The Ten Commandments
by Thomas Watson
The Way of Salvation
What does God require of us, that we may escape his wrath and curse due to us
for our sin?
Faith in Jesus Christ, repentance unto life, with the diligent use of all the
outward means, whereby Christ communicates to us the benefits of redemption.
I begin with the first—faith in Jesus Christ. "God presented him as a
sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood." Rom 3:25. The great
privilege in the text is, to have Christ for an atoning sacrifice; which is not
only to free us from God's wrath—but to ingratiate us into his love and favor.
The means of having Christ to be our propitiation is, "Faith in his blood."
There is a twofold faith:
1. "The faith which is believed"—which is "the doctrine of faith."
2. "The faith by which we believe"—which is "the grace of faith."
The act of justifying faith lies in recumbency—we rest on Christ alone
for salvation. As a man who is ready to drown, catches hold on the bough of a
tree, so a poor trembling sinner, seeing himself ready to perish, catches hold
by faith on Christ the tree of life, and is saved. The work of faith is by the
Holy Spirit; therefore faith is called the "fruit of the Spirit." Gal 5:22.
Faith does not grow in fallen human nature; it is an exotic plant,
a fruit of the Spirit. This grace of faith is the most hallowed possession of
the human heart—the most precious rich faith, and most holy faith, and faith of
Hence it is called "precious faith." 2 Pet 1:1. As gold is most
precious among metals—so is faith is most precious among the graces.
Faith is the queen of the graces. Faith is the condition of the
gospel. "Your faith has saved you," not your tears. Luke 7:50.
Faith is the "vital artery of the soul" which animates it. "The just shall
live by his faith." Hab 2:4. Though unbelievers breathe, they lack life.
"Faith," as Clement calls it, "is a mother grace." Faith excites and invigorates
all the graces; not a grace stirs—until faith sets it to work. Faith sets
repentance to work; it is like fire to the still. Faith sets hope to
work. First we believe the promise, then we hope for it. If faith did not feed
the lamp of hope with oil—it would soon die. Faith sets love to
work. "Faith which works by love." Gal 5:6. Who can believe in the infinite
merits of Christ, and his heart not ascend in a fiery chariot of love? It is a
catholicon, or universal remedy against all troubles. Faith is the anchor
cast into the sea of God's mercy, which keeps us from sinking in despair.
Other graces have done worthily; you, O faith, excel them all.
In heaven, love will be the chief grace; but while we are here on
earth, love must give place to faith. Love takes possession of glory—but faith
gives a title to it. Love is the crowning grace in heaven—but faith is the
conquering grace upon earth. "This is the victory which overcomes the world,
even our faith." 1 John 5:4. Faith carries away the garland from all the other
graces. Other graces help to sanctify us—but faith only has the honor to
justify us. "Being justified by faith." Rom 5:1.
How does faith come to be so precious?
Not that it is a more holy quality, or has more worthiness than other
graces—but with respect to its object—as it lays hold on Christ the
blessed object, and fetches in his fullness. John 9:36. Faith in itself
considered, is but "the beggar's hand." But as this hand receives the rich alms
of Christ's merits—it is precious, and challenges a superiority over the rest of
Use one. Of all sins, beware of the rock of unbelief! "Take
heed lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief" Heb 3:12. Men think,
as long as they are not drunkards or swearers, it is no great matter to be
unbelievers. This is the gospel sin—it dyes your other sins in grain.
(1) Unbelief is a Christ-reproaching sin. It disparages Christ's
infinite merit—as if it could not save; it makes the wound of sin to be
broader than the plaster of Christ's blood. This is a high contempt
offered to Christ, and is a deeper spear than that which the Jews thrust into
(2) Unbelief is an ungrateful sin. "The ungrateful man is to be
avoided like a fearful crime; the world herself produces nothing more shameful."
Ingratitude is a prodigy of wickedness! Unbelief is being ungrateful for
the richest mercy! Suppose a king, to redeem a captive, should part with his
crown of gold, and when he had done this, should say to the redeemed man, "All I
desire of you in lieu of my kindness—is to believe that I love you." If he
should say "No, I do not believe any such thing, or that you care at all for
me!" I appeal to you, whether this would not be odious ingratitude? So is the
case here. God has sent his Son to shed his blood; he requires us only to
believe in him, that he is able and willing to save us. "No!" says unbelief,
"His blood was not shed for me, I cannot persuade myself that Christ has any
purpose of love to me!" Is not this horrid ingratitude? This enhances a sin, and
makes it of a crimson color!
(3) Unbelief is a leading sin. It is the breeder of sin. "A life
of wickedness, has unbelief as its point of origin." Unbelief is a root sin, and
the devil labors to water this root, that the branches may be
fruitful. It breeds hardness of heart; therefore they are put together. Mark
16:14. Christ upbraids them with their unbelief and hardness of heart. Unbelief
breeds the stone in the heart. He who believes not in Christ—is not
affected with his sufferings, he melts not in tears of love. Unbelief freezes
the heart; first it defiles and then hardens. Unbelief breeds
profaneness. An unbeliever will stick at no sin, neither at false
weights, nor false oaths. He will swallow down treason. Judas was first an
unbeliever, and then a traitor. John 6:64. He who has no faith in his
heart—will have no fear of God before his eyes.
