Trusting in the Spirit of truth to guide me into the truth as it is in Jesus, my heart is moved to write to the saved in Christ, of salvation. In doing so, the Bible alone must decide everything pertaining to salvation, but when this is done, then the testimony of godly and eminent writers among the saved, may be taken as confirmatory of this salvation in its power and comfort. Notwithstanding the overwhelming testimony of the holy Scriptures, that beside God there is no Savior, and that according to his mercy and by his grace he saves us, yet there has ever been a dispute in the world about salvation, and the principle and way of salvation.
So it is well that we look into this subject, both scripturally and experimentally, according to our experience of salvation. For only as we are taught the doctrine of God our Savior, and the truth of the Scriptures, in our experience of the power of salvation, have we any true knowledge and understanding thereof. Many Bible texts affirm this. He who denies it, thereby denies revealed religion, or Christianity, and affirms the ability of man. All religious schools are based upon this denial of man’s entire dependence upon God’s revelation and divine power. And so it is hotly contended that man’s works obtain in his salvation, more or less, as well as the divine power of God. This teaching and belief has formulated the paradoxical and contradictory creeds that salvation is both of God and of men, both unconditional and conditional, both of grace and of works. How inconsistent and strange! Two principles at war with each other, and cannot be reconciled, yet salvation depends upon both. Could anything be more absurd! One of three things is true: salvation is either of the Lord, or of man, or else it is of neither alone, but partly of both. If it is of man in part, then it is by works in part. If this is true at all, then to the extent that it is true, man is a partner with the Lord in salvation, and to that extent man is entitled to a part of the praise and glory of salvation. There is no escaping this. For if salvation is of the Lord, then the glory of salvation is his; but if any part of salvation is of works, and not by grace, then that part depends upon man, and to man justly belongs that part of the glory of salvation. But the mere statement of this doctrine exposes its falsity and condemns it. The Bible strongly condemns it. “And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work,” is the clear cut doctrine of the Bible. So then, but two ways or principles of salvation are left for us to consider: salvation is either by grace, or of works; the grace is of God; the works are of man. The grace of God is unconditional, the works of man are conditional, and depend upon himself. When and where did any one ever read in the Bible of conditional grace? But if salvation is conditional in part, that is, in time, then salvation in time is not by grace at all, because there is no such thing as conditional grace. No one is so foolhardy as to contend for conditional grace; therefore none should contend that salvation in time is conditional either, unless they also deny that time salvation is of the Lord and by grace. But whoever denies this, also arrays himself against the Bible.
The Bible doctrine is: “Salvation is of the Lord.” “By grace are ye saved: not of works, lest any man should boast.” This is present salvation, and this salvation of the Lord, and by grace, is the united teaching of the holy Bible, for it does not contradict itself. It says of Jesus, “He shall save his people from their sins.” “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” Salvation from all sin, then is from sin, and Jesus thus saves. “Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.” This is salvation from first to last, to the uttermost need of salvation; and this is the work of Jesus, the only Savior of sinners. And since Jesus saves to the uttermost, and from all sin, which includes sins of commission and sins of omission, that is, all transgression and disobedience, the salvation is by grace from its beginning to its end; “Not of works.” This settles it as to who it is that saves any sinner from any and all sin, and as to what it is: Jesus and the grace of God. “The grace of God that bringeth salvation.” The word “bringeth “is present time; so the grace of God bringeth salvation now and always; for grace now reigns in salvation, reigns through righteousness, reigns unto eternal life, reigns by our Lord Jesus Christ, who alone saves sinners, and saves from all sin, past, present and to come. There is no other Savior of sinners, no other who can and shall save them from their sins. The Bible reveals no other. And the Bible reveals no other principle and way of salvation than the grace of God. So far from the principle of “conditions” and “works” being taught in the Bible as saving us, either in part or in whole, in time or in eternity, its strong and positive doctrine is: “Not according to our works;” “Not by works of righteousness which we have done.” And when the Bible mentions an apostle’s laborious gospel ministry and good works, even though more abundant than all the apostles, so far from the admission that all this was “conditional” on the part of Paul, and “depended upon himself,” it directly attributes it all to the grace of God that was with Paul, and says, “not I.” Paul would sound it out loud and clear, “not of works.” Yet he commanded the children of God to be the followers of Christ and of God, as dear children, and to be careful to maintain good works, for necessary uses, and as good and profitable unto men. But so far from Paul, or the Bible, teaching that our salvation now in time being conditional upon our part, and the blessings of salvation depending upon ourselves, and