The Way Made Plain

By James H. Brookes

Chapter 12



Who, then, puts the slightest barrier between the sinner and the Saviour? Not the Saviour Himself, for His language is, "Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me: "1 but you will observe that He does not bid us take His yoke until we first come, laboring and heavy laden with our sins or sorrows, nor does He expect us to learn until He first gives us rest. You will find upon examination that this is the order always laid down in the word of God. Salvation is first bestowed as a free gift, and then service follows; privilege is first granted, and then responsibility ensues; relationship with God as our Father is first established by grace, and then the affections of children are expected; our standing in Christ is first secured through faith in His blood, and then obligation is imposed. There is no telling the amount of evil that has followed man's attempt to reverse this order, and I beg you to remember that as a sinner you have nothing, nothing, to do but to come to Christ as you are; by which I mean, you have nothing to do but to believe, upon the sure testimony of God's word, that He is able and willing to save your soul, and to save it without delay. "In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink."2 In the eagerness of His desire to save. He arose from the sitting posture usual with Jewish teachers, and stood, that His voice might ring like a trumpet above the crowd, crying, ^' If any man thirst, let him come unto me "—come, thirsty and needy, and not because he has done something to quench his thirst and satisfy his need.

Let not conscience make you linger,
Nor of fitness fondly dream;
All the fitness He requireth
Is to feel your need of Him;
This He gives you—
'Tis the Spirit's rising beam.''

There is a question just here I wish you to consider, and it is this: Are there many ways by which men are saved, or is there only one way? I know, if you accept the Scriptures as inspired, that you will reply. There is only one way; for it is written, "He that believeth on the Son [no matter who he is] hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son [no matter who he is] shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him."3 "Neither is there salvation in any other; for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved."4 This, then, prepares the way for another question: How was the dying thief saved? There are many who, in answering this question, seem to take it for granted that he was a better thief than the other, who was not saved, but not so does the word of God speak of him. Matthew informs us that "the thieves also [that is, both of them], which were crucified with him, cast the same in his teeth."5 Mark says, "They [that is, both of them] that were crucified with him reviled him."6 The fact is, when he was nailed to the cross he joined his guilty companion and the brutal crowd in heaping insults and reproaches upon the dying Saviour; but God determined to show what His grace can do, and hence flashed into his ruined soul conviction of sin which was the "Spirit's rising beam." Then follows the humble confession of guilt, and the sublime testimony concerning Jesus, that "this man hath done nothing amiss."7 I call it sublime testimony, because it was delivered in the face of a scoffing world that had united to condemn and crucify the Son of God. The Jews spurned His claims as the Messiah; the Romans scourged Him as a seditious fanatic or impostor; and the confidence of His own disciples received a staggering blow when they saw Him dragged like a common felon through the streets and suspended upon the instrument of shame and torture.

Truly there was little appearance of royalty about that thorn-crowned brow, and that bleeding back mangled by the cruel lash, and those hands and feet pierced with nails; but the poor thief had faith to say, "Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom."8 He had no time to get better; he had no time to make himself fit to come to Christ; he had no time to observe rites and ordinances; but he had time to believe that the meek Sufferer at his side was what He claimed to be, and to trust in Him for some humble place in the kingdom which he believed that Sufferer would in due time establish on the earth, according to the Scriptures. These Scriptures say, "Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God;"9 and this is what the dying thief did, and it is all he did, when forth came the sweet assurance from the pallid lips of the Saviour mighty to save in death and through death, "Verily, I say unto thee, To-day shalt thou be with me in paradise;"10 and a few hours later the ransomed sinner went his way, the first glad herald from earth to announce to the rejoicing multitude on high that the work of redemption was finished. And now, if it be true that there is only one way of salvation, and therefore that all men are to be saved the same way the thief was saved, what should be done with the preaching that puts the smallest obstacle, though it be nothing more than a straw, between the sinner and the Saviour? Why, toss it overboard as an accursed thing, and make haste to believe, because God has said it, that "the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin."11

