James Smith, 1860
Grace is like its author, full of wonders . . .
wonders of power,
wonders of condescension,
wonders of sympathy.
Grace always works freely, and yet it always has a specific design, and a design worthy of itself. Paul ascribes all the good that was wrought in him, and all the good that was done by him — to grace. Hear his words in reference to the former, "For this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show forth all long suffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting." 1 Timothy 1:16. Notice,
WHAT PAUL WAS. He was the chief of sinners. No sinner was worse than Saul of Tarsus. In God's sight, he stood first and foremost among the enemies of his Son. He lived in special times, he enjoyed special privileges, and he was guilty of special sins. He heard the gospel, and rejected it with the utmost contempt, though it was confirmed with the most extraordinary signs, and gifts of the Holy Spirit. He resisted the strivings of the Spirit, and the powerful proofs of our Lord's divinity. He was exceedingly furious against the saints — torturing, tormenting, and murdering them. He bitterly blasphemed Jesus, and compelled others to do so too. He hated the Savior as few, if any ever did. His heart was petrified with enmity against Christ, he breathed out threatening and slaughter against the saints, and as determined to annihilate the religion of the Son of God forever.
How anyone could be worse, it is difficult to say; that no one ever went so far, the Scriptures distinctly declare, for he was the chief of sinners. Others have thought themselves to be so — but the inspiration of the Holy Spirit bears witness that Saul was. Reader, you may be a great, a very great sinner — but you have not gone so far as Saul — you have neither had the opportunity nor the ability to do so.
WHAT PAUL OBTAINED. "I obtained mercy." Mercy in its fullness, for it would take much mercy to save a man like Saul. But when we compare the mercy of God, to the sinfulness of man — it is like comparing an ocean of water, to the smallest imaginable drop. As vast as man's sin may be — it is as nothing in comparison with God's infinite mercy. It was mercy in its freeness; and in God, mercy is always free. It is not produced, or excited, or drawn forth, by anything in us. He says, "I will have mercy — because I will have mercy; and I will have compassion — because I will have compassion."
As it is free in God, so it is free to us.
Through Jesus, any sinner may obtain mercy . . .
mercy without merit,
mercy without desert,
mercy without any qualification — except it be his own misery and need of it.
It was God's mercy in its variety:
Mercy to pardon his sin.
Mercy to purify his heart.
Mercy to control his will.
Mercy to make him a new creature in Christ.
Mercy to devote him entirely to Christ.
Mercy to employ all his talents for Christ.
Mercy to make him an honor and glory to Christ.
Here we see . . .
the chief sinner pardoned by his God,
the base prodigal received by his father, and
the great persecutor saved by the Savior, he so bitterly persecuted.
This is God's mercy . . .
mercy in all its fullness,
mercy in all its freeness,
mercy in all its variety,
mercy in all its glory.
WHY HE OBTAINED IT. That he might be a pattern to all future generations. God's pattern for the encouragement all sinners.
A pattern of God's patience, showing how much God can bear from sinners, how long God can allow sinners to persevere in sin, and yet save them.
A pattern of God's sovereignty, showing how God of his mere mercy, by the exercise of his sovereign grace, can save the vilest transgressors.
A pattern of the power of God's saving grace,
showing how he can . . .
subdue the hardest heart,
bow the most inflexible will, and
entirely change the bias of the most prejudiced mind.
To show forth WHOM the Lord would save — the vilest, yet not because they are the vilest, as if sin would entitle them to salvation, or induce God to save them; but to show by his saving the very worst, that he will cast out none that come to him.
To show forth HOW the Lord would save — freely, without anything in the sinner to induce him, or anything done by the sinner to incline him. Saul's salvation, proves that sinners are saved gratuitously, and that all is of God to the praise of his grace.
To show forth WHY the Lord will save, simply for his own glory. This is God's great end in all the wonders he performs. "For my own sake, even for my own sake," he says, "I will do it."
It is of faith, that it might be of grace; to the end that salvation may be certain to all who apply for it.
This pattern is presented to us, in order to confound our unbelief. If God will save such a man as Saul — then on what ground can he refuse to save us? If God would save Saul — then why should he not save us? Unbelief has not a leg to stand on, with God's pattern before us.
It is to banish our doubts and fears. Why doubt whether God can save us — when he could save one like Saul? Why fear whether he will save us if we ask him — when he saved Saul without his asking him?
It is to beget faith an our hearts. See what monstrous sinners God has saved! Surely, you cannot be so bad! Depend upon it therefore, that the merit of Christ that was sufficient for Saul — is sufficient for you. The mercy of God that was free for Saul — is free to you. The grace of God that made a new creature of Saul — can make a new creature of you. Only believe, and your salvation is not only possible but certain!
It is to comfort disconsolate sinners. Why disconsolate, look at the pattern God places before you. He can save anyone, therefore he can save you. He will save all who believe his word, depend on his veracity, and rely on his finished work — cast yourself on Jesus, and cast away your fears.
Look at God's pattern, examine the workmanship — it is divine, it brings glory to God, especially to his free and sovereign grace. After this pattern he works still, saving such sinners, in the same free and wonderful way.
To doubt is to dishonor God.
To doubt is to reflect badly on the Lord Jesus.
To doubt is needlessly to distress yourself.
The Lord Jesus, who displayed such patience in bearing with Saul, and such mercy in saving Saul — will show forth the same patience in bearing with you, and the same mercy in saving you.
Let us never despair of the salvation of any sinner.
Surely if we had known Saul, and had despaired of any — we would have
despaired of him. And if there had been cause to have despaired of anyone
— then Saul must have been the man. But Saul was saved — saved as a pattern
— and now the Lord Jesus says . . .
"See what sort of sinners I save,
see what desperate sinners I can save,
see what wicked sinners I will save.
See, and send all such sinners to me! I will save them — I will save them freely — I will save them honorably — I gill save them forever."
Reader, have you any desperate sinners in your neighborhood, among your relatives, or acquaintances? If so, do not despair of them — but tell them of Jesus, direct them to Jesus, try by all means to lead them to Jesus; and in their salvation, grace will be glorified, Jesus will be honored, and you will have great comfort.
Let us seek the salvation of all about us. He who saved Saul of Tarsus, can save anyone. The way in which Saul was saved, is the way in which any sinner may be saved. Let us ever carry God's pattern with us, and be prepared to produce it, whenever we meet with anyone whose case may seem to require it. Never let us allow for one moment, at any time, under any circumstances — that there can be any sinner under Heaven, or out of Hell — which Jesus cannot save, or who is justified in saying, that Jesus will not save him. There can be no such case! God's pattern must plainly and powerfully contradict this.
Reader, if you are not saved by Jesus, it will not be because he is unable or unwilling to save you. It will be because you were too proud to stoop to seek salvation at his hands, or too obdurate to believe his word. Let not this be the case — but having had God's pattern placed before you, having such great encouragement given you — come to Jesus for yourself. Seek the salvation of your soul at his hands, trust for acceptance with God to his precious blood, plead his most blessed name — and you are safe.
It matters not who you are, or what you are; if you are willing to be saved by Jesus — then he is both able and willing to save you. And having heard of him, and of his saving power and love, if you die unsaved — it will increase your condemnation, and enhance your sufferings in Hell forever!
Holy Spirit, honor Jesus, by convincing us of our need of him, leading us to him, and giving us to enjoy salvation by him.