What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid.…
1. Grace is the soul of the gospel: without it the gospel is dead. Grace is the music of the gospel; without it the gospel is silent as to all comfort. From the "A" to the "Z" in the heavenly alphabet everything in salvation is all of free favour, nothing of merit. "By grace are ye saved through faith," etc.
2. No sooner is this doctrine set forth, however, than men begin to cavil at it; it is so humbling to human pride. God alone is exalted in the sovereignty of His mercy; this is not pleasant to the great minds of our philosophers and the broad phylacteries of our moralists. Straightway comes the objection that such doctrine must lead to licentiousness.
3. Now I admit that some turned the grace of God into lasciviousness; but cannot every truth be perverted? Is there not an almost infinite ingenuity in wicked men for making evil out of good? But let us act like rational men. We do not find fault with ropes because men have hanged themselves; nor do we destroy the wares of Sheffield because edged tools are the murderer's instruments.
4. Looking back in history I see upon its pages a refutation of the oft-repeated calumny. Who were the men that held these doctrines most firmly? Men like Owen, Charnock, Manton, Howe, and Cromwell. What kind of men were these? Every historian will tell you that the greatest fault was that they were too precise for their generation, so that they were called Puritans. And if we are ever to see a godly England we must have a gospelised England. The gospel of the grace of God promotes real holiness.
I. THE SALVATION WHICH IT BEINGS IS SALVATION FROM THE POWER OF SIN. What we mean by salvation is deliverance from the love of habit and desire of sin. Now if that boon is the gift of Divine grace, in what way will it produce sin? The worse men are the more gladly would we see them embracing this truth, for they most need it.
II. ITS PRINCIPLE OF LOVE HAS BEEN FOUND TO POSSESS VERY GREAT POWER OVER MEN. In the infancy of history nations dream that crime can be put down by severity, but experience corrects the error. Our forefathers dreaded forgery, and made it a capital offence. Yet the constant use of the gallows was never sufficient to stamp out the crime. But some offences have almost ceased when the penalty has been lightened.
1. Love makes sin infamous. If one should rob another it would be sufficiently bad; but suppose a man robbed a friend who had helped him often when he was in need, everyone would say that his crime was most disgraceful.
2. Love has a great constraining power towards the highest form of virtue. Deeds to which a man could not be compelled on the ground of law, men have cheerfully done because of love. Would our brave seamen man the lifeboat to obey an Act of Parliament? Remember Romans 5:7, 8. Goodness wins the heart, and one is ready to die for the kind and generous. Look how men have thrown away their lives for great leaders. The wounded French soldier, when the surgeon, searching for the bullet cut deeply, cried out, "A little lower and you will touch the Emperor." Love to Jesus creates a heroism of which law knows nothing. All Church history is a proof of this.
3. Love, too, has often changed the most unworthy. We have often heard of the soldier who had been flogged and imprisoned, and yet would get drunk and misbehave himself. At last the commanding officer said, "I have tried almost everything, I will try one thing more. You seem incorrigible, but I will freely forgive you." The man was greatly moved by this, and became a good soldier. A man woke up one morning from his drunken sleep and saw his only child getting his breakfast. Coming to his senses he said to her, "Millie, why do you stay with me?" She answered, "Because you are my father, and I love you." He looked at himself, and saw what a ragged, good-for-nothing creature he was, and he answered her, "Millie, do you really love me?" The child cried, "Yes, father, and I will never leave you, because when mother died she said, 'Millie, stick to your father, and always pray for him, and one of these days he will give up drink and be a good father to you'; so I will never leave you." Is it wonderful that Millie's father became a Christian? According to our moralists she should have said, "You are a horrible wretch f I have stuck to you long enough; I must now leave you, or else I shall be encouraging other fathers to get drunk." Under such dealing I fear Millie's father would have drank himself into perdition. But the power of love made a better man of him. Hear another story. There lived in Cheapside one who feared God and attended the secret meetings of the saints; and near him there dwelt a poor cobbler, whose wants were often relieved by the merchant; but the man, from hope of reward, laid an information against his kind friend on the score of religion. This accusation would have brought the merchant to death by burning if he had not found a means of escape. Returning, the injured man behaved more liberally than ever. The cobbler, however, avoided him, but one day was obliged to meet him, and the Christian man asked him gently, "Why do you shun me? I know all that you did to injure me, but I never had an angry thought against you. Let us be friends." Do you marvel that they clasped hands and that ere long the poor man was found at the Lollards' meeting? The Lord knows that bad as men are the key of their hearts hangs on the nail of love.
