One Thing Necessary
by Thomas Watson
"Work out your own salvation with fear
and trembling." Philippians 2:12
If there is anything excellent—it is salvation.
If there is anything necessary—it is working out
If there is any tool to work with—it is holy fear.
"Work out your salvation with fear."
The words are a grave and serious exhortation, needful,
not only for those Christians who lived in the apostle's time, but may fitly
be calculated for the meridian of this age wherein we live.
I proceed now to the EXHORTATION, "Work out your own
salvation with fear and trembling," which words do branch themselves into
these three particulars:
First, the act—work out;
secondly, the object—your own salvation;
thirdly, the manner in which we should work it
out—with fear and trembling.
I shall speak principally of the first two, and draw in
the other briefly in the application.
I. The ACT—work out.
The proposition is this—It should be a Christian's great
work to be working out his salvation. The great God has put us into the
world as into a vineyard, and here is the work He has set us about—the
working out of salvation. There is a parallel Scripture to this: "Give
diligence to make your calling and election sure" (2 Pet. 1:10). When
estate, friends, life cannot be made sure—let this be made sure. The
original Greek signifies to study, or beat the brains about a thing. These
words in the text, "work out," imply two things.
First, a shaking off spiritual sloth. Sloth is a
pillow on which many have slept the sleep of death.
Secondly, it implies a uniting and rallying together all
the powers of our souls that we may attend the business of salvation.
God has enacted a law in Paradise—that no man should eat of the tree of
life, but only in the sweat of his brows.
I proceed now to
the REASONS enforcing this holy
sweat and industry about salvation, and they
are three. We must work out our salvation because of—
1. The difficulty of this work.
2. The rareness of it.
3. The possibility of it.
1. The DIFFICULTY of this work.
It is a work that may make us labor to the going down of
the sun of our life (Dan. 6:14) Now this difficulty about the work of
salvation will appear four manner of ways.
First, from the nature of the work. The heart is
to be changed. The heart is the very nursery of sin. It is the treasure
where all the weapons of unrighteousness lie. It is a lesser hell. The heart
is full of antipathy against God; it is angry with converting grace. That
the bias of the heart should be changed—what a work is this! How should we
beg of Christ, that He who turned the water into wine would turn the water,
or rather poison of nature—into the wine of grace?
The heart will be ready to deceive us in this work of
salvation, and make us take a show of grace, for grace. Many think they
repent when it is not the offence of sin—but the penalty of sin, which
troubles them; not the treason, but the bloody axe. They think they repent
when they shed a few tears; but though this ice begins to melt a little, it
freezes again; they go on still in sin. Many weep for their unkind dealings
with God, as Saul did for his unkindness to David. "He said to David, You
are more righteous than I; for you have rewarded me good, whereas I have
rewarded you evil" (1 Sam. 24:17). "And Saul lifted up his voice and wept"
(I Sam. 24:16). But for all this he follows David again, and pursues after
him (1 Sam. 26).
Secondly, men can lift up their voices and weep for sin,
yet follow their sins again.
Thirdly, others forsake sin, but still they retain the
love of it in their hearts. Like the snake which casts off its
skin, but keeps the sting, there is as much difference between false and
true tears as between salt water and spring water. That which makes
salvation-work hard, is, that it is a slippery work. "Look to
yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought" (2 John 8).
This work falls down almost as fast as we build. An ordinary builder, when
he has been at work, finds his work the next morning just as he left it; but
it is not so with us. When we have been working out salvation by prayer,
fasting, meditation, and leave this work a while—we shall not find our work
as we left it; a great deal of our work has fallen down again. We had need
be often called upon to "Strengthen the things which remain, which are ready
to die" (Rev 3:2). No sooner is a Christian taken off from the fire of the
sanctuary, but he is ready to cool and freeze again in security. He is like
a watch, when he has been wound up towards heaven, he does quickly
unwind to earth and sin again. When the gold has been purified in the
furnace, it remains pure; but it is not so with the heart. Let it be heated
in an ordinance, let it be purged in the furnace of affliction—it does not
remain pure, but quickly gathers soil and corruption! We are seldom long in
a holy frame. All this shows how difficult the work of salvation is—we must
not only work, but set a watch too.
