Sinners In The Hands of an Angry God – Jonathan Edwards

Sinners in the Hands of
An Angry God
by Jonathan Edwards

Preached at Enfield, July 8th, 1741, at a time of great awakenings;
and attended with remarkable impressions on many of the hearers.

Deuteronomy 32:35
“Their foot shall slide in due time.”

In this verse is threatened the vengeance of God on the wicked unbelieving Israelites, who were God’s visible people, and who lived under the means of grace; but who, notwithstanding all God’s wonderful works towards them, remained (as verse 28) void of counsel, having no understanding in them. Under all the cultivations of heaven, they brought forth bitter and poisonous fruit; as in the two verses next preceding the text. –The expression I have chosen for my text, Their foot shall slide in due time, seems to imply the following things, relating to the punishment and destruction to which these wicked Israelites were exposed.

1. That they were always exposed to destruction; as one that stands or walks in slippery places is always exposed to fall. This is implied in the manner of their destruction coming upon them, being represented by their foot sliding. The same is expressed, Psalm 73:18. “Surely thou didst set them in slippery places; thou castedst them down into destruction.”

2. It implies, that they were always exposed to sudden unexpected destruction. As he that walks in slippery places is every moment liable to fall, he cannot foresee one moment whether he shall stand or fall the next; and when he does fall, he falls at once without warning: Which is also expressed in Psalm 73:18, 19. “Surely thou didst set them in slippery places; thou castedst them down into destruction: How are they brought into desolation as in a moment!”

3. Another thing implied is, that they are liable to fall of themselves, without being thrown down by the hand of another; as he that stands or walks on slippery ground needs nothing but his own weight to throw him down.

4. That the reason why they are not fallen already, and do not fall now, is only that God’s appointed time is not come. For it is said, that when that due time, or appointed time comes, their foot shall slide. Then they shall be left to fall, as they are inclined by their own weight. God will not hold them up in these slippery places any longer, but will let them go; and then, at that very instant, they shall fall into destruction; as he that stands on such slippery declining ground, on the edge of a pit, he cannot stand alone, when he is let go he immediately falls and is lost.

The observation from the words that I would not insist upon is this. –“There is nothing that keeps wicked men at any one moment out of hell, but the mere pleasure of God”. –By the mere pleasure of God, I mean his sovereign pleasure, his arbitrary will, restrained by no obligation, hindered by no manner of difficulty, any more than if nothing else but God’s mere will had in the least degree, or in any respect whatsoever, any hand in the preservation of wicked men one moment. –The truth of this observation may appear by the following considerations.

1. There is no want of power in God to cast wicked men into hell at any moment. Men’s hands cannot be strong when God rises up. The strongest have no power to resist him, nor can any deliver out of his hands. –He is not only able to cast wicked men into hell, but he can most easily do it. Sometimes an earthly prince meets with a great deal of difficulty to subdue a rebel, who has found means to fortify himself, and has made himself strong by the numbers of his followers. But it is not so with God. There is no fortress that is any defence from the power of God. Though hand join in hand, and vast multitudes of God’s enemies combine and associate themselves, they are easily broken in pieces. They are as great heaps of light chaff before the whirlwind; or large quantities of dry stubble before devouring flames. We find it easy to tread on and crush a worm that we see crawling on the earth; so it is easy for us to cut or singe a slender thread that any thing hangs by: thus easy is it for God, when he pleases, to cast his enemies down to hell. What are we, that we should think to stand before him, at whose rebuke the earth trembles, and before whom the rocks are thrown down?

2. They deserve to be cast into hell; so that divine justice never stands in the way, it makes no objection against God’s using his power at any moment to destroy them. Yea, on the contrary, justice calls aloud for an infinite punishment of their sins. Divine justice says of the tree that brings forth such grapes of Sodom, “Cut it down, why cumbereth it the ground?” (Luke 13:7). The sword of divine justice is every moment brandished over their heads, and it is nothing but the hand of arbitrary mercy, and God’s mere will, that holds it back.

3. They are already under a sentence of condemnation to hell. They do not only justly deserve to be cast down thither, but the sentence of the law of God, that eternal and immutable rule of righteousness that God has fixed between him and mankind, is gone out against them, and stands against them; so that they are bound over already to hell. “He that believeth not is condemned already” (John 3:18). So that every unconverted man properly belongs to hell; that is his place; from thence he is. “Ye are from beneath” (John 8:23). And thither he is bound; it is the place that justice, and God’s word, and the sentence of his unchangeable law assign to him.

4. They are now the objects of that very same anger and wrath of God, that is expressed in the torments of hell. And the reason why they do not go down to hell at each moment, is not because God, in whose power they are, is not then very angry with them; as he is with many miserable creatures now tormented in hell, who there feel and bear the fierceness of his wrath. Yea, God is a great deal more angry with great numbers that are now on earth: yea, doubtless, with many that are now in this congregation, who it may be are at ease, than he is with many of those who are now in the flames of hell. –So that it is not because God is unmindful of their wickedness, and does not resent it, that he does not let loose his hand and cut them off. God is not altogether such an one as themselves, though they may imagine him to be so. The wrath of God burns against them, their damnation does not slumber; the pit is prepared, the fire is made ready, the furnace is now hot, ready to receive them; the flames do now rage and glow. The glittering sword is whet, and held over them, and the pit hath opened its mouth under them.

5. The devil stands ready to fall upon them, and seize them as his own, at what moment God shall permit him. They belong to him; he has their souls in his possession, and under his dominion. The Scripture represents them as his goods (Luke 11:12). The devils watch them; they are ever by them at their right hand; they stand waiting for them, like greedy hungry lions that see their prey, and expect to have it, but are for the present kept back. If God should withdraw his hand, by which they are restrained, they would in one moment fly upon their poor souls. The old serpent is gaping for them; hell opens its mouth wide to receive them; and if God should permit it, they would be hastily swallowed up and lost.

6. There are in the souls of wicked men those hellish principles reigning, that would presently kindle and flame out into hell fire, if it were not for God’s restraints. There is laid in the very nature of carnal men, a foundation for the torments of hell. There are those corrupt principles, in reigning power in them, and in full possession of them, that are seeds of hell fire. These principles are active and powerful, exceeding violent in their nature, and if it were not for the restraining hand of God upon them, they would soon break out, they would flame out after the same manner as the same corruptions, the same enmity does in the hearts of damned souls, and would beget the same torments as they do in them. The souls of the wicked are in Scripture compared to the troubled sea (Is. 57:20). For the present, God restrains their wickedness by his mighty power, as he does the raging waves of the troubled sea, saying, “Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further;” but if God should withdraw that restraining power, it would soon carry all before it. Sin is the ruin and misery of the soul; it is destructive in its nature; and if God should leave it without restraint, there would need nothing else to make the soul perfectly miserable. The corruption of the heart of man is immoderate and boundless in its fury; and while wicked men live here, it is like fire pent up by God’s restraints, whereas if it were let loose, it would set on fire the course of nature; and as the heart is now a sink of sin, so if sin was not restrained, it would immediately turn the soul into a fiery oven, or a furnace of fire and brimstone.

7. It is no security to wicked men for one moment, that there are no visible means of death at hand. It is no security to a natural man, that he is now in health, and that he does not see which way he should now immediately go out of the world by any accident, and that there is no visible danger in any respect in his circumstances. The manifold and continual experience of the world in all ages, shows this is no evidence, that a man is not on the very brink of eternity, and that the next step will not be into another world. The unseen, unthought-of ways and means of persons going suddenly out of the world are innumerable and inconceivable. Unconverted men walk over the pit of hell on a rotten covering, and there are innumerable places in this covering so weak that they will not bear their weight, and these places are not seen. The arrows of death fly unseen at noonday; the sharpest sight cannot discern them. God has so many different unsearchable ways of taking wicked men out of the world and sending them to hell, that there is nothing to make it appear, that God had need to be at the expense of a miracle, or go out of the ordinary course of his providence, to destroy any wicked man, at any moment. All the means that there are of sinners going out of the world, are so in God’s hands, and so universally and absolutely subject to his power and determination, that it does not depend at all the less on the mere will of God, whether sinners shall at any moment go to hell, than if means were never made use of, or at all concerned in the case.

8. Natural men’s prudence and care to preserve their own lives, or the care of others to preserve them, do not secure them a moment. To this, divine providence and universal experience do also bear testimony. There is this clear evidence that men’s own wisdom is no security to them from death; that if it were otherwise we should see some difference between the wise and politic men of the world, and others, with regard to their liableness to early and unexpected death: but how is it in fact? “How dieth the wise man? even as the fool” (Eccl. 2:16).

