William Bradford Institute
for Study of the
Early Settlement of America

Salvation Taken Into God's Own Hands

by Edward Griffin

"Behold the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the
house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not according to the covenant that
I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them
out of the land of Egypt; (which my covenant they broke, although I was a
husband unto them, saith the Lord.) But this shall be the covenant that I will
make with the house of Israel: After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my
law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts, and will be their God,
and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbor
and every man his brother, saying, 'Know ye the Lord', for they shall all know
me from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord; for I will
forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more." Jeremiah 31:

It is sometimes useful to contemplate the duties which are transferred to us as
agents, and sometimes the hopes which arise from the agency of God. To the
latter of these subjects our text naturally directs our attention.
The old covenant referred to in this passage was that which was made with the
Hebrew nation at Sinai. It was the covenant of grace couched under types; types
which had the shadow of good things to come, but not the very image nor the
substance of the things, and could never make the comers hereunto perfect.
Besides, it was in no sense an absolute, but in every sense a conditional
covenant; the agency of God not being pledged for those supplies of the Spirit
which would ensure a fulfillment of its conditions. In this respect it resembled
the law. It is added as a consequence of all this, "which covenant they broke."
Though it was sent forth from among the glories of the burning mount, while
Sinai quaked under the weight of the presence of God and the earth trembled
beneath his feet, "which covenant they broke." But it pleased God to promise a
new dispensation of his covenant in the latter day, not indeed exempt from
conditionality as addressed to agents, but accompanied with effectual power. In
this new dispensation he brings out to view his own agency upon the heart and
takes the salvation of his people into his own hands, and engages to accomplish
it himself. The tenor of this covenant is more distinctly stated in the next
chapter: "They shall be my people and I will be their God; and I will give them
one heart and one way that they may fear me forever; and I will make an
everlasting covenant with them that I will not turn away from them to do them
good; but I will put my fear in their hearts that they shall not depart from
me." Had only a covenant of works been held out to the world, suspending the
salvation of men on their perfect obedience; or had a covenant been proposed
which offered pardon, without engaging the spiritual influences necessary to a
fulfillment of its conditions, a covenant which offered pardon and yet suspended
salvation on the unassisted or unsecured exertions of men, not a child of Adam
would ever have reached the kingdom of heaven. Both of these covenants have been
tried; the one with sinless man in Eden, the other with sinning men at Sinai:
and although the Spirit was granted to the nation of Israel, it was because to
Abraham had been made the promise of a holy seed, and "the covenant that was
confirmed before of God in Christ the law, which was four hundred and thirty
years after," could not "disannul, that it should make the promise of none
effect." And blessed be God, the covenant that was made with Abraham is still in
force and is extended to the Christian Church. It will be my object to show:

I. That according to the plan of grace revealed in the Gospel, God has taken
the work of salvation into his own hands;

II. That this circumstance lays the only foundation of human hope.

I. According to the plan of grace revealed in the Gospel, God has taken the work
of salvation into his own hands. The great design originated in the mind of God.
In the ages of eternity it arose out of his own self-moving goodness, without
the counsel of any creature, without the intercession of any creature, without
respect to the merits of any creature. It was his own purpose, his own favorite
choice, induced by nothing but a regard to his own glory and compassion for a
ruined world. Having conceived the design, it was he that prepared the means of
its execution. He organized the whole plan without the counsel or solicitation
of any creature. Eternal ages before creatures had existence, the covenant of
redemption between the Sacred Persons was formed, in which every circumstance
relating to the salvation of the world was settled. From the resources which
were found in the ever-blessed Trinity, the means of atonement and redemption
were derived. The Second Person stood forth and offered himself to die in a
human form to expiate human guilt. The offer was accepted, and in return a
numerous seed were promised him, whose names were "written in the book of life."

