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SALVATION BY WORKS, A
CRIMINAL DOCTRINE

by Charles H. Spurgeon

NO. 1534
DELIVERED ON LORD’S-DAY MORNING, APRIL 18TH, 1880,
AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON.

“I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, thenChrist is dead in vain.”-Galatians 2:21.

THE idea of salvation by the merit of our own works is exceedingly
insinuating. It matters not how often it is refuted, it asserts itself again and
again; and when it gains the least foothold it soon makes great advances.
Hence Paul, who was determined to show it no quarter, opposed
everything which bore its likeness. He was determined not to permit the
thin end of the wedge to be introduced into the church, for well he knew
that willing hands would soon be driving it home hence when Peter sided
with the Judaizing party, and seemed to favor those who demanded that
the Gentiles should be circumcised, our brave apostle withstood him to the
face. He fought always for salvation by grace through faith, and contended
strenuously against all thought of righteousness by obedience to the
precepts of the ceremonial or the moral law. No one could be more explicit
than he upon the doctrine that we are not justified or saved by works in any
degree, but solely by the grace of God. His trumpet gave forth no uncertain
sound, but gave forth the clear note.

By grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift
of God.” Grace meant grace with him, and he could not endure any
tampering with the matter, or any frittering away of its meaning.

So fascinating is the doctrine of legal righteousness that the only way to
deal with it is Paul’s way. Stamp it out. Cry war to the knife against it.Never yield to it; but remember the apostle’s firmness, and how stoutly he
held his ground: “To whom,” saith he, “we gave place by subjection, no,
not for an hour.”

The error of salvation by works is exceedingly plausible. You will
constantly hear it stated as a self-evident truth, and vindicated on account
of its supposed practical usefulness, while the gospel doctrine of salvation
by faith is railed at and accused of evil consequences. It is affirmed that if
we preach salvation by good works we shall encourage virtue; and so it
might seem in theory, but history proves by many instances that as a matter
of fact where such doctrine has been preached virtue has become singularly
uncommon, and that in proportion as the merit of works has been cried up,
morality has gone down. On the other hand, where justification by faith has
been preached, conversions have followed, and purity of life has been
produced even in the worst of men. Those who lead godly and gracious
lives are ready to confess that the cause of their zeal for holiness lies in
their faith in Christ Jesus; but where will you meet with a devout and
upright man who glories in his own works?

Self-righteousness is natural to our fallen humanity. Hence it is the essence
of all false religions. Be they what they may, they all agree in seeking
salvation by our own deeds. He who worships his idols will torture his
body, will fast, will perform long pilgrimages, and do or endure anything in
order to merit salvation. The Romish Church holds up continually before
the eyes of its votaries the prize to be earned by self-denial, by penance, by
prayers, or by sacraments, or by some other performances of man. Go
where you may, the natural religion of fallen man is salvation by his own
merits. An old divine has well said, every man is born a heretic upon this
point, and he naturally gravitates towards this heresy in one form or
another. Self-salvation, either by his personal worthiness, or by his
repentance, or by his resolves, is a hope ingrained in human nature, and
very hard to remove. This foolishness is bound up in the heart of every
child, and who shall get it out of him?

