The Curse Removed
Published on Thursday, June 15th, 1911.
C. H. SPURGEON,
More than a half century ago.
"Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us; for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree."Galatians 3:13
HE law of God is a divine law, holy, heavenly, perfect. Those who find fault with the law, or in the least degree depreciate it, do not understand its design, and have no right idea of the law itself. Paul says, "the law is holy, but I am carnal; sold under sin." In all we ever say concerning justification by faith, we never intend to lower the opinion which our hearers have of the law, for the law is one of the most sublime of God's works. There is not a commandment too many; there is not one too few; but it is so incomparable, that its perfection is a proof of its divinity. No human lawgiver could have given forth such a law as that which we find in the decalogue. It is a perfect law; for all human laws that are right are to be found in that brief compendium and epitome of all that is good and excellent toward God, or between man and man.
And shrieks of tortured ghosts,"
make up the only music. Death eternal includes all that can be gathered in that terrible, that awfulwe had almost said unutterableword "hell." This is a curse which rests on every man by nature. We make no exception of rank or degree; for God has made none. We offer no hope of exception of character or reputation; for God has made none. The whole of us are shut up to this, that (so far as the law is concerned) we must diedie here and die in the next world, and die a death which never dies; feel a worm which shall gnaw forever, and a fire which never can be extinguished, even by a fold of tears of future penitence. There we must be forever, O! forever lost. Could we estimate that curse, I say again, the torments that tyrants could inflict we might well afford to ridicule, the injuries that this body can sustain we might well afford to despise, compared with that awful avalanch of threatening which rushes down with fearful force form the mountain of God's truth. Condemnationthat curse of Godabideth on us all.
4. We hasten from this point, beloved, for it is fearful work to speak upon it; but yet we must not depart from it entirely, till we have hinted at one thought more; and that is, that the curse of God which comes upon sinful men is a present curse. O! my dear hearers, could I lay hold of your hands, it ye be not converted, I would labor with tears and groans to get you to grasp this thought. It is not so much a condemnation in the future that you have to dread as a damnation now. Yes, sitting where thou art, my hearer, if thou art out of Christ, thou art condemned now; thy condemnation is sealed; thy death-warrant has been stamped by the great seal of the Majesty of heaven; the angel's sword of vengeance is already unsheathed, and over thy head this afternoon. Whosoever thou mayest be, it thou art out of Christ, there hangeth a sword over thee, a sword suspended by a hair, which death shall cut; and then that sword shall descend, dividing thy soul from thy body, and sending both of them to pains eternal. O! ye might start up from your seats with fear, if ye did but know this, some of you. Ye are reputable, ye are respectable, ye are honorable, perhaps right honorable, and yet condemned men, condemned women. On the walls of heaven ye are proscribed, written up there as deicides, who have slain the Saviouras rebels against God's government, who have committed high treason against him; and perhaps even now the dark-winged angel of death is spreading his pinions upon the blast, hastening to hurry you down to destruction. Say not, O sinner, that I would affright thee; say, rather, that I would bring thee to the Saviour; for whether thou hearest this or not, or believest it or not, thou canst not alter the truth thereofthat thou art now, if thou hast not given thyself to Christ, "condemned already;" and wherever thou sittest, thou art but still in thy condemned cell; for this whole earth is but one huge prison-house, wherein the condemned one doth drag along a chain of condemnation, till death takes him to the scaffold, where the fearful execution of terrific woe must take place upon him. Now condemned and forever condemned; hear that word. "The curse of the law!"
II. But now I must speak, in the second place, of THE REMOVAL OF THAT CURSE. This is a sweet and pleasant duty. Some of you, my dear friends, will be able to follow me in your experience, while I just remind you how it was, that in your salvation Christ removed the curse.
1. First, you will agree with me when I say that the removal of the curse from us is done in a moment. It is an instantaneous thing. I may stand here one moment under the curse; and if the Spirit look upon me, and I breathe a prayer to heavenif by faith I cast myself on Jesusin one solitary second, ere the clock hath ticked, my sins may be all forgiven. Hart sung truly, when he said
And trusts in his crucified God,
His pardon at once he receives,
Salvation if full, through his blood."
