George Whitefield Sermon 46

Of Justification by Christ.

1 Corinthians 6:11, "But ye are justified."

The whole verse is: "And such were some of you; but ye are washed, but ye

are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,

and by the Spirit of our God."

It has been objected by some, who dissent from, nay, I may add, by

others also, who actually are friends to the present ecclesiastical

establishment, that the ministers of the Church of England preach

themselves, and not Christ Jesus the Lord; that they entertain their people

with lectures of mere morality, without declaring to them the glad tidings

of salvation by Jesus Christ. How well grounded such an objection may be,

is not my business to inquire: All I shall say at present to the point is,

that whenever such a grand objection is urged against the whole body of the

clergy in general, every honest minister of Jesus Christ should do his

utmost to cut off all manner of occasion, from those who desire an occasion

to take offense at us; that so by hearing us continually sounding forth the

word of truth, and declaring with all boldness and assurance of faith,

"that there is no other name given under heaven, whereby they can be saved,

but that of Jesus Christ," they may be ashamed of this their same confident

boasting against us.

It was an eye to this objection, joined with the agreeableness and

delightfulness of the subject (for who can but delight to talk of that

which the blessed angels desire to look into?) that induces me to discourse

a little on that great and fundamental article of our faith; namely, our

being freely justified by the precious blood of Jesus Christ. "But ye are

washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified, in the name of our

Lord Jesus Christ, and by the Spirit of our God."

The words beginning with the particle BUT, have plainly a reference to

something before; it may not therefore be improper, before I descend to

particulars, to consider the words as they stand in relation to the

context. The apostle, in the verses immediately foregoing, had been

reckoning up many notorious sins, drunkenness, adultery, fornication, and

such like, the commission of which, without a true and hearty repentance,

he tells the Corinthians, would entirely shut them out of the kingdom of

God. But then, lest they should, on the one hand, grow spiritually proud by

seeing themselves differ from their unconverted brethren, and therefore be

tempted to set them at nought, and say with the self-conceited hypocrite in

the prophet, "Come not nigh me, for I am holier than thou;" or, on the

other hand, by looking back on the multitude of their past offenses, should

be apt to think their sins were too many and grievous to be forgiven: he

first, in order to keep them humble, reminds them of their sad state before

conversion, telling them in plain terms, "such (or as it might be read,

these things) were some of you;" not only one, but all that sad catalogue

of vices I have been drawing up, some of you were once guilty of; but then,

at the same time, to preserve them from despair, behold he brings them glad

tidings of great joy: "But ye are washed; but ye are sanctified, but ye are

justified in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by the Spirit of our


The former part of this text, our being sanctified, I have in some

measure treated of already; I would not enlarge on our being freely

justified by the precious obedience and death of Jesus Christ: "But ye are

justified in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ."

From which words I shall consider three things:

FIRST, What is meant by the word justified.

SECONDLY, I shall endeavor to prove that all mankind in general, and

every individual person in particular, stands in need of being justified.

THIRDLY, That there is no possibility of obtaining this justification,

which we so much want, but by the all-perfect obedience, and precious death

of Jesus Christ.

FIRST, I am to consider what is meant by the word justified.

"But ye are justified," says the apostle; which is, as though he had

said, you have your sins forgiven, and are looked upon by God as though you

never had offended him at all: for that is the meaning of the word

justified, in almost all the passages of holy scripture where this word is

mentioned. Thus, when this same apostle writes to the Romans, he tells

them, that "whom God called, those he also justified:" And that this word

justified, implies a blotting out of all our transgressions, is manifest

from what follows, "them he also glorified," which could not be if a

justified person was not looked upon by God, as though he never had

offended him at all. And again, speaking of Abraham's faith, he tells them,

that "Abraham believed on Him that justifies the ungodly," who acquits and

clears the ungodly man; for it is a law-term, and alludes to a judge

acquitting an accused criminal of the thing laid to his charge. Which

expression the apostle himself explains by a quotation out of the Psalms:

"Blessed is the man to whom the Lord imputeth no sin." From all which

proofs, and many others that might be urged, it is evident, that by being

justified, we are to understand, being so acquitted in the sight of God as

to be looked upon as though we never had offended him at all. And in this

sense we are to understand that article, which we profess to believe in our

creed, when each of us declare in his own person, I believe the forgiveness

of sins. This leads me to the

SECOND thing proposed, to prove that all mankind in general, and every

individual person in particular, stands in need of being justified.

And indeed the apostle supposes this in the words of the text: "But ye

are justified," thereby implying that the Corinthians (and consequently all

mankind, there being no difference, as will be shown hereafter) stood in

need of being justified.

But not to rest in bare suppositions, in my farther enlargement on

this head, I shall endeavor to prove, that we all stand in need of being

justified on account of the sin of our natures, and the sin of our lives.

