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7. It does not become poor, guilty, sinful worms, who receive whatsoever blessings they enjoy, (from the least drop of water that cools our tongue, to the immense riches of glory in eternity,) of grace, of mere favour, and not of debt, to ask of God the reasons of his conduct. It is not meet for us to call Him in question, “ who giveth account to none of his ways;" to demand, Why didst thou make faith the condition, the only condition of justification? Wherefore didst thou decree, He that believeth, and he only, shall be saved? This is the very point on which St. Paul so strongly insists in the ninth chapter of this Epistle, viz., That the terms of pardon and acceptance must depend, not on us, but on him that calleth us; that there is no unrighteousness with God, in fixing his own terms, not according to but his own good pleasure ; who may justly say, “ I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy;" namely, on him who believeth in Jesus. “ So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth,” to choose the condition on which he shall find acceptance; “but of God that showeth mercy ;” that accepteth none at all, but of his own free love, his unmerited goodness. “ Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy," viz., on those who believe on the Son of his love; "and whom he will," that is, those who believe not, “ he hardeneth,” leaves at last to the hardness of their hearts.
8. One reason, however, we may humbly conceive, of God's fixing this condition of justification, “ If thou believest in the Lord Jesus Christ, thou shalt be saved," was to hide pride from man. Pride had already destroyed the very angels of God, had cast down third part
of the stars of heaven.” It was likewise in great measure owing to this, when the tempter said, “ Ye shall be as gods,” that Adam fell from his own steadfastness, and brought sin and death into the world. It was therefore an instance of wisdom worthy of God, to appoint such a condition of reconciliation for him and all his posterity, as might effectually humble, might abase them to the dust. And such is faith. It is peculiarly fitted for this end: For he that cometh unto God by this faith, must fix his eye singly on his own wickedness, on his guilt and helplessness, without having the least regard to any supposed good in himself, to any virtue or righteousness whatsoever. He must come as a mere sinner, inwardly and outwardly, self-destroyed and self-condemned, bringing nothing to God but ungodliness only, pleading nothing
of his own but sin and misery. Thus it is, and thus alone, when his mouth is stopped, and he stands utterly guilty before God, that he can look unto Jesus, as the whole and sole Propitiation for his sins. Thus only can he be found in him, and receive the “righteousness which is of God by faith.”
9. Thou ungodly one, who hearest or readest these words ! thou vile, helpless, miserable sinner ! I charge thee before God, the Judge of all, go straight unto him, with all thy ungodliness. Take heed thou destroy not thy own soul by pleading thy righteousness, more or less. Go as altogether ungodly, guilty, lost, destroyed, deserving and dropping into hell; and thou shalt then find favour in his sight, and know that he justifieth the ungodly. As such thou shalt be brought unto the blood of sprinkling, as an undone, helpless, damned sinner. Thus look unto Jesus! There is the Lamb of God, who taketh away thy sins! Plead thou no works, no righteousness of thine own! No humility, contrition, sincerity! In no wise. That were, in very deed, to deny the Lord that bought thee. No: Plead thou, singly, the blood of the covenant, the ransom paid for thy proud, stubborn, sinful soul. Who art thou, that now seest and feelest both thine inward and outward ungodliness? Thou art the man! I want thee for my Lord! I challenge thee for a child of God by faith! The Lord hath need of thee. Thou who feelest thou art just fit for hell, art just fit to advance his glory; the glory of his free grace, justifying the ungodly and him that worketh not. O come quickly! Believe in the Lord Jesus; and thou, even thou, art reconciled to God.
THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF FAITH.
“ Moses describeth the righteousness which is of the law, That
the man which doeth those things shall live by them. “But the righteousness which is of faith speaketh on this wise,
Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven?
(that is, to bring Christ down from above :) “ Or, Who shall descend into the deep? (that is, to bring up
Christ again from the dead.) “ But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy
mouth, and in thy heart: That is, the word of faith, which we preach." Romans x. 5–8.
1. The Apostle does not here oppose the covenant given by Moses, to the covenant given by Christ. If we ever imagined this, it was for want of observing, that the latter as well as the former part of these words were spoken by Moses himself to the people of Israel, and that concerning the covenant which then was.
