An Exposition By Bishop J. C. Ryle
"Being justified by faith, we have peace with God
through our Lord Jesus Christ." Romans 5:1
There is a word in the text
which heads this page which ought to be very precious in the eyes of
Englishmen. That word is "peace."
Even in "merry England" we
have known something of the horrors of war in the last thirty years.
The Crimean war, the Indian mutiny, the Chinese, Abyssinian, and
Ashantee wars have left deep marks on the history of our country.
We have tasted some of the
tremendous evils which war, however just and necessary, brings in its
train. Battle and disease have done their deadly work among our gallant
soldiers and sailors. Gentle and simple blood has been shed like water
in far distant lands. Many of the best and bravest of our countrymen
are lying cold in untimely graves. Hearts in England have been broken
by sudden, stunning, crushing bereavements. Mourning has been put on in
many a palace, and many a cottage. The light of hundreds of happy
firesides has been quenched. The mirth of thousands of homes is gone.
Alas, we have learned by bitter experience, what a blessed thing is
I desire, however, to call
the attention of all who read this paper to the best of all peace—even
peace with God. I would gladly speak to you of a peace which this world
can neither give nor take away—a peace which depends on no earthly
governments, and needs no carnal weapons, either to win it or preserve
it—a peace which is freely offered by the King of kings, and is within
the reach of all who are willing to receive it.
There is such a thing as
"peace with God." It may be felt and known. My heart's desire and
prayer is that you may be able to say with the Apostle Paul, "Being
justified by faith, I have peace with God through our Lord Jesus
Christ." (Rom. 5:1.)
There are four things which
I propose to bring before you, in order to throw light on the whole
I. Let me show you the chief
privilege of a true Christian, "he has peace with God."
II. Let me show you the
fountain from which that privilege flows, "he is justified."
III. Let me show you the
rock from which that fountain springs, "Jesus Christ."
IV. Let me show you the hand
by which the privilege is made our own, "faith."
Upon each of these four
points I have something to say. May the Holy Spirit make the whole
subject peace giving to some souls!
I. First of all, let me show
the chief privilege of a true Christian—he has peace with God.
When the apostle Paul wrote
his epistle to the Romans, he used five words which the wisest of the
heathen could never have used. Socrates, and Plato, and Aristotle, and
Cicero, and Seneca were wise people. On many subjects they saw more
clearly than most people in the present day. They were people of mighty
minds, and of a vast range of intellect. But not one of them could have
said as the apostle did, "I have peace with God." (Rom 5:1.)
When Paul used these words,
he spoke not for himself only—but for all true Christians. Some of them
no doubt have a greater sense of this privilege than others. All of
them find an evil principle within, warring against their spiritual
welfare day by day. All of them find their adversary, the devil, waging
an endless battle with their souls. All of them find that they must
endure the enmity of the world. But all, notwithstanding, to a greater
or less extent, "have peace with God."
This peace with God is a
calm, intelligent sense of friendship with the Lord of heaven and
earth. He who has it, feels as if there was no barrier and separation
between himself and his holy Maker. He can think of himself as under
the eye of an all-seeing Being, and yet, not feel afraid. He can
believe that this all-seeing Being beholds him, and yet is not
Such a man can see death
waiting for him, and yet not be greatly moved. He can go down into the
cold river—close his eyes on all he has on earth—launch forth into a
world unknown, and take up his abode in the silent grave—and yet feel
Such a man can look forward
to the resurrection and the judgment, and yet not be greatly moved. He
can see with his mind's eye the great white throne—the assembled
world—the open books—the listening angels—the Judge Himself—and yet
Such a man can think of
eternity, and yet not be greatly moved. He can imagine a never-ending
existence in the presence of God and of the Lamb, a perpetual
communion—and yet feel peace.
I know of no happiness
compared to that which this peace affords. A calm sea after a storm, a
blue sky after a black thunder cloud—health after sickness—light after
darkness—rest after toil—all, all are beautiful and pleasant things.
But none, none of them all can give more than a feeble idea of the
comfort which those enjoy who have been brought into the state of peace
with God. It is "a peace which passes all understanding." (Phil. 4:7.)
It is the lack of this very
peace which makes many in the world unhappy. Thousands have everything
that is thought able to give pleasure, and yet are never satisfied.
Their hearts are always aching. There is a constant sense of emptiness
within. And what is the secret of all this? They have no peace with God.
It is the desire of this
very peace which makes many a heathen do much in his idolatrous
religion. Hundreds of them have been seen to mortify their bodies, and
vex their own flesh in the service of some wretched image which their
own hands had made. And why? Because they hungered after peace with God.
It is the possession of this
very peace on which the value of a man's religion depends. Without it
there may be everything to please the eye, and gratify the ear—forms,
ceremonies, services, and sacraments—and yet no good done to the soul.
The grand question that should try all is the state of a man's
conscience. Is it at peace? Has he peace with God?
This is the very peace about
which I address every reader of these pages this day. Have you got it?
Do you feel it? Is it your own?
If you have it, you are
truly rich. You have that which will endure forever. You have treasure
which you will not lose when you die and leave the world. You will
carry it with you beyond the grave. You will have it and enjoy it to
all eternity. Silver and gold you may have none. The praise of man you
may never enjoy. But you have that which is far better than either, if
you have the peace of God.
