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Matthew 20

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Verse 15

Divine Sovereignty

May 4, 1856




"Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with

mine own?- Matthew 20:15 .

The householder says, "Is it not lawful for me to do

what I will with mine own?" and even so does the God of

heaven and earth ask this question of you this morning.

"Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine

own?" There is no attribute of God more comforting to

his children than the doctrine of Divine Sovereignty.

Under the most adverse circumstances, in the most

severe troubles, they believe that Sovereignty hath

ordained their afflictions, that Sovereignty overrules

them, and that Sovereignty will sanctify them all.

There is nothing for which the children of God ought

more earnestly to contend than the dominion of their

Master over all creation-the kingship of God over all

the works of his own hands-the throne of God, and his

right to sit upon that throne. On the other hand, there

is no doctrine more hated by worldlings, no truth of

which they have made such a foot-ball, as the great,

stupendous, but yet most certain doctrine of the

Sovereignty of the infinite Jehovah. Men will allow God

to be everywhere except on his throne. They will allow

him to be in his workshop to fashion worlds and to make

stars. They will allow him to be in his almonry to

dispense his alms and bestow his bounties. They will

allow him to sustain the earth and bear up the pillars

thereof, or light the lamps of heaven, or rule the

waves of the ever-moving ocean; but when God ascends

his throne, his creatures then gnash their teeth; and

when we proclaim an enthroned God, and his right to do

as he wills with his own, to dispose of his creatures

as he thinks well, without consulting them in the

matter, then it is that we are hissed and execrated,

and then it is that men turn a deaf ear to us, for God

on his throne is not the God they love. They love him

anywhere better than they do when he sits with his

sceptre in his hand and his crown upon his head. But it

is God upon the throne that we love to preach. It is

God upon his throne whom we trust. It is God upon his

throne of whom we have been singing this morning; and

it is God upon his throne of whom we shall speak in

this discourse. I shall dwell only, however, upon one

portion of God's Sovereignty, and that is God's

Sovereignty in the distribution of his gifts. In this

respect I believe he has a right to do as he wills with

his own, and that he exercises that right.

We must assume, before we commence our discourse, one

thing certain, namely, that all blessings are gifts and

that we have no claim to them by our own merit. This I

think every considerate mind will grant. And this being

admitted, we shall endeavour to show that he has a

right, seeing they are his own to do what he wills with

them-to withhold them wholly is he pleaseth-to

distribute them all if he chooseth-to give to some and

not to others-to give to none or to give to all, just

as seemeth good in his sight. "Is it not lawful for me

to do what I will with mine own?"

We shall divide God's gifts into five classes. First,

we shall have gifts temporal; second, gifts saving;

third gifts honourable; fourth, gifts useful; and

fifth, gifts comfortable. Of all these we shall say,

"Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine


I. In the first place then, we notice GIFTS TEMPORAL.

It is an indisputable fact that God hath not, in

temporal matters, given to every man alike; that he

hath not distributed to all his creatures the same

amount of happiness or the same standing in creation.

There is a difference. Mark what a difference there is

in men personally (for we shall consider men chiefly);

one is born like Saul, a head and shoulders taller than

the rest-another shall live all his life a Zaccheus-a

man short of stature. One has a muscular frame and a

share of beauty-another is weak, and far from having

anything styled, comeliness. How many do we find whose

eyes have never rejoiced in the sunlight, whose ears

have never listened to the charms of music, and whose

lips have never been moved to sounds intelligible or

harmonious. Walk through the earth and you will find

men superior to yourself in vigour, health, and

fashion, and others who are your inferiors in the very

same respects. Some here are preferred far above their

fellows in their outward appearance, and some sink low

in the scale and have nothing about them that can make

them glory in the flesh. Why hath God given to one man

beauty and to another none? to one all his senses, and

to another but a portion? why, in some, hath he

quickened the sense of apprehension, while others are

obliged to bear about them a dull and stubborn body? We

reply, let men say what they will, but no answer can be

given except this, "Even so, Father, for so it seemed

good in thy sight." The old Pharisees asked, "Did this

man sin or his parents, that he was born blind?" We

know that there was neither sin in parents nor child,

that he was born blind, or that others have suffered

similar distresses, but that God has done as it has

pleased him in the distribution of his earthly

benefits, and thus hath said to the world, "Is it not

lawful for me to do what I will with mine own?"

Mark also, in the distribution of mental gifts, what a

difference exists. All men are not like Socrates; there

are but few Platos; we can discover but here and there

a Bacon; we shall but every now and then converse with

a Sir Isaac Newton. Some have stupendous intellects

wherewith they can unravel secrets-fathom the depths of

oceans-measure mountains-dissect the sunbeams, and

weigh the stars. Other have but shallow minds. You may

educate and educate, but can never make them great. You

cannot improve what is not there. They have not genius,

and you cannot impart it. Anybody may see that there is

an inherent difference in men from their very birth.

Some, with a little education do surpass those who have

been elaborately trained. There are two boys, educated

it may be in the same school, by the same master, and

they shall apply themselves to their studies with the

same diligence, but yet one shall far outstrip his

fellow. Why is this? Because God hath asserted his

sovereignty over the intellect as well as the body. God

hath not made us all alike, but diversified his gifts.

One man is as eloquent as Whitfield; another stammers

if he but speaks three words of his mother tongue. What

makes these various differences between man and man? We

answer, we must refer it all to the Sovereignty of God,

who does as he wills with his own.

Note, again, what are the differences of men's

conditions in this world. Mighty minds are from time to

time discovered in men whose limbs are wearing the

chains of slavery, and whose backs are laid bare to the

whip-they have black skins, but are in mind vastly

superior to their brutal masters. So, too, in England;

we find wise men often poor, and rich men not seldom

ignorant and vain. One comes into the world to be

arrayed at once in the imperial purple-another shall

never wear aught but the humble garb of a peasant. One

has a palace to dwell in and a bed of down for his

repose, while another finds but a hard resting-place,

and shall never have a more sumptuous covering than the

thatch of his own cottage. If we ask the reason for

this, the reply still is, "Even so, Father, for so it

seemed good in thy sight." So, in other ways you will

observe in passing through life how sovereignty

displays itself. To one man God giveth a long life and

uniform health, so that he scarcely knows what it is to

have day's sickness, while another totters through the

world and finds a grave at almost every step, feeling a

thousand deaths in fearing one. One man, even in

extreme old age, like Moses, has his eye undimmed; and

though his hair is grey, he stands as firmly on his

feet as when a young man in his father's house. Whence,

again, we ask is the difference? And the only adequate

answer is, it is the effect of Jehovah's Sovereignty.

You find, too, that some men are cut off in the prime

of their life-the very midst of their days-while others

live beyond their threescore years and ten. One departs

before he has reached the first stage of existence, and

another has his life lengthened out until it becomes

quite a burden; we must, I conceive, necessarily trace

the cause of all these differences in life to the fact

of God's Sovereignty. He is Rule and King, and shall he

not do as he wills with his own.

We pass from this point-but before we do so we must

stop to improve it just a moment. O thou who art gifted

with a noble frame, a comely body, boast not thyself

therein, for thy gifts come from God. O glory not, for

if thou gloriest thou becomest uncomely in a moment.

The flowers boast not of their beauty; be exalted ye

sons of comeliness; and O ye men of might and

intellect, remember, that all you have is bestowed by a

Sovereign Lord; he did create; he can destroy. There

are not many steps between the mightiest intellect and

the helpless idiot-deep though verges on insanity. Thy

brain may at any moment, be smitten, and thou be doomed

henceforth to live a madman. Boast not thyself of all

that thou knowest, for even the little knowledge thou

hast has been given thee. Therefore, I say, exalt not

thyself above measure, but use for God what God has

given thee, for it is a royal gift, and thou shouldst

not lay it aside. But if the Sovereign Lord has given

thee one talent, and no more, lay it not up in a

napkin, but use it well, and then it may be that he

will give thee more. Bless God that thou hast more than

others, and thank him also that he has given thee less

than others, for thou hast less to carry on thy

shoulders; and the lighter thy burden the less cause

wilt thou have to groan as thou travellest on towards

the better land. Bless God then if thou possessest less

than thy fellows, and see his goodness in withholding

as well as in giving.

II. So far most men probably have gone with us; but

when we come to the second point, GIFTS SAVING, there

will a large number who will go from us because they

cannot receive our doctrine. When we apply this truth

regarding the Divine Sovereignty to man's salvation,

then we find men standing up to defend their poor

fellow creatures whom they conceive to be injured by

God's predestination. But I never heard of men standing

up for the devil; and yet I think if any of God's

creature have a right to complain of his dealings it is

the fallen angels. For their sin they were hurled from

heaven at once, and we read not that any message of

mercy was ever sent to them. Once cast out, their doom

was sealed; while men were respited, redemption sent

into their world, and a large number of them chosen to

eternal life. Why not quarrel with Sovereignty in the

one case as well as the other. We say that God has

elected a people out of the human race, and his right

to do this is denied. But I ask, why not equally

dispute the fact that God has chosen men and not fallen

angels, or his justice in such a choice. If salvation

be a matter of right, surely the angels had as much

claim to mercy as men. Were they not seated in more

than equal dignity? Did they sin more? We think not.

Adam's sin was so wilful and complete, that we cannot

suppose a greater sin than that which he committed.

Would not the angels who were thrust out of heaven have

been of greater service to their Maker if restored,

than we can ever be? Had we been the judges in this

matter we might have given deliverance to angels but

not to men. Admire then, Divine Sovereignty and love,

that whereas the angels were broken into shivers, God

hath raised an elect number of the race of men to set

them among princes, through the merits of Jesus Christ

our Lord.

Note again, the Divine Sovereignty, in what God chose

the Israelitish race and left the Gentiles for years in

darkness. Why was Israel instructed and saved, while

Syria was left to perish in idolatry? Was the once race

purer in its origin and better in its character than

the other? Did not the Israelites take unto themselves

false gods a thousand times, and provoke the true God

to anger and loathing? Why then, should they be

favoured above their fellows? Why did the sun of heaven

shine upon them while all around the nations were left

in darkness, and were sinking into hell by myriads?

Why? The only answer that can be given is this, that

God is a Sovereign, and "will have mercy upon whom he

will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth."

