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2797. The Need And Nature Of Conversion

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The Need And Nature Of Conversion

No. 2797-48:445. A Sermon Delivered On Lord’s Day Evening, October 13, 1878, By C. H. Spurgeon, At The Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington.

A Sermon Intended For Reading On Lord’s Day, September 21, 1902.

Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return to the LORD, and he will have mercy on him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. {Isa 55:7}

 For other sermons on this text:
   {See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 1195, “Abundant Pardon” 1186}
   {See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 2181, “God Forgiving Sin” 2182}
   Exposition on Isa 53; 55:1-7 {See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 2534, “Greatest Gift in Time or Eternity, The” 2535 @@ "Exposition"}
   Exposition on Isa 55 Jer 30:1-11 {See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 3419, “God the Husband of His People” 3421 @@ "Exposition"}
   Exposition on Isa 55 {See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 2278, “Feeding on the Word” 2279 @@ "Exposition"}
   Exposition on Isa 55 {See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 2581, “Perfection in Christ” 2582 @@ "Exposition"}
   Exposition on Isa 55 {See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 2797, “Need and Nature of Conversion, The” 2798 @@ "Exposition"}
   Exposition on Isa 55 {See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 2954, “Big Gates Wide Open, The” 2955 @@ "Exposition"}
   Exposition on Isa 55 {See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 3299, “Ho! Ho!” 3301 @@ "Exposition"}
   Exposition on Ps 138 Isa 55:1-11 Ro 8:28-39 {See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 3422, “Call to the Depressed, A” 3424 @@ "Exposition"}
   Exposition on Ps 23 Isa 55 {See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 2886, “Restless! Peaceless!” 2887 @@ "Exposition"}

1. About four years ago, I preached from the last four words of this verse, laying special stress on the abundant pardon, which is given to repenting sinners through the rich mercy of our God. {See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 1195, “Abundant Pardon” 1186} On this occasion, I am going to put the emphasis on the first part of the verse, speaking more on the necessity of the sinner forsaking his evil way, and of the unrighteous man abandoning his evil thoughts. There is urgent need for us continually to insist on this course of action. This chapter, as we noticed in our reading, is full of gospel-teaching, and it expresses, under the most striking and cheering metaphors, both the fulness and the freeness of the gospel. But the prophet also insists most clearly that the wicked man must forsake his way, and the unrighteous man must turn from his thoughts, and return to the Lord, so that he may obtain the mercy and pardon that God is waiting and willing to bestow.

2. This is not a merely legal demand; it is a gospel demand, found in the centre of a gospel chapter in the writings of the most Evangelical of all the prophets. The chapter begins with a number of gracious and generous invitations, and so naturally leads on to the promise of the coming Saviour. Only God himself could find a Saviour for our ruined race, and no one but God’s own Son could be that Saviour. Then there follows, in due order, the promise of a people to be saved. The Saviour shall not come to the earth in vain. He shall call a people to himself, and “nations” shall run to him. Then, following the promise of a Saviour, and the declaration of the certainty that many shall be saved by him, there comes in this loving invitation, “Seek the Lord while he may be found, call on him while he is near.” Since he is to have a people who shall be his for ever, put in your claim to be among them; and since, as a Saviour, he is near to you, call on him, and he will hear your call.

3. This brings us to our text, which is consistent with the rest of the chapter, even though some people think it is not. Here we are told, first, that the wicked must forsake his way. There is no Saviour for the man who will not forsake his sin. Such a man can never be among the people who shall run to Christ, for how can he run to Christ while he continues in the way of sin? Such a man shall seek the Lord in vain, and call on him in vain; for, while he hugs his sin, he cannot embrace the Saviour who hates sin with a perfect hatred. This is the theme on which I am going to speak now, and I want to do it in the spirit of the Master, of whom Malachi wrote, “For who may endure the day of his coming? and who shall stand when he appears? for he is like a refiner’s fire, and like fuller’s soap; and he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, so that they may offer to the Lord an offering in righteousness.” May the Master bless his own searching word, and he shall have all the praise.

4. I. First, then, let us meditate for a while on THE NECESSITY OF CONVERSION. If a man is to be saved, he must turn from his sins. “Right about face!” is the marching order for every sinner. There is no hope of forgiveness for him if he will continue with his face as it now is. He must turn from his sin if he would be saved.

