The GOSPEL TRUTH
A MOCK SALVATION AND A REAL DELIVERANCE FROM SIN
I suppose that most of those present this afternoon are aware that the subject is "A mock salvation in comparison with Christ's salvation" deliverance from sin. As I said last week with respect to a Christian, so I may say this week with respect to salvation, that there will be no difference of opinion as to the need of our race for a salvation of some sort. This must be too patent to need argument, that our world is disordered, disjointed, morally diseased, and that it needs some sort of regenerating, rectifying process, if society is not to be disorganised by its own corruptions, or sunk for ever in the hell of its iniquities. Every man knows this to his own hurt. All men have a personal consciousness of being wrong, whether they believe in a Divine revelation or not; nay, whether they believe in God or not. I do not think I have spoken to more than half a dozen people in my life--and I have spoken, I suppose, to some thousands of different classes--who have maintained that they were right. Even infidels, when you face them with the question, "Are you right? are you living according to the dictates of your judgment and conscience?" dare not say that they are. The universal cry of our poor humanity is, "Oh, wretched man that I am" whether it be looking for any Divine deliverance or not. Men everywhere know that they are not living according to their own conceptions of right, and therefore they have a sense of self-condemnation; and this asserts itself in spite of their arguments and excuses. It is of no avail to the soul tormented with a sense of guilt to say, "The woman tempted me," or "I was under the pressure of great fear, or shame, or dread;" this is no real palliation. Hence the universal fear to face the future, the disinclination to think about God, the predisposition to blind the eyes to the proofs of His existence, and to harden the heart against His claims. Truly conscience makes cowards of not all until cleansed from dead works, purified and restored to the throne of the soul.
Further: not only do all men feel this sense of wrong in themselves, but they expect wrong in others. Even parents anticipate and provide for it in their children. Every parent knows that there is a tendency in his children to go astray from the very first moment of accountability. He knows that there is in his child a tendency to speak lies as soon as it can speak at all, that there is a tendency to perverse tempers and wicked passions. Hence wise parents universally recognise, whether they make any pretensions to Christianity or not, the necessity of family government and careful training in order to check, counteract, or eradicate, as the case may be, these tendencies to evil; and thus they acknowledge the necessity for a certain kind of salvation in their children, and they recognise also this fact, that if they do not attempt to work out this salvation, the children will bring them to wreck and ruin. A child left to itself brings its mother to shame; we know that sadly too well.
There is the same recognition of the need of a salvation amongst men of the world. Every intelligent business man goes on the assumption that he has to encounter wrong in the hearts and conduct of his neighbours; in fact, the world takes it as a sign of intelligence that a business man goes on this assumption, and would call him a fool if he did not. He knows that he is beset on all hands by those who will over-reach, cheat, and ruin him for anything that they can, if they can promote their own interests by so doing. Hence the necessity for a kind of legal salvation, in the form of agreements and bonds, between man and man.
I hear a good deal about this in connection with our negotiations for buildings, which we are carrying on every day. When proprietors and agents have made certain offers or promises, the General says, "Have you got it in black and white?" and if the answer is "No," then he says, "What is the use of it?" Alas! we know only too well that it is of no use; and I am sorry to say that this is as true of many professing Christians as of worldly men. Why is this? Because a man's word is nothing in the great majority of instances. Hence the necessity for lawyers, magistrates, and judges; and even these have to be tied down by law, and watched and supervised, lest even the judges should turn traitors to justice, and, for the sake of bribes or party considerations, sell the interests of those whom they ought to protect. Here again is the recognition of the necessity for a salvation for these very people who are placed as guardians of public justice and the administrators of the law. This salvation many of them specially require when dealing with the poor Salvation Army. By the way, it is a curious fact that such is the impression produced by the Army, that again and again politicians on both sides of the Atlantic have laughingly represented various combinations of statesmen as "salvation armies." How often do politicians in different lands represent their countries as being, in some particular verging on ruin, and needing a "salvation"? What is this but a great public confession, made by those best capable of judging, that whole nations are misled? for in these days of popular government most people have to be cajoled into voting, to their own injury. Moreover, we have it from the highest public authority that nation after nation goes astray on questions vitally affecting their highest good; and it is commonly asserted that they are deliberately led astray by men who care only for their own interests, and so contrive to delude their fellowmen wholesale.
