Sermon 531. The Warrant of Faith
Delivered on Sunday Morning, September 20th, 1863, by the
Rev. C. H. SPURGEON,
At the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington
"And this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ."-1 John 3:23.
THE old law shines in terrible glory with its ten commandments. There are some who love that law so much, that they cannotpass over a Sabbath without its being read in their hearing, accompanied by the mournful petition, "Lord, have mercy uponus, and incline our hearts to keep this law." Nay, some are so foolish as to enter into a covenant for their children, that"they shall keep all God's holy commandments, and walk in the same all the days of their life." Thus theyearly wear a yoke which neither they nor their fathers can bear, and daily groaning under its awful weight, they labourafter righteousness where it never can be found. Over the tables of the law in every Church, I would have conspicuously printedthese gospel words, "By the deeds of the law shall no flesh living be justified." The true believer has learned to look awayfrom the killing ordinances of the old law. He understands that "as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse,for it is written: Cursed is everyone that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to dothem." He therefore turns with loathing from all trust in his own obedience to the ten commands, and lays hold with joy uponthe hope set before him in the one commandment contained in my text, "This is his commandment, that we should believe on thename of his Son Jesus Christ."
We sing, and sing rightly too-
"My soul, no more attempt to draw
Thy life and comfort from the law,"
for from the law death cometh and not life, misery and not comfort. "To convince and to condemn is all the law can do." O,when will all professors, and especially all professed ministers of Christ, learn the difference between the law and the gospel?Most of them make a mingle-mangle, and serve out deadly potions to the people, often containing but one ounce of gospel toa pound of law, whereas, but even a grain of law is enough to spoil the whole thing. It must begospel, and gospel only. "If it be of grace, it is not of works, otherwise grace is no more grace; and if it be of works,then it is not of grace, otherwise work is no more work."
The Christian then, turning his attention to the one command of the gospel, is very anxious to know first, what is the matter of the believing here intended; and secondly, what is the sinner's warrant for so believing in Christ; nor will he fail to consider the mandate of the gospel.
I. First then, THE MATTER OF BELIEVING, or what is it that a man is to believe in order to eternal life. Is it the Athanasiancreed? Is it true, that if a man does not hold that confession whole and entire, he shall without doubt perish everlastingly?We leave those to decide who are learned in matters of bigotry. Is it any particular form of doctrine ? Is it the Calvinisticor the Arminian scheme? For our own part we are quite content with our text-believing on "his SonJesus Christ." That faith which saves the soul is believing on a person, depending upon Jesus for eternal life.
To speak more at large of the things which are to be believed in order to justification by faith. they all relate to the personand the work of our Lord Jesus Christ. We must believe him to be God's Son-so the text puts it-"His Son." We must grasp withstrong confidence the great fact that he is God: for nothing short of a divine Saviour can ever deliver us from the infinitewrath of God. He who rejects the true and proper Godhead of Jesus of Nazareth, is not saved,and cannot be, for he believes not on Jesus as God's Son. Furthermore, we must accept this Son of God as "Jesus," theSaviour. We must believe that Jesus Christ the Son of God, became man out of infinite love to man, that he might save hispeople from their sins, according to that worthy saying, "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners," even the chief.We must look upon Jesus as "Christ," the anointed of the Father, sent into this world on salvation's errand, not that sinnersmightsave themselves, but that he, being mighty to save, might bring many sons unto glory. We must believe that Jesus Christ,Coming into the world to save sinners, did really effect his mission; that the precious blood which is shed upon Calvary isalmighty to atone for sin, and therefore, all manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men, since the blood of JesusChrist, God's dear Son, cleanseth us from all sin. We must heartily accept the great doctrine of the atonement-regardingJesus as standing in the room, place, and stead of sinful men, bearing for them the terror of the law's curse until justicewas satisfied and could demand no more. Moreover, we should rejoice that as Jesus Christ, by his dying, put away for everthe sin of his people, so by his living he gave unto those who trust in him a perfect righteousness, in which, despite theirown sins, they are "accepted in the beloved." We are also taught, that if we heartily trust our soul with Christ, our sins,through his blood, are forgiven, and his righteousness is imputed to us. The mere knowledge of these facts will not, however,save us, unless we really and truly trust our souls in the Redeemer's hands. Faith must act in this wise: "I believe thatJesus came to save sinners, and therefore, sinner though I be, I rest myself on him; I know that his righteousness justifiesthe ungodly; I, therefore, though ungodly, trust in him to be my righteousness; I know that his precious blood in heavenprevails with God on the behalf of them that come unto him; and since I come unto him, I know by faith that I have aninterest in his perpetual intercession."
