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

Sayings and Promises

It has long excited surprise that God's people should in all ages quietly bear the ills of life. Sinners have fainted at seeing or hearing of sufferings, in which the godly patiently gloried. The grace of Christ is very delightfully manifested—in taking away the evil of affliction, in giving support under it, in bringing good out of it, and in granting a final victory over it. Perhaps there is on earth no saint, who believes that he could have made his present attainments with less affliction, than has fallen to his lot. Nor is there any godly man, who has fully escaped from any trial, however grievous, who does not look back with gratitude to the mercy manifested both in sending and in sanctifying it to his good. Indeed from the earliest times down to the present, such strange things have been said and done under and after the sorest afflictions, as can be accounted for in no way irrespective of the amazing kindness of the Lord Jesus. Scripture, Church History, and Christian Biography abound in what the wicked commonly esteem paradoxes on this subject. Instead of framing any formal argument, or indulging in any exhortation on the subject, some of these immortal sentences are set down for the use of all concerned.

Let us first look at a few found in God's word: "Shall we receive good at the hand of the Lord, and shall we not receive evil?" —Job. "Our God has punished us less than our iniquities deserve." —Ezra. "I am silent before you; I won't say a word. For my punishment is from you." "It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn your statutes." "Before I was afflicted I went astray: but now have I kept your word." —David. "I will look unto the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me." "The Lord does not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men." "Why should a living man complain, a man for the punishment of his sins?" —Jeremiah. "Rejoice not against me, O my enemy; when I fall, I shall arise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord shall be a light unto me." —Micah. "Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vine; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the Lord! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation." —Habakkuk. "All that the Father gives me shall come to me; and him that comes to me I will never cast out." "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you; not as the world gives, give I unto' you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid." —Jesus Christ. "We know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to his purpose." "Our light affliction, which is but for a moment, works for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory." "If we suffer with him, we shall also reign with him." —Paul.

The secret of these triumphs of faith is disclosed in two precious passages of Scripture, each of which shows the connection of all these things with Jesus Christ. The first is in Rev. 3:19, where the Son of God says, "As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten." If any word in this sentence should be emphatic, perhaps it is the pronoun, 'I'. The other passage is in Isaiah 43:9: "In all their suffering he also suffered, and he personally rescued them. In his love and mercy he redeemed them. He lifted them up and carried them through all the years."

The grace of Christ always was the stay of the Church. He has chosen his people in the furnace of affliction. In short God fulfills to them those faithful promises, "But now, O Israel, the Lord who created you says—Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are mine. When you go through deep waters and great trouble, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown! When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior." Isaiah 43:1-3 "I will not leave you comfortless; I will come to you." John 14:18. "Even the very hairs of your head are all numbered." Luke 12:7. "As your days—so shall your strength be." Deut: 33:25.

Not only do we find the Scriptures full of such things as have just been quoted, but even since the close of the sacred canon, the Church of God has been full of precious sayings suited to encourage the most sorrowing. Here is a short and very imperfect selection of such thoughts, given merely as a specimen of the common sentiments of God's people respecting affliction. It will be readily seen that they are drawn from the word of God.

"God had one Son on earth without sin, but never one without affliction."—Augustine.

"Afflictions are the theology of Christians."—Luther.

"Without adversity grace withers."—Mason.

"God may cast down—but he will never cast off true believers."—Case.

"Sanctified afflictions are spiritual promotions."—Dodd.

"Time is short; so if your cross is heavy, you have not far to carry it."—Anon.

"Afflictions are blessings to us, when we can bless God for afflictions."—Dyer.

"Christian, has not God taught you, by his word and Spirit, how to read the short-hand of his providence? Do you not know that the saints' afflictions stand for blessings?"—Gurnall.

"No righteous man would, in his right mind, be willing to make an exchange of his sharpest afflictions for a wicked man's prosperity, with all the circumstances attending it. It cannot therefore be bad with the righteous in the worst condition."—Charnock.

"This winter-weather shall be useful to destroy and rot those rank weeds, which the summer of prosperity bred."—Flavel.

"The school of the cross is the school of light."—Anon.

"God's people have often been carried to heaven in the fiery chariot of affliction."—Mrs. Savage.

"Winter leads the sap down into the roots, while summer calls it up into the branches, and displays it in the blossoms and fruit."—Jay.

"The tree of the cross being cast into the waters of affliction, has rendered them wholesome and medicinal."—Owen.

"Our departed Christian friends cannot descend to share with us in our sorrows; but by holy contemplation we may daily ascend, and partake with them in their joys."—Howe.

"In times of affliction we commonly meet with the sweetest experiences of God's love."—Bunyan.

"As no temporal blessing is good enough to be a sign of eternal election; so no temporal affliction is bad enough to be an evidence of reprobation."—Arrowsmith.

