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


There is a great MYSTERY in sanctification. It is a mystery for the love it displays, for the power it manifests, for the method it employs, and for the work it accomplishes. "We all with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord." When Moses looked upon that bright effulgence in the mount, he gradually caught some of the same glory, so that his face shone. When we behold the image of the invisible God, as it is presented in the person and character of Christ, we too are made like it, not indeed by a mere natural effect, but "by the Spirit of the Lord."

Likeness to God—alone is holiness. Growth in this likeness—is growth in grace. It is all by Jesus Christ. It is true, that "the best of men are men at the best," and so are far from being perfect as their Father in heaven is perfect. "There is no man who sins not." Yes, "there is not a just man upon earth, that does good, and sins not." But the Christian man is not a willing captive of sin; whereas the unrenewed man rejoices in iniquity. The child of God is becoming more and more like God. The wicked wax worse and worse. The saint longs for God's salvation. The sinner sleeps not except he has done some mischief. The heart of a believer is the best part about him. If he could have things as he would, he would never sin any more. The life of an unconverted man is not nearly so bad as his heart. He is restrained in many ways from acting out the worst that is in him. The godly man blushes at a sinful thought. The unbeliever loves to have vain thoughts lodge within him. It is the business of a godly man's life to please God and strive after holiness. It is the business of a sinner's life to please himself and commit sin.

The work of purifying the heart shall be finished in due time, and all the righteous shall be satisfied—when they awake with the likeness of God fully drawn upon their souls. If we are called to be saints, we are not called to serve any but the Lord Christ. Holiness may be out of fashion here, but not in heaven. It is infinitely better to be "a peculiar people, zealous of good works," than "a people laden with iniquity."

When a prince was about to travel, he asked his tutor for some maxims, by which to govern his behavior, and received this: "Remember that you are the son of a king!" Let all Christians remember that they are the sons and daughters of the Lord Almighty, and "if sons, then heirs, heirs of God, and joint heirs with Jesus Christ." With what force and point the exhortation comes to such, "Be not conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind." Children of the Highest, never forget that "you cannot serve two masters." "Walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit." "Those who walk after the Spirit, mind the things of the Spirit." If you entertain any view of gospel grace, which encourages you to lead a sinful or even a careless life, you have grossly perverted the gospel. Gospel truth never generates licentiousness. Actual participation in Christ's righteousness, is always manifested by the possession of his image and temper. It is sad proof of a wicked heart when a professor of Christ's gospel attempts to live as near as possible to the line separating sin from holiness. Let him shun and abhor evil. Excess in many things is wrong—but no man fears or hates sin too much.

So far as we know—sin is the only thing which God hates. There are many filthy reptiles, unclean beasts and venomous serpents from which we instinctively turn away; yet God's tender mercies are over all of these. He opens his hand and supplies the needs of every living thing. To the end which he proposed in their creation, they are well adapted. But sin is in its own nature and tendency—only evil. God abhors it. It dishonors him, it grieves him, it vexes him. It is the only thing which dishonors and offends him. He is angry with the wicked every day.

When one of Christ's people sins, it is wounding our Savior "in the house of his friends." An alleged work of grace on the heart, which leaves the life wicked—is good for nothing! True holiness is not dormant, but active. It is not merely a negation of evil, but the positiveness of good. For a while, Joseph and Nicodemus may be timid, but when the great question is raised by the crucifixion, we find them open and bold disciples. The fruit of a holy nature is a holy life. Justin Martyr said: "God will admit none into his presence but such as can persuade him by their good works that they love him." If "God's husbandry" brings forth the same fruits and flowers and plants as grow in the wild mountains of error, how is it better than they? Surely, the fruit of the Spirit—"love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance," are very different and very distinguishable from the works of the flesh. In some measure these graces belong to all who are born from above, and grow with the increase of holiness in their hearts.

Nor is there on earth a more interesting sight, than a child of God warring with the flesh, resisting the devil, overcoming the world, working the works of God, fighting the good fight, and laying hold on eternal life. Such "shall do exploits," and at last sit down with Christ on his throne, as he also overcame, and has sat down with his Father on his throne. The great test of personal piety is personal holiness. It is better to have the evidence of a meek, forgiving temper, of a serious, devout spirit, of a tender, grateful heart, of a chaste, pious conversation, of a consistent, holy life, in favor of our acceptance with God, than it would be to have an angel bring down from heaven the book of life, and show us our names written therein. This might astound, it might for a while delight us; but then we would probably soon become presumptuous, or fall into doubts, under the impression that we had been deluded. But a life of holiness is not only in the general reliable, it is in fact infallible evidence that we are God's people. Nothing can set it aside. "For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age." Titus 2:11-12

Human character is like a web of cloth made up of a great number of small threads, any one of which is not very important or conspicuous, but all together make up the piece. He who thinks a fine border alone, will make his cloth salable or valuable, is deceived. "Patient continuance in well-doing" constitutes the true test of excellence. Public and great occasions may furnish opportunities for wonderful displays of what men can sometimes do; but they will commonly amount to little more than sad failures, unless the grace of God has been sufficient to enable a man to behave wisely in little things. When the world comes in with violence, will it not spoil all our pleasant things, unless there be one stronger still? Who can look without trembling—at a feeble creature, unguarded, unrestrained, unsupported by the grace of God, as the world makes its successive attacks upon him?

In the Bay of Fundy, where the tide rises to the height of from forty to sixty feet, and comes in with a tremendous roar, due warning is given. Yet notwithstanding every precaution, many vessels are lost. But when a tide of worldliness rolls in on the soul, its greatest swells are commonly noiseless, give no alarm, and seem to threaten nothing. Divine grace—not human power—must give us the victory over the world!

Sometimes our inbred corruptions seem to defy all our vigilance and power. Our foes within us are lively, many and subtle. Then there are principalities and powers, and spiritual wickednesses in high places. These are the terror and the torment of Christians in every age. Who can withstand them? Who shall cause us to triumph over them? None but God. He is mighty. He can make us conquerors and more than conquerors. In the words, "My grace is sufficient for you," is found the last hope of sinking human nature. Our Rock is Christ. There never was any other. Nothing is too hard for him. Whatever side he is on, is sure to conquer. By him holy men of old "subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens," etc.

What has not divine grace done? No deeds of fortitude or of heroism can compare with the achievements of the saints. Divine grace makes the feeble like David, and the house of David like the angel of God. It is stronger than passion, than the flesh, than the world, than fallen angels, than death and hell. Marvelous is the grace of God in all its displays and in all its effects! "Though you have lied among the pots—yet shall you be as the wings of a dove covered with silver, and her feathers with yellow gold." O that all, who name the name of Christ, knew what this means: "The Spirit is life because of righteousness."