Justification by Grace
by J. J. WEST - Preached on Sunday morning, July 13th 1856
We have several great and blessed realities embodied in this one verse of the Bible, the address of the elder pastor to his junior in the ministry, the earnest and the affectionate exhortation, the brotherly conference (if I may so term it) between the elder Paul and Titus his own son in the faith. And while in the short time usually set apart to preaching sermons, there will not be near time enough for me to grasp all the variety of subjects engrafted in this blessed Word; and while I can only give you, my hearers, from the pulpit what my Master gives me to declare, I desire to set before you two or three great and glorious doctrines which this text contains.
And first of all the grand doctrine of "JUSTIFICATION BY GRACE" "that being justified by HIS GRACE!" Now here is the fundamental doctrine of the gospel of the grace of God here is the statement by the Apostle Paul of that grand and glorious scheme which was arranged before all worlds and according to Church of England doctrine, and according to Bible doctrine, I have today, from this pulpit-top, to sound forth to you the great reality of a sinner's Justification from all his sin, from all his depravity, from all and everything that is base and bad and vile and hell-deserving in him, and to declare that justification is by the grace and mercy of the Triune Jehovah, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost.
Now, in preaching in a strange church, and coming amongst you in the midst of this congregation as a stranger, I must preach to all sorts and conditions of men before me. I know nothing of your state I know nothing of your condition before God, while at the same time I see several of my own occasional hearers in London to whom these doctrines are very precious, and I pray that this great subject may be made a means of edification a real blessing to many.
In setting forth before you the great and grand doctrine of a sinner's Justification by Grace, I have no occasion, surely, to waste a moment of my pulpit time in insisting on the fundamental doctrine of original of birth sin that we are all, each of us, a hell-deserving sinner. Bear with my plain speaking. Unmistakable English is always best in the pulpit. Now, my hearers, we are all guilty sinners we are all, each one of us "born in sin," and "shapen in iniquity" (Ps. 51:5) neither have we any will of our own to turn to God. That is our Article! The truth which the Church of England insists on in our Article.
Now, my hearers, mark me! Is it not then a mercy, is it not enough to melt and subdue the hard heart of sinful man, when Grace acts upon it, that before all worlds, yea, before time began, Jehovah arranged and decreed the salvation of His Church, according to that master-statement of the Apostle to the Ephesians "According as He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4) (mark the date) before the foundation of the world" "that we should be holy and without blame before Him; (there is where I venture to put the stop) "In love having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, wherein He hath made us accepted in the beloved." (Eph. 1:6) I say, mark the time! The period "Before the foundation of the world" as Kent sweetly says:
O! See the love that God has for His people. The love He has always had; the love He ever will have for them. It is ever the same! And now, today, at this moment, it is the same as ever, and He feels it for each individual of His "own elect" amidst the masses of this your own populous city! And as it was His eternal purpose to save all such, and to secure them in Christ according to covenant ordering and covenant settlement before all worlds, so now on the ground of His own everlasting love He knows each and cares for each, and loves each, and having elected and picked out each, will teach each, and keep each, and preserve each safe for His own everlasting kingdom.
He gave them to Jesus Christ, and Jesus Christ to them and He decreed and covenanted that they should each be redeemed and ransomed on Calvary's top by His precious blood from the curse and damnation of the fall. And is not this a great, yea, a grand subject for one like me, your fellow-sinner, to stand up on this pulpit before you, and to declare before you each and all, that, "Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved." (Acts 4:12) But I want you to mark the words and I want you to keep close to this Scripture, "Being justified by His grace." I purposely pause over that and I ask you to contemplate with me the great, the vast subject which is wrapped up in these words, Being justified by His Grace." Now what do we get out of this? Allow me to read you a portion of the context which precedes the text. It is so humbling, it is so blessed, it is so gracious! And remember that in this, Paul is speaking of himself and his brother Apostle Titus" For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another. But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; which He shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; that being justified by His grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life." There was the once condition of the Apostles Paul and Titus" Foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures." O! What a wretch is sinful man! But see what sovereign grace does! Mark the turning point! "But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; which He shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour." And why all this? Why such kindness and love to Paul and Titus? Because! Because! They were both eternally justified by grace! It was on this ground that "kindness and love" appeared with power to them. There was no merit in them. "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost." The kindness of God in Christ, and the love of God in Christ, when it flows into a broken heart proves the doctrine of personal justification! It is to justified sinners only that these appear love and kindness. None others know these things. It is not the will of God to save all London, but those only who are "His own Elect" in Christ, and none of these can ever perish! "That being justified by His grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life." What is the meaning of grace! Those children in your schools ought to be able to answer that it means Free favour! But mark me! The word means more than this. It means salvation without creature merit, or creature deserving, or creature doing. It signifies unconditional favour. "That being justified by His grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life."