This erroneous idea arises partly from ignorance, for men are ignorant of
the law of God, and of what holiness really is. If they knew that even an
evil thought is a breach of the law, and that the law once broken in any
point is altogether violated, they would be at once convinced that there can
be no righteousness by the law to those who have already offended against
it. They are also in great ignorance concerning themselves, for those very
persons who talk about self-righteousness are as a rule openly chargeable
with fault; and if not, were they to sit down and really look at their own
lives, they would soon perceive even in their best works such impurity of
motive beforehand, or such pride and self-congratulation afterwards, that
they would see the gloss taken off from all their performances, and they
would be utterly ashamed of them. Nor is it ignorance alone which leads
men to self-righteousness, they are also deceived by pride. Man cannot
endure to be saved on the footing of mercy; he loves not to plead guilty
and throw himself on the favor of the great King; he cannot brook to be
treated as a pauper, and blessed as a matter of charity; he desires to have a
finger in his own salvation, and claim at least a little credit for it. Proud
man will not have heaven itself upon terms of grace; but so long as he can
he sets up one plea or another, and holds to his own righteousness as
though it were his life. This self-confidence also arises from wicked
unbelief, for through his self-conceit man will not believe God. Nothing is
more plainly revealed in Scripture than this,-that by the works of the law
shall no man be justified, yet men in some shape or other stick to the hope
of legal righteousness; they will have it that they must prepare for grace, or
assist mercy, or in some degree deserve eternal life. They prefer their own
flattering prejudices to the declaration of the heart-searching God. The
testimony of the Holy Spirit concerning the deceitfulness of the heart is
cast aside, and the declaration of God that there is none that doeth good,
no, not one, is altogether denied. Is not this a great evil? Self-righteousness
is also much promoted by the almost universal spirit of trifling which is
now abroad. Only while men trifle with themselves can they entertain the
idea of personal merit before God. He who comes to serious thought, and
begins to under- stand the character of God, before whom the heavens are
not pure, and the angels are charged with folly,-he, I say, that comes to
serious thought and beholds a true vision of God, abhors himself in dust
and ashes, and is for ever silenced as to any thought of self-justification. It
is because we do not seriously examine our condition that we think
ourselves rich and increased in goods. A man may fancy that he is
prospering in business, and yet he may be going back in the world. If he
does not face his books or take stock, he may be living in a fool’s paradise, spending largely when on the verge of bankruptcy. Many think well of
themselves because they never think seriously. They do not look below the
surface, and hence they are deceived by appearances. The most
troublesome business to many men is thought; and the last thing they will
do is to weigh their actions, or test their motives, or ponder their ways, to
see whether things be right with them. Self-righteousness being supported
by ignorance, by pride, by unbelief, and by the natural superficiality of the
human mind, is strongly entrenched and cannot readily be driven out of
men.

Yet self-righteousness is evidently evil, for it makes light of sin. It talks of
merit in the case of one who has already transgressed, and boasts of
excellence in reference to a fallen and depraved creature. It prattles of little
faults, small failures, and slight omissions, and so makes sin to be a venial
error which may be readily overlooked. Not so faith in God, for though it
recognises pardon, yet that pardon is seen to come in a way which proves
sin to be exceeding sinful. On the other hand, the doctrine of salvation by
works has not a word of comfort in it for the fallen. It gives to the elder
son all that his proud heart can claim, but for the prodigal it has no
welcome. The law has no invitation for the sinner, for it knows nothing of
mercy. If salvation be by the works of the law, what must become of the
guilty, and the fallen, and the abandoned? By what hopes can these be
recalled? This unmerciful doctrine bars the door of hope, and hands over
the lost ones to the executioner, in order that the proud Pharisee may air
his boastful righteousness, and thank God that he is not as other men are.

It is the intense selfishness of this doctrine which condemns it as an evil
thing. It naturally exalts self. If a man conceives that he will be saved by his
own works he thinks himself somewhat, and glories in the dignity of human
nature: when he has been attentive to religious exercises he rubs his hands
and feels that he deserves well of his Maker; he goes home to repeat his
prayers, and ere he falls asleep he wonders how he can have grown to be
so good and so much superior to those around him. When he walks abroad
he feels as if he dwelt apart in native excellence, a person much
distinguished from “the vulgar herd,” a being whom to know is to admire.
All the while he considers himself to be very humble, and is often amazed
at his own condescension. What is this but a most hateful spirit? God, who
sees the heart, loathes it. He will accept the humble and the contrite, but he
puts far from him those who glory in themselves. Indeed, my brethren,
what have we to glory in? Is not every boast a lie? What is this self-hood
but a peacock feather, fit only for the cap of a fool? May God deliver us
from exalting self; and yet we cannot be delivered from so doing if we hold
in any degree the doctrine of salvation by our own good works.

At this time I desire to shoot at the very heart of that soul-destroying
doctrine, while I show you, in the first place, that two great crimes are
contained in the idea of self-justification. When I have brought forth that
indictment, I shall further endeavor to show that these two great crimes are
committed by many, and then, thirdly, it will be a delight to assert that the
true believer does not fall into these crimes. May God, the Holy Spirit, help
us while meditating upon this important theme.

