GOD JUSTIFIES THE UNGODLY

Taken, adapted and slightly modernized for easy reading,
from: “All of Grace”

Written by C.H. Spurgeon.

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To him that works not, but believeth on him that justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. –Romans 4:5

I call your attention to those words, Him that justifies the ungodly. They seem to me to be very wonderful words.

Are you not surprised that there should be such an expression as that in the Bible, “That justifies the ungodly? I have heard that men that hate the doctrines of the cross bring it as a charge against God, that He saves wicked men and receives to Himself the vilest of the vile. See how this Scripture accepts the charge, and plainly states it! By the mouth of His servant Paul, by the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, He takes to Himself the title of “Him that justifies the ungodly.” He makes those just who are unjust, forgives those who deserve to be punished, and favors those who deserve no favor. You thought, did you not, that salvation was for the good? that God’s grace was for the pure and holy, who are free from sin?

Perhaps, it has fallen into your mind that, if you were excellent, then God would reward you; and you have thought that because you are not worthy, therefore there could be no way of your enjoying His favor. You must be somewhat surprised to read a text like this: “Him that justifies the ungodly. ” I do not wonder that you are surprised; for with all my familiarity with the great grace of God, I never cease to wonder at it. It does sound surprising, does it not, that it should be possible for a holy God to justify an unholy man? We, according to the natural legality of our hearts, are always talking about our own goodness and our own worthiness, and we stubbornly hold to it that there must be somewhat in us in order to win the notice of God. Now, God, who sees through all deceptions, knows that there is no goodness whatever in us. He says that “there is none righteous, no not one.” He knows that “all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags,” and, therefore the Lord Jesus did not come into the world to look after goodness and righteousness with him, and to bestow them upon persons who have none of them. He comes, not because we are just, but to make us so: he justifies the ungodly.

When a counsellor or lawyer comes into court, if he is an honest man, he desires to plead the case of an innocent person and justify him before the court from the things which are falsely laid to his charge. It should be the lawyer’s object to justify the innocent person, and he should not attempt to screen the guilty party. It lies not in man’s right nor in man’s power truly to justify the guilty. This is a miracle reserved for the Lord alone. God, the infinitely just Sovereign, knows that there is not a just man upon earth that does good and sins not, and therefore, in the infinite sovereignty of His divine nature and in the splendor of His ineffable love, He undertakes the task, not so much of justifying the just as of justifying the ungodly. God has devised ways and means of making the ungodly man to stand justly accepted before Him: He has set up a system by which with perfect justice He can treat the guilty as if he had been all his life free from offence, yea, can treat him as if he were wholly free from sin. He justifies the ungodly.

Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners. This is a very surprising thing— a thing to be marveled at most of all by those who would enjoy it. I know that it is to me even to this day the greatest wonder that I ever heard of, that God should ever justify me. I feel myself to be a lump of unworthiness, a mass of corruption, and a heap of sin, apart from His almighty love. I know by a full assurance that I am justified by faith which is in Christ Jesus, and treated as if I had been perfectly just, and made an heir of God and a joint heir with Christ; and yet by nature I must take my place among the most sinful. I, who am altogether undeserving, am treated as if I had been deserving. I am loved with as much love as if I had always been godly, whereas aforetime I was ungodly. Who can help being astonished at this? Gratitude for such favor stands dressed in robes of wonder.

Now, while this is very surprising, I want you to notice how available it makes the gospel to you and to me. If God justifies the ungodly, then, dear friend, He can justify you. Is not that the very kind of person that you are? If you are unconverted at this moment, it is a very proper description of you; you have lived without God, you have been the reverse of godly; in one word, you have been and are ungodly. Perhaps you have not even attended a place of worship on Sunday, but have lived in disregard of God’s day, and house, and Word—this proves you to have been ungodly. Sadder still, it may be you have even tried to doubt God’s existence, and have gone the length of saying that you did so. You have lived on this fair earth, which is full of the tokens of God’s presence, and all the while you have shut your eyes to the clear evidences of His power and Godhead. You have lived as if there were no God. Indeed, you would have been very pleased if you could have demonstrated to yourself to a certainty that there was no God whatever. Possibly you have lived a great many years in this way, so that you are now pretty well settled in your ways, and yet God is not in any of them.

If you were labeled UNGODLY it would as well describe you as if the sea were to be labeled salt water. Would it not?

Possibly you are a person of another sort; you have regularly attended to all the outward forms of religion, and yet you have had no heart in them at all, but have been really ungodly. Though meeting with the people of God, you have never met with God for yourself; you have been in the choir, and yet have not praised the Lord with your heart. You have lived without any love to God in your heart, or regard to his commands in your life. Well, you are just the kind of man to whom this gospel is sent—this gospel which says that God justifies the ungodly. It is very wonderful, but it is happily available for you. It just suits you. Does it not? How I wish that you would accept it! If you are a sensible man, you will see the remarkable grace of God in providing for such as you are, and you will say to yourself, “Justify the ungodly! Why, then, should not I be justified, and justified at once?”

Now, observe further, that it must be so—that the salvation of God is for those who do not deserve it, and have no preparation for it. It is reasonable that the statement should be put in the Bible; for, dear friend, no others need justifying but those who have no justification of their own. If any of my readers are perfectly righteous, they want no justifying. You feel that you are doing your duty well, and almost putting heaven under an obligation to you. What do you want with a Savior, or with mercy? What do you want with justification? You will be tired of my book by this time, for it will have no interest to you.

If any of you are giving yourselves such proud airs, listen to me for a little while. You will be lost, as sure as you are alive. You righteous men, whose righteousness is all of your own working, are either deceivers or deceived; for the Scripture cannot lie, and it says plainly, “There is none righteous, no, not one.” In any case I have no gospel to preach to the self-righteous, no, not a word of it. Jesus Christ himself came not to call the righteous, and I am not going to do what He did not do. If I called you, you would not come, and, therefore, I will not call you, under that character. No, I bid you rather look at that righteousness of yours till you see what a delusion it is. It is not half so substantial as a cobweb. Have done with it! Flee from it! Oh believe that the only persons that can need justification are those who are not in themselves just! They need that something should be done for them to make them just before the judgment seat of God. Depend upon it, the Lord only does that which is needful. Infinite wisdom never attempts that which is unnecessary. Jesus never undertakes that which is superfluous. To make him just who is just is no work for God—that were a labor for a fool; but to make him just who is unjust—that is work for infinite love and mercy. To justify the ungodly—this is a miracle worthy of a God. And for certain it is so.

Now, look. If there be anywhere in the world a physician who has discovered sure and precious remedies, to whom is that physician sent? To those who are perfectly healthy? I think not.

Put him down in a district where there are no sick persons, and he feels that he is not in his place. There is nothing for him to do. “The whole have no need of a physician, but they that are sick.” Is it not equally clear that the great remedies of grace and redemption are for the sick in soul? They cannot be for the whole, for they cannot be of use to such. If you, dear friend, feel that you are spiritually sick, the Physician has come into the world for you. If you are altogether undone by reason of your sin, you are the very person aimed at in the plan of salvation. I say that the Lord of love had just such as you are in His eye when He arranged the system of grace. Suppose a man of generous spirit were to resolve to forgive all those who were indebted to him; it is clear that this can only apply to those really in his debt. One person owes him a thousand pounds; another owes him fifty pounds; each one has but to have his bill receipted, and the liability is wiped out. But the most generous person cannot forgive the debts of those who do not owe him anything. It is out of the power of Omnipotence to forgive where there is no sin.

Pardon, therefore, cannot be for you who have no sin. Pardon must be for the guilty. Forgiveness must be for the sinful. It was absurd to talk of forgiving those who do not need forgiveness—pardoning those who have never offended.

Do you think that you must be lost because you are a sinner? This is the reason why you can be saved. Because you own yourself to be a sinner I would encourage you to believe that grace is ordained for such as you are.

It is truly so, that Jesus seeks and saves that which is lost. He died and made a real atonement for real sinners. When men are not playing with words, or calling themselves “miserable sinners,” out of mere compliment, I feel overjoyed to meet with them. I would be glad to talk all night to bona fide sinners. The inn of mercy never closes its doors upon such, neither weekdays nor Sunday. Our Lord Jesus did not die for imaginary sins, but His heart’s blood was spilt to wash out deep crimson stains, which nothing else can remove.

He that is a black sinner—he is the kind of man that Jesus Christ came to make white. A gospel preacher on one occasion preached a sermon from, ” Now also the axe is laid to the root of the trees,” and he delivered such a sermon that one of his hearers said to him, “One would have thought that you had been preaching to criminals. Your sermon ought to have been delivered in the county jail.”

“Oh, no,” said the good man, “if I were preaching in the county jail, I should not preach from that text, there I should preach ‘This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.’ ” Just so…

The law is for the self-righteous, to humble their pride: the gospel is for the lost, to remove their despair.

If you are not lost, what do you want with a Savior? Should the shepherd go after those who never went astray? Why should the woman sweep her house for the bits of money that were never out of her purse? No, the medicine is for the diseased; the quickening is for the dead; the pardon is for the guilty; liberation is for those who are bound: the opening of eyes is for those who are blind. How can the Savior, and His death upon the cross, and the gospel of pardon, be accounted for, unless it be upon the supposition that men are guilty and worthy of condemnation? The sinner is the gospel’s reason for existence. You, my friend, to whom this word now comes, if you are undeserving, ill-deserving, hell-deserving, you are the sort of man for whom the gospel is ordained, and arranged, and proclaimed. God justifies the ungodly.

I would like to make this very plain. I hope that I have done so already; but still, plain as it is, it is only the Lord that can make a man see it. It does at first seem most amazing to an awakened man that salvation should really be for him as a lost and guilty one. He thinks that it must be for him as a penitent man, forgetting that his penitence is a part of his salvation. “Oh,” says he, “but I must be this and that,” —all of which is true, for he shall be this and that as the result of salvation; but salvation comes to him before he has any of the results of salvation. It comes to him, in fact, while he deserves only this bare, beggarly, base, abominable description, “ungodly.” That is all he is when God’s gospel comes to justify him.

May I, therefore, urge upon any who have no good thing about them—who fear that they have not even a good feeling, or anything whatever that can recommend them to God—that they will firmly believe that our gracious God is able and willing to take them without anything to recommend them, and to forgive them spontaneously, not because they are good, but because He is good. Does He not make His sun to shine on the evil as well as on the good? Does He not give fruitful seasons, and send the rain and the sunshine in their time upon the most ungodly nations? Ay, even Sodom had its sun, and Gomorrah had its dew. Oh friend, the great grace of God surpasses my conception and your conception, and I would have you think worthily of it! As high as the heavens are above the earth; so high are God’s thoughts above our thoughts. He can abundantly pardon. Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners: forgiveness is for the guilty.

Do not attempt to touch yourself up and make yourself something other than you really are; but come as you are to Him who justifies the ungodly. A great artist some time ago had painted a part of the corporation of the city in which he lived, and he wanted, for historic purposes, to include in his picture certain characters well-known in the town. A crossing-sweeper, unkempt, ragged, filthy, was known to everybody, and there was a suitable place for him in the picture. The artist said to this ragged and rugged individual, “I will pay you well if you will come down to my studio and let me take your likeness.” He came round in the morning, but he was soon sent about his business; for he had washed his face, and combed his hair, and donned a respectable suit of clothes. He was needed as a beggar, and was not invited in any other capacity. Even so, the gospel will receive you into its halls if you come as a sinner, not otherwise. Wait not for reformation, but come at once for salvation. God justifies the ungodly, and that takes you up where you now are: it meets you in your worst estate.

