Plain Dialogues on Solemn Subjects,

for this Present Time.

No. 2.

Do you believe God?

Anxious Enquirer. The last question you put to me has filled me with anxiety — Do I believe God? All that I can say is this, I am anxious to know God's truth; and so to believe it that I may have the certainty of my salvation.

Christian. I am truly glad to hear you say so; I trust this anxiety is the work of the Spirit of God. I have been reading lately of an anxious soul, and if you will turn to Acts 8:26-39 we will read it together. "And the angel of the Lord spake to Philip, saying, Arise, and go toward the south to the way that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza, which is desert. And he arose and went: and, behold, a man of Ethiopia, an eunuch of great authority under Candace queen of the Ethiopians, who had the charge of all her treasure, and had come to Jerusalem for to worship, was returning and sitting in his chariot read Esaias the prophet. Then the Spirit said to Philip, Go near, and join thyself to this chariot. And Philip ran thither to him, and heard him read the prophet Esaias, and said, Understandest thou what thou readest? And he said, How can I, except some man should guide me? And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him. The place of the scripture which he read was this, He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb dumb before his shearer, so opened he not his mouth: in his humiliation his judgment was taken away: and who shall declare his generation? for his life is taken from the earth. And the eunuch answered Philip, and said, I pray thee, of whom speaks the prophet this? of himself, or of some other man? Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached to him Jesus. And as they went on their way, they came to a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him. And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more: and he went on his way rejoicing."

Anxious Enquirer. How strange that the eunuch should find salvation so soon, and go on his way rejoicing; whilst I have made a profession so long, and yet seem as far off as ever.

Christian. The eunuch also may have made a profession; had he not been to Jerusalem to worship, and yet a stranger to Jesus and a stranger to himself? This conversion is carefully marked in scripture. The angel of the Lord directed Philip to the place, and the Spirit directed him to this very person.

Anxious Enquirer. I had not noticed that. Do you think it is to fix our attention on this remarkable instance?

Christian. I have no doubt of it. Have you noticed there are two things in this scripture — the death of the Lord Jesus for our sins, as the Lamb of God; and the death of the eunuch with the Lord Jesus? These are two most important truths of God.

Anxious Enquirer. I had only thought of the former.

Christian. Well, let us carefully look at both; and then I would ask you, Do you believe God as to these two things? Philip preached to him Jesus. That suffering One, bearing our iniquities, in Isaiah 53, was thus set before him, just as I would now set Him before you. Look at that holy, bleeding Jesus on the cross, and remember this is all of God! "God so loved," &c. Do you believe God as thus revealed in the cross of Christ? He gave His beloved Son thus to die. Do you believe your sins were so great in His sight, that no less a ransom could redeem you to Himself? This is the truth of God. On this earth this wondrous work has actually been accomplished. There was one word especially arrested the eunuch — "For his life is taken from the earth." (Ver. 33) This is the full expression of the love of God to the guilty. God commends and expresses His love in this very way. There is the word and the act of God — all of God. What did it cost Him to forsake the Holy One? Do you believe God as thus revealed on the cross? If a friend sent you a gift, as the expression of his love, would you not believe him? Surely, love must be equal to the gift. Then, I ask, Is not God this friend? Do you, then, believe this unmerited love? Oh! such was His love to us, "it pleased the Lord to bruise him." "He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities." "The Lord has laid on him the iniquities of us all." Such was my sin in the sight of God, that nothing could put it away but the atoning death of my Lord. All this revealed God in a new light to the eunuch. But when he found that His life was taken from the earth, then did he say, as it were, Let my life too be taken away from the earth. "See, here is water: what doth hinder me to be baptized?" He died for me, let me die with Him.

Anxious Enquirer. What is baptism? What do you mean by dying with Jesus?

Christian. Baptism is the justification of God. When the believer is thus buried in baptism, he owns by faith the righteousness of God: the righteous sentence of God upon himself as a lost son of Adam.

Anxious Enquirer. Could you give me an illustration? I should so like to understand this.

Christian. I will try to give you a plain one. Suppose you call to see a sick friend, but on arrival you find he is dead. You try to comfort the late friends of the corpse; and then you advise them to send for the undertaker. Oh dear no, say they, he is not dead; we must send for the doctor. Mark, the point at issue is the Grave or a Doctor! After a few hours, the friends are convinced he is really dead; they justify your word, and, instead of the doctor, the grave receives the poor decomposing corpse.