I. First, then, TWO GREAT CRIMES ARE CONTAINED IN SELF-RIGHTEOUSNESS.
These high crimes and misdemeanours are frustrating the
grace of God, and making Christ to have died in vain.

The first is the frustration of the grace of God. The word here translated
“frustrate” means to make void, to reject, to refuse, to regard as needless.
Now, he that hopes to be saved by his own righteousness rejects the grace
or free favor of God, regards it as useless, and in that sense frustrates it. It
is clear, first, that if righteousness come by the law, the grace of God is no
longer required. If we can be saved by our own merits we need justice, but
we certainly do not want mercy. If we can keep the law, and claim to be
accepted as a matter of debt, it is plain that we need not turn suppliants,
and crave for mercy. Grace is a superfluity where merit can be proved. A
man who can go into court with a clear case and a bold countenance asks
not for mercy of the judge, and the offer of it would insult him. “Give me
justice,” he says; “give me my rights”; and he stands up for them as a brave
Englishman should do. It is only when a man feels that the law condemns
him that he puts in a plea for mercy. Nobody ever dreamed of
recommending an innocent man to mercy. I say, then, that the man who
believes that by keeping the law, or by practising ceremonies, or by
undergoing religions performances, he can make himself acceptable before
God, most decidedly puts the grace of God on one side as a superfluous
thing as far as he is concerned. Is it not clearly so? And is not this a crimson crime-this frustration of the grace of God?

Next, he makes the grace of God to be at least a secondary thing, which is
only a lower degree of the same error. Many think that they are to merit as
much as they can by their own exertions, and then the grace of God will
make up for the rest. The theory seems to be that we are to keep the law as
far as we can, and this imperfect obedience is to stand good, as a sort of
composition, say a shilling in the pound, or fifteen shillings in the pound,
according as man judges of his own excellence; and then what is required
over and above our own hard-earned money the grace of God will supply:
in short, the plan is every man his own Savior, and Jesus Christ and his
grace make-weights for our deficiencies. Whether men see it or not, this
admixture of law and grace is most dishonoring to the salvation of Jesus
Christ. It makes the Savior’s work to be incomplete, though on the cross
he cried, “It is finished.” Yea, it even treats it as being utterly ineffectual,
since it appears to be of no avail till man’s works are added to it.
According to this notion, we are redeemed as much by our own doings as
by the ransom price of Jesus’ blood, and man and Christ go shares, both in
the work and in the glory. This is an intense form of arrogant treason
against the majesty of divine mercy: a capital crime, which will condemn all
who continue in it. May God deliver us from thus insulting the throne of
grace by bringing a purchase-price in our hand, as if we could deserve such
peerless gifts of love.

More than that, he who trusts in himself, his feelings, his works, his
prayers, or in anything except the grace of God, virtually gives up trusting
in the grace of God altogether: for be it known unto you, that God’s grace
will never share the work with man’s merit. As oil will not combine with
water, so neither will human merit and heavenly mercy mix together. The
apostle saith in Romans 11:6, “If by grace, then it is no more of works:
otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more
grace: otherwise work is no more work.” You must either have salvation
wholly because you deserve it, or wholly because God graciously bestows
it though you do not deserve it. You must receive salvation at the Lord’s
hand either as a debt or as a charity, there can be no mingling of the ideas.
That which is a pure donation of favor cannot also be a reward of personal
deserving. A combination of the two principles of law and grace is utterly
impossible. Trust in our own works in any degree effectually shuts us out
from all hope of salvation by grace; and so it frustrates the grace of God.

