by J. J. WEST - Preached on Tuesday evening, April 22nd 1856 at St. Mary Somerset, Upper Thames Street, London
So Paul declared and so, by the grace of the same God, and I trust in the service of the same Master I desire to preach to you tonight and to know nothing among you Londoners "save Jesus Christ and Him crucified." To be a sifter in the pulpit, like the farmer's winnowing machine to separate the chaff from the wheat is what I aim at and to declare from this pulpit top that blessed Name and that sin-cleansing blood by which the blackest sinner in all London may be saved if he be one of the elect. These are plain terms unmistakeable English. But look at the text, it forms a portion only of a verse, but it is a portion big with heaven-born theology I would take it under three or four different heads:
First of all "This Man!" (There is a subject for one sinner to stand up and speak upon to his fellow sinners) "This Man."
Then, Secondly, What we ministers of the gospel are to do in speaking of "This Man" "through this Man is preached unto you" and that word preached is emphatic it is not merely getting up in a pulpit and preaching a sermon that may be a mere form, but it is emphatic "is preached unto you" emphatically and with power.
Thirdly, The great subject which we preach "the forgiveness of sins" "Through this Man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins."
Now, my hearers, the subject before us is that the Apostle determined only to know amongst the church at Corinth. "For I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified." (1 Cor. 2:2) I think I am preaching what the Holy Ghost meant when Paul wrote those words, that it is emphatically "Him crucified" not merely preaching Christ, but to preach Him as the crucified One "Jesus Christ and Him crucified!" As if the Holy Ghost had said to Paul, you are not only to preach Christ, but you are to preach Him to the elect of God, as Christ crucified for them. The dying of the Lord Jesus Christ is the great and glorious subject of every faithful ministry! We have no other, Christ crucified is our subject! I want then to preach Him to you in the wonderful way in which the text sets Him forth "This Man" And here I may read a hymn with profit, I trust, to the hungry people who hear me
"A Man there is, a real Man"
(I read this hymn because it is so applicable to the first point of my subject)
Now, whilst we consider the Christ of the everlasting covenant as "This Man," remember, my hearers, that He now reigns in heaven as God-Man, and pleads before Jehovah's throne His own tremendous sufferings and death in behalf of every sinner for whom He died; so that as in that thrilling statement of John's Epistle "If any may sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous." (1 John 2:1) Look at the mercy, you who know and feel your sins "if any man sin we have an Advocate "but mark the preceding verse "My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not." See how he guards the people of God against sin "The things write I unto you, that ye sin not;" but at the same time John knowing well, as I also know, that there is no perfection in the flesh, adds" And if any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father "We have!" What! All mankind? All? Every one in London? No! But every elect man, any redeemed sinner, any new-born man has an Advocate, and that Advocate is Jesus Christ! But let me ask are there any here tonight who would make me an offender for a word? Who would say that I have given a loophole for sin and opened a door to licentiousness. This is often said of us who preach the truth of the gospel; but because these things are said, and said falsely, we must not therefore blink the truth, nor be deterred from fearlessly declaring "all the counsel of God." We must be bold as lions in the pulpit, being "set for the defence of the gospel." Mark me, it is for the comfort of the really poor sinner to know that there is an Advocate. Who is it that feels the agony of sin? None but such as are new born of the Holy Ghost! Here is the consolation of the gospel to the children of God; they know their sinnership! Sin is their grief and burden, but they have an Advocate with God! And it is a sweet evidence that we have individually an Advocate in heaven when we feel that we have an Advocate in our own hearts, even the Holy Ghost, the Comforter, the Third Person in the ever blessed Trinity. I would give you this as a test by which you may humbly hope that you have an Advocate in Heaven, when you feel the movements of the Spirit of God within you convincing you of your exceeding sinfulness, and working in you that deep repentance which none but God the Holy Ghost can accomplish. Who can convince a sinner that he is a sinner but the Eternal Spirit? The police of London know what sin is externally but no man knows what sin is in the reality of it, in all its length, and depth, and breadth, and height none know what sin and iniquity is in the heart but those who are new born of God, and under the teachings of the Holy Ghost; and hence I know no topic so unctuous, I know no subject so sweet and so soothing to the poor in spirit, and the broken in heart because of sin, as the thought wrought in them by grace, that though sinners, great sinners, they have an Advocate, and that though guilty, the advocacy of the Intercessor shall prevail! What says Paul in Hebrews 7:25, "Wherefore He is able to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them." Now, if we have come to God by "This Man," if we have been made to plead at the throne of grace, that precious blood which cleanses the guiltiest, and washes the foulest, and makes us whiter than snow! If we believe and feel that
