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Justification by Faith: A Licentious Doctrine?


What do you think about the Christ, whose son is He?

—Matthew 22:42


To you that have tasted the good word of life, who have been enlightened to see the riches of God’s free grace in Christ Jesus, I am persuaded it is precious and has distilled like the dew into your souls. And O that all were like-minded! But I am afraid, numbers are ready to go away contradicting and blaspheming. Tell me, are there not many of you saying within yourselves, ‘This is a licentious doctrine; this preacher is opening a door for encouragement in sin.’ But this does not surprise me at all, it is a stale, antiquated objection, as old as the doctrine of justification itself. And (which by the way is not much to the credit of those who urge it now) it was made by an infidel. St. Paul, in his epistle to the Romans, after he had, in the first five chapters, demonstrably proved the doctrine of justification by faith alone, in the sixth brings in an unbeliever saying, ‘Shall we continue in sin then, that grace may abound?’

But as he rejected such an inference with a ‘God forbid!’ so do I. For the faith which we preach, is not a dead speculative faith, an assenting to things credible, as credible, as it is commonly defined. . . . It is a living principle wrought in the soul, by the Spirit of the ever-living God, convincing the sinner of his lost, undone condition by nature, enabling him to apply and lay hold on the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ, freely offered him in the gospel and continually exciting him, out of a principle of love and gratitude, to show forth that faith, by abounding in every good word and work.

This is the sum and substance of the doctrine that has been delivered. And if this be a licentious doctrine, judge ye. No, my brethren, this is not destroying but teaching you how to do good works, from a proper principle. For to use the words of our Church in another of her Articles, ‘Works done before the grace of Christ and the inspiration of the Spirit, are not pleasant to God, forasmuch as they spring not of faith in Jesus Christ; rather, for that they are not done as God has willed and commanded them to be done, we doubt not but they have the nature of sin.’ So that they who bid you do and then live are just as wise as those who would persuade you to build a beautiful magnificent house, without laying a foundation.

It is true, the doctrine of our free justification by faith in Christ Jesus, like other gospel truths, may and will be abused by men of corrupt minds, reprobates concerning the faith. But they who receive the truth of God in the love of it, will always be showing their faith by their works.

—George Whitefield, “What Think Ye of Christ?” in Lee Gatiss (Ed.), The Sermons of George Whitefield (Crossway, 2012), 1:411–412.

Posted 2019·01·24 by David Kjos
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Posted in: George Whitefield · Saving Faith · Sola Fide · The Sermons of George Whitefield

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