But let us glance at the testimony of the apostles who received from their Master the great commission, "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature;"12 or, in other words, Preach the good news, the glad tidings of the boundless love of God and the finished work of Christ. We learn that on the day of Pentecost the Holy Ghost came down in witness of our Lord's ascension to the right hand of the Father, and wonderful results followed His manifested presence among the disciples. There were at that time in Jerusalem "Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Lybia about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, Cretes and Arabians."13 To this mixed multitude, together with many of the inhabitants of the city, Peter and the rest of the apostles proclaimed Jesus and the resurrection. "Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. . . . And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, praising God, and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the Church daily such as should be saved."14 There was no delay here; no waiting to get better; no striving to be fit to come; no probing into their hearts to test their feelings, whether they had repented enough, and whether they loved God enough, and whether they believed aright, but immediately upon receiving the word as true, the same day there were added to the Church about three thousand rejoicing converts.

We look a little farther, and find that "a man of Ethiopia, an eunuch of great authority under Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who had charge of all her treasure, and had come to Jerusalem for to worship, was returning, and sitting in the chariot, read Esaias the prophet."15 He was an anxious inquirer, as we say in these days, for, having become utterly dissatisfied with heathenism, he had gone to the city of David to bow before the true God, and was still diligently seeking the way of life. Philip, one of the seven deacons elected by the Church to look after the poor, was commanded by the Holy Ghost to join himself to the chariot of the officer. Having promptly obeyed the direction, although it took him from great crowds that attended his ministry in Samaria, to preach to a single sinner, he asked him whether he understood what he was reading. "How can I," was the reply, "except some man should guide me? And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him." The place he was reading was the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah, which so clearly and beautifully sets forth the atoning work of Christ for the certain and complete salvation of His people, and "Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same Scripture, and preached unto him Jesus." Having shown that the prophet predicted the death of Him Avho was crucified between two thieves, he may have dwelt a little upon the sixth verse of that remarkable chapter which has brought relief to many troubled souls. He may have slowly read the first clause, "All we like sheep have gone astray," and fixing the attention of his interested hearer, pointedly asked, "Do you believe that?" "Oh, yes," would be the reply; "that describes my condition precisely, for like a silly sheep I have wandered from the path of duty and of safety." He may then have read the second clause, "We have turned every one to his own way," and asked, "Do you believe that?" "Indeed I do," would be the answer, "for I have followed the counsels of my own heart and trusted in my own righteousness." He may then have read the last clause, "And the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all," and solemnly said, "Do you believe that? You believe you have gone astray like a lost sheep; you believe you have turned to your own way; and now do you believe, because God hath said it, that He has laid your iniquities upon Christ the Sin-bearer? If so, they cannot be upon you, and therefore you are a saved man." At all events, however Philip may have talked to him, he replied, "I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God," and was immediately baptized, and "went on his way rejoicing."16 Just so soon as Jesus was preached he received the testimony concerning Him as true, and hence pursued his journey filled with peace and gladness, because his thoughts were not occupied about himself, but about Christ and His finished work.

Once more, we are told that Paul and Silas were preaching in the city of Philippi, where a great uproar occurred as the result of a miracle wrought on "a certain damsel possessed with a spirit of divination." The preachers were seized, dragged before the magistrates, savagely beaten, and committed to prison, with a command to the jailer to keep them safely; "who, having received such a charge, thrust them into the inner prison, and made their feet fast in the stocks." But the hand of violence could not touch the resurrection life they had received from the Saviour, nor could the stroke of suffering mar its happiness; and therefore at midnight they "prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them." He who had sent them to Europe determined to plant the banner of the cross on this new continent, whether men would hear or forbear, "and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one's bands were loosed." The jailer, awakened by the tumult, naturally inferred that the prisoners had fled, and, knowing that he would be held accountable for their escape, was on the point of committing suicide, when Paul arrested his uplifted hand by calling with a loud voice, "Do thyself no harm; for we are all here." Then conviction seems to have fastened on the man's conscience, and he was persuaded by the extraordinary events he had witnessed that the poor girl had unconsciously uttered the truth when she followed Paul and his companions for many days through the streets, crying, "These men are the servants of the most high God, which show unto us the way of salvation." Accordingly, "he called for a light, and sprang in, and came trembling, and fell down before Paul and Silas, and brought them out, and said. Sirs, what must I do to be saved? "This is a very earnest, but very plain and simple, question, and the answer is equally plain and simple. Do? Why do you ask about doing? You must do nothing but "believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house." As he was an ignorant heathen who probably had never heard before of Jesus Christ, of course he needed instruction; "and they spake unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, straightway. And when he had brought them into his house, he set meat before them, and rejoiced, believing in God with all his house."17

