Intended for Reading on Lord's-day, January 25th, 1891.
Delivered on Friday Morning, April 25th, 1890, by
C. H. SPURGEON,
At an Assembly of Ministers of the Gospel.
"But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man"Galatians 1:11.
O ME it is a pitiful sight to see Paul defending himself as an apostle; and doing this, not against the gainsaying world, but against cold-hearted members of the church. They said that he was not truly an apostle, for he had not seen the Lord; and they uttered a great many other things derogatory to him. To maintain his claim to the apostleship, he was driven to commence his epistles with "Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ," though his work was a self-evident proof of his call. If, after God has blessed us to the conversion of many, some of these should raise a question as to our call to the ministry, we may count it a fiery trial; but we shall not conclude that a strange thing has happened to us. There is much more room to question our call to the ministry than to cast a doubt upon Paul's apostleship. This indignity, if it be put upon us, we can cheerfully bear for our Master's sake. We need not wonder, dear brethren, if our ministry should be the subject of attack, because this has been the lot of those who have gone before us; and we should lack one great seal of our acceptance with God if we did not receive the unconscious homage of enmity which is always paid to the faithful by the ungodly world. When the devil is not troubled by us, he does not trouble us. If his kingdom is not shaken, he will not care about us or our work, but will let us enjoy inglorious ease. Be comforted by the experience of the apostle of the Gentiles: he is peculiarly our apostle, and we may regard his experience as a type of what we may expect while we labor among the Gentiles of our own day.
He then is all my strength and stay.
If you do not believe in the election of grace, live where multitudes of men come under your notice, and persons most unlikely are called out from among them in surprising ways, and it will grow upon you. Here comes on who says, I have neither father, mother, brother, sister, nor friend who ever enters a place of worship. How came you to believe? I heard a word in the street, sir, quite by accident, that brought me to tremble before God. Here is the election of grace. Here comes another, dark in mind, troubled in soul, and she is a member of a family all of them members of your church, all happy and rejoicing in the Lord; and yet this poor creature cannot lay hold upon Christ by faith. To your great joy, you set before her Christ in all his fullness of grace, and she becomes the brightest of the whole circle; for they never knew the darkness as she did, and they can never rejoice in the light as she delights in it. To find a greatly-loving saint you must find one who has had much forgiven. The woman that was a sinner is the only one that will wash Christ's feet. There is raw material in a Publican which you seldom find in a Pharisee. A Pharisee may polish up into an ordinary Christian; but somehow there is a charming touch about the pardoned sinner which is lacking in the other. There is an election of grace, and you cannot help noticing, as you go about, how certain believers enter into the inner circle, while others linger in the outer courts. The Lord is sovereign in his gifts, and doeth as he wills; and we are called to bow before his scepter within the church as well as at its portal. The longer I live the more sure I am that salvation is all of the grace, and that the Lord gives that grace according to his own will and purpose.
Once more, some of us have received the gospel because of the wonderful unction that has gone with it at times to our souls. I hope that none of us will ever fall into the snare of following the guidance of impressions made upon us by texts which happen to come prominently before our minds. You have judgements, and you must not lay them aside to be guided by accidental impressions. But for all that, and at the back of all that, there is not a man here that has led an eventful, useful life but must confess that certain of those acts of his life, upon which his whole history has hinged, are connected with influences upon his mind which were produced, as he believes, by super-natural agency. A passage of Holy Writ, which we have read a hundred times before, took us captive, and became the master of every thought. We steered by it as men trust the pole-star, and we found that our voyage was made easy thereby. Certain texts are, to our memory, sweet as wafers made with honey; for we know what they once did for us, and the recollection is refreshing. We have been revived from a fainting fit, nerved for a desperate effort, or fired for a sacrifice, by a Scripture which became no longer a word in a book, but the very voice of God to our souleven that voice of the Lord, which is full of majesty. Have you not noticed how a turn of a word in a text has made it seem all the more fitted for you? It looked a very small point; but it was essential to its effect, just as a small notch in a key may be the exact form which makes it fit the lock. How much may hang on what seems, to the unspiritual, to be nothing more than a slight verbal distinction, or an unimportant turn of expression! A thought of primary importance may turn upon the singular of plural of a word. If it be the Greek word itself, the importance cannot be overestimated; but in an English word, in the translation, there may be well-nigh equal force, according as the word is true to the original. The many, who can only read our marvellous English Bible, come to prize its words because the Lord has blessed them to their souls. A simple Welsh friend believed that our Lord must have been a Welshman, because, said he, he always speaks to me in Welsh. To me it has often seemed as if the Well-beloved of my soul had been born in my native village, had gone to my school, and had passed through all my personal experiences; for he knows me better than I know myself. Although I know he was of Bethlehem, and Judaea, yet he seems like one of London, or of Surrey. Nay more; I see in him more than manhood could have made him; I discern in him a nature more than that of man; for he enters the inmost recesses of my soul, he reads me like an open page, he comforts me as one brought up with me, he dives into my deepest griefs, and attends me in my highest joys. I have secrets in my heart which only he knows. Would God his secret were with me as mine is with him up to the measure of my capacity! It is because of that wonderful power which the Lord Jesus has over us through his sacred Word that we receive that Word from him, and receive it as not of man.
