GRACE BY EZRA M. HUNT, M.D To the Christian, there is no word more full of intense interest and meaning than the word Grace. Around it cluster all the affections and desires of the renewed soul ; for it is in itself the divine centre of all our religious experience and hope. In a single monosyllable it introduces us to the glory of the plan of salvation, and brings before us all the joyful results of a change of heart. It is not only the first word of Faith which the convicted sinner spells out as he weeps and waits at the foot of the Cross ; but the constant watchword with which he summons his heart to diligence, after he has tasted and seen that the Lord is gracious. As he who has been renewed by the Spirit first apprehends the change, and beholds the whole current of his life setting in a new direction, he can only look up to the source of this sublime redemption, and cry out, " It is all of grace.'' Christian experience, with its manifold temptations and triumphs, its conflicts and victories, can only repeat with increasing emphasis
10 GRACE, GROWTH, AND GLORY. the song ; day after day, and year after year, it grows in meaning and power, until grace itself ripens into glory. " By grace are ye sayed." What more need we say, in order to enforce the propriety, and prove the necessity of seeking fully to comprehend this, the Christian's banner word ? Though we study it a lifetime we shall never comprehend its fulness ; for it is not one idea, but a host ; a fountain from which a single drop is life-giving, and each successive draught creates a desire for new supplies. Nothing can be more profitable for the Christian, than to endeavour to appreciate the fullest meaning of this grace of which we speak ; since with it, and growth therein, are associated all that constitutes true happiness in this life, and all that secures eternal blessedness in the next.
I. OUR FIRST AND MOST CONSTANT IDEA OF GRACE MUST BE THAT IT IS A FAVOUR. That which we earn, we are not disposed to be especially
thankful for ; and since gratitude is necessary to the enjoyment of grace, and the remotest conception of desert on our part at once destroys the word, we must see in it unmerited kindness, supernatural love. It is Christ coming after us, as we are running hither and thither in the highways of sin, and bidding us to the marriage supper, not because we deserve it, but only because his mercy invites us. We are not slow to appreciate the value of those gratuitous benefits which we receive from our fellow men, and they awaken in us sentiments and feelings belonging to the kindlier side of human nature. But Grace is the grand summing up of all favours ; at once the foundation and sublime superstructure of our hope. The
GRACE, OROWTH, AND GLORY. 11 first laid corner-stone is a gift, and each succeeding element a mercy ; until the highest pinnacle is reared with shoutings of " Grace, Grace unto it." The boldest figures, the most graphic delineations, the most pathetic illustrations, drawn from the earth, are all earthy, in comparison with this favour. He who could and would give us all the wealth of time ; who could raise us from the bed of wasting disease to perfect health ; who would snatch our child from devouring flames, and restore it safe to its mother's arms ; or in the shipwreck and amid the howling tempest, when the last ray of hope had left us, would raise us from the waters of death, would do something for us that all words would fail to express. But grace exceeds them all. It is a favour beyond comparison. It gives us treasures which never fail, health which never dies, a Friend who will never forsake us, and an everlasting rescue from deeper and darker waters than ocean ever rolled, from a second death more horrible than any yawning gulf of time has ever threatened. II. IT IS A DIVINE FAVOUR. Come and look, thou redeemed soul, for a moment into the pit from whence thou wast delivered, and see by whom thy salvation came. It is God, the God who is Love, who is thy Benefactor. It is not a mortal that helps thee, else both thou and thy helper might weary and fall. It is not an inferior, or an equal ; but one so far superior, that language has no words to express the exaltation. The favour is all divine. As much as is Eternity more grand than time, or Infinity than the finite, or the King Immortal, Invisible, and Eternal, above the worm man, so much is the greatness of this favour enhanced by its Divinity. We cannot measure it by
12 GRACE, GROWTH, AND GLORY. the mensuration of this world, it is only to be calculated by the arithmetic of heaven. Its greatness, its intensity, its omnipotence, its omnipresence, and all its attributes, are as limitless as God. So divine is this favour ; so full, so exhaustless is this grace. We cannot attempt to grasp the benignity and condescension of this mercy, until we study its divine origin. When the princes of this earth, even with great ceremony, permit us to appear in special audience before them, the honour is so highly appreciated, as to be often referred to afterwards ; but ours is incomparably a greater favour. The High and Holy One who inhabiteth eternity makes the first approach, and stops not with the blessing of a passing presence, but confers upon us riches so divine that human tongue cannot describe them. They are only to be felt, and loved, and enjoyed, until we are fitted to ascend to Him from whom they come. III. IT IS A FREE GIFT. This is not always included in the worldly sense of favour. There may be with men some hesitation between the inclinations of benevolence and the cautiousness of restraint, which sometimes moderates the fulness of the cordiality ; or if no adequate return is expected, yet sinister motives may exert a secret or unrecognized influence. But the gift of grace is free without measure, free beyond the possibility of reward. Its author is in every way independent of the recipient, and yet by the munificence of his love, takes grand advantage of our need, making man's dependence the richest occasion of goodness and mercy. The freeness only adds to the fulness of the blessing. It treats us not as menial subjects, but as those whom he delighteth
