I I can’t remember how long ago I began reading through Charles Spurgeon’s classic book, The Saint and his Saviour: The Progress of the Soul the Knowledge of Jesus, but it’s been a while. I’m somewhat of a slow reader, and I’m not ashamed by that. I prefer to chew on words, entire chapters even, rather than merely get through them. But in keeping my by New Year’s resolution to finish all the unfinished books I’m currently reading, I found myself forging ahead in Spurgeon’s classically wordy style of sermonic prose. Here, then, are some of my favorite quotes from the first six chapters of The Saint and His Saviour which, to be sure, only constitute a small sampling of the bevy of truth and grace to be found in this wonderful book from the “Prince of Preachers.”1 (Lord willing, when I’m finished with it, I’ll share some more beloved passages from the last six chapters.) I’ll add a comment or two as I see fit along the way.
1: Our happiest moments are spent upon our knees, for there Jesus manifests himself to us. (11)
2: We have noticed in the preaching of the present day too much of a saint’s gospel, and too little of a sinner’s gospel. (103)
This is representative of a theme which lies close to Spurgeon’s heart throughout the early chapters of the book — namely, that proper preaching is evangelical in nature. The proclamation of God’s Word announces the gospel to sinners precisely because sinners are all that there are. Such is why I’m thankful to have “a sinner’s gospel.”
3: Never until all the work of our hands had been unravelled, and our fingers themselves had become powerless, would we cease from our own labour, and leaving the spider’s-web of man’s doings, array ourselves in the garment of free justification. No man will ever think much of Christ till he thinks little of himself. The lower our own views of ourselves become, the higher will our thoughts of Jesus be raised; and only when self-annihilation is complete will the Son of God be our “all in all.” (20)
4: We must learn to spell the words law and grace, without mingling the letters. (145)
I am especially fond of this line, precisely because it is so needful in our own day. The distinguishing between God’s words of law and God’s words of gospel (or grace) is one of the most important practices with which a student of Scripture can engage. I would estimate that I’ve been on a law/gospel journey for roughly the last five years and I’m still a novice at its distinction. But as Spurgeon here denotes, the mingling and muddling of “law and grace” is no small misstep. To do so is to miss grace entirely.
5: Look on thine own nothingness and be humble, but look at Jesus, thy great representative, and be glad. (245)
6: Some men endeavour to preach sinners to Christ; we prefer to preach Christ to sinners. We believe that a faithful exhibition of Jesus crucified will, under the Divine blessing, beget faith in hearts where fiery oratory and vehement declamation have failed. (157)
7: The sure words of Scripture are the footsteps of Jesus imprinted on the soil of mercy — follow the track and find Him. (156)
I love the picture evoked by this quote. Namely, that all the words of the Bible are footprints which will lead us to the merciful one, Jesus himself.
8: Mercy always flieth near the ground. The flower of grace groweth in the dells of humility. The stars of love shine in the night of our self-despair. If truth lie not in a well, certainly mercy doth. The hand of justice spares the sinner who has thrown away both the sword of rebellion and the plumes of his pride. If we will do and be anything or everything, so that we may but win Christ, we shall soon find him to be everything to us. (134)
9: If we had right views of ourselves, we should judge none too base to be reclaimed . . . If we were more like Christ, we should be more ready to hope for the hopeless, to value the worthless, and to love the depraved. (34–35)
This, I would say, is a truth that is desperate to be chewed on. So often, the views we have of ourselves are far more pious than what’s reality — and those same views we have of others demeans the work God’s doing in their individual lives. Right views of ourselves means lofty views of the grace which saves — the grace whose arms are able to reach even the most delinquent sinner and bring them to the light. Indeed, there are none that “too base to be reclaimed,” too far gone to be forgiven.
10: To lie quietly afloat on the stream of free grace is the very glory of existence, the perfection of earthly happiness. (208)
These excerpts aren’t ranked. But I would say that this last quote is of particular resonance for me. I have found throughout the years of being a Christian that the essence of true spiritual living and the essence of faith itself lies in learning to “lie quietly afloat on the stream of free grace.” In learning to ascribe every success and even every heartbreak as coming from the Lord’s grace. He is all that we have and all that we are. Indeed, all to him, all to grace we owe. That’s not a natural position in life. We’re more inclined to take matters into our own hands than we are to “lie quietly afloat,” drifting according to the currents of Someone else. But such is the battle with which every Christian is engaged. May you be encouraged to learned the “glory of existence” in owing everything to “free grace.”
Sola Gratia. Amen.
Every quote has been excerpted from Charles Spurgeon, The Saint and His Saviour: The Progress of the Soul the Knowledge of Jesus (Houston: Christian Focus, 1989).