What is unction, my brethren? I fear that no one can help me by a definition. Who can define it? But yet we know where it is, and we certainly feel where it is not. When that unction perfumes the Word, it is its own interpreter, it is its own apologist, it is it own confirmation and proof, to the regenerate mind. Then the Word of God deals with us as no word of man ever did or could. We have not received it, therefore, of men. Constantly receiving the divine Word as we do, it comes to us with an energy ever fresh and forcible. It comes to us especially with a sanctifying power, which is the very best proof of its coming from the thrice-holy God. Philosophers words may teach us what holiness is, but God's Word makes us holy. We hear our brethren exhort us to aspire to high degrees of grace, but God's Word lifts us up to them. The Word is not merely an instrument of good, but the Holy Spirit makes it an active energy within the soul to purge the heart from the sin, so that it can be said, Ye are clean through the Word which I have spoken unto you. When thus cleansed, you know that the Word is true. You are sure of it, and you no longer need even the most powerful book of evidences. You have the witness in yourself, the evidence of things not seen, the seal of eternal verity.
I have taken all this time upon how we receive the gospel, and therefore I must perforce be brief upon a further point.
II. TO US THE TRUTH ITSELF IS NOT AFTER MEN. I desire to assert this plainly. If any man thinks that the gospel is only one of many religions, let him candidly compare the Scripture of God with other pretended revelations. Have you ever done so? I have made it a College exercise with our brethren. I have saidWe will read a chapter of the Koran. This is the Mahometan's holy book. A man must have a strange mind who should mistake that rubbish for the utterances of inspiration. If he is at all familiar with the Old and New Testaments, when he hears an extract from the Koran, he feels that he has met with a foreign author: the God who gave us the Pentateuch could have had no hand in many portions of the Koran. One of the most modern pretenders to inspiration is the Book of Mormon. I could not blame you should you laugh outright while I read aloud a page from that farrago. Perhaps you know the Protevangelion, and other apocryphal New Testament books. It would be an insult to the judgement of the least in the kingdom of heaven to suppose that he could mistake the language of these forgeries for the language of the Holy Ghost. I have had several pretended revelations submitted to me by their several authors; for we have more of the prophetic clan about than most people know of; but no one of them has ever left on my mind the slightest suspicion of his sharing the inspiration of John, or Paul. There is no mistaking the inspired Books if you have any spiritual discernment. Once let the divine light dawn in the soul, and you perceive a colouring and a fashion in the product of inspiration which are not possible to mere men. Would one who doubts this write us a fifth Gospel? Would anyone among our poets attempt to write a new Psalm, which could be mistaken for a Psalm of David? I do not see why he could not, but I am sure he cannot. You can give us new psalmody, for it is an instinct of the Christian life to sing the praises of God; but you cannot match the glory of divinely-inspired song. Therefore we receive the Scripture, and consequently the gospel as not after man.