Now, I have enlarged the one thought of believing on God's Son Jesus Christ. Brethren, I would not darken counsel by wordswithout knowledge. "Believing" is most clearly explained by that simple word "trust." Believing is partly the intellectualoperation of receiving divine truths, but the essence of it lies in relying upon those truths. I believe that, although Icannot swim, yonder friendly plank will support me in the flood-I grasp it, and am saved: the grasp isfaith. I am promised by a generous friend that if I draw upon his banker, he will supply all my needs-I joyously confidein him, and as often as I am in want I go to the bank, and am enriched: my going to the bank is faith. Thus faith is acceptingGod's great promise, contained in the person of his Son. It is taking God at his word, and trusting in Jesus Christ as beingmy salvation, although I am utterly unworthy of his regard. Sinner, if thou takest Christ to be thy Saviour this day, thouart justified; though thou be the biggest blasphemer and persecutor out of hell, if thou darest to trust Christ with thysalvation, that faith of thine saves thee; though thy whole life may have been as black, and foul, and devilish as thou couldsthave made it, yet if thou wilt honour God by believing Christ is able to forgive such a wretch as thou art, and wilt now trustin Jesus' precious blood, thou art saved from divine wrath.
II. The WARRANT OF BELIEVING is the point upon which I shall spend my time and strength this morning. According to my text,the warrant for a man to believe is the commandment of God. This is the commandment, that ye "believe on his Son Jesus Christ."
Self-righteousness will always find a lodging somewhere or other. Drive it, my brethren, out of the ground of our confidence;let the sinner see that he cannot rest on his good works, then, as foxes will have holes, this self-righteousness will finda refuge for itself in the warrant of our faith in Christ. It reasons thus: "You are not saved by what you do but by whatChrist did; but then, you have no right to trust in Christ unless there is something good in you whichshall entitle you to trust in him." Now, this legal reasoning I oppose. I believe such teaching to contain in it the essenceof Popish self-righteousness. The warrant for a sinner to believe in Christ is not in himself in any sense or in any manner,but in the fact that he is commanded there and then to believe on Jesus Christ. Some preachers in the Puritanic times, whoseshoe latchets I am not worthy to unloose, erred much in this matter. I refer not merely to Alleyne and Baxter, who are farbetter preachers of the law than of the gospel, but I include men far sounder in the faith than they, such as Rogers ofDedham, Shepherd, the author of "The Sound Believer," and especially the American, Thomas Hooker, who has written a book uponqualifications for coming to Christ. These excellent men had a fear of preaching the gospel to any except those whom theystyled "sensible sinners," and consequently kept hundreds of their hearers sitting in darkness when they might have rejoicedin thelight. They preached repentance and hatred of sin as the warrant of a sinner's trusting to Christ. According to them,a sinner might reason thus-"I possess such-and-such a degree of sensibility on account of sin, therefore I have a right totrust in Christ." Now, I venture to affirm that such reasoning is seasoned with fatal error. Whoever preaches in this fashionmay preach much of the gospel, but the whole gospel of the free grace of God in its fulness he has yet to learn. In our owndaycertain preachers assure us that a man must he regenerated before we may bid him believe in Jesus Christ; some degreeof a work of grace in the heart being, in their judgment, the only warrant to believe. This also is false. It takes away agospel for sinners and offers us a gospel for saints. It is anything hut a ministry of free grace.
Others say that the warrant for a sinner to believe in Christ is his election. Now, as his election cannot possibly be knownby any man until he has believed, this is virtually preaching that nobody has any known warrant for believing at all. If Icannot possibly know my election before I believe-and yet the minister tells me that I may only believe upon the ground ofmy election-how am I ever to believe at all? Election brings me faith, and faith is the evidence of myelection; but to say that my faith is to depend upon my knowledge of my election, which I cannot get without faith. isto talk egregious nonsense.
