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The Sermons of George Whitefield

(47 posts)

The Humility of George Whitefield

George Whitefield sets an example for every one of us. Whitefield was a born orator with a flair for the dramatic. The great actor David Garrick (1717–1779) is reputed to have said he would give a hundred guineas to be able to say ‘O!’ like Whitefield. . . . As J. C. Ryle put it, there was a ‘holy violence’ about him which grabbed people’s attention. . . . Whether Whitefield ought to be imitated in these stylistic matters is debatable, though we need not doubt his integrity and sincerity as some have done; he was by no means attempting to be a mere entertainer or raise a personal following, as the rest of his life and ministry well attest. . . . Fishermen, after all, should be able to reel in the fish and not just toss in bait and cast out the line without a hook. . . . hectoring, badgering, and manipulating people has no apostolic warrant. Yet are we, like Whitefield, like Paul, like Jesus, emotionally committed to desiring conversion and spiritual growth in a way that our earnestness can be heard and felt and people made to appreciate how serious the gospel call truly is? . . . [W]e must be cautious at times about Whitefield’s style since he himself repented of some aspects of his early preaching. In 1748 he wrote to a friend, after revising all his published journals, Alas! Alas! In how many things have I judged and acted wrong. I have been too rash and hasty in giving characters, both of places and persons. Being fond of scripture language, I have often used a style too apostolical, and at the same time I have been too bitter in my zeal. Wild-fire has been mixed with it, and I find that I frequently wrote and spoke with my own spirit, when I thought I was writing and speaking by the assistance of the Spirit of God. I have likewise too much made inward impressions my rule of acting, and too soon and too explicitly published what had been better kept in longer, or told after my death. By these things I have given some wrong touches to God’s ark, and hurt the blessed cause I would defend, and also stirred up needless opposition. This has humbled me much . . . I bless [God] for ripening my judgment a little more, for giving me to see and confess, and I hope in some degree to correct and amend, some of my mistakes. He amended his printed sermons so that much of the ‘wild-fire’ was removed from them, yet it may still be detected here and there, particularly where he is addressing serious gospel issues in the teaching of others (such as in Sermons 9 and 10). All of us who preach regularly know how important it is to correct prevailing errors in church and society in order to be faithful shepherds of God’s people. Yet we also do well to remember the humility of Whitefield in his 30s as he looked back on his earlier ministry and sought to amend his words and his ways. ‘Those who oppose him he must gently instruct,’ in a way they can hear and be corrected by, said the Apostle (2 Timothy 2:24–26). —Lee Gatiss, The Sermons of George Whitefield (Crossway, 2012), 16–17, 19–20.

Whitefield’s Unintended Consequences

George Whitefield was only twenty-one when he was ordained to the Anglican clergy in 1736. Lee Gatiss writes, “He was for a time a chaplain at the Tower of London and preached in various churches in the City” and elsewhere, but being “often scathing about the lifeless, unspiritual nature of the clergy and their leadership . . . many churches were closed to him because of this.” Consequently, he gravitated toward open-air preaching, reaching enormous crowds. “The world became his parish.” Although it would be difficult to overstate the value of Whitefield’s ministry, it did not come without some negative, unintended consequences. Whitefield may be fairly criticised, however, for undermining the Church of England in one respect. As Packer insightfully puts it, he ‘did in fact unwittingly encourage an individualistic piety of what we would call a parachurch type, a piety that gave its prime loyalty to transdenominational endeavours, that became impatient and restless in face of the relatively fixed forms of institutional church life, and that conceived of evangelism as typically an extra-ecclesiastical activity.’ He may not have wished to have this effect, but involuntarily he did. It has taken evangelicals many years to rediscover the local church itself as a vehicle for evangelism and we must continue to value this God-given means for reaching our nation for Christ and not rely entirely on extra-parochial, parachurch missionary activity. A passion to see new spiritual life through evangelism must, rather, be part of the DNA of each local church, whatever is happening elsewhere. —Lee Gatiss, The Sermons of George Whitefield (Crossway, 2012), 28.

George Whitefield, Theologian

One modern biographer claims that Whitefield ‘showed no interest in theology’, but was more concerned with feelings, imagination, and experience. This is palpable nonsense . . . To quote again from Augustus Toplady, Whitefield was not merely an evangelist but ‘a most excellent systematic divine.’ His divinity began with an error-free Bible. ‘If we once get above our Bibles and cease making the written word of God our sole rule both as to faith and practice,’ he declared, ‘we shall soon lie open to all manner of delusion and be in great danger of making shipwreck of faith and a good conscience,’ going on to speak of ‘the unerring rule of God’s most holy word’ (Sermon 2); elsewhere he only ever uses the word ‘unerring’ of Jesus (Sermon 58) or the Holy Spirit (Sermon 39). It was the quintessence of ‘enthusiasm’ said Whitefield, ‘to pretend to be guided by the Spirit without the written word; yet it is every Christian’s bounden duty to be guided by the Spirit in conjunction with the written word of God,’ every inward impression or suggestion being tested against that inerrant standard. . . . Taught by his trustworthy Bible, Whitefield was a Protestant. He rejected the infallibility and inerrancy of the Pope or the Church and settled instead on the scriptures themselves as the final arbiter of his faith. As a result, he could be somewhat vehement in his dislike of Roman Catholicism . . . Continuing to be taught by his trustworthy Bible, Whitefield became a Calvinist. Yet as he said in a private letter to John Wesley in August 1740, ‘Alas, I never read any thing that Calvin wrote; my doctrines I had from Christ and his apostles; I was taught them of God.’ Again, he wrote to another friend in 1742, ‘I embrace the calvinistical scheme, not because Calvin, but Jesus Christ, I think, has taught it to me.’ . . . He considered Arminianism, a progressive and liberal view of theology which downplayed the sovereignty of God in favour of a more liberated human free will, to be ‘antichristian’ both in principles and practice, and to share too much in common with Roman Catholicism, indeed, to be ‘the back door to popery’ (Sermon 14). . . . Whitefield, however, was a firm believer in the Reformed doctrine of salvation and Reformed biblical theology, or as it is often known, covenant theology. . . . Whitefield was in harmony with the Anglican and Reformed tradition in general, holding as he did to predestination and reprobation (Sermons 41, 44), the inseparability of justification and sanctification (Sermon 14), the imputation of the active obedience of Christ (Sermons 14, 44) and the perseverance of the saints (Sermons 60 and 61). No wonder when he returned from Georgia in April 1741 and met Wesley, who disliked these doctrines and crusaded against them, he told him plainly face-to-face that they ‘preached two different gospels.’ . . . Another Reformed doctrine which Wesley despised but which Whitefield gloried in was particular redemption, or as it is sometimes known, definite or ‘limited atonement.’ This is the teaching that the Father’s election, the Son’s redemption, and the Spirit’s application of salvation are all coextensive; that God planned to save a certain people, his sheep, his church, the bride of Christ out of the corrupt mass of mankind, and sent his Son explicitly to achieve this goal, and his Spirit then to draw the elect to Christ. The opposite, Arminian, theory was that Christ came to die for everyone indiscriminately, not to actually save them but to make them saveable, on condition that they repent and believe, which they have the power to do if they want to. Both views limit the atonement in some way, of course: the Calvinist limits the number of people ultimately atoned for (some people are completely saved) while the Arminian view limits the effectiveness of the cross (all people are potentially saved if they fulfil the conditions on their side). It is often asserted that belief in definite atonement saps the energy out of evangelism somehow. Yet reading and studying the example of Whitefield shows just how facile and superficial it is to claim that one cannot be a Calvinist – one cannot believe in a Father who unconditionally chooses, a Son who intentionally redeems and a Spirit who irresistibly calls only the elect – and still be a passionate evangelist. —Lee Gatiss, The Sermons of George Whitefield (Crossway, 2012), 29–32, 34.

Remember that Friends episode, in which Chewbacca, Hamlet, and Frodo . . .

The following passage stands out against so much of today’s preaching. Were he alive today, it is unlikely that George Whitefield would be making clever Star Wars references. God’s word was enough. Even a casual reader will quickly discover just how soaked in the Bible this preacher was. It was once said that John Bunyan’s blood was bibline, and it is clear that Whitefield shared this happy but uncommon condition, dropping allusions and quotations from all over the Bible into his preaching with great frequency. Some of these references are so obscure that it is unlikely many in the original audience understood them, even making allowances for higher standards of biblical literacy in those days. Why did Whitefield do this? One reason may be that scriptural allusions usually suggested themselves to him as most apposite first, before any illustrations taken out of popular culture or literature (though he is perfectly able to make such references where he feels it is appropriate). It may also be a function of the high regard in which he held the word of God. He believed in the power of the word to do God’s work, so that even a less well-known passage of the Bible may be used to awaken a dead sinner or prod a sleepy Christian or pique the curiosity of an onlooker. —Lee Gatiss, The Sermons of George Whitefield (Crossway, 2012), 40–41. Who follows this example today? John MacArthur comes to mind. I recall him once indicating that this was intentional, that he wanted his sermons to be relevant and understandable at any time and in any zip code—and so, I believe, they will be. Let the preacher understand.

Encouragement for “Faithful Nobodies”

It would be easy to be a little disheartened as we marvel at what God did in and through this great man, in view of our own seeming insignificance and the difficulties of our own day. Most of us will never be great ourselves and the next generation will not reprint our sermons or pore over our journals (or blogs!) with keen interest. We may never see the reformation and revival of our churches for which we all long. With his characteristic overstatement, Dr. Lloyd-Jones outlines the things people did for the gospel and wrote to defend it prior to the Great Awakening and then concludes rather dismissively, ‘but they were of no avail whatsoever,’ until the Revival came. I may be pedantic, but this cannot quite be true, can it? Whitefield himself urges us (Sermon 57) not to despise the day of small things. There are several clergymen in Whitefield’s paternal pedigree chart going back four generations, with combined ministries in the Church of England amounting to around three hundred years. Perhaps we, like these several generations of unsung, un-noticed Revds. Whitefield, are part of God’s plan to nurture godly families, sustain gospel ministry in obscure places, and prepare the ground for greater things to come. But if not, the faithful nobodies who seem to make little impact may indeed still be just as pleasing to God as the barnstormers who capture the headlines and make the most waves. As long as the gospel remains the power of God for salvation, such people are not wasting their time in the harvest field and may avail much for God and his kingdom. May we never forget this, even as we praise God for what he accomplished in the days of George Whitefield (1714–1770). —Lee Gatiss, The Sermons of George Whitefield (Crossway, 2012), 42–43.

Between Doing and Teaching

Our senses are the landing ports of our spiritual enemies. How needful is that resolution of holy Job, ‘I have made a covenant with mine eyes!’ When Eve began to gaze on the forbidden fruit with her eyes, she soon began to long after it with her heart. When she saw that it was good for food and pleasant to the eyes (here was the lust of the flesh and lust of the eye) but, above all, a tree to be desired to make one wise, wiser than God would have her be, nay, as wise as God himself. She took of the fruit thereof and gave also unto her husband with her and he did eat. As soon as ever she sinned herself, she turned tempter to her husband. It is dreadful, when those, who should be help-meets* for each other in the great work of their salvation, are only promoters of each other’s damnation. But thus it is. If we ourselves are good, we shall excite others to goodness. If we do evil, we shall entice others to do evil also. There is a close connection between doing and teaching. How needful then is it for us all to take heed that we do not sin any way ourselves, lest we should become factors for the devil and ensnare, perhaps, our nearest and dearest relatives? —George Whitefield, “The Seed of the Woman and the Seed of the Serpent” in Lee Gatiss (Ed.), The Sermons of George Whitefield (Crossway, 2012), 50. * Far be it from me to be pedantic, but this term irritates me. I explained why in this post.

