The Infallible Preceptor
by JOSEPH IRONS
Delivered in Grove Chapel, Camberwell, Lord's day Morning, June 11th, 1848
WHEN an ambassador is commissioned from some mighty monarch to communicate information or designs from his throne to a people at a distance, it is of vast importance that that ambassador should know his errand well, and be found faithful to it. If he know it not, he may fabricate one of his own on the journey. If he know it, and is not found faithful to it, he may betray his country and his sovereign, and prove himself the vilest of wretches. I fear, I solemnly fear, that there are not a few in the day in which we live who go forth as ambassadors for Christ, who know not their message, and who never received one from Him. I fear there are others who partially know it, and are afraid to deliver it, and so far pervert, distort, and misrepresent it, that nothing is understood of the Monarch's mind and will. My God, keep me from both these evils.
To avoid them, the Holy Ghost, by the apostle, in our text, sets forth a most delightful standard, criterion, and example in the apostle's preaching. When, after having spoken of the things which are freely given to us of God in the preceding verse, which we shall have to refer to as our antecedent, he adds, in the language of my text, "which things also we speak "he was not at liberty to speak any other, to add anything to them, to introduce proposals which they did not contain "Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, "he had got a simple errand from God he was made a minister by the dispensation of the grace of God: he heard the voice from on high; and he said to the Galatians, in addressing them, "I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after men; for I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ." (Gal. 1:11,12) So that he had his credentials as well as his subjects clearly before him. And then the power, the wisdom, and the manner in which he set forth the great subject committed to him, are said to be by the word "which the Holy Ghost teacheth;" and not shrinking from his subject, he dared to bring it to the test, and would have all that he propounded in public brought to this test, "comparing spiritual things with spiritual." We hope for grace from on high to pursue his plan, and power from the throne of God to enable a poor worm to set forth the very things which the apostle did, and in the very same style, and from the same vocabulary, and propose to you the test which he proposed, of "comparing spiritual things with spiritual." I have thus presented to you, in the exordium, the threefold division of our subject:
I. First, let us dwell a little upon the subject of apostolical preaching; because, in the day in which we live we hear a great deal of apostolical pretensions, apostolical succession, and the like. Now, if men will assert their interest in the line of succession from the apostles, let them bring things to the test, and show us that they speak the very same things that the apostles did; and then we will give them some credit for their pretensions, but not else. I beseech you to mark what is held forth in he antecedent, to which our text refers us "which things." It may be asked by a stranger, if we make no reference to the foregoing verse, "What things?" "Which things" were the things he had just been stating. And, without enlarging upon them, I will just refer you to the very last clause of the preceding verse, "the things that are freely given to us of God." They are "the things" "the things that are freely given to us of God." Here at once we take our stand upon an opposite mount to the general style of modern preachers; for they speak of the things they presume to offer and propound; to propose and hold forth upon conditions, and invite persons to take part in, as if they had the power. They seem to me to have lost sight of the grand principles of the everlasting gospel, and the manner in which the apostle set them forth, and to have studied a system of man's invention, in order to neutralize the gospel of the grace of God.
