John Kershaw Sermons

The Justification of a Sinner before God

Two sermons preached at Gower Street Chapel, London on 14 and 21 November 1841

[On Sunday, 14 November 1841, Pastor Kershaw spoke on the subject of justification. His text was Job 25:4. Although he intended to cover his three headings in a single sermon, he took up only the first heading on Sunday 14 November, then completed the final two headings on Sunday 21 November. The two sermons are combined in the manuscript that follows.]

“How then can man be justified with God?”—Job 25:4

The doctrine of justification is clearly and strikingly revealed in the sacred oracles of truth, and is by God the Holy Ghost made manifest in the souls of all the election of grace. Hence, Paul speaks of it as one of the links in the chain of our salvation. “Moreover,” says he, “whom God did predestinate, them he also called; and whom he called, them he also justified; and whom he justified, them he also glorified.” Here is a precious chain of gospel truths, which neither men, nor sin, nor devils can ever break. No, blessed be God, all our sins, temptations, pollutions, harrassings and unbelievings can never break one link in this precious, golden chain. If our souls are established in this one truth by the teaching of God the Spirit, we shall never err very far from any of the other branches of divine truth connected with it; but if we are wrong here, we shall be wrong altogether.

In this great and glorious doctrine of justification lies the church’s standing, the church’s safety and the Redeemer’s glory. In attempting to illustrate this doctrine, I shall endeavour:

I. To speak of it in a doctrinal point of view.
II. To show how the Eternal Spirit leads the election of grace into an experimental acquaintance with it.
III. To point out the practical effects produced thereby.

I. To speak of it in a doctrinal point of view.

And, my Christian friends, may the Lord give us his blessing and assistance, that we may be enabled faithfully to speak out the truth; and may he also give the hearing ear, that we may be comforted and enabled to rejoice together in this most precious and essential part of the revealed will of God.

First, then, we have to take notice of justification as a Bible doctrine. And our text, you will perceive, exhibits two parties to our view—man and God. It is requisite, therefore, that we take notice of these two parties, and of the circumstances in which they each stand. And first, as regards man. That is an important inquiry, “Lord, what is man?” I might detain you a long time in showing what man was in his primeval state, but I will not dwell here. It is said, “God made man upright.” Now, as he declared all the workmanship of his hands to be very good, man being the great masterpiece of his workmanship, it follows that, in his first condition, he was included in that declaration: he was very good. But did he continue there? No; for by the disobedience of one many were made sinners. Adam being the federal Head, all his posterity lay in his loins; so that when he fell, all who lay in his loins fell and died with him. Even so all in Christ shall, by virtue of his death and resurrection, be made alive.

The doctrine of human depravity is a doctrine clearly revealed in the Word of God. Sin, that cursed and abominable thing which God hates, is in our natures—we are conceived in sin and shapen in iniquity. Sin, that cursed and abominable thing which a holy God hates, is in our hearts—they are carnal, deceitful, full of enmity, like unto a cage of unclean birds; and the Saviour, who knew what was in man’s heart, said that murders, adulteries, and all manner of abominations, proceed from the heart. And not only the heart, but every faculty of the mind, every member of the body, and every action of the life, all are sinful; so that we stand guilty and condemned in our natures, and to them that are under the law it pronounces the most awful curses and condemnation. This is a very brief but scriptural account of what man is—so guilty, so contaminated, polluted and unholy that Job cries out, “How should man be just with God?”

With reference to the other party, God, he is represented as being glorious in holiness, righteous in all his ways, doing wonders. Such is the holiness and purity of God that the angels are continually exclaiming, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty.” Holiness and perfection, righteousness and justice are the attributes, yea they are the very nature and essence of Deity itself; God is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity. The solemn voice of his Majesty has declared he “can in no wise clear the guilty”; his holy attributes of justice and righteousness bind him to say that sin shall not go unpunished. O beloved, what an awful breach has sin made in God’s most holy law; such a breach that it never could have been made up but in the way in which it has been made up. There is one God of holiness, and one Mediator between God and man, and by his perfect obedience, his spotless righteousness, by his atoning sacrifice, he has made peace and effected reconciliation.

