The Nature and Calling of Free Grace

Written by J.C. Philpot

I admire and love the grace of God; and the longer I live, the more do I love and admire it.

My sins, my corruptions, my infirmities make me feel my deep and daily need of it; and as its freeness, fulness, suitability and inexpressible blessedness are more and more opened up to my heart and conscience, so do I more and more cleave to and delight in it. What, in fact, is there which you can substitute for it?

I assume that you have some concern about religion; that the solemn realities of eternity press with more or less weight on your conscience, and that you are awakened to see the evil of sin and your own evil case as sinners. I speak not to stocks and stones; I speak to you who desire to fear God and to have your hearts right before Him. If you have no concern about the salvation of your soul, you will love many things far beyond free grace. Money, dress, amusements, the pleasures that present themselves on every side, though hollow as the tomb and vain as a drunkard’s mirth, will so charm your mind and occupy your thoughts that Christ and His gospel will have no place in your conscience. But if you have any anxiety about your eternal condition, and are brought to cry, “What shall I do to be saved?” then I ask you, what can you put in the place of free grace? Surely, you cannot be so foolish as to put your own works in its stead. Surely, you cannot be so ignorant of your ruined condition before God, and of what is revealed in the Scriptures of the way of salvation by the atoning blood of Jesus, as to substitute the words and works of man for the words and works of the God-Man?

You may doubt your own interest in His atoning blood; but you do not doubt that salvation is all of grace, and that if saved your soul can be saved by grace alone.

And why not YOU be saved? What countless trophies has grace already at the Redeemer’s feet! What hosts of ruined wretches, of souls sunk beyond all other help or hope, has free grace sought out, rescued from their destructions, plucked from the jaws of hell, and ransomed from the hand of him that was stronger than they, so that they have come and sung in the height of Zion, and flowed together to the goodness of the Lord!

Look at Paul. Where can we find among the sons of men a parallel to the great Apostle of the Gentiles? What a large capacity! What a powerful intellect he naturally possessed, but how subdued and subjugated it became by grace, and how devoted to the glory of God and the advancement of His Dear Son! How grace arrested him at Damascus’ gate, cast him down body and soul at the Redeemer’s feet, translated him from the power of darkness into the kingdom of God’s dear Son, and changed a bloodthirsty persecutor of the church of Christ into a minister and an apostle, the greatest ever seen. As such, what a deep humility, thorough disinterestedness, noble simplicity, godly zeal, unwearied labors distinguished him from first to last-a course of more than thirty years.

How in his inspired writings he pours, as it were, from his pen the richest streams of heavenly truth! With what clearness, power, and savor he describes and enforces the way of salvation through the blood shedding and obedience of the Son of God, the blessings of free grace, the glorious privileges of the saints, and the things that make for their happiness and holiness! How in every epistle it seems as if his pen could hardly drop a line without in some way setting forth the infinite grace, the boundless mercy, and unfathomable love of God, as displayed in the gift of His dear Son, and the blessings that flow to the church through His blood and love.

But look not at Paul only. View the jewels on every side that grace has set in the Redeemer’s crown out of the most depraved and abject materials! Who, for instance, were those Ephesians to whom Paul wrote that wonderful epistle? The most foolish and besotted of idolaters, so infatuated with their image which fell down from Jupiter-most probably some huge meteoric stone, that had fallen from the sky-that they spent two hours until they wearied out their throats with crying, Great is Diana of the Ephesians; ! men debased with every lust, ripe and ready for every crime. How rich, how marvelous the grace that changed worshippers of Diana into worshippers of Jehovah, brutal howlers into singers who made melody in their heart to the Lord (Eph. 5:19), and magicians, full of curious arts and Satanic witchcraft, into saints built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets!

Now cannot the same grace, that did so much for them, do the same or similar things for us?

Is the nature of man now less vile, or is the grace of Christ now less full and free? Has the lapse of 1800 years raised man out of the depths of the Fall, eradicated sin from his constitution, cleansed the foul leprosy of his nature, and purified it into holiness? Let the thin sheet of decent morality and civilization be taken off the corpse, and here it lies in all its hideous ghastliness.

Human nature is still what it ever was dead in trespasses and sins. Or has time, which changes so many things on earth, changed things in heaven? Is not God the same gracious Father, Jesus the same compassionate Savior, the Holy Spirit the same heavenly Teacher? Is not the gospel the same glad tidings of salvation, and the power of the gospel the same to everyone that believeth? Then why should not we be blessed with the same spiritual blessings as the saints at Ephesus? Why may not the same Jesus be to us what He was to them, the same Spirit to do for us and in us what He did for and in them, and the same grace save and sanctify us which saved and sanctified them? Here and here alone is our strength, our help, our hope, our all.

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Meet the author and part of your Christian heritage:  Joseph Charles Philpot (1802 – 1869) was known as “The Seceder”. He resigned from the Church of England in 1835 and became a Strict & Particular Baptist. While with the Church of England he was a Fellow of Worchester College, Oxford. After becoming a Strict and Particular Baptist he became the Editor of the Gospel Standard magazine and served in that capacity for twenty years.

Educated at Oxford University, he was elected a fellow of Worcester College, and appeared to have a brilliant scholastic career before him. But he was brought into solemn concern spiritually and the Lord led him into the ministry. He first preached in the Established Church at Stadhampton (Oxfordshire). In 1835, however, he was constrained, for the truth’s sake, to sever his connection with the Church of England and to resign his curacy and his fellowship. The letter to the provost stating his reasons was published and went into several editions.

The same year, he was baptized by John Warburton at Allington (Wilts). The rest of his life was spent ministering among the Strict Baptists. For 26 years, he held a joint pastorate at Stamford (Lines) and Oakham (Rutland). In addition for over twenty years, he was editor of “The Gospel Standard”, where many of his sermons first appeared.

–Theopedia

Our Frame of Mind in the Pursuit of Holiness

Written by John Owen. 1616 -1683. A pre-eminent English Puritan theologian, pastor, and independent.
Edited for thought and sense.

admin-ajaxLet us consider what should be the frame of mind in the pursuit of holiness…

…namely, what regard we ought to have unto the command on the one hand, and to the promise on the other,—to our own duty, and to the grace of God. Some would separate these things, as inconsistent.