1. FIRST, I affirm that we all stand in need of being justified, on

account of the sin of our natures: for we are all chargeable with original

sin, or the sin of our first parents. Which, though a proposition that may

be denied by a self-justifying infidel, who "will not come to Christ that

he may have life;" yet can never be denied by any one who believes that St.

Paul's epistles were written by divine inspiration; where we are told, that

"in Adam all died;" that is, Adam's sin was imputed to all; and lest we

should forget to make a particular application, it is added in another

place, "that there is none that doeth good (that is, by nature) no, not

one: That we are all gone out of the way, (of original righteousness) and

are by nature the children of wrath." And even David, who was a man after

God's own heart, and, if any one could, might surely plead an exemption

from this universal corruption, yet he confesses, that "he was shapen in

iniquity, and that in sin did his mother conceive him." And, to mention but

one text more, as immediately applicable to the present purpose, St. Paul,

in his epistle to the Romans, says, that "Death came upon all men, for the

disobedience of one, namely, of Adam, even upon those, (that is, little

children) who had not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression;"

who had not been guilty of actual sin, and therefore could not be punished

with temporal death (which came into the world, as this same apostle

elsewhere informs us, only by sin) had not the disobedience of our first

parents been imputed to them. So that what has been said in this point

seems to be excellently summed up in that article of our church, where she

declares that "Original sin standeth not in the following of Adam, but it

is the fault and corruption of every man, that naturally is engendered of

the offspring of Adam; whereby man is very far gone from original

righteousness, and is of his own nature inclined to evil, so that the flesh

lusteth always contrary to the spirit; and the therefore in every person

born into this world, it deserveth God's wrath and damnation."

I have been more particular in treating of this point, because it is

the very foundation of the Christian religion: For I am verily persuaded,

that it is nothing but a want of being well grounded in the doctrine of

original sin, and of the helpless, nay, I may say, damnable condition, each

of us comes into the world in, that makes so many infidels oppose, and so

many who call themselves Christians, so very lukewarm in their love and

affections to Jesus Christ. It is this, and I could almost say, this only,

that makes infidelity abound among us so much as it does. For, alas! we are

mistaken if we imagine that men now commence or continue infidels, and set

up corrupted reason in opposition to divine revelation merely for want of

evidence, (for I believe it might easily be proved, that a modern

unbeliever is the most credulous creature living;) no, it is only for want

of an humble mind, of a sense of their original depravity, and a

willingness to own themselves so depraved, that makes them so obstinately

shut their eyes against the light of the glorious gospel of Christ.

Whereas, on the contrary, were they but once pricked to the heart with a

due and lively sense of their natural corruption and liableness to

condemnation, we should have them no more scoffing at divine revelation,

and looking on it as an idle tale; but they would cry out with the

trembling jailer, "What shall I do to be saved?" It was an error in this

fundamental point, that made so many resist the evidence the Son of God

himself gave of his divine mission, when he tabernacled amongst us. Every

word he spake, every action he did, every miracle he wrought, proved that

he came from God. And why then did so many harden their hearts, and would

not believe his report? Why, he himself informs us, "They will not come

unto me that they may have life:" They will obstinately stand out against

those means God had appointed for their salvation: And St. Paul tells us,

"that if the gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost; in whom the

God of this world hath blinded the eyes of them which believe not, lest the

light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should

shine upon them." 2 Cor. 4:3-4.

If it be asked, how it suits with the divine goodness, to impute the

guilt of one man's sin, to an innocent posterity? I should think it

sufficient to make use of the apostle's words: "Nay, but O man, who art

thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that

formed it, why hast thou made me thus?" But to come to a more direct reply:

Persons would do well to consider that in the first covenant God made with

man, Adam acted as a public person, as the common representative of all

mankind, and consequently we must stand or fall with him. Had he continued

in his obedience, and not eaten the forbidden fruit, the benefits of that

obedience would doubtless have been imputed to us: But since he did not

persist in it, but broke the covenant made with him, and us in him; who

dares charge the righteous Judge of all the earth with injustice for

imputing that to us also? I proceed,

SECONDLY, To prove that we stand in need of being justified, on

account of the sin of our lives.

