#MORE AND MORE
"But He gives more grace."
- James 4:6
PRACTICAL as the Epistle of James is, this Apostle does not neglect to extol the grace of God. He would be very unpractical if he did. There are some professors of religion who talk as if they loved the doctrines and loathed the duties. They cling to the faith, while they shrink from the works! They accept the principles that are announced, but refuse the precepts that are enjoined. Herein they err. Yet we would be equally at fault and, perhaps, commit a graver error, were we to be biased in the opposite direction! Did we constantly expound and enforce the great things to be done by us without reference to the greater things that have been done for us. Did we commend the fruits regardless of the root from where they spring; did we applaud the deeds of men without lauding the grace of God, we would, I say, commit a graver error! Happily we have been taught the saintship and the service, the covenant engagements, as well as the creature obligations, the divine enabling and the divers abilities of believers that are set in motion, so that we discern without difficulty how the principle of grace combines and cooperates with the practice of goodness. In our conflict with the natural spirit of enmity, grace takes the form of, "more grace," and it is bestowed upon us that we may be able to overcome and prove victorious.
We shall first consider the words of our text in their natural connection; secondly, we shall contemplate their general instructions; then, thirdly, we shall connect them with a special application, seeking, each one of us, to appropriate them to ourselves.
I. OUR TEXT IN ITS NATURAL CONNECTION.
Directly you look at the matter, you are struck with the contrast. It is not merely that a comparison is instituted, but _two potent motives are confronted_—the one a strong instinct, the other a liberal endowment. "The spirit that is in us lusts to envy, but He gives more grace." On our side it is a "spirit"—a turbulent passion! On God’s side it is a sweet gratuity—a supply of more grace! We fretful and murmuring, anxious and complaining; He, far from grudging, stinting, or withholding (which would be a fit retaliation), succors us and augments and multiplies His liberality, as if to compensate the aggravation of our waywardness by the enlargement of His concessions! The spirit that is in us complains of God, as though we were jealous that He gave more to others than to us. Still, the Spirit that is in God goes on to give, saying, "Is your eye evil because Mine is good? May I not do what I will with My own?" The spirit that is in us undervalues what we possess, because, under some aspects, it may not be equally precious with that which somebody else possesses. But God, instead of taking away from us what He has given, because we judge Him so unworthily, only gives more! "He gives more grace." One might have supposed that because "the spirit that is in us lusts to envy," therefore we should discover God opposing us, restraining the bottles of heaven, commanding the dew no longer to fall upon us and withdrawing all the benedictions of His love! But no, it does not say, "He is opposed to us and, whereas we run in one direction, He runs in another. His thoughts are not our thoughts, neither are His ways our ways. And then, again, our ways are neither His ways, nor our thoughts His thoughts. We do not rise to Him and He does not stoop to us, so as to lower His character, by meeting us with that return that would seem due to us if strict laws of retaliation were carried out." Note that contrast! Note it always! Observe how weak we are, how strong He is—how proud we are, how condescending He is—how erring we are, and how infallible He is! Note how changing we are, and how immutable He is—how provoking we are, and how forgiving He is. Observe how in us there is only evil, and how in Him there is only good. Yet our evil but draws His goodness forth, and still He blesses! Oh, what a rich contrast!
Do we not get a hint, here, as to the quarter from which we are to derive the weapons of war against our sin? "The spirit that is in us lusts to envy." What will you say to this? Will you, therefore, sit still and consider that you are excused because this is a positive instinct of your nature? Do you say that envy is a natural proclivity, a craving passion of many men, and that it is, therefore, to be accounted of rather as a mental cast than as a moral crime—a flaw in one’s constitution rather than a fault in his conscience; or to say the worst, more of a distressing temptation than of a detestable transgression against God? Ah, no, my brothers and sisters, there is not a word in Holy Scripture that gives the least countenance or the faintest indulgence to any sin! Indulgences for sin may come from Rome, but they never come from Zion! I have known persons attempt to exculpate themselves after a fit of anger by a cool acknowledgment like this—"I was always hot-tempered." What is that but a bitter aggravation? You do but admit that your sin is of long standing and frequent recurrence! You confess, indeed, your greater guilt, and there is no repentance to regret it, no force of conviction to forsake it. So it is with envy— "The spirit that dwells in us lusts to envy." So much the worse for our spirit! So much the more guilty we are. This is not only an infirmity which our circumstances have betrayed, but it is an inherent quality of the animal, debased propensity of the creature! Oh, how defiled must the nature be to which vice is as natural as a black skin to the Ethiopian, or as a spotted skin to the leopard! In vain your every plea—you cannot lighten the sin, albeit you may heighten the shame! There is no cause to tamper, but there is a call to arms. "He gives more grace." This is as much as to say, "Sit not coolly down and parley with the spirit that is in you lusting to envy, but up! Resist, withstand and oppose till you quench it!"
