The First and Great Commandment [Spurgeon’s Sermons]

The following excerpt is from Sermon XIX of Spurgeon’s Sermons, vol. 4, titled, “The First and Great Commandment.”

“And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30).

What hast thou to say to this command, O man? Have I one here so profoundly brainless as to reply, “I intend to keep it, and I believe I can perfectly obey it, and I think I can get to heaven by obedience to it?” Man, thou art either a fool, or else willfully ignorant; for sure, if thou dost understand this commandment, thou wilt at once hang down thine hands, and say, “Obedience to that is quite impossible; thorough and perfect obedience to that no man can hope to reach to! Some of you think you will go to heaven by your good works, do you? This is the first stone that you are to step upon—I am sure it is too high for your reach. You might as well try to climb to heaven by the mountains of earth, and take the Himalayas to be your first step; for surely when you had stepped from the ground to the summit of Chimborazo you might even the despair of ever stepping to the height of this great commandment; for to obey this must ever be an impossibility. But, remember, you can not be saved by your works, if you can not obey this entirely, perfectly, constantly, for ever.

“Well,” says one, “I dare say if I try and obey it as well as I can, that will do.” No, sir, it will not. God demands that you perfectly obey this, and if you do not perfectly obey it he will condemn you. “Oh!” cries one, “who then can be saved?” Ah! that is the point to which I wish to bring you. Who, then can be saved by this law? Why, no one in the world. Salvation by the works of the law is proved to be a clean impossibility. None of you, therefore, will say you will try to obey it, and so hoped to be saved. I hear the best Christian in the world groan out his thoughts—”O God,” saith he, “I am guilty; and shouldst thou cast me into hell I dare not say otherwise. I have broken this command from my youth up, even since my conversion; I have violated it every day; I know that if thou shouldst lay justice to the line, and righteousness to the plummet, I must be swept away for ever. Lord, I renounce my trust in the law; for by it I know I can never see thy face and be accepted.”

But hark! I hear the Christian saw another thing. “Oh!” saith he to the commandment, “Commandment I can not keep thee, but my Savior kept thee, and what my Savior did, he did for all them that believe; and now, O law, what Jesus did is mine. Hast thou any question to bring against me? Thou demandest that I should keep this commandment wholly; lo, my Saviour kept it wholly for me, and he is my substitute; what I can not do myself my Savior has done for me; thou canst not reject the work of the substitute, for God accepted it in the day when he raised him from the dead. O law! shut thy mouth for ever; thou canst never condemn me; though I break thee a thousand times, I put my simple trust in Jesus only; his righteousness is mine, and with it I pay the debt and satisfy thy hungry mouth.”

What a Savior. It is true, as we are taught from the Scriptures, that we are saved by grace through faith in Christ alone. This is not by our works, but by his grace, as a gift (cf. Eph. 2:8-10). Hallelujah, what a Savior.

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C.H. Spurgeon, Spurgeon’s Sermons, vol. 4 (1883; reprint, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House Company, 1984), 313-314.

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