THE WAY OF SALVATION.
Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe onthe Lord Jesus Christ. Who of God is made unto us wisdom, andrighteousness, and sanctification, and redemption, Acts 26:30,31, with 1 Corinthians 1:30.
There can be no objection to putting these texts together inthis manner as only a clause in the first of them is omitted,which is not essential to the sense, and which is irrelevant tomy present purpose.
In the passage first quoted, the apostle tells the inquiringjailer, who wished to know what he must do to be saved, "Believeon the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved." And inthe other he adds the explanatory remark, telling what a SaviorJesus Christ is, "Who of God is made unto us wisdom, andrighteousness, and sanctification, and redemption." The followingis the order in which I design to discuss the subject tonight:
I. Show what salvation is. II. Show the way of salvation.
I. What is salvation?
Salvation includes several things sanctification, justification,and eternal life and glory. The two prime ideas, are sanctificationand justification. Sanctification is the purifying of the mind,or making it holy. Justification relates to the manner in whichwe are accepted and treated by God.
II. The way of salvation.
1. It is by faith, in opposition to works.
Here I design to take a brief view of the gospel plan of salvation,and exhibit it especially in contrast with the original plan onwhich it was proposed to save mankind.
Originally, the human race was put on the foundation of lawfor salvation; so that, if saved at all, they were to be savedon the ground of perfect and eternal obedience to the law of God.Adam was the natural head of the race. It has been supposed bymany, that there was a covenant made with Adam such as this, thatif he continued to obey the law for a limited period all his posterityshould be confirmed in holiness and happiness forever. What thereason is for this belief, I am unable to ascertain; I am notaware that the doctrine is taught in the Bible. And if it is true,the condition of mankind now does not differ materially from whatit was at first. If the salvation of the race originally turnedwholly on the obedience of one man, I do not see how it couldbe called a covenant of works so far as the race is concerned.For if their weal or woe was suspended on the conduct of one head,it was a covenant of grace to them, in the same manner that thepresent system is a covenant of grace. For according to that view,all that related to works depended on one man just as it doesunder the gospel; and the rest of the race had no more to do withworks, than they have now, but all that related to works was doneby the representative. Now, I have supposed, and there is nothingin the Bible to the contrary, that if Adam had continued in obedienceforever, his posterity would have stood forever on the same ground,and must have obeyed the law themselves forever in order to besaved. It may have been, that if he had obeyed always, the naturalinfluence of his example would have brought about such a stateof things, that as a master of fact all his posterity would havecontinued in holiness. But the salvation of each individual wouldstill have depended on his own works. But if the works of thefirst father were to be so set to the account of the race, thaton account of his obedience they were to be secured in holinessand happiness forever, I do not see wherein it differs materiallyfrom the covenant of grace, or the gospel.
As a matter of fact, Adam was the natural head of the humanrace, and his sin has involved them in its consequences, but noton the principle that his sin is literally accounted their sin.The truth is simply this; that from the relation in which he stoodas their natural head, as a matter of fact his sin has resultedin the sin and ruin of his posterity, I suppose that mankind wereoriginally all under a covenant of works, and that Adam was notso their head or representative, that his obedience or disobedienceinvolved them irresistibly in sin and condemnation, irrespectiveof their own acts. As a fact it resulted so, that "by oneman's disobedience many were made sinners;" as the apostletells us in the 5th of Romans. So that, when Adam had fallen,there was not the least hope, by the law, of saving any of mankind.Then was revealed the plan, which had been provided in the counselsof eternity, on foresight of this event, for saving mankind bya proceeding of mere grace. Salvation was now placed on an entirenew foundation, by a Covenant of Redemption. You will find thiscovenant in the 89th Psalm, and other places in the Old Testament.This, you will observe, is a covenant between the Father and theSon, regarding the salvation of mankind, and is the foundationof another covenant, the covenant of grace. In the covenant ofredemption, man is no party at all, but merely the subject ofthe covenant; the parties being God the Father and the Son. Inthis covenant, the Son is made the head or representative of hispeople. Adam was the natural head of the human family, and Christis the covenant head of his church.
