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“THE METHOD OF GRACE” BY GEORGE WHITEFIELD,
by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.
A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
“They have healed also the hurt of the daughter of my people slightly, saying, Peace, peace; when there is no peace” (Jeremiah 6:14).
Introduction: George Whitefield was born in Gloucester, England in 1714. He was the son of a tavern owner. In this environment he had little Christian influence as a child, but he had unusual ability in school. He attended Oxford University where he became friends with John and Charles Wesley and became part of their prayer and Bible study group.
While he was a student at Oxford he experienced conversion. Shortly thereafter he was ordained in the Church of England. His preaching on the absolute necessity of the new birth resulted in the churches closing their doors to him, since carnal pastors were afraid that his sermons on the necessity of the new birth would anger their parishoners. Thus, he was forced out of the churches, to preach in the open fields, for which he became famous.
Whitefield traveled to America in 1738 and founded an orphanage. He subsequently traveled throughout the American colonies and Great Britain preaching and raising funds to support the orphans. He preached in Spain, Holland, Germany, France, England, Wales, and Scotland, and made thirteen trips across the Atlantic to preach in America.
He was close friends with Benjamin Franklin, Jonathan Edwards and John Wesley, and was the one who persuaded Wesley to preach in the fields, like he did. Benjamin Franklin once estimated that Whitefield spoke to an audience of thirty thousand people. His out-door meetings often exceeded 25,000 in attendance. He once preached near Glasgow, Scotland to more than 100,000 people in one gathering – in a day when there were no microphones! Ten thousand people professed conversion in that meeting.
He is considered by many historians to have been the greatest English-speaking evangelist of all time. Although Billy Graham has spoken to many more people with the aid of electronic microphones, Whitefield’s impact on the culture was unquestionably greater and more positive.
Whitefield was the leading figure of the First Great Awakening, the intense revival that shaped the character of America in the middle of the 18th century. The colonies in our country were set ablaze with revival when he preached. The height of this revival came in 1740 during a six-week tour Whitefield made of New England. In just forty-five days he preached over one hundred and seventy-five sermons to tens of thousands of people, leaving the region in a spiritual uproar, marking one of the most remarkable periods of American Christianity.
By the time of his death he had won the admiration and commanded the attention of the entire English-speaking world. He was instrumental in founding Princeton University, Dartmouth College, and the University of Pennsylvania. He died shortly after preaching in Newburyport, Massachusetts, in 1770, six years before the American Revolution. George Washington was the father of our country, but George Whitefield was the grandfather of it.
The following sermon by Whitefield is given in modern English. It is his actual sermon, but I have modified the words to make it more understandable in our time.
“They have healed also the hurt of the daughter of my people slightly, saying, Peace, peace; when there is no peace”
Sermon: The greatest blessing God can send a nation is good and faithful preachers. But the greatest curse God can send to any nation is to allow the churches to be run by lost preachers who are concerned only with making money. Yet in every age there have been false preachers who gave soothing sermons. There are many ministers like this who corrupt and twist the Bible to deceive the people.
That's the way it was in Jeremiah’s day. And Jeremiah spoke against them in faithful obedience to God. He opened his mouth and preached against these carnal preachers. If you read his book, you will see that no one ever spoke out more strongly against false preachers than Jeremiah. He spoke severely against them in the chapter which contains our text.
“They have healed also the hurt of the daughter of my people slightly, saying, Peace, peace; when there is no peace”
Jeremiah says that they only preach for money. In the thirteenth verse, Jeremiah said,
“For from the least of them even unto the greatest of them every one is given to covetousness; and from the prophet even unto the priest every one dealeth falsely” (Jeremiah 6:13).
They are covetous and preach falsely.
In our text, he shows one of the ways that they preach falsely. He shows the deceitful way they deal with lost souls:
God had told the prophet to warn the people of a coming war. God wanted him to tell them that their houses would be destroyed – that war was coming (see Jeremiah 6:11-12).
Jeremiah gave a thundering message. It should have terrified many people and brought them to the point of repentance. But the carnal prophets and priests went around giving the people false comfort. They said Jeremiah was just a wild fanatic. They said there would be no war. They told the people there would be peace, when Jeremiah had said there would be no peace.
The words of the text refer primarily to outward peace. But I believe they have a further reference to the soul. I also believe they refer to false preachers who tell people they are good enough, even though they are not born again. Unconverted people love this kind of preaching. The human heart is so wicked and deceitful. Only God knows how treacherous man's heart is.
Many of you say you have peace with God, when there is no real peace! Many of you think you are Christians, but are not. The Devil is the one who has given you a false peace. God did not give you this “peace.” It is not the peace that passes human understanding. It is a false peace that you have.