Now we mean to keep to the old-fashioned ground, and to take our stand upon, and speak of, "the things that are freely given to us of God." And what things are they? I shall here refer to them, under four classes; for it will be impossible to give a catalogue of them, they are so numerous; and the first gifts I shall mention as a class of gifts, are the work and the person of Christ: for this same apostle tells us that this is the "unspeakable gift, "which things we speak." I dwell a little upon the work first, because that is generally set forth in our day, in some senses, almost to the exclusion of the person. I want it to be distinctly understood that His person is emphatically the gift of God, as well as His work. What is His work? The work which the Father gave Him to do. The work covenanted for before the world began; the work that shall crown Him with glory and honour for ever and ever. The work of fulfilling, of magnifying, and of honouring the holy law of God. The work of satisfying it, and of sheathing the sword of inflexible justice in His own heart. The work of vanquishing the powers of darkness, bruising the old serpent's head, spoiling principalities and powers, taking away the sting of death, and removing the curse for ever from all the election of grace. That is the work of God; that is the work of Christ, and it is freely given to us. It is not a work in which we are to take part; it is not a work in which something is left contingent or dependent upon our efforts and energies. Oh, how my soul loathes the doctrine of contingencies! Because, make the best you can of contingencies, and set them in the most plausible colours, at last both God and man may be disappointed. If anything hangs upon contingencies, with regard to the salvation of the Church, it is at least a possible casenay, a highly probable case, and I am sure an infallibly certain case, that God and man will eventually be disappointed: He can never fulfil His promises; the sinner can never be saved. I am astonished at the temerity of men who want to rob God of His perfections, and ruin the whole human race by putting on them terms of salvation that they can by no possibility meet. Apart from this, we insist on all being free gifts. The obedience of Christ, given as man, the sufferings of Christ, the power of Christ, the fulfilling of the law by Christ; His bruising the old serpent's head, and taking away the curse; all the works that are freely given, and accomplished on purpose for His entire family, never withheld from one of the election of grace, freely given by God the Father, and gloriously made known by God the Holy Ghost.
But do not let us pass by the free gift of the person of Christ. "God so loved the world, "that is, both Jews and Gentiles "God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son [what a gift!] that whosoever believeth on Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." I wonder not that the apostle should call it, as we have before stated, the "unspeakable gift? who shall tell of its vast treasures? who shall unfold its infinite fullness, amazing depths, topless heights, and vast eternity in duration? "Unspeakable gift." All the perfections of Deity being His own; all the sinless imperfections of man being assumed; all that pertained to His brethren is His; to be made like unto them in all things, yet without sin; united with descending Deity to make the grand, the glorious mystery of godliness "God manifest in the flesh." (1 Tim. 3:16) And this God manifest in the flesh, the Father's gift to His elect family, is their portion and inheritance for ever. I cannot, dare not, offer Christ, propose Christ, recommend Christ, as a bargain, to be obtained by your repenting, believing, seeking, bearing good fruits, or the like. This would be to insult Him; this would be to tell Him to His face that we won't accept His gift, that we are wiser and richer than He, and mean to purchase for ourselves. But I can tell you, as a ruined, impoverished, helpless sinner, with nothing to present to God, no merit or righteousness, or holiness of my own, that our glorious Maker, as a present only, hath bestowed this free gift. And this gift, too, is the Head of His Church, the Husband of His Church, the Brother of His Church; and as the inheritance and portion of His Church, with all His righteousness, with all His merits, with all His fullness of grace, with all He has done, and with all He is doing; with all His perfections and attributes, and offices, and names; with all His condescending kindness and love, a whole Christ, the full Christ, the gift of God the Father to ruined sinners; these are the things we speak. "Which things we speak."
But there is another gift that is equally important. What! say you, equally important? Yes; the gift of the indwelling witness. "If you know," said Jesus, "how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your heavenly Father give (not offer, not propose) His Holy Spirit unto them that ask it?" And who are they that ask? They, upon whom the spirit of prayer is bestowed. The very persons of whom He speaks as calling upon the name of the Lord, which brings down the inward witnessing and the Divine operations of the Holy Ghost to the view of the weakest, lowest, most helpless sinner whom God has taught to call upon Him, and to ask for it. Now here you will mark the great value of this gift. The Holy Spirit of Jehovah, the third person of the glorious Trinity, bestowed upon vile worms, that were "dead in trespasses and sins!" And this, too, is to be an abiding, indwelling guest; for, saith the Son of God concerning Him, "But the Comforter which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you." (John 14:26) Hence the apostle says concerning Him, "Know ye not that your bodies are the temples of the Holy Ghost that dwelleth in you?" (1 Cor. 3:16) I beseech you, then, beloved, to ponder over these things as gifts, not as offers, not as proposals. We speak "the things that are freely given to us of God," and insist upon it that the gift of His Son was free, that it was the act of His own sovereign love; and that the gift of the Holy Ghost, proceeding from the Father and the Son, consequent upon Christ's perfect work, is as free, unmerited, and undeserved as all the other gifts of the covenant of grace.
