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THE WORD OF SALVATION.
To you is the word of this salvation sent.--Acts xii. 16.
Paul is here preaching Christ Jesus in the chapter; and in this verse he makes application of his sermon to his hearers, and that very close. More particularly in the words you may notice, (1.) The nature of the gospel described is the word of salvation. (2.) The endorsement or direction, showing to whom it is directed or sent, To you,
you men and brethren, you Jews or Gentiles, to whom it is preached.
OBSERVE, That the gospel, as a word of salvation, is sent to every sinner who hears it.
Before I proceed to speak to this doctrine, I would obviate an objection that may be made against it.
Object. Is not the gospel-call here limited to them that fear God in the text?
Answ. 1. If by those that fear God, is to be understood religious people, into whose hearts God has put his fear, these are the persons that will most of all welcome the word of salvation, because they most see their need of it; but the gospel message is not here limited to them, and others excluded ; no, the apostle here speaks to all his auditory, both gracious and graceless, as appears not only in this text, “ Men and brethren, children of the stock of Abraham, to you is the word of this salvation sent,” but also in the appli. cation of this sermon to the graceless as well as to the gracious, ver. 40, 41, compared with the two preceding verses.
2. There is a fear of God that is the fruit of conviction, and a fear of God that is the fruit of conversion; th former is by the law, the latter is by the gospel. It is possible, that the former is especially meant here, for at this time the word was with power; it struck an awe and dread upon the apostle's auditory. And though no sinner, no, not the most stupid that hears the gospel, is excluded from the call of it, so as it can be said, the word of salvation is not sent to him; no, no, it is sent to every one, yet none but such as fear God, so far as to be filled with an awe and dread of God speaking to them in the word, and with a conviction of sin, and of their need of this salvation, none but such will receive and
welcome the word of this salvation ; for if they have no fear of God, and of his wrath, no sense of sin, and of their de. serving damnation, they will not value, but slight and despise the word of salvation. This text, therefore, does not limit the word of salvation, as sent only to them that fear God, but only points out the manner and method in which this word of salvation comes to be received and entertained, and how it will not be received by those that have nothing of the fear and dread of God upon them.
3. Those that are awakened to any sense of sin, and fear and dread of God, are the persons that are most ready themselves, as if the word of salvation were not sent to them; therefore these, in a particular manner, are mentioned, and encouraged to take it to themselves, because they are afraid to apply the word. Others that are called will not come. And they that have this fear upon them, have a will, but want courage; and therefore the Lord says to them, as it were, Fear not to come, for lo you is the word of this salvation sent.
4. That the word of salvation is sent to all, even to them, who, through the want of the fear of God, reject it, is plain both from this text and context, compared with other scriptures. See the commission, Mark xvi. 15: “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” Is. xlvi. 12: “ Hearken to me, ye stout-hearted, that are far from righteousness." Rev. iii. 20: “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to bim,” &c.: any man, be what he will. In short, the word of salvation, importing all salvation necessary, looks to all sinners that need this salvation. The gospel, if any sinner were excluded, would not be glad news to all people.
Hence the call is to all the ends of the earth, “ Look unto me, and be ye saved :" Hence the call also is, “ Whosoever will, let him come, and take of the water of life freely." And again, “ To you, O men, do I call, and my voice is to the sons of man.” “ Ho, every one that thirsteth come to the waters," &c.
In prosecuting the observation, we shall observe the following method:1. I shall speak a little of this salvation. II. Of the word of salvation. Ill. Of the sending of this word. IV. Make application. I. We shall speak a little of this salvation, and consider what it supposes, and what it implies.
1st, What it supposes, namely, misery. Our miserable state by nature is a state of alienation and estrangement from God. We are without God, and are “alienated from the life of God; aliens from the commonwealth of Israel.” It is a state of enmity: “The carnal mind is enmity against God;" we are in actual rebellion against him. It is a state of darkness and ignorance; we are “ destroyed for lack of knowledge." A state of bondage to sin, Satan, the world, and divers lusts; we are fettered and in prison, led captive. It is a state of impotence: we are by nature without strength; we cannot so much as ask deliverance; we are not sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves. It is a destitute state, a pit in which there is no water: a comfortless state, a bewildered state, a cursed and condemned state; for “he that believeth not is condemned already.” He that believeth not the gospel is condemned already by the law: “Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things that are written in the book of the law, to do them.” It is a state of death, spiritual death, and legal death..
2dly, What does salvation imply? It implies the whole redemption purchased by Christ, and the whole of the application of it by the Spirit. It is salvation from a state of estrangement to a state of acquaintance with God; from enmity to peace and reconciliation ; from darkness to light; from bondage to liberty. It includes pardon and justification, adoption and filiation, sanctification of nature, heart, and way, communion with God; afterward a glorious resurrection of the body, and eternal life and glory, in being for ever with the Lord.
II. The second head proposed was, to speak of the word of salvation, which I may do by answering these four questions :
Quest. 1. What is the word of salvation ?
Ans. Not the law, but the gospel; it is that which is the power of God to salvation, Rom. i. 16. Whatever discovers Christ, and salvation through him, is the gospel.