9. All wicked men’s pains and contrivance which they use to escape hell, while they continue to reject Christ, and so remain wicked men, do not secure them from hell one moment. Almost every natural man that hears of hell, flatters himself that he shall escape it; he depends upon himself for his own security; he flatters himself in what he has done, in what he is now doing, or what he intends to do. Every one lays out matters in his own mind how he shall avoid damnation, and flatters himself that he contrives well for himself, and that his schemes will not fail. They hear indeed that there are but few saved, and that the greater part of men that have died heretofore are gone to hell; but each one imagines that he lays out matters better for his own escape than others have done. He does not intend to come to that place of torment; he says within himself, that he intends to take effectual care, and to order matters so for himself as not to fail.

But the foolish children of men miserably delude themselves in their own schemes, and in confidence in their own strength and wisdom; they trust to nothing but a shadow. The greater part of those who heretofore have lived under the same means of grace, and are now dead, are undoubtedly gone to hell; and it was not because they were not as wise as those who are now alive: it is not because they did not lay out matters as well for themselves to secure their own escape. If we could speak with them, and inquire of them, one by one, whether they expected, when alive, and when they used to hear about hell, ever to be the subjects of that misery: we doubtless, should hear one and another reply, “No, I never intended to come here: I had laid out matters otherwise in my mind; I thought I should contrive well for myself: I thought my scheme good. I intended to take effectual care; but it came upon me unexpected; I did not look for it at that time, and in that manner; it came as a thief: Death outwitted me: God’s wrath was too quick for me. Oh, my cursed foolishness! I was flattering myself, and pleasing myself with vain dreams of what I would do hereafter; and when I was saying, Peace and safety, then suddenly destruction came upon me.”

10. God has laid himself under no obligation, by any promise to keep any natural man out of hell one moment. God certainly has made no promises either of eternal life, or of any deliverance or preservation from eternal death, but what are contained in the covenant of grace, the promises that are given in Christ, in whom all the promises are yea and amen. But surely they have no interest in the promises of the covenant of grace who are not the children of the covenant, who do not believe in any of the promises, and have no interest in the Mediator of the covenant.

So that, whatever some have imagined and pretended about promises made to natural men’s earnest seeking and knocking, it is plain and manifest, that whatever pains a natural man takes in religion, whatever prayers he makes, till he believes in Christ, God is under no manner of obligation to keep him a moment from eternal destruction.

So that, thus it is that natural men are held in the hand of God, over the pit of hell; they have deserved the fiery pit, and are already sentenced to it; and God is dreadfully provoked, his anger is as great towards them as to those that are actually suffering the executions of the fierceness of his wrath in hell, and they have done nothing in the least to appease or abate that anger, neither is God in the least bound by any promise to hold them up one moment; the devil is waiting for them, hell is gaping for them, the flames gather and flash about them, and would fain lay hold on them, and swallow them up; the fire bent up in their own hearts is struggling to break out: and they have no interest in any Mediator, there are no means within reach that can be any security to them. In short, they have no refuge, nothing to take hold of; all that preserves them every moment is the mere arbitrary will, and uncovenanted, unobliged forbearance of an incensed God.

The use of this awful subject may be for awakening unconverted persons in this congregation. This that you have heard is the case of every one of you that are out of Christ. –That world of misery, that lake of burning brimstone, is extended abroad under you. There is the dreadful pit of the glowing flames of the wrath of God; there is hell’s wide gaping mouth open; and you have nothing to stand upon, nor any thing to take hold of; there is nothing between you and hell but the air; it is only the power and mere pleasure of God that holds you up.

You probably are not sensible of this; you find you are kept out of hell, but do not see the hand of God in it; but look at other things, as the goodstate of your bodily constitution, your care of your own life, and the means you use for your own preservation. But indeed these things are nothing; if God should withdraw his hand, they would avail no more to keep you from falling, than the thin air to hold up a person that is suspended in it.

Your wickedness makes you as it were heavy as lead, and to tend downwards with great weight and pressure towards hell; and if God should let you go, you would immediately sink and swiftly descend and plunge into the bottomless gulf, and your healthy constitution, and your own care and prudence, and best contrivance, and all your righteousness, would have no more influence to uphold you and keep you out of hell, than a spider’s web would have to stop a fallen rock. Were it not for the sovereign pleasure of God, the earth would not bear you one moment; for you are a burden to it; the creation groans with you; the creature is made subject to the bondage of your corruption, not willingly; the sun does not willingly shine upon you to give you light to serve sin and Satan; the earth does not willingly yield her increase to satisfy your lusts; nor is it willingly a stage for your wickedness to be acted upon; the air does not willingly serve you for breath to maintain the flame of life in your vitals, while you spend your life in the service of God’s enemies. God’s creatures are good, and were made for men to serve God with, and do not willingly subserve to any other purpose, and groan when they are abused to purposes so directly contrary to their nature and end. And the world would spew you out, were it not for the sovereign hand of him who hath subjected it in hope. There are black clouds of God’s wrath now hanging directly over your heads, full of the dreadful storm, and big with thunder; and were it not for the restraining hand of God, it would immediately burst forth upon you. The sovereign pleasure of God, for the present, stays his rough wind; otherwise it would come with fury, and your destruction would come like a whirlwind, and you would be like the chaff of the summer threshing floor.

The wrath of God is like great waters that are damned for the present; they increase more and more, and rise higher and higher, till an outlet is given; and the longer the stream is stopped, the more rapid and mighty is its course, when once it is let loose. It is true, that judgment against your evil works has not been executed hitherto; the floods of God’s vengeance have been withheld; but your guilt in the mean time is constantly increasing, and you are every day treasuring up more wrath; the waters are constantly rising, and waxing more and more mighty; and there is nothing but the mere pleasure of God, that holds the waters back, that are unwilling to be stopped, and press hard to go forward. If God should only withdraw his hand from the flood-gate, it would immediately fly open, and the fiery floods of the fierceness and wrath of God, would rush forth with inconceivable fury, and would come upon you with omnipotent power; and if your strength were ten thousand times greater than it is, yea, ten thousand times greater than the strength of the stoutest, sturdiest devil in hell, it would be nothing to withstand or endure it.

The bow of God’s wrath is bent, and the arrow made ready on the string, and justice bends the arrow at your heart, and strains the bow, and it is nothing but the mere pleasure of God, and that of an angry God, without any promise or obligation at all, that keeps the arrow one moment from being made drunk with your blood. Thus all you that never passed under a great change of heart, by the mighty power of the Spirit of God upon your souls; all you that were never born again, and made new creatures, and raised from being dead in sin, to a state of new, and before altogether unexperienced light and life, are in the hands of an angry God. However you may have reformed your life in many things, and may have had religious affections, and may keep up a form of religion in your families and closets, and in the house of God, it is nothing but his mere pleasure that keeps you from being this moment swallowed up in everlasting destruction. However unconvinced you may now be of the truth of what you hear, by and by you will be fully convinced of it. Those that are gone from being in the like circumstances with you, see that it was so with them; for destruction came suddenly upon most of them; when they expected nothing of it, and while they were saying, Peace and safety: now they see, that those things on which they depended for peace and safety, were nothing but thin air and empty shadows.

The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider, or some loathsome insect over the fire, abhors you, and is dreadfully provoked: his wrath towards you burns like fire; he looks upon you as worthy of nothing else, but to be cast into the fire; he is of purer eyes than to bear to have you in his sight; you are ten thousand times more abominable in his eyes, than the most hateful venomous serpent is in ours. You have offended him infinitely more than ever a stubborn rebel did his prince; and yet it is nothing but his hand that holds you from falling into the fire every moment. It is to be ascribed to nothing else, that you did not go to hell the last night; that you were suffered to awake again in this world, after you closed your eyes to sleep. And there is no other reason to be given, why you have not dropped into hell since you arose in the morning, but that God’s hand has held you up. There is no other reason to be given why you have not gone to hell, since you have sat here in the house of God, provoking his pure eyes by your sinful wicked manner of attending his solemn worship. Yea, there is nothing else that is to be given as a reason why you do not this very moment drop down into hell.