If you don't have this peace
with God, you are truly poor. You have nothing which will last—nothing
which will wear—nothing which you
can carry with you when your
turn comes to die. Naked you came into this world, and naked in every
sense you will go forth. Your body may be carried to the grave with
pomp and ceremony. A solemn service may be read over your coffin. A
marble monument may be put up in your honor. But after all it will be
but a pauper's funeral, if you die without peace with
II. Let me show you, in the
next place, the FOUNTAIN from which true peace is drawn. That fountain
The peace of the true
Christian is not a vague, dreamy feeling, without reason and without
foundation. He can show cause for it. He builds upon solid ground. He
has peace with God, because he is justified. Without justification it
is impossible to have real peace with God. Conscience forbids it. Sin
is a mountain between a man and God, and must be taken away. The sense
of guilt lies heavy on the heart, and must be removed. Unpardoned sin
will murder peace. The true Christian knows all this well. His peace
arises from a consciousness of his sins being forgiven, and his guilt
being put away. His house is not built on sandy ground. His well is not
a broken cistern, which can hold no water. He has peace with God,
because he is justified.
He is justified, and his
sins are forgiven. However many, and however great, they are cleansed
away, pardoned, and wiped out. They are blotted out of the book of
God's remembrance. They are sunk into the depths of the sea. They are
cast behind God's back. They are searched for and not found. They are
remembered no more. Though they may have been like scarlet, they are
become white as snow; though they may have been red like crimson, they
are as wool. And so he has peace.
He is justified and counted
righteous in God's sight. The Father sees no spot in him, and reckons
him innocent. He is clothed in a robe of perfect righteousness, and may
sit down by the side of a holy God without feeling ashamed. The holy
law of God, which touches the thoughts and intents of men's hearts,
cannot condemn him. The devil, "the accuser of the brethren," can lay
nothing to his charge, to prevent his full acquittal. And so he has
Is he not naturally a poor,
weak, erring, defective sinner? He is! None knows that better than he
does himself. But notwithstanding this, he is reckoned complete,
perfect, and faultless before God, for he is justified!
Is he not naturally a
debtor? He is! None feels that more deeply than he does himself. He
owes ten thousand talents, and has nothing of his own to pay. But his
debts are all paid, settled, and crossed out forever, for he is
Is he not naturally liable
to the curse of a broken law? He is! None would confess that more
readily than he would himself. But the demands of the law have been
fully satisfied—the claims of justice have been met to the last tittle,
and he is justified!
Does he not naturally
deserve punishment? He does! None would acknowledge that more fully
than he would himself. But the punishment has been borne. The wrath of
God against sin has been made manifest. Yet he has escaped, and is
Does anyone who is reading
this paper know anything of all this? Are you justified? Do you feel as
if you were pardoned, forgiven, and accepted before God? Can you draw
near to Him with boldness, and say, "You are my Father and my Friend,
and I am Your reconciled child"? Oh, believe me, you will never taste
true peace until you are justified!
Where are your sins? Are
they removed and taken away from off your soul? Have they been reckoned
for, and accounted for, in God's presence? Oh, be very sure these
questions are of the most solemn importance! A peace of conscience not
built on justification, is a perilous dream. From such a false peace
the Lord deliver you!
Go with me in imagination to
some of our great London hospitals. Stand with me there by the bedside
of some poor creature in the last stage of an incurable disease. He
lies quiet perhaps, and makes no struggle. He does not complain of pain
perhaps, and does not appear to feel it. He sleeps, and is still. His
eyes are closed. His head reclines on his pillow. He smiles faintly,
and mutters something. He is dreaming of home, and his mother, and his
youth. His thoughts are far away. But is this health? Oh, no—no! It is
only the effect of opiates. Nothing can be done for him. He is dying
daily. The only object is to lessen his pain. His quiet is an unnatural
quiet. His sleep is an unhealthy sleep. You see in that man's case a
vivid likeness of peace without justification. It is a hollow,
deceptive, unhealthy thing. Its end is death!
Go with me in imagination to
some lunatic asylum. Let us visit some case of incurable insanity. We
shall probably find someone who imagines that he is rich and noble, or
a king. See how he will take the straw from off the ground, twist it
round his head, and call it a crown. Mark how he will pick up stones
and gravel, and call them diamonds and pearls. Hear how he will laugh,
and sing, and appear to be happy in his delusions. But is this
happiness? Oh, no! We know it is only the result of ignorant insanity.
You see in that man's case another likeness of peace built on fancy,
and not on justification. It is a senseless, baseless thing. It has
neither root nor life.
Settle it in your mind that
there can be no peace with God, unless we feel that we are justified.
We must know what has become of our sins. We must have a reasonable
hope that they are forgiven, and put away. We must have the witness of
our conscience that we are reckoned not guilty before God. Without this
it is vain to talk of peace with God. We have nothing but the deception
and imitation of it. "There is no peace, says my God, to the wicked."
Did you ever hear the sound
of the trumpets which are blown before the judges, as they come into a
city to open the Courts? Did you ever reflect how different are the
feelings which these trumpets awaken in the minds of different people?
The innocent man, who has no cause to be tried, hears them unmoved.