I have thus set before you the doctrine of my text, and if there be any Arminians here I defy them to deny or gainsay what I have preached. It is not, I know, according to their creed, but the doctrines of the established Church, and the doctrines of the Bible are, the doctrines of election, particular redemption, and absolute conversion by the Holy Ghost, as you heard your minister read in the desk, "which were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God!" (John 1:13) Christianity does not run in families! A godly father cannot ensure a godly child! Your House of Peers is hereditary! The peer's son, if spared in life, inherits his father's coronet! The dukes son, if he outlives his father, will be a duke in time. Not so in the royal family of God. Had David a gracious child in Absalom? O! How great was David's trial, and O! How real was David's cry "O! Absalom, my son, my son!" But O! What a mercy if you, if I, can get at our own personal interest if we can have a well grounded hope that we are saved in Christ redeemed by His precious blood. Salvation is in Christ alone, out of Christ there is no Saviour. Thus I have set before you the doctrine in the text. "That being justified by His grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life."
I would now go to the experimental portion of it. What is this experience? There is a striking passage in the Epistle to the Galatians, and I would now call on you, as I continually do on my home hearers in Sussex, to contemplate the grammar of the Bible. The Apostle says "Because ye are sons!" May I get your attention here! "Because ye are sons." The force of that present tense is this, because you have been sons from all eternity. Can you ever get on the other side of the present tense? Go back to the most distant period and the word remains the same "Because ye are sons" (that is), have been so from all eternity. Therefore "God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father." (Gal. 4:6) My hearers, when I look at these pews, when I throw my eyes here, and there, and into the galleries, and amongst those school children, what a striking fact it seems, what a tremendous subject that unto every son and daughter of God at "the set time" of favour the Holy Ghost shall be given "Because ye are sons." That is the reason, and the only reason. It is not because you may be moral men, or good men, or respectable men. (That is Arminianism and Popery!) Not because you may have been yourselves a little more respectable than other people; not because you have a high character in your parish and amongst your acquaintances, but, mark me! Because you are a son of God! And have been so from all eternity! Therefore, He sends the "Spirit of His Son into your hearts." Morality cannot save a man. A moral conduct does not admit a man to the secrets of the Gospel. There is no man in England will preach a moral conduct more strongly than I, but I say there is no merit in it for a sinner's salvation: The Blood of Christ alone can save a man, and nothing else. Every Christian man will desire to be a moral man, but it does not follow that every moral man is a Christian man! Take that home with you, and may you think about it when you are alone. It has been beautifully said
But now to each of you who are poor in spirit and broken in heart may I be enabled to say a word. Having been everlastingly justified, you shall be made "heirs according to the hope of eternal life." Made so experimentally in time. Heirs by expectation. Brought by Divine teaching within the family circle. Brought like the poor prodigal in the 15th chapter of Luke brought away, it may be, from a vicious and sinful course of life back to your Father's home. How did God work with the prodigal? Do you know your Bible? You remember the account of the prodigal, that he was as bad as bad could be, that he went into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living. But there was One watching over him all the time, an eye that saw him still and how was that prodigal taught? How was he disciplined? We read, that he was brought to want." "And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want." Then it was, when destitute and in want," that at the appointed time he was turned back and longed for the paternal home he was brought to want, in want of every thing! And then it was with a breaking, and an aching heart he exclaims "I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, and am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants." But mark! "When he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him." O! What love! O! What mercy! Look at the difference between the elder son and the father, in reference to this poor destitute repenting sinner. Surely in those words, "I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, and am no more worthy to be called thy son;" we have a sweet evidential test that the repenting prodigal was then brought to hope that he was an "heir" "an heir according to the hope of eternal life!" And as I am now preaching in this pulpit, occupying it for the first time, and now (in one sense), here "drawing a bow at a venture," let me solemnly ask each one before me, whether you know anything in your souls of being "made an heir" of God in heaven? Have you ever been exercised about it? Have you felt the Spirit working in your heart? What did you only just now profess to believe in the Creed at the Communion Table? "I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and giver of Life." Has He given you life? Is this life in you? You profess to believe the Gospel Augustus Toplady says, (he who was in days gone by such a bright star in the Church of England), in one of his short but pithy sentences "profession is not possession." "That being justified by His grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life." Now are you made an heir? Do you feel as you sit in these pews before me that you are an heir of God through Jesus Christ" Made an heir according to the hope of eternal life?" Or do you know nothing about it? It has been the cry of my soul in anticipation of coming here today to be made an ambassador of God amongst you. You heard in the desk that remarkable verse, quite applicable to the point I am preaching on "To them gave He power to become sons of God." (John 1:12) Have you had power given you to become a son of God? Do you love your Father? Do you desire to obey your Father? I renounce the doctrine of works (let the Papists and the Arminians have that, and the whole host of heretics.) But mark me! The desire of every saved sinner is, when new born by grace, to glorify God in word, in conversation, and in walk, as Mr. Hart says:
"That being justified by His grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life." Now, my hearers, can anything go lower down as a test to the poor broken-hearted believer? And all God's people are poor in spirit and broken in heart. It is not holding the high Calvinistic doctrines that decides the Christianity of a man. But I think I may give you this as one of the sweetest tests of sonship that you can say, "I am poor and needy," that you want everything from Him, that you are nothing, and have nothing, and can do nothing, and that you say in the words of that sweet hymn:
You must bring nothing in your hand. Allow me to give you one other verse:
(Now listen to me!)
