What is our honest reaction to the gospel?
The Covenanters were a group of faithful ministers and Christians in Scotland who worked to uphold the principles of the National Covenant of 1638 and Solemn League and Covenant of 1643 in order to establish and defend Presbyterianism against the imposition of Episcopacy by the state. They suffered severe persecution through imprisonment, fines and execution rather than abandon their principles.
18 Apr, 2024

Hearing about what Jesus did on the cross forces a confrontation. When the gospel of God meets our sinful hearts, what is our honest reaction? There can only be acceptance or rejection, and there is both sin and terrible danger in sidestepping the demands of the gospel even for the time being. John Welch of Irongray, reaching the end of a sermon on Isaiah 53, insisted that his hearers faced up to their response to the news of Christ crucified. As the following updated extract shows, his questions, posed in the consciousness of God’s presence, are very pointed. Will we prefer our sins to salvation? Or will we entrust ourselves to the Saviour?

Now I come to ask what you have to say to the gospel. What do you say to it? Do you have something to say against what I have been telling you? Do you have something to say against what Christ suffered? or against what He did after He suffered, when He said, “Thrust in your hands into my side, and be not faithless, but believing?” Or will you be like Thomas and say, “My Lord and my God!” Friends, what will you do? Tell me what you think of all that has been said of a suffering Christ today. What effect does it now have on you? And what effect will it have afterwards? Will you leave this place without closing with Jesus Christ? What do you say to it? Do you have any objections?

“Yes,” says someone, “I have three objections that hinder me.”

I have too many doubts

“I have many doubts in my heart, so that I dare not presume to come to Christ.”

But why do you not dare?

“I have been such a great sinner.”

I tell you then, sinners, in the name of the Lord, you who have these fears and doubts, come on, and do not let that hinder you. Instead let it put you to make all the more use of the Lord. Come away to Him. Though your sins were as scarlet and as crimson, ye shall be made white as snow (Isaiah 1:18). You have God’s command for it, and you have God’s warrant for it, and you have God’s revelation, and these are His revealed duties that He bids you do. Be serious in going about what is revealed in the Word of God to be your duty (and that is all that the gospel calls for), and unite with Jesus Christ.

Or are you saying, “I would love to go to Jesus, but I’m afraid of breaking up with Him again.” Only resolve in Christ’s strength, and He will keep you, and all the devils in hell shall not get you to break off. “But I have made so many promises, and I have broken them all, and I fear that I will do so again.” I say, you must resolve again in Christ’s strength, and as His hand lays the foundation, He shall finish the work. “Turn again unto me,” saith the LORD, “and I will heal your backslidings.”

I can’t do it

Someone is saying, though, “I can’t. You tell us to embrace Him, but we cannot. It’s as impossible for us as to touch the sky. We can’t even begin.”

What did the Lord say to the poor man who had the withered hand? He told him to stretch it out. “I cannot,” he would say, but yet what does the Lord say? “Stretch out thy hand” (Luke 6:10).

I tell you in His name, make an attempt, and show your goodwill, and He will help you to do it. If only you would give it a try, and just say, “Lord, I believe with the faith that I have, and as far as I can, I believe — Lord, help my unbelief.”

It’s a strange thing, friends, that you won’t even try. The man in Luke 6 might have said, “What’s the point of me stretching out my withered hand? I know I can’t.” But yet Christ tells him to stretch it out as he can, and He makes his attempt effectual. You who say you cannot do so much as to make an attempt, just make the attempt, and God will make these attempts effectual, and you will find Him.

Therefore, if you don’t dare to venture, or think you cannot get a grip of Him, yet will you give Him a look? “Look unto me all ye ends of the earth, and be saved, for I am God, and there is none else” (Isaiah 45:22). This is all that He requires — that you would give Him a look.

I don’t want to

Are there any other objections? “I don’t want to.”

That is the truth of the matter. “I don’t want to part with the world; I don’t want to serve Him; I don’t want to obey His commands. I am not resolved to do that yet. I don’t want to leave the world that I’ve got so much advantage in. No, no, I don’t want to come to Him, say what you will.”

Woe is me, that is a terrible thing. You don’t want to have Him? Let ministers say what they will, you don’t want Him? What’s the reason for that? He is able to declare of Himself that it is not His fault that you are unwilling.

