WHAT IS “GRACE”?
Once upon a time, I met, on board an Australian liner, an aged man of genial temperament, and of sound and extensive learning. He managed to dwell in well-nigh perpetual sunshine, for he followed the sun round the globe year after year, and he was himself so sunny that the passengers made friends with him, and sought information from him. It fell out that a discussion having arisen as to What “Grace” was, someone said, “Let us ask “The Walking Encyclopcedia”; he will be sure to know.” So to him they went with their inquiry as to the meaning of the theological term, “Grace.” They returned woefully disappointed, for all he could say was, “I confess that I don’t understand it.” At the same time he volunteered the following extraordinary statement: “I don’t think that they understand it either who so often speak of it.” Like the medical man of whom the Rev. T. Phillips told in his Baptist World Congress sermon who said of Grace, “It is utterly meaningless to me,” this well-read traveller comprehended it not. Some among us were hardly astonished at this, but it did occur to us that he might have allowed that it was just possible that on this particular theme, at all events, some less learned folk might be more enlightened than himself. Now, it chanced that on that same vessel there was a Christian seaman, who, if he could not have given a concise and adequate definition of “Grace,” nevertheless knew perfectly well its significance, and would have said, “Ay, ay, sir; that’s it,” with bounding heart and beaming face, if one had suggested that “Grace is God’s free, unmerited favor, graciously bestowed upon the unworthy and sinful.” And if Mr. Phillips himself had been on board, and had preached his Congress sermon there, and had declared that “Grace is something in God which is at the heart of all His redeeming activities, the downward stoop and reach of God, God bending from the heights of His majesty, to touch and grasp our insignificance and poverty,” the weather-beaten face would have beamed again, and the converted sailor-man would have said within himself, “Oh, to Grace how great a debtor, daily I’m constrained to be.”
Verily, the world through its wisdom knows not God. The true meaning of “Grace” is hidden from the wise and prudent, and is revealed to babes. “Cottage dames” are often wiser as to the deep things of God than savants and scientists. Our learned traveller dwelt in perpetual sunshine, but he was not able from experience to say, “God hath shined in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God, in the face of Jesus Christ.”
Dr. Dale, long years ago, lamented that the word “Grace” was becoming disused. It has, alas, been used a great deal less since then. His own definition of “Grace” is worth remembering: “Grace is love which passes beyond all claims to love. It is love which after fulfilling the obligations imposed by law, has an unexhausted wealth of kindness.” And here is Dr. Maclaren’s: “Grace-what is that? The word means, first, love in exercise to those who are below the lover, or who deserve something else; stooping love that condescends, and patient love that forgives. Then it means the gifts which such love bestows; and then it means the effect of these gifts in the beauties of character and conduct developed in the receivers.”
Dr. Jowett puts the matter strikingly: “Grace is energy. Grace is love-energy. Grace is a redeeming love-energy ministering to the unlovely, and endowing the unlovely with its own loveliness.” Shall we hear Dr. Alexander Whyte hereupon? “Grace means favor, mercy, pardon. 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 instance, 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 in the Scriptures. It is love indeed, but it is love to creatures, and to creatures who do not deserve His love. And therefore all He does for us in Christ, and all that is disclosed to us of His goodwill in the Gospel, is called Grace.”
Is “Grace” Definable?
Delightful as these definitions are, we are conscious that the half has not been told. O the exceeding riches of His grace. Whereunto shall we liken the mercy of God, or with what comparison shall we compare it? It defies definition, and beggars description. This is hardly to be wondered at, for it is so Divine. There are some things of earth to which no human pen or brush has done justice-storms, rainbows, cataracts, sunsets, icebergs, snowflakes, dewdrops, the wings that wanton among summer flowers. Because God made them, man fails to describe them. Who, then, shall tell forth fully that which God has and is? The definition we have quoted from Dr. Jowett is worthy of his great reputation, yet he himself confesses that “Grace” is indefinable. Thus choicely he puts it: “Some minister of the Cross, toiling in great loneliness, among a scattered and primitive people, and on the very fringe of dark primeval forests, sent me a little sample of his vast and wealthy environment. It was a bright and gaily colored wing of a native bird. The color and life of trackless leagues sampled within the confines of an envelope! And when we have made a compact little phrase to enshrine the secret of Grace, I feel that however fair and radiant it may be, we have only got a wing of a native bird, and bewildering stretches of wealth are untouched and unrevealed. No, we cannot define it.”
