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On the Method of Salvation.
Acts, xvi. 30.
What must I do to be saved?
CUPPOSE a mariner shipwrecked on a desert island to behold in the horizon the blue summits of a chain of mountains, which he knows to rise in a cultivated region flourishing with all the comforts of life. To arrive at that happy land becomes the object of his unceasing desire. But how is the object to be attained? Shall a slender raft, such alone as in his destitute condition he can fabricate, float him thither amid currents and winds and waves ? Sometimes, in a moment of confidence, he persuades himself that his deliverance is within the compass of his own ability. Soon he recognises the feebleness of his powers, E e 3 the the certain inefficacy of his exertions; and is ready to call on the rocks and woods of his abode to shield him from the lingering destruction which awaits him. Then he rears his signals along the shore, anxious if they may but win the notice of some bark from a civilised nation, or even of the vagrant canoe of a savage ; and thus procure for him a passage to the haven where he ivoiild be^ or, at least, assistance on his way, and instructions how to accompliih the remainder of his course. Behold the picture of a sinner self-convicted of guilt, con'scious of impending judgement, aware of the possibility of deliverance, ignorant of the method by which deliverance is to be attained, and eagerly looking around for information and succour!
What mujl I do to be saved? Such was the question which the jailor at Philippi proposed to Paul and Silas. Self-condemned as a transgressor; earnest, like the shipwrecked mariner, for escape; and in one respect singularly favoured, insomuch as by the terrors of the supernatural earthquake he was convinced that the way of salvation was to be learned from the very persons whom he had recently thrust into the innermost dungeon; he fervently implored plored, in the few and most comprehensive words which the extremity of solicitude inspired, the guidance of these messengers of Christ. We, no less than the jailor, are fully satisfied that from the word of God, however it be conveyed ; from the messengers of Christ, whether they speak to us in person or in their writings; the way of salvation is to be sought. Proposing therefore that question, each of us for himself, let us first consider the answers which many who bear the name of Christians return to it. And secondly, let us search for the answer returned to it in the Scriptures.
I. What mujl I do Jo be saved? "Be de"cent," it is by some replied, "in your "life and conversation. Observe with re*' gularity the established rites of public "worship. Be upright in your dealings. "Maintain a respectable character. In"dulge not in any flagrant vice. Act "thus, and you will have no cause for ap"prehension. God is a God of mercy. "He does not expect unreasonable service. "He is not a rigorous master, an unjust "judge. He knows our strength, or ra"thef our weakness: and he demands not E e 4 "from
"from us more than we are able to per-* form. He is acquainted with the incli"nations of our nature: and though he uses strong language in the Scriptures "for the purpose of restraining us within "equitable bounds, he will not call us to ** a strict account for the moderate indul*' gence of our desires." The meaning of counsel is often illustrated by looking to the conduct of the counsellor. Survey the general conduct of the men who ofter this counsel. What is the ordinary course of their lives? Altogether worldly. You fee each man, under the fallacious garb of decorum, living to his favourite passions and propensities. One is habitually sensual j another, proud ; another, covetous; another' unchaste. The worship paid to God is a cold and formal and reluctant service. The heart is devoted to its own idol. You scarcely fee! it necessary to refer to the Scriptures in order to learn whether these advisers have returned a satisfactory answer to your question. Your understanding suffices. You reply to yourself: " If "practically and habitually I live to the "world; how can I hope for a reward "from God? If, while I profess to be "his servant, I am in my heart and conc . V duct u duct seeking my own pleasure only: "1 am a hypocrite. Can hypocrisy lead *' to salvation? I must ask other counsel." What must I do to be saved?" You "judge rightly," reply your new instructors, "that your former advisers have fur** nished a very imperfect answer to your ** enquiries. They have forgotten that a "character, to be pleasing to man or to "God, must be amiable. Sweetness x>f *' manners, easy affability, courteousness "and good humour, are indispensable. *' Be candid. Judge no one. Shun mow roseness. Partake freely of the gifts of ,*' heaven. Gaiety is the proper attribute "of innocence. Study to please all, and *' to make all pleased with themselves. "To cheerfulness add liberality according "to your convenience. So shall you ren"der all around you happy in this world: "and may justly conclude that God will "render you happy with them in the next." Still you perceive, notwithstanding th^se imposing terms, that the suggested additions may have contributed to the former character nothing but a specious varnish. Those additions may be nothing better than more refined accomplishments. How many selfish, how many deceitful, how many