Nay, I say again, hath not thy thus doing charged God with being ignorant of knowing, what rules there needed to be imposed on his creatures to make their obedience complete? And doth not this apish madness of thine intimate, moreover, that if thou hadst not stept in with the bundle of thy traditions, righteousness had been imperfect, not through man's weakness, but through impediment in God, or in his ministering rules of righteousness unto us.
Now, when thou hast thought on these things fairly, answer thyself in these few questions: Is not this arrogancy? Is not this blasphemy? Is not this to condemn God, that thou mightest be righteous? And dost thou think, this is, indeed, the way to be righteous?
But again, what means thy preferring of thine own rules, laws, statues, ordinances and appointments, before the rules, laws, statutes and appointments of God? Thinkest thou this to be right? Whither will thy zeal, thy pride, and thy folly carry thee? Is there more reason, more equity, more holiness in thy traditions, than in the holy, and just, and good commandments of God? (Rom 7:12) Why then, I say, dost thou reject the commandment of God, to keep thine own tradition? Yea, Why dost thou rage, and rail, and cry out when men keep not thy law, or the rule of thine order, and tradition of thine elders; and yet shut thine eyes, or wink with them, when thou thyself shalt live in the breach of the law of God? Yea, why wilt thou condemn men, when they keep not thy law, but study for an excuse, yea, plead for them that live in the breach of God's (Mark 7:10-13) Will this go for righteousness in the day of God Almighty? Nay rather, will not this, like a millstone about thy neck, drown thee in the deeps of hell? Oh, the blindness, the madness, the pride, and spite, that dwells in the hearts of these pretended righteous men.
Again, What kind of righteousness of thine, is this, that standeth in a misplacing, and so consequently in a misesteeming of God's commands? Some thou settest too high, and some too low; as in the text, thou hast set a ceremony above faith, above love, and above hope in the mercy of God: When, as it is evident, the things last mentioned, are the things of the first rate, the weightier matters. (Matt 23:23)
Again, Thou hast preferred the gold above the temple that sanctifieth the gold, and the gift upon the altar, above the altar that sanctifies the gift. (Matt 23:17)
I say again, What kind of righteousness shall this be called? What back will such a suit of apparel fit, that is set together just cross and thwart to what it should be? Just as if the sleeves should be sewed upon the pocket-holes, and the pockets set on where the sleeves should stand. Nor can other righteousness proceed where a wrong judgment precedeth it.
This misplacing of God's laws cannot, I say, but produce misshaped and misplaced obedience. It indeed produceth a monster, an ill-shapened thing, a mole, a mouse, a pig, all which are things unclean, and an abomination to the Lord. For see, saith he, if thou wilt be making, that thou make all things according to the pattern shewed to thee in the mount. Set faith, where faith should stand, a moral, where a moral should stand; and a ceremony, where a ceremony should stand; for this turning of things upside down shall be esteemed as the potter's clay: And wilt thou call this thy righteousness; yea, wilt thou stand in this, plead for this, and venture an eternal concern in such a piece of linsey-woolsey as this? O fools, and blind!
But further, let us come a little closer to the point. O blind Pharisee. Thou standest to thy righteousness, what dost thou mean? Wouldest thou have MERCY for thy righteousness, or JUSTICE for thy righteousness?
[FIRST MERCY.] If mercy, what mercy? Temporal things God giveth to the unthankful and unholy; nor doth he use to SELL the world to man for righteousness. The earth hath he GIVEN to the children of men. But this is not the thing; thou wouldest have eternal mercy for thy righteousness; thou wouldest have God think upon what an holy, what a good, what a righteous man thou art, and hast been. But Christ died not for the good and righteous, nor did he come to call such to the banquet, that grace hath prepared for the world. "I came not," I am not come, saith Christ, "to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance." (Mark 2:27, Rom 5) Yet this is thy plea; Lord God, I am a righteous man, therefore grant me mercy, and a share in thy heavenly kingdom. What else dost thou mean, when thou sayest, "God I thank thee, that I am not as other men are?" Why dost thou rejoice, why art thou glad that thou art more righteous, if indeed thou art, than thy neighbour, if it is not because thou thinkest, that thou hast got the start of, the better of thy neighbour, with reference to mercy; and that by thy righteousness thou hast insinuated thyself into God's affections, and procured an interest in his eternal favour. But,
What, What hast thou done by thy righteousness? I say, What hast thou given to God thereby? And what hath he received of thy hand? Perhaps thou wilt say, righteousness pleaseth God: But I answer no, not thine, with respect to justification from the curse of the law, unless it be as perfect, as the justice it is yielded to, and as the law that doth command it. But thine is not such a righteousness: no, thine is speckled, thine is spotted, thine makes thee to look like a speckled bird in his eye-sight.
Thy righteousness has added iniquity, to thy iniquity, because it has kept thee from a belief of thy need of repentance, and because it has emboldened thee to thrust thyself audaciously into the presence of God, and made thee there, even before his holy eyes, which are so pure, that they cannot look on iniquity (Hab 1:13), to vaunt, boast, and brag of thyself, and of thy tottering, ragged, stinking uncleanness; for all our righteousnesses are as menstruous rags, because they flow from a thing, a heart, a man that is unclean. But,
Again, Wouldest thou have mercy for thy righteousness? For who wouldest thou have it; for another, or for thyself? If for another, and it is most proper, that a righteous man should intercede for another by his righteousness, rather than for himself, then thou thrusteth Christ out of his place and office, and makest thyself to be a saviour in his stead; for a mediator there is already, even a mediator between God and man, and he is the man Christ Jesus. There is therefore no need of thine interceding by thy righteousness for the acceptation of any unto justification from the curse.
But dost thou plead by thy righteousness, for mercy for thyself? Why, in so doing thou impliest,
First, That thy righteousness can prevail with God, more than can thy sins. I say, that thy righteousness can prevail with God, to preserve thee from death, more than thy sins can prevail with him to condemn thee to it. And if so, what follows? but that thy righteousness is more, and has been done in a fuller spirit than ever were thy sins: but thus to insinuate is to insinuate a lie; for there is no man, but while he is a sinner, sinneth with a more full spirit, than any good man can act righteousness withal.
A sinner when he sinneth, he doth it with all his heart, and with all his mind, and with all his soul, and with all his strength; nor hath he in his ordinary course any thing that bindeth. But with a good man it is not so; all, and every whit of himself, neither is, nor can be, in every good duty that he doth. For when he would do good evil is present with him. And again, "The flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other, so that ye cannot do the things that ye would." (Gal 5:17)
Now if a good man cannot do good things with that wholeness and oneness of soul, with that oneness and universalness of mind, as a wicked man doth sin with, then is his sin heavier to weigh him down to hell, than is his righteousness to buoy him up to the heavens.
And again, I say, if the righteousness of a good man comes short of his sin, both in number, weight and measure, as it doth, for a good man shrinks and quakes at the thoughts of God's entering into judgment with him (Psa 143:2), then is his iniquity more than his righteousness. And I say again, if the sin of one that is truly gracious, and so of one that hath the best of principles, is heavier and mightier to destroy him, than is his righteousness to save him, how can it be, that the Pharisee, that is not gracious, but a mere carnal man, somewhat reformed and painted over with a few, lean, and lousy formalities, should with his empty, partial, hypocritical righteousness, counterpoise his great, mighty, and weighty sins, that have cleaved to him in every state and condition of his, to make him odious in the sight of God?
Second. Dost thou plead by thy righteousness for mercy for thyself? Why in so doing thou impliest, that mercy thou deservedst; and that is next door to, or almost as much as to say, God oweth me what I ask for.14 The best that can be put upon it, is, thou seekest security from the direful curse of God, as it were by the works of the law, and to be sure betwixt Christ and the law, thou wilt drop into hell. (Rom 9:31-33) For he that seeks for mercy, as it were, and but as it were, by the works of the law, doth not altogether trust thereto. Nor doth he that seeks for that righteousness, that should save him, as it were, by the works of the law, seek it only, wholly and solely at the hands of mercy. So then, to seek for that that should save thee, neither at the hands of the law, nor at the hands of mercy, is, to be sure, to seek it where it is not to be found; for there is no medium betwixt the righteousness of the law, and the mercy of God. Thou must have it either at the door of the law, or at the door of grace. But sayest thou, I am for having of it at the hands of both. I will trust solely to neither. I love to have two strings to my bow. If one of them, as you think, can help me by itself, my reason tells me, that both can help me better. Therefore will I be righteous, and good, and will seek by my goodness to be commended to the mercy of God: for surely, he that hath something of his own to ingratiate himself into the favour of his prince withal, shall sooner obtain his mercy and favour, than one that comes to him as stript of all good.
