by J. J. WEST - Preached on Tuesday evening, January 4th, 1859, at All Saint's Church, Spicer Street, London,
It is upon those words that I am to preach to the people assembled here THE GOSPEL. May it be with the power of the HOLY GHOST, without whom we cannot preach, and you cannot hear the truth. In the words of our blessed Lord, "It is the Spirit that quickeneth" (John 6:63) (or as that might be rendered from the Greek, "it is the Spirit that giveth life") "the flesh profiteth nothing!" The words that I speak unto you "are spirit and are life," and therefore, my hearers, unless the Lord the Spirit is sending me tonight, and vouchsafes to apply the word with power, it will be a dark time, both in pulpit and pews; without His life-giving power we cannot preach you cannot hear. "The flesh profiteth nothing" the mere paraphernalia of church form, without the life-giving Spirit, is nothing. It is the grace and unction of the Holy Ghost that energizes preachers and hearers; it is this which makes the man in the pulpit preach, and the people assembled in the pews hear, with unction and with power; it is this which, in the true sense of the term, makes men "receive with meekness the engrafted Word which is able to save their souls." (James 1:21)
These words in the text were applied to me with some power as I was sitting in the pew in the service (though I had then another text that was hanging about my heart to preach on), and they are now before us as the subject of this evening's sermon. My hearers, when I was last here (before I begin to take this subject under heads) when I was last standing in the place that I now occupy, I offered up prayer for (I believe I may call him so) a brother in the Lord, who was at that time lying in a most terrible and painful state in one of your city hospitals, and who has since that period been removed (I may say it of him, I think, without arrogancy or presumption) has been taken from his hospital bed to the Saviour's kingdom in glory. It is never my practice (because I hate the system) to preach "funeral sermons" they only pamper the flesh they only puff up the creature; but when a sinner saved in Christ is called away to his everlasting rest when one, of whom we may hope the best things, passes from this time-state into God's heavenly kingdom I cannot conceive that I am outstepping the pulpit office, when I pause to refer to such a fact as this; and, indeed, it is this fact that has brought this text before me to preach upon to you, because (as I understand) it was this verse in the 43rd of Isaiah that under great trial and exercise (for there was a battle-field on that hospital bed) it was this verse (while a friend was reading the 43rd of Isaiah to him) that brought his soul into GOSPEL liberty, and enabled him to die in the peace of the Gospel. Without, therefore, further reference to him (except to warn some here that before the first Tuesday in another month comes round you may be gone) without referring further to Charles Holloway, I shall that this text and use it as the material for me in the pulpit. May the Lord quicken us; may the Spirit's touch in our hearts be felt; may the great and the vast realities of it be applied to the minds of every earnest and faithful believer; and may the dead in sin and the careless ones be commanded into life.
Now, if I look through the chapter in which this text stands, I find, as stated in the heading of the Bible, that "The Lord comforteth the Church with His promises; that he appealeth to the people for witness of His omnipotency (at verse 8 of the chapter); that he fortelleth the destruction of Babylon;" and, under the mystic Babylon, the destruction of all but the elect, the destruction of all the reprobate, the destruction of every man for whom the blood was not shed, who was not chosen in Christ before all worlds. This chapter embraces all this tremendous statement, and then, amidst the mystic prophecy of the destruction of all and of every other man, he also prophesies and sets forth the wonderful deliverance and salvation, in Christ, of God's people, and then reproves the people as all the people of God need for one and all need our God's reproof.
