SALVATION BY GRACE
“By the grace of God I am what I am." - I Cor. xv. 10
Lord’s Day Evening,
“Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, wherein He hath made us accepted in the Beloved. In whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace.” Ephesians i. 5-7
“It is required in stewards that a man be found faithful.” I Cor. iv. 2
WHAT a solemn consideration it is that we all have never-dying souls! A little time will sweep us all into the grave, and where will our souls be? We are fit to die, or we are not; all that die without the grace of God in their hearts are sure to be in hell. Is my soul quickened? am I born again? has my soul longed to know and feel the cleansing blood of Jesus? are my sins pardoned? am I justified freely by God's grace? what is my real state before God? What a solemn subject is death with eternity in view! Who amongst you all here present have real and blessed evidences that your souls are quickened, and that you are not dead in trespasses and sins, that you have been led to seek Christ sorrowing, and Christ has been found, and you can express how precious He is to your souls, and how much you love Him? You that are careless about your souls, with no real desires for mercy and pardon through the blood of Christ, if you live and die as you are, where will your souls be in a thousand years, in a million years, and for ever and ever? If you die destitute of grace you will hear, when standing before the judgment seat, "Depart, ye cursed, into everlasting fire;" and those blessed with grace will hear, "Come, ye blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you."
The apostle Paul in this chapter contends earnestly for the resurrection of Christ, which some had been denying. He mentions many witnesses, and that the apostles saw Him, and so did he; and he tells them, if Christ be not risen, that their faith was vain, and his preaching vain also. But he was not meet to be called an apostle, because he persecuted the church of God; yet he says, "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." He here alludes to the power of grace in enabling him to preach: "Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ." Paul knew without Christ he could do nothing; he knew what God's ministers that preach the glorious gospel also know, that they have "this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of" them. All ministers sent by God to preach His gospel are only instruments in His hands, and would wish to ascribe all the glory to His Name. If a minister has no true knowledge of himself as a sinner, by the Spirit's teaching, and cannot say anything about the Lord's gracious dealings with his soul, he is unfit for the pulpit. If he die in that state, where will his soul be? And if the hearers have no true experience, how can it be described? How can the minister enter into particulars about a sound repentance and genuine faith as the fruits of the Spirit if they are destitute of such blessings? How certain it is they must be in hell if they die in this awful condition. As ministers are what they are by the grace of God, so are the hearers what they are by the grace of God. Where there is no work of grace, there is no true religion; when the fire tries every man's work of what sort it is, how all religion must be burnt up, like wood, hay and stubble, but the blessed things in experience which have been bought as the gold in the fire, and have been dived for as the precious pearls. Oh! what an unspeakable mercy to be amongst those who shall be able to stand when the great day of God's wrath is come. "By the grace of God I am what I am." At my first ordination, in March, 1826, how ignorant I was of the glorious gospel! I do trust my soul was quickened in January, 1827, and I have had marks of the fear of God ever since. When I was first in trouble about my soul, how little did I know about salvation by grace, of promises applied, and of election, predestination, and the final perseverance of the saints!
I do not wish to cast contempt on any here on account of their ignorance and darkness, for I know that they cannot quicken their own souls nor open their blind eyes. "Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him; but God hath revealed them unto us by His Spirit." How few can say that God hath revealed such blessed realities by His Spirit to them! How this portion of Scripture testifies against thousands of mere professors! They can tell what they are doing for God, but they cannot tell what God is doing for them, in teaching them what they are by nature and what they are by grace.
The little I know I have been brought to know gradually. Though quickened, I trust, in January, 1827, I was not brought to know and declare the doctrines of grace as set forth in the 10th, 11th, 12th, 13th and 17th Articles of the Church of England till the autumn of 1829, and did not know a full deliverance of soul till January, 1843; I could not enter till then into the blessed portions of Scripture setting forth the sweet liberty of the gospel; I did not know what it was to have my cup run over, nor to have a feast of fat things, nor the promises applied with dew and unction to my soul; but when I was completely blest, I could then read the 103rd and 116th Psalms, and understand the blessed experience contained therein. I had joy and peace in believing; my eyes flowed fast with tears, and my soul was full of the love of God. The blessing seemed too great to be real: "I could rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory, receiving the end of my faith, even the salvation of my soul." I thought I should have died, and was quite willing, till three days afterwards these words came with great power: "How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things." Then I knew I was not to die, but that I was to live and preach the gospel of peace. The Lord's Day after I had this manifestation of God's lovingkindness to my soul, that beautiful hymn of Hart's was sung:
“How high a privilege 'tis to know
Our sins are all forgiven;
To bear about this pledge below,
This special grant of heaven !”