I answer, But there are not two ways to heaven, not two living ways; there is one new and living way, which Christ hath consecrated for us through the vail, that is to say, his flesh; and besides that one, there is no more. (Heb 10:19-24) Why then dost thou talk of two strings to thy bow? What became of him that had, and would have, two stools to sit on? Yea, the text says plainly, that therefore they obtained not righteousness, because they sought it not by faith, but, as it were, by the works of the law. See here, they are disowned by the gospel, because they sought it not by faith; that is, by faith only. Again, the law, and the righteousness thereof, flies from them, nor could they attain it, though they followed after it, because they sought it not by faith.
Mercy then is to be found alone in Jesus Christ! Again, the righteousness of the law is to be obtained only by faith of Jesus Christ: that is, in the Son of God is the righteousness of the law to be found; for he, by his obedience to his Father, is become the end of the law for righteousness. And for the sake of his legal righteousness, which is also called the righteousness of God, because it was God in the flesh of the Lord Jesus that did accomplish it, is mercy and grace from God extended, to whoever dependeth by faith upon God by this Jesus his righteousness for it. And hence it is, that we so often read, that this Jesus is the way to the Father: That God, for Christ's sake, forgiveth us: That by the obedience of one, many are made righteous or justified: And that through this man, is preached to us the forgiveness of sins; and that by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which they could not be justified by the law of Moses.
Now, though I here do make mention of righteousness and mercy, yet I hold there is but one way, to wit, to eternal life; which way, as I said, is Jesus Christ; for he is the new, the only new, and living way to the Father of mercies, for mercy to make me capable of abiding with him in the heavens for ever and ever.
But sayest thou, I will be righteous in myself that I may have wherewith to commend me to God, when I go to him for mercy?
I answer, But thou blind Pharisee; I tell thee thou hast no understanding of God's design by the gospel; which is, not to advance man's righteousness, as thou dreamest; but to advance the righteousness of his Son, and his grace by him. Indeed, if God's design by the gospel was to exalt and advance man's righteousness, then that which thou hast said, would be to the purpose. For what greater dignity can be put upon man's righteousness, than to admit it?
I say then, for God to admit it, to be an advocate, an intercessor, a mediator; for all these is that which prevaileth with God to shew me mercy. But this God never thought of, much less could he thus design by the gospel: for the text runs flat against it. Not of works, not of works of righteousness, which we have done; not of works, lest any man should boast, saying, Well, I may thank my own good life for mercy. It was partly for the sake of mine own good deeds that I obtained mercy to be in heaven and glory. Shall this be the burden of the song of heaven? Or is this that which is composed by that glittering heavenly host, and which we have read of in the holy book of God! No, no, that song runs upon other feet, standeth in far better strains, being composed of far higher, and truly heavenly matter: For God has "predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace." (Eph 1:5-7) And it is requisite, that the song be framed accordingly; wherefore he saith, that the heavenly song runs thus: "Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood, out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; and hast made us unto our God kings and priests; and we shall reign on the earth." (Rev 5:9,10)
He saith not that they have redeemed, or helped to redeem and deliver themselves; but that the Lamb, the Lamb that was slain; the Lamb only was he that had redeemed them. Nor, saith he, that they had made themselves kings and priests unto God to offer any oblation, sacrifice, or offering whatsoever; but that the same Lamb had made them such. For they, as is insinuated by the text, were in, among, one with, and no better, than the kindreds, tongues, nations, and people of the earth. Better! No, in no wise, saith Paul (Rom 3:9), therefore their separation from them was of mere mercy, free grace, good will, and distinguishing love: not for, or because of, works of righteousness which any of them have done; no, they were all alike. But these, because beloved, when in their blood, according to Ezekiel 16 were separated by free grace. And as another scripture hath it, redeemed from the earth, and from among men by blood. (Rev 14:3,4) Wherefore deliverance from the ireful wrath of God, must not, neither in whole, nor in part, be ascribed to the whole law, or to all the righteousness that comes by it; but to the Lamb of God, Jesus, the Saviour of the world; for it is He that delivered us from the wrath to come: and that according to God's appointment; "For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by [or through] our Lord Jesus Christ." (1 Thess 5:9) Let every man, therefore, take heed what he doth, and whereon he layeth the stress of his salvation, "For other foundation can no man lay, than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ." (1 Cor 3:11)
But dost thou plead still as thou didst before, and wilt thou stand thereto? Why then, thy design must overcome God, or God's design must overcome thee. Thy design is to give thy good life, thy good deeds, a part of the glory of thy justification from the curse. And God's design is to throw all thy righteousness out into the street, into the dirt, and dunghill, as to that. Thou art for glory, and for glorying here before God; yea, thou art for sharing in the glory of justification, when that alone belongeth to God. And he hath said, "My glory will I not give to another." Thou wilt not trust wholly to God's grace in Christ for justification; and God will not take thy stinking righteousness in, as a partner in thy acquitment from sin, death, wrath, and hell. Now the question is, who shall prevail? God, or the Pharisee? And whose word shall stand? His, or the Pharisee's?
Alas! The Pharisee here must needs come down, for God is greater than all. Also, he hath said, that no flesh shall glory in his presence; and that he will have mercy, and not sacrifice. And again, that it is not, nor shall be, in him that wills, nor in him that runs, but in God that sheweth mercy. What hope, help, stay, or relief then is there left for the merit-monger? What twig, or straw, or twined thread is left to be a stay for his soul? This besom will sweep away his cobweb: The house that this spider doth so lean upon, will now be overturned, and he in it to hell fire; for nothing less than everlasting damnation is designed by God, and that for this fearful and unbelieving Pharisee: God will prevail against him for ever.
Third, But wilt thou yet plead thy righteousness for mercy? Why, in so doing, thou takest away from God the power of giving mercy. For if it be thine as wages, it is no longer his to dispose of all pleasure; for that which another man oweth me, is in equity not at his, but at my disposal. Did I say, that by this thy plea, thou takest away from God the power of giving mercy; I will add, yea, and also of disposing of heaven and life eternal. And then, I pray you, what is left unto God, and what can he call his own? Not mercy; for that by thy good deeds thou hast purchased. Not heaven; for that by thy good deeds thou hast purchased. Not eternal life; for that by thy good deeds thou hast purchased. Thus, Pharisee, O thou self-righteous man, hast thou set up thyself above grace, mercy, heaven, glory; yea, above even God himself, for the purchaser should in reason be esteemed above the purchase.
Awake man! What hast thou done? Thou hast blasphemed God, thou hast undervalued the glory of his grace; thou hast, what in thee lieth, opposed the glorious design of heaven! Thou hast sought to make thy filthy rags to share in thy justification.
Now, all these are mighty sins; these have made thine iniquity infinite. What wilt thou do? Thou hast created to thyself a world of needless miseries. I call them needless, because thou hadst more than enough before. Thou hast set thyself against God in a way of contending; thou standest upon thy points and pantables:15 Thou wilt not bate God an ace, of what thy righteousness is worth, and wilt also make it worth what thyself shalt list. Thou wilt be thine own judge, as to the worth of thy righteousness; thou wilt neither hear what verdict the word has passed about it, nor wilt thou endure, that God should throw it out in the matter of thy justification, but quarrellest with the doctrine of free grace, or else dost wrest it out of its place to serve thy Pharisaical designs; saying, "God, I thank thee, I am not as other men"; fathering upon thyself, yea, upon God and thyself, a stark lie; for thou art as other men are, though not in this, yet in that; yea, in a far worse condition than the most of men are. Nor will it help thee any thing to attribute this thy goodness to the God of heaven: for that is but a mere toying; the truth is, the God that thou intendest, is nothing but thy righteousness; and the grace that thou supposest, is nothing but thine own good and honest intentions. So that,
Fourth, In all that thou sayest, thou dost but play the downright hypocrite. Thou pretendest indeed to mercy, but thou intendest nothing but merit. Thou seemest to give the glory to God; but at the same time takest it all to thyself. Thou despisest others, and criest up thyself, and in conclusion fatherest all upon God by word, and upon thyself in truth. Nor is there any thing more common among this sort of men, than to make God, his grace, and kindness, the stalking-horse to their own praise, saying, God, I thank thee when they trust to themselves that they are righteous, and have not need of any repentance; when the truth is, they are the worst sort of men in the world, because they put themselves into such a state as God hath not put them into, and then impute it to God, saying, God, I thank thee, that thou hast done it; for what greater sin [is there] than to make God a liar, or than to father that upon God which he never meant, intended, or did. And all this under a colour to glorify God; when there is nothing else designed, but to take all glory from him, and to wear [it] on thine own head as a crown, and a diadem in the face of the whole world.
