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5.) If the primitive Christians were already saved, they could not look forward to salvation as a good or blessing into which they were yet to come.
But this salvation is conditional ; we cannot be saved without faith, nor without a knowledge of the gospel. When the truths of the gospel are known and fully believed, its blessings will be possessed and enjoyed. This is a fact which we should expect to find not only recognized, but explicitly stated ; and do we not? Jesus said to a certain woman who had been grossly immoral, Thy faith hath saved thee. (Luke, vii. 50.) On one occasion he employed a beautiful figure to show both the nature of salvation and the means by which it is to be secured. Comparing himself to a good shepherd, he says: I am the door; by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out and find pasture. (John, x. 9.) As the shepherd prepares a fold into which his flock may enter and find safety and repose, and go out from it to feed in green pastures ; so they who come to me shall find rest to their souls, and shall receive abundant supplies for their spiritual wants. Their condition as Christians may be fitly illustrated by a flock under the care of a good shepherd. The inference is that they who are not Christians are like sheep scattered in the wilderness, exposed to the ravages of wild beasts, and feeding upon an unsuitable and scanty herbage.
The apostles teach us the same facts. Paul, having for a long time known the blessings of the gospel, exclaims, I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ : for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth. (Rom. i. 16.) And very soor, he adds : Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. Even to the stubborn Jew this language is addressed : If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. (Rom. x. 9.) This language authorizes us to teach that they who do not believe, and who do not call on the name of the Lord, cannot be saved. Indeed there was a class of men in the apostle's time, even as there may be now, who received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. (2 Thess. ii. 10;) yet there were many who received the end of their faith, the salvation of their souls. (1 Pet. i. 9.)
It being the custom of the sacred writers to ascribe all
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blessings to God, as their author and source, we should expect they would speak of God as the author of salvation, though it is uniformly represented as conditional—the believing only attaining to its joys. Indeed, the two ideas of condition and sovereign purpose are sometimes blended in the same statement, as in Philippians, ii. 12, where Paul exhorts the brethren, saying, Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure. The same apostle thanks God in behalf of the Thessalonians, because God hath from the beginning chosen them to salvation through sanctification of the spirit and belief of the truth. (2 Thess. ii. 13.) It is sufficient for our present purpose to have shown that men attain to salvation in this life through faith in Christ; and that without faith salvation cannot be possessed. If any thing were wanting to strengthen this position, it could be found in Ephesians, ii. 8, where the apostle says to the brethren, For by grace are ye saved, through faith; and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God. The gift of God is neither grace nor faith, but it is the being saved by grace through faith ; or it is the privilege of attaining to salvation by such means.
It is the pleasure of God that all should make use of these means and secure the proffered blessing. For he will have all men to be saved, and come unto the knowledge of the truth. (1 Tim. ii. 4.) The last clause " suggests the means of salvation,-namely, by coming to a full knowledge and recognition of the truth, (the gospel.)” He who has gained this knowledge, and believes this truth, has already attained to salvation. And since it is the pleasure of God that all should be saved by coming to a knowledge of the truth, St. Paul could say, We both labor and suffer reproach, because we believe in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, specially of those that believe. (1 Tim. iv. 10.) He is not merely the Saviour of the Jews, but of all other nations: “he holds out salvation to all of every nation who seek it in faith.” But he is in a special sense the Saviour of those who fully believe, because through faith they have actually attained to salvation. He is the Saviour of all men, because he has proffered the means of salvation to all, but is the special Saviour of those who are already saved.
So Jesus is called a Saviour, even the Saviour of the world, in the sense of being the world's Saviour. No other Saviour has been provided ; and he is not the Saviour of any particular nation or race of men. All people of every nation and race may come unto him and be saved. All genuine believers, whether Jew or Gentile, have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. (2 Pet. ii. 20. Hence the beloved disciple could write, “We have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world.” Accordingly every one who confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him and he in God; every such one is united with God in mutual love.
