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Go Back To Part I. By justification with men, we stand clear and quit from just ground of reprehension with them. All by the
Justification By An Imputed
R I G H T E O U S N E S S
No Way To Heaven But By Jesus Christ Part 2
I. By justification with God, we stand clear, quit, free, or in a
saved condition, in the approbation of His holy law.
II. By justification with men, we stand clear and quit from just
ground of reprehension with them. All by the imputation of the righteousness
of Jesus Christ, in which we have faith working by love.
By JOHN BUNYAN
imputation of the righteousness of Jesus Christ, in which we have faith working by love.
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I should now come to the second conclusion, viz., that this
can be done by no other righteousness than that long ago performed by, and remaining
with, the person of Christ. But before I speak to that, I will a little further press
this, by urging for it several reasons.
The first reason.
First, Men must be justified from the curse while sinners in themselves, because
by nature all are under sin "All have sinned, and come short of the glory of
God. 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, and
become an unclean thing. Wherefore, whatever they touch with an intent to work out
righteousness thereby, they defile that also. And hence, as I have said, all the
righteousness 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 in
God's sight, in the eyes of Divine justice, they stand alike condemned "All
have sinned"; there is the poison. Therefore, as to God without Christ all throats
are 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; but
the other by a few. Oh! but God judgeth him.
First, For a hypocrite; because that notwithstanding he hath sinned, he would be
thought to be good and righteous. And hence it is that Christ calls such kind of
holy ones, "Pharisees hypocrites, Pharisees hypocrites," because by their
gay outside they deceived those that beheld them. But, saith he, "God sees your
hearts"; you are but like "painted sepulchers, within you are full of dead
men's bones," Prov. 30:12; Matt. 23:27-30; Luke 11:24; 16:15. Such is the root
from whence flows all their righteousness. But doth the blind Pharisee think his
state 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 like
this 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 such
work he doth. And hence it is, when Paul was converted to Jesus Christ, that he calls
the righteousness he had before, madness, blasphemy, injury; because what he did
to 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 "The
preaching of the cross," that is, Christ crucified, "is to them that perish
foolishness," I Cor. 1:18, 23. What! saith the merit-monger (mine ears have
heard all this), will you look for life by the obedience of another man? Will you
trust to the blood that was shed upon the cross, that run down to the ground, and
perished in the dust? Thus deridingly they scoff at, stumble upon, and are taken
in 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 own
But, I say, if all have sinned, if all are defiled, if the best of a man's righteousness
be 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 sending
his Son into the world; then must the best of "men be justified from the curse
in the sight of God while sinners in themselves"; because they still stand guilty
in the sight of God, their hearts are also still filthy infected "Though thou
wash thee with nitre, and take thee much soap, yet thine iniquity is marked before
me, 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 it
horrible wickedness, and the greatest enemy that Jesus hath. Wherefore, this vine
is the vine of Sodom; these clusters are the clusters of Gomorrah; these grapes are
grapes of gall; these clusters are bitter, they are the poison of dragons, and the
cruel venom of asps, Matt. 3:7; 23. No marvel, then, if John in his ministry gives
the first rebuke and jostle to such, still calling them serpents and vipers, and
concluding it is almost impossible they should escape the damnation of hell; for
of 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 curse
while sinners in themselves is, because of the exactions of the law. For were it
granted 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 sinners
before the justice of God, 1 Pet. 2:5; Rev. 7:14-16; Heb. 13:8. And hence it is that
holy men stand just in the sight of God from the curse, yet dare not offer their
gifts 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 continueth
not in all things that are written in the book of the law to do them. For they that
shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, are guilty of all, and convicted
of 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 of
And observe, the law leaveth thee not to thy choice, when, or when not , to begin
to keep it, but requireth thy obedience so soon as concerned, exactly, both as to
the matter and manner, and that before thou hast sinned against it; for the first
sin 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 thou
art carnal, sold under sin," Rom. 7:14.
Besides, the law being absolutely perfect, doth not only respect the matter and manner
as 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 "Thou
shalt 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, with
all, with all, with all; with all thy heart, with all thy soul, in all things, at
all times, else thou hadst as good do nothing. But "every imagination of the
thought of the heart of man is only evil continually," Gen. 6:5. The margin
hath it, the "whole imagination, the purposes, and desires"; so that a
good root is here wanting. "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately
wicked; who can know it?" Jer. 17:9. What thoughts, words, or actions can be
clean, sufficiently to answer a perfect law, that flows from this original; it is
impossible. "Men must therefore be justified from the curse in the sight of
God while sinners in themselves."
But further yet to open the case. There are several things that make it impossible
that 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 dominion
of 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, because
he is under the curse; and filth, because the law giveth him no power, neither can
he 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 the
duty 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 remains
a sinner. But,
Secondly, The law is so far from giving life or strength to do it, that it doth quite
the contrary. For,
It weakeneth, it discourageth, and dishearteneth the sinner, especially when it shews
itself in its glory; for then it is the ministration of death, and killeth all the
world. When Israel saw this, they fled from the face of God; they could not endure
that which was commanded; yea, so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, "I
exceedingly fear and quake," Exod. 20:18, 19; Heb. 12:20, 21. Yea, almost forty
years after, Moses stood amazed to find himself and Israel yet alive "Did ever
people," said he, "hear the voice of God speaking out of the midst of the
fire, 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 makes
the church itself cry out, A mediator! else we die, Exod. 20:19; Deut. 5:25-27; 18:15,
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, sin
revived; 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 the
offence 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 had
not 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 me
all 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 or
doctrine, but are occasioned by the meeting of, and having to do with, a thing directly
opposite. "The law is spiritual, I am carnal"; therefore every imposition
is rejected and rebelled against. Strike a steel against a flint, and the fire flies
about 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 have
too much to do with the law; the law of works is now in the conscience, imposing
duty upon the carnal part. This is the reason of the noise that you hear, and of
the 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 than
before; for their heart now recoileth desperately, opposeth blasphemously; it giveth
way to despair; and then, to conclude, there is no hope for hereafter; and so goeth
on 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 cannot
stand just from the curse in the sight of God but while sinful in himself."
