by JOSEPH IRONS
Delivered in Grove Chapel, Camberwell, Lord's day Morning, April 6th, 1851
I ADDRESS you, probably, for the last time. All day yesterday! I was not able to read a sentence, nor muster a thought, nor put an idea together; and yet, as I lay in excruciating pain, these words rang in my ears (I did not know where they were), "The salvation of your souls." I said, Surely God means me just to repeat the text, if I can do no more: "The salvation of your souls." I started up in my bed and said, "Well, that is what I have been at these thirty years among them aiming at the salvation of their souls. I have preached it, have prayed for it, I have longed for it, and probably I shall once more bear testimony of what it is." The context, I see, says it is the end of their faith, the very object, the very accomplishment of it claims and all it can have. "The salvation of your souls." Who can tell but that God means the salvation of some soul here this morning? Lift up your hearts, beloved, for it. This is the grand point. A religion that only amuses is worth nothing; an harangue, however eloquent, that only just corroborates preconceived notions; leaves a man where he was. The salvation of souls is a subject of infinite moment. It was for this all the wisdom of Deity was employed - it was for this that the life and death of the Son of God was endured - it is for this the Holy Ghost comes down, and works, and operates invincibly upon the sinner s heart - it is for this the world stands - and this shall be the consummation of Divine glory - "the salvation of your souls."
I have just been enabled to look enough at my text to see that the word "your" is in italics. "Ah," say you, "then that shuts me out. It is the salvation of souls, not mine." Very well, let us try "the salvation of souls." Suppose it to be only that. Is my soul a sinful soul, and does it need salvation? and will it accept of salvation as the gift of God? Then why not mine?
Now I should like, if the Lord will but empower me for it, to say a few words about the origin of the salvation of souls, because men and devils will have it be with the creature. I will not believe it. Then, if I can, we will say a little about its nature. Here also are mortals most egregiously mistaken. And then I should like, if I can, to say a word or two about its efficiency, because most people will have it to be a contingency, and I hate the word contingency, as I hate the devil.
I. - The origin - the origin of the salvation of souls. Suppose I drop the "your," and leave you to find it out. "The salvation of souls." It originates in sovereign love. That origin presents affinity to our view, and then the legislation about it. It is in perfect accordance to both. Oh, sovereign love! if one gets on that theme - or rather into it - thought is all absorbed. That the infinite Jehovah, the Father, should and did, as an act of absolute sovereignty, irrespective of the creature, without the thought of a condition, set His affection upon a multitude that no man can number, of all nations, kindred, people, and tongues, who as then existed on in His own foreknowledge. No accident this. The sons of God shouted for joy in Jehovah s own view of it. Their names were registered in the Book of Life - the love of the Father was set upon them as much as it was upon a precious Christ. And hence I hear Him say, "thou hast loved them as thou hast loved me." (John 17:23) Well, how long is that? "Thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world." (John 17:24) Well, then, "Thou lovedst them before the foundation of the world." Is it, not wonderful - is it not shameful and sinful - is it not soul humbling to think of, that you and I should have so little love for such a God? Why, beloved, we have none at all - not an atom - but what is His own, shed abroad in our hearts. Nature s love can only fix upon nature, it cannot rise to God. The love that rises to God is His own love, shed abroad in the heart, glowing there with a little glow worm spark at first. It bursts into a flame, burns up the wood, hay, and stubble that surround it, and glows and rises to His very throne, center again in Himself. "Love!" why my Saviour says it is the fulfilling of the law. "Love!" why it is really the sum and substance of the gospel. If then, I had no power to fulfil the law, but my Saviour had enough, and fulfilled it for me, may I not look up and plead that love may be shed abroad in my heart? That is the sum and substance of the gospel. Jehovah the Father loved my soul I look at the point with overwhelming astonishment. A sinner, deserving nothing but hell - a sinner as dear old Dr. Hawker says, virtually all sin! and yet such an one to be beloved of God. I have looked at, or rather listened to (for I have not been able to read), the dear old Doctor s Portions, morning after morning, affecting and heart-searching as they are - and they have melted my soul into the vast abyss of love, which knows neither bottom nor dimensions. The Father giving the Son, the Son giving Himself, the whole load of the Church s guilt laid upon Him, and He, as an act of love, bearing it away like the scape-goat of which we have been reading, into a land not inhabited, so that it shall never be more known. (Levi. 16:22) Well, then this plan must be arranged with Divine wisdom. The plan arranged, the appointment given, the salvation predestinated, the persons elected. The whole scheme of salvation, from beginning to end, is a glow of Divine love, bursting from the bosom of Deity, so that it shines through the gospel. Oh, how it burns within the heart that receives it! Oh, how it shall blaze to all eternity. It is the glory of the gospel.