Then Shall the Righteous Shine

And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, And you shall bruise him on the heel. —Genesis 3:15 Many of you that have believed in Christ perhaps may find some particular corruption yet strong, so strong, that you are sometimes ready to cry out with David, ‘I shall fall one day by the hand of Saul’ [1 Samuel 27:1]. But fear not, the promise in the text ensures the perseverance and victory of believers over sin, Satan, death, and hell. What if indwelling corruption does yet remain and the seed of the serpent bruise your heel, in vexing and disturbing your righteous souls? Fear not, though faint, yet pursue. You shall yet bruise the serpent’s head. Christ hath died for you and yet a little while and he will send death to destroy the very being of sin in you. Which brings me to show the most extensive manner in which the promise of the text shall be fulfilled, viz. at the final judgment, when the Lord Jesus shall present the elect to his Father, without spot or wrinkle, or any such thing, glorified both in body and soul. Then shall the seed of the woman give the last and fatal blow, in bruising the serpent’s head. Satan, the accuser of the brethren and all his accursed seed, shall then be cast out and never suffered to disturb the seed of the woman anymore. Then shall the righteous shine as the sun in the kingdom of their Father and sit with Christ on thrones in majesty on high. Let us, therefore, not be weary of well-doing. For we shall reap an eternal harvest of comfort, if we faint not. Dare, dare, my dear brethren in Christ, to follow the Captain of your salvation, who was made perfect through sufferings. The seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent’s head. Fear not men. Be not too much cast down at the deceitfulness of your hearts. Fear not devils. You shall get the victory even over them. The Lord Jesus has engaged to make you more than conquerors over all. Plead with your Saviour, plead. Plead the promise in the text. Wrestle, wrestle with God in prayer. If it has been given you to believe, fear not if it should also be given you to suffer. Be not any wise terrified by your adversaries. The king of the church has them all in a chain. Be kind to them, pray for them. But fear them not. The Lord will yet bring back his ark, though at present driven into the wilderness. And Satan like lightning shall fall from heaven. . . . My brethren in Christ, I think I do not speak thus in my own strength but in the strength of my Redeemer. I know in whom I have believed. I am persuaded he will keep that safe, which I have committed unto him. He is faithful who hath promised, that the seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent’s head. May we all experience a daily completion of this promise, both in the church and in our hearts, till we come to the church of the first-born, the spirits of just men made perfect, in the presence and actual fruition of the great God our heavenly Father! To whom, with the Son and the Holy Ghost, be ascribed all honour, power, might, majesty and dominion, now and forevermore. Amen. —George Whitefield, “The Seed of the Woman and the Seed of the Serpent” in Lee Gatiss (Ed.), The Sermons of George Whitefield (Crossway, 2012), 61–63.

An Habitual Bent

Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him. —Genesis 5:24 [W]alking with God consists especially in the fixed habitual bent of the will for God, in an habitual dependence upon his power and promise, in an habitual voluntary dedication of our all to his glory, in an habitual eyeing of his precept in all we do and in an habitual complacence in his pleasure in all we suffer. . . . walking with God implies our making progress or advances in the divine life. Walking, in the very first idea of the word, seems to suppose a progressive motion. A person that walks, though he move slowly, yet he goes forward and does not continue in one place. And so it is with those that walk with God. They go on, as the Psalmist says, ‘from strength to strength’ [Psalm 84:7] or, in the language of the Apostle Paul, ‘they pass from glory to glory, even by the Spirit of the Lord’ [2 Corinthians 3:18]. Indeed, in one sense, the divine life admits of neither increase nor decrease. When a soul is born of God, to all intents and purposes he is a child of God. And though he should live to the age of Methuselah, yet he would then be only a child of God after all. But in another sense, the divine life admits of decays and additions. Hence it is, that we find the people of God charged with backslidings and losing their first love. And hence it is that we hear of babes, young men and fathers in Christ [1 John 2:13]. And upon this account it is that the Apostle exhorts Timothy, ‘to let his progress be made known to all men.’ And what is here required of Timothy in particular, by St. Peter is enjoined on all Christians in general. ‘But grow in grace (says he) and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.’ For the new creature increases in spiritual stature. And though a person can but be a new creature, yet there are some that are more conformed to the divine image than others and will after death be admitted to a greater degree of blessedness. For want of observing this distinction, even some gracious souls, that have better hearts than heads (as well as men of corrupt minds, reprobates concerning the faith) have unawares run into downright Antinomian principles, denying all growth of grace in a believer, or any marks of grace to be laid down in the scriptures of truth. From such principles and more especially from practices naturally consequent on such principles, may the Lord of all lords deliver us! —George Whitefield, “Walking with God” in Lee Gatiss (Ed.), The Sermons of George Whitefield (Crossway, 2012), 1:69–70.

Walking in the Word

Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him. —Genesis 5:24 [B]elievers keep up and maintain their walk with God by reading of his holy word. ‘Search the scriptures’ says our blessed Lord, ‘for these are they that testify of me.’ And the royal Psalmist tells us that God’s word was ‘a light unto his feet and a lantern unto his paths.’ And he makes it one property of a good man, ‘that his delight is in the law of the Lord and that he exercises himself therein day and night.’ ‘Give thyself to reading’ (says Paul to Timothy). ‘And this book of the law (says God to Joshua) shall not go out of thy mouth.’ For whatsoever was written aforetime was written for our learning. And the word of God is profitable for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness and every way sufficient to make every true child of God thoroughly furnished unto every good work. If we once get above our Bibles and cease making the written word of God our sole rule both as to faith and practice, we shall soon lie open to all manner of delusion and be in great danger of making shipwreck of faith and a good conscience. Our blessed Lord, though he had the Spirit of God without measure, yet always was governed by and fought the devil with, ‘It is written.’ This the Apostle calls the ‘sword of the Spirit.’ We may say of it, as David said of Goliath’s sword, ‘None like this.’ The scriptures are called the lively oracles of God, not only because they are generally made use of to beget in us a new life but also to keep up and increase it in the soul. The Apostle Peter, in his second epistle, prefers it even to seeing Christ transfigured upon the Mount. For after he had said, 2 Peter 1:18. ‘This voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount,’ he adds, ‘We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawn and the day-star arise in your hearts,’ that is, till we shake off these bodies and see Jesus face to face. Till then we must see and converse with him through the glass of his word. We must make his testimonies our counsellors and daily, with Mary, sit at Jesus’ feet, by faith hearing his word. We shall then by happy experience find that they are spirit and life, meat indeed and drink indeed, to our souls. —George Whitefield, “Walking with God” in Lee Gatiss (Ed.), The Sermons of George Whitefield (Crossway, 2012), 1:70–71.

Stupendous Love

Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Do not stretch out your hand against the lad, and do nothing to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.” Then Abraham raised his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him a ram caught in the thicket by his horns; and Abraham went and took the ram and offered him up for a burnt offering in the place of his son. —Genesis 22:10–13 [I]f you admire Abraham offering up his Isaac, how much more ought you to extol, magnify and adore the love of God, who so loved the world, as to give his only begotten Son Christ Jesus our Lord, ‘that whosoever believeth on him should not perish but have everlasting life’? May we not well cry out, ‘Now know we, O Lord, that thou hast loved us, since thou hast not withheld thy Son, thine only Son from us!’ Abraham was God’s creature (and God was Abraham’s friend) and therefore under the highest obligation to surrender up his Isaac. But O stupendous love! Whilst we were his enemies, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, that he might become a curse for us. O the freeness, as well as the infinity, of the love of God our Father! It is unsearchable. I am lost in contemplating it. It is past finding out. Think, O believers, think of the love of God, in giving Jesus Christ to be a propitiation for our sins. And when you hear how Abraham built an altar and laid the wood in order and bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar upon the wood; think how your heavenly Father bound Jesus Christ his only Son and offered him upon the altar of his justice and laid upon him the iniquities of us all. When you read of Abraham’s stretching forth his hand to slay his son, think, O think, how God actually suffered his Son to be slain, that we might live forevermore. Do you read of Isaac carrying the wood upon his shoulders, upon which he was to be offered? Let this lead you to Mount Calvary (this very mount of Moriah where Isaac was offered, as some think) and take a view of the antitype Jesus Christ, the Son of God, bearing and ready to sink under the weight of that cross, on which he was to hang for us. Do you admire Isaac so freely consenting to die, though a creature and therefore obliged to go when God called? O do not forget to admire infinitely more the dear Lord Jesus, that promised seed, who willingly said, ‘Lo, I come,’ though under no obligation so to do, ‘to do thy will,’ to obey and die for men, ‘O God!’ Did you weep just now, when I bid you fancy you saw the altar and the wood laid in order and Isaac laid bound on the altar? Look by faith, behold the blessed Jesus, our all-glorious Emmanuel, not bound but nailed on a accursed tree: see how he hangs crowned with thorns and had in derision of all that are round about him: see how the thorns pierce him and how the blood in purple streams trickle down his sacred temples! Hark how the God of nature groans! See how he bows his head and at length humanity gives up the ghost! Isaac is saved but Jesus, the God of Isaac, dies. A ram is offered up in Isaac’s room but Jesus has no substitute; Jesus must bleed, Jesus must die. God the Father provided this Lamb for himself from all eternity. He must be offered in time, or man must be damned for evermore. And now, where are your tears? Shall I say, refrain your voice from weeping? No, rather let me exhort you to look to him whom you have pierced and mourn, as a woman mourneth for her first-born. For we have been the betrayers, we have been the murderers of this Lord of glory. And shall we not bewail those sins, which brought the blessed Jesus to the accursed tree? Having so much done, so much suffered for us, so much forgiven, shall we not love much! O! Let us love him with all our hearts and minds and strength and glorify him in our souls and bodies, for they are his. —George Whitefield, “Abraham’s Offering Up His Son Isaac” in Lee Gatiss (Ed.), The Sermons of George Whitefield (Crossway, 2012), 1:92–93.

True, Justifying Faith

Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Do not stretch out your hand against the lad, and do nothing to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.” Then Abraham raised his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him a ram caught in the thicket by his horns; and Abraham went and took the ram and offered him up for a burnt offering in the place of his son. —Genesis 22:10–13 From hence we may learn the nature of true, justifying faith. Whoever understands and preaches the truth, as it is in Jesus, must acknowledge, that salvation is God’s free gift and that we are saved, not by any or all the works of righteousness which we have done or can do. No, we can neither wholly nor in part justify ourselves in the light of God. The Lord Jesus Christ is our righteousness and if we are accepted with God it must be only in and through the personal righteousness, the active and passive obedience, of Jesus Christ his beloved Son. This righteousness must be imputed, or counted over to us and applied by faith to our hearts, or else we can in no wise be justified in God’s sight. And that very moment a sinner is enabled to lay hold on Christ’s righteousness by faith, he is freely justified from all his sins and shall never enter into condemnation, notwithstanding he was a fire-brand of hell before. Thus it was that Abraham was justified before he did any good work. He was enabled to believe on the Lord Christ. It was accounted to him for righteousness. That is, Christ’s righteousness was made over to him and so accounted his. This, this is the gospel. This is the only way of finding acceptance with God. Good works have nothing to do with our justification in his sight. We are justified by faith alone, as saith the article of our church, agreeable to which the Apostle Paul says, ‘By grace ye are saved, through faith. And that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God.’ Notwithstanding, good works have their proper place. They justify our faith, though not our persons. They follow it and evidence our justification in the sight of men. Hence it is that the Apostle James asks, ‘was not Abraham justified by works?’ (alluding no doubt to the story on which we have been discoursing) That is, did he not prove he was in a justified state, because his faith was productive of good works? This declarative justification in the sight of men, is what is directly to be understood in the words of the text, ‘Now know I, says God, that thou fearest me, since thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me.’ Not but that God knew it before. But this is spoken in condescension to our weak capacities and plainly shows, that his offering up his son was accepted with God, as an evidence of the sincerity of his faith and for this, was left on record to future ages. Hence then you may learn, whether you are blessed with and are sons and daughters of, faithful Abraham. You say you believe. You talk of free grace and free justification. You do well. The devils also believe and tremble. But has the faith, which you pretend to, influenced your hearts, renewed your souls and, like Abraham’s, worked by love? Are your affections, like his, set on things above? Are you heavenly-minded and like him, do you confess yourselves strangers and pilgrims on the earth? In short, has your faith enabled you to overcome the world and strengthened you to give up your Isaacs, your laughter, your most beloved lusts, friends, pleasures and profits for God? If so, take the comfort of it. For justly may you say, ‘We know assuredly, that we do fear and love God, or rather are loved of him.’ But if you are only talking believers, have only a faith of the head and never felt the power of it in your hearts, however you may bolster yourselves up and say, ‘We have Abraham for our father, or Christ is our Saviour,’ unless you get a faith of the heart, a faith working by love, you shall never sit with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, or Jesus Christ, in the kingdom of heaven. —George Whitefield, “Abraham’s Offering Up His Son Isaac” in Lee Gatiss (Ed.), The Sermons of George Whitefield (Crossway, 2012), 1:93–95.