5. This will be at once evident to you when I ask, — How would it be consistent with the holiness of God for him to put aside our past sin, and then to allow us to go on sinning as we did before? How could he be thought to be just and pure if he should pardon the punishment for past transgressions, without seeing in us any determination to abstain from such sin in the future? Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, but he never came here to spare their sins. God would never have sent his Son to this earth to be the messenger of sin, yet Christ would be nothing better than the messenger of sin if he had come, and said to men, “You may continue in your sin, yet I will forgive you. You may live as you like, yet you shall find mercy with the Lord at the last.” It must strike you, in a moment, that such a course as this would be inconsistent with the character of the Judge of all the earth, who must do right. There is no such teaching as that in all of the Scriptures; and he who dares to believe it, believes a lie. Nowhere, in the whole compass of revelation, is there a promise of forgiveness to the man who continues in his iniquity. There is a promise of pardon to the sinner who forsakes his wicked way, and turns from his evil thoughts; there are many promises of forgiveness to those who confess their sins in humble penitence, and who seek to live new lives under the power of the Holy Spirit. Possibly, someone would remind me that the greatest promises are given to those who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. That is quite true; but the faith which believes in Jesus is a living and active faith, which works in the soul a hatred of sin; and if a man says, “I believe in Christ,” and yet continues to delight in sin, he is a liar, and the truth is not in him, for “faith, if it does not have works, is dead, being alone.” Only that faith will save us which is proved to be a vital and real faith by producing “fruits fit for repentance.” It is of no use wanting or trying to be saved without a change of heart, and a change of life. “You must be born again,” is Christ’s own word to all unregenerate sinners. Without holiness no man shall see the Lord. “Do not be deceived; God is not mocked: for whatever a man sows, that he shall also reap.” These truths have never been revoked, and again I repeat that, in the whole compass of the Word of God, there is no promise of pardon for the man who continues in his iniquities.

6. Neither, dear friends, is there a single case in fact, nor one example in a parable that would lead any man to hope that he could keep his sins, and still be saved. If you remind me of the woman in the city who was a sinner, I also remind you that her life had been completely changed, otherwise our Saviour would not have permitted her to wash his feet with her tears, and wipe them with the hairs of her head. Saul of Tarsus was guilty of the great sin of persecuting the saints; but see what a changed man Paul the apostle of the Gentiles was. Zacchaeus, the rich tax collector, offered to make full restitution and repayment to any whom he might have wronged. So it always is where the grace of God works effectively. When the Lord Jesus Christ saves a sinner from the punishment of sin, he also saves him from the love of sin; — he makes him holy as well as makes him happy and safe. The same lesson is taught in our Lord’s parables. For example, there was no rejoicing over the lost sheep while it was still wandering away from the fold; the joy began when that lost sheep was found, and was brought home on the shepherd’s shoulder. A more striking example is that of the prodigal son. There was no joy over him while he was in the far country, and no kiss for him from his father while he was feeding the swine. He must come back, he must say, “Father, I have sinned,” there must be the forsaking of his former evil ways, or else there could be no enjoyment of his father’s forgiveness. We must always say, as plainly as we can possibly say it, — If you will keep your sins, you shall go to hell; but if you wish to go to heaven, you must part company with your sins. He who wishes to be married to Christ must first be divorced from sin. There is no possibility of walking in the way of the Lord and, at the same time, treading the pathway of evil. “No man can serve two masters.” No one can, at the same time, be a servant of the Saviour and a servant of Satan.

7. Besides, dear friends, our common sense tells us that it would be highly dangerous for society if men were to be pardoned, and yet were not to be renewed in character and life. If Christ should meet a man, and say to him, “I forgive you because of the precious blood I shed for you on Calvary; go and still be a drunkard, go and be unchaste, go and be a thief,” this would be the way to undermine the very pillars of society, and, very soon, we should not be safe in our beds. If there were no laws, or if the laws had no system of punishment for the guilty, human society would cease to be endurable. He who rules all things righteously will never set up such a scheme as this. The Judge of all the earth must punish sin; he will by no means clear the guilty.

8. Moreover, it would be a serious injury to the man himself if he could be pardoned, and yet not be changed. For God to forgive us without renewing us, would be a frightful peril to ourselves. A man, finding himself so easily forgiven, and having no change of heart, would plunge into sin worse than ever; and, as far as my observation is concerned, I have come to the conclusion that the very worst form of character is produced in a man who, for some reason or other, thinks himself to be a favourite of heaven, and yet continues to indulge in sin. I remember the shock of horror, which passed through me, in my youthful days, when I heard a man, who was accustomed to be drunk, boast that he could say what none of his drinking buddies could say, namely, that he was one of the elect of God. I felt, child as I was, that he was one of the devil’s chosen followers, and I do not doubt that he really was. If a man once gets into his head such a perverted notion of the free grace of God as to imagine that it is compatible with the love of sin, and a life of sin, he is on the high road to being made into the worst conceivable character; and if such a man as that could be delivered from all the consequences of his sin, from all such consequences as might be looked on as arbitrarily fixed by the punishing hand of God, (I know that I am talking about an impossibility,) even then he must be miserable. Such a man must go on from bad to worse; and sin, whatever we may think of it, is misery. The worm that never dies is sin; the fire that is never quenched is sin; and hell is sin fully developed. “Sin, when it is finished, produces death,” and that second death is hell. Oh sirs, if you could get rid of the disease, the pain, the headaches, the qualms of conscience which result from the indulgence in sin, it would be a mischievous riddance for you, for the very pain that is caused by sin is part of God’s way of calling to you to come back to him. As long as you are in this world, the consequences that follow after certain forms of sin are really, with all their bitterness, — and they are bitter, — only a healthful tonic that should make you give up sin, and turn to God.