Thirdly, As the law giveth neither strength nor life to keep it, so it neither giveth
nor worketh repentance unto life if thou break it, Do this and live, break it and
die; this is the voice of the law. All the repentance that such men have, it is but
that of themselves, the sorrow of the world (2 Cor. 7:10) that endeth in death, as
Cain's and Judas's did, even such a repentance as must be repented of either here
or 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 repentance
could not save them, they fell headlong under the law, Gen. 4:9-11; Matt. 27:3. The
law stays no man from the due reward of his deeds; it hath no ears to hear nor heart
to pity its penitent ones.
Fifthly, By the law, God will shew no mercy; for, "I will be merciful to their
unrighteousness," is the tenour of another covenant, Heb. 8:9, 10, &c. But
by 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 fulfil
the 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 for
passive as well as active obedience; yea, great contentedness in all thou sufferest
for thy transgressing against the law. So, then, wilt thou live by the law? Fulfil
it, then, perfectly till death, and afterwards go to hell and be damned, and abide
there till the law and curse for thy sin be satisfied for; and then, but not till
then, thou shalt have life by the law.
Tell me now, you that desire to be under the law, can you fulfil all the commands
of the law, and after answer all its demands? Can you grapple with the judgment of
God? 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 can
thy hands be strong in the day that I shall deal with thee? I, saith the Lord, have
spoken it; I will do it," Ezek. 22:14. Oh, it cannot be! "These must go
away into everlasting punishment," Matt. 25:46. So, then, "men must stand
just from the curse in the sight of God while sinners in themselves," or not
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 the
law may stand just before God thereby; and if so, then Christ fulfilled it for us
but as our example.
Answ. The consequences are not true; for by these words, "The doers of the law
shall be justified," there is no more proof of a possibility of saving thyself
by the law than there is by these: "For by the works of the law shall no man
living be justified in his sight," Gal. 2:16. The intent, then, of the text
objected is not to prove a possibility of man's salvation by the law, but to insinuate
rather an impossibility, by asserting what perfections the law requireth. And were
I to argue against the pretended sufficiency of man's own righteousness, I would
choose to frame mine argument upon such a place as this "The hearers of the
law are not just before God"; therefore the breakers of the law are not just
before 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 by
the 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 neither
doth the blessing nor curse in the law intend a supposition that men may be just
by the law, but rather to shew the perfection of the law, and that though a blessing
be annexed thereto, no man by it can obtain that blessing; for not the hearers of
the 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 it
might get to heaven, as he, it is false, as before was shewn "He is the end
of the law," or, hath perfectly finished it, "for righteousness to every
one 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 the
disproportion that is between him and us; for if we do it as he when yet we are weaker
than 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 greatest
work, they that take it in hand in full strength, as Christ; or he that takes it
in 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 indeed
the masters. But I challenge all the angels in heaven, let them but first sin as
we 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 before
God, then Christ fulfilled the law for himself; if so, he was imperfect before he
fulfilled 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 to
justify 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 have
sinned first; nor when we are in the middle, for we may afterwards miscarry. But
what if a man in this his progress hath one sinful thought? I query, is it possible
to 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 justified
by the law; what then? Art thou now in the favour of God? No, thou art fallen by
this thy perfection from the love and mercy of God: "Whosoever of you are justified
by the law are fallen from grace," Gal. 5:4, 5. He speaks not this to them that
are doing, but to such as think they have done it, and shews that the blessing that
these 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 by
the 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 are
saved alone by grace, through the redemption that is in Jesus Christ? Let them go
to that kingdom that God hath prepared for them that are fallen from grace. "Cast
out the bond-woman, with her son; for he shall not be heir with the son of the promise,"
But to pass this objection. Before I come to the next reason, I shall yet for the
further 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 against
the 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, as
to love God, abhor idols, reverence the name of God, keeping the sabbath, honouring
thy parents, abstaining from adultery, murder, theft, false-witness, and not to covet
what is thy neighbour's, these are the works of the law. Now he, saith Paul, that
is of these is under the curse of God. But what is it then to be of these? Why, to
be found in the practice of them, and there resting; this is the man that is under
the curse: not because the works of the law are wicked in themselves, but because
the man that is in the practice of them comes short of answering the exactness of
them, and therefore dies for his imperfections, Rom. 2:17.
The second scripture is that of the 11th verse of the same chapter, "But that
no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, the just
shall 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 therein
is 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 live
by 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 men
be in themselves, yet as such they are dead, and condemned to death by the law before
God. "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 man
that is just, or that so esteems himself by the law, and is here considered in a
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 the
This is the true intent of this place,
Because they carry with them a supposition that the just here intended may be excluded
life, 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 seeking
life by the law; as if the apostle had said, Ye Galatians! what are you doing? Would
you be saved by keeping the law? Would you stand just before God thereby? Do you
not 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 life
will 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 when
we have done our best, and are applauded of all the world for just, yet then God
sees sin in our hearts: "He putteth no trust in his saints; yea, the heavens
are not clean in his sight," Job 4:18. There is then a just man that perisheth
in his righteousness, if he want the faith of Christ, Job 15:15; for 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.
The third scripture is this "We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the
Gentiles, 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," 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 life
and 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 in
the law, and make their boast of God; that know his will, and approve the things
that are excellent; that are guides to the blind, and a light to them that are in
darkness; that are instructors of the foolish, teachers of babes, and which have
the 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 tithes
of all; and by the young man in the gospel "All these have I kept from my youth
up," Luke 18:11, 12; and by that of Paul "Touching the righteousness which
is in the law, blameless," Phil. 3. This was the Jew by nature, to do and trust
in this. Now these attaining afterwards the sound knowledge of sin, the depravedness
of nature, and the exactions of the law, fled from the command of the law to the
Lord Jesus for life. We know it; we that are taught of God, and that have found it
by sad experience, we, 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.
Surely, if righteousness had come by the law, Paul and the Jews had found it, they
being 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 the
law, that they might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of
To conclude this. If righteous men, through the knowledge of the gospel, are made
to leave the law of God, as despairing of life thereby, surely righteousness is not
to be found in the law; I mean that which can justify thee before God from the curse
who livest and walkest in the law.