So said Augustus Toplady. Would that we had a thousand Topladys in the Church of England now. I trust that there are many here of whose state I know nothing, who will echo back what I preach to you, when I say, that, if you can get no higher up in the scale of evidence that a well grounded hope in your soul, it is a blessed test that God has saved you with the salvation that is in Himself. But, my hearers, bear with me while I insist upon a well grounded hope as an evidential test that there are two hopes spoken of in this Book. What would you say of Sir Alexander Cockburn, the attorney general, gifted as he is in eloquence, and learned as he is in the law, if he made a mistake if he mistook a point in pleading before a jury? And what would you say of me a servant in a higher office, if I did not faithfully discriminate before you, and tell you that there are two hopes in the Bible? And there are also two repentances, and two faiths in the Bible. And in anticipation of a dying hour (for I must die, and you must die) I must leave this church today pure from the blood of every one of you, I must declare, without fear of man the gospel and the truth of God. As I was reading this morning, in the house of a friend, Paul says, "If I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ. (Gal. 1:10) Now, I say, there are two hopes in the Bible, two faiths, and two repentances in the Bible but I will simply confine myself to the two hopes. The hope of the hypocrite, we are told, shall perish. You will not deny that. And then there is the hope spoken of by Paul, in the Epistle to the Romans "The hope which maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us." (Rom. 5:5) That is a true hope, a saving hope! But let me read you a passage that has often been blessed in my own soul, and turned me, as it were, inside out Let me read you this in the book of Job "For what is the hope of the hypocrite, though he hath gained, when God taketh away his soul? Will God hear his cry when trouble cometh upon him? Will he delight himself in the Almighty? Will he always call upon God?" (Job 27:8-10) Listen to me, my hearers "What is the hope of the hypocrite, though he hath gained" gained what? It may be a name among men (a hypocrite may in that sense gain much) he may be popular in his generation He may be considered a great man, and eloquent man, a moral man but (O! Solemn question!) "What is the hope of the hypocrite, though he hath gained, when God taketh away his soul?" When you and I come to die, what will support us in a dying hour but a hope well founded in Christ's blood? Nothing else. And then look at the rest of the passage I have quoted, and say if it is not a word in season for the poor in spirit and the broken in heart? Of the hypocrite it is asked, "will he always call upon God?" But the poor saved sinner would be instant ever in prayer
Some of the most earnest, heaven-penetrating prayers are, I believe, breathed out to God when the tongue is still and utters not a word. A good man (now I believe in glory) once said on earth "Prayer is the breath of God in man."