Infinite Condescending Kindness

Listen, O daughter, give attention and incline your ear: Forget your people and your father’s house; Then the King will desire your beauty. Because He is your Lord, bow down to Him. —Psalm 45:10–11 O admire, admire the rich and free grace, which hath brought you to this relation. Is not this an instance of the greatest of love, that you should be the spouse of the Lord Jesus Christ? You that had no beauty, you that had no comeliness, that was full of sin. That he should embrace such as you and I are; that we should be taken into the embrace of this Lord Jesus, O infinite condescending kindness! O amazing love! Reverence, reverence, I beseech you, this Lord Jesus Christ. He is your Lord and you must reverence him, love and be faithful unto him, be subject to him and careful to please him in everything. Endeavour to keep up a daily communion with him. Look, long and prepare for Christ’s second appearance, when the nuptials between you shall be solemnized and you live with him in mansions of everlasting joys, where you shall love and live with this king of glory forever and ever. —George Whitefield, “Christ the Best Husband; or, An Earnest Invitation to Young Women to Come and See Christ” in Lee Gatiss (Ed.), The Sermons of George Whitefield (Crossway, 2012), 1:121.

The Duty of Praise

Then they were glad because they were quiet, So He guided them to their desired haven. Let them give thanks to the Lord for His lovingkindness, And for His wonders to the sons of men! —Psalm 107:30–31 Numberless marks does man bear in his soul, that he is fallen and estranged from God. But nothing gives a greater proof thereof, than that backwardness, which every one finds within himself, to the duty of praise and thanksgiving. When God placed the first man in paradise, his soul no doubt was so filled with a sense of the riches of the divine love, that he was continually employing that breath of life, which the Almighty had not long before breathed into him, in blessing and magnifying that all-bountiful, all gracious God, in whom he lived, moved and had his being. And the brightest idea we can form of the angelical hierarchy above and the spirits of just men made perfect, is, that they are continually standing round the throne of God and cease not day and night, saying, ’Worthy art thou, O Lamb that was slain, to receive power and riches and wisdom and strength and honour and glory and blessing’ [Revelation 5:12]. That then, which was man’s perfection when time first began and will be his employment when death is swallowed up in victory and time shall be no more, without controversy, is part of our perfection and ought to be our frequent exercise on earth. And I doubt not but those blessed spirits, who are sent forth to minister to them who shall be heirs of salvation, often stand astonished when they encamp around us, or find our hearts so rarely enlarged and our mouths so seldom opened, to show forth the loving-kindness of the Lord, or to speak of all his praise. Matter for praise and adoration can never be wanting to creatures redeemed by the blood of the Son of God and who have such continual scenes of his infinite goodness presented to their view, that were their souls duly affected with a sense of his universal love, they could not but be continually calling on heaven and earth, men and angels, to join with them in praising and blessing that ’high and lofty one, who inhabiteth eternity, who maketh his sun to shine on the evil and on the good’, and daily pours down his blessings on the whole race of mankind. —George Whitefield, “Thankfulness for Mercies Received, a Necessary Duty” in Lee Gatiss (Ed.), The Sermons of George Whitefield (Crossway, 2012), 1:139–140.

The Sin of Ingratitude

Then they were glad because they were quiet, So He guided them to their desired haven. Let them give thanks to the Lord for His lovingkindness, And for His wonders to the sons of men! —Psalm 107:30–31 As Thanksgiving Day approaches . . . I say importance and neglect of the duty, for out of those many thousands that receive blessings from the Lord, how few give thanks in remembrance of his holiness? The account given us of the ungrateful lepers, is but too lively a representation of the ingratitude of mankind in general; who like them, when under any humbling providence, can cry, ‘Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!’ [Luke 17:13]. But when healed of their sickness, or delivered from their distress, scarce one in ten can be found ‘returning to give thanks to God.’ And yet as common as this sin of ingratitude is, there is nothing we ought more earnestly to pray against. For what is more absolutely condemned in holy scripture than ingratitude? Or what more peremptorily required than the contrary temper? Thus says the Apostle, ‘Rejoice evermore; in everything give thanks,’ and ‘Be careful for nothing. But in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God’. On the contrary, the Apostle mentions it as one of the highest crimes of the Gentiles, that they were not thankful. ‘Neither were they thankful’ [Romans 1:21]. As also in another place, he numbers the ‘unthankful’ amongst those unholy, profane persons who are to have their portion in the lake of fire and brimstone [2 Timothy 3:2 and Revelation 21:8]. —George Whitefield, “Thankfulness for Mercies Received, a Necessary Duty” in Lee Gatiss (Ed.), The Sermons of George Whitefield (Crossway, 2012), 1:141.

By His Good Providence

Then they were glad because they were quiet, So He guided them to their desired haven. Let them give thanks to the Lord for His lovingkindness, And for His wonders to the sons of men! —Psalm 107:30–31 [W]hen [Moses and Joshua] were about to take their leave of the children of Israel, they recounted to them what great things God had done for them, as the best arguments and motives they could urge to engage them to obedience. And how can I copy after better examples? What fitter, what more noble motives, to holiness and purity of living, can I lay before you, than they did? Indeed, I cannot say that we have seen the ‘pillar of a cloud by day, or a pillar of fire by night’, going visibly before us to guide our course. But this I can say, that the same God who was in that pillar of a cloud and pillar of fire, which departed not from the Israelites and who has made the sun to rule the day and the moon to rule the night, has, by his good providence, directed us in our right way, or else the pilot had steered us in vain. Neither can I say that we have seen the ‘sun stand still’, as the children of Israel did in the days of Joshua. But surely God, during part of our voyage, has caused it to withhold some of that heat, which it usually sends forth in these warmer climates, or else it had not failed but some of you must have perished in the sickness that has been and does yet continue among us. We have not seen the waters stand purposely on an heap, that we might pass through, neither have we been pursued by Pharaoh and his host and delivered out of their hands. But we have been led through the sea as through a wilderness and were once remarkably preserved from being run down by another ship; which had God permitted, the waters, in all probability, would immediately have overwhelmed us and like Pharaoh and his host, we should have sunk, as stones, into the sea. We may, indeed, atheist-like, ascribe all these things to natural causes and say, ‘Our own skill and foresight has brought us hither in safety.’ But as certainly as Jesus Christ, the angel of the covenant, in the days of his flesh, walked upon the water and said to his sinking disciples, ‘Be not afraid, it is I,’ so surely has the same everlasting I AM, ‘who decketh himself with light as with a garment, who spreadeth out the heavens like a curtain, who claspeth the winds in his fist, who holdeth the waters in the hollow of his hands,’ and guided the wise men by a star in the east; so surely, I say, has he spoken and at his command the winds have blown us where we are now arrived. For his providence ruleth all things. ‘Wind and storms obey his word.’ He saith to it at one time, ‘Go’ and it goeth; at another, ‘Come’ and it cometh. And at a third time, ‘Blow this way’ and it bloweth. It is he, my brethren and not we ourselves, that has of late sent us such prosperous gales and made us to ride, as it were, on the wings of the wind, into the haven where we would be. ‘O that you would therefore praise the Lord for his goodness,’ and by your lives declare, that you are truly thankful for the wonders he had shown to us; who are less than the least of the sons of men. —George Whitefield, “Thankfulness for Mercies Received, a Necessary Duty” in Lee Gatiss (Ed.), The Sermons of George Whitefield (Crossway, 2012), 1:142–144.

Keeping Up Communion

Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up. Furthermore, if two lie down together they keep warm, but how can one be warm alone? And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart. —Ecclesiastes 4:9–12 The primitive Christians were fully sensible of this [need for Christian fellowship] and therefore we find them continually keeping up communion with each other. For what says the scripture? ‘They continued steadfastly in the Apostle’s doctrine and fellowship’ [Acts 2:42]. Peter and John were no sooner dismissed by the great council, than they haste away to their companions. ‘And being set at liberty they came to their own and told them all these things which the high priest had said unto them’ [Acts 4:23]. Paul, as soon as converted, ‘tarried three days with the disciples that were at Damascus’ [Acts 9:19]. And Peter afterwards, when released from prison, immediately goes to the house of Mary, where there were ‘great multitudes assembled, praying’ [Acts 12:12]. And it is reported of the Christians in after ages, that they used to assemble together before day-light, to sing a psalm to Christ as God. So precious was the Communion of Saints in those days. —George Whitefield, “The Necessity and Benefits of Religious Society” in Lee Gatiss (Ed.), The Sermons of George Whitefield (Crossway, 2012), 1:156.

Generating Heat

Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up. Furthermore, if two lie down together they keep warm, but how can one be warm alone? And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart. —Ecclesiastes 4:9–12 Observe, the wise man supposes it as impossible for religious persons to meet together and not to be the warmer for each other’s company, as for two persons to lie in the same bed and yet freeze with cold. But now, how is it possible to communicate heat to each other, without mutually stirring up the gift of God which is in us, by brotherly exhortation? Let every member then of a religious society write that zealous Apostle’s advice on the tables of his heart, ‘See that ye exhort and provoke one another to love and to good works. And so much the more, as you see the day of the Lord approaching.’ Believe me, brethren, we have need of exhortation to rouse up our sleepy souls, to set us upon our watch against the temptations of the world, the flesh and the devil; to excite us to renounce ourselves, to take up our crosses and follow our blessed Master and the glorious company of saints and martyrs, ‘who through faith have fought the good fight and are gone before us to inherit the promises.’ —George Whitefield, “The Necessity and Benefits of Religious Society” in Lee Gatiss (Ed.), The Sermons of George Whitefield (Crossway, 2012), 1:162.