This is another form of this crime, that when men preach up human doings,
sufferings, feelings, or emotions as the ground of salvation, they take off
the sinner from confidence in Christ, for as long as a man can maintain any
hope in himself he will never look to the Redeemer. We may preach for
ever and ever, but as long as there remains latent in any one bosom a hope
that he can effectually clear himself from sin and win the favor of God by
his own works, that man will never accept the proclamation of free pardon
through the blood of Christ. We know that we cannot frustrate the grace of
God: it will have its way, and the eternal purpose shall be fulfilled; but as
the tendency of all teaching which mixes up works with grace is to take
men off from believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, its tendency is to frustrate
the grace of God, and every act is to be judged by its tendency even if the
Lord’s divine power prevents its working out its natural result. No man
can lay another foundation than that which is laid, but inasmuch as they try
to do so they are guilty of despising the foundation of God as much as
those builders of the olden time who rejected the stone which God had
chosen to be the head of the corner. May the grace of God keep us from
such a crime as this, lest the blood of other men’s souls should crimson our
garments.

This hoping to be saved by our own righteousness robs God of his glory. It
as good as says, “We want no grace; we need no free favor.” It reads of
the new covenant which infinite love has made, but by clinging to the old
covenant it puts dishonor upon it. In its heart it murmurs, “What need of
this covenant of grace? The covenant of works answers every purpose for
us.” It reads of the great gift of grace in the person of Jesus Christ, and it
does despite thereto by the secret thought that human doings are as good
as the life and death of the Son of God. It cries, “We will not have this man
to save us.” A self-righteous hope casts a slur upon the glory of God, since
it is clear that if a man could he saved by his own works, he would
naturally have the honor of it; but if a man be saved by the free grace of
God, then God is glorified. Woe unto those who teach a doctrine which
would pluck the crown royal from the head of our sovereign Lord and
disgrace the throne of his glory. God help us to be clear of this rank
offense against high heaven.

I grow warm upon such a subject as this, for my indignation rises against
that which does dishonor to my Lord, and frustrates his grace. This is a sin
so gross that even the heathen cannot commit it. They have never heard of
the grace of God, and therefore they cannot put a slight upon it: when they
perish it will be with a far lighter doom than those who have been told that
God is gracious and ready to pardon, and yet turn on their heel and
wickedly boast of innocence, and pretend to be clean in the sight of God.
This is a sin which devils cannot commit. With all the obstinacy of their
rebellion, they can never reach to this. They have never had the sweet
notes of free grace and dying love ringing in their ears, and therefore they
have never refused the heavenly invitation. What has never been presented
to their acceptance cannot be the object of their rejection. Thus, then, my
hearer, if you should fall into this deep ditch you will sink lower than the
heathen, lower than Sodom and Gomorrah, and lower than the devil
himself. Wake up, I pray, and do not dare to frustrate the grace of God.

The second great crime which self-justification commits is making Christ to
be dead in vain. This is plain enough. If salvation can be by the works of
the law, why did our Lord Jesus die to save us? O, thou bleeding Lamb of
God, thine incarnation is a marvel, but thy death upon the accursed tree is
such a miracle of mercy as fills all heaven with astonishment. Will any dare
to say that thy death, O incarnate God, was a superfluity, a wanton waste
of suffering? Do they dare think thee a generous but unwise enthusiast
whose death was needless? Can there be any who think thy cross a vain
thing? Yes, thousands virtually do this, and, in fact, all do so who make it
out that men might have been saved in some other way, or may now be
saved by their own willings and doings.

They who say that the death of Christ goes only part of the way, but that
man must do something in order to merit eternal life,-these, I say, make
this death of Christ to be only partially effective, and, in yet clearer terms,
ineffectual in and of itself. If it be even hinted that the blood of Jesus is not
price enough till man adds his silver or his gold, then his blood is not our
redemption at all, and Christ is no Redeemer! If it be taught that our
Lord’s bearing of sin for us did not make a perfect atonement, and that it is
ineffectual till we either do or suffer something to complete it, then in the
supplemental work lies the real virtue, and Christ’s work is in itself
insufficient. His death cry of “It is finished,” must have been all a mistake,
if still it is not finished; and if a believer in Christ is not completely saved by
what Christ has done, but must do something himself to complete it, then
salvation was not finished, and the Savior’s work remains imperfect till we,
poor sinners, lend a hand to make up for his deficiencies. What blasphemy
lies in such a supposition I Christ on Calvary made a needless, and a
useless offering of himself if any man among you can be saved by the
works of the law.

