A Sermon Delivered On Sunday Morning, May 30, 1869, By C. H. Spurgeon, At The Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington.
Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, “Cursed is every one who hangs on a tree.” (Galatians 3:13)
The apostle had been showing to the Galatians that salvation is in no
degree by works. He proved this all important truth in the verses
which precede the text, by a very conclusive form of double
reasoning. He showed, first, that the law could not give the blessing
of salvation, for, since all had broken it, all that the law could do
was to curse. He quotes the substance of the twenty-seventh chapter
of Deuteronomy, “Cursed is every one who does not continue in all
things which are written in the book of the law to do them”; and
since no man can claim that he has continued in all things that are
in the law, he pointed out the clear inference that all men under the
law had incurred the curse. He then reminds the Galatians, in the
second place, that if any had ever been blessed in the olden times,
the blessing did not come by the law, but by their faith, and to
prove this, he quotes a passage from Habakkuk 2:4, in which it is,
distinctly stated, that the just shall live by faith: so that those
who were just and righteous, did not live before God on the basis of
their obedience to the law, but they were justified and made to live
on the basis of their being believers. See, then, that if the law
inevitably curses us all, and if the only people who are said to have
been preserved in gracious life were not justified by works, but by
faith, then it is certain beyond a doubt that the salvation and
justification of a sinner cannot be by the works of the law, but
altogether by the grace of God through faith which is in Christ
Jesus. But the apostle, no doubt feeling that now he was declaring
that doctrine, he had better declare the foundation and basis of it,
unveils in the text before us a reason why men are not saved by their
personal righteousness, but saved by their faith. He tells us that
the reason is this: that men are not saved now by any personal merit,
but their salvation lies in another—lies, in fact, in Christ Jesus,
the representative Man, who alone can deliver us from the curse which
the law brought upon us; and since works do not connect us with
Christ, but faith is the uniting bond, faith becomes the way of
salvation. Since faith is the hand that lays hold upon the finished
work of Christ, which works could not and would not do, for works
lead us to boast and to forget Christ, faith becomes the true and
only way of obtaining justification, and everlasting life. In order
that such faith may be nurtured in us, may God the Holy Spirit this
morning lead us into the depths of the great work of Christ; may we
understand more clearly the nature of his substitution, and of the
suffering which it entailed upon him. Let us see, indeed, the truth
of the stanzas whose music has just died away—
He bore that we might never bear
His Father’s righteous ire.
2. I. Our first contemplation, this morning, will be upon this question, WHAT IS THE CURSE OF THE LAW HERE INTENDED?
3. It is the curse of God. God who made the law has appended certain penal consequences to the breaking of it, and the man who violates the law, becomes at once the subject of the wrath of the Lawgiver. It is not the curse of the mere law by itself; it is a curse from the great Lawgiver whose arm is strong to defend his statutes. Hence, at the very outset of our reflections, let us be assured that the curse of the law must be supremely just, and morally unavoidable. It is not possible that our God, who delights to bless us, should inflict an atom of curse upon any one of his creatures unless the highest right shall require it; and if there is any method by which holiness and purity can be maintained without a curse, rest assured the God of love will not imprecate sorrow upon his creatures. The curse then, if it falls, must be a necessary one, in its very essence needful for the preservation of order in the universe, and for the revelation of the holiness of the universal Sovereign. Be assured, too, that when God curses, it is a curse of the most weighty kind. The curse shall not come without a reason; but God’s curses are never without a good reason, and they come home to offenders with overwhelming power. Sin must be punished, and when by long continuance and impenitence in evil, God is provoked to speak the curse, I know that he whom he curses, is cursed indeed. There is something so terrible in the very idea of the omnipotent God pronouncing a curse upon a transgressor, that my blood curdles at it, and I cannot express myself very clearly or even coherently. A father’s curse, how terrible! but what is that to the curse of the great Father of Spirits! To be cursed by men is no slight evil, but to be cursed by God is terror and dismay. Sorrow and anguish lie in that curse; death is involved in it and that second death which John foresaw in Patmos, and described as being cast into a lake of fire. (Revelation 20:14) Hear the word of the Lord by his servant Nahum, and consider what his curse must be: “God is jealous, and the Lord revenges; the Lord revenges, and is furious; the Lord will take vengeance on his adversaries, and he reserves wrath for his enemies…The mountains quake at him, and the hills melt, and the earth is burned at his presence, yes, the world, and all who live in it. Who can stand before his indignation? and who can abide in the fierceness of his anger? His fury is poured out like fire, and the rocks are thrown down by him.” (Nahum 1:2-6) Remember also the prophecy of Malachi: “‘For behold, the day comes, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yes, and all who do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that comes shall burn them up,’ says the Lord of hosts, ‘so that it shall leave them neither root nor branch.’” (Malachi 4:1) Let such words, and there are many like them, sink into your hearts, so that you may fear and tremble before this just and holy Lord.
