Near Christmas 1857, John A. Broadus received a letter from a man inquiring about the nature of Christian salvation. Due to his travel schedule and bouts of ill health, Broadus was unable to respond to the letter until Jan. 26, 1858. His response was a thorough, heartfelt description of the biblical plan of salvation in Jesus Christ, addressing the relation of justification to sanctification, with an emphasis upon divine justice and the mortification of sin. This letter resides with the John A. Broadus Papers, housed in the Boyce Centennial Library’s Archives and Special Collections. A large portion is transcribed below, and complete scans can be downloaded at: http://digital.library.sbts.edu/handle/10392/5140.

Be decided, resolved, you desire to be a Christian. Gather up all the energies of your soul, ask God to help you, and deliberately, resolutely determine that by his grace a Christian you will be, that whether you have any “sense of being forgiven” or not, you will always continue to seek the Lord, perseveringly to pray for mercy. … But then do not suppose that conversion can of necessity only come as the result of a long series of devotional exercises. Reading the scriptures and prayer are inestimably useful, but they are means to an end. Why not bring the matter to a point at once? What does the Gospel teach you and offer you? Briefly this: you are a sinner, you know it is true, and it is a part of your sinfulness and an aggravation of your guilt, that the consciousness of having grievously sinned against God does not impress you more deeply, does not overwhelm you with sorrow. … As such you are condemned, not an accused person awaiting trial, but already condemned, awaiting punishment, you deserve to perish, and the wrath of God abideth on you. You must perish, for God’s holiness requires it. …

How can one condemned and depraved be taken into the favor of God, and dealt with as his dear child? Infinite wisdom and infinite love have devised and executed a plan by which this may be accomplished. We cannot expect fully to comprehend this plan in all its aspects and relations, for it has infinite elements, which of necessity transcend our powers. But we can see something of its beneficial working. The atoning death of our Saviour exhibits God’s displeasure against transgression—as forcibly as our eternal destruction could do, and at the same time exhibits his compassion toward the transgressor. It condemns sin, and at the same proposes to save the sinner. It makes it just, that God should justify the sinner, who seeks it on this ground. …

How would God deal with you, if you were a just, a holy being? He would take you to his bosom, would smile upon you as his dear child—would guide you through life—and then receive you to the better life of heaven. Now all this he offers to do for you, though not holy, for Jesus’ sake, to deal with you as lf you were just, though you are not. But is that right? It is the very object of Christ’s atoning death to make it right (Romans 3:26). And whether we can fully understand it or not, God’s word declares that thus it is right, and that while he does not propose to heal guilty men, universally, as if they were just, he does offer thus to deal with all those who believe in Jesus, who ask to be justified on the ground of what Jesus has done and suffered for us, confessing that they deserve to perish, but asking that they may be treated as if just, on this ground alone. Now this justification is offered as immediate and complete. Asking it for Jesus’ sake, we are accepted into God’s favour and made heirs of everlasting life. … The dying love of our Saviour furnishes the mightiest of all motives to a holy life, that we might please him, who pleased not himself, that we might live for him, who died for us. Now then confessing your guilt, and determining by God’s gracious help to forsake your evil ways … cast yourself just as you are upon the merits of the Saviour. Ask that for his sake God would justify you, that he would mercifully take you now to be his child, and graciously help you to live, always hereafter, and more, and more continually as his child ought to live. Ask him that he would, according to the offer of his word, accept you as “his son, his servant bought with blood.” … May I, a guilty, helpless sinner, be allowed to hope that on this ground I shall be saved? May not you? Can God’s promise be relied on? Read again my dear Sir, what I have written and try now at once, just as you are, to commit yourself to Christ for life and forever. And the Lord help you to live with a strong and ever growing confidence in Him as your Lord and Righteousness, your Saviour, and your all.