O sinner! Consider the fearful danger you are in: it is a great furnace of wrath, a wide and bottomless pit, full of the fire of wrath, that you are held over in the hand of that God, whose wrath is provoked and incensed as much against you, as against many of the damned in hell. You hang by a slender thread, with the flames of divine wrath flashing about it, and ready every moment to singe it, and burn it asunder; and you have no interest in any Mediator, and nothing to lay hold of to save yourself, nothing to keep off the flames of wrath, nothing of your own, nothing that you ever have done, nothing that you can do, to induce God to spare you one moment. –And consider here more particularly,

1. Whose wrath it is: it is the wrath of the infinite God. If it were only the wrath of man, though it were of the most potent prince, it would be comparatively little to be regarded. The wrath of kings is very much dreaded, especially of absolute monarchs, who have the possessions and lives of their subjects wholly in their power, to be disposed of at their mere will. “The fear of a king is as the roaring of a lion: Whoso provoketh him to anger, sinneth against his own soul” (Prov. 20:2). The subject that very much enrages an arbitrary prince, is liable to suffer the most extreme torments that human art can invent, or human power can inflict. But the greatest earthly potentates in their greatest majesty and strength, and when clothed in their greatest terrors, are but feeble, despicable worms of the dust, in comparison of the great and almighty Creator and King of heaven and earth. It is but little that they can do, when most enraged, and when they have exerted the utmost of their fury. All the kings of the earth, before God, are as grasshoppers; they are nothing, and less than nothing: both their love and their hatred is to be despised. The wrath of the great King of kings, is as much more terrible than theirs, as his majesty is greater. “And I say unto you, my friends, Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that, have no more that they can do. But I will forewarn you whom you shall fear: fear him, which after he hath killed, hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him” (Luke 12:4, 5).

2. It is the fierceness of his wrath that you are exposed to. We often read of the fury of God; as in Isaiah 59:18 “According to their deeds, accordingly he will repay fury to his adversaries.” So Isaiah 66:15 “For behold, the Lord will come with fire, and with his chariots like a whirlwind, to render his anger with fury, and his rebuke with flames of fire.” And in many other places. So, we read of “the wine press of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God” (Rev. 19:15). The words are exceeding terrible. If it had only been said, “the wrath of God,” the words would have implied that which is infinitely dreadful: but it is “the fierceness and wrath of God.” The fury of God! the fierceness of Jehovah! Oh, how dreadful must that be! Who can utter or conceive what such expressions carry in them! But it is also “the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.” As though there would be a very great manifestation of his almighty power in what the fierceness of his wrath should inflict, as though omnipotence should be as it were enraged, and exerted, as men are wont to exert their strength in the fierceness of their wrath. Oh! then, what will be the consequence! What will become of the poor worms that shall suffer it! Whose hands can be strong? And whose heart can endure? To what a dreadful, inexpressible, inconceivable depth of misery must the poor creature be sunk who shall be the subject of this!

Consider this, you that are here present, that yet remain in an unregenerate state. That God will execute the fierceness of his anger, implies, that he will inflict wrath without any pity. When God beholds the ineffable extremity of your case, and sees your torment to be so vastly disproportioned to your strength, and sees how your poor soul is crushed, and sinks down, as it were, into an infinite gloom; he will have no compassion upon you, he will not forbear the executions of his wrath, or in the least lighten his hand; there shall be no moderation or mercy, nor will God then at all stay his rough wind; he will have no regard to your welfare, nor be at all careful lest you should suffer too much in any other sense, than only that you shall not suffer beyond what strict justice requires. Nothing shall be withheld, because it is so hard for you to bear. “Therefore will I also deal in fury: mine eye shall not spare, neither will I have pity; and though they cry in mine ears with a loud voice, yet I will not hear them” (Ezek. 8:18). Now God stands ready to pity you; this is a day of mercy; you may cry now with some encouragement of obtaining mercy. But when once the day of mercy is past, your most lamentable and dolorous cries and shrieks will be in vain; you will be wholly lost and thrown away of God, as to any regard to your welfare. God will have no other use to put you to, but to suffer misery; you shall be continued in being to no other end; for you will be a vessel of wrath fitted to destruction; and there will be no other use of this vessel, but to be filled full of wrath. God will be so far from pitying you when you cry to him, that it is said he will only “laugh and mock” (Prov. 1:25, 26, etc.).

How awful are those words which are the words of the great God. “I will tread them in mine anger, and will trample them in my fury, and their blood shall be sprinkled upon my garments, and I will stain all my raiment” (Is. 63:3). It is perhaps impossible to conceive of words that carry in them greater manifestations of these three things, viz. contempt, and hatred, and fierceness of indignation. If you cry to God to pity you, he will be so far from pitying you in your doleful case, or showing you the least regard or favour, that instead of that, he will only tread you under foot. And though he will know that you cannot bear the weight of omnipotence treading upon you, yet he will not regard that, but he will crush you under his feet without mercy; he will crush out your blood, and make it fly, and it shall be sprinkled on his garments, so as to stain all his raiment. He will not only hate you, but he will have you, in the utmost contempt: no place shall be thought fit for you, but under his feet to be trodden down as the mire of the streets.

3. The misery you are exposed to is that which God will inflict to that end, that he might show what that wrath of Jehovah is. God hath had it on his heart to show to angels and men, both how excellent his love is, and also how terrible his wrath is. Sometimes earthly kings have a mind to show how terrible their wrath is, by the extreme punishments they would execute on those that would provoke them. Nebuchadnezzar, that mighty and haughty monarch of the Chaldean empire, was willing to show his wrath when enraged with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego; and accordingly gave orders that the burning fiery furnace should be heated seven times hotter than it was before; doubtless, it was raised to the utmost degree of fierceness that human art could raise it. But the great God is also willing to show his wrath, and magnify his awful majesty and mighty power in the extreme sufferings of his enemies. “What if God, willing to show his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction?” (Ro. 9:22). And seeing this is his design, and what he has determined, even to show how terrible the unrestrained wrath, the fury and fierceness of Jehovah is, he will do it to effect. There will be something accomplished and brought to pass that will be dreadful with a witness. Then the great and angry God hath risen up and executed his awful vengeance on the poor sinner, and the wretch is actually suffering the infinite weight and power of his indignation, then will God call upon the whole universe to behold that awful majesty and mighty power that is to be seen in it. “And the people shall be as the burnings of lime, as thorns cut up shall they be burnt in the fire. Hear ye that are far off, what I have done; and ye that are near, acknowledge my might. The sinners in Zion are afraid; fearfulness hath surprised the hypocrites…” (Is. 33:12-14).

Thus it will be with you that are in an unconverted state, if you continue in it; the infinite might, and majesty, and terribleness of the omnipotent God shall be magnified upon you, in the ineffable strength of your torments. You shall be tormented in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb; and when you shall be in this state of suffering, the glorious inhabitants of heaven shall go forth and look on the awful spectacle, that they may see what the wrath and fierceness of the Almighty is; and when they have seen it, they will fall down and adore that great power and majesty. “And it shall come to pass, that from one new moon to another, and from one sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before me, saith the Lord. And they shall go forth and look upon the carcasses of the men that have transgressed against me; for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched, and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh” (Is. 66:23, 24).

4. It is everlasting wrath. It would be dreadful to suffer this fierceness and wrath of Almighty God one moment; but you must suffer it to all eternity. There will be no end to this exquisite horrible misery. When you look forward, you shall see a long for ever, a boundless duration before you, which will swallow up your thoughts, and amaze your soul; and you will absolutely despair of ever having any deliverance, any end, any mitigation, any rest at all. You will know certainly that you must wear out long ages, millions of millions of ages, in wrestling and conflicting with this almighty merciless vengeance; and then when you have so done, when so many ages have actually been spent by you in this manner, you will know that all is but a point to what remains. So that your punishment will indeed be infinite. Oh, who can express what the state of a soul in such circumstances is! All that we can possibly say about it, gives but a very feeble, faint representation of it; it is inexpressible and inconceivable: For “who knows the power of God’s anger?”

