John Wesley – Seven of the Finest Sermons by the Founding father of Methodism!
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"You are saved by faith." – Ephesians 2: 8.
1. Nothing can be more complicated, complex, and difficult to understand than religion, as it has often been described. And this applies not only to the religion of the pagans, even to many of the wisest, but also to the religion of those who, in a sense, were also Christians. yes, and men of great names in the Christian world; Men who seemed to be pillars of it. But how easy to understand, how simple and simple is the true religion of Jesus Christ; provided that we accept it in its original form as described in the oracles of God! It is tailored by the wise creator and governor of the world to the weak understanding and narrow ability of man in his current state. How observable this is in terms of both the proposed goal and the means to achieve that goal! In one word the end is redemption; the means to achieve it, belief.
2. It is easy to see that these two little words, I mean faith and salvation, contain the substance of the entire Bible, the mark of all Scripture, so to speak. All the more, we should take every possible care to avoid any mistakes in relation to them and to make a true and accurate judgment in relation to one and the other.
3. Then let's seriously ask
I. What is redemption?
II. What is this belief by which we are saved?
III. How are we saved?
1. I. And first we ask: what is salvation? The salvation that is spoken of here is not what is often understood by this word: going to heaven, eternal happiness. It is not the paradise of the soul that our Lord calls "Abraham's bosom". It is not a blessing on the other side of death; or, as we normally speak, in the other world. The words of the text itself question this: "You are saved." There is nothing in the distance: it is a present thing; A blessing you now have through God's free mercy. No, the words can be reproduced with the same decency: "You have been saved" so that the salvation we are talking about can be extended to the entire work of God from the first dawn of grace in the soul. until it is accomplished in glory.
2. If we look at this to the greatest extent possible, it will include everything that is done in the soul by what is often referred to as "natural conscience" but more specifically "prevent grace". –All drawings of the father; the desires for God, which if we give in to them, increase more and more; – all the light with which the Son of God "illuminates everyone who comes into the world"; show everyone to "do righteousness, to love mercy and to live humbly with their God"; – All beliefs that His spirit works from time to time in every human child – although it is true, the general public suffocates them as quickly as possible and forgets or denies after a while that they ever had them at all.
3. At the moment, however, we are only concerned with salvation, of which the apostle speaks directly. And this consists of two general parts, justification and sanctification.
Justification is another word for forgiveness. It is the forgiveness of all of our sins; and, what is necessarily implied in it, our acceptance with God. The price by which this was obtained for us (commonly referred to as the "meritorious cause of our justification") is the blood and righteousness of Christ; or, to put it more clearly, everything that Christ did and suffered for us until he "poured out his soul for the offenders". The immediate effects of justification are the peace of God, a "peace that goes beyond all reason" and "joy in hope of the glory of God", "with unspeakable joy and full of glory".
4. And at the same time that we are justified, sanctification begins at that moment. At this moment we are born again, born from above, born from the spirit: there is both a real and a relative change. We are renewed inwardly by the power of God. We feel "the love of God that the Holy Spirit that is given to us sheds in our hearts"; To produce love for all mankind and especially for the children of God; Expelling love of the world, love of pleasure, lightness, honor, money, along with pride, anger, self-will and any other evil temper; in a word, to transform the earthly, sensual, diabolical spirit into “the spirit that was in Christ Jesus”.
5. How natural do those who experience such a change imagine that all sin is gone; that it is completely rooted in her heart and has no place in it! How easily they draw this conclusion: “I don't feel sin; therefore I have none: it does not move; therefore it does not exist: it has no movement; therefore it has no being! "
6. But they rarely take a long time to be deceived. Sin was only exposed and not destroyed. The temptations are coming back and sin is reviving. But to show it was stunned before, not dead. You now feel two principles that clearly contradict each other. "The flesh lusting against the spirit"; Nature against the grace of God. You cannot deny that even though you still feel the strength to believe in Christ and love God; and although his "spirit" still "testifies with their spirits that they are children of God"; nevertheless, they sometimes feel pride or self-will, sometimes anger or unbelief. You will find one or more of them that often stir but do not conquer; yes, maybe, "poking them sore so they can fall"; but the Lord is their help.
7. How exactly did Macarius describe the present experience of the children of God fourteen hundred years ago: “The awkward” or inexperienced, “When grace works, presently imagine that you have no more sin. While those who have discretion cannot deny that even we who have the grace of God can be harassed again. Because we have often had examples from some of the brothers who have received such grace to confirm that they had no sin in them; and yet, when they felt completely free, the corruption that lurked inside them was stirred up again and they were almost burned. "
8. From the time of our rebirth, the gradual healing work takes place. We are empowered "by the mind" to shame "the deeds of the body" of our evil nature; and as we are more and more dead for sin, we become more and more alive for God. We continue to go from grace to grace while being careful to "abstain from any appearance of evil" and "eager to do good deeds" when we have the opportunity to do good to all; while we walk perfectly in all his ordinances and worship him in spirit and truth; while we take our cross and deny ourselves any pleasure that does not lead us to God.