May I ask the question with which we opened our song at the commencement of this service: "Have we received the Holy Ghost?" Because, when we speak of gifts, you know the very phrase implies the reception. I should not speak of anything as a gift from a friend, that I had not received. I might speak of it as intended or purposed for a gift. I might so far turn Arminian as that. But, when received, I could hold it in my hand, and say, It is a gift; simply because I had received it. But, how would my friend be offended if I represented that I had partly bought it, that I had done something to earn it? Common gratitude would call forth the frank acknowledgment that my friend gave it to me freely. Oh! how is my God insulted when terms, conditions, contingencies, overtures, proposals, and uncertainties are interspersed with some good things that are said about this precious Christ of God, and this Holy Spirit and His work. We shall never glorify God aright, never do justice to His truth, and never meet the case of the ruined sinner, until we speak the things that are freely given; and the Holy Ghost from on high, as the indwelling witness in His people, is the free gift of God to His people. There are also testamentary bequests. What, say you, do you mean by "testamentary?" I mean gifts that are contained in a will, in which the phrase is frequently found "I give and bequeath" so and so. Now, if I look into my Father's will, I find some testamentary gifts that are very free, and peculiarly sweet and precious. One is the gift of pardon. I begin with that, the gift of pardon. Oh! how did our precious Christ reveal this Himself when He was on earth, and frequently bestowed it. Being both God and man, He could put His hand on the will in heaven, and the treasure to which He referred, whilst He unfolded a leaf of it on earth, and read it to those who listened to His ministry; and therefore He often said, "Son, thy sins are forgiven thee." If absolution from sin is the gift of God, and if none but God (as the Jews said), can bestow it, it is the foulest blasphemy for any human being to pretend to impart it. I should run from the presence of a man who dared pretend to give me absolution, as I would flee from the presence of the devil. It is the high prerogative of God alone to make this free gift of pardoning love to a ruined sinner; and He not only appointed it in covenant, treasured it in Christ, and coupled it with redemption; in consequence of which the apostle said, "in whom we have redemption by His blood;" (Eph. 1:7) but He has also applied it to the hearts and consciences of millions, written it in the precious blood of atonement, and given them faith enough to appropriate it, exulting that He has cast all their sins behind His back. It is also the gift of peace. In the same phraseology, our precious Jesus says, "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you; not as the world giveth, give I unto you." (John 14:27) So that this too is a bequest of Christ unto His Church. And what an invaluable gift! I know there are persons silly enough to talk of making their peace with God. Now, instead of making peace, my plan is to accept that which Christ has made; for He is our peace; and when God gave Him to be the peace of His people, He asked no reward, no price, no terms respecting it. Moreover, the gift of God is a secure and certain one, and the world cannot take it away. Creatures who attempt to manufacture a peace, fail in their efforts, and become more and more distressed, wretched, dismayed, and cast down, the greater the efforts they make. And when the Holy Spirit, by His teaching, hath fully convinced them that they are labouring in vain, "spending their strength for nought," and accomplishing nothing, but making matters worse and worse, then it is that in helpless despondency, stripped of everything that pertains to the creature, they are glad enough to cry out, "Lord, give me the peace Thou hast made." It comes as a free gift, and we speak of it as such.
We remark, next, that among the testamentary gifts which we receive from God, is secure personal salvation. "This is the will," saith our precious Christ, in making known some if its provisions, "This is the will of Him that sent me." Oh! heirs of glory, read your Father's will; and if you have not faith enough to read it, hear what your elder Brother says about it: "This is the will of Him which sent me, that of all which He hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day." (John 6:39) I do not know where we should find a Chancery Court to put the will into, if it were violated; but we shall have no need for that, for sure I am that the Father is faithful to the will; nor would our Advocate, His Son, have read that clause from it if it were not worthy of God, and infallible as His throne. Consequently the souls to whom Christ's salvation, and pardon, and peace are given and applied by the power of the Holy Ghost, are sure of everlasting life and eternal glory, because "it is the will of Him that sent me," saith Jesus.
