A Beacon to the Society of Friends/Sermon VIII

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SERMON VIII.




EXTRACT I.

Adam's transgression.

"They have started the notion, that we are to stand accountable for Adam's sin, and that we are loosers by it. But I think we must be gainers by it. — If we reasoned as we ought, this act of Adam would be a warning to all his offspring, and would certainly be a benefit to us if we acted rightly." p. 183.


What saith the Holy Spirit by the Scripture?


"As by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned: But not as the offence, so also is the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many.
Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners; so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous." Rom. v. 12, 18, 19.

See under Ser. III. Ex. 1.

EXTRACT II.

Can man preach the Gospel.

"Can man preach the Gospel? No, not in the right sense of the word. — All he can do, is to preach and direct to the Gospel. Gospel power is the source from which all power must come: it is God in man." p. 195.


On this principle, what can be the meaning of "The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ," Mark, i. 1? The primary sense of Gospel (εὐαγγελίον) is, good tidings, or the announcement of good tidings. When the angel announced the birth of our Lord, he said, "I bring you good tidings of great joy, (εὐαγγελίζομαι) and it appears always to be used with especial reference to those good tidings. Our Lord clearly used it in this sense. — "Go ye into all the world, preach the Gospel to every creature." For the meaning of the following passage (which has been so much misunderstood) Rom. i. 16, — "I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth;" compare 1 Cor. i. 18, where the same Apostle says, "The preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God;" v. 21, he says, "It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe;" and, v. 23, 24, "We preach Christ crucified, — Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God." This same Christ crucified, which was to the Jews a stumbling block, and to the Greeks foolishness, is here decisively declared to be the power of God, and the wisdom of God. In the 2nd chapter, v. 2nd, of the. same Epistle, he says, "I determined not to know any thing among you, (that is in his preaching) save Jesus Christ, and him crucified." And in the 15th chapter, v. 1-4, he says, "I declare unto you the Gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; by which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I declared unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures; and that he was buried; and that he rose again the third day according to the Scriptures." Here then the Apostle leaves us in no doubt as to what he meant by "the Gospel." And to speak of the Gospel, as God in man, is a manifest perversion of Scripture; for our Lord Jesus Christ compares the Gospel to seed sown by the sower, that is, the preacher; and the Apostle Paul, Rom. xvi. 25, and 2 Tim. ii. 8, speaks of his Gospel, that is, the good message of life and salvation, which was given to him to deliver. In its comprehensive sense, the Gospel must be considered, as the announcement of the infinite love of God, in the salvation of man through Jesus Christ, by his incarnation, life, suffering, death, resurrection, ascension, mediation,

intercession, and gift of the Holy Spirit.[1]

"Can man then preach the Gospel?"


What saith the Scripture?


"[Jesus] said unto them, Preach the Gospel." Mark, xvi. 15.

"There they preached the Gospel." Acts, xiv. 7.

"So that from Jerusalem, and round about unto Illyricum, I have fully preached the Gospel of Christ." Rom. xv. 19.

"In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the Gospel of your salvation." Eph. i. 13.

"Unto whom [the prophets] it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the Gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; which things the Angels desire to look into." 1 Pet. i. 12.

"I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another Gospel: which is not another; but there be some that trouble you,

and would pervert the Gospel of Christ. But though we, or an Angel from heaven, preach any other Gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other Gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed." Gal. i. 6-9.

"This Gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world, for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come." Matt. xxiv. 14.

"Wheresoever this Gospel shall be preached in the whole world, there shall also this, that this woman hath done, be told for a memorial of her." Matt. xxvi. 13.

"Peter — said — Ye know that a good while ago, God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the Gospel, and believe." Acts, xv. 7.

EXTRACT III.

Christ paid the ransom.

"We must come back to this passive point, this childlike state; — we must come back and settle down in a state of passivity* to the divine will, — in a state of innocency; and when we have made acknowledgement of all our sins, when we have suffered just repentance for our offences, and the displeasure which we have incurred, we shall see and experience goodness and mercy of a gracious God. — He that repents, though guilty of the greatest sins, they are forgiven him; because the Almighty never asks pay, but only that we should give up our will. And there is nothing but a surrender of our own will, that can make atonement for our sins." p. 196.


* Passivity. — See p. 65.


"Never asks pay." — What can exceed the ingratitude to God the Father, and to the Lord Jesus Christ, that is manifested by placing the subject in this fallacious point of view. God has provided a means, which must for ever excite the admiration and gratitude of the redeemed, whereby he may "be just," and at the same time "the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus." It is not indeed, by asking or receiving "pay" of us, that we are put into a condition of becoming reconciled to God. But our immense debt is cancelled by the precious blood of Christ, if by faith, we lay hold on him as our surety. This faith worketh by love: we love him because he first loved us.


What saith the Scripture?


"There is one God,and one Mediator between God and man, the man
Christ Jesus; who gave himself a ransom for all." 1 Tim. ii. 5, 6.
"The Son of man came to give his life a ransom for many." Matt. xx. 28. Mark, x. 45.

"Ye are bought with a price; be not ye the servants of men." 1 Cor. vii. 23.

"Ye are bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's." 1 Cor. vi. 20.