“O,” you say, “He is a hard master, there is no living with Him. I won’t get my idols entertained in His service. I couldn’t cope with it. I can’t part with my lusts, and with my sin. If you want the plain truth of it, I don’t think there has ever been a man or a woman that ever had a happy day serving Him, and therefore I have to go my own way at my own risk. Whatever comes on the back of it, I must sin, and I must not miss out on my opportunities in the world.”

Well, friends, I say there is much more advantage to be had in coming to Christ.

But this is your opportunity

Friends, we have encountered a strange piece of providence. I had planned to have preached elsewhere today, but against my own expectation I have been brought here again.

So it’s by chance that we are here today, and I have been presenting to you a bloodied, wounded, bruised Christ. He is all crushed with the wrath of God. He was forced to cry, “What shall I do? My soul is sorrowful, even unto death, and what shall I do?” This wounded Christ has purchased salvation to sinners, and has sent me here this day as His ambassador to make offer of Him. Have I made any impression on you? I have come in His name and I may not leave you like a knotless thread, a pointless waste of time.

It is in His name that we come here, and I summon and charge you all — as you will answer before the great God, and as you would want to be found of Him in peace, and as you would want one day to look Him in the face, and not call the hills and mountains to fall on you — I summon you to embrace Him!

I charge you by the love of Jesus Christ that put Him to suffer all those things. I charge you by the torments of hell that surely shall follow on those who disobey. I charge you by the love of Him who was dead and is now alive, and lives for evermore. I charge you by Him who has the keys of hell and death, and the keys of heaven.

Come and tell me what you plan to do. Or are you resolved to live as you have done? Do you live prayerless and godless? Will you leave off that? Are you drunkards? Will you leave off that? What are you going to do? Do you swear? Will you keep swearing more?

Are you repenting? Or have you decided to live a while longer in your sins? Will you continue in these things, and keep your idols, and your corruptions? Have you resolved to do that, or this? Will you come today and give up everything to the Lord, and embrace this suffering Christ, before His wrath comes upon you? Have ye drawn back? Will you draw back more? Or will you come to Him?

How will you respond?

What do you say to it? I offer Him to you. I lay the offer at every individual’s door, and to every individual’s conscience, and I command and charge you to come and embrace Him, and I desire the Lord God of heaven that He would confirm this.

Now what do you say to it, you who have had so many preachings preached to you? I beseech you, give an answer. Come and take Him, and embrace Him today. For you cannot tell if you will ever have the offer again. I cannot tell if I will ever have the opportunity to speak to you again. What do you think, is it for nothing that we come out to preach, when we are at such high risk, and when we are seen as traitors and rebels in every one of these meetings? It’s not a small business, this. God calls us to be serious, and not to trifle. Therefore, men and women, will you come and close with Him?

Dear, beloved friends, will you let Christ’s death and sufferings persuade you to take Christ’s offer? I long for you to come to Him, for your own life and salvation. I press it on you, and as He is offered, so take Him. Dear friends, give your answer! Say it to Him — it’s not me that wants your answer. Say something to the Lord, for as the Lord lives, you must say something, yea or nay. As you don’t want God to speak in wrath to you, friends, say that you will be the Lord’s! Say that you will enter into an everlasting covenant with Him, never to be forgotten! Or as the Lord lives, these trees, and this water, and that brae, and the earth that you sit on shall be a witness against you eternally, and this tent, and I, and these clouds above your heads.

Therefore now, come, and take the offer, and tell God that from this day forward you resolve to be for Him. Old men, and young men, will you close with Him? Young bairns, the youngest of you all, will you close with Him? Say, “Lord, I would be content to close with Him.” Will you say this, old women and young women? Answer God, who is bidding you come to Him. Say with good David, “Thou art my God and my king … Thou hast made with me an everlasting covenant, well-ordered in all things, and sure.”

I would gladly fall down on my bare knees in front of you if that would get you to say the thing. O friends, give an answer! Say what Thomas said, “My Lord and my God!” and say with David, “O God, thou art my God,” and say with the church in Jeremiah 50:5, “Come, let us enter ourselves into an everlasting covenant with God …”

We must leave you, friends, and yet how can we think of leaving till you come to Him? Take heed what you are doing. Go to Him, and close with Him.



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