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Archive for the ‘Charles Spurgeon’ Category


Back to working my way through Steve McCoy’s Big 5 Books, today the Cross.  As Spurgeon once said:

“Endeavor to know more and more of Christ Jesus. Endeavor especially to know the doctrine of the sacrifice of Christ.” C.H. Spurgeon

Here are the best books I’ve read:

The books I have yet to read, and hope to:

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Buy this book, you all.

Buy this book, you all.

I mentioned the Reformissionary’s Big 5 Books series before.  I thought I’d cover evangelism.  Steve McCoy limited it to evangelism- so I can’t put down any books on apologetics.  I’m in trouble.

This doesn’t count, but it does have evangelism in the title: Evangelism & the Sovereignty of God by J.I. Packer.  He defends Calvinism from the various charges that it stifles evangelism.  What stifles evangelism in the sinful hearts of those called to evangelism.  Also not counting because the author is considered to be fuzzy on justification, but it is a book I found helpful is The Call of Grace: How the Covenant Illuminates Salvation and Evangelism by Norman Shepherd.  Reminds me that as a Presbyterian, making disciples started with my children’s baptism (Mt. 28).

Books on My To Read List:

If you have any recommendations- put them down.  I obviously don’t know everything, which extends to every worthwhile book.

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This was sent to me by a church secretary when I sent my info in to apply.  Very nice lady.

Waiting, Not Running

“Truly my soul waits upon God: from Him comes my salvation.”

—Psalm 62:1

Blessed posture! Waiting truly and only upon the LORD. Be this our condition all this day and every day. Waiting His leisure, waiting in His service, waiting in joyful expectation, waiting in prayer, and content. When the very soul thus waits, it is in the best and truest condition of a creature before his Creator, a servant before his Master, a child before his Father. We allow no dictation to God, nor complaining of Him; we will permit no petulance and no distrust. At the same time, we practice no running before the cloud and no seeking to others for aid: neither of these would be waiting upon God. God, and God alone, is the expectation of our hearts.

Blessed assurance! From Him salvation is coming; it is on the road. It will come from Him and from no one else. He shall have all the glory of it, for He alone can and will perform it. And He will perform it most surely in His own time and manner. He will save from doubt, and suffering, and slander, and distress. Though we see no sign of it as yet, we are satisfied to bide the LORD’s will, for we have no suspicion of His love and faithfulness. He will make sure work of it before long, and we will praise Him at once for the coming mercy.”

— C.H. Spurgeon

“In quietness and in confidence shall be your strength.”—Isaiah 30:15

How little did I realize how much I needed to hear that today.  I sit and wait while a church interviews a few guys with more experience in a particular area.  The door is not closed, but it isn’t wide open either.

 

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Read a brief interview with Tim Keller about his upcoming book, The Prodigal God.  They talked about the title (the subtitle has been changed).  A commenter found the use of prodigal in reference to God to be blasphemous.  Richard Pratt used the dictum that “meaning is use.”  Words have a range of meaning, so you must ask which is being used.  So, I looked up the various meanings of prodigal.

–adjective

1. wastefully or recklessly extravagant: prodigal expenditure.
2. giving or yielding profusely; lavish (usually fol. by of or with): prodigal of smiles; prodigal with money.
3. lavishly abundant; profuse: nature’s prodigal resources.

–noun

4. a person who spends, or has spent, his or her money or substance with wasteful extravagance; spendthrift.

Not all of the uses in the range of meaning imply impropriety.  How Tim Keller is using it is determinative, not how a reader interprets it (unless we all want to become literary deconstructionists, which the aforementioned critic would quickly disavow). 

God is lavish in his love and grace, far more than we his people can be.  This is the point of the parable, that God is lavish in love and mercy while we self-righteous religious folks are anything but.  We’d rather hammer a brother over our misgivings about the title of a book.  I can be the Pharisee too … I need to repeatedly hear of God’s lavishly abundant love for me, the richness of his mercy and outpouring of his grace.  So, I’m looking forward to reading about the God who left home to bring people like me home to him.