GRACE, GROWTH, AND GLORY. 13 to honour. It adds thereto all the glory of a victory won ; of a liberty purchased by blood ; yet frees us from the suffering, while it gives us the reward. Oh that we may feel more this sacred compassion ! There is no mortal freeness like this ; for
it is the sublime love of an all powerful and all wise Friend, fully engaged on our side, pledged for our deliverance. In such a view, how despicable the merit of works ! What is there in our own efforts that can add a drop to the ocean fulness of this free gift ? IV. IT IS AN ILL-DESERVED GIFT — NOT ONLY A FAVOUR DIVINE, UNEARNED, AND FREE, BUT CONFERRED AMIDST ENORMOUS AND FLAGRANT ILL-DESERT. Ours was not a condition of mere passive existence or negative disobedience. We are not only undeserving of the gift, but positive sin renders us scarce fit subjects for the blessing. We are not only unworthy, but our unworthiness is culpable and intense. Like Esau, we have parted with our birthright for a mess of pottage, and have despised the first offers of mercy. We are like the poor prisoner who had been left so long in his cell, that its sombre walls and cold bars were his intimates, and the cobwebs and spiders his loved companions, so that he was loathe to leave them. Every claim to compassion has been forfeited. Actual sin puts its brazen breastplate upon us, its ponderous shield before us, its coat of mail about us, to repel all these assaults of love. But blessed be God ! he puts his Spirit within us. In the midst of our ingratitude, he presses his unmerited favour upon us. Ilis is not a passive but an active love. Our very ill-desert has hardened us, and there is something to be overcome. He not only offers — he persuades. He not only stands — he 2
14 GRACE, GROWTH, AND GLORY. waits to be gracious. He not only receives, but with open arms be meets us, and welcomes us in the rags and tatters of illdesert, if we will only accept in their place the garments radiant with a Saviour's righteousness. " He pardons like a God." With the right to the gift, we have forfeited the appreciation of it ; and his grace must be aggressive, contending with us, yet for us, until it convinces us of ill-desert, and then, in its place, confers the merit of our Redeemer. It is free pardon to one, without cause a rebel against his Sovereign, while still in an active opposition which by no possibility can injure the King ; a release to the prisoner whom Satan has bound these many years, while he is living ungrateful for the very mercies of his daily life ; a pitying forgiveness to a harmless enemy. Who is not melted when one upon whom he has
forfeited all claims to compassion, rescues him from certain ruin, and proves a friend in need ? Who is not melted when he beholds God the Father, Christ the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, covering his rebellion with arms of love, just at the time that its consequences are searing the soul, and lulling it for eternal wailings ? God grant that we who have a hope in Christ may daily see more and more clearly how little we deserve this grace. V. IT IS AN IMMENSE GIFT. Gold and silver and precious stones are worse than dross before it. His grace to us commenced in creation, it culminated in redemption, but it knows no waning or decrease. " He giveth more grace." How shall we comprehend the immensity of this gift ? What better can we do than to keep fresh in view the grand facts of the mission, sufferings, and death of our crucified but risen Redeemer ? " lie died for His enemies." How uiauy
GRACE, GROWTH, AND GLORY. 15 have ever given this much for their fricDds ? Who else ever freely, voluntarily, cheerfully died for his enemies? "While we were yet sinners Christ died for us." When all his prophets had failed, God sent his only begotten and well-beloved Son to take our nature and suffer in our stead. So immense was the gift that none but he could give it ; and Christ was given, because all things else combined approached not to a sufficiency. Look up. Christian ! Behold the world around you so full of treasures, so bountiful with wealth, so luxuriant in production, so munificent in all its arrangements. But oh ! give it all, and it is not one jot or tittle toward saving one soul. Go forth on a cloudless night and see the starry worlds above ; learn that the countless hosts of these are but the suns of universes still beyond. Yet these are not enough for a soul. They cannot suffice as a sacrifice to atone for one sin. Christ is given, because all things else are valueless for salvation. But the living , Christ is not enough. The penalty of transgression must be paid ; and nothing but his suflering and death can satisfy the debt. His divinity by no means diminished the sufferings of his humanity, but intensified them beyond expression. That soul agony was a real intensity of suiFering. That bloody sweat was a real anguish of the flesh. Those cruel mockings and scourgings were felt as only such a sufferer could feel. That spear thrust into the side carried with it the pangs of mortal pain. Those spikes driven through the sensitive nerve net-work of the palm and pinning down the feet, stung with
agony ; and yet it was the willing gift for us. Had he insisted upon it, a word would have rid him from the cross, but we should have lost the crown. But he was unwilling that man's redemption should fail, though it must be purchased with tears and sweat, with agony and blood, with the betrayal of false