(4) Unbelief is a wrath-procuring sin. It is "an enemy of
salvation." Bernard. John 3:18, "Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but
whoever does not believe stands condemned already"—dying so, he is as sure to be
condemned as if he were so already. "He who believes not on the Son of God—the
wrath of God abides on him." John 3:36. He who believes not in the blood
of the Lamb—must feel the wrath of the Lamb. The Gentiles that believe
not in Christ, will be damned—as well as the Jews who blaspheme him. And if
unbelief is so fearful and damnable a sin, shall we not be afraid to live in it?
Use two. Above all graces, set faith to work on Christ. "That
whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." John 3:16.
"Above all, taking the shield of faith." Eph 6:16. Say as queen Esther, "I will
go in unto the king—and if I perish, I perish." She had nothing to encourage
her; she ventured against law—yet the golden scepter was held forth to her. We
have promises to encourage our faith. "Whoever comes to me—I will never drive
away." John 6:37. Let us then advance faith by a holy recumbency on Christ's
merits. Christ's blood will not justify without believing; they are both put
together in the text, "Faith in his blood." The blood of God, without faith in
Christ, will not save. Christ's sufferings are the plaster to heal a sin-sick
soul—but this plaster must be applied by faith. It is not money in a
rich man's hand, though offered to us—which will enrich us—unless we receive it.
So Christ's virtues or benefits will do us no good—unless we receive them by the
hand of faith. Above all graces, set faith on work. It is a faith most
acceptable to God upon many accounts.
(1) Because faith is a God-exalting grace. It glorifies God.
Abraham "was strong in faith, giving glory to God." Rom 4:20. To believe that
there is more mercy in God, and merit in Christ—than sin in us; and that Christ
has answered all the demands of the law, and that his blood has fully satisfied
the wrath of God for us—honors God in a high degree. Faith in the Mediator
brings more glory to God—than martyrdom, or the most heroic act of obedience.
(2) Faith in Christ is acceptable to God because it is a self-denying grace;
it makes a man go outside of himself, renounce all self-righteousness, and
wholly rely on Christ for justification. It is very humble, it confesses its own
indigence, and lives wholly upon Christ. As the bee sucks sweetness from the
flower—so faith sucks all its strength and comfort from Christ.
(3) Faith is a grace acceptable to God, because by faith we present a
righteousness to him which best pleases him; we bring the
righteousness of Christ into court, which is called the righteousness of God. 2
Cor 5:21. To bring Christ's righteousness, is to bring Benjamin with us.
A believer may say, "Lord, it is not the righteousness of Adam, or of the
angels—but of Christ who is God-Man, which I bring before you." The Lord cannot
but smell a sweet savor in Christ's righteousness.
Use three. Let us try our faith. There is something that looks
like faith, and is not. Pliny says there is a Cyprian stone which highly
resembles a diamond—but it is not. Just so, there is a spurious faith in the
world. Some plants have the same leaf with others—but the herbalist can
distinguish them by the root and taste; so something may look like true
faith—but it may be distinguished several ways:
(1) True faith is grounded upon knowledge. Knowledge carries the
torch before faith. There is a knowledge of Christ's orient excellencies. Phil
3:8. He is made up of all love and beauty. True faith is a judicious intelligent
grace, it knows whom it believes, and why it believes. Faith is seated as
well in the understanding, as in the will. It has an eye to see
Christ, as well as a wing to fly to him. Such therefore as are veiled in
ignorance, or have only an implicit faith to believe as the church believes—have
no true and genuine faith.
(2) Faith lives in a broken heart. "The father cried out with
tears, Lord, I believe." Mark 9:24. True faith is always in a heart
bruised for sin. They, therefore, whose hearts were never touched for sin,
have no faith. If a physician should tell us there was a herb that would help us
against all infections—but it always grows in a watery place; if we should see a
herb like it in color, leaf, smell, blossom—but growing upon a rock, we should
conclude that it was the wrong herb. So saving faith always grows in a heart
humbled for sin, in a weeping eye and a tearful conscience. If, therefore, there
be a show of faith—but it grows upon the rock of a hard impenitent heart—it is
not the true faith.
(3) True faith is at first, nothing but an embryo; it is minute
and small; it is full of doubts, temptations, fears; it begins in weakness. It
is like the smoking flax. Matt 12:20. It smokes with desires—but does not flame
with comfort; it is at first so small, that it is scarcely discernible. Those
who, at the first dash, have a strong persuasion that Christ is theirs, who leap
out of sin into assurance, have a false and spurious faith, The faith which
comes to its full stature on its birth-day is a monster. The seed that sprung up
suddenly, withered. Matt 13:5, 6.
(4) Faith is a refining grace, it consecrates and purifies. Moral
virtue may wash the outside—but faith washes the inside. "Purifying their hearts
by faith." Acts 15:9. Faith makes the heart a temple with this inscription,
"Holiness to the Lord." Those whose hearts have legions of lust in them, were
never acquainted with the true faith. For one to say he has faith, and yet live
in sin, is, as if one should say he was in health when his vitals are cancered.
Faith is a virgin grace, it is joined with sanctity. "Holding the
mystery of the faith in a pure conscience." 1 Tim 3:9. The jewel of
faith, is always put in the cabinet of a pure conscience. The woman who touched
Christ by faith, fetched a healing and cleansing virtue from him.