A self-righteous man therefore can come to God for mercy none otherwise than fawningly: For what need of mercy hath a righteous man? Let him then talk of mercy, of grace, and goodness, and come in an hundred times with him, "God, I thank thee," in his mouth, all is but words, there is no sense, nor savour, nor relish of mercy and favour; nor doth he in truth, from his very heart, understand the nature of mercy, nor what is an object thereof; but when he thanks God, he praises himself; when he pleads for mercy, he means his own merit; and all this is manifest from what doth follow; for, saith he, "I am not as this Publican!" Thence clearly insinuating, that not the good, but the bad, should be rejected of the God of heaven: That not the bad but the good; not the sinner, but the self-righteous, are the most proper objects of God's favour. The same thing is done by others in this our day: Favour, mercy, grace, and "God I thank thee," is in their mouths, but their own strength, sufficiency, free-will, and the like, they are the things they mean, by all such high and glorious expressions.
[SECOND JUSTICE.] But, secondly, If thy plea be not for mercy, but for justice, then to speak a little to that. Justice has measures and rules to go by; unto which measures and rules, if thou comest not up, justice can do thee no good. Come then, O thou blind Pharisee, let us pass away a few minutes in some discourse about this. Thou demandest justice, because God hath said, that the man that doth these things shall live in and by them. And again, the doers of the law shall be justified; not in a way of mercy, but in a way of justice. He shall live by them. But what hast thou done, O blind Pharisee! What hast thou done, that thou art emboldened to venture, to stand and fall to the most perfect justice of God? Hast thou fulfilled the whole law, and not offended in one point? Hast thou purged thyself from the pollutions and motions of sin that dwell in the flesh, and work in thy own members? Is the very being of sin rooted out of thy tabernacle? And art thou now as perfectly innocent as ever was Jesus Christ? Hast thou, by suffering the uttermost punishment that justice could justly lay upon thee for thy sins, made fair and full satisfaction to God, according to the tenor of his law for thy transgressions? If thou hast done all these things, then thou mayest plead something, and yet but something for thyself in a way of justice. Nay, in this I will assert nothing, but rather inquire:—What hast thou gained by all this thy righteousness? (we will now suppose what must not be granted) Was not this thy state when thou wast in thy first parents? Wast thou not innocent, perfectly innocent and righteous? And if thou shouldest be so now, what hast thou gained thereby? Suppose that the man, that had forty years ago forty pounds of his own, and had spent it all since, should yet be able now to show his forty pounds again? What has he got thereby, or how much richer is he at last, than he was, when he first set up for himself. Nay, doth not the blot of his ill living betwixt his first and his last, lie as a blemish upon him, unless he should redeem himself also by works of supererogation, from the scandal that justice may lay at his door for that?
But, I say, suppose, O Pharisee, this should be thy case, yet God is not bound to give thee in justice that eternal life, which by his grace he bestoweth upon those, that have redemption from sin, by the blood of his Son. In justice therefore, when all comes to all, thou canst require no more than an endless life in an earthly paradise; for there thou wast set up at first; nor doth it appear from what hath been said, touching all that thou hast done or canst do, that thou deservedst a better place.
Did I say, that thou mayest require justly an endless life in an earthly paradise. Why? I must add to that saying, this proviso: If thou continuest in the law, and in the righteousness thereof, else not. But how dost thou know that thou shalt continue therein? Thou hast no promise from God's mouth for that, nor is grace or strength ministered to mankind by the covenant that thou art under. So that still thou standest bound to thy good behaviour, and in the day that thou dost give the first, though never so little a trip, or stumble in thy obedience, thou forfeitest thine interest in paradise, and in justice, as to any benefit there.
But alas, what need is there that we should thus talk of things, when it is manifest, that thou hast sinned, not only before thou wast a Pharisee, but when, after the most strictest sect of thy religion, thou livedst also a Pharisee; yea, and now in the temple, in thy prayer there, thou showest thyself to be full of ignorance, pride, self-conceit, and horrible arrogancy, and desire of vain-glory, &c., which are none of them the seat of fruits of righteousness, but the seat of the devil, and the fruit of his dwelling, even at this time, in thy heart.
Could it ever have been imagined, that such audacious impudence could have put itself forth in any mortal man, in his approach unto God by prayer, as has showed itself in thee? "I am not as other men!" sayest thou; but is this the way to go to God in prayer? Is this the way for a mortal man, that is full of sin, that stands in need of mercy, and that must certainly perish without it, to come to God in prayer? The prayer of the upright is God's delight. But the upright man glorifies God's justice, by confessing to God the vileness and pollution of his state and condition: He glorifies God's mercy by acknowledging, that that, and that only, as communicated of God by Christ to sinners, can save and deliver from the curse of the law.
This, I say, is the sum of the prayer of the just and upright man (Job 1:8, 40:4, Acts 13:22, Psa 38, 51, 2 Sam 6:21,22), and not as thou most vain-gloriously vauntest, with thy, "God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are."
True, when a man is accused by his neighbours, by a brother, by an enemy, and the like; if he be clear, and he may be so, as to what they shall lay to his charge, then let him vindicate, justify, and acquit himself, to the utmost that in justice and truth he can; for his name, the preservation whereof is more to be chosen than silver and gold; also his profession, yea, the name of God too, and religion, may now lie at stake, by reason of such false accusations, and perhaps can by no means, as to this man, be recovered, and vindicated from reproach and scandal, but by his justifying of himself. Wherefore in such a work, a man serveth God, and saves religion from hurt; yea, as he that is a professor, and has his profession attended with a scandalous life, hurteth religion thereby: So he that has his profession attended with a good life, and shall suffer it notwithstanding, to lie under blame by false accusations, when it is in the power of his hand to justify himself, hurteth religion also. But the case of the Pharisee is otherwise. He is not here a dealing with men, but God; not seeking to stand clear in the sight of the world, but in the sight of heaven itself; and that too, not with respect to what men or angels, but with respect to what God and his law, could charge him with and justly lay at his door.
This therefore mainly altereth the case; for a man here to stand thus upon his points, it is death; for he affronteth God, he giveth him the lie, he reproveth the law, and in sum, accuseth it of bearing false witness against him; he doth this, I say, even by saying, "God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are"; for God hath made none of this difference. The law condemneth all men as sinners, and testifieth, that every imagination of the thought of the heart of the sons of men is only evil, and that continually. Wherefore they that do as the Pharisee did, to wit, seek to justify themselves before God from the curse of the law, by their own good doings, though they also, as the Pharisee did, seem to give God the thanks for all, yet do most horribly sin, even by their so doing, and shall receive a Pharisee's reward at last. Wherefore, O thou Pharisee, it is a vain thing for thee either to think of, or to ask for, at God's hand, either mercy or justice. Because mercy thou canst not ask for, from sense of want of mercy, because thy righteousness, which is by the law, hath utterly blinded thine eyes, and complimenting with God doth nothing. And as for justice, that can do thee no good, but the more just God is, and the more by that he acteth towards thee, the more miserable and fearful will be thy condition, because of the deficiency of thy, so much by thee, esteemed righteousness.
[The Pharisee seeth no need of mercy, but thinketh himself righteous before God.]
What a deplorable condition then is a poor Pharisee in! For mercy he cannot pray, he cannot pray for it with all his heart; for he seeth, indeed, no need thereof. True, the Pharisee, though he was impudent enough, yet would not take all from God; he would still count, that there was due to him a tribute of thanks: "God, I thank thee," saith he, but yet not a bit of this, for mercy; but for that he had let him live, for I know not for what he did thank himself, till he had made himself better than other men; but that betterment was a betterment in none other judgment than that of his own, and that was none other but such an one as was false. So then, the Pharisee is by this time quite out of doors; his righteousness is worth nothing, his prayer is worth nothing, his thanks to God are worth nothing; for that what he had was scanty, and imperfect, and it was his pride that made him offer it to God for acceptance; nor could his fawning thanksgiving better his case, or make his matter at all good before God.
But I'll warrant you, the Pharisee was so far off from thinking thus of himself, and of his righteousness, that he thought of nothing so much as of this, that he was a happy man; yea, happier by far than other his fellow rationals. Yea, he plainly declares it when he saith, "God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are."
O what a fool's paradise was the heart of the Pharisee now in, while he stood in the temple praying to God! "God, I thank thee," said he, for I am good and holy, I am a righteous man; I have been full of good works; I am no extortioner, unjust, nor adulterer, no nor yet as this wretched Publican. I have kept myself strictly to the rule of mine order, and my order is the most strict of all orders now in being: I fast, I pray, I give tithes of all that I possess. Yea, so forward am I to be a religious man; so ready have I been to listen after my duty, that I have asked both of God and man the ordinances of judgment and justice; I take delight in approaching to God. What less now can be mine than the heavenly kingdom and glory?
Now the Pharisee, like Haman, saith in his heart, To whom would the king delight to do honour, more than to myself? Where is the man that so pleaseth God, and consequently, that in equity and reason should be beloved of God like me? Thus like the prodigal's brother, he pleadeth, saying, "Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment." (Luke 15:29) O brave Pharisee! But go on in thine oration: "Nor yet as this Publican."