They argue that a command, as they suppose, leaves no room for a promise, at least not such a promise as wherein God should take on himself to work in us what the command requires of us; and, they think, that a promise takes off all the influencing authority of the command. “If holiness be our duty, there is no room for grace in this matter; and if it be an effect of grace, there is no place for duty.” But all these arguings are a fruit of the wisdom of the flesh before mentioned, and we have before disproved them.

The “wisdom that is from above” teacheth us other things.

1.  With Regard to the Command

It is true, our works and grace are opposed in the matter of justification; if it be of works it is not of grace, and if it be of grace it is not of works, as our apostle argues, Rom. 11:6. But our duty and God’s grace are nowhere opposed in the matter of sanctification, yea, the one doth absolutely suppose the other. Neither can we perform our duty herein without the grace of God; nor doth God give us this grace unto any other end but that we may rightly perform our duty. He that shall deny either that God commands us to be holy in a way of duty, or promises to work holiness in us in a way of grace, may with as much modesty reject the whole Bible. In both of these, therefore, we are to have a due regard if we intend to be holy.

Our regard unto the command consists in three things:

  1.  That we get our consciences always affected with the authority of it, as it is the command of God. This must afterward be enlarged on. Where this is not, there is no holiness. Our holiness is our obedience; and the formal nature of obedience arises from its respect unto the authority of the command.
  2. That we see and understand the reasonableness, the equity, the advantage of the command. Our service is a reasonable service; the ways of God are equal, and in the keeping of his commands there is great reward. If we judge not thus, if we rest not herein, and are thence filled with indignation against every thing within us or without us that opposes it or rises up against it, whatever we do in compliance with it in a way of duty, we are not holy.
  3. That hereon we love and delight in it, because it is holy, just, and good; because the things it requires are upright, equal, easy, and pleasant to the new nature, without any regard to the false ends before discovered.

2.  With Regard to the Promise

We have regard unto the promise to the same end:

  1. When we walk in a constant sense of our own inability to comply with the command in any one instance from any power in ourselves; for we have no sufficiency of ourselves, our sufficiency is of God. As for him who is otherwise minded, his heart is lifted up.
  2. When we adore that grace which hath provided help and relief for us. Seeing without the grace promised we could never have attained unto the least part or degree of holiness, and seeing we could never deserve the least dram of that grace, how ought we to adore and continually praise that infinite bounty which hath freely provided us of this supply!
  3. When we act faith in prayer and expectation on the promise for supplies of grace enabling us unto holy obedience.
  4. When we have special regard with respect unto especial temptations and particular duties. When on all such occasions we satisfy not ourselves with a respect unto the promise in general, but exercise faith in particular on it for aid and assistance, then do we regard it in a due manner.

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Meet the author and part of your Christian heritage: John Owen (1616 – 24 August 1683) was an English Nonconformist church leader, theologian, and academic administrator at the University of Oxford.  He was briefly a member of parliament for the University, sitting in the First Protectorate Parliament of 1654 to 1655.

During his eight years of official Oxford life Owen showed himself a firm disciplinarian, thorough in his methods, though, as John Locke testifies, the Aristotelian traditions in education underwent no change. With Philip Nye he unmasked the popular astrologer, William Lilly, and in spite of his share in condemning two Quakeresses to be whipped for disturbing the peace, his rule was not intolerant. Anglican services were conducted here and there, and at Christ Church itself the Anglican chaplain remained in the college. While little encouragement was given to a spirit of free inquiry, Puritanism at Oxford was not simply an attempt to force education and culture into “the leaden moulds of Calvinistic theology.” Owen, unlike many of his contemporaries, was more interested in the New Testament than in the Old. During his Oxford years he wrote Justitia Divina (1653), an exposition of the dogma that God cannot forgive sin without an atonement; Communion with God (1657), Doctrine of the Saints’ Perseverance (1654), his final attack on Arminianism; Vindiciae Evangelicae, a treatise written by order of the Council of State against Socinianism as expounded by John Biddle; On the Mortification of Sin in Believers (1656), an introspective and analytic work; Schism (1657), one of the most readable of all his writings; Of Temptation (1658), an attempt to recall Puritanism to its cardinal spiritual attitude from the jarring anarchy of sectarianism and the pharisaism which had followed on popularity and threatened to destroy the early simplicity.

In October 1653 he was one of several ministers whom Cromwell summoned to a consultation as to church union. In December, the degree of Doctor of Divinity was conferred upon him by Oxford University. In the First Protectorate Parliament of 1654 he sat, for a short time, as the sole member of parliament for Oxford University, and, with Baxter, was placed on the committee for settling the “fundamentals” necessary for the toleration promised in the Instrument of Government. In the same year he was chairman of a committee on Scottish Church affairs. He was, too, one of the Triers, and appears to have behaved with kindness and moderation in that capacity. As vice-chancellor he acted with readiness and spirit when a Royalist rising in Wiltshire broke out in 1655; his adherence to Cromwell, however, was by no means slavish, for he drew up, at the request of Desborough and Pride, a petition against his receiving the kingship. Thus, when Richard Cromwell succeeded his father as chancellor, Owen lost his vice-chancellorship. In 1658 he took a leading part in the conference of Independents which drew up the Savoy Declaration (the doctrinal standard of Congregationalism which was based upon the Westminster Confession of Faith).

 

Understanding Satan’s Work in the Depravity of Man

Taken and adapted from, “Meditations and Discourses on the Glory of Christ, in His Person, Office, and Grace: with the Differences Between Faith and Sight: Applied Unto the Use of Them That Believe”
Written by John Owen, 1684

k-bigpic“And even if our gospel is veiled,
it is veiled to those who are perishing.
The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers,
so that they cannot see the light of the gospel
that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” 

–2 Corinthians 4:3-4 (ESV)

We have interruption given unto the work of faith herein by the temptations of Satan. 