"What unthankfulness is it to forget our consolations, and to look only upon matter of grievance—to think so much upon two or three crosses as to forget a hundred blessings."—Sibbes.

"Every man has a heaven and a hell. Earth is the sinner's heaven; his hell is to come. The godly have their hell upon earth, when they are vexed with temptations and afflictions by Satan and his accomplices; their heaven is above in endless happiness. If it be ill with me on earth, it is well that my torment is so short and easy; I cannot be so unreasonable as to expect two heavens."—Hall.

"All is well that ends everlastingly well."—Anon.

"It is a blessed thing for the afflicted to wait God's time and determination."—Lightfoot.

"When temporal evils are effectual means to promote our everlasting happiness, the amiableness and excellency of the end changes their nature, and makes these calamities that in themselves are intolerable, to become light and easy."—Anon.

"Crosses and afflictions are God's call to examine our hearts and our lives."—Richardson.

"Too much honey does turn to gall; and too much joy, even spiritual joy—would make us wantons. Happier a great deal is that man's case, whose soul by inward desolation is humbled, than he whose heart is through abundance of spiritual delight lifted up and exalted above measure. Better it is sometimes to go down into the pit with him, who beholding darkness, and bewailing the loss of inward joy and consolation, cries from the bottom of the lowest hell—My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? than continually to walk arm in arm with angels, to sit as it were in Abraham's bosom, and to have no thought, no cogitation, but—I thank my God it is not with me as it is with other men."—Hooker.

"Through Christ's satisfaction for sin, the very nature of affliction is changed, with regard to believers. As death, which was, at first, the wages of sin, is now become a bed of rest (Isaiah 57:2); so afflictions are not the rod of God's anger, but the gentle corrections of a tender father."—Crisp.

"That is always best for us, which is best for our souls."—Phillip Henry.

"Afflictions are sent to stir up prayer. If they have that effect, and, when we are afflicted, we pray more, and pray better, than before, we may hope that God will hear our prayer, and give ear to our cry; for the prayer, which, by his providence, he gives occasion for, and which, by his Spirit of grace, he indites, shall not return void."—M. Henry.

"If we have the kingdom at last—it is no great matter what we suffer on the way to it."—Manton.

"To the poor, humble, and despised believer—the kingdom of heaven exclusively belongs; there his best desires will be eternally satisfied, his tears will be changed for triumphant songs of joy, and his reward will be great in the blessed society of the holy prophets and apostles; and in that of the incarnate Son of God, who passed the same way to his glory."—Thomas Scott.

"No cloud can overshadow a true Christian—but his faith may discern a rainbow in it."—Anon.

"He, who is prepared in whatever state he is therewith to be content, has learned effectually the art of being happy; and possesses the magic stone, which will change every trial into gold."—Dwight.

I have never met with a single instance of adversity which I have not afterwards seen to be for my good."—Anon.

"I have never heard a Christian on his deathbed complaining of his afflictions."—Anon.

"All the sufferings of the believer are not hell—but they are all the hell he shall suffer."—Mason.

"Christians ought neither to expect nor wish to have suffering with Christ, disconnected with their being glorified with him. The former is a preparation for the latter." Romans 8:17.—Hodge.

"Oh, what must Christ be in himself, when he sweetens heaven, sweetens Scriptures, sweetens ordinances, sweetens earth, and even sweetens trials!"—John Brown of Haddington.

"It is happy for us if we have suffered enough to make us desire a better country, that is a heavenly one; but surely all the painful experiences we have hitherto met with have not been more than sufficient to bring us into this waiting posture."—John Newton.

"God denies a Christian nothing—but with a design to give him something better."—Cecil.

"If the blessed Jesus, who had no sin of his own, bore the wrath of his heavenly Father for a world of sinners, how willingly ought I to endure all the pain I suffer, if my dying example might be but the means of the salvation of one soul."—David Rice

"There is really much more real satisfaction to be found in a crucified world—than in an idolized world."—Witherspoon.

One thing is a source of unspeakable comfort to God's people in all their tribulation. It is that God will in fact never leave them, nor forsake them. Their needs shall be all supplied. That great witness for Christ, Cyprian, says: "Indeed it is impossible that a godly man should be in need of his daily bread. It is expressly promised, 'the Lord will not allow the soul of the righteous to famish.' And again it is written: 'I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread.'

And our Lord has thus encouraged our dependence upon him in the following words: "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." Matthew 6:25-34

We see that he promises that everything else of this kind and nature shall be added to those who seek the kingdom of God and his righteousness. For since all things are God's, he who has God will have all things with him, if he on his part be not lacking in his duty to God." Whatever will be to our advantage, if we shall act virtuously, is not only just but benevolent. And if anything more be lacking here it is: "Many are the afflictions of the righteous—but the Lord delivers him out of them all." Psalm 34:19