A dear little boy, who loves the Lord Jesus, wrote me a letter some time since, asking me to write a tract, to show what it is that children should believe, so that they might be quite sure of going to heaven. There are many besides children who want a plain answer to this very simple but deeply-important question. Many even who have been born of the Spirit have not this blessed assurance. The cause of this, no doubt, is, in great measure, because they cling to opinions which are not scriptural. How all-important, then, it is to search the Scriptures, and receive nothing but what is in strict accordance with God's revealed word. If I am resting my souls salvation, in the least, on what is false, the Holy Ghost cannot bear witness to what is untrue; and therefore I cannot enjoy His witness in the full assurance of faith.
That plain answer to the stricken jailor is often quoted: "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house." But it is also added, "And they spake unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house." Now, the question is, What is the word of the Lord about Jesus, on whom they must believe? Or what is it that must be believed, so that you may be quite sure of going to heaven?
No doubt, the word of the Lord which Paul preached was the same as the word of the Lord which he has written, and which we find especially in the Epistle to the Romans — for this is the epistle of the gospel of the grace of God to guilty sinners. Try every thought, then, that you hold by what is written in this word of the Lord.
The great subject in this epistle is the righteousness of God in justifying the ungodly. The first to the third chapter is occupied in proving all men alike utterly lost, guilty sinners. "For there is no difference; for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God." (Chap. 3:23.) The twentieth verse proves the utter impossibility of anyone being justified by works. So that no little or great children can be sure of heaven by good works. "Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in His sight; for by the law is the knowledge of sin." So that I hope the reader will remember this once for all, that he cannot he saved by keeping the commandments. The more he tries, the wore he will find he is a sinner, and breaks them.
Let me ask you now to notice, when man is thus proved guilty, and that he cannot justify himself by keeping the law, then the righteousness of God in justifying the sinner is revealed. Now, I am a sinner; and if I know and believe the righteousness of God in justifying me, I way be quite sure of going to heaven. Do note in these passages, it is not the righteousness of Christ in His holy life on earth — precious as that is; it is something far deeper. The spotlessness of Christ in His life could not help to justify the sinner in the least. Let me give an illustration. A criminal is under sentence of death. He stands before the judge. The judge longs to acquit the prisoner; for, though a vile criminal, the judge loves him. Now, how can the judge acquit the prisoner, and still maintain the dignity of his own office, and of the just laws which demand his life? That is just the question. A man steps forward, and says, "I am perfectly innocent. I never committed a crime against the laws of my country. And now my lord (addressing the judge), I wish you to impute, or reckon, my righteousness to the poor prisoner." The judge replies, "Your righteousness only makes this man's sins the blacker. The law demands his life." Another man steps forward. "I am a criminal also, like the prisoner at the bar; and I offer to give my life for his. Will not that justify you and uphold the law, in forgiving the prisoner at the bar and saving his life." "Officer," says the judge, "take that man into custody; he is also guilty; the law demands his life. How, then, can he be the substitute of another?" A servant enters, and presents a note to the judge. The judge is greatly moved; he knows the hand: it is from the prince of the whole realm. He opens the note. "Gentlemen of the jury," says he, rising from his seat, "this is the most wonderful message I have ever received." He reads: "My lord, knowing your great love for the prisoner, and my love to him being the same; as also I know your righteousness in upholding the laws of this realm; my life is without spot, that life I freely give in redemption for the life of the prisoner. Let me be executed: let him be spared." The judge sits down. The foreman rises and says, "I hasten to express the united verdict of this jury, that in such a ransom the prisoner can not only be acquitted, but my lord the judge is perfectly justified, and the integrity of the law maintained to the utmost."
I have, then, to believe that God loved me when a guilty, lost, condemned sinner. "Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins." I have to believe that God so loved me, as to take my part, though a sinner — that God is for me — that it is God who justifies me. I have to believe in the righteousness of God in justifying me.
Oh! let me ask you, reader, has the Holy Ghost given you this precious faith in the righteousness of God in justifying you? Have you thus seen God in the gospel, meeting you in perfect love, through the propitiatory blood of Jesus? Satan and conscience may accuse of ten thousand sins. In this, Rom. 3:21-26, it is as though God said to you, "I know you are a sinner; for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God." But, pointing to the blood of Jesus, God says, "Now let Satan set forth all your sins; I also set forth the propitiatory death of Jesus to declare my righteousness in forgiving your sins, I justify you freely by my grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. I have found a ransom. My righteousness is revealed to the utmost in His death. The law demanded thy life. And what a life has been given for thee, believer! Not the life of one like thyself, a sinner. No; if Jesus could have been such, He would have had to die for himself. No; I have given my Son, without spot or stain, equal with myself. I tell thee, poor sinner, if thou believest on me, the utmost penalty of thy sins was borne by the Holy One, the Prince of Life. Peace be to thee through His blood. When He was put to death for thy sins, did I leave Him in the grave? No; I raised Him from the dead for thy justification. (Rom. 4:25.) I justify thee. My love to thee is infinite and everlasting. Nothing shall ever separate thee from my love."
You then, reader, do you in the secret of your own heart believe the love and the righteousness of God, in thus saving by the death of His Son Jesus Christ? — all this "to declare his righteousness: that He might be just (or righteous), and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus." What, then, can possibly hinder your going to heaven? God, who has forgiven you your sins, and justified you freely, is perfectly righteous in doing so, and He is for you. I say, in conclusion, if you believe God, you may be quite sure of going to heaven. But, "he that believeth not is condemned already." Fearful is the doom that awaits every unbeliever. If you are, and remain, a rejecter of Christ, the day is coming when God will be for ever against you. You have rejected Him in the day of mercy, and He will reject you in the day of judgment.
Believers, "we love Him, because He first loved us." Is He not worthy of the surrender of our whole being — body, soul, and spirit? May our hearts be filled with praise, and our lives be devoted to His happy service!