Barriers Broken Down
Intended for Reading on Lord's-Day, July 26th, 1891,
C. H. SPURGEON,
At the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington
"For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God."Romans 10:3.
OU THAT HAVE YOUR BIBLES OPEN, kindly follow me from the first verse of the chapter. It begins, "Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved." If you really desire that men should be saved, pray for them. It is an empty wish, a mere formality, if you do not turn it into prayer. Every loving desire for any man or woman should, by the believer, be taken before God in prayer. We cannot expect that God will save men unless his people pray for it. There must be travail before the birth, and there must be travail in prayer with God before we can expect that many will be born again into the church of God. Oh, for more prayer! Let us cry to God in secret, and in the family, and in all our assemblies, that God would save the sons of men.
"Why, everybody preaches this," says someone. I know they do, but people do not understand it, although you keep on preaching it; for until God the Holy Ghost makes men to know the meaning of what you say, they will but nod their heads, and pass on. Though I heard the gospel from my childhood, and was brought up upon the very knee of piety, I did not understand what I must do to be saved till I heard that text preached from"Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth." I do not believe that my ignorance was the fault of the preacher. It was certainly not the fault of my father, or my mother, and not the fault of the Bible, which I had read through again and again; but it was the fault of these dim eyes, that I could not see. Go on! go on! ye preachers of the Word. Spread abroad the knowledge of this great fact, that "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life."
The worst of this terrible ignorance is, that the mass of mankind do not know HIM who is our righteousness. Who is the Righteousness of God? Who is the Blessed One? God's only-begotten Son; God, the Word made flesh; born at Bethlehem, nurtured in the carpenter's shop, toiling here below, and wearing his life away for the souls of men; extending his arms upon the cross, giving his side to be pierced, his soul to be breathed out, his body to be laid in the tomb, that men might be saved. O Jesu! in thy wounds is our salvation; but men do not know it. O Jesu! thy death is the death of sin, thy life is our life unto God; but men do not know it. Alas! alas! men still go on in their blindness and ignorance; still is the Lord of life despised and rejected of men, and still his servants cry, "Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?"
You see our great difficulty is human ignoranceignorance, dear friends, even of the facts of the truth. You do not know how near to this place, in the very midst and heart of London, there are tens of thousands who do not know the name of Christ. You think it incredible; but I know that it is so. There are multitudes that have never read a chapter in the Word of God since they went to Sunday-school as children, and they never darken the threshold of God's house. There are streets, in neighbourhoods not far from here, where, if one man goes to a place of worship, he is marked by all his neighbors as a strange character. Let me turn aside for a moment, and ask you how in this city of London are we to get the gospel to the working-mento a great number of them? How does it get to some of them? How? Oh, little Mary sings it on father's knee on Sunday night. He has not been out to a place of worship; but his little girl has been to the Sunday-school; or his son Jack has been to the mission, and comes home, and tells his father what the preacher said. He will listen to his own children when he will listen to no one else. The way to increase the number of those who are not ignorant, is for us so to see the things of Christ, that others who have never seen them may have from us an intimation of what we have seen. Oh, it must be very painful to a blind man for another to say to him, "Now I am looking over a delightful landscape. Away there I can see a beautiful piece of water, and beyond the hills I see the sea. There is a ship going along." "Oh," the man says, "I wish I had eyes that I could see, too!" The Holy Spirit makes us see, that, as we tell the story, we may set others longing to see also. I think I reminded you once before, that when the prodigal came back, his father said, "Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his foot." But, you will notice, he never fed him. The father does not say anything about that. He says, "Bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry." Well, it is the servants and all the rest of the household that are to eat. There is nothing said about killing the fatted calf for the prodigal. No, no; you see he had lost his appetite, and others must begin to eat first; and then, when they began to eat, he was sure to join in with them. There is no surer way of begetting an appetite than seeing other people eating. Let us enjoy the things of Christ so much that poor sinners' mouths will water, and they will begin to ask, "What is thy Beloved more than any other beloved? What is this righteousness whereof you speak. What is this wonderful thing?" We have need to tell out what we know; for ignorance, even of the simple facts of the gospel, is extremely common.
Others are in great ignorance as to the excellence of the gospel. They do not know the peace, the joy, the rest it brings.
Sure the whole world would love him too."
But they think that it is all more talk; a something all very well for parsons, and for some few other people, to get a hold of; but nothing for the working-man, nothing for the man of business, nothing for your noble gentleman who has his heaven at Newmarket, and his bliss at Epsom. Ah, dear friends! I would to God they know the pearl of great price, the incomparable value of salvation by blood; for then would they reckon the highest glory of this present world as unworthy to be compared with the least delight of the kingdom of God.
