Salvation By Grace
“By Grace you are saved.”
THE cardinal error against which the Gospel of Christ has to contend is the effect of the tendency of the human heart to rely upon salvation by works. The great antagonist to the Truth of God, as it is in Jesus, is that pride of man which leads him to believe that he can be, at least in part, his own savior. This error is the prolific mother of multitudes of heresies! It is through this falsehood that the pure stream of the Truth of God has been tainted so that, instead of flowing on in one clear pure river, it has been sadly polluted. There have been many who have sought to hinder the flowing of the Water of Life, or to divert the stream from its proper current. Many have tried to mingle the fancies and fallacies of men with the Truth as it is in Jesus, in order, thereby, to make it more palatable to poor, fallen, human nature.
It is my belief that all great reforms in the Church of Christ must have for their basis the declaration of the Doctrine revealed in my text–“By Grace you are saved.” The tendency of the Church, like that of the world, is to fly away from this Truth which is really the sum and substance of the Gospel. A departure from this Doctrine is, in my opinion, the essence of those many errors which, springing up from time to time, have troubled and divided the Church and marred the beauty of the spouse of Christ.
In all times, whenever this Doctrine has been obscured, the Church has become either heretical or Laodicean. She has either held some dangerous and damnable heresy, or she has held only a portion of the Truth and held it with so feeble a grasp that it has lost its ancient power in her hands–so that her enemies have prevailed against her. The mightiest men in all ages of the Church’s history–those who have been the means of bringing the greatest good into her midst, and the most usefulness into the world–have been those who, rising up like Samson when called to do valiant deeds on behalf of Israel, have made this the distinguishing characteristic of their ministry–the Doctrine of Salvation by Grace in contradistinction of salvation by works.
In Augustine’s day, there had been a grievous falling away from the simplicity of the Gospel. And when he arose and preached to the world this glorious Truth of God, there was an influence for good which, I believe, staved off the great Romish heresy, at least for a time. Had the Church and the world but listened to his voice and accepted his teaching, Popery would have been an impossibility! Then later, when Romanism had waxed exceedingly strong, the Lord raised up Martin Luther who taught this as the great central Truth of Christianity, that sinners are justified by faith–not by works. After Luther came another distinguished teacher of the Doctrine of Grace–John Calvin, a man far better instructed in the Truth of the Gospel than even Martin Luther was–and he pushed this grand Doctrine to its legitimate consequences. Luther had, as it were, undammed the stream of Truth by breaking down the barrier which had kept back the living waters in the great reservoir–but the stream was turbid and carried down with it much that ought to have been left behind. Then Calvin came and cast salt into the waters and purified them, so that they flowed on in a clear, sweet, pure stream to gladden and refresh the Church of God and to quench the thirst of poor parched sinners.
Calvin preached, as his great staple Doctrine, the great Truth in my text, “By Grace you are saved.” It is common, in these days, to call those ministers who dwell mainly upon this Doctrine, “Calvinists.” But we do not accept that title without qualification. We are not ashamed of it and we would rather be called “Calvinists” than have any other name except that which is our true one. We hold and assert again and again, that the Truth of God which Calvin preached, the Truth of God which Augustine thundered out with all his might–was the very Truth of God which the Apostle Paul had long before written in his Inspired Epistles and which is most clearly revealed in the discourses of our blessed Lord Himself! We desire to preach the Truth of God, the whole Truth of God and nothing but the Truth of God! We are not the followers of any mere man–we do not derive our Inspiration from Calvin’s Institutes and Commentaries, but from the Word of God itself! Yet we hold the Doctrines commonly called, “Calvinism,” to be none other than the essential basement Doctrines of our holy faith. These were the truths that Whitefield preached and that produced the great revival in his days! And these must be the Doctrines to which the Church of God must again return, if the Church of Rome is to be razed to its deep foundations, or souls to be converted in great multitudes, or the Kingdom of Christ to come!
My text relates to the Doctrine of Salvation by Grace and, coming to it, I ask you to notice, first, that the Apostle addresses certain people who were saved. meanings of the term, “Grace,” as applied in the Scriptures. some consolatory and practical inferences.