16 GRACE, GROWTH, AND GLORY. friends, the doubts of true ones, and the malefactor's death. How immense the suffering he bore ! "Ye are bought with a price" not easily redeemed, and all this a gift to you. It was not the numerical value of the number of souls to be saved, but the worth of a soul that led to such a sacrifice. He died for us personally. He was thy Redeemer. But the immensity of this gift is not yet circled. We have not only bestowed upon us the Immanuel, a God with us, but the Holy Spirit to dwell within us, as a guide by whose help we pass from grace to grace, until we attain " the mark of the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus." We cannot compute the immensity of the favour any more than we can scan the universe with a material eye. With the utmost stretch of our spiritual vision, we can only catch faint glimpses of the glory. We now know only in part ; but if we have accepted this immense gift, we shall hereafter know even as we are known. Yet even here we may follow on to know the Lord. This grace is enhanced by the favourable surroundings which God has conferred upon it. It is not only offered, but made available. It is presented to us amidst strong inducements, and much is conferred upon us independent of its acceptance. So far from its being a formal or barren proposal, our Creator has done much to incline us to embrace it. Life with all its privileges, reason with all its endowments, a birth and education amidst Christian institutions and associations, what are these but so many stepping-stones to the height of this mount of privilege ? Divine favours of a temporal nature are sprinkled all along our pathways, that we may be persuaded to receive the grace of a spiritual life. We are made partakers of finite bestowments, that we may be allured to choose infinite mercy, and immortal peace.
GRACE, GROWTH, AND GLORY. 17 How merciful is Grod to us all ! While we walked in our
own ways, " he left not himself without a witness in that he did good, and gave us rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness." -" He maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust." " Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights." " His mercies are new every morning, and fresh every evening." He even sustains his enemies, that he may give them the opportunity to become his friends. His goodness alone should lead us earnestly to seek his salvation. To the sinner, by the human principles of gratitude, it would seem that these should be enough to win him to Christ ; but to the Christian all these mercies are surroundings of love, aiding him in growth and holiness. The unceasing stream of daily benefits is so laden with Grod's munificence, that we only need to survey it, in order to find it commending the grace of God, and building us up in the most holy faith. This grace is accompanied to our hearts by an advocate, and sustained by the special presence of the Holy Spirit. No more precious or heart-cheering promise illumines the pages of inspiration, than that which Christ made to his disciples, when about to leave them for the glories of the Father's presence. " 1 will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever, the Spirit of truth." " I will not leave you orphans." " The Comforter, the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you." What grace ! The Father rules for us, the Son dies for us, the Spirit comes to abide with us. The gift of the Holy Ghost was the 2*
18 GRACE, GROWTH, AND GLORY. grand Omega of the work of redemption. It was the restamping of God's image upon the soul of man ; that image which sin had marred, and well nigh erased. It was the implanting within us of a new principle of holiness, to overcome the corruptions of the flesh, and to incline us to accept the proffered salvation. But it was not only to be the sinner's prompter, but the Christian's abiding friend. The Spirit was to remain with us. Too often we speak of it, and pray for it, as if it were only meant to be an occasional visitant. It is for us always a resident. Oh doubting, trembling saint ! thou art not left to tread the
billows alone, for this Spirit is at thy side. God hath not left himself without a witness within thee ; and here is the pledge of thine ultimate triumph. Though Satan may tempt and allure, a stronger than he has a temple and a dwelling-place in thy heart. Doubt and despair well might seize upon us, if left to ourselves ; and they would be the more natural, if we were compelled to look upon the Father as high and lifted up, and the Son as occupying a throne at a distance from us ; but with the Holy Spirit, the blessed Comforter within us, we have access by faith into this grace, " because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.'' The germ of growth has been implanted within our souls, that it may spring up to everlasting life, and has been accompanied by that power which not only can "keep us from falling, but present us faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy." How perfect the chain of our hope ! How complete the circuit of Divine love I God, the mighty God, our Friend, our
GRACE, GROWTH, AND GLORY. 19 Father ; Christ our Saviour, our Mediator, our Advocate ; the Spirit our Helper, and Comforter. The Father mercifully inclined and omnipotently able to save us ; the Son accepted by him as Mediator, in his own person having satisfied the law, and now pleading for us with intercessions irresistible ; and the Spirit within us, a God in very deed dwelling with men, enabling us to avail ourselves of the benefits which flow from our salvation. Such aid in holiness to grow Is thus Touchsafed to saints below ; Such gracious love beyond compare The Father, Son, and Spirit bear. Ought we not to grow in this grace ?