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


Some bold errorists have asserted that the immortality of the soul was not taught until after the time of Moses. They do not deny the immortality of the soul—they only assert it is a modern notion. Let us examine their assertion. It is freely admitted that we have but scant records of the earliest ages. The whole history of the creation and of the world for the first two thousand years is contained in less than eleven chapters in Genesis. The five books of Moses, by far the greater part of which relates to the Jews, cover a period of two thousand five hundred and fifty-three years. In so brief a narrative no reasonable person will expect very full statements on matters not akin to the leading objects of the writer. Incidental notices of other matters are sufficiently covered. The sacred writers often mention things as taken for granted, rather than formally state them. The lawgiver of the Jews had higher objects before him than to please the antiquarian. Yet he has cast more light on the early history of our race and of our world, than all other writers united.

It is natural to inquire whether Adam knew anything about immortality. It is confessed he had an immortal soul. Did he know it? It is surprising, if he did not. He was formed "in the image, in the likeness" of God. It is agreed that he learned the use of language in less time than any other person ever did. Modern students of natural history, after all their researches, have not gained such knowledge of birds and beasts as he acquired. He gave names to all cattle, and to the fowls of the air, and to every beast of the field. Did he know so much of all God's works around him—and nothing of the grand work of the Almighty within him? Can it be believed that he dil not know that he had a soul? or that his soul was immortal? When he saw an elephant tread on a worm and crush it, did he believe that he was no more immortal than that worm?

God put Adam under a special trial. He forbade him to touch one particular fruit under a penalty thus expressed: "In the day you eat thereof, you shall surely die," or "dying you shall die." Did Adam understand these words? Even natural religion teaches that God is good and will not deceive or beguile; that he will not threaten one penalty and inflict a heavier. To suspect him of that is to conceive blasphemy. That curse included—the loss of God's favor; liability to his displeasure, to pain and disease; the dissolution of the body; the effacing of the moral image of God; forfeiture of communion with him; subjection to evil passions and tormenting fears—and misery forever! All these things do follow that transgression. To say that Adam did not correctly understand the curse, is mere speculation. If he regarded the curse as including eternal death, then he understood that the human soul is immortal. If he knew the doctrine of the soul's immortality, why should he not teach it to his children, and they to theirs? Was "righteous Abel" ignorant of his own immortality? Had he no hope beyond this life? It requires far more credulity to believe this than the contrary. Did not Enoch, the seventh from Adam, believe men's souls to be immortal? No man ever preached the doctrine of a future judgment more clearly than he.

But if the soul is not immortal, but perishes with the body, then there can be no account given by any, who die before Christ's coming. Any fair statement of our accountability to God, implies the doctrine of the immortality of the soul. The whole man that sinned, should be punished; the whole man that obeyed, should be rewarded. But "Enoch walked with Gods and was not, for God took him." He was taken soul and body to heaven at the age of three hundred and sixty-five years, which was hardly the meridian of life in those days. Without separation, his soul and body were glorified. Here is immortality beyond dispute. If in those days there were sceptics, here God demonstrated to them a future state, a blissful life beyond the present.

Moses forsook all the pleasures, wealth and power of Egypt, and welcomed toil, poverty and banishment. No man at forty years of age ever made a greater sacrifice. What sustained him? "He had respect unto the recompense of reward." And what was that? anything earthly? a life in wilderness? There was nothing there comparable to the crown of Egypt. Was he ambitious of being a leader and lawgiver of the Jews? It was nearly forty years, after he forsook the court of Pharaoh, before he was called to be the prophet of Israel, and when called, he was so reluctant to accept the office that finally "the anger of the Lord was kindled against him." Exod. 4:14. Nor was he permitted triumphantly to enter Canaan with his victorious legions, but died in the wilderness. What then was the reward which led him to forego his splendid earthly prospects? There is but one fair answer. He believed in an invisible world, in the immortality of the soul, in rewards beyond this life.