Here is counsel to instruct you in this arduous encounter: That evil spirit must be met with a pure, a devout spirit. The weapons of this warfare are not carnal; they are only to be found in the armory of grace. "He gives more grace." You cannot overcome your sins by denouncing them, or frustrate their malignity by fostering an admiration of virtues that never grew in the soil of your own hearts. Nor can you, resolve as you may, keep the moral law. Neither is it possible, by religious services in the future, to make amends for the perversity of your past life. Such proposals and such efforts would become the race of Ishmael, for they are under bondage. But we are the children of the free woman and we are not moved to holiness by the hope of gaining heaven, or the fear of being sent to hell. We live under a different covenant from that! They have to do with Sinai, which made men tremble—we are not under the law, but under grace, so other arguments persuade us! When we need weapons wherewith to fight against our sin, we turn to divine love, and say, "Behold how God has loved us. Can we act unloving to Him?" Or we go to Calvary and there see what a bitter thing it is to our Well-Beloved. We take the spear that pierced His heart, to see if it cannot pierce the heart of our sin. And we take the nails that nailed Him to the tree and pray the Holy Spirit to crucify our flesh with its affections and lusts. Our warfare is not carried on by weapons from the armory of Moses—the shield and spear of David suit us better. By faith in the living God who defends us from danger and guards us with strength, we shall bring down the lion, rend the bear like a kid, and vanquish the Philistine! By the help of His right hand we expect to kill the enemy. We are not going back to legal bondage—we have "more grace." And with divine grace there always comes joy, peace and security. That doctrine which, it has been often argued, gives liberty to sin does really set forth the way in which to overthrow and conquer it! The text, then, gives an indication of the place where we may find the shield and buckler of our sacred war—"He gives more grace."
And then the text, besides giving thus a contrast and a suggestion, appears to me to give us an encouragement for the continuance of our spiritual warfare. "He gives more grace." You had grace at first with which to struggle against the envying and every other sin. You are now alarmed because the warfare of your spirit is so protracted. "He gives more grace" to continue the struggle! As long as there is one passion in your soul that dares to rise, there will be grace in your soul to answer! Are you distressed because you don’t appear to be making the headway you could wish against sin? It is a blessed distress and I would not mitigate it, but, meanwhile, let us not degenerate into unbelief. Know this, that though there may be more temptation, God will give more grace! And though advancing years may bring more infirmity and, consequently, more temptation, He will always give you more grace! As long as the fight shall last, the help will last. You shall have manna all the while you are in the wilderness—it shall never cease to drop till you come where you no more require it, having crossed the Jordan. Fight on, then! Never think of saying, "I cannot overcome this sin." By God’s help you must, for peace with any foe to purity. You are never to have peace with any sin. When, first of all, the Lord Jesus made peace with us, He proclaimed war against sin on every side and of every size, and the loyal Christian never dreams of peace, but contemplates only a perpetual fighting against sin, expecting to have perpetual grace bestowed!
And then it seems to me that, in this matter, we have a prediction of victory, for if He gives more grace, it seems to me thus, that He promises so to augment the force of grace that the sin must ultimately yield to repeated assaults. There shall be more grace than sin—where sin abounded, grace did much more abound. Such shall be the climax of every Christian’s experience when it comes to be summed up. O sin, you cruel, deadly foe! You seek to capture us, and, if possible, to slay us—but you shall not prevail! Sin seeks to enter, grace shuts the door. Sin tries to get the mastery, but grace, which is stronger than sin, resists and will not permit it. Sin gets us down at times and puts its foot on our neck—grace comes to the rescue and faith prompts us to say, "Rejoice not over me, O my enemy, for though I fall, yet shall I rise up again." Sin comes up like Noah’s flood, but grace rides over the tops of the mountains like the Ark! Sin, like Sennacherib, pours forth its troops to swallow up the land—grace, like the angel of the Lord, goes through the camp of Sennacherib and lays sin dead. O glorious grace, you shall certainly get the victory! "He gives more grace." Surely, therefore, there is a prediction, here, of ultimate victory! "The spirit that is in us lusts to envy," but for us there is victory, and to Jehovah shall it be ascribed, for He gives more grace! Such, as it seems to me, is the instruction to be drawn from the text, if we take it in its connection. Now let us take it out of the connection and—
II. USE IT AS A GENERAL TRUTH.
"He gives more grace." Does not this mean that He gives new supplies of grace? The grace you had yesterday is of no use today. It would breed worms and stink like the old manna. The man who has no new experience of divine love, but tries to live on the memory of the past, will find the food very musty and apt to breed diseases. The child of God will never prosper on Tuesday through Monday’s grace— and you will not find the supplies of grace for last year keep you afloat during this year! "He gives more grace." Grace is like a river—its waters are always sweet and fresh as it comes rushing from the eternal hills. Like the sunlight, it never sends the same beams twice! It is always fresh, always new. Blessed be God for this! There are perpetual streams of grace.