So, now, also, why is it that God hath sent his word to

us while a multitude of people are still without his

word? Why do we each come up to God's tabernacle,

Sabbath after Sabbath, privileged to listen to the

voice of the minister of Jesus, while other nations

have not been visited thereby? Could not God have

caused the light to shine in the darkness there as well

as here? Could not he, if he had pleased, have sent

forth messengers swift as the light to proclaim his

gospel over the whole earth? He could have done it if

he would. Since we know that he has not done it, we bow

in meekness, confessing his right to do as he wills

with his own.

But let me drive the doctrine home once more. Behold

how God displays his Sovereignty in this fact, that out

of the same congregation, those who hear the same

minister, and listen to the same truth, the one is

taken and the other left. Why is it that one of my

hearers shall sit in yonder pew, and her sister by her

side, and yet that the effect of the preaching shall be

different upon each? They have been nursed on the same

knee, rocked in the same cradle, educated under the

same auspices, they hear the same minister, with the

same attention-why is it that the one shall be saved

and the other left? Far be it from us to weave any

excuse for the man who is damned: we know of none: but

also, far be it from us to take glory from God. We

assert that God makes the difference-that the saved

sister will not have to thank herself but her God.

There shall even be two men given to drunkenness. Some

word spoken shall pierce one of them through, but the

other shall sit unmoved, although they shall, in all

respects, be equally the same both in constitution and

education. What is the reason? You will reply, perhaps,

because the one accepts and the other rejects the

message of the gospel. But must you not come back to

the questions, who made the one accept it, and who made

the other reject it? I dare you to say that the man

made himself to differ. You must admit in your

conscience that it is God alone to whom this power

belongs. But those who dislike this doctrine are

nevertheless up in arms against us; and they say, how

can God justly make such a difference between the

members of his family? Suppose a father should have a

certain number of children, and he should give to one

all his favors, and consign the others to misery-should

we not say that he was a very unkind and cruel father?

I answer, yes. But the cases are not the same. You have

not a father to death with, but a judge. You say all

men are God's children; I demand of you to prove that.

I never read it in my Bible. I dare not say, "Our

father which art in heaven," till I am regenerated. I

cannot rejoice in the fatherhood of God towards me till

I know that I am one with him, and a joint heir with

Christ. I dare not claim the fatherhood of God as an

unregenerated man. It is not father and child-for the

child has a claim upon its father-but it is King and

subject; and not even so high a relation as that, for

there is a claim between subject and King. A creature-a

sinful creature, can have no claim upon God; for that

would be to make salvation of works and not of grace.

If men can merit salvation, then to save them is only

the payment of a debt, and he gives them nothing more

than he ought to give them. But we assert that grace

must be distinguishing if it be grace at all. O, but

some say is it not written that "He giveth to every man

a measure of grace to profit withal?" If you like to

repeat that wonderful quotation so often hurled at my

head, you are very welcome, for it is no quotation from

Scripture, unless it be an Arminian edition. The only

passage at all like it refers to the spiritual gifts of

the saints and the saints only. But I say, granted your

supposition, that a measure of grace is given to every

man to profit withal, yet he hath given to some a

measure of particular grace to make that profit. For

what do you mean by grace, which I put out, to profit?

I can understand a man's improvement in the use of

grace, but grace improved and made use of by the power

of man I cannot comprehend. Grace is not a thing which

I use; grace is something which uses me. But people

talk of grace sometimes as if it was something they

could use, and not as influence having power over them.

Grace is something not which I improve, but which

improves, employs me, works on me; and let people talk

as they will about universal grace, it is all nonsense,

there is no such thing, nor can there be. They may talk

correctly of universal blessings, because we see that

the natural gifts of God are scattered everywhere, more

or less, and men may receive or reject them. It is not

so, however, with grace. Men cannot take the grace of

God and employ it in turning themselves from darkness

to light. The light does not come to the darkness and

say, use me; but the light comes and drives the

darkness away. Life does not come to the dead man and

say, use me, and be restored to life; but it comes with

a power of its own and restores to life. The spiritual

influence does not come to the dry bones and say, use

this power and clothe yourselves with flesh; but it

comes and clothes them with flesh, and the work is

done. Grace is a thing which comes and exercises an

influence on us.

"The sovereign will of God alone

Creates us heirs of grace;

Born in the image of his Son,

A new-created race."

And we say to all of you who gnash your teeth at this

doctrine, whether you know it or not, you have a vast

deal of enmity towards God in your hearts; for until

you can be brought to know this doctrine, there is

something which you have not yet discovered, which

makes you opposed to the idea of God absolute, God

unbounded, God unfettered, God unchanging, and God

having a free will, which you are so fond of proving

that the creature possesses. I am persuaded that the

Sovereignty of God must be held by us if we would be in

a healthy state of mind. "Salvation is of the Lord

alone." Then give all the glory to his holy name, to

whom all glory belongs.

III. We now come, in the third place, to notice the

differences which God often makes in his Church in

HONOURABLE GIFTS. There is a difference made between

God's own children-when they are his children. Note

what I mean: One hath the honourable gift of knowledge,

another knows but little. I meet, every now and then,

with a dear Christian brother with whom I could talk

for a month, and learn something from him every day. He

has had deep experience-he has seen into the deep

things of God-his whole life has been a perpetual study

wherever he has been. He seems to have gathered

thoughts, not from books merely, but from men, from

God, from his own heart. He knows all the intricacies

and windings of Christian experience: he understands

the heights, the depths, the lengths, and the breadths

of the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge. He has

gained a grand idea, an intimate knowledge of the

system of grace, and can vindicate the dealings of the

Lord with his people.

Then you must meet with another who has passed through

many troubles, but he has no deep acquaintance with

Christian experience. He never learned a single secret

by all his troubles. He just floundered out of one

trouble into another, but never stopped to pick up any

of the jewels that lay in the mire-never tried to

discover the precious jewels that lay in his

afflictions. He knows very little more of the heights

and depths of the Saviour's love than when he first

came into the world. You may converse with such a man

as long as you like, but you will get nothing from him.

If you ask why is it, I answer, there is a Sovereignty

of God in giving knowledge to some and not to others. I

was walking the other day with an aged Christian, who

told me how he had profited by my ministry. There is

nothing humbles me like that thought of yon old man

deriving experience in the things of God, receiving

instruction in the ways of the Lord from a mere babe in

grace. But I expect that when I am an old man, if I

should live to be such, that some babe in grace will

instruct me. God sometimes shutteth the mouth of the

old man and openeth the mouth of the child. Why should

we be a teacher to hundreds who are, in some respects,

far more able to teach us? The only answer we can find

is in the Divine Sovereignty, and we must bow before

it, for has he not a right to do as he wills with his

own? Instead of being envious of those who have the

gift of knowledge, we should seek to gain the same, if

possible. Instead of sitting down and murmuring that we

have not more knowledge, we should remember that the

foot cannot say to the head, nor the head to the foot,

I have no need of thee, for God hath given us talents

as it hath pleased him.

Note, again, when speaking of honourable gifts. Not

only knowledge, but office is an honourable gift. There

is nothing more honourable to a man than the office of

a deacon or a minister. We magnify our office, though

we would not magnify ourselves. We hold there is

nothing can dignify a man more than being appointed to

an office in a Christian church. I would rather be a

deacon of a church than Lord Mayor of London. To be a

minister of Christ is in my estimation an infinitely

higher honour than the world can bestow. My pulpit is

to me more desirable than a throne, and my congregation

is an empire more than large enough; an empire before

which the empires of the earth dwindle into nothing in

everlasting importance. Why does God give to one man a

special call by the Holy Ghost, to be a minister, and

pass by another? There is another man more gifted,

perhaps, but we dare not put him in a pulpit, because

he has not had a special call. So with the deaconship;

the man whom some would perhaps think most suitable for

the office is passed by, and another chosen. There is a

manifestation of God's Sovereignty in the appointment

to office-in putting David on a throne, in making Moses

the leader of the children of Israel through the

wilderness, in choosing Daniel to stand among princes,

in electing Paul to be the minister to the Gentiles,

and Peter to be the Apostle of the Circumcision. And

you who have not the gift of honourable office, must

learn the great truth contained in the question of the

Master, "Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with

mine own?"

There is another honourable gift, the gift of

utterance. Eloquence hath more power over men than all

else besides. If a man would have power over the

multitude, he must seek to touch their hearts, and

chain their ears. There are some men who are like

vessels full of knowledge to the brim, but having no

means of giving it forth to the world. They are rich in

all gems of learning but know not how to set them in

the golden ring of eloquence. They can collect the

choicest of flowers, but know not how to tie them up in

a sweet garland to present them to the admirer's eye.

How is this? We say again, the Sovereignty of God is

here displayed in the distribution of gifts honourable.

Learn here, O Christian man, if you have gifts, to cast

the honour of them at the Saviour's feet, and if you

possess them not, learn not to murmur; remember that

God is equally as kind when he keepeth back as when he

distributeth his favours. If any among you be exalted,

let him not be puffed up; if any be lowly, let him not

be despised; for God giveth to every vessel his measure

of grace. Serve him after your measure, and adore the

King of Heaven who doth as he pleaseth.

IV. We notice in the fourth place, the gift of

USEFULNESS. I have often done wrong in finding fault

with brother ministers for not being useful, I have

said you might have been as useful as I have been had

you been in earnest. But surely there are others even

more earnest, and more efficient: others labouring as

constantly, but with far less effect. And, therefore,

let me retract my accusation, and in lieu thereof

assert that the gift of usefulness is the result of

God's Sovereignty. It is not in man to be useful, but

in God to make him useful. We may labour ourselves with

all our might, but God alone can make us useful. We can

put every stitch of canvass on when the wind blows, but

we cannot make the wind blow.

