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WHITEFIELD ON CONVERSION #3
by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr
A sermon preached at the Fundamentalist Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Introduction: George Whitefield entered Pembroke College at Oxford University in 1732, when he was 17 years old. After a year he met John and Charles Wesley. He joined the Bible study and prayer group which was led by John Wesley. Charles Wesley loaned him two books titled, A Serious Call to a Devout Life by William Law, and The Life of God in the Soul of Man by Henry Scougal. Concerning the second book, Whitefield said:
Though I had fasted, watched, and prayed, and received the sacrament so long, yet I never knew what true religion was, till God sent me that excellent treatise by the hands of my never-to-be-forgotten friend. By this book, God showed me that I must be born again or be damned.
Upon reading the book, he said, "from that moment, but not till then, did I know that I must be a new creature." He experienced rejection and isolation from other students, who thought he was becoming too religious. The president of the college threatened to expel him if he "ever visited the poor again."
After months of fasting and prayer, and giving most of his food and money to the poor, Whitefield was finally converted, largely through reading Henry Scougal's book.
I read a little further, and discovered that they who know anything of religion know that it is a vital (living) union with the Son of God…O what a ray of Divine life did break in upon my soul!
Whitefield preached the absolute necessity of a real conversion for the rest of his life. This terrified many pastors because they feared it would anger their people. Whitefield was shut out of every church in London. In Luke Tyerman's classic biography, The Life of the Reverend George Whitefield, we read this sad account:
Rev. Stonehouse was now the only clergyman in London willing to lend his pulpit to poor outcast Whitefield; and even he was not able to carry out his wishes.
A committee of ten wicked, unconverted church members had Whitefield put out of Rev. Stonehouse's church. While Whitefield prayed, the "churchwarden" was sent in by these people. He closed the service, ran Whitefield out of the church, and locked the door. There was now not a single church in London that would allow him to preach in its pulpit.
We are in a similar state today. Vigorous, conscience-probing preaching on conversion is not done, even by most fundamental preachers. Like the clergymen in Whitefield's day, they fear preaching that "stirs up trouble" and makes people doubt their salvation. So, we have come full circle, and today we are right back where we were in the dark days when Whitefield began his ministry. Our churches are as full of lost people today as they were then. The preachers are usually just as chicken-hearted, afraid of men rather than God, afraid to preach strongly enough on the absolute necessity of conversion, because they fear losing someone's tithe. And often preachers reject such sermons because they, themselves, are not converted.
We are in a sad and pitiful state because we have no Whitefields or Wesleys, men strong enough to go against weak and unconverted pastors and speak the truth.
Whitefield went outdoors to preach. Soon thousands gathered to hear his sermons. He is considered to be the greatest evangelist of all time.
The following sermon by Whitefield is changed to modern English, and abbreviated in places, to make it more understandable in our day.
Sermon: "What Think Ye of Christ?"
"What think ye of Christ?" (Matthew 22:42).
When Jesus preached on the earth, there were many opinions about Him. Concerning who He was, some said He was Moses. Others said He was Elijah, Jeremiah, or one of the ancient prophets (ref. Matthew 16:13-14). Very few people admitted who He actually was: the incarnate God. Common people heard him gladly and said He was a good man. But the Pharisees, the evil leaders of the churches in His day, said He was in partnership with the Devil. They said He cast out demons by the power of the prince of devils. His own half-brothers were so blind that they tried to stop him from preaching. They said, "He is beside himself" (Mark 3:21). They thought He was insane.
This is the way Jesus, the King of Glory, was treated. Ministers who preach correctly should not expect any better treatment. No, if we preach like our Master, Jesus, we must expect to be rejected, as He was. The reproaches that He suffered, we will suffer also. Common people will hear our preaching gladly. But ministers, especially pastors of large churches, who have never been converted themselves, will call us madmen. They will say we are deceiving the people. They will say we are under the influence of demons.
But a minister who is unwilling to suffer such rebukes from unconverted preachers is unworthy of the name "pastor." False prophets, who do not care about the people, love to have all men speak well of them.
"Blessed are ye, (says Jesus first to the Apostles, and then to all succeeding preachers) when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake" (Matthew 5:11).
Indeed, it is not possible for such false preachers to do anything else. If they did not speak against the true preacher, they fear they would be asked, "Why did ye not then believe him?" (Matthew 21:25). We cheerfully go on preaching no matter what these false ministers say. We have no regard for what men or demons say against us, or do to us.
But to return. There were various views of who Christ was while He was on earth. And it is the same today. People have many ideas about who they think Jesus is.
