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God a liar that his creatures may sin with impunity. He mutilates the truth of God, that less restraint may be laid upon the sins of men ; in other words, a different religion from that of God's is set up, another bible is invented—a bible which does not frown on sin like God's Book, and thus souls are lured down an easy path to woe. There is much reason to believe that this lowering of the divine standard, this mutilating of the holy word, lies at the root of the carelessness, and indifference, the love of sin, of the ten thousand times ten thousand in this professing age. Or rising into the region of the gospel, we find similar errors existing in yet greater abundance. Without avowing infidelity, or without designing to be infidels, men here act upon principles which are essentially those of unbelievers.
For example, what can be more plain, if words have meaning, than that there is salvation in none but Christ ? Do we consult the doctrines of the word ? They unequivocally tell that “there is salvation in none other;" that “other foundation can no man lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.”
Or shall we consult the practice of the apostles regarding their own souls, and their salvation? Then hear how fervently they exclaim, “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of Christ;" or, “I determined not
know anything among you save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” These sayings, and such as these, lay bare the foundation of their hope, the sole and exclusive ground of their glorying. “ None but Christ! none but Christ !” is evermore, in spirit, the cry of the apostles, when referring to the method of human recovery:
“Majestic in its own simplicity," they thus present heaven's sublimely easy plan for restoring man to the favour of his God, and fitting him to enjoy it.
But now, what are man's views of this matter? Since we have seen the religion of God upon this point, let us next hear the religion of man regarding a point so vital. The Saviour, and the Saviour alone, declares the word of God. The Saviour and man united, exclaims the religion of the sinner himself. The finished work of Christ is the exclusive foundation of hope to which God points. The work of Christ and the work of guilty creatures combined—is the darling error of thousands ! We do not glance at all, for the present, at those who set Christ entirely aside. We do not speak of the misguided Romanist, who is systematically and laboriously taught to confide in what the sinner can do or endure, to secure the favour of God. We refer to those who are some degrees nearer to the truth, and say that their endeavour is to combine self and the Saviour. They do not attempt to build a tower to heaven entirely by their own strength,—they only endeavour to aid him who does it; in other words, they try to do what has been done by the Saviour already, namely, to lay a foundation of hope for the sinner in the prospect of meeting his God.
Now, who does not see at this point the antagonism which exists between the religion which God reveals, and the religion which many long and vainly try to hold ? It is not merely a difference of degrees, but a diversity of essence, of nature and kind. God says, Christ, and Christ alone, is the end of the law for righteousness. Man says, Christ and self united. God says—" He hath made an end of transgression, and brought in an everlasting righteousness.” Man replies—Surely I must work out some righteousness for myself! God says there is pollution in all that man doeth, and he therefore points him to the Holy Lamb, who died the just for the unjust. Man, unable to comprehend a system so simple, so finished, and so free, exclaims-Surely, I may be allowed at least to lay some sand grains beside the rock. But it must not be. The religion of God sanctions no modification, admits of no compromise ; like God himself, it is immutable. Christ, or misery, Justification, or condemnation. The Saviour of the lost, or lost for ever; these are the simple alternatives proposed to sinful man by the holy God, even by him who is love.
But take an illustrative case. There is an earnest soul struggling towards the light and the religion of God. That man has long, perhaps, been sitting in spiritual darkness. It has been time, and not eternity; it has been the body, and not the soul; it has been man's smile, or man's applause, at the expense of God's frown, that has absorbed, engrossed, and all but destroyed his soul. But he is now awaking to a sense of the reality of sin, death, and God. The Holy Spirit has begun to breathe into him the breath of spiritual life, and he can be at ease no longer. Nay, restless hours and days are now his portion. What, then, is his first endeavour? Does he meekly and at once adopt the religion of God, as opposed to the religion of man? Does he all at once pass from self to the Saviour ? Does he instantly learn to glory only in the cross ? He may; for it sometimes happens that the Holy Spirit speedily guides the soul to joy and peace in believing. He says, “Let there be light,” and there is light. But it more frequently happens that the earnest man struggles for a while to effect a compromise between self and the Saviour. He tries to add his repentance, for example, to Christ's finished work. He forgets that he cannot “paint the lily, nor adorn the rose;" he cannot add to what God has pronounced to be complete. Man's
doings, or what is sinful, cannot combine with God's decrees, or what is spotless; and, because man attempts to blend them, he is often wretched; his soul is not safe ; his sin is not taken away; he is opposing the religion of man to the religion of God; and can a sinner do that and be happy ? None but Christ,behold the burden of the Bible's teaching ; let it become the burden of our learning, and by the grace of God the soul will be made a partaker of his peace.
The same thing becomes apparent when we contemplate the gospel in another aspect. How is it offered to us ? On what terms can we get possession of the blessing which the gospel engages to bestow ?
Here, again, the antagonism between the religion of God and the religion of man becomes very apparent. Should these pages ever meet the eye of some earnest one vexing himself with the question—to which he can find no answer—“Who will shew us any good ?" we beseech him to ponder what follows, and hasten to test it by the word of God.
The question is, How do I get possession of the blessings and benefits of the gospel ?
And what is the divine answer ? “Look unto me, and be ye saved, all ye ends of the earth.” But what is the human answer? Man says-It is not enough to look ; I must sigh, and mourn, and weep, and repent, and then I will be saved.
