A Sermon Delivered On Sunday Morning, July 24, 1870, By C. H. Spurgeon, At The Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington. 6/5/2011*6/5/2011
Jesus says to him, “I am the way.” (John 14:6)
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1. The most precious things lie in the smallest compass. Diamonds have much value in little space. Many of those scriptural sayings which are most full of meaning are couched in the fewest words. Who shall measure the depth of that sentence, “God is love?” or that other, “God is light?” Who shall know the lengths and breadths of this declaration, “Christ is all?” How clearly is the whole gospel condensed into that line, “By grace you are saved!” There are many more divine words of a similar character, all short, and as sweet as they are short, precious beyond comparison, and as brief as precious. Our text, with its four words, and those all monosyllables, and none of more than three letters, is among the chief of these Bibles in miniature. “I am the way.” It would be difficult, and it would be as wicked as difficult, to be otherwise than simple in preaching when such a text as this is the theme. May God grant that some of you may be reached by my simple testimony, and led in the way to heaven; may those who are in the way already be strengthened, and comforted, and quickened in it; may God be glorified and sinners converted, and then our hearts shall be exceedingly glad.
2. I. We shall go at once to the text, and consider, in the first place, HOW JESUS CHRIST IS THE WAY, AND HOW HE COMES TO BE SO.
3. How he is the way. A way supposes two points — from which and to which. Christ is the way from man’s ruin to the Father. Our Lord was speaking of man’s coming to the Father, so we know where the way leads, and we know very well that the way would be of no use unless it came to where we are by nature, and that is in the place of ruin and of wrath. Christ is the way that leads from the City of Destruction to the Celestial City — from the ruin of our father Adam right up to the glory of our Father who is in heaven.
4. Christ is the way, then, first, from the guilt of sin to the Father. The great difficulty was — “How is sin to be put away?” Many attempts have been made to remove it, but there is no way of our escaping from the guilt of sin except by Jesus Christ. Some have hoped for pardon from future good conduct, but as we all know that the payment of a future debt can by no means discharge a past debt, so that even the perfect future obedience of man, if he could achieve it, could not touch his past sins. Self-righteousness, therefore, even if it could reach perfection, would not be “the way.” Some hope much from the mercy of God, but the law knows nothing of clearing the sinner of guilt by a sovereign act of mercy — that cannot be done; for then God’s justice would be impugned, his law would be virtually annulled. He will by no means clear the guilty. Every transgression must have its just penalty, so that the absolute mercy of God as such is not the way out of the guilt of sin, for that mercy is blocked by avenging justice, and over the face of that star of hope called absolute mercy there passes an eclipsing shadow, because God is righteous as well as gracious. There is no way by which a sinner can escape from the guilt of sin except what is revealed in Jesus Christ. God has sent forth his Son, his only Son. The Word was made flesh and came under the law: upon that mysterious being who combined both Godhead and manhood in one person, the Lord has laid the iniquity of us all. By imputation the transgressions of his elect have been laid upon their Covenant Head, so that he was numbered with the transgressors, and he bore the sin of many. He voluntarily undertook to be the substitute and covenant surety for his chosen; and in this way, by the transferring of sin from the sinner to Christ, the sinner ceases to be regarded as a sinner, and his guilt is removed. Here is the way for that sinner to approach the Father. His sin is laid upon Christ, who became the substitute for all sinners who ever have believed or ever shall believe in him, and he himself is clear. The whole mountain mass of the sins of believers does not lie on them any longer, but on Christ. He has taken their transgressions, he has borne their iniquities, their sins are removed from them and laid on him. Now listen! The only way in which sin can be taken from any one of us is by this method; it is not imputed to us, it is imputed to him; but do not think that the sin which was laid upon Christ of old lies upon Christ now. It does not, for the day came when the punishment for all who sin was demanded; the sword of vengeance awoke against human sin, and it would have struck all the flock, and the sheep would have been destroyed, but the Shepherd came into the place of the flock, and he bore the strokes of the sword; and there upon that once accursed, but now for ever blessed tree, the Saviour endured the fulness of divine wrath on account of sin. Now where is the sin of his people? He has cast it