The Way Made Plain

By James H. Brookes

Chapter 15



"For the scripture saith, "Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed."—Romans x. 11.

A young minister was in the habit of visiting an aged Scotch woman in his congregation who was familiarly called "Old Nanny." She was bedridden and rapidly approaching the end of her "long and weary pilgrimage," but she rested with undisturbed composure and full assurance of faith upon the finished work of Christ. One day he said to her, "Now, Nanny, what if, after all your confidence in the Saviour, and your watching and waiting, God should suffer your soul to be lost? "Raising herself on her elbow, and turning to him with a look of grief and pain, she laid her hand on the open Bible before her, and quietly replied, "Ah, dearie me, is that a' the length you hae got yet, man? God," she continued earnestly, "would hae the greatest loss. Poor Nanny would but lose her soul, and that would be a great loss indeed, but God would lose His honor and His character. Haven't I hung my soul upon His 'exceeding great and precious promises'? and if He brak' His word. He would make Himself a liar, and a' the universe would rush into confusion."

This anecdote reveals the true ground of the believer's safety. It is as high as the honor of God; it is as trustworthy as His character; it is as immutable as His promises; it is as broad as the infinite merits of His Son's atoning blood. There has long been a sharp controversy between theological writers concerning the doctrine of "the perseverance of the saints," as it is called, but, like most controversies among true Christians, it is owing largely to a misapprehension or misapplication of the terms employed in the dispute. The question, properly presented, is not about the perseverance of the saints, but the perseverance of the Lord. If the saints were left to themselves, it is not only probable, but certain, that they would not persevere, but if the Lord perseveres in His purpose of grace, it is not only probable, but certain, that they will be saved. Inasmuch, then, as the phrase, "perseverance of the saints," is not found in the Bible, and as it may possibly turn our attention from the Saviour to ourselves, which is always fraught with evil, I prefer to think of the perseverance of the Lord in speaking of the believer's safety.

"The Scripture saith," or, in other words, God saith in the Scripture, "whosoever believeth on him [that is, on Christ] shall not be ashamed." Mark the vast extent of this blessed declaration, "whosoever believeth." The word "whosoever "goes like the light over the entire surface of our globe, and includes within the ample and urgent invitations of the Gospel every member of the human race. There are many who fear that they do not belong to the elect, or that they are not embraced in the plan of redemption, and hence they long to have some direct and personal evidence of the willingness of God to forgive and save them, but surely there is here full Avarrant for the faith of every sinner. The most illiterate, the most degraded, and the most fidendless, as well as the intelligent, the virtuous, and the honored, among the sons of men, are invited, and exhorted, and commanded, to believe on Jesus Christ, for "whosoever believeth shall not be ashamed." This Divine proclamation is not only a good way, but unquestionably the best way that could be devised, to encourage the doubting and hesitating sinner to trust in the promises of God, for if there had been a better way, certainly it would have been adopted. Suppose there were a book somewhere in the world containing the names of all the saved in the past, present, and future. If you were to find your name on one of its countless pages, you would not be satisfied: because there may have been, or may be now, or may be hereafter, another person of the same name. Suppose the voice of God should speak down from heaven, as it did at the baptism and transfiguration of His well-beloved Son, audibly and articulately announcing you to be one of His redeemed children; still you would not be satisfied, because you might fear your ears had deceived you, or that the announcement was intended for a different person. But when the voice of God saith in the Scripture, "whosoever believeth," you know that you are brought within the circle of mercy and designated in a surer manner than by name.

If a wealthy and benevolent gentleman were to advertise that whosoever applied at his residence before a certain day should receive a valid title to a valuable piece of property, you would not refuse to apply because he had not mentioned your name in the advertisement. If you were travelling on a railroad with a number of passengers, and the conductor should announce that whosoever is going to the place you are anxious to reach must leave the train at the next station, you would not retain your seat and be carried away from your destination because he did not call out your name. If you were in a city besieged by a powerful army, and the commanding officers of the opposing forces should order a suspension of hostilities that whosoever among the inhabitants desired to remove to a place of safety might withdraw before the assault was made, you would not complain because your name did not occur in the order. In such cases a class is specified, and if you belong to the class you need no other warrant to act. In like manner, you have abundant authority for acting without a moment's delay upon the broad statements and general invitations of the Gospel. Jesus says, "God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting Life."1 "And the Spirit and the bride say. Come. And let him that heareth say. Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely."2 Surely, you cannot ask or desire anything more earnest, more tender, more definite than this; and if it fails to convince you that you are authorized to believe on Christ, there is no conceivable mode by which you can be assured of God's willingness to save you.