You will remember in Christ's life, that most of the curses he wroughtyea, I believe allwere instantaneous cures. See! there lies a man stretched on his couch, from which he hath not risen for years. "Take up thy bed, and walk," said Christ in majesty. The man takes up that bed, and without the intervention of weeks of convalescence at once carries it, leaping like a hart. There is another. From his closed lips a sound hath scarcely ever escaped; he is dumb; Christ toucheth his lips; "Ephphatha, be opened;" and he sings at once. He does not barely speak, but he speaks plain; the tongue of the dumb sings. Ay, and even in the cases where Christ healed death itself, he did it instantaneously. When that beautiful creature lay asleep in death upon the bed, Jesus went to her; and though her dark ringlets covered up her eyes, which were now glazed in death, Jesus did but take her clay-cold hand in his, and say, "Talitha cumi! damsel, I say unto thee, Arise;" and no sooner had he said it, than she sat up, and opened her eyes; and to show that she was not merely half alive, or half restored, she rose up, and ministered to him. We do not say that the great work of conversion is instantaneous; that may take some time; for Christ commences in the heart a work, which is to be carried on through life in sanctification; but the justification, the taking away the curse, is done in a single moment. "Unwrite the curse," says God. It is done. The acquittal is signed and sealed; it taketh not long.
From sin's tremendous curse and blame."
I may stand here at this moment, and I may have believed in Christ but five minutes ago; still, if I have believed in Christ but that short space of time, I am as justified, in God's sight, as I would be should I live until these hairs are whitened by the sunlight of heaven, or as I shall be when I walk among the golden lamps of the city of palaces. God justifieth his people at once; the curse is removed in a single moment. Sinner, hear that! Thou mayest now be under condemnation; but ere thou canst say "now" again, thou mayest be able to say"There is, therefore, now no condemnation to me, for I am in Christ Jesus." We may be fully absolved in a moment.
2. Mark, beloved, in the next place, that this removal of the curse from us, when it does take place, is an entire removal. It is not a part of the curse which is taken away. Christ doth not stand at the foot of Sinai, and say, "Thunders! diminish your force;" he doth not catch here and there a lightning, and bind its wings; nay, but when he cometh he bloweth away all the smoke, he putteth aside all the thunder, he quencheth all the lightning; he removeth it all. When Christ pardoneth, he pardoneth all sin; the sins of twice ten thousand years he pardons in an hour. Thou mayest be old and gray-headed, and hitherto unpardoned; but though thy sins exceed in number the stars spread in the sky, one moment takes them all away. Mark that "all!" That sin of midnight; that black sin which, like a ghost, has haunted thee all thy life; that hideous crime; that unknown act of blackness which hath darkened thy character; that awful stain upon thy consciencethey shall be all taken away. And though thou hast a stain upon that handa stain which thou hast often sought to wash out by all the mixtures that Moses can give theethou shalt find, when thou art bathed in Jesus' blood, that thou shalt be able to say, "All clean, my Lord, all clean; not a spot now; all is gone; I am completely washed from head to foot; the stains are all removed." It is the glory of this removal of the curse that it is all taken away; there is not a single atom left. Hushed now is the law's loud thunder; the sentence is entirely reversed, and there is no fear left.
3. We must say again upon this point, that when Christ removes the curse, it is an irreversible removal. Once let me be acquitted, who is he that condemns me? There be some in these modern times who teach that God justifieth, and yet, after that, condemns the same person whom he has justified. We have heard it asserted pretty boldly, that a man may be a child of God to-dayhear it, ye heavens, and be astonishedand be a child of the devil to-morrow; we have heard it said, but we know it is untrue, for we find nothing in Scripture to warrant it. We have often asked ourselves, Can men really believe that, after having been "begotten again to a lively hope," that birth in God, through Christ, and by his Spirit, can yet fail? We have asked ourselves, Can men imagine that, after God hath once broken our chains, and set us free, he will call us back, and bind us once again, like Prometheus, to the great rocks of despair? Will he once blot out the handwriting that is against us, and then record the charge again? Once pardoned, then condemned? We trow, that had Paul been in the way of such men, he would have said, "Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died; yea, rather, that is risen again. Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect?" There is no condemnation to us, being in Christ Jesus; we "walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit." It is a sweet thought, that Satan himself can never rob me of my pardon. I may lose my copy of it, and lose my comfort; but the original pardon is filed in heaven. It may be that gloomy doubts may arise, and I may fear to think myself forgiven: but
Then Jesus is for ever mine."
"O! my distrustful heart!
I love, at times, to go back to the hour when I hope I was forgiven through a Saviour's blood. There is much comfort in it to remember that blessed hour when first we knew the Lord.