9. If you go on sinning, you cannot be saved. If you continue to love sin, and to practise it, you cannot be saved. Think, for a moment, what any other result would involve; if it were possible for a man to live in sin, and yet be forgiven, what would be the value of the work of the Holy Spirit? He has come in order that we may be born again, and have new hearts and right spirits; but if men could be forgiven without having new hearts and right spirits, of what use would the Holy Spirit be? This would be contrary, also, to the whole purpose of Christ in our salvation. The angel said to Joseph, before our Saviour’s birth, “You shall call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins”; but if they can be saved in their sins, where is the meaning of his name? When he hung on the cross, and one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, “immediately blood and water came out”; but what is the use of the purifying water if we do not need to be purified, and can be pardoned without being cleansed? Paul wrote to Titus that Christ “gave himself for us, so that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify for himself a special people, zealous of good works”; but how can that purpose be accomplished if men can be pardoned, and yet continue to live in sin?

10. Besides that, the very character of heaven prevents such a thing from being done; we know that the unholy cannot enter there, nothing that defiles can pass the watchers at the pearly portals; therefore, be sure of this, — that you can never enter heaven, and you can never have forgiveness, if you continue to cling to your sins. You must forsake them, or mercy cannot be yours.

11. II. So having spoken on the necessity of conversion, I turn, for a little while, to the second part of our subject, THE NATURE OF THIS CONVERSION. How is it described here?

12. First, it deals with the life:“ Let the wicked forsake his way.” Observe that it is “his way” that he is to forsake; that is, his natural way, the way in which he says he was brought up, the way that his natural affections, and propensities, and passions lead him. He must forsake this way, even though it is the way in which he has walked these thirty, forty, fifty, sixty, seventy, or even eighty years; he will have to get out of this way, however much he may delight in it. Possibly, he has now gotten to love sin so much that he says he could not give it up. There are some sins, which men roll under their tongues as dainty morsels; but if you are to be saved, you will have to give them up. If you wish to have mercy from God, you must give them all up. You must give up your old sins, your sweet sins, your pet sins; the sins of the flesh, with all their pleasure, and the sins of the mind, with all their pride, must be given up; for notice that word “forsake.” “Let the wicked forsake his way.” It does not say, “Let him admit that his way is bad.” There are some who will say, “Oh, yes, I know that my way is very wrong”; and there they stop. Such an admission as that will not save you, my friend; you must forsake your way as well as admit that it is wrong. To know that it is wrong, and yet to go on in it, will double your sin. This kind of confession will not help you in the least; on the contrary, it will only increase your guilt. You must forsake your wicked way if you are to be forgiven. “Oh, sir,” you say, “I am very sorry for all the sin that I have committed!” I am glad that you are, and I hope that you will be still more so; but that sorrow alone will never save you. It is not saying, “I am sorry,” nor yet your being sorry for your sin that will save you; that is right as far as it goes, but you must forsake the sin as well as be sorry for it. “I must forsake it; well, I resolve that I will do so.” Yet that resolve by itself will not save you, for there are plenty of good resolutions that are good-for-nothing. You actually have to forsake your wicked way before you have complied with the requirements of our text. I know how the devil will try to deceive you, when you have made a good resolution. He will say, “Ah, you are a fine fellow; and that is a splendid resolution of yours!” Yet mere resolutions are not worth a penny a thousand; we must act, not simply resolve what we intend to do. We must not be like the man who owes a lot of money, and does not have a penny to pay, yet who keeps on saying to his creditors, “I hope I shall be able to pay you tomorrow.” Then, when that day comes, he says he is very sorry, but he missed the friend he expected to see, so he must postpone the payment for a few days; yet, when the few days have passed, there is still nothing forthcoming. So it is with many who resolve to forsake sin; they are like those who promise, but never pay. This will not do; you must forsake your sin if it is to be forgiven.