But to make this point still clearer you will observe it is said, "Whosoever believeth in him." There is a difference between believing a person and believing in or on a person. The former implies that we accept his statements as true without going farther, but the latter implies that we trust in or rely on him. If a man of undoubted veracity were to inform us of something which he had witnessed, but of which we ourselves had no personal knowledge, we would believe him; but if he should promise to confer upon us a favor which we greatly desired to receive, we would confide in him or depend on him to fulfil his promise. Now, the salvation held out to us in the Gospel does not consist merely in the belief of certain doctrines, but belief in a person. Peter and the other apostles, in defending themselves before the Jewish council, said, "The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree. Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins."3 He showed Himself alive to His disciples, "after his passion, by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God;"4 and when He had "led them out as far as to Bethany,"5 and had given His final commands, "while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight."6 It is not, therefore, a dead but a living Christ which speaks to us in His word, and in whom we are urged to trust. From His exalted seat at the right hand of the Father He sees you now while reading these lines, and if it were best, He would instantly descend from heaven and stand before you in personal, visible form. So full of sympathy is His heart of love, and so deep His concern for your salvation, that the sight of your burdened soul would arrest His attention, I think, even if engaged in making a new world, and bring Him once more to the cross, could His death a second time avail more fully to deliver you from the condemnation and curse of God's violated law.

Suppose He should appear at this moment in your presence and with His own voice promise to give you the crown of eternal life before asking you to do anything or to feel anything. Would you trust in Him? Would you depend on Him to make good His promise? If you would, remember He speaks to you as truly and directly in His word as He could possibly do were He to reveal Himself bodily, so that your eyes could see Him and your ears could hear Him. It is the peculiarity of His word that, unlike any other word, it "liveth and abideth forever,"7 so that it is as fresh, and sweet, and powerful to-day as if it had just fallen from His lips. But there is this immense advantage in the written word over the spoken—that having once received assurance of salvation in the former you can always receive it there, for "the word of the Lord endureth forever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you."8

It is an unspeakable relief to the troubled sinner to find that this word which by the Gospel is preached unto you does not say, Whosoever believeth and is good; Whosoever believeth and feeleth happy; Whosoever believeth and prayeth well; Whosoever believeth and loveth God fervently; Whosoever believeth and findeth the true Church; but, "Whosoever believeth on him," or, in other words, "Whosoever trusteth in Christ, shall not be ashamed." Of course I am far from saying that the sincere believer will not follow holiness; or that he will not be happy; or that he will not hold communion with God; or that he will not love the Saviour and confess Him before men; but the sinner is not to be occupied with these first, for he needs first to be saved, and he is saved by believing, simply and only believing, in Jesus. Nor does the word intimate whether our belief must be strong or weak. It is not, Whosoever believeth strongly, but, Whosoever believeth. It is Jesus Christ who saves us, and not our belief; and hence, "if ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed,"9 or if, like the suffering woman "which had spent all her living upon physicians,"10 your faith is greatly wanting in knowledge, still you may come, creeping, if you cannot walk, to that compassionate and gentle Saviour of whom it is written, "A bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench."11

"Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed." He shall not be ashamed to confess Him with the mouth, for the "righteous are bold as a lion,"12 and the saints of old "through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouth of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword; out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens."13 Nor shall he be ashamed "when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire, taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ."14 The solemn language of our Lord does not apply to him: "Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and my words, in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he Cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels."15 On the other hand, he can joyfully exclaim with the apostle, "I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God [not the power of man, but the power of God] unto salvation to every one that believeth."16 And again with the apostle he can say, "God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world."17 The secret of tins bold confession of the crucified One, and of this strange glorifying in the cross, is given by the same apostle when he says, "We having the same spirit of faith, according as it is written, I believed, and therefore have I spoken; we also believe, and therefore speak; knowing that he which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus, and shall present us with you."18 The believer, then, knows upon the sure testimony of God's word that he shall not be ashamed at the coming of the Lord hereafter, and consequently he cannot be ashamed to own the Lord as his Saviour here.

The foundation of his safety is laid on the finished work of Christ, and is guarded by the infinite power, the eternal purpose, and the immutable promise of Jehovah. Nothing, therefore, in this world or in the world to come can blight his hopes or defeat his aspirations. "If God be for us, who can be against us? He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea, rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us."19 In this most interesting and comforting passage the Holy Ghost first gives us to understand that God is for us, and hence triumphantly asks, Who can be against us? He then asserts that God's love for us is so great that He spared not His own Son, though He must endure the sorrow and shame, the deep humiliation and terrible agonies, of Gethsemane and Calvary, and makes this the proof of our Father's willingness to bestow upon us freely all things necessary to secure the end of so much suffering, since the greater gift includes the less. He then challenges the universe to bring the slightest charge against those whom God Himself has justified. He then mentions the death of Christ, which was in the room and place of our death, because of our offences; and, as if this were not enough. He tells us of His resurrection, which is the unanswerable demonstration of our complete justification; and, as if this were not enough, he points to Him at the right hand of God, Head over all things to the Church, and swaying the sceptre of supreme sovereignty; and, as if this were not enough, He bids us listen to the ever prevalent intercession of One who could say even upon the earth, although despised and rejected of men, "Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me; and I knew that thou hearest me always."20 "Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am."21

