Acacia John Bunyan - Online Library
By J O H N.B U N Y A N.
JUSTIFICATION is to be diversly taken in the scripture. Sometimesit is taken for the justification of persons. Sometimes for the justification ofactions. And sometimes for the justification of the person and action too. It istaken for the justification of persons, and that,
(1.) As to justification with God; or,
(2.) As to justification with men.
As to justification with God, that is, when a man stands clear, quit, free, or, ina saved condition before him, in the approbation of his holy law.
As to justification with men, that is, when a man stands clear and quit from justground of reprehension with them. Justification also is to be taken with referenceto actions; and that may be when they are considered,
As flowing from true faith; or,
Because the act done fulfils some transient law.
(1.) As actions flow from faith, so they are justified, because done before God in,and made complete through, the perfections of Jesus Christ, 1 Pet. 2:5; Heb. 13:15;Rev. 8:1-4.
(2.) As by the doing of the act some transient law is fulfilled; as when Jehu executedjudgment upon the house of Ahab "Thou hast done well," said God to him,"in executing that which is righteous in mine eyes, and hast done to the houseof Ahab all that was in mine heart," 2 Kings 10:30.
As to such acts, God may or may not look at the qualification of those that do them;and it is clear that he had not respect to any good that was in Jehu, in the justifyingof this action; nor could he, for Jehu stuck close yet to the sins of Jeroboam, but"took no heed to walk in the law of the Lord God of Israel," 2 Kings 10:29,31.
I might hence also shew you, that a man may be justified even then when his actionis condemned; also that a man may be in a state of condemnation, when his actionmay be justified. But with these distinctions I will not take up time, my intentionbeing to treat of justification, as it sets a man free or quit from sin, the curseand condemnation of the law in the sight of God, in order to eternal salvation.
And that I may with the more clearness handle this point before you, I will lay downand speak to this proposition
That there is no other way for sinners to be justified from the curse of the lawin the sight of God, than by the imputation of that righteousness long ago performedby, and still residing with, the person of Jesus Christ.
The terms of this proposition are easy; yet if it will help, I will speak a wordor two for explication.
(1.) By a sinner, I mean one that has transgressed the law; for "sin is thetransgression of the law," 1 John 3:4.
(2.) By the curse of the law, I mean that sentence, judgment, or condemnation whichthe law pronounceth against the transgressor, Gal. 3:10.
(3.) By justifying righteousness, I mean that which stands in the doing and sufferingof Christ when he was in the world; Rom. 5:19.
(4.) By the residing of this righteousness in Christ's person, I mean, it still abideswith him as to the action, though the benefit is bestowed upon those that are his.
(5.) By the imputation of it to us, I mean God's making of it ours by an act of hisgrace, that we by it might be secured from the curse of the law.
(6.) When I say there is no other way to be justified, I cast away to that end thelaw, and all the works of the law as done by us.
Thus I have opened the terms of the proposition.
Now the two first, to wit, What sin and the curse is, stand clear in all men's sight,unless they be atheists, or desperately heretical. I shall therefore in few words,clear the other four.
First, Therefore justifying righteousness is the doing and suffering of Christ whenhe was in the world. This is clear, because we are said to be "justified byhis obedience," Rom. 5:19; by his obedience to the law. Hence he is said againto be the end of the law for that very thing "Christ is the end of the law forrighteousness," &c., Rom. 10:4. The end, what is that? Why, the requirementor demand of the law. But what is it? Why, righteousness, perfect righteousness,Gal. 3:10. Perfect righteousness, what to do? That the soul concerned might standspotless in the sight of God, Rev. 1:5:Now this lies only in the doings and sufferingsof Christ; for "by his obedience many are made righteous"; wherefore asto this Christ is the end of the law, that being found in that obedience, that becomesto us sufficient for our justification. Hence, we are said to be made righteous byhis obedience; yea, and to be washed, purged, and justified by his blood, Heb. 9:14;Rom. 5:18, 19.
Secondly, That this righteousness still resides in and with the person of Christ,even then when we stand just before God thereby, is clear, for that we are said whenjustified to be justified "in him" "In the Lord shall all the seedof Israel be justified." And again; "Surely, shall one say, in the Lordhave I righteousness," &c. And again; "For him are ye in Christ Jesus,who is made unto us of God righteousness," Isa. 45:24, 25; 1 Cor. 1:30.
Mark, the righteousness is still "in him," not "in us"; eventhen when we are made partakers of the benefit of it, even as the wing and feathersstill abide in the hen when the chickens are covered, kept, and warmed thereby.
For as my doings, though my children are fed and clothed thereby, are still my doings,not theirs, so the righteousness wherewith we stand just before God from the cursestill resides in Christ, not in us. Our sins when laid upon Christ were yet personallyours, not his; so his righteousness when put upon us is yet personally his, not ours.What is it, then? Why, "he was made to be sin for us, who knew no sin; thatwe might be made the righteousness of God in him," 2 Cor. 5:21.
Thirdly, It is therefore of a justifying virtue only by imputation, or as God reckonethit to us; even as our sins made the Lord Jesus a sinner, nay, sin, by God's reckoningof them to him.
It is absolutely necessary that this be known of us; for if the understanding bemuddy as to this, it is impossible that such should be sound in the faith; also intemptation, that man will be at a loss that looketh for a righteousness for justificationin himself, when it is to be found nowhere but in Jesus Christ.
The apostle, who was his craftsmaster as to this, was always "looking to Jesus,"that he "might be found in him" (Phil. 3:6-8), knowing that nowhere elsecould peace or safety be had.
And indeed this is one of the greatest mysteries in the world, namely, that a righteousnessthat resides with a person in heaven should justify me, a sinner, on earth.
Fourthly, Therefore the law and the works thereof, as to this must by us be castaway; not only because they here are useless, but also they being retained are ahindrance. That they are useless is evident, for that salvation comes by anothername, Acts 4:12. And that they are a hindrance, it is clear, for the very adheringto the law, though it be but a little, or in a little part, prevents justificationby the righteousness of Christ, Rom. 9:31, 32.
What shall I say? As to this, the moral law is rejected, the ceremonial law is rejected,and man's righteousness is rejected, for that they are here both weak and unprofitable,Rom. 8:2, 3; Gal. 3:21; Heb. 10:1-12.
Now if all these and their works as to our justification are rejected, where butin Christ is righteousness to be found?
Thus much, therefore, for the explication of the proposition, namely, that thereis no other way for sinners to be justified from the curse of the law in the sightof God than by the imputation of that righteousness long ago performed by, and stillresiding with, the person of Jesus Christ.
Now, from this proposition I draw these two positions
First, That men are justified from the curse of the law before God while sinnersin themselves.
Secondly, That this can be done by no other righteousness than that long ago performedby, and residing with, the person of Jesus Christ.
Let us, then, now enter into the consideration of the first of these, namely, Thatmen are justified from the curse of the law before God while sinners in themselves.
This I shall manifest,
By touching upon the mysterious acts of our redemption.
By giving of you plain texts which discover it; and,
By reasons drawn from the texts.
For the first of these; to wit, the mysterious act of our redemption: and that Ishall speak to under these two heads
I shall shew you what that is; and,
How we are concerned therein.
That which I call, and that rightly, the mysterious act of our redemption, is Christ'ssufferings as a common, though a particular person and as a sinner, though alwayscompletely righteous.
That he suffered as a common person is true. By common, I mean a public person, orone that presents the body of mankind in himself. This a multitude of scripturesbear witness to, especially that fifth chapter to the Rom., where by the apostlehe is set before us as the head of all the elect, even as Adam was once head of allthe world. Thus he lived, and thus he died; and this was a mysterious act.
And that he should die as a sinner, when yet himself did "no sin, nor had anyguile found in his mouth," made this act more mysterious, 1 Pet. 1:19; 2:22;3:18. That he died as a sinner is plain "He hath made him to be sin. And theLord laid upon him the iniquity of us all," Isaiah, 53. That, then, as to hisown person he was completely sinless is also as truly manifest, and that by a multitudeof scriptures.
Now, I say, that Christ Jesus should be thus considered, and thus die, was the greatmystery of God. Hence Paul tells us, that when he preached "Christ crucified,"he preached not only the "wisdom of God," but the "wisdom of God ina mystery," even his "hidden wisdom," for, indeed, this wisdom ishidden, and kept close from the "fowls of the air," 1 Cor. 1:23; 2:7, 8;Job 28:20, 21.
It is also so mysterious, that it goes beyond the reach of all men, except thoseto whom an understanding is given of God to apprehend it, 1 John 5:20.
That one particular man should represent all the elect in himself, and that the mostrighteous should die as a sinner, yea, as a sinner by the hand of a just and holyGod, is a mystery of the greatest depth.
Secondly , And now I come to shew you how the elect are concerned therein; that is,in this mysterious act of this most blessed One; and this will make this act yetmore mysterious to you.
Now, then, we will speak of this first, as to how Christ prepared himself thus mysteriouslyto act.
He took hold of our nature. I say, he took hold of us , by taking upon him fleshand blood. The Son of God therefore, took not upon him a particular person, thoughhe took to him a human body and soul; but that which he took was, as I may call it,a lump of the common nature of man, and by that, hold of the whole elect seed ofAbraham; Heb. 2:16, "For verily he took not on him the nature of angels, buthe took on him the seed of Abraham."
Hence he, in a mystery, became us, and was counted as all the men that were or shouldbe saved. And this is the reason why we are said to do , when only Jesus Christ diddo . As for instance
First, When Jesus Christ fulfilled the righteousness of the law, it is said it wasfulfilled in us, because indeed fulfilled in our nature: "For what the law couldnot do, in that it was weak through the flesh; God sending his own Son in the likenessof sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteousnessof the law might be fulfilled in us," &c. But because none should appropriatethis unto themselves that have not had passed upon them a work of conversion, thereforehe adds, "Who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit." For therebeing a union between head and members, though things may be done by the head, andthat for the members, the things are counted to the members, as if not done onlyby the head. The "righteousness of the law is fulfilled in us"; and thattruly, because fulfilled in that common nature which the Son of God took of the Virgin.Wherefore, in this sense we are said to do what only was done by him; even as theclient doth by his lawyer, when his lawyer personates him; the client is said todo, when it is the lawyer only that does; and to overcome by doing, when it is thelawyer that overcomes; the reason is, because the lawyer does in the client's name.How much more then may it be said we do, when only Christ does; since he does whathe does, not in our name only, but in our nature too; "for the law of the spiritof life in Christ (not in me) has set me free from the law of sin and death,"Rom. 8:1-3; he doing in his common flesh what could not be done in my particularperson, that so I might have the righteousness of the law fulfilled in me, my fleshassumed by Christ; though impossible to be done, because of the weakness of my person.
The reason of all this is, because we are said to be in him in his doing, in himby our flesh, and also by the election of God. So, then, as all men sinned when Adamfell, so all the elect did righteousness when Christ wrought and fulfilled the law;for "as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive."
Secondly, As we are said to do by Christ, so we are said to suffer by him, to sufferwith him. "I am crucified with Christ," said Paul. And again; "Forasmuch,then, as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with thesame mind; for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin," 1 Pet.4:1, 2. Mark how the apostle seems to change the person. First he says, it is Christthat suffered; and that is true; but then he insinuates that it is us that suffered,for the exhortation is to believers, "to walk in newness of life"; andthe argument is, because they have suffered in the flesh: "For he that hathsuffered in the flesh, hath ceased from sin; that he no longer should live the restof his time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God," Gal.2:20.
We then suffered when Christ suffered; we then suffered in his flesh and also our"old man was crucified with him," Rom. 6:6; that is, in his crucifixion;for when he hanged on the cross, all the elect hanged there in their common fleshwhich he assumed, and because he suffered there as a public man.
Thirdly, As we are said to suffer with him, so we are said to die, to be dead withhim; with him, that is, by the dying of his body: "Now, if we be dead with Christ,we believe that we shall also live with him," Rom. 6:8.
Wherefore he saith in other places, "Brethren, ye are become dead to the lawby the body of Christ"; for indeed we died then to it by him. To the law, thatis, the law now has nothing to do with us; for that it has already executed its curseto the full upon us by its slaying of the body of Christ; for the body of Christwas our flesh, upon it also was laid our sin. The law, too, spent that curse thatwas due to us upon him when it condemned, killed, and cast him into the grave. Wherefore,it having thus spent its whole curse upon him as standing in our stead, we are exemptedfrom its curse for ever; we are become dead to it by that body, Rom. 7:4; it hasdone with us as to justifying righteousness. Nor need we fear its damning threatsany more; for by the death of this body we are freed from it, and are for ever nowcoupled to a living Christ.
Fourthly , As we are said thus to be dead, so we are said also to rise again by him"Thy dead men" (saith he to the Father) "shall live, together withmy dead body shall they arise." And again; "After two days he will reviveus, and in the third day we shall live in his sight," Isa. 26:19; Hos. 6:2.
Both these scriptures speak of the resurrection of Christ, of the resurrection ofhis body on the third day; but behold, as we were said before to suffer and be deadwith him, so now we are said also to rise and live in God's sight by the resurrectionof his body; for, as was said, the flesh was ours; he took part of our flesh whenhe came into the world; and in it he "suffered, died, and rose again,"Heb. 2:14. We also were therefore counted by God in that God-man when he did this;yea, he suffered, died, and rose as a common head.
Hence also the New Testament is full of this, saying, "If ye be dead with Christ.""If ye be risen with Christ." And again; "He hath quickened us togetherwith him," Col. 2:20; 3:1; and 2:13.
"We are quickened together with him." "Quickened," and "quickenedtogether with him." The apostle hath words that cannot easily be shifted orevaded. Christ then was quickened when he was raised from the dead. Nor is it properto say that he was ever quickened either before or since. This text also concludesthat we, to wit, the whole body of God's elect, were also quickened then, and madeto live with him together. True, we also are quickened personally by grace the dayin the which we are born unto God by the gospel; yet before that we are quickenedin our head; quickened when he was raised from the dead; quickened together withhim.
Fifthly, Nor are we thus considered, to wit, as dying and rising, and so left. Butthe apostle pursues his argument, and tells us that we also reap by him, as beingconsidered in him, the benefit which Christ received, both in order to his resurrection,and the blessed effect thereof.
We received, by our thus being counted in him, that benefit which did precede hisrising from the dead; and what was that but the forgiveness of sins? For this standsclear to reason, that if Christ had our sins charged upon him at his death, he thenmust be discharged of them in order to his resurrection. Now, though it is not properto say they were forgiven to him, because they were purged from him by merit, yetthey may be said to be forgiven us, because we receive this benefit by grace.
And this, I say, was done precedent to his resurrection from the dead: "He hathquickened us together with him, having forgiven us all trespasses." He couldnot be "quickened" till we were "discharged"; because it wasnot for himself, but for us, that he died. Hence we are said to be at that time,as to our own personal estate, dead in our sins, even when we are "quickenedtogether with him," Col. 2:13.
Therefore both the "quickening" and "forgiveness" too, so faras we are in this text concerned, is to him, as we are considered in him or to him,with respect to us.
Having forgiven you all trespasses. For necessity so required; because else how wasit possible that the pains of death should be loosed in order to his rising, so longas one sin stood still charged to him, as that for the commission of which God hadnot received a plenary satisfaction? As therefore we suffered, died, and rose againby him; so, in order to his so rising, he, as presenting of us in his person andsuffering, received for us remission of all our trespasses. A full discharge thereforewas, in and by Christ, received of God of all our sins before he arose from the dead;as his resurrection truly declared; for "he was delivered for our offences,and was raised again for our justification," Rom. 4:25.
This therefore is one of the privileges we receive by the rising again of our Lord;for that we were in his flesh considered, yea, and in his death and suffering too.
By this means also we have now escaped death. "Knowing that Christ being raisedfrom the dead, dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. For in that hedied, he died unto (or, for) sin once; but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God,"Rom. 6:9, 10.
Now in all this, considering what has been said before, we that are of the electare privileged, for that we also are raised up by the rising of the body of Christfrom the dead. And thus the apostle bids us reckon "Likewise reckon also yourselvesto be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ," Rom. 6:11.
Hence Christ says, "he is the resurrection and the life," for that allhis are safe in him, suffering, dying, and rising. He is the life, our life; yea,so our life that by him the elect do live before God, even then when as to themselvesthey yet are dead in their sins. Wherefore, hence it is that in time they partakeof quickening grace from this their head, to the making of them also live by faith,in order to their living hereafter with him in glory; for if Christ lives, they cannotdie that were sharers with him in his resurrection. Hence they are said to "live,"being "quickened together with him." Also, as sure as at his resurrectionthey lived "by him," so sure at his coming shall they be gathered "tohim"; nay, from that day to this all that, as aforesaid, were in him at hisdeath and resurrection, are already, in the "fulness of the dispensation oftime," daily "gathering to him." For this he hath purposed, whereforenone can disannul it "In the fulness of the dispensation of time, to gathertogether in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are in earth,even in him," Eph. 1:9, 10.
To secure this the more to our faith that believe, as we are said to be "raisedup together with him," so we are said "to be made to sit together in heavenlyplaces in Christ Jesus"; Eph. 2:6. We died by him, we rose by him, and are together,even all the elect set down together in "heavenly places in Christ Jesus";for still even now he is on the right hand of God; he is to be considered as ourpublic man, our head, and so one in whom is concluded all the elect of God. We thenare by him already in heaven; in heaven, I say, by him; yea, set down there in ourplaces of glory by him. Hence the apostle, speaking of us again, saith, that as weare predestinate, we are called, justified, and glorified; called, justified, glorified,all is done, already done, as thus considered in Christ, Rom. 8:30. For that in hispublic work there is nothing yet to do as to this. Is not he called? Is not he justified?Is not he glorified? And are we not in him, in him, even as so considered?
