Sermon 2563. Grace for the Guilty

(No. 2563)




"Have blotted out, as a thick cloud, your transgressions and, as a cloud, your sins: return unto Me, for I have redeemed you."Isaiah 44:22.

THIS declaration was not made to a pious and praying people, who kept near their God, but was spoken to idolatrous Israel-tothose who, after having drunk from the fountain of living waters, turned aside to drink the drops that were to be found inbroken cisterns. It was spoken to a people who, after they had tasted the good things of God and known the high privilegesof true religion, yet turned aside with the nations of the world, forsook the God of Jacob, made unto themselves graven imagesthat were not gods, provoked the Lord to jealousy and moved Him to wrath against them on account of their sins. These wordsof wondrous mercy were not spoken to the nation of Israel while living near God-who, notwithstanding, would have had sinsto mourn over and to be forgiven-but they were addressed to a brutish and foolish nation, to a harlot people who had committedwickedness with all the idols of the heathen! They were those who had offered incense on their hills to false gods, who hadmade their children pass through the fire of Topheth in the Valley of the Children of Hinnom-to men who were filled with abominableand loathsome sins-men who had committed the crimes of Sodom and bowed down to Baal and Ashtaroth!

This promise was made to those who had wandered far from God, not because they repented, or because they believed, but simplyand entirely of the Sovereign Grace of God, because, having set His affection upon them, He would not turn away from thembecause, having sworn unto their father Abraham that He would bless his seed forever, He still remembered them. He forgotthem not, notwithstanding they had forgotten Him days without number-but provided them a Savior and now sends them, by themouth of His Prophet, this comfortable assurance, "I have blotted out, as a thick cloud, your transgressions and, as a cloud,your sins: return unto Me, for I have redeemed you."

We will take this text as it shall open to us gradually and, therefore, we will give you the thoughts as they come to us.[This sermon is the one described in C H. Spurgeon'sAutobiography, Volume I, Chapter 32, where the beloved preacher givesa graphic account of a certain Sabbath evening when he delivered an extempore discourse from a text which the Holy Spiritvividly impressed upon his mind while the congregation was singing the hymn immediately before the Sermon. Readers of theAutobiography will also see how timely was the sudden and unexpected extinction of the gas lights mentioned at the end ofthe present discourse.]

I. The first is, that A MAN'S SINS MAY BE REALLY FORGIVEN LONG BEFORE HE KNOWS IT, for it is written, "I have blotted out,as a thick cloud, your transgressions."

If they knew it, there would be no necessity for telling it to them. If they understood in their hearts that their transgressionswere blotted out, what need had they of a Prophet to come and tell them that it was so? Long before a man knows that his transgressionsare pardoned, God may have pardoned and blotted them out. I do not say that a man receives actual pardon in his own soul,or a sense of justification without knowing it. I cannot believe, with some, that a man may be born again without being awareof it. I know there never was a natural birth without pangs and pains-and I am equally sure that there never will be a spiritualbirth without some suffering and some agonies. A man is not to be born again when he is asleep-he is to know it and know it,he will, at some time or other in his life! Not constantly, it may be, but nevertheless he will know, even if it is only foran hour, that he is a child of God! I think he who never had one minute of assurance, never had faith. He who never knew himselfto be a child of God, who never could say, "I believe

in Jesus," never could see his sins blotted out-I think such an one does not know what faith is. It may endure for ever soshort a time, but if it is real assurance, it springs from true faith and the man is saved.

But a man may have his sins blotted out before he knows it. And they may be blotted out when he does not believe that theyare-and blotted out when he is full of doubt on the point-yes, they may be pardoned even when he cannot be persuaded thatthey actually are. I can tell you of persons whom, in my inmost soul, I believe to be the subjects of Divine Grace. I cansee in them the marks of God's power-He has convinced them of sin, they are humble, they are penitent, they are prayerful,they feel their guilt, they confess it-yet they have a haziness about their views of the Atonement and from this arises greatdarkness of spirit. They cannot see the plan of salvation and because they cannot see the plan, they do not, therefore, geta joyful sense of the thing, itself. Yet if these persons were soon to die, I am well assured that before they departed thislife, God would give them such a glimpse of sunshine that all the clouds would be dissipated and they would be able to enterHeaven singing, as they waded through the stream of Jordan, "Christ is with me! Death is nothing. Christ is with me! He ismy Helper and my Stay." Long before they know it, their sins are forgiven.