In considering these examples of instantaneous conversion it is useless to reply that the times have changed since Christ and the apostles preached. It is true the times have changed, but the word of God has not changed, and man's need has not changed, and human nature has not changed, and the way of salvation has not changed. It is true that most of the conversions in our day occur only at the close of a protracted period of darkness, and effort, and prayer, and reading, and reflection, and repentance; but this only goes to show how far we have departed from the simplicity and blessedness of the Gospel as at first proclaimed, when the disciples went abroad telling the good news of Christ's death on the cross for sinners, and as many as believed the glad tidings to be true, and true for themselves, straightway entered into life. If a friend of undoubted veracity were to enter your house or meet you on the street and tell you good news that greatly concerned your welfare, how long a time must elapse before you would believe him? A day, a week, a month, a year? Would you say to him, "I wish I could believe you; I am trying to believe you; I must wait until I feel that I believe you; I cannot realize that what you tell me is true; "or would you just believe him and rejoice? "Wherefore as the Holy Ghost saith, To-day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts;"18 and the way to harden the heart, as we learn from the chapter in which this text is found, is to continue in unbelief. "Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation,"19 and the now refers not only to the gospel age as distinguished from the dispensation of the law, but to this passing moment.

The way some men set forth what they call the Gospel would require their hearers to spend about four years in college and three years in a theological seminary in order to be saved, and even then they could not be certain of their salvation. But God the Father says, "Now! "and God the Son says, "Now! "and God the Spirit says, "Now! "and the Bible says, "Now! "and the very depths of the sinner's guilty and ruined nature echo the cry, "Now." If he stays away from Christ trying to do something until he is as old as Methuselah, could such a thing be, at the close of nine hundred and sixty-nine years he will not be a step nor a hair's breadth nearer salvation than he was the moment of conviction; and on the other hand, the moment he is in Christ by believing on Him he is as certainly and completely saved as he will be a thousand years afterward. If the dying thief, after receiving from the dying Saviour the assurance of salvation, had been permitted to descend to the earth and to remain among men preaching and praying for a hundred years, at the end of this time he would not have been more certainly and completely saved than he was when hanging on the cross, nor would he have had any other ground of comfort than he had then, even the sure word of the Son of God. The certainty of salvation, therefore, cannot be increased by delay, but while the sinner is delaying, suppose he should die; what then? He has not the slightest assurance that he will live an hour longer, and hence God does not deal with him on the ground that he has years to study and struggle before he is saved, but says, in all the urgency of His love, "Now, NOW, NOW! "

Inquirers meet with obstacles in trying to find peace simply because they persist in thinking of themselves instead of directing their thoughts to Christ, and to the object of His mission to earth, and to His finished work. They complain that they are not good enough to come. No, and they never will be in themselves: but they forget that Jesus has said, "I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance."20 "The Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost."21 "This is a faithful saying," says Paul, "and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief."22 Who was Paul, and what was he doing when Christ Jesus saved him? He himself tells us he was "a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious,"23 and "I verily thought with myself," he writes, "that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. "Which thing I also did in Jerusalem: and many of the saints did I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I gave my voice against them. And I punished them oft in every synagogue, and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly mad against them, I persecuted them even unto strange cities."24 Truly, Paul did nothing to make himself fit or good enough to come, but he was "a brand plucked out of the fire,"25 just as every other sinner is; for all of us are far worse than we think ourselves to be even when most deeply humbled under a sense of our guilt.

