There is not one in a thousand that seems to have any true conception of salvation—either what it is, or how it is accomplished. It is the practice of many to describe it as a thing that depends upon a man's own exertions, or partly upon a man's own exertions and partly upon Christ's exertions; and so utterly confused are most men's descriptions or definitions of this great work, that it is all but impossible to understand what they mean. It is a question with me whether they understand what they themselves mean. A popular illustration of this momentous performance speaks volumes upon the complete ignorance of the great mass of religionists upon salvation. It consists in a picture of a man on shore throwing a rope to another in the sea, who is in danger of drowning. The man on shore throwing the rope is to represent Christ, and the man in the sea is to represent the perishing sinner.
SALVATION INDEED Now this is all very pretty, and very well calculated to attract the attention of a certain class of religionist, who, as I have observed, think that salvation depends partly upon their own efforts and partly upon Christ; and it must end in the rescue of the imperiled sinner—but upon these conditions, viz.,
1st. That he sees the rope;
2nd. In case he has strength to lay hold of it;
3rd. That his strength does not fail ere he is dragged to land;
4th. In case his back is not to the rope, and he is not so deaf as not to hear the shouts of the Man on the shore.
5th. That he is not in his present danger of his own free-will. Now, it so happens, that the Scriptures inform us that man by nature is stone-blind, that he is so helpless as to be represented as "dead", that he is so deaf that he cannot hear, and, what is worst of all, that he is bent upon his own destruction (John 5:40; Ps. 58:4,5; Isa. 35:5; Eph. 2:1: 2 Tim. 4:4; Isa. 6:10; Gen. 6:5; Rom. 3:10,18).
SALVATION INDEED And, I ask, of what possible use would an offer of salvation, or a partial salvation, be to such a one? Surely, the idea is monstrously absurd. Yet, as we have seen, this is the ridiculous conception of salvation that free-willers and ignorant theologians delude the public and themselves with.
SALVATION INDEED But it is my privilege to declare that the salvation of God is complete. It is all done for man, and nothing whatever is left for man to do towards it. The very term, "salvation," speaks for itself. The very name, "Jesus," speaks volumes. "He shall be called Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins." (Matt. 1:21) It is not. He shall try to save them, or offer to save them, or do His best to save them, or put everything in order, so that they may be saved if they will; but, "HE SHALL SAVE THEM"! Yes, the words are as clear as light. No sophistry can perplex, no falsehood can deny, no ingenuity can explain them away!
SALVATION INDEED Oh, anxious and convinced sinner, are you seeking to save yourself? Believe me, you can never do it! Are you striving to square matters with God? Believe me, you are spending your strength for nought! Are you laying any dependence upon your works, your improvements, your resolutions for good? Believe me, you are but building upon the sand! Are you afraid lest your sins are too many and too great to be pardoned? Believe me, you insult Christ!
SALVATION INDEED Christ Jesus is God's salvation—not merely He by whom God has made salvation possible, but He who has wrought it out in every jot and tittle—He who has done everything, and left nothing undone, or unanticipated, for the thorough rescue and perfect happiness of every one interested in it. God has thus "laid help upon One that is mighty"—has done all—accomplished all.
SALVATION INDEED Oh, how wonderful, how great is this work! Great, because willed, provided, and accepted by Jehovah. Great, because wrought out by Him who is the mighty God. Great, because applied by the resistless Spirit. Great, because it averts great woe, it bestows great grace, it pardons great sins, and blesses a great multitude!
SALVATION INDEED "It is the end of every prophecy, the beauty of every promise, the meaning of every sacrifice, the substance of every rite, the song of every inspired lip, the longing desire of every renewed heart, the haven of every tempest-tossed soul."
SALVATION INDEED Yet, strange to say (though not strange), men in general see no beauty in this glorious work. They would rather have a plan of their own, a way of their own devising, a scheme of their own invention. I'll take upon me to aver, that any man who will hold out a hope to those who would help themselves to save their own souls, will have multitudes to listen to him, when he who proclaims a full and free salvation can hardly command a score of hearers. If, for instance, I were to say to the drunkard, "Now, do just take one glass less, and God will be so pleased; do leave off your foolish and debasing habit, and God will be better pleased, and you will be saved;" or, if I were to say to the swearer, or the thief, or the sensualist, "Now, do strive and resist your besetment; for every temptation you resist will bring you deeper into God's favor, and add a jewel to the crown you are destined to wear, by thus working out your salvation,"—I'll take upon me to assert, I should reckon ten for every one now in my congregation. So greater love have men to do something to merit God's salvation, or to save themselves.
SALVATION INDEED But dare I thus tamper with my Master's message? Dare I deceive souls with such damnable heresy as this? God forbid! Salvation is finished. Salvation is complete. Salvation is a thing done, and done once and for all, and every man upon this earth, and at this moment, is either saved with an everlasting salvation, or hopelessly lost. It is a solemn truth. But let those affected by it set to and make enquiry whether they are saved or not.
SALVATION INDEED Here are a few simple tests:—
1, Do I believe? 2, Do I love?—i.e., do I believe in the need there is for such a salvation? Do I believe all that is said of me in the Scriptures? Do I believe all that is said of Christ in the Scriptures? Do I love Him who has planned and carried out, and whose office it is to apply this great salvation? Do I regret that I cannot love Him more?
SALVATION INDEED If so, I may be certain that I am saved—saved out-and-out—by Jesus Christ, and by Him alone. But, if not, though I were as lovely and as fair as Absalom—though I ruled vast provinces, led great armies, counseled mighty kingdoms, were a paragon of perfection, wore myself to death for God, and were as punctilious in my devotions as the strictest of the Pharisees—I, manifestly, have neither part nor lot in the matter.
SALVATION INDEED Remember, the question is not "Will I be saved?" but, "Will God save me?" And he that will not be saved after God's fashion, can never be saved whilst the sun or the moon endureth!