How dreadful is the state of those that are daily and hourly in the danger of this great wrath and infinite misery! But this is the dismal case of every soul in this congregation that has not been born again, however moral and strict, sober and religious, they may otherwise be. Oh that you would consider it, whether you be young or old! There is reason to think, that there are many in this congregation now hearing this discourse, that will actually be the subjects of this very misery to all eternity. We know not who they are, or in what seats they sit, or what thoughts they now have. It may be they are now at ease, and hear all these things without much disturbance, and are now flattering themselves that they are not the persons, promising themselves that they shall escape. If we knew that there was one person, and but one, in the whole congregation, that was to be the subject of this misery, what an awful thing would it be to think of! If we knew who it was, what an awful sight would it be to see such a person! How might all the rest of the congregation lift up a lamentable and bitter cry over him! But, alas! instead of one, how many is it likely will remember this discourse in hell? And it would be a wonder, if some that are now present should not be in hell in a very short time, even before this year is out. And it would be no wonder if some persons, that now sit here, in some seats of this meeting house, in health, quiet and secure, should be there before tomorrow morning. Those of you that finally continue in a natural condition, that shall keep out of hell longest will be there in a little time! your damnation does not slumber; it will come swiftly, and, in all probability, very suddenly upon many of you. You have reason to wonder that you are not already in hell. It is doubtless the case of some whom you have seen and known, that never deserved hell more than you, and that heretofore appeared as likely to have been now alive as you. Their case is past all hope; they are crying in extreme misery and perfect despair; but here you are in the land of the living and in the house of God, and have an opportunity to obtain salvation. What would not those poor damned hopeless souls give for one day’s opportunity such as you now enjoy!

And now you have an extraordinary opportunity, a day wherein Christ has thrown the door of mercy wide open, and stands in calling and crying with a loud voice to poor sinners; a day wherein many are flocking to him, and pressing into the kingdom of God. Many are daily coming from the east, west, north and south; many that were very lately in the same miserable condition that you are in, are now in a happy state, with their hearts filled with love to him who has loved them, and washed them from their sins in his own blood, and rejoicing in hope of the glory of God. How awful is it to be left behind at such a day! To see so many others feasting, while you are pining and perishing! To see so many rejoicing and singing for joy of heart, while you have cause to mourn for sorrow of heart, and howl for vexation of spirit! How can you rest one moment in such a condition? Are not your souls as precious as the souls of the people at Suffield, where they are flocking from day to day to Christ?

Are there not many here who have lived long in the world, and are not to this day born again? and so are aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and have done nothing ever since they have lived, but treasure up wrath against the day of wrath? Oh, sirs, your case, in an especial manner, is extremely dangerous. Your guilt and hardness of heart is extremely great. Do you not see how generally persons of your years are passed over and left, in the present remarkable and wonderful dispensation of God’s mercy? You have need to consider yourselves, and awake thoroughly out of sleep. You cannot bear the fierceness and wrath of the infinite God. –And you, young men, and young women, will you neglect this precious season which you now enjoy, when so many others of your age are renouncing all youthful vanities, and flocking to Christ? You especially have now an extraordinary opportunity; but if you neglect it, it will soon be with you as with those persons who spent all the precious days of youth in sin, and are now come to such a dreadful pass in blindness and hardness. –And you, children, who are unconverted, do not you know that you are going down to hell, to bear the dreadful wrath of that God, who is now angry with you every day and every night? Will you be content to be the children of the devil, when so many other children in the land are converted, and are become the holy and happy children of the King of kings?

And let every one that is yet out of Christ, and hanging over the pit of hell, whether they be old men and women, or middle aged, or young people, or little children, now hearken to the loud calls of God’s word and providence. This acceptable year of the Lord, a day of such great favours to some, will doubtless be a day of as remarkable vengeance to others. Men’s hearts harden, and their guilt increases apace at such a day as this, if they neglect their souls; and never was there so great danger of such persons being given up to hardness of heart and blindness of mind. God seems now to be hastily gathering in his elect in all parts of the land; and probably the greater part of adult persons that ever shall be saved, will be brought in now in a little time, and that it will be as it was on the great outpouring of the Spirit upon the Jews in the apostles’ days; the election will obtain, and the rest will be blinded. If this should be the case with you, you will eternally curse this day, and will curse the day that ever you were born, to see such a season of the pouring out of God’s Spirit, and will wish that you had died and gone to hell before you had seen it. Now undoubtedly it is, as it was in the days of John the Baptist, the axe is in an extraordinary manner laid at the root of the trees, that every tree which brings not forth good fruit, may be hewn down and cast into the fire.

Therefore, let every one that is out of Christ, now awake and fly from the wrath to come. The wrath of Almighty God is now undoubtedly hanging over a great part of this congregation: Let every one fly out of Sodom: “Haste and escape for your lives, look not behind you, escape to the mountain, lest you be consumed.”

HT: 21st Century Puritanism

Jehovah’s Witnesses Are Asking… What Must I Do To Be Saved?

The Watchtower Says
“Yes, believing in Jesus is crucial to our salvation, but more is needed.” (The Watchtower; 9/15/89;p.6)

If you were to ask the Watchtower “What must I do to be saved?”, what would the answer be? This is no small question for it deals with the very heart of the gospel message. The Watchtower has identified several essentials that are the basis for God’s favorable judgement of you. Let’s look at what they have said. Is the Watchtower gospel truly “good news” or is it a false gospel?

Watchtower Says Works Are Essential
“What things are involved in getting “saved”? (Acts 16:30) The prime requirement is: “Believe on the Lord Jesus and you will get saved.” (Acts 16:31) This involves taking in accurate knowledge of God’s purposes and his way of salvation. Then faith has to be exercised in Jesus Christ as the Chief Agent of salvation. (John 3:16; Titus 2:14) This places the Christian in a saved condition, but he must now persevere in doing God’s will and continue to adhere to all of God’s requirements for the rest of his life. Only then will he be saved to eternal life. (Matthew 24:13)” (The Watchtower; 12/15/1989; p.30)

“He speaks of these [other] sheep as righteous. Not that they are at present justified by God for their faith to be acceptable for sacrifice with Christ in his death; but that they, in faith, have taken the right attitude toward Jehovah’s King and have acted right toward the King’s brothers and have joined with them in keeping God’s righteous commandments.” (This Means Everlasting Life, 1950; p.242)

The Remnant Is Key
“The other sheep come to the help of these [remnant], not just for indiscriminate, charitable, humanitarian reasons, but because they are the King’s ambassadors and preach the good news of everlasting life by God’s kingdom. In this way they do their good deeds indirectly to the King. This is the basis upon which the King’s favorable judgement rests.” (This Means Everlasting Life, 1950; p.243)

“The goats as well as the sheep work out their destiny by the way in which they treat the remnant of the King’s brothers, the remnant of the 144,000 spiritual Israelites. The reason why one’s treatment of the remnant determines one’s destiny is that the remnant have been anointed with Jehovah’s spirit in these last days and are in line for a place on the heavenly throne with the King. Mistreatment of the remnant brings the greatest punishment, for it is an overt assault against the kingdom.” (You May Survive Armageddon Into God’s New World, 1955; p.190)

“The Jehonadab “sheep” are gathered to the right hand of the King Jesus Christ, because of the loving way in which they treat the anointed remnant of Christ’s brothers.” (Let Your Name Be Sanctified, 1961; p.358)

“Why are these sheeplike ones invited to “inherit the kingdom prepared for [them] from the founding of the world? The King tells them that it is because they did good to his “brothers” and thereby did it to him. By the expression “brothers,” the King means the remnant of his spiritual brothers still on earth in this conclusion of the system of things.” (The Watchtower, 9/1/1989; p.20)

“So, then, let all continue to zealously support the faithful and discreet slave. It is only by doing this that someday very soon all sheeplike ones will be able to hear these happy words: ‘Come, you who have been blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the founding of the world.'” (The Watchtower; 5/1/1993; p.21)

Deliberate Action Critical
“When we take into consideration Bible prophecies that apply at the time of Christ’s presence, along with Jesus’ parable of the sheep and the goats, what do we see? This: It is not a case of unknowingly and by chance doing good to one of the King’s spiritual brothers that makes a person a sheep with a righteous standing before God and his King. Those of the sheep class know what they are doing, even though they do not see the reigning King with their literal eyes.” (The Watchtower; 5/1/1993; pp. 20)

Jehovah God Speaks
“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast.” (Eph 2:8-9, NASB)

Jehovah God’s Answer – Grace
Jehovah God has spoken. The basis of God’s favorable judgement of anyone, including you, is contained in one word – grace. Grace is unmerited favor. It is favor which may not, cannot, and will not be based in any way on works of merit. Whether those works are performed by men of their own inherent goodness (as some believe is possible) or in concert with God’s empowerment (as others hold), they can never merit unmerited favor.