You say, perhaps, You are comparing books, and forgetting that your theme is the gospel. But this is only in appearance. I do not care to waste your time by asking you to compare the gospels of men. There is not another gospel that I know of that is worth the comparison for a single minute. Oh, but, they say, there is a gospel that is much wider than yours. Yes, I know that it is much wider than mine; but to what does it lead? They say that what is nicknamed Calvinism has a very narrow door. There is a word in Scripture about a strait gate and a narrow way; and therefore I am not alarmed by the accusation. But then there are rich pastures when you enter within, and this renders it worth while to enter in by the strait gate. Certain other systems have very wide doors; but they lead you into small privileges, and those of a precarious tenure. I hear certain invitations which might run as follows:Come ye disconsolate; but if you come, you will be disconsolate still, for there will be no eternal made sure to you, and you must preserve your own souls, or perish after all. But I shall not enter into any comparisons, for they are odious in this case.
The gospel, our gospel, is beyond the strain and reach of human thought. When men have exercised themselves to the very highest in original conceptions, they have never yet thought out the true gospel. If it is such a common-place thing as the critics would have us believe, why did it arise in the minds of the Egyptians or Chinese? Great minds often run in the same grooves as those of Moses, or Isaiah, or Paul? I think it is a fair thing to say that, if it is such a common-place form of teaching, it might have arisen among the Persians or Hindoos; or, surely, we might have found something like it among the great teachers of Greece. Did any of these think out the doctrine of free and sovereign grace? Did they guess at the Incarnation and Sacrifice of the Son of God? No, even with the aid of our inspired Book, no Mahometan, to my knowledge, has taught a system of grace in which God is glorified as to his justice, his love, and his sovereignty. That sect has grasped a certain sort of predestination which it has defaced into blind faith; but even with that to help them, and the unity of the Godhead as a powerful light to aid them, they have never thought out a plan of salvation so just to God and so pacifying to the troubled conscience as the method of redemption by the substitution of our Lord Jesus.
I will give you another proof, which, to my mind, is conclusive that our gospel is not after men; and it is thisthat it is immutable, and nothing that man produces can be so called. If man makes a gospeland he is very fond of doing it, like children making toyswhat does he do? He is very pleased with it for a few moments, and then he pulls it to pieces, and makes it up in another way; and this continually. The religions of modern thought are as changeable as the mists on the mountains. See how often science has altered its very basis! Science is notorious for being most scientific in destruction of all the science that has gone before it. I have sometimes indulged myself, in leisure moments, in reading ancient natural history, and nothing can be more comic. Yet this is by no means and abstruse science. In twenty years time, some of us may probably find great amusement in the serious scientific teaching of the present hour, even as we do now in the systems of the last century. It may happen that, in a little time, the doctrine of evolution will be the standing jest of schoolboys. The like is true of the modern divinity which bows its knee in blind idolatry of so-called science. Now we say, and do so with all our heart, that the gospel which we preached forty years ago we will still preach in forty years time if we are alive. And, what is more, that the gospel which was taught of our Lord and his apostles is the only gospel now on the face of the earth. Ecclesiastics have altered the gospel, and if it had not been of God it would have been stifled by falsehood long ago; but because the Lord has made it, it abideth for ever. Everything human is before long moon-struck, so that it shifts with every phase of the lunar orb; but the Word of the Lord is not after men, for it is the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever.
It cannot be after men, again, because it is so opposed to human pride. Other systems flatter men, but this speaks the truth. Hear the dreamers of to-day cry up the dignity of human nature! How sublime is man! But point me to a single syllable in which the Word of God sets itself to the extolling of man. On the contrary, it lays him in the very dust, and reveals his condemnation. Where is boasting then? It is excluded: the door is shut in its face. The self-glorification of human nature is foreign to Scripture, which has for its grand object the glory of God. God is everything in the gospel which I preach, and I believe that he is all in all in your ministry also. There is a gospel in which the work and the glory are divided between God and man, and salvation is not altogether of grace; but in our gospel salvation is if the Lord. Man never could nor would have invented and devised a gospel which would lay him low, and secure to the Lord God all the honor and praise. This seems to me to be clear beyond all question; and hence our gospel is not after men.
Again, it is not after men, because it does not give sin any quarter. I have heard that an Englishman has professed himself a Mahometan because he is charmed by the polygamy which the Arabian prophet allows his followers. No doubt the prospect of four wives would win converts who would not be attracted by spiritual considerations. If you preach a gospel which makes allowances for human nature, and treats sin as if it were a mistake rather than a crime, you will find willing hearers. If you can provide absolution at small cost, and can ease conscience by a little self-denial, it will not be wonderful if your religion becomes fashionable. But our gospel declares that the wages of sin is death, and that we can only have eternal life as the gift of God; and that this gift always brings with it sorrow for sin, a hatred towards it, and an avoidance of it. Our gospel tells a man that he must be born again, and that without the new birth he will be lost eternally, while with it he will obtain everlasting salvation. Our gospel offers no excuse or cloak for sin, but condemns it utterly. It presents no pardon except through the great Atonement, and it will give that man no security who tries to harbour any sin in his bosom. Christ died for sin; and we must die to sin, or die eternally. If we preach the gospel faithfully, we must preach the law. You cannot fully preach salvation by Christ without setting Sinai at the back of the picture, and Calvary in the front. Men must be made to feel the evil of sin before they will prize the great Sacrifice which is the head and front of our gospel. This is not to the taste of this or any other age; and therefore I am sure man did not invent it.
We know that gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ is not of men, because our gospel is so suitable for the poor and illiterate. The poor, according to the usual fashion of men, are overlooked. Parliament has enclosed all the commons, so that a poor man cannot keep a goose; I doubt not that, if it were likely to be effectual, we should soon hear of a Bill for distributing freeholds of the stars among certain sky-lords. It is evident that a fine property in the celestial regions is, at the present time, unregistered in any of our courts. Well, they may sooner enclose and assign the sun, moon, and stars than the gospel of our Lord Jesus. This is the poor man's common. The poor have the gospel preached to them. Yet there are not a few nowadays who despise a gospel which the common people can hear and understand; and we may be sure that a plain gospel never came from them, for their taste does not lie in that direction. They want something abstruse, or, as they say, thoughtful. Do we not hear this sort of remark, We are an intellectual people, and need a cultured ministry. Those evangelistic preachers are all very well for popular assemblies, but we have always been select and require that preaching which is abreast of the times? Yes, yes, and their man will be one who will not preach the gospel unless it be in a clouded manner; for if he does not declare the gospel of Jesus, the poor will be sure to intrude themselves, and shock my lords and ladies. Brethren, our gospel does not know anything about high and low, rich and poor, black and white, cultured and uncultured. If it makes any difference, it prefers the poor and down-trodden. The great Founder of it says, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. We praise God that he has chosen the base things, and things that are despised. I hear it boasted of a man's ministry, although it gradually diminishes the congregation, that it is doing a great work among thoughtful young men. I confess that I am not a believer in the existence of these thoughtful young men: those who mistake themselves for such I have generally found to be rather conceited than thoughtful. Young men are all very well, and so are young women, and old women also; but I am sent to preach the gospel to every creature, and I cannot limit myself to thoughtful young men. I certify to you that the gospel which I have preached is not after men, for it knows nothing of selection and exclusiveness, but it values the soul of a sweep or a dustman at the same price as that of the Lord Mayor, or her Majesty.
Lastly, we are sure that the gospel we have preached is not after men, because men do not take to it. It is opposed even to this day. If anything is hated bitterly, it is the out-and-out gospel of the grace of God, especially if that hateful word, sovereignty is mentioned with it. Dare to say, He will have mercy on whom he will have mercy, and he will have compassion on whom he will have compassion, and furious critics will revile you without stint. The modern religionist not only hates the doctrine of sovereign grace, but he raves and rages at the mention of it. He would sooner hear you blaspheme than preach election by the Father, atonement by the Son, or regeneration by the Spirit. If you want to see a man worked up till the Satanic is clearly uppermost, let some of the new divines hear you preach a free-grace sermon. A gospel which is after men will be welcomed by men; but it needs a divine operation upon the heart and mind to make a man willing to receive into his utmost soul this distasteful gospel of the grace of God.