- In the first place, THE APOSTLE ADDRESSES CERTAIN PEOPLE, TO WHOM HE SAYS, “YOU ARE SAVED.” He does not say, “You shall be saved,” or, “You hope to be saved.” He speaks to them as persons already “saved.” Now, there are no people on the face of the earth who can be correctly described as “saved” unless it can also be said of them that they are saved by Grace!
I see two things in this part of my text and, first, the Apostle mentions a present salvation. He speaks not to peoplewho were to be saved when they died, or who hoped to be saved in some future state, but he addresses those who actually were saved–who had salvation, not in prospect, but in present enjoyment–who had passed out of a state of condemnation into that of salvation and who looked upon their salvation as being as sure, as certain, as really theirs as their houses, their lands, or their lives!
A present salvation cannot consistently be preached by any beside those who hold the Doctrine that salvation is by Grace. Is there a Roman Catholic, in the whole world, who, in harmony with his own creed, can say that he is saved? No, there is not one! In fact, lying as that creed does, it does not profess to put anyone into a position in which he can say, “Iam saved.” No, the Romish Church not only postpones salvation to the day of death, but positively beyond it! There was Daniel O'Connell, of whom the Pope said that he was his greatest subject in Europe–yet it is not many years ago that we were informed that he was in “purgatory.” It was a hard thing that such a faithful disciple of the Pope should be sent there, yet he was no worse off than the bishops, archbishops and cardinals, for, according to the Romish teaching, they all go to “purgatory!” Of course, the Pope lets them out after a certain time, but that is all he professes to offer–salvation after a future indefinite period–he never pretends to say to anyone, “You are saved now.” That would be a lie too gross even for the Pope and priests of Rome to utter! There is no such thing as a present salvation in the whole of the Romish Church.
Nor is this possible under any system except that of salvation by Grace. Bring up the good Dissenters, and the good Churchmen, the men and women who are regular in their attendance on outward ordinances. Whatever the ceremonies of their church may be, they observe them with the most indefatigable industry. They have been “baptized” and confirmed. They have “taken the sacrament,” or sat at the communion table–according to the phraseology of their different churches–and they believe that, by their constant attention to the outward observances of worship, they will assuredly be saved! But speak to any one of these people, and ask if he can say, “I know that my sins are forgiven”–he will be astonished at your enquiry, and will reply, “I would not have the presumption to say such a thing!”
Appeal to the very best of them, the most devoted, the most earnest, the most indefatigable of those who are seeking salvation by their own works, and ask if they have obtained eternal life. You cannot find one who has done so–they are all hoping that, through the mercy of God, they may somehow and sometime be saved–but none of them will declare that they are now saved. From those who join us in church fellowship, I frequently hear such remarks as this, “I attended my church every day in the week. I repeated the prayers regularly, but I never found any rest to my soul until I trusted wholly in Christ.” From others who attended certain Dissenting places of worship, I have had such expressions as this, “I went up to the House of God and I heard my minister exhort me to be patient in sickness, to love my God and my neighbor, and I tried to do my best to obey his exhortations, but I never could say that I was a saved man, or use the confident language of the spouse, ‘My Beloved is mine, and I am His,’ until I learned that salvation is all of Grace and, by His Grace, trusted in the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
No, my dear Friends, under the theory of salvation by works, whatever form it may take–whether it appears in the garb of Popery, or hides itself under the veil of Protestantism–it is always substantially the same–a man’s own works cannot pretend to offer to him the blessing of a present salvation! Take the Arminian theory, which is the least objectionable of all forms of salvation by works–cut it asunder–and you will find that there is a strong taint of Popery even there.