Where Jesus did thee meet?"
Perhaps thou dost; perhaps thou canst look back to the very place where Jesus whispered thou wast his. Canst thou do so? O! how much comfort it will give thee! for, remember, once acquitted, acquitted forever. So saith God's word. Once pardoned, thou art clear; once set at liberty, thou shalt never be a slave again; once hath Sinai been appeased, it shall never roar twice. Blessed be God's name! we are brought to Calvary, and we shall be brought to Zion too. At last shall we stand before God; and even there we shall be able to say
Through Jesus' blood I'm clean."
III. And now we are brought, in the third place, to observe THE GREAT SUBSTITUTE by whom the curse is removed.
The curse of God is not easily taken away; in fact, there was but one method whereby it could be removed. The lightnings were in God's hand; they must be launched; he said they must. The sword was unsheathed; it must be satisfied; God vowed it must. How, then, was the sinner to be saved? The only answer was this. The Son of God appears; and he says, "Father! launch thy thunderbolts at me; here is my breastplunge that sword in here; here are my shoulderslet the lash of vengeance fall on them;" and Christ, the Substitute, came forth and stood for us, "the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God." It is our delight to preach the doctrine of substitution, because we are fully persuaded that no gospel is preached where substitution is omitted. Unless men are told positively and plainly that Christ did stand in their room and stead, to bear their guilt and carry their sorrows, they never can see how God is to be "just, and yet the justifier of the ungodly."
We have heard some preach a gospel, something after this orderthat though God is angry with men, yet out of his great mercy, for the sake of something that Christ has done, he does not punish them, but remits the penalty. Now, we hold, that this is not of God's gospel; for it is neither just to God, nor safe to man. We believe that God never remitted the penalty, that he did not forgive the sin without punishing it, but that there was blood for blood, and stroke for stroke, and death for death, and punishment for punishment, without the abatement of a solitary jot or tittle; that Jesus Christ, the Saviour, did drink the veritable cup of our redemption to its very dregs; that he did suffer beneath the awful crushing wheels of divine vengeance, the self-same pains and sufferings which we ought to have endured. O! the glorious doctrine of substitution! When it is preached fully and rightly, what a charm and what power it hath. O! how sweet to tell sinners, that though God hath said, "Thou must die," their Maker stoops his head to die for them and Christ incarnate breathes his last upon a tree, that God might execute his vengeance, and yet might pardon all believers in Jesus because he has met all the claims of divine justice on their account.
Should there be one here who does not understand substitution, let me repeat what I have said. Sinner, the only way thou canst be saved is this. God must punish sin; if he did not, he would undeify himself; but if he has punished sin in the person of Christ for thee, thou art fully absolved, thou art quite clear; Christ hath suffered what thou oughtest to have suffered, and thou mayest rejoice in that. "Well," sayest thou, "I ought to have died." Christ hath died! "I ought to have been sent to hell." Christ did not go there to endure that torment forever; but he suffered an equivalent for it, something which satisfied God. The whole of hell was distilled into his cup of sorrows; he drank it. The cup which his father gave him, he drank to its dregs.
He drank destruction dry."
for all who believe in him. All the punishment, all the curse, on him was laid. Vengeance now was satisfied; all was gone, and gone for ever; but not gone without having been taken away by the Saviour. The thunders have not been reserved, they have been launched at him, and vengeance is satisfied, because Christ has endured the full penalty of all his people's guilt.
IV. Now we come to answer that last question: HOW MANY AMONG US CAN SAY, THAT "CHRIST HATH REDEEMED US FROM THE CURSE OF THE LAW, HAVING BEEN MADE A CURSE FOR US?"
The first part of our discourse has been entirely doctrinal; some of you have not cared for it, because you did not feel you were interested in it. It was natural it should be so. At the reading of a will, doth the servant stay to listen? Nay, there is nothing for her; but if a man be a son, how doth he open his ear to catch the sound, to know if there be an estate for him; and however ill the lawyer may read that will, how anxious he is to catch every word, and know if there is a portion for him among the children! Now, beloved, let us read the will again, to see if you belong to those for whom Christ made a satisfaction. The usual way with most of our congregation is thisthey write themselves down for Christ's long before God has done it. You make a profession of religion, you wear a Christian's cloak, you behave like a Christian, you take a seat in a Christian church or chapel, and you think you are christianized at once; whereas one half of our congregations who fancy themselves to be Christians have made a great mistake; never were they more apart from any character than from being true Christians. Let me beg you not to suppose yourselves to be believers, because your parents were so, or because you belong to an orthodox church. Religion is a thing which we must have for ourselves; and it is a question which we all ought to ask, whether we are all interested in the atonement of Christ, and have a portion in the merits of his agonies?