This spirit also rejects the covenant which was sealed with Christ’s death.
For if we can be saved by the old covenant of works, then the new
covenant was not required. In God’s wisdom the new covenant was
brought in because the first had grown old, and was void by transgression,
but if it be not void, then the new covenant is an idle innovation, and the
sacrifice of Jesus ratified a foolish transaction. I loathe the words while I
pronounce them. No one ever was saved under the covenant of works, nor
ever will be, and the new covenant is introduced for that reason; but if
there be salvation by the first, then what need was there of the second?
Self-righteousness, as far as it can, disannuls the covenant, breaks its seal,
and does despite to the blood of Jesus Christ which is the substance, the
certificate, and the seal of that covenant. If you hold that a man can be
saved by his own good works, you pour contempt upon the testament of
love which the death of Jesus has put in force, for there is no need to
receive as a legacy of love that which can be earned as the wage of work.

O sirs, this is a sin against each person of the sacred Trinity. It is a sin
against the Father. How could he be wise and good, and yet give his only
Son to die on yonder tree in anguish, if man’s salvation could be wrought
by some other means? It is a sin against the Son of God: you dare to say
that our redemption price could have been paid somehow else, and that
therefore his death was not absolutely needful for the redemption of the
world; or if needful, yet not effectual, for it requires something to be added
to it before it can effect its purpose. It is a sin against the Holy Ghost, and
beware how you sin against him, for such sins are fatal. The Holy Ghost
bears witness to the glorious perfection and unconquerable power of the
Redeemer’s work, and woe to those who reject that witness. He has come
into the world on purpose that he may convince men of the sin of not
believing in Jesus Christ: and therefore if we think that we can be saved
apart from Christ we do despite to the Spirit of his grace.

The doctrine of salvation by works is a sin against all the fallen sons of
Adam, for if men cannot be saved except by their own works what hope is
left for any transgressor? You shut the gates of mercy on mankind; you
condemn the guilty to die without the possibility of remission. You deny all
hope of welcome to the returning prodigal, all prospect of Paradise to the
dying thief. If heaven be by works, thousands of us will never see its gates.
I know that I never shall. You fine fellows may rejoice in your prospects,
but what is to become of us? You ruin us all by your boastful scheme.

Nor is this all. It is a sin against the saints, for none of them have any other
hope except in the blood and righteousness of Jesus Christ. Remove the
doctrine of the atoning blood, and you have taken all away; our foundation
is gone. If you speak thus you offend the whole generation of godly men. I
go further: work-mongering is a sin against the perfect ones above. The
doctrine of salvation by works would silence the hallelujahs of heaven.
Hush, ye choristers, what meaning is there in your song? You are chanting,
“Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood.”
But why sing ye so? If salvation be by works, your ascriptions of praise are
empty flatteries. You ought to sing, “Unto ourselves who kept our
garments clean, to us be glory for ever and ever”; or at least “unto
ourselves whose acts made the Redeemer’s work effectual be a full share
of praise.” But a self-lauding note was never heard in heaven, and therefore
we feel sure that the doctrine of self-justification is not of God. I charge
you, renounce it as the foe of God and man. This proud system is a sin of
deepest dye against the Well-beloved. I cannot endure to think of the insult
which it puts upon our dying Lord. If you have made Christ to live in vain,
that is bad enough; but to represent him as having died in vain! What shall
be said of this? That Christ came to earth for nothing is a statement most
horrible; but that he became obedient to the death of the cross without
result is profanity at its worst.

