Remember ages ago I posted an excerpt from a sermon by Alexander Brown, a Free Church minister in Edinburgh in the 1800s. Here’s now a further excerpt – actually I’ve had it lurking in the pipeline since the first installment, but it’s closely related to what we’ve just been discussing, on whether it’s right to tell people they need to forsake sin in order to come to Christ for salvation.
Basically, Brown is here making the point that nothing, including the fact of your consciousness of being a sinner, should stop a person from exercising faith in the Saviour.
“And Christ is waiting to be gracious to you. Not one of those who now thronged around him was forbidden to touch him or rudely repulsed from his presence. He was there for the very purpose that all who needed him might come to him – he invited them to approach. However offensive, and defiling, and loathsome their diseases, his touch removed them all.
“And, with regard to you, the case is precisely the same. The same free invitation is addressed to you – the same liberty of access is afforded to you – the same assurance of relief is held out to you. His language still is, ‘Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.’ Come with your sins, and though they be numerous as the sands upon the sea-shore, though they be like scarlet and crimson, I will pardon them. Come with your polluted hearts, and, though they be dark and noisome as the grave, I will cleanse them. Come with your broken spirits, and, however deeply they be wounded, I will heal them. Come with your fears, and, however oppressive the burden, I will remove it. Come with your hopes, and, however, faint and glimmering, I will make them strong and bright as the light of the sun. Come with your penitential tears, and, though they be like rivers of water, I will wipe them all away.”
My original comment (pre-poll) ran thus: There are people who think that a sermon barely qualifies for the name of a sermon unless it contains some kind of appeal like this. That’s a view that I have a great deal of sympathy with – certainly a preaching ministry which fails to ever strike this note can hardly be called a gospel ministry, although I could perhaps be persuaded that the occasional sermon would handle a text that didn’t directly lead to such an appeal or invitation. The good news of the gospel is in its essence a proclamation of the mercies which are available from the Saviour for any sinner who comes to him (regardless of their feeling of preparedness in terms of getting victory over sin).
But to tie it in with the poll discussion, I’d only add that clearly, the target audience here is individuals who are conscious of being heavy-laden with sin, polluted, beset with doubts, and so on. Of course every unregenerate person can be accurately described in this way from an objective perspective, whether they’re conscious of it in their own case or not. And it can only be a good thing when a preacher is honest and unsparing in pointing out these characteristics of their unconverted hearers – pressing home on the consciences of the hearers how great is their need of repentance. ‘Only acknowledge thine iniquity, that thou hast transgressed against the Lord thy God …’ – we are sinners both in principle and in practice, guilty of disobeying both the law and the gospel, and the aggravations of our sins are more than can possibly be computed. Our inbred enmity against the Lord himself and the whole sin of our nature and lives must be completely repudiated and striven against with all our heart and soul and mind and strength.
Habitual sinners, who have no interest in being saved from their sin, have no place in the kingdom of God. And the freeness of the gospel, and the ready availability of mercy and complete forgiveness, is utterly perverted and misused if it is taken as an excuse to continue in sin. However, if a preacher can’t tell a sinner, any sinner, that the way is open for them to be saved now with a complete salvation from sin by making application to Christ right here and now, then ultimately their message does not harmonise with the gospel of free and sovereign grace.