The usual formula is "There but for the grace of God go I," but Coates's "before the grace" is a not uncommon variant on the Web. And though I couldn't find it in the Eggcorn Database, it's easy enough to see the alternative reading, with "before" meaning "without, until the bestowal of." (Not a reading that bears too much scrutiny, but then, we don't tend to scrutinize these phrases.)
It's not the first time I've been taken aback by a variation on this saying. Two years ago, I blogged about a truncated form that also appeared in the Times (among other places, including a Keith Urban song): "But for the grace of God go I" all by itself, with no there there. Just further evidence that we don't need all the words -- or even notice all the words -- once a fixed expression is sufficiently familiar.