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
Though it is not profane, yet it is foolish to speak
lightly of the devil. He is not a sacred person—but he is a dangerous
person. Thoughts of levity concerning him are quite out of place. They throw
us off our guard, make us secure, lead us to sloth and carelessness—and thus
to sin. He who is our adversary, and has slain his thousands and tens of
thousands—is never more sure of his prey than when there is least fear of
him. He began his work of revolt in heaven, afterwards invaded Eden,
assaulted the Son of God himself with the greatest violence and rancor, and
will always be busy until he is chained down in the pit. His ways are
various. Sometimes he appears as an angel of light. He has cordials for
wounded consciences. He speaks much of mercy. He delights in corrupting the
truth. His great object is to keep men from embracing Christ. He has much to
do with religious men and religious ordinances. He never misses a sermon. He
knows that men can go to hell in the pew of a church, as well as in the seat
of a theater. If they will rest in 'religious forms' and be satisfied with
the ordinances of God without the God of the ordinances, if they will go
about to establish their own righteousness, and not submit to the
righteousness of Christ, he will encourage them, and help them to be joyful.
He frequents our closets and there practices the same arts.
Again, he will turn accuser. He will tell men it
is too late to repent, and that it is vain for them to hope for mercy. He
will roar like a lion. He delights in terrifying souls from Christ. He would
scare all away from the cross. He has no pity. He is wholly malignant and
unscrupulous. To dishonor God, destroy souls, fill earth with woe and hell
with the damned, is his trade and his delight. The keener the anguish,
the more pitiless the remorse and the deeper the guilt of man, the more is
Satan gratified. He does all he can to make earth like hell, men like
devils, and saints like sinners. He delights in seeing all wickedness raging
and rioting on earth. He is the god of the men of this world. He commands
and they obey. He is the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now
works in the children of disobedience. His empire is built on usurpation and
fraud, cruelty and crime, blood and rebellion.
Christ came to destroy the reign of devils, nor will he
rest until his enemies are put down. The most terrible blow Satan's empire
ever received was in the death of Christ. In compassing that, Satan missed
his mark. The resurrection, ascension to heaven, and session at the right
hand of power showed the end of Christ's death and his Sonship with God. By
all these Christ has bruised Satan under him. By pouring out the Holy
Spirit, Christ continually weakens the power of the enemy. Satan rages, and
hates, and lies, and murders the saints; but his kingdom must fall. The
kingdoms of the world shall become the kingdoms of the Lord, and of his
Christ. Glorious things are spoken of Zion, and they shall all be fulfilled.
Yet these very things awaken the malice of the arch enemy. Finding he cannot
rule, he tempts and annoys the children of God. He is their great foe. He
studies their tempers, and adapts his temptations to their age, station and
inclination. He commonly attacks them in the weakest point. He worries those
whom he cannot destroy. If he cannot prevent their getting a crown, he will
at least labor that it shall not be a bright one.
There is no deeper distress of mind on earth than is
sometimes felt by men sorely tempted by thoughts of unbelief, despair,
blasphemy, or other sins. A few words of counsel are here offered to the
1. Resist the devil, and he shall flee from you. Fight
on. Be not terrified, nor faint at his assaults. He is not almighty.
2. Do not attempt to out-wit and out-reason your
adversary; but like Christ, quote the word of God to him. The metal of that
Sword is too high and its edge too keen for him. He hates to hear, "It is
written," or "Thus says the Lord."
3. Lay firm hold on the promises made to the tempted, and
be strong in the Lord. "He will not allow you to be tempted above that you
are able to bear." "With the temptation he will provide a way of escape."
The promises, when believed, are fatal to Satan's suggestions. "My grace is
sufficient for you," rendered harmless all the buffetings of Satan in the
case of Paul. Know God's word. Beware of ignorance.
4. Be much on your guard in times of high religious
privilege and enjoyment. Pirates let empty vessels pass without molestation,
but attack those which are well freighted. "If you come to serve the Lord,
prepare yourself for temptation."
5. Be on your guard in the day of fear and sadness. Satan
loves to terrify those already affrighted, and to oppress those already
sorrowful. Encourage yourself in the Lord your God.
6. "When a Christian is about some notable enterprise for
God's glory, then will Satan lie like a serpent in the way, or as an adder
in the path, to bite the horse's heels that the rider may fall backward." In
all new and difficult circumstances, be vigilant.
7. If formerly you have fallen under the power of any
evil, take heed that you fall not again. One lapse often paves the way for
8. Beware of attempting to comprehend things beyond your
reach, to understand things unintelligible, or to know things not revealed.
"There are three kinds of straits, wherein Satan attempts to entrap
believers—puzzling questions, obscure scriptures, and dark providences."