Come, then, I will put a question to thee. First, let me ask thee this, my friendWast thou ever condemned by the law in thine own conscience? "Nay, sayest thou, "I know not what thou meanest." Of course thou dost not; and thou hast no hope, then, that thou art safe. But I will ask thee yet again: Hast thou been condemned by the law in thy conscience? Hast thou ever heard the word of God saying in thy own soul, "Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them?" And hast thou felt that thou wast cursed? Didst thou ever stand before God's bar, like a poor condemned criminal before the judge, ready for execution? Hast thou, as John Bunyan would have had it, ever had the rope upon thy neck? Hast thou ever seen the black cap put upon the face of thy Judge? Hast thou ever thought thyself about to be turned off from the gallows? Hast thou ever walked the earth, as if at every step the earth would open beneath thee, and swallow thee up? Hast thou ever felt thyself to be a worthless, ruined, sin-condemned, law-condemned, conscience-condemned sinner? Hast thou ever fallen down before God, and said: "Lord, thou art just; though thou slay me, I will say, Thou art just; for I am sinful, and I deserve thy wrath?" As the Lord liveth, if thou hast never felt that, thou art a stranger to his grace; for the man who acquits himself God condemneth; and if the law condemn thee, God will acquit thee. So long as thou hast felt thyself condemned, thou mayest know that Christ died for condemned ones, and shed his blood for sinners; but and if thou foldest thine arms in self-security, if thou sayest: "I am good, I am righteous, I am honorable," be thou warned of thisthine armor is the weaving of a spider; it shall be broken in pieces; the garments of the righteousness are light as the web of the gossamer, and shall be blown away by the breath of the Eternal, in that day when he will unspin all that nature hath ever woven. Ay, I bid thee now take heed; if thou hast never been condemned by the law, thou hast never been acquitted by grace.
And now another question I will ask thee: Hast thou ever felt thyself to be acquitted by Christ? "No," saith one, "I never expected to feel that; I thought that we might know it perhaps when we came to diethat a few eminent Christians might then possibly know themselves to be forgiven; but I think, sir, you are very enthusiastic to ask me whether I have ever felt myself to be forgiven." My dear friend, you mistake. Do you think, if a man had been a galley-slave, chained to an oar for many a year, if he were once set free he would not know whether he were free or not? Do you think that a slave who had been toiling for years, when once he trod upon the land of freedom, if you should say to him: "Do you know that you are emancipated?" Do you think he would not know it? Or a man that has been dead in his grave, if he were awakened to life, do you think he would not know it? There may be times when he hath forgotten the season; but he will know himself to be alive; he will feel and know himself to be free. Tell me it is enthusiastic to ask you whether you have ever felt your chains broken? Sirs, if you have never felt your chains fall off from you, then be it know that your chains are on you; for when God breaketh our chains from off us, we know ourselves to be free. The most of us, when God did set us free from our prison-house, did leap for very joy; and we remember the mountains and the hills did burst forth before us into singing, and the trees of the field did clap their hands. We shall never forget that gladsome moment; it is impressed upon our memory; we shall remember it till life's latest hour. I ask thee, again, Didst thou ever feel thyself forgiven? And if thou sayest "No," then thou hast no right to think thou art. If Jesus hath never whispered in thine ear, "I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions," thou hast no right to think thyself pardoned. O! I beseech thee, examine thyself, and know whether thou hast been condemned by the law, and whether thou hast been acquitted by Christ!
And, lastly, my friends, I may have, and doubtless have, many present here who have simply come to spend an hour, but who have no care, no interest, no concern about their own soulswho are, perhaps, utterly and entirely careless as to whether they are condemned or not. O! if I could speak to you as I would wish, I would speak
A dying man to dying men."
