Safety, Certainty and Enjoyment.
(1843 - 1934)
"WHICH CLASS ARE YOU TRAVELLING?"
What an oft-repeated question! Let me put it to you; for travelling you most certainly are, travelling from time into Eternity, and who knows how very, very near you may be at this moment to the GREAT TERMINUS?
Let me ask you then, in all kindness, "Which class are you travelling?" There are but three. Let me describe them, that you may put yourself to the test as in the presence of "Him with whom we have to do."
1st Class - Those who are saved, and who know it.
2nd Class - Those who are not sure of salvation, but anxious to be so.
3rd Class - Those who are not only unsaved, but totally indifferent about it.
Again I repeat my question, "Which class are you travelling?" Oh, the madness of indifference, when eternal issues are at stake! A man came rushing into the railway station, and while scarcely able to gasp for breath, took his seat in one of the carriages just on the point of starting.
"You've run it fine," said a fellow passenger. "Yes," replied he, breathing heavily after every two or three words, "but I've saved four hours, and that's well worth running for."
"Saved four hours!" I couldn't help repeating to myself; "four hours" well worth that earnest struggle! What of Eternity? What of Eternity! Yet are there not thousands of shrewd, far-seeing men today, who look sharply enough after their own interests in this life, but who seem stone blind to the Eternity before them? In spite of the infinite love of God to helpless rebels, told out at Calvary, in spite of His pronounced hatred of sin, in spite of the known brevity of man's history here, in spite of the terrors of judgment after death, and of the solemn probability of waking up at last with the unbearable remorse of being on hell's side of a "fixed" gulf, man hurries on to the bitter, bitter end; as careless as if there were no God, no death, no judgment, no heaven, no hell! If the reader of these pages be such an one, may God this very moment have mercy upon you and while you read these lines, open your eyes to your most perilous position, standing as you may be on a slippery brink of an endless woe!
Oh friend, believe it or not, your case is truly desperate! Put off the thought of Eternity no longer. Remember that procrastination is like him who deceives you by it, not only a "thief", but a "murderer." There is much truth in the Spanish proverb, which says, "The road of 'By-and-by' leads to the town of 'Never.' " I beseech you, therefore, to travel that road no longer; "NOW is the day of salvation."
"But," says one, "I am not indifferent as to the welfare of my soul. My deep trouble lies wrapped up in another word ―
I am among the second-class passengers you speak of."
Well, both indifference and uncertainty are the offspring of one parent - unbelief. The first results from unbelief as to the sin and ruin of man, the other from unbelief as to God's sovereign remedy for man. It is especially for souls desiring before God to be fully and unmistakably SURE of their salvation that these pages are written. I can in a great measure understand your deep soul trouble, and am assured that the more you are in earnest about this all-important matter, the greater will be your thirst, until you know for certain that you are really and eternally saved. "For what shall it profit a man if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul."
The only son of a devoted father is at sea. News comes that his ship has been wrecked on some foreign shore. Who can tell the anguish of suspense in that father's heart until, upon the most reliable authority, he is assured that his boy is safe and sound.
Or, again, you are far from home. The night is dark and wintry, and your way is totally unknown. Standing at a point where two roads diverge, you ask a passer-by the way to the town you desire to reach, and he tells you he thinks such and such a way is the right one, and hopes you will be all right if you take it. Would "thinks" and "hopes" and "may be's" satisfy you? Surely not. You must have certainty about it, or every step you take will increase your anxiety. What wonder, then, that men have sometimes neither been unable to eat nor sleep when the eternal safety of the soul has been trembling in the balance!
"To lose your wealth is much,
To lose your health is more,
To lose your soul is such a loss
As no man can restore."
Now, there are three things I desire, by the Holy Spirit's help, to make clear to you; and, to put them in Scriptural language, they are these:―
The Way of Salvation. (Acts 16:17).
The Knowledge of Salvation. (Luke 1:77).
The Joy of Salvation. (Psalm 51:12).
We shall, I think, see that, though intimately connected, they each stand upon a separate basis; so that it is quite possible for a soul to know the way of Salvation without having the certain knowledge that he himself is saved, or again, to know that he is saved, without possessing at all time the joy that ought to accompany that knowledge.
First, then, let me speak briefly of
The Way of Salvation
Please open your Bible, and read carefully the 13th verse of the 13th chapter of Exodus; there you find these words from the lips of Jehovah - "Every firstling of an ass thou shalt redeem with a lamb; and if thou wilt NOT redeem it, THEN THOU SHALT BREAK HIS NECK: and all the firstborn of man among thy children shalt thou redeem."