Anxious Enquirer. Oh! I see; the point at issue between God's truth and man's error — is this, Does man need the doctor, or is he only fit for the grave? Is he ill with sin, and does he need the help of religion? or is he dead in sins, and does he need redemption and a new life?

Christian. Exactly so. The epistles prove most distinctly, yea, God's word declares, man to be dead in trespasses and sins. (Eph. 2:1-8.) All have also sinned, and are under the just judgment of God. (Rom. 3:19. See margin.) As the eunuch judged, so says the apostle, "We thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead." (2 Cor. 5:14.) Therefore, says the eunuch, Here is water, why not let me own the judgment of God? let me be buried here at once, on the spot. Thus he justified God. He owned the full redemption in the precious death of Jesus for him; and then he gave himself up as entirely dead with Him. All that he was as an Ethiopian, all that he was as a religious man (for he had been to Jerusalem to worship); yes, all he was as a child of the first Adam, he committed to the grave, buried with Christ. Thus his sins had been put away by the atoning death of Jesus: himself had been put away by burial with Jesus. Baptism was a beautiful figure of this, and hence, when he came up out of the water, a Christian in all the power of the life of the risen Christ, what could he do but go on his way rejoicing?

Anxious Enquirer. Did you say the epistles bear out this double view; the death of Christ for us, and the believer's death with Him?

Christian. If you turn to the Epistle to the Romans, you will find both these truths equally developed; yea, in these two things the righteousness of God is revealed. If you read carefully, you will find the death of Jesus for our sins is the theme up to chapter 5:11. Then, from verse 12, sin is the subject; and our justification from sin is by being dead with Christ. This is most plainly proved in chapter 6. Believing God — who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification — we are thus reckoned righteous before God. "Therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." Now let us take this part first. Do you really believe God raised Jesus from the dead, having died for your sins? Did He thus declare your sins had been borne by His Son, and could He thus announce to you, through Jesus, the full and everlasting forgiveness of your sins? Do you believe God in this? Did He do this to give you peace, or to deceive you? Will He thus forgive you, and then on some dreadful day judge you for those sins again? Does not His very righteousness make this impossible?

Anxious Enquirer. Oh, I am sure God is true.

Christian. Very well, then; He announces to you, through Jesus, the forgiveness of sins; and it is true, that all who believe Him are forgiven. And it is true, "their sins and iniquities I will remember no more." And whilst it is quite true that all this is proved to the believer, by the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, Jesus risen and ascended to heaven is the believer's evidence, that his sins are put away for ever. But He was also raised from the dead for the special purpose of being our ever-subsisting righteousness: in this sense He was raised for our justification.

Anxious Enquirer. That is deeply interesting: it does seem as if God had so completely met our case. I seem as if I did really believe the forgiveness of sins, my sins, through the death of Jesus. But I have still a sinful nature, and the more I try to be religious, the more troubled I am about sin.

Christian. Well, I am glad you have had this trouble; but do not you remember how the eunuch was delivered from this trouble?

Anxious Enquirer. I do not think I understand that part of it yet.

Christian. Then will you look over Romans 6 and just read it as a comment on the burial of the Ethiopian? He was delivered from himself, so to speak, by owning he was dead, and taking the place of death, with Christ. And in this chapter the true ground for the Christian is to know himself dead, crucified, buried. No question of religious medicine, but burial with Christ. He, and he only, who is dead, is justified from sin.

Anxious Enquirer. Do you mean the sin of my nature?

Christian. Undoubtedly that is what this chapter means throughout — dead with Christ. This is what we are to reckon ourselves to be. For this is just what God reckons. Our sins blotted out by His precious blood, and our old selves blotted out as dead with Him.

Anxious Enquirer. If I, as a sinful man, am thus blotted out, or crucified, how can I live at all?

Christian. My dear sir, hear the apostle. "Not I, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." This is most plain — if we have been crucified with Christ, we are also raised up from the dead in Him. (Eph. 2:6.) Do you thus justify God? Do you believe that if one died for all, then were all dead? Nothing could be a more complete deliverance than this, from sin, self, and law: for the law neither says, Thou shalt, or thou shalt not, to a dead man.

Anxious Enquirer. Stop a moment. Do you mean by this that I may break the law?