With many this ignorance is wilful. Nobody is so blind as the man that does not want to see; nobody so deaf as the man that does not wish to hear. Many are like the hogs in harvestvery deaf when they are told to go out of the corn-field. And so, when sinners run riot in their sins, they are very deaf indeed when they are told to quit them, and fly to Christ for refuge. Some of you, perhaps, do not want to know too much. When you come to that part of the Bible that begins to touch your conscience, you say, "Shut that up." You will go on somewhere else. You do not want to know. Wilful ignorance will bring terrible damnation. If there be salvation, and you do not want to know it, then you deserve to be cast away.
There are some who are ignorant despairingly; and I do pity them, poor souls! They sigh and cry, "Oh, I cannot be saved, I am so guilty. My heart is so hard!" the devil tells men, first, that they can be saved any day they like; so they may put it off. Then, immediately afterwards, he says, "Salvation is not for such as you. You never had enough sense of sin. You never will have enough faith. God will never save you." Ah, my dear friend, I wish I could make you understand, that whoever comes to Christ he will in no wise cast out; for he himself hath said, "He that believeth on me hath"hath now"everlasting life." He shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck him out of Christ's hands. Some of us will give Christ great glory when we get to heaven. I think that some people will meet us at the gate, and say, "What! and have you got here?" I should not wonder if it was some elder brother. That elder brother was a good fellow. He was a real child, and he was always with his father, and all his father had was his. Yet he was surprised to see the prodigal come home after wasting his father's living. Ah, but it is those that cost the Lord so much in whom his infinite grace will be displayed! They will glorify him most. O ye despairing ones, if you must faint, faint away on to the bosom of Christ! Swoon away into the arms of the almighty Savior, and then it will be well to have swooned, and you will find in him your strength.
II. There is another thing that stands in our way that is worse than ignorance, and that is, SELF-WILL. Men, ignorant of God's righteousness, are said to be "going about to establish their own righteousness"; in other words, to set up the poor idol of their own righteousness. Man sees God's righteousness, and, instead of accepting it, he says, "I think I could match that. I will set up my own righteousness." There is a treasure of gold, and the man says, "No, I will not have that. I think that I could make a sovereign at home out of a bit of brass." Fool that he is! How shall he mimic God? If I were at heaven's wide-open gate, and a voice should say, "Enter freely," and I replied, "No, I think I prefer the Surrey hills, or a place down by the seaside" what a fool I should be! but, even then, not so great a fool as when forsaking the righteousness of God, I want to set up my own. A human thing at best, how shall that match the diving righteousness? An imperfect thing at best, how shall I compare that with the perfect righteousness of Christ? a fading, floating thing, always apt to be damaged by the next moment's temptation, how can I be so foolish? A ridiculous thing, an ignominious thing, a filthy thing. Paul said that his righteousness, which was of the law, was "blameless"; and yet he counted it dung that he might win Christdung, the most filthy thing. Here, scavenger, take it away! Have any of you any righteousness of your own? I do not believe that even the dustman would take it. He would say, "No, the carts are not for carting away man's righteousness; we have no place bad enough to shoot it into." Shoot it into the bottomless pit: nay, even there they have not any righteousness; for they know their true condition. Human righteousness is a great lie: it is filthy rags. Away with it from off the face of the earth!
What do men try to do? In what vain efforts are they spending their time and strength? According to the text, they go about "to establish their own righteousness." I think you will better understand it, if I read it, "They go about to set up their own righteousness." You see it is a dead thing. "See here", they say; "we will make it stand." If I had a corpse hereI am glad that I have notwell, I set it up, and it tumbles down. Nevertheless, I will put its legs out a little wider, and see whether it will stand. Down it goes! Now I will prop it up. Surely, I can make this dead thing stand. But, no: it has a tendency to fall, and down it goes! Have I not seen a sinner try to set up the corpse of his own righteousness, and make it stand? At last he has been obliged to say what the fool said in the old classic, "It wants something inside"; and so it does: for until there is life within, it will not stand. Even so, our righteousness has no true vitality, no life within, and it will not stand.