Profession & Practice

Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up. Furthermore, if two lie down together they keep warm, but how can one be warm alone? And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart. —Ecclesiastes 4:9–12 Only permit me to ‘stir up your pure minds, by way of remembrance’, and to exhort you, ‘if there be any consolation in Christ, any fellowship of the spirit,’ again and again to consider, that as all Christians in general, so all members of religious societies in particular, are in an especial manner, as houses built upon an hill. And that therefore it highly concerns you to walk circumspectly towards those that are without and to take heed to yourselves, that your conversation, in common life, be as becometh such an open and peculiar profession of the gospel of Christ, knowing that the eyes of all men are upon you, narrowly to inspect every circumstance of your behaviour and that every notorious wilful miscarriage of any single member will, in some measure, redound to the scandal and dishonour of your whole fraternity. Labour, therefore, my beloved brethren, to let your practice correspond to your profession. And think not that it will be sufficient for you to plead at the last day, ‘Lord have we not assembled ourselves together in thy name and enlivened each other, by singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs?’ For verily, I say unto you, notwithstanding this, our blessed Lord will bid you depart from him, nay, you shall receive a great damnation, if in the mists of these great pretensions you are found to be workers of iniquity. —George Whitefield, “The Necessity and Benefits of Religious Society” in Lee Gatiss (Ed.), The Sermons of George Whitefield (Crossway, 2012), 1:166.


These days, when we hear the word “religion,” we either think in broad terms that include all the religions of the world, or we think of outward forms connected to—or even disconnected from—the Christian faith. In past centuries, however, Christian theologians used it as shorthand for genuine spiritual life. Whitefield explains: But to proceed more clearly in this argument it may not be improper first to explain what I mean by the word religion. By this term I would not be understood to mean a bare outward profession or naming the name of Christ. For we are told, that many who have even prophesied in his name and in his name cast out devils, shall notwithstanding be rejected by him at the last day. Nor would I understand by it barely being admitted into Christ’s church by baptism. For then Simon Magus, Arius and the heresiarchs [Arch-heretics] of old might pass for religious persons for these were baptized. Nor yet is it the receiving of the other seal of the covenant, for then Judas himself might be canonized for a saint. Nor indeed do I mean any or all of these together, considered by themselves but a thorough, real, inward change of nature, wrought in us by the powerful operations of the Holy Ghost, conveyed to and nourished in our hearts by a constant use of all the means of grace, evidenced by a good life and bringing forth the fruits of the spirit. —George Whitefield, “The Benefits of an Early Piety” in Lee Gatiss (Ed.), The Sermons of George Whitefield (Crossway, 2012), 1:205–206.

A Lawful Marriage

For your husband is your Maker, Whose name is the Lord of hosts; And your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel, Who is called the God of all the earth. —Isaiah 54:5 And first, in all lawful marriages it is absolutely necessary, that the parties to be joined together in that holy and honourable estate are actually and legally freed from all pre-engagements whatsoever. ‘A woman is bound to her husband (saith the Apostle) so long as her husband liveth.’ The same law holds good in respect to the man. And so likewise, if either party be betrothed and promised, though not actually married to another, the marriage is not lawful, till that pre-engagement and promise be fairly and mutually dissolved. Now, it is just thus between us and the Lord Jesus. For, we are all by nature born under and wedded to the law as a covenant of works. Hence it is that we are so fond of and artfully go about in order to establish a righteousness of our own. It is as natural for us to do this, as it is to breathe. Our first parents, Adam and Eve, even after the covenant of grace was revealed to them in that promise, ‘the seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent’s head’ reached out their hands and would again have taken hold of the tree of life, which they had forfeited, had not God driven them out of paradise and compelled them, as it were, to be saved by grace. And thus all their descendants naturally run to and want to be saved, partly at least, if not wholly, by their works. And even gracious souls, who are inwardly renewed, so far as the old man abides in them, find a strong propensity this way. Hence it is, that natural men are generally so fond of Arminian principles. ‘Do and live,’ is the native language of a proud, self-righteous heart. But before we can say, ‘our Maker is our husband,’ we must be delivered from our old husband the law. We must renounce our own righteousness, our own doings and performances, in point of dependence whether in whole or part, as dung and dross, for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus our Lord. For thus speaks the Apostle Paul to the Romans, chapter 7:4, ‘Ye also are become dead to the law (as a covenant of works) by the body of Christ, that ye should be married to another, even to him, who is raised from the dead.’ As he also speaketh in another place, ‘I have espoused you, as a chaste virgin to Jesus Christ.’ This was the Apostle’s own case. Whilst he depended on his being a Hebrew of the Hebrews and thought himself secure, because, as to the outward observation of the law, he was blameless, he was an entire stranger to the divine life. But when he began to experience the power of Jesus Christ’s resurrection, we find him, in his epistle to the Philippians, absolutely renouncing all his external privileges and all his Pharisaical righteousness. ‘Yes, doubtless and I count all things but loss, nay but dung, that I may win Christ and be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law but that which is through the faith of Jesus Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.’ And thus it must be with us ere we can say, ‘our Maker is our husband.’ Though we may not be wrought upon in that extraordinary way in which the Apostle was, yet we must be dead to the law, we must be espoused as chaste virgins to Jesus Christ and count all external privileges and our most splendid performances (as was before observed) only ‘as dung and dross, for the excellency of the knowledge of Jesus Christ our Lord.’ —George Whitefield, “Christ the Believer’s Husband” in Lee Gatiss (Ed.), The Sermons of George Whitefield (Crossway, 2012), 1:218–220.

Spiritual Adultery

For your husband is your Maker, Whose name is the Lord of hosts; And your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel, Who is called the God of all the earth. —Isaiah 54:5 There is such a thing as spiritual adultery: ‘O ye adulterers and adulteresses’ saith St. James. And God frequently complains of his people’s playing the harlot. Hence it is that St. John, in the most endearing manner, exhorts believers to ‘keep themselves from idols.’ For the lust of the eye, the lust of the flesh and pride of life, are always ready to steal away our hearts from Jesus Christ. And every time we place our affections upon anything more than Christ, we do undoubtedly commit spiritual adultery. For we admit a creature to rival the Creator, who is God over all, blessed forevermore. ‘Little children, therefore, keep yourselves from idols.’ —George Whitefield, “Christ the Believer’s Husband” in Lee Gatiss (Ed.), The Sermons of George Whitefield (Crossway, 2012), 1:231.
For your husband is your Maker, Whose name is the Lord of hosts; And your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel, Who is called the God of all the earth. —Isaiah 54:5 Fruitfulness was a blessing promised by God to the first happy pair: ‘Increase and multiply and replenish the earth.’ ‘Lo, children and the fruit of the womb (says the Psalmist) are a gift and heritage, which cometh of the Lord.’ And so, if we are married to Jesus Christ, we must be fruitful. In what? In every good word and work. For this speaks the Apostle, in his epistle to the Romans: ‘Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law, by the body of Christ, that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead.’ What follows? ‘That we should bring forth fruit unto God.’ Glorious words and proper to be considered in a peculiar manner, by such who would explode the doctrine of free justification, as an Antinomian doctrine and as though it destroyed good works. No, it establishes and lays a solid foundation, whereon to build the superstructure of good works. Titus is therefore commanded to ‘exhort believers to be careful to maintain good works.’ And ‘herein (says our Lord) is my Father glorified, that ye bring forth much fruit. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in heaven,’ with a multitude of passages to the same purpose. —George Whitefield, “Christ the Believer’s Husband” in Lee Gatiss (Ed.), The Sermons of George Whitefield (Crossway, 2012), 1:231–232.

By Imputation

In His days Judah will be saved, And Israel will dwell securely; And this is His name by which He will be called, “The Lord our righteousness.” —Jeremiah 18:1–6 How the Lord is to be man’s righteousness . . . And that is, in one word, by imputation. For it pleased God, after he had made all things by the word of his power, to create man after his own image. And so infinite was the condescension of the high and lofty One who inhabiteth eternity that although he might have insisted on the everlasting obedience of him and his posterity yet he was pleased to oblige himself, by a covenant or agreement made with his own creatures, upon condition of an unsinning obedience, to give them immortality and eternal life. For when it is said, ‘The day thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die’ we may fairly infer, so long as he continued obedient and did not eat thereof, he should surely live. The 3rd of Genesis gives us a full but mournful account, how our first parents broke this covenant and thereby stood in need of a better righteousness than their own, in order to procure their future acceptance with God. For what must they do? They were as much under a covenant of works as ever. And though, after their disobedience, they were without strength yet they were obliged not only to do but continue to do all things and that too in the most perfect manner, which the Lord had required of them. And not only so but to make satisfaction to God’s infinitely offended justice, for the breach they had already been guilty of. Here then opens the amazing scene of divine philanthropy. I mean, God’s love to man. For behold, what man could not do, Jesus Christ, the son of his Father’s love, undertakes to do for him. And that God might be just in justifying the ungodly, though ‘he was in the form of God and therefore thought it no robbery to be equal with God, yet he took upon him the form of a servant’, even human nature. In that nature he obeyed and thereby fulfilled the whole moral law in our stead and also died a painful death upon the cross and thereby became a curse for, or instead of, those whom the Father had given to him. As God he satisfied at the same time that he obeyed and suffered as man and, being God and man in one person, he wrought out a full, perfect, and sufficient righteousness for all to whom it was to be imputed. Here then we see the meaning of the word righteousness. It implies the active as well as passive obedience of the Lord Jesus Christ. We generally, when talking of the merits of Christ, only mention the latter—his death. Whereas the former—his life and active obedience, is equally necessary. Christ is not such a Saviour as becomes us, unless we join both together. Christ not only died but lived, not only suffered but obeyed for, or instead of, poor sinners. And both these jointly make up that complete righteousness, which is to be imputed to us, as the disobedience of our first parents was made ours by imputation. In this sense and no other, are we to understand that parallel which the Apostle Paul draws, in the 5th of the Romans, between the first and second Adam. This is what he elsewhere terms, ‘our being made the righteousness of God in him.’ This is the sense wherein the Prophet would have us to understand the words of the text, therefore, Jeremiah 33:16, ‘She (i.e. the church itself) shall be called (having this righteousness imputed to her) The Lord our righteousness.’ —George Whitefield, “The Lord Our Righteousness” in Lee Gatiss (Ed.), The Sermons of George Whitefield (Crossway, 2012), 1:264–266.

The Back Way to Popery

In His days Judah will be saved, And Israel will dwell securely; And this is His name by which He will be called, “The Lord our righteousness.” —Jeremiah 18:1–6 [N]ever did greater or more absurdities flow from the denying any doctrine, than will flow from denying the doctrine of Christ’s imputed righteousness. And first, if we deny this doctrine we turn the truth, I mean the word of God, as much as we can, into a lie and utterly subvert all those places of scripture which say that we are saved by grace; that it is not of works, lest any man should boast, that salvation is God’s free gift and that he who glorieth, must glory only in the Lord. For, if the whole personal righteousness of Jesus Christ be not the sole cause of my acceptance with God, if any work done by or foreseen in me, was in the least to be joined with it, or looked upon by God as an inducing, impulsive cause of acquitting my soul from guilt, then I have somewhat whereof I may glory in myself. Now boasting is excluded in the great work of our redemption. But that cannot be, if we are enemies to the doctrine of an imputed righteousness. It would be endless to enumerate how many texts of scripture must be false, if this doctrine be not true. Let it suffice to affirm in the general, that if we deny an imputed righteousness, we may as well deny a divine revelation all at once. For it is the alpha and omega, the beginning and the end of the book of God. We must either disbelieve that or believe what the prophet has spoken in the text, ‘that the Lord is our righteousness.’ But further: I observed at the beginning of this discourse, that we are all Arminians and Papists by nature. For as one says, ‘Arminianism is the back way to popery.’ And here I venture further to affirming that if we deny the doctrine of an imputed righteousness whatever we may style ourselves we are really Papists in our hearts. And deserve no other title from men. Sirs, what think you? Suppose I was to come and tell you that you must intercede with saints, for them to intercede with God for you. Would you not say I was justly reputed a Papist missionary by some and deservedly thrust out of thy synagogues by others? I suppose you would. And why? Because, you would say, the intercession of Jesus Christ was sufficient of itself, without the intercession of saints and that it was blasphemous to join theirs with his, as though it was not sufficient. Suppose I went a little more round about and told you that the death of Christ was not sufficient, without our death being added to it; that you must die as well as Christ, join your death with his and then it would be sufficient. Might you not then, with a holy indignation, throw dust in the air and justly call me a ‘setter forth of strange doctrines?’ And how then, if it be not only absurd but blasphemous to join the intercession of saints with the intercession of Christ, as though his intercession was not sufficient; or our death with the death of Christ, as though his death was not sufficient: judge ye, if it be not equally absurd, equally blasphemous, to join our obedience, either wholly or in part, with the obedience of Christ, as if that was not sufficient. And if so, what absurdities will follow the denying that the Lord, both as to his active and passive obedience, is our righteousness? —George Whitefield, “The Lord Our Righteousness” in Lee Gatiss (Ed.), The Sermons of George Whitefield (Crossway, 2012), 1:272–274.

