it suits you

Spurgeon took as his text once Romans 4 and the 5th verse and noted that in his grace, the name that the Lord took to himself there was, ‘him that justifieth the ungodly.’

Spurgeon sketched the sorry portraits of various types of sinner. Some live lives of open rebellion, others more circumspectly, but all at a distance from God. ‘If you were labelled ungodly, it would describe you as well as if the sea were to be labelled salt water,’ he says, and the charge is hard to deny. But then:

“Well, you are just the kind of man to whom this gospel is sent – this gospel which says that God justifieth the ungodly. It is very wonderful, but it is happily available for you. It just suits you. Does it not? How I wish that you would … see the remarkable grace of God in providing for such as you are, and you will say to yourself, ‘Justify the ungodly! Why, then, should not I be justified, and justified at once?’

“Now, observe further, that it must be so – that the salvation of God is for those who do not deserve it, and have no preparation for it. It is reasonable that this statement should be put in the bible, for, dear friend, no others need justifying but those who have no justification of their own. If any of my readers are perfectly righteous, they want no justifying. … Pardon, therefore, cannot be for you who have no sin. Pardon must be for the guilty. Forgiveness must be for the sinful. …

“Do you think that you must be lost because you are a sinner? This is the reason why you can be saved. … Jesus seeks and saves that which is lost. He died and made a real atonement for real sinners. When men are not playing with words, or calling themselves ‘miserable sinners’ out of mere compliment, I feel overjoyed to meet with them. I would be glad to talk all night to bona fide sinners. … Our Lord Jesus did not die for imaginary sins, but his heart’s blood was spilt to wash out deep crimson stains which nothing else can remove. …

“The sinner is the gospel’s reason for existence. You, my friend, to whom this word now comes, if you are un-deserving, ill-deserving, hell-deserving, you are the sort of man for whom the gospel is ordained, and arranged, and proclaimed. God justifieth the ungodly. … It does at first seem most amazing to an awakened man that salvation should really be for him as a lost and guilty one. He thinks that it must be for him as a penitent man, forgetting that his penitence is a part of his salvation. ‘Oh,’ says he, ‘but I must be this and that,’ – all of which is true, for he shall be this and that as the result of salvation, but salvation comes to him before he has any of the results of salvation. It comes to him, in fact, while he deserves only this bare, beggarly, base, abominable description, ‘ungodly‘. That is all he is when God’s gospel comes to justify him. …

“The gospel will take you into its halls if you come as a sinner, not otherwise. Wait not for reformation, but come at once for salvation. God justifieth the ungodly, and that takes you up where you now are: it meets you in your worst estate.

“Come in your deshabille. I mean, come to your heavenly Father in all your sin and sinfulness. Come to Jesus just as you are, leprous, filthy, naked, neither fit to live nor fit to die. … Come, though you hardly dare to hope for anything but death. … Come and ask the Lord to justify another ungodly one. Why should he not? Come, for this great mercy of God is meant for such as you are.”

7 thoughts on “it suits you

  1. Great stuff — they don’t make preachers like this anymore. However, given McWhorter’s thesis in Doing Our Own Thing, today’s (American?) English-speaker would typically view such rhetorical flourish as pompous and insincere. Would that be to empty the cross of its power (1 cor 1:17)?


  2. Interesting. I haven’t so much as heard of McWhorter though – what does he say?

    Insincere rhetorical flourishes do empty the cross of its power, but I wouldn’t be so quick to put this of Spurgeon’s in that category.

    The special genius of Spurgeon generally and All of Grace specifically (which this is an excerpt from) is that he meets people where they are. Here he is speaking to people who are conscious of sin but hesitating to embrace the gospel way of salvation. Can such a sinner as I am, be saved? Yes, the gospel is for sinners. Justification is for the ungodly, including and especially those who feel that words can’t express what sinners they are.



  3. Here’s my review. If you can get Mars Hill Audio easily in the U.K., you can hear the interview that I first heard on program #69.

    McWhorter’s thesis is basically that America has lost “formal” as a valid category of public spoken discourse, leaving us with only “casual”. It’s a great book, and can be gotten for virtually free off of (American) Amazon because so many college students bought it for a class and returned it after. Don’t know about though.


  4. Oops, so that would be McWhorter the linguist, as referenced on today’s Language Log,

    Still not sure what to make of it though. Surely formal still exists, even if its realisation (or, how you signal it) takes a different form. Maybe I’m missing something.

    Is Spurgeon formal? Tend to associate him more with the homely and direct. John Ploughman’s Talk – that was him, wasn’t it? Plain Advice for Plain People.


  5. Yes, to my American ear, he has many turns of phrase that are quite overdone compared to any modern speechifyin one might hear. “‘If you were labelled…” would probably be said “You are as ungodly as the sea is salty”; “his heart’s blood was spilt to wash out deep crimson stains” is rather poetic (and biblical and lovely); the final phrase “one such as you are” would be rendered more simply “someone like you”

    That’s why I’m curious whether this American phenomenon occurs also in the mother-tongue-land; I would guess not, or at least less.

    But over here, if anybody were to write and deliver a sermon with that linguistic tone, I think he would be perceived as putting on airs. A sermon could quote material like that, but a certain mental allowance labels such a quote as “Oh, how nice and old-timey…”


  6. Ok i see. No it definitely has an old-fashioned flavour to it. What counts as compelling rhetoric obvously changes a lot over time!

    Although a lot of old books of sermons seem to include something in the preface to the effect that the preacher deliberately eschewed, as one might say, the flights of oratorical extravagance that he might otherwise have used, in order not to go over the heads of the more plebby, as they probably wouldn’t have said, members of their audiences.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s