Or, to use another illustration: it is like a man trying to patch up an old house. You find such in country villages; a place which nobody has ever repaired for fifty years. I do not know if there is any landlord; but if there is, he would like to forgot that he has such property. The main beam is nearly cracked through. The lath and plaster have gone long ago, and the birds go in and out the best parlour whenever they like; and the whole thing is tumbling down. A man buys it, and he says, "Now, you know, it is a pity to pull this house down; I think I will repair it." So he puts in a beam there, just under the roof; and he puts a strut here, and another timber there; and, by the time he has spent as much as would have built a house, he has got a very handsome ruin left, and nothing more. I think it was Charles the First who used to swear, "God mend me." Somebody said it would be an easier job to make a new one of him; and I believe it. When men say, "God mend me," they had better say, "God make me new." So, as to your righteousness; if you have a lot of it, and it is very good; if you have been christened, or baptized, if you like, and confirmed, and have always gone to your place of worship, and are so good that you wonder you can live in such a wicked world as this; if you have all that righteousness, the best thing to do with it is, to get rid of it; for it will ruin your soul. But this is what men do,they try "to set up" their own righteousness.
And then the text says that they "go about" to do this: "Going about to establish their own righteousness." That is to say, they set about it with great zeal. Some of you that know the Lord can recollect how you thought you would do it. Why, at first, when you started as a young man, you were never going to do any wrong. You were going to have a perfect righteousness of your own. You had an ugly temper, however, and it broke out indeed. "Well," you said, "I shall never do so again." You came down to breakfast, and you were as bad-tempered as ever; so you said, "Never mind, I will set it up now. I shall be a teetotaler. That will be a grand thing." So it was; but, somehow or other, down tumbled your righteousness again! Then you went to a place of worship. You said, "I will always be there." You began to think that you would grow into a saint; but you did not. Down tumbled your righteousness! Ever it went; and you, all the while, tried zealously to set it up. "Going about" implies great earnestness: when a man says, "I am going about a thing", he means that he is going to take his coat offgoing to work in his shirt-sleeves. He is going to toil at it for many hours. I recollect how I set to work in my shirt-sleeves to make a righteousness of my own; and I did very nicely indeed while it was dark. But when a little light from the cross broke in, I began to see the filthiness of it. And you, my friend, think yourself very beautiful when you cannot see yourself. But let the looking-glass be held before you, you would begin to see the spots of filth that defile the very best of your righteousness. Ah me! how foul the righteousness of men is; and yet they go about to set up their own righteousness.
To "go about" to establish a righteousness means, in the next place, that men have varied ways of doing it. Shall I tell you what I frequently meet with? I have talked with a person, and said, "Can you trust in your own works?" "Oh, no, sir, I can never do that." "Well, can you come to Christ, and take the righteousness of God?" "Well, sir, no; I do not feel enough my own emptiness." Look! This man is going to bring his own emptiness to help him. He actually thinks that, if he has not any righteousness, his own emptiness is good for something; and, if he can get to feel that, he will come and bring his feelings of emptiness to commend him to Christ. Did you ever hear of such a thing? You go to him, and you say, "My dear man, salvation is not on account of your feelings." Each time you drive him out of his refuge of lies, he hastens back to the old ground againsomething of himself. Suppose there is a ship out at sea, and the people on board feel that they are sale. One of them says, "I know that we shall not drift far out of our course." "Why?" "Because we have such a big anchor on board." You say, "Ah! he is a cockney. He must be a fool who believes in an anchor on board." Why, it is no good to anybody! It is when you "let go" the anchor, and lose sight of it, and the anchor gets an unseen grip down below, that it is good for something; but while the anchor is on board, it is only so much dead weight for the ship. You want to have your anchor on board, do you not? You do not like it to "enter into that which is within the veil:" that is too mysterious. You want to feel something, to have something of your own. O pride! O self-will! God will have salvation to be all of grace, and man will have it of debt. God gives the promise of his grace, and man puts his penny down to pay for it. Men's pennies and God's promises do not very well go together to buy heaven. He says, like a king, "You may have it for nothing;" and we say, "Lord, we think we could make up a little something to buy it." Well, then, you will never have it. His terms are free, rich, sovereign grace; a sinner, with nothing, receiving everything from God. He may have it. He may have it now. None can say him nay. But he stands chaffering, trying to pay his penny, as if God kept a shop. Has God come down to stand in your market, and cry to you, "Here, bring your gold and your silver to purchase my favor"? You know not who he is, for all things are his. If he were hungry, he would not tell you, for the cattle on a thousand hills belong to him. Will you have salvation freely? If so, take it freely. But if you will buy it, you and God can never agree.