13. “I will tell you what I will do,” one says; “I will still stay on my old way, but I will not travel quite so rapidly in it; I will not live such a fast life as I have done.” I tell you, friend, that you must forsake that old way of yours altogether if you wish to be saved. If you stand still in it, if you are decent and respectable in it, all that will avail you nothing. You must get right out of it, for so our text puts it, “Let the wicked forsake his way.” In plain terms, the prophet means just this. Is your way the way of the drunkard? Now, no drunkard can ever inherit the kingdom of God as long as he continues a drunkard, so you cannot be saved if you remain in that condition. Are you a thief? Do you privately cheat in business? All that kind of thing must be given up. It is no use for you to say, “I will do it, and yet go to heaven.” You will be damned unless that sin, as well as others, is given up. Or have you been a blasphemer? Do you talk profanely or filthily? You must wash all that foulness out of your mouth if you wish to be saved: “Let the wicked forsake his way.” Am I addressing any who have practised vice in unmentionable forms? Oh, how many there are who do that, and yet are not ashamed! You must forsake all that, young man, or old man either; it is no use mincing matters with you. If you intend to go to hell, go on with your wickedness; but if you wish to be forgiven for the past, you must cut all connections with these evil things for the future. I most solemnly assure you, in the name of God, that there can be no compromise about this and every other sin. “Let the wicked forsake his way,” whatever that way may have been. If it is a filthy way, a fleshly way, a way of lust, a way of self-indulgence, any way of sin, — it must be forsaken. You must abandon it, or else you must abandon all hope of ever getting to heaven.

14. “That is pretty strong language,” says someone. Do you think so? I shall have to use even stronger expressions presently, for the next point concerning the nature of this repentance is that it deals with the man’s thoughts:“ Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts.” “But thoughts are free,” says some unthinking person; “I shall never be hung for my thoughts.” No, perhaps not; but have you never heard that old saying, “A man may not be hung for his thoughts, but he may be damned for his thoughts”; for, in thought, is often the very essence of sin. A deed might in itself be colourless; but the motive for doing it — the thought behind it — puts the venom, and virus, and guilt into the deed.

15. Since that is the case, what kind of thoughts must the unrighteous man give up? He must give up a great many fine opinions of which he is very proud; — his opinion about God, for example. It is possible that he has thought nothing of him; or if he has thought of him at all, he has dared even to judge his Creator, and to find fault with what God does. Ah, sir! you must give up all such thoughts of God, and you must come to reverence him, and to regard him as so great that you are less than nothing in comparison with him. You will also have to give up your opinion concerning God’s law. You thought it was too severe, too stringent, and that you could improve it a great deal. You will have to confess, with the apostle Paul, that the law is spiritual, and that you are “carnal, sold under sin.” You will have to change your mind on a great many subjects if you really wish to be saved. You will have to forsake your old thoughts concerning sin. You said, “Oh, it is a mere trifle, — a peccadillo! Poor helpless creatures as we are, God will not be angry with us for such a little thing as that.” You will have to feel that sin is extremely sinful, a great and deadly evil, or you will never be likely to seek and to find peace with God. You will also have to change your mind about the Lord Jesus Christ. He is nothing to you now; but he will have to be everything to you if you are to be saved by him. You will have to change your mind about yourself; you imagine that you are a fine fellow now, but you will have to regard yourself as less than nothing before you come to your right position before God. If ever you are to find mercy from him, you will have to forsake your present thoughts on all these matters.

16. Do you ask, “What other thoughts shall we have to forsake?” I reply, — A whole set of thoughts in which many people indulge. To the ungodly man, it is often quite a treat to sit down, and think of what he calls the jolly old days of his youth when he sowed his wild oats. He wishes that he had a handful or two of them left. Ah, sir! you will have to give up all thoughts of that kind; but you will have to think of those past days with bitter tears of sorrow over the sins that you committed then. The ungodly man often pictures to himself scenes of carnal delight; and if he cannot have a share in such scenes, he often wishes that he could. I would remind any of you, who have ever done so, that you may commit every sin forbidden in the Decalogue, without having actually committed any one of them, by simply revelling in them in your thoughts. Remember that solemn affirmation of the Lord Jesus Christ concerning the seventh commandment, “I say to you, that whoever looks on a woman to lust after her has committed adultery with her already in his heart”; and learn from it how our Lord meant his interpretation to apply to the whole law, so that we should understand that the very thought of evil is sin; and to suck it down as a sweet morsel to think about, even though we never dared to perpetrate the act, is still a gross evil; and if we wish to be forgiven, we must forsake all these vile, flesh-delighting thoughts.