O! How great is the grace, how infinite the mercy! I should like to read you (but I have not one with me in the pulpit,) a passage in the Book of Common Prayer, which so emphatically and scripturally sets before us the meaning of "This Man" I refer to that splendid passage in the Athanasian Creed, which so pointedly sets forth the great doctrine of the subject before us the God-Man "This Man." And I insist on this as an article of our Creed, not only as a sound Church of England man, but also on the authority of this Book, the Book of books, the Bible. It is a doctrine which greatly comforts the poor in spirit and the broken in heart. And as the Creed expresses it "It is necessary to everlasting salvation, that he also believe rightly the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ." It is a great, a vast subject. "This Man," the God-Man. God, of the substance of the Father, begotten before the worlds; and Man, of the substance of His mother, born in the world. And again "One Christ" "One not by conversion of the Godhead into flesh, but by taking of the manhood into God." Has the Holy Ghost taught you the meaning of "This Man?" Has the Eternal Spirit burnt into your inmost soul the meaning of that emphatic word in Isaiah 9"Unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given?"
O! Look at Him, of Whom I preach; all is certain; all is unchangeable as to Him! The Child that sat on Mary's knees; He of Whom it was said "Is not this the carpenter's son?" Mark me! No pomp attended His wondrous birth...O, my hearers, there was no room even in the inn at Bethlehem for Him...
"This Man." But what is the experimentalism of this the first point in my text? "This Man"God-Man. It is this, that He is bone of our bone and here I must quote what now flows into my heart
"That human heart He still retains,
And this is scriptural, for it is written "In all our affliction He was afflicted." (Isa. 63:9) And again "For in that He Himself hath suffered being tempted, He is able to succour them that are tempted." (Heb. 2:18) The least thing that befalls the child of God is known to this glorious God-Man, and He sympathizes with His people in all they have to suffer and endure. I have had my trials today weakness and sickness felt and known; but amidst all the noise and bustle of this great city, the sweet thought that Christ knows all, orders all, and overrules all, that "In all our affliction He is afflicted," solaces and cheers the soul. Now, is not this a practical reality as I thus preach "This Man" to you? Some here may say it is Calvinism. I know nothing about Calvinism; I am not to sit at John Calvin's feet and preach Calvin to you, I am to preach Jesus Christ and the gospel to you. "This Man." Now He has suffered being tempted, and there is not a trial, there is not a sorrow, there is not an affliction, not a sigh, nor a tear, that His people experience, but He sees and knows all; He sympathizes with His people, He enters into all our sorrows, He knows them each and all. Can a mother, and does a mother feel for her child. Can she sympathize with her child in all its failings, and make for it allowances through her love? Can she? Does she do so? So, so Christ feels for and pities His dear children in a ten thousand fold degree. My hearers, there is not one exercised soul in this Church tonight who really sighs out of a broken heart and grieves because of the corruption that is in him, but Christ feels for you and will deliver you in His own appointed way and time. Is it that you are tried in circumstances? Exercised about the cares and anxieties of a family? Is it (O, it may be so in this large and wealthy city,) the pinching of poverty and want that harasses and tries you? Is it the burden, the galling load of sin that makes your heart sigh and droop? O, if you are a child of God in Christ, you must, you shall be tried, and exercised, and furnaced. Listen, "When He slew them, then they sought Him." You never seek a Saviour till He slays you. O, there is more meaning, a deeper meaning in "Christ crucified" than merely meets the eye, or the mere carnal heart, I would read you here, before I go on to the other parts of my text, a passage in Ezek. 9:4"And the Lord said unto him, Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof." Mark, the man with the writer's inkhorn by his side. This is not setting up a high doctrinal standard. To do so is very easy, but, my hearers, mark me, it is the sigh and the cry "Go through, go through the midst of the city, and set a mark on those that sigh and cry," and that because of sin. Not on account of mere worldly trouble and trial, the carnal professor may do that. But it is the sigh and cry of deep