(5) True faith is obediential. "The obedience of faith." Rom
16:26. Faith melts our will into the will of God. If God commands duty, though
cross to flesh and blood—faith obeys. "By faith Abraham obeyed." Heb 11:8. It
not only believes the promise—but obeys the command. It is not having a
speculative knowledge that will evidence you to be believers. The devil has
knowledge; but that which makes him a devil—is that he has no obedience.
(6) True faith is increasing. "From faith to faith," that is, from
one degree of faith to another. Rom 1:17. Faith does not lie in the heart, as a
stone in the earth—but as seed which grows. Joseph of Arimathaea
was a disciple of Christ—but was afraid to confess him; afterwards he went
boldly to Pilate and begged the body of Jesus. John 19:38. A Christian's
increase in faith is known two ways—
By steadfastness. He is a pillar in the temple of God, "Rooted and
built up in him; and established in the faith." Col 2:7. Unbelievers are
sceptics in religion; they are unsettled; they question every truth; but when
faith is on the increasing hand, it strengthens the spirit—it fortifies a
Christian. He is able to prove his principles; he holds no more than he will die
for; as that martyr woman said, "I cannot dispute for Christ—but I can
burn for him." An increasing faith is not like a ship in the midst of the
sea, which fluctuates, and is tossed upon the waves; but like a ship at anchor,
which is firm and steadfast.
A Christian's increase in faith is known by his strength. He can do
that now which he could not do before. When one is man-grown, he can do that
which he was not able to do when he was a child; he can carry a heavier burden;
so a growing Christian can bear crosses with more patience.
But I fear I have no faith—it is so weak!
If you have faith, though but in its infancy, be not discouraged. For,
(1) A little faith is faith, as a spark of fire is fire.
(2) A weak faith may lay hold on a strong Christ; as a weak hand can tie the
knot in marriage as well as a strong one. She, in the gospel, who but touched
Christ, fetched virtue from him.
(3) The promises are not made to strong faith—but to true
faith. The promise does not say, he who has a giant faith, who can
believe God's love through a frown, who can rejoice in affliction, who can work
wonders, move mountains, stop the mouth of lions—shall be saved—but whoever
believes, be his faith ever so small. A reed is but weak, especially when it
is bruised; yet a promise is made to it. "A bruised reed, he shall not break."
(4) A weak faith may be fruitful. Weakest things multiply most. The vine is a
weak plant—but it is fruitful. The thief on the cross, who was newly converted,
was but weak in grace; but how many precious clusters grew upon that tender
plant! He chided his fellow-thief. "Do you not fear God?" Luke 23:40. He judged
himself, "We indeed suffer justly." He believed in Christ, when he said, "Lord."
He made a heavenly prayer, "Remember me when you come into your kingdom." Weak
Christians may have strong affections. How strong is the first love, which is
after the first planting of faith!
(5) The weakest believer is a member of Christ as well as the strongest; and
the weakest member of the mystic body, shall not perish. Christ will cut off
rotten members—but not weak members. Therefore, Christian, be not discouraged.
God, who would have us receive those who are weak in faith—will not
himself refuse them. Rom 14:1.
"God has granted even the Gentiles, repentance unto life." Acts 11:18.
Repentance seems to be a bitter pill to take—but it is to purge out
the bad humor of sin. By some Antinomian spirits it is cried down as a legal
doctrine; but Christ himself preached it. "From that time Jesus began to preach,
and to say, Repent," etc. Matt 4:17. In his last farewell, when he was ascending
to heaven, he commanded that "Repentance should be preached in his name." Luke
24:47. Repentance is a pure gospel grace. The covenant of works would not
admit of repentance; it cursed all who could not perform perfect and personal
obedience. Gal 3:10. Repentance comes in by the gospel. It is the fruit of
Christ's purchase—that repenting sinners shall be saved. It is wrought by the
ministry of the gospel, while it sets before our eyes Christ crucified.
Repentance is not arbitrary—but necessary; there is no being saved without it.
"Except you repent, you shall all likewise perish." Luke 13:3. We may be
thankful to God that he has left us this plank, after shipwreck.
I. I shall show first the COUNTERFEITS of repentance.
 Natural softness and tenderness of spirit. Some have a tender
affection, arising from their constitution, whereby they are apt to weep and
relent when they see any object of pity. These are not repenting tears: for many
weep to see another's misery, who cannot weep at their own sin.
 Legal terrors. A man who has lived in a course of sin, at last
is made sensible; he sees hell ready to devour him, and is filled with anguish
and horror; but after a while the tempest of conscience is blown over, and he is
quiet. He then concludes he is a true penitent, because he has felt some
bitterness in sin—but this is not repentance. Judas had some trouble of mind. If
anguish and trouble were sufficient for repentance, then the damned would be
most penitent, for they are most in anguish of mind. There may be trouble of
mind, where there is no grieving for the offence against God.
 A slight superficial sorrow. When God's hand lies heavy upon a
man, as when he is sick or lame, he may vent a sigh or tear, and say, "Lord,
have mercy;" yet this is not true repentance. Ahab did more than all this. "He
rent his clothes, and fasted, and lay in sackcloth, and went softly." 1 Kings
21:27. His clothes were rent—but not his heart. The eye may be watery,
and the heart flinty. An apricot may be soft outside—but it has a
hard stone within.
