The Grace of Christ, or,
Sinners Saved by Unmerited Kindness

William S. Plumer, 1853

"We believe it is through the grace of our
 Lord Jesus that we are saved." Acts 15:11


Is salvation by grace--or is it of debt? Did God owe it to man to provide for him a Savior? Do men deserve all the wrath revealed from heaven against ungodliness? Is the sentence of condemnation just? Cannot human merits avail something towards eternal happiness? Is man able to turn himself to God and subdue his own sins? Is the ruin of the soul by sin partial--or total? Are men very far gone from righteousness before divine grace renews them? When Christ came, what did he do and suffer for us? How does his mediation avail for the lost? Is there mercy for all who come to God through Jesus Christ? Are the provisions of the gospel suited to the needs of men? Is salvation necessary? Is it infinitely important? Is it possible?

These and many similar questions are continually undergoing discussion. In fact they are themes well worthy of the closest and most solemn inquiry. They are of paramount and universal interest. He, who seeks not the truth in these matters, must be found guilty of criminal recklessness. Whatever else may claim his attention--here are matters of still higher importance. These things pertain to the well-being of man and the honor of God. They lay hold of eternity. No man ever gave up his mind with too much candor, with undue love of truth, or with excessive earnestness to the investigation of the Scriptures--on themes of so vast moment.

It ought not to be denied that there are difficulties in the way of every inquirer. The prejudices of men are strong and their passions violent. These mightily hinder our reception of the truth. The world also is full of error. Men love darkness rather than light. The friends of sound doctrine are often both timid and unresisting. The propagators of false notions are lively and confident. It is easy to embrace error. To know the right way demands patience, inquiry, humility. The great things of God are not to be learned by those who restrain prayer. How few men are found crying, "Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law!"

Yet it is possible by the aid of God's word and Spirit to learn the truth on all these matters. Thousands have made that great attainment. They have lived long lives and died in the possession and profession of the truth as it is in Jesus. When God bids us search the Scriptures, he sends us not on a fool's errand, nor commands an impossible task. Indeed it is a part of God's plan concerning his people that "we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ." Ephesians 4:13-15

And so it has happened that from the first founding of the Church of God, those, who gave the best evidence of being taught of God, have remarkably agreed in the great truths of religion. The matters on which they have fully harmonized have been like the continents and larger islands of our globe; while those, on which they have doubted or differed, may be compared to the lesser islands of the sea, many of which are but barren rocks or beds of sand. This has been demonstrably true since the founding of the Christian Church. The abundant outpouring of the Holy Spirit was the first glorious event succeeding the ascension of Christ. The second was the calling of the Gentiles, and the opening of a wide and effectual door to their conversion. This was hailed with joy by the truly pious portion of the Jewish nation. When Peter gave them an account of the commencement of this work, "they glorified God, saying, Then has God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life." Acts 11:18. This is what we should naturally expect. If a man loves God, whom he has not seen, he is sure to love his brother, whom he has seen. He, who in his heart glorifies Christ, will desire that all men should do the same. A converted man, who had no joy at seeing sinners coming to Christ, would be a monster, such as has never yet appeared.

The bringing in of the Gentiles gave rise to questions, the settlement of which required the calling of a Synod, consisting of apostles, elders and brethren. The chief matter before the council respected the relation of the converts from paganism to the ceremonial law of Moses. But in his address Peter gave a summary of the faith of himself and ot his brethren. These are his words: "We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are." Acts 15:11. Concerning the method and Author of salvation, there was among them no disagreement. He therefore speaks for all, "We believe;" and he says there is but one scheme of mercy for Jew and Gentile. "We" and "they" relate to the Israelites and the pagans. Christ broke down the middle wall of partition between them, abolishing their old mutual enmity by his cross, and making them one in him. His church is not provincial or national, but catholic or universal. It is not confined to any one people, but was intended for the whole race, and embraces all true believers. Thus Simon Peter expressed the faith of the church of Christ nineteen years after our Lord's ascension to glory. Whatever reluctance some have had to publishing their creed, the apostles had none. Their great object was to let men know what and why they believed. There is no solid argument against the use of doctrinal formulas, long or short, if they are sound, scriptural, and well understood. They should express the truth in clear terms, and be honestly held before they are professed. "Prove all things; hold fast to that which is good." 1 Thess. 5:21. "Hold fast the form of sound words, which you have heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus." 2 Tim. 1:13.

The salvation of the gospel is common to all, who are "sanctified by God the Father, preserved, in Jesus Christ, and called." Jude 3. In this first Synod we have the Christian faith in epitome. From that age to the present, the true faith has often been obscured, marred and corrupted by many, yet it has always won the love and confidence of people and communities, just in proportion as they loved our Lord Jesus Christ, and abounded in the knowledge of his salvation. At times it has seemed as if all the world would soon be drunken with the sorcery of fatal error. But when the enemy has come in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord has lifted up a standard against him; and the cause of truth and righteousness has revived.

As the character of this work is not polemic but practical, the references to books and pages are entirely omitted in the margin. The form of the work is popular, not scientific. It is designed not for the few, but for the masses. The chief object aimed at is to lead men to the foot of the cross; to encourage them to make Christ all and in all; to seek no other way of mercy but by the Redeemer; to satisfy all, who revere God's word, of the perfect safety of a soul resting on the grace of Christ, and on that alone for all it needs for its complete deliverance from sin and misery; and so to comfort all who mourn for sin; give courage to the timid but real disciple of Christ; and ultimately to give all the glory to him, to whom it belongs. If men are saved by grace, it is because they need mercy; and if men are sinners they require a Savior.

The first subject therefore in this treatise is the extent of the needs of men. The second is the supply of those needs in the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. The remainder of the work is taken up in considering some things growing out of the preceding discussions. May He, to whom we owe all that is pleasant in our history, and all that is animating in our prospects, graciously own this book, and bless its pages to the enlightening, comforting, edifying and saving of many souls.