A Sermon Delivered On Sunday Morning, October 30, 1870, By C. H. Spurgeon, At The Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington. 6/21/2011*6/12/2011
To the praise of the glory of his grace. (Ephesians 1:6)
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1. No truth is more plainly taught in God’s word than this, that the salvation of sinners is entirely owing to the grace of God. If there is anything clear at all in Scripture, it is plainly there declared that men are lost by their own works, but saved through the free favour of God; their ruin is justly merited, but their salvation is always the result of the unmerited mercy of God. In varied forms of expression, but with constant clarity and positiveness, this truth is declared over and over again. Yet, plain as this truth is, and influencing, as it should do, every part of our doctrinal belief, it is frequently forgotten. Many of the heresies which divide the Christian church, spring from a cloudiness upon this point. Were that word “grace” only fully read, marked, and learned, the great evangelical system would be far more firmly held, and plainly preached: but forgetfulness that “by grace you are saved,” is a common fault among all conditions of men. Sinners forget it, and they seek salvation by the works of the law; they refuse to surrender to the sovereign grace of God, and entrench themselves behind the tottering fence of their own righteousness. And saints forget this, too, and therefore their minds become dark, their spirits fall into legal bondage, and where they ought to rejoice in the Lord unceasingly, they become despondent, and full of unbelieving dread. Brethren, I am incessantly preaching here the doctrines of grace, they are growing more dear to me; but as often as I preach them, I trust they are not wearisome to you; and if they should be, that sad fact would not induce me to be silent upon them, but rather urge me to proclaim them more frequently and fervently, for your weariness of them would be a clear proof that you need to hear them again, and again, and again, until your souls were brought to delight in them. There is no music outside of heaven equal to the sound of that word “grace,” except only the celestial melody of the name of Jesus. One of the early fathers was called the angelic doctor, surely he is most angelic who preaches most of grace. Grace among the attributes is the Chrysostom, it has a golden mouth; it is the Barnabas, for it is full of consolation; it is the Boanerges, for it thunders against self-righteousness. It is man’s star of hope, the wellspring of his eternal life, the seed of his future bliss.
2. I. We shall draw from the text our first observation. IN SALVATION AS A WHOLE WE SEE THE GLORY OF GOD’S GRACE.
3. So the apostle tells us, “To the praise of the glory of his grace.” Every attribute of God has its own appropriate opportunity for displaying itself; to each quality of the divine nature there is a glory, and the Lord takes care that there shall be a time when this glory shall be so seen as to become the subject of praise for intelligent creatures. There is great glory in his power, and long ago he who speaks and it is done, who commands and it stands firm, made the heavens and the earth. It was a great triumph of power, and other grand attributes combined to make the display still more glorious; wisdom was there to balance the clouds, prudence set a bounds upon the face of the deep, truth appointed the times and the seasons, and goodness arranged the habitable parts of the earth for the living creatures and for the sons of men. All the attributes of God were exercised, but power was greatly magnified, the power which by a word created, and by its mere will made all things to exist. On that occasion, when the glory of God’s power was revealed, “the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy.” They saw the glory of the divine power, and rendered their joyful homage. On that august occasion many of God’s attributes were extolled, but there was no room for “the praise of the glory of his grace.” Grace found no objects in a pure creation upon which to display its full glory; there was room for kindness, benevolence, favour, goodness, and love, but grace in its truest and deepest meaning needs undeserving creatures to operate upon, sinful creatures who may be pardoned, fallen creatures who may be restored, justified, and there were not any condemned creatures who were in the creation as it came from the divine hand.