Come in your disorder. I mean, come to your heavenly Father in all your sin and sinfulness. Come to Jesus just as you are, leprous, filthy, naked, neither fit to live nor fit to die. Come, you that are the very sweepings of creation; come, though you hardly dare to hope for anything but death. Come, though despair is brooding over you, pressing upon your bosom like a horrible nightmare.

Come and ask the Lord to justify another ungodly one. Why should He not? Come for this great mercy of God is meant for such as you are. I put it in the language of the text, and I cannot put it more strongly: the Lord God Himself takes to Himself this gracious title, ” Him that justifies the ungodly.” He makes just, and causes to be treated as just, those who by nature are ungodly.

Is not that a wonderful word for you? Reader, do not delay till you have well-considered this matter.

The Blood of the Lamb: How Do We Battle with Satan in the heavenlies? Part Four – Finale

Written by C.H. Spurgeon
Excerpt was taken and adapted from a sermon delivered Lord’s Day Morning, September 9, 1888, at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington, London.

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First, then, my brothers and sisters who believe in the blood of Jesus, you have to do battle with Satan in the heavenlies; there you must overcome him “by the blood of the Lamb.” “How?” say you…

First, you are to regard Satan this day as being already literally and truly overcome through the death of the Lord Jesus. Satan is already a vanquished enemy. By faith grasp your Lord’s victory as your own, since He triumphed in your nature and on your behalf. The Lord Jesus Christ went up to Calvary, and there fought with the prince of darkness, utterly defeated him, and destroyed his power. He led captivity captive. He bruised the serpent’s head. The victory was the victory of all who are in Christ. He is the representative Seed of the woman, and you who are of that seed and are in Christ actually and experimentally, you then and there overcame the devil by the blood of the Lamb. Can you get a hold of this truth? Do you not know that you were circumcised in His circumcision, crucified on His Cross, buried with Him in baptism, and therein also risen with Him in His resurrection? He is your Federal Head, and you being members of His body did in Him what He did.

Come, my soul, thou hast conquered Satan by the Lord’s victory. Wilt thou not be brave enough to fight a vanquished foe, and trample down the enemy whom thy Lord has already thrust down? You need not be afraid, but say, “Thanks be to God which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:57). We have overcome sin, death, and hell in the Person and work of our great Lord; and we should be greatly encouraged by that which has been already wrought in our name. Already we are more than conquerors through Him that hath loved us. If Jesus had not overcome the enemy, certainly we never should have done so; but His personal triumph has secured ours. By faith we rise into the conquering place this day. In the heavenlies we triumph, as also in every place. We rejoice in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Redeemer of men; for by Him we see Satan cast out, and all the powers of evil hurled from their places of power and eminence.

This day I would have you overcome Satan in the heavenlies in another sense: you must overcome him as the accuser. At times you hear in your heart a voice arousing memory and startling conscience; a voice which seems in heaven to be a remembrance of your guilt. Hark to that deep, croaking voice, boding evil! Satan is urging before the throne of justice all your former sins. Can you hear him? He begins with your childish faults and your youthful follies—truly a black memory. He does not let one of your wickednesses drop out. Things which you had forgotten he cunningly revives. He knows your secret sins, for he had a hand in most of them. He knows the resistance which you offered to the Gospel, and the way in which you stifled conscience. He knows the sins of darkness, the sins of the bedchamber, the crimes of the inner chambers of imagery. Since you have been a Christian he has marked your wickedness, and asked in fierce sarcastic tones, “Is this a child of God? Is this an heir of heaven?” He hopes to convict us of hypocrisy or of apostasy.

The foul fiend tells out the wanderings of our hearts, the deadness of our desires in prayer, the filthy thoughts that dropped into our minds when we have been at worship. Alas! we have to confess that we have even tolerated doubts as to eternal verities, and suspicions of the love and faithfulness of God. When the accuser is about his evil business, he does not have to look far for matter of accusation, nor for facts to support it. Do these accusations stagger you? Do you cry, “My God, how can I face Thee? for all this is true, and the iniquities now brought to my remembrance are such as I cannot deny. I have violated Thy Law in a thousand ways, and I cannot justify myself.” Now is your opportunity for overcoming through the blood of the Lamb. When the accuser has said his say, and aggravated all your transgressions, be not ashamed to step forward and say, “But I have an Advocate as well as an accuser. O Jesus, my Savior, speak for me!” When He speaks, what does He plead but His own blood? “For all these sins I have made atonement,” says He, “all these iniquities were laid on Me in the day of the Lord’s anger, and I have taken them away.” Brethren, the blood of Jesus Christ, God’s dear Son, cleanses us from all sin. Jesus has borne the penalty due to us: He has discharged for us upon the Cross all our liabilities to the justice of God, and we are free forever, because our Surety suffered in our place. Where is the accuser now? That dragon voice is silenced by the blood of the Lamb. Nothing else can ever silence the accuser’s cruel voice but the voice of the blood which tells of the infinite God accepting, in our behalf, the Sacrifice which He Himself supplied.

Justice decrees that the sinful shall be clear, because the accepted Substitute has borne his sin in His own body on the tree. Come, brother or sister, the next time thou hast to do with Satan as an accuser in heavenly places, take care that thou defend thyself with no weapon but the Atonement. All comfort drawn from inward feelings or outward works will fall short; but the bleeding wounds of Jesus will plead with full and overwhelming argument, and answer all. “Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifies. Who is he that condemns? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us” (Rom 8:33-34). Who, then, shall accuse the child of God? Every accuser shall be overcome by the invincible argument of the blood of the Lamb.

Still further, the believer will have need to overcome the enemy in the heavenly places in reference to access to God. It may happen that when we are most intent upon communing with God, the adversary hinders us. Our heart and our flesh cry out for God, the living God; but from one cause or another we are unable to draw nigh unto the throne. The heart is heavy, sin is rampant, care is harassing, and Satanic insinuation is busy. You seem shut out from God, and the enemy triumphs over you. You feel very near the world, very near the flesh, and very near the devil: but you mourn your miserable distance from God. You are like a child who cannot reach his father’s door because a black dog barks at him from the door. What is the way of access? If the foul fiend will not move out-of-the-way, can we force our passage? By what weapon can we drive away the adversary so as to come to God? Is it not written that we are made nigh by the blood (Ephesians 2:13)? Is there not a new and living way consecrated for us? Have we not boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus? We are sure of God’s love when we see that Christ died for us; we are sure of God’s favor when we see how that Atonement has removed our transgressions far from us.

Pleading the propitiation made by the blood of the Lamb, we dare draw nigh to God. Behold, the evil spirit makes way before us. The sacred name of Jesus is one before which he flees. This will drive away his blasphemous suggestions and foul insinuations better than anything that you can invent. The dog of hell knows the dread Name which makes him lie down: we must confront him with the authority, and specially with the atonement of the Lamb of God. He will rage and rave all the more if we send Moses to him, for he derives his power from our breaches of the Law. We cannot silence him unless we bring to him the great Lord Who has kept the Law, and made it honorable.

We next must overcome the enemy in prayer.

Alas! we cannot always pray as we would. Do you never feel, when you are in prayer, as if something choked your utterance—and, what is worse, deadened your heart? Instead of having wings as of an eagle to mount to heaven, a secret evil clips your wings, and you cannot rise. You say within yourself, “I have no faith, and I cannot expect to succeed with God without faith. I seem to have no love; or, if I have any, my heart lies asleep, and I cannot stir myself to plead with God. Oh, that I could come out of my closet, saying, ‘Vici! Vici!’ —‘I have overcome, I have overcome;’ but, alas! instead thereof I groan in vain, and come away unrelieved. I have been half dead, cold, and stolid, and I cannot hope that I have prevailed with God in prayer.” Whenever you are in this condition fly to the blood of the Lamb as your chief remedy. When you plead this master argument you will arouse yourself, and you will prevail with God. You will feel rest in pleading it, and a sweet assurance of success at the mercy-seat. Try the method at once.

This is the way in which you should use this plea. Say, “My God, I am utterly unworthy, and I own it; but, I beseech Thee, hear me for the honor of Thy Dear Son. By His agony and bloody sweat, by His Cross and passion, by His precious death and burial, I beseech Thee hear me! O Lord, let the blood of Thine Only-begotten prevail with Thee! Canst You put aside His groans, His tears, His death, when they speak on my behalf?” If you can thus come to pleading terms with God upon this ground, you must and will prevail. Jesus must be heard in heaven. The voice of His blood is eloquent with God. If you plead the Atoning Sacrifice, you must overcome through the blood of the Lamb.

Thus have I spoken of overcoming in the heavenlies…You must first overcome in the heavenly places before the throne; and when you have been thus triumphant with God in prayer, you will have grace to go forth to service and to defeat evil among your fellow-men. How often have I personally found that the battle must first be fought above! We must overcome in order to service. Many a score of times of late I should not have ventured into this pulpit had it not been for power at the mercy-seat. Those who know the burden of the Lord are often bowed down, and would not be able to bear up at all were it not for having in secret battled with their enemy and won the day. I have been bowed down before the Lord, and in His presence I have pleaded the precious Blood as the reason for obtaining help, and the help has been given. Faith, having once made sure that Jesus is hers, helps herself out of the treasury of God to all that she needs. Satan would deny her, but in the power of the blood she takes possession of covenant blessings.

You say to yourself, “I am weak, but in the Lord, my God, there is power: I take it to myself. I am hard and cold, but here is tenderness and warmth, and I appropriate it. It pleased the Father that in Jesus should all fullness dwell, and by virtue of His precious blood, I take out of that fullness what I need, and then with help thus obtained I meet the enemy and overcome him.” Satan would hinder our getting supplies of grace wherewith to overcome him; but with the blood-mark on our foot we can go anywhere; with the blood-mark on our hand we dare take anything. Having access with confidence, we also take with freedom whatsoever we need, and thus we are provided against all necessities, and armed against all assaults through the atoning Sacrifice. This is the fountain of supply, and the shield of security: this, indeed, is the channel through which we receive strength for victory.

We overcome the great enemy by laying hold upon the all-sufficiency of God, when we really feel the power of the precious blood of Christ. Thus, being victorious in the heavenlies, we come down to the pulpit or to the Sunday-school class, made strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Having overcome Satan at the throne of grace, we see him like lightning fall from heaven, even before our feeble instrumentality. We speak, and God speaks with us; we long for souls, and God’s great heart is yearning with us. We importune men to come, and the Lord also pleads with them to come, so that they no longer resist. Spiritual power of a holy kind rests upon us to overcome the spiritual power of an evil kind which is exerted by Satan, the world, and the flesh. The Lord scatters the power of the enemy, and breaks the spell which holds men captive. Through the blood of the Lamb we become masters of the situation, and the weakest among us is able to work great wonders. Coming forth to the service of God, in the power of our victory in heaven gained by pleading the blood of the Lamb, we march on conquering and to conquer, and no power of the enemy is able to stand against us.