The fact is that out of Christ we have no worth or worthiness at all, do what we may; but in Christ the vilest of the vile are infinitely worthy, for they are clothed with the righteousness of God. A wicked, swearing teamster, who had been the terror of the neighborhood, was led by the Spirit to believe in Jesus, and it was announced that he would openly confess the Sa^dour before men and partake of the Lord's Supper. Driving through a town where he was well known, he was met by an old woman with the question, "They tell me, Thomas, that you be going to take the Sacrament on Sunday; is it true that you be?" "By the grace of Christ my Saviour," he replied, "I expect to have the privilege of showing His death with others who believe in Him, if that is what you call taking the Sacrament." "But, Thomas, do you think that you be worthy? "said the old woman. "I don't mean to reflect on ye, but you know what kind of man you have been, and what kind of life you have led, and do you think, Thomas, that you be worthy? ""As worthy as any man in Coalford," was the reply, "for I am a poor worthless sinner saved by the grace of God through the precious blood of Christ. I trust in Him alone." Such is ever the language of faith leading the sinner to lose sight of self in the believing, adoring contemplation of Christ, who so graciously and sweetly says, "Him that cometh to me, I will in no wise cast out."26

"But I am a great sinner, sayest thou?
I will in no wise cast out, says Christ
But I am an old sinner, sayest thou?
I will in no wise cast out, says Christ.
But I am a hard-hearted sinner, sayest thou?
I will in no wise cast out, says Christ.
I have served Satan all my days, sayest thou?
I will in no wise cast out, says Christ.
But I have sinned against light, sayest thou?
I will in no wise cast out, says Christ.
But I have sinned against mercy, sayest thou?
I will in no wise cast out, says Christ.
I have no good thing to bring, sayest thou?
I will in no wise cast out, says Christ."

"But," says the sinner, "must I not be born again before I can rejoice in hope of the glory of God?" I reply, You are born again the moment you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, as has been previously shown. Faith is the first throb of life, so to speak, in the new-created man, the first cry of the new-born child. "Ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus."27 "As many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name."28 "Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God."29 "Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth forever."30 "Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth."31 These passages are sufficient to show that the Holy Ghost uses the word of God, or the word of truth, or the Gospel, to set forth Christ in His Divine person and atoning work; and when we believe on Him as there revealed, we are born again. We are not called upon to be worrying ourselves about regeneration, nor to be looking for its fruits, but to believe in Christ, knowing then, according to His own teaching, that we are assuredly born of water (the scriptural symbol of the word) and of the Spirit. Regeneration, therefore, does not stand between the sinner and the Saviour; for the new life is imparted, the new nature is implanted, the new man is formed, by the power of the Spirit through faith in Jesus made known in the Gospel.

"But," says another, "must I not repent before coming to Christ? "If you mean as a condition upon which God will be merciful, or as the means of winning His favor, or as a preliminary work to lit you to approach Him, I reply, most emphatically, No, you must not. There are thousands who try to make a Saviour out of their repentance, but this is contrary to the Scriptures. True repentance, as described in the Bible, always implies faith in Christ, and the two cannot be separated. No man really repents unless he believes in Jesus, and, on the other hand, no man really believes in Jesus unless he repents, for repentance is the tear which the believing sinner drops when by faith he sees the Son of God extended on the cross. The word in the Greek, however, which is translated "repentance "in our English Bible, does not necessarily imply emotion of any kind, but simply means an "after-thought "or "after-mind," and hence "a change of mind; "but whether this change of mind is accompanied with joy or sorrow depends wholly upon the cause or occasion which gives rise to it. About what, then, is the sinner called to change his mind? Obviously, about God and His character, for he has had wrong thoughts of the Almighty all his life; and hence it is written, "Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts."32 But surely he can never change his mind about his Creator until he sees "God in Christ" hating sin and yet putting sin away, judging evil and yet forgiving the evil-doer. Unless, then, by faith you behold the atoning sacrifice on the cross, it is impossible to repent, for it is said, "The goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance."33 It is not thy badness, but God's goodness, that leadeth thee to repentance, and until you believe in that goodness as manifested in the gift of His well-beloved Son, you might as soon expect to obtain light by looking at darkness, or to receive life by looking at a corpse, as to repent by working at your poor, dead soul. Repentance, therefore, does not stand between the sinner and the Saviour, but it always accompanies and flows from faith in Christ; for, as you at once observe, if you must be occupied with repentance before believing, it is incumbent on those who tell you to repent as a preliminary step that must be taken in order to reach salvation also to inform you how much you must repent, and for what length of time.

