Sermon published Thursday, 7 October 1915 delivered by C. H SPURGEON al Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington.
For ye are saved by grace, by faith and it doesn't come from you, it is the gift of God, not by works, lest anyone should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9)
Of the things I have preached to you for many years this is the sum. In the assortment of my arguments I have kept my theology, mainly around the salvation of men. I am happy to remember that even those in my family who were ministers of Christ, before me and in my presence they preached this doctrine and nothing else. My father who can still give his personal testimony for his Lord, he knows no other doctrine and his father did it before him too.
I am led to remember this on the grounds that it is a rather singular circumstance, recorded in my memory established a connection of this text between me and my grandfather. Many years have passed now. I was commissioned to preach in a city of a certain country in the Eastern Counties. I don't often get late, because I feel that punctuality is one of those little virtues that can prevent big sins. However, we are not to blame if the train is delayed or broken down and so it happened that I arrived considerably late at the aforementioned place..
Like all sensible people, they had already begun their worship and had already begun with the sermon. As I approached the church, I sensed that someone had gone up to the pulpit to preach and who would have imagined that the preacher was my dear and venerable grandfather! But as soon as he saw me enter the front door and walk all the way down the central corridor, immediately he exclaimed: “Now my nephew will continue! He knows how to preach the Gospel better than me, even if he can't preach a better gospel; you can Charles?” After making my journey through the crowd, I replied: “You can preach better than me. Pray again.” But he would not have accepted it. I had to continue the sermon and so going on the same subject, I went back to where he left off.
“Well” he said, “I was preaching on: “Butter, indeed, you were saved by Grace”. I was putting everyone forward to the source and source of salvation; and now i am showing them the channel of it, through faith. Now you pick up here and go on”.
I played at home with these glorious truths, because I could not have felt any difficulty in picking up on the thread of my grandfather's dissertation and joining my thread to his, I was able to continue without any logical interruption. Our agreement in the things of God easily made us one preacher of the same discourse. I went to where it says: “Through faith” and then proceeded to the next step: “This does not come from you”. On this topic I was explaining the weakness and impossibility of human nature and the certainty that salvation could not come from us, when I felt the tail of my tails being pulled and my beloved great lord began to say again: “When I spoke of our depraved human nature” continued the good old man, “i know a lot about this, Dear friends”; and so he started talking about a parable and in the next five minutes he made a solemn and humiliating description of our lost fortune, the depravity of our nature and the spiritual death in which we were found.
When he had presented his arguments in a very gracious way, his grandson allowed himself to continue, much to the delight of the dear old man; because now and then he would say, in a gentle tone, “Good! Good!” Once he said: “Tell him again, Charles” and I obviously repeated it to him. It was a welcome exercise for me to bear my action as a witness to a truth of such vital importance, that is so deeply etched in my heart. While I am announcing this message, I seem to still hear that dear voice telling me: “Tell him again”. I am not contradicting the testimony of the ancestors who are now with God. If my grandfather could return to earth, he would find me where he left me, steadfast in faith and attached to that form of doctrine which was delivered once and for all to the saints.
I will handle the text briefly, in order to derive some assertions. The first statement is clearly contained in the text:
SALVATION IS CURRENT
The apostle says: “You are saved”. Non “you will be”, O “you can be”; but “you are saved”. He doesn't say: “You are partially saved” and neither “on the way to salvation” born “full of the hope of salvation”; but “by Grace you are saved”. Let us be clear on this point as it is and let us not forget that we know that we are saved. At this time we are either or we are not saved. This is clear. What category do we belong to? I hope that, through the testimony of the Holy Ghost, we can be so assured of our salvation that we can sing: “The Lord is my strength and my song; he has also become my salvation.” I will not dwell on this, but I will move on to pay attention to the next point.