Having briefly taken notice of the state into which man sank by reason of sin, and of the holiness, justice and righteousness of God, we come now more immediately to the solemn inquiry in the text: “How can man be justified with God?” And, in the first place, there are two propositions in the subject to which I desire especially to call your attention. On the part of man, there must be the absence of sin, and on the part of God there must be the presence of righteousness. Sin must be for ever removed out of the way, and such a righteousness wrought out and brought in as shall magnify the God of glory.

But how is sin to be removed? Can the poor sinner ever remove it of himself? The whole of the Lord’s family have striven to do it, but the more they have striven, the more have they proved their own weakness and the utter impossibility of accomplishing it of themselves. But sin must be removed; and how can it be done? Beloved, the God of love has taken all the sins of the vessels of mercy away. And what has he done with them? Why, he laid them of the head of his dear Son. I would be very particular on this point because this is a doctrine that is sadly abused by some, and strongly denied by many. But, sirs, I say all the sins of the election of grace—sins of omission and commission—sins before calling and sins after calling—yea, all their sins are removed and laid on the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the Daysman between God and their souls.

Hearken to the voice of inspiration: “All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned every one to his own way, and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.” And, beloved, if it were possible that one sin was left on you or me, not transferred to Christ, that one sin would for ever damn our souls. The apostle is exceedingly clear in this matter. He says, “He that knew no sin”—I pause on this important sentence—“He that knew no sin.” Dr. Tobias Crisp has an expression in one of his sermons which I cannot justify. His works were put into my hands some years ago, and I was much benefitted by them, and I believe them calculated exceedingly to comfort the Lord’s tried, tempted and afflicted family in the wilderness. But he says, “All the sins of the elect being laid upon Christ, he must have been the greatest sinner in the world.” I don’t like the word “sin” to be applied to the immaculate Jesus, for “He knew no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth.” Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him, to put him to grief, and to make his soul an offering for sin, because all his people’s sins were laid upon him.

And what did Jesus do with them? Ah! let us first inquire, What did these sins do with Christ? O, beloved, they caused him to sweat great drops of blood—to travail in sorrow and grief, and to hang and bleed and die on the accursed tree. “He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities, the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and by his stripes we are healed.” We have this removal or transfer of sin typified in the scape-goat under the law. The high priest laid his hand on the head of the goat, and there he confessed the sins of Israel. The goat was then sent away into the land of forgetfulness, never more to return—typical of the removal, carrying and bearing away of sin by the holy Lamb of God. Daniel speaks very blessedly on this subject. Speaking of the Lord Jesus, he says, “He shall make an end of sin, and bring in everlasting righteousness.” And to the same effect speaks the great apostle when he says, “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them.”

We see, then, how it is that sin is removed out of the way. Poor quickened and awakened sinners, are you reconciled to God? God is reconciled to you; for “once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.” Beloved, when Jesus gave himself up as a sacrifice to God for the sins of his people, all their sins sank for ever into the bottom of the grave. Yes, all the sins of his mystical body were buried with him—they were all eternally carried away by that fountain of blood which he opened and poured out, so that, though they may be sought for, they shall never be found. I once heard a good old man make use of an expression on this subject which at first rather struck me with surprise.

“Beloved,” said he, “in point of fact you never had any sin.” What? thought I, I feel sin to be in me now, my daily plague and sorrow. But he followed it up and proved from the Scriptures that, as all the sins of the elect were removed from them to Christ, in the eye of a holy and heart-searching God they never had any sin. God did not behold iniquity in Jacob, nor transgression in Israel. I know not, my friends, what this doctrine of eternal justification is to your hearts, but it is that which bears my spirit up amid all the changes, sorrows and sins of this wilderness world. Yes, beloved, the comfort arising from this doctrine is this, that however sin may plague, it cannot damn me.