Desire for Salvation
It cannot be pretended that all men desire to be saved. Would to God that it were so! A lack of the sense of sin is still the most perilous omen of today, as Mr. Gladstone declared it was in his time. Were he now alive, he would, we believe, repeat those portentous words with added emphasis, for this lack this fatal lack is approved and fostered by certain of those whose solemn endeavor it should be to prevent and condemn it. A fatal lack it assuredly is, for if a sense of sin be absent, what hope is there of a longing for salvation, of a cry for mercy, or of appreciation of a Saviour? So long as men imagine themselves to be potential Christs, there is little likelihood that they will be sufficiently discontent with self to look away to Jesus, or, indeed, to suppose that they are other than rich and increased in goods and in need of nothing. No, no; all men do not desiderate salvation, though we sometimes think that there has come to all men at some time or other, before the process of hardening was complete, some conscience of sin, some apprehension as to the future, some longings, faint and fitful it may be, to be right with God, and assured of heaven. There is, moreover, a much larger number than we suppose of really anxious souls. Deep desire is often hidden under a cloak of unconcern, and there is sometimes a breaking heart under a brazen breast. In addition to, and partly in consequence of, this lack of a sense of sin, there is much misconception as to the nature of salvation, and the way to secure it. It is even possible to entertain some true conception of sin, and of salvation, without comprehending, or, at all events, without submitting to God’s method of salvation. One may realize that to be saved from sin is to overcome its power as well as to escape its penalty, and yet suppose that this is not impossible to fallen men by way of profound penitence, radical reformation, and precise piety.
Righteousness Is Essential
One thing is evident-righteousness is essential. But what must be the nature and quality of that righteousness, and how and whence is it to be obtained? Shall it be home-made, or shall it be of God and from above? Shall I go about to establish my own, or shall I subject myself to God’s? Shall salvation be of works, or by faith? Is Christ to be a Substitute for the sinner, or will the sinner be a substitute for the Saviour? Shall the altar smell of sacrifice, God-appointed and God-provided, or will we prefer to deck it with flowers that wither and with fruits that shrivel, howsoever fair they seem at first? Is personal goodness, or is God’s grace, as revealed in Jesus Christ, to bring us to the world where all is well? The one is a ladder that we ourselves set up, and painfully ascend; the other is an elevator which God provides, into which, indeed, we pass by penitential faith, but with which the lifting power is God’s alone. Salvation by works is the choice of the Pharisee, salvation by Grace is the hope of the Publican.
One or Other
Nor can these two principles be combined. They are totally distinct; nay, more, they are at Variance the one with the other. A blend of the two is impossible. “If it is by grace, it is no more of works; otherwise grace is no more grace.” One cannot merit mercy. This field must not be sown with mingled seed. The ox of mercy and the ass of merit must not be yoked together; indeed, they cannot be; they are too unequal. No linsey-woolsey garment can we weave of works and grace. As Hart quaintly puts it:
“Everything we do we sin in,
Must not use
Woollen mixt with linen.”
So the choice must be made between these two ways to heaven. The great question still is, “How can man be just with God ?” and it appears that he must either himself be essentially and perfectly holy, or he must, by some means, acquire a justness which will bear the scrutiny of Omniscience, and pass muster in the High Court of Heaven.
What Says the Book?
What has the Word of God to say about this all-important matter? It declares most plainly that all have sinned, that sin is exceeding sinful, that retribution follows iniquity as the Cart-wheel follows the footprints of the ox that draws it, that none can make his hands clean or renew his own heart. It tells us also that God, in His infinite mercy, has devised a way of salvation, and that none but Jesus can do helpless sinners good. Behold the bleeding victims and the smoking altars of the old dispensation! They speak of sin that needed to be put away, and they foreshadowed a sacrifice of nobler name and richer blood than they, the only Sacrifice which can make the comers thereunto perfect. Hearken to David as he cries: “Enter not into judgment with Thy servant, for in Thy sight shall no flesh living be justified.”
The prophets tell the selfsame tale. “By the knowledge of him shall My righteous Servant justify many, for he shall bear their iniquities” (Isaiah 53:11). Then there is the wonderful word which broke the fetters that were on Luther’s soul as he climbed the holy staircase on his knees: “The just shall live by faith.”