 God motions rising in the heart. Every good motion is not
repentance. Some think, that if they have motions in their hearts to break off
their sins, and become religious, that this is repentance. As the devil may stir
up bad motions in the godly, so the Spirit of God may stir up good motions in
the wicked. Herod had many good thoughts and inclinations stirred up in him by
John Baptist's preaching—yet he did not truly repent, for he still lived in
 Vows and resolutions. What vows and solemn protestations do
some make in their sickness, that if God should recover them—they will be new
men—but afterwards they are as bad as ever! "You said, I will not transgress;"
here was a resolution; "but for all this, she ran after her idols. "Under every
green tree you wandered, playing the harlot." Jer 2:20.
 Leaving off some gross sin.
(1) A man may leave off some sins, and keep others. Herod reformed
many things which were amiss—but kept his Herodias.
(2) An old sin may be left—to entertain a new one. A man may leave off riot
and prodigality, and turn covetous; which is merely to exchange one sin for
These are the counterfeits of repentance. Now, if you find that yours is a
counterfeit repentance, and you have not repented aright, mend what you have
done amiss. As in the body, if a bone is set wrong, the surgeon has no way but
to break it again, and set it aright; so you must do by repentance; if you have
not repented aright, you must have your heart broken again in a godly manner,
and be more deeply afflicted for sin than ever.
II. This brings me to show wherein repentance consists. It
consists in two things: humiliation and transformation.
 Humiliation. "If their uncircumcised hearts be humbled." Lev
26:41. There is, as some say, a twofold humiliation, or breaking of the heart.
(1) Attrition; as when a rock is broken in pieces. This is done
by the law, which is a hammer to break the heart.
(2) Contrition; as when ice is melted into water. This is done
by the gospel, which is as a fire to "melt the heart." Jer 23:9. The sense of
abused kindness causes contrition.
 Transformation, or change. "Be transformed by the renewing of
your mind." Rom 12:2. Repentance works a change in the whole man. As when wine
is put into a glass of water, it runs into every part of the water, and changes
its color and taste; so true repentance does not rest in one part—but diffuses
and spreads itself into every part.
(1) Repentance causes a change in the MIND. Before conversion, a
man loves sin, and said in defense of it, as Jonah, "I do well to be angry;"
chap 4:9; or I did well to swear, and break the Sabbath. When he becomes
penitent, his judgment is changed, he looks upon sin as the greatest evil. The
Greek word for repentance signifies after-wisdom; when, having seen how deformed
and damnable a thing sin is, we change our mind. Paul, before conversion, truly
thought he ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus (Acts 26:9);
but, when he became a penitent, he was of another mind. "I count all things but
loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus." Phil 3:8. Repentance
causes a change of judgment.
(2) Repentance causes a change in the AFFECTIONS, which move under
the will as the commander-in-chief. It metamorphoses the affections. It turns
rejoicing in sin into sorrowing for sin; it turns boldness in sin—into holy
shame; it turns the love of sin—into hatred of sin. As Ammon hated Tamar more
than ever he loved her (2 Sam 13:15), so the true penitent hates sin more than
ever he loved it. "I hate every false way." Psalm 119:104.
(3) Repentance works a change in the life. Though repentance
begins at the heart, it does rest there—but goes into the life. It begins at the
heart. "O Jerusalem, wash your heart." Jer 4:14. If the spring is corrupt—no
pure stream can run from it. But though repentance begins at the heart, it does
not rest there—but changes the life. What a change did repentance make in Paul!
It changed a persecutor into a preacher. What a change did it make
in the jailer! Acts 16:33. He took Paul and Silas, and washed their stripes, and
set food before them. What a change did it make in Mary Magdalene! She who
before kissed her lovers with wanton embraces, now kisses Christ's feet; she who
used to curl her hair, and dress it with costly jewels, now makes it a towel to
wipe Christ's feet; her eyes that used to sparkle with lust, and with impure
glances to entice her lovers, now become fountains of tears to wash her Savior's
feet; her tongue that used to speak vainly and loosely, now is an instrument set
in tune to praise God. This change of life has two things in it:
 A breaking off sin. "Break off your sins by righteousness." Dan 4:27.
This breaking off sin must have three qualifications.
(1) The breaking off sin must be UNIVERSAL—a breaking off all sin. One
disease may kill as well as more. One sin lived in, may damn as well as more.
The real penitent breaks off secret, gainful, habitual sins; he takes the
sacrificing knife of mortification, and runs it through the heart of his dearest
(2) The breaking off sin must be SINCERE; it must not be out of fear—but upon
spiritual grounds; as from antipathy and disgust, and a principle of love to
God. If sin had not such evil effects, a true penitent would forsake it
out of love to God. The best way to separate things that are frozen, is by fire.
When sin and the heart are frozen together, the best way to separate them is by
the fire of love. Shall I sin against a gracious Father, and abuse that love
which pardons me?
(3) The breaking off sin must be PERPETUAL, so as never to have to do with
sin any more. "What have I to do any more with idols?" Hos 14:8. Repentance is a
spiritual divorce, which must be until death.