Besides, there is a doctrine very much scandalized by certain professors and rejected by many persons, but which I firmlybelieve in. I mean, the Doctrine of the Eternal and Complete Justification of All the Elect in the Person of Christ Jesus.It does seem to me that when the Divine Surety paid our debts, our debts were discharged. That when He took our guilt uponHis head and suffered for us on Calvary, our sins were, in that moment, blotted out. Some will say, "But the sins were notin existence, then." No, they were not, except in the foreknowledge of God, but the foreknowing God had all those sins writtenin the book of His foreknowledge long before they were committed. And by the blood of Christ, "the Lamb slain from the foundationof the world," He did forever blot out the crimes and sins of all His Covenant people, so that everyone who shall be savedat last was j ustified in Christ when He died. The sins of all who shall be saved were atoned for by Christ, though they knownothing of it until God reveals it to them, by His Spirit, in the moment when they exercise faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.If the debt was paid, then surely a full receipt was given! If the crime was then laid on Jesus' head and He was then punishedfor it, surely the crime ceased to be! If you say that the crime was not in existence because it was not committed-I wouldtell you that Christ died for it before it was committed. Therefore we are quite right in saying that it was blotted out beforeit was committed.

I received my pardon when I believed-but it was purchased when Christ died. In the Person of Christ I was as completely andas truly, in God's sight, justified then, as I am now! But I knew it not-it was not revealed to me, I could not rejoice init, I could not be blessed by it. The blood-bought pardon could not absolve me till I had a sense of it-the pardon of Christcould not redeem me from the prison of sin until I knew about it-but yet it was virtually given. When the ransom price waspaid, the freedom was really secured, though the slave was still scarred, branded and chained to his oar. He was a purchasedman and would one day receive his liberty. Oh, are not your hearts gladdened and do not your eyes glisten? Though you do notknow that you are pardoned, it may be true that your sins are blotted out! Though you do not know that you have been justified,it may be true that you are "accepted in the Beloved!" "Oh," says one, "if I thought there were a hope or even a chance ofsuch a thing for me, I would go to Jesus, though my sins had 'risen like a mountain.'" Go, then, poor Sinner, and if you cannotread your pardon, there-if you cannot see the handwriting of ordinances that were against you nailed to His Cross-come backand say that I speak not the Truth of God! There have been many sinners who went to Christ full of sin-but there never wasone who came back from Him as he went! Many have gone to Him guilty, but none have been turned away from His door unforgiven!He blots out, as a thick cloud, their transgressions and, as a cloud, their sins.

A man may have his sins forgiven, then, before he knows it, and a true Christian who has come to the Lord Jesus may have hissins blotted out even when he does not believe they are. The devil can make you believe anything. No lawyer is equal to him-thoughsome lawyers have, most undoubtedly, learned a few lessons at his hands-for not only can he make what is half the truth appearthe whole truth, but he can take a lie and gild it with truth. How often does he persuade a truly justified man that he isnot justified! It often comes to pass that when God has pardoned a poor sinner, the devil will come to him and tell him thathe is not pardoned-and so much logic will he use with him, that he will make him believe that he is not pardoned, althoughhe really is. Though every crime of that man has been forgiven long ago, though all his iniquities have been cast into thedepths of the sea, Satan will agitate his conscience, stir up his soul, bind him with unbelief, cast gravel into his food,cause him to eat wormwood and drink the water of gall, as Jeremiah has said, until he will not only deny that he has evertasted that the Lord is gracious, but he will be in such despair that he will fancy it is not possible that he can ever besaved. Satan will persuade a justified man that he is yet "in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity."

Are there not some of you who have had many pleasant days, many sweet hours of fellowship with Christ, but in some dark momentthe thought crossed your mind that you might be a hypocrite, after all? From that hour you have not been able to come nearto Him and though you have trusted under the shadow of His wings, yet you have not seen the light of His Countenance. Well,but let me tell you, Brothers and Sisters, the pardon is not revoked because it is concealed from view! The pardon is justas good when you cannot see it as when you do see it. A pardon is a pardon and though the condemned criminal does not seethe pardon, it is not revoked. God takes care of our pardon for us! He does not put it into our hands, for Satan might takeit away from us, but He lets us have a copy of it to read and though Satan steals the copy, he cannot get the original-thatis safe in the archives of Heaven! Up there, in the Ark of God, where He keeps the deeds of the universe, there He preservesthe writings of the pardon of our sins! Yes, though I may doubt whether I am pardoned, if I really am so, I am so! And I oughtnot so much to depend upon my own frames and feelings as upon this-God has said to me once, "I have blotted out your sins."He has said it to me twice! I read it in His Word and though Satan says they are not removed, I believe they are. And I willstand fast in this assurance because God said, "I have blotted out, as a thick cloud, your transgressions."