They proclaim no terrors to him. He listens and looks on quietly, and
is not afraid. But often there is some poor wretch, waiting his trial
in a silent cell, to whom those trumpets are a knell of despair. They
warn him that the day of trial is at hand. Yet a little time and he
will stand at the bar of justice, and hear witness after witness
telling the story of his misdeeds. Yet a little time, and all will be
over—the trial, the verdict, and the sentence—and there will remain
nothing for him but punishment and disgrace. No wonder the prisoner's
heart beats quickly, when he hears that trumpet's sound!
There is a day fast coming
when all who are not justified shall despair in like manner. The voice
of the archangel and the trumpet of God shall scatter to the winds the
false peace which now buoys up many a soul. The day of judgment shall
convince thousands of self-willed people too late, that it needs
something more than a few beautiful ideas about "God's love and mercy,"
to reconcile a man to his Maker, and to deliver his guilty soul from
hell. No hope shall stand in that solemn day but the hope of the
justified man. No peace shall prove solid, substantial, and
unbroken—but the peace which is built on justification.
Is this peace your own? Rest
not, rest not, if you love life, until you know and feel that you are a
justified man. Think not that this is a mere matter of names and words.
Flatter not yourself with the idea that justification is an "abstruse
and difficult subject," and that you may get to heaven well enough
without knowing anything about it. Make up your mind to the great truth
that there can be no heaven without peace with God—and no peace with
God without justification. And then give your soul no rest until you
are a justified man.
III. Let me show you, in the
third place, the ROCK from which justification and peace with God flow.
That rock is Christ. The true Christian is not justified because of
any goodness of his own. His peace is not to be traced up to any work
that he has done. It is not purchased by his prayers and regularity,
his repentance and his amendment, his morality and his charity. All
these are utterly unable to justify him. In themselves they are
defective in many things and need a large forgiveness. And as to
justifying him, such a thing is not to be named. Tried by the perfect
standard of God's law the best of Christians is nothing better than a
justified sinner, a pardoned criminal. As to merit, worthiness, desert,
or claim upon God's mercy—he has none. Peace built on any such
foundations as these is utterly worthless. The man who rests upon them
is miserably deceived.
Never were truer words put
on paper than those which Richard Hooker penned on this subject 280
years ago. Let those who would like to know what English clergymen
thought in olden times, mark well what he says. "If God would make us
an offer thus large—Search all the generations of people since the fall
of your father Adam, and find one man, who has done any one action,
which has past from him pure, without any stain or blemish at all—and
for that one man's one only action, neither man nor angel shall find
the torments which are prepared for both—do you think this ransom, to
deliver man and angels, would be found among the sons of men? The best
things we do have something in them to be pardoned. How then can we do
anything meritorious and worthy to be rewarded?" To these words I
desire entirely to subscribe. I believe that no man can be justified by
his works before God in the slightest possible degree. Before man he
may be justified—his works may evidence the reality of his
Christianity. Before God he cannot be justified by anything that he can
do—he will be always defective, always imperfect, always short-coming,
always far below the mark, so long as he lives. It is not by works of
his own that anyone ever has peace and is a justified man.
But how then is a true
Christian justified? What is the secret of that peace and sense of
pardon which he enjoys? How can we understand a Holy God dealing with a
sinful man—as with one innocent, and reckoning him righteous
notwithstanding his many sins?
The answer to all these
questions is short and simple. The true Christian is counted righteous
for the sake of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. He is justified because
of the death and atonement of Christ. He has peace because "Christ died
for his sins according to the Scriptures." This is the key that unlocks
the mighty mystery. Here the great problem is solved, how God can be
just and yet justify the ungodly. The life and death of the Lord Jesus
explain all. "He is our peace." (1 Cor. 15:3; Ephes. 2:14.)
Christ has stood in the
place of the true Christian. He has become his Surety and his
Substitute. He undertook to bear all that was to be borne, and to do
all that was to be done—and what He undertook He performed. Hence the
true Christian is a justified man. (Isaiah 53:6.)
Christ has suffered for
sins, the "just for the unjust." He has endured our punishment in His
own body on the cross. He has allowed the wrath of God, which we
deserved, to fall on His own head. Hence the true Christian is a
justified man. (1 Pet. 3:1.8.)
Christ has paid the debt the
Christian owed, by His own blood. He has reckoned for it, and
discharged it to the uttermost farthing by His own death. God is a just
God, and will not require his debts to be paid twice over. Hence the
true Christian is a justified man. (Acts 20:28; 1 Pet 1:18, 19.)
Christ has obeyed the law of
God perfectly. The devil, the Prince of this world, could find no fault
in Him. By so fulfilling it He brought in an everlasting righteousness,
in which all His people are clothed in the sight of God. Hence the true
Christian is a justified man. (Dan 9:24; Rom 10:4.)
