What is it that Saves a Soul? What it is not
If, then, we be asked what it is which saves a soul, we answer that it is not works of righteousness which we have done or can do; nor the use of our free-will, which is only free to choose and love evil; nor closing in with offered grace, to do which we have no natural power; nor watchfullness, prayer and fasting; nor self-denial, austerity and outward sanctification; nor any duties and forms; nor, in a word, any one thing singly, or multitude of things collectively, which depend on the natural wisdom and strength of man. Nor, again, is it head-knowledge, nor firm conviction of truth in the judgment, nor such workings of natural conscience as compel us to assent to a free grace salvation, nor a life outwardly consistent with the gospel, nor membership in a gospel church, nor natural attachment to the children and to the ministers of God, nor zeal for experimental religion, nor sacrifices made to support truth. Nor, again, does salvation consist in doubts and fears, tribulations, temptations, workings of inward corruption, legal terrors, fits of gloomy despondency and heart-rending despair.
All these things "accompany salvation," and are to be found in all the heirs of glory; but some of them or all may equally be found in hypocrites, apostates and reprobates. Nor, again, does salvation consist in desires, for "the sluggard desireth, and hath not"; nor in tears, for "Esau cried with a great and exceeding bitter cry" Ge 27:34; nor in merely seeking, for "many shall seek to enter in, and shall not be able" Lu 13:24; nor in wishing, for "it is not of him that willeth"; nor in running, for "it is not of him that runneth," and though "in a race run all, one alone receiveth the prize." Neither does salvation consist in outward gifts, as preaching and praying, as a man may "taste of the heavenly gift," and yet "his end be to be burned" Heb 6:4,8; whilst Saul prophesied, Judas preached, and the sons of Sceva adjured devils by the name of Jesus.
Nor does it consist in natural faith, as "Simon Magus believed, and was baptised" Ac 8:13; nor in natural hope, as there is "the hope of the hypocrite that shall perish"; nor in natural comforts, as there is "a walking in sparks of our own kindling"; nor in vain confidence, as "the fool rageth, and is confident" Pr 14:16; nor in talking about religion, for "a prating fool shall fall"; nor in being thought well of by others, as Paul once thought well of Demas Phm 1:24, "who loved this present world" 2Ti 4:10; nor in the children of God feeling a union with us, as David "took sweet counsel with Ahithophel, and walked to the house of God in his company" Ps 55:14.
To sum up the whole, salvation does not consist in anything of the flesh, that is, "in anything earthly, human and natural," as "the flesh profiteth nothing" Joh 6:63; neither "they which are the children of the flesh are the children of God; but the children of the promise are counted for the seed" Ro 9:8. Thus, no man can deliver his own soul, nor give to God a ransom for himself, or his brother Ps 49:7; but all "flesh is grass," fit only to be cut down by the mower, and to be cast into the oven Mt 6:30.
We come, then, to this conclusion, to which God sooner or later brings every elect soul, that those who are saved are saved, because God will save them; that "He hath mercy on whom He will have mercy," and on them alone Ro 9:15; that He saves them not from any foreseen goodness in them, but of His own distinguishing, sovereign grace; that He loves them freely, eternally and unchangeably; and that they are redeemed, justified, quickened, sanctified, preserved, and glorified, only because they are the objects of the undeserved love of a Triune Jehovah.