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
It is by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ that the work
of purifying our natures is carried on to completion. "Without holiness no
man shall see the Lord." Only "the pure in heart shall see God." Holiness in
man, is conformity to God. The beginning of sanctification, is regeneration.
The measure of sanctification, is the word of God. The author of
sanctification, is the Spirit of God. The source of sanctification, is the
mediation of Christ. The necessity of sanctification, is laid in God's
spotless holiness and in man's wicked enmity and utter helplessness. The end
of sanctification, is eternal life.
"Be holy, for I am holy" never proceeded from a false
God. Indeed the heathen never used a word, which to their minds signified
what we mean by sanctification. Their holiness was outward, official,
ceremonial. Gospel holiness is inward, personal, spiritual—of the heart. It
is true of all men that "out of the heart are the issues of life." As is the
heart—so is the word, or the deed. As is the motive—so is the man. Men
cannot bring themselves to be thankful for an act, however advantageous to
them, if they know it was not so designed. But they often feel grateful for
kind intentions, which resulted in no good to them. God and holy men often
take the desire, for the deed; but God never takes the deed for the desire,
and man never does it but through ignorance. Jehovah makes one demand on old
and young, prince and peasant, saint and sinner—and that is for holiness of
heart. Nor will he relax this demand to save a soul from hell. To abate
anything of his requirements would be to deny himself. He always has said
and ever must say, "My son, give me your heart!"
So reasonable a command ought promptly to be obeyed. The
Westminster Assembly give this definition: "Sanctification is a work of
God's grace, whereby those whom God has, before the foundation of the world,
chosen to be holy, are, in time, through the powerful operation of his
Spirit, applying the death and resurrection of Christ unto them—renewed in
the whole man after the image of God; having the seeds of repentance unto
life, and all other saving graces, put into their hearts, and those graces
so stirred up, increased and strengthened, as that they more and more die
unto sin, and rise unto newness of life."
The great difference between the two houses which Solomon
built was, that he himself dwelt in one, and God in the other. The great
difference between a saint and a sinner is, that God inhabits the former,
and Satan the latter. To Christians Paul says: "You are the temple of the
living God; as God has said, I will dwell in them and walk in them, and I
will be their God, and they shall be my people." Again, "His Spirit dwells
in you." It is indeed astonishing that the tabernacle of God should be "with
men," but it is still more marvelous that it should be in men. O
the condescending greatness of Jehovah!
The Holy Spirit is greatly honored in all the
Scriptures. There he is called the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Jehovah, the
Spirit of Christ, the Spirit of adoption, the Spirit of wisdom, the Spirit
of understanding, the Spirit of counsel, the Spirit of might, the Spirit of
knowledge, the Spirit of the fear of the Lord, the Spirit of grace, the
Spirit of supplication, the Spirit of glory, the Spirit of judgment, the
Spirit of promise, the Spirit of prophecy, the Spirit of truth, the Spirit
of holiness, the Holy Spirit, the Comforter. He purifies the heart. He stirs
us up to fervent prayer. He makes us to hunger and thirst after the
knowledge and likeness of God. He abides with the Church forever. He, whose
heart is thus inhabited, shall indeed be prepared "unto glory."
The influence of the Holy Spirit is necessary to help us
on continually. An occasional impulse is not enough. "The ship in full sail
keeps on her way; but if the wind—the propelling power is not renewed, she
moves slowly, then stops, and then is drifted backward by the tide." The
soul needs help from above all the day long. And how delightful it is to
find inspired men teaching this doctrine, not in a cold logic, nor in angry
disputations, but with raptures of delight. Hear Paul; "We are bound to give
thanks always to God for you, brethren, beloved of the Lord, because God has
from the beginning chosen you to salvation, through sanctification of the
Spirit and belief of the truth." And Peter addresses the people of God as
"elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through
sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of
Jesus." So that our fellowship is with the Father and the Son by the Spirit.