The Sovereignty of God is seen also in the diversity of

ministerial gifts. You go to one minister and are fed

with plenty of good food: another has not enough to

feed a mouse; he has plenty of reproof, but no food for

the child of God. Another can comfort the child of God,

but he cannot reprove a backslider. He has not strength

of mind enough to give those earnest home strokes which

are sometimes needed. And what is the reason! God's

Sovereignty. One can wield the sledge hammer but could

not heal a broken heart. If he were to attempt it, you

would be reminded of an elephant trying to thread a

needle. Such a man can reprove, but he cannot apply oil

and wine to a bruised conscience. Why? Because God hath

not given to him the gift. There is another one who

always preaches experimental divinity; and very rarely

touches upon doctrine. Another is all doctrine, and

cannot preach much about Jesus Christ and him

crucified. Why? God hath not given him the gift of

doctrine. Another always preaches Jesus-blessed Jesus;

men of the Hawker school-and many say, oh! they do not

give us experience enough; they do not go into the deep

experiences of the corruption which vexes the children

of God. But we do not blame them for this. You will

notice that out of the same man will at one time flow

streams of living water, while at another time he will

be as dry as possible. On one Sabbath you go away

refreshed by the preaching, and the next you get no

good. There is Divine Sovereignty in all this, and we

must learn to recognize and admire it. I was preaching

on one occasion last week to a large crowd of people,

and in one part of the sermon the people were very much

affected; I felt that the power of God was there; one

poor creature absolutely shrieked out because of the

wrath of God against sin; but at another time the same

words might have been uttered and there might have been

the same desire in the minister's heart, and yet no

effect produced. We must trace, I say, Divine

Sovereignty in all such cases. We ought to recognize

God's hand in everything. But the present is the most

godless generation that ever trod this earth, I verily

believe. In our fathers' days there was hardly a shower

but they declared that God caused it to fall; and they

had prayers for rain, prayers for sunshine, and prayers

for harvest; as well when a haystack was on fire, as

when a famine desolated the land; our forefathers said,

the Lord hath done it. But now our philosophers try to

explain everything, and trace all phenomena to second

causes. But brethren, let it be ours to ascribe the

origin and direction of all things to the Lord, and the

Lord alone.

V. Lastly, GIFTS COMFORTABLE are of God. O, what

comfortable gifts do some of us enjoy in the ordinances

of God's house, and in a ministry that is profitable.

But how many churches have not a ministry of that kind;

and why then have we? Because God hath made a

difference. Some here have strong faith, and can laugh

at impossibilities; we can sing a song in all ill

weathers-in the tempest as well as in the calm. But

there is another with little faith who is in danger of

tumbling down over every straw. We trace eminent faith

entirely to God. One is born with a melancholy

temperament, and he sees a tempest brewing even in the

calm; while another is cheerful, and sees a silver

lining to every cloud, however black, and he is a happy

man. But why is that? Comfortable gifts come of God.

And then observe that we ourselves, differ at times.

For a season we may have blessed intercourse with

heaven, and be permitted to look within the veil? but

anon, these delightful enjoyments are gone. But do we

murmur on that account? May he not do as he will with

his own? May he not take back what he has given? The

comforts we possess were his before they were ours.

"And shouldst thou take them all away,

Yet would I not repine,

Before they were possessed by me

They were entirely thine."

There is no joy of the Spirit-there is no exceeding

blessed hope-no strong faith-no burning desire-no close

fellowship with Christ, which is not the gift of God,

and which we must not trace to him. When I am in

darkness and suffer disappointment, I will look up and

say, he giveth songs in the night; and when I am made

to rejoice, I will say, my mountain shall stand fast

for ever. The Lord is a Sovereign Jehovah; and,

therefore, prostrate at his feet I lie, and if I

perish, I will perish there.

But let me say, brethren, that so far from this

doctrine of Divine Sovereignty making you to sit down

in sloth, I hope in God it will have a tendency to

humble you, and so to lead you to say, "I am unworthy

of the least of all thy mercies. I feel that thou hast

a right to do with me as thou wilt. If thou dost crush,

a helpless worm, thou wilt not be dishonoured; and I

have no right to ask thee to have compassion upon me,

save this, that I want thy mercy. Lord, if thou wilt,

thou art able to pardon, and thou never gavest grace to

one that wanted it more. Because I am empty, fill me

with the bread of heaven; because I am naked, clothe me

with thy robe; because I am dead, give me life." If you

press that plea with all your soul and all your mind,

though Jehovah is a Sovereign, he will stretch out his

sceptre and save, and thou shalt live to worship him in

the beauty of holiness, loving and adoring his gracious

Sovereignty. "He that believeth" is the declaration of

Scripture "and is baptized, shall be saved; but he that

believeth not shall be damned." He that believeth in

Christ alone, and is baptized with water in the name of

the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, shall be

saved, but he who rejecteth Christ and believeth not in

him, shall be damned. That is the Sovereign decree and

proclamation of heaven-bow to it, acknowledge it, obey

it, and God bless you.

Verses 17-19

The Private Thoughts and Words of Jesus

March 26th, 1891 by C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892)

"And Jesus going up to Jerusalem took the twelve disciples apart in the way, and said unto them, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man shall be betrayed unto the chief priests and unto the scribes, and they shall condemn him to death, and shall deliver him to the Gentiles to mock, and to scourge, and to crucify him: and the third day he shall rise again." Matthew 20:17-19 .

You have this same story in Matthew and Mark and Luke, a little differently told; as would naturally be the case when the information came from three different observers. It will be to our edification to put the three accounts together, so as to get a complete view of the incident; for each evangelist mentions something omitted by the others. Our Lord firmly resolved to go to Jerusalem, about a fortnight before the Passover, with the view of becoming himself the Lamb of God's Passover. He had frequently quitted Jerusalem when his life had been in danger there, because his time was not yet come, and he thus set us the example of not willfully running into danger, or braving it with foolhardiness; but now that he felt that the hour of his sacrifice was near at hand, he did not hesitate, or seek to avoid it; but he resolutely set out to meet his sufferings and his death. When he was in the highway that led to Jerusalem, he marched in front of the little band of his disciples with so vigorous and bold a step, and with such a calm, determined air of heroism upon him, that his followers were filled with astonishment (Mark 10:52 ). Here are the very words: "And they were in the way going up to Jerusalem; and Jesus went before them; and they were amazed, and as they followed they were afraid." Knowing that, according to his own account, he was going to suffering and death; and being well assured, from their own observation, that he was about to encounter the most furious opposition, they were amazed at the dauntless courage of his mien, and wondered what made him so resolved. We read also that "they were afraid", afraid for themselves, in a measure, but most of all afraid for him. Would not his daring lead to conflict with the powers then in authority, and might not terrible things happen both to him and to them? It was not altogether timidity, but awe which came over them: his manner was so majestic and sublime. That lowly man had a something about him which commanded the trembling reverence of his disciples. After all, meekness is imperial, and commands far more reverence than anger or pride. His followers felt that great events were about to transpire, and they were deeply sobered and filled with awe-struck apprehension. In the presence of their Lord, who seemed to be leading a forlorn hope to a fierce battle, they were afraid. They were amazed at his courage, and afraid for the consequences. They were also amazed at him, and afraid because of their own unfitness to stand in his presence. Do we not know what this feeling is? Then it was that he took the twelve aside, and began to tell them what things should happen unto him. The conversation was private. We will go aside with the chosen apostles for a little while at this time, and hear what their Lord would say to us, even as he aforetime said it to them. May the good Spirit bless our meditation! I shall have three things to speak of; and the first will be our Lord's private communings. This will give us an insight, secondly, into our Lord's private thoughts; and when we have looked into these a little, as far as our dim eyes are able, we will then notice, in the third place, our Lord's dwelling on the details of his passion; for into those details he went with singular impressiveness. Let us not forget our need of the Holy Spirit's illumination while we come near to a place so holy as this of "The Revelation of the Passion." I. First, then, OUR LORD'S PRIVATE COMMUNINGS. He did not say all things to all men. He spoke certain matters to his disciples only. To the outside world it was given to hear the parable; but to the disciples alone was it given to know the explanation. Not even to all the disciples did our Lord make known the whole of his teachings. He had an elect out of the elect. First came twelve out of the many and then came three out of the twelve. These three were admitted to special manifestations, which the other nine did not share. As if to carry the principle of election to the utmost extent, one was chosen out of the three, who enjoyed a peculiar personal love, and leaned his head upon his Lord's bosom, as the other two never did. We are happy to be admitted, by the key of inspiration, into the inner chamber of our Lord's private conferences. On this occasion, our Lord's communings were with the leaders of his band. Those who have to lead others need more instruction than the rest. It needs more grace to lead than to follow. No man can give out what he has not received. If you are to be a fountain of living waters to others, you must be filled yourself from the fullness of God. Dear brethren and sisters, you whom the Lord has chosen to be vessels of mercy to others, take care that you wait much upon him yourselves, and are much with him in secret retirement. Live near to God, that you may bring others near. I remember sitting, one rainy day, in an inn, at Cologne, looking out of a window upon a square. There was not much to see, but what was to see I did see, as I occasionally looked up from my writing. I saw a man coming to a pump that stood in the middle of the square, and from that pump he filled a vessel A little while after, I saw the same man again filling his buckets. All that morning I saw no one else, but only that one water-loving individual man, filling his buckets again and again. I thought to myself, "What can he be? Why is he always drawing water?" Then I perceived that he was a water-carrier, a bearer of water to families in the adjoining streets. Well might he often come to the fountain himself, since he was supplying others. You that are water-carriers for thirsty souls must needs come often to the living water yourselves, and be thankful that your Master is always willing to meet you, and give you rich supplies. He graciously waits to take you apart in the way, and speak to you things which you need to hear and tell. Take care that you hear well that which you are commissioned to publish to all the world. Take good note of this, ye who instruct others: neglect not the yielding of your ear to your Lord quite as completely as your tongue. Hear him that you may speak of him. Be ye sure that ye are much with your Lord alone, that you may have him much with you in public. When our Lord, on this occasion, spoke to the twelve, the time was significant: it was on the way to a great trial. To him his coming suffering was the sum of all trial. He was about to be wounded for our transgressions, and bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was about to fall upon him, that with his stripes we might be healed. But it was to be a time of great trial to the disciples also. Inasmuch as they loved their Lord, they would sympathize with his sufferings and death. Inasmuch as they trusted in him, it would be a sharp trial to their faith to see him dying on the cross, vanquished by his remorseless enemies. Inasmuch as they loved his company, they would weep and lament, and feel like orphaned children when he was taken from them. Therefore they must be favored with a special private interview, to prepare them for the coming ordeal. Have you never noticed how our Lord, before the coming to us of a great tribulation, strengthens our hearts by some heavenly visitation? Either before or after affliction, it has happened to me to enjoy very special manifestations of the Well-Beloved. At such junctures he brings us into his banqueting house, and his banner over us is love, that we may go down to the battle like men refreshed by a feast. He gives us a joyful bracing up, that we may be ready for to-morrow's stern service. I feel that it is so; and I pray that each of you may know, by personal experience, how wise is your Redeemer's foresight; and how, by the communion apart, he prepares us for that which we are to meet at the end of the way. A drink from the brook of fellowship by the way will make you ready for the heat of the conflict. A word from his myrrh-dropping lips will perfume the air, even of the valley of death-shade. Speak to us, Lord, and we will not heed the howlings of the dog of hell. When our Master thus took the twelve apart, we may say of his conversation, that it was upon choice themes. Our Lord's converse is always holy and suitable for the occasion. He spoke to them of the Scriptures. Luke says, "He took unto him the twelve, and said unto them, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of man shall be accomplished." Blessed theme the Word of the Lord by his prophets and the fulfillment thereof. Have you never noticed how our divine Lord delights to speak upon the Scriptures? How often does he enforce his teaching by "as the scripture hath said"! If he has only two of them, and they are walking on the road, we read, "Beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself." Communion with Christ Jesus must be based on the Word of the Lord. If you speak half a word derogatory of holy Scripture, your fellowship will evaporate. Men talk about building upon Christ, and not upon the Scriptures; but they know not what they say; for our Lord continually established his own claims by appealing to Moses and the prophets. They would be Christo-centric, they say: I only wish they would. But if they take Christ for a center, they will inevitably have the Scriptures for a center too; and these men neither want the one nor the other. They care nothing for the center; they only want to do away with the circumference, that they may roam at their own proud wills. Our Lord made the written Word to be the reason for many of his acts: he did this, and he did not do that, because of what the Scriptures had said. He comes not to take away the law and the prophets, yea, not a jot or a tittle does he destroy, so careful is he of the Scriptures of truth. We learn from him to believe not only in inspired words, but in inspired jots and tittles. They that have been much with Christ always show a profound reverence for the Word of God. I have never yet met with a person worthy to be called a saint who did not love and revere the inspired Book. I have heard in the last days the newly-coined word "bibliolatry", which is meant to set forth the imaginary crime of worshipping the Bible. I know not who may be guilty of the offense: I have never met with such idolaters. When I do, I will try to show them their error; at present I am too much occupied with the enemies of the Bible to think much of its too ardent friends, if such there be. While the word may be used in an accusation against us, it most surely is a confession on the part of those who use it that they see nothing special about the Scriptures, and are angry with those who do. Let them speak as they will, O Lord, "my heart standeth in awe of thy Word." I would be numbered with the men who tremble at thy Word. The words of the Holy Ghost are more than words to me. I tremble lest I should sin against him by sinning against them. I would not take away a word from the Book of this prophecy, nor add thereunto; but let it stand as it is; for here it is that Jesus meets us and communes with us. He opens the Scriptures to our understanding, and then he opens our understanding to receive the Scriptures. He makes us hear his voice in these chapters; yea, we see himself in them.

