Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society, Spring 1990 — Volume 3:1
A Voice from the Past:
Man Does Not Know Grace*
W. P. MacKay†
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-dishonouring "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 Christian 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, splendours, 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," "legal 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 ii.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, honour, 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 Saviour Jesus Christ" (Titus ii. 12). Thus man knows nothing whatever about this GRACE of GOD.
*This article is excerpted from the Introduction to Grace and Truth, vii-viii, 1874. It is used by the kind permission of Marshall Pickering of London. The punctuation has been only slightly modernized; otherwise it is identical to the 1874 text.
†The author, W. P. MacKay, was a preacher and writer among the Open Brethren at Hull, England during the nineteenth century.