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The Power of the Gospel

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    Romans 1:16

    For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.TPG 3.1

    The object of this discourse is, to discharge a solemn duty, both to God and men,-to God, that His name may be glorified, and to men, that their souls may be saved. In relation to my fellow men, I can truly say, that “I seek not mine own profit, but the profit of many that they may be saved.” And also, that “my hearts desire and prayer to God” for every man “is that he may be saved.”TPG 3.2

    I was passing the Universalist Church, in this village, the other day, at a time when an installation service was in progress, and after revolving in my own mind the question, whether I would be likely to get good, or to do good by attending such a service, I was led, as I trust, by the Spirit of God to enter.TPG 3.3

    After listening to the discourse which was preached on the occasion, and to the other services, I remembered the words of God to the prophet Ezekiel, contained in the third chapter of the writings of that prophet. “Son of man,” I have made thee a watchman to the house of Israel; therefore hear the word at my mouth, and give them warning from me. When I say unto the wicked, thou shalt surely die; and thou givest him not warning, nor speakest to warn the wicked from his wicked way to save his life, the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity: but his blood will I require at thine hand. Yet if thou warn the wicked, and he turn not from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way; he shall die in his iniquity, but thou hast delivered thy soul.” Again, “when a righteous man doth turn from his righteousness and commit iniquity, and I lay a stumbling block before him, he shall die; because thou hast not given him warning, he shall die in his sin, and his righteousness which he hath done shall not be remembered; but his blood will I require at thine hand. Nevertheless if thou warn the righteous man, that the righteous sin not, and he doth not sin, he shall surely live, because he is warned: Also thou hast delivered thy soul.” In the thirty-third chapter of the same prophet, we read as follows: “Again the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, Son of man, speak to the children of my people, and say unto them, When I bring the sword upon a land, if the people of the land take a man of their coasts and set him for a watchman; If when he see the sword come upon the land, he blow the trumpet and warn the people, then whosoever heareth the sound of the trumpet, and taketh not warning, if the sword come and take him away, his blood shall be upon his own head. He heard the sound of the trumpet and took not warning, his blood shall be upon him; but he that taketh warning shall deliver his soul. But if the watchman see the sword come, and blow not the trumpet, and the people be not warned; if the sword come and take any person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at the watchman’s hand. So thou, O son of man, I have set thee a watchman unto the House of Israel; therefore thou shalt hear the word at my mouth and warn them from me. When I say unto the wicked, O wicked man thou shalt surely die; if thou dost not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity but his blood will I require at thine hand. Nevertheless if thou warn the wicked of his way to turn from it, if he does not turn from his way, he shall die in his iniquity, but thou hast delivered thy soul.” Now God has made me a watchman for the welfare of souls. To Him I stand accountable. No man can deliver me from responsibility in relation to his soul. If I see danger, and can make my voice heard, and warn him not, God has said, “his blood will I require at thine hand.” Now I see danger to immortal souls in this community, by the efforts which are made to persuade men to the belief of the doctrine of Universal Salvation; and it is the voice of God that calls me, and the authority of God that commands me to lift the note of warning. Many may refuse to hear, but I must obey God and deliver my own soul, by endeavoring faithfully and plainly, yet affectionately, to lift the note of warning.TPG 3.4

    The discourse to which I allude was preached from the words which I have placed at the head of this. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ; for it is the power of God unto salvation, to every one that believeth.” The object of the preacher was, to show in what the power of the Gospel consisted.TPG 5.1

    From the commencement, he assumed it as the design of the gospel, to save men from sin, and thereby prepare them for heaven; and it was therefore his object to show in what the power of the gospel to save men consisted.TPG 5.2