An Illustration
To mix grace and works is akin to saying “I will buy that free car from you and I’ll pay you top dollar for it.” You cannot pay for a free car. If you do then it is no longer free. Similarly, you cannot merit unmerited favor. If you do merit it, it is no longer unmerited. (Rom 11:6)

Grace Excludes “Works Gospel”
The Watchtower gospel is a system of works. Its gospel is not founded in God’s grace. It is a false gospel. Grace by its own definition excludes all works of any kind. Salvation is not a gift based on your works, not a gift with a view to your works, and not a reward for your works. It has absolutely nothing to do with works and everything to do with God. Truly, salvation is of the Lord.
“For we maintain that man is justified by faith apart from works of the law.” (Romans 3:28, NASB)

“Works Gospel” Rejected By Jehovah God
The gospel of God’s grace is one of the most God-honoring doctrines ever. To corrupt the gospel of grace with works is to destroy the gospel itself. It is a fatal error. God clearly condemned “works gospels” in the book of Galatians. Listen to the Lord’s rebuke of those who wanted to mix grace and works.
“I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you, and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even though we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to that which you received, let him be accursed.” (Gal 1:6-9, NASB)

“Righteous” Works A False Hope
Dear friend, real hope is not found in the Watchtower organization. The “faithful and discreet slave” cannot save you. Your good works cannot save you – they are filthy rags in God’s sight. Your meeting attendance, door-to-door work, and Watchtower studies do not gain you acceptance in God’s sight. Concerning “righteous” works Jehovah God has said:

“For we also were once foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another. But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that being justified by His grace we might be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” (Titus 3:3-7, NASB)

Receive The Gospel Of God’s Grace
Perhaps you can see that your hopes of salvation from God have been based on a false “works gospel”. Reject that futile, false gospel and receive the true gospel of God’s grace in Christ.

“If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved; for with the heart man believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.” (Romans 10:9-10, NASB)

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “But the righteous man shall live by faith.” (Romans 1:16-17, NASB)

“Now to the one who works, his wage is not reckoned as a favor, but as what is due. But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness,…” (Romans 4:4-5, NASB)

Christ’s Righteousness the Believer’s Comfort – Robert Traill

Christ’s Righteousness the Believer’s Comfort,

a sermon on Galatians 2:21 by Robert Traill (1642-1716)

“If righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.” — Gal. 2:21.

The most sacred things revealed to us in the word of God are these two — the grace of God, and the death of Christ; and they are joined close together. They are two things that all who have a mind to be saved must constantly have in their eye — the grace of God, and the death of Christ; and yet there are not a few that despise both — that frustrate the one, and make the other in vain; and this charge the apostle lays upon an error that he is reproving the Galatian churches for, and that was, their seeking righteousness by the law, and the works of it. I have spoken unto these words, as containing two strong arguments against seeking of righteousness by the works of the law.

1st, That thereby the grace of God is frustrated.

2dly, That thereby Christ’s death is made to be in vain; as far as the wickedness of man can do the one or the other.

Upon this second argument I was the last time, and spoke something to four notes that I drew from it; two of them negatives, and two of them positives.

1st, That there is no righteousness, for the justifying a sinner, that can come by the law. Never man got to heaven by the law: never a man got to heaven by his own good doings. All go to hell for their own evil doings; but no man, since sin came into the world, ever went to heaven by his own good doings. That I proved.

2dly, The other negative contained here is, That Christ hath not died in vain: for the apostle doth certainly imply that he did not die in vain, when he brings a charge against the sin of seeking righteousness by the law, as inferring so horrible an absurdity; for he is pointing forth the heinousness of this sin in very dreadful colours, on purpose to make it hated.

The two positive truths contained here are these: —

1. If there was any righteousness that could come by the law, Christ’s death would be in vain. Christ had died in vain, if any man could have stood accepted before God without the virtue of his death. The virtue of Christ’s death was of efficacy for the rendering men accepted before God, even before he came into the world. The fathers, that died before Christ came, were saved by the same faith that believers on Christ were saved by, after he came. So saith the apostle, “But we believe, that through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, we shall be saved, even as they,” (Acts 15:11); comparing the Old Testament and the New Testament dispensation together.

2. The second positive was this, That making Christ’s death to be in vain was a great and horrible sin. I told you it was impossible to make it vain really, or to hinder any of its excellent fruits. As no man could hinder the solid causes of it, so no man can hinder the strong fruit of it: the fruit of the death of Christ is quite out of the reach of men or devils. When our Lord was in his humbled state, the devil could, upon permission, carry his body up to the pinnacle of the temple; but he had no power to hurt him. When he was in this world, one wicked disciple betrayed him, and the rest cowardly forsook him; his enemies prevailed against him in the hour and power of darkness, and took away his life; but for the fruit and virtue of his death, that is lodged higher than man can reach: yet men may make Christ’s death to be in vain,

1st, To themselves. A poor creature that hath not faith in Christ, gets no more good of him than if Christ had never died, or if Christ’s death had been in vain; than if he had never died, or had died to no purpose.

2dly, God will always reckon with men according to their design in sinning. All sin is a breaking of God’s law; but yet God’s law will not be broken, but will break all the breakers of it. Sin is counted and charged as a dishonouring of God; and yet the Lord’s honour is advanced in the ruin of the sinner.


I proceed now to shew you the dreadfulness of this sin, of doing any thing that hath a tendency to the making Christ’s death to be in vain. I would, 1st, bring a charge against this sin in its just measures; and, 2dly, come to the application, and shew how common a sin this is. It is a great sin to make Christ’s death in vain, in the way wherein it is practicable, and in that sense that the apostle here means.

1st, Let us consider God. Whensoever we are to take the just measure of any sin, we are to take it with respect to God. This is the grand accusation against all sin, that it is against God. When David is confessing, with deep remorse, his vile sins of adultery and murder, which were sins against his neighbour, “Against thee, thee only, have I sinned,” saith he, “and done this evil in thy sight,” (Psalm 51:4). Now, let us consider what this sin doth with respect to God: and here we must take up some account of God, according to the gospel revelation of him; for as Jesus Christ is not revealed by the law, so neither is the sin of rendering his death to be in vain, brought up on charges by the law as it is by the revealing of God’s nature in the gospel. It is a sin against God the Father, and against God the Son, and against God the Holy Ghost.

To make this sin appear in its greatness, first, it is against God the Father wofully. The greatest contrivance that ever the infinitely wise God had, for the glory of his name, was the working out of eternal redemption, by the death of his own Son, for a company of lost sinners. This is the chief of the ways of God: all things revealed of him, and of his counsel, and of his purpose, and of his actions, are all but low in regard of this; all others are subservient to this act of Divine Providence: this is the chief of the ways of God. Let us see what treasures of his glory are concerned therein.

1. There is infinite wisdom in contriving a way that the understanding of angels and men could not find out, and when it is revealed it cannot be fully known. It is said concerning the angels, that they “desire to pry into those things:” into those things that the Spirit reveals, “concerning the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow,” (1 Pet. 1:11,12). Now, if the glorified angels in heaven be students of Jesus Christ, and of the glory of his sufferings, and of the glory that was the fruit thereof, how much more should men do so! There is a “manifold wisdom of God” that shines therein, and is perceived by and made known to them, “To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places, might be made known, by the church, the manifold wisdom of God, according to his eternal purpose, which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord;” (Eph. 3:10). Now, where the wisdom of God is so much concerned, judge you what a provocation it must needs be, when foolish man does all that may be to defeat this wisdom. “Christ as crucified,” is called “the wisdom of God and power of God;” but unto poor ignorant man he is foolishness and weakness, (1 Cor. 1:23, 24).

2. In this way of saving us by the death of Christ, there is the great grace and mercy of God that he would magnify. Now, what a great sin must it be to count all this in vain? “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but should have everlasting life,” (John 3:16). “God commendeth his love to us, in that whilst we were yet sinners, Christ died for us,” (Rom. 5:8). And shall this love be so far despised, as that a man shall endeavour to make it be in vain?

3. This is a contrivance, also, for the magnifying the holy law of God. The Lord is so zealous for his law, that he will part with it for no man’s sake. He will not reduce an hair’s breath of the rigour of his law for the saving of the world; but he hath found out a way to give the law all its due, and yet to give the poor sinner all that he needs. This is astonishing: the law gets all the righteousness it demands, and the sinner gets all the justification he needs: the law shall be honoured, and justice shall be satisfied, and the sinner shall be saved, and not destroyed: “God is just, and, the justifier of him that believes in Jesus Christ,” (Rom. 3:26).

