J. N. Darby.
The doctrine you refer to is widely spread enough. Zwingle held it, all the Wesleyans hold it, and most of the national professors of Christianity. But it is founded on a want of depth and truth in the foundations, denying that we are all lost. The best answer is the very plain statements in the Epistle to the Romans, though these are confirmed by many others. But there is always a want of conviction of sin in these cases; man is not lost, not dead in trespasses and sins, and that is, I am not; for if I have deserved condemnation, it is no difficulty to think we all have. Hence grace, sin, the Lord's death, all lose their import and value; and the real way of meeting it morally is to deal with the conscience of the individual. "So to live that he might be saved" at once shews ignorance of the ways of God in grace — in fact of the gospel — as regards Christ's work.
"Right convictions and good practice" is not gospel. Is he born again? Acts 17:27 does not say a word of the Spirit's acting, and chapter 10:35 says simply that he who is such-and-such is accepted. It was merely that blessing was not confined to the Jews, as is evident if the passage be read. Romans 2:7, etc., which is the strongest passage, supposes the truth of glory and resurrection known. If I found a Gentile so walking, he is as much saved as a Jew. But it is declared that every mouth is stopped and all the world guilty before God, that there is none righteous, no, not one. The condemnation of the heathen is (Rom. 1:18; chap. 3:19) put upon a ground which negatives the idea of such a universal operation of the Spirit. They are, says the apostle, without excuse, on the double ground of having given up glorifying God when they knew Him, and testimony of creation, adding conscience: a reasoning perfectly futile, and without sense, if there was the other ground of condemnation, namely, that they have resisted the Holy Ghost. They that have sinned without law perish without law. The carnal mind is enmity against God, in me, as well as in any other one of the nations. People confound the ground of responsibility with sovereign grace in saving. Genesis 6 refers merely to the patience of God in Noah's time.
Men are not saved by grace, if they are as thus stated; because, as the Spirit works alike on all (or the argument is nothing worth), the whole of salvation depends on man's acceptance of and acting on it. As I said at the beginning, our whole state, as Scripture puts it, is denied. (See 2 Corinthians 5:14, where the apostle draws the conclusion from grace. Compare Eph. 2:5.) I do not believe the Gentiles more lost than I was myself. But there is no name given under heaven whereby we can be saved but the name of Jesus Christ. Romans 10:13, 15, is positive as to the means. Judgment and condemnation is according to the means we have. What brings, by sovereign goodness, salvation to the lost is another thing. But, as I said, does he think himself lost? That is the real question. The source of thousands of opinions is the want of this, of conscience being before God; where it is not, the mind can have a thousand thoughts, all alike to no purpose. But I must close.
J. N. Darby.
There are three especial privileges and their effect in divine life — obedience, love of brethren, and confidence in God, all manifested in Christ. So in the temptation, and in death as in life, loving His own. Love is the divine part properly, the love of God shed abroad, the spring being God's revelation, and this by the Holy Ghost given. Christ was it in the world. God was in Christ. There the human side is obedience, God's will the motive as well as rule, Christ's obedience, to which we are sanctified. Confidence is the natural fruit of this revelation of God in the dependent creature, only it is but as walking in obedience, and not grieving the Holy Spirit, that we have this confidence. Not that there ever should be doubt of His love, but not liberty in love with Him. Obedience (righteousness) and love are the two figures of divine life, both prevailing in Christ. Thus love to the brethren is the divine side, which is not without importance. It is love to God, the reflex and outgoing of the sense of divine love in the heart; God in us, and so known. "As my Father loved me, so I you: abide in my love." As I have loved you, that ye also love one another. But this is really a weighty proverb. Love never fails.