Extract from letter from C. H. Spurgeon to his mother, November, 1852:—
I am more and more glad that I never went to College. God sends such sunshine on my path, such smiles of grace, that I cannot regret if I have forfeited all my prospects for it. I am conscious that I held back from love to God and His cause, and I had rather be poor in His service than rich in my own. I have all that heart can wish for; yea, God giveth more than my desire. My congregation is as great and loving as ever. During all the time that I have been at Waterbeach, I have had a different house for my home every Sabbath day. Fifty-two families have thus taken me in; and I have still six other invitations not yet accepted. Talk about the people not caring for me, because they give me so little! I dare tell anybody under heaven ‘tis false! They do all they can. Our anniversary passed off grandly; six were baptized; crowds on crowds stood by the river; the chapel was afterwards crammed, both to the tea and the sermon.
Again: the most likely way for you ever to receive God’s grace is to believe God’s truths. Never kick against God’s doctrines, but receive them. And I have one thing to say to thee this morning, if in thy heart, poor sinner, thou canst say, “I believe God’s gospel to be a glorious gospel,” thou art not far from something else. If thou canst say. “I submit to all its demands, I believe God just if he destroys me, and if he saves me, it will be of his sovereign mercy only,” then, sinner, there are good hopes of thee, thou hast proceeded some way on the road to heaven. If thou canst but do one thing more, and say, “Though he slay me yet will I trust in him,” and if thou canst come to the cross of Christ, and say, “Jesus, I love thy gospel and I love thy truth; if I perish, I will perish believing all thy truth, I will perish clasping thy cross, if I die, I will die owning that thou art a just and gracious God, and still in my poor way, holding fast the form of sound words,” I tell thee, poor soul, God will never damn thee. If thou dost believe in Jesus Christ, and holdest fast his words, he will look upon thee in love, he will say, “Poor soul! though he does not know that these truths are his, yet he thinks them precious; though he dares not hope that they belong to him, yet he will fight for them; though he does not know that he is really a soldier of the cross, chosen of me ere time began, yet see how valiantly he strives for me,” and the Lord will say, “Poor soul, thou lovest the things that thou thinkest are not thine own—-I will make thee rejoice in them as thine own, by my grace; thou lovest election, though thou thinkest thou art not elect—-that is an evidence that thou art mine.” “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and be baptized, and thou shalt be saved.”
Charles H. Spurgeon-The Form of Sound Words-Delivered on Sabbath, May 11, 1856
Part of undated letter from C. H. Spurgeon to his mother; the first portion is missing : —-
I need your prayers doubly at this time. I know I shall have them, and I believe I have felt the blessing of them more than once. The Lord visit you both, and bear you up in His everlasting arms! Troubles you have had, but I believe the comforts have always kept you joyful in tribulation; cast down, but not in despair.
Bless the Lord, I must say, for making me His son; ‘tis of His own sovereign mercy. Not one good thing has failed. I have felt corruptions rise, and the old man is strong, but grace always comes in just at the critical time, and saves me from myself. The Lord keep me! I have no hope of going on well but by His power. I know that His almighty arm is all sufficient. Get everyone you can to pray for me; a prayer is more precious than gold, it makes me rich. Lift up your arms, like Moses; there is a great battle both in me and out of me. Jesus intercedes; sweet thought, to one who needs just such a Pleader. Jehovah-Jesus, His people’s buckler, is near; an ever-present help in time of trouble, not afar off. We live in Him, He is all around us; who shall destroy His favorites, His darlings? I have had for one of my sermons, John 15:9: “As the Father hath loved Me, so have I loved you: continue ye in My love.” Here is (1) Love without beginning. God never began to love Jesus. (2) Love without limit. God loves Jesus with an unbounded love. (3) Love without change. God always loved Jesus alike, equally. (4) Love without end. When will God leave off loving Jesus? Even so does Jesus love you and me.
“The weakest saint shall win the day,
Though death and hell obstruct the way.”
How are all Christian friends? Love to Mr. Langford, and my best respects; tell him I desire a special interest in his prayers. I want to feel “less than nothing,” but this is a very great attainment. Thank Father for his letter; the Lord of Hosts prosper his labors abundantly! My very best love to yourself. I hope, if it is right, that your hands are well. Kiss the little ones, and give them my love. May they learn of Jesus! I am glad Archer gets on so well; may your ten thousand prayers for us be answered by Him that heareth prayer t Emily is stronger, I hope, ask her to think whether she loves Jesus with all her heart.
I should very much like to know where Aunt lives. I have asked several times, but I have not learned yet. I do not expect many letters from home. Father is so much engaged, that I wonder I get so many. If you want to know any points in which I am not quite explicit enough, write and ask at any time. My affairs are your affairs. I hope always to do that which you would approve of.