(Deut. xxx. 11, 12, 14.) But it is the covenant of grace, which God, through Christ, hath established with men in all ages, (as well before and under the Jewish dispensation, as since God was manifest in the flesh,) which St. Paul here opposes to the covenant of works, made with Adam while in Paradise, but commonly supposed to be the only covenant which God had made with man, particularly by those Jews of whom the Apostle writes.
2. Of these it was that he so affectionately speaks in the beginning of this chapter : “ My heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they may be saved. For I bear them record, that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God's righteousness," (of the justification that flows from his mere grace and mercy, freely forgiving our sins through the Son of his love, through the redemption which is in Jesus,) " and seeking to establish many
their own righteousness," (their own holiness, antecedent to faith in “ him that justifieth the ungodly," as the ground of their pardon and acceptance, “ have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God," and consequently seek death in the error of their life.
3. They were ignorant that “ Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth ;"—that, by the oblation of himself once offered, he had put an end to the first law or covenant, (which, indeed, was not given by God to Moses, but to Adam in his state of innocence, the strict tenor whereof, without any abatement, was, “Do this, and live;" and, at the same time, purchased for us that better covenant, “ Believe, and live;" believe, and thou shalt be saved; now saved, both from the guilt and power of sin, and, of consequence, from the wages of it.
4. And how many are equally ignorant now, even among those who are called by the name of Christ! How who have now a “zeal for God," yet have it not “ according to knowledge;" but are still seeking “ to establish their own righteousness," as the ground of their pardon and acceptance; and, therefore, vehemently refuse to “submit themselves unto the righteousness of God!" Surely my heart's desire, and prayer to God for you, brethren, is, that ye may be saved. And, in order to remove this grand stumbling-block out of your way,
I will endeavour to show, First, what the righteousness is, which is of the law; and what “ the righteousness which is of faith ; " Secondly, the folly of trusting in the righteousness of the law, and the wisdom of submitting to that which is of faith.
I. 1. And, First, “ the righteousness which is of the law saith, The man which doeth these things shall live by them." Constantly and perfectly observe all these things to do them, and then thou shalt live for ever. This law, or covenant, (usually called the Covenant of Works,) given by God to man in Paradise, required an obedience perfect in all its parts, entire and wanting nothing, as the condition of his eternal continuance in the holiness and happiness wherein he was created.
2. It required that man should fulfil all righteousness, inward and outward, negative and positive: That he should not only abstain from every idle word, and avoid every evil work, but - should keep every affection, every desire, every thought, in obedience to the will of God: That he should continue holy, as he which had created him was holy, both in heart, and in all manner of conversation : That he should be pure in heart, even as God is pure; perfect as his father in heaven was perfect : That he should love the Lord his God with all his heart, with all his soul, with all his mind, and with all his strength; that he should love every soul which God had made, even as God had loved him: That by this universal benevolence, he should dwell in God, (who is love,) and God in him: That he should serve the Lord his God with all his strength, and in all things singly aim at his glory.
3. These were the things which the righteousness of the law required, that he who did them might live thereby. But it farther required, that this entire obedience to God, this inward and outward holiness, this conformity both of heart and life to his will, should be perfect in degree. No abatement, no allowance could possibly be made, for falling short in any degree, as to any jot or tittle, either of the outward or the inward law. If every commandment, relating to outward things, was obeyed, yet that was not sufficient, unless every one was obeyed with all the strength, in the highest measure, and most perfect manner. Nor did it answer the demand of this covenant, to love. God with every power and faculty, unless he were loved with the full capacity of each, with the whole possibility of the soul.
4. One thing more was indispensably required by the righteousness of the law, namely, that this universal obedience, this perfect holiness both of heart and life, should be perfectly uninterrupted also, should continue without any intermission, from the moment wherein God created man, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, until the days of his trial should be ended, and he should be confirmed in life everlasting.
5. The righteousness, then, which is of the law, speaketh on this wise : “ Thou, O man of God, stand fast in love, in the image of God wherein thou art made. If thou wilt remain in life, keep the commandments, which are now written in thy heart. Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart. Love, as thyself, every soul that he hath made. Desire nothing but God. Aim at God in every thought, in every word and work. Swerve not, in one motion of body or soul, from him, thy mark, and the prize of thy high calling; and let all that is in thee praise his holy name, every power and faculty of thy