Let me just close this point about human will, by saving that the efforts of men for their own salvation are deadly efforts. God will save them one way, and they want to be saved another. God says, "There is medicine. Take it; drink it." Man says, "No, I will grow my own drugs in my own garden, and I will compound my own physic;" and he goes and takes his own dose. And can he ever get well in such a way as that? God says, "I will forgive." Man says, "I will try and deserve to be forgiven"; as if that could be possible. I have heard that the Romanists say that venial sins are a kind of sins that deserve to be forgiven. What sort of sin must that be? Yet some men seem to think that, somehow or other, they can deserve to be forgiven. That would not be forgiveness at all. Come, come, ye vilest of the vile, ye lost and utterly undone! Come, come, you that have no righteousness, or the ghost of a shade of a shadow of a pretense of any! Come as you are. There is everything you want in Christ. Come and have him, and you shall not be refused; but reject his terms, and salvation can never be yours.
III. Now, very briefly, I want to speak upon the third difficulty, which is a gross evil, namely, FLAT REBELLION.
Observe my text, dear friend, if you forget everything else. I say, remember what the Lord says: "They have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God." This is a strange word. "Have not submitted themselves." Do you not wonder that such a word is used? Here is a criminal who will not submit to be pardoned. Here is a sick man who will not submit to be made well. Here is a man with a broken leg who will not submit to have it healed. Here is a poor beggar in the street who will not submit to be made into a gentleman. Why, the word seems quite out of place, does it not? It shows you the monstrous absurdity of self-righteousness, that men will not submit themselves to that which is the greatest blessing that heaven itself can bestow. It is a matter of submission.
While it is a strange word, it is a very searching word. Is it so, that, the reason why I am not saved is that I will not submit? Do I stick out? Have I an iron sinew in my neck? Am I such a self-willed fool that I will not submit before my Makerwill not yield even to have salvation for nothing? Am I so proud that I scorn to be a pauper before God? That is just it. That is the reason why many have not peace. If they were bankrupts, if they were cleaned right out, they would have perfect rest of soul; but still they stand out, and, in their self-righteousness, fight against God.
It is a very true word. I am sure that there is many a sinner who has not anything to be proud of, and yet he is as proud as Lucifer. Why, there are harlots that are proud of their own righteousness. There are drunkards proud of their own righteousness. I do not know where they get it from; but proud of it they are. I have heard say that a dustman can be as proud as my Lord Mayor. And so the vilest sinner can be proud of his own righteousness. "Why", say you, "he has not any to be proud of." No more have you: I mean you good, moral persons, you who never do anything wrong, as you think. You have not any more righteousness than he has, if it comes really to be measured up, and tested by the Word of God. Still, it is so: the worse the man, the harder he is to bow before the righteousness of God.
It is a very suggestive word. "They have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God." They will not own that God is King. They quarrel with his sovereignty. How can the rebel be forgiven when he begins to question whether the king is king? When he begins to deny the rights of the magistrate to condemn him, how can he be pardoned? You must yield, my friend. Submit to the fact that God is God, or else you will not submit to God's righteousness. Man thinks that God is hard, austere, demanding too much; and while God puts before him everything for nothing, yet still he says that the price is too high. It is his heart that is too high, his proud looks that want bringing down. Oh, that God would bring them down! The man will not submit to the power of God. He will not yield himself up to God to work with him, and in him, and for him. He wants to do all himself; and then, if he got to heaven, he would throw his cap up, and want to share the glory. But it will not do. It is all of grace from first to last; and the sinner must consent that it shall be so, or else the gate of heaven will never give him admittance.
Lastly, it is a very cheering word. "They have not submitted themselves to the righteousness of God." "And is that all that I have to doto submit myself? Is that all?" you say. There is a feather in the cap of your pride. Take it out. You have a weapon of rebellion by your side. Throw it down. Just submit yourself there, with folded hands, with the rope around your neck. Say, "Lord, if my soul be sent to hell, I deserve it. I submit, and I plead for mercy. I plead the precious blood. I not only submit to take that plea, but I delight to take it. I am happy to believe that
All who on thy Son believe.
Lord, I know thou canst not lie:
Give me Christ, or else I die.'"
Beloved friend, may the Holy Spirit lead you to submit! You have been kicking and struggling; now submit. You have been despairing, and talking about its being presumptuous to believe. Submit. Give all that up. No more of your talk! Come to faith! When a man submits to God, that man has got the victory. When God is King, you are safe. When you take Christ to be everything, and you are nothing, then neither death nor hell shall ever divide you from the heart of God. When you are not your own, you are Christ's; but so long as you are dependent upon self, you do not know the Lord, and you cannot know him.
May God bless this simple testimony to each and all, and to his name be praise! Amen.
PORTION OF SCRIPTURE READ BEFORE SERMONRomans 9.
HYMNS FROM "OUR OWN HYMN BOOK"554, 556, 538.