Battle with Satan on this earth

It is time that I now showed you how this same fight is carried on earth. Amongst men in these lower places of conflict saints overcome through the blood of the Lamb by their testimony to that blood. Every believer is to bear witness to the atoning Sacrifice and Its power to save. He is to tell out the doctrine; he is to emphasize it by earnest faith in it; and he is to support it and prove it by his experience of the effect of it. You cannot all speak from the pulpit, but you can all speak for Jesus as opportunity is given you. Our main business is to bear witness with the blood in the power of the Spirit. To this point we can all testify. You cannot go into all manner of deep doctrines or curious points, but you can tell to all those round about you that “There is life in a look at the Crucified One.” You can bear witness to the power of the blood of Jesus in your own soul. If you do this, you will overcome men in many ways.

First, you will arouse them out of apathy. This age is more indifferent to true religion than almost any other. It is alive enough to error, but to the old faith it turns a deaf ear. Yet I have noticed persons captivated by the truth of substitution who would not listen to anything else. If any discourse can hold men, as the ancient mariner detained the wedding guest, it is the story of divine love, incarnate in the person of Jesus, bleeding and dying for guilty men. Try that story when attention flags. It has a fascination about it. The marvelous history of the Son of God, Who loved His enemies and died for them—this will arrest them. The history of the Holy One Who stood in the sinner’s place, and was in consequence put to shame, and agony, and death—this will touch them. The sight of the bleeding Savior overcomes obduracy and carelessness.

The doctrine of the blood of the Lamb prevents or scatters error. I do not think that by reasoning we often confute error to any practical purpose. We may confute it rhetorically and doctrinally, but men still stick to it. But the doctrine of the precious blood, when it once gets into the heart, drives error out of it, and sets up the throne of truth. You cannot be clinging to an atoning Sacrifice and still delight in modern heresies. Those who deny inspiration are sure to get rid of the vicarious atonement, because it will not allow their errors. Let us go on proclaiming the doctrine of the great Sacrifice, and this will kill the vipers of heresy. Let us uplift the Cross, and never mind what other people say. Perhaps we have taken too much notice of them already. Let the dogs bark, it is their nature to. Go on preaching Christ crucified. God forbid that I should glory, save in the Cross of the Lord Jesus Christ!

We also overcome men in this way, by softening rebellious hearts. Men stand out against the Law of God, and defy the vengeance of God; but the love of God in Christ Jesus disarms them. The Holy Spirit causes men to yield through the softening influence of the Cross. A bleeding Savior makes men throw down their weapons of rebellion. “If He loves me so,” they say, “I cannot do other than love Him in return.” We overcome men’s obduracy by the blood, shed for many for the remission of sins.

How wonderfully this same blood of the Lamb overcomes despair. Have you never seen a man shut up in the iron cage? It has been my painful duty to talk with several of such prisoners. I have seen the captive shake the iron bars, but he could not break them, or break from them. He has implored us to set him free by some means; but we have been powerless. Glory be to God, the blood is a universal solvent, and it has dissolved the iron-bars of despair, until the poor captive conscience has been able to escape. How sweet for the desponding to sing—

“I do believe, I will believe,
That Jesus died for me”!

Believing that, all doubts, fears, and despairs fly away, and the man is at ease.

There is nothing, indeed, dear friends, which the blood of the Lamb will not overcome; for see how it overcomes vice, and every form of sin. The world is foul with evil, like a stable which has long been the lair of filthy creatures. What can cleanse it? What but this matchless stream? Satan makes sin seem pleasurable, but the Cross reveals its bitterness. If Jesus died because of sin, men begin to see that sin must be a murderous thing. Even when sin was but imputed to the Savior, it made Him pour out His soul unto death; it must, then, be a hideous evil to those who are actually and personally guilty of it. If God’s rod made Christ sweat great drops of blood, what will His axe do when He executes the capital sentence upon impenitent men! Yes, we overcome the deadly sweetness and destructive pleasurableness of sin by the blood of the Lamb.

This blood overcomes the natural lethargy of men towards obedience; it stimulates them to holiness. If anything can make a man holy, it is a firm faith in the atoning Sacrifice. When a man knows that Jesus died for him, he feels that he is not his own, but bought with a price, and therefore he must live unto Him that died for him and rose again. In the atonement I see a motive equal to the greatest heroism; yes, a motive which will stimulate to perfect holiness. What manner of persons ought we to be for whom such a Sacrifice has been presented! Now are we quickened into intensity of zeal and devotion. See, dear brothers, how to use the blood of the Lamb in this lower sphere while contending with evil among men.

But I must close with this. It is not merely by testimony that we use this potent truth. We must support that testimony by our zeal and energy. We need concentrated, consecrated energy; for it is written, “They loved not their lives unto the death.” We shall not overcome Satan if we are fine gentlemen, fond of ease and honor. As long as Christian people must needs enjoy the world, the devil will suffer little at their hands. They that overcame the world in the old days were humble men and woman, generally poor, always despised, who were never ashamed of Christ, who only lived to tell of His love, and died by tens of thousands rather than cease to bear testimony to the blood of the Lamb. They overcame by their heroism; their intense devotion to the cause secured the victory. Their lives to them were as nothing when compared with the honor of their Lord.

Brethren, if we are to win great victories we must have greater courage. Some of you hardly dare speak about the blood of Christ in any but the most godly company; and scarcely there. You are very retiring. You love yourselves too much to get into trouble through your religion. Surely you cannot be of that noble band that love not their own lives unto the death! Many dare not hold the old doctrine nowadays because they would be thought narrow and bigoted, and this would be too galling. They call us old fools. It is very likely we are; but we are not ashamed to be fools for Christ’s sake and the truth’s sake. We believe in the blood of the Lamb, despite the discoveries of science. We shall never give up the doctrine of atoning sacrifice to please modern culture. What little reputation we have is as dear to us as another man’s character is to him; but we will cheerfully let it go in this struggle for the central truth of revelation. It will be sweet to be forgotten and lost sight of, or to be vilified and abused, if the old faith in the substitutionary Sacrifice can be kept alive. This much we are resolved on, we will be true to our convictions concerning the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus; for if we give up this, what is there left?

God will not do anything by us if we are false to the Cross. He uses the men who spare not their reputations when these are called for in defense of truth. Oh to be at a white heat! Oh to flame with zeal for Jesus! O my brethren, hold you to the old faith, and say, “As for the respect of men, I can readily forfeit it; but as for the truth of God, that I can never give up.” This is the day for men to be men; for, alas! the most are soft, weak and vulnerable creatures. Now we need backbones as well as heads. To believe the truth concerning the Lamb of God, and truly to believe it, this is the essential of an overcoming life. Oh for courage, constancy, fixedness, self-denial, willingness to be made nothing of for Christ! God give us to be faithful witnesses to the blood of the Lamb in the midst of this ungodly world!

As for those of you who are not saved, does not this subject give you a hint? Your hope lies in the blood of the Lamb

Come, guilty souls, and flee away,
Like doves, to Jesus’ wounds.

The atoning Sacrifice, which is our glory, is your salvation. Trust in Him Whom God has set forth to be the propitiation for sin. Begin with this, and you are saved. Every good and holy thing which goes with salvation will follow after. But now, this morning, I pray you accept a present salvation through the blood of the Lamb. “He that believeth in him hath everlasting life” (John 6:47).

The Blood of the Lamb: How Do We Use This Conquering Weapon? Part Three

Written by C.H. Spurgeon
Excerpt was taken and adapted from a sermon delivered Lord’s Day Morning, September 9, 1888, at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington, London.

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I have shown you the sword; I now come, in the second place, to speak to the question: how do we use it? “They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb.”

When a man gets a sword, you cannot be quite certain how he will use it….

A gentleman has purchased a very expensive sword with a golden hilt and an elaborate scabbard: he hangs it up in his hall and exhibits it to his friends. Occasionally he draws it out from the sheath, and he says, “Feel how keen is the edge!” The precious blood of Jesus is not meant for us merely to admire and exhibit. We must not be content to talk about it, and extol it, and do nothing with it; but we are to use it in the great crusade against unholiness and unrighteousness, till it is said of us, “They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb.” This precious Blood is to be used for overcoming, and consequently for holy warfare. We dishonor it if we do not use it to that end.

Some, I fear, use the precious blood of Christ only as a quietus to their consciences. They say to themselves, “He made atonement for sin, therefore let me take my rest.” This is doing a grievous wrong to the great Sacrifice. I grant you that the blood of Jesus does speak better things than that of Abel, and that it sweetly cries, “Peace! Peace!” within the troubled conscience; but that is not all it does. A man who wants the blood of Jesus for nothing but the mean and selfish reason, that after having been forgiven through it he may say, “Soul, take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry: hear sermons, enjoy the hope of eternal felicity, and do nothing”—such a man blasphemes the precious blood and makes it an unholy thing. We are to use the glorious mystery of atoning blood as our chief means of overcoming sin and Satan: its power is for holiness. See how the text puts it: “They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb”: these saints used the doctrine of atonement not as a pillow to rest their weariness, but as a weapon to subdue their sin. O my brothers, to some of us atonement by blood is our battle-axe and weapon of war, by which we conquer in our struggle for purity and godliness—a struggle in which we have continued now these many years. By the atoning blood we withstand corruption within and temptation without. This is that weapon which nothing can resist.

Let me show you your battlefield. Our first place of conflict is in the heavenlies, and the second is down below on earth.

Battle with Satan in the heavenlies

First, then, my brothers and sisters who believe in the blood of Jesus, you have to do battle with Satan in the heavenlies; and there you must overcome him “by the blood of the Lamb.” “How?” say you. I will lead you into this subject.

First, you are to regard Satan this day as being already literally and truly overcome through the death of the Lord Jesus. Satan is already a vanquished enemy. By faith grasp your Lord’s victory as your own, since He triumphed in your nature and on your behalf. The Lord Jesus Christ went up to Calvary, and there fought with the prince of darkness, utterly defeated him, and destroyed his power. He led captivity captive. He bruised the serpent’s head. The victory was the victory of all who are in Christ. He is the representative Seed of the woman, and you who are of that seed and are in Christ actually and experimentally, you then and there overcame the devil by the blood of the Lamb. Can you get a hold of this truth? Do you not know that you were circumcised in His circumcision, crucified on His Cross, buried with Him in baptism, and therein also risen with Him in His resurrection? He is your Federal Head, and you being members of His body did in Him what He did.

Come, my soul, thou hast conquered Satan by the Lord’s victory. Wilt thou not be brave enough to fight a vanquished foe, and trample down the enemy whom thy Lord has already thrust down? You need not be afraid, but say, “Thanks be to God which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 15:57). We have overcome sin, death, and hell in the Person and work of our great Lord; and we should be greatly encouraged by that which has been already wrought in our name. Already we are more than conquerors through Him that hath loved us. If Jesus had not overcome the enemy, certainly we never should have done so; but His personal triumph has secured ours. By faith we rise into the conquering place this day. In the heavenlies we triumph, as also in every place. We rejoice in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Michael of the angels, the Redeemer of men; for by Him we see Satan cast out, and all the powers of evil hurled from their places of power and eminence.