4. If we would look further into the meaning of the curse that arises from the breach of the law, we must remember that a curse is first of all a sign of displeasure. Now, we learn from Scripture that God is angry with the wicked every day; although towards sinners God exhibits great longsuffering, yet sin exceedingly provokes his holy mind; sin is a thing so utterly loathsome and detestable to the purity of the Most High, that no thought of evil, nor an ill word, nor an unjust action, is tolerated by him; he observes every sin, and his holy soul is stirred by it. He is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity; he cannot endure it. He is a God who will certainly execute vengeance upon every evil work. A curse implies something more than mere anger. It is suggested by burning indignation; and truly our God is not only somewhat angry with sinners, but his wrath is great towards sin. Wherever sin exists, there the fulness of the power of the divine indignation is directed; and though the effect of that wrath may be for awhile restrained through abundant longsuffering, yet God is greatly indignant with the iniquities of men. We wink at sin, yes, and even harden our hearts until we laugh at it and take pleasure in it, but oh! let us not think that God is such as we are; let us not suppose that sin can be looked upon by him and yet no indignation be felt. Ah! no, the most holy God has written warnings in his word which plainly inform us how terribly he is provoked by iniquity, as, for instance, when he says, “Beware, you who forget God, lest I tear you in pieces, and there is no one to deliver.” (Psalms 50:22) “Therefore says the Lord, the Lord of hosts, the mighty One of Israel, ‘Ah, I will rid myself of my adversaries, and avenge myself on my enemies.’” (Isaiah 1:24) “For we know him who has said, ‘Vengeance belongs to me, I will repay,’ says the Lord. And again, ‘The Lord shall judge his people.’ It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (Hebrews 10:30,31) Moreover, a curse imprecates evil, and when it comes from God, is of the nature of a threat. It is as though God should say, “By and by I will visit you for this offence. You have broken my law which is just and holy, and the inevitable penalty shall certainly come upon you.” Now, God has throughout his word given many such curses as these: he has threatened men over and over again. “If he does not turn, he will whet his sword; he has bent his bow, and made it ready.” (Psalms 7:12) Sometimes the threatening is wrapped up in a plaintive lamentation. “Turn, turn from your evil ways; for why will you die, oh house of Israel?” (Ezekiel 33:11) But still it is plain and clear that God will not allow sin to go unpunished, and when the fulness of time shall come, and the measure shall be filled to the brim, and the weight of iniquity shall be fully reached, and the harvest shall be ripe, and the cry of wickedness shall come up mightily into the ears of the Lord God of Hosts, then he will come out in robes of vengeance and overwhelm his adversaries.