17. We must also forsake our thoughts in the sense of turning from all purposes of evil. That, indeed, is the main meaning of the Hebrew word used here: “Let the unrighteous man forsake his purposes.” You say that you will do this or that, without any thought of whether God would have it so or not. Possibly it is your purpose, as you express it, “to have your fling.” You have come up from the country, young man, you are pleased that you have gotten away from your mother’s apron-strings, and now you are going to have your own way. Forsake all such thoughts, I implore you; and, if any, whom I am now addressing, have formed any purpose of sin, — if you have resolved to indulge in this or that evil, whatever it may be, I charge you, if you desire to have eternal life, to hate all such purposes and thoughts of sin. The garment spotted by the flesh must be flung away from us, and the very thought of evil must be banished from our minds as far as it is possible for us to do so.

18. Nor is this all, for the text further says, “and let him return to the Lord,” so that this conversion deals with the sinner in his relationship to God. He who wishes to find mercy must return to God to obtain it. Do you ask how you are to do so? Well, first, you must begin to think about God. I really believe that some of you do not think half as much about God as you do about the Sultan of Turkey; and with some of you, almost anyone is a greater factor in your life than God is. With some of you, it would not make any difference if there were no God at all, except that you would be rather glad if that could be proved to be the case, for you would feel easier in your mind, and could, in such a case, go on in your sin without any of the compunction that you now feel. Yet, is it not an exceptional state of mind for a man, who knows that he is a creature made by God, but who really cares so little about him that, if he could be assured that there were no such being, he would be better pleased than he is now? Oh, what a wretched state your heart must be in if it feels like that! It will have to be greatly altered if you are ever to be saved.

19. So, first, you must begin to think of God; and then, thinking of him, you must yield to him, give up your will to his will; and, doing that, you must pray to him, cry to him for mercy; and then you must trust him. Especially, you must accept his way of salvation by faith in Jesus Christ; and when you do that, then you will be sure to love him. When you get as far as that, you will be a new creature altogether. Then, God will delight in you; then, it will be a misery for you to be out of his presence, and it will be the highest joy of your life to have constant communion with him.

20. III. Now I finish with the third part of our subject, that is, THE GOSPEL OF THIS CONVERSION.

21. Possibly, someone says, “You have been preaching to us the law, sir.” No, I have not. The law says nothing about repentance. The law curses you from the very first moment when you have broken it. That gracious message, “Therefore repent, and be converted, so that your sin may be blotted out,” is not the utterance of law, but of the gospel.

22. I will try briefly to show you the gospel of it. It lies, first, in the fact that God has promised that he will abundantly pardon those who turn from their evil ways:“ Let him return to the Lord, and he will have mercy on him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.” To the man who confesses his guilt, the law says, “Yes, you are guilty, and you must suffer the penalty for your crime.” If a person pleads “guilty” in a court of law, the judge does not say to him, “If you will promise to amend your ways, you may go free.” No, he pronounces sentence on him, and God, the righteous Judge, might justly have done the same to us; but, instead of doing so, he says, “Forsake your wicked way, and your evil thoughts, and turn to me, and I will abundantly pardon you. Only repent of your iniquity, and abandon it, and it shall all be blotted out. All the evil of your past life shall be forgiven and forgotten; and I will not remember your sins and your transgressions against you any more for ever.” Oh, precious gospel messages! Who would not turn from his sin when such a gracious promise awaits him in the turning?

23. Yet there is more even than that, a great deal; for not only does God invite men to turn to him, but he enables them to turn to him; so the gospel of this passage is, that God the Holy Spirit is freely given to sinners to turn them, first in their hearts, and then in their lives. What you cannot do for yourself, the Holy Spirit will enable you to do, or will do for you. There is no form of sin which you cannot conquer by the power of the Spirit of God, and that Spirit is freely given to all who sincerely seek his help. He is still here on earth. On the day of Pentecost, he descended from heaven, and he has never gone back again. “But,” someone says, “the Holy Spirit was given to the saints.” Yes, I know he was; but he was also given to sinners like yourself, for Peter said to those who were awakened on the day of Pentecost, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you, and for your children, and for all who are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.” I wish that many of you would pray the prayer, “Turn us, oh God, and we shall be turned.” You must be turned, by sovereign grace, if you would really turn to the Lord; and you must forsake your wicked way, and your evil thoughts, if you are to be saved, and you cannot do this by yourself; but the Holy Spirit has been given on purpose to enable you to do it.

24. There is a further gospel message in the fact that Jesus Christ himself came into the world on purpose so that this Divine Spirit might be given in connection with the exercise, by men, of faith in him. One of the simplest declarations of the gospel is, “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life”; and one of the last sayings of our Lord Jesus Christ before he went back to heaven was, “He who believes and is baptized shall be saved.” To believe is to trust; and whoever trusts Christ Jesus, depends on the merit of his death, relies on the excellency of his atoning sacrifice, and proves the reality of the faith by confessing it in the scriptural way, such a man shall assuredly be saved; and, in order for his being saved, he shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit by whose almighty power he shall be enabled to conquer the sin that still dwells within him.