being bestowed upon us as a reward of merit, or in consideration of our personal obedience and good works, the plain doctrine of the Bible is, that the grace of God that bringeth salvation and saves us, itself teaches us that we “Should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world.” And so then, we thus do live only because the grace that saves us thus teaches us, and our living in this godly way is clearly the effect of grace. Grace does not merely try to teach us, and then leave it to depend upon ourselves as conditional on our part, but grace really teaches us so to do. It seems very strange that those who know the grace of God in truth, do not see and know this power and sufficiency of abounding, reigning, saving, teaching grace, and attribute all the power in us that brings forth the fruits of righteousness, and the praise and glory to grace. The atonement in the blood of Christ, the anointed Redeemer, for all the sins of all his people, was the abounding grace of God, without which there could be no salvation of his people from their sins; for “Without shedding of blood is no remission,” says the Bible. Well, all the disobedience of the redeemed is sin, and all was atoned for by the suffering Redeemer, so that “Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound;” therefore our present salvation from every nature and kind of sin, including all our backslidings and disobedience, is by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ; and when we are thus saved, it is unto obedience and good works. It is clear, then, that grace saves us from disobedience and bad works, and saves us unto obedience and good works. Therefore, as the good reason for his saying that we are saved by grace, but not of works, Paul adds: “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” It is saving grace, then, that makes us new creatures in Christ; and it is because we are thus in him and he in us, that we are prepared unto good works, and we walk in them only because God before ordained or appointed that we should. The good works are of God’s appointment, and so is our walking in them. “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure,” is the prime and sufficient reason for the command to “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” And since God, who will do all his pleasure, works salvation in us so effectually that we are willing in the day of Christ’s power, and are strengthened with might by his Spirit, we shall surely walk in, testify of, show forth or work out our salvation. To deny this is equal to denying that God works in us both to will and to do of his good pleasure, or else it charges failure and disappointment to him, and that his work in us is in vain. Who will dare do this? It is true, then, t hat God himself is the author, the beginner and the finisher of salvation, of our own salvation, in all that salvation means and is. To him, therefore, is all the power and honor, praise and glory of salvation due, both now and forever. “For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.” Who would pray that it might be different? In the prayers of even Arminian teachers, is the confession of man’s inability and dependence at all times, upon the Spirit and grace of God; and this is the daily experience of every sinner saved by grace. To his chosen and inspired apostles Jesus said, “For without me, ye can do nothing.” This was true in them in all their after experience; then it is certainly just as true in us. “My strength is made perfect in weakness,” is the testimony of Jesus. His strength is manifested in our weakness, not our strength in his weakness; for his is the strength, but the weakness is ours; ours is the sin and unrighteousness; but his is the salvation and righteousness; and there is no time in which salvation is manifested unto us in our deliverance from any danger or trouble, but that the salvation is of the Lord. Therefore, it is his favor or grace that saves us in all the way of salvation. The prophet Jonah experienced this truth when he was in the depths of the sea, and so does every one, when concerted from self-confidence, and taught that “the way of man is not in himself.” So also the prophet Jeremiah confessed that, “It is not in man that walketh to direct his steps.” In this entire and continual dependence upon the Lord, is the ever present need of coming to the throne of grace. The fact that we should from necessity come to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need, is itself divine testimony, not only that we are wretched and poor and needy, but also that every qualification and all strength to love and serve God, with every blessing and joy of salvation, flow down upon us from the mercy-seat and the throne of grace, and are the unbought and unmerited gifts of the God of mercy and grace. And so, then, our salvation always and at all times, is salvation by grace, for the good reason that it is of the Lord, Who hath delivered us, who doth deliver us, and in whom we trust that he will yet deliver us. It is clear, then, that our salvation, whether in the past, the present, or the future, is of the Lord. “Neither is there salvation in any other.” This is the voice of God; and this settles it as to salvation now in time, and forever. It is a strange infatuation that any one, knowing the need and the divine and infinite value and blessing of salvation, should want to have it otherwise, by contending that our salvation now in time, and the blessing and joys of salvation, depend upon ourselves, and are “conditional,” depending upon our self-poised or voluntary obedience. If this is admitted, then at once self-boasting comes in and prevails. Therefore, says inspired Paul, “Not of works, lest any man should boast.” And he was speaking of