Update: Tullian Tchividjian asked Tim about it, and got a great response.

Update #2: Between 2 Worlds (Justin Taylor) reminds us of Spurgeon’s sermon on this text-  Many Kisses for Returning Sinners, or Prodigal Love for the Prodigal Son.  Love the way he uses 2 different meaning for the same word in the same sentence.  Love Spurgeon!

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I spent the last few days reading Spurgeon v. Hyper-Calvinism: The Battle for Gospel Preaching by Iain Murray.  It was well worth the $4.72 I paid for this book at WTS Books.  It was yet another solid read by Iain Murray.  He’s done us a great service again, though this book is quite short (under 160 pages).

Why might someone want to read this book?  Well, for a few reasons.  One the one hand it can be used to refute Arminians who think that Calvinism itself hinders evangelism.  It shows this by putting forth Spurgeon as a very evangelistic, historical Calvinist.  It shows that Hyper-Calvinism (which does hinder evangelism) is a deviation which should not be confused with the real thing (all those people in the SBC who are afraid of Calvinism should read this).

With the resurgence of Calvinism among young church leaders, we may see a resurgence of Hyper-Calvinism as well.  It was this that led Murray to write the book in the 1990s.  I have only met a few Hyper-Calvinists by doctrine.  However, sometimes we can inadvertantly be Hyper-Calvinists in practice.  I felt that conviction as I read the book.  I have not been as zealous in pleading with people as perhaps I should have been.

Murray begins with a very brief historical sketch of Charles Haddon Spurgeon to set the stage.  He began his ministry at a time when Arminianism was beginning to spread among English Baptists, and part of the reason was that Hyper-Calvinism had infected many of the English Baptist congregations.  The two controversies of Spurgeon’s early ministry were against these to sub-biblical theologies.  By and large they attacked him, though he recognized some indiscretion on his part as he looked back in latter years.

Murray turns to the Combatants and the Cause of the Controversy.  It began in earnest when a well-meaning publisher wanted to show other Hyper-Calvinists that Spurgeon was a man whose ministry they could welcome, even if he wasn’t “fully onboard”.  This draw the ire of the leading Hyper-Calvinists who began exchanging letters to the editors and articles on the matter with some who defended Spurgeon.  Spurgeon himself never entered the fray via the periodicals.  Most of his responses were in the form of instructing his people from the pulpit.

Murray then moves into The Case Against Spurgeon.  They claimed he was touched by an Arminian spirit (attitude, not a ghost or something).  But many of their arguments had a problem- they were refuted by numerous honored Puritan pastor-theologians like Richard Sibbes, John Owen, Thomas Boston and the other Marrow Men.  They argued that non-elect people could not be told to repent and believe since they were unable to do so.  They called the practice of so doing “duty-faith”, quite derisively to make it sound like a work.  The Hyper-Calvinists fell into the same trap as the Arminians, though it took them in a different direction.  For God to command something of people implied they had the ability to fulfill the command.  Arminians accepted this, and believed all people had the ability, not just the duty, to repent and believe.  Hyper-Calvinists, believing non-elect people lacked the ability, also lacked the duty.  In this they were trying to be logically consistent.

The problem is that duty is not connected to ability.  God’s commands are reflective of His nature, not our ability.  As such they reflect our responsibility, what we are to do.  All people are commanded to obey God in all things, though only regenerate people have the ability to actually do that.

Murray turns to Spurgeon’s Fourfold Appeal to Scripture.  As noted above, most of this is culled from his sermons.

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I began reading Spurgeon v. Hyper-Calvinism: the Battle for Gospel Preaching yesterday.  Just the introductary material to give some background on Spurgeon.  Here are a few things to chew on.

“We are only at the beginning of an era of mingled unbelief and fanaticism.  The hurricane is coming.  Men have ceased to be  guided by the word, and claim to be themselves prophets.”

“Let us hold fast, tenaciously, doggedly, with a death grip, to the truth of the inspiration of God’s Word … Everything in the railway service depends upon the accuracy of the signals: when these are wrong, life will be sacrificed.  On the road to heaven we need unerring signals, or the catastrophe will be far more terrible.”