I lay down this morning with great boldness-because I know and am well persuaded that what I speak is the mind of the Spirit-thisdoctrine that the sole and only warrant for a sinner to believe in Jesus is found in the gospel itself and in the commandwhich accompanies that gospel, "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved." I shall deal with that matterfirst of all, negatively, and then, positively.
1. First, NEGATIVELY; and here my first observation is that any other way of preaching the gospel-warrant is absurd. If I am to preach faith in Christ to a man who is regenerated, then the man, being regenerated, is saved already, and itis an unnecessary and ridiculous thing for me to preach Christ to him, and bid him to believe in order to be saved when heis saved already, being regenerate. But you will tell me that I ought to preach it only to those who repentof their sins. Very well; but since true repentance of sin is the work of the Spirit, any man who has repentance is mostcertainly saved, because evangelical repentance never can exist in an unrenewed soul. Where there is repentance there is faithalready, for they never can be separated. So, then, I am only to preach faith to those who have it. Absurd, indeed! Is notthis waiting till the man is cured and then bringing him the medicine ? This is preaching Christ to the righteous and nottosinners. "Nay," saith one, "but we mean that a man must have some good desires towards Christ before he has any warrantto believe in Jesus." Friend, do you not know what all good desires have some degree of holiness in them ? But if a sinnerhath any degree of true holiness in him it must be the work of the Spirit, for true holiness never exists in the carnal mind,therefore, that man is already renewed, and therefore saved. Are we to go running up and down the world, proclaiming lifeto theliving, casting bread to those who are fed already, and holding up Christ on the pole of the gospel to those who are alreadyhealed? My brethren, where is our inducement to labour where our efforts are so little needed ? If I am to preach Christ tothose who have no goodness, who have nothing in them that qualifies them for mercy, then I feel I have a gospel so divinethat I would proclaim it with my last breath, crying aloud, that "Jesus came into the world to save sinners"-sinners assinners, not as penitent sinners or as awakened sinners, but sinners as sinners, sinners "of whom I am chief."
Secondly, to tell the sinner that he is to believe on Christ because of some warrant in himself, is legal, I dare to say it-legal. Though this method is generally adopted by the higher school of Calvinists, they are herein unsound,uncalvinistic, and legal; it is strange that they who are so bold defenders of free grace should make common cause with Baxteriansand Pelagians. I lay it down to he legal for this reason: if I believe in Jesus Christ because I feel agenuine repentance of sin, and therefore have a warrant for my faith, do you not perceive that the first and true groundof my confidence is the fact that I have repented of sin? If I believe in Jesus because I have convictions and a spirit ofprayer, then evidently the first and the most important fact is not Christ, but my possession of repentance, conviction, andprayer, so that really my hope hinges upon my having repented; and if this be not legal I do not know what is. Put it lower.Myopponents will say, "The sinner must have an awakened conscience before he is warranted to believe on Christ." Well, then,if I trust Christ to save me because I have an awakened conscience, I say again, the most important part of the whole transactionis the alarm of my conscience, and my real trust hangs there. If I lean on Christ because I feel this and that, then I amleaning on my feelings and not on Christ alone, and this is legal indeed. Nay, even if desires after Christ are to be mywarrant for believing, if I am to believe in Jesus not because he bids me, but because I feel some desires after him,you will again with half an eye perceive that the most important source of my comfort must be my own desires. So that we shallbe always looking within. "Do I really desire? If I do, then Christ can save me; if I do not, then he cannot." And so my desireoverrides Christ and his grace. Away with such' legality from the earth!