Lift up your heads, ye poor souls—the blood, the redeeming blood of Emmanuel has carried away your sins, and they can never more be found. They are cast behind the back of Jehovah, where they can never more be seen. Here, then, is the absence of sin; and well might the apostle be determined to know nothing amongst men but a slaughtered Lamb.

Beloved, here is another point which, although it is not in the text, yet would I just put you in remembrance of it. It is a comfort to my soul that, as our sin has been borne away, we stand as pure and perfect before God as Christ himself—because we stand in him, are represented by him, covered over with his righteousness; as Watts has it, when he says:

“And, lest the shadow of a spot
Should on my soul be found,
He took the robe the Saviour wrought,
And cast it all around.”


Some present will remember that last Lord’s day morning I spoke of the ground upon which a poor sinner stands justified in the sight of God, and promised this morning to treat of justification as made manifest in the court of a sinner’s conscience. The words which I have read (Acts 13:39: “And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses.”) appear more appropriate to this part of the subject than those of Job; for this reason I have changed the text—the subject is the same.

II. To show how the Eternal Spirit leads the election of grace into an experimental acquaintance with it.

I shall take up no time in recapitulating those things already entered into, or I shall not be able to go into the experimental part. But doctrine and experience must be mingled together—there must be an experimental acquaintance with, as well as a doctrinal knowledge of, divine truth. We must ever remember that it is God’s predestinated people, and God’s predestinated people only, who stand justified in his sight. It is God’s predestinated people only that are called by special grace; and every one of these shall, in his own time, be brought to an experimental acquaintance of their own justification by an application of the atoning blood of Christ unto their consciences.

None can tell who the vessels of mercy, whom God hath chosen, are while in their Adam nature; or, as the Scriptures express it, while “they lie among the pots of the earth.” There is no difference whatever between the election of grace and the rest of mankind (who are righteously left to fill up the measure of their iniquity that they might be damned) while they stand in their federal head Adam. Did I say there was no difference between the election of grace and the rest of mankind? I did; but I feel constrained in my mind, in a measure, to retract the expression. Where is the difference? It is here: many of the vessels of mercy are suffered to go to greater lengths of wickedness and abominable sin than others. Beloved, the poor worm who now stands before you is a living witness of this solemn truth. In the days of my unregeneracy and youth, I went into all the most abominable sins that it is possible for man to enter into; and while many of the companions of my youth and iniquities are left still to continue in that course, God, in the exercise of his sovereign grace, has been pleased to pluck me as a brand from the burning. O, beloved, see the great, the matchless, the unmerited mercy of God! See it in the poor dust now before you—see it in Saul of Tarsus, whose heart was filled with malice and rage against the Lord of life and glory—see it in a bloody Manasseh, who made the very streets of the city to flow with the blood of the slain—see it in a filthy Mary Magdalene, yea, see it in all the election of grace.

So, you see, God’s choice of his people is not on account of any goodness in themselves. O no, there is a sweetness in that blessed scripture which says, “It is of grace”—salvation “is of grace, that the promise might be sure to all the (spiritual) seed.” Hence it is written, “He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied. He shall see his seed; he shall prolong his days; and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hands.”

The psalmist David speaks of “a set time to favour Zion”; and there is a set time when every one of the spiritual seed shall not only be called by grace, but shall be brought to know his justification in his own conscience. God works by rule. And what is his rule? Why, his own eternal counsel, his unalterable purpose. You read of the calling of Zacchaeus down from the tree. Now this was in the Lord’s time. Zacchaeus had heard of the person of Christ. Some said he was a good man; others said nay. So Zacchaeus thought he would see this person himself; and being thus prompted by curiosity, he climbed up into a tree where he thought he was comfortable enough, little thinking of what was coming to pass. The Lord did not see him with his bodily eyes until he came to the bottom of the tree; but it was fixed and settled in his eternal purpose that down from this very tree he should be called by Christ himself, and at this very time. I know assertions prove no argument; but we will come to argument. Who called Zacchaeus? Was it not the Lord? Yes, I feel pleasure in declaring it was the omnipotent Jehovah, in the person of Jesus, that called Zacchaeus. Now the Lord does nothing, either in providence or grace, but what is in strict accordance with his own sovereign will and eternal purpose.

