ALL OF GRACE
Published on Thursday, October 7th, 1915.
C. H. SPURGEON,
At the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington.
"For by grace are ye saved through faith;
and that not of yourselves: it is
the gift of God" (Ephesians 2:8)
OF the things which I have spoken unto you these many years,
this is the sum. Within the circle of these words my theology is
contained, so far as it refers to the salvation of men. I rejoice also
to remember that those of my family who were ministers of Christ before
me preached this doctrine, and none other. My father, who is still able
to bear his personal testimony for his Lord, knows no other doctrine,
neither did his father before him.
I am led to remember this by the fact that a somewhat singular
circumstance, recorded in my memory, connects this text with myself and
my grandfather. It is now long years ago. I was announced to preach in a
certain country town in the Eastern Counties. It does not often happen
to me to be behind time, for I feel that punctuality is one of those
little virtues which may prevent great sins. But we have no control over
railway delays, and breakdowns; and so it happened that I reached the
appointed place considerably behind the time. Like sensible people, they
had begun their worship, and had proceeded as far as the sermon. As I
neared the chapel, I perceived that someone was in the pulpit preaching,
and who should the preacher be but my dear and venerable grandfather! He
saw me as I came in at the front door and made my way up the aisle, and
at once he said, "Here comes my grandson! He may preach the gospel
better than I can, but he cannot preach a better gospel; can you,
Charles?" As I made my way through the throng, I answered, "You can
preach better than I can. Pray go on." But he would not agree to that. I
must take the sermon, and so I did, going on with the subject there and
then, just where he left off. "There," said he, "I was preaching of 'For
by grace are ye saved.' I have been setting forth the source and
fountain-head of salvation; and I am now showing them the channel of it,
through faith. Now you take it up, and go on." I am so much at home with
these glorious truths that I could not feel any difficulty in taking
from my grandfather the thread of his discourse, and joining my thread
to it, so as to continue without a break. Our agreement in the things of
God made it easy for us to be joint-preachers of the same discourse. I
went on with "through faith," and then I proceeded to the next point,
"and that not of yourselves." Upon this I was explaining the weakness
and inability of human nature, and the certainty that salvation could
not be of ourselves, when I had my coat-tail pulled, and my well-beloved
grandsire took his turn again. "When I spoke of our depraved human
nature," the good old man said, "I know most about that, dear friends";
and so he took up the parable, and for the next five minutes set forth a
solemn and humbling description of our lost estate, the depravity of our
nature, and the spiritual death under which we were found. When he had
said his say in a very gracious manner, his grandson was allowed to go
on again, to the dear old man's great delight; for now and then he would
say, in a gentle tone, "Good! Good!" Once he said, "Tell them that
again, Charles," and, of course, I did tell them that again. It was a
happy exercise to me to take my share in bearing witness to truths of
such vital importance, which are so deeply impressed upon my heart.
While announcing this text I seem to hear that dear voice, which has
been so long lost to earth, saying to me, "TELL THEM THAT AGAIN." I am
not contradicting the testimony of forefathers who are now with God. If
my grandfather could return to earth, he would find me where he left me,
steadfast in the faith, and true to that form of doctrine which was once
delivered to the saints.
I shall handle the text briefly, by way of making a few statements.
The first statement is clearly contained in the text:--
I. THERE IS PRESENT SALVATION.
The apostle says, "Ye are saved." Not "ye shall be," or "ye may
be"; but "ye are saved." He says not, "Ye are partly saved," nor "in
the way to being saved," nor "hopeful of salvation"; but "by grace are
ye saved." Let us be as clear on this point as he was, and let us
never rest till we know that we are saved. At this moment we are
either saved or unsaved. That is clear. To which class do we belong? I
hope that, by the witness of the Holy Ghost, we may be so assured of
our safety as to sing, "The Lord is my strength and my song; he also
is become my salvation." Upon this I will not linger, but pass on to
note the next point.
II. A PRESENT SALVATION MUST BE THROUGH GRACE.
If we can say of any man, or of any set of people, "Ye are saved,"
we shall have to preface it with the words "by grace." There is no
other present salvation except that which begins and ends with grace.