"It is not the sages, but the saints who are the
excellent of the earth." They are "called with a holy calling." The Holy
Spirit thoroughly cleanses their natures. The Confession of Scotland thus
sums up the leading truths respecting the Spirit of God: "Faith, and the
assurance of the same, proceed not from flesh and blood; that is to say,
from no natural powers within us; but is the inspiration of the Holy Spirit;
Matt. 16:17; John 14:26; 15:26; and 16:13; who sanctifies us, and brings us
into all truth by his own operation; without whom we would remain forever
enemies to God, and ignorant of his Son Christ Jesus. For by nature we are
so dead, so blind, and so perverse—that neither can we feel when we are
pricked, nor see the light when it shines, nor assent to the will of God
when it is revealed—unless the Spirit of the Lord quickens that which is
dead, removes the darkness from our minds, and bows our stubborn hearts to
the obedience of his blessed will. And so, as we confess that God the Father
created us, when we were not, Psalm 100:3; as his Son our Lord Jesus
redeemed us, when we were enemies to him, Romans 5:10; so also do we
confess, that the Holy Spirit sanctifies and regenerates us, without all
respect of any merit, proceeding from us—whether before or after our
regeneration. Romans 5:8. To speak this one thing yet in more plain words:
as we willingly strip ourselves of all honor and glory of our own creation
and redemption, so do we also of our regeneration and sanctification; for of
ourselves we are not sufficient to think one good thought; 2 Cor. 3:5; but
he, who has begun the work in us is only he who continues in us the same,
(Phil. 1:6,) to the praise and glory of his undeserved grace." Eph. 1:6.
The question is sometimes asked,
What is the difference between regeneration and sanctification?
The answer is that they are not different in their author—who is the
Holy Spirit; nor in the means used—which is God's truth; nor in the
fruit produced—which is conformity to God. They differ only as the
completion of a work differs from its commencement. Regeneration is the
beginning of sanctification. Sanctification is the carrying out of
regeneration to its end. Regeneration is an act of God's Spirit.
Sanctification is a work of God's Spirit, consequent upon that act.
Regeneration is the tender blade. Sanctification is its growth until it is
the full-ripe corn. In regeneration we become "new-born babes;" in
sanctification we attain the stature of full-grown men in Christ Jesus.
Although sanctification is not perfected in this life, yet it is completed
at the death of all the saints.
Another question of great importance is,
What is the difference between justification and
sanctification? The answer is that they do not differ in their
importance. Both are essential to salvation. Without either we must
perish. Indeed God has inseparably joined them together. Christ Jesus is
always made sanctification to those, to whom he is made righteousness. Nor
do they differ in their source, which is the fiee grace and infinite
love of God. We are justified by faith, and our hearts are purified
by faith. Faith is the instrument of justification. Faith is the root of
sanctification. In justification sin is pardoned, in sanctification it is
slain. In justification we obtain forgiveness and acceptance; in
sanctification we attain the victory over corruption, and obtain rectitude
of nature. Justification is an act of God complete at once and forever.
Sanctification is a work of God begun in regeneration, conducted through
life and completed at death. Justification is equal and perfect in all
Christians; sanctification is not equal in all, nor perfect in any—until
they lay aside the flesh. In justification God imputes to us the
righteousness of Christ; in sanctification he infuses grace, and enables us
to exercise it. Justification always precedes sanctification. Sanctification
always comes after justification.
A late writer says, "Justification and sanctification
1st. in their causes. Justification comes by the righteousness of
Christ; sanctification by the agency of the Holy Spirit.
2nd. In their effects. The effect of justification consists in our
external restoration to the favor of God, and the bestowment on us of a
covenant title to eternal life; that of sanctification, in the removal of
our inbred corruption, and the renewal of the divine image in the soul.
3rd. In their locality. Justification is an act of God, done amid the
solemnities of his court in Heaven; sanctification is a work of the Holy
Spirit, wrought on the dispositions of our inner man on earth.
4th. In time and degree. Justification lies at the beginning of the
Christian life, and, except in its consequences, does not extend beyond it,
but is instantaneous and complete upon our first exercise of saving faith.
Sanctification begins where justification ends, runs throughout the
Christian life, and is partial and progressive, from measure to measure,
until it reaches its perfection in glory. In short, justification is God's
act for us, through the righteousness of his Son; sanctification is
his work in us, by the power of his Spirit. Justification is our
title to Heaven. Sanctification is our education for Heaven. In
justification God acts alone; in sanctification he brings us to co-operate
with him. To thrust ourselves into the former would rob God of his glory; to
keep ourselves out of the latter would perpetuate our incapacity for bliss."
So long as churches preserve this distinction clear and
entire, its influence for good will be manifest. In some respects men may
widely differ on doctrinal points, but if right here, you will find them
rallying around the vital truths of Christianity in a manner very pleasing.
Justification is never specially referred to the Holy Spirit as its author,
but sanctification of the soul is often said to be through the Spirit.
Paul does not confound justification and sanctification,
nor put one for the other—as some have erroneously supposed, yet it is a
blessed truth that these gifts of God are never separated. Whoever has
one—has both. The prophet David in Psalm 32:1, 2, and the apostle Paul in
Romans 8:1, have both clearly taught us that the justified walk after the
Spirit. He who would separate things which God has thus joined together,
does wickedly; while to distinguish between them is an important duty and of
great influence for good.