1750. The Luther Sermon At Exeter Hall

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No. 1750-29:625. A Sermon Delivered On Lord’s Day Evening, November 11, 1883, By C. H. Spurgeon, At Exeter Hall.

For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision avails anything, nor uncircumcision; but faith which works by love. {Ga 5:6}

For other sermons on this text:
   {See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 1280, “Remonstrance and a Rejoinder, A” 1271}
   {See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 1553, “Faith Working by Love” 1553}
   {See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 1750, “Luther Sermon at Exeter Hall, The” 1751}
   {See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 3454, “Circumcision and Uncircumcision” 3456}
   Exposition on Ga 5 {See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 3249, “Under the Apple Tree” 3251 @@ "Exposition"}

1. Paul makes a clean sweep of that trust in the externals of religion which is the common temptation of all time. Circumcision was a great thing with the Jew, and often he trusted in it; but Paul declares that it avails nothing. There might be others who were glad that they were not Jews, but Paul declares that their uncircumcision avails no more than its opposite. Certain matters connected with godliness are external, and yet they are useful in their places: especially that is the case with baptism and the Lord’s supper, the assembling of ourselves together, the reading of the word, and public prayer and praise. These things are proper and profitable; but none of them must be made in any measure or degree the basis of our hope of salvation; for this text sweeps them all away, and plainly describes them as availing nothing if they are made to be the foundations of our trust.

2. In Luther’s day superstitious confidence in external observances had overlaid faith in the gospel; ceremonies had multiplied excessively under the authority of the Pope, masses were said for souls in purgatory, and men were actually selling indulgences for sin in the light of day. When God raised up Martin Luther, who was born in 1483, he bore emphatic testimony against salvation by outward forms and by the power of priestcraft, affirming that salvation is by faith alone, and that the whole church of God is a company of priests, every believer being a priest to God. If Luther had not affirmed it, the doctrine would have been just as true, for the distinction between clergy and laity has no excuse in Scripture, which calls the saints, “God’s kleros” — God’s clergy, or inheritance. Again we read, “You are a royal priesthood.” Every man who believes in the Lord Jesus Christ is anointed to exercise the Christian priesthood, and therefore he need not put his trust in another, since the supposed priest is no more than any other man. Each man must be accountable for himself before God. Each one must read and search the Scriptures for himself, and must believe for himself, and when saved, he must offer himself up us a living sacrifice to God by Jesus Christ, who is the only High Priest of our profession. So much for the negative side of the text, which is full for warning for this Ritualistic age.

3. The chief testimony of our great Reformer was to the justification of a sinner in the sight of God by faith in Jesus Christ, and by that alone. He could suitably have taken this as his motto “In Jesus Christ neither circumcision avails anything, nor uncircumcision but faith which works by love.” He was in the Augustinian monastery at Wittenburg troubled and perturbed in mind; and he had read there, in an old Latin Bible, this text, — “The just shall live by faith.” It was a new idea to him, and by its means spiritual light entered his soul in some degree; but such were the prejudices of his upbringing and such the darkness of his surroundings, that he still hoped to find salvation by outward performances. He therefore fasted long, until he was found swooning from hunger. He was extremely zealous for salvation by works. At last he made a pilgrimage to Rome, hoping to find there everything that was holy and helpful. He was disappointed in his search, but yet found more than he looked for. On the pretended staircase of Pilate, while in the act of climbing it upon his knees, the Wittenburg text again sounded in his ear like a thunder-clap: “The just shall live by faith.” Up he sprang and descended those stairs, never to grovel upon them again. The chain was broken, the soul was free. Luther had found the light; and henceforth it became his life’s business to flash that light upon the nations, always crying, “The just shall live by faith.” The best commemoration which I can make of this man is to preach the doctrine which he held so dear, and you who are not saved can best assist me by believing the doctrine, and proving its truth in your own lives. May the Holy Spirit cause it to be so in hundreds of cases.

4. I. First, let us enquire WHAT IS THIS FAITH?

5. We are always talking about it; but what is it? Whenever I try to explain it, I am afraid lest I should confuse rather than expound. There is a story told concerning John Bunyan’s “Pilgrim’s Progress.” Good Thomas Scott, the Commentator, wrote notes to it: he thought that the “Pilgrim’s Progress” a difficult book, and he would make it clear. A pious cottager in his parish had the book, and she was reading it when her minister called, he said to her, “Oh, I see, you are reading Bunyan’s ‘Pilgrim’s Progress.’ Do you understand it?” She answered innocently enough, “Oh, yes, sir, I understand Mr. Bunyan very well, and I hope that one day I shall be able to understand your explanations.” I am afraid lest you should say when I am finished, “I understand what faith is, as I find it in the Bible, and one day, perhaps, I may be able to understand the preacher’s explanation of it.” Warned by this, I will speak as plainly as I can.