“The only real argument against the Bible is an unholy life.  When a man argues against the Word of God, follow him home and see if you can discover the reason of his enmity to the Word of the Lord.  It lies in some form of sin.”

Referring to the doctrinal battles he fought (and believed he needed to fight) “The fight is killing me.”  Like Paul he contended for the faith once delivered to the saints though he paid a great personal cost.

“”The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul”; nothing else but the living Word of God will convince, convert, renew and sanctify.  He has promised that this shall not return to Him void; but He has made no such promise to the wisdom of men, or the excellency of human speech.  The Spirit of God works with the Word of God … All his paths drop fatness; but man’s paths are barrenness.”

“If we are to obtain a revival we must go directly to the Holy Ghost for it, and not resort to the machinery of the professional revival-maker.”  These were not the words of a bitter man, but one who was used greatly during the great London revival of 1859.

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I thought I’d heard all of Steve Brown’s sermons while I was in seminary.  Either I didn’t, or he got a whole new bunch of them for his book A Scandalous Freedom: The Radical Nature of the Gospel. 

I’d been wanting to read Steve’s book on grace for a few years.  Finally did, and glad I did.  Steve makes reading theology fun, and sometimes that can be no small feat.  There is possibly no greater sin than making theology boring, though the blood of Jesus is sufficient to forgive even that!  Steve doesn’t have to worry about sinning big there.

Steve likes to say things in a controversial way.  Lots of younger pastors do that now too.  But what he says is usually true.  Other guys often speak untruth.  I remember the 1991 Ligonier Conference on the Cross.  In his first sermon Steve was hitting hard on how we “cannot add to or take anything away from the Cross.”  Your obedience doesn’t make you more saved, or your disobedience less saved- it all rests on what Jesus did.  Some people went from that into thinking Steve was an antinomian (someone who thinks the law and obedience are irrelevant).  Oh, how we long to be self-righteous little religious fanatics.

This book is about grace, and the ways we forfeit it by living in prisons of our own design.  Jesus has set us free, but we miss the feel of the chains.  Throughout this book, Steve makes a number of really good points using some really good illustrations.  There was only one small point I would quibble with- but since I didn’t want to throw the book against the wall, I won’t even mention what it was.

Steve starts with the fact that we are free in Christ, moves to our false views of God, then a summary of the gospel and into the various prisons we put ourselves in.

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The doctrine of the atonement is quite the hot topic these days.  I just started reading The Great Exchange (a gift from my sister-in-law).  Keep your eyes open for a review.  That and a blogversation with Bert about an old manuscript of mine has me working on a manuscript.  It was on a floppy disk, and a series of files.  So, I’m currently converting it to one file and in a better version of Word (it was originally written on my old Macintosh shortly after seminary).  I’m making some corrections and changing the format some.  And I ran across this by Charles Spurgeon:

“Endeavor to know more and more of Christ Jesus.  Endeavor especially to know the doctrine of the sacrifice of Christ.” 

The best books on my shelf on the topic are:

The Cross in the New Testament by Leon Morris (currently out of print)

The Doctrine of the Atonement According to the Apostles by George Smeaton (WTS has it under a different title, but The Great Exchange is patterned after it).

The Atonement by A.A. Hodge (where I first saw the illustration of the aspects of the atonement as a diamond, which my manuscript uses as does The Great Exchange)

The Cross of Christ by John Stott

The Cross by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (haven’t read it yet)

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In the second chapter of Velvet Elvis called Yoke, Rob Bell tackles the issues of authority and interpretation.  He provides some interesting background information, showing that he is well-read.  He continues the practice of asking questions instead of answering questions.  In the process, as in the previous chapter, he unwittingly (?) seems to set people up to question themselves right out of orthodox Christianity.  Here are some examples.

 

“Notice this verse from 1 Corinthians: ‘To the rest I say this (I, not the Lord)…’  Here we have Paul writing to a group of Christians, and he wants to make it clear that the next thing he is going to say comes from him, ‘not the Lord’.”