25. Once more, — and this is the part of the gospel that is the best of all, — in order that you might be able to believe that God can have mercy on the guilty, and in order that you might be saved, God gave his Son, Jesus Christ, to offer a full and complete atonement for sin. I never weary of preaching that glorious truth to you, but I long that, when I have done so, you may come to Christ, and that Christ may come to you, that you may be eternally saved. According to the righteous law of God, sin must be punished. Conscience tells you that it is not possible that guilt should go without its due penalty. Therefore it was that Jesus came, and bore the dread penalty that was due to sin. The lash of the law must fall on someone, so he bared his shoulders to its terrible blows. The sword of divine justice was unsheathed, and it must strike someone; so Jesus gave his heart to that sword’s point, and quenched the flaming blade in the crimson fountain of his own blood. Now that this has been done, God can be just, and yet the Justifier of everyone who believes in Jesus; and the effect of that atoning sacrifice on everyone who truly trusts in it, is that he finds himself so changed that he hates the sin he formerly loved, he rushes out of the wicked way in which he once delighted, he abhors the thoughts that once charmed him, and he turns to the Saviour whom once he despised.

Exposition By C. H. Spurgeon {Isa 55}

This chapter might very well have been found in the Gospel according to Matthew, or Mark, or Luke, or John, for it is so plain, so simple, and so full of gospel-teaching.

1. “Ho, everyone who is thirsty, come to the waters, and he who has no money; come, buy, and eat; yes, come, buy wine and milk, without money and without price.

Oh, the freeness of Gospel provisions; and, at the same time, their fulness, their plenty, their variety, their sufficiency! Here is a mention of “wine and milk.” It is not enough for the Lord to invite us “to come to the waters,” but he invites us to partake of the choicest luxuries on which the soul can be fed; he calls us to be filled even to the full, and to accept everything for nothing: “without money and without price.”

2. Why do you spend money for what is not bread? and your labour for what does not satisfy?

Why do you act like this? Can you give any explanation for such folly? The gospel is consistent with the highest reason; and to believe in Christ, is not a thing for which we need make any apology. It is a foolish thing not to believe in him, — a foolish thing to be living for the world, — to be spending our time and strength for your attainment of some inferior object which can never satisfy the soul. This “why” is not applicable to the Christian; it is applicable to the worldling; yet he often thinks himself the only wise man on the face of the earth. “Why do you spend money for what is not bread? and your labour for what does not satisfy?”

2, 3. Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and let your soul delight itself in abundance. Incline your ear, and come to me:

What a stress these gospel passages lay on hearing the Word! “Faith comes by hearing.” All the sights, and all the shows, all the gorgeous processions, and all the external ceremonies in the world, will never convert a single soul; but God says, “Listen diligently to me. Incline your ear, and come to me.”

3. Hear, and your soul shall live;

Do not object, but hear. Do not come to find fault with the Word; but “ ‘Come to me,’ says the Lord; ‘hear, and your soul shall live.’ ”

3. And I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David.

What a surprising promise this is for God to make to men who are so poverty-stricken that they have “no money” in their hand, or in their pocket, — nothing in fact, that they can bring to him! Yet the Lord says, “I will make an everlasting covenant with you.” Will God enter into covenant with a poor sinner, and pledge himself, by promise and by oath, to do him good for ever? Yes, poor troubled, sinful soul, the Lord, in infinite mercy, is even now calling you by his grace, I trust; and as surely as you do come to him, he will make with you “an everlasting covenant, even the sure mercies of David.”

4. Behold, I have given him for a witness to the people, a leader and commander to the people.

God’s Witness of his great love for us is his own Son. You cannot doubt God’s readiness to receive guilty men, since Christ has come in the flesh. You cannot doubt his love for sinners, since his only-begotten Son has come to be a Witness to it. Oh, for grace to put ourselves under his banner, and to follow his footsteps, for God has given him to be “a Leader and Commander to the people!” Nor shall he be a Leader without followers, nor a Commander without an army. Where is he to get his followers and his army? Read the next verse: —

5. Behold, you shall call a nation that you do not know, and nations that did not know you shall run to you because of the LORD your God, and for the Holy One of Israel; for he has glorified you.”

Observe, there was no communion between Christ and these people, for he did not know them, and they did not know him. It is the scriptural mode of expressing the great gulf between them; yet, he is to call them, and they are to run to him. He is to find his subjects and his soldiers among those who have so far been ignorant of him. What a gracious covenant promise this is! Under the guise of a declaration made to Christ, this is really a promise made to the elect of God, that they shall be brought back from all their wanderings, and be put into their ranks beneath the banner of their Lord.