Again, any other way of preaching than that of bidding the sinner believe because God commands him to believe, is a boasting way of faith. For if my warrant to trust in Jesus be found in my experience, my loathings of sin, or my longings after Christ,then all these good things of mine are a legitimate ground of boasting, because though Christ may save me, yet these werethe wedding-dress which fitted me to come to Christ. If these be indispensable pre-requisitesand conditions, then the man who has them may truly and justly say, "Christ did save me, but I had the pre-requisitesand conditions first, and therefore let these share the praise." See, my brethren, those who have a faith which rests upontheir own experience, what are they as a rule? Mark them, and you will perceive much censorious bitterness in them, promptingthem to set up their own experience as the standard of saintship, which may assuredly make us suspicious whether they everwerehumbled in a gospel manner at all, so as to see that their own best feelings, and best repentances, and best experiencesin themselves are nothing more nor less than filthy rags in the sight of God. My dear brethren, when we tell a sinner thatfoul and filthy as he is, without any preparation or qualification, he is to take Jesus Christ to be his all in all, findingin him all that he can ever need, when we dare on the spot to bid the jailor just startled out of sleep, "Believe in Jesus,"weleave no room for self-glorification, all must be of grace. When we find the lame man lying at the temple gates, we donot bid him strengthen his own legs. or feel some life in them, but we bid him in the name of Jesus rise up and walk; surelyhere when God the Spirit owns the Word, all boasting is excluded. Whether I rely on my experience or my good works makes littledifference, for either of these reliances will lead to boasting since they are both legal. Law and boasting are twin brothers,but free grace and gratitude always go together.
Any other warrant for believing on Jesus than that which is presented in the gospel is changeable. See, brethren, if my warrant to believe in Christ lies in my meltings of heart and my experiences, then if to-day I havea melting heart and I can pour my soul out before the Lord, I have a warrant to believe in Christ. But to-morrow (who doesnot know this?) to-morrow my heart may be as hard as a stone, so that I can neither feel nor pray. Then, according to thequalification-theory, I have no right to trust in Christ, my warrant is clean gone from me. According to the doctrineof final perseverance, the Christian's faith is continual, if so the warrant of his faith must be always the same, or elsehe has sometimes an unwarranted faith which is absurd; it follows from this that the abiding warrant of faith must lie insome immutable truth. Since everything within changes more frequently than ever does an English sky, if my warrant to believein Christbe based within, it must change every hour; consequently I am lost and saved alternately. Brethren, can these things beso? For my part I want a sure and immutable warrant for my faith; I want a warrant to believe in Jesus which will serve mewhen the devil's blasphemy comes pouring into my ears like a flood; I want a warrant to believe which will serve me when mylustings and corruptions appear in terrible array, and make me cry out, "O wretched man that I am;' I want a warrant to believeinChrist which will comfort me when I have no good frames and holy feelings, when I am dead as a stone and my spirit liescleaving to the dust. Such an unfailing warrant to belief in Jesus is found in this precious truth, that his gracious commandmentand not my variable experience, is my title to believe on his Son Jesus Christ.
Again, my brethren, any other warrant is utterly incomprehensible. Multitudes of my brethren preach an impossible salvation. How often do poor sinners hunger and thirst to know the way ofsalvation, and there is no available salvation preached to them. Personally, I do not remember to have been told from thepulpit to believe in Jesus as a sinner. I heard much of feelings which I thought I could never get, and frames after whichI longed; but I found no peace untila true, free grace message came to me, "Look unto me and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth." See, my brethren, ifconvictions of soul are necessary qualifications for Christ, we ought to know to an ounce how much of these qualificationsare needed. If you tell a poor sinner that there is a certain amount of humblings, and tremblings, and convictions, and heart-searchingsto be felt, in order that he may be warranted to come to Christ, I demand of all legal-gospellers distinct informationas to the manner and exact degree of preparation required. Brethren, you will find when these gentlemen are pushed intoa corner, they will not agree, but will every one give a different standard, according to his own judgment. One will sa thesinner must have months of law work; another, that he only needs good desires; and some will demand that he possess the gracesof the Spirit-such as humility, godly sorrow, and love to holiness. You will get no clear answer from them. If the sinner'swarrant to come is found in the gospel itself, the matter is clear and plain; but what a roundabout plan is that compoundof law and gospel against which I Contend! And let me ask you, my brethren, whether such an incomprehensible gospel woulddo for a dying man? There he lies in the agonies of death. He tells me that he has no good thought or feeling, and asks whathe must do to be saved. There is but a step between him and death-another five minutes and that man's soul may be in hell.Whatam I to tell him? Am I to be an hour explaining to him the preparation required before he may come to Christ? Brethren,I dare not. But I tell him, "Believe. brother, even though it be the eleventh hour; trust thy soul with Jesus, and thou shaltbe saved." There is the same gospel for a living man as for a dying man. The thief on the Cross may have had some experience,but I do not find him pleading it; he turns his eye to Jesus, saying, "Lord, remember me !" How prompt is the reply, "To-dayshalt thou be with me in paradise." He may have had onging desires, he may have had deep convictions, but I am quite surehe did not say, "Lord, I dare not ask thee to remember me, because I do not feel I have repented enough. I dare not trustthee, because I have not been shaken over hell's mouth." No, no, no; he looked to Jesus as he was, and Jesus responded tohis believing prayer. It must be so with you, my brethren, for any other plan but that of a sinner's coming to Christ as asinner, and resting on Jesus just as he is, is utterly incomprehensible, or, if it is to be explained at all, will require a dayor two to explain it ill; and that cannot be the gospel which the apostles preached to dying men.