Christ, in one word, has
lived for the true Christian. Christ has died for him. Christ has gone
to the grave for him. Christ has risen again for him. Christ has
ascended up on high for him, and gone into heaven to intercede for his
soul. Christ has done all, paid all, suffered all that was needful for
his redemption. Hence arises the true Christian's justification—hence
his peace. In himself there is nothing but sin—but in Christ he has all
things that his soul can require. (Coloss. 2:3; 3:11)
Who can tell the blessedness
of the exchange which takes place between the true Christian and the
Lord Jesus Christ! Christ's righteousness is placed upon him—and his
sins are placed upon Christ. Christ has been reckoned a sinner for his
sake—and now he is reckoned innocent for Christ's sake. Christ has been
condemned for his sake though there was no fault in Him—and now he is
acquitted for Christ's sake, though he is covered with sins, faults,
and short-comings. Here is wisdom indeed! God can now be just and yet
pardon the ungodly. Man can feel that he is a sinner, and yet have a
good hope of heaven and feel peace within. Who among us could have
imagined such a thing? Who ought not to admire it when he hears it? (2
We read in British history
of a Lord Nithsdale who was sentenced to death for a great political
crime. He was closely confined in prison after his trial. The day of
his execution was fixed. There seemed no chance of escape. And yet
before the sentence was carried into effect, he contrived to escape
through the skill and affection of his wife. She visited him in prison,
and exchanged clothes with him. Dressed in his wife's clothes he walked
out of prison and escaped, and neither guards nor keepers detected him,
while his wife remained behind in his place. In short, she risked her
own life to save the life of her husband. Who would not admire the
skill and the love of such a wife as this?
But we read in Gospel
history of a display of love, compared to which the love of Lady
Nithsdale is nothing. We read of Jesus, the Son of God, coming down to
a world of sinners, who neither cared for Him before He came, nor
honored Him when He appeared. We read of Him going down to the
prison-house, and submitting to be bound, that we the poor prisoners
might be able to go free. We read of Him becoming obedient to death—and
that the death of the cross, that we the unworthy children of Adam
might have a door opened to life everlasting. We read of Him being
content to bear our sins and carry our transgressions, that we might
wear His righteousness, and walk in the light and liberty of the Sons
of God. (Phil. 2:8.)
This may well be called a
"love that passes knowledge!" In no way could free grace ever have
shone so brightly as in the way of justification by Christ. (Ephes.
This is the old way by which
alone the children of Adam, who have been justified from the beginning
of the world, have found their peace. From Abel downwards, no man or
woman has ever had one drop of mercy—except through Christ. To Him
every altar that was raised before the time of Moses was intended to
point. To Him every sacrifice and ordinance of the Jewish law was meant
to direct the children of Israel. Of Him all the prophets testified. In
a word, if you lose sight of justification by Christ, a large part of
the Old Testament Scripture will become an unmeaning tangled maze.
This, above all, is the way
of justification which exactly meets the needs and requirements of
human nature. There is a conscience left in man, although he is a
fallen being. There is a dim sense of his own need, which it his better
moments will make itself heard, and which nothing but Christ can
satisfy. So long as his conscience is not hungry, any religious toy
will satisfy a man's soul and keep him quiet. But once let his
conscience become hungry, and nothing will quiet him but real spiritual
food—no food but Christ.
There is something within a
man when his conscience is really awake, which whispers, "There must be
a price paid for my soul—or no peace." At once the Gospel meets him
with Christ. Christ has already paid a ransom for his redemption.
Christ has given Himself for him. Christ has redeemed him from the
curse of the law, being made a curse for him. (Gal. 2:20; 3:13.)
There is something within a
man, when his conscience is really awake, which whispers, "I must have
some righteousness or title to heaven—or no peace." At once the Gospel
meets him with Christ. He has brought in an everlasting righteousness.
He is the end of the law for righteousness. His name is called the Lord
our righteousness. God has made Him to be sin for us who knew no sin,
that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him. (2 Cor. 5:21;
Rom. 10:4; Jer. 23:6.)
There is something within a
man, when his conscience is really awake, which whispers, "There must
be punishment and suffering because of my sins—or no peace." At once
the Gospel meets him with Christ. Christ has suffered for sin, the just
for the unjust, to bring him to God. He bore our sins in His own body
on the tree. By His stripes we are healed. (1 Peter 2:24; 3:18.)
There is something within a
man, when his conscience is really awake, which whispers, "I must have
a priest for my soul—or no peace." At once the Gospel meets him with
Christ. Christ is sealed and appointed by God the Father to be the
Mediator between Himself and man. He is the ordained Advocate for
sinners. He is the accredited Counselor and Physician of sick souls. He
is the great High Priest, the Almighty Absolver, the Gracious Confessor
of heavy-laden sinners. (1 Tim. 2:5; Heb. 8:1.)
I know there are thousands
of professing Christians who see no peculiar beauty in this doctrine of
justification by Christ. Their hearts are buried in the things of the
world. Their consciences are palsied, benumbed, and speechless. But
whenever a man's conscience begins really to feel and speak, he will
see something in Christ's atonement and priestly office which he never
saw before. Light does not suit the eye nor music the ear, more
perfectly than Christ suits the real needs of a sinful soul. Hundreds
can testify that the experience of a converted heathen in the island of
Raiatea in the South Pacific Ocean has been exactly their own. "I saw,"
he said, "an immense mountain, with precipitous sides, up which I
endeavored to climb—but when I had attained a considerable height, I
lost my hold and fell to the bottom. Exhausted with perplexity and
fatigue, I went to a distance and sat down to weep, and while weeping,
I saw a drop of blood fall upon that mountain, and in a moment it was
dissolved." He was asked to explain what all this meant. "That
mountain," he said, "was my sins, and that drop which fell upon it, was
one drop of the precious blood of Jesus, by which the mountain of my
guilt was melted away." [William's South Sea Missions.]