Poor wretch, quoth the Pharisee to the Publican, What comest thou for? Dost think that such a sinner as thou art shall be heard of God? God heareth not sinners; but if any man be a worshipper of God as I am, as I thank God I am, him he heareth. Thou, for thy part, hast been a rebel all thy days: I abhor to come nigh thee, or to touch thy garments. Stand by thyself, come not near me, for I am more holy than thou. (Isa 65:5)
Hold, stop there, go no further; fie Pharisee, fie; Dost thou know before whom thou standest, to whom thou speakest, and of what the matter of thy silly oration is made? Thou art now before God, thou speakest now to God, and therefore in justice and honesty thou shouldest make mention of his righteousness, not of thine; of his righteousness, and of his only.
I am sure Abraham, of whom thou sayest he is thy father, never had the face to do as thou hast done, though it is to be presumed he had more cause so to do, than thou hast, or canst have. Abraham had whereof to glory, but not before God; yea, he was called God's friend, and yet would not glory before him; but humbled himself, was afraid, and trembled in himself, when he stood before him, acknowledging of himself to be but dust and ashes. (Gen 18:27,30, Rom 4:2) But thou, as thou hadst quite forgot, that thou wast framed of that matter, and after the manner of other men, standest and pleadest thy goodness before him. Be ashamed Pharisee! Dost thou think, that God hath eyes of flesh, or that he seeth as man sees? Is not the secrets of thy heart open unto him? Thinkest thou with thyself, that thou, with a few of thy defiled ways canst cover thy rotten wall, that thou hast daubed with untempered mortar, and so hide the dirt thereof from his eyes: Or that these fine, smooth, and oily words, that come out of thy mouth, will make him forget that thy throat is an open sepulchre, and that thou within art full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness? Thy thus cleansing of the outside of the cup and platter, and thy garnishing of the sepulchres of the righteous, is nothing at all in God's eyes, but things that manifest, that thou art an hypocrite, and blind, because thou takest no notice of that which is within, which yet is that, which is most abominable to God. For the fruit, alas, what is the fruit to the tree, or what are the streams to the fountain! Thy fountain is defiled; yea, a defiler, and so that which maketh thy whole self, with thy works unclean in God's sight. But Pharisee, how comes it to pass, that the poor Publican is now such a mote in thine eye, that thou canst not forbear, but must accuse him before the judgment of God: for in that thou sayest, "that thou art not even as this Publican," thou bringest in an accusation, a charge, a bill against him. What has he done? Has he concealed any of thy righteousness, or has he secretly informed against thee that thou art an hypocrite, and superstitious? I dare say, the poor wretch has neither meddled nor made16 with thee in these matters.
But what aileth the Pharisee? Doth the poor Publican stand to vex thee? Doth he touch thee with is dirty garments; or doth he annoy thee with his stinking breath? Doth his posture of standing so like a man condemned offend thee? True, he now standeth with his hand held up at God's bar, he pleads guilty to all that is laid to his charge.
He cannot strut, vapour, and swagger as thou dost? but why offended at this? Oh but he has been a naughty man! and I have been righteous, sayest thou. Well, Pharisee, well, his naughtiness shall not be laid to thy charge, if thou hast chosen none of his ways. But since thou wilt yet bear me down, that thou art righteous, shew now, even now, while thou standest before God with the Publican, some, though they be but small, yea, though but very small fruits of thy righteousness. Let the Publican alone, since he is speaking of his life before God. Or if thou canst not let him alone, yet do not speak against him; for thy so doing will but prove, that thou rememberest the evil that the man has done unto thee; yea, and that thou bearest him a grudge for it too, and that while you stand before God.
But Pharisee, the righteous man is a merciful man, and while he standeth praying, he forgiveth; yea, and also crieth to God that he will forgive him too. (Mark 11:25,26, Acts 7:60) Hitherto then thou hast shewed none of the fruits of thy righteousness. Pharisee, righteousness would teach thee to love this Publican, but thou showest that thou hatest him. Love covereth the multitude of sins; but hatred and unfaithfulness revealeth secrets.
Pharisee, thou shouldest have remembered this thy brother in this his day of adversity, and shouldest have shewed, that thou hadst compassion to thy brother in this his deplorable condition; but thou, like the proud, the cruel, and arrogant man, hast taken thy neighbour at the advantage, and that when he is even between the straits, and standing upon the very pinnacle of difficulty, betwixt the heavens and the hells, and hast done what thou couldest, what on thy part lay, to thrust him down to the deep, saying, "I am not even as this Publican."
What cruelty can be greater; what rage more furious; and what spite and hatred more damnable and implacable, than to follow, or take a man while he is asking of mercy at God's hands, and to put in a caveat17 against his obtaining of it, by exclaiming against him that he is a sinner? The master of righteousness doth not so: "Do not think," saith he, "that I will accuse you to the Father." (John 5:45) The scholars of righteousness do not so. "But as for me," said David, "when they [mine enemies] were sick, [and the Publican here was sick of the most malignant disease] my clothing was sackcloth, I humbled my soul with fasting; and my prayer [to wit, that I made for them] returned into mine own bosom. I behaved myself as though he had been my friend or brother: I bowed down heavily, as one that mourneth for his mother." (Psa 35:13,14)
Pharisee, Dost thou see here how contrary thou art to righteous men? Now then, where shall we find out one to parallel thee, but by finding out of him that is called the dragon; for he it is that accuseth poor sinners before God. (Zech 3, Rev 12)
"I am not as this Publican": Modesty should have commanded thee to have bit thy tongue as to this. What could the angels think, but that revenge was now in thine heart, and but that thou comest up into the temple, rather to boast of thyself and accuse thy neighbour, than to pray to the God of heaven: For what one petition is there in all thy prayer, that gives the least intimation, that thou hast the knowledge of God or thyself? Nay, what petition of any kind is there in thy vain-glorious oration from first to last? only an accusation drawn up, and that against one helpless and forlorn; against a poor man, because he is a sinner; drawn up, I say, against him by thee, who canst not make proof of thyself that thou art righteous: But come to proofs of righteousness, and there thou art wanting also. What though thy raiment is better than his, thy skin may be full as black: Yea, what if thy skin be whiter than his, thy heart may be yet far blacker. Yea, it is so, for the truth hath spoken it; for within you are full of excess and all uncleanness. (Matt 23)
Pharisee, there are transgressions against the second table, and the Publican shall be guilty of them: But there are sins also against the first table, and thou thyself art guilty of them.
The Publican, in that he was an extortioner, unjust, and an adulterer, made it thereby manifest that he did not love his neighbour; and thou by making a God, a Saviour, a deliverer, of thy filthy righteousness, doth make it appear, that thou dost not love thy God; for as he that taketh, or that derogateth from his neighbour in that which is his neighbour's due, sinneth against his neighbour, so he that taketh or derogateth from God, sinneth against God.
Now then, though thou hast not, as thou dost imagine, played at that low game as to derogate from thy neighbour; yet thou hast played at that high game as to derogate from thy God; for thou hast robbed God of the glory of salvation; yea, declared, that as to that there is no trust to be put in him. "Lo, this is the man that made not God his strength; but trusted in the abundance of his riches, and strengthened himself in his wickedness" or substance. (Psa 52:7)
What else means this great bundle of thy own righteousness, which thou hast brought with thee into the temple? yea, what means else thy commending of thyself because of that, and so thy implicit prayer, that thou for that mightest find acceptance with God?
All this, what does it argue, I say, but thy diffidence of God? and that thou countest salvation safer in thine own righteousness, than in the righteousness of God; and that thy own love to, and care of thy own soul, is far greater, and so much better, than is the care and love of God. And is this to keep the first table; yea, the first branch of that table, which saith, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God?" For thy thus doing cannot stand with love to God.
How can that man say, I love God, who from his very heart shrinketh from trusting in him? Or, how can that man say, I would glorify God, who in his very heart refuseth to stand and fall by his mercy?
Suppose a great man should bid all the poor of the parish to his house to dinner, and should moreover send by the mouth of his servant, saying, My lord hath killed his fatlings, hath furnished his table, and prepared his wine, nor is there want of anything, come to the banquet: Would it not be counted as a high affront to, great contempt of, and much distrust in the goodness of the man of the house, if some of these guests should take with them, out of their own poor store, some of their mouldy crusts, and carry them with them, lay them on their trenchers upon the table before the lord of the feast, and the rest of his guests, out of fear that he yet would not provide sufficiently for those he had bidden to his dinner that he made?