our present salvation, saying, “For by grace are ye saved.” The simple fact that he adds, “through faith,” confirms this; for all know that faith is a property of salvation now in the present time, and that the God of grace and salvation saves us now through faith. And Paul, speaking of justification through faith unto salvation, says, “Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt.” This is the inevitable result of every phase of conditional salvation; for the performance of conditions are our works, and they “depend upon ourselves,” and so grace has nothing to do with us in bestowing the blessing, but we are left to the reward of our works as a debt which we have earned, and to which we are entitled by the terms of “conditional salvation.” This is the decision of the inspired Judge in the kingdom of grace, from which there is no appeal. Those who thus deny that we are saved all the time by grace, and claim, “conditional” rewards, instead of rewards, or gifts of grace, thus doing despite to the Spirit of grace, “are fallen from grace,” and have gone back to the covenant or law of works, and can claim nothing from grace, nor consistently ask for any blessing from the God of salvation, only as they have paid him for it by their conditional salvation, which “depends upon themselves,” and their obedience and good works. It may seriously be asked, how much reward should any one receive from the God of salvation, if the reward is thus reckoned, not of grace, but of works, as “conditional time salvation” claims! Should that man receive anything of the Lord, as the payment for his conditional works, but judgment! Will the Lord, who seeth the heart and its selfish motive, bless that one with the blessing of his grace and the joy of his salvation, seeing that such an one is claiming this very salvation conditionally, in consideration of his service? No; for grace and the God of grace are infinitely above this mean and selfish principle of serving God in order that he may reward us with his salvation, for our works. Satan taught this principle, when he promised the Son of God great rewards upon certain conditions. Again, Satan taught and said, “Doth Job fear God for naught?” He had no higher view than that this eminent servant of God feared and worshiped the Most High from no higher motive than the mercenary or selfish and base principle that he should receive blessing and honor from God as the reward of his religious life and service. This is conditionalism, pure and simple. And so the reward that the devil offered to Eve and Adam, for doing certain things as conditions, was, “Your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.” This was the origin of conditionalism, and from this root-principle all conditional service and works for reward have sprung; and they all alike look to self-seeking, self-happiness, and the salvation and praise of self. The service of love and praise and glory to God is not in this principle and doctrine of conditional salvation, or salvation depending upon man; for its nature and motive and aim begin and end with self. It destroys grace, and robs God of his glory. And this is the very motive and aim of Satan in it all. All conditionalism has this feature of self-glorification in it, and appeals to the low and mean motive of serving God for reward. But the blessed God does not bestow his salvation upon us in this way; no, not now, nor ever; for one moment of his salvation experienced in the soul of the humbled sinner, is of infinite worth, and all our works are mixed with sin, and are nothing-worth in his sight. Oar only true and acceptable service and worship arises from “The love of God shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.” And so our service and work of love and faith is, “Praise God from whom all blessings flow,” and ascribe to him thanksgiving, honor and glory, not in order that he may bless us with his salvation, but because he “Hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ, and hath given us his Spirit in our hearts to bear witness with our spirit, that he is our Father, and we are his children. This is the blessed service of love. “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments.”
A great teacher has said, “When the supreme love once comes into the heart of man, his mind will continuously think of God and remember nothing else. * * * Wherever there is any seeking for something in return, there can be no real love; it becomes a mere matter of shopkeeping. As long as there is in us any idea of deriving this or that favor from God, in return for our respect and allegiance to him, so long there can be no true love growing in our hearts. Those who worship God because they wish him to bestow favors on them, are sure not to worship him if those favors are not forthcoming.” These are forcible and true words, and should sink deep in our hearts. God is the God of salvation, and Jesus is the salvation of God unto his people. “Mine eyes have seen thy salvation,” said Simeon, when he held Jesus in his arms. Outside of Jesus there is no salvation from any sin or disobedience, on earth or in heaven. No man has ever yet received this salvation conditionally, nor ever can; for Jesus is God’s unspeakable gift, and with Jesus, God freely (not conditionally) gives us all things. “His divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness,” is the word of inspiration. This leaves no spiritual blessing, nothing of all things that pertain unto life and godliness, therefore no part of salvation for us to obtain conditionally, as a reward of debt for our working for the Lord. How contemptible this!
May the Lord deliver his people from this snare of the tempter.
CRAWFORDSVILLE, Ind., Oct. 25, 1898
Signs Of The Times
Volume 67, No. 1.
JANUARY 1, 1899.