The Death of Christ for His People
Intended for Reading on Lord's-Day, January 7th, 1900,
C. H. SPURGEON,
At New Park Street Chapel, Southwark.
On a Lord's-day Evening in the winter of 1857.
"He laid down his life for us."—1 John 3:16.
COME, believer and contemplate this sublime truth, thus proclaimed to
thee in simple monosyllables: "He laid down his life for us." There is not
one long word in the sentence; it is all as simple as it can be; and it is
simple because it is sublime. Sublimity in thought always needs simplicity
in words to express itself. Little thoughts require great words to explain
them; little preachers need Latin words to convey their feeble ideas, but
great thoughts and great expressers of those thoughts are content with
laid down his life for us." Here there is not much upon which any man can
display his eloquence; here is little room for metaphysical discussion or
for deep thought; the text sets before us a simple yet sublime doctrine.
What, then, shall I do with it? If I would speak of it profitably to myself,
since I need not employ my wit to dissect it, nor my oratory to proclaim it,
let me exercise my adoration to worship it; let me prostrate all my powers
before the throne, and, like an angel when his work is done, and he has
nowhere else to fly at his Lord's command, let me fold the wings of my
contemplation, and stand before the throne of this great truth, and meekly
bow myself, and worship him that was, and is, and is to come,—the great and
glorious One who "laid down his life for us."
will be well for me, in commencing my discourse, to remind you that there is
no understanding the death of Christ unless we understand the person of
Christ. If I were to tell you that God died for us, although I might be
telling you a truth, and you might possibly not misunderstand what I meant,
yet I should be at the same time uttering an error. God cannot die; it is,
of course, impossible, from his very nature, that he could even for a moment
cease to exist. God is incapable of suffering. It is true that we sometimes
use words to express emotions On the part of God; but, then, we speak after
the manner of men. He is impassive; he cannot suffer; it is not possible for
him to endure aught; much less, then, is it possible for him to suffer
death. Yet we are told, in the verse from which our text is taken, "Hereby
perceive we the love of God." You notice that the words "of God" are
inserted by the translators. They are in italics because they are not in the
original. A better translation would be, "Hereby perceive we love." But when
we read "of God," it might lead the ignorant to fancy that God could die;
whereas, God could not. We must always understand, and constantly remember,
that our Lord Jesus Christ was "very God of very God," and that, as God, he
had all the attributes of the Most High, and could not, therefore, be
capable either of suffering or death. But then he was also man, "man of the
substance of his mother," man, just like ourselves, sin alone excepted. And
the Lord Jesus died not as God; it was as man that he gave up the ghost; as
man, he was nailed to the cross. As God, he was in heaven, even when his
body was in the tomb; as God, he was swaying the sceptre of all worlds even
when the mock sceptre of reed was in his hand, and the imperial robe of
universal monarchy was on the eternal shoulders of his Godhead when the
soldier's old purple cloak was wrapped about his manhood. He did not cease
to be God, he did not lose his Omnipotence, and his eternal dominion, when
he became man; nor did he, as God, die or suffer; it was as man that he
"laid down his life for us."
now, my soul, and worship this man, this God. Come, believer, and behold thy
Saviour; come to the innermost circle of all sanctity, the circle that
contains the cross of Christ, and here sit down; and, whilst thou dost
worship, learn three lessons from the fact that "he laid down his life for
us." The first lesson should be,—Did he lay down his life for us? Ah! then,
my brethren, how great must have been our sins that they could not
have been atoned for at any other price! Secondly, did he lay down his life
for us? Ah! then, beloved, how great must have been his love!
He would not stop short anywhere, until life itself had been resigned.
Thirdly, did he lay down his life for us? Ah! then, my soul, be of good
cheer; how safe art thou! If such an atonement hath been offered, if
such a sure satisfaction hath been given to Almighty God, how secure thou
art! Who is he that can destroy him who hath been bought with the blood of
such a Redeemer?
Come, then, let me believingly meditate on the first sad fact. Did Christ
lay down his life for me? Then, HOW GREAT MUST HAVE BEEN MY SINS!
my brethren, I will speak a little of my own experience, and in so doing I
shall also be describing yours. I have seen my sins in many different ways.