On this covenant of redemption was founded the covenant ofgrace. In the covenant of redemption, the Son stipulated withthe Father, to work out an atonement; and the Father stipulatedthat he should have a seed, or people, gathered out of the humanrace. The covenant of grace was made with men and was revealedto Adam, after the fall, and more fully revealed to Abraham. Ofthis covenant, Jesus Christ was to be the Mediator, or he thatshould administer it. It was a covenant of grace, in oppositionto the original covenant of works, under which Adam and his posteritywere placed at the beginning; and salvation was now to be by faith,instead of works, because the obedience and death of Jesus Christwere to be regarded as the reason why any individual was to besaved, and not each one's personal obedience. Not that his obediencewas, strictly speaking, performed for us. As a man, he was underthe necessity of obeying, for himself; because he had not puthimself under the law, and if he did not obey it he became personallya transgressor. And yet there is a sense in which it may be saidthat his obedience is reckoned to our account. His obedience hasso highly honored the law, and his death has so fully satisfiedthe demands of public justice, that grace (not justice,) has reckonedhis righteousness to us. If he had obeyed the law strictly forus, and had owed no obedience for himself, but was at libertyto obey only for us, then I cannot see why justice should nothave accounted his obedience to us, and we could have obtainedsalvation on the score of right instead of asking it on the scoreof grace or favor. But it is only in this sense accounted ours,that he, being God and man, having voluntarily assumed our nature,and then voluntarily laying down his life to make atonement, castssuch a glory on the law of God, that grace is willing to considerobedience in such a sense ours, as, on his account, to treat usas if we were righteous.
Christ is also the covenant head of those that believe. Heis not the natural head, as Adam was, but our covenant relationto him is such, that whatever is given to him is given to us.Whatever he is, both in his divine and human nature; whateverhe has done, either as God or man, is given to us by covenant,or promise, and is absolutely ours. I desire you should understandthis.
The church, as a body, has never yet understood the fullnessand richness of this covenant, and that all there is in Christis made over to us in the covenant of grace.
And here let me say, that we receive this grace by faith. Itis not by works, by anything we do, more or less, previous tothe exercise of faith, that we become interested in this righteousness.But as soon as we exercise faith, all that Christ has done, allthere is of Christ, all that is contained in the covenant of grace,becomes ours by faith. Hence it is, that the inspired writersmake so much of faith. Faith is the voluntary compliance on ourpart, with the condition of the covenant. It is the eye that discerns,the hand that takes hold, the medium by which we possess the blessingsof the covenant. By the act of faith, the soul becomes actuallypossessed of all that is embraced is that act of faith. If thereis not enough received to break the bonds of sin and set the soulat once at liberty, it is because the act has not embraced enoughof what Christ is, and what he has done.
I have read the verse from Corinthians, for the purpose ofremarking on some of the fundamental things contained in thiscovenant of grace. "Of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who ofGod is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification,and redemption." When Christ is received and believed on,he is made to us what is meant by these several particulars. Butwhat is meant? How and in what sense is Christ our wisdom, andrighteousness, and sanctification, and redemption? I will dwella few moments on each.
This is a very peculiar verse, and my mind has long dwelt onit with great anxiety to know its exact and full meaning. I haveprayed over it as much as over any passage in the Bible, thatI might be enlightened to understand its real import. I have longbeen in the habit, when my mind fastened on any passage that Idid not understand, to pray over it till I felt satisfied. I havenever dared to preach on this verse, because I never felt fullysatisfied that I understood it. I think I understand it now. Atall events, I am willing to give my opinion on it. And if I haveany right knowledge respecting its meaning, I am sure I have receivedit from the Spirit of God.
