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THE SALVATION OF THE LOST.
• For the Son of Man is come to seek and to save, that which was lost.' LUKE xix, 10.'
BY REV. ALFRED BRUNSON.
OF THE OHIO CONFERENCE.
The subject we have before us is connected with a short, but interesting history of Zaccheus, a noted publican or Roman tax gatherer, who lived in or near Jericho, in the land of Judea. He had heard, it seems, the fame of the extraordinary personage called JEsus, who, at that time, was exciting very considerable interest in that country, on account of the wonders which he both spoke and wrought. And feeling desirous, in common with the multitude, of seeing the Saviour, from which he was prevented (being small of stature,) by the multitude which surrounded him, he ran before the crowd and climbed up into a sycamore tree,' that he might look down over the heads of the people and see to better advantage.
But when Jesus came to the place and saw him, he said · Zaccheus, make haste and come down ; for to day I must abide at thy house.' And he came down and received him joyfully.' But the Pharisees, considering a Jew who would receive an office under the Roman government, as riveting the chains which bound their nation to a foreign yoke, viewed him as an apostate from God and a traitor to his country, and therefore objected to our Lord's making this visit,---alledging that he had gone to be guest with a man that is a sinner.' This visit, however, had a very salutary effect upon Zaccheus, which was immediately evinced in the spirit of benevolence, which prompted him to give half of his goods to the poor ;' and also in the spirit of justice, which prompted him to make ample restitution in case he had “ taken anything from any man by false accusation.'
This evidence of penitence and piety on the part of Zaccheus, would have been cheerfully admitted by the Pharisees in all ordinary cases, but their intolerent disposition towards men of his calling was such, that they refused it in his case. Jesus, therefore, proceeded to justify his visit to the house in question, on the ground of the Pharisees' own creed ; making the very ground on which they objected, that of his justification. The Pharisees were, at that time, the most rigid predestinarians in the world, and believed (as a matter of course) in the doctrine of unconditional election and reprobation, and believed, also, (as all do who credit that doctrine,) that they were the elect, because they were the descendants of Abraham, whoever might be reprobates.
Our Lord, therefore, replied in substance, if your doctrine be true, that the descendants of Abraham are to be saved, then it is my duty, as the Messiah or Saviour to come to this house, for so much as he, also, is a son of Abraham.' But, if you object, that he has forfeited all relationship to Abraham, by accepting an office under the government under which he was born, and that he in consequence thereof, is lost to all good, then I ought, even on this principle to visit this house, the Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which was lost; it is my business in the world, to save lost sinners.'
In this discourse our Lord not only justified his going to the house of Zaccheus, but he used the incident (as he was wont to do on all similar occasions,) to illustrate the doctrines of his kingdom, and to declare the nature and design of his mission to this world. To understand which, more clearly, we shall,
I. Inquire what is implied in the word Lost, as used in the text. This word, in connection with an emphatic the, has been frequently used in modern theology in reference to that class of human beings, who are imagined to have been unconditionally and eternally reprobated to irrecoverable ruin, and are, therefore, called the lost.' But nothing can be more certain in the word of truth, than that, if there is, or ever was, such a race of beings, Christ came purposely to seek and to save them ; because he came to seek and to save, that which was lost.
But the word in the text, (whatever it may mean elsewhere) is evidently used in reference to the condition of mankind after the fall, and prior to this redemption by the seed of the woman.' And is undoubtedly designed to show the depth and extent of the depravity of human nature as found in Adam and his posterity, (as represented in him) in consequence of the fall. And as this is a subject of some speculation among theologians at this time, it may not be amiss to inquire a little into its nature and extent.
Depravity in its most simple definition, means corruption or degeneracy. This is the nature of it. In its extent, it effects both the mental, moral, and physicial powers of our nature.
It effected the body, so as to subject it to a variety of diseases, which tend to its dissolution and decomposition ;-it effected the intellect, so as to reduce man from a degree of knowledge which rendered him capable of communion and fellowship with God and Angels, and of naming the whole brute creation according to their nature, to the most perfect state of ignorance and stupidity and it reduced the moral powers from that state of rectitude, which bore the image of their Divine Author, to such a state of pollution and weakness, as to be not only unfit for heaven, but utterly incapable of recovering the lost favor of God.
Whether this depravity is total or not; that is, whether man became so corrupted or degenerated by the fall as to lose all power or ability to serve God, and gain heaven, is a question, one would think, need not occupy a moment to determine, by those who believe the Bible. For no language can possibly be stronger, than that used in Scripture, to express the depth to which man fell by his transgression. He is said to have fallen into a pit wherein is no water,' or grace ; (Zacariah ix. 11.) and by this fall“ the whole head became sick, and the whole heart faint. From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it; but wounds, and bruises, and putrifying sores : they have not been closed, neither bound
neither molified with ointment,' (Isa. i. 5–6.) Now, though these passages were applied to the Israelites in their degeneracy, yet, it is understood that they express the situation of man in the fall, and were applied to the Israelites at the time, on account of their deep apostacy ; and certainly, if such language would apply to man, while he has an advocate with the Father,' it would apply to him with infinitely greater force, before such advocate,' was provided. And this view of the subject is amply sustained by the Apostle, who says that when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.' (Rom. v. 6.) And with this, accords the language of our Divine Master, who says without me ye can do nothing,' towards your salvation. And certainly in view of this gloomy portrait of our fallen race, man might with the utmost propriety be said, to be lost, and totally and irrecoverably so, as to himself, without a Savioar.
