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not acknowledge. Every true Christian deeply feels that the best duties he ever performed, the best services he ever offered to God, the most unmingled spiritual sacrifices he ever laid upon the altar of a Saviour's love, need to be sprinkled with a Saviour's blood, and cannot otherwise be accepted of God. How then can he, in any sense whatever, be justified by his works, seeing that his works themselves need to be forgiven? The utmost that his best works can do is to prove the existence, in manifesting the fruits of that saving faith, through which the soul is united to Christ, and by his blood justified; but if our works all partake of sin, then, so far from being in any sense justified by works, we are condemned by them, and without other justification must perish everlastingly.
In this view what can be more offensive to a believer in Christ than that spurious mixture of faith and works as a reliance for justification, which in our day is so common, but which robs the Saviour of his glory, and the atonement of its efficacy, and which, so far from excluding boasting, produces pride, and sustains the most subtle and destructive form of self-righteousness. Justification by faith is a precious doctrine, because it exalts the Saviour and cuts up human pride. Justification by works is an abominable, Popish perversion of the Gospel, which, whether in the form of penances or prayers, ministers to human pride, lays another foundation than that which Christ hath laid, introduces another Saviour, and so provides for the ruin and not the redemption of the soul.
A church may
have Justification by Faith among its articles, and yet may go over upon Popish ground in justification by forms and works, and so may desert and betray this fundamental living truth of Christ. And many a man, like Ignorance, unacquainted with his own heart, and with Christ as his Physician, may be taken unawares by a show of scriptural truth, and instead of really building on the Rock Christ Jesus, may be led to build his house upon the sand. One of the most subtle poisons of the age is the doctrine of human merit, which, like a cloud from the bottomless pit, or thick vapor from the caves of Antichrist, darkens the Gospel, and sends the soul wandering in the mazes of pride and error. Christ is our Saviour, and not our works ; Christ alone, and not works in any sense; Christ must be all, and in all, or we have no Saviour ; wherefore, let us be sure that we rest on him, for no righteousness can save us but his, nor is there any thing but his blood that can cleanse the soul from sin.
Since the dear hour that brought me to Thy foot,
The character of Ignorance is a type of many, who, having never been truly convinced of sin, remain unconscious of the desperate wickedness of
their own hearts, and of their utter helplessness in themselves as to salvation. As Hopeful said of him, there are abundance of such as he in our town, whole families, yea, whole streets, and that of Pilgrims too; and if there be so many in our parts, how many, think you, must there be in the place where he was born. Something like his was the character of Temporary, who was awakened once, and resolved to go on a pilgrimage, but suddenly becoming acquainted with one Save-self, he gave up the labor of it. This is what a great many persons do ; instead of despairing in themselves, and going to Christ alone to save them, they go to duties and pretended merits of their own, and when they do this, then farewell to Christ and his righteousness, and so, in reality, farewell to the hope of heaven.
This spirit of self-righteousness is a fearful delusion and snare to many on first setting out in this pilgrimage. It seems to be the most difficult thing in the world for the heart to come to Christ just as it is, wholly bankrupt, and to receive Christ, and to understand him, and to rest upon him, just as he is, our only, all-sufficient Saviour. It is the most difficult thing to come and buy the wine and milk of the Gospel without price; the sinner thinks he must bring something in his hand to purchase with, some duties, some merits, prayers at least, if nothing else, to buy forgiveness. And in truth the act of resting on Christ is taught only of God; a right appreciation and reception of Christ comes only from God's Spirit. So it is made for us the greatest, most important of all prayers, that the God
of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, would give unto ús the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him. Without this revelation of Jesus to the soul as a Saviour, a man may talk ever so devoutly of the cross of Christ, and yet be a mere Save-self after all. Redemption made easy, or every man his own Saviour, was a label which Mr. Coleridge, with great justness and severity of satire, once wrote over a collection of Socinian Tracts; but in our day the doctrine of justification by faith seems to be abandoned not only by those who deny the atonement and divinity of Christ, but by many who make a boast of those doctrines. Their theology is such a mixture of self-righteous morality, with something like the Gospel plan of salvation, as effectually destroys the saving efficacy of the Gospel, and yet satisfies the soul with the pretence and form of it. They make Christ a mere endorser on the ground of his own death, of the bill of merits, which the sinner presents on the ground of his own morality; they make Christ merely a helper, and not a Saviour.
But the Gospel must be every thing or nothing, and he that comes to Christ thinketh that he only needs him to make up his own deficiencies, does not believe in him as a Saviour at all, does not come to him as such.
Nevertheless, it is not merely Ignorance who is pleased with the delusions of self-righteousness; but real disciples sometimes, who think themselves rooted and grounded in faith and love, are led away by the same temptations. This the Pilgrims found to their cost, when they encountered
the Flatterer, by whom there can be little doubt that Bunyan intended to represent another enemy of justication by faith, under the guise of spiritual pride, a good opinion of themselves, and a reliance for salvation upon their own duties and degree of advancement in the spiritual life. This Flatterer led them in a way so like the right way at first, that they thought it was the right way, but so adroitly and insensibly did he decieve them, that at length their faces were turned from, instead of towards, the Celestial City, and then the white robe fell from his back, and disclosed his native blackness and deformity. Then also he threw a strong net over them, and left them to struggle in it, unable to get out. By such difficulties do men always become entangled, who leave the way of simple reliance on Christ and his righteousness.
There is also in our day a flattering delusion, by which this black man in white may be represented, which is the doctrine of perfection attained by saints in this world, which doctrine, by its fostering of pride and self-righteousness, has set many a man with his face from instead of towards the Celestial City. A man eager after spiritual attainments does certainly seem to be in the high road to heaven; but if he makes those attainments, instead of Christ, his Saviour, then certainly his face is turned, and his feet are tending the other way. So we need to be upon our watch against any thing and every thing, though it should come to us in the shape of an angel of light, which would turn us from a sole reliance upon Christ, or tempt us to a high opinion of ourselves.