4. Further on, the Lord took occasion to give a display of the glory of his justice. We do not know precisely when or how, for the record is not full and clear, but we have the outlines of this fact, that there was once a great rebellion in heaven, certain of those bright intelligences known to us as angels, for some reason or other, revolted from the divine government under the leadership of that bright son of the morning, who is now for ever called the Prince of darkness. There was war in heaven against the rule of the Eternal. Then flew forth the thunderbolts of Jehovah’s strength, and the rebels were subdued at once by his irresistible might. Then his justice flamed forth in splendour, for we read of the pit that was dug for the wicked, and of everlasting fire in hell prepared for the devil and his angels. Hurled from the battlements of heaven, they fell into the depths of perdition, driven from the throne of their glory they became hopeless wanderers throughout the realms of misery. The praise of the glory of divine justice may be read in these terrible lines, “And the angels who did not keep their first estate, but left their own habitation, he has reserved in everlasting chains under darkness to the judgment of the great day.” Divine justice shall yet further be displayed in that tremendous day when the great white throne shall be set, and all nations shall be gathered before it, and the unjust shall receive the vengeance due for their rebellion against the majesty of God. Glorious shall be the attribute of justice “when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and that do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power.” In all this we see no revelation of “the glory of his grace.” He dealt out justice to fallen angels, upon them holiness shot forth her consuming fire, but no word of mercy was heard, no hope of restoration was given; the Mediator did not take up the angels, but he took up the seed of Abraham. So, too, in the last dread assize, justice, not mercy, shall rule the hour when he shall render to every man according to his works. Still there must needs be an opportunity to glorify the attribute of grace. Whenever we can clearly perceive that an attribute exists in God, we may fairly infer that there will be something for that attribute to exercise itself upon. It is always a hopeful circumstance that there is mercy in God, and that this mercy endures for ever; for it seems to be inevitable that mercy should be exercised, and hence when we see sin in the world we expect to see mercy displaying its power. Over there I see in the surgeon’s dispensary a potent remedy, and it suggests to me that a certain disease falls under his eye, and when it is raging I naturally look to see the remedy much in use. When you read of grace in the heart of God, of compassion, of free favour, of sovereign mercy, it is clearly implied that there would be guilty ones upon whom that free favour would in due time be bestowed. Accordingly, we find that God has selected the salvation of the sons of men as the platform for the exhibition of his grace, that in his elect his grace may show forth its glory, just as in other events the glory of his power or of his justice has been shown.
5. I want you to notice that a display of the glory of any attribute is not a mere proof that such an attribute exists, but an unusual revealing and magnifying of that attribute, so that it arouses the attention and wonder of all beholders. Let me go back again to a display of power, and remind you of a memorable event in the history of this world. We read of Pharaoh, “For this purpose I have raised you up, so that I might show forth my power in you.” Pharaoh, a man of a particularly determined disposition, of a high and haughty spirit, resolved to resist the commands of Jehovah, and to hold Israel in bondage. Jehovah ordained to reveal in him what his power could do. After first having warned him by his servants Moses and Aaron, who performed great wonders in his presence, the Lord began to deal with the haughty king. He turned the waters of Egypt into blood, and killed their fish; the land produced frogs in abundance in the rooms of their kings. “He spoke, and there came various kinds of flies, and lice in all their borders. He gave them hail for rain, and flaming fire in their land. He struck their vines also, and their fig trees; and broke the trees of their borders. He spoke, and the locusts came, and caterpillars, and that without number, and ate up all the plants in their land, and devoured the fruit of their ground.” He sent a thick darkness over all the land, even darkness that might be felt. The king’s heart was cowed for awhile, but in desperate obstinacy he hardened his heart still more, put on a brazen forehead, and again said, “Who is Jehovah that I should obey his voice? I will not let his people go.” Volley after volley the artillery of heaven was discharged upon him; the Lord mighty in battle gave his enemy no respite. One by one he brought up his reserves, and fitted fresh arrows upon his bow. The lordly monarch found himself stunned with the repeated blows, and bewildered by the terrors of his omnipotent adversary. At last the masterstroke was given which brought the tyrant to his knees. The angel of destruction was sent to strike all the firstborn of Egypt. And an exceedingly great and bitter cry went up from every household in that dread night: for all the firstborn were killed, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sat upon the throne, to the firstborn of the slave behind the mill. Then it was that the astonished monarch rose up in the night, and said to Moses and Aaron, “Rise up, and get out from my people, and go serve the Lord as you have said.” Yet, before long, Pharaoh hardened his heart again, and pursued after the Israelites with horses and with chariots. You know the story, but we will rehearse it yet again, for great is the Lord and greatly to be praised, and his mighty acts which were of old are to be had in perpetual remembrance. Even in heaven they shall sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and of the Lamb; let us then rehearse it here below. You remember how Pharaoh in his pride pursued the children of Israel, saying, “I will pursue, I will overtake, I will divide the spoil; my lust shall be satisfied upon them; I will draw my sword, my hand shall destroy them.” In his high presumption he dared to follow the chosen of the Lord into the heart of the sea. Then “the Lord looked on the host of the Egyptians through the pillar of fire and of the cloud, and troubled the host of the Egyptians, and took off their chariot wheels, that they drove them heavily: so that the Egyptians said, ‘Let us flee from the face of Israel; for the Lord fights for them against the Egyptians.’ ” But in vain they turned themselves to flee, for in a moment when Moses stretched out his rod, the waters, at the command of God, returned and covered the chariots and the horsemen and all the hosts of Pharaoh; they sank like lead in the mighty waters, the depths covered them, there was not one of them left. Then the glory of Jehovah’s power was seen and then the praise of that glory was heard, for Miriam took her tambourine, and went out in the dance, while the daughters of Israel followed her, and all the hosts of Israel took up the refrain of her song, “Sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously; the horse and the rider he has thrown into the sea.” Then the praise of the glory of Jehovah’s power was made known.