The plan of redemption thus settled, these lower worlds were formed. Man was
placed on the earth. He fell. Immediately an intimation of the great purpose was
made to him. The design was still further disclosed during the lapse of
following ages. It was known on earth that God would redeem his people; but so
far from man's being consulted in regard to this design, he knew not the means
nor the manner of its accomplishment. In the fullness of time the Son of God
appeared on earth "to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself;" and by once
offering himself "to bear the sins of many", he brought in "everlasting
righteousness," and "perfected forever them that are sanctified." He arose from
the dead for their justification, and in his own release from the sins he had
borne, received the seal of their acquittal and salvation. All this was done by
God, independently of creatures. And now the charge of applying to the promised
seed the benefits of redemption was committed to Christ, who, with the consent
of the Father, sent out the Holy Spirit to bring invitations to a universal
world, and to subdue as many as the Father had given him. The work of
enlightening the world by the preaching of the Gospel was taken into the hands
of the blessed Trinity, who employed in the work such human instruments as
wisdom saw fit; but it was God and not man who undertook to provide that the
Gospel should be preached to every nation under heaven. It was the blessed
Trinity who created the Christian Church, and undertook the charge of it, and
settled the point that it should be supported and enlarged, until its
overflowing glory should fill the world. The management of the Church and all
her interests her preservation, advancement, and final triumph the whole has
God himself provided for without the counsel of creatures. His purpose is fixed
and will not change. She shall live; she shall be enlarged; the gates of hell
shall not prevail; her overflowing glory shall fill the earth as the waters fill
the sea. In like manner God has taken into his own hands the salvation of every
individual of his elect. It belongs to him to awaken the conscience, which never
would be done if not done by him. It belongs to him to convince of sin, which
never would be done if not done by him. It belongs to him to subdue the
resistance which the heart is sure to make to the calls of the Spirit,
resistance which, if he did not subdue it, would forever prevail. And after he
has overcome the sinner by superior strength and changed the heart of stone to
flesh, it belongs to him to carry on the work of sanctification. This also he
has taken into his own hands. It is his province to subdue the remaining
corruption, to deliver from the wiles of Satan and the snares of the world, to
clear all obstacles from the Christian's path and to bear him in his arms all
the way to heaven. The work is all the Lord's, undertaken for his own glory,
undertaken from love inexhaustible and invincible, and as the Lord liveth it
will be accomplished.

II. That God has taken the work of delivering his people into his own hands, is
the only foundation of human hope. This doctrine of divine agency and anti-human
dependence, though it is opposed by all that is proud in man, by all his love of
independence, by all his hatred of divine government, is yet one of the sweetest
doctrines of the Christian system. While the world complains that their
salvation is dependent on the will of God, they may be very sincere, but really
they know not what they do: for they murmur against that which is the only
foundation of human hope. Had not God taken the salvation of men into his own
hands, to begin, to carry on, and to perfect it according to his sovereign
pleasure, not a fallen creature would ever have reached the kingdom of heaven.
There is not a Christian on earth who could have atoned for his own sins, or
conceived the wonderful plan of atonement by the death of an incarnate God. Had
not God contrived and executed this plan, no provision could have been made for
the salvation of men. There is not a Christian on earth who could have secured
the privilege of being born and brought up under the light of the Gospel, had
not God ordered his lot in this manner. Not a Christian on earth would ever have
awakened himself from the slumbers of sinful repose, would have poured upon his
own conscience the convincing light of truth, would have subdued his own
resistance and translated himself from darkness into marvelous light. The best
Christian on earth, with all his attainments, would never overcome another sin,
would never gain another triumph over the world, would never demolish another
idol, would never escape another snare of Satan, but for the power of God.
Sustaining the combined assaults of earth and hell, what can he do? An infant
whining in its mother's arms, might as well attempt to hurl the sun from his
orbit and turn all the angels out of heaven, as a poor feeble creature, in his
own strength, try to overcome two worlds with his own house divided against
itself. His only hope is in God. At what time he is afraid he can only trust in
his eternal Rock. Surrounded by armies stronger than he, with all their weapons
pointed at his heart, like Jehosaphat he cries out to God for aid. Enclosing in
his own bosom a host of rebels, constantly disposed to mutiny and to tumult,
with no check upon them but guards which are furnished from heaven, what could
he do if the heavenly aid were withdrawn? Beset from without and from within, he
must soon be swallowed up if the God of his salvation did not appear for him.
Finding every inch of ground disputed by the enemy, and his own mind revolting
from the contest, what hope can he have but in the God of the armies of Israel?
Well, let the heavenly powers aid him to prostrate long ranks of the foe;-let
him a thousand times shout victory in his passage, until he arrives on the very
confines of heaven;-let heaven with all the splendor of its glory be disclosed
to his aged eyes, and the songs of seraphs fall upon his withered ear;-let then
the heavenly aid desert him,-and from the threshold of glory,-from the vision of
the Lamb he would retreat, and, urged by the malignity of his own heart, would
plunge into eternal darkness and blasphemy.