Christian. Break the law! my dear sir? Dead men do not break law. The moment I try to be alive under it, I shall break it. The apostle declares he found it so. If I am dead, I am not under it, and therefore sin shall not have dominion over me. The utmost curse of the law had been fulfilled in the death of Jesus for them that were under law. And now, as reckoned dead with Him, I repeat, dead men are neither under law nor they break it. Nay, this very argument is used by the Holy Ghost, our being reckoned dead and risen with Christ as the reason why sin shall not have the dominion over us. All this was strikingly illustrated in the eunuch. Christ had died for his sins. He was now dead and buried with him; and as a new creature in the risen Christ he went on his way rejoicing. Old things had passed away — both his sins and himself — and all had become new, a new life, a new self, so to speak, a new creation, and all of God. Do you believe we are so bad? Do you believe God is so good? Can you say, In me, that is, in my flesh, my old self, there dwells no good thing. Let me be buried as a vile sinner. I have not a little finger fit to live. Vile, dead, corrupt, bury me out of sight. Oh never to look at myself again! All bad. "Here is water; what doth hinder?" Now henceforth let Christ be all. Can you say, My all? Job said, I am vile. The eunuch said, Let me be buried.

Anxious Enquirer. Well, I never saw such a complete riddance of self.

Christian. It is God's riddance, and the only one. The eunuch saw it at once. Now it takes (through false teaching) many a long year fairly to give up old, vile, black self, and then go on rejoicing. Whilst I am seeking righteousness by keeping the law, I do not believe God a bit. I am saying, I am not bad enough for the coffin, let me have the doctor. Had the rabble shouted at me, "Away with him! Crucify him! he is not fit to live," they would have judged rightly. And they shouted at my holy Substitute. In Him I will rejoice. He died for me. I die with Him.

Anxious Enquirer. Do you mean, then, that if I am dead to sin, and no longer looked at as alive in the flesh, or old vile nature, that therefore there is no sin in me, or no evil nature left in me?

Christian. Oh dear, no! far from that. Such a thought, such confusion, would destroy if possible the very gospel. The fact is, that though I am not in the flesh, or under the dominion of sin, yet it is true that "that which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit." (John 3.) And "The flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye might not do the things that ye would" [as it should be translated]. (Gal. 5.) All this is solemnly true, that vile nature is never mended: that old heart is never changed. But this does not alter the blessed fact, that God has given the believer a new nature and a new heart. Oh is not the thought of sin terrible! It makes the oldest Christian groan to look at it, as we see in the type of Hezekiah, after long years of patient, prayerful victory; yet at last, when he looked at a boil, picture of what the flesh is spiritually, he says, "O Lord, I am oppressed; undertake for me." And then what words — "What shall I say? he has both spoken to me, and himself has done it." (Isaiah 38.) Yes, dear anxious enquirer, if you put yourself under law with a hope to be better, you will sink in despair. But God has spoken to you, and He has done it. Our blessed Jesus has undertaken for us, and He has done it. Do you believe this? Then cannot you, with Paul? say, "I thank God, through Jesus Christ our Lord?" I do again ask, Do you believe God, both as to the announcement of forgiveness of sins through the death of the Lord Jesus; and justification from sin, as passing through death with Him into resurrection? He having been judged for your sin as well as sins — made a sacrifice for sin? (Rom. 8:3.)

Anxious Enquirer. I never felt so stripped before — I see I am nothing but sin. It must be all Christ, or I am everlastingly lost.

Christian. That is most true. But has He not undertaken the whole thing for you, sins and sin? Has He not done it? Does He not show you His hands and His feet? What does He say? "Peace to you."

Anxious Enquirer. He is just the complete Saviour for me.

Christian. Thank God, He is; and there is a completeness in Him. I have not yet spoken of. If there is nothing but sin in you, that is, in your flesh; and you, as a sinful man, are judged and condemned to death, how are you to stand in everlasting righteousness before God?

Anxious Enquirer. That is a point indeed. Do tell me how God has met it.

Christian. God has raised Jesus from the dead for our justification. Jesus is our subsisting righteousness. For God has made Him to be this to us, even "Wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption." (1 Cor. 1:30.) Oh, the gift of God! oh, the riches of His grace! Look up by faith to the right hand of the Majesty in the heavens: the glory of God shines in the face of Jesus our righteousness. Do you want another?

Anxious Enquirer. Enough! Enough for God, enough for me. Let me now think of Jesus, my all. He is God's gift for me and to me. I do believe God.

