Neglect of the Great Salvation
William Nicholson, 1862
"How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation?" Hebrews 2:3
Salvation is the most important subject that can ever engage the intellectual power of men. Because it is absolutely necessary for us as fallen, helpless transgressors — because it is the source of spiritual relief to our deathless spirits, and the fountain of the most refined and exalted enjoyment which we can realize on earth; because it is the mighty lever to exalt us from the degradation and misery of vice here, to the perfect purity and triumphant felicity of Heaven forever — because these are its qualities and effects, it is worthy of the homage of the world, and of the adorations of eternity.
The Apostle, in the context, argues that if the Gospel of salvation contains so much Divinity and glory, and is productive of such infinite results, it ought to be gratefully received, verse 1-2.
I. The Great Salvation:
1. The nature of Salvation. The term applies, especially here, to the whole economy of grace — the dispensation of mercy to a fallen and ruined world, by the mission of the Son of God to this earth. Hence he is frequently called the Savior of the world — the Light of the world — and the Life of the world. "For the Son of man has come to seek and save those who are lost!" "Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners — of whom I am the worst!" 1 Timothy 1:15. "You are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins!" Matthew 1:21. The Scriptures throughout denominate him the Savior.
This denomination implies two great facts:
(1.) The Perilous condition of man as a sinner. Salvation means deliverance, and deliverance implies danger. Not human peril — not physical pain and anguish merely — not worldly catastrophes. No! but the misery, defilement, condemnation, bondage, and everlasting ruin of the soul.
Sin has . . .
darkened the mind,
perverted the judgment,
debased the passions, and
turned the soul away from God.
Sin is . . .
rebellion against God,
the transgression of God's law,
a daring trespass upon Divine authority,
and a provoking insult to the Almighty God!
Sin is a barrier to fellowship with God — it provokes him to anger — it causes him to denounce his curse. Yes, man is cursed. For is not God his Sovereign? The Lawgiver demands satisfaction. If not given, then will he render "tribulation and anguish upon every soul of man who does evil."
We talk of human perils — of earthly dangers; but alas! no earthly woe can be compared to this. What is the shipwreck of the body — compared to sin's devastation of the soul, and its liability to be engulfed in endless perdition? What are earthly losses by injustice, or insolvency, by conflagrations and other causes — compared with the loss of the soul? What are bodily diseases, however complicated and excruciating — compared with the diseases of the soul, produced there by sin?
What are penal enactments, sufferings by imprisonments, and human tortures — compared with the infliction of the Curse, of the Law of God? Man, while an earthly resident, has to contend with human dangers merely, but the sinful and ruined soul is destined, if not saved by Sovereign grace, to contend with eternal storms of Divine wrath! Romans 2:8, 9; Galatians 3:10; Matthew 25:41, 46.
(2.) Deliverance by the Mediation of the Son of God. As the Savior he was Divinely ordained, appointed, and duly qualified.
His mission beautifully represented, "For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us!" Romans 8:3-4
In nature he became allied to the transgressor. He assumed our nature with all its miseries and infirmities, with the exception of sin, Galatians 4:4; Hebrews 2:14, 15.
He lived a life of strict conformity to the law, Hebrews 7:26-28.
He endured the penalty of transgression. "Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed." Isaiah 53:4-5; Romans 3:24, 25; Galatians 3:13.
He rose again to confirm the reality of his offering — and ascended to Heaven to live, and intercede, and reign for the benefit of his redeemed Church.
2. The Greatness of Salvation. "So great salvation." An indefinite expression, like "God so loved," etc.
It is a greater salvation . . .
than the deliverance of Israel from the bondage of Egypt,
than the deliverance of Lot from Sodom,
than the deliverance of Daniel from the lion's den,
than the deliverance of the three Hebrew children from the fiery furnace.
In these cases the body was delivered — but here the soul is saved. They were saved from earthly dangers; but "Jesus delivered us from the wrath to come!"
It is a great Salvation if we consider,
(1.) Its Author. Its Author is God Almighty, all-wise, infinitely good, holy, and eternal. The Self-Existent and Independent God. The Creator, not only of this orb which we inhabit, but of innumerable stars, and suns, and planets, occupying boundless space. The same wisdom, omnipotence, and love that contrived and called all these into
existence, designed and executed our salvation. Therefore it must be great — like himself — worthy of his nature and attributes — a great salvation!
(2.) The Agent employed to effect it. The Son of God — the only begotten Son of God. His incomparable glory declared, Philippians 2:6; Hebrews 1:3. He is superior to angels. Hebrews 1:4-8, 13. He is superior to Moses, Hebrews 3:3. He is superior to the ancient priesthood, etc. The Agent of this salvation as employed by God, is infinitely more glorious than any created intelligence.
(3.) The price which the Agent paid. It was a great price. Not silver and gold. Not the cattle upon a thousand hills. Not the topaz of Ethiopia — not the first-born, or the fruit of the body for the sin of the soul. Not cities, or nations, and kingdoms, or planets, or stars, and suns — but the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot! A victim so pure and impeccable, could only be found in Christ.