into the depths of the sea. By bearing its punishment he has caused it to exist no more; it is as though it had never been; it is annihilated, it is gone, if it is searched for, it cannot be found. Jesus Christ by his taking the sin and then discharging all the liability that was due to God from that sin, has for ever finished transgression — notice the word, made an end of sin, and brought in everlasting righteousness for his people. Now, sinner, if you would get away from your sin, Christ is the way; this is the way by which you can escape from it. I have already told you that your future reformation cannot remove your past sin, neither can the mercy of God, considered as an attribute by itself, clear you from your sin; but this wonderful deed of love and wisdom, this marvellous transaction that makes heaven and earth ring with grateful songs, when glorified spirits see further into it, and when angelic intellects are able to grasp it, this wondrous transaction can clear you from sin as it has cleared many of us; for we are justified today before God, so that no one can lay anything to our charge. We are sinners in ourselves, but not sinners before God’s judgment seat, for Jesus has made us clean; we are whiter than snow, our sins being removed from us as far as the east is from the west by our great atoning Substitute. Here is a way consistent with divine justice, a way exactly meeting what you need. Oh, I pray God that while the words are used, “I am the way,” your spirit may say, “Blessed be his name, Jesus shall be my way, I will today believe on him and so escape from my guilt.”
5. The text refers, to the guilt of sin, but then “I am the way” is as true concerning the wrath of God on account of sin. You will see at once, and, therefore, I need not use many words about it, that the way to escape from wrath is to escape from the sin which causes the wrath. Remove the cause, you remove the effect. Now, when the sin of God’s people was moved from them to Christ, the wrath of God went where the sin went, and it fell upon Christ, until he said, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” and when that bitter cup of wrath had been drained to its dregs, it was emptied for ever, and not one drop was left for a believing soul to taste. The wrath of God towards the believer has ceased to be, and at this moment there is no angry thought in God’s heart towards a justified person. Whoever has believed in Christ, his sins were laid on Christ, and punished in Christ, and God is not and cannot be angry with the man for whom Jesus was a substitute, for he has no sins for God to be angry with. “Oh,” you say, “but does he not sin?” He does, but it is not imputed to him, according to the saying of the psalmist in the thirty-second Psalm “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity.” He commits sin, but it is not imputed to him, and so the wrath never comes on him; he is free from guilt and wrath; God has love toward him, unbounded love, and though he may chasten him, yet this is not in anger, but with purposes of love toward him for his spiritual and everlasting good. So you see Christ is the way out of divine wrath as well as out of our sin.
6. And, listen. There comes upon us in consequence of sin, when the Lord deals with us and makes us see sin, a deep and terrible depression of spirit, in some more and in some less, but in every case “when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died.” Sin as soon as it is really felt in the soul to be sin, kills us, blasts our former hopes, crushes our pride, lays us like bruised and mangled things before the burning throne of justice. Often souls have been heard to cry, “There is no soundness in my flesh because of your anger; neither is there any rest in my bones because of my sin. For my iniquities are gone over my head: as a heavy burden they are too heavy for me. My wounds stink and are corrupt because of my foolishness.” Many such expressions, it may be, you, my awakened hearer, have been made to utter, but, oh! if you come to see that all this sin of yours is not yours, that in Christ Jesus God has put away your sin by your Saviour’s bearing it and enduring its punishment, I say, if you see this, you will speedily rejoice. In a moment those waves of wrath will pass away from you, and your spirit will sing, “Hope in God: for I shall still praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God.” I know a truly awakened conscience never will believe in the pardon of sin without atonement first made; but when you hear that atonement has been made, that Christ suffered instead of you, that his death has glorified the justice of God more than your lying in hell could have glorified him, that his atonement is to God’s injured law a better vindication than even your eternal destruction, do you not see it, do you not lay hold on it, and does your heart not leap at the sound of this glorious gospel of the blessed God? Christ is the way, then, out of the guilt of your sin, out of the wrath of God for your sin, and out of your sense of that wrath.
