« PreviousContinue »
is being the irreversible decree of the almighty Lawgiver, that since all flesh has sinned and broken the law, therefore by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.
But if sinners cannot be justified by any inherent righteousness, what righteousness bave they to plead at the bar of justice? They have a righteousness aba solutely perfect and complete, called in scripture the righteousness of God, because the Lord our righteousness contrived and wrought it out. He came into the world, and took flesh in order to fulfil all righteousness. By his obedience and sufferings he satisfied all the demands of law and justice, and paid that immense debt which none of us could pay, and hereby he was made of God unto us righteousness : God the Father constituted and ordained him to be the perfect righteousness of believers. In him is their righteousness—“their righteousness is of me, saith the Lord.” Isa. liv. 17. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.
If you ask, how the righteousness of another can be made
yours ? It must be in the same way that Christ was made sin. He had no sin of his own, and yet he was made sin by imputation; and believers have no righteousness of their own, and yet are made righteous by imputation. Christ had no inherent sin of his own, nor have they any inherent righteousness ; but he was made sin, by having their sins imputed to him, and they are made righteous, by having his righteousness imputed to them. The manner of God's proceeding is the same in both cases. When the psalmist says, “ blessed is the man to whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity," how is this to be understood ? Has he no iniquity in him ? Yes, he has original and inherent sin; and if he says he has no sin, he deceives himself: but he is a blessed man, because the Lord does not impute sin to him, nor charge him with it. So when David describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputeth righteousness, has the man this righteousness in himself,
and is he inherently righteous ? No, but by an act of grace God accounts him righteous, and imputes righteousness unto him, and therefore he is blessed; and thus God imputes righteousness to them who bea lieve; not for a righteousness which is in them, but for a righteousness which he imputes to them. As their iniquities were laid upon Christ, and satisfaction for them required of him, as a debt is of the bondsman, although he had none of the money, so is the righteousness of Christ laid upon them. In like manner, as their sins were made his, so is his righteousness made theirs : he sin for them, not inherently, but by imputation, and they righteousness through him, not inherently, but by imputation.
This-is the righteousness in which alone a sinner can stand acquitted at God's bar. There he must make mention of this righteousness, even of this ouly: for none but this can answer the demands of the law, and expiate the curse of it, and this righteousness can be made his by no other
way than by God's imputing it to him, which, as it is the great truth held forth in my text, I will endeavour more fully to explain and defend by the following reasons.
And first, the ceremonial law taught this doctrine very clearly. Whenever a person had sinned, he was to bring his sacrifice to the priest, and to lay his hands upon its head, confessing his sins over it, and then the guilt was transferred to the sacrifice, and its blood was shed instead of his. This is mentioned several times in Leviticus iv. And of the scape-goat we read, Lev. xxvi. 21: “Aaron shall lay both his hands upon the head of the live goat, and confess over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their sins, putting them upon the head of the goat." All the sins of the children of Israel were passed over to the goat. But were they put into the goat, or were they inherent in him? No, this is too absurd to be supposed, but they were put upon the goat. And this was a very expressive image of our sins being laid upon Christ: for all the
sacrifices represented him. As the scape-goat had imputed to him all the people's iniquities, so had Christ all his people's iniquities imputed to him; and as the goat did bear upon bim all their iniquities, so Christ did bear all their sins in his own body upon the tree. What was prefigured by the type was fulfilled by the reality, when Christ suffered once for sin, the just for the unjust : for then he was made sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. Our righteousness is in him; this is a
Second argument. That righteousness which is our justification before God is in Christ. Believers. have it not in themselves. They have not an inherent righteousness, wrought out and attained by their own works, but their justifying righteousness was wrought out by another, and it is in bim: how then çan it be made theirs in any other way than by imputation ? Must it not be transferred to them in the same way that their sins were transferred to him ? They were imputed, not inherent. They were laid upon him, not into him. So his righteousness is in him, as their sins were in them, and it is imputed, hot inherent; it is not put into them, but upon them. Their righteousness is in him, and he is the Lord their righteousness, and consequently that righteous, ness for which they are justified caunot be in them; but it is made theirs when God imputes it to them, and they by faith receive it. The manner of receiving it, which is by faith, is the
Third argument I shall bring in support of the apostle's doctrine.