I saw them once by the blazing light of Sinai; and, oh! my spirit shrank
within me, for my sins seemed exceeding black. When the sound of the trumpet
waxed loud and long, and the lighting and fire flashed into my heart, I saw
a very hell of iniquity within my soul, and I was ready then to curse the
day that I was horn, that I should have had such a heart, so vile and so
deceitful. I thought that then I had seen the exceeding blackness of my sin.
Alas! I had not seen enough of sin to make me loathe it so as to leave it,
for that conviction passed away. Sinai was but a volcano, and it was hushed
to silence; and then I began to play with sin again, and loved it as much as
beheld another sight one day; I saw my sins by the light of heaven. I looked
up, and I considered the heavens, the work of God's fingers; I perceived the
purity of God's character written on the sunbeams, I saw his holiness
engraved upon the wide world, as well as revealed in Scripture; and as I
compared myself with him, I thought I saw how black I was. O God! I never
knew the heinousness of my own guilt, until I saw the glory of thy
character; but now I see the brightness of thy holiness, my whole soul is
cast down at the thought of my sinfulness, and my great departure from the
living God. I thought that, then, I had seen enough. Ah! I had seen enough
to make me worship for a moment; but my gladness was as the early cloud and
as the morning dew, and I went my way, and forgot what manner of man I was.
When I had lost the sense of the majesty of God, I lost also the
consciousness of my own guilt.
there came to me another view, and I beheld God's lovingkindness to me; I
saw how he had dandled me upon the knee of Providence,—how he had carried me
all my life long,—how he had strewn my path with plenty, and given me all
things richly to enjoy. I remembered how he had been with me in the hour of
trial, how he had preserved me in the day of hurricane, and kept me safe at
the moment of storm. I remembered all his goodness to me; and, struck with
surprise at his mercy, I looked upon my sin in the light of his grace; and I
said, "O sin, how base thou art, what dire ingratitude dost thou manifest
against a God so profoundly kind!"
thought, then, surely I had seen the worst of sin, when I had laid it side
by side, first with the character of God, and afterwards wit his bounties. I
cursed sin from my inmost heart, and thought I had seen enough of it. But,
ah! my brethren, I had not. That sense of gratitude passed away, and I found
myself still prone to sin, and still loving it.
oh, there came a thrice-happy, yet thrice-mournful hour! One day, in my
wanderings, I heard a cry, a groan; metought 'twas not a cry such as came
from mortal lip, it had in it such unutterable depths of wondrous woe. I
turned aside, expecting to see some great sight; and it was indeed a great
sight that I saw. Lo, there, upon a tree, all bleeding, hung a man. I marked
the misery that made his flesh all quiver on his bones; I beheld the dark
clouds come rolling down from heaven, like the chariots of misery; I saw
them clothe his brow with blackness; I saw even in the thick darkness, for
mine eyes were opened, and I perceived that his heart was as full of the
gloom and horror of grief as the sky was full of blackness. Then I seemed to
look into his soul, and I saw there torrents of unutterable anguish,—wells
of torment of such an awful character that mortal lip dare not sip, lest it
should be burned with scalding heat. I said, "Who is this mighty sufferer?