The Christian who feels his own weakness, and discerns the number and power of
the enemy, will resort to this delightful truth as the only ground of hope, "The
salvation of the righteous is of the Lord;" and a thousand times will he say,
with an eye lifted to heaven and fixed as marble, "My soul, wait thou only upon
God; for my expectation is from him." Knowing that his case is desperate unless
God plucks him from the midst of a thousand deaths; perceiving that an attempt
in his own strength to break through all the difficulties between him and heaven
is altogether hopeless; sensible that he cannot take a single step alone,-that
without Christ he can do nothing; he finds it sweet to lay his soul over on
God,-by a distinct and deliberate act to deliver into the hands of Christ all
that he holds dear for time and eternity, and to commit to him every part of his
salvation. Sweet is the act of taking the glorious perfections of God for the
pledges and agents of his salvation,-to reach out and take hold of
omnipotence,-to feel a sense which it is not easy to express, but which may be
indistinctly signified by saying, he feels imbosomed in God, and sheltered there
from every danger and enemy.

That God has taken the salvation of individuals into his own hands, will excite
no uneasiness except in those who would rather trust themselves than God, who
would rather reign themselves than that God should reign. But remove from real
Christians this foundation, and all their hopes and efforts will sink into
motionless despair. The only encouragement they have to "work out" their "own
salvation," is that "God-worketh in" them. "Work out your own salvation with
fear and trembling, for it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of
his good pleasure."

From this doctrine is also drawn all our encouragement in relation to the
interests of the general Church. Who shall protect her from all her enemies?
Every pious minister and every Christian yields the point, and concludes that if
God does not support his own cause in the world, he must sit down in tears and
give up all for lost. When we look abroad into the streets and see them filled
with pollution, with reeling animals that spew the name of God from their
drunken lips; when we see the mixed multitude driving furiously after the world,
without a care for God or their souls; the most affecting events, the most
solemn judgments unable to rouse them to a serious thought, when we behold those
who profess the name of Christ buried deep in the world as those who have been
long dead, with no seeming care for the kingdom of him who purchased them with
his blood; when we behold the ministration of the word producing no effects, and
not a soul under all the pleadings of divine love moved to inquire the way to
heaven; the eye of benevolence, filled with tears, looks round and inquires, Is
there no redress? The heart of benevolence, bleeding at every pore and trembling
for the ark of God, can seize on nothing to sustain its hopes but the blessed
truth held out in the text. The work of saving men is God's own work. The cause
of religion is God's own cause. I know that not another soul will ever be
converted in this congregation unless it be accomplished by the power of God.
After human efforts have spent themselves to no purpose, this one consolation is
left: the work of saving these poor perishing souls who are going down to
destruction from our land by millions, the work of preserving religion in this
congregation, is taken into God's own hands. There we leave it; easing our
bosoms with a long sigh, there we leave it.