"Here I behold my Savior's face Almost in every page."

We cannot look up to heaven and see Jesus amid the celestial splendors; but he lovingly looks down from the throne of his glory into the looking-glass of the Word, and when we look into it we see the sweet reflection of his face. As in a mirror, his countenance is displayed by Scripture. O believers, love the Word of God! Prize every letter of it, and be prepared to answer the cold, carping words of critics, who know nothing of the benediction which comes to us through every line of inspiration. These are they who would cruelly divide the living child, for it does not belong to them; but we will have no sword come near it, for it is our love: it is life and bliss to us. Our Lord, in his most private intercourse with our souls, speaks in, and by, and through the Scriptures in the power of the Holy Ghost. But the chief theme that our Lord dwelt upon was his own suffering even unto death. Beloved, our Lord Jesus has said many delightful things; and let him say what he will, his voice is as angels' music to our ear; but from the cross his voice is richest in consolation. We never come so near to Jesus at least, such is my experience as when we gaze upon his bloody sweat, or see him robed in shame, crowned with thorns, and enthroned upon the cross. Our Lord's incomparable beauties are most visible amid his griefs. When I see him on the cross I feel that I must borrow Pilate's words, and cry, "Behold the man!" Covered with his own blood from the scourging, and about to be led away to be crucified between two thieves, you look into his inmost heart, and behold what manner of love he bore towards guilty men. We know not Christ till he putteth on his crimson garments. I know not my beloved when he is only to me as the snow-white lily for purity; but when, in his wounding, he is red as the rose, then I perceive him. "My beloved is white and ruddy, the chiefest among ten thousand." A suffering Savior bears the palm for me: a wounded Savior is my Lord and my God. The lower he went for my redemption, the higher does he rise in my soul's loving esteem. He saw this when he said, "I, if I be lifted up"; for indeed it was a lifting up for him to die upon the cruel gibbet. To the wondering universe the Son of God is lifted to a height of wondering admiration, by his becoming obedient unto death, out of love to his chosen. He is lifted up in every grateful heart, and shall be lifted up for ever. Our fellowship with Jesus largely flows along the great deep of his suffering; and to me, at least, it is then deepest, truest, and sweetest. Our Lord talked to the twelve of his sufferings in great detail, of which we will speak further on; but he did not shrink from dwelling upon his death, nor did he stop there, but foretold his rising again. In each of the three accounts he appears to end the story of his passion by saying that on the third day he would rise again from the dead. That was a glorious climax "The third day he shall rise again." Oh, that blessed doctrine of the resurrection! If our Lord's record ended at the cross, it might drive us to despair; but he is declared to be the Son of God with power by his resurrection from the dead. That he was raised from the dead makes us see the merit, the power, the great reward of his death. He that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the everlasting covenant, even he will make us perfect in every good work to do his will. Whenever the Master comes very near to us in his gracious condescension, he shows us not only that he shed his blood for us, but that he rose again, and ever liveth to carry on our cause. When you worship most closely, you will worship him that lived, and died, and rose again, and now liveth for ever and ever. This is our Lord Jesus Christ. He is not a teacher only, or a bright example merely; but one whose death is the source of our salvation, and whose resurrection and eternal glory are the guarantee and foretaste of our everlasting bliss. A living, dying, risen Christ is one with whom we have joyful fellowship; and if we know him not in this character, we do not know him at all. Furthermore, he conversed with them upon their share in all this. They were one with him in that which would befall him. He says, "Behold we go up to Jerusalem." True, they would have no share in the scourging, and the spitting, and the crucifixion. He must tread that winepress alone. But yet they would with him carry the cross in the near future, and with him deny themselves during the rest of their lives. Henceforward, it would not be only Jesus the Lord who would bear witness for God and righteousness, but the followers of the Crucified One would unite in testimony to the same truth, for the same great purpose. It was well for him to speak to them on such a practical theme: they would be cheered and comforted on after days when they remembered that he had told them of these things. He will draw us into very intimate communion if we are willing to take up his cross and bear his reproach. We lose much when we quit the separated path because it is rough, for we lose our Lord's sweet company. Oh, for grace to love the rough paths, because we see his footprints upon them! They listened to this private talk, but we are told by Luke that it was very much lost upon them, because they did not understand him. "And they understood none of these things: and this saying was hid from them, neither knew they the things which were spoken." Yet, say you, "it was very simple." Possibly that is why they did not understand it. Numbers of people imaging that they understand mysteries, and yet the simplicities of the faith are hid from their eyes because they are gazing after abstruse doctrines. They search after difficult things and miss the plain truth. We groan as we wantonly dive into a profound abyss; and yet we stand confounded over a little transparent stream, which, to wade through, would bring us bliss. When our Lord told the twelve that he would die, they imagined that it was a parable, concealing some deep mystery. They looked at one another, and they tried to fathom where there was no depth, but where the truth lay on the surface. The deep things of God thousands will pry into; but yet these are not saving matters, nor are they of any great practical value. Fixed fate, free-will, predestination, prophecy, and the like, these have small bearings upon our salvation from sin; but in the death of our Lord lies the kernel of the matter. Beloved, when we try to commune with Jesus, let us wear the garments of simplicity. It is the serpent who trades in subtlety, but I would have you remember "the simplicity which is in Christ Jesus." There is in him a depth which we cannot fathom; but his every word is pure truth, and those things which are necessary are made so plain that he who runs may read, and he who reads may run. Believe him to mean what he says, and take his promises as they stand, and his precepts in their plain meaning; and, oh, if we do this, we shall be made greatly wise! Do not confuse your minds with doctrinal riddles nor amuse your souls with spiritual conundrums; but believe in him who is Jesus, the faithful and true, who makes known to us the heart of the Father. Believe that he died in our stead. Believe that he took our sin upon him, and carried it all away. Believe that we are justified through his resurrection, and are made to live because he lives. Hypotheses and critical doubts we may leave to the dogs that first sniffed them out; but as for us, we will be as children who eat the bread their Father gives them, and ask no questions as to the field in which the wheat was reaped, and raise no debates as to the mill at which the corn was ground. Thus, you see, the private conversations of our Lord with the twelve dealt with his sufferings and death, and his communications come home to our hearts in proportion as we are prepared to receive them in childlike simplicity. II. Secondly, we will now turn our minds to THE PRIVATE THOUGHTS OF OUR LORD JESUS. We shall not be presumptuous if we humbly enquire What were the thoughts of our Lord at the time? When he had called them quite apart, and spoken to them, we may be quite sure that what he said to them was the outcome of his innermost meditations. Our Lord was forecasting his death in all its mournful details. Do you not know that frequently it is more painful to anticipate death than it is actually to die? Yet our Lord dwelt upon his sufferings, even to their minutiae. A person was speaking to me the other day of a painful operation which he was bound to undergo. There was no probability that he could get into the hospital for another month or two, and he remarked that he greatly wished that the operation could have been performed sooner; "for", said he, "it is so painful to be looking forward to a matter so distressing. Let it be soon", was his cry. Our Lord was like a grain of wheat which is cast into the ground, and lies there awhile before it dies. He was buried, as it were, in prospective agony; immersed in suffering, which he foresaw. In the thought of the cross he endured it before he felt the nails. The shadow of his death was upon him before he reached the tree of doom. Yet he did not put away the thought, but dwelt upon it as one who tastes a cup before he drinks it to the dregs. After so deliberate a testing, is it not all the more marvellous that he did not refuse the draught? Did he not remember his engagement to go through with our redemption? "Lo, I come", said he: "in the volume of the Book it is written of me." He had pledged himself by solemn covenant, and in the Book it was written that he would stand in our stead, and give his life an offering for sin. From this suretiship he never departed. He knew that the Father would bruise him and put him to grief in the approaching day of his anger. He knew that the wicked would pierce his hands and his feet. He knew all that would occur, and he started not back from the pledge which he had given in the council chamber of eternity that his life should be rendered up as a ransom for many. It were well if we also remembered our vows to God, and the obligations under which we are placed by his great love. Our Lord's thoughts took the form of a resolution to do the Father's will to the end. He set his face steadfastly to go to Jerusalem. Nothing could make him look aside. He had undertaken, and he would go through with it. Unless it should prove possible for us to be saved otherwise, he would not set aside that cup which his Father had given him to drink. The thought of our perishing he could not bear: that was not to be tolerated. He would suffer all imaginable and unimaginable woe sooner than desert the cause he had espoused. He was straitened so he described it straitened till his labor was accomplished. He was like a man pent up against his will: he longed to be discharging his tremendous task. He had an awful work to do, an agonizing suffering to bear, and he felt fettered until he could be at it: "How am I straitened till it be accomplished!" He was as a hostage bound for others, longing to be set free. He longed to be bearing the penalty to which he had voluntarily subjected himself by his covenant suretiship. He therefore thought upon that "obedience unto death" which he was determined and resolved to render. He had an eye all the while to you and to me. While he was thinking of death he was chiefly regarding those for whom he would suffer. I doubt not that there flashed before that mighty mind the individuals who make up the vast host of his redeemed; and among them there were insignificant individuals, such as we are. Out of his strong love to us, even to us, he determined to pay our ransom price in death: it was part of his solace that he would deliver you and me. "He loved me, and gave himself for me." He made a voluntary offering of himself for me, before he actually died; often and often surrendering himself in purpose, before the cross was reared for the actual offering up of his body once for all. Then there came into his mind, also, the thought of the grand sequel of it all. He should rise again. On the third day, it would all be over, and the recompense would begin. A few hours