The Greatest Fact in the World
“So great salvation.”—Hebrews 2:3
Salvation is the greatest fact in the universe of which we know:
1. Because it is salvation from the greatest evils.
2. Because it is salvation to the greatest good.
3. Because it is salvation through the greatest agencies.
4. Because it is salvation with the greatest people.
5. Because it is salvation for the greatest purpose.
I. The Greatest Evils.
They are three and each of them begins with the serpent letter “S”: Sin, sickness and suffering. Salvation from sin, from the results of sin, to be sure, but better still, salvation from sin itself, from the guilt of it, from the defilement of it, the power of it, and by and by, the presence of it.
Salvation from guilt is a great salvation. Professor Freeman, of Harvard University, was tried for murder. He was convicted, and a few days before the execution he made complaint of the guards for mocking him. He said he heard all through the night some one uttering the name of the man for whose murder he was tried. Investigation was made and it discovered that the guards did not utter his name; it was the guilt of sin that spoke it. It was conscience that uttered it. The ancients in their pictures of the furies, each one with a tongue of fire, were giving us a picture of sin’s guilt. If we realize how righteous God is, and then realize that we have sinned against a holy God, the sense of guilt will really overwhelm us. Through Jesus Christ we get rid of sin. I am certain of one thing—that the greatest day in my life was the day, when as a boy eleven years old, I settled the sin question. It was the day when in the old country meeting house among humble farm people, I got a vision of Jesus Christ as the Guilt-Bearer, and I realized that the guilt of sin was forever gone.
It means salvation from sickness. There is a land where they never say, “I am sick.” No disease ever enters the gates of pearl, and in saving us from the guilt, defilement and power of sin, God saves us from sickness.
Salvation from suffering. Salvation in suffering often with the view to salvation from suffering. Christ was made perfect through suffering. The gold goes into the furnace, that it may not need the furnace. The vine dresser uses the knife, that the vine may not need the knife. And God may give us the experience of suffering, that we may become acquainted with Christ in the fellowship of suffering, and this suffering “Works out for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” By and by the suffering will have performed its work and the character that it makes will remain. The furnace will then be out of sight, and only the gold will be seen. The diamond will be off the wheel and in the Master’s crown. Salvation from sin, sickness and suffering is a great salvation indeed.
II. The Greatest Good.
Then it is salvation to the greatest good; holiness, health and happiness. Notice how they balance each other—sin, sickness and suffering over against holiness, health and happiness. “He was made sin for us who knew no sin that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.” As righteous as God in Him, and when you settle the sin question, and the guilt of sin has passed from you to Christ, you have settled the holiness question too, for the holiness of Christ passes from Him to you. We give up our sins to Him and He gives His holiness unto us. Not as a cloak to cover our sins; but He saves us from sin that He may clothe us with the holiness. The holiness of Christ is by faith imputed, and by the process of grace it becomes imparted, until, by and by, we shall be just as holy as Jesus Christ Himself.
He saves us from sickness here; ours is God the Healer. Call it scientific psychology, allopathy, homeopathy, osteopathy or anything you please, but the Lord does the work, and He may use a physician, if He likes. He may use remedies, but He does the healing, and we praise God and not the remedy or the physician. Is it not about time that Christian people who believe in the God who works through agencies and instrumentalities get together upon their knees in prayer for the healing of the sick? Just let us dispense with all fads and fancies and come down to simple faith in God as the Healer of the sick. I saw a cartoon which pictured the “Drug Devil” as taking into its tentacles almost everything in modern society, and an angel of light with a sword in hear hand, labeled “Zion Come to Kill the Drug Devil.” I almost wept as I looked at that. Drugs can be used by the devil, there is no doubt about it, and it is a great devil when it is a devil at all, but I could but recall what one of the leaders of the Zion movement told me in my parlor a few weeks ago. He said, “Do you know that John Alexander Dowie died of almost every disease that he claimed to have healed? I never saw anything like it.” And yet God is the Healer. Men may go to extremes and exalt fads into creeds, refusing to consent for God to work through medicine or medical skill and they may become inflated with pride and vanity till God withdraws His presence in power from them. Nevertheless, God heals in answer to prayer, using remedies or not as He may see fit.
