MY DEAR MOTHER, —
I have every morning looked for a letter from Father, I long for an answer; it is now a month since I have had one from him. Do, if you please, send me either permission or refusal to be baptized; I have been kept in painful suspense. This is the 20th, and Mr. Cantlow’s baptizing day is to be the latter end of the month; I think, next week. I should be so sorry to lose another Ordinance Sunday; and with my present convictions, I hope I shall never so violate my conscience as to sit down unbaptized. When requested, I assured the members at the church-meeting that I would never do so.
I often think of you poor starving creatures, following for the bony rhetoric and oratory which he gives you. What a mercy that you are not dependent upon him for spiritual comfort! I hope you will soon give up following that empty cloud without rain, that type-and-shadow preacher, for I don’t think there is much substance. But, my dear Mother, why do you not go and hear my friend, Mr. Langford? He is an open-communion Baptist, and I have no doubt will receive you without baptism. Perhaps his preaching may be blest to Archer, Eliza, and my sisters, as well as to myself; would it not be worth giving up a little difference of persuasion for? God can save whom He will, when He will, and where He will, but I think Mr.____’s Mount Sinai’s roarings are the last things to do it, to all human appearance.
I think I might date this letter from a place in the Enchanted Ground, with the warm air of Beulah blowing upon me. One drop of the pleasures I have felt is worth a life of agony. I am afraid of becoming satisfied with this world.
My very best love to yourself, dear Father, Eliza, Archer, Emily, Louisa, and Lottie. I hope you are well. I am very much better; thanks for the prescription; and with my love to you again,
Your affectionate son,
P.S. If baptized, it will be in an open river; go in just as I am with some others…. I trust the good confession before many witnesses will be a bond betwixt me and my Master, my Savior, and my King.
NEWMARKET, April 6, 1850.
MY DEAR FATHER, —
You will be pleased to hear that, last Thursday night, I was admitted as a member. Oh, that I may henceforth live more for the glory of Him, by Whom I feel assured that I shall be everlastingly saved! Owing to my scruples on account of baptism, I did not sit down at the Lord’s table, and cannot in conscience do so until I am baptized. To one who does not see the necessity of baptism, it is perfectly right and proper to partake of thisblessed privilege; but were I to do so, I conceive would be to tumble over the wall, since I feel persuaded it is Christ’s appointed way of professing Him. I am sure this is the only view which I have of baptism. I detest the idea that I can do a single thing towards my own salvation. I trust that I feel sufficiently the corruption of my own heart to know that, instead of doing one iota to forward my own salvation, my old corrupt heart would impede it, were it not that my Redeemer is mighty, and works as He pleases.
Since last Thursday, I have been unwell in body, but I may say that my soul has been almost in Heaven. I have been able to see my title clear, and to know and believe that, sooner than one of God’s little ones shall perish, God Himself will cease to be, Satan will conquer the King of kings, and Jesus will no longer be the Savior of the elect. Doubts and fears may soon assail me, but I will not dread to meet them if my Father has so ordained it; He knows best. Were I never to have another visit of grace, and be always doubting from now until the day of my death, yet “the foundation of the Lord standeth sure, having this seal, the Lord knoweth them that are His.” I see now the secret, how it is that you were enabled to bear up under all your late trials. This faith is far more than any of us deserve; all beyond hell is mercy, but this is a mighty one. Were it not all of sovereign, electing, almighty grace, I, for one, could never hope to be saved. God says, “You shall,” and not all the devils in hell, let loose upon a real Christian, can stop the workings of God’s sovereign grace, for in due time the Christian cries, “I will.” Oh, how little love have I for One Who has thus promised to save me by so great a salvation, and Who will certainly perform His promise?
