What Gospel Neglecters Cannot Escape
By Benjamin Keach (1640-1704)
"How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him" (Hebrews 2:3).
There is no possibility for such, or any one soul of them, to escape, that neglect the great salvation of the gospel.
First, I shall show you what it is they cannot escape.
Secondly, why they cannot escape
Thirdly, when or at what time they shall not escape.
Fourthly, show why the gospel has such fearful comminations and threatenings contained in it.
First, they shall not escape the curse of the law, (which all ungodly and unbelieving sinners live under); for no man is, nor can be delivered from the curse thereof, but only those who believe in Jesus Christ, and embrace the salvation of the gospel: "For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness, to every one that believeth" (Romans 10:4); to them that believe, and to every one of them, but not to those that believe not. Christ has born the curse of the law, He by His actual obedience fulfilled the righteousness thereof, and by bearing the penalty of it (which our sins incurred) by His death, He has delivered all that believe from the curse thereof: but the curse of it remains on all them who receive not Jesus Christ, it has its full blow and stroke on all gospel neglecters, because it is by Him and no other ways we can be delivered from the curse thereof.
2. Therefore it follows in the second place, that they cannot be delivered from the guilt and punishment of their sins, their sins lie upon them, they are charged upon all that neglect or refuse the salvation wrought out by Jesus Christ: It is the decree of the eternal God that all such that believe not shall bear their own sins, because they reject Jesus Christ who has born the punishment that was due to sin. Some concede that they need not His salvation, need not the righteousness of Christ, or faith in Christ, and this through ignorance, concluding their state is good. "Jesus said unto them. If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say. We see; therefore your sin remaineth" (John 9:41). They thought their own righteousness was sufficient, and were ignorant of God's righteousness, and hence the guilt of their sin remaineth upon them.
3. All those that neglect this so great salvation, shall not escape the wrath of God: This follows as the natural consequence of the former; Divine Wrath pursues them, and every soul of them that believe not, but refuse the grace of God offered by Jesus Christ in the gospel, like as the avenger of blood pursued the man-slayer under the law: The cities of refuge were a type of Christ; 'till to Him all guilty sinners must fly, if they escape the wrath and vengeance of God; Divine Justice is only satisfied in Christ; and sinners for not accepting and receiving by faith that atonement, and pleading that satisfaction He has made, wrath follows them even at their heels, and will strike them down . . . he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him" (John 3:36). Wrath is upon all naturally, we are all by nature the children of wrath, but it remains no longer upon them that believe, but it abides on such that believe not.
4. They shall not escape the damnation of Hell, or everlasting burning: Our Savior (speaking to the Scribes and Pharisees) said, . . . how can ye escape the damnation of hell" (Matthew 23:33). Yet they were a people that appeared outwardly righteous to men, and boasted that ". . . I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers" (Luke 18:11), or such as Publicans were. But alas, no righteousness will carry a man to Heaven, but a perfect, complete, sinless, righteousness. Paul was not a hypocrite, as some of the Pharisees were, before he believed; yet his righteousness, tho according to the letter of the law, was such, that few attained unto; ". . . touching the righteousness which is in the law" says he, "blameless" (Philippians 3:6); yet he esteemed it but dung in comparison of God's righteousness, and renounced it all in point of justification, that he might be found in Christ. And as it is Christ's righteousness that is our title for Heaven, so it is His death, His bearing the punishment of sin, that delivers us from eternal damnation in Hell. Hell is a fearful place, it is made deep and large, ". . . into the fire that never shall be quenched: Where their worm dieth not" (Mark 9:45-46) and that place is prepared for all unbelievers, for all who continue in their sins, and under the power of unbelief, and neglect this so great salvation, the damnation of which they cannot escape.
Secondly, I shall show you the reasons why such cannot, shall not escape God's eternal wrath, that neglect the salvation of the gospel.
1. It is because this is the way, yea, the only way which Infinite Wisdom has found out for the salvation of our souls: If there is but one way to cure a mortal disease that may seize upon a person, then if he neglect that one remedy, he must die. Sirs, as there is but one way to escape starving, and that is, to eat; so there is but one way to escape perishing, and that is by believing, or by feeding on Jesus Christ, or by eating of His flesh, and drinking of His blood. There are many ways to be damned, but there is but one way to be saved. "Verily, verily, I say unto you. Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you" (John 6:53). If you neglect this way of salvation, there is no other way whereby you can be saved; "Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved" (Acts 4:12).
