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Polluted and worn out as thy heart is, Jesus is willing to take it. The eleventh hour is come, yet Christ is willing to engage thee. He deserved the first and best of thy days, yet he is willing to accept the last and the worst of them, rather than that thou shouldest perish. O let him now see your hearts at his feet in humble submission and holy desire; and let him this day have it to say, “ They are at last conquered ; they are coming to me at last, and I will in nowise cast them out.”
THE NEARNESS OF SALVATION A MOTIVE TO VIGILANCE.
ROMANs xiii. 11. And that, knowing the time, that now
it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed.
It is a charge which has been sometimes brought against religion, that it cherishes an indolent spirit; and that the assurance of salvation which it gives tends to make men careless about further attainments in excellence. Its votaries are represented as saying, “ Let the slaves of the world eat the bread of carefulness, and amass its wealth by incessant toil; and let men of a legal temper strive to be rich in good works; we will sleep on, and take our rest, for we are sure of heaven.” They are charged with ima. gining that nothing can endanger their salvation, and that therefore caution and fear are in them both needless and degrading. Cavillers who bring forth such charges show their utter ignorance of those noble and generous principles of religion which would make a saint avoid sin, even though he knew it would do him no detriment, and practise holiness, though to it no rewards were promised.
Accusations of this nature are easily repelled by exhibiting the spirit of the Gospel, which is a spirit of active goodness, by a reference to many of its precepts, and by detailing the strenuous efforts of its genuine disciples to go on to perfection. The Apostle Paul, who had the certain assurance of his own safety, and that of his companions in his voyage, said to the centurion and to the soldiers, “ Except these abide in the ship, ye cannot be saved ;'* and he who so solemnly states, that grace reigns through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Saviour, hath as expressly declared, “ that without holiness no man shall see the Lord.”
The words of our text hold out the certainty and the nearness of salvation, as calling for the utmost vi. gilance and activity. Instead of indulging in the slumbers of indolence, or in the idle musings of a vain imagination, Christians are to watch and to be sober; to press into the kingdom of God; and to fear lest, after a promise has been left them of entering into his rest, any of them should seem to come short of it. They must strive to reach heaven, in the use of all appointed means; and they must depend on the righteousness of the Saviour alone, and place no reliance on their own exertions in holiness.
In the following discourse I shall explain the view which is here given of the saints' privilege, and of their present duty; and then show how the nearness of their salvation should stir them up to the most vigilant activity in it.
1. Let us attend to the view here given of the pri
• Acts xxvii, 31.
vilege of good men—" Now is their salvation nearer than when they believed.”
1. This expression intimates, that, in the day of believing, the soul's connexion with salvation com
It is at that happy season that a man is brought from a state of condemnation into a state of acceptance, and that a principle of holiness is implanted in the soul. Then the man begins that course which terminates in everlasting life. Angels hail him an heir of salvation, and rejoice in that change which shall issue in his complete meetness for their society and exercises, and for the inheritance of the saints in light. Then the language of the apostle to the believing Hebrews becomes applicable to Him, “ Ye are come to Mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the first-born, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, and to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel.”*
Some have viewed conversion as the period from which men might date their sorrows and struggles, but it is then that salvation commences, which brightens life as it advances, and which hath new comforts for every successive scene. Then the words of our Lord to Zaccheus are applicable to the happy individual—“ This day is salvation come to thy house." Salvation, not indeed completed, but salvation begun,
* Heb. xi, 22-24.
and carrying with it every pledge of consummation which the merits of the Redeemer, the grace of the Spirit, and the fidelity of both, can yield.
The distance between faith and complete salvation has been in some instances short. Quickly has the perfection of glory followed the formation of grace, but in other cases there are many years betwixt them, It belongs to Him to regulate this who is the Author and the Finisher of faith, and in his hand our times are ; and those to whom the longest trial of faith is appointed have no reason to complain, because thus it shall be found to higher praise and to a brighter glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ.
The connexion betwixt faith and salvation cannot be broken. Good men may have their fears and misgivings as to its stability in their own particular case; but these are permitted to operate, to excite them to greater circumspection, and to maintain that humility and dependence which are their best ornament and true security.
2. It is intimated, that at death the believer's salvation is completed. The Apostle represents the believer as not saved till death, because then the blessings of it already bestowed are enjoyed without mixture, and those which were reserved for the land of uprightness are fully imparted. We do not say that a man is saved when the burning heat of his fever is allayed, and the fury of the pulse is calmed, but when health hath sent back its freshness to the countenance and its vigour to the limbs. We say not that the victory is gained when the troops of the enemy are thrown into disorder, or when, in one or two