The Holy Spirit bears witnessto the glorious perfection and unconquerable power of the Redeemer's work and woe to those who reject that witness! He hascome into the world, on purpose, that He may convict men of the sin of not believing in Jesus Christ and, therefore, if wethink that we can be saved apart from Christ we do despite to the Spirit of His Grace. The doctrine of salvation by worksis a sin against all the fallen sons of Adam, for if men cannot be saved except by their own works, what hope is left forany transgressor? You shut the gates of Mercy on mankind! You condemn the guilty to die without the possibility of remission!You deny all hope of welcome to the returning prodigal, all prospect of Paradise to the dying thief! If Heaven is by works,thousands of us will never see its gates. I know that I never shall. You fine fellows may rejoice in your prospects, but whatis to become of us? You ruin us all by your boastful scheme!
Nor is this all. It is a sin against the saints, for none of them have any other hope except in the blood and righteousnessof Jesus Christ. Remove the doctrine of the atoning blood and you have taken all away! Our foundation is gone! If you speakthus you offend the whole generation of godly men. I go further-work-mongering is a sin against the perfect ones above! Thedoctrine of salvation by works would silence the hallelujahs of Heaven. Hush, you choristers, what meaning is there in yoursong? You are chanting, "Unto Him that loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood." But why do you sing so? Ifsalvation is by works, your ascriptions of praise are empty flatteries. You ought to sing, "Unto ourselves who kept our garmentsclean, to us be glory forever and ever!" Or at least, "unto ourselves whose acts made the Redeemer's work effectual be a fullshare of praise."
But a self-lauding note was never heard in Heaven and, therefore, we feel sure that the doctrine of self-justification isnot of God. I charge you-renounce it as the foe of God and man! This proud system is a sin of deepest dye against my Master,Jesus Christ! I cannot endure to think of the insult which it puts upon our dying Lord! If you have made Christ to live invain, that is bad enough, but to represent Him as having died in vain? What shall be said of this? That Christ came to earthfor nothing is a most horrible statement, but that He became obedient to the death of the Cross without result is profanityat its worst!
II. I will say no more concerning the nature of these sins, but in the second place proceed to the solemn fact that THESETWO GREAT CRIMES ARE COMMITTED BY MANY PEOPLE. I am afraid they are committed by some who hear me this day. Let everyone searchhimself and see if these accursed things are not hidden in his heart and if they are, let him cry unto God for deliverancefrom them! Assuredly these crimes are chargeable on those who trifle with the Gospel! Here is the greatest discovery thatwas ever made-the most wonderful piece of knowledge that ever was revealed and yet you do not think it worth a thought! Youcome now and then to hear a sermon, but you hear without heart. You read the Scriptures occasionally, but you do not searchthem as for hidden treasure.
It is not your first objective in life to thoroughly understand and heartily to receive the Gospel which God has proclaimed-yetsuch ought to be the case. What, my Friend? Does your indifference say that the Grace of God is of no great value in youresteem? You do not think it worth the trouble of prayer, of Bible-reading and attention? The death of Christ is nothing toyou-a very beautiful fact, no doubt-you know the story well, but you do not care enough about it to wish to be a partakerin its benefits? His blood may have power to cleanse from sin, but you do not need remission? His death may be the life ofmen, but you do not long to live by Him? To be saved by the atoning blood does not strike you as being half as important asto carry on your business at a profit and acquire a fortune for your family? By thus trifling with these precious things,you do, as far as you can, frustrate the Grace of God and make Christ to die in vain!
Another set of people who do this are those who have no sense of guilt. Perhaps they are naturally amiable, civil, honestand generous people and they think that these natural virtues are all that is needed. We have many such in whom there is muchthat is lovely, but the one thing necessary is lacking-they are not conscious that they ever did anything very wrong! Theythink themselves certainly as good as others and in some respects rather better. It is highly probable that you are as goodas others and even better than others, but still, do you not see, my dear Friend, if I am addressing one such person, thatif you are so good that you are to be saved by your goodness, you put the Grace of God out of court and make it vain? Thewhole have no need of the Physician-only they that are sick require His skill and, therefore, it was needless that Christshould die for such as you because you, in your own opinion, have done nothing worthy of death.
You claim that you have done nothing very bad and yet there is one thing in which you have grievously transgressed and I begyou not to be angry when I charge you with it. You are very bad because you are so proud as to think yourself righteous, thoughGod has said that there is none righteous, no, not one! You tell your God that He is a liar! His Word accuses you and HisLaw condemns you but you will not believe Him and actually boast of having a righteousness of your own! This is high presumptionand arrogant pride and may the Lord purge you from it! Will you lay this to heart and remember that if you have never beenguilty of anything else, this is sin enough to make you mourn before the Lord day and night? You have, as far as you could,by your proud opinion of yourself made void the Grace of God and declared that Christ died in vain. Hide your face for shameand entreat for mercy for this glaring offense!
