Delivered on Sabbath Morning, February 18th, 1855, by the
REV. C. H. Spurgeon
At Exeter Hall, Strand.
"Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty."2 Corinthians 3:17.
IBERTY is the birthright of every man. He may be born a pauper; he may be a foundling; his parentage may be altogether unknown; but liberty is his inalienable birthright. Black may be his skin; he may live uneducated and untaught; he may be poor as poverty itself; he may never have a foot of land to call his own; he may scarce have a particle of clothing, save a few rags to cover him; but, poor as he is, nature has fashioned him for freedomhe has a right to be free, and if he has not liberty, it is his birthright, and he ought not to be content until he wins it.
Let me to thy bosom fly."
He said "come," and I flew to him and clasped him; and when he let me go again, I wondered where my burden was. It was gone! There, in the sepulchre, it lay, and I felt light as air; like a winged sylph, I could fly over mountains of trouble and despair; and oh! what liberty and joy I had! I could leap with ecstasy for I had much forgiven, and now I was freed from sin." Beloved, this is the first liberty of the children of God. "Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty" from the bondage of sin.
2. Liberty from the Penalty of Sin.What is it? Eternal deathtorment for everthat is the sad penalty of sin. It is no sweet thing to fear that if I died now I might be in hell. It is no pleasant thought for me to stand here and believe that if I dropped down I must sink into the arms of Satan and have him for my tormentor. Why, sirs, it is a thought that would plague me; it is a thought that would be the bitterest curse of my existence. I would fain be dead and rotting in the tomb rather than walk the earth with the thought that I might suffer such a penalty as this. There are some of you here who know right well that if you die hell is your portion. You don't attempt to deny it; you believe the Bible, and there you read your doom, "He that believeth not shall be damned." You cannot put yourselves among believers. You are still without Christ. Have any of you been brought into such a condition that you believe yourself so full of sin that God could not be just if he did not punish you? Have you not felt that you have so rebelled against God by secret crimes, ay, I say, by secret crimes, and by open transgression, that if he did not punish you he must cease to be God and lay aside his sceptre? And then you have trembled, and groaned, and cried out under the fear of the penalty of sin. You thought when you dreamed, that you saw that burning lake whose waves are fire, and whose billows are ever blazing brimstone; and each day you walked the earth it was with fear and dread lest the next step should let you into the pit which is without a bottom. But Christian, Christian, you are free from the penalty of sin. Do you know it? Can you recognize the fact? You are free at this moment from the penalty of sin. Not only are you forgiven, but you never can be punished on account of your sins however great and enormous they may have been.
And trusts in his crucified God;
His pardon at once he receives,
Salvation in full through his blood,"
and he never can be punished on account of sin. Talk of the punishment of a believer! there is not such a thing. The afflictions of this mortal life are not punishments for sin to Christians; they are fatherly chastisements, and not the punishments of a judge. For me there is no hell; let it smoke and burn, if I am a believer I shall never have my portion there. For me there are no eternal racks, no torments, for if I am justified, I cannot be condemned. Jesus hath suffered the punishment in my stead, and God would be unjust if he were to punish me again; for Christ has suffered once, and satisfied justice for ever. When conscience tells me I am a sinner, I tell conscience I stand in Christ's place, and Christ stands in mine. True, I am a sinner; but Christ died for sinners. True, I deserve punishment; but if my ransom died, will God ask for the debt twice? Impossible! He has cancelled it. There never was, and never shall be one believer in hell. We are free from punishment, and we never need quake on account of it. However horrible it may beIf it is eternal, as we know it isit is nothing to us, for we never can suffer it. Heaven shall open its pearly portals to admit us; but hell's iron gates are barred for ever against every believer. Glorious liberty of the children of God!