PRESENT SALVATION MUST BE RECEIVED BY GRACE
If we can say about any man, or any kind of people: “You are saved”, we have to do it but putting the words first “for Grace”. There is no other current salvation unless it begins and ends “for Grace”. I don't think anyone in this great world pretends to preach or have actual salvation and then fail to say that those who believe they are saved are saved only by grace.. No one in the Church of Rome claims to be saved right away, completely and for eternity. Such a profession of faith would be judged heretical. Few Catholics can hope to enter heaven when they die, but most of them have, in front of your eyes, the miserable prospect of purgatory. We see the constant requests for prayers for departed souls and this would not happen if those souls were saved and glorified with their Savior.. Masses in suffrage for the rest of the soul, they indicate the incompleteness of the salvation that Rome has to offer. However good it may be, since Papal salvation is by works and even though salvation by good works were possible, no man could ever be sure that he had accomplished enough to secure his salvation.
Among those who linger among us, we find many who are at the same time extraneous to the doctrine of Grace and these never dream of possessing an actual salvation. They probably trust that they can be saved when they die; they have half hope, after years of careful holiness, they can, perhaps, eventually be saved; but, to be saved now and to know that they are saved, salvation is completely far from them and indeed they think that this is a presumption.
There can be no current salvation unless it is based on a basic tip: “By Grace you are saved”. It is a very singular thing that no one has come to mind to preach a salvation “current” through the works. I suppose that would have been too absurd. Since the works are not yet finished, salvation would be incomplete; or, salvation being complete, the main reason of the legalist, advocate of salvation by works, it would be concluded.
Salvation must be by Grace. If a man is lost to sin, how can he be saved if not through the grace of God? If he has sinned, he is doomed; and how can he, from himself, reverse that sentence? Suppose he abided by the law for the rest of his life, only then will he have done what he should have done before and he will still be a useless servant. What should he do with his past? How will it blot out old sins? How the old ruin can be retracted? According to the Holy Scriptures and according to common sense, salvation can only be granted through God's free favor.
Salvation in the present time must come from God's free favor. People can contend for salvation by works, but you will not hear anyone supporting his own argument by saying: “I am saved for what I have done”. That would be a rascal vanity to which few men would go. Pride could grab him as soon as he brags in such an extravagant way. No, if we are saved, it must be for the free grace of God. No man professes to be an example of salvation from a point of view contrary to that offered by salvation by grace. Salvation, to be complete it must be through gratuitous Grace. I santi, when death comes, they never end their lives hoping for their good works. Those who have invariably lived most holy and useful lives, they look to free Grace in their final moments. I have never been at the bedside of a godly man who rested any confidence in his own prayers, or in repentance, or in religiosity. I have heard very holy men quoting the words in death: “Jesus Christ entered the world to save sinners.” Indeed, the men who come closest to heaven and the most prepared for it, the simplest put their trust in the merits of the Lord Jesus and most intensely abhor any trust in themselves. If that happens in our last moments, when the conflict is almost over us, much more must we feel it to be so while we are in the midst of the struggle, that is, during life. If a man is completely saved in this time of war, how can it be if not for Grace. While he must cry over the sin that abounds in him, while he must confess innumerable deficiencies and transgressions, while sin is present in everything he does, how can he believe he is completely saved if not the gratuitous Grace of God?
Paul speaks of this salvation as if it belonged to the Ephesians: “By Grace you are saved.” The Ephesians had devoted themselves to curious esoteric arts and works of divination. They had practically made an alliance with the powers of darkness. Now if these were saved, this must be only for Grace. So it is with us too: our original condition and character makes it certain that, if he saved everyone, we must attribute it to the free grace of God. I know this is the case in my case; and I believe that the same rule holds good for the rest of believers as well. Having clarified this topic sufficiently, let's move on to another observation:
CURRENT SALVATION BY GRACE MUST HAPPEN THROUGH FAITH.