His original great design, wherever the gospel is preached, is to blind the eyes of men, that the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should not shine unto them, or irradiate their minds, 2 Corinthians 4:4.  And herein he prevails unto astonishment.  Let the light of the gospel in the reaching of the Word be never so glorious, yet, by various means and artifices, he blinds the minds of the most, that they shall not behold any thing of the glory of Christ therein.  By this means he continues his rule in the children of disobedience.  With respect unto the elect, God overpowers him herein.  He shines into their hearts, to give them the knowledge of his glory in the face of Christ Jesus, verse 6.  Yet will not Satan so give over.  He will endeavor by all ways and means to trouble, discompose, and darken the minds even of them that believe, so as that they shall not be able to retain clear and distinct views of this glory. And this he does in two ways.

With some he employs all his engines…

…uses all his methods of serpentine subtlety, and casts in his fiery darts so to disquiet, discompose, and deject them, as that they can retain no comfortable views of Christ or his glory.  Hence arise fears, doubts, disputes, uncertainties, with various disconsolations.  Hereon they cannot apprehend the love of Christ, nor be sensible of any interest they have therein, or any refreshing persuasions that they are accepted with him.  If such things sometimes shine and beam into their minds, yet they quickly vanish and disappear.  Fears that they are rejected and cast off by him, that he will not receive them here nor hereafter, do come in their place; hence are they filled with anxieties and despondence, under which it is impossible they should have any clear view of his glory.

I know that ignorance, atheism, and obstinate security in sensual sins, do combine to despise all these things.  But it is no new thing in the world, that men outwardly professing Christian religion, when they find gain in that godliness, should speak evil of the things which they know not, and corrupt themselves in what they know naturally, as brute beasts.

With others he deals after another manner…

By various means he seduces them into a careless security, wherein they promise peace unto themselves without any diligent search into these things. Hereon they live in a general presumption that they shall be saved by Christ, although they know not how.  This makes the apostle so earnest in pressings the duty of self-examination on all Christians, 2 Corinthians 13:5, “Examine yourselves whether you be in the faith; prove your own selves: know you not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except you be reprobates?”  The rule of self-judging prescribed by him is, whether Christ be in us or no; and in us he cannot be, unless he be received by that faith wherewith we behold his glory.  For by faith we receive him, and by faith he dwells in our hearts, John 1:12; Ephesians 3:17.

This is the principal way of his prevailing in the world.  Multitudes by his seduction live in great security under the utmost neglect of these things.  Security is granted to be an evil destructive of the souls of men; but then it is supposed to consist only in impenitence for great and open sins: but to be neglectful of endeavoring an experience of the power and grace of the gospel in our own souls, under a profession of religion, is no less destructive and pernicious than impenitence in any course of sin.

These and the like obstructions unto faith in its operations being added unto its own imperfections, are another cause wherein our view of the glory of Christ in this world is weak and unsteady; so that, for the most part, it does but transiently affect our minds, and not so fully transform them into his likeness as otherwise it would.

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Taken and adapted from, “Meditations and Discourses on the Glory of Christ, in His Person, Office, and Grace: with the Differences Between Faith and Sight: Applied Unto the Use of Them That Believe” by John Owen, London: Printed by A.M. and R.R. for Benjamin Alsop, 1684, p. 131.

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Meet the author and part of your Christian heritage: John Owen (1616 – 24 August 1683) was an English Nonconformist church leader, theologian, and academic administrator at the University of Oxford.  He was briefly a member of parliament for the University, sitting in the First Protectorate Parliament of 1654 to 1655.

During his eight years of official Oxford life Owen showed himself a firm disciplinarian, thorough in his methods, though, as John Locke testifies, the Aristotelian traditions in education underwent no change. With Philip Nye he unmasked the popular astrologer, William Lilly, and in spite of his share in condemning two Quakeresses to be whipped for disturbing the peace, his rule was not intolerant. Anglican services were conducted here and there, and at Christ Church itself the Anglican chaplain remained in the college. While little encouragement was given to a spirit of free inquiry, Puritanism at Oxford was not simply an attempt to force education and culture into “the leaden moulds of Calvinistic theology.” Owen, unlike many of his contemporaries, was more interested in the New Testament than in the Old. During his Oxford years he wrote Justitia Divina (1653), an exposition of the dogma that God cannot forgive sin without an atonement; Communion with God (1657), Doctrine of the Saints’ Perseverance (1654), his final attack on Arminianism; Vindiciae Evangelicae, a treatise written by order of the Council of State against Socinianism as expounded by John Biddle; On the Mortification of Sin in Believers (1656), an introspective and analytic work; Schism (1657), one of the most readable of all his writings; Of Temptation (1658), an attempt to recall Puritanism to its cardinal spiritual attitude from the jarring anarchy of sectarianism and the pharisaism which had followed on popularity and threatened to destroy the early simplicity.

In October 1653 he was one of several ministers whom Cromwell summoned to a consultation as to church union. In December, the degree of Doctor of Divinity was conferred upon him by Oxford University. In the First Protectorate Parliament of 1654 he sat, for a short time, as the sole member of parliament for Oxford University, and, with Baxter, was placed on the committee for settling the “fundamentals” necessary for the toleration promised in the Instrument of Government. In the same year he was chairman of a committee on Scottish Church affairs. He was, too, one of the Triers, and appears to have behaved with kindness and moderation in that capacity. As vice-chancellor he acted with readiness and spirit when a Royalist rising in Wiltshire broke out in 1655; his adherence to Cromwell, however, was by no means slavish, for he drew up, at the request of Desborough and Pride, a petition against his receiving the kingship. Thus, when Richard Cromwell succeeded his father as chancellor, Owen lost his vice-chancellorship. In 1658 he took a leading part in the conference of Independents which drew up the Savoy Declaration (the doctrinal standard of Congregationalism which was based upon the Westminster Confession of Faith).

In 1669, Owen wrote a spirited remonstrance to the Congregationalists in New England, who, under the influence of Presbyterianism, had shown themselves persecutors. At home, too, he was busy in the same cause. In 1670 Samuel Parker’s Ecclesiastical Polity attacked the Nonconformists with clumsy intolerance. Owen answered him (Truth and Innocence Vindicated); Parker replied offensively. Then Andrew Marvell finally disposed of Parker with banter and satire in The Rehearsal Transposed. Owen himself produced a tract On the Trinity (1669), and Christian Love and Peace (1672).

On the revival of the Conventicle Acts in 1670, Owen was appointed to draw up a paper of reasons which was submitted to the House of Lords in protest. In this or the following year Harvard College invited him to become its president; he received similar invitations from some of the Dutch universities. When King Charles II issued his Declaration of Indulgence in 1672, Owen drew up an address of thanks; Owen was one of the first preachers at the weekly lectures which the Independents and Presbyterians jointly held at Princes’ Hall in Broad Street. He was respected by many of the nobility, and during 1674 both King Charles II and his brother King James II assured him of their good wishes to the dissenters. Charles gave him 1000 guineas to relieve those on whom the severe laws had pressed, and he was able to procure the release of John Bunyan, whose preaching he admired.

Providence: Your Father is not Asleep!

Written by Obadiah Sedgwick,  London, 1658.

A1Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.  But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore;  you are of more value than many sparrows. 

–Matthew 10:29-31 (ESV)

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Nothing can befall you without a providence… 

Your Father is not idle, he is not asleep, he doesn’t forget you nor your condition.   He does regard you, watch over you, and will order in a wise and gracious sweetness, every occurrence for his glory and your good.   Not the least thing shall befall you but he will direct and order it.

What do you think of those silly birds which fly up and down which none takes notice of with any singular eye?  One man hunts, and another man for his pleasure kills, yet not one of them falls to the ground but your Father orders it so and permits it to be so as it doesn’t come by an idle chance but by his working providence.  

Do you think that any evil, that any thing, shall befall you and your Father not take notice of it and the ordering and governing of it?  No, if God has an eye for the birds, be confident that he has a singular care for you.  Not only the great moments of your life and death are ordered by him but even the hairs of your head are numbered and he knows them all and he looks to them all.  If to them, much more to your person, safety, and preservation.  God did not make the world and so leave it to it’s own inclinations, ways, and ends.  He follows the work of creation with the working influence of continual providence.  He still looks upon it and is dealing in it and therefore says Paul in Acts 17:28, “In him we live, and move, and have our being”.

There is no created thing whatsoever over which God does not extend a providence, Psalm 113:6.  He beholds the things both in heaven and in earth.  2 Chronicles 16:9, the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth.  The most excellent creatures are sustained by it and the most contemptible are not neglected.  Not only the angels in heaven, but the poor men who are cast upon the dunghill.  Not only the glorious stars, but the lowest piles of grass and the lilies.  Not only that immortal soul of man, but the very hairs of his head are under a providence. 

Providence is co-extensive with creation and therefore it is as large as heaven and earth.  Providence is co-extensive with divine knowledge but known unto God are all his works, Acts 15:3.   Every thing is kept in an order and harmony.   Although to us there may be some confusions, yet to God there is no disorder but all things wheel about and meet in those ends which he has intended and unto which he directs them.  There is not any one creature, not any one action of the creature, not any one change about the creature, not any one occurrence, not any one issue and event of any one action, but is under the powerful eye of divine providence.

 Excerpts modified and adapted from, “The Doctrine of Providence” appended to “The Shepherd of Israel”
Written by Obadiah Sedgwick,  London: 1658.

Confession and the Door of Free Grace

Written by, Joseph Caryl
Taken and adapted from, A Directory for the Afflicted being Select Extracts First Fourteen Chapters  of the Rev. Joseph Caryl’s Commentary on the Book of Job, by John Berrie; Edinburgh, pp. 135-136, 1824.

confess-all-jesus“If we confess our sins,
he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins
and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

–1 John 1:9 (ESV)

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A saint confesses freely, but it is extorted from a wicked man…  

The saint confesses feelingly; he tastes the bitterness of sin while he confesses whereas it is the fear of punishment that makes a natural man feel.   A good man confesses sincerely, and is in earnest both with God and his soul.  The other casts out his sin as seamen do their goods in a storm, which they would wish back whenever it is over.  A believer mixes faith with his sorrows in his confessions, which no other man ever did.

Observe that the holiest man has cause to continue confessing his sin. 

While the ship leaks, the pump must not stand still.  As the very best are in danger of being lifted up above measure, they have cause daily to engage in the soul-humbling duty of confession.  Every confession of sin is a fresh obligation to do so no more, and as it gives the soul a taste of the bitterness of sin, so of the sweetness of forgiveness through Christ.  Confession of sin exalts Christ in our hearts and affections; for we thereby declare our belief of the riches of Christ, and his ability and willingness to take away our sins.  This at once encourages us to confess our enormous load of debt, and increases our love to him who gave his life a ransom for us and how doth it commend the healing virtue of bis blood, when we open to him such mortal wounds and diseases which he only and easily can cure.

Confession of sin gives glory to every attribute of God…

…as it owns a debt and our inability to make payment and all that we enjoy or ever shall receive, must run us deeper in debt to free grace.  What shall I do unto thee, O thou preserver of men!  I can neither escape from, nor satisfy thy justice.  Observe, that the holiest man cannot atone for one sin, by either sufferings or obedience.  All that he can do is imperfect and defiled, and besides, it was a debt before; neither has God any where appointed man’s righteousness to be a satisfaction for his sins.

Pardon and forgiveness of sin, must come in at the door of free grace. 

A good work trusted to, is as destructive as sin unrepented of.  None but God has either power, patience, or wisdom, to be the preserver of foolish, helpless, erring man.

The Doctrine of Election: And the Sweet Assurance of Intercession

Written by John Hurrion
Taken from, “A Defence of Some Important Doctrines of the Gospel, In Twenty-Six Sermons”
Edited for thought and sense.

images (2)“Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw
near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.”

–Hebrews 7:25 (ESV)

What encouragement is there for us to wait for salvation by Christ, to lie at his feet, and hope in his mercy?