— — — —

Reader, a word with you. I was travelling lately in France. One of my fellow-passengers to Paris was an intelligent Roman Catholic. The subject of our conversation was the case of Miss Saurin. I said to him, "What is your thought, or what is the thought of Roman Catholics, as to all the degradation and misery endured in a monastery or nunnery?" "Well, sir," said he, "we are all sinners." "That is most true," said I. Then said he, "We believe sin must have its punishment." "I believe the same in my very heart," said I. "Very well, then, we believe the more suffering for sin we have in this world, the less we shall have in the next." I thought this was very fairly put. I then said, "You Roman Catholics, then, do not believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God?" "Oh dear! yes sir," said he; "we certainly believe that Jesus is the Son of God." "Impossible," said I. "Let me explain. Do you believe that Jesus is the infinite person of the Son of God? Then the sacrifice that He offered once for sins must be, like Himself, infinite. Let me illustrate what I mean. Suppose I speak of an infinite line passing through all space. Now, if you said you could add a yard to that line, would not that be a frank denial of the fact that the line is infinite? If you spoke of adding a foot, or an inch, or the breadth of a hair of your head to it, would not that deny that it was infinite? Can anything be clearer than this, that you cannot add to that which is infinite? Now, the infinite Son of God gave Himself an infinite sacrifice for sins to God; for if He be infinite, then His work on the cross must be infinite. But if you talk of adding to this infinite death of the cross, you must by this really deny that the sacrifice was infinite; and if the sacrifice was not infinite, then He who offered it, even Himself, could not be infinite. And thus every act of suffering for sin; every mass, as a sacrifice for sin; every thought of purgatory, as a future state of suffering for sin, as an addition to the atoning death of Jesus for our sins who believe, is a distinct denial that Jesus is infinite in his person and work, and therefore a denial that Jesus is the Son of God."

My friend did not feel the full force of all this at the moment, and wanted to fall into discussion as to which was the right church. "Oh, no," said I, "let you and me have no angry discussion at all. It is the question of your soul's salvation that is on my heart. You are a finite creature, a man, a fallen sinful man. God knows you, and knows how often you have tried to be righteous, and how very dreadful you have found sin to be. You have heard mass, you have determined to be better; but, after all, how terrible is death and judgment to you, when you really think of it! You, I say, are a finite man. God has given His infinite Son. Now, the infinite must cover the finite. Can you think of this — that God gave, in pure love, His own Son to bear the believer's sins? Infinite sacrifice, for ever perfecting all who believe God in this infinite gift. Has the infinite Son of God thus died for us? And dare you deny it, and seek to add a mass, or suffering here or hereafter, to this work of Jesus on the cross?"

All desire for angry discussion was now gone. My friend began to see how God had met the need of the poor finite by the death of the Infinite, and that the Infinite must cover the finite. Very sweet to his soul was the announcement of God by Paul in Acts 13:38: "Be it known to you, that through this man is preached to you the forgiveness of sins: and by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses." It is God that speaks to you, my reader, in these words; Do you believe God?

"In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only-begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love; not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins." Now if we truly believe that Jesus is the Son of God — infinite in His own person — then in this scripture we must see the infinite love of God to us and the infinite sacrifice for our sins. Do you believe this? What perfect peace this gives. If the love of God be infinite to us, then do we need the intercession of saints or angels? Can anything add to the infinite love of God? Is not every prayer to Mary, the mother of Jesus, a denial that Jesus is the Son if God? Jesus Himself is the infinite expression of that love — the very manifestation of the love of God to us. Oh yes, I know all this is denied by man. But do you believe God? And if God sent his Son to be the propitiation to our sin, is not that propitiation infinite? Can any mass, sacrament, or work add to that which is infinite? Impossible! for Jesus is the Son of God. But God sent His Son to be this. Will you deny this? Will you doubt this? Mark, the mass is a direct denial of this. It pretends to add to, or to prolong, that which was once — for ever — accomplished, and is infinite. And mark, every doubt of the human heart is also, in its very essence, a denial of the infinite propitiation for our sins.
Oh how suited to each other, the darkness of Rome, and the darkness of the human heart. If I owed twenty shillings, and a friend, without asking, sent twenty pounds to pay it, could I beg of someone to go and intercede for me with that friend and beg of him to send me a few shillings towards the twenty shillings? or could I think of adding a shilling of my own, to make twenty pounds pay twenty shillings? And yet it is thus we treat God. We go to Mary, or the saints, to entreat God to save us, and thus deny that He has sent Jesus the Son of God to be the infinite propitiation for our sins, or, which is quite as bad, we try to add a little feeling, or repenting, or doing, or a little faith, or love, or supposed holiness, or something else, to the one infinite sacrifice for sins. I say this is as bad. It is the same thing in principle as the mass, purgatory, or human intercession. All this reasoning, doubts the sincerity of the infinite love of God, in sending His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

God, in sending His Son to be the propitiation for our sins, has done that to which nothing can be added, and from which nothing can be taken away.