II. Another remark upon our text is that NOTHING CAN SO STRONGLY LEAD A MAN TO COME TO GOD AS A SENSE OF PARDONED SIN. "Ihave blotted out, as a thick cloud, your transgressions and as a cloud, your sins: return unto Me; for I have redeemed you."

Enthusiastic divines have thought that men were to be brought to virtue by the hissings of the boiling cauldron. They haveimagined that by beating a Hell drum in the ears of men, they could make them believe the Gospel. That by the terrific sightsand sounds of Sinai's mountain, they could drive men to Calvary. They have preached perpetually, "Do this and you are damned."In their preaching there preponderates a horrible and terrifying voice. If you listened to them, you might think you sat nearthe mouth of the Pit and heard the "dismal groans and sullen moans," and all the shrieks of the tortured ones in Perdition!Men think that by these means sinners will be brought to the Savior. They, however, in my opinion, think wrongly! Men arefrightened into Hell, but not into Heaven. Men are sometimes driven to Sinai by powerful preaching. Far be it from us to condemnthe use of the Law of God, for, "the Law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ," but if you want to get a man to Christ,the best way is to bring Christ to the man! It is not by preaching Law and terrors that men are made to love God-

"Law and terrors do but harden, All the while they work alone. But a sense of blood-bought pardon, Soon dissolves a heartof stone."

I sometimes preach "the terror of the Lord" as Paul did when he said, "Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuademen." But I do it as did the Apostle-to bring them to a sense of their sins. The way to bring men to Jesus, to give them peace,to give them joy, to give them salvation through Christ, is by God the Spirit's assistance, to preach Christ-to preach a full,free, perfect pardon. Oh, how little there is of preaching Jesus Christ! We do not preach enough about His glorious name.Some preach dry doctrines, but there is not the unction of the Holy One revealing the fullness and preciousness of the LordJesus. There is plenty of, "Do this and live," but not enough of, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved."O sweet Jesus, have not some of Your disciples forgotten You? Have not some of Your preachers almost lost the sound of Yourglorious name and scarcely know its blessed pronunciation? Send us, once again, we pray You, the spirit of love and of a soundmind, that we may preach more fully Jesus Christ our Lord!

But now, my Friends, let me ask you earnestly-when did you ever feel, under a sense of sin, the most inclination to come tothe Savior? I think you will reply at once, when you felt that there was hope for you and that He had blotted out your sins!No man will come to Jesus while he thinks harshly of Him. But when he has sweet thoughts of Him, then will he come. You haveno doubt heard the old figure, borrowed from John Bunyan, of a certain army that was inside a city and which was attackedby another host. The king outside said, "Give up the city, directly, or I'll hang every man of you." "No," they said, "wewill fight to the death and we will never give up!" "I will burn your city," he said, "and utterly destroy it, raze it tothe ground and slay your wives and children. I will wholly cut off the race and exterminate you." "Ah," they said, "then wewill fight till we die! We will never open the doors." Seeing that threats were of no avail, he sent another message, "Ifyou will only open your gates and come out to me, I will let you go away, bag and baggage. I will give all of you your livesand liberty and, what is more, I will let you have your lands, again, for a small tribute, and you shall be my servants andfriends forever." "Straightway," says the parable, "they unbarred the gates and came tumbling out to the monarch." That isthe way, by the Spirit's help, to get a sinner to come in penitence to Jesus- to tell him that the Lord says this-"I haveblotted out, as a thick cloud, your transgressions and, as a cloud, your sins: return unto Me; for I have redeemed you."

Come along, Beloved! Why are you afraid of Jesus? He says, "Return unto me; for I have redeemed you." Come along, Brothersand Sisters, to the Lord Jesus if you are a sinner! I speak to that one who feels himself a lost and guilty one. Come withme to Jesus, for He has blotted out your transgressions as a thick cloud and, as a cloud, your sins. And He has redeemed you."Oh," says one, "I dare not come in! He will frown upon me." Come and try Him! He says He has forgiven you-come in at thedoor and you will find it true that Christ has forgiven you! I think I see you standing and looking at yourself and saying,"Oh, was I not worse than ten thousand fools to be afraid to come in-to be afraid to trust Him when He had pardoned me beforehand?Was I not worse than ignorant to stand back from my best Friend, as if He had been a lion-to stay away from the dear Jesuswho had purchased my ransom, as if He were my foe?"

