Most men will proclaim every one his own goodness: but a faithful man who can find?—Proverbs 20.6

[Select Sermons by John Welch: Sermon 42; John 3:16,17.]
 
FORTY EIGHT SELECT
S E R M O N S
PREACHED BY
That Eminent and Faithful Servant
of JESUS CHRIST, Mr.
JOHN WELCH, sometime
Minister of the Gospel in AIR.


SERMON XLII.

JOHN CHAP. III. VER. 16,17.

For God so loved the World that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him, should not perish, but have everlasting Life. For God sent not his Son into the World to condemn the World; but that the World through him might be saved.

IN this Chapter our Lord gets a Visit from Nicodemus, a Ruler of the Jews, a Man, as it appears, who wanted not Wit in Law, but very ignorant of the Mysteries of Salvation. 'Tis much to be lamented, that Men of Learning and Knowledge, whose Wit will go very far in the Law, and other Matters concerning Things of this Life, and in Matters of Salvation, are but like Babes. Nicodemus wants to pay our Lord a Visit, but it appears that he did not want that it should be known, therefore he comes at Night; he is afraid to confess Christ publicly to the World, lest he should suffer Loss of other Things; it being enacted by a Law, That if any Man confessed Christ, he should be cast out of the Synagogue: But whatever was his fears, our Lord, who went always about doing Good, takes the Opportunity to converse with him about the great Mysteries of Salvation, and tells him in the 3d verse, That, except a Man be born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God. Nicodemus discovers his great Ignorance of the New-birth, and asks a Question at Christ, How can a Man be born again when he is old? Can he enter the second Time into his Mother's Womb, and be born? Jesus answers his Question, and tells him, That the New-birth was of another Nature, namely, That he must be born of Water and of the Spirit; and tells him further, That this New-birth is not visible like a natural Birth, but, as the Wind bloweth where it listeth, and we cannot tell from whence it cometh, or whither it goeth; so is every one that is born of the Spirit. In the 12th verse, Jesus upbraids him with his Unbelief, and tells him, That his Errand to the World was, to lay down his Life for Sinners, verse 14, As Moses lifted up the Serpent in the Wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; that whosoever believeth on him, should not perish, but have eternal Life. And, in the Words of our Text, he tells the Reason of all this, viz. The Love that God the Father had to the Elect World: And, my dear Friends, here is one of the greatest Wonders that ever appeared in this lower World, God so loved the World, that he gave his only begotten Son: He is the greatest Gift that ever was given to either Men or Angels. What are all other Gifts that ever were given, to this great Gift?

1st, In the Words we have the Giver, God the Father.

2dly, The Cause of the Gift, God so loved the World, that he gave—

3dly, The Gift itself,—his only begotten Son. God the Father had no greater Gift than this his only Son, who lay in his Bosom from everlasting, and a Son that never offended him, but was always his Delight; yet, for his Love he bore to the Elect World, he parted with him for a Time, that he might accomplish the great Plot of infinite Love for Mankind-Sinners. Hence we may see what is the Effect of all his Love, That whosoever believeth in the Son, shall not perish, but have everlasting Life.

First then, O Sinner, thou must believe, that Jesus Christ is the only begotten Son of God, clothed in our Nature, and that it is through the Virtue of his being God as well as Man, that this everlasting Life is to be had.

2dly, Thou must believe, that he died for thee, he rose again for thee, he was humbled for thee, and glorified for thee; yet for all this there will be Darkness; as a Man in Prison, there a Wimble-bore where the Sun shines, and he once sees the Beams of the Sun, and yet there is nothing but Darkness round about: Even so it is here, Faith lets thee see the Light of the Sun of Righteousness so overshadowing thy Soul, and yet there is nothing but Darkness within thee. Next, There is a Consent and Approbation of that Light; thou seest, allowest, and esteemest of that Light, for it is the precious Pearl that thou seekest.

