That Sad, Sad Face

I was travelling on the Midland some time ago. Amongst my fellow-passengers were a commercial, an aged general, a major, an aged lady, a sister of mercy, or nun, and a young girl, who, from her agitation, I feared, was being tempted from her home to take the veil. A more sad face than that of the unhappy-looking nun was seldom seen. As I looked at her, I thought if she had but peace with God, oh, how her misery would be turned into joy! I sat longing for an opportunity to tell her of the finished work of Christ. By-and-by she felt for her ticket — she could not find it. I helped her to seek it. At last she found it, after much excitement, in her cloak sleeve. I then said, "It would be a fearful thing at the end of the journey of life to find that we were without the passport to heaven." "Indeed it would," she replied. I said, "Can you tell me what the passport is to the holy presence of God?" "A good conscience," she replied. I said again, "God says in His word that 'there is none righteous, no, not one,' that 'there is no difference, for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.' Will you then tell me how a sinner can have a good conscience?" The nun was quite at a loss to know how to answer this question. "I should think you ought to know," said the aged lady at my left, and, pointing to the Word of God in my hand, she said, "That book will tell you." "You are quite right," I said. "This book tells me that 'the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth me from all sin,' that every believer has 'boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus.' It tells me my sins are forgiven for His name's sake, that believers have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace (Eph. 1:1-7), that God is infinitely righteous in thus justifying a poor sinner, and that without works." (Rom. 3:19-23.)

"What!" said the major, "you do not mean to say that a man may know in this world that his sins are forgiven. I cannot think that a man can be quite sure of that." "Certainly, Major; and now let me give you an illustration in your own line. Suppose your regiment in rebellion, and you give yourself up to make reconciliation for your men, telling them that if you do not succeed you shall never return, but that if you do return, they may be quite sure of their pardon the moment they see you — that the reconciliation will then have been made. Now suppose you do thus make a complete and satisfactory reconciliation — you do return — and you call your regiment on parade, and announce a free pardon to every soldier; and now a man steps up, and says, 'I suppose,' your honour, I must not be quite sure that what you say is true?' Now, Major, would you not consider that an insult?"

"That is right," says the old general.

"And now, if it is an insult to doubt the word of a fallible man, what is it to doubt the testimony of the infallible God? Has not the blessed Jesus given Himself the propitiation for sin, 'to make reconciliation for the sins of the people?' 'He died for our sins according to the scriptures, and he was buried, and he rose again the third day.' (1 Cor. 15:3, 5.) He never could have returned from the cold chambers of the dead if the reconciliation had not been perfectly made. But believers can say with triumph, 'He was raised from the dead for our justification, therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace, with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ.' Do you not see, Major, your return to your regiment would be a proof that reconciliation was made? And the resurrection of Christ is God's proof that the atoning work of Christ is perfectly finished. And if your own word should be enough for your men to believe, what can I want more than the word of God? God hath raised up that very Jesus who groaned and bled on the cross beneath the weight of my sins and guilt. And that is not all. That very Jesus is gone up on high, and sits at the right hand of the majesty on high. This is what gives me the answer of a good conscience, as Peter says, 'And be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear, having a good conscience.' But how? By good works? No, these will do before men, 'but the answer of a good conscience toward God is only by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who is gone into heaven,' &c. (1 Pet. 3:15, 22.) The sacrifices of the law could never make the conscience perfect, much less can the bloodless sacrifices that men pretend now to offer. But the offering of Jesus on the cross — His one offering of Himself — perfects the conscience for ever, so perfects it that there needs 'no more sacrifice for sins.'" (Heb. 10:1-23.)

"Major, would you not be happy now if you knew your sins were forgiven?" "Oh yes, indeed, nothing on this earth could make me so happy." And then, addressing the nun, I said, "And would not you be happy if you also know, like the believing Ephesians, that God had for Christ's sake forgiven your sins?" She said, "I do not know how to answer you." The commercial man now spoke: "I have no doubt that a man is justified, as you have said, by faith; but will you tell me when a man may conclude with certainty and safety that he is saved?" "That is a very important inquiry," said I. "Many make a fatal mistake by concluding, because they have passed through a religious excitement, that they may hope they are saved. There is no safety in such a conclusion. Neither can a person be sure he is saved by fasting, and prayers, and works of kindness. No, there is sin mixed up with it all. Neither dare the person conclude that he is saved by keeping the holy law of God; for the more sincerely he strives to keep it, the more miserable and desponding he is, for he finds an evil heart that is still breaking it. But when a person sees himself so great a sinner that there is no remedy for him but death, and that God has met his need as a sinner in the death of Christ, and that being risen from the death the sinner deserved, He is now his justification and life — in plain words, when stripped of all dependence on himself, he is brought by the Spirit of God to trust alone in Christ, he may then conclude with certainty and safety that he is saved."

Yes, my reader, nothing can be so sure as the word of the living God: "Be it known unto you that through this risen man, Christ Jesus, is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins, and by him all that believe are justified from all things from which they could not be justified by the law of Moses." "Are justified" — not may be after death. No, the believer is now beyond death, Jesus having died for him. If you are brought to give up all self-righteousness, and as a lost sinner to receive Christ as your entire salvation, you may be most certain you are saved. A person may be deceived in doing and enduring anything to save himself, but no man will trust alone in Christ, but, by the Holy Ghost. If this is your faith, you may be certain it is of God. You may be certain, therefore, you are saved. If you are trusting partly in Christ, and partly in something else, you never on that ground can be saved. It must be all Christ, or no Christ at all.

C.S.