QUESTION. But why has God made the way to heaven so hard?
Why must there be this working?
ANSWER. To make us set a high estimate upon heavenly
things. If salvation were easily come by, we would not have valued it to its
worth. If diamonds were ordinary, they would be slighted; but because they
are hard to come by, they are in great esteem.
2. The RARENESS of this work.
The second reason we must put forth so much holy sweat
and industry about salvation is because of the rareness of this work.
"Someone asked him, "Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?" He said
to them, "Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many,
I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to." Luke 13:23-24
There are but few who shall be saved; therefore we
had need work the harder that we may be in the number of these few! The way
to hell is a broad way. Hell's highway is paved with riches and pleasure; it
has a golden highway; therefore there are daily so many travelers in it. But
the way to heaven lies outside of the road; it is an unbeaten path, and few
can find it.
Those who advocate universal grace say that Christ
died intentionally for all; but then why are not all saved? Can Christ be
frustrated of His intention? Some are so gross to aver that all shall
actually be saved; but has not our Lord Christ told us, "Enter through the
narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to
destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the
road that leads to life, and only a few find it." Matthew 7:13-14. How all
can go in at this gate, and yet but few find it, seems to me a
3. The POSSIBILITY of this work
The third reason why we should put forth so much vigor
about the work of salvation is because of the possibility of the work.
Impossibility kills all endeavor. Who will take pains for that which he
thinks there is no hope of ever obtaining? But "there is hope in Israel
concerning this." Salvation is a thing feasible; it may be had. Oh sirs,
though the gate of paradise be strait, yet the gate is open! It is shut
against the devils, but it is yet open to you! Who would not crowd hard to
get in? It is but paring off your sins; it is but unloading some of your
thick clay; it is but assuaging your swelling pride—and you may get in at
the strait gate. This possibility, no probability, of
salvation may put life into your endeavor. If there is food to be had, why
should you sit starving in your sins any longer?
II. THE OBJECT—your own salvation
And so I proceed to the use of exhortation, to persuade
you all in the love of Christ, to set about this great work, "the working
out your salvation." Beloved, here is a plot for heaven, and I would have
you all in this plot; rally together all the powers of your souls; give
neither God nor yourselves rest until you have "made your election sure."
Christians, fall to work; do it early, earnestly, incessantly. Pursue
salvation as in a holy chase; other things are but matters of convenience;
salvation is a matter of necessity. You must either do the work that
Christians are doing, or you must do the work that devils are doing. Oh, you
who never yet made one stitch in this work of salvation, begin now. Piety is
a good trade, if it is well-followed. Be assured there is no salvation
without working. But here I must lay down a CAUTION to prevent
Though we shall not be saved without working—yet we are
not saved for our working. We do not work out salvation by way of
merit. Bellarmine says, "We merit heaven out of worthiness." No, though
we are saved in the use of means, yet by grace too (Eph. 2:5). There must be
ploughing and sowing the ground, but yet no crop can be expected without the
influence of the sun. Just so, there must be working, but no crop of
salvation can be hoped for without the sunshine of free grace! "It is your
Father's good pleasure to give you the Kingdom!" (Luke 12:32). Give?
Why, might some say, we have wrought hard for it? Ay, but heaven is a gift
of God; though you work for it, yet it is the good pleasure of God to bestow
it. Still look up to Christ's merit; it is not your sweat—but His blood that
saves. That your working cannot merit salvation is clear, "It is God who
works in you to will and to do" (ver. 13). It is not your working, but God's
co-working. For as the scrivener guides the child's hand, or he cannot
write; so the Spirit of God must afford His auxiliary concurrence, or our
work stands still. How then can any man merit by working, when it is God who
helps him to work?
I shall now, having laid down this caution, resume the
exhortation, and persuade you to the working out salvation. But I must first
remove two objections which lie in the way.
1. You bid us work out salvation—but we have
no power to work.
Answer. It is true, we have not power; I deny that
we have the liberty to work. Man before conversion is purely passive;
therefore the Scripture calls it a heart of stone (Ezek. 36:26). A
man by nature can no more prepare himself to his own converting than the
stone can prepare itself to its own softening. But yet when God begins to
draw—we may follow. Those dry bones in Ezekiel could not of themselves live,
but when breath came into them, then "they lived, and stood up upon their
feet" (Ezek. 37: 10).
