Salvation — for WHOM is it Provided?
James Smith, 1859
What is salvation? A deliverance from sin — in its guilt, power, pollution, and penal consequences. Anything short of this, is not salvation. For whom is salvation provided? In general, "Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners." In particular, the angel said, "Call his name Jesus, for he shall save his people from their sins." Are all mankind his people? Jesus said, "I am the good Shepherd, the good Shepherd lays down his life for the sheep." And of some he said, "You believe not — because you are not of my sheep." If, then, laying down his life for his sheep proved him the good Shepherd, and manifested his love to his flock — then he could not, in the same sense, have laid down his life for those who were not his sheep.
Again, the Apostle says, "Christ also loved the Church, and gave himself for it," etc. Was this the highest proof of Christ's love to his church? It was, for himself said, "Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." But if Christ laid down his life alike for all — then he did not manifest any particular love to his church by giving his life for it, seeing he did the same for everybody else; and the Apostle was in error in teaching that the death of Christ was a result of his special love to his church.
Again, Paul says, "He loved me, and gave himself for me." But why boast of the love of Christ, as if it was special, or refer to his death, as if it was a peculiar mark of his love — if Christ loved every one else just the same, and died for every one else as well?
The love of God, as displayed in the salvation of sinners, is not universal; it is special, and distinguishing. It is fixed only on his people, as viewed in his beloved Son; and being fixed on them — it cannot be turned away from them. For them, he entered into covenant — for them, he made his Son a sin offering — and for them, he sends his Holy Spirit into the world. He loved them in eternity, he loves them infinitely — and having loved them, he will love them unto the end. To say that all are thus savingly loved, is unscriptural; for we read in God's Holy Word thus, "Rebekah's children had one and the same father, our father Isaac. Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad — in order that God's purpose in election might stand: not by works, but by him who calls — she was told: The older will serve the younger." Just as it is written: "Jacob I loved — but Esau I hated!" Romans 9:10-13
And of Jacob's posterity of the former it is said, "They are beloved for the Father's sake;" but of Esau's posterity — that they are "the people against whom the Lord has indignation forever." If before the children were born, Jacob was said to be loved, and Esau to be hated — and if of the posterity of the one it is written, "the Lord has a delight in you, to love you," but of the other, that "the Lord has indignation against them forever" — then how can all mankind be alike, and universally the objects of God's redemptive love?
Besides this, the Apostle, writing to the Thessalonians, says, "God has not appointed us to wrath — but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ." 1 Thessalonians 5:9. Are any appointed unto wrath? Peter says, quoting from the Old Testament, concerning Christ, "See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame." Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe, "The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone, and, "A stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall." They stumble because they disobey the message — unto which they were appointed." 1 Peter 2:6-8.
If of some it is said, that they were not appointed unto wrath — but to obtain salvation, by our Lord Jesus Christ; and of others, that Christ was to them a stone of stumbling, and a rock that makes them fall, that they stumbled at the Word, being disobedient, whereunto also they were appointed — then how could both parties be loved alike? or how could God's saving love be universal?
That God would show both wrath and mercy in dealing with sinners, Paul plainly and positively asserts. Hence he says, "Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use? What if God, choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the vessels of his wrath — prepared for destruction? What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the vessels of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory — even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles?" Now suppose we say the one party is simply left to fit themselves for destruction; it is distinctly stated that God himself fits the vessels of mercy for glory — but if the one party is left to fit themselves for destruction, and the other is by God's calling them fitted for glory — then how can both parties be alike loved of God; or how can God's saving love be universal?
If God's love to man is universal — then will he not treat all alike? Will not arrangements be made to send the Gospel to all, to apply the Gospel to all, and so all be sanctified by the Gospel? But millions have never heard the Gospel yet!
Besides which, where the Gospel comes, as at Thessalonica, to some it comes in word only — but to others in demonstration of the Spirit and of power. Now, if the Gospel is sent to some with the power of demonstration — but is not so sent to others — then can all be loved alike? If the saving love of God were universal — then the good news of that love would reach all. And if the saving grace necessary to the enjoyment of that love would also be given to all. But it is not so!
Or, if God had said plainly in his Word that his saving love to all was alike and equal, and had not said . . .
that he loved some — and hated others;
that he willed to show mercy to some, and wrath to others;
that to some he sent merely the word of the Gospel — but to others that word accompanied with power
— then we would have concluded that God provided salvation for all without exception.
Then, again, the work and operations of the Holy Spirit in applying the Gospel are not universal — but special. "The wind blows where it wills, and you hear the sound thereof — but can not tell whence it comes nor where it goes; so is every one that is born of the Spirit." The Lord's people are "begotten of God," "born again," "born of the Spirit," "born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man — but of God."