I trust that the Lord is working among my tract people, and blessing my little effort. I have most interesting and encouraging conversation with many of them. Oh, that I could see but one sinner constrained to come to Jesus! How I long for the time when it may please God to make me, like you, my Father, a successful preacher of the gospel! I almost envy you your exalted privilege. May the dew of Hermon and the increase of the Spirit rest upon your labors! Your unworthy son tries to pray for you and his Mother, that grace and peace may be with you. Oh, that the God of mercy would incline Archer’s heart to Him, and make Him a partaker of His grace! Ask him if he will believe me when I say that one drop of the pleasure of religion is worth ten thousand oceans of the pleasures of the unconverted, and then ask him if he is not willing to prove the fact by experience. Give my love to my dear Mother….
As Mr. Cantlow’s baptizing season will come round this month, I have humbly to beg your consent, as I will not act against your will, and should very much like to commune next month. I have no doubt of your permission. We are all one in Christ Jesus; forms and ceremonies, I trust, will not make us divided….
With my best love and hopes that you are all well,
Your affectionate son,
Not only as to the flesh, but in the faith,
CHARLES HADDON SPURGEON.
CHAPTER 15-THE GRACE OF GOD (Concluded)
Practically all professing Christians profess to believe that salvation is of grace. You can hardly find a member of any denomination who will out and out deny that salvation is by grace. The Bible so often and so positively declares salvation to be by grace that few men will boldly deny it. But the trouble is that many think and speak of grace in such a way as to frustrate it. The grace they think of and talk about is not grace at all. It is so mixed with human work and merit that it is no more grace. “And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then it is no more grace: otherwise work is no more work” (#Ro 11:6). There is quite as much in Roman Catholic literature about grace as there is in Baptist literature, but there is wide difference as to what the two groups mean by grace. In preceding chapters we have sought to tell what grace is, and where grace reigns, and what grace provides; and in this chapter we shall endeavour to show:
HOW GRACE SAVES
Before coming directly to the question, we shall lay down some principles from which to reason:
1. Salvation by grace destroys all room for boasting. No man is sound on grace who boasts of anything he has ever done or can do as the ground of his salvation. If your idea of salvation allows you to boast you may be sure it is wrong. No man can even boast of his repentance and faith, for they are the gifts of His grace. “Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins” (#Ac 5:31); “Forasmuch then as God gave them the like gift as he did unto us, who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ; what was I, that I could withstand God?” (#Ac 11:17); “Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man?” (#1Co 3:5); “And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power” (#Eph 1:19); “For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith” (#1Joh 5:4). All of our graces are fruit of the Spirit. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law” (#Ga 5:22,23).
2. Salvation by grace means that God is to have all the praise for our salvation. The Father is to have all praise for providing the Savior; the Son is to have all the praise for performing the work of salvation; and the Holy Spirit is to have all the praise for promoting salvation in us by convicting us of sin and bringing us to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
3. Salvation by grace does not give license to sin. There are two dangers concerning grace: one is the danger of frustrating it, the other is the danger of abusing it. We frustrate grace when we teach that righteousness comes by keeping the law: “I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain” (#Ga 2:21). We abuse grace when we use it to justify a life of sin. One is the danger of Arminianism, the other is the danger of Antinomianism. The one sets grace aside, the other uses grace wrongly.
He who justifies his sinning on the ground that he is not under law but under grace, does not have the grace of God in him. “For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace. What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid” (#Ro 6:14,15). The child of grace hates sin and strives against it, and when he falls into it, confesses it and forsakes it. Sin is not the habit and practice of his life. There is no sin that he hugs to his bosom and takes to glory with him. There is no sin that is a sweet morsel under his tongue. The man of grace neither boasts of keeping out of sin, nor justifies himself when he falls into sin.
In approaching our question:
HOW DOES GRACE SAVE?
