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
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."