Dr. C. J. Davis.
Grace Appearing and Reigning; Glory to Appear.
My subject is GRACE and GLORY. To illustrate the former, allow me to bring before your minds a scene which will show in some degree what Grace is.
In the centre of a vast crowd stands a man, who, for having committed murder, is about to have the righteous sentence of death executed upon him. The man is a murderer. It is a dreadful spectacle. By his side stands the hangman, ready to perform his awful duty. But besides the crowd, the man, the scaffold, the officers of justice, and the wretched terror-stricken criminal — we see standing by with throbbing heart, the poor wife of the guilty man, so soon to be a widow; and there are also his broken-hearted children, so soon to be fatherless orphans. But above the surging of the crowd and the tolling of the prison bell, comes a voice — and as they listen with breathless silence, it is heard to cry, "REPRIEVE!" The hangman's hands are stayed, as a horseman galloping up presents a paper on which is written "Reprieve." His excellency the Governor, the representative of Her Majesty in the colony, has taken upon himself to commute the sentence of death. How the whole scene is changed! Is it not good news? Do you wonder to hear, as the story tells, that the man fainted on the scaffold? It seemed to him almost too good to be true.
How does this remind one of the voice from Jehovah full of grace; "Then He is gracious unto him and saith, deliver him from going down to the pit; for I have found a ransom." (Job. 33:24.) Let me say at once, Christ is God's provided ransom. On His account, a holy and righteous God can act in grace; see 1 Tim. 2:6, "Gave Himself a ransom." And those that accept God's offer are called "ransomed ones."
If asked, What is grace, how shall I explain it? Theological definitions are objectionable, because incomplete, imperfect. If I say grace is unmerited favour, a free gift, it would be the truth, but not the whole truth. The grace of God — the gospel of the grace of God — means much more than that — to say that it is unmerited favour is inadequate, incomplete. What is grace? The grace of God, what does it imply? What it does — what it holds out is shown in these two portions, Rom. 5:21 and Titus 2:11. In the Epistle to Titus the Apostle uses a milder word than in Rom. 5:21. In Titus he speaks of grace appearing — in Romans of grace reigning. This is a much stronger term.
In Titus it is as if the Apostle Paul says, because grace has appeared it teaches us to act as the God of Grace has acted. Grace has appeared, but there is something yet to appear, that is glory.
In Rom. 5:21 we read grace reigns. The Apostle here uses stronger terms. Grace reigns in contrast to something else, in contrast to sin. When sin reigned its subjects got death. When grace reigns its subjects receive life — righteousness — "As sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord." It is grace that has appeared; the grace of God.
I would notice here in passing, that we are told the English word used by our translators in Titus 2:11-13 — "appearing" is not strong enough. The Greek language, always so beautifully expressive, conveys the idea of darkness suddenly giving way to bright light; not so much as a star, but as a bright sun — the great orb of day. The grace of God now stands in contrast to the dark times before the law was given, when the mind of God was only communicated to the few; and in contrast to the time of the giving of the law from Sinai, then given to a nation only. And again, to the later times before the cross, when He sent His word to His own people by the prophets, who rose up early to go to God's people. But wonderful, beloved — wonderful truth, the grace of God in the person of Christ is presented to all — to all men in this dispensation; to ALL — not to a few — not to a nation — but to ALL MEN. We can only just touch upon this here — when we are in glory we shall understand this wonder of wonders.
It pleased God — in love it pleased him who is full of grace, abounding in long-suffering and tenderness, that all fullness should dwell in Christ, and the Apostle adds, "Ye who believe are complete in Him!" What have I? If only saved from everlasting perdition — that is a great thing — but not all. What have I besides? Being complete in Him who is filled with all the fulness of God, I can never taste death: wrath can never rest on me. But besides all this; I am justified, counted a just man before God for the sake of the Lord Jesus! none can lift up a finger. Beloved! God can now look at us, with pleasure; with complete delight, upon us, who were once sinners, now saved — justified. Whom he calls He also justifies. Who can condemn since Christ has died and risen again?