Another sort of people may fancy that they shall escape but we must now come home to them. Those who despair will often cry,"I know I cannot be saved except by Grace, for I am such a great sinner! But, alas, I am too great a sinner to be saved atall! I am too black for Christ to wash out my sins." Ah, my dear Friend, though you know it not, you are making void the Graceof God by denying its power and limiting its might! You doubt the efficacy of the Redeemer's blood and the power of the Father'sGrace. What? The Grace of God not able to save? Is not the Father of our Lord Jesus able to forgive sin? We joyfully sing-
"Who is a pardoning Godlike Thee? Or who has Grace so rich and free?" And you dare say He cannot forgive you and this in theteeth of His many promises of mercy? He says, "All manner of sin and of blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men." "Come now andlet us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are redlike crimson, they shall be as wool."
You say that this is not true! Thus you frustrate the Grace of God and you make out that Christ died in vain, at least foryou, for you say that He cannot cleanse you. Oh do not say this! Let not your unbelief give the lie to God. Oh, believe thatHe is able to save even you and freely, at this very moment, and put all your sin away and to accept you in Christ Jesus!Take heed of despondency, for if you do not trust Him, you will make void His Grace. And those, I think, commit this sin ina large measure, who make a mingle-mangle of the Gospel. I mean this-when we preach the Gospel we have only to say, "Sinners,you are guilty! You never can be anything else but guilty in and of yourselves-if that sin of yours is pardoned, it must bethrough an act of Sovereign Grace and not because of anything in you, or that can be done by you. Grace must be given to youbecause Jesus died and for no other reason and the way by which you can have that Grace is simply by trusting Christ. By faithin Jesus Christ you shall obtain full forgiveness." This is pure Gospel.
If the man turns round and enquires, "Why do I have a right to believe in Christ?" If I tell him that he is warranted to believein Christ because he feels a law-work within, or because he has holy desires, I have made a mess of it-I have put somethingof the man into the question and marred the glory of Grace. My answer is, "Man, your right to believe in Christ lies not inwhat you are or feel, but in God's command to you to believe and in God's promise which is made to every creature under Heaventhat whoever believes in Jesus Christ shall be saved." This is our commission, "Go you into all the world and preach the Gospelto every creature. He that believes and is baptized shall be saved."
If you are a creature, we preach that Gospel to you! Trust Christ and you are saved. Not because you are a sensible sinner,or a penitent sinner, or anything else, but simply because God, of His Free Grace, with no consideration rendered to Him onyour part, but gratis and for nothing, freely forgives all your debts for the sake of Jesus Christ. Now I have not mangledthe Gospel-there it is with nothing of the creature about it but the man's faith and even that is the Holy
Spirit's gift! Those who mingle their, "ifs," and, "buts," and insist upon, "you must do this and feel that before you mayaccept Christ," frustrate the Grace of God, in a measure, and do damage to the glorious Gospel of the blessed God.
And so, once more, to those who apostatize. Do I speak to any here who were once professors of religion-who once used to offerprayer in the assembly-who once walked as saints but now have gone back, breaking the Sabbath, forsaking the house of Godand living in sin? You, my Friend, say by your course of life-"I had the Grace of God, but I do not care about it! It is worthnothing. I have rejected it, I have given it up! I have made it void! I have gone back to the world." You do as good as say,"I did once trust in Jesus Christ, but He is not worth trusting."
You have denied Him-you have sold your Lord and Master! I will not now go into the question as to whether you ever were sincere,though I believe you never were. But on your own showing such is your case. Take heed lest these two terrible crimes shouldrest upon you-that you do frustrate the Grace of God and make Christ to be dead in vain.
III. On my third point I shall carry with me the deep convictions and the joyful confidences of all true Believers. It is
this, that NO TRUE BELIEVER WILL BE GUILTY OF THESE CRIMES. In his very soul he loathes these infamous
sins. First of all, no believer in Christ can bear to think of frustrating of the Grace of God or the making it void. Come,now, honest hearts, I speak to you! Do you trust in Grace alone, or do you, in some measure, rest in yourselves? Do you, evenin a small degree, depend upon your own feelings, your own faithfulness, your own repentance? I know you abhor the very thought!You have not even the shadow of a hope nor the semblance of a confidence in anything you ever were, or ever can be, or everhope to be! You fling this away as a foul rag full of filth which you would hurl out of the universe if you could.
I acknowledge that though I have preached the Gospel with all my heart and glory in it, yet I cast my preaching away as drossand dung if I think of them as a ground of reliance! And though I have brought many souls to Christ, blessed be His name,I never dare, for one moment, to put the slightest confidence in that fact as to my own salvation, for I know that I, afterhaving preached to others, may yet be a castaway. I cannot rest in a successful ministry, or an edified Church, but I reposealone in my Redeemer! What I say of myself I know that each one of you will say for himself. Your almsgivings, your prayers,your tears, your suffering persecution, your gifts to the Church, your earnest work in the Sunday school or elsewhere-didyou ever think of putting these side by side with the blood of Christ as your hope?