Why doth he suffer thus? Hath he been the greatest of all sinners, the
basest of all blasphemers?" But a voice came forth from the excellent glory,
and it said, "This is my beloved Son; but he took the sinner's sin upon
himself, and he must bear its penalty." O God! I thought, I never saw sin
till that hour, when I saw it tear Christ's glories from his head,—when it
seemed for a moment even to withdraw the lovingkindness of God from
him,—when I saw him covered with his own blood, and plunged into the
uttermost depths of oceans of grief. Then I said, "Now shall I know what
thou art, O sin, as never before I knew it!" Though those other sights might
teach me something of the dire character of evil, yet never, till I saw the
Saviour on the tree, did I understand how base a traitor man's guilt was to
heir of heaven, lift now thine eye, and behold the scenes of suffering
through which thy Lord passed for thy sake! Come in the moonlight, and stand
between those olives; see him sweat great drops of blood. Go from that
garden, and follow him to Pilate's bar. See your Matter subjected to the
grossest and filthiest insult; gaze upon the face of spotless beauty defiled
with the spittle of soldiers; see his head pierced with thorns; mark his
back, all rent, and torn, and scarred, and bruised, and bleeding beneath the
terrible lash. And O Christian, see him die! Go and stand where his mother
stood, and hear him say to thee, "Man, behold thy Saviour!" Come thou
to-night, and stand where John stood; hear him cry, "I thirst," and find
thyself unable either to assuage his griefs or to comprehend their
bitterness. Then, when thou hast wept there, lift thine hand, and cry,
"Revenge!" Bring out the traitors; where are they? And when your sins are
brought forth as the murderers of Christ, let no death be too painful for
them; though it should involve the cutting off of right arms, or the
quenching of right eyes, and putting out their light for ever; do it! For if
these murderers murdered Christ, then let them die. Die terribly they may,
but die they must. Oh! that God the Holy Ghost would teach you that first
lesson, my brethren, the boundless wickedness of sin, for Christ had to lay
down his life before your sin could be wiped away.
Now we will come to the second head, and here we will lift up our hearts
from the depths of sadness to the heights of affection. Did the Saviour lay
down his life for me? We will read it now, "He laid down his life for me;"
and I pray the Lord to help each of you, by faith, to read it so, because,
when we say "us", that is dealing in generalities,—blessed generalities, it
is true,—but let us, at this time, deal in specialities, and say, each one
of us who can do so truthfully, "He laid down his life for me." Then,
HOW GREATLY HE MUST HAVE LOVED ME!
Lord Jesus! I never knew thy love till I understood the meaning of thy
death. Beloved, we shall try again, if we can, to tell the story of our own
experience, to let you see how God's love is to be learned. Come, saint, sit
down, and meditate on thy creation, note how marvellously thou hast been
formed, and all thy bones fitted to one another, and see love there. Mark,
next, that predestination which placed thee where thou art; for the lines
have fallen unto thee in pleasant places, and, notwithstanding all thy
troubles, thou hast, compared with many a poor soul, "a goodly heritage."
Mark, then, the love of God displayed in the predestination that has made
thee what thou art, and placed thee where thou art. Then look thou back, and
see the lovingkindness of thy Lord, as displayed to thee in all thy journey
up till now. Thou art getting old, and thy hair is whitening above thy brow;
but he hath carried thee all the days of old; not one good thing hath failed
of all that the Lord thy God hath promised. Recall thy life-story. Go back
now, and look at the tapestry of thy life, which God has been working every
day with the golden filament of his love, and see what pictures of grace
there are upon it. Canst thou not say that Jesus has loved thee? Turn thine
eye back, and read the ancient rolls of the everlasting covenant, and see
thy name amongst the firstborn, the elect, the Church of the living God.
Say, did he not love thee when he wrote thy name there? Go and remember how
the eternal settlements were made, and how God decreed and arranged all
things so that thy salvation should come to pass. Say, was there not love
at the remembrance of thy convictions; think of thy conversion; recollect
thy preservation, and how God's grace hath been working upon thee, in
adoption, in justification, and in every item of the new covenant; and when
thou hast summed up all these things, let me ask thee this question,—Do all
these things produce in thee such a sense of gratitude as the one thing that
I shall mention now, the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ? For, my brother, if
thy mind is like mine, although thou wilt think highly enough of all these
things that God hath given thee, thou wilt be obliged to confess that the
thought of the death of Christ upon the cross swallows them all up. This I
know, my brethren, I may look back, I may look forward, but whether I look
back to the decrees of eternity, or look forward to the pearl-gated city,
and all the splendours that God has prepared for his own beloved children, I
can never see my Father's love so beaming forth, in all its effulgence, as
when I look at the cross of Christ, and see him die thereon. I can read the
love of God in the rocky letters of the eternal covenant, and in the blazing
letters of heaven hereafter; but, my brethren, in those crimson lines, those
lines written in blood, there is something more striking than there is
anywhere else, for they say, "He laid down his life for us" Ah, here it is
ye learn love. You know the old story of Damon and Pythias,—how the two
friends struggled together as to which should die for the other; there was
love there. But, ah! there is no comparison between Damon and Pythias, and a
poor sinner and his Saviour. Christ laid down his life, his glorious life,
for a poor worm; he stripped himself of all his splendours, then of all his
happiness, then of his own righteousness, then of his own robes, till he was
naked to his own shame; and then he laid down his life, that was all he had
left, for our Saviour had not kept anything back.