Why Pharisee, this is thy very case, Thou hast been called to a banquet, even to the banquet of God's grace, and thou hast been disposed to go; but behold, thou hath not believed, that he would of his own cost make thee a feast, when thou comest; wherefore of thy own store thou hast brought with thee, and hast laid upon thy trencher 18 on his table, thy mouldy and hoary crusts in the presence of the angels, and of this poor Publican; yea, and hast vauntingly said upon the whole, "God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are." I am no such NEEDY man. (Luke 15:7) "I am no extortioner, nor unjust, no adulterer, nor even as this Publican." I am come indeed to thy feast, for of civility I could do no less; but for thy dainties, I need them not, I have of such things enough of mine own.19 (Luke 18:9) I thank thee therefore for thy offer of kindness, but I am not as those that have, and stand in need thereof, "nor yet as this Publican." And thus feeding upon thine own fare, or by making a composition of his and thine together, thou condemnest God, thou countest him insufficient or unfaithful; that is, either one that hath not enough, or having it, will not bestow it upon the poor and needy, and therefore, of mere pretence thou goest to his banquet, but yet trustest to thine own, and to that only.
This is to break the first table; and so to make thyself a sinner of the highest form: for the sins against the first table, are sins of an higher nature than are the sins against the second. True, the sins of the second table are also sins against God, because they are sins against the commandments of God: but the sins that are against the first table, are sins not only against the command, but against the very love, strength, holiness, and faithfulness of God. And herein stands thy condition; thou hast not, thou sayest thou hast not done injury to thy neighbour; but what of that, IF THOU HAST REPROACHED GOD THY MAKER? This is, as if a man should be in with his fellow-servant, and out with his master.
Pharisee, I will assure thee, thou art besides the saddle;20 thy state is not good, thy righteousness is so far off from doing of thee any good, that it maketh thee to be a greater sinner than if thou hadst none at all, because it fighteth more immediately against the mercy, the love, the grace, and goodness of God, than the sins of other sinners, as to degree, does.
And as they are more odious and abominable in the sight of God, as they needs must, if what is said be true, as it is; so they are more dangerous to the life and soul of man: for that they always appear unto him in whom they dwell, and to him that trusteth in them, not to be sins and transgressions, but virtues and excellent things. Not things that set a man further off, but the things, that bring a man nearer to God, than those that want them are or can be. This therefore is the dangerous estate of those that go about to establish their own righteousness, that neither have, nor can, while they are so doing, submit themselves to the righteousness of God. (Rom 10:3) It is far more easy to persuade a poor wretch, whose life is debauched, and whose sins are written in his forehead, to submit to the righteousness of God, that is, to the righteousness that is of God's providing and giving; than it is to persuade a self-righteous man to do it. For the profane are sooner convinced, as of the necessity of righteousness to save him: so that he has none of his own to do him that pleasure, and therefore most gladly he accepteth of, and submitteth himself to the help and health and salvation that is in the righteousness and obedience of another man.
And upon this account it is, that Christ saith, "The Publicans and the Harlots" enter into the kingdom of heaven before the Scribes and Pharisees. (Matt 21:31) Poor Pharisee, what a loss art thou at? thou art not only a sinner, but a sinner of the highest form. Not a sinner by such sins (by such sins chiefly) as the second table doth make manifest; but a sinner chiefly in that way, as no self-righteous man did ever dream of. For when the righteous man or Pharisee shall hear that he is a sinner, he replieth, "I am not as other men are."
And because the common and more ordinary description of sin, is the transgression against the second table, he presently replieth again, I am not as this Publican is; and so shrowdeth himself under his own lame endeavours, and ragged, partial patches of moral or civil righteousness. Wherefore when he heareth, that his righteousness is condemned, slighted, and accounted nothing worth, then he fretteth, and fumeth, and chafeth and would kill the man, that so slighteth and disdaineth his goodly righteousness; but Christ and the true gospel-teacher still goeth on, and condemneth all his righteousness to be as menstruous rags, an abomination to God, and nothing but loss and dung.
Now menstruous rags, things that are an abomination, and dung, are not fit matter to make a garment of to wear, when I come to God for life, much less to be made my friend, my advocate, my mediator and spokesman, when I stand betwixt heaven and hell, to plead for me that I might be saved. (Isa 64:6, Luke 16:15, Phil 3:6-8)
Perhaps some will blame me, and count me also worthy thereof, because I do not distinguish betwixt the matter and the manner of the Pharisee's righteousness. And let them condemn me still; for, saving the holy law, which is neither the matter nor manner of the Pharisee's righteousness, but rather the rules, if he will live thereby, up to which he should completely come in every thing that he doth. And I say again, that the whole of the Pharisee's righteousness is sinful, though not with and to me, yet with and before the God of heaven. Sinful I say it is, and abominable, both in itself, and also in its effects.
[The Pharisee's whole righteousness sinful.]
First, In itself; for that it is imperfect, scanty, and short of the rule by which righteousness is enjoined, and EVEN with which every act should be: For shortness here, even every shortness in these duties, is sin, and sinful weakness; wherefore the curse taketh hold of the man for coming short, but that it could not justly do, if he coming short was not his sin: Cursed is every one that doeth not, and that continueth not to do all things written in the law. (Deu 27:26, Gal 3:10)
Second, It is sinful, because it is wrought by sinful flesh; for all legal righteousness is a work of the flesh. (Rom 4:1, Phil 3:3-8)
A work, I say, of the flesh; even of that flesh, who, or which also committeth the greatest enormities. For the flesh is but one, though its workings are divers: Sometimes in a way most notoriously sensual and devilish, causing the soul to wallow in wickedness as the sow doth to wallow in the mire.
But these are not all the works of the flesh; the flesh sometimes will attempt to be righteous, and set upon doing actions, that in their perfection would be very glorious and beautiful to behold. But because the law is only commanding words, and yieldeth no help to the man that attempts to perform it; and because the flesh is weak, and cannot do of itself that which it beginneth to meddle with, therefore this most glorious work of the flesh faileth.
But, I say, as it is a work of the flesh, it cannot be good, forasmuch as the hand that worketh it, is defiled with sin: For in a good man, one spiritually good, "that is in his flesh there dwells no good thing," but consequently that which is bad; how then can the flesh of a carnal, graceless man, and such a one is every Pharisee and self-righteous man in the world, produce, though it joineth itself to the law, to the righteous law of God, that which is good in his sight.
If any shall think that I pinch so hardly, because I call man's righteousness which is of the law, of the righteous law of God, flesh; let them consider that which follows; to wit, That though man by sin, is said to be dead in sin and trespasses, yet not so dead, but that he can act still in his own sphere. That is, to do, and choose to do, either that which by all men is counted base, or that which by some is counted good, though he is not, nor can all the world make him capable of doing anything that may please his God.
Man by nature, as dead as he is, can, and that with the will of his flesh, will his own salvation. Man by nature can, and that by the power of the flesh, pursue and follow after his own salvation; but then he wills it, and pursues or follows after it, not in God's way, but his own. Not by faith in Christ, but by the law of Moses, see Romans 10:16, 31, 10:3-7.
Wherefore it is no error to say, that a man naturally has Will, and a Power to pursue his will, and that as to his salvation. But it is a damnable error to say, that he hath will and power to pursue it, and that in God's way. For then we must hold that the mysteries of the gospel are natural; for that natural men, or men by nature, may apprehend and know them; yea, and know them to be the only means by which they must obtain eternal life: for the understanding must act before the will; yea, a man must approve of the way to life by Jesus Christ, before his mind will budge, or stir, or move that way: "But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God; [of the gospel] for they are foolishness unto him, neither can he know them because they are spiritually discerned." (1 Cor 2:14)
He receiveth not these things; that is, his mind and will lie cross unto them, for he counts them foolishness; nor can all the natural wisdom in the world, cause that his will should fall in with them, because it cannot discern them.
Nature discerneth the law, and the righteousness thereof; yea, it discerneth it, and approveth thereof; that is, that the righteousness of it is the best and only way to life, and therefore the natural will and power of the flesh, as here you see in the Pharisee, do steer their course by that for eternal life. (1 Cor 2:14)
The righteousness of the law therefore is a work of the flesh, a work of sinful flesh, and therefore must needs be as filth and dung, and abominable as to that for which this man hath produced it, and presented it in the temple before God.
Nor is the Pharisee alone entangled in this mischief; many souls are by these works of the flesh flattered, as also the Pharisee was, into an opinion, that their state is good, when there is nothing in it. the most that their conversion amounteth to, is, the Publican is become a Pharisee; the open sinner is become a self-righteous man. Of the black side of the flesh he hath had enough, now therefore with the white side of the flesh he will recreate himself. And now, most wicked must he needs be, that questioneth the goodness of the state of such a man. He, of a drunkard, a swearer, an unclean person, a sabbath-breaker, a liar, and the like, is become reformed; a lover of righteousness, a strict observer, doer, and trader in the formalities of the law, and a herder with men of his complexion. And now he is become a great exclaimer against sin and sinners, defying to acquaint with those that once were his companions, saying, "I am not even as this Publican."