This day I would have you overcome Satan in the heavenlies in another sense: you must overcome him as the accuser. At times you hear in your heart a voice arousing memory and startling conscience; a voice which seems in heaven to be a remembrance of your guilt. Hark to that deep, croaking voice, boding evil! Satan is urging before the throne of justice all your former sins. Can you hear him? He begins with your childish faults and your youthful follies—truly a black memory. He does not let one of your wickednesses drop out. Things which you had forgotten he cunningly revives. He knows your secret sins, for he had a hand in most of them. He knows the resistance which you offered to the Gospel, and the way in which you stifled conscience. He knows the sins of darkness, the sins of the bedchamber, the crimes of the inner chambers of imagery. Since you have been a Christian he has marked your wickedness, and asked in fierce sarcastic tones, “Is this a child of God? Is this an heir of heaven?” He hopes to convict us of hypocrisy or of apostasy.

The foul fiend tells out the wanderings of our hearts, the deadness of our desires in prayer, the filthy thoughts that dropped into our minds when we have been at worship. Alas! we have to confess that we have even tolerated doubts as to eternal verities, and suspicions of the love and faithfulness of God. When the accuser is about his evil business, he does not have to look far for matter of accusation, nor for facts to support it. Do these accusations stagger you? Do you cry, “My God, how can I face Thee? for all this is true, and the iniquities now brought to my remembrance are such as I cannot deny. I have violated Thy Law in a thousand ways, and I cannot justify myself.” Now is your opportunity for overcoming through the blood of the Lamb. When the accuser has said his say, and aggravated all your transgressions, be not ashamed to step forward and say, “But I have an Advocate as well as an accuser. O Jesus, my Savior, speak for me!” When He speaks, what does He plead but His own blood? “For all these sins I have made atonement,” says He, “all these iniquities were laid on Me in the day of the Lord’s anger, and I have taken them away.” Brethren, the blood of Jesus Christ, God’s dear Son, cleanses us from all sin. Jesus has borne the penalty due to us: He has discharged for us upon the Cross all our liabilities to the justice of God, and we are free forever, because our Surety suffered in our place. Where is the accuser now? That dragon voice is silenced by the blood of the Lamb. Nothing else can ever silence the accuser’s cruel voice but the voice of the blood which tells of the infinite God accepting, in our behalf, the Sacrifice which He Himself supplied.

Justice decrees that the sinful shall be clear, because the accepted Substitute has borne his sin in His own body on the tree. Come, brother or sister, the next time thou hast to do with Satan as an accuser in heavenly places, take care that thou defend thyself with no weapon but the Atonement. All comfort drawn from inward feelings or outward works will fall short; but the bleeding wounds of Jesus will plead with full and overwhelming argument, and answer all. “Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifies. Who is he that condemns? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us” (Rom 8:33-34). Who, then, shall accuse the child of God? Every accuser shall be overcome by the invincible argument of the blood of the Lamb.

Still further, the believer will have need to overcome the enemy in the heavenly places in reference to access to God. It may happen that when we are most intent upon communing with God, the adversary hinders us. Our heart and our flesh cry out for God, the living God; but from one cause or another we are unable to draw nigh unto the throne. The heart is heavy, sin is rampant, care is harassing, and Satanic insinuation is busy. You seem shut out from God, and the enemy triumphs over you. You feel very near the world, very near the flesh, and very near the devil: but you mourn your miserable distance from God. You are like a child who cannot reach his father’s door because a black dog barks at him from the door. What is the way of access? If the foul fiend will not move out of the way, can we force our passage? By what weapon can we drive away the adversary so as to come to God? Is it not written that we are made nigh by the blood (Eph. 2:13)? Is there not a new and living way consecrated for us? Have we not boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus? We are sure of God’s love when we see that Christ died for us; we are sure of God’s favor when we see how that Atonement has removed our transgressions far from us.

Pleading the propitiation made by the blood of the Lamb, we dare draw nigh to God. Behold, the evil spirit makes way before us. The sacred name of Jesus is one before which he flees. This will drive away his blasphemous suggestions and foul insinuations better than anything that you can invent. The dog of hell knows the dread Name which makes him lie down: we must confront him with the authority, and specially with the atonement of the Lamb of God. He will rage and rave all the more if we send Moses to him, for he derives his power from our breaches of the Law. We cannot silence him unless we bring to him the great Lord Who has kept the Law, and made it honorable.

We next must overcome the enemy in prayer. Alas! we cannot always pray as we would. Do you never feel, when you are in prayer, as if something choked your utterance—and, what is worse, deadened your heart? Instead of having wings as of an eagle to mount to heaven, a secret evil clips your wings, and you cannot rise. You say within yourself, “I have no faith, and I cannot expect to succeed with God without faith. I seem to have no love; or, if I have any, my heart lies asleep, and I cannot stir myself to plead with God. Oh, that I could come out of my closet, saying, ‘Vici! Vici!’ —‘I have overcome, I have overcome;’ but, alas! instead thereof I groan in vain, and come away unrelieved. I have been half dead, cold, and stolid, and I cannot hope that I have prevailed with God in prayer.” Whenever you are in this condition fly to the blood of the Lamb as your chief remedy. When you plead this master argument you will arouse yourself, and you will prevail with God. You will feel rest in pleading it, and a sweet assurance of success at the mercy-seat. Try the method at once.

This is the way in which you should use this plea. Say, “My God, I am utterly unworthy, and I own it; but, I beseech Thee, hear me for the honor of Thy Dear Son. By His agony and bloody sweat, by His Cross and passion, by His precious death and burial, I beseech Thee hear me! O Lord, let the blood of Thine Only-begotten prevail with Thee! Canst You put aside His groans, His tears, His death, when they speak on my behalf?” If you can thus come to pleading terms with God upon this ground, you must and will prevail. Jesus must be heard in heaven. The voice of His blood is eloquent with God. If you plead the Atoning Sacrifice, you must overcome through the blood of the Lamb.

Thus have I spoken of overcoming in the heavenlies…You must first overcome in the heavenly places before the throne; and when you have been thus triumphant with God in prayer, you will have grace to go forth to service and to defeat evil among your fellow-men. How often have I personally found that the battle must first be fought above! We must overcome in order to service. Many a score of times of late I should not have ventured into this pulpit had it not been for power at the mercy-seat. Those who know the burden of the Lord are often bowed down, and would not be able to bear up at all were it not for having in secret battled with their enemy and won the day. I have been bowed down before the Lord, and in His presence I have pleaded the precious Blood as the reason for obtaining help, and the help has been given. Faith, having once made sure that Jesus is hers, helps herself out of the treasury of God to all that she needs. Satan would deny her, but in the power of the blood she takes possession of covenant blessings.

You say to yourself, “I am weak, but in the Lord, my God, there is power: I take it to myself. I am hard and cold, but here is tenderness and warmth, and I appropriate it. It pleased the Father that in Jesus should all fullness dwell, and by virtue of His precious blood, I take out of that fullness what I need, and then with help thus obtained I meet the enemy and overcome him.” Satan would hinder our getting supplies of grace wherewith to overcome him; but with the blood-mark on our foot we can go anywhere; with the blood-mark on our hand we dare take anything. Having access with confidence, we also take with freedom whatsoever we need, and thus we are provided against all necessities, and armed against all assaults through the atoning Sacrifice. This is the fountain of supply, and the shield of security: this, indeed, is the channel through which we receive strength for victory.

We overcome the great enemy by laying hold upon the all-sufficiency of God, when we really feel the power of the precious blood of Christ. Thus, being victorious in the heavenlies, we come down to the pulpit or to the Sunday-school class, made strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Having overcome Satan at the throne of grace, we see him like lightning fall from heaven, even before our feeble instrumentality. We speak, and God speaks with us; we long for souls, and God’s great heart is yearning with us. We importune men to come, and the Lord also pleads with them to come, so that they no longer resist. Spiritual power of a holy kind rests upon us to overcome the spiritual power of an evil kind which is exerted by Satan, the world, and the flesh. The Lord scatters the power of the enemy, and breaks the spell which holds men captive.

Through the blood of the Lamb we become masters of the situation, and the weakest among us is able to work great wonders. Coming forth to the service of God, in the power of our victory in heaven gained by pleading the blood of the Lamb, we march on conquering and to conquer, and no power of the enemy is able to stand against us.

The Blood of the Lamb: What Is This Conquering Weapon? Part Two

Written by C.H. Spurgeon
Excerpt was taken and adapted from a sermon delivered Lord’s Day Morning, September 9, 1888, at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington, London.

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First, what is this conquering weapon?
They overcame him by “the blood of the Lamb.”

The death of the Son of God

The blood of the Lamb signifies, first, the death of the Son of God. The sufferings of Jesus Christ might be set forth by some other figure, but His death on the Cross requires the mention of blood. Our Lord was not only bruised and smitten, but He was put to death. His heart’s blood was made to flow. He of Whom we speak was God over all, blessed forever; but He condescended to take our manhood into union with His Godhead in a mysterious manner. He was born at Bethlehem a babe; He grew as a child; He ripened into manhood and lived here among us, eating and drinking, suffering and rejoicing, sleeping and laboring as men do. He died in very deed and of a truth, and was buried in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathæa. That death was the grand fact which is set forth by the words “the blood of the Lamb.”

We are to view Jesus as the Lamb of God’s Passover: not merely separated from others, dedicated to be Israel’s memorial and consecrated to divine service, but as the Lamb slain. Remember, that Christ viewed as living, and not as having died, is not a saving Christ. He Himself saith, “I am he that liveth and was dead” (Rev 1:18). The moderns cry, “Why not preach more about His life, and less about His death?” I reply, Preach His life as much as you will, but never apart from His death, for it is by His blood that we are redeemed. “We preach Christ.” Complete the sentence. “We preach Christ crucified,” says the apostle (1 Corinthians 1:23). Ah, yes! there is the point. It is the death of the Son of God which is the conquering weapon. Had He not poured forth His soul unto death, even to the death of the Cross—had He not been numbered with the transgressors, and put to a death of shame—we should have had no weapon with which to overcome the dragon prince. By “the blood of the Lamb” we understand the death of the Son of God. Hear it, O men! Because you have sinned, Jesus dies that you may be cleared from your sin. “He his own self bore our sins in his own body on the tree” (1 Peter 2:24) and died that He might redeem us from all unrighteousness. The point is His death, and paradoxically, this death is the vital point of the Gospel. The death of Christ is the death of sin and the defeat of Satan, and hence it is the life of our hope and the assurance of His victory. Because He poured out His soul unto the death, He divides the spoil with the strong.