Now look, for a moment or two, at the: affinity; because we can never have a right apprehension of the salvation of God without a proper view of affinity. Some poor creatures would have the salvation of souls originating in praying, and repenting, and believing, and seeking. Ridiculous fools- they cannot read their Bibles. I grant that repenting, and believing, and praying are parts of it; but they are after parts. There is a want of the origin thereof. They also mistake the very character of the Saviour; and He is represented to our view in these Popish days, as a poor impotent being who did the utmost He could do to save all the human race, but He failed, and left the rest for them to accomplish and perform. So He sent His servants to make a proposal to them to accomplish finish it. My hearer, I would turn Jew or Pagan tomorrow rather than believe that foolish system. Now, on the contrary the matter of fact in Scripture is this - not only that Jesus is able to save to the uttermost, that He is not only the Saviour but the salvation of the Church, and He is all that in affinity, all that in relationship, all that as a covenant Head, all that as "a brother born for adversity," (Prov. 17:17) all that as a Husband to His bride, all that in indissoluble union.
I felt really, an anxious desire to these two or three thoughts to you this morning, though at eleven o clock I despaired altogether of getting here; but I said, "Surely, if I can, I will deliver one more testimony if it be but two or three minutes, upon this all-important point - the affinity with which Christ stands with His Church. Do not believe the Popish lies, that would represent Him as a promiscuous Saviour, an uncertain Saviour, a contingent Saviour, one that will save you if you help Him out very nicely. My hearer, it is an insult to the Bible, it is an insult to God, it is an insult to the Christian faith. I tell you this precious glorious Christ made Himself responsible for the entire and the eternal salvation of His whole Church, because the Father, had given her to Him as His bride, and He accepted her in betrothing love, and recorded His own name with hers in the Book of Life, and the devil cannot separate it, and sin cannot separate it - they stand eternally one; and I glory in the thought that I shall, by-and-bye, realize its full consummation. Christ and His Church, Husband and wife, Christ and His Church, Head and members - -inseparably one. And I am as fully persuaded as Paul was, that neither heights nor depths, nor lengths, nor breadths, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate the Church from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Now, when my glorious Lord assumed my nature, it was in affinity with me. When my glorious Lord worked for eighteen years with carpenter s tools, and earned His bread by sweat of His brow, to fulfil that part of the curse, it was for me, it was in union with me as my representative. When He came forth to His public ministry, and wrought miracles, confounded scribes and Pharisees, cast out devils, stopped the raging storms and winds, raised the dead, and accomplished all the wonders the Father had committed to His care to perform; mind you, it was in affinity, it was as if you and I had done it - it was for His Church - it was in the name of His Church - it was in behalf of his Church. Ah! that is the salvation of souls; safe as the throne of God, secure as the existence of Christ, infallible as the attributes of Deity. "The salvation of souls."
Just mark, I pray you, the legislation. The apostle bids us look into the perfect law of liberty. Now if I look at the salvation of souls in a legislative point of view - for that is part of the origin - one of the first clauses enacted runs in these words, "I will by no means clear the guilty." (Num. 14:18) Well, then, how is a soul be saved? "I will by no means clear the guilty." "Pay me that thou owest." (Matt. 18:28) "Heaven and earth shall pass away, rather than a jot or tittle of the law fail." (Matt. 5:18) Is it possible that souls can be saved by such severe laws? And are these laws parts of salvation? Verily they are. And it was for this very purpose our blessed Lord came down, that when the law stood against you and me, that God would by no means clear the guilty, then said He, "I will go down, and clear the guilt away - They shall not be guilty; I will go down, and take the guilt upon my own person, and drown it in my blood, so that they shall not be gui1ty." And when the law says, "Pay me that thou owest," He says, "I will pay every farthing; I will go to the very end of the law for righteousness." When all the perfections and attributes of Deity demanded satisfaction and glorification, my glorious Surety undertook the whole business in affinity with His Church; and when He closed up the book, He exclaimed, "I have finished the work which Thou gavest me to do." (John 17:4) I thought of those words this morning. I had not such a work to do as my gracious Master had; but God gave me a work to do, and I hope, after this morning, to be able to say, "I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do." Oh, the blessedness of looking at Christ s work as a finished work - a perfect work! See, I pray you, in this legislation, how God has settled the matter with regard the salvation of souls, which is the point we are dwelling upon. "I will send them a Saviour, and a great one; and He shall save them." (Isa. 19:20) What is it? "I will send them one?" Yes. "And He shall save them?" Yes. Who is to alter it? That is the law of heaven - "I will send them a Saviour, a great one, and He shall save them." When He came into the world, His very name was given Him to designate this grand purpose. "Thou shalt call His name Jesus, for He" - Can? No. May? No. It is "He shall save His people from their sins." (Matt. 1:21) Now, who is to appeal against that? What appeal can there be concerning it? He shall save His people from their sins. That is the law, the legislation of the great matter of salvation for precious souls.