2. Such that neglect this salvation, cannot, shall not escape the wrath of God, because it is just and equal that all such persons who fight and neglect this salvation, should be destroyed, and that forever. (1) By reason they neglect an offer of pardon and peace, contrived by the infinite wisdom of God, and it is the highest demonstration of admirable mercy and goodness; therefore there cannot be a higher indignity and contempt cast upon God's sovereign grace and favor. Many of those sinners that neglect this salvation, are so vile and ungrateful, as not to enquire what this grace means, nor on what terms this salvation may be had: And is not this in plainness to tell the Holy God, that they scorn His love and goodness, and despise the offers of peace and reconciliation by Jesus Christ, and fear not what He can do unto them; and so no less than a trampling the blood of Christ under their feet? Let men deal thus with their provoked rulers, or with an earthly prince, when guilty of high-treason, and see how unpitied they will die, yea, be drawn, hanged and quartered. What, guilty of the worse of treason, and have an offer of pardon, and slight or neglect the suing of it out? How equal and just a thing would it be that such should die? So it will be here, brethren, God will not be mocked: Sinners shall one day see what it is to neglect the salvation wrought out by Jesus Christ, I mean, the way and means of the application thereof; they will be forced to subscribe to the righteousness, justice and equity of their own damnation, in loving and cleaving to their lusts, and counting their earthly riches, pleasures and honors, better than Jesus Christ, and a part in this salvation. Remember it is the sinner's own salvation that he neglect, it is his own good, his own cure, his own relief, his own happiness: Can any perish more justly and deservedly, than such who refuse to be saved, who choose death rather than life, and darkness rather than light?
3. They cannot, shall not escape, because it is salvation in such a way, a way that cost so dear, even the blood of the Son of God: Should the King yield up His own Son as a sacrifice to answer the law for a cursed traitor, and yet he should despise and slight his goodness, how would that aggravate his guilt? O with what a price is this salvation procured, by what a sacrifice! What tears did Christ shed! O what drops of blood did He sweat! and what wrath did He bear! What a curse did He undergo, to save us from Hell and death! How can any think to escape that neglect the means of this salvation?
4. Because it is salvation on such easy terms as to us; had God offered sinners salvation on hard and difficult terms, their sin might not seem to be attended with such aggravations. Had God required a "thousand rams, or ten thousand rivers of oil" of every one that would be saved; or to sacrifice their sons and daughters, or "their firstborn, the fruit of their bodies for the sin of their souls," this would seem hard: but none of this God requires of us, it shall not be, must not be our son, our child, our firstborn, his Son, the "holy Child Jesus," his "First-born," that must die or be a sacrifice for our sins: it must be my Son, as if God should say; and all that I require of you, is to apply His blood, and to sacrifice your sins in love to Me.
5. That which the apostle builds the righteousness of God's proceeding against such that neglect this salvation upon, and shows the unavoidableness of their perishing from, is the greatness of the salvation itself. Shall God's justice be eclipsed, shall His honor be marred, His goodness be despised. His Law be violated, His holiness stained? it would be thus, should such be saved who neglect and slight this salvation: Therefore all such cannot escape His wrath.
6. The apostle further argues the impossibility of their escaping who neglect this great salvation, from that impossibility there was of their escaping who refused to hear Moses: "For if the word spoken by angels was steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompence of reward; How shall we escape. . . (Hebrews 2:2-3). It was a just reward they received for their sins and disobedience: And if so, how shall these escape? God will render a just retribution, a righteous and proportionable punishment, it will be far worse, or much greater; howbeit, it is against greater light, greater grace, and despising a Person of far greater honor and dignity: "He that despised Moses' law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God. . . .?" (Hebrews 10:28-29). Sirs, to love sin, to love this world, or any person or thing above Jesus Christ, is in effect to tread the Son of God under your feet, 'til such an undervaluing and vilifying of Him. God does, as it were, propound the case to us, He would have sinners themselves to be judges how just their condemnation will be if they neglect this salvation; and also the nature and quality, or degree of it; "Of how much sorer punishment suppose ye shall he be thought worthy?" God at the last day will so justly and righteously proceed against wicked men, that their reward shall be judged reasonable in their own judgment, and by their own conscience.
