Sin and Salvation
“There is no difference; for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God; being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” Rom. 3: 22, 23, 24.
One of the world’s hobbies is the erection of class barriers and social distinctions. We hear of blue blood as opposed to and superior to the red fluid that flows through the veins of the multitude. We hear of the classes over against the masses; and of “upper tendom” and the “five hundred.” One would suppose from certain extreme views that there must have been a plurality of races, and instead of one Adam there were four or five.
There are times when these differences so studiously preserved and contended for will disappear. One is the Judgment Day. Titles, ranks, dignities, caste and all go down together in that hour when the mountains crash even with the plain and the skies are all aflame. No one will think of contending for these arbitrary and evanescent creations of men when nature is groaning in death throes, and the race is required to possess but one thing and that character.
Another time is a period of common peril. All of us have seen the great leveling power of a general danger. Men look and act like brothers on the street who have not spoken before, and the woman of wealth holds anxious converse over the garden gate with her poor neighbor as though both had been rocked in the same cradle, and warmed at the same fireside, and no social gulf had ever rolled between.
A third time is seen when the gospel comes down in power upon the community. Under its light and wondrous influence, all classes and ranks feel their marvellous likeness in moral weakness and spiritual need. As the gospel teachings take hold upon the congregation how wonderfully alike all become.
So with these hints to begin with we advance the thought that in spite of all our boasted dissimilarities in the social and intellectual life, yet in certain all important things, there is no difference among us.
1. THERE IS NO DIFFERENCE IN OUR BEING BORN WITH A BAD HEART.
We have been born in different kinds of houses, from a palace to a hovel and some are princes and some beggars; some see the light with a gold spoon in their mouths, some with a silver, some with an iron, and some with no spoon at all. Yet all are born with this bad heart.
Of course there are those who protest here, and argue and deny; but I must believe God rather than man. The Book says we are “born in sin and conceived in iniquity,” that “the whole head is sick,” “the whole heart faint,” that the heart is like “a cage of unclean birds,” etc., etc.
In confirmation of this thought, we ask where does the wickedness of the world come from. Not from the air or water. Christ says, “Out of the heart.” Furthermore we observe that people do not have to get old to become wicked. The ghastly crimes of this century have been committed by young men. The vast majority of the convicts in the penitentiaries are young men. In disturbances at religious meetings it is the rarest thing to find elderly people guilty of misdoing, but nearly always the misconduct springs from those in their teens. The heart is evidently born bad.
In rebuttal of this, men say to me, that they know some people who have never been converted, and are not religious, and yet are kind, nice, and lovely altogether.
The answer I give to this is that there are several ways to account for these lovely, respectable and well behaved sinners. One is the absence of favoring circumstance. They have not yet had the peculiar conditions surrounding them that will sap their fancied strength in a moment and show them how ignorant they have been of themselves. Another reason is the fear of conscience. There are people today who would gladly sin, but they are not willing to endure the mental agony that they know is certain to come as the result. So they behave themselves. A third reason is fear of public opinion. And a fourth, the dread of civil punishment. In a word there is restraint upon them. See how it works.
Did you ever look on a city prison or penitentiary and notice how well behaved and orderly the convicts were? What is the matter with them? The answer is Fear! If they do not behave they will be loaded with chains and dumped into the dark cell with bread and water. So look at the people on the street. How well behaved these unconverted people are. What makes them so nice and law abiding. The fact is they must do right or be punished. I have looked at a large venomous reptile in a glass box. How mild and well mannered he was. But we all knew if he was out, what stings would be given by his fangs, or what cracking of bones there would be under his twisting folds. The box made him orderly. So have we all seen the cobra-gleam in the eye of men and women who would sting and crush if they could, but the glass box of public opinion or civil punishment kept them orderly and harmless.
But that is not the case with me says some one. Then there are three explanations to be given, one is that you are sanctified and the heart is pure. Or as a regenerated man you are living in prayer and keeping down the dark nature in you; or third, if you are an unconverted man the declaring circumstance of your life has not yet come.
