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tuft of grass in his way, yet just reaching the edge of the precipice whence he will fall headlong into the roaring gulph below! Or watch the man who, having been shipwrecked on a stormy ocean, has more than once sunk beneath the wave, but is now sinking to rise no more! hear him cry, What shall I do to be saved? And do we ask for motives to be earnest in religion, where there is every thing to call forth all the energies of the sout? where the arguments, like the wheels of God's chariot, are so high that they are dreadful? where the motives to impel to action, or affect the passions, are so clear, so full, so strong, as to stretch every faculty of the soul to a painful extent, and make it ready to burst its tenement and soar away?
The weapons which God has permitted his messengers to take from the armory of heaven are endued with such unknown, but awful power, that they may well tremble when they use them. They have to do, not with the body of man, but the mind, the immortal spirit; and their instruments of action are suitable: they wield a sword which is quick and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit. Happiness or misery in this life, death, and the resurrection, are among the smaller motives we can use to excite to earnestness. We may speak to you of an infinite God, an eternal Trinity, who commands you to be earnest-we can point to glory everlasting as the reward, and an
eternal hell as the punishment. But these topics we forbear to enlarge upon at present, but rather leave it to yourselves to consider what force they ought to have to rouse you and me to earnestness. We shall, therefore, now pass on from the jailer's question to the Apostle's answer, which we proposed to consider in the second place.
II. Notwithstanding its simplicity, a great variety of answers have been given to the question in all ages. What shall I do to be saved? Some say "Do? do nothing." This would hardly satisfy the jailer, or any one else who felt himself an accountable creature. Others say "Do? do every thing: fear God and keep his commandments." This would be but an unsatisfying direction to any one who was conscious of past sin, which needed pardon, and who was also but too certain that he should still continue to offend God and break his commandments. Besides that, he reads, "By the works of the law shall no flesh be justified."* A third description of persons would reply to the inquiring penitent in this manner, "You have been baptized, and believe too the truth of Christianity and the divinity of Christ, now you must take care to live in the exercise of good works." What possible relief could this give to his mind? He might be told indeed, that if he continued obedient his past sins would be forgiven: that is, they shall be forgiven at the last day. But this of
Gal. ii, 16.
course could afford no present peace; his next concern therefore would be, to inquire about these good works by which he was to obtain pardon. He would naturally ask how much were necessary for this purpose. If they answer, "Do as much as you are able," then, if this be true, if none can be saved but those who do as much as they are able, all mankind must perish, for no one does as much as he is able. They will then explain themselves by calling it a sincere though imperfect obedience. To this we observe, that, since the degree of necessary obedience is not defined, it follows that in a large body of baptized persons, as for instance, all the people of Christendom, there will be all possible degrees of obedience; and consequently, wherever the line be drawn between the righteous and the wicked, there can be but the least possible difference between the worst of the righteous, and the best of the wicked; whereas in scripture the terms applied to the persons on either side of the line are, light and darkness, life and death, &c. And in the eternal state there is a great gulf fixed between them, and they go on, diverging farther and farther from cne another. Yet this system of divinity, so contradictory to scripture, is the favorite of the present day, and adopted by most who are strangers to their guilt and corruption, and therefore confound Law and Gospel. In opposition to all these errors we glory in saying with the Apostle, to every one who knows any thing of the spirit of the
trembling jailer, "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved."
But here, to prevent mistakes and anticipate objections we must observe, that different answers have been given to this same question in other parts of the New Testament, and the reason of this is obvious, for the answers were suited to the different states of those to whom they were given. Thus when the publicans and soldiers asked John the Baptist what they were to do, he told them to leave off their iniquitous practices: for in that dim dawn of the Gospel day, it was as much as they could bear; and if they were sincere and followed his injunctions, they would then be prepared for further instructions. When the rich young man asked our Savior what good thing he must do to inherit eternal life? he was told, If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments. If thou wilt enter into life, the first thing to be done is, to keep the commandments, as far as you know them. When you shew the sincerity of your heart by serving God according to your knowledge, you shall then receive further insight into the way of salvation.
Also it is evident that the disciples themselves did not preach the way of salvation by Christ's blood during his life time: because they did not fully understand it themselves, but only said, Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. But at this time the Gospel was clearly understood, and the jailer was in a state of mind to receive the whole light
of it, and therefore St. Paul said to him, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved."
St. Paul, who spake the word of the Lord to him would tell him, that his fears were well founded: for that he was condemned by the law of conscience, and with all the rest of the world was guilty before God. He would, moreover, tell him that God, though one, existed in three persons, the second of whom, the Son of God, had just appeared in the flesh according to prophecy, and voluntarily suffered death for our sins, and had risen from the grave, proving his divine mission; that now therefore, God had declared that he would freely pardon and save all those who, convinced of their guilt and willing to turn away from sin, would plead the merits of this Savior, and depend entirely upon him for salvation.
This Gospel we preach to you, the efficacy of Christ's atonement, extends throughout all ages. You therefore, who are asking in the same mind as that of the jailer, what you must do to be saved, hear the glad tidings of the Gospel, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved. Believe God's testimony concerning him, rest upon him simply for pardon and peace, and you shall be saved. He that believeth on me shall not come into condemnation, but is passed from death unto life. If it had been said you shall be pardoned, it were much more than carnal reasoners would be willing to allow, because they hold that a life