7. They shall not escape, because mercy and grace is sinned against, principally, by all that neglect this salvation: Mercy will, as you have heard, plead against them. And if Mercy be their enemy, if Goodness itself rise up against them, where will they find a friend to appear for them?
8. They shall not escape, because God has absolutely and unavoidably decreed the destruction and eternal damnation of all those that believe not, but neglect this salvation: His decree. His counsel, and purpose shall stand; "He that believeth not, shall be damned" (Mark 16:16).
9. It is because the sinner is not able to deliver himself out of God's hand: If he escape, it must be from one of these two considerations.
1. That either God must change His purpose. His absolute decree and counsel.
2. Or else the sinner must get out of God's hand, and so deliver himself.
Now it is impossible God's mind should change, or His absolute decree be made void; His decree shall stand, and He will do all His pleasure: God will be true, and not make Himself a liar to save the guilty sinner. And that it is impossible for the sinner to get out of God's hands, is evident, because God is omnipotency itself: whither can he fly from his presence? "Who can stand before (or escape) his indignation?" Therefore there is no way for such to escape God's wrath, who neglect this salvation.
1. O bless God for this salvation, and value it according to the nature, worth, and greatness of it.
2. Bewail all ungodly persons, who are found slighters and neglecters of it, and mourn over them. O how sad is their condition! Maybe you have some in your families that are neglecters of it, maybe a wife, a husband, or children, that do not regard it, but are ungodly, and neglect the means of grace; how should what you have heard move you to pity them, to weep over them, to pray for them, and strive with them.
3. Examine yourselves, whether you have not, or do not neglect this salvation? Do you make it your chief business to get an interest in Christ? Do you prefer the means of salvation above all things in the world? What time do you take to seek God, to pray to Him, to hear His Word? And with what zeal, love, faith and diligence do you do all these things? Do you not defer soul-concernments to another time? O see to it, and examine yourselves; Do you not rest upon something or another short of Christ? Does the power of grace appear in your hearts and lives?
4. This may teach believers to bear up under all trials and fears: Let what will come, they are safe who have an interest in this great salvation; other salvations are nothing to this, and if we should not be saved from the wrath of man, but must lose our liberty, and be exposed to death and dangers here in this world, yet it will go well with us if this salvation is ours. Let what judgments can come upon the land, thou hast got a sure sanctuary, God is thy help and thy salvation. Brethren, there are many sad effects that do attend those that neglect, continually neglect this salvation, while they are in this world, as manifestations of God's displeasure,
1. God gives such up at last to blindness of mind, so that "they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand. And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith. By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive" (Matthew 13:13-14). The Word of God, if neglected, and not received, that it may become a savour of life unto life, will become a savour of death unto death, it either softens or hardens men's hearts.
2. God gives them up to their own hearts' lusts, as God by the Psalmist says, "But my people would not hearken to my voice; and Israel would none of me. So I gave them up unto their own hearts' lust and they walked in their own counsels" (Psalms 81:11-12).
3. Nay sometimes God takes away the gospel from them, as he did from the Jews that rejected Christ, refused the chief cornerstone: "Therefore say I unto you. The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof" (Matthew 21:43). What can be a worse judgment? this befell that people, and it hast not been restored to them ever since. When God removes the gospel, it may be long before He lets a people have it again, nay perhaps never.
4. Moreover, for neglecting the great salvation, God sometimes brings upon a people or nation fearful temporal judgments, and puts them, it may be, into the hands of cruel enemies: For thus He dealt with the unbelieving Jews, He brought the Romans in upon them, that burned their city and temple; so that it is said, "Wrath came upon them to the uttermost."
5. God sometimes will not save persons with temporal salvation, because they neglect spiritual salvation, so that they may read their sin (if the Lord opens their eyes) in their punishment. But it is not God's usual way under this dispensation, to inflict temporal punishment on such that neglect the salvation of the gospel, but He reserves His wrath to another world; and therefore let none think, though they escape His judgments here, that they shall escape His judgments and wrath hereafter; that they shall not be able to do, as you heard. But no more at this time.
[From Milburn Cockrell, editor, The Berea Baptist Banner, March 15, 1986, pp. 1, 6-8. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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