Friday, November 26, 2010

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Friday, January 22, 2010


11a. Alas! I Can Do Nothing!

After the anxious heart has accepted the doctrine of atonement, and learned the great truth that salvation is by faith in the Lord Jesus, it is often extremely troubled with a sense of inability toward that which is good. Many are groaning, “I can do nothing.” They are not making this into an excuse, but they feel it as a daily burden. They would if they could. Each one can honestly say, “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out” (Romans 7:18, ESV).

This feeling seems to make the entire gospel null and void; for what is the use of food to a hungry man if he cannot get to it? Of what benefit is the river of the water of life if one cannot drink? We recall the story of the doctor and the poor woman’s child. The wise physician told the mother that her little one would soon be better under proper treatment, but it was absolutely necessary that her boy drink the best juice regularly, and that he should spend some time at one of the German spas. All this, for a widow who could hardly get bread to eat! Now, sometimes it seems to the troubled heart that the simple gospel of “Believe and live,” is not, after all, so very simple; for it asks the poor sinner to do what he cannot do. To the really awakened, but half instructed, there appears to be a missing link; way over there is the salvation of Jesus, but how is it to be reached? The soul is without strength, and doesn’t know what to do. It lies within sight of the city of refuge, and cannot enter its gate.

Is this lack of strength provided for in the plan of salvation? It is. The work of the Lord is perfect. It begins where we are, and asks nothing from us in order to be completed. When the Good Samaritan saw the traveler lying wounded and half dead, he didn’t ask him rise and come to him, and mount the donkey and ride off to the inn. No, “he came where he was,” and ministered to him, and lifted him upon the beast and carried him to the inn. Thus, the Lord Jesus deals with us in our low and wretched estate.

We have seen that God justifies, that He justifies the ungodly and that He justifies them through faith in the precious blood of Jesus; now we must see the condition these ungodly ones are in when Jesus works out their salvation. Many awakened persons are not only troubled about their sin, but about their moral weakness. They have no strength to escape from the mire that they have fallen into; or to keep out of it afterward. They not only mourn over what they have done, but over what they cannot do. They feel themselves to be powerless, helpless, and spiritually lifeless. It may sound odd to say that they feel dead, and yet that’s what it is. They are, in their own estimation, incapable of any and all good. They cannot travel the road to Heaven because their bones are broken. “All the men of war were unable to use their hands” (Psalms 76:5, ESV); in fact, they are “still weak.” Happily, it is written, as the commendation of God’s love to us:

“For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.” --Romans 5:6, ESV

Here we see conscious helplessness aided-- helped by the mediation of the Lord Jesus. Our helplessness is extreme. It is not written, “While we were comparatively weak Christ died for us”; or, “While we had only a little strength”; but the description is absolute and unrestricted; “While we were still weak.” We had no strength whatsoever that could aid in our salvation; our Lord’s words were emphatically true, “Apart from Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5, ESV). I may go further than the text, and remind you of the great love with which the Lord loved us, even when we “were dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1, ESV). To be dead is even more than to be without strength.

The one thing that the poor strengthless sinner has to fix his mind upon, and firmly retain as his one ground of hope, is the divine assurance that “at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.” Believe this, and all inability will disappear. Like the fable about Midas turning everything into gold by his touch, so it is true of faith, that it turns everything it touches into good. Our very needs and weaknesses become blessings when faith deals with them.

Let’s examine certain forms of this lack of strength. To begin with, one man will say, “Sir, I do not seem to have strength to collect my thoughts, and keep them fixed upon those solemn topics which concern my salvation; a short prayer is almost too much for me. It is so partly, perhaps, through natural weakness, partly because I have hurt myself through indulgent vices, and partly also because I worry myself with worldly cares, so that I am not capable of those high thoughts which are necessary before a soul can be saved.” This is a very common form of sinful weakness. Note this! You are without strength on this point; and there are many like you. They could not carry out a train of consecutive thought to save their lives. Many poor men and women are illiterate and untrained, and these would find deep thought to be very heavy work. Others are so light and trifling by nature that they could no more follow out a long process of argument and reasoning, than they could fly. They could never arrive at the knowledge of any deep mystery if they spent their whole life in the effort. You need not despair: what is necessary for salvation is not continuous thought, but a simple reliance upon Jesus. Hold on to this one fact-- “At the right time Christ died for the ungodly.” This truth will not require any deep research from you, or profound reasoning or convincing argument. There it stands: “At the right time Christ died for the ungodly.” Set your mind on that, and rest there.

[Charles Haddon Spurgeon’s classic, All of Grace, has been edited in Modern English by Jon Cardwell]

Friday, December 18, 2009


10. Why are We Saved by Faith?

Why is faith selected as the channel of salvation? No doubt this question is often asked. “By grace you have been saved through faith,” is surely the doctrine of Holy Scripture, and the ordinance of God; but why is that? Why is faith selected instead of hope, or love, or patience?

