There is as much difficulty in persuading some people that they are lost, as in assuring certain others that they are saved.
And yet “saved” or “lost” describes the condition of all. The reader of this paper is either “saved” or “lost,” and of a truth this is a very solemn fact! Pause, dear reader, and seriously consider in which of these two conditions thy soul is at this moment.
Now, each of these terms is used in the word of God, and each is intended to convey a distinct meaning, as well as to mark off the different states in which people on earth are seen by God. But can it be said of any one on earth that he is lost, whilst still the door of mercy is open and space for repentance may be allowed? Do not the bright rays of hope shine on the heart of even the most hardened, the most obdurate, the most sinful? This may, indeed, be true. This earth is yet the scene of mercy, pardon, and salvation. Nevertheless, we read in 2 Corinthians 4:3, “If our Gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost,” and this has reference, clearly enough, to those who were within the sound of that gospel, and who could turn a deaf ear to it. They were living men on earth, and yet lost. Yes, there are people living on earth who are lost. Is my reader one of them? If so, may it please the God of all grace, by His Spirit, to reveal thine awfully perilous condition to thee, ere thou fallest into the place from which there can be no recall, no return, no retreat. Let us thank God that thou, though lost, art not yet irretrievably, eternally lost. There is still hope for thee.
But who is so unwilling to be persuaded of his lost condition? Not the drunkard, for he knows it; not the dishonest, immoral, vicious, degraded being, whose ways have cast a blot on society. For all such, condemnation and everlasting punishment are reserved, and they know their fearful doom. It is almost unnecessary to tell them that they are lost. “The wicked shall be turned into hell.” There is, however, another class, one that is far removed from what is morally corrupt, nay, one, the characteristic of which is not only a regard for purity, decency, uprightness, respectability, &c., but even for religion in its outward forms.
Now, it is quite possible to be thus religious and yet to be lost. There is no saving virtue in religion as such, nor in any of its forms.
The well known conversation between the Lord Jesus and Nicodemus may be instanced. This Nicodemus had three qualifications, each of which gave him a standing as a religious man. He was a “Man of the Pharisees,” a “Master of Israel,” and a “Ruler of the Jews,” and yet it was to this man that the Lord said, “Ye must be born again.” That is, his state, his nature was such that a second birth was absolutely necessary ere he could “enter into the kingdom of God.” As to his state, he was lost. Again, in Romans 10, we read that the prayer of the Apostle Paul for Israel was that they “might be saved;” and yet he gave them credit for having a “zeal of God.” They were zealous toward God and yet lost.
From such instances it is plain that a man may be not only moral but may even possess a religious name and at the same time be lost—may have a name to live and yet be dead.
Now, it is such people who are so hard of persuasion. They measure themselves more by the rules of society than by the word of God. They judge of themselves by their neighbour and not by the divine standard. They have their hopes of heaven and yet have not been “born again.” Their zeal towards God consists in efforts to establish their own righteousness and they have “not submitted themselves to the righteousness of God.”
Oh, dear reader, if such be thy condition, submit at once to the righteousness of God, and acknowledge that thou art lost. Place no more any confidence in thy good works, which, although praiseworthy and commendable, cannot help thee in the matter of salvation. Own thy lost condition before thy God and then by faith lay claim to Him, and to His all-sufficient work on Calvary, who “came to seek and to save that which was lost.” Thus alone can there be any hope for thee.
Secondly. It is the privilege of all true Christians to know that they are saved, and for this unspeakable blessing they are indebted to the word of God. Thus, for instance, in 1 John 5:13, we read, “these things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God that ye may know that ye have eternal life.” Whoever, therefore, truly believes on the name of the Son of God, not only has eternal life, but is expressly taught in this passage that he is to be a conscious possessor of it. He is to know that he has it.
Now, observe that the knowledge of salvation is derived by the believer from the word of God. That word is the alone source of information on the point, and is, thank God, quite sufficient, and if sufficient it satisfies him who believes it. He who thus accredits the word of God is consequently freed from all doubts respecting the certainty of his salvation.
Then, wherein lies the difficulty of assuring certain people that they are saved? In this, that instead of accepting the word of God as the means of knowledge they apply to their faith, their feelings, their holiness, their love to God, &c., and, inasmuch as all such internal evidences are of a changing character, therefore, there can never be settled assurance. No doubt, “love, joy, peace,” and such like, are the fruit of the Spirit, the work of the Spirit in the soul, but they are not the ground of salvation, nor do they furnish the knowledge of it. The ground of salvation is the work of Christ on Calvary, the knowledge of it is supplied by the word of God to him that believes.
Therefore, my beloved reader, if indeed thou hast renounced thine own works as a ground of salvation, and hast, through the Spirit of God, accepted the “precious blood of Christ” as thine only title, learn that the word of God bids thee know that thou art saved. Yea, thou art saved, thou hast eternal life. “He that believes on the Son has everlasting life” (John 3:36), so that thou mayest go forth in the calm and “full assurance of faith” to live a life of joy, of holiness, and spiritual activity, waiting till thou shalt see Him, who loved thee and gave Himself for thee, who liveth now at God’s right hand, from whence He will quickly come to take thee and all His blood-bought people to dwell with Himself for ever.
“His love, not thine, the resting place,
His truth, not thine, the tie.”