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


Let us look at our own hearts. There is a mystery in all iniquity. In Scripture it is often called a lie, guile, deceit. The heart of man is full of all treachery; so that "there is no faithfulness in their mouth; their inward part is very wickedness; their throat is an open sepulcher; they flatter with their tongue." "His mouth is full of cursing, and deceit, and fraud." "They speak vanity everyone with his neighbor: with flattering lips and with a double heart do they speak." "The counsels of the wicked are deceit." "They hold fast deceit; they refuse to return." "The heart is deceitful above all things." It deceives every being but one. It would deceive Him, if he were not omniscient. None but God knows all the depths of iniquity and duplicity within us.

Genuine conviction is attended with a sense of the divine knowledge and hatred of our sins. What unconverted man can without terror dwell on the words, "God, you see me!" To the regenerate it is for a joy that God knows all their hearts, and will search and cleanse them. When the wicked sin greedily, and have no checks in their consciences, you may know that it is because God is not in all their thoughts. "Do you think that I believe there is a God, when I do such things?" said Nero to Seneca, who was reproving him for his vices.

Though the language of the Bible is strong, it is just. God declares, and every Christian knows by sad experience--that his heart is deceitful above all things. Among beasts, the fox and serpent are deceitful. But their arts are few and can soon be learned. The currents of the sea are deceitful, yet you may soon acquire a knowledge of the dangers thence arising. There is a law in their variations. Even the magnetic needle is not always true to the pole. Yet its variations can be precisely calculated. But no mortal knows how much his heart varies from the law of God. "Who can understand his errors?" Psalm 19:12. A broken tooth or foot out of joint can never be safely trusted. Men know this and never wittingly rely upon them. But all men put more or less confidence in their own hearts.

Man is the only creature on earth that seems to practice self-deception. The fox deceives his pursuers, not himself. But man "feeds on ashes: a deceived heart has turned him aside, that he cannot deliver his soul, nor say, Is there not a lie in my right hand?" Isaiah 44:20. Who has not often seen that "there is a way that seems right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death?" Proverbs 16:25. How timely is that exhortation of Paul, "Let no man deceive himself!" 1 Cor. 3:18. How strange and yet how common that he, whose heart has deceived him a thousand times, should yet confide in it as if it had always been honest!

Education is sometimes so conducted as to make us blind to our real characters. One trained at a Jesuit's school complained: "I have been so long in the habit of concealing my real sentiments from others, that I hardly know what they are." Few men have been such adepts in the arts of a corrupt court as Talleyrand; but many still live, who think with him that "language was designed to conceal thought." In such cases "deceiving and being deceived" are commonly united. That we should sometimes deceive others is proof of our depravity; but that we should spend our lives in self-deception is truly astonishing. Men of the fewest virtues commonly have the highest thoughts of themselves. Peter solemnly averred his adhesion to Christ, though all others should forsake him; yet in the trying hour his conduct was worse than that of any but the traitor. When forewarned of his wickedness Hazael felt insulted, and cried, "What! is your servant a dog, that he should do this wicked thing?" Yet he very soon perpetrated all the horrible crimes, which had been foretold. Above most men Ahab sold himself to do iniquity, and thus brought dire curses on his person and kingdom; yet, as soon as he saw Elijah, he said, "Are you the one who troubles Israel?"

A perfect knowledge of the treachery of our hearts is possessed by none but God; a just knowledge of them belongs to no portion of mankind, but those who are enlightened by the Holy Spirit.

The heart is also VILE. It is "desperately wicked." It loves vanity, and folly, and sin. It hates holiness, and truth, and divine restraints. It is a sink of iniquity, a pool of pestilential waters, a cage of unclean birds, a sepulcher full of dead men's bones. It is torn by wild, fierce, unhallowed passions. It rejects good and chooses evil. It is wholly corrupt. There is no soundness in it. It is full of evil. "Out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies." Matt. 15:19. Men may rail at the vices, principles, and prejudices of others, and be worse themselves.

"He who trusts in his own heart is a fool." Proverbs 28:26. If the word, fool, here as in some other cases designates a wicked man, it is well applied. None but ungodly men lean upon their own hearts, their own wisdom and counsels, their own strength and sufficiency, their own merit and righteousness. If the word, fool, points out one, who is destitute of wisdom, then who lacks that quality so much as he, who believes his heart upright and honest, when all his life it has been leading him away from God, and practicing on him the grossest deceptions? Surely human nature is a poor thing. Man at his best estate is altogether vanity. "Before conversion, his heart is the worst part about him." Every wise man will say with Paul: "I know that in me, that is, in my flesh, there dwells no good thing." Romans 7:18.

Sometimes the word, heart, is in Scripture used to designate the conscience, as where it is said, "if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things." We all have by nature "an evil conscience." The state of the world judged by the entire state of men's consciences, presents one of the most appalling subjects of contemplation. "He who has a blind conscience, which sees nothing; a dead conscience, which feels nothing; and a dumb conscience, which says nothing--is in as miserable a condition as a man can be in on this side hell."