Take another enactment, because I want you, beloved, to be quite satisfied about this one point, that the Salvation which I have been preaching to you these thirty-three years is no uncertain matter, that it is as settled and as fixed as the very throne of God, and therefore the next clause I would mention to you is, "I will be their God,- if they will obey me as a very obedient people? Where will you find that? It is nowhere written in my Bible. I will tell you what is written - "I will be their God, and they shall be my people." (Jer. 31:33) And He will not ask their leave neither - He will make them so by His Omnipotent grace.
Look again at the legislation in heaven - the enactment and laws passed by the Eternal Three for the salvation of millions of souls. But shall not be able to read you all the Statute-Book. There is another very beautiful law, and it runs thus, "The Lord God is a sun and shield and He will give grace and glory." (Ps. 84:11) "Oh no! offer them," people say. No, He will not. God never made me an offer in His life nor in my life. If He had, I should have refused it. "He will give grace and glory, and no good thing will He withhold from them that love Him." Now just glance at these things, and then when you retire from hence to your closets, just run over your Bibles, and say,-"Well the preacher has been telling us about certain legislations and laws concerning the salvation of souls... Let us look for them; here is the Statute-Book." And you will find, as you turn over the leaves again and again, the most positive, and solemn, and infallible statements of Jehovah s fixed purposes, sacred decrees, predestinating enactments, that the mind of man could desire And if you should be at a loss about a little epitome of them, just turn to the 8th chapter of the Epistle to the Romans and read, Whom He did foreknow, them He did predestinate (these are laws); Moreover, "whom He did predestinate, them He also called; whom He called, them He also justified; and whom He justified, them, He also glorified." This is done. It is a settled matter I wonder not that the apostle should challenge all the world with "What shall we say to these things?" "Who shall lay anything to the charge of God s elect?," (Rom. 8:33) "What shall we then say to these things? I will tell you what I will say of them till the last breath - They are very glorious things, and worthy of the God who set them down; and they are suitable things, for they meet the wants of ruined sinners, and nothing else would.
Now let us look a little at the nature of the salvation. I have shown you the origin. It originates in the sovereign love of God the Father, the affinity of God the Son, and in the legislation which the Eternal Three enacted before all time. Now, if such a salvation could be contingent, I would not give a straw for my Bible. But it is as certain as the existence of God. Then in the nature of this salvation of souls, I am first of all obliged to look for vicarious satisfaction. I have hinted at this in the legislation we have just been naming; but the hint is not enough. My mind has been sweetly impressed, morning by morning as I have heard dear Dr. Hawker s Portions read to me. You know we are approaching Easter, and that is the dear Doctor s point, the sacrifice of Christ following Him in all He undertook and all He did, meeting every attribute and perfection of Deity, and honouring it. Holiness, purity, truth, love, as well as justice, mercy, and goodness - all of which rebel mankind warred, against - all were satisfied by my dear Saviour, and He could say, and He did say, "I have glorified thee on the earth." (John 17:4) There was not an attribute of Deity which was not more honoured and glorified in the life and death of Christ, than it could have been by the unsinning obedience of millions of creatures throughout eternity. There was in His very character, in His very nature, in the union of His Godhead with His manhood, such an infinite of merit, that every act of His life, every act of His obedience, and every iota of His sufferings, had the efficacy, and virtue, and value of Deity in it. Now I here want to be distinctly understood. I do not at all like those coarse, unwarrantable, unscriptural expressions that the zeal of some men has put forth, when they talk of the blood of God. It appears to me a very horrid phrase. One of our poets made a sad blunder when he said,
It was the manhood of Christ that died; but the manhood being in Union with the Godhead, had all the efficacy, virtue, merit, and power of Deity infused into the sacrifice. I could not believe in a God that could die. If I did, I should think that I should die eternally. My God is the everlasting God the Lord; and I want this distinctly maintained and clearly kept up among the disciples of Jesus Christ. They should not make such sad mistakes by using blundering expressions for the sake of setting things forth, as they suppose, very strongly.