of bitter grief; a night of bloody sweat, a night and a morning of mockery, when he should be flouted by the abjects, and made nothing of by the profane; a direful afternoon of deadly anguish on the cross, and of dark desertion by Jehovah; and then the bowing of the head, and a little rest in the grave for his body; and on the third day the light would break upon mankind, for the Sun of righteousness would arise with healing in his wings. The light that would come when he should rise would lighten the Gentiles, and be the glory of his people Israel. He would then have said, "It is finished", and he would shortly afterward ascend to reap his reward in personal glorification, and in receiving gifts for men yea, for the rebellious also, that the Lord God might dwell among them. Surely our Lord's thoughts were all the while upon his Father! He remembered ever the beloved Father to whom he was to be "obedient unto death, even the death of the cross." That twenty-second psalm, which might well be our Lord's on the Cross, is full of God: it is an appeal to God. As our Lord went on his way with the twelve, conversing upon the road, they must have seen that he was in close communion with God. There was about him a deep solemnity of spirit a rapt communion with the Unseen, a heavenly walking with God, even beyond his usual wont. This, mixed with his deeply-fixed resolve, and that stern joy which only they can feel who are resolved to accomplish a great purpose through bowing to the divine will, let it cost what it may. The God and Father of our Lord Jesus was everything to him, and in all his acts his heart was set upon Jehovah's glory. I wish that I had time for my subject, but it is overwhelming me. I can only open the door, and bid you look into the private thoughts of him whose thoughts are priceless gems, whereas yours and mine are as the pebbles of the brook. What meditations were his! How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O Christ! How great is the sum of them! Wonderful things didst thou ponder in thy soul on those days of thy nearing passion! III. Now we will have a few moments as to OUR LORD'S DWELLING ON DETAILS. I do not want to preach. I wish to be a kind of fugleman for your thoughts, just setting the example by thinking first that you may follow. May the sacred Spirit now lead you quietly into the points upon which our Lord so calmly enlarged! Note well what our Lord said about his sufferings. "Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man shall be betrayed." Stop there: "Betrayed"! It is as though I heard the deep boom of a death-knell. "Betrayed"! "Betrayed"! To die, ay, that is not a word with a sting in it to him! But "Betrayed"! that means sold by cruel treachery. It means that one who ate bread with him lifted up his heel against him. It means that a man who was his familiar acquaintance, with whom he walked to the house of God in company, sold him for a paltry bribe. "Betrayed, for thirty pieces of silver! A goodly price, indeed, for the blood of such a friend! "Betrayed"! Hear how he cries: "If it was an enemy, then I could have borne it." "Betrayed"! It was no stranger; it was no bloodhound of the Pharisees who scented him out in the garden; but "Judas also, which betrayed him, knew the place." Betrayed with a kiss, and with a friendly word! Handed over to them who sought his blood by one who ought to have defended him to the death. "Betrayed"! It is a dreadful word to be set here before the passion, and it throws a lurid light over it all. We read "The same night in which he was betrayed he took bread." This was the bitterest drop in his cup, that he was betrayed. And still is he betrayed! If the gospel dies in England, write on its tomb, "Betrayed." If our churches lose their holy influence among men, write on them, "Betrayed." What care we for infidels? What care we for those who curse and blaspheme? They cannot hurt the Christ. His wounds are those which he receives in the house of his friends. "Betrayed"! O Savior, some of us have been betrayed; but ours was a small sorrow compared with thine; for thou wast betrayed into the hands of sinners by one who claimed to be thy friend, by one who was bound by every tie to have been thy faithful follower. "Betrayed"! Beloved, I cannot bear the word. It falls like a flake of fire into my bosom, and burns its way into my inmost soul. "Betrayed"! And such a faithful friend as he! So full of love; and yet betrayed! Read on. "The Son of man shall be betrayed unto the chief priests, and unto the scribes." The chief priests ought to have been his best defenders always. They were the leaders of the religion of the day: these chief priests were the guides of Israel. When Israel bowed before the Lord, the chief priests presented the sacrifice. Yet these were our Lord's most bitter enemies: by their malice he was condemned, and crucified. It is hard to have the professed servants of God against you. The scribes, too, those Bible writers and Bible interpreters; these also were fierce against him. From the hands of scribes he would have less mercy than from soldiers. I said, the other Sabbath-day, what I now repeat: I would rather be bitten by wolves than by sheep. It is wretched work to have those against you who are reckoned to be the best men of the time. It was little to him to have Herod against him, or Pilate, and the Romans as his foes, for they knew no better; but it was heartrending work to see the men of the Sanhedrim, the men of prayers and phylacteries, the men of the temple and of the synagogue, arrayed against him. Yet into their hands he falls! Good Master, thou art delivered into the hands of men who know no mercy, for they hate thee for thy faithful words! They can compromise, and thou canst not; they can trifle with language, and thou canst not; they can play the hypocrite, and that thou canst not do! Read on: "and they shall condemn him to death." They did not leave the sentence of condemnation to the Romans, but themselves passed sentence upon their victim. The priests, whose office made them types of himself, and the scribes, who were the official interpreters of his Father's Book, these condemned the holy One and the just. They count him worthy of death: nothing less will serve their turn. This the Christ could plainly see; and it was no small trial to come under the censure of his country's governors. They could not put him to death themselves. If they dared they would have stoned him, and that would have broken the prophecy, which declared that in death his enemies must pierce his hands and his feet. They can condemn him to death, but they cannot execute the sentence. Yet none the less this iron entered into his soul, that those who were professedly the servants of God condemned him to die. If you have ever tasted of this cup you know that it has wormwood in it. Notice, further: "and shall deliver him to the Gentiles." In our Master's death all men conspired: not half the world, but all of it, must have a hand in the tragedy of Calvary. The Gentile must come in. He takes his share in this iniquity, for Pilate condemns him to the cross. The chief priests hand him over to Pilate, and he commits him to the Roman soldiery, that they may do the cruel deed. They "delivered him to the Gentiles." The Master dwells on this. It opens another gate through which his sorrows poured. At the hands of the Gentiles he dies, and for Gentiles he suffered. Beloved, I like to see how the Master notes this point. He makes distinctions; he does not say that he should be condemned by Pilate; but he is condemned to die by the chief priests, and then he is delivered to the Gentiles. He sees it all, and dwells upon the points of special interest. O believer, behold thy Lord bound and taken away to the hall of Pilate. See him delivered to the Gentiles, while his fellow-countrymen cry, "We have no king but Caesar"! They shout, "Crucify him! Crucify him!" and the Gentiles carry out their cruel demand. Unanimity among our persecutors must add greatly to the sting of their unkindness. These three words follow "To mock, and to scourge, and to crucify him." Mark puts in, "To spit upon him." That was a sad part of the mockery. What dreadful scorning he endured! from the Jews when they blindfolded him, and buffeted him; and from the Gentiles when they put on him a purple robe, and thrust a reed into his hand, and bowed the knee, and cried before him, "Hail, King of the Jews!" They plucked his hair, they smote his cheeks, they spat in his face. Mockery could go no farther. It was cruel, cutting, cursed scorn. Ridicule sometimes breaks hearts that are hardened against pain; and the Christ had to bear all the ridicule that human minds could invent. They were maliciously witty. They jested at his person; they jested at his prayers. They mocked him when he cried, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" Herein is grief immeasurable, and the Savior foresaw it, and spoke about it. That was not all: they scourged him. I will not harrow your hearts by trying to describe scourging as it existed among the Romans. The scourge was an infamous instrument of torture. It is said to have been made of the sinews of oxen, intertwisted with the hucklebones of sheep, and slivers of bone; so that every time the lashes fell, they ploughed the back, and laid bare the white bones of the shoulders. It was an anguish more cruel than the grave; but our Lord endured it to the full. They mocked him and they scourged him; he dwells upon each separate item. Some of our most touching hymns upon our Lord's passion are spoken of by the cold-blooded critics of to-day as sensuous. "I cannot bear", says one, "to hear so much about the physical agonies of Christ." Beloved, we must preach the physical agonies of Christ more than ever, because this is an age of affectation, in which his mental and spiritual griefs are no more apprehended than those of his body. The device is to be rid of his sufferings altogether. This age is as fond of physical pleasure as any that has gone before it, and it must be made to know that physical pain was a great ingredient in the cup which our Lord drank for man's redemption. Very many are so unspiritual, that they will never be reached by high-soaring language, appealing to a delicacy which they do not possess. We must exhibit the bleeding Savior, if we would make men's hearts bleed for sin. The cries of his great grief must ring in their ears, or they will remain deaf. Let us not be ashamed to dwell upon points upon which the Lord himself dwelt. Then he adds, "to crucify him." Here I will come to a pause. Behold him! Behold him! His hands are extended and cruelly nailed to the wood. His feet are fastened to the tree, and he himself is left to bear the weight of his body upon his hand and feet. See how the nails tear through the flesh as the weight drags the body down and enlarges the wounds! See, he is in a fever! His mouth is dried up and has become like an oven, and his tongue cleaves to the roof thereof! Crucifixion was an inhuman death, and the Savior was "obedient unto death, even the death of the cross." The wonder is, that he could foresee this, and speak of it so calmly. He meditates upon it, and speaks to choice familiar friends about it. Oh, the mastery of love, strong as death! He contemplates the cross, and despises its shame. Thus he dwells on it all, and then closes by saying, "and the third day he shall rise again." We must never forgot that, for he never forgets it. Ah! you may think as much as ever you will of Calvary, and let your tears flow like rivers. You may sit at Gethsemane, and say, "Oh, that my head were waters, and mine eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for my Lord!" But, after all, you must wipe those tears away, for he is not in the grave; he rose again on the third day. O blessed morning! not to be celebrated by an Easter once in the year; but to be commemorated on every first day of the week, more than fifty times in each year. Every seven days that the sun shines upon us brings us a new record of his resurrection. We may sing every Lord's-day morning

"To-day he rose and left the dead, And Satan's empire fell: To-day the saints his triumph spread, And all his wonders tell."