6. And first, it is to be remembered that faith is not a mere holding of a creed. It is very proper to say, “I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth,” and so forth; but you may repeat all that and be no “believer” in the scriptural sense of that term. Though the creed is true, it may not be true to you; it would have been the same to you if the opposite had been true, for you put the truth away like a paper in a pigeon-hole, and it has no effect on you. “A very proper doctrine,” you say, “a very proper doctrine,” and so you put it to sleep. It does not influence your heart, nor affect your life. Do not imagine that the professing of an orthodox creed is the same thing as faith in Christ. A truthful creed is desirable for many reasons; but if it is a dead, inoperative thing, it cannot bring salvation. Faith is belief of the truth; but it is more.

7. Again, faith is not the mere belief that there is a God, though that we must have, for we cannot come to God unless we “believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of those who diligently seek him.” We are to believe in God — that he is good, blessed, true, right, and therefore to be trusted, confided in, and praised. Whatever he may do, whatever he may say, God is not to be suspected, but believed in. You know what it is to believe in a man, do you not? to believe in a man so that you follow him, and confide in him, and accept his advice? In that same way faith believes in God — not only believes that he is, but finds rest in his character, his Son, his promise, his covenant, his word, and everything about him. Faith livingly and lovingly trusts in her God about everything. We must especially believe in what God has revealed in Scripture — that it is truly and indeed a sure and infallible testimony to be received without question. We accept the Father’s witness concerning Jesus, and take heed to it “as to a light that shines in a dark place.”

8. Faith has specially to believe in him who is the sum and substance of all this revelation, even Jesus Christ, who became God in human flesh so that he might redeem our fallen nature from all the evils of sin, and raise it to eternal felicity. We believe in Christ, on Christ, and upon Christ; accepting him because of the record which God has given to us concerning his Son, and he is the propitiation for our sins. We accept God’s unspeakable gift, and receive Jesus as our all in all.

9. If I wanted to describe saving faith in one word, I should say that it is trust. It is so believing God and so believing in Christ that we trust ourselves and our eternal destinies in the hands of a reconciled God. As creatures we look up to the great Father of spirits; as sinners we trust for the pardon of our sins to the atonement of Jesus Christ; as being weak and feeble we trust in the power of the Holy Spirit to make us holy and to keep us so; we risk our eternal interests in the vessel of free grace, content to sink or swim with it. We rely on God in Christ. The word employed to describe faith in the Scriptures sometimes means “to lean.” We lean with all our weight upon our God, in Jesus Christ. We hang upon Christ as a vessel hangs upon the hook. “Recumbency” was a term by which the old Puritans used to describe faith — a lying, or leaning upon, something outside of ourselves. Guilty as I am, I believe God’s word, that “the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanses us from all sin”: trusting in that blood I know that I am cleansed from all sin. God presents Christ to be a propitiation; we believe that he is a propitiation, and we take him to be our propitiation; by that appropriation our sin is covered and we are free. Faith is the grasping, the appropriating, the receiving into one’s self, of the Lord Jesus Christ. I sometimes illustrate it by that passage of Paul where he says, “The word is near you, even in your mouth.” When a morsel is in your mouth, if you desire to possess it so as never to lose it, what is the best thing to do? Swallow it. Let it go down into the inward parts. Now the word that we preach is, according to the Apostle, “in your mouth”; permit it then to go down into your heart, and you shall find it true that “with the heart man believes to righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made to salvation.” This is the faith which saves the soul.

10. II. In the second place we will consider, WHY IS FAITH SELECTED AS THE WAY OF SALVATION? I would remind you that if we could not answer this question it would not matter; for since the Lord has appointed believing as the way of grace it is not ours to challenge his choice. Beggars must not be choosers: let us trust, if so the Lord ordains.

11. But we can answer this question in a measure. First, it is clear that no other way is possible. It is not possible for us to be saved by our own merits, for we have broken the law already, and future obedience, being already due, cannot make up for past defects.

   Could my tears for ever flow,
   Could my zeal no respite know,
   All for sin could not atone:
   Thou must save, and thou alone.

The road of good works is blocked up by our past sins, and it is sure to be further blocked up by future sins: we ought therefore to rejoice that God has commended to us the open road of faith.