That God, as he made man, has a right to demand his obedience, I

suppose is a truth no one will deny: that he hath also given us both a

natural and a written law, whereby we are to be judged, cannot be

questioned by any one who believes St. Paul's epistle to the Romans to be

of divine authority: For in it we are told of a law written in the heart,

and a law given by Moses; and that each of us hath broken these laws, is

too evident from our sad and frequent experience. Accordingly the holy

scriptures inform us that "there is no man which liveth and sinneth not;"

that "in many things we offend all;" that "if we say we have no sin we

deceive ourselves," and such like. And if we are thus offenders against

God, it follows, that we stand in need of forgiveness for thus offending

Him; unless we suppose God to enact laws, and at the same time not care

whether they are obeyed or no; which is as absurd as to suppose that a

prince should establish laws for the proper government of his country, and

yet let every violator of them come off with impunity. But God has not

dealt so foolishly with his creatures: no, as he gave us a law, he demands

our obedience to that law, and has obliged us universally and perseveringly

to obey it, under no less a penalty than incurring his curse and eternal

death for every breach of it: For thus speaks the scripture; "Cursed is he

that continueth not in all things that are written in the law to do them;"

as the scripture also speaketh in another place, "The soul that sinneth, it

shall die." Now it has already been proved, that we have all of us sinned;

and therefore, unless some means can be found to satisfy God's justice, we

must perish eternally.

Let us then stand a while, and see in what a deplorable condition each

of us comes into the world, and still continues, till we are translated

into a state of grace. For surely nothing can well be supposed more

deplorable, than to be born under the curse of God; to be charged with

original guilt; and not only so, but to be convicted as actual breakers of

God's law, the least breach of which justly deserves eternal damnation.

Surely this can be but a melancholy prospect to view ourselves in, and must

put us upon contriving some means whereby we may satisfy and appease our

offended judge. But what must those means be? Shall we repent? Alas! there

is not one word of repentance mentioned in the first covenant: "The day

that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die." So that, if God be true,

unless there be some way found out to satisfy divine justice, we must

perish; and there is no room left for us to expect a change of mind in God,

though we should seek it with tears. Well then, if repentance will not do,

shall we plead the law of works? Alas! "By the law shall no man living be

justified: for by the law comes the knowledge of sin." It is that which

convicts and condemns, and therefore can by no means justify us; and "all

our righteousnesses (says the prophet) are but as filthy rags." Wherewith

then shall we come before the Lord, and bow down before the most high God?

Shall we come before Him with calves of a year old, with thousands of rams,

or ten thousands of rivers of oil? Alas! God has showed thee, O man, that

this will not avail: For he hath declared, "I will take no bullock out of

thy house, nor he-goat out of thy fold: for all the beasts of the forests

are mine, and so are the cattle upon a thousand hills." Will the Lord then

be pleased to accept our first-born for our transgression, the fruit of our

bodies for the sin of our souls? Even this will not purchase our pardon:

for he hath declared that "the children shall not bear the iniquities of

their parents." Besides, they are sinners, and therefore, being under the

same condemnation, equally stand in need of forgiveness with ourselves.

They are impure, and will the Lord accept the blind and lame for sacrifice?

Shall some angel then, or archangel, undertake to fulfill the covenant

which we have broken, and make atonement for us? Alas! they are only

creatures, though creatures of the highest order; and therefore are obliged

to obey God as well as we; and after they have done all, must say they have

done no more than what was their duty to do. And supposing it was possible

for them to die, yet how could the death of a finite creature satisfy an

infinitely offended justice? O wretched men that we are! Who shall deliver

us? I thank God, our Lord Jesus Christ. Which naturally leads me to the

THIRD thing proposed, which was to endeavor to prove, that there is no

possibility of obtaining this justification, which we so much want, but by

the all-perfect obedience and precious death of Jesus Christ, "But ye are

justified in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ."

But this having been in some measure proved by what has been said

under the foregoing head, wherein I have shown that neither our repentance,

righteousness, nor sacrifice, no not the obedience and death of angels,

themselves, could possibly procure justification for us, nothing remains

for me to do under this head, but to show that Jesus Christ has procured it

for us.

And here I shall still have recourse "to the law and to the

testimony." For after all the most subtle disputations on either side,

nothing but the lively oracles of God can give us any satisfaction in this

momentous point: it being such an inconceivable mystery, that the eternal

only-begotten Son of God should die for sinful man, that we durst not have

presumed so much as to have thought of it, had not God revealed it in his

holy word. It is true, reason may show us the wound, but revelation only

can lead us to the means of our cure. And though the method God has been

pleased to take to make us happy, may be to the infidel a stumbling-block,

and to the wise opiniator and disputer of this world, foolishness; yet

wisdom, that is, the dispensation of our redemption, will be justified,

approved of, and submitted to, by all her truly wise and holy children, by

every sincere and upright Christian.

But to come more directly to the point before us. Two things, as was

before observed, we wanted, in order to be at peace with God.

1. To be freed from the guilt of the sin of our nature.

2. From the sin of our lives.

And both these (thanks be to God for this unspeakable gift) are

secured to believers by the obedience and death of Jesus Christ. For what

says the scripture?