This is what we testify, "That the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world. Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwells in him and he in God." This perfect love casts out all fear. I am not aware that there can be any middle place, between receiving this witness of God, or making Him a liar. If I doubted my friend, who had paid his twenty pounds, to meet my debt of twenty shillings — if I said There is one short and I must make it up, what would you call this? Would it not be making him a liar? "If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater: for this is the witness of God which he has testified of his Son. He that believes on the Son of God has the witness in himself: he that believes not God has made him a liar; because he believes not the record that God gave of his Son. And this is the record, that God has given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that has the Son has life; and he that has not the Son of God has not life."

Is it not a momentous question — do you believe God? Surely this is the first question to settle. Let me put the question slowly. Do you believe that God gave His Son to die the infinite sacrifice for your sins? Do you believe that God raised Him from among the dead, to be your righteousness? Do you believe that God has given to you eternal life, and this life is in His Son? "These things have I written to you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life." Have you on the testimony of God this eternal life? Are your sins put away by an infinite propitiation for sins? Can you look up by faith to heaven, and say, That glorious, infinite Son of God is my everlasting righteousness? Salvation is wholly of God. "Sent his Son!" Could He love you more? could anything add to, or increase that love? Then it is not infinite. And "God commends his love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us."

Do you say, Must I not serve God? How can you serve God until you believe Him? For "This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he has sent." Did Israel serve God before they were redeemed from Egypt?

Look at the beautiful order, in the case of the man whose eyes Jesus had opened. "Dost thou believe on the Son of God? He answered and said, Who is he, Lord, that I might believe on him? And Jesus said to him, Thou hast both seen him, and it is he that talks with thee. And he said, Lord, I believe. And he worshipped him." (John 9:35-38.)

If you, my reader, now see Jesus, the infinite Son of God, once offered the infinite sacrifice for your sins, now your righteousness and eternal life, your happy place is now a worshipper for ever cleansed. For ever sanctified, you need no priest on earth; no mass or intercessor. An infinite Saviour can leave nothing incomplete. Rest on Him, your great High Priest, passed into the heavens. You will find His present, tender, gracious, loving, priestly care, as perfect as His one offering on the cross. Yes, He is crowned with glory, having tasted death; and perfect through sufferings, as the Captain of our salvation.

The more we see our need, the more do we also see how God has met all, in the gift of His own Son.

Do you say, Well, I do believe God. Then can you say, I am saved with an everlasting salvation? If one be true the other must; for all who believe God are justified from all things. It must be so; the Infinite must cover the finite. Oh! give up the thought of adding a rag to the infinite robe. Let Christ be all.

What! has some one taken up this little paper who despises and rejects this infinite love? Do you know that God is about to give all such up to "strong delusion, that they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness?" I warn you, if you reject Christ, there is no folly you may not at once fall into. What a spectacle of late in London even — five hundred poor deceived souls, having rejected Christ, and the complete salvation through Him, have openly declared their faith in a farthing candle to light them through the dark valley of the shadow of death. What a sign of the times! Gross darkness, and open infidelity, fast settling upon the face of the people! May God awake you, and reveal His love to you as manifested in Jesus the Son of God! Let me beg of you, take the word of God, as it is indeed the word of God; human tradition has made it of none effect to multitudes; but only those who really regard it as God speaking to them in Christ the Son, can form any idea of its divine preciousness and comfort. Take this one verse, "Verily, verily, I say to you, He that hears my word, and believes on him that sent me, has everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death to life." Could anything give more absolute certainty to the believer than this? Believing God, who sent Jesus, we have passed from death to life; have everlasting life; shall not come into condemnation. Did it ever occur to you, that if you are a believer all this is true to you?

One word more. Do not misunderstand the illustration of the twenty pounds paying with certainty the debt of twenty shillings, as though something short of the infinite sacrifice could have met the sins of the finite creature. No: such is sin in the sight of God, that nothing short of the death of His Son could atone for it. But He has atoned for it by His death on the cross, forsaken of God, and the announcement of forgiveness through that infinite sacrifice is a fact and a certainty.

"It is finished." "Peace to you."