9. So we wait for complete sanctification; for a complete salvation from all our sins – out of pride, self-will, anger, unbelief; or, as the apostle puts it, "going to perfection." But what is perfection? The word has different senses: here it means perfect love. It is love without sin; I love filling the heart and absorbing the full capacity of the soul. It is love "to be happy again and again, to pray without ceasing, in everything that thanks."
II. But what is the faith by which we are saved? This is the second point to consider.
1. Faith is generally defined by the apostle, elegcos pragmatvn ou blepomenvn. A proof, a divine proof and a conviction (the word means both) of things that have not been seen; not visible, not perceivable by seeing or by any other external sense. It implies both a supernatural proof for God and for God's things; a kind of spiritual light that is shown to the soul and a supernatural sight or perception of it. Accordingly, Scripture says that sometimes God gives light, sometimes the power to recognize it. So St. Paul: "God who commanded the light to shine out of the darkness shone in our hearts to give us the light of knowing the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." And elsewhere the same apostle speaks of " the eyes of our “open understanding”. Through this double action of the Holy Spirit, in which the eyes of our soul are both open and enlightened, we see the things that the natural "eye has not seen and the ear has not heard". We have a prospect of the invisible things of God; we see the spiritual world that is all around us and yet is no longer perceived by our natural faculties as if it had no being. And we see the eternal world; Piercing the veil that hangs between time and eternity. Clouds and darkness then no longer rest on it, but we can already see the glory that is to be revealed.
2. If one takes the word in a certain sense, faith is a divine proof and conviction not only that "God was in Christ and reconciled the world with himself", but also that Christ loved me and stood for me surrendered. Through this belief (whether we call it the essence or rather a quality of it) we receive Christ; that we receive him in all his offices as our prophet, priest and king. In this way he is "made to us by God, wisdom and justice, sanctification and salvation".
3. "But is this the belief of certainty or the belief of adherence?" The Scripture makes no such distinction. The apostle says: “There is faith and hope in our calling”; a Christian who saves faith; "How there is a Lord" in whom we believe and "a God and Father of all of us". And it is certain that this belief necessarily implies an assurance (which is just another word for evidence here as it is difficult to tell the difference between them) that Christ loved me and gave himself up for me. Because "who believes" with true living faith "has the testimony in itself": "The spirit testifies with its spirit that it is a child of God." "Because he is a son, God sent the spirit of his son into his heart and wept, Abba, father"; give him the certainty that he is and a child's trust in him. But it should be noted that certainty naturally comes before trust. Because a man cannot have a child's trust in God until he knows that he is a child of God. Therefore, trust, trust, trust, holding on, or whatever it is called otherwise, is not the first, as some have assumed, but the second, branch or act of faith.
4. We are saved, justified and sanctified by this belief. take this word in the highest sense. But how are we justified and sanctified by faith? This is our third head of investigation. And since this is the main point in question and a point of unusual importance, it will not be inappropriate to look at it more closely and closely.
III. 1. And first, how are we justified by faith? In what sense is this to be understood? I answer: Faith is the condition and the only condition of justification. It is the condition: Nobody is justified, but who believes: Without faith, no person is justified. And it is the only condition: this alone is enough to justify it. Anyone who believes is justified, whatever they have or not. In other words, no one is justified until he believes; Every man who believes is justified.
2. "But God does not command us to repent yes and to produce" fruits that meet to repent "- for example, to stop doing evil and to learn to do good, and is not both one and the other the other of the utmost necessity in that, if we voluntarily neglect both, we cannot reasonably expect to be justified at all. But if so, how can you say that belief is the only justification condition? “God undoubtedly commands both of us to turn back. and to produce fruit, we meet to repent; What we cannot reasonably see as justified if we voluntarily neglect it: therefore, in a sense, both repentance and repentance are necessary to justify this. But they are neither necessary in the same sense in faith nor in the same measure. Not to the same extent; because these fruits are only necessary to a limited extent; if there is time and opportunity for them. Otherwise, a man could be justified without them, like the thief on the cross (if we may call him that, because a late writer discovered that he was not a thief, but a very honest and respectable person!); but it cannot be justified without faith; that's impossible. Likewise, a man should have so much penance or so many fruits meet for penance, but none of this is of any use; He is not justified until he believes. But the moment he believes, with or without these fruits, yes, with more or less remorse, he is justified. –Not in the same sense; for repentance and its fruits are only necessary from a distance; necessary to believe; Faith is immediately necessary for justification. It remains that belief is the only condition that is immediately and immediately necessary for justification.