Now, come back with me, in thought to a supposed scene of 3,000 years ago. Two men (a priest of God and a poor Israelite) stand in earnest conversation. Let us stand by, with their permission, and listen. The gestures of each indicate deep earnestness about some matter of importance, and it is not difficult to see that the subject of conversation is a little ass that stands trembling beside them.
"I am wondering," says the poor Israelite, "if there cannot be a merciful exception made in my favor this once. This feeble little thing is the firstling of my ass, and though I know full well what the law of God says about it, I am hoping that mercy will be shown, and the ass's life spared. I am but a poor man in Israel, and can ill afford to lose the little colt."
"But," answers the priest, firmly, "the law of the Lord is plain and unmistakable - 'Every firstling of an ass thou shalt redeem with a lamb: and if thou wilt not redeem it, then thou shalt break his neck.' Where is the lamb?"
"Ah, sir, no lamb do I possess!"
"Then go, purchase one and return, or the ass's neck must surely be broken. The lamb must die or the ass must die."
"Alas? then all my hopes are crushed," he cries, "for I am far too poor to buy a lamb."
While this conversation proceeds, a third person joins them, and after hearing the poor man's tale of sorrow, he turns to him and says kindly, "Be of good cheer, I can meet your need;" and thus he proceeds: "We have in our house, on the hilltop yonder, one little lamb, brought up at our very hearthstone, which is 'without spot or blemish.' It has never once strayed from home, and stands (and rightly so) in highest favor with all that are in the house. This lamb will I fetch." And away he hastens up the hill. Presently you see him gently leading the fair little creature down the slope, and very soon both lamb and ass are standing side by side.
Then the lamb is bound to the altar, its blood is shed, and the fire consumes it.
The righteous priest now turns to the poor man, and says: "You can freely take home your little colt in safety; no broken neck for it now. The lamb has died in the ass's stead, and consequently the ass goes righteously free. Thanks to your friend."
Now, poor troubled soul, can't you see in this God's own picture of a sinner's salvation? His claims as to your sin demanded a "broken neck" ― i.e., righteous judgment upon your guilty head; the only alternative being the heath of a divinely-approved substitute.
Now, you could not find the provision to meet your case; but, in the Person of His beloved Son, God Himself provided the Lamb. "Behold the Lamb of God," said John to his disciples, as his eyes fell upon that blessed, spotless One, "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world" (John 1:29).
Onward to Calvary He went, "as a lamb led to the slaughter," and there and then "He once suffered for sins, the Just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God" (I Peter 3:18). He "was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification" (Rom. 4:25). So that God does not abate one jot of His righteous, holy claims against sin when He justifies (i.e., clears from all charge of guilt) the ungodly sinner who believes in Jesus, (Romans 3.26). Blessed be God for such a Savior, such a Salvation)
"Dost Thou Believe On the Son of God?
"Well," you reply, "I have, as a poor condemned sinner, found in HIM One that I can safely trust. I DO believe on Him. Then I tell you, the full value of His sacrifice and death, as God estimates it, He makes as good to you as though you had accomplished it all yourself.
Oh, what a wondrous way of salvation is this) Is it not great and grand and Godlike - worthy of God Himself? The gratification of His own heart of love, the glory of His precious Son, and the salvation of a sinner, all bound up together. What a bundle of grace and glory) Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has so ordered it that His own beloved Son should do all the work and get all the praise, and that you and I, poor guilty things, believing on Him should not only get all the blessings, but enjoy the blissful company of the Blesser for ever and ever.
"O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together" (Ps. 34: 3).
But perhaps your eager inquiry may be, "How is it that since I do really distrust self and self-work, I have not the full certainty of my salvation?" You say, "If my feelings warrant me saying that I am saved one day, they are pretty sure to blight every hope the next, and I am left like a ship storm-tossed, without any anchorage whatever."
Ah, there lies your mistake. Did you ever hear of a captain trying to find anchorage by fastening his anchor inside the ship? Never. Always outside.
It may be that you are quite clear that it is Christ's death alone that gives SAFETY, but you think that it is what you feel, that gives CERTAINTY.
Now, again take your Bible, for I wish to say a little about how a man gets
THE KNOWLEDGE OF SALVATION
Before you turn to the verse which I shall ask you very carefully to look at, which speaks of how a believer is to KNOW that he has eternal life, let me quote it in the distorted way that man's imagination often puts it. "Those happy feelings have I given unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life." Now, open your Bible, and while you compare this with God's blessed and unchanging Word, may He give you from your very heart to say with David, "I hate vain thoughts; but Thy law do I love." (Psa. 119:113). The verse just misquoted is the thirteenth verse of the fifth chapter of the first epistle of John, and reads thus in our version:- "These things have I WRITTEN unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that we may KNOW that ye HAVE eternal life."