And, 3dly, There is a Judgment and Tribunal decreeted in thy Soul, wherein there is a Judge, a Party, a Decreet [sentence], and a Process, and Absolution made: The Judge is Christ, the guilty Rebel is thy own Soul, wherein there is a Judge, a Plea, a Decreet; the Accuser is the Law, the Devil, and your wicked Conscience, and the Justice of God; thy Dittay, a Rebel from thy Mother's Womb, or from the Beginning. Now, Faith is thy Advocate, he makes Answer, I grant all, but I have enough in Christ to answer you all; then upon this Defence comes in the Sentence, which is this, He that believes in the Son shall never perish. Thy Conscience answers, I believe in the Son: The Law and the Gospel gives out the Conclusion, Therefore thou shalt never perish. Last, There is the Use when the Sentence is pronounced; then thou makest forward in thy Journey with a full Main-Sail, and so runnest unto thy Lord: Yet this is not the highest Degree, but Faith goes forward; for thou art not yet content, suppose thou seest thy Name put up in the Book of Life, which is in Christ coming down to thy Soul, that thou wilt say, O Blood, come and fill a toom [empty] Heart; I hunger and thirst for thee, come, come, to fill me: Then Faith brings him down to thy Soul: Then when thou hast gotten him, he will say, I will give thee but a Taste and a Prieving of me, and I will give thee a Ring with fine Jewels in it, to be a Token to thee, therefore thou must long for my Appearing, because thou must go up to Heaven with me. I told you from that, that Faith will gar [make] thee go with thy Burden, and lay it on him; it will gar thee go with a hungry and thirsty Soul, to eat him, and drink him; it will gar [make] thee go with a naked Soul, to put him on thee: Faith is defined in Heb. 11.1, Faith is the Ground of Things hoped for, and the Evidence of Things not seen; the Greek Word is, Hypostasis, it signifies three Things:

First, It is a Ground whereupon thou layst no less than the endless Salvation of thy Soul; so the Believer sees a Condemnation, their he sees no Remedy in the Law, but in the Gospel he hears that the Believer shall never go to Condemnation; Faith then takes thy Soul, and says to it, Thou art undone for evermore, except thou believest. The Heart answers, Hereon I lay my Salvation, on the Certainty of this Promise. Then Faith answers, and says, I dare pledge the Glory of God, that thou shalt never perish. Next, Faith, will take thee to Hell, and make it present to thee, to Heaven, and it will make it present to thee, it will take thee to the decreed Counsel of God, and make it present to thee; Faith never casts thee off his Word; the Word says, Thou, thou wast loved before all Eternity; Faith says, I believe. I see that the Word says, The Believer is justified; and Faith says, I believe. The Word says, There is a Crown of Glory laid up for the poor Sinner; Faith says, I see that, and I will wait patiently for it. Faith will lead thee to the very Incarnation of Christ, and make it present unto thee: Faith will do more for thee, for it, first, will make thy Ground sure. 2dly, It makes Things eternal present. 3dly, It makes thee stand, and set thy Foot as an armed Man, against all the Speats [floods] of the Terrours of God against thee; so it gars [makes] thee stand, for it is the Buckler that quenches all the fiery Darts of the Devil; thou hast that Jack [coat-of-defence] that will bide the Proof of the Cannon, suppose thou shouldest say, The Lord has set me up as a Mark to shoot at, suppose thou shouldst say with David, Psalm 22.1, The Lord has forsaken me, and suppose thou shouldst say with Heman the Ezrahite, Psalm 88.15, I suffer the Terrours of God from my very Youth; yet Faith will gar [make] thee stand against all these, for it will say to thee, That the Love of God is unchangeable, Suppose thou shouldst slay me, yet I will trust in thee; for a Man that believes may have strong Battles, and he must fight a good Fight; for the Winds will blow, and the Storms will set on the House, and Faith must hold it up. Besides this, Faith is called, The Evidence of Things not seen; it is the Character and Evidence of our Inheritance; I have that Blood sealed up to me, I have the Spirit within me, therefore I know this Heritage belongs to me; as for the Author, it is evident, it is given you freely to believe, so it is the Gift of God; God opens the Heart of Lydia, and she believes; Faith is the Work of God, look up to him who is the Author and Finisher of your Faith. He believed, and therefore he spake; so it is the Spirit, sent from the Father and the Son, that works Faith: This is the Thing that makes a Man to believe. Thou wilt say, If thou hadst Faith, thou wouldst never doubt; but when thou lookest into thyself, and missest the Power of Believing, thou doubtest: But thou shouldest not do so, but thou shouldst look up to Heaven; for it is as impossible for thee to believe, as it is to thee to open the Eyes of the Blind; for this Power of Believing is not within the Compass of Nature; for it was a Mystery to the Angels till it was revealed in the Gospel by Faith, says the Apostle, which is according to the Operation of God, that raised up Jesus from the Dead to Life; so that same Power must work in thee the Power of Believing. The Law will say, Do, and thou shalt live, but it will never give the Power to do: But the Gospel says, Believe, and thou shalt live, and, with the same Breath, it draws down the Arm of God to thy Soul, and gives thee Power to believe. Next, the Law requires Perfection; but the Gospel requires no more but faith in an honest Heart, believing in Sincerity, suppose it be mixt with Doubtings, and suppose there be a Hell in the Nook of thy Heart, as the Apostle says, Rom. 7.24, Who shall deliver me from this Body of Sin? This was his Misery; but he had not sold himself to Sin; therefore he said, he consented not to it. What more? The Gospel descends to thy Infirmity, that if thou hast no more but a reiking Tow, and if thou hast no more but an earnest Desire to believe, and if thou hast no more, but that thou canst pray for Faith, then thou hast the same Consolation of the Believer.