I could never understand that hymn till then, about the special grant of heaven in having my sins pardoned. I have had the testimony tried since, and all my dark paths, as well as the brighter; but, through the grace of God, I continue to this day wishing to be led and taught aright by the Lord.
“And ofttimes when the tempter sly
Affirms it fancied, forged, or vain,
Jesus appears, disproves the lie,
And kindly makes it o'er again."
True faith is sure to be tried. An untried faith is a strong evidence against those who are satisfied with it; for the Lord trieth the righteous, and many are their afflictions, but the Lord delivers them out of them all. Satan, the world, and an evil heart of unbelief will be opposed to real faith.
“Corruptions make the mourners shun
Presumption's dang'rous snare;
Force us to trust to Christ alone,
And fly to God by prayer."
You here present, who are satisfied with your religion, have you bought it in the fire? Can you speak of a sound repentance wrought by grace and a living union with Christ? Is Christ precious to your souls? Have you fellowship with Him in His sufferings? Is He revealed in your hearts the hope of glory? How many dissenters, as well as members of the Church of England, receive the Lord's Supper who bear no marks of being even babes in Christ, and are altogether ignorant of the Divine realities of the gospel! When any are quickened by the Spirit of God, and are real mourners in Zion, and mean what they say, when they receive the Lord's Supper in the Church of England, "We do earnestly repent, and are heartily sorry for these our misdoings; the remembrance of them is grievous unto us; the burden of them is intolerable; have mercy upon us, most merciful Father;" we hope there is life in their souls. I do not wish to despise the least work of grace; if a man is brought to stand by the side of the publican, crying for mercy, and is alarmed about dying in his sins, and being in hell for ever, such a religion will make him pray, sigh, and groan; and he cannot hide it long; he will wish that he had never been born; he begins to spend his Lord's Days in a different manner; wants to leave off his evil practices, and to forsake his old companions; and he will pray in secret places; through shame he may do many things with a guilty conscience, but the fear of God in his heart will cause a struggle, till grace enables him in time to make a full confession of the change, which he hopes is wrought by God.
When those who are first awakened cry out, “What must I do to be saved?" they begin to work, and are in favour for a time of a free-will profession. They cleave to Arminian preachers, and think that they shall never be in communion with those who hold what they then considered high and dangerous doctrines; but after a while they become dissatisfied with the free-will preaching; a sense of their own vileness and helplessness makes them approve of Hannah's confession (1 Sam. ii. 1-11); by degrees the Lord brings them to know that grace must save them, and from their need of Christ they wish to hear Christ preached; and if He is not known, they believe He must be known.
In reading Bunyan's "Pilgrim's Progress" and “Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners," and such books, they are by degrees confirmed in the glorious doctrines of grace, which they now begin to see more fully in the Bible. I could hold salvation by grace, and the final perseverance of the saints, before I could hold the doctrine of election.
“By the grace of God we are
what we are." You here present, who wish to be thought real Christians,
what are you made to believe and do by the grace of God? How do you expect
to be saved? by works or by grace? It must be either in one way or the
other. Paul says, "Even so then at this present time also there is a
remnant according to the election of grace; and if by grace, then it is 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. What, then?
Grace sets forth the eternal love, favour and kindness of God towards His people, chosen in Christ, unmerited and undeserved; and all blessings for their souls and bodies in time and through eternity flow in that channel.