12. God has chosen the way of faith so that salvation might be by grace. If we had to do anything in order to save ourselves, we should be sure to impute a measure of virtue to our own doings, or feelings, or prayers, or alms-givings, and by this we would detract from the pure grace of God. But salvation comes from God us a pure favour — an act of undeserved generosity and benevolence, and the Lord will, therefore, only put it into the hand of faith, since faith arrogates nothing to herself. Faith, in fact, disowns all idea of merit, and the Lord of grace therefore elects to place the treasure of his love in the hand of faith.

13. Again, it is by faith so that there may be no boasting; for if our salvation is by our doings or feelings, we are sure to boast; but, if it is by faith, we cannot boast in ourselves. “Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? No: but by the law of faith.” Faith is humble, and ascribes all praise to God. Faith is truthful, and confesses her obligation to the sovereign grace of God.

14. I bless the Lord that he has chosen this way of faith, because it is so suitable for poor sinners. Some among us tonight would never have been saved if salvation had only been prepared for the good and righteous. I stood before my God guilty and self-condemned. No youth ever had a keener sense of guilt than I had. When I was convicted of sin I saw my thoughts and desires to be vile in the sight of God, and I became vile in my own eyes also. I was driven to despair; and I know that I could never have been cheered by any plan of salvation except what is by faith. The covenant of works by reason of our weakness affords us no suitable way of hope at any time, but under certain circumstances we see this very vividly. Suppose that you were in the last article of death, what good works could you do? That dying thief found it a happy thing that by faith he could trust the Crucified One, and before the sun had set he could be with him in Paradise. Faith is a way suitable for sinners, and especially for sinners who are soon to die; in some sense we are all in that condition, and some of us perhaps are especially so; for what man among us knows that he will see tomorrow’s dawn?

15. I bless God again that the way of salvation is by faith, because it is a way open to the most unlearned. What fine theology we get nowadays — deep thinking they call it. The men go down so deep into their subjects, and so stir the mud at the bottom, that you cannot see them and they cannot see themselves. I apprehend that teachers of a certain school do not know themselves what they are talking about. Now, if salvation were only to be learned by reading through huge folios, what would become of multitudes of poor souls in Bow, and Bethual Green, and Seven Dials? If the gospel had consisted of a mass of learning, how could the unlearned be saved? But now we can go to each one of them and say, “Jesus died.”

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

However little you may know, you know that you have sinned; know, then, that Jesus has come to put away sin, and that whoever believes in him is immediately forgiven, and enters into eternal life. This brief and blessed gospel is suitable for all cases, from princes to peasants, and we do not wonder that faith was selected as the way of salvation.

16. III. But now, thirdly, I want to say a good deal tonight upon another question, HOW DOES FAITH OPERATE? According to our text, it is “Faith which works by love.”

17. Faith is a living, labouring, loving faith which alone saves the soul. I cannot tell you what harsh things I have heard about this doctrine of salvation by faith. They say that it is immoral. I have heard immoral men say so, and surely they ought to know. They say that it will lead to sin; and those who say so would, I should think, be rather pleased with it for that reason if they believed their own statement. I have never heard a holy man charge faith with leading him into sin. I know no man who follows after God and lives near to him who is under fear that faith in God will tempt him to transgress. The fact is, faith does nothing of the kind; its action is most distinctly the opposite. Like the prudent wife in the Proverbs, faith will do a man good and no harm all the days of his life.