As far as I know, I do not think that anyone in the wide world
pretends to preach or to possess a present salvation, except those who
believe salvation to be all of grace. No one in the Church of Rome
claims to e now saved-- completely and eternally saved. Such a
profession would be heretical. Some few Catholics may hope to enter
heaven when they die, but the most of them have the miserable prospect
of purgatory before their eyes. We see constant requests for prayers
for departed souls, and this would not be if those souls were saved,
and glorified with their Saviour. Masses for the repose of the soul
indicate the incompleteness of the salvation Rome has to offer. Well
may it be so, since Papal salvation is by works, and even if salvation
by good works were possible, no man can ever be sure that he has
performed enough of them to secure his salvation.
Among those who dwell around us, we find many who are altogether
strangers to the doctrine of grace, and these never dream of present
salvation. Possibly they trust that they may be saved when they die;
they half hope that, after years of watchful holiness, they may,
perhaps, be saved at last; but, to be saved now, and to know that they
are saved, is quite beyond them, and they think it presumption.
There can be no present salvation unless it be upon this footing--
"By grace are ye saved." It is a very singular thing that no one has
risen up to preach a present salvation by works. I suppose it would be
too absurd. The works being unfinished, the salvation would be
incomplete; or, the salvation being complete, the main motive of the
legalist would be gone.
Salvation must be by grace. If man be lost by sin, how can he be
saved except through the grace of God? If he has sinned, he is
condemned; and how can he, of himself, reverse that condemnation?
Suppose that he should keep the law all the rest of his life, he will
then only have done what he was always bound to have done, and he will
still be an unprofitable servant. What is to become of the past? How
can old sins be blotted out? How can the old ruin be retrieved?
According to Scripture, and according to common sense, salvation can
only be through the free favour of God.
Salvation in the present tense must be by the free favour of God.
Persons may contend for salvation by works, but you will not hear
anyone support his own argument by saying, "I am myself saved by what
I have done." That would be a superfluity of naughtiness to which few
men would go. Pride could hardly compass itself about with such
extravagant boasting. No, if we are saved, it must be by the free
favour of God. No one professes to be an example of the opposite view.
Salvation to be complete must be by free favour. The saints, when
they come to die, never conclude their lives by hoping in their good
works. Those who have lived the most holy and useful lives invariably
look to free grace in their final moments. I never stood by the
bedside of a godly man who reposed any confidence whatever in his own
prayers, or repentance, or religiousness. I have heard eminently holy
men quoting in death the words, "Christ Jesus came into the world to
save sinners." In fact, the nearer men come to heaven, and the more
prepared they are for it, the more simply is their trust in the merit
of the Lord Jesus, and the more intensely do they abhor all trust in
themselves. If this be the case in our last moments, when the conflict
is almost over, much more ought we to feel it to be so while we are in
the thick of the fight. If a man be completely saved in this present
time of warfare, how can it be except by grace. While he has to mourn
over sin that dwelleth in him, while he has to confess innumerable
shortcomings and transgressions, while sin is mixed with all he does,
how can he believe that he is completely saved except it be by the
free favour of God?
Paul speaks of this salvation as belonging to the Ephesians, "By
grace are ye saved." The Ephesians had been given to curious arts and
works of divination. They had thus made a covenant with the powers of
darkness. Now if such as these were saved, it must be by grace alone.