What a fulness of blessings there is in grace for all the dear children of God! and there is nothing on their part to draw God's love forth. He loved them because He did love them - nothing before or after calling made them the objects of God's love. Paul says to Timothy, "Be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God, who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began." If Paul and Timothy had grace and salvation given to them before the world began, so had all here present, who are to be in heaven. By nature we are dead in trespasses and sins, and can do nothing in any way to save our souls. Christ said of us Gentiles, "Other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they shall hear My voice, and there shall be one fold and one Shepherd." How Christ shows that He must bring them! Paul told the Colossians that God "had delivered them from the power of darkness." If we are delivered, did not God deliver us? “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." Nevertheless, fruits will be produced where there is grace; for the Apostle says, "We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained, that we should walk in them." And again, "The grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto Himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works." Here we have the blessed effects of grace set forth, and how the Lord's people are redeemed and made peculiar by the purifying hand of God, and so manifest their faith by their fruits; and yet how the Apostle shows that salvation is by grace: "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 Ghost, which He shed on us abundantly, through Jesus Christ our Saviour, that being justified by His grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”
From necessity we are brought to contend for salvation by grace. How sure I am, if I go to heaven, grace must save me; and how sure I am that those here present, who will be in heaven, must also be saved by grace. However highly some of you may think of free-will preachers, they cannot tell you what to do to bring about a reconciliation between God and your own souls; and if you die without being reconciled to God, your souls will be in hell.
“Blessed are they whose guilt is gone,
Whose sins are washed away with blood,
Whose hope is fix'd on Christ alone,
Whom Christ has reconciled to God.
“This pearl of price no works can claim;
He that finds this is rich indeed;
This pure white stone contains a name,
Which none but who receives can read."
Vile, guilty and helpless sinners are very glad to read so much in favour of free and sovereign grace in the Word of God: "Moreover the law entered that the offence might abound; but where sin abounded, grace did much more abound." We observe that the Lord gave testimony to the word of His grace; and Paul says to the elders at Ephesus, "And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified;" and Peter says, "But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they."
You, my friends, who are taught rightly by the Spirit of God, and know in some measure what hell-deserving wretches you are, are glad to hear ministers preach a full and free pardon through the blood and righteousness of Christ. You cannot hear too much in favour of free grace; having such deceitful and desperately wicked hearts, surrounded with such allurements and temptations, together with Satan's wiles and snares, you are glad to hear about restraining grace, as well as saving grace:
“O, to grace how great a debtor
Daily I'm constrained to be!
Let that grace, Lord, like a fetter,
Bind my wand'ring heart to Thee."
It is pleasing for ministers
to find any marks of godly simplicity and godly sincerity, which manifest
the babes in grace as mourners in
The most important matter with us is, what are we? By the grace of God have we been stopped in our blind zeal as Pharisees, or have we been plucked as brands out of the fire, as profligates? Can we hope that the grace of God hath quickened us? Are we in the narrow path to life? How dwelleth the love of God in us? Can we hope that by grace we have broken hearts and contrite spirits? Can we tell what God has done for our souls? Are we anxious to say with David, "Come and hear, all ye that fear God, and I will declare what He hath done for my soul”? The Scriptures do not give any encouragement to those professing religion who have no soul trouble; they are out of the secret; they fear not God, nor will He show unto them His covenant for their comfort and encouragement. "If the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?" If you are not amongst those who are calling upon God to bless their souls, or among those who are calling upon their souls to bless God, I would by no means deceive you. Such are strangers to vital godliness, whether they profess religion or not. If they profess, they have the form without the power - a name to live whilst dead in sin; for if your souls were really quickened, you would surely pray and cry for mercy, and would earnestly ask God to bless your souls. There is a great difference between a babe in grace and a father in Christ; but both are safe as they stand in the glorious covenant of God, ordered in all things and sure.
The church of God is a glorious building: “Ye are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit"; and every stone will be brought, and the dust shall be remembered; and the headstone, shall be brought forth with shoutings, crying, "Grace, grace, unto it"; "The Lord will give grace and glory; no good thing will He withhold from them that walk uprightly." And how often has God said to His dear people in all their troubles and afflictions, "My grace is sufficient for thee;" and "as thy days" thy strength shall be; and the Lord pours down upon His people "the Spirit of grace and of supplications." Paul did not preach a yea and nay gospel; but, as God is true, our word toward you was not yea and nay; "For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by us, even by me, and Silvanus, and Timotheus, was not yea and nay, but in Him was yea; for all the promises of God in Him are yea, and in Him amen, unto the glory of God by us.” Paul taught how all the promises belonged to the dear children, and that they should have them, and that God would be their God, and they should be His people. So not one of Christ's sheep can be lost: "He gives unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish"; "Their sins and iniquities He will remember no more." There may be many false preachers to oppose the truth: "Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure; having this seal, the Lord knoweth them that are His." What a mercy if we are blest with evidences and proofs that we are amongst the favoured few who shall endure unto the end.