Yet again, I believe that the preaching of alarms of conscience and repentance as qualifications for Christ, is unacceptable to the awakened sinner. I will introduce one, as Saltmarsh does in his "Flowings of Christ's Blood Freely to the Chief ofSinners." Here is a poor brother who dares not believe in Jesus. I will suppose him to have attended a ministry where thepreaching is "If you have felt this, if you have felt that, then you may believe." When you went toyour minister in trouble, what did he say to you? "He asked me whether I felt my need of Christ, I told him I did notthink I did, at least I did not feel my need enough. He told me that I ought to meditate upon the guilt of sin, and considerthe dreadful character of the wrath to come, and I might in this way feel my need more." Did you do so? "I did; but it seemedto me as if while I meditated upon the terrors of judgment, my heart grew harder instead of softer, and I seemed to be desperatelyset, and resolved in a kind of despair to go on in my ways; yet, some-times I did have some humblings and some meltingsof heart." What did your minister tell you to do to get comfort then? "He said I ought to pray much." Did you pray? "I toldhim I could not pray; that I was such a sinner that it was of no use for me to hope for an answer if I could." What did hesay then? "He told me I ought to lay hold upon the promises." Yes, did you do so? "No; I told him I could not lay hold uponthepromises; that I could not see they were meant for me, for I was not the character intended; and that I could only findthreatenings in the Word of God for such as I was." What did he say then? "He told me to be diligent in the use of the means,and to attend his ministry." What did you say to that? "I told him I was diligent, but that what I wanted was not means, Iwanted to get my sins pardoned and forgiven." What did he say then? "Why, he said that I had better persevere and wait patientlyfor the Lord; I told him that I was in such a horror of great darkness, that my soul chose strangling rather than life.Well then, he said, he thought I must already be truly penitent, and was therefore safe, and that sooner or later I shouldhave hope But I told him, a mere hope was not enough for me, I could not he safe while sin lay so heavy upon me. He askedme whether I had not desires after Christ. I said I had, but they were merely selfish, Carnal desires; that I sometimes thoughtI haddesires, but they were only legal. He said if I had a desire to have a desire, it was God's work, and I was saved. Thatdid prop me up for a time, sir, but I went down again, for that did not do for me, I wanted something solid to rest on." Andsinner, how is it now with you? where are you now? "Well, sir, I scarce know where I am, but I pray you, tell me what I mustdo?" Brethren, my reply is prompt and plain; hear it. Poor soul, I have no questions to ask you; I have no advice to giveyou,except this, God's command to you is, whatever you may be, trust to the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved. Willyou do it or no? If he rejects that, I must heave him; I have no more to say to him; I am clear of his blood, and on him thesentence comes, "He that believeth not shall be damned." But you will find in ninety-nine Cases out of one hundred, that whenyou begin to talk to the sinner, not about his repentings and his desirings, but about Christ, and tell him that he need notfear the law, for Christ has satisfied it; that he need not fear an angry God, for God is not angry with believers; tellhim that all manner of iniquity was Cast into the Red Sea of Jesus' blood, and, like the Egyptians, drowned there for ever;tell him that no matter however vile and wicked he may have been, "Christ is able to save unto the uttermost them that comeunto God by him;" and tell him that he has a right to come, be he who he may, or what he may, because God bids him come; andyouwill find that the suitability of such a gospel to the sinner's case, will prove a sweet inducement in the hand of theHoly Spirit, to lead that sinner to lay hold on Jesus Christ. O my brethren, I am ashamed of myself when I think of the wayin which I have sometimes talked to awakened sinners. I am persuaded that the only true remedy for a broken heart is JesusChrist's most precious blood. Some surgeons keep a wound open too long; they keep cutting, and cutting, and cutting, tillthey cutaway as much sound flesh as proud flesh. Better by half heal it, heal it at once, for Jesus Christ was not sent to keepopen the wounds, but to bind up the broken in heart. To you, then, sinners of every sort and hue, black, hard-hearted, insensible,impenitent, even to you is the gospel sent, for "Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners," even the chief.