I shall therefore end this second reason with what I have said before "Men must
be 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, or
by his own personal performances to it, is, because since sin was in the world God
hath 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, and
because of sin, the God of love gave the word of grace. Take the law, then, as God
hath established it, to wit, to condemn all flesh, Gal. 3:21; and then there is room
for the promise and the law, the one to kill, the other to heal; and so the law is
not against the promises, Rom. 4:14; but make the law a justifier, and faith is made
void, 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 thereof
for 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; for
finding fault with them of the law, "The days come, saith the Lord, that I will
make a new covenant with the house of Israel," &c., Heb. 8:7, 8. Give God
leave to find fault with us, and to condemn our personal performances to death, as
to our justification before him thereby; let him do it, I say; and the rather, because
he doth by the gospel present us with a better. And certainly, if ever he be pleased
with 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 that
have great power with the heart to bend it to seek life before God by the law; of
all which I would caution that soul to beware that would have happiness in another
First, Take heed thou be not made to seek to the law for life, because of that name
and majesty of God which thou findest upon the doctrine of the law, Exod. 20:1. God
indeed spake all the words of the law, and delivered them in that dread and majesty
to men that shook the hearts of all that heard it. Now this is of great authority
with some, even to seek for life and bliss by the law: "We know," said
some, "that God spake to Moses," John 9:28, 29. And Saul rejected Christ
even of zeal towards God, Acts 22:3. What zeal? Zeal towards God according to the
law, 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, saith
he, 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 upon
it, yet now he will not live by the law. Indeed, God is in the law, but yet only
as just and holy, not as gracious and merciful; so he is only in Jesus Christ. "The
law," the word of justice, "was given by Moses, but grace and truth came
by Jesus Christ," John 1:17. Wherefore, whatever of God thou findest in the
law, yet seeing grace and mercy is not there, let neither the name of God nor that
majesty that thou findest of him in the law prevail with thee to seek life by all
the holy commands of the law.
Secondly , Take heed that the law, by taking hold on thy conscience, doth not make
thee 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 being
bound by the law. Man is a law unto himself, and sheweth that the works of the law
are written in his heart. Now the law being thus nearly related to man, it easily
takes hold of the understanding and conscience; by which hold, if it be not quickly
broken off by the promise and grace of the gospel, it is captivated to the works
of 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 fast
thereto 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, whether
it be rightly or wrongly informed. How fast, then, will it hold when it knows it
cleaves to the law of God! Upon this account the condition of the unbeliever is most
miserable; for not having faith in the gospel of grace, through which is tendered
the 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 from
them, 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 "I
thought verily that I ought to do many things against the name of Jesus," and
so to have sought for life by the law; my reason told me so. For thus will reason
say: Here is a righteous law, the rule of life and death; besides, what can be better
than to love God, and my neighbour as myself? Again; God hath thus commanded, and
his 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 seeing
men 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 holiness
of 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 word
doth more condemn sin than the words of the ten commandments, it must needs be therefore
the most perfect rule for holiness; wherefore, saith reason, the safest way to life
and glory is to keep myself close to the law. But a little here to correct. Though
the law indeed be holy, yet the mistake as to the matter in hand is as wide as the
east from the west; for therefore the law can do thee no good, because it is holy
and 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 one
that accuseth you," saith Christ, "even Moses in whom you trust,"
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 strengtheneth
the otherthat is, the law strengtheneth our blindness, and bindeth the veil more
fast about the face of our souls. The law suiteth much our blindness of mind, "For
until 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 engraven
on stones, to wit, the ten commandments, that perfect rule for holiness which veil
is done away in Christ. But "even to this day, when Moses is read, the veil
is over their hearts"; they are blinded by the duties enjoined by the law from
the sight and hopes of forgiveness of sins by grace "Nevertheless when it (the
heart) 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 for
the kingdom of heaven, that he quite forgets the forgiveness of sins by mercy through
Christ. 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 in
the gospel. The law requireth obedience to all its demands upon pain of everlasting
burning; 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 or
believing. If it believe, it is dead to doing; if it be set to doing for life, it
is dead to believing. Besides, he that shall think both to do and believe for justification
before God from the curse, he seeks for life but as it were by the law, he seeks
for life but as it were by Christ; and he being not direct in either, shall for certain
be forsaken of both. Wherefore? "Because he seeks it not by faith, but as it
were 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 by
the law; for guilt, when charged close upon the conscience, is attended with such
aggravations, 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 blood
did roar by the law in his conscience, notwithstanding he knew much of the grace
of the gospel, he could hear nothing else but terror, the sound of blood; the murder
of Uriah was the only noise that he heard; wherefore he crieth to God that he would
make him hear the gospel: "Make me to hear joy and gladness, that the bones
which thou hast broken may rejoice," Psalm 51:8. And as he could not hear, so
neither 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 voice
from heaven! The serpents that bit the people in the days of old were types of guilt
and 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, and
so swelled up their eyes, which made it the more difficult for them to look up to
the brazen serpent, which was the type of Christ, John 3:14. Just so doth sin by
the law do now; it stings the soul, the very face of the soul, which is the cause
that looking up to Jesus, or believing in him, is so difficult a task in time of
terror of conscience.
This is not only so at present, but so long as guilt is on the conscience, so long
remains 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 so
kept other things out of his sight: sin, I say, when applied by the law. When the
law came to Paul, he remained without sight (Acts 9.) until the good man came unto
him with the word of forgiveness of sins.
Again; where the law comes with power, there it begetteth many doubts against the
grace of God; for it is only a revealer of sin, and the ministration of death; that
is, a doctrine that sheweth sin, and condemneth for the same; hence, therefore, as
was hinted before, the law being the revealer of sin, where that is embraced, there
sin 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 closer
any man sticks to the law for life, the faster sin doth cleave to him. "That
law," saith Paul, "which was ordained to be unto life, I found to be unto
death" (Rom. 7:10-14); for by the law I became a notorious sinner; I thought
to 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 is
hid from the most of men; but, as I have already told you, you see how it comes to
Man by nature is carnal, and the law itself is spiritual: now betwixt these two ariseth
great difference; the law is exceeding good, the heart exceeding bad; these two opposites
therefore (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 starteth
back, 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 at
the sense of judgment; the law still continueth to command to duty, and to condemn
for 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 blind
to the word of the gospel, that it can neither see nor understand anything but that
it 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 lean
to the law for life is, the false names that Satan and his instruments have put upon
it; 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 attempted
to 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 the
gospel, the Galatians were removed from the gospel of Christ; and Satan, by appropriating
to 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 Jesus
hath been preached in truth, and something of his doctrine known, it is not there
so easy to turn people aside from the sound of the promise of grace, unless it be
by the noise and sound of a gospel. Therefore, I say, the false apostles came thus
among 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 glorious
name. So again, for the ministers of Satan, they must be called the apostles of Christ
and ministers of righteousness which thing, I say, is of great force, especially
being accompanied with so holy and just a doctrine as the word of the law is; for
what better to the eye of reason than to love God above all, and our neighbour as
ourselves, which doctrine, being the scope of the ten words given on Sinai, no man
can contradict; for, in truth, they are holy and good. But here is the poison; to
set this law in the room of a mediator, as those do that seek to stand just before
God thereby; and then nothing is so dishonourable to Christ, nor of so soul-destroying
a 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 reason
of a man; and by giving the soul a semblance of heaven, to cause it to throw away
Christ, grace, and faith. Wherefore it behoveth all men to take heed of names, and
of appearances of holiness and goodness.
