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God cannot treat you as a repentant until you have done it.
I do not mean by this that God cannot forgive you until you have carried into effect your purpose of restitution by finishing the outward act, for sometimes it may demand time, and may in some cases be itself impossible to you. But the purpose must be sincere and thorough before you can be forgiven of God.
3. You must renounce yourself. In this is implied,
(1.) That you renounce your own righteousness, forever discarding the very idea of having any righteousness in yourself.
(3.) That you renounce your own will, and be ever ready to say not in word only, but in heart, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. You must consent most heartily that God's will shall be your supreme law.
(4.) That you renounce your own way and let God have His own way in everything. Never suffer yourself to fret and be rasped by anything whatever; for since God's agency extends to all events, you ought to recognize His hand in all things; and of course to fret at anything whatever is to fret against God who has at least permitted that thing to occur as it does. So long, therefore, as you suffer yourself to fret, you are not right with God. You must become before God as a little child, subdued and trustful at His feet. Let the weather be fair or foul, consent that God should have His way. Let all things go well with you, or as men call it, ill; yet let God do His pleasure, and let it be your part to submit in perfect resignation. Until you take this ground you cannot be saved.
4. You must come to Christ. You must accept of Christ really and fully as your Savior. Renouncing all thought of depending on anything you have done or can do, you must accept of Christ as your atoning sacrifice, and as your ever-living Mediator before God. Without the least qualification or reserve you must place yourself under His wing as your Savior.
5. You must seek supremely to please Christ, and not yourself. It is naturally impossible that you should be saved until you come into this attitude of mind -- until you are so well pleased with Christ in all respects as to find your pleasure in doing His. It is in the nature of things impossible that you should be happy in any other state of mind, or unhappy in this. For, His pleasure is infinitely good and right. When, therefore, His good pleasure becomes your good pleasure, and your will harmonizes entirely with His, then you will be happy for the same reason that He is happy, and you cannot fail of being happy any more than Jesus Christ can. And this becoming supremely happy in God's will is essentially the idea of salvation. In this state of mind you are saved. Out of it you cannot be.
It has often struck my mind with great force, that many professors of religion are deplorably and utterly mistaken on this point. Their real feeling is that Christ's service is an iron collar -- an insufferably hard yoke. Hence, they labor exceedingly to throw off some of this burden. They try to make it out that Christ does not require much, if any, self-denial -- much, if any, deviation from the course of worldliness and sin. O, if they could only get the standard of Christian duty quite down to a level with the fashions and customs of this world! How much easier then to live a Christian life and wear Christ's yoke!
But taking Christ's yoke as it really is, it becomes in their view an iron collar. Doing the will of Christ, instead of their own, is a hard business. Now if doing Christ's will isreligion, (and who can doubt it?) then they only need enough of it; and in their state of mind they will be supremely wretched. Let me ask those who groan under the idea that they must be religious -- who deem it awful hard -- but they must-- how much religion of this kind would it take to make hell? Surely not much! When it gives you no joy to do God's pleasure, and yet you are shut up to the doing of His pleasure is the only way to be saved, and are thereby perpetually dragooned into the doing of what you hate, as the only means of escaping hell, would not this be itself a hell? Can you not see that in this state of mind you are not saved and cannot be?
You must have all confidence in Christ, or you cannot so saved.You must absolutely believe in Him -- believe all His words of promise. They were given you to be believed, and unless you believe them they can do you no good at all. So far from helping you without you exercise faith in them, they will only aggravate your guilt for unbelief. God would be believed when He speaks in love to lost sinners. He gave them these exceeding great and precious promises, that they, by faith in them, might escape the corruption that is in the world through lust. But thousands of professors of religion know not how to use these promises, and as to them or any profitable use they make, the promises might as well have been written on the sands of the sea.
Sinners, too, will go down to hell in unbroken masses, unless they believe and take hold of God by faith in His promise. O, His awful wrath is out against them! And He says, I would go through them, I would burn them up together; or let him take hold of My strength, that he may make peace with Me, and he shall make peace with Me. Yes, let him stir up himself and take hold of My arm, strong to save, and then he may make peace with Me. Do you ask how take hold? By faith. Yes, by faith; believe His words and take hold; take hold of His strong arm and swing right out over hell, and don't be afraid any more than if there were no hell.
But you say -- I do believe, and yet I am not saved. No, you don't believe. A woman said to me, I believe, I know I do, and yet here I am in my sins. No, said 1, you don't. Have you as much confidence in God as you would have in me if I had promised you a dollar? Do you ever pray to God? And, if so, do you come with any such confidence as you would have if you came to me to ask for a promised dollar? Oh, until you have as much faith in God as this, aye and more -- until you have more confidence in God than you would have in ten thousand men, your faith does not honor God, and you cannot hope to please Him. You must say -- Let God be true though every man be a liar.
But you say, O, I am a sinner, and how can I believe? I know you are a sinner, and so are all men to whom God has given these promises. O, but I am a great sinner! Well, It is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptation, that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners, of whom, Paul says, I am the chief So you need not despair.