It is evident that but for these temporal salvations to which I have alluded, the world would be unendurable for us to live in. You know this. You know that it is not safe for a man to trust his neighbour, nay, in many cases, even his brother; "for there is none upright among men, . . . they hunt every man his brother with a net."
Here, then, is the patent, palpable necessity for a salvation. Now, the question is, What sort of salvation meets the necessities of the case? What kind of a salvation does God our Maker, who knows what He meant us to be at the first, and who knows perfectly what we have become through sin, what kind of a salvation does He propose for humanity!
I answer. He proposes a salvation that deals with and removes the cause of all this wrong and woe.
Our Saviour, in Matthew xv. 19, goes to the root of the evil when He says: "For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies." And the apostle also, in Galatians v. 19 : "Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God." Whether you believe in the revelation or not, you will agree with the fact that these are the works coming everywhere from the evil heart of man; there is no getting away from that. Then I say that God proposes to deal with and remove the cause--the wrong state of the heart. If all men's hearts could be set right to-day, we should need no more temporal, legal, or political salvations; no more lawyers, police, magistrates, or judges; for a salvation that renews the heart would render all these unnecessary.
God's plan of salvation in dealing with the internal malady embraces all its external consequences.
It is evident, then, that any salvation which does not deal with this leprosy of evil in the heart is a mockery.
As I showed last week that there are, alas, many false, delusive, disappointing christs; so I have to show this week that there are many make-believe, mock salvations, which only deceive, disappoint, and damn those who trust in them. As I walk about the world, and as I look at professing Christians, my soul cries: O God, make haste to help us to raise up a holy people, in order to show the world what salvation really means, for they do not know. They are utterly befogged and bewildered, and I do not wonder.
We will now look at a few of these mock salvations, for they are legion. First, I want to premise that anything no matter how valuable in itself, which is put in the place of something for which it is no substitute is a mockery. For instance, here is a stone, very valuable in its right place--especially if it be in one of the shops in Oxford Street; but offered to a starving man in a desert it is a mockery; because, valuable as it is, the man cannot eat it, and he will die notwithstanding that the stone, worth a thousand pounds, lies at his feet, because it is no substitute for bread.
Now, there are endless substitutions for salvation. It has been the devil's plan from the beginning to make imitations of God's best things. Perhaps it is a necessity that evil must try its power upon all God's creatures as it did upon Adam; we do not know. Probably there was no other way of working out the transcendent value and beauty of goodness than by allowing it to come in contact with evil; if this be so, of course it applies to God's remedies for sin; anyway, the devil has done his worst on these. God's plan of salvation is at present in this crucible. The devil is trying to circumvent it, and his favourite plan for doing this is by forging plenty of mockeries.
We will look at these under four divisions, salvations of theory; salvations of ceremony; salvations of mere belief, and the salvation of unbelief.
First, let us look at salvations of theory. You see it matters very little what kind of a theory a man has; if it be substituted for salvation it becomes a mockery, a true theory no less than a false one.
The devil no doubt has a correct theory; I fancy that he is a much better theologian than many Christians, but he remains the old serpent still.
It is doubtless better to have right opinions than wrong ones, but the best opinions will not save a man. I am afraid there is a great deal of preaching that amounts to a mere putting of the different theories about salvation, instead of persuading men to come to Christ and be saved.
The main idea of much of the preaching of this day seems to be that of teaching people--instructing them, which too often results in hardening their hearts, and finding them an easier way down to perdition than they would have found without it. Unfortunately a man feels more comfortable when he has been to a place of worship and heard a fine theory about salvation, than he would if he had not been, although he may be no nearer being saved. All preaching, Sunday School teaching, tract writing and distribution, or any other instrumentality which has not for its end the immediate salvation of the people, only leads them to trust in mere teaching, which is a mockery. It is like giving a dissertation on the relative value of a vegetarian and an animal diet to a man dying of hunger. What good will your dissertation do unless you get the man to eat of the food about which you are descanting. And, unless your teaching induces men and women to eat of the Bread of Life for themselves, it is a mockery! And yet how few preachers or teachers, how few religious workers have this as their main idea--the end at which they aim. You can see the want of it in the way they fail to bring men to Christ there and then. How my heart has ached over this aimless, pointless preaching, I could not express. Perhaps, when I have had the rare opportunity of a Sunday's rest, I have gone to some near place of worship, hoping to be refreshed or stimulated, and to see sinners saved, or at least convicted, but alas! I could only weep as I listened to dissertations on some creed or doctrine which had probably been believed and approved by everybody present since they were children, while the poor empty souls were left starving for want. I have felt like saying to the minister, "My brother, if you have nothing better than this to offer, let us have a prayer meeting and get something direct from the great Father himself, without your intervention." Would to God there were more preachers in the fix of a Baptist minister in a town where we are just now having a glorious work, who has been so stirred up and awakened to his responsibilities, that, on a recent occasion when he had read his text, he broke down, weeping, which had more effect than all the sermons he had preached during the years he had been in that town. His people wept too, and many of them got converted over again. I wish that a few thousands of the ministers of this kingdom could be brought to a similar state of mind before next Sunday; what a commotion there would be in the land, and what a stir in hell, ah, and in heaven too!