“But,” asks someone, “do not Arminians rejoice to say that they are already saved?” Yes, but their assertion is contradicted by the assurance which they will give you directly afterwards, that they may finally perish. Although they are now saved, their safety is something like that of a wrecked mariner who, after being tossed to and fro in a stormy sea, is washed up on a rock, from which he may presently be hurled back into the raging billows! Their safety is not like that of the man who has been carried into the lighthouse, or brought to land in the lifeboat, for they believe that, after all they have experienced, they may be lost. It is not salvation that the Arminian possesses–he is only in a salvable state. His condition is that of a man who, if he continues to repent and believe, shall be saved, but he is not truly saved now –he has not been built upon that sure, certain, solid foundation upon which the true Believer is resting. He cannot sing, with Toplady–
“The terrors of Law, and of God
With me can have nothing to do!
My Savior’s obedience and blood
Hide all my transgressions from view!
My name from the palms of His hands
Eternity will not erase–
Impressed on His heart it remains
In marks of indelible Grace.
Yes, I to the end shall endure,
As sure as the earnest is given–
More happy, but not more secure,
The glorified spirits in Heaven!”
Such a salvation as that–a present one, enjoyed now in all its fullness, in all its riches, in all its boundless lengths, and breadths, and depths and heights–is not possible under any other system but that of salvation by Grace, and by Grace alone! We, of all men living, who preach the Doctrine of Salvation by Grace, can proclaim a present salvation in all its fullness.
In our text we also see that
the Apostle speaks of a perfect salvation. We teach that the moment a man believes in
Christ, he is not merely put into a salvable state, not half saved–he is not placed in a position where, if he remains, he will be saved, but concerning which there is a fear that he may fall from it–but that he is already completely saved! I verily believe that the saints in Heaven, albeit they have received the crown of salvation, are not, as to its essential reality, more truly saved than the meanest and weakest Believer in Christ who is struggling through floods of temptation here upon earth.
For what is it to be saved? It is to have sin forgiven and to be “accepted in the Beloved.” The moment a sinner believes in Jesus, his sins are as much pardoned as they ever will be! They are as fully and as finally blotted out of God’s Book of Remembrance as they would be if he should live a thousand years of piety. He is as completely clear, as far as the forgiveness of his sins is concerned, as he will be when he stands at the right hand of the Judge at the Last Great Day.
To be saved, however, includes more than forgiveness of sins–it includes the imputation of the righteousness of Christ and, in this sense, also, the meanest Believer in Him is as much saved as the celestial spirits in the Paradise above. Is the robe of Christ’s righteousness spread over the Apostles? So is it, at this hour, around the poorest person on earth who is trusting in Jesus! Are those who sing God’s praises before His Throne in Glory clothed in the fair white linen which is the righteousness of the saints? Even so are all Believers here below! Each saint is, as John Kent says–
“With his spotless vesture on,
Holy as the Holy One.”
Covered with Christ’s righteousness, God sees no spot in His people!
“But,” asks someone, “are not the saints in Heaven more secure than Believers on earth?” Believers on earth are not secure from temptation, but they are secure from destruction–not from tribulation, but from condemnation! They are not exempt from care, woe and suffering, but they are forever delivered from the wrath of God and the damnation of Hell. Not an angel in Heaven is more certain of the eternal love of God than is the feeblest Believer upon earth! If your soul is committed to the hands of Christ, you can never perish! I speak no more strongly than His own utterances warrant, for Jesus has said, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me: and I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish.” To the woman at the well of Sychar, our Savior said, “Whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.” We are complete in Him–perfected in all the essentials of salvation!
Now, mark, under no system of Doctrine whatever is perfect salvation in this world contemplated except under that scheme which teaches that we are saved by Grace. Under the plan of salvation proposed by the work-mongers, there is no completeness in any of its aspects. Under the old Mosaic dispensation in which God most clearly revealed Himself as the Judge of His people, all “those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually” could not “make the comers thereunto perfect.” There was, “in those sacrifices, a remembrance again made of sins every year.” However attentive they might be to all the observances of the Ceremonial Law, their salvation was not perfect. But Christ, “by one offering has perfected forever them that are sanctified” and, therefore, He has “sat down at the right hand of God.”