The Apostles bear similar witness. Peter tells of Jesus of Nazareth, and declares, “In none other is there salvation; for neither is there any other name under heaven, that is given among men, wherein we must be saved” (Acts 4:12, R. V.).
Paul is insistent on justification by faith alone. “By the deeds of the law there Shall no flesh be justified in His sight” (Romans 3:20). “By grace ye are saved through faith; and that not Of yourselves; it is the gift of God; not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8 and 9) “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” (Titus 3:5,6,7). (See also Galatians 3:11; Philippians 3:8 and 9; Acts 13:39, and 2 Timothy 1:9).
What need have we of further witness? It is evident that the way of Works is closed. Athwart the narrow track have fallen the Tree of Life and the broken tables of the Law, and God has affixed a notice there, large and legible, so that he who reads may run into a better path-NO THOROUGHFARE! It is given “By Order,” and the King’s red seal is on it; therefore doth it stand fast for ever. Levitical instructions, Davidic confessions, Prophetic and Apostolic declarations are all the voice of the Lord-the voice that breaketh the cedars of Lebanon and strippeth the forests bare-declaring that salvation is by Grace alone.
The Verdict of History
The history of man is the history of sin. It is one long, lurid record of fall and failure. Adam had the best opportunity of all. The law was fragmentary and rudimental then. There was but one command a solitary test. But it was one too many for our first parents. Later, the flood-swept world was soon defiled again. Later still, there came a law to Israel, holy and just and good. Did they obey? Let the carcasses that strew the wilderness bear witness. Is there a perfect life in all Time’s annals? The Pharisees were preeminent as professional religionists, yet Jesus said, “Except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no wise enter into the kingdom of heaven.” They, as it were, traveled in an express train, and, of course, first-class, but it was the wrong train! Saul of Tarsus was a Pharisee of the Pharisees, and he was no hypocrite, mind you, but he, too, was on the wrong track, till he changed trains at Damascus Junction. There, he relinquished all confidence in the flesh, and thenceforth exclaimed: “What things were gain to me, these have I counted loss for Christ. Yea, verily, and I count all things to be loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I 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 faith in Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.”
Grace, Not Graces
Personal experience bears similar testimony. Our own graces can never satisfy as does God’s Grace. He who is not far from the kingdom, nevertheless inquires, “What lack I yet?” One might as well think to lift himself by hauling at his boots, as expect to win heaven by the deeds of the law. The fact is, that fallen human nature is incapable of perfectly keeping the perfect law of God. It is well when this is understood and humbly acknowledged; it may be the dawn of better things, even as it was with one of whom I have heard, who was brought to Christ by the Spirit’s application of the words, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.” Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? Gulliver tells of a man who had been eight years upon a process of extracting sunbeams out of cucumbers. The sunbeams were to be put in phials hermetically sealed, and let out to warm the air in inclement weather. This was folly indeed, but it is even more ridiculous to think of extracting righteousness from a depraved heart. “They that are in the flesh cannot please God.” That was good advice given to a seeker: “You’ll never know peace till you give up looking at self, and let all your graces go for nothing.” The black devil of unrighteousness has slain its thousands, but the white devil of self-righteousness hath slain its tens of thousands. Salvation is by Grace, not by graces. Sound aloud this truth, for it is glad tidings, for all save Pharisees. They, indeed, prefer another Gospel, which is not another, and a modern one which is as old as Cain’s offering. Their watchword is, “Believe in yourself,” but for those who have seen themselves as God sees them, for such as can by no means lift up themselves, who are shut up under sin, and condemned already, oh! for these, this is summer news, in truth. If salvation is by Grace, the graceless may be saved, prodigals may venture home, the vilest may be cleansed. Ah! yes, and there is a sense in which the guiltier, the better. Then is there less fear of the intrusion of other trust, and the glory gotten to God’s Grace is greater. I do perceive that if salvation be by works, then can none be saved. Equally sure am I that if salvation be by Grace, none need be lost, for it is omnipotent, and greatly rejoiceth to be tested to the full. I read this sentence in a riveter’s shop-window the other day: “No article can be broken beyond repair the more it is smashed the better we like it,” and I said within myself: “Thus it is with the Grace of God, and long as I live I will tell poor sinners so.”
As for the proud Pharisee, “God grant him grace to groan.”
What Saith the Cross?