Our Lord’s death as a substitutionary sacrifice

Next, by “the blood of the Lamb” we understand our Lord’s death as a substitutionary sacrifice. Let us be very clear here. It is not said that they overcame the arch-enemy by the blood of Jesus, or the blood of Christ, but by the blood of the Lamb; and the words are expressly chosen because, under the figure of a lamb, we have set before us a sacrifice. The blood of Jesus Christ, shed because of His courage for the truth, or out of pure philanthropy, or out of self-denial, conveys no special Gospel to men and has no peculiar power about it. Truly it is an example worthy to beget martyrs; but it is not the way of salvation for guilty men. If you proclaim the death of the Son of God, but do not show that He died the Just for the unjust to bring us to God, you have not preached the blood of the Lamb. You must make it known that “the chastisement of our peace was upon him” (Isaiah 53:5), and that “the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6), or you have not declared the meaning of the blood of the Lamb. There is no overcoming sin without a substitutionary sacrifice. The lamb under the old Law was brought by the offender to make atonement for his offence, and in his place it was slain: this was the type of Christ taking the sinner’s place, bearing the sinner’s sin, and suffering in the sinner’s stead, and thus vindicating the justice of God, making it possible for Him to be Just and the Justifier of him that believeth. I understand this to be the conquering weapon—the death of the Son of God set forth as the Propitiation for sin. Sin must be punished: it is punished in Christ’s death. Here is the Hope of men.

Our Lord’s death effective for the taking away of sin

Furthermore, I understand by the expression, “The blood of the Lamb,” that our Lord’s death was effective for the taking away of sin. When John the Baptist first pointed to Jesus, he said, “Behold the Lamb of God, which takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). Our Lord Jesus has actually taken away sin by His death. Beloved, we are sure that He had offered an acceptable and effectual propitiation when he said, “It is finished” (John 19:13). Either He did put away sin, or He did not. If He did not, how will it ever be put away? If He did, then are believers clear. Altogether apart from anything that we do or are, our glorious Substitute took away our sin, as in the type the scapegoat carried the sin of Israel into the wilderness (Leviticus 16:8).

In the case of all those for whom our Lord offered Himself as a substitutionary Sacrifice, the justice of God finds no hindrance to its fullest flow: it is consistent with justice that God should bless the redeemed. Near nineteen hundred years ago Jesus paid the dreadful debt of all His elect, and made a full atonement for the whole mass of the iniquities of them that shall believe in Him, thereby removing the whole tremendous load, and casting it by one lift of His pierced hand into the depths of the sea. When Jesus died, an atonement was offered by Him and accepted by the Lord God, so that before the high court of heaven there was a distinct removal of sin from the whole body of which Christ is the head. In the fullness of time each redeemed one individually accepts for himself the great Atonement by an act of personal faith, but the atonement itself was made long before.

I believe this to be one of the edges of the conquering weapon. We are to preach that the Son of God has come in the flesh and died for human sin, and that in dying He did not only make it possible for God to forgive, but He secured forgiveness for all who are in Him. He did not die to make men savable, but to save them. He came not that sin might be put aside at some future time, but to put it away there and then by the sacrifice of Himself; for by His death He finished transgressions, made an end of sin, and brought in everlasting righteousness (Dan 9:24) Believers may know that when Jesus died they were delivered from the claims of Law, and when He rose again their justification was secured. The blood of the Lamb is a real price, which did effectually ransom. The blood of the Lamb is a real cleansing, which did really purge away sin.

This we believe and declare; and by this sign we conquer. Christ crucified, Christ the Sacrifice for sin, Christ the effectual Redeemer of men, we will proclaim everywhere, and thus put to rout the powers of darkness.

The Blood of the Lamb: The Conquering Weapon, Part One

Written by C.H. Spurgeon
Excerpt was taken and adapted from a sermon delivered Lord’s Day Morning, September 9, 1888, at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington, London.

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“And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.”—Revelation 12:11

Wherever evil appears, it is to be fought with by the children of God in the name of Jesus, and in the power of the Holy Ghost…

When evil appeared in an angel, straightway there was war in heaven. Evil in mortal men is to be striven against by all regenerate men. If sin comes to us in the form of an angel of light we must still war with it. If it comes with all manner of deceivableness of unrighteousness, we must not parley for a single moment, but begin the battle forthwith, if indeed we belong to the armies of the Lord. Evil is at its very worst in Satan himself: with him we fight. He is no mean adversary. The evil spirits which are under his control are, any one of them, terrible foes; but when Satan himself personally attacks a Christian, any one of us will be hard put to it.

When this dragon blocks our road, we shall need heavenly aid to force our passage. A pitched battle with Apollyon may not often occur, but when it does, you will know it painfully: you will record it in your diary as one of the darkest days you have ever lived, and you eternally praise your God when you overcome him. But even if Satan were ten times stronger and more crafty than he is, we are bound to wrestle with him; we cannot for a moment hesitate, or offer him terms. Evil in its highest, strongest, and proudest form is to be assailed by the soldier of the Cross, and nothing must end the war but complete victory. Satan is the enemy, the enemy of enemies. That prayer of our Lord’s, which we usually render, “Deliver us from evil,” has the special significance of “Deliver us from the evil one”; because he is the chief embodiment of evil, and in him evil is intensified, and has come to its highest strength. That man had need have Omnipotence with him who hopes to overcome the enemy of God and man. He would destroy all godly ones if he could; and though he cannot, such is his inveterate hate, that he worries those whom he cannot devour with a malicious eagerness.

In Revelation 12, the devil is called the “great red dragon.” He is great in capacity, intelligence, energy, and experience. Whether or not he was the chief of all angels before he fell I do not know. Some have thought that he was such, and that when he heard that a man was to sit upon the throne of God, out of very jealousy he rebelled against the Most High. This is also conjecture. But we do know that he was and is an exceedingly great spirit as compared with us. He is a being great in evil: the prince of darkness, having the power of death. He shows his malice against the saints by accusing the brethren day and night before God. In the prophets we have the record of Satan standing to accuse Joshua the servant of God. Satan also accused Job of serving God from mercenary motives: “Hast not thou made a hedge about him…and all that he hath?” (Job 1:10).

This ever active enemy desires to tempt as well as accuse: he would have us, and sift us as wheat. In calling him the dragon, the Holy Spirit seems to hint at his mysterious power and character. To us a spirit, such as he is, must ever be a mystery in his being and working. Satan is a mysterious personage though he is not a mythical one. We can never doubt his existence if we have once come into conflict with him; yet he is to us all the more real because so mysterious. If he were flesh and blood it would be far easier to contend with him; but to fight with this spiritual wickedness in high places is a terrible task. As a dragon he is full of cunning and ferocity. In him force is allied with craft; and if he cannot achieve his purpose at once by power, he waits his time. He deludes; he deceives—in fact, he is said to deceive the whole world. What a power of deception must reside in him, when under his influence the third part of the stars of heaven are made to fall, and myriads of men in all ages have worshiped demons and idols!

He has steeped the minds of men in delusion, so that they cannot see that they should worship none but God, their Maker. He is styled “the old serpent”; and this reminds us how practiced he is in every evil art. He was a liar from the beginning, and the father of lies. After thousands of years of constant practice in deception he is much too cunning for us. If we think that we can match him by craft we are grievous fools, for he knows vastly more than the wisest of mortals; and if it once comes to a game of policies, he will certainly clear the board, and sweep our tricks into the bag. To this cunning he adds great speed, so that he is quick to assail at any moment, darting down upon us like a hawk upon a poor chick. He is not everywhere present; but it is hard to say where he is not. He cannot be omnipresent; but yet, by that majestic craft of his, he so manages his army of fallen ones that, like a great general, he superintends the whole field of battle, and seems present at every point. No door can shut him out, no height of piety can rise beyond his reach. He meets us in all our weaknesses, and assails us from every point of the compass. He comes upon us unaware, and gives us wounds which are not easily healed.

But yet, dear friends, powerful as this infernal spirit certainly must be, his power is defeated when we are resolved never to be at peace with him. We must never dream of terms or truce with evil. To suppose that we can let him alone and all will be well, is a deadly error. We must fight or perish: evil will slay us if we do not slay it. Our only safety will lie in a determined, vigorous opposition to sin, whatever shape it assumes, whatever it may threaten, whatever it may promise. The Holy Ghost alone can maintain in us this enmity to sin.

According to the text it is said of the saints, “They overcame him.” We are never to rest until it is said of us also, “They overcame him.” He is a foeman worthy of your steel. Do you refuse the conflict? Do you think of turning back? You have no armor for your back. To cease to fight is to be overcome. You have your choice between the two: either to gird up the loins of your minds for a life-long resistance, or else to be Satan’s slaves forever. I pray God that you may awake, arise, and give battle to the foe. Resolve once for all that by the grace of God you will be numbered with those who overcome the arch-enemy.

Our text brings before us a very important subject for consideration—What is the conquering weapon? With what sword did they fight who have overcome the great red dragon? Listen! “They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb.” Secondly, how do we use that weapon? We do as they did who overcame “by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.”

End of Part One.

Spurgeon and the Prayer of Jabez. Or, Separating True Blessings from the Imaginary

Taken and adapted from, Sermon No. 994,
Delivered by C. H. Spurgeon,
At the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington

gods-blessing-your-life-home-rotation_june_2013

“Oh that you would bless me indeed!”
–1 Chronicles 4:10

Sowing in Tears, Reaping in Joy

We know very little about Jabez, except that he was more honorable than his brethren, and that he was called Jabez because his mother bare him with sorrow. It will sometimes happen that where there is the most sorrow in the antecedents, there will be the most pleasure in the sequel. As the furious storm gives place to the clear sunshine, so the night of weeping precedes the morning of joy (Psalms 30:5). Sorrow the harbinger; gladness the prince it ushers in. Cowper says:

“The path of sorrow, and that path alone,
Leads to the place where sorrow is unknown.”

To a great extent we find that we must sow in tears before we can reap in joy. Many of our works for Christ have cost us tears. Difficulties and disappointments have wrung our soul with anguish. Yet those projects that have cost us more than ordinary sorrow, have often turned out to be the most honorable of our undertakings. While our grief called the offspring of desire “Benoni” (the son of my sorrow), our faith has been afterwards able to give it a name of delight, “Benjamin” (the son of my right hand) (Genesis 35:18). You may expect a blessing in serving God if you are enabled to persevere under many discouragements. The ship is often long coming home because detained on the road by excess of cargo; expect her freight to be the better when she reaches the port.

A Man of Prayer

More honorable than his brethren was the child whom his mother bore with sorrow. As for this Jabez, whose aim was so well pointed, his fame so far sounded, his name so lastingly embalmed—he was a man of prayer. The honor he enjoyed would not have been worth having if it had not been vigorously contested and equitably won. His devotion was the key to his promotion. Those are the best honors that come from God: the award of grace with the acknowledgment of service.

When Jacob was surnamed Israel, he received his princedom after a memorable night of prayer (Genesis 32:25). Surely it was far more honorable to him than if it had been bestowed upon him as a flattering distinction by some earthly emperor. The best honor is that which a man gains in communion with the Most High. Jabez, we are told, was more honorable than his brethren, and his prayer is forthwith recorded as if to intimate that he was also more prayerful than his brethren.

The Prayer Itself

We are told of what petitions his prayer consisted. All through it was very significant and instructive. We have only time to take one clause of it—indeed, that one clause may be said to comprehend the rest: “Oh that you would bless me indeed!” I commend it as a prayer for yourselves, dear brethren and sisters, one which will be available at all seasons—a prayer to begin Christian life with, a prayer to end it with, a prayer that would never be unseasonable in your joys or in your sorrows.