1. In what sense is Christ our wisdom?
He is often called "the Wisdom of God." And in theBook of Proverbs he is called Wisdom. But how is he made to uswisdom.
One idea contained in it is, that we have absolutely all thebenefits of his wisdom; and if we exercise the faith we ought,we are just as certain to be directed by it, and it is in allrespects just as well for us, as if we had the same wisdom, originally,of our own. Else it cannot be true that he is made unto us wisdom.As he is the infinite source of wisdom, how can it be said thathe is made unto us wisdom, unless we are partakers of his wisdom,and have it guaranteed to us; so that at any time, if we trustin him, we may have it as certainly, and in any degree we need,to guide us infallibly, as if we had it originally ourselves?That is what we need from the gospel, and what the gospel mustfurnish, to be suited to our necessities. And the man who hasnot learned this, has not known anything as he ought. If he thinkshis own theorizing and speculating are going to bring him to anyright knowledge on the subject of religion, he knows nothing atall, as yet. His carnal, earthly heart, can no more study outthe realities of religion so as to get any available knowledgeof them than the heart of a beast. "What man knoweth thething of a man, save the spirit of a man which is in him?
Even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit ofGod." What can we know, without experience, of the characteror Spirit of God? Do you say, "We can reason about God."What if we do reason? What can reason do here?
Suppose here was a mind that was all pure intellect, and hadno other powers, and I should undertake to teach that pure intellectwhat it was to love. I could lecture on it, and instruct thatpure intellect in the words, so that it could reason and philosophizeabout love, and yet anybody can see that it is impossible to putthat pure intellect in possession of the idea of what love is,unless it not only has power to exercise love, but has actuallyexercised it! It is just as if I should talk about colors to aman born blind. He hears the word, but what idea can he attachto it, unless he has seen? It is impossible to get the idea hometo his mind, of the difference of colors. The term is a mere word.
Just so it is in religion. One whose mind has not experiencedit, may reason upon it. He may demonstrate the perfections ofGod, as he would demonstrate a proposition in Euclid. But thatwhich is the spirit and life of the gospel, can no more be carriedto the mind by mere words, without experience, than love to apure intellect, or colors to a man born blind. You may so fargive him the letter, as to crush him down to hell with conviction;but to give the spiritual meaning of things, without the Spiritof God, is as absurd as to lecture a blind man about colors.
These two things, then are contained in the idea of wisdom.1. As Christ is our representative, we are interested in all hiswisdom, and all the wisdom he has is exercised for us. His infinitewisdom is actually employed for our benefit. And, 2. That hiswisdom, just as much as is needed, is guaranteed to be alwaysready to be imparted to us, whenever we exercise faith in himfor wisdom. From his infinite fullness, in this respect, we mayreceive all we need. And if we do not receive from him the wisdomwhich we need, in any and every case, it is because we do notexercise faith.
2. He is made unto us righteousness. What is the meaning ofthis?
Here my mind has long labored to understand the distinctionwhich the apostle intended to make between righteousness and sanctification.
Righteousness means holiness, or obedience to law; and sanctificationmeans the same.
My present view of the distinction aimed at is, that by hisbeing made unto us righteousness, the apostle meant to be understood,that Christ is our outward righteousness; or that his obedienceis, under the covenant of grace, accounted to us. Not in the sensethat on the footing of justice he obeyed "for us," andGod accounts us just, because our substitute has obeyed; but thatwe are so interested in his obedience, that as a matter of grace,we are treated as if we had ourselves obeyed.
You are aware there is a view of this subject, which is maintainedby some, different from this; that the righteousness of Christis so imputed to us, that we are considered as having been alwaysholy. It was at one time extensively maintained that righteousnesswas so imputed to us, that we had a right to demand salvation,on the score of justice. My view of the matter is entirely different.It is, that Christ's righteousness becomes ours by gift. God hasso united us to Christ, as on his account to treat us with favor.It is just like a case, where a father had done some signal serviceto his country, and the government thinks it proper to rewardsuch signal service with signal reward; and not only is the individualhimself rewarded, but all his family receive favors on his account,because they are the children of a father who had greatly benefitedhis country. Human governments do this, and the ground of it isvery plain. It is just so in the divine government.
