« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
take up with the form of godliness; mix with the multitude that are running after Jesus, and call our. selves disciples ; appear constantly in the temple, with our proud “ God, I thank thee;" fast twice in the week, and pay tithes of all that we possess ; and go down to our houses justified-by ourselves justified, but not by God!
As touching the law, a Pharisee ;-the strictest sect of the Jewish religion being called Pharisees, either on account of their learning, which rendered them the principal interpreters of Scripture; or be. cause, from an affectation of extraordinary sanctity, they separated themselves from others, as if they should say, “Stand off, for I am holier than thou.”-A public profession is undoubtedly commendable, and our duty: “Let your light shine before men ;” and, again ::“ Whosoever shall be ashamed of me, and of my words, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed, before his Father and the holy angels." But if, when we are called upon to give an account of our religious conduct at the bar of Christ, we have nothing more to say for our. selves than, " I was of Paul, and I of Apollos ;" I went to this place of worship, and I went to that ;' He will assuredly say, to one and the other, " Depart from me, I know you not.”
Concerning zeal, persecuting the church. It is good to be zealously affected in a good cause ; but a zeal without know ledge frequently injures the cause it was designed to defend; and a calling down fire from heaven, and anathematizing all who differ from us, only discover great uncharitablevess towards others, and great ignorance of ourselves.
*Touching the righteousness which is of the law, blameless :-In his outward carriage he " walked in all good conscience;" nor was there any thing in his 'conduct or conversation for which he could be legally accused-that is, he was a sober, virtuous, moral man.-God forbid that we should banish, or in the least disparage, morality! It is no inconsiderable proof of our Christianity.” But if we have nothing else, we only “cover ourselves with a covering, but not of God's Spirit." If we have not that garment of the Son of man, which is without a seam, and reacheth down to the foot, we shall. find all other garments of nature's weaving too narrow for us to wrap ourselves in: at least, to defend us from nakedness and cold.
All these things the Apostle counted “ loss,” not in themselves, but with regard to his confidence in them. He did not cast off good works; he did not indulge himself in immoralities'; he did not neglect to cultivate inherent righteousness, as some pretenders to Gospel perfection do: but only counted them as trifles, as things not worth mentioning--yea, as refuse and '" dung”-so that he might win Christ, that pearl of price, that inestimaal ble Treasure; "and be found in him, not having," says he, “mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith." : It cannot be expected, that in the short limits of this discourse I should do justice to this fundamental and glorious article of the Christian faith. It is, indeed, the peculiar glory of the Gospel, and the grand foundation of our comfort and hope. If it were not for this righteousness of faith, we should
be" all our life-time subject to bondage.” Every, the least, irregularity in our conduct or temper: every thought of foolishness, which the law has pros nounced to be sin ; would throw us into fresh ago. nies of horror and despair. Every little disorder of body would alarm us, as being, for aught we knew, the messenger of Death to summon us to God's tri. bunal. Death would be indeed the king of terrors ; and the thoughts of dying !—especially when felt death drawing near, and we had all the symptoms of approaching dissolution !--Our anguish would be inexpressible and intolerable ; our hell would be begun ; and it would only remain for God Almighty to confirm the sentence of our raging con, science, to make our wretchedness complete. But now, when we read, and believe, and are sure, that " there is no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus ;"- that “God is in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing unto them their trespasses ;"—that “ he was made sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him ;”-that, though we can, not say we have no sin, yet, “ if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and cleanse us from all uprighteousness ;” and that, notwithstanding their number and aggravation," in bim we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our sins, according to the riches of his grace ;"--and that, when“ by the deeds of the law po flesh living could be justified," yet “we are. : justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Jesus:"-In the full persuasion of this comfortable truth, we “glory in tribulation;" we take pleasure in infirmities; we smile in adversity ;
we triumph in death ; and boldly say, “O death! where is thy sting? O grave! where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law : but thanks be to God, who giveth us the victory, through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
All that I can do at present is briefly to inquire,
1. What is meant by the righteousness which is of the law; and why we should dread to be found in it.
II. What is meant by the righteousness which is of God by faith ; 'and why we should desire to be found in that.
III. Conclude with such inferences as the subject may naturally suggest.
We are then, I. To explain what is meant by the righteous, ness of the law.
The “law" has various senses in Scripture. Sometimes it means only the ceremonial, sometimes the moral law; and sometimes it comprehends both. By the “ righteousness of the law,” is to be understood our conformity to the precepts of it ; which, if we expect any benefit from it, must be perfect and persevering: for “he that faileth in one point, is guilty of all.” We must be able to lay our hand upon our heart, and honestly say, “I am pure from sin :' and when we consider the commandment in its greatest extent, and all its particular precepts are laid before us, we must be able to say with truth, “ All these have I kept from my youth up." -If we can'say this, then we may boldly claim the reward ; then we may lay hold of eternal life, not as the gift of God through Jesus Christ' our Lord, but as a debt due to our perfect fulfilment of the terms on which it was proposed: then we may seize the crown of glory, and say, Mine own arm hath gotten me this.-But, remember, the law makes no allowance for the least failure; it admits of no favourable constructions, no palliatives. The infirmities of nature, the violence or surprize of temptation, the sincerity of repentance, and promises of future caution, are pleas which are utterly excluded by that, awful sentence, “ Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things that are written in the book of the law to do them."
To be “found having on our own righteousness, which is of the law,” is to appear at the tribunal of God depending entirely on our obedience and good works; and resting the whole weight of our salvation, not on our prevailing piety and goodness (for that, as I just now observed, will stand us in no stead,) but on our perfect righteousness and holiness ;-not on our outward" conformity to the outward and ceremonial part of religion only ; not on our having fasted twice a week, and regularly paid our tithes, and given such a particular part of our substance to the poor, and constantly kept our church : but on our inward holiness, the obedience of our heart, and the perfect rectitude of the principle and spring of every action of our lives. And is there any man hardy enough to join issue with God on this footing; and who, when the Judge of all the earth calls to him, and says, “How is it that I hear this of thee? give an account of thy stewardship,” will dare to stand forth and say, 'Lord, I am holy as an angel ; I never did an action which Innocence itself might not own; I always kept such a strict guard upon my lips, that I never so much