All of Grace was the first book of Spurgeon‘s which I ever. I read it once a few years ago and found it to be wonderful, I’ve recently read it again and found it to be just as wonderful, touching and relevant as the first time I read it.
The design of the text is one aimed at introducing an unbeliever to the gospel, as Spurgeon says in the first chapter “Reader, do you mean business in reading these pages? If so, we are agreed at the outset; but nothing short of your finding Christ and Heaven is the business aimed at here.” It is a text directed at the new or potential Christian, and yet it’s content may no doubt be enjoyed and and benefited from by the most advanced of Christians, and the reason for this is quite simply that what is presented is the gospel truth and the Christian spirit may never tire of the truths of salvation and sanctification.
The message being presented here is simply the truth of salvation by grace through faith alone. It is the message that “When we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.” It is the message that our hope lies in Christ alone and his work upon the cross, that all our failings and our weaknesses and our lack of will for saving ourselves only further demonstrate the truth of salvation by grace, that salvation is of the Lord, and not of man. It is at once a message to not make a Christ out of our faith or our repentance, as if those things in themselves were to save us, but to rather trust in Christ alone, to trust that it is his work that saves.
The text is at once simple and profoundly deep, presenting the intricacies of theology in the plain manner of the gospel. It has all the insights of a theologian and all the comforts of a pastor, as it is primarily a pastoral (and evangelical) work. This can be seen in the ‘objections’ which Spurgeon brings up to his message, the same objections which the unbeliever or the struggling believer is bound to face:
“Many are groaning, ‘I can do nothing.’ They are not making this into an excuse, but they feel it as a daily burden. They would if they could. They can each one honestly say, ‘To will is present with me, but how to perform that which I would I find not’; “I could believe that Jesus would forgive sin,” says one, “but then my trouble is that I sin again, and that I feel such awful tendencies to evil within me. As surely as a stone, if it be flung up into the air, soon comes down again to the ground, so do I, though I am sent up to heaven by earnest preaching, return again to my insensible state. Alas ! I am easily fascinated with the basilisk eyes of sin, and am thus held as under a spell, so that I cannot escape from my own folly.” I have heard another say, “I am tormented with horrible thoughts. Wherever I go, blasphemies steal in upon me. Frequently at my work a dreadful suggestion forces itself upon me, and even on my bed I am startled from my sleep by whispers of the evil one. I cannot get away from this h orrible temptation.” ; I hear another bewailing himself thus: “Oh, sir, my weakness lies in this, that I do not seem to keep long in one mind! I hear the word on a Sunday, and I am impressed; but in the week I meet with an evil companion, and my good feelings are all gone. My fellow workmen do not believe in anything, and they say such terrible things, and I do not know how to answer them, and so I find myself knocked over.“
With the gospel of grace firmly presented it is each of these questions which Spurgeon turns his attention towards, answering the objections of those feel the message is too much or that they haven’t the strength or ability to obey it. These chapters I think have some of the best kernels of wisdom available regarding the Christian walk.
Simply put, this is a text for everybody. It is a text presenting the gospel to the unbeliever. It is a text for building the faith of the new believer. It is a text for redirecting the gaze of maturing Christian to the work of Christ. It is a text offering the realizations of grace and the cross which the struggling Christian needs to overcome sin. Finally, one might even say that in its simplicity it is one of the best introductions to Reformed theology that one might hope to obtain.
“Recollect the question which flashed into the mind of young Bunyan when at his sports on the green on Sunday: ‘Wilt thou have thy sins and go to hell, or wilt thou quit thy sins and go to heaven?’ That brought him to a dead stand. That is a question which every man will have to answer: for there is no going on in sin and going to heaven. That cannot be. You must quit sin or quit hope. Do you reply, ‘Yes, I am willing enough. To will is present with me, but how to perform that which I would I find not. Sin masters me, and I have no strength.’ Come, then, if you have no strength, this text is still true, ‘When we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.’ Can you still believe that? However other things may seem to contradict it, will you believe it? God has said it, and it is a fact; therefore, hold on to it like grim death, for your only hope lies there.”
-“If you will have Jesus, He has you already. If you believe on Him, I tell you you cannot go to hell; for that were to make the sacrifice of Christ of none effect… The Lord would not receive this offering on our behalf, and then condemn us to die. The Lord cannot read our pardon written in the blood of His own Son, and then smite us. That were impossible.”
-“I cannot make this change,” says one. Who said you could? The Scripture which we have quoted speaks not of what man will do, but of what God will do. It is God’s promise, and it is for Him to fulfill His own engagements. Trust in Him to fulfill His Word to you, and it will be done.”
-“Faith is not a blind thing; for faith begins with knowledge. It is not a speculative thing; for faith believes facts of which it is sure. It is not an unpractical, dreamy thing; for faith trusts, and stakes its destiny upon the truth of revelation… Faith is believing that Christ is what He is said to be, and that He will do what He has promised to do, and then to expect this of Him.”
-“If Christ has died for me, ungodly as I am, without strength as I am, then I cannot live in sin any longer, but must arouse myself to love and serve Him who hath redeemed me. I cannot trifle with the evil which slew my best Friend. I must be holy for His sake. How can I live in sin when He has died to save me from it?”
I have no criticisms of this text, it is quite simply one of the – if not the – best presentations of the gospel that I’ve read outside the gospels themselves.