But further, I want you to note that any theory which teaches people to rest in a mere intellectual belief in the Scriptures, or any doctrines therein, while their souls are left in bondage to sin, is a mockery, and it is one of the most popular mockeries of this day.
Oh, Christians say, "Scatter the word," and they have been scattering the word for generations, spending thousands of pounds over it, and I could enlighten them as to what becomes of the word in thousands of instances when it is scattered. We always get wrong when we depart from God's way, and this is not His way. It is not written that "it pleased God to save by the distribution of Testaments, those who believe," but it pleased God to save by the foolishness of preaching--by the living testimony of living men--by those who embody the word in their experience and lives, and then go and speak it in the power of the Spirit to others. This is the sort of preaching God has commanded. Study and love the written word as much as you like, but remember that the letter killeth, and that you will never save men by merely giving them the letter; and I point to the miserable results of this plan as proof of the truth of what I say.
I fear the giving away of texts and tracts has proved a most successful stratagem of Satan's for enabling Christians to salve their consciences in resisting the Spirit's urgings to a bold, straight-forward testimony for Christ. It is so much easier politely to hand one of these silent messengers, than to make a determined onslaught on the sinner's conscience, and to try to persuade him there and then to flee from the wrath to come. Not only is it easier for the Christian, but it is also much more endurable for the unsaved; consequently he is willing to make a compromise, and in order to escape from straight, plain, personal dealing, he will pocket a tract, laughing in his sleeve at the cowardice of the giver; because he knows perfectly well that Christians, to be consistent with what they profess, ought to make a desperate effort for the immediate salvation of every unsaved man and woman with whom they come in contact. The world wants living epistles who will live, weep, act, suffer, and, if need be, die before the people. The testimony of such witnesses will prove a living word indeed, sharper than any two-edged sword.
I say that the knowledge of and belief in this whole Bible, from beginning to end, if substituted for actual, personal salvation, will prove as great a mockery as any other sentimental belief.
No mere intellectual beliefs can save men, because right opinions do not make right hearts. Alas, we all know the little practical effect opinions have on character. Look around you. Do you know any man who is not a thorough intellectual believer in chastity being better for a man, or a woman, in the end, than uncleanness? Is there any wicked, profligate young man, whom if you could take him aside and talk fairly to him, would not tell you that he believed that chastity was the best for a man, and yet you have only to look at him to see that he is a sepulchre of uncleanness and debauchery. What avails his intellectual belief in chastity while he is the slave of his lusts? What better is the man who believes in chastity and sins, than a man who does not believe in chastity and sins? As a French infidel, answering a caviller against holiness, said the other day, "You believe and sin, I do not believe and sin: where is the difference? It seems to me I am the better of the two." Exactly, for however true or grand a man's beliefs, of what use are they if he does not act them out? "Can faith save him?" Nay, verily, but such a faith can damn him. Further, any theory which leads men to suppose that they are safe without being actually saved is the most dreadful of all.
Such a theory adds an intellectual opiate to the deceit of the heart, and prevents the truth from troubling the conscience. Now, the only use of appealing to the understandings of the unregenerate, is, that through their understandings you may get at their hearts, but if Satan has "blinded their minds" by some intellectual opiate, there is no chance. The understanding is darkened, the conscience seared, and the soul paralysed. These are the worst people in the world to preach to; when I had to preach to them, how I groaned many a time for a congregation of heathen. I have found such now in the Salvation Army--I mean, a people whose understandings are not darkened by these false theories and intellectual conceits. One can get the light in through their heads into their hearts, and this is the reason of our success with them; and is not this the reason why the publicans and the harlots have always gone into the kingdom of God, while the natural children of the kingdom have been left out?