Now, I go Forward: Faith has three Marks, 1st, A Certainty of the Promise. 2dly, Perseverance. 3dly, The Life of Christ dwelling in the Heart. That it has a Certainty I need not to prove it; for Faith can make thee sure, and it does make thee sure, but yet only the renewed Part; it only makes the Law of thy Mind sure, and the Law of thy Members sure; it makes Jacob sure, and not Esau, for he counted no more of the Promise than of a Mess of Pottage; for there is an Esau within thee, that will make thee to count no more of the Promise than of a Mess of Pottage; but there is a Part within thee that makes thee like the Merchant, that found a Pearl, that he went and sold all that he had for it; so that no Man can tell what unspeakable Joy will be in the Heart of the Believer; upon this Certainty comes the Battle, after a particular Fall and Security. Now, what is the Ground of this Certainty? If thou be'st a true Believer, thou canst tell me a Reason wherefore thou believest; thou canst render me a Reason of thy Hope, and thou canst tell me what Things can bereave thee of thy Hope, and cut away thy Anchor: It may be in the Time of Calmness ye will not make meikle [much] Thought for an Anchor to your Ship; but ye should know there is a Storm coming on, therefore ye should make your Ship sure with Cables and Anchors. There your Ground,

1st, Ye lean upon the unchangeable Strength of God; He is faithful that has promised.

2dly, Ye have the Power of God; Abraham gave Glory to God, for he believed that he that had promised, was able to perform.

3dly, Ye have the sworn Testimony of God, that cannot be altered; by these two unchangeable Things thou mayst have strong Consolation.

4thly, I look to the Blood of Christ, his Humiliation, his Glorification; therefore it concludes, no more can I be rugged from Christ, than he can be from my Flesh and Blood; no more can I go to Hell, than Christ can go to Hell; and no more can I be banished from Heaven, than Christ can be rugged out of Heaven.

5thly, Thou hast the Testament of Christ sealed with his Blood; thou hast more, thou hast the King's Seals in Baptism and the Lord's Supper. What more? There are Three in Heaven that bear Witness, the Spirit, that is, all the Graces and Marks of the Spirit that God has given thee, as mainly, Faith, Love, Patience, and all the rest. Next, the Water, that is, the cleansing of the Heart that was once foul.