5. But God’s curse is something more than a threatening; he comes at length to blows. He uses warning words at first, but sooner or later he bares his sword for execution. The curse of God, concerning its actual infliction, may be guessed at by some occasions where it has been seen on earth. Look at Cain, a wanderer and a vagabond upon the face of the earth! Read the curse that Jeremiah pronounced by the command of God upon Pashur; “Behold, I will make you a terror to yourself, and to all your friends: and they shall fall by the sword of their enemies, and your eyes shall see it.” (Jeremiah 20:4) Or, if you would see the curse upon a larger scale, remember the day when the huge floodgates of earth’s deepest fountains were unloosed, and the waters leaped up from their habitations like lions eager for their prey. Remember the day of vengeance when the windows of heaven were opened, and the great deep above the firmament was mixed with the deep that is beneath the firmament, and all flesh were swept away, except only the few who were hidden in the ark which God’s covenant mercy had prepared—when sea monsters whelped and stabled in the palaces of ancient kings, when millions of sinners sank to rise no more, when universal ruin flew with raven wing over a shoreless sea vomited from the mouth of death. Then the curse of God was poured out upon the earth. Look again further down in time. Stand with Abraham at his tent door, and see towards the east the sky all red at early morning with a glare that did not come from the sun; sheets of flames went up to heaven, which were met by showers of even more vivid fire, which supernaturally descended from the skies. Sodom and Gomorrah, having given themselves up to strange flesh, received the curse of God, and hell was rained upon them out of heaven until they were utterly consumed. If you would see another form of the curse of God, remember that bright spirit who once stood as servant in heaven, the son of the morning, one of the chief of the angels of God. Think how he lost his lofty principality when sin entered into him! See how an archangel became an archfiend, and Satan, who is called Apollyon, fell from his lofty throne, banished for ever from peace and happiness, to wander through dry places, seeking rest and finding none, to be reserved in chains of darkness to the judgment of the last great day. Such was the curse that it withered an angel into a devil, it burned up the cities of the plain, it swept away the population of a globe. Nor have you the full idea yet. There is a place of woe and horror, a land of darkness as darkness itself, and of the shadow of death, without any order, and where the light is darkness. There those miserable spirits who have refused repentance, and have hardened themselves against the Most High, are for ever banished from their God and from all hope of peace or restoration. If your ear could be applied to the gratings of their cells, if you could walk the gloomy corridors where damned spirits are confined, you would then with chilled blood, and hair erect, learn what the curse of the law must be—that dread curse which comes on the disobedient from the hand of the just and righteous God. The curse of God is to lose God’s favour; consequently, to lose the blessings which come upon that favour; to lose peace of mind, to lose hope, ultimately to lose life itself; for “the soul that sins, it shall die”; and that loss of life, and being cast into eternal death, is the most terrible of all, consisting as it does in everlasting separation from God and everything that makes existence truly life. A destruction lasting on for ever, according to the scriptural description of it, is the fruit of the curse of the law. Oh, I have heavy tidings to deliver today to some of you! My task is hard to have to testify to you like this the terrible justice of the law. But you would not understand or prize the exceeding love of Christ if you do not hear the curse from which he delivers his people, therefore hear me patiently. Oh unhappy men, unhappy men, who are under God’s curse today! You may dress yourselves in scarlet and fine linen, you may go to your feasts, and drain your full bowls of wine; you may lift high the sparkling cup, and whirl in the joyous dance, but if God’s curse is on you, what madness possesses you! Oh sirs, if you could only see it, and understand it, this curse would darken all the windows of your mirth. Oh that you could hear for once the voice which speaks against you from Mount Ebal, with doleful repetition: “Cursed shall you be in the city, and cursed shall you be in the field. Cursed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl. Cursed shall be the fruit of your body, and the fruit of your land, the increase of your cattle, and the flocks of your sheep. You shall be cursed when you come in, and you shall be cursed when you go out.” (Deuteronomy 28:16-19) How is it you can rest while such sentences pursue you? Oh! unhappiest of men, those who pass out of this life still cursed. One might weep tears of blood to think of them. Let our thoughts fly to them for a moment, but oh let us not continue in sin, lest our spirits are condemned to hold perpetual companionship in their grief. Let us flee to the dear cross of Christ, where the curse was put away, so that we may never come to know in the fulness of its horror what the curse may mean.