This is the one true way of
peace—justification by Christ. Beware lest any turn you out of this way
and lead you into any of the false doctrines of the Church of Rome.
Alas, it is amazing to see how that false Church has built a house of
error near by the house of truth! Hold fast the truth of God about
justification, and be not deceived. Listen not to anything you may hear
about other mediators and helpers to peace. Remember there is no
mediator but one—Jesus Christ. Remember there is no purgatory for
sinners but one—the blood of Christ. Remember there is no sacrifice for
sin but one—the sacrifice once made on the cross. Remember there are no
works that can merit anything—but the work of Christ. Remember there is
no priest who can truly absolve—but Christ. Stand fast here, and be on
your guard. Give not the glory due to Christ, to another.
What do you know of Christ?
I doubt not you have heard of Him by the hearing of the ear, and
repeated His name in a creed. You are acquainted perhaps with the story
of His life and death. But what experimental knowledge have you of Him?
What practical use do you make of Him? What dealings and transactions
have there been between your soul and Him?
Oh, believe me, there is no
peace with God except through Christ! Peace is His peculiar gift. Peace
is that legacy which He alone had power to leave behind Him when He
left the world. All other peace beside this, is a mockery and a
delusion. When hunger can be relieved without food, and thirst quenched
without drink, and weariness removed without rest—then, and not until
then, will people find peace without Christ.
Now, is this peace your own?
Bought by Christ with His own blood, offered by Christ freely to all
who are willing to receive it—is this peace your own? Oh, rest not—rest
not until you can give a satisfactory answer to my question, have you
true peace with God?
IV. Let me show you, in the
last place, the HAND by which the privilege of peace is received—faith.
I ask the special attention
of all who read these pages to this part of our subject. There is
scarcely any point in Christianity so important as the means by which
Christ, justification, and peace, become the property of a man's soul.
Many, I fear, would go with me so far as I have gone in this paper—but
would part company here. Let us endeavor to lay hold firmly on the
The means by which a man
obtains an interest in Christ and all His benefits is simple faith.
There is but one thing needful in order to be justified by His blood,
and have peace with God. That one thing is to believe on Him. This is
the peculiar mark of a true Christian. He believes on the Lord Jesus
for his salvation. "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be
saved." "Whoever believes in Him shall not perish—but have eternal
life." (Acts 16:31; John 3:16.)
Without this faith it is
impossible to be saved. A man may be moral, amiable, good-natured, and
respectable. But if he does not believe on Christ, he has no pardon, no
justification, no title to heaven. "He who believes not, is condemned
already." "He who believes not the Son shall not see life—but the wrath
of God abides on him." "He who believes not, shall be damned." (John
3:18, 36; Mark 16:16.)
Beside this faith nothing
whatever is needed for a man's justification. Beyond doubt, repentance,
holiness, love, humility, prayerfulness—will always be seen in the
justified man. But they do not in the smallest degree justify him in
the sight of God. Nothing joins a man to Christ—nothing justifies—but
simple faith. "To him who works not—but believes on Him who justifies
the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness." "We conclude that
a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law." (Rom. 4:5;
Having this faith, a man is
at once completely justified. His sins are at once removed. His
iniquities are at once put away. The very hour that he believes he is
reckoned by God entirely pardoned, forgiven, and a righteous man. His
justification is not a future privilege, to be obtained after a long
time and great pains. It is an immediate present possession. Jesus
says, "He who believes on Me has everlasting life." Paul says, "By Him
all who believe are justified from all things." (John 6:47; Acts
I need hardly say that it is
of the utmost importance to have clear views about the nature of true
SAVING FAITH. It is constantly spoken of as the distinguishing
characteristic of New Testament Christians. They are called
"believers." In the single Gospel of John, "believing" is mentioned
eighty or ninety times. There is hardly any subject about which so many
mistakes are made. There is none about which mistakes are so injurious
to the soul. The darkness of many a sincere inquirer may be traced up
to confused views about faith. Let us try to get a distinct idea of its
True saving faith is not the
possession of everybody. The opinion that all who are called Christians
are, as a matter of course, believers, is a most mischievous delusion.
A man may be baptized, like Simon Magus, and yet have "no part or lot"
in Christ. The visible Church contains unbelievers as well as
believers. "All people have not faith." (2 Thess. 3:2.)
True saving faith is not a
mere matter of feeling. A man may have many good feelings and desires
in his mind towards Christ, and yet they may all prove as temporary and
short-lived as the morning cloud and the early dew. Many are like the
stony-ground hearers, and "receive the word with joy." Many will say
under momentary excitement, "I will follow You wherever You go," and
yet return to the world. (Matt. 8:19; 13:20.)
True saving faith is not a
bare assent of the intellect to the fact that Christ died for sinners.
This is not a jot better than the faith of devils. They know who Jesus
is. "They believe," and they do more, "they tremble." (James 2:19.)
