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SERM. mitted against the Eternal God, we are all condemned to
cternal death, and are every moment obnoxious to it. Neither is it possible for us to avoid it by any thing which ourselves can either do or suffer; no grief or sorrow, no contrition or repentance, no virtue or obedience, no pious, no charitable, no good works whatsoever being able to expiate the least of the many and great sins which we are guilty of, so that we can have no expectations at all of pardon from what ourselves do, how specious and plausible soever it may appear. But our comfort is, that what we could never have done ourselves, Christ hath done most effectually for us. For by offering up Himself as a sacrifice for our sins, he hath thereby made such satisfaction to Almighty God for them, that none of us but in and through
Him may obtain perfect remission and forgiveness of whatEph. 1.7. soever we have hitherto done against God: “ for in Him we
have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins Col. 1. 14, according to the riches of His grace.” And elsewhere, “ In
Whom we have redemption through His blood, even the forgiveness of sins.” And many suchlike places are there in holy Scripture, wherein we have as much assurance as God Himself can give us, that if we sincerely repent and believe in Christ, all the sins that ever we committed against God shall be remitted by God to us, so as never to rise up in judgment against us. Now, what an unspeakable mercy and privilege is this, that whatsoever sins you know yourselves to be guilty of against the Supreme Governor, the Universal Monarch of the whole World, may be all pardoned and forgiven to you.
And though this be exceeding much, yet it is not all neither. For, in the next place, besides the remission of your former sins in and through Christ, you may be all made truly and sincerely holy, real Saints, not such as the Pope canoniseth, but such as God Himself will canonise, so as to accept of you, and enrol your names in the catalogue of Saints in Heaven. For Christ, by His death, did not only merit pardon, but grace for you; so that you may not only be justified by His merit imputed to you, but sanctified also by His Spirit implanted in you; so as to have both perfect forgiveness of your former sins, and sufficient power against sin for the future. For this was one of the principal ends of His coming into the world, even “ to bless you, in turn- Acts 3. 26. ing away every one of you from his iniquities.” And He was therefore called Jesus, because He was “ to save His Matt. 1. 21. people from their sins ;” not only from their guilt, but likewise from the filth and power of sin. And therefore He is said to be made our sanctification, as well as righteousness ; 1 Cor. 1. 30. because by Him we may be made sincerely holy in ourselves, as well as accepted of as such in Him. And although we cannot expect to be perfect in this life, but there will be still some relic of sin within us, whereby our best duties and works will be polluted, yet howsoever God, for Christ's sake, will accept of our evangelical sincerity instead of legal perfection. Now, what an unspeakable comfort is this to all of you, that how strong and prevalent soever your sins have been or still are, you may have them all subdued under you, and all true grace and virtue infused into you, by virtue of that blood which Christ shed for you, whereby your dark minds may be so enlightened, your erring judgments so informed, your sleepy consciences so awakened, your perverse wills so rectified, your disorderly affections so ordered, your strong sins so weakened, your weak graces so strengthened, your sinful souls so wholly sanctified, as to be fit companions for glorified Saints and Angels in the world to come.
And that brings me to the last thing which Christ hath merited for us, even everlasting happiness and Salvation in the life to come, which is but the necessary consequent of the two former benefits that He hath purchased for us ; for if our sins, which only can keep us out of Heaven, be pardoned, and our corruptions, which make us incapable of enjoying Heaven, be cleansed away, so that we are made really and truly holy in all manner of conversation; here it follows in course, that we shall be really and truly happy in all manner of perfection hereafter; eternal happiness being certainly entailed upon evangelical holiness and piety in this life. And, therefore, if you would know in short what Christ hath done for you ; in plain terms He hath made way for you all to go to Heaven: insomuch that there is never a soul amongst you, how sinful soever heretofore you have
SERM. been, how poor and needy, how simple and ignorant, how
vile and despicable soever you still are, but who may by Christ be advanced above yonder glorious sun, and the stars themselves. So that you may all as really be admitted bereafter into the Church above, as you are now in this below; and as certainly see Christ shining in all His glory, with all the Saints and Angels attending of Him, as you now see me, or one another. In a word; by Christ you may all as certainly be glorified Saints in Heaven, as you are now sinful creatures upon earth.
But then you will say, It is true, we all believe that Christ hath merited Salvation for mankind : but the great question is, what we must do that we in particular may be saved by him? To which I answer with the Apostle in my text, “ Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved.”
SALVATION WHOLLY OWING TO FAITH IN CHRIST
Acts xvi. 31.
Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.
Having thus considered the object of saving faith, even our Lord Jesus Christ, we are now to consider the act of faith itself, or what it is to believe : that knowing now Who is that Christ Whom we ought to believe in, we may know likewise what it is to believe in Him, so as that we may be saved; or what it was St. Paul meant when he said, “ Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.” For faith in Christ being not only the most certain, but the only way to get to Heaven, we can never expect to come thither, unless we believe; but we can never believe in Christ aright, unless we first know what it is to do so. And it is not so easy to know this, as it is commonly thought to be: men ordinarily taking their profession of the Christian faith to be all the faith in Christ which is required of them. As if the very naming of His Name were sufficient to entitle them to all His merits without any more ado. But hark what our Saviour Himself saith to such persons as these: “ Not every one that saith unto Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter Matt. 7. 21. into the kingdom of Heaven, but he that doth the will of My Father Which is in Heaven.” And if a man may speak thus reverently of Christ, and pray thus fervently to Him, and yet not get to Heaven; a man may then most certainly
SERM. do all this, and yet not believe: for all that truly believe are
sure to go to Heaven, as the Apostle here certifies the gaoler, saying, “ Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.”
But all you who are here present, I am confident, desire to be saved; and I am as confident that you can never attain your desires without Christ, nor by Him, without believing in Him; and, therefore, you are all equally concerned to understand what this believing in Christ is, upon which your eternal happiness and Salvation doth so much depend. And do not say within yourselves, nor fancy that you believe already; for I assure you many have been as confident that they have believed, as any of you either are or can be, and yet have been most fearfully mistaken: for
Christ Himself hath told you, that many shall presume so Matt. 7. 22. much upon their faith in Him, as to say to His face, “ Lord,
Lord, have not we prophesied in Thy Name, and in Thy Name cast out Devils, and in Thy Name done many wonderful works?" Oh, how confident would you be of your believing in the Name of Christ, if you could do such things as these are, in it! And yet you know what answer they shall receive from Christ, even nothing else but an angry protestation, that He doth not know them; and therefore will say unto them, “ Depart from Me, ye that work iniquity." What a sad and fearful thing will it be, should any of you who hear me at this time, be in these men's case, that after all your professions of the Gospel, and pretences to faith in Christ, Christ Himself should say unto you,“ Depart from Me, for I know you not!" And yet there is no way in the world for you to escape this dreadful sentence, but by believing aright in Him; which, notwithstanding, you can never do, unless you understand first how to do it.
That, therefore, you may not plead ignorance at the Day of Judgment, nor yet accuse me for being unfaithful to you in not acquainting you with the true nature of this work, which is so indispensably necessary for you all to perform, or else be undone for ever, I shall endeavour to explain it clearly and fully to you. For, as I would not be deceived myself, so neither would I have you deceived in a matter of