Is there anything else that grace brings us? It gives us peace; "Being justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ!" Thus you see, we have pardon, life, justification, peace — no cloud above — no spot within — no defilement in God's sight. We can have peace who all our lifetime might have been subject to bondage through fear of death.
In India, where there are many poisonous snakes, there are people — snake charmers — who are able to extract the stings; then they can allow the ugly creatures to crawl about over their persons; there being no fear when the poisonous sting has been removed. So when the sting of death, which is sin, has been taken away, and to faith it was done by the Saviour — what fear can there be to a believer in Jesus? The Apostle challenges death, "Oh, Death, where is thy sting? Oh, Grave, where is thy victory?" To a believer in Jesus, death is only a servant, not a terror. The sting has been taken away. My Lord went down into death, and took the sting out. He passed through the grave, and passed out again. Now we can triumphantly say, "Oh, Grave, where is thy victory? Oh, Death, where is thy sting?"
Thus we have peace, justification, access to the Father, joy in God. It is not enough to know we are saved from eternal destruction, that is a great thing to know, but not all the knowledge of the fulness of God's gift of grace. It may be all right on your part, but not so much to God's credit. It may be a kind action to take a little child out of a ditch into which it had fallen, but it would be more than that to adopt it into the family, and even make it your heir. Can you speak lightly of Him who picks us up in our fallen condition; gives us life, and becomes our Righteousness? Not tacking on His righteousness to us, which would be defying man — but He Himself, is, in God's sight, "The Lord our Righteousness." St. Paul says in 1 Cor. 1:30, "He is made unto us of God, Wisdom, Righteousness, Sanctification, and Redemption!" The Righteousness of God established in Him — so also in us. An eagle in the air would not see us seated in this building; it would see the roof but not those inside. So God does not see us, I mean judicially, who are in Christ — but He sees Him — and us only as we are complete in Him, never apart from Him. If any man be in Christ, the Apostle says, he is a new creature. Complete in Him. Wonderful thought! Will you not let God put you where He would have you?
"Cease your doing, all was done,
Long, long ago."
We are shown grace illustrated in the case of David's dealings with Mephibosheth (see 2 Sam. 9). David had previously promised Jonathan, the lad's father, that He would show kindness to his descendants. Though belonging to the house of Saul, his greatest enemy, David showed the kindness of God to him.
"Is there yet any of the house of Saul, to whom I can show kindness?" Faithfulness to Jonathan, not to mention David's own tender heart, would lead to this. He had promised and would be true to his word; hence we read, "For Jonathan's sake," A picture of my own God; my "Saviour God." In Timothy and Titus our translators have put, "God our Saviour;" the true rendering is, "Our Saviour God." He is willing to save and can save, even consistently with His holiness; to any one of the descendants of Adam He can show kindness for Jesus' sake.
Saul was the greatest enemy David ever had, yet he showed kindness to Mephibosheth for Jonathan's sake. Is not man God's greatest enemy? God told man the truth; but Adam believed Satan's lie — doubted God's word and believed Satan's. Yet God asks, "Is there any of the descendants of Adam to whom I may show kindness for Jesus' sake?" Though man tried to stain and tarnish God's honour in the earth, yet Jesus undid it all. He could say to the Father, "I have glorified thee on the earth, I have finished the work thou gavest me to do." He has vindicated God's holiness, and now God blesses, binds Himself to do so, for Jesus' sake. He Himself, loving and kind, must be true to His Son. Grace reigns, righteously, for Jesus' sake.