But some difficulty attends this doctrine of total depravity, on account of its being erroneously applied, as to time and place. Some having applied it to inan in his present situation, notwithstanding he enjoys the benefit of redemption, having been bought with a price,'--the prison doors set open before him, and having
the grace of God which bringeth salvation,' appear to aid him in fleeing to a place of safety. And considering the sin of Adam, or the mere depravity of our natures sufficient cause for the damnation of the human family, they view (in their imaginations) the Almighty, in the character of an arbitrary Sovereign, selecting a part of mankind 'whom he designs to save, whether or no, and leaving the rest to perish without the possibility of mercy. The grounds of this partiality in the Deity, is said to be the total depravity of man. Alledging, that as mankind are totally depraved, they were all exposed to eternal ruin ; but, if God saw fit, by an arbitrary exercise of what is improperly called Sovereign grace, to elect and save à part of them, he did no injustice to those, whom he left where he found them, or rather where his previous decree had placed them. Thus the doctrine of total depravity has been made the premises from which the doctrine of unconditional election and reprobation is drawn : to avoid which, others without inquiring, whether such conclusions are justly deducible from the premises or not, and knowing that the Scriptures everywhere represent the Father of mercies, as willing the salvation of all men,' have denied the premises in order to avoid the odious conclusion ; and have asserted in turn, that man did not totally fall, and therefore, had some strength left, by which he can regain the peace and favor of God.
But denying the total depravity of human nature, lays the foundation for another, and (if possible) more dangerous error. The argument stands thus. If man is but partially fallen or depraved, then he must have some strength left, by which he can regain his lost ground : and if he can, by any power left in him after his fall, regain his lost ground, then there was no necessity for a Redeemer to save him, and certainly not for a divine one. And if there was no necessity for a Redeemer, it would have been a work of supererogation in God to have provided one. And as the God of wisdom cannot justly be charged with such superlative folly, it follows that as man had no need of a Saviour, none was provided, and of course Jesus Christ could not have been a Redeemer, and much less a divine one !
But on the other hand, if man did fall entirely, and, in consequence thereof, became totally depraved, which is certainly implied in being • full of wounds, and bruises, and putrifying sores,'-being. wholly sick,' and wholly faint,' and being without strength,' and without power to do the will of God; then man most assuredly was in need of a Saviour. And as man after the fall was utterly helpless, whatever power redeemed and saved him, must be equal to re-creating him, which none but divine power could do. And as we have seen, that in the fitness of things God will not or cannot do, what is not necessary, we must suppose upon the same principle, that he will do what is necessary. And as it is evident, that a Divine Redeemer was imperiously necessary to effect the salvation of a ruined world, we must suppose, that the Father of Mercies, who contem
plated a display of the most exalted benevolence towards our race, provided such a Saviour as was needed, and, of course, the Saviour provided must be divine. And, indeed, if there was no other argument in favor of the divinity of Christ, than the necessity of his being so, to accomplish the work he undertook, it would be sufficient to establish the point beyond all successful controversy.
But the great difficulties attending the doctrines of total depravity arises, first, from giving it a wrong period in the history of man, and, secondly, in attaching to it a character it does not claim. The only time in which man could be properly considered totally destitute of power to do good, was during the interim between the fall and the promise of a Saviour, in the seed of the woman. During that space, however long or short it may have been, man was lost. He was fallen into crime, and therefore exposed to punishment;—he was so bruised' by the fall that he was filled with 'putrifaction, and to climax his misery he was without strength,' and of course helpless, and must have remained so, had he not received help from one who 'is mighty to save.' The text does not
say lost. It
the Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.' That is, he is now come to accomplish what he bound himself by covenant to do, (Zach. ix. 11.) about four thousand years before, in order to save a race of beings who were then lost.
But the moment the covenant of redemption was accepted and ratified in heaven, that moment fallen man's relation to his Maker was changed for the better. Instead of being a guilty wretch awaiting the fierce wrath of his offended Maker, he stood justified by the righteousness of Jesus Christ ;' his putrifying wounds,' were mollified with ointment,'—his sick head,' and fainting heart,' received “a manifestation of the spirit to profit withal,' and he was restored to probationary ground, with the prison doors open' before him, and the grace of God, which bringeth salvation,' extended to aid him in the course of duty, which lay before him. This being man's present situation, as a redeemed sinner, it is certainly improper to consider him now, as totally depraved, or destitute of a disposition, and power to do good, at least, till his day of grace expires. And as to the character of our present depravity, it does not involve guilt on our part, for which our race deserves to be damned ; because it is something entailed on us without our knowledge or consent, and any act or state of being, which can in justice be punished, must depend on the volition of the subject of punishment. But our nature's became depraved without our personal volition, and, therefore, we cannot be justly punished therefor. And, of course, the idea that all men are liable to perish because our nature's are depraved, exists only in the heads of mistaken men. But more of this in the sequel.