I might here pause, surely, but I must add yet one other point upon this negative mode of reasoning. Any other warrant forthe sinner's faith than the gospel itself, is false and dangerous.
It is false, my brethren, it is as false as God is true, that anything in a sinner can be his warrant for believing in Jesus. The wholetenour and run of the gospel is clean contrary to it. It must be false, because there is nothing in a sinner until he believeswhich can be a warrant for his believing. If you tell me that a sinner has any good thing in him before he believes, I reply,impossible-"Without faith it is impossible to please God." All the repentings,and humblings, and convictions that a sinner has before faith, must be, according to Scripture, displeasing to God. Donot tell me that his heart is broken; if it is only broken by carnal means, and trusts in its brokenness, it needs to be brokenover again. Do not tell me he has been led to hate his sin; I tell you he does not hate his sin, he only hates hell. Therecannot be a true and real hatred of sin where there is not faith in Jesus. All the sinner knows and feels before faith isonly anaddition to his other sins, and how can sin which deserves wrath be a warrant for an act which is the work of the HolySpirit?
How dangerous is the sentiment I am opposing. My hearers, it may be so mischievous us to have misled some of you. I solemnly warn you,though you have been professors of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ for twenty years, if your reason for believing in Christlies in this, that you have felt the terrors of the law; that you have been alarmed, and have been convinced; if your ownexperience be your warrant for believing in Christ, it is a false reason, and you arereally relying upon your experience and not upon Christ: and mark you, if you rely upon your frames and feelings, nay,if you rely upon your communion with Christ, in any degree whatever, you are as certainly a lost sinner as though you reliedupon oaths and blasphemies; you shall no more be able to enter heaven, even by the works of the Spirit-and this is using stronglanguage-than by your own works; for Christ, and Christ alone, is the foundation, and "other foundation can no man lay thanthat is laid, which is Jesus Christ." Take care of resting in your own experience. All that is of nature's spinning mustbe unravelled, and everything that getteth into Christ's place, however dear to thee, and however precious in itself, mustbe broken in pieces, and like the dust of the golden calf, must be strawed upon the water, and thou wilt be made sorrowfullyto drink of it, because thou madest it thy trust. I believe that the tendency of that preaching which puts the warrant forfaithanywhere but in the gospel command, is to vex the true penitent, and to console the hypocrite; the tendency of it is tomake the poor soul which really repents, feel that he must not believe in Christ, because he sees so much of his own hardnessof heart. The more spiritual a man is, the more unspiritual he sees himself to be; and the more penitent a man is, the moreimpenitent he discovers himself to be. Often the most penitent men are those who think themselves the most impenitent; andif Iam to preach the gospel to the penitent and not to every sinner, as a sinner, then those penitent persons, who, accordingto my opponents, have the most right to believe, are the very persons who will never dare to touch it, because they are consciousof their own impenitence and want of all qualification for Christ. Sinners, let me address you with words of life: Jesus wantsnothing of you, nothing whatsoever, nothing done, nothing felt; he gives both work and feeling. Ragged, penniless, justas ye are, lost, forsaken, desolate, with no good feelings, and no good hopes, still Jesus comes to you, and in thesewords of pity he addresses you, "Him that cometh to me I will in no Wise cast out." If thou believest in him thou shalt neverbe confounded.
