Advise for Seekers
By Charles Spurgeon
Chapter 13 – May I Believe?
You know who Jesus is, and you believe Him to be the Son of God, the Saviour of men. You are sure that `He is able to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him’. You have no doubt about those eternal truths which surround His Godhead, His birth, His life, His death, His resurrection, and His Second Advent. The doubt is concerning yourself personally–`If I may be a partaker of this salvation.’ You feel quite certain that faith in Jesus Christ will save anyone–will save you if you exercise it. You have no doubt about the doctrine of justification by faith. You have learned it, and you have received it as a matter beyond all dispute, that he who believes in Him has everlasting life; and you know that he who comes to Him will not be cast out. You know the remedy, and believe in its efficacy (effectiveness); but then comes the doubt–may I be healed by it? At the back of your belief in faith hides the gloomy thought: `May I believe? May I trust? I see the door is open: many are entering. May I? I see that there is washing from the worst of sins in the sacred fount. Many are being cleansed. May I wash and be clean?’ Without formulating a doubt so as to express it, it comes up in all sorts of ways, and robs you of all comfort, and, indeed, of all hope. When a sermon is preached it is like when someone sets a table out with all manner of dainties, and you look at it but do not feel that you have any right to sit down and begin eating. This is a wretched delusion. Its result will be deadly unless you are delivered from it. Like a rapacious (plundering) monster it preys upon you. When you see the brooks flowing with their sparkling streams, and you are thirsty, do you think that you are not permitted to drink? If so, you are out of your mind; you talk and think like one bereft (deprived) of reason. Yet many are in this state spiritually. This doubting your liberty to come to Jesus is a wretched business; it mars and spoils your reading and your hearing and your attempts to pray; and you will never get any comfort until this question has been answered in your heart once for all, `May I?’
I defy you, if you read all the Old and New Testaments through, to put your finger upon a single verse in which God has said that you may not come and put your trust in Christ. Perhaps you will reply that you do not expect to read it in the Bible, but God may have said it somewhere where it is not recorded. Well, He says, `I have not spoken in secret, in a dark place of the earth: I said not unto the seed of Jacob, Seek ye me in vain.’ (Isa. 45:19) Now, He has commanded you over and over again to seek His face, but He has never said that you shall seek His face in vain. Dismiss that thought. Again I return to what I have said: there is nothing in Scripture that refuses you permission to come and repose your soul once for all upon Christ. It is written, `Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.’ (Rev. 22:17) Does that exclude you? It is written, `Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’ (Rom. 10:13) Does that shut you out? No, it includes you; it invites you; it encourages you. Nowhere in the Word of God is it written that you will be cast out if you come, or that Jesus Christ will not remove your burden of sin if you come and lay it at His feet.
A thousand passages of Scripture welcome you, but not one stands with a drawn sword to keep you back from the tree of life. Our heavenly Father sets His angels at the gates of His house to welcome all comers; but there are no dogs to bark at poor beggars nor notices that trespassers must beware. Come and be welcome.
Don’t you think that the very nature of the Lord Jesus Christ should forbid your raising a doubt about your being permitted to come and touch His garment’s hem? Surely, if anyone were to paint the Lord Jesus Christ as an ascetic, repelling with lofty pride the humbler folk who had never reached His dignity of consecration; if any were to paint Him as a Pharisee driving off publicans and sinners, or as an iceberg of righteousness chilling the sinful, it would be a foul slander upon His divine character. If anyone were to say that Jesus Christ is exacting (making severe demands)–that He will not receive to Himself the guilty just as they are, but requires a great deal of them and will only welcome to Himself those who are, like Himself, good and true and excellent–that would not be truth, but the direct opposite of it. For the accusation that `this man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them’ was thrown in His face when He lived on earth; and what the prophet said of Him was most certainly true: `A bruised reed shall He not break, and the smoking flax shall He not quench.’ (Isa. 42:3)
Little children are wonderful judges of character; they know intuitively who is kind. And so are loving women. They do not go through the processes of reasoning, but they come to a conclusion very soon as to a man’s personal character. Now, the children came and clambered on our Redeemer’s knee, and the mothers brought their infants for His blessing. How can you dream that He will repel you? The women wept and beseeched Him, and felt pity for those who refused Him, so I am sure that He is not hard to move. Therefore I want you to feel sure of this–that there is nothing in the Saviour’s character which can for a moment lead Him to discard you and to drive you from His presence.