We make a negative approach:
1. Grace does not save by enabling us to perfectly keep the law of God. It is our judgment that this is the way many people think grace saves. They confess that no man can of himself keep the law, but that grace enables him to keep it, and in this way grace saves. To be logical and consistent, and to have any place for grace in their plan, this must be the position of all who believe in salvation by keeping the law. Now, it is admitted, that if God should eradicate every vestige of our sinful nature, and cause us to live without sin, that would be grace indeed that would be the unmerited favor of God. It would be grace for it would be doing for us that which we do not deserve. But this is not the way grace saves, and we must voice our objections to it:
1a) That would not satisfy justice for sins already committed. God is just as well as gracious, and grace never acts contrary to justice. If the sinner should quit sinning justice would condemn him for sins he had committed in the past.
1b) That would rob Christ of any part in our salvation. If grace saves by making us sinless in character and conduct, then salvation would be by grace, but apart from Jesus Christ, for “I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain” (#Ga 2:21).
1c) If grace saves by enabling us to keep the law, then the Holy Spirit would be the Savior rather than Christ. The Holy Spirit is the Administrator of inward grace; it is by His strength we worship and serve God. The Holy Spirit, through the word, shows us the Savior, and makes Him precious to us, but the Holy Spirit is not the Savior. In announcing the birth of the Savior, the angel said, “And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins” (#Mt 1:21).
1d) In the new birth the sinful nature is not eradicated, but a sinless nature is implanted. In the saved man there is a warfare between two conflicting natures; “For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would” (#Ga 5:17). And Paul said, “I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me.” (#Ro 7:21). And this is the testimony of every true child of God, for “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us”
2. Grace does not save by overlooking our sins. If God took no account of our sins, that would be grace indeed but in doing that He would abdicate His throne in favor of His enemies. Our sins deserve punishment, but if God overlooked them and never punished them, that certainly would be grace that would be the unmerited favor of God. But this is not the way grace saves, for several reasons:
2a) Because it would be at the expense of justice. There can be no sacrifice of justice in salvation. Sin must and will be punished. If God overlooked sin He would be gracious, but at the same time unjust.
2b) There would have been no need of Christ’s coming to earth and dying on the cross. There is forgiveness with God, but it is on the ground of satisfied justice. “He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities” (#Isa 53:11). Grace saves by satisfying justice. “In whom have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace” (#Eph 1:7).
2c) It would cause man to admire one attribute of God and despise another attribute. If grace saves apart from the satisfaction of Divine justice, the sinner would naturally admire the grace of God, and at the same time despise His justice. To deal with sinners in such a way, God would be putting a premium on sin. We would not think much of a human judge who would overlook the crimes of men and let them all go free. Such a judge would be despised and deposed. Such procedure would be an invitation for everybody to commit all the crimes he pleased, because they would be overlooked, and no harm would come to the criminal. How would you, dear reader, like to live in a country like that?
3. Grace does not save by giving us ordinances to observe. The ordinances of ceremonies of Christ are for those already saved. They are declarative and symbolical; not procurative and sacramental. They are for the saints; not for the world, The most terrible heresies have come from false conception of the ordinances. Millions of men have lost their lives because they would not subscribe to these false conceptions. I quote from an article on “The Sacraments,” as found in the Roman Catholic Mass Book published by the Paulist Press, New York City:
“The sacraments are the ordinary means whereby God’s grace is brought to one’s soul. We depend on the grace of God not only to reach heaven after death, but to lead a life well pleasing to God on this earth. What the winds are to the sailing vessel, grace is to our soul.”
“The Sacraments are seven different ways by which special graces are applied to our soul. They are all instituted by Christ. By His death on the cross our Blessed Lord created a great reservoir of grace. From this reservoir there are seven channels, each carrying grace of a special quality, and when we need a particular kind of Divine help we go to the Sacrament which provides it. Baptism regenerates the soul and makes us children of God. It has the effect of washing away the sin we were born in, as well as any other sin we have committed. Confirmation strengthens the soul so as to enable it to fight valiantly. Holy Eucharist, being Christ Himself, the Living Bread, is the Food and Nourishment of the soul. Penance brings us God’s pardon. Extreme Unction gives us grace to die well. Holy Orders raises men to the dignity of God’s service and gives them strength to persevere. Matrimony gives grace to husband and wife to love each other and bring up their children in the grace and knowledge of God. Throughout our life on this earth the Sacraments provide spiritual nourishment without which it is impossible for us to merit the happiness and the glory which God has prepared for us in heaven.”