3. But there is one fact more startling than both of these things, and I dare say some of you will demur to it; nevertheless it is God's truth, and if you don't like it, you must leave it! There is liberty from the guilt of sin. This is the wonder of wonders. The Christian is positively not guilty any longer the moment he believes. Now, if Her Majesty in her goodness spares a murderer by giving him a free pardon, that man cannot be punished: but still he will be a guilty man; she may give him a thousand pardons, and the law cannot touch him, but still he will guilty; the crime will always be on his head, and he will be branded as a murderer as long as he lives. But the Christian is not only delivered from the bondage and from the punishment, but he is positively absolved from the guilt. Now this is something at which you will stand amazed. You say, "What? is a Christian no more a sinner in God's sight?" I answer, he is a sinner as considered in himself; but in the person of Christ he is no more a sinner than the angel Gabriel; for snowy as are angelic wings, and spotless as are cherubic robes, an angel cannot be more pure than the poor blood-washed sinner when he is made whiter than snow. Do you understand how it is that the very guilt of the sinner is taken away? Here I stand to-day a guilty and condemned traitor; Christ comes for my salvation, he bids me heave my cell, "I will stand where you are; I will be your substitute; I will be the sinner; all your guilt is to be imputed to me; I will die for it, I will suffer for it; 1 will have your sins." Then stripping himself of his robes, he says, "There, put them on; you shall be considered as if you were Christ; you shall be the righteous one. I will take your place, you take mine." Then he casts around me a glorious robe of perfect righteousness; and when I behold it, I exclaim, "Strangely, my soul, art thou arrayed, with my elder brother's garments on." Jesus Christ's crown is on my head, his spotless robes are round my loins, and his golden sandals are the shoes of my feet. And now is there any sin? The sin is on Christ; the righteousness is on me. Ask for the sinner, Justice! Let the voice of Justice cry, "Bring forth the sinner!" The sinner is brought. Who doth the executioner lead forth? It is the incarnate Son of God. True, he did not commit the sin; he was without fault; but it is imputed to him: be stands in the sinner's place. Now Justice cries, "Bring forth the righteous, the perfectly righteous." Whom do I see? Lo, the Church is brought; each believer is brought. Justice says, "Are these perfectly righteous?" "Yes they are. What Christ did is theirs; what they did is laid on Christ; his righteousness is theirs; their sins are his." I appeal to you, ye ungodly. This seems strange and startling, does it not? You have set it down to hyper-calvinism, and you laugh at it. Set it down for what you please, sirs. God has set it up as his truth; he has made us righteous through the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ. And now, if I am a true believer, I stand here freed from every sin. There is not a crime against me in the book of God; it is blotted out for ever; it is cancelled; and not only can I never be punished, but I have nothing to be punished for. Christ has atoned for my sins, and I have received his righteousness. "Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty."
4. Furthermore, the Christian man, whilst delivered from the guilt and punishment of sin, is likewise delivered from the dominion of it. Every living man before he is converted, is a slave to lust. Profane men glory in free living and free thinking. They call this free livinga full glass, a Bacchanalian revel, shouting, wantonness, chambering.Free living, sir! Let the slave hold up his fetters and jingle them in my ears, and say, "This is music, and I am free." The man is a poor maniac. Let the man chained in his cell, the madman of Bethlehem, tell me he is a king, and grin a horrible smile; I say, "Ah, poor wretch, I know wherefore he counteth that he is a king; he is demented, and is mad." So it is with the worldling who says he is free. Free sir! you are a slave. You think you are happy; but at night, when you lay yourself upon your bed, how many times have you tossed from side to side sleepless and ill at ease; and when you awaked have you not said, "Ah! that yesterdaythat yesterday !" And though you plunged into another day of sin, that "yesterday," like a hell-dog, barked at you, and followed at your heels. You know it, sir,sin is a bondage and a slavery. And have you ever tried to get rid of that slavery? "Yes," you say, "I have." But I will tell you what has been the end of it. When you have tried, you have bound your fetters firmer than ever; you have riveted your chains. A sinner without grace attempting to reform him self is like Sisyphus rolling the stone up hill, which always comes down with greater force. A man without grace attempting to save himself, is engaged in as hopeless a task as the daughters of Danaus, when they attempted to fill a vast vessel with bottomless buckets. He has a bow without a string, a sword without a blade, a gun without powder. He needs strength. I grant you, he may produce a hollow reformation; he may earth up the volcano, and sow flowers around its crater; but when it once begins to stir again, it shall move the earth away, and the hot lava shall roll over all the fair flowers which he had planted, and devastate both his works and his righteousness. A sinner without grace is a slave: he cannot deliver himself from his sins. But not so the Christian! Is he a slave to his sin? Is a true-born heir of God a slave? Oh, no. He does not sin, because he is born of God; he does not live in uncleanness, because he is an heir of immortality. Ye beggars of the earth may stoop to deeds of wrong, but princes of heaven's blood must follow acts of right. Ye poor worldlings, mean and pitiful wretches in God's sight-ye may live in dishonesty and unrighteousness, but the heir of heaven cannot; he loves his Lord; he is free from the power of sin; his work is righteousness, and his end his everlasting life. We are free from the dominion of sin.