6. Now, brethren, in the work of the salvation of man you have a parallel case, for one attribute is not more glorious than another. “The praise of the glory of his grace” in rescuing man from the deep ruin into which he had fallen, in giving the Well Beloved to bleed and die, in routing sin, death, and hell, in leading our captives captive, in lifting us up into heaven, and giving us to be partakers of his glory through the merit of Jesus Christ our Lord — in all this, I say, grace is as glorious as power was at the Red Sea. No stinted thing then, no small matter, no subject to be whispered about, or described with bated breath, but something great and grand and glorious will that work of salvation be, which is to the praise of the glory of so great and favourable an attribute as the grace of God. I have tried if I could to think of what grace at its utmost must be; but who by searching can find out God? It is not possible for the human mind to conceive of power at its utmost. Pharaoh’s overthrow gives you only a guess at what the omnipotence of the Lord can accomplish, it can shake all worlds to dust, dissolve the universe, and annihilate creation. Power at its utmost, who shall comprehend it? And grace, my brethren, grace at its utmost! I was about to say you see it in the Lord Jesus; and shall I err if I so speak? For in him dwells all the fulness of the Godhead bodily; he is the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. But, my brethren, our minds cannot see the utmost power of grace — human intellect is not gigantic enough to grasp it all, but believe me if anywhere the full praise of the glory of God’s grace is seen, it is beheld in the salvation of the chosen sons of men. When all the chosen ones shall be gathered together, and the church of God in heaven shall be perfect, not one living stone lacking of the entire fabric, then across that edifice shall this inscription be written in letters of light, “To the praise of the glory of his grace.” The work of salvation from first to last, as a whole, was devised and carried out and shall be perfected to the praise of the glory of the grace of God. So much upon the first point. Salvation is of the Lord, and grace reigns in it without a rival.
7. II. Secondly, THIS IS TRUE OF EACH DETAIL OF SALVATION.
8. I gather that from the position of my text. The fifth verse speaks of predestination and adoption, and the sixth verse speaks of acceptance in the Beloved, and the position of my text puts all three of these under the same theme, they are all “to the praise of the glory of his grace.” Brethren, the sea is salt as a whole, and every drop of it is salt in its degree: if the whole work of salvation is of grace, every detail of that work is equally of grace. The rays of the sun as a whole possess certain properties, analyse one single sunbeam and you shall find all those properties there. I have just now said that all of salvation might be compared to a great temple, and that across its front would be written, “To the praise of the glory of his grace”; now some of the ancient Eastern buildings were erected by certain monarchs, and were dedicated to them, and not only was the whole structure set up to their honour, but each separate brick was stamped with the royal cartouche or coat of arms; not only the whole structure but each separate brick bore the insignia of the builder; so it is in the matter of salvation: the whole thing is by grace, and each particular portion of it equally reveals in its measure the free favour of God. Let me begin at the beginning, and very briefly rehearse the different steps of the salvation of a sinner.
9. There was, first of all, the election of men by God before all time. It was he who chose to himself a people to exhibit his praise. That choice was not made in any degree on account of any debt due to man, on account of any merit that existed in men or was foreseen to exist; it was the result of free favour on God’s part that any were chosen to become his sons and daughters. “Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in your sight,” is the Saviour’s answer to the question why God has hidden these things from the wise and prudent, and revealed them to babes. If any man is chosen it is not because of a natural worthiness or claim to preference, or any essential excellence in him which demanded that God should make the choice. We were heirs of wrath even as others. No works were taken into account whatever. The divine choice according to Paul in the ninth chapter of Romans was “not by works, but by him who calls.” “It is not by him who wills, nor by him who runs, but by God who shows mercy.”