Nor doth this doctrine hinder or forestal the doctrine of regeneration or conversion;nay, it lays a foundation for it; for by this doctrine we gather assurance that Christwill have his own; for if already they live in their head, what is that but a pledgethat they shall live in their persons with him? and, consequently, that to that endthey shall, in the times allotted for that end, be called to a state of faith, whichGod has ordained shall precede and go before their personal enjoyment of glory.
Nor doth this hinder their partaking of the symbol of regeneration, and of theirother privileges to which they are called in the day of grace; yea, it lays a foundationfor all these things; for if I am dead with Christ, let me be like one dead withhim, even to all things to which Christ died when he hanged on the tree; and thenhe died to sin, to the law, and to the rudiments of this world, Rom. 6:10; 7:4; Col.2:20.
And if I be risen with Christ, let me live, like one born from the dead, in newnessof life, and having my mind and affections on the things where Christ now sittethon the right hand of God. And indeed he professes in vain that talketh of these things,and careth not to have them also answered in himself. This was the apostle's way,namely, "To covet to know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowshipof his sufferings, being made conformable to his death," Phil. 3:9-13.
And when we are thus, that thing is true both in him and us. Then as is the heavenly,such are they that are heavenly; for he that saith he is in him, and by being inhim a partaker of these privileges by him, "ought himself so to walk, even ashe walked," 1 Cor. 15:48; 1 John 2:6, 8.
But to pass this digression, and to come to my argument, namely, that men are justifiedfrom the curse of the law before God while sinners in themselves.
This is evident by what hath already been said; for if the justification of theirpersons is by, in, and through Christ; then it is not by, in, and through their owndoings. Nor was Christ engaged in this work but of necessity, even because else therehad not been salvation for the elect. "Father" (saith he), "if itbe possible, let this cup pass from me," Matt. 26:39. If what be possible? Why,that my elect may be saved, and I not spill my blood. Wherefore he saith again, Christought to suffer. Christ must needs have suffered; for without shedding of blood isno remission of sin, Luke 24:26; Acts 17:3; Heb. 9:22.
We will now come to the present state and condition of those that are justified;I mean with respect to their own qualifications, and so prove the truth of this ourgreat position. And this I will do,
By giving of you plain texts that discover it, and that consequently prove our point.
And after that, by giving of you reasons drawn from the texts.
For the first of these.
First, "Speak not in thine heart" (no, not in thine heart) "afterthat the Lord thy God hath cast out thine enemies before thee, saying, For my righteousnessdo I possess the land... not for thy righteousness, or for the uprightness of thineheart, dost thou go in to possess the land... Understand, therefore, that the Lordthy God giveth thee not this good land to possess it for thy righteousness, for thouart a stiff-necked people," Deut. 9:4-6.
In these words, very pat for our purpose, two things are worthy our consideration.
The people here spoken to were the people of God; and so by God himself are theyhere twice acknowledged to be "The Lord thy God, the Lord thy God." So,then, the righteousness here intended, is not the righteousness that is in the world,but that which the people of God perform.
The righteousness here intended is not some, but all, and every whit of that thechurch performs to God: "Say not in thine heart, after the Lord hath broughtthee in, it was for my righteousness." No, all thy righteousness, from Egyptto Canaan, will not purchase Canaan for thee.
That this is true is evident, because it is thrice rejected "Not for thy righteousness,not for thy righteousness, not for thy righteousness, dost thou possess the land."Now if the righteousness of the people of God of old could not merit for them Canaan,which was but a type of heaven, how can the righteousness of the world now obtainheaven itself? I say again,
If godly men, as these were, could not by their works purchase the type of heaven,then must the ungodly be justified, if ever they be justified from the curse andsentence of the law, while sinners in themselves. The argument is clear; for if goodmen by what they do cannot merit the less, bad men by what they do cannot merit
Secondly, "Remember me, O my God, for this; and wipe not out my good deeds thatI have done," Neh. 13:14.
These words were spoken by holy Nehemiah, and that at the end of all the good thatwe read he did in the world. Also, the deeds here spoken of were deeds done for God,for his people, for his house, and for the offices thereof.
Yet godly Nehemiah durst not stand before God in these, nor yet suffer them to standto his judgment by the law; but prays to God to be merciful both to him and them,and to spare him "according to the multitude of his mercy," verse 22.
God blots out no good but for the sake of sin; and forasmuch as this man prays Godwould not blot out his, it is evident that he was conscious to himself that in hisgood works were sin. Now, I say, if a good man's works are in danger of being overthrownbecause there is in them a tang [taint] of sin, how can bad men think to stand justbefore God in their works, which are in all parts, full of sin? Yea, if the worksof a sanctified man are blameworthy, how shall the works of a bad man set him clearin the eyes of Divine justice?
Thirdly, "But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses areas filthy rags; and we do all fade away as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind,have taken us away," Isa. 64:6.
In these words we have a relation both of persons and things.
Of persons. And they are a righteous people, a righteous people put all together"We, we all are," &c.
The condition of this people, even of all of them, take them at the best, are, andthat by their own confession, "as an unclean thing."
Again the things here attending this people are their good things, put down underthis large character, "Righteousnesses, all our righteousnesses." Theseexpressions therefore comprehend all their religious duties, both before and afterfaith too. But what are all these righteousnesses? Why they are all as "filthyrags" when set before the justice of the law; yea, it is also confessed, andthat by these people, that their iniquities, notwithstanding all their righteousnesses,like the wind, if grace prevent not, would "carry them away." This beingso, how is it possible for one that is in his sins to work himself into a spotlesscondition by works done before faith, by works done by natural abilities? or to performa righteousness which is able to look God in the face, his law in the face, and todemand and obtain the forgiveness of sins, and the life that is eternal? It cannotbe: "men must therefore be justified from the curse in the sight of God whilesinners in themselves, or not at all."
Fourthly, "There is not a just man upon the earth, that doth good, and sinnethnot," Eccles. 7:20; 1 Kings 8:46.
Although the words before are large, yet these seem far larger; there is not a man,not a just man, not a just man upon the earth, that doth good, and sinneth not. Now,if no good man, if no good man upon earth doth good, and sinneth not, then no goodman upon earth can set himself by his own actions justified in the sight of God,for he has sin mixed with his good. How then shall a bad man, any bad man, the bestbad man upon earth, think to set himself by his best things just in the sight ofGod? And if the tree makes the fruit either good or evil, then a bad tree (and abad man is a bad tree) can bring forth no good fruit (Matt. 7:16), how then shallsuch an one do that that shall cleanse him from his sin, and set him as "spotlessbefore the face of God?"
Fifthly, "Hearken to me, ye stout-hearted, that are far from righteousness:I bring near my righteousness," &c., Isa. 46:12, 13.
This call is general, and so proves, whatever men think of themselves that in thejudgment of God there is none at all righteous men, as men are from being so.
This general offer of righteousness, of the righteousness of God, declares that itis in vain for men to think to be set just and righteous before God by any othermeans.
There is here also insinuated, that for him that thinks himself the worst, God hasprepared a righteousness, and therefore would not have him despair of life that seeshimself far from righteousness. From all these scriptures, therefore, it is manifestthat "men must be justified from the curse of the law in the sight of God whilesinners in themselves."
Sixthly , "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I willgive you rest," Matt. 11:28.
Here we have a labouring people, a people labouring for life; but by all their labour,you see, they cannot ease themselves; their burden still remains upon them; theyyet are heavy laden. The load here is, doubtless guilt of sin, such as David hadwhen he said by reason thereof "he was not able to look up"; Psal. 38:3-5.
Hence, therefore, you have an experiment set before you, of those that are tryingwhat they can do for life; but behold, the more they stir, the more they sink underthe weight of the burden that lies upon them.
And the conclusion, to wit, Christ's call to them to come to him for rest declaresthat, in his judgment, rest was not to be had elsewhere. And I think one may withas much safety adhere to Christ's judgment as to any man's alive; wherefore "menmust be justified from the curse in the sight of God while sinners in themselves."
Seventhly, "There is none righteous, no, not one: there is none that understandeth,there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they aretogether become unprofitable; there is none that doth good, no, not one,"
These words have respect to a righteousness which is justified by the law; and theyconclude that none by his own performances is righteous with such a righteousness;and it is concluded from five reasons
Because they are not good; for a man must be good before he doth good, and perfectlygood before he doth good and sinneth not.
Because they understand not. How then should they do good? for a man must know beforehe does, else how should he divert himself to do?
Because they want a heart, they seek not after God according to the way of his ownappointment.
They are all gone out of the way; how then can they walk therein?
They are together become unprofitable; what worth or value then can there be in anyof their doings?
These are the reasons by which he proveth that there is "none righteous, no,not one." And the reasons are weighty; for by them he proves the tree is notgood; how then can it yield good fruit?
Now, as he concludes from these five reasons that not one indeed is righteous, sohe concludes by five more that none can do good to make him so
For that internally they are as an open sepulchre, as full of dead men's bones; theirminds and consciences are defiled; how then can sweet and good proceed from thence?Rom. 13; Matt. 23:27; Tit. 1:15; Isa. 44:12; Jer 17:9.
Their throat is filled with this stink; all their vocal duties therefore smell thereof.
Their mouth is full of cursing and bitterness; how then can there be found one wordthat should please God?
Their tongue, which should present their praise to God, has been used to work deceit;how then, until it is made a new one, should it speak in righteousness?
The poison of asps is under their lips, therefore whatever comes from them, mustbe polluted.
Thus, you see, he sets forth their internal part; which being a true report, as tobe sure it is, it is impossible that any good should so much as be framed in suchan inward part, or come clean out of such a throat by such a tongue through suchlips as these, Rom. 3:11-14.
And yet this is not all: he also proves, and that by five reasons more, that it isnot possible they should do good
"Their feet are swift to shed blood," verse 15. This implies an inclination,an inward inclination to evil courses; a quickness of motion to do evil, but a backwardnessto do good.
"Destruction and misery are in their ways," verse 16. Take "ways"for their "doings," and in the best of them destruction lurks, and miseryyet follows them at the heels.
"The way of peace they have not known," verse 17; that is far above outof their sight. Wherefore the labour of these foolish ones will weary every one ofthem, because "they know not the way that goes to the city."
"There is no fear of God before their eyes," verse 18. How then can theydo anything with that godly reverence of his holy Majesty that is and must be essentialto every good work? for to do things, but not in God's fear, to what will it amount?will it avail?
All this while they are under a law that calls for works that are perfectly good,that will accept of none but what are perfectly good, and that will certainly condemnthem because they neither are nor can be perfectly good: "For whatsoever thingsthe law saith, it saith it to them that are under the law, that every mouth may bestopped, and all the world become guilty before God," verse 19.
Thus you see that Paul here proves by fifteen reasons that none are, nor can be,righteous before God by works that they can do; therefore "men must be justifiedfrom the curse in the sight of God while sinners in themselves."
Eighthly, "But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, beingwitnessed by the law and the prophets," &c., verse 21.
This text utterly excludes the law, what law? The law of works, the moral law (verse27)and makes mention of another righteousness, even a righteousness of God; for therighteousness of the law is the righteousness of men, "men's own righteousness,"Phil. 3:9.
Now, if the law, as to a justifying righteousness, is rejected, then the very matterupon and by which man should work is rejected; and if so, then he must be justifiedby the righteousness of God, or not at all; for he must be justified by a righteousnessthat is without the law; to wit, the righteousness of God. Now this righteousnessof God, whatever it is, to be sure it is not a righteousness that flows from men;for that, as I said, is rejected, and the righteousness of God opposed unto it, beingcalled a righteousness that is without the law, without our personal obedience toit.
The righteousness of God, or a righteousness of God's completing, a righteousnessof God's bestowing, a righteousness that God also gives unto, and puts upon, allthem that believe (verse 22), a righteousness that stands in the works of Christ,and that is imputed both by the grace and justice of God, Rom. 3:24-26.
Where, now, is room for man's righteousness, either in the whole, or as to any partthereof? I say, where, as to justification with God?
Ninthly, "What shall we say, then, that Abraham our father, as pertaining tothe flesh, hath found?"
Now the apostle is at the root of the matter; for Abraham is counted the father ofthe faithful; consequently the man whose way of attaining justification must needsbe exemplary to all the children of Abraham.
Now the question is, How Abraham found? how he found that which some of his childrensought and missed? Rom. 9:32 that is, how he found justifying righteousness; forit was that which Israel sought, and attained not unto, Rom. 11:7.
"Did he find it (saith Paul) by the flesh?" or, as he was in the flesh?or, by acts and works of the flesh? But what are they? Why, the next verse tellsyou "they are the works of the law."
If Abraham was justified by works, that is, as pertaining to the flesh; for the worksof the law are none other but the best sort of the works of the flesh. And so Paulcalls all they that he had before his conversion to Christ: "If any other man(saith he) thinketh he hath whereof he may trust in the flesh, I more." Andthen he counteth up several of his privileges, to which he at last adjoineth therighteousness of the moral law, saying, "Touching the righteousness which isin the law, I was blameless," Phil. 3:4-6.
And it is proper to call the righteousness of the law the work of the flesh (2 Cor.3:8), because it is the work of a man, of a man in the flesh; for the Holy Ghostdoth not attend the law, or the work thereof, as to this, in man, as man; that hasconfined itself to another ministration, whose glorious name it bears.
I say, it is proper to call the works of the law the works of the flesh (James 3:10),because they are done by that selfsame nature in and out of which comes all thosethings that are more grossly so called, Gal. 5:19, 20, to wit, from the corrupt fountainof fallen man's polluted nature.
This, saith he, was not the righteousness by which Abraham found justification withGod "For if Abraham was justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but notbefore God. For what saith the Scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was countedto him for righteousness," see Rom. 4:2-11. This "believing" is alsoset in flat opposition to "works," and to the "law of works";wherefore, upon pain of great contempt to God, it must not be reckoned as a workto justify withal, but rather as that which receiveth and applieth that righteousness.
From all this, therefore, it is manifest "that men must be justified from thecurse of the law in the sight of God while sinners in themselves." But,
Tenthly, "Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but ofdebt," Rom. 4:4.
These words do not only back what went before, as to the rejection of the law forrighteousness as to justification with God; but supposing the law was of force tojustify, life must not be admitted to come that way, because of the evil consequencesthat will unavoidably flow therefrom.
First, By this means, grace, and justification by grace, would be rejected; and thatwould be a foul business; it would not be reckoned of grace.
Secondly, By this, God would become the debtor, and so the underling; and so we in
this the more honourable. It would not be reckoned of grace, but of debt: and whatwould follow from hence? Why,
By this we should frustrate the design of Heaven, which is, to justify us freelyby grace, through a redemption brought in by Christ, Rom. 3:24-26; Eph. 2:8-13.
By this we should make ourselves the saviours, and jostle Christ quite out of doors,Gal. 5:2-4.
We should have heaven at our own disposal, as a debt, not by promise, and so notbe beholden to God for it, Gal. 3:18. It must, then, be of grace, not of works, forthe preventing of these evils. Again; it must not be of works, because if it should,then God would be the debtor, and we the creditor. Now much blasphemy would flowfrom hence; as,
First, God himself would not be his own to dispose of; for the inheritance beingGod, as well as his kingdom, for so it is written, "Heirs of God," Rom.8:17, himself, I say, must needs be our purchase.
Secondly, If so, then we have right to dispose of him, of his kingdom and glory,and all; ("Be astonished, O heavens, at this!") for if he be ours by works,then he is ours of debt; if he be ours of debt, then he is ours by purchase; andthen, again, if so, he is no longer his own, but ours, and at our disposal, &c.
Therefore, for these reasons, were there sufficiency in our personal works to justifyus, it would be even inconsistent with the being of God to suffer it.
So, then, "men are justified from the curse in the sight of God while sinnersin themselves."
Eleventhly, "But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieththe ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness," Rom. 4:5.
These words shew how we must stand just in the sight of God from the curse of thelaw, both as it respecteth justification itself, as also the instrument or meansthat receiveth that righteousness which justifieth.
First, As for that righteousness that justifieth, it is not personal performancesin us; for the person here justified stands, in that respect, as one that workethnot, as one that is ungodly.
Secondly, As it respecteth the instrument that receiveth it, that faith, as in thepoint of justifying righteousness, will not work, but believe, but receive the worksand righteousness of another; for works and faith in this are set in opposition "Hedoth not work, he doth believe," Gal. 3:12. He worketh not, but believeth onhim who justifieth us, ungodly. As Paul also saith in another place, "The lawis not of faith." And again; Works saith on this wise; faith, far different.The law saith, Do this, and live. But the doctrine of faith saith, "If thoushalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart thatGod hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believethunto righteousness," &c.,
Rom. 10:5, 10.
Objection: But faith is counted for righteousness.
Answer: True; but yet consider, that by faith we do oft understand the doctrine ofremission of sins, as well as the act of believing.
But again; faith when it hath received the Lord Jesus, it hath done that which pleasethGod; therefore, the very act of believing is the most noble in the world; believingsets the crown upon the head of grace; it sets its seal to the truth of the sufficiencyof the righteousness of Christ (John 3:33), and giveth all the glory to God; andtherefore it is a righteous act: but Christ himself he is the "Righteousnessthat justifieth," Rom. 4:20.
Besides, faith is a relative act, and hath its relation as such: its relation isthe righteousness that justifieth, which is therefore called the righteousness offaith, or that with which faith hath to do, Rom. 10:6. Separate these two, and justificationcannot be, because faith now wants his righteousness. And hence it is you have sooften such sayings as these "He that believeth in me, he that believeth on him,believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved," John 6:35-40. Faith,then, as separate from Christ, doth nothing; nothing neither with God nor man; becauseit wants its relative object, but let it go to the Lord Jesus; let it behold himas dying, &c., and it fetches righteousness, and life, and peace out of the virtueof his blood, &c., Acts 10:29, 31, 33; or rather, sees it there as sufficientfor me to stand just thereby in the sight of Eternal Justice: "For him hathGod set forth to be a propitiation through faith (belief) in his blood, with intentto justify him that believeth in Jesus," Rom. 3:25, 26.
