Free Will - A Slave
by C. H. Spurgeon
A sermon delivered Sunday morning, December 2, 1855, at New Park Street Chapel, London, England.
"And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life" (John 5:40).
This is one of the great guns of the Arminians, mounted upon the top of their walls, and often discharged with terrible noise against the poor Christians called Calvinists. I intend to spike the gun this morning, or, rather, to turn it on the enemy, for it was never theirs; it was never cast at their foundry at all, but was intended to teach the very opposite doctrine to which they assert.
Usually, when the text is taken, the divisions are: First, that man has a will. Secondly, that he is entirely free. Thirdly, that men must make themselves will to come to Christ, otherwise they will not be saved. Now, we shall have no such divisions; but we will endeavor to take a more calm look at the text; and not, because there happen to be the words 'will,' or 'will not' in it, run away with the conclusion that it teaches the doctrine of free will.
Free Will Is Simply Ridiculous
It has already been proved beyond all controversy that free will is nonsense. Freedom cannot belong to will any more than ponderability can belong to electricity. They are altogether different things. Free agency we may believe in, but free will is simply ridiculous. The will is well known by all to be directed by the understanding, to be moved by motives, to be guided by other parts of the soul, and to be a secondary thing.
Philosophy and religion both discard at once the very thought of free will; and I will go as far as Martin Luther, in that strong assertion of his, where he says, `If any man doth ascribe of salvation, even the very least, to the free will of man, he knoweth nothing of grace, and he hath not learnt Jesus Christ aright.' It may seem a harsh sentiment; but he who in his soul believes that man does of his own free will turn to God, cannot have been taught of God, for that is one of the first principles taught us when God begins with us, that we have neither will nor power, but that he gives both; that he is `Alpha and Omega' in the salvation of men.
Our four points, this morning, shall be, - First, that every man is dead, because it says, `Ye will not come unto me that ye might have life.' Secondly, that there is life in Jesus Christ - `Ye will not come unto me that ye might have life.' Thirdly, that there is life in Christ Jesus for every one that comes for it - `Ye will not come unto me that ye might have life,' implying that all who go will have life. And fourthly, the gist of the text lies here, that no man by nature ever will come to Christ, for the text says, `Ye will not come unto me that ye might have life.' So far from asserting that men of their own wills ever do such a thing, it boldly and flatly denies it, and says, 'Ye WILL NOT come unto me that ye might have life.' Why, beloved, I am almost ready to exclaim, Have all free willers no knowledge that they dare to run in the teeth of inspiration? Have all those that deny the doctrine of grace no sense? Have they so departed from God that they wrest this to prove free will, whereas the text says, `Ye WILL NOT come unto me that ye might have life.'
No Life In Death
I. First, then, our text implies THAT MEN BY NATURE ARE DEAD. No being needs to go after life if he has life in himself. The text speaks very strongly when it says, `Ye will not come unto me, that ye might have live.' Though it saith it not in words yet it doth in effect affirm that men need a life more than they have themselves. My hearers, we are all dead unless we have been begotten unto a lively hope.
Legal Death - Condemnation
First, we are all of us, by nature legally dead: - `In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt die the death,' said God to Adam; and though Adam did not die in that moment naturally, he died legally; that is to say death was recorded against him. As soon as, at the Old Bailey, the judge puts on the black cap and pronounces the sentence, the man is reckoned to be dead at law. Though perhaps a month may intervene before he is brought on the scaffold to endure the sentence of the law, yet the law looks upon him as a dead man. It is impossible for him to transact anything. He cannot inherit, he cannot bequeath; he is nothing - he is a dead man. The country considers him not as being alive in it at all. There is an election - he is not asked for his vote because he is considered as dead. He is shut up in his condemned cell and he is dead. Ah! and ye ungodly sinners who have never had life in Christ, ye are alive this morning, by reprieve, but do ye know that ye are legally dead; that God considers you as such, that in the day when your father Adam touched the fruit, and when you yourselves did sin, God, the Eternal Judge, put on the black cap and condemned you? You talk mightily of your own standing, and goodness, and morality: - where is it? Scripture saith, ye are `condemned already.' Ye are not to wait to be condemned at the judgment-day - that will be the execution of the sentence: - `ye are condemned already.' In the moment ye sinned; your names were all written in the black book of justice; every one was then sentenced by God to death, unless he found a substitute, in the person of Christ, for his sins.