Christ's disciples are in such a sense considered one withhim, and God is so highly delighted with the single service hehas done the kingdom, from the circumstances under which he becamea Savior, that God accounts his righteousness to them as if itwere their own; or in other words, treats them just as he wouldtreat Christ himself. As the government of the country, undercertain circumstances, treats the son of a father who had greatlybenefited the country, just as they would treat the father, andbestow on him the same favors. You will bear in mind, that I amnow speaking of what I called the outward righteousness; I mean,the reason out of the individual, why God accepts and saves themthat believe in Christ. And this reason includes both the obedienceof Christ to the law, and his obedience unto death, or sufferingupon the cross to make atonement.
3. In what sense is Christ made unto us sanctification?
Sanctification is inward purity. And the meaning is, that heis our inward purity. The control which Christ himself exercisesover us, his Spirit working in us, to will and to do, his sheddinghis love abroad in our hearts, so controlling us that we are ourselves,through the faith which is of the operation of God, made actuallyholy.
I wish you to get the exact idea here. When it is said thatChrist is our sanctification, or our holiness, it is meant thathe is the author of our holiness. He is not only the procuringcause, by his atonement and intercession, but by his direct intercoursewith the soul he himself produces holiness. He is not the remotebut the immediate cause of our being sanctified. He works ourworks in us, not by suspending our own agency, but he so controlsour minds, by the influences of his Spirit in us in a way perfectlyconsistent with our freedom, as to sanctify us. And this, also,is received by faith. It is by faith that Christ is received andenthroned as king in our hearts; when the mind, from confidencein Christ, just yields itself up to him, to be led by his Spirit,and guided and controlled by his hand. The act of the mind, thatthus throws the soul into the hand of Christ for sanctification,is faith. Nothing is wanting, but for the mind to break off fromany confidence in itself, and to give itself up to him, to beled and controlled by him, absolutely: just as the child putsout its little hand to its father, to have him lead it anywherehe pleases. If the child is distrustful, or not willing to beled, or if it has confidence in its own wisdom and strength, itwill break away and try to run alone. But if all that self-confidencefails, it will cease from its own efforts, and come and give itselfup to its father again, to be led entirely at his will. I supposethis is similar to the act of faith, by which an individual giveshis mind up to be led and controlled by Christ. He ceases fromhis own efforts to guide, and control, and sanctify himself; andjust gives himself up, as yielding as air, and leaves himselfin the hands of Christ as his sanctification.
4. It is said Christ is made of God unto us redemption. Whatare we to understand by that?
Here the apostle plainly refers to the Jewish practice of redeemingestates, or redeeming relatives that had been sold for debt. Whenan estate had been sold out of the family, or an individual hadbeen deprived of liberty for debt, they could be redeemed, bypaying the price of redemption. There are very frequent allusionsin the Bible to this practice of redemption. And where Christis spoken of as our redemption, I suppose it means just what itsays. While we are in our sins, under the law, we are sold asslaves, in the hand of public justice, bound over to death, andhave no possible way to redeem ourselves from the curse of thelaw. Now, Christ makes himself the price of our redemption. Inother words, he is our redemption money; he buys us out from underthe law, by paying himself as a ransom. Christ hath redeemed usfrom the curse of the law, being made a curse for us; and thus,also, redeems us from the power of sin. But I must leave thistrain of thought, and return to a consideration of the plan ofsalvation.