It is appropriate to be modest in answering such a question, for God’s ways are not always clearly understood; nor are we allowed to question them presumptuously. Humbly we would reply that, as far as we can tell, faith has been selected as the channel of grace, because there is a natural adaptation in faith to be used as the receiver. Suppose that I am about to give a poor man an alms of money: I put it into his hand-- why? Well, it would hardly be fitting to put it into his ear, or to place it on his foot; the hand seems to be made for the purpose of receiving. So, in our mental frame, faith is created on purpose to be a receiver: it is the hand of the man, and therefore, suitable in receiving grace in this way.

Let me put this very plainly. Faith that receives Christ is as simple an act as when your child receives an apple from you, because you hold it out and promise to give him the apple if he comes for it. The belief and the receiving relate only to an apple; but they make up precisely the same act as the faith that deals with eternal salvation. What the child’s hand is to the apple, that your faith is to the perfect salvation of Christ. The child’s hand does not make the apple, nor improve the apple, nor deserve the apple; it only takes it; and faith is chosen by God to be the receiver of salvation, because it does not pretend to create salvation, or to help in it, but it is content to humbly receive it. “Faith is the tongue that begs pardon, the hand which receives it, and the eye which sees it; but it is not the price which buys it.” Faith never makes herself her own request; she rests all her argument upon the blood of Christ. She becomes a good servant to bring the riches of the Lord Jesus to the soul, because she acknowledges from where she drew them, and admits that grace alone entrusted her with them.

Again, faith is, without doubt, selected because it gives all the glory to God. It is of faith that it might be by grace, and it is of grace that there might be no boasting because God hates pride. “The haughty He knows from afar” (Psalm 138:6, ESV), and He has no wish to come nearer to them. He will not give salvation in a way that will suggest or encourage pride. Paul says, “Not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Ephesians 2:9). Now, faith leaves out all boasting. The hand that receives charity does not say, “I am to be thanked for accepting the gift”; that would be absurd. When the hand delivers bread to the mouth it does not say to the body, “Thank me; for I feed you.” It’s a very simple thing what the hand does, though a very necessary thing; and it never inappropriately demands glory to itself for what it does. So God has selected faith to receive the unspeakable gift of His grace, because it cannot take to itself any credit, but must adore the gracious God who is the giver of all good things. Faith sets the crown upon the right head, and therefore the Lord Jesus was accustomed to put the crown upon the head of faith, saying, “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace” (Luke 7:50).

Next, God selects faith as the path of salvation because it is a sure method, linking man with God. When man confides in God, there is a point of union between them, and that union guarantees blessing. Faith saves us because it makes us cling to God, and so brings us connects us to Him. I have often used the following illustration, but I must repeat it, because I cannot think of a better one. I am told that years ago a boat was capsized above the Niagara Falls: two men were being carried down the current when those on shore managed to float a rope out to them, and that rope was seized by them both. One of them held on to it tightly and was safely pulled to the bank; but the other, seeing a huge log floating by, unwisely let go of the rope and hugged the log (because the log was bigger than the rope), and apparently better to cling to. Sadly, the log with the man on it went right over the falls because there was no union between the log and the shore. The size of the log was no benefit to the man that grasped it; it needed a connection with the shore to produce safety. So when a man trusts in his works, or in sacraments, or to anything of that sort, he will not be saved, because those provide him no connection between the man and Christ; but faith, though it may seem like a slender cord, is in the hands of the great God on the shore; infinite power pulls on the connecting line, and therefore hauls the man from destruction. Oh the blessedness of faith, because it unites us to God!

Faith is chosen again, because it touches the springs of action. Even in ordinary things faith of a certain kind lies at the root of all things. I wonder whether I shall be wrong if I say that we never do anything except that it is through faith in some way. If I walk across the room it is because I believe my legs will carry me. A man eats because he believes in the necessity of food; he goes to business because he believes in the value of money; he accepts a check because he believes that the bank will honor it. Columbus discovered America because he believed that there was another continent beyond the ocean; and the Pilgrim Fathers colonized it because they believed that God would be with them on those rocky shores. Most grand deeds have been born of faith; for good or for evil, faith works wonders by the man in whom it dwells. Faith in its natural form is an all-prevailing force, which enters into all kinds of human actions. Possibly he who mocks faith in God is the man who, in an evil way, has the most of faith; indeed, he usually falls into a gullibility that would be ridiculous, if it were not disgraceful. God gives salvation through faith, because by creating faith in us He touches the real mainspring of our emotions and actions. He has taken possession of the battery, so to speak, and now He can send the sacred electric current to every part of our nature. When we believe in Christ, and the heart has come into the possession of God, then we are saved from sin, and are moved toward repentance, holiness, zeal, prayer, consecration, and every other gracious thing. “What oil is to the wheels, what weights are to a clock, what wings are to a bird, what sails are to a ship, that faith is to all holy duties and services.” Have faith, and all other graces will follow and continue to hold their course.

Faith, again, has the power of working by love; it influences the affections toward God, and draws the heart after the best things. He that believes in God will love God beyond question. Faith is an act of the understanding; but it also proceeds from the heart. “With the heart one believes unto righteousness” (Romans 10:10); and for this reason God gives salvation to faith because it lives next door to the affections, and is near akin to love; and love is the parent and the nurse of every holy feeling and act. Love to God is obedience; love to God is holiness. To love God and to love man is to be conformed to the image of Christ; and this is salvation.

Moreover, faith creates peace and joy; he that hath it rests, and is tranquil, is glad and joyous, and this is a preparation for heaven. God gives all heavenly gifts to faith, for this reason among others, that faith works in us the life and spirit that are to be eternally manifested in the upper and better world. Faith furnishes us with armor for this life, and education for the life to come. It enables a man to both live and to die without fear; it prepares both for action and for suffering; and hence the Lord selects it as a most convenient method for conveying grace to us, and thereby securing us for glory.

Certainly faith does for us what nothing else can do; it gives us joy and peace, and causes us to enter into rest. Why do men attempt to gain salvation by other way? An old preacher says, “A silly servant who is bidden to open a door, sets his shoulder to it and pushes with all his might; but the door stirs not, and he cannot enter, using whatever strength he can muster. Another comes with a key, and easily unlocks the door, and enters right readily. Those who would be saved by works are pushing at heaven’s gate without result; but faith is the key which opens the gate at once.” Reader, will you not use that key? The Lord commands you to believe in His dear Son, therefore you may do so; and in doing so you will live. Isn’t this the promise of the gospel, “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved” (Mark 16:16, ESV)? What can be your objection to a way of salvation that entrusts itself to the mercy and the wisdom of our gracious God?

[Charles Haddon Spurgeon’s classic, All of Grace, has been edited in Modern English by Jon Cardwell. A chapter or two will be posted each Friday.]

Friday, December 11, 2009


9. How May Faith Be Illustrated?

To make the matter of faith even clearer, I will give you a few illustrations. Though the Holy Spirit alone can make my reader see, it is my duty and my joy to furnish all the light I can, and to pray the divine Lord to open blind eyes. Oh that my reader would pray the same prayer for himself!

The faith that saves has its similarities in the human body.

It is the eye that looks. By the eye we bring into the mind those things that are far away; we can bring the sun and the distant stars into the mind by a glance of the eye. So by trust we bring the Lord Jesus near to us; and though He is far away in Heaven, He enters into our heart. Only look to Jesus; for the hymn is exactly true:

There is life in a look at the Crucified One,
There is life at this moment for thee.

Faith is the hand that grasps. When our hand takes hold of anything for itself, it does exactly what faith does when it grabs hold of Christ and the blessings of His redemption. Faith says, “Jesus is mine.” Faith hears of the pardoning blood, and cries, “I receive it to pardon me.” Faith calls the inheritance of the dying Jesus her own; and they are her own, for faith is Christ’s heir; He has given Himself and all that He has to faith. Take, O friend, that which grace has provided for thee. You will not be a thief, for you have a divine permit: “Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely” (Revelation 22:17). Anyone that can have a treasure simply by grabbing it will be foolish indeed if he remains poor.

Faith is the mouth that feeds upon Christ. Before food can nourish us, it must be received into us. This is a simple matter-- this eating and drinking. We willingly receive into the mouth that which is our food, and then we consent that it should pass down into our inward parts, where it is taken up and absorbed into our body. Paul says, in his Epistle to the Romans, in the tenth chapter, “The word is near you, in your mouth” (Romans 10:8). Now then, all that is to be done is to swallow it, to allow it to go down into the soul. Oh that men had an appetite! A hungry man that sees meat in front of him does not need to be taught how to eat. Someone once said, “Give me a knife and a fork and a chance.” He was fully prepared to do the rest. Truly, a heart that hungers and thirsts after Christ only needs to know that He is freely given, and at once it will receive Him. If this sounds like you, don’t hesitate to receive Jesus; for he may be sure that he will never be blamed for doing so: for unto “as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12). He never rejects one, but He authorizes all who have come to remain sons forever.

The pursuits of life illustrate faith in many ways. The farmer buries good seed in the earth, and expects it not only to live, but also to be multiplied. He has faith in the covenant arrangement, that “seed-time and harvest shall not cease” (Genesis 8:22), and he is rewarded for his faith.

The merchant places his money in the care of a banker, and completely trusts the honesty and soundness of the bank. He entrusts his wealth to hands of another, and feels far more at ease than if he had the solid gold locked up in an iron safe.

The sailor trusts himself to the sea. When he swims he takes his foot from the bottom and rests upon the buoyant ocean. He could not swim if he did not complete cast himself into the water.

The goldsmith puts precious metal into the fire, which seems eager to consume it, but he receives it back again from the furnace purified by the heat.

You cannot turn anywhere in life without seeing faith in operation between man and man, or between man and natural law. Now, just as we trust in daily life, even so, we are to trust in God as He is revealed in Christ Jesus.