What would you think if you were to go into the Old Bailey, and see the condemned culprit sitting in his cell, laughing and merry? You would say, `The man is a fool, for he is condemned, and is to be executed; yet how merry he is.' Ah! and how foolish is the worldly man, who, while sentence is recorded against him, lives in merriment and mirth! Do you think the sentence of God is of no effect? Thinkest thou that thy sin which is written with an iron pen on the rocks for ever hath no horrors in it? God hath said thou art condemned already. If thou wouldst but feel this, it would mingle bitters in thy sweet cups of joy; thy dances would be stopped, thy laughter quenched in sighing, if thou wouldst recollect that thou art condemned already. We ought all to weep, if we lay this to our soul: that by nature we have no life in God's sight; we are actually, positively condemned; death is recorded against us, and we are considered in ourselves now, in God's sight, as much dead as if we were actually cast into hell; we are condemned here by sin, we do not yet suffer the penalty of it, but it is written against us and we are legally dead, nor can we find life unless we find legal life in the person of Christ, of which more by and by.
Spiritual Death - A Walking Corpse
But besides being legally dead, we are also spiritually dead. For not only did the sentence pass in the book, but it passed in the heart; it entered the conscience; it operated on the soul, on the judgment, on the imagination, and on everything. `In the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die,' was not only fulfilled by the sentence recorded, but by something which took place in Adam. Just as, in a certain moment, when this body shall die, the blood stops, the pulse ceases, the breath no longer comes from the lungs, so in the day that Adam did eat that fruit his soul died; his imagination lost its mighty power to climb into celestial things and see heaven, his will lost its power always to choose that which is good, his judgment lost all ability to judge between right and wrong decidedly and infallibly, though something was retained in conscience; his memory became tainted, liable to hold evil things, and let righteous things glide away; every power of him ceased as to its moral vitality. Goodness was the vitality of his power - that departed. Virtue, holiness, integrity, these were the life of man; and when these departed man became dead. And now, every man, so far as spiritual things are concerned, is `dead in trespasses and sins,' spiritually. Nor is the soul less dead in a carnal man, than the body is when committed to the grave; it is actually and positively dead - not by a metaphor for Paul speaketh not in metaphor, when he affirms, `You hath he quickened who were dead in trespasses and sins.'
But my hearers, again, I would I could preach to your hearts concerning this subject. It was bad enough when I described death as having been recorded; but now I speak of it as having actually taken place in your hearts. Ye are not what ye once were; ye are not what ye were in Adam, not what ye were created. Man was made pure and holy. Ye are not the perfect creatures of which some boast; ye are altogether fallen, ye have gone out of the way, ye have become corrupt and filthy. Oh! listen not to the syren song of those who tell you of your moral dignity, and your mighty elevation in matters of salvation. Ye are not perfect; that great word, `ruin,' is written on your heart; and death is stamped upon your spirit.