What a strange medley of truth and error! What a frustration of the true grace of God! What an awful misrepresentation of grace! What a travesty of the truth! The article speaks of grace enabling one “to merit the happiness and the glory” of heaven. To merit a thing is to deserve it, or to get it by way of debt, and whatever is reckoned as a debt is not of grace. “Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt” (#Ro 4:4). The Bible says that salvation is of faith that it might be by grace: “Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all” (#Ro 4:16). “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God” (#Eph 2:8), but this article does not have the word faith in it.
We will now attempt a positive answer to our question: How Does Grace Save?” What is the “modus operandi” of grace? What does grace do in salvation?
1. Grace saves from the guilt and penalty of sins by placing them on Christ. Grace saves by punishing Christ instead of the sinner. He put away the guilt of our sins by the sacrifice of Himself. “For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself” (#Heb 9:26). He bare our sins in His own body on the tree. “Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed” (#1Pe 2:24). He died as the Just One for the unjust ones that He might bring them to God, that is, into His favor. “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit” (#1Pe 3:18).
Justice says that my sins must be punished, and they have been punished in my Surety, the Lord Jesus Christ, the Surety of that better covenant “But now hath he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises” (#Heb 8:6). “And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission” (#Heb 9:22). It was in matchless grace that the Lord Jesus liquidated our sin debt, and He shall have all the praise.
“Our sins, our quilt, in love Divine
Confessed and bourne by Thee;
The gall, the course, the wrath were Thine,
To set Thy members free.”
“Grace,” cried Spurgeon, “is everything for nothing; Christ
free, pardon free, heaven free.”
2. Grace saves us from the love of sin and from a darkened understanding. This may be called internal salvation, and is the work of the Holy Spirit in us. In this work the Holy Spirit opens the soul’s blinded eyes to see the truth of the Gospel. Paul said that his gospel was hid to the lost because their minds were blinded. “In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them” (#2Co 4:4). The death of Christ does not benefit the man who lives and dies without faith in it. And every man of us would so live were it not for the light giving and life giving work of the Spirit. Spiritual truths are foolishness to the natural man, “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (#1Co 2:14), even though he be a university professor, and none but the Holy Spirit can make a man spiritual.
By nature and training Saul of Tarsus was a proud, persecuting, self righteous Pharisee, but grace wrought in him the graces of repentance and faith. It was grace that made him sick of self and fond of Christ. He had been depending for salvation upon his Hebrew ancestry and the rite of circumcision, and upon his orthodoxy as a Pharisee, his zeal as a persecuting patriot, and his law righteousness; but when grace revealed Christ to Him in all His worth, he counted all these things as “dung,” rejoicing in the righteousness which is by faith in Jesus Christ. “Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you, to me indeed is not grievous, but for you it is safe. Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision. For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh. Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more: Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: ” (#Php 3:1-9).
Conversion is the work of the Holy Spirit, and His work in us is as much of grace as was the work of Christ for us on the cross. Christ wrought for us on the cross to liquidate our sin debt; the Holy Spirit wrought in us conviction for sin, and faith in the blood of Christ as the one and only remedy for sin. “Grace,” said Spurgeon again, “is the morning and evening star of our experience. Grace puts us in the way, helps us by the way, and takes us all the way.”
Anna Steele, (1760), has memorialized the gracious work of the Holy Spirit in the following lines on the next page:
“How helpless guilty nature lies,
Unconscious of its load;
The heart, unchanged, can never rise
To happiness and God.
“Can ought beneath a power divine
The stubborn will subdue?
‘Tis thine, eternal Spirit, thine
To form the heart anew.