Faith exists in different persons in various degrees, according to the amount of their knowledge or growth in grace. Sometimes faith is little more than a simple clinging to Christ, a sense of dependence and a willingness to truly depend. When you are down at the seashore, you will see limpets sticking to the rock. You walk carefully up to the rock; you strike the mollusk using a rapid blow with a stick, and off he comes. Try the next limpet in that way. You have given him warning; he heard the blow with which you struck his neighbor, and he clings with all his might. You will never get him off. Not you! Strike, and strike again, but you may as soon break the rock. Our little friend, the limpet, does not know much, but he clings. He is not acquainted with the geological formation of the rock, but he clings. He can cling, and he has found something to cling to: this is all his stock of knowledge, and he uses it for his security and salvation. It is the limpet’s life to cling to the rock, and it is the sinner’s life to cling to Jesus. Thousands of God’s people have no more faith than this; they know enough to cling to Jesus with all their heart and soul, and this is sufficient for the present peace and eternal safety. Jesus Christ is to them a Savior strong and mighty, a Rock immovable and immutable; they cling to him for dear life, and this clinging saves them. Reader, cannot you cling? Do so at once.

Faith is seen when one man relies upon another from knowledge of the superiority of the other. This is a higher faith; the faith which knows the reason for its dependence, and acts upon it. I do not think the limpet knows much about the rock: but as faith grows it becomes more and more intelligent. A blind man trusts himself with his guide because he knows that his friend can see, and, trusting, he walks where his guide conducts him. If the poor man is born blind he does not know what sight is; but he knows that there is such a thing as sight, and that his friend possesses it and therefore he freely puts his hand into the hand of the seeing one, and follows his leadership. “We walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7). “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29). This is as good an image of faith as can be; we know that Jesus has merit, and power, and blessing, which we do not possess, and therefore we gladly trust ourselves to Him to be to us what we cannot be to ourselves. We trust Him as the blind man trusts his guide. He never betrays our confidence; but He “became for us wisdom from God-- and righteousness and sanctification and redemption” (1 Corinthians 1:30).

Every boy that goes to school has to exert faith while learning. His teachers teach him geography, and instruct him as to the form of the earth, and the existence of certain great cities and empires. The boy himself does not know whether or not these things are true, except that he believes his teacher, and the books put into his hands. That is what you will have to do with Christ, if you are to be saved; you must simply know because He tells you, believe because He assures you it is even so, and trust yourself with Him because He promises you that salvation will be the result. Almost all that you and I know has come to us by faith. A scientific discovery has been made, and we are sure of it. On what grounds do we believe it? On the authority of certain famous, educated men, whose reputations are established. We have never made or seen their experiments, but we believe their witness. You must do likewise with regard to Jesus: because He teaches you certain truths if you are to be His disciple, and believe His words; because He has performed certain acts you are to be His client, and trust yourself with Him. He is infinitely superior to you, and presents Himself to your confidence as your Master and Lord. If you will receive Him and His words you shall be saved.

Another and a higher form of faith is that faith which grows out of love. Why does a boy trust his father? The reason why the child trusts his father is because he loves him. Blessed and happy are they who have a sweet faith in Jesus, intertwined with deep affection for Him, for this is a restful confidence. These lovers of Jesus are charmed with His character, and delighted with His mission, they are carried away by the loving kindness that He has manifested, and therefore they cannot help trusting Him, because they so much admire, revere, and love Him.

The way of loving trust in the Savior may be illustrated in this way: A lady is the wife of the most famous physician of the day. She suffers an attack from a dangerous illness, and is confined to bed by its power; yet she is wonderfully calm and quiet, for her husband has made this disease his special study, and has healed thousands who were similarly afflicted. She is not in the least troubled, for she feels perfectly safe in the hands of one so dear to her, and in whom skill and love are blended in their highest forms. Her faith is reasonable and natural; her husband, from every point of view, deserves it of her. This is the kind of faith that the happiest of believers exercise toward Christ. There is no physician like Him, none can save as He can; we love Him, and He loves us, and therefore we put ourselves into His hands, accept whatever He prescribes, and do whatever He bids. We feel that nothing can be wrongly ordered while He is the director of our affairs; for He loves us too well to let us perish, or suffer a single needless pang.

Faith is the root of obedience, and this may be clearly seen in the matters of life. When a captain trusts a pilot to steer his ship into port he manages the vessel according to his direction. When a traveler trusts a guide to lead him over a difficult pass, he follows the track that his guide points out. When a patient believes in a physician, he carefully follows his prescriptions and directions. Faith that refuses to obey the commands of the Savior is a mere pretence, and will never save the soul. We trust Jesus to save us; He gives us directions as to the way of salvation; we follow those directions and are saved. Don’t forget this: Trust Jesus, and prove your trust by doing whatever He requests of you.

A notable form of faith arises out of assured knowledge; this comes of growth in grace, and is the faith that believes Christ because it knows Him, and trusts Him because it has proved Him to be infallibly faithful. An old Christian was in the habit of writing T and P in the margin of her Bible whenever she had tried and proved a promise. How easy it is to trust a tried and proven Savior! You cannot do this as yet, but you will. Everything must have a beginning. You will rise to strong faith in due time. This matured faith asks not for signs and tokens, but bravely believes. Look at the faith of the master mariner-- I have often wondered at it. His lines are cast off from the pier and he steams away from the land. For days, weeks, or even months, he never sees ship or shore; yet on he goes day and night without fear, until one morning he finds himself exactly opposite to the desired harbor toward which he has been steering. How did he find his way over the trackless deep? He has trusted in his compass, his nautical charts and almanac, his binoculars, and the stars at night; and obeying their guidance, without sighting land, he has steered so accurately that he didn’t need to change a single point to enter into port. It is a wonderful thing-- that sailing or steaming without sight. Spiritually it is a blessed thing to leave the shores of sight and feeling altogether, and to say, “Good-bye” to inward feelings, cheering providences, signs, tokens, and so forth. It is glorious to be far out on the ocean of divine love, believing in God, and steering for Heaven straight away by the direction of the Word of God. “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29); to them it shall be administered an abundant entrance at last, and a safe voyage on the way. Won’t you put your trust in God in Christ Jesus, my reader? There I rest with joyous confidence. Brother, come with me, and believe our Father and our Savior. Come at once.

