The law was given by Moses: grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.
The law showed what man ought to be. Christ showed what man is, and what God is. The law was given, but grace and truth came. Calvary tells out fully what man’s true state is, what God’s truth is, and what grace means. The law is what I ought to be to God: Grace tells what God is for me. The first word of law is “Thou;” the first of grace is “God,” so loved; but it is grace through truth. God has investigated everything, nothing has been looked over. The greatest sin that any man could possibly commit has been committed, namely, the murder of God’s Son. At the same time the greatest grace of God has been manifested.
Man by nature likes neither grace nor truth. He is satisfied neither with perfect justice nor perfect goodness.
If John the Baptist comes in righteousness he is hated, and men say he is too harsh, and not human, but hath a devil. If Christ comes in love. He is taunted with being a friend of sinners. So when the righteous requirements of God’s law are preached, many people are apt to turn and say, “Oh yes, but that is too strict; you must allow a little margin for our imperfection.” God says, make no provision for the flesh. Alas I it will take far too much, but allow it nothing. When a sanctified walk, separated from the world and all its belongings, is insisted on, a certain class are sure to call this legal preaching. And on the other hand when the grace of God is preached, man’s wisdom makes it out to be toleration of evil and lawless license.
Let us suppose that a convict, who had just finished his term of penal servitude, wished to lead an honest life. He comes to a man who has a large jeweler’s establishment, and who requires a night-watchman. He is engaged to watch this house through the quiet hours of the night, when he has everything under him, and every opportunity to rob his employer. On the first evening of his watching he meets one of his old companions, who accosts him, “What are you doing here?” “I’m a night-watchman.” “Over this jeweler’s shop?” “Yes.” “Does he know what you are?” “No, no, be silent; if he knew, I should be dismissed.” “Suppose I let it out that you are a returned convict.” “Oh, I pray don’t, it would be my last day here, and I wish to be honest.” “Well, I’ll require you to give me some money to keep quiet.” “Very well, but don’t let anyone know.” Thus the poor man would be in sad fear and trembling, lest it should come to the ears of his employer what his previous character had been. He would be in terror lest he should meet any of his old friends, and lest his resources should be exhausted in keeping them quiet.
Let us suppose, however, that instead of the employer engaging the man in ignorance of his character, he went to the convict’s cell and said, “Now I know you, what you are, and what you’ve done, every robbery you’ve committed, and that you are worse than you believe yourself to be. I am to give you a chance to become honest, I’ll trust you as my night-watchman over my valuable goods.” The man is faithful at his post. He meets old companion after old companion, who threaten to inform upon him. He asks, ‘What will you tell about me?” “That you were the ringleader of house-breakers.” “Yes, but my master knows all that better than you do; he knows me better than I know myself.”
Of course this silences them forever. This latter is grace and truth. The man had been treated in grace, but on the ground that all the truth was out, that his character was known. It is thus God deals with us. He deals in grace, but He knows what He is doing, and with whom He is working, –even the chief of sinners. The whole truth is out about us, and God’s grace in the face of this saves, gives a new nature, and puts us down before Himself in the highest places of confidence. Man wonders at this. A wicked companion gets converted, his old associates wonder at his boldness in preaching (like Peter who denied Christ, accusing his Jerusalem hearers of having denied him). They think if his audience only knew what they know, they would be suspicious. God knows us better than we know ourselves, and this is our joy.
Man does not know Grace. When unadulterated grace, unmixed grace, the grace of God, God’s own love to sinners, is preached, man cannot take it in.
“Oh, this is downright Antinomianism.” This is the cry that was raised against Luther when he preached “full free justification by grace through faith without the deeds of the law;” the cry that was raised against Paul, that he made void the law, that he told the people they might sin that grace might; abound. Now, unless our Christianity provokes this opposition, it is not scriptural Christianity. Unless the gospel we preach, when presented to the natural mind, brings out these thoughts, it is another gospel than Paul’s. Every Christian, mark not some of them, has the Antinomian or God-dishonoring “flesh,” within him to be watched over and mortified; but this is a different matter. People will readily quote “Faith without works is dead,” “We must have works,” and so on; and we most certainly coincide. But follow-up the argument by inquiry about the works, and you will too often find that such have very loose ideas of a Christian’s holiness.
Such will quite go in for having a Christian name, going religiously to church, being able to criticize a sermon and a preacher, being acquainted with good people, abstaining from all immorality, being honest and respectable; but the moment we cross the boundary line that separates respectable and easy-going make-the-most-of-Christianity, into the rugged, thorny path of identification with a rejected Christ, separation from the world’s gaieties, splendors and “evil communications,” –dead to it and all that is therein, taking up Christ’s yoke, and denying self, –we are met with the expressions, “too far,” “pietism,” righteous over much,” “we don’t like extremes,” and “legalistic preaching.”
The grace of man would be this, “Do the best you can by the help of grace, and then wherein you fail grace will step in and make up.” But the first thing the grace of God does is to bring “salvation” –Titus 2: 11.
Or, again, man’s grace may take this shape, “Oh, yes, we believe in the blood, the precious blood of Christ; only faith can save; and now we have found an easy road to heaven –a sort of short cut in which we can live on good terms with the world and worldly men, and also on first-rate terms with religious men, spend our money to make ourselves comfortable, get a name, honor, or riches here, make ourselves as happy as can be in this world, just take of it what we can enjoy, and go on thus so nicely to heaven.” This is another view of the grace that man knows about; but the grace of God teaches us that, “denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world, looking for that blessed hope and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:12). This man knows nothing whatever about the grace of God.
Neither does man know truth. He does not know the truth about God.
He could quite believe that God made the world, and that he is good to a certain extent; but that God looks upon one sin as making a man guilty as really as ten thousand, he cannot understand. Though written as clear as writing can make it in the Book of God, he cannot perceive it. Christ brought out the truth about God, that He could by no means clear the guilty, but that he could impute guilt and impute righteousness. An infidel said, “Is it justice for an innocent man to die for a guilty” is it consistent with reason, either in justice to the innocent or the guilty?” “Well, suppose it is not, and we may grant it. But what if God became man, and put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself –where is your reasoning now? Our gospel is not an innocent man dying for the guilty merely, but the God-man made sin, and putting it away.” Nor does man know the truth about himself, that he is lost. He thinks that he may be lost, not that he is lost. He hopes, in some vague way, that it will yet be all right with him. Christ brought out the truth about man, that man was hopelessly gone in sin, that he would kill God if he could.
How few there are in hell who ever intended to be there! “Are you to be in heaven?” Most will answer, ”I hope so.” “But what right have you to hope so?”
We take the guilty sinner’s name,
The guilty sinner’s Savior claim.
I am a great sinner! ‘Truth, Lord;’ yet the great sinner claims the great Savior. I am the chief of sinners! ‘Truth, Lord;’ yet the chief of sinners claims the chief of Saviors. I am ignorant! ‘Truth, Lord;’ yet Christ is my wisdom. I am unrighteous! ‘Truth, Lord;’ yet Christ is my righteousness. I am unholy! ‘Truth, Lord;’ yet Christ is my sanctification. I am in bondage! ‘Truth Lord;’ yet Christ is my redemption. That ‘yet’ is the pleading of need from the place that truth has given.
Mercy and truth are met together; Righteousness and peace have kissed each other.
May the gracious Spirit whose it is to lead into all truth bless what is His own in these pages, to the glory of the forever blessed Lord Jesus Christ, our God and Savior.
–W. P. Mackey, January 1, 1872
Taken and adapted from, “Grace and Truth, From Twelve Different Aspects”