What Would Spurgeon Say… on Jesus Christ, The Great Substitute?

“Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us; for it is written, cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree.” —Galatians 3:13

On this Good Friday, this day when we remember the darkest day before the dawn, I searched out what C. H. Spurgeon said about our Savior’s crucifixion. I found in his Sermon XVIII, The Curse Removed,[1] his discourse on the curse of sin which is borne by all mankind, and how Jesus Christ became a curse for us, substituting himself in our place, that he might pay the penalty which we could never pay, giving us instead the life we could never deserve.

In the first point of his sermon, he lays out the curse of the law, as being “a universal curse, resting upon every one of the seed of Adam.” While universal, the curse is just: “I say, God is just, although from his lips should rush thunders to blast the entire universe; God is just, although he curses all.” The curse is also fearful because of its consequences, “enough to make our knees knock together, to chill our blood, and start each individual hair upon its end, if we did but know what it is to be under the curse of God.” And it is a present curse: “it is not so much a condemnation in the future that you have to dread as a damnation now.”

He then speaks of the removal of the curse, as a sweet and pleasant duty to relate to his people that it is an instantaneous thing. “I may stand here one moment under the curse; and if the Spirit look upon me, and I breathe a prayer to heaven—if by faith I cast myself on Jesus—in one solitary second, ere the clock hath ticked, my sins may be all forgiven.” It is an entire removal. “When Christ pardoneth, he pardoneth all sin; the sins of twice ten thousand years he pardons in an hour.” And “when Christ removes the curse, it is an irreversible removal.”

In his third point, Spurgeon speaks of Christ, The Great Substitute, and here I quote at length:

The curse of God is not easily taken away; in fact, there was but one method whereby it could be removed. The lightnings were in God’s hand; they must be launched; he said they must. The sword was unsheathed; it must be satisfied; God vowed it must. Vengeance was ready; vengeance must fall; God had said it must. How, then, was the sinner to be saved? The only answer was this. The Son of God appears; and he says, “Father! Launch thy thunderbolts at me; here is my breast—plunge that sword in here; here are my shoulders—let the lash of vengeance fall upon them;” and Christ, the Substitute, came forth and stood for us, “the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God.” …

Unless men are told positively and plainly that Christ did stand in their room and stead, to bear their guilt and carry their sorrows, they can never see how God is to be “just, and yet the justifier of the ungodly.” …

We believe that God never remitted the penalty, that he did not forgive the sin without punishing it, but that there was blood for blood, and stroke for stroke, and death for death, and punishment for punishment, without the abatement of a solitary jot or tittle; that Jesus Christ the Saviour, did drink the veritable cup of our redemption to its very dregs; that he did suffer beneath the awful crushing wheels of divine vengeance, the self-same pains and sufferings which we ought to have endured. O! the glorious doctrine of substitution!… O! how sweet to tell sinners, that though God hath said, “Thou must die,” their Maker stoops his head to die for them, and Christ incarnate breathes his last upon a tree, that God might execute his vengeance, and yet might pardon the ungodly.

Should there be one here who does not understand substitution, let me repeat what I have said. Sinner, the only way thou canst be saved is this. God must punish sin; if he did not, he would undeify himself; but if he has punished sin in the person of Christ for thee, thou art fully absolved, thou art quite clear; Christ hath suffered what thou oughtest to have suffered, and thou mayest rejoice in that. “Well,” sayest thou, “I ought to have died.” Christ hath died! “I ought to have been sent to hell.” Christ did not go there to endure that torment forever; but he suffered an equivalent for it, something which satisfied God. The whole of hell was distilled into his cup of sorrows; he drank it. The cup which his Father gave him, he drank to its dregs.

“At one tremendous draught of love, / He drank destruction dry.”

All the punishment, all the curse on him was laid. Vengeance now was satisfied; all was gone, and gone forever; but not gone without having been taken away by the Saviour. The thunders have not been reserved, they have been launched at him, and vengeance is satisfied, because Christ has endured the penalty.

This, friend, is the reason for the cross; this the reason for the darkest day.

But wait,… the morning of the third day is coming…

[1] Charles Haddon Spurgeon, Spurgeon’s Sermons, Volume 2 (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson),280- 295

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