Holiness, health and happiness. I love to think of heaven negatively as well as positively. There are many things up there that I want to see, which I will enjoy, but I want to get to heaven, too, because so many things are not there. I have noticed that almost everyone has a different view of heaven and yet each one is correct, negatively. Positively we all have the same view because it is revealed in the Book. But negatively everyone has a different view, and yet, it may be a correct one.
I went into a home where sat a widow who had attended three funerals during the past year, husband and two daughters—and now she was left with one daughter to support in her poverty. As I talked to her I learned that the heaven for which she was longing, was a heaven without a funeral or cemetery; and she will get it. Within ten miles of that humble cottage in the country district, I was called to see another woman who had not been to church in twenty years. She sat there with her hands all crooked, drawn up with rheumatism, couldn’t shake hands with me even, but she had a cheery voice, and a happy smile. As I talked with her, I found that the heaven she wanted was a heaven without pain; and she will get it. I knew a man who was prosperous in business; he could have drawn his check for a million dollars. Congress passed a tariff bill and the next week he could not have drawn his check for a hundred dollars, for everything he had was swept away. He had to dispose of his fine home and go down to a humble street and open a real estate office, that he might make his living by hard work. He would like a heaven where there is no financial crisis; he would like a heaven where there will be no Congress to pass tariff laws; and he will get it. I said to that man after I learned to know him rather intimately, for he was connected with some societies that I had the honor of being a member of, “I am glad you lost your millions, for if you had not lost your millions I would not have known how happy a man could be without money that once had it. You have come to the prayer meeting and testified for Christ, and the ring of joy has been clearer and sweeter since you lost your wealth than before.”
There is a heaven without sickness, sin and suffering; a heaven of holiness, health and happiness. The positive heaven and the negative heaven combine to make it a very attractive place.
III. The Greatest Agencies.
Again: It is salvation through the greatest agencies. Just think for a moment of the agents that have to do with salvation. “Salvation is of the Lord,” God himself is the Author of it; the Creator of all the worlds is the One who planned it; it came out of His heart of love. Salvation is of the Lord Jesus Christ, and as you esteem Christ, you must esteem His salvation. Salvation is of the Lord through Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit. So we have the Trinity. You turn to the first chapters of Genesis and you will find the Trinity in the first few verses. “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth,” And the “Spirit of the Lord moved upon the face of the waters,” and then the prophesy of the One who was to come and bruise the serpent’s head. In salvation we have all there is of God. The God that made the worlds is the God that brings this salvation. Not only God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit; but every angel in heaven has some things to do with it. “Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister to them who shall be heirs of salvation?” They are God’s servants for us, whom He sends on missions of love to the heirs of salvation. God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit and all the angelic hosts have to do with this salvation.
IV. The Greatest People.
It is salvation with the greatest people. I am not talking about bigness, but of greatness. Greatness of character. There is a greatness we possess,—we are called the heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ. It is a salvation unto sonship, and everyone of us has a position in the family of God that is a position of honor indeed. You cannot blame that woman in the Highlands of Scotland when Queen Victoria called to see her, and she sat and talked as mother with mother, and she, forgetting for a time that it was a Queen as she felt the tender, throbbing sympathy of her mother heart—you cannot blame her, when the Queen left, for taking the plain seat on which the Queen sat while she was there, wrapping a ribbon around it, and putting it in the corner, as she said “Nobody is to sit on that chair hereafter. The Queen sat in it.”