Do not conceive, O moral man, that thou wilt be able to stand before God in thy morality, for thou art nothing but a carcass embalmed in legality, a corpse arrayed in some fine robes, but still corrupt in God's sight. And think not, O thou possessor of natural religion! that thou mayest by thine own might and power make thyself acceptable to God. Why, man! thou art dead! and thou mayest array the dead as gloriously as thou pleasest, but still it would be a solemn mockery. There lieth queen Cleopatra - put the crown upon her head, deck her in royal robes, let her sit in state; but what a cold chill runs through you when you pass by her. She is fair now, even in her death - but how horrible it is to stand by the side even of a dead queen, celebrated for her majestic beauty! So you may be glorious in your beauty, fair, and amiable, and lovely; you put the crown of honesty upon your head, and wear about you all the garments of uprightness, but unless God has quickened thee, O man! unless the Spirit has had dealings with thy soul, thou art in God's sight as obnoxious as the chilly corpse is to thyself. Thou wouldst not choose to live with a corpse sitting at thy table: no doth God love that thou shouldst be in his sight. He is angry with thee every day, for thou art in sin - thou art in death. Oh! believe this; take it to thy soul; appropriate it, for it is most true that thou art dead, spiritually as well as legally.
Eternal Death - Hell
The third kind of death is the consummation of the other two. It is eternal death. It is the execution of the legal sentence; it is the consummation of the spiritual death. Eternal death is the death of the soul; it takes place after the body has been laid in the grave, after the soul has departed from it. If legal doth be terrible, it is because of its consequences; and if spiritual death be dreadful, it is because of that which shall succeed it. The two deaths of which we have spoken are the roots, and that death which is to come is the flower thereof.
Oh! had I words that I might this morning attempt to depict to you what eternal death is. The soul has come before its Maker; the book has been opened; the sentence has been uttered; `Depart ye cursed' has shaken the universe, and made the very spheres dim with the frown of the Creator; the soul has departed to the depths where it is to dwell with others in eternal death. Oh! how horrible is its position now. Its bed is a bed of flame; the sights it sees are murdering ones that affright its spirit; the sounds it hears are shrieks, and wails, and moans, and groans; all that its body knows is the infliction of miserable pain! it has the possession of unutterable woe, of unmitigated misery. The soul looks downward in dread and fear; remorse hath possessed its soul. It looks on the right hand - and the adamantine walls of fate keep it within its limits of torture. It looks on the left - and there the rampart of blazing fire forbids the scaling ladder of e'en a dreamy speculation of escape. It looks within and seeks for consolation there, but a gnawing worm hath entered into the soul. It looks about it - it has no friends to aid, no comforters, but tormentors in abundance. It knoweth noght of hope of deliverance; it hath heard the everlasting key of destiny turning in its awful wards, and it hath seen God take that key and hurl it down into the depth of eternity never to be found again. It hopeth not; it knoweth no escape, it guesseth not of deliverance; it pants for death, but death is too much its foe to be there; it longs that non-existence would swallow it up, but this eternal death is worse than annihilation. It pants for extermination as the laborer for his Sabbath; it longs that it might be swallowed up in nothingness just as would the galley slave long for freedom, but it cometh not - it is eternally dead. When eternity shall have rolled round multitudes of its everlasting cycles it should still be dead. For- ever knoweth no end; eternity cannot be spelled except in eternity. Still the soul seeth written o'er its head, `Thou art damned forever.' It heareth howlings that are to be perpetual; it seeth flames which are unquenchable; it knoweth pains that are unmitigated; it hears a sentence that rolls not like the thunder of earth which soon is hushed - but onward, onward, onward, shaking the echoes of eternity - making thousands of years shake again with the horrid thunder of its dreadful sound - `Depart! depart! depart ye cursed!' This is true eternal death.
Life in Christ
II. Secondly, IN CHRIST JESUS THERE IS LIFE, for the says, `ye will not come unto me that ye may have life.' There is no life in God the Father for a sinner; there is no life in God the Spirit for a sinner apart from Jesus. The life of a sinner is in Christ. If you take the Father apart from the Son, though he loves his elect, and decreed that they shall live, yet life is only in his Son. If you take God the Spirit apart from Jesus Christ, though it is the Spirit that gives us spiritual life, yet is is life in Christ, life in the Son. We dare not, and cannot apply in the first place, either to God the Father, or to God the Holy Ghost for spiritual life. The first thing we are led to do when God brings us out of Egypt is to eat the Passover - the very first thing. The first means whereby we get life is by feeding upon the flesh and blood of the Son of God; living in him, trusting on him, believing in his grace and power.