But I proceed. All the vessels of mercy, then, must be brought to an experimental acquaintance with the fact of their justification in the sight of God; or, to use the language of Scripture, they must be apprehended of God, as Paul speaks when he says, “I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.” You know persons may go on for a long time violating and breaking the statutes of their country and plundering their neighbours’ property without being apprehended or made to suffer for their crimes; but there is a time when they are stopped and visited for their transgressions. So is it with the Lord’s people. They go on for a season violating the statutes of heaven and having their conversation among the ungodly, and are apparently the children of wrath even as others. But the time comes when the Lord lays hold of them, when he stops them and apprehends them, constraining then to bow before him and to cry out for mercy. They are his covenant people, and every one of his covenant people must and shall be made willing in the day of his power to turn away from their ungodliness unto him.

Now when God apprehends a poor sinner, his conscience is wounded; his heart is opened; the eyes of his understanding are enlightened; a solemn fear is implanted, and he begins to see that the way he has been treading is the broad way to perdition; and like David, he is made to feel the weight of his iniquities, and the awful condition in which his sins have placed him. He not only sees, but he feels that the course he has been pursuing is that which leads to eternal destruction, and he quakes and trembles in his conscience. He begins to rehearse within himself what he shall do; he says, “I will forsake my sins, and I will begin to be religious. I will read and pray and meditate and go to the house of God,” and so on. He has a secret thought that by this means he shall obtain forgiveness and heaven.

Now this is the old covenant ground of standing; and I do not wonder at there being so many Arminians as there are, for the old covenant ground is the very foundation and rule of all natural and fleshly religion. It is that which just suits the natural feelings of man. This was the error of the Jews who “went about to establish their own righteousness, not submitting to the righteousness of God.” This was the very error of Saul of Tarsus, who persecuted the saints unto death and thought he had not need for any other righteousness than what he himself could work out. It is thus with many a poor sinner. He is permitted to make clean the outside of the platter; sin is forsaken; a form of godliness is taken up; he becomes exceedingly devout—and the change is so manifest that even many of the saints begin to say he must be a good man.

I recollect being in this state of outward godliness myself—and I thought if I were not saved, what would become of thousands whom I saw around me? While in this state I went to a prayer meeting, where a good old man read a chapter out of Matthew’s Gospel, and took occasion from a part of it to describe the character, religion and real condition of the scribes and pharisees. I had not the slightest idea at this time of a justification through the atoning blood and imputed righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ. I was building upon my own; but when the old man came to lay open the state of the pharisees, he met my case, he described my character, and his word came with such power into my soul that I fell into the most dreadful confusion. All my fancied righteousness came tumbling about my ears, and I saw that it was nothing but filthy rags and could never be a standing for me before God. O what a sinking of soul I then experienced! I had about a mile and a half to go home, which distance I walked in the greatest distress and misery, counting myself one of the most unhappy wretches on the face of the earth. And from that day guilt laid so heavy on my conscience that I could not so much as look at anything I had done as a ground of hope.

Now in this work of quickening the soul and in making it alive to its real condition, the Holy Ghost makes use of the law; as Paul says, “The commandment which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death.” Now there is a great difference between the poor sinner going to the law and the law going to the sinner. When the sinner goes to the law, he sees what is expected of him. He sees wherein he has violated its enactments, and he resolves to do better. But when the law comes home to the sinner’s conscience, and when the voice of God thunders in his soul, “Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things written in the book of the law to do them,” and when it declares again, that “he who offendeth in one point is guilty of all”—why then the poor creature is filled with the greatest horror; his soul is shaken to its very centre. He trembles and quakes for fear, and often does he think God will stretch forth his hand and cut him down as a cumberer of the ground. He now discovers that the law requires purity in the nature, purity in the thoughts, and purity in the action. He sees, instead of “loving the Lord with all his heart and soul and strength,” he has a carnal heart, full of pride and envy and rebellion, and that he can by no means work up this perfect love within him.

