This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that you affirm constantly…
This text places Christian morals upon a basis sufficiently firm and extended to support the fabric. Well aware of the absolute necessity of preaching sound principles in order to attain to a holy practice, and of the mighty influence which evangelical doctrine, if rightly understood and fairly stated, hath upon holiness in the life, St. Paul heaps privilege upon privilege, and within the compass of three short verses, enumerates the leading articles of our holy religion — giving such a view of them in their connection and influence upon practice, as must delight, constrain and ravish the heart of every believer. From hence I would humbly suggest this general remark, which, by the favour of our God, I intend to prosecute in the sequel of this discourse — whoever in the ministry would really advance the interests of holiness must be constant assertors and unwearied defenders of the doctrines of free grace.
I. Glance at THOSE THINGS IN THE FAITHFUL SAYING WHICH OUR APOSTLE WOULD HAVE THE MINISTERS OF CHRIST TO AFFIRM CONSTANTLY, FOR THE EXPRESS PURPOSE OF PROMOTING HOLINESS. The very humbling doctrine of universal depravity (ver. 3). We have little reason to be proud or vainglorious, severe or censorious of others, or to despise those who have not obtained mercy with ourselves — a vice which frequently deforms the character even of a child of a God. But by frequently insisting upon the doctrines of universal depravity, the graces of humility, meekness, mildness, tenderness, and benevolence are perceived to be of the highest request for adorning the Christian character, and promoting the happiness of men; and hence the necessity as well as the advantage of affirming it constantly.
2. The Divine benevolence to man (ver. 4). According to this statement, the gospel of our salvation is a system of love — of Divine love — of the love of God towards foolish, disobedient, and enslaved men.
3. Our salvation is all of grace (ver. 5). Men cannot be too diligently cautioned against seeking salvation by the works of the law, nor too distinctly taught to ascribe the glory of the whole to "the Lord our righteousness."
4. Grace displayed in regeneration (ver. 5). The reality and necessity of regeneration, the Divine Agent by whom the gracious change is accomplished, the manner in which this happy change is effected, with the unbounded mercy and love displayed, both by the Father and the Son, in giving the Holy Ghost for such a purpose. These things cannot be too constantly affirmed: for, till this change be wrought on the nature and the heart, no true reformation will ever adorn the life.
5. Justification only by grace (ver. 7). This is a cardinal article in the scheme of salvation, according to the Scriptures. Well may the preservation or loss of it be designed the mark of a standing or falling Church. It is the glory of the gospel, the melody of the joyful sound, the admiration and the joy of redeemed men, the most powerful motive to holiness which can be presented.
6. The title secured by justification to the enjoyment of eternal life (ver. 7). It is both pleasant and very encouraging to mark, in this statement preceding my text, how regeneration, justification, adoption, and eternal glory, are so linked together in the same chain, that by holding one of the links, the happy possessor is infallibly secured of all the rest. A most glorious and eternal truth — an assurance eminently calculated to enliven the believer's hope of eternal life in Christ. And "whosoever hath this hope in Him purifieth himself," as Jesus Christ, his hope "is pure."
II. Show THAT THE CONSTANT AFFIRMATION OF THE DOCTRINES OF THE GOSPEL IS THE ONLY SCRIPTURE METHOD OF PREACHING GOOD WORKS. Good works is a general expression for the practice of holiness, or the performance of every part of new obedience, whether it respect moral, civil, or religious duty. To maintain good works, according to the signification of the original word, is to take the lead in the practice of them. The term is of a military illusion. As the officers of an army stand before, or a little in advance of the line, both to display heroism and preserve the order of the troops, so the believer in God is expected and commanded to stand forth, in the view of the world, in the sight of the Church, and particularly in the presence of younger disciples of Christ, as examples of regularity, sobriety, tenderness, and devotion. To be emulous to excel, so as to provoke one another to faith, "to love and to good works." An emulation this eminently worthy of being cherished! To be "careful to maintain good works," is to be wholly intent upon the study and the practice of new obedience; for, except the mind feel a deep interest in holiness, from a love to God and a desire to be like Him, the external performance of good works will be cold, formal, and remiss. Hence it follows that the constant affirmation of these doctrines, so happily calculated to cherish the exercise of faith, must be peculiarly friendly to the interests of holiness; nay, more, that the constant affirmation of these things is the only Scriptural and consistent plan of engaging the believer in God to be careful to maintain good works. This I hope to make manifest to your satisfaction from these four considerations.
1. These doctrines contain the principles, powers, and privileges, by which alone any of the human race become qualified for maintaining good works.
2. In these doctrines the believer is presented with the most powerful and proper motives and inducements to maintain good works.
3. These doctrines, when firmly believed, excite an inveterate antipathy at everything contrary to the nature and holy will of God.
4. The constant affirmation of these things affords the Christian moralist every advantage to state his subject in all its force.
Parallel VersesKJV: This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men.
WEB: This saying is faithful, and concerning these things I desire that you affirm confidently, so that those who have believed God may be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable to men;