Sin and Salvation
SIN. This is wholly of man. I have sinned! The law which I have broken is the holy, just, and good law of God. Breaking that law was my own act and deed. I did it early. I have done it innumerable times—but always willfully. My whole nature is set against the requirements of God's law. There is nothing the law requires, which I naturally like. I hate the whole of it. I love sin, almost every kind of sin. There is in my nature, a craving to commit sin. God requires truth, my nature often prefers a lie. God requires honesty, I am naturally dishonest. God requires purity, my nature loves to revel in impurity. God requires contentment with what he has given me, I covet whatever others have, which I have not. He requires me to be under authority, I hate authority, I rebel against it, I prefer licentious freedom. He refuses to be represented by pictures or images; I am for the visible in preference to the invisible.
In a word, I know of nothing that God approves—that my nature does not dislike. I know of nothing that he requires—that I do not feel inclined to refuse. I know of nothing that he prohibits—but I would like under certain circumstances, to do. I know of nothing that he withholds—but I wish for. I know of nothing that he bestows—but I more or less despise. Indeed, I do not conceive how anything can be more opposed to the character and requirements of God—than my nature is! There is something in his every attribute, in his every precept, in his every dispensation that I am prepared to quarrel with.
I would like others to keep certain requirements of the law towards me—but I should like to be left without any restraint as to my conduct towards them. My nature wishes to be lawless. That it has not carried out these accursed principles in action more than it has, is to be ascribed to the restraints of education, the influence of circumstances, and the preventing grace of God.
Now, I ask—would not God be just in damning such a wretch? Can such a creature have any claim upon God, under such circumstances? Can such a being possess the power to make himself holy, or become what God requires, either in the law or the gospel? As all man's wickedness proceeds from his heart, and is approved of by him—is he not guilty as well as vile? If he has no wish or desire, and, therefore, never heartily presents a prayer to God for a change of nature—is not God most just in punishing him?
I feel, my conscience allows—that God would be just in sending me to hell. My nerves tremble at the thought; the flesh, full of self pity, cries out against the idea; but my inmost spirit realizes that it would be just. The idea is dreadful! The thought piercing! But the fact is unquestionable, undeniable.
Sin is wholly from man! The sin that brings a man under the sentence of the gospel, that sinks the soul to hell—is his own sin. The sin he concieved in his heart, the sin he loved and preferred to holiness, the sin ho committed at the risk of eternal punishment. O, what a depraved nature is mine! How much cause I have to hate myself! How low I ought always to lie before God! How softly should I go all my days in the bitterness of my soul. Who would imagine that such a creature could be proud? That such a sinner could complain of God? But this is only the effect of having a sinful nature.
SALVATION. This is wholly of God. It must be so. What can such a sinner do, to save himself?
Can he atone for his sins? How? In every act is sin, all he does is polluted.
Can he change his nature? How? What, act contrary to the principles that rule him? Run opposite to his own will? Conquer every affection and habit, when he has no disposition to do so, nor the least desire? Man may fear wrath, and wish to escape punishment, while left to himself; but man never did, man never will, man never can, wish to be made holy, until the Spirit of God has touched his heart. Fire may as soon freeze water, and water may as soon feed fire—as a sinner really and truly desire to be made holy without the Spirit of God. It cannot possibly be.
If a sinner is saved, it is an act of grace; it is in the exercise of sovereignty; it is wholly of God. Sinners are saved, because God becomes their Savior. Jesus took the sinner's place. He offered a sacrifice which satisfied the demands of justice, met all the requirements of God's righteous government, and opened a way by which any sinner may obtain the pardon of all sin, on honorable terms. God appeared in Christ with a heart full of love, to reconcile sinners to himself; in order to which he tells us, that he will not impute our trespasses to us! Yes, he assures us that he has imputed them all to his dear Son, and has made him a sin-offering for us, to expiate and put away our sins: that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.
