... Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints.—Revelation 15.3.
S E R M O N S
That Eminent and Faithful Servant
of JESUS CHRIST, Mr.
JOHN WELCH, sometime
Minister of the Gospel in AIR.
THERE are three Things that every one of you must know that would have eternal Life; the one is, the Necessity of a New-Birth, and of a new Creation, (understand ye me all) the Necessity that ye must all be born again, and that there must be a marvelous Change made in all your Souls by the Holy Ghost, or else ye will never see the Kingdom of God. Next, ye must know the Way how ye shall get your Souls cleansed, and how ye shall get your eternal Life begun here; and how to get the full Possession of it hereafter; and this Way is Jesus Christ Honoured and glorified, by Faith in him only. 3rdly, Ye must know that there is such a Necessity of believing, that there is nothing but merciless Condemnation to the Soul that believes not in the only begotten Son of God. These were the three Lessons that our Lord, in his Speech to Nicodemus, teaches him.
JOHN CHAP. III. VER. 18.He that believeth on him is not condemned, but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the Name of the holy begotten Son of God.
First, He tells him, Except thou be born again, (for as old as thou art) by the Spirit, thou, nor none, shall enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. Next, he tells, That he was the Way, for Sin had steiked the Yeat [shut the gate] of Heaven upon all Flesh; therefore he was the Way, and the Door, and the Ladder to step up to Heaven upon; that whosoever he be that believes in me shall never perish. This he makes out,
First, By the Type of the Brazen Serpent; then he sends him to the Fountain and Spring, which is the Love of God the Father, and that because however it be that profane Sinners make it the easiest Thing in the World to be persuaded of Salvation; (and he will say, He is but a Fool that doubts, and he is worthy to be hanged that doubts, for he never doubted, and therefore he thinks he will never pain himself for Salvation) yet it is not so with the true Believer; for of all Things that pain him most, is, Because he doubts of his Faith, and cannot be persuaded enough, that he has truly believed; he dow [can] not get the Skirfens and Hardness of his Heart taken away, that he may get a Fill of Christ, and of his Blood; and that Thing that is weightiest on a true Believer is, The Fear of Condemnation; and because he gets sweet Blinks of Mercy, therefore he would be fain out of Doubt, that he shall get Leave to be in Heaven with Christ. Now, because Christ is willing to put them out of Doubt, he says, Whosoever believes shall not perish.
Now, from the second Point, he goes to the third, and this is as needful to know. All of you would hear of eternal Life, but ye must hear of Condemnation also: It is not Heaven only that must be preached, but Hell also; therefore he tells him, As he that believes shall never perish, so he that believes not shall perish and be condemned: As there is undoubted Life to the Believer; so there is undoubted Wrath to the Unbeliever. This is the Sum; the Particulars are these; First, He answers to a secret Doubt, That, seeing God has sent his Son into the World, what is the Cause that all the World is not saved, but the most Part condemned? He answers, He that believes is not condemned: but the Cause that so many are condemned is not because of the Purpose of God, but because they believe not in the only begotten Son of God; for the Purpose of God stands sure: And, as in the Drowning of the old World, when all the World was destroyed, yet Noah was saved; so it shall be in that great Day of the Lord's appearing in the Clouds, to render Vengeance to them that are ignorant of God, and have disobeyed the Gospel of our Lord Jesus, and when Millions shall be condemned, yet there shall be a Number saved, and shall go in with him into eternal Glory; so ye must not stumble at this, that there are many condemned.
Next, I see the Cause wherefore many perish. I grant the Love of God is great, and that Blood was sufficient to redeem a thousand Worlds; yet the Cause why so many perish is not for want of Virtue in the Blood of the Son of God, but the Cause is, Because they believe not in the only begotten Son of God; so, thou that shalt perish, the Cause of thy Perdition shall be found written in thyself, and thy Incredulity and Misbelief, and the Contempt of the Gospel, shall be registrate in the Gospel and thy Conscience, as the Cause of thy Condemnation, and this shall be his Glory: Miserable Wretch! thou mightest have been saved thro' my Blood, but thou wouldst not; therefore he says, He that believeth not is condemned already; for he has done, the Doom is already put upon his Heart; and in that great Day, when the Books of Conscience shall be opened, and it shall be found written there a secret Sentence of Condemnation, which thou carriedst about with thee whilst thou wast living, thou wouldst not come and get Life in the Son of God when thou mightest have had it.
