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for if we had only broken one of God's righteous commandments, that were an everlasting bar to our justification. As well might a murderer plead in arrest of judgment, that he had killed only one
The number of our sins will, doubtless heighten the degrees of punishment; but it is the nature of them that insures condemnation. Nor does this disprove the equity of the law for we cannot break a single precept without contemning the divine authority; which at once destroys the principle of obedience to every other. We may not actually go into all other sins: but it is not the love of God that restrains us; it is interest or fear, or regard to our own reputation that holds us back. On this principle, he who offendeth but in one point, is said to be guilty of all: For HE THAT SAID, Do not commit adultery; said also do not kill. Now, if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law. But, if a single offence be an everlasting bar to justification by our own works, what ground can there be to hope for it, when our whole lives have been one continued series of revolt?
We e are all transgressors, and, as such, under the curse. too, we might have been left to perish. God was not obliged, in justice or in honour, to interpose in behalf of a seed of evil doers. The law by which we stand condemned, being holy, just, and good, might have been executed, and no reproach would have at. tached to the divine character. Having sided with Satan against God, we might justly have bad our portion with him and his angels. All who were not themselves implicated, and disaffected to the divine government, would have said, True and righteous are thy judgments, O Lord. And we ourselves, at the last judgment, should not have been able to open our mouths against it.
And, now that God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, has interposed, and revealed a way in which he can be just, and the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus, shall it be objected to by us? Shall man, lying as he does under the dominion of sin, and the righteous condemnation of heaven on account of it, shall man take state to himself, and be ever aspiring to be justified on the ground of, at
least, his comparative righteousness? Such, however, is the fact. When the first-born son of fallen Adam brought his offering, he came as though he had never sinned; bringing no sacrifice, and yet entertaining high expectations of success. Hence, when the signal of acceptance was withheld, his countenance fell. Thus it is that millions are bringing their offerings to this day, overlooking the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world. All the false religions that have existed, or do now exist, in the world are so many modifications of a self-righteous spirit; so many devices to appease the conscience, and propitiate the Deity.
Nor is it confined to heathens, Mahometans, and Jews: there are professing Christians who are very explicit in avowing their dependence upon their own works. Where the divinity and atonement of Christ are disavowed, this is no more than may be expected. But neither is it confined to such. Many who profess to believe these doctrines, yet seem to consider the grand object of the death of Christ to have been, that he might obtain for us, that repentance, faith, and sincere obedience should be accepted as the ground of justification, instead of sinless perfection.†
Many who, in consequence of being educated under a gospel ministry, disavow, in words, all dependence on their own works,
* "When will Christians permit themselves to believe, that the same conduct which gains them the approbation of good men here, will secure the favour of heaven hereafter?" Mrs. BARBAuld.
"Repentance and a good life are of themselves sufficient to recommend us to the divine favour." Dr. PRIESTLEY. "The practice of virtue is always represented as the only means of attaining happiness, both here and hereafter." Mr. BELSHAM.
"The doctrine of the gos
+ This seems to be the idea of Bishop BUTLER. pel," he says, "appears to be, not only that Christ taught the efficacy of repentance; but rendered it of the efficacy which it is, by what he did and suffered for us; that he obtained for us the benefit of having our repentance accepted unto eternal life: not only that he revealed to sinners that they were in a capacity of salvation, and how they might obtain it, but, moreover, that he put them into this capacity of salvation, by what he did and suffered for them; put us into a capacity of escaping future punishment, and obtaining future happiness." Analogy, Part II. Chap. 5. p. 305.-Christ, it seems, was no otherwise our Saviour, than as enabling us to save ourselves!
are, nevertheless, manifestly under the influence of a self-righteous spirit. They do not confess their faults one to another, but justify themselves, as far as possible, and, wherein they fail in this, will invent so many pleas and excuses, as shall extenuate the sin to little or nothing. They are not self-diffident, nor humble, but the contrary; trusting in themselves that they are righteous, and despising others, just as the Pharisee did the publican. They thank God for being what they are; and so did the Pharisee: but, as words in the one case signified nothing, neither do they in the other.
To this may be added, It is not an unusual thing for those who have been awakened to a serious concern about salvation to overlook the Saviour, and to build their hopes on the consideration of the tears they have shed, the prayers they have offered, and the pains they have taken in religion. But, if it should prove, that all confidences of this sort are only a refined species of self-righteous hope, and that the first substantial relief of a sinner arises from a belief of the gospel-way of salvation, the consequences may be no less fatal than if they had never wept, nor prayed, nor taken any pains in religion.
One thing is certain: we must be justified wholly of grace, or wholly of works for there is no medium: If by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if, on the other hand, it be of works, then is it no more of grace: otherwise work is no more work. Taking it for granted, that what God has revealed in his word is the only sure ground on which to rest a matter of such high importance, I shall state what appears to me the scripture evidence for the first of these methods of justification under the following particulars:
admit a sinner's being
1. The righteousness of God does not justified on the ground of his own doings. It belongs to the righteousness, or justice, of God to do justice to his own character. But to pardon and accept of sinners, on account of any thing done by them, were to fly in the face of his own law and government, which ̧ if any thing could cause both them and him to be treated with contempt, this proceeding must do. It BECAME HIM, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto
glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.-Whom God had set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his RIGHTEOUSNESS for the remission of sins. For they being ignorant of God's RIGHTEOUSNESS, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God. If these passages do not convey the idea of its being inconsistent with the righteous character of God to pardon and accept of sinners, in consideration of their own doings, I can conceive of no determinate idea conveyed by them. If it was becoming the divine perfections, to bring sinners to glory through a suffering Saviour, it would have been unbecoming those perfections to have brought them to glory in virtue. of their own doings. If Christ were set forth to be a propitiation that God might declare his righteousness for the remission of sins, his righteousness would not have been declared in the remission of sins without it. Finally: If ignorance of God's righteousness were the reason of the non-submission of the Jews to the gospel-way of justification, there must have been, in that truth, something directly opposed to justification in any other way, and which, had it been properly understood, would have cut up all hopes from every other quarter. It was in this way that Paul, when the righteous law of God appeared to him in its true light, died as to all hopes of being accepted of God by the works of it. It was through the law that he became dead to the law, that he might live unto God.
2. The scriptures, in a great variety of language, exclude all works performed by sinful creatures as the ground of acceptance with God. In proof of this, the following passages are very express: Moses describeth the righteousness which is of the law, That the man that doeth those things shall live by them. But the righteousness which is of faith speaketh on this wise,-If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.-By the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight.— Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay; but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.-If Abraham were
justified by works, he hath whereof to glory.-Now to him that worketh is the reward reckoned not of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works.-Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness. Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law for they stumbled at that stumbling-stone.—Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.—As many as are of the works of the law, are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them. But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for The just shall live by faith. And the law is not of faith but The man that doeth them shall live in them.-Christ is become of no effect unto you: whosoever of you are justified by the law, ye are fallen from grace.-Not of works, lest any man should boast.-Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us → that, being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
Distinctions have been made, on this subject, between the works of the ceremonial and those of the moral law, also between the works of the law and those of the gospel; as though it were not the design of the scriptures to exclude moral duties from being grounds of justification, but merely those which are ceremonial; or if it were, yet not the evangelical duties of repentance, faith, and sincere obedience. But, whatever differences there may be between these things, they are all works; and all works of men are excluded from justification. If the foregoing passages be considered in their connexions, they will be found to respect all obedience, of every kind, which is performed by men, be it ceremonial or moral, or what it may. They teach justification by a righteousness received, in opposition to a righteousness done or performed, and which leaves no