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


God has not concealed his intention of bringing every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil. From the earliest ages inspired men have freely and clearly spoken of the day of judgment. Enoch, who was the seventh from Adam, and all of whose life on earth, except the last twenty-two years, was contemporaneous with that of Adam, prophesied, saying, "Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousand of his saints, to execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of their ungodly deeds, which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches, which ungodly sinners have spoken against them." Three thousand years after Enoch, Jude found no fitter words, by which to warn daring sinners of their coming doom, than those just quoted from the antediluvian prophet.

The doctrine of a judgment is a familiar theme among inspired writers of both testaments. It is taught in the law, in the prophets, in the psalms, in the gospels, and in the epistles. It was so well understood in the days of Christ and of Paul, that they simply call it "that day," thus designating it as the day of days, "the day for which all other days were made," and in comparison of which, all other days are as nothing.

The day of judgment will be the great day. So inspired writers often and properly style it. It will exceed all other days for the brightness of its beginning. Other days had their dim twilight, but this will begin in ineffable effulgence. Their light was from the sun; the light of this shall be from Him who made all things. Other days dawn with general quiet, but this shall begin with great and unusual sounds. "Our God comes and will not be silent; a fire devours before him, and around him a tempest rages. He summons the heavens above, and the earth, that he may judge his people" Psalm 50:3-4. "Jesus shall come in like manner as he went up on high. The Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God."

On that day men will see sights, and hear sounds, unlike all that ever struck their senses before. The brightness of Immanuel's coming will extinguish the light of the heavenly bodies, and the sounds, which shall be heard, shall make the earth reel and stagger like a drunken man. This day will be crowded full of wonders. It will be begun, carried on, and closed with such displays of miracles as the world has never seen before. The results accomplished by it will be as astonishing as the progress of its events. Every way of God to man shall then be justified. All wickedness shall be put down. All cavil shall be forever silenced. All judgment shall then be executed.

In speaking of the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men, Peter says, "One day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day." From this some infer that the judgment-day will last a thousand years. This may be a mistaken conclusion, but that day will last long enough to answer all the purposes of a careful and universal scrutiny of human actions and characters. If this day be not a long day, it will be because God will, by his infinite perfections, make a few hours answer all the ends of a portion of duration equal to many generations. He can vindicate his ways, acquit the innocent, condemn the guilty, and show that he is just in saving sinners, without any of those slow processes to which human tribunals are subject.

Yet there is a general impression that the day of judgment will commence at midnight, and last beyond what would be the limits of a day of our time. The word day in Scripture often designates a period much longer than twenty-four hours. The day of judgment will last long enough to answer all the ends of God in appointing it—and this is enough for us to know. The rest is open to conjecture.

The day of judgment is a fixed day. The time for it is set by God himself. "He has appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness, by that man whom he has ordained." To God that day is known, to us it is unknown; to him it is certain, to us it is doubtful. "Of that day and hour knows no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only." It will come as a thief in the night, as the flood came on the old world, as the tempest of wrath came on the cities of the plain; yet it is unchangeably determined by God. Men may not be looking for it, but God sees it afar off. As nothing can hasten it, so that it shall come before God's purposes respecting the world are accomplished; so nothing can delay it one moment beyond the time fixed in God's eternal counsels for its coming.

Frequently the day of judgment is called "the day of the Lord." It will be the day when the Lord Christ shall appear in glory, display the wonders of his mediation and the perfection of his government and will publicly be owned and crowned as Lord of all. There will be no disputes concerning the divinity of Christ, on or after the day of judgment, which will be his day. If the power that shall work, if the majesty that shall preside, if the knowledge that shall determine, if the justice that shall condemn, if the mercy that shall spare on that day be not divine, and convincingly so, it will be of no use to try to learn what is so. "The Father judges no man, but has committed all judgment to the Son." That day will be the day of the Lord Jesus.