6. II. A second enquiry of great importance to us this morning is this: WHO ARE UNDER THIS CURSE?
7. Listen with solemn awe, oh sons of men. First, especially and foremost, the Jewish nation lies under the curse, for such I gather from the connection. To them the law of God was very particularly given beyond all others. They heard it from Sinai, and it was to them surrounded with a golden setting of ceremonial symbol, and enforced by solemn national covenant. Moreover, there was a word at the beginning of that law which showed that in a certain sense it particularly belonged to Israel. “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage.” Paul tells us that those who have sinned without the law shall be punished without the law; but the Jewish nation, having received the law, if they broke it, would become particularly liable to the curse which was threatened for such a breach. Yet further, all nations that dwell upon the face of the earth are also subject to this curse, for this reason: that if the law was not given to all from Sinai, it has been written by the finger of God more or less legibly upon the conscience of all mankind. It needs no prophet to tell an Indian, a Laplander, a South Sea Islander, that he must not steal; his own judgment instructs him so. There is something within every man which ought to convince him that idolatry is folly, that adultery and unchastity are villainies, that theft, and murder, and covetousness, are all evil. Now, inasmuch as all men in some degree have the law within them, to that degree they are under the law; the curse of the law for transgression comes upon them. Moreover, there are some in this house this morning who are particularly under the curse. The apostle says, “As many as depend upon the works of the law are under the curse.” (Galatians 3:10) Now, there are some of you who choose to be under the law; you deliberately choose to be judged by it. How so? Why, you are trying to reach a place in heaven by your own good works; you are clinging to the idea that something you can do can save you; you have therefore elected to be under the law, and by so doing you have chosen the curse; for all that the law of works can do for you, is to leave you still cursed, because you have not fulfilled all its commands. Oh sirs, repent of so foolish a choice, and declare from now on that you are willing to be saved by grace, and not at all by the works of the law. There is a little band here who feel the weight of the law, to whom I turn with brightest hope, though they themselves are in despair. They feel in their consciences today that they deserve from God the most severe punishment; this sense of his wrath weighs them to the dust. I am glad of this, for it is only when we come consciously and penitently under the curse that we accept the way of escape from it. You do not know what it is to be redeemed from the curse until you have first felt the slavery of it. No man will ever rejoice in the liberty which Christ gives him until he has first felt the iron of bondage entering into his soul. I know there are some here who say, “Let God say what he wishes against me, or do what he wishes to me, I deserve it all. If he drives me for ever from his presence, and I hear the Judge pronounce that awful sentence, ‘Depart, accursed one’; I can only admit that such has been my heart and such my life, that I could expect no other doom.” Oh dear heart, if you are thus brought down, you will listen gladly to me while I now come to a far brighter theme than all this. You are under the curse as you now are, but I rejoice to have to tell you that the curse has been removed through Jesus Christ our Lord. Oh may the Lord lead you to see the plan of substitution and to rejoice in it.
8. III. Our third and main point, this morning, is to answer the question, HOW WAS CHRIST MADE A CURSE FOR US?
9. The whole pith and marrow of the religion of Christianity lies in the doctrine of “substitution,” and I do not hesitate to affirm my conviction that a very large proportion of Christians are not Christians at all, for they do not understand the fundamental doctrine of the Christian creed; and alas! there are preachers who do not preach, or even believe this cardinal truth. They speak of the blood of Jesus in an indistinct kind of way, and descant upon the death of Christ in a hazy style of poetry, but they do not strike this nail on the head, and lay it down that the way of salvation is by Christ’s becoming a substitute for guilty man. This shall make me all the more plain and definite. Sin is an accursed thing. God, from the necessity of his holiness, must curse it; he must punish men for committing it; but the Lord’s Christ, the glorious Son of the everlasting Father, became a man, and suffered in his own proper person the curse which was due to the sons of men, so that by a vicarious offering, God having been just in punishing sin, could extend his bountiful mercy towards those who believe in the Substitute. Now for this point. But, you enquire, how was Jesus Christ a curse? We ask you to observe the word “made.” “He was made a curse.” Christ was no curse in himself. In his person he was spotlessly innocent, and nothing of sin could belong personally to him. In him was no sin. “God made him to be sin for us,” the apostle expressly adds, “who knew no sin.” There must never be supposed to be any degree of blameworthiness or censure in the person or character of Christ as he stands as an individual. He is in that respect without spot or wrinkle, or any such thing, the immaculate Lamb of God’s Passover. Nor was Christ made a curse by necessity. There was no necessity in himself that he should ever suffer the curse; no necessity except what his own loving suretyship created. His own intrinsic holiness kept him from sin, and that same holiness kept him from the curse. He was made sin for us, not on his own account, not with any view to himself, but entirely because he loved us, and chose to put himself in the place which we ought to have occupied. He was made a curse for us not, again I say, out of any personal deserving, or out of any personal necessity, but because he had voluntarily undertaken to be the covenant head of his people, and to be their representative, and as