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1. Paul did not give the same answer to this question which a consistent Universalist would give. The latter would say, You are to be saved by being first punished according to your sin. All men must expect to be punished all that their sins deserve. But Paul did not answer thus. Miserable comforter had he been if he had answered after this sort: “You must all be punished according to the letter of the law you have broken.” This could scarcely have been called gospel.
Nor again did Paul give the Universalist’s answer and say, “Do not concern yourself about this matter of being saved, all men are sure enough of being saved without any particular anxiety about it.” Not so Paul; no—he understood and did not forbear to express the necessity of believing on the Lord Jesus Christ as the condition of being saved.
2. Take care that you do not sin willfully after saying understood the truth concerning the way of salvation. Your danger of this is great precisely in proportion as you see your duty clearly. The most terrible damnation must fall on the head of those who “knew their duty, but who did it not.” When, therefore, you are told plainly and truly what your duty is, be on your guard lest you let salvation slip out of your hands. It may never come so near your reach again.
3. Do not wait, even to go home, before you obey God. Make up your mind now, at once, to close in with the offers of salvation. Why not? Are they not most reasonable?
4. Let your mind act upon this great proposal and embrace it just as you would any other important proposition. God lays the proposition before you; you hear it explained, and you understand it; now the next and only remaining step is—to embrace it with all your heart. just as any other great question (we may suppose it a question of life or death) might come before a community—the case be fully stated, the conditions explained, and then the issue is made. Will you subscribe? Will you engage to meet these conditions? Do you heartily embrace the proposition? Now all this would be intelligible.
Just so, now, in the case of the sinner. You understand the proposition. You know the conditions of salvation. You understand the contract into which you are to enter with your God and Saviour. You covenant to give your all to God—to lay yourself upon His altar to be used up there just as He pleases to use you. And now the only remaining question is, Will you consent to this at once? Will you go for full and everlasting consecration with all your heart?
5. The jailer made no excuse. When he knew his duty, in a moment he yielded. Paul told him what to do, and he did it. Possibly he might have heard something about Paul’s preaching before this night; but probably not much. But now he fears for his life. How often have I been struck with this case! There was a dark-minded heathen. He had heard, we must suppose, a great deal of slang about these apostles; but notwithstanding all, he came to them for truth; hearing, he is convinced, and being convinced, he yields at once. Paul uttered a single sentence—he received it, embraced it, and it is done.
Now you, sinner, know and admit all this truth, and yet infinitely strange as it is, you will not, in a moment, believe and embrace it with all your heart. O, will not Sodom and Gomorrah rise up against you in the judgment and condemn you! That heathen jailer—how could you bear to see him on that dread day, and stand rebuked by his example there!
6. It is remarkable that Paul said nothing about the jailer’s needing any help in order to believe and repent. He did not even mention the work of the Spirit, or allude to the jailer’s need of it. But it should be noticed that Paul gave the jailer just those directions which would most effectually secure the Spirit’s aid and promote his action.
7. The jailer seems to have made no delay at all, waiting for no future or better time; but as soon as the conditions are before him be yields and embraces; no sooner is the proposition made than he seizes upon it in a moment.
I was once preaching in a village in New York, and there sat before me a lawyer who had been greatly offended with the Gospel. But that day I noticed he sat with fixed eye and open mouth, leaned forward as if he would seize each word as it came. I was explaining and simplifying the Gospel, and when I came to state just how the Gospel is offered to men, he said to me afterwards: I snatched at it—I put out my hand, (suiting the action to the thought), and seized it —and it became mine.
So in my own case while in the woods praying, after I had burst away from the fear of man, and began to give scope to my feelings, this passage fell upon me, “Ye shall seek for Me and find Me when ye shall search for Me with all your heart.” For the first time in the world I found that I believed a passage in the Bible. I had supposed that I believed before, but surely never before as I now did. Now, said I to myself, “This is the word of the everlasting God. My God, I take Thee at Thy word. Thou sayest I shall find Thee when I search for Thee with all my heart, and now, Lord, I do search for Thee, I know, with all my heart.” And true enough, I did find the Lord. Never in all my life was I more certain of anything than I was then that I had found the Lord.
This is the very idea of His promises—they were made to be believed—to be laid hold of as God’s own words, and acted upon as if they actually meant just what they say. When God says, “Look unto Me and be ye saved,” He would have us look unto Him as if He really had salvation in His hands to give, and withal a heart to give it. The true spirit of faith is well expressed by the Psalmist, “When Thou saidst, `Seek ye my face,’ my heart replied—‘Thy face, Lord, will I seek.” This is the way—let your heart at once respond to the blessed words of invitation and of promise.
Ah, but you say, I am not a Christian. And you never will be till you believe on the Lord Jesus Christ as your Saviour. If you never become a Christian, the reason will be because you do not and will not believe the Gospel and embrace it with all your heart.
The promises were made to be believed, and belong to an one who will believe them. They reach forth their precious words to all, and whoever will, may take them as his own. Now will you believe that the Father has given you eternal life? This is the fact declared; will you believe it?
You have now been told what you must not do and what you must do to be saved; are you pre pared to act? Do you say, I am ready to renounce my own pleasure, and henceforth seek no other pleasure than to please God? Can you forego everything else for the sake of this?
Sinner, do you want to please God, or would you choose to please yourself? Are you willing now to please God and to begin by believing on the Lord Jesus Christ unto salvation? Will you be as simple-hearted as the jailer was? And act as promptly?
I demand your decision now. I dare not have you go home first, lest you get to talking about something else, and let slip these words of life and this precious opportunity to grasp an offered salvation. And whom do you suppose I am now addressing? Every impenitent sinner in this house—every one. I call heaven and earth to record that I have set the Gospel before you today. Will you take it? Is it not reasonable for you to decide at once? Are you ready, now, to say before high heaven and before this congregation, “I will renounce myself and yield to God! I am the Lord’s, and let all men and angels bear me witness—I am forevermore the Lord’s.” Sinner, the infinite God waits for your consent!12
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