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If he had before sayed them, their salvation could not be an event of futurity. The same apostle makes these explicit declarations to his converts. We are saved by hope." By grace ye are saved.” Are saved! In both cases the salvation was then experienced. This meaning is more strongly expressed in the original. The literal translation is this — we were saved by hope; by grace ye were saved. Thus no doubt remains that he spoke of an event already passed. Take one example from the epistle of Peter. “ The like figure whereunto even baptism doth now save us. Doth now save us! This ordinance was then leading them to the acquisition of christian knowledge, virtue and piety; and thus saving them from ignorance, error and sin. If then our Savior pronounced his disciples saved, as soon as they cordially embraced his religion; and if the inspired apostles declared that their reformed converts, as well as themselves, had already experienced salvation; surely christian salvation takes place whenever a person becomes a practical christian. Many similar passages might be produced, but these are sufficient to prove the truth of the second proposition.
3. I am thirdly to prove that so long as any one continues a practical christian, he is in no danger of punishment. He will not indeed be saved from temporal afflictions, as were many of them who attended upon our Lord's personal ministry. Still the words save, saved, salvation and Savior are frequently used in the scriptures in reference to these evils. From such trials, the sincere christian is now delivered only so far as his cheerful resignation raises him above their influence. But he is in no danger of suffering that misery which is the natural consequence of sin. For there is a hell only for the impenitent and disobedient; and what is called the wrath of God abides only on those who are his enemies
by their wicked works. And there is no future condemnation to those who walk not after the flesh, but after the spirit. For what does Paul say to his Roman converts? “God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son; much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.” Here you perceive that two kinds of salvation are mentioned. The first was deliverance from sin, which they had already experienced; the second would be deliverance from wrath, or the natural consequence of sin, in a future world, which would take place hereafter. For if they remained holy, no torment would await their entrance upon another existence. Paul's only fear on this subject was, lest any should abandon the christian character, and become so wicked as to incur future punishment. And although an inspired apostle, he manifests his sense of the danger, even in regard to himself; for he has written this passage. “But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection; lest that by any means, when I have preached unto others, I myself should be a castaway." A few other passages might be adduced to prove that the practical christian has nothing to fear but sin; but enough has been said to prove the truth of the third proposition.
4. I am fourthly to prove, that divine pardon can be obtained only by the formation of a christian character. And what is divine pardon? Nothing more nor less than deliverance from the power and punishment of sin; and the possession and enjoyment of holiness. And can the sinner secure this without reformation and improvement? Look once more to the law and the testimony. What are the words of Isaiah? Let the
wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.” This is perfectly plain. If the depraved forsakes his depravity, he escapes its punishment. What are the words of Jeremiah? “ It may be that the house of Judah will hear all the evil which I purpose to do unto them, that they may return every man from his evil way; that I may forgive their iniquity and sin.” This is equally plain. The house of Judah could obtain forgiveness only by forsaking their iniquities. And what was our Savior's commission to his apostles? “ That repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name.” And what is repentance, but forsaking wickedness and acquiring holiness? and what is the remission of sins, but deliverance from their power and punishment? And what was the exhortation of Peter? Repent and be converted." Why? “That your sins may be blotted out.” You perceive that pardon and reformation are inseparable. Whoever forsakes any sin, that sin is immediately pardoned; and until a sin is forsaken, it cannot be forgiven. This is the current language of revelation. A host of texts might be produced in proof of this assertion; but sufficient have been quoted to prove the truth of the fourth proposition.
But, my dear sir, I will not trust to scriptural evidence alone. I appeal to your observation. Take the man of intemperance. You perceive that his unlawful indulgence causes immediate pain, and not unfrequently sickness. The seeds of various diseases soon take deep root, and undermine the constitution; the balance of temper is destroyed; the tender sy mpathies of the soul are perverted; the benevolent affections of the heart are brutalized; the moral powers are rendered insensible
to good impressions; the intellectual faculties are enervated and shattered; property is dissipated; family and friends are disgraced; and the order of social life is disturbed. Add to all this, his distressing reflections on the past; his inefficient and broken resolutions of the present; his dismal forebodings of the future, and what earthly punishment more severe need be imagined? And how is he to obtain pardon for this sin? Suppose God should audibly pronounce his forgiveness from heaven; would this insure his happiness so long as he continued intemperate? No. It would be of no service whatever for him to know that he was pardoned in the mind of his heavenly Father, so long as his punishment was not removed. He can secure enjoyment only by reformation. So it is with every sin of heart and life. We may pray for forgiveness, and appeal to the divine mercy; but unless we'endeavor to forsake our iniquities, we only prove ourselves hypocrites. The husbandman may as well expect a harvest without any cultivation of the soil. No. All such expectations are irrational and unscriptural. God is indeed sufficiently merciful. He is infinite love. He is a perfect Father of all his children. But no change takes place in his character when our sins are pardoned. The reformation must be in ourselves. And although we were already pardoned in his mind, we could not escape from the punishment of a single sin, until it was forsaken. Consequently, we can obtain the divine pardon only by forming a christian character.
But will not the punishment frequently continue after the sin is forsaken? Will reformation restore to the man of intemperance, his impaired constitution, his wasted estate, his lost confidence, and his self-approbation? Surely not. The consequences of sin must remain long after it is forsaken. And for this there can be no immediate pardon; because so long as we remain the same persons, whether in time or eternity, our memories must remind us of our past transgressions. Do you suppose that Judas can forget that he betrayed his Master? And whenever this base act of treachery occurs to his mind, must it not fill his soul with the most excruciating anguish? Yes. Sin is the same to the soul that poison is to the body. Take poison, and you injure or destroy your health. Commit sin, and you injure or destroy your soul's happiness. Expel the poison, and you regain your health; although your constitution will be injured in proportion to the quantity taken, and the time it is retained in the system. Forsake sin, and you regain your happiness; although your soul will be injured in proportion to the degree and duration of your depravity; and you must be forever the worse for the sins committed. Until you expel the poison you cannot regain your health. Until you forsake your sin, you cannot escape its punishment, nor experience divine pardon, nor obtain christian salvation. I must conclude, therefore, that the four propositions are proved true, from reason, observation and scripture.
I think, sir, I have said enough to explain the nature of christian salvation. You perceive that Jesus was not sent into the world merely to save a few Jews from the destruction of Jerusalem. He was not sent to suffer and die so that God could extend pardon to a few elect individuals. He came to establish a moral and spiritual kingdom. We are all created for happiness. We can never secure this object of our creation without holiness. When we become holy then we are prepared for happiness in this world and in the future; we are saved from the principal cause of earthly misery, and from the only cause of future torment. This therefore is the salvation which our Savior was sent to accomplish. This leads me to my second. inquiry.