[Charles Haddon Spurgeon’s classic, All of Grace, has been edited in Modern English by Jon Cardwell. A chapter or two will be posted each Friday.]

Friday, December 4, 2009


8. What is Faith?

What is this faith concerning which it is said, “By grace you have been saved, through faith?” There are many descriptions of faith; but almost all the definitions I have met with have made me understand it less than I did before I saw them. Someone said that when he read the chapter that he would confound it; and it is very likely that he did, though he meant to expound it. We may explain faith until nobody understands it. I hope I shall not be guilty of that fault. Faith is the simplest of all things, and perhaps because of its simplicity it is the more difficult to explain.

What is faith? It is made up of three things-- knowledge, belief, and trust. Knowledge comes first. “And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard?” (Romans 10:14). I want to be informed of a fact before I can possibly believe it. “Faith comes by hearing” (Romans 10:17); we must first hear, in order that we may know what is to be believed. “Those who know Your name will put their trust in You” (Psalm 9:10). A measure of knowledge is essential to faith; hence the importance of getting knowledge. “Incline your ear, and come to Me. Hear, and your soul shall live” (Isaiah 55:3). Such was the Word of the ancient prophet, and it is the word of the gospel still. Search the Scriptures and learn what the Holy Spirit teaches concerning Christ and His salvation. Seek to know God: “for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6). May the Holy Spirit give you the spirit of knowledge, and of the fear of the Lord! Know the gospel: know what the good news is, how it talks of free forgiveness, and of change of heart, of adoption into the family of God, and of countless other blessings. Know especially Christ Jesus the Son of God, the Savior of men, united to us by His human nature, and yet one with God; and thus able to act as Mediator between God and man, able to lay His hand upon both, and to be the connecting link between the sinner and the Judge of all the earth. Make an effort to know more and more of Christ Jesus. Try especially to know the doctrine of the sacrifice of Christ; for the point upon which saving faith mainly fixes itself is this-- “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:19). Know that Jesus was made “a curse for us (for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree’)” (Galatians 3:13). Drink deep of the doctrine of the substitutionary work of Christ; for it is found in that truth the sweetest possible comfort to the guilty sons of men, since the Lord “made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21). Faith begins with knowledge.

The mind goes on to believe that these things are true. The soul believes that God is, and that He hears the cries of sincere hearts; that the gospel is from God; that justification by faith is the grand truth which God hath revealed in these last days by His Spirit more clearly than before. Then the heart believes that Jesus is verily, and in truth, our God and Savior, the Redeemer of men, the Prophet, Priest, and King of His people. All this is accepted as sure truth, not to be questioned. I pray that you may come to this at once. Get firmly to believe that “the blood of Jesus Christ, God’s dear Son, cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7); that His sacrifice is complete and fully accepted of God on man’s behalf, so that he that believes on Jesus is not condemned. Believe these truths as you believe any other statements, for the difference between common faith and saving faith lies mainly in the subjects upon which it is exercised. Believe the witness of God just as you believe the testimony of your own father or friend. “If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater” (1 John 5:9).

So far you have made an advance toward faith; only one more ingredient is needed to complete it, which is trust. Commit yourself to the merciful God; rest your hope on the gracious gospel; trust your soul on the dying and living Savior; wash away your sins in the atoning blood; receive His perfect righteousness, and all is well. Trust is the lifeblood of faith; there is no saving faith without it. The Puritans were accustomed to explain faith by the word “recumbency.” It meant to lean upon something; lean upon Christ with all your weight. It would be a better illustration still if I said, fall flat on your face and lie on the Rock of Ages. Cast yourself upon Jesus; rest in Him; commit yourself to Him. That accomplished, you have exercised saving faith. Faith is not a blind thing because faith begins with knowledge. It is not a speculative thing because faith believes facts that are true and certain. It is not an unpractical, dreamy thing because faith trusts, and stakes its destiny upon the truth who and what has been revealed. That is one way of describing what faith is.

Let me try again. Faith is believing that Christ is what He is said to be, and that He will do what He has promised to do, and then to expect this of Him. The Scriptures speak of Jesus Christ as being God, God is human flesh; as being perfect in His character; as being made of a sin-offering on our behalf; as bearing our sins in His own body on the Tree. The Scripture speaks of Him as having finished transgression, made an end of sin, and brought in everlasting righteousness. The sacred records also tell us that He “rose again from the dead” (1 Thessalonians 4:14), that “He always lives to make intercession for” us (Hebrews 7:25), that He has gone up into the glory, and has taken possession of Heaven on the behalf of His people, and that He will shortly come again to “judge the world in righteousness, and His people with equity” (Psalm 98:9). We are to believe most firmly that it is so; for this is the testimony of God the Father when He said, “This is My beloved Son. Hear Him” (Luke 9:35). God the Holy Spirit also testified to this; for the Spirit has borne witness to Christ, both in the inspired Word and by various miracles, and by His working in the hearts of men. We are to believe that this testimony is true.