True saving faith is an act
of the whole inner man. It is an act of the head, heart, and will, all
united and combined. It is an act of the soul, in which—seeing his own
guilt, danger, and hopelessness—and seeing at the same time Christ
offering to save him—a man ventures on Christ—flees to Christ—receives
Christ as his only hope, and becomes a willing dependant on Him for
salvation. It is an act which becomes at once the parent of a habit. He
who has it may not always be equally sensible of his own faith; but in
the main he lives by faith, and walks by faith.
True faith has nothing
whatever of merit about it, and in the highest sense cannot be called
"a work." It is but laying hold of a Savior's hand, leaning on a
husband's arm, and receiving a physician's medicine. It brings with it
nothing to Christ, but a sinful man's soul. It gives nothing,
contributes nothing, pays nothing, performs nothing. It only receives,
takes, accepts, grasps, and embraces the glorious gift of justification
which Christ bestows, and by renewed daily acts enjoys that gift.
Of all Christian graces,
faith is the most important. Of all, it is the simplest in reality. Of
all, it is the most difficult to make people understand in practice.
The mistakes into which people fall about it are endless. Some who have
no faith never doubt for a moment that they are believers. Others, who
have real faith, can never be persuaded that they are believers at all.
But nearly every mistake about faith may be traced up to the old root
of natural pride. People will persist in sticking to the idea that they
are to pay something of their own in order to be saved. As to a faith
which consists in receiving only, and paying nothing at all, it seems
as if they could not understand it.
Saving faith is the hand of
the soul. The sinner is like a drowning man at the point of sinking. He
sees the Lord Jesus Christ holding out help to him. He grasps it and is
saved. This is faith. (Heb. 6:18.)
Saving faith is the eye of
the soul. The sinner is like the Israelite bitten by the fiery serpent
in the wilderness, and at the point of death. The Lord Jesus Christ is
offered to him as the brazen serpent, set up for his cure. He looks and
is healed. This is faith. (John 3:14, 15.)
Saving faith is the mouth of
the soul. The sinner is starving for lack of food, and sick of a severe
disease. The Lord Jesus Christ is set before him as the bread of life,
and the universal medicine. He receives it, and is made well and
strong. This is faith. (John 6:35.)
Saving faith is the foot of
the soul. The sinner is pursued by a deadly enemy, and is in fear of
being overtaken. The Lord Jesus Christ is put before him as a strong
tower, a hiding place, and a refuge. He runs into it and is safe. This
is faith. (Prov. 18:10.)
If you love life cling with
a fast hold to the doctrine of justification by faith. If you love
inward peace, let your views of faith be very simple. Honor every part
of the Christian religion. Contend to the death for the necessity of
holiness. Use diligently and reverently every appointed means of
grace—but do not give to these things the office of justifying your
soul in the slightest degree. If you would have peace, and keep peace,
remember that faith alone, justifies, and that not as a meritorious
work—but as the act that joins the soul to Christ. Believe me, the
crown and glory of the Gospel is justification by faith, without the
deeds of the law.
No doctrine can be imagined
so beautifully simple as justification by faith. It is not a dark
mysterious truth, intelligible to none but the great, the rich, and the
learned. It places eternal life within the reach of the most unlearned;
and the poorest in the land. It must be of God.
No doctrine can be imagined
so glorifying to God. It honors all His attributes, His justice, mercy,
and holiness. It gives the whole credit of the sinner's salvation to
the Savior He has appointed. It honors the Son, and so honors the
Father who sent Him. (John 5:25.) It gives man no partnership in his
redemption—but makes salvation to be wholly of the Lord. It must be of
No doctrine can be imagined
so calculated to put man in his right place. It shows him his own
sinfulness, and weakness, and inability to save his soul by his own
works. It leaves him without excuse if he is not saved at last. It
offers to him peace and pardon "without money and without price." It
must be of God. (Isa. 55:1.)
No doctrine can be imagined
so comforting to a brokenhearted and penitent sinner. It brings to such
an one glad tidings. It shows him that there is hope even for him. It
tells him, though he is a great sinner, there is ready for him a great
Savior; and though he cannot justify himself, God can and will justify
him for the sake of Christ. It must be of God.
No doctrine can be imagined
so satisfying to a true Christian. It supplies him with a solid ground
of comfort—the finished work of Christ. If anything was left for the
Christian to do, where would his comfort be? He would never know that
he had done enough, and was really safe. But the doctrine that Christ
undertakes all, and that we have only to believe and receive peace,
meets every fear. It must be of God.
No doctrine can be imagined
so sanctifying. It draws people by the strongest of all cords—the cord
of love. It makes them feel they are debtors, and in gratitude bound to
love much, when much has been forgiven. Preaching up works never
produces such fruit—as preaching them down. Exalting man's goodness and
merits never makes people so holy as exalting Christ. The fiercest
lunatics at Paris became gentle, mild, and obedient, when Abbe Pinel
gave them liberty and hope. The free grace of Christ will produce far
greater effects on men's lives than the sternest commands of law.
Surely the doctrine must be of God.
No doctrine can be imagined
so strengthening to the hands of a minister. It enables him to come to
the vilest of people, and say, "There is a door of hope even for you!"
It enables him to feel, "While life lasts there are no incurable cases
among the souls under my charge." Many a minister by the use of this
doctrine can say of souls, "I found them in the state of nature. I
beheld them pass into the state of grace. I watched them moving into
the state of glory." Truly this doctrine must be of God.