The saved are a numberless number, sinners of all ages, sizes, and circumstances: the Savior set forth in the gospel, is able to save to the uttermost all who come to God by him. Those who are left to their own wills perish; God works a work which they in no wise believe: they will not come to Christ that they may have life; but those committed to the care of Christ shall come; he makes them willing in the day of his power, by his word and Spirit, and the pastoral rod of his strength. It is good then to wait at wisdom’s gates; for such as find Christ, find life. There is encouragement to hope for mercy, if we wait for it, in the way which Christ has prescribed: he has said, “Seek, and ye shall find; search the Scriptures, they testify of me; come to me all ye that are weary, and I will give you rest.”

The Psalmist uses an argument which is grown much stronger since his time: “our fathers trusted in you, and they were delivered,” Psalm 22:4. We may say not only the patriarchs and prophets, but the apostles, the primitive church, and multitudes down to this present time, have trusted in Christ, and have been saved by him; therefore “it is good for us to wait and hope for the salvation of the Lord.” It is our business to prove our election and redemption by our effectual calling. If we believe, we shall be saved; if we never do, then there is no salvation for us. It is a great encouragement that there is a Savior, infinite in grace and merit, who will give the water of life freely, to every one that thirsts; and we have as fair an opportunity as thousands before us, who ventured their souls on Christ, and were kindly received by him.

Let us not sink under the greatest discouragements which we meet with in the course of providence. Valuable and useful instruments are taken away, or laid aside: faithful and able ministers die; but Christ lives still; and blessed be the Rock of our salvation. Christ is mighty to save; and with him is the residue of the Spirit: it is he that made those who are gone what they were; and he can give the same Spirit and gifts to others, or work the same effects, by less able and likely means. We should then cry to the Lord God of Elijah, to pour out more of his Spirit on his ministers and people, that salvation work may be carried on, not by human might and power, but by the Spirit of the Lord. Christ has promised to be with his ministers and people to the end of the world, if they teach and do what he has commanded, Matthew 28:20. Let us then, in his own way, depend upon his promise, and wait for his blessing, who “walks in the greatness of his strength, and is mighty to save; who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify us to himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.”

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(Meet the author and part of your Christian heritage: John Hurrion (1675–1731) was an English Independent minister. The Rev. Mr. John Hurrion is well known by his valuable and elaborate writings. After being suitably qualified for the work of the holy ministry, by a stock of useful learning, and other ministerial gifts and endowments was called forth to labor in the Lord’s vineyard; and was first settled in a dissenting meeting-house at Denton, in the county of Norfolk, where he was highly, esteemed, and his ministry much countenanced by the Lord. His fame having spread, for being an able and evangelical preacher, and a strenuous defender of the peculiar doctrines of Christianity, he was warmly invited, and got an unanimous call to labor in a church at London, that had greatly flourished for many years, under the ministrations of another eminent dissenting divine. Here he was much esteemed and respected, and his labors crowned with success.

The way to Heaven?

Written by J. C. Ryle.
Edited for thought, sense and space.

images“Neither is there salvation in any other:
for there is none other name under heaven given among men,
whereby we must be saved.”

—ACTS. 4:12

THESE words are striking in themselves. But they are much more striking if you consider when and by whom they were spoken. They were spoken by a poor and friendless Christian, in the midst of a persecuting Jewish Council. It was a grand confession of Christ.

They were spoken by the lips of the Apostle Peter. This is the man who, a few weeks before, forsook Jesus and fled: this is the very man who three times over denied his Lord. There is another spirit in him now. He stands up boldly before priests and Sadducees, and tells them the truth to their face: “This is the stone that was set at naught of you builders, which is become the head of the corner. Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.”

In considering this solemn subject there are three things I wish to do.

First, to show you the doctrine here laid down by the Apostle.
Secondly, to show you some reasons why this doctrine must be true.
Thirdly, to show you some consequences which naturally flow from the doctrine.

First, let me show you the doctrine of the text.

Let us make sure that we rightly understand what the Apostle Peter means. He says of Christ, “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved.” Now what is this? On our clearly seeing this very much depends.

He means that no one can be saved from sin, its guilt, power, and consequences,—excepting by Jesus Christ.

He means that no one can have peace with God the Father,—obtain pardon in this world, and escape wrath to come in the next,—excepting through the atonement and mediation of Jesus Christ.

In Christ alone God’s rich provision of salvation for sinners is treasured up: by Christ alone God’s abundant mercies come down from Heaven to earth.

Christ’s blood alone, can cleanse us; Christ’s righteousness alone can clothe us; Christ’s merit alone can give us a title to heaven. Jews and Gentiles, learned and unlearned, kings and poor men,—all alike must either be saved by Jesus or lost for ever.

And the Apostle adds emphatically, “There is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” There is no other person commissioned, sealed, and appointed by God the Father to be the Saviour of sinners, excepting Christ. The keys of life and death are committed to His hand, and all who would be saved must go to Him.

There was but one place of safety in the day when the flood came upon the earth, and that was Noah’s ark. All other places and devices,—mountains, towers, trees, rafts, boats,—all were alike useless. So also there is but one hiding-place for the sinner who would escape the storm of God’s anger,—he must venture his soul on Christ.

There was but one man to whom the Egyptians could go in the time of famine, when they wanted food,—they must go to Joseph: it was a waste of time to go to any one else. So also there is but One to whom hungering souls must go, if they would not perish for ever,—they must go to Christ.
There was but one word that could save the lives of the Ephraimites in the day when the Gileadites contended with them, and took the fords of Jordan (Judges 11),—they must say “Shibboleth,” or die, just so there is but one name that will avail us when we stand at the gate of heaven,—we must name the name of Jesus as our only hope, or be cast away everlastingly.

Such is the doctrine of the text. “No salvation but by Jesus Christ: in Him plenty of salvation,—salvation to the uttermost, salvation for the very chief of sinners;—out of Him no salvation at all.”

It is in perfect harmony with our Lord’s own words in St. John: “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by Me.” (John 14:6.) It is the same thing that Paul tells the Corinthians: “Other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” (1 Cor. 3:1) And the same that John tells us in his first Epistle: “God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He that hath the Son hath life, and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.” (1 John 5:12.)

