18. ON NEGLECTING THE
This declaration of the apostle, "How shall we escape, if we neglect so
great salvation?"—is both a solemn question, and an awful conclusion. Those
who hold infidel principles, who live in a total disregard of religious
ordinances, and who persecute the followers of Jesus, despise the salvation
of God. But there are other marks equally legible to the discerning eye,
though often unseen by the people who bear them, on account of the blinding
nature of sin, which point out the neglecters of salvation.
The three following should excite alarm, and call forth the important
exercise of strict self-examination.
1. If we are living in the allowed indulgence of one known sin, whether that
sin be internal or external; whether it be cherished in the secret recesses
of the heart; or whether it ripen into overt acts; we are neglecting the
salvation of the Gospel. We may have knowledge, and zeal, and gifts of
various kinds; we may do much in active exertion to promote the general
cause of religion; we may associate with pious characters, and be ourselves
esteemed pious; we may be regular at church; maintain family worship; and,
like Herod, do "many things;" yet if; after all, we are living in the
allowed indulgence of one known sin, we are neglecting this great salvation;
and, dying in this state, must inevitably perish. Should we knock and say,
"Lord, open unto us," Jesus would profess unto us, "I never knew you; depart
from me, you workers of iniquity." How awful is this consideration, and yet
how just! We may destroy all of the Amalekites; yet, if we preserve Agag and
the rest of the flock alive; if we retain some beloved lust in the heart, we
manifest a spirit in direct opposition to the will and command of God.
2. If we are building upon any other foundation, in whole or in part, than
Jesus Christ and him crucified, we are neglecting his great salvation. To be
saved from the dreadful consequences of sin, we must build simply and
entirely on that foundation which God has laid in Zion, without daring to
bring any of the materials of corrupt nature to mix with it. On this
foundation we must pray for grace to build gold, silver, and precious
stones. This must be done by adding to faith virtue, and to virtue
knowledge, and to knowledge temperance, and to temperance patience, and to
patience godliness, and to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly
kindness charity. If these things be in us, and abound; they make us that we
shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord and
Savior Jesus Christ; while an entrance shall be ministered to us abundantly
into his heavenly kingdom.
3. If we are preferring any earthly object, of whatever kind, to Jesus
Christ; if our affections are placed on any other being in opposition to
him; or if we are seeking our delight in any created thing, as distinct from
him and independent of him, we are neglecting his great salvation; yes,
setting up idols in our hearts. We must love the adorable Savior with a
supreme affection; and we must love other objects only for his sake. Our
temporal blessings must be enjoyed as flowing from him; our friends and
domestic comforts must be received as gifts coming to us through his
redeeming grace. All we possess must be held at his disposal, and with a
view to that account which we must one day give. Thus, Christ must be the
Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and ending of all our desires and
Oh! how strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, that leads unto life; and
few there be that find it. May I never forget this unchangeable truth; that
Jesus is the only way of escape from hell—and the only way of access to
heaven. Lord, let your Holy Spirit guide me into this consecrated way. Hold
me up, and I shall be safe.
It is truly awakening to reflect how far a person may go in the
circumstantials and externals of religion, and yet be entirely destitute of
the life of God in the soul. The holy Scriptures abound with declarations to
this effect, which prove the deceitfulness of the human heart, and the
danger of resting in mere outward forms and orthodox opinions. Thus, Job
describes the character of the hypocrite: "What is the hope of the
hypocrite, though he has gained, when God takes away his soul? Will he
delight himself in the Almighty? will he always call upon God?" evidently
implying, that, not having the root of the matter in him, though he had
gained the applause of men for his seeming piety, he would soon grow weary
of the service of God.
David also shows, in awful colors, the wickedness of false teachers: "Unto
the wicked, God says, what have you to do to declare my statutes, or that
you should take my covenant in your mouth; seeing you hate instruction, and
cast my words behind you?" Thus, wicked men may enter into the
priestly office, preach the Gospel, and talk about that covenant, in the
blessings of which they have no personal interest whatever.
The prophet Isaiah, by the Spirit of God, sets forth the extreme hypocrisy
of the Jews: "Cry aloud, spare not, lift up your voice like a trumpet, and
show my people their transgression, and the house of David their sins. Yet
they seek me daily, and delight to know my ways, as a nation that did
righteousness, and forsook not the ordinances of their God. They ask of me
the ordinances of justice; they take delight in approaching to God." Thus,
their conduct was a strange mixture of apparent devotion and decided
The prophet Ezekiel was shown the true character of those who waited upon
him. "They come unto you as the people come; and they sit before you as my
people; and they hear your words, but they will not do them; for with their
mouth they show much love, but their heart goes after their covetousness."
Our divine Redeemer has painted the hypocrite in his true colors: "Woe unto
you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites; for you pay tithe of mint, anise,
and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment,
mercy, and faith." "Woe unto you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites; for you
make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are
full of extortion and excess." "Woe unto you, Scribes and Pharisees,
hypocrites; for you are like unto whited sepulchers, which, indeed, appear
beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and all
uncleanness." "You serpents, you generation of vipers, how can you escape
the damnation of hell!"
When we consider that these men were held in the highest esteem and
veneration among the Jews for their outward sanctity and devotion, we see
how far people may go in the externals of religion, and yet be in the very
gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity. It was on this account that
the apostle Paul so constantly warned the churches to whom he wrote against
false profession, and receiving the grace of God in vain. He speaks of those
who hold the truth, but who hold it in unrighteousness. The Epistles of
Peter, John, and Jude, are full of warnings against false teachers,
antichrists, and deceivers. The charges to the seven churches, in the book
of Revelation, most awfully show the danger of declension, of leaving our
first love, of becoming lukewarm, and, consequently, loathsome to an
infinitely holy God.
Many, it is to be feared, have the reputation of being spiritually alive,
whose souls, in the sight of God, are dead to all the vital influences of
the Holy Spirit.
Oh, my soul, let not these solemn portions of God's sacred word be lost upon
you. Pray without ceasing for that grace, which can alone preserve you from
falling, and, through the merits of Jesus, present you faultless before the
presence of his glory with exceeding joy.
"Almighty Savior! awaken my drowsy senses, and make me alive to my real
condition. Allow me not to neglect your blessed Gospel; but draw me to
yourself continually, for your grace is sufficient for me. Wash me in the
cleansing fountain of your blood. Place me upon that foundation which can
never be moved. Arm me for the spiritual combat; and at last make me more
than conqueror, through the power of your might and the riches of your
Why should I linger here below,
When Jesus calls my heart above?
Why, Oh, my soul, the bliss forego,
The joy of everlasting love?
I feel the weight of nature's guilt,
Beneath its ponderous load I groan;
Oh! may the blood on Calvary spilt
For all my crimson sins atone!
Blest Jesus! speak the pardoning word;
Salvation to my spirit bring!
Then will your grace those joys afford,
Which from your cross to sinners spring.
Redeemed from guilt and slavish fear,
My soul shall wing its way to you!
While faith beholds her tide clear
To blissful immortality.