Those who know Him best will say that it is impossible for Him ever to refuse the poor and needy. A blind man could not cry to Him without receiving sight, nor a hungry man look to Him without being fed. He was touched with a feeling of our infirmities–the most gentle, and loving, and tender of all who ever lived upon this earth. I beseech you, therefore, to take it for granted that you may come boldly to Him without fear of a rebuff. If He has power to heal you when you touch Him, rest assured that you may touch Him. There is no question that you may believe; for Jesus is too loving to refuse you. It will give Him joy to receive you. It is not possible that He should refuse you; it is not in His nature to spurn you from His presence.
Will you think, yet again, of the fullness of Christ’s power to save, and make a little argument of it? Christ was so full of power to bless that the secret virtue even saturated His clothes. It overflowed His blessed person; it ran down to the skirts of His garments, even to that hem which every Jew wore around his dress–that fringe of blue. It went into that border so that when the woman simply touched the ravellings of His garment, virtue streamed into her. (Luke 8:42-48) If the touch was a touch of faith, it did not matter where the contact was made. You often judge a man’s willingness to help by the power that he has. When a person has little to give he is bound to be economical in his giving. He must look at every penny before he gives it, if he has so few pence to spare. But when a nobleman has no limit to his estate, you feel sure that he will freely give if his heart is generous and tender. The blessed Lord is so full of healing power that He cannot stop Himself working healing miracles; and according to the goodness of His nature He is delighted to overflow, glad to communicate to those who come. You know that if a city is short of water, the corporation sends out an order that only so much may be used, and there is a restriction imposed upon public baths and factories, because there is a scarcity of the precious fluid. But if you go along the Thames when we have had a rainy season, you laugh at the notion of a short supply and economical rules. If a dog wants to drink from a river, nobody ever questions his right to do so. He comes down to the water and he laps, and, what is more, he runs right into it, regardless of those who may have to drink after him. Look at the cattle, how they stand knee-deep in the stream and drink, and drink again; and nobody ever says, as he goes up the Thames, that those poor London people will run short of water, for the dogs and the cattle are drinking it up before it gets down to London. No, it never enters our head to petition the owners of these dogs and cows to restrain them; for there is so much water that there must be liberty to everyone to drink to the full. Your question is, `May I? May I?’ I answer that question by saying this: there is nothing to forbid you; there is everything in the nature of Christ to encourage you; and there is so much mercy in Him that you cannot think that He can have the slightest motive for withholding His infinite grace.
Moreover, suppose you come to Christ as this woman came, and touch the hem of His garment, you will not injure Him. You ought to hesitate in gaining benefit for yourself if you would injure the person through whom you obtain that good. But you will not injure the Lord Jesus Christ. He perceived that virtue had gone out of Him, but He did not perceive it by any pain He felt: I believe that He perceived it by the pleasure which it caused Him. Something gave Him unusual joy. A faith-touch had reached Him through His clothes, and He rejoiced to respond by imparting healing virtue from Himself.
You will not defile my Lord, O sinner, if you bring Him all your sin. He will not have to die again to put away your fresh burden of transgression. He will not have to shed one drop of blood to atone for your multiplied sin: the one sacrifice on Calvary anticipated all possible guiltiness. If you will come just as you are, He will not have to leave heaven again, and be born again on earth, and live another sorrowful life in order to save you. He will not need to wear another crown of thorns, or bear another wound in His hands, or feet, or side. He has done all His atoning work: do you not remember His victorious cry–`It is finished’? You cannot injure Him though all your injurious thoughts, words and speeches be laid upon Him. You will not be robbing Him of anything, though your faith-touch conveys life to you. He has such a fullness about Him, that if all you poor sinners come at once, when you have taken away all the merit that you need there will be as much merit left as there was before. When you deal with the infinite you may divide and subtract, but you cannot diminish. If the whole race were washed in the infinite fountain of Jesus’ merit, the infinite would still remain.