Lastly, Satan will yet go further; he will make use of something that may be at a
distance from a moral precept, and therewith bring souls under the law. Thus he did
with some of old; he did not make the Galatians fall from Christ by virtue of one
of the ten words, but by something that was aloof off; by circumcision, days and
months, that were Levitical ceremonies; for he knows it is no matter, nor in what
Testament 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 the
whole 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 distance
from 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 condemneth
all men to the wrath and judgment of God. I have often wondered when I have read
how God crieth out against the Jews for observing his own commandment (Isa. 1); but
I 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, besides
the faith of Jesus.
Let men therefore warily distinguish betwixt names and things, betwixt statute and
commandment, 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 the
gospel; and if thou canst keep them distinct in thy understanding and conscience,
neither names nor things, neither statutes nor commandments, can draw thee from the
faith of the gospel. And that thou mayest yet be helped in this matter, I shall now
come to speak to the second conclusion.
The second position.
That men can be justified from the curse before God while sinners in themselves by
no other righteousness than that long ago performed by, and remaining with, the person
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 performed
by 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 person
of 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 purged
our sins, he sat down on the right hand of God," Heb. 1:2, 3. I have shewed
that in Christ, for the accomplishing of righteousness, there was both doing and
suffering; doing, to fulfil all the commands of the law; suffering, to answer its
penalty for sin. This second is that which in this to the Hebrews is in special intended
by the apostle, where he saith, he hath "purged our sins," Heb. 9:14; that
is, by his precious blood; for it is that alone can purge our sins, either out of
the sight of God or out of the sight of the soul. Now this was done by himself, saith
the apostle; that is, in or by his personal doings and sufferings. And hence it is
that when God had rejected the offerings of the law, he said, "Lo, I come. A
body hast thou prepared me, to do thy will, O God," Heb. 10:5-8. Now by this
will of God, saith the Scripture, we are sanctified. By what will? Why, by the offering
up of the body of Jesus Christ; for that was God's will, that thereby we might be
a habitation for him; as he saith again "Jesus also, that he might sanctify
the 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 "For
by one offering hath he perfected for ever them that are sanctified." Now by
this word "at once," or by "one offering," is cut off all those
imaginary sufferings of Christ which foolish men conceive of; as, that he in all
ages hath suffered, or suffereth for sin in us. No; he did this work but once: "Not
that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entered into the holy place
every year with the blood of others; for then must he often have suffered since the
foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world," in the time
of 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 suffered
but once; and that once, now; now once; now he is God and man in one person; now
he hath taken the body that was prepared of God; now once in the end of the world
hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself; by the offering up
of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
It further appears, in that by his resurrection from the dead, the mercies of God
are made sure to the soul, God declaring by that, as was said before, how well pleased
he is by the undertaking of his Son for the salvation of the world: "And as
concerning 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 then
confirm all sure to us by his resurrection from the dead. So that by the rising of
that 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 addressing
himself to the work, I conclude "That men can be justified from the curse before
God while sinners in themselves by no other righteousness than that long ago performed
by 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 the
will of God, at once, even then when he took the prepared body upon him "By
the will of God we are sanctified, through the offering up of the body of Jesus Christ
once for all."
This being so, the second position is also manifest, namely, that the righteousness
by 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 works
and merits of his own, then that righteousness must of necessity be inherent in him
alone, and ours only by imputation; and hence it is called, in that fifth to the
Rom., the gift, the "gift of righteousness"; because neither wrought nor
obtained by works of ours, but bestowed upon us, as a garment already prepared, by
the 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; I
mean 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, Jesus
Christ. 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 judgment
came upon all to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift
came upon all men to justification of life. For as by one man's disobedience many
were 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 righteousness
of 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 works
and acts of obedience did complete it, even the obedience of one, of one man, Jesus
Christ; and so ours only by imputation. It is improper to say, Adam's eating of the
forbidden fruit was personally and inherently an act of mine. It was personally his,
and imputatively mine; personally his, because he did it; imputatively mine, because
I 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 personal
righteousness are truly found in those that are in him by electing love and unfeigned
faith, even holy and heavenly dispositions: but a personal act is one thing, and
the 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 in
a manner universal, extending itself unto the most, or all. This the case of Adam
and Christ doth manifest the sin of one is imputed to his posterity; the righteousness
of 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 of
Jesus Christ," &c., Phil. 3:6-8; and that by way of opposition to the righteousness
of 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 righteousness
which 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 righteousness
through which we stand just in the sight of God by them is limited and confined to
a 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. "And
their righteousness is of me, saith the Lord": of me, not of themselves; of
me, not of the law. And again; "Surely shall one say, in the Lord have I righteousness
and strength." Now, as I have already said, all this is to be understood of
the righteousness that was fulfilled by acts and works of obedience, which the person
of 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 naturally
and 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 points
of the law for us; but the righteousness by which we stand just before God is a righteousness
consisting of works and deeds, of the doings and sufferings of such a person who
also is essentially righteousness. And hence, as before I have hinted, we are said
to be justified by the obedience and blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, by the doings
and sufferings of the Son of God. And hence again it is that he first is called King
of righteousness; that is, a King of righteousness as God-man, which of necessity
supposeth 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, but
himself; 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 Eternal
Son of the Father, without his being considered as our priest and undertaker "He
hath 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 righteousness
inherent (only) in Christ, because a righteousness performed by him alone.
Now that righteousness by which we stand just before God must be a righteousness
consisting of personal performances; the reason is, because persons had sinned, this
the nature of justice requireth, that "since by man came death, by man should
come 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 righteousness
for them in their nature: that is a blessed word, to you "To you is born this
day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord," Luke 2:11; to
you, not to angels; to you is born a Saviour.
