How Shall We Escape?
James Smith, 1859
A pointed question often makes a deep impression. It is likely to fix in the memory and catechize the soul. Therefore we find many short and pointed questions, on different subjects, and to different parties in God's most holy word. The question we now propose, is employed by the inhabitants of Palestine, according to the prophet Isaiah, in the Old Testament, referring to the destruction by the Assyrians; and by the Apostle Paul in the New Testament, referring to the consequences of neglecting God's great salvation. We may profitably employ it for our edification, without confining ourselves to either of these subjects. Let us rather apply it to several subjects, and endeavor to obtain answers that will be likely to profit our souls.
How shall we escape the consequences of sin? Sin deserves to be punished. Sin demands punishment at the hand of God. If sin is not punished — then what is the use of the law? What becomes of God's justice? Where is the veracity of God's Word? If our sin is not punished — then how can we account for the punishment of the sin of demons, or how can we justify God in preparing Hell for their dismal and eternal abode?
Now we have sinned — and we cannot deny it. We have sinned — and God, angels, and devils know it. We have sinned — and the law threatens us with the punishment of death for it. How then can we escape from death, eternal death? Only by receiving Jesus as our Surety, who offers to answer for us. Only by agreeing that Jesus shall be our Substitute, to pay the penalty for us. Jesus, as a Surety, has paid the debt we have contracted. Jesus, as a Substitute, has endured the penalty we have exacted. Jesus, as a Sacrifice, has made a full and complete atonement for sin, by his death. Thus the matter stands according to God's Word, thus the matter is revealed in the everlasting gospel.
And, now, the good news which God sends to us is, that he will place to the account of every believer — the merit of all that Jesus Christ has done and suffered. So that whoever believes in Jesus, is interested in, and entitled to — the merit of all that Jesus did and suffered, as the Substitute of his people. The way, therefore, to escape the desert of sin, is to receive God's message of mercy, acknowledge our guilt and desert, accept of God's method of salvation, and rely alone on the Lord Jesus Christ. And relying alone on Christ, not on our desires, or feelings, or deeds, or doings of any kind; but relying on Jesus alone, he stands before God as our representative, and is accepted as our Substitute and Surety.
This being the case, our entire debt is paid, the punishment due to our sins has been borne, God has received full satisfaction for all we have done amiss, and therefore we are acquitted from all charges, are pronounced just by God himself, and are invested with everlasting life. Thus we are saved by grace, through faith, and that not of ourselves — it is the gift of God. All that is necessary then, in order to escape from the desert of sin — is simple faith in Jesus. "He who believes, has everlasting life."
How shall we escape from the distress occasioned by the conviction of sin? By receiving the gospel with a simple, childlike faith. By looking to Jesus, as having suffered for sin, and having made a full atonement for it; and trusting to his blood and obedience alone, for pardon and peace with God. And the moment we renounce every other dependence, and look away from every other object and subject, and place our entire reliance on Jesus — our distress will subside, our doubts and fears will depart, and peace and joy in believing will be felt.
It is faith in Christ alone, which . . .
calms the soul,
eases the heart, and
purifies the conscience.
Before faith in Jesus, the mists of superstition, and the clouds of gloom fly away; and then the Sun of righteousness shines forth, with healing in his beams.
How shall we escape the harassing doubts suggested by
Satan, and his violent temptations? Just in the same way. Christ
crucified is the power of God, and the wisdom of God. Christ crucified is
the object of our faith, and the weapon by which we conquer
every foe. By looking to Jesus, by turning from everything to Jesus —
Satan's suggestions lose their power, and the doubts awakened by them die
away. By presenting Christ crucified to Satan, his fiery darts are quenched,
his temptations lose their force, and he soon quits the field. Only as we
have to do with Jesus, carry everything to Jesus, and make him our Alpha and
Omega, our first and last, our all in all — can we . . .
live above the world,
maintain peace of conscience,
exercise confidence in God,
or be holy and happy Christians.
How shall we escape the doom of the slothful servant? He had one talent. He had an opportunity to employ it. He was too idle and too self-indulgent, to make use of it. He preserved it wrapped up in a napkin. He received false suggestions, he believed unscriptural doctrines, or perverted true ones; he indulged in wrong thoughts of God, and wasted his time in folly. When called to an account, he all but accused his Master, and being adjudged wicked and slothful, was condemned to be cast into outer darkness, where there is weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth. He was a professor, just as we are. He was in the church, as we are. He passed muster among his fellow servants, as we do. He was not condemned or punished, until his Lord came. His history speaks to us. It says, "Be diligent, that you may be found of him in peace, without spot and blameless." The way to escape a doom so sad, so awful, so irreparable; is, while we depend on Christ, and on his finished work alone, for acceptance with God — to employ every talent, and embrace every opportunity, to work for the glory of God, and our Savior's honor. To lay out our talent, instead of laying it up. To lay it out in the pulpit, or the school; in the widow's cottage, or the invalid's sick room; in the streets and lanes of the city, or in the highways and hedges. In a word, to be always doing something for God, and for men — for God's sake. Then, when the Master comes, finding us busy in his harvest field, he will say, "Call the laborers, and give them their pay." And a part of that hire will be found thus expressed, "Enter you into the joy of your Lord."
Beloved, let us look to Jesus . . .
as our Prophet — and seek his teaching,
as our Priest — and rest upon his atonement,
and as our King — and submit to his mild and merciful government.
Let us live for Jesus. Having bought us with his blood, he has a right to expect our service. Nor can we be happy, or answer the end of our spiritual existence — but as we live for him who died for us and rose again.
Let us labor for souls. Labor to win them for Jesus, to lead them to Jesus, and to induce them to consecrate themselves entirely, to Jesus.