Something of the deep inborn depravity of the heart, and its terrible possibilities is seen in the lives of Hazael, Robespierre, and Tamerlane. The first of these three was much shocked when Elisha with prophetic vision told him how he was going to desolate the land and murder the people even to the women and children. But he lived to see the day when he did all the dreadful things the prophet said he would.
As for Robespierre we read that in his early manhood he resigned a certain municipal position because he was required to pronounce sentence of death on the guilty. In ten or fifteen years from that time he was an incarnate devil and the guillotine in Paris was constantly falling on the necks of people at his command. As for Tamarlane we are told in history that he was like other youths in the beginning of his life, at one time weeping over a dead bird, but the inborn devil arose in his heart and through his power over a million people were slain.
In the early part of their lives there was seen no greater sign of wickedness than is seen in most children and youths. The peculiar ferocity and devilishness that made millions to mourn had not yet appeared. There was no call for it. It slumbered on. But the favoring circumstance at last came, and the full inward blackness and badness sprang forth to the horror and mourning of multitudes.
A horrible thought is that when this latent evil comes forth in any of its myriad expressions it appears full grown! Did any of you ever notice that when a certain provocation came to you and you fell into some kind of wrong doing, that the sin was full grown. That when you got angry, it was no case of evolution, but you were mad all over at once. The passion or fury did not develop but leaped out of the heart, and from eye to lip, full fledged, completely armed or entirely grown as the case may be. You had no infant on your hands requiring care, but a giant altogether managing you.
And yet only the day before you had made the remark how gentle and kind you felt toward everybody. You were patting yourself on the head so to speak and smoothing yourself down when suddenly the arranged hair stood on end like bristles, and instead of being a cooing dove you recognized in you the growl and claws of a catamount. The arousing and declaring circumstance had come.
S. S. Prentiss was once delivering a political speech from the top of a cage belonging to a menagerie. The audience stood before him, encircled with the rest of the cages containing the wild beasts. At a certain point in his speech Mr. Prentiss discovered an auger hole in the top of the cage on which he stood. At the moment he was saying that “If the opposition should do what they propose doing, it is enough to make all the beasts of the field to howl in fury”–he suddenly ran his walking cane through the hole and sharply prodded a lion. The great brute leaped to his feet and roared, and it seemed to be the signal for a general outburst from the whole menagerie, for in five seconds every animal was on his feet and the air fairly trembled with the combined throat thunder.
I have recalled this scene more than once, and thought this is the way with the dark nature of which we are speaking. It lies as quietly within as did the slumbering tigers in their cages. When lo, the unexpected circumstance like the walking stick stirs up the resting or dozing sin, and the man to his amazement finds he has a roaring menagerie of evil inside. Some of you had better not congratulate yourselves too soon. The only reason you are quiet, and have thus far gotten along so well, is that the walking stick which is to reach you in the most sensitive place has not yet been thrust at you. The devil knows where the auger hole is, and he is looking for the walking stick. Look out! my boasting, well satisfied brother. In the providence of God you will yet find out that you have a slumbering lion within you. How I pity you the day the walking stick reaches him, and he roars and shakes the human cage.
Some years ago one of the petty kings of New Zealand visited England. It was said by one who wrote up the visit and described the barbarian chief that he was of a very kind and gentle nature unless some one crossed and provoked him; then he became beside himself. On one occasion he caught a man who had worried him, in his hands, swung him high above his head, shook him in the air and brought him down with a crash on the floor. How many people you and I know who are like the New Zealand chief. Let them have their way in all things and they are just lovely, but just provoke or cross them and then come experiences of an earthquake or cyclone order.
2. THERE IS NO DIFFERENCE IN ALL HAVING SINNED.
The text puts this beyond all question, “for all have sinned.” The explanation of course of this general sinning is to be found in the universal inheritance of a bad heart to begin with.