II. I will say no more concerning the nature of these sins, but in the second
place proceed to the solemn fact that THESE TWO GREAT CRIMES ARE
COMMITTED BY MANY PEOPLE. I am afraid they are committed by some
who hear me this day. Let everyone search himself and see if these
accursed things be not hidden in his heart, and if- they be, let him cry unto
God for deliverance from them. Assuredly these crimes are chargeable on
those who trifle with the gospel. Here is the greatest discovery that was
ever made, time most wonderful piece of knowledge that ever was
revealed, and yet you do not think it worth a thought. You come now and
then to hear a sermon, but you hear without heart; you read the Scriptures
occasionally, but you do not search them as for hid treasure. It is not your
first object in life thoroughly to understand and heartily to receive the
gospel which God has proclaimed: yet such ought to be the case. What, my
friend, does your indifference say that the grace of God is of no great value
in your esteem? You do not think it worth the trouble of prayer, of Bible-reading, and attention. The death of Christ is nothing to you-a very
beautiful fact, no doubt; you know the story well, but you do not care
enough about it to wish to be a partaker in its benefits. His blood may have
power to cleanse from sin, but you do not want remission; his death may
be the life of men, but you do not long to live by him. To be saved by the
atoning blood does not strike you as being half so important as to carry on
your business at a profit and acquire a fortune for your family. By thus
trifling with these precious things you do, as far as you can, frustrate the
grace of God and make Christ to die in vain.

Another set of people who do this are those who have no sense of guilt.
Perhaps they are naturally amiable, civil, honest, and generous people, and
they think that these natural virtues are all that is needed. We have many
such, in whom there is much that is lovely, but the one thing needful is
lacking. They are not conscious that they ever did anything very wrong,
they think themselves certainly as good as others, and in some respects
rather better. It is highly probable that you are as good as others, and even
better than others, but still do you not see, my dear friend, if I am
addressing one such person, that, if you are so good that you are to be
saved by your goodness, you put the grace of God out of court, and make
it vain? The whole have no need of the physician, only they that are sick
require his skill, and therefore it was needless that Christ should die for
such as you, because you, in your own opinion, bad done nothing worthy
of death. You claim that you have done nothing very bad; and yet there is
one thing in which you have grievously transgressed, and I beg you not to
be angry when I charge you with it. You are very bad, because you are so
proud as to think yourself righteous, though God hath said that there is
none righteous, no, not one. You tell your God that he is a liar. His Word
accuses you, and his law condemns you; but you will not believe him, and
actually boast of having a righteousness of your own. This is high
presumption and arrogant pride, and may the Lord purge you from it. Will
you lay this to heart, and remember that if you have never been guilty of
anything else this is sin enough to make you mourn before the Lord day
and night? You have as far as you could by your proud opinion of yourself
made void the grace of God, and declared that Christ died in vain. Hide
your face for shame, and entreat for mercy for this glaring offense. Another
sort of people may fancy that they shall escape, but we must now come
home to them. Those who despair will often cry, “I know I cannot be
saved except by grace, for I am such a great sinner; but, alas, I am too
great a sinner to be saved at all. I am too black for Christ to wash out my
sins.” Ah, my dear friend, though you know it not, you are making void the
grace of God, by denying its power and limiting its might. You doubt the
efficacy of the Redeemer’s blood, and the power of the Father’s grace.
What! The grace of God, is not that able to save? Is not the Father of our
Lord Jesus able to forgive sin? We joyfully sing,

"Who is a pardoning God like thee?
Or who hath grace so rich and free?”

And you say he cannot forgive you, and this in time teeth of his many
promises of mercy. He says, “All manner of sin and of blasphemy shall be
forgiven unto men.” “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the
Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though
they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” You say that this is not
true. Thus you frustrate the grace of God, and you make out that Christ
died in vain, at least for you, for you say that he cannot cleanse you. Oh
say not so: let not thine unbelief give the lie to God. Oh, believe that he is
able to save even thee, and freely, at this very moment, to put all thy sin
away, and to accept thee in Christ Jesus. Take heed of despondency, for if
thou dost not trust him thou wilt make void his grace.