Faith also believes that Christ will do what He has promised; that since He has promised not to cast out a single one that comes to Him, it is certain that He will not cast us out if we come to Him. Faith believes that since Jesus said, “The water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life” (John 4:14), it must be true; and if we get this living Water from Christ it will abide in us, and will well up within us in streams of holy life. Whatever Christ has promised to do He will do, and we must believe this, so we can look for pardon, justification, preservation, and eternal glory from His hands, according to His promise for them that believe in Him.

Then comes the next necessary step. Jesus is what He is said to be, Jesus will do what He says He will do; therefore we must each one trust Him, saying, “He will be to me what He says He is, and He will do to me what He has promised to do; I leave myself in the hands of Him who is appointed to save, that He may save me. I rest upon His promise that He will do just as He has said.” This is a saving faith, and he that has it has everlasting life. Whatever his dangers and difficulties, whatever his darkness and depression, whatever his infirmities and sins, he that believes on Christ Jesus is not condemned, and shall never come into condemnation.

May that explanation be of some service! I trust it may be used by the Spirit of God to direct my reader into immediate peace. “Do not be afraid; only believe” (Mark 5:36). Trust, and be at rest.

I fear that the reader should rest content with understanding with what is to be done, and yet never do it. Better the poorest real faith actually at work, than the best ideal of it left in the area of assumption. The great matter is to believe on the Lord Jesus at once. Never mind distinctions and definitions. A hungry man eats even though he does not understand what ingredients came together to make the meal, the anatomy of his mouth, or the process of digestion: he lives because he eats. Another far more clever person understands thoroughly the science of nutrition; but if he does not eat he will die with all his knowledge. There are many in hell, no doubt, who this very moment understood the doctrine of faith, but did not believe. On the other hand, not one who has trusted in the Lord Jesus has ever been cast out, though he may never have been able intelligently to define his faith. Oh dear reader, receive the Lord Jesus into your soul, and you shall live forever! He that believes in Him has everlasting life (John 6:47).

[Charles Haddon Spurgeon’s classic, All of Grace, has been edited in Modern English by Jon Cardwell. A chapter or two will be posted each Friday.]

Friday, November 27, 2009


7. By Grace Through Faith

“For by grace you have been saved through faith.” --Ephesians 2:8

I think it well to turn a little to one side that I may ask my reader to observe adoringly the fountainhead of our salvation, which is the grace of God. “By grace you have been saved.” Because God is gracious, sinful men are therefore forgiven, converted, purified, and saved. It is not because of anything in them, or that ever can be in them, that they are saved; but because of the boundless love, goodness, pity, compassion, mercy, and grace of God. Wait for a moment, then, at the source of the well. Behold the pure river of water of life, as it proceeds out of the throne of God and of the Lamb!

What a bottomless well the grace of God is! Who can measure its breadth? Who can fathom its depth? Like all the rest of the divine attributes, it is infinite. God is full of love, for “God is love.” God is full of goodness; the very name “God” is short for “good.” Unbounded goodness and love enter into the very essence of the Godhead. It is because “His mercy endures forever” (Psalm 136) that men are not destroyed; because “His compassions fail not” (Lamentations 3:22) that sinners are brought to Him and forgiven.

Remember this; or you may fall into error by fixing your minds so much upon the faith that is the channel of salvation as to forget the grace that is the fountain and source, even of faith itself. Faith is the work of God’s grace in us. No man can say that Jesus is the Christ but by the Holy Spirit. “No one can come to Me,” Jesus says, “unless the Father who sent Me draws him” (John 6:44). So that faith, which is coming to Christ, is the result of divine drawing. Grace is the first and last moving cause of salvation; and faith, essential as it is, is only an important part of the machinery that grace uses. We are saved “through faith,” but salvation is “by grace.” Sound forth those words as if it were the archangel’s trumpet: “By grace you have been saved.” What glad tidings for the undeserving!

Faith occupies the position of a channel or conduit pipe. Grace is the fountain and the stream; faith is the aqueduct through which the flood of mercy flows down to refresh the thirsty sons of men. It is a great pity when the aqueduct is broken. It is a sad sight to see around Rome the many noble aqueducts that no longer transport water into the city because the arches are broken and the marvelous structures are in ruins. The aqueduct must be kept intact to transport the current; and, even so, faith must be true and sound, leading right up to God and coming right down to ourselves, that it may become a serviceable channel of mercy to our souls.

