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

The offers of free grace are to all indiscriminately

It is always right and obligatory to point men to Christ. Eternal life by the Son of God is to be pressed upon their acceptance. No man has any commission to preach the gospel, except one who offers mercy "to every creature." "Whoever will" is scriptural language. This method of proclaiming salvation suits all classes of men. The strong believer and the timid penitent alike draw life and hope from Christ freely offered. "Weak souls are to be comforted with Christ—not with their own faith." Even a young believer may look to Christ until his heart burns within him, and he shouts for joy. But let any man look steadfastly at his own weakness, vileness, guilt, and misery, and not get a glimpse of 'Christ crucified'—and hope will die within him.

God never mocks any of his creatures. And while it is true that Jesus Christ died with the intention of saving his people, and none others, as he himself says, "I lay down my life for the sheep;" yet it is no less true that there is an infinite storehouse of merit in Jesus Christ. It is also certain that by God's authority, a full and free salvation is indiscriminately offered to sinners. The final ruin of incorrigible transgressors will be brought about by their unbelief, not by the scantiness of the provisions of the gospel; by their enmity, not by any lack of merit in Christ; by their hardness of heart, not by any lack of sincerity in the offers of salvation; by their willful rejection of blood-bought mercy, not by the insufficiency of the work and sufferings of Jesus Christ.

It is no part of sound doctrine that the merit of our Savior will be exhausted in the salvation of those whom the Father gave to the Son, in the covenant of redemption. No branch of the church of Christ holds that Christ's humiliation and sufferings would have been less if the number of his elect had been less; nor that his humiliation and sufferings would have been greater if his chosen ones had been more numerous. The merit of Christ is in its very nature boundless. It possesses infinite, inexhaustible worth.

The offer of life is to be made indiscriminately because God so commands, because finite men can make it in no other way, and because the provisions of the gospel are as well suited to the needs of one man as to those of another. The call to men to believe the gospel should be earnest and urgent, because God so makes it, because the matter is of infinite consequence, because men are very sottish in their sins, and so greatly need to be aroused from their guilty slumbers, and because their damnation slumbers not. The offer of salvation is sincere, for God says so. It is consistent, because God never denies himself. It is kind, because it is sent in love, and cost more than we shall ever be able to repay.

This has been and is the doctrine of all pure churches. The words of the Synod of Dort are express: "The death of the Son of God is the only and most perfect sacrifice and satisfaction for sins, of infinite price and value, abundantly sufficient to expiate the sins of the whole world." Again: "The promise of the gospel is, that whoever believes in Christ crucified, shall not perish, but have everlasting life. Which promise ought to be announced and proposed, promiscuously and indiscriminately, to all nations and men, to whom God in his good pleasure has sent the gospel, with the command to repent and believe." The London Baptist Confession says: "The preaching of the gospel to the conversion of sinners, is absolutely free; no way requiring, as absolutely necessary, any qualifications, preparations, or terrors of the law, or preceding ministry of the law—but only and alone the naked soul, a sinner and ungodly—to receive Christ crucified, dead and buried, and risen again; who is made a Prince and a Savior for such sinners as through the gospel shall be brought to believe on him."

Calvin says: "We know the promises to be effectual to us only when we receive them by faith. On the contrary, the annihilation of faith is the abolition of the promises. If this is their nature, we may perceive that there is no discordance between these two things: God's having appointed from eternity on whom he will bestow his favor and exercise his wrath—and his proclaiming salvation to all. Indeed, I maintain that there is the most perfect harmony between them." In the Synod of Dort we have an example of the very staunchest Calvinists who have met in modern times; in Calvin we have the very ablest expounder of the doctrines of grace since the days of Paul, yet they would have salvation offered to all.

Few men have written on the death of Christ with more force than John Owen. His matured sentiments on this subject have been precious to the people of God for two full centuries. He says that "it was the intention and purpose of God that his Son should offer a sacrifice of infinite worth, value, and dignity—sufficient in itself for the redeeming of all and every man, if it had pleased the Lord to employ it to that purpose; yes, and of other worlds also, if the Lord should freely make them, and would redeem them. Sufficient, we say then, was the sacrifice of Christ for the redemption of the whole world, and for the expiation of all the sins of all and every man in the world. This sufficiency of his sacrifice has a two-fold rise. First; the dignity of the person wh did offer and was offered. Secondly, the greatness of the pain he endured, by which he was able to bear, and did undergo the whole curse of the law of God due to sin. This manifests the innate, real, true worth of the blood-shedding of Jesus Christ." If any man has a more blessed gospel than this to preach, he has not yet told the world what it is.