18. First, it touches the mainspring of our nature by creating love within the soul. What is needed now for the degraded classes in London? Sanitary regulations? Certainly, if they are not allowed to be a dead letter for the lack of someone to carry them out. New houses? By all manner of means: the more the better. Lower rents? Assuredly, for no one has a right to get an excessive rent for unhealthy accommodations. Higher wages? Certainly, all of us could do with a little more. Many other things are needed. While those gin palaces remain at the corners of the streets you will not make much headway in uplifting the masses; and I suppose the drink shops will always flourish while the taste for drink remains. Suppose the licensed poison shops were closed, would that suffice? I do not think so. There are men and women in London, and thousands of them, who, if they were put into the cleanest houses, and were a mile away from a gin shop, would still drink and still turn their houses into pig pens. What is needed? Oh, if you could make Christians of them! Suppose they could be born again. Suppose they could be made to love the things which they now hate, and hate the things which they now love. New hearts and right spirits are the need of London’s outcasts. How can these be produced? In the hand of God the Holy Spirit, this is exactly what faith works in the heart. Here is a watch. “It needs cleaning.” Yes, clean it. “It does not run now. It needs a new face.” Well, put in a new face. “It does not run any better. It needs new hands.” Get new hands by all means. Still it does not run. What is the matter with it? The maker says that it needs a mainspring. There is the seat of the evil: nothing can be right until that is rectified. Set all other matters going, but do not forget that the mainspring is the chief part of the business. Faith supplies the soul with a powerful spring of action. It says to the man, “You are forgiven through the blood of Christ who died for you: how do you feel towards him?” The man replies, “I love the Lord for redeeming me.” Loving Jesus, the man has now within his soul the seed of every good. He will become a holier and a better being; for he has begun to love, and love is the mother of holiness. Is any service in the world like the service of love? You have a servant in your house, fawning and obsequious; but if you were to reduce his wages, he would show you the rough side of his tongue and seek another job. You do not expect any more of him than that, and if you did, you would not get it. How different was an old servant I have heard of, who, when his master went down in the world, was content with half-pay; and when he was sorrowfully told that he must go, for his master could not afford clothes for him, he made his old ones last, for he would not leave his master in his old age. He would rather have earned bread for his old master than have left him. He was an attached servant worth his weight in gold: there are few such servants nowadays, for there are not many such masters. This kind of service cannot be purchased; but its price is above rubies. When the Lord leads us to believe in Jesus, we become henceforth his loving servants, and serve him not for reward, but out of gratitude. It is no longer with us so much work and so much pay; we do not fear the threat of hell for disobedience, nor do we look to heaven as won by works. No, no; our salvation is a free gift. It is furnished for us through infinite love and supreme compassion, and therefore we return our heart’s warmest affection. Our heart clings to that dear side which was opened for us. We feel a tender love for those dear pierced feet; we could kiss them every day. Those blessed hands of the Crucified! If they would only touch us, we are strengthened, honoured, comforted. Jesus is altogether lovely to us, our bosom’s lord. Faith, instead of being a poor, paltry thing, as some imagine, is the grandest cause of love, and so of obedience and holiness.

19. Know, again, that faith puts us into a new relationship. We are bound by nature to be the servants of God; but faith whispers in our ear, “Say ‘Our Father,’ ” and when the heart has received the Spirit of adoption, the aspect of service is entirely changed: mercenary service is succeeded by loving obedience, and our spirit is changed. To become an heir of God, a joint-heir with Jesus, is to elevate work into delight, labour into fellowship with God. The law is no fetter for a child of God: it is his delight.

20. Faith removes from the soul that form of selfishness which previously seemed necessary. So you hope to be saved by what you do, do you? May I ask you, friend, whom you are serving in all this? I will tell you. You are serving yourself. All that you do is to win happiness for yourself. How, then, are you serving God? You are living a selfish life, though it is tinged with the colour of spirituality. What is done by you in the matter of religion has no object except that you may be saved, and go to heaven. Your most zealous work is all for self. Suppose I say to you, “I know that I am saved: I know that Jesus has put away my sin: I know that he will not permit me to perish”; — why, then there is room in my case for the service of the Lord because of what he has done for me. Now I do not have to save myself, I have Christ to serve. Gratitude is the motive of the gospel, and under its power unselfish virtue is possible, but not upon the basis of legal service. Pure virtue, it seems to me, is a sheer impossibility until a man is saved, because it always must partake until then of the low and grovelling view of benefiting himself by what he is doing. When once the great transaction is done, and you are saved, then you are lifted up into a nobler sphere, and you say,

   Then why, oh blessed Jesu Christ,
      Should I not love thee well?
   Not for the hope of winning heaven,
      Nor of escaping hell;
   Not with the hope of gaining aught,
      Not seeking a reward:
   But as thyself hast loved me,
      Oh ever-loving Lord,
   So would I love thee, dearest Lord,
      And in thy praise will sing;
   Solely because thou art my God,
      And my Eternal King.

Hence faith inspires us with a higher motive than the law can suggest.

21. Faith soon creates love for man; for, if the Lord Jesus has saved you, my brother, you will speedily desire that others may be saved also. You have tasted this honey, and the sweetness upon your own tongue constrains you to invite others to the feast. He who has been brought into the liberty of free grace would set free every captive sinner if he could.

22. When well worked out, faith means harmony with God. It creates an agreement with the divine will, so that whatever pleases God pleases us. If the Lord should set the believer on a dunghill with Job, he would still bless his name. Faith agrees with the divine precept which it desires to obey, with the divine doctrine which it desires to know and proclaim; yes, whatever is of God faith says, “It is the Lord, let him command, teach, or do what seems good to him.”

