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in Jesus. And if they earnestly cry, and faint not, if they seek him in all the means he hath appointed, if they refuse to be comforted till he come, he will come, and will not tarry. And he can do much work in a short time. Many are the examples in the Acts of the Apostles, of God's shedding abroad this faith in men's hearts, even like lightning falling from heaven. So in the same hour that Paul and Silas began to preach, the jailor repented, believed, and was baptized : As were three thousand by St. Peter on the day of Pentecost, who ali repented and believed at his first preaching. And blessed be God, there are now many living proofs, that he is still mighty to save.
5. Yet to the same truth, placed in another view, a quite contrary objection is made : “If a man cannot i be saved by all that he can do, this will drive men
to despair." True, to despair of being saved by their own works, their own merits, or righteousness. And so it ought; for none can trust in the merits of Christ till he has utterly renounced his own.
He that goeth about to establish his own rightcousness, cannot receive the righteousness of God. The righteousness which is of faith cannot be given him while he trusteth in that which is of the law.
6. But this, it is said, is an uncomfortable doctrinc. The Devil spoke like himself, that is, without either truth or shame, when he dared to suggest to men that it is such. It is the only comfortable one, it is very full of comfort to all self-destroyed, self-condemned sinners. That whosoever believeth on hiin shall not be ashamed: That the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him.-Here is comfort, high as heaven, stronger than death! What! Mercy for all? For Zaccheus, a public robber? For Mary Magdalene, a common harlot? Methinks I hear one say, Then I, even I, may hope for mercy ! And so thou mayest, thou afflicted one, whom none hath comforted! God will not cast out thy prayer. Nay, perlaps he may say the next hour, Be of good cheer, they sins are forgiven thee ; so forgiven that they shall reign over thee no more; yea, and that the Holy Spirit shall Bear witness with tihý spirit, that thou art a child of God. glad tidings ! Tidings of great joy, which are sent unto all people. Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the
waters : comme ye and buy, without money, and without price. Whatsoever your sins, be, though red, like crimson, though more than the hairs of your head : return ye unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon you: and tv our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
7. When no more objections occur, then we are simply told, that "salvation by faith only, ought not to be preached as the first doctrine, or at least not to be preached to all."
But what saith the Holy Ghost ?-Other foundation can no man lay, than that which is laid, even Jesus Christ. So then, That whosoever believeth on him shall be saved, is, and must be the foundation of all our preaching; that is, must be preached first. "Well, but not to all.". To whom then are we not to preach it? Whom shall we except? The poor? Nay, they have a peculiar right to have the gospel preached unto them. The unlearned ? No. God hath revealed these things unto unlearned and ignorant men from the beginning. The young? By no means. Suffer these in any wise, to come unto Christ, and forbid them not. The sinners ? Least of all. He came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. Why then, if any, we are to except the rich, the learned, the reputable, the moral men. And it is true, they too often except themselves from bearing: yet we must speak the words of our Lord. For thus the tenor of our commission runs-Go and preach the gospel to every creature. If any man wrest it, or any part of it to his destruction, he must bear his lown burden. But still, as the Lord liveth, whatscever the Lord saith unto us, that we will speak.
8. At this time morc especially will we speak, That by grace ye are saved through faith : because never was the maintaining this doctrine more seasonable than it is at this day. Nothing but this can effectually prevent the increase of the Romish delusion among us. It is endless to attack one by one, all the errors of that church. But salvation by faith strikes at the root, and all fall at once where this is established. It was this doctrine (which our church justly calls the strong rock and foundation of the Christian religion) that first drove Popery out of these kingdoms, and it is this alone can keep it out. Nothing but this can give a check to that immorality, which hath overspread the land as a food. Can you empty the great deep, drop by.drop ? Then you may reform us, by dissuasives from particular vices. No, I, С
But let the righteousness which is of God by faith be brought in, and so shall its proud waves be stayed. Nothing but this can stop the mouths of those who glory in their shame, and openly deny the Lord that bought them. They can talk as sublimely of the law, as he that hath it written by God in his heart. To hear them speak on this head, might incline one to think, that they were not far from the kingdom of God. But take them out of the law into the gospel ; begin with the righteousness of faith, with Christ the end of the law to every one that believeth : and those who but now appeared almost, if not altogether Christians, stand confessed the sons of perdition ; as far from life and salvation (God be inerciful unto them!) as the depth of hell from the height of heaven.