Our second thought was - there is life in Christ. We will show you there are three kinds of life in Christ, as there are three kinds of death.
Legal Life - No Condemnation
First there is legal life in Christ. Just as every man by nature considered in Adam had a sentence of condemnation passed on him in the moment of Adam's sin, and more especially in the moment of his won first transgression, so I, if I be a believer, and you, if you trust in Christ, have had a legal sentence of acquittal passed on us through what Jesus Christ has done. O condemned sinner! thou mayest be sitting this morning condemned like the prisoner in Newgate; but ere this day has passed away thou mayest be as clear from guilt as the angels above. There is such a thing as legal life in Christ, and, blessed be God! some of us enjoy it. We know our sins are pardoned because Christ suffered punishment for them; we know that we never can be punished ourselves for Christ suffered in our stead. The Passover is slain for us; the lintel and door-post have been sprinkled, and the destroying angel can never touch us. For us there is no hell, although it blaze with terrible flame. Let Tophet be prepared of old, let its pile be wood and much smoke, we never can come there - Christ died for us, in our stead. What if there be racks of horrid torture? what if there be a sentence producing horrible reverberations of thundering sounds? yet neither rack, nor dungeon, nor thunder, are for us! In Christ Jesus we are now delivered. `There is, therefore, NOW no condemnation unto us who are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.'
Sinner! art thou legally condemned this morning? Dost thou feel that? Then, let me tell thee that faith in Christ will give thee a knowledge of thy legal acquittal. Beloved, it is no fancy that we are condemned for our sins, it is a reality. So, it is no fancy we are acquitted, it is a reality. A man about to be hanged, if he received a full pardon would feel it a great reality. He would say, `I have a full pardon, I cannot be touched now.' That is just how I feel.
`Now freed from sin I walk at large, The Saviour's blood's my full discharge, At his dear feet content I lay, A sinner saved, and homage pay.'
Brethren, we have gained legal life in Christ, and such legal life that we cannot lose it. The sentence has gone against us once -now it has gone out for us. It is written, `THERE IS NOW NO CONDEMNATION,' and that now will do as well for me in fifty years as it does now. Whatever time we live it will still be written, `There is, therefore, now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus.'
Spiritual Life - A Corpse Made Alive
Then, secondly, there is spiritual life in Christ Jesus. As the man is spiritually dead, God has spiritual life for him, for there is not a need which is not supplied by Jesus, there is not an emptiness in the heart which Christ cannot fill; there is not a desolation which he cannot people, there is not a desert which he cannot make to blossom as the rose. O ye dead sinners! spiritually dead, there is life in Christ Jesus, for we have seen - yes! these eyes have seen -the dead live again; we have known the man whose views were carnal, whose lusts were mighty, whose passions were strong, suddenly, by irresistible might from heaven, consecrate himself to Christ, and become a child of Jesus. We know that there is life in Christ Jesus, of a spiritual order; yea, more, we ourselves, in our own persons, have felt that there spiritual life. Well can we remember when we sat in the house of prayer, as dead as the very seat on which we sat. We had listened for a long, long while to the sound of the gospel, but no effect followed, when suddenly, as if our ears had been opened by the fingers of some mighty angel, a sound entered into our heart. We thought we heard Jesus saying, `He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.' An irresistible hand put itself on our heart and crushed a prayer out of it. We never had a prayer before like that. We cried, `O God! have mercy upon me a sinner.'
Some of us for months felt a hand pressing us as if we had been grasped in a vice, and our souls bled drops of anguish. That misery was a sign of coming life. Persons when they are being drowned do not feel the pain so much as while they are being restored. Oh! we can recollect the giving of our spiritual life as easily as could a man his restoration from the grave.