Question. But suppose God has not dropped in a
principle of grace? Suppose He has not caused breath to enter?
Answer. Yet you must use the means. Though you
cannot work spiritually, yet work physically; do what you are able, and that
for two reasons:
1. Because a man by neglecting the means—does destroy
himself. It is like a man by not going to the physician, may be said to be
the cause of his own death.
2. God is not lacking to us, when we do what we are able.
Urge the promise, "Seek and you shall find" (Matt. 7:7). Put this bond in
suit by prayer. You say you have no power, but have you not a promise? Act
so far as you can. Though I dare not say as the Arminian, when we do exert
and put forth nature, God is bound to give grace; yet this I say, God is not
lacking to those who seek his grace. No, I will say more—He denies His grace
to none but those who willfully refuse it (John 5:40).
Objection 2. The second
objection is this; But to what purpose should I work? There is a past
decree; if God has decreed I shall be saved, I shall be saved.
Answer. God decrees salvation in a way of working
(2 Thes. 2:13). Origen, in his book against Celsus, observes a subtle
argument of some who disputed about Fate and Destiny. One gave counsel to
his sick friend not to send for the physician, because, says he, it is
appointed by destiny whether you shall recover or not. If it is your
destiny to recover—then you need not the physician; if it is not your
destiny to recover—then the physician will do you no good. The like fallacy
does the devil use to men; he bids them not work; if God has decreed they
shall be saved—they shall be saved, and there is no need of working; if He
has not decreed their salvation—then their working will do them no good.
This is an argument fetched out of the devil's school.
But we say—God decrees the end in the use of means. God
decreed that Israel should enter into Canaan, but first they must fight with
the sons of Anak. God decreed that Hezekiah should recover from his
sickness, but he must "prepare a poultice of figs and apply it to the boil,
and he will recover." (Isa. 38:21). We do not argue thus in other things. A
man does not say, "If God has decreed I shall have a crop this year, I shall
have a crop; what need I plough, or sow, or fertilize the land?" No! he will
use the means—and expect a crop. Though "the blessing of the Lord, it makes
rich" (Prov. 10:22), yet it is as true, "the hand of the diligent makes
rich" (Prov. 10:4). God's decreeing is carried on by our working!
And thus having removed these objections, let me now
persuade you to set about this blessed work—the working out your salvation.
And that my words may the better prevail, I shall propound several arguments
by way of motive to excite you to this work.
The first argument or motive for working, is taken from
the preciousness of the soul; well may we take pains that we may
secure this from danger. The soul is a divine spark kindled by the breath of
God. It is of more value than the world (Matt. 16:26). If the world be the
book of God, as Origen calls it, the soul is the image of God.
The soul is a bright mirror in which some refracted beams of God's wisdom
and holiness shine forth; the soul is a blossom of eternity. God has made
the soul capable of communion with Himself. It would bankrupt the world, to
give half the price of a soul. How highly did Christ value the soul when He
sold Himself to buy it? Oh then, what pity is it that this excellent soul
(this soul for which God called a council in heaven when he made it) should
miscarry and be undone to all eternity! Who would not rather work night and
day than lose such a soul? This jewel is invaluable. The loss of the soul is
Argument 2. Holy activity
and industry ennobles a Christian. The more excellent anything is—the more
active it is. The sun is a glorious creature, it never stands still,
but is going it's circuit round the world. Fire is the purest
element, and the most active; it is ever sparkling and flaming. The
angels are the most noble creatures and the most nimble; therefore they
are represented by the cherubim, with their wings displayed. God
Himself is (as the school men speak) a most pure act. By holy activity we
resemble God, who is a most pure act. The phoenix flies with a coronet on
its head; the industrious Christian needs not a coronet; his sweat ennobles
him; his labor is his ensign of honor. Solomon tells us that "drowsiness
shall clothe a man with rags" (Prov. 23:21). Infamy is one of the rags that
hang upon him; God hates a dull temper. We read in the law, that the donkey,
being a sluggish creature, must not be offered up in sacrifice. Spiritual
activity is a badge of honor.