Grace and atonement go hand in hand. Dr. Adolph Saphir has well said: “The world does not know what grace is. Grace is not pity; grace is not indulgence nor leniency; grace is not long-suffering. Grace is as infinite an attribute of God as is His power, and as is His wisdom. Grace manifests itself in righteousness, Grace has a righteousness which is based upon atonement or substitution, and through the whole Scripture there run the golden thread of grace and the scarlet thread of atonement, which together reveal to us, for man, a righteousness that comes down from heaven.” The fact that Christ has died, a Sacrifice for sin, surely settles the question as to whether salvation is or is not by Grace. “If righteousness is through the law, then Christ died for nought.” Yon great Sacrifice were worse than waste, if man can save himself. They who think to be saved through works of the flesh make void the grace of God. The unspeakable gift had never been donated; the substitutionary sacrifice had never been offered, had any other way been possible. Calvary says, more plainly than anything else, “Salvation is of the Lord.” Away, ye merit-mongers from the Cross, where “the sword of Justice is scabbarded in the jeweled sheath of Grace.” Penances, and pieties, and performances are less than vanity in view of the “unknown sufferings” of the spotless Lamb of God. It is impossible for self-righteousness to thrive on the slopes of the hill called Calvary.
“Oh bring no price; God’s grace is free
To Paul, to Magdalene, to me!”
All of Grace
Salvation, then, is necessarily all of Grace. Man’s fall is so complete, God’s justice is so inexorable, heaven is so holy, that nothing short of Omnipotent love can lift the sinner, magnify the law which he has mutilated, and make him pure enough to dwell in Light. The thought of saving sinners is God’s, born in the secret places of His great loving heart. “Grace first contrived the way to save rebellious man.” The accomplishment of the wondrous plan reveals God’s Grace throughout; He sent His Son to be the Saviour of the World. He freely delivered Him up for us all. He acknowledged Him in His humiliation as His beloved Son, but forsook Him on the tree, because He was made sin for us. Moreover, He brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, and enthroned Him at the right hand of the Majesty on high. There followed the shedding forth of the Spirit to convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment. Here is grace at every turn.
A work of Grace, too, has been effected in each believing heart. We are not saved merely because Christ died. The good news would be to us as rain upon Sahara, did not Grace incline to penitence and prayer and faith.
“Grace taught my soul to pray,
And made my eyes o’erflow,”
Salvation by grace is appropriated by faith. Grace is the fountain, but faith is the channel. Grace is the life-line, but faith is the hand that clutches it. And, thoroughly and finally to exclude all boasting, it is declared that the salvation and the faith are both the gift Of God. “And that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.” That salvation is God’s gift is evident. “The gift of God is eternal life through Christ.” “The free gift,” “The gift of grace,” “The gift of righteousness”-these phrases determine the fact that salvation is itself a Divine present to man. “Salvation,” cried C. H. Spurgeon in the great congregation, “is everything for nothing! Christ free!-Pardon free!-Heaven free!” Thanks be to God for a gratuitous salvation!
But is faith, also, the gift of God? Assuredly it is, if only because it is one of the most precious faculties of the human heart. What have we that we have not received? But faith in Christ is, in a very special sense, a Divine gift. “Not that something is given us which is different from absolute trust as exercised in other cases, but that such trust is divinely guided and fixed upon the right object. Gracious manifestations of the soul’s need, and of the Lord’s glory, prevail upon the will to repose trust upon that object.” To trust is natural, but to trust Christ, rather than self, or ceremonies, is supernatural it is the gift of God. Moreover, faith, to be worthy of the name, must not be dry-eyed, and who can melt the heart and turn the flint into a fountain of waters but the God of all Grace?
“The Grace that made me feel my sin,
It taught me to believe;
Then, in believing, peace I found,
And now I live, I live.”
Nor is it to be supposed that Grace has done with us as soon as we have believed. The mighty call of Grace that results in our awakening is but the beginning of good things. Grace keeps us to the end. It will not let us go. It is the morning and the evening star of Christian experience. It puts us in the way, helps us by the way, and takes us all the way!
“Lest Any Man Should Boast”
It is difficult to imagine by what other process salvation could have been secured, consistently with God’s honor. Suppose, for a moment, that salvation by works were a possible alternative. Boasting, so far from being excluded, would be invited. Man would boast in prospect. How proud he would be of his purposes and hopes. On such a task as this, he would embark with bands playing and colors flying. There would be credit and eclat from the first. Alas! vain man; this can only end disastrously. Thou art building on the sand. This is not of God, and must therefore come to naught. The Divine Spirit humbles men to conviction and deep repentance; He never prompts, to self-righteousness and pride; as Hart’s simple stanza has it:
“He never moves a man to say,
‘Thank God, I am so good,’
But turns his eye another way-
To Jesus and His blood.”