Thirdly, It is yet further evident that the righteousness by which we stand just
before God from the curse is a righteousness inherent, not in us, but Christ; because
it is a righteousness inherent, not in us, but Christ; because it is a righteousness
besides, and without the law itself. Now take away the law, and you take away the
rule 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 witnessed
by the law and the prophets," Rom. 3:21. So, then, by such a righteousness we
are 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 the
point of our justification with God?
Answ. The moral law, or that called the ten commandments. Therefore we are neither
commanded 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. Because
we are justified not by that of the law, but by the righteousness of God without
the law; that is, without its commanding of us, without our obedience to it: "Freely
by his grace, through the redemption that is in Jesus Christ; whom God hath set forth
to be a propitiation, through faith in his blood," Rom. 3:24, 25. This is the
righteousness of God without the law; that is, without any of our obedience to the
law. Wherefore the righteousness by which we stand just in the sight of God cannot
be inherent in us, but in Christ the King thereof.
Fourthly, This is further made apparent by the capacity that God will consider that
soul in to whom he imputeth justifying righteousness; and that is, "as one that
worketh 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 would
be works after faith received; but it is evident that these do not; therefore the
righteousness that justifies us from the curse before God is a righteousness inherent
only 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 it
as the law of works for life, Gal. 3:10. For this must stand a truth for ever, Whatsoever
justifieth us must be justified by the moral law, for that is it that pronounceth
the curse; unless, then, that curse be taken away by the work, the work cannot justify
us before God, Rom. 3:21. But the curse cannot be taken away but by a righteousness
that is first approved of by that law that so curseth; for if that shall yet complain
for 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; because
the law, once broken, pronounceth death, expecteth death, and executeth the same
on him that will stand to the judgment of the law; but no work of a believer is capable
of answering this demand of the law; therefore none of his works can justify him
before God; for the law, that notwithstanding complaineth.
No works of faith can justify us from the curse before God, because of the want of
perfection that is in the greatest faith in us. Now if faith be not perfect, the
work 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, that
faith is not capable of this kind of perfection it is evident, because when men here
know 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 judgment
of the justice of God. So, then, when thou hast done all thou canst, thou hast done
but part of thy duty, and so art short of justification from the curse by what thou
Besides, it looks too like a monster that the works of faith should justify us before
God; because then faith is turned, as it were, with its neck behind it. Faith, in
its own nature and natural course, respecteth the mercy of God through the Mediator
Jesus Christ, and, as such, its virtue and excellency is to expect justification
by grace through him; but by this doctrine faith is turned round about, and now makes
a life out of what itself hath done: but methinks faith should be as noble as its
fruits, 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 purifieth
the 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 say
there 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 to
itself; besides, this is the way to make even the works of faith the mediator between
God and the soul, and so by them thrust Christ out of doors; therefore it must trust
in Christ; and if so, then no man can be justified from the curse before God by the
works that flow from faith.
To put all out of doubt; the saint, when he hath done what he can to bring forth
good works by faith, yet he dares not shew these works before God but as they pass
through the Mediator Christ, but as they are washed in the blood of the Lamb. And
therefore Peter saith, those sacrifices of ours that are truly spiritual are only
then accepted of God (1 Pet. 2:5) when offered up by Jesus Christ. And therefore
it 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's
wife, that she should be "arrayed in fine linen, clean and white; which white
linen is the righteousness of saints." This fine linen, in my judgment, is the
works 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, "They
washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb; and therefore they
stand before the throne of God," Rev. 7:14, 15. Yea, therefore it is that their
good 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 through
Jesus Christ, even through his intercession and blood. So, then, Christ doth justify
both our person and works, not by way of approbation, as we stand in ourselves or
works before God, but by presenting of us to his Father by himself, washing what
we 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 forth
of his presence.
Is justifying righteousness to be found in the person of Christ only? Then this should
admonish 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 blaspheme
the 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's
providing; and that only wherewith the justice of the law must be well pleased. Wherefore
take 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 to
his 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 shall
die. 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 in
the conditions of that covenant. The conditions of that covenant are, that a righteousness
shall be brought into the world that shall please the justice of God and answer (and
so 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 the
Mediator 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 to
bring in these conditions, to wit, everlasting righteousness. And hence it is that
God hath said, "Christ shall be the covenant of the people"that is, he
shall be our conditions to Godward, Dan. 9:23, 24. He therefore is all our righteousness
as 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 his
Spirit, 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 Christ
is all in all, and no man anything at all. "He hath made with me an everlasting
covenant"; with me, as I stand in my head Christ, who, because he hath brought
in everlasting righteousness, therefore hath removed the curse of the law; wherefore
he 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 away
by Christ, as before is discoursed. Look, then, upon Christ as the man, the mediator,
undertaker, and accomplisher of that righteousness in himself, wherein thou must
stand just before God; and that he is the covenant or conditions of the people to
God-ward, always having in himself the righteousness that the law is well pleased
with, and always presenting himself before God as our only righteousness.
That this truth may be the more heartily inquired into by thee, consider thine own
perfections; 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's
church is an hospital of sick, wounded, and afflicted people; even as when he was
in 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 and
life 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 from
top to toe polluted, and that therefore his service cannot be clean as to justify
him from the curse before God, he is the man that must needs die in despair and be
damned, or must trust in Jesus Christ for life.
Further, This rule I would have all receive that come to Jesus Christ for life and
Not to stick at the acknowledgment of sin, but to make that of it which the law makes
of it: "Acknowledge thine iniquity," saith the Lord, Jer. 3:13. This is
a hard pinch (I know what I say) for a man to fall down under the sense of sins by
acknowledging 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 unreasonable
and aggravating circumstances; to acknowledge them in their God-offending and soul-destroying
nature, especially when the conscience is burdened with the guilt of them. Yet this
is duty "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive," 1
John 1:9; yea, to this is annexed the promise, "He that confesseth, and forsaketh
them, shall find mercy." This made David, as it were, lay claim to the mercy
of God "Wash me thoroughly (said he) from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from
my 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 not
lessen them; do not speak of them before God after a mincing way "Acknowledge
thine iniquities, that thou hast sinned against the Lord thy God, and hast scattered
thy 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 only
acknowledge them, and there stop; stop, I say, from attempting to do aught to present
us good before God, but only to receive the mercy offered.