"Feed the church of God, which he hath

purchased with his own blood." Acts, xx. 28.

"There shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of." 2 Pet. ii. 1, 2.




EXTRACT IV.

The letter killeth.

"But let me tell you, my friends, as long as the professors of Christianity take the Scriptures for their rule of faith and practice, they never can know what the true cross is, nor experience salvation by it; except it be from a consideration of the ignorance they are under, the Lord should wink at it. For when they are sincere, the sincerity of the heart will plead for them. But when they come into the true Christian state, they will see that it is impossible for any written book to be the rule of faith and practice, for the letter killeth, and never yet made one true Christian. Don't you suppose now that Jesus Christ, that was the greatest teacher that ever was on earth, could have written better Scripture than all that was ever written, or can be written? He lived nearer the fountain than any ever did; but he wrote nothing — and why? Because he saw how the people hurt themselves by what was written." p. 207.

Does not the example of our Lord, in quoting the Scriptures, for the resistance of temptation, and for proof of his own divine mission, — his continual reference to them in his discourses, his express attestation of their high authority, — his commission to his Apostles to preach, and to write, and also the declaration of the Spirit through the Apostle, that "all Scripture is given by inspiration of God," sufficiently refute these unauthorised and fallacious opinions, which afford another sorrowfully affecting proof, of the danger of setting up an inward light above the attested revelation of the Spirit of God.

With regard to the passage of Scripture so dreadfully perverted, "The letter killeth," (2 Cor. iii. 6) the meaning is plainly, that by the letter of the law, which we have all broken, we are condemned to death: as in the following passages, — 


"I was alive without the law once, but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died; and the commandment which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death. For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me. Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good. Was then that which is good made death unto me? God forbid.

But sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good, that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful. For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin." Rom. vii. 9-14.

"By the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin." Rom. iii. 20.

In 2 Cor. iii. chap. from v. 6 to 11, inclusive, the Apostle draws a comparison, between the law, by which is the knowledge of sin, and by which also is condemnation; and the Gospel, by which only life, and immortality are brought to light; and in this place he plainly uses the word "letter" for the law, and the word "spirit" for the Gospel. So also in Rom. viii. 2, the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus, is evidently an expression which the Apostle uses to designate the Gospel.




EXTRACT V.

We must believe on credible evidence.

"When we come to consider, we must see and feel, that if any truth has been revealed to another, we should have the same evidence, before we can know it to be a truth; and we shall see what it is must give us this evidence, and that it can be nothing but this light in our souls." p. 209.


A man is bound to believe the truth, when it is attested by credible evidence; and the Christian revelation is attested by the very highest evidence, viz. that of miracles, and the continued fulfilment of prophecy. And it is important to observe, how much Christianity proceeds upon this ground; condemning as wholly inexcusable, those who will not believe; — See Matt. xi. 21. — and on the other hand justifying, and building up to everlasting life, those who receive and believe the Gospel. But if every man is to have the same evidence, before he believes the truths of revelation, as they had to whom God was pleased originally to communicate them, in order that they might be made known in the world; it is plain that the revelation of the Spirit in the Scripture, and the preaching of the Gospel, are not essential: that is to say, the way which God hath appointed for the communication of the knowledge of his will, might very well have been dispensed with. Will any Christian maintain, that the testimony of God, and the sanctions of his holy law, are not obligatory, unless a man has them communicated to him by immediate revelation? This doctrine is certainly not inconsistent, in one who holds the paramount authority of the inward light; but it is not the doctrine of Christ and his Apostles. We ought ever to remember, that the vail is upon the heart; and it is only by the power of the Spirit that it can be taken away, and the heart be inclined to receive and believe "the word of truth." But the authority of the word, and the obligation which it imposes, is the same, whether we acknowledge it or not.

What saith the Scripture?

"If any man hear my words, and believe not, I judge him not: for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world. He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day." Jno. xii. 47, 48.

"Do not think that I will accuse you to the

Father: there is one that accuseth you, even Moses, in whom ye trust. For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me; for he wrote of me. But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words?" Jno. v. 45-47.

"Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature. He that believeth, and is

baptized, shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned." Mark, xvi. 15, 16.

"These are written, that

ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, and that believing ye might have life through his name." Jno. xx. 31.


On the authority of the word, see further under Ser. II. Ex. 3.


It is moreover plain, from the following passage, that to believe on the Son of God is necessary, before we can have the witness [or evidence] in ourselves. "If we receive the witness of man, the witness of God is greater: For this is the witness of God which he hath testified of his Son. He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself: He that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son."

Now what is "the record which God hath given of his Son?" Is it not the whole written revelation of the Spirit of God, concerning Jesus Christ our Lord, as the one appointed way to eternal life? And are not the expressions, believing on "the Son of God," and "believing the record which God hath given of his Son," equivalent? It is, however, to be feared that some persons suppose believing in Christ to be something very different from that belief of the divine testimony concerning Christ, which implies its cordial reception into the heart, where working by love, it purifies the heart, and produces the "fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God."

  1. See Cruden's Concordance, for the different senses in which the words Gospel, word, and word of God, are used in Scripture. For want of a proper discrimination, as to the varied senses in which these words or phrases, and some others, are used, much obscurity and confusion have arisen.