5. Once more: "Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty" in all holy acts of loveliberty from a slavish fear of law. Many people are honest because they are afraid of the policeman. Many are sober because they are afraid of the eye of the public. Many persons are seemingly religious because of their neighbours. There is much virtue which is like the juice of the grapeit has to be squeezed before you get it; it is not like the generous drop of the honeycomb, distilling willingly and freely. I am bold to say, that if a man be destitute of the grace of God, his works are only works of slavery; he feels forced to do them. I know before I came into the liberty of the children of God, if I went to God's house, I went because I thought I must do it; if I prayed, it was because I feared some misfortune would happen in the day if I did not; if I ever thanked God for a mercy, it was because I thought I should not get another if I were not thankful; if I performed a righteous deed, it was with the hope that very likely God would reward me at last, and I should be winning some crown in heaven. A poor slave, a mere Gibeonite, hewing wood and drawing water. If I could have left off doing it, I should have loved to do so. If I could have had my will, there would have been no chapel-going for me, no religion for meI would have lived in the world and followed the ways of Satan, if I could have done as I pleased. As for righteousness, it was slavery; sin would have been my liberty. But now, Christian, what is your liberty? What makes you come to the house of God to day?
In swift obedience move."
What makes you bend your knee in prayer? It is because you like to talk with your Father who seeth in secret. What is it that opens your purses, and makes you give liberally? It is because you love the poor children of God, and you feel, so much being given to you, that it is a privilege to give something back to Christ. What is it that constrains you to live honestly, righteously, and soberly? Is it the rear of the jail? No; you might pull the jail down; you might annihilate the convict settlements; you might hurl all chains into the sea; and we should be just as holy as we are now. Some people say, "Then, sir, you mean to say that Christians may live as they like." I wish they could, sir. If I could live as I liked, I would, always live holily. If a Christian could live as he liked, he would always live as he ought. It is a slavery to him to sin; righteousness is his delight. Oh! if I could but live as I list, I would list to live as I ought. If I could but live as I would I would live as God commands me. The greatest happiness of a Christian is to be holy. It is no slavery to him. Put him where you will, he will not sin, Expose him to any temptation, if it were not for that evil heart still remaining, you would never find him sinning. Holiness is his pleasure; sin is his slavery. Ah! ye poor bondsmen who come to church and chapel because ye must; ah! ye poor slavish moralists that are honest because of the gyves, and sober because of the prison; ah! ye poor slaves! We are not so; we are not under the law, but under grace. Call us Antinomians if you will; we will even glory in the scandalous title; we are freed from the law, but we are freed from it that we may obey it more than ever we did. The true-born child of God serves his Master more than ever he did. As old Erskine says:
No, no; his conquering kindness leads the van.
When everlasting love exerts the sway,
They judge themselves most kindly bound to obey;
Bound by redeeming love in stricter sense,
Than ever Adam was in innocence."