To turn therefore from the flesh to the flesh, from sin to man's righteousness: yea, to rejoice in confidence, that thy state is better than is that of the Publican: I mean, better in the eyes of divine justice, and in the judgment of the law; and yet to be found by the law, not in the spirit, but in the flesh; not in Christ, but under the law; not in a state of salvation, but of damnation, is common among men: For they, and they only, are the right men, "which worship God in the Spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh." Where by flesh, must not be meant the horrible transgressions against the law, though they are also called the works of the flesh (Gal 5:19), for they minister no occasion unto men, to have confidence in them towards God: but that is that, which is insinuated by Paul, where he saith, he had "no confidence in the flesh," though he might have had it, as he said, "Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man," saith he, "thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more" (Phil 3:3,4): And then he repeats a two-fold privilege that he had by the flesh. First, That he was one of the seed of Abraham, and of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews, &c.
Secondly, That he had fallen in with the strictest men of that religion, which was such after the flesh; to wit, to be a Pharisee, and was the son of a Pharisee, had much fleshly zeal for God, and was "touching the righteousness which is in the law blameless." (Phil 3:6)
But, I say still, there is nothing but flesh, flesh; fleshly privileges, and fleshly righteousness, and so consequently a fleshly confidence, and trust for heaven. This is manifest for these very things, when the man had his eyes enlightened, he counted all but loss and dung, that he might be found in Christ, not having his own righteousness which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.
[Godly men are afraid of their own righteousness.]
And this leads me to another thing, and that is, to tell thee, O thou blind Pharisee that thou canst not be in a safe condition, because thou hast thy confidence in the flesh, that is, in the righteousness of the flesh. For "all flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field": and the flesh and the glory of that being as weak as the grass, which today is, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, is but a weak business for a man to venture his eternal salvation upon. Wherefore, as I also hinted before, the godly-wise have been afraid to be found in their righteousness, I mean their own personal righteousness, though that is far better, than can be the righteousness of any carnal man: for the godly man's righteousness is wrought in the spirit and faith of Christ; but the ungodly man's righteousness is of the flesh, and of the law. Yet I say, this godly man is afraid to stand by his righteousness before the tribunal of God, as is manifest in these following particulars.
First, He sees sin in his righteousness, for so the prophet intimates, when he saith, "All our righteousnesses are as filthy rags" (Isa 64:6): but there is nothing can make one's righteousness filthy but sin. It is not the poor, the low, the mean, the sickly, the beggarly state of a man, nor yet his being hated of devils, persecuted of men, broken under necessities, reproaches, distresses, or any kind of troubles of this nature, that can make the godly man's righteousness filthy; nothing but SIN can do it, and that can, doth, hath, and will do it. Nor can any man, be he who he will, and though he watches, prays, strives, denies himself, and puts his body under what chastisement or hardships he can; yea, though he also shall get his spirit and soul hoisted up to the highest peg, or pin of sanctity, and holy contemplation, and so his lusts to the greatest degree of mortification; but sin will be with him in the best of his performances. With him, I say, to pollute and defile his duties, and to make his righteousness specked and spotted, filthy and menstruous.
I will give you two or three instances for this. 1. Nehemiah was a man, in his day, one that was zealous, very zealous for God, for his house, for his people, and for his ways; and so continued, and that from first to last, as they may see that please to read the relation of his action; yet when he comes seriously to be concerned with God about his duties, he relinquisheth a standing by them. True, he mentioneth them to God, but confesseth that there is imperfections in them, and prayeth that God will not wipe them away: "Wipe not out my good deeds, O my God, that I have done for the house of my God, and for the offices thereof." And again, "Remember me, O my God, concerning this," also another good deed, "and spare me according to the greatness of thy mercy:—Remember me, O my God, for good." (Neh 13)
I do not think that by these prayers he pleadeth for an acceptation of his person, as touching justification from the curse of the law, as the poor blind Pharisee doth; but that God would accept of his service, as he was a son, and not deny to give him a reward of grace for what he had done, since he was pleased to declare in his testament, that he would reward the labour of love of his saints with an exceeding weight of glory; and therefore prayeth, that God would not wipe away his good deeds, but remember him for good, according to the greatness of his mercy.
2. A second instance is that of David, where he saith, "Enter not into judgment with thy servant": O Lord; "for in thy sight shall no man living be justified." (Psa 143:2) David, as I also have hinted before is said to be a man after God's own heart (Acts 13:22), and as here by the Spirit he acknowledges him for his servant; yet behold how he shrinketh, how he draweth back, how he prayeth, and petitioneth, that God would vouchsafe so much as not to enter into judgment with him. Lord, saith he, if thou enterest into judgment with me, I die, because I shall be condemned; for in thy sight I cannot be justified; to wit, by my own good deeds. Lord, at the beginning of thy dealing with me, by thy law and my works I die, therefore do not so much as enter into judgment with me, O Lord. Nor is this my case only, but it is the condition of all the world: "For in thy sight shall NO man living be justified."
3. A third instance is, that general conclusion of the apostle, "But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith." (Gal 3:11) By this saying of Paul, as he taketh up the sentence of the prophet Habakkuk (2:4), so he taketh up this sentence, yea, and the personal justice of David also. No man, saith he, is justified by the law in the sight of God; no, no just man, no holy man, not the strictest and most righteous man. But why not? why? Because the just shall live by faith.
The just man, therefore, must die, if he has not faith in another righteousness, than that which is of the law; called his own: I say, he must die, if he has none other righteousness than that which is his own by the law.21 Thus also Paul confesses of himself: I, saith he, know nothing by myself, either before conversion or after; that is, I knew not, that I did anything before conversion, either against the law, or against my conscience; for I was then, touching the righteousness which is of the law, blameless. Also, since my conversion, I know nothing by myself; for "I have lived in all good conscience before God unto this day." (Acts 23:1)
A great saying, I promise you. I doubt this is more than our glorious justitiaries can say, except they say and lie. Well, but yet, "I am not hereby justified." (1 Cor 4:4, Phil 3:7) Nor will I dare to venture the eternal salvation of my soul upon mine own justice, "but he that judgeth me is the Lord." That is, though I, through my dimsightedness, cannot see the imperfections of my righteousness; yet the Lord, who is my judge, and before whose tribunal I must shortly stand, can and will; and if in his sight there shall be found no more but one spot in my righteousness, I must, if I plead my righteousness, fall for that.
Second, That the best of men are afraid to stand before God's tribunal, there to be judged by the law as to life and death, according to the sufficiency or non-sufficiency of their righteousness, is evident, because by casting away their own, in this matter, they make all the means they can for this; that is, that his mercy, by an act of grace, be made over to them, and that they in it may stand before God to be judged.
Hence David cries out so often, "Lead me, O Lord, in thy righteousness." (Psa 5:8) "Deliver me in thy righteousness." (Psa 31:1) "Judge me, O Lord my God, according to thy righteousness." (Psa 35:24) "Quicken me in thy righteousness." (Psa 119:40) "O Lord," says he, "give ear to my supplications; in thy faithfulness answer me, and in thy righteousness. And enter not into judgment with thy servant": O Lord: "For in thy sight shall no man living be justified." (Psa 143:1,2) And David, What if God doth thus? Why then, saith he, "My tongue shall speak of thy righteousness." (Psa 35:28) "My tongue shall sing aloud of thy righteousness." (Psa 51:14) "My mouth shall shew forth thy righteousness." Yea, "I will make mention of thy righteousness, even of thine only." (Psa 71:15,16)
Daniel also, when he comes to plead for himself and his people, he first casts away his and their righteousness, saying, "For we do not present out supplications before thee for our righteousnesses." And pleads God's righteousness, and that he might have a share and interest in that, saying, "O Lord, righteousness belongeth unto thee" (9:7,18), to wit, that righteousness, for the sake of which, mercy and forgiveness, and so heaven and happiness is extended to us.
Righteousness belongeth to thee, and is thine, as nearly as sin, shame, and confusion, is ours, and belongeth to us, which righteousness he afterwards calleth "The Lord," saying, do it, for the Lord's sake; read the 16, 17, verses of the ninth of Daniel. "O Lord," saith he, "according to all thy righteousness, I beseech thee, let thine anger and thy fury be turned away from thy city Jerusalem, thy holy mountain: because for our sins, and for the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and thy people are become a reproach to all that are about us. Now therefore, O our God, hear the prayer of thy servant, and his supplications, and cause thy face to shine upon thy sanctuary that is desolate, for the Lord's sake." For the sake of the Lord Jesus Christ; for on him Daniel now had his eye, and through him to the Father he made his supplication; yea, and the answer was according to his prayer, to wit, that God would have mercy on Jerusalem, and that he would in his time send the Lord, the Messias, to bring them in everlasting righteousness for them.