The day of judgment will be above all others a day of universal convocation. The heavens and the earth shall furnish the assembly. The chariots of God, which are twenty thousand; shall roll down the skies, bearing in them ten thousand times ten thousand, an innumerable company of angels. Fallen angels too shall be there; and those who sleep in Jesus shall God bring with him. All who died in their sins shall be there; and all who are alive on the earth shall stand before God. Not one of all God's rational creatures shall be missing. Prophets, apostles, martyrs, confessors, saints, sinners, liars, hypocrites, infidels, blasphemers, haters of God—shall all be present. The judgment of the universe shall then be held. Millions on millions shall crowd this greatest of all congregations. "We must ALL appear before the judgment-seat of Christ." This will be the first and the last gathering of all the inhabitants of the universe.

The day of judgment will be one of unparalleled excitement. There will be no listless spectators of those scenes. Men have fallen asleep at a marriage, at a funeral, in the house of God, and in the chamber of the dying. But none will slumber when they shall see a world wrapped in flames, a universe convened for judgment, and the Judge on the great white throne! Every eye shall see, every ear shall attend to Him, who utters the words, "Come, you who are blessed!" "Depart, you who are cursed!" Every faculty of intelligence and of feeling will that day be roused to the highest exercises of which it is capable. Dreams, fancies, whims and wandering thoughts attend men in this life—but in that day all will be eagerness, thought, excitement.

The day of judgment will also be a day of great surprise, both to saints and sinners. So Christ expressly informs us: "Then the righteous will answer him—Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?" In like manner also shall the wicked say unto him, "'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?"

If the sentences of the just and unjust were reversed at the day of judgment, the surprise would not be half so great. Jesus said: "Many will say to me on that day—'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'" Matthew 7:22-23

Many will be saved, and many will be lost contrary to the judgments formed of them by their neighbors. But more will be saved, and more will be lost contrary to the opinions they had of themselves! Christians will wonder that they are saved, and how they are saved, and they will wonder that they should be commended for deeds full of imperfection. The wicked will be amazed that they are lost, and how they are lost, and especially that God puts no value upon their self-righteousness. The sons of God will receive more honor than they ever thought of claiming; while the wicked will find their hopes perishing one by one, and their lamp going out in obscure darkness. Christians will wonder why they should be saved. Unbelievers will wonder why they should not be saved. The wicked will ask, "What have we done amiss?" The saved will say, "All our righteous acts are like filthy rags!" The wicked says he does the best he can. The righteous says, "Behold, I am vile!"

Many doubts, mysteries and perplexities will be fully and forever removed in that great day. Things, which in this life were full of grievous darkness, will be then satisfactorily cleared up. God's providence, which is now accompanied by a thousand inexplicable things—will then be made plain. Now the wicked are exalted; then they shall be brought down to hell. Now the righteous are forsaken, afflicted, tormented; then the Lord will bring forth their righteousness as the light, and their judgment as the noonday. "Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life." Matthew 25:46. That day will wipe off all aspersions from the innocent, and fix guilt where it belongs, though never suspected before.

God's truth, wisdom, holiness, justice, and mercy will shine brighter than the sun on that day. The slandered, injured and abused will then be vindicated; and the oppressed will rise up and clank the chains, with which tyrants had bound them, to the eternal confusion of wrong-doers. Many a righteous man, judicially murdered, will then face his corrupt judge with the suborned witnesses and perjured jurors who were at his trial.

There will be a wonderful 'clearing up' on that day. It will also be a day of exposure. "Some men's sins are open beforehand, going before to judgment, and some they follow after." The fraud, cunning, hypocrisy, and deceit of wicked men will then appear. All those dark designs and plots, which meditated ruin to individuals, distress to families, perplexity to nations, or dishonor to God—shall be held up to reprobation. The light of that day will shine through the thickest web of iniquity, and show all its foul intricacies.

