BOASTING EXCLUDED IN SALVATION
A Classic sermon by C.H. Spurgeon.
(Please make the time to read the whole sermon and be blessed – Michael Jeshurun)
Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? No, but by the law of faith.” Romans 3:27.
PRIDE is most obnoxious to God. As a sin, His holiness hates it. As a treason, His sovereignty detests it. As a rebellion, the whole of His attributes stand leagued to put it down. God has touched other sins with His finger, but against this vice He has made bare His arm. There have been, I know, terrible judgments against lust—but there have been ten times as many against that swelling lust of the deceitful heart. Remember, the first transgression had in its essence, PRIDE.
The ambitious heart of Eve desired to be as God, knowing good and evil, and Adam imagined that he should be lifted up to Divine rank if he dared to pluck and eat. The blasting of Paradise, the sterility of the world, the travail of human birth, the sweat of the brow, and the certainty of death may all be traced to this fruitful mother of mischief, PRIDE.
The Lord, even the Lord of Hosts has sworn it, and He will surely stain the pride of all human glory and tread all boasting as straw is trod for the dunghill. Talk no more so exceedingly proud. Let no arrogance come out of your mouth, for the bows of the mighty have been broken and the haughtiness of man has been bowed down
The plan (of salvation), then, which God has chosen, is one of Divine Grace, alone.
I will try and picture that plan before our mind’s eye. We will imagine Boasting to be exceedingly desirous to enter into the kingdom of Heaven. He marches to the door and knocks. The porter looks out and demands, “Who stands there?” “I am Boasting,” says he, “and I claim to have the highest seat. I claim that I should cry aloud and say, Glory be unto man, for though he has fallen, he has lifted himself up and worked out his own redemption.”
And the angel says, “But have you not heard that the salvation of souls is not of man, nor by man, but that God will have mercy on whom He will have mercy and will have compassion on whom He will have compassion? Get you gone, Boasting, for the highest seat can never be yours, when God, in direct opposition to human merit, has rejected the Pharisee and chosen the publican and the harlot, that they may enter into the kingdom of Heaven.”
So Boasting says, “Let me take my place, then, if not in the highest seat, yet somewhere amid the glittering throng. For instance, let me take my place in the seat of election. Let it be said and taught, that albeit God did choose His people, yet it was because of their works which He foresaw and their faith which He foreknew and that, therefore, foreseeing and foreknowing, He did choose them because of an excellence which His prescient eye discovered in them. Let me take my seat here.”
But the porter says, “No, you cannot take your place there, for election is according to the eternal purpose of God, which He purposed in Christ Jesus before the world was. This election is not of works but of Grace and the reason for God’s choice of man IS IN HIMSELF AND NOT IN MAN. And as for those virtues which you say God did foreknow, God is the Author of all of them if they exist, and that which is an effect cannot be a first cause. God foreordained these men to faith and to good works and THEIR FAITH AND GOOD WORKS COULD NOT HAVE BEEN THE CAUSE OF THEIR FOREORDINATION.
Then straight from Heaven’s gate the trumpet sounded—(“For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works but of Him that calls it was said unto her, “The elder shall serve the younger”). Then Boasting found that as works had no place in election, so there was no room for him to take his seat there and he bethought himself where next he could be.
So after a while Boasting says to the porter, “If I cannot mount the chair of election, I will be content to sit in the place of conversion, for surely it is man that repents and believes.” The porter did not deny the truth of that, and then this evil Boasting said, “If one man believes and not another, surely that must be the act of the man’s will. And his will being free and unbiased, it must be very much to that man’s credit that he believes and repents and is therefore saved. For others, having like opportunities with himself and having the same Grace no doubt, reject the preferred mercy and perish, while this man accepts it and therefore let me at least take my seat there.”
But the angel said in anger, “Take your seat there? Why, that were to take the highest place of all, for this is the hinge and turning-point and if you leave that with man then you give him the brightest jewel in the crown. Does the Ethiopian change his skin and the leopard his spots? Is it not God that works in us to will and to do of His own good pleasure? Of His own will He begat us with the Word of Truth and it is not of the will of man, nor of blood, nor of birth.
OH, BOASTING, YOUR FREE WILL IS A LIE!