think of that for a moment. He had a crown in heaven; but he laid that
aside, that you and I might wear one for ever. He had a girdle of
brightness—brighter than the stars,—about his loins; but he took it off, and
laid it by, that you and I might eternally wear a girdle of righteousness.
He had listened to the holy songs of the cherubim and seraphim; but he left
them all that we might for ever dwell where angels sing; and then he came to
earth, and he had many things, even in his poverty, which might have tended
to his comfort; he laid down, first one glory, and then another, at love's
demand; at last, it came to this, he had nothing left but one poor garment,
woven from the top throughout, and that was clinging to his back with blood,
and he laid down that also. Then there was nothing left, he had not kept
back one single thing. "There," he might have said, "take an inventory of
all I have, to the last farthing; I have given it all up for my people's
ransom." And there was nought left now but his own life. O love insatiable!
couldst thou not stay there? Though he had given up one hand to cancel sin,
and the other hand to reconcile us unto God; and had given up one foot that
we might have our sinful feet for ever transfixed, and nailed, and fastened,
never to wander, and the other foot to be fastened to the tree that we might
have our feet at liberty to run the heavenly race; and there was nothing
left but his poor heart, and he gave his heart up too, and they set it
abroach with the spear, and forthwith there came out thence blood and water.
my Lord! what have I ever given to thee compared to what thou hast given for
me? Some poor things, like some rusty farthings, I have given thee; but how
little compared with what thou hast given me! Now and then, my Lord, I have
given thee a poor song upon an ill-toned instrument; sometimes, my Lord, I
have done some little service for thee; but, alas! my fingers were so black,
they spoiled what I intended to have presented to thee white as snow. It is
nought I have done for thee, my Lord. No, though I have been a missionary,
and surrendered home and friends; no, though I have been a martyr, and given
my body to be burned, I will say, in the last hour, "My Master, I have done
nothing for thee, after all, in comparison with what thou hast done for me;
and yet, what can I do more? How can I show my love to thee, for thy love to
me, so peerless, so matchless? What shall I do? I will do nothing but—
"'Dissolved by thy goodness, I'll fall to the ground,
And weep to the praise of the mercy I've found.'
"That is all I can do, and that I must and will do."
Now, beloved, we will change the theme, and go one note higher. We have run
up the gamut a long way, and now we have just reached the height of the
octave. But we have something else to get out of the text: "He laid down his
life for us." Did my Saviour lay down his life for me? Then, HOW SAFE I AM!
will have no controversy to-night with those who do not see this truth; the
Lord open their blind eyes, and show it to them! That is all we will say.
We, who know the gospel, see, in the fact of the death of Christ, a reason
that no strength of logic can ever shake, and no power of unbelief can
remove, why we should be saved. There may be men, with minds so distorted
that they can conceive it possible that Christ should die for a man who
afterwards is lost; I say, there may be such. I am sorry to say that there
are still to be found some such persons, whose brains have been so addled,
in their childhood, that they cannot see that what they hold is both a
preposterous falsehood and a blasphemous libel. Christ dies for a man, and
then God punishes that man again; Christ suffers in a sinner's stead, and
then God condemns that sinner after all! Why, my friends, I feel quite
shocked in only mentioning such an awful error; and were it not so current
as it is, I should certainly pass it over with the contempt that it
deserves. The doctrine of Holy Scripture is this, that God is just, that
Christ died in the stead of his people, and that, as God is just, he will
never punish one solitary soul of Adam's race for whom the Saviour did thus
shed his blood. The Saviour did, indeed, in a certain sense, die for all;
all men receive many a mercy through his blood, but that he was the
Substitute and Surety for all men, is so inconsistent, both with reason and
Scripture, that we are obliged to reject the doctrine with abhorrence. No,
my soul, how shalt thou be punished if thy Lord endured thy punishment for
thee? Did he die for thee? O my soul, if Jesus was not thy Substitute, and
did not die in thy very stead, then he is no Saviour to thee! But if he was
thy Substitute, if he suffered as thy Surety, in thy stead, then, my soul,
"Who is he that condemneth?" Christ hath died, yea, rather, hath risen
again, and sitteth at the right hand of God, and maketh intercession for us.