7. But more, Christ is the way to escape from the power of sin. The great object of a penitent soul is to get away from the tyranny and slavery of evil habits and of corrupt desires. A man may break off some of his sins by his own unaided efforts. For instance, no man needs to be a drunkard, common determination may have done away with those intoxicating cups. No man needs to be a swearer; let him understand what a lewdness of iniquity there is in that sin, and he may surely give it up. Still, sin dwells in fallen creatures, and the imagination of the thoughts of their hearts is evil, and that continually. Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? Man, your sinfulness is such that you cannot cease from sin. But man, there is a power above and beyond you which can deliver you from the power of sin and make you holy; it is found in Christ Jesus, in Christ Jesus as I have preached him to you today. Let me tell you my own experience. Whenever I feel that I have sinned, and desire to overcome that sin for the future, the devil at the same time comes to me and whispers, “How can you be a pardoned person and accepted with God while you sin in this way?” If I listen to this I drop into despondency, and if I continued in that state I would fall into despair, and should commit sin more frequently than before; but God’s grace comes in and says to my soul, “You have sinned; but did Jesus not come to save sinners? You are not saved because you are righteous; for Christ died for the ungodly.” And my faith says, “Though I have sinned, I have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous, and though I am guilty, yet by grace I am saved, and I still am a child of God.” And what then? Why, then the tears begin to flow, and I say, “How could I ever sin against my God who is so good to me? Now I will overcome that sin,” and I become strong to fight with sin through the conviction that I am God’s child. Doubts and fears, and the thought that God is angry only drive you further into sin, but the faith which in the teeth of sin still believes in God’s love, and still believes in the perfect pardon Christ has given, which God himself can never take back again; that holy faith which still clings to the cross with, “If I perish I perish, but to this atoning sacrifice I cling”; that faith, I say, makes you strong against sin. The saints in glory overcame through the blood of the Lamb, and there is no other way of overcoming. The precious blood of atonement wherever sprinkled kills sin, and he who lives in the full belief of it will be purified from sinful habits, as that precious text says: “If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanses us from all sin.” It is walking under a sense of divine love as revealed in Christ, it is walking with the full conviction of pardon through the blood that brings to us freedom from the reigning power of sin. So, soul, Jesus Christ is “the way” to escape from sin, its guilt, its wrath, its fear, its power.
8. Now we must have a word or two upon the other end of the way. I said it was from sin, to what? To the Father. Now the way to the Father is only by Jesus Christ. We have for this the express saying of Christ: “No man comes to the Father, except by me.” We hear talk of getting to God the Father by nature, but it is a ladder too short to reach the Infinite. God is somewhat seen in his works, but I believe those who have seen the grandest works of God, and have also seen God in Christ, will tell you that God is no more mirrored in his works than is the whole universe in a dewdrop. Earth is not broad enough to reflect the image of God. He does not mirror himself in the sea, it is a glass too small to show the Deity; he cannot reveal his whole glory in the materialism of this poor world of ours, its axles would groan and crack beneath the weight of Deity. It is in Christ that Jehovah reveals himself more fully than in all nature, though you summon sun, moon, and stars, and read all their hieroglyphics, God is revealed in Christ in a way in which he cannot be in anything of time or of space.