What is sin? The accepted definition is that it is the voluntary transgression of a known Divine law. Suppose we take the ten commandments that in a federal way cover every kind of wickedness. Who has kept them inviolate? They forbid idolatry, profanity, irreverence, Sabbath desecration, dishonor to parents, killing, stealing, adultery, coveting and false witnessing. If any person before me has not broken one of these laws I would be glad to have him stand up. Suppose we wait a minute to see if such a person is here, one who has never broken one of the Ten Commandments .
I remember once hearing a preacher request any one in his audience who had never stolen or taken anything that belonged to another to arise. One gentleman arose, when the preacher in a significant tone asked him if he had been a soldier in the late war, when suddenly the man sat down, while a general smile went around.
An evangelist once asked all in his congregation who had never told a lie to arise. Two individuals stood up when the preacher requested the audience to kneel in prayer for the two biggest liars he had yet seen in his life.
All smiling aside, where is the person who has not broken the letter itself of one of the Ten Commandments. In n word all have sinned.
But some will say I do not remember to have offended against the letter of the law. Very good, then take the spirit of the law and see who escapes. The Saviour long ago showed the spiritual side of the Commandments, and said that to be angry is as murder, and that to look upon a woman improperly was adultery. Idolatry is the elevation of some creature into God’s place, and coveting is theft unfledged. As we learn these facts from Scripture who is able to lift up his head and say I have not sinned.
Nor is this all, for Christ says if we offend in one of these Commandments we have broken all. Truly if a man is willing to sin against God in one respect, he certainly will in another. Moreover the result is one of general woe. Suppose for instance, as one has said, you were suspended over an abyss by a chain of ten links, and one should be broken I Would you not go down just as certainly and swiftly as if three or five or all the links had been sundered?
Somehow there is a conviction abroad that if a man can willingly violate one commandment of heaven, he will not require much urging to break another. In illustration I remember years ago to have read of a gentleman sitting in n hotel one Sabbath morning. Near him two other gentlemen were playing cards. He endured the painful spectacle a while and then suddenly called out to the hotel waiter to run quickly to his room and bring him certain valuable articles he had left on his table. One of the card-players had the curiosity to ask him why he made such a request. The gentleman with great emphasis res#lied that when he sa# persons around deliberately breaking one of God’s laws in Sabbath desecration he did not know when it might please them to break another law, say for instance as to stealing, and so he thought it wisest to secure his property.
Certainly men do not see themselves. They do not stop to think. Alas for it, that every one who will speak the truth is compelled to say that in the sorrowful past he has sinned.
I do not mean to say that we cannot be washed and sanctified and by the indwelling grace and presence of Christ be kept from sinning. That, thank God, is true also. We only mean to say that in the past, all, save Jesus Christ, have at some time or in some way, sinned against God.
3. THERE IS NO DIFFERENCE IN ALL HAVING COME SHORT OF GOD’S GLORY.
There can be no question of this, for the statement of the text is plain; all have come short of the glory of God.
There is a great difference in regard to the possession of man’s glory. Gladstone and Bismarck, Grant and Lee obtained it, while you and I have failed. If some men came to our city, the streets would be crowded with welcoming thousands, houses would be illuminated, rockets ascend and cannon thunder. But many of us might come and go and the community would be none the wiser.
Some have succeeded in obtaining the glory of men, but when it comes to the glory of God all alike have failed.
What is the glory of God? Many have been the answers. Some say it is eternal life. Others say heaven. Still others affirm that it is the perfect, flawless character, such as is drawn in the law and requirements of the Bible. A fourth answer is that it is the honor which God gives as a reward on earth and in heaven, based on individual merit and faithfulness alone. A fifth explanation is that it is the holiness of God Himself.
