« PreviousContinue »
attainments in religion, without a vital principle within, will be but as a carcass without breath, or as streams from a corrupt fountain. Whence it fol. lows, that they who are looking to sincere obedience for justification, must be strangers to true holiness; they not having first committed their souls to Christ, depended upon him alone for righteousness and strength, and thereby obtained supplies of grace for a life of holiness, from that only fountain of life. To seek justification from our sanctification, is to invert the order and method for our salvation; it is to produce the cause from the effect, to fetch the fountain from the streams. We must first, by a new living principle, be enabled to act faith in Christ, to receive him, and thereby be united to him, and be justified in the sight of God; otherwise all our religious and moral duties will be vain, a sacrifice without a heart, mere legal or slavish performances, that have nothing of true holiness in them. We must be " created in Christ Jesus unto good works,” if we would walk in them. We must be renewed in the spirit of our mind,” if we would “put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.”
We must be " quickened together with him.”
We are " sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ, once for all.” It is of Christ's fulness that we all receive, even grace for grace.” And " as the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine, no more can we, except we abide in Christ.”
Moreover, I think, it will be readily allowed, that we cannot live a life of holiness, while we remain children and servants of sin and Satan. It
must also be allowed, that the whole world of mankind are either the children of God or the children of the devil. This distribution divides the whole human race.
Now, then, if we are the children of God, we are already in a justified state, and therefore cannot depend upon our 'sincere obedience for our justification : but if the children of the devil, we cannot be holy, whatever pretences to sincere obedience we may make. An unjustified child of God, or a holy child of the devil, are each of them the greatest solecism that can be thought of. We become children of God by the same means by which
are justified. “ We are justified by faith.” And “ we are children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.” But all they who have not this faith, and are not thereby become the children of God, and justified in his sight, are so blinded by the god of this world, that they are utterly incapable, in their present state, of a life of true holiness.
The god of this world bath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them."
I may add to this, that the natural disposition of every one, while without an interest in Christ and in an unjustified state, is utterly repugnant to, and inconsistent with, a life of holiness. The character and state of all such is, that they are " servants of sin, and free from righteousness.” They are in trespasses and sins.” They are " after the flesh, and mind the things of the flesh.”. Their “ carnal mind is enmity to God; and is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be." This is the
case of every man while in a natural state ; a case which can never be remedied, till the law of the Spirit of life, in Christ Jesus, make us free from the law of sin and death.” And I even appeal to yourself to determine, whether life and death, light and darkness, God and Belial, cannot as well be reconciled, as these characters made consistent with a life of holiness. It is therefore evident, that we can have no sincere obedience until we are justified; and that we cannot live a holy life, while we depend upon sincere obedience for our justification.
I will only subjoin, that we may not expect the renewing and sanctifying influences of the Spirit of Christ, while we depend upon our own sincere obedience for justification. He has indeed made us gracious promises, that if we receive him, we shall have the privilege to become the children of God; and if we trust in him, we shall never be ashamed. But we must expect no better than to “ follow after the law of righteousness, and not attain to it, if we seek it not by faith, but, as it were, by the works of the law.” I have already shown you, Christ did not undertake our redemption to the end that he might assist us in working out a righteousness of our own, for our justification; nor may we expect any saving grace from him, till we depend upon him alone to do all in us and for us. When he is made of God unto us righteousness, through faith, we may then, but not till then, expect from him the supply of the Spirit, for progressive sanctification and redemption. They may rejoice in Christ Jesus (and none but they) who have no confidence in the flesh. Look, Sir, through the whole Bible, and see if you
to the tenor of it? If this be an article of our creed, why should it not be likewise an article of our devotion ? But yet, I think, the patrons of this scheme cannot be so hardy as to plead it before the throne of God. And I may venture to say, that every sensible, humble Christian, will use a quite contrary argument in prayer for pardon and acceptance with God. Such a man will find no plea to make at the throne of grace, but the infinite merits of the glorious Redeemer, with the boundless riches of God's free mercy in Christ. He can find no other source of continuing peace and hope, but an humble trust and confidence in the merit and righteousness of Christ. He durst not plead his own attainments before God, nor trust in them, as justly recommending and entitling him to his favour; but repairs by faith, immediately to the righteousness of Christ alone, for renewed pardon and acceptance. Thus you see, that as the Scriptures propose a way very different from that of our own obedience, for. the continuance of our justification, so the children of God have a quite contrary refuge for peace and pardon; and it would even shock a Christian ear, to. hear any devotions exactly adjusted and proportioned to these principles. It is therefore evident, that all pretences of this kind should be rejected, by those who would not be finally ashamed of their hope.
That we may have a further view of the absurdity. of this distinction, let us consider a little how this scheme will hang together, and see whether it will not necessarily destroy itself.
The patrons of this distinction do so much honour.
us, that a
to the Scriptures, which every where attribute our justification to faith, as to allow, that our first justification is by faith alone. But what are we to understand by that faith by which this first justification is obtained? The Papists tell us, that it is an infusion of a new principle of grace and charity. The Socinians and Arminians (at least some of them) teach, that it is the to credere, or an assent to the Gospel revelation, which justifies, as it is an act of our own, and an instance of obedience to the divine command. Some of our more modern refiners upon this scheme, choose to define this faith, by which we obtain our first justification, to be a receiving Christ as our Lord and Saviour; and tell submitting to his government has as great a hand in our justification, as our relying upon his merit, or hoping for salvation on account of what he has done and suffered for us. I think, all of them agree in this, that faith justifies, as it is an assent to the truth of the Gospel, and an entrance upon a life of obedience. None of them suppose this first justification to be our acceptance with God as righteous, by the righteousness of Jesus Christ imputed to us, and received by faith alone.
Now, then, what room is there for this distinction ? Is not faith, in this consideration of it, as much an act of obedience as any other point of conformity to the divine command, which we are capable of ? and is it not supposed to justify us, as it is our subjection to the new law of grace, and as it is our first act of obedience ? What then do they mean, by telling us of a first justification by faith alone, and of a secondary justification by works; when they