    Now, that the preacher was right in his assumption, that it is the design of the gospel to save men from sin, I am fully prepared to admit. I believe it may have been true, in some cases, at least, that this grand truth has been kept out of sight; while the gospel has been held forth as rather a way of salvation from hell, than from sin. Now he who is saved from sin and preserved blameless, will unquestionably find an immortality of bliss, for our Lord Jesus Christ has said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” We also find the following in the book of Psalms: “Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? and who shall stand in His holy place.? He that hath clean hands and a pure heart,” Let a man therefore be saved from sin, and the blessedness of his soul is sure; and equally true is it, that he who is not saved from sin, can never inherit the kingdom of God, “for there shall in no wise enter therein anything that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination or maketh a lie.” We also learn that the design of the gospel is to save men from their sin, by the words of God to his ancient people Israel, respecting the object of that ceremonial worship, which was designed to point out Christ, and the end of his coming into the world. Leviticus 16:30. “For on that day shall the priest make atonement for you to cleanse you, that ye may be clean from all your sins before the Lord.” This idea of cleansing was ever kept in view in all that system of ceremonial worship-while the grand design of that system was to set forth Christ and the object of his coming into the world. Accordingly we are told by Paul, in his Epistle to the Hebrews, that these rites and ceremonies “were a figure for the time then present, in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices which could not make him that did the service, nor the comers thereunto perfect, as pertaining to the conscience, which stood only in meats and drinks and divers washings and carnal ordinances imposed on them until the time of reformation. But Christ being come a high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by His own blood; he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. For if the blood of bulls and of goats and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh; how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the Eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God. And for this cause,” i. e. for the purpose of purging us from dead works to serve the living God, “he is the Mediator of the New Testament.” And we are told in the same epistle, what that New Testament is. “I will put any laws in their minds and write them in their hearts.” As if to say, ye shall not be as were the Jews in the time of Christ, like whited sepulchres, beautiful indeed without, but full of all uncleanness within. “The Lord thy God will circumcise thy heart, to love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live.” It is therefore held forth in every part of the bible as the design of the salvation of the Gospel, to set men free from sin, and when they are thus effectually saved, there cannot be a doubt that they will find their blessedness here and hereafter in communion with God, as surely as he is a God of purity and love. Accordingly the angel that foretold the birth of our Saviour said, “Thou shall call his name Jesus,” i. e. a Saviour, “for he shall save his people from their sins.” Hence, also, we hear God saying,—“Behold I will bring forth out of Zion the Deliverer, and he shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: For this is my covenant with them when I shall take away their sins.” I greatly rejoice, that it is beginning to be recognized more and more, as the great design of the gospel to make men pure and holy, and thereby “meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light.” The danger on this point is, that men shall think themselves cleansed by the gospel, while in the sight of God they are still altogether unclean; or shall regard themselves as so sure of being cleansed at last, that they shall pass on uncleansed, until they die in their iniquities, and consequently find, that “where Christ has gone they never can come.”TPG 5.3

    I know it has sometimes been said of Universalists, that they maintain that men of all characters will be taken to Heaven. This charge is manifestly false. They believe that all men will become holy, and then be received to heaven; and I rejoice to admit, that in assuming it as the grand and glorious design of the gospel, to save men from sin, they hold forth a sentiment which harmonizes with the whole tenor of sacred scripture. The fatal mistake which they embrace, is on another point, as I expect hereafter to show. The Preacher of the sermon in question, in proceeding to show in what consisted the power of the gospel to save men from sin, remarked,TPG 7.1

    I. Negatively; that it did not consist, 1. In propitiatory worship. This he stated was the design of all heathen worship, and conveyed, as I understood him, the idea, that such worship was no better than heathenism. Now that men need a propitiatory sacrifice, in coming to God with acceptance, is very evident from the fact, that the bible teaches us, that Christ is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. If therefore no propitiation had been necessary, God, certainly would never have provided one. But Christ, is ever to be regarded as an all sufficient propitiation: and I am fully prepared to admit, that if we bring before God any works or offerings of our own, as a propitiation, our worship must be no better in his sight than the worship of Pagans. For God has provided a propitiation that is all sufficient, and if I attempt to bring another, I treat that which God has offered as of no value, and set up some works or sacrifices of my own, as more meritorious than those of Christ in my behalf, which is unquestionably mocking God, and treating with the greatest possible indignity the Saviour whom he has sent into the world. I am to cast away all dependance on myself, and make the propitiation of Christ all my hope, and come with an unwavering faith therein, and then I honor the Saviour whom God has provided. But whether I bring a propitiation of my own, or say that no propitiation is needed, or place no confidence in that which God has provided, I do equally set at nought the propitiation of Christ.TPG 7.2

    The preacher remarked 2. That the power of the Gospel did not consist in mysteries. On this point I have only to remark, that the bible declares “great is the mystery of Godliness,” and also speaks of “the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in us the hope of glory.”TPG 8.1

