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Bible Encyclopedias

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature


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(Lat. gratia; Gr. χάρις; Heb. חֶסֶד and חֶן a word of, various import in Scripture and in theology.

I. Scriptural Uses.

(1.) Physical beauty (grace of form and person) (Proverbs 1:9; Proverbs 3:22; Proverbs 31:30.; Psalms 45:2, aetc.).

(2.) Favor, kindness, goodness, benevolence, friendship of God towards men, or of men towards one another (Genesis 6:8; Genesis 18:3; Genesis 19:19; 1 Samuel 10:2; 2 Timothy 1:9).

(3.) God's forgiving mercy, as gratuitous and opposed to merit (Romans 11:6; Ephesians 2:5; Colossians 1:6, etc.).

(4.) The Gospel generally, as, contradistinguished from the law (John 1:17; Romans 6:14; 1 Peter 5:12, etc.).

(5.) Certain gifts of God,. freely bestowed; e.g. miracles, prophecy, tongues, etc. (Romans 15:15; 1 Corinthians 15:10; Ephesians 3:8, etc.).

(6.) Christian virtues; e.g. charity, liberality, holiness, etc. (2 Corinthians 8:7; 2 Peter 3:18).

(7.) The glory to be revealed, or eternal life (1 Peter 1:13). Wilson. (Bampton Lecture on the Communion of Saints, Oxford, 1851, 8vo) remarks as follows on the scriptural use of the word: ῾Χάρις occurs in the Sept. version sixty-six times, of which number it stands sixty-one times for חֵן, its signification in the New Test. cannot be fairly estimated without reference to the idea expressed by that Hebrew word. This is drawn altogether from Oriental life, and, implies properly the good will and inclination of a superior towards an inferior, so much below him as to seek only for a spontaneous and gratuitous favor, or to invite the favor only by his needs, humility, and supplications. The favorable inclination is manifested in a kind of condescending aspect. Hence constantly the phrase ' find favor in the sight of (בְּ ינֵי ): compare particularly Numbers 6:25, 'The Lord make his face to shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee (וַיחִנֶּךָ ). Upon an examination of the use of the words חֵן and חָנִן in the Old Test. it will appear that a quality is sometimes implied in the object which has invited the favor of the superior; sometimes the favor is altogether gratuitous: a few instances are subjoined. 1. A quality or antecedent merit is supposed: Genesis 32:5; Genesis 39:4; Genesis 39:21; Genesis 47:29; Genesis 1:4; 1 Samuel 16:22; 1 Samuel 25:8; 2 Samuel 16:4; Esther 2:15; Esther 5:2; Proverbs 1:9; Proverbs 3:22; Proverbs 4:9 (in these three places χάριτας, spiritual graces); Proverbs 5:19, hinnula gratice; Proverbs 13:15, bona mens dat gratiam; Proverbs 11:16, mulier gratiae (εὔχρηστος )); in Nahum 3:4, pulchritudo meretricis. 2. On the other hand, the idea of merit or pleasing quality is excluded in Genesis 34:11; Exodus 3:21; Exodus 11:3; Exodus 12:36; Numbers 32:5; Ruth 2:2; 1 Samuel 1:18; 1 Samuel 27:5; Jeremiah 31:2; but particularly in Exodus 33:19, where אֲשֶׁר אָחֹן וְחִנֹּתִּי אֶתאּ . is translated by ἐλεήσω ὃν ¨ ν ἐλεῶ; and Psalms 51:3, where, and in other places, חָנִן has nearly the meaning of רָחִם, to pity and commiserate. חֵן stands for a gift of free love in Psalms 84:12; Proverbs 3:34. A merit or pleasing quality in the object is neither excluded nor necessarily implied in Psalms 67:2, and elsewhere. But some exciting cause of the favor is supposed in Deuteronomy 28:50; 2 Kings 13:23; Job 19:21 (Have pity on me); Psalm 123:6; Proverbs 14:35; Proverbs 19:17 (He that hath pity on the poor); 21:10; Isaiah 30:18-19; Isaiah 33:2; Lamentations 4:16; Amos 5:15; Malachi 1:9. But the best illustration of the Hebrew idea of 'grace' will be derived from observing that הַתְהִנֵּן, the form of which implies to make one's self an object ofgrace, means not to deserve, but to pray; and תִּחֲנוּנִים are not merits, but supplications; the humility and abject condition of the suppliant is thus the exciting cause of the favor (1 Kings 8:33; 1 Kings 8:47; 1 Kings 8:59; 1 Kings 9:3; 2 Chronicles 6:24; 2 Chronicles 6:37; Job 9:15; Job 19:16; Esther 4:8). תְּחִנָּה is sometimes prayer and sometimes the favor gained by it." The word grace occurs 128 times in the New Test. (Cruden). Wilson presents all these passages in a tabular form, with explanations, and remarks that a comparison of them will show that "there is not one text in which the word grace occurs in any connection with either of the sacraments." (See SACRAMENTS).

II. Theological. The word "grace" is the hinge of three great theological controversies:

(1) that of the nature of depravity and regeneration, between the orthodox doctrine of the Church and Pelagianism;

(2) that of the relation between grace and free will, between the Calvinists and the Arminians;

(3) that of means (media) of grace, between the Romanists and Puseyites on the one hand and Protestants on the other. For the treatment of the first, (See PELAGIANISM); on the second, (See ARMINIANISM); (See ELECTION); (See PREDESTINATION); (See WILL). On the third, (See SACRAMENTS).

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These files are public domain.

Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Grace'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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