Rob does not discuss the context of this passage from 1 Corinthians 7.  Paul differentiates his counsel which is coming from the Old Testament, and that which is not found there.  Are we to take Paul to mean that we don’t need to heed this instruction because it’s from him and not God?  I don’t think so.  I’m not going to start chopping my Bible up into what God says and what the human author says.  But Rob’s statements undermine the authority of Paul’s instruction (unless I’m really missing something here).

 

In keeping with his anti-fundamentalist bent, he turns his gaze to the Southern Baptist Convention (without naming names).

“The reason their annual gathering was in the news was that they had voted to reaffirm their view of the importance of the verse that says a wife’s role is submit to her husband.  This is a big deal to them.  This is what made the news.  This is what they are known for.”

 

Last I checked the SBC didn’t control the news outlets.  I have some bones to pick with them too, but this is not one of them.  It made news because it is so counter-cultural.  I applaud them for not giving in to cultural pressure to somehow water down Scripture.

But Rob has a question or two.  First, “What about the verse before that verse?  “What about the verse after it?” The prior verse is a summary statement that we should submit to one another (a result of being filled with the Holy Spirit).  Paul then lays out some examples- wives to husbands, children to parents, employees to employers (yes, I made an epochal shift there out of slavery).  No one says that parents should submit to their children, or that employers should submit to their employees.  But somehow Paul is not to be taken to mean that wives should submit to their husbands.  He wants you to doubt that it really means this, and the SBC is foolish for believing it (Neanderthals!).  I guess Christ should submit to us.

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Here is the second part of my outline of Packer’s Introductory Essay.

II.  Owen’s Defense of the Gospel.            A.  “Calvinism” is the Gospel.

                        The question at hand directly impacts the content of the gospel that is preached.  This is not a minor, insignificant issue.

                        1.  The “Five Points” in History.

                                    They were a response to the five-fold protest of some Dutch theologians in the seventeenth century.  This protest had two philosophical foundations.

                                    a.  Divine Sovereignty is incompatible with human freedom and responsibility.

                                    b.  Ability limits obligation.  If man lacks the ability than he is under no obligation to perform an action, and therefore cannot be held responsible.

                        As a result, since we are commanded to believe we must be fully able to believe, and God does not enable us to believe.  This ability is universal.  As a system, this five-fold protest is summarized as follows.

            1. Humankind’s corruption is not so complete that anyone is unable to believe, unaided by God.

            2.  No one is so completely controlled by God that they are unable to reject the gospel.

            3.  God’s election of individuals to salvation is based upon His seeing who will believe on their own.

            4.  Jesus’ death did not purchase anyone’s salvation, but only created the possibility of salvation for all who freely believe.

            5.  It is within the power and therefore responsibility of believers to continue in the faith.  It is possible to fall from faith and be lost.

            In this way, this protest, called Arminianism, teaches that one’s salvation ultimately depends on oneself.  We are saved or lost by what we do, not by what Jesus has done.

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Some friends have asked me why churches die.  In some ways that is a difficult question because the circumstances of each congregation that closes are different.  There are economic and demographic shifts that may contribute greatly.  That being said, I’ll spend some time addressing some of the other reasons that churches die.

The first is prayerlessness.  I know this was a factor for our congregation.  When I arrived there, they had a prayer meeting each Wednesday evening.  The only people who showed regularly were an elder and his wife who played piano, a deacon and his wife, and one of the ladies in the church who was on the search committee that called me.  That was it.

Over time, the elder died of cancer and the search committee member grew disenchanted with my ministry (often the person who most wants you there turns on you first when their -usually unexpressed- expectations are not met).  That left me, the pianist, the deacon (later an elder) and his wife.  We were joined by my new wife (I was single when I was called).

Our congregation never had a serious commitment to corporate prayer.  Many of them prayed privately, but what we find in Scripture (particularly the Book of Acts) is the great importance of praying as a body.  For instance:  the 120 were together praying on Pentecost when the Spirit came to empower them to be witnesses to Jesus.  Peter preached to the curious and angry, and God saved over 3,000 people that day.