Now the text declares (I will take one branch of it first) "I, I am He that blotteth out thy transgressions, for Mine own sake." Now here is a distinct declaration of GOSPEL TRUTH here is a naked setting forth of the whole sum and substance, the synopsis, the epitome of the gospel that God blots out the transgressions of "His own elect;" that there can be no charge brought against the CHURCH OF GOD; that she stands FAULTLESS, pure and perfect, IN CHRIST, before a sin-hating and a heart-searching God! Here, then, I am called upon at once to declare from the pulpit the wonderful doctrine of FREE GRACE to discriminate, standing as I do in a Protestant pulpit, between the truth of the gospel, and every other thing, whether it be Popery, or Arminianism, or mere formalism, or downright infidelity! Be not angry with me for specifying terms; we must do it faithfully, we must do it fearlessly as watchmen in the pulpit. I class them altogether, and insist (here to you) upon the grand and essential fact that man's salvation is only by the blood and love of Jesus; that salvation is only for the elect, for whom Christ died; and that the salvation of the Church is complete and entire, for God declares, by the mouth, or rather, the pen of the prophet "I, I" (repeating the pronoun, that there may be no mistake) "am He that blotteth out thy transgressions!" Now, my hearers, mark the word "transgressions." We have, in another part of the verse, the word "sins;" but observe the word "transgressions;" and if I take the word in its classicality, and define it according to its dictionary meaning, it is a much larger word than the word sins. Transgression means to exceed all bounds: that is the meaning of the word, and the Gospel reality of it forces me to preach the fact to you, that God blots out the transgressions of HIS CHURCH! Sin is bad enough sin, my sin and your sin is a heavy burden; but "transgressions" "TRANSGRESSIONS" is the word! and these "transgressions" (God declares) He has "blotted out." It is done. Now (to preach to you, as I do to my own home flock) take it is the common terms and meaning of our English language. We cannot be too simple in the pulpit; if we blot out a thing, we cannot see it. If a schoolmaster gives a boy a sum of a slate, and the boy is stupid, and cannot do the sum correctly, the master comes with a sponge, and rubs it out; the figures are all blotted out. Can you understand that, my hearers? You must be very stupid, if you do not. In the same sense as this, transgressions have been all blotted out. Transgression comes from a compound word that signifies "the overpassing all bounds," something excessive; the same as the Apostle speaks of, when he says, "Where sin abounded Grace did much more abound; or, as Kent says, in one of his hymns,
"SOVEREIGN GRACE o'er sin abounding."
And there is something important to be observed in the repetition of the pronoun "I;" as if God was jealous for His own honour, he repeats it by the Spirit of God "I, I am He that blotteth out thy transgressions." I will do it. As if, by the repetition of the pronoun "I," was meant, "You cannot help yourselves; you cannot do away your own sin," but "I, I am He." It is of great importance to study the grammar of the Bible; the grammar of the Bible is full of meaning! and there is nothing more important in the Word of God than a careful attention to the Pronouns and their full meaning. Imagine this great fact, "I, I am He that blotteth out thy transgressions!" Now we will instance this by a striking fact in the Bible. I have had great reason to bless God in my own soul for those great and glorious subjects that have been brought before me in the 7th chapter of Acts, which records the death and martyrdom of Stephen; and I may refer to it here, in All Saints pulpit, and take it as affording a striking example, to show you and to preach to you the wonderful way in which God blots out transgressions. I cannot imagine any transgression more heinous or blacker in the sight of God than the one I am now about to refer to. Now I read in the 7th of Acts of the Apostles, that when Stephen was stoned to death there was a young man there, Saul of Tarsus; and I read further in order that there might be no mistake about it, and as if to bring the charge of guilt home clearly to him that "the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man's feet, whose name was Saul." Now, my hearers, the witnesses were the persons who were first to throw the deadly stone, and these witnesses were the first to attack the persecuted, suffering saint of God; and, therefore, we adduce from this evidence that Saul of Tarsus was very early in the attack upon poor Stephen. Neither, supposing I was lawyer pleading at the bar of the Old Bailey, would I allow the evidence against Saul of Tarsus to rest simply there; I would not allow the opposite counsel to contend that perhaps Saul of Tarsus came there by chance or from mere curiosity. As you yourselves must know in London almost anything will attract a crowd of persons to stare at what is going on. But I won't allow, from the Scripture evidence before us, that Saul came there from mere curiosity; for if I only go on to the 8th chapter, and verse 1, I find this stirring statement, "and Saul was consenting unto his death;" and therefore I cannot imagine anything more fitted in all the Bible to prove, and to bring out in vivid colouring the Truth I am now preaching, that God blots out the transgressions of His Church for who was it that blotted out the sin of persecution and the guilt of blood? who was it pardoned Saul of Tarsus? He was consenting unto Stephen's death, and yet, when the "set time of favour" was come when omnipotent grace stopped that once persecutor of the Church, Saul of Tarsus when he was blinded and struck down to the ground, and did eat no meat for days and when the work of grace was effected of his soul when Saul of Tarsus was to be brought to a knowledge of the Truth as it is in Jesus what a magnificent evidence, I say, we have here in the case of the Apostle Paul, that God blots out the outrageous sins of all "HIS OWN ELECT."
