"He is able also to save unto the uttermost, those who come unto God by Him." –Hebrews 7:25
"Who is a God like You? None can pardon as You do. None can pardon so freely; none so fully; none so eternally; none so effectually, as You do. It is all one to You, whatever the sins are; and all one to You, whose the sins are; so long as they come ask pardon of You. –Caryl, 1670.
The pressing, urgent question with a thousand thousand anxious souls--overwhelmed with the weight of aggravated transgression--is this--"Can this God-Man-Redeemer--this Surety-Substitute--be a Savior for all indiscriminately? A shelter and refuge for others, can these Rock-clefts be open for the guiltiest?" It is the old controversy that Satan has with many--whom he first goads on to presumption, and then, when entangled in his meshes, he seeks to drive to despair. Many such has that merciless warder shut up in the deepest dungeons of "Doubting Castle"--gloomy cells, where the sunlight is forbidden to enter--and rung over them the knell of 'extinguished hope'. The crushing thought of personal unworthiness--the memories of guilty bygone years, rise up before them like avenging angels.
What! this Savior and salvation for ME--it cannot be! I have plunged madly into sin--not, like others, because I have never been warned--never counseled--never known the tenderness of a mother's prayers, nor the sanctity of a father's entreaties, nor the privileges of a hallowed home. I have been oblivious of all these. Even now, I seem to listen (though in years long gone by), to voices which I have lived basely to scorn--to counsels I have trampled on--the retrospect all the sadder by the reflection that the lips which spoke them are hushed in the grave--and the arms that of old cuddled me, as on Sabbath night I knelt by the loved knee, are mouldering in the tomb.
What! Christ receive ME, with all that diary of a misspent, godless, defiant life unveiled to His omniscient eye!--deeds of foul depravity--outbursts of fiery passion--malignant purposes of revenge--dishonest deals in business--undermining my neighbor and my friend's name and character to advance my own--secret crimes which have involved the ruin of the innocent--my own ship fatally sunk--but worse far than this, miserable wrecks for which I am guiltily responsible, strewing the shores. Mine is not, as it is with many, a mere upper layer of iniquity; but it is deposit on deposit--strata piled on strata--the mournful consolidation of a life of sin; ten thousand echoes ring along the dreary corridors of the past, "lost! lost! lost!" "Surely my way is hidden from the Lord, and my judgment is passed over from my God."
No not so! Aggravated as your case is, it is never hopeless; you cannot hear your spiritual death-knell tolled, so long as you can read the golden letters which head this meditation--"Able to save unto the uttermost." You may have been to the uttermost a sinner--you may have gone the sickening round of all life's follies--run riot of its whole enchanted circle--no prodigal may have ever wallowed deeper in the mire and morass than you. O Israel, you may have destroyed yourself--there may be not one redeeming feature in your case--not one gleaning left for the grape-gatherer--you may be a stripped, defenseless, degenerate Vine--fit only for the axe and the cumberer's doom.
But hearken to the words of God--"In Me is your help." "I know the thoughts which I think towards you--thoughts of peace and not of evil!" "I, even I, am He that blots out your transgressions, and as a cloud your sins." "I--even I"--the very Being you have most deeply injured--whose Spirit you have grieved--whose mercies you have scorned--I, the Almighty Creditor, am ready to grant and sign a full pardon--"Him that comes unto Me I will in nowise cast out." The Stronger than the strong man armed, sounds the silver trumpet of jubilee, "He has sent Me to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound." And blessed have been the millions who have heard that joyful sound!
There is indeed one sin mentioned in Scripture, but only one, which debars any soul from the Savior--the sin which is left purposely wrapped in its own undefined dreadful mystery--"the sin against the Holy Spirit!" But if there be, in the case of the most apparently hopeless, one breathing of penitence--one prayerful aspiration after a nobler being, then we believe we are warranted in saying, that which is called "the unpardonable sin" you have not committed. If you had, your heart would have been utterly impervious to conviction--all the avenues of conscience would have been closed. Like the fool spoken of by the Psalmist who has reached the climax of his hardihood, you would have remained callous and indifferent to every pleading voice, alike in Providence and grace--despising the credulous weakness of those around you who are listening to 'the idle tales,' and saying in your inmost heart--"No God for me!"
However far therefore you may have fallen, if the feeblest sigh of contrition be still heaved, it demonstrates that you are still a 'prisoner of hope,' and gives you encouragement to "turn to the stronghold." One warming beam of the Sun of Righteousness finding its way amid the frigid icebergs of your moral being, is evidence sufficient that you are not left icebound in the winter of eternal desertion; in one word, that yours is not the sin that is beyond the reach of forgiveness; but that we are abundantly warranted to address you now in the glorious words, "Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts, and let him return unto the Lord, and He will have mercy upon him, and unto our God, and He will abundantly pardon." "Why sit still?" says Bunyan, in his "Jerusalem Sinner Saved"--"arise. Why stand still? 'Begin at Jerusalem' is your call and authority to come. Therefore, up! and shoulder it, man! Say, Stand away, Devil, Christ calls me--stand away, unbelief, Christ calls me--stand away, all you my desponding apprehensions, for my Savior calls me to receive of His mercy."