One thing more to sum up these testamentary gifts. "The Lord God is a sun and a shield: the Lord will give (not offer) grace and glory; and no good thing will He withhold from them that walk uprightly." Now, in this summing up of the testamentary bequests we have a capacious summary of all that is contained in the covenant of grace, even all "grace and glory," for "no good thing will He withhold." My beloved hearer, only just ask if these free gifts have been needed by thee; whether thou hast sought them; whether they will suit thy impoverished case; whether thou hast waited at the footstool of Divine mercy for them, and tasted and handled them, and seen the pardon of thy sins sealed; whether thou hast really discovered this security in Christ for everlasting glory and salvation; and whether thou hast obtained grace from on high, more grace, all grace, and each variety of grace for every exigency in passing through this wilderness. Then, if so, look forward to the other half of this legacy, for the Lord God will give glory as well as grace. Oh! blessed securities. Oh! Divine, infallible certainties. Jehovah's hand, containing all that can be needed by ruined sinners, and that hand stretched forth freely to bestow, freely to impart and apply, and positively to secure unto the entire household of faith.
One thing more I remark on these free gifts. So tender, so loving, so
bountiful, and so kind is our covenant God and Father, that He freely gives
us a home and a meetness to enjoy it. With this two-fold statement I must
close this first head of the discourse. So tender and kind, loving, condescending,
and bountiful, that He freely gives us a home. He did so to the children
of Israel: He gave them the promised land. They got it not by the sword
or the bow, but by the free gift of the covenant God of Abraham, Isaac,
and Jacob; and so shall their antitype get the glory that is reserved for
them. They that can rely upon the fullness and faithfulness
II. We now come to the apostle's uniform style of preaching and vocabulary. I borrow the last word from the phrase "not in the words." He seems to have had a peculiar vocabulary of his own, or rather of the Lord's; "not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth." The first thing that presents itself to my view is, that carnal qualifications were all rejected by the apostle. Would to God that they were so now! Carnal qualifications for the work of the ministry, new aids, the chief lying in the attainment of languages; if with the attainment of languages the security of patronage can be coupled, and carnal means followed out and employed. A very fearful state of things this! Not so was it with the apostles. They could say, "Not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth." If you want a display of the words which man's wisdom teacheth in the matter of theology, you may range through hundreds of volumes of Arminianism and of mock Calvinism; you may range over multitudes of large congregations, and listen to harangues from not a few pulpits, and hear nothing of the freeness of the gifts of which I have now been speaking. I do not stay to animadvert upon what they advance. It cannot be right, however, because they do not advance what the apostles did. They do not insist upon free gifts; on God the Holy Ghost being a free gift, as the indwelling witness and powerful regenerator and sanctifier of all the family of God. They do not allow free gifts and testamentary bequests, and we insist upon all these. Therefore the apostle, in writing to the Ephesians, saith, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ." (Eph. 1:3) And as for the home and the qualifications for it, the home is a matter of doubt as set forth by multitudes; and if it be admitted that a home is certainly provided at the right hand of the Majesty on high, still the meetness for it is left for the poor worm to accomplish. Therefore, saith the apostle, "we have not received the spirit of the world." We cannot receive the carnal qualifications which mortals assume, and impart to one another, for the purposes of the ministry; but we come to this, and say, we have not received of their spirit, or the spirit of the world, but of the Spirit of God, that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.