 Change of life has in it a returning unto the Lord. It is called
"Repentance towards God." Acts 20:21. It is not enough, when we repent, to leave
old sins; but we must engage in God's service; as when the wind leaves the west,
it turns into a contrary corner. The repenting prodigal not only left his
harlots—but arose and went to his father. Luke 15:18. In true repentance the
heart points directly to God, as the needle to the north pole.
Use. Let us all set upon this great work of repentance; let us
repent sincerely and speedily: let us repent of all our sins, our pride, rash
anger, and unbelief. "Without repentance, no remission." It is not consistent
with the holiness of God's nature to pardon a sinner while he is in the act of
rebellion. O meet God, not with weapons—but tears in your eyes. To stir you up
to a melting penitent frame:
(1) Consider what there is in sin, that you should continue in the practice
of it. It is the "accursed thing." Josh 7:11. It is the spirit of evil,
distilled. It defiles the soul's glory; it is like a stain to beauty. It is
compared to a plague-sore. 1 Kings 8:38. Nothing so changes one's glory into
shame as sin. Without repentance sin tends to final damnation. "The moment
of sin passes, the guilt remains." Sin at first shows its color in
the glass—but afterwards it bites like a serpent. Those locusts in Rev 9:7, are
an emblem of sin: "On their heads were crowns like gold, and they had hair as
the hair of women, and their teeth were as the teeth of lions, and there were
stings in their tails." Sin unrepented of ends in tragedy. It has the devil for
its father, shame for its companion, and death and damnation for its wages. Rom
6:23. What is there in sin then, that men should continue in it? Do no say that
it is sweet. Who would desire the pleasure which kills?
(2) Repentance is very pleasing to God. There is no sacrifice, like a broken
heart. "A broken and a contrite heart, O God, you will not despise." Psalm
51:17. Augustine caused this sentence to be written over his bed when he was
sick. When the widow brought empty vessels to Elisha, the oil was poured into
them. 2 Kings 4:6. Bring God the broken vessel of a contrite heart, and he will
pour in the oil of mercy. Repenting tears are the joy of God and of angels. Luke
15:7. Doves delight to be about the waters; and surely God's Spirit, who once
descended in the likeness of a dove, takes great delight in the waters of
repentance. Mary stood at Jesus' feet weeping. Luke 7:38. She brought two things
to Christ, tears and ointment; but her tears were more precious to Christ than
(3) Repentance ushers in pardon. Therefore they are joined together.
"Repentance and remission of sin." Luke 24:47. Pardon of sin is the richest
blessing; it is enough to make a sick man well. "The inhabitant shall not say, I
am sick; the people who dwell therein shall be forgiven their iniquity." Isa
33:24. Pardon settles upon us the richer charter of the promises. Pardoning
mercy is the sauce which makes all other mercies relish the sweeter; it sweetens
our health, riches, and honor. David had a crown of pure gold set upon his head.
Psalm 21:3. That which David most blessed God for, was not that God had set a
crown of gold upon his head—but that he had set a crown of mercy upon his head.
"Who crowns you with mercies!" Psalm 103:4. What was this crown of mercy? You
may see in ver 3: "Who forgives all your iniquities." David more rejoiced that
he was crowned with forgiveness, than that he wore a crown of pure gold. Now,
what is it that makes way for pardon of sin—but repentance? When David's soul
was humbled and broken, the prophet Nathan brought him good news. "The Lord has
put away your sin." 2 Sam 12:13.
But my sins are so great, that if I should repent, God would not pardon them!
God will not go from his promise. "Return, O backsliding Israel, says the
Lord—and I will not cause my anger to fall upon you, for I am merciful." Jer
3:12. If your sins are as rocks—yet upon your repentance, the sea of God's mercy
can drown them! "Wash yourselves and be clean!" Isa 1:16. Wash in the laver of
repentance. "Come now, and let us reason together, says the Lord: though your
sins are as scarlet—they shall be as white as snow;" ver 18. Manasseh was
a crimson sinner; but when he humbled himself greatly, the golden scepter of
mercy was held forth. When his head was a fountain to weep for sin—Christ's
side was a fountain to wash away sin. It is not the greatness of sin—but
impenitence, which destroys. The Jews, who had a hand in crucifying
Christ, upon their repentance found the blood they had shed, was a sovereign
balm to heal them. When the prodigal came home to his father, he had the
robe and the ring put upon him, and his "father kissed him." Luke 15:20, 22. If
you break off your sins, God will become a friend to you; all that is in God
shall be yours; his power shall be yours, to help you; his wisdom
shall be yours, to counsel you; his Spirit shall be yours, to sanctify
you; his promises shall be yours, to comfort you; his angels shall be
yours, to guard you; his mercy shall be yours, to save you.
(4) There is much sweetness in repenting tears. The soul is never more
enlarged and inwardly delighted—than when it can melt kindly for sin. Weeping
days are festival days. The Hebrew word to repent, signifies "to take comfort."
"Your sorrow shall be turned into joy." John 16:20. Christ turns the water of
tears into wine. David, who was the great mourner in Israel, was the sweet
singer. And the joy which a true penitent finds, is a foretaste of the joy of
paradise. The wicked man's joy turns to sadness; the penitent's sadness turns to
joy. Though repentance seems at first to be thorny and bitter—yet from this
thorn a Christian gathers grapes. All which considerations may open a vein of
godly sorrow in our souls, that we may both weep for sin, and turn from it. If
ever God restores comfort, it is to his mourners. Isa 57:18.