These new Christians were devoted to prayer.  The context in the last section of Acts 2 is them gathering together.  One thing they did together was PRAY.  In Acts 4 they prayed after the release of Peter & John from jail.  Filled with the Holy Spirit, they preached the word of God boldly.

In Acts 6, they chose 7 deacons to serve the Jerusalem church so the apostles could focus on prayer and the ministry of the word.  The order may be significant.  Spurgeon believed it was.  He believed that prayer groups that met were the engine that drove the power of his preaching.

In Acts 10, while praying to God, Cornelius received the vision from God telling him to send for Peter.  This began the great movement of the gospel among the Gentiles.  In Acts 12, Peter was released from prison while the people were praying for him and his release.  In Acts 13, during a time of worship and fasting (I’m sure they were praying), the Spirit told them to set apart Paul and Barnabas as missionaries to bring the gospel to Asia and Europe.

We don’t just need the preaching of the Word, but it must be accompanied by a commitment to prayer.  God uses means, and one means He has ordained for the church to grew strong, receive God’s blessings in Christ, expand through evangelism etc. is prayer.  Just as Calvin talks about Word and Spirit going together, so we can see that they are joined as we pray.

Churches that don’t pray will not be bold in evangelism.

Churches that don’t pray will not see the ministry of the Word preach as effective.

Churches that don’t pray won’t make much progress in godliness.

Churches that don’t pray will eventually die.

This is why I’m set to read D.A. Carson’s A Call to Spiritual Reformation.

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Ryle’s next chapter in Holiness is on Growth in Grace. He addressed 3 topics in this chapter: the reality, marks and means of spiritual growth.  His text is 2 Peter 3:18 (Grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.).  This should basically show the reality of spiritual growth (which is concurrent with our growth in our knowledge- both objective and subjective- of Jesus).

The marks of spiritual growth include increased humility, increased faith and love toward Jesus, increased holiness of life, increased spirituality of taste and mind.  The first ones should make sense, and be obvious to any converted person.  The last I mentioned may not be instantly clear. 

“The ways, and fashions, and amusements, and recreations of the world have a continually decreasing place in his heart.  He does not condemn them as downright sinful, nor say that those who have anything to do with them are going to hell.  He only feels that they have a constantly diminishing hold on his own affections, and gradually seem smaller and more trifling in his eyes.”

He does not really specify what he means.  Our hobbies should become less important to us, and we should spend more time cultivating a heart toward him, toward others etc.  One does not want to say that anyone must abstain from indifferent matters (1 Tim. 4).  However, I fear we (me included) have been captivated and be-dazzled by indifferent matters.  We are more concerned with missing our favorite show or game than not having/finding time to be with God.  We can be more focused on a new CD than a new book by someone who will spur us on to holiness and love.

Two other marks are growth in charity (love) and increased zeal and diligence in trying to do good to others.  These are connected.  The grace of God teaches us to say ‘no’ to ungodliness and live proper, godly lives in this present age (Titus).  “One of the surest marks of spiritual decline is a decreased interest about the souls of others and the growth of Christ’s kingdom.”

I want to focus on the means of grace.  We can often think that these things earn God’s grace.  Modern Pharisees think this way.  Antinomians avoid these means out of fear of legalism, forgetting that God uses means to give us grace.  “They seem to suppose that those who grow are what they are by some special gift or grant from God. … Cast away for ever the vain thought that if a believer does not grow in grace it is not his fault.”  God has appointed those means.  Those means do not benefit us unless we participate in them believing God has ordained them, and that God will provide the grace He promised.  We do not think the act itself provides grace, but that God does it as He sees fit.  However, if we don’t utilize those means… no grace.  So, what are these means?

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Some great stuff on sale this week.

I would recommend:

The 2 books by Sinclair Ferguson- The Christian Life, and Let’s Study Philippians.

Revival and Revivalism by Iain Murray, and Spurgeon by Arnold Dallimore.

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And I’m in good company!

In a Friday the 13th chapel message outlining the “Message, Mission and Vision” of Liberty, Dr. Falwell said many things I would agree with, to be sure.  However, Tom Ascol notes he then said something that I would not agree with:

“We are not into partcular love or limited atonement. As a matter of fact we consider it heresy.”

