“Ever since man became a sinner he has been self-righteous.”
Charles Spurgeon loathed self-righteousness. This sin was so pervasive that he said “it is born with us” and “there is perhaps no sin which has so much vitality in it.” He went so far as to say “we can overcome lust itself, and anger…better than…the proud boastfulness which rises in our hearts.”
Indeed, Spurgeon chose his words carefully. He never minimized the wickedness of “lust” or “anger,” but also acknowledged “tens of thousands of sermons have been preached against self-righteousness” and yet still the “great guns of the law” needed to be brought against it.
Even for Christians, those “righteous through faith in Christ,” this “infirmity clings to them” still. And so Spurgeon sought to make “another blow against our self-righteousness,” noting that “if it will not die” then “at least let us spare no arrows against it.”
In the first section of his sermon, Spurgeon noted that “The plea of self-righteousness contradicts itself.” Here Spurgeon observed the inherent contradiction with such a plea, for “you are committing a sin while you are pleading that you have no sin.” In his view, “the very plea itself is a piece of high and arrogant presumption.”
God himself had said, “‘there is none righteous, no, not one,’” and so to say “that thou art righteous” in effect committed the sin of “calling God a liar.”
Furthermore, Spurgeon attacked this “plea” by asserting that such “righteousness” was only “comparative.” This “plea” was “vain and fatal” for righteousness by comparison indicated that the one was not “perfectly righteous.” In claiming to not be as sinful as another, the self-righteous person admitted that they were still tainted by the “plague-spot” of sin. As Spurgeon said, “another man’s sins cannot excuse you.”
Finally, Spurgeon exposed the error of “partial righteousness.” Here he declared “It is of no saving avail to you that you have not committed ten thousand sins, for if you have committed one, you are a lost soul.” Simply, “the law is to be kept intact and entire,” to fail at one point was to break the whole.
In the second section of his sermon, Spurgeon asserted that “The man who uses this plea condemns himself.” Here Spurgeon reminded his hearers that “Men know that they are guilty.” Indeed, “the conscience of the proudest man…tells him that he deserves the wrath of God.” Rather, the “loudness of his bragging” was a sign of his own “uneasy conscience.”
Spurgeon believed that “there is in all your hearts a witness,” which continually cries “‘Thou sinful man! thou sinful man!’”
In the third section of his sermon, Spurgeon remarked that “The plea is itself evidence against the pleader.” In Spurgeon’s view, if one knew themselves to be “lost” and “ruined” there was “the richest hope for [them] in the gospel.” However, for the one who said, “‘I am good, I have merits’” the law “condemns [them], and the gospel cannot comfort [them].’” While Christians “may fall into sin,” one could not “be a true Christian and boast in self-righteousness.”
Truly, “God will pardon all men who confess their iniquity,” but first self-righteous pride had to die.
In the fourth, and final, section of his sermon, Spurgeon closed by warning that self-righteousness “Will ruin the pleader for ever.” To the proud person who reasoned “‘I feel that I do not need salvation, and if I did need it I could get it myself,’” Spurgeon declared “your blood will be upon your own head.”
But, Spurgeon also warned of a different kind of self-righteousness, which said, “‘No, I will not trust thee, Christ, because I am such-an-one and such-an-one.’” This self-righteousness presumed itself to be too far gone and was an equally fatal error.
Finally, Spurgeon warned sinners not to “trust [in] your faith and [in] your repentance” but in “Christ.” He said, “If I trust my trust of Christ, I am lost,” indeed, “my business is to trust Christ; to rest on him” and not on self.
Why you should take up and read:
Charles Spurgeon loathed self-righteousness. This sin was so pervasive that he said “it is born with us” and “there is perhaps no sin which has so much vitality in it.” Only trusting in Christ, not self, secured salvation. For those wanting to make “another blow” against self-righteousness please be encouraged to take up and read.
Here is the link to the Sermon of the Week:https://www.spurgeon.org/resource-library/sermons/a-blow-at-self-righteousness#flipbook/
Phillip Ort serves as the Director of The Spurgeon Library at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City while studying in The Residency Ph.D. program.