No, you never dreamed of it! I am sure you never did and the mention of it is utterly loathsome to you, is it not? Grace,Grace, Grace is your only hope. Moreover, you have not only renounced all confidence in works, but you renounce it this daymore heartily than ever before. The older you are and the more holy you become, the less do you think of trusting in yourself!The more we grow in Grace the more we grow in love with Grace-the more we search into our hearts and the more we know of theholy Law of God, the deeper is our sense of unworthiness and consequently the higher is our delight in rich, free, unmeritedmercy-the free gift of the royal heart of God!
Tell me, does not your heart leap within you when you hear the Doctrines of Grace? I know there are some who never felt themselvesto be sinners, who shift about as if they were sitting on thorns when I am preaching Grace and nothing else but Grace-butit is not so with you who are resting in Christ. "Oh, no," you say, "ring that bell again, Sir! Ring that bell again! Thereis no music like it. Touch that string again, it is our favorite note!" When you get down in spirits and depressed, what sortof book do you like to read? Is it not a Book about the Grace of God? What do you turn to in the Scriptures? Do you not turnto the promises made to the guilty, the ungodly, the sinner? And do you not find that only in the Grace of God and only atthe foot of the Cross is there any rest for you? I know it is so! Then you can rise up and say with Paul, "I do not frustratethe Grace of God. Some may, if they like, but God forbid that I should ever make it void, for it is all my salvation and allmy desire."
The true Believer is also free from the second crime-he does not make Christ to be dead in vain. No, no, no! He trusts inthe death of Christ! He puts his sole and entire reliance upon the great Substitute who loved and lived and died for him!He does not dare to associate with the bleeding Sacrifice his poor bleeding heart, or his prayers, or his sanctifi-cation,or anything else. "None but Christ, none but Christ," is his soul's cry. He detests every proposal to mix anything of ceremonyor of legal action with the finished work of Jesus Christ. The longer we live, I trust, dear Brothers and Sisters, the morewe see the Glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ! We are struck with admiration at the wisdom of the way by which the Substitutewas introduced-that God might smite sin and yet spare the sinner-we are lost in admiration at the matchless love of God, thatHe spared not His own Son!
We are filled with reverent adoration at the love of Christ, that when He knew the price of pardon was His blood, His pitynever withdrew. What is more, we not only joy in Christ, but we feel an increasing oneness with Him. We did not know it atfirst, but we know it now, that we were crucified with Him, that we were buried with Him, that we rose again with Him! Weare not going to have Moses for a ruler, or Aaron for a priest, for Jesus is both King and Priest to us! Christ is in us andwe are in Christ and we are complete in Him and nothing can be tolerated as an aid to the blood and righteousness of JesusChrist our Lord! We are one with Him and being one with Him we realize more, every day, that He did NOT die in vain! His deathhas bought us real life! His death has already set us free from the bondage of sin and has even now brought us deliverancefrom the fear of eternal wrath.
His death has bought us eternal life, has bought us sonship and all the blessings that go with it which the Fatherhood ofGod takes care to bestow! The death of Christ has shut the gates of Hell for us and opened the gates of Heaven! The deathof Christ has worked mercies for us-not visionary or imaginary but real and true-which this very day we enjoy and so we arein no danger of thinking that Christ died in vain. It is our joy to hold two great principles which I will leave with you,hoping that you will suck marrow and fatness out of them. These are the two principles. The Grace of God cannot be frustratedand Jesus Christ died not in vain. These two principles, I think, lie at the bottom of all sound doctrine. The Grace of Godcannot be frustrated! Its eternal purpose will be fulfilled, its Sacrifice and seal shall be effec-tual-the chosen ones ofGrace shall be brought to Glory!
There shall be no failures as to God's plan in any point whatever! At the last, when all shall be summed up, it shall be seenthat Grace reigned through righteousness unto eternal life and the top stone shall be brought out with shouts of "Grace, Graceunto it." And as Grace cannot be frustrated, so Christ did not die in vain! Some seem to think that there were purposes inChrist's heart which will never be accomplished. We have not so learned Christ. What He died to do shall be done-those Hebought, He will have-those He redeemed shall be free. There shall be no failure of reward for Christ's wondrous work! He shallsee of the travail of His soul and shall be satisfied.
On these two principles I throw back my soul to rest. Believing in His Grace that Grace shall never fail me. "My Grace issufficient for you," says the Lord and so shall it be. Believing in Jesus Christ, His death must save me. It cannot be, OCalvary, that you should fail! O Gethsemane, that your bloody sweat should be in vain. Through Divine Grace, resting in ourSavior's precious blood, we must be saved! Joy and rejoice with me and go your way to tell it to others! God bless you inso doing, for Jesus' sake. Amen.