Last night, just before bed, I read a sermon by George Whitefield that I thought was worth sharing. Whitefield is a famous 18th century preacher that is remembered as one of the most passionate and effective orators in church history. His preaching voice has been described as “an organ, a flute, a harp, all in one”. Unfortunately, his great skills in delivery do not always come out in his written sermons. Still, he makes a point, in this sermon, I found interesting. I’ve quoted a brief section of the sermon below.
My friends, we mistake a historical faith for a true faith, wrought in the heart by the Spirit of God. You fancy you believe because you believe there is such a book as we call the Bible—because you go to church; all this you may do and have no true faith in Christ. Merely to believe there was such a person as Christ, merely to believe there is a book called the Bible, will do you no good, more than to believe there was such a man as Caesar or Alexander the Great. The Bible is a sacred depository. What thanks have we to give to God for these lively oracles! But yet we may have these and not believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.
My dear friends, there must be a principle wrought in the heart by the Spirit of the living God. Did I ask you how long it is since you believed in Jesus Christ, I suppose most of you would tell me you believed in Jesus Christ as long as ever you remember—you never did misbelieve. Then, you could not give me a better proof that you never yet believed in Jesus Christ[…]
I wonder how many people we have in the modern evangelical church that have attended and participated in the church for years, perhaps all their lives, and yet never embraced true faith? People who believe “that there was such a man as Christ”, but remain dead to Him. People that are so comfortable in church and so familiar with its teachings that they assume they are Christians, yet their “faith” in Christ is no more transformative than their faith in Alexander the Great. True faith moves us, changes us, inflames our passion, and places us in relationship with Christ.
Whitefield concludes his sermon, in part, with the following:
Once more, then: before you can speak peace to your heart, you must not only be convinced of your actual and original sin, the sins of your own righteousness, the sin of unbelief, but you must be enabled to lay hold upon the perfect righteousness, the all-sufficient righteousness, of the Lord Jesus Christ; you must lay hold by faith on the righteousness of Jesus Christ, and then you shall have peace. “Come,” says Jesus, “unto me, all ye that are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.