The first day of the week stands for ever the remembrance of our risen Lord, and on that day he renews his special communings with his people. We believe in him; we rise in him; we triumph in him; and "he ever liveth to make intercession for us." Thus, you see, I have not preached my own thoughts, but I have set you thinking. Treasure these thoughts in your minds. All this week sweeten your souls with the sacred spices of our Lord's thoughts and words when near his death. God bless this meditation to you by his Holy Spirit! If you have never believed in him, may you believe in him at once! Why delay? He is able to save unto the uttermost, believe in him just now. And if you have believed, keep on believing, and let your believing grow more intense. Think more of Jesus, and love him more, and serve him more, and grow more like him. Peace be unto you for his dear sake! Amen.

Verse 28

Particular Redemption

February 28, 1858



"Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but

to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many." (Matthew 20:28 ).

When first it was my duty to occupy this pulpit, and preach in

this hall, my congregation assumed the appearance of an

irregular mass of persons collected from all the streets of this

city to listen to the Word. 'Twas then simply an evangelist,

preaching to many who had not heard the Gospel before. By the

grace of God, the most blessed change has taken place; and

now, instead of having an irregular multitude gathered together,

my congregation is as fixed as that of any minister in the whole

city of London. I can from this pulpit observe the countenance of

my friends, who have occupied the same places, as nearly as

possible, for these many months; and I have the privilege and the

pleasure of knowing that a very large proportion, certainly three-

fourths of the persons who meet together here, are not persons

who stray hither from curiosity, but are my regular and constant


And observe, that my character also has been changed. From

being an evangelist, it is now my business to become your

pastor. You were once a motley group assembled to listen to me,

but now we are bound together by the ties of love; through

association we have grown to love and respect each other, and

now you have become the sheep of my pasture, and members of

my flock; and I have now the privilege of assuming the position

of a pastor in this place, as well as in the chapel where I labour

in the evening.

I think, then, it will strike the judgment of every person, that as

both the congregation and office have now changed, the teaching

itself should in some measure suffer a difference. It has been my

wont to address you from the simple truths of the Gospel; I have

very seldom, in this place, attempted to dive into the deep things

of God. A text which I have thought suitable for my

congregation in the evening, I should not have made the subject

of discussion in this place in the morning. There are many high

and mysterious doctrines which I have often taken the

opportunity of handling in my own place, that I have not taken

the liberty of introducing here, regarding you as a company of

people casually gathered together to hear the Word.

But now, since the circumstances are changed, the teaching will

be changed also. I shall not now simply confine myself to the

doctrine of faith, or the teaching of believer's baptism; I shall not

stay upon the surface of matters, but shall venture, as God shall

guide me, to enter into those things that lie at the basis of the

religion that we hold so dear. I shall not blush to preach before

you the doctrine of God's Divine Sovereignty; I shall not stagger

to preach in the most unreserved and unguarded manner the

doctrine of election. I shall not be afraid to propound the great

truth of the final perseverance of the saints; I shall not withhold

that undoubted truth of Scripture, the effectual calling of God's

elect; I shall endeavour, as God shall help me, to keep back

nothing from you who have become my flock. Seeing that many

of you have now "tasted that the Lord is gracious," we will

endeavour to go through the whole system of the doctrines of

grace, that saints may be edified and built up in their most holy


I begin this morning with the doctrine of Redemption. "He gave

his life a ransom for many." The doctrine of Redemption is one

of the most important doctrines of the system of faith. A mistake

on this point will inevitably lead to a mistake through the entire

system of our belief.

Now, you are aware that there are different theories of

Redemption. All Christians hold that Christ died to redeem, but

all Christians do not teach the same redemption. We differ as to

the nature of atonement, and as to the design of redemption. For

instance, the Arminian holds that Christ, when He died, did not

die with an intent to save any particular person; and they teach

that Christ's death does not in itself secure, beyond doubt, the

salvation of any one man living. They believe that Christ died to

make the salvation of all men possible, or that by the doing of

something else, any man who pleases may attain unto eternal

life; consequently, they are obliged to hold that if man's will

would not give way and voluntarily surrender to grace, then

Christ's atonement would be unavailing. They hold that there

was no particularity and speciality in the death of Christ. Christ

died, according to them, as much for Judas in Hell as for Peter

who mounted to Heaven. They believe that for those who are

consigned to eternal fire, there was a true and real a redemption

made as for those who now stand before the throne of the Most


Now, we believe no such thing. We hold that Christ, when He

died, had an object in view, and that object will most assuredly,

and beyond a doubt, be accomplished. We measure the design of

Christ's death by the effect of it. If any one asks us, "What did

Christ design to do by His death?" we answer that question by

asking him another--"What has Christ done, or what will Christ

do by His death?" For we declare that the measure of the effect

of Christ's love, is the measure of the design of it. We cannot so

belie our reason as to think that the intention of Almighty God

could be frustrated, or that the design of so great a thing as the

atonement, can by any way whatever, be missed of. We hold--

we are not afraid to say that we believe--that Christ came into

this world with the intention of saving "a multitude which no

man can number;" and we believe that as the result of this, every

person for whom He died must, beyond the shadow of a doubt,

be cleansed from sin, and stand, washed in blood, before the

Father's throne. We do not believe that Christ made any effectual

atonement for those who are for ever damned; we dare not think

that the blood of Christ was ever shed with the intention of

saving those whom God foreknew never could be saved, and

some of whom were even in Hell when Christ, according to

some men's account, died to save them.

I have thus just stated our theory of redemption, and hinted at

the differences which exist between two great parties in the

professing church. It shall be now my endeavour to show the

greatness of the redemption of Christ Jesus; and by so doing, I

hope to be enabled by God's Spirit, to bring out the whole of the

great system of redemption, so that it may be understood by us

all, even if all of us cannot receive it. For you must bear this in

mind, that some of you, perhaps, may be ready to dispute things

which I assert; but you will remember that this is nothing to me;

I shall at all times teach those things which I hold to be true,

without let or hindrance from any man breathing. You have the

like liberty to do the same in your own places, and to preach

your own views in your own assemblies, as I claim the right to

preach mine, fully, and without hesitation.

Christ Jesus "gave his life a ransom for many;" and by that

ransom He wrought out for us a great redemption. I shall

endeavour to show the greatness of this redemption, measuring it

in five ways. We shall note its greatness, first of all from the

heinousness of our own guilt, from which He has delivered us;

secondly, we shall measure His redemption by the sternness of

divine justice; thirdly, we shall measure it by the price which He

paid, the pangs which He endured; then we shall endeavour to

magnify it, by noting the deliverance which He actually wrought

out; and we shall close by noticing the vast number for whom

this redemption is made, who in our text are described as


I. First, then we shall see that the redemption of Christ was no

little thing, if we do but measure it, first by


My brethren, for a moment look at the hole of the pit whence ye

were digged, and the quarry whence you were hewn. Ye, who

have been washed, and cleansed, and sanctified, pause for a

moment, and look back at the former state of your ignorance; the

sins in which you indulged, the crimes into which you were

hurried, the continual rebellion against God in which it was your

habit to live. One sin can ruin a soul for ever; it is not in the

power of the human mind to grasp the infinity of evil that

slumbereth in the bowels of one solitary sin. There is a very

infinity of guilt couched in one transgression against the majesty

of Heaven.

If, then, you and I had sinned but once, nothing but an atonement

infinite in value could ever have washed away the sin and made

satisfaction for it. But has it been once that you and I have

transgressed? Nay, my brethren, our iniquities are more in

number than the hairs of our head; they have mightily prevailed

against us. We might as well attempt to number the sands upon

the sea-shore, or count the drops which in their aggregate do

make the ocean, as attempt to count the transgressions which

have marked our lives.

Let us go back to our childhood. How early we began to sin!

How we disobeyed our parents, and even then learned to make

our mouth the house of lies! In our childhood, how full of

wantonness and waywardness we were! Headstrong and giddy,

we preferred our own way, and burst through all restraint which

godly parents put upon us. Nor did our youth sober us. Wildly

we dashed, many of us, into the very midst of the dance of sin.

We became leaders in iniquity; we not only sinned ourselves, but

we taught others to sin.

And as for your manhood, ye that have entered upon the prime

of life, ye may be more outwardly sober, ye may be somewhat

free from the dissipation of your youth; but how little has the

man become bettered! Unless the sovereign grace of God hath

renewed us, we are now no better than we were when we began;

and even if it has operated, we have still sins to repent of, for we

all lay our mouths in the dust, and cast ashes on our head, and

cry, "Unclean! Unclean!"

And ho! ye that lean wearily on your staff, the support of your

old age, have ye not sins still clinging to your garments? Are

your lives as white as the snowy hairs that crown your head? Do

you not still feel that transgression besmears the skirts of your

robe, and mars its spotlessness? How often are you now plunged

into the ditch, till your own clothes do abhor you! Cast your eyes

over the sixty, the seventy, the eighty years, during which God

hath spared your lives; and can ye for a moment think it

possible, that ye can number up your innumerable

transgressions, or compute the weight of the crimes which you

have committed?

O ye stars of Heaven! the astronomers may measure your

distance and tell your height, but O ye sins of mankind! ye

surpass all thought. O ye lofty mountains! the home of the

tempest, the birthplace of the storm! man may climb your

summits and stand wonderingly upon your snows; but ye hills of

sin! ye tower higher than our thoughts; ye chasms of

transgressions! ye are deeper than our imagination dares to dive.

