SPURGEON AND OTHER GREAT DIVINES WHO BEWAILED THEIR DEPRAVITY!
Said the Prince of Preachers (Spurgeon):
“There are some professing Christians who can speak of themselves in terms of admiration; but, from my inmost heart, I loathe such speeches more and more every day that I live. Those who talk in such a boastful fashion must be constituted very differently from ME. While they are congratulating themselves, I have to lie humbly at the foot of Christ’s Cross, and MARVEL THAT I AM SAVED AT ALL, for I know that I am saved. I have to wonder that I do not believe Christ more, and equally wonder that I am privileged to believe in Him at all—to wonder that I do not love Him more, and equally to wonder that I love Him at all—to wonder that I am not holier, and equally to wonder that I have any desire to be holy at all considering what a polluted debased, depraved nature I find still within my soul, notwithstanding all that divine grace has done in me.
If God were ever to allow the fountains of the great deeps of depravity to break up in the best man that lives, HE WOULD MAKE AS BAD A DEVIL AS THE DEVIL HIMSELF IS. I care nothing for what these boasters say concerning their own perfections; I feel sure that THEY DO NOT KNOW THEMSELVES, OR THEY COULD NOT TALK AS THEY OFTEN DO. There is tinder enough in the saint who is nearest to heaven to kindle another hell if God should but permit a spark to fall upon it. In the very best of men there is an infernal and well-nigh infinite depth of depravity. Some Christians never seem to find this out. I almost wish that they might not do so, for IT IS A PAINFUL DISCOVERY FOR ANYONE TO MAKE; but it has the beneficial effect of making us cease from trusting in ourselves, and causing us to glory only in the Lord!”
Incidentally Spurgeon is not alone in his lament concerning his depravity. Here are a few more quotes from eminent divines of the past:
Mr. Bradford, of holy memory, who was martyred in the reign of bloody queen Mary, in a letter to a fellow-prisoner in another penitentiary, subscribed himself thus: “The sinful John Bradford: a very painted hypocrite: the most miserable, hard-hearted, and unthankful sinner, John Bradford.” (1555 A.D.)
Godly Rutherford wrote, “This body of sin and corruption embitters and poisons our enjoyment. Oh that I were where I shall sin no more.” (1650 A.D.)
Bishop Berkeley wrote, “I cannot pray, but I sin; I cannot preach, but I sin; I cannot administer, nor receive the holy sacrament, but I sin. My very repentance needs to be repented of: and the tears I shed need washing in the blood of Christ.” (1670 A.D.)
Jonathan Edwards, himself, than whom few men have been more honored of God, either in their spiritual attainments or in the extent to which God has used them in blessing to others, near the end of his life wrote thus: “When I look into my heart and take a view of its wickedness, it looks like an abyss infinitely deeper than hell. And it appears to me, that, were it not for free grace, exalted and raised up to the infinite height of all the fullness and glory of the great Jehovah, I should appear sunk down in my sins below hell itself; far below the sight of everything, but the eye of sovereign grace, that alone can pierce down to such a depth. And it is affecting to think how ignorant I was, when a young Christian [alas, that so many older Christians are still ignorant of it.—A.W.P.], of the bottomless depths of wickedness, pride, hypocrisy and deceit left in my heart” (1743 A.D.).
Augustus Toplady, author of “Rock of Ages,” wrote thus in his private diary under December 31, 1767—“Upon a review of the past year, I desire to confess that my unfaithfulness has been exceeding great; my sins still greater; God’s mercies greater than both.” And again, “My short-comings and my mis-doings, my unbelief and want of love, would sink me into the lowest hell, was not Jesus my righteousness and my Redeemer.”
John Newton, writer of that blessed hymn, “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me; I once was lost, but now am found, was blind, but now I see;” when referring to the expectations which he cherished at the outset of his Christian life, wrote thus: “But alas! these my golden expectations have been like South Sea dreams. I have lived hitherto a poor sinner, and I believe I shall die one. Have I, then, gained nothing? Yes, I have gained that which I once would rather have been without! Such accumulated proof of the deceitfulness and desperate wickedness of my heart, as I hope by the Lord’s blessing has, in some measure, taught me to know what I mean when I say, Behold, I am vile. . .I was ashamed of myself, when I began to seek it, I am more ashamed now”.
“O WRETCHED MAN THAT I AM.” This then is the language of a regenerate soul. It is the confession of the normal (undeceived and undeluded) Christian. The substance of it may be found not only in the recorded utterances of Old and New Testament saints, but as well, in the writings of the most eminent Christians who have lived during the last five hundred years. Different indeed were the confessions and witnessings borne by eminent saints of the past from the ignorant and arrogant boastings of modern Laodiceans!
The unregenerate man is WRETCHED INDEED, but he is a STRANGER to the “wretchedness” here expressed, for he knows nothing of the experience which evokes this wail. The whole context is devoted to a description of the conflict between the two natures in the child of God. “I delight in the law of God after the inward man” (v. 22), is true of none but born-again persons. But the one thus “delighting” discovers “ANOTHER LAW in his members.” This reference must not be limited to his physical members, but is to be understood as including all the various parts of his carnal personality. This “other law” is also at work in the memory, the imagination, the will, the heart, etc.
It is the consciousness of this warring within him and this being brought into captivity to sin, which causes the believer to exclaim, “O wretched man that I am!” This is a cry brought about by a deep realization of indwelling sin. It is the confession of one who knows that in his natural man there dwelleth no good thing. It is the mournful plaint of one who has discovered something of the horrible sink of iniquity which is in his own heart. It is the groan of a divinely-enlightened man who now hates himself—his natural self—and longs for deliverance.
May God in His mercy so deliver us from the spirit of pride which now defiles the air of modern Christendom, and grant us such an humbling view of our own uncleanness that we shall join the apostle in crying with ever-deepening fervor, “O wretched man that I am!” Yea, may God vouchsafe to both writer and reader such a view of their own depravity and unworthiness that they may indeed grovel in the dust before Him, and there praise Him for His wondrous grace to such hell-deserving sinners.
[Quoted from A.W. Pink’s ‘The Christian in Romans Seven!’]