Now if under that noblest form of the Covenant of Works, complete salvation was not to be secured, how is it likely to be attained in any of those corrupt systems in which, while men profess to set aside the old Covenant of Works, they yet expect to find salvation? No man but he who believes the Doctrines of Grace talks about being completely saved. Ask the Arminian–the fairest and best specimen, sometimes the best of men, though miserably mistaken as to his beliefs–what can he say? He tells you that if he perseveres in well-doing, in faith and in repentance, he will be saved. Ask him whether he is completely saved, or whether there is something more yet to be done and he will tell you that there is many a step yet to be taken before he will reach full salvation. He may talk about a finished righteousness, but he does not know how it is attained!
We hold that Believers are complete in Christ even now and that, die whenever they may, they will enter into His Presence as being already perfect in Him. Oh, how sweet it is to enjoy a present salvation, which is, at the same time, a perfect salvation! How grateful should we be that it is presented to us in the Covenant of Grace and that it is revealed to us in those blessed portions of Holy Scripture which tell us of the wonderful Grace of God which He has manifested towards His people! “You are saved.” Oh, how sweet are these words! Pause, Beloved, a moment or two, and rejoice over them. “You are saved”–saved now, at this present instant–if you are Believers in the Lord Jesus Christ!
II. Now we are to notice THE MEANINGS OF THE TERM, “GRACE,” AS EMPLOYED IN THE SCRIPTURES–“By Grace you are saved.”
First, it means that if we are saved, it must be a matter of free favor. There is nothing in us that could ever meritGod’s esteem, or give Him such delight as to lead Him to bestow upon us the blessings of eternal salvation. If we ask why any individuals are rescued from the ruins of the Fall and enabled to believe in Jesus, the only answer is, “Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Your sight.” Certainly, we were not saved because of our talents, for the most talented often remain unconverted. We were not saved because of our wealth, for most of us have none. We were not saved because of the excellence of our disposition, or the holiness of our character, for, even since our conversion, we cannot think of our best services without shame and confusion of face. If I look upon the people of God, either in the mass or as individuals, instead of imagining that there was anything in them to cause God to love them, I am compelled to say that there seems to have been far more to move Him to destroy them than to save them! Will not all Believers here confess that they are saved not because of anything good in them, but because of Grace most full, and free, and unconstrained?
Further, we are saved by Grace as a matter of Divine operation. From the first holy desire in the soul, to the lastshout of victory in the dying hour, salvation is by the operation of the Almighty. Whatever is not worked in you, by God’s Grace, will be an injury, not a blessing, to you. If any of you have a faith, or a repentance, or any condition of heart or life which is of your own making, get rid of it, for there is nothing good in it! That so-called faith which is not the gift of God is really presumption–and that repentance which is not godly sorrow worked by God in the soul, needs to be repented of! I am sure that all there is of good in any saint must have been put there by the Holy Spirit, for it would not have sprung up of itself. Human hearts will naturally grow weeds, but not those rare exotics, those flowers of Heaven, the Christian Graces! These must be Divinely implanted and nurtured, and grow up entirely by the exercise of that same Omnipotence which raised Christ from the dead!
I will go even further and say that if Divine Grace should carry us every inch of the road to Heaven but one, we would be lost because of that last inch! If, in the edifice of our soul’s salvation, there is even one stone left for us to put in its place, unassisted by God’s Grace, that building will never be completed! From first to last, all must be of Grace. I agree with the highest doctrinalist upon this point, that there is not, and there cannot be a good thing in the heart of any man if it was not worked there by the Sovereign Grace of God.
“Well, but,” says one, “is it not the duty of men to repent and to believe?” Certainly it is, but I am not speaking of their duty. Their lack of power does not excuse them from obedience to God’s command. If a man owed another a thousand pounds, it would be his duty to pay his debt, whether he had the ability or not. And, inasmuch as it is man’s duty to repent and to believe, herein is the Glory of God’s Grace made manifest, in that He accomplishes, by his Grace, what man could never have done! I can truly say that as far as I have gone in the Divine life, there has been nothing good in me but that which has come from God. Let others give their own testimony–if they have any good thing which they have produced, let them glory in it! But I have nothing whereof to glory and must say to the Lord, “You have worked all my works in me as far as they have been any good, but, as for myself, I would cover my face and cry, ‘Unclean, unclean, unclean.’ Lord, have mercy upon Your servant!”