There are some who call themselves Christians who seldom or never think about Jesus Christ at all. They think about their work. They think about what they see on television. They think about the movies. They think about Las Vegas and other entertainments. But Jesus Christ, the Saviour, is seldom if ever in their thoughts. But believe me, no matter how little you think of Christ now, yet there is a time coming when you will wish you had thought of Christ more. Those who miss church and live in sin must die as well as others. And O! what thoughts will you have about Christ at the hour of your death?
Not only are there many who hardly ever think about Christ, there are also many who teach false things about Him! Our churches are full of false teachings about Christ. Salvation by Christ, rather than a human decision, is hardly preached anywhere. Listen to me, then, while I give you information about Christ. I will ask a few questions about Him. Remember, there is no one else under Heaven who can save you. That is why I am asking you these questions: to make you think about the Saviour.
I. First, what do you think about the Person of Christ? Whose Son is He?
"Whose son is he?" (Matthew 22:42). This is the question Jesus asked the Pharisees. It was never more important to ask this question than it is in our time.
Many people today reject the Divinity of Christ. I have spoken to two men in the past few days who did this. One was formerly a Presbyterian. He said, "I believe in God, but not in Christ." The other was an Episcopalian. He said, "I still believe in God. But I no longer believe in Jesus Christ." Neither of these men is a Christian. Doctrinally they are Unitarians, sometimes called Socinians. They are not Christians. True Christians believe in the incarnation: Jesus is God in human flesh.
Arians and Socinians cannot be Christians. Arians wrongly say that Jesus is the created Son of God. Socinians wrongly say He was only a good man, not the incarnate God. Both are wrong and both will be damned. That means that Baptists who reject the Bible doctrine of the Trinity will also be damned in Hell, burning in flames, for all time and eternity.
There are many today who do not believe that Jesus was completely human. This is the opposite from what most people thought in Whitefield's day, when Deists taught that Jesus was not fully God. But today many Baptists, and even Baptist preachers, do not preach that He is fully man. Many think that He is exactly the same Person as God, the First Person of the Godhead. For this false teaching, they will be damned. Anyone who believes that Jesus Christ is the same Person as God the Father will be damned in Hell for eternity.
"For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus" (I Timothy 2:5).
If I asked you, "Is Jesus Christ exactly the same as God the Father?" - and if you answered, "yes," you are a lost man. I do not care if you are a pastor, or the president of the Convention, or a deacon, or a Sunday School superintendent - if you answer that simple question wrong, it reveals that you are lost - every time! You have no mediator! (ref. I Timothy 2:5).
Furthermore the person who rejects Christ's Blood atonement for sins is lost. And if Jesus Christ is no more than a mere man, if He is not truly God, He was a vile sinner and a liar, for He claimed to be God when He said, "Before Abraham was, I am" (John 8:58).
Yes, Jesus Christ was fully God, and fully man. And if you reject Him as God, you cannot be a Christian. Muslims say He was only a prophet. Jews say He was a false Messiah. Buddhists say He was only an enlightened person. All of them will perish in flames because they are all wrong concerning Jesus Christ. Christ is fully God, God in human flesh. This is the very core of Biblical Christianity (ref. John 1:1; John 1:14).
"What think ye of Christ?" (Matthew 22:42).
II. But, secondly, what think ye about the manhood, the incarnation, of Christ?
"What think ye of Christ?" (Matthew 22:42).
Christ was not only God, the Second Person of the Trinity, He was also man. Jesus was both God and man, in one Person. This is what our text is talking about, in context:
"While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, Saying, What think ye of Christ? whose son is he? They say unto him, The son of David. He saith unto them, How then doth David in spirit call him Lord?" (Matthew 22:41-43).
From this passage of Scripture, it is clear that a person who does not believe that Jesus Christ is perfect God and perfect man is dead wrong!
That's why He is called "Christ" or "Messiah." He is the anointed one, who through His own choice was set apart by God the Father, and strengthened by the anointing of the Holy Spirit, to be the mediator between God the Father and sinful, offending mankind.
God made man perfect and placed him in the Garden of Eden. God made a covenant with man. He promised man eternal life if he remained in obedience and ate from the Tree of Life. But God threatened damnation if man rebelled and ate the forbidden fruit.
Man rebelled. And in this rebellion he was our representative. Adam involved both himself and us in the curse, which God had warned would be a consequence of his disobedience. But this is where God comes in. Man is permitted to fall, and become subject to death. But Jesus, the only begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds, Light of light, very God of very God, offers to die to make an atonement for man's transgression, and to fulfill all righteousness in man's place.
It was necessary for Jesus Christ to become a man to save us. In the fulness of time, Jesus was clothed in a human body, in the womb of Mary, by the Holy Spirit. Jesus became a baby. In His physical body He fulfilled complete obedience to the law of God. He at last became subject to death, even death upon the Cross (ref. Philippians 2:8), that as God he might satisfy, and as man He might obey and suffer. In this way Jesus is the mediator between God and man (ref. I Timothy 2:5).