And do you really know those things? Beloved, put the matter home to conscience. Do you know that He has given you one spiritual gift, one spark of grace, one token of love, one atom of love to Christ, one drop of the unction of the Holy Spirit in your souls, convincing of sin and inspiring love to holiness? Has He really given you a gift? Then mark, you must have all the free gifts I have been speaking of, and not only so, but the Spirit of God, in order to know it. Cheer up, then, fellow-traveller; our God who has given us, it may be only one or two of these gifts, will yet give us all. He will withhold no good thing. He clasps not His hand, and says, "It is enough." He will refuse nothing that the child asks in the name of Jesus. And therefore the precious Mediator says, "All things that ye ask in my name, believing, ye shall receive." Oh, make use of your privilege! Ask largely, and be not afraid of exhausting His bounty or His love. But observe, "not the words which man's wisdom teacheth." Here is the solemn fact presented to our view, that all the teaching that man can impart to man, can never make him wise unto salvation. Observe, however, that I do not undervalue or depreciate creature attainments in science and useful knowledge. They are well in their power places; but I must ever insist that the man of the highest attainments, the clearest discernment, the most extensive reading, and the most profound judgment that ever lived upon earth, knows no more of the things which are freely given to us of God than the brute creation, until he has received the Spirit which is of God, in order that we may know them. "The world by wisdom knew not God," after which "it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe." (1 Cor. 1:21) Now do not go away and say that I have reviled education and mental attainments, for that would be untrue. But you may go away and say that I have solemnly declared that they are not Christianity, that they cannot produce it, that Christianity grows not upon that stock. I have given you the negative; allow me, in the next place, to direct your mind to the affirmative. "The Spirit which is of God;" and no man is a Christian until he has received the Spirit of God; and certainly no man can be a Christian minister until he has received the teachings of that Spirit. Oh! if we were to un-pulpit all the occupants of pulpits who never received the Spirit of God, what a host of vacant pulpits would there be! Oh! if we were once rid of all the hirelings, concerning whom it has been said, and wisely said, by the prophet of old, "They run, and I never sent them, and they shall not profit this people at all," (Jer. 23:21,32) what a chasm there would be! Not a hurtful one. A very blessed one. Because it would make room for the class of persons of whom my text speaks as having received the words which the Holy Ghost teacheth.
You will bear in mind the representation which I gave of his speaking some weeks back under the quaint phraseology of the "third edition." The Holy Ghost penned the precious word of inspiration in the covenant of grace, in the Book of Life, from everlasting. The Holy Ghost penned this book for the perusal of His Church to the end of time. And the Holy Ghost, in what I called the "third edition," speaks of promises, and directions, and precious truths of this holy book to the hearts and consciences of all the election of grace sooner of later. Multitudes of instances might be adduced of Christians in secluded circles of the Church of God on earth, who have heard His voice in secret, applying the promise with power, melting it into the soul with consolation, imparting strength divine through its instrumentality, and causing it to follow the soul for days, or weeks, or months, with holy savour and sweetness. And when the Lord is pleased to call any of His saints unto the work of the ministry, He consults not the creature of flesh and blood, as saith the apostle Paul; but with a powerful voice summons them forth to His work, or, to use the Redeemer's phrase, thrusts them out into His vineyard. A voice speaking to their consciences forbids them to be silent any longer, and says, "Go, stand in the temple, and speak in the ears of the people all the words of this life;" (Acts 5:20) and if, like the prophet, they shrink from the task, through consciousness of infirmity, and say, "I am a child, and I cannot speak," the voice of the Holy Ghost speaks to the conscience in accents that cannot be misunderstood, "Thou shalt go unto all to whom I sent thee, and thou shalt say all that I command thee." Oh, the imperative manner in which Jehovah sends out His labourers! They cannot hold their peace; the very stones in the street would cry out against them if they did. They are under the necessity of bringing forth what God reveals to their souls; and if, through discouragement or persecutions, they say, as the prophet did, "I will speak no more His name," the word would be a fire in their bones until it had burned its way out; and then they speak with their tongues. That is the kind of ministers, and that is the style of preaching we want, "not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth." I beseech you to mark here how suitable a person Paul was to be directed to pen