“Tis thine the passions to recall,
And upward bid them rise,
And make the scales of error fall
From reason’s darkened eyes.
“To chase the shades of death away,
And, bid the sinner live;
A beam of heaven, a vital ray,
‘Tis thine alone to give.
“O change the wretched hearts of men,
And give them life divine;
Then shall their passions and their powers,
Almighty Lord, be thine.”
C. D. Cole-Definitions of Doctrine-Volume 1
NEWMARKET, March 12, 1850.
MY DEAR FATHER, —
Many thanks to you for your kind instructive, and unexpected letter…. My very best love to dear Mother; I hope she will soon be better.
At our last church-meeting, I was proposed. No one has been to see me yet. I hope that now I may be doubly circumspect, and doubly prayerful. How could a Christian live happily, or live at all, if he had not the assurance that his life is in Christ, and his support, the Lord’s undertaking? I am sure I would not have dared to take this great decisive step were it not that I am assured that Omnipotence will be my support, and the Shepherd of Israel my constant Protector. Prayer is to me now what the sucking of milk was to me in my infancy. Although I do not always feel the same relish for it, yet I am sure I cannot live without it.
“When by sin overwhelm’d, shame covers my face,
I look unto Jesus who saves by His grace;
I call on His name from the gulf of despair,
And He plucks me from hell in answer to prayer.
Prayer, sweet prayer I
Be it ever so feeble, there’s nothing like prayer.”
Even the Slough of Despond can be passed by the supports of prayer and faith. Blessed be the name of the Lord, despondency has vanished like a mist, before the Sun of righteousness, who has shone into my heart! “Truly, God is good to Israel.” In the blackest darkness I resolved that, if I never had another ray of comfort, and even if I was everlastingly lost, yet I would love Jesus, and endeavor to run in the way of His commandments: from the. time that I was enabled thus to resolve, all these clouds have fled. If they return, I fear not to meet them in the strength of the Beloved. One trial to me is that I have nothing to give up for Christ, nothing wherein to show my love to Him. What I can do, is little; and what I DO now, is less. The tempter says, “You don’t leave anything for Christ; you only follow Him to be saved by it. Where are your evidences?” Then I tell him that I have given up my self righteousness, and he says, “Yes, but not till you saw it was filthy rags!” All I have to answer is, that my sufficiency is not of myself.
I have just now received a very nice note from my dear Mother. Many thanks to you for the P.O. Order. I do not know what money obligations are imposed upon members; I must do as you tell me.
(Here a piece of the letter has been cut out.)
I am glad brother and sister are better. Again my best love to you all.
Your affectionate son,
NEWMARKET, Feb. 19, 1850.
MY DEAR MOTHER, —
I hope the long space between my letters will be excused, as I assure you I am fully occupied. I read French exercises every night with Mr. Swindell, — Monsr. Perret comes once every week for an hour. I have 33 houses at present where I leave tracts, I happened to take a district formerly supplied by Mrs. Andrews, who last lived in this house, and Miss Anna Swindell. Next Wednesday, I mean to-morrow, — I am to go to a meeting of the tract-distributors. They have been at a stand-still, and hope now to start afresh. On Thursday, Mr. Simpson intends coming to talk with me upon the most important of all subjects. Oh, how I wish that I could do something for Christi Tract distribution is so pleasant and easy that it is nothing, — nothing in itself, much less when it is compared with the amazing debt of gratitude I owe.