One would think, dear Friends, when you are so loath to come to Christ, that you were coming to receive condemnation insteadof coming to be saved! Men come unwillingly to execution, but must they come as unwillingly to Christ as they do to the slaughter?You think Him some angry Judge. You have bad ideas of my sweet Jesus, or else you would not keep away from Him when He iscontinually crying, "Return unto Me!" "Return unto Me!" O that you would so love Him and rejoice in Him, that you would feelthe greatest pleasure in the world in coming to Him! [Some alarm was here occasioned by the gas lights suddenly going out.After the temporary confusion had subsided, Mr. Spurgeon proceeded to address the large and excited auditory on a differentsubject. In his Autobiography, he mentions that both the discourses delivered under these unusual circumstances were blessedto the conversion of some of his hearers.]


Verse 1. They that trust in the LORD shall be as mount Zion which cannot be removed, but abides forever Various conquerorshave destroyed the buildings upon Mount Zion, but the mountain, itself, is still there. None have ever dug it up and castit into the Mediterranean Sea. It stands fast and will stand there as long as the world endures. And "they that trust in theLord shall be as Mount Zion"-they shall abide as firmly as that sacred mountain does! Nothing can move them, or remove them.They are in the hands of Christ and none can pluck them from there. "My Father, who gave them to Me, is greater than all,"says Christ, "and no man is able to pluck them out of My Father's hand." Oh, what strength does faith give to a man!

2. As the mountains are roundabout Jerusalem, so the LORD surrounds His people from this time forth and forever This verseshows the Believer's safety, as the former one showed his stability. As the mountains stood to guard the sacred city, so doesGod surround His people as a wall of fire. Before any can hurt the Believer, they must first break through the ramparts ofthe Godhead! It is not merely said that horses of fire and chariots of fire are round about His people, though that is true,but that the Lord, Himself, surrounds them, and that not occasionally, but "from this time forth and forever." I believe inthe eternal safety of the saints and I would base it upon these two verses if there were no other Scriptures to that effect!If they never are to be moved any more than Mount Zion and if God is round about them forever, then they must live and theymust stand. There is no, "if," or, "but," put in here-there is no, "provided that they behave themselves," and so on. No,but, trusting in God, they shall never be moved and God will surround them as their sure defense! I fancy I hear someone say,"If it is so, why am I tried and troubled?" Ah, my Brother, it was never contemplated that you should be free from trouble!There is a rod in the Covenant and if you never feel it, you may suspect that you are notin the Covenant!

3. For the rod of the wicked shall not rest upon the lot of the righteous lest the righteousput forth their hands unto iniquity.You will feel that rod, but it shall not rest upon you. The days of persecution shall be shortened for the elect's sake andthough, perhaps, the devil may be more furious with you than ever-having great wrath because he knows that his time is short-yetGod will put an end to your suffering, your persecution, your oppression, for He knows your frame and he is aware that, perhaps,if the temptation were pushed too far, you might yield. Therefore will He makes a way of escape for you. He means to try andtest you, but not too much. He will abate the fierceness of man's wrath and deliver you.

4. Do good, O LORD, unto those that are good, and to them that are upright in their hearts. True Believers are good-especiallyare they good at heart, for Divine Grace has made them so and God, therefore, will do them good. He will bless them more andmore. He will sanctify them and prepare them for the ineffable goodness that is at His right hand forever and ever.

5. As for such as turn aside unto their crooked ways, the LORD shall lead them forth with the workers of iniquity: but peaceshall be upon Israel There are-there always have been-in the Church of God some who have been the Church's dishonor. Theyhave crooked ways of their own and, in due time, under stress of persecution, or through temptation, they "turn aside untotheir crooked ways." They leave the path of trustfulness and holiness, as Judas did, as De-mas did, as many have done. Whatwill God do with them? He will "lead them forth." He will show them up. He will bring them into His Light. And in what companywill He lead them forth? Why, "with the workers of iniquity," for if they were not such in outward action, they were reallyso in thought and heart! And where will He lead them? He will lead them forth to execution-they shall go among the malefactors-theyshall be led forth to die. But will this hurt the Lord's people? No. When the chaff is separated from the wheat, the wheatshall be all the purer. "Peace shall be upon Israel." All the Lord's chosen, pleading, princely people-His Israel-shall havepeace upon them! May we all be found among them, for Christ's sake! Amen.