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SERM. then?“ Christ,” saith he, “ is dead, Christ is risen, yea, CXXXIII.
He is now at the right hand of God making intercession for us.” This is that his faith was so firmly fixed upon, that it made him rejoice and triumph over all, both fear and danger : and as for tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, sword, and the like, he laughed at these things as no way able to separate him from the love of Christ : « Nay, in these things,” saith he, “ we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us." And if ye would know the reason of this his confidence, you may see it in the next words : “For,” saith he, “ I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor Angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord :” where you may see faith riding in its triumphant chair, defying grim death itself, and trampling upon every thing that did but seem to stand in its way to glory. And as St. Paul there acteth his faith himself, so certainly he adviseth the gaoler in my text to do; even not only to assent to the Word of God in general, nor only to believe in general, that Christ was the Saviour of mankind, but to believe in Him so as to trust, depend, and confidently rely upon Him for the Salvation of his immortal soul, nothing doubting but that He is both able and willing to do it; yea, fully persuaded that He will do it too. And this, therefore, is that faith in Christ which we must all have, if we ever desire to be saved by Him. But then you will say, Doth not such a faith as this is encourage security, and embolden men in sinful presumption, making as if they cannot miss of Salvation, if they be but confident they shall be saved ? To this I answer,
1. It is impossible to preach the Gospel so, but that a carnal and sinful heart may wrest it so as to suck poison
instead of honey from it; such being apt to take all occasions (Jude 4.] of “ turning the grace of God into wantonness." And
therefore the Apostle himself, when he treated upon this
subject, even our justification by faith in Christ, he was still Rom. 3. 31; forced to prevent this objection by a peremptory denial of
the consequence. But it is one thing to speak of the true nature of this doctrine, another thing to speak of the abuse
ch. 6. 1.
which corrupt men make of it. There are some, as the Apostle tells us, “ who wrest the Scriptures to their own (2 Pet. 3. destruction ;” but it does not follow, that they ought not therefore to read them, nor hear them read. So here, although some may abuse this doctrine of faith to the cherishing themselves in impiety and licentiousness; yet it doth not follow but that it both may and ought to be explained and preached to you; because though some may abuse it, yet none can be saved without it. And we must not conceal any thing from you that is necessary for your Salvation, for fear that others may make a bad use of it; for if they will destroy themselves, it does not follow that we must suffer you to be destroyed too, without telling you the very truth how you may be saved.
2. But, secondly and principally, my answer to this objection is, that whatsoever men of corrupt minds may think, no man whatsoever can thus believe in Christ, but he must of necessity repent and obey God to the utmost of his power. For,
1. Although it be only by this particular faith in Christ, which I have now described, that we can be either justified or saved; yet none can thus believe in Christ, but he that first is fully persuaded in himself of the truth and certainty of the whole Word of God, which it is impossible for any man in the world to be, and yet to live in the constant commission of any known sin, or the wilful neglect of any known duty. For such a persuasion as this is cannot but have that influence upon him, and make such impressions in his mind, as to incline his will to the observance of whatsoever is required of him.
2dly. No man can thus firmly and confidently believe that he shall be saved by Christ, that doth not observe such things as Christ Himself saith he must do, or not be saved. For when Christ hath revealed His will and pleasure, that He will save only such and such persons, how is it possible for any man to be persuaded that he shall be saved by Him, that is not such a person as Christ requires him to be in order thereunto: but Christ requires repentance, and uni- Luke 13. 3. versal righteousness, without which, He saith, we shall not Matt. be saved. And therefore they that do not repent, and are
Matt. 5. 20,
1 John 3.3.
SERM. not sincerely righteous, how can they expect, much less
believe they shall be saved by Him? Especially considering
that He calls none else, nor promiseth rest to any but such Matt.11.28. as are weary and heavy laden with their sins.