this. Had he been one of the fisherman, or one of the lowest orders, from among whom, however, God frequently chooses His saints, it might have been said, "No wonder he calls these words the words of man's wisdom; he is ignorant of them, and therefore rails against them." Not so, however, with Paul. He was "brought up at the feet of Gamaliel," and was probably the most learned man of his time; certainly the most eloquent. Witness his noble defence before King Agrippa, when Tertullus the orator was brought down from Jerusalem to accuse him. How little did that Tertullus look in the presence of Paul when the apostle spoke in the words of the Holy Ghost; for he had learned his vocabulary from heaven, acquired his dialect from the throne itself, and spoke as one moved by the Holy Ghost: just as was said before by our Lord, so he experienced, "When ye shall be brought before rulers and magistrates for my sake, take no thought before hand what ye shall speak, neither do ye premeditate; but whatsoever shall be given you in that hour, that speak ye; for it is not ye that speak, but the Holy Ghost." Now there is one certain standard for the words which the Holy Ghost teacheth, and that is the recorded oracles which lie before me; concerning which it is said, "to the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them." (Isa. 8:20) So that whatever may be said of systematizing gospel truths, of human teachings, or of the opinions and expositions of great men, which are not to be undervalued, after all we must bring them to this test, "to the word and to the testimony," to those Scriptures that are "able to make wise unto salvation;" and that man is bartering his own soul, as well as deceiving the souls of others, who does not search for "thus saith the Lord" for every sentiment he utters, for every proclamation he makes concerning what is termed the "gospel of the grace of God." (Acts 20:24) Oh! precious book, infallible standard, divine record, unerring vocabulary, descending and inscribed from on high by the immediate influence of the Holy Ghost; "for holy men spake of old as they were moved by the Holy Ghost." (2 Pet. 1:21)
III. We come to the third particular of my subject: the peculiar test to which apostolic preaching is to be brought, "comparing spiritual things with spiritual." And here again I must classify, in order to be brief. The first view I take is the comparing of internal experience with external evidence. We have external evidence of spiritual things in the Bible history, and in the more modern history of the saints, and I must have a Christianity within me that will bear comparison with theirs. I am a perfect convert to the opinion I heard advanced by a very specious person, who, a short time ago, told me he believed that to be orthodox which all "the Churches," in all nations, and at all times, had received. I said, without hesitation, "So do I; but what do you consider a 'Church' to be? If it be only a mass of men; if it be only a conclave of the learned; if it be only wily Pharisees, or parishes of carnal persons, who have adopted certain sentiments, or agreed to unite upon certain principles, I cannot allow that to be a Church of God, under any circumstances. Now all Churches in every age, without a single exception, have always believed the things that are freely given to us of God; consequently I have formed my creed in harmony with them; not from them, or upon their authority, but I rejoice in the testimony that they all agree with me in the precious statement of the book of God in everything essential to salvation. Nay, more; so heartily do I subscribe to what is orthodoxy, that I go back beyond Christianity, to the typical days of the Mosaic economy and to patriarchal times, and if I do not find all my creeds in Abraham's, I will renounce and embrace Abraham's.
And this brings me to my point of "comparing spiritual things with spiritual," as we compare carnal with carnal. Now, all the spiritual things referred to in the testimony of all the saints of God, in every age and place, accord exactly with what passes in my heart and yours day by day. "Comparing spiritual things with spiritual," I understand to mean comparing Scripture with Scripture, so as not to allow one Scripture to be distorted until it contradicts another; so as not to allow the Old and New Testaments to be at variance; so as not to run into the dreadful dilemma which some do, who say, "Oh! that is only the Old Testament; we have nothing to do with that; come to the New Testament." Now if I could believe that the Old and the New Testament disagreed, I should be disposed to think that they set forth a changeable God, and I could not worship Him; but when I find the Old Testament to set forth all the New Testament, and the New Testament to be a beautiful exposition of the Old in the persons and work of Christ, I rejoice to embrace all I find in the precious Word of God; and it is a most delightful employment to me to take Old Testament Scripture and search for New Testament Scripture, and rejoice in their union and agreement; to take Old Testament Scripture that points to the Saviour, and New Testament Scripture which sets forth the fulfilment of prophecy in His person and work on earth. And this is an easy employment.
