Is Salvation Possible Without A Knowledge Of The Gospel? -- By: Lucius E. Smith

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 038:152 (Oct 1881)
Article: Is Salvation Possible Without A Knowledge Of The Gospel?
Author: Lucius E. Smith


Is Salvation Possible Without A Knowledge Of The Gospel?

Lucius E. Smith

Can men who are without the knowledge of the gospel, and are out of the reach of such knowledge, be saved?

To this question there is one answer in which evangelical believers, in this country at least, have been so nearly agreed that to many of them it has never been a question at all. They hold that as Christ is the only Saviour of lost men, and as the gospel promise of salvation is to such as believe, and to such only, those to whom Christ is not made known are beyond the reach of his redemption. This belief is to many the chief motive for the foreign missionary work. But there has never been absolute unanimity. Cowper wrote, nearly a hundred years ago, and the sentiment has doubtless found an echo in many hearts:

“Is virtue, then, unless of Christian growth,
Mere fallacy, or foolishness, or both?
Ten thousand sages lost in endless woe
For ignorance of what they could not know?
The speech betrays at once the bigot’s tongue.
Charge not a God with such outrageous wrong!
Truly, not 1:— The little light men have,
My creed persuades me, well employed, may save;
While he that scorns the noonday beam perverse,
Shall find the blessing unimproved, a curse,
Let heathen worthies, whose exalted mind
Left sensuality and dross behind,
Possess, for me, their undisputed lot,
And take unenvied the reward they sought;
But still in virtue of a Saviour’s plea,
Not blind by choice, but destined not to see.
Their fortitude and wisdom were a flame
Celestial, though they knew not whence they came,

Derived from the same source of light and grace
That guides the Christian in his swifter race;
Their judge was conscience, and her rule their law;
That rule pursued with reverence and with awe,
Led them, however faltering, faint, and slow,
From what they knew to what they wished to know.”

Of late years, judging by various intimations in the religious literature of England, both within and without the established church, belief in the salvation of the heathen, or at least doubt of their hopeless condemnation, has become considerably prevalent. But if any writer has attempted to lay the foundation for such belief in an interpretation of Scripture, his work has not come under our notice. Appeal is more commonly made to our conceptions of the divine equity and to our emotions of human compassion. We are, in effect, asked to believe that the heathen are not in danger of the wrath to come, because it is so painful to believe otherwise. But this is an untenable position for those to hold who profe...

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