IT IS NOT MAN THAT CHOOSES GOD BUT GOD THAT CHOOSES MAN. What did Christ say—”YOU have not chosen Me but I have chosen you.” And what did He say to the ungodly multitude, “You will not come unto Me that you might have life.” In which He gave the death-blow to all ideas of free will—when He declared that man will not come to Him that he might have life. And then He said again, in another place, as if that were not enough, “No man can come unto Me except the Father which has sent Me draw him.”
So Boasting, though he was glad not to admit it, was shut out and could not take his place in Heaven upon the stool of conversion. And while he stood there but little abashed, for bashfulness he knows not, he heard a song floating over the battlements of Heaven from all the multitude who were there, in accents like these, “Not unto us, not unto us but unto Thy name, O Lord, be the praise”—
“It was the same love that spread the feast That gently forced us in; Else we had still refused to taste, And perished in our sin.”
But then,” said Boasting, “If I may not have so high a place, let me at least sit on the lowly stool of perseverance and let it at least be said that while God saved the man and is therefore to have the glory, still the man was faithful to Grace received. He did not turn back unto perdition but watched and was very careful and kept himself in the love of God and therefore there is considerable credit due to him. For while many drew back and perished and he might have done the same, he struggled against sin. And thus by his using his Grace he kept himself safely. Let me sit, then, on the chair of perseverance.”
But the angel replied, “No, no, what have YOU to do with it? I know it is written, ‘keep yourselves in the love of God,’ but the same Apostle forbids all fleshly trust in human effort by that blessed doxology—’Now unto Him that is able to keep you from falling and to present you faultless before the Presence of His glory with exceeding joy, to the only wise God our Savior, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever. Amen.’ THAT WHICH IS A COMMAND IN ONE SCRIPTURE IS A COVENANT PROMISE IN ANOTHER, where it is written, ‘I will put My fear in their hearts that they shall not depart from Me.’ ”
Oh, Brethren, well do you and I know that our standing does not depend upon ourselves. If that Arminian doctrine, that our perseverance rests somewhere in our own hands, were true, then damnation must be the lot of us all. I CANNOT KEEP MYSELF A MINUTE, MUCH LESS YEAR AFTER YEAR—
“If ever it should come to pass, that sheep of christ should fall away; my fickle, feeble soul, alas! would fall a thousand times a day.”
But what says the Scripture?—”I give unto My sheep eternal life and they shall never perish, neither shall anyone pluck them out of My hand,. My Father who gave them Me is greater than all and none is able to pluck them out of My Father’s hand.” And what says the Apostle—”I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
I have not time to quote all the innumerable passages, but it is absolutely certain that if there is one doctrine in Scripture more clearly revealed than another, it is the doctrine of the Perseverance of the Saints by the power of the Holy Spirit. The man who doubts that precious Truth of God has quite as much reason to doubt the Trinity, to doubt the divinity of Christ, or the fact of the atonement. For nothing can be more clear in the plain, common sense meaning of the words than this—THAT THEY WHO ARE IN CHRIST HAVE, EVEN TODAY, ETERNAL LIFE AND SHALL NEVER PERISH.
Now, since this perseverance is not dependent upon our works, but like all the rest of salvation, is an efflux from the bottomless love of God, boasting is manifestly excluded. But once again and lastly, Boasting sometimes asks to be admitted a little into glorification. I fear sometimes that a doctrine which is popular in the Church, about degrees of glory, is not altogether un-associated with that old self-righteousness of ours which is very loath to die.
“One star differs from another star in Glory” is a great truth—but this the stars may do without differing in degrees. One star may shine with one radiance and another with another. Indeed, astronomers tell us that there are many varieties of color among stars of the same magnitude. One man may differ from another, without supposing a difference in rank, honor, or degree. For my part, I do not see anything about degrees in Glory in Scripture, and I do not believe in the doctrine—AT LEAST IF THERE ARE DEGREES, MARK THIS—THEY CANNOT BE ACCORDING TO WORKS BUT MUST BE OF DIVINE GRACE ALONE.
I cannot consider that because one Christian has been more devoted to Christ than another, therefore there will be an eternal difference, for this is to introduce works. This is to bring in again the old Hagar marriage and to bring back the child of the bondwoman, whereof God has said, “The son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with My son, even with Isaac.”