All these texts come to one and the same point,—No salvation but by Jesus Christ.

Remember that you are to venture the whole salvation of your soul on Christ, and on Christ only. You are to cast loose completely and entirely from all other hopes and trusts. You are not to rest partly on Christ,—partly on doing all you can,—partly on keeping your church,—partly on receiving the sacrament. In the matter of’ your justification Christ is to be all. This is the doctrine of the text.

Remember that heaven is before you, and Christ the only door into it; hell beneath you, and Christ alone able to deliver you from it; the devil behind you, and Christ the only refuge from his wrath and accusations; the law against you, and Christ alone able to redeem you; sin weighing you down, and Christ alone able to put it away. This is the doctrine of the text.

Let me show you, in the second place, some reasons why the doctrine of the text must be true. 

I might cut short this part of the subject by one simple argument: “God says so.” “One plain text,” said an old divine, “is as good as a thousand reasons.” But I will not do this. I wish to meet the objections that are ready to rise in many hearts against this doctrine, by pointing out the strong foundations on which it stands.

Let me then say, for one thing, the doctrine of the text must be true, because man is what man is.

Now, what is man? There is one broad, sweeping answer, which takes in the whole human race: man is a sinful being. All children of Adam born into the world, whatever be their name or nation, are corrupt, wicked, and defiled in the sight of God. Their thoughts, words, ways, and actions are all, more or less, defective and imperfect.

Is there no country on the face of the globe where sin does not reign? Is there no happy valley, no secluded island, where innocence is to be found? Is there no tribe on earth where, far away from civilization, and commerce, and money, and gunpowder, and luxury, and books, morality and purity flourish? No, reader: there is none. Look over all the voyages and travels you can lay your hand on, from Columbus down to Cook, and you will see the truth of what I am asserting. The most solitary islands of the Pacific Ocean,—islands cut off from all the rest of’ the world, islands where people were alike ignorant of Rome and Paris, London and Jerusalem,—these islands have been found full of impurity, cruelty, and idolatry. The footprints of the devil have been traced on every shore. The veracity of the third of Genesis has everywhere been established. Whatever else savages have been found ignorant of, they have never been found ignorant of sin.

But are there no men and women in the world who are free from this corruption of nature? Have there not been high and exalted souls who have every now and then lived faultless lives? Have there not been some, if it be only a few, who have done all that God required, and thus proved that sinless perfection is a possibility? No, reader: there have been none. Look over all the biographies and lives of the holiest Christians; mark how the brightest and best of Christ’s people have always had the deepest sense of their own defectiveness and corruption. They groan, they mourn, they sigh, they weep over their own shortcomings: it is one of the common grounds on which they meet. Patriarchs and Apostles, Fathers and Reformers,—all are alike agreed in feeling their own sinfulness. The more light they have, the more humble and self-abased they seem to be; the more holy they are, the more they seem to feel their own unworthiness, and to glory, not in themselves, but in Christ.

Now what does all this seem to prove? To my eyes it seems to prove that human nature is so tainted and corrupt that, left to himself, no man could be saved. Man’s case appears to be a hopeless one without a Saviour,—and that a mighty Saviour too. There must be a Mediator, an Atonement, an Advocate, to make such poor sinful beings acceptable with God: and I find this nowhere, excepting in Jesus Christ. Heaven for man without a mighty Redeemer, peace with God for man without a mighty Intercessor, eternal life for man without an eternal Saviour,—in one word, salvation without Christ,—all alike appear to me utter impossibilities.

The doctrine of our text must be true, because God is what God is.

Now what is God? That is a deep question indeed. We know something of His attributes: He has not left Himself without witness in creation; He has mercifully revealed to us many things about Himself in His Word. We know that God is a Spirit,—eternal, invisible, almighty,—the Maker of all things, the Preserver of all things,—holy, just, all-seeing, all-knowing, all-remembering,— infinite in mercy, in wisdom, in purity.

The blind man is no judge of the paintings of Rubens or Titian; the deaf man is insensible to the beauty of Handel’s music; the Greenlander can have but a faint notion of the climate of the tropics; they have no set of thoughts which can comprehend them; they have no mental fingers to grasp them. And, just in the same way, the best and brightest ideas that man can form of God, compared to the reality which we shall one day see, are weak and faint indeed.

One thing, I think, is very clear; and that is this. The more any man considers calmly what God really is, the more he must feel the immeasurable distance between God and himself: the more he meditates, the more he must see that there is a great gulf between him and God. His conscience, I think, will tell him, if he will let it speak, that God is perfect, and he imperfect; that God is very high, and he very low; that God is glorious majesty and he a poor worm: and that if ever he is to stand before Him in judgment with comfort, he must have some mighty helper, or he will not be saved.

I know well that people may have false notions of God as well as everything else, and shut their eyes against truth; but I say boldly and confidently, No man can have really high and honourable views of what God is, and escape the conclusion that the doctrine of our text must be true. There can be no possible salvation but by Jesus Christ.

Let me say, in the third place, this doctrine must be true, because the Bible is what the Bible is.

All through the Bible, from Genesis down to Revelation, there is only one simple account of the way in which man must be saved. It is always the same: only for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ,—through faith; not for our own works and deservings. You see it dimly revealed at first: it looms through the mist of a few promises, but there it is. But one golden chain runs through the whole volume; no salvation excepting by Jesus Christ. The bruising of the serpent’s head foretold in the day of the fall; the clothing of our first parents with skins, the sacrifices of Noah, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; the passover, and all the particulars of the Jewish law,—the high priest, altar, the daily offering of the lamb, the holy of holies entered only by blood, the scapegoat, the cities of refuge,—all are so many witnesses to the truth set forth in the text: all preach with one voice, salvation only by Jesus Christ.