Let us not, however, in these encouraging thoughts, be misunderstood. Let none say--If such be the gracious, unrestricted offer of the Gospel--if Christ can save the vilest and the basest--if He can save at the very verge and extremity of life, may I not live now as I please, and trust to His mercy at my deathbed? No! That Gospel of pardon and forgiveness is not for the future, it is for the present moment. The words are not--"He SHALL be able to save to the uttermost," but "He IS able"--not "he who SHALL believe," but "he who believes shall be saved." You can put no presumptuous reliance on a deferred repentance. Moreover, be assured, the farther you advance in willful unbelief and impenitence, the harder will it be to put an arrest on your downward course. The stone, as it descends from the mountain top, increases in momentum and velocity. Each new bound it takes, is alike greater and swifter, until with a final leap it disappears. Every hour you live unsaved, you are bounding, like that stone, with accelerated speed, down the dark precipices.
The child's hand can stop in its course a ball of snow as it is loosened at the hill summit, but who could arrest its rush, when grown into an avalanche, it thunders onward from crag to crag towards the Valley. Add to this--by guilty presumptuous delay, you miss the present joy and happiness of forgiveness--the joy, while walking through this world, while mingling in its cares and duties and trials, of rising above them all, under the elevating consciousness "I am forgiven;" and of joining in the sweet melody--"O Lord, I will praise You, for though You were angry with me, Your anger is turned away, and You comforted me!"
One other closing thought suggests itself, by laying emphasis on the first word of our motto-verse--"HE is able to save." Christ is not only a Savior to the uttermost, but He is the only Savior. Reject Him, and "there is no more offering for sin." "Neither is there salvation in any other." "Other foundation can no man lay than that which is laid, who is Jesus Christ." How many are reluctant to accept of this truth in all its unqualified freeness. They would sincerely raise up some personal work in the matter of their justification. They refuse to entrust to the great Physician their entire cure. They would gather some of the balm of Gilead with their own hands--they would weave some of the web of merit on their own loom. Others would vaunt their good deeds, and make these excuse and palliate their bad deeds; striking a balance between merit and demerit; presuming that by a law of moral compensation, the average will fully entitle them to God's favor. Others hope to meet the undischarged debt of the past and condone shortcomings by a better future, giving the promissory-note to the great Creditor, "Have patience with me, and I will pay You all."
But what says Jehovah? "I, even I, am the Lord, and beside me there is NO Savior." Nothing dare come in the place of the one work of Immanuel. The giant deed of His doing and dying must stand alone in its integrity, admitting neither substitute nor supplement. "Salvation," says the Psalmist (from first to last), "salvation belongs unto God." Those attempting to thrust in something of meritorious SELF, only put stumbling-blocks in the king's highway. They only load the wings of the dove with needless encumbrances--hamper and retard its flight to the clefts of the one Rock of safety. They are trusting their anchors, not to a chain of iron but to a cord of thread. They are doing what will all be undone. They are ploughing the sand only that it may collapse in its own furrow. They are laboring in the fire only to have the result of their toil consumed. They are building on the bough of the tree whose roots the winter flood is fast sapping, instead of having "their nest in a rock."
"He only," says the Minstrel King, "is my Rock and my Salvation." "Lord, save me, else I perish," said Peter, as, with sinking step, he turned his eye from the unstable billow to the Divine Being at his side. Perhaps it was with this Gennesaret memory recalled, that he could, long afterwards, proclaim to skeptic Jews and mocking heathen the noble confession of his faith--"There is no other name given under heaven among men whereby we must be saved."
Ah, when shall the self-deceived and self-satisfied learn, not to come, like Naaman, to the door of the true Elisha, with ornamented horses and magnificent chariot filled with gifts, expecting to be told to do some "great thing?"--but ready, at the bidding of the Gracious Physician, to go with their incurable leprosy straight to the waters of the living stream, and there "wash and be clean." "Ho, every one that thirsts, come to the waters, and he that has no money--come! buy and eat; yes, come, buy wine and milk without money, and without price."
You, then, who are wandering "in the wilderness in a solitary way," your soul fainting within you, mocked again and again with the mirage of life, the hollow nothingness of this painted world; or you, perhaps, whose wilderness experience is different; the hot blinding wind of trial unexpectedly overtaking you, strewing your caravan on the desert sands, and leaving priceless treasures hidden from your sight--oh turn from the perishable to the imperishable; turn from torn tents and shattered canvas to the only secure shelter, saying, "The Lord lives, and blessed be my Rock, and let the God of my salvation be exalted." Thousands on thousands, with drooping wing and wailing cry, have flown for refuge beyond the storm-clouds of earth to these glorious Rock-clefts, and yet there is room; pardon for all, peace for all, heaven for all. Hear the sainted multitude, as, in garments whiter than snow, they cast their crowns before the throne and pour forth their eternal anthem to the one Savior--"You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood!"