10. This is even clearer, perhaps, when we come to the next step, namely, that of redemption. Christ has redeemed his people from the curse of the law, having been made a curse for them. Can any man see the Son of God expiring upon Calvary, bearing the sin of man, and say that those for whom he died were worthy that Christ should die for them? It is downright blasphemy to connect any idea of merit with a gift so vast and free as the gift of Jesus Christ to redeem us from our sins. Why, sirs, if we all had been perfect, and had kept God’s laws without omission, even as seraphs do in heaven, we should still have only done what was our duty to have done; and there could have been no merit about our service which could deserve that Christ should die for us. Should the Eternal God ever be thought to be such a debtor to his creatures that he must needs veil his splendour in human form, and be despised and rejected and spat upon? Shall it be said that the Son of God owes to man that he should bleed and die for him? I shudder while I raise the question or suggest the thought. It must be pure, spontaneous, disinterested mercy that nailed the Saviour to the tree. Nothing could have brought him from the throne of glory to the cross of woe except grace, unalloyed, unbounded grace.
11. And when I turn onwards from redemption to the next step, namely, that of our effectual calling, it is the same. God is pleased to call many of us by the word of the gospel, and every gospel call is a gracious thing, for we do not deserve to be called away from our sins. If we reject those calls, and resist them, and yet after all the effectual grace of God comes in a more powerful way and makes the unwilling willing, and corrects the obstinacy of our hearts, why, this must be grace emphatically. To give the common call of the gospel to every sinner to come to Christ, and to believe in him and live, which call is given in the gospel every day, is grace; but to continue that call, and to make it effectual, even to those who have so far resisted it, why, this is grace upon grace, superabounding grace. If you spread a table for the hungry, there is favour to them; if you invite them to come, and invite again and again, it is great favour; but if you “compel them to come in,” as the parable has it, and ask them to sit there, and lay yourself out until you have won their hearts and persuaded them to accept your bounty, this is mercy upon mercy. Yet such is effectual calling. That ever the love of God should have constrained you and me to come and be saved when we so long stood out against it — oh! this is “to the praise of the glory of his grace.”
12. My dear brethren, take the next step from effectual calling to pardon and justification. I think it is not needful that I should say that the pardon of sin must always be the effect of grace. That statement is self-evident. It cannot be due to any man that he should have his sins pardoned, for sin that deserves a pardon is no sin; it cannot be due to any man that God should make him righteous, he being himself unrighteous; that must be a spontaneous action on God’s part, flowing from his pure bounty and love. No man can claim forgiveness, it would be a sacrilege to suggest that he could. Pardon and justification, then, must be freely given to us by God’s grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus.
13. Notice well, that the next series of steps which we call sanctification, or perseverance, or better still, gracious conservation, all of those must be by grace too. No man has any claim upon God to keep him from going into sin. I am bound to keep from sin, it is my duty, but for God to send me grace by which I am enabled to keep from sin, is no right of mine; it must be his free love that does it; and if from day to day he is pleased to direct my waywardness and bring my wandering spirit back, if after a thousand slips he still restores my soul and establishes my goings, I dare not praise myself for it, but I must gratefully put the crown of my perseverance in righteousness upon the head of that infinite grace which has done all my works in me.
14. Beloved, if you will thus at your leisure survey all the steps of the work of grace, you will be persuaded that you could not say of one more than another, “This is of divine grace,” but you would have to confess it equally of all. There is no point in the Christian’s life where his own merit avails him, no period where his own strength comes to the rescue of divine power. It must be grace that makes the dead soul live, but it is equally grace which keeps the living soul alive; it must be grace that washes the black soul, and makes it white as snow, but it must be equally grace which keeps that soul from going back to its former filthiness. From foundation to pinnacle the temple of our salvation is all by grace.
15. Certain sceptical philosophers have half conceded that there may have been an exhibition of divine strength in the beginning, when the great orbs of heaven were first caused to revolve, but then they dare to question whether any fresh power is exerted to preserve the stars in their courses; but you and I know that no forces of the past will suffice for the present demand, and we believe that divine power is always streaming out to urge on the wheels of the universe. It is even so in the little world within us. It was grace that set our hearts moving towards Christ and holiness; it is equally grace that keeps us still following after the prize of our high calling in Christ Jesus. Just as the waters cover the channels of the sea, so does grace cover all our salvation. In every jot and every tittle of our heavenly charter, grace guided the pen. From first to last salvation is free. “For by grace, are you saved through faith; and that not by yourselves: it is the gift of God: not by works, lest any man should boast.”