And to secure salvation, the Son of the highest travailed in sorrow on this vile orb, and endured . . .
humiliation, woe, and anguish,
an agony which made him sweat great drops of blood falling to the ground,
and an ignominious, unparalleled, and incomprehensible death!
"He spared not his own Son!" It must therefore be a great salvation.
(4.) The magnitude of the evils from which Christ saves, proves it to be a great salvation:
the guilt of sin,
the pollution of sin,
the darkness of sin,
the misery of sin — Hell.
A deliverance from these evils is more valuable than the life-boat sent out to save perishing mariners — than the most valuable medicine specific to heal the plague, to arrest the progress of the epidemic — more valuable than the interposition of a friend to save you from insolvency and financial ruin — more valuable than the pardon of a sovereign to the prisoner of death in his cell.
(5.) The various and invaluable blessings with which it invests its recipients.
Pardon of sin,
freedom from condemnation,
peace with God,
communion with God,
eternal glory, etc.
"Beloved, now are we the sons of God." "We are heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ."
"Oh," said one of the native converts appointed by the Danish Missionaries to translate a catechism, in which believers are called 'sons of God'. "Oh it is too much! Let me rather render it, 'they shall be permitted to kiss his feet!'"
But no, it is too much! "It is just like him," said a converted negro woman, with sublime moral simplicity, when speaking of his unutterable gift of Christ for our salvation. He gives all spiritual blessings — all the exalted privileges of the Gospel — the ministration of angels, victory over death, and it is just like him. He gives us Heaven, an eternal inheritance there — and it is just like him!
(6.) The great number of beings for whom it is provided. It is a banquet amply provided with entertainment for all who will come. It is the river of the water of life for all who thirst, etc.
And that banquet of grace — that river of life is perfectly free. Isaiah 55:1, 2.
Lastly, it is a great salvation, because its effects are eternal. "Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life!" John 4:14. "Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory!" 2 Timothy 2:10
II. This Great Salvation Is Neglected.
Look around, and you will see multitudes caring nothing about that which is so great and interesting to angels, and enrapturing to Heaven.
They neglect that which is more necessary for their happiness than their food, water, breath, etc. etc.
Some willfully neglect it.
The infidel denies it altogether.
The self-righteous, through the influence of pride, will not embrace the Savior.
The worldly-minded have to attend to secular things, and they are
overwhelmed with earthly cares, laboring to accumulate fleeting nothings — to the neglect of eternal riches.
The lovers of pleasure neglect it. It has no charms, no pleasures for them. They are deluded by a thousand phantoms floating around them, and are grasping at bubbles — in preference to the pearl of great price, and the unfading crown of glory!
They are all under the dominion of sin, which blinds their minds, and deceives their hearts.
In short, sin is a Proteus, changing itself into a thousand shapes — or a serpent twisting itself a thousand ways, to slide into men's hearts, in order to prevent their thinking about their own salvation!
Some wish to neglect it only for a season. They perceive its necessity and great value, and promise themselves that at some future time they will embrace it. Dreadful infatuation!
Remember that while this salvation is neglected, the soul is suspended over the pit of woe, and if the thread of life breaks — the soul will fall into Hell forever!
III. The Neglecters of This Salvation Cannot Escape the Wrath of God.
The question, "How shall we escape?" is equal to the strongest affirmation. You shall not escape. To hope for an escape is absurd. To effect it is impossible. The greater the salvation, the more bitter and agonizing will be the punishment of those who neglect it!
That they cannot escape, observe,
1. They are already under condemnation, under arrest, in the hands of Divine justice, and they cannot escape, except by the Sacrifice of Christ.
2. To neglect this salvation, exposes the soul to a greater punishment than that inflicted under the law. The neglecters of that law did not escape, verse 2. This is a superior dispensation. "He who believes not, shall be damned!" "He shall never see life," but "the wrath of God abides on him!"
Such are the declarations of God. It is evident then that the neglecters cannot escape. "How shall they escape, if they neglect so great a salvation?"
Yon cannot escape by dependence upon the mere mercy of God. A God all mercy would be an unjust God. Besides, Christ said, "He who despises me, despises him that sent me."
You cannot escape by morality — for this sets aside the substitutionary atonement of Christ! "Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace?" Hebrews 10:28-29. "If they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, how much less will we, if we turn away from him who warns us from Heaven?" Hebrews 12:25
You cannot escape by flight — for God is everywhere.
You cannot escape by resistance — for who has an arm like God, and who can thunder with a voice like him?
You cannot escape, for God is true and faithful to his threatenings, as well as to his promises. "The Lord Jesus shall be revealed from Heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus!" 2 Thessalonians 1:7-8
You cannot escape, after you have suffered a while, by universal restoration. The consequence of your neglect will be everlasting.
You can only escape by embracing the Lord Jesus Christ. Do it immediately. Delay not.
If you lose a saving interest in this great salvation — the fault will be your own!