No doctrine can be imagined
that wears so well. It suits people when they first begin, like the
Philippian jailer, crying, "What shall I do to be saved?" It suits them
when they fight in the forefront of the battle. Like the apostle Paul,
they say, "The life that I live, I live by the faith of the Son of
God." (Gal. 2:20.) It suits them when they die, as it did Stephen when
he cried, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." (Acts 7:59.) Yes—many a one
has opposed the doctrine fiercely while he lived, and yet on his
death-bed has gladly embraced justification by faith, and departed
saying that "he trusted in nothing but Christ." It must be of God.
Have you this faith? Do you
know anything of simple child-like confidence in Jesus? Do you know
what it is to rest your soul's hopes wholly on Christ? Oh, remember
that where there is no faith, there is no saving interest in Christ.
Where there is no saving interest in Christ, there is no justification.
Where there is no justification, there can be no peace with God. Where
there is no peace with God, there is no heaven! And what then? There
remains nothing but hell.
And now, let me commend the
solemn matters we have been considering to the serious and prayerful
attention of all who read this paper. I invite you to begin by
meditating calmly on peace with God—on justification—on Christ—on
faith. These are not mere speculative subjects, fit for none but
retired students. They lie at the very roots of Christianity. They are
bound up with life eternal. Bear with me for a few moments, while I add
a few words in order to bring them home more closely to your heart and
1. Let me, then, for one
thing, request every reader of this paper to put a plain QUESTION to
Have you peace with God? You
have heard of it. You have read of it. You know there is such a thing.
You know where it is to be found. But do you possess it yourself? Is it
yet your own? Oh, deal honestly with yourself, and do not evade my
question! Have you peace with God?
I do not ask whether you
think it an excellent thing, and hope to procure it at some future time
before you die. I want to know about your state now. Today, while it is
called today, I ask you to deal honestly with my question. Have you
peace with God?
Do not, I beseech you, allow
any public events to make you put off the consideration of your own
spiritual welfare. The wars and contentions of nations will never
cease. The strife of political parties will never end. But after all, a
hundred years hence these very things will seem of little importance to
you. The question I am asking will seem a thousand times more
important. You may possibly be saying then, too late, "Oh, that I had
thought more about peace with God!"
May the question ring in
your ears, and never leave you until you can give it a satisfactory
answer! May the Spirit of God so apply it to your heart that you may be
able to say boldly, before you die, "Being justified by faith, I have
peace with God through Jesus Christ our Lord!"
2. In the next place, let me
offer a solemn WARNING to every reader of this paper who knows that he
has not peace with God.
You have not peace with God!
Consider for a moment how fearfully great is your danger! You and God
are not friends. The wrath of God abides on you. God is angry with you
every day. Your ways, your words, your thoughts, your actions, are a
continual offence to Him. They are all unpardoned and unforgiven. They
cover you from head to foot. They provoke Him every day to cut you off.
The sword that the reveler of old saw hanging over his head by a single
hair, is but a faint emblem of the danger of your soul. There is but a
step between you and hell.
You have not peace with God!
Consider for a moment how fearfully great is your folly! There sits at
the right hand of God a mighty Savior able and willing to give you
peace, and you do not seek Him. For ten, twenty, thirty, and perhaps
forty years He has called to you, and you have refused His counsel. He
has cried, "Come to Me," and you have practically replied, "I will
not." He has said, "My ways are ways of pleasantness," and you have
constantly said, "I like my own sinful ways far better."
And after all, for what have
you refused Christ? For worldly riches, which cannot heal a broken
heart; for worldly business, which you must one day leave; for worldly
pleasures, which do not really satisfy; for these things, and such as
these, you have refused Christ! Is this wisdom! is this fairness, is
this kindness to your soul?
I do beseech you to consider
your ways. I mourn over your present condition with especial sorrow. I
grieve to think how many are within a hair's breadth of some crushing
affliction, and yet utterly unprepared to meet it. Gladly would I draw
near to everyone, and cry in his ear, "Seek Christ! Seek Christ, that
you may have peace within and a present help in trouble." Gladly would
I persuade every anxious parent and wife and child to become acquainted
with Him, who is a brother born for adversity, and the Prince of
peace—a friend who never fails nor forsakes, and a husband who never
3. Let me, in the next
place, offer an affectionate ENTREATY to all who want peace and know
not where to find it.
You want peace! Then seek it
without delay from Him who alone is able to give it—Christ Jesus the
Lord. Go to Him in humble prayer, and ask Him to fulfill His own
promises and look graciously on your soul. Tell Him you have read His
compassionate invitation to the "laboring and heavy-laden." Tell Him
that this is the plight of your soul, and implore Him to give you rest.
Do this, and do it without delay.
Seek Christ Himself, and do
not stop short of personal dealings with Him. Rest not in regular
attendance on Christ's ordinances. Be not content with becoming a
communicant, and receiving the Lord's supper. Think not to find solid
peace in this way. You must see the King's face, and be touched by the
golden scepter. You must speak to the Physician, and open your whole
case to Him. You must be closeted with the Advocate, and keep nothing
back from Him. Oh, remember this! Many are shipwrecked just outside the
harbor. They stop short in means and ordinances, and never go
completely to Christ. "Whoever drinks of this water shall thirst
again." (John 4:13.) Christ alone can satisfy the soul.