He would boast in progress. How his meanest achievement would elate him? What crowing there would be over the slightest advance! There would be no need for indebtedness to God. The new birth, the cleansing blood, the converting Spirit-what call for these? The self-made man, they say, worships his creator, and the self-righteous man adores his saviour, that is to say, himself. While the Pharisee is bragging of what he does, the publican mourns over what he is. Because his heart smites him, he smites his heart; he cannot look up, for he has looked within, but because he cries for mercy he is justified. This is as God would have it, for He hath said: “My glory will I not give unto another.”
He would boast when perfect. If real peace and lasting joy could come to him, he would boast anew. “I have made my heart clean, and washed my hands in innocency,” he would cry. There would be no room for God, and for His sovereign claim to the whole praise of our salvation. Instead of the sweet chiming of the bells of St. Saviour’s, “I forgave thee-I forgave thee-I forgave thee all that debt,” we should be deafened with the hoarse brass of every man’s own trumpet blaring about the good-some will even dare to say, the God-that is in all.
I know which music I prefer. Since first I hearkened to that pardoning word, like bells at evening pealing, my soul has scorned all other strains. Ring on, ring on, sweet bells!
Again, he would boast in Paradise. Think of it! Heaven as it is, is full of perfect praise to God. Its every song is in honor of Father, Son, or Spirit. “Unto Him that loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and hath made Us kings and priests unto God and His Father, to Him be glory and dominion for ever and ever.” That is the chorus of the skies, the sweet refrain of the everlasting song. “Worthy is the Lamb,” they cry, and again they say, “Hallelujah!”
But were salvation by works instead of by Grace, the songs would be in praise of man. Each would laud his fellow or himself, and eternity would be spent in recounting personal virtues and victories. Oh! what a tiresome eternity that would be.
Ah, it is better as it is, with the Lamb in the midst of the throne, and the harps all tuned to Jesus? praise. There will be no self-admiration there, and, consequently, no comparisons and no rivalry, unless, indeed, we vie one with the other as to who shall honor Grace the most. The motto of each will be, “He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.” As McCheyne puts it, we shall be “dressed in beauty not our own.” That is the beauty of it!
So, salvation is of Grace, and of Grace alone. God will have no man boasting, and boast he assuredly would, were he saved, even in part, by the works of his own hands. It is admittedly a humbling doctrine. We wonder not that it is not popular. Truth seldom is. “Truth is unwelcome, however Divine.” But is it not well to be humbled? We are not disposed to favor any teaching which be-littles God, or magnifies man. It has been well and truly said that “the man who has been snatched from helplessness and despair by unmerited grace, will never forget to carry himself as a forgiven man.” (T. Phillips). He will not fail to look back to the rock whence he was hewn, and to the hole of the pit whence he was digged. Gipsy Smith keeps the hedge row at the foot of his Cambridge garden that he may enjoy uninterrupted view of the Common on which his father’s tent was pitched, and whence he used to sally forth as a young timber-merchant. (He sold clothes-pegs, you remember). We love him for this. Lifted to honor and usefulness by Grace, he gives God the praise. Grace Divine makes gracious men. Good works and graces are by no means excluded from believers’ lives. They are the product of gratuitous salvation, the evidence of saving faith, the acknowledgment of grateful hearts. The Grace-saved sinner works out the salvation that has been wrought in him. He is his Saviour’s willing bondslave. He cannot be content with triumphing in Christ’s grace; he must grace His triumph, too. It is with him as it is with the inhabitants of the city of Bath, who record their appreciation of its healing waters on a tablet inscribed as follows:
“These healing waters have flowed on from time immemorial,
Their virtue unimpaired, their heat undiminished,
Their volume unabated; they explain the origin,
Account for the progress, and demand the gratitude
Of the City of Bath.”
The analogy is nearly perfect. God’s grace may well be likened to flowing waters, to streams hot and health-giving, to streams that never cool nor fail. Moreover, “they account for our origin and progress,” that is, we owe our spiritual being and well-being to them. And as for demanding gratitude-well, “Streams of mercy never ceasing call for songs of loudest praise.”
