There are few opportunities so favourable for candid conversation as railway travelling; and though a commercial traveller myself, I think I may be allowed to say, there are few persons better qualified than commercial travellers for sustaining intelligent conversation. A short time ago I was travelling with two, who for intellectual ability might not be surpassed by any on the road. I felt an anxious desire to know what were their thoughts on that most important of all subjects, the salvation of the soul.
In course of conversation, I inquired of one of them, "How do you really think a man is to be saved?" He replied, "No doubt the man who keeps the ten commandments is a happy man, and I believe that is the way to be saved." His fellow-traveller remarked, "I did think so, but I heard Dr. Some-one, of Leeds, preach a sermon which convinced me that it was only necessary to keep the last six." This was said in all seriousness. I replied, "I will not say ten, nor six; but now, if one had to be kept for salvation, tell me who could be saved? If Adam, happy in innocence, did not keep one, but fell, would it not be a fearful thing for us, fallen in sin, and surrounded by innumerable temptations, as we are, to have our eternal salvation to depend on our perfect obedience even to one command? No! my friends, redemption through the blood of Christ is a very different thing from our trying to keep the commandments. We must have redemption first through the blood of Christ, even the forgiveness of sins; and obedience will come after. Not the obedience of law-keeping for salvation. That is impossible when you have got it first. It would be utterly impossible to be in this carriage, and at the same time have something to do to get in. Just as impossible is it to receive Christ as my salvation, and yet have to keep the law to get saved." "I never saw it in that light," said my friend opposite.
Well now, reader, of course I do not know your religious sentiments, but, ten to one, you are on the same ground as the commercial. If I were to ask ten persons in any carriage the same question, very probably nine of them would have some indistinct thought, that it is something we have to do for God which will save us, and that if we do it worthily we shall be saved. And if one out of the ten were to say, "Oh! no, it is what Christ has done for me that has saved me," I should be glad to hear even one out of ten give the glory to Christ. Well, now, is it not a miserable thing to be tormented with uncertainty year after year? and not only uncertainty, but often the person who tries most to keep the commands, feels more keenly the gnawing of conscience, and the burthen of sin. Yes, no words can describe the anguish of heart that some feel who are thus trying to get saved by keeping the law. Oh, the weight of guilt! The law can give you no relief. It can only curse you. For "as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them." (Gal. 3:10) And you know well that you cannot continue in them. Again and again you have tried, but all in vain. You cannot even be what you wish to be, much more what the holy law of God requires. But you hope to be better yet. You hoped that long ago; but still you are rather worse than better. Some try to get saved this way, until, tired out, they give all up in despair, plunge headlong into sin, and perish in infidelity. There are few infidels but who were made so by false religion. Just as salvation by works is preached, infidelity increases, until, as in popish countries, you can hardly tell which is which. Is it not a solemn thing, that so few, even in England, know the difference between the saving gospel and the cursing law? Well, you say, "If man cannot keep the law, why was it given?" It was given because of transgression, that sin might be manifested, that every mouth might be stopped, and all the world proved guilty before God. (See Rom. 3; Gal. 3.) But the gospel sets Christ before us sent down from heaven. God having concluded all under sin, He now brings Christ, and sets Him forth, the righteousness of God. This holy Jesus became the substitute for sinners; and now it is not they who must do something to live; but He must die that they may live: and He has died for our sins according to the scriptures, God declaring His acceptance of that sacrifice for our sins by raising Him from the dead. Mark, this is not a question of men's opinions, but the very righteousness of God is at stake: the word of God puts it so. (Rom. 3:21-28.) "Whom God has set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins," &c. Yes, the death of Christ is God's own remedy for my sins; to deny it or doubt it is to make God a liar. Dare you say God is not just, and the justifier of him that believeth? How is it, with the record of God in our hands, as given by the Holy Ghost through the preaching of the apostles and in all the epistles, that believers are saved entirely by grace through Christ Jesus, and not by works of their own: I say, is it not marvellous that men will not believe God Himself?
Reader, was this not an instance of the truth of that statement of the word of God, "Hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?" Just think of two commercial travellers, bright, intelligent men, but as ignorant of God's way of saving sinners as any Jew or Mahomedan on the face of the earth. The commercial's way to be saved, by keeping the law for salvation, is the thought of every unconverted person, however ignorant, or however learned. It is the professed doctrine of the millions of the Greek and Romish churches. In principle it is the same with every shade of heathenism, something that man can do to satisfy the god or gods of his own choice. Some wonder that so many are going over to Romanism. The wonder is that all who are on the ground of works for salvation do not go over to it. No doubt this will be the case, or worse. (See 2 Thess. 2:11.) But though hell and earth have so long, and in every variety of way, tried to extinguish the light of the gospel, it is still the power of God to salvation to every one that believeth.
Reader, if you do not care for your poor soul's salvation, then throw my paper away; say plainly you will have sin and hell. Are you really concerned? Have you long desired to be saved? What has hindered you? Two things. First, you have not believed God's testimony about yourself, and secondly, you have not believed God's testimony about Christ. As to yourself, you do not really believe that you are utterly ruined by sin. If you did, you would see at once the folly of trying, as you try, to mend yourself. That which is partly ruined may be mended. If your hat fell into the water and was injured, it might be restored; but, if ruined, it is past mending. Sin has not merely injured man, but ruined him. But now as to the second — God's testimony of Christ. God Himself has accepted the mighty ransom — God Himself has raised Him from the dead. God Himself declares that all who believe on Him are justified from all things. Ponder these words: "If righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain." Every attempt to keep the law for righteousness is an attempt to prove that Christ died in vain — that you are not so ruined, and do not need such a gift as Christ. Certain it is, without righteousness you cannot enter heaven; you have none of your own. If you do not receive God's righteousness as a free gift, even Christ, what on earth or in heaven can save you? Oh, fellow-believer, what wondrous love was that "made sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him."