Charles Spurgeon on “Duty-Faith”

2020-04-22 09.22.38On May 8th, 1864, Charles Haddon Spurgeon preached a sermon from Titus 1:2 provocatively titled “What God Cannot Do!” The text refers to God who “cannot lie.” After denouncing the pervasiveness of lying among humans (including an interesting reference to the deceitfulness of King James “whose name dishonours our English Bible”), Spurgeon expounds upon the text’s teaching of the impossibility of God lying. The “first practical conclusion” drawn from the text in the final point of application touches upon the issue of whether it is a duty for sinners to believe the gospel of Jesus Christ. Spurgeon finds help against the hyper-Calvinistic teaching that since sinners lack the ability to believe the gospel, they are not therefore responsible. Spurgeon infers that the Scripture’s teaching that God cannot lie requires one to hold to “duty-faith.”

Brethren, if it be so that God cannot lie, then it must be the natural duty of all his creatures to believe him. I cannot resist that conclusion. It seems to me to be as clear as noonday, that it is every man’s duty to believe truth, and that if God must speak and act truth, and truth only, it is the duty of all intelligent creatures to believe him. Here is “Duty-faith” again, which some are railing at, but how they can get away from it, and yet believe that God cannot lie, I cannot understand. If it be not my duty to believe in God, then it is no sin for me to call God a liar. Will anyone subscribe to that—that God is a liar? I think not; and if to think God to be a liar would be a most atrocious piece of blasphemy, then it can only be so on the ground that it is the natural and incumbent duty of every creature understanding the truthfulness of God to believe in God. If God has set forth the Lord Jesus Christ as the propitiation for sin, and has told me to trust Christ, it is my duty to trust Christ, because God cannot lie; and though my sinful heart will never believe in Christ as a matter of duty but only through the work of the Holy Spirit, yet faith does not cease to be a duty; and whenever I am unbelieving and have doubts concerning God, however moral my outward life may be, I am living in daily sin; I am perpetrating a sin against the first principles of morality. If I doubt God, as far as I am able I rob him of his honour, and stab him in the vital point of his glory; I am, in fact, living an open traitor and a sworn rebel against God, upon whom I heap the daily insult of daring to doubt him. O my hearers, there are some of you who do not believe in Christ; I wish you would look at your character and position in this light. You are not trusting in Christ for your salvation. Remember, “He that believeth not God hath made him a liar;” those are John’s own inspired words, and you are, every day that you are not a believer in Christ, virtually writing upon your doorpost, and saying with your mouth, “God is a liar; Christ is not able to save me; I will not trust him ; I do not believe God’s promise; I do not think he is sincere in his invitation to me to come to Christ; I do not believe what God says.” Remember that you are living in such a state as this, and may God the Holy Ghost impress you with a sense of the sin of that state, and feeling this your sin and misery, I pray God to lead you to cry, “Lord, I believe, help thou my unbelief.” This, then, is our first practical conclusion from the fact that God cannot lie.

Charles Haddon Spurgeon, “What God Cannot Do!” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, vol. 10 (1864), 261-262.

The entire sermon is available online from The Spurgeon Center for Biblical Preaching at Midwestern Seminary.

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