Others just like you have ventured to Him, and there has not been a case in which they have been refused. I thought, like you, when I was a child, that the gospel was a very wonderful thing, and free to everybody but myself. I should not have wondered at all if my brother and sisters as well as my father and mother had been saved; but, somehow, I could not get a hold of it myself. It was a precious thing, as much out of my reach as the Queen’s diamonds. So I thought. To many the gospel is like a tram-car in motion, and they cannot jump upon it. I thought surely everybody would be saved, but I should not; and yet, soon after I began to cry for mercy, I found it. My expectations of difficulty were all sweetly disappointed. I believed and found immediate rest to my soul. When I once understood that `There was life for a look at the Crucified One,’ I gave that look, and I found eternal life.
Nobody ever bears a different witness. I challenge the universe to produce a man who was chased from Christ’s door, or forbidden to find in Him a Saviour. I beg you, therefore, to observe that since others have come this way to life and peace, God has appointed it to be the common thoroughfare of grace. Poor guilty sinners, there is a sign set up, `This way for sinners. This way for the guilty. This way for the hungry. This way for the thirsty. This way for the lost. Come to me, all you who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.’ Why, surely, you need not say, `If I may.’ There is no room to say, `If I may,’ because, first of all, you are invited to come and accept Christ as your Saviour–invited over and over again in the Word of God. `The Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.’ (Rev. 22:17) `Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.’ (Isa. 55:1) Jesus Christ invites all those who labour and are heavy laden to come to Him, and He will give them rest. God is honest in His invitations. Be sure of that. If God invites you, He wants you to accept the invitation. After reading the many invitations of the Word of God to you, you may not say, `If I may.’ It will be a wicked questioning of the sincerity of God.
In addition to being invited, you are entreated. Many passages of Scripture go far beyond a mere invitation. God persuades and entreats you to come to Him. He seems to cry like someone who is weeping, `As I live, says the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye . . . for why will ye die, O house of Israel?’ (Ezek. 33:11) Our Lord and Master when He made the feast, and those who were asked did not come, sent out His servants to compel them to come in. He used more than a bare invitation, He put forth a divine compulsion. I would entreat, persuade, exhort all of you who have not believed in Jesus to do so now. In the name of Jesus, I beseech you to seek the Lord. I do not merely put it to you, `Will you or will you not?’ but I would lay my whole heart by the side of the request and say to you, `Come to Jesus. Come and rest your guilty souls on Him.’ Do you not understand the gospel message? Do you know what it asks and what it gives? You shall receive perfect pardon in a moment if you believe in Jesus. You shall receive a life that will never die–receive it now, quick as a lighting flash, if only you trust in the Son of God. Whoever you may be, and whatever you may have done, if with your heart you will believe in Him whom God has raised from the dead, and obey Him thereafter as your Lord and Saviour, every kind of sin and iniquity shall be forgiven you. God will blot out your iniquities like a cloud. He will make you begin de novo–fresh, anew. He will make you a new creature in Christ Jesus. Old things shall pass away and all things become new.
But there is the point–believing in Jesus; and you may look me in the face and cry, `But may I?’ May you? Why, you are exhorted, invited, entreated to do so. Nor is this all. You are even commanded to do it. This is the commandment–that you believe on Jesus, whom He has sent. This is the gospel: `He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but He that believeth not shall be damned.’ (Mark 16:16) There is a command, with a threatened punishment for disobedience. Shall anybody say, `May I?’ after that? If I read, `Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart’, do I say, `May I love God?’ If I read, `Honour thy father and thy mother’, do I say, `May I honour my father and my mother?’ No. A command is a permit and something more. It gives full allowance and much more. As you will be damned if you do not believe, you have therefore been given a right to believe–not only a permission, but a warrant of the most practical kind. Oh, can you not see it! Will you not cry to God: `Lord, if You will damn me if I do not believe, You have given me a full gospel liberty to believe. Therefore I come and put my trust in Jesus.’ `If I may’–I think that this questioning ought to come to an end now. Will you not give it up? May the Holy Spirit show you, poor sinner, that you may now lay your burden down at Jesus’ feet, and be saved at once. You may believe. You have full permission now to confess your sin and to receive immediate pardon: see if it is not so. Cast your guilty soul on Him, and rise forgiven and renewed, henceforth to live in fervent gratitude, a miracle of love.
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