A man is either saved or not; the fact is independent of his theory, and it is of comparatively little consequence what his theory may be if he be saved. Hence many savages and Catholics have rejoiced in a consciousness of pardon, while many evangelicals have never known it. A man is either under the dominion of sin, or else he is delivered from it. If he is under the dominion of sin, what an awful theory is that which makes him believe he is saved. Could the devil have invented a more damning theory than that? And yet, alas! Alas! He allures millions to destruction through it, who otherwise would take alarm and begin to seek salvation. He says to all the qualms of conscience and the pangs of remorse, "You are all right, you believe this or the other, your faith is orthodox, you are safe," frequently quoting separated or mutilated texts to back up his lying insinuations, such as "By faith ye are saved;" "he that believeth shall be saved," "you are complete in Him," etc. This latter phrase has come to express, in numbers of instances, the most utter ruin to which the human soul can be brought. "Complete in Christ"--complete without any true repentance, without any offering of the heart, without the slightest change inward or outward "complete in Him," while living without Him, and having no conscious connection with Him whatever; complete without losing one evil feature of the godless life, without receiving one grace of any kind, without doing or suffering anything, except perhaps a whispered, "I believe;" complete all in a minute, since somebody pointed to a text with which perhaps the poor victim had been familiar all his life. Complete in Christ with a gnawing consciousness at the heart that it is as sinful, as empty, as powerless, and as joyless as ever; complete as a poor corpse would be complete, if painted and dressed in the clothes of a living man! May God save you from any such mock salvation as this.
Further, any theory that leads men to trust in general confessions and prayers for salvation, is a mockery.
How many thousands of people every Sunday confess to being "miserable sinners," and cry to God to have mercy upon them, without the slightest appreciation of the meaning of the words they utter. They feel better and safer because of these confessions and prayers, whereas their prayers remove them further, rather than bring them nearer, to any real salvation. What is the use of prayer that produces no effect, that brings no answer? Here is a mother whose boy is condemned to die: the father goes to the Queen to beg for his life. When he returns, the mother says, "Well, have you succeeded?" He answers, "I have put up my petition before the Queen." "Well, but what is the answer?" "Oh, you must not expect a direct answer: I have no answer, nor have I any reason to believe I shall get one, but I have put up my petition." The mother would say, "That is a delusion; I want to know whether my boy is going to be released; I cannot sleep in my bed till I know what the answer is." Now, I say, people who go on petitioning God for years together, never concerning themselves about the answer, or even expecting one, show that they are utterly insincere, and consequently obnoxious to God, and yet there are thousands of such people, who go to and fro to our churches and chapels every Sunday like a door on its hinges. They say, "O Lord, have mercy upon us, miserable sinners," but they have no real desire for His mercy, no recognition even of the necessity for the forgiveness of sins, no concern about living to please Him, no idea of what repentance or salvation really means. Is it not manifest that such hypocritical confessions and prayers render those who engage in them more impervious to the truth, and more oblivious to any true idea of salvation, than they would be without them? God says such prayers are an abomination to Him. There is only one kind of prayer from an unconverted soul which is acceptable to God, and that is the prayer that is wrung out of the heart by anguish for sin.
Further, another mock salvation is presented in the shape of ceremonies and sacraments. These were only intended as outward signs of an inward spiritual reality, whereas men are taught that by going through them or partaking of them, they are to be saved. Amongst these may be classed Baptism, the last Supper, and the ceremonials of ancient or modern Churches.
Oh, the thousands of souls who are resting their hopes of salvation on the fact that they have been baptized, not only such as believe in the palpable delusion of baptismal regeneration, but amongst ordinary church and chapel going people. As I look at our Army congregations in Rinks, Theatres, and other similar places, and note, the signs of sin, debauchery, and crime on many of their faces, I say to myself, I suppose all these people have been baptized; but I do not think there are many thieves, or harlots, or drunkards, or openly immoral people who claim baptismal regeneration. Thank God! It is only genteel sinners who can bring themselves to believe in such a palpable sham, and yet, if baptism possesses any efficacy, it should be as effective in the one class of sinners as in the other.
What an inveterate tendency there is in the human heart to trust in outward forms, instead of seeking the inward grace! And where this is the case, what a hindrance, rather than help, have these forms proved to the growth, nay, to the very existence, of that spiritual life which constitutes the real and only force of Christian experience!
