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SERMON X XIII.
For I have much people in this city.-- Acts, xviii 10
After Paul departed from Athens and came to Corinth, he preached several Sabbaths in a synagogue of the Jews; but “ When they opposed themselves, and blasphemed, he shook his raiment, and said unto them, Your blood be upon your own heads; I am clean; from henceforth I will go unto the Gentiles. And he departed thence, and entered into a certain man's house, named Justus, one that worshipped God, whose house joined hard to the synagogue. And Crispus, the chief ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all bis house; and many of the Corinthians hearing, believed and were baptized. Then spake the Lord to Paul in the night by a vision, Be not afraid, but speak, and hold not thy peace; for I am with thee, and no man shall set on thee to hurt thee: for I have much people in this city.” It was the Lord Jesus Christ who spake to Paul in this vision, and who said he had much people in this city, where there were yet but very few converts. He claimed many unconverted sinners in Corinth, whom he knew belonged to his people, and whom he intended should be converted by Paul's preaching. And this encouraged the apostle to continue there preaching the gospel, for the long space of a year and six months. This is the plain sense of the text, from which we may justly conclude,
That Christ knows who his people are before they are converted, or embrace the gospel. I shall show,
I. Who Christ's people are.
II. That he knows that his people will be converted, before they are converted. And,
III. What their state is before they are converted.
1. I am to show who Christ's people are. These are those whom his Father gave him in the covenant of redemption, as a reward for his mediatorial services and sufferings. God from eternity chose a certain number of mankind to eternal life. Hence says the apostle," Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ; according as he hath chosen us in him, before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy, and without blame before him in love." This elect number of our fallen race God engaged to give to his Son, as a reward for his obedience unto death on the cross. This was predicted by the prophet Isaiah, who says: “ It pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief; when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hands. He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied. Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death — bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.” The fulfilment of this promise Christ claimed the very night before his death. “ These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee; as thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him.” For these he prays in particular. “And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self, with the glory which I had with thee before the world was. I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world; thine they were, and thou gavest them me; and they have kept thy word.— I pray for them; I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me. Neither
I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word.” All whom God has elected to eternal life, he has given to Christ, who claims them as his people. I now proceed to show,
II. That Christ knows that his people will be renewed and sanctified, even before they repent and believe the gospel. He was united with the Father before the foundation of the world in electing his people to eternal life, and therefore he knew who would be sanctified and saved, not only before any of them were made the subjects of special grace, but even before they existed. Accordingly, we find that he often declared that he knew his people, and knew that they would be converted and sanctified before they were subjects of renewing and sanctifying grace.
He told Paul in a vision that he had much people in Corinth, who had not then repented and embraced the gospel. He positively said, “ All that the Father giveth me, shall come to me; and him that cometh to me, I will in no wise cast out.” Again he said to the impenitent Jews, “ Ye believe not, because ye are not of iny sheep. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me; and I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand. I and my Father are one." He knew that his Father, who gave him the elect for his people, had promised to make them willing to embrace the gospel. He had read this promise in the one hundred and tenth Psalm. “ The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool. — Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power, in the beauties of holiness from the womb of the morning, thou hast the dew of thy youth.” Those whom God predestinated to eternal life, he also predestinated to saving grace. “ We know," says the apostle,
that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son. Moreover, whom he did predestinate, them he also called; and whom he called, them he also justified; and whom he justified, them he also glorified.” Again the apostle says to christians, “ We are bound to give thanks always to God for you, brethren, beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation, through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth.” All Christ's people are elected to eternal life, and to regeneration and sanctification, as the necessary means to qualify them for it. This Christ knows, and therefore he knows all his people before as well as after they are renewed and sanctified.
It now remains to show,
III. What the state of those who are elected and given to Christ is before they are converted. Here I may say, in general, that their state is precisely the same as the state of those who are not elected, nor given to Christ. The scripture represents all mankind, in a state of nature, as sinful and guilty creatures. They have all sprung from the same original and corrupted stock.
By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all
have sinned.” The elect, by nature, are precisely in the same sinful and guilty state as the non-elect. Paul often tells his converts that they were no better than others before their conversion. He says to the Ephesians, “ Ye were sometime darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord.” “ And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience ;- - and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.” In writing to the Corinthians, after describing the most vile and odious characters, he says, 66 And such were some of you;
but washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God." And Paul acknowledges that he himself was a blasphemer and a persecutor, and the very chief of sinners, before his conversion. The scripture every where represents the elect before their conversion, as being in the same guilty and perishing state as the non-elect. But it may be still a serious and important question, what the state of those is who are elected to eternal life, and belong to the people of Christ, before they repent and believe the gospel
. Here then I would observe in particular, 1. That they are in a state of total depravity. Being shapen in iniquity and conceived in sin, they are transgressors from the womb. They are not only destitute of the love of God, but every imagination of the thoughts of their heart is evil, only evil continually. In them, that is, in their flesh, there is no good thing. Their understanding is darkened, being alienated from the life of God, through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart. 6. Unto the pure all things are pure," says the apostle; “but unto them that are defiled, and unbelieving, is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled.” Though the elect have the same powers of perception, reason and conscience before they are converted, that they have afterwards, yet the total corruption of their hearts has a blinding, corrupting, and perverting influence over all their intellectual faculties, and involves them in total moral darkness, with respect to spiritual and divine things. Though they have eyes, they see not; though they have ears, they hear not; and though they have reason, they understand not. They call evil good, and good eyil; they put darkness for light, and light for darkness; they put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter. “ Madness is in their hearts;" which makes them judge, and feel, and act, as though they were bereaved of their senses. “ Their way is as darkness; they know not at what they stumble.” In this respect, their state exactly resembles the state of the non-elect.
2. The elect are by nature in a state of condemnation, and exposed to eternal death. Their moral depravity renders them objects of the divine displeasure. Being totally depraved, they are children of wrath. God is of purer eyes than to behold evil, and cannot look on iniquity but with absolute abhorrence. All men in the state of nature carry about with them an evil heart, which is a transgression of the law of love, and for which the law of love condemns them to eternal destruction. “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.” “ The wages of sin is death;” and all sinners are under a sentence of eternal death. In this light Christ viewed them, when he came into the world to save them. He said he came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. He said he came to seek and to save them that were lost. He said: “ 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. 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 only begotten Son of God. He that believeth on the Son, hath everlasting life; and he that believeth not the Son, shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.” Here Christ describes all mankind by nature as in a guilty, lost, perishing condition, under the wrath of God and a sentence of eternal condemnation. He represents this sentence of condemnation as lying upon all men before they repent and believe, but as being removed as soon as they embrace the gospel. Christ viewed all men in a state of nature, not only as condemned, but as deserving the everlasting punishment to which they are condemned. He said to them, “ Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?” Paul acknowledges that though he was one of the elect, yet before he was converted, he was justly condemned to eternal death. “I was alive without the law once; but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died. For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me. Wherefore the law is holy; and the commandment holy and just and good.” The elect are as much the objects of the divine wrath before they are converted, as the non-elect; and if they should be cut down before they were converted, divine justice would shine as bright in their destruction,