Paul also, as I have hinted before, disclaims his own righteousness, and layeth fast hold on the righteousness of God: seeking to be found in that, or in him that has it, not having his own righteousness; for he knew that when the rain descends, the winds blow, and the floods come down falls on all men, but they that have that righteousness. (Phil 3)
Now the earnest desire of the righteous to be found in God's righteousness, ariseth from strong conviction of the imperfections of their own, and of good knowledge that was given them of the terror that will attend men at the day of the fiery trial; to wit, the day of judgment. For although men can now flatter themselves into a fool's paradise, and persuade themselves that all shall be well with them then, for the sake of their own silly and vain-glorious performances; yet when the day comes that shall burn like an oven, and when all that have done wickedly shall be as stubble, and so will all appear to be that are not found in Christ, then will their righteousness vanish like smoke, or be like fuel for that burning flame. And hence the righteousness that the godly seek to be found in, is called the name of the Lord, a strong tower, a rock, a shield, a fortress, a buckler, a rock of defence, UNTO which they resort, and INTO which they run and are safe.
The godly wise therefore do not, as this Pharisee, bring their own righteousness into the temple, and there buoy up themselves and spirits by that into a conceit, that for the sake of that, God will be merciful and good unto them: but throwing away their own, they make to God for his, because they certainly know, even by the word of God, that in the judgment none can stand the trial, but those that are found in the righteousness of God.
Third, That the best of men are afraid to stand before God's tribunal by the law, there to be judged to life and death, according to the sufficiency or non-sufficiency of their righteousness, is evident: for they know, that it is a vain thing to seek by acts of righteousness to make themselves righteous men, as is the way of all them that seek to be justified by the deeds of the law.
And herein lieth the great difference between the Pharisee and the true Christian man. The Pharisee thinks, by acts of righteousness he shall make himself a righteous man, therefore he cometh into the presence of God well furnished, as he thinks, with his negative and positive righteousness.
Grace suffereth not a man to boast it before God, whatever he saith before me: "His soul which is lifted up, is not upright in him" (Hab 2:4): And better is the poor in spirit, than the proud in spirit. The Pharisee was a very proud man, a proud, ignorant man, proud of his own righteousness, and ignorant of God's: for had he not, he could not, as he did, have so condemned the Publican, and justified himself.
[The Pharisee ignorant that he must be righteous before he can do righteousness.]
And I say again, that all this pride and vain-glorious shew of the Pharisee, did arise from his not being acquainted with this; that a man must be good, before he can do good; he must be righteous, before he can do righteousness. This is evident from Paul, who insinuateth this as the reason, why "none do good," even because There is none that is righteous, no, not one. "There is none righteous," saith he; and then follows, "There is none that doeth good." (Rom 3:10-12) For it is not possible for a man, that is not first made righteous by the God of heaven, to do anything that in a proper, in a law, or in a gospel-sense may be called righteousness. Meddle with righteous things he may; attempt to make himself a righteous man, by his so meddling with them, he may; but work righteousness, and so by such works of righteousness, make himself a righteous man, he cannot.
The righteousness of a carnal man, is indeed by God called righteousness; but it must be understood, as spoken in the dialect of the world; or with reference to the world's matters. The world indeed calls it righteousness; and it will do no harm, if it bear that term with reference to worldly matters. Hence worldly civilians are called good and righteous men, and so, such as Christ, under that notion, neither died for, nor giveth his grace unto. (Rom 5:7,8) But we are not now discoursing about any other righteousness, than that which is so accounted either in a law, or in a gospel-sense; and therefore let us a little more touch upon that.
A man then must be righteous in a law-sense, before he can do acts of righteousness, I mean that are such, in a gospel-sense. Hence first, you have true gospel-righteousness made the fruit of a second birth. "If ye know that he [Christ] is righteous, ye know that every one that doeth righteousness is born of him." (1 John 2:29) Not born of him by virtue of his own righteous actions, but born of him by virtue of Christ's mighty working with his word upon the soul; who afterwards, from a principle of life, acteth and worketh righteousness.
And he saith again, "Little children, let no man deceive you, he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous." (1 John 3:7) Upon this scripture, I will a little comment, for the proof of what is urged before; namely, that a man must be righteous in a law-sense, before he can do such things that may be called acts of righteousness in a gospel-sense. And for this, this scripture, ministereth to us two things to be considered by us.
The first is, that he that doeth righteousness is righteous.
The second is, that he that doeth righteousness is righteous, as Christ is righteous.
First, He that doeth righteousness; that is, righteousness which the gospel calleth so, is righteous; that is, precedent to, or before he doth that righteousness. For he doth not say, he shall make his person righteous by acts of righteousness that he shall do; for then an evil tree may bear good fruit: yea, and may make itself good by doing so: But he saith, he that doeth righteousness is righteous; as he saith, he that doeth righteousness IS born of him.
So then, a man must be righteous before he can do righteousness, before he can do righteousness in a gospel-sense.
Second, Our second thing then is to inquire, with what righteousness a man must be righteous, before he can do that which in a gospel-sense is called righteousness?
And first, I answer, He must be righteous in a law-sense; that is, he must be righteous in the judgment of the law. This is evident, because he saith, he that doeth righteousness is righteous as he is righteous. That is, in a law-sense; for Christ in no sense is righteous in the judgment of charity only; but in his meanest acts, if it be lawful to make such comparison, he was righteous in a law-sense, or in the judgment of the law. Now the apostle saith, "That he that doeth righteousness IS righteous, as HE is righteous." They are the words of God, and therefore I cannot err in quoting of them, though I may not so fully, as I would, make the glory of them shine in speaking to them.
But what righteousness is that, with which a man must stand righteous in the judgment of the law, before he shall or can be found to do acts of righteousness, that by the gospel are so called? I answer.
First, It is none of his own which is of the law, you may be sure; for he hath this righteousness before he doeth any that can be called his own. "He that doeth righteousness is righteous" already, precedent to, or before he doth that righteousness; yea, he is righteous before, even as HE is righteous.
Second, It cannot be his own which is of the gospel; that is, that which floweth from a principle of grace in the soul: for he is righteous before he doeth this righteousness. He that doeth righteousness, IS righteous. He doth not say he that hath done it, but he that doeth it; respecting the act while it is in doing, he is righteous. He is righteous even then, when he is a doing of the very first act of righteousness; but an act, while it is in doing, cannot, until it is done, be called an act of righteousness; yet, saith the text, "He is righteous."
But again, if an act, while it is in doing, cannot be called an act of righteousness; to be sure, it cannot have such influences as to make the actor righteous; to make him righteous, as the Son of God is righteous, and yet the righteousness with which this doer is made righteous, and that before he doeth righteousness, is such; for so saith the text, that makes him righteous as he is righteous.
Besides, it cannot be his own, which is gospel-righteousness, flowing from a principle of grace in the soul; for that in its greatest perfection in us, while we live in this world, is accompanied with some imperfections; to wit, our faith, love, and whole course of holiness is wanting, or hath something lacking in it. They neither are apart, nor when put all together, perfect, as to the degree, the uttermost degree of perfection.
But the righteousness under consideration, with which the man, in that of John, is made righteous, is a perfect righteousness; not only with respect to the nature of it, as a penny is as perfect silver as a shilling; nor yet with respect to a comparative degree; for so a shilling arriveth more toward the perfection of the number twenty, than doth a two-penny or a three-penny piece: but it is a righteousness so perfect, that nothing can be added to it, nor can any thing be taken from it: for so implieth the words of the text, "he is righteous, as Christ is righteous." Yea, thus righteous before, and in order to his doing of righteousness. And in this he is like unto the Son of God, who was also righteous before he did acts of righteousness referring to a law of commandment: wherefore it is said, that as he is, so are we in this world. As he is or was righteous, before he did acts of righteousness among men by a law, so are HIS righteous, before they act righteousness among men by a law. "He that doth righteousness is righteous, as HE is righteous."
Christ was righteous, before he did righteousness, with a two-fold righteousness. He had a righteousness as he was God; his godhead was perfectly righteous; yea, it was righteousness itself. His human nature was perfectly righteous, it was naturally spotless and undefiled. Thus his person was righteous, and so qualified to do that righteousness, that because he was born of a woman, and made under the law, he was bound by the law to perform.
Now, as he is, so are we: not by way of natural righteousness, but by way of resemblance thereunto. Had Christ, in order to his working of righteousness, a two-fold righteousness inherent in himself, the Christian, in order to his working of righteousness, hath belonging to him a two-fold righteousness. Did Christ's two-fold righteousness qualify him for that work of righteousness, that was of God designed for him to do? Why the Christian's two-fold righteousness doth qualify him for that work of righteousness, that God hath ordained, that he should do and walk in this world.
But you may ask, what is that righteousness, with which a Christian is made righteous before he doth righteousness?
I answer, It is a two-fold righteousness.