Twelfthly, "Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man to whomGod imputeth righteousness without works," Rom. 4:6.
Did our adversaries understand this one text, they would not so boldly affirm, asthey do, that the words, "impute, imputed, imputeth, imputing," &c.,are not used in scripture but to express men really and personally to be that whichis imputed unto them; for men are not really and personally faith, yet faith is imputedto men; nay, they are not really and personally sin, nor really and personally righteousness,yet these are imputed to men: so, then, both good things and bad may sometimes beimputed to men, yet themselves be really and personally neither.
But to come to the point: what righteousness hath that man that hath no works? Doubtlessnone of his own; yet God imputeth righteousness to him. Yea, what works of that mandoth God impute to him that he yet justifies as ungodly?
Further, He that hath works as to justification from the curse before God, not oneof them is regarded of God; so, then, it mattereth not whether thou hast righteousnessof thine own or none.
"Blessed is the man to whom the Lord imputeth righteousness without works."Man's blessedness, then, the blessedness of justification from the curse in the sightof God, lieth not in good works done by us, either before or after faith received,but in a righteousness which God imputeth without works; as we work not, as we areungodly. "Blessed is the man whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sin iscovered," verse 7. To forgive and to cover are acts of mercy, not the causeof our merit. Besides, where sin is real, there can be no perfect righteousness;but the way of justification must be through perfect righteousness, therefore byanother than our own, "Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin,"verse 8.
The first cause, then, of justification before God dependeth upon the will of God,who will justify because he will; therefore the meritorious cause must also be ofhis own providing, else his will cannot herein be absolute; for if justificationdepend upon our personal performances, then not upon the will of God. He may nothave mercy upon whom he will, but on whom man's righteousness will give him leave,Rom. 9:15, 18. But his will, not ours, must rule here; therefore his righteousness,and his only. So, then, "men are justified from the curse in the sight of Godwhile sinners in themselves."
Having passed over these few scriptures, I shall come to particular instances ofpersons who have been justified; and shall briefly touch their qualifications inthe act of God's justifying them.
First, By the Old Testament types.
Secondly, By the New.
First, By the Old.
"And unto Adam also and to his wife did the Lord God make coats of skins, andclothed them," Gen. 3:21.
In the beginning of this chapter you find these two persons reasoning with the serpent,the effect of which discourse was, "They take of the forbidden fruit, and sobreak the command of God," verses 7-15. This done, they hide themselves, andcover their nakedness with aprons. But God finds out their sin, from the highestbranch even to the roots thereof.
What followeth? Not one precept by which they should by works obtain the favour ofGod, but the promise of a Saviour; of which promise this 21st verse is a mysticalinterpretation: "The Lord God made them coats of skins, and clothed them,"
First, That these coats were made, not before, but after they had made themselvesaprons; a plain proof their aprons were not sufficient to hide their shame from thesight of God.
Secondly, These coats were made, not of Adam's inherent righteousness, for that waslost before by sin, but of the skins of the slain lambs, types of the death of Christ,and of the righteousness brought in thereby "By whose stripes we are healed,"
Thirdly, This is further manifest; for the coats, God made them; and for the persons,God clothed them therewith; to shew that as the righteousness by which we must standjust before God from the curse is a righteousness of Christ's performing, not oftheirs; so he, not they, must put it on them also, for of God we are in Christ, andof God his righteousness is made ours, 1 Cor. 1:30.
But, I say, if you would see their antecedent qualifications, you find them undertwo heads
Rebellion, in breaking God's command; hypocrisy, in seeking how to hide their faultsfrom God. Expound this by gospel language, and then it shews "that men are justifiedfrom the curse in the sight of God while sinners in themselves."
Secondly, "The Lord had respect to Abel and to his offering," Gen. 4:4.
By these words we find the person first accepted, "The Lord had respect untoAbel." And indeed, where the person is not first accepted, the offering willnot be pleasing; the altar sanctifies the gift, and the temple sanctifieth the gold,Matt. 23:16-21; so the person, the condition of the person, is that which makes theoffering either pleasing or despising. In the epistle to the Hebrews it is said,"By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by whichhe obtained witness that he was righteous," Heb. 11:4. Righteous before he offeredhis gift, as his sacrifice testified; for God accepted of it.
By faith he offered. Wherefore faith was precedent, or before he offered. Now faithhath to do with God through Christ; not with him through our works of righteousness.Besides, Abel was righteous before he offered, before he did do good, otherwise Godwould not have testified of his gift. "By faith he obtained witness that hewas righteous," for God approved of his gifts. Now faith, I say, as to our standingquit before the Father, respects the promise of forgiveness of sins through the undertakingof the Lord Jesus. Wherefore Abel's faith as to justifying righteousness before Godlooked not forward to what should be done by himself, but back to the promise ofthe seed of the woman, that was to destroy the power of hell, "and to redeemthem that were under the law," Gen. 3:15; Gal. 4:4, 5. By this faith he shroudshimself under the promise of victory, and the merits of the Lord Jesus. Now beingthere, God finds him righteous; and being righteous, "he offered to God a moreexcellent sacrifice than his brother"; for Cain's person was not first acceptedthrough the righteousness of faith going before, although he seemed foremost as topersonal acts of righteousness, Gen. 4. Abel therefore was righteous before he didgood works, but that could not be but alone through that respect God had to him forthe sake of the Messias promised before, Gen. 3:15. But the Lord's so respectingAbel presupposeth that at that time he stood in himself by the law a sinner, otherwisehe needed not to be respected for and upon the account of another. Yea, Abel also,forasmuch as he acted faith before he offered sacrifice, must thereby entirely respectthe promise, which promise was not grounded upon a condition of works to be foundin Abel, but in and for the sake of the seed of the woman, which is Christ, Gal.4:4; which promise he believed, and so took it for granted that this Christ shouldbreak the serpent's head, that is, destroy by himself the works of the devil; towit, sin, death, the curse, and hell. By this faith he stood before God righteous,because he had put on Christ; and being thus, he offered; by which act of faith Goddeclared he was pleased with him, because he accepted of his sacrifice.
Thirdly, "And the Lord said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger,"Gen. 25:23. These words, after Paul's exposition, are to be understood of justificationin the sight of God, according to the purpose and decree of electing love, whichhad so determined long before that one of these children should be received to eternalgrace; but mark, not by works of righteousness which they should do, but "beforethey had done either good or evil"; otherwise "the purpose of God"according to election, not of works, but of him that calleth, "could not stand,"but fall in pieces, Rom. 9:10-12. But none are received into eternal mercy but suchas are just before the Lord by a righteousness that is complete; and Jacob havingdone no good, could by no means have that of his own, and therefore it must be bysome other righteousness, "and so himself be justified from the curse in thesight of God while a sinner in himself."
Fourthly, The same may be said concerning Solomon, whom the Lord loved with speciallove as soon as born into the world (2 Sam. 12:24, 25), which he also confirmed withsignal characters. "He sent (saith the Holy Ghost) by the hand of Nathan theprophet, and he called his name Jedidiah, because the Lord loved him." Was thislove of God extended to him because of his personal virtues? No, verily; for he wasyet an infant. He was justified then in the sight of God from the curse by anotherthan his own righteousness.
Fifthly, "And when I passed by thee, and saw thee polluted in thine own blood,I said unto thee when thou wast in thy blood, Live; yea, I said unto thee when thouwast in thy blood, Live," Ezek. 16:6. The state of this people you have in theformer verses described, both as to their rise and practice in the world, verses1-5.
(1.) As to their rise. Their original was the same with Canaan, the men of God'scurse, Gen. 9:25. Thy birth and thy nativity is of the land of Canaan; the same withother carnal men, Rom. 3:9. "Thy father was an Amorite, and thy mother an Hittite."
(2.) Their condition, that is shewed us by this emblem
They had not been washed in water. 2. They had not been swaddled. 3. They had notbeen salted. 4. They brought filth with them into the world. 5. They lay pollutedin their cradle. 6. They were without strength to help themselves. Thus they appearand come by generation.
Again, as to their practice
They polluted themselves in their own blood. 2. They so continued till God passedby "And when I passed by thee, I saw thee polluted in thine own blood"inthy blood, in thy blood; it is doubled. Thus we see they were polluted born, theycontinued in their blood till the day that the Lord looked upon them; polluted, Isay, to the loathing of their persons, &c. Now this was the time of love "Andwhen I passed by thee, and saw thee polluted in thine own blood, I said unto theewhen thou wast in thy blood, Live; yea, I said unto thee when thou wast in thy blood,Live."
Quest. But how could a holy God say, live, to such a sinful people?
Answer: Though they had nought but sin, yet he had love and righteousness. He had,1) Love to pity them; 2) Righteousness to cover them: "Now when I passed bythee, and looked upon thee, behold, thy time was the time of love," Ezek. 16:8.What follows? 1) "I spread my skirt over thee"; and, 2) "Covered thynakedness"; yea, 3) "I sware unto thee"; and, 4) "Entered intocovenant with thee"; and, 5) "Thou becamest mine." My love pitiedthee; my skirt covered thee. Thus God delivered them from the curse in his sight."Then I washed thee with water (after thou wast justified); yea, I thoroughlywashed away thy blood from thee, and anointed thee with oil," verse 9. Sanctification,then, is consequential, justification goes before the Holy Ghost by this scripturesetteth forth to the life, free grace to the sons of men while they themselves aresinners. I say, while they are unwashed, unswaddled, unsalted, but bloody sinners;for by these words, "not washed, not salted, not swaddled," he settethforth their unsanctified state; yea, they were not only unsanctified, but also castout, without pity, to the loathing of their persons; yea, "no eye pitied them,to do any of these things for them"; no eye but his whose glorious grace isunsearchable; no eye but his who could look and love; all others looked and loathed;but blessed be God that hath passed by us in that day that we wallowed in our ownblood; and blessed be God for the skirt of his glorious righteousness wherewith hecovered us when we lay before him naked in blood. It was when we were in our bloodthat he loved us; when we were in our blood he said, Live. Therefore, "men arejustified from the curse in the sight of God while sinners in themselves."
Sixthly, "Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments and stood before the angel,"Zech. 3:3.
The standing of Joshua here is as men used to stand that were arraigned before ajudge. "Joshua stood before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at hisright hand to resist him," verse 1. The same posture as Judas stood in whenhe was to be condemned "Set thou (saith David) a wicked man over him, and letSatan stand at his right hand," Ps. 109:6-8. Thus therefore Joshua stood. NowJoshua was clothed (not with righteousness, but) with filthy rags! Sin upon him,and Satan by him, and this before the angel! What must he do now? Go away? No; therehe must stand. Can he speak for himself? Not a word; guilt had made him dumb, Isa.53:12. Had he no place clean? No; he was clothed with filthy garments.
But his lot was to stand before Jesus Christ, that maketh intercession for transgressors"And the Lord said unto Satan, the Lord rebuke thee, Satan; even the Lord thathath chosen Jerusalem, rebuke thee," Zech. 3:2. Thus Christ saveth from presentcondemnation those that be still in their sin and blood.
But is he now quit? No; he standeth yet in filthy garments; neither can he, by aughtthat is in him, or done by him, clear himself from him. How then? Why, the Lord clotheshim with change of raiment: the iniquities were his own, the raiment was the Lord's"This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their righteousness isof me, saith the Lord." We will not here discourse of Joshua's sin, what itwas, or when committed; it is enough to our purpose that he was clothed with filthygarments, and that the Lord made a change with him by causing his iniquity to passfrom him, and by clothing him with change of raiment. But what had Joshua antecedentto this glorious and heavenly clothing? The devil at his right hand to resist him,and himself in filthy garments "Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments,and stood before the angel. And he answered and spake to those that stood beforehim saying, Take away the filthy garments from him. And unto him he said, Behold,I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee, and I will clothe thee with changeof raiment," verses 3, 4.
But to pass the Old Testament types, and to come to the New.
First, "And when he was come into the ship, he that had been possessed withthe devil prayed him that he might go with him. Howbeit Jesus suffered him not, butsaith unto him, Go home to thy friends, and tell them how great things God hath donefor thee, and hath had compassion on thee," Mark 5:18, 19.
The present state of this man is sufficiently declared in these particulars
He was possessed with a devil; with devils, with many; with a whole legion, whichsome say is six thousand, or thereabouts.
These devils had so the mastery of him as to drive him from place to place into thewilderness among the mountains, and so to dwell in the tombs among the dead,
He was out of his wits; he would cut his flesh, break his chains, nay, "no mancould tame him," Mark 5:7.
When he saw Jesus, the devil in him, as being lord and governor there, cried outagainst the Lord Jesus. In all this what qualification shews itself as precedentto justification? None but such as devils work, or as rank Bedlams have. Yet thispoor man was dispossessed, taken into God's compassion, and was bid to shew it tothe world "Go home to thy friends, and tell them how great things the Lord hathdone for thee, and hath had compassion on thee"; which last words, because theyare added over and above his being dispossessed of the devils, I understand to bethe fruit of electing love "I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion,"which blesseth us with the mercy of a justifying righteousness; and all this, asby this is manifest, without the least precedent qualification of ours.
Secondly, "And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both,"
The occasion of these words was, for that the Pharisee murmured against the womanthat washed Jesus' feet, because "she was a sinner," (verse 37); for sosaid the Pharisee, and so saith the Holy Ghost; but saith Christ, Simon, I will askthee a question "A certain man had two debtors. The one owed him five hundredpence, and the other fifty. And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgavethem both," verse 38.
Hence I gather these conclusions
That men that are wedded to their own righteousness understand not the doctrine ofthe forgiveness of sins. This is manifested by the poor Pharisee; he objected againstthe woman because she was a sinner.
Let Pharisees murmur still, yet Christ hath pity and mercy for sinners.
Yet Jesus doth not usually manifest mercy until the sinner hath nothing to pay "Andwhen they had nothing to pay, he frankly (or freely, or heartily) forgave them both."If they had nothing to pay, then they were sinners; but he forgiveth no man but withrespect to a righteousness; therefore that righteousness must be another's; for inthe very act of mercy they are found sinners. They had nothing but debt, nothingbut sin, nothing to pay: "Then they were justified freely by grace, throughthat redemption that is in Jesus Christ." So, then, "men are justifiedfrom the curse in the sight of God while sinners in themselves."
Thirdly, "And when he saw their faith, he said unto the man, Thy sins are forgiventhee," Luke 5:20.
This man had not righteousness to stand just before God withal, for his sins as yetremained unforgiven; wherefore, seeing guilt remained until Christ remitted him,he was discharged while ungodly.
And observe it, the faith here mentioned is not to be reckoned so much the man's,as the faith of them that brought him; neither did it reach to the forgiveness ofsins, but to the miracle of healing; yet this man in this condition had his sinsforgiven him.
But again; set the case the faith was only his (as it was not), and that it reachedto the doctrine of forgiveness, yet it did it without respect to righteousness inhimself; for guilt lay still upon him, he had now his sins forgiven him.
But this act of grace was a surprisal; it was unlooked for: "I am found of themthat sought me not," Isa. 65. They came for one thing, he gave them another;they came for a cure upon his body, but, to their amazement, he cured first his soul:"Thy sins are forgiven thee."
Besides, to have his sins forgiven betokeneth an act of grace; but grace and worksas to this are opposite, Rom. 11:6; therefore "men are justified from the cursein the sight of God while sinners in themselves."
Fourthly, "Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am nomore worthy to be called thy son," Luke 15:21.
What this man was, is sufficiently declared in verse 13, &c. As first, a riotousspender of allof time, talent, body, and soul.
He added to this his rebellion great contempt of his father's house, he joined himselfto a stranger, and became an associate with swine, verses 15, 17.
At last, indeed, he came to himself. But then observe, 1) He sought not justificationby personal performances of his own; 2) Neither did he mitigate his wickedness; 3)Nor excuse himself before his father, but first resolveth to confess his sin; andcoming to his Father, did confess it, and, that with aggravating circumstances: "Ihave sinned against heaven; I have sinned against thee; I am no more worthy to becalled thy son," verse 18. Now what he said was true or false; if true, thenhe had not righteousness; if false, he could not stand just in the sight of his fatherby virtue of his own performances. And, indeed, the sequel of the parable clearsit. His father said to his servant, "Bring forth the best robe," the justifyingrighteousness, "and put it upon him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes onhis feet," verse 22. This best robe, then, being in the father's house, wasnot in the prodigal's heart; neither stayed the father for further qualifications,but put it upon him as he was, surrounded with sin and oppressed with guilt. Therefore"men are justified from the curse in the sight of God while sinners in themselves."
Fifthly, "For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost,"
The occasion of these words was, for that the Pharisees murmured because "Jesuswas gone to be a guest to one that was a sinner," yea, a sinner of the publicans,and these words are most fitly applied to the case in hand. For though Zaccheus climbedthe tree, yet Jesus Christ found him first, and called him down by his name; addingwithal, "For today I must abide at thy house"; which being opened by verse9, is as much as to say, I am come to be thy salvation. Now this being believed byZaccheus, he made haste and came down, and "received him joyfully." Andnot only so, but to declare to all the simplicity of his faith, and that he unfeignedlyaccepted of this word of salvation, he said unto the Lord, and that before all present,"Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have takenanything from any man by false accusation (a supposition intimating an affirmative),I restore him fourfold." This being thus, Christ doubleth his comfort, sayingto him also, and that before the people, "This day is salvation come to thishouse." Then, by adding the next words, he expounds the whole of the matter,"For I am come to seek and save that which was lost"to seek it till I findit, to save it when I find it. He finds them that sought him not, Rom. 10:20; and,as in the case of Zaccheus, behold me! to a people that asked not after him. So,then, seeing Jesus findeth this publican first, preaching salvation to him beforehe came down from the tree, it is evident he received this as he was a sinner; fromwhich faith flowed his following words and works as a consequence.