It is a calamity deeply to be deplored that men should thus put the form in the place of the power, but they have always been doing so. It is only another species of that idolatry which has prevailed from the foundation of the world. Take, for instance, the brazen serpent. All are familiar with the story of that miraculous intervention of Jehovah on behalf of the Israelites dying from the poisonous bites of the fiery flying serpents, sent as a punishment for their rebellious murmuring. God directed Moses to exhibit a brazen serpent on a pole, and to proclaim to the bitten multitudes that all who would look to it should be healed. Thousands looked, and as they looked were cured. In memory of that wonderful deliverance, and doubtless also as an emblem of the coming Saviour, that serpent was preserved; but when, in the years that followed, the people came to attach undue value to the ceremony of viewing it, burning incense before it, with idolatrous worship, Hezekiah, jealous for the honour of Him whom this form was only intended to shadow forth, called it "Nehushtan," i.e., a piece of brass, which it really was, breaking it in pieces and casting it away with the trees of the groves and the altars of the high places which the people had desecrated by idolatry, Now, we have nothing to say against forms; but they are only, as it were, the bodies in which spiritual ideas and purposes are manifested, and without LIFE they are useless, and worse than useless.
When forms are exalted, and idolized, and trusted in, no matter how beautiful in themselves, or how Divine in their origin, they become "Nehushtan," as a piece of brass, or a piece of bread or a bowl of water. As the apostle said of circumcision, when the Jews had put it in the place of righteousness, "Neither is that circumcision which is outward in the flesh. Circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God." And although originally ordained by God, he says again: "Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the commandments of God." We feel persuaded that if Paul were here now, and could see the deadly consequences which have arisen from the idolatrous regard given to what are called the Sacraments of the Supper and of Baptism, he would say precisely the same with respect to them; for even if Jesus Christ intended them to be permanent institutions (against which there are very strong arguments, as put forth by many most devoted and intelligent Christians ever since the days of the apostles, amongst whom are the "Friends" of our own time), such is the awful abuse to which these ceremonies have been subjected, that we feel sure Paul would say Baptism is nothing, and the ceremony of the Lord's Supper is nothing, apart from keeping the commandments of God, especially that great and all-comprehensive commandment, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and mind, and soul, and strength, and thy neighbour as thyself."
Christians often say to me, when I put this view before them, "Ah, but you have no authority to remit the Supper, because the Lord said we were to take it in remembrance of Him till He come!" I answer that He left the taking of it at all perfectly discretional; and as to its continuance, that entirely depends on which coming He alluded to. "Friends," and many others of the most spiritual and deeply taught Christians of all times, have believed that He then referred, as in so many other places which are generally misunderstood, to His coming at the end of the Jewish dispensation. Any way, our Lord, who had long before said to the woman of Samaria, "The hour cometh when ye shall neither in this mountain nor yet at Jerusalem (in any special sense) worship the Father . . . But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth," anywhere and everywhere, could not have intended to teach that God could be more acceptably or profitably worshipped through any particular form or ceremony than without such form or ceremony, and especially if there were weighty reasons on the other side for rejecting it!! Neither is it credible to a spiritually enlightened mind that He who said, "If a man love Me, he will keep My words, and My Father will love him, and we (I and My Father) will come unto him, and make our abode with him," could have intended to teach that through the earthly medium of bread and wine His people were to remember Him on whom their thoughts were to be constantly concentrated, or to commune with Him in any special sense above that in which they were to commune with Him always and everywhere. The water which Jesus gives, and to which alone He attaches any importance, is that which is "in us a well of water springing up into everlasting life"; and the wine which He values and promises to drink with us in His Father's kingdom, is that wine of the kingdom which is righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.
Friends, do you partake of these sacraments? If not, rivers of earthly water, vineyards of wine, will avail you nothing; they will be as "Nehushtan."
If we were to have any binding forms in the new and spiritual kingdom in which all forms were to find fulfilment, it seems to me that there is a great deal more ground for insisting on washing of one another's feet than for either of those already referred to; and in this we can see a great practical lesson on the human side which our Lord actually laid down. How comes it, I wonder, that many of those who regard the former with such sanctimonious reverence, can utterly and without scruple, set aside the latter? I fear that human pride and priestly assumption must be held largely responsible.