2dly, This sin is also magnified, as it is against God the Son. Let us consider what Christ’s death was: it was the greatest concernment of a divine person. It was a great deal better to say, all the martyrs died in vain: it were a far less sin to say, as the ungodly world doth, “That they threw away their lives, with their folly and rigidity, when they might have saved them with a word, or a bow, or a cringe, to the idols of the nations.” It were a great sin to say so. You know how the apostle increases the gravity of this as a great absurdity, as to the doctrine of the resurrection: “Then they also that are fallen asleep in Christ are perished,” (1 Cor. 15:18). But that was a small matter, in regard of making Christ’s death to be in vain, which was a special concern of a divine person. The blood shed was the “blood of God,” (Acts 20:28). And can God’s Mood be shed in vain? It was the lowest step, and the crowning act of Christ’s sufferings: all that went before would not serve. The low estate he was born in, and the manifold afflictions he lived in; his being seized on in the night with soldiers, and lanterns, as a thief; his being bound, his being scourged, his being nailed to the cross in torment — this will not be in vain. The crowning and saving act of our Lord Jesus Christ was his dying. It was also the grand pledge of our Lord’s love, the great display, the great proof of his love to his people. “He loved his church, and gave himself for it,” (Eph. 5:25) “He loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood,” (Rev. 1:5). “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friend,” that is, “A greater testimony of love than this can no man give, than to part with his life for them that he loves,” (John 15:13). Now, judge you what a great sin it must needs be for a man to lay an imputation of vanity, and unprofitableness, on this great pledge of the love of our Lord Jesus Christ, to say he died in vain?

3dly, This sin of charging Christ’s death to be in vain, is a sin against the Holy Ghost; it is sinning against the Holy Ghost. We find concerning the Holy Ghost, that he prepared that body that our Lord lived in, and died in; he was conceived of the Holy Ghost, (Matt. 1:20). Next, Christ was anointed by the Spirit without measure, which was our Lord’s text at Nazareth: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor,” (Luke 4:18): “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me.” The Holy Ghost did assist him, and witness to him, in his death and at his resurrection. And therefore, when Stephen was preaching Christ to Christ’s murderers, he increases the gravity their sin by this, “Ye stiff-necked, and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye.” Especially, this sin is greatest when the Holy Ghost is convicting men, by the law, of their vileness; and convincing men, by the gospel, of the relief that is offered by Christ Jesus; and a great many struggle against the Spirit of God in both these cases. It is a long while before the sinner yields to the conviction of the Spirit, that all things are faulty within, and that there is nothing right in them; and it is as long, many times, before they yield to the Holy Ghost, in venturing their souls on Christ as a sufficient Saviour. — And thus you see how this sin is increased, as being against God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost. But to come a little lower.

This sin of making Christ’s death to be in vain, is a dreadful sin against others also. It is a sin against sinners, and against believers also. It is so far a sin against others, that every unbeliever, every stubborn refuser of life and salvation by Christ’s death, doth, in a manner, teach all others to run on in the same way of destruction that he takes: — He that saith Christ died in vain, doth in a manner cut the throats of the whole world; for all that are saved, must be saved by the virtue of his death. It is also a great sin against believers. The apostle add weight to this in the case of scandal; and the scandal that the apostle there speaks of, was in the un-tender use of Christian liberty. You sin against Christ, and then you also “cause your weak brother to perish, for whom Christ died,” (1 Cor. 8:11, 12). The word perish there, might well have been rendered in another English word that is less offensive: “Through thy knowledge shall the weak brother perish,” or rather, ‘stumble and fall,’ for whom Christ died, for when you sin so against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ.” Now, the thing that I am driving at is this; if the apostle thus brings charges against the indiscriminate use of Christian liberty, without a due regard to the weakness of other Christians, that may be overthrown and hurt thereby, how much more must this sin be indicted, of endeavouring to make Christ’s death to be in vain? For,

1. This strikes at the foundation of the Christian’s faith; for if a man hath any faith at all, it must be built on Christ’s death; that you will make no question of: that faith which is not built on a dying Christ, is but a perilous dream: God awaken all from it that are in it! When the apostle is placing the foundation of his confidence, in that song of triumph, (Rom 8:33,34), the very first word of it is, “Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? it is Christ that died.”

2. This sin strikes against the foundation of all the Christian’s peace and comfort. Not only is the believer’s state secured by his faith in Jesus Christ; but his quiet, and the calm of his conscience, are maintained also the same way. If the virtue of the death of Christ be taken away, all the joy of believers goes with it; for it stands only in this. The death of Christ is of eternal virtue and value, and, therefore, the believer’s joy springs up perpetually,

3. This sin strikes against all the praises of the saints on earth, and of the glorified in heaven. To make Christ’s death in vain, would drown all the music both of heaven and earth. No believer here could give any praise; and there would be no praises there. The song of Moses and the Lamb rises from this — the Lamb was slain; “Worthy is the Lamb, that was slain, to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing,” (Rev. 5:12). They sing that praise eternally, because they eternally feel the virtue of his blood.


APPLICATION. — I come now to make some profitable use of this point. If it be so dreadful a sin to make the death of Christ to be in vain, how fearful a thing is it, that yet this sin is so common? I know multitudes think themselves as free from it, as the Galatians, to whom Paul wrote, thought them, selves free from the error he charges them with: but men’s imaginations are no proof of their innocency. It is here charged upon them that they were guilty of it; otherwise they would not thus have been charged, by the Holy Ghost, with the sin of making Christ’s death to be in vain, as much as man can do, and as to themselves. I will instance in a few things, as proofs of this:

1st, To begin with that instance in the text, of “seeking righteousness” by the law: — Whosoever they be that seek righteousness by the law, these men make Christ’s death to be in vain. If they do so,” Christ is become of no effect to them; Christ profits them nothing,” (Gal. 5:2, 4). “But who are these,” say you, “that seek righteousness by the law?” I might answer this question with another, Who doth not? Every body doth, in one measure or another. Seeking righteousness by the law, is when a poor sinner thinks he can be able, some time or another, to do that which God will be gracious to him for: whether it be a work of the law, or a work of the gospel, it is all one for that; when a man thinks to do that for which God will accept him as a righteous man, and account him no more a sinner —this is one that makes Christ’s death to be in vain: for if it were possible that any man could be righteous before God, by any thing that he could do, saith the apostle, “Christ is dead in vain.”

2dly, All apostates from the Christian profession are chargeable with this sin of making Christ’s death to be in vain; and there are not a few of them in the age we live in. They are so dreadfully painted forth in the word of God, that, if I may so say, their very picture hath scared many an honest heart; many honest-hearted believers have been scared dreadfully with seeing the picture of these apostates. It is said, “They crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to open shame;” (Heb. 6:6). “Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite to the Spirit of grace?” (Heb. 10:29). These persons once made a profession that there was virtue in the blood of Christ; but now they are come to renounce it. I am truly afraid of this thing; it hath often come in my mind: we have a generation amongst us, that are plagues come from hell; men called DEISTS, which is nothing else but a new polite word for an Atheist: and they that are called Socinians, which is only a more civil word for a Turk; people who do not believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, but only a good man that died at Jerusalem. They believe not that Christ died for any other ends than to testify the truth of his doctrine, and to set us an example to suffer patiently for the truth. My thoughts are not only about the horror of this heresy, that all should tremble at: but my real jealousy is, that there are amongst them not a few that have sinned the sin against the Holy Ghost; that have come up to blaspheming the Spirit of God, and the blood of the everlasting Covenant, shed by the Son of God. The Spirit of God hath written their doom, and let the saints wait in fear and patience, till God execute it: for execute it he will, were their social position ever so high, their number ever so great, their wisdom and power ever so strong. They are combined against the Son of God, and he will be avenged upon them; and let the faith and prayer of the saints hasten it.

3dly, All that seek not righteousness, and eternal life, through Jesus Christ, and his death, they are guilty of this sin, of thinking, and counting that Christ died in vain. All that do not seek eternal life by Christ, are guilty of this sin. And how many such poor creatures are there, that for as often as they have read the Bible, and for as often as they have heard the gospel preached, yet to this day they never saw any need of the death of Christ for themselves? They run away with a notion, that it was needful the Son of God should come into the world, and die for men; but they were never convinced of this, that it was simply needful for thee, and for thy salvation; that unless the Son of God had come, and laid down his life for thee, thou couldst not be saved. Every man must be convinced of his personal need of Christ’s death, that ever expects to get any good thereby.

