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ALAS! I CAN DO NOTHING!
by Charles Spurgeon
THE ANXIOUS HEART has accepted the doctrine of atonement, and learned the
great truth that salvation is by faith in the Lord Jesus, it is often sore
troubled with a sense of inability toward that which is good. 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."
seems to make all the gospel null and void. For what is the use of food to
a hungry man if he cannot get at it? Of what avail is the river of the
water of life if one cannot drink? We recall the story of the doctor and
the poor woman's child. The sage practitioner told the mother that her
little one would soon be better under proper treatment, but it was
absolutely needful that her boy should regularly drink the best wine, and
that he should spend a season at one of the German spas. This, to a widow
who could hardly get bread to eat! Now, it sometimes seems to the troubled
heart that the simple gospel of "Believe and live," is not, after all, so
very simple. For it asks the poor sinner to do what he cannot do. To the
really awakened, but half instructed, there appears to be a missing link.
Yonder is the salvation of Jesus, but how is it to be reached? The soul is
without strength, and knows not what to do. It lies within sight of the
city of refuge, and cannot enter its gate.
Is this want
of strength provided for in the plan of salvation? It is. The work of the
Lord is perfect. It begins where we are, and asks nothing of us in order
to its completion. When the good Samaritan saw the traveler lying wounded
and half dead, he did not bid him rise and come to him, and mount the ass
and ride off to the inn. No, "he came where he was," and ministered to
him, and lifted him upon the beast and bore him to the inn. Thus doth the
Lord Jesus deal with us in our low and wretched estate.
We have seen
that God justifieth, that He justifieth the ungodly and that He justifies
them through faith in the precious blood of Jesus. We have now to see the
condition these ungodly ones are in when Jesus works out their salvation.
Many awakened persons are not only troubled about their sin, but about
their moral weakness. They have no strength with which to escape from the
mire into which they have fallen, nor to keep out of it in after days.
They not only lament over what they have done, but over what they cannot
do. They feel themselves to be powerless, helpless, and spiritually
lifeless. It may sound odd to say that they feel dead, and yet it is even
so. They are, in their own esteem, to all good incapable. They cannot
travel the road...for their bones are broken... Happily, it is written, as
the commendation of God's love to us:
were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly"
helplessness is extreme. It is not written, " When we were comparatively
weak Christ died for us," or "When we had only a little strength." ...We
had no strength whatever which could aid in our salvation. Our Lord's
words were emphatically true, "Without me ye can do nothing." I may go
further than the text and remind you of the great love wherewith the Lord
loved us, "even when we were dead in trespasses and sins." To be dead is
even more than to be without strength.
thing that the poor strength less sinner has to fix his mind upon, and
firmly retain, as his one ground of hope, is the divine assurance that "in
due time Christ died for the ungodly." Believe this, and all inability
will disappear. As it is fabled of Midas that he turned everything into
gold by his touch, so it is true of faith that it turns everything it
touches into good. Our very needs and weaknesses become blessings when
faith deals with them.
not therefore, despair. That which is necessary to salvation is not
continuous thought, but a simple reliance upon Jesus. Hold you on to this
one fact, "In due time Christ died for the ungodly. " This truth will not
require from you any deep research or profound reasoning, or convincing
argument. There it stands, "In due time Christ died for the ungodly." Fix
your mind on that, and rest there.
one great, gracious, glorious fact lie in your spirit till it perfumes all
your thoughts, and makes you rejoice even though you are without strength,
seeing the Lord Jesus has become your strength and your song. Yea, He has
become your salvation. According to the Scriptures it is a revealed fact,
that in due time Christ died for the ungodly when they were yet without
strength. You have heard these words hundreds of times...and yet you have
never before perceived their meaning. There is a cheering savor about
them, is there not? Jesus did not die for our righteousness, but He died
for our sins. He did not come to save us because we were worth the saving,
but because we were utterly worthless, ruined, and undone. He came not to
earth out of any reason that was in us, but solely and only out of reasons
which He fetched from the depths of His own divine love. In due time He
died for those whom He describes, not as godly, but as ungodly, applying
to them as hopeless an adjective as He could well have selected...
another man cry, "Oh, sir my want of strength lies mainly in this, that I
cannot repent sufficiently!" A curious idea men have of what repentance
is! Many fancy that so many tears are to be shed, and so many groans are
to be heaved and so much despair is to be endured. Whence comes this
unreasonable notion? Unbelief and despair are sins and therefore I do not
see how they can be constituent elements of acceptable repentance. Yet
there are many who regard them as necessary parts of true Christian
experience. They are in great error. Still, I know what they mean, for in
the days of my darkness I used to feel in the same way. I desired to
repent, but I thought that I could not do it, and yet all the while I was
repenting. Odd as it may sound, I felt that I could not feel. I used to
get into a corner and weep, because I could not weep. And I fell into
bitter sorrow, because I could not sorrow for sin. What a jumble it all is
when in our unbelieving state we begin to judge our own condition! It is
like a blind man looking at his own eyes. My heart was melted within me
for fear, because I thought that my heart was as hard as an adamant stone.