Still, I remind you again that faith is only the channel or aqueduct, and not the fountainhead, and we must not look so much to it as to exalt it above the divine source of all blessing that lies in the grace of God. Never make a Christ out of your faith, nor think of as if it were the independent source of your salvation. Our life is found in “looking unto Jesus,” not in looking to our own faith. By faith all things become possible to us; yet the power is not in the faith, but in the God upon whom faith relies. Grace is the powerful engine, and faith is the chain by which the boxcar of the soul is attached to the great locomotive power. The righteousness of faith is not the moral excellence of faith, but the righteousness of Jesus Christ which faith grasps and makes its own. The peace within the soul does not come from the thoughtful meditation of our own faith; but it comes to us from Him who is our peace, the hem of whose garment faith touches, and virtue comes out of Him into the soul.

You see then, dear friend, that the weakness of your faith will not destroy you. A trembling hand may receive a golden gift. The Lord’s salvation can come to us though we have only faith as a grain of mustard seed. The power lies in the grace of God, and not in our faith. Great messages can be sent along slender wires, and the peace-giving witness of the Holy Spirit can reach the heart by means of a thread-like faith that seems almost unable to sustain its own weight. Think more of Him to whom you look than of the look itself. You must look away even from your own looking, and see nothing but Jesus, and the grace of God revealed in Him.

[Charles Haddon Spurgeon’s classic, All of Grace, has been edited in Modern English by Jon Cardwell. A chapter or two will be posted each Friday.]

Friday, November 20, 2009


6. Concerning Deliverance and Sinning
In this place I would say a plain word or two to those who understand the method of justification by faith which is in Christ Jesus, but whose trouble is that they cannot cease from sin. We can never be happy, restful, or spiritually healthy until we become holy. We must be rid of sin. Yet, how is this done? This is the life-or-death question for many. The old nature is very strong, and they have tried to curb and tame it; but it will not be restrained, and they find themselves, though anxious to be better, if anything they grow worse than before. The heart is so hard, the will is so obstinate, the passions are so furious, the thoughts are so volatile, the imagination is so ungovernable, the desires are so wild, that the man feels that he has a den of wild beasts within him, which will eat him up sooner than be ruled by him. We may say of our fallen nature what the Lord said to Job concerning Leviathan: “Will you play with him as with a bird, or will you leash him for your maidens?” (Job 41:5). A man might as well hope to hold the north wind in the hollow of his hand as expect to control those boisterous powers by his own strength which dwell within his fallen nature. This is a greater achievement than any of the fabled labors of Hercules: God is wanted here.

“I could believe that Jesus would forgive sin,” says one, “but then my trouble is that I sin again, and that I feel such awful tendencies to evil within me. As surely as a stone, if it is thrown up into the air, soon comes down again to the ground, so do I, though I am sent up to heaven by earnest preaching, I return again to my insensible state. Sadly, I am easily fascinated with the serpent’s eyes of sin, and am therefore held as under a spell, so that I cannot escape from my own foolishness.”

Dear friend, salvation would be a sadly incomplete matter if it did not deal with this part of our fallen condition. We want to be purified as well as pardoned. Justification without sanctification would not be salvation at all. It would call the leper clean, and leave him to die of his disease; it would forgive the rebellion and allow the rebel to remain an enemy to his king. It would remove the consequences but overlook the cause, and this would leave an endless and hopeless task before us. It would stop the stream for a time, but leave an open fountain of defilement, which would sooner or later break forth with increased power. Remember that the Lord Jesus came to take away sin in three ways; He came to remove the penalty of sin, the power of sin, and, at last, the presence of sin. At once you may reach to the second part-- the power of sin may immediately be broken; and so you will be on the road to the third, namely, the removal of the presence of sin. We “know that He was manifested to take away our sins” (1 John 3:5).

The angel said of our Lord, “You shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). Our Lord Jesus came to destroy in us the works of the devil. That which was said at our Lord’s birth was also declared in His death; for when the soldier pierced His side immediately blood and water came forth, to set forth the double cure by which we are delivered from the guilt and the defilement of sin.

If, however, you are troubled about the power of sin, and about the tendencies of your nature, as you well may be, here is a promise for you. Have faith in it, for it stands in that covenant of grace that is ordered in all things, and certain. God, who cannot lie, has said in Ezekiel 36:26,
“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.”
You see, it is all “I will,” and “I will.” “I will give,” and “I will take away.” This is the royal style of the King of kings, who is able to accomplish all His will. No Word of His shall ever fall to the ground.

The Lord knows quite well that you cannot change your own heart, and cannot cleanse your own nature; but He also knows that He can do both. He can cause the Ethiopian to change his skin, and the leopard his spots. Hear this, and be astonished: He can create you a second time; He can cause you to be born again. This is a miracle of grace, but the Holy Spirit will perform it. It would be a very wonderful thing if one could stand at the foot of Niagara Falls, and could speak a word which should make the river Niagara begin to run up stream, and leap up that great cliff over which it now rolls in astounding force. Nothing but the power of God could achieve that marvel; but that would be more than a fit parallel to what would take place if the course of your nature were altogether reversed. All things are possible with God. He can reverse the direction of your desires and the current of your life, and instead of going downward from God, He can make your whole being reach upward toward God. That is, in fact, what the Lord has promised to do for all who are in the covenant; and we know from Scripture that all believers are in the covenant. Let me read the words again:
“Then I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within them, and take the stony heart out of their flesh, and give them a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 11:19).
What a wonderful promise! And it is yes and amen in Christ Jesus to the glory of God by us. Let’s hold on to it; receive it as true, and set it apart as our very own. Then it shall be fulfilled in us, and we shall have to sing, throughout the days and years, of that wondrous change which the sovereign grace of God has performed in us.