"Only acknowledge thine iniquities." Men are subject to two extremes, either
to confess sins notionally and by the halves, or else, together with the confession
of 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, because
the 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, hear
nothing, but thine own sins and Christ's righteousness "Only acknowledge thine
iniquities." Now the Saviour and the soul comes rightly together; the Saviour
to 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 came
to God, lieth down in her shame, and her confusion covereth her; and so lieth till
pardon comes, Jer. 3:25.
THE SECOND USE.
I come now to the second use, Have faith in Christ. But what are we to understand
Answer: Faith importeth as much as to say, receive, embrace, accept of, or trust
in, the benefit offered. All which are, by holy men of God, words used on purpose
to shew that the mercy of God, the forgiveness of sins, and eternal life, are not
to be had by doing or by the law; but by receiving, embracing, accepting, or trusting
to the mercy of God through Christ "We believe that through the grace of our
Lord 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 what
the 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 invitation
in most plain and suitable sentences; as, "That Christ came into the world to
save sinners, Christ died for our sins, Christ gave himself for our sins, Christ
bare our sins in his body on the tree; and, That God for Christ's sake hath forgiven
you." Further, as the invitations are plain and easy, so the threatenings to
the 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 gave
them up to strong delusions, that they all might be damned," Mark 16:16; 2 Thess.
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; it
throweth out all our righteousness; it makes the soul poor in itself; it liveth upon
God and Christ, as the almsman doth upon his lord; it consenteth to the gospel that
it is true; it giveth God and Christ the glory of their mercy and merit; it loveth
God for his mercy, and Jesus Christ for his service; whatever good it doth, it still
crieth, 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 Christians
labour to understand it, and distinguish it aright, and to separate it from the law
and all man's righteousness; and remember that it is a receiving of mercy, an embracing
of forgiveness, an accepting of the righteousness of Christ, and a trusting to these
for 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 draw
towards a conclusion.
First, The more thou believest for remission of sins, the more of the light of the
glorious gospel of Christ thou receivest into thy soul "For therein is the righteousness
of God revealed, from faith to faith," Rom. 1:16, 17; that is, according to
the decree of faith. Little faith seeth but little, but great faith seeth much; and
therefore 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 hid
all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge," Col. 2:2, 3. In him therefore it
finds and sees those heights and depths of gospel mysteries that are nowhere else
to be found; nay, let a man be destitute of faith, and it is not possible he should
once think of some of them.
By this means the Holy Spirit is plentifully received, Gal. 3:1-3. Now the Spirit
of 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 great
delight 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 being
the searcher of the deep things of God; by these therefore the mysteries of heaven
are revealed and received. And hence it is that the mystery of the gospel is called
the "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 thyself
to the obedience of faith; live upon thy justifying righteousness.
And never think that to live always on Christ for justification is a low and beggarly
thing, and as it were a staying at the foundation; for let me tell you, depart from
a sense of the meritorious means of your justification with God, and you will quickly
grow light, and frothy, and vain. Besides, you will always be subject to errors and
delusions; for this is not to hold the head from or through which nourishment is
administered, 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 stress
of all; and without it nothing that is framed can be supported, but must inevitably
fall to the ground. Again; why not live upon Christ alway? and especially as he standeth
the 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 curse
of the law. Can there be any greater comfort ministered to thee than to know thy
person stands just before God? Just and justified from all things that would otherwise
swallow thee up? Is peace with God and assurance of heaven of so little respect with
thee that thou slightest the very foundation thereof, even faith in the blood and
righteousness of Christ? and are notions and whimsies of such credit with thee that
thou must leave the foundation to follow them? But again; what mystery is desirable
to be known that is not to be found in Jesus Christ, as Priest, Prophet, or King
of saints? In him are hid all the treasures of them, and he alone hath the key of
David to open them, Col. 2:1, 2; Rev. 3:7. Paul was so taken with Jesus Christ, and
the knowledge of this, that he was crucified for us, that he desired, nay, determined
not 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 former
days is not in Christ, but in thy faith; he is the same, as fresh, and as good, and
as 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 with
Jesus Christ; his blood is always precious with God; his merits being those in which
justice hath everlasting rest, why shouldst thou wander or go about to change thy
way? 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 as
ever; 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 or
no, thou sinnest in all thy works. How, then, canst thou stand clear from guilt in
thy soul who neglectest to act faith in the blood of the Lamb? There thou must wash
thy robes, and there thou must make them white, Rev. 7:14, 15.
I conclude, then, thou art a polluted, surfeited, corrupted, hardened creature, whosoever
thou 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 gospel
of 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 terminates
not within, the bounds of the gospel of Jesus Christ, is not worthy the study of
the sons of God; neither is it food for the faith of Jesus Christ (John 6:51); for
that is the flesh of Christ (and that is eternal life.) Whither will you go? Beware
of 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 revelation
in the knowledge of Christ," Ephes. 1:17; John 14:15; 16; and that without and
besides the Lord Jesus it discovereth nothing; it is sent to testify of him; it is
sent to bring his words to our remembrance; it is sent to "take of his things
and shew them unto us." Wherefore, never call that the Spirit of Jesus which
leads you away from the blood and righteousness of Christ; that is but the spirit
of delusion and of the devil, whose teachings end in perdition and destruction. Tempt
not 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. I
say, tempt him not, lest you be destroyed by the serpents, by the gnawing guilt of
sin; 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 Godward
in 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 manageth
in our heart. This is that which made Paul always triumph and rejoice in God and
the Lord Jesus; he lived the life of faith; for faith sets a man in the favour of
God by Christ, and makes a man see that what befals him in this life, it shall, through
the wisdom and mercy of God, not only prove for his forwarding to heaven, but to
augment his glory when he comes there. This man now stands on high, he lives, he
is rid of slavish fears and carking cares, and in all his straits he hath a God to
go to. Thus David, when all things looked awry upon him, "encouraged himself
in the Lord his God," 1 Sam. 30:6. Daniel also believed in his God, and knew
that 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 confident
in our God, and with boldness to come into his presence, claiming privilege in what
he 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 the
mercy of God, and riches of Christ, and glory in the world to come. This man can
look upon all the dangers in hell and earth without paleness of countenance; he shall
meditate 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 his
afflictions; for faith shews him that his best part is safe, that his soul is in
God's special care and protection, purged from sin in the blood of Christ. Faith
also shews him that after a little while he shall be in the full enjoyment of that
which now he believes is coming: "We, through the Spirit, wait for the hope
of righteousness by faith," Gal. 5:5. Wherefore, upon this ground it is that