1. As to the FIRST, it informs us, that "as by the disobedience of one

man, (or by one transgression, namely, that of Adam) many were made

sinners; so by the obedience of one, Jesus Christ (therein including his

passive as well as active obedience) many were made righteous." And again,

"As by the disobedience of one man, judgment came upon all men unto

condemnation;" or all men were condemned on having Adam's sin imputed to

them; "so by the obedience of one, that is, Jesus Christ, the free gift of

pardon and peace came upon all men, (all sorts of men) unto justification

of life." I say all sorts of men; for the apostle in this chapter is only

drawing a parallel between the first and second Adam in this respect, that

they acted both as representatives; and as the posterity of Adam had his

sin imputed to them, so those for whom Christ died, and whose

representative he is, shall have his merits imputed to them also. Whoever

run the parallel farther, in order to prove universal redemption (whatever

arguments they may draw for the proof of it from other passages of

scripture,) if they would draw one from this for that purpose, I think they

stretch their line of interpretation beyond the limits of scripture.

2. Pardon for the sin of our lives was another thing, which we wanted

to have secured to us, before we could be at peace with God.

And this the holy scriptures inform us, is abundantly done by the

death of Jesus Christ. The evangelical prophet foretold that the promised

Redeemer should be "wounded for our transgressions, and bruised for our

iniquities; that the chastisement of our peace should be upon him; and that

by his stripes we should be healed," Isaiah 53:6. The angels at his birth

said, that he should "save his people from their sins." And St. Paul

declares, that "this is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation,

that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners." And here in the

words of the text, "Such (or, as I observed before, these things) were some

of you; but ye are washed, &c." and again, "Jesus Christ is the end of the

law for righteousness to every one that believeth." And, to show us that

none but Jesus Christ can do all this, the apostle St. Peter says, "Neither

is their salvation in any other; for there is no other name under heaven

given among men, whereby we must be saved, but the name of Jesus Christ.

How God will be pleased to deal with the Gentiles, who yet sit in

darkness and under the shadow of death, and upon whom the sun of

righteousness never yet arose, is not for us to inquire. "What have we to

do to judge those that are without?" To God's mercy let us recommend them,

and wait for a solution of this and every other difficult point, till the

great day of accounts, when all God's dispensations, both of providence and

grace, will be fully cleared up by methods to us, as yet unknown, because

unrevealed. However, this we know, that the judge of all the earth will,

most assuredly, do right.

But it is time for me to draw a conclusion.

I have now, brethren, by the blessings of God, discoursed on the words

of the text in the method I proposed. Many useful inferences might be drawn

from what has been delivered; but as I have detained you, I fear, too long

already, permit me only to make a reflection or two on what has been said,

and I have done.

If then we are freely justified by the death and obedience of Jesus

Christ, let us here pause a while; and as before we have reflected on the

misery of a fallen, let us now turn aside and see the happiness of the

believing, soul. But alas! how am I lost to think that God the Father, when

we were in a state of enmity and rebellion against Him, should

notwithstanding yearn in his bowels towards us his fallen, his apostate

creatures: And because nothing but an infinite ransom could satisfy an

infinitely offended justice, that should send his only and dear Son Jesus

Christ (who is God, blessed for ever, and who had lain in his bosom from

all eternity) to fulfill the covenant of works, and die a cursed, painful,

ignominious death, for us and for our salvation! who can avoid crying out,

at the consideration of his mystery of godliness. "Oh the depth of the

riches of God's love" to us his wretched, miserable and undone creatures!

"How unsearchable is his mercy, and his ways past finding out!" Now know we

of a truth, O God, that thou hast loved us, "since thou hast not with-held

thy Son, thine only Son Jesus Christ," from thus doing and dying for us.

But as we admire the Father sending, let us likewise humbly and

thankfully adore the Son coming, when sent to die for man. But O! what

thoughts can conceive, what words express the infinite greatness of that

unparalleled love, which engaged the Son of God to come down from the

mansions of his Father's glory to obey and die for sinful man! The Jews,

when he only shed a tear at poor Lazarus' funeral, said, "Behold how he

loved him." How much more justly then may we cry out, Behold how he loved

us! When he not only fulfilled the whole moral law, but did not spare to

shed his own most precious blood for us.

And can any poor truly-convicted sinner, after this, despair of mercy?

What, can they see their Savior hanging on a tree, with arms stretched out

ready to embrace them, and yet, on their truly believing on him, doubt of

finding acceptance with him? No, away with all such dishonorable,

desponding thoughts. Look on his hands, bored with pins of iron; look on

his side, pierced with a cruel spear, to let loose the sluices of his

blood, and open a fountain for sin, and for all uncleanness; and then

despair of mercy if you can! No, only believe in Him, and then, though you

have crucified him afresh, yet will he abundantly pardon you; "though your

sins be as scarlet, yet shall they be as wool; though deeper than crimson,

yet shall they be whiter than snow."

Which God of his infinite mercy grant, &c.