9. Be humble. Humility is a defense better than all gifts
besides. "All temptations are laid in self-righteousness and
self-excellency. God pursues you by setting Satan upon you, as Laban pursued
Jacob for his images. These must be torn from you—however unwilling you are.
These hinder Christ from coming in." Humility cannot be too profound. "With
the humble is wisdom."
10. If you have been led astray in the least, hasten your
return to God. Stay not away because you have sinned much or little. The
message is the same to all who have sinned, "O Israel, return unto the Lord
your God; for you have fallen by your iniquity. Take with you words, and
turn to the Lord."
11. If you have been able to repel the assaults of the
wicked one, be encouraged, but not careless. "Be not high-minded but fear."
"Let him who thinks he stands, take heed lest he fall." "Satan's opportunity
is a soul off its guard," said Hewitson. "The saint's sleeping time is the
devil's tempting time," says Gurnall. Haweis says: "As not ignorant of his
devices, we should especially beware of security. Let not him who puts on
the armor, boast as he who puts it off. When the cold turf covers our
head—only then the wicked will cease from troubling, and the weary have
perfect rest; but here every step we take we are among lions, and must stand
on our watch-tower, fearing always, and working out our salvation with that
trembling and care which alone can secure it. A holy fear is the great
preservative against falling away. The moment we begin to slumber, our
watchful adversary is ready to take advantage against us; but blessed is the
man whom his Lord shall find watching, when He comes."
12. Be greatly on your guard in solitude, or when called
to perform duty alone, and without the aid and encouragement of others.
Watch closely then your thoughts and ways. "Two are better than one; because
they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, the one will lift
up his fellow; but woe to him who is alone when he falls; for he has not
another to help him up." Ecc. 4:9, 10. It seems to have been when Eve was
alone, that she was tempted and overcome—and so she was first in the
transgression. Satan knew what an advantage solitude would give him in
plying the blessed Master with his wicked suggestions when he was in the
wilderness. Doubtless our Lord felt this at that time. It is certain he felt
his solitude in his last temptation, when "he came unto his disciples, and
found them asleep, and said unto Peter, What! could you not watch with me
13. When you find yourself quite fascinated with any
temporal plans, pursuits or pleasures, set a double guard against
temptation. "We should suspect some danger near—where we possess delight."
The Bible urges moderation and the suppression of inordinate affection by
the most solemn considerations, such as that "the Judge stands at the door."
"The Lord is at hand."
14. Be prepared for temptations at all times. Satan
invades our most sacred retirements. He follows us everywhere. He is the
"lion of the evening." He may assault you even when dying. When the great
John Knox was near his end, he lay with his eyes closed for a while, but
sighed deeply. Being asked the cause, he said: "I have formerly, during my
frail life, sustained many contests and many assaults of Satan, but at
present that roaring lion has assailed me most furiously, and put forth all
his strength to devour and make an end of me at once. Often before has he
placed my sins before my eyes, often tempted me to despair, often attempted
to ensnare me by the allurements of the world; but these weapons being
broken by the sword of the Spirit, the word of God, he could not prevail.
Now he has attacked me in another way. The cunning serpent has labored to
persuade me that I have merited heaven and eternal blessedness by the
faithful discharge of my ministry. But, blessed be God, who has enabled me
to beat down and quench his fiery darts by suggesting to me such passages of
Scripture as these: 'What do you have—which you have not received? By the
grace of God I am what I am. Not I, but the grace of God in me.' Being thus
vanquished, he left me."
15. Beware of idleness. Be diligent in business. Keep
your mind employed in something profitable, and your hands engaged in
something lawful. "Our idle days are the devil's busy ones," says Hall.
16. Our great refuge in temptation is the throne of
grace, sprinkled with atoning blood. In vain will we watch unless we pray.
In vain will we pray, if we plead any goodness of our own. Let us make
mention of Christ's righteousness, even of his alone. "There are no saving
views of God—but in Christ. And there are no gracious views God has of
men—but in Christ. If we look on God outside of Christ, we are dazzled with
an overwhelming, confounding majesty. If God look on us outside of Christ,
he sees hateful and hated sinners."
Nothing but the blood of Christ can quench the fire of
God's wrath, the fire of lust, or the fiery darts of Satan! That blood
can be found at the throne of grace, and nowhere else. Hold fast also all
God's word says of Christ's intercession. It is life from the dead to the
tempted. "Simon, Simon, Satan has desired to have you, that he may sift you
as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith fail not." Luke 22:31,
32. "Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the
heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess.
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our
weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we
are--yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with
confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our
time of need." Hebrews 4:14-16.
"Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say—Now have come
the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of
his Christ. For the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God
day and night, has been hurled down. They overcame him by the blood of the
Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so
much as to shrink from death." Revelation 12:10-11. Are you content, are you
resolved to walk in their footsteps? If so, you too shall soon overcome!