In the New Testament it is said Judas hanged himself and "went to his own place." In all the Scriptures there is not a more striking and solemn declaration of future existence and retribution. Is there nothing like it in the Pentateuch? There, speaking of six men, five of whom are known, and all of whom are believed to have been the true servants of God, it is said of each, that when he died he "was gathered unto his people." In Genesis this expression is applied to Ishmael, Isaac and Jacob. If there can be any doubt of the import of the phrase in these cases, let us take the remaining three, Abraham, Aaron and Moses. In them there is no room for doubt. The only way the expression, "he was gathered unto his people," can fail to teach a future state is by supposing that it signifies that he "was buried with his people." This construction is inadmissible. "Then Abraham gave up his spirit, and died in a good old age, an old man and full of years; and was gathered unto his people." Gen. 25:8. That he was not buried with his people we well know. His remote ancestors were buried in Chaldea. Terah, his father, was buried in Mesopotamia. Both these countries were hundreds of miles distant from Machpelah, in Canaan, where Abraham was buried. It is therefore not true that he was interred with his ancestors or people. Something else than burial therefore is taught by the phrase under consideration.

The second case cited to the purpose in hand, is found in Num. 25:24. "Aaron shall be gathered unto his people." From the subsequent context we learn that Aaron died in Mount Hor, in the wilderness, where none of his ancestors had ever been buried. Indeed it was far from any place where they had resided. He was not buried with his people.

The third case is in Deut. 32:49, 50 where God says to Moses, "Go up into this mountain and die in the mount where you go up, and be gathered unto your people; as Aaron your brother died in Mount Hor, and was gathered unto his people." So Moses was not buried with his people, but in "Mount Nebo, in the land of Moab, which is over against Jericho, and no man knows of his sepulcher unto this day."

We are thus shut up to the belief that this phrase means more than burial, and that it clearly teaches that people exist after death, and that the congregation of departed men receives accessions by the deaths of those whom they left behind.

If any demand further evidence that the Pentateuch teaches a future state, and especially one of bliss, here it is. God said to Moses, "I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob." Christ himself urged this text in proof of a future state and said that "God is not the God of the dead—but of the living." This argument confounded and silenced the infidels of his day. But our modern infidels beat the Sadducees. It is not true that the Pentateuch is silent concerning immortality. But some ask, does not Job himself express doubt of the immortality of the soul? Does he not ask, "if a man dies, shall he live again?" Job 14:14. The context clearly shows that all Job meant to assert was that death in man was total, and that the power of death over the body of man continued so as to prevent his return to this worldly life. Here is the whole passage: "At least there is hope for a tree: If it is cut down, it will sprout again, and its new shoots will not fail. Its roots may grow old in the ground and its stump die in the soil, yet at the scent of water it will bud and put forth shoots like a plant. But man dies and is laid low; he breathes his last and is no more. As water disappears from the sea or a riverbed becomes parched and dry, so man lies down and does not rise; until the heavens are no more, men will not awake or be roused from their sleep. "If only you would hide me in the grave and conceal me till your anger has passed! If only you would set me a time and then remember me! If a man dies, will he live again? All the days of my hard service I will wait for my renewal to come." Job 14:7-14. The body of a tree may die, and it grow again, but if a man dies, he will remain dead—"until the heavens are no more."

When we come to examine other parts of Scripture, the doctrine of the immortality of the soul shines out everywhere. Thus said David of his dead child, "Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me." 2 Sam. 12:23. So also when Christ stays, "What is a man profited, if he shall gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?" the entire force

The word immortal is found but once in the Bible, 1 Tim. 1:17, and then it is applied to God, "the King eternal, immortal, invisible." The word immortality, however, is found five times. Once it refers to "the blessed and only potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality." 1 Tim. 4:15, 16. In two cases (1 Cor. 15:53, 54) it is applied to the resurrection body, "when this mortal shall have put on immortality." In the other cases it is applied to Christians, and clearly signifies not mere existence, but consummate glory and eternal blessedness in heaven. Thus when Paul (Romans 2:7) speaks of some, who "seek for glory, and honor, and immortality," he tells us they shall receive "eternal life." So when in 2 Tim. 1:10, he speaks of Christ as having "brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel," he does not mean that Jesus of Nazareth first taught the doctrine of an undying existence beyond the grave; but that by the Gospel he has shown us how to escape the second death, how to prevent our immortality from being a curse, how to attain to unfading and unending bliss in heaven. Jesus Christ has all the honor of a Savior. To him is due the glory of making existence beyond this life a blessing to any of Adam's race. In all things he has the preeminence. All we have and all we hope for—is through his grace.