2. But now, POSITIVELY, and as the negative part has been positive enough, we will be brief here. The gospel Command is asufficient warrant for a sinner to believe in Jesus Christ. The words of our text imply this-" This is the commandment." My brethren, do you want any warrant for doing a thing better than God's command todo it? The children of Israel borrowed jewels of silver and jewels of gold from the Egyptians. Many, as they read the Bible,find fault withthis transaction; but, to my mind, if God bade them do it, that was enough of justification for them. Very well; if Godbid thee believe-if this be his commandment that thou believe-canst thou want a better warrant? I say, is there any necessityfor any other. Surely the Lord's Word is enough.
Brethren, the command to believe in Christ must be the sinner's warrant, if you consider the nature of our commission. Howruns it? "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature." It ought to run, according to the other plan,"preach the gospel to every regenerate person, to every convinced sinner, to every sensible soul." But it is not so; it isto "every creature." But unless the warrant be a something in which every creature can take a share, thereis no such thing as consistently preaching it to every creature. Then how is it put?-"He that believeth and is baptised, shall be saved; he that believeth not shall be damned." Where isthere a word about the pre-requisites for believing. Surely the man could not be damned for not doing what he would not havebeen warranted in doing. Our reaching, on the theory of qualifications, should not be," Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ,and thou shalt be saved;" but "Qualify yourselves forfaith, be sensible of your sin, be regenerated, get marks and evidences, and then believe." Why, surely, if I am not tosow the good seed on the stony places and among the thorns, I had better give up being a sower, and take to ploughing, orsome other work. When the apostles went to Macedonia or Achaia, they ought not to have commenced with preaching Christ; theyshould have preached up qualifications, emotions, and sensations, if these are the preparations for Jesus; but I find thatPaul,whenever he stands up, has nothing to preach but "Christ, and him crucified." Repentance is preached as a gift from theexalted Saviour, but it is never as the cause or preparation for believing on Jesus. These two graces are born together, andlive with a common life-beware of making one a foundation for the other. I would like to carry one of those who only preachto sensible sinners, and set him down in the capital of the kingdom of Dahomey. There are no sensible sinners there! Lookatthem, with their mouths stained with human blood, with their bodies smeared all over with the gore of their immolatedvictims-how will the preacher find any qualification there? I know not what he could say, but I know what my message wouldbe. My word would run thus-"Men and brethren, God, who made the heavens and the earth; hath sent his Son Jesus Christ intothe world to suffer for our sins, and whosoever believeth in him shall not perish, but have everlasting life." If Christ crucifieddid not shake the kingdom of Dahomey, it would be its first failure. When the Moravian missionaries first went to Greenland,you remember that they were months and months teaching the poor Greenlander about the Godhead, the doctrine of the Trinity,and the doctrine of sin and the law, and no converts were forthcoming. But one day, by accident, one of the Greenlanders happeningto read that passage, "Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us that we should be called thechildren of God," asked the meaning, and' the missionary, hardly thinking him advanced enough to understand the gospel,nevertheless ventured to explain it to him, and the man became converted, and hundreds of his countrymen received the Word.Naturally enough, they said to the missionaries, "Why did not you tell us this before? We knew all about there being a God,and that did us no good; why did not you come and tell us to believe in Jesus Christ before?" O my brethren, this is God'sweapon,God's method; this is the great battering-ram which will shake the gates of hell; and we must see to it, that it be broughtinto daily use.
I have tried, on the positive side, to show that a free-grace warrant is consistent with the text-that it accords with apostoliccustom, and is, indeed, absolutely necessary, seeing the condition in which sinners are placed. But, my brethren, to preachChrist to sinners, as sinners, must be right; for all the former acts of God are to sinners, as sinners. Whom did God elect?Sinners. He loved us with a great love, even when we were dead in trespasses and sins. How did heredeem them? Did he redeem them as saints? No; for while we were yet enemies, he reconciled us unto God by the death ofhis Son. Christ never shed his blood for the good that is in us, but for the sin that is in us. "He laid down his life forour sins," says the apostle. If, then, in election and redemption, we find God dealing with sinners, as sinners, it is a marringand nullifying of the whole plan if the gospel is to be preached to men as anything else but sinners.