Under this covenant of grace, our own works, or anything thatwe do, or can do, as works of law, have no more to do with oursalvation, than if we had never existed. I wish your minds toseparate entirely between salvation by works, and salvation bygrace. Our salvation by grace is founded on a reason entirelyseparate from and out of ourselves. Before, it depended on ourselves.Now we receive salvation, as a free gift, solely on account ofJesus Christ. He is the sole author, ground, and reason of oursalvation. Whether we love God or do not love God so far as itis a ground of our salvation, is of no account. The whole is entirelya matter of grace, through Jesus Christ. You will not understandme as saying that there is no necessity for love to God or goodworks. I know that "without holiness no man shall see theLord." But the necessity of holiness is not at all on thisground. Our own holiness does not enter at all into the groundor reason for our acceptance and salvation. We are not going tobe indebted to Christ for a while, until we are sanctified, andall the rest of the time stand in our own righteousness. But howeverperfect and holy we may become, in this life, or to all eternity,Jesus Christ will for ever be the sole reason in the universewhy we are not in hell. Because, however holy we may become, itwill be forever true that we have sinned, and in the eye of justice,nothing in us, short of our eternal damnation can satisfy thelaw. But now, Jesus Christ has undertaken to help, and he foreverremains the sole ground of our salvation.
According to this plan, we have the benefit of his obedienceto the law, just as if he had obeyed for us. Not that he did obeyfor us, in the distinction from himself, but we have the benefitsof his obedience, by the gift of grace, the same as if he haddone so.
I meant to dwell on the idea of Christ as our "Light,"and our "Life," and our "Strength." But Iperceive there is not time tonight. I wish to touch a little onthis question, "How does faith put us in possession of Christ,in all these relations?"
Faith in Christ puts us in possession of Christ, as the sumand substance of the blessings of the gospel. Christ was the veryblessing promised in the Abrahamic covenant. And throughout thescriptures he is held forth as the sum and substance of all God'sfavors to man. He is "the Bread of Life," "theWater of Life," "our Strength," "our All,"The gospel has taxed all the powers of language to describe thevast variety of his relations, and to show that faith is to putbelievers in possession of Jesus Christ, in all these relations.
The manner in which faith puts the mind in possession of allthese blessings is this: It annihilates all those things thatstand in the way of our intercourse with Christ. He says, "Behold,I stand at the door and knock, if any man hear my voice and openthe door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and hewith me." Here is a door, an obstacle to our intercoursewith Christ, something that stands in the way. Take the particularof wisdom. Why do we not receive Christ as our wisdom? Becausewe depend on our own wisdom, and think we have ourselves someavailable knowledge of the things of God, and as long as we dependon this we keep the door shut. That is the door. Now, let us justthrow this all away, and give up all wisdom of our own, and seehow infinitely empty we are of any available knowledge, as muchso as a beast that perisheth, as to the way of salvation, untilChrist shall teach us. Until we feel this, there is a door betweenus and Christ. We have something of our own, instead of comingand throwing ourselves perfectly into the hands of Christ, wejust come to him to help out our own wisdom.
How does faith put us in possession of the righteousness ofChrist? This is the way. Until our mind takes hold of the righteousnessof Christ, we are alive to our own righteousness. We are naturallyengaged in working out a righteousness of our own, and until wecease entirely from our own works, by absolutely throwing ourselveson Christ for righteousness, we do not come to Christ. Christwill not patch up our own righteousness, to make it answer thepurpose. If we depend on our prayers, our tears, our charities,or anything we have done, or expect to do, he will not receiveus. We must have none of this. But the moment an individual takeshold on Christ, he receives and appropriates all Christ's righteousnessas his own; as a perfect and unchangeable reason for his acceptancewith God, by grace.
It is just so with regard to sanctification and redemption.I cannot dwell on them so particularly as I wished. Until an individualreceives Christ, he does not cease from his own works. The momenthe does that, by this very act he throws the entire responsibilityupon Christ. The moment the mind does fairly yield itself up toChrist, the responsibility comes upon him, just as the personwho undertakes to conduct a blind man is responsible for his safeconduct. The believer, by the act of faith, pledges Christ forhis obedience and sanctification. By giving himself up to Christ,all the veracity of the Godhead is put at stake, that heshallbe led right and made holy.