Justified, Sanctified, Holy

In His days Judah will be saved, And Israel will dwell securely; And this is His name by which He will be called, “The Lord our righteousness.” —Jeremiah 18:1–6 Can you then, with believing Thomas cry out, ‘My Lord and my God.’ Is Christ your sanctification, as well as your outward righteousness? For the word righteousness, in the text, not only implies Christ’s personal righteousness imputed to us but also holiness wrought in us. These two, God has joined together. He never did, he never does, he never will put them asunder. If you are justified by the blood, you are also sanctified by the Spirit of our Lord. —George Whitefield, “The Lord Our Righteousness” in Lee Gatiss (Ed.), The Sermons of George Whitefield (Crossway, 2012), 1:275.

Nothing but Christ

In His days Judah will be saved, And Israel will dwell securely; And this is His name by which He will be called, “The Lord our righteousness.” —Jeremiah 18:1–6 Can you then in this sense say, The Lord our righteousness? Were you ever made to abhor yourselves for your actual and original sins and to loathe your own righteousness? For as the prophet beautifully expresses it, ‘your righteousnesses are as filthy rags’ [Isaiah 64:6]. Were you ever made to see and admire the all-sufficiency of Christ’s righteousness and excited by the Spirit of God to hunger and thirst after it? Could you ever say, my soul is athirst for Christ, yea, even for the righteousness of Christ? O when shall I come to appear before the presence of my God in the righteousness of Christ! Nothing but Christ! Nothing but Christ! Give me Christ, O God and I am satisfied! My soul shall praise thee forever. Was this ever the language of your hearts? And, after these inward conflicts, were you ever enabled to reach out the arm of faith and embrace the blessed Jesus in your souls, so that you could say, ‘my beloved is mine and I am his?’ If so, fear not, whoever you are. Hail, all hail, you happy souls! The Lord, the Lord Christ, the everlasting God, is your righteousness. Christ has justified you, who is he that condemneth you? Christ has died for you, nay rather is risen again and ever liveth to make intercession for you. Being now justified by his grace, you have peace with God and shall, ere long, be with Jesus in glory, reaping everlasting and unspeakable fruits both in body and soul. For there is no condemnation to those that are really in Christ Jesus. —George Whitefield, “The Lord Our Righteousness” in Lee Gatiss (Ed.), The Sermons of George Whitefield (Crossway, 2012), 1:275–276.

Unless Christ’s Righteousness Is Imputed

In His days Judah will be saved, And Israel will dwell securely; And this is His name by which He will be called, “The Lord our righteousness.” —Jeremiah 18:1–6 And think you, O sinner, that you will be able to stand in the day of judgment, if Christ be not your righteousness? No, that alone is the wedding garment in which you must appear. O Christless sinners, I am distressed for you! The desires of my soul are enlarged. O that this may be an accepted time! That the Lord may be your righteousness! For whither would you flee, if death should find you naked? Indeed there is no hiding yourselves from his presence. The pitiful fig-leaves of your own righteousness will not cover your nakedness, when God shall call you to stand before him. Adam found them ineffectual and so will you. O think of death! O think of judgment! Yet a little while and time shall be no more. And then what will become of you, if the Lord be not your righteousness? Think you that Christ will spare you? No, he that formed you, will have no mercy on you. If you are not of Christ, if Christ be not your righteousness, Christ himself shall pronounce you damned. And can you bear to think of being damned by Christ? Can you bear to hear the Lord Jesus say to you, ‘Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.’ Can you live, think you, in everlasting burnings? Is your flesh brass and your bones iron? What if they are? Hell-fire, that fire prepared for the devil and his angels, will heat them through and through. And can you bear to depart from Christ? O that heart-piercing thought! Ask those holy souls, who are at any time bewailing an absent God, who walk in darkness and see no light, though but a few days or hours; ask them, what it is to lose a light and presence of Christ? See how they seek him sorrowing and go mourning after him all the day long! And, if it is so dreadful to lose the sensible presence of Christ only for a day, what must it be to be banished from him to all eternity! But thus it must be, if Christ be not your righteousness. For God’s justice must be satisfied. And, unless Christ’s righteousness is imputed and applied to you here, you must hereafter be satisfying the divine justice in hell-torments eternally; nay, Christ himself shall condemn you to that place of torment. And how cutting is that thought! Methinks I see poor, trembling, Christless wretches, standing before the bar of God, crying out, ‘Lord, if we must be damned, let some angel, or some archangel, pronounce the damnatory sentence.’ But all in vain. Christ himself shall pronounce the irrevocable sentence. Knowing therefore the terrors of the Lord, let me persuade you to close with Christ and never rest till you can say, ‘the Lord our righteousness.’ Who knows but the Lord may have mercy on, may abundantly pardon you? Beg of God to give you faith. And, if the Lord gives you that, you will by it receive Christ, with his righteousness and his all. You need not fear the greatness or number of your sins. For are you sinners? So am I. Are you the chief of sinners? So am I. Are you backsliding sinners? So am I. And yet the Lord (forever adored be his rich, free and sovereign grace) the Lord is my righteousness. —George Whitefield, “The Lord Our Righteousness” in Lee Gatiss (Ed.), The Sermons of George Whitefield (Crossway, 2012), 1:277–278.

An Everlasting Righteousness

Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sin, to make atonement for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy place. —Daniel 9:24 In the fullness of time descends the eternal Logos, ‘In the fullness of time God sent forth his Son made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that are under the law from the curse of it, being made a curse for us.’ The Lord Jesus Christ being clothed in human nature, fulfilled all righteousness. He submitted to every institution of God and was pleased to obey the whole moral law. And afterwards, O can we think of it, O can you hear of it, without a heart leaping with joy, at last the Lord Jesus bled and died! And when he was just expiring, just as he was about to bow down his head and give up the ghost, what do ye think he said? He said, ‘It is finished!’ As much as to say, ‘Now the arduous work, the difficult task I had undertaken, blessed be God, is now completely over; all the demands of the law are finished; now God’s justice is satisfied. Now a new and living way is opened by my blood to the holiest of all for poor sinners.’ So that when Christ’s righteousness is here spoken of we are to understand ‘Christ’s obedience and death’, all that Christ has done and all that Christ has suffered for an elect world, for all that will believe on him. And blessed be God for this righteousness! Blessed be God for the epithet which in the text is put to this righteousness. It might be called a blessed righteousness, it might be called a glorious righteousness, it might be called an invaluable righteousness. But the angel calls it an everlasting righteousness. God give you to take the comfort of it! —George Whitefield, “The Righteousness of Christ an Everlasting Righteousness” in Lee Gatiss (Ed.), The Sermons of George Whitefield (Crossway, 2012), 1:289.

An Enduring Righteousness

Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sin, to make atonement for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy place. —Daniel 9:24 Christ’s righteousness may be called an everlasting righteousness, because the benefit of it is to endure to everlasting life. Indeed, some people tell us, that a person may be in Christ today and go to the devil tomorrow. But, blessed be God, ye have not so learned Christ! No, my dear friends, thanks be to God for that divine text, ‘There is now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus.’ Though God’s people may fall foully. And though many are full of doubts and fears and say, ‘One day I shall fall by the hands of Saul’ however your poor souls may be harassed, yet no wicked devil, nor your own depraved heart, shall be able to separate you from the love of God. God has loved you, God has fixed his heart upon you and having loved his own, he loves them unto the end. The Lord of life and of glory, the blessed Jesus, will never cease loving you, till he hath loved and brought you to heaven when he will rejoice and say, ‘Behold me, O my Father and the dear children that thou hast given me; thou gavest them me; thine they were, I have bought them with my blood, I have won them with my sword and with my bow and I now will wear them as so many jewels of my crown.’ Therefore, Jesus Christ’s righteousness may be called an everlasting righteousness, because those who once take hold of and are interested in it, shall be saved everlastingly by Christ. ‘It is God that justifies us (says St. Paul), who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather that is risen again.’ He gives devils the challenge, ‘O death, where is thy sting, O grave, where is thy victory? Who shall separate us from the love of God? I am persuaded that neither death nor life, neither principalities nor powers, nor any other creature, shall ever be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.’ Those whom God justifies, he also glorifies. And because Christ lives, blessed be God, we shall live also. I know not what you may say. But though I trust I have felt the grace of Christ every day for fresh strength as if I had never believed before. And if I was to depend upon my own faithfulness and not the faithfulness of the Son of God, I am sure I should soon desert the Lord Jesus Christ. But glory be to God, he is faithful that hath promised! Glory be to God, our salvation depends not upon our own free will but upon God’s free grace! Here is a sure bottom, the believer may build upon it. Let the storms blow as long and as high as they please, they may make the poor creature tremble but blessed be God, they never shall be able to take him off the foundation. —George Whitefield, “The Righteousness of Christ an Everlasting Righteousness” in Lee Gatiss (Ed.), The Sermons of George Whitefield (Crossway, 2012), 1:291–292.
Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sin, to make atonement for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy place. —Daniel 9:24 All that Christ hath done, all that Christ hath suffered, all Christ’s active obedience, all Christ’s passive obedience, will do us no good, unless by the Spirit of God, it is brought into our souls. As one expresses it, ‘An unapplied Christ is no Christ at all.’ To hear of a Christ dying for sinners will only increase your damnation, will only sink you deeper into hell, unless we have ground to say, by a work of grace wrought in our hearts, that the Lord Jesus hath brought this home to us. Hence it is, that the Apostle, speaking of Christ, says, ‘Who loved me and gave himself for me.’ O that dear, that great, that little but important word, me. Happy they who can adopt the Apostle’s language! Happy they that can apply it to their own heart. And when they hear that Christ has brought in an everlasting righteousness, can say, ‘Blessed be God, it is brought in by the blessed Spirit to my soul!’ —George Whitefield, “The Righteousness of Christ an Everlasting Righteousness” in Lee Gatiss (Ed.), The Sermons of George Whitefield (Crossway, 2012), 1:293–294.