I have written to grandfather, and have received a very nice letter. I have been in the miry Slough of Despond; he sends me a strong consolation, but is that what I want? Ought I not rather to be reproved for my deadness and coldness? I pray as if I did not pray, hear as if I did not hear, and read as if I did not read — such is my deadness and coldness. I had a glorious revival on Saturday and Sunday. When I can do anything, I am not quite so dead. Oh, what a horrid state! It seems as if no real child of God could ever look so coldly on, and think so little of, the love of Jesus, and His glorious atonement. Why is not my heart always warm? Is it not because of my own sins? I fear lest this deadness be but the prelude to death, — spiritual death. I have still a sense of my own weakness, nothingness, and utter inability to do anything in and of myself, — I pray God that I may never lose it, — I am sure I must if left to myself, and then, when I am cut off from Him, in Whom my great strength lieth, I shall be taken by the Philistines in my own wicked heart, and have mine eyes for ever closed to all spiritual good. Pray for me, O .my dear Father and Mother! Oh, that Jesus would pray for reel Then I shall be delivered, and everlastingly saved. I should like to be always reading my Bible, and be daily gaining greater insight into it by the help of the Spirit. I can get but very little time, as Mr. S. pushes me on in Greek and French.
I have come to a resolution that, by God’s help, I will profess the name of Jesus as soon as possible if I may be admitted into His Church on earth. It is an honor, — no difficulty, — grandfather encourages me to do so, and I hope to do so both as a duty and privilege. I trust that I shall then feel that the bonds of the Lord are upon me, and have a more powerful sense of my duty to walk circumspectly. Conscience has convinced me that it is a duty to be buried with Christ in baptism, although I am sure it constitutes no part of salvation. I am very glad that you have no objection to my doing so. Mr. Swindell is a Baptist.
You must have been terribly frightened when the chimney fell down, what a mercy that none were hurt! There was a great deal of damage here from the wind. My cold is about the same as it was at home, it has been worse. I take all the care I can, I suppose it will go away soon. How are all the little ones? Give my love to them, and to Archer and Eliza. How does Archer get on? Accept my best love for yourself and Father. I hope you are well,
Your affectionate son,
CHARLES HADDON SPURGEON.
CHAPTER 13-THE GRACE OF GOD
For every Christian God is to he thanked. “First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world” (#Ro 1:8). “But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you” (#Ro 6:17). Salvation is of grace both in its planning and working. God who made the plan also works the plan. And all is of grace, the unmerited and unmeritable favor of God. God is both the Architect and Builder of the house made of living stones. “Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ” (#1Pe 2:5). Christ said, “I will build My church.” If we may change the figure, God sets the Gospel table and also gives appetite for the bread of life. The Holy Spirit fills the Father’s house by compelling them to come in. This is not external compulsion, which would destroy human free agency, but an inward compulsion by which the sinner becomes willing. “Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power, in the beauties of holiness from the womb of the morning: thou hast the dew of thy youth” (#Ps 110:3). And this willingness is the result of the Spirit conviction of sin and His revelation in the sinner of Christ as Saviour and Lord. In a word men believe through grace. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God” (#Eph 2:8). When Apollos came into Achaia, bearing letters of recommendation to the disciples there this was recorded: “And when he was disposed to pass into Achaia, the brethren wrote, exhorting the disciples to receive him: who, when he was come, helped them much which had believed through grace” (#Ac 18:27).
A man was once speaking of himself as a self-made man. One who heard him in his boasting, said, “It’s quite noble of you to say so. Most men would have blamed their luck, or their wives, or even laid the responsibility on the shoulders of the Creator.” It seems natural and easy for a man to worship his Maker, and therefore, the self-made man naturally worships himself. But every believer is a grace made man. Paul, as a Christian, delighted to say, “But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me” (#1Co 15:10). In an experience of grace, the Holy Spirit, by the convicting power of the word, gives the sinner a sight of self, and then relieves the resultant distress by giving him, through the Gospel, a sight of Christ. An old Puritan once cried out, “Oh, where had I been if I had not spied out Christ?”
DEFINITIONS OF GRACE
The Greek word “charis” occurs in the New Testament more than one hundred and fifty times and is usually translated “grace” in our English Bible. It is not easy to take a word employed so many times and with such a diversity of application and develop a doctrine that will be uniform and consistent. Moreover, all the truth about grace cannot be compressed into a single sentence. Grace is one of the Divine perfections or attributes in the nature of God which is exercised in the salvation of sinners. Great and good men have grappled with the subject of grace in an effort to define and describe it. May we prayerfully ponder some of them:
Dr. Dale: “Grace is love which passes beyond all claims to love.” Grace is not the sinner’s due; it is not something he earns; it is not something he can lay claim to.