This will also be a day of decision. In this world appeals are often taken from lower to higher courts. But the tribunal of Christ is the court of the last resort. From his decision there lies no appeal. On that day, causes and destinies will not merely be inquired into; they will be decided. Thenceforward forever, the law will be, "He who is unjust, let him be unjust still; and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still; and he who is righteous, let him be righteous still; and he who is holy, let him be holy still." Nothing can reverse, nor arrest the judgments of that day. Nothing can alter or vary the decree of the Judge. It shall stand forever. The judgment of the great day is called the "eternal judgment," because it will be irrevocable and everlasting in its effects. It will bind forever.

The day of judgment will also be a day of separations. Here on earth, saints and sinners are strangely mixed together. There it will be very different. Christ says: "Let both tares and wheat grow together until the harvest; and in the time of harvest, I will say to the reapers, Gather together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them; but gather the wheat into my barn." "When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left."

This separation shall be final. The righteous and the wicked shall that day part to meet no more. To Christ, his saints and angels, the day of judgment will be a day of triumph. The Lord will then make a show of his enemies openly. Those who would not kiss the Son, shall be dashed in pieces like a potter's vessel. In his triumph, all his saints and angels shall share and glory. To the wicked the same day will be full of despair. They will cry to the rocks and to the mountains: "Fall on us and cover us from the face of him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb; for the great day of his wrath has come, and who shall be able to stand?" Was more dreadful despair ever portrayed?

The day of judgment will be the last day. So Christ calls it. So inspired writers often teach. After it, "time shall be no longer." No more shall duration be measured by the alternations of day and night, or of the seasons; and there shall be no succession of seconds, minutes, hours, days, months, or years as now. All beyond the judgment-day is boundless, fathomless eternity.

This last day will leave an ineffaceable impression on all minds. None will ever forget what they shall have seen, and heard, and felt on that day. The great days of earth may fade from the memories of saints and sinners, but this last great day shall never, never, never perish from the recollection of any.

It may well be doubted whether any man thinks as much as he should of the judgment-day. Justin Martyr said, "I seem always to be hearing these words: Awake you dead and come to judgment!" A modern writer speaking of the same day says: "It would seem as if Christ was always thinking of it. How frequently he speaks of it, and never but with the deepest solemnity." The apostles seem to have had everything associated with it. "But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare. Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness." 2 Peter 3:10-13.

Reader, are you prepared for your last account? Have you made peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ? Is all your hope in the precious blood and righteousness of Jesus Christ? Nothing of your own can save you in that day. It will burn as an oven. It will try your works and your hopes as by fire. If you have built on Christ, and on him alone, then hold fast your confidence, which has great recompense of reward. But if you are yet in your sins, then be persuaded to "flee for refuge to the hope set before you in the gospel." "He who believes on the Son has everlasting life; and he who believes not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him!"

Nor can you be in too much haste, or too much in earnest, in this weighty matter. It is your life. "Behold, the Judge stands before the door." And he says: "Behold, I come quickly, and my reward is with me, to give every man according to his work." If you are outside of Christ, you are unreconciled to God.

There are three classes of controversy.

The first is where neither party has done any wrong, but the whole contest has arisen from mistake. In this case, all that is required to settle the difficulty is light and explanation. This is not the nature of God's controversy with us. We may have, yes, we doubtless have often misapprehended his character, and will, and rights; but when we have understood them, we were more than ever averse to them. And God had never misunderstood us. He knows that we cordially hate him. Reconciliation by explanation is here impossible.

A second kind of controversy is where both parties have done wrong, and of course both have suffered wrong. Here must be mutual acknowledgment, concession and reparation. But God has never wronged us. He has never demanded too much. He has never been a hard master. His precepts concerning all things are right, and every just man thinks so, and says so. We can never be reconciled in this way.