Now this so powerfully alarms him; he becomes so distressed and wounded that the people say he is crazy; and he himself expects, poor soul, that the mad-house will be the only place for which he will be fit. He hangs down his head like a bulrush. A heavy weight of condemnation and a dark cloud of sorrow lies upon his mind, and he knows not where to go, nor what to do. I admit, all the Lord’s people are not brought to such a depth of mental misery as this. But all of them must have their self-righteousness burnt up by the fire of God’s law, and in a measure be stripped and emptied of self and shut up as a poor prisoner, being bound in his soul, and sighing and crying for pardon and liberty, though he scarcely dare hope he shall obtain it. I would not give the value of my old silk handkerchief for a man’s religion if he has not been shut up in soul prison.

You find David crying out, “Let the sighing of the prisoner come up before thee, and deliver thou them that are appointed to die.” Here you see, then, is a prisoner, and he feels as though he is appointed unto death, and all he can do is to sigh and groan; and therefore he says, “Let the sighing of the prisoner come up before thee.” And if I have a poor soul here this morning who is in this “Slough of Despond,” as John Bunyan terms it, one who has all his sins set in battle array before him; I say, if the Lord had a mind to destroy thee, he would never have shown thee these things. The Lord wounds in order that he may heal. He pulls down that he may build up. The Lord makes the poor sinner feel his filthiness in order that he may wash him. The Lord strips him, cuts him off from every false confidence, in order to clothe him and lead him to trust alone in him.

This is God’s way of religion, but we know it is not the religion of the present day—the generality of professors are “imperceptibly drawn by love”; and being trained up in a profession, they love the form and they love the respectability of religion, and many of them in trade say they find it very advantageous. But this is not the way in which the Holy Ghost brings a vessel of mercy into religion. No, no! He deeply wounds, he breaks up the fallow ground of the heart, he lays the soul in the dust of humility, makes him to loathe himself and his sins and all creature doings.

But you will say, “You don’t come to the doctrine of justification.” I am paving my way to it, my friends. Now, the poor soul in this condition can do nothing with that justification that depends on his own doings. I have made a profession of religion for thirty-two years, twenty-seven of which I have been in the ministry; and I was never more at a point in this matter than I am this morning, that if my profession of religion, my preaching of the gospel, my visiting of the sick, my reading, my meditation and my prayers; if, I say, these things constituted the ground on which my hope of justification was founded, I am certain I must be eternally damned. When the poor quickened and convinced soul is brought into the state I have been describing, he solemnly feels the truth of those words of Watts, who says:

“The best obedience of my hands,
Dares not appear before thy throne;
Tis faith must answer thy demands,
By pleading what my Lord has done.”

Yes, it is “what my Lord has done”—not what I have done—that is the ground of a poor sinner’s plea and hope and confidence. Now then, man’s extremity, you must observe, is God’s opportunity. When the poor soul has been brought down so low that it can stand on nothing, nor in nothing but the almighty power of God, then is the time when the Lord will begin to discover himself as one pardoning iniquity, and passing by the transgressions of the remnant of his chosen heritage.

While I am speaking to you, I am looking back to the night when God made known unto me the pardon of my sins, and the justification of my soul. God’s ministers ought to speak of the way in which it pleased God to teach them the things concerning their eternal peace. I would not give you a “thank you” for to hear any man preach who cannot tell how he learned Christ himself. As respects my own deliverance, then you shall have it my friends; but very briefly. I had been, one Lord’s Day, to three services, and had heard our old friend John Warburton; after which, as I was returning home at night, I began to be most powerfully wrought upon in my mind. The first thing that struck me was that expression of the Apostle, “O, wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” I felt myself to be a miserable and wretched sinner; I felt I had indeed a body of sin and death, and a carnal mind, and a heart deceitful and desperately wicked. I got home as well as I could, when the next word that came to me was, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus.” I took out my little Testament and I read the eighth chapter of the Romans; and most powerfully did it please the Lord to bless it to my soul. I felt that I was indeed loved of God in Christ; that I was chosen in Christ; that I was redeemed by Christ; that I was saved through the precious blood-shedding of Christ; and peace rolled into soul like a river and I had joy and comfort in the Holy Ghost. O! what a solemn night of jubilee that was to my soul. I never had a wink of sleep; all that I could do was to look on, like one of old, at what God had done, and by faith to believe that it was done for me.