their representative to bear the curse which was due to them. We would be very clear here, because very strong expressions have been used by those who hold the great truth which I am endeavouring to preach, which strong expressions have conveyed the truth they meant to convey, but also a great deal more. Martin Luther’s wonderful book on the Galatians, which he prized so much that he called it his Catherine Bora (that was the name of his beloved wife, and he gave this book the name of the dearest one he knew). In that book he says plainly, but be assured he did not mean what he said to be literally understood, that Jesus Christ was the greatest sinner who ever lived; that all the sins of men were so laid upon Christ that he became all the thieves, and murderers, and adulterers that ever were, in one. Now, he meant this, that God treated Christ as if he had been a great sinner; as if he had been all the sinners in the world in one; and such language teaches that truth very plainly: but, Luther-like in his boisterousness, he overshoots his mark, and leaves room for the censure that he has almost spoken blasphemy against the blessed person of our Lord. Now, Christ never was and never could be a sinner; and in his person and in his character, in himself considered, he never could be anything except well beloved of God, and blessed for ever and well pleasing in Jehovah’s sight; so that when we say today that he was a curse, we must lay stress on those words, “He was made a curse”—constituted a curse, set as a curse; and then again we must emphasise those other words, “for us”—not on his own account at all; but entirely from love for us, so that we might be redeemed, he stood in the sinner’s place and was considered to be a sinner, and treated as a sinner, and made a curse for us.
10. Let us go further into this truth. How was Christ made a curse? In the first place, he was made a curse because all the sins of his people were actually laid on him. Remember the words of the apostle—notice that it is no doctrine of mine; it is an inspired sentence, it is God’s doctrine—“He made him to be sin for us”; and let me quote another passage from the prophet Isaiah, “The Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all”; and still another from the same prophet, “he shall bear their iniquities.” The sins of God’s people were lifted from off them and imputed to Christ, and their sins were looked upon as if Christ had committed them. He was regarded as if he had been the sinner; he actually and in very deed stood in the sinner’s place. Next to the imputation of sin came the curse of sin. The law, looking for sin to punish, with its quick eye detected sin laid upon Christ, and, since it must curse sin wherever it was found, it cursed the sin since it was laid on Christ. So Christ was made a curse. Wonderful and awful words, but since they are scriptural words, we must receive them. Sin being on Christ, the curse came on Christ, and in consequence, our Lord felt an unutterable horror of soul. Surely it was that horror which made him sweat great drops of blood when he saw and felt that God was beginning to treat him as if he had been a sinner. The holy soul of Christ shrank with deepest agony from the slightest contact with sin. So pure and perfect was our Lord, that never an evil thought had crossed his mind, nor had his soul been stained by the glances of evil, and yet he stood in God’s sight a sinner and therefore a solemn horror fell upon his soul; the heart refused its healthful action, and a bloody sweat covered his face. Then he began to be made a curse for us, nor did he cease until he had suffered all the penalty which was due on our account. We have been accustomed in divinity to divide the penalty into two parts, the penalty of loss and the penalty of actual suffering. Christ endured both of these. It was due to sinners that they should lose God’s favour and presence, and therefore Jesus cried, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” It was due to sinners that they should lose all personal comfort; Christ was deprived of every consolation, and even the last rag of clothing was torn from him, and he was left like Adam naked and forlorn. It was necessary that the soul should lose everything that could sustain it, and so did Christ lose every comforting thing; he looked and there was no man to pity or help; he was made to cry, “But I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised by the people.” As for the second part of the punishment, namely, an actual infliction of suffering, our Lord endured this also to the uttermost, as the evangelists clearly show. You have read very often the story of his bodily sufferings; take care that you never depreciate them. There was an amount of physical pain endured by our Saviour which his body never could have borne unless it had been sustained and strengthened by union with his Godhead; yet the sufferings of his soul were the soul of his sufferings. That soul of his endured a torment equivalent to hell itself. The punishment that was due to the wicked was that of hell, and though Christ did not suffer hell, he suffered an equivalent for it; and now, can your minds conceive what that must have been? It was an anguish never to be measured, an agony never to be comprehended. It is to God, and God alone that his griefs were fully known. Well does the Greek liturgy put it, “Your unknown sufferings,” for they must for ever remain beyond the guess of human imagination. See, brethren, Christ has gone thus far; he has taken the sin, taken the curse, and suffered all the penalty. The last penalty of sin was death; and therefore the Redeemer died. Behold, the mighty conqueror yields up his life upon the tree! His side is pierced; the blood and water flows forth, and his disciples lay his body in the tomb. Just as he was first numbered with the transgressors, he was afterwards numbered with the dead. See, beloved, here is Christ bearing the curse instead of his people. Here he is coming under the load of their sin, and God does not spare him but strikes him, as he must have stricken us, lays his full vengeance on him, launches all his thunderbolts against him, commands the curse wreak itself upon him, and Christ suffers all, sustains all.
