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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 that “we 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
nal welfare. In the former sense, they must be utterly disclaimed, and all our righteousness esteemed but as filthy rags, as I have particularly shown you in some former letters.
In the latter sense, they must be diligently and painfully pursued and attended to, as I shall more fully set before you. Our business therefore is, with most earnest application, to “watch daily at wisdom's gates, and wait at the posts of her doors;" to use our most active endeavours in all the ways of godliness, righteousness, and charity; doing all in the name of Christ; and when we have done all we can, to come still as lost, guilty, and worthless and helpless sinners, self-loathing and self-condemning, to the throne of mercy, acknowledging that to us belongs shame and confusion of face, and that we have nothing to plead but the riches of redeeming love, and the boundless grace of God in Christ, for the acceptance either of our persons or services. In our highest attainments, , we should come before God with that language of faith, “ We do not present our supplications before thee for our righteousness, but for thy great mer
I will only subjoin, that we must not depend upon our good works for a progressive sanctification, for renewed supplies of grace, and for a continued progress in holiness and comfort unto God's heavenly kingdom. It is a dangerous mistake, which too many seem to fall into, that we are to depend upon Christ alone for justifying righteousness; but trust to our own active endeavours for inherent righteousness, for a victory over our corruptions, and for a conformity of heart and life unto the divine nature
and will. Thence it is, that although they carry on a dreadful struggle with their corruptions, yet these, notwithstanding all their purposes, promises, vows, watchings, fastings, and other mechanical endeavours, will still prevail, and often throw them into great perplexity and confusion. They are sensible that God demands their hearts, and that it is impossible their external reformations should be acceptable, while their hearts are far from him, and led away with divers įusts. With what agony and toil do they therefore worry with their carnal and sensual affections, their impetuous appetites and passions; using various methods of mortification and discipline, to correct the disorders of their nature; and are but still rolling a stone upon the hill, which, as soon as they let go, it is at the bottom again! They are sensible that God requires sincerity in the inward man, in all the duties of religious worship. They therefore groan under the burden of their religious defects, their deadness, formality, and wandering thoughts in their approaches to God; condemn every duty they perform, and resolve upon more watchfulness and care for the future: but, alas ! the difficulty remains; and they are ready to sink under discouraging apprehensions of their hypocrisy. Indeed, when they gain a little ground, their hopes are revived and their endeavours animated; but when deadness and corruption prevail, their distress and fear return and prevail with them, their spirits sink, and they are ready to be quite discouraged. How many poor souls are thus labouring in the very fire, making a toilsome and melancholy drudgery of religion, by their legal attempts and their spirit of bondage !
How far these characters are applicable to yourself, Sir, you can best tell. But this I know by experience, that so far as this legal disposition prevails in us, it will not only darken our way, but check our progress in grace and holiness. If you would make any proficiency in your spiritual course, you ought to remember that the divine life must be carried on in your soul in the same manner, and by the same means, that it was begun there.
We are not only justified by faith, but we must be sanctified by faith too; and of “ Christ's fulness must receive even grace for grace.”
A cheerful dependence upon Christ for all supplies of grace and strength, is the way to obtain his quickening, comforting, and strengthening influences; to have our hearts enlarged in the service of God, and to run the way of his commandments with delight. We must be dead to the law, (to all dependence upon it and hope from it,) if we would live unto God. Though we must discharge the duties of the law, and live in conformity to it; yet these must be done with a Gospel spirit, from Gospel principles and motives. “ What the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son, in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh." Would you then maintain a truly spiritual life," the life which
you live in the flesh must be by the faith of the Son of God.” Would you maintain a conversation worthy of your holy profession, your good conversation must be in Christ. Would you live in the love of God and your neighbour, it is faith which works by love. Would you get a victory over the world and all its allurements, “ This is the
victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.” Would you be able to withstand temptations, it is 6 the shield of faith, by which you will be able to quench the fiery darts of the wicked.” Would
you walk honestly as in the day, you must "put on the Lord Jesus Christ.” Would you be strengthened in the service of God against all opposition, you must “ be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.” Would
have your heart purified from sinful lusts, appetites, and passions, you must get “your heart purified by faith.” Would you go on in your way rejoicing, you must “ rejoice in Christ Jesus, having no confidence in the flesh.” Would you persevere in the fear and service of God, you must “be kept by the power of God through faith upto salvation.' It is not your business to run without legs, or fly without wings, but to go “ forth in the strength of the Lord.” Despair of all sufficiency of your own to mortify your corruptions, and quicken your soul in the ways of God and godliness. Humbly repair to the Lord Jesus Christ, and cheerfully trust in him for grace and strength, to make a successful progress in your spiritual course. Let not your imperfections or corruptions discourage you; nor let your good purposes or performances be the ground of your hopes; but, in a diligent use of Gospel means, “commit your way to the Lord, trust also in him, and he will bring it to pass." I think you cannot so far misunderstand me as to suppose I am exhorting you to depend on Christ for holiness in the careless neglect of good works. This would be presumption and not faith. No! I am exhorting you to a realizing impression,