“Indeed” – true vs. false blessings

“Oh that you would bless me indeed!” The very pith of the prayer seems to lie in that word, “indeed.” There are many varieties of blessing. Some are blessings only in name: they gratify our wishes for a moment, but permanently disappoint our expectations. They charm the eye, but pall on the taste. Others are mere temporary blessings: they perish with the using. Though for a while they regale the senses, they cannot satisfy the higher cravings of the soul. But, “Oh that you would bless me indeed!”

“You” – what are true blessings

“Oh that you,” the God of Israel, the covenant God, “would bless me indeed!” I know whom God blesses shall be blessed. The thing good in itself is bestowed with the good-will of the Giver, and shall be productive of so much good fortune to the recipient that it may well be esteemed as a blessing “indeed,” for there is nothing comparable to it.

Let the grace of God prompt it; let the choice of God appoint it; let the bounty of God confer it; and then the endowment shall be something godlike indeed. It shall be something worthy of the lips that pronounce the benediction, and verily to be craved by everyone who seeks honor that is substantial and enduring. “Oh that you would bless me indeed!” Think it over, and you will see that there is a depth of meaning in the expression.

“Bless” – God’s vs. men’s blessings

We may set this in contrast with human blessings: “Oh that you would bless me indeed!” It is very delightful to be blessed by our parents, and those venerable friends whose benedictions come from their hearts and are backed up by their prayers. Many a poor man has had no other legacy to leave his children except his blessing, but the blessing of an honest, holy, Christian father is a rich treasure to his son. One might well feel it were a thing to be deplored through life, if he had lost a parent’s blessing. We like to have it. The blessing of our spiritual parents is consolatory. Though we believe in no priestcraft, we like to live in the affections of those who were the means of bringing us to Christ, and from whose lips we were instructed in the things of God.

And how very precious is the blessing of the poor! I do not wonder that Job treasured that up as a sweet thing. “When the ear heard me, then it blessed me” (Job 29:11). If you have relieved the widow and the fatherless, and their thanks are returned to you in benediction, it is no mean reward.

But, dear friends, after all, all that parents, relatives, saints, and grateful persons can do in the way of blessing, falls very far short of what we desire to have.

Oh Lord, we would have the blessings of our fellow-creatures, the blessings that come from their hearts; but, “Oh that you would bless me indeed!” for You can bless with authority. Their blessings may be but words, but Thine are effectual. They may often wish what they cannot do, and desire to give what they have not at their own disposal, but Your will is omnipotent. You did create the world with but a word. Oh that such omnipotence would now bespeak me Your blessing! Other blessings may bring us some tiny cheer, but in Your favor is life. Other blessings are mere specks in comparison with Your blessing, for Your blessing is the title to “an inheritance incorruptible” (1 Peter 1:4) and unfading, to “a kingdom which cannot be moved” (Hebrews 12:28).

Well therefore might David pray in another place, “With your blessing let the house of your servant be blessed forever” (2 Samuel 7:29).

1    God’s Blessings vs. Men’s Blessings

Perhaps in this place, Jabez may have put the blessing of God in contrast with the blessings of men. Men will bless you when you do well for yourself. They will praise the man who is successful in business. Nothing succeeds like success. Nothing has so much the approval of the general public as a man’s prosperity. Alas! they do not weigh men’s actions in the balances of the sanctuary, but in quite other scales.

You will find those about you who will commend you if you are prosperous; or, like Job’s comforters, condemn you if you suffer adversity. Perhaps there may be some feature about your blessings that may please them, because they feel they deserve them. They commend you for your patriotism: you have been a patriot. They commend you for your generosity: you know you have been self-sacrificing. This is well; but, after all, what is there in the verdict of man?

At a trial, the verdict of the policeman who stands in the court, or of the spectators who sit in the court-house, amounts to just nothing. The man who is being tried feels that the only thing that is of importance at all will be the verdict of the jury and the sentence of the judge. So it will little avail us, whatever we may do, how others commend or censure. Their blessings are not of any great value.

But, “Oh that you would bless me,” that You would say, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:23). Commend You the feeble service that through Your grace my heart has rendered. That will be to bless me indeed.

Flattery

Men are sometimes blessed in a very fulsome sense by flattery. There are always those who, like the fox in the fable, hope to gain the cheese by praising the crow. They never saw such plumage, and no voice could be so sweet as yours. The whole of their mind is set, not on you, but on what they are to gain by you. The race of flatterers is never extinct, though the flattered usually flatter themselves, it is so. They may conceive that men flatter others, but all is so palpable and transparent when heaped upon themselves, that they accept it with a great deal of self-complacency, as being perhaps a little exaggerated, but after all exceedingly near the truth!

We are not very apt to take a large discount off the praises that others offer us; yet, were we wise, we should press to our bosom those who censure us; and we should always keep at arm’s length those who praise us. Why? for those who censure us to our face cannot possibly be making a market of us; but with regard to those who extol us, rising early and using loud sentences of praise, we may suspect (and we shall very seldom be unjust in the suspicion), that there is some other motive in the praise which they render to us than that which appears on the surface.

Young man, are you placed in a position where God honors you? Beware of flatterers. Or have you come into a large estate? have you abundance? There are always flies where there is honey. Beware of flattery. Young woman, are you fair to look upon? There will be those about you that will have their designs, perhaps their evil designs, in lauding your beauty. Beware of flatterers. Turn you aside from all these who have honey on their tongue, because of the poison of asps that is under it. Bethink you of Solomon’s caution, “meddle not with him that flatters with his lips” (Proverbs 20:19).

Cry to God, “Deliver You me from all this vain adulation, which nauseates my soul.” So shall you pray to Him the more fervently “Oh that you would bless me indeed!” Let me have Your benediction, which never says more than it means, which never gives less than it promises.

If you take then the prayer of Jabez as being put in contrast with the benedictions that come from men, you see much force in it.

2    God’s Blessings vs. Temporal Blessings

But we may put it in another light, and compare the blessing Jabez craved with those blessings that are temporal and transient. There are many bounties given to us mercifully by God for which we are bound to be very grateful, but we must not set too much store by them. We may accept them with gratitude, but we must not make them our idols. When we have them we have great need to cry, “Oh that You would bless me indeed, and make these inferior blessings real blessings”; and if we have them not, we should with greater vehemence cry, “Oh that we may be rich in faith, and if not blessed with these external favors, may we be blessed spiritually, and then we shall be blessed indeed.”

Wealth

Let us review some of these mercies, and just say a word or two about them. One of the first cravings of men’s hearts is wealth. So universal the desire to gain it that we might almost say it is a natural instinct. How many have thought if they once possessed it, they should be blessed indeed! But there are ten thousand proofs that happiness consists not in the abundance which a man possesses. So many instances are well-known to you all, that I need not quote any to show that riches are not a blessing indeed. They are rather apparently than really so.

Hence, it has been well said that when we see how much a man has we envy him; but could we see how little he enjoys we should pity him. Some that have had the most easy circumstances have had the most uneasy minds. Those who have acquired all they could wish, had their wishes been at all sane, have been led by the possession of what they had to be discontented because they had not more.

“Thus the base miser starves amidst his store,
Broods o’er his gold, and griping still at more,
Sits sadly pining, and believes he’s poor.”

Nothing is more clear, to anyone who chooses to observe it, than that riches are not the chief good at whose advent sorrow flies, and in whose presence joy perennial springs. Full often wealth deceives the owner. Dainties are spread on his table, but his appetite fails; minstrels wait his bidding, but his ears are deaf to all the strains of music; holidays he may have as many as he pleases, but for him recreation has lost all its charms. Or, he is young, fortune has come to him by inheritance, and he makes pleasure his pursuit, till sport becomes more irksome than work, and dissipation worse than drudgery.

Ye know how riches make themselves wings; like the bird that roosted on the tree, they fly away. In sickness and despondency these ample means that once seemed to whisper, “Soul, take your ease” (Luke 12:19), prove themselves to be poor comforters. In death they even tend to make the pang of separation more acute, because there is the more to leave, the more to lose.

We may well say, if we have wealth, “My God, put me not off with these husks; let me never make a god of the silver and the gold, the goods and the chattels, the estates and investments, which in Your Providence You have given me. I beseech You, ‘bless me indeed.’ As for these worldly possessions, they will be my bane unless I have Your grace with them.”

And if you have not wealth, and perhaps the most of you will never have it, you may well say, “My Father, You have denied me this outward and seeming good, now enrich me with Your love. Give me the gold of Your favor, ‘bless me indeed.’ Then, allot to others whatever You will; You shall divide my portion; my soul shall wait Your daily will. Do You bless me indeed, and I shall be content.”

Fame

Another transient blessing which our poor humanity fondly covets and eagerly pursues is fame. In this respect we would fain be more honorable than our brethren, and outstrip all our competitors. It seems natural to us all to wish to make a name and gain some note in the circle we move in, and we wish to make that circle wider if we can.

But here, as of riches, it is indisputable that the greatest fame does not bring with it any equal measure of gratification. Men, in seeking after notoriety or honor, have a degree of pleasure in the search, which they do not always possess when they have gained their object. Some of the most famous men have also been the most wretched of the human race.

If you have honor and fame, accept it; but let this prayer go up, “My God, bless You me indeed, for what profit were it, if my name were in a thousand mouths, if You should spew it out of Your mouth? What matter, though my name is written on marble, if it is not written in the Lamb’s Book of Life? These blessings are only apparently blessings, windy blessings, blessings that mock me. Give me Your blessing; then the honor which comes of You will make me blessed indeed.”

If you happen to have lived in obscurity, and have never entered the lists for honors among your fellow-men, be content to run well your own course and fulfill truly your own vocation. To lack fame is not the most grievous of ills; it is worse to have it like the snow, that whitens the ground in the morning, and disappears in the heat of the day. What matters it to a dead man that men are talking of him? Get you the blessing indeed.

Health

There is another temporal blessing which wise men desire, and legitimately may wish for rather than the other two: the blessing of health. Can we ever prize it sufficiently? To trifle with such a boon is the madness of folly. The highest praise that can be passed on health would not be extravagant. He that has a healthy body is infinitely more blessed than he who is sickly, whatever his estate may be.

Yet if I have health, my bones well set, and my muscles well strung; if I scarcely know an ache or pain, but can rise in the morning, and with elastic go forth to labor, and cast myself upon my couch at night, and sleep the sleep of the happy—yet, oh let me not glory in my strength! In a moment it may fail me. A few short weeks may reduce the strong man to a skeleton. Consumption may set in; the cheek may pale with the shadow of death. Let not the strong man glory in his strength. The Lord “delights not in the strength of the horse: He taketh not pleasure in the legs of a man” (Psalms 147:10). And let us not make our boast concerning these things. Say, you that are in good health, “My God, bless me indeed. Give me the healthy soul. Heal me of my spiritual diseases. Jehovah Rophi [Rophi is the Hebrew name for God, meaning “The Lord Who Heals” (Exodus 15:26).]  come, and purge out the leprosy that is in my heart by nature: make me healthy in the heavenly sense, that I may not be put aside among the unclean, but allowed to stand amongst the congregation of Your saints. Bless my bodily health to me that I may use it rightly, spending the strength I have in Your service and to Your glory; otherwise, though blessed with health, I may not be blessed indeed.”