Evidently it is difficult to tell what it means. The heart knows better here than the head. The soul# feels at this place what the lip cannot express. But let the term glory of God stand for all we have mentioned, eternal life, heaven, Divine honor, flawlessness of life, God’s resplendent holiness–concerning this galaxy of shining blessings we are all bound to say, that standing in our own strength and wisdom, unhelped by Divine grace we all come short of the glory of God. Any one of them is the glory of God, and who of us without Christ could have measured up to or obtained them.
The expression “come short” is powerful. I see an arrow shot at a target, but falling this side of the mark. It came short. I see a man endeavoring to leap a chasm. He misses the other bank and goes crashing down into the canyon. He came short. So has the human race in itself tried to reach heaven, attain character, and be clothed with the honor and rewards of God. It was a great leap they thought they made in their moral philosophies and life sacrifices, but they came short. History said so, God said so, and they felt it.
But one person says I did not fail as much as another did; and one age and country did not sink as low as another. True, but all come short of God’s glory, and so the catastrophe is wonderfully similar.
Let us see how this is the case. Here is a call in military ranks for men who measure exactly six feet. Some applicants are only five feet six, others five feet eight, still others five, ten and eleven, and some are within half an inch of the standard. Yet all are rejected, and the man who is five feet eleven inches and a half finds himself in the rejected company of those who fell short six inches. They all came short.
Suppose some of us had to jump n chasm six feet wide in order to save our lives. One leaps only four feet, another five, a third five feet six inches. All go crashing down the precipice together. It took a six foot leap to make the safe landing, and no one covered the distance.
So we say to the entire human race, fall into line. Kings and peasants, princes and beggars, generals, statesmen, citizens, soldiers, preachers and laymen all get into line. Now then let every one, whether he be clothed in silk or rags, strike his breast with his hand and cry out, “We have all come short of the glory of God.”
Are we all in the dust? Well, that is just where God wants us; and where we must all get before Christ can save us.
4. THERE IS NO DIFFERENCE IN THERE BEING PARDON FOR US ALL.
The text says there is no difference–“being justified freely.” Of course this does not mean that every one in the world does secure pardon, but can if he will.
It is so free that it is for all just as much for the tramp on the road as for the king on his throne; just as truly for the poor man as for the millionaire. It is for the young and the aged, the illiterate and the philosopher.
It comes just as swiftly to one as the other, and just as freely and abundantly. It never stops to examine the house in which you live whether it be a palace or a hovel. It asks no questions about the kind of clothes you wear whether silk or jeans; nor on what alley, street or avenue you reside, nor what may be the amount of your income. There is no difference, all are justified freely who will accept pardon.
Is it not wonderful that men should doubt this blessed Bible truth. The trouble is they make God such an one as themselves. Affected by material circumstances they would make the Almighty partial, and a respecter of persons. Listen to the Word, ” “God would have all men believe and come to the knowledge of the truth;” “God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”
Now look at His gifts of air and sunshine. They are as much for one person as another, and are symbolic of the like freedom and fullness of His grace and salvation.
I have noticed that the telephone wires in our cities go to large and fine looking houses; none to hovels. But the lines of Divine grace and love are sent to any and all houses, and to the humblest as quickly as to the lordly residence. I have noticed that certain lovely tints and colors are peculiar to the mansions of the rich; but God has a crimson stain that came from Calvary, which He places on the lowliest abode on the obscurest street; and when He applies it to n palace it is the same scarlet color; He has nothing better in heaven.
I started housekeeping in a very humble way. Rather than go in debt, our first center table was a dry goods box, and our two arm chairs we made ourselves out of barrels, cushioned with straw and covered with red calico. I live today in a three story house with pleasant and comfortable furniture made at the factories. But the Lord came a# quickly to bless my soul when I lived in one room as He does now when I keep house in ten.