Our Protector

And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. —Matthew 6:13 I come to show you how earnest you ought to be with Jesus Christ, either not to suffer you to be led into temptations, or to preserve you under them. And here, my dear brethren, let me beseech you to go to Jesus Christ. Tell him how you are assaulted by the evil one, who lies in wait for your souls. Tell him you are not able to master him in your own strength. Beg his assistance and you shall find him ready to help you, ready to assist you and to be your Guide, your Comforter, your Saviour, your all. He will give you strength to resist the fiery darts of the devil. And, therefore, you can nowhere find one so proper to relieve you, as Jesus Christ. He knows what it is to be tempted. He was tempted by Satan in the wilderness and he will give you the assistance of his Spirit to resist the evil one and then he will fly from you. In Christ Jesus you shall have the strength you stand in need of. The devil shall have no power. Therefore fear not, for in the name of the Lord we shall overcome all our spiritual Amalekites. Let the devil and his agents rage, let them breathe out threatenings, yes, let them breathe out slaughters, yet we can rejoice in this, that Jesus Christ hath them in his power, they shall go no farther than he permits them. They may rage, they may rage horribly but they can go no farther, until they have got more power from on high. If they could do us what mischief they would, very few of us should be permitted to see our habitations anymore. But, blessed be God, we can commit ourselves to his protection. He has been our protector hitherto, he will be so still. Then earnestly entreat of the Lord to support you under those temptations, which the devil may assault you with. He is a powerful adversary, he is a cunning one too. He would be too hard for us unless we have the strength of Christ to be with us. But let us be looking up unto Jesus, that he would send his Spirit into our hearts and keep us from falling. —George Whitefield, “Christ the Support of the Tempted” in Lee Gatiss (Ed.), The Sermons of George Whitefield (Crossway, 2012), 1:339–340.

Let Jesus Do All

And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. —Matthew 6:13 Therefore let me beseech you, in all love and compassion, consider, you who are Pharisees, you who will not come to Christ but are trusting to yourselves for righteousness, who think because you lead civil, honest, decent lives, all will go well at last. But let me tell you, O ye Pharisees, that harlots, murderers, and thieves shall enter the kingdom of God before you. Do not flatter yourselves of being in the way to heaven, when you are in the broad way to hell. But if you will throw away your righteousness and come to Christ and be contented to let Jesus Christ do all for you and in you, then Christ is willing to be your Saviour. But if you bring your good works with you and think to be justified on the account of them, you may seek to be justified by them forever and never be justified. No, it is only the blood of Jesus Christ that cleanseth us from the filth and pollution of all our sins. And you must be sanctified before you are justified. As for good works, we are justified before God without any respect to them, either past, present, or to come. When we are justified, good works will follow our justification, for we can do no good works until we are cleansed of our pollution by the sanctification of the Spirit of God. —George Whitefield, “Christ the Support of the Tempted” in Lee Gatiss (Ed.), The Sermons of George Whitefield (Crossway, 2012), 1:343–344.

Godly Priorities

But He said to him, “A man was giving a big dinner, and he invited many; and at the dinner hour he sent his slave to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come; for everything is ready now.’ But they all alike began to make excuses. The first one said to him, ‘I have bought a piece of land and I need to go out and look at it; please consider me excused.’ Another one said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to try them out; please consider me excused.’ Another one said, ‘I have married a wife, and for that reason I cannot come.’ And the slave came back and reported this to his master. Then the head of the household became angry and said to his slave, ‘Go out at once into the streets and lanes of the city and bring in here the poor and crippled and blind and lame.’ And the slave said, ‘Master, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.’ And the master said to the slave, ‘Go out into the highways and along the hedges, and compel them to come in, so that my house may be filled. For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste of my dinner.’” —Luke 14:16–24 First then, I am to prove, that no temporal business, though ever so important, can justify a neglect of true religion. . . . This is true and undefiled religion and for the perfecting of this good work in our hearts, the eternal Son of God came down and shed his precious blood. For this end were we made and sent into the world and by this alone can we become the sons of God. Were we indeed to judge by the common practice of the world, we might think we were sent into it for no other purpose than to care and toil for the uncertain riches of this life. But if we consult the lively oracles, they will inform us that we were born for nobler ends, even to be born again from above, to be restored to the divine likeness by Jesus Christ, our second Adam and thereby be made meet to inherit the kingdom of heaven. And consequently, there is an obligation laid upon all, even the most busy people, to secure this end, it being an undeniable truth that all creatures ought to answer the end for which they were created. . . . In the 14th of St. Luke, the 18th and following verses, our blessed Lord puts forth this parable, ‘A certain man made a great supper and bade many and sent his servant at supper-time, to call them that were bidden. But they all, with one consent, began to make excuse. The one said, I have bought a piece of ground and I must needs go and see it, I pray thee have me excused. And another said, I have bought a yoke of oxen and I must needs go and prove them, I pray thee therefore have me excused. So the servant returned and showed his master all these things.’ And what follows? Did the master accept of their excuses? No, the text tells us the good man was angry and said, ‘that none of those which were bidden, should taste of his supper.’ And what does this parable teach but that the most lawful callings cannot justify our neglect. Nay, that they are no longer lawful when they in any wise interfere with the great concerns of religion. For the marriage supper here spoken of means the gospel. The master of the house is Christ, the servants sent out, are his ministers whose duty it is from time to time to call the people to this marriage-feast or, in other words, to be religious. Now we find those that were bidden were very well and honestly employed. There was no harm in buying or seeing a piece of ground, or in going to prove a yoke of oxen. But here lay their faults: they were doing those things when they were invited to come to the marriage feast. Without doubt, persons may very honestly and commendably be employed in following their respective callings. But yet, if they are engaged so deeply in these, as to hinder their working out their salvation with fear and trembling, they must expect the same sentence with their predecessors in the parable, that none of them shall taste of Christ’s supper. For our particular calling, as of this or that profession must never interfere with our general and precious calling as Christians. Not that Christianity calls us entirely out of the world, the holy scriptures warrant no such doctrine. It is very remarkable that in the book of life we find some almost of all kinds of occupations who notwithstanding served God in their respective generations and shone as so many lights in the world. Thus we hear of a good centurion in the Evangelists and a devout Cornelius in the Acts; a pious lawyer; and some that walked with God even of Nero’s household, in the epistles. And our divine Master himself, in his check to Martha, does not condemn her for minding but for being cumbered or perplexed about many things. No, you may, nay, you must labour out of obedience to God, even for the meat which perisheth. . . . But I come, in the second place, to apply what has been said. I beseech you, by the mercies of God in Christ Jesus, let not your concern for the meat which perisheth be at the expense of that which endureth to everlasting life. For, to repeat our blessed Saviour’s words, ‘What shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?’ —George Whitefield, “Worldly Business No Plea for the Neglect of Religion” in Lee Gatiss (Ed.), The Sermons of George Whitefield (Crossway, 2012), 1:347–348, 350–351.

Weary and Heavy-Laden

Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. —Matthew 11:28 I am to show you what it is to be weary and heavy laden with sins. And you may be said, my brethren, to be weary and heavy laden, when your sins are grievous unto you and it is with grief and trouble you commit them. You, who are awakened unto a sense of your sins, who see how hateful they are to God and how they lay you open to his wrath and indignation and would willingly avoid them; who hate yourselves for committing them; when you are thus convinced of sin, when you see the terrors of the law and are afraid of his judgments; then you may be said to be weary of your sins. And O how terrible do they appear when you are first awakened to a sense of them. When you see nothing but the wrath of God ready to fall upon you and you are afraid of his judgments! O how heavy is your sin to you then! Then you feel the weight thereof and that it is grievous to be born. When you are obliged to cry out under the burden of your sins and know not what to do for relief; when this is your case, you are weary of your sins. It does not consist in a weariness all of a sudden. No, it is the continual burden of your soul, it is your grief and concern that you cannot live without offending God and sinning against him. And these sins are so many and so great, that you fear they will not be forgiven. —George Whitefield, “Christ the Only Rest for the Weary and Heavy Laden” in Lee Gatiss (Ed.), The Sermons of George Whitefield (Crossway, 2012), 1:362–363.

Will You Not Go?

Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. —Matthew 11:28 I come, next, to show you what is meant by coming to Christ. It is not, my brethren, coming with your own works. No, you must come in full dependence upon the Lord Jesus Christ, looking on him as the Lord who died to save sinners. Go to him, tell him you are lost, undone, miserable sinners and that you deserve nothing but hell. And when you thus go to the Lord Jesus Christ out of yourself, in full dependence on the Lord Jesus Christ, you will find him an able and a willing Saviour. He is pleased to see sinners coming to him in a sense of their own unworthiness. And when their case seems to be most dangerous, most distressed, then the Lord in his mercy steps in and gives you his grace. He puts his Spirit within you, takes away your heart of stone and gives you a heart of flesh. Stand not out then against this Lord but go unto him, not in your own strength but in the strength of Jesus Christ. So this brings me . . . to consider the exhortation Christ gives unto all of you, high and low, rich and poor, one with another, to come unto him that you may have rest. And if Jesus Christ gives you rest, you may be sure it will be a rest indeed. It will be such a rest as your soul wants. It will be a rest which the world can neither give nor take away. O come all of ye this night and you shall find rest. Jesus Christ hath promised it. . . . Let me beseech you to come unto Christ and he will give you rest. You shall find rest unto your souls. O you, my weary, burdened brethren, do but go to Christ in this manner and though you go to him weary, you shall find rest before you come from him. Let not anything short of the Lord Jesus Christ be your rest. For wherever you seek you will be disappointed. But if you do but seek unto the Lord Jesus Christ, there you will find a fullness of everything which your weary soul wants. Go to him this night. Here is an invitation to all you who are weary souls. He does not call you, O Pharisees. No, it is only you weary sinners. . . . Therefore, be not for staying till you have something to bring, come in all your rags, in all your filthiness, in all your distresses and you will soon find Jesus Christ ready to help and to relieve you. He loves you as well in your rags as in your best garments. He regards not your dress. No, do but come unto him and you shall soon find rest for your souls. What say you? Shall I tell my Master you will come unto him and that you will accept him on his own terms? Let me, my brethren, beseech you to take Jesus without anything of your own righteousness. For if you expect to mix anything of yourself with Christ, you build upon a sandy foundation. But if you take Christ for your rest, he will be that unto you. Let me beseech you to build upon this rock of ages. O my brethren, think of the gracious invitation, ‘Come unto me,’ to Jesus Christ. It is he that calls you. And will you not go? —George Whitefield, “Christ the Only Rest for the Weary and Heavy Laden” in Lee Gatiss (Ed.), The Sermons of George Whitefield (Crossway, 2012), 1:363–365.

Whitefield on Original Sin

Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. —Matthew 18:3 Though the doctrine of original sin is a doctrine written in such legible characters in the word of God that he who runs may read it; and though, I think, everything without us and everything within us, plainly proclaims that we are fallen creatures; though the very heathens, who had no other light but the dim light of unassisted reason, complained of this, for they felt the wound and discovered the disease but were ignorant of the cause of it; yet there are too many persons of those who have been baptized in the name of Christ, that dare to speak against the doctrine of original sin and are angry with those ill-natured ministers who paint man in such black colours. Say they, ‘It cannot be that children come into the world with the guild of Adam’s sin lying upon them.’ Why? Desire them to prove it from Scripture and they will urge this very text, our Lord tells us, ‘Except ye be converted and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.’ Now their argument runs thus, ‘It is implied in the words of the text, that little children are innocent and that they come into the world like a mere blank piece of white paper, otherwise our Lord must argue absurdly, for he could never pretend to say, that we must be converted and be made like wicked creatures; that would be no conversion.’ But, my dear friends, this is to make Jesus Christ speak what he never intended and what cannot be deduced from his words. That little children are guilty, I mean, that they are conceived and born in sin, is plain from the whole tenor of the book of God. David was a man after God’s own heart, yet, says he, ‘I was conceived in sin.’ Jeremiah speaking of every one’s heart, says, ‘the heart of man is deceitful and desperately wicked above all things.’ God’s servants unanimously declare (and Paul cites it from one of them) ‘that we are altogether now become abominable, altogether gone out of the way of original righteousness, there is not one of us that doeth good (by nature), no not one.’ And I appeal to any of you that are mothers and fathers, if ye do not discern original sin or corruption in your children, as soon as they come into the world. And as they grow up, if ye do not discover self-will and an aversion to goodness. What is the reason your children are so averse to instruction but because they bring enmity into the world with them, against a good and gracious God? So then, it is plain from scripture and fact that children are born in sin and consequently that they are children of wrath. . . . If any charge God with injustice for imputing Adam’s sin to a little child, behold we have gotten a second Adam, to bring our children to him. Therefore, when our Lord says, ‘unless ye are converted and become as little children,’ we are not to understand, as though our Lord would insinuate, that little children are perfectly innocent. . . . Little children are innocent, compare them with grown people. But take them as they are and as they come into the world, they have hearts that are sensual and minds which are carnal. —George Whitefield, “Marks of a True Conversion” in Lee Gatiss (Ed.), The Sermons of George Whitefield (Crossway, 2012), 1:388–389.

