Judges 13:23      No.2

But his wife said unto him, If the Lord were pleased to kill us, he would not have received a burnt offering and a meat offering at our hands, neither would he have showed us all these things, nor would as at this time have told us such things as these.
[preached Sunday morning 24 March 1765]
2. The righteousness of God
By this I do not mean here, his way of justifying a sinner – but his righteousness in appointing a holy, strict and perfect law, in denouncing the penalty of death, eternal death against every transgression – so that under the conviction they have of sin, they confess that if he was to refuse them mercy, and to leave them to perish, they have no right to complain but must say with David in Psalm 51:4. [1]
This sight arises from the former and is the proof of it. According to my proposed method I observe:
  2.1 Many seeming convictions will not stand this test. And that is the reason why they have no continuance because they have no depth. Three sorts of persons have seen nothing, or at best very little of the subject.
    2.1.1 The self-righteous – who though they confess themselves sinner, in general terms, yet presume their own services and works, will make amends. Hence they talk very gravely of making their peace with God. The very expression shows they think him such a one as themselves.
    2.1.2 Those who seek cloaks and excuses for their sins. Such things are wrong they own, but then they plead ignorance, infirmity, custom, example or any shift their wicked hearts can devise to make the conviction sit light upon them. They think it hard that such small sins as theirs should be threatened so severely and say as 1 Samuel 14:43. [2]
    2.1.3 Those who would stifle the charges of conscience by cavilling and disputing against God – and lay the blame of their sins at his door, for withholding from them his grace. Romans 9:19. [3] So the wicked servant. Matthew 25:24. [4] But:
  2.2 The truly convinced sinner is stripped of all these vain pleas. He assents to the law that it is good. He knows that his very prayers are sinful. Instead of disguising and excusing his offences he sees them all attended with the highest aggravations. And so far from arraigning the justice of God, though it seems to stand with a drawn sword against his hopes – nothing less than a divine power can persuade him that the just and holy God can or ought to pardon so daring the sinner.
If you have not this sight pray to God to give it you, for if your mouth is not stopped before him now, it will be hereafter. You will be struck dumb when you stand before him.
If you see it thus, the Lord himself has shown it you and it should afford you encouragement. He has mercy for them that are ready to perish. For them that confess their debt and that they have nothing to pay he will frankly forgive all. Luke 7. [5] This prepares the way for a farther site:
3. The excellency of Christ
This can be only perceived, by the helpless and miserable. And O how excellent and precious does he appear. They see a necessity, a beauty, a wisdom, a sufficiency in all that is revealed concerning him. Even though they dare not as yet claim an interest in him. They admire his person, love, offices, sufferings. They love his people, ordinances and ways. They cannot be easy to keep from them, though they find but little good. Here again is a difference.
  3.1 Some only consider him as in some degree necessary to help out the deficiency of their own services.
  3.2 Some would accept him as their priest but have no desire towards him as a teacher or ruler. What wonder if the profession of such is soon over – they have no root, but:
  3.3 [6]
The soul that has seen sin, and the holiness of God, sees the excellency of his appointment of Christ, as the all in all of salvation – and is convinced it can come no other way. If the Lord has shown you this, rejoice. This includes saving faith – you believe though you know it not. The precious seed is sown in your heart, and shall in good time spring up to your joy and comfort. Then you see farther:
4. The beauty of holiness
Such a conviction of sin as arises only from the fear of hell will never change the heart, and these cannot effectually reform the life. It may lead people:
  • to a round of external duties
  • to avoid some particular evils
  • to weary themselves with their own inventions, or the devices of men 
but all this while they have no savour of the beauty of grace and holiness, no notion or desire to be formed into the divine image, or to maintain spiritual communion with God – nor do they groan under the sense of indwelling corruption.
But those whom the Lord teachers see a desirableness in walking after his precepts, in being conformed to the spirit and example of Jesus – they know they cannot be saved from hell, unless they are saved from sin – for sin would be a hell to them. Some would be content if possible to take their sinful lusts and pleasures to heaven with them. But these could not be pleased or happy if raised to the dignity of an Archangel unless the accursed thing was [up]rooted and destroyed. This they long for hereafter, and every approach towards it here, is more desirable than gold, sweeter than honey or the honeycomb. [7]
Now examine:
1. If you have not such views of sin, of the law, of Jesus, of holiness – I must tell you are yet in the dark. O that I could convince you. Would you choose that I should speak smooth deceits? This would be to murder your souls. But I dare not, I must be clear of your blood. If you perish it will not be for want of warning. I have set before you wherein you are defective. And I advise, exhort, charge you to call upon the Lord. Though you have not seen these things aright yet, he can show them in a moment.
2. If you have these views – though your faith be weak, comforts few, temptations many – yet be not cast down. Had the Lord been pleased etc. Has the Lord shown you them by his word and ordinances? Continue to wait on him in the same way, and he will show more – he will lead you on from light to light, from strength to strength. He that puts it in your heart to pray will give you an answer of peace and will show you his glory.
[All three of the above titles 2,3, and 4 are Scripture quotes:
The righteousness of God e.g. Romans 3:21 But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets;
The excellency of Christ e.g. Philippians 3:8 Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ,
The beauty of holiness e.g. Psalm 96:9 O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness: fear before him, all the earth.]

 [1] Psalm 51:4 Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest.
[2] 1 Samuel 14:43 Then Saul said to Jonathan, Tell me what thou hast done. And Jonathan told him, and said, I did but taste a little honey with the end of the rod that was in mine hand, and, lo, I must die.
[3] Romans 9:19 Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will?
[4] Matthew 25:24 Then he which had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed:
[5] Luke 7 as in v 42: And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both. Tell me therefore, which of them will love him most? and v 47 Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little.
[6] ms was ‘2’
[7] Psalm 19:10 More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.

Cowper & Newton Museum, John Newton's notebook N17