Some of you, dear friends, do not possess the great treasure of health. Wearisome days and nights are appointed you. Your bones are become an almanac in which you note the changes of the weather. There is much about you that is fitted to excite pity. But I pray that you may have the blessing indeed, and I know what that is.

I can heartily sympathize with a sister that said to me the other day, “I had such nearness to God when I was sick, such full assurance, and such joy in the Lord. I regret to say I have lost it now. I could almost wish to be ill again, if thereby I might have a renewal of communion with God.” I have oftentimes looked gratefully back to my sick chamber. I am certain that I never did grow in grace one half so much anywhere as I have upon the bed of pain. It ought not to be so. Our joyous mercies ought to be great fertilizers to our spirit; but not infrequently our griefs are more salutary than our joys. The pruning knife is best for some of us.

Well, after all, whatever you have to suffer, of weakness, of debility, of pain and anguish, may it be so attended with the divine presence, that this light affliction may work out for you a “far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” (2 Corinthians 4:17), and so you may be blessed indeed.

Home

I will only dwell upon one more temporal mercy, which is very precious—I mean the blessing of home. I do not think anyone can ever prize it too highly, or speak too well of it. What a blessing it is to have the fireside, and the dear relationships that gather round the word “home”—wife, children, father, brother, sister! Why, there are no songs in any language that are more full of music than those dedicated to “Mother.” We hear a great deal about the German “Fatherland”—we like the sound. But the word “Father” is the whole of it. The “land” is nothing: the “Father” is key to the music.

There are many of us, I hope, blessed with a great many of these relationships. Do not let us be content to solace our souls with ties that must ere long be sundered. Let us ask that over and above them may come the blessing indeed. “I thank You, my God, for my earthly father; but oh, be You my Father, then am I blessed indeed. I thank You, my God, for a mother’s love; but comfort You my soul as one whom a mother comforts, then am I blessed indeed. I thank You, Savior, for the marriage bond; but be You the bridegroom of my soul. I thank You for the tie of brotherhood; but be You my brother born for adversity, bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh. The home You have given me I prize, and thank You for it; but I would dwell in the house of the Lord forever, and be a child that never wanders, wherever my feet may travel, from my Father’s house with its many mansions.

You can thus be blessed indeed. If not domiciled under the paternal care of the Almighty, even the blessing of home, with all its sweet familiar comforts, does not reach to the benediction which Jabez desired for himself.

But do I speak to any here that are separated from kith and kin? I know some of you have left behind you in the bivouac of life, graves where parts of your heart are buried, and that which remains is bleeding with just so many wounds. Ah, well! the Lord bless you indeed! Widow, Your Maker is Your Husband. Fatherless one, He hath said, “I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you” (Joh 14:18). Oh, to find all your relationships made up in Him, then you will be blessed indeed!

I have perhaps taken too long a time in mentioning these temporary blessings, so let me set the text in another light. I trust we have had human blessings and temporary blessings, to fill our hearts with gladness, but not to foul our hearts with worldliness, or to distract our attention from the things that belong to our everlasting welfare.

3    God’s Blessings vs. Imaginary Blessings

Let us proceed, thirdly, to speak of imaginary blessings. There are such in the world; from them may God deliver us. “Oh that you would bless me indeed!”

Imaginary Blessings to the Unsaved

Self-righteousness.

Take the Pharisee. He stood in the Lord’s house, and he thought he had the Lord’s blessing; it made him very bold, and he spoke with unctuous self-complacency, “God, I thank you, that I am not as other men are” (Luke 18:11), and so on. He had the blessing, and well indeed he supposed himself to have merited it. He had fasted twice in the week, paid tithes of all that he possessed—even to the odd farthing on the mint, and the extra half-penny on the cumin he had used. He felt he had done everything. His was the blessing of a quiet or a quiescent conscience; good, easy man. He was a pattern to the parish. It was a pity everybody did not live as he did; if they had, they would not have needed any police. Pilate might have dismissed his guards and Herod his soldiers. He was just one of the most excellent persons that ever breathed. He adored the city of which he was a burgess!

Ay, but he was not blessed indeed. This was all his own overweening conceit. He was a mere wind-bag, nothing more. And the blessing which he fancied had fallen upon him, had in fact never come. The poor publican whom he thought accursed, went to his home justified rather than he. The blessing had not fallen on the man who thought he had it.

Oh, let everyone of us here feel the sting of this rebuke, and pray, “Great God, save us from imputing to ourselves a righteousness that we do not possess. Save us from wrapping ourselves up in our own rags, and fancying we have put on the wedding garments. Bless me indeed. Let me have the true righteousness. Let me have the true worthiness that You canst accept, even that which is of faith in Jesus Christ.”

False assurance.

Another form of this imaginary blessing is found in persons who would scorn to be thought self-righteous. Their delusion, however, is near akin. I hear them singing,

“I do believe, I will believe
That Jesus died for me,
And on his cross he shed his blood,
From sin to set me free.”

You believe it, you say. Well, but how do you know?

Upon what authority do you make so sure? Who told you? “Oh, I believe it.” Yes, but we must mind what we believe. Have you any clear evidence of a special interest in the blood of Jesus? Can you give any spiritual reasons for believing that Christ has set you free from sin? I am afraid that some have got a hope that has not got any ground, like an anchor without any fluke—nothing to grasp, nothing to lay hold upon. They say they are saved, and they stick to it that they are, and think it wicked to doubt it; but yet they have no reason to warrant their confidence.

When the sons of Kohath prepared the ark, and touched it with their hands, they did rightly (Numbers 4:4-6, 15); but when Uzzah touched it he died (2 Samuel 6:6-7). There are those who are ready to be fully assured; there are others to whom it will be death to talk of it. There is a great difference between presumption and full assurance. Full assurance is reasonable; it is based on solid ground. Presumption takes for granted, and with brazen face pronounces that to be its own to which it has no right whatever.

Beware, I pray you, of presuming that you are saved.

If with your heart you do trust in Jesus, then are you saved; but if you merely say, “I trust in Jesus,” it does not save you. If your heart is renewed, if you shall hate the things that you once loved, and love the things that you did once hate; if you have really repented; if there be a thorough change of mind in you; if you be born again—then have you reason to rejoice. But, if there be no vital change, no inward godliness; if there be no love to God, no prayer, no work of the Holy Spirit—then your saying, “I am saved,” is but your own assertion. It may delude, but it will not deliver you.

Our prayer ought to be, “Oh that You would bless me indeed, with real faith, with real salvation, with the trust in Jesus that is the essential of faith; not with the conceit that begets credulity.”

God preserve us from imaginary blessings!

I have met with persons who said, “I believe I am saved, because I dreamed it.” Or, “Because I had a text of Scripture that applied to my own case. Such and such a good man said so and so in his sermon.” Or, “Because I took to weeping and was excited, and felt as I never felt before.” Ah! but nothing will stand the trial but this, “Do you reject all confidence in everything but the finished work of Jesus, and do you come to Christ to be reconciled in Him to God?” If you do not, your dreams, and visions, and fancies, are but dreams, and visions, and fancies, and will not serve your turn when you most need them. Pray the Lord to bless you indeed, for of that sterling verity in all your walk and talk there is a great scarcity.

Imaginary blessings to the saved

Too much, I am afraid, even those who are saved—saved for time and eternity—need this caution, and have good cause to pray this prayer, that they may learn to make a distinction between some things which they think to be spiritual blessings, and others which are true blessings indeed. Let me show you what I mean.

Answered Prayer

Is it certainly a blessing to get an answer to your prayer after your own mind? I always like to qualify my most earnest prayer with, “Not as I will, but as you wilt” (Matthew 26:39). Not only ought I to do it, but I would like to do it, because otherwise I might ask for something which it would be dangerous for me to receive. God might give it me in anger, and I might find little sweetness in the grant, but much soreness in the grief it caused me. You remember how Israel of old asked for flesh, and God gave them quails; but while the meat was yet in their mouths the wrath of God came upon them. Ask for the meat, if you like, but always put in this: “Lord, if this is not a real blessing, do not give it to me.” “Bless me indeed.”

I hardly like to repeat the old story of the good woman whose son was ill—a little child near death’s door—and she begged the minister, a Puritan, to pray for its life. He did pray very earnestly, but he put in, “If it be your will, save this child.” The woman said, “I cannot bear that: I must have you pray that the child shall live. Do not put in any ifs or buts.” “Woman,” said the minister, “it may be you will live to rue the day that ever you wished to set your will up against God’s will.” Twenty years afterwards, she was carried away in a fainting fit from under Tyburn gallows-tree, where that son was put to death as a felon. Although she had lived to see her child grow up to be a man, it would have been infinitely better for her had the child died, and infinitely wiser had she left it to God’s will. Do not be quite so sure that what you think an answer to prayer is any proof of divine love. It may leave much room for you to seek unto the Lord, saying, “Oh that you would blessed me indeed!”

Exhilaration of spirit

So sometimes great exhilaration of spirit, liveliness of heart, even though it be religious joy, may not always be a blessing. We delight in it, and oh, sometimes when we have had gatherings for prayer here, the fire has burned, and our souls have glowed! We felt at the time how we could sing,

“My willing soul would stay
In such a frame as this,
And sit and sing herself away
To everlasting bliss.”

So far as that was a blessing we are thankful for it; but I should not like to set such seasons up, as if my enjoyments were the main token of God’s favor; or as if they were the chief signs of His blessing.

Perhaps it would be a greater blessing to me to be broken in spirit, and laid low before the Lord at the present time. When you ask for the highest joy, and pray to be on the mountain with Christ, remember it may be as much a blessing, yea, a blessing indeed, to be brought into the Valley of Humiliation, to be laid very low, and constrained to cry out in anguish, “Lord, save, or I perish!” [Quoted from The Pilgrim’s Progress, by John Bunyan, when Christian descended into the valley to face Apollyon.]

“If today He deigns to bless us
With a sense of pardon’d sin,
He tomorrow may distress us,
Make us feel the plague within,
All to make us
Sick of self, and fond of Him.”

These variable experiences of ours may be blessings indeed to us, when, had we been always rejoicing, we might have been like Moab, settled on our lees, and not emptied from vessel to vessel. It fares ill with those who have no changes; they fear not God.

Calmness

Have we not, dear friends, sometimes envied those persons that are always calm and unruffled, and are never perturbed in mind? Well, there are Christians whose evenness of temper deserves to be emulated. And as for that calm repose, that unwavering assurance which comes from the Spirit of God, it is a very delightful attainment. But I am not sure that we ought to envy anybody’s lot because it is more tranquil, or less exposed to storm and tempest, than our own.

There is a danger of saying, “Peace, peace,” where there is no peace (Jer 6:14), and there is a calmness that arises from callousness. Dupes there are who deceive their own souls. “They have no doubts,” they say, but it is because they have little heart searching. They have no anxieties, because they have not much enterprise or many pursuits to stir them up. Or it may be they have no pains, because they have no life. Better go to heaven, halt and maimed, than go marching on in confidence down to hell. “Oh that you would bless me indeed!”

My God, I will envy no one of his gifts or his graces, much less of his inward mood or his outward circumstances, if only You wilt “bless me indeed.” I would not be comforted unless You comfort me, nor have any peace but Christ my Peace, nor any rest but the rest that cometh from the sweet savor of the sacrifice of Christ. Christ shall be all in all, and none shall be anything to me save Himself.