Faith is the only instrument which God is pleased to use in applying Christ's righteousness. The apostle calls it the righteousness of faith, because faith alone is employed in the application of this righteousness. It is never called the righteousness of any other grace but of faith. We never read of the righteousness of humility, meekness, or charity; these are of great price in the sight of God, but they have no office in justifying a sinner. This belongs solely to faith: for to him that worketh
not, but believeth, is righteousness imputed. It is not by working, but by believing, that sinners are justified. When they are convinced of sin, find no righteousness in themselves, hear the dreadful sentence of the law against the unrighteous, and feel in their guilty consciences some of the miseries which they deserve, then they are stirred up to seek for a righteousness in which they may stand acquitted before the judgment-seat of God. The scripture offers to them such a righteousness in Christ, and when God enables them to rest and to rely upon it for their justification, then they, by faith, have peace with God, through Jesus Christ their Lord. Thus the convinced sinner is forced to seek a righteousness out of himself, and to rely upon the righteousness of another, and how can this be made his or accounted his in any other way than by imputation? How can he be made righteous in. Christ, but by having Christ's righteousness imputed to him?
If these arguments be well considered, they will, I hope, establish the doctrine of my text: for they clearly prove, that God hath appointed the Lord Jesus Christ to be the only righteousness of his people. He was made sin for then, their sins being laid upon him, as the sins of the children of Israel were laid upon the scape-goat. And he was made of God unto them righteousness, and their righteousness is in him, not an inherent, but an imputed righteousness, and received by faith, which submits to be justified by the righteousness of another, and rests with full trust and confidence upon it. This is the fundamental doctrine of Christianity, and the direct contrary is the fundamental doctrine of popery. At the reformation the Lord raised up faithful witnesses, to bear their testimony against that reigning heresy of the Papists, which places merit in man's works, yea, such merit as to justify a sinner before God; yea, still greater merit, for they maintain that a man can do more than the moral law requires, and can perform works of supererogation, the merit of which may be imputed to another person, and yet at the same time they deny the imputation of Christ's merits. The first reformers preached boldly against those blasphemies, and that blessed servant of God, Luther, was bold indeed. He knew well the dangerous tendency of the doctrine of merit, and therefore he principally wrote and preached against it, and God gave him great success. A sinner made righteous by the righteousness of Christ is, as he used to say, the doctrine upon which a church stands or falls. Upon it our church was established, and has long stood ; but do we stand up. on it now? Are we all champions for the protestant doctrine, or are we in general departed from it? Alas! our enemies can tell, with triumph: they tell of the increase of the popish interest amongst us. - And why does it increase? Whence is it that they make so many converts? Is it not because our people are not well established in this protestant doctrine? If it was taught and preached more, our churches, would not be so empty as they are, nor the mass houses so full. Many of our people know not what it is to be a Protestant, and therefore they become an easy prey to the Papists, who are so busy and successful in making converts that they pretend they have, on one Lord's day, more communicants at the mass house in Lincoln's-Inn-Fields, than we have on the same day at all the churches in London. I fear this may be true; but is it not greatly alarming, and ought it not to stir up the protestant clergy, to try to put a stop to the spreading of popery? But how. can they do this more effectually than by laying the axe to the root, and striking at the doctrine of mertt, which is the fundamental error of the Papists? Overthrow this, and popery cannot stand. A man cannot be a Papist who believes that his justifying righteousness is in Christ, and whoever does not believe this, is not a Protestant. May the Lord raise us up faithful and able men, (for we greatly want them,) to defend his righteousness against them who have established