There are also two faiths and two repentances recorded in the Bible one true! One false! Did not Iscariot repent? Listen to Scripture, "when he saw that he was condemned, repented himself;" and what was the end of that repentance? "he went and hanged himself." Now "ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him." But Peter repented! Did he go and hang himself? O! No; his was a "godly sorrow" "he went out and wept bitterly." Now, my hearers, as a sifter in this pulpit, I hope I have drawn the line of demarcation, so that you may in your consciences distinguish between truth and error! If there be one here who would make me an offender for a word, if there be one who has come to spy out the nakedness of the land do not misunderstand me do not misrepresent what I say I tell you distinctly, and may it be blessed to your soul that eternal life is the gift of God that it is in and through Jesus Christ alone you may hate me now for what I am preaching, but O! If it be blessed, blessed to you, how precious will the truth become. O! The mercy of having been raised to a hope in the soul, and to hope only in and on Jesus! We knew nothing of this when in "our blood" in nature's darkness. But what a sweet test it is to have a hope within us that we "are now made heirs according to the hope of eternal life." To be exercised about our state is an evidence. To understand the meaning of "work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure" (Phil. 2:12,13) is a token, a sure one that we have had the work begun in us. What are we to understand by the word's "work out your own salvation?" Have we anything to do with it? It is in fact, get at your evidences! See whether God has redeemed you? Plucked you as a brand from the fire! And this you can only ascertain by the Spirit's work within "The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: and if children then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with Him, that we may be also glorified together." (Rom. 8:16,17)
But time fails me, and I have too much text! I dare not however leave off preaching without speaking on these words in the text "Eternal life?" Christ Himself thus defines it in John 17:3, "This is life eternal, that they might know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent." You are not to wait for it in heaven. If you have it not here, you will be disappointed hereafter. You must have it now. The Apostle John says "He that hath the Son hath life; he that hath not the Son of God hath not life." (1 John 5:12) Now, my hearers, bear with me while I read you another passage upon the words "eternal life" "he that believeth on the Son hath Everlasting Life" (John 3:36)(here I insist upon the grammar again; not "shall have it," but "hath it") "and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him." A solemn sentence that is "he that believeth on the Son have Everlasting Life!" "Hath it" now. How interesting was the appeal of Christ to His apostles "will ye also go away?" And the reply of Peter, "Lord, to whom shall we go?" "Then Simon Peter answered Him, Lord, to who shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that Thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God." Now Christ is Himself our life! Nearness to Him felt union with Him is life everlasting now! "This is life eternal, that they might know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent." Is this everlasting life known, felt, enjoyed in and by you? "And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He that hath the Son hath life; he that hath not the Son of God hath not life." Bear with me while I give you one criterion test that this life is your's that it is in you that you are also in Christ Jesus! A feeling sense of your own sinfulness, and that in one sense death is on everything else, and that you would live here as the tenant of a moment "looking unto Jesus."
The sun that now so brightly shines bedims and hides the little stars which twinkle so in midnight darkness, and now we see them not, because of the overpowering brightness of the sun; so I repeat it, so
Do you grasp the meaning? Do you understand me! O! Does your heart know what I am preaching? Then, bless God, for it is a sign of grace!
Thus have I gone through my subject. So much is contained in the text that it is impossible to fully preach it all, but if the Master has been with us, if the Living God has really blessed the Word if He has put a desire in your hearts to know your own personal interest in these great things embodied in the text, what a blessed day this will be and when we remember that we must each die, and that either heaven or hell is the eternal portion of each, O! How blessed if we feel the text applied to ourselves with power! "That being justified by His grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life." Is there one man here who has come to this church from mere curiosity? Is there one Zaccheus in the sycamore tree now in St. Clement Danes? Is there a woman of Samaria here now at the well? Or is there (as it were) a dying thief hanging on the cross? Are there any such? It is my mercy to have had the Gospel so burnt into my heart that I can, and may, and will preach salvation to the very worst of men! Tell them that it is all in Christ that sinners are justified in His blood by grace, and that if they can trace the work of grace within them, if with a "new heart" given, they do really repent and hate sin; that the salvation which saves is a salvation without conditions, and I tell you from this pulpit top, "that the blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanseth us from all sin! Do you remember that sweet passage in the Book of Numbers "He hath not beheld iniquity in Jacob, neither hath He seen perverseness in Israel." (Num. 23:21) Jacob was as bad, and so was Israel, as others, but God would not see their sins! And again "In those days, and in 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." (Jer. 50:20) Mark! The word "For I will pardon them whom I reserve!" Even "the remnant according to grace." (Rom. 11:5) And so it is even now, it is so in London now, amidst this vast city there is an elect family! A remnant saved in Christ and justified by grace. Who these are we cannot tell! For ought I know every man and every woman in this church may be "elect," and many of those school children yonder may be elect; but while I say this, I say also that if you are elect you shall, you must have the evidential test of it. You will be brought into a new state, brought out of nature's darkness, out of the world, and have all things new. You will be made to know and to say "For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh." (Phil. 3:3) Is there one here, bowed down by conscience and under a sense of sin, afraid that you are too bad to be saved by Grace? Can you say, or rather have you a longing to say, "I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee?" Can you say that? And so you feel what you say? Then there is the best robe for you, the ring, the shoes! Yea! The fatted calf, the kiss of pardon, and of love. Let me, my hearers, now in all pastoral earnestness and affection read my text. I would read it in prayer that it may be blessed to our souls, and if many of us never meet again on earth after this day's services are over, may the POWER OF THE GOSPEL, (which I, "in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling," have preached amongst you,) abide in you, and with you; may Paul's comfort be your comfort and my comfort may Titus's consolation by your consolation "That being justified by His grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life."
May God command a blessing on the Gospel! Amen.