9. Learn, then, that we get our best apprehensions of the Father through the Son. “He who has seen me has seen the Father.” It is only by Christ that we realise the Fatherhood of God. I do not believe any man has any idea of what the Fatherhood of God is until he knows Jesus Christ, as the firstborn among many brethren, and knows the power of his atonement to bring us near to God. The common Fatherhood doctrine that God is the Father of us all, because he made us all, is not true in the most real and tender sense of Fatherhood. A potter makes ten thousand vessels, but he is not the father of one of them. It is not everything that a man makes that he is the father of, or if he is so called, it is only in a modified sense. We are God’s children when we are created anew in Christ Jesus; when regeneration has made us partakers of the divine nature. Sonship is no ordinary privilege common to all mankind, it is the high prerogative of the chosen; for what does the Scripture say? “Behold, what manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know him.” When we are adopted into the divine family, then and not until then do we know God as the Father. As for unbelievers, they have not known the Father, for our Lord says, “Oh righteous Father, the world has not known you.” He who has seen Christ has seen the Father, and only he; but the very essence of Christ is seen in his expiatory death, and therefore we can never grasp the Fatherhood of God until we have believed in the atonement of his Son. “Whoever denies the Son, the same does not have the Father, but he who acknowledges the Son has the Father also.” May we then realise the Father through knowing in very deed the Lord, for he is the only way to gain a knowledge of the Father.
10. Again, Jesus is the way to conscious acceptance with the Father. I know, my dear troubled friend, you feel this morning that you would give anything and everything if you could know that God had accepted you, and loved you, and that you were his dear child. Now, you can never know this until first you come to the cross, and see Jesus Christ dying there, as a substitute for you and for all who trust him. You trust him — your sins are on him, you are clear — the very next feeling of your soul will be, “I am not only pardoned in Christ, but I am accepted before God in Christ Jesus, for Christ’s sake, and as one with Christ I am now dear to God; and what is very marvellous, I am as dear to God as Jesus Christ himself is, I am brought as near as Christ is, I am what Christ is, for he who was once my representative in my sin, and bore the wrath for me, is now my representative in his glory, and has obtained favour and innumerable blessings for me.” This is a blessed thing. “The Father himself loves you.” “Made near by the blood of Christ.” “Beloved, now we are the sons of God, and it does not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.” The gift of Christ to us is a full proof of divine love, and wherever it is received it is the proof of God’s love toward the receiver.
11. So, too, the way to have communion with the Father is the same. “Oh how I long to talk with God,” one says; “he seems to be a long way off, and the thick darkness shuts him out from me.” Oh that I could speak with him, even though the only word I said would be that of the returning prodigal: “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you.” Beloved, when you see Jesus Christ who bore your sins in his own body on the tree, when you see him ascending up to heaven, you have access with boldness to God, because Christ has entered within the veil and stands in the presence of God for you. You do talk with God when you draw near in Jesus Christ. Your conviction that, all your sin is put away through him, that you are accepted through him, that you live in him as the member lives in the body, that he is your Covenant Head, and that his honours and glories are all reflected upon you, this assured belief brings you so near to God that as a man speaks with his friend, even so you commune with him. “Truly, our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.”
12. Again, we by Jesus come to resemble the Father. There is no way to obtain the likeness of the Father, except by learning God’s love in the person of his dear Son. Here, too, Christ is the way. You imitate Christ, and so become like the Father; you commune with Jesus Christ, and as you talk with him, his character sacredly operates upon you, and you are changed from glory to glory, as by the image of the Lord. I do believe, dear brethren, that the moment we forget Christ, and then seek after personal sanctification, we are trying to get to our journey’s end by declining to tread the road to it. It is, at least I find it so, impossible to grow in grace except by always abiding at the foot of the cross. When I know by faith, not by any other evidence than by faith, that Jesus loved me, and gave himself for me; when I see grace, magnified in sin, laid on him rather than on me, and see justice magnified, in that sin being put away by him; and when I see grace and justice together, clasping hands in solemn covenant to secure my soul against all fear of loss, then I feel that I am master over sin, then I feel my soul loves God, yearns after God, mounts up to God — and then she becomes more like God than she was before. So Christ is the way from sin, with all we can say about it, to the Father, with all the blessed things that flow from his throne.