Sixthly, "Jesus saith unto him, Verily I say unto thee, This day shalt thoube with me in paradise," Luke 23:43.
This was spoken to the thief upon the cross, who had lived in wickedness all hisdays; neither had he so much as truly repented, no, not till he came to die; nay,when he first was hanged he then fell to railing on Christ. For though Luke leavesit out, beginning but at his conversion; yet by Matthew's relating the whole tragedy,we find him at first as bad as the other, Matt. 27:44. This man, then, had no moralrighteousness, for he had lived in the breach of the law of God. Indeed, by faithhe believed Christ to be King, and that when dying with him. But what was this toa personal performing the commandments? or of restoring what he had oft taken away?Yea, he confesseth his death to be just for his sin; and so leaning upon the mediationof Christ he goeth out of the world. Now he that truly confesseth and acknowledgethhis sin, acknowledgeth also the curse to be due thereto from the righteous hand ofGod. So, then, where the curse of God is due, that man wanteth righteousness. Besides,he that makes to another for help, hath by that condemned his own (had he any) ofutter insufficiency. But all these did this poor creature; wherefore he must stand"just from the law in the sight of God while sinful in himself."
Seventhly, "Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?" Acts 9:6. What wilt thouhave me to do? Ignorance is here set forth to the full. He hitherto knew not Jesus,neither what he would have him to do; yet a mighty man for the law of works, andfor zeal towards God according to that. Thus you see that he neither knew that Christwas Lord, nor what was his mind and will "I did it ignorantly, in unbelief,"1 Tim. 1:13-15. I did not know him; I did not believe he was to save us; I thoughtI must be saved by living righteously, by keeping the law of God. This thought keptme ignorant of Jesus, and of justification from the curse by him. Poor Saul! howmany fellows hast thou yet alive!every man zealous of the law of works, yet noneof them know the law of grace; each of them seeking for life by doing the law, whenlife is to be had by nought but believing in Jesus Christ.
Eighthly, "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved,"Acts 16:31.
A little before, we find Paul and Silas in the stocks for preaching of Jesus Christ;in the stocks in the inward prison by the hands of a sturdy jailor; but at midnight,while Paul and his companion sang praises to God, the foundations of the prison shook,and every man's bands were loosed. Now the jailor being awakened by the noise ofthis shaking, and supposing he had lost his prisoners, drew his sword, with intentto kill himself; "But Paul cried out, Do thyself no harm, for we are all here.Then he called for a light, and sprang in, and came trembling, and fell down beforePaul and Silas, and brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved?"In all this relation here is not aught that can justify the jailor. For, His wholelife was idolatry, cruelty, and enmity to God. Yea, Even now, while the earthquakeshook the prison, he had murder in his heart, yea, and in his intentions too; murder,I say, and that of a high nature, even to have killed his own body and soul at once.Well,
When he began to shake under the fears of everlasting burnings, yet then his heartwas wrapped up in ignorance as to the way of salvation by Jesus Christ: "Whatmust I do to be saved?" He knew not what, no, not he. His condition, then, wasthis: he neither had righteousness to save him, nor knew he how to get it. Now, whatwas Paul's answer? Why, "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ (look for righteousnessin Christ), and then thou shalt be saved." This, then, still holdeth true, "menare justified from the curse in the sight of God whilst sinners in themselves."
I should now come to the second conclusion, viz., that this can be done by no otherrighteousness than that long ago performed by, and remaining with, the person ofChrist. But before I speak to that, I will a little further press this, by urgingfor it several reasons.
The first reason.
First, Men must be justified from the curse while sinners in themselves, becauseby nature all are under sin "All have sinned, and come short of the glory ofGod. He hath concluded all in unbelief; he hath concluded all under sin," Rom.3:23; 11:32; Gal. 3:22. Now having sinned, they are in body and soul defiled, andbecome an unclean thing. Wherefore, whatever they touch with an intent to work outrighteousness thereby, they defile that also. And hence, as I have said, all therighteousness they seek to accomplish is but as a menstruous cloth and filthy rags;therefore they are sinners still," Tit. 1:15; Lev. 15:11; Isa. 64:6.
Indeed, to some men's thinking, the Pharisee is holier than the Publican; but inGod's sight, in the eyes of Divine justice, they stand alike condemned "Allhave sinned"; there is the poison. Therefore, as to God without Christ all throatsare an open sepulchre, Matt. 23:27; Rom. 3:13.
The world in general is divided into two sorts of sinners
The open profane.
The man that seeks life by the works of the law. The profane is judged by all; butthe other by a few. Oh! but God judgeth him.
First, For a hypocrite; because that notwithstanding he hath sinned, he would bethought to be good and righteous. And hence it is that Christ calls such kind ofholy ones, "Pharisees hypocrites, Pharisees hypocrites," because by theirgay outside they deceived those that beheld them. But, saith he, "God sees yourhearts"; you are but like "painted sepulchers, within you are full of deadmen's bones," Prov. 30:12; Matt. 23:27-30; Luke 11:24; 16:15. Such is the rootfrom whence flows all their righteousness. But doth the blind Pharisee think hisstate is such? No; his thoughts of himself are far otherwise "God, I thank thee(saith he) I am not as other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even likethis Publican," Luke 18:11, 12. Ay, but still God judgeth him for a hypocrite.
Secondly, God judgeth him for one that spurneth against Christ, even by every suchwork he doth. And hence it is, when Paul was converted to Jesus Christ, that he callsthe righteousness he had before, madness, blasphemy, injury; because what he didto save himself by works was in direct opposition to grace by Jesus Christ, Phil.3:7, 8; Acts 23:3, 4; 26:4; 1 Tim. 1:14, 15.
Behold, then, the evil that is in a man's own righteousness!
It curseth and condemneth the righteousness of Christ.
It blindeth the man from seeing his misery.
It hardeneth his heart against his own salvation.
Thirdly, But again, God judgeth such for those that condemn him of foolishness "Thepreaching of the cross," that is, Christ crucified, "is to them that perishfoolishness," I Cor. 1:18, 23. What! saith the merit-monger (mine ears haveheard all this), will you look for life by the obedience of another man? Will youtrust to the blood that was shed upon the cross, that run down to the ground, andperished in the dust? Thus deridingly they scoff at, stumble upon, and are takenin the gin that attends the gospel; not to salvation, but to their condemnation,Isa. 8:14; because they have condemned the Just, that they might justify their ownfilthy righteousness.
But, I say, if all have sinned, if all are defiled, if the best of a man's righteousnessbe but madness, blasphemy, injury; if for their righteousness they are judged hypocrites,condemned as opposers of the gospel, and as such have counted God foolish for sendinghis Son into the world; then must the best of "men be justified from the cursein the sight of God while sinners in themselves"; because they still stand guiltyin the sight of God, their hearts are also still filthy infected "Though thouwash thee with nitre, and take thee much soap, yet thine iniquity is marked beforeme, saith the Lord God," Jer. 2:22. It stands marked still before God. So, then,what esteem soever men have of the righteousness of the world, yet God accounts ithorrible wickedness, and the greatest enemy that Jesus hath. Wherefore, this vineis the vine of Sodom; these clusters are the clusters of Gomorrah; these grapes aregrapes of gall; these clusters are bitter, they are the poison of dragons, and thecruel venom of asps, Matt. 3:7; 23. No marvel, then, if John in his ministry givesthe first rebuke and jostle to such, still calling them serpents and vipers, andconcluding it is almost impossible they should escape the damnation of hell; forof all sin, man's own righteousness in special bids defiance to Jesus Christ.
The second reason.
Secondly, A second reason why men must stand just in the sight of God from the cursewhile sinners in themselves is, because of the exactions of the law. For were itgranted that men's good works arose from a holy root, and were perfect in their kind,yet the demand of the law, for that is still beyond them, would leave them sinnersbefore the justice of God, 1 Pet. 2:5; Rev. 7:14-16; Heb. 13:8. And hence it is thatholy men stand just in the sight of God from the curse, yet dare not offer theirgifts by the law, but through Jesus Christ, knowing that not only their persons,but their spiritual service also, would else be rejected of the heavenly Majesty.
For the law is itself so perfectly holy and good as not to admit of the least failure,either in the matter or manner of obedience "Cursed is every one that continuethnot in all things that are written in the book of the law to do them. For they thatshall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, are guilty of all, and convictedof the law as transgressors," Gal. 3:10; James 2:9, 10. "Tribulation, therefore,and anguish, upon every soul of man that doth evil, of the Jew first, and also ofthe Gentile,"
And observe, the law leaveth thee not to thy choice, when, or when not , to beginto keep it, but requireth thy obedience so soon as concerned, exactly, both as tothe matter and manner, and that before thou hast sinned against it; for the firstsin breaks the law, John 3:18. Now, if thou sinnest before thou beginnest to do,thou art found by the law a transgressor, and so standest by that convicted of sin;so, then, all thy after-acts of righteousness are but the righteousness of a sinner,of one whom the law hath condemned already. "The law is spiritual, but thouart carnal, sold under sin," Rom. 7:14.
Besides, the law being absolutely perfect, doth not only respect the matter and manneras to outward acts, but also the rise and root, the heart, from whence they flow;and an impediment there spoils all, were the executive part never so good "Thoushalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul, with all thy mind,and with all thy strength," Mark 12:30. Mark the repetition, with all, withall, with all, with all; with all thy heart, with all thy soul, in all things, atall times, else thou hadst as good do nothing. But "every imagination of thethought of the heart of man is only evil continually," Gen. 6:5. The marginhath it, the "whole imagination, the purposes, and desires"; so that agood root is here wanting. "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperatelywicked; who can know it?" Jer. 17:9. What thoughts, words, or actions can beclean, sufficiently to answer a perfect law, that flows from this original; it isimpossible. "Men must therefore be justified from the curse in the sight ofGod while sinners in themselves."
But further yet to open the case. There are several things that make it impossiblethat a man should stand just in the sight of God but while sinful in himself.
First, Because the law under which he at present stands, holds him under the dominionof sin; for sin by the law hath dominion over all that are under the law, Rom. 6:14.Dominion, I say, both as to guilt and filth. Guilt hath dominion over him, becausehe is under the curse; and filth, because the law giveth him no power, neither canhe by it deliver his soul. And for this cause it is that it is called beggarly, weak,unprofitable; imposing duty, but giving no strength, Gal. 3:2; 4:9; expecting theduty should be complete, yet bendeth not the heart to do the work; to do it, I say,as is required, Rom. 8:3. And hence it is again that it is called a void of words,Heb. 12:14; for as words that are barely such are void of spirit and quickening life,so are the impositions of the law of works. Thus far, therefore, the man remainsa sinner. But,
Secondly, The law is so far from giving life or strength to do it, that it doth quitethe contrary. For,
It weakeneth, it discourageth, and dishearteneth the sinner, especially when it shewsitself in its glory; for then it is the ministration of death, and killeth all theworld. When Israel saw this, they fled from the face of God; they could not endurethat which was commanded; yea, so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, "Iexceedingly fear and quake," Exod. 20:18, 19; Heb. 12:20, 21. Yea, almost fortyyears after, Moses stood amazed to find himself and Israel yet alive "Did everpeople," said he, "hear the voice of God speaking out of the midst of thefire, as thou hast done, and live?" Deut. 4:32, 33.
Alas! he who boasteth himself in the works of the law, he doth not hear the law;when that speaks, it shakes Mount Sinai, and writeth death upon all faces, and makesthe church itself cry out, A mediator! else we die, Exod. 20:19; Deut. 5:25-27; 18:15,19.
It doth not only thus discourage, but abundantly increaseth every sin.
(1.) Sin takes the advantage of being by the law; the motions of sin are by the law.Where no law is, there is no transgression, Rom. 4:15; 7:5.
(2.) Sin takes an occasion to live by the law: "When the commandment came, sinrevived; for without the law, sin is dead," Rom. 7:8, 9.
(3.) Sin takes an occasion to multiply by the law: "The law entered, that theoffence might abound," Rom. 5:20.
(4.) "And the strength of sin is the law," 1 Cor. 15:56.
(5.) "Sin by the commandment is become" outrageous, "exceeding sinful,"Rom. 7:7, 8. "What shall we say, then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I hadnot known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said,Thou shalt not covet. But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in meall manner of concupiscence. For without the law, sin is dead."
These things, then, are not infused or operated by the law from its own nature ordoctrine, but are occasioned by the meeting of, and having to do with, a thing directlyopposite. "The law is spiritual, I am carnal"; therefore every impositionis rejected and rebelled against. Strike a steel against a flint, and the fire fliesabout you; strike the law against a carnal heart, and sin appears, sin multiplies,sin rageth, sin is strengthened. And hence ariseth all these doubts, murmurings,and sinful complainings that are found in the hearts of the people of God; they havetoo much to do with the law; the law of works is now in the conscience, imposingduty upon the carnal part. This is the reason of the noise that you hear, and ofthe sin that you see, and of the horror that you feel in your own souls when tempted.But to pass this digression.
The law, then, having to do with carnal men, by this they become worse sinners thanbefore; for their heart now recoileth desperately, opposeth blasphemously; it givethway to despair; and then, to conclude, there is no hope for hereafter; and so goethon in a sordid, ungodly course of life, till his time is come to die and be damned,unless a miracle of grace prevent. From all this I conclude, that "a man cannotstand just from the curse in the sight of God but while sinful in himself."But,
Thirdly, As the law giveth neither strength nor life to keep it, so it neither givethnor worketh repentance unto life if thou break it, Do this and live, break it anddie; this is the voice of the law. All the repentance that such men have, it is butthat of themselves, the sorrow of the world (2 Cor. 7:10) that endeth in death, asCain's and Judas's did, even such a repentance as must be repented of either hereor ill hell-fire.
Fourthly, As it giveth none, so it accepteth none of them that are under the law,Gal. 5:9. Sin and die, is for ever its language; there is no middle way in the law;they must bear their judgment, whosoever they be, that stand and fall to the law.Therefore Cain was a vagabond still, and Judas hangeth himself; their repentancecould not save them, they fell headlong under the law, Gen. 4:9-11; Matt. 27:3. Thelaw stays no man from the due reward of his deeds; it hath no ears to hear nor heartto pity its penitent ones.
Fifthly, By the law, God will shew no mercy; for, "I will be merciful to theirunrighteousness," is the tenour of another covenant, Heb. 8:9, 10, &c. Butby the law I regard them not, saith the Lord. For,
Sixthly, All the promises annexed to the law are by the first sin null and void.Though then a man should live a thousand years twice told, and all that while fulfilthe law, yet having sinned first, he is not at all the better. Our legalists, then,begin to talk too soon of having life by the law: let them first begin without sin,and so throughout continue to death, and then if God will save them, not by Christ,but works, contrary to the covenant of grace, they may hope to go to heaven.
But, lastly, to come close to the point. Thou hast sinned; the law now calls forpassive as well as active obedience; yea, great contentedness in all thou sufferestfor thy transgressing against the law. So, then, wilt thou live by the law? Fulfilit, then, perfectly till death, and afterwards go to hell and be damned, and abidethere till the law and curse for thy sin be satisfied for; and then, but not tillthen, thou shalt have life by the law.
Tell me now, you that desire to be under the law, can you fulfil all the commandsof the law, and after answer all its demands? Can you grapple with the judgment ofGod? Can you wrestle with the Almighty? Are you stronger than he that made the heavens,and that holdeth angels in everlasting chains? "Can thine heart endure, or canthy hands be strong in the day that I shall deal with thee? I, saith the Lord, havespoken it; I will do it," Ezek. 22:14. Oh, it cannot be! "These must goaway into everlasting punishment," Matt. 25:46. So, then, "men must standjust from the curse in the sight of God while sinners in themselves," or notat all.
Objection: But the apostle saith, "That the doers of the law shall be justified,"Rom. 2:13, plainly intimating that, notwithstanding all you say, some by doing thelaw may stand just before God thereby; and if so, then Christ fulfilled it for usbut as our example.
Answ. The consequences are not true; for by these words, "The doers of the lawshall be justified," there is no more proof of a possibility of saving thyselfby the law than there is by these: "For by the works of the law shall no manliving be justified in his sight," Gal. 2:16. The intent, then, of the textobjected is not to prove a possibility of man's salvation by the law, but to insinuaterather an impossibility, by asserting what perfections the law requireth. And wereI to argue against the pretended sufficiency of man's own righteousness, I wouldchoose to frame mine argument upon such a place as this "The hearers of thelaw are not just before God"; therefore the breakers of the law are not justbefore God; not just, I say, by the law; but all have sinned and broken the law;therefore none by the law are just before God. For if all stand guilty of sin bythe law, then that law that judgeth them sinners cannot justify them before God.And what if the apostle had said, "Blessed are they that continue in all things,"instead of pronouncing a curse for the contrary, the conclusion had been the same;for where the blessing is pronounced, he is not the better that breaks the condition;and where the curse is pronounced, he is not the worse that keeps it. But neitherdoth the blessing nor curse in the law intend a supposition that men may be justby the law, but rather to shew the perfection of the law, and that though a blessingbe annexed thereto, no man by it can obtain that blessing; for not the hearers ofthe law are justified before God, but the doers, when they do it, shall be justified.None but doers can by it be just before God; but none do the law, no, not one, Rom.3:10, 11; therefore none by it can stand just before God.
And whereas it is said Christ kept the law as our example, that we by keeping itmight get to heaven, as he, it is false, as before was shewn "He is the endof the law," or, hath perfectly finished it, "for righteousness to everyone that believeth," Rom. 10:3, 4.