16. III. Now, brethren, in the third place, having shown that salvation is by grace as a whole and by grace in all its details, I shall notice that THE PARTICULAR GLORIES OF THIS GRACE OUGHT TO BE POINTED OUT, and to be considered by us.
17. What are the particular glories of divine grace? This is not a popular doctrine, but we will proclaim it plainly and honestly. In the first place, it is a particular glory of grace that it is sovereign, that the favour of God is given to man according to the absolute will of the Almighty God, and for no reason known to us except the good pleasure of his will. When a man gives away anything in kindness to the poor, he likes to exercise his own sovereignty in the gift, but no man is so absolutely a possessor of the good things of this life as to have a right to the exercise of an altogether absolute sovereignty over his goods. There must be some limit to human rights; a man, even in his free gifts, ought not to give to some, and he ought in preference to give to others; but the great and gracious God has no limits to his absolute will. There are no rights remaining for fallen man before God, except the right to suffer the infliction of justice. Man has so forfeited all claims upon God, that on the basis of right he can receive nothing but eternal wrath — nothing whatever. Nor does any claim or pretence of claim in any degree influence the determination of the Most High in the gift of his grace. Over the heads of all men he speaks with thundering voice, “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.” Absolute sovereignty is one of the glories of divine grace.
18. Another glory of this grace is its entire freeness. Man is not expected to do anything to earn or obtain the grace of God; he would not if he were expected; he could not if he were required. He has so utterly departed from God that he has lost the favour of God: to lose it was in his power, to gain it again is not. Nor does God bestow his favour on any man because of anything he sees in the man, neither his wealth, nor his fame, nor his position, nor his character. He looks down on man and passes by kings and princes to let his love rest on the poor; he looks upon men, and often selects the grossest transgressor and the chief of sinners, so that these should become eternal monuments of his power to save them. This he does, and continues still to do most freely, spontaneously, because so it seems good in his sight.
19. Another glory of his grace is its fulness. Where God bestows his grace it is great grace. It is grace to cover all the man’s sins, whatever they may be. Although they may be so multiplied that he cannot count them, and so gross that he cannot estimate them, yet the grace of God makes a clean sweep of them all. “I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and will not remember your sins.” “I have blotted out, as a thick cloud, your transgressions, and, as a cloud, your sins.” “All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven to men.” Blasphemy is expressly mentioned as a violent form of evil and direct attack upon God. The grace of God blots out of the book of remembrance the most heinous forms of human iniquity, and he takes those who committed those heinous sins, changes their nature, makes them his children, receives them at last into his glory, and all because of the free favour which is in his heart towards them.
Another glory of this grace is its unfailing continuance. Where
once the grace of God has fallen, it is never taken away. If God in
his mercy visits a man with grace, he never afterwards revokes the
pardon he gives, or recalls the favour he has bestowed. “The gifts
and calling of God are without repentance.” Grace is no intermittent
brook flowing today and dried up tomorrow, no fleeting meteor
dazzling all beholders and then vanishing in thick darkness.
Whom once he loves he never leaves,
But loves them to the end.
His grace is unchanging, his mercy endures for ever.
21. Another glory of it is that it is unalloyed and unmingled. God’s grace in saving souls rules alone. Human merit does not intrude here and there to make a patchwork of the whole. Grace triumphant can say, “I have trodden the winepress alone, and of the people there was no one with me.” Grace is Alpha, grace is Omega. It is grace’s glory that no mortal finger touches her work, and no human hammer is lifted up upon it. This is what men cannot bear. They will have it that man must have some merit, must do some little thing. But it must not be. The grace of God demands a clear stage; it saves, and it alone from first to last.