bitterness from a broken heart; and I cannot conceive a sweeter or a surer test of our discipleship than that experience which the poor sinner knows when he pours forth his soul in brokenness and contrition of spirit to God under a sense of sin. That is the mark from the writer's inkhorn. Is it, my hearers? Is that mark on each of you? Now the grand subject of our preaching is Christ! When Paul was first called by grace, it was said to Ananias "Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto Me, to bear My Name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel: for I will shew him how great things he must suffer for My Name's sake." (Acts 9:15,16) What a sweet description this is of a minister of Christ. It has often been a comfort to me, those words "to bear My Name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel." To bear that NAME in all its unction and its saving power before the people, and to do so faithfully, and instead of looking to this side or the other, whether it will offend parishioners or not, honestly, fearlessly, faithfully, and boldly to preach the truth, and to bear that name before the people, whether it be in my own village in Sussex, or in the midst of such a mass of people as I see here crowded before me now in the center of your own London. I feel that in the pulpit I have one thing to do "whether men will hear, or whether they will forbear," simply to proclaim my Master's message and my Master's Name, remembering as I do His own sovereign word of promise "So shall My Word be that goeth forth out of My mouth: it shall not return unto Me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it." (Isa. 55:11) And on the authority of that Word there is not a man here tonight, no, not one, though dead in sin now, and as lifeless in soul as the pulpit I stand in, but shall be quickened and made alive by the Word that shall prosper, if it be now a time of favour, the set time to accomplish God's work in the soul. O! What a mercy this is!
Now, my hearers, the second point I would speak on is this" Is preached unto you." This is emphatic. It is not the mere fact of standing in the pulpit and preaching a sermon that exemplifies these words "Is preached unto you." That may be all mere form. The Pope does that, the Arminians do that. But those words "Through THIS MAN is preached unto you," means more than that! The command is "Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature." (Mark 16:15) Yes, "to every creature." To all London? If the whole population of all London could be assembled in this church, my commission is "preach the Gospel to every creature." The blessing must be from above according to those sweet words which some of us used to sing in days by-gone at St. Augustines.
"Through this Man is preached unto you." Now the preaching of the Gospel can never fail of God's purpose. He means something by it tonight. There is a purpose in it. The reality of the subject before me is the preaching Jesus Christ, "This Man," with power. Look again at that Scripture "My word shall not return unto Me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it." I can conceive nothing more animating to the minister who really loves his office, than having that promise continually on his heart, as he occupies a pulpit and stands before the people as I do now. I would read you another great Scripture bearing on the same point. "Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of His knowledge by us in every place." "The savour of His knowledge by us in every place." How encouraging this! And to recollect that when this pulpit is vacant, and these pews are empty, and the church cleared, and you all scattered, some here and others there, that the savour remains; so that when you go to business tomorrow, immersed in your commerce or your trade, or when the devil may set in hard upon you with temptations and with snares, the savour of the everlasting Gospel may be the very blessing of your souls. But mark me well, my hearers, in the faithfully preached Gospel there are two "savours." Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of His knowledge by us in every place. For we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish: to the one we are the savour of death unto death; and to the other the savour of life unto life. And who is sufficient for these things? For we are not as many, which corrupt the word of God: but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ." "Who is sufficient for these things?" (2 Cor. 2:14-16) Who indeed? And yet if my Master only vouchsafe to make me "acceptable to my brethren," and if He "dip my foot in oil," I am sufficient tonight through the power of the preached Gospel to accomplish His own determined purposes. To pluck (it may be) some sinner here as a brand out of the fire some penitent thief, some Zaccheus up in a sycamore tree, some woman of Samaria at the well, and by the power of the preached word to speak peace, and to proclaim to them salvation through Christ for ever. Herein is the blessedness of preaching the Gospel proclaiming "This Man." "For we are not as many, which corrupt the word of God: but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ." (2 Cor. 2:17) It must be a full Gospel, a free grace Gospel. "The truth as it is in Jesus." Now, "Through this Man is preached unto you. But who only can make a minister? Who can commission the preacher of the Gospel? The Holy Ghost, and the Holy Ghost only. Hear His own sovereign command "Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them." (Acts 13:2) And when a man has been so separated he is clear in truth and doctrine as the sun at noonday heigh this preaching shall be "This Man" he shall declare the truth. How shall they hear without a preacher, and how shall they preach except they be sent?" (Rom. 10:14,15)