An actual salvation must occur through Grace and salvation by Grace must occur through faith. You cannot seize salvation by Grace, by other means than by faith. You need the golden pincers of faith to take away this living coal placed on the altar. I suppose it would have been possible, if God had wanted it, that that salvation could be granted by works, instead of for Grace; because if Adam had perfectly obeyed God's law, he would still do what he was allowed to do; but even so, if God had rewarded him, the reward itself should have been according to Grace, since the Creator owes nothing to the creature. This would have been a very difficult system to work with, while the object of this was perfect; but in our case it wouldn't work for everyone. Salvation in our case means liberation from guilt and ruin and this could not be based on a measure of good works, since we are not in a position to perform any of them. Suppose I preach to you that you as a sinner have to do certain jobs and that then you would be saved; and suppose you could do them; such salvation could not be considered as a Grace, but as a debt. Learned in such a way, this would be rewarded as the reward for a work done and its whole appearance would have been changed. Salvation by Grace can only be grasped by the hand of faith: the attempt to superimpose on it the making of certain acts of law would cause the evaporation of Grace: “therefore, it is through faith that Grace intervenes.” “If it is for Grace, then it is no longer for works: otherwise Grace is no longer Grace. But if it is for works, then there is no more Grace: otherwise the works are no longer works.”
Some try to superimpose salvation by Grace, the use of ceremonies; but is not so. You are baptized as a child, confirmed and prompted to receive “the holy sacrament” by priestly hands, or You are baptized as an adult, enrolled in a church and attend the Lord's Supper: this brings you salvation? I ask you: “You have salvation?” “How dare you ask me?” If you proclaimed such a kind of salvation, then I'm sure there would be no salvation for Grace in your mind.
Again, you cannot base salvation for Grace through your feelings. The hand of faith is built to grasp an actual salvation by Grace. But the sensations are not suitable for that purpose. If you go saying: “I have to feel that I am saved. I have to feel a lot of pain first and then a lot of joy or I won't admit that I am saved”, you will find that this method will not respond. As you cannot hope to see with your ear, or taste with your eye, or feel with your nose, so you can't believe by hearing: it is the wrong organ. After you have believed, you can enjoy salvation by feeling its heavenly influences; but dreaming of grabbing it with your own feelings is as foolish as trying to grab the sunlight with the palm of your hand, or the wind of the sky between the lashes of your eyes. There is an essential nonsense in all this speech.
Furthermore, the evidence produced for the sensations differs from person to person. When your feelings are peaceful and delightful, they are immediately shocked and agitation and sadness ensue. The most inconstant of the elements, the weakest creatures, the most despicable circumstances can sink or lift your spirits: experienced men think less and less of their current emotions, as they reflect on the low reliance that can be had through them. Faith receives God's law concerning His way of gratuitous forgiveness and thus brings salvation to the believing man; but hearing, warming up following passionate appeals, leading to the limits of delirium towards a hope that challenges but does not examine, they go around in a kind of Arab beggar's dance “derviscio” made of excitement and everything is in turmoil, like the rough sea that cannot remain. From its boiling and stormy fury, the sensations are suitable for letting go of lukewarmness, killing, despair and all similar evils. Sensations are a kind of dark and stormy phenomena, in which there can be no trust in God's eternal truths.
Now let's take a step that will take us even further:
SALVATION BY GRACE, THROUGH FAITH, IT DOESN'T COME FROM US.
Salvation and faith and all the works of Grace, they don't come to us. First of all they are not due to our ancient merits: they are not the reward of old good attempts. No person not “born again” he lived so well that God is forced to give him a further grace and give him eternal life; in other words, he is no longer far from Grace, but from debt. Salvation is given to us, not earned by us. Our first life is always like a wandering away from God and our new life of returning to God is always a work of undeserved mercy, poured out on those who greatly need it, but they never deserved it. It doesn't come from us, in the most ancestral meaning, that is, it does not come from our originally demonstrated skill. Salvation comes from above; it is never produced among us. Can Eternal Life be produced from the bare ribs of death?
Some challenge us to say that faith in Christ is the new birth, they are only the consequence of good works, which are produced secretly in us by nature; but in this, like their father, they talk about themselves.
Gentlemen, if an heir of anger produces good works, it will get better and better to go… in the place prepared for the devil and his angels! You can take an unborn man again and educate him in the best way, but he remains and must remain forever, died in sin, unless a higher power will come into him and save him from himself. Grace brings a completely foreign element into the heart. It does not improve and it does not perpetuate; kills and vivifies. There is no continuity between the state of nature and the state of Grace: one is darkness and the other is light; one is death and the other is life. The grace, when it comes to us, it is like an ember dropped into the sea, where it would certainly go out, was it not of some miraculous quality that prevents flooding and superimposes its realm of fire and light in the depths.