23. I have shown you that faith is not the trifling principle which its deprecators describe as “Only believe.” Oh, that they knew what it is only to believe. It is the setting free of the mind from fetters. It is the dawn of heaven’s own day. It is a lifelong struggle, this “Only believe.” It is “the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”

24. Brethren, I believe that a humble, persevering faith in God is one of the highest forms of adoration that ever reaches the throne of God. Though cherubim and seraphim greet the Lord with their “Holy, holy, holy”; though the whole host of shining ones surround the throne with perpetual hallelujahs, there is no more hearty reverence given to God by it than when a poor sinner, black as night, cries believingly, “Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.” To believe in the pardon of sin is a wonderful adoration of the mercy and power of God. To believe in a constant providence is a sweet way of worshipping God in his power and goodness. When a poor labourer in his cottage, needing bread for his children, kneels down and cries, “Lord, it is written, ‘Your bread shall be given you, and your water shall be sure,’ I believe your word, and therefore I look to you in my necessity,” he renders a homage to the truth and faithfulness of God such as Gabriel could not give, for he never knew the pinch of hunger. To believe that God will keep us to the end and raise us to his glory is more honouring to God than all the hymns of the glorified. From us dying sons of earth, when we confide in his promise, there arises up to heaven incense of a sweet smell, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.

25. To my mind there is also this about faith — that it has a marvellous power over God. Do you ask me to retract that expression? Let it stand. I will explain it. Faith overcomes the Highest upon his throne. Faith in an inferior can hold a superior firmly. Some years ago I was walking in the garden one evening, and I saw a stray dog about whom I had received information that he was in the habit of visiting my grounds, and that he did not in the least assist the gardener, and therefore his attentions were not desired. As I walked along one Saturday evening meditating upon my sermon, I saw this dog busily doing mischief. I threw my stick at him, and told him to go home. But what do you think he did? Instead of bearing his teeth at me, or hurrying off with a howl, he looked at me very pleasantly, took up my stick in his mouth and brought it to me, and then, wagging his tail, he laid the stick at my feet. The tears were in my eyes: the dog had beaten me. I said, “Good dog! Good dog; you may come here whenever you like after that.” Why had the dog conquered me? Because he had confidence in me, and would not believe that I could mean him any harm. To turn to grander things: the Lord himself cannot resist humble confidence. Do you not see how a sinner brings, as it were, the rod of justice to the Lord, and cries, “If you strike me, I deserve it; but I submit to you.” The great God cannot spurn a trustful heart. It is impossible. He would not be God if he could cast the soul away that implicitly relies on him. This is the power of faith, then, and I do not marvel that the Lord should have chosen it, for believing is a thing most pleasing to God. Oh that you would all trust him! God lifts his sword against you — run into his arms. He threatens you — grasp his promise. He pursues you — flee to his dear Son. Trust at the foot of the cross in his full atonement, and you must be saved.

26. IV. Now, I am going to finish in a way suitable to this Luther memorial. You have heard a great deal about Luther’s preaching salvation by faith alone. Now, LET US TURN TO LUTHER’S LIFE, and see what Luther himself meant by it. What kind of faith did Luther himself exhibit by which he was justified?

27. First, in Luther’s case, faith led him to a public affirmation of what he believed. Luther did not plan to go up to heaven by the back stairs, as many young men hope to do. You wish to be Christians on the sly, so as to escape the offence of the cross. Luther did not refuse to confess Christ and take up his cross and follow him. He knew that he who with his heart believes, must also with his mouth make confession, and he did so very nobly. He began teaching and preaching the truth which had enlightened his own soul. One of his sermons displeased Duke George of Saxony; but since it saved a lady of high rank Luther did not fret. He was not the man to conceal truth because it was dangerous to affirm it. Tetzel came with his precious indulgences, and his releases for souls in purgatory. Thousands of good Catholics were indignant; but no one would bell the cat. Luther called Tetzel “servant of Pope and of the devil,” and declared, “As he came among us practising on the credulity of the people, I could not refrain from protesting against it, and opposing his odious career.” Without mincing words, or attempting to speak politely, Luther went at him fearless of the consequences. He believed in the blessings of grace “without money and without price,” and he did not conceal his convictions. He nailed his theses to the church-door where all might read them. When astronomers require a new constellation in the heavens let it be “the hammer and nails.” Oh you who make no profession, let this man’s outspoken faith rebuke you!