13. II. WHAT KIND OF WAY IS CHRIST, AND FOR WHAT KIND OF PEOPLE?
14. First, let me say he is the King’s highway, which means that he is the divinely appointed way from sin to the Father. If we came to you, dear friends, who are seeking salvation, and told you about a way of mercy, you would naturally enquire, “Who said it was the way? Who appointed it?” And if we replied that it was appointed by the last Council at Rome, I should not wonder if you felt serious doubts about the matter, and questioned whether a council of men could infallibly determine the way of grace; but I have to tell you today that Jesus Christ is “the way” by God’s appointment. So says the word: “Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: whom God has presented to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins, that are past, through the forbearance of God; to declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him who believes in Jesus.” God the Father devised this plan of salvation by the transference of sin to Christ, and by the punishment of Christ the substitute, instead of us. It is clear to me that if God is satisfied with the way, I ought to be; if he, the aggrieved party, feels that Christ has finished the work, and that he can now justly forgive us, why do we need to raise questions? Oh God, if you can look at Jesus and be well pleased in him, surely I can; if you are perfectly content with the sufferings and death of my dear Son, surely I may be. Now, then, because it is the King’s highway, (I recommend you, my hearers, to be very clear here), if you are trusting in Christ who is the way of divine appointment, if he were to fail you, which he cannot do, the blame would not lie with you, but with him who appointed it. I speak reverently. But he has appointed a way which cannot fail, for he is infinite wisdom and infinite power.
15. Then, since the King’s highway is a public way, I can come to it and need ask no man’s permission. If I am treading the King’s highway I cannot be a trespasser there. Poor sinner, Christ is the way from your sin to God, and you need ask no one’s permission to come to God through Jesus Christ. “He is able to save to the uttermost those who come to God by him.” “Him who comes to me,” he said, “I will in no wise cast out.” Come and welcome, God appoints the way, and when he appoints the way, he expresses it like this, “And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world”; (1 John 2:21) in order that any sinner in the whole world who wills to come to the Father by Christ, may pluck up courage and know that his sins have been laid on Jesus.
16. Again, it is a perfect way. “I am the way.” The way from sin to the Father by Christ is complete. It would not be complete unless it came down where you are, but it does. Where are you? Up to your throat in drunkenness? Where are you? Defiled by evil living? Soul, there is a road from where you are right up to the immaculate perfection of the blessed at God’s right hand, and that road is Christ. You do not have to make a road to get to Christ, Christ comes to you where you are. The good Samaritan did not ask the wounded man to come to him, and promise that then he would pour in the oil and wine, but he came where he was and poured it in. Christ will come where you are. Saul of Tarsus did not go far to meet Christ. He was riding to the devil as fast as he could, but he was suddenly struck down, then and there where he was, and as he was, and Jesus spoke life to him. He can do just the same with you. You think you have some preparations to make, some feelings to pass through, something or other to perform before you may believe that Christ has taken your sins; but all you can do to make yourself fit for Christ is to make yourself unfit; all your preparations are only rotten lumber — throw them all away. You must come as you are, as a sinner, for Jesus did not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance: “the healthy have no need of a physician, but those who are sick”; and if you will come as you are and take God’s way, and trust Jesus with all your heart to save you, you will find he will prove to be the very Saviour you need, for he is so perfect a road that there is nothing needed at the beginning. And nothing will be needed at the end. Some have supposed that faith in the atoning sacrifice may carry us a certain way, and after that we must stand on another footing. God forbid I should say a single word against good works. Did I not the other Sunday morning address you from these words, “Without holiness no man shall see the Lord?” (See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 940, “The Winnowing Fan” 931) But good works are not the way to heaven, in whole or in part; they are fruits of salvation; they are the sure products of those who are saved, but they do not save a man. A faith that produces no works will never save anyone; but what saves men is not the work which comes from the faith, but the faith itself, the faith in Jesus Christ. The top and bottom, the beginning and end of salvation, lies in the Redeemer, and not in us. “I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending,” says the Lord. If you think that you are to patch up Christ’s robe of righteousness, or that Jesus is to begin and you are to complete, you know nothing about Christ, and need to be taught something about yourself. It must be all Christ or no Christ, all mercy or no mercy. Grace must lay the foundation, and grace must put on the top stone, or else there can be no salvation. “I am the way,” then, means that Christ is the way from where the sinner now is right up to where God is, and he who has Christ shall come to the Father.