And He gives larger supplies of grace. He gives new drops to the blade; He gives a greater watering to the corn in the ear, sends heavy showers when it comes to the full corn in the ear. There is comparatively little grace with him who is but a babe in grace, though enough for his present need. There is more grace for the young man who has temptations to avoid that he may cleanse his way. And there is the most grace for the valiant man who is strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Little faith has grace, but great faith has more grace. Little love has grace, but God gives greater grace where there is greater love. None of us have got so far but what there is much beyond. Suppose a man says he is perfect? You may conclude that he does not know himself or the course that lies before him, for if he is perfect in his own estimation, he has not a perfect standard to judge himself by and probably he is not as perfect in his humility as it is desirable he should be!
"God gives more grace," that is, higher, larger, deeper, stronger grace, so that we may go from strength to strength. When it is said, "He gives more grace," it means that He gives higher styles of grace, for there are differences and degrees of grace. One man has grace—a proportionate amount of it, but it is of one kind. Now the grace of patience appears to me to be a higher grace than many others, and to come late to some of us. We have not got to it yet. We have got courage and we have faith in a measure and that will produce every other virtue, doubtless, but as yet we have not the full closeness of fellowship, the perfectness of acquiescence, the keen susceptibility of the presence of God, and certain other and higher forms of grace of which we cannot now particularly speak. But these are not things that are reserved and laid by—He gives these higher graces—they are to be had. There is no degree of divine grace which we ought not to seek—not with the covetousness that seeks grace for a graceless object like self-exaltation, but with that sacred eagerness which longs for more grace that God may have more glory! God gives to His people the highest forms of grace and, therefore, they ought to be encouraged to ask for them. This precious Word of God which I have before me, dear friends, on which my heart is fondly set, and which my tongue gladly repeats, expresses a statute of the Lord which we ought to live upon every day. "He gives more grace," By the grace of God I have got to the end of another day! Well, then, I need to go to Him again at my bedside, before my eyes are closed in slumber, and seek fresh fellowship with Him—"He gives more grace." What He is prepared to give most certainly I am prone to need! Tomorrow, when I go forth to follow my calling, I know not what may befall me, for I have not trod that way before—but "He gives more grace." Every day there are fresh supplies of grace as fresh needs for grace arise. And oh, how I ought to recollect this in my pleadings for others! Should I not pray for my minister, that he might have more grace? If I do not profit under his ministry as I could wish, I should pray more, being confident of this very thing, that, "God gives more grace." And if I do profit as I could wish, then I have new reasons for praying that he will continue to get more grace, for God has promised to give it! Have I a child whom I hope to see grow up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord? As I see the budding, the beginning of grace in him, I should plead for more grace! And how, my Christian brothers and sisters in the service of the Church, should I fail to plead with God on your behalf?
Much blessed use, too, beloved, may we make of this verse when called to any fresh service. If you who never preached before, should be invited to speak to a few people, do not measure your ability by your inexperience. He who calls you to more service will give you more grace! Or should you be about to move from a little to a larger occupation, you may be timid—cast down because of the littleness of your strength—but "He gives more grace." Possibly, you are entering into deeper trials. You have only been a coaster before, and you kept among the headlands near the shore. Now you are to cross the sea and get out of the sight of land. Well, the pilot knows all about the sea which you are about to traverse— trust Him. "He gives more grace." I know you have more fear. The only way to overcome it is by more grace. Do not be over-anxious to make more provision, or trust to the exercise of more prudence, or rely upon anything you have got, else you will make shipwreck in that manner! But go to the Lord for more grace. It is the straight way, the right way, the safe way—and in that way you will always find that more grace will carry you through more trouble! Possibly you are about to undergo sharper tests than ever. You are to be tried this time as to whether you are really God’s servant. Well, if the Lord permits Satan to tempt you, He will give you more grace! He who preserved you in prosperity, will preserve you in adversity! He who kept you in the high places will not forsake you in the lowlands. He who blessed your substance will not suffer you to starve in time of famine. If you need more grace, you shall have more grace to supply your need! Do not be afraid, dear brothers and sisters, as to what may happen to you. Go in this your strength—seek the Lord’s guidance. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths. If God should bid any one of us go right through a wall of stone, we are to go straight through it and He shall clear our way! He cuts the gates of brass and breaks the bars of iron asunder. Ours is to obey—not to reason or ask why! Ours is to dare and die, if need be, for Him—not to halt or draw back! When He bids us go, He will clear the way. Through the Red Sea, Israel went. "Forward," was the word, and the floods divided and stood upright as a heap! So shall it be, if providence should call you to the most extraordinary pathway ever trod by human pilgrims! He that calls you will preserve you and cause you to triumph in the way of obedience, for "He gives more grace." Again, let us endeavor to—
III. MAKE APPLICATION OF THIS PRINCIPLE TO OURSELVES.
I would urge each dear brother and sister here to take the words and see what they say to you. "He gives more grace." Do you suffer from spiritual poverty? It is your own fault, for He gives more grace. If you have not got it, it is not because it is not to be had, but because you have not gone for it—you have not sought for it—you have not walked in such a way that you could possess it and exhibit its fruit! If there is anyone—a hired servant of our Father—that is hungry, it is not because our Father’s larder is bare, for He has provided bread enough and to spare! And if there is one of our Father’s children who cannot fill his belly, it is not because there is not food enough, nor because there is not abundance on the Father’s table, but because he chooses to go after the swine husks in some form or other. We might rejoice, we might triumph, but we take the course which leads to poverty, littleness of grace, leanness of soul! It is our own choice—not the Lord’s. The text forbids us ever to lay blame on God. "Have I been a wilderness to Israel?" You might well consider this. You have little love—have I given you little cause reasonably relax your fervor? Ah, no. "He gives more grace." He always gives. You hungry ones that stand shivering there, faint and ready to die—it is not because the oxen and the fatlings are not killed, and all things are not ready—you that pinch yourselves and starve yourselves are not straitened in Him, but straitened in your own heart. May God teach us this lesson! May we come now to God with open mouths that He may fill them. May our desires be strong and our faith a mighty enthusiasm, that, according to our faith, it may be done unto us!
Spiritual growth, if we have any, must never be the subject of our self-congratulation, but we must give all the glory to God, for if you look at the text from another point of view, the more grace we have, the more has been given us! If we have it not, it is our own fault, but if we have it, it is not our earning, but His bestowal! If you have more than another, you have no cause to thank yourself for it. If you can say, "I bless myself that I have more grace than my brother," you have already shown that you are naked, poor and miserable, though you think yourself to be rich and increased in goods. All grace leads us to gratitude. Grace never leads us to lift ourselves up and say, "I have done well to obtain it." grace, like the cargo in the vessel, makes the ship sink deeper in the stream. He that has most grace is the lowliest man. You shall measure your rising in grace by your sinking in humility.
Oh, beloved, what satisfaction and what security we should feel in meditating on the goodness of God. Verily, God is good. This is not an occasional display of His bounty, but it is the universal order of His government in the Church, "He gives more grace." There is no time given here. You do not find any timetable in Scripture, saying, "At such an hour of the day He gives more grace," or, "At such a time in the year He gives more grace," but it is day by day, all the year round, long as the cycles roll, while the dispensation of mercy lasts! So long as there is an heir of heaven that needs, our Father, who is in heaven, supplies! "He gives more grace." What a blessing for us that the grace of God is "unlimited" as to time!
Nor is there any restriction as to the way of our getting it. When "He gives more grace," you need not apply through certain appointed priests, or use a prescribed ritual, or put yourselves in certain peculiar postures. No, no! Nothing ceremonial—everything substantial! This provision, like every other promise, is in and through Jesus Christ, the Mediator. If you do but go and seek from Him, He gives what none others can give—He gives more grace! Oh, for the agony of prayer that will lead us to the mercy-seat with power! And for the humility of soul that empties us in order that there may be room for God to fill us! Oh, for the life of faith which believes that God will do great things, and expects Him to do them! How then should we, each one, have to say, "He gives me more grace: blessed be His name! He leads me on from height to height, enlarges my capacity and still fills me! He makes me feel that there is a greater capacity yet to receive and an undiminished fullness when my capacity expands." Turn the meditation into music in your heart! Let the rich melody charm your thoughts and henceforth may our song be, "He gives more grace."
Are any of you seeking more grace? If He has given you grace to seek, He will surely give you more grace—grace to find! Are any of you grieving for sin? That is of His grace—He will give you more grace to rejoice in the pardon of all your sins through Christ! Have you begun to pray? That is according to His grace bestowed on you—but He will give you more grace to continue in prayer until you receive such answers as are the ripe fruit of your supplications! Thank God for little grace—mind that you do. If you have only starlight, thank Him for it, and He will give you moonlight. Or if you have only moonlight, thank Him for it, and He will give you sunlight! Then, if you have sunlight, thank Him fervently and He will give you, shortly, as the light of seven days! Be thankful, since a little grace is more than you deserve! Be thankful for the least grain that the Lord adds to it. Oh, that you might be all led to believe in Christ! It pleased the Father to give Christ Jesus to us, and in Him all fullness dwells. He cannot give you more, because in this one gift every other gift is concentrated. You cannot need more than Jesus! With Him you shall find that you receive more and more grace adequate to your needs and according to His exceeding riches of glory. So shall you praise Him more and more forever and ever! Amen.