28. His dauntless valour for truth caused him to be greatly hated in his own day with a ferocity which has not yet died out. Luther is still the best hated man in certain quarters. Witness the vile tracts which have been produced during the last couple of weeks, to the disgrace of the press which they defile. I can say no worse nor better of them than that they are worthy of the cause in whose interest they are issued. Mention the name of Luther and the bondslaves of Rome gnash their teeth. This intense bad feeling proves Luther’s power. Young men, I do not know what your ambition may be; but I hope you do not wish to be in this world mere lumps in the porridge, giving out no flavour whatever. My ambition does not run in that direction. I know that if I have no intense haters, I can have no intense lovers; and I am prepared to have both. When right-hearted men see honest love for truth in a man, they cry, “He is our brother. Let him be our champion.” When the wrong-hearted reply, “Down with him!” we thank them for the unconscious homage which they thus pay to decision of character. No child of God should court the world’s approbation. Certainly Luther did not. He pleased God, and that was enough for him.

29. His faith was of this kind also — that it moved him to a hearty reverence for what he believed to be Holy Scripture. I am sorry that he was not always wise in his judgment of what the Bible contains; but yet to him Scripture was the last court of appeal. If any had convinced Luther of error out of that book, he would gladly have retracted; but that was not their plan, they simply said, “He is a heretic; condemn him or make him retract.” To this he never yielded for an instant. Alas, in this age numerous men are setting up to be their own inspired writers. I have been told that every man who is his own lawyer has a fool for his client; and I am inclined to think that, when any man sets up to be his own Saviour and his own revelation, much the same thing occurs. That conceited idea is in the air at this present: every man is excogitating his own Bible. Not so Luther. He loved the sacred book! He fought by its help. It was his battle-axe and his weapon of war. A text of Scripture fired his soul; but the words of tradition he rejected. He would not yield to Melancthon, or Zwingli, or Calvin, or whoever it might be, however learned or pious; he took his own personal faith to the Scripture, and according to his light he followed the word of the Lord. May many a Luther be in this place!

30. The next thing I notice was the intense activity of his faith. Luther did not believe in God doing his own work, so as to lie by in idleness himself. Not a bit of it. A disciple once said to Mohammed, “I am going to turn my camel loose, and trust in providence.” “No,” said Mohammed, “trust in providence, but tie up your camel carefully.” This resembled Oliver Cromwell’s Puritan precept, “Trust in God, but keep your powder dry.” Luther believed more than most men in keeping his powder dry. How he worked! By pen, by mouth, by hand; he was energetic almost beyond belief. He seemed a many-handed man. He did works which would have taxed the strength of hundreds of smaller men. He worked as if everything depended on his own activity, and then he fell back in holy trust upon God as though he had done nothing. This is the kind of faith which saves a man both in this life and in what is to come.

31. Again, Luther’s faith abounded in prayer. What supplications they were! Those who heard them tell us of his tears, his wrestlings, his holy arguments. He would go into his prayer closet heavy-hearted, and remain there an hour or two, and then come out singing, “I have conquered, I have conquered.” “Ah,” he said one day, “I have so much to do today that I cannot get through it with less than three hours’ prayer.” I thought he was going to say, “I cannot afford to give even a quarter of an hour to prayer”; but he increased his prayer as he increased his labour. This is the faith that saves — a faith that lays hold on God and prevails with him in private supplication.

32. His was a faith that delivered him entirely from the fear of man. Duke George is going to stop him. “Is he?” said Luther. “If it were to rain Duke Georges I would go.” He is exhorted not to go to Worms, for he will be in danger. If there were as many demons in Worms as there were tiles on the house-tops he would be there. And he was there, as you all know, playing the man for the gospel and for his God. He committed himself to no man, but kept his faith in God pure and unadulterated. Popes, emperors, doctors, electors were all as nothing to Luther when they stood against the Lord. May it be so with us also.

33. This was a faith that made him risk everything for the truth. There seemed no hope of his ever coming back from Worms alive. He was pretty sure to be burned like John Huss; and the wonder is that he escaped. His very daring brought him safety from peril. He expressed his regret that the crown of martyrdom would, in all probability, be missed by him; but the faith which is prepared to die for Jesus was within him. He who in such a case saves his life shall lose it, but he who loses his life for Christ’s sake shall find eternal life.

34. This was the faith that made Luther a man among men, and saved him from priestly affectations. I do not know whether you admire what is thought to be very superior religion: it is a thing of beauty, but not of use; it ought always to be kept in a glass case; it is made up for drawing-rooms and religious meetings, but would be out of place in a shop or on a farm. Now, Luther’s religion was with him at home, at the table as well as in the pulpit. His religion was part and parcel of his common life, and that life was free, open, bold, and unrestrained. It is easy to find fault with him from the superfine standpoint, for he lived in an honest unguardedness. My admiration kindles as I think of the hearty openness of the man. I do not wonder that even ungodly Germans revere him, for he is all a German, and all a man. When he speaks he does not take his words out of his mouth to look at them, and to ask Melancthon whether they will do; but he hits hard, and he has spoken a dozen sentences before he has thought whether they are polished or not. Indeed, he is utterly indifferent to criticism, and speaks what he thinks and feels. He is at his ease, for he feels at home: is he not everywhere in his great Father’s house? Has he not a pure and simple intent to speak the truth and do the right thing?