III. ITS OPERATIONS ARE CONNECTED WITH A SPECIAL REVELATION OF THE EVIL OF SIN. Iniquity is made to be exceeding bitter before or when it is forgiven. A burnt child dreads the fire. By the operations of grace we are made weary of sin; we loathe both it and its imaginary pleasures. It is a thing accursed, even as Amalek was to Israel.
IV. IT MAKES A MAN A NEW CREATURE IN CHRIST JESUS. His ignorance is removed, his affections are changed, his understanding is enlightened, his will is subdued, his desires are refined, his life is changed — in fact, he is as one newborn, to whom all things have become new. All beings live according to their nature, and the regenerated man works out the holy instincts of his renewed mind. A new heart makes all the difference. Given a new nature, and then all the propensities run in a different way.
V. IT PROVIDES CLEANSING THROUGH ATONEMENT. The blood of Jesus sanctifies as well as pardons. The sinner learns that his free pardon cost the life of his best Friend. What! live in the sin which slew Jesus? Impossible! Thus you see that the gifts of free grace, when handed down by a pierced hand, are never likely to suggest self-indulgence in sin, but the very reverse.
VI. IT SECURES DAILY HELPS FROM GOD'S HOLY SPIRIT. Who deigns to dwell in every man whom God has saved by His grace.
1. He leads believers to be much in prayer, and what a power for holiness is found in this.
2. The renewed man is also quickened in conscience; so that things which heretofore did not strike him as sinful are seen in a clearer light, and are consequently condemned.
3. The good Spirit leads us into high and hallowed intercourse with God, and I defy a man to live upon the mount with God and then come down to transgress like men of the world. Thou art of another race; "thy speech betrayeth thee." The perfume of the ivory palaces will be about thee, and men will know that thou hast been in other haunts than theirs.
VII. IT ELEVATES THE ENTIRE MAN.
1. What do men most think about? Bread and butter, house rent, and clothes, and are as children playing with little sand heaps on the seashore; but the believer in free grace walks among hills and mountains, and his mental stature rises with his surroundings, and he becomes a thoughtful being, communing with sublimities. The man has now obtained a different view of himself. He says, "I am one of God's chosen, joint heir with Jesus Christ, and as such I cannot be godless, nor live for the common objects of life."
2. He rises in the object of his pursuit. He feels that he is born for Divine purposes, and he feels that God has loved him that His love may flow forth to others. God's choice of any one man has a bearing upon all the rest. We are each one as a lamp kindled that we may shine in the dark and light up other lamps.
3. New hopes come crowding on him. His immortal spirit enjoys glimpses of the endless. As God has loved him in time he believes that the like love will bless him in eternity. Conclusion: A profligate son had been a grief to his father; he had robbed and disgraced him, and at last brought his grey hairs in sorrow to the grave. He attended his father's funeral and stayed to hear the will read, having fully made up his mind that he was cut off with a shilling; and he meant to make it very unpleasant for the rest of the family. To his great astonishment the will ran something like this: "As for my son Richard, though he has wasted my substance and grieved my heart, I would have him know that I consider him still to be my own dear child, and, in token of my undying love, I leave him the same share as the rest of his brothers." He left the room mastered by the surprising love of his father. Said he to the executor, "You surely did not read correctly?" "Yes, I did: there it stands." "Then I feel ready to curse myself that I ever grieved my dear old father. Oh, that I could fetch him back again!" Love was born in that base heart by an unexpected display of love. May not your case be similar? Our Lord Jesus Christ is dead, but He has left it in His will that the chief of sinners are objects of His choicest mercy.
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
Parallel VersesKJV: What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid.