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The Essential Works of Charles Spurgeon
Selected Books, Sermons, and Other Writings
By Daniel Partner
Barbour Publishing, Inc.Copyright © 2009 Barbour Publishing, Inc.
All rights reserved.
Selections from The Autobiography of Charles Spurgeon
1. The Great Change—Conversion
2. Experiences after Conversion
3. Defense of Calvinism
4. Beginning to Serve the Lord
5. Reminiscences as a Village Pastor
6. The Long Pastorate Commenced, 1854 93
7. The Cholera Year in London
The Great Change— Conversion
I have heard men tell the story of their conversion, and of their spiritual life, in such a way that my heart has loathed them and their story, too, for they have told of their sins as if they did boast in the greatness of their crime, and they have mentioned the love of God, not with a tear of gratitude, not with the simple thanksgiving of the really humble heart, but as if they as much exalted themselves as they exalted God. Oh! When we tell the story of our own conversion, I would have it done with great sorrow, remembering what we used to be, and with great joy and gratitude, remembering how little we deserve these things. I was once preaching upon conversion and salvation, and I felt within myself, as preachers often do, that it was but dry work to tell this story, and a dull, dull tale it was to me. But on a sudden, the thought crossed my mind, Why, you are a poor, lost, ruined sinner yourself. Tell it. Tell it as you received it. Begin to tell of the grace of God as you trust you feel it yourself. Why, then my eyes began to be fountains of tears; those hearers who had nodded their heads began to brighten up, and they listened, because they were hearing something that the speaker himself felt, and that they recognized as being true to him if it was not true to them.
Can you not remember, dearly beloved, that day of days, that best and brightest of hours, when first you saw the Lord, lost your burden, received the roll of promise, rejoiced in full salvation, and went on your way in peace? My soul can never forget that day. Dying, all but dead, diseased, pained, chained, scourged, bound in fetters of iron, in darkness and the shadow of death, Jesus appeared unto me. My eyes looked to Him; the disease was healed, the pains removed, chains were snapped, prison doors were opened, darkness gave place to light. What delight filled my soul! What mirth, what ecstasy, what sound of music and dancing, what soarings toward heaven, what heights and depths of ineffable delight! Scarcely ever since then have I known joys that surpassed the rapture of that first hour.
—C. H. Spurgeon
Let our lips crowd sonnets within the compass of a word; let our voice distill hours of melody into a single syllable; let our tongue utter in one letter the essence of the harmony of ages; for we write of an hour that as far excels all other days of our life as gold exceeds dross. As the night of Israel's Passover was a night to be remembered, a theme for bards, and an incessant fountain of grateful song, even so is the time of which we now tell, the never-to-be-forgotten hour of our emancipation from guilt and our justification in Jesus. Other days have mingled with their fellows till, like coins worn in circulation, their image and superscription are entirely obliterated; but this day remains new, fresh, bright, as distinct in all its parts as if it were but yesterday struck from the mint of time. Memory shall drop from the palsied hand full many a memento that now she cherishes, but she shall never, even when she totters to the grave, unbind from her heart the token of the thrice-happy hour of the redemption of our spirit. The emancipated galley slave may forget the day that heard his broken fetters rattle on the ground; the pardoned traitor may fail to remember the moment when the ax of the headsman was averted by a pardon; and the long-despairing mariner may not recollect the moment when a friendly hand snatched him from the hungry deep. But oh, hour of forgiven sin, moment of perfect pardon, our soul shall never forget you while within you, life and being find immortality! Each day of our life has had its attendant angel, but on this day, as with Jacob at Mahanaim, hosts of angels met us. The sun has risen every morning, but on that eventful morn he had the light of seven days. As the days of heaven upon earth, as the years of immortality, as the ages of glory, as the bliss of heaven, so were the hours of that thrice-happy day. Rapture divine, and ecstasy inexpressible, filled our soul. Fear, distress, and grief, with all their train of woes, fled hastily away, and in their place joys came without number.
When I was in the hand of the Holy Spirit, under conviction of sin, I had a clear and sharp sense of the justice of God. Sin, whatever it might be to other people, became to me an intolerable burden. It was not so much that I feared hell as that I feared sin; and all the while, I had upon my mind a deep concern for the honor of God's name and the integrity of His moral government. I felt that it would not satisfy my conscience if I could be forgiven unjustly. But then there came the question—"How could God be just, and yet justify me who had been so guilty?" I was worried and wearied with this question; neither could I see any answer to it. Certainly, I could never have invented an answer that would have satisfied my conscience. The doctrine of the atonement is to my mind one of the surest proofs of the divine inspiration of Holy Scripture. Who would or could have thought of the just ruler dying for the unjust rebel? This is no teaching of human mythology, or dream of poetical imagination. This method of expiation is only known among men because it is a fact: fiction could not have devised it. God Himself ordained it; it is not a matter that could have been imagined.
I had heard of the plan of salvation by the sacrifice of Jesus from my youth up, but I did not know any more about it in my innermost soul than if I had been born and bred a Hottentot. The light was there, but I was blind. It was of necessity that the Lord Himself should make the matter plain to me. It came to me as a new revelation, as fresh as if I had never read in scripture that Jesus was declared to be the propitiation for sins that God might be just. I believe it will have to come as a revelation to every newborn child of God whenever he sees it; I mean that glorious doctrine of the substitution of the Lord Jesus. I came to understand that salvation was possible through vicarious sacrifice, and that provision had been made in the first constitution and arrangement of things for such a substitution. I was made to see that He who is the Son of God, coequal and coeternal with the Father, had of old been made the covenant head of a chosen people, that He might in that capacity suffer for them and save them. Inasmuch as our fall was not at the first a personal one, for we fell in our federal representative, the first Adam, it became possible for us to be recovered by a second Representative, even by Him who has undertaken to be the covenant head of His people, so as to be their second Adam. I saw that, before I actually sinned, I had fallen by my first father's sin; and I rejoiced that therefore it became possible in point of law for me to rise by a second head and representative. The fall by Adam left a loophole of escape; another Adam could undo the ruin wrought by the first.
When I was anxious about the possibility of a just God pardoning me, I understood and saw by faith that He who is the Son of God became man, and in His own blessed person bore my sin in His own body on the tree. I saw that the chastisement of my peace was laid on Him, and that with His stripes I was healed. It was because the Son of God, supremely glorious in His matchless person, undertook to vindicate the law by bearing the sentence due to me, that therefore God was able to pass by my sin. My sole hope for heaven lies in the full atonement made upon Calvary's cross for the ungodly. On that I firmly rely. I have not the shadow of a hope anywhere else. Personally, I could never have overcome my own sinfulness. I tried and failed. My evil propensities were too many for me, till, in the belief that Christ died for me, I cast my guilty soul on Him, and then I received a conquering principle by which I overcame my sinful self. The doctrine of the cross can be used to slay sin, even as the old warriors used their huge two-handed swords and mowed down their foes at every stroke. There is nothing like faith in the sinners' friend; it overcomes all evil. If Christ has died for me, ungodly as I am, without strength as I am, then I cannot live in sin any longer, but must arouse myself to love and serve Him who has redeemed me. I cannot trifle with the evil that slew my best friend. I must be holy for His sake. How can I live in sin when He has died to save me from it?
There was a day, as I took my walks abroad, when I came hard by a spot forever engraved upon my memory, for there I saw this friend, my best, my only friend, murdered. I stooped down in sad affright and looked at Him. I saw that His hands had been pierced with rough iron nails, and His feet had been rent in the same way. There was misery in His dead countenance so terrible that I scarcely dared to look upon it. His body was emaciated with hunger, His back was red with bloody scourges, and His brow had a circle of wounds about it. Clearly could one see that these had been pierced by thorns. I shuddered, for I had known this friend full well. He never had a fault; He was the purest of the pure, the holiest of the holy. Who could have injured Him? For He never injured any man. All His life long He went about doing good. He had healed the sick, He had fed the hungry, He had raised the dead. For which of these works did they kill Him? He had never breathed out anything but love, and as I looked into the poor sorrowful face, so full of agony and yet so full of love, I wondered who could have been a wretch so vile as to pierce hands like His. I said within myself, "Where can these traitors live? Who are these that could have smitten such a One as this?" Had they murdered an oppressor, we might have forgiven them; had they slain one who had indulged in vice or villainy, it might have been his desert; had it been a murderer and a rebel, or one who had committed sedition, we would have said, "Bury his corpse; justice has at last given him his due." But when you were slain, my best, my only beloved, where lodged the traitors? Let me seize them, and they shall be put to death. If there be torments that I can devise, surely they shall endure them all. Oh, what jealousy, what revenge I felt! If I might but find these murderers, what would I not do with them! And as I looked upon that corpse, I heard a footstep and wondered where it was. I listened, and I clearly perceived that the murderer was close at hand. It was dark, and I groped about to find him. I found that, somehow or other, wherever I put out my hand, I could not meet with him, for he was nearer to me than my hand would go. At last I put my hand upon my breast. "I have you now," said I. For lo! He was in my own heart; the murderer was hiding within my own bosom, dwelling in the recesses of my inmost soul. Ah! Then I wept indeed, that I, in the very presence of my murdered Master, should be harboring the murderer, and I felt myself most guilty while I bowed over His corpse and sang that plaintive hymn:
'Twas you, my sins, my cruel sins,
His chief tormentors were;
Each of my crimes became a nail,
And unbelief the spear.
