by D. L. MOODY*
I am going to take tonight a subject rather than a text. I want to talk to you about Free Grace. I say “Free Grace”; perhaps I had better drop the word free and say just grace. There is a sermon just in the meaning of the word. It is one of those words that are very little understood at the present time, like the word Gospel. There are a great many that are partakers of the spirit of Christ or of grace that don’t know its meaning. I think it is a good idea to go to Webster’s dictionary and look up the meaning of these words that we hear so often but don’t fully understand. You seldom go into a religious assembly but you hear the word grace, and yet I was a partaker of the grace of God for years before I knew what it meant. I could not tell the difference between grace and law. Now grace means “unlimited mercy,” “undeserved favor,” or “unmerited love.”
I had a man come today to see me, and his plea was that he was not fit to be saved. He said there was no hope for him because he had sinned all his life and there was nothing good in him. I was very much gratified to hear him say that. There is hope for that man—and I suppose he is here tonight—and there is hope for any man who thinks there is nothing good in him. That was the lesson Christ tried to teach the Jews—the lesson of grace. But they were trying to prove themselves to be better than other people. They were of the seed of Abraham and under the Mosaic law, and better than the people about them.
Now let us get at the source of this stream, that has been flowing through the world these hundreds of years. You know that men have been trying to find the source of the Nile.2 Wouldn’t it be as profitable to try and find the source of grace, because this is a stream we are all interested in. I want to call your attention to the first chapter of John, the 14th and 17th verses:
And the Word became 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.3
Then the 17th verse:
For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
Then the 5th chapter of Romans, the 15th verse:
But the free gift is not like the offense. For if by the one man’s offense many died, much more the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abounded to many.
There it is called the free gift—it abounded to many.
Then in Paul’s epistle to the Corinthians, the 1st chapter and the 3d verse:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given to you by Christ Jesus.
Now bear in mind that He is the God of all grace. We wouldn’t know anything about grace if it wasn’t for Jesus Christ. Men talk about grace, but they don’t know much about it. These bankers, they talk about grace. If you want to borrow a thousand dollars, if you can give good security, they will let you have it and take your note, and you give your note and say, “So many months after date I promise to pay a thousand dollars.” Then they give you what they call three days’ grace, but they make you pay interest for those three days. That ain’t grace. Then when your note comes due, if you can’t pay but nine hundred and fifty dollars, they would sell everything you have got and make you pay the fifty dollars. Grace is giving the interest, principal, and all. I tell you, if you want to get any grace, you must know God. He is the God of all grace. He wants to deal in grace; He wants to deal with that unmerited mercy, undeserved favor, unmerited love; and if God don’t love man until he is worthy of His love, He won’t have time for very much love for him, He is the God of all grace.
Unto whom does He offer grace? I would like to have you turn to your Bibles to two or three texts; to the 21st chapter of Matthew, the 28th verse:
“But what do you think? A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, ‘Son, go, work today in my vineyard.’ He answered and said, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he regretted it and went. Then he came to the second and said likewise. And he answered and said, ‘I go, sir,’ but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said to Him, ‘The first.’ Jesus said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you that tax collectors and harlots enter the kingdom of God before you.”
Why? Because He loved those publicans [tax collectors] and harlots more than He did those Pharisees? No; it was because they wouldn’t repent, because they wouldn’t take grace. They didn’t believe they needed the grace of God. A man who believes that he is lost is near salvation. Why? Because you haven’t got to work to convince him that he is lost. Now here is a man that said he wouldn’t go, and then he saw that he was wrong, and repented and went, and this man was the man that grace held up. Any man or any woman here tonight who will repent and turn to God, God will save them. It don’t make any difference what your life has been in the past. He will turn to any that will turn to Him.
I was preaching one Sunday in a church where there was a fashionable audience, and after I got through the sermon I said: “If there are any that would like to tarry a little while, and would like to stay and talk, I would be glad to talk with you.” They all got up, turned around, and went out. I felt as though I was abandoned. When I was going out I saw a man getting behind the furnace. He hadn’t any coat on, and he was weeping bitterly. I said, “My friend, what is the trouble?”