6, 7. Seek the LORD while he may be found, call on him while he is near: let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return to the LORD, and he will have mercy on him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.

There must be conversion, — that is, a turning of the soul, and that must be revealed in the outward life. The wicked must forsake his evil way; but the change must go much deeper than that, there must be a real spiritual conversion. The unrighteous man must forsake his sinful thoughts; and, oh, how glorious it is when, after such a generous exhortation, and such a gracious invitation, God sends his Spirit to those whom he calls, to enable them to forsake their own way, and their own thoughts, and to turn to him! Wherever there is any such turning as that, it is certain that “he will abundantly pardon.”

8,9. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” says the LORD. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.

I think, dear friends, that not only may the unconverted pick up many crumbs of comfort as they hear about the abundant provision of divine mercy, but that the tried people of God may also be much cheered as they think on the greatness of the Lord’s plans for them. You do not understand, tried child of God, what your Heavenly Father is doing with you. A child cannot always comprehend his father’s purposes of love; it is not necessary that he should. Every father may say to his son, “My thoughts are not your thoughts”; but with what an emphasis does our Divine Father say it to us! “Just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

10, 11. For just as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, and does not return there but waters the earth, and makes it sprout and bud, so that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: so shall my word be that goes out of my mouth: it shall not return to me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.

Such a promise as this ought to help us to preach in faith! How full our sermons ought to be of the Word of God; for it is not our word, but God’s Word, that is certain to be effective for the salvation of our hearers! I remember Mccheyne saying that you will generally find that it is God’s Word, not man’s comment on God’s Word, that is blessed to the conversion of souls. There is a divine charm — a mystical power — about the very words of the Lord. I can never doubt the doctrine of plenary verbal inspiration, since I so constantly see, in actual practice, how the very words that God has been pleased to use are blessed to the souls of men, — not merely their sense, but the very language. Sometimes, a plural instead of a singular noun, or one particular word, instead of its synonym, will be made, in the hands of the Spirit of God, the means of reaching some individual who, otherwise, would not have been reached. Blessed be God that we do believe in his Book. We cannot, we will not, give up a jot or a tittle of it, — the dot of an i, or the cross of a t. We believe that no part of the Word of the Lord will return to him void, but it shall accomplish all his good pleasure, and prosper in the thing for which he has sent it.

12. For you shall go out with joy, and be led out with peace:

That shall be your happy condition when you have once fed on Christ. When you have entered into covenant with God, you “shall go out with joy, and be led out with peace.”

12. The mountains and the hills shall break out before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.

And many of us can testify that it is so. Once reconciled to God, all nature seems to wear another aspect. Whatever the weather is, it pleases us because it pleases him who sends it to us; and when we look over the beauties of nature beneath the sunlight, there is a special glory on them; for the light of God, that shines more brightly than the sun, is, to the believing eye, on everything.

13. Instead of the thorn shall come up the fir tree, and instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle tree and it shall be to the LORD for a name, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.”

Wherever God’s Word is, there are transformations. Miracles, though we do not see them in the natural world, are abundant in the spiritual realm. Conversion is the great standing proof of the presence of the Holy Spirit, and his continual presence is the perpetual witness to the truth of the Gospel. Beyond all arguments from internal or external evidence, stands this one, the Word of God is effective in the salvation of sinners. Thorns are turned into fir trees, and briers into myrtles; and, so, God is glorified, and so “an everlasting sign” is preserved among us, “that shall not be cut off.”

 {See Spurgeon_Hymnal “The Christian, Sacred Gratitude — ‘Return Unto Thy Rest’ ” 708}
 {See Spurgeon_Hymnal “Spirit of the Psalms — Psalm 103” 103 @@ "(Version 2)"}
 {See Spurgeon_Hymnal “The Christian, Joy and Peace — Doubts Scattered; Or, Spiritual Joy Restored” 722}

The Christian, Sacred Gratitude
708 — “Return Unto Thy Rest”
1 My heart is resting, oh my God;
      I will give thanks and sing;
   My heart is at the secret source
      Of every precious thing.
2 Now the frail vessel thou hast made
      No hand but thine shall fill;
   The waters of the earth have fail’d,
      And I am thirsting still.
3 I thirst for springs of heavenly life,
      And here all day they rise;
   I seek the treasure of thy love,
      And close at hand it lies.
4 And a “new song” is in my mouth,
      To long-loved music set;
   Glory to thee for all the grace
      I have not tasted yet.
5 I have a heritage of joy
      That yet I must not see:
   The hand that bled to make it mine;
      Is keeping it for me.
6 My heart is resting on his truth,
      Who hath made all things mine;
   Who draws my captive will to him,
      And makes it one with thine.
            Ann Letitia Waring, 1850, a.