Oh let us preach up Grace, even if it be not graciously received. “If the people don’t like the doctrine of Grace,” said C. H. Spurgeon, “give them the more of it.” Not what they want, but what they need we must supply. If the age is pleasure-loving, unbelieving, self-satisfied, the more call for faithful testimony as to the nature of sin, God’s attitude towards it, and the terms on which He offers salvation. We must aim the more at heart and conscience. We must seek to arouse and even alarm the sinner, while we invite as wooingly as ever to the one Mediator. A full-orbed Gospel treats alike of abounding sin, and of much more abounding Grace.
Surely Dr. Watts sang truly when he pictured the ransomed recounting their experiences of Grace:
“Then all the chosen seed
Shall meet around the throne,
Shall bless the conduct of His grace,
And make His glories known.”
To me it has been what the same poet calls “a drop of heaven,” to review God’s plan for my salvation, and to try to set it forth. Toward the stout ships that have carried me across the seas I have ever cherished a grateful feeling. How much more do I love the good ship of Grace that has borne me thus far on my way to the Fair Havens. An unusual opportunity was once offered me of viewing the vessel on which I was a passenger, before the voyage was quite complete. After nearly three months in a sailing ship, we were greeted by a harbor tug, whose master doubtless hoped for the task of towing us into port. There was, however, a favorable breeze which, though light, promised to hold steady. So the tug’s services were declined. Anxious to earn an honest penny, her master ranged alongside the clipper, and transshipped such passengers as cared to get a view from another deck of the good ship that had brought them some fifteen thousand miles. You may be sure that I was one of these. A delightful experience it was to draw away from our floating home, to mark her graceful lines, her towering masts, her tapering yards, her swelling sails the White wave curling at her fore-foot, and the green wake winding astern. From our new view-point items that had grown familiar were invested with fresh interest. There was the wheel to which we had seen six seamen lashed in time of storm, and there the binnacle, whose sheltered compass had been so constantly studied since the start, and there the chart-house with its treasures of wisdom, and yonder the huge-fluked anchors, and over all the network of ropes a tangle to the uninitiated. Even the smoke from the galley fire inspired respect, as we remembered the many meals that appetites, sharpened by the keen air of the Southern Seas, had demolished. And yonder is the port of one’s own cabin! What marvelous things had been viewed through that narrow peephole, and what sweet sleep had been enjoyed beneath it, “rocked in the cradle of the deep.” Oh! it was a brave sight, that full-rigged ship, so long our ocean home, which, despite contrary winds and cross-currents, and terrifying gales and tantalizing calms, had half compassed the globe, and had brought her numerous passengers and valuable freight across the trackless leagues in safety. Do you wonder that we cheered the staunch vessel, and her skilful commander, and the ship’s company again and again? I can hear the echoes of those hurrahs today. Do you wonder that we gave thanks for a prosperous voyage by the will of God, and presently stepped back from the tug-boat to the ship without question that what remained of the journey would be soon and Successfully accomplished?
Let me apply this incident. The good ship is FREE GRACE, and I have taken my readers aboard my tug-boat to give them opportunity to view the means by which they have already come so near-(how near we know not)-to the Haven under the hill. We have sailed around about her, and told the towering masts thereof, and marked well her bulwarks. We have seen the breath of God filling her sails brightened by the smile of His love. We have noted the scarlet thread in all her rigging, and the crimson flag flying at the fore. We have seen at the stern the wheel of God’s sovereignty by which the great ship is turned whithersoever the Governor listeth, and on the prow the sinner’s sheet-anchor: “Him that cometh unto Me, I will in no wise cast out.” The chart-house is the Word, and the compass is the Spirit, and there are well-plenished store-rooms, and spacious saloons, and never-to-be-forgotten chambers wherein He has given His beloved precious things in sleep, and outlooks whence they have seen His wonders in the deep. Through stress of storm and through dreary doldrums; through leagues of entangling weed, and past many a chilling and perilous iceberg, with varying speed and zigzag course, and changing clime, FREE GRACE has brought us hitherto. We have, perchance, a few more leagues to cover. We may even stand off and on a while, near the harbor mouth, but, please God, we shall have abundant entrance at the last. We have circled the ship, and I call on every passenger to bless her in the name of the Lord, and to shout the praise of Him who owns and navigates her. All honor and blessing be unto the God of Grace and unto the Grace of God! Ten thousand, thousand thanks to Jesus! And to the blessed Spirit equal praise!