In fact, this truth appears to me the grand object of the Bible, and all the different parts and portions of the book are meant to pour light upon it. I can gather from it no ideas of pardon and peace with God excepting in connection with this truth. If I could read of one soul in it who was saved without faith in a Saviour, I might perhaps not speak so confidently. But when I see that faith in Christ,—whether a coming Christ or a crucified Christ,—was the prominent feature in the religion of all who went to heaven; when I see Abel owning Christ in his better sacrifice, at one end of the Bible, and the saints in glory in John’s vision rejoicing in Christ, at the other end of the Bible; when I see a man like Cornelius, who was devout, and feared God, and gave alms and prayed, not told that he had done all, and would of course be saved, but ordered to send for Peter, and hear of Christ; when I see all these things I say, I feel bound to believe that the doctrine of the text is the doctrine of the whole Bible. No salvation, no way to heaven, excepting by Jesus Christ.

And now, in the last place, let me show you some consequences which flow naturally out of our text.

There are few parts of this subject which seem to be more important than this. The truth I have been trying to set before you bears so strongly on the condition of a great proportion of mankind that I consider it would be mere affectation on my part not to say something about it. If Christ is the only way of salvation, what are we to feel about many people in the world? This is the point I am now going to take up.

I believe that many persons would go with me so far as I have gone, and would go no further. They will allow my premises: they will have nothing to say to my conclusions. They think it uncharitable to say anything which appears to condemn others. For my part I cannot understand such charity: it seems to me the kind of charity which would see a neighbour drinking slow poison, but never interfere to stop him; which would allow emigrants to embark in a leaky, ill-found vessel, and not interfere to prevent them; which would see a blind man walking near a precipice, and think it wrong to cry out, and tell him there was danger.

I believe the greatest charity is to tell the greatest quantity of truth. I believe it is no charity to hide the legitimate consequences of such a text as we are now considering, or to shut our eyes against them. And I solemnly call on every one who really believes there is no salvation in any but Christ and none other name, given under heaven whereby we be saved,—I solemnly call on that person to listen to me, while I set before him some of the tremendous consequences which the text involves.

One mighty consequence then, which seems to be learned from this text, is the utter uselessness of any religion without Christ.

There are many to be found in Christendom at this day who have a religion of this kind. They would not like to be called Deists, but Deists they are. That there is a God, that there is what they are pleased to call Providence, that God is merciful, that there will be a state after death,—this is about the sum and substance of their creed; and as to the distinguishing tenets of Christianity, they do not seem to recognise them at all. Now I denounce such a system as a baseless fabric,—its seeming foundation man’s fancy,—its hopes an utter delusion. The god of such people is an idol of their own invention, and not the glorious God of the Scriptures,—a miserably imperfect being, even on their own showing: without holiness, without justice, without any attribute but that of vague indiscriminate mercy. Such a religion may possibly do as a toy to live with: it is far too unreal to die with. It utterly fails to meet the wants of man’s conscience: it offers no remedy; it affords no rest for the soles of our feet; it cannot comfort, for it cannot save. Reader beware of it if you love life. Beware of a religion without Christ.

Another consequence to be learned from the text is, the folly of any religion in which Christ has not the first place.

I need not remind you how many hold a system of this kind. The Socinian tells us that Christ was a mere man; that His blood had no more efficacy than that of another; that His death on the cross was not a real atonement and propitiation of man’s sins; and that, after all, doing is the way to heaven, and not believing. I solemnly declare that I believe such a system is ruinous to men’s souls. It seems to me to strike at the root of the whole plan of salvation which God has revealed in the Bible, and practically to nullify the greater part of the Scriptures. It overthrows the priesthood of the Lord Jesus, and strips Him of His office; it converts the whole system of the law of Moses touching sacrifices and ordinances, into a meaningless form; it seems to say that the sacrifice of Cain was just as good as the sacrifice of Abel; it turns a man adrift on the sea of uncertainty, by plucking from under him the finished work of’ a divine Mediator. Beware of it, reader, no less than of Deism. If you love life, beware of the least attempt to depreciate and undervalue Christ’s person, offices or work. The name whereby alone you can be saved is a name above every name, and the slightest contempt poured upon it is an insult to the King of Kings. The salvation of your soul has been laid by God the Father on Christ, and no other; and if He were not very God, He never could accomplish it: there could be no salvation at all.

Another consequence to be learned from our text is the great error, committed by those who add anything to Christ, as necessary to salvation.

It is an easy thing to profess belief in the Trinity, and reverence for our Lord Jesus Christ, and yet to make some addition to Christ as the ground of hope, and so to overthrow the doctrine of the text as really and completely as by denying it altogether.

The Church of Rome does this systematically. She adds things over and above the requirements of the Gospel, of her own invention. She speaks as if Christ’s finished work was not a sufficient foundation for a sinner’s soul, and as if at were not enough to say, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shaft be saved.” She sends men to penances and absolution, to masses and extreme unction, to fasting arid bodily mortification, to the Virgin and the saints,—as if these things could add to the safety there is in Christ Jesus. And in doing this she sins against our text with a high hand. Let us beware of any Romish hankering after additions to the simple way of the Gospel, from whatever quarter it may come.

The last consequence which seems to me to be learned from our text is, the utter absurdity of supposing that we ought to be satisfied with a man’s state of soul if he is only sincere.

This is a very common heresy indeed, and one against which we all need to be on our guard. There are thousands who say in the present day, “We have nothing to do with the opinions of others. They may perhaps be mistaken, though it is possible they are right and we wrong: but if they are sincere, we hope they will be saved, even as we.” And all this sounds liberal and charitable, and people like to fancy their own views are so.

Now I believe such notions are entirely contradictory to the Bible, whatever else they may be. I cannot find in Scripture that any one ever got to heaven merely by sincerity, or was accepted with God if he was only earnest in maintaining his own views. The priests of Baal were sincere when they cut themselves with knives and lancets till the blood gushed out; but still that did not prevent Elijah from commanding them to be treated as wicked idolaters. Let us beware of allowing for a moment that sincerity is everything, and that we have no right to speak ill of a man’s spiritual state because of the opinions he holds, if he is only earnest in holding them. It will not stand: it will not bear the test of Scripture. Once allow such notions to be true, and you may as well throw your Bible aside altogether. Sincerity is not Christ, and therefore sincerity cannot put away sin.