So is it with us also: our original condition and character render it
certain that, if saved at all, we must owe it to the free favour of
God. I know it is so in my own case; and I believe the same rule holds
good in the rest of believers. This is clear enough, and so I advance
to the next observation:--
III. PRESENT SALVATION BY GRACE MUST BE THROUGH FAITH.
A present salvation must be through grace, and salvation by grace
must be through faith. You cannot get a hold of salvation by grace by
any other means than by faith. This live coal from off the altar needs
the golden tongs of faith with which to carry it. I suppose that it
might have been possible, if God had so willed it, that salvation
might have been through works, and yet by grace; for if Adam had
perfectly obeyed the law of God, still he would only have done what he
was bound to do; and so, if God should have rewarded him, the reward
itself must have been according to grace, since the Creator owes
nothing to the creature. This would have been a very difficult system
to work, while the object of it was perfect; but in our case it would
not work at all. Salvation in our case means deliverance from guilt
and ruin, and this could not have been laid hold of by a measure of
good works, since we are not in a condition to perform any. Suppose I
had to preach that you as sinners must do certain works, and then you
would be saved; and suppose that you could perform them; such a
salvation would not then have been seen to be altogether of grace; it
would have soon appeared to be of debt. Apprehended in such a fashion,
it would have come to you in some measure as the reward of work done,
and its whole aspect would have been changed. Salvation by grace can
only be gripped by the hand of faith: the attempt to lay hold upon it
by the doing of certain acts of law would cause the grace to
evaporate. "Therefore, it is of faith that it might be by grace." "If
by grace, then it is no more of works: otherwise grace is no more
grace. But if it be of works, then it is no more grace: otherwise work
is no more work."
Some try to lay hold upon salvation by grace through the use of
ceremonies; but it will not do. You are christened, confirmed, and
caused to receive "the holy sacrament" from priestly hands, or you are
baptized, join the church, sit at the Lord's table: does this bring
you salvation? I ask you, "have you salvation?" "You dare not say." If
you did claim salvation of a sort, yet I am sure it would not be in
your minds salvation by grace.
Again, you cannot lay hold upon salvation by grace through your
feelings. The hand of faith is constructed for the grasping of a
present salvation by grace. But feeling is not adapted for that end.
If you go about to say, "I must feel that I am saved. I must feel so
much sorrow and so much joy or else I will not admit that I am saved,"
you will find that this method will not answer. As well might you hope
to see with your ear, or taste with your eye, or hear with your nose,
as to believe by feeling: it is the wrong organ. After you have
believed, you can enjoy salvation by feeling its heavenly influences;
but to dream of getting a grasp of it by your own feelings is as
foolish as to attempt to bear away the sunlight in the palm of your
hand, or the breath of heaven between the lashes of your eyes. There
is an essential absurdity in the whole affair.
Moreover, the evidence yielded by feeling is singularly fickle.
When your feelings are peaceful and delightful, they are soon broken
in upon, and become restless and melancholy. The most fickle of
elements, the most feeble of creatures, the most contemptible
circumstances, may sink or raise your spirits: experienced men come to
think less and less of their present emotions as they reflect upon the
little reliance which can be safely placed upon them. Faith receives
the statement of God concerning His way of gracious pardon, and thus
it brings salvation to the man believing; but feeling, warming under
passionate appeals, yielding itself deliriously to a hope which it
dares not examine, whirling round and round in a sort of dervish dance
of excitement which has become necessary for its own sustaining, is
all on a stir, like the troubled sea which cannot rest. From its
boilings and ragings, feeling is apt to drop to lukewarmness,
despondency, despair and all the kindred evils. Feelings are a set of
cloudy, windy phenomena which cannot be trusted in reference to the
eternal verities of God. We now go a step further:--
IV. SALVATION BY GRACE, THROUGH FAITH, IS NOT OF OURSELVES.
The salvation, and the faith, and the whole gracious work together,
are not of ourselves.
First, they are not of our former deservings: they are not the
reward of former good endeavours. No unregenerate person has lived so
well that God is bound to give him further grace, and to bestow on him
eternal life; else it were no longer of grace, but of debt. Salvation
is given to us, not earned by us. Our first life is always a wandering
away from God, and our new life of return to God is always a work of
undeserved mercy, wrought upon those who greatly need, but never
It is not of ourselves, in the further sense, that it is not out of
our original excellence. Salvation comes from above; it is never
evolved from within. Can eternal life be evolved from the bare ribs of
death? Some dare to tell us that faith in Christ, and the new birth,
are only the development of good things that lay hidden in us by
nature; but in this, like their father, they speak of their own. Sirs,
if an heir of wrath is left to be developed, he will become more and
more fit for the place prepared for the devil and his angels! You may
take the unregenerate man, and educate him to the highest; but he
remains, and must forever remain, dead in sin, unless a higher power
shall come in and save him from himself. Grace brings into the heart
an entirely foreign element. It does not improve and perpetuate; it
kills and makes alive. There is no continuity between the state of
nature and the state of grace: the one is darkness and the other is
light; the one is death and the other is life. Grace, when it comes to
us, is like a firebrand dropped into the sea, where it would certainly
be quenched were it not of such a miraculous quality that it baffles
the water-floods, and sets up its reign of fire and light even in the
Salvation by grace, through faith is not of ourselves in the sense
of being the result of our own power. We are bound to view salvation
as being as surely a divine act as creation, or providence, or
resurrection. At every point of the process of salvation this word is
appropriate--"not of yourselves." From the first desire after it to
the full reception of it by faith, it is evermore of the Lord alone,
and not of ourselves. The man believes, but that belief is only one
result among many of the implantation of divine life within the man's
soul by God Himself.