And those, I think, commit this sin in a large measure, who make a mingle- mangle of the gospel. I mean this: when we preach the gospel we have only to say, “Sinners, you are guilty; you never can be anything else but guilty in and of yourselves: if that sin of yours be pardoned it must be through an
act of sovereign grace, and not because of anything in you, or that can be
done by you. Grace must be given to you because Jesus died, and for no
other reason; and the way by which you can have that grace is simply by
trusting Christ. By faith in Jesus Christ you shall obtain full forgiveness.”
This is pure gospel. If the man turns round and enquires, “How am I
warranted to believe in Christ?” If I tell him that he is warranted to believe
in Christ because he feels a law-work within, or because he has holy
desires, I have made a mess of it: I have put something of the man into the
question and marred the glory of grace. My answer is, “Man, your right to
believe in Christ lies not in what you are or feel, but in God’s command to
you to believe, and in God’s promise which is made to every creature
under heaven, that whosoever believeth in Jesus Christ shall be saved.”
This is our commission, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to
every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.” If you are
a creature, we preach that gospel to you. Trust Christ and you are saved.
Not because you are a sensible sinner, or a penitent sinner, or anything
else, but simply because God, of his free grace, with no consideration
rendered to him on your part, but gratis and for nothing, freely forgives all
your debts for the sake of Jesus Christ. Now I have not mangled the
gospel; there it is, with nothing of the creature about it but the man’s faith,
and even that is the Holy Spirit’s gift. Those who mingle their “ifs,” and
“buts,” and insist upon it “you must do this, and feel that, before you may accept Christ,” frustrate the grace of God in a measure, and do damage to
the glorious gospel of the blessed God.

And so, once more, do those also who apostatise. Do I speak to any here
who were once professors of religion, who once used to offer prayer in the
assembly, who once walked as saints, but now have gone back, breaking
the Sabbath, forsaking the house of God, and living in sin? You, my friend,
say by your course of life,- “I had the grace of God, but I do not care about
it: it is worth nothing. I have rejected it, I have given it up: I have made it
void: I have gone back to the world.” You do as good as say, “I did once
trust in Jesus Christ, but he is not worth trusting.” You have denied him,
you have sold your Lord and Master. I will not now go into the question as
to whether you ever were sincere, though I believe you never were, but on
your own showing such is your case. Take heed lest these two terrible
crimes should rest upon you, that you do frustrate the grace of God, and
make Christ to be dead in vain.

III. On my third point I shall carry with me the deep convictions, and the
joyful confidences, of all true believers. It is this, that NO TRUE BELIEVER
WILL BE GUILTY OF THESE CRIMES. In his very soul he loathes these
infamous sins.

First of all, no believer in Christ can bear to think of the frustrating of the
grace of God or the making of it void. Come, now, honest hearts, I speak
to you. Do you trust in grace alone, or do you in some measure rest in
yourselves? Do you even in a small degree depend upon your own feelings,
your own faithfulness, your own repentance? I know you abhor the very
thought. You have not even the shadow of a hope nor the semblance of a
confidence in anything you ever were, or ever can be, or ever hope to be.
You fling this away as a foul rag full of contagion, which you would hurl
out of the universe if you could. I do avow that though I have preached the
gospel with all my heart, and glory in it, yet I cast my preachings away as
dross and dung if I think of them as a ground of reliance: and though I
have brought many souls to Christ, blessed be his name, I never dare for
one moment put the slightest confidence in that fact as to my own
salvation, for I know that I, after having preached to others, may yet be a
castaway. I cannot rest in a successful ministry, or an edified church, but I
repose alone in my Redeemer. What I say of myself I know that each one
of you will say for himself. Your almsgivings, your prayers, your tears,
your suffering persecution, your gifts to the church, your earnest work in
the Sunday-school or elsewhere-did you ever think of putting these side by
side with the blood of Christ as your hope? No, you never dreamed of it; 1
am sure you never did, and the mention of it is utterly loathsome to you: is
it not? Grace, grace, grace is your sole hope.