Quest. 2. Why is it called the word of salvation?
Ans. Because it discovers salvation, it describes salvation, it conveys salvation, as a charter does an estate, or as a testament does a legacy; it offers salvation, it establishes a connexion between faith and salvation to all mankind sinners; for He that believeth shall be saved;" and because it is the organ or instrument by which the Spirit applies salvation.
Quest. 3. How does the word operate in the hand of the Spirit, when believed to salvation ?
Ans. It operates as seed cast into the ground. It operates
as rain and dew: “My doctrine shall drop as the dew:" As light; “They that sat in darkness saw a great light. It is a light shining in a dark place:” As fire ; " Is not my word like a fire?" As water, as wind, as a seal imprinting the divine nature: As a glass, through which we see God's glory: As balm for healing; “ He sent his word, and healed them."
Quest. 4. What are the qualities of this word of salvation?
Answ. 1. It is a divine word; “ the word of God." God, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, is the Author of it. Hence the gospel is called " the gospel of God,” Rom. i. 1, and xv.
2. It is a word of God in Christ, Heb. i. 1, 2, and ii. 3. It is secured " in the hands of a Mediator; yea, and amen in him." It is given to us by Christ, and sealed in his blood; * This is the New Testament in my blood.” 3. It is a gracious word of God in Christ; it is free; it does not move upon our goodness or badness; our goodness does not farther, nor our badness hinder it. It is a word that comes from. pure grace, and springs from His free mercy, who is the God of all grace. It is such a gracious word, that it contains all grace. Hence, 4. It is a complete word, containing all our salvation; for it contains God in it, Christ in it, and the Spirit in it. It contains a righteousness in it, founding a legal title to life eternal, namely, the obedience of Christ; and a legal security from eternal death, namely, the satisfaction and death of the Surety. It contains all the parts of life, and may well be called the word of life ; life in the beginning of it in rege
; neration; "Of his own will begat he us' by the word of truth.” The life of justification; we are justified in believing and receiving of Christ our righteousness, as offered in the word. The life of sanctification, the life of consolation, the life of glory hereafter. 5. It is a sure word; "the sure mercies of David;"
sure, and more sure than a voice from heaven, such as even that which the disciples heard on the mount, 2 Pet. i. 19: “We have a more sure word of prophecy, to which we do well to take heed, as unto a light shining in a dark place." 6. It is a gracious, complete, sure word of God in Christ to sinners, as well as to saints; it is to sinners of Adam's family, for it presents a remedy for their malady. This leads to,
III. The third head proposed, namely, to speak of the send. ing of this word. Here it may be inquired from whom, by whom, to whom it is sent, and for what purpose.
1st, From whom it is sent? Ans. It is a word of salvation, sent from the God of salvation, to whom belong the issues from death; and it carries the impress of himself upon it. As
the word is God's word, so it is of God's sending; “ He sent his word, and healed them,” Psal. cvii. 20.
2dly, By whom is it sent? Ans. Not by angels, but by men; “ We are ambassadors for Christ," 2 Cor. V. 20. It is true, God sent his word first by Christ; "He so loved the world, that he sent his only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth upon him might not perish, but have everlasting life.” Then Christ sends it by men, that we may not be afraid at his appearance, as Israel were of old ; " We have this treasure in earthen vessels," 2 Cor. iv. 7.
3dly, To whom is it that he sent this word of salvation ? Ans. To all sinners that hear it. Whosoever looks to the word of salvation, will find it looking to them, Gen. xii. 3. What was the gospel preached to Abraham? “In thee, and in thy seed, shall all the families of the earth be blessed.”
Is not this a word of salvation to us also ? It includes all, so as every sinner may take hold of it. See John iii. 16, 1 Tim. i. 15. Christ came to call sinners to repentance.
See Prov. i. 20; Isa. xlvi. 12. It is a word that suits the case of sinners; and therefore, if it be inquired,
4thly, for what purpose is it sent to sinners ?. Ans. For the same purpose that a healing remedy is sent to [cure] a deadly malady; for Christ comes in the word, and is presented there, “ for wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption;" 1 Cor. i. 30, and Rev. iii. 17, 18. More particularly, it is sent as a word of pardon to the condemned sinner; “ I, even I, am he that blotteth out' thy transgressions, for my own names sake.” Hence may every condemned sinner take hold of it, saying, This word is sent to me. It is sent as a word of peace to the rebellious sinner saying, “Christ hath received gifts for men, even for the rebellious." Oh! I am a rebel, may the sinner say, here is a word for me: It is sent as a word of life to the dead : “ The hour cometh, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and they that hear shall live:" as a word of liberty to the captives; “ The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because he hath anointed me to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound,” &c. As a word of healing for the diseased; for the word says, “ I am the Lord that healeth thee.” As a word of cleansing, or a cleansing word for the polluted. “I will sprinkle you with clean water," &c. As a word of direction to the bewildered. “I will lead the blind by a way they know not,” &c. As a refreshing word to the weary. "The Lord God hath given me the tongue of the learned, to speak a word in season to him that is weary.” As a comforting word to the disconsolate; it brings in the good news of the river, " the streams whereof made glad the city