When we have wept, let us look up to Christ's blood for pardon. Say, as that
holy man, "Lord, wash my tears in your blood!" We drop sin with our tears, and
need Christ's blood to wash them.
This repentance must be not for a few days only, like the mourning for a
friend, which is soon over—but it must be the work of our lives; godly sorrow
must not be stopped until death. After sin is pardoned, we must repent. We run
afresh upon the sore, "we sin daily, therefore must repent daily." Some shed a
few tears for sin; and when, like the widow's oil, they have run awhile, they
cease. Many, if the plaster of repentance begin to smart a little, pluck
it off; whereas the plaster of repentance must still lie on, and not be plucked
off until death, when, as all other tears, so these of godly sorrow shall be
What shall we do to obtain a penitential frame of heart?
Seek to God for it. It is his promise to give a "heart of flesh" (Ezek
36:26); and to pour on us a spirit of mourning. Zech 12:10. Beg God's "Holy
Spirit." "He causes his wind to blow, and the waters flow." Psalm 147:18. When
the wind of God's Spirit blows upon us, then the waters of repentant tears will
flow from us.
The Word of God
The third way to escape the wrath and curse of God, and obtain the benefit of
redemption by Christ, is the diligent use of ordinances, in particular, "the
Word, sacraments, and prayer."
I begin with the best of these ordinances.
The "Word . . . which effectually works in you who believe." 1 Thess 2:13.
What is meant by the word's working effectually?
The Word of God is said to work effectually when it has the good effect upon
us, for which it was appointed by God; when it works powerful illumination and
thorough reformation. "To open their eyes, and turn them from the power of Satan
unto God." Acts 26:18. The opening of their eyes denotes illumination;
and turning them from Satan to God denotes reformation.
How is the Word to be read and heard, that it may become effectual to
This question consists of two branches.
How may the Word be read effectually?
That we may so read the Word that it may conduce effectually to our
(1) Let us have a reverend esteem of every part of Scripture.
"More to be desired are they than gold." Psalm 19:10. Value the book of God
above all other books. It is a golden epistle, written by the Holy Spirit, and
sent to us from heaven. More particularly to raise our esteem, the Scripture is
a spiritual looking-glass, to dress our souls by. It shows us more than we can
see by the light of natural conscience. This may discover gross sins; but the
glass of the Word shows us heart-sins, vain thoughts, unbelief, etc. It not only
shows us our spots—but washes them away. The Scripture is an
armory, out of which we may fetch spiritual artillery to fight against Satan.
When our Saviour was tempted by the devil, he fetched armor and weapons from
Scripture; "it is written!" Matt 4:4, 7. The holy Scripture is a panacea, or
universal medicine for the soul; it gives a recipe to cure deadness of heart,
Psalm 119:50; pride, 1 Pet 5:5; and infidelity, John 3:36. It is a garden of
remedies, where we may gather a herb or antidote to expel the poison of sin. The
leaves of Scripture, like the leaves of the tree of life, are for the "healing
of the nations." Rev 22:2. Should not this cause a reverential esteem of the
(2) If we would have the written Word effectual to our souls, let us peruse
it with "intenseness of mind." "Search the Scriptures." John 5:39.
The Greek word signifies to search as for a "vein of silver." The Bereans "searched
the Scriptures daily." Acts 17:11. The word signifies to make a meticulous
and critical search. Apollo was mighty in the Scriptures. Acts 18:24. Some
gallop over a chapter in haste—and get no good by it. If we would have the Word
effectual and saving, we must mind and observe every passage of Scripture. That
we may be diligent in the perusal of Scripture, consider that the Scripture is
"the only standard of conduct"—the rule and platform by which we are to square
our lives. It contains in it all things needful to salvation; what duties we are
to do, and what sins we are to avoid. Psalm 19:7. God gave Moses a pattern how
he would have the tabernacle made; and he was to go exactly according to the
pattern. Exodus 25:9. The Word is the pattern God has given us in writing, for
modeling our lives. How careful, therefore, should we be in pursuing and looking
over this pattern!
As the written Word is our pattern, so it will be our judge. "The Word that I
have spoken—the same shall judge him at the last day." John 12:48. We read of
the opening of the books. Rev 20:12. One book which God will open is the book of
the Scripture, and will judge men out of it. He will say, "Have you lived
according to the rule of this Word?" The Word has a double work—to teach, and to
(3) If we would have the written Word effectual, we must bring faith to the
reading of it; believe it to be the Word of the eternal Jehovah. It
comes with authority, and shows its commission from heaven. "Thus says the
Lord!" It is of divine inspiration. 2 Tim 3:16. The oracles of Scripture must be
surer to us than a voice from heaven. 2 Pet 1:18, 19. Unbelief enervates the
virtue of Scripture, and renders it ineffectual. First men question the truth of
the Scripture, and then fall away from it.