11. IV. And now let us conclude by considering WHAT THE BLESSED CONSEQUENCES ARE OF CHRIST’S HAVING THUS BEEN MADE A CURSE FOR US.
12. The consequences are that he has redeemed us from the curse of the law. As many as Christ died for, are for ever free from the curse of the law; for when the law comes to curse a man who believes in Christ, he says, “What have I to do with you, oh law? You say, ‘I will curse you,’ but I reply, ‘you have cursed Christ instead of me. Can you curse twice for one offence?’” Behold how the law is silenced! God’s law having received all it can demand, is not so unrighteous as to demand anything more. All that God can demand of a believing sinner, Christ has already paid, and there is no voice in earth or heaven that can henceforth accuse a soul that believes in Jesus. You were in debt, but a friend paid your debt; no writ can be served on you. It does not matter that you did not pay it, it is paid, and you have the receipt. That is sufficient in any court of equity. So with all the penalty that was due to us, Christ has borne it. It is true I have not borne it; I have not been to hell and suffered the full wrath of God, but Christ has suffered that wrath for me, and I am as clear as if I had myself paid the debt to God and had myself suffered his wrath. Here is a glorious truth to rest upon! Here is a rock upon which to lay the foundation of eternal comfort! Let a man once comprehend this. My Lord outside the city’s gate bled for me as my surety, and on the cross discharged my debt. Why, then, great God, I no longer fear your thunders. How can you strike me now? You have exhausted the quiver of your wrath; every arrow has been already shot against the person of my Lord, and I am clear and clean in him, and absolved and delivered, even as if I had never sinned. “He has redeemed us,” says the text. How often I have heard certain gentry of the modern school of theology sneer at the atonement, because they charge us with the notion of its being a kind of business transaction, or what they choose to call “the mercantile view of it.” I do not hesitate to say that the mercantile metaphor correctly expresses God’s view of redemption, for we find it so in Scripture; the atonement is a ransom—that is to say, a price paid; and in the present case the original word is more than usually expressive; it is a payment for, a price instead of. Jesus did in his sufferings perform what may be forcibly and fitly described as the payment of a ransom, the giving to justice a quid pro quo for what was due on our behalf for our sins. Christ, in his person suffered what we ought to have suffered in our persons. The sins that were ours were made his; he stood as a sinner in God’s sight; though not a sinner in himself, he was punished as a sinner, and died as a sinner upon the tree of the curse. Then having exhausted his imputed sinnership by bearing the full penalty, he made an end of sin, and he rose again from the dead to bring in that everlasting righteousness which at this moment covers the persons of all his elect, so that they can exultingly cry, “Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, yes, rather, who is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.”
