Salvation by Grace!
James Smith, 1864
"By grace you are saved!" Ephesians 2:8
Salvation is confessedly a matter of the greatest importance — a matter in which we are all interested; but yet it is a subject which is much neglected. Not but there is much said and written about it; but how few are there who seriously and heartily inquire: How are sinners saved? From what does salvation arise? In what channel does it flow? To what end is it directed?
If we come to the inspired volume for instruction upon this momentous subject, if we come as little children to learn what God the Holy Spirit says upon the point — we shall meet with all necessary information: these sacred pages reveal all that is necessary to be known for our comfort, satisfaction, and direction. The Apostle Paul, who received his divinity from Heaven, and was taught it by the immediate revelation of Jesus Christ — twice in one chapter informs us, that it is by favor we are saved; for what is grace — but simply the favor of God — the favor of God manifested without regard to desert or deservings. And it is as clear from the word of God, as the shining of the sun at noon, that unless we are saved as an act of grace — we can never be saved at all. What have we to recommend us to the notice of a holy God, or what can we do to entitle us to so great a blessing? If the least good quality were demanded — we have it not; if any good work were prescribed — we could not perform it. But it is "not by works of righteousness which we have done — but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit."
Salvation is by favor freely shown. The Lord fixed upon the objects whom he intended to deliver from sin, Satan, and the curse; and whom he designed to raise to holiness, happiness, and honor. There was nothing to induce him to choose them, but his own infinite love; and he assigns no reason but his sovereign good pleasure. "I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion." He chose his people out from the vast mass of humanity; and recorded their names in the book of life. He gave them to our dear and adorable Immanuel — to be his care, charge, and bride. He appointed them to life, sonship, and conformity to Jesus — and all of unbiased favor.
Desert, or creature excellence — was left out of the question, when Grace sat upon the throne, and exerted her sovereign rights. The favor that benefitted the one, neither directly nor indirectly injured the others; grace scatters her blessings upon millions — but never utters a curse against any. She provides salvation for her objects — but is in no sense the cause of the damnation of the rest. Her language is Save; but never Destroy. She has filled thousands of hearts with life, holiness, and love, and as many tongues with praise; but never gave occasion to any to reflect upon her right, or to accuse her of unkindness.
Grace, or favor, rightly viewed — embodies everything
that is sweet, pleasant, charming, and delightful. Grace is like music to
the ear, honey to the palate, beautiful prospects to the eye, and fragrance
to the smell. Grace is as free as the summer breeze, as pure as the sun's
bright ray, and as pleasant as the morning light. All who know it, love it;
all who have seen, admire; and all who enjoy, adore. It finds . . .
a depth for our sins,
a fountain for our needs,
a covering for our persons, and
a Heaven for our eternal habitation!
Oh that Heaven would coin language sufficiently grand, and furnish ideas sufficiently noble — to speak of the glories of grace, or show forth half its praise!
Salvation is by favor wisely displayed. Our
gracious God has abounded towards us in all wisdom and prudence. Grace has
wisely contrived a plan which . . .
secures all the glories of Deity,
frustrates the designs of devils and opposing men,
highly exalts its divine and glorious agent,
and exactly suits the poor sinner's case —
a plan calculated to fill the minds of cherubim and seraphim with wonder and admiration, and redeemed sinners with never-ending praise;
a plan which reveals more of the divine perfections, and displays more of the divine glories than was ever known or seen before, or than we have any reason to conclude ever could have been through any other means.
Justice receives its due,
mercy is prodigal of her favors,
majesty is honored in the highest, and
love is shown to be of immeasurable extent.
Heaven resigns its chief attraction — that earth might be visited, and man redeemed. Jesus descends to save, to suffer, and to die. He honors the requiring precept, pays the dreadful penalty, and ascends a glorious conqueror to the skies. He is invested with the rectoral government of the universe, clothed with all power in Heaven and in earth, furnished with the archives of eternity — that he may sanctify, discipline, and glorify his people.
The Spirit assumes office, the storehouse of eternity is thrown open, a throne of grace is erected, and the glorious glad tidings are published — that the objects of grace may be accomplished. No sin is sanctioned, no right forfeited, no divine attribute tarnished, no consistent relation dissolved; but a revenue of glory to Jehovah is secured, in the execution of this glorious plan. Well may the Psalmist pray, "Remember me, O Lord, when you show favor to your people, come to my aid when you save them, that I may enjoy the prosperity of your chosen ones, that I may share in the joy of your nation and join your inheritance in giving praise."
Salvation is by favor exerting divine power. All the attributes of Deity are in concert with grace, and join in the glorious work of saving poor sinners.
The omnipotence of Jehovah is ready to accomplish
the purposes of grace; and salvation is wrought in the soul by the power of
God, which . . .
subdues the stubborn will,
breaks the hard heart,
elevates the earth-bound affections,
and turns the current of the soul.
In vain had Jesus shed the blood of his heart — unless he exerted the power of his arm! For such is the stupid, hardened, and deathlike condition of man — that he will not regard the voice of the charmer, charm he ever so wisely. All would have remained obdurate, and perished in their sin — without the presence and energy of the Holy Spirit, to quicken, convert, and sanctify the blood-bought people.