How did the first-born sons of the thousands of Israel know for certain that they were safe the night of the Passover and Egypt's judgment?
Let us take a visit to two of their houses and hear what they have to say.
We find in the first house we enter that they are all shivering with fear and suspense. What is the secret of all this paleness and trembling? we inquire; and the first-born son informs us that the angel of death is coming round the land, and that he is not quite certain how matters will stand with him at that solemn moment.
"When the destroying angel has passed our house," he says, "and the night of judgment is over, I shall then know that I am safe, but I can't see how I can be quite sure of it until then. They say they are sure of salvation next door, but we think it very presumptuous. All I can do is to spend the long dreary night hoping for the best."
"Well," we inquire, "but has the God of Israel not provided a way of safety for His people?"
"True," he replies, "and we have availed ourselves of that way of escape. The blood of the spotless and unblemished first-year lamb has been duly sprinkled with the bunch of hyssop on the lintel and two side-posts, but still we are not fully assured of shelter." Let us now leave these doubting, troubled ones, and enter next door.
What a striking contrast meets our eye at once! Joy beams on every countenance. There they stand with girded loins and staff in hand, enjoying the roasted lamb.
What can be the meaning of all this joy on such a solemn night as this? "Ah," say they all, "we are only waiting for Jehovah's marching orders and then we shall bid a last farewell to the task-master's cruel lash and all the drudgery of Egypt."
"But hold. Do not forget that this is the night of Egypt's judgment?"
"Right well we know it; but our first-born son is safe. The blood has been sprinkled according to the wish of our God."
"But so it has been next door," we reply, "but they are all unhappy because all uncertain of safety."
"Ah, " responds the first-born firmly, "but we have MORE THAN THE SPRINKLED BLOOD, WE HAVE THE UNERRING WORD OF GOD ABOUT IT. God has said, 'When I see the BLOOD I will pass over you.' God rests satisfied with the blood outside, and we rest satisfied with His word inside."
The sprinkled blood makes us SAFE.
The spoken word makes us SURE.
Could anything make us more safe than the sprinkled blood, or more sure than His spoken word? Nothing, nothing.
Now, reader, let me ask you a question. "Which of those two houses was the safer?"
Do you say No. 2, where all were so happy? Then you are wrong.
Both are safe alike.
Their safety depends upon what God thinks about the blood outside and not upon the state of their feelings inside.
If you would be sure of your own blessing, then, dear reader, listen not to the unstable testimony of inward emotions, but to the infallible witness of the Word of God.
"Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on Me HATH everlasting life" (John 6:47).
Let me give you a simple illustration from everyday life. A certain farmer in the country, not having sufficient grass for his cattle, applies for a nice piece of pasture-land which he hears is to be let near his own house. For some time he gets no answer from the landlord. One day a neighbour comes in and says, "I feel quite sure you will get that field. Don't you recollect how that last Christmas he sent you a special present of game, and that he gave you a kind nod of recognition the other day when he drove past?" And with such words the farmer's mind is filled with high hopes.
Next day another neighbour meets him, and in the course of conversation, he says, "I'm afraid you will stand no chance whatever of getting that grass-field. Mr. ___ has applied for it, and you cannot but be aware what a favourite he is with Squire ___ occasionally he visits with him, etc." And the poor farmer's bright hopes are dashed to the ground and burst like soap bubbles. One day he is hoping, the next day full of perplexing doubts.
Presently the postman calls, and the farmer's heart beats fast as he opens the letter; for he sees by the handwriting that it is from the Squire himself. See his countenance change from anxious suspense to undisguised joy as he reads and re-reads that letter.
"It's a settled thing now," exclaims he to his wife; "no more doubts and fears about it; "hopes" and "ifs" are things of the past. The Squire says the field is mine as long as I require it, on the most easy terms, and that's enough for me.. I care for no man's opinion now. His word settles it all!"
Now many a poor soul is in a like condition to the poor troubled farmer - tossed and perplexed by the opinions of men, or the thoughts and feelings of his own treacherous heart! and it is only upon receiving the Word of God as the Word of God, that certainty takes the place of doubts. When God speaks there must be certainty, whether He pronounces the damnation of the unbeliever, or the salvation of the believer.
"Forever, O Lord, Thy word is settled in heaven" (Psalm 119: 89); and to the simple hearted believer HIS WORD SETTLES ALL.
"Hath He said, and shall He not do it? or hath He spoken, and shall He not make it good? (Num. 23:19).