By a figure of speech, Christ is sometimes called salvation, as in the conversation between Jesus and the woman of Samaria. He says to her, Ye worship ye know not what; we know what we worship; for salvation is of the Jews. (John, iv. 22.) When the aged Simeon saw the infant Jesus in the temple, he said in address to Deity, Mine eyes have seen thy salvation which thou hast prepared before the face of all people. (Luke, ï. 30.)
In like manner the gospel, the Christian religion, is called salvation. The writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews, after showing what punishments were inflicted on the disobedient under the law of Moses, says, How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation ? (Hebrews, i. 17.) If men who despised the religion of Moses were punished so severely, what may we not expect if we spurn the religion of Christ. Jude informs us that he gave diligence to write to the brethren of the common salvation. He used diligence to write to the brethren of the gospel which proffers blessings to all men.
The different classes of meanings which the words saved and salvation, have, as used in the New Testament, have now been presented and briefly illustrated. The examination could not now be extended to greater length in these pages; yet several important facts result from it, some of which will be stated.
1. This world is the place, and this life is the time, to experience the blessedness of salvation. We must seek to enter into the joy of our Lord now; and make effort to elevate others now to heavenly places in Christ Jesus. The heralds of the cross can always proclaim, “Now is the accepted time, and now is the day of salvation.” Men must not please themselves with the idea that they shall be saved somehow and somewhere, though they have no inclination to work out their own salvation in the present time. Let it be remembered that salvation consists in that confidence in God and that hope in the future which a firm faith in the gospel of Christ secures to the believer; and also in those sanctified affections, in those heavenly aspirations, and in that pure love to all, which characterized the life of Jesus.
2. Salvation does not consist in deliverance from any evils or misery to be experienced in the future state of being. The evils and the sufferings from which salvation implies a deliverance, are the evils of sin and the sufferings caused by it, as experienced in this life. We ought not to associate salvation with deliverance from any suffering or woe to be endured in the future life. So far as we can learn from our present subject, there is no evil or suffering there. A great disservice is done to the cause of Christianity by applying to the future life those threatenings and those promises which should be applied exclusively to the present Life.
3. The happiness, the exaltation and the glory, which are possessed and enjoyed in the future life, should not be represented as salvation. It is an error to make such application of the word, as well as to make salvation consist in deliverance from evil or misery in the future state. It it is our duty to show that all men should be saved now, and earnestly engage in the accomplishment of this object, rather than seek simply to prove that all men will be saved in the hereafter. Let men seek to be saved here and now, and trust the sure word of promise that in the resurrection all shall possess that happiness, purity and exaltation of which salvation is the foretaste and symbol.
W. R. F.
Exposition of 2 Corinthians, v. 10.
We propose to consider the testimony of the abovenamed portion of Holy Writ, relative to a most important matter. The passage plainly asserts that all men must “ appear before the judgment-seat of Christ ; that every one may receive the things done in the body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.” To bring our subject distinctly before us, we shall ask, When, where, and how shall men thus appear before the judgment-seat.
But before we proceed to other matters, it may be profitable to consider the question,What is meant by the judgment-seat of Christ ? The phrase is evidently borrowed from Oriental customs, and specially from ancient jurisprudence. Like eastern monarchs, the Roman governors often exercised judicial functions. Before them parties accused of crimes were brought, sentence pronounced on them, and the penalty forthwith inflicted. Now Christ is the moral judge of the world. It is a clear doctrine of holy writ that the Father hath committed judicial power into his hand. “ For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son."i “ For as the Father hath life in himself, so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself; and hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man.” 3 “ And he commanded us to preach unto the people, and to testify that it is he who is ordained of God to be the Judge of the living and the dead.”3 The place therefore from which he issues his de crees is his tribunal. Be it a visible or an invisible throne, yet if the soul is brought to trial there, and made consciously to receive chastisements or rewards, it is the judgment-seat of Christ.
And here it may be proper to remark, that the Saviour's tribunal is confined to no part of the universe exclusively. Active as he is in both earth and heaven, he may erect his throne in either world. Nor is he limited to a single age