35. I like Luther with a wife and children. I like to see him with his family and a Christmas tree, making music with little Johnny Luther on his knee. I love to hear him sing a little hymn with the children, and tell his pretty boy about the horses in heaven with golden bridles and silver saddles. Faith had not taken away his manhood, but sanctified it to noblest uses. Luther did not live and move as if he were a mere cleric, but as a brother to our common humanity. After all, brethren, you must know that the greatest divines have to eat bread-and-butter like other people. They shut their eyes before they sleep, and they open them in the morning, just like other folks. This is a matter of fact, though some stilted gentleman might like us to doubt it. They feel and think like other men. Why should they seem as if they did not? Is it not a good thing to eat and drink to the glory of God, and show people that common things can be sanctified by the word of God and prayer? What if we do not wear canonicals, and so on? The best canonicals in the world are thorough devotion to the Lord’s work; and if a man lives properly, he makes every garment a vestment, every meal a sacrament, and every house a temple. All our hours are canonical, all our days holy days, every breath is incense, every pulse music for the Most High.

36. They tell us that Luther ignored good works. It is true he would not allow good works to be spoken of as the means of salvation; but of those who professed faith in Jesus he demanded holy lives. Luther abounded in prayer and charity. What an almsgiver Luther was! I fear he did not at all times duly regard the principles of the Charity Organisation Society. As he goes along, if there are beggars he empties his pockets for them. Two hundred crowns have just come in, and, though he has a family around him, he cries, “Two hundred crowns! God is giving me my portion in this life.” “Here,” he says to a poor brother minister, “take half. And where are the poor? Bring them in. I must be rid of this!” I am afraid that his Catherine was forced at times to shake her head at him; for, in truth, he was not always the most economical husband that might be. In alms-giving he was second to none, and in all the duties of life he rose far beyond the level of his age. Like all other men he had his faults; but since his enemies harp on that string, and go far beyond the truth, I need not dwell upon his failings. I wish that the detractors of Luther were half as good as he. All the glory of his grand career is to the Lord alone.

37. Lastly, Luther’s faith was a faith that helped him under struggles that are seldom spoken of. I suppose that never a man had greater soul-conflict than Luther. He was a man of heights and depths. Sometimes he went up to heaven and he sang his hallelujahs; and then he went down again into the abyss with his “misereres.” I am afraid that, great, vigorous man that he was, he had a bad liver. He was grievously afflicted in body in ways which I need not mention; and he was sometimes laid aside for months on end, being so racked and tortured that he longed to die. His pains were extreme, and we wonder how he endured them so well. But always between the attacks of illness Luther was up again preaching the word of God. Those desperate struggles with the devil would have crushed him except for his faith. The devil seems to have been constantly assailing him, and he was constantly assailing the devil. In that tremendous duel he fell back upon his Lord, and, trusting in Omnipotence, he put Satan to rout.

38. Young men, I pray that a Luther may spring up from your ranks. How gladly would the faithful welcome him! I, who am more a follower of Calvin than of Luther, and much more a follower of Jesus than of either of them, would be charmed to see another Luther upon this earth.

39. May God bless you, brethren, for Christ’s sake. Amen.

[Portion Of Scripture Read Before Sermon — Gal 3]
{See Spurgeon_Hymnal “Spirit of the Psalms — Psalm 46” 46 @@ "(Version 1)"}
{See Spurgeon_Hymnal “Gospel, Received by Faith — Christ And His Righteousness” 554}
{See Spurgeon_Hymnal “The Christian, Courage and Confidence — The Christian Encouraged” 686}


{a} Having already preached a Luther sermon of somewhat like tenor in the morning of the day, I have considerably altered this discourse, so that the reader may not find so much repetition as there would otherwise have been.

Now ready. Price One Penny Each.

Spurgeon’s Illustrated Almanac for 1884, containing Articles by the Editor and other Writers, Texts of Scripture selected for Meditation for every Day in the Year, Metropolitan Tabernacle Directory, &c.

John Ploughman’s Sheet Almanac for 1884. Suitable for Cottages, Homes, Workshops, Mission Halls, &c. Passmore & Alabaster, 4, Paternoster Buildings; and all Booksellers.