Even the very will thus to be saved by grace is not of ourselves,
but it is the gift of God. There lies the stress of the question. A
man ought to believe in Jesus: it is his duty to receive him whom God
has set forth to be a propitiation for sins. But man will not believe
in Jesus; he prefers anything to faith in his redeemer. Unless the
Spirit of God convinces the judgment, and constrains the will, man has
no heart to believe in Jesus unto eternal life. I ask any saved man to
look back upon his own conversion, and explain how it came about. You
turned to Christ, and believed in his name: these were your own acts
and deeds. But what caused you thus to turn? What sacred force was
that which turned you from sin to righteousness? Do you attribute this
singular renewal to the existence of a something better in you than
has been yet discovered in your unconverted neighbour? No, you confess
that you might have been what he now is if it had not been that there
was a potent something which touched the spring of your will,
enlightened your understanding, and guided you to the foot of the
cross. Gratefully we confess the fact; it must be so. Salvation by
grace, through faith, is not of ourselves, and none of us would dream
of taking any honour to ourselves from our conversion, or from any
gracious effect which has flowed from the first divine cause. Last of
V. "BY GRACE ARE YE SAVED THROUGH FAITH; AND THAT NOT OF
YOURSELVES: IT IS THE GIFT OF GOD."
Salvation may be called Theodora, or God's gift: and each saved
soul may be surnamed Dorothea, which is another form of the same
expression. Multiply your phrases, and expand your expositions; but
salvation truly traced to its well-head is all contained in the gift
unspeakable, the free, unmeasured benison of love.
Salvation is the gift of God, in opposition to a wage. When a man
pays another his wage, he does what is right; and no one dreams of
belauding him for it. But we praise God for salvation because it is
not the payment of debt, but the gift of grace. No man enters eternal
life on earth, or in heaven, as his due: it is the gift of God. We
say, "nothing is freer than a gift". Salvation is so purely, so
absolutely a gift of God, that nothing can be more free. God gives it
because he chooses to give it, according to that grand text which has
made many a man bite his lip in wrath, "I will have mercy on whom I
will have mercy, I will have compassion on whom I will have
compassion." You are all guilty and condemned, and the great King
pardons whom he wills from among you. This is his royal prerogative.
He saves in infinite sovereignty of grace.
Salvation is the gift of God: that is to say completely so, in
opposition to the notion of growth. Salvation is not a natural
production from within: it is brought from a foreign zone, and planted
within the heart by heavenly hands. Salvation is in its entirety a
gift from God. If thou wilt have it, there it is, complete. Wilt thou
have it as a perfect gift? "No; I will produce it in my own workshop."
Thou canst not forge a work so rare and costly, upon which even Jesus
spent his life's blood. Here is a garment without seam, woven from the
top throughout. It will cover thee and make thee glorious. Wilt thou
have it? "No; I will sit at the loom, and I will weave a raiment of my
own!" Proud fool that thou art! Thou spinnest cobwebs. Thou weavest a
dream. Oh! that thou wouldst freely take what Christ upon the cross
declared to be finished.
It is the gift of God: that is, it is eternally secure in
opposition to the gifts of men, which soon pass away. "Not as the
world giveth, give I unto you," says our Lord Jesus. If my Lord Jesus
gives you salvation at this moment, you have it, and you have it
forever. He will never take it back again; and if he does not take it
from you, who can? If he saves you now through faith, you are
saved--so saved that you shall never perish, neither shall any pluck
you out of his hand. May it be so with every one of us! Amen.
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