3. "But do you think we are sanctified by faith? We know that you believe that we are justified by faith. But don't you think and teach accordingly that we are sanctified by our works? “It has been roughly and vehemently confirmed in these twenty-five years. But I kept saying the opposite. in all sorts of ways. I have repeatedly and privately and publicly testified that we are both sanctified and justified by faith. Indeed, one of these great truths illustrates the other extraordinarily. Just as we are justified by faith, we are sanctified by faith. Faith is the condition and the only condition of sanctification, just as it is justification. It is the condition: nobody is sanctified except the one who believes; No man is sanctified without faith. And it is the only condition: this alone is enough for sanctification. Everyone who believes is sanctified, whatever they have or not. In other words, no one is sanctified until he believes: every person who believes is sanctified.
4. “But is there not a regret that results from the justification, as well as a regret before the justification? And isn't it up to everyone who is entitled to be "eager for good works"? Yes, these are not so necessary that if a man willingly neglects them and cannot reasonably expect that he will ever be sanctified in the full sense. that is, perfect in love, no, can he grow in grace at all, in the loving knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ yes, can he keep the grace that God has already given him? Can he continue in the faith he has received or in God's favor. Don't let it happen yourself and keep saying it. But if so, how can you say that faith is the only condition for sanctification? "
5. I allow all of this and keep it upright as the truth of God. I allow there to be a regret that results from the justification, as well as a regret that precedes the justification. It is the responsibility of all who are entitled to show good works. And it is so necessary that a man, if he willfully neglects her, cannot reasonably expect that he will ever be sanctified; he cannot grow in grace, in the image of God, the Spirit who was in Christ Jesus; no, he cannot keep the grace he has received; He cannot go on believing or in God's favor. What is the conclusion we erroneously draw from this? Why are both the correct understanding of repentance and the practice of all good works – works of piety and works of mercy (now properly named because they come from faith)? in a sense necessary for sanctification.
6. I say: "Repentance understood correctly"; because this should not be confused with the previous repentance. The remorse that arises from justification is very different from that which precedes it. This implies no guilt, no sense of condemnation, no awareness of God's wrath. There is no doubt that God's favor or “fear that is tormented”. It is actually a belief of the Holy Spirit of sin that remains in our hearts; from the Jronhma Sarkos, the carnal spirit that "still remains" (as our church speaks) "even in those who regenerate"; although it no longer rules; it does not rule over them now. It is a conviction of our tendency to evil, of a heart that tends to relapse, of the persistent tendency of the flesh to desire against the spirit. Sometimes when we are not constantly watching and praying, it is lust to be proud, sometimes anger, sometimes love for the world, love for lightness, love for honor or love for pleasure more than God. It is a belief in our heart's tendency toward self-will, atheism, or idolatry; and above all to unbelief; whereby we deviate more and less from the living God in a thousand ways and under a thousand pretexts.
7. This belief in sin that remains in our hearts is accompanied by a clear belief in sin that remains in our lives. still stick to all of our words and actions. In the best of these we now see a mixture of evil, either in spirit, in matter or in the nature of them; something the righteous judgment of God could not bear when it was extreme to mark what was wrong. Where we least suspected it, we find a hint of pride or self-will, unbelief or idolatry; so that we are now more ashamed of our best duties than we were of our worst sins: and therefore we can only feel that they are so far from having something worthwhile in them, yes, so far from them To stand sight of the divine righteousness that even for those we should be guilty of God if the blood of the covenant were not there
8. Experience shows that together with this belief in sin we stay in our hearts and hold on to all our words and actions. and the guilt we should suffer if we were not constantly sprinkled with the expiatory blood; there is one more thing in this repentance; namely a conviction of our helplessness, of our complete inability to think a good thought or make a good wish; and much more to speak a word correctly or perform a good action, but through his free, almighty grace that prevents us first and then accompanies us every moment.
9. "But what good works are those whose practice you call necessary for sanctification." First, all works of piety; like public prayer, family prayer and praying in our closet; receive the Lord's Supper; Searching the scriptures by listening, reading, meditating; and with as much fasting or abstinence as our physical health allows.
10. Second, all works of mercy; whether they relate to human bodies or souls; such as feeding the hungry, dressing the naked, entertaining the stranger, visiting those who are in prison, sick or affected in various ways; like striving to instruct the ignorant, to awaken the stupid sinner, to animate the lukewarm, to confirm the wavering, to comfort the weak, to support the tempted or to help in some way to save the souls from death. This is repentance, and these are the “fruits that meet for repentance” that are necessary for complete sanctification. In this way, God has instructed His children to wait for complete redemption.