The Father looks to the cross for satisfaction, the
Spirit leads the sinner there for sanctification, and peace is realized and
enjoyed when faith receives the atonement. But powerful must be that
agency, and strong those principles, which lead . . .
from self to Jesus,
from sin to holiness,
from the world to the cross of Christ!
That agency is the Spirit Jehovah, acting in honor of the Redeemer's ransom; those principles are from above, and are styled a new creation. Both the one and the other are necessary to accomplish the design of grace; and both are secured through the infinite merit of Immanuel's death. Oh, admirable plan! How perfect, how glorious, and complete! Satan would have still held his captives, and the world would have claimed her vassals — but for the exertion of the power of God. But now the strong man is conquered, all that is in the world is overcome, and Grace sets her children free — yes, and makes them free indeed!
Salvation is by favor conferring blessings. Salvation is one vast blessing, which, like the rod of Moses, swallows up all other blessings in itself. It is not only the payment of a debt — but the conferring of a favor. "He has saved us, and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works — but according to his own purpose and grace, given us in Christ Jesus before the world began." All we are, and all we shall be — flows from free grace. Conviction of sin, a sense of danger, the cry of need, the longing for freedom, the appetite for righteousness, the confession of guilt, wrestling at the throne, the good tidings of pardon, the enjoyment of liberty, the witness of the Spirit, the unutterable groan, and the delightful cry of 'Abba, my Father and my God' — all flow from free grace, and are but effects produced by rich and sovereign grace. Every blessing necessary for time or eternity is included in the word, "salvation." Grace has provided, promised, and proclaimed all blessings to all who believe in Jesus. Faith evidences our right to all the blessings of the covenant, all the merit of the Son of God, and all the privileges of the everlasting gospel.
Salvation is by favor commanding obedience. Grace is the expression of the favor of an infinitely holy God, and therefore cannot in any sense sanction sin. It requires obedience, not as a term of life, or to procure a title to Heaven — but to manifest our gratitude to God, out of love to the Lord Jesus; to prove the power and purity of our principles, and to benefit society. Grace removes sin meritoriously — by the sacrifice of Jesus upon the cross; and efficaciously — by the work of the Holy Spirit in the heart. Grace hates sin above all things! Sin is abhorrent to the very nature of grace, and therefore it is strictly prohibited, and invariably corrected.
The doctrines of the gospel exhibit grace — in its supremacy, majesty, and glory. The promises exhibit grace — in its liberality, forethought, and bounty. And the precepts exhibit grace — in its hatred to sin, its holiness, and righteousness. That which tolerates or sanctions sin — is not the grace of God. Grace breaks the heart for sin, leads us to hate and forsake it, and to sigh and cry for perfect freedom from it.
The commands of grace are imperative, necessary,
and beneficial; they are intended for our good as much as the promises, and
should be loved equally with them. He who trifles with the commands, knows
but little of the power of the promises, or the energy of the doctrines. For
these rightly known and experimentally enjoyed — produce love to holiness,
and concern to glorify God, by observing all his statutes. Grace on the
throne — produces sanctification of heart. And grace in the heart — produces
holiness of life. We look . . .
to the doctrines for instruction;
to the promises for support; and
to the precepts for direction;
and honor grace in each.
originates in the free grace of God,
flows in the channel of the Redeemer's blood, and
aims at the glorification of Jehovah in all his persons and perfections.
Salvation was . . .
planned in eternity,
executed in time, and
shall be realized and enjoyed until eternity can end.
Salvation is . . .
divine in its contrivance, execution, and application;
holy in its character, tendency, and design;
and free in its bestowment, operations, and fixation.
Salvation is: of God — by faith — to holiness — forever!
Are you saved? Has the grace of God brought salvation to you? Is your heart changed, your will renewed, and your conscience purified and made tender? Do you love holiness, hate sin, walk uprightly, fear God, and aim at the honor of Jesus in all you do?
Do you . . .
groan, being burdened with inward corruption;
live by faith in the Son of God;
watch against temptation;
conquer the world; and
look for glory, honor, immortality, and eternal life?
Is Jesus precious, grace delightful, mercy sweet, and your conversation in Heaven?
The opposite of salvation — is damnation; and as salvation is entirely of grace — damnation is entirely of works! God alone is the author of the former, man alone is the author of the latter. Justice punishes for sin — and only for sin. Every man digs his own Hell, fixes the amount of his own punishment, and goes to perdition with a fixed determination. He closes his ear and heart against the gospel, turns his back upon the way of life, chooses and pursues the way of death. He manifests a decided opposition to God, in every thought of his heart and action of his life; and says, "Depart from me — I desire not the knowledge of your ways!"
Oh, sinner, God notices your contempt, regards your infidelity, and will surely bring you into judgment! Think of your imminent danger, stop in your dangerous course, call upon God for pardon, flee unto Jesus for life, and strive to enter in at the strait gate! The door of salvation is open, the way of escape is at hand, and salvation with all its blessings may be enjoyed — for "whoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved." Oh taste and see, that the Lord is good! Repent and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out; for our God will abundantly pardon. May the Lord allow you to know, enjoy, and confess this to be the case, to the glory of his grace.
"Salvation! O the joyful sound!
'Tis pleasure to our ears!
A sovereign balm for every wound,
A cordial for our fears!
Buried in sorrow and in sin,
At hell's dark door we lay;
But we arise by grace divine,
To see a heavenly day!"