Again, it is inconsistent with the character of God to suppose that he comes forth and proclaims, "If, O my fallen creatures,if you qualify yourselves for my mercy, I will save you; if you will feel holy emotions-if you will be conscious of sacreddesires after me, then the blood of Jesus Christ shall cleanse you." There would be little which is godlike in that. But whenhe comes out with pardons full and free, and saith, "Yea, when ye lay in your blood, I said unto youLive"-when he comes to you, his enemy and rebellious subject, and yet cries, "I have blotted out thy sins like a cloud,and like a thick cloud thine iniquities." Why, this is divine. You know what David said, "I have sinned." What did Nathansay? "The Lord has put away thy sin, thou shalt not die," and that is the message of the gospel to a sinner as a sinner. "TheLord has put away thy sin; Christ has suffered; he has brought in perfect righteousness; take him, trust him, and ye shalllive."May that message come home to you this morning, my beloved.
I have read with some degree of attention a book to which I owe much for this present discourse-a book, by Abraham Booth,called "Glad Tidings to Perishing Sinners." I have never heard any one cast a suspicion upon Abraham Booth's soundness; onthe contrary, he has been generally considered as one of the most orthodox of the divines of the last generation. If you wantmy views in full, read his book. If you need something more, let me say, among all the bad things whichhis revilers have laid to his door, I have never heard any one blame William Huntingdon for not being high enough in doctrine.Now, William Huntingdon prefaced in his lifetime a book by Saltmarsh, with which he was greatly pleased; and the marrow ofits teaching is just this, in his own words, "The only ground for any to believe is, he is faithful that hath promised, notanything in themselves, for this is the commandment, That ye believe on his Son Jesus Christ." Now, if William Huntingdonhimself printed such a book as that, I marvel how the followers of either William Huntingdon or Abraham Booth, how mencalling themselves Calvinistic divines and high Calvinists, can advocate what is not free grace, but a legal, graceless systemof qualifications and preparations. I might here quote Crisp, who is pat to the point and a high doctrine man too. I mentionneither Booth nor Huntingdon as authorities upon the subject, to the law and to the testimony we must go; but I do mentionthemto show that men holding strong views on election and predestination yet did see it to be consistent to preach the gospelto sinners as sinners-nay, felt that it was inconsistent to preach the gospel in any other way.
I shall only add, that the blessings which flow from preaching Christ to sinners as sinners, are of such a character as proveit to be right. Do on not see that this levels us all? We have the same warrant for believing, and no one can exalt himself above his fellow.
Then, my brethren, how it inspires men with hope and confidence; it forbids despair. No man can despair if this be true; or if he do, it is a wicked, unreasonable despair, because if he has been never so bad,yet God commands him to believe. What room can there be for despondency? Surely if anything Could cut off Giant Despair'shead, Christ preached to sinners is the sharp two-edged sword to do it.
Again, how it makes a man live close to Christ! If I am to come to Christ as a sinner every day, and I must do so, for the Word saith, "As ye have received Christ Jesusthe Lord, so walk ye in him;" if every day I am to come to Christ as a sinner, why then, how paltry all my doings look! whatutter contempt it casts upon all my fine virtues, m preachings, my prayings, and all that comes of my flesh! and though itleads me to seek after purity and holiness, yet itteaches me to live on Christ and not on them, and so it keeps me at the fountain head.
My time flies, and I must leave the last head, just to add, sinner, whoever thou mayst be, God now commands thee to believein Jesus Christ. This is his commandment: he does not command thee to feel anything, or be anything, to prepare thyself forthis. Now, art thou willing to incur the great guilt of making God a liar? Surely thou wilt shrink from that: then dare tobelieve. Thou canst not say, "I have no right:" you have a perfect right to do what God tells you to do.You cannot tell me you are not fit; there is no fitness wanted, the Command is given and it is yours to obey, not to dispute.You cannot say it does not come to you-it is preached to every Creature under heaven; and now soul, it is so pleasant a thingto trust the Lord Jesus Christ that I would fain persuade myself thou needest no persuading. It is so delightful a thing toaccept a perfect salvation, to be saved by precious blood. and to be married to so bright a Saviour, that I would fainhope the Holy Spirit has led thee to cry, "Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief."