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THE SOVEREIGN POWER OF GOD IN THE SALVATION OF SINNERS

“And it shall come to pass that whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be delivered: for in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as the Lord hath said, and in the remnant whom the Lord shall call.” – Joel ii, 22.

Eight centuries were to pass away before the accomplishment of this inspired prophecy, yet notice the assurance and absolute certainty with which the prophet speaks: “And it shall come to pass.” The declaration is worthy of the great and sovereign power from whence it comes, for it is a message from the throne of God, it is as we are informed in the opening verse of the prophecy , “The word of the Lord that came to Joel, the son of Pethuel.” The declaration bears the unmistakable evidence of sovereign power. Who but the eternal God of Israel could speak thus? No God who had left a single event to devolve upon chance could thus speak. It carries us back to the great Jehovah whose sovereign sway extends over all worlds, creatures and things, temporal or eternal, and the power of darkness as well as light. He is JEHOVAH, the self-existing God; and when we speak of Him as Omnipotent, Omniscient, and Omnipresent, we do not use such words for mere form’s sake, or in an idle manner, but desire to convey our knowledge of His Infinite wisdom and boundless power, the God who is present everywhere, and nothing can be hidden from His all-searching gaze. The revelation that He has been pleased to make of Himself informs us, “I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like Me. Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure.” The message that are delivered from His throne must therefore bear the unmistakable impress of His sovereign power. Joel, eight hundred years before, could speak with the same assurance as Peter, who in the opening hours of the fulfillment of this prophecy declare: “This is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel.”

“Firm are the words His prophets give,
Sweet words on which His children live;
Each of them is the voice of God,
Who spake and spread the skies abroad.”

Not only were the events perceived in the text and its connection foretold, but the very time in which they were to transpire. Peter, quoting from this prophecy, informs us, “And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God.” To this agrees the testimony in Ecclesiastes, that there is “a time to every purpose under the heaven.” The purposes of our God will assuredly be accomplished, each in its proper and appointed time. The “last days” referred to by Peter were the closing days of the Jewish dispensation, when the legal heavens were to be rolled away. There is a peculiar solemnity in the expression, “the last days.” The legal heavens, filled with just and righteous indignation, had long looked down upon a people who were constantly engaged in violating the Law. Dark clouds had long been gathering, and all over the legal firmament were written the awful chastisement of the just and righteous God upon the people who had violated His law and trampled upon His covenant. The fountains of the great deep were about to be broken up, the windows of heaven opened, and the righteous anger of a just and holy God poured out upon the Jewish nation. “And I will shew wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood, and fire and pillars of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and terrible day of the Lord come. And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be delivered: for in mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as the Lord hath said, and the remnant whom the Lord shall call.” – Joel 2:30-32.

“Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble; for the day of the Lord cometh, for it is nigh at hand.” A “day of darkness and of gloominess; a day of clouds and of thick darkness.” What strong figures are used here; what signs of awful importance are presented; the darkened heavens filled with fire and smoke, and a gathered nation trembling in the darkness of despair. This, Peter said, was fulfilled at the Pentecost’s baptism of cloven tongues. We will turn for a moment from the fulfillment of these things in the closing days of the Jewish dispensation, to their fulfillment in the experience of every redeemed sinner.

The “last days” come upon his soul; the closing hours of the law-system’s “do this and live.” The legal struggle arrive. It is a time of midnight terror, the heavens are filled with awful fire, “the pangs of hell gat hold of my soul,” and signs of destruction, and he trembles before the revelation of the law’s holiness and his own sins. Where shall he look, or whither flee? The storm in its fury breaks suddenly upon his guilty soul, sweeping away his every refuge, overflowing all his hiding places and excuses and bearing him swiftly onward upon the dark river of death. His urgent necessity and deep distress forces him to cry out for mercy! The conflict is often concealed from his nearest friends; they meet him in life’s daily duties, sometimes with a forced smile upon his countenance, and little think of the fearful storm that is raging within his soul. But such an one rather seeks solitude, where the pent-up emotions of his heart find utterance in deep groans and cries unto God.

It is to such an individual as this that the promise of the above text belongs, “Whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be delivered.” I desire to notice more particularly the calling on the name of the Lord. It is not the cause, but the evidence of life. Through the light of spiritual life eternal, the sinner is brought to see his true standing as a justly condemned sinner. He cries out under the bondage of sin. The felt-need of deliverance is itself the cry. “Lord, save me!” cried Peter, as he began to sink. It is said that a certain woman worshiped the Lord, saying, “Lord, help me!” These were but the expressions of what was felt within. It is the cry of the soul to which I refer, and that cry is in the very need that one so sensibly feels of salvation from the throne of God. “God, be merciful to me, a sinner,” is the constant cry of his heart, while the burden of sin rests upon him, and gloomy terror spreads around him. He has been taught that “vain is the help of man;” has come to the end of all creature ability; has climbed to the top of the highest mountain of legal merit, and the waters have still overflowed him there.