To Become Like a Child

Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. —Matthew 18:3 I now proceed to show in what sense we are really to understand the words, that we must be converted and become like little children. The Evangelist tell us, ‘that the disciples at this time came unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’ These disciples had imbibed the common prevailing notion, that the Lord Jesus Christ was to be a temporal prince. They dreamed of nothing but being ministers of state, of sitting on Christ’s right hand in his kingdom and lording it over God’s people. They thought themselves qualified for state offices, as generally ignorant people are apt to conceive of themselves. Well, say they, ‘Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’ Which of us shall have the chief management of public affairs? A pretty question for a few poor fishermen, who scarcely knew how to drag their nets to shore, much less how to govern a kingdom. Our Lord, therefore, in the 2nd verse, to mortify them, calls a little child and sets him in the midst of them. This action was as much as if our Lord had said, ‘Poor creatures! Your imaginations are very towering; you dispute who shall be greatest in the kingdom of heaven; I will make this little child preach to you, or I will preach to you by him. Verily I say unto you (I who am truth itself, I know in what manner my subjects are to enter into my kingdom; I say unto you, ye are so far from being in a right temper for my kingdom, that) except ye be converted and become as this little child, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven (unless ye are, comparatively speaking, as loose to the world, as loose to crowns, sceptres and kingdoms and earthly things, as this poor little child I have in my hand) ye shall not enter into my kingdom.’ So that what our Lord is speaking of is not the innocency of little children, if you consider the relation they stand in to God and as they are in themselves when brought into the world. But what our Lord means is that as to ambition and lust after the world we must in this sense become as little children. . . . Now in this sense we must be converted and become as little children, that is, we must be as loose to the world, comparatively speaking, as a little child. . . . When our Lord says, we must be converted and become as little children, I suppose he means also, that we must be sensible of our weakness, comparatively speaking, as a little child. . . . Are little children sensible of their weakness? Must they be led by the hand? Must we take hold of them or they will fall? So, if we are converted, if the grace of God be really in our hearts, my dear friends, however we may have thought of ourselves once, whatever were our former high exalted imaginations, yet we shall now be sensible of our weakness. . . . And as little children look upon themselves to be ignorant creatures, so those that are converted do look upon themselves as ignorant too. Hence it is, that John speaking to Christians calls them little children: ‘I have written unto you, little children.’ . . . Hence that great man . . . the Apostle Paul, when he speaks of himself, says, ‘Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ.’ . . . And as a little child is looked upon as an harmless creature and generally speaks true so, if we are converted and become as little children, we shall be guileless as well as harmless. What said the dear Redeemer when he saw Nathanael? As though it was a rare sight he gazed upon and would have others gaze upon it: ‘Behold an Israelite indeed.’ Why so? ‘In whom is no guile.’ Do not mistake me, I am not saying that Christians ought not to be prudent. They ought exceedingly to pray to God for prudence, otherwise they may follow the delusions of the devil and by their imprudence give wrong touches to the ark of God. . . . We should pray for the wisdom of the serpent, though we shall generally learn this wisdom by our blunders and imprudence. And we must make some advance in Christianity before we know our imprudence. —George Whitefield, “Marks of a True Conversion” in Lee Gatiss (Ed.), The Sermons of George Whitefield (Crossway, 2012), 1:390–393.

Go Tell Your Father

Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. —Matthew 18:3 Are ye God’s children? Are ye converted and become like little children? Then deal with God as your little children do with you. As soon as ever they want anything, or if anybody hurt them, I appeal to yourselves if they do not directly run to their parent. Well, are ye God’s children? Doth the devil trouble you? Doth the world trouble you? Go tell your Father of it, go directly and complain to God. Perhaps you may say, I cannot utter fine words. But do any of you expect fine words from your children? If they come crying and can speak but half words, do not your hearts yearn over them? And has not God unspeakably more pity to you? If ye can only make signs to him, ‘As a father pitieth his children, so will the Lord pity them that fear him.’ I pray you therefore be bold with your Father, saying, ‘Abba, Father,’ Satan troubles me, the world troubles me, my own mother’s children are angry with me. Heavenly Father, plead my cause! The Lord will then speak for you some way or other. —George Whitefield, “Marks of a True Conversion” in Lee Gatiss (Ed.), The Sermons of George Whitefield (Crossway, 2012), 1:397–398.

What Think You about Christ?

What do you think about the Christ, whose son is He? —Matthew 22:42 First, what think you about the person of Christ? ’Whose Son is he?‘ This is the question our Lord put to the Pharisees in the words following the text. And never was it more necessary to repeat this question than in these last days. For numbers that are called after the name of Christ and I fear, many that pretend to preach him, are so far advanced in the blasphemous chair as openly to deny his being really, truly, and properly God. But no one that ever was partaker of his Spirit will speak thus lightly of him. No, if they are asked, as Peter and his brethren were, ’But whom say ye that I am?‘ they will reply without hesitation, ’Thou art Christ the Son of the ever-living God.‘ For the confession of our Lord‘s divinity, is the rock upon which he builds his church. Was it possible to take this away, the gates of hell would quickly prevail against it. . . . But secondly, what think you of the manhood or incarnation of Jesus Christ? For Christ was not only God but he was God and man in one person. Thus runs the text and context, ’When the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, saying, What think ye of Christ? Whose Son is he? They say unto him, The Son of David. How then, says our divine Master, does David in spirit call him Lord?‘ From which passage it is evident, that we do not think rightly of the person of Jesus Christ, unless we believe him to be perfect God and perfect man, of a reasonable soul and human flesh subsisting. . . . The reason why the Son of God took upon him our nature was the Fall of our first parents. . . . As God made man, so God made him perfect. He placed him in the garden of Eden and condescended to enter into a covenant with him, promising him eternal life upon condition of unsinning obedience. And threatening eternal death, if he broke his law and did eat the forbidden fruit. Man did eat. And herein acting as our representative, thereby involved both himself and us in that curse, which God, the righteous judge, had said should be the consequence of his disobedience. But here begins that mystery of godliness, God manifested in the flesh. For (sing, O heavens and rejoice, O earth!) the eternal Father, foreseeing how Satan would bruise the heel of man had in his eternal counsel provided a means whereby he might bruise that accursed serpent‘s head. Man is permitted to fall and become subject to death. But Jesus, the only begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds, Light of light, very God of very God, offers to die to make an atonement for his transgression and to fulfil all righteousness in his stead. And because it was impossible for him to do this as he was God and yet since man had offended it was necessary it should be done in the person of man. Rather than we should perish, this everlasting God, this Prince of Peace, this Ancient of Days, in the fullness of time had a body prepared for him by the Holy Ghost and became an infant. In this body he performed a complete obedience to the law of God whereby he, in our stead, fulfilled the covenant of works and at last became subject to death, even death upon the cross. That as God he might satisfy, as man he might obey and suffer, and being God and man in one person, might once more procure a union between God and our souls. And now, what think you of this love of Christ? Do not you think it was wondrous great? Especially when you consider that we were Christ‘s bitter enemies and that he would have been infinitely happy in himself, notwithstanding we had perished forever. Whatever you may think of it, I know the blessed angels, who are not so much concerned in this mystery of godliness as we, think most highly of it. They do, they will desire to look into and admire it, through all eternity. Why, why O ye sinners, will you not think of this love of Christ? Surely it must melt down the most hardened heart. Whilst I am speaking, the thought of this infinite and condescending love fires and warms my soul. I could dwell on it forever. —George Whitefield, “What Think Ye of Christ?” in Lee Gatiss (Ed.), The Sermons of George Whitefield (Crossway, 2012), 1:405, 407–408.

Boasting Excluded

What do you think about the Christ, whose son is He? —Matthew 22:42 What think you then, if I tell you, that you are to be justified freely through faith in Jesus Christ, without any regard to any work or fitness foreseen in us at all? For salvation is the free gift of God, I know no fitness in man but a fitness to be cast into the lake of fire and brimstone forever. Our righteousnesses, in God’s sight, are but as filthy rags. He cannot away with them. Our holiness, if we have any, is not the cause but the effect of our justification in God’s sight. ‘We love God, because he first loved us.’ We must not come to God as the proud Pharisee did, bringing in as it were a reckoning of our services. We must come in the temper and language of the poor Publican, smiting upon our breasts and saying, ‘God be merciful to me a sinner.’ For Jesus Christ justifies us whilst we are ungodly. He came not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance. The poor in spirit only, they who are willing to go out of themselves and rely wholly on the righteousness of another, are so blessed as to be members of his kingdom. The righteousness, the whole righteousness of Jesus Christ, is to be imputed to us, instead of our own, ‘for we are not under the law but under grace. And to as many as walk after this rule, peace be on them’ for they and they only are the true Israel of God. In the great work of man’s redemption, boasting is entirely excluded. Which could not be, if only one of our works was to be joined with the merits of Christ. Our salvation is all of God, from the beginning to the end. It is not of works, lest any man should boast. Man has no hand in it. It is Christ who is to be made to us of God the Father, wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and eternal redemption. His active as well as his passive obedience, is to be applied to poor sinners. He has fulfilled all righteousness in our stead, that we might become the righteousness of God in him. . . . And the very moment we do apprehend it by a lively faith, that very moment we may be assured, that the blood of Jesus Christ has cleansed us from all sin. ‘For the promise is to us and to our children and to as many as the Lord our God shall call.’ . . . For the righteousness of Jesus Christ is an everlasting, as well as a perfect righteousness. It is as effectual to all who believe in him now, as formerly. And so it will be, till time shall be no more. —George Whitefield, “What Think Ye of Christ?” in Lee Gatiss (Ed.), The Sermons of George Whitefield (Crossway, 2012), 1:409–410.

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.

All Equally Fallen

Perhaps many self-righteous persons amongst you, may flatter yourselves that you are not so wicked as either Zaccheus or Saul was and consequently there is a greater fitness for salvation in you than in them. But if you think thus, indeed you think more highly of yourselves than you ought to think. For by nature we are all alike, all equally fallen short of the glory of God, all equally dead in trespasses and sins and there needs the same almighty power to be exerted in converting any one of the most sober, good-natured, moral persons here present, as there was in converting the publican Zaccheus, or that notorious persecutor Saul. And was it possible for you to ascend into the highest heaven and to inquire of the spirits of just men made perfect, I am persuaded they would tell you this doctrine is from God. But we have a more sure word of prophecy, to which we do well to give heed, as unto a light shining in a dark place. My brethren, the word is near you. Search the scriptures. Beg of God to make you willing to be saved in this day of his power. For it is not flesh and blood but the Spirit of Jesus Christ, that alone can reveal these things unto you. —George Whitefield, “What Think Ye of Christ?” in Lee Gatiss (Ed.), The Sermons of George Whitefield (Crossway, 2012), 1:416. * “So we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts. But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.” —1 Peter 1:19–21

“I freely forgive him all.”