James exhorteth the saints to whom he wrote to patience, because they knew the harvest
would in due time come, James 5:7-11. Faith lodgeth the soul with Christ: "I
know," saith Paul, "on whom I have believed" (and to whom I have committed
my soul), "and am persuaded (I believe it) that he is able to keep that which
I have committed unto him against that day"; therefore it were no shame to him
to wear a chain for his name and sake. Oh! it is a blessed thing to see, I say, by
the faith of the Lord Jesus, that we are embarked in the same ship with him; this
will help us greatly "both to hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the
Lord," 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 from
heaven, thereby to manage thine every day's work with life and vigour; yea, every
look by faith upon Jesus Christ as thine doth this great work. It is said, when Paul
saw 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 strength
and 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 the
same 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 here
as in any other command of God, John 6:46. "This is his commandment, that you
believe," 1 John 3:23. Believe, therefore, in the name of the Lord Jesus. This
is 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 therefore
that is truly "The sin that doth so easily beset us," Heb. 12:1. The light
of nature will shew those sins that are against the law of nature; but the law of
faith is a command beyond what flesh or nature teacheth; therefore to live by faith
is so much the harder work; yet it must be done, otherwise thine other duties profit
thee nothing. For if a man give way to unbelief, though he be most frequent in all
other duties besides, so often as he worshippeth God in these he yet saith, God is
a liar in the other, even because he hath not believed: "He that believeth not
God, hath made him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of his
Son. And this is the record, that God hath given us eternal life, and this life is
in his Son," 1 John 5:10, 11. So, then, when thou givest way to unbelief; when
thou dost not venture the salvation of thy soul upon the justifying life that is
in Christ, that is, in his blood, &c.at once, thou givest the lie to the whole
testament of God; yea, thou tramplest upon the promise of grace, and countest this
precious 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 faith
pleaseth 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 faith
Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain"; for by faith Abel
first justified the promise of the Messias, by whom a conquest should be obtained
over the devil, and all the combination of hell against us: then he honoured Christ
by believing that he was able to save him; and in token that he believed these things
indeed, he presented the Lord with the firstlings of his flock (Heb. 11:4), as a
remembrance 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 before
him first. But unbelief holdeth men under their guilt, because they have not believed
in 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, of
whom the Father hath spoken so worthily; therefore what duties or acts of obedience
soever 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 they
endeavour to keep it, they sin; they sin, I say, upon a double account, first, because
they do it but imperfectly; and, secondly, because they yet stay upon that, resisting
that which is perfect, even that which God hath appointed. It mattereth not, as to
justification from the curse, therefore, men wanting faith, whether they be civil
or 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 all
men, 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 damned
in hell. "He that believeth not shall be damned," Mark 16:16. Faith is
the very quintessence of all gospel obedience, it being that which must go before
other duties, and that which also must accompany whatever I do in the worship of
God, if it be accepted of him. Here you may see a reason why the force and power
of hell is so bent against believing; Satan hateth all the parts of our Christian
obedience, 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 tempted
them, and so his labour had been in vain," 1 Thess. 3:5. Indeed, where faith
is wanting, or hath been destroyed, all the labour is in vain, nothing can profit
any 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 displeasing
to 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 things
and pleasures above, and also those beneath. Faith discovereth to the soul the blessedness,
and goodness, and durableness of the one; the vanity, foolishness, transitoriness
of the other. Faith giveth credit to all things that are written in the law and in
the prophets, Acts 24:14, both as to the being, nature, and attributes of God; the
blessed undertaking of the Lord Jesus Christ; the glory of heaven and torments of
hell; the sweetness of the promise and terror of the threatenings and curses of the
word; by which means Satan is greatly frustrated in his assaults when he tempteth
either to love this world or slight that which is to come, for he can do no great
matter in these things to any but those who want the faith "In vain is the snare
laid in the sight of any bird"; therefore he must first blind, and hold blind
the minds of men, "that the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the
image 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, whatever
Satan suggests, either about the glory of this world, the sweetness of sin, the uncertainty
of 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 righteousness
of Jesus, and presents it so perfect in that, that whatever he can do, with all his
cunning, 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 and
comfort of it. The man, therefore, standing here, stands shrouded under that goodly
robe that makes him glister in the eye of justice. Yea, all the answer that Satan
can 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 Judah
of his God, of the Lord of hosts, though, as to their own persons, their land was
filled 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 the
power of the enemy, and dwells safely under the dominion of grace.
Faith keeps the soul from giving credit to any of his insinuations; for whatever
Satan saith, either about the acceptance of my person or performances, so long as
I 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 hold
the 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 unbelief
fill the soul full of sorrow? Faith fills it full of the joy of the Holy Ghost? In
a word, doth unbelief bind down thy sins upon thee? Why, faith in Jesus Christ releaseth
thee of them all.
As faith keeps the soul from giving credit to the insinuations of Satan, so, when
he makes his assaults, it over-masters him, and makes him retreat; "Resist the
devil, and he will flee from you.Whom resist steadfast in the faith," James
4:7; 1 Pet. 5:9. Believe, as I have already said, that God loveth you, that the blood
of Christ was shed for you, that your person is presented complete before him, through
the righteousness of Christ, and Satan must give place; thy crediting of the gospel
makes him fly before thee; but thou must do it steadfast in the faith; every waver
giveth him advantage. And indeed this is the reason that the godly are so foiled
with his assaults, they do not resist him steadfast in the faith; they often stagger
through unbelief. Now, at every stagger he recovereth lost ground again, and giveth
battle another time. Besides, by this and the other stagger he taketh heart to attempt
by 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, wherewith
you 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 know
the power and worth of faith to quench them but he that hath it, and hath power to
5. Lastly, if justifying righteousness be alone to be found in the person of Jesus
Christ, 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 blessed
The first sort, though they may seek life, yet, thus continuing, are never like to
find it. Wherefore? Because they seek it not by faith, but, as it were, by the works
of the law. Indeed, they will not be merit-mongers; they will not wholly trust to
the law; they will partly venture on Christ, and partly trust to the law. Well, but
therefore they shall be damned, because they trust to Christ but in part, and in
part, as it were, to the works of the law; for such sinners make Christ but a Saviour
in part, why then should he be their Saviour in whole? No, because they halt between
Christ and the law, therefore they shall fall between Christ and the law; yea, because
they 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 shall
receive any thing of the Lord.