Amid the rabble rout that hounded the Redeemer to His doom, there were some gracious souls whose bitter anguish sought vent in wailing and lamentations—fit music to accompany that march of woe. When my soul can, in imagination, see the Savior bearing His cross to Calvary, she joins the godly women and weeps with them, for indeed, there is true cause for grief—cause lying deeper than those mourning women thought. They bewailed innocence maltreated, goodness persecuted, love bleeding, meekness about to die; but my heart has a deeper and more bitter cause to mourn. My sins were the scourges that lacerated those blessed shoulders and crowned with thorns those bleeding brows. My sins cried, "Crucify Him! Crucify Him!" and laid the cross upon His gracious shoulders. His being led forth to die is sorrow enough for one eternity, but my having been His murderer is more, infinitely more grief than one poor fountain of tears can express.
Why those women loved and wept, it was not hard to guess, but they could not have had greater reasons for love and grief than my heart has. Nain's widow saw her son restored, but I myself have been raised to newness of life. Peter's wife's mother was cured of the fever, but I of the greater plague of sin. Out of Magdalene seven devils were cast, but a whole legion out of me. Mary and Martha were favored with visits from Him, but He dwells with me. His mother bore His body, but He is formed in me the hope of glory. In nothing behind the holy women in debt, let me not be behind them in gratitude or sorrow.
Love and grief my heart dividing,
With my tears His feet I'll lave;
Constant still in heart abiding,
Weep for Him who died to save.
William Huntingdon says, in his autobiography, that one of the sharpest sensations of pain that he felt, after he had been quickened by divine grace, was this: "He felt such pity for God." I do not know that I ever met with the expression elsewhere, but it is a very striking one—although I might prefer to say that I have sympathy with God and grief that He should be treated so ill. Ah, there are many men who are forgotten, who are despised, and who are trampled on by their fellows, but there never was a man who was so despised as the everlasting God has been! Many a man has been slandered and abused, but never was man abused as God has been. Many have been treated cruelly and ungratefully, but never was one treated as our God has been. I, too, once despised Him. He knocked at the door of my heart, and I refused to open it. He came to me, times without number, morning by morning and night by night. He checked me in my conscience and spoke to me by His Spirit, and when, at last, the thunders of the law prevailed in my conscience, I thought that Christ was cruel and unkind. Oh, I can never forgive myself that I should have thought so ill of Him! But what a loving reception did I have when I went to Him! I thought He would smite me, but His hand was not clenched in anger but opened wide in mercy. I thought full sure that His eyes would dart lightning flashes of wrath upon me, but instead thereof, they were full of tears. He fell upon my neck and kissed me. He took off my rags and did clothe me with His righteousness, and caused my soul to sing aloud for joy. While in the house of my heart and in the house of His church, there were music and dancing, because His son whom He had lost was found, and he who had been dead was made alive again.
There is a power in God's gospel beyond all description. Once I, like Mazeppa, lashed to the wild horse of my lust, bound hand and foot, incapable of resistance, was galloping on with hell's wolves behind me, howling for my body and my soul as their just and lawful prey. There came a mighty hand that stopped that wild horse, cut my bands, set me down, and brought me into liberty. Is there power in the gospel? Aye, there is, and he who has felt it must acknowledge it. There was a time when I lived in the strong old castle of my sins and rested in my own works. There came a trumpeter to the door and bade me open it. I with anger chided him from the porch and said he never should enter. Then there came a goodly Personage with loving countenance; His hands were marked with scars where nails had been driven, and His feet had nail prints, too. He lifted up His cross, using it as a hammer. At the first blow, the gate of my prejudice shook; at the second, it trembled more; at the third, down it fell, and in He came. And He said, "Arise, and stand upon your feet, for I have loved you with an everlasting love." The gospel a thing of power! Ah, that it is. It always wears the dew of its youth; it glitters with morning's freshness; its strength and its glory abide forever. I have felt its power in my own heart; I have the witness of the Spirit within my spirit, and I know it is a thing of might, because it has conquered me and bowed me down.
Excerpted from The Essential Works of Charles Spurgeon by Daniel Partner. Copyright © 2009 Barbour Publishing, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Barbour Publishing, Inc..
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