I have seen altars filled with all kinds of people seeking forgiveness of sin. There were the blonde curls of childhood, the grizzled locks of middle life, and the gray hairs of old age. The faded coat or dress was by the side of rustling silk or shining broadcloth. The poor tradesman was next to the scholar or professional man. I noticed at the same time that the silk and broadcloth secured more ghostly counsel and attention from their fellow creatures than did the obscure and less favored in face, person and purse. But I also noticed that heaven was rigidly impartial. That God came as quickly in response to prayer and faith to the unrefined as to the accomplished, and to the poor as to the wealthy. In a word, there is no difference; we can all be justified no matter who we are, what we have done or left undone. The debt has been paid, the door of heaven is open and the cry to the whole world is come, and take of the water of life freely.
5. THERE IS NO DIFFERENCE WITH US IN REGARD TO THESE FULL BENEFITS OF THE GREAT REDEMPTION.
The text says, “The redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” What is this redemption? He who regards it as simply the pardon of sin has failed to take in the meaning of the word. He who makes it to be escape from hell and the gaining of heaven has not grasped the fullness of the salvation of Christ.
The word redemption has in it the idea of n complete recovery. It means repurchasing or ransoming, and overflows with the thought of rescue.
The illustrations of the meaning of the word are even more striking. A field that for years has been lying out untouched by hoe or plow, covered with weeds and brambles, and then afterwards fenced in and made to smile with a beautiful and profitable harvest is a field redeemed.
A preacher was once approached by a boy carrying n cage filled with birds. He desired to sell them. The preacher’s heart felt strangely moved in behalf of the little captives and bought them all. After paying the money down in the lad’s hands, the new master of the birds opened the cage door and let them all fly out. With wet eyes but warm heart he saw them flutter away through the air, and he said as they flew off into the sky they were all chirping and singing and they seemed to say, “Redeemed–Redeemed.”
A still more remarkable illustration of the word has been seen in connection with certain occurrences in the days of Slavery. Now and then a Slave owner being pressed by debt or some kind of obligation, would be under the necessity of parting with one or more of his servants. In certain towns and cities there was what was called a Slave-block, and the man or woman to be sold was placed upon it and auctioneered off to the highest bidder. It was a scene never to be forgotten when the husband and father thus stood, and heard the bids made upon him. The circle of rough-looking Slave buyers about the Block, felt the muscles of the Slave, asked his age and regarded him as merely a piece of goods or chattels. The wife and children of the man thus being sold, stood or crouched a few yards away and witnessed the sale with voiceless lips, but streaming eyes. In a few minutes he is to be “knocked down” to the highest bidder, and will be carried away to end his days on some far distant plantation of cotton or cane in Mississippi or Louisiana. They will never meet again on earth. It all comes to him as stealing a hurried glance at his loved ones, he hears the words of the auctioneer; whose pitiless they sounded; “One thousand dollars is of offered” — “Twelve hundred dollars.” “How much more am I offered?” “Are all bids in?” “Twelve hundred dollars.” “Going–going, gone!” Yes, truly, it is–gone. And the man now amid the loud wails of his family goes off with his new master, to return no more.
But suppose that just as some coarse, dark-featured man has bidden the twelve hundred dollars, and as the trembling Slave takes in the cruel visage before him and a horror of despair begins to fall upon him, that a benevolent-faced gentleman in the crowd, not only wealthy but a benefactor of his race, trying to do good at every opportunity, suddenly bids twelve hundred and fifty, and still higher as his competitor raises the amount. Suppose this kindly heart, who has done the like thing often before, should bid beyond the reach of every other man, and for the sum of eighteen hundred dollars has the Slave turned over to him. It is not to retain him as a slave, however, but to set him at liberty from that hour. He tells with shining face, the joy-intoxicated man “you are free. I have redeemed you.” Suppose in addition to this act, the wealthy gentleman purchases the family of the man and then sets them all free together; now then you have some idea of the deep, sweet meaning of the word Redemption.
