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THE SCRIPTURE WAY OF SALVATION.
EPHESIANS ii. 8.
“ Ye are saved through Faith.”,
1. NOTHING can be more intricate, complex, and hard to be understood, than religion, as it has often been described. And this is not only true concerning the religion of the Heathens, eyen many of the wisest of them, but concerning the religion of those also who were, in some sense, Christians : yea, and men of great name in the christian world, men, who seemed to be pillars thereof. Yet how easy to be understood, how plain and simple a thing is the genuine religion of Jesus Christ! Provided only that we take it in its native form, just as it is described in the Oracles of God. It is exactly suited, by the wise Creator and Governor of the world, to the weak understanding, and narrow capacity of man in his present state. How observable is this, both with regard to the end it proposes, and the means to attain that end! The end is, in one word, Salvation; the means to attain it, Faith.
2. It is easily discerned, that these two little words, I mean Faith and Salvation, include the substance of all the Bible, the marrow, as it were, of the whole Scripture. So much the more should we take all possible care, to avoid
all mistake concerning them, and to form a true and accurate
1. What is Salvation ?
III. How are we saved by it? I. 1. And, First, let us enquire, What is Salvation? The salvation which is here spoken of, is not what is frequently understood by that word, the going to heaven, eternal happiness. It is not the soul's going to Paradise, termed by our Lord Abraham's bosom. It is not a blessing which lies on the other side. death, or, as we usually speak, in the other world. The very words of the text itself put this beyond all question ; ' “ Ye are saved.” It is not something at a distance; it is a present thing; a blessing, which, through the free mercy of God, ye are now in possession of. Nay, the words may be rendered, and that with equal propriety, “ Ye have been saved.” So that the salvation, which is here spoken of, might be extended to the entire work of God, from the first dawning of grace in the soul, till it is consummated in glory.
2. If we take this in its utmost extent, it will include all that is wrought in the soul, by wbat is frequently termed, natural conscience, but more properly, preventing grace: all the drawings of the Father, the desires after God which, if we yield to them, increase more and more: all that light, wherewith the Son of God, “ enlighteneth every one that cometh into the world,” shewing every man,
to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with his God:” all the convictions - which his Spirit, from time to time, works in every child of man. Although it is true, the generality of men stifle them as soon as possible; and, after a while, forget, or at least deny that they ever had them at all.
3. But we are at present concerned only with that salvation, which the Apostle is directly speaking of.
And this consists of two general parts, justification and sanctification.
Justification is another word for pardon. It is the forgiveness of all our sins, and, what is necessarily implied therein, our acceptance with God. The price whereby this hath been procured for us (commonly termed the meritorious cause of our justification) is the blood and righteousness of Christ; or, to express it a little more clearly, all that Christ hath done and suffered for us, till he “poured out his soul for the transgressors." The immediate effects of justification are, the peace of God, a “ peace that passeth all understanding," and a “ rejoicing in hope of the glory of God, with joy unspeakable and full of glory.”
4. And at the same time that we are justified, yea, in that very moment, sanctification begins. In that instant, we are “ born again, born from above, born of the Spirit.” There is a real as well as a relative change. We are inwardly renewed by the power of God. We feel the love of God shed abroad in our heart, by the Holy Ghost, which is given unto us,” producing love to all mankind, and more especially to the children of God: expelling the love of the world, the love of pleasure, of ease, of honour, of money; together with pride, anger, self-will, and every other evil temper; in a word, changing the earthly, sensual, devilish mind, into “ the mind which was in Christ Jesus.”
5. How naturally do those who experience such a change, imagine that all sin is gone? That it is utterly rooted out of their heart, and has no more any place therein : How easily do they draw that inference, “ I feel no sin, therefore ! have none." It does not stir; therefore it does not exist : it has no motion, therefore it has no being.
6. But it is seldom long before they are undeceived, finding sin was only suspended, not destroyed. Temptations return and sin revives, shewing it was but stunned before, not dead. They now feel two principles in themselves, plainly contrary to each other, “the flesh lustinġ against the Spirit,” nature opposing the grace of God. They cannot deny, that, although they still feel power to believe in Christ, and to love God; and, although his “Spirit still witnesses with their spirit, that they are the children of
God:” yet they feel in themselves sometimes pride or selfwill, sometimes anger or unbelief. They find one or more of these frequently stirring in their heart, though not conquering: yea, perhaps, “ thrusting sore at them, that they may fall;". but the Lord is their help.
7. How exactly did Mecarius, fourteen hundred years ago, describe the present experience of the children of God? “ The unskilful, Cor unexperienced] when grace operates, presently imagine, they have no more sin. Whereas, they that have discretion cannot deny, that even we who have the grace of God, may be molested again.--For we have often had instances of some among the brethren, who have experienced such grace, as to affirm that they had no sin in them. And yet, after all, when they thought themselves entirely freed from it, the corruption that lurked within was stirred up anew, aud they were well nigh' burnt up."
8. From the time of our being born again, the gradual work of sanctification takes place. We are enabled, " by the Spirit, to mortify the deeds of the body," of our evil nature. And as we are more and more dead to sin, we are more and more alive to God. We go on from grace to grace, while we are careful to.“ abstain from all appearance of evil,” and are“ zealous of good works," as we have opportunity of doing good to all men; while we walk in all his ordinances blameless, therein worshipping him in spirit and in truth : while we take up our cross, and deny ourselves of every pleasure that does not lead us to God.
9. It is thus that we wait for entire sanctification, for a full salvation from all our sins, from pride, self-will, anger, unbelief: or, as the Apostle expresses it, “ go on to perfection.” But what is perfection? The word has various senses: here it means perfect love. It is love excluding sin : love filling the heart, taking up the whole capacity of the soul. It is love “ rejoicing evermore, praying without ceasing, and in every thing giving thanks.”
II. But what is that 6 Faith thro' which we are saved ?". This is the second point to be considered.
1. Faith in general is defined by the Apostle, Enerx wpayuatwy & BRETOULEVW. An evidence, a divine evidence and conviction (the word means both] of things not seen: not visible, not perceivable either by sight, or by any other of the external senses. It implies both a supernatural evidence of God and of the things of God, a kind of spiritual light exhibited to the soul, and a supernatural sight or perception thereof: accordingly the Scripture speaks sometimes of God's giving light, sometimes a power of discerning it. So St. Paul, “God, who commanded light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God, in the face of Jesus Christ.” And elsewhere the same Apostle speaks of the eyes of our understanding being opened. By this two-fold operation of the Holy Spirit, having the eyes of our soul both opened and enlightened, we see the things which the natural “ eye hath not seen, neither the ear heard.” We have a prospect of the invisible things of God: we see the spiritual world, which is all round about us, and yet no more discerned, by our natural faculties, than if it had no being. And we see the eternal world, piercing through the veil which hangs between time and eternity. Clouds and darkness then rest upon it no more, but we already see the glory which shall be revealed.
2. Taking the word in a more particular sense, faith is a divine evidence and conviction, not only that “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself;" but also that Christ loved me, and gave himself for me.
It is by faith (whether we term it, the essence, or rather a property thereof) that we receive Christ, that we receive him in all his offices, as Prophet, Priest, and King. It is by this that he is “ made of God unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption."
3. “But is this the faith of assurance, or faith of adherence.?” The Scripture mentions no such distinction. The Apostle says, “ There is one faith, and one hope of our calling," one Christian, saving faith, “ as there is one Lord,” in whom we believe, and “ one God and Father of us all.” And it is certain, this faith necessarily implies an