But a little to travel with this objection: no man can keep the moral law as Christ,unless he be first without sin, as Christ; unless he be God and man, as Christ.
And again; Christ cannot be our pattern in keeping the law for life, because of thedisproportion that is between him and us; for if we do it as he when yet we are weakerthan he, what is this but to out, vie, outdo, and go beyond Christ? Wherefore we,not he, have our lives exemplary: exemplary, I say, to him; for who doth the greatestwork, they that take it in hand in full strength, as Christ; or he that takes itin hand in weakness, as we? Doubtless the last, if he fulfils it as Christ. So, then,by this doctrine, while we call ourselves his scholars, we make ourselves indeedthe masters. But I challenge all the angels in heaven, let them but first sin aswe have done, to fulfil the law, as Christ, if they can.
But again; if Christ be our pattern in keeping the law for life from the curse beforeGod, then Christ fulfilled the law for himself; if so, he was imperfect before hefulfilled it. And how far short this is of blasphemy let sober Christians judge;for the righteousness he fulfilled was to justify from sin; but if it was not tojustify us from ours, you know what remaineth, Dan. 9:26; Isa. 53:8-10.
But when must we conclude we have kept the law? Not when we begin, because we havesinned first; nor when we are in the middle, for we may afterwards miscarry. Butwhat if a man in this his progress hath one sinful thought? I query, is it possibleto come up to the pattern for justification with God? If yea, then Christ had such;if no, then who can fulfil the law as he?
But should I grant that which is indeed impossible, namely, that thou art justifiedby the law; what then? Art thou now in the favour of God? No, thou art fallen bythis thy perfection from the love and mercy of God: "Whosoever of you are justifiedby the law are fallen from grace," Gal. 5:4, 5. He speaks not this to them thatare doing, but to such as think they have done it, and shews that the blessing thatthese have got thereby is to fall from the favour of God. Being fallen from grace,Christ profits them nothing, and so they still stand debtors to do the whole law.
So, then, they must not be saved by God's mercy, nor Christ's merits, but alone bythe works of the law. But what should such men do in that kingdom that comes by gift,where grace and mercy reigns? Yea, what should they do among that company that aresaved alone by grace, through the redemption that is in Jesus Christ? Let them goto that kingdom that God hath prepared for them that are fallen from grace. "Castout the bond-woman, with her son; for he shall not be heir with the son of the promise,"Gal. 4:30.
But to pass this objection. Before I come to the next reason, I shall yet for thefurther clearing of this urge these scriptures more. The first is that in Gal. 3:10,"As many as are of the works of the law, are under the curse." Behold,how boldly Paul asserts it! And observe it, he saith not here, so many as sin againstthe law (though that be true), but, "As many as are of the works of the law."But what, then, are the works of the law? Not whoredom, murder, theft, and the like;but works that are holy and good, the works commanded in the ten commandments, asto love God, abhor idols, reverence the name of God, keeping the sabbath, honouringthy parents, abstaining from adultery, murder, theft, false-witness, and not to covetwhat is thy neighbour's, these are the works of the law. Now he, saith Paul, thatis of these is under the curse of God. But what is it then to be of these? Why, tobe found in the practice of them, and there resting; this is the man that is underthe curse: not because the works of the law are wicked in themselves, but becausethe man that is in the practice of them comes short of answering the exactness ofthem, and therefore dies for his imperfections, Rom. 2:17.
The second scripture is that of the 11th verse of the same chapter, "But thatno man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, the justshall live by faith." These words, "the just shall live by faith,"are taken out of the Old Testament, and are thrice used by this apostle in the New.
To shew that nothing of the gospel can be apprehended but by faith: "For thereinis the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith." "As it is written,The just shall live by faith," Rom. 1:17; Heb. 10:38.
To shew that the way to have relief and succour under temptation is then to liveby faith: "Now the just shall live by faith."
But in this of the Galatians it is urged to shew that how holy and just soever menbe in themselves, yet as such they are dead, and condemned to death by the law beforeGod. "But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident:for, the just shall live by faith."
The word "just," therefore, in this place in special, respecteth a manthat is just, or that so esteems himself by the law, and is here considered in adouble capacity.
First, What he is before men.
Secondly, What he is before God.
As he stands before men, he is just by the law; as Paul before his conversion,
As he stands in the sight of God; so, without the faith of Christ, he cannot be just,as is evident; for the just shall live, not by his justice or righteousness by thelaw.
This is the true intent of this place,
Because they carry with them a supposition that the just here intended may be excludedlife, he falling within the rejection asserted within the first part of the verse.No man is just by the law in the sight of God; for "the just shall live by faith":his justice cannot make him live, he must live by the faith of Christ. Again,
The words are a reason dissuasive, urged to put a stop to those that are seekinglife by the law; as if the apostle had said, Ye Galatians! what are you doing? Wouldyou be saved by keeping the law? Would you stand just before God thereby? Do younot hear the prophets, how they press faith in Jesus, and life by faith in him? Come,I will reason with you,
By way of supposition. Were it granted that you all loved the law, yet that for lifewill avail you nothing; for, "the just shall live by faith."
Were it granted that you kept the law, and that no man on earth could accuse you;were you therefore just before God? No; neither can you live by works before him;for "the just shall live by faith." Why not live before him? Because whenwe have done our best, and are applauded of all the world for just, yet then Godsees sin in our hearts: "He putteth no trust in his saints; yea, the heavensare not clean in his sight," Job 4:18. There is then a just man that perishethin his righteousness, if he want the faith of Christ, Job 15:15; for that no manis "justified by the law in the sight of God it is evident; for, the just shalllive by faith"; and the law is not of faith.
The third scripture is this "We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of theGentiles, knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by thefaith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justifiedby the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of thelaw shall no flesh be justified," Gal. 2:15, 16.
These words are the result of the experienced Christians in the primitive times;yea, of those among them that had given up themselves before to the law, to get lifeand heaven thereby; the result, I say, of believing Jews, we who are Jews by nature.But how are they distinguished from the Gentiles? Why, they are such that rest inthe law, and make their boast of God; that know his will, and approve the thingsthat are excellent; that are guides to the blind, and a light to them that are indarkness; that are instructors of the foolish, teachers of babes, and which havethe form of knowledge, and of the truth of the law," Rom. 2:17-19.
How far these attained we find by that of the Pharisee I pray, I fast, I give tithesof all; and by the young man in the gospel "All these have I kept from my youthup," Luke 18:11, 12; and by that of Paul "Touching the righteousness whichis in the law, blameless," Phil. 3. This was the Jew by nature, to do and trustin this. Now these attaining afterwards the sound knowledge of sin, the depravednessof nature, and the exactions of the law, fled from the command of the law to theLord Jesus for life. We know it; we that are taught of God, and that have found itby sad experience, we, even we, have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justifiedby the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law.
Surely, if righteousness had come by the law, Paul and the Jews had found it, theybeing by many privileges far better than the sinners of the Gentiles; but these,when they received the word of the gospel, even these now fly to Christ from thelaw, that they might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works ofthe law.
To conclude this. If righteous men, through the knowledge of the gospel, are madeto leave the law of God, as despairing of life thereby, surely righteousness is notto be found in the law; I mean that which can justify thee before God from the cursewho livest and walkest in the law.
I shall therefore end this second reason with what I have said before "Men mustbe justified from the curse in the sight of God while sinful in themselves."
The third reason.
Thirdly, Another reason why not one under heaven can be justified by the law, orby his own personal performances to it, is, because since sin was in the world Godhath rejected the law and the works thereof for life, Rom. 7:10.
It is true, before man had sinned, it was ordained to be unto life; but since, andbecause of sin, the God of love gave the word of grace. Take the law, then, as Godhath established it, to wit, to condemn all flesh, Gal. 3:21; and then there is roomfor the promise and the law, the one to kill, the other to heal; and so the law isnot against the promises, Rom. 4:14; but make the law a justifier, and faith is madevoid, and the promise is made of none effect; and the everlasting gospel, by so doing,thou endeavourest to root out of the world.
Methinks, since it hath pleased God to reject the law and the righteousness thereoffor life, such dust and ashes as we are should strive to consent to his holy will,especially when in the room of this of works there is established a better covenant,and that upon better promises.
The Lord hath rejected the law, for the weakness and unprofitableness thereof; forfinding fault with them of the law, "The days come, saith the Lord, that I willmake a new covenant with the house of Israel," &c., Heb. 8:7, 8. Give Godleave to find fault with us, and to condemn our personal performances to death, asto our justification before him thereby; let him do it, I say; and the rather, becausehe doth by the gospel present us with a better. And certainly, if ever he be pleasedwith us, it will be when he findeth us in that righteousness that is of his own appointing.
To conclude. Notwithstanding all that hath or can be said, there are six things thathave great power with the heart to bend it to seek life before God by the law; ofall which I would caution that soul to beware that would have happiness in anotherworld.
First, Take heed thou be not made to seek to the law for life, because of that nameand majesty of God which thou findest upon the doctrine of the law, Exod. 20:1. Godindeed spake all the words of the law, and delivered them in that dread and majestyto men that shook the hearts of all that heard it. Now this is of great authoritywith some, even to seek for life and bliss by the law: "We know," saidsome, "that God spake to Moses," John 9:28, 29. And Saul rejected Christeven of zeal towards God, Acts 22:3. What zeal? Zeal towards God according to thelaw, which afterwards he left and rejected, because he had found out a better way,Gal. 2:20. The life that he once lived, it was by the law, but afterwards, saithhe, the life that I now live it is by faith, by the faith of Jesus Christ. So that,though the law was the appointment of God, and had also his name and majesty uponit, yet now he will not live by the law. Indeed, God is in the law, but yet onlyas just and holy, not as gracious and merciful; so he is only in Jesus Christ. "Thelaw," the word of justice, "was given by Moses, but grace and truth cameby Jesus Christ," John 1:17. Wherefore, whatever of God thou findest in thelaw, yet seeing grace and mercy is not there, let neither the name of God nor thatmajesty that thou findest of him in the law prevail with thee to seek life by allthe holy commands of the law.
Secondly , Take heed that the law, by taking hold on thy conscience, doth not makethee seek life by the law, Rom. 2:13-15. The heart of man is the seat of the law;this being so, the understanding and conscience must needs be in danger of beingbound by the law. Man is a law unto himself, and sheweth that the works of the laware written in his heart. Now the law being thus nearly related to man, it easilytakes hold of the understanding and conscience; by which hold, if it be not quicklybroken off by the promise and grace of the gospel, it is captivated to the worksof the law; for conscience is such a thing, that if it once he possessed with a doctrine,yea, though but with the doctrine of an idol (1 Cor. 8:6, 7), it will cleave so fastthereto that nothing but a hand from heaven can loosen it; and if it be not loosed,no gospel can be there embraced. Conscience is Little-ease, if men resist it, whetherit be rightly or wrongly informed. How fast, then, will it hold when it knows itcleaves to the law of God! Upon this account the condition of the unbeliever is mostmiserable; for not having faith in the gospel of grace, through which is tenderedthe forgiveness of sins, they, like men drowning, hold fast that they have found;which being the law of God, they follow it; but because righteousness flies fromthem, they at last are found only accursed and condemned to hell by the law, Rom.9:31, 32. Take heed, therefore, that thy conscience be not entangled by the law.
Thirdly , Take heed of fleshly wisdom. Reasoning suiteth much with the law "Ithought verily that I ought to do many things against the name of Jesus," andso to have sought for life by the law; my reason told me so. For thus will reasonsay: Here is a righteous law, the rule of life and death; besides, what can be betterthan to love God, and my neighbour as myself? Again; God hath thus commanded, andhis commands are just and good; therefore, doubtless, life must come by the law.Further, to love God and keep the law are better than to sin and break it; and seeingmen lost heaven by sin, how should they get it again but by working righteousness?Besides, God is righteous, and will therefore bless the righteous. Oh, the holinessof the law! It mightily swayeth with reason when a man addicteth himself to religion;the light of nature teacheth that sin is not the way to heaven; and seeing no worddoth more condemn sin than the words of the ten commandments, it must needs be thereforethe most perfect rule for holiness; wherefore, saith reason, the safest way to lifeand glory is to keep myself close to the law. But a little here to correct. Thoughthe law indeed be holy, yet the mistake as to the matter in hand is as wide as theeast from the west; for therefore the law can do thee no good, because it is holyand just; for what can he that hath sinned expect from a law that is holy and just?Nought but condemnation. Let them lean to it while they will, "there is onethat accuseth you," saith Christ, "even Moses in whom you trust,"John 5:45.
Fourthly , Man's ignorance of the gospel suiteth well with the doctrine of the law;they, through their being ignorant of God's righteousness, fall in love with that,Rom. 10:1-4. Yea, they do not only suit, but, when joined in act, the one strengtheneththe otherthat is, the law strengtheneth our blindness, and bindeth the veil morefast about the face of our souls. The law suiteth much our blindness of mind, "Foruntil this day remains the veil untaken away in the reading of the Old Testament"(2 Cor. 3:15,16), especially in the reading of that which was written and engravenon stones, to wit, the ten commandments, that perfect rule for holiness which veilis done away in Christ. But "even to this day, when Moses is read, the veilis over their hearts"; they are blinded by the duties enjoined by the law fromthe sight and hopes of forgiveness of sins by grace "Nevertheless when it (theheart) shall turn to the Lord, the veil shall be taken away." The law, then,doth veil the heart from Christ, and holds the man so down to doing and working forthe kingdom of heaven, that he quite forgets the forgiveness of sins by mercy throughChrist. Now this veiling or blinding by the law is occasioned,
By reason of the contrariety of doctrine that is in the law to that which was inthe gospel. The law requireth obedience to all its demands upon pain of everlastingburning; the gospel promiseth forgiveness of sins to him that worketh not, but believeth.Now the heart cannot receive both these doctrines; it must either let go doing orbelieving. If it believe, it is dead to doing; if it be set to doing for life, itis dead to believing. Besides, he that shall think both to do and believe for justificationbefore God from the curse, he seeks for life but as it were by the law, he seeksfor life but as it were by Christ; and he being not direct in either, shall for certainbe forsaken of both. Wherefore? "Because he seeks it not by faith, but as itwere by the works of the law," Rom. 9:32.
The law veils and blinds by that guilt and horror for sin that seizeth the soul bythe law; for guilt, when charged close upon the conscience, is attended with suchaggravations, and that with such power and evidence, that the conscience cannot hear,nor see, nor feel anything else but that. When David's guilt for murder and blooddid roar by the law in his conscience, notwithstanding he knew much of the graceof the gospel, he could hear nothing else but terror, the sound of blood; the murderof Uriah was the only noise that he heard; wherefore he crieth to God that he wouldmake him hear the gospel: "Make me to hear joy and gladness, that the boneswhich thou hast broken may rejoice," Psalm 51:8. And as he could not hear, soneither could he see; the law had struck him deaf and blind: "I am (saith he)not able to look up"; not up to Christ for mercy. As if David had said, O Lord,the guilt of sin, which is by the law, makes such a noise and horror in my conscience,that I can neither hear nor see the word of peace, unless it is spoken with a voicefrom heaven! The serpents that bit the people in the days of old were types of guiltand sin, Num. 21:6. Now these were fiery serpents, and such as, I think, could fly,Isa. 14:29; wherefore, in my judgment, they stung the people about their faces, andso swelled up their eyes, which made it the more difficult for them to look up tothe brazen serpent, which was the type of Christ, John 3:14. Just so doth sin bythe law do now; it stings the soul, the very face of the soul, which is the causethat looking up to Jesus, or believing in him, is so difficult a task in time ofterror of conscience.
This is not only so at present, but so long as guilt is on the conscience, so longremains the blindness; for guilt standing before the soul, the grace of God is intercepted,even as the sun is hid from the sight of mine eyes by the cloud that cometh between:"My sin," said David, "is ever before me" (Psalm 51:3), and sokept other things out of his sight: sin, I say, when applied by the law. When thelaw came to Paul, he remained without sight (Acts 9.) until the good man came untohim with the word of forgiveness of sins.
Again; where the law comes with power, there it begetteth many doubts against thegrace of God; for it is only a revealer of sin, and the ministration of death; thatis, a doctrine that sheweth sin, and condemneth for the same; hence, therefore, aswas hinted before, the law being the revealer of sin, where that is embraced, theresin must needs be discovered and condemned, and the soul for the sake of that; further,it is not only a revealer of sin, but that which makes it abound; so that the closerany man sticks to the law for life, the faster sin doth cleave to him. "Thatlaw," saith Paul, "which was ordained to be unto life, I found to be untodeath" (Rom. 7:10-14); for by the law I became a notorious sinner; I thoughtto have obtained life by obeying the law, "but sin taking occasion by the commandment,deceived me, and thereby slew me." A strange way of deceivableness, and it ishid from the most of men; but, as I have already told you, you see how it comes topass.
Man by nature is carnal, and the law itself is spiritual: now betwixt these two arisethgreat difference; the law is exceeding good, the heart exceeding bad; these two oppositestherefore (the heart so abiding) can by no means agree.
Therefore, at every approach of the law to the heart with intent to impose duty,or to condemn for the neglect thereof; at every such approach the heart startethback, especially when the law comes home indeed, and is heard in his own language.This being thus, the conscience perceiving this is a fault, begins to tremble atthe sense of judgment; the law still continueth to command to duty, and to condemnfor the neglect thereof. From this struggling of these two opposites ariseth, I say,those doubts and fears that drive the heart into unbelief, and that make it blindto the word of the gospel, that it can neither see nor understand anything but thatit is a sinner, and that the law must be fulfilled by it if ever it be saved.