There stands the master-argument: Christ "laid down his life for us," and
"if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his
Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life." If the
agonies of the Saviour put our sins away, the everlasting life of the
Saviour, with the merits of his death added thereunto, must preserve his
people, even unto the end.
much I know,—ye may hear men stammer when they say it,—but what I preach is
the old Lutheran, Calvinistic, Augustinian, Pauline, Christian truth,—there
is not one sin in the Book of God against anyone that believeth. Our sins
were numbered on the Scapegoat's head, and there is not one sin, that ever a
believer did commit, that hath any power to damn him, for Christ hath taken
the damning power out of sin, by allowing it, to speak by a bold metaphor,
to damn himself, for sin did condemn him; and, inasmuch as sin condemned
him, sin cannot condemn us. O believer, this is thy security, that all thy
sin and guilt, all thy transgressions and thine iniquities, have been atoned
for, and were atoned for before they were committed; so that thou mayest
come with boldness, though red with all crimes, and black with every lust,
and lay thine hand on that Scapegoat's head, and when thou hast put thine
hand there, and seen that Scapegoat driven into the wilderness, thou mayest
clap thine hands for joy, and say, "It is finished, sin is pardoned."
"Here's pardon for transgressions pest,
It matters not how black their cast;
And oh, my soul, with wonder view,
For sin's to come, here's pardon too!"
This is all I want to know; did the Saviour die for me? Then I will not
continue in sin that grace may abound; but nothing shall stop me of thus
glorying, in all the churches of the Lord Jesus, that my sins are entirely
removed from me; and, in God's sight, I may sing, as Hart did sing,—
"With Christ's spotless vesture on,
Holy as the Holy One."
O marvellous death of Christ, how securely dost, thou set the feet of God's
people on the rocks of eternal love; and how securely dost thou keep them
there! Come, dear brethren, let us suck a little honey out of this
honeycomb. Was there ever anything so luscious and so sweet to the
believer's taste as this all-glorious truth that we are complete in him;
that in and through his death and merits we are accepted in the Beloved? Oh,
was there ever anything mare sublime than this thought, that he hath already
raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ
Jesus, far above all principalities and powers; just where he sits? Surely
there is nothing more sublime than that, except it be that a master-thought
stamps all these things with more than their own value,—that master-thought
that, though the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, the covenant
of his love shall never depart from us. "For," saith Jehovah, "I will never
forget thee, O Zion;" "I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy
walls are continually before me." O Christian, that is a firm foundation,
cemented with blood, on which thou mayest build for eternity! Ah, my soul!
thou needest no other hope but this. Jesus, thy mercy never dies; I will
plead this truth when cast down with anguish,—Thy mercy never dies. I will
plead this when Satan hurls temptations at me, and when conscience casts the
remembrance of my sin in my teeth; I will plead this ever, and I will plead
"Jesus, thy blood and righteousness
My beauty are, my glorious dress."
Yea, and after I die, and even when I stand before thine eyes, thou dread
"When from the dust of death I rise,
To take my mansion in the skies,
E'en then shall this be all my plea,
'Jesus hath lived and died for me.'
"Bold shall I stand in that great day,
For who aught to my charge shall lay?
While through Christ's blood absolved I am
From sin's tremendous curse and shame."
Ah, brethren, if this is your experience you may come to the table of
communion now right happily; it will not be coming to a funeral, but to a
feast of gladness. "He laid down his life for us."
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