This was the case of many in the primitive times, for whose sake this caution was
written; for the devout and religious Jew and proselyte, when they fell away from
the word of the gospel, they did not fall to those gross and abominable pollutions
in which the open profane, like sows and swine, do wallow, but they fell from the
grace of God to the law; or, at least, did rest betwixt them both, doubting of the
sufficiency of either; and thus, being fearful, they distrust; wherefore, being found
at 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 the
lake (with them) that burns with fire and brimstone. The reason is, because where
Christ is rejected sin remaineth, and so the wrath of God for sin. Neither will he
be a Saviour in part; he must be all thy salvation, or none "Let not that man
think 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! Yet
he is a religious man, for he prays; he is a seeking man, a desiring man, for he
prays; but he halts between two, he leaneth to his righteousness, and committeth
iniquity. He is afraid to venture all upon the Lord Jesus Christ. Let not that man
think of receiving any thing from the Lord.
Yet the words suggest that he is apt to think he shall receive something, because
God is merciful, because his promise is great; but this expectation is by this word
cut off, and this sinner is cast away. Let not that man think, let him forbear to
think, of having anything at the hand of God. The Israelites thought to go up to
the land the day after they had despised it. Agag thought the bitterness of death
was past even that day in which he was hewn to pieces. Rechab and Baanah his brother
thought to have received reward of David that day they were hanged over the pool
in 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 blessed
righteousness, the whole book is conviction to them, and shall assuredly, if it come
to their hands, rise up in judgment against them. They have rejected the wisdom and
mercy of God; they have rejected the means of their salvation; they have trampled
upon the blood of the Son of God; wherefore judgment waiteth for them, and fiery
indignation, which shall devour the adversaries.
To conclude. One word also to you that are neglecters of Jesus Christ: "How
shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation?" Here, then, we may see how
we 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 are
at present in a state of condemnation; of condemnation, "because they have not
believed 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) than
the 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 the
great assize; that is the man whose sins are still his own, and upon whom the wrath
of God abideth, verse 36; for the ease and peace of such, though it keep them far
from fear, is but like to that of the secure thief, that is ignorant that the constable
standeth at the door; the first sight of an officer makes his peace to give up the
ghost. Ah, how many thousands that can now glory that they never were troubled for
sin against God; I say, how many be there that God will trouble worse than he troubled
cursed Achan, because their peace (though false, and of the devil) was rather chosen
by them than peace by Jesus Christ, than "peace with God by the blood of his
cross," Col. 1:20.
Awake, careless sinners, awake! and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give you
light. Content not yourselves either with sin or righteousness, if you be destitute
of Jesus Christ (Eph. 5:14); but cry, cry, oh cry to God for light to see your condition
by; 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 of
Christ's finishing, of God's accepting, and that which alone can save the soul from
the stroke of eternal justice, Rom. 1:17.
There are six things that on man's part are the cause he receiveth not the gospel
of Christ, and so life by him.
They see not their state by nature, how polluted they are with original sin, Eph.
They see not the justice of God against sin; they know not him that hath said, "Vengeance
belongeth 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 stoop
to 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 for
their own vain-glorious righteousness; and the fools think that because they are
commended 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 the
legalist's bane, it is the civilian's bane, it is the formalist's bane, yea, which
yet is stranger, it is the bane of the vicious and debauched also; for though there
be a generation that, to one's thinking, have not regard to righteousness, yet watch
them 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 sake
of 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 justification
that 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 turn
thy wanton thoughts into heavy sighs after God's mercy in Jesus Christ, lest thou
also come into their place of torment.
Before I conclude this use, I would lay down a few motives, if so be thou mayest
be prevailed with to look after thine own everlasting state.
Consider, God hath put man, above all the creatures in this visible world, into a
state of abiding for ever; they cannot be annihilated, they shall never again be
turned into nothing, but must live with God or the devil for ever and ever. And though
the 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 come
into judgment as man must, nor receive that dismal sentence for sin and transgression
as man shall; this, therefore, is worthy to be considered with seriousness of all
that 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 of
fire, 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 justice
shall burn up all thy rags of righteousness wherewith by the law thou hast clothed
thyself, and will leave thee nothing but a soul full of sin to bemoan, and eternal
burnings to grapple with. Oh, the burnings that will then beset sinners on every
side, and that will eat their flesh and torment their spirit with far more terror
than if they were stricken with scorpions! And observe it, the torment will there
be higher than other where there is the guilt of neglecting Jesus Christ, he being
indeed the Saviour, and him that was sent on purpose to deliver men from the wrath
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 shall
be "because, even because thou hast withstood the time of thy visitation,"
and not received grace when offered: "My God shall cast them away, because they
did not hearken unto him," Luke 19:41-43; Hos. 9:17. Cain was driven out from
the presence of God, for aught I know, some hundreds of years before his death; Ishmael
was cast away after seventeen years of age; Esau lived thirty or forty years after
he had sold his birthright. Oh, many, very many are in this condition! for though
God 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, Acts
13:46-48. So when the Jews contradicted and blasphemed, "the Gentiles gladly
received 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 death
to swallow thee up. And tell me, will it not be dreadful to be carried from under
the gospel to the damned, there to lie in endless torment, because thou wouldst not
be 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-abhorring
sinners 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 death
to life"; but they would not take shelter there; they would venture to meet
the justice of God in its fury, wherefore now it shall swallow them up for ever and
ever. And let me ask further, is not he a madman who, being loaded with combustible
matter, will run headlong into a fire upon a bravado? or, that being guilty of felony
or 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 as
if he were a viper, they are overcome, and cast off for ever by the just judgment
of the law. But ah! how poorly will these be able to plead the virtues of the law
to which they have cleaved, when God shall answer them, "Whom dost thou pass
in beauty? go down, and be thou laid with the uncircumcised," Ezek. 32:19. Go
down 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 remembrance
that 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 delay
no longer, the time of reward being come. I say again, bring thy end home; put thyself
in thy thoughts into the last day thou must live in this world, seriously arguing
thus, How if this day were my last? How if I never see the sun rise more? How if
the first voice that rings tomorrow morning in my heavy ears be, "Arise, ye
dead, and come to judgment?" Or, how if the next sight I see with mine eyes
be the Lord in the clouds, with all his angels, raining floods of fire and brimstone
upon 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? Will
my profession, or the faith I think I have, carry me through all the trials of God's
tribunal? 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 should
sinners be in this work of remembering things to come, of laying to their heart the
greatness 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.
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