Adulterers, drunkards, covetous, and such characters, cannot say how grace has turned them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, and that they are "partakers of the heavenly calling”; but some who are seekers may hope that they have a sound repentance, as there is a great change in many respects: "If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new." Paul said to those who had been so ungodly, "Such were some of you; but ye are washed; but ye are sanctified; but ye are justified in the Name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.” When you are fully convinced what a great change there must be in a man when the kingdom of grace is set up in his heart, and that there is something great in having saving faith, you will begin to contend for the power of religion, and you will agree with the apostle, that "it is a good thing that the heart be established with grace.”
Those amongst you who know the most of Divine realities were once very ignorant, and those who are now seeking and anxiously desiring the pardon of their sins sealed in their conscience will, after a while, have a new song put into their mouths, so that they may praise and bless God. How few are really concerned about their souls, and are begging of God to give them evidences that their religion will stand when a time of great trial comes! We are glad to find religion the most important matter with those who profess to be true disciples of Christ, who are more anxious to die well than to get through the world well. We are glad to find any wounded in their consciences, and begin to know the plague of their hearts; and that begin to confess that they should not care what reproaches, losses, trials and difficulties they might have to encounter if they were sure they were blest with saving faith, and shall not be "of them who draw back unto perdition, but of them who believe to the saving of the soul." Such lovers of the truth look upon those as the excellent of the earth, though despised and persecuted by the world, to whom the Lord has manifested His pardoning love, and are enabled by grace to bring forth fruits as evidences of their faith, "so that wisdom is justified of her children."
My friends, what a vast difference there is between free-grace preaching and free-will preaching. The law came by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ; if you owed Moses ten thousand talents of gold, and could pay all but one farthing, Moses would send you to hell for that farthing: "By the deeds of the law shall no flesh be justified in God's sight, for Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth."
What a fulness there is in Christ for needy sinners! Of Him are ye in Christ Jesus, "who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption." "He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord."
The children of God are saved with an everlasting salvation; they are complete in Christ, are accepted in Him, are blest with all spiritual blessings; have mansions of glory, and an inheritance undefiled; they have God for their Father, Christ for their Elder Brother, and the blessed Spirit for their Comforter; all their sins and iniquities are pardoned; they are justified freely by God's grace, and by precious faith they can at times rejoice in Jesus, and at times they sink very low to doubt the reality of all their enjoyments.
Oh, how blessed to be enabled to say experimentally, "Therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ; by whom also we have access by faith into this grace, wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God."
Peter speaks of "growing in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ," and says, "This is the true grace of God, wherein ye stand." Ministers can never speak too highly of Christ, nor can they say too much in favour of grace; nor can they fully describe or know how vile, sinful, and depraved is the heart of man.
Alas! how few are asking how a sinner is to be saved from a feeling sense of their own vileness and guilt; being full of fears that they shall die in their sins, and be in hell for ever and ever; and alas! how very few ministers can tell their hearers how a sinner is to be saved from their own personal experience. It is a very great mercy to know what it is to be a sinner saved by grace. Paul says, "Be it known unto you, men and brethren, that through this Man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins; and by Him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses"; "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved." What a blessed knowledge it is - "the knowledge of salvation through the remission of sins"! A grain of saving faith is worth more than a thousand worlds.
My friends, you that are blessed with saving faith will surely have it tried; some with the temptations and snares of prosperity; some with the cares and galling yoke of adversity; some with their families, and some with their friends. There are trials of various kinds for all the children of God, whether ministers or hearers, whether babes, young men, or fathers in Christ; there is so much within and without opposed to vital godliness; and through much tribulation we must go to glory. Sin in ourselves and sin in those connected with us is sure to bring trouble. No cross, no crown. Afflictions, crosses, sorrows, reproaches, and persecutions will attend all the true followers of the Lamb. I have blessed God for afflictions as well as consolations, knowing in faithfulness God had afflicted me, and that all His children must feel His rod before they see His face in glory. I know that when I am favoured in my soul all things are right; there is no fretting about the past nor murmuring about the future. We can say, Thy will be done, O Lord.