If you say, you cannot believe, you say right. For faith, as well as every other blessing, is the gift of God. But then wait upon God and who knows but he may have mercy on thee? Why do we not entertain more loving thoughts of Christ? Or do you think he will have mercy on others and not on you? But are you not sinners? And did not Jesus Christ come into the world to save sinners? If you say you are the chief of sinners, I answer that will be no hindrance to your salvation, indeed it will not, if you lay hold on him by faith. Read the Evangelists and see how kindly he behaved to his disciples who fled from and denied him: ‘Go tell my brethren,’ says he. He did not say, ‘Go tell those traitors.’ But, ‘Go tell my brethren’ in general and poor Peter in particular, ‘that I am risen.’ O comfort his poor drooping heart, tell him I am reconciled to him. Bid him weep no more so bitterly. For though with oaths and curses he thrice denied me, yet I have died for his sins, I am risen again for his justification. I freely forgive him all. Thus slow to anger and of great kindness, was our all-merciful High Priest. And do you think he has changed his nature and forgets poor sinners now he is exalted to the right hand of God? No, he is the same yesterday, today and forever and sitteth there only to make intercession for us. Come then, ye harlots, come ye publicans, come ye most abandoned of sinners, come and believe on Jesus Christ. Though the whole world despise you and cast you out, yet he will not disdain to take you up. O amazing, O infinitely condescending love! Even you, he will not be ashamed to call his brethren. —George Whitefield, “What Think Ye of Christ?” in Lee Gatiss (Ed.), The Sermons of George Whitefield (Crossway, 2012), 1:419–420.

He Followed Jesus

And Jesus said to him, “Go; your faith has made you well.” Immediately he regained his sight and began following Him on the road. —Mark 10:52 ‘As our Lord went out of Jericho with his disciples and a great number of people, blind Bartimeus (the son of Timeus) sat by the highway-side begging.’ . . . And what does Bartimeus do when he hears of Jesus? We are told [Mark 10:47], ‘And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out.’ This plainly denotes, that though the eyes of his body were shut, yet the eyes of his mind were in some degree opened, so that he saw perhaps, more than most of the multitude that followed after Jesus. For, as soon as he heard of him, he began to cry out, which he would not have done had he not heard of him before and believed also that he was both able and willing to restore sight to the blind. ‘He began to cry out.’ This implies, that he had a deep sense of his own misery and the need which he had of a cure. His prayers did not freeze as they went out of his lips. He began to cry out that Jesus might hear him, notwithstanding the noise of the throng. And he began to cry out as soon as he heard he was passing by, not knowing whether he might ever enjoy such an opportunity anymore. ‘He began to cry out, ”Jesus, thou Son of David, have mercy upon me.”’ The people called him Jesus of Nazareth. Bartimeus styles him, ‘Jesus, thou Son of David.’ Thereby evidencing that he believed him to be the Messiah who was to come into the world, unto whom the Lord God was to give the throne of his father David and of whose kingdom there was to be no end. ‘Jesus, thou Son of David’ or, as it is in the parallel place of St. Matthew 20:30, ‘O Lord, thou son of David’ of whom it had been long foretold, Isaiah 35, that when he should come, ‘the eyes of the blind should be opened.’ ’Have mercy upon me,’ the natural language of a soul brought to lie down at the feet of a sovereign God. Here is no laying claim to a cure by way of merit. No proud, self-righteous, ‘God I thank thee that I am not as other men are,’ not bringing in a reckoning of performances, nor any doubting of Jesus’ power or willingness to heal him. But out of the abundance of the heart, his mouth speaketh and in the language of the poor, broken-hearted publican he cries out, ‘Jesus, thou Son of David, have mercy on me.’ Jesus, thou friend of sinners, thou Saviour, who, though thou be the true God, wast pleased to become the Son of David and to be made man, that thou mightest seek and save those that were lost, have mercy upon me. Let thy bowels yearn [Genesis 43:30] towards a poor, miserable, blind beggar? . . . And what treatment did Jesus give him? Did he say, come not nigh me thou impudent noisy beggar? No, ‘he answered and said unto him, “What wilt thou, that I should do unto thee?”’ An odd question this, seemingly. For did not our Lord know what he wanted? Yes, he did. But the Lord Jesus dealt with him as he deals with us. He will make us acknowledge our wants ourselves, that we thereby may confess our dependence upon him and be made more sensible of the need we stand in of his divine assistance. The blind man immediately replies, ‘Lord (thereby intimating his belief of Christ’s divinity) that I might receive my sight.’ Methinks, I see the poor creature listening to the voice of our Saviour and with looks and gestures bespeaking the inward earnestness of his soul, he cries out, ‘Lord, that I may receive my sight.’ As though he had said, ‘I believe thou are that Messiah who was to come into the world. I have heard of thy fame, O Jesus! And hearing the long-wished-for glad tidings of thy coming this way, I cry unto thee, asking not for silver and gold but what thou, thou alone canst give me, Lord, that I might receive my sight.’ No sooner does he ask but he receives. For, verse 52, ‘Jesus said unto him, “Go thy way, thy faith hath made thee whole.” And immediately he received his sight.’ With the word there went a power. And he that spake light out of darkness saying, ‘Let there be light and there was light,’ commanded light into this poor blind beggar’s eyes and behold there was light. The miracle was instantaneous. ‘Immediately he received his sight.’ . . . O! happy Bartimeus! Thy eyes are now opened and the very first object thou dost behold is the ever-loving, altogether-lovely Jesus. Methinks I see thee transported with wonder and admiration and all the disciples and the multitude, gazing around thee! And now, having received thy sight, why dost thou not obey the Lord’s command and go thy way? Why doest thou not haste to fetch thy garment, that thou just now in a hurry didst cast away? No, no! with his bodily eyes, I believe he received also a fresh addition of spiritual sight and though others saw no form or comeliness in the blessed Jesus, that they should desire him, yet he by an eye of faith discovered such transcendent excellencies in his royal person and felt at the same time such a divine attraction towards his all-bountiful benefactor, that instead of going his way to fetch his garment, ‘he followed Jesus in the way’ and by his actions, says with faithful, honest-hearted Ruth, ‘entreat me not to leave thee. For whither thou goest, I will go; where thou lodgest, I will lodge; thy people shall be my people. And thy God, my God.’ He followed Jesus in the way, the narrow way, the way of the cross. And I doubt not but long since he has followed him to his crown and is at this time sitting with him at the right hand of his Father. —George Whitefield, “Blind Bartimeus” in Lee Gatiss (Ed.), The Sermons of George Whitefield (Crossway, 2012), 1:456–458, 462–463.

Shall Not We Drink?

And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.” —Luke 9:23 And the first means I shall recommend to you, in order to reconcile you to this doctrine, is, to meditate frequently on the life of our blessed Lord and Master Jesus Christ. Follow him from his cradle to the cross and see what a self-denying life he led! And shall not we drink of the cup that he drank of and be baptized with the baptism that he was baptized with? Or think we, that Jesus Christ did and suffered everything in order to have us excused and exempted from sufferings? No, far be it from any sincere Christian to judge after this manner. For St. Peter tells us, ‘He suffered for us, leaving us an example that we should follow his steps.’ Had Christ, indeed, like those that sat in Moses’ chair, laid heavy burdens of self-denial upon us (supposing they were heavy, which they are not) and refused to touch them himself with one of his fingers, we might have had some pretence to complain. But since he has enjoined us nothing but what he first put in practice himself, thou art inexcusable, O disciple, whoever thou art, who wouldst be above thy persecuted self-denying Master. And thou art no good and faithful servant who art unwilling to suffer and sympathize with thy mortified, heavenly-minded Lord. —George Whitefield, “The Extent and Reasonableness of Self-Denial” in Lee Gatiss (Ed.), The Sermons of George Whitefield (Crossway, 2012), 1:485.

By the Gospel

Some eight days after these sayings, He took along Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. And while He was praying, the appearance of His face became different, and His clothing became white and gleaming. And behold, two men were talking with Him; and they were Moses and Elijah, who, appearing in glory, were speaking of His departure which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. Now Peter and his companions had been overcome with sleep; but when they were fully awake, they saw His glory and the two men standing with Him. And as these were leaving Him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three tabernacles: one for You, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah”—not realizing what he was saying. While he was saying this, a cloud formed and began to overshadow them; and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. Then a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is My Son, My Chosen One; listen to Him!” And when the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent, and reported to no one in those days any of the things which they had seen. —Luke 9:28–36 I don’t know if this is a hermeneutically legitimate exposition of this particular text, but I think the point is biblically sound. Take it as you will. ‘This is my beloved Son, hear him.’ St. Mark and St. Matthew add, ‘in whom I am well pleased.’ The same testimony that God the Father gave to the blessed Jesus at his baptism, before he entered upon his temptation, is now repeated in order to strengthen and prepare him for his impending agony in the garden. . . . God the Father hereby gives Moses and Elijah a solemn discharge, as though they were sent from heaven on purpose to give up their commission to their rightful Lord and like the morning star disappear when the Sun of Righteousness himself arises to bring in a gospel day. ‘This is my beloved Son, hear him.’ But the emphasis upon the word this—this Son of Man, this Jesus, whom you are shortly to see in a bloody sweat, blindfolded, spit upon, buffeted, scourged and at length hanging upon a tree, I am not ashamed to own to be my Son, my only begotten Son, who was with me before the heavens were made, or the foundations of the earth were laid. My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, in whom my soul delighteth and whom I do by these presents, publicly constitute and appoint to be the king, priest, and prophet of the church. ‘Hear ye him.’ No longer look to Moses or Elijah, no longer expect to be saved by the works of the law. But by the preaching and application of the ever-blessed gospel. —George Whitefield, “Christ’s Transfiguration” in Lee Gatiss (Ed.), The Sermons of George Whitefield (Crossway, 2012), 1:497.
I can now only mention one thing more and that is, did the Father say, ‘This is my beloved Son, hear him’? then let every one of our hearts echo to this testimony given of Christ, ‘This is my beloved Saviour.’ Did God so love the world, as to send his only begotten Son, his well beloved Son to preach to us? Then, my dear friends, hear him. What God said seventeen hundred years ago, immediately by a voice from heaven, concerning his Son upon the mount, that same thing God says to you immediately by his word, ‘Hear him.’ If ye never heard him before, hear him now. Hear him so as to take him to be your prophet, priest and your king. Hear him, so as to take him to be your God and your all. Hear him today, ye youth, while it is called today. Hear him now, lest God should cut you off before you have another invitation to hear him. Hear him while he cries, ‘Come unto me;’ hear him while he opens his hand and his heart. Hear him while he knocks at the door of your souls, lest you should hear him saying, ‘Depart, depart, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.’ Hear him, ye old and grey-headed, hear him, ye that have one foot in the grave. Hear him, I say. And if ye are dull of hearing, beg of God to open the ears of your hearts and your blind eyes; beg of God that you may have an enlarged and a believing heart and that ye may know what the Lord God saith concerning you. God will resent it, he will avenge himself on his adversaries, if you do not hear a blessed Saviour. He is God’s son, he is God’s beloved son. He came upon a great errand, even to shed his precious blood for sinners. He came to cleanse you from all sin and to save you with an everlasting salvation. Ye who have heard him, hear him again. Still go on, believe in and obey him and by-and-by you shall hear him saying, ‘Come, ye blessed of my Father, receive the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.’ —George Whitefield, “Christ’s Transfiguration” in Lee Gatiss (Ed.), The Sermons of George Whitefield (Crossway, 2012), 1:503–4.


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