Oh, Brethren, I think we can serve God from some other motive than that base one of trying to be greater than our Brethren in Heaven. IF I SHOULD GET TO HEAVEN AT ALL, I DO NOT CARE WHO IS GREATER THAN I AM, for if anyone shall have more happiness in Heaven than I shall, then I shall have more happiness, too. For the sympathy between one soul and another will there be so intense and so great, that all the heavens of the righteous will be my Heaven. And therefore, what you have, I shall have, because we shall all be one in fellowship far more perfectly than on earth.
The private member will there be swallowed up in the common body. Surely, Brethren, if any of you can have brighter places in Heaven, and more happiness and more joy than I, I will be glad to know it. The prospect does not excite any envy in my soul now, or if it did now, it certainly would not then—for I should feel that the more you had the more I should have. Perfect communion in all good things is not compatible with the private enrichment of one above another.
Even on earth the saints had all things common when they were in a heavenly state and I am persuaded they will have all things common in Glory. I do not believe in gentlemen in Heaven and the poor Christians behind the door. I believe that our union with each other will be so great that distinctions will be utterly lost, and that we shall all have such a joint communion and interest and fellowship, that there will be no such thing as private possession, private ranks and private honors. We shall there, to the fullest extent, be one in Christ. (“Amen!” M.J.)
I do believe that Boasting is shut out there. But I think that if there were these degrees in glory, I mean if they are dependent on works done on earth, Boasting would at least get his tail in. If it did not insinuate its whole body, it would at least get some of its unhallowed members over the wall, whereas, the text says it is excluded. Let me enlarge this one word and then proceed.
It does not say, “Boasting, you are to be allowed to come in and sit down on the floor. “NO, SHUT THE DOOR AND DO NOT LET HIM IN AT ALL.”
“But let me in,” he says,” and I will be quiet.” No, shut him out altogether. “But at least let me put my foot in.” No, exclude him—shut him out altogether. “But at least let me sometimes go in and out.” No, shut him out altogether. Exclude him—bolt the door—put double padlocks on it. Say once and for all, “Boasting, get you gone. You are hurled down and broken in pieces and if you can refit yourself and come once more to the gate to ask admittance, you shall be driven away with shame.” IT IS EXCLUDED. IT CANNOT BE LET IN, IN ANY SENSE, IN ANY TERM, NOR IN ANY DEGREE.
As Calvin says, “Not a particle of boasting can be admitted, because not a particle of work is admitted into the Covenant of Grace.” It is of Divine Grace from top to bottom, from Alpha to Omega. It is not of man nor by man, not of him that wills, nor of him that runs but of God that shows mercy and therefore, boasting is excluded by the law of faith.
And now, thirdly and very briefly. Beloved in Christ Jesus, what a precious Truth of God I have now to hold up to the eyes of poor lost sinners, who today are aware that they have no merits of their own. Soul, THE VERY GATE WHICH SHUTS OUT BOASTING, SHUTS IN HOPE AND JOY FOR YOU.
Let me state this Truth of God broadly, that the ignorant may catch it. You say today, “Sir, I never attend the House of God and up to this time I have been a thief and a drunkard.” Well, you stand today on the same level as the most moral sinner and the most honest unbeliever, in the matter of salvation. They are lost, since they believe not, and so are you. If the most honest is saved, it will not be by their honesty but by the Free Grace of God. And if the most evil would be saved, it must be by the same plan.
THERE IS ONE GATE TO HEAVEN FOR THE MOST CHASTE AND THE MOST DEBAUCHED. WHEN WE COME TO GOD, THE BEST OF US CAN BRING NOTHING, AND THE WORST OF US CAN BRING NO LESS.
I know when I state it thus, some will say, “Then what is the good of morality?” I will tell you. Two men have fallen overboard. One man has a dirty face and the other a clean one. There is a rope thrown over from the stern of the vessel and only that rope will save the sinking men—whether their faces are fair or foul. Is not this the truth? Do I therefore underrate cleanliness. Certainly not—but it will not save a drowning man.
Nor will morality save a dying man. The clean man may sink with all his cleanliness and the dirty man may be drawn up with all his filth, if the rope does but get its hold of him. Or take this case. Here we have two persons, each with a deadly cancer. One of them is rich and clothed in purple, the other is poor and wrapped about with a few rags. And I say to them—”You are both on a par now, here comes the Physician Himself—Jesus, the King of disease—His touch can heal you both. There is no difference between you whatever.”