My hearers! if I am addressing here any poor sinner suffering under a sense of sin, whether it be in thought, word, or deed, I cannot imagine a more blessed message for me to declare before you from the pulpit-top than this that the God I preach to you that the FATHER, the SON, and the SPIRIT the covenant God of Israelis the God who blotteth out (so that they never can be seen again) the transgressions of His own people. As for the heresies that some preach, about the different degrees of sin, remember, in the sight of God, there is no difference in sin. Before God there is no such thing as a little sin. Let the Arminians, the Wesleyans, the Quakers, and those that think with them, hold their heresies if they choose; but may we be made sound in the Truth, and realize the mighty fact that, while there is a great difference as to sins between man and man whilst, if you were to go to the sessions now being held in your own Central Criminal Court, you would hear from the judges that there is a difference, and a material difference, as to sins and crimes between man and man the Lord Chief Justice of the Queen's Bench with all his cleverness, would insist on this as to criminal law but as concerns sin in the sight of God, we cannot separate in that way, nor distinguish between sin, for the Apostle John says, "Sin is the transgression of the law;" (1 John 3:4) and hence in a spiritual sense, adultery does not merely consist in the act nor, in a spiritual sense, does murder only consist in killing a man, for "whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer," and "whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart." Now, my hearers, you will allow that herein is the guilt of sin, and you must plead guilty to the charge of transgression; and if I succeed in thus convincing you, and you feel guilty, you will understand the meaning of the text before me. The doctrine is, God blots out the transgressions of His people; but if I succeed in being a good pulpiter to you, you will want to realize the fact whether God has blotted out your transgressions! It is a personal matter. It is of no use your knowing in the desk whether my sins are pardoned, or whether my brother in the desk has received the pardon of his sins you will want to know whether yours are pardoned. This is to test you in the pews. "Thou art the man," David! you have taken the poor man's lamb, and killed it you have committed adultery with Bathsheba, and caused Uriah's death "thou art the man!" and sin must be blotted out. This is the Gospel! and there is no other.
Now do I succeed in bringing you to a feeling of anxiety to know whether you are each pardoned? How will it be when we come to die? What a wonderful revelation it was to Stephen in his dying hour "Behold, I see the heavens opened, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God!" My hearers, I cannot imagine anything more instructive to us, if the mind is drawn to it, than such a death-scene as that. We are too civilized in England to allow, even in the death of criminals, of torture. But, look at the barbarities, look at the torments that were inflicted, by authority, upon Stephen; but, in the midst of that torture, mark the manifestation of his God! and, consequently, the calmness with which he is able to say, "I see heaven opened," (I should read you the words just before) "But he, being full of the Holy Ghost," (There's the secret!) "looked up steadfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God, and said, Behold I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God!" Now, my hearers, you and I must die. We are brought, in the providence of God, to the beginning of a new year. Amid all the changes of time, amid all the uncertainties of life, there is one thing that fixes itself upon our attention that God is unchangeable" I am the Lord; I change not." (Mal. 3:6) Now, have we any evidential test that our transgressions are blotted out? Have we got any ground for hope in this? It won't do to assert it as a mere creed, or as a mere doctrine! We know the doctrine, that God has pardoned all His Church; but has He pardoned you? That is a question that you cannot ask help from any man to answer that is a question a brother cannot answer for brother, a friend cannot tell for friend! It can only be answered by the Spirit of God applying his power to the conscience "I have pardoned thee; go in peace." But I want you to grasp, as I do, the mighty fact that the transgressions of the Church are blotted out; that sin shall not have dominion over her; that the law cannot condemn, that sin cannot damn, the soul that stands "accepted in the Beloved."