Now I go forward to the next Verse, where he opens up and aggreges [aggravates] that Sin of Incredulity, that brings Condemnation: And, first, he says, This is the Condemnation of the World, that Light is come into the World, and Men love Darkness rather than Light; he tells the Cause why, because their Deeds are evil; then he tells the Reason why they do so, to wit, He that does Evil, he hates the Light, and comes not to it; Why? lest their Deeds be reproved. Then he tells by the contrary, Whoever does sincerely, and have their Heart right, they dare not only come before Men, but also before God, because their Works are good, and according to God; therefore the Tribunal of God will not affright them, because he allows their Deeds.
Now there is some Words that I will open up to you, that ye may understand the rest the better. In the 19 verse there is a Condemnation spoken of, and next there is a Light spoken of; and 3dly, there is a Darkness spoken of. I would ye understood all these three Words. What is meant by Condemnation? When one is condemned to die, when a Sentence and Doom is given out (by a sure Assize) and past upon the Life of a guilty Man, that has broken a Law; therefore they give out the Doom upon him; that is, he is worthy to die, and not to live any longer; even so it is here, when a guilty Sinner is set upon the Pannel before Jesus Christ the Judge, the Doom is given out on him, That he shall never live, but be with the Devil and his Angels, ye have the Doom in Matth. 25, Go your Way from me, ye Cursed of My Father, into the everlasting Fire of Hell, with the Devil and his Angels: I judge thee from me and my Angels, and from God; Away to endless Torment with the Devil and his Angels: Upon the which follows the Execution of the Sentence, so soon as it shall be pronounced. Now this Condemnation has three Degrees: The first is in this Life; the next is at the parting of the Soul and Body: and it shall have the last Degree at the Resurrection. It has the first Degree here; for no Man shall be condemned, but he that has lived condemned. The first Degree ye have it in the verse before, He that believes not is condemned already, where there is a present Condemnation of the Reprobate here, that whether he eat, or drink, or sleep, he bears about with him his Condemnation. I grant this is not ay [always] felt; for there are Numbers that never feel this Condemnation, either living or dying, till they feel themselves flung into that endless Fire. So the first Degree of Condemnation is in this Life. The next Degree is, when the Life goes out, as it was said of Judas, He went to his own Place; and of the rich Glutton, it is said, He was in Hell in Torment: So there is the next Degree of Condemnation. The third Degree shall be in the Resurrection, when Body and Soul shall be joined together, as it is said, Some shall rise to the Resurrection of Life, and some shall rise to the Resurrection of Damnation. Now, by the contrary, as this Condemnation has three Degrees, so the Absolution of the Godly has three Degrees, First, They have it in this Life begun here, and they have the Possession when this Life is ended; and then at the great Day, they shall be solemnly absolved, and have the full Fruition of Joy with Men and Angels.
Now, the next Word is Light, by the which is meant himself, I am the Light of the World; it is the Truth, he was in the World before in all the Ceremonies, and in all these Sacrifices, and Prophecies, and Shadows; but here he means that he is come unto the World, when the Word was made Flesh.