9. For this reason the adversary so rages, whenever Salvation by Faith is declared to the world. For this reason did he stir up earth and hell, to destroy those who first preached it. And for the same reason, knowing that faith alone could overturn the foundations of his kingdom, did he call forth all his forces, and employ all his arts of lies and calumny, to affright Martin Luther, from reviving it. Nor can we wonder thereat.; for as' that man of God observes, “ How would it enrage a proud, strong man, armed, to be stopt and set at nought by a little child, coming against him with a reed in his hand? Especially when he knew that little child would suiely overthrow him, and tread him under foot.” Even so, Lord Jesus ! Thuś hath thy strength been ever made perfect in weakness! Go forth then, thou little child, that believest in him, and his right-hand shall teach thee terrible things ! Though thou art helpless and weak as an infant of days, the strong man shall not be able to stand before thee. Thou shalt prevail over him, and subdue him, and overthrow him, and trample him under thy feet. Thou shalt march on under the great Captain of thy Salvation, conquering and to conquer, until all thine enemies are destroyed, and death is swallowed up in vi&tory.
Now, thanks be to God which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom with the Father and the Holy Ghost, be blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honour, ani l power, and might, for ever and ever. Amen.
SE R M O N
THE ALMOST CHRISTIAN.
ACTS xxvi. 28,
ALMOST THOU PERSUADEST ME TO BE A CHRISTIAN.
AND many there are who go thus far : Ever since the
Christian Religion was in the world, there have been many in every age and nation, who were almost persuaded to be Christians. But seeing it avails nothing before God, to go only thus far, it highly imports us to consider,
First, What is implied in being almost,
1.-1. Now, in the being almost a Christian is implied, first heathen honesty. No one, I suppose, will make any question of this; especially, since by heathen honesty here, I mean, not that which is recommended in the writings of their philosophers only, but such as the common heathens expected of one another, and many of them actually practised. By the rules of this they were taught, that they ought not to be unjust ; not to take away their neighbour's goods, either by robbery or theft : Nol to oppress the poor, neither to use extortion toward any : Not to cheat or over-reach either the poor or rich, in whatsoever commerce they had with them : To defraud no man of his right, and, if it were possible, to owe no man any thing
2. Again, the common heathens allowed, that some regard was to be paid to truth, as well as to justice. And accordingly, they not only held him in abomination, who was forsworn, who called God to witness, to a lie ; but him also, who was known to be a slanderer of his neighbour, who falsely accused any man. And indeed little better did they esteem wilful liars of any sort, accounting them the disgrace of human kind, and the pests of society.
Preached at St. Mary's, Oxford, before the University, July 25, 1741.
3. Yet again, there was a sort of love and assistance, which they expected one from another.' They expected whatever assistance any one could give another, without prejudice to himsell. And this they extended, not only to those little offices of humanity, which are performed without any expence or labour; but likewise, to the feeding the hungry, if they had food to spare, the clothing the naked, with their own superfluous raiment ; and, in general, the giving to any that needed, such things as they needed not themselves. Thus far (in the lowest account of it) Heathen honesty went, the first thing implied in the being almost a Christian.
II. -4. A second thing implied in the being alinost a Christian, is the having a Form of Godliness, of that godliness which is prescribed in the gospel of Chris : Tliehaving the Outside of a real Christian. Accordingly, the Almost Christian does nothing which the gospel torbids: He taketh not the name of God in vain : Hé blesseth and curseth not; he sweareth not at all, but his communication is yea, yea; nay, nay. He profa: es not the day of the Lord, nor suffers it to be profaned, even by the stranger that is within his gates. He not only avoids all actual adultery, fornication, and uncleanness, but every word or look, that either directly or indirectly tends thereto: Nay, and all idle words, abstaining both from all detraction, back-biting, tale-bearing, evil speaking, and from all foolish talking and jesting, sumpainena, a kind of virtuo in the Heathen moralist's account. Briefiy, from all conversation that is not good to the use of edifying, and that consequently grieves the Holy Spirit of God, whereby we are sealed to the day of redemption.
5. He abstains from wine wherein is excess, from revellings and gluttony. He avoids, as much as in him lies, all strife, and contention, continually endeavouring to live peaceably with all men. And if he suffer wrong, he avengeth not himself, neither returns evil for evil. He is no railer, no brawler, no scoffer, either at the faults or infirmities of his neighbour. He does not willingly wrong, hurt, or grieve any mân; but in all things acts and speaks by that plain rule, Whatsoever thou wouldst mot he should do unto thee, that do not thou to another,