Argument 3. Working out
salvation is that which will make death and heaven sweet to us. It
will sweeten death. He who has been hard at work all day—how soundly does he
sleep at night! You who have been working out salvation all your lives, how
comfortably may you lay down your head at night in the grave, upon a pillow
of dust, in hopes of a glorious resurrection? This will be a deathbed
cordial. It will sweeten heaven. The more pains we have taken for
heaven—the sweeter will it be when we come there It is delightful for a
man to look over his work and see the fruit appear. When he has been
planting trees in his orchard, or setting flowers, it is pleasant to behold
and review his labors. Thus in heaven, when we shall see the fruit of our
labors, "the end of your faith, even the salvation" (1 Pet. 1:9), this will
make heaven the sweeter. The more pains we have taken for heaven—the more
welcome it will be; the more sweat—the more sweet! When a man
has been sinning—the pleasure is gone, and the sting remains. But when he
has been repenting—the labor is gone, and the joy remains.
Argument 4. Yet you
have time to work out your salvation. This text and sermon would be out
of season to preach to the damned in hell. If I should bid them work, it is
too late; their time is past. It is night with the devils; it is yet
day with you. Work while it is day (John 9:4). If you lose your day,
you lose your souls! This is the season for your souls. Now God
commands, now the Spirit breathes, now ministers beseech, and
as so many bells of Aaron, would chime in your souls to Christ. Oh, improve
your season! This is your seed-time, now sow the seeds of faith and
repentance. If when you have seasons, you lack hearts, the time may come
when you have hearts and you shall lack seasons. Take time while you may;
the mariner hoists up his sails while the wind blows. Never had a people a
fairer gale for heaven than you of this city, and will you not set forward
in your voyage? Oh my brethren, now is the time for your souls, now plead
with God for mercy, or at least get Christ to plead for you. Think seriously
of these things.
Reasons to think seriously of these things:
First, our life does unravel apace. Gregory compares
our life to the mariner in a ship going full sail; we are every day sailing
apace to eternity!
Secondly, the seasons of grace though they are precious,
are not permanent. Abused mercies will like Noah's dove, take their
wings and fly from us. England's golden hour will soon run out; gospel
blessings are very sweet, but very swift. "Now they are hidden
from your eyes" (Luke 19:42). We know not how soon the golden candlestick
may be removed.
Thirdly, there is a time when the Spirit has done
striving. There are certain tides of the Spirit, and these being
neglected, possibly we may never see another tide come in. When conscience
has done speaking, usually the Spirit has done striving.
Fourthly, the loss of gospel opportunities will be the
hell of hell. When a sinner shall at the last day think with himself,
"Oh, what might I have been! I might have been as rich as the angels, as
rich as heaven could make me! I had a season to work in—but I lost it!"
This, this will be as a vulture gnawing upon him; this will enhance and
accent his misery. And let this persuade you speedily to work out your
Fifthly, you may do this work and not hinder your other
work; working out salvation and working in a vocation, are not
inconsistent. And this I insert to prevent an objection. Some may say, "but
if I work so hard for heaven, I shall have no time for my trade." No,
surely, the wise God would never make any of His commands to interfere with
each other; as He would have you "seek first the kingdom" (Matt.
6:33), so he would have you provide for your family (1 Tim. 5: 8); you may
drive two trades together. I do not like those who make the church exclude
the shop, who swallow up all their time in hearing the word—but neglect
their work at home (2 Thes. 3:11). They are like the lilies of the field
which toil not, neither do they spin. God never sealed a warrant to
idleness. He both commands and commends diligence in a calling, which may
the rather encourage us to look after salvation, because this work will not
take us off our other work. A man may with Caleb, follow God fully, (Num.
14:24) and yet with David be "tending the sheep" (Ps. 78:71). Piety
and industry may dwell together.
Sixthly, the inexcusableness of those who neglect working
out their salvation. Methinks I hear God expostulating the case with men
at the last day, after this manner, "Why did you not work? I gave you time
to work, I gave you light to work by, I gave you My gospel, My ministers. I
bestowed talents upon you to trade; I set the recompense of reward before
you. Why did you not work out your salvation?" Either it must be sloth
or stubbornness. Was their any work you did, which was of greater
concern? You could work in brick, but not in gold. What can
you say for yourselves why the sentence should not pass? Oh, how will the
sinner be left speechless at such a time, and how will this cut him to the
heart to think with himself he neglected salvation, and could give no reason
Seventhly, the inexpressible misery of such as do not
work out salvation. Those who sleep in spring—shall beg in harvest.
After death, when they look to receive a full crop of glory—they will be put
to beg, as Dives, for one drop of water! Vagrant people who will not work
are sent to the jail. Such as will not work out salvation, let them know,
hell is God's jail, which they must be sent to.
Eighthly, if all this does not prevail, consider what it
is we are working for. None will take pains for a trifle. But we are
working for a crown, for a throne, for a paradise—and all this is comprised
in that one word, "salvation." Here is a great incentive to holy industry.
All men desire salvation. It is the crown of our hopes; we should not think
any labor too much for this. What pains will men take for earthly crowns and
scepters! And suppose all the kingdoms of the world were more illustrious
than they are — their foundations of gold, their walls of pearl, their
windows of sapphire — what is all this, compared to that kingdom we are
laboring for? We may as well measure the skies, as set forth this in all its
splendor and magnificence. Salvation is a beautiful thing, it is as far
above our thoughts as it is beyond our deserts. Oh, how should this add
wings to our endeavors! The merchant will run through the intemperate
zones of heat and cold for a little prize. The soldier, for a rich
booty, will endure the bullet and sword—he will gladly undergo a bloody
spring for a golden harvest. Oh then, how much more should we
spend our holy sweat for this blessed prize of salvation!
III. THE MANNER—with fear and trembling
And so, having laid down some arguments by way of motive,
to persuade to this work, I shall now propound some means by way of
direction to help us in this work; and here I shall show you what are those
obstacles to be removed which will hinder our working; and what are
those helps to be prosecuted which will further it.
1. We must remove those things which will hinder our
working out salvation. There are six OBSTACLES in the way to salvation which
must be removed.
(i) First, the entanglements of the world. While the
foot is in a snare, a man cannot run. The world is a snare; while our feet
are in it, we cannot run the race set before us (Heb. 12:1). If a man were
to climb up a steep rock, and had weights tied to his legs, they would
hinder his ascent; too many golden weights will hinder us from
climbing up this steep rock that leads to salvation. While the mill of a
trade is going, it makes such a noise that we can hardly hear the
minister "lifting up his voice like a trumpet." The world chokes our zeal
and appetite after heavenly things; the earth puts out the fire; the music
of the world charms us asleep, and then we cannot work. In mines of gold
there are killing damps. Oh, how many souls have been destroyed with a damp
arising from the earth!
(ii) The second bar in the way to salvation is sadness
and uncheerfulness. When a man's heart is sad, he is unfit to go about
his work; he is like an untuned instrument. Under fears and discouragements
we act but faintly in religion. David labors to chide himself out of this
spiritual melancholy, "why are you cast down O my soul?" (Ps. 42:5).
Cheerfulness quickens; the Lacedemonians used music in their battles to
excite their spirits and make them fight more valiantly. Cheerfulness is
like music to the soul, it excites to duty, it oils the wheels of the
affections. Cheerfulness makes service come off with delight, and we are
never carried so swift in religion as upon the wings of delight. Melancholy
takes off our chariot wheels, and then we drive on heavily.
(iii) The third bar in the way to salvation is spiritual
sloth. This is a great impediment to our working. It was said of Israel,
"they despised the pleasant land." (Psalm 106:24) What should be the reason?
Canaan was a paradise of delight, a type of heaven; but they thought it
would cost them a great deal of trouble and hazard in the getting, and they
would rather go without it; they despised the pleasant land. Are
there not millions among us who had rather go sleeping to hell, than
sweating to heaven? I have read of certain Spaniards who live near where
there is great store of fish, yet are so lazy that they will not be at the
pains to catch them, but buy of their neighbors. There is such a sinful
stupidity and sloth upon the most, that though Christ is near them, though
salvation is offered in the gospel, yet they will not work out salvation.
"Slothfulness casts into a deep sleep" (Prov. 19:15). Adam lost his rib when
he was asleep; many a man loses his soul in this deep sleep!