17. Christ is a free way. There is no toll gate at the entrance, nor all along the road. Many are afraid to come into this road to heaven, because they cannot pay the charges — but there are no charges whatever. Whoever wills to have Christ may have him for the taking. He who will pay for Christ cannot have him at all. You may have him for the asking; he is freely given. The way in which to have Christ is the way in which you have water, that is, by drinking; receive Christ, for “to as many as received him, he gave the power to them to become the sons of God, even to as many as believed on his name.” There are no legal conditions of salvation laid down anywhere. I know it is sometimes said that repentance and faith are conditions: from one point of view, and in one aspect, I might tolerate the term, but really and truly there is no bargain made between God and a sinner; it is never you do this and I will do that; it is always, “I will do this for you, and then you shall believe and repent as the result.” If faith is in one respect a condition, it is in another respect a gift of God, and although we are commanded to repent, yet Jesus is exalted on high to give repentance. So you, poor sinners, who have no repentance, or anything of your own, I ask you come to Jesus Christ for everything. He is the way, and the whole way. This is a free way — nothing to pay, nothing to do, nothing to be, nothing to bring, no merits, no deservings, no preparations; it is all of grace; all the gift of God to the very vilest of the vile. Oh, it does sometimes seem too good to be true, that I a great sinner shall be saved all for nothing; but when I think of what the Saviour is, that he is God, that he came from heaven, and became a man for my sake, that he, the God-man, Emmanuel, was born and died, and bore the wrath of God, I can believe it; and, oh my Lord, I dare no more add any of my drivelling merits to the worth of your dear Son than of stitching some foul, infected rags from a dunghill to a garment made of wrought gold. How could I put any nothingness of mine, that only my folly calls anything, side by side with the ever precious merits of your dear Son?
Again, let me add, it is a permanent way. Jesus says, “I am
the way” — not a way for Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, only, but for you;
not for the apostles, and martyrs, and early saints, only, but for
His precious blood
Shall never lose its power,
Till all the ransom’d church of God
Be saved to sin no more.
It is a way that never has been broken up, and never will be. All the floods of all his people’s sins have never made a swamp or bog hole in this blessed way; all the earthquakes and upheavals of our rebellious natures have never made a gap or chasm in this glorious way. Straight from the very gates of hell, where the sinner is by nature, right up to the hilltops of heaven, this glorious causeway runs in one unbroken line, and will for ever and for ever, until every elect one shall be gathered safely into the eternal home.
19. Let me add, it is a joyful way. You noticed in the chapter we read that the redeemed are to return with songs, and everlasting joy is to be upon their heads. All believers in Christ as such are a happy and rejoicing people. “But,” one says, “I have seen believers mourn!” That is because they wander from the way. If they continued simply trusting in the substitution of Christ, if they kept their eye on him, and on him only, they would know no sorrow. Where there is no sin there is no sorrow; and when the believer knows that he has no sin, for it is put away in Christ, then also he has no sorrow, but his peace is like a river, because his righteousness is as the waves of the sea. Dear heart, if you wish to be happy, come to Christ, and abide with him.
20. Lastly, on this point, he is the only way. He is the only way so that you cannot be saved if you trust anywhere else. This way which God has planned of laying sin upon the Substitute, is such that it is the only possible way, and therefore God will not have you insult his wisdom and his grace by trying to patch up another. Do not try to find a way by your own feelings or your own works; there is no such way. All these supposed ways will end in disappointment and in ruin. Jesus Christ is the one foundation, build on him. May God help you to say, “I will now cast myself flat upon Christ, having no confidence in myself; I will make him my confidence, he shall be my all in all.” If you have done that, you are a saved soul; go your way, and rejoice with unspeakable joy.
