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“The Effect and Design of the Law”: Spurgeon’s Lost Sermon #103

January 29, 2018

“Whoever knows well this art of dividing the Law from the Gospel should be given a place at the front of the room and be called a doctor of Holy Scripture.” So said Martin Luther, the courageous and stalwart reformer. The distinction between law and gospel was well known to the German firebrand — he wrote extensively about separating the two — yet the question is one that plagues preachers and doctors of theology alike today. But did it daunt the young Charles Spurgeon?

In Lost Sermon #103, from vol. 2 of The Lost Sermons of C. H. Spurgeon, the teenage preacher shows marvelous doctrinal maturity. The sermon, entitled “The Effect and Design of the Law”, is a call from Galatians 3 to avoid the “dangerous errors” of legalism by rightly understanding the “use and design of the law”.

In the sermon, Charles argues the law is simultaneously a helpful guard and a fearful prison, preventing boasting and irreverence, meant to bring the Godless rebel or “wandering sheep” to his knees in utter need. The law is also a guide, preparing the child of God to “value salvation by grace through believing”. The chains of the law lead to faith, the key which unshackles sinners from their bondage and brings them into the arms of Christ.

"Let those who are prisoners take heart."

By his last point, the youthful Prince of Preachers ties a tight theological bow for his congregation to marvel in. “The law and Gospel do harmonize and work together for the salvation of the elect” he says, “The law [is] preparing men for the gospel, and the gospel [is] fulfilling the law.”

Despite his age, Charles Spurgeon was unafraid to wrestle with the toughest theological issues for the good of his people. His final call to his flock? “Rejoice, believer, in thy glorious liberty.” Luther would be proud.

Read a selection of the sermon below:

About the Lost Sermons of C. H. Spurgeon

In 1857, Charles Spurgeon–—the most popular preacher in the Victorian world—–promised his readers that he would publish his earliest sermons. For almost 160 years, these sermons have been lost to history. In 2017, B&H Academic began releasing a multi-volume set that includes full-color facsimiles, transcriptions, contextual and biographical introductions, and editorial annotations. Written for scholars, pastors, and students alike, The Lost Sermons of C.H. Spurgeon will add approximately 10 percent more material to Spurgeon’s body of literature. Click here for an interview between Jared Wilson and Christian George about the Lost Sermons project.

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