Unknown to him, and step by step, the Lord has brought him on, until the appointed hour of His great deliverance has at last arrived. And now the strong tower of salvation by sovereign free grace opens to his view, the name of the Lord. This is the name that is “above every name.” “Neither is there salvation in any other; for there is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved.” “The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous runneth into it and is safe.” Through the heart-felt experience to which I have referred, the poor struggling sinner finds shelter in the “name of the Lord.” Nor shall any who come to Jesus in this way ever be turned empty away.

“Such news shall ne’er
Be told in Zion’s street,
That some poor soul fell in despair,
And died at Jesus’ feet.”

The assertion is positive, “they shall be delivered.” The word shall is used five times in the text, and twice in this portion of it. In the first instance it is said, they shall call. It is not left to their choice or decision then. In the next place it is said, they shall be delivered. There is therefore no uncertainty about it. The matter is irrevocably fixed. Nor can the vile rantings of the ungodly, or the powers of hell below, prevail to break the eternal decrees of God.

I desire now to offer a few thoughts upon the deliverance. How great and glorious is the sight that falls upon the enraptured attention of the sinner delivered from the bondage of sin!

“Lo, from yonder opening skies
What beams of dazzling glory spread.”

The burden of sin falls from his heart, the deep thunderings of Sinai are hushed, and the radiant light of the Gospel breaks through the legal heavens, filling his soul with the never ceasing song of praise. Having changed the scene! The terrors of midnight must give place to the joys of noon; bondage to liberty, and the sorrows of death, to the joys of life eternal love. I have, however, met with a number of lovers of Gospel Truth who are greatly troubled because their conviction has not been as deep, and their deliverance as bright as some others have expressed. They were troubled because of sin, and were unable to extricate themselves from the horrible pit, and have a perfect hope of previous deliverance. They had thought that they shall never be grieved again, but sin is yet a disturber of their peace.

Yet is still Jesus who is made unto them as their Savior, for their daily exercise is the fruit of that revelation. The saints of our God spend much of their time in their after-experience in “calling on the name of the Lord.” Their troubles are different from what they were at first; but they come again into straitened places, from which the power of God can alone deliver them. They need His guiding presence ever. They call upon Him for counsel in their hour of need – and they are always a “needy people.” They desire to live upon His word and lean upon His arm in all their temporal journey. When their soul faints within them they cry unto Him for help. When temptations arise and the plagues of their natural heart are exposed to their sight, to whom shall they flee but unto Jesus and His righteousness? When the sorrows of life fall upon them, and the fiery darts of the adversary disturb their peace, where shall they find refugee but in the tower of salvation! So in all of their distresses and temptations they call upon His name; “for in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as the Lord hath said.” This clause of the text directs us to the great and only source from which deliverance or salvation flows. The deliverance of the text is confined exclusively to Mount Zion and Jerusalem; that is, to the church of the Living God. The psalmist informs us that “There is a river, the streams thereof shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High.” The river does not pass through Babylon, but its healing streams are confined exclusively to the “city of God.” So with the salvation of the text, it shall be in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem. The salvation of the redeemed family is in the death and resurrection of our exalted Redeemer. Living waters go out from Jerusalem, and burdened souls are made to relate to the chosen witnesses of our God. These chosen witnesses have ever been few, compared to the great number who know not the Truth as it is in Christ.

The Savior refers to His church as the “little flock,” and bids them to “fear not.” But in the aggregate they are an “innumerable number that no man can number,” “of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues.” The Lord knows each and all of them. It is written that He has numbered the stars of the heavens and call them by name; hence it is a small matter that He has numbered His children and “knows them that are His.” “The foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, the Lord knoweth them that are His. He has declared that He will both search and seek them out, as a shepherd doth his sheep. In the text, they are spoken of as “the remnant whom the Lord shall call.”