It is very important for you to know whether you have real peace or not. Everyone wants peace. Peace is a great blessing. Therefore I must tell you how to find real peace with God. I must be free from your blood. I must declare to you the whole counsel of God. From the words of the text, I will attempt to show you what must happen to you, and what must be changed within you for you to have true peace in your heart.
I. First, before you can have peace with God, you must be made
to see, feel, weep over, and grieve over your actual transgressions
against the law of God.
According to salvation by works, “the soul that sinneth, it shall die” (Ezekiel 18:4). Every person is cursed who does not continuously do all things written in the book of the law.
You must not only do some things, but you must do all things or you are cursed:
“For it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them” (Galatians 3:10).
The slightest deviation from the law, whether in thought, or word, or deed, makes you deserve eternal punishment, according to the law of God. And if one evil thought, if one evil word, if one evil action deserves eternal damnation, how many hells do all deserve whose whole lives have been one continuous rebellion against God! Before you can ever have true peace in your heart, you must be made to see what a dreadful thing it is to depart from God and commit sins against His law.
Examine your heart. And let me ask you – was there ever a time when the remembrance of your sins was painful to you? Was there ever a time when the burden of your sins was unbearable? Did you ever see that God's wrath might correctly fall on you, because of your actual transgressions of His laws? Were you ever inwardly sorry for your sins? Could you ever say, “My sins are too heavy for me to bear?” Did you ever experience anything like this? If not, do not call yourself a Christian! You may say you have peace, but there is no real peace for you. May the Lord awaken you! May the Lord convert you!
II. But, further, before you can have peace with God, conviction
must go deeper; you must be convinced of your own
corrupted nature, the total depravity of your soul.
You must be convinced of your actual sins. You must be made to tremble over them. But conviction must go even deeper than that. You must be convicted of actually breaking the laws of God. More than that, you must see and feel your own original sin, that original corruption inbred in your heart, which renders you liable to be damned by God.
Many people who think they are intelligent say there is no such thing as original sin. They think God is unjust to impute Adam's sin to us. They say we were not born in sin. They say you need not be born again. Yet look at the world around you. Is it the paradise God promised to mankind? No! Everything in the world is out of order! It is because there is something wrong with the human race. It is original sin that has brought calamity to the world.
No matter how strongly you may deny this, when you are awakened, you will see that sin in your life comes from your own depraved heart – a heart poisoned by original sin.
When the unconverted person is first awakened, he begins to wonder, “How did I become so wicked?” The Spirit of God then shows him that he has no good thing in his nature. Then he sees that he is altogether corrupted and vile. Then the person finally comes to see that God would be right to damn him. He sees that he is so poisoned and rebellious in his very nature that it would be right for God to damn him, even if he had not committed one outward sin in his entire life.
Did you ever experience this? Did you ever feel this – that it would be right and that it would be just for God to damn you? Did you ever come to agree that you are by your very nature a child of wrath? (Ephesians 2:3).
If you were ever truly born again, if self were ever truly taken from you, you would have seen and felt this. And if you have never felt the weight of original sin, do not call yourself a Christian! Original sin is the greatest burden of a true convert. The man who is truly born again is grieved by his original sin and poisoned nature. A truly converted person often cries out, “Oh, who will deliver me from the body of this death, this indwelling corruption of my heart?” (ref. Romans 7:24). This is what disturbs an awakened person the most – his inward heart of sin. If you have never been aware of this inward corruption in your nature, there is no way you can find true peace in your heart.
III. Furthermore, before you can have true peace with God, you must
not only be troubled by the sins in your life, and the sins in your
nature, but also for the sins in your very best decisions,
commitments, and so-called “Christian life.”
My friend, what is there in your best performance that will approve you to God? You are unjustified and unconverted by your very nature. You deserve to be damned in Hell ten times over for your outward sins. What good will your works do you? You can do no good thing by nature.
“They that are in the flesh cannot please God” (Romans 8:8).
It is impossible for an unconverted person to do anything for the glory of God.
Even after we are converted, yet we are renewed only partly. Indwelling sin continues in us. There is still a mixture of corruption in every one of our duties. So, after we are converted, if Jesus Christ were to accept us according to our works, our works would damn us. We cannot even pray without there being some sin in it, some selfishness, laziness, moral imperfection of some sort. I don't know what you think, but I cannot pray without sinning. I cannot preach to you without sinning. I can do nothing without sin. My repentance needs to be repented of, and my tears to be washed in the precious Blood of my dear Redeemer, Jesus Christ!
Our best resolutions, our best duties, our best religion, our best decisions, are just so many splendid sins. Our religious duties are full of sins. Before you can have peace in your heart you must not only be sick of your original sin and your outward sins, but you must be sick of your own righteousness, duties and religiosity. There must be a deep conviction before you can be brought out of your self-righteousness. If you never felt that you have no righteousness of your own, you cannot be justified by Jesus Christ. You are still not converted.