Do you accuse me of slandering human nature? It is because you

know it not. If God had once manifested your heart to yourself,

you would bear me witness, that so far from exaggerating, my

poor words fail to describe the desperateness of our evil. Oh! if

we could each of us look into our hearts today--if our eyes could

be turned within, so as to see the iniquity that is graven as with

the point of the diamond upon our stony hearts, we should then

say to the minister, that however he may depict the

desperateness of guilt, yet can he not by any means surpass it.

How great then, beloved, must be the ransom of Christ, when He

saved us from all these sins! The men for whom Jesus died,

however great their sin, when they believe, are justified from all

their transgressions. Though they may have indulged in every

vice and every lust which Satan could suggest, and which human

nature could perform, yet once believing, all their guilt is washed

away. Year after year may have coated them with blackness, till

their sin hath become of double dye; but in one moment of faith,

one triumphant moment of confidence in Christ, the great

redemption takes away the guilt of numerous years. Nay, more,

if it were possible for all the sins that men have done, in thought,

or word, or deed, since worlds were made, or time began, to

meet on one poor head--the great redemption is all-sufficient to

take all these sins away, and wash the sinner whiter than the

driven snow.

Oh! who shall measure the heights of the Saviour's all-

sufficiency? First, tell how high is sin, and, then, remember that

as Noah's flood prevailed over the tops of earth's mountains, so

the flood of Christ's redemption prevails over the tops of the

mountains of our sins. In Heaven's courts there are today men

that once were murderers, and thieves, and drunkards, and

whoremongers, and blasphemers, and persecutors; but they have

been washed--they have been sanctified. Ask them whence the

brightness of their robes hath come, and where their purity hath

been achieved, and they, with united breath, tell you that they

have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of

the Lamb. O ye troubled consciences! O ye weary and heavy-

laden ones! O ye that are groaning on account of sin! the great

redemption now proclaimed to you is all-sufficient for your

wants; and though your numerous sins exceed the stars that deck

the sky, here is an atonement made for them all--a river which

can overflow the whole of them, and carry them away from you

for ever.

This, then, is the first measure of the atonement--the greatness of

our guilt.

II. Now, secondly, we must measure the great redemption by


"God is love," always loving; but my next proposition does not

at all interfere with this assertion. God is sternly just, inflexibly

severe in His dealings with mankind. The God of the Bible is not

the God of some men's imagination, who thinks so little of sin

that He passes it by without demanding any punishment for it.

He is not the God of the men who imagine that our

transgressions are such little things, such mere peccadilloes that

the God of Heaven winks at them, and suffers them to die

forgotten. No; Jehovah, Israel's God, hath declared concerning

Himself, "The Lord thy God is a jealous God." It is His own

declaration, "I will by no means clear the guilty." "The soul that

sinneth, it shall die."

Learn ye, my friends, to look upon God as being as severe in His

justice as if He were not loving, and yet as loving as if He were

not severe. His love does not diminish His justice, nor does His

justice, in the least degree, make warfare upon His love. The two

things are sweetly linked together in the atonement of Christ.

But, mark, we can never understand the fulness of the atonement

till we have first grasped the Scriptural truth of God's immense

justice. There was never an ill word spoken, nor an ill thought

conceived, nor an evil deed done, for which God will not have

punishment from some one or another. He will either have

satisfaction from you, or else from Christ. If you have no

atonement to bring through Christ, you must for ever lie paying

the debt which you never can pay, in eternal misery; for as

surely as God is God, He will sooner lose His Godhead than

suffer one sin to go unpunished, or one particle of rebellion


You may say that this character of God is cold, and stern, and

severe. I cannot help what you say of it; it is nevertheless true.

Such is the God of the Bible; and though we repeat it is true that

He is love, it is no more true that He is love than that He is full

of justice, for every good thing meets in God, and is carried to

perfection, whilst love reaches to consummate loveliness, justice

reaches to the sternness of inflexibility in Him. He has no bend,

no warp in His character; no attribute so predominates as to cast

a shadow upon the other. Love hath its full sway, and justice

hath no narrower limit than His love.

Oh! then, beloved, think how great must have been the

substitution of Christ, when it satisfied God for all the sins of

His people. For man's sin God demands eternal punishment; and

God hath prepared a Hell into which He casts those who die

impenitent. Oh! my brethren, can ye think what must have been

the greatness of the atonement which was the substitution for all

this agony which God would have cast upon us, if He had not

poured it upon Christ. Look! look! look with solemn eye through

the shades that part us from the world of spirits, and see that

house of misery which men call Hell! Ye cannot endure the

spectacle. Remember that in that place there are spirits for ever

paying their debt to divine justice; but though some of them have

been for these four thousand years sweltering in the flame, they

are no nearer a discharge than when they began; and when ten

thousand times ten thousand years shall have rolled away, they

will no more have made satisfaction to God for their guilt than

they have done up till now.

And now can you grasp the thought of the greatness of your

Saviour's mediation when He paid your debt, and paid it all at

once; so that there now remaineth not one farthing of debt owing

from Christ's people to their God, except a debt of love. To

justice the believer oweth nothing; though he owed originally so

much that eternity would not have been long enough to suffice

for the paying of it, yet, in one moment Christ did pay it all, so

that the man who believeth is entirely justified from all guilt, and

set free from all punishment, through what Jesus hath done.

Think ye, then, how great His atonement if He hath done all this.

I must just pause here, and utter another sentence. There are

times when God the Holy Spirit shows to men the sternness of

justice in their own consciences. There is a man here today who

has just been cut to the heart with a sense of sin. He was once a

free man, a libertine, in bondage to none; but now the arrow of

the Lord sticks fast in his heart, and he has come under a

bondage worse than that of Egypt. I see him today, he tells me

that his guilt haunts him everywhere. The Negro slave, guided by

the pole star, may escape the cruel ties of his master and reach

another land where he may be free; but this man feels that if he

were to wander the wide world over he could not escape from

guilt. He that hath been bound by many irons, can yet find a file

that can unbind him and set him at liberty; but this man tells you

that he has tried prayers and tears and good works, but cannot

escape the gyves from his wrist; he feels as a lost sinner still,

and emancipation, do what he may, seems to him impossible.

The captive in the dungeon is some- times free in thought,

though not in body; through his dungeon walls his spirit leaps,

and flies to the stars, free as the eagle that is no man's slave. But

this man is a slave in his thoughts; he cannot think one bright,

one happy thought. His soul is cast down within him; the iron

has entered into his spirit, and he is sorely afflicted. The captive

sometimes forgets his slavery in sleep, but this man cannot

sleep; by night he dreams of hell, by day he seems to feel it; he

bears a burning furnace of flame within his heart, and do what he

may he cannot quench it. He has been confirmed, he has been

baptized, he takes the sacrament, he attends a church or he

frequents a chapel, he regards every rubric and obeys every

canon, but the fire burns still. He gives his money to the poor, he

is ready to give his body to be burned, he feeds the hungry, he

visits the sick, he clothes the naked, but the fire burns still, and

do what he may he cannot quench it.

O, ye sons of weariness and woe, this that you feel is God's

justice in full pursuit of you, and happy are you that you feel

this, for now to you I preach this glorious Gospel of the blessed

God. You are the man for whom Jesus Christ has died; for you

He has satisfied stern justice; and now all you have to do to

obtain peace of conscience, is just to say to your adversary who

pursues you, "Look you there! Christ died for me; my good

works would not stop you, my tears would not appease you:

look you there! There stands the cross; there hangs the bleeding

God! Hark to His death-shriek! See Him die! Art thou not

satisfied now?" And when thou hast done that, thou shalt have

the peace of God which passeth all understanding, which shall

keep thy heart and mind through Jesus Christ thy Lord; and then

shalt thou know the greatness of His atonement.

III. In the third place, we may measure the greatness of Christ's

Redemption by


It is impossible for us to know how great were the pangs of our

Saviour; but yet some glimpse of them will afford us a little idea

of the greatness of the price He paid for us. O Jesus, who shall

describe thine agony?

"Come, all ye springs,

Dwell in my head and eyes; come, clouds and rain!

My grief hath need of all the wat'ry things,

That nature hath produc'd. Let ev'ry vein

Suck up a river to supply mine eyes,

My weary weeping eyes; too dry for me,

Unless they get new conduits, new supplies,

To bear them out, and with my state agree."

O Jesus! thou wast a sufferer from thy birth, a man of sorrows

and grief's acquaintance. Thy sufferings fell on thee in one

perpetual shower, until the last dread hour of darkness. Then not

in a shower, but in a cloud, a torrent, a cataract of grief, thine

agonies did dash upon thee. See Him yonder! It is a night of frost

and cold; but He is all abroad. It is night; He sleeps not, but He

is in prayer. Hark to His groans! Did ever man wrestle as He

wrestles? Go and look in His face! Was ever such suffering

depicted upon mortal countenance as you can there behold?

Hear His own words? "My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even

unto death." He rises: He is seized by traitors and is dragged

away. Let us step to the place when just now He was engaged in

agony. O God! and what is this we see? What is this that stains

the ground? It is blood! Whence came it? Had He some wound

which oozed afresh through His dire struggle Ah! no. "He sweat,

as it were, great drops of blood, falling down to the ground." O

agonies that surpass the word by which we name you! O

sufferings that cannot be compassed in language! What could ye

be that thus could work upon the Saviour's blessed frame, and

force a bloody sweat to fall from His entire body?

This is the beginning; this is the opening of the tragedy. Follow

Him mournfully, thou sorrowing church, to witness the

consummation of it. He is hurried through the streets; He is

dragged first to one bar and then to another; He is cast and

condemned before the Sanhedrin; He is mocked by Herod; He is

tried by Pilate. His sentence is pronounced-- "Let Him be

crucified!" And now the tragedy cometh to its height. His back is

bared; He is tied to the low Roman column; the bloody scourge

ploughs furrows on His back, and with one stream of blood His

back is red--a crimson robe that proclaims Him emperor of

misery. He is taken into the guard room; His eyes are bound, and

then they buffet Him, and say, "Prophesy who it was that smote

thee?" They spit into His face; they plait a crown of thorns, and

press His temples with it; they array Him in a purple robe; they

bow their knees, and mock Him. All silently He sits; He answers

not a word. "When he was reviled, he reviled not again," but

committed Himself unto Him whom He came to serve.

And now they take Him, and with many a jeer and jibe they

drive Him from the place, and hurry Him through the streets.

Emaciated by continual fastings, and depressed with agony of

spirit He stumbles beneath His cross. Daughters of Jerusalem!

