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God's Abundant Grace
By Dwight L. Moody
Moody PublishersCopyright © 1998 The Moody Bible Institute of Chicago
All rights reserved.
THE FOUNTAIN OF GRACE
There are some words with which we have been familiar from our infancy up, and probably there are few words in the English language that are so often used as this word grace. Many of you at your table "say grace" three times a day. You seldom go into a church without hearing the word mentioned. You seldom read any part of the New Testament, especially the epistles, without meeting the word.
There is probably not a word in the language so little understood. There are a great many who have received the grace of God into their heart but who, if they should be asked what the word means, would be troubled and confused and unable to tell. I experienced the grace of God a good many years before I really knew the true meaning of the word.
Grace means unmerited mercy—undeserved favor. If men were to wake up to the fact, they would not be talking about their own worthiness when we ask them to come to Christ. When the truth dawns upon them that Christ came to save the unworthy, then they will accept salvation. Peter calls God "the God of all grace."
Men talk about grace, but, as a rule, they know very little about it. Let a businessman go to one of your bankers to borrow a few hundred dollars for sixty or ninety days; if he is well able to pay, the banker will perhaps lend him the money if he can get another responsible man to sign the note with him. They give what they call three days' grace after the sixty or ninety days have expired. But they will make the borrower pay interest on the money during these three days, and if he does not return principal and interest at the appointed time, they will sell his goods; they will perhaps turn him out of his house, and take the last piece of furniture in his possession. That is not grace at all; but that fairly illustrates man's idea of it. Grace not only frees you from payment of the interest, but of the principal also.
In the gospel by John we read, "The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.... For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ" (John 1:14, 17). Now you know that for many years men were constantly trying to find the source of the Nile. The river of grace has been flowing through this dark earth for six thousand years, and we certainly ought to be more anxious to find out its source than to discover the source of the Nile. I think if you will read your Bible carefully you will find that this wonderful river of grace comes from the very heart of God.
I remember being in Texas a few years ago, in a place where the country was very dry and parched. In that dry country there is a beautiful river that springs right out of the ground. It flows along, and on both sides of the river you find life and vegetation. Grace flows like that river, and you can trace its source right up to the very heart of God. You may say that its highest manifestation was seen when God gave the Son of His bosom to save this lost world. "Not as the offence, so also is the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many."
A Free Gift
Notice, it is the free gift of God. "Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ." Paul wrote fourteen epistles; and every one of them is closed with a prayer for grace. Paul calls it "the free gift of God." Thousands have been kept out of the kingdom of God because they do not realize what this free gift is. They think they must do something to merit salvation.
The first promise given to fallen man was a promise of grace. God never promised Adam anything when He put him in Eden. God never entered into a covenant with him as He did with Abraham. God told him, "Of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die"; but when this came to pass, then God came and gave him a gracious promise. He dealt in grace with him. As he left the Garden of Eden he could say to Eve, "Well, God does love us, though He has driven us out."
There was no sign that Adam recognized his lost condition. As far as we know there was no cry for mercy or pardon, no confession of sin. Yet we find that God dealt in grace with him. God sought Adam out that he might bestow His grace upon him. He met Adam in his lost and ruined condition, and the first thing He did was to proclaim the promise of a coming Savior.
For six thousand years, God has been trying to teach the world this great and glorious truth—that He wants to deal with man in love and in grace. It runs right through the Bible; all along you find this stream of grace flowing. The very last promise in the closing chapter of Revelation, like the first promise in Eden, is a promise of grace: "Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely" (Revelation 22:17). So the whole revelation and the whole history of man is encircled with grace, the free favor of God.
Some years ago when I was speaking on this subject, a friend sent me the following: "By the grace of God I am what I am!" This is the believer's eternal confession. Grace found him a rebel—it leaves him a son. Grace found him wandering at the gates of hell—it leads him through the gates of heaven. Grace devised the scheme of redemption: Justice never would; reason never could. And it is grace which carries out that theme. No sinner would ever have sought his God but 'by grace.' The thickets of Eden would have proved Adam's grave, had not grace called him out. Saul would have lived and died the haughty self-righteous persecutor had not grace laid him low. The thief would have continued breathing out his blasphemies had not grace arrested his tongue and tuned it for glory.
"Out of the knottiest timber," says Rutherford, "He can make vessels of mercy for service in the high palace of glory."
"[Caesar's words] 'I came, I saw, I conquered,'" says Toplady, "may be inscribed by the Savior on every monument of grace." [The Savior can write:] "I came to the sinner; I looked upon him; and with a look of omnipotent love, I conquered."