The third kind of controversy is where all the fault and blame are on one side, the other party having been wholly innocent and fully right in every particular. This is the nature of God's controversy with us. We have sinned much, long, wantonly, stubbornly, heinously. We are all dead men—dead in trespasses and sins. If we wash ourselves with snow-water, and make us ever so clean, yet he will plunge us in the ditch, and our own clothes shall abhor us. All our righteousnesses are as filthy rags. "God be merciful to me a sinner," is always an appropriate prayer. Salvation by grace is every way suited to your case. You are a criminal.

I have heard of one who had broken the law—his soul was guilty. His fears went like iron into his soul. He was arrested and held in a strong prison. His case grew darker every day. No way of escape seemed possible. The day of trial came. The testimony was clear. There was no room for fair argument in his favor. The verdict was, "Guilty!" The sentence followed. The day of execution came. He was led forth in chains. His spirit was crushed. Dread sorrow had drunk up his blood and spirits; not a tear did he shed. The green fields, the blue heavens, the snowy mountains, and the crystal streams had all faded from his mind. Some said he was hardened, some thought his mind wandered. All pitied him, but himself. He said his sentence was just. At that moment a cry was heard, "Open the way, and let the officer of the government pass." An avenue is cleared, and as soon closes. With quick step the newcomer ascends the scaffold, and hands the sheriff a paper duly signed and sealed. It is a pardon! In a proper way the sheriff reads to the guilty man his release from the penalty. His tears begin to flow, he utters a few broken sentences, his bosom heaves, it seems to him like a dream, he fears there is some mistake, he looks at the signature and seal. Surprise, gratitude, and abundant tears of joy mark the man who seemed just now to be past feeling. He is alive again. The sun shines in beauty, and nature seems to rejoice all around him. But how came that pardon? It was obtained at the intercession of one whom he had always avoided and often despised. Can he slight him again? No; he will search until he finds him, he will confess his past errors, he will express his thanks not once, but a thousand times. He will speak despisingly of him no more. He will rise at midnight to serve him.

So is the case of the sinner saved by the blood, and righteousness, and intercession of Christ. He admires the Savior. He calls him Lord. His heart melts whenever he thinks of his goodness towards him. His gratitude begets obedience, and he knows no Redeemer but one. He owns none else, he desires none else. Thus "the goodness of God leads to repentance."

There are some things of unparalleled interest in this final judgment. One is the glory which shall then be revealed in us. "In this life God treats and acknowledges us as his children, he clothes us with the righteousness pf his Son, feeds us with his word, defends us from our spiritual enemies; but the most public declaration of his favor shall be in the next life, when all 'the children of the resurrection' shall be born in a day.

Add further, although the souls of believers immediately upon their separation are received into heaven, and during the sleep of death enjoy admirable visions of glory; yet their blessedness is imperfect, in comparison of that excellent degree, which shall be enjoyed at the resurrection. As the Roman generals, after a complete conquest, first entered the city privately, and having obtained license of the Senate, made their triumphant entry with all the magnificence and splendor becoming the greatness of their victories. So after a faithful Christian 'has fought the good fight,' and has come off 'more than a conqueror,' he enters privately the celestial city; but when the body is raised to immortality, he shall then, in the company and with the acclamations of the holy angels, have a glorious entry into it!

Another matter of interest in that day will be the display of mercy and grace then made. So Paul teaches: "The Lord give mercy unto the house of Onesiphorus; for he often refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chains; but, when he was in Rome, he sought me out very diligently, and found me. The Lord grant unto him that he may find mercy of the Lord IN THAT DAY." There will indeed be wonderful exhibitions of justice, terrible manifestations of wrath, but also stupendous displays of mercy. Who of us will not then need mercy? To some minds the greatest wonder of the last day will be the composure and calmness with which that day will be met by the righteous. John says, "Our love is made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment." I never would have thought of boldness at such a time—but that I find it in God's word. It is attained by love to Him, who on that day, will be our advocate—the Lord our righteousness!