Farther, nothing is more evident to all who have any acquaintance with the history of Christianity, than that the undue value set upon these ceremonies has been one of the greatest hindrances to the extension of Christianity. Again and again have its valiant warriors paused in their triumphal progress, and turned aside from the battle with the great forces of evil, to quarrel amongst themselves concerning these mere externals.
When I was in Ireland, some of the oldest and most experienced Christians who took part in that great revival some twenty-five years ago told me that a great proportion of the results of that wonderful work of God were lost, in consequence of a controversy about water baptism. Do you wonder that we of the Salvation Army shrink from the possibility of such a sacrifice of the greater to the less--especially when we are backed up by the great apostle of us Gentiles thanking God that he baptized none of his early converts, and for the very same reason, namely, because they were making the ceremony a cause of controversy!
Further, what can be the value of imitating the marchings and vestments and songs of the ancient Jewish Church? We are not accepted in the beloved Jews, and if these ceremonies had become, as God said they were, a stink in His nostrils because of the backsliding unbelief and hardness of heart of His ancient people, how much greater must the offence of them be when adopted by impenitent, infidel, and rebellious Gentiles. Neither can it be any less repugnant to the mind of God, that spiritually uncircumcised Philistines should dare to put their hands to His ark, by anticipating the signs, ordinances, and alleluias of the Church triumphant. What have such people to do with the songs of martyrs and confessors, or with the alleluias of the angel bands who stand before the Lord in His temple? "Rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry." And yet what multitudes who are hardening their hearts and stiffening their necks every day against the claims of God and of His truth, dare to bow down to what they call the table of the Lord and unite in what they believe to be the songs of saints and angels. The first qualification for participating in any spiritual exercises or ceremonies, is the renewal of the heart by the Holy Ghost. If you could have the very same ceremonial which they have in heaven, with angels as your ministers, unless you had the spirit of it within, it would profit you nothing. "Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not the love of God, I am nothing." And our Lord said, with respect to some of His hearers, "Then shall ye begin to say, We have eaten and drunk in Thy presence, and Thou hast taught in our streets. But He shall say, I tell you, I know you not whence ye are; depart from Me, all ye workers of iniquity;" showing that even where Christ Himself was the preacher, if the heart remained under the bondage of sin and in the gall of bitterness, the hearers would only inherit greater condemnation, and sink into a deeper hell.
I must not omit to say a word here on the salvation of unbelief, notwithstanding that I purpose to enlarge on it at a future time. The most astounding theory of all the false theories about salvation, and also the latest novelty propagated, alas, from Christian pulpits and through the Christian press, as well as from avowedly infidel platforms, is that man is to be ultimately saved from his errors and iniquities, and especially from all trouble concerning them, by a simple negation. He is to dismiss from his mind all the creeds, all idea of any precise revelation, and to get light from any natural earthly source he can, especially from the modern lights, who are responsible for this new theory. He is to throw his mind back as far as is possible towards heathenism, nay, further back than those enlightened heathen philosophers to whom I referred in my first lecture, for he must on no account even sigh after anything supernatural or Divine. He is to believe in himself and in humanity; especially the future of humanity--seeing that there are so many ugly facts about its present. Thus he will have no more difficulties, sighings, or cryings!
He is to put away everything unpleasant and unsightly as far as he can, even if it professes to be the word of God, and possessing his soul (no, I beg pardon, his mind) in patience, to wait and hope till the law of evolution has transformed our poor sin-stricken and groaning earth into a heathen paradise.
What a striking reproduction is this modern revelation, only in a new fashion, of the words of fools thousands of years ago, who used to say, "How doth God know? and is there knowledge in the Most High?" and who "consider not that they do evil."
Truly we may say of all these theories, ceremonies, prayers, faiths, and unbeliefs, which are palmed on man as substitutes for salvation from sin, vanity of vanities, cruel mockeries, making destruction doubly sure. Poor humanity still cries out, "Who will show us any good?" Miserable comforters are ye all, leaving us still on the dunghill, covered with wounds, bruises, and putrefying sores. WHAT SHALL WE DO TO BE SAVED?
DELIVERANCE FROM SIN.
Let us now consider the character of that salvation proposed by God for our race. The salvation of God embraces deliverance, restoration, preservation, and glorification.