I suppose that no one will say that all people are alike regenerated by the Holy Spirit, "created anew in Christ Jesus," or made "new creatures." But if not, where is the universality of the Spirit's operation? Or, did the Spirit work alike on all — but some, of their own free will — gave effect to the work of the Spirit, while others rendered it ineffectual? If so, man conquers God's creating power — and becomes the efficient cause of his own salvation, according to his own will. But if this is the case, how can salvation be according to God's purpose and grace, or how can we be said to be born not of the will of man — but of God?
The Scriptural representation of the case appears to me to be this: God having determined to create and populate the earth. He knew that mankind would fall into sin, and left to themselves, the whole race would perish. To prevent this, he chose his people in Christ before the foundation of the world, chose them to salvation, and to partake of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. But as sin could not be removed without an atonement, and as it was necessary to show to all created intelligences God's infinite hatred to sin — he covenanted with his only begotten Son to assume our nature, come into our world — and, by suffering and dying, make an infinite atonement for sin.
In making an atonement, Jesus died as a substitute his people, bore their sins, and put them away by the sacrifice of himself, thus obtaining eternal redemption for them. But as an infinite atonement was necessary for the salvation of his church, so an infinite atonement was sufficient for the salvation of an infinite number of transgressors; and therefore God, in the exercise of his sovereignty, having thus removed every impediment out of the way of any sinner's salvation, commanded the good news of salvation for sinners to be preached among all nations, to be received by faith. Thus, the presentation of salvation is made to sinners as sinners, without difference or distinction; and the assurance is given, that "Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on him!"
The presentation of a free salvation by the Gospel to sinners, as such, warrants any man, and every man, to embrace it, and leaves the rejector without excuse. Sinners will not come to Jesus and be saved — this is criminal, and the result is inevitable damnation. But that the special end of the death of Christ may be accomplished, and the Savior see of the travail of his soul, the Father has given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as he had given him. Being lifted up, he effectually draws all them unto him, from every place and every period. And in the certainty of their salvation he rejoiced, saying, "All whom the Father gives me — shall come to me; and him that comes I will certainly not cast out."
So also, when the Jews manifested their obstinacy, he told them he was not disappointed, saying, "No man can come to me — unless the Father who has sent me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day." And again, "Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, unless the Father has enabled him."
To CONCLUDE. The Father chose his people to salvation before time, and gave them to his beloved Son. He sent his Son into the world to be the atoning sacrifice for their sins, and that they might live through Him. He teaches them according to his promise, and every one that is taught of the Father comes to the Son. To put it another way, he sends the Holy Spirit to accompany the preaching of His Word, and as many as are ordained to eternal life, believe. Thus, all whom he predestined, or eternally loved — he effectually calls; all whom he effectually calls — he justifies; and all whom he justifies — he glorifies.
The Father in his love chose them to be a peculiar people unto himself, above all people that dwell on the face of the earth.
The Son redeemed them by his blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation.
The Spirit quickens, sanctifies, and seals them.
Thus they are saved, not by works of righteousness — but according to his mercy, by the washing of regeneration, and the renewing of the Holy Spirit. As it is written in the Scriptures ,"it is not of him that wills, nor of him that runs — but of God that shows mercy." therefore, "Salvation is of the Lord!" Salvation is of grace, from first to last!
Looking at the subject PRACTICALLY — salvation is provided for sinners, for the ungodly, for the vilest of men. Salvation is to be published and presented to sinners, to sinners of every class and climate. Salvation is to be obtained without money and without price. Any sinner who hears the gospel may be saved; will be saved, if he believes — God's Word guarantees this. Therefore, without unscripturally saying that God's saving love is universal, that Christ died for all alike and equally, and that the Spirit is given alike to all alike — we publish a full and free salvation for whoever will; assuring every one that is willing, that that is the proof of his personal interest in the blessing, because none are willing to be saved by Christ — until God makes them so, in the day of his power.
If man rejects the Gospel and refuses to be saved, it is of himself, and he must take the consequences. But if a man believes the gospel, and accepts salvation, it is of God, who works in him to will and to do of his own good pleasure. Thus, in condemnation — man gets all the blame; and in salvation — God gets all the glory. "Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! "Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor? Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him? For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen." Romans 11:33-36
Grace! 'tis a charming sound,
Harmonious to the ear!
Heaven with the echo shall resound,
And all the earth shall hear.
Grace first contrived the way
To save rebellious man;
And all the steps that grace display,
Which drew the wondrous plan.
Grace first inscribed my name,
In God's eternal book;
'Twas grace that gave me to the Lamb,
Who all my sorrows took.
Grace led my roving feet
To tread the Heavenly road;
And new supplies, each hour, I meet
While pressing on to God.
Grace taught my soul to pray,
And made my eyes o'erflow;
'Twas grace which kept me to this day,
And will not let me go!
Grace all the work shall crown,
Through everlasting days;
It lays in Heaven the topmost stone,
And well deserves the praise!