4thly, A great many poor creatures never saw any glory in the death of Christ. I do acknowledge that the cross of Christ was the greatest and thickest veil upon his glory, when he was forsaken by his followers; when he was insulted over by his enemies; when heaven and earth forsook him, and hell was enlarged against him. What was more low than the man Christ when he died? Yet, notwithstanding, to a believer, the great beaming forth of the glory o£ God shined in the face of Christ crucified. Herein shined the manifold wisdom and grace of God. Every lash, in a manner, that the Father laid upon the Son, proclaimed aloud the love of the Father, that put him to that suffering, and the love of the Son that underwent it. The poor Jews were sorely distressed believers (John 11:36): when they saw Christ weeping at Lazarus’s grave (although I believe Christ wept not so much for Lazarus, as in contemplation of the common calamity of mankind, and it may be, this was the first grave that ever Christ was so near to in his life), “Behold,” say they, “how he loved him!” Surely, then, Christ’s cross should far more teach us to cry out, “Behold, how he loved his people!” than Lazarus’s grave, and Christ’s weeping over it, did the Jews, to say, “Behold, how he loved him!” Christ’s dying for his people proclaimed his love to them indeed; but yet a great many see no glory in all this.

5thly, Many poor people have no business with Christ, about the virtue of his death; they have no engagement with him about that thing, to have the virtue of the death of Christ applied to them for their salvation. This is that the apostle was so mighty earnest for, but they have no thought, no understanding of it: “That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable to his death.” What was this conformity to the death of Christ that Paul was here labouring for? Was it only wishing that he was a dead man? No, no; he would have, and find the virtue of Christ’s death quickening him: raising him up, and saving him more and more.

I will tell you, there are some things about the grave of Christ that should make every believer’s heart to be much about it, and to make us visit it daily by faith.

1. There the law is buried, there the old husband is laid that we can never be well till we are divorced from. The apostle tells us several things concerning this “Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances, that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross,” (Col. 2:14,15). There were few eyes so good as to be able to see the condemnation of the law nailed to the cross of Jesus Christ; to see sin condemned by him, as the word is (Rom. 8:3), “He condemned sin in his flesh,” being made a sacrifice for it. Therefore, when the apostle is, in the 7th chapter of the Romans, speaking of the difference between the law and the gospel — between a natural state and a believer’s — he resembles it plainly to this, to the state of a woman that hath two husbands. The first husband was the law, and a dreadful one it was; no fruit was brought forth by that marriage but that which was unto death. Now, she must be sure that this husband be dead before she can be lawfully married to Jesus Christ. “If whilst her husband liveth she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from the law; and so she is no adulteress, although she be married to another man.” (Ver. 3).

2. In the grave of Christ, by faith, believers are to see that their sin is buried. Saith the apostle, “He hath put away sin by the sacrifice of himself,” (Heb. 9:26). “He put away sin:” he hath so far put it away, that it shall never rise up in judgment against any that the virtue of Christ’s death is applied to: thereupon the apostle grounds his triumph on this, “It is Christ that died,” therefore the believer cannot be condemned, (Rom. 8:34).

3. In Christ’s death there is a charter sealed by his blood. And how should believers be exercised in looking to Christ’s death on this account? There are many seals to God’s covenant: seals on God’s part, and seals on our part. God puts to the seal of his word, and of his oath, and of the sacraments, and of manifold repeated promises; and believers they put to their seal of faith. “He that hath received his testimony, hath set to his seal that God is true;” (John 3:33). But the best and greatest seal is Christ’s death, confirming the covenant. “The covenant was confirmed before of God in Christ,” saith the apostle, (Gal. 3:17).


Lastly, To bring the charge of this sin yet more close, even believers themselves are not innocent of it: not only all that seek righteousness by the law —not only all apostates from the faith of the gospel —not only they that seek not righteousness and life by the virtue of Christ’s death — but even believers themselves, are guilty of this sin. There is something in their frame that saith, “Christ hath died in vain.”

1. There is conscience of sin arises many times in believers. The apostle, speaking of the Old Testament administration, finds fault with it as defective upon this account, That it did not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience. “They could not make the comers thereunto perfect, for then would not they have ceased to be offered; because that the worshippers, once purged, should have had no more conscience of sins;” (Heb. 9:9 and 10:1,2). Pray observe the scope of the apostle in both these chapters: he is there telling us what shadows the Jews had of that grand sacrifice that was to be offered by the true High Priest, Jesus Christ, in their daily, and weekly, and monthly sacrifices; but the greatest of all was in that grand sacrifice of atonement that was offered up once a-year. “Now,” saith the apostle, “all these sacrifices do not make the comer thereunto perfect as to his conscience;” that is, “they did not remove all awareness of sin in the Israelite, but there was a secret fear still that their sin was yet in remembrance before God.” And what is the argument with which the apostle proves that these sacrifices did not make the comers thereunto perfect? Saith the apostle, “It is proved by this, Because they were so often repeated.” The daily sacrifice was repeated every day, and the weekly sacrifice every Sabbath day, and the monthly sacrifice every new moon, and the yearly sacrifice once a year, upon the seventh month. “Now,” saith the apostle, “If these things could have made the comers thereunto perfect, they would not thus have needed to have been repeated.” And from this argument he concludes the insufficiency of the legal sacrifices to quiet the conscience, and he also proves the sufficiency of Christ’s sacrifice to quiet the conscience by its once-for-all efficacy. “But this man,” saith he, “after he had offered one sacrifice for sin, for ever sat down on the right hand of God,” (ver. 12); and again, “By one offering, he hath for ever perfected them that are sanctified,” (ver. 14). The case lies plainly here: Every true believer, that hath acted faith on Jesus Christ distinctly, and hath lodged his eternal salvation, and his everlasting acceptance with God, on the virtue of Christ’s sacrifice, this man chargeth Christ’s death with being in vain, if conscience rise again, and lie hearken to it. I know sin will be, and conscience will check for sin; but remember this, Christ died not in vain: the virtue of Christ’s death remains still; it made that peace that no future transgressions shall be able to weaken or impair.

2. In the case of sanctification. Saith the poor believer, “The work of holiness and sanctification goes on slowly:” and truly so it doth; and we should see it, and bewail it greatly. Well, what then? Hath Christ died in vain? Christ’s dying is sanctification: “For their sakes I sanctify myself,” saith our Lord, “that they also might be sanctified through the truth,” (John 17:19). He gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works,” (Titus 2:14). It were a great blessing if believers had but skill to draw, by faith, sanctifying virtue from the death of Jesus Christ. This is what the apostle is upon, Rom. 6, throughout. “How shall we that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?” But how are believers dead to sin? Have they not sin living in them? “We are dead to sin in Christ,” saith the apostle; “he died for sin, and he hath dominion over sin, and we reckon ourselves dead to sin, but alive to God, through Jesus Christ,” (ver. 11).

3. There is weakness of faith in believers, as to the glory to come. Not only are there many qualms of conscience, and many defects in their holiness, but when believers think of the glory to come, and the great prize of their high calling, and see it great, and high, and far above them, the more they see of the glory of it, the more they see they are unworthy of it. “May such a vile wretch as I expect this great reward of eternal life?” Yes, for Christ bought it; he hath not died in vain. It will be best known at that day what Christ died for, and for whom: when all the kings that he hath bought, and all the crowns that he hath purchased for them, and ail the kingdoms shall be seen, it will then be known Christ died not in vain. Every shaking of faith, as to any blessing that Christ’s death purchased for his people, every shaking, of that faith, hath this woful charge to he given in against it, that Christ then hath died in vain. Indeed, if the crown of life was to be enjoyed as a reward of thy works, it were a vain thing to expect it: if it were to come in as a reward for our performances, it were a dream to expect it: but, since it is the gift of God, through Jesus Christ our Lord — since Christ hath bought it —every believer should expect it: As great as it is, as unworthy as I am; yet, notwithstanding, the confidence of faith should be maintained.” Therefore, now, for the consolation of believers, labour by faith to drink in these two things, — That righteousness comes not by the law, and that Christ hath not died in vain; and what strong consolation will they yield!