Oh that we might always feel that we are not to judge as to the manner of the blessing, but must leave it with God to give us what we would have, not the imaginary blessing, the superficial and apparent blessing, but the blessing indeed!

Our work and service

Equally too with regard to our work and service, I think our prayer should always be, “Oh that you would bless me indeed!” It is lamentable to see the work of some good men, though it is not ours to judge them, how very pretentious and how very unreal it is. It is really shocking to think how some men pretend to build up a church in the course of two or three evenings. They will report, in the corner of the newspapers, that there were forty-three persons convinced of sin, and forty-six justified, and sometimes thirty-eight sanctified; I do not know what besides of wonderful statistics they give as to all that is accomplished.

I have observed congregations that have been speedily gathered together, and great additions have been made to the church all of a sudden. And what has become of them? Where are those churches at the present moment? The dreariest deserts in Christendom are those places that were fertilized by the patent manures of certain “revivalists.” The whole church seemed to have spent its strength in one rush and effort after something, and it ended in nothing at all. They built their wooden house, and piled up the hay, and made a stubble spire that seemed to reach the heavens—and there fell one spark and all went away in smoke. And he that came to labor next time—the successor of the great builder—had to get the ashes swept away before he could do any good. The prayer of everyone that serves God should be, “Oh that you would bless me indeed.” Plod on, plod on. If I only build one piece of masonry in my life, and nothing more, if it be gold, silver, or precious stones, it is a good deal for a man to do. Of such precious stuff as that, to build even one little corner that will not show, is a worthy service. It will not be much talked of, but it will last. There is the point: it will last!

“Establish you the work of our hands upon us; yea, the work of our hands establish you it” (Psalms 90:17). If we are not builders in an established church, it is of little use to try at all. What God establishes will stand, but what men build without His establishment will certainly come to nothing. “Oh that you would bless me indeed!” Sunday-school teacher, be this your prayer. Tract distributor, local preacher, whatever you may be, dear brother or sister, whatever your form of service, do ask the Lord that you may not be one of those plaster builders using sham materials that only require a certain amount of frost and weather to make it crumble to pieces. Be it yours if you cannot build a cathedral, to build at least one part of the marvelous temple that God is piling for eternity, which will outlast the stars.

4    God’s True Spiritual Blessings

I have one thing more to mention before I bring this sermon to a close. The blessings of God’s grace are true blessings indeed, which in right earnest we ought to seek after. By these marks shall ye know them.

Blessings indeed, are such blessings as come from the pierced hand; blessings that come from Calvary’s bloody tree, streaming from the Savior’s wounded side: your pardon, your acceptance, your spiritual life, your oneness to Christ, and all that comes of it—these are blessings indeed.

Any blessing that comes as the result of the Spirit’s work in your soul is a blessing indeed; though it humble you, though it strip you, though it kill you, it is a blessing indeed. Though the harrow go over and over your soul, and the deep plough cut into your very heart; though you be maimed and wounded, and left for dead, yet if the Spirit of God do it, it is a blessing indeed. If He convinces you “of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment” (Joh 16:8), even though you have not hitherto been brought to Christ, it is a blessing indeed. Anything that He does, accept it; do not be dubious of it, but pray that He may continue His blessed operations in your soul.

Whatsoever leads you to God is in like manner a blessing indeed. Riches may not do it. There may be a golden wall between you and God. Health will not do it; even the strength and marrow of your bones may keep you at a distance from your God. But anything that draws you nearer to Him is a blessing indeed. What though it be a cross that raises you, yet if it raise you to God it shall be a blessing indeed.

Anything that reaches into eternity, with a preparation for the world to come; anything that we can carry across the river, the holy joy that is to blossom in those fields beyond the swelling flood; the pure cloudless love of the brotherhood which is to be the atmosphere of truth for ever—is a blessing indeed. Anything of this kind that has the eternal broad arrow on it, the immutable mark, is a blessing indeed.

And anything which helps me to glorify God is a blessing indeed. If I be sick, and that helps me to praise Him, it is a blessing indeed. If I be poor, and I can serve Him better in poverty than in wealth, it is a blessing indeed. If I be in contempt, I will rejoice in that day and leap for joy, if it be for Christ’s sake—it is a blessing indeed. Yea, my faith shakes off the disguise, snatches the visor from the fair forehead of the blessing, and “counts it all joy” (James 1:2) to fall into divers trials for the sake of Jesus and the recompense of reward that He has promised. “Oh that we may be blessed indeed!”

Practical Application

Now, I send you away with these three words.

“Search”

…see whether the blessings are blessings indeed, and be not satisfied unless you know that they are of God, tokens of His grace, and earnests of His saving purpose.

“Weigh”

…that shall be the next word. Whatever you have, weigh it in the scale, and ascertain if it be a blessing indeed, conferring such grace upon you as causes you to abound in love, and to abound in every good word and work.

“Pray.”

So pray that this prayer may mingle with all your prayers, that whatsoever God grants, or whatever He withholds, you might be blessed indeed. Is it a joy-time with you? Oh that Christ may mellow your joy, and prevent the intoxication of earthly blessedness from leading you aside from close walking with Him! In the night of sorrow, pray that He will bless you indeed, lest the wormwood also intoxicate you and make you drunk, lest your afflictions should make you think hardly of Him. Pray for the blessing, which having, you are rich to all the intents of bliss, or which lacking, you are poor and destitute, though plenty fill your store. “If your presence goes not with me, carry us not up hence” (Exodus 33:15).

But, “Oh that you would bless me indeed!”

Mercy, and her snow-white throne

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Once on a time, Mercy sat upon her snow-white throne, surrounded by the troops of love…

A sinner was brought before her, whom Mercy wanted to save. The herald blew the trumpet, and after three blasts thereof, and with a loud voice, he said, “0 heaven and earth, and hell, I summon you this day to come before the throne of Mercy, to tell why this sinner should not be saved.” There stood the sinner, trembling with fear….

He knew that there were multitudes of opponents, who would press into the hall of Mercy, and with eyes full of wrath, would say, “He must not, and he shall not escape; he must be lost!”

The trumpet was blown, and Mercy sat placidly on her throne, until there stepped in one with a fiery countenance; his head was covered with light; he spoke with a voice like thunder, and out of his eyes flashed lightning!

“Who art thou?” said Mercy.

He replied, “I am Law; the law of God.”

“And what hast thou to say?” “I have this to say,” and he lifted up a stony tablet, written on both sides; “these ten commands this wretch has broken. My demand is blood; for it is written, ‘The soul that sinneth it shall die.’  —“Die he, or Justice must.”

The wretch trembles, his knees knock together, the marrow of his bones melts within him, as if it were ice dissolved by fire, and he shakes with very fright. Already he thought he saw the thunderbolt launched at him, he saw the lightning penetrate into his soul, hell yawned before him in imagination, and he thought himself cast away forever.

But Mercy smiled, and said, “Law, I will answer thee…

…This wretch deserves to die; Justice demands that he should perish –I award thee thy claim.”

And, O! Oh, how the sinner trembles! “But there is one yonder who has come with me to-day, my King, my Lord; his name is Jesus; he will tell you how the debt can be paid, and the sinner can go free.”

Then Jesus spoke, and said, “Take me, Law; put me in a garden; make me sweat drops of blood; then nail me to a tree; scourge my back before you put me to death; bang me on the cross; let blood run from my hands and feet; let me descend into the grave; let me pay all the sinner owes; I will die in his stead.”

And the Law went out and scourged the Savior, nailed him to the cross, and coming back with his face all bright with satisfaction, stood again at the throne of Mercy, and Mercy said, “Law, what hast thou now to say?”

“Nothing,” said he; “fair angel, nothing.”

“What! Not one of these commands against him?” “No, not one. Jesus, his substitute, has kept them all” has paid the penalty for his disobedience.  Now, instead of his condemnation, I demand, as a debt of Justice, that he be acquitted.”

“Stand thou here,” said Mercy; “sit on my throne; I and thou together will now send forth another summons.”

The trumpet rang again. “Come hither, all ye who have anything to say against this sinner, as to why he should not be acquitted;”

Up comes another –one who often troubled the sinner –one who had a voice not so loud as that of the Law, but still piercing and thrilling –a voice whose whispers were like the cuttings of a dagger. “Who art thou?” says Mercy.

“I am Conscience; this sinner must be punished; he has done so much against the law of God that he must be punished; I demand it; and I will give him no rest till he is punished, nor even then, for I will follow him even to the grave, and persecute him after death with pangs unutterable.”

“Nay,” said Mercy, “hear me;” and while he paused for a moment, she took a bunch of hyssop and sprinkled Conscience with the blood, saying, “Hear me, Conscience! The blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, cleanses this man from all sin. Now has thou anything to say?”

“No,” said Conscience, “nothing–

“Covered is his unrighteousness;
From condemnation he is free.”

Henceforth I will not grieve him; I will be a good conscience unto him, through the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

The trumpet rang a third time, and growling from the innermost vaults, up there came a grim black fiend, with hate in his eyes, and hellish majesty on his brows. He is asked, “Hast thou anything against that sinner?”

“Yes,” said he, “I have; he has made a league with hell, and a covenant with the grave, and here it is, signed with his own hand. He asked God to destroy his soul in a drunken fit, and vowed he would never turn to God; see here is his covenant with hell!”

“Let us look at it,” said Mercy; and it was handed up, while the grim fiend looked at the sinner, and pierced him through with his black looks. “Ah! But,” said Mercy, “this man had no right to sign the deed; a man must not sign away another’s property. This man was bought and paid for long beforehand; he is not his own; the covenant with Death is disannulled, and the league with hell is rent in pieces. Go thy way, Satan.”

“NO,” said Satan, howling again, “I have something else to say: that man was always my friend; he listened ever to my insinuations; he scoffed at the gospel; he scorned the majesty of heaven: he is to be pardoned, while I repair to my hellish den, for ever to bear the penalty of guilt?”

Said Mercy, “Away, thou fiend; these things he did in the days of his unregeneracy; but this word nevertheless blots them out. Go thou to thy hell; take this for another lash upon thyself” the sinner shall be pardoned, but thou –never, treacherous fiend!”

And then Mercy, smilingly turning to the sinner, said, “Sinner, the trumpet must be blown for the last time!” Again it was blown, and no one answered. Then stood the sinner up, and Mercy said, “Sinner, ask thyself the question” ask thou of heaven, of earth, of hell “whether any can condemn thee?”

And the sinner stood up, and with a bold, loud voice, said, “Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect?” And he looked into hell, and Satan lay there, biting his iron bonds; and he looked on earth, and earth was silent; and in the majesty of faith the sinner did even climb to heaven itself, and he said, “Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? God?”

And the answer came, “No one; he justified.”

“Christ?” Sweetly it was whispered, “No; he died.” Then turning round, the sinner joyfully exclaimed, “Who shall separate me from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord?”

And the once condemned sinner came back to Mercy; prostrate at her feet he lay, and vowed henceforth to be hers forever, if she would keep him to the end, and make him what she would desire him to be. Then no longer did the trumpet ring, but angels rejoiced, and heaven was glad, for the sinner was saved.

—C.H. Spurgeon
Edited for thought and sense