“ Behold the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sin of the world.” Only behold him, and
sins are taken away. Such is the mind of God. But, no, rejoins the earnest spirit ; I must reform, I must break off my sins by righteousness, I must make myself ready to be saved, and then I can cherish hope.
“Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.' Only come ; come with the burden on, not after you have cast it off, and you will receive all that you need. That is the divine, the gracious invitation. But the earnest soul cannot understand a salvation so free. Am I not to repent before I come? Am I not to prepare myself for coming? Am I not, at least, to weep more, and feel more, and lie a little lower and longer in the dust.
These are some of the pleadings of the awakened sinner. But, oh! what do they mean? Why, they mean that if the sinner were better, he would come; as he is, he cannot. If he had repented a little more he could come and cherish hope ; but impenitent, or hard in heart as he feels himself to be, he feels he need not come. All this just means, that if the sinner felt himself a little more worthy, he could come and cherish hope from his worth. a little more penitent, he could come and cherish hope in his
THE ENGLISH MONTHLY TRACT SOCIETY, 27, RED LION SQUARE, LONDON
If he were
penitence. But hope in the invitation of God; hope in the finished work of Christ; hope in his gracious assurance, his perfect righteousness, the awakened sinner cannot, cannot cherish. He does not see that salvation is offered to sinners, and to no others; to sinners as sinners, not as believers, as penitents, or reformers. “Look, ye blind; hear, ye deaf," are the wondrous words in which the gospel is proclaimed. Christ is exalted a prince and a saviour. Why? For what end ? Is it to save the penitent? Nay, it is to grant repentance. I must therefore come first and straightway to him to get it. If I refuse, if I demur and delay, then I am taking my own religion, not God's, to guide me. The word of God is not the lamp of my path ; and in that case who will wonder, though the soul be left to lie down in sorrow, or to sit in darkness, seeing no light?
It will not be supposed here that we argue as if the sinner should not repent, as if he should not reform, and break off his sins. It will not be dreamt for a moment that we would foster superficial views of sin. It is the abominable thing which God hates, as if he hated nought besides ; and he would have all men everywhere to repent. But what we would convey into the earnest mind, which would adopt the religion of God in opposition to the religion of man, is this,--repentance, reformation, and tears, do not constitute our warrant to come to Christ. The gospel, the good news, the word of God is our warrant. Upon that all may come. We sin by refusing to come, and we mistake the whole tenor of the gospel of grace when we suppose that our deep sorrow, our many tears, can constitute any
warrant to hope for God's favour. That favour is obtained in Christ, and in Christ alone. Our very tears want washing ; our repentance needs to be repented of. Christ is exalted a prince and a saviour to grant repentance and remission of sins; and he is wise with the very wisdom which cometh from above, who thus takes his religion from God and not from man. They shall look on him whom they have pierced, and mourn."
Again, continuing our contrast between the religion of God and the religion of man, we observe, that conversion does not enter at all into man's; it is, in one point of view, everything in God's. It is the commencement of true religion in the soul, and the Saviour is careful to teach that truth by line upon line. It is true that man has found out many counterfeits for conversion. Some suppose that the mere act of baptism makes a man a Christian.
Others regard other ceremonies as giving a title to eternal life, or enrolling them among the saved. Others, again, regard themselves as Christians, because they profess to believe the Bible, as if a book could save them ; while they do not hold or act on the most vital truths which it contains. But these, and things like these, cannot make us Christians in any saving sense.
Before we can hold the very religion of God upon this point, we must be born again. We must be born of the Spirit; we must be born of God, or from above; we must be made new creatures in Christ Jesus ; we must be converted, and become like little children; we must put off the old man and his deeds, and put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. That is the religion of God—all else is a counterfeit. That is the Divine mind opened up for our guidance from darkness to light, from spiritual non-existence to spiritual life and vigour ; and whatever opposes this is manifestly opposed to some of the simplest declarations of the word of the Eternal.
Such was clearly the Saviour's mind; he has made it plain that the moment of our regeneration is that at which we become Christians. That deep and searching truth is the sentinel which he has placed at the porch of his true church ; and by that truth the Saviour does more than when he drove the money-changers from his Father's house ; he keeps them from ever entering there.
Yet, while presenting this contrast between the religion of God and that of man, we would not overstate the truth. The Christian is one who is born again, and none other can be Christians indeed. But we would not encumber the truth by any reference to the time or the manner of the decisive change. We would speak of nothing but what precedes or follows it. The fact is all that we would press, for upon that our personal Christianity depends. Some can tell the time of their new birth; the day is observed by them, as it recurs from year to year, as a time of renewed gratitude, and ever deepening humility before the holy God. They call to mind what they were before they were born of the Spirit ; they remember what it was that first made them think of their soul,-a father's urgency, a mother's prayers, a sore sickness, or some solemn, searching truth. Then they think of the light which broke in upon their dark and sin-laden soul, when God showed them “ the light of the knowledge of his glory in the face of Jesus Christ.” And, finally, they can trace all the way by which God has in mercy led them from their conversion till now; how he laid them in the dust, and then lifted them up; how he left them in darkness because they had sinned, and then shed light on them again. These, and things like these, some Christians can tell, but at present we only mention them. It is the fact of conversion, and that alone, that we dwell on.
The time may