WHAT does it exclude? Well, I am sure it excludes boasting. “He that believeth is not condemned.” Ah! if it said, “He that worketh is not condemned,” then you and I might boast in any quantity. But when it says, “He that believeth” — why, there is no room for us to say half a word for old self. No, Lord, if I am not condemned, it is thy free grace, for I have deserved to be condemned a thousand times since I sat down to write this.
When I am on my knees, and I am not condemned, I am sure it must be sovereign grace, for even when I am praying I deserved to be condemned.
Even when we are repenting we are sinning, and adding to our sins while we are repenting of them. Every act we do as the result of the flesh, is to sin again, and our best performances are so stained with sin that it is hard to know whether they are good works or bad works. So far as they are our own, they are bad; and so far as they are the works of the Spirit, they are good. But, then, the goodness is not ours, it is the Spirit’s, and only the evil remains to us. Ah, then, we cannot boast! Begone, pride! begone!
The Christian must be a humble man. If he lift up his head to say something, then he is nothing indeed. He does not know where he is, or where he stands, when he once begins to boast, as though his own right hand had gotten him the victory. Leave off boasting, Christian; live humbly before thy God, and never let a word of self-congratulation escape thy lips.
Sacrifice self, and let thy song be before the throne, “Not unto us, not unto us, but unto thy name be glory forever.”
What next does it exclude? Methinks it ought to exclude — now I am about to smite myself — it ought to exclude doubts and fears. “He that believeth is not condemned.” How dare you and I draw such long faces, and go about as we do sometimes as though we had a world of cares upon our backs? What would I have given ten or eleven years ago if I could have known that text was sure to me, that I was not condemned. Why, I thought if I could feel I was once forgiven, and had to live ,on bread and water, and to be locked up in a dungeon, and every day be flogged with a cat-o’-nine tails, I would gladly have accepted it, if I could have once felt my sins forgiven.
Now you are a forgiven man, and yet you are cast down! Oh! shame on you. No condemnation! and yet miserable? Fie, Christian! Get thee up and wipe the tears from your eyes. Oh! if there be a person lying in gaol now, to be executed next week, if you could go to him and say, “You are pardoned,” would he not spring up with delight from his seat; and although he might have lost his goods, and though it would be possible for him, after pardon, to have to suffer many things, yet, so long as life was spared, what would all this be to him? He would feel that it was less than nothing.
Now, Christian, you are pardoned, your sins are all forgiven. Christ has said to you, “Thy sins, which are many, are all forgiven thee” — and art thou yet miserable? Well, if we must be so sometimes, let us make it as short as we can. If we must be sometimes cast down, let us ask the Lord to lift us up again. I am at afraid some of us get into bad habits, and come to make it a matter of practice to be downcast. Mind, Christian, mind it will grow upon you — that peevish spirit — if you do not resist that sinfulness at first, it will get worse with you. If you do not come to God to turn these doubts and fears out of you, they will soon swarm upon you like flies in Egypt. When you are able to kill the first great doubt, you will perhaps kill a hundred, for one great doubt will breed a thousand, and to kill the mother is to kill the whole brood.
Therefore, look with all thy eyes against the first doubt, lest thou shouldest become confirmed in thy despondency, and grow into sad despair. “He that believeth on him is not condemned.” If this excludes boasting, it ought to exclude doubts too.
Once more. This excludes sinning anymore. My Lord, have I sinned against thee so many times, and yet hast thou freely forgiven me all? What stronger motive could I have for keeping me from sinning again? Ah, there are some who are saying this is licentious doctrine. A thousand devils rolled into one, must the man be who can find any licentiousness here. What! go and sin because I am forgiven? Go and live in iniquity because Jesus Christ took my guilt and suffered in my room and stead? Human nature is bad enough, but methinks this is the very worst state of human nature, when it tries to draw an argument for sin from the free grace of God.
Bad as I am, I do feel this, that it is hard to sin against a pardoning God. It is far harder to sin against the blood of Christ, and against a sense of pardon, than it is against the terrors of the law and the fears of hell itself. I know that when my soul is most alarmed by a dread of the wrath of God, I can sin with comfort compared with what I could when I have a sense of his love shed abroad in my heart. What more monstrous! to read your title clear, and sin? Oh, vile reprobate! you are on the borders of the deepest hell. But I am sure, if you are a child of God, you will say when you have read your title clear, and feel yourself justified in Christ Jesus. Now, for the love I bear his name, What was my gain, I count my loss; My former pride I call my shame, And nail my glory to his cross.
Yes, and I must, and will esteem all things but loss for Jesus’ sake. O may my, soul be found in him, perfect in his righteousness! This will make you live near to him; this will make you like unto him. Do not think that this doctrine, by dwelling on it, will make you think lightly of sin. It will make you think of it as a hard and stern executioner to put Christ to death; as an awful load that could never be lifted from you except by the eternal arm of God; and then you will come to hate it with all your soul, because it is rebellion against a loving and gracious God, and you shall, by this means, far better than by any Arminian doubts or any legal quibbles, be led to walk in the footsteps of your Lord Jesus, and to follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth.
I think this little work, though I have written it for the children of God, is meant for sinners too. Sinner, I would that thou didst say so. If you know this, that he that believeth is not condemned, then, sinner if thou believest thou wilt not be condemned; and may all that I have said help you to this belief in thy soul.
Oh, but sayest thou, “May I trust Christ?” As I said, it is not a question of whether you may or may not, you are commanded. The Scripture commands the gospel to be preached to every creature, and the gospel is, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.” I know you will be too proud to do it, unless God by his grace should humble you. But if ye feel that you are nothing and have nothing of your own, I think you will be right glad to take Christ to be your all-in-all. If you can say with poor Jack the Huckster, — I’m a poor sinner and nothing at all, You may go on and say with him, But Jesus Christ is my all in all.
God grant that it may be so, for his name’s sake. Amen.