The Lesson of the Rhodians

Plutarch tells us that the Rhodians appealed to the Romans for help, and one
suggested that they should plead the good turns which they had done for Rome.
This was a plea difficult to make strong enough, very liable to be disputed,
and not at all likely to influence so great a people as the Romans, who would
not readily consider themselves to be debtors to so puny a state as that of
Rhodes. The Rhodians were, however, wiser than their counsellor, and took up
another line of argument, which was abundantly successful : they pleaded the
favors which in former times the Romans had be stowed upon them, and urged these
as a reason why the great nation should not cast off a needy people for whom
they had already done so much.

Herein is wisdom. How idle it would be for us to plead our good works with the
great God ! What we have done for him is too faulty and too questionable to be
pleaded ; but what he has done for us is grand argument, great in itself and
potent with an immutable Benefactor. Legal pleading soon meets a rebuff ; yea,
it trembles even before it leaves the pleader’s mouth, and makes him ashamed
while he is yet at his argument. Far otherwise fares it with the humble gratitude
which gathers strength as it recalls each deed of love, and com forts itself
with a growing assurance that he who has done so much will not lose his labor,
but will do even more, till he has perfected that which concerneth us. Sinners
run fearful risks when they appeal to justice : their wisdom is to cast themselves
upon free grace. Our past conduct is a logical reason for our condemnation ; it
is in God’s past mercy to us that we have accumulated argument for hope. The
Latin sentence hath great truth in it, Deus donando debet, God by giving one
mercy pledges himself to give another ; he is not in debted to our merit, his
only obligation is that which arises out of his own covenant promise, of which
his gifts are pledges and bonds. Let us remember this when next we urge our
suit with him.

Charles Spurgeon, “Illustrations and Meditations”