Spirit of the Psalms
Psalm 103 (Version 1)
1 My soul, repeat his praise,
      Whose mercies are so great;
   Whose anger is so slow to rise,
      So ready to abate.
2 God will not always chide;
      And when his strokes are felt,
   His strokes are fewer than our crimes,
      And lighter than our guilt.
3 High as the heavens are raised
      Above the ground we tread,
   So far the riches of his grace
      Our highest thought exceed.
4 His power subdues our sins;
      And his forgiving love,
   Far as the east is from the west,
      Doth all our guilt remove.
5 The pity of the Lord,
      To those that fear his name,
   Far as the east is from the west,
      He knows our feeble frame.
6 He knows we but dust,
      Scatter’d with every breath;
   His anger, like a rising wind,
      Can send us swift to death.
7 Our days are as the grass,
      Or like the morning flower;
   If one sharp blast sweep o’er the field,
      It withers in an hour.
8 But thy compassions, Lord,
      To endless years endure;
   And children’s children ever find,
      Thy words of promise sure.
                        Isaac Watts, 1719.

Psalm 103 (Version 2)
1 Oh bless the Lord, my soul!
      Let all within me join,
   And aid my tongue to bless his name,
      Whose favours are divine.
2 Oh, bless the Lord, my soul,
      Nor let his mercies lie
   Forgotten in unthankfulness,
      And without praises die.
3 ‘Tis he forgives thy sins;
      ‘Tis he relieves thy pain;
   ‘Tis he that heals thy sicknesses,
      And makes thee young again.
4 He crowns thy life with love,
      When ransom’d from the grave;
   He that redeem’d my soul from hell
      Hath sovereign power to save.
5 He fills the poor with good,
      He gives the sufferers rest;
   The Lord hath judgments for the proud,
      And justice for the oppress’d
6 His wondrous works and ways
      He made by Moses known;
   But sent the world his truth and grace
      By his beloved Son.
                        Isaac Watts, 1719.

Psalm 103 (Version 3) <8.7.4.>
1 Praise, my soul, the King of heaven;
   To his feet thy tribute bring!
   Ransom’d, heal’d, restored, forgiven,
   Who like me his praise should sing!
      Praise him! praise him,
      Praise him! praise him,
   Praise the everlasting King!
2 Praise him for his grace and favour
   To our fathers in distress!
   Praise him still the same as ever,
   Slow to chide and swift to bless!
      Praise him! praise him,
      Praise him! praise him
   Glorious in his faithfulness!
3 Father-like he tends and spares us,
   Well our feeble frame he knows;
   In his hands he gently bears us,
   Rescues us from all our foes.
      Praise him! praise him,
      Praise him! praise him,
   Widely as his mercy flows.
4 Frail as summer’s flower we flourish;
   Blows the wind, and it is gone;
   But while mortals rise and perish,
   God endures unchanging on.
      Praise him! praise him,
      Praise him! praise him,
   Praise the High Eternal One.
5 Angels, help us to adore him;
   Ye behold him face to face;
   Sun and moon bow down before him,
   Dwellers all in time and space.
      Praise him! praise him,
      Praise him! praise him,
   Praise with us the God of grace!
                     Henry Francis Lyte, 1834.

The Christian, Joy and Peace
722 — Doubts Scattered; Or, Spiritual Joy Restored
1 Hence from my soul, sad thoughts, begone,
      And leave me to my joys;
   My tongue shall triumph in my God,
      And make a joyful noise.
2 Darkness and doubts had veil’d my mind,
      And drown’d my head in tears,
   Till sovereign grace with shining rays
      Dispell’d my gloomy fears.
3 Oh what immortal joys I felt,
      And raptures all divine,
   When Jesus told me I was his,
      And my Beloved mine!
4 In vain the tempter frights my soul,
      And breaks my peace in vain;
   One glimpse, dear Saviour, of thy face
      Revives my joys again.
                           Isaac Watts, 1709.

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).

Terms of Use

Modernized Edition of Spurgeon’s Sermons. Copyright © 2010, Larry and Marion Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario, Canada. Used by Answers in Genesis by permission of the copyright owner. The modernized edition of the material published in these sermons may not be reproduced or distributed by any electronic means without express written permission of the copyright owner. A limited license is hereby granted for the non-commercial printing and distribution of the material in hard copy form, provided this is done without charge to the recipient and the copyright information remains intact. Any charge or cost for distribution of the material is expressly forbidden under the terms of this limited license and automatically voids such permission. You may not prepare, manufacture, copy, use, promote, distribute, or sell a derivative work of the copyrighted work without the express written permission of the copyright owner.

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