    He also said 3. That the power of the gospel did not consist in human learning. On this point I have nothing to say but to assent.TPG 8.2

    He remarked 4th. That the power of the gospel did not consist in the doctrine of endless punishment. On this point I readily admit, that a mere belief in the doctrine of endless punishment, never did, never will save a man from sin. I have no doubt that many a sinner has lived and died in the belief of that doctrine, and been lost forever, and that many others will follow in the same course, loving their sins too well to renounce them, though fully aware that the end of the wicked must be “everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his power.” At the same time I know it to be a fact, that the doctrine of endless punishment has often been used by the Holy Spirit to arrest the sinner in his course of iniquity, and to lead him to seek a way of salvation from sin, though a mere belief in that doctrine has never saved any man, and never will. I think no candid mind will deny that to set clearly before a transgressor the certain consequences of his evil courses, has some tendency to restrain him, and to influence him to look after a way of safety. But it is admitted freely, that the power of the gospel to save men from sin does not consist in the doctrine of endless punishment.TPG 8.3

    The Preacher then proceeded to show II. In what the power of the gospel to save from sin, did consist; and stated that it consisted, 1st. In the love of God. 2nd. In the doctrine of a common brotherhood. 3rd. In the nature of its punishment. 4th. In the doctrine or hope of life and immortality.TPG 8.4

    Now the fundamental and fatal mistake of the preacher consisted, as I expect to show, from the bible, not so much in what he did say, as in what he did not say. I freely admit the influence of the love of God in saving men from sin; and that if ever saved from sin, it will be in loving God because He first loved us. I admit the influence of that new command of Christ, which requires all men to love one another as He has loved them. I admit that the punishment of the Gospel is disciplinary, yielding the peaceable fruits of righteousness to them which are exercised thereby and consequently reformatory, and inflicted only in the present life; while the punishment of the future life which the bible calls the second death, is retributive, i. e. meted out to all that cannot be reclaimed by the love of God, according to their works.TPG 9.1

    But that there will be those who will never be reclaimed from sin by the love of God, we learn from the bible when it speaks as in the second chap. of the 2nd Epist. to the Thess. of “them that perish, because they receive not the love of the truth that they might be saved. And that for this cause God shall send them strong delusion to believe a lie that they all might be damned who believed not the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” The bible also speaks of those who know not “that the goodness of God leadeth them to repentance; but after their hardness and impenitent heart, treasure up unto themselves wrath, against the day of wrath, and revelation of the righteous judgment of God.”TPG 9.2

    I come now to the main design of this discourse, which is to show that the Preacher to whom I allude, has entirely failed to show in what the power of the gospel to save men from sin does consist.-He has not even alluded in all the points which he has named, to that, without which, the gospel ever has been and ever will be, of none effect.TPG 9.3

    The apostle Paul tells us in what the power of the gospel consists, when he says as in the first chapter of his 1st Epistle to the Thessalonians, “For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but in power and in the Holy Ghost.” Peter in the first chapter of his 1st Epistle, speaks of “the things which were reported by them that have preached the gospel, with the Holy Ghost sent down from Heaven.TPG 9.4

    Paul also says to Titus. “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, i. e. from sin, “by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost which He shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior.” The power of the gospel then to save from sin, consists in the regenerating, renewing, and sanctifying influences of the Spirit of God, shed forth to attend the gospel through Jesus Christ our Savior, and without these influences, the Gospel with all the love which it reveals, is utterly powerless, in working in the hearts of men, that “holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.”TPG 10.1

    Accordingly our Lord Jesus Christ at his ascension, after having commissioned his disciples to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature, commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father. “Ye shall receive power,” said He, “After that the Holy Ghost is come upon you, and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem and in all Judea and in Samaria and unto the uttermost parts of the earth.”TPG 10.2