He said, “You told me tonight that I could be saved; that the grace of God would reach me. You told me that there wasn’t a man so far gone but the grace of God would reach him.” He said: “I am an exile from my family; I have drunk up twenty thousand dollars within the last few months; I have drunk up the coat off my back, and if there is hope for a poor sinner like me I should like to be saved.”
It was just like a cup of refreshment to talk to that man. I didn’t dare give him money for fear that he would drink it up, but I got him a place to stay that night, took an interest in him, and got him a coat, and six months after that, when I left Chicago for Europe—four months after—that man was one of the most earnest Christian men I knew. The Lord had blessed him wonderfully. He was an active, capable man. The grace of God can save just such if they will only repent.5 I don’t care how low he has become, the grace of God can purge him of all sin, and place him among the blessed. In proportion as man is a sinner much more does the grace of God abound. There isn’t a man but that the grace of God will give him the victory if he will only accept it.
I want you to turn a moment to a passage you will find in the 7th chapter of Mark:
From there He arose and went to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And He entered a house and wanted no one to know it, but He could not be hidden. For a woman whose young daughter had an unclean spirit heard about Him, and she came and fell at His feet. The woman was a Greek, a Syro-Phoenician by birth, and she kept asking Him to cast the demon out of her daughter. But Jesus said to her, “Let the children be filled first, for it is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs.” And she answered and said to Him, “Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs under the table eat from the children’s crumbs.” Then He said to her, “For this saying go your way; the demon has gone out of your daughter.”
Now, just see how Christ dealt with that woman—a Syro-Phoenician, a Gentile; she didn’t belong to the seed of Abraham at all. He came to save His own, but His own received Him not. Christ was willing to give to the Jews grace. He dealt in grace with a liberal hand, but those that He was desirous to shower grace upon wouldn’t take it. But this woman belonged to a different people—and just hear her story. I wonder what would happen if Christ should come and speak that way now? Suppose He should come into this assembly and take any woman here and call her a dog.
Why, that Syro-Phoenician woman might have said, “Call me a dog! Talk to me like that! Why I know a woman who belongs to the seed of Abraham who lives down near me, and she is the worst and meanest woman in the neighborhood. I am as good as she is any day.” She might have gone away without a blessing if she had not felt her utter destitution and lost condition. But Jesus only said that to her just to try her, and after calling her a dog,6 she only broke forth into a despairing cry, “Yes, Lord—yes, Lord.” Christ had said it was more blessed to give than to receive. She took His place and received His blessing and His commands. She was satisfied to be given only a crumb, as long as He heard her petition. So, instead of giving her a crumb, she got a whole loaf.
And so will you get the fullest beneficence of Christ if you lift your heart up to Him. Oh, that many would but just take her place, understand how low and unworthy they are, and cry unto Jesus. If you do, Christ will lift you up and bless you.
But then the great trouble is that people will not confess that they have need of grace. Such miserable Pharisaism is the worst feature of the present time. They think they can get salvation without the grace of God. The old saying is that when you come to Jesus as a beggar you go away as a prince. Instead of doing that, they feel so self-confident and proud that they come always as princes and go away beggars. If you want the Son of God to deal with you, come as a beggar and He will have mercy upon you. Look at the great crowd going up to the Temple. They feel they have strength of themselves, and all pass on, proud and haughty, except one poor man, who smites himself on the breast and says, “God be merciful to me a sinner.”
If you want to see the idea that the Jews had as to who was worthy, and how they thought that that kind of worthiness should be rewarded, just take your Bibles and look at the seventh chapter of Luke. It reads there:
Now when He concluded all His sayings in the hearing of the people, He entered Capernaum. And a certain centurion’s servant, who was dear to him, was sick and ready to die. So when he heard about Jesus, he sent elders of the Jews to Him, pleading with Him to come and heal his servant. And when they came to Jesus, they begged Him earnestly, saying that the one for whom He should do this was deserving.
Yes, that was the Jews’ idea of the reason He should come, because he was “worthy.” What made him worthy? “For he loves our nation, and has built us a synagogue.” He was not worthy because he was a sinner. Oh, no; not at all. But he was worthy because “he has built us a synagogue.” Ha! That was the same old story—the story of the present day. There is a great deal of that now. Give that man the most prominent place in church; let him have the best pew and the one furthest up in church, because he is “worthy.” He has built the church perhaps; or he has endowed a seminary. No matter where his money came from. He may have got it gambling in stocks, or doing something else of a like character; but he has given it to us. Oh, yes, he is worthy. He may have made his enormous gains by distilling whisky even! Make room for him, he has got a gold ring on; make room for her, she has got a good dress on. So said the Jews: “Now, Lord, come at once, for he built us a synagogue. Oh, he is worthy. You must not refuse or halt; You must come at once.” That was the Jews’ idea, and it is the idea of the world today.