Do I therefore say that the one man’s robes are not better than the others rags? Of course they are better in some respects but they have nothing to do with the matter of curing disease. So morality is a neat cover for foul venom but it does not alter the fact that the heart is vile and the man, himself, under condemnation. Suppose I were an army surgeon and there had been a battle. There is one man there—he is a captain and a brave man. He led his rank into the thick of the battle and he is bleeding out his life from a terrible gash. By his side there lies a man of the rank and file, and a great coward, too, wounded in the same way.
I come up to both of them and I say, “You are both in the same condition. You have both the same sort of wound and I can heal you both.” But if either of you should say, “Get you gone. I’ll have nothing to do with you,” your wound will be your death. If the captain should say, “I do not want you. I am a captain, go and see to that poor dog yonder.” Would his courage and rank save his life? No, they are good things but not saving things. So is it with good works, men can be damned with them as well as without them if they make them their boast.
Oh, what a Gospel is this to preach in our theatres. To tell those hedge-birds, those who are full of all manner of loathsomeness, that there is the same way of salvation open to them as to a peer of the realm, or a bishop on the bench. That there is no difference between us in the way of mercy, that we are all condemned. That there may be degrees as to our guilt but that the fact of our condemnation is quite as certain to the best as to the worst!
“Oh” you say, “this is a leveling doctrine!” Ah, bless God if you are leveled. “Oh,” you say, “but this cuts at everything that is good in man!” Ah, thank God, if it kills everything in which man glories, for that which man thinks to be good is often an abomination in the sight of God. And oh, if all of us together, moral or immoral, chaste or debauched, honest or unholy, can come with the rope about our neck and with the weeds of penitence upon our loins and say, “Great God, forgive us. We are all guilty, give us Grace. We do not deserve it. Bestow upon us Your favor, we have no right to it but give it to us because Jesus died.”
Oh, He will never cast out one that way, for THAT is the way of salvation. And if we can put our hand this morning— no matter though it were black last night with lust, or red up to the elbow with murder—yet if we can put our hand on Jesus’ head and believe on Him—the blood of Jesus Christ, God’s dear Son, cleans us from all sin. Where is boasting now? You who have done so much for humanity—you cannot boast—for you have nothing to boast of. You fine gentlemen and noble ladies, what do you say of this?
O be wise and join in the prayer, “But You, O Lord, have mercy upon us, miserable sinners!” And may the Lord then pronounce over us His sentence, “You are clean, go and sin no more. Your iniquities are all forgiven you.”
I close by just observing, that THE SAME PLAN WHICH SHUTS OUT BOASTING LEADS US TO A GRACIOUS GRATITUDE TO CHRIST.
We are sometimes asked by people, “So you think that such a thing is necessary to salvation?” or, perhaps, the question is put in another way, “How long do you think a man must be godly in order to be saved?” I reply, dear Friend, you cannot understand us, for we hold that these things do not save in any sense. “Why, then,” they say, “are you baptized?” or, “Why do you walk in holiness?” Well, not to save myself but because I am saved. When I know that every sin of mine is forgiven, that I cannot be lost, that Christ has sworn to bring me to the place where He is—then I say, Lord what is there that I can do for You?
Tell me. Can I burn for You? Blessed were the stake if I might kiss it. If You have done so much for me, what can I do for You? Is there an ordinance that involves self-denial? Is there a duty which will compel me to self-sacrifice? So much the better—
“Now for the love I bear His name, What was my gain I count my loss; By former pride I call my shame, And nail my glory to His Cross.” (Hallelujah!)
This is the way to do good works. And good works are impossible until we come here. Anything that you do by which to save yourself is a selfish act, and therefore cannot be good. Only that which is done for God’s glory is good in a Scriptural sense.
A man must be saved before he can do a good work. But when saved, having nothing to get and nothing to lose— standing now in Christ, blessed and accepted—he begins to serve God out of pure gratitude and love. Then, virtue is possible and he may climb to its highest steeps and stand safely there without fear of the boasting which would cast him down. He will feel, even then, that his standing is not in what he has done, nor in what he is, nor in what he hopes to be BUT IN WHAT CHRIST DID AND IN THE, “IT IS FINISHED,” WHICH MADE HIS ETERNAL SALVATION SECURE.
O for Divine Grace, that we may live to the praise of the glory of His Grace, wherein He has made us accepted in the Beloved, bringing forth the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ unto the glory and praise of God. Of Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be glory forever. Amen.