Of course the mere idea of salvation supposes some enemy, bondage, disease, or danger; there can be no salvation where there is nothing to be saved from. All the saviours raised by God for Israel during their national existence were actual deliverers of their people from their enemies, otherwise they could not have been saviours. Moses, Joshua, Gideon, Nehemiah, and many others, were real deliverers of their people; they delivered from the outward consequences of sin; but the great distinguishing feature of our Joshua is that He delivers His people from their spiritual enemies, and from the power of sin itself. Where there is no deliverance there can be no salvation. What a mockery and a delusion it is for a man to profess to be saved, while he is groaning under the power of his spiritual enemies. If you are under the dominion of sin, you are yet an utter stranger to the salvation of God.
FIRST: SALVATION IMPLIES RESTORATION.
Salvation to a man who is sick means restoration to health; to a man who is drowning, restoration to dry land; to a man dying, restoration to life; to a man on the verge of bankruptcy it means liquidation of his debts, and restoration to solvency.
The common sense of mankind has prevented any theoretical deliverances or mock salvations for these temporal maladies and destructions, but our great adversary, who lieth in wait to deceive, has succeeded, as we have already seen, in deluding men and women, as to the reality of Salvation when applied to the soul. But the salvation of God is no less real and practical for the soul than any of these temporal salvations are for the body or the circumstances.
What is man's disease? Sin, badness, falseness, spiritual death. Salvation means restoration to goodness, to truth, to spiritual life, and to God. It means deliverance from inward evil, and renewal of the heart in righteousness and true holiness. It means the right adjustment of the faculties of the soul, bringing it into harmony with the laws of its own being, with the law of God, and with the rightful claims of its fellow beings. In short, it means being PUT RIGHT in all its relations for time and for eternity.
SECOND: SALVATION IMPLIES PRESERVATION.
In order to the well-being and happiness of a being who has been saved from any disaster or death, there must be a provision for his continuance in a state of health or safety. It would be a small mercy to save a man from drowning, if he were under the cruel necessity of throwing himself into the water again to-morrow; and equally small would be the mercy of pardoning a sinner, and restoring him to a sense of peace and purity, if no provision had been made for his continuance in such a state of salvation. The salvation of God contemplates all the weaknesses and necessities of fallen human nature; hence the Christ of God becomes "the author of eternal salvation to all them that obey Him." He not only restores, but He promises to dwell in His people as the power of an endless life, enabling them to purify their hearts by faith, to love God with all their soul and strength, and to offer themselves as living sacrifices, holy and acceptable in His sight. He promises to empower them to resist the devil, to keep themselves unspotted from the world, and to fight manfully under the banner of His cross till death.
Do you ask for living witnesses of such a salvation? Thank God, there are thousands who can testify that they have passed from darkness to light, that they have been delivered out of the hands of all their enemies, and are now enabled to serve God, walking before Him in righteousness and holiness day by day--thousands, not of genteel, refined, religiously trained people, such as most of you here to-day, but from amongst the most ignorant, neglected, besotted, and openly wicked of earth's populations. They stand forward, an exceeding great army of witnesses to the reality of the salvation of God, and to the power of His Christ to deliver, to restore, to purify, and to keep all those who really receive and obey Him.
THIRD: THE SALVATION OF GOD EMBRACES ALSO GLORIFICATION.
How do we know? Well, first, reasoning from analogy, and seeing that the great change wrought in true saints is in the soul, and that it manifests itself in spiritual and heavenly instincts, dispositions, and aspirations, which do not find their full development or satisfaction in this life, we conclude that there is a future and more congenial sphere for such development and satisfaction.
Secondly, we have the most satisfactory evidence which mortals can give, of future glorification in the fact that many are glorified before our eyes in death. Amidst the humiliation, pains, and agonies of physical dissolution, we see the soul emerging from the wreck of its physical environment, triumphing over him who hath the power of death, and in regal majesty pluming its wings for its final flight, and in view of such a victory, human reason, no less than Divine revelation, declares: "Death is swallowed up in victory."
Are there any here who want salvation? Come and try our Saviour Lord. He can cure your disease, extract the poison out of your heart, and make you new creatures! We testify that He has done this for some of us on this platform; whereas we once were the children of wrath, because the children of sin, even as others, now He has made us the children of God and of light, enabling as to seek those things that are above.
Consistently with our profession, we consecrate ourselves, our whole being, our children, influence, time, life, and, if need be, death, to the pressing of this salvation on the attention and acceptance of our fellowmen. We make all things bow down before this unbending resolution, to seek and to save the lost.
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