[File photo by Jerry Newcombe of a colonial church]
When he was a young man, Thomas Jefferson supported the work of a patriotic minister, who was an evangelical, Rev. Charles Clay. Our book, Doubting Thomas, has two of Clay’s sermons in the back of the book. To our knowledge, this is the first time any of Rev. Clay’s messages have been in print. Here is the sermon continued. The context of what Clay is about to say is that before a holy God, all of us as sinners are in trouble.
Rev. Charles Clay
God, The Adversary of the Sinner [continued]
Agree with thine adversary quickly whiles thou art in the way with him, lest at any time the Adversary deliver thee to the Judge, and the Judge deliver thee to the Officer, and thou be cast into prison. Verily I say unto thee, thou shalt by no means come out thence till thou hast paid the utmost farthing.
We have no natural ability to turn to [God]. We are all by nature the children of wrath. We are dead in trespasses and sins. To what but original corruption can we possibly ascribe that coldness and inattention to Spiritual things, that aversion to God and goodness which every one of us must percieve to be more or less in all our hearts? Hence the diseased persons we read of in the Gospels are emblems of the Spiritual malodies of our souls. In the man that was born blind, we have an image of our spiritual blindness. By nature the eyes of our minds are ( ) against the light of the Gospel. The situation of such is represented by the ( ) that of men having their understanding darkened. The lepers full of spots and blemishes, was an exact picture of the leprosy of sin, with which our souls by nature are infected, and all our bodily defects are so many images of our depravity and corruption. Now against all this sinful corruption polution, the Almighty God is the declared Enemy. It cannot consist with the Purity of the divine essence to have any communion with persons in this state; and in this state is every man by nature, and if so every man, by nature God in Jesus Christ is a consuming Fire. As we are enemies to God by our natural defilement, we have also made him our adversary by actual transgression. We have been ungrateful to this Our best benefactor; we provoke him every day; we have ( ) iniquity with greediness; We have rushed into sin; like the horse into the battle. The bold defiance of his law, the open breach of his commands, the contempt of his Gospel, the profaning his holy name, in short, the many acts of impiety, intemperance, laciviousness, and injustice, now prevailing, loudly proclaim this awful truth; and although some persons may have been preserved from enormous and grievious sins, yet we have all of us the seeds of them in our hearts; and nothing but the Divine interposition prevents their sprouting into action; a sense of this made an eminent Christian say (when he heard of a criminal who was carrying to execution for some flagrant act) there goes my wicked self. I have the same root of bitterness in my deceitful heart and it has been owing to the restraining grace of God alone, that I have been preserved from falling into the same sin. But in many things the best of us offend often; nor till our natures are renewed by the Spirit of God can it possibly be otherwise! While the fountain is defiled the streams that flow from it cannot be clear and untainted.
Some think that God is not their Adversary because they perform some outward ceremonies; but alas all outward duties, unless they proceed from an inward principle of love to God, are only so many glittering vices, which can never abide the test of Infinite Justice. Men may skin over the would sine has made in their soulls, by these outward duties but the blood of Jesus Christ alone applies by faith can effectually heal it.
Such as imagine God is not their Adversary because they pay a regard to certain moral duties, and perform some religious ceremonies, I would ask do you render an entire obedience to the law of God? The law of God is holy just and good; and he requires an exact conformity to it thought word and deed. A perfect God will have perfect service. This you must allow. The thing speaks for itself. If you have done this indeed God is not your adversary. You have no need for a Redeemer. But if you have differed ever so little from the path of God’s commands (even in thought) your works will profit you nothing; and then every one of us are become guilty before God.
Thus the Apostle argues; I had not known sin but by the Law. Before his conversion he thought himself a very good man because he was strict in the observance of the outward part of it, and little thought he was a lost sinner. But when he saw the spiritual meaning of it the law, when he saw that nothing short of an universal obedience to it would be admitted by infinite Justice, he then saw that he had by no means performed it. He then knew that sine reigned in his members. Again he saith, when the commandments came, sin revived and I died. When I percieved how rigorous the commandment was, the consciousness of sin revived in my soul, and I found myself to be dead in trespasses and sins; and in ( ) spiritual deadness he must have remained, had not the Lord Jesus proclaimed a ( ) to his soul.
TO BE CONTINUED……