21. Thus we see what kind of way it is, but for what kind of people is it made? Hurriedly in these two or three words, I reply, for all kinds of people. Christ is the way to heaven for anyone and everyone who is led to walk in it. Christ is the way to heaven for you, poor wanderer, though you have sought the theatre and music hall, and worse places to drive away your melancholy. Come to Jesus, for he is the way to peace, the very way for a wanderer like you. Christ is the way for exiles, for banished ones, for those who have not seen the face of God for many a day, though once they rejoiced in him. Backslider, if you wish to get back to your God, Christ is the way.
22. Christ is the way for captives. You, who bear your chains clanking about you today, who feel as if you never would be free, take heart, take heart, there is still a way of escape, and Christ is that way. Make a desperate push for it, and say, “I will throw myself into his arms, if he rejects me I shall be the first one, but I will even go and rest on the bloody sacrifice of that dear Son of God, who sweat great drops of blood because of my heavy sins, my heavy, heavy sins.”
23. Let me add that Christ is the way for the poorest of the poor. Our Master, when he makes a feast, sends us out to bring in men from the highways and hedges, highwaymen and hedge birds, those who do not have a house or a friend of their own. You who are lowest of the low and vilest of the vile, you who are all but in hell, and are condemned already, you who lie at hell’s dark door, bound in affliction and iron, shut out from mercy, as you think, Christ is the way for you; for all who long to escape from sin; for all who would come to God; for all who have a desire after mercy or eternal life. The great trumpet is blown, and may they come who are ready to perish, may the most needy and abject, and lost, and self-condemned, say, “I will come now and trust in Jesus who died the just for the unjust to bring us to God.”
24. III. The last point is, HOW WE MAKE CHRIST OUR WAY, AND WHETHER HE IS OUR WAY NOW.
25. How do we make Christ our way? Why, as we make any other way our way! We hear a man say, “This is my way.” How does he make that his way? Does he have its title deeds? Does he have a charter from his Majesty? No, nothing of the kind. The way in which I shall make the Clapham Road my way after I have done preaching is by getting into it; and the way in which Christ becomes a sinner’s way is simply by going to Christ. That is all. You have no legal rights, no forms or ceremonies to go through, you have only to come to the King’s highway by trusting Christ, and Christ is yours. “But may I,” one says, “without any warrant come and trust Christ?” What warrant do you want? The only warrant is God’s permission, and you have a great deal more than that, you have God’s command, which is more than a permission, for he has said, “Go into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature; he who believes and is baptised shall be saved, but he who does not believe shall be damned.” In believing you do what that gospel warrants by its command. “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved,” is God’s word; you certainly have a right to do what God commands you to do, so that your right to trust Christ lies in God’s command. He says he will save you through what Christ has done. Will you believe him? Will you believe him in order to trust today in what Christ has done? If you do not, you make God a liar; if you do, you glorify God by believing his testimony, and you glorify his Son by trusting in his work, and you are saved.