"But," says another, "must I not be baptized before I can rest in the assurance that I am saved? "Again I reply, l^o; not that I would undervalue baptism in its true place, but that I would keep it in its true place, where the Word of God puts it, and from which it has been wrested by the rude hand of legalism to "drown men in destruction and perdition." There is not an instance of Christian baptism in the New Testament unless it was preceded by faith in Christ on the part of the person baptized. I am not referring to infant baptism, for it does not fall in with my purpose to discuss that question; but, among adults, only believers in Jesus were baptized, and the common practice in these days of seeking to make Christians by the use of water in sprinkling, pouring, or immersion is utterly subversive of the work of Christ and ruinous to the souls of countless thousands. It is a fact in striking contrast with the estimate placed upon baptism now that the Saviour in all His wonderful discourses never preached about it, and we know that "Jesus himself baptized not."34 Not only so, but we find the Apostle Paul saying, "I thank God that I baptized none of you, but Crispus and Gains; . . . and I baptized also the house of Stephanas: besides, I know not whether I baptized any other. For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel."35 When we add to all this that the dying thief was saved although he was not baptized, and that in thirteen of the inspired Epistles baptism is not once mentioned, and very seldom in the others, it is apparent that man in his proud and obdurate self-righteousness has sought to make a simple and significant ordinance an enemy of the cross of Christ. No, sinner! baptism does not stand between you and the Saviour, but after believing you will joyfully receive it, as Abraham received "the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised."36

Nothing, indeed, nothing but your unbelief, stands between you and an instant, complete salvation. You do not need to go up to heaven for it, for that would imply that Christ had not come down "to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself;"37 nor are you required to descend into the lower parts of the earth, for that would imply that Christ was not delivered for our offences and "raised again for justification;"38 but the word is nigh thee, and so nigh that, without waitiug an hour or a minute, without thinking of the past or the future, without stopping to look into the exercises of your mind, without tarrying to understand this doctrine or that doctrine, without pausing at regeneration, or repentance, or baptism, or anything else, you may immediately enter into life, eternal life, if you truly believe that "Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures."39 What a glorious salvation, and what a precious Saviour! It is not by what we do, but by what He has done, we are saved, and hence in answer to your question, "What must I do? "let the sweet hymn answer:

"Nothing, either great or small,
     Nothing, sinner, no!
Jesus did it, did it all,
     Long, long ago.

"When He from His lofty throne
     Stoop 'd to do and die,
Everything was fully done—
     Hearken to His cry—

"IT IS FINISHED:' yes, indeed—
     Finish'd every jot.
Sinner, this is all you need;
     Tell me, is it not?

"'Weary, working, plodding one,
     Wherefore toil you so?
Cease your doing; all was done
     Long, long ago.

"Till to JESUS' work you cling
     By a simple faith,
'Doing' is a deadly thing—
     'Doing' ends in death.

"Cast your deadly 'doing' down—
     Down at Jesus' feet;
Stand IN HIM, in Him alone,
     Gloriously 'COMPLETE.'"


1) Matt. xi. 28, 29. 144

2) John vii. 37.

3) John iii. 6,

4) Acts iv. 12.

5) Matt, xxvii. 44.

6) Mark xv. 32.

7) Luke xxiii. 41.

8) Luke xxiii. 42.

9) 1 John v. 1.

10) Luke xxiii. 43.

11) 1 John i. 7.

12) Mark xvi. 15.

13) Acts ii. 9-11.

14) Acts ii. 41 42 45 47.

15) Acts viii. 27, 28.

16) Acts viii. 39.

17) Acts xvi. 32-34.

18) Heb. iii. 7, 8.

19) 2 Cor. vi. 2.

20) Matt. ix. 13.

21) Luke xix. 10.

22) 1 Tim. i. 15.

23) 1 Tim. i. 13.

24) Acts xxvi. 9-11.

25) Zech. iii. 2.

26) 1 John vi. 37.

27) Gal. iii. 26.

28) John i. 12.

29) 1 John v. 1.

30) 1 Pet. i. 23.

31) James i. 18.

32) Isa. lv. 7.

33) Rom. ii. 4.

34) John iv. 2.

35) 1 Cor. i. 14, 16, 17.

36) Rom. iv. 11.

37) Heb. ix. 26.

38) Rom. iv. 25.

39) 1 Cor. xv. 3, 4.