Flavel says: "It is confessed, there is sufficiency of virtue in the sacrifice of Christ to redeem the whole world." Manton says: "For these six thousand years, God has been multiplying pardons, and yet free grace is not exhausted. Christ undertook to satisfy, and he has money enough to pay. It were folly to think that an emperor's revenue will not pay a beggar's debt. God's mercy is an ocean, ever flowing, yet ever full." Thomas Boston says, that "there was virtue and efficacy enough in Christ's oblation to satisfy offended justice for the sins of the whole world, yes, and of millions of worlds more; for his blood has infinite value, because of the excellency and dignity of his person." John Brown of Haddington: "Such is the infinite dignity of Christ's person, that his fulfillment of the broken law is sufficient to balance all the debt of all the elect, nay, of millions of guilty worlds." In proof, he refers to Col. 2:9; Isaiah 7:14, and 9:6; Jer. 23:6; Zech. 13:7; Titus 2:13, 14, and Acts 20:28. Again he says, that "In respect of its intrinsic worth as the obedience and sufferings of a divine person, Christ's satisfaction is sufficient for the ransom of all mankind, and being fulfilled in human nature, is equally suited to all their necessities." No surer, broader foundation for a sincere, consistent, general offer of mercy and -grace could be desired, than is here admitted to exist in the finished work of the Mediator.

Witherspoon lays down three propositions on this subject, which can hardly be questioned.

1. The obedience and death of Christ are of value sufficient to expiate the guilt of all the sins of every individual that ever lived, or ever shall live on earth. This cannot be denied—since the subjects to be redeemed are finite, the price paid for their redemption infinite.

2. Notwithstanding this, every individual of the human race is not in fact partaker of this purchase, but many die in their sins, and perish forever.

3. There is in the death of Christ a sufficient foundation laid for the preaching of the gospel indefinitely to all without exception. It is the command of God that this should be done. Mark 16:15: 'And he said unto them—Go into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.' The effect of this is, that the misery of the unbelieving and impenitent shall be entirely at their own door; and they shall not only die in their own sins, but shall suffer to eternity for the most heinous of all sins—despising the remedy and refusing to hear the Son of God."

It may not be generally known how much the urgent and indiscriminate offer of salvation by grace has been opposed. The great Secession from the Church of Scotland, under Erskine and others, was in part because of the wrong done to this blessed truth by the loose men who were the dominant party of that day. At least the Moderates then greatly impugned the doctrine of free offers of life, to sinners. It may well be doubted whether a scene partaking more of the moral sublime has occurred in the last hundred and fifty years, than when Ebenezer Erskine arose in the Synod of Fife and said: "Moderator, our Lord Jesus says of himself, 'My Father gives you the true bread from heaven.' This he uttered to a promiscuous multitude; and let me see the man who dare say he said wrong." The heavenly sweetness and solemnity of the speaker for the time hushed every controvertist.

Bellamy says: "Christ's merits are sufficient for all the world, and the door of mercy is opened wide enough for all the world; and God the supreme Governor has proclaimed himself reconcilable to all the world, if they will believe and repent." Let all sinners know that if they perish, it will not be because Christ has not died, nor because his merits are not sufficient to meet all the demands of law and justice against them, if they will but obey the gospel call. Matthew Henry says: "The eleven apostles must send others to those places, where they could not go themselves, and, in short, make it the business of their lives to send the glad tidings of the gospel up and down the world, with all possible fidelity and care, not as an amusement or entertainment, but as a solemn message from God to men, and an appointed means of making men happy. 'Tell as many as you can, and bid them tell others, it is a message of universal concern, and therefore ought to have a universal welcome, because it gives a universal welcome.'"

Doddridge: "The commission Christ gave his apostles, though it began at Jerusalem, did not end there; nor was it confined within the narrow limits of Judea; but they were appointed to go into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature." Scott says that the apostles and their co-laborers "did testify to their fellow sinners everywhere, that 'the Father had sent the Son to be the Savior of the world,' and to confer pardon, grace, and eternal life, on all men, in every place, who sought them from the Father, through the propitiation of the Son, by living faith in his name." Hodge says: "The doctrine of the atonement produces in us its proper effects, when it leads us to see that God is just; that he is infinitely gracious; that we are deprived of all ground of boasting; that the way of salvation, which is open for us, is open for all men; and that the motives to all duty, instead of being weakened—are enforced and multiplied."

Haldane says that Christ's "sacrifice could not have been sufficient for any, if it had not been sufficient for all. An atonement of infinite value was necessary for every individual that shall be saved, and more could not be necessary for all the world. The intrinsic sufficiency of Christ's sacrifice was doubtless in view in the divine appointment concerning it. God made provision of such a sacrifice as was not only sufficient effectually to take away the sins of all the elect; but also sufficient to be laid before all mankind, in the dispensation of the gospel. In the gospel it was to be declared to all mankind that, in their nature, the Son of God had made an atonement of infinite value, and brought in everlasting righteousness, which shall be upon all who believe. This atonement, then, being all-sufficient in itself, is proclaimed to all who hear the gospel. All are invited to rely upon it for pardon and acceptance, as freely and fully as if they knew that God designed it for them from all eternity, and all who thus rely upon it shall experience the blessing of its efficacy and infinite value."

Let not perishing men, therefore, stand at a distance and say—'There is no way of escape, no door of mercy open, no salvation offered to us, and we must die in our sins!' The calls of the gospel are as sincere on the part of God to men, who refuse salvation, as to those who accept it. That is, God is infinitely sincere in all he says and does.