Hence, lastly, such a faith as I have now described, doth Acts 15. 9; of itself produce a pious and good life; for it purifies the
B. heart. And the reason is, because he that believeth in
Christ as his Priest to make atonement for him, cannot but believe in Him as his King too to rule and govern him,
otherwise he believes not wholly in Christ, but only in part of [1 Cor. 1. Him: for He was made our Sanctification as well as Right30.]
eousness. And no man can believe in Him at all, that doth not believe in Him for all that He hath procured for us. And, therefore, so long as you continue in your sins, it is in vain for you to speak of believing in Christ, for you do not, whatsoever you may say or think; ye are still but infidels.
Now, from what you have heard upon this subject, none of you but may easily learn that which is the greatest concern which you either have or can have in the whole world, even how to be saved : howsoever, that you may be sure to apprehend it aright, I shall in few terms shew you the way and method you are to take, that every soul amongst you may live and be happy for ever; which, if you desire to be, observe but these few rules, and the work is done.
1. Repent of your former sins; I do not doubt but you all cannot but know every one the sins of his own heart and life: and whatsoever sins you know yourselves to be guilty of, you must of necessity forsake them, otherwise it is impossible for you to be saved : you must first repent, before it is possible for you to believe the Gospel.
2dly. Being truly humbled for, and resolved against your former sins, you must likewise, for the future, walk in holiness and righteousness all the days of your life, ordering all your thoughts, words, and actions according to the commands of God, to the best of your skill and power, sincerely
endeavouring to commit no sin wilfully, nor yet to omit any [Tit. 2. 12.) duty either to God or man, but always striving to “ live so
berly, righteously and godly in this present world,” and to [Phil. 2. "shine as lights in it.” 15.]
Lastly; When you have done all, trust not to your repentance or obedience, for they will both fail you; but trust and confide in the Lord Jesus Christ, humbly and firmly believing that God for His sake will pardon the sins which you have repented of, and accept of these duties which you sincerely, though imperfectly, perform unto Him; and by consequence that He will make you both holy here, and happy hereafter. This was the end of Christ's coming into the world, and this is the sum and substance of all the promises which are sealed unto you with His blood, and therefore you need not doubt of it, but rather have all the reason in the world steadfastly to believe it, yea, and be confident of it. And therefore you not only may, but must be fully persuaded in yourselves, that by the virtue of Christ's merit your persons shall be justified, and your duties accepted; that by the assistance of His grace and Spirit your lusts shall be all subdued, and your natures sanctified, and by consequence that in and through Him your souls shall be glorified with God for ever. And let me tell you, you have God's Own Word for it, and therefore you may be confident and assured of it. For if you be not failing to yourselves, 1 am sure He will never fail you. Away, therefore, with all diffident and doubting thoughts, as much as possibly you can, and stir up yourselves to lay fast hold on Christ, firmly and steadfastly believing that God, for His sake, hath not only pardoned your former sins, but will bring you ere long to everlasting glory. This is the way, the only way whereby every person here present may get to Heaven. Do but thus “ believe in Christ, and you shall be saved.”
THE CHAIN OF EVANGELICAL GRACES.
2 Pet. i. 5, 6, 7.
And besides this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue ;
and to virtue, knowledge ; And to knowledge, temperance ; and to temperance, patience ;
and to patience, godliness ; And to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kind
SERM. Simon PETER, a servant and an Apostle of Jesus Christ, CXXXIV.
writing this epistle to those who “ had obtained like precious 2 Pet. 1.1.7
faith” with him and the rest of the Apostles, in “ the righteousness of our God and Saviour," as he expressly calls Jesus Christ, begins it much after the same manner as St. Paul begins his epistles, with this solemn benediction and prayer, “Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord :" and that they might better apprehend the meaning and reason of this Apostolical salutation, he adds immediately, “according as His Divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him that hath called us to glory and virtue ;” whereby he puts them in mind, that Almighty God hath given us the grace and peace which he had wished them, and all things necessary to make us holy and happy, through the knowledge of the said Jesus our Lord,