Love to all once more,—- —
From your affectionate son,
Some of the greatest and most lethal grace robbers are those I call, the ‘List People’. They are continually trying to improve their standing before God by doing things. If this describes you, I hate to tell you, but you are a legalist! You have been robbed of grace.
One of the ways to recognise a legalist is that he is the one whose list of rules is longer than God’s. Let me explain. Many Christians embrace the idea of grace for salvation. However, they then fall into the trap of thinking that after they become Christians there is a list left to complete to keep salvation in effect. This is Grace Robber thinking!
Here’s the kind of thing these Grace Robbers say. ‘If we obey God, we’ll earn more of His love!’ Unlike the original Judaizers, these grace robbers don’t tell us that we need to be circumcised. Instead, they say, “If you want God to really favour you with His smile, you must give your finances, read your Bible, and pray every day.”
Now, here’s where we need to be established in the gospel. Giving money to the gospel, reading the Bible and praying are excellent and commendable activities, but they will not increase the full favour of God which we already have in Christ.
God doesn’t say to us, “I’ll give you my grace, but in return you have to worship me.” Grace is un-conditional! Yahweh is the God of grace without conditions. Grace doesn’t put us into debt to God, instead, it clears our debt. Grace is free, it doesn’t come with an attached Rider. Grace is both unsought and unbought by us. Grace is given without cost to us and without cause in us.
Grace always remains unearned and undeserved on our part; otherwise it would not be grace. If we have to do something to continue to receive grace, it is not grace. Someone asked Spurgeon, “Why do you say ’free’ grace and not merely grace?” Spurgeon replied, “I do so to make assurance doubly sure. We will always call it, not only grace, but free grace, to make it clear that God gives his grace freely to sinners,—the undeserving and ungodly. He gives it without any condition. If, in one place, he says that he requires repentance, in another place he promises to give repentance; if he demands faith at one moment, he bestows it at another. So grace is always God’s free gift, and that suits a man who has not a penny in his pocket.”
I understand the legalist’s position very well because I used to be one.… mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa! I am a recovering legalist. Although, I believed (and preached) that we were saved by grace alone, I also taught that to enjoy the continued favour of God we had to look beyond the cross to our own performance. There were things that we had to do to gain God’s updated favour. I fasted twice a week, and, each day, got up at 4 AM for prayer and Bible study. BTW, there is nothing wrong with such activity, but I thought by doing these things I was maintaining the flow of God’s love and blessing into my life. That was a terrible error! Also, I thought that, if I wanted to keep the smile of heaven, I had to constantly get out there and witness to the unsaved. If I wasn’t doing all those things, I felt I was disappointing God. I, thus, kept myself, and others, in grievous and inglorious bondage.
But, here’s the gospel truth: we believers already have the entire favour of God, not because of any works we have done or are doing. We have the full favour of God because of Christ and His works. We are in Him. We are not accepted by having our own righteousness which comes by fulfilling lists of rules and regulations. We are in Him. We have, therefore, Christ’s entire righteousness credited and reckoned to us (see Philippians 3:9).
So what about works? Yes indeed, what about them? As grace believers, we want to obey God because we know and enjoy His gracious love. By the way, if we think grace means that we can sin all we want, we’ve turned grace into what has been nicknamed, “Greasy Grace.” The more we understand grace, however, the more we desire to follow the Lord Jesus and to honour Him.
The difference between obedience in legalism and obedience in grace is in the motive for our obedience. If we obey God with the belief that it will improve our standing with God, or that He will love us less if we don’t, then we are encountering a grace robber. But, if we obey God in response to being deeply loved and warmly welcomed, then we are standing in grace and enjoying being saved.
Grace believers don’t read their Bibles and pray because they feel like they are obligated to: they read because they want to! They don’t try to share the gospel with people because they feel like they have to: they do it because God has empowered them to want to share.
And that’s the Gospel Truth!
April 6, 1852.
MY DEAR FATHER, —
I am sorry that anything I said in my letter should have grieved you. It was nothing you said that made your letter a sad one; it was only my thoughts of leaving the people at ‘Beach. I thank you most sincerely for your very kind offer, and also for your assurance that I am at perfect liberty to act as I think it is the will of God I should act. I am sure I never imagined that you would force me,—-it was only my poor way of expressing myself that caused the blunder,—-and I do now most affectionately entreat forgiveness of you if I said anything that had a shadow of wrong in it, or if I have thought in any wrong manner. I have desired, all along, to act the part of a dutiful son to an affectionate parent; and if I fail, I feel sure that you and dear Mother will impute it rather to my weakness in act, than to a want of love.
With regard to my decision,—-I have said so much in my last that more would be unnecessary. I do really think it to be my duty to continue in the place I now occupy,—-for a short time at least. I have been assured that never were more tears shed in Waterbeach, at any time, than when I only hinted at leaving. They could not give me stronger tokens of their affection than they did give. One prayer went up from all, “Lord, keep him here!” I am assured by Mr. King that the people have had ministers whom one lot were very pleased, with, but there always was a party opposed; but now, though he has a good scope for observation, he has not heard one opinion contrary to me. The Lord gave me favor with the people, and I am so young that they look over many faults; I believe this is one of the facts of the case. The worst is, I am in a dangerous place; the pinnacle is not so safe as the quiet vale. I know you pray that I may be kept humble, and I know I do. Oh, if the clouds pass without rain, how sorrowful I shall feel! When I have been thinking on the many difficulties in preaching the Word, the doctrine of election has been a great comfort to me. I do want men to be saved, and it is my consolation that a multitude no man can number are by God’s immutable decree ordained to eternal life. So we cannot labor in vain, we must have some; the covenant renders that secure.
I shall always be glad of some of your skeletons, for though I do not want them to make me lazy, yet they give some hints when a passage does not open at once. It will be too much trouble for you to. write them, but I have no doubt Archer will copy them for me ….
As to my cash, I have bought a great many books lately, for my constant work requires them, and you know Mr. L. would not have many of the class of books I want. Yet I calculate on having £5 in hand at Midsummer, or by God’s blessing, more. I think that (of course, I mean, if God prospers me,) I shall be able to save enough to put myself to College, and if not, if I should go, which, as you say, is not very certain, why then friends at Cambridge would help me if I could not manage it. Has taken the positive steps yet with regard to joining the church? If not, tell her I blush that she should blush to own her Lord. Do not forget me in earnest prayer …. My very best love to my dear Mother. I am sure she can tell all the mothers in the world that parents’ prayers are not forgotten. I daresay you think God saved the worst first; if you do not, I do. I believe I have given you more trouble than any of the others, but I did not mean it; and I still believe that I have given you joy, too, and I hope the trouble, though not repaid, will yet be recompensed by a comfort arising from seeing me walk in the truth.
Remember me to Emily The little ones are getting big, I suppose; my love to them, I hope they will be God’s daughters.
Your affectionate son,
Grace Robbers are very subtle. They don’t go around chanting, “Down with the cross, down with the cross.” However, when it comes to preaching, they emphasise, not Christ crucified, but feelings and experience. Grace robbers will major on anything and everything but the grace of God in the gospel.
By the way, it’s not that it’s wrong to feel the presence of the Lord and to enjoy Him. God forbid that we should have a cold, dry, bare faith that does not affect the entire being. However, vast numbers of professing Christians are continually lusting after the excitement of a new experience. The gospel is not enough. They want ‘The Release of the River of Life’, or the ‘Soaking of the Spirit’. They wish for something other than the gospel.
They fail to see the glory of Christ in the good news. They desire a richer experience than they feel is afforded to them by the gospel. They seem unimpressed that Christ has, by His doing, dying and rising again, gained a glorious inheritance for us. They do not stand in awe and wonder of His present day sovereign intercession for us (Hebrews 7:25). It seems a matter of nothing to them to know that we have already received the Spirit of Adoption (Romans 8:15). They appear to be unaware that we are already in Christ and are already blessed with all spiritual blessings in Him (Ephesians 1:3). The Father Himself, as He beholds us in Christ, speaks well of us, but this does not seem to move them. In the search for a deeper spirituality, many have turned their eyes inward. To their detriment, the object of their attention becomes themselves and not the risen, exalted Christ, who loved us and gave Himself for us (Colossians 3:2).
Here’s the kind of thing that happens when the believer’s focus is taken off Christ. Let’s say someone feels they have had a great, new, spiritual experience. They then insist that everyone must have the same experience they have had. It must be duplicated among all and sundry!
But, this is just another form of anti-gospel, grace robbing legalism! This new supposed blessing now put itself in competition against the blessings we already have in Christ alone. Furthermore, this is not the New Testament, apostolic pattern. We read, for example, in 2 Corinthians 12:2 of how Paul visited the third heaven. Yet nowhere does the apostle promote that all of us need to have ‘The Third Heaven Experience’ to complete our Christianity. In fact, it’s quite the opposite for he tells us that we are already complete in Christ (Colossians 2:10). In addition, Peter was praying and had a vision of a sheet descending from heaven and God spoke to him (Acts 11:5ff). This was doubtless a time of intense spiritual intimacy for him, but at no point did he ever call for people to come and be blessed with the Joppa Experience.
I remember, some years ago, being pressured by well-meaning people to go to Toronto, Canada, for there was a supposed blessing to be had at a church there. If you were without the ‘Toronto Blessing’, my friends inferred, you lacked spiritual insight and sensitivity. I don’t know how the leaders of this blessing felt, but many of the followers (of the blessing) implied that they were the ‘haves’ and we others, who had not received this blessing, were the ‘have nots’. We were the second-class citizens of the Kingdom, they the first-class. They were the grade A Christians…the rest of us were merely grade B.
But, this kind of thinking is grace robbing legalism. Why so? Because, in their eyes, they had not already been made Grade A Christians by Christ alone. They were made grade A Christians by having had the Toronto Blessing. They held that we needed the blood plus a second blessing to get a first class ticket to heaven. This is Legalism…impure, anti-gospel, grace robbing legalism!
Here’s the Gospel Truth, because of the Finished Work, each child of God is already a ‘Grade A’ Christian. The cross has made every believer first class and entirely accepted. In Christ, we are already enjoying, the non-improvable, full smile of Heaven.
So beware of Grace Robbers. They will teach that if you are truly in tune with God, your experience will mirror theirs. They have had an experience and are, in their opinion, better off and more spiritual than are you. However, if you buy into this nonsense, you have fallen for the teaching of another grace robber.
And that’s the Gospel Truth!
CAMBRIDGE, Feb. 24, 1852.
MY DEAR FATHER, —
Mr. Angus, the tutor of Stepney College, preached for us on Sunday, Feb. 1. Being at my own place, I had no opportunity of seeing him, and was very surprised, when, on Monday, I was told that he wanted to see me. I assure you, I never mentioned myself to him, nor to anyone,—-this came quite unexpectedly. I suppose the deacons of our church, hearing of my doings at Waterbeach, had thought right to mention me to him.
Well, I went to the place of meeting; but, by a very singular occurrence, we missed each other; he wait in the parlor, while I was shown into the drawing-room, and the servant forgot to tell him I had come. As he was going to. London, and could not wait, he wrote the enclosed.
I have waited thus long because (1) I wanted to get a little more to tell you; (2) I do not want to appear to desire to go to College at’ your expense. I do not wish to go until I can pay for it with my own money, or until friends offer to help, because I do not want to burden you. It is said by almost all friends that I ought to go to College. I have no very great desire for it; in fact, none at all. Yet I have made it a matter of prayer, and I trust, yea, I am confident, God will ‘ guide me.
Of course, you are my only earthly director and guide in these matters; your judgment always has been best; you must know best. But perhaps you will allow me just to state my own opinion, not because I shall trust in it, but only that you may see my inclination. I think, then, (with all deference to you,) that I had better not go to College yet, at least not just now, for—-
1. Whatever advantages are to be derived from such a course of study, I shall be more able to improve when my powers are more developed than they are at present. When I know more, I shall be more able to learn.
2. Providence has thrown me into a great sphere of usefulness,—-a congregation of often 450, a loving and praying church, and an awakened audience. Many already own that the preaching has been with power from Heaven. Now, ought I to leave them?
3. In a few years’ time, I hope to improve my financial position so as to be at no expense to you, or at least not for all. I should not like to know that you were burdening yourself for me. I should love to work my own way as much as possible. I know you like this feeling.
4. I am not uneducated. I have many opportunities of improvement now; all I want is more time; but even that, Mr. Leeding would give me, if it were so arranged. I have plenty of practice; and do we not learn to preach by preaching? You know what my style is. I fancy it is not very Collegelike. Let it be never so bad, God has blessed it, and I believe He will yet more. All I do right, He does in me, and the might is of Him. I am now well off; I think as well off as anyone of my age, and I am sure quite as happy. If I were in need I think the people might be able to raise more for me. Now, shall I throw myself out, and trust to Providence as to whether I shall ever get another place as soon as I leave College?
5. But, no;—-I have said enough,—-you are to judge, not I. I leave it to God and yourself, but, still, I should like you to decide in this way. Of course, I have a will, and you now know it; but I say “Not mine, but your will, and God’s will.”
I have just acknowledged the letter, and said that I could make no reply until I had consulted my friends. I think it might be as well, if you think so, too, to let Mr. Angus know as much as is right of my present position, that he may be favorable toward me at any future time ….
I hope you will excuse my scrawl, for, believe me, I am fully employed. Last night, I thought of writing; but was called out to see a dying man, and I thought I dare not refuse. The people at W. would not like to get even a hint of my leaving them. I do not know why they love me, but they do; it is the Lord’s doing.
Give my love, and many thanks to dear Mother, Archer, and sisters. If at any time you think a letter from me would be useful, just hint as much, and I will write one. May God keep me, in every place, every evil, and dwell with you, and abide with you for ever, and with my best love,
Your affectionate son,