He faints in your streets. They raise Him up; they put His cross

upon another's shoulders, and they urge Him on, perhaps with

many a spear-prick, till at last He reaches the mount of doom.

Rough soldiers seize Him, and hurl Him on His back; the

transverse wood is laid beneath Him; His arms are stretched to

reach the necessary distance; the nails are grasped; four

hammers at one moment drive four nails through the tenderest

parts of His body; and there He lies upon His own place of

execution dying on His cross. It is not done yet. The cross is

lifted by the rough soldiers. There is the socket prepared for it. It

is dashed into its place: they fill up the place with earth; and

there it stands.

But see the Saviour's limbs, how they quiver! Every bone has

been put out of joint by the dashing of the cross in that socket!

How He weeps! How He sighs! How He sobs! Nay, more hark

how at last He shrieks in agony, "My God, my God, why hast

thou forsaken me?" O sun, no wonder thou didst shut thine eye,

and look no longer upon a deed so cruel! O rocks! no wonder

that ye did melt and rend your hearts with sympathy, when your

Creator died! Never man suffered as this man suffered, Even

death itself relented, and many of those who had been in their

graves arose and came into the city.

This, however, is but the outward. Believe me, brethren, the

inward was far worse. What our Saviour suffered in His body

was nothing compared to what He endured in His soul. You

cannot guess, and I cannot help you to guess, what He endured

within. Suppose for one moment--to repeat a sentence I have

often used--suppose a man who has passed into Hell-- suppose

his eternal torment could all be brought into one hour; and then

suppose it could be multiplied by the number of the saved, which

is a number past all human enumeration. Can you now think

what a vast aggregate of misery there would have been in the

sufferings of all God's people, if they had been punished through

all eternity? And recollect that Christ had to suffer an equivalent

for all the hells of all His redeemed. I can never express that

thought better than by using those oft-repeated words: it seemed

as if Hell were put into His cup; He seized it, and, "At one

tremendous draught of love, He drank damnation dry." So that

there was nothing left of all the pangs and miseries of Hell for

His people ever to endure. I say not that He suffered the same,

but He did endure an equivalent for all this, and gave God the

satisfaction for all the sins of all His people, and consequently

gave Him an equivalent for all their punishment. Now can ye

dream, can ye guess the great redemption of our Lord Jesus


IV. I shall be very brief upon the next head. The fourth way of

measuring the Savior's agonies is this: we must compute them by


Rise up, believer; stand up in thy place, and this day testify to

the greatness of what the Lord hath done for thee! Let me tell it

for thee. I will tell thy experience and mine in one breath. Once

my soul was laden with sin; I had revolted against God, and

grievously transgressed. The terrors of the law gat hold upon me;

the pangs of conviction seized me. I saw myself guilty. I looked

to Heaven, and I saw an angry God sworn to punish me; I

looked beneath me and I saw a yawning Hell ready to devour

me. I sought by good works to satisfy my conscience; but all in

vain, I endeavoured by attending to the ceremonies of religion to

appease the pangs that I felt within; but all without effect. My

soul was exceeding sorrowful, almost unto death. I could have

said with the ancient mourner, "My soul chooseth strangling and

death rather than life." This was the great question that always

perplexed me: "I have sinned; God must punish me; how can He

be just if He does not? Then, since He is just, what is to become

of me?"

At last mine eyes turned to that sweet word which says, "The

blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth from all sin." I took that

text to my chamber; I sat there and meditated. I saw one hanging

on a cross. It was my Lord Jesus. There was the thorn-crown,

and there the emblems of unequalled and peerless misery. I

looked upon Him, and my thoughts recalled that word which

says, "This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation,

that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners." Then said

I within myself, "Did this man die for sinners? I am a sinner;

then He died for me. Those He died for He will save. He died

for sinners; I am a sinner; He died for me; He will save me." My

soul relied upon that truth. I looked to Him, and as I "viewed the

flowing of His soul-redeeming blood," my spirit rejoiced, for I

could say,

"Nothing in my hands I bring,

Simply to this cross I cling;

Naked look to Him for dress;

Helpless come to Him for grace!

Black, I to this fountain fly;

Wash me, Saviour, or I die!"

And now, believer, you shall tell the rest. The moment that you

believed, your burden rolled from your shoulder, and you

became light as air. Instead of darkness you had light; for the

garments of heaviness you had the robes of praise. Who shall tell

your joy since then? You have sung on earth, hymns of Heaven,

and in your peaceful soul you have anticipated the eternal

Sabbath of the redeemed. Because you have believed you have

entered into rest. Yes, tell it the wide world over; they that

believe, by Jesus' death are justified from all things from which

they could not be freed by the works of the law. Tell it in

Heaven, that none can lay anything to the charge of Gods' elect.

Tell it upon earth, that God's redeemed are free from sin in

Jehovah's sight. Tell it even in Hell, that God's elect can never

come there; for Christ hath died for them, and who is he that

shall condemn them?

V. have hurried over that, to come to the last point, which is he

sweetest of all. Jesus Christ, we are told in our text, came into

the world "to give his life a ransom for many." The greatness of

Christ's redemption may be measured by the


He gave His life "a ransom for many."

I must now return to that controverted point again. We are often

told (I mean those of us who are commonly nicknamed by the

title of Calvinists--and we are not very much ashamed of that;

we think that Calvin, after all, knew more about the Gospel than

almost any man who has ever lived, uninspired). We are often

told that we limit the atonement of Christ, because we say that

Christ has not made a satisfaction for all men, or all men would

be saved. Now, our reply to this is, that, on the other hand, our

opponents limit it: we do not. The Arminians say, Christ died for

all men. Ask them what they mean by it. Did Christ die so as to

secure the salvation of all men? They say, "No, certainly not."

We ask them the next question--Did Christ die so as to secure

the salvation of any man in particular? They answer "No." They

are obliged to admit this, if they are consistent. They say, "No;

Christ has died that any man may be saved if"--and then follow

certain conditions of salvation.

We say, then, we will go back to the old statement--Christ did

not die so as beyond a doubt to secure the salvation of anybody,

did He? You must say "No;" you are obliged to say so, for you

believe that even after a man has been pardoned, he may yet fall

from grace, and perish. Now, who is it that limits the death of

Christ? Why, you. You say that Christ did not die so as to

infallibly secure the salvation of anybody. We beg your pardon,

when you say we limit Christ's death; we say, "No, my dear sir,

it is you that do it." We say Christ so died that He infallibly

secured the salvation of a multitude that no man can number,

who through Christ's death not only may be saved but are saved,

must be saved, and cannot by any possibility run the hazard of

being anything but saved. You are welcome to your atonement;

you may keep it. We will never renounce ours for the sake of it.

Now, beloved, when you hear any one laughing or jeering at a

limited atonement, you may tell him this. General atonement is

like a great wide bridge with only half an arch; it does not go

across the stream: it only professes to go half way; it does not

secure the salvation of anybody. Now, I had rather put my foot

upon a bridge as narrow as Hungerford, which went all the way

across, than on a bridge that was as wide as the world, if it did

not go all the way across the stream.

I am told it is my duty to say that all men have been redeemed,

and I am told that there is a Scriptural warrant for it--"Who gave

himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time." Now, that

looks like a very, very great argument indeed on the other side of

the question. For instance, look here. "The whole world is gone

after him." Did all the world go after Christ? "Then went all

Judea, and were baptized of him in Jordan." Was all Judea, or all

Jerusalem baptized in Jordan? "Ye are of God, little children,"

and "the whole world lieth in the wicked one." Does "the whole

world" there mean everybody? If so, how was it, then, that there

were some who were "of God?" The words "world" and "all" are

used in seven or eight senses in Scripture; and it is very rarely

that "all" means all persons, taken individually The words are

generally used to signify that Christ has redeemed some of all

sorts--some Jews, some Gentiles, some rich, some poor, and has

not restricted His redemption to either Jew or Gentile.

Leaving controversy, however, I will now answer a question.

Tell me, then, sir, whom did Christ die for? Will you answer me

a question or two, and I will tell you whether He died for you.

Do you want a Saviour? Do you feel that you need a Saviour?

Are you this morning conscious of sin? Has the Holy Spirit

taught you that you are lost? Then Christ died for you and you

will be saved. Are you this morning conscious that you have no

hope in the world but Christ? Do you feel that you of yourself

cannot offer an atonement that can satisfy God's justice? Have

you given up all confidence in yourselves? And can you say

upon your bended knees, "Lord, save, or I perish"? Christ died

for you.

If you are saying this morning, "I am as good as I ought to be; I

can get to Heaven by my own good works," then, remember, the

Scripture says of Jesus, "I came not to call the righteous, but

sinners to repentance." So long as you are in that state I have no

atonement to preach to you. But if this morning you feel guilty,

wretched, conscious of your guilt, and are ready to take Christ to

be your only Saviour, I can not only say to you that you may be

saved, but what is better still, that you will be saved. When you

are stripped of everything, but hope in Christ, when you are

prepared to come empty-handed and take Christ to be your all,

and to be yourself nothing at all, then you may look up to Christ,

and you may say, "Thou dear, thou bleeding Lamb of God! thy

griefs were endured for me; by thy stripes I am healed, and by

thy sufferings I am pardoned." And then see what peace of mind

you will have; for if Christ has died for you, you cannot be lost.

God will not punish twice for one thing. If God punished Christ

for your sin, He will never punish you. "Payment, God's justice

cannot demand, first, at the bleeding surety's hand, and then

again at mine." We can today, if we believe in Christ, march to

the very throne of God, stand there, and if it is said, "Art thou

guilty?" we can say, "Yes, guilty." But if the question is put,

"What have you to say why you should not be punished for your

guilt?" We can answer, "Great God, thy justice and thy love are

both guarantees that thou wilt not punish us for sin; for didst

thou not punish Christ for sin for us? How canst thou, then, be

just--how canst thou be God at all, if thou dost punish Christ the

substitute, and then punish man himself afterwards?"

Your only question is, "Did Christ die for me?" And the only answer we can

give is--"This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that

Christ came into the world to save sinners." Can you write your name down

among the sinners--not among the complimentary sinners, but among those

that feel it, bemoan it, lament it, seek mercy on account of it? Are you a

sinner? That felt, that known, that professed, you are now invited to

believe that Jesus Christ died for you, because you are a sinner; and you

are bidden to cast yourself upon this great immovable rock, and find

eternal security in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Bibliographical Information
Spurgeon, Charle Haddon. "Commentary on Matthew 20". "Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/spe/matthew-20.html. 2011.
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