You will remember that last Sunday morning, I contended most earnestly for two points connected with this great doctrine of justification. I particularly dwelt on these two things—first, that there must be the absence of sin; and, secondly, there must be the presence of righteousness. Now my beloved, depend on it, that when God the Holy Ghost comes into the sinner’s conscience with the blood of Christ, all his sins are taken away. This was as I found it myself: all my sins appeared to be gone, so that it came to my mind, “Why, where are your sins?” They were gone, I could not find one; they were all sunk as into the bottom of the sea. And though I have had many seasons dark and distressing since that time, yet on that night I could do nothing but rejoice and praise the Lord for the mercies he had bestowed upon and wrought within me. Yes, there must be, then, the absence of sin. And where, I ask, were all the sins of the vessels of mercy? Why, they were cast for ever behind our Heavenly Father’s back; and he says, “They shall be sought for, and they shall not be found.” God is reconciled to the redeemed by his Son, and they have pardon and peace for evermore.

But there was another point that I contended for last Lord’s day morning. There must not only be the absence of sin but there must also be the presence of righteousness. You see from the description I have given of the convinced sinner that he has no righteousness of his own. God has burnt it all up; but the Holy Ghost brings near the righteousness of Jesus. And how is this? Well, he is brought to see that God has wrought it out and brought in everlasting righteousness, and he sees that, “Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity.” By the anointing and sanctifying teachings of the Holy Spirit, he now feels that “Christ is made of God unto him, wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption.” He sees, by faith, that he is washed in the blood of Christ, stands clothed in the righteousness of Christ, and his holy song of triumph is,

“Jesus my Lord and beauty is,
My glorious robe of righteousness;
Midst naming worlds in this arrayed,
With joy shall I lift up my head.”

It is, then, by the blood-shedding of the Son of God and the working out and the bringing in of an everlasting righteousness by him that poor sinners are saved. It is by the quickening, soul-humbling, life-giving operations of the Eternal Spirit; by the application of Jesus’ precious blood; by the clothing of the soul in his spotless righteousness; by the shedding abroad in the heart of his divine love; by the removal of guilt from the conscience, and the peace of God implanted, that the poor soul feels and knows and enjoys his acceptance in the Beloved. Now you shall have the language of the church expressive of all this. Speaking of herself she says: “We are altogether as an unclean thing; and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags.” But what is her language respecting her standing in Christ? “Surely shall one say, In the Lord have I righteousness and strength.” Again the spouse says, “The Lord hath clothed me with the robe of righteousness, he hath covered me with the garments of salvation.” Here is the glorious dress; here is the sure foundation of the poor believer; so that the apostle exclaims, “Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect?” God says, “I have no charge to bring”; justice says, “I am satisfied.” So the Holy Ghost, by the apostle, declares, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.”

The blessedness of this justification in the soul is realized by faith. Paul has a very striking mode of expression when speaking of this grace of faith. He says, “To him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.” And again he says, “Being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Are we, from these, to understand that faith becomes a ground of justification? Certainly not: it is not the actings of faith, but the object of faith, which is the Lord Jesus Christ himself. One text sometimes throws a deal of light upon another, and that account in the gospel of the poor woman who pressed her way through the crowd, crying out, “If I may but touch the hem of his garment, I shall be whole,” appears to me to explain the apostle’s meaning. After the woman had touched “the border of his garment,” Jesus said, “Who touched me? for I perceive that virtue hath gone out of me.” Was it the woman’s faith, or the virtue that flowed from Christ himself that made her whole? It was not her faith, but it was the precious virtue which came from Jesus; so that the language of the thirsty soul is, “O that I may be found in him, not having on mine own righteousness which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.” Faith is a grace of the blessed Spirit, the first actings of which, as well as its growth and continuance, are all the sovereign work of God the Holy Ghost. I feel that of myself I have no more power to believe or to bring home one promise to my soul now than I had before I was made a partaker of divine grace.

