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 DIFFER,
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.