Now, in order to keep the way your own, all you do is to continue in
it. How do you keep any other way as your own? By any charter, by any
fresh right that you did not have at the first? No, not at all. “This
is my way,” I say, as long as I still keep to that way; if I turn the
other way I cannot say that it is my way, at least no one would
believe a way to be my way if I went in a different direction. If I
leap over the hedge and go off in another direction and say, “This is
my way,” I lie. Man alive, that is your way which you go, your
possession of the way lies in your keeping the way. So now,
Christian, Christ continues to be yours by the same way in which he
became yours; that is, by your still trusting him, not by anything
you do, or are by yourself, or in yourself. Because Jesus lives you
live also, not because of anything you do. “The just shall live by
faith,” not by any other means. You are not to begin in the Spirit
and then be made perfect in the flesh; you are not to begin to walk
by confidence in Christ and afterwards go on to walk by confidence in
your own evidences and graces. Your evidences and graces will always
shine best when you think the least of them, and always will be
brightest with God when you look most at his dear Son, and not at
them. If you ever take your best virtues and sanctifications and make
them a basis for hope, you are building on what will crumble beneath
you in the time of trial; but as long as you keep to this, “Still a
sinner, but still washed in the blood; still in myself guilty, but no
guilt of mine imputed to me, all laid on my Substitute; still my best
prayers, my best hymns, my almsgivings, my preachings, my all, all
defiled — but yet I am clean through him who washes my feet and makes
me clean in his most precious blood.” This is the way to live, the
way to live for evermore, not only as a beginner, but when you are
advanced in grace — the way to live when you are becoming a mature
matron or veteran soldier, and the way when you come to die. It is
especially, then, in those last moments that we fling everything away
but just what Christ has done. We might have been troubling ourselves
a great deal before about signs, evidences, and so on; but when it
comes to the last, we are like the good man who, on his deathbed,
tried to pick out what was good and what was bad of his own doings,
but he said he was a long while judging them, but they were so much
of a muchness that he at last tied them all up in one bundle and
flung them aside, and rested on Christ alone. That is the very best
thing for us all to do even now: —
None but Jesus, none but Jesus,
Can do helpless sinners good.
This will not make you unholy but holy. If you believe this, you will seek to honour and glorify God with all your might, and when you have done all, you will feel that you are unprofitable servants, and into his dear arms you will cast yourselves, and pray that the hands that were pierced may still embrace you and keep you safe in death and in eternity.
Now, the question to finish with is this, “Is Christ my way today?”
Oh, I know many of you could rise up and say, “Yes, he is, he is all
my salvation and all my desire: —
Nothing in my hands I bring,
Simply to the cross I cling.
My God, you know all things; you know my soul’s only reliance is on your dying, your risen, your everliving Son, who is my hope, my all.”
28. But, perhaps, there are some here who are not in this way, because they do not even know it. I believe there is no doctrine so little known in England as the gospel; while a great many doctrines are preached, and very properly so, and the precepts are preached, yet there are hearers who have heard for years, and yet do not know this fundamental, essential doctrine of the gospel — that God laid sin on Christ so that he might take sin off from us, and punished him so that he might be just and yet the justifier of the ungodly. If you have never heard it before you have heard it now; you will not perish, therefore, with that excuse. If you put aside that way of salvation, it will not be because you have never heard it. If you perish, there will be no excuse for you.
29. But there are some who do not believe this plan to be divine, when they hear it and understand it, they reject it; some will say it is inconsistent with the pursuit of morality; others will say it is fantastic or unjust; one will say this and another that; but though the cross of Christ is to those who perish foolishness, to us who are saved, it is the wisdom of God and the power of God, and God forbid that we should preach any other gospel to you. There are some who even hate it, they will gnash their teeth at the idea of being pardoned through the merit of another, their righteous self feels indignant at being insulted by being put right out of the market. Ah, do not cast your soul away out of mere hatred for God, but kiss him whom God has made King today, and trust in him who is priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek, to put away the sin of man by his own great sacrifice. Come now to him and take the atonement and the peace which he brings. Some are not saved because they are too fearful to come this way, but to such I would speak very gently. The bruised reed he will not break, the smoking flax he will not quench. Do not let your sense of sin make you think little of my Master. You are a great sinner, but he is a greater Saviour. Do not say that you have matched Christ, or outmatched him. Come, Goliath sinner, the Son of David can conquer you or still save you: “Though your sins are as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” Think of David, how foully he had transgressed, yet with all the lust stains, and the murder spots upon him, he had faith enough to say, “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.” And so you shall be whiter than snow, when once the bloody sacrifice of Christ in all its merit has become yours, as it may this very morning if you simply trust in him. May my God the Eternal Spirit, may my God the blessed Father, may my God, even Jesus the Son, draw many reluctant hearts now, and his shall be the praise. Amen.