But again; another thing that hath great influence upon the heart to make it leanto the law for life is, the false names that Satan and his instruments have put uponit; such as these, to call the law the gospel; conscience, the spirit of Christ;works, faith; and the like: with these, weak consciences have been mightily pestered;yea, thousands deluded and destroyed. This was the way whereby the enemy attemptedto overthrow the church of Christ of old; as, namely, those in Galatia and at Corinth,&c., 2 Cor. 11:3, 4, 13, 14. I say, by the feigned notion that the law was thegospel, the Galatians were removed from the gospel of Christ; and Satan, by appropriatingto himself and his ministers the names and titles of the ministers of the Lord Jesus,prevailed with many at Corinth to forsake Paul and his doctrine. Where the Lord Jesushath been preached in truth, and something of his doctrine known, it is not thereso easy to turn people aside from the sound of the promise of grace, unless it beby the noise and sound of a gospel. Therefore, I say, the false apostles came thusamong the churches: "another gospel, another gospel"; which, in truth,saith Paul, "is not another; but some would pervert the gospel of Christ"(Gal. 1:6-8), and thrust that out of doors, by gilding the law with that gloriousname. So again, for the ministers of Satan, they must be called the apostles of Christand ministers of righteousness which thing, I say, is of great force, especiallybeing accompanied with so holy and just a doctrine as the word of the law is; forwhat better to the eye of reason than to love God above all, and our neighbour asourselves, which doctrine, being the scope of the ten words given on Sinai, no mancan contradict; for, in truth, they are holy and good. But here is the poison; toset this law in the room of a mediator, as those do that seek to stand just beforeGod thereby; and then nothing is so dishonourable to Christ, nor of so soul-destroyinga nature as the law; for that thus placed hath not only power when souls are deluded,but power to delude, by its real holiness, the understanding, conscience, and reasonof a man; and by giving the soul a semblance of heaven, to cause it to throw awayChrist, grace, and faith. Wherefore it behoveth all men to take heed of names, andof appearances of holiness and goodness.
Lastly, Satan will yet go further; he will make use of something that may be at adistance from a moral precept, and therewith bring souls under the law. Thus he didwith some of old; he did not make the Galatians fall from Christ by virtue of oneof the ten words, but by something that was aloof off; by circumcision, days andmonths, that were Levitical ceremonies; for he knows it is no matter, nor in whatTestament he found it, if he can therewith hide Christ from the soul "Behold,I Paul say unto you, that if you be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing;for I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to thewhole law," Gal. 5:2, 3. Why so, seeing circumcision is not one of the ten words?Why, because they did it in conscience to God, to stand just before him thereby.Now here we may behold much cunning of the devil; he begins with some at a distancefrom that law which curseth, and so by little and little bringeth them under it;even as by circumcision the Galatians were at length brought under the law that condemnethall men to the wrath and judgment of God. I have often wondered when I have readhow God crieth out against the Jews for observing his own commandment (Isa. 1); butI perceive by Paul that by these things a man may reject and condemn the Lord Jesus;which those do that for life set up aught, whether moral or other institution, besidesthe faith of Jesus.
Let men therefore warily distinguish betwixt names and things, betwixt statute andcommandment, lest they by doing the one transgress against the other, 2 Cor. 1:19,20. Study, therefore, the nature and end of the law with the nature and end of thegospel; and if thou canst keep them distinct in thy understanding and conscience,neither names nor things, neither statutes nor commandments, can draw thee from thefaith of the gospel. And that thou mayest yet be helped in this matter, I shall nowcome to speak to the second conclusion.
The second position.
That men can be justified from the curse before God while sinners in themselves byno other righteousness than that long ago performed by, and remaining with, the personof Christ.
For the better prosecuting of this position, I shall observe two things
That the righteousness by which we stand just before God from the curse was performedby the person of Christ.
That this righteousness is inherent only in him.
As to the first of these, I shall be but brief.
Now, that the righteousness that justifieth us was performed long ago by the personof Christ, besides what hath already been said, is further manifest thus
He is said to have purged our sins by himself "When he had by himself purgedour sins, he sat down on the right hand of God," Heb. 1:2, 3. I have shewedthat in Christ, for the accomplishing of righteousness, there was both doing andsuffering; doing, to fulfil all the commands of the law; suffering, to answer itspenalty for sin. This second is that which in this to the Hebrews is in special intendedby the apostle, where he saith, he hath "purged our sins," Heb. 9:14; thatis, by his precious blood; for it is that alone can purge our sins, either out ofthe sight of God or out of the sight of the soul. Now this was done by himself, saiththe apostle; that is, in or by his personal doings and sufferings. And hence it isthat when God had rejected the offerings of the law, he said, "Lo, I come. Abody hast thou prepared me, to do thy will, O God," Heb. 10:5-8. Now by thiswill of God, saith the Scripture, we are sanctified. By what will? Why, by the offeringup of the body of Jesus Christ; for that was God's will, that thereby we might bea habitation for him; as he saith again "Jesus also, that he might sanctifythe people with his own blood, suffered without the gate," Heb. 13:12.
As it is said, he hath purged our sins by himself, so it was by himself at once "Forby one offering hath he perfected for ever them that are sanctified." Now bythis word "at once," or by "one offering," is cut off all thoseimaginary sufferings of Christ which foolish men conceive of; as, that he in allages hath suffered, or suffereth for sin in us. No; he did this work but once: "Notthat he should offer himself often, as the high priest entered into the holy placeevery year with the blood of others; for then must he often have suffered since thefoundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world," in the timeof Pilate, "hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself,"Heb. 9:25, 26. Mark how to the purpose the Holy Ghost expresseth it: he hath sufferedbut once; and that once, now; now once; now he is God and man in one person; nowhe hath taken the body that was prepared of God; now once in the end of the worldhath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself; by the offering upof the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
It further appears, in that by his resurrection from the dead, the mercies of Godare made sure to the soul, God declaring by that, as was said before, how well pleasedhe is by the undertaking of his Son for the salvation of the world: "And asconcerning that he raised him up from the dead, now no more to return to corruption,he said on this wise, I will give thee the sure mercies of David," Acts 13:34.For Christ being clothed with man's flesh, and undertaking for man's sins, did thenconfirm all sure to us by his resurrection from the dead. So that by the rising ofthat man again, mercy and grace are made sure to him that hath believed on Jesus.Wherefore, from these things, together with what hath been discovered about his addressinghimself to the work, I conclude "That men can be justified from the curse beforeGod while sinners in themselves by no other righteousness than that long ago performedby the person of Christ." Now the conclusion is true, from all show of contradiction;for the Holy Ghost saith, he hath done it; hath done it by himself, and that by thewill of God, at once, even then when he took the prepared body upon him "Bythe will of God we are sanctified, through the offering up of the body of Jesus Christonce for all."
This being so, the second position is also manifest, namely, that the righteousnessby which we stand just from the curse before God is only inherent in Jesus Christ.For if he hath undertaken to bring in a justifying righteousness, and that by worksand merits of his own, then that righteousness must of necessity be inherent in himalone, and ours only by imputation; and hence it is called, in that fifth to theRom., the gift, the "gift of righteousness"; because neither wrought norobtained by works of ours, but bestowed upon us, as a garment already prepared, bythe mercy of God in Christ, Rom. 5:17; Isa. 11:10.
There are four things that confirm this for a truth
First, This righteousness is said to be the righteousness of one, not of many; Imean of one properly and personally, as his own particular personal righteousness.The gift of grace, which is the gift of righteousness, it is "by one man, JesusChrist. Much more they that receive abundance of grace, and of the gift of righteousness,shall reign in life by one Jesus Christ. Therefore as by the offence of one judgmentcame upon all to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free giftcame upon all men to justification of life. For as by one man's disobedience manywere made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous,"Rom. 5:15-19. Mark, the righteousness of one, the obedience of one; the righteousnessof one man, of one man, Jesus. Wherefore, the righteousness that justifieth a sinner,it is personally and inherently the righteousness of that person only who by worksand acts of obedience did complete it, even the obedience of one, of one man, JesusChrist; and so ours only by imputation. It is improper to say, Adam's eating of theforbidden fruit was personally and inherently an act of mine. It was personally his,and imputatively mine; personally his, because he did it; imputatively mine, becauseI was then in him. Indeed, the effects of his personal eating is found in my person,to wit, defilement and pravity; the effects also of the imputation of Christ's personalrighteousness are truly found in those that are in him by electing love and unfeignedfaith, even holy and heavenly dispositions: but a personal act is one thing, andthe effects of that another. The act may be done by, and be only inherent in one;the imputation of the merit of the act, as also the effects of the same, may be ina manner universal, extending itself unto the most, or all. This the case of Adamand Christ doth manifest the sin of one is imputed to his posterity; the righteousnessof the other is reckoned the righteousness of those that are his.
Secondly, The righteousness by which we stand just before God from the curse is called"The righteousness of the Lord the righteousness of Goethe righteousness ofJesus Christ," &c., Phil. 3:6-8; and that by way of opposition to the righteousnessof God's own holy law "That I might be found in him, not having on my own righteousness,which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousnesswhich is of God by faith." Now by this opposition, as by what was said before,the truth is made exceeding clear; for by these words, "not having my own righteousness,"is not only excluded what qualifications we suppose to be in us, but the righteousnessthrough which we stand just in the sight of God by them is limited and confined toa person absolutely distinct. Distinct, I say, as to his person and performances,who here is called God and Jesus Christ; as he saith also in the prophet Isaiah,"In the Lord shall all the seed of Israel be justified, and shall glory,"Isa. 45:25; 54:17. In the Lord, not in the law; in the Lord, not in themselves. "Andtheir righteousness is of me, saith the Lord": of me, not of themselves; ofme, not of the law. And again; "Surely shall one say, in the Lord have I righteousnessand strength." Now, as I have already said, all this is to be understood ofthe righteousness that was fulfilled by acts and works of obedience, which the personof the Son of God accomplished in the days of his flesh in the world; by that man,I say, "The Lord our righteousness," Jer. 23:6. Christ indeed is naturallyand essentially righteousness; but as he is simply such, so he justifieth no man;for then he need not to bear our sins in his flesh, and become obedient in all pointsof the law for us; but the righteousness by which we stand just before God is a righteousnessconsisting of works and deeds, of the doings and sufferings of such a person whoalso is essentially righteousness. And hence, as before I have hinted, we are saidto be justified by the obedience and blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, by the doingsand sufferings of the Son of God. And hence again it is that he first is called Kingof righteousness; that is, a King of righteousness as God-man, which of necessitysupposeth his personal performances; and after that, "King of peace," Heb.7:1-3; for what he is naturally and eternally in his Godhead he is not to us, buthimself; but what he is actively and by works, he is not to himself, but to us; so,then, he is neither King of righteousness nor of peace to us, as he is only the EternalSon of the Father, without his being considered as our priest and undertaker "Hehath obtained," by works of righteousness, "eternal redemption for us,"Heb. 9:12. So, then, the righteousness by which we stand just before God is a righteousnessinherent (only) in Christ, because a righteousness performed by him alone.
Now that righteousness by which we stand just before God must be a righteousnessconsisting of personal performances; the reason is, because persons had sinned, thisthe nature of justice requireth, that "since by man came death, by man shouldcome also the resurrection from the dead," 1 Cor. 15:21. The angels, therefore,for this very reason, abide under the chains of everlasting darkness, because he"took not hold on them," Heb. 2:16, 17; that is, by fulfilling righteousnessfor them in their nature: that is a blessed word, to you "To you is born thisday in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord," Luke 2:11; toyou, not to angels; to you is born a Saviour.
Thirdly, It is yet further evident that the righteousness by which we stand justbefore God from the curse is a righteousness inherent, not in us, but Christ; becauseit is a righteousness inherent, not in us, but Christ; because it is a righteousnessbesides, and without the law itself. Now take away the law, and you take away therule of righteousness. Again; take away the rule, and the act as to us must cease:"But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessedby the law and the prophets," Rom. 3:21. So, then, by such a righteousness weare justified as is not within the power of the law to command of us.
Quest. But what law is that which hath not power to command our obedience in thepoint of our justification with God?
Answ. The moral law, or that called the ten commandments. Therefore we are neithercommanded to love God, or our neighbour, as the means or part of our justifying righteousness;nay, he that shall attempt to do these things to be delivered from the curse thereby,by the scripture is holden accursed of God: "As many as are of the works,"or duties, "of the law, are under the curse," &c., Gal. 3:10. Becausewe are justified not by that of the law, but by the righteousness of God withoutthe law; that is, without its commanding of us, without our obedience to it: "Freelyby his grace, through the redemption that is in Jesus Christ; whom God hath set forthto be a propitiation, through faith in his blood," Rom. 3:24, 25. This is therighteousness of God without the law; that is, without any of our obedience to thelaw. Wherefore the righteousness by which we stand just in the sight of God cannotbe inherent in us, but in Christ the King thereof.
Fourthly, This is further made apparent by the capacity that God will consider thatsoul in to whom he imputeth justifying righteousness; and that is, "as one thatworketh not," as one that stands "ungodly in the judgment of the law,"Rom. 4:4, 5. But this I have handled before, and therefore shall pass it here.
Fifthly, to conclude: If any works of ours could justify us before God, they wouldbe works after faith received; but it is evident that these do not; therefore therighteousness that justifies us from the curse before God is a righteousness inherentonly in Christ.
That works after faith do not justify us from the curse in the sight of God is evident
Because no works of the saints can be justified by the moral law, considering itas the law of works for life, Gal. 3:10. For this must stand a truth for ever, Whatsoeverjustifieth us must be justified by the moral law, for that is it that pronounceththe curse; unless, then, that curse be taken away by the work, the work cannot justifyus before God, Rom. 3:21. But the curse cannot be taken away but by a righteousnessthat is first approved of by that law that so curseth; for if that shall yet complainfor want of a full satisfaction, the penalty remaineth. This is evident to reason,and confirmed by the authority of God's word, as hath been already proved; becausethe law, once broken, pronounceth death, expecteth death, and executeth the sameon him that will stand to the judgment of the law; but no work of a believer is capableof answering this demand of the law; therefore none of his works can justify himbefore God; for the law, that notwithstanding complaineth.
No works of faith can justify us from the curse before God, because of the want ofperfection that is in the greatest faith in us. Now if faith be not perfect, thework cannot be perfect; I mean, with that perfection as to please Divine justice.Consider the person, one that hath to do with God immediately by himself. Now, thatfaith is not capable of this kind of perfection it is evident, because when men hereknow most, they know but in part, 1 Cor. 8:2; 13:12. Now he that knows but in part,can do but in part; and he that doth but in part, hath a part wanting in the judgmentof the justice of God. So, then, when thou hast done all thou canst, thou hast donebut part of thy duty, and so art short of justification from the curse by what thouhast done.
Besides, it looks too like a monster that the works of faith should justify us beforeGod; because then faith is turned, as it were, with its neck behind it. Faith, inits own nature and natural course, respecteth the mercy of God through the MediatorJesus Christ, and, as such, its virtue and excellency is to expect justificationby grace through him; but by this doctrine faith is turned round about, and now makesa life out of what itself hath done: but methinks faith should be as noble as itsfruits, that being the first, and they but the fruits of that.
Besides, seeing the work is only good because it floweth from faith, for faith purifieththe heart (Acts 15:9), therefore faith is it that justifies all its works. If, then,we be justified by either, it is by faith, and not by his works; unless we will saythere is more virtue in the less than in the greater. Now what is faith but a believing,a trusting, or relying act of the soul? What, then, must it rely upon or trust in?Not in itself, that is without scripture; not in its works, they are inferior toitself; besides, this is the way to make even the works of faith the mediator betweenGod and the soul, and so by them thrust Christ out of doors; therefore it must trustin Christ; and if so, then no man can be justified from the curse before God by theworks that flow from faith.
To put all out of doubt; the saint, when he hath done what he can to bring forthgood works by faith, yet he dares not shew these works before God but as they passthrough the Mediator Christ, but as they are washed in the blood of the Lamb. Andtherefore Peter saith, those sacrifices of ours that are truly spiritual are onlythen accepted of God (1 Pet. 2:5) when offered up by Jesus Christ. And thereforeit is said again, that the prayers of the saints, which are the fruits of faith,come up before the throne of God through the angel's hand (Rev. 8:3, 4), that is,through the hand of Christ, through his golden censer, perfumed with his incense,made acceptable by his intercession.
It is said in the book of the Revelation that it is granted to the bride, the Lamb'swife, that she should be "arrayed in fine linen, clean and white; which whitelinen is the righteousness of saints." This fine linen, in my judgment, is theworks of godly men, their works that sprang from faith. But how came they clean?How came they white? Not simply because they were the works of faith. But mark, "Theywashed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb; and therefore theystand before the throne of God," Rev. 7:14, 15. Yea, therefore it is that theirgood works stand there too.
I conclude, then, "our persons are justified while we are sinners in ourselves."Our works, even the works of faith, are no otherwise accepted but as they come throughJesus Christ, even through his intercession and blood. So, then, Christ doth justifyboth our person and works, not by way of approbation, as we stand in ourselves orworks before God, but by presenting of us to his Father by himself, washing whatwe are and have from guilt in his blood, and clothing us with his own performances.This is the cause of our acceptance with God, and that our works are not cast forthof his presence.
Is justifying righteousness to be found in the person of Christ only? Then this shouldadmonish us to take heed of seeking it in ourselves, that is, of working righteousness,thereby to appease the justice of God, lest by so doing we affront and blasphemethe righteousness of Christ. He that shall go about to establish his own righteousness,he, as yet, doth defiance to that which is of God, of God's appointing, of God'sproviding; and that only wherewith the justice of the law must be well pleased. Whereforetake heed, I say, of doing such a thing, lest it provoke the eyes of the Lord's glory"When I shall say to the righteous, that he shall surely live; if he trust tohis own righteousness, and commit iniquity, all his righteousness shall not be remembered;but for his iniquity that he hath committed, he shall die for it," Ezek. 33:13.Mark, though he be righteous, yea, though he have a promise of life, yet he shalldie. But why? Because he sinned against the Lord by trusting to his own righteousness,therefore he must die for it.
