“The doctrine of substitution is the key to all the sufferings of Christ. I do not know how many theories have been invented to explain away the death of Christ.
The modern doctrine of the apostles of ‘culture’ is that Jesus Christ did something or other, which, in some way or other, was, in some degree or other, connected with our salvation. But it is my firm belief that every theory, concerning the death of Christ, which can only be understood by the highly-cultured, must be false.
‘That is strong language,’ says someone. Perhaps it is, but it is true. I am quite sure that the religion of Jesus Christ was never intended for the highly-cultured only, or even for them in particular.
Christ’s testimony concerning His own ministry was, ‘The poor have the gospel preached to them.’ So, if you bring me a gospel which can only be understood by gentlemen who have passed through Oxford or Cambridge University, I know that it cannot be the gospel of Christ.
He meant the good news of salvation to be proclaimed to the poorest of the poor. In fact, the gospel is intended for humanity in general.
So, if you cannot make me understand it, or if, when I do understand it, it does not tell me how to deliver its message in such plain language that the poorest man can comprehend it, I tell you, sirs, that your newfangled gospel is a lie, and I will stick to the old one, which a man, only a little above an idiot in intellect, can understand.
I cling to the old gospel for this, among many other reasons, that all the modern gospels, that leave out the great central truth of substitution, prevent the message from being of any use to the great mass of mankind.
If those other gospels, which are not really gospels, please your taste and fancy, and suit the readers of Quarterly Reviews, and eloquent orators and lecturers, there are the poor people in our streets, and the millions of working-men, the vast multitudes who cannot comprehend anything that is highly metaphysical.
And you cannot convince me that our Lord Jesus Christ sent, as His message to the whole world, a metaphysical mystery that would need volume upon volume before it could even be stated.
I am persuaded that He gave us a rough and ready gospel like this: ‘The Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost,’ or this, ‘With His stripes we are healed,’ or this, ‘The chastisement of our peace was upon Him,’ or this, ‘He died the Just for the unjust to bring us to God.’
Do not try to go beyond this gospel, brethren. You will get into the mud if you do. But it is safe standing here.
And standing here, I can comprehend how our Lord Jesus took the sinner’s place, and passing under the sentence which the sinner deserved, or under a sentence which was tantamount thereto, could cry, ‘My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?‘”
–Charles H. Spurgeon, ‘The Saddest Cry From the Cross,’ in Majesty in Misery, Volume 3: Calvary’s Mournful Mountain (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 2005), 177-178. (MTPS, 48: 523-524)