7. You must forsake all that you have, or you cannot be Christ's disciple. There must be absolute and total self-denial.
By this I do not mean that you are never to eat again, or never again to clothe yourself, or never more enjoy the society of your friends -- no, not this; but that you should cease entirely from using any of these enjoyments selfishly. You must no longer think to own yourself: your time, your possessions, or anything you have ever called your own. All these things you must hold as God's, not yours. In this sense you are to forsake all that you have, namely, in the sense of laying all upon God's altar to be devoted supremely and only to His service. When you come back to God for pardon and salvation, come with all you have to lay all at his feet. Come with your body, to offer it as a living sacrifice upon His altar. Come with your soul and all its powers, and yield them in willing consecration to your God and Savior. Come, bring them all along -- everything, body, soul, intellect, imagination, acquirements -- all, without reserve. Do you say -- Must I bring them all? Yes, all -- absolutely ALL; do not keep back anything -- don't sin against your own soul, like Ananias and Sapphira, by keeping back a part, but renounce your own claim to everything, and recognize God's right to all. Say -- Lord, these things are not mine. I had stolen them, but they were never mine. They were always Thine; I'll have them no longer. Lord, these things are all Thine, henceforth and forever. Now, what wilt Thou have me to do? I have no business of my own to do -- I am wholly at Thy disposal. Lord, what work hast Thou for me to do?
In this spirit you must renounce the world, the flesh, and Satan. Your fellowship is henceforth to be with Christ, and not with those objects. You are to live for Christ, and not for the world, the flesh, or the devil.
8. You must believe the record God hath given of His Son. He that believes not does not receive the record -- does not set to his seal that God is true. This is the record that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. The condition of your having it is that you believe the record, and of course that you act accordingly. Suppose here is a poor man living at your next door, and the mail brings him a letter stating that a rich man has died in England, leaving him 100,000 pounds sterling, and the cashier of a neighboring bank writes him that he has received the amount on deposit for him, and holds it subject to his order. Well, the poor man says, I can't believe the record. I can't believe there ever was any such rich man; I can't believe there is 100,000 pounds for me. So he must live and die as poor as Lazarus, because he won't believe the record.
Now, mark; this is just the case with the unbelieving sinner. God has given you eternal life, and it waits your order; but you don't get it because you will not believe, and therefore will not make out the order, and present in due form the application.
Ah, but you say, I must have some feeling before I can believe -- how can I believe till I have the feeling? So the poor man might say -- How can I believe that the 100,000 pounds is mine; I have not got a farthing of it now; I am as poor as ever. Yes, you are poor because you will not believe. If you would believe, you might go and buy out every store in this country. Still you cry, I am as poor as ever. I can't believe it; see my poor worn clothes -- I was never more ragged in my life; I have not a particle of the feeling and the comforts of a rich man. So the sinner can't believe till he gets the inward experience! He must wait to have some of the feeling of a saved sinner before he can believe the record and take hold of the salvation! Preposterous enough! So the poor man must wait to get his new clothes and fine house before he can believe his documents and draw for his money. Of course he dooms himself to everlasting poverty, although mountains of gold were all his own.
Now, sinner, you must understand this. Why should you be lost when eternal life is bought and offered you by the last will and testament of the Lord Jesus Christ? Will you not believe the record and draw for the amount at once! Do for mercy's sake understand this and not lose heaven by your own folly!
I must conclude by saying, that if you would be saved you must accept a prepared salvation, one already prepared and full, and present. You must be willing to give up all your sins, and be saved from them, all, now and henceforth! Until you consent to this, you cannot be saved at all. Many would be willing to be saved in heaven, if they might hold on to some sins while on earth -- or rather they think they would Eke heaven on such terms. But the fact is, they would as much dislike a pure heart and a holy life in heaven as they do on earth, and they deceive themselves utterly in supposing that they are ready or even willing to go to such a heaven as God has prepared for His people. No, there can be no heaven except for those who accept a salvation from all sinin this world. They must take the Gospel as a system which holds no compromise with sin -- which contemplates full deliverance from sin even now, and makes provision accordingly. Any other gospel is not the true one, and to accept of Christ's Gospel in any other sense is not to accept it all. Its first and its last condition is swarn and eternal renunciation of all sin.
1. Paul did not give the same answer to this question which a consistent Universalist would give. The latter would say, You are to be saved by being first punished according to your sin. All men must expect to be punished all that their sins deserve. But Paul did not answer thus. Miserable comforter had he been if he had answered after this sort: You must all be punished according to the letter of the law you have broken. This could scarcely have been called gospel.
Nor again did Paul give the Universalist's answer and say, Do not concern yourself about this matter of being saved, all men are sure enough of being saved without any particular anxiety about it. Not so Paul; no -- he understood and did not forbear to express the necessity of believing on the Lord Jesus Christ as the condition of being saved.