 I think Tom Ascol’s comments are pretty good, so here are some:

“What I regret is that he finds particular atonement to be “heresy.” This must mean that he and Liberty believe that those who hold to particular atonement to be heretics. Among the countless numbers of people whom he would brand with the H-word are many who would make any evangelical Who’s who list (including Bunyan, Owen, Whitefield, Spurgeon, Carey, Boyce, Mell, Dagg and Lloyd-Jones, to name but a few of the dead ones). I find this sad.

“Does Jerry Falwell and Liberty University really judge John Piper to be a heretic? If we take his words seriously, as surely we ought if we are to honor him, then he believes that Al Mohler, R.C. Sproul, John MacArthur, D. James Kennedy, Ligon Duncan, Mark Dever, Tom Nettles, Wayne Grudem, Sinclair Ferguson, James White and Fred Malone teach heresy.”

I was once called apostate for not believing that they King James Version, authorized by a Catholic English King to be standard Bible for the Church of England and translated from what are currently inferior texts, is not the only translation a Christian may use by a Catholic-hating, independent fundamentalist (ah, the irony).  And now I am a heretic.  Well, actually Dave Hunt called “me” one by denouncing Calvinism as heretical.

The late John Gerstner, known for an inflammatory comment or 2, had nothing on this type of reasoning.  I wonder what this will cost Falwell.  This is far more serious than mischaracterizing a women’s basketball team.  Oh yeah, pretty much nothing but some fundraising cash.

Jerry, you may condemn me but you’re still my brother.

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This is the final installment on Ryle’s chapter on Sanctification where he compares and contrasts justification and sanctification.  The inability to distinguish them has led to many a departure from biblical Christianity.  This is a very important topic.

So… how are they alike?

  1. “Both proceed originally from the free grace of God.”  It all comes back to grace, sovereignly administered by God.  He owes no one, and is free to give grace to whomsoever He will.
  2. “Both are part of that great work of salvation which Christ, in the eternal covenant, has undertaken on behalf of His people.”  Often problems arise from equating justification with salvation.  Salvation encompasses justification, but is more than justification.  It includes the graces of regeneration, adoption, sanctification and glorification.  Therefore, the Scriptures talk about us having been saved (justification), being saved (sanctification) and will be saved (glorification).  All are rooted in grace purchased by Christ’s work on our behalf.
  3.  “Both are to be found in the same person.”  At the risk of being crass, but it is like one of those special buys on TV… “wait, there’s more.”  If you buy the bamboo steamer you also get everything else.  Those who are justified are also being sanctified.  No truly justified person will not be sanctified.  No one can be sanctified unless they are first justified.  We can distinguish these graces, but cannot separate them.  Just as we can distinguish between the two natures of Christ, but cannot separate them since the Incarnation.
  4. “Both begin at the same time.”  The act of justification marks the beginning of sanctification.  You may not feel very sanctified, or at all, but you are.
  5. “Both are alike necessary to salvation.”  They are a package deal, by grace.  All inclusive!  All purchased by Jesus’ obedience and sacrifice.

How are they different?

  1. (more…)

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“I believe that a very large majority of church goers are merely unthinking, slumbering worshippers of an unknown God.”  Charles Spurgeon, Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, Vol. 11

 Just as true today as when he first preached these words.

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“I have always considered with Luther and Calvin that the sum and substance of the gospel lies in that word substitution- Christ standing in the stead of man.  The gospel is this: I deserve to be lost forever; the only reason why I should not be damned is that Christ was punished in my stead, and there is no need to execute a sentence twice for sin.

“I cannot enter heaven without a perfect righteousness: I am absolutely certain I shall never have one of my own.  But, then, Christ had a perfect righteousness and he said, ‘There, poor sinner, take my garment and put it on; I will suffer in your stead, and you will be rewarded for the works you did not do, but which I did for you.'”  Charles Haddon Spurgeon, as quoted in The Shadow of the Broad Brim.

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