Seek Christ, and wait for
nothing. Wait not until you feel you have repented enough. Wait not
until your knowledge is increased. Wait not until you have been
sufficiently humbled because of your sins. Wait not until you have no
raveled tangle of doubts and darkness and unbelief all over your heart.
Seek Christ just as you are. You will never be better by keeping away
from Him. From the bottom of my heart I subscribe to old Traill's
opinion, "It is impossible that people should believe in Christ too
soon." Alas, it is not humility—but pride and ignorance that make so
many anxious souls hang back from closing with Jesus. They forget that
the more sick a man is, the more need he has of the physician. The more
bad a man feels his heart, the more readily and speedily ought he to
flee to Christ.
Seek Christ, and do not
fancy you must sit still. Let not Satan tempt you to suppose that you
must wait in a state of passive inaction, and not strive to lay hold
upon Jesus. How you can lay hold upon Him I do not pretend to explain.
But I am certain that it is better to struggle towards Christ and
strive to lay hold, than to sit still with our arms folded in sin and
4. Let me, in the next
place, offer some ENCOURAGEMENT to those who have good reason to hope
they have peace with God—but are troubled by doubts and fears.
You have doubts and fears!
But what do you expect? What would you have? Your soul is married to a
body full of weakness, passions, and infirmities. You live in a world
that lies in wickedness, a world in which the great majority do not
love Christ. You are constantly liable to the temptations of the devil.
That busy enemy, if he cannot shut you out of heaven, will try hard to
make your journey uncomfortable. Surely all these things ought to be
I say to every believer,
that so far from being surprised that you have doubts and fears; I
would suspect the reality of your peace if you had none. I think little
of that grace which is accompanied by no inward conflict. There is
seldom life in the heart when all is still, quiet, and in one way of
thinking. Believe me, a true Christian may be known by his warfare as
well as by his peace. These very doubts and fears which now distress
you are tokens of good. They satisfy me that you have really got
something which you are afraid to lose.
Beware that you do not help
Satan by becoming an unjust accuser of yourself, and an unbeliever in
the reality of God's work of grace. I advise you to pray for more
knowledge of your own heart, of the fullness of Jesus, and of the
devices of the devil. Let doubts and fears drive you to the throne of
grace, stir you up to more prayer, send you more frequently to Christ.
But do not let doubts and fears rob you of your peace. Believe me, you
must be content to go to heaven as a sinner saved by grace. And you
must not be surprised to find daily proof that you really are a sinner
so long as you live.
5. Let me, in the last
place, offer some counsel to all who have peace with God, and desire to
keep up a lively sense of it.
It must never be forgotten
that a believer's sense of his own justification and acceptance with
God admits of many degrees and variations. At one time it may be bright
and clear; at another dull and dim. At one time it may be high and
full, like the flood tide; at another low, like the ebb. Our
justification is a fixed, changeless, immovable thing. But our sense of
justification is liable to many changes.
What then are the best means
of preserving in a believer's heart that lively sense of justification
which is so precious to the soul that knows it? I offer a few hints to
believers. I lay no claim to infallibility in setting down these hints,
for I am only a man. But such as they are I offer them.
(a) To keep up a lively
sense of peace, there must be constant looking to Jesus. As the pilot
keeps his eye on the mark by which he steers, so must we keep our eye
(b) There must be constant
communion with Jesus. We must use Him daily as our soul's Physician,
and High Priest. There must be daily conference, daily confession, and
(c) There must be constant
watchfulness against the enemies of your soul. He who would have peace
must be always prepared for war.
(d) There must be constant
following after holiness in every relation of life—in our tempers, in
our tongues, abroad and at home. A small speck on the lens of a
telescope is enough to prevent our seeing distant objects clearly. A
little dust will soon make a watch go incorrectly.
(e) There must be a constant
laboring after humility. Pride goes before a fall. Self-confidence is
often the mother of sloth, of hurried Bible-reading, and sleepy
prayers. Peter first said he would never forsake his Lord, though all
others did—then he slept when he should have prayed—then he denied Him
three times, and only found wisdom after bitter weeping.
(f) There must be constant
boldness in confessing our Lord before people. Those who honor Christ,
Christ will honor with much of His company. When the disciples forsook
our Lord they were wretched and miserable. When they confessed Him
before the council, they were filled with joy and the Holy Spirit.
(g) There must be constant
diligence about means of grace. Here are the ways in which Jesus loves
to walk. No disciple must expect to see much of his Master, who does
not delight in public worship, Bible-reading, and private prayer.
(h) Lastly, there must be
constant jealousy over our own souls, and frequent self-examination. We
must be careful to distinguish between justification and
sanctification. We must beware that we do not make a Christ of holiness.
I lay these hints before all
believing readers. I might easily add to them. But I am sure they are
among the first things to be attended to by true Christian believers,
if they wish to keep up a lively sense of their own justification and
acceptance with God.
I conclude all by expressing
my heart's desire and prayer that all who read these pages may know
what it is to have the peace of God which passes all understanding in
If you never had "peace"
yet, may it be recorded in the book of God that this year you sought
peace in Christ and found it!
If you have tasted "peace"
already—may your sense of peace mightily increase!