Now, do I succeed? There may be some here...there always must be some in every congregation there are newborn sinners surely assembled here there are seekers, and there are men (perhaps) before me still dead in sin. Now, do I succeed in showing to this congregation that there is full and free pardon, and an everlasting forgiveness to the vilest of men, to Saul of Tarsus, brought by the power of Divine Grace to the feet of the Saviour, to acknowledge Him as the "All and in all" who died on Calvary's cross? We read last Sunday morning the announcement, in the 1st of Matthew, "Thou shalt call His name Jesus, for He shall save His people from their sins." (Matt. 1:21) And this great and glorious Gospel fact was declared before Christ was born! In the 1st of Matthew, see how that stands" And she shall bring forth a Son." The child is not then born Christ had not then come into the world as the INCARNATE SAVIOUR "and thou shalt call His name Jesus, for He shall save His people from their sins." There was the declaration of grace before Christ was seen in the stable of Bethlehem before the Virgin had brought forth her Son, it was announced to her that the Babe in her womb was the Saviour. Now we hear in these days the heretical statement "If men will repent, if men will only believe, if men will only fall in with God's promises" 'then God will save them!' I deny such heresies as that. There are no "ifs" in the Covenant. The work of Christ is done and done for ever. There are no conditions. It is not if men believe, if men repent, if men pray; but God, who has saved His Church, has said that every one of His Church shall repent that every one of His Church shall believe, shall pray that every "vessel of mercy afore prepared unto glory" shall cry out, under a crushing sense of individual sin and personal atrocity, "God be merciful to me a sinner." That is the test of being saved. This is not setting up a high nor an unscriptural standard. These were the words (my text) that set poor Holloway free. He heard the word read to him through this chapter in tremendous agony of soul, until the man who read it came to these words (that I am preaching on), and they accomplished (as I hear) his deliverance into liberty and peace. You are going to die! Have you the evidence in your souls of pardoned sin? or do you long to have it long to have it from your inmost souls? But why does He pardon these sins, these transgressions of His Church!..."For mine own sake." No merit in the creature no deserving in the saved, who are just as bad as others. Was there any merit in Mary? in Manasseh? or in Peter, when he denied his Lord? "I do not know the man!" That was not a slip of the tongue, slips of the tongue are not repeated twice! Peter repeated it a third time! and that with curses and oaths! Lord, what is man? This is the Gospel! "Smooth things" must not come from the pulpit. Salvation is only for the Church of God, and each saved sinner is kept safe for ever by the Mighty Power of God!
There is no sweeter word in all the Bible than that experimental petition in David's Psalm, "Hold Thou me up, and I shall be safe;" but a man must not be "a novice" to understand this a sense of our helplessness and sinfulness realizes this, and makes us wary of self; instead of finding fault with others, and talking over other people, we shall be bewailing our own exceeding sinfulness for the man lives in a glass house knows how foolish it is to throw stones. There is need often to repeat the command, "Thou shalt not bear false witness against our neighbour." "Study to be quiet, and mind your own business," is Paul's command. Look to yourself...search and see whether you are yourself safe for eternity. Mark well your own walk.
"FOR MINE OWN SAKE," saith God, "I will not remember thy sins." What a gracious declaration! The tried sinner will value this. Paul says, "Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride, he fall into the condemnation of the devil" "not a novice" or, as in Greek, "not one newly come to the faith" not every raw young man, fresh from college "not a novice," for such cannot preach, nor receive, nor understand the Gospel in the Power of it. In order to preach the Truth, or to receive the Truth and live on it, we must have been made to feel our own guilt and sin to know the craft and devices of Satan to have groaned under the burden of sin and so to have cried to God for mercy and pardon."
"FOR MINE OWN SAKE!" Here is the dignity of the Gospel its free GRACE FULLNESS! O! the majesty of God in this! in so pardoning rebel sinner sin so heaping coals of fire in enemies when we were living in open rebellion against Godlike Saul of Tarsus, consenting, as it were, to Stephen's death GRACE, SOVEREIGN GRACE, subdues the sinner convinces him of guilt brings him under condemnation and points to Blood and Love as the one only but sure Remedy! But, more than this, in the case of Saul of Tarsus, it not only brought him to Jesus, but made him preach Jesus commissioned him; sent him to declare the Gospel. "To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in Me." (Acts 26:18)
But I have not done with the text "and will not remember thy sins." O! poor sinner; you who bewail the guilt and filth of sin are there none such here? God says, "He "will not remember thy sins." Look at the magnificence of this declaration, "He will not remember thy sins;" He will not think of them; they are blotted out! Is not this GRACE? Is not this magnificent LOVE? "Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love; therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee." (Jer. 31:3) Now let me glean something here (as my Lord and Master did), from passing events. Imagine the case of him, who lately so suffered on his hospital bed, torn and crippled by machinery in agony of body, and much at times harassed in mind; imagine him now removed from evil, sin, and suffering, with Christ in everlasting glory!