I dare be sure these consequences sound very unpleasant to the minds of some who may read them. But I tell you of them advisedly and deliberately. I say calmly that a religion without Christ, a religion that takes away from Christ, a religion that adds anything to Christ, a religion that puts sincerity in the place of Christ,—all are dangerous: all are to be avoided, and all are alike contrary to the doctrine of our text.

You may not like this: I am sorry for it. You think me uncharitable, illiberal, narrow-minded, bigoted, and so forth: be it so. That doctrine is, salvation in Christ to the very uttermost,—but out of Christ no salvation at all.

I feel it a duty to bear my solemn testimony against the spirit of the day you live in; to warn you against its infection.

What is it but a bowing down before a great idol specially called liberality?

What is it all but a sacrificing of truth upon the altar of a caricature of charity? Beware of it, beware that the rushing stream of public opinion does not carry you away. Beware of it, if you believe the Bible: beware of it, if you are a consistent member of the Church of England. Has the Lord God spoken to us in the Bible, or has He not? Has He shown us the way of salvation plainly in that Bible, or has He not? Has He declared to us the dangerous state of all out of that way, or has He not? Gird up the loins of your mind, and look these questions fairly in the face, and give them an honest answer. Tell us that there is some other inspired book beside the Bible, and then we shall know what you mean; tell us that the whole Bible is not inspired, and then we shall know where to meet you: but grant for a moment that the Bible, the whole Bible, and nothing but the Bible, is God’s truth., and then I know not in what way you can escape the doctrine of the text. From the liberality which says everybody is right, from the charity which forbids you to say anybody is wrong, from the peace which is bought at the expense of truth,—may the good Lord deliver you!

I speak for myself: I find no resting-place between downright Evangelical Christianity and downright infidelity, whatever others may find.

I see no half-way house between them, or houses that are roofless and cannot shelter my weary soul. I can see consistency in an infidel, however much I may pity him; I can see consistency in the full maintenance of Evangelical truth: but as to a middle course between the two,—I cannot see it; and I say so plainly. Let it be called illiberal and uncharitable. I can hear God’s voice nowhere except in the Bible, and I can see no salvation for sinners in the Bible excepting through Jesus Christ. In Him I see abundance: out of Him I see none. And as for those who hold religions in which Christ is not all, whoever they may be, I have a most uncomfortable feeling about their safety. I do not for a moment say that none of them are saved, but I say that those who are saved are saved by their disagreement with their own principles, and in spite of their own system. The man who wrote the famous line, “He can’t be wrong whose life is in the right,” was a great poet undoubtedly, but he was a wretched divine.

Let me conclude with a few words by way of application.

First of all, if there is no salvation excepting in Christ, make sure that you have an interest in that salvation yourself. Do not be content with hearing, and approving, and assenting to the truth, and going no further. Seek to have a personal interest in this salvation: lay hold by faith for your own soul; rest not till you know and feel that you have got actual possession of that peace with God which Jesus offers, and that Christ is yours, and you are Christ’s. If there were two, or three, or more ways of getting to heaven, there would be no necessity for pressing this matter upon you. But if there is only one way, you will hardly wonder that I say, “Make sure that you are in it.”

Secondly, if there is no salvation excepting in Christ, try to do good to the souls of all who do not know Him as a Saviour. There are millions in this miserable condition,—millions in foreign lands, millions in your own country, millions who are not trusting in Christ. You ought to feel for them if you are a true Christian; you ought to pray for them; you ought to work for them, while there is yet time. Do you really believe that Christ is the only way to heaven? Then live as if you believed it.

Look round the circle of your own relatives and friends: count them up one by one, and think how many of them are not yet in Christ. Try to do good to them in some way or other: act as a man should act who believes his friends to be in danger. Do not be content with their being kind and amiable, gentle and good-tempered, moral, and courteous; be miserable about them till they come to Christ, and trust in Him: for miserable you ought to be. Let nobody alone who is out of Christ, if only you have opportunities of reaching him.

Thirdly, if there is no salvation excepting in Christ, let us love all who love the Lord Jesus in sincerity, and exalt Him as their Saviour, whoever they may be. Let us not draw back and look shy on others, because they do not see eye to eye with ourselves in everything.

This is the true charity: to believe all things and hope all things, so long as we see Bible doctrines maintained and Christ exalted. Christ must be the single standard by which all opinions must be measured. Let us honour all who honour Him: but let us never forget that the same apostle Paul who wrote about charity, says also, “If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema.” If our charity and liberality are wider than that of the Bible, they are worth nothing at all: indiscriminate love is no love at all, and indiscriminate approbation of all religious opinions, is only a new name for infidelity. Let us hold out the right hand to all who love the Lord Jesus, but let us beware how we go beyond this.

Lastly, if there is no salvation excepting by Christ, you must not be surprised if ministers of the Gospel preach much about Him. We cannot tell you too much about the name which is above every name: you cannot hear of Him too often. You may hear too much about controversy in our sermons,—you may hear too much of men and books, of works and duties, of forms and ceremonies, of sacraments and ordinances,—but there is one subject which you never hear too much of: you can never hear too much of Christ.

When we are wearied of preaching Him, we are false ministers: when you are wearied of hearing of Him, your souls are in an unhealthy state.

When we have preached Him all our lives, the half of His excellence will remain untold. When you see Him face to face in the day of His appearing, you will find there was more in Him than your heart ever conceived.

Let me leave you with the words of an old writer, to which I desire humbly to subscribe.

“I know no true religion but Christianity; no true Christianity but the doctrine of Christ: the doctrine of His divine person, of His divine office, of His divine righteousness, and of His divine Spirit, which all that are His receive. I know no true ministers of Christ but such as make it their business, in their calling, to commend Jesus Christ, in His saving fulness of grace and glory, to the faith and love of men; no true Christian but one united to Christ by faith and love, unto the glorifying of the name of Jesus Christ, in the beauty of Gospel holiness. Ministers and Christians of this spirit have been for many years my brethren and companions, and I hope shall ever be, whithersoever the hand of God shall lead me.”
—(ROBERT TRAILL.)