Alexander Whyte: “Grace and love are essentially the same, only grace is love manifesting itself and operating under certain conditions, and adapting itself to certain circumstances. As, for example, love has no limit or law such as grace has. Love may exist between equals, or it may rise to those above us, or flow down to those in any way beneath us. But grace, from its nature, has only one direction it can take. Grace always flows down. Grace is love indeed, but it is love to creatures humbling itself. A king’s love to his equals, or to his own royal house, is love; but his love to his subjects is called grace. And thus it is that God’s love to sinners is always called grace.” This quotation deserves repeated readings.
Alexander Maclaren: “The word grace is a kind of shorthand for the whole sum of unmerited blessings which come to men through Jesus Christ. Primarily, it describes what we, for want of a better expression, have to call a ‘disposition’ in the Divine nature; and it means the unconditioned, undeserved, spontaneous, eternal, stooping, pardoning love of God. But there are no idle dispositions in God. They are always energizing, and so the word glides from meaning the disposition, to meaning the manifestations and activities of it, and the grace of our Lord is that love in exercise. And then, since the Divine energies are never fruitless, the word passes over further, to mean all the blessed things in the soul which are the consequences of the Promethean truth of God’s loving hand, the outcome in life of the inward bestowment which has its cause, its sole cause, in God’s ceaseless, unexhausted love, unmerited and free.” This quotation must be studied to get the most out of it.
Phillips: “Grace is something in God which is at the heart of all His redeeming activities, the downward stoop and reach of God, bending from the heights of His majesty, to touch and grasp our insignificance and poverty.”
In analyzing all these definitions and descriptions of grace, we find that the word is applied to three things in the Scriptures. First, God’s attitude or disposition of love and favor towards a sinner is grace. It is said that “Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord” (#Ge 6:8). God’s attitude towards him was a disposition of favor and love, and inasmuch as Noah was a sinner, that disposition of love was grace. Second, when God does something for the sinner’s good, that is grace. “By grace have ye been saved” (R. V.). Third, the effects or fruit of the inwrought grace in the believer is also called grace. The graces or virtues in the saints are produced by the grace of God working in them. The disposition of the Macedonians to give so liberally is called grace: “Moreover, brethren, we do you to wit of the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia” (#2Co 8:1); and the money given for the poor saints at Jerusalem is also called grace: “For it hath pleased them of Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor saints which are at Jerusalem” (#Ro 15:26). The changed lives of the people whom Barnabas saw at Antioch is called the grace of God. “Who, when he came, and had seen the grace of God, was glad, and exhorted them all, that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord” (#Ac 11:23).
“Grace is a charming sound,
Harmonious to the ear;
Heaven with the echo shall resound
And all the earth shall hear”
HOW TO BETTER UNDERSTAND GRACE
Perhaps the best way to understand the meaning of grace is to see how it is contrasted in the Bible with other things:
1. It is contrasted with law in its origin and nature. “For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ” (#Joh 1:17). Moses was the voice of law; Christ was the spokesman for grace. It is the nature of law to make demands; it is the nature of grace to bestow blessings. The law is a ministry of condemnation; grace is the ministry of forgiveness. The law puts man at a guilty distance from God; grace brings the sinner nigh to God. The law condemns the best man; grace saves the worst man. The law says, “Do and live;” grace says, “Believe and live.” The law demands righteousness; grace provides righteousness. The law curses; grace redeems from the curse. As long as a man is under the law he is lost; the only way to get out from under the law is through faith in Christ, “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth” (#Ro 10:4). “For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace” (#Ro 6:14).