The scripture printed on the wall, opposite the bed on which he lay "For God so loved the world, that he gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life" (John 3:16)he has now, I believe, and hope and trust, realized in all its immeasurable fullness! But, now, mark me, for yourselves. You MUST DIE! You may never see the end of 1859. Are you, my hearers, fit to die? to appear before God? Fit! here we are tempted, tried, and full of sin in ourselves. Do you know this? Kent's verse?
Do you understand what temptation means? what it is to be foiled by it?)
Is any thing too hard for the Lord? I can bless God for such a text as this I am preaching on "I will not remember thy sins." O! when we remember the sins of our boyhood of our manhood the sins of each one of us up to the very moment now that I am speaking I say, when we remember our own sins when I remember mine, unless I could believe in my heart that God would not does not remember one of them I should, in the words of Paul, "be of all men most miserable." But He will not remember the sins of His Church; hence, "Blessed is the man" (says David), "whose sin is covered; blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin," (Rom. 4:7,8)not the man who has no sin, but to whom God will not impute it he is blessed. And further, then, look at this, "I will not remember thy sins; put Me in remembrance;" remind Me of it. Remind Jehovah of His own GRACE of the work which He has performed in the person of His Son for the pardon of all His people's sins "put Me in remembrance!" declare thou, that thou mayest be justified."
Now, these are the things that God has given me as a message to you tonight; may they be, by His OWN POWER, blessed to your souls. The pardon of all sin! and I cannot imagine a sweeter, or a surer test of our own discipleship, than having a feeling sense of sin, with a cry kept up in the heart for that Mercy, and Grace, and Love, which alone pardons the sins of the Church.
Now, in finishing How do you feel on these things? Ministers of the Gospel have no offers to make. I am not one who offers GRACE to the crowd. It is a solemn, awful thing, to preach to sinners. I see placarded, on the walls of your city, the announcement of certain services "Let the people come in working clothes." But I well know this, that when any man feels his sin, and wants mercy, he won't think of his dress, of his best coat, or of his old one. If he is really hungry for Gospel bread, and thirsty for living water, he will come, and come just as he is, to hear the truth, like the publican in the Gospel, and fall down and cry for mercy. If a man is once convicted of crime in England, his character is gone; but in a spiritual sense, the robe of Christ's righteousness covers all sin. Do you remember the parable of our Lord? Let me remind you of it before I leave the pulpit. "A certain king made a marriage for his son" (it is written), "and when the king came in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment, "that was all, no "wedding garment;" "then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot and take him away and cast him into outer darkness." I think we heard in the second lesson for this evening's service "Being justified freely by his Grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus." There is the eternal decree, the everlasting justification of the sinner before God and there is the time-act, accomplished by the SON OF GOD "Through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus." Here, then, is set forth the eternal purpose of God; also the work of Christ done in time Redemption. The only question for you and for me in All Saints' Church this evening is, has God purposed all this, done all this for us? Think for yourselves in these things. May I be made a minister of God to you from the pulpit, if it be now God's will. May the Word come into your hearts, and may I be a useful preacher to your souls in All Saints' Church. Spicer Street is said to be a bad neighbourhood; but, my hearers, worse than any locality or place is every man by nature. In ourselves, both by nature and practice, we are vile, corrupt, and bad; hence, to every one made sensible of personal guilt and sin, the blessedness of the text on which I have been preaching before you tonight. The Blood of Christ is all-sufficient to blot out all sin, and JEHOVAH, HIMSELF, IS THE BLOTTER out of the sins and vices, the transgressions and crimes, "of His own elect."
May God bless the Gospel which, "in weakness and fear, and in much trembling," I have endeavoured to set before you from this glorious verse, "I, I am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for MINE own sake, and will not remember thy sins. Put Me in remembrance: let us plead together: declare thou, that thou mayest be justified." Forget not that word tonight at your besides the best spot to test the reality of your Christianity. There may be much excitement when with others, but it is when man is alone before God that the integrity of our state is best tested and proved "I sat alone because of Thy hand, for Thou hast filled me with indignation." (Jer. 15:17) "I, I am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for MINE own sake, and will not remember thy sins. Put me in remembrance: let us plead together: declare thou, that thou mayest be justified."
May God bless the Gospel, for Christ's sake, Amen.