What do you think of Christ? Do you think His love was wondrously great, making Him die to pay for your sins? Especially when you think that we were His bitter enemies. Why, why O sinner, why won't you think of the love of Christ for you? While I am speaking the thought of Jesus' love for lost mankind warms my heart. I could think of it forever, but I must go on.
"What think ye of Christ?" (Matthew 22:42).
III. Thirdly, what do you think about being justified by Christ?
Many think they can be justified, or looked upon as righteous by God, without Jesus Christ. But such people will find that they have made a dreadful mistake. If you do not have Christ, "God is a consuming fire" (Hebrews 12:29). Other people are satisfied by merely believing the doctrine that Jesus came into the world to save sinners. Their main concern should be to know that Jesus Christ has saved them personally. The apostle Paul wrote:
"The life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me" (Galatians 2:20).
Pay attention to the words, "for me." It is only by the application of Jesus Christ to your own soul that you can be justified in God's sight. Many people are doing the best they can themselves, and looking to Jesus to "fill in" any deficiencies they have of their righteousness. This is what most preachers are saying today. This is what they depend on for eternal salvation. Isn't it time for you to think differently about justification by Jesus Christ alone?
If you think you can be counted good before God by trying to be good, you are like those unhappy Jews, who tried to establish their own righteousness (rev. Romans 10:3).
I tell you, you must be justified freely by faith in Jesus Christ (ref. Romans 3:22-24). There is no goodness in human beings. You have no ability, except the ability to be cast into the lake of fire and brimstone for ever.
Your righteousness is as filthy rags in God's sight. Your holiness, if you have any, is the effect, not the cause, of your justification. You must not come to God as the proud Pharisee did, boasting of your goodness. You must come like the poor publican, crying, "God be merciful to me a sinner" (Luke 18:13). Only the poor in spirit will be willing to rely wholly on the righteousness of another - Jesus Christ. The whole righteousness of Jesus Christ must be imputed to your record.
The doctrine of free justification by faith in Jesus Christ is often acted against by modern preachers. But it was highly esteemed by our Baptist and Protestant forefathers. They said, "We are accounted righteous before God, only for the merits of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ by faith, and not for our own works or deservings" (Article 11 of the 39 Articles).
This is the gospel. This is glad tidings of great joy to all that feel themselves poor, lost, undone, damned sinners. Look - a fountain has been opened in Jesus' side, for sin and for all uncleanness. Look upon him whom you have pierced (ref. Zechariah 12:10). Look to Him, to Jesus. Look to Jesus and be saved. Even if you came here only to ridicule, and never thought of God or Christ before, look to Jesus now - and you will be saved!
Good works must flow out of a justified, converted heart. Good works are the fruits of faith, and follow after justification and conversion.
You cannot say I have told you to make yourself a saint, and then come to God. Instead, I have offered you salvation on very cheap terms. I have offered you Christ's whole righteousness, if you will come to Him and believe on Him. My heart's desire is that you may be saved by Jesus. Come to Jesus. Believe on Jesus. Jesus will justify you and save you. Do not turn back to Sodom, as Lot's wife did. You will be eternally destroyed if you do. Turn to Christ, fully and totally. Jesus died on the Cross to pay for your sins. He arose from the dead to save you from sin. He is alive in Heaven now to keep you from sin. Look to Jesus. Believe in Him. He will forgive your sins and save you.
Solo by Benjamin Kincaid Griffith: "Saved by the Blood of the Crucified One"
by S. J. Henderson (19th century)
Biography of Whitefield: 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, as pastors were afraid that his sermons on the necessity of conversion would anger their parishioners. He resorted to preaching in the open fields, for which he became renowned.
Whitefield traveled to America in 1738 and founded an orphanage in Georgia. 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 and John Wesley, and was instrumental in persuading Wesley to preach in the fields. Benjamin Franklin once estimated that Whitefield spoke to an audience of thirty thousand people. His open-air 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 physically spoken to many more people with electronic aid, 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 as 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 important periods of American Christianity. The growth of the Baptist movement in the United States is directly attributable to the ministry of Whitefield during this period.
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. (For a brief biography of Whitefield see "The Life and Ministry of George Whitefield" by Ed Reese, Fundamental Publishers, 126 Pine Lane, Glenwood, Illinois 60425).
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THE OUTLINE OF
WHITEFIELD ON CONVERSION #3
"What think ye of Christ?" (Matthew 22:42).
(Matthew 16:13-14; Mark 3:21; Matthew 5:11; Matthew 21:25)
I. What do you think about the person of Christ?
II. What do you think about the manhood, the incarnation,
III. What do you think about being justified by Christ?