    Having therefore received from Christ the direction, “tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high, and the assurance behold I send the promise of my Father upon you; and ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you, the disciples returned unto Jerusalem from the Mount called Olivet, which is from Jerusalem a Sabbath day’s journey, and went into an upper chamber, and there continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, both men and women, until they were, on the day of Pentecost, all filled with the Holy Ghost. Then they preached the gospel with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven, and multitudes were pricked in their hearts and inquired what shall we do? And when others mocking said these men are full of new wine”-they replied, “this Jesus whom ye crucified hath God raised up whereof we all are witnesses. Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this which ye now see and hear. Yea and all the prophets from Samuel and those that follow after have likewise foretold these days. Unto you first, God having raised up his Son Jesus Christ, sent him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities.” Here then we behold the power of the gospel to save men from sin:—It is in being attended by the Holy Ghost sent down from Heaven. I freely admit that it is the setting forth of the love of God which saves men from sin, but in order that the love of God may have its cleansing efficacy—it must be as Paul says to the Romans, “the love of God shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.” Accordingly we find, that the success of the Apostles in saving men from sin by the preaching of the gospel, is uniformly ascribed to the Holy Ghost. Barnabas was a man full of the Holy Ghost and faith, and much people were added to the Lord. Peter preached at the house of Cornelius, and the Holy Ghost fell on all which heard the word.—“Then remembered I,” said he, “the word of the Lord, how that he said, John indeed baptised with water, but ye shall be baptised with the Holy Ghost.”TPG 10.3

    The whole current of the New Testament shows that the work which should follow the coming of Christ, should be the dispensation of the Holy Ghost. Peter in the first chapter of his 1st Epistle tells us, that the prophets searched and inquired diligently respecting the time of this salvation, which the Spirit of Christ which was in them signified, when it testified beforehand of the sufferings of Christ and the glory that should follow. This glory was to be the outpouring of the Spirit as predicted by Joel; and which Ezekiel also had in view, when God is heard saying by the mouth of that prophet,” “then will I sprinkle clean water upon you and ye shall be clean, from all your filthiness and from all your idols will I cleanse you. And I will save you from all your uncleannesses.” Here also is brought to view by the prophets that baptism of the Holy Ghost which was to be the establishment of the kingdom of Heaven upon earth-which kingdom we are told is “righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.” John the Baptist was sent to prepare the way of the Lord for the establishment of this kingdom. This work of preparation was performed by him, as he preached saying, “Repent ye, for the kingdom of Heaven is at hand, the kingdom of “righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.” “I indeed baptise you with water unto repentance, but there cometh one after me, mightier than I, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose, He shall baptise you with the Holy Ghost and with fire. Whose fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”TPG 11.1

    The same great truths Christ himself had in view, when he said to Nicodemus, “Verily verily, I say unto thee, except a man be born of water and of the Spirit-he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” What is the kingdom of God? “Righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.” What is it to be born of water? It is to receive John’s baptism unto repentance. That is, truly to repent and being forth fruits meet for repentance. This prepares the way of the kingdom of heaven in us. What is it to be born of the Spirit? It is to receive the baptism of Christ with the Holy Ghost, or to have Christ “sprinkle clean water upon us, and make us clean; and cleanse us from all our filthiness, and from all our idols.” Then when this baptism of Christ is received, when this work of purification is wrought by being baptised with the Holy Ghost, we enter that “kingdom of God” which “is righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.” And we have the positive asservation of the Son of God, “Verily, verily, I say unto you expect a man be born of water” i. e. led to the exercise of true repentance, “and of the Spirit” i. e. sprinkled with clean water, or baptised with the Holy Ghost, and cleansed from all his filthiness and from all his idols-he cannot enter into the kingdom of God,” which “is righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.”TPG 12.1

    Here then we clearly see, my hearers, what it is which makes the gospel of Christ the power of God unto salvation from sin. It is Our Lord Jesus Christ, baptising with the Holy Ghost, and thus cleansing men from all their filthiness and from all their idols; thus bringing them into God’s kingdom of righteousness, and establishing that kingdom in their hearts—filling them with righteousness, as Christ says those shall be, who hunger and thirst after it; and giving them peace and joy in the Holy Ghost—making their peace as a river and their righteousness as the waves of the sea. This gospel is indeed the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth. It is the dispensation of God’s Almighty Spirit, “Burying us with Jesus Christ, by baptism of the Holy Ghost into death” i. e. making us dead to sin—“that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we also should walk in newness of life.” It is enabling us to “put off the old man which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and to put on the new man, which after God” (i. e. after the likeness of God) “is created in righteousness and true holiness.”TPG 12.2

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