When I remember that I shall likely enough never see the faces of many of you again, I feel that there is a deep and an awful responsibility lying on me to speak to such of you as are careless. There are some of you who are putting off the evil day; and you are saying, "If I be condemned, I care not for it." Ah! my friend, if I saw thee carelessly asleep on thy bed, when the flames were raging in thy chamber, I would shout in thine ear, or I would drag thee from thy couch of slumber. If I knew that while thou hadst a bad disease within thee, thou wouldst not take the medicine, and that if thou didst not take it thou wouldst die, I would implore thee on my knees to take that medicine that would save thee. But, alas! here you are; you are in danger of destruction, many of you, and you have a disease within you that must soon destroy your lives; and yet what careless, hardened, thoughtless creatures you are, just caring for the body, and not seeking for Christ! As the angel put his hand upon Lot, and said, "Look not behind thee, neither stay thou in all the plain, but flee to the mountain," so would I do to you. I would come to each of you, and say, "My brother, carelessness may avail thee now; but carelessness will not stop the voice of death when he speaks. Indifference may silence my voice in your conscience; but when that gloomy skeleton tyrant comes to address thee, indifference will not do then. Now thou mayest laugh; now thou mayest dance; now thou mayest be merry; now thy cup may be full to the brim; but what wilt thou do in that day, when the heavens are clothed with glory, when the books are opened, when the great white throne is set, and when thou comest to be condemned or acquitted before thy Maker? Do, I beseech thee, do forestall the day. I beg of thee, for Christ's sake, bethink thyself even now before thy Judge; conceive him there in yonder heavens upon his throne; imagine that now thou art looking upon him. Oh! my hearer, what wilt thou do? Thou art before the judgment-throne, without Christ; thou art there naked. 'Rocks! hide me! hide me! hide me! I am naked!' But thou art dragged out, sinner! What wilt thou do now? Thou art dragged naked before thy Judge. I see thee bend thy knee; I hear thee cry, 'O Jesus, clothe me now!' 'Nay,' saith Jesus, 'the robe now is hung up forever, not to be worn by thee.' 'Saviour! spread thy wings over me!' 'Nay,' saith he, 'I called, and ye refused; I stretched out my hand, and no man regarded. I also will laugh at your calamity, and mock when your fear cometh.'" Do I talk realities, or mere fictions? Why, realities; and yet if I were reading a novel to you, you would be lost in tears; but when I tell you God's truth, that soon his chariot shall descend to earth, and he shall judge us all, you sit unmoved and careless of that event. But oh! be it known to every careless sinner, death and judgment are not the things they fancy; everlasting wrath and eternal severance from God are not such light things to endure as they have conceived. "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God." "Who among us shall dwell with devouring fire? Who among us shall abide with everlasting torments?"
But to close: have I one here who is saying, "What must I do to be saved, for I feel myself condemned?" Hear thou Christ's own words"He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned." Dost thou ask me what it is to believe? Hear, then, the answer. To believe is to look to Jesus. that little word "look" expresses beautifully what a sinner is to do. There is little in its appearance, but there is much in its meaning. Believing is letting the hands lie still, and turning the eyes to Christ. We can not be saved by our hands; but we are saved through our eyes, when they look to Jesus. Sinner! it is no use for thee to try and save thyself; but to believe in Christ is the only way of salvation; and that is, throwing self behind your back, and putting Christ right before thee.
I never can find a better figure than the negro's one: to believe is to fall fla down upon the promise, and there to lie. To believe is as a man would do in a stream. It is said, that if we were to fold our arms, and lie motionless, we could not sink. To believe is to float upon the stream of grace. I grant you, you shall do afterward; but you must live before you can do. The gospel is the reverse of the law. The law says, "Do and live;" the gospel says, "Live first, then do." The way to do, poor sinner, is to say, "Here, Jesus, here I am; I give myself to thee." I never had a better idea of believing than I once had from a poor countryman. I may have mentioned this before; but it struck me very forcibly at the time, and I can not help repeating it. Speaking about faith he said, "The old enemy has been troubling me very much lately; but I told him that he must not say any thing to me about my sins, he must go to my Master, for I had transferred the whole concern to him, bad debts and all." That is believing. Believing is giving up all we have to Christ, and taking all Christ has to ourselves. It is changing houses with Christ, changing clothes with Christ, changing our unrighteousness for his righteousness, changing our sins for his merits. Execute the transfer, sinner; rather, may God's grace execute it, and give thee faith in it; and then the law will be no longer thy condemnation, but it shall acquit thee. May Christ add his blessing! May the Holy Spirit rest upon us! And may we meet at last in heaven! Then will we "sing to the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the Beloved.