Then mark, also, that while we compare Scripture with Scripture, so as to bring a harmony before our eyes, so as to see the holy oneness of God throughout, let us compare sermons with Scripture; and this I urge as a duty upon my hearers. Do not receive a sermon, no, not mine, not a sentence in any sermon of mine, unless it accords with this precious book. What I demand in right to others, I readily grant myself. Bring everything, I say, to the word and to the testimony. Nay, I charge you, as you value your souls and your souls' prosperity, that you receive nothing of any man, not the man you love most, or under whose ministry you receive the most profit, except on the authority of the precious Word of God. That would be "comparing spiritual things with spiritual." That would be comparing teaching with tendency. Only this week I read a paper in a periodical about the tendency of the doctrines which we hold dear, and the writer, knowing nothing of God, casts them forth as having very vile tendencies, and among those tendencies (agreeing with the common "Hue and Cry" that the doctrine of grace leads to licentiousness), was this novel one, that the doctrine of the atonement spoken of as Christ spoke of it, "I lay down my life for the sheep," discourages and destroys the hope of an awakened sinner. I could not help exclaiming, "Famous logic this, to be sure." I think I had learned a little before, and I shall be fully prepared to prove it, that the teaching and the tendency would bear comparison when the teaching is in accordance with the Word of God. For we find that the proclamations, such as I have made to you this morning, of the certainties attached to every department of the scheme of grace, meet the sinner in his lowest condition, that they meet him in the consciousness of his own inability; and when he finds out that he is nothing, that he has nothing, and can do nothing, the doctrine I have been stating of the things which are freely given, at once meets his case, and he says, "I need do nothing, for the Saviour has done all for me. I have only to accept, to receive, and appropriate, and those principles which I receive and appropriate will bring forth fruits unto righteousness." I know that it is said by the advocates of the doctrine of contingencies, and overtures, and universal redemption, that we cannot exhort men to repent and pray. And what is the use of exhorting dead men to perform living works? We will do as the apostle did, preaching repentance unto life, and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. But as to exhorting a man who has no faith to put if forward, this seems to be tantalizing his misery, mocking his ruin, and dishonouring God. When we set forth the great doctrine of the atonement as complete and perfect, and read the sacred declaration, "I lay down my life for the sheep," and follow it with the description, "They hear my voice and know it," and then the sacred announcement, "I will give them eternal life, and they shall never perish," (John 10:15,4,28) the poor distressed soul sees his way open immediately, and he says, "I have heard His voice. I am waiting for His word of pardon. Surely I am one of His sheep, and if so I can never perish, for He says He will give me everlasting life." Does not this show that the teaching and tendency agree? Moreover, when the teaching is according to the apostle's standard as represented to Titus, when he says, "The grace of God that bringeth salvation (not offers it) hath appeared unto all men" "in its public proclamation;" it teaches us that the salvation of the ruined sinner is God's own gift, and it teaches us who have received it to "deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, and to live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present evil world."
What think you, then, of the tendency, when you compare spiritual things with spiritual? I give the challenge to all the divines in Christendom, that, if they can bring me a few isolated cases of disreputable and ungodly professors who hold this doctrine but have the grace of God only in their heads and not in their hearts, I will bring ten instances for one of disreputable and ungodly professors from among men who hold the contrary doctrine; proving that when they compare spiritual things with spiritual and the tendency of Divine teaching, they will find that the most blessed fruits are brought from the principles of the everlasting gospel, when clearly exhibited and rightly appropriated. May the eternal God fasten these things on your hearts, and give you the holy habit of comparing spiritual things with spiritual, and His name shall have all the glory. Amen.