What is it that Saves a Soul? Salvation Out of and In Us
To answer, then, this question aright, we must view salvation under two points:
1. Salvation considered as an act out of us.
2. Salvation considered as an act in us. As the former precedes the latter, we will give it its due preference. And as "none teacheth like God" Job 36:22, and as He is "the Father of lights" Jas 1:17, "the Fountain of life" Ps 36:9, and "the only wise Jehovah" Jude 1:25, may both writer and reader have grace given them to look up unto Him for that "anointing which teacheth of all things, and is truth, and is no lie" 1Jo 2:27 .
I. Salvation, then, is to be considered, first, as an act out of us, as an eternal, irreversible transaction, originating in the mind of Jehovah, and utterly independent of the creature. To suppose that any new plans, any before unthought of schemes, any alterations of purpose, any improvements of an originally imperfect design, can take place in the mind of Jehovah, is to cast one of the greatest insults on the wisdom and power of the Triune God which the creature can offer. If He is All-wise, no new thought can arise in His mind; if He is All-powerful, no unexpected obstacle, no unlooked-for contingency, no unforeseen emergency can defeat His purpose; and if He is the source and spring of the very existence of the creature Ro 11:36, neither the will nor the power of the creature can be stronger than He. We consider him to be the most skilful engineer who can calculate beforehand, with the greatest accuracy, the movement and effect of every wheel and cog of some new piece of machinery, and whose hand can execute with the greatest nicety the invention of his mind. We call him the ablest general who plans best before the battle every manoeuvre which he means to perform, and who executes with the greatest precision and success his original design. To miscalculate, to be defeated by some unlooked-for obstacle, to stop short on account of some unforeseen hindrance, stamps a man as a bungler. To err in his original estimate impeaches the skill; to be unable to execute his plan argues defect of power in an architect.
Now, shall a general have a plan, an engineer have a plan, an architect have a plan, and shall God not have a plan? Shall we measure a man s skill by the wisdom of his design, and his power by its execution, and shall we not measure the wisdom and power of God in the same way? Shall we consider him a dolt and a fool who has no regular system of business, no organised plan of managing his affairs, no fixed hours of work, no preconcerted series of operations, and shall we not tremble to ascribe all this folly to God? A Manchester cotton factory could not go on for a week if it had not some system of operations, some regular plan which assigns to every wheel its work, and to every hand its place. And yet men are to be found of such daring impiety as to ascribe to the only wise God a confusion, a disorder, a negligence in the management of the eternal destiny of man which, if acted upon in this great town, would shut up its busy factories, beggar its vast population, and turn its crowded streets into a habitation of dragons and a court for owls.
We cannot, therefore, deny that all which God does, He does according to a plan settled in His own eternal mind, without impeaching either His wisdom to contrive, or His power to perform. If, then, all that God does, He does "according to the counsel of His own will," it is plain that the salvation or damnation of souls must form a part of His eternal purpose. If all things that take place flow in a channel cut out for them, follow each other according to a fixed order, and form as much a part of God s universal government as every wheel contributes to the movement of some complicated machine, then salvation must be included in the one great original design. To say that God appoints some things, but not others; decrees temporal events, but not spiritual; watches over the fall of a sparrow, but leaves man s immortal soul to chance, random, and hap-hazard, is as bare-faced an assumption as for an ignorant rustic to examine one of Watt s steam-engines, and say: "This boiler, this flywheel, this piston, Watt planned; but this parallel motion, this governor, this self-registering valve, this beautiful precision of every movement, he left to chance. His mastermind forgot this part of the machine, and omitted that; and all this exquisite arrangement and nice adaptation is the result partly of skill and contrivance, and partly of hap-hazard, luck and fortune." No less vainly and ignorantly do all talk who deny salvation to be a complete plan, harmonious in every part, and having its origin, progress and end in the will and purpose of God alone. Because we cannot perceive the harmony and beauty of the one great whole, because there are objections and difficulties, because we cannot comprehend the object and bearing of every part, are we at liberty to deny that salvation is one great harmonious plan? As well might the ignorant rustic above-mentioned cavil at every wheel and movement in the steam-engine, the use and beauty of which he could not comprehend.