I smile when people when people say things like, “Joseph Prince was the first to preach the gospel of grace,” or “Andrew Wommack had this message before anyone.” I smile, because the gospel of grace is no new message. It is as ancient as the Garden of Eden. Indeed, the Bible calls it the eternal gospel (Rev 14:6).
But if we must give credit to pioneering preachers, then I choose Jesus followed by the apostle Paul.
Prior to the coming of Jesus, the eternally good news of God’s love and grace was obscured behind the temporary strictures of the law-keeping covenant. Some wise old guys like Abraham, David and Isaiah saw it, but it is fair to say that the good news of God’s grace was not widely appreciated until Jesus showed up and revealed his Father’s loving heart. As John said, “Grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.”
So the gospel of grace is no new thing. People have been proclaiming it for at least two thousand years. And in the 19th century few people did it better than the grace preacher Charles H. Spurgeon. (The “H” stands for hyper-grace.)
Since Spurgeon’s books are all long out of copyright, some enterprising folks have started repackaging them and selling them on Amazon. I recently got a hold of one such book, All of Grace, and it’s a treat. [UPDATE: You can get a free version here.]
Reading All of Grace is like having Spurgeon step out of Victorian England and into your living room. You can almost smell the chimney fires of London in this book. The language is old. The sentences run forever. But the hundred-year old message thunders loud and clear. Spurgeon spells out his gospel point by pulpit-thumping point. He’s passionate. He’s emphatic. And by golly, if you refuse to believe his message of grace, “then there’s something wrong about you altogether” (p.79).
The Abyss of Grace
Spurgeon writes of the “abyss” of God’s grace. “Who can measure its breath? Who can fathom its depth? Like all the rest of the divine attributes, it is infinite.”
Again and again Spurgeon hammers Romans 5:6: “Christ died for the ungodly.” Are you ungodly? Then Christ died for you! Take your stand on that revelation and let nothing move you. If the devil should remind you that you are a sinner, smite him with his own sword: “Christ died to save sinners.” If religion tells you that you are disqualified on account of your sins, then rejoice, for you qualify for grace. Christ died for sinners.
And Christ will not leave you ungodly. Just as Jesus can cause “the Ethiopian to change his skin, and the leopard his spots… he can cause you to be born again,” says Spurgeon. He can make you new:
This is a miracle of grace, but the Holy Ghost will perform it. It would be a very wonderful thing if one could stand at the foot of the Niagara Falls, and could speak a word which should make the river Niagara begin to run upstream, and leap up that great precipice over which it now a rolls in stupendous force. Nothing but the power of God could achieve that marvel; but that would be more than a fit parallel to what would take place if the course of your nature were altogether reversed. All things are possible with God. He can reverse the direction of your desires and the current of your life, and instead of going downward from God, he can make your whole being tend upward toward God. (p.31)
With these foundations laid, Spurgeon goes on to demystify faith. Faith is a work of grace; it’s the conduit along which grace flows. It is not the means for saving us but it is the means by which salvation comes to us.
The power lies in the grace of God, and not in our faith. Great messages can be sent along slender wires, and the peace-giving witness of the Holy Spirit can reach the hearts by means of a thread-like faith which seems almost unable to sustain its own weight. (p.39)
Spurgeon describes true repentance as a change of mind, something that happens after we see Christ. He staggers at the idea that repentance may be measured in tears shed or groans heaved. He says, “Unbelief and despair are sins, and therefore I do not see how they can be constituent elements of acceptable repentance” (p.65).
Confirmed unto the end
At many points in the book Spurgeon anticipates reader’s fears and questions. Near the end of the book he notes that some Christians are worried that they shall not persevere to the end. They fear that they shall stumble at the last hurdle and lose all. Spurgeon scorns this fear for what it is – trust in self instead of Jesus.
Beware of mixing even a little of self with the mortar with which to build, or you will make it untempered mortar, and the stones will not hold together. If you look to Christ for your beginnings, beware of looking to yourself for your endings. He is Alpha. See to it that you make Him Omega also. (p.104)
Given all the mixed-grace that is preached in this day and age, it’s refreshing to drink pure, sweet grace straight from the tap. In Spurgeon’s case it’s like taking a draft from a hundred-year old bottle of well-aged wine.