Thirdly, There is the Blood, that is, all the Comfort and Consolation that thou hast found in Christ, and the Virtue which thou hast felt to proceed and come from him. More, this Faith shall never fail thee, thou shalt never tyne [lose] it, suppose it were overshadowed for a Time with Clouds. Now, because all have not a like Measure of Faith, I will tell you the meanest Measure that ye must have: Wot ye what it is? It is a broken Heart, and that Hunger and Thirst in a Soul that dare not apply, and yet dare not cast away; and that dare not call God his Father, and yet dare not say the contrary; that has no Sense of the Love of God, and yet dare not admit a contrary Cogitation: There the meanest Degree of Faith: Now, yet the strongest Faith and the weakest Faith will have the Wrestlings of it; for God will wrestle and strive with thee to get thee off thy Feet, and Faith's wrestling will be such, that the Child of God thinks that there is not a Straw-broad between him and Condemnation, and he will say, I see the angry Face of God against me, I see Hell open to swallow me up, I see the Devils ready to devour me, what shall I do? Now a little Thing would put thee over the Brae; and yet in this Wrestling thou art sustained by a secret Power of God, for he wrestles against thee with one Hand, and holds thee up with the other; but the Believer will set to his Feet as he dow [can], and he will hope above Hope, and he will believe above his Feeling, and so he gets the Victory, and overcomes at the last; and, when he gets the Victory, he gets unspeakable Joy, that he will cry out, Death, where is thy Sting? Hell, where is thy Victory? Devil, where art thou now? What canst thou say against me? Now I am persuaded that nothing can separate me from the Love of God in Christ Jesus my Saviour; so Faith has its own Growings and sometimes its own Decayings; as ye see the Trees in Summer have their Leaves and Flourishes, and their Fruit, but in Winter they are, as it were dead; even so, Faith will sometimes bear Fruit, and have Life, and sometimes none; but Faith once given can never be taken away, for this Link of Salvation can not be broken, Whom he has called, he has predestinate; and whom he has predestinate, them he has adopted; and whom he has adopted, them he has justified; and whom he has justified, them also shall he glorify. So thou art persuaded, That this Link shall never be broken.

The third Property of Faith, it is lively, for there is a dead Faith spoken of by James; but the true Believer he lives by Faith, and he will ay lay hold on Christ; so if Christ be in thee, he will make thee live; and if thou hast never gotten Life from him, thou hast never believed; Faith will take thee to the Cross, and nail thy Sins to the Cross, and lay thee in the Grave with him; Faith will raise thee out of the Grave again, and by the same Power that he raised himself from the dead to Life, he will raise thee from Death to Life, and set thy Heart in Heaven with himself, and by the Life of Christ thou livest; so Faith has Life with it, and the Life of Faith stands in these eight Points.

First, it speaks unspeakable Peace that passes all Understanding, and this Peace guards thy Heart about, that all the Powers of Hell are not able to bereave thee of it; then thou walkest with Confidence and Boldness, having thy Heart in Heaven; because thou art reconciled to God, and thou hast thy Peace confirmed to thee and sealed.

Secondly, From this Peace the Gates open to thee in Heaven, and thou wilt say, Well is me I am not a Stranger in Heaven, having Peace with God thro' our Lord Jesus Christ.

Thirdly, There is unspeakable Joy, that a Sinner can wade through a thousand Hells to step into that Glory in Heaven, to that Crown which he has set before me.

Fourthly, Faith brings Love, for it makes a golden Spout through the riven Side of Christ Jesus, and brings down the Rivers of Love upon thee; then arises thy Love to him, and thou desirest no more Consolation, but to get leave to love God, and to sound his Praise all the Days of thy Life.

Fifthly, A Hope and Expectation that makes thee lift up thy Head, and shoot [push] it within the Kingdom of Heaven; and there thou seest a Crown of Glory laid up for thee, the which thou lookest for patiently, so thou hopest to come by it at the last.

Sixthly, Thou seest Christ so sweet to thee, that thou countest all Things but Dirt and Dung, so thou mayst win him, and thou countest all Things but Loss, that thou mayst gain him.

Seventhly, thou desirest no more but to know Christ, and him crucified.

Eighthly, and last of all, It makes thee change thy Company, that thou wilt say, All my Delight is with the Saints, this will make thee to have a Desire that all were as thou art, and thou wilt pray for them thou never sawest; it makes thee spread thy Love to all the Saints in the Earth, and thy Love will reach to the very Saints in Heaven, and thou longest to be with them, and thou knowest that the Fellowship and Communion of the Saints it is the Life of thy Faith, and therein stands thy Joy here beneath. This living Faith will make thee bring forth living Works; then there will be Life in thy Prayers, then there will be such Delight in the Word of God, that thou canst meditate on that Law both Day and Night; then in thy Calling thou dost thy Work cheerfully and willingly, because God has set thee in it, and thou dost it diligently, because thou hast thy Heart in Heaven, and thou knowest it pleases God and he allows of it; because it is done in Faith, it must please God.