Salvation by Grace, through faith it does not come to us in the sense that it is the result of our power. We are obligated to see salvation as a divine act, that is, as a creation, or a providence, or a resurrection. At any point in the process of salvation this phrase is suitable: “It doesn't come from you”. From the first desire for salvation to its full reception through faith, this is always and only from God and not from us. Man believes, but that faith is only a result of a stronger implantation of divine life in the midst of man's soul by God Himself. Even the greater willingness to be saved by Grace does not come from us, but it is the gift of God. Here lies the crux of the matter. Let's take a man who doesn't believe in Jesus at all: it would be his duty to receive Jesus, who would be the One whom God sent as a propitiation for the sins of the world. But that man will never believe in Jesus; he prefers anything to faith in his Redeemer. That man does not have the heart to believe in Jesus for eternal life, unless the Spirit of God convinces him of judgment and compels his will. I ask that some saved person look back on his conversion and explain how it happened. You turned to Christ and believed in His Name: these were your acts and deeds. But what did this conversion cause you?? What sacred power converted you from sin to righteousness? You attribute this singular renewal to yourself, or the existence of something better than you that has not yet been discovered in your unconverted neighbor? No. Confess, that you would be what he is now, if it hadn't been for something powerful that the springtime of His will communicated to you, enlightened your understanding and guided you to the foot of the cross. With gratitude we confess the episode; it was like that. Salvation by Grace, through faith it is not of us and none of us would dream of bringing any glory to us following our conversion, or to any other effect of Grace that has flowed from the first divine cause. Last consideration:
“BY THANK YOU ARE SAVED BY FAITH; AND THAT DOESN'T COME FROM YOU: IT IS THE GIFT OF GOD”
Salvation can be called “Theodora” O “gift of God”: and some saved souls may be nicknamed Dorotea, which is another form of the same expression. Multiply your sentences and call it whatever you want, but true salvation has traced in you its blessing which is all contained in the ineffable gift, which is constituted by the gratuitous and boundless blessing of divine love.
Salvation is God's gift, as opposed to a salary. When a man pays his wages to another, he does what is right; and it never occurs to anyone to over-praise him for it. But we praise our God Jesus Christ for the salvation he has given us, because it is not the payment of a debt, but the gift of Grace. No man can enter eternal life on earth, or in the sky, as a debt of God, but as a gift. We say: “Nothing is more free than a gift”. Salvation is also like this, simply and completely a gift from God, so much so that nothing can ever be free anymore. God grants it because he chooses to give it, according to that great biblical passage: “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.” You are completely guilty and condemned and the great King forgives whomever he wants among you. This is its real prerogative. He saves in His infinite sovereignty of Grace. And He wants all of you to be saved. Salvation is God's gift: this is to be said completely thus, in opposition to the theory of spiritual growth. Salvation is not a natural production among us: it is brought from a foreign land and planted in our hearts by heavenly hands. Salvation is in its entirety a gift from God. If you wish to have it, it is there, completely. You wish to have it as a perfect gift? You will answer: “No; I will produce it in my workshop.” You cannot counterfeit such a rare and expensive work for which Jesus himself spent the Blood of His Life.
Here is a garment with no seams, woven from top to bottom: the tunic. It will cover you and make you glorious. You wish to have it? You will answer again: “No; I'll sit at the loom and make a robe myself!” Foolish and proud that you are nothing else! You spinner of cobwebs! You weaver of dreams! Oh! May you freely take what Christ on the cross declared to be accomplished! It is the gift of God: or, it is eternally secure in opposition to the gifts of men which soon pass away. “Not like the world gives, I give you”, says our Lord Jesus.
If my Lord Jesus of God gives you salvation right now, You have it and you have it forever. He will never take it back; and if he doesn't take it from You, who can take it off? If he now saves you through faith, you are saved and so saved that You will never perish, nor will anyone snatch you from His hand. May it be so for each of us!