I. It is a righteousness put upon him.
II. It is a righteousness put into him. I. For the first, It is righteousness put upon him, with which also he is clothed as with a coat or mantle (Rom 3:22), and this is called the robe of righteousness; and this is called the garments of salvation. (Isa 61:10)22 This righteousness is none other but the obedience of Christ; the which he performed in the days of his flesh, and can properly be called no man's righteousness, but the righteousness of Christ; because no man had a hand therein, but he completed it himself. And hence it is said, That "by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous." (Rom 5:19) By the obedience of one, of one man Jesus Christ, as you have it in verse 15 for he came down into the world to this very end; that is, to make a generation righteous, not by making of them laws, and prescribing unto them rules: for this was the work of Moses, who said, "And it shall be our righteousness, if we observe to do all these commandments before the Lord our God, as he hath commanded us." (Deu 6:25, 24:13) Nor yet by taking away by his grace the imperfections of their righteousness, and so making of that perfect by additions of his own; but he makes them righteous by his obedience; not in them, but for them, while he personally subjected himself to his Father's law on our behalf, that he might have a righteousness to bestow upon us. And hence we are said to be made righteous, while we work not; and to be justified while ungodly (Rom 4:5), which can be done by no other righteousness than that, which is the righteousness of Christ by performance, the righteousness of God by donation, and our righteousness by imputation. For, I say, the person that wrought this righteousness for us, is Christ Jesus; the person that giveth it to us, is the Father; who hath made Christ to be unto us righteousness, and hath given him to us for this very end, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him (1 Cor 1:30, 2 Cor 5:21), And hence it is so often said, One shall say, surely in the Lord have I righteousness and strength. And again, "In the Lord shall all the seed of Israel be justified, and shall glory." "This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their righteousness is of me, saith the Lord." (Isa 45:24,25, 54:17)
This righteousness is that which justifieth, and which secureth the soul from the curse of the law; by hiding, through its perfection, all the sins and imperfections of the soul. Hence it follows, in that fourth of the Romans, "Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin."
And this it doth, even while the person that by grace is made a partaker, is without good works, and so ungodly. This is the righteousness of Christ, Christ's personal performances, which he did when he was in this world; that is that, by which the soul while naked, is covered, and so hid as to its nakedness, from the divine sentence of the law; "I spread my skirt over thee, and covered thy nakedness." (Eze 16:8)
Now this obediential righteousness of Christ, consisteth of two parts. 1. In a doing of that which the law commanded us to do. 2. In a paying that price for the transgression thereof, which justice hath said, shall be required at the hand of man; and that is the cursed death. In the day that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt die the death; to wit, the death that comes by the curse of the law. So then, Christ having brought in that part of obedience for us, which consisteth in a doing of such obediential acts of righteousness which the law commands; he addeth thereto the spilling of his blood, to be the price of our redemption from that cursed death, that by sin we had brought upon our bodies and souls. And thus are the Christians made perfectly righteous; they have the whole obedience of Christ made over to them; to wit, that obedience that standeth in doing the law, and that obedience that standeth in paying of a price for our transgressions. So then, Doth the law call for righteousness? Here it is. Doth the law call for satisfaction for our sins? Here it is. And what can the law say any more to the sinner but that which is good, when he findeth in the personal obedience of Christ for him, that which answereth to what it can command, that which it can demand of us.
Herein then standeth a Christian's safety, not in a bundle of actions of his own, but in a righteousness which cometh to him by grace and gift; for this righteousness is such as comes by gift, by the gift of God. Hence it is called the gift of righteousness, the gift by grace, the gift of righteousness by grace, which is the righteousness of one, to wit, the obedience of Jesus Christ. (Rom 5:15-19)
And this is the righteousness by which, he that doth righteousness, is righteous as HE is righteous; because it is the very self-same righteousness, that the Son of God hath accomplished by himself. Nor has he any other or more excellent righteousness, of which the law taketh notice, or that it requireth, than this. For as for the righteousness of his godhead, the law is not concerned with that; for as he is such, the law is his creature, and servant, and may not meddle with him.
The righteousness also of his human nature, the law hath nothing to do with that; for that is the workmanship of God, and is as good, as pure, as holy and undefiled, as is the law itself. All then that the law hath to do with, is to exact complete obedience of him that is made under it, and a due satisfaction for the breach thereof, the which, if it hath, then Moses is content.
Now, this is the righteousness, with which the Christian, as to justification, is made righteous; to wit, a righteousness, that is neither essential to his godhead, nor to his manhood; but such as standeth in that glorious person, who was such, his obedience to the law. Which righteousness himself had, with reference to himself, no need of at all, for his godhead; yea, his manhood was perfectly righteous without it. This righteousness therefore was there, and there only, necessary, where Christ was to be considered as God's servant and our surety, to bring to God Jacob again, and to restore the preserved of Israel. For though Christ was a Son, yet he became a servant to do, not for himself, for he had no need, but for us, the whole law, and so bring in everlasting righteousness for us.
And hence it is said, that Christ did what he did for us: He became the end of the law for righteousness for us; he suffered for us (1 Peter 2:21); he died for us (1 Thess 5:10); he laid down his life for us (1 John 3:16), and he gave himself for us. (Gal 1:4) The righteousness then that Christ did fulfil, when he was in the world, was not for himself simply considered, nor for himself personally considered, for he had no need thereof; but it was for the elect, the members of his body.
Christ then did not fulfil the law for himself, for he had no need thereof. Christ again did fulfil the law for himself, for he had need of the righteousness thereof; he had need thereof for the covering of his body, and the several members thereof; for they, in a good sense, are himself, members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones; and he owns them as parts of himself in many places of the holy scripture. (Eph 5:30, Acts 9:4,5, Matt 25:45, 10:40, Mark 9:37, Luke 10:16, 1 Cor 12:12,27) This righteousness then, even the whole of what Christ did in answer to the law, it was for his, and God hath put it upon them, and they are righteous in it, even righteous as he is righteous. And this they have before they do acts of righteousness.
II. There is righteousness put into them, before they act righteous things. A righteousness, I say, put into them; or I had rather that you should call it a principle of righteousness; for it is a principle of life to righteousness. Before man's conversion, there is in him a principle of death by sin; but when he is converted to Christ, there is put into him a principle of righteousness, that he may bring forth fruit unto God. (Rom 7:4-6)
Hence they are said to be quickened, to be made alive, to be risen from death to life, to have the Spirit of God dwelling in them; not only to make their souls alive, but to quicken their mortal bodies to that which is good. (Rom 8:11)
Here, as I hinted before, they that do righteousness are said to be born of him, that is, antecedent to their doing of righteousness (1 John 2:29), "born of him," that is, made alive with new spiritual and heavenly life. Wherefore the exhortation to them is, "Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God." (Rom 6:13)
Now this principle must also be in men, before they can do that which is spiritually and gospelly good: For whatever seeming good thing any man doth, before he has bestowed upon him this heavenly principle from God, it is accounted nothing, it is accounted sin and abomination in the sight of God; for an evil tree cannot bring forth good fruit: Men do not gather grapes of thorns; neither of a bramble gather they figs. Either make the tree good and his fruit good, or the tree evil and his fruit evil. (Luke 6:43-45) It is not the fruit that makes the tree, but the tree that makes the fruit. A man must be good, before he can do good, and evil before he can do evil.
They be not righteous actions that make a righteous man; nor be they evil actions that make a wicked man: for a tree must be a sweeting tree before it yield sweetings;23 and a crab tree before it bring forth crabs.24
This is that which is asserted by the Son of God himself; and it lieth so level with reason and the nature of things, that it cannot be contradicted. (Matt 7:16-18) "A good man out of the good treasure of his heart, bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart, bringeth forth that which is evil." (Luke 6:45) But this, notwithstanding all that can be said, seemeth very strange to the carnal world; for they will not be otherwise persuaded, but that they be good deeds that make good men, and evil ones that make evil men: And so by such dotish apprehensions do what in them lieth to fortify their hearts with the mists of darkness against the clear shining of the word, and conviction of the truth.
And thus it was from the beginning: Abel did his first services to God from this principle of righteousness; but Cain would have been made righteous by his deed; but his deed not flowing from the same root of goodness, as did Abel's, notwithstanding he did it with the very best he had, is yet called evil: For he wanted, I say, the principles, to wit, of grace and faith, without which no action can be counted good in a gospel sense.
These two things then, that man must have that will do righteousness. He must have put upon him the perfect righteousness of Christ; and he must have dwelling in him, as a fruit of the new birth, a principle of righteousness. Then indeed he is a tree of righteousness, and God is like to be glorified in, and by him; but this the Pharisee was utterly ignorant of, and at the remotest distance from it.
[The righteousness of Christ, unto justification, must be imputed to the Christian before he can attain the principle of righteousness unto sanctification.]
Quest. You may ask me next, But which of these are first bestowed upon the Christian, the perfect righteousness of Christ unto justification, or this gospel principle of righteousness unto sanctification?