What is it that Saves a Soul? What are we Saved From
But if we wish to know what it is that saves a soul, we must know what that state is out of which it is saved. If we have not the beginning, we cannot have the middle nor ending. But our modern professors and preachers never had a beginning to their religion. They were pious from childhood; or they had the advantage of religious parents; or they were brought up at the Sunday School; or they sat under a gospel minister; or a good book fell into their hands and made them pious; or they became serious, and impressed with the necessity of religion; or they married a religious wife, or husband, and so they became religious too. Such, and similar accounts, are daily given to the public in pious periodicals, related in conversation, or given in at church meetings, and implicitly received by universal charity as a true experience and as a genuine work of grace. But where is one to be found out of a thousand who can tell how the Lord began with him, and what were his feelings under His divine teachings; who can describe the path by which he has been led, the ups and downs which he has experienced, the changes through which he has passed, the vessels from which he has been successively emptied, and the conflicts in which he has been engaged?
Who, of a thousand professors, can speak feelingly of the wormwood and the gall of sin, the poisoned stings of guilt, the arrows of God in the conscience, the mire and filth of a desperately wicked heart, the strugglings, sinkings and wrestlings, the alternate hopes and fears, the beams of light and the shades of darkness, the short-lived confidence and the soon-returning despondency, and all the varied experience of an awakened soul? Self-loathing and self-abhorrence in dust and ashes, gloomy forebodings of eternal punishment, cries unto God out of the pit of guilt, succeeded by fits of sullen silence, alternate repentance and hardness of heart, being now overcome by sin, and now mourning and sighing over his weakness against it-such exercises as these, how few speak of with that feeling, unction and power, which show that they have passed through them! Or, again, the heavy burden of sin, the daily weight of evil, the floods of infidelity and atheism, the torrents of filth, lust, and obscenity, the sudden rushings in of blasphemous thoughts, dreadful imaginations, foul ideas, horrible cursings, and all the heavings up of the filthy bed of a sensual and devilish heart, what minister in a thousand carries any evidence in his preaching that such a track has been trodden by him?
But if salvation implies a previous state from which it is a deliverance, then I say that it is childish folly to talk of being saved if we know nothing experimentally of what we are saved from. If a man ask me, then. "What is it which saves a soul?" I answer, "Why do you ask that question? Before anything about salvation can be known, there is a previous lesson to be learnt. If you have not learnt this, you have nothing to do with the other. You might as well think of learning vulgar fractions without first learning to read. But what is your motive for wishing an answer to this question? To learn a few notions, to inform your judgment, to adopt a sound creed? If this be your motive, my business lies not with you. You have to go and first learn another lesson, and until you have been taught this, I can give your question no answer."
Salvation is a gift, the choicest and richest gift which the hands of a Triune God, whose name is Love, can bestow. It is a portion, an inheritance, an estate, a treasure, an eternal reality. The full possession, the entire enjoyment, the complete acquisition of this predestinated weight of glory, is indeed reserved until a future state; but the earnests, the first-fruits, the early ripe clusters, the first dew-drops of this eternal inheritance, are given to the elect whilst upon earth. The everlasting enjoyment of the presence and glory of Christ is often compared in Scripture to a wedding. Thus we read Re 19:7 of "the Lamb s wife," and of "the marriage of the Lamb." So the Church is said to be "brought unto the King in raiment of needlework," as the bride in Eastern countries was brought by the father Ge 29:23 to the bridegroom. But we read of "espousals" also, which always preceded the celebration of the marriage. "I remember thee, the kindness of thy youth, the love of thine espousals" Jer 2:2. "I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ" 2Co 11:2. So Joseph "was espoused to the virgin Mary, before they came together" Mt 1:18; that is, before they became man and wife.
Now this espousal was a necessary prelude to marriage, though it was not the same thing. And, therefore, a betrothed virgin was punished as an adulteress by the Levitical law De 22:24, if she was unfaithful to her espoused husband. To be betrothed had the nature of marriage in it, though it was not the same thing as marriage. The parties did not live together, and were not put in possession of each other. Thus, it is in this life that the spiritual betrothment takes place, and the spiritual marriage in the life to come. "I will betroth thee unto Me in righteousness and in judgment, and in lovingkindness, and in mercies; I will even betroth thee unto Me in faithfullness, and thou shalt know the Lord" Ho 2:19,20.