It is well worthy of consideration that when the Lord takes away the stony heart, that deed is done; and when that is once done, no known power can ever take that new heart away which He gives, and that right spirit which He puts within us. “For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable” (Romans 11:29); that is, without repentance on His part; He does not take away what He once has given. Let Him renew you and you will be renewed. Man’s reforms and clean-ups soon come to an end, just as the dog returns to his own vomit; but when God puts a new heart into us, the new heart is there forever, and will never harden into stone again. He who made it flesh will keep it so. Herein we may rejoice and be glad forever in that which God creates in the kingdom of His grace.

To put the matter very simply-- did you ever hear of Mr. Rowland Hill’s illustration of the cat and the sow? I will tell it in my own way, to illustrate our Savior’s expressive words-- “You must be born again” (John 3:7). Do you see that cat? What a clean creature she is! How clever she is to wash herself with her tongue and her paws! It is quite a pretty sight! Did you ever see a sow do that? No, you never did. It is contrary to its nature. It prefers to wallow in the mud and muck. Go and teach a sow to wash itself, and see how little success you would have. It would be a great sanitary improvement if swine would be clean. Teach them to wash and clean themselves as the cat has been doing! Useless task. You may wash that sow by force, but it runs back to the muck, and is soon as disgusting as ever. The only way that you can get a sow to wash itself is to transform it into a cat; then it will wash and be clean, but not until then! Suppose that transformation to be accomplished, and then what was difficult or impossible is easy enough; the swine will be suitable, from now on, to sit in your living room and your clean carpets. So it is with an ungodly man; you cannot force him to do what a renewed man does most willingly; you may teach him, and set before him a good example, but he cannot learn the art of holiness, for he has no mind to it; his nature leads him another way. When the Lord makes a new man of him, all things have a different perspective. This change is so huge, that I once heard a convert say, “Either all the world is changed, or else I am.” The new nature follows after right as naturally as the old nature wanders after wrong. What a blessing to receive such a nature! The Holy Spirit can only give this.

Has it ever occurred to you what a wonderful thing it is for the Lord to give a new heart and a right spirit to a man? You have seen a lobster, perhaps, which has fought with another lobster, and lost one of its claws, and a new claw has grown to replace the lost one. That is a remarkable thing; but it is a much more astounding fact that a man should have a new heart given to him. This, indeed, is a miracle beyond the powers of nature. There is a tree. If you cut off one of its limbs, another one may grow in its place; but can you change the tree; can you sweeten sour sap; can you make the thorn bear figs? You can graft something better into it and that is the analogy which nature gives us of the work of grace; but absolutely to change the vital sap of the tree would be a miracle indeed. Such a extraordinary wonder and mystery of power God works in all who believe in Jesus.

If you yield yourself up to His divine working, the Lord will alter your nature; He will restrain the old nature, and breathe new life into you. Put your trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, and He will take the stony heart out of your flesh, and He will give you a heart of flesh. Where everything was hard, everything shall be tender; where everything was vicious, everything shall be virtuous: where everything tended downward, everything shall rise upward with spontaneous force. The lion of anger shall give place to the lamb of meekness; the raven of uncleanness shall fly before the dove of purity; the vile serpent of deceit shall be crushed under the heel of truth.
I have seen with my own eyes such marvelous changes of moral and spiritual character that I don’t despair at all. I could, if it were fitting, point out those who were once unchaste women who are now pure as the driven snow, and blaspheming men who now delight all around them by their intense devotion. Thieves are made honest, drunkards sober, liars truthful, and scoffers zealous. Wherever the grace of God has appeared to a man it has trained him to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, and to live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present evil world: and, dear reader, it will do the same for you.

“I cannot make this change,” says one. Who said you could? The Scripture which we have quoted speaks not of what man will do, but of what God will do. It is God’s promise, and it is for Him to fulfill His own appointments. Trust in Him to fulfill His Word in you, and it will be done.

“But how is it to be done?” What business is that of yours? Must the Lord explain His methods before you will believe Him? The Lord’s working in this matter is a great mystery: the Holy Spirit performs it. He who made the promise has the responsibility of keeping the promise, and He is quite up to the task. God, who promises this marvelous change, will assuredly carry it out in all who receive Jesus, for He gives power to them to become the Sons of God. Oh that you would believe it! Oh that you would do the gracious Lord the justice to believe that He can and will do this for you, great miracle though it will be! Oh that you would believe that God cannot lie! Oh that you would trust Him for a new heart, and a right spirit, for He can give them to you! May the Lord give you faith in His promise, faith in His Son, faith in the Holy Spirit, and faith in Him, and to Him shall be praise and honor and glory forever and ever! Amen.

[Charles Haddon Spurgeon’s classic, All of Grace, has been edited in Modern English by Jon Cardwell. A chapter or two will be posted each Friday.]