And now I come to the other part of my text "The forgiveness of sins" "Through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins." This is the end of all preaching, the proclamation through the blood of Christ of pardon. Pardon of all sin. Sin in thought, word, and deed. Is not that a wonderful statement in Numbers 23:21: "He hath not beheld iniquity in Jacob, neither hath he seen perverseness in Israel: the Lord his God is with him, and the shout of a king is among them." And also in Jeremiah 50:20: "In those days, and at that time, saith the Lord, the iniquity of Israel shall be sought for, and there shall be none; and the sins of Judah, and they shall not be found: for I will pardon them whom I reserve." O, the mercy! That that God who sees every thing and knows every thing, whose eye pierces through the darkness of the midnight gloom, sees no iniquity in His own children! He will not see it, and yet the child of God is full of sin, but it is all blotted out, all hid. What said David? And who was a greater sinner than he? "Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile." (Ps. 32:1,2) How striking is the language of Job "I have sinned; what shall I do unto Thee, O thou preserver of men? Why hast Thou set me as a mark against thee, so that I am a burden to myself? And why dost Thou not pardon my transgression, and take away mine iniquity? For now shall I sleep in the dust; and Thou shalt seek me in the morning, but I shall not be." (Job 7:20,21) See how he argues, (as it were) with God under a feeling sense of sin. Again, Jeremiah 15:18: "Why is my pain perpetual, and my wound incurable, which refuseth to be healed? Wilt Thou be altogether unto me as a liar, as waters fail?" How he felt the reality of his sin and iniquity. And here is the exercise of the Christian, a feeling sense of sin, the conflict of the two natures. Paul declared in Romans 7:22: "For I delight in the law of God after the inward man." And so does every real Christian; but see Romans 7:23: "But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members." Here is the conflict, here is the struggle.
We are about to celebrate peace with Russia; and this is a great national mercy, and the Christian man may glean something from this subject. The Government is about to celebrate peace, and a great blessing it is that the war is over war, which is always hateful and detestable. But let me point you to a better peace than that of Europe "He is our peace" Christ Himself. And yet my hearers, not one of you can appreciate the blessings of that peace unless you have been in that tremendous conflict, war and battle, which is between flesh and Spirit. I cannot preach you a sweeter test of discipleship, a surer criterion that God loves you than the fact that you are tried under a sense of your own sin "The flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. Is there no poor sinner here who can verify the reality of that? It has been well and truly said on those words, that we may take them in a double sense, namely, 'that ye cannot do the things that you would do naturally, and that ye cannot do the things that you would do spiritually.' O! How often would the Christian when tempted fall into sin were it not for the Spirit's power, that powerful check-string that pulls us back from evil, and leads us to exclaim under a variety of manifold temptations "How shall I do this great wickedness and sin against God?" (Gen. 39:9) And on the other hand, neither can we often do the things that we would spiritually because of the flesh and sin! O, we would be always in the enjoyment of His presence, we would always have sweet access to His mercy-seat, and never know the wretchedness of darkness, nor of sin, but the Christian's path is one of trial, a chequered scene of joy and sorrow, light and darkness, strugglings between "the flesh and the Spirit." "I will go and return to My place, till they acknowledge their offence, and seek My face: in their affliction they will seek Me early. (Hos. 5:15) Come and let us return unto the Lord; for He that torn, and He will heal us; He hath smitten, and He will bind us up. After two days He will revive us: in the third day He will raise us up, and we shall live in His sight. Then shall we know, we follow on to know the Lord: His going forth is prepared as the morning; and He shall come unto us as the rain, as the latter and former rain unto the earth." (Hos. 6:1-3)