We can suppose Lazarus to have remembered his resurrection, though not all the circumstances of it. So we, although we have forgotten a great deal, do recollect our giving ourselves to Christ. We can say to every sinner, however dead, there is life in Christ Jesus, though you may be rotten and corrupt in your grave. He who hath raised Lazarus hath raised us; and he can say, even to you, `Lazarus! come forth.'
Eternal Life - Never Lost
In the third place, there is eternal life in Christ Jesus. And, oh! if eternal death be terrible, eternal life is blessed; for he has said, `Where I am there shall my people be.' `Father, I will, that they also, whom thou hast given unto me, be with me where I am, that they may behold my glory.' `I give unto my sheep eternal life, and they shall never perish.' Now, any Arminian that would preach from that text must buy a pair of India rubber lips, for I am sure he would need to stretch his mouth amazingly; he would never be able to speak the whole truth without winding about in a most mysterious manner. Eternal life - not a life which they are to lose, but eternal life. If I lost life in Adam I gained it in Christ; if I lost myself for ever I find myself for ever in Jesus Christ. Eternal life! Oh blessed thought! Our eyes will sparkle with joy and our souls burn with ecstasy in the thought that my soul will live in bliss and joy. Put out thine eye O sun! - but mine eye shall `see the king in his beauty' when thine eye shall no more make the green earth laugh. And moon, be thou turned into blood! - but my blood shall ne'er be turned to nothingness; this spirit shall exist when thou hast ceased to be. And thou great world! thou mayest all subside, just as a moment's's foam subsides upon the wave that bears it - but I shall have eternal life. O time! thou mayest see giant mountains dead and hidden in their graves; thou mayest see the stars like figs too ripe, falling from the tree; but thou shalt never, never see my spirit dead.
God Saves all Who Come
III. This brings us to the third point: that ETERNAL LIFE IS GIVEN TO ALL WHO COME FOR IT. There never was a man who came to Christ for eternal life, for legal life, for spiritual life, who had not already received it, in some sense, and it was manifested to him that he had received it soon after he came. Let us take one or two texts: - `He is able to save to the uttermost them that come unto him.' Every man who comes to Christ will find that Christ is able to save him - not able to save him a little, to deliver him from a little sin, to keep him from a little trial, to carry him a little way and then drop him -but able to save him to the uttermost extent of his sin, unto the uttermost length of his trials, the uttermost depths of his sorrows, unto the uttermost duration of his existence. Christ says to every one who comes to him, `Come, poor sinner, thou needst not ask whether I have power to save. I will not ask thee how far thou hast gone into sin; I am able to save thee to the uttermost."
Only The Chosen Will Come
Now another text: `Him that cometh to me, (mark the promises are nearly always to the coming ones) I will in no wise cast out.' Every man that comes shall find the door of Christ's house opened - I say it in the broadest sense - shall find that Christ has mercy for him. The greatest absurdity in the world is Christ has mercy for him. The greatest absurdity in the world is to want to have a wider gospel than that recorded in Scripture. I preach that every man that believes shall be saved - that every man who comes shall find mercy. People ask me, `But suppose a man should come who was not chosen, would he be saved?' You go and suppose nonsense and I am not going to give you an answer. If a man is not chosen he will never come. When he does come it is a sure proof that he was chosen. Says one, `Suppose any one should go to Christ who had not been called of the Spirit.' Stop, my brother, that is a supposition thou hast no right to make, for such a thing cannot happen; you only say it to entangle me, and you will not do that just yet. I say every man who comes to Christ shall be saved. I can say it. I have no narrower gospel than you have; only my gospel is on a solid foundation, whereas yours is built upon nothing but sand and rottenness. `Every man that cometh shall be saved, for no man cometh to me except the Father draw him.' `But,' says one, `suppose all the world should come, would Christ receive them?' Certainly, if all came; but then they won't come. I tell you all that come - aye, if they were as bad as devils, Christ would receive them; if they had all sin and filthiness running into their hearts as into a common sewer for the whole world, Christ would receive them.