But how do you expect to get grace that way? The moment you put it on the ground of being worthy of it, then to receive it would not be grace at all. It would only amount to this: that if the Lord should give a man grace because He owed it to him, He would only be paying a debt. Jesus, however, went with them in this instance to teach them a lesson. Luke goes on to say:
Then Jesus went with them. And when He was already not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to Him, saying to Him, “Lord, do not trouble Yourself, for I am not worthy that You should enter under my roof.”
That is the kind of humility we want; that is the kind of men we are hunting after—a man that is not worthy. See how quick he will be saved when he is in that frame of mind. I suppose that someone had run in to tell this centurion that Jesus was approaching the house. And the centurion sent to Him to say he was not worthy that He should come to him, “I did not even think myself worthy to come to You. But say the word, and my servant will be healed.”
This centurion had faith, at any rate. If he thought himself unworthy to come to Jesus, he sent friends whom he considered better than himself. How common it is to think yourself good and all other people bad. It is good to see a man consider himself a poor, unworthy man. “[God,] I did not even think myself worthy to come to You. But say the word, and my servant will be healed.” Thank God, he had faith. No matter how many sins we have if we only have faith. In this case, because he had faith Jesus healed his servant without coming to him at all. He hadn’t to go to the house and examine his pulse, and see his tongue. Then He didn’t have to write out a prescription and send him to the drugstore. No; he said, “All right, your servant shall live.”
For I also am a man placed under authority, having soldiers under me. And I say to one, “Go,” and he goes; and to another, “Come,” and he comes; and to my servant, “Do this,” and he does it. When Jesus heard these things, He marveled at him.
It is only twice, I think, that Jesus marveled. He marveled at the unbelief of the Jews; and again, at the faith of the centurion—”He . . . turned around and said to the crowd that followed Him, ‘I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel’!” Here is a Gentile, He said in effect, here is a man not of the seed of Abraham, and yet what faith he shows! Why, here is a centurion, and he has more faith than the chosen people of God. Jesus granted the petition at once. When He saw a genuine check presented for payment He cashed it at once. He pays instantly in the gold of Heaven, without any hesitation or discount.
“And those who were sent, returning to the house, found the servant well who had been sick.” Found him perfectly well, leaping and dancing around the house, praising God. He had been at the point of death one minute, and the next he had been made perfectly well.
You may be made whole too, friends. You may even be on the borders of hell, and yet be made an inhabitant of the Kingdom of Heaven. Think of this, you men that are the slaves of strong drink. You may be mangled and bruised by sin, but the grace of God can save you. He is the God of grace. I hope that grace will flow into your souls tonight. Christ is the sinner’s friend. If you have read your Bibles carefully you will see that Christ always took the side of the sinner. Of course, He came down on the hypocrites, and well He might. Those haughty Pharisees He took sides against, but where a poor, miserable, humble, penitent sinner came to Him for grace He always found it. You always read that He deals in grace, and tonight He will have mercy on you that confess your sins to Him. If you want to be saved come right straight to Him. He comes to deal in grace: He comes to bless, and why don’t you let Him? Let Him bless you now. Let Him take your sins away now.
A man said to me the other night, “I feel I have got to do something.”
I said to him, “If this grace is unmerited and free, what are you going to do?” And I warn you tonight, my friends, against trying to work out your own salvation. It really is a question whether it don’t keep more people out of the kingdom of God than anything else.
When at Newcastle,7 I was preaching one night, and I said that grace was free; that all were to stop trying to be saved.
A woman came down and said to me: “Oh, how wretched I am! I have been trying to be a Christian, and yet you have been telling me tonight not to try!”
“Has that made you wretched?” I asked.
“Yes. If I stop trying, what will become of me?”
I said: “But if grace is free what are you going to do? You cannot get it by working.”
She said, “I can’t understand it.”