My heart was broken to think that it would not break. Now I can see that I
was exhibiting the very thing, which I thought I did not possess. But then
I knew not where I was.
that the man who truly repents is never satisfied with his own repentance.
We can no more repent perfectly than we can live perfectly. However pure
our tears, there will always be some dirt in them. There will be something
to be repented of even in our best repentance. But listen! To repent is to
change your mind about sin, and Christ, and all the great things of God.
There is sorrow implied in this, but the main point is the turning of the
heart from sin to Christ. If there be this turning, you have the essence
of true repentance, even though no alarm and no despair should ever have
cast their shadow upon your mind.
cannot repent as you would, it will greatly aid you to do so if you will
firmly believe that "in due time Christ died for the ungodly. " Think of
this again and again. How can you continue to be hard-hearted when you
know that out of supreme love, "Christ died for the ungodly"? Let me
persuade you to reason with yourself thus. Ungodly as I am, though this
heart of steel will not relent, though I smite in vain upon my breast, yet
He died for such as I am, since He died for the ungodly. Oh that I may
believe this and feel the power of it upon my flinty heart!
every other reflection from your soul, and sit down by the hour together
and meditate deeply on this one resplendent display of unmerited,
unexpected, unexampled love, "Christ died for the ungodly." Read over
carefully the narrative of the Lord's death, as you find it in the four
evangelists. If anything can melt your stubborn heart, it will be a sight
of the sufferings of Jesus, and the consideration that he suffered all
this for His enemies.
sweet the tears I shed,
While at Thy feet I kneel,
Gaze on Thy wounded, fainting head,
And all Thy sorrows feel.
My heart dissolves to see Thee bleed,
This heart so hard before;
I hear Thee for the guilty plead,
And grief o'erflows the more.
'Twas for the sinful Thou didst die,
And I a sinner stand:
Convinc'd by Thine expiring eye,
Slain by Thy pierced hand.
cross is that wonder-working rod which can bring water out of a rock. If
you understand the full meaning of the divine sacrifice of Jesus, you must
repent of ever having been opposed to One who is so full of love. It is
written, "They shall look upon him whom they have pierced, and they shall
mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in
bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn."
Repentance will not make you see Christ, but to see Christ will give you
repentance. You may not make a Christ out of your repentance, but you must
look for repentance to Christ. The Holy Ghost, by turning us to Christ,
turns us from sin. Look away, then, from the effect to the cause, from
your own repenting to the Lord Jesus, who is exalted on high to give
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 horrible
know what you mean, for I have myself been hunted by this wolf. A man
might as well hope to fight a swarm of flies with a sword as to master his
own thoughts when they are set on by the devil. A poor tempted soul,
assailed by satanic suggestions, is like a traveler I have read of, about
whose head and ears and whole body there came a swarm of angry bees. He
could not keep them off nor escape from them. They stung him everywhere
and threatened to be the death of him. I do not wonder you feel that you
are without strength to stop these hideous and abominable thoughts, which
Satan pours into your soul. But, yet I would remind you of the Scripture
before us, "When we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for
the ungodly." Jesus knew where we were and where we should be. He saw that
we could not overcome the prince of the power of the air. He knew that we
should be greatly worried by him. But even then, when He saw us in that
condition, Christ died for the ungodly. Cast the anchor of your faith upon
this. The devil himself cannot tell you that you are not ungodly. Believe
then, that Jesus died even for such as you are. Remember Martin Luther's
way of cutting the devil's head off with his own sword. "Oh," said the
devil to Martin Luther, "you are a sinner. " "Yes," said he, "Christ died
to save sinners." Thus he smote him with his own sword. Hide you in this
refuge...If you stand to that truth, your blasphemous thoughts, which you
have not the strength to drive away will go away of themselves For Satan
will see that he is answering no purpose by plaguing you with them.
thoughts, if you hate them, are none of yours, but are injections of the
Devil, for which he is responsible, and not you. If you strive against
them, they are no more yours than are the cursings and falsehoods of
rioters in the street. It is by means of these thoughts that the Devil
would drive you to despair, or at least keep you from trusting Jesus. The
poor diseased woman could not come to Jesus for the press, and you are in
much the same condition, because of the rush and throng of these dreadful
thoughts. Still, she put forth her finger, and touched the fringe of the
Lord's garment, and she was healed. Do you the same.