You cannot blame that street sweeper in a humble lodging in London for smiling and being very grateful, if not a trifle, proud, to tell the missionary visitor that came to see him the next day, that “Mr. Gladstone brought that orange to me yesterday; he and I are friends. He speaks to me every morning when he gets out of his carriage and goes into the House of Parliament. He and I have known each other for years, and when he heard I was sick, he came down to see me. He read the Bible to me and knelt down by my bed and prayed.” It was something to be in relation to the Queen of England and something to be in relation with Gladstone, the greatest of Englishmen, but how much more to be in relation to God, the Father, to Christ, to the Holy Spirit, and to the angels? But there is a Christly greatness possessed by millions, though obscure and unknown. “If anyone would be great let him become the servant of all.” The greatness of Queen Victoria in the Christly sense was not in the crown that glittered, nor in the scepter bejeweled, nor in the fact that she could open Parliament once of twice a year and her voice sweep round the world in its regal power; the greatness of Gladstone, in the Christly sense was not that he could stand before Parliament and mould the policy of a great nation making every other nation respect her, but his greatness was in service. “If any man would be great among you,” let him visit the street sweeper with the orange and the Bible. If any woman would be great among you, let her visit the mother on the mountain side and talk to her words of comfort. And millions of people are great like that. Great because they have become embued with the Spirit of Jesus Christ; and our salvation is a salvation with the greatest people on earth. Those that serve others the best—those that forget self while they lift up other people, because they have taken into them the Spirit that took Jesus to Calvary.
V. The Greatest Purpose.
It is salvation for the greatest purpose. Just link these propositions with the word and you have it. Salvation from—salvation to—salvation through—salvation with—salvation for. Salvation from the greatest evils, Sin, sickness and suffering; salvation to the greatest good, Holiness, health and happiness. Salvation through God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit and the ministry of the angels. Salvation with the family of God who are great in service and salvation for what? For service? Yes—and no. It is a good hymn “Saved to Serve.” And yet you can serve without doing much. You can serve as a Levite carrying the pins and the curtains of the tabernacles, sweeping the floors and keeping things neat. You can serve a great deal without fulfilling the real purpose of salvation. Salvation for what? In a word, salvation for salvation. Saved to save. SAVED TO SAVE. Every one of us is saved to save some one else, and that is a great salvation indeed.
Stand there in front of St. Peter’s Cathedral and see its magnificent beauties, its proportions,—a poem in stone, and Michelangelo did a great thing when he swung that dome in the air; but I noticed that St. Peter’s Cathedral was wearing away; some of the stones are crumbling and they have to repair it. I look at that great pile of architecture and admire the genius of Michelangelo. Yonder in front is a poor beggar who holds out his hand for a little money as I pass by, and, as I look into his face, I say to myself, “If I can give that man Jesus Christ and let Him build a character according to the pattern given us by Jesus Christ and let him grow in grace and in knowledge of Jesus Christ, I have excelled Michelangelo. I have built a Cathedral that is greater than St. Peter’s—I have something that will last, long after St. Peter’s dome and walls have crumbled and fallen to pieces.”
I listen to the music that comes from Handel’s “Messiah.” It stirs my heart; it shows that he was a musical genius, and yet, when I leave the hall in which Handel’s “Messiah” has been rendered, and find a newsboy out on the corner selling the papers that give an account of it, I stop and look into his little pinched face, and say to myself, “If God will just help me to get that little fellow’s heart and nature in tune with heaven, I’ll make a better oratorio for eternity than Handel made for time. There will be a melody of soul that will be sweeter to God and the angels than all the music ever made by human lips or written by human hands.”
It is a great salvation and you are in a great work saving others. There is no work like it. Building empires is not comparable with it. The work of saving a boy, saving a girl, saving a man, saving a woman,—is beyond every thing else of which we can conceive in the way of doing good.
The Unanswerable Question.
One word in closing. It is to those who are not saved. Let me ask you the question which no one in the universe can answer: “How shall you escape if you neglect so great salvation?” Theologian, can you tell me? Do you know any way of escape? Philosopher, can you tell me? Do you know of any way? Holy Spirit, can you tell me? The Holy Spirit, who is the Spirit of wisdom, has to reply for once, “I cannot tell you.” Lord Jesus, can you tell me? He can not. Lord God Almighty, and I speak it in reverence, can you with all your wisdom tell me how I can escape if I neglect so great salvation? God Himself for once is unable to answer. Not an angel in heaven, not God Himself can answer that question. How can I escape if I neglect,—not if I revile, not if I dispute, not if I fight against it, but if I just neglect so great salvation? There is no escape for time or eternity. Do not neglect it longer; accept the great salvation and begin to serve in saving others.