Spirit of the Psalms
Psalm 46 (Version 1)
1 God is the refuge of his saints,
   When storms of sharp distress invade;
   Ere we can offer our complaints,
   Behold him present with his aid.
2 Let mountains from their seats be hurl’d
   Down to the deep, and buried there;
   Convulsions shake the solid world,
   Our faith shall never yield to fear.
3 Loud my the troubled ocean roar,
   In sacred peace our souls abide;
   While every nation, every shore,
   Trembles, and dreads the swelling tide.
4 There is a stream whose gentle flow
   Supplies the city of our God:
   Life, love, and joy, still gliding through,
   And watering our divine abode.
5 That sacred stream, thine holy Word,
   That all our raging fears controls:
   Sweet peace thy promises afford,
   And give new strength to fainting souls.
6 Sion enjoys her Monarch’s love,
   Secure against a threat’ning hour;
   Nor can her firm foundations move,
   Built on his truth, and arm’d with power.
                           Isaac Watts, 1719.
Psalm 46 (Version 2.)
1 God is our refuge and our strength,
   In straits a present aid:
   Therefore, although the earth remove,
   We will not be afraid.
2 Though hills amidst the seas be cast;
   Though waters roaring make,
   And troubled be; yea, though the hills
   By swelling seas do shake.
3 A river is, whose streams do glad
   The city of our God;
   The holy place, wherein the Lord
   Most high hath his abode.
4 God in the midst of her doth dwell;
   Nothing shall her remove:
   The lord to her an helper will,
   And that right early, prove.
5 Our God, who is the lord of hosts,
   Is still upon our side;
   The God of Jacob, our defence
   For ever will abide.
                     Scotch Version, 1641, a.
Psalm 46 (Version 3)
1 God is our refuge, tried and proved,
   Amid a stormy world:
   We will not fear though earth be moved,
   And hills in ocean hurl’d.
2 The waves may roar, the mountains shake,
   Our comforts shall not cease;
   The Lord his saints will not forsake;
   The Lord will give us peace.
3 A gentle stream of hope and love
   To us shall ever flow;
   It issues from his throne above,
   It cheers his church below.
4 When earth and hell against us came,
   He spake, and quell’d their powers;
   The Lord of hosts is still the same,
   The God of grace is ours.
                  Henry Francis Lyte, 1834.


Gospel, Received by Faith
554 — Christ And His Righteousness
1 No more, my God, I boast no more
   Of all the duties I have done;
   I quit the hopes I held before,
   To trust the merits of thy Son.
2 Now for the love I bear his name,
   What was my gain I count my loss;
   My former pride I call my shame,
   And nail my glory to his cross.
3 Yes, and I must and will esteem
   All things but loss for Jesus’ sake:
   Oh may my soul be found in him,
   And of his righteousness partake!
4 The best obedience of my hands
   Dares not appear before thy throne:
   But faith can answer thy demands,
   By pleading what my Lord has done.
                        Isaac Watts, 1709.


The Christian, Courage and Confidence
686 — The Christian Encouraged
1 Give to the winds thy fears;
      Hope, and be undismay’d;
   God hears thy sighs, and counts thy tears:
      God shall lift up thy head.
2 Through waves, and clouds, and storms,
      He gently clears thy way;
   Wait thou his time; so shall the night
      Soon end in joyous day.
3 He everywhere hath sway,
      And all things serve his might;
   His every act pure blessing is,
      His path unsullied light.
4 When he makes bare his arm,
      What shall his work withstand?
   When he his people’s cause defends,
      Who, who shall stay his hand?
5 Leave to his sovereign sway
      To choose and to command;
   With wonder fill’d thou then shalt own
      How wise, how strong his hand.
6 Thou comprehend’st him not;
      Yet earth and heaven tell,
   God sits as Sovereign on his throne,
      He ruleth all things well.
7 Thou seest our weakness, Lord,
      Our hearts are known to thee:
   Oh lift thou up the sinking hand,
      Confirm the feeble knee!
8 Let us, in life and death,
      Thy steadfast truth declare;
   And publish, with our latest breath,
      Thy love, and guardian care.
                  Paul Gerhardt, 1659.
                  tr. by John Wesley, 1739, a.

Spurgeon Sermons

These sermons from Charles Spurgeon are a series that is for reference and not necessarily a position of Answers in Genesis. Spurgeon did not entirely agree with six days of creation and dives into subjects that are beyond the AiG focus (e.g., Calvinism vs. Arminianism, modes of baptism, and so on).

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