for those who are guilty of "all manner of sin and blasphemy," and
therefore I am sure He will not refuse those who are unwillingly the
captives of evil thoughts. Cast yourself upon Him, thoughts and all, and
see if He be not mighty to save. He can still those horrible whisperings
of the fiend, or He can enable you to see them in their true light, so
that you may not be worried by them. In His own way He can and will save
you, and at length give you perfect peace. Only trust Him for this and
God declares that there is salvation in Christ Jesus, I must either
believe Him at once, or make Him a liar. Surely you will not hesitate as
to which is the right path in this case, The witness of God must be true,
and we are bound at once to believe in Jesus.
you have been trying to believe too much. Now do not aim at great things.
Be satisfied to have a faith that can hold in its hand this one truth,
"While we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the
ungodly." He laid down His life for men while as yet they were not
believing in Him, nor were able to believe in Him. He died for men, not as
believers, but as sinners. He came to make these sinners into believers
and saints. But when He died for them, He viewed them as utterly without
strength. If you hold to the truth that Christ died for the ungodly, and
believe it, your faith will save you, and you may go in peace. If you will
trust your soul with Jesus, who died for the ungodly, even though you
cannot believe all things, nor move mountains, nor do any other wonderful
works, yet you are saved. It is not great faith, but true faith, that
saves. And the salvation lies not in the faith, but in the Christ in whom
faith trusts. Faith as a grain of mustard seed will bring salvation. It is
not the measure of faith, but the sincerity of faith, which is the point
to be considered. Surely a man can believe what he knows to be true. And
as you know Jesus to be true, you, my friend, can believe in Him.
which is the object of faith, is also, by the power of the Holy Spirit,
the cause of it... The air of that sacred hill brings health to trembling
faith. Many a watcher there has said:
While I view
Thee, wounded, grieving,
Breathless on the cursed tree,
Lord, I feel my heart believing
That Thou suffer'dst thus for me.
cries another, "my want of strength lies in this direction, that I cannot
quit my sin, and I know that I cannot...carry my sin with me." I am glad
that you know that, for it is quite true. You must be divorced from your
sin, or you cannot be married to Christ... To will is present with me, but
how to perform that which l would I find not. Sin masters me, and I have
no strength." ...The doctrine of the cross can be used to slay sin, even
as the old warriors used their huge two-handed swords, and mowed down
their foes at every stroke. There is nothing like faith in the sinner's
Friend, it overcomes all evil. 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?
See what a
splendid help this is to you that are without strength, to know and
believe that in due time Christ died for such ungodly ones as you are.
Have you caught the idea yet? It is, somehow, so difficult for our
darkened, prejudiced, and unbelieving minds to see the essence of the
gospel. At times I have thought, when I have done preaching, that I have
laid down the gospel so clearly, that the nose on one's face could not be
more plain. And yet I perceive that even intelligent hearers have failed
to understand what was meant by "Look unto me and be ye saved." Converts
usually say that they did not know the gospel till such and such a day,
and yet they had heard it for years. The gospel is unknown, not from want
of explanation, but from absence of personal revelation. This the Holy
Ghost is ready to give, and will give to those who ask Him. Yet when
given, the sum total of the truth revealed all lies within these words,
"Christ died for the ungodly."
were here, he would say, "The Lord Jesus died for me even when I was such
a poor weak creature that the maid who kept the fire drove me to lie, and
to swear that I knew not the Lord." Yes, Jesus died for those who forsook
him and fled. Take a firm grip on this truth - "Christ died for the
ungodly while they were yet without strength." This is your way out of
your cowardice. Get this wrought into your soul, "Christ died for me," and
you will soon be ready to die for Him. Believe it, that He suffered in
your place and stead, and offered for you a full, true, and satisfactory
expiation. If you believe that fact, you will be forced to feel, "I cannot
be ashamed of Him who died for me."
conviction that this is true will nerve you with a dauntless courage. Look
at the saints in the martyr age. In the early days of Christianity, when
this great thought of Christ's exceeding love was sparkling in all its
freshness in the church, men were not only ready to die, but they grew
ambitious to suffer, and even presented themselves by hundreds at the
judgment seats of the rulers, confessing the Christ. I do not say that
they were wise to court a cruel death, but it proves my point, that a
sense of the love of Jesus lifts the mind above all fear of what man can
do to us. Why should it not produce the same effect in you? Oh that it
might now inspire you with a brave resolve to come out upon the Lord's
side, and be His follower to the end!
May the Holy
Spirit help us to come thus far by faith in the Lord Jesus, and it will be