Now, Faith has two Companions, Love and Hope, and Faith fills thy Soul with the Love of God, and the Hope of that Glory, and Love lets thee see his to thee again; Faith brings the Bowels of God's Mercy on thee, and Love makes thee spread thy Love and Pity on his Saints; Faith bids thee believe, and thou shalt see great Things, and Hope says I believe, and I hope to see the Thing that never Eye saw, nor ever Ear heard, nor ever entered into the Heart of Man, they shall be clearly revealed one Day as I hope. Now follows the first Degree and Manner how God, works Faith in the Souls of Men and Women. 2dly, The Benefits of Faith, If a Man offer a Gift to thee, what canst thou do less than to take it out of his Hand; so when God reaches out his Blessings to thee, mayst thou not take them out of his Hand? Now it is not thy Faith that gets thee these Blessings, but it is the rich Pearl in the Gold-Ring that stems the Blood, and not the Ring itself; therefore the Benefits of Faith come from the Jewel that it grips, and Christ, gripped by Faith, works all these Things. There are Nine or Ten several Benefits that Faith brings thee. First, It pulls thee out of Nature, and plants thee in Jesus Christ the Tree of Life; there thou tynest [losest] thy Nature, for thou art made one with Christ; so that thou renouncest the rotten Stock of Adam, and thou claimest to a better Lineage, thou renouncest thy wisdom, and thou wilt learn thy wisdom of God; thou renouncest thy own understanding, & Reason, & thou wilt understand nothing but that which God's Word bids thee understand. 2dly, When it has set thee in Christ, it makes thee the Son of God, for Christ is the only Son and Heir of all Things, so thro' him thou art adopted to be the Heir of him, and with him of eternal Life; and this is no small Gift to make thee that wast the Son of Perdition to become the Son of God, and Heir of all Things with him. 3dly, It brings Remission of all thy Sins, both of Original and Actual, before thy Calling; and after thy Calling, it gets thee Pardon of thy evil Words, or thy evil Deeds, or evil Thoughts, were they never so great, or never so many. 4thly, Faith it justifies, it lets thee see that thou art naked, and it makes thee put on the Garments of the Innocency and Righteousness of Jesus Christ, and, being clad with him, thou art justified in the Sight of God, and counted as righteous, as if thou hadst never sinned. 5thly, It opens the Door of Heaven to thee, and thou wilt say, I will go into my Lord's Chamber, and I will sup with him, and I will rest under the Wings of my Saviour, I know he will deny me nothing that I will ask of him in the Name of his Son in whom he is well pleased. 6thly, When he has led thee in there, thou seest thy foul Heart, then Faith says to thee, go in to yon Blood, and it will cleanse it, suppose thy Soul be as red as Scarlet, yet he is able to make it as white as Snow. Objection, I am foul and ugly, I dare not lay my Hands on him. Answer, Faith will say to thee, thou must lay hold on him, for he came to seek and save Sinners. 7thly, Faith will give thee this Confidence, may I not pray and be homely with God, seeing he is become my Father through Christ, I will be bold now to go to him, because I am reconciled to him; before I was his Enemy, and durst not go near him, but now he has made me his Friend. 8thly, Faith makes all Things possible to thee, for nothing is impossible to the Believer. O! What is it that Faith will not do? Faith saved Noah and his Household in the Ark, when all the World was drowned; Faith clave the Red Sea, and drowned Pharaoh and all his Host; Faith shut up and closed up the Heavens, that it rained not for three Years and six Months, and Faith opened them again, and, in a Word, will make thee accomplish that saying, I will have no fellowship with the unfruitful Works of Darkness, I have no Delight in the Things of this World, I take no Pleasure in these Things beneath, my Conversation and Haunting is in Heaven, my Treasure is in Heaven, my Life, my Glory, and my Crown is in Heaven. Now for the obtaining Faith, there must be First a distinct Knowledge of thy in-born Corruption, and that there is nothing for thee by Nature, but remediless Condemnation, and thou art meet for nothing but to be a Faggot for Hell's-fire; and thou must know that thou bearest about with thee the Things that will be thy own Condemnation, and thou must know that thou art worthy of the Curse and Malediction of God. 2dly, Thou must know a Remedy for it, which is only the Blood of the Son of God, and except that thou knowest a Remedy for thy Misery (thou wilt be the worse to know it) and the Knowledge of thy Misery is the first Step to Grace; but when thou hast known thy Misery, then thou must know the Remedy. 3dly, Thou must know that there is no Way to Salvation, but by believing in the only begotten Son of God; for Faith is the Hand that grips Christ, and lays him to the Wound of thy Soul, and so he heals it. 4thly, Thou must know that thou must appropriate him to thyself, or else he will do thee no good, for what avails it thee to know that there is a Saviour, unless thou knowest that he is thy Saviour, and what Good will it be to thee to know that Christ died for Sinners, except thou knowest he died even for thee? So the first Degree of a gracious Faith is a believed torment of Pain in Hell, that the Voice of God will be like a roaring Lion, an iron Scepter, a heavy Burden pressing thee down.