22. Need I add that it is one glory of this grace that while it so reveals itself so fully, it never interferes with any other attribute of God? Interfere, did I say? It only tends to illustrate all the other glories of the divine character. God is absolute in his favour, but he is never unjust. He gives justice to all; he allots to each one his due portion. “What,” you say, “is he just to those whom he favours? Does he not pass by their sins?” I answer, “Yes,” but I also say, “No.” He does pass by their sins as far as they are concerned, but he does so justly; for he first laid their sins upon their Surety, and exacted from Christ the vengeance due for their transgressions. He is as just towards his saints as if he had no mercy upon them, for in their Substitute his justice has received the full payment of his demands. There is no attribute of God that grace ever slights. It is on the best terms with God’s truth, though truth said, “I will by no means spare the guilty.” God has not spared the guilty, for he laid the guilt on Christ and did not spare him; and now his people are not guilty, they are absolved, there is no condemnation for them, their transgression is forgiven, their sin is covered. I say, again, this is the glory of grace, one of its special crowns and adornments, that although it has its way and works as freely as if justice were dead, and holiness were withered, yet it never does invade the realm of anyone of those bright attributes, but God is as just, and as holy, as if he were not gracious, and yet his infinite sovereignty sways its undisputed sceptre in the realm of salvation.
23. IV. I have brought you thus far on, into the very heart of the text, and now, in the fourth place, THIS GRACE OUGHT TO BE THE SUBJECT OF PRAISE. It is “to the praise of the glory of his grace.”
Here needs a tongue more fluent by far than mine; or rather here is
needed no tongue except a warm heart and grateful thought to sit down
and contemplate. As many of you as have been bought with blood and
washed in it, as many of you as have been taken from among men and
made to be the Lord’s own particular people, I ask you now in silence
to praise God while your mind surveys the whole plan of your
salvation. Chosen long before the earth was — grace, free grace;
given into the hands of Christ to be his treasure — all of grace;
redeemed with the heart’s blood of Emmanuel, all out of his free
favour toward you; preserved when you were running into sin, slaves
of Satan, mad on your idols, preserved in Christ Jesus by
longsuffering grace; called with that voice which wakes the dead, and
endowed with spiritual life, altogether by grace; adopted into the
divine family, made partakers of the divine nature, because grace so
willed it — what wonders are here! Brother, in your case it was grace
of the most eminent degree. If you do not say so about your case, I
must say so about mine. More than all the sons of men I humbly claim
to be most indebted to the grace of God. But I do not doubt, my
brother, you also claim the same. There were specialties about our
character, there were peculiarities about our sin, there were
difficulties about our constitution, which all tended to make it very
remarkable that we should be the subjects of the divine love. Each
one of us can say —
What was there in me that could merit esteem,
Or give the Creator delight?
25. Now, you will glorify God if you let your soul in silence muse at the foot of the throne of grace, and worship him of whose mercy you have so largely been made a recipient.
26. When you have done this, may I ask you in the next place to let all men see the result of grace in you! It has been a common slander against the doctrine of grace that it makes light of good works, and leads men to licentiousness, a slander which the lives of the people of God have amply answered in the past. Now you to whom this mercy has been shown, by your watchfulness, your hatred of the very appearance of evil, your careful walking, your close fellowship with Christ, prove to those who oppose this doctrine beyond a shadow of a doubt that grace is a holy thing wherever it is bestowed, for it renews the heart and sanctifies the life. You are degrading the grace of God when you are not walking as becomes the household of faith; you are honouring God better by holiness than by writing the sweetest poetry, or by uttering the most seraphic sentences upon it. Holy living is “to the praise of the glory of his grace.”
27. Add to your holy living your own personal testimony. I do not care to hear people who are converted talking much about what they were before conversion. I am not sure that the records of horrid lives of base men are ever profitable if they are written; perhaps the best thing to say is, “Of which things we are now ashamed”; but at the same time tell it to others that the grace of God has saved you. If you were before conversion given to great sins, be ashamed of them, but do tell that grace has saved such as you are. Be bold to testify to all people that the grace of God is equal to all emergencies, and can save the lost from going quite down into the jaws of perdition. Proclaim it everywhere that the mercy of God can blot out the grossest and vilest sins, that no man need despair, that the great heart of God is large enough to receive the most devilish of sinners, and that he passes by transgression, iniquity, and sin, for Jesus Christ’s sake. Let the angels know it. When you are introduced to heaven, proclaim there what God’s grace has done, and until you get there let men know it here below, “to the praise of the glory of his grace.”
28. V. And now, lastly, let me say that the doctrine which we have taught this morning, THE TRUTH WHICH WE HAVE TRIED FULLY TO PREACH, IS THE GREAT BASIS OF HOPE FOR SINNERS.