"My friend, we would have been this day wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness—Christless, hopeless, portionless—had not grace invited us, and grace constrained us," [Rutherford adds].
"Restraining grace," Rutherford says, "is grace that, at this moment, keeps us. We have often been a Peter—forsaking our Lord, but brought back to him again. Why not a Demas or a Judas? 'I have prayed for thee that thy faith fail not.' Is not this our own comment and reflection on life's retrospect? 'Yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.'"
"Oh, let us seek to realize our continual dependence on this grace every moment! 'More grace! More grace!' should be our continual cry. But the infinite supply is commensurate with the infinite need. The treasury of grace, though always emptying, is always full: the key of prayer which opens it is always at hand: and the almighty [distributor] of the blessings of grace is always waiting to the gracious. The recorded promise never can be canceled or reversed: 'My grace is sufficient for thee.'
"Let us seek to dwell much on this inexhaustible theme. The grace of God is the source of minor temporal as well as of higher spiritual blessings.
"It accounts for the crumb of daily bread as well as for the crown of eternal glory. But even in regard to earthly mercies, never forget the channel of grace through Christ Jesus. It is sweet thus to connect every (even the smallest and humblest) token of providential bounty with Calvary's Cross—to have the common blessings of life, tamped with the print of the nails. It makes them doubly precious to think this flows from Jesus. Let others be contented with the uncovenanted mercies of God. Be it ours to say as the children of grace and heirs of glory: 'Our Father which art in heaven, give us this day our daily bread.' Nay, reposing in the all-sufficiency in all things, promised by the God of all grace."CHAPTER 2
SAVED BY GRACE ALONE
I want to call your attention to the fact that we are saved by grace alone, not by works and grace. A great many people think that they can be saved by works. Others think that salvation may be attained by works and grace together. They need to have their eyes opened to see that the gift of God is free and apart from works.
"For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast" (Ephesians 2:8–9). Many people would put it thus: "For by your works are ye saved—or by your tears, or your prayers, or your fastings, or your trials, or your good resolutions, or your money!" But Paul tells us plainly that it is "not of works, lest any man should boast." If we could be saved by works, then of course Christ's mission to this world was a mistake. There was no need for Him to come.
What had Paul ever done that could merit salvation? Up to the time that Christ called him he had done everything he could against Christ and against Christianity. He was in the very act of going to Damascus to cast into prison every Christian he could find. If he had not been stopped, many of them would probably have been put to death. It was Paul, remember, who cheered on the mob that stoned Stephen. Yet we find that when Christ met him He dealt in grace with him. No apostle says so much against salvation by works before the Cross, as Paul; and none says so much about works after the Cross. He put works in their right place. I have very little sympathy with any man who has been redeemed by the precious blood of the Son of God and who has not got the spirit of work. If we are children of God, we ought not to have a lazy drop of blood in our veins. If a man tells me that he has been saved and does not desire to work for the honor of God, I doubt his salvation. Laziness belongs to the old creation, not to the new. In all my experience I never knew a lazy man to be converted—never. I have more hope of the salvation of drunkards, and thieves, and harlots, than of a lazy man.
What the Thirty-Nine Articles Say
Some people have accused me of teaching heresy, because I say salvation is all of grace. I remember a clergyman once said I was teaching false doctrine because I said salvation was all of grace. He said that works had as much to do with our salvation as grace. At that time I had never read the Thirty-Nine Articles. If I had I would have been ready to meet him. I got the Prayer Book and looked through the Thirty-Nine Articles; and I found, to my amazement, that they put it a good deal stronger than I had done. Let us hear what three of them say:
"XI. Of the Justification of Man. We are accounted righteous before God, only for the merit of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ by Faith, and not for our own works or deservings: Wherefore, that we are justified by Faith only, is a most wholesome doctrine, and very full of comfort."
"XII. Of Good Works. Albeit that Good Works, which are the fruits of Faith and follow after Justification, cannot put away our sins, and endure the severity of God's judgment; yet are they pleasing and acceptable to God in Christ, and do spring out necessarily of a true and lively Faith; insomuch that by them a lively Faith may be as evidently known as a tree discerned by the fruit."
"XIII. Of Works Before Justification. Works done before the grace of Christ, and the inspiration of His Spirit, are not pleasant to God; forasmuch as they spring not of faith in Jesus Christ, neither do they make men meet to receive grace, or (as the school authors say) deserve grace of congruity: yea rather, for that they are not done as God hath willed and commanded them to be done, we doubt not but they have the nature of sin."