Now I cannot quit this without referring to the text, which I know is quoted for that purpose; but it does not warrant it. The apostle, speaking to the elders of the Church at Ephesus, says, "Feed the Church of God, which He (God) hath purchased with His own blood." (Acts 20:28) But that does not say that God died; but it says as much, that the blood of Jesus Christ had all the efficacy and virtue of Deity in it-and God called it His own; and in that sense it is called the blood of God. I cannot set too high a value on that. I cannot speak in language too strong concerning it, because if there had not been Divine efficacy in the blood, it would have been worth no more for atonement than yours or mine. It must have been blood Divine and that by the union of the manhood, sinless and pure, with the Deity. This vicarious satisfaction, then, has answered all the demands of the law, has met all the requisitions of stern and inflexible justice, has appeased Divine wrath, has effected entirely and eternally an atonement and a ransom for all the election of grace. Now this is the nature of the salvation of which we speak - not a thing done by halves. There is not a certain price paid, a certain amount of suffering endured, on condition that people make a good use of and turn it to a good account. Oh, it is the salvation God! A salvation every way worthy of Himself.
Now just look, a moment longer, at the affection set forth in the doing and dying of Jesus. It was love, ardent love, unchanging love, immutable love, at the bottom of it all; as it is said, "God so loved the world, that He gave His only-begotten Son;" as it is said, that Jesus so loved His Church, and commands husbands to love their wives in like manner. Jesus so loved His Church as to suffer for her "without the gate;" and the love of His Spirit enters, and takes possession of the heart, on purpose to cause the soul so saved to aspire and to repose itself in the bosom of Deity. While the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost ardently love the election of grace (now mind this one thing), all the election of grace are brought, sooner or later, to love the Triune Jehovah. Well, now, we will bring in the little word in italics, which we have dropped in our text we will pick it up again now - your. All we need ask is, whether your souls are in love with the loving Jehovah - whether you are deeply imbued with Divine affection - whether you can aspire above every other object of affection, and exclaim, "Whom have I in heaven but thee, and there is none on earth that I desire beside thee?" That is the mark - "If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be accursed." (1 Cor. 16:22) This ardent, supreme love implanted in the soul of the sinner, aspiring to heaven, and fixing upon the persons and perfections of Deity, that affords the best mark and evidence of the salvation of your souls.
There is another word which I borrow from dear Dr. Hawker - blessed man! I picked it up as it was read in my hearing the other morning, it belongs to the nature of salvation; it is the word "transfer." I recollect he says, in one of his 'Portions," "none had authority to transfer guilt to one and merit to another but God the Father," tracing it to Him very justly. Now, if you want to know the nature of salvation, the salvation of the soul, that one word contains it all-transfer. You would all know what was meant by transferring any portion of property from one party to another on any terms the parties might agree upon. But a thorough acquaintance with the meaning of the word will show you, that its simple meaning is to put some person or thing in the possession of another and putting some thing pertaining to another in his possession. This is just the nature of salvation. All my sins, however aggravated, are all transferred to Christ; His obedience, His merit, His righteousness, His perfect work, are all, transferred to me - that is the, transfer. Well now, beloved, cannot you very comfortably live and die upon that one word - transfer! I can. I do not seem as if I needed another word. Transfer all Christ Jesus is, and has done to me, and every sin that I commit transferred to Him, then I am safe enough. He has borne all I deserved to bear, and I possess all that He has to bestow. "Having Christ," says the apostle, "I possess all things" - all things in Him; transferred as the possession and property of His Church, without the possibility of its being lost. Now, my first portion, that-I had in my - federal Head (Adam), I was quite as willing as he was to mortgage, sell it, and barter it, and give it away; and, as the word of God says, "I sold myself for nought But the mercy lies here I cannot do so with my second portion - that is secure enough. This was beautifully typified by the two copies of the table of the law. The first copy was trusted to Moses' hands; and when he came down and saw the provocations of the children of Israel, and their idolatry, he dashed them to pieces on the- ground. When God gave the second copy, He could not trust it to a creature but had it secured in the Ark, where-It would be taken care of. Just so when Adam was under the law, and subject to conditions of obedience - he fell. Now the law was put into Jesus heart; the obedience trusted to Him, the satisfaction demanded of Him, and the acceptance of His people in Him made the work a matter of responsibility by being placed against His own name.