2. Grace is contrasted with sin in its issue. Sin reigns unto death; grace reigns unto eternal life: “That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord” (#Ro 5:21). Sin gets its damning power from the law: “The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law” (#1Co 15:56); grace robs sin of its damning power by giving Christ for the satisfaction of the law: “But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (#1Co 15:57). The one and only source of real danger is from violated law; the one and only way of escape is through a satisfied law. Christ satisfied the law for His people, that the law might be satisfied with them. “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death” (#Ro 8:2).
3. Grace is contrasted with works in the plan of salvation. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast” (#Eph 2:8,9). Salvation is by the grace of the Creator rather than by works of the creature. Salvation by grace precludes the idea of any works either great or small, moral or ceremonial. Salvation by grace excludes boasting and gives all praise to God. “And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then it is no more grace: otherwise work is no more work” (#Ro 11:6). “Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith” (#Ro 3:27).
“Grace first contrived the way
To save rebellious man;
And all the steps that grace display
Which drew the wondrous plan,”
4. Grace is contrasted with debt or obligation as to the moving cause of salvation. “Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness” (#Ro 4:4,5). The thought here is this: the man who draws wages for his work does not have any grace shown him, but a debt or obligation paid to him. There is no grace where a man gets what he deserves or earns. Grace excludes the principle of debt or obligation. Salvation by grace means that God is not obligated to save. If there is obligation to save then salvation is not by grace as the moving cause. It was grace in God, and not a debt He was under, that caused Him to provide salvation for sinners. Toplady well says: “The way to heaven lies not over a toll-bridge, but over a free-bridge; even the unmerited grace of God in Christ Jesus. Grace finds us beggars but leaves us debtors.”
“High as the heavens are raised
Above the ground we tread,
So far the riches of His grace
Our highest thoughts: exceed.”
GRACE IN THE TRINITY
All three persons in the Godhead are equally gracious towards sinners. The grace of the Father, Son, and Spirit are equal in degree and extent, but distinct in operation and administration.
1. The Father is the fountain of all grace. He proposed the fact and plan of grace. He formulated the covenant of grace, and devised the means “whereby His banished should not be expelled from Him.” He made choice by grace of the subjects of grace, and then in fulness of time sent His Son into the world to be the medium of grace. “But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons” (#Ga 4:4,5).
2. The eternal Son is the channel of grace. The only way the grace of God can reach the sinner is through the Lord Jesus Christ. “For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ” (#Joh 1:17). Let no rejector of God’s Son think himself to be the beneficiary of God’s grace! His work reconciled Grace and Justice, as it is written, “Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other” (#Ps 85:10). John Bunyan, blissfully lost in the contemplation of the matchless grace of the Son of God, cried out in these words: “O Thou Son of the Blessed! Grace stripped Thee of Thy glory; grace brought Thee down from heaven; grace made Thee bear such burdens of sin, such burdens of curse as are unspeakable; grace was in Thy heart; grace came bubbling from Thy bleeding side; grace was in Thy tears; grace was in Thy prayers; grace streamed from Thy thorn crowned brow! Grace came forth with the nails that pierced Thee, with the thorns that pricked Thee! Oh, here the unsearchable riches of grace! Grace to make sinners happy! Grace to make angels wonder! Grace to make devils astonished!”
3. The Holy Spirit is the administrator of grace. Without the gracious operation of the Holy Spirit in conversion no sinner would ever become a beneficiary of grace. He takes of the things of Christ and gives them to the sinner. He quickens all the souls of the Father’s choice, and leads to Jesus Christ all the sheep for whom the dear Shepherd laid down His life. “I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep” (#Joh 10:11). He conquers the stoutest hearts, and cleanses the foulest spiritual leper. He opens sin blinded eyes and unstops sin closed ears. The blessed Holy Spirit reveals the grace of the Father and applies the grace of the Son.
“We may listen to the preacher,
God’s own truth be clearly shown;
But we need a greater teacher
From the everlasting throne;
Application is the work of God alone.”
C. D. Cole-Definitions of Doctrine-Volume 1