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We are to hope in his mercy, not because we can allure him to the exercise of it, or recommend ourselves to him by any thing we can do; but because he is “ infinite in goodness, and delighteth in mercy.” The gifts and calling of God are without repentance. I
may add, we are not to do good works with a view to qualify us for our reception of Christ by faith, or for our interest in him. Multitudes seem most dangerously to deceive their souls in this matter. It is but too common a case for men to quiet their consciences, and to entertain hopes of salvation, from apprehensions that they endeavour to be found in a way of duty—they endeavour to mortify their lusts, and to live a holy life; and, therefore, though guilty of many defects, both in their duties and conversations, they hope God will accept them upon Christ's account; that the merits of Christ will make op the defects of their performances, and his blood cleanse them from the guilt of their sins. should fall into some more gross and enormous sins, or grow careless and remiss in duty, they will then, perhaps, fall into a panic, and terrify themselves with apprehensions that Christ will not accept such as they are ; but when they have reformed their conduct their fears blow over, and they revive their hopes that they shall yet obtain mercy for Christ's sake. And what is the natural language of all this, but that they shall obtain an interest in Christ by their good works, and when they have done their part he will do the rest, will make up the defects of their attainments, and give such a value to their sincere (though imperfect) obedience, that this shall
Here he expressly shows who it is he is disputing with: it is a vain man, who vainly expects to be saved by an idle faith, and empty profession of the Gospel, without any fruit of obedience. And here he does again expressly assert the principle, which was the subject of his discourse, and the only point to be proved, that faith, without works, is dead. So that there is no room to debate what was the design of this argument. By this he effectually proves, that the faith which justifies our persons, must be justified by good works; otherwise we are but vain men, and our hope is but a vain hope, which will leave us among unpardoned devils at last. But not so much as the least colour of an argument can be found here, that our persons are justified before God by good works: whence it follows, that the justification here treated of must necessarily be the justification of our faith, of our Christian character and profession; and not of our persons, in regard of their state, before God.
A third argument here brought by the Apostle to prove his point is, Abraham's being “justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar," ver. 21. Now it appears, from a variety of the strongest and clearest evidences, that the Apostle did not (could not) refer to the justification of Abraham's person in the sight of God, but to the justification of his faith and sincerity only, in this instance before us.
This appears, in the first place, because Abraham was in a justified state, by an everlasting covenant, thirty years before his offering his son Isaac upon the altar.
It was so long, or near so long before
i pour recovery from your late dangerous mistake. I si cannot but hope that you have "chosen the good i part, which shall not be taken from you.” But
what mean the frequent returns of your desponding hours ? Whence do your hopes and fears bear proportion to your present frames? What occasions - those many dark apprehensions, not only that you have not yet an interest in Christ, but that you shall never attain to it? I entreat you to consider that Christ came to save sinners; and that we must come to him and trust in him as sinners, having no qualification of our own to entitle us to his favour, nothing but our guilt and pollution, and his sufficiency to plead for our acceptance with and interest in him. In proportion as you look to your own qualifications to recommend you to Christ, so far you practically make a Saviour of your good works, and reject the terms of salvation by Jesus Christ. As it is certain that you can have no good works, which are acceptable to God for any saving purposes,
66 his blood will cleanse them from
all their sins.” Be their hearts ever so hard, “he will take away their hearts' of stone, and give them hearts of flesh.” Be they ever so destitute of any gracious qualification, “ of his fulness they shall receive even grace for grace.” Whatever their case be, they may safely trust in him, as the author of eternal salvation. But this, alas ! is the misery and ruin of multitudes who are pretending to seek salvation by Christ, that they are for dividing the work of their salvation between him and them: and by subtracting the honour of their salvation from him, who will do all or nothing for them, though “ they follow after the law of righteousness, they do not obtain it; because they seek it, not by faith, but, as it were, by the works of the law." Here, then, you see that good works have no place at all. We are to look after no. recommending qualifications for an interest in Christ; but to come to him guilty and miserable as we are, that he may be all and in allbe all to us, and do all in us and for us. came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”
I must further add, that we are not to do good works, in expectation that we shall by them obtain a title to the future inheritance.
Heaven is a purchased possession. Our title to it, our qualification for it, our perseverance in the way that leads thither, and our eternal enjoyment of the glorious inheritance, are all purchased by the blood of Christ. In all these respects, “ Christ Jesus is our hope;" and when “we rejoice in hope of the glory of God," we must " rejoice in Christ Jesus, having no confidence in the flesh.” It cannot be too deeply impressed
upon our hearts, that it is “not by works of righteousness which we have done, but of his mercy, that God saveth us.” It is mere mercy in the eternal contrivance of our salvation by Christ ; mere mercy in his incarnation, humiliation, obedience, and sufferings for us; mere mercy in the application of his redemption to our souls; mere mercy are kept by the power of God through faith to salvation;" and mere mercy that Christ will at last “present us faultless before the throne of God with exceeding joy." It is “ to the praise of the glory of his
grace, wherein we are made accepted in the Beloved." Our good works cannot have any share in purchasing our title to this salvation. They cannot make atonement for our sins; because the ini. quity of our most holy things stand in need of atonement. They cannot give us a covenant right to mercy; because we are antecedently sinners, and obnoxious to the curses of the broken law. They cannot make us meet for salvation; because, by their imperfections, they still expose us to the curse; and because they cannot sanctify our nature, and give us new hearts.
Nor can they give us any claim to the special influences of God; because then our sanctification would be of debt, and not of grace. What, then, can they do? No more than to bring us to the foot of a sovereign God, to wait upon him in the way of his appointments, that “he would work in us both to will and to do of his good pleasure.”
You will remember that I am here speaking of our being entitled to salvation by our good works, and not of their usefulness to our spiritual and eter