2. Take care that you do not sin willfully after saying understood the truth concerning the way of salvation. Your danger of this is great precisely in proportion as you see your duty clearly. The most terrible damnation must fall on the head of those who knew their duty, but who did it not. When, therefore, you are told plainly and truly what your duty is, be on your guard lest you let salvation slip out of your hands. It may never come so near your reach again.
4. Let your mind act upon this great proposal and embrace it just as you would any other important proposition. God lays the proposition before you; you hear it explained, and you understand it; now the next and only remaining step is -- to embrace it with all your heart. just as any other great question (we may suppose it a question of life or death) might come before a community -- the case be fully stated, the conditions explained, and then the issue is made. Will you subscribe? Will you engage to meet these conditions? Do you heartily embrace the proposition? Now all this would be intelligible.
Just so, now, in the case of the sinner. You understand the proposition. You know the conditions of salvation. You understand the contract into which you are to enter with your God and Savior. You covenant to give your all to God -- to lay yourself upon His altar to be used up there just as He pleases to use you. And now the only remaining question is, Will you consent to this at once? Will you go for full and everlasting consecration with all your heart?
5. The jailer made no excuse. When he knew his duty, in a moment he yielded. Paul told him what to do, and he did it. Possibly he might have heard something about Paul's preaching before this night; but probably not much. But now he fears for his life. How often have I been struck with this case! There was a dark-minded heathen. He had heard, we must suppose, a great deal of slang about these apostles; but nevertheless all, he came to them for truth; hearing, he is convinced, and being convinced, he yields at once. Paul uttered a single sentence -- he received it, embraced it, and it is done.
Now you, sinner, know and admit all this truth, and yet infinitely strange as it is, you will not, in a moment, believe and embrace it with all your heart. O, will not Sodom and Gomorrah rise up against you in the judgment and condemn you! That heathen jailer -- how could you bear to see him on that dread day, and stand rebuked by his example there!
6. It is remarkable that Paul said nothing about the jailer's needing any help in order to believe and repent. He did not even mention the work of the Spirit, or allude to the jailer's need of it. But it should be noticed that Paul gave the jailer just those directions which would most effectually secure the Spirit's aid and promote his action.
7. The jailer seems to have made no delay at all, waiting for no future or better time; but as soon as the conditions are before him be yields and embraces; no sooner is the proposition made than he seizes upon it in a moment.
I was once preaching in a village in New York, and there sat before me a lawyer who had been greatly offended with the Gospel. But that day I noticed he sat with fixed eye and open mouth, leaned forward as if he would seize each word as it came. I was explaining and simplifying the Gospel, and when I came to state just how the Gospel is offered to men, he said to me afterwards: I snatched at it -- I put out my hand, (suiting the action to the thought), and seized it -- andit became mine.
So in my own case while in the woods praying, after I had burst away from the fear of man, and began to give scope to my feelings, this passage fell upon me, Ye shall seek for Me and find Me when ye shall search for Me with all your heart. For the first time in the world I found that I believed a passage in the Bible. I had supposed that I believed before, but surely never before as I now did. Now, said I to myself, This is the word of the everlasting God. My God, I take Thee at Thy word. Thou sayest I shall find Thee when I search for Thee with all my heart, and now, Lord, I do search for Thee, I know, with all my heart. And true enough, I did find the Lord. Never in all my life was I more certain of anything than I was then that I had found the Lord.
This is the very idea of His promises -- they were made to be believed -- to be laid hold of as God's own words, and acted upon as if they actually meant just what they say. When God says, Look unto Me and be ye saved, He would have us look unto Him as if He really had salvation in His hands to give, and with a heart to give it. The true spirit of faith is well expressed by the Psalmist, When Thou saidst, `Seek ye my face,' my heart replied - - 'Thy face, Lord, will I seek. This is the way -- let your heart at once respond to the blessed words of invitation and of promise.
Ah, but you say, I am not a Christian. And you never will be till you believe on the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior. If you never become a Christian, the reason will be because you do not and will not believe the Gospel and embrace it with all your heart.
The promises were made to be believed, and belong to an one who will believe them. They reach forth their precious words to all, and whoever will, may take them as his own. Now will you believe that the Father has given you eternal life? This is the fact declared; will you believe it?
You have now been told what you must not do and what you must do to be saved; are you pre pared to act?Do you say, I am ready to renounce my own pleasure, and henceforth seek no other pleasure than to please God? Can you forego everything else for the sake of this?
Sinner, do you want to please God, or would you choose to please yourself? Are you willing now to please God and to begin by believing on the Lord Jesus Christ unto salvation? Will you be as simple-hearted as the jailer was? And act as promptly?
I demand your decision now. I dare not have you go home first, lest you get to talking about something else, and let slip these words of life and this precious opportunity to grasp an offered salvation. And whom do you suppose I am now addressing? Every unrepentant sinner in this house -- every one. I call heaven and earth to record that I have set the Gospel before you today. Will you take it? Is it not reasonable for you to decide at once? Are you ready, now, to say before high heaven and before this congregation, I will renounce myself and yield to God! I am the Lord's, and let all men and angels bear me witness -- I am forevermore the Lord's. Sinner, the infinite God waits for your consent!