(4) If we would have the written Word effectual to salvation, we must delight
in it as our spiritual cordial. "When your words came, I ate them;
they were my joy and my heart's delight." Jer 15:16. All true solid comfort is
fetched out of the Word. The Word, as Chrysostom says, is a spiritual garden,
and the promises are the fragrant flowers or spices in this garden. How should
we delight to walk among these beds of spices! Is it not a comfort, in all
dubious perplexed cases, to have a Counselor to advise us? "Your testimonies are
my counselors." Psalm 119:24, is it not a comfort to find our evidences for
heaven? And where should we find them but in the Word? 1 Thess 1:4, 5. The
Scripture is a sovereign elixir, or comfort, in an hour of distress. "Your
promise revives me; it comforts me in all my troubles." Psalm 119:50. It can
turn all our "water into wine." How should we take a great delight in the Word!
They alone who come to the Word with delight, go from it with success.
(5) If we would have the Scripture effectual and saving, we must be sure,
when we have read the Word, to hide it in our hearts. "I have hidden your word
in my heart, that I might not sin against you." Psalm 119:11. The Word, locked
up in the heart, is a preservative against sin. Why did David hide the Word in
his heart? "That I might not sin against you." As one would carry an antidote
with him when he comes near an infected place, so David carried the Word in his
heart as a sacred antidote to preserve him from the infection of sin. When the
sap is hid in the root, it makes the branches fruitful; when the seed is hid in
the ground, the corn springs up; so, when the Word is hid in the heart, it
brings forth good fruit.
(6) If we would have the written Word effectual, let us labor not only to
have the light of it in our heads—but its power in our hearts! Let
us endeavor to have it copied out, and written a second time in our hearts. "The
law of his God is in his heart." Psalm 37:31. The Word says, "Be clothed with
humility." 1 Pet 5:5. Let us be low and humble in our own eyes. The Word calls
for sanctity. Let us labor to partake of the divine nature, and to have
something conceived in us which is of the Holy Spirit. 2 Pet 1:4. When the Word
is thus copied out into our hearts, and we are changed into its similitude, it
is made effectual to us, and becomes a savor of life.
(7) When we read the holy Scriptures—let us look up to God for a blessing.
Let us beg the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, that we may see the "deep things
of God." Eph 1:17, 1 Cor 2:10. Ask God, that the same Spirit that wrote the
Scripture would enable us to understand it. Pray that God would give us the
"savor of his knowledge," that we may relish a sweetness in the Word we read. 2
Cor 2:14. David tasted it as "sweeter than the honeycomb." Psalm 19:10. Let us
pray that God would not only give us his Word as a rule of holiness—but his
grace as a principle of holiness!
How may we hear the Word that it may be effectual and saving to our souls?
(1) Give great attention to the Word preached. Let nothing
pass, without taking special notice of it. "All the people were very
attentive to hear him." Luke 19:48. They hung upon his lips. "Lydia was
listening. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was spoken by
Paul." Acts 16:14. Give attention to the Word, as to a matter of life and death.
For this purpose have a care to banish vain impertinent thoughts, which
will distract yell, and take you off from the work in hand. These fowls
will be coming to the sacrifice, therefore we must drive them away. Gen 15:2. An
archer may take a right aim; but if one stands at his elbow, and jogs him when
he is going to shoot, he will not hit the mark. Christians may have good aims in
hearing; but take heed of impertinent thoughts which will jog and hinder you in
Banish dullness. The devil gives many hearers a sleepy drug—so
that they cannot keep their eyes open at a sermon. They eat so much on the
Lord's-day that they are more fit for the pillow and couch—than the temple!
Frequent and customary sleeping at a sermon shows high contempt and irreverence
of the ordinance. It gives a bad example to others; it makes your sincerity to
be called in question; it is the devil's seedtime. "While men slept, his
enemy came and sowed tares." Matt 13:25 O shake off drowsiness, as Paul shook
off the viper! Be serious and attentive in hearing the Word. "For it is not a
vain thing for you, it is your life." Deut 32:47. When people do not mind what
God speaks to them in his Word—God as little minds what they say to him in
(2) If you would have the Word preached effectual, come with a holy
appetite to the Word. 1 Pet 2:2. The thirsting soul is the
thriving soul. In nature one may have an appetite and no digestion; but
it is not so in religion. Where there is a great appetite for the Word, there is
for the most part good digestion. Come with hungering of soul after the Word,
and desire it, that it may not only please you but profit you.
Look not at the garnishing of the dish—more than at the food. Look not at
eloquence and rhetoric—more than solid matter. It argues both a wanton palate—to
feed on sweets and dainties rather than on wholesome food.
(3) If you would have the preaching of the Word effectual, come to it with
tenderness upon your heart. "Because your heart was tender."
1 Chron 22:5. If we preach to hard hearts, it is like shooting an arrow against
a bronze wall—the Word does not enter. It is like setting a gold seal upon
marble, which takes no impression. O come to the Word preached with a melting
frame of heart! It is the melting wax, which receives the stamp of the
seal; so, when the heart is in a melting frame, it will better receive the stamp
of the preached Word. When Paul's heart was melted and broken for sin, he cried,
"Lord, what will you have me to do?" Acts 9:6. Do not come with hard hearts. Who
can expect a crop when the seed is sown upon stony ground?
(4) If you would have the Word effectual, receive it with meekness.