There are some things that will preserve a man from splitting upon this rock. As,
Get good acquaintance with the covenant of grace, and of the persons concerned inthe conditions of that covenant. The conditions of that covenant are, that a righteousnessshall be brought into the world that shall please the justice of God and answer (andso remove the curse of) the law. Now he that doth perform this condition is Christ;therefore the covenant is not immediately with man, but with him that will be theMediator betwixt God and man; "As for thee, by the blood of thy covenant,"Zech. 9:11, speaking of Christ. So, then, Christ, the ManChrist, is be who was tobring in these conditions, to wit, everlasting righteousness. And hence it is thatGod hath said, "Christ shall be the covenant of the people"that is, heshall be our conditions to Godward, Dan. 9:23, 24. He therefore is all our righteousnessas to the point of our justification before God; he is the covenant of the people,as well as the light of the Gentiles; for as no man can see but in the light of hisSpirit, so no man can stand but in and by him, he is the covenant of the people,the conditions and qualifications of the people, Isa. 52:6. So that to Godward Christis all in all, and no man anything at all. "He hath made with me an everlastingcovenant"; with me, as I stand in my head Christ, who, because he hath broughtin everlasting righteousness, therefore hath removed the curse of the law; whereforehe adds, this covenant "is ordered in all things, and sure," 2 Sam. 23:5;because all points that concern me as to redemption from the curse are taken awayby Christ, as before is discoursed. Look, then, upon Christ as the man, the mediator,undertaker, and accomplisher of that righteousness in himself, wherein thou muststand just before God; and that he is the covenant or conditions of the people toGod-ward, always having in himself the righteousness that the law is well pleasedwith, and always presenting himself before God as our only righteousness.
That this truth may be the more heartily inquired into by thee, consider thine ownperfections; I say, study how polluted thou art, even from the heart throughout.No man hath a high esteem of the Lord Jesus that is a stranger to his own sore. Christ'schurch is an hospital of sick, wounded, and afflicted people; even as when he wasin the world, the afflicted and distressed set the highest price upon Jesus Christ.Why? They were sick, and he was the Physician; but the whole had no need of him.And just thus it is now: Christ is offered to the world to be the righteousness andlife of sinners, but no man will regard him save he that seeth his own pollution;he that seeth he cannot answer the demands of the law, he that sees himself fromtop to toe polluted, and that therefore his service cannot be clean as to justifyhim from the curse before God, he is the man that must needs die in despair and bedamned, or must trust in Jesus Christ for life.
Further, This rule I would have all receive that come to Jesus Christ for life andsalvation.
Not to stick at the acknowledgment of sin, but to make that of it which the law makesof it: "Acknowledge thine iniquity," saith the Lord, Jer. 3:13. This isa hard pinch (I know what I say) for a man to fall down under the sense of sins byacknowledging them to be what the Lord saith they are; to acknowledge them, I Say,in their own defiling and polluting nature; to acknowledge them in their unreasonableand aggravating circumstances; to acknowledge them in their God-offending and soul-destroyingnature, especially when the conscience is burdened with the guilt of them. Yet thisis duty "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive," 1John 1:9; yea, to this is annexed the promise, "He that confesseth, and forsakeththem, shall find mercy." This made David, as it were, lay claim to the mercyof God "Wash me thoroughly (said he) from mine iniquity, and cleanse me frommy sin; for I acknowledge my transgression, and my sin is ever before me." Though,then, thou art to blush and be ashamed when thou rememberest thy sins and iniquities,yet do not hide them "He that hideth his sins shall not prosper." Do notlessen them; do not speak of them before God after a mincing way "Acknowledgethine iniquities, that thou hast sinned against the Lord thy God, and hast scatteredthy ways to the strangers under every green tree; and ye have not obeyed my voice,saith the Lord," Jer. 3:13.
If we would come to Christ aright, we must only acknowledge our sins; we must onlyacknowledge them, and there stop; stop, I say, from attempting to do aught to presentus good before God, but only to receive the mercy offered.
"Only acknowledge thine iniquities." Men are subject to two extremes, eitherto confess sins notionally and by the halves, or else, together with the confessionof them, to labour to do some holy work, thereby to ease their burdened conscience,and beget faith in the mercy of God, Hos. 5:14, 15. Now both these are dangerous,and very ungodly, dangerous, because the wound is healed falsely; and ungodly, becausethe command is transgressed: "Only acknowledge thy sin," and there stand(as David) "till thy guilt is taken away." Joshua stood before the angel,from top to toe in filthy garments, till the Lord put other clothes upon him, Zech.3:3. In the matter of thy justification thou must know nothing, see nothing, hearnothing, but thine own sins and Christ's righteousness "Only acknowledge thineiniquities." Now the Saviour and the soul comes rightly together; the Saviourto do his work, which is to spread his skirt over the sinner; and the sinner to receive,by believing this blessed imputed righteousness. And hence the church, when she cameto God, lieth down in her shame, and her confusion covereth her; and so lieth tillpardon comes, Jer. 3:25.
THE SECOND USE.
I come now to the second use, Have faith in Christ. But what are we to understandby faith?
Answer: Faith importeth as much as to say, receive, embrace, accept of, or trustin, the benefit offered. All which are, by holy men of God, words used on purposeto shew that the mercy of God, the forgiveness of sins, and eternal life, are notto be had by doing or by the law; but by receiving, embracing, accepting, or trustingto the mercy of God through Christ "We believe that through the grace of ourLord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they," John 1:12; 2 Cor. 4:1; 11:4;Col. 2:6; Heb. 11:13; 1 Tim. 1:15; Ephes. 1:12, 13; Acts 15:11. Thus you see whatthe gospel is, and what faith doth do in the salvation of the soul.
Now, that faith might be helped in this work (for great are they that oppose it),therefore the Scriptures, the word of truth, hath presented us with the invitationin most plain and suitable sentences; as, "That Christ came into the world tosave sinners, Christ died for our sins, Christ gave himself for our sins, Christbare our sins in his body on the tree; and, That God for Christ's sake hath forgivenyou." Further, as the invitations are plain and easy, so the threatenings tothe opposers are sore and astonishing "He that believeth not shall be damned,Because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved, God gavethem up to strong delusions, that they all might be damned," Mark 16:16; 2 Thess.2:10-12.
Objection: But faith is said to be an act of obedience.
Ans . 1. And well it may; for it is the most submitting act that a man can do; itthroweth out all our righteousness; it makes the soul poor in itself; it liveth uponGod and Christ, as the almsman doth upon his lord; it consenteth to the gospel thatit is true; it giveth God and Christ the glory of their mercy and merit; it lovethGod for his mercy, and Jesus Christ for his service; whatever good it doth, it stillcrieth, Hereby am I not justified, but he that justifieth me is the Lord.
Well, but is there in truth such a thing as the obedience of faith? Then let Christianslabour to understand it, and distinguish it aright, and to separate it from the lawand all man's righteousness; and remember that it is a receiving of mercy, an embracingof forgiveness, an accepting of the righteousness of Christ, and a trusting to thesefor life. Remember again, that it putteth the soul upon coming to Christ as a sinner,and to receive forgiveness as a sinner, as such. We now treat of justification.
But a little to insert at large a few more of the excellences of it, and so drawtowards a conclusion.
First, The more thou believest for remission of sins, the more of the light of theglorious gospel of Christ thou receivest into thy soul "For therein is the righteousnessof God revealed, from faith to faith," Rom. 1:16, 17; that is, according tothe decree of faith. Little faith seeth but little, but great faith seeth much; andtherefore he saith again, That by faith we have "access into the grace of God,"Rom. 5:2. The reason is,
Because faith, having laid hold upon Christ, hath found him "in whom are hidall the treasures of wisdom and knowledge," Col. 2:2, 3. In him therefore itfinds and sees those heights and depths of gospel mysteries that are nowhere elseto be found; nay, let a man be destitute of faith, and it is not possible he shouldonce think of some of them.
By this means the Holy Spirit is plentifully received, Gal. 3:1-3. Now the Spiritof God is a spirit of wisdom and revelation; but yet so as in the knowledge of Christ,Eph. 1:17; otherwise the Spirit will shew to man not any mighty thing, its greatdelight being to open Christ and to reveal him unto faith. Faith indeed can see him,for that is the eye of the soul; and the Spirit alone can reveal him, that beingthe searcher of the deep things of God; by these therefore the mysteries of heavenare revealed and received. And hence it is that the mystery of the gospel is calledthe "mystery of faith," or the mystery with which faith only hath to do,1 Tim. 3:9. Wouldst thou, then, know the greatest things of God? Accustom thyselfto the obedience of faith; live upon thy justifying righteousness.
And never think that to live always on Christ for justification is a low and beggarlything, and as it were a staying at the foundation; for let me tell you, depart froma sense of the meritorious means of your justification with God, and you will quicklygrow light, and frothy, and vain. Besides, you will always be subject to errors anddelusions; for this is not to hold the head from or through which nourishment isadministered, Col. 2:19. Further, no man that buildeth forsakes the good foundation;that is the ground of his encouragement to work, for upon that is laid the stressof all; and without it nothing that is framed can be supported, but must inevitablyfall to the ground. Again; why not live upon Christ alway? and especially as he standeththe mediator between God and the soul, defending thee with the merit of his blood,and covering thee with his infinite righteousness from the wrath of God and curseof the law. Can there be any greater comfort ministered to thee than to know thyperson stands just before God? Just and justified from all things that would otherwiseswallow thee up? Is peace with God and assurance of heaven of so little respect withthee that thou slightest the very foundation thereof, even faith in the blood andrighteousness of Christ? and are notions and whimsies of such credit with thee thatthou must leave the foundation to follow them? But again; what mystery is desirableto be known that is not to be found in Jesus Christ, as Priest, Prophet, or Kingof saints? In him are hid all the treasures of them, and he alone hath the key ofDavid to open them, Col. 2:1, 2; Rev. 3:7. Paul was so taken with Jesus Christ, andthe knowledge of this, that he was crucified for us, that he desired, nay, determinednot to know any thing else among the Corinthians, that itched after other wisdom,1 Cor. 2:2.
Objection: But I see not that in Christ now that I have seen in him in former days.Besides, I find the Spirit lead me forth to study other things.
Answer: To the first part of this objection I would answer several things
The cause why thou seest not that in Christ now which thou hast seen in him in formerdays is not in Christ, but in thy faith; he is the same, as fresh, and as good, andas full of blessedness, as when thou didst most rejoice in him, Heb. 1:11, 12.
And why not now, as well as formerly? God is never weary of being delighted withJesus Christ; his blood is always precious with God; his merits being those in whichjustice hath everlasting rest, why shouldst thou wander or go about to change thyway? Prov. 8:30; Jer. 2:36.
Sin is the same as ever, and so is the curse of the law. The devil is as busy asever; and beware of the law in thy members. Return, therefore, to thy rest, O soul!for he is thy life, and the length of thy days.
Guilt is to be taken off now, as it was years ago; and, whether thou seest it orno, thou sinnest in all thy works. How, then, canst thou stand clear from guilt inthy soul who neglectest to act faith in the blood of the Lamb? There thou must washthy robes, and there thou must make them white, Rev. 7:14, 15.
I conclude, then, thou art a polluted, surfeited, corrupted, hardened creature, whosoeverthou art, that thus objectest.
But I find, sayest thou, as if the Spirit led me forth to study other matters.
Answer: What other matters? What matters besides, above, or beyond the glorious gospelof Jesus Christ, and of our acceptance with God through him? What spirit, or doctrine,or wisdom soever it be that centers not in, that cometh not from, and that terminatesnot within, the bounds of the gospel of Jesus Christ, is not worthy the study ofthe sons of God; neither is it food for the faith of Jesus Christ (John 6:51); forthat is the flesh of Christ (and that is eternal life.) Whither will you go? Bewareof the spirit of Antichrist; for "many false spirits are gone out into the world."I told you before, that the Spirit of God is "the spirit of wisdom and revelationin the knowledge of Christ," Ephes. 1:17; John 14:15; 16; and that without andbesides the Lord Jesus it discovereth nothing; it is sent to testify of him; it issent to bring his words to our remembrance; it is sent to "take of his thingsand shew them unto us." Wherefore, never call that the Spirit of Jesus whichleads you away from the blood and righteousness of Christ; that is but the spiritof delusion and of the devil, whose teachings end in perdition and destruction. Temptnot Christ as they of old did. But how did they tempt him? Why, in loathing the manna,which was the type of his flesh and blood, which we are to eat of by believing. Isay, tempt him not, lest you be destroyed by the serpents, by the gnawing guilt ofsin; for, take away Christ, and sin remains, and there is no more sacrifice for sin:if so, thou wilt be destroyed by the destroyer, Num. 21:5-7; 1 Cor. 10:10. But again
Living by faith begets in the heart a sonlike boldness and confidence to Godwardin all our gospel duties, under all our weaknesses, and under all our temptations.It is a blessed thing to be privileged with a holy boldness and confidence Godward,that he is on our side, that he taketh part with us, and that he will plead our cause"with them that rise up against us," 2 Cor. 2:14; 4:17, 18; Gal. 4:27;Phil. 3:2, 3; Rom. 5:11. But this boldness faith helpeth us to do, and also managethin our heart. This is that which made Paul always triumph and rejoice in God andthe Lord Jesus; he lived the life of faith; for faith sets a man in the favour ofGod by Christ, and makes a man see that what befals him in this life, it shall, throughthe wisdom and mercy of God, not only prove for his forwarding to heaven, but toaugment his glory when he comes there. This man now stands on high, he lives, heis rid of slavish fears and carking cares, and in all his straits he hath a God togo to. Thus David, when all things looked awry upon him, "encouraged himselfin the Lord his God," 1 Sam. 30:6. Daniel also believed in his God, and knewthat all his trouble, losses, and crosses, would be abundantly made up in his God,Dan. 6:23. And David said, "I had fainted unless I had believed." Believing,therefore, is a great preservative against all such impediments, and makes us confidentin our God, and with boldness to come into his presence, claiming privilege in whathe is and hath, Ps. 27:13; Jon. 3:4, 5; Heb. 10:22, 23; Eph. 1:4-7. For by faith,I say, he seeth his acceptance through the Beloved, and himself interested in themercy of God, and riches of Christ, and glory in the world to come. This man canlook upon all the dangers in hell and earth without paleness of countenance; he shallmeditate terror with comfort, "because he beholds the King in his beauty,"Isa. 33:17, 18.
Again; living by faith makes a man exercise patience and quietness under all hisafflictions; for faith shews him that his best part is safe, that his soul is inGod's special care and protection, purged from sin in the blood of Christ. Faithalso shews him that after a little while he shall be in the full enjoyment of thatwhich now he believes is coming: "We, through the Spirit, wait for the hopeof righteousness by faith," Gal. 5:5. Wherefore, upon this ground it is thatJames exhorteth the saints to whom he wrote to patience, because they knew the harvestwould in due time come, James 5:7-11. Faith lodgeth the soul with Christ: "Iknow," saith Paul, "on whom I have believed" (and to whom I have committedmy soul), "and am persuaded (I believe it) that he is able to keep that whichI have committed unto him against that day"; therefore it were no shame to himto wear a chain for his name and sake. Oh! it is a blessed thing to see, I say, bythe faith of the Lord Jesus, that we are embarked in the same ship with him; thiswill help us greatly "both to hope and quietly wait for the salvation of theLord," 2 Tim. 1:12-16; Psalm 46:1-6; Lam. 3:26.
Further, I might add, that living by faith is the way to receive fresh strength fromheaven, thereby to manage thine every day's work with life and vigour; yea, everylook by faith upon Jesus Christ as thine doth this great work. It is said, when Paulsaw the brethren that came to meet him, "he thanked God, and took courage,"Acts 28:15. Oh! how much more, then, shall the Christian be blessed with fresh strengthand courage even at the beholding of Christ; "whom beholding as in a glass,we are changed," even by beholding of him by faith in the word, "into thesame image, from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord," 2 Cor.3:18. But to be brief.
Make conscience of the duty of believing, and be as afraid of falling short hereas in any other command of God, John 6:46. "This is his commandment, that youbelieve," 1 John 3:23. Believe, therefore, in the name of the Lord Jesus. Thisis the will of God, that you believe. Believe, therefore, to the saving of the soul.Unbelief is a fine-spun thread, not so easily discerned as grosser sins; and thereforethat is truly "The sin that doth so easily beset us," Heb. 12:1. The lightof nature will shew those sins that are against the law of nature; but the law offaith is a command beyond what flesh or nature teacheth; therefore to live by faithis so much the harder work; yet it must be done, otherwise thine other duties profitthee nothing. For if a man give way to unbelief, though he be most frequent in allother duties besides, so often as he worshippeth God in these he yet saith, God isa liar in the other, even because he hath not believed: "He that believeth notGod, hath made him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of hisSon. And this is the record, that God hath given us eternal life, and this life isin his Son," 1 John 5:10, 11. So, then, when thou givest way to unbelief; whenthou dost not venture the salvation of thy soul upon the justifying life that isin Christ, that is, in his blood, &c.at once, thou givest the lie to the wholetestament of God; yea, thou tramplest upon the promise of grace, and countest thisprecious blood an unholy and unworthy thing, Heb. 10:29. Now how, thou doing thus,the Lord should accept of thy other duties, of prayer, alms, thanksgiving, self-denial,or any other, will be hard for thee to prove. In the meantime remember, that faithpleaseth God; and that without faith it is impossible to please him. Remember also,that for this cause it was that the offering of Cain was not accepted: "By faithAbel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain"; for by faith Abelfirst justified the promise of the Messias, by whom a conquest should be obtainedover the devil, and all the combination of hell against us: then he honoured Christby believing that he was able to save him; and in token that he believed these thingsindeed, he presented the Lord with the firstlings of his flock (Heb. 11:4), as aremembrance before God that he believed in his Christ. And therefore it is said,"By faith he offered"; by which means the offering was accepted of God;for no man's offering can be accepted with God but his that stands righteous beforehim first. But unbelief holdeth men under their guilt, because they have not believedin Christ, and by that means put on his righteousness. Again; he that believeth not,hath made invalid (what in him lies) the promise of God and merits of Christ, ofwhom the Father hath spoken so worthily; therefore what duties or acts of obediencesoever he performeth, God by no means can be pleased with him.