The third Word (and that is opposite to the Light) is Darkness, whereby is meant this willful Ignorance of the Son of God, that the World takes no Pleasure to know Christ. Now ye may see what is this Condemnation, (to wit) The Contempt of this Light, ratified by God; therefore would he say, Justly is the Unbeliever condemned, Because he contemns the Light: But mark here, Was there no Condemnation before the Coming of Christ? What means this? Did not all the Gentiles go in their own Ways? Did not they who never had a Law, perish by a Law? (Lord give his Spirit, I wot well the Matter is beyond the Word) I wot well there was Condemnation before; Why takes he the Name of Condemnation from all former Ages, and ascribes it to that Age only? I will tell you, Scarcely is it worthy the Name of Condemnation, if put into the Balance with the Condemnation of them that perished in that Age: I grant Eternity is common to both; I grant the rich Glutton had an intolerable Wrath, and Torments; but yet it is nothing, if compared with the Condemnation of them that were condemned in that Age. Why? Because there is no Light comparable to this Light that the Son of God brought with him from Heaven; No, not that Light of Adam in his Integrity; the one was but the Image of Man, but the other is the Image of the Lord, which as far surmounts this Light of Adam, as the Image of God surmounts the Image of a natural Man; when Adam had sinned against that first Light, he had a Regress to this last Light which was to come: But the Man that sins against this Light, (and gets no Life in this Light) he shall not have Regress to another Light. Indeed the Light of the Prophets was a great Light, but no more comparable to this Light, than the Light of a Star is comparable to the Light of the Sun shining at Noon-Day. Now, seeing this Light is so great, that no other Light in the World is comparable to it, and scarcely worth the Name of Light, in Comparison of this Light, why may we not say, No Condemnation (being put in the Balance with this Condemnation) will be comparable to this? But mark this, They love Darkness better than Light: Now, if Darkness be loved better than Light, shall not this be Condemnation? And if this Light be not principally loved, Is not this Matter enough to condemn a World? But I leave off here, and come to the Application. The Grounds have been laid, and the Believer is not condemned, the Unbeliever is already condemned: The Cause of their Condemnation is, The Greatness of the Light; the less that thy Light be, the less shall be thy Condemnation; They that sinned without Law shall perish without a Law; the same Light of the Gospel has its own Degrees also. It was great when he was in his Humility, it was greater when he was risen and glorified, and ay [ever] it grew greater, but afterward it was obscured and hidden under the Darkness of Popery and Mahometanism; but now it is broke out again, and this is the last Light, when Time shall be no more, and also the greatest Light. It is greater than the Light of Nature, greater than the Light of the Law, and it is greater than the Light in the Time of Christ's Humility, yea greater than that Light in the Time of the Apostles, after his Ascension. Why speak ye this? Ye have the last Light, and that everlasting Gospel preached to Tongues and Nations, ye have it preached to you. (Now, know ye what the little Book means.) So we're all fallen in the Time when all the Prophecies of the old Testament are fulfilled, and made clear to us. Now what gather I of this? I laid this Ground else, that the greatest Light was the greatest Condemnation: In the Days of the Prophecies many Prophecies were not understood; for little knew they what these Prophecies meant, because they were not fulfilled; so the Light is greatest now; then it is clear, whosoever be condemned in this Age, his Condemnation is greatest. Judas's Condemnation that betrayed the Lord in his Humility, the Condemnation of the Jews, the Condemnation of the whole old World, shall be nothing to the Condemnation of this Age; look then that ye perish not in this Age; look that ye hate not this Light; and look that your Works be not evil. What shall I say? There is the sorest Condemnation abiding these united Kingdoms for the Contempt of this Light. O Light, Light! How are thou contemned in this Land? How is it that no Man stands in Awe to sin in the Face of this Light? Well, desolate Land, the Day shall come that thou shalt say, O! If we had the Light we once had, we should be loath to contemn it; and this shall be the Doom of this Land, even the Contempt of this Light. I think, in the Lord's Judgment it is decreed, That he is minded to take away his visible Presence from this Land, and he shall never leave flitting, until we be seen to seek him, after another Manner than ever we have done yet, therefore do no ill, but let this Light renew you; wrestle not against it; do no Evil, since this Light looks on you; Why should ye get the greatest Condemnation? (Because of the Contempt of the greatest Light.) There is yet Time of Mourning and Repentance, but ye know not how long this Time will last; therefore I beseech you let not this Time get a Refusal, but run to get Mercy as long as the Door of Mercy stands open; for there is a Time when it shall be steiked [shut], and ye shall not win in, albeit ye stand and knock, ye shall get no Entrance, but a woeful Sentence shall be pronounced against you, Depart from me, ye cursed, unto the Devil and his Angels; therefore repent, and turn unto the Lord your God, for Jesus Christ's Sake; To whom, with the Father, and with the Holy Ghost, be Praise and Honour for now and ever. Amen.