I desire to notice the principle upon which His call is based. We are informed in the letter to the Romans that those whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the first born “among many brethren.” Moreover, whom He did predestinate, them He also called” – i.e., the very same that He foreloved, He predestinated to be conformed to Jesus, and the exact same that He foreknew and predestinated to this conformity are the very ones that He called to life and salvation. We must note, that none others are so foreloved, predestinated to conformity to Jesus or called to salvation. We see by this, as well as many other declarations of Scripture, that foreknowledge and predestination precede the calling to life and salvation. And that those, and only those, who were foreknown and predestinated “to be conformed to the image of His Son,” are called. Jude writes to “them that are sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ, and called.” It is comforting to trace the way of salvation back to its eternal source, and contemplate the everlasting foundation upon which the salvation of the church rests. Here we see the broad Rock of eternal election which the gates of hell will not prevail. We find here that all the saints were chosen in Christ, and are informed this choice was “before the foundation of the world.” – Ephesians 1:4. This, of course has reference to their spiritual existence in Christ. In the development of the church we find them manifested as sons and daughters of Adam’s corrupt race, and each and every one of them in the appointed time of our God is called to the knowledge of this great salvation. They had from everlasting this salvation vouchsafe to them; and it was fully wrought out by the blessed Savior in His earthly advent for them. By His sacrifice they had a legal claim upon it, through they knew it not. But by this heavenly and unique calling, they are brought to the knowledge of what Christ has accomplished in their behalf, and this fills them with joy and endless praise to their loving Savior.

We see from the Scriptures that I have quoted that they were foreknown IN Christ, and predestinated to be conformed to His image – a spiritual image – and that the calling is the consequence of this precious blessing IN Christ and His work of love; that they were “sanctified by God the Father,; from eternity, and in that realm, they were “preserved IN Christ Jesus,” and eventually in time, they are “called.” These are important points in the knowledge of salvation. But let us inquire whether or not the “calling” to which I refer is based upon our works or our decision.

If it rests upon the foreknowledge of God and His predestination, how can it be also resting upon the act of the corrupt creature? Where would be the predestination in that, unless it was also held that the creature was predestinated to obey, which is not at all the popular idea? Again, if based upon the works of man, and if, as the Scriptures inform us, “every imagination of the thoughts of his heart is only evil continually,” where are those works to come from? Certainly not from the heart “that is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.” Paul, in his letter to the Galatians (verse v. 19-21), informs us what the works of the flesh are. No one, I suppose, expects to be saved by those works he enumerates here. “They that are in the flesh,” says Paul, “cannot please God.” – Romans viii, 8. The child of grace, instead of being saved thereby, hopes to be saved even from his works, too. It was his works that caused him to flee from self to find a hiding place from his bondage to sin and death. Eternity and time lie open to the view of Him with whom we have to do. “Whither shall I go from Thy Spirit? Or whither shall I flee from Thy presence?” says the psalmist. “If I ascend up into heaven, Thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold Thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there shall Thy hand lead me, and Thy right hand shall hold me.” – Psalm cxxxlx. 7-10.

But let us proceed to consider the fruit or evidence produced by this call in the experience of the redeemed sinner. Through it he is brought to realize his justly condemned condition as a sinner in the sight of God. He is made to groan and cry by reason of sin, and finds no rest from the plagues of his own heart. The sins of his past life are opened to his view, and beyond his constant transgressions is the depravity of his nature itself. There is written upon his heart the expressive line,

“Show pity, Lord; O Lord, forgive:
Let a repenting rebel live.
Are not Thy mercies large and free?
May not a sinner trust in Thee?”

He finds on rest in his own works of self-righteousness; they turn to ashes in his grasp. I am confident that no person has ever experienced the deep, distressing sorrow for sin of which I write, only a “redeemed sinner.” The natural man knows nothing whatever of a heartfelt sorrow for sins, though a natural man with a natural religion may speak somewhat against it at times. When caught in the snare of his own evil doings. He may fear the consequences of sin; then however, is vastly different from the hatred of sin experienced by a redeemed and saved sinner.

Oft times the peaceful answer of his pleas to his God may seem a long time coming, but it will come at the proper time. Of course, the call of which I write is not an invitation tricksters imagine, as understood in the natural religious world. It is, as I have stated, the sovereign, irresistible voice of God, the mandate of Heaven, that falls with power upon the living soul of a living sinner. And the deliverance that he experiences in the Lord’s holy mountain lifts his feet out of the horrid pit and the miry clay, causes him to breathe the pure air of Gospel liberty, and look with exceeding joy to the bright hour when he shall be delivered forever from the “body of this death.” He has come “unto Mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels;” while all over the Gospel heavens is written in living light, Liberty, Eternal Liberty, from the bondage of sin, and Life forevermore.

Yours in Gospel bonds,
WM. M. Smoot,
Occoquan, Va., Feb. 14, 1880