(iv) The fourth bar in the way to salvation is an opinion
of the easiness of salvation. "God is merciful, and the worst
come to the worst—all I have to do is but repent."
God is merciful, it is true, but He is also just; He must
not wrong His justice by showing mercy; therefore observe that clause in the
proclamation, He "will by no means clear the guilty" (Ex. 34:7). If a king
did proclaim that only those should be pardoned who came in and submitted to
his scepter; could any, still persisting in rebellion, claim the benefit of
that pardon? Oh sinner, would you have mercy, and will not disband the
weapon of unrighteousness?
"It is but repent." But repentance is such a mark that we
cannot hit, unless God directs our arrow. Tell me, Oh sinner, is it easy for
a dead man to live and walk? You are spiritually dead, and wrapped up in
your winding sheet (Eph. 2:2). Is regeneration easy? Are there no pangs in
the new birth? Is self-denial easy; do you know what religion must cost, and
what it may cost? It must cost you the parting with your lusts, it may cost
you the parting with your life! Take heed of this obstruction! Salvation is
not accomplished lightly; thousands have gone to hell upon this mistake. The
broad spectacles of presumption have made the strait gate seem wider
than it is!
(v) The fifth bar in the way to salvation is carnal
friends. It is dangerous listening to their voice. The serpent did speak
in Eve. Job's wife would have caged him off from serving God, "Do you still
retain your integrity?" (Job 2:9) "What, still pray and weep?" Here the
devil did hand over a temptation to Job by his wife. Carnal friends will be
calling us off from our work. "What needs all this ado? Less pains will
serve." We read that some of Christ's kindred, when they saw Christ so
earnest in preaching, would try to stop Him: "they went to lay hold on Him"
(Mark 3:2 1). Our friends and kindred would sometimes stand in our way to
heaven, and judging our zeal to be madness, would lay hold of us and hinder
us from working out our salvation.
(vi) The sixth bar in the way to salvation is evil
company. They will take us off our work. The sweet waters lose their
freshness, when they run into the salt water; Christians lose their
freshness and savouriness, among the wicked. Christ's doves will be sullied
by lying among these filthy pots. Sinful company is like the water in a
smith's forge which quenches the iron, be it ever so hot; such evil company
cools good affections. The wicked have the plague of the heart (1 Kings
8:38), and their breath is infectious. They will discourage us from working
out our salvation. Just as he who is a suitor to a woman; and is very
earnest in his suit, there comes one and tells him he knows something about
the woman of ill report, some impediment; the man hearing this, is presently
taken off, and the suit ceases. So it is with many a man who begins to be a
suitor to religion. Sincerely he would have the match made up, and he grows
very hot and violent in the suit, and begins to work out his salvation, but
then there come some of his confederates, and they tell him they know
something about religion that is of ill report. "This sect is everywhere
spoken against." There must be so much strictness and mortification that he
must never look to see good days anymore; hereupon he is discouraged, and so
the match is broken off. Take heed of such people; they are devils covered
with flesh; they are, as one says, like Herod, who would have killed Christ
as soon as He was born. Thus, when Christ is, as it were, beginning to be
formed in the heart, they would in a spiritual sense kill Him.
And thus I have shown you the bars which lie in
the way to salvation, which are to be removed.
proceed now in the second place to lay down some HELPS conducive to
(i) The first is in the text, FEAR and trembling.
This is not a fear of doubting, but a fear of diligence. This fear is
requisite in the working out of salvation. Let us fear lest we come short
(Heb. 4:1). Fear is a remedy against presumption. Hope is like the cork to
the net, it keeps the soul from sinking in despair; and fear is like the
lead to the net, it keeps the soul from floating in presumption. Fear is
that flaming sword that turns every way to keep sin from entering. Fear
quickens; it is an antidote against sloth. "Noah being moved with fear,
prepared an ark" (Heb. 11:8). The traveler, lest night should overtake him
before he gets to his journey's end, spurs on the faster. Fear causes
circumspection; he who walks in fear, treads warily. Fear is a preservative
against apostasy, "I will put My fear in their hearts, that they shall not
depart from Me" (Jer. 32:40). The fear of falling, keeps us from falling.