“Well, let me call your attention now to a few passages of Scripture.” I turn to the second chapter of Ephesians and the 8th and 9th verses:
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.
Salvation is a gift from God. If a man worked it out, he would boast of what he had done, and say, “Oh, I did it.” A Scotchman once said it took two persons to effect his salvation—”God gave me His grace and I fought against Him.” It is not then for men to work, or they will boast of it, and when a man boasts you may be sure there is no conversion. The Ethiopian cannot change his skin, neither can the leopard change his spots. We do not work to get salvation, but we work it out after we get it.8 If we are ever saved it must be by grace alone. If you pay anything for salvation it ceases to be a gift. But God isn’t down here selling salvation. And what have you to give Him if He was? What do you suppose you would give? Ah, we’re bankrupt. “The gift of God is eternal life”; that’s your hope. “He who . . . climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber.”
Now who will take salvation tonight? Oh, you may have it if you will. “To him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt.” The difference between Martha and Mary was that Martha was trying to do something for the Lord, and Mary was just taking something from Him as a gift. He’ll smile upon you if you’ll just take grace from Him. “It is to him who does not work but believes” that blessings come. After you get to the Cross, there you may work all you can. If you are lost, you go to hell in the full blaze of the Gospel. That grace is free to all. To every policeman here, every fireman, every usher, every singer, every man, woman, and child, every reporter, all of you. What more do you want God to do than He has done? Oh, I hope the grace of God will reach every heart here. Oh, be wise, and open the door of your hearts and let in the King of glory. You’ll be saved when you believe.9 It is written, “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all.” If you are lost there is one thing you must do, and that is trample the grace of God under your feet.10 It won’t be because you can’t be saved, but because you won’t. Young man, will you be saved tonight? It’s a question for you yourself to settle. If we could settle it for you we would, but you must believe for yourself. Christ said to that poor sinning woman, “Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.” Oh sinner, hear those words. Oh may the grace of God reach your heart tonight.
* This message was delivered in New York and taken verbatim from stenographic reports for The New York Daily Tribune. It was revised and corrected by H. H. Birks and published in Glad Tidings, Comprising Sermons and Prayer-Meeting Talks Delivered at the N. Y. Hippodrome (New York: E. B. Treat, 1876), 149-59. A few spelling and punctuation updatings and more frequent paragraph breaks are the only changes in the text; no words have been changed or omitted.
1 Dwight Lyman Moody (1837-1899) was one of—if not the—greatest evangelists in history. Hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of people became believers through his ministry, thousands of them on a personal level. Raised in Massachusetts by a widow with nine children, Moody could only afford a few terms of schooling. Even the simple sermon in this issue shows his poor grammar (“he don’t”) several times. What he lacked in schooling he made up for in fervor and even became an educator, founding the first “Bible Institute” in America (1886), now named after him. In 1873 he started the Moody-Sankey evangelistic campaigns in Britain that also greatly enhanced his reputation in the U.S.A., where he had his greatest harvest.
2 John Hanning Speke had discovered Lake Victoria in 1858. The sources of the Nile intrigued now-famous Scots missionary-explorer David Livingston, among others, when Moody gave this message. The year before this sermon was published (1875) British-American explorer Sir Henry Morton Stanley sailed around Lake Victoria and in 1889 discovered Lake Edward (between modern Zaire and Uganda).
3 This and all other Bible quotations have been updated from the King James to the New King James for easier reading.
4 Emphasis supplied. Ed.
5 It is clear from this article as a whole that Moody did not mean “change your life and then you can be saved.”
6 It is worth noticing that in the original the word for dog (kynarion) is a diminutive (cf. NKJV: “little dogs”), referring to the house pets the children had, not to the snarling curs that roamed the streets of middle Eastern cities acting as living garbage disposals. Ed.
7 During one of Moody’s evangelistic meetings in England.
8 Emphasis supplied. Ed.
9 Emphasis supplied. Ed.
10 Emphasis supplied. Ed. It is possible that the word not was left out by the transcriber by mistake: “one thing you must not do.” However, Moody is probably saying: there is one thing you do to be saved (believe the Gospel) and one thing you do to be lost (reject the Gospel). Assuming our original text is correct, it is likely that Moody’s intonation in voicing it made his meaning crystal clear.