Someone may say, “Well, I believe all this.” But there is a great difference between "believing" and "feeling." Did you ever feel your lack of a Redeemer, your lack of Christ? Did you ever feel that you needed Christ because you have no goodness of your own? And can you now say, "Lord, you can damn me for the best religious works I could do." If you have not been brought out of yourself like this, there can be no real peace for you.
IV. Then, fourthly, before you can have peace with God, there is one
particular sin you must be greatly troubled about. And yet I fear that
few of you will think of it. It is the most damning sin in the world,
and yet the world does not think of it as a sin. You ask,
“What is that sin?” It is the sin most of you do not think you are
guilty of – and that is the sin of unbelief.
Before you can have peace, you must be troubled by the unbelief of your heart. Can it be that you do not really believe in the Lord Jesus Christ?
I appeal to your own heart. I am afraid that you have no more faith in Jesus Christ than the Devil himself. I think the Devil believes more of the Bible than most of you. He believes in the divinity of Jesus Christ. He believes and trembles. He trembles more than thousands who call themselves Christians.
You think that you believe because you believe the Bible, or because you go to church. All of this you may do without true faith in Christ. Merely to believe there was such a person as Christ will do you no good, any more than to believe there was such a man as Caesar or Alexander the Great. The Bible is God's Word. We give thanks for it. But you may believe it, and yet not believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.
If I ask you how long it is since you believed in Jesus Christ, many of you would tell me that you have always believed in Him. You could not give me a better proof that you never yet believed in Jesus Christ. Those who truly believe in Christ know there was a time when they did not believe in Him.
I must speak more on this, because it is a most deceitful delusion. Many are carried away with it – thinking that they have believed already. It was said by Mr. Marshall that he had listed all his sins under the Ten Commandments, and then came to a minister and asked why he could not get peace. The minister looked at his list and said, “Away! I do not find one word of the sin of unbelief in all your catalog.” It is the work of the Spirit of God to convince you of your unbelief – that you have no faith. Jesus Christ said concerning the Holy Spirit:
“He will reprove the world of sin…Of sin, because they believe not on me” (John 16:8-9).
Now, my dear friends, did God ever show you that you had no faith in Jesus? Were you ever made to grieve in sorrow over your hard heart of unbelief? Did you ever pray, “Lord, help me lay hold of Christ?” Did God ever convince you of your inability to come to Christ, and make you cry out in prayer for faith in Christ? If not, you won't find peace in your heart. May God awaken you, and give you solid peace by faith in Jesus, before you die and have no further chance.
V. Once more, before you can have peace with God, you must get
ahold of the righteousness of Christ.
You must not only be convinced of your actual and original sin, the sins of your own righteousness, and the sin of unbelief, but you must be enabled to lay hold on the perfect righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ. You must take ahold of the righteousness of Christ. Then you will have peace. Jesus said:
“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).
This verse gives encouragement to all who are weary and heavy laden, but to no one else. Yet the promise of rest is made only to those who come and believe in Jesus Christ. Before you can ever have peace with God you must be justified by faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. You must have Christ brought home to your soul, so His righteousness may be made your righteousness, so His merits may be imputed to you.
My dear friends, were you ever married to Christ? Did Jesus Christ ever give Himself to you? Did you ever come to Christ by a living faith? I pray God that Christ may come and speak peace to you. You must experience these things to be born again.
I am now talking of the invisible realities of another world, of inward Christianity, of the work of God upon a sinner's heart. I am now talking about things of great importance to you. You are all concerned in it. Your souls are concerned in it. Your eternal salvation depends on it.
You may feel peace without Christ. The Devil has put you to sleep and given you false security. He will try to keep you asleep until he sends you to Hell. There you will be awakened, but it will be a dreadful awakening to find yourself in flames where it is too late to be saved. In Hell you will call for all eternity for a drop of water to cool your tongue, and no water will be given to you.
May you find no rest in your soul until you rest in Jesus Christ! My purpose is to bring lost sinners to the Saviour. O that God may bring some of you to Jesus. May the Holy Spirit convince you that are sinful, and turn you from your wicked ways to Jesus Christ. Amen.
(END OF SERMON)
You can read Dr. Hymers' sermons each week on the Internet
at www.realconversion.com. Click on “Sermon Manuscripts.”
Prayer Before the Sermon: Dr. Kreighton L. Chan.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“O Lord, How Vile Am I” by John Newton (1725-1807).
THE OUTLINE OF
“THE METHOD OF GRACE” BY GEORGE WHITEFIELD,
by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.
I. Before you can have peace with God, you must be made
II. Before you can have peace with God, conviction must go
III. Before you can have peace with God, you must not only be
IV. Before you can have peace with God, you must be troubled
V. Before you can have peace with God, you must lay hold