6. But to conclude. "Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty" from the Fear of Death. O death! how many a sweet cup hast thou made bitter. O death! how many a revel hast thou broken up. O death! how many a gluttonous banquet hast thou spoiled. O death! how many a sinful pleasure hast thou turned into pain. Take ye, my friends, the telescope this morning, and look through the vista of a few years, and what see you? Grim death in the distance grasping his scythe. He is coming, coming, coming; and what is behind him? Ay, that depends upon your own character. If ye are the sons of God, there is the palm-branch; if ye are not, ye know what followeth deathHell follows him. O death! thy spectre hath haunted many a house where sin otherwise would have rioted. O death! thy chilly hand hath touched many a heart that was big with lust, and made it start affrighted from its crime. Oh! how many men are slaves to the fear of death. Half the people in the world are afraid to die. There are some madmen who can march up to the cannon's mouth; there are some fools who rush with bloody hands before their Maker's tribunal; but most men fear to die. Who is the man that does not fear to die? I will tell you. The man that is a believer. Fear to die! Thank God, I do not. The cholera may come again next summerI pray God it may not; but if it does, it matters not to me: I will toil and visit the sick by night and by day, until I drop; and if it takes me, sudden death is sudden glory. And so with the weakest saint in this hall; the prospect of dissolution does not make you tremble. Sometimes you fear, but oftener you rejoice. You sit down calmly and think of dying. What is death? It is a low porch through which you stoop to enter heaven. What is life? It is a narrow screen that separates us from glory, and death kindly removes it! I recollect a saying of a good old woman, who said, "Afraid to die, sir! I have dipped my foot in Jordan every morning before break fast for the last fifty years, and do you think I am afraid to die now?" Die! beloved: why we die hundred of times; we "die daily ;" we die every morning; we die each night when we sleep; by faith we die; and so dying will be old work when we come to it. We shall say, "Ah, death! you and I have been old acquaintances; I have had thee in my bedroom every night; I have talked with thee each day; I have had the skull upon my dressing table; and I have ofttimes thought of thee. Death! thou art come at last, but thou art a welcome guest; thou art an angel of light, and the best friend I have had." Why, then, dread death; since there is no fear of God's leaving you when you come to die! Here I must tell you that anecdote of the good Welch lady, who, when she lay a-dying, was visited by her minister. He said to her, "Sister, are you sinking?" She answered him not a word, but looked at him with an incredulous eye. He repeated the question, "Sister, are you sinking?" She looked at him again, as if she could not believe that he would ask such a question. At last, rising a little in the bed, she said, "Sinking! Sinking! Did you ever know a sinner sink through a rock? If I had been standing on the sand, I might sink; but, thank God I am on the Rock of Ages, and there is no sinking there." How glorious to die! Oh, angels, come! Oh, cohorts of the Lord of hosts, stretch, stretch your broad wings and lift us up from earth; O, winged seraphs, bear us far above the reach of these
inferior things; but till ye come, I'll sing,
But gladly put off these garments of clay,
To die in the Lord is a covenant blessing;
Since Jesus to glory, though death lead the way."
And now, dear friends, I have shown you as briefly as I can the negative side of this liberty. I have tried to tell you, as well as I could put it in a few words, what we are freed from. But there are two sides to such questions as this. There are some glorious things that we are free to. Not only are we freed from sin in every sense from the law, and from the fear of death; but we are free to do something. I shall not occupy many moments, but shall just run over a few things we are free to; for, my brother Christians, "Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty;" and that liberty gives us certain rights and privileges.
In the first place, we are free to heaven's charter. There is heaven's charterthe Magna Chartathe Bible; and, my brother, you are free to it. There is a choice passage here: "When thou passest through the river I will be with thee, and the floods shall not overflow thee ;" thou art free to that. Here is another: "Mountains may depart, and hills may be removed; but my lovingkindness shall not depart:" you are free to that. Here is another: "Having loved his own, he loved them unto the end." you are free to that. "Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty." Here is a chapter touching election: you are free to that if you are elect. Here is another, speaking of the non-condemnation of the righteous, and their justification; you are free to that. You are free to all that is in the Bible. Here is a never-failing treasure filled with boundless stores of grace. It is the bank of heaven: you may draw from it as much as you please without let or hindrance. Bring nothing with you, except faith. Bring as much faith as you can get, and you are welcome to all that is in the Bible. There is not a promise, not a word in it, that is not yours. In the depths of tribulation let it comfort you. Mid waves of distress let it cheer you. When sorrows surround thee, let it be thy helper. This is thy father's love-token: let it never be shut up and covered with dust. Thou art free to ituse, then, thy freedom.