My dear Brethren, do not try to make it tasteful to carnal minds. Hide not the offense of the cross, lest you make it of none effect. The angles and corners of the gospel are its strength: to pare them off is to deprive it of power. Toning down is not the increase of strength, but the death of it. Why, even among the sects, you must have noticed that their distinguishing points are the horns of their power; and when these are practically omitted, the sect is effete. Learn, then, that if you take Christ out of Christianity, Christianity is dead. If you remove grace out of the gospel, the gospel is gone. If the people do not like the doctrine of grace, give them all the more of it. Whenever its enemies rail at a certain kind of gun, a wise military power will provide more of such artillery. A great general, going in before his king, stumbled over his own sword. I see, said the king, your sword in is the way. The warrior answered, Your majesty's enemies have often felt the same. That our gospel offends the King's enemies is no regret to us.
Dear friends, if it be so that we have not received the gospel from man, but from God, let us continue to receive truth by the divinely-appointed channel of faith. Are you sure that you ever will to the full understand the truth of God? With most of us the understanding is like a narrow postern gate to the city of Mansoul, and the great things of God cannot be so cut down as to be brought in by that entrance. The door is not wide enough. But our city has a great gate called faith, through which even the infinite and eternal may be admitted. Give over the hopeless effort of dragging into the mind by efforts of reason that which can so readily dwell in you by the Holy Ghost through faith. We that speak against rationalism are ourselves apt to reason too much; and there is nothing so unreasonable as to hope to receive the things of God by reasoning them out. Let us believe them upon the divine testimony; and when they try us, and even when they seem to grate upon the sensibilities of humanity let us receive them none the less for that. We are not to be judges of what God's truth ought to be; we are to accept it as the Lord reveals it.
Next, let us, each one, expect opposition if he receives the truth from the Lord, and especially opposition from one person who is both near and dear to himnamely, himself. There is a certain old man who is yet alive, and he is no lover of the truth; but, on the contrary, he is a partisan of falsehood. I heard a gracious policeman say that, when he stood in Trafalgar Square, and fellows of the baser sort kicked him and the other police, he felt a bone of the old man stirring within him. Ah, we have felt that bone too often! The carnal nature opposes the truth, for it is not reconciled to God, neither, indeed, can be. Let us pray the Lord to conquer our pride, that the truth may dominate us, despite our evil hearts. As to the outside world opposing, we are not at all alarmed by that fact, for it is exactly what we were taught to expect. We are now unmoved by opposition. The captain of a ship minds not if a little spray breaks over him.
Remember that, if you did not receive the truth except through the power of the Spirit of God, you cannot expect others to do so. They will not believe your report unless the arm of the Lord be revealed to them. But then, if faith be the Holy Ghost's work, we need not fear that men can destroy it. Those who attempt to change our belief may well be a little dubious as to their success in the task they have undertaken. If faith be a divine work within our souls, we may defy all sophistries, flatteries, temptations, and threats. We shall be divinely obstinate: those who would pervert us will have to give us up. Possibly they will call us bigots, or hard-shells, or even idiots; but this also signifies little if our names are written in heaven.
Let us also conclude from our subject that if these things come to us from God, we can safely rest our all upon them. If they came to us of men, they would probably fail us at a crisis. Did you ever trust men, and not rue the day ere the sun was down? Did you ever rely on an arm of flesh without discovering that the best of men are men at the best? But if these things come of God, they are eternal and all sufficient. We can both live and die upon the everlasting gospel. Let us deal more and more with God, and with him only. If we have obtained light from him, there is more of blessing to be had. Let us go to that same Teacher, that we may learn more of the deep things of God. Let us bravely believe in the success of the gospel which we have received. We believe in it: let us believe for it. We will not despair though the whole visible church should apostatize. When invaders had surrounded Rome, and all the country lay at their mercy, a piece of land was to be sold, and a Roman bought it at a fair value. The enemy was there, but he would be dislodged. The enemy might destroy the Roman State. Let him try it! Be you of the same mind. The God of Jacob is our Refuge, and none can stand against his eternal power and Godhead. The everlasting gospel is our banner, and with Jehovah to maintain it, our standard never shall be lowered. In the power of the Holy Ghost truth is invincible. Come on, ye hosts of hell and armies of the aliens! Let craft and criticism, rationalism and priestcraft do their best! The Word of the Lord endureth for evereven that Word which by the gospel is preached unto men.
PORTION OF SCRIPTURE READ BEFORE SERMON2 Corinthians 4.
Collection administered by Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Hosted by WPEngine. For help and support, please email email@example.com