Come hither ye pious parents, who anxiously look on the children of your love,
whom you have brought into a state of depravity and condemnation, but whom you
know that you cannot restore: come, bring them and leave them here. After all
your tender concern what will become of them after death, after all your prayers
and tears and discouragement? Bring them in your arms and leave them here. You
and your whole families may here find repose. Will that darling child be saved?
You cannot tell. You exceedingly desire its salvation, but you know that you
cannot save it. Will that child be saved? your beating heart again inquires. The
decision of this question is reserved for infinite wisdom and love. You have
confidence in God that he will do right. You love him better than you do your
child. You put the work of saving your children over upon him and calmly resign
them into his hands. Do you not now feel a substantial peace in reflecting that
God has taken the whole work of saving men into his own hands? While your
children are clustering around you, and you are regarding them with a tender
tear, say, Christian parent, would you for a thousand worlds change this blessed

Come hither ye pious ministers, who seem to labor in vain and spend your
strength for naught, who often look around on the people of your charge and of
your heart, and know that you shall soon meet them at the bar of God, and yet
see most of them buried in the world and sin: come hither, after all your
distresses and discouragement, after your anxious days and restless nights;
come, for here a little light begins to dawn; it brightens, it breaks upon the
soul with glorious effulgence. The work of succeeding in your ministry and
saving the people committed to your care is taken into God's own hands. It is
his own work; it is his own cause: with him you may safely leave it.

Come hither ye pious and expanded souls who bear upon your hearts the general
interests of the Church, who have been long praying for the kingdom of Christ to
come: here you may settle and rest. The work of preserving and enlarging the
Church and consummating her glory is taken into God's own hands. He who set up
this object without consulting the wishes or opinions of men, who has placed his
heart upon it as his own favorite interest, as the chosen means of spreading his
glory before the inhabitants of all worlds, who for this purpose created and
redeemed, who preserves and governs the earth, he will take care of the Church,
and as sure as he is possessed of omnipotence, will bring to its aid sufficient
strength to advance it to perfection and glory.

Come hither ye doubting Christians, who are overwhelmed with fear for your own
safety, who tremble before your spiritual enemies, and often anticipate an
eternal train of evils: come and rest your anxieties on the covenant of God, the
only, the all sufficient ground of hope. God has taken into his own hands the
salvation of his people. "This shall be the covenant that I will make with the
house of Israel: I will put my law in their inward parts and write it in their
hearts, and will be their God, and they shall be my people; for I will forgive
their iniquity and I will remember their sin no more." When I contemplate this
promise, "I will put my law in their inward parts, and will be their God, and
they shall be my people," I am prepared to say, There lies enclosed the last
hope of an expiring world. I approach nearer to it; I gaze upon it; I hear it
say again, "I will be their God and they shall be my people;" my mind whispers
to itself, In that promise is embosomed the only hope on which my trembling soul
relies. It may be that God will look upon me. I fix my eyes on the heavens: Will
God be pleased to undertake for me? I read the text again: I put my life in my
hands and cast myself at his feet, pouring out this sum of all my hopes, "Lord,
if thou wilt thou canst make me clean." Here also is the only hope of unrenewed
sinners. Come hither ye mixed multitude of impenitent men, and contemplate the
only chance which remains for your salvation. Unless that God whom you have made
your enemy by wicked works undertakes for you, all heaven and earth cannot save
you. Unless that God whom you daily disobey, to whom you refuse to cry for
relief, unless he in mercy to your poor perishing souls begins and carries on
and completes your salvation, you are undone for eternity. Will you any longer
treat your only helper with so much neglect and abuse? Remember that you are in
his hands. One frown from him and you are plunged into eternal woe; one smile
from him and you live forever. O realize your condition. Hasten to cast
yourselves at his feet. "Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him
while he is near. Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his
thoughts; and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him, and
to our God, for he will abundantly pardon." Amen.


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