Moreover, you have not only renounced all confidence in works, but you
renounce it this day more heartily than ever you did. The older you are, and
the more holy you become, the less do you think of trusting in yourself.
The more we grow in grace the more we grow in love with grace; the more
we search into our hearts, and the more we know of the holy law of God,
the deeper is our sense of unworthiness, and consequently the higher is our
delight in rich, free, unmerited mercy, the free gift of the royal heart of
God. Tell me, does not your heart leap within you when you hear the
doctrines of grace? I know there are some who never felt themselves to be
sinners, who shift about as if they were sitting on thorns when I am
preaching grace and nothing else but grace; but it is not so with you who
are resting in Christ. “Oh, no,” you say, “ring that bell again, sir! Ring that
bell again; there is no music like it. Touch that string again, it is our
favourite note.” When you get down in spirits and depressed what sort of
book do you like to read? Is it not a book about the grace of God? What
do you turn to in the Scriptures? Do you not turn to the promises made to
the guilty, the ungodly, the sinner, and do you not find that only in the
grace of God, and only at the cross foot is there any rest for you? I know it
is so. Then you can rise up and say with Paul, “I do not frustrate the grace
of God. Some may, if they like, but God forbid that I should ever make it
void, for it is all my salvation and all my desire.”

The true believer is also free from the second crime: he does not make
Christ to be dead in vain. No, no, no, he trusts in the death of Christ; he
puts his sole and entire reliance upon the great Substitute who loved and
lived and died for him. He does not dare to associate with the bleeding
sacrifice, his poor bleeding heart, or his prayers, or his sanctification, or
anything else. “None but Christ, none but Christ,” is his soul’s cry. He
detests every proposal to mix anything of ceremony or of legal action with
the finished work of Jesus Christ. The longer we live, I trust, dear brethren,
the more we see the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. We are struck
with admiration at the wisdom of the way by which a substitute was
introduced,-that God might smite sin and yet spare the sinner; we are lost
in admiration at the matchless love of God, that he spared not his own Son;
we are filled with reverent adoration at the love of Christ, that when he
knew the price of pardon was his blood his pity ne’er withdrew. What is
more, we not only joy in Christ, but we feel an increasing oneness with
him. We did not know it at first, but we know it now, that we were
crucified with him, that we were buried with him, that we rose again with
him. We are not going to have Moses for a ruler, or Aaron for a priest, for
Jesus is both king and priest to us. Christ is in us, and we are in Christ, and
we are complete in him, and nothing can be tolerated as an aid to the blood
and righteousness of Jesus Christ our Lord. We are one with him, and
being one with him we realize more every day that he did not die in vain.
His death has bought us real life: his death has already set us free from the
bondage of sin, and has even now brought us deliverance from the fear of
eternal wrath. His death has bought us life eternal, has bought us sonship
and all the blessings that go with it, which the Fatherhood of God takes
care to bestow; the death of Christ has shut the gates of hell for us, and
opened the gates of heaven; the death of Christ has wrought for us
mercies, not visionary or imaginary, but real and true, which this very day
we do enjoy, and so we are in no danger of thinking that Christ died in
vain.

It is our joy to hold two great principles which I will leave with you,
hoping that you will suck marrow and fatness out of them. These are the
two principles. The grace of God cannot be frustrated, and Jesus Christ
died not in vain. These two principles I think lie at the bottom of all sound
doctrine. The grace of God cannot be frustrated after all. Its eternal
purpose will be fulfilled, its sacrifice and seal shall be effectual: the chosen
ones of grace shall be brought to glory. There shall be no failures as to
God’s plan in any point whatever: at the last when all shall be summed up
it shall be seen that grace reigned through righteousness unto eternal life,
and the topstone shall be brought out with shoutings of “Grace, grace unto
it.” And as grace cannot be frustrated, so Christ did not die in vain. Some
seem to think that there were purposes in Christ’s heart which will never be
accomplished. We have not so learned Christ. What he died to do shall be
done; those he bought he will have; those he redeemed shall be free; there
shall be no failure of reward for Christ’s wondrous work: he shall see of
the travail of his soul and shall be satisfied. On these two principles I throw
back my soul to rest. Believing in his grace that grace shall never fail me.
“My grace is sufficient for thee,” saith the Lord, and so shall it be.
Believing in Jesus Christ, his death must save me. It cannot be, O Calvary,
that thou shouldst fail; O Gethsemane, that thy bloody sweat should be in
vain. Through divine grace, resting in our Savior’s precious blood, we
must be saved. Joy and rejoice with me, and go your way to tell it out to
others. God bless you in so doing, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
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Archived by Robert L. Cobb
-Administrator, News For Christians Dot Com
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