2dly, When thou seest thou wilt stand on the Brae, thou wilt say, what will I do, is yon prepared for me, shall I go back to my Life again? I cannot, for I will but sin more and more, and increase the Wrath of God, I dare not go forward, lest I be consumed in yon Fire. I wot not what to do, I will stand still and wait, and see what the Lord will do with me, I will wait upon the Lord's good will. 3dly, Thou wilt begin to be sober, and thy Heart will soften, and the hard Clods thereof will break, then thou wilt say, Lord, wilt thou speak some Comfort to my silly Soul, I long to be reconciled with thee, now thy Blood shall be sweet to me, I desire no more in this World, but a Blink of thy sweet Face, and thy loving Countenance to shine upon my Soul. 4thly, Thou wilt resolve never to go back to thy former Ways, because they have beguiled thee, therefore thou wilt say, I Promise in the presence of God, if he will reach out the golden Scepter to me, I will take my Hazard, and if I die I shall die praying, and if I perish, let me perish on, for I shall ay look to thee, suppose thou shouldst thrust me down to Hell, and suppose thou shouldst slay me, yet I will trust in thee. 5thly, Thou wilt have a Hunger and Thirst that nothing will fill, but the Flesh of Christ, and nothing can slocken [quench] thee, but this Blood allenarly [only]; all Things on Earth cannot satisfy thee, till thou gettest Christ in the Arms of thy Soul, till thou be'st sure of him. 6thly, Thou wilt count so meikle [much] of Salvation, that thou wilt bid all Sin, and the Pleasures thereof farewell; and thou wilt not give thy Lord for ten thousand Worlds, and thou wilt not lose his Favour or lose thy Peace and Joy thou hast in his Presence, for all the Pleasures under Heaven. Last of all comes in thy Glory and thy Peace; then God at the last gives thee to believe, when he says, come poor Sinner, wilt not thou want me, come to me, thou shalt get me, I will be loath to bide from thee, thou art wearied and tired with the Burden of thy Sins, I will refresh and ease thee, I will not let thee perish; then the Lord says, Thou art naked, come, and I will put on Robes on thee; then the Soul will say, and thou hast said, Blessed are they that mourn, Lord I would fain mourn if I could; thou hast said, Blessed are they that hunger and thirst for Righteousness: Lord, I would fain hunger and thirst, I would fain have a Bit of thy Flesh, and a Drink of thy Blood and I would fain believe if I durst, and if I saw any Appearance or Token of thy Love to me. Jacob supposed never to have seen his Son Joseph, and when his Sons told him that he was living, he could not believe them; when they told him, there the Chariots, he has sent to thee, then he considers, wherefrom come these? O! know I now my Son is living. Even so it is with thee that art a Believer; at the first Time thou trowest [believest] that thou art lost, and all Light and Life is away, and thou thinkest, it is not possible that thou canst be saved, and so great a Sinner as thou art can be pardoned. But when thou gettest any Token from the Lord, and seest any Appearance of his Presence, then thou believest and grippest to the Promise made to thee in Christ's Blood; so look to the Means, and if ever God has taken such a Dealing with thy Soul in any true Measure, then thou mayst be glad, for thou hast the Seed of true Saving Faith sown in thee, and thou mayst be sure the Lord will never leave thee, nor he will not let thee perish, Amen.