And with regard to redemption, as long as the sinner supposesthat his own sufferings, his prayers, or tears, or mental agony,are of any avail, he will never receive Christ. But as soon ashe receives Christ, he sinks down as lost and condemned as infact a dead person, unless redeemed by Christ.
I. There is no such thing as spiritual life in us, or anythingacceptable to God, until we actually believe in Christ.
The very act of believing, receives Christ as just that influencewhich alone can wake up the mind to spiritual life.
II. We are nothing, us Christians, any farther than we believein Christ.
III. Many seem to be waiting to do something first, beforethey receive Christ.
Some wait to become more dead to the world. Some to get a brokenheart. Some to get their doubts cleared up before they come toChrist. This is a grand mistake. It is expecting to do that first,before faith, which is only the result of faith. Your heart willnot be broken, your doubts will not be cleared up, you will neverdie to the world, until you believe. The moment you grasp thethings of Christ, your mind will see, as in the light of eternity,the emptiness of the world, of reputation, riches, honor, andpleasure. To expect this first, preparatory to the exercise offaith, is beginning at the wrong end. It is seeking that as apreparation for faith, which is always the result of faith.
IV. Perfect faith will produce perfect love.
When the mind duly recognizes Christ, and receives him, inhis various relations; when the faith is unwavering and the viewsclear, there will be nothing left in the mind contrary to thelaw of God.
V. Abiding faith would produce abiding love.
Faith increasing, would produce increasing love. And here youought to observe, that love may be perfect at all times, and yetbe in different degrees at different times. An individual maylove God perfectly and eternally, and yet his love may increasein vigor to all eternity, as I suppose it will.
As the saints in glory see more and more of God's excellencies,they will love him more and more, and yet will have perfect loveall the time. That is, there will be nothing inconsistent withlove in the mind, while the degrees of love will be differentas their views of the character of God unfold. As God opens totheir view the wonders of his glorious benevolence, they willhave their souls thrilled with new love to God. In this life,the exercises of love vary greatly in degree. Sometimes God unfoldsto his saints the wonders of his government, and gives them suchviews as well-nigh prostrate the body, and then love is greatlyraised in degree. And yet the love may have been perfect before;that is, the love of God was supreme and single, without any mixtureof inconsistent affections. And it is not unreasonable to suppose,that it will be so to all eternity; that occasions will occurin which the love of the saints will be brought into more livelyexercise by new unfoldings of God's glory. As God develops tothem wonder after wonder, their love will be increased indefinitely,and they will have continually enlarged accessions of its strengthand fervor, to all eternity.
I designed to mention some things on the subject of instantaneousand progressive sanctification. But there is not time tonight,and they must be postponed.
VI. You see, beloved, from this subject, the way in which youcan be made holy, and when you can be sanctified.
Whenever you come to Christ, and receive him for all that heis, and accept a whole salvation by grace, you will have all thatChrist is to you, wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification,and redemption. There is nothing but unbelief to hinder you fromnow enjoying it all. You need not wait for any preparation. Thereis no preparation that is of any avail. You must receive a wholesalvation, as a free gift. When will you thus lay hold on Christ?When will you believe? Faith, true faith, always works by love,and purifies the heart, and overcomes the world. Whenever youfind any difficulty in your way, you may know what is the matter.It is a want of faith. No matter what may befall you outwardly:if you find yourself thrown back in religion, or your mind thrownall into confusion, unbelief is the cause, and faith the remedy.If you lay hold on Christ, and keep hold, all the devils in hellcan never drive you away from God, or put out your light. Butif you let unbelief prevail, you may go on in this miserable,halting way, talking about sanctification, using words withoutknowledge, and dishonoring God, till you die.
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