God is no longer a judge to condemn, but a father with outstretched arms; seeking by His grace, to allure — woo — win all to Himself. Grace reigns through righteousness unto eternal life! The sinner is depicted in the epistle to the Ephesians, as dead! dead in trespasses and in sin; but in the epistle to the Romans as alive to do evil, feet swift to shed blood, not knowing the way of peace, having no fear of God before his eyes. In Romans 3 God comes down to demand righteousness; but He demands what man cannot give: and thus man is proved to have none; neither as heathen without law; nor as the descendants of Abraham under law. Every mouth is stopped before God, and all the world appears guilty. At the end of Romans 4 the Apostle goes on to say, "He was delivered for our offences, and raised again for our justification." Where is my righteousness? He is in heaven, at God's right hand. God accepts Him for me. God's righteous demands have been fully met; now I have perfect peace — rest. Jesus has been raised, lives again; therefore I have peace. In Romans 8 we have four beautiful, lovely thoughts; a summary of what is given in the earlier parts of the epistle as the portion of the believer: —
1. God is for the believer (ver. 31), then why should he fear?
2. Christ loves the saints, and nothing shall separate from His love (ver. 35).
3. The Holy Ghost prays for the child of God: what more can he need (ver. 26, 27)?
4. Christ is coming for his loved ones (ver 11); that is my hope.
Thus we have four glorious truths. God for us. Christ loves us. The Holy Ghost helping our infirmities. The Lord coming for us. So even when I am asleep, or delirious, or even a maniac; my link with God is kept up; for the Holy Spirit is for me, helping my infirmities, and doing so according to God. Is it not wonderful? and all this flowing out from the perfect work of Jesus!
I can stand by the grave stone of some loved one who "sleeps in Jesus," and, pointing to the corruptible dust, in view of God's word, say, "This corruptible shall put on incorruption;" and, laying my hand on my own breast, can add, "And this mortal shall put on immortality." This is my hope. There are four beautiful things mentioned by the apostle in that same chapter, Rom. 8. God (1) predestinates; (2) calls; (3) justifies; (4) glorifies. In God's estimation you are as sure of the last as of the first. "All things are of God."
All flow from the perfect work of Jesus. When God demands righteousness, I point to the Lord Jesus; He is the "Lord my righteousness." To say His righteousness is given to me is derogatory to grace. Jesus is the "Lord my righteousness." The apostle Paul says, "He is made unto us Wisdom, Righteousness, Sanctification, and Redemption!" Not some of His righteousness — He Himself is my righteousness — His whole self. I am, as a believer, complete in Him. Jesus the Lord my righteousness. Oh, why not receive Him as your righteousness, poor sinner? God asks you for nothing more; He will have nothing less.
Think you that He will refuse something of His own providing, or that He will take your Cain-like offering?
In Eastern marriages of great men, it is the custom for each guest to be provided by the host with a wedding garment, of the choice of the host. When each has put on that which has been provided, why should he not be pleased with his guests? It may be that one, not satisfied with the robe provided by his host, appears in one of his own. When remonstrated with, his reply may be, "Yours only cost £1, mine 100 guineas;" to which the host may well reply, "It is not my gift; you despise my gift by not wearing it, and consequently you despise and offend me." What will you say at the bar of God, poor sinner, before the great white throne? What will you offer as excuse for the rejection of Christ, the only righteousness God provides — "the best robe?" Will you say, "For fifty years I spent my time and substance in ministering to the poor. Will not that weigh for me?" God will say, "That is not the garment of my providing; you have despised my offer of mercy, and consequently despised Me. I offered to you Christ, my Son; you rejected Him, and so rejected Me!" The verdict will be, "Take him away into outer darkness, where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth." Will you go on despising the riches of God's grace? What will you do without a hope of deliverance, when the realities of eternity are before you? When you have to leave for ever — wife — children — riches and awake to the realities of one about to plunge into Eternity! What will you do! How will you stand those eyes of fire? Every little nook and corner of your heart they will scan through and through — discovering every dark recess. Read at your leisure Psalm 139; see there the Omniscience of the Lord of glory. How will you stand those eyes of fire as described in Rev. 1? Do you wish me to stop? Shall I quite tire you? Do you feel — we have had enough of that? I do not speak because I merely wish my voice to be heard, or because I have engaged to fill up an hour; but because I, as a fellow man, believe in the awful reality of the things of which I speak.
