What is it that Saves a Soul? Salvation - Past, Present, Future
Thus, if we look at salvation, we shall see that it consists of three parts-salvation past, salvation present, and salvation future. Salvation past consists in having our names written in the Lamb s book of life before the foundation of the world. Salvation present consists in the manifestation of Jesus to the soul, whereby He betroths it to Himself. And salvation future consists in the eternal enjoyment of Christ, when the elect shall sit down to the marriage supper of the Lamb, and be for ever with the Lord. Now, as none will ever enjoy salvation future who have no interest in salvation past -in other words, as none will ever be with Christ in eternal glory whose names were not written in the book of life from all eternity-so none will enjoy salvation future who live and die without enjoying salvation present. In other words, none will live for ever with Christ in glory who are not betrothed to Him in this life by the manifestations of Himself to their soul.
According to the Jewish custom, the man, at the time of betrothing, gave the bride a piece of silver before witnesses, saying to her, "Receive this piece of silver as a pledge that at such a time you shall become my spouse." And the parties then exchanged rings. This meeting of the espoused parties together, who then saw each other for the first time, is a sweet type of the first meeting of the soul with Jesus. The damsel had heard of the youth, but till then had never seen him, as seeking souls hear of Jesus by the hearing of the ear before their eyes see Him. The vail was upon her face Ge 24:65, as the vail is upon the heart 2Co 3:15, until Jesus rends it in twain from the top to the bottom.
The bridegroom gave his betrothed a piece of silver as a pledge that all he had was hers. And thus Christ gives to the soul, whom He betroths to Himself by His own manifestations, a pledge, a token, a testimony, which in itself is the first-fruits and assurance of eternal glory. The parties exchanged rings as pledges of mutual affection and eternal faithfullness. And thus, when Christ reveals Himself to the soul in His dying love, mutual engagements, mutual promises, mutual assurances and pledges of faithfulness and love pass between the soul and Him. "One shall say, I am the Lord s, and another shall call himself by the name of Jacob, and another shall subscribe with his hand unto the Lord" Isa 44:5. At these seasons, "in the day of the King s espousals" So 3:11, the language of the soul is, "I sat down under His shadow with great delight, and His fruit was sweet to my taste; He brought me to the banqueting house, and His banner over me was love" So 2:3,4.
All doctrines, notions, forms, creeds, ordinances and ceremonies short of this manifested salvation are as the dust in the balance, and as the driven stubble before the wind. What, for instance, is election, except it be revealed to my soul that I was elected before the foundation of the world? What is redemption to me, except the atoning blood of the Lamb be sprinkled on my conscience? What is the everlasting love of a Triune Jehovah, unless that eternal love be shed abroad in my heart by the Holy Ghost? What is the final perseverance of the saints, unless there is a blessed enjoyment of it in the conscience as a personal reality? To see these things revealed in the Bible is nothing. To hear them preached by one of God s ministers is nothing. To receive the truth of these into our judgment and to yield to them an unwavering assent is nothing. Thousands have done all this who are blaspheming God in hell. But to have eternal election, personal redemption, imputed righteousness, unfailing love, and all the other blessed links of the golden chain let down into the soul from the throne of God; to have the beauty, glory and blessedness of salvation in all its branches-past, present, and to come-revealed to the heart and sealed upon the conscience, this is all in all.
And thus all doubts and fears, all convictions of sin, all cutting discoveries of inward vileness, all terrible views of God in the light of a broken law, all groans, sighs and tears, all heart-sinkings, and dismal forebodings of death and judgment that do not lead up to, and terminate in, a revealed salvation and a manifested Jesus before a man closes his eyes in death, have no more to do with religion than the clanking of a madman s chains or the howling frenzy of a maniac. A man s soul must be damned or saved. And as far as inward religion is concerned, a man must have salvation as an internal reality, as a known, enjoyed, tasted, felt and handled possession, or he will never enter the kingdom of heaven. He may be Churchman or Dissenter, Calvinist or Arminian, Baptist or Independent, anything or everything, and yet all his profession is no more towards his salvation than the cut of his clothes, the height of his stature, or the colour of his complexion.
Everything of an outward nature, nay. truth itself, is a bed too short and a covering too narrow. And thus all a man s consistency of life, soundness of creed, walking in the ordinances, long and steady profession, and everything on which thousands are resting for salvation, of a merely external nature, can no more put away sin, satisfy the justice of God, and give the soul a title for heaven, than the oath of a common swearer, or the lewd conversation of a harlot.