11. Therefore, the extreme wickedness of this seemingly innocent opinion may appear that a believer has no sin; that all sin, root and branch, is destroyed as soon as a person is justified. By completely preventing repentance, it blocks the path to sanctification. There is no place for repentance in those who believe that there is no sin in their lives or in their hearts. Hence there is no place for his perfection in love for which this conversion is indispensable.
12. Therefore, it may also appear that there is no possible danger of awaiting complete redemption. Let's say we were wrong, let's assume that no such blessing has ever been achieved or can be achieved, and yet we don't lose anything: No, this expectation speeds us up to use all the talents that God has given us. yes, by improving them all; When our Lord comes, he will receive his own with increasing.
13. But to return. although it is permitted that both this repentance and its fruits are necessary for complete salvation; nevertheless, they are neither necessary in the same sense in faith nor in the same measure: – Not in the same measure; for these fruits are only necessary to a limited extent if there is time and opportunity for them; Otherwise, a man can be sanctified without them. But he cannot be sanctified without faith. Likewise, a person should have so much of this remorse or so many good works, but none of this is of any use: he is not sanctified until he believes. But the moment he believes, with or without these fruits, yes, with more or less this remorse, he is sanctified. –Not in the same sense; for this repentance and these fruits are only necessary from a distance – necessary to continue his faith and to increase it; Faith is immediately and immediately necessary for sanctification. It remains that faith is the only condition that is immediately and immediately necessary for sanctification.
14. "But what is this belief by which we are sanctified, saved from sin and perfected in love?" It is divine proof and belief that God promised it in Scripture. Until we are completely satisfied with it, there is no step further. And one could imagine that it takes no more word to satisfy a sensible man than the old promise: “Then I will circumcise your heart and the heart of your seed to whole-heartedly the Lord God love, and with all your soul and with all your mind. “How clearly this expresses the perfect being in love! – How strongly does the being saved from all sin imply! As long as love occupies the whole heart, what space is there for sin
15. Second, it is divine evidence and belief that what God has promised can be done. Admit that "with people it is impossible" to "get a pure thing out of an impure", to purify the heart of all sin and to order it with all holiness; However, this creates no difficulty in the case of seeing "with God all things are possible". And surely no one has ever imagined that it is possible to have a power less than that of the Almighty! But when God speaks, it should happen. God says: “Let there be light; and there is light!
16. Third, it is divine evidence and belief that He can and wills it now. And why not? Isn't a moment like a thousand years for him? He cannot want more time to achieve what his will is. And he cannot want or stay for more worthiness or fitness in the people he likes to honor. We can therefore boldly say at any time: "Now is the day of salvation!" "If you hear his voice today, don't harden your hearts!" See, all things are ready now; Come to marriage! "
17. To this trust that God is able and ready to sanctify us now, one more thing must be added – a divine proof and the conviction that He does. In this hour it is done: God says to the innermost soul: "According to your faith, be it to you!" Then the soul is pure from every point of sin; it is purely "of all injustice". The believer then experiences the deep meaning of these solemn words: "If we walk in the light as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ, his Son, cleanses us of all sins."
18. "But does God do this great work gradually or instantly in the soul?" Perhaps it can be done gradually in some; In this sense, I mean: you are not promoting the special moment in which sin ceases to be. But it is infinitely desirable if it is God's will that it be done immediately; that the Lord should instantly destroy sin "through the breath of his mouth". And so he generally does it; a clear fact for which there is sufficient evidence to satisfy any unbiased person. So you're looking for it every moment! Search for it as described above. in all these good works about which you are "newly created in Christ Jesus". Then there is no danger: you cannot be worse for this expectation if you are not better. Because if you were disappointed with your hope, you would still lose nothing. But you will not be disappointed with your hope: it will come and will not linger. Search for it every day, every hour, every moment! Why not this hour, this moment? You can certainly search for it now if you believe it is in faith. And with this sign you can be sure whether you are looking for it by faith or by works. When you work, you want something done before you are sanctified. They think I have to be or do one way or another first. Then you are looking for it through works to this day. If you look for it in faith, you can expect it as you are; and expect it now. It is important to note that there is an inseparable connection between these three points – expect it by faith; expect it as you are; and expect it now! To deny one of them is to deny them all; Allowing one means allowing them all. Do you think we are sanctified by faith? Then be true to your principle. and seek this blessing as you are, neither better nor worse; as a poor sinner who still has nothing to pay, nothing to plead, but "Christ has died". And if you're looking for who you are, expect it now. Stay for nothing: why should you be ready for Christ? and he is all you want He is waiting for you: he is at the door! Let your innermost soul scream
Come in, come in, you heavenly guest! Therefore remove again;
But sup with me and let the festival be eternal love.
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