We have nothing to do with satisfying justice, meeting the claims of law, or pacifying the wrath of God; all this is done, done perfectly, and done forever! If we believe this, if we come to God believing it, and so expect pardon, peace, and acceptance, on account of what Jesus did and suffered—we are saved. To every sinner, the gospel says, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved." What, by simple faith? Yes, by simple faith. But does God require nothing at my hands? He requires nothing at your hands. There is nothing that he bestows more freely—than salvation. Not the light at morning, nor the dew at evening, nor the shower that comes in its season. There is nothing that he bestows more cheerfully, more readily, for "he delights in mercy."
"Then sinful man is saved through the righteousness of another." Yes, just so. The life, death, resurrection, and intercession of Jesus, forms that, and the whole of that, an account of which any sinner is saved. Salvation is wholly of God. The first thought of salvation was of God. The purpose and the plan are of God. The atonement, the revelation, the proclamation, and the application, are all of God. If I feel I need salvation—then God produced that feeling. If I desire to be saved—then God gave me that desire. If I am willing to be saved in God's way—then he has made me willing. If I pray to be saved by grace—then his Spirit breathed that prayer into my soul. If I perceive God's method of salvation—it is because the Holy Spirit has opened my eyes, and shined into my heart. If I believe in Jesus—my very faith is the gift of God.
"Then no man ever would be saved—but for God's most gracious interference." Not one!
"Then all who are saved, are saved gratuitously." Exactly so, "to the praise of his glorious grace."
"And may any sinner be saved now—if he really desires it?" Yes, "whoever will may come, and take of the fountain of the water of life freely."
"But how is it, so many doubt, fear, and despond?" Because seeing and feeling their own sins and sinful state, and not clearly perceiving that God saves sinners freely, without money and without cost, they look into themselves for something to recommend them, or for something to encourage their faith—instead of looking simply to the Lord Jesus Christ alone. They do not receive God's testimony as given in his own word—but think that something must be done by them, or felt within them, in order to entitle them to salvation.
This dishonors God. This grieves the Holy Spirit. This encourages unbelief. This gives power to Satan. And in order to strip them of this idea, they are allowed to try what they can do; the law makes its demands upon them, Satan harasses and torments them, until self-despair seizes them, and then they are glad to "embrace Jesus for their shelter." The moment we see God's method of salvation by grace, through the obedience and blood-shedding of Jesus, approve of it, and exercise confidence in it, we are at peace with God. Our sins are pardoned, our fears are conquered, our enemy loses his power over us, and we see that "God is love." And this peace is maintained, just so long, and just in proportion, as we continue to look away from everything within us, and everything done by us—to the Lord Jesus Christ alone. But the moment our eye is taken off him, our fears return, our hearts harden, our spirits sink, and our evidences are beclouded.
Therefore we are directed to run the race set before us "looking unto Jesus." In health, we must look to Jesus, if we would have peace. In sickness, we must look to Jesus, if we would bear it with patience. In death we must look to Jesus, if we would meet it with comfort and courage.
Reader, are you saved? Do you realize the fact daily in your own soul? Can you agree with the writer in the first part of this subject, that sin is wholly of man? That your sin is wholly of yourself? and that by sinning you have destroyed yourself? That God had nothing to do with this? Do you acquiesce in the second part, that salvation is wholly of God?
These are the two great points in real religion. Our views on other points will be sound or erroneous, very much in proportion to these, for our views of these points will influence all the rest.
In conclusion, if you would honor God, if you would conquer Satan, if you would overcome the world, if you would suppress fear, if you would enjoy comfort, if you would walk with God in peace and holiness—look away from everything else, and look away to Jesus only! He is saying to you, "Look unto me and be saved." And "as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of man be lifted up; that whoever believes on him should not perish—but have everlasting life."
Study these points:
Sin comes wholly by man—and salvation wholly by Jesus.
Sin is man's act. Salvation is God's gift.
Punishment is from justice. Salvation is from grace.