Posted at TeamPyro: Your weekly dose of Spurgeon, A Word to Legalists
The following excerpt is from “Strange Dispensations and Matchless Consolations,” a sermon preached in the autumn of 1859 at New Park Street Chapel, Southwark
The reasons for God’s grace to us are far above all human reason, for he himself has told us,
“As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
Nay, I will go further than this, and say that, not only are God’s modes of reasoning far above our own, but they often seem as if they were even contradictory to ours. Where we should draw one inference, God draws the very opposite.
See you poor penitent sinner; he “would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven; but he smote upon his breast, and cried, God be merciful to me a sinner.”
What is our inference from this, looking at the publican as he stands there? Why; that he is a rebellious creature, and that God cannot and will not accept him, but must punish him.
Doth God draw this inference? Nay; for “this man went down to his house justified.”
See yonder Pharisee; with outstretched hands he stands, and prays thus with himself, “God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are,” and so on.
What is our inference there from? Surely God will accept so good a man as this; he will be sure to justify a man so holy and so moral. Not so; for that man went down to his house without justification, unsatisfied, unblessed with the smile of heaven, while yon sorrowing publican received God’s gracious forgiveness.
We, ever since the Fall, have learned to reason badly; our reasoning faculty has been as much confused as any other power that we possessed; we have turned aside from the straightforward path, and we know not how to draw the true inference which God draws from our sins. So far from looking at any reason for mercy to anything that is good in man,—if God ever seeks in the creature a reason why he should show mercy, he looketh not to the good, but to the evil.
When we come before God, it would be well if we would always remember this. We are committing great folly if, when we are spreading our case before him, we dare for one moment to speak of ourselves as good or excellent. We shall never succeed in that way; he will not listen to us, for this plan has no power with him; but if, when we come to him, we can plead our sin and our misery, then shall we prevail. Nay, we may even go the length of the psalmist, David, when he prayed, “For thy name’s sake, O Lord, pardon mine iniquity;”—and for a strange reason, you would say,—“for it is great.”
He used the greatness of his sin as an argument why God should have mercy on him!
O ye legalists, who are looking to yourselves for some arguments with which to prevail with God; O ye who look to your sacraments, to your outward forms, to your pious deeds and your almsgivings, for something that will move the heart of God; know this, that these things are no lever that can ever move him to love.
Nothing but your sin and misery can ever stir his mercy, and you look to the wrong place when you look to your merits to find a plea why he should show pity upon you.