It is not surprising that a chapter containing such a passage should begin by declaring that there is no condemnation against the believer, and end by declaring that there is no separation from the Saviour when once we truly believe on His name. "The Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God."22 "By one Spirit are we all baptized into one body,"23 no matter how widely removed from each other by time or place. "Whither shall I go from thy Spirit?"24 asks the Psalmist. It is certain, then^ that the Spirit is everywhere present, and is perfectly familiar with all that occurs in heaven above, and in the earth beneath, and in the darkness of the underworld, and yet having passed across the boundless empire which the word of the Almighty has created, and over the hell which sin has dug, He distinctly announces "that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."25

There are thousands of Christians who, on the pretence of humility, make a merit of doubting their salvation, but in the light of such statements as you have just read the faintest shadow of doubt is seen to be a grievous dishonor to God. If doubts are becoming to those who are believers, God is a liar, but if God speaks the truth, how should we look upon our doubts, and how should we regard ourselves for calling in question His clear and oft-repeated testimony? But, you may reply, your difficulty does not lie in this direction. You firmly believe, you say, that God speaks the truth, but you doubt your acceptance, you doubt whether you are saved, because your faith is so weak, and your love is so cold, and your feelings are so variable, and there is so much evil in you, and you make so little progress, or none at all that you can perceive, in holiness. Now, it is not for man to decide whether you are or are not a believer in Christ, but I do confidently affirm that these things have nothing whatever to do with the ground upon which God makes peace with the sinner, though they may have much to do with our enjoyment of peace.

When Jehovah in infinite grace redeemed Israel from Egyptian bondage, what was the ground of their peace and the precise cause of their deliverance? It was not their goodness in any respect; for they were certainly no better by nature nor by practice, for aught we are told, than the Egyptians, and there was nothing to recommend them to the Divine mercy but their utter wretchedness. "The children of Israel sighed by reason of the bondage, and they cried, and their cry came up unto God by reason of the bondage. And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob."26 But before He could deal with them in manifested love He must first deal with their sins in manifested righteousness. Their lives were forfeited by reason of their iniquities, and the judgment must descend: but in the tenderness of God's compassion for His covenant people it descended upon the head of a divinely-appointed Substitute. They were commanded to slay a lamb, and to take the blood—" for the blood is the life"27—and to strike it on the two side-posts and on the upper door-post of their houses. "And the blood," it is added, "shall be to you for a token upon the houses where you are; and when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt."28

The blood made all the difference that existed between the Israelites and the Egyptians, for it was a token that the sentence of death had already been executed in the behalf of those within the blood-sprinkled houses, because it had fallen upon their representative and substitute. The slightest doubt of safety, therefore, on the part of an Israelite sheltered behind those red door-posts, would have been the same as saying that Jehovah is a liar. He had said, "When I see the blood, I will pass over you," and this ought to have been enough: it was enough for all who believed His word. Some of them may have complained that their faith was so weak, and their love was so cold, and their feelings were so variable, and there was so much evil in them, and so little progress in holiness, that they could not see the evidences of their salvation. But this was not the question. God did not say, "When you see the evidences," but, "When I see the blood, I will pass over you." He did not say. When I see your strong faith, your ardent love, your happy feelings, your victory over the evil of your nature, your rapid growth in holiness, I will pass over you, but. When I see the blood, I will pass over you. It was not the blood and something else, but it was the blood by itself, the blood which God provided, that formed the ground of their safety and their redemption. During that frightful night of destruction there may have been fathers and mothers who, hearing the shrieks of the terror-stricken Egyptians, caught their first-born to their hearts in inexpressible anxiety, but if so, their fear was a most ungenerous and unworthy suspicion of the God of their salvation, for they were as secure from harm as the power and purpose and promise of the Almighty could make them.



1) John iii. 16.

2) Rev. xxii. 17.

3) Acts v. 30, 31.

4) Acts i. 3.

5) Luke xxiv. 50.

6) Acts i. 9.

7) Pet. i. 23.

8) 1 Pet. i. 25.

9) Matt.. xvii. 20.

10) Luke viii. 43.

11) Matt. xii. 20.

12) Prov. xxviii. 1.

13) Heb. xi. 33, 34.

14) 2 Thess. i. 7, 8.

15) Mark viii. 38.

16) Rom. i. 16.

17) Gal. vi. 14.

18) 2 Cor. iv. 13, 14.

19) Rom. viii. 31-34.

20) John xi. 41, 42.

21) John xvii. 24.

22) 1 Cor. ii. 10.

23) 1 Cor. xii. 13.

24) Ps. cxxxix. 7.

25) Rom. viii. 38, 39.

26) Ex. ii. 23, 24.

27) Deut. xii. 23.

28) Ex. xii. 13.