III. To point out the practical effects produced thereby.

But I must come to the last part of the subject, which is to show what justification is in an evidential or practical point of view. And if we come to practical godliness, the Apostle James will furnish us with some information respecting the fruits that it produces, wherein it may appear to some that he contradicts all I have been saying, and upsets even the doctrine as preached by Paul himself. But we know there can be no contradiction or schism in the revealed will of God. The truth is, Paul sinks the sinner down to the very lowest, and lifts up the Saviour; but James speaks of a present, a manifest justification in the sight of men. I am sick of those professors who have justification as a doctrine in the head, but who know nothing of it experimentally in the heart. I am satisfied of this, that if we enjoy justification in our consciences, we love the Lord Jesus Christ and all his holy commands. Real saints love to make it manifest that they are saints by a walk and conversation becoming the gospel. Religion without faith is a dead and filthy carcase; and faith without works is unprofitable either for time or eternity. You observe the Apostle James shows the nature and purity of genuine faith by the obedience which it renders unto God. The obedience of faith was strikingly manifested in Abraham’s taking the knife, and lifting up his hand to strike the fatal blow. Thereby God proved the genuineness of Abraham’s faith; and the true Israel of God can be distinguished from others only by their obedience and conformity to him.

John Kershaw (1792-1870) was a Strict and Particular Baptist preacher. He was appointed the Pastor of Hope Chapel, Rochdale, serving this position for fifty-three years. John Hazelton wrote of him:

“His autobiography is one of the best books of its kind and one striking incident we will quote. It is his account of his interview in Edinburgh with Dr. John Duncan, often called "Rabbi" Duncan, because of his profound knowledge of Hebrew. Dr. Duncan (1796-1870) was Professor of Hebrew in New College, Edinburgh, and was a man of the most acute and profound intellectual powers, and at the same time a deeply spiritual and Scriptural preacher. In learning and associations he was at the antipodes of plain John Kershaw. In November, 1861, Mr. Kershaw preached in Edinburgh, arrangements having been made through Lady Lucy Smith, who was desirous that his original and powerful ministry should be exercised there. He writes:—"Another of my visitors was Dr. Duncan, who I was told by one of the ministers understood fourteen languages and that there was only one in the City who surpassed him in learning. He told me he had heard me preach three sermons, and he quite agreed with me in every statement that I had made, both in doctrine, experience and practice, save one, and that I had not fully entered upon, namely, 'the extent of the call of the gospel.' He candidly told me that his human learning had for years past been a great hindrance to his coming to a saving knowledge of the truth, and he had proved Paul's words, that the world by wisdom knew not God; and referring me to 1 Cor. 1:21,22 said he was for a long time like a wandering star or a ship at sea without a compass, ready to settle in every 'ism'—sometimes Arianism or Socinianism; and sometimes his mind was bordering upon infidelity. He declared himself much ashamed of many of his theological productions. When it pleased the Lord to work in his soul by the power of the Spirit he was for a long time in a distressed state, not knowing what to do to get peace and comfort. A conversation with another minister was made useful to him and he was enabled to go to the feet of Jesus as a little child and beg Him to teach him, a poor ignorant sinner, by His Spirit and His Word. The Lord graciously heard prayer and revealed Himself as his Saviour and Redeemer. We spoke of Scott's 'Force of Truth,' in which the author confessed he had been priding himself on his human attainments, opposing the doctrines of grace, and despising his neighbour, that dear man of God, John Newton, who eventually was made a blessing to him; also of John Berridge, who preached some years before the Lord stripped him and caused him to flee to Jesus for refuge. The conversation I had with this man I hope never to forget."

John Kershaw Sermons