Next, recollect that thou art free to the throne of grace. It is the privilege of Englishmen, that they can always send a petition to Parliament; and it is the privilege of a believer, that he can always send a petition to the throne of God. I am free to God's throne. If I want to talk to God to-morrow morning, I can. If to-night I wish to have conversation with my Master, I can go to him. I have a right to go to his throne. It matters not how much I may have sinned. I go and ask for pardon. It signifies nothing how poor I amI go and plead his promise that he will provide all things needful. I have a right to go to his throne at all timesin midnight's darkest hour, or in noontide's heat. Where'er I am; if fate command me to the utmost verge of the wide earth, I have still constant admission to his throne. Use that right, beloveduse that right. There is not one of you that lives up to his privilege. Many a gentleman will live beyond his income, spending more than he has coming in; but there is not a Christian that does thatI mean that lives up to his spiritual income. Oh, no! you have an infinite incomean in come of promisesan income of grace; and no Christian ever lived up to his income. Some people say, "If I had more money I should have a larger house, and horses, and carriage, and so on." Very well and good; but I wish the Christian would do the same. I wish they would set up a larger house, and do greater things for God; look more happy, and take those tears away from their eyes.
To make our pleasures less."
With such stores in the bank, and so much in hand, that God gives you, you have no right to be poor. Up! rejoice! rejoice! The Christian ought to live up to his income, and not below it.
Then, if you have the "Spirit of the Lord," dear friends, you have a right to enter into the city. There are many of the freemen of the City of London here, I dare say, and that is a great privilege, very likely. I am not a freeman of London, but I am a freeman of a better city.
I, by grace, a member am,
Let the world revile or pity,
I will glory in thy name."
You have a right to the freedom of Zion's city, and you do not exercise it. I want to have a word with some of you. You are very good Christian people. but you have never joined the church yet. You know it is quite right, that he that believeth should be baptized; but I suppose you are afraid of being drowned, for you never come. Then the Lord's table is spread once every month, and it is free to all God's children, but you never approach it. Why is that? It is your banquet. I do not think if I were an alderman I should omit the city banquet; and being a Christian, I cannot omit the Christian banquet, it is the banquet of the saints.
Redeeming grace and dying love."
Some of you never come to the Lord's table; you neglect his ordinances. He says, "This do in remembrance of me." You have obtained the freedom of the city, but you won't take it up. You have a right to enter in through the gates into the city, but you stand outside. Come in brother; I will give you my hand. Don't remain outside the church any longer, for you have a right to come in.
Then, to conclude, you have the freedom of Jerusalem, the mother of us all. That is the best gift. We are free to heaven. When a Christian dies, he knows the open sesame that can open the gates of heaven, he knows the pass-word that can make the gates wide open fly; he has the white stone whereby he shall be known as a ransomed one, and that shall pass him at the barrier; he has the passport that shall let him into the dominions of Jehovah; he has liberty to enter into heaven. Methinks I see you, ye unconverted, in the land of shades, wandering up and down to find your portion. Ye come to the porch of heaven. It is great and lofty. The gate hath written o'er it, "The righteous only are admitted here." As ye stand, ye look for the porter. A tall archangel appeareth from above the gate, and ye say, "Angel, let me in." "Where is thy robe?" Thou searchest, and thou hast none; thou hast only some few rags of thine own spinning, but no wedding garment. "Let me in," sayest thou, "for the fiends are after me to drag me to yonder pit. Oh, let me in." But with a quiet glance the angel lifteth up his finger and saith, "Read up there;" and thou readest, "None but the righteous enter here." Then thou tremblest; thy knees knock together; thy hands shake. Were thy bones of brass they might melt; and were thy ribs of iron they might be dissolved Ah! there thou standest, shivering, quaking, trembling; but not long, for a voice which frights thee from thy feet and lays thee prostrate, cries, "Depart ye cursed into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels." O dear hearers, shall that be your portion? My friends, as I love you,I do this morning, and hope I ever shall,shall this be your lot? Will you not have freedom to enter into the city? Will you not seek that Spirit which giveth liberty? Ah! I know ye will not have it if left to yourselves; some of you perhaps never will. O God, grant that that number may be but few, but may the number of the saved be great indeed!
The ransom of thy great High Priest,
Hath set the captive free.
Trust to his efficacious blood,
Nor fear thy banishment from God,
Since Jesus died for thee."