So were we on the Slave-block of sin. The world and the devil were bidding for our souls. You know well what bondage to them means; what separations, tears, labors and death. Right in the midst of this bidding came one wearing a crown of thorns and saying, “I will bid for him.” To the question what will you give, He answered: “I will give the gold of my blood, and the silver of my tears. I give myself for him.” And thank God, we were struck down to Christ. There was no one who could outbid Jesus. There was no price in all the universe equal to what He paid down at Calvary. And so we became the Lord’s property, and in becoming His were set free; Free from sin, the world and the devil in a word Redeemed.
Paul says in Titus 2:14: “He gave Himself for us that he might redeem us from all iniquity.” Here now we have it. To be redeemed from all iniquity is to be made holy. Christ’s salvation was never intended to stop with pardon, but to sweep on farther, and to go down deeper, giving us a pure heart and settling us in a holy life.
The Bible shows us what “the redemption in Christ Jesus” is by a reference to certain characters in its pages. I mention only one, and that one Peter.
As a rough fisherman without God, he must have been a most unattractive individual. When he was converted and in his impulsive way following Christ there was a marvellous change. Still, however, he was fearful and hotheaded. But after the baptism of the Holy Ghost, with his heart purified and soul and tongue on fire boldly preaching, patiently suffering and humbly yet triumphantly dying for the Saviour, it is like looking on another man, and in itself tells louder than words what is “the redemption which is in Christ Jesus.”
It was a redemption from haste of speech, religious narrowness, dread of man and fear of death. It was the power to face a frowning world, with a joy unspeakable and full of glory, and to live daily as he wrote in one of his epistles, “Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness.”
Look at the Demoniac filled with ten thousand devils tearing and cutting himself and wandering with fearful cries up and down the banks of Lake Galilee in order to see what the bondage of the devil is. Then to know Christ’s redemption, see the same man with the unclean spirits all gone, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind, and afterwards sent back to his home and community as an evangelist to tell what great things the Lord had done for him.
Life is full of illustrations and commentaries upon the word Redemption. A few months ago I saw a man who under the demon of intemperance had been sent twenty-seven times to Inebriate Asylums. All had failed. Then he came to Jesus, and Christ with His blessed releasing power, saved and sanctified him, and the man is today one of the most useful Christian workers in the land.
I have seen backsliders who had drifted far from God, and had been in coldness, darkness and hardness for years, suddenly arrested, broken, melted, reclaimed, refilled and refired, and from that time became the gentlest, humblest, purest and most zealous among the servants of God. This also is the redemption of Jesus.
Some of you know what this redemption has done for you. Justification secured your pardon; regeneration made you a new creature in Christ Jesus, but there was something left in your heart that gave you much trouble. There u as a dark nature or principle within that brought you days of defeat and gloom. You had love, but it was not perfect. You had peace, but it did not abide. At last you were told that Christ had a work of grace that would meet every spiritual need, and richly satisfy every longing of the soul. You sought the blessing for hours or days. And it came. O, how thankful you are that it came. Since that moment you know what heart repose and life victory mean. You feel every instant that the blood cleanseth, and a tender quiet joy bubbles like a pure spring up in the heart. You feel kept by the power of God. In a word, you are justified freely, sanctified wholly and preserved blameless. This is a part of what is meant by the redemption which is in Christ Jesus.
Why do not the people come to Him and find out what He is, and has, and can do for them. The Bible says there is “riches of grace” is Christ; yet many of His people would never impress you that they were rich, but rather poverty-stricken and bankrupt. Why should there be sadness and defeat in our hearts and lives when He Whom we serve has all mercy, all love and all power?
There is no end to the redemption that is in Him; and this redemption is for any and all. There is no difference. All are welcome. The humblest sad weakest person here can drink as deep of the fountain of salvation as did Paul. You can live as near the Lord as did John. You can be the best of earth and rise as high in heaven as the loftiest archangel! Who will accept what God has for them? Who will help himself? May God grant that the last one of you will arise and enter upon the privileges and boundless possibilities of grace and blessedness provided by the Saviour for every child of man.