"Receive with meekness the ingrafted Word." James 1:21. Meekness is a submissive
frame of heart to the Word—a willingness to hear the counsels and reproofs of
the Word. Contrary to this meekness, is fierceness of spirit, whereby men are
ready to rise up in rage against the Word. Proud men, and guilty men, cannot
endure to hear of their faults. Proud Herod put John in prison. Mark 6:17. The
guilty Jews, being told of their crucifying Christ—stoned Stephen! Acts 7:59. To
tell men of sin, is to hold a mirror to one that is deformed, who cannot endure
to see his own face! Contrary to meekness—is stubbornness of heart, whereby men
are resolved to hold fast their sins, let the Word say what it will. "We will
burn incense unto the queen of heaven!" Jer 44:17. O take heed of this! If
you would have the Word preached effectually, lay aside fierceness and
stubbornness, and receive the Word with meekness. By meekness, the Word
preached, comes to be ingrafted. As a good scion that is grafted in a bad stock
changes the nature of the fruit and makes it taste sweet, so, when the Word is
ingrafted into the soul, it sanctifies it, and makes it bring forth the sweet
fruit of righteousness.
(5) Mingle the Word preached with faith. "The Word preached
did not profit them—not being mixed with faith." Heb 4:2. If you leave out the
chief ingredient in a medicine, it hinders the operation; do not leave out the
ingredient of faith. Believe the Word, and so believe it as to apply
it. When you hear Christ preached, apply him to yourselves. This is to put
on the Lord Jesus. Rom 13:14. When you hear a promise spoken, apply it. This is
to suck the flower of the promise—and turn it to honey!
(6) Be not only attentive in hearing—but retentive after hearing.
"We ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest
at any time we should let them slip;" lest we should let them run out as water
out of a sieve. Heb 2:1. If the ground does not retain the seed sown into it,
there can be no good crop. Some have memories like leaking vessels—the sermons
they hear are presently gone, and there is no good done. If food does not stay
and digest in the stomach, it will not nourish. Satan labors to steal the Word
out of the mind. "When they have heard, Satan comes immediately, and takes away
the Word that was sown." Mark 4:15. Our memories should be like the chest of the
ark—where the law was kept.
(7) Reduce your hearing to practice. Live on the sermons
you hear. "I have done your commandments." Psalm 119:166. Rachel was not content
that she was beautiful—but her desire was to be fruitful. What is
a knowing head, without a fruitful heart? "Filled with the fruits
of righteousness." Phil 1:11. It is obedience which crowns hearing. That
hearing will never save the soul—which does not reform the life.
(8) Beg of God that he will accompany his Word with his presence and
blessing. The Spirit must make all effectual. Ministers may
prescribe the medicine—but it is God's Spirit must make it work. "He has his
pulpit in heaven, who converts souls." Augustine. "While Peter yet spoke, the
Holy Spirit fell on all those who heard." Acts 10:44. It is said, that the
alchemist can draw oil out of iron. God's Spirit can produce grace in the most
(9) If you would have the Word work effectually to your salvation, make it
familiar to you. Discourse on what you have heard, when you come
home. "My tongue shall speak of your Word." Psalm 119:172. One reason why some
people get no more good by what they hear, is that they never speak to one
another of what they have heard; as if sermons were such secrets that they must
not be spoken of again; or as if it were a shame to speak of matters of
salvation. "Those who feared the Lord spoke often one to another... and a
book of remembrance was written." Mal 3:16.
Use one. Take heed, as you love your souls—that the Word does not
become ineffectual to you. There are some to whom the Word preached is
(1) Such as censure the Word; who, instead of judging themselves, judge the
(2) Such as live in contradiction to the Word. Isa 30:9.
(3) Such as are more hardened by the Word. "They made their hearts as an
adamant stone." Zech 7:12. And when men harden their hearts willfully—God
hardens them judicially. "Make their ears heavy." Isa 6:10. The Word to
these is ineffectual. Would it not be sad, if a man's food did not nourish him;
nay, if it should turn to poison! O take heed that the Word preached, be not
ineffectual and to no purpose!
Use two. Consider three things:
(1) If the Word preached does us no good—there is no other way by which we
can be saved. This is God's institution, and the main instrument
which he uses to convert souls. "If they won't listen to Moses and the prophets,
they won't listen even if someone rises from the dead." Luke 16:31. If an angel
should come to you out of heaven, and preach of the excellency of the glorified
estate, and the joys of heaven, and that in the most moving manner—if the Word
preached does not persuade, neither would you be wrought upon by such an oration
from heaven! If a damned spirit should come from hell, and preach to you in
flames, and tell you what a place hell is, and roar out the torments of the
damned—it might make you tremble—but it would not convert you, if the preaching
of the Word will not do it!
(2) To come to the Word, and not be savingly wrought upon—is that which the
devil is pleased with. He cares not though you hear frequently, if it
is not effectually; he is not an enemy to hearing—but profiting. Though the
minister holds out the breasts of the ordinances to you, the devil does not
care—as long as you do not suck the sincere milk of the Word. The devil does not
care how many sermon-pills you take, so long as they do not work upon
(3) If the Word preached is not effectual to men's conversion—it will be
effectual to their condemnation. The Word will be effectual one way
or other; if it does not make your hearts better, it will make your chains
heavier. We pity those who have not the Word preached—but it will be worse with
those who are not sanctified by it. Dreadful is their case—who go loaded with
sermons to hell! But I will conclude with the apostle, I am "persuaded
better things of you, and things that accompany salvation." Heb 6:9.