III. Now, to close, I want to draw some CONSOLATORY AND PRACTICAL INFERENCES.
First, how humble that man ought to be who is saved by Grace! The Arminian says that he can stand or fall according to his own will. Ought he not to be proud? What a fine fellow he is! Sing a Psalm in your own honor, Sir, and when you get to Heaven, take all the glory to yourself! You say that you have done part yourself–you admit that the Lord did a great deal for you, but that your own free will settled the matter. Very well, then, give the glory to yourself–sing your own praises forever and ever! But the true Believer says, “I was as clay in the hands of the potter when the Lord began with me. I was senseless, dead, corrupt, till the Lord took me in hand and quickened and changed me, and made me what I am–and I would go back to what I was before if He did not keep me by His Grace. But I know that what His Grace has commenced, He will certainly complete, and to Him be all the Glory!”
Next, if we are saved by Grace, we, of all people, should have compassion on those who are out of the way. If we areon the road to Heaven, we were brought onto it by Grace and, therefore, we ought to be very considerate of those who are not on it. That good man, John Newton, used to say, “A Calvinist who gets angry with the ungodly” is inconsistent with his profession. He knows that no man can receive this Doctrine except by the Grace of God–so, if God has not given to these men the Grace to receive this Doctrine, rather pray for them than get angry with them–and ask that they may receive the Truth in which your soul delights."
Then, once again, here is a word of comfort. If we are saved–are saved, mark you–what shall make us sad and unhappy at heart? “Oh!” says one, “I am so poor.” Yes, but you are saved! You are a Believer in Christ, so you are saved. “But,” says another, “I am so afflicted.” Yes, but you are saved. “But,” says another, “I am often so neglected and despised.” Yes, but you are saved. Oh, what joy would that thought have caused, a little while ago, when the burden of all your sins was upon you! You used to say, “Oh, if I could but be sure that I was saved, I would not mind if I had nothing but a crust of bread and a cup of water! If I could but know that my sins were forgiven, I would not mind being shut up anywhere in the world! If I might know that I was Christ’s, the world might say what it liked about me.”
Now you do know it, for you are on the Rock and you are saved–so why are you sad? You may now be despised, but, remember, the time is coming when you shall be glorified with Christ! You may be now forgotten by your friends, but your Savior’s eyes are on you and your name is on His heart! You are sad, yes, but you are secure! If you believe in Jesus, you may be cast down but you cannot be destroyed! You may be forsaken for a while, but you can never be cast away! Come then–
“Children of the heavenly King,
As you journey, sweetly sing–
Sing your Savior’s worthy praise,
Lastly, one word to those who cannot say that they are saved. My dear Friends, there is very much in this text thatshould cheer and comfort you. The men who are saved are saved by Grace–by God’s free favor. There was nothing in them to recommend them to God. You have been confessing, “O Lord, I do not feel as I ought to feel” He does not want your feelings as a recommendation. If saved, you are to be saved as a matter of free favor and not as a matter of merit in any sense whatever. “But,” says one, “I cannot repent, I cannot believe.” My dear Friend, you are not going to be saved by anything that you can do in your own strength. You need repentance. Do not try to work it for yourself–the Lordwill work repentance in you. You need faith. Do not go about to seek faith in yourself–you will never find it there–seek it from Christ. He is the Author as well as the Finisher of faith!
“By Grace you are saved.” Go and carry this text into every den and sty of pollution in London! Tell it to the murderer, the thief, the blasphemer, the harlot! Tell it to the man who cannot repent, and cannot pray, and cannot believe! Tell him that salvation is by Grace, and is worked in us by God the Holy Spirit and, as the hymn says–
“Heaven with the echo shall resound,
And all the earth shall hear.”
Go, then, my Brothers and Sisters, and spread the Doctrine of Salvation by Grace, for this old watchword of the Church is the source of her victory! And when once this shall be her battle-cry, her triumph is sure! The headstone of God’s spiritual temple shall be brought forth with shouts, crying, “Grace, Grace unto it.”