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Home arrow 50 Yrs Among The Baptists arrow Justification and Kindred Subjects: Chapter 10
Justification and Kindred Subjects: Chapter 10 PDF Print E-mail
Written by J.H. Oliphant   

There has been an effort made for centuries to find some reason in man for his salvation. Men have seemed unwilling to leave the matter of salvation to the sovereignty of God, and I have observed, in works written by Universalists, that they hold that there are such modifying circumstances that God would cease to be good and merciful were he not to save all men. Ingersoll’s writings have the same sentiment, and all Arminian writers declare against the right of God to proceed in the damnation of men without making some kind of provision whereby they may be saved. If any of these views be true, then salvation is a matter of debt.

I wish to urge that the great object of God in our salvation is to make a display of his grace and mercy, and on the principle that our salvation rests on anything good in us, it would not be a matter altogether of grace. Speaking of our salvation, Paul, in Eph. i. 6, says: "To the praise of the glory of his grace wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved." "He HATH MADE us;" not WE MADE ourselves; and if we are made "ACCEPTED," we are ACCEPTABLE, and we are equal to the requirements of a most holy law, which could only be upon the principles suggested in the previous chapter. This text shows that the great end in view is to manifest his grace. Notice the words, "to the praise of the glory of his grace." He puts one word to another as if he would intensify the idea of grace and give us the highest possible conception of his grace. The same is in Eph. ii. 7, "That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace." The word grace alone, it would seem, is strong enough, but he adds, "the exceeding riches of his grace." Now if we would teach in a way to show God’s grace to the best advantage, we must not admit works of our own in the matter of justification, for in proportion as we find merit in man we take from grace, and we have found that there is no compromise here; it must be all of grace or all of works. Any doctrine, or view, that represents God as saving men for what they ARE or for what they DO, tends to the overthrow of his grace. So I have rejected Universalism, Two-seedism, in all its modern forms, and Arminianism, as all opposed to the doctrine of grace. In Eph. ii. 4 we read; "But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us even when dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ." The words, "rich in mercy," point clearly to the subject in hand, as also the words, "even when we were dead in sin." That is, he loved us with GREAT LOVE when we were utterly unworthy. This whole text is brim full of the sentiment that salvation is in no sense the payment of a debt to man; that God is in no way under obligation to us from any consideration whatever, and that, as Flavel once said, "Whatever we get better than hell is all of mere mercy."

It is certainly clear that those who plead our obedience or righteousness as of any value, to that extent take from the grace of God; for to whatever extent we merit or deserve salvation, to that extent it is not of grace, and the less merit or importance we attach to the works of men, the higher estimate we set on the grace of God. Men may urge that God manifests his grace in providing a plan whereby salvation is possible, when he was under no obligation to do such a thing, but it is easy to see that grace is more clearly manifested in a scheme that absolutely and eternally saves, than it is in barely making this result possible; for if it be a matter of mere possibility, it is also possible for all to be lost, and all depends on man at last. If our own merit or obedience is counted for anything at all, the blood and righteousness of Christ is counted for less, for it is plain that whatever importance is to be attached to our obedience, the grace of God suffers correspondingly, so that he who counts the least on our works, and sets the least store by our merit, he also has the highest conception of God’s grace.

This view lays us under obligations of gratitude to God, for to whatever extent it was deserving, to that extent we owe him no gratitude. If our obedience merits the one-thousandth part of the blessing, then there would be one-thousandth less ground for gratitude. But Paul, in the places above quoted, designed to show that "grace all the work shall crown;" and to this my own experience and life agree. I can truly write with John in the words, "Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us." If we deserved anything of God, the wonder would be over, and explained, but I am all unworthiness, and yet his love is immeasurable. The doctrine of pure grace alone from first to last is the solid rock for my hope. It is here I find a refuge from my fears.

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