There was also in the nature of this salvation an accomplishment of victories that none but Jesus could perform and therefore, it was written concerning Him that He was to spoil, and did spoil, principalities and powers, and to make a show of them openly. He was to bruise the old serpent s head, and He did it effectually; and he will never forget the bruise. He was to conquer and vanquish, and destroy death, and him that had the power of death - that is, the devil. The Victor over sin, death, hell, and the grave, is Christ. He defeated it and His own triumphant language runs thus, "O death, I will be thy plague; O grave, I will be thy destruction;" (Hos. 13:14) and He hath swallowed up death in victory. (1 Cor. 15:54)
I should have liked to have enlarged a little more upon each of these things if I had been able; but just go on to the other particular of our subject with a few words; for a salvation without efficiency, you know is no salvation at all. In what does this efficiency consist? I think it consists in the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, sent down by the Saviour Himself; for, believe me, in the account I am going to give of human nature; of this I am sure, that if the salvation which is in Christ Jesus could be presented to the mind of man - to the ears man - to the eyes of man - to the passions of man, in language, ten thousand times more glowing and eloquent than any of which I am capable, there would not be a single child of Adam on the face of the earth but what would stand out and say, "I will not have it: We will not have this man to reign over us: I will not bow to His sceptre. Who is this Jesus that we should obey Him? Who is He to be Lord over us?" That is the pride of man; that is the very spirit of that silly thing they call free-will; an utter rejection of Christ and His salvation. Then what makes it efficient? The Holy Ghost descends from above, as, sent from the Father and commissioned by the Son; He strikes an arrow into that poor sinner's heart; the poor wretch does not know where it comes from at first. It smites him in the most sovereign manner, until he bends with compunction and contrition, before God; just as He smote Saul of Tarsus. "Who art thou, Lord?" He did not know who it was; whence the voice came; what it was about. But there was the arrow stuck fast in his heart. Just as the Psalmist prayed and down went the rebel. And when he found out who it was, he prayed, "Lord, what wouldst thou have me to do?" The sinner was so conquered (that is what I call an efficient salvation), the sinner was so conquered and laid in the dust, as to be willing to go anywhere and do anything that God should appoint. Well now, says the Lord Jesus, to that rebel, go to Damascus, but not to hail men and women to prison; you shall not touch one of them; but go to Damascus and it shall be told thee what thou shalt do. The whole work is of Christ; all of efficient grace. He not only gives him life, the spirit of prayer, reverses the whole current of his affections, and establishes faith in his soul; but positively gives him preaching talent, preaching inspiration, and sends him forth under the dispensation of the grace of God. Now who will thank Saul of Tarsus for it? Who will thank Gamaliel, who gave him his education, for it? Who will thank any of his Pharisaic brethren for it?. There is no one to thank but Jehovah. The mighty grace of God had reached his heart. I pray you, who plucked the thief down from the cross to carry him to heaven in the arms of Jesus? Who picked up Mary Magdalene from her vileness and her filth? Who snatched Manasseh as a brand from the burning, and all the rest we hear of in the precious word of God? My hearer, if it is not the effectual, sovereign, invincible grace, the salvation that God the Father contrived, and God the Son accomplished, it is not worth a straw to you or me. There must be efficient grace to bring it down into our souls.
Well, this great salvation is made so efficient, that it transforms its recipient and makes him a new creature; turns him upside down, and inside out; and really causes old things to pass away, and all things to become new; and all this, too, mind you, without creature aid. I do not mean it to be said that I undervalue means - that I undervalue the preaching of the gospel, or prayer, or Scripture, or the ordinances of God s house. Oh, no! God has put signal honour and value upon them all; but, mind you, the honour is all His own - the efficiency is all His own. I might preach till doomsday, had I strength; but I might just as well preach to the posts that support these galleries as preach to you if God did not put efficiency into it. I am quite sure the transforming power - the life-giving energy - the new creature - the making a Christian out of a sinner, is God s work, from first to last; and I will insist upon its being so as long as I live, and I know I shall triumph in its being so through all eternity.
A word more. The nourishment of the saved soul must come from the same source, and go on with the same efficiency, through grace implanted in the sinner s heart. Not only is its origin in sovereignty of the Holy Spirit s work, but it has all its nourishment, all its strength, and it is solely and exclusively called into exercise by the mighty movements of the Holy Ghost in the soul.
Now I have delivered my message. Whether I shall see your faces any more is not a matter for me to decide; but I have told out what I can of this salvation, that was literally burning in my very soul like a holy fire till I let it out. And now I hope God will plant it in your hearts, and give you to know its preciousness, at least as much as He has me; and then you will be only waiting for its consummation in His presence, for which He shall have all the glory for ever and ever. Amen.