That is stronger than I ever put it. These Articles say of works before justification that "they have the nature of sin." I never called them sin! So you see this is not any new doctrine that we are preaching. When the church and the world wake up to the fact that works before salvation go for naught, then—and not till then, I believe—men will come flocking into the kingdom of God by hundreds. We work from the Cross, not to it. We work because we are saved, not in order to be saved. We work from salvation, not up to it. Salvation is the gift of God.
You have heard the Prayer Book. Now hear Paul: "Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness" (Romans 4:3–5). Notice what the apostle says: "to him that worketh not." That is plain language, is it not? I may perhaps startle some of you by saying that many of you have been kept out of the kingdom of God by your good works. Nevertheless it is true. If you put works in the place of faith, they become a snare to you. It is "to him that worketh not, but believeth."
I freely admit salvation is worth working for; it is worth a man's going round the world on his hands and knees, climbing its mountains, crossing its valleys, swimming its rivers, going through all manner of hardship in order to attain. But we do not get it in that way. Paul went through all the trials and hardships he had to endure, because by the grace of God resting on him he was enabled to do so.
Penance for Sin
Would you insult the Almighty by offering Him the fruits of this frail body to atone for sin? Supposing your queen were to send me a magnificent present, and I said to the royal messenger: "I certainly should not like to accept this from Her Majesty without giving her something in return." Suppose I should send her a penny! How would the queen feel, if I were to insult her in that way? And what have we that we can offer to God in return for His free gift of salvation? Less than nothing. We must come and take salvation in God's way.
There is no merit in taking a gift. If a beggar comes to my house, and asks for bread to eat, and I give him a loaf of bread, there is no merit in his taking the bread. So if you experience the favor of God, you have to take it as a beggar. Someone has said: "If you come to God as a prince, you go away as a beggar; if you come as a beggar, you go away as a prince." It is to the needy that God opens the wardrobe of heaven, and brings out the robe of righteousness.
Paul says again: "If by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work." Paul is reasoning in this way, that if I work for a gift or attempt to give money for it, it ceases to be a gift. The only way to get a gift is to take it as a gift.
An old man got up in one of our meetings and said, "I have been forty-two years learning three things." I pricked up my ears at that. I thought that if I could find out in about three minutes what a man had taken forty-two years to learn I should like to do it. The first thing he said he had learned was that he could do nothing towards his own salvation. "Well," said I to myself, "that is worth learning." The second thing he had found out was that God did not require him to do anything. Well, that was worth finding out too. And the third thing was that the Lord Jesus Christ had done it all; salvation was finished, and that all he had to do was to take it. Dear friends, let us learn this lesson; let us give up our struggling and striving, and accept salvation at once.
A Free Pardon
I was preaching in the southern states a few years ago, and the minister called my attention to one of the elders in his church. He said, "When the Civil War broke out, that man was in one of the far Southern states, and he enlisted into the Southern army. He was selected by the Southern general as a spy and sent to spy out the Northern army. As you know, armies have no mercy on spies, if they can catch them. This man was caught. He was tried by court-martial and ordered to be shot. While he was in the guardroom previous to the time of execution, the Northern soldiers used to bring him his rations. Every time they came to his cell he would call Abraham Lincoln by every vile epithet he could think of. It seemed as though he 'lay awake nights,' trying to study such names. At last the soldiers got so angry that they said they would be glad when the bullet went through his heart. Some of them even said they would like to put a bullet through him, and if they were not obliged by military order to feed him, they would let him starve in the prison. They thought that was what he deserved for talking so unjustly of Lincoln.
"One day while the man was in the prison, waiting to be led out to execution, a Northern officer came to the cell. The prisoner, full of rage, thought his time was come to be shot. The officer opened the prison door, and handed him a free pardon from Abraham Lincoln. He told him he was at liberty: he could go to his wife and children! The man who had before been so full of bitterness and malice and rage suddenly quieted down and said, 'What, has Abraham Lincoln pardoned me! For what? I never said a good word about him.' The officer said, 'If you had what you deserved you would be shot. But someone interceded for you at Washington and obtained your pardon; you are now at liberty.'"
Excerpted from God's Abundant Grace by Dwight L. Moody. Copyright © 1998 The Moody Bible Institute of Chicago. Excerpted by permission of Moody Publishers.
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