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



Tell me what you think of sin, and I will tell you what you think of God, of Christ, of the Spirit, of the divine law, of the blessed Gospel, and of all necessary truth. He, who looks upon sin merely as a fiction, as a misfortune, or as a trifle, sees no necessity either for deep repentance or a great atonement. He, who sees no sin in himself, will feel no need of a Savior. He, who is conscious of no evil at work in his heart, will desire no change of nature. He, who regards sin as a slight affair, will think a few tears, or an outward reformation ample satisfaction. The truth is, no man ever thought himself a greater sinner before God, than he really was. Nor was any man ever more distressed at his sins, than he had just cause to be. He, who never felt it to be "an evil and a bitter thing to depart from God," is to this hour an enemy of his Maker, a rebel against his rightful and righteous Sovereign. When God speaks of the evil of sin it is in such language as this: "Be astonished, O you heavens, at this, and be horribly afraid; be you very desolate, says the Lord. For my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns, broken cisterns, which can hold no water." Jer. 2:12, 13.

God is a God of truth, and would never speak thus about anything that was not atrocious and enormous in its very nature. Yet it should be observed that he mentions only such sins as are chargeable to all men, even the most moral and decent. In this estimate of the evil of sin, the righteous do well agree with God. The most piteous and bitter cries, which ever ascended from earth to heaven, were uttered under the sting of sin, or were for deliverance from its power. In doctrine there can be no worse tendency than that which diminishes men's abhorrence of iniquity. Nor is there a darker sign in religious experience than the slightness of the impressions some have concerning the heinous nature of all sin. Sin is worse than poverty, sickness, reproach. Sin is worse than all sufferings. The reason is because it is "exceeding sinful." The worst thing that can be said of any thought, word, or deed is that it is wicked. It may be foolish, but if it is sinful, that is infinitely worse. It may be vulgar, and as such should be avoided; but if it is sinful, it should be avoided, were it ever so polite. An act may offend man, and yet be very praiseworthy; but if it displeases God, nothing can excuse its commission.

Some have proposed curious and unprofitable questions respecting the infinitude of the evil of sin. An answer to them would probably give rise to a host of others like them, and so there would be no end of folly. Besides, men do not propose or discuss idle questions, when they are anxious to know how they may be saved from sin. Then they cry: "Men and brethren, what must we do? Is there mercy, is there help, is there hope for such perishing sinners as we are? if so, where can we find salvation?" Questions which are merely curious and not practical in religion--are unworthy of study and consideration. Yet it may be proper to say that anything is to us infinite, the dimensions of which we cannot gauge, the greatness of which we cannot understand. In this sense sin is an infinite evil. We cannot set bounds to it. We cannot say, Thus far it comes and no further. "Sin, when it is finished, brings forth death." And who but God can tell all that is included in that fearful word, death?

Moreover, sin is committed against an infinite God. The ill-desert of any evil deed is to be determined in part by the dignity of the person, against whom it is directed. To strike a brother is wrong; to strike a parent is worse. To strike a fellow-soldier is punishable with chains; to strike a commanding officer is punishable with death. On this principle the Bible reasons: "If any man sins against another, the judge shall judge him; but if a man sins against the Lord, who shall entreat for him?" 1 Sam. 2:25. God is our Maker, Father, Governor, and Judge. He is glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders. He is the best of all friends, the greatest of all beings, the most bountiful of all benefactors. By ties stronger than death and more lasting than the sun, we are bound to love, fear, honor and obey him. To sin against him is so impudent, ungrateful and wicked, that no created mind can ever adequately estimate its atrocity; and so it is an infinite evil. If sin had its own way, it would dethrone the Almighty. All rebellion tends to the utter subversion of the government against which it is committed; and all sin is rebellion against the government of God.

If men saw their sins aright, they would more highly prize divine mercy; and if they had more worthy conceptions of God's grace, they would have more abasing views of themselves.

We may learn much of the evil nature of sin by the names which the Bible gives to it, and to those who practice it. It is called disobedience, transgression, iniquity, foolishness, madness, rebellion, evil, evil fruit, uncleanness, filthiness, pollution, perverseness, frowardness, stubbornness, revolt, an abomination, an accursed thing. In like manner deeds of wickedness are called evil works, works of darkness, dead works, works of the flesh, works of the devil. And wicked men are called sinners, unjust, unholy, unrighteous, filthy, evil men, evil doers, seducers, despisers, children of darkness, children of the devil, children of hell, corrupters, idolaters, enemies of God, enemies of all righteousness, adversaries of God and man, liars, deceivers.

From low, meager apprehensions of the divine nature and law, flow a slight estimate of the evil of sin, spiritual pride, self-conceit, and a disesteem of the most precious righteousness of Jesus Christ. He, who can go to Gethsemane and Calvary, and come away with slight views of the evil nature of sin--must be blind indeed! There God speaks in accents not to be misunderstood but by the willful. Yet such is the perverseness of men that they often refuse to learn even at the cross of Christ. Beveridge says: "Man's understanding is so darkened that he can see nothing of God in God, nothing of holiness in holiness, nothing of good in good, nothing of evil in evil, nor anything of sinfulness in sin. Nay, it is so darkened that he fancies himself to see good in evil, and evil in good, happiness in sin, and misery in holiness."

We all naturally belong to the generation of "the blind people who have eyes, and the deaf who have ears." In coincidence with these general views Brooks says: "No sin can be little, because there is no little God to sin against." Bunyan near death said: "No sin against God can be little; because it is against the great God of heaven and earth; but if the sinner can find out a little God, it may be easy to find out little sins." John Owen says: "He who has slight thoughts of sin, never had great thoughts of God." Luther said: "From the error of not knowing or understanding what sin is, there necessarily arises another error, that people cannot know or understand what grace is." The Westminster Assembly says: "Every sin, even the least, being against the sovereignty, goodness, and holiness of God, and against his righteous law--deserves his wrath and curse, both in this life, and that which is to come; and cannot be expiated but by the blood of Christ." Paul says: "The wages of sin is death." Chrysostom says: "There is in human affairs nothing that is truly dreadful, but sin. In all things else, in poverty, in sickness, in disgrace, and in death, (which is held to be the greatest of all evils) there is nothing that is really dreadful. With the wise man they are all empty names. But to offend God, to do what he disapproves, this is real evil."

Truly every wise man will say that he has cause to cry--"Show me my sin, and my lost condition. Show me your love, and your mercy. Show me the extent, the holiness, the spirituality of your commandments. Reveal your Son in me. Let him be the cure of sin, both of its horrible pollution and its horrible guilt."