“Blest with this faith, then let us raise
Our hearts in love, our voice in praise;
All things to us must work for good,
For whom the Lamb has shed His blood.
“Trials may press of every sort;
They may be sore, they must be short;
We now believe, but soon shall view
The greatest glories God can show."
In conclusion, I ask, my friends, what has Christ done for us, and what do we know of Christ in His blessed characters? And what has the Spirit wrought in us? When did we first begin to know the humbling power of grace? And are fruits brought forth as evidences thereof? And are we ascribing the fruits to the influence of grace, as the Apostle did when he speaks of having laboured more abundantly than they all? "Yet not I," says he, "but the grace of God which was with me"; knowing what Christ says is true, “Without Me ye can do nothing," and yet knowing something of what Paul says, "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me"; knowing also that you cannot believe of yourselves, and that true faith is a fruit of the Spirit, and is called "the faith of God's elect."
We must die, prepared or not prepared, when our time comes. As death leaves us, judgment must find us; no repentance, no salvation. What a great mercy to be enabled to thank God for the victory over death through our Lord Jesus Christ! I would not for the world rest my soul upon any religion short of this, being washed in Christ's blood and clothed in His righteousness. If that be not my religion for a dying hour, my soul must be lost; and you here present who are expecting to go to heaven in any other way but through Christ, you will be dreadfully disappointed. Salvation is all of grace; "Christ is All, and in all." You, my friends, who are "called to be saints," and know the earnest breathings of a soul after Divine realities, and have not sought in vain, you are highly favoured; you love Christ and His true disciples, and can pray for the prosperity of Zion, and can sympathise with those who suffer adversity and are in distress. You can help the poor and needy cheerfully according to your means; you can pray to be made spiritually minded, and be kept so; and you can really desire to be delivered from the evil practices and customs of this ungodly world, knowing the plague and evils of your own hearts.
You can truly say, my friends, that "you would choose rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season.” You feel thankful to be amongst the outcast, despised, and persecuted for Christ's sake, "whose praise is not of men, but of God."
You are anxious to hold the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience; you are favoured to know the influence of grace in your daily walk and conversation; and under God's purifying hand you are made fruitful branches of the living Vine. Though you know what it is to be cold and lifeless in Divine things, you, my friends, love the truth and like to hear the Spirit's work preached. You know, when God delivers you out of trials and afflictions, answers your prayers, and comforts and encourages you with fresh blessings, or brings to your remembrance past mercies, how your hearts are affected with a sense of His lovingkindness and goodness.
You, my friends, set up Ebenezers, saying, “Hitherto hath the Lord helped us.” You do not forget the hills Mizar and Hermon. Christ you love and can speak most highly of as the Friend of sinners, and "His Name is as ointment poured forth”; and you believe, if God intended to destroy you, He would not have shown you what He has, nor would you have been favoured with such blessed testimonies of His lovingkindness: "if God be for us, who can be against us? He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?" "Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth", "and we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose."
loves His people and takes pleasure in them! How He listens to their sighs
and groans, and puts their tears into His bottle! Those so favoured and
blessed are precious in God's sight. They can never be lost nor perish;
for when the blessed work of grace is begun in their souls, "He will
perform it until the day of Jesus Christ." If those who receive such
blessings and mercies, vile and worthless as they know themselves to be, did not speak well of the riches of God's
grace, the very stones would cry out. You are constrained to say, “O
magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His Name together”; “We sought the
Lord, and He heard us, and delivered us
from all our fears.” Some of you may mourn and sigh, because you have not
such blessed proofs of your interest in the covenant of grace. The Lord
regards the lambs as well as the sheep; the mourners in
Those who are real saints are made so by the grace of God; and they are brought to know that all the blessings, mercies and favours, temporal and spiritual, come to them through Christ, unmerited and undeserved in every respect on their part. "What shall we render unto the Lord for all His benefits towards us? For the Lord will keep the feet of His saints"; and “precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints." And may grace have all the praise!
“Grace all the work shall crown,
Through everlasting days;
It lays in heaven the topmost stone,
And well deserves the praise"
“Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us; but unto Thy Name give glory, for Thy mercy, and for Thy truth's sake." Amen.