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
Justification. The Pardon of Sin by Christ's Blood.
To holy angels innocence is a sweet word. But to humble,
penitent sinners, forgiveness is music and life. In itself the former
is better than the latter, as uninterrupted health is better than recovery
from sickness; and unbroken friendship better than quarrels followed by
reconciliations. Yet such is the wisdom of God in man's salvation that
forgiveness has a sweetness and will be followed by glories, which never
belonged to innocence. By the incarnation of Christ, human nature is married
to the divine, and is thus exalted to a seat on the throne of the universe.
And as Christ has shown by three parables that it is common to men to
rejoice more over one thing lost and recovered, than over ninety-nine things
never lost—so we may forever rejoice unspeakably more over a lost
paradise regained, than we would have done over a paradise never lost.
Surely the sweetest songs ever warbled, the most thrilling anthems ever
sung, the loudest Alleluias ever thundered—relate to redemption and
forgiveness, to salvation and the Lamb—the Lamb, the loving Lamb, The Lamb
who died on Calvary. Should such, however, be the result, it will not be
because sin is not in its own nature ineffably mischievous and malignant;
but solely because Jehovah is infinite in skill and love, bringing light out
of darkness; joy out of sorrow; good out of evil. Marvelous is his
loving-kindness. Plenteous is he in mercy. God alone is great.
Many words in Scripture point towards forgiveness, such
as—grace, mercy, peace with God, not imputing iniquity, taking away sin,
bearing sin, making an end of transgression, covering sin, forgetting sin,
not remembering iniquity, washing, cleansing and removing sin, casting it
into the sea, or behind the back, scattering it like a cloud, burying it,
blotting it out, pardoning it. When the scape-goat bore away the sins laid
upon him to an uninhabited land, he only did in a figure and type, what
Jesus does in fulfillment of this and many other types. In the Old Testament
the word often rendered atonement is literally "covering," or covering up.
As we bury our dead out of our sight, so God buries the sins of believers
out of his sight. In old times accounts were often kept on tables of wax,
and when a debt was paid or forgiven, the account was blotted out by rubbing
a smooth surface over it. So God cancels our debts, blots out the
handwriting that was against us, not because we have paid what we owed or
any part of it, but because he pities us and is rich in mercy towards us.
When a master does not wish to notice the errors of a servant, he turns his
head another way. So God hides his face from our sins, and refuses to
"behold iniquity in Jacob," or to "see perverseness in Israel." Num. 23:21.
Yes God hides our sins themselves, not from his
omniscience, for that is impossible, but from his punitive justice. "In
those days, and in that time, says the Lord, the iniquity of Israel shall be
sought for, and there shall be none; and the sins of Judah, and they shall
not be found: for I will pardon them whom I reserve." Jer. 1:20. As a man
ceases to brood over an offence, which he has forgiven, and does not wish to
cherish a remembrance of it, so says God: "Their sins and iniquities will I
remember no more." Heb. 10:17. And as a thing which might do a child harm,
is put far from it, so God's people sing: "As far as the east is from the
west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us." Psalm 103:12. The
Scripture fully informs us that our hope of pardon is in God alone. "To the
Lord our God belong mercies and forgivenesses, though we have rebelled
against him." Dan. 9:9. It no less distinctly lets us know that in pardoning
us, God is self-moved to so gracious an act: "I, even I, am he who blots out
your transgressions for my own sake, and will not remember your sins."
The forgiveness of sins is free. It is "without
money and without price." We can do nothing to merit it, or prepare
ourselves for it. To deserve forgiveness is a solecism in language,
an absurdity in law, a heresy in doctrine, and an impossibility in practice.
When God pardons, he pardons all sins, original sin and actual sin, sins of
omission and of commission, secret and open sins, sins of thought, word and
deed. One unpardoned sin would destroy a soul forever. A single
transgression can rouse an enlightened conscience to the wildest fury. And
"every sin deserves the wrath and curse of God both in this life, and in
that which is to come." Yet to those who believe in Jesus, all is freely
forgiven. Full pardon, or none at all, is what God designs to give. This
suits human necessities.
Nor is this gift ever revoked by God. When he forgives,
he forgives forever. He, who is once pardoned, never again comes under the
curse of the law. Upon new provocations, men sometimes revive old
controversies. Not so God. Sin once pardoned by him is done with forever. He
has cast it behind his back and will not return to search for it.