Fellow men, don't treat lightly this grace of God. In proportion as you have grace, so in proportion, if it is rejected, you will have judgment, for grace has reigned through righteousness. God's arms are open now; and the vilest may go, in assurance of not being rejected. It is now His joy to bless, for grace reigns righteously. But soon the door shall be shut. Death may soon cut off the opportunity from some of you. Now is your time.
There is a touching story of a daughter who, having left the shelter of her mother's home, in company with an abominably wicked one, her destroyer, returned one night to have a look at the old home of her childhood, and found to her surprise the door of her mother's house ajar. On entering, she found her mother sitting near it. In the girl's astonishment, she said, "How is it, mother, that at this late hour I find your door open?" "Oh," replied the mother, falling on the neck of her child, "my door has never been closed since you went away. I always left it open, so that if ever you returned, you should find a welcome to a mother's home and heart."
So is it with God in Grace. His hands are stretched out, His arms of mercy are open wide, His door of love is open still.
The second part of my subject is THE GLORY WHICH IS TO APPEAR. On this I will only say a few words.
The Apostle says the grace which brings salvation teaches us to live as possessors of grace. Those who have received God's gift of grace, ought in every sphere of life to be the very best in the performance of their duty. As servants they ought to be the most faithful at the desk or scrubbing a floor. Christian servants ought to be the best in the world, and so for masters. The followers of Him who came to exhibit grace, ought in every position to be the best servants or masters in the world. I have no confidence in any who profess to be partakers of grace, if not faithful to the trust reposed in them; for the Grace of God which brings salvation teaches us that, denying all ungodliness, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world. This is the time for exhibiting what grace is — when the glory is revealed your work here will be completed. Christian, now is the time for you to work. If you have no duties as a wife, go out and visit the sick — feed the hungry; and if you have the gift, explain the word of life to the poor and ignorant — each in his or her own sphere. All can do good in some way; with time or worldly goods, address, or other gifts; this is our time to do as receivers of grace. In health or sickness to adorn the doctrine of Christ our Saviour.
Then the glory is to be revealed. Let me tell you, beloved, that through grace, you who believe in Jesus not only know of eternal life here, but can look out for the glory that is to be revealed at His appearing. I can not only speak of joy — peace — but I rejoice in hope of the glory that is quickly to be revealed. Of this I hope, the Lord permitting, to speak more fully at another time. Here let me say, however, your hope must be henceforth to see Him whom now you love, and whose word is "I come quickly." I was speaking to some boys one afternoon at Woolwich, and asked them what was meant by "quickly." One of them, pointing to the clock, which was at the stroke of three, said, "Three o'clock, sir." In the Lord's estimation 1800 years has been "quickly" — that is because of His long-suffering. He is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to the knowledge of the truth. He has waited long — but He may come to-night; the door is not shut yet, but we cannot tell how soon it may be.
What may well strike terror into the hearts of the unsaved, is sweetest comfort to the believer in Jesus. We may fancy a poor man and woman waking some morning without a halfpenny to supply the family's wants; with this thought coming into the good man's mind, he may cheerfully say to his wife, "My dear, the Lord said, Behold, I come quickly; it is not breakfast-time yet, and the Lord may be here before, then we shall not be unhappy about breakfast." May not the hope of the Lord's coming suggest comfort to the believing wife who is weeping beside the coffin of her husband, who departed to be with Christ. "The Lord may come before his precious remains are committed to the grave. It may be my joy at once to hear the shout of the Lord in the air, and my husband may rise out of his coffin, and together we shall ascend to meet the Lord." Why should we weep? If God gives us a full cup of sorrow in the one hand, He gives us a full cup of joy in the other.
But, beloved friends who are not saved, that revelation of glory which fills us with gladness and joy, must fill the unsaved ones with woe! Little do you think, when you say the words, "Thy kingdom come," what you pray down on your heads. If the Lord comes, and finds you unsaved, He will come in judgment to you. But let me tell you, those who doubt — the unbelieving, are classed with liars, whoremongers, etc., and are to be cast into the lake which burns with fire, Rev. 20:8! — Those, viz., who will not accept the grace which reigns through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord. Rom. 5:21.