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George Whitefield

(13 posts)

é─˙disturbing the baptizedé─¨

The twentieth century conflict between evangelicals and anglo-catholics in the Church of England was not the first of its kind. Two hundred years earlier, George Whitefield and John Wesley had preached the necessity of conversion, and defined the word é─˙Christiané─¨ in specific terms. It did not go over well with their Anglican colleagues. Iain Murray wrote:    The clergy immediately complained that such preaching was disturbing the baptized members of the church. As early as May 1742 Wesley and Whitefield were required to present themselves before the Archbishop of Canterbury. Despite their attempts to avoid causing needless offense, this was only the beginning of the trouble. Given the situation, they knew that opposition was inevitable. Whitefield believed: é─˛It is every ministeré─˘s duty to declare against the corruption of that church to which they belong.é─˘ Thus when the Bishop of London accused him of saying that he preached é─˛a new gospel unknown to the generality of ministers and peopleé─˘, far from modifying his words, Whitefield replied: é─˘Tis true, My Lord, in one sense, mine is a new gospel, and will always be to the generality of ministers and people, even in a christian country, if your Lordshipé─˘s clergy follow your Lordshipé─˘s directions. Whitfield then went on to quote the bishopé─˘s counsel that a preacher should é─˛leave no doubté─˘ in their [sic] hearers é─˛whether good works are a necessary condition of your being justified in the sight of Godé─˘. Was the great apostle of the Gentiles now living, what anathemas would he pronounce against such Judaizing doctrine? . . . This is the great fundamental point in which we differ from the church of Rome. This is the grand point of contention between the generality of the established clergy and the Methodist preachers: we plead for free justification in the sight of God, by faith alone, in the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ, without any regard to works past, present, or to come.    In Whitefieldé─˘s eyes the bishopé─˘s counsel on the need for good works was as needless as it was false, and not surprisingly, for é─˛our pulpits ring of nothing more than doing no one any harm, living honestly, loving your neighbor as yourselves, and to do what you can and then Christ is to make up the deficiency.é─˘ é─ţIain Murray, Evangelicalism Divided (Banner of Truth, 2000), 159é─ý160. The Archbishop of York went as far as to quote the Council of Trent against the evangelists: é─˙If any man shall say that justifying faith is nothing else but a confidence in the divine mercy, remitting sins for Christé─˘s sake, and that this confidence is that alone by which we are justified, let him be accursed. é─¨ The response of Whitefield and Wesley stands in stark contrast to that of Packer and Stott. Rather than enter into dialogue with enemies of the gospel, they stuck by their guns and, with direct confrontation, did not allow the fundamental issues to be obscured.    Neither Wesley nor Whitefield would be drawn into a general debate on the theology of the sacraments. Nor did they attempt to explain how the teaching of the Articles was consistent with the language of other parts of the Prayer Book. They simply stuck to their witness as evangelists and scorned the idea that baptism was enough to identify a Christian. Wesley writes: I tell a sinner, é─˛You must be born again.é─˘ é─˛No,é─˘ says you: é─˛He was born again in baptism. Therefore, he cannot be born again now.é─˘ Alas, what trifling this is! What, if he was then a child of God? He is now manifestly a child of the devil; for the works of his father he doeth. Therefore do not play upon words. He must go through an entire change of heart. In one not yet baptized, you yourself would call that change, the new birth. In him, call it what you will; but remember, meantime, that if either he or you will die without it, your baptism will be so far from profiting you, that it will greatly increase your damnation. é─ţIbid., 163.

Respectors of Persons

Friday··2010·08·27 · 2 Comments
Iain Murray offers one of the reasons he believes evangelicals of the twentieth century have not followed in the footsteps of the Whitefields and Wesleys two centuries prior: There is a prominent feature in the evangelical history of the eighteenth century which may explain why many evangelicals in Britain and the United States have taken a different course in these last fifty years. As we have seen, evangelical leadership today has been much concerned with a matter about which their predecessors took a very different view, that is, the approval and support of non-evangelical clergy and denominational leaders. Wesley and Whitefield lost any possibility of gaining the good opinion of their peers at the very outset of their work. But far from moderating themselves in an attempt to win it back, they regarded the very idea as a temptation to be resisted. In the midst of a worldly church they saw the bearing of reproach as a necessary part of being a Christian. é─˛In our days,é─˘ said Whitefield, é─˛to be a true Christian, is really to become a scandal.é─˘ The church leaders of the eighteenth century did their utmost to hinder other clergy from turning evangelical and one of the principal threats was the certain loss of reputation and preferment. Wesley said the é─˛great pains were takené─˘ to keep the number willing to take a bold stand few in number. Anyone who did so é─˛could give up at once all thought of preferment either in Church or State; nay, all hope of even a Fellowship, or a poor scholarship, in either Universityé─˘. For Wesley and Whitefield resistance to such threats was the duty of all who did not live for the approval of man. To clergy who failed to make such a stand a Scripture commands, Wesley said: é─˛You dare not: because you have respect of persons. You fear the faces of men. You cannot; because you have not overcome the world. You are not above the desire of earthly things. And it is impossible . . . till you desire nothing more than God.é─˘ é─ţIain Murray, Evangelicalism Divided (Banner of Truth, 2000), 169é─ý170.

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.


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