Forgiveness of sins that are past is a sure pledge that future sins shall
not have a condemning power. God forgives no sin until it is committed, but
he executes his unchanging purposes of love to his people and judicially
forgives their sins as soon as committed. 2 Sam. 12:13. This does not screen
them from fatherly chastisement for their good and his glory; but they never
come into penal condemnation.
At no time are believers under the law as a covenant of
works, but they are always under grace. Christ is set upon the hill of Zion
to grant repentance and remission of sins. The moving cause of forgiveness
is his boundless love; but the procuring cause is his own most precious
blood. "Without shedding of blood is no remission." "By his own blood he
entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for
us." "The blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself
without spot to God, shall purge your conscience from dead works to serve
the living God." We have "boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of
Jesus, by a new and living way, which he has consecrated for us, through the
veil, that is to say, his flesh." Heb. 9:12, 14, 22, and 10:19, 20. "As for
you also, by the blood of your covenant I have sent forth your prisoners out
of the pit wherein is no water." Zech. 9:11. "This is my blood of the New
Testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins." Matt. 26:28.
"Being justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him."
Romans 5:9. "In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness
of sins, according to the riches of his grace." "In Christ Jesus, you, who
sometime were far off, are made near by the. blood of Christ." Eph. 1:7, and
2:13. He has "made peace through the blood of his cross." Col. 1:20. "The
blood of Christ his Son cleanses us from all sin." 1 John 1:7.
So that nothing but extreme ignorance or extraordinary
wickedness can induce a poor sinner to venture near to God except through
the blood of Christ. By his stripes we are healed. By his chastisement is
our peace. By his sorrows come our joys. By his death is our life. As our
Surety, he pays all our debt. As the lamb of God he takes away the sins of
the world. By his expiation we go free. No man is truly blessed until he has
this blessing—the pardon of sin. It is the pledge and forerunner of all
others. It is a fountain of life. It takes away the sting of death.
Augustine says: "All my hope is in the death of my Lord. His death is my
merit, my refuge, my salvation, my life and my resurrection. The mercy of
the Lord is my merit; I am not without merit, so long as the Lord of mercies
is not lacking. And if the mercies of the Lord be many, I abound in merits."
Again, "the certainty of our whole confidence consists in the blood of
Christ." The blood of sprinkling speaks better things than the blood of
Abel. That called for vengeance, this for peace.
How highly the people of God prize this blessing of
forgiveness may be learned from their history in all ages: "Blessed is he
whose transgression is forgiven, and whose sin is covered. Blessed is the
man to whom the Lord imputes not iniquity." Psalm 32:1, 2. In enumerating
the benefits he had received, David puts this first. "Bless the Lord, O my
soul, and forget not all his benefits: who forgives all your iniquities."
Psalm 103:2, 3. So the Church of God has always held. The Confession of
France says: "We affirm, that Jesus Christ is our perfect and entire
washing; in whose death we obtain full satisfaction; whereby we are
delivered from all those sins, whereof we are guilty, and from which we
could not be acquitted by any other remedy." That of England says: "Our only
support and refuge is to fly to the mercy of our Father by Jesus Christ, and
assuredly to persuade our minds, that he is the obtainer of forgiveness for
our sins; and that, by his blood, all our spots of sin be washed clean; that
he has pacified, and set at one, all things by the blood of his cross." That
of Scotland: "We confess and avow, that there remains no other sacrifice for
sin." That of Belgia: "We account all things as dung, in respect of the
excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus our Lord, finding, in his wounds
and stripes, all manner of comfort that can be desired. Therefore, there is
no need, that either we should wish for any other means, or devise any of
our own brains, whereby we might be reconciled unto God, besides this one
oblation once offered, by which all the faithful, who are sanctified, are
consecrated, or perfected forever." That of Augsburg teaches that Christ,
"who was born of the virgin Mary, did truly suffer, was crucified, dead and
buried, that he might reconcile his Father unto us, and might be a
sacrifice, not only for the original sin, but also for all actual sins, of
It is worthy of special notice that the nearness of death
makes the pardon of sin and the blood of Christ very precious to the souls
of godly men. Dr. Cornelius on his death-bed said: "The impression has been
on my mind for these last three days, that this is my final sickness; and I
bless God that I can look forward to the change before me with composure and
hope. I feel that I am a poor sinner; I need to be washed from head to foot
in the blood of atonement. I hope to be saved through the blood of Christ.
Within the last year and especially of late, the Lord Jesus Christ has been
becoming more and more precious to my soul. I feel that I can commit my
immortal all to him—and here I wish to bear my dying testimony that I go to
the judgment, relying on nothing but the blood of Christ. Without that I
should have no hope."