13. Another blessing flows from this satisfactory substitution. It is this, that now the blessing of God, which had been so far arrested by the curse is made to flow most freely. Read the verse that follows the text: “That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; so that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.” The blessing of Abraham was that in his seed all nations of the earth should be blessed. Since our Lord Jesus Christ has taken away the curse due to sin, a great rock has been lifted out from the river bed of God’s mercy, and the living stream comes rippling, rolling, swelling on in crystal tides, sweeping before it all human sin and sorrow, and making glad the thirsty who stoop down to drink from it. Oh my brethren, the blessings of God’s grace are full and free this morning; they are as full as your needs. Great sinners, there is great mercy for you. They are as free as your poverty could desire them to be, free as the air you breathe, or as the cooling stream that flows along the water brook. You have only to trust Christ, and you shall live. No matter who you are, or what you are, or where you are, though at hell’s dark door you lie down to despair and die, yet the message comes to you, “God has made Christ to be a propitiation for sin. He made him who knew no sin to be sin for us, so that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” Christ has delivered us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us. He who believes has no curse upon him. He may have been an adulterer, a swearer, a drunkard, a murderer, but the moment he believes, God sees none of those sins in him. He sees him as an innocent man, and regards his sins as having been laid on the Redeemer, and punished in Jesus as he died on the tree. I tell you, if you believe in Christ this morning, my hearer, though you are the most damnable of wretches that ever polluted the earth, yet you shall not have a sin remaining on you after believing. God will look at you as pure; even Omniscience shall not detect a sin in you, for your sin shall be put on the scapegoat, even Christ, and carried away into forgetfulness, so that if your transgressions are searched for, they shall not be found. If you believe—there is the question—you are clean; if you will trust the incarnate God, you are delivered. He who believes is justified from all things. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved,” for “he who believes and is baptised, shall be saved; and he who does not believe shall be damned.”
I have preached to you the gospel, God knows with what a weight upon
my soul, and yet with what holy joy. This is no subject for gaudy
eloquence, and for high flying attempts at oratory; this is a matter
to be put to you plainly and simply. Sinners—you must either be
cursed by God, or else you must accept Christ, as bearing the curse
instead of you. I do beseech you, as you love your souls, if you have
any sanity left, accept this blessed and divinely appointed way of
salvation. This is the truth which the apostles preached, and
suffered and died to maintain; it is this for which the Reformers
struggled; it is this for which the martyrs burned at Smithfield; it
is the grand foundational doctrine of the Reformation, and the very
truth of God. Down with your crosses and rituals, down with your
pretensions to good works, and your crouchings at the feet of priests
to ask absolution from them! Away with your accursed and idolatrous
dependence upon yourself; Christ has finished salvation’s work,
altogether finished it. Do not hold up your rags in competition with
his fair white linen: Christ has borne the curse; do not bring your
pitiful penances, and your tears all full of filth to mingle with the
precious fountain flowing with his blood. Lay down what is your own,
and come and take what is Christ’s. Put away now everything that you
have thought of being or doing, by way of winning acceptance with
God; humble yourselves, and take Jesus Christ to be the Alpha and
Omega, the first and last, the beginning and end of your salvation.
If you do this, not only shall you be saved, but you are saved: rest,
you weary one, for your sins are forgiven; rise, you lame man, lame
through lack of faith, for your transgression is covered; rise from
the dead, you corrupt one, rise, like Lazarus from the tomb, for
Jesus calls you! Believe and live. The words in themselves, by the
Holy Spirit, are soul quickening. Be done with your tears of
repentance and your vows of good living, until you have come to
Christ; then take them up as you wish. Your first lesson should be no
one but Jesus, no one but Jesus, no one but Jesus. Oh come to him!
See, he hangs upon the cross; his arms are open wide, and he cannot
close them, for the nails hold them firmly. He waits for you; his
feet are fastened to the wood, as though he meant to still wait. Oh
come to him! His heart has room for you. It streams with blood and
water; it was pierced for you. That mingled stream is—
Of sin the double cure,
To cleanse thee from its guilt and power.
An act of faith will bring you to Jesus. Say, “Lord, I believe, help
my unbelief”; and if you do so, he cannot cast you out, for his word
is, “Him who comes to me I will in no wise cast out.” I have
delivered to you the weightiest truth that ears ever heard, or that
lips spoke, do not put it from you. Since we shall meet each other at
the last tremendous day, when heaven and earth are all ablaze, and
the trumpet shall ring and raise the dead, since we shall meet each
other then, I challenge you to put this from you! If you do it, it is
at your own peril, and your blood be on your own heads; but instead
accept the gospel I have delivered to you. It is Jehovah’s gospel.
Heaven itself speaks in the words you hear today. Accept Jesus Christ
as your substitute. Oh do it now, this moment, and God shall have
glory, but you shall have salvation. Amen.
[Portion of Scripture Read Before Sermon—Psalms 22]