Now, in that word in Hosea, the Lord declares that He "will go and return unto His place," that He will hide His face from His people "till they acknowledge their offences." Here is the confession of sin, and I wish to bring this experimentally and practically before you. "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins." (1 John 1:9) 'There' (says the Arminian) 'if you confess;' and so he would make confession a merit, and that man must do something to effect his salvation, but I deny this! It is a heresy! There are no conditions ,not one, no 'ifs' at all. We confess our sins; we feel our sins because we are pardoned; we confess our transgressions because we are forgiven. Confession of sin, then, I take to be a sweet test of our adoption. The sins of the elect have been from everlasting pardoned and blotted out, but it is an experimental reality of that everlasting pardon for and in ourselves that the redeemed sinner wants and longs for "He hath torn and He will heal, He hath smitten and He will bind us up." (Hos. 6:1) Who is it that wants the surgeon? Is it not the wounded one in hospital? Why were those Italians the other day carried to the hospital? Had they not been stabbed in Rupert Street? They needed the surgeons there; and so God will bind up His poor wounded ones; He will heal the torn and the wounded, and bind up the smitten ones! It is a broken heart and a wounded spirit that draws us on through grace and makes us follow after the Redeemer! "We follow on to know the Lord." It is written of Christ, that "being in an agony He prayed more earnestly;" and when we are agonized, we pray and serve God with the most reality.
Now this is the message God has given me tonight "Through this Man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins." Mark me! It is justification "from all things" from the greatest and also from the least sins, if I may speak of little sins I know of no such thing as "a little sin" for "sin is the transgression of the law," (1 John 3:4) and the "blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin." And here let me state, and if there be any legalists before me, while I would speak tenderly, I would also speak firmly, that there is no justification by the law or the works of the law! "Be it known unto you therefore, men, brethren, that through this Man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins: and by Him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses." (Acts 13:39) And again, "Being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus." (Rom. 3:24) Now, I proclaim then to every poor, repenting, weary, heavy laden sinner a free grace pardon
The repenting sinner may come to Jesus. You heard it read in the Desk "The people are hungry, and weary, and thirsty in the wilderness." These are sweet tests of discipleship "hungry, weary, and thirsty in the wilderness." If you do not feel your need of forgiveness, you will never repent of sin; and if you repent, really so, it is a sure evidence of your eternal predestination in Christ to everlasting life. Repentance is one of the means God employs to draw you to Himself "Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish;" (Luke 13:3,5) but repentance does not save you; faith does not save you, good works do not save you, salvation is in, by, and through Christ alone! The Ten Commandments cannot save. I delight to read them every Sunday in our service, because they set forth the necessity of Christ; they demand a perfect obedience, and proclaim death to all who do not fulfil them; he that offends in one point is guilty of all. (James 2:10) Hence the condemnation and sentence by the law. Like Lord Campbell, when assuming the black cap, he passes the sentence of death on the criminal found guilty, and the criminal must die unless the reprieve comes from the Home office. O! Listen to me, you who have and know "the sentence of death in yourselves", here the only reprieve for the guilty and condemned "Because I live, ye shall live also." (John 14:19) Come, then, ye poor condemned ones, look at, and to Christ alone.
Time now fails me; it is beyond the hour; but one word, and that on the work of the Holy Ghost! This is much in our day needed preaching the personality, and work, and office of the Holy Spirit. It will give offence to men! I believe we may preach election to all the people in London, and scarcely offend any, but when we insist on the inward work of the Third Person in the ever blessed Trinity, opposition is raised up immediately. This stirs up the enmity of the natural man, the bitter enmity of the mere carnal professor. But we insist upon it, and we proclaim it from our pulpit tops "It is the Spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profited nothing, the words that I speak unto you, are spirit, and are life." (John 6:63) And also, that "it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure." (Phil. 2:13)
Now, my hearers, I leave this great subject amongst you. I have declared as God hath taught me, the Truth, I hope from this pulpit. May the Truth tend to His glory, and the comfort of every poor, needy sinner before me, even that consolation which cometh from God alone.
I leave the message quite sure that it shall accomplish the purposes of God! "Through this Man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins."
May God bless the gospel through Jesus Christ. Amen.