1. Righteousness comes not by the law; and there is great comfort in this. Righteousness comes not by the law, to any man out of Christ; and there is no condemnation comes by the law, to any man in Christ. If so be that men will give glory to God, and renounce their own righteousness, and all their expectations of relief that way, and betake themselves to God’s device of salvation by Jesus Christ, and believe on him, as they can expect no good by the law, so they should fear no hurt by it; for, as sin hath made it impossible that, the law of God should justify us, so the grace of God in Christ hath made it impossible that the law should condemn a believer in him. Therefore, saith the apostle, “There is now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus.” Why so? “The law of the Spirit of life, in Christ Jesus, hath made me free from the law of sin and death: for what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, that God hath done by Jesus Christ, that so the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us,(Rom. 8:1,2,3,4).

2. Feed also upon this by faith, That Christ died not in vain. There is nothing you can desire, nothing that you can pray for, nothing that you can ask for in time, nor enjoy to eternity, but it is contained in this, “Christ died not in vain:” for Christ died to all those blessed purposes that are needful to make them happy for ever that are sharers therein. Whensoever you come to have any dealings in earnest with God about salvation, and your justification, and eternal life, always remember these two things, —

The grace of God, and Christ’s death. The law hath nothing to do in this case; it cannot help you whilst you are under it, but condemn you: and if you be believers, the law cannot hurt you, for you shall be absolved; for this is a righteousness without the law, “But witnessed to be the law and the prophets,” (Acts 10:43).

HT: Fire & Ice

From The Archives: Warnock Interviews Grudem

Here is an interesting video, where Adrian Warnock interviews Wayne Grudem. While it is relatively brief and they do not explore any single question in depth, there is a lesson to be had. We are able here to peek through a small window into a mature theological world-view. Grudem does not display foolish middle-of-the-road muddle-ism as he considers and answers Adrian’s questions. Instead, he externalizes his internal dialog so we might see the path he walks from the question to living out the answer.

Young brothers and sisters, take note. Life is richly textured. Your walk in this life need not be reduced to a pallete of black and white. There is room for nuance and vibrance in your daily walk.


Originally posted May 2010


The Hands, Feet, and Fish of the Gospel

There are no rules for these things. You hear the story over and over through the years and it seems so… obvious, that it had to happen exactly this way. But you know, there are no rules for these things.

Jesus rises from the dead and miraculously appears to the eleven (absent Thomas) in Luke 24. It is a familiar account. But with that familiarity, we slip through the story, sliding by details, passing through nuance, the blurring speed of the bullet train blending savory detail away. For a few minutes, please slow down, pull over and take a long, deep breath of fresh mountain gospel air with me.

As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you!” But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit. And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. (Luke 24:36-40 ESV)


“See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself.” Following rumours and reports of seeing Jesus after his death, He (Jesus) abruptly appears in the room with the disciples. They are startled, frightened, caught out-of-place, unsettled. To reassure them, He calls them to see His hands and his feet. Why? Why His hands?  Did His hands stick in the disciples’ minds as He ministered to and with them? Was it His taking of the scroll in hand in Luke 4, declaring Himself the fulfillment of God’s long-standing promise?  Or, from Luke 7, his touch of the bier of the widow’s dead son? Could it be His healing and restoring touch of the leper in Matthew 8. Why His hands?  Perhaps it was His mud-making healing touch of the blind man from John 9 or his compassionate healing touch of the blind men in Matthew 20?

Why His feet? Why call the focused attention of the shocked disciples to look at Jesus’ feet? Did they have treasured memories of His walking by the Sea of Galilee in Matthew 4, calling His first disciples? Or His walking past as John the Baptist pointed out the Lamb of God as future disciples listen? Even more likely, the miraculous feet of Jesus walking on the water in Matthew 14, amidst the raging storm, stepping into the boat to bring the disciples safely to the other side?

Why His feet and hands? Although possible, I don’t believe these are the real reasons. Something larger is in view here. The disciples were crushed at the arrest, trial, and crucifixion of Jesus.

Listen in as Thomas reacts to their report of Jesus’ appearance:

So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.” (John 20:25   ESV)

Rather than treasured memories, His hands and feet still bore the fresh wounds of the nails. This was not Jesus simply telling the story because it had to be that way. He wrote his resurrection story with wounded feet and hands for the sake of love – patient love for His disciples.

There are no rules for this sort of thing. There is no playbook, no familiar territory with resurrection. Jesus could have instantly healed his body. He could have appeared to them in kingly raiment attended by angels. It could have happened ten million different ways. Yet, He chose to come intimately to His friends to show them His hands and feet, so they would know that it was truly Him.

Joy! Wonder struck them like a hammer, but it did not shatter their unbelief. Not yet

And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate before them. (Luke 24:41-43  ESV)

“Have you anything here to eat?”, Jesus asks. What? Lunch at a time like this? Not quite. Is Jesus eating for himself or for His disciples? “He took it and ate before them.”  This everyday, common, run-of-the-mill broiled fish is the final blow to their unbelief. Jesus is eating in front of them, not to dull His hunger, but that they might break free of the final shackles of unbelief; and believing, believe in Him.

Friends, this same Jesus, who suffered long and patiently with the disciples so long ago, continues longsuffering and patient with His disciples today. We walk as they did, with a faltering, unsteady limp. He braces us with nail-scarred hands. He walks the path with us on nail-scarred feet. He defeated death, shrugging off its clammy, powerless grip as He walked alive from the tomb. The hands, feet, and fish of the gospel are true gifts of grace for the first disciples and for us today.

One day we shall see Him, our blessed risen Savior.

Amen and Hallelujah!



Believers, being the children of God, are the objects of his paternal affection and unremitting care. As a father, he guides them by his counsel and guards them by his power. Their disobedience he visits with a rod of correction; and in their distresses he feels for them with bowels of paternal compassion. In the whole of his dealings with them he manifests his love, and causes all things to work together for their good. Yes, they are the darlings of Providence, and the charge of angels. Those ministering spirits, who are active as flame, and swift as thought, encamp around them; and, in ways unknown to mortals, subserve the designs of grace in promoting their best interests.

Nothing can exceed the riches and excellency of that inheritance to which they have a right, in virtue of their adoption; that eternal inheritance which is bequeathed to them by an inviolable testament. This testament, recorded in the sacred writings, was confirmed by the death of Christ. Their inheritance includes all the blessings of grace here, and the full fruition of glory hereafter. Though, as to temporal things, they be frequently indigent, and much afflicted; yet the blessings of common providence are dispensed to them in such measures as paternal wisdom sees best for their spiritual welfare, and the glory of God. For godliness hath the promise of the life that now is, as well as of that which is to come; and their heavenly Father knoweth that they have need of his providential favours, while they continue in the present state. So that whether they be things temporal, spiritual, or eternal; whether they be things present or things to come, all are theirs. According to that admirable text, All things are yours, whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; ALL are yours. But, which is yet more emphatical, and the highest that words can express, the utmost our ideas can reach; the Divine Spirit declares that they are HEIRS or GOD, and JOINT-HEIRS of CHRIST.

–Excerpt from here.

The Cross – J. C. Ryle


“Reader, as long as you live, beware of a religion in which there is not much of the cross. You live in times when the warning is sadly needful. Beware, I say again, of a religion without the cross.

    “There are hundreds of places of worship, in this day, in which there is every thing almost except the cross. There is carved oak and sculptured stone. There is stained glass and brilliant painting. There are solemn services and a constant round of ordinances. But the real cross of Christ is not there. Jesus crucified is not proclaimed in the pulpit. The Lamb of God is not lifted up, and salvation by faith in him is not freely proclaimed. And hence all is wrong. Beware of such places of worship. They are not apostolical. They would not have satisfied St. Paul.

    “There are thousands of religious books published in our times, in which there is everything except the cross. They are full of directions about sacraments and praises of the church. They abound in exhortations about holy living, and rules for the attainment of perfection. They have plenty of fonts and crosses both inside and outside. But the real cross of Christ is left out. The Savior and His dying love are either not mentioned, or mentioned in an unscriptural way. And hence they are worse than useless. Beware of such books. They are not apostolical. They would never have satisfied St. Paul. ”

–Excerpt from here.

CRandE Video Book: The Everlasting Righteousness

I’m currently working through the chapters of Horatius Bonar’s little book on justification called The Everlasting Righteousness. These readings are being posted on Vimeo. You can watch them by clicking on the video montage below. I’ve hosted the text for this book for years on my website. Several years ago, I started audio recordings of the chapters, but the quality was not publicly presentable so I dropped those recordings. The time has come for a fresh attempt.