Fear is the badge and livery of a Christian. The saints of old, were
God-fearing men (Mal. 3:16). It is reported of holy Anselm, that he spent
most of his thoughts about the day of judgment. "Happy is the man who fears
always" (Prov. 28:14). Fear is a Christian's garrison, the way to be secure
is always to fear. This is one of the best tools for a Christian to work
(ii) Secondly, another great help in working out
salvation is LOVE. Love makes the work proceed with delight; seven years
labor seemed nothing to Jacob because of the love he bore to Rachel. Love
facilitates everything. It is like wings to the bird, like wheels to the
chariot, like sails to the ship; it carries the soul on swiftly and
cheerfully in duty. Love is never weary. It is an excellent saying of
Gregory, "Let but a man get the love of the world into his heart, and he
will quickly be rich." So do but get the love of religion into your heart,
and you will quickly be rich in grace. Love is a vigorous, active grace. It
despises dangers; it tramples upon difficulties; like a mighty torrent it
carries all before it. This is the grace which "takes heaven by violence."
Get but your hearts well heated with this grace, and you will be fitted for
(iii) A third thing conducive to salvation, is to work in
the strength of Christ. "I can do all things through Christ who
strengthens me" (Phil. 4:13). Never go to work alone. Samson's strength lay
in his hair. And a Christian's strength lies in Christ. When you are to do
any duty, to resist any temptation, to subdue any lust, set upon it in the
strength of Christ. Some go out against sin, in the strength of resolutions
and vows—and they are soon foiled. Do as Samson; he first cried to heaven
for help and then having taken hold of the pillars, he pulled down the house
upon the Philistines! Likewise, only when we engage Christ in the work, can
we bring down the house upon the head of our lusts!
(iv) Fourthly, work humbly, be HUMBLE, do not think to
merit by your working. Satan would either keep us from working,
or else he would make us proud of our working. God must pardon our
works before He crowns them. If we could pray as angels, shed rivers of
tears, build churches, erect hospitals—and thought that there was any
merit in all this—it would be as a dead fly in the box of perfume; it
would stain and eclipse the glory of the work. Our duties, like good wine,
savor of a bad cask. Our best duties are but glittering sins! Let not
pride poison our holy things; when we have been working for heaven, we
should say as good Nehemiah, "Remember me, O my God, concerning also, and
spare me according to the greatness of Your mercy" (Neh. 13:22).
(v) Fifthly, work upon your knees; be much in PRAYER.
Beg the Spirit of God to help you in the work; make that prayer, "Awake O
north wind; and come, O south wind—and blow upon my garden" (Song 4:16). We
have need that this Spirit blow upon us, there being so many contrary winds
blowing against us, and considering how soon holy affections are apt to
wither. The garden has not more need of wind to make its fruit flow out,
than we of the Spirit to make our graces flourish. Philip joined himself to
the Eunuch's chariot (Acts 8:29). God's Spirit must join itself to our
chariot; as the mariner has his hand to the helm, so he has his eye to the
star. While we are working, we must look up to the Spirit. What is our
preparation without the Spirit's operation? What is all our rowing without a
gale from heaven? "The Spirit lifted me up" (Ezek. 3:14). God's Spirit must
both infuse grace and excite it. We read of a "wheel in the
middle of a wheel" (Ezek. 1: 16). The Spirit of God is that inner wheel that
must move the wheel of our endeavors. To conclude all, pray to God to bless
you in your work. "The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the
strong." (Eccl. 9: 11) Nothing prospers without God's blessing; and what way
to obtain it but by prayer? It is a saying of one of the ancients, "The
saints carry the keys of heaven at their belt." Prayer beats the weapon
out of the enemy's hand—and gets the blessing out of God's hand!
(vi) Lastly, work in HOPE. The apostle says, "he who
plows should plow in hope" (1 Cor. 9:10). Hope is the soul's anchor (Heb.
6:19). Cast this anchor upon the promise and you shall never sink. Nothing
more hinders us in our working than unbelief. "Surely," says a Christian, "I
may toil all day for salvation and catch nothing." What! Is there 'no balm
in Gilead?' Is there no mercy seat? Oh, sprinkle faith in every duty! Look
up to free grace; fix your eye upon the blood of Christ. Would you be saved?
To your working, join believing.