"Men and women become justified only at the point of believing in Christ."
Keach had made the same point fifteen years earlier in his popular allegory, Travels of True Godliness (1683). At one point in his journey, Godliness encounters a man whom Keach described as “a haughty looking person who seemed greatly disposed to dispute about religion” and to whom he gave the name “Antinomian.” In response to Godliness’ query about what Antinomian believed with regard to Justification, the latter stated that he believed “all the elect are personally and actually justified from eternity.” Antinomian was confident that the love which God had for the elect before their conversion was identical to that which He has for them after it. “God sees no sin,” he says, “nor ever did, in his elect.” Godliness’ response to this view was unequivocal: It was “a doctrine Jesus Christ abhors” and which brings reproach upon Calvinism. Godliness goes on to say that the very notion of being justified presupposes that one was formerly in a state of guilt and condemnation. If unbelievers are under God’s wrath (as John 3:18, 36 bear witness) and at the same time also “actually justified,” then the very notion of Justification becomes meaningless.27
As Keach rightly realized, this debate about the nature of Justification had immensely practical consequences. In the Antinomian schema, that style of preaching where the lost are explicitly urged to turn to Christ becomes quite unnecessary. What is needed in preaching is simply the proclamation of what God has done in Christ. God will use that to awaken the elect and show them what he has already done for them. Keach’s pulpit ministry, however, was characterized by vigorous evangelism and regular calls to the unconverted to respond to Christ in faith. According to C. H. Spurgeon, in speaking to the lost Keach was “intensely direct, solemn, and impressive, not flinching to declare the terrors of the Lord, nor veiling the freeness of divine grace.”28
Typical of Keach’s evangelistic appeals to the unconverted is the following, cited by Spurgeon to illustrate the above statement:
Come, venture your souls on Christ’s righteousness; Christ is able to save you though you are ever so great sinners. Come to Him, throw yourselves at the feet of Jesus. Look to Jesus, who came to seek and save them that were lost. . . . You may have the water of life freely. Do not say, “I want qualifications or a meekness to come to Christ.” Sinner, dost thou thirst? Dost thou see a want of righteousness? ‘Tis not a righteousness; but ‘tis a sense of the want of righteousness, which is rather the qualification thou shouldst look at. Christ hath righteousness sufficient to clothe you, bread of life to feed you, grace to adorn you. Whatever you want, it is to be had in Him. We tell you there is help in Him, salvation in Him. “Through the propitiation in His blood” you must be justified, and that by faith alone.29
Here we see Puritan evangelism at its best: cleaving to Christ alone for Salvation, and intensely desirous that others might truly know this joy.