29. For, in the first place, if it is so that salvation is all of the free favour of God, then here is hope for every man. You will enquire “How?” I will reply like this. Suppose there is here a man who has been guilty of some gross crime, yet others who have been guilty of the same crime have been pardoned, and have been the subjects of divine grace; why should he not be? If salvation were by merit, such a man clearly would have no hope, and rightly considered every man would be, for none of us have a half a grain of merit if we were ransacked through and through; but if it is by grace, why should not the grace of God choose me as well as any other man? And if it is proven that the grace of God is so sovereign that it has often fallen on the very worst of men, why not on me, if I am the very worst of men? And if I find it written, that him who comes to Christ he will in nowise cast out, then I, even if I am the worst of men, am encouraged to come to Christ. He has saved others, the worst of men, he tells me if I come, if anyone comes, he will not cast him out; then why should I not go? Why not, indeed? If there were anything like preparation, or readiness, or merit, or adaptation, then there would be no hope for me; but if it is a matter altogether of pure, gratuitous gift, then why should it not be given to me as well as to another? It holds out a bright encouragement for every sinner, and it holds out hope even to the exceedingly gross transgressor, because grace is evidently magnified in changing the nature of great sinners. If I am a great transgressor and have desperately sinned, what room there will be for grace to glorify itself in me! Here is hope for me. Why should I not go to God in prayer, and ask to be made a trophy of his grace?
30. And if any should say, “But if we are not the grossest of sinners, then we seem to be excluded!” I answer, No, but rather to be included, because if any will say, “God saves the greatest of sinners, because they glorify his grace most,” I should reply, God is not driven by any selfish motive. He does not save men so that he may get anything by it, and you from whom he can derive nothing are the very people he is likely to save, to prove the utter freeness and disinterestedness of his love. Do not for a moment imagine we are going to put sin in the place of merit, and make it appear that the greatness of their sin is the reason why the Lord will save men. If there is no reason for grace in human merit, much less in the degree of demerit; if you have never gone into gross sin, thank God for it, but for all that you are still sinner enough; if you see yourself as you are, you are black enough in all conscience, you need not be any more vile; and because your case does not appear to you as though you could glorify God, it is not therefore to be argued that it appears so to him who does not see as man sees. When a surgeon encounters a case which apparently will bring no credit to him in the public eye if he cures it, it is the highest honour for him that he was not deterred by the fear that it would bring him no honour. It is highly glorious to God that he is not affected by the praise of men. There is hope, then, for you who cannot be numbered with the grossest of transgressors. If all is by grace, then it neither excludes big nor little sinners, and while the gracious promises ring like a peal of silver bells, “Come to me all you who labour,” and that with a general and universal note, to every sinner under heaven, “Whoever believes in him is not condemned,” “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved,” “He who believes and is baptised, shall be saved,” and such similar passages, why, we are greatly encouraged to come to Jesus. This doctrine that salvation is all by grace, and not by us at all, is one of the very best reasons why I, though I do not feel right, nor act right, nor am right, but am just a lump of sin, a mass of filthiness, and nothing else, should come as I am, even now, and put my trust in the blood and righteousness of Christ, and trust that I, even I, shall find acceptance in the Beloved. Oh that some hearts, today, may by the Holy Spirit be encouraged to come to Christ. If you have any goodness, this sermon is a death knell for you. If you have any merits, away with you, away with you; Christ did not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. If you are not sick, what are you doing here? The physician is come to heal the sick, not those who are healthy. But if you have nothing that could deserve anything from God, then the word of this salvation is sent to you, “To the praise of the glory of his grace.”
My last word shall briefly indicate what is the privilege of each
sinner who would rejoice in the sovereign grace of God. Often as we
explain faith, yet still we need to explain it again. I found an
illustration taken from the American war. One had been trying to
instruct a dying officer in what faith was. At last he grasped the
idea, and he said, “I could not understand it before, but I see it
now. It is just this — I surrender, I surrender to Jesus.” That is
it. You have been fighting against God, opposing him, trying to make
terms more or less favourable for yourself; now here you stand in the
presence of God, and you drop the sword of your rebellion and say,
“Lord, I surrender, I am your prisoner. I trust in your mercy to save
me. I am finished with trusting myself, I fall into your arms.”
A guilty, weak, and helpless worm,
On Christ’s kind arms I fall,
Be thou my strength and righteousness,
My Jesus and my all.
May God bless you. Amen.
[Portion of Scripture Read Before Sermon — Psalms 14 Ephesians 1:1-14]
(1) Die gratia: Latin for The grace of God.