By this, therefore, you see the miserable state of the people that have not faith"Whatever they do, they sin"; if they break the law, they sin; if theyendeavour to keep it, they sin; they sin, I say, upon a double account, first, becausethey do it but imperfectly; and, secondly, because they yet stay upon that, resistingthat which is perfect, even that which God hath appointed. It mattereth not, as tojustification from the curse, therefore, men wanting faith, whether they be civilor profane, they are such as stand accursed of the law, because they have not believed,and because they have given the lie to the truth, and to the God of truth. Let allmen, therefore, that would please God make conscience of believing; on pain, I say,of displeasing him; on pain of being with Cain rejected, and on pain of being damnedin hell. "He that believeth not shall be damned," Mark 16:16. Faith isthe very quintessence of all gospel obedience, it being that which must go beforeother duties, and that which also must accompany whatever I do in the worship ofGod, if it be accepted of him. Here you may see a reason why the force and powerof hell is so bent against believing; Satan hateth all the parts of our Christianobedience, but the best and chiefest most. And hence the apostle saith to the Thessalonians,"That he sent to know their faith, lest by some means the tempter have temptedthem, and so his labour had been in vain," 1 Thess. 3:5. Indeed, where faithis wanting, or hath been destroyed, all the labour is in vain, nothing can profitany man, neither as to peace with God, nor the acceptance of any religious duty;and this, I say, Satan knows, which makes him so lend his force against us.
There are three things in the act of believing which makes this grace displeasingto the wicked one
Faith discovereth the truth of things to the soul; the truth of things as they are,whether they be things that are of this world, or of that which is to come; the thingsand pleasures above, and also those beneath. Faith discovereth to the soul the blessedness,and goodness, and durableness of the one; the vanity, foolishness, transitorinessof the other. Faith giveth credit to all things that are written in the law and inthe prophets, Acts 24:14, both as to the being, nature, and attributes of God; theblessed undertaking of the Lord Jesus Christ; the glory of heaven and torments ofhell; the sweetness of the promise and terror of the threatenings and curses of theword; by which means Satan is greatly frustrated in his assaults when he temptetheither to love this world or slight that which is to come, for he can do no greatmatter in these things to any but those who want the faith "In vain is the snarelaid in the sight of any bird"; therefore he must first blind, and hold blindthe minds of men, "that the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is theimage of God, should not shine into them," else he can do no harm to the soul.Now faith is the eye of the godly man, and that sees the truth of things, whateverSatan suggests, either about the glory of this world, the sweetness of sin, the uncertaintyof another world, or the like, 1 John 5:4, 5; Prov. 1:17; 2 Cor. 4:4; Heb. 11:27.
Faith wraps the soul up in the bundle of life with God; it encloseth it in the righteousnessof Jesus, and presents it so perfect in that, that whatever he can do, with all hiscunning, cannot render the soul spotted or wrinkled before the justice of the law;yea, though the man, as to his own person and acts, be full of sin from top to toe,Jesus Christ covereth all; faith sees it, and holds the soul in its godly sense andcomfort of it. The man, therefore, standing here, stands shrouded under that goodlyrobe that makes him glister in the eye of justice. Yea, all the answer that Satancan get from God against such a soul is, that he "doth not see iniquity in Jacob,nor behold perverseness in Israel: for here Israel hath not been forsaken, nor Judahof his God, of the Lord of hosts, though, as to their own persons, their land wasfilled with sin against the Holy One of Israel," Numb. 23:21-23; Jer. 51:5;Rom. 6:14; Deut. 33:12. Thus, therefore, the soul believing, is hid from all thepower of the enemy, and dwells safely under the dominion of grace.
Faith keeps the soul from giving credit to any of his insinuations; for whateverSatan saith, either about the acceptance of my person or performances, so long asI believe that both are accepted of God for Christ's sake, he suggesteth to the wind;wherefore, faith doth the same against the devil that unbelief doth against God.Doth unbelief count God a liar? Faith counts the devil a liar. Doth unbelief holdthe soul from the mercy of God? Faith holds the soul from the malice of the devil.Doth unbelief quench thy graces? Faith kindleth them even unto a flame. Doth unbelieffill the soul full of sorrow? Faith fills it full of the joy of the Holy Ghost? Ina word, doth unbelief bind down thy sins upon thee? Why, faith in Jesus Christ releaseththee of them all.
As faith keeps the soul from giving credit to the insinuations of Satan, so, whenhe makes his assaults, it over-masters him, and makes him retreat; "Resist thedevil, and he will flee from you.Whom resist steadfast in the faith," James4:7; 1 Pet. 5:9. Believe, as I have already said, that God loveth you, that the bloodof Christ was shed for you, that your person is presented complete before him, throughthe righteousness of Christ, and Satan must give place; thy crediting of the gospelmakes him fly before thee; but thou must do it steadfast in the faith; every wavergiveth him advantage. And indeed this is the reason that the godly are so foiledwith his assaults, they do not resist him steadfast in the faith; they often staggerthrough unbelief. Now, at every stagger he recovereth lost ground again, and givethbattle another time. Besides, by this and the other stagger he taketh heart to attemptby other means, and so doubleth the affliction with manifold temptations. This is,I say, for want of being steadfast "Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewithyou shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked," Ephes. 6:16.To quench them, though they come from him as kindled with the very fire of hell.None knows, save him that feels it, how burning hot the fiery darts of Satan are;and how, when darted, they kindle upon our flesh and unbelief; neither can any knowthe power and worth of faith to quench them but he that hath it, and hath power toact it.
5. Lastly, if justifying righteousness be alone to be found in the person of JesusChrist, then this shews us the sad condition of two sorts of men
Of those that hang in doubt betwixt Christ and the law.
Of those that do professedly make denial of the sufficiency of this most blessedrighteousness.
The first sort, though they may seek life, yet, thus continuing, are never like tofind it. Wherefore? Because they seek it not by faith, but, as it were, by the worksof the law. Indeed, they will not be merit-mongers; they will not wholly trust tothe law; they will partly venture on Christ, and partly trust to the law. Well, buttherefore they shall be damned, because they trust to Christ but in part, and inpart, as it were, to the works of the law; for such sinners make Christ but a Saviourin part, why then should he be their Saviour in whole? No, because they halt betweenChrist and the law, therefore they shall fall between Christ and the law; yea, becausethey will trust to their works in part, they shall be but almost saved by Christ.Let not that man think that he shall obtain any thing from the Lord. What man? Why,he that doubteth or wavereth in his mind about the truth of the mercy of God in Christ.Therefore the exhortation is, "But let him ask in faith; for he that wavereth(or, that halteth between the law and Christ for life) is like a wave of the sea,driven of the wind and tossed," Jam. 1:6, 7. In conclusion, he resteth nowhere"a double-minded man is unstable in all his ways." This man, therefore,must miscarry; he must not see the good land that flows with milk and honey; no,let him not have a thought of life in his heart; let not that man think that he shallreceive any thing of the Lord.
This was the case of many in the primitive times, for whose sake this caution waswritten; for the devout and religious Jew and proselyte, when they fell away fromthe word of the gospel, they did not fall to those gross and abominable pollutionsin which the open profane, like sows and swine, do wallow, but they fell from thegrace of God to the law; or, at least, did rest betwixt them both, doubting of thesufficiency of either; and thus, being fearful, they distrust; wherefore, being foundat length unbelieving, they are reputed of God abominable, as murderers, whoremongers,sorcerers, idolators, and liars (Rev. 21:8); and so must have their portion in thelake (with them) that burns with fire and brimstone. The reason is, because whereChrist is rejected sin remaineth, and so the wrath of God for sin. Neither will hebe a Saviour in part; he must be all thy salvation, or none "Let not that manthink that he shall receive any thing of the Lord," Jam. 1:7.
Not any thing. There is no promise for him, no pardon for him, no heaven for him,no salvation for him, no escaping of his fire! What condition is this man in! Yethe is a religious man, for he prays; he is a seeking man, a desiring man, for heprays; but he halts between two, he leaneth to his righteousness, and committethiniquity. He is afraid to venture all upon the Lord Jesus Christ. Let not that manthink of receiving any thing from the Lord.
Yet the words suggest that he is apt to think he shall receive something, becauseGod is merciful, because his promise is great; but this expectation is by this wordcut off, and this sinner is cast away. Let not that man think, let him forbear tothink, of having anything at the hand of God. The Israelites thought to go up tothe land the day after they had despised it. Agag thought the bitterness of deathwas past even that day in which he was hewn to pieces. Rechab and Baanah his brotherthought to have received reward of David that day they were hanged over the poolin Hebron. "Let not that man think that he shall receive anything of the Lord,"Num. 14:40, 41; 1 Sam. 15:32, 33; 2 Sam. 4:12.
As for those that do professedly make denial of the sufficiency of this most blessedrighteousness, the whole book is conviction to them, and shall assuredly, if it cometo their hands, rise up in judgment against them. They have rejected the wisdom andmercy of God; they have rejected the means of their salvation; they have trampledupon the blood of the Son of God; wherefore judgment waiteth for them, and fieryindignation, which shall devour the adversaries.
To conclude. One word also to you that are neglecters of Jesus Christ: "Howshall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation?" Here, then, we may see howwe ought to judge of all such persons as neglect the Lord Jesus, under what guise,name, or notion soever they be. We ought, I say, to judge of such, that they areat present in a state of condemnation; of condemnation, "because they have notbelieved in the only begotten Son of God," John 3:18.
It is true, there is no man more at ease in his mind (with such ease as it is) thanthe man that hath not closed with the Lord Jesus, but is shut up in unbelief. Oh!but that is the man that stands convict before God, and that is bound over to thegreat assize; that is the man whose sins are still his own, and upon whom the wrathof God abideth, verse 36; for the ease and peace of such, though it keep them farfrom fear, is but like to that of the secure thief, that is ignorant that the constablestandeth at the door; the first sight of an officer makes his peace to give up theghost. Ah, how many thousands that can now glory that they never were troubled forsin against God; I say, how many be there that God will trouble worse than he troubledcursed Achan, because their peace (though false, and of the devil) was rather chosenby them than peace by Jesus Christ, than "peace with God by the blood of hiscross," Col. 1:20.
Awake, careless sinners, awake! and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give youlight. Content not yourselves either with sin or righteousness, if you be destituteof Jesus Christ (Eph. 5:14); but cry, cry, oh cry to God for light to see your conditionby; for light in the word of God, for therein is the righteousness of God revealed.Cry, therefore, for light to see this righteousness by; it is a righteousness ofChrist's finishing, of God's accepting, and that which alone can save the soul fromthe stroke of eternal justice, Rom. 1:17.
There are six things that on man's part are the cause he receiveth not the gospelof Christ, and so life by him.
They see not their state by nature, how polluted they are with original sin, Eph.2:2.
They see not the justice of God against sin; they know not him that hath said, "Vengeancebelongeth unto me, I will recompense," Heb. 10:30.
They cannot see the beauty of Jesus Christ, 2 Cor. 4:4.
Unbelief being mighty in them, they dare not venture their souls with Jesus Christ(Rev. 21:8); they dare not trust to his righteousness, and to that only. For,
Their carnal reason also sets itself against the word of faith, and cannot stoopto the grace of Jesus Christ, 1 Cor. 2:14.
They love to have honour one of another (John 5:44); they love to be commended fortheir own vain-glorious righteousness; and the fools think that because they arecommended of men, they shall be commended of God also: "How can you believe,who seek honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only."This last thingto wit, desire of vain-glory, is the bane of thousands; it is thelegalist's bane, it is the civilian's bane, it is the formalist's bane, yea, whichyet is stranger, it is the bane of the vicious and debauched also; for though therebe a generation that, to one's thinking, have not regard to righteousness, yet watchthem narrowly, and they have their times of doing something that looks like good,and though possibly it be but seldom, yet this wretch counteth that for the sakeof that God accepteth him, and counteth his, glorious righteousness.
I might add a seventh cause, which is, want of serious meditation upon eternal judgment,and what shall follow. This consideration, did it take a deep place in the heart,would doubtless produce these workings of spirit after Jesus Christ for justificationthat now is wanting in the most of men. This made Felix, yea, it makes the devils,tremble; and would, I say, couldst thou deeply meditate, make thee start and turnthy wanton thoughts into heavy sighs after God's mercy in Jesus Christ, lest thoualso come into their place of torment.
Before I conclude this use, I would lay down a few motives, if so be thou mayestbe prevailed with to look after thine own everlasting state.
Consider, God hath put man, above all the creatures in this visible world, into astate of abiding for ever; they cannot be annihilated, they shall never again beturned into nothing, but must live with God or the devil for ever and ever. And thoughthe scripture saith, "Man hath not pre-eminence over a beast in his death,"yet the beast hath pre-eminence above many men, for he shall not rise again to comeinto judgment as man must, nor receive that dismal sentence for sin and transgressionas man shall; this, therefore, is worthy to be considered with seriousness of allthat have souls to be saved or damned "They must one day come to judgment,"there to stand before that Judge of all the earth whose eyes are like a flame offire, from the sight of which thou canst not hide one of thy words, or thoughts,or actions, because thou wantest the righteousness of God. The fire of his justiceshall burn up all thy rags of righteousness wherewith by the law thou hast clothedthyself, and will leave thee nothing but a soul full of sin to bemoan, and eternalburnings to grapple with. Oh, the burnings that will then beset sinners on everyside, and that will eat their flesh and torment their spirit with far more terrorthan if they were stricken with scorpions! And observe it, the torment will therebe higher than other where there is the guilt of neglecting Jesus Christ, he beingindeed the Saviour, and him that was sent on purpose to deliver men from the wrathto come.
Consider, once past grace, and ever past grace. When the door is shut against thee,it will open no more (Luke 13.), and then repentings, desires, wishings, and wouldings,come all too late. Good may be done to others, but to thee, none; and this shallbe "because, even because thou hast withstood the time of thy visitation,"and not received grace when offered: "My God shall cast them away, because theydid not hearken unto him," Luke 19:41-43; Hos. 9:17. Cain was driven out fromthe presence of God, for aught I know, some hundreds of years before his death; Ishmaelwas cast away after seventeen years of age; Esau lived thirty or forty years afterhe had sold his birthright. Oh, many, very many are in this condition! for thoughGod be gracious, yea, very gracious, yet he will not be slighted nor abused always;there are plenty of sinners in the world, if one will not, another will, Luke 8:37,40. Christ was soon repulsed by and sent away from the country of the Gadarenes;but on the other side of the sea there were many ready with joy to receive him, Acts13:46-48. So when the Jews contradicted and blasphemed, "the Gentiles gladlyreceived the word." Look to it, sinner, here is life and death set before thee;life, if it be not too late to receive it; but if it be, it is not too late for deathto swallow thee up. And tell me, will it not be dreadful to be carried from underthe gospel to the damned, there to lie in endless torment, because thou wouldst notbe delivered therefrom? Will it be comfort to thee to see the Saviour turn Judge?to see him that wept and died for the sin of the world now ease his mind on Christ-abhorringsinners by rendering to them the just judgment of God? For all their abominable filthiness,had they closed with Christ, they had been shrouded from the justice of the law,and should not have come into condemnation, "but had been passed from deathto life"; but they would not take shelter there; they would venture to meetthe justice of God in its fury, wherefore now it shall swallow them up for ever andever. And let me ask further, is not he a madman who, being loaded with combustiblematter, will run headlong into a fire upon a bravado? or, that being guilty of felonyor murder, will desperately run himself into the hand of the officer, as if the law,the judge, the sentence, execution, were but a jest, or a thing to be played withal?And yet thus mad are poor, wretched, miserable sinners, who flying from Christ asif he were a viper, they are overcome, and cast off for ever by the just judgmentof the law. But ah! how poorly will these be able to plead the virtues of the lawto which they have cleaved, when God shall answer them, "Whom dost thou passin beauty? go down, and be thou laid with the uncircumcised," Ezek. 32:19. Godown to hell, and there be laid with those that refused the grace of God.
Sinners, take my advice, with which I shall conclude this use, Call often to remembrancethat thou hast a precious soul within thee; that thou art in the way to thine end,at which thy precious soul will be in special concerned, it being then time to delayno longer, the time of reward being come. I say again, bring thy end home; put thyselfin thy thoughts into the last day thou must live in this world, seriously arguingthus, How if this day were my last? How if I never see the sun rise more? How ifthe first voice that rings tomorrow morning in my heavy ears be, "Arise, yedead, and come to judgment?" Or, how if the next sight I see with mine eyesbe the Lord in the clouds, with all his angels, raining floods of fire and brimstoneupon the world? Am I in a case to be thus near mine end? to hear this trump of God?or to see this great appearance of this great God, and the Lord Jesus Christ? Willmy profession, or the faith I think I have, carry me through all the trials of God'stribunal? Cannot his eyes, which are as a flame of fire, see in my words, thoughts,and actions enough to